Polymathic Pizza



Fall 2023-Spring 2024

renaissancerɪˈneɪsəns, rənɛsɑ̃s [French., f. renaître rebirth: cf. renascence.] any revival, or period of marked improvement and new life, in art, literature, technology and science. Oxford Dictionary

There was something very comforting about finding myself in a room full of similarly curious people - who brought vast amounts of knowledge to the table - to listen, learn, and discuss.  ~ Stephanie Saisi, Harman Fellow 

The most beautiful experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and science.  Whoever does not know it can no longer wonder, is as good as dead, and their eyes are dimmed.~ Albert Einstein

What inspired the Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci to do all that he did?  Was it his unbounded curiosity? Or the discoveries that were illuminated by his curiosity? Might it have been the wonder he experienced upon his discoveries? Certainly, the polymathic company Leonardo kept inspired him, as our Academy’s fellows have also found to be true. Was it the entirety these things – curiosity, discovery, wonder, creation, and community – that inspired him to pursue so many paths? 

However, Glorious Leonardo, as Sidney Harman called him, cannot be separated from the historical moment from which he emerged. So many of the social, cultural, and political issues we face today can be traced back to Leonardo’s time: processes of exploitation and genocide; environmental disregard and degradation; capitalistic greed and imperialist ambitions. These too are legacies from the Renaissance Era, legacies still very much among us.

So how do we celebrate polymaths such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Elizabeth I, and others, while acknowledging they produced their genius in a very problematic and tragic time in human history? 

We at the Harman Academy believe that polymathy means more than simple interdisciplinarity. It means learning from the likes of Leonardo while also reflecting on the many ways that polymathic endeavor exceeds the popular veneration of solo geniuses.

For our fall Polymathic Pizza series, A Renaissance of Curiosity, Discovery, Wonder, and Creation ~ The Polymathic Pathway,  we will venture along this polymathic path with faculty from a wide breadth of disciplines to discuss five characteristics that defined the Renaissance Era – curiosity, discovery, wonder, creativity, and community – discerning what we might learn from them for our lives, our work, and our age.  

Our spring series, A Renaissance of the Renaissance,  will be loosely organized around the provocative and insightful anthology, Renaissance Futurities: Science, Art, Invention. We will examine the lineage of Renaissance polymaths’ imaginings reflected in present (and future?) technologies and concerns, including misinformation, medicine, automatons and AI, and artistic endeavors.

Each spring session will be paired with an Ahmanson Lab workshop on a related topic.