The world’s most famous intellect passed away 59 years ago this month. The anniversary of his death raises awareness once again of his genius and begs a question about Albert Einstein: “Is he the smartest person who ever lived?”
Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany, on March 14, 1879. His family moved to Munich shortly thereafter, and to Italy after that. Einstein studied in Switzerland and became a Swiss citizen in 1905, the year he received his diploma.
It was his incomparable understanding of science and his remarkable theories of how physics works in the real world that set him apart from other scientists of his time. Many today still marvel at his Theory of Relativity.
Still the question. Albert Einstein: is he the smartest person who ever lived?
Surprisingly, no – not when it comes to raw IQ. His intelligence quotient was estimated at between 160 and 190, and while that is amazing by everyday standards, it’s not the highest ever recorded.
That title goes to an American, born in 1898, William James Sidis. Sidis, who graduated from Harvard University at age 16, had an IQ estimated at an astounding 250 to 300. He enrolled in Harvard’s law school at the tender age of 18.
Not far behind Sidia is Terence Tao, with an IQ of between 220 and 230. Tao’s IQ was estimated at between 220 and 230 by the Davidson Institute, a Nevada school specializing in the development of gifted children. Terence began solving basic arithmetic problems when he was only two years old. He was born in 1975 in Adelaide, Australia.
A number of sources place Christopher Hirata, a Japanese-American astrophysicist next on the list. He became the youngest American to win the top medal at the 1996 International Physics Olympiad in 1996 at the age of 13. Christopher, with an IQ estimated at 225, completed college-level courses in calculus and physics when most of his contemporaries were in the seventh grade.
At the number four spot is Korean civil engineer Kim Ung-Yong. He started speaking and reading Korean and even some foreign languages at six months, and at 14 he was solving complicated calculus problems on a Japanese TV program. His IQ is said to be 210.
Garry Gasparov, regarded as the world’s top chess player is next, with an IQ estimated at 190. He is a native of Azerbaijan, a middle-eastern country located between Russia and Iran. He once played chess against a world team of some 50,000 contestants from more than 75 countries.
The first woman on the list of brightest people ever is Marilyn Vos Savant, with an IQ veried at 190. Born in St. Louis in 1946, she is an author, playwright and columnist. She was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the woman with the highest recorded IQ.
Leonardo DaVinci is next (IQ 180-190, followed by Hungarian-born Judit Polgar at 170. A master chess player at an early age, she has defeated Garry Gasparov, and is known as the top women’s chess player.
The author of the Theory of Relativity actually finishes ninth, with his IQ of 160-190. Physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking rounds out the top ten list with an IQ estimated at 160.
One member of the list might have to be replaced one day soon, though. A boy born four years ago in the United Kingdom is estimated to have the same Intelligence Quotient as Einstein. If someone asks this about Albert Einstein: “Is he the smartest person who ever lived?” The answer is “no.” Nonetheless, he is by far the most well-known.
Opinion by B. David Warner