10 Smartest People of All Time
As we look throughout history, we know that there are many who stand out as highly intelligent. The question is, however, is who makes the top 10 list of smartest people of all time? As we work through a list like this, it is important to take into account a number of things. For instance, is someone who was a great mathematician smarter than someone who is a great painter or writer? Is it possible for us to even accurately measure intelligence?
Today, of course, we use the IQ system to measure intelligence, but there are different types of IQ tests, so how accurate is this measurement. Also, the concept of IQ wasn’t even developed until the early 1900s, so how do we accurately compare modern people with historical figures?
Though all of these questions are certainly something that we should take into consideration when choosing the top 10 smartest people of all time, we are able to make guesses on how smart these people actually were by comparing them to their peers. Additionally, we have to take into account what type of intelligence a person has. Since there are different types of intelligence, there are different ways to consider intelligence. Is this confusing? It should be. Since we cannot accurately even focus on what intelligence truly is, it is impossible to rank it. But, since we love creating lists and sharing our own smarts with the masses, we are going to give it a try. Here are the top 10 smartest people of all time:
10. Baruch Spinoza
Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza was a philosopher who was best known for challenging the teachings of both the Christian church and the Hebrew bible. He was one of the first philosophers to come out of the Enlightenment, and he is considered to be one of the greatest philosophers of the 17th century.
Spinoza only lived for 44 years, but during that time, he lived much of his life as a lens grinder while quietly studying and creating ideas in private. However, he was well known for going against authority, especially religion, and was excommunicated from the Jewish church by the time he was 23. His books were also listed on the Catholic churches “Index of Forbidden Books.”
The main belief system of Spinoza as focused on the “philosophy of tolerance and benevolence,” and he was a man who, according to most accounts, practiced what he preached. He was, however, ridiculed and criticized for his Atheistic beliefs, but in truth, he believed in the presence of God, just in a different form.
The genius of Spinoza came out in his masterpiece, Ethics, in which was published after his death. In this book, he challenged the teachings of other philosophers of the time, such as Rene Descartes, and explains his thoughts on God, the human body and mind, human passion, and reason. The teachings of this book laid the framework for what became known as Spinozism, a school of philosophy that is similar to rationalism.
9. Adolf Hitler
When most people think of Adolf Hitler, they think of the terrible things he did not only to his own people, but also to those who were different than he was. Though there is no disputing that he was a terrible man, we also have to acknowledge that he was a highly intelligent man, and one of the smartest people of all time…even though he used his intelligence for evil, instead of good.
Though Hitler was motivated by evil thoughts, he brilliantly was able to manipulate people and make an ever-lasting impact on the world. He was one of the greatest planners, and was an inspirational speaker, who was able to move an audience. He also was highly skilled with economics and fully understood politics. He was also a well-known organizer, who used his genius to create new ideas and industries that lead to the growth of the nation he created.
All of these factors led to a change in the world, which has remained unmatched. There has been no one in the history of the world who has been as effective as Hitler in producing so much strength, energy and patriotism.
In addition to all of this, he was an architect and a brilliant painter, and he was skilled in science, often asking the top scientists in the country to create experiments to test his theories. He also was widely read, liked to discuss his ideals with other intellectuals, and he was well-known for his logical thinking. Though it is difficult to swallow, Adolf Hitler was a genius, albeit, a mad one.
8. Galileo Galilei
If you have ever taken an astronomy course in school, you have surely heard of Galileo Galilei, the Italian astronomer. He was also a physicist, philosopher, and mathematician. Though he is widely thought to have invented the telescope, which he didn’t, he used the tool to make a number of planetary discoveries such as the rings around Saturn and the Galilean moons. He also observed that the solar system is heliocentric, meaning the sun is at the center and the planets move around it. This single belief put him at the crosshairs of the church and the Roman Inquisition. He was eventually sentenced to house arrest for his work, and died at home at the age of 77 in 1642.
So, what made Galileo one of the 10 smartest people of all time? There is certainly no denying his intelligence, as he was able to invent, create, and understand the universe in ways that most of us never could. He did this at a very young age, too, and even though he seriously considered joining the priesthood, he instead enrolled in the University of Pisa to study medicine. This didn’t last long, however, as while he was at the university, he was fascinated by physics and mathematics, and eventually convinced his father to allow him to study natural philosophy and math instead of medicine.
He invented the thermoscope while at the university, which was a predecessor to the modern thermometer, and he made a number of scientific discoveries, including early kinematics. Surprisingly enough, in addition to studying and focusing on science and math, Galileo was also captivated with astrology, too, the act of divining the future from the position of the stars and planets.
7. Garry Kasparov
Chess legend Garry Kasparov is largely considered to be the greatest chess player of all time and one of the smartest people in the world. From the time he was 22 to his retirement in 2005, Kasparov held the number one ranking in the world for 225 months out of 228 months. He was the youngest chess champion of all time, and following his retirement, he has dabbled in politics and writing, setting up an opposing administration against Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
Kasparov started training as a chess master when he was a young child, and was named the Soviet Junior Championship at the age of 13. He entered the Sokolsky Memorial tournament in Minsk at the age of 15, and though he was invited as an exception, he ended up winning the entire tournament, and at that time, was labeled a chess master. It was only two years later that he entered the Chess Olympiad and became a grandmaster. It is estimated that Kasparov has an IQ of around 190.
One of this biggest claims to fame, however, is when he played against a computer called Deep Blue, and was able to beat the computer several times. However, the computer was also able to beat him, which resulted in a draw in three of the six games.
6. Marilyn vos Savant
Photo Credit: Marilyn Vos Savant
Only one American can have the highest recorded IQ in the Guinness Book of World Records, and it is Marilyn vos Savant. Throughout her life, she took several IQ tests, scoring as high as 228 on the Standord-Binet test at the age of 10. She has also taken the controversial IQ test known as the Mega Test, where she scored 186. This test score made her eligible for entry into the Mega Society, an exclusive group of people who have the highest IQs in the world. Only about one in one million people are invited to join this group. To compare, Mensa, the more well-known high IQ group, accepts about 1 in 50.
Marilyn vos Savant writes for Parade, and in her column, she often presents scenarios that push the mind and intelligence to the limit. Readers also attempt to stump her by sending in mind problems of their own. Two of her most controversial answers to reader problems were the “Monty Hall” problem and the “Two Boys” problem. In the “Monty Hall” problem, she was asked a probability question using a scenario similar to one that is found on the television show, “Let’s Make a Deal.” After she gave her answer, more than 10,000 people wrote to Parade, explaining that she had to be wrong. However, vos Savant used computer modeling and even experiments done by school children to show that she was, indeed, correct.