The 15 Smartest People In History

In a world filled with various types of behavior, one measurement of someone's level of achievement is intelligence. Whether that is based on an IQ assessment, success on SATs or one's ability to maintain a high-level of achievement in their life, one's intelligence definitely has a bearing on how much you may achieve professionally. Intelligence is often how we are gauged, not simply while we are in school, but outside as well. Intelligence isn't the only measurement of an individual's success, but it is a key one.

The greatest people that ever lived are often known because of their discoveries, their inventions, and their vision. At times, their intelligence has been confused with insanity, but it is often radical ideas that can make the world a better and different place. As you are going to read about with the 15 people below, their brilliance isn't isolated to one achievement, but rather their ability to improve and grow as individuals over the course of their entire life.

Their longstanding commitments to math, science, and literature began at an early age, and in a number of cases made them child prodigies. They changed the world and blazed a trail along the way. How they changed or continue to change the world makes them unquestionably the most intelligent people in history. Readers will also learn little tidbits from their life, such as who was able to read a newspaper at 18 months old, and which genius was teaching high school calculus by the age of 10.

Who do you think is the smartest person to ever exist? Do we mention them below? Feel free to share the list on social media. 

15 Charles Darwin

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A geologist and naturalist, Charles Darwin is most known for his theory of evolution. His concept of how man evolved explained how adaptation was key to humanity's change. The theory also states that all species of life has ancestral ties. He published his theory of evolution with evidence in the book On the Origin of Species, which refuted earlier beliefs that humanity came about through a transmutation of species. During the 1870s Darwin's theories were accepted as fact, though many attempted to dispute his claims during the 1900s. His legacy in evolutionary theory will always be what he is most noted for, but by no means was that his only claim to fame. Darwin captured awards such as a Royal Medal, Wollaston Medal and Copley Medal. Darwin was regarded as the greatest scientist of his time for his revolutionary ideas and concepts.

14 Benjamin Franklin

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Ben Franklin achieved a great deal throughout his career. He is known as one of the founding fathers of the United States, and was an author and political theorist. As well as this, Franklin can count being a Freemason and postmaster among his achievements. He was given the title ‘the first American' for his campaign to achieve unity between colonies, and was also America's first Ambassador to France. What was remarkable about Franklin was also his innovation as an inventor. He created the glass harmonica, lightning rod, and bifocal glasses. As part of his recognition for his discoveries in electricity, he received the Royal Society's Copley Medal and was elected as a fellow of the society. He received honorary degrees from such Universities as Yale and Harvard. He has even had CGS units of electric charge named after him with the (Fr).

13 Bobby Fischer

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With an IQ registered at 180, Fischer's brilliance is not to be denied. It was demonstrated by his incredible knowledge and awareness of the game of chess. Fischer was believed to be the greatest chess player of all time and often considered a chess prodigy. In 1956 at the age of 13, Fischer became the youngest-ever Junior Champion. Fischer also captured a U.S. Title in 1957 when he was only 14 years old, he was also the youngest U.S Champion in history.

One of the most fascinating things about Fischer's life may be that he dropped out of high school at the age of 16 because he didn't believe you learn anything in school. Easy to see why that was a good decision when you consider he was a world chess champion for a span of three years (between 1972 and 1975). In his later years, he patented a modified chess timing system which is now standard in tournament play.

12 Christopher Michael Langan


While he has an IQ between 195 and 205, Langan's intelligence pales in comparison to what he has accomplished throughout his career. What is interesting to note about Langan is that he quit college because he found it ‘dull,' and instead sought the satisfaction of labour intensive jobs such as working on a farm and being a construction worker. It was clear that no matter what type of job he did, Langan would succeed. He has been called the smartest man in America because of his development of the theory of the relationship between mind and reality. He referred to this theory as the ‘cognitive-theoretic model of the universe'. Christopher Michael Langan's intelligence is only matched by his perseverance. A victim of domestic violence as a child, he threw his stepfather out of their house when he was fourteen years old after years of abuse. Langan gained the confidence to do such an act after pursuing weight training as a means of building up his body's strength.

11 Johan Wolfgang Van Goethe


A writer and statesman from Germany, his most notable works include Faust,''The Sorrows of Young Werther and Elective Affinities. Goethe's intelligence can also be gauged based how many other things he achieved in his life, such as a legal career that saw him defy judicial rules in favour of poetic teachings. He was praised for his inventive nature in the court of Darmstadt. His literary work was matched by his contributions to science, religion, politics and architecture. His area of science saw him focus primarily on colour theory and morphology. In religion, Goethe was thought of as open-minded. He was of the mindset that one could be Christian without having to follow the church. He has also had awards named after him including the Goethe Awards, Goethe Prize and the Hanseatic Goethe Prize.

10 Kim Ung-Yong


Ung-Yong was a Korean civil engineer whose IQ score of 210 is recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest ever. He was born in South Korea, and perhaps not shockingly, his Father was a professor. Ung-Yong began to speak at the age of six months and is also able to read Korean, Japanese, English and German. Kim Ung-Yong has written poetry in both Chinese and Korean and wrote two short books of essays and poems by the time he was four years of age. After an article was published about him, a teacher in a Los Angeles high school wrote to him and when he was only 5 years old, Ung-Yong's father had applied for him to be enrolled at the same high school. Ung-Yong is currently an adjunct professor at Chungbuk National University, an associate professor at Shinhan University and is also the Vice-President of the North Kyeong-Gi Development Research Center.

9 Galileo Galilei

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The world famous Galilei was a physicist, engineer, and astronomer and played a key role in the scientific revolution during the Renaissance. He has been referred to as the father of observational astronomy, which is appropriate when you consider he invented the telescope. Galilei spent his life trying to achieve wealth from the sale of telescopes. He began to pursue science after making an important discovery but in his efforts to prove his discoveries, he was shunned by the church and forced to renounce them. The discovery in dispute was over the nature of comets, which contradicted the beliefs of Father Grassi to whose church Galileo belonged. He was also known for his studies in Kinematics, Telescopic Observational astronomy, Heliocentrism and dynamics. Galileo's legacy still lives on and his achievements will long outlive anyone who has ever heard of him.

8 Jesus Christ


Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem and is noted for his religious teachings. His teachings were delivered in the form of parables and often spoke about the Kingdom of God, or Heaven. The Kingdom is described as being imminent and his message of hope was always present in Jesus' ministry. He promised inclusion in the Kingdom for those who accepted his message. He also spoke of the "Son of Man," which was a post-apocalyptic figure who would come to gather the chosen. He often taught that following God's guidance would mean your place in Heaven was assured. Jesus Christ's place on this list is based on theological practices and his impact on the world. His intelligence isn't measured by scientific contributions to mankind, but his beliefs, practices, and influence have succeeded him long after his time.

7 Stephen Hawking


Hawking is an English physicist, author, and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge. He is revered and admired by many, and is perhaps most known for his research in relativity during the '70s. What is remarkable is that Stephan Hawking took Einstein's results (who you'll read about below), and developed a refined method of mathematical equation to show that within math, artifacts aren't simply singular in nature, but rather actual representations. Hawkins discovered black hole radiate, which to this day is considered by many to be his crowning achievement. The results of this discovery showed the human race that there was a coming together between general relativity and quantum theory, where before they hadn't seemed compatible. This discovery has also changed the trajectory for theoretical physics. Hawking is still able to take scientific information that has been collected, and come to refined rationales for the conclusions. His vision truly appears to know no bounds.

6 Leonardo Da Vinci


Da Vinci went by a few names, such as Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo. This man of many skills and abilities explored a variety of hobbies including but not limited to, painting, science, music, architecture, and math. While certain individuals can be said to be ahead of their time, Da Vinci was believed to be centuries ahead of the curve. He was also the first person to demonstrate exploration in human anatomy mechanics. Da Vinci’s knowledge was so advanced that technology he conceptualized hadn’t been created yet, meaning the true depth of his brilliance was sadly never appreciated.  Da Vinci was able to theorize time, a concept which wasn’t explored by anyone else in his era. It should also be noted that Da Vinci had no access to the resources, education or technology others in history had. It was truly remarkable all of the things he was able to accomplish.

5 Isaac Newton


Isaac Newton was not only knighted, but was also identified as a PRS, which stands for President of the Royal Society. Newton was an English physicist and mathematician who is one of the most influential figures of all time and was a prominent scientist in the scientific revolution. He was once identified by fellow mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange as not only the greatest genius that ever lived but also among the most fortunate for the circumstances that went into his success. Fellow inventors such as Albert Einstein kept pictures of Newton in their office studies as a means of showing the influence he had. Newton is also known as the inventor of calculus, which is one of the most significant tools in math that is still used prominently today as a means of showing how certain operations work. Newton is also perhaps known for the belief that he formulated his theory on gravity by watching an apple fall.

4 Albert Einstein


The father of the theory of relativity, also known as the E=MC2 equation, is unquestionably one of the smartest people in history. It may shock you to learn that many people considered Einstein to be flawed because he lacked other skills and he was often considered crazy because his ideas were so radical. There is no denying that Einstein changed the complexity of human thought, aiding the human race in the process. Among his accomplishments and acclaim, Einstein captured the

There is no denying that Einstein changed the complexity of human thought, aiding the human race in the process. Among his accomplishments and acclaim, Einstein captured the Barnard Medal, Nobel Prize in Physics, Metteucci Medal, ForMemRS, Copley Medal, and was identified by Time magazine as the Person of the Century in 1999. While his socialist beliefs may be considered extreme to some, it was simply another of the contributing factors that help make Albert Einstein one of the most fascinating people in the world. It was even reported that Einstein's brain worked at a 3% faster rate than the common person.

3 Nikola Tesla


The Serbian-born American inventor was also an electrical engineer, physicist, and mechanical engineer. However, he was most known for creating a means to alter the supply of electricity. Tesla's intelligence and contributions to civilization often fly under the radar, especially in comparison to others on this list. It is clear that Tesla's memory and foresight were ahead of his time. In some ways, he may have been considered a tame version of the television character House. Tesla was once employed by Thomas Edison, with the sole purpose of working on his Edison Machine Works which was located on the lower east side of Manhattan, New York. However, while it may have begun with work on simple electrical engineering, the project evolved into the overall redesign of Edison's direct energy generators. After his passing, Nikola Tesla had an award named in his honor which is given each year to a person or group that has made an outstanding contribution to the generation or use of electric power.

2 Terence Tao


This Australian-American mathematician and professor at UCLA is most synonymous with the Green-Tao theorem. His Green-Tao theory was a collaborative accomplishment with Ben J. Green. The theory states that the sequence of prime numbers contained somewhat random arithmetic progressions.What this means is that for every natural number, there is a progression of prime numbers.

Tao's area of focus includes partial differential equations, algebraic combinatorics, arithmetic, and geometry. He was completing university level mathematics before the age of ten and is one of only a few in history to achieve a score greater than 700 on his SAT math section, with a recorded score of 760 (which he received when he was still under 10 years old). Still not impressed? Terence Tao took calculus at age seven and taught it at the high school level the following year. He's still the youngest participant and medalist in the history of the International Mathematical Olympiad.

1 William James Sidis


This American child prodigy is believed to have had an IQ that was the very highest score that had ever been achieved, an astounding 275. The unfortunate part is that any records that were connected to his IQ testing were lost to history. Sidis lived from 1898 to 1944, passing away at the age of 46. He attended Harvard at age 11 and was able to converse in approximately 40 languages. It was reported that he could read the New York Times at the age of 18 months. In 1925, William James Sidis wrote 'The Animate and the Inanimate,' in which he discussed the reverse direction operations of the second law of thermodynamics in certain regions of space. He also created his own language, which was called Vendergood, at age eight. The language was a hybrid of both Greek and Latin, with elements of both French and German as well.

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The 15 Smartest People In History