This is a list of human geniuses from 10 different fields. The list refers to ten of the most important aspects of human life through all history. While most will agree with the choices, there may be some dispute – if so, be sure to comment below.
Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC) was an Ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity.
Generally considered the greatest mathematician of antiquity and one of the greatest of all time, Archimedes anticipated modern calculus and analysis by applying concepts of infinitesimals and the method of exhaustion to derive and rigorously prove a range of geometrical theorems, including the area of a circle, the surface area and volume of a sphere, and the area under a parabola. Other mathematical achievements include deriving an accurate approximation of pi, defining and investigating the spiral bearing his name, and creating a system using exponentiation for expressing very large numbers. He was also one of the first to apply mathematics to physical phenomena, founding hydrostatics and statics, including an explanation of the principle of the lever. He is credited with designing innovative machines, such as his screw pump, compound pulleys, and defensive war machines to protect his native Syracuse from invasion.
Archimedes died during the Siege of Syracuse when he was killed by a Roman soldier despite orders that he should not be harmed. Cicero describes visiting the tomb of Archimedes, which was surmounted by a sphere and a cylinder, which Archimedes had requested to be placed on his tomb, representing his mathematical discoveries.
Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) was born at Stagira. His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government – and constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Shortly after Plato died, Aristotle left Athens and, at the request of Philip of Macedon, tutored Alexander the Great between 356 and 323 BCE. Teaching Alexander the Great gave Aristotle many opportunities and an abundance of supplies. He established a library in the Lyceum which aided in the production of many of his hundreds of books.
The fact that Aristotle was a pupil of Plato contributed to his former views of Platonism, but, following Plato's death, Aristotle immersed himself in empirical studies and shifted from Platonism to empiricism. He believed all peoples' concepts and all of their knowledge was ultimately based on perception. Aristotle's views on natural sciences represent the groundwork underlying many of his works. The Nicomachean Ethics is Aristotle's best-known work on ethics.
The work, which plays a pre-eminent role in defining Aristotelian ethics, consists of ten books, originally separate scrolls, and is understood to be based on notes from his lectures at the Lyceum, which were either edited by or dedicated to Aristotle's son, Nicomachus. The theme of the work is the Socratic question which had previously been explored in Plato's works, of how men should best live. In his Metaphysics, Aristotle described how Socrates turned philosophy to human questions, whereas Pre-Socratic philosophy had only been theoretical. Ethics, as now separated out for discussion by Aristotle, is practical rather than theoretical, in the original Aristotelian senses of these terms. This work is not only a contemplation about good living, but also aims to create good living. It is therefore connected to Aristotle's other practical work, Politics, which similarly aims at people becoming good. However ethics is about how individuals should best live, while the study of politics is from the perspective of a law-giver, looking at the good of a whole community.
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC – 19 August 14 AD) was the founder of the Roman Empire and its first Emperor, ruling from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD. He was born Gaius Octavius into an old and wealthy equestrian branch of the plebeian Octavii family. Following the assassination of his maternal great-uncle Julius Caesar in 44 BC, Caesar's will named Octavius as his adopted son and heir. Together with Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus, he formed the Second Triumvirate to defeat the assassins of Caesar. Following their victory at Philippi, the Triumvirate divided the Roman Republic among themselves and ruled as military dictators.
His rule cemented the Pax Romana, a time from c. 130 BC to c. 180 AD, during which the Roman Republic/Empire was invincible, and no foreign power dared challenge it. Augustus showed up in the middle of it, when, right after that Second Triumvirate and civil war, the entire state was in danger of imminent collapse from within. Augustus pulled it all back up and held it together. He instituted Rome’s first official fire fighting force of between 500 to 1,000 men in 14 districts throughout the city. He instituted the first official police force, and now, without having to fight the foreigners, he was able to establish a standing army for Rome, c. 170,000 well trained soldiers. He repaired, then greatly advanced the technology of the roads throughout Italy.
Augustus died in 14 AD at the age of 75. He may have died from natural causes, although there were unconfirmed rumors that his wife Livia poisoned him. He was succeeded as Emperor by his adopted son (also stepson and former son-in-law), Tiberius.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519) was an Italian polymath. He was a leading artist and intellectual of the Italian Renaissance who's known for his enduring works "The Last Supper" and "Mona Lisa."
Leonardo is revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualised flying machines, an armoured vehicle, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, and the double hull, also outlining a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or were even feasible during his lifetime, but some of his smaller inventions, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded. He made substantial discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on later science.
Da Vinci invented the sniper scope for rifle arms (muskets in his day), which was simply one of his smaller telescopes bolted onto the top of a musket. He invented pivoting scissors, all earlier designs being single flexing pieces of metal using spring action. The spring design had the drawback of bending out of shape if squeezed too hard, and no longer flexing properly. The pivoting scissors operate as two pieces of metal around a bolt. Da Vinci’s design has changed very little. He invented the first successful hang glider, based on the operations of birds’ wings, for which Bernoulli was not alive to come up with a principle until 200 years later.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564), as an Italian artist and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility in the disciplines he took up was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his fellow Italian Leonardo da Vinci.
One of his best-known works, the Pietà, was sculpted before he was just 25 years old . Carved from a single piece of Carrara marble, the fluidity of the fabric, positions of the subjects, and "movement" of the skin of the Piet—meaning "pity" or "compassion"—created awe for its early spectators. Today, the "Pieta" remains an incredibly revered work.
Despite his low opinion of painting, Michelangelo also created two of the most influential works in fresco in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling and The Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. As an architect, Michelangelo pioneered the Mannerist style at the Laurentian Library. At the age of 74 he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter's Basilica. Michelangelo transformed the plan, the western end being finished to Michelangelo's design, the dome being completed after his death with some modification.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero (3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Roman philosopher and lawyer. He lived during the tumultuous times of the civil war outbreaks of the Roman republic and its impending decline, eventually becoming an enemy of the state.
His influence on the Latin language was so immense that the subsequent history of prose in not only Latin but European languages up to the 19th century was said to be either a reaction against or a return to his style. Cicero introduced the Romans to the chief schools of Greek philosophy and created a Latin philosophical vocabulary distinguishing himself as a linguist, translator, and philosopher.
While his intellectual prowess would soon gain him recognition and entry into the Roman elite, coming from second tier aristocracy inhibited him from entering into politics directly. Therefore, Marcus Tullius Cicero had to either enter via military service or through the practice of law. Prior to his commitment to the field of law, he did serve in the military, albeit briefly, under Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, between the years 90-88 BCE. This was not the path for the young intellectual and he followed the opportunity in Rome to study under the renowned stoic and Roman politician, Quintus Mucius Scaevola.
Marcus Tullius Cicero was murdered by decree on December 7th in the year 43 BCE.
Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist. He developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). Einstein's work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. Einstein is best known in popular culture for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2 (which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation"). He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his "services to theoretical physics", in particular his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect, a pivotal step in the evolution of quantum theory.
In November, 1915, Einstein completed the general theory of relativity, which he considered his masterpiece. He was convinced that general relativity was correct because of its mathematical beauty and because it accurately predicted the perihelion of Mercury's orbit around the sun, which fell short in Newton’s theory. General relativity theory also predicted a measurable deflection of light around the sun when a planet or another sun oribited near the sun. That prediction was confirmed in observations by British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington during the solar eclipse of 1919. In 1921, Albert Einstein received word that he had received the Nobel Prize for Physics. Because relativity was still considered controversial, Einstein received the award for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.
William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) – 23 April 1616) often called the English national poet, is widely considered the greatest dramatist of all time. His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of around 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, of which the authorship of some is uncertain. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
Shakespeare produced most of his famous work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories and these works remain regarded as some of the best work produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights.
Tradition has it that William Shakespeare died on his birthday, April 23, 1616, though many scholars believe this is a myth. Church records show he was interred at Trinity Church on April 25, 1616.
Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726) was an English physicist and mathematician who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. He is most famous for his law of gravitation.
Newton's Principia formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation, which dominated scientists' view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. By deriving Kepler's laws of planetary motion from his mathematical description of gravity, and then using the same principles to account for the trajectories of comets, the tides, the precession of the equinoxes, and other phenomena, Newton removed the last doubts about the validity of the heliocentric model of the Solar System. This work also demonstrated that the motion of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies could be described by the same principles. His prediction that Earth should be shaped as an oblate spheroid was later vindicated by the measurements of Maupertuis, La Condamine, and others, which helped convince most Continental European scientists of the superiority of Newtonian mechanics over the earlier system of Descartes.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and over three hundred cantatas of which nearly two hundred survive. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Bach was born in Eisenach, in the duchy of Saxe-Eisenach, into a great musical family. His father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, was the director of the town musicians, and all of his uncles were professional musicians. His father probably taught him to play the violin and harpsichord, and his brother, Johann Christoph Bach, taught him the clavichord and exposed him to much contemporary music. Apparently at his own initiative, Bach attended St. Michael's School in Lüneburg for two years. After graduating, he held several musical posts across Germany: he served as Kapellmeister to Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, Thomaskantor in Leipzig, a position of music director at the main Lutheran churches and educator at the Thomasschule, where he served from 1723 to his death. He received the title of "Royal Court Composer" from Augustus III in 1736. Bach's health and vision declined in 1749, and he died on 28 July 1750.
Bach's abilities as an organist were respected throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.
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