Jack Nolan is a Renaissance Man

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The word Renaissance is a French word meaning ‘re-birth.’ The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the 14th through the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. It was best known for the contributions of such polymaths as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who have inspired the term ‘Renaissance Man.’ A Renaissance man or woman is a highly cultivated person who is skilled in many fields of knowledge. The artist-scientist in Renaissance times were immediately recognizable they had to be well-educated, have cultural grace, be a gentleman and understand the arts and sciences. They are a builder, an inventor, a seeker, a dreamer, and a thinker.A perfect example of a 21st century Renaissance man would be Jack Nolan. Jack was left-brain dominant, but he was just as decidedly right-brain dominant. Jack was head of the computer systems group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, and leaped across the divide when he became president of the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. He was always a very intelligent person, a true scientist and a mathematician. But at the same time that was always deeply tempered by his artistic interests.By his teens had the ability to focus on a task to the exclusion of those around him, which made him a good scientist. ?You could speak to Jack, and he could totally ignore you. He’d be reading a book or writing something, and then he’d look up at you with this look of surprise as if you’d just walked into the room.? During college years, his family said, he worked in the rail yards and used pieces of chalk to puzzle out math equations on the sides of boxcars.Always an artist, Mr. Nolan kept a studio in his basement at his family’s Lexington house while spending days as a research scientist. Mr. Nolan grew older, his sister said, “he concentrated only on watercolors and he got very involved in light and shade. He would somehow manage to run the colors together – it was a very light, airytouch that he had.” A few years ago, she said, “we were driving together and he said to me, ‘You know, the entire world is beginning to look like watercolors to me.

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