Top 10 Smartest People in the World

Who are the smartest people in the world? The truth is that it's impossible to say. Not only are there multiple types of intelligence, but there are numerous and contradictory ways to measure them. Just look at IQ tests themselves: Do you want the Stanford-Binet, the WAIS, or the MJ?

The good news is that intelligence usually "tells" in some way. Whether a person is a mathematical genius or a musical prodigy, their smarts become apparent as they accomplish great things in their field.

With the understanding that these types of lists are always subjective, here are just a few of the most intelligent people in the world.

1. Stephen Hawking

You know Stephen Hawking. Everyone knows Stephen Hawking. A physicist, cosmologist, professor, and bestselling author, he's become synonymous with the word "genius." His achievements are all the more impressive considering the fact that he was diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative disease, in his early 20s. Despite doctors giving him only two years to live, he went on to complete groundbreaking work in multiple scientific fields for decades.

He adapted to the challenges of his disease as they appeared, including using a wheelchair for his paralysis and a digitized word bank for speaking through a computer program. His IQ was never revealed, but it's assumed to be sky high.

2. Judit Polgar

Judit Polgar is considered the best female chess player of all time. Having become a grandmaster at just 15 years old, she's beaten or broken the records of everyone from Bobby Fischer to Magnus Carlsen, often serving as the first female player to do so. However, this real-life "Queen's Gambit" has never competed in a Women's World Championship.

She was raised as part of an educational experiment by her father, who trained all three of his daughters as chess prodigies in response to the prevailing idea that women were naturally weaker players. As part of their upbringing, they never participated in women-only leagues or championships, instead joining the men's and demolishing them.

3. Grigori Perelman

Grigori Perelman is a genius who rejects the label of genius. Despite being a math whiz who has been offered everything from the Fields Medal to the Clay Millennium Prize, he's rejected all awards, accolades, and monetary prizes, saying, "I have what I want." .

However, his humility hasn't stopped him from being recognized as one of the world's greatest mathematicians. His contemporaries frequently count him among the brightest minds of his generation

4. Edith Stern

Largely self-taught, Edith Stern is proof that you don't need traditional schooling to excel. She read the entire Encyclopædia Britannica by age five and learned mathematics on a homemade, old-fashioned abacus.

She went on to become an inventor, researcher, and developer at IBM, holding more than 100 patents and getting inducted into the IBM Academy of Technology as a "master inventor." She was also the first women accepted into the American Society Of Mechanical Engineers.

5. William Sidis

William Sidis was the inspiration behind the protagonist of Good Will Hunting. A child prodigy, he was accepted into Harvard University at just nine years old, which was so young that they refused to actually admit him until age 11. He went on to become a university professor at age 17 and a law student at 21.

Unfortunately, his intelligence didn't translate into success; he became an eccentric and reclusive figure later in life, even getting committed to an asylum at one point. He was an example of a "tortured genius" until his death at age 46.

Related article: Famous MENSA members.

6. Christopher Langan

With an estimated IQ between 195 - 210, Christopher Michael Langan is considered one of the smartest people in the world. He had a troubled background, so his achievements often astounded his teachers, including a perfect SAT score. He also struggled in adulthood, working odd jobs as a bouncer, park ranger, horse rancher, and more.

However, he successfully founded the Mega Foundation, a high IQ society. He's also known for establishing the Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe (CTMU).

7. Ung-yong Kim

Another child prodigy, Ung-yong Kim was doing calculus at just three years old. He spoke multiple languages by age five and even published a book filled with essays and illustrative calligraphy. The Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged him as having an IQ of 210, which was the highest in the world back in the '70s. Interestingly, however, Kim rejected the life of a "genius" and went on to become a completely normal university professor.

This led to the media calling him a "failed genius", but Kim has never minded, saying that there were more important things in life.

8. James Maxwell

Born in 1831, James Maxwell was a scientist specializing in electromagnetic radiation. His work is often considered some of the most important in unification theory, and he's ranked behind only Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein in terms of groundbreaking discoveries, theories, and equations.

In fact, when Einstein was once praised by a contemporary and told that he stood on Newton's shoulders, he replied, "No, I don't. I stand on the shoulders of Maxwell."

9. Marilyn vos Savant

A member of both Mensa and the Mega society, Marilyn vos Savant was the Guinness World Record holder for highest IQ until they retired the entire category. She topped out at 228, a score that she earned when she was just 10 years old. She went on to become a columnist for Parade magazine, solving puzzles and presenting logic problems to readers.

She's credited for popularizing the Monty Hall problem in 1990 and the Two Boys problem in 1991.

10. Terence Tao

Hailed as "the Mozart of math," Terence Tao is an award-winning mathematician who has been blasting through equations since a young age. He published his first paper at 15, graduated with a dual bachelor's and master's degree at 16, and became a university professor at just 21. He was also the youngest-ever Fields Medal winner at 31. Some people claim that he has an IQ of 230, which would be among the highest ever recorded, but this hasn't been proven.

Terence himself has criticized the concept of measuring IQs, especially in the world of math, saying, "The objective in mathematics is not to obtain the highest ranking, the highest 'score,' or the highest number of prizes and awards."

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