Examples of Renaissance Men

Updated May 26, 2021
Renaissance men Galileo Galilei
    renaissance man galileo galilei
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A Renaissance man is defined as a man who is knowledgeable or proficient in a variety of fields. In particular, it refers to a person who excels in science and mathematical fields, as well as in the humanities. There are lots of historical and modern examples of Renaissance men — and Renaissance women too! Keep reading for Renaissance man examples in the past and present and women who qualify as Renaissance women.

Renaissance Men and Women in History

So, what is a Renaissance man (or woman)? The term “Renaissance man” comes from the philosophy of the Italian Renaissance, which values education, knowledge and one’s personal development. However, there were plenty of multi-talented scholars long before — and after — the Renaissance period.


Historical Polymaths

Before the Renaissance began in the 14th century, the Greek concept of polymath (“having learned much”) described people who have extensive knowledge in varied subjects. These historical figures ranged from ancient Greece and Rome to the Middle Ages.

Famous historical polymaths who lived before the Renaissance include:

  • Imhotep (2650-2600 B.C.) - Egyptian priest, engineer, physician, and architect

  • Pythagoras (575-495 B.C.) - Greek mathematician, philosopher and scientist

  • Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) - Greek philosopher, physician, poet, playwright, politician, and biologist

  • Archimedes (287-212 B.C.) - Greek mathematician, engineer, inventor, astronomer, and physicist

  • Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B.C.-A.D. 43) - Roman humanist, lawyer, linguist, orator, philosopher, politician, and prose stylist

  • Claudius Ptolemy (90 B.C.-A.D. 168) - Roman astronomer, poet, mathematician, geographer, and scientist

  • Zhang Heng (A.D. 78-139) - Chinese inventor, cartographer, astronomer, poet, philosopher, painter, sculptor, mathematician, and historian.

  • Hypatia (A.D. 350-415) - Greek mathematician, astronomer and philosopher

  • Al-Khwarizmi (A.D. 780-850) - Persian mathematician, geographer and astronomer

  • Al-Kindi (A.D. 801-873) - Arabic mathematician, astronomer, musician, physician, philosopher, geographer, meteorologist, politician, and scientist

  • Abbas ibn Firnas, also known as Armen Firman (810-887 A.D.) - Arabic aviator, chemist, engineer, inventor, musician, physician, and poet

  • Al-hazen (A.D. 965-1039) - physicist, scientist, astronomer, mathematician, ophthalmologist, engineer, inventor, philosopher, and theologian

  • Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī (A.D.973-1048) - anthropologist, astronomer, physicist, geologist, natural historian, physician, mathematician, theologian, and philosopher

  • Shen Kuo (A.D. 1031-1095) - Chinese astronomer, scientist, statesman, botanist, poet, mathematician, engineer, diplomat, inventor, and military general

  • Hildegard of Bingen (A.D. 1098-1179) - German writer, philosopher, abbess, composer, and mystic

  • Averroës, also known as Ibn Rushd (A.D. 1126-1198) - Spanish-Arabic doctor, lawyer, astronomer, philosopher, astronomer, theologian, and mathematician


The Original Renaissance Men

Historians consider Leonardo da Vinci to be the original Renaissance man due to his success in so many different fields and embrace of the Humanist movement. However, there are many prominent scholars during this time period who could also be considered Renaissance men.

Take a look at these men and women who were accomplishing great things in Europe during the Renaissance:

  • Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) - Italian painter, sculptor, humanist, scientist, architect, philosopher, engineer, and more

  • Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) - Polish astronomer, mathematician, artist, physician, economist, military strategist, diplomat, and politician

  • Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) - Italian architect, painter, sculptor, poet, and writer

  • Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) - Italian philosopher, statesman, author, political scientist, historian, and diplomat

  • Raphael (1483-1520) - Italian painter, architect, and archaeologist

  • Michel de Montaigne (1522-1592) - French essayist, philosopher, statesman, and early psychologist

  • Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) - Italian astronomer, mathematician, physicist, philosopher, musician, and artist


More Renaissance Men and Women from History

The influence of the European Renaissance persisted long after it ended. The accomplishments of the Renaissance led to the scientific Age of Enlightenment and many scholarly achievements around the world.

Check out examples of Renaissance men and women who were influenced by the legacy of the Renaissance:

  • Amir Khusrow (1253-1325) - Indian poet, musician, inventor, mystic, linguist, and historian

  • Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) - Arabic diplomat, economist, historian, political theorist, social scientist, theologian, demographer, and linguist.

  • Akbar the Great (1542-1605) - Mogul architect, artist, writer, theologian, carpenter, and technologist

  • Baha ad-Din al-Amili (1547-1621) - Arabic architect, astronomist, mathematician, philosopher, and poet

  • Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz (1606-1682) - Spanish architect, astronomer, grammarian, logician, mathematician, physicist, poet, politician, and theologian.

  • Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) - French physicist, mathematician, theologian, philosopher, and author

  • Robert Hooke (1635-1703) - English experimental scientist, architect, natural philosopher, mathematician, and surveyor

  • Isaac Newton (1643-1727) -- English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, alchemist, and natural philosopher

  • Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) - German historian, logician, philosopher, physicist, mathematician, and theologian

  • Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) - American scientist, writer, inventor, civil activist, diplomat, and political theorist

  • Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov (1711-1765) Russian chemist, artist, educator, historian, writer, and physicist.

  • Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) - American author, lawyer, musician, architect, botanist, inventor, philosopher, political theorist, and naturalist

  • Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) - Russian composer, musician, scientist, chemist, and educator

  • Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) - Serbian-American inventor, engineer, physicist, mathematician, and humanitarian

  • Jose Rizal (1861-1896) - Filipino biologist, volcanologist, ophthalmologist, painter, poet, novelist, and political scientist

  • Rabindranath Thakur (1861-1941) - Indian poet, musician, playwright, philosopher, author, painter, and social activist

  • Marie Curie (1867-1934) - Polish physicist, chemist, inventor, and mathematician


Modern-Day Renaissance Men and Women

The accomplishments of the polymaths and Renaissance men and women have led to a flourishing modern age. However, there are still many of these geniuses in our modern world!

Examples of modern-day Renaissance women and men include:

  • Mayim Bialik - actor, director, author, and neuroscientist

  • Bono - Irish singer, philanthropist, investor, businessman, and social activist

  • Brad Pitt - American actor, producer, filmmaker, humanitarian, and investor

  • Dorothy Dunnett - Scottish novelist, painter, historian, musician, and linguist

  • Donald Glover - American actor, musician, rapper, DJ, comedian, and writer

  • Stephen Hawking - English physicist, mathematician, cosmologist, and author

  • Mae Jemison - American astronaut, engineer, and physician

  • Ken Jeong - American actor, comedian, physician, and television producer

  • Quincy Jones - American songwriter, record producer, composer, music arranger, and television producer

  • Steve Jobs - American businessman, technician, investor, and designer

  • Elon Musk - South African-Canadian businessman, computer programmer, engineer, physicist, and entrepreneur

  • Carl Sagan - American astronomer, astrophysicist, author, astrobiologist, and cosmologist


Geniuses in the Past and Present

Chances are, the innovations you enjoy every day came from the time of a talented Renaissance woman or man. These polymaths are different from your everyday geniuses — they flourish in many fields, always working to make our world a better place. To learn more about the inventions that turn the world around, check out these Industrial Revolution inventions that made history.