The 40 Smartest People of All Time

When it comes to determining smarts, there are many different approaches. IQ tests have long been the standard for measuring intelligence, but the IQ score misses out on other important markers of success. American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims devised a unique method to rank the smartest people in history. Thims started with a list of people who had IQ scores of more than 200. Thims then ranked people according to whether they had a specific area of focus that suggested a level of genius. Later, Thims ranked everybody who had a strong aptitude, marked capacity, or heightened inclination in some area that coupled with their IQ would make them worthy of the title genius. The final result yielded this quirky list of very smart people.


1. Richard “Rick” Rosner, IQ 140-250

Former stripper Rick Rosner is an unlikely pick, but he happens to have one of the highest IQ scores of anyone alive today: 140-250. Posner excels in math, physics and verbal acuity. He belongs to five gyms and is a proponent of nootropics, the burgeoning field of science which advocates taking pills to improve brain power.


2. Marilyn vos Savant, IQ 157-228

Marilyn Vos Savant has earned IQ scores ranging from 157 to 228, on various tests. Vos Savant dropped out of college after just two years in order to invest in real estate and the stock market. She married Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the artificial heart. Her best score was 228, which earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1985.


3. Christopher Langan, IQ 174 to 210

Esquire Magazine awarded Chris Langan the title OF Smartest Man in America. His IQ ranges from 174 to 210. The unusual Langan is an autodidact, which means he taught himself, rather than attending schools. He spends his time crafting a theory of everything, which he refers to as  Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe. The unusual Langan works as a temp – bartending, acting as a security guard and bouncer.


4. Nathan Leopold

Nathan Leopold spoke his first words at just four months old. The child prodigy was born in Chicago in 1904. He was brilliant, but had almost no social skills. Leopold became a murderer when he and his close friend Richard Loeb murdered a 14-year old boy in 1924. The two lads were attempting to commit “the perfect crime.” The case was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Rope. Leopold served 33 years in prison.


5. Marnen Laibow-Koser, IQ 268

With a projected IQ of 268, Laibow-Koser may have the world’s highest IQ. He is a 39-year-old music composer and who pays the bills by doing web design and app development. His is also a graduate student who frequents Twitter.


6. Ainan Cawley, IQ 263 – 349

Ainan Celeste Cawley is a British prodigy whose IQ scores ranged between 263 and 349, at just 14 years old. At age 9, Cawley was a math whiz who could recite Pi all the way to 518 decimal places. He now lives in Singapore where he once gave a science lecture at the age of 6, passed the Chemistry O level exam at age 7, and enrolled in the Singapore Polytechnic at age 8.


7. Adragon De Mello, IQ 400

Adragon De Mello graduated from college at 11. He may have a 400 IQ. Adragon is the victim of an all-consuming father who was obsessed with making his son a Nobel PRize winner by age 16. Adragon was not interested in winning awards. As of 2003, Adragon was working for the Home Depot. He had trained as an estimator for a commercial printing company.


8. Michael Kearney, IQ 325

Michael Kearney was born in 1982 in Hawaii, and graduateD from University of South Alabama at just age 10. His IQ score is as high as 325 depending on the test. Kearney accomplished this despite having ADHD. Kearney dreamed of being a game show host as an adult. At age 22, he had already received four bachelor’s degrees (in anthropology, computer science, geology, and chemistry) and a doctorate in chemistry.


9. Nadia Camukova, IQ 200+

Nadia Camukova is a Russian born in 1976. She has an IQ of at least 200, but the Brain Research Institute in Moscow claimed later that she had the highest IQ in the world. Nadia is gifted with languages. She not only speaks seven languages (Russian, English, French, Turkish, German, Arabic, and Persian), she also is fluent in eight distinct Turkish dialects. Nadia is now a professor at Bahçeşehir University in Turkey.


10. Michael Grost, IQ 200+

 Michael Grost began studying at at Michigan State University in 1964 when he was just 10 years old. He has an IQ of at least 200. Grost went  on to attend both Yale and the University of Michigan. At age 23 he had already received his doctorate in mathematics.Grost worked on computers and worked as a systems architect at a computer company in Detroit. Grost’s bare-bones website lists an interest in classical composers as a hobby.


11. Sho Yano, IQ 200

Sho Yano is considered a real-life Doogie Howser. Sho scored 1500 out of 1600 on the SAT test at 8 years old. Sho then enrolled at Loyola University when he was 9, graduating summa cum laude just three years later. His highest IQ score is 200.  Sho entered the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, enrolling in a program that awards both PhDs and MDs. He graduated at age 21, as the youngest person to obtain an MD from the University of Chicago. Sho is now a pediatric neurology resident.


12. Dylan Jones, IQ 200

Dylan Jones, who has an IQ of 200, quit traditional schooling over Christmas break of the second grade. Jones was too gifted for regular class, so his parents enrolled him in an institute for the exceptionally gifted. He graduated at 16 years old from the Colorado School of Mines, with degrees in math and computer science and a minor in bioengineering and life sciences. Jones then began studying at the University of Colorado-Denver School of Medicine, where he’s studying to be a neurosurgeon. Jones intends to become a board-certified neurosurgeon by age 28. He also has an interest in languages, and wants to learn Russian.


13. Edith Stern, IQ 203

Edith Stern’s unusual life started one day after her birth, when her father held a press conference to announce that he would raise his daughter as the “perfect human being. Stern read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover, volume to volume, by age 5. She entered college at age 12, and by the time she was 15, she was teaching college-level math classes. Her IQ is 203. Stern has been employed by IBM since the 1970s and is well known for many contributions to the world of applied mathematics.


14. Kim Ung-Yong, IQ 200

Kim Ung-Yong is another former child prodigy with a driven father. Kim’s father said Kim had memorized 2,000 words by age 3. At age 4, he had already started college and spoke four languages. NASA invited him to come to America for further study. He has an IQ of more than 200. Kim later returned to South Korea and earned a doctorate in engineering. He now works in business planning. Although this is not the life that many expect for a child prodigy, Kim says he never wanted to enter the world of politics or other high-stakes careers.


15. Terence Tao, IQ  211-230

Terence Tao is called “the Mozart of Math” by his colleagues at UCLA, where he teaches math. Different IQ measures estimate his IQ score within a range of 211 to 230. Tao got his PhD at age 21 from Princeton and was immediately hired at UCLA. He became a tenured professor at just 24 years old. Tao was a co-recipient of the Fields Medal in 2006 “for his contributions to partial differential equations, combinatorics, harmonic analysis and additive number theory.” This led to a MacArthur genius grant. He also won the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics.



16. Christopher Hirata, IQ 225

Astrophysicist Christopher Hirata has an IQ of 225. The former child prodigy was the youngest winner at the 1996 International Physics Olympiad, which he won at just age 13. A year later, Hirata enrolled at the California Institute of Technology, where his future career began to take shape. By the time he turned 16, NASA started collaborating with Hirata on the colonization of Mars. He received a PhD in physics at age 22, graduating from Princeton. Hirata is currently a professor of astronomy and physics at the Ohio State University.


17. Albert Einstein, IQ 205-225

Theoretical physicist and scientific philosopher Albert Einstein was one of the most famous mathematicians of the 20th century. He came up with the formula of E =mc2, which is the formula for mass-energy equivalence. This is the most famous math equation in the world. Einstein explained the principle of relativity. He also attempted to disprove quantum theory. His IQ was in the range of 205 to 225, based on estimated score.

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18. William Sidis, IQ 200-300

William Sidis inspired Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to write the screenplay for the movie “Good Will Hunting.” He was a child prodigy with an IQ score of 200 to 300 depending on the test. At just 2 years old, Sidis read the daily newspaper and wrote letters on a typewriter in both of his languages, English and French. Although Sidis got into Harvard at age 9, the University did not let him enroll because of his “emotional immaturity.” After two years, Harvard relented and let him enroll at age 11.  At age 17, Sidis accepted a teaching job at Rice University in Houston, only to quit after barely a year. Fame was crushing for Sidis, who was followed by paparazzi. He eventually turned into a hermit who moved from city to city, only accepting menial jobs like running an adding machine.

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19. Hypatia, IQ 170-210

Hypatia of Alexandria lived in 4th century Greece, where she became the top mathematician and astronomer of the age. Thims believes her IQ score would be between 170 to 210.  Hypatia was the last scientist who had access to the Library of Alexandria, which was tragically destroyed and lost to history. Hypatia was the headmaster at the top university in the world at the time. She was a decidedly pagan person who taught Neoplatonism at a time when Christian zealots were multiplying. An angry mob of Christians killed her in the streets in 415, making Hyptia the Martyred Mathematician.

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20. Francis Galton, IQ 200+

English polymath Francis Galton wrote 340 books and papers in his lifetime and is credited with creating the statistical concept of correlation. Thims believes that Galton had an IQ of over 200. Galton contributed to many different disciplines. As a meteorologist, he is considered the person who created the modern weather map. As a criminologist, he introduced the use of fingerprints to solve crime. He is related to Charles Darwin and as a result, became fascinated by eugenics and evolution. Galton actually came up with the word “eugenics” and also the phrase “nature versus nurture.” The statistical concept of regression to the mean was also invented by Galton.

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21. John Stuart Mill, IQ 180-200

Political philosopher John Stuart Mill is a giant of world political history. Mill lived in the 1800s and was a member of the British parliament. Mill was an avid proponent of utilitarianism, as an acolyte of philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Mill was a critic of strong, centralized state control of government. He had an IQ of 180 to 200, according to Thims’ estimates.  Mill’s biggest contribution to world history is the essay “On Liberty,” published in 1859. Mill argued that liberty is an important fundamental right, leading him to champion the rights of the individual as well as concepts like free speech.

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22. Marie Curie, IQ 180-200

Polish-born physicist and chemist Marie Curie is most famous for her research into radioactivity, which is a key development in the invention of X-rays. Experts believe her IQ was within a range of 180 to 200. Curie became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and then the first person to win the award twice. Her awards are in different disciplines: physics and chemistry.

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23. Emanuel Swedenborg, IQ 165-210

Although Emanuel Swedenborg was an 18th century scientist and theologian, Thims suggests that his IQ would have been in the range of 165 to 210. Swedenborg was a scientific rock star of his era, making many contributions to science. He was already famous when he had a religious awakening in his 50s, believing that he was receiving direct communications from God, Angels, Spirits and Demons. That’s when Swedenborg wrote a book called “Heaven and Hell,” which gave a detailed description of the afterlife. Swedenborg also believed that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ had already happened when Christ chose to speak through him.

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24. Ettore Majorana, IQ 200

Ettore Majorana was an Italian who made major contribution to the field of physics, where several of his theories led to breakthroughs in nuclear science. His IQ may have been as high as 200. Majorana was briefly a professor before he suddenly disappeared. His body has never been found.

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25. Voltaire, IQ 190-200

 Voltaire is one of the world’s greatest philosophers. The Parisian’s IQ scores are believed to have ranged between 190 and 200. Voltaire turned his poison pen on his rivals in the philosophy realm, such as Descartes, Malebranche and Leibniz. Voltaire was clearly a brilliant satirist, able to write erudite takedowns of the French nobles. As an Enlightenment writer, his works influenced the development of the American Revolution. He was an advocate for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the separation of church and state.

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26. William Shakespeare, IQ 210

The most famous playwright who ever lived, William Shakespeare probably had an IQ of at least 210. Shakespeare is considered one of the best, if not the best, writers of the English word. Shakespeare began his life as an ordinary actor and playwright around London. Eventually, Shakespeare started his own theater, The Globe, and his plays became popular. Shakespeare could easily switch between drama and comedy, romance and history. His plays include Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Richard II, Henry VI, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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27. Nikola Tesla, IQ 160-310

Thomas Edison’s rival Nikola Tesla is one of the greatest inventors the world has ever known. He invented the Tesla coil as well as machinery which used alternating current. He was never given an IQ test, but is estimated to have an IQ of 160 to 310. Tesla was born during a lightning storm, which was appropriate since the Serbian genius spent his life experimenting with wireless lightning and wireless electric power distribution that he hoped to distribute worldwide. Despite his fame and rivalry with Edison, Tesla died penniless with many debts and fell into obscurity. A late 20th century surge in interest has rekindled his legend.

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28. Leonhard Euler, IQ 180-200

Swiss mathematician and physicist Leonhard Euler was one of the principal founders of the study of pure mathematics. He is a pioneer in the study of integral calculus and a prolific writer. Euler made contributions in many facets of math, including creating most of the terminology that is used by mathematics today. His IQ is measured at around 180 to 200. Euler is one of the most important figures in mathematics who has ever lived.

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29. Galileo Galilei

Italian natural philosopher Galileo was an incredible scientist, astronomer, and mathematician. He was born in 1564, at a time when the Church had suspicion of science and math. Galileo invented concepts like circular inertia and the law of falling bodies. Galileo made many important discoveries with a telescope, completely undermining Aristotelian cosmology. He discovered that there are four moons orbiting Jupiter, and discovered that Venus has the same phases as the Moon. Galileo angered the church and as a result, he was declared a heretic for championing the heliocentric theory of the universe pioneered by Copernicus.

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30. Carl Gauss, IQ 300

Carl Gauss is thought to be  the greatest German mathematician of the 19th century. Like many others on this list, Gauss was a child prodigy. By modern measures, his IQ may have been as high as 300. Gauss is most famous for studying  electromagnetism. However, he also advanced the study of algebra, geometry, geodesy and matrix theory, among others. Gauss is held in such high regard that he has been called “the foremost of mathematicians” and “greatest mathematician since antiquity.”

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31. Thomas Young

The English physicist Thomas Young was also a trained physician. As such, he made contributions to physiology, light, vision and language. Young discovered that the human eye contains a lens that changes shape in order to see and focus objects that are at different distances. Because of his research, there were scientific breakthroughs into optics and human anatomy. Young eventually figured out the cause of astigmatism. A noted Egyptologist, Young was also one of the people who helped translate the Rosetta Stone.

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32. Hugo Grotius, IQ 200

Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius lived in the 1600s. He was a scholar who made significant contributions to the development of international law. According to Thims’ measurements, his IQ must have been around 200. Grotius was attorney general in three provinces in  Holland, but by 1621 he was accused of treason. Grotius was caught up in Dutch politics of the time and thus was exiled to Paris. However, he wrote a book that is considered a masterpiece, “De Jure Belli ac Pacis” or “On the Law of War and Peace.” The legal tome argued for a common European identity and contained a plea for peace through the use of legal norms in international relations.

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33. Gottfried Leibniz

17th century philosopher and logician Gottfried Leibniz was one of the great Rationalists. He invented differential and integral calculus. Leibniz also developed a system of infinitesimal calculus, which he figured out independently of Sir Isaac Newton. Leibniz was able to make a clearer system of calculus, and his notation and writing of calculus is still the accepted form today.  Leibniz also worked on the invention of the calculating machine. To do this, he developed the binary number system, which uses base 2 counting with only 0 and 1. Although he acknowledged that the idea behind it dated to the I Ching, Leibniz’s usage of binary numbering wasn early predicate for the computer. Indeed, nearly every modern computer system begins with the ability of binary to be represented by on/off, 0 or 1.

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34. Nicolaus Copernicus, IQ 160-200

Astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was an important figure for the development of the idea of the heliocentric solar system, theorizing that the sun is the center of the solar system and not the earth.  The Polish-born mathematician and astronomer sparked a revolution in how people perceived the cosmos. A Copernicus made contributions in other fields as well, including economics, where he developed a quantity theory of money. Today, his estimated IQ may have been within a range of 160 to 200.

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35. Rudolf Clausius, IQ 190-205

Rudolf Clausius was a German physicist and mathematician who is one of the people who contributed to the founding of thermodynamics. His greatest contribution to the science is his formulation of the second law of thermodynamics. Clausius created the study of thermodynamics as a separate science. He also created the mathematical version of the concept of entropy, and invented the kinetic theory of gases. His IQ scores are estimated to range from 190 to 205.

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36. James Maxwell

James Maxwell was a Scottish mathematical physicist. He formulated the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation. This theory unified electricity, light and magnetism as manifestations of a single phenomenon. His electromagnetism equations were described as the “second great unification in physics. (The first belongs to Isaac Newton). Maxwell was able to determine that magnetic fields and electric fields move through space as waves, which travel at the speed of light. His theories eventually led to the development of radio waves. Einstein once said he stood on Maxwell’s shoulders.

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37. Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton was the most important figure of the Scientific Revolution. When Newton was born on Christmas Day, he was not expected to live through the night. Instead he grew up with an incredible talent. Newton was famous for coming up with the law of gravitation. When Newton published The Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which took him two years to complete, it revised the human understanding of the universe. It explained his calculus theories, gave a detailed explanation of universal gravitation and outlined three laws of motion. Although some of his assumptions were eventually disproved, it does not change his status as one of the most important thinkers of all time.

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38. Leonardo da Vinci

Da Vinci was perhaps the most diversely talented man who has ever lived. His acumen as a painter resulted in The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, two of the most famous paintings of all time. Da Vinci was also a sculptor, music composer, engineer, inventor, cartographer, and mathematician. Da Vinci’s imagination led to detailed sketches for future inventions. These included actual flying machines that resembled airplanes, armored vehicles that prefigured armed tanks, solar power, and even adding machines that predicted computers.

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39. Thomas Wolsey, IQ 200

Thomas Wolsey lived in the 16th century before the advent of intelligence testing, but Thims believes his IQ was 200. Wolsey was an English cardinal and statesman who was a key advisor to Henry VIII. Wolsey became very powerful, arranging a meeting between Henry VIII and Charles I, subsequently he was able to control nearly all matters of the English state by the year 1514. He also had significant influence within the Church. Wolsey met a grisly end when he refused to arrange an annulment between Henry VIII and his wife, Catherine of Aragon. This led to his arrest and death for treason.

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40. Johann Goethe, IQ 210-225

Goethe was a German poet, novelist, statesman, playwright, critic, theater director, scientists and artist. His writing and thinking abilities have no rival in the modern era. Goethe’s writings had a profound influence on Germany’s groundbreaking philosopher, who have drawn on his ideas to build new branches of human sciences. Composers are also fond of taking Goethe’s works and setting them to music. His drama Faust, published in 1808, is still studied today. Goethe was a polymath who created the new science known as human chemistry. He also developed an early theory of evolution. Goethe’s estimated IQ is between 210 to 225.

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