Who are considered the smartest people in human history? How is intellectual ability or capacity assessed?
Libb Thims put together a list in which he ranked the forty most intelligent historical figures, taking into account their IQ score (CI) or an approximation of it and an evaluation of their works or achievements.
However, the value of CI alone does not serve to classify an individual as gifted, but other skills will need to be considered as well. Thus, it should be noted that the list was made by the author and, despite the attempt to be the most rigorous, it is impossible to control the effect of subjectivity.
Below, we’ll mention the methodology Libb Thims used to perform his classification, and we’ll go over the smartest people included in the list.
Who are the smartest people in history?
To be able to make this classification, the American engineer Libb Thims set as lower limit 200 points in the CI, that is to say I consider the score of 200 in IQ as the minimum value to appear in your list. It should be borne in mind that from 130 the IQ score is already considered to be well above the average, corresponding to a “gifted” person. In order to complete this criterion, Thims also took into account the aptitudes, capacities and competences in a particular area of knowledge or capacity.
The problem with using CI-based scoring, besides the fact that it can sometimes be inaccurate, is that not all subjects who aspired to be included in the list had not undergone this type of test to calculate it. In this way, the author used Cox’s methodology which predicts CI based on what each individual achieves in every 10 years of their life. To complete this methodology, Thims reviewed the work of many aspirants.
Thus, this list was put together taking into account both the IQ score and the successes obtained by each individual. Despite Thims’ intention to make the classification as truthful as possible, it is still debated and questionable.
1. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, considered the greatest German man of letters, was a playwright, novelist, poet and naturalist.. His novel Wilhelm Meister, which chronicles the protagonist’s process of self-realization, was considered by Arthur Shopenhauer as one of the four best novels in history.
Libb Thims places him first on his list, and as there is no precise score, given directly to the author, it is estimated, according to the methods mentioned above, that the CI reaches between 210 and 225 points.
2. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
It is impossible to refer to the advances and the evolution of science, in particular physics, without quoting Albert Einstein. He is one of the most important and famous physicists in the history of science..
Among many other contributions, he is credited with the world’s best-known equation relating energy to mass: the energy of a body at rest is equal to mass by the speed of light squared and the theory of relativity, where he states that the laws of physics are the same for all observers.
The second on the Thims list, his IQ is estimated at 205 and 225 points, by succeeding in surpassing in 5 or 6 gaps the score necessary to consider itself superior to the average.
3. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Leonardo DeVinci was a versatile artist known for his countless contributions to science, art and the humanities. There are few areas where da Vinci has not explored. He had very new ideas for his time, also considering himself an engineer and an inventor. In the art of painting, he produced many works, the most famous being the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper or his famous drawing of the Vitruvian Man.
Taking into account and evaluating different measures and contributions of his work, it is considered that da Vinci’s IQ could range from 180 to 220. He is the third author on Thims’ list.
4. Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Isaac Newton is known around the world for his contributions to science and he is considered by many to be the greatest scientist of all time, being his revolutionary work for his time. One of his best known and most important contributions to scientific development was the law of universal gravitation.
As we have pointed out with previous authors, Newton’s IQ is estimated to be between 190 and 200. He ranks fourth on the list.
5. James Maxwell (1831-1879)
James maxwell is known in the field of physics for formulating the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, unifying for the first time electricity, magnetism and light, being this considered the second great unification of physics. Maxwell is considered the third best physicist, surpassed only by Newton and Einstein.
He appears fifth on the list and his IQ is also very high, coming in at an estimate between 190 and 205 points.
6. Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543)
Nicholas Copernicus is considered the founder of modern astronomy, as well as one of the most important authors of the scientific revolution of the Renaissance. His most famous contribution, which resulted in a shift in humanity’s view of the solar system, was the heliocentric theory, which states that it is the planets, including the Earth, that revolve around the Sun.
Seventh on the list, it is estimated that if the relevant tests were done to find out his IQ, it would be between 160 and 200.
7. Carl Gauss (1777-1855)
Carl Gauss was a mathematician, astronomer and physicist, he is known for formulating the divergence theorem or Gauss’s theorem, considered one of the most important contributions to the field of electromagnetism; later, James Maxwell will use this theorem to form two of his four equations.
Taking into account the different measurements, it is believed that their IQ could reach 250 or 300 and thus exceed 6 standard deviations. Thims ranks it eleventh.
8. Galileo Galileo (1564-1642)
Galileo Galilei is also linked to the scientific revolution and is considered the father of modern astronomy, modern physics and science. He made the first law of motion and supported the heliocentric system proposed by Copernicus, already mentioned above. Likewise, his contribution to the improvement of the telescope was also important, which enabled him to make new astronomical observations.
He is the twelfth author according to Thims with an IQ estimated between 180 and 200.
9. Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)
Nikola Tesla he was an inventor and engineer also known for his countless contributions to the field of electromagnetism. His contributions formed the basis for modern systems of using alternating current electricity.
Located in fourteenth place on the list it is believed that with the use of different measures his IQ could oscillate between 160 and 310.
10. William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
William Shakespeare was considered a playwright, poet and actor, being one of the most relevant writers in universal literature and the most important in English. He is world famous for his play Romeo and Juliet.
Thims estimated his IQ to be close to a score of 210, thus appearing at number fifteen on the list.
11. Terence Tao (1975-)
Terence Tao is a mathematician, and at only 24 he managed to become a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. From an early age, high abilities were already visible, and during his career he has been awarded several times, highlighting the Fields Medal or the International Medal for Excellent Discoveries in Mathematics. Likewise, in 2020, he was elected Australian of the year.
His IQ scores range from 211 to 233, placing twenty-first in the rankings.
12. Hypatia (370-415)
Hypatia was a philosopher and an excellent teacher in mathematics and astronomy. Considered one of the first female mathematicians, her rationality-based teachings created her detractors, ultimately accused and murdered by Christians. His works have been lost for the entire Library of Alexandria.
Located in place twenty-two, an IQ is estimated between 170 and 210.
13. Marie Curie (1867-1934)
Marie Curie is known worldwide for its research in the field of radioactivity. Among other contributions, Marie Curie and her husband Pierre Curie said that if humans were exposed to radium, diseased cells that formed tumors were destroyed faster than healthy cells. He also distinguished himself by being the first person to receive two Nobel Prizes in different fields, first in the specialty of physics and later in chemistry.
His IQ was between 180 and 200, placing him 25th on Thim’s list.
14. Francis Galton (1822-1911)
Francis Galton has a large body of over 340 articles and books. He was interested in different fields of study, including anthropology, geography and psychology. A cousin of the famous scientist Charles Darwin, he mainly focused on the study of human beings, their intelligence and individual differences.
Applying different measures, Thims estimates that Galton had an IQ of 200. Thus occupying the twenty-sixth place.
15. Edith Stern (1952-)
Edith Stern is an inventor and mathematician, appointed master inventor by the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). She is also known because her father trained and educated her from an early age to be the “perfect human being” project which they called the Edith Stern project, as her father believed that being a genius didn’t was not a genetic problem but depended on how the child was educated.
Stern ranks twenty-eighth on the list with an IQ of 203.
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