‘Brainy is the new sexy’-thus purred the minxy Irene Adler in the second season of Sherlock and had us going ga-ga over memes and tumblr posts about intelligence and brainy people. It’s true that geniuses are a cut above the rest and have the ability to contribute much more to the advancement of the human civilization than the average person. However there is no definite way to measure intelligence as it is a subjective attribute. Also science has not progressed enough to know all about the complex human brain. But some standardised Intelligence Quotient or IQ tests can act as indicators of exceptional memory, analytical abilities and other dimensions of intelligence such as three dimensional thinking and problem solving aptitude. These tests give a score based on how sharp a person’s brain works. The score can vary from test to test and also by age. The average IQ has been found to be hundred as most people score within 70 to 130 on an adult IQ test. 200 is the highest one can score on such a test. Let’s take a look at some of the most gifted brainiacs who are believed to have the highest IQs in the world.
10. Marilyn Vos Savant (IQ 190)
Born in August 11, 1946, Marilyn Vos Savant is an American magazine columnist, author, lecturer and playwright. Having an IQ of about 190, she has several publications to her name and was registered in 1985 in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the highest IQ among women. During her childhood, she worked in her father’s general store and wrote articles in the local newspapers under pseudonyms as she believed her work to be wanting in some way or the other. She studied philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis but quit two years later in the middle of the course to help in a family investment business. After receiving her IQ score, she began to write as a columnist in Parade, solving a variety of mathematical, logical and vocabulary puzzles given to her by the readers.
9. Kim Ung-Yong (IQ 210)
A Korean civil engineer and a former child prodigy, Kim Ung-Yong, born in 1963, was listed as the highest IQ holder in the Guinness Book of World Records up to 1990. He obtained an IQ score of 210 as a child of four years in the test normally given to seven year olds. He started speaking at only six-months and knew several languages like Japanese, Korean, German, English before his third birthday. By the age of four, he had memorized over 2000 words in both English and German and wrote poetry in Korean and Chinese. He began showcasing his genius from the age of 14 by solving complex differential and integral calculus problems on Japanese television. He is currently serving as an adjunct faculty member Chungbuk National University.
8. Christopher Hirata
Christopher Hirata was the youngest American to win a gold medal in the International Physics Olympiad at the age of 11. Born in 1982, this Japanese-American astrophysicist had an IQ of 225 as a child. A child prodigy at the age of three, he entertained himself at the grocery store by calculating the total bill of items in his parent’s shopping cart, item by item, by weight, quantity, discounts and sales tax. He could read Dr. Seuss to himself, recite the alphabets backwards and code the alphabet series numerically. By the time he reached 1st grade he was playing around with algebra and took college level courses in physics and multi-variable calculus at the age of 12. He entered CalTech when he was 14 and by the age of 16, he was working for NASA, on projects exploring possibilities of colonizing Mars. He earned his PhD in Physics from Princeton at 22 and is currently teaches astrophysics at CalTech.
7. Terence Tao (IQ between 160-230)
A child prodigy, Terence Tao, born in 1975, knew basic arithmetic at the age of two. He taught himself numbers and letters from Sesame Street at two and attended University level mathematics courses at nine. His IQ was estimated to be between 220 and 230 during childhood. He published his first assistant paper at 15 and received both his Bachelors and Masters degrees at sixteen. Tao has bagged numerous awards, such as the Salem Prize (2000) and the Clay Research Award (2013), to name a few. He is a mathematician specializing in harmonic analysis, additive combinatorics, partial differential equations, random matrix theory, analytic number theory and ergodic Ramsey theory. He currently teaches at University of California and has been dubbed as Mr. Fix-it for frustrated researchers stuck on a problem.
6. Sir Isaac Newton (IQ 190)
Isaac Newton has been a constant in all our physics books since middle school and hardly needs an introduction. A key figure in the scientific revolution, he contributed heavily to modern science by explaining the laws of gravity. His IQ is estimated to be about 190. He was one of the most influential scientists of all time and discovered many properties of light and sound. He built the world’s first practical reflecting telescope and formulated an empirical law of cooling. As a mathematician he contributed to the study of power series, generalised the binomial theorem to include non-integer exponents and developed Newton’s method for approximating the roots of a function.
5. Garry Kasparov (IQ 190)
Considered to be the greatest chess player of all time, Gary Kasparov, born in 1963, is said to have an IQ of 190. A Russian chess grandmaster, former world chess champion, a writer and political activist, Kasparov learned to play chess at the age of 11 and became a junior champion by 13. He lost to the IBM super computer Deep Blue in a highly publicized chess matched but stunned the whole world by his sheer ingenuity, intuition and demonstration of the amazing power of the human mind.
4. Leonardo da Vinci (IQ 190)
Born in 1452 in Italy, Leonardo da Vinci was believed to have an IQ of about 190. He was the quintessential Renaissance man with an insatiable curiosity for knowledge and an obsessive drive for new inventions. Renowned primarily as a painter for famous works like ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘The Last Supper’, he was also an established polymath and worked in the field of mathematics, engineering, sculpting, architecture, anatomy, geology, cartography, botany, music and literature. He was a genius in the truest sense and is revered to this day for his technological ingenuity. He was centuries ahead of his time with his detailed concepts and theories of flying machines, concentrated solar power, hydrodynamics and plate tectonics.
3. Christopher Michael Langan (IQ 195)
Described as the ‘smartest man in America’ by the media, Christopher Michael Langan is an autodidact with an IQ of 195. He achieved a full score in his SAT despite napping during the exam. After dropping out of college due to financial problems, he took a string of labour-intensive jobs but continued working on his theories and equations. He developed the ‘Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe’ in isolation and described it to be a theory of the relationship between mind and reality.
2. William James Sidis (IQ 195)
An American child prodigy born in New York in 1898, William James Sidis was believed to have an IQ above 195. He could read the newspaper at only 18 months and taught himself eight languages by the age of eight. He also invented a language known as Vendergood during his childhood. He became a Harvard student by the age of eleven and graduated cum laude at 16. He knew over 40 languages by the time he was an adult and specialized in the field of higher mathematics. He was proficient enough to lecture the Harvard Mathematical Club on four-dimensional bodies before earning his Bachelors degree. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage at the young age of forty six.
1. Abdesselam Jelloul (IQ 198)
Abdesselam Jelloul scored 198 in an adult IQ test in 2012. The test included thirteen dimensions of intelligence-analytical, spatial, logical, memory, musical, linguistic, philosophical, moral, spiritual, interpersonal, intra-personal, bodily and naturalist. He holds the record of the person with the highest ever known advanced IQ test score. It was one of the most advanced tests to have ever been conducted on intelligence quotient.
Contributor: Rajasee Chatterjee