Apprentice Surpasses Master

A GrandMasterProgrammer (or master of any trade) is really great when he allows his apprentice to surpass him. That's the way a trade is advanced.

Michelangelo became an apprentice to prominent Florentine painter Domenico Ghirlandaio at the age of 12, but soon began to study sculpture instead.

Early on, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart learned from his father Leopold Mozart, a respected composer, violinist, and theorist.

Finally there is correct content on this page, but I wonder what the point is. Apparently we are looking for/listing examples where some apprentice surpasses his teacher, and if you think about it, that will almost always be true of any given grandmaster, and it's actually common and not very interesting that famous masters of a field surpass their non-famous (or not very famous) expert but otherwise fairly non-descript teachers or parents.

It is quite, quite rare, percentagewise (although there are lots of examples nonetheless) for grandmasters to teach students who also become grandmasters, in any field. And even if we start to list those, they would be apprentices who (for most examples) more or less equaled their grandmaster teachers, not surpassed them.

So I wonder if, once you really think about it, possibly this page is going in the direction of completely boring tautology, with no insightful point to be made even in the future.

The same could be said of ShouldersOfGiants. I guess its is a case of TrivialOnceUnderstood.

It suddenly occurs to me that there's a point to be made by looking at the opposite AntiPattern of "Master Stunts Growth of Apprentice to Ensure He Won't Be Surpassed", which is all too clearly a BadThing and also unfortunately not infrequent.

Yes. The focus of this 'pattern' is not on the apprentice (as the above example seem to imply), but on the master. Its no wonder, that we can find masters, that let their apprentices surpass them by looking at the top grand masters. But thats not the point though one could elaborate and e.g. look at the ratio of masters, that were once encouraged apprentices and those, that became masters without support - I guess the result should be clear: Finding bad examples should be harder, because the leave less traces. But one could look at a sample of grand masters and look at their apprentices (if any).


An old Master (Issan) once said: "Insight deep as that of the master diminishes by half the master's virtue; insight that surpasses that of the master makes worthy of receiving the succession."

The Zen Teaching of Rinzai, A translation from the Chinese of the Lin-chi Lu by Irmgard Schloegl ISBN 0-87773-087-3 --JohnReynoldsTheStudent
DecemberZeroFive

See also: ShouldersOfGiants

EditText of this page (last edited December 23, 2005) or FindPage with title or text search