Polymaths are exceptionally versatile humans who excel in multiple, seemingly unrelated fields. The diversity and synthesis of their knowledge allows them to make unique contributions to scholarship and society. The examples of historical polymaths most often given tend to be from the European Renaissance and Enlightenment – the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Young and others. Yet what is too often ignored is that polymaths from various parts of the world – Asia, Africa, Latin America and beyond – have often been equally impressive and influential.
This event will be a groundbreaking exploration of polymathy in the Islamic tradition, highlighting examples through Islamic civilisational history such as Al Ghazali, Ibn Sina and Ibn Khaldun, but also Jewish and Christian polymaths like Maimonides and Hunayn Ibn Ishaq who lived and thrived under Muslim rule. They were products of a culture that fostered continuous learning and provided fertile ground for those with an endlessly curious disposition.