Many great people taught themselves when there was no formal teaching in the topics which interested them. Examples are Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Faraday, and Charles Darwin. Much of the industrial revolution was done by men in a field of work where there was no previous experience. James Watt was a surveyor and instrument maker and is described as being "largely self-educated". Watt, like some other autodidacts of his time, became a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the Lunar Society.
Autodidactism is only one way to learn, and may be done together with formal education. Many autodidacts seek instruction and guidance from experts, friends, teachers, tutors, parents, siblings, and the community.
- Robinson, Eric; McKie, Doublas. Partners in science: letters of James Watt and Joseph Black. Cambridge, Massachusetts. p. 4.