10 More Geniuses of 10 Fields of Human Activity
Following on from the recent list submitted by FlameHorse, a lot of readers, myself including, wanted people from other fields too. So I took upon the job of writing about 10 more geniuses. I hope you all like it and as always constructive criticism is welcomed. Hope to have a heated discussion.
Niccolò Machiavelli was an Italian philosopher/writer, and is considered one of the main founders of modern political science. Since the sixteenth century, generations of politicians remain attracted and repelled by the cynical approach to power posited in The Prince and his other works. Whatever his personal intentions, which are still debated today, his surname yielded the modern political word Machiavellianism—the use of cunning and deceitful tactics in politics.
Machiavelli studied the way people lived and aimed to inform leaders how they should rule and even how they themselves should live. To an extent he admits that the old tradition was true – men are obliged to live virtuously as according to Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics principle. However, he denies that living virtuously necessarily leads to happiness. Machiavelli viewed misery as one of the vices that enables a prince to rule. Machiavelli states boldly in The Prince, The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved. In much of Machiavelli’s work, it seems that the ruler must adopt unsavory policies for the sake of the continuance of his regime.
Scholars have argued that James Madison followed Machiavelli’s republicanism when he (and Jefferson) set up the Democratic-Republican Party in the 1790s to oppose what they saw as the emerging aristocracy that they feared Alexander Hamilton was creating with the Federalist Party. Conservative historians likewise conclude that Thomas Jefferson’s republicanism was “deeply in debt” to Machiavelli, whom he praised. The Founding Fathers read Machiavelli closely. In his Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States, Adams praised Machiavelli, with Algernon Sidney and Montesquieu, as a philosophic defender of mixed government.
Rembrandt was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age.
Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, his later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardship. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught nearly every important Dutch painter. Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. In both painting and printmaking he exhibited a complete knowledge of classical iconography.
Bertrand Russell was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, socialist, pacifist and social critic. He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his protégé Wittgenstein and his elder Frege, and is widely held to be one of the 20th century’s premier logicians. He co-authored, with A. N. Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, an attempt to ground mathematics on logic. His philosophical essay “On Denoting” has been considered a “paradigm of philosophy.” Both works have had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics, and philosophy.
The first of three volumes of Principia Mathematica, written with Whitehead, was published in 1910, which, along with the earlier The Principles of Mathematics, soon made Russell world famous in his field.
Principia Mathematica is an attempt to derive all mathematical truths from a well-defined set of axioms and inference rules in symbolic logic. One of the main inspirations and motivations for PM was Frege’s earlier work on logic, which had led to paradoxes discovered by Russell. Deeper theorems from real analysis were not included, but by the end of the third volume it was clear to experts that a large amount of known mathematics could in principle be developed in the adopted formalism. It was also clear how lengthy such a development would be. A fourth volume on the foundations of geometry had been planned, but the authors admitted to intellectual exhaustion upon completion of the third.
PM is widely considered by specialists in the subject to be one of the most important and seminal works in mathematical logic and philosophy since Aristotle’s Organon. The Modern Library placed it 23rd in a list of the top 100 English-language nonfiction books of the twentieth century.
Adam Smith was a Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneer of political economics. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The latter, usually abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics. Smith is widely cited as the father of modern economics.
The Wealth of Nations, one of the earliest attempts to study the rise of industry and commercial development in Europe, was a precursor to the modern academic discipline of economics. In this and other works, Smith expounded how rational self-interest and competition can lead to economic prosperity and well-being. It also provided one of the best-known intellectual rationales for free trade and capitalism, greatly influencing the writings of later economists. Smith is often cited as the father of modern economics. Smith was controversial in his own day and his general approach and writing style was often satirized by Tory writers in the moralizing tradition of Hogarth and Swift, as a discussion at the University of Winchester suggests.
The bicentennial anniversary of the publication of The Wealth of Nations was celebrated in 1976, resulting in increased interest for The Theory of Moral Sentiments and his other works throughout academia. After 1976, Smith was more likely to be represented as the author of both The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and thereby as the founder of a moral philosophy and the science of economics. His homo economicus or “economic man” was also more often represented as a moral person. Additionally, his opposition to slavery, colonialism, and empire was emphasized, as were his statements about high wages for the poor, and his views that a common street porter was not intellectually inferior to a philosopher.
Kh?lid ibn al-Wal?d was a companion of Muhammad, and one of the most successful commanders in history. Khalid is said to have fought around a hundred battles, both major battles and minor skirmishes, during his military career. Having remained undefeated, this fact makes him one of the finest generals in history. Khalid was the architect of most of the early Muslim military doctrines; he was pioneer of almost every major tactics that Muslims used during their lightning quick Early Islamic conquest. One of Khalid’s major achievements in this context was utilizing the individual skills of Arab Bedouin warriors to a larger scale. He is believed to have developed them into an almost regular unit called Mubarizun (“champions”), who would issue personal challenges to the enemy officers. These were highly trained and skilled swordsmen, whom Khalid utilized effectively to slay as many enemy high-ranking officers as possible, giving a psychological blow to enemy morale. The Battle of Ajnadayn is perhaps the best example of this form of psychological warfare.
Moreover his biggest achievement was the conversion of Arab tactical doctrine into a strategic system by which, after exhausting the enemy units, he would launch his cavalry at their flanks employing Hammer and Anvil tactics. Much of Khalid’s strategical and tactical genius lies in his use of extreme methods. He apparently put more emphasis on annihilating enemy troops, rather than achieving victory by simply defeating them. For instance his employment of the double envelopment maneuver against the numerically superior Persian army at the Battle of Walaja, and his brilliant maneuver at the Battle of Yarmouk where he virtually trapped the Byzantine army between three steep ravines by stealthily capturing their only escape route, a bridge, at their rear. This maneuver, in 13th century, became one of the Mongol armies’ principal maneuvers.
Khalid’s elite light cavalry, could charge at an incredible speed and would usually employ a common tactic of Kar wa far literary meaning “engage-disengage”. They would charge on enemy flanks and rear, their maneuverability making them very effective against heavily armored Byzantine and Sassanid cataphracts. Khalid’s famous flanking charge on the final day of the Battle of Yarmouk stands as testimony to just how well he understood the potentials and strengths of his mounted troops.
Hugo Grotius also known as Huig de Groot or Hugo de Groot, worked as a jurist in the Dutch Republic. With Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili he laid the foundations for international law, based on natural law. He was also a philosopher, theologian, Christian apologist, playwright, and poet.
Grotius’s influence on international law is paramount, and is acknowledged by, for instance, the American Society of International Law, which since 1999 holds an annual series of Grotius Lectures. Living in the times of the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Netherlands and the Thirty Years’ War between Catholic and Protestant European nations, it is not surprising that Grotius was deeply concerned with matters of conflicts between nations and religions. His most lasting work, begun in prison and published during his exile in Paris, was a monumental effort to restrain such conflicts on the basis of a broad moral consensus.
De jure belli ac pacis libri tres (On the Law of War and Peace: Three books) was first published in 1625, dedicated to Grotius’ current patron, Louis XIII. The treatise advances a system of principles of natural law, which are held to be binding on all people and nations regardless of local custom.
Rhazes (Al Razi) was a Persian physician, alchemist and chemist, philosopher, and scholar. He is recognized as a polymath and Biographies of Razi, based on his writings, describe him as “perhaps the greatest clinician of all times.” Numerous “firsts” in medical research, including being the first to differentiate smallpox from measles among others are attributed to him. Edward Granville Browne considers him as “probably the greatest and most original of all the physicians…”
Rhazes made fundamental and enduring contributions to the fields of medicine, alchemy, music, and philosophy, recorded in over 200 books and articles in various fields of science. He made numerous advances in medicine through own observations and discoveries.
As a physician, he was an early proponent of experimental medicine and is considered the father of pediatrics. He was also a pioneer of neurosurgery and ophthalmology. He was among the first to use Humoralism to distinguish one contagious disease from another. In particular, Razi was the first physician to distinguish smallpox and measles through his clinical characterization of the two diseases. He became chief physician of Rayy and Baghdad hospitals. Razi Invented what today is known as rubbing alcohol.
Razi is also known for having discovered “allergic asthma,” and was the first physician ever to write articles on allergy and immunology. Rhazes contributed in many ways to the early practice of pharmacy by compiling texts, in which he introduces the use of ‘mercurial ointments’ and his development of apparatus such as mortars, flasks, spatulas and phials, which were used in pharmacies until the early twentieth century. On a professional level, Razi introduced many practical, progressive, medical and psychological ideas. He made a distinction between curable and incurable diseases. Pertaining to the latter, he commented that in the case of advanced cases of cancer and leprosy the physician should not be blamed when he could not cure them.
His monumental medical encyclopedia in nine volumes — known in Europe also as The Large Comprehensive or Continens Liber contains considerations and criticism on the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, and expresses innovative views on many subjects. Because of this book alone, many scholars consider Razi the greatest medical doctor of the Middle Ages.
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry, was a French noble prominent in the histories of chemistry and biology.
He stated the first version of the law of conservation of mass, recognized and named oxygen (1778) and hydrogen (1783), abolished the phlogiston theory, helped construct the metric system, wrote the first extensive list of elements, and helped to reform chemical nomenclature. He discovered that, although matter may change its form or shape, its mass always remains the same. Lavoisier’s fundamental contributions to chemistry were a result of a conscious effort to fit all experiments into the framework of a single theory. He established the consistent use of the chemical balance, used oxygen to overthrow the phlogiston theory, and developed a new system of chemical nomenclature which held that oxygen was an essential constituent of all acids (which later turned out to be erroneous. Lavoisier also contributed to early ideas on composition and chemical changes by stating the radical theory, believing that radicals, which function as a single group in a chemical process, combine with oxygen in reactions. He also introduced the possibility of allotropy in chemical elements when he discovered that diamond is a crystalline form of carbon.
He was essentially a theorist, and his great merit lay in the capacity of taking over experimental work that others had carried out—without always adequately recognizing their claims—and by a rigorous logical procedure, reinforced by his own quantitative experiments, of expounding the true explanation of the results. He completed the work of Black, Priestley and Cavendish, and gave a correct explanation of their experiments.
Ibn Khald?n was an Arab historian, born in North Africa in present-day Tunisia. He is best known for his Muqaddimah (known as Prolegomenon in the West), the first volume of his book on universal history, Kitab al-Ibar. Ibn Khald?n has left behind few works other than his history of the world. The Kit?bu l-ib?r, Ibn Khald?n’s main work, was originally conceived as a history of the Berbers. Later, the focus was widened so that in its final form to represent a so-called “universal history”. It is divided into seven books, the first of which, the Muqaddimah, can be considered a separate work. Books two to five cover the history of mankind up to the time of Ibn Khald?n. Books six and seven cover the history of the Berber peoples and the Maghreb.
The Muqaddimah is also held to be a foundational work for the schools of historiography, cultural history, and the philosophy of history. The Muqaddimah also laid the groundwork for the observation of the role of state, communication, propaganda and systematic bias in history. In the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun warned of seven mistakes that he thought that historians regularly committed. In this criticism, he approached the past as strange and in need of interpretation. The originality of Ibn Khaldun was to claim that the cultural difference of another age must govern the evaluation of relevant historical material, to distinguish the principles according to which it might be possible to attempt the evaluation, and lastly, to feel the need for experience, in addition to rational principles, in order to assess a culture of the past.
His historical method also laid the groundwork for the observation of the role of state, communication, propaganda and systematic bias in history, and he is thus considered to be the “father of historiography” or the “father of the philosophy of history”. The Muqaddimah is the earliest known work to critically examine military history. It criticizes certain accounts of historical battles that appear to be exaggerated, and takes military logistics into account when questioning the sizes of historical armies reported in earlier sources.
Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer, who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations, and support for Copernicanism. Galileo has been called the “father of modern observational astronomy.”
After 1610, when he began publicly supporting the heliocentric view, which placed the Sun at the centre of the universe, he met with bitter opposition from some philosophers and clerics. He had discovered three of Jupiter’s four largest satellites (moons): Io, Europa, and Callisto. He discovered the fourth, Ganymede, on 13 January. Galileo also observed the planet Saturn, and at first mistook its rings for planets, thinking it was a three-bodied system. When he observed the planet later, Saturn’s rings were directly oriented at Earth, causing him to think that two of the bodies had disappeared. Galileo was one of the first Europeans to observe sunspots, although Kepler had unwittingly observed one in 1607, but mistook it for a transit of Mercury.
He also reinterpreted a sunspot observation from the time of Charlemagne, which formerly had been attributed (wrongly) to a transit of Mercury. The very existence of sunspots showed another difficulty with the unchanging perfection of the heavens posited by orthodox Aristotelian celestial physics, but their regular periodic transits also confirmed the dramatic novel prediction of Kepler’s Aristotelian celestial dynamics in his 1609 Astronomia Nova that the sun rotates, which was the first successful novel prediction of post-spherist celestial physics.
Galileo was the first to report lunar mountains and craters, whose existence he deduced from the patterns of light and shadow on the Moon’s surface. He even estimated the mountains’ heights from these observations. This led him to the conclusion that the Moon was “rough and uneven, and just like the surface of the Earth itself,” rather than a perfect sphere as Aristotle had claimed. Galileo observed the Milky Way and found it to be a multitude of stars packed very densely packed. He located many other stars too distant to be visible with the naked eye. Galileo also observed the planet Neptune in 1612, but did not realize that it was a planet and took no particular notice of it. It appears in his notebooks as one of many unremarkable dim stars. He observed the double star Mizar in Ursa Major in 1617.