We often refer to people like Albert Einstein or Leonardo De Vinci as geniuses. While they were clearly exceptional, intelligence is a hard thing to measure. In 1905, Theodore Simone designed a test for children who were struggling at school. This method is the method of the intelligence quotient (IQ) test, which became the conventional way of evaluating an individual's intelligence.
While there is no standard IQ test, the scoring is similar across the various versions, with 100 being considered an “average” IQ score and anything 140 or above being considered a genius-level IQ. Considering the fact that we now know there are many different types of intelligence - emotional, musical, visual-spatial, and others - IQ test scores are taken with a grain of salt today.
Accuracy of these tests aside, some people are undoubtedly gifted, proving their tremendous intellect in all kinds of incredible ways. Here are 6 of the most intelligent people in history. Their IQs are supposedly even higher than Einstein’s!
Judit Polgar’s outstanding intelligence was evident from an early age. At the age of 11, she beat a chess grandmaster for the first time, and at 15, Polgar herself became the youngest person ever to receive this title. The Hungarian chess player is reported to have an IQ of 170. Growing up, Judit and her two sisters were homeschooled by their father, who was convinced that his daughters' intelligence could be best measured through the game of chess. Laszlo Polgar believed that his method could make every kid a child prodigy, and he wasn't wrong, it seems.
In 2014, Polgar retired from competitive chess, but the game still plays a big role in her life. She trains the Hungarian men's national team, gives master classes, is a commentator on major tournaments, and she even developed her own chess program for students.
When Jacob Barnett was two years old, he was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. Doctors predicted he'd never be able to learn to tie his own shoelaces. Not only did he master that task, but Jacob also managed to complete grades 6 through 12 in a single year, and was accepted to his home state of Indiana Purdue University at the age of 10.
By the time Jacob turned 13, he was already a published physicist. Currently, he is teaching and studying for his Ph.D. at the Perimeter Institute for Advanced Theoretical Physics. To give you some idea of how prestigious the Perimeter Institute is, Stephen Hawking, perhaps the most renowned theoretical physicist of our time, has done research there.
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Not all geniuses use their intelligence for the greater good. Nathan Leopold graduated from the University of Chicago at age 18, spoke 9 languages, and had an IQ of 200. He also believed that his intelligence and social status exempted him from the laws that bound other people. In 1924, Leopold and his friend Richard Loeb kidnapped and killed a young neighbor boy, the 14-year-old Bobby Frank.
Loeb was unusually gifted, too. He graduated from college at 17 and was fascinated by criminal psychology. Leopold and Loeb had no motive for the murder, except for their desire to outsmart the world by committing the “perfect crime,” a crime that would never be solved. The two were eventually caught and sentenced to life in prison. Nathan Leopold was released on parole after 33 years in prison and died in 1971.
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Kim Ung Yong was known as the person with the highest IQ of all time. His score ranges from 200 to 210, depending on the test. When he was merely a year old, Kim had already learned both the Korean alphabet and about 1.000 Chinese characters. By the age of five, he was already fluent in 5 different languages and solved complex mathematical equations. His outstanding intelligence and achievements made him well known both in South Korea and worldwide.
At the age of 8, Kim was approached by NASA and offered a post at the organization. After working there for a decade, Kim eventually left NASA because he felt lonely and unappreciated, as he told The Korea Herald in 2010. He returned to his hometown and pursued a career in civil engineering. Some people called Kim a ‘wasted genius’ for his decisions, but according to him, this life change made him feel happy and fulfilled.
Related: Three Fantastic Child Prodigies
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Philip Emeagwali was born in Nigeria in 1954. At the age of 14, Philip had to drop out of school because his father could no longer afford to pay his school fees. However, young Philip continued his studies at home. He would perform mental exercises like solving 100 math problems in one hour and spent most of his days at the public library.
At the age of 17, after completing the high-school equivalency exam, Emeagwali saw the opportunity for one of his greatest dreams to come true. He was awarded not just admission but also a full scholarship at Oregon State to complete his bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
Philip Emeagwali went on to become a groundbreaking computer scientist, credited for developing the microprocessor technology that exponentially sped up computers. His work paved the way for the development of the internet.
The name William Sidis might not ring any bells, but you are likely familiar with his story. Sidis’s life was the inspiration for the movie Good Will Hunting. Sidis was born in Boston in 1898 and made the headlines in the early 20th century as a child prodigy for his amazing intellect. His IQ scores ranged between 200 and 300, and he was accepted to Harvard at the mere age of 9.
After graduating from university at the age of 16, Sidis was determined to lead a life of quiet solitude. “The only way to live the perfect life is to live it in seclusion. I have always hated crowds," he told reporters. He took on a series of menial jobs, but whenever his colleagues learned who he was, Sidis would promptly quit. Sadly, Sidis died from a stroke in 1944, when he was only 46 years old.
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