About the Academy

Located in its own quarters on the second floor of Doheny Memorial Library, the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study offers a series of conversational encounters intended to intensify polymathic (integrated interdisciplinary) awareness.  Conversations and other forms of presentation will include faculty, junior faculty, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and undergraduates.  These discussions are anchored in and structured by the Four Quadrants of Polymathic Inquiry: critical and integrative thinking, study of the great polymaths, tapestry, and communication.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) ranks among the greatest polymaths of human history. In his Theory of Colours (1810) Goethe used a color wheel to express a polymathic understanding of scientific inquiry rooted in human experience.

In the first quadrant, discussions will seek not only to discern complexity but to bring to the study of a single discipline multiple modes of understanding and, conversely, to discern and present unifying elements across differing fields. In studying the great polymaths of the past and the present, discussion will revolve around how these creative enquirers approached the multi-dimensional complexity of human knowledge and experience.  The tapestry quadrant challenges participants to weave together multiple stands of inquiry and understanding into knowledge anchored in process and narrative.  The communication quadrant, finally, encourages a presentation of integrated thinking in clear, accessible language as well as mathematical exponents when appropriate.