Albert Einstein: Is He the Smartest Person Who Ever Lived?

 Albert Einstein

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




9 Responses to "Albert Einstein: Is He the Smartest Person Who Ever Lived?"

  1. g raz   January 2, 2016 at 6:16 am

    IQ meter never choice who is the greatest. it depends on the dedication who have.

  2. Feynman   April 3, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    This article was a waste of my time….Utter drivel. Einstein never took an IQ test and none of those people on your silly list REVOLUTIONIZED science the way Einstein did.


  3. logan   February 19, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    albert Einstein was the smartes man

  4. Marc27   December 21, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    Nikola Tesla destroys Einstein. Tesla was talking about vibrations and frequencies in the late 1800s / early 1900s and how Einstein was wrong. Now mainstream science is finally saying that Einstein may have been wrong and are talking about frequencies and vibrations (Gravity waves, String Theory / M-Theory, Quantum Loop Gravity, etc.). Not to mention about a billion other things Tesla knew/discovered about reality and the world (human and earth resonance, energy and electricity all around us, and on and on and on).

    • Feynman   April 7, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      Lol, is this some kind of intellectual parody? I wouldn’t even deign to respond to your asininity had I not received an email in my inbox about this poor excuse for an article. As it stands, I might as well educate you.

      1. Tesla was an inventor, engineer, applied scientist – a brilliant genius, and a man who was revolutionary in his own way. HOWEVER, Tesla was NEVER a theoretical physicist, grossly misinterpreted relativity theory and, generally speaking did not display the same facility with theoretical physics as he did with applied physics. Tesla’s conjectures on vibrating strings and frequencies were just that, conjectures that were given without mathematical proofs, or even an understanding of quantum mechanics. This isn’t even an argument, only non-scientific quacks invoke these kinds of points.

      2. Einstein, without relativity, would still go down as the greatest scientist of his era. His work on brownian motion, his re-derivation of the foundations of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics in 1902-1905, his work on the photoelectric effect (which is actually a misnomer because it should really be called on the foundations of quantum theory, because that’s really what it posited), his work on the specific heat on solids (which earned him unabashed praised from the great Walther Nernst), his work on spontaneous and stimulated emission (i.e. the LASER), his work on solid state physics (Bose-Einstein condensates), his work on wave-particle duality that predates Louis De Broglie by almost a decade, his work on critical opulescence, etc. etc. are all foundational and revolutionary works.

      3. Relativity, inasmuch as it adheres to the parameters of what a theory should be, is true. It works, period. Without relativity, you wouldn’t be able to use your gps, nor would satellites operate as smoothly (relativistic orbital effects are taken into account). This is, was, and even when both QM and Relativity are “replaced” by more holistic theories, it will always remain a work of incomparable genius.

      The great historian of science, and a physicist in his own right, Thomas Kuhn, argues that it is Einstein and not Planck, or Bohr, or the great Tesla (whom I love as well), that is the father of 20th century physics.

      Read more dude, read more. Your heart’s in the right place, but your facts are wrong. (And no Einstein wasn’t perfect, he had moral and intellectual flaws, but on the balance of his achievements, they are completely unrivaled by anyone in the history of science for the exception of perhaps Archimedes and Newton).

  5. Cons   December 5, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    For me a real genius is someone who can imagine and present something that has never been thought of before. Most scientist are smart people but that doesn’t mean that they are geniuses. High IQ score only shows that the person answers a lot of questions correct to questions with established answers.

  6. mike   March 21, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    The reason that Einstein was so smart was his imagination! The fact that some kid got higher marks on an IQ test has very little to do with his genius. He thought outside the box and was able to take an educated guess combine it with confidence to put his name behind a theory that no one was able to conceive before him. His smarts lies in his ability to use his brain in the realm of the unknown, not excel in the known. If that was the case no one would ever of heard of him. That is what makes him a one-of-a-kind genius. Its not just about the numbers…its about how you interpret the numbers using your creative brain. If the writer of the article paid attention to a famous Einstein quote,”The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” -Albert Einstein; he might of searched a little more and made a more compelling argument. Maybe he’s too educated… “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” – Albert Einstein

  7. Edmund Charles   March 20, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    Well the debate between IQ and intelligence continues. Neither Einstein nor Da Vinci ever took an IQ test so the extrapolation or guess of their IQs remains in doubt, as does the meaning of an IQ test and that of being a true genius. Many of those individuals noted in this article are anonymous to both history and any significant scientific accomplishment and perhaps that is the true merit of genius- its manifestation of bold new theories, discoveries and innovations. Perhaps this postulate is best summed up by Dr. Einstein when he stated that ‘imagination is more important than intelligence’, for without imagination, mere intelligence accomplishes little, whereas imagination can move mountains. This holds true for any given field of endeavor from cooking to astrophysics.

  8. Chad   March 15, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    What about Jacob Barnett? He has an IQ of 175.


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