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Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: changed minds and designed mines

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: changed minds and designed mines

Who was the last person to know everything? Was it Thomas Young, 19th-century linguist, physician and physicist; or philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz; or Joseph Leidy, American palaeontologist and anatomist?

Peter Burke, emeritus professor of cultural history at Cambridge, immediately dismisses such questions as an exercise in facile myth-making. For Burke, a polymath is a person who has contributed to several distinct academic fields. This frees polymaths from having to “know everything,”…

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