Zhang Heng – a Chinese polymath

My daily read at the web involves reading several feeds with Bloglines, the portal of the Freedictionary and the mother of all portals, Wikipedia, the English as well as the German version – being Dutch myself I hardly ever read the Dutch version.

This feeds my information-hungry mind with lots of stuff to think about, to recycle (e.g. for blogs), or just to know, to write down in my notebook, my tiddlywiki etc. After all, I’m just obsessed with learning and knowing as much as possible.

Today I found an article about Zhang Heng, who lived form AD 78 untill 139.

Zhang Heng was an astronomer, mathematician, inventor, geographer, cartographer, artist, poet, statesman, and literary scholar from Nanyang, Henan, and lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25–220) of China. After beginning his career as a minor civil servant, he eventually became Chief Astronomer, Prefect of the Majors for Official Carriages, and then Palace Attendant at the imperial court. His uncompromising stances on certain historical and calendrical issues led to Zhang being considered a controversial figure, which prevented him from becoming an official court historian. Zhang applied his extensive knowledge of mechanics and gears in several of his inventions. He invented the world’s first water-powered armillary sphere, to represent astronomical observation; improved the inflow water clock by adding another tank; and invented the world’s first seismometer, which discerned the cardinal direction of an earthquake 500 km (310 mi) away. Furthermore, he improved previous Chinese calculations of the formula for pi. His fu (rhapsody) and shi poetry were renowned and commented on by later Chinese writers. Zhang received many posthumous honors for his scholarship and ingenuity, and is considered a polymath by some scholars. (more…)

Of course I surfed to the complete article, but I also had to follow the links to “Pi” and “Polymath“”:

A polymath (Greek polymath?s, “having learned much”) is a person whose knowledge is not restricted to one subject area. The dictionary definition is consistent with informal use, whereby someone very knowledgeable is described as a polymath when the term is used as a noun, or polymath or polymathic when used as adjectives.

I think this will keep me busy for a while 🙂

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  • The Aesthetics and Beauty of Knowledge

    Shih was the opposite of facts and raw information; shih was the elegance of knowledge, the insight and skill to organize knowledge into meaningful patterns. As an artist chooses colours or light to make her pictures, a master of shih chooses textures of knowledge – various ideas, myths, abstractions, and theories – to create a way of seeing the world. The aesthetics and beauty of knowledge – this was shih.

    – David Zindell, The Broken God, 1993

  • Geek Attitude

    The attitude thing is about flexibility, portability, creativity, sociability and jamming (ran out of suitable “ity” words!). It’s about improvising – in the practical and musical senses of the word; not getting tangled in boundaries and the “right” way to do things.
    Definitely the only way to travel.
    Martin Delaney – “Laptop Music”.