Of Specialists and Polymaths

Smithsonian article on Archeogenetics

The pace at which scientists are breaking down their foci of expertise into increasingly narrower fields is breathtaking. Kinda like the way fictional genres become increasingly niche-ified. (Can you say “Cat Mysteries,” boys and girls?)

It’s all quite wonderful, but I hope all these specialists are still talking to specialists in other fields, else the forest will be missed for the trees. Nay, the leaves.

Many moons ago–high school or college–I remember reading a biography of Roger Bacon (“Doctor Mirabilis,” 1219-1292) in which the fun fact was discussed that Bacon is considered one of those polymaths of days gone by who knew everything there was to know about everything in his own time. (For a wee discussion on the several candidates for this extinct title, go here.)

Nowadays a polymath can never be more than someone knows some things about more things than most people, alas the day.

These musings were prompted by the following article from the Smithsonian, in which I was reminded that we now have a scientific specialty known as “Archeogenetics.” This new sub-sub-cross-category of science will, in fact, play a role in one of the later books in the series I’m working on, only it will involve ancient Native Americans, not Egyptians

Here’s the article.




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