Who is the Smartest Person That Ever Lived? 19

Who is the smartest person who ever lived?

It’s an interesting question and I have no criteria for how to pick the #1, but these 5 should definitely be in the top 10.

Sir Issac Newton - Invented Calculus and showed us how ordered the universe was.
Albert Einstein - Changed the way we perceive the universe with general relativity.
Aristotle - The basis of modern reasoning (I picked him out of thin air over Plato and Socrates).
William Shakespeare - He’s probably remembered more because his art is able to last and is more accessible, but his plays are still the literary peak of mankind, over and over again.
Leonardo Da Vinci - The renaissance man of the renaissance. He could have lived to be 500 and still not lived up to his potential.

Anyone else I’m missing? My original list had Thomas Edison, Alan Turing, and Jon von Neumann, but that’s because I’m biased towards the mathmeticians who laid the groundwork for modern computers.

If I had to pick a #1, I’d probably go with Newton.

Update: mike made the suggestion to put Mozart or Beethoven on the list and I agree.

19 thoughts on “Who is the Smartest Person That Ever Lived?

  1. Brian Jul 18, 2005 6:37 am

    Stephen Hawking would get an honorable mention, though I’m not sure how well he’d really stack up to you guys like Newton and Einstein.

    Michael Faraday did a lot of stuff with magnets and electricity, so I guess he could be a bit of a dark horse candidate.

    My personal “Most Brilliant Person in History” award would probably go to George Washington Carver for inventing peanut butter…although his work with peanuts would also make him the Grim Reaper to so many who are seriously allergic to them.

  2. ben Jul 18, 2005 7:31 am

    Hah.

    I think Stephen Hawking is brilliant, but I’d be hesitant to put anyone living on that list.

  3. mike Jul 18, 2005 7:50 am

    Mozart was composing at age 5. that’s pretty damn brilliant. Beethoven was creating mastepieces while deaf. also brilliant.
    i guess there are different kinds of intelligence.

  4. x_kicks Jul 18, 2005 8:01 am

    Ben should deserve a honorable mention for creating Odd Man In. It’s a neat game!

  5. ben Jul 18, 2005 9:33 am

    I think if I’m including Shakespeare, Mozart could easily be in there, too.

    I don’t know enough about Classical music to decide between Mozart and Beethoven. Beethoven obviously wins the best hairdo award.

  6. Christapie Jul 19, 2005 5:41 pm

    I would include Thomas Jefferson…writing the Declaration of Independence and inventing the methods of Archaeology still used today…that’s pretty brilliant.

    DaVinci was a great pick.

  7. PrincessPink Jul 19, 2005 8:46 pm

    I know who you forgot-
    Sarah Garvey.
    Enough said.

    Just kidding…

    This might be a little iffy, but what about Walt Disney? The man went bankrupt more than a few times and still managed it create the happiest place on earth, among other things. I mean he’s no Beethoven or Newton, but I figured he was worth a mention.

    Also, some hedonists may argue that Hugh Heffner should make the top 10. I don’t agree, but I know there is someone out there reading this who does.

  8. ben Jul 20, 2005 9:59 am

    Sadly, I’m shooting down TJ. He was brilliant and did a lot in his lifetime, but if the USA crumbled today not many people would remember Thomas Jefferson. They’ll always remember John Locke, who’s philosophy is the basis for the Declaration of Independence.

    Not that I would put Locke there either.

  9. ben Jul 20, 2005 10:13 am

    Anyone who shares some of my genes is automatically thrown out.

    Walt Disney was among the greatest American businessmen, but not among the smartest that ever lived.

    And Hugh Heffner? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put boobs in a magazine. It takes a boobie scientist, and every guy is born with a doctorate in boobie science.

  10. Saint Aug 3, 2005 6:08 pm

    I think you guys are starting to miss the point..
    he’s talking about the SMARTEST person that ever lived
    Walt Disney, Hugh Heff etc. are NOT the smartest people that ever lived…
    they are men that had a good idea before someone else did, and a whole lot of good luck

    would you include John Carmack in the list? considering he was behind almost every ‘modern’ advancement in computer game technology, almost single handedly ushering in the 3D revolution? probably not.. so I REALLY dont think Heff counts cos he he was the most successful publisher of naked women :)

    I gotta go for Newton also, but I also am a computer nerd… :)

  11. Answer Dec 22, 2007 5:46 pm

    Da Vinci is the smartest person to have ever lived, without question. All members on the list greatly contributed to a fairly narrow field, Da Vinci was a genius of geniuses in any field he decided to pay any attention to.

  12. mike Mar 26, 2008 6:35 am

    i’d have to go with leonardo da vinci. newton would be a distant number two. i think it’s imperative to remember that everything newton did would have been done probably in his lifetime anyway, because galileo’s work guaranteed it to manifest. his greatest act of genius, and the only thing that actually required much of a leap of reasoning, was to say that gravity was a force acting upon all things with mass. not really that hard, not too demanding imaginatively. as for inventing calculus… he invented it simultaneously with Liebnitz (spelling), the german dude whose notations are the only one’s that are still used. even his laws of motion were arrived at after realizing the implication of GALILEO’s discoveries. it would have been done in the seventeenth century, newton or no newton.

    meanwhile, da vinci was conceiving of ideas over four centuries beyond his own time. leap of reasoning skills? he came up with theories of plate tectonics, concentrated solar power, and computers in the late 15th/early 16th century! he invented the world’s first completely self-propelled vehicle. he advanced the state of knowledge of human anatomy by hundreds of years. he correctly guessed that moonshine was cause by light reflecting off the earth. he invented the concept of the single fixed wing, used to this day in aircraft. and the double hull, used to this day in ships. the submarine, the tank, the machine gun, the helicopter were all invented (although possibly by others as well, independently, elsewhere) by him. he built the world’s first robot. and by some accounts he built the first calculator. he invented hundreds of small little gadgets and gismos for every trivial little interest that he took up over certain times. he designed a bridge which his employers laughed at because they thought his designs were way too complicated and overambitious, but his bridge is CURRENTLY being built right now to his exact specifications, I forget where but it would have been one of the grandest architectural feats of all time if they had believed him. he was also worked in the fields of optics, mathematics (even though he was self-taught), astronomy, biology… he was a musician, something of a philosopher and poet (he never was published but his journals had some brilliant insight contained within) and he even made some early contributions to scientific botany. oh… and he just happens to be widely considered as the greatest and most influential painter of all time. hell, it’s the internet, so i’m going to wildly speculate… if leonardo had been in newton’s shoes and had galileo’s data to work with… his mind would have been kept occupied… and he prolly would have achieved newton’s life work in a fraction of the time it took newton. i wouldn’t say that it is unreasonable to believe that he may, even so long ago and with such bad technology, been able to touch on the principles of the special theory of relativity. pointless, definitely overt speculation, but that’s my opinion. the man had unbelievable genius.

  13. ben Mar 26, 2008 6:52 am

    Great defense of Da Vinci! It would probably take me a lot of research to even figure out whether I agree with you or not, but one thing I don’t agree with is the idea that “Newtonian Physics” would definitely have been discovered in Newton’s time period no matter what. Everything seems simple once it is discovered. It’s the discovering that’s hard.

  14. steve May 5, 2008 9:55 pm

    you forgot the most important person of all… Nikola Tesla! He is with out a doubt the smartest person to ever live.

  15. symphony May 26, 2008 10:57 am

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  17. Pantsman Jun 5, 2008 1:33 am

    I think we are forgetting the actual top 2

    Goethe, and Francis Bacon.

    Goethe, nothing needs explained(great writer, DO RESEARCH!)

    Bacon, he graduated univeristy at like age 12, also, he invented TONS of things.

  18. standaman Jun 12, 2008 3:19 am

    I figure it’s a tie between Leonardo and Albert. Yes, Leonardo had a multiplicity of talents and advanced knowledge across paradigms- Einstein however advanced knowledge between paradigms and changed the process of knowledge gathering itself. Albert and Leonardo- I’d like to see them both cloned and reborn (and given modern coventional education:)

    The theory of relativity vs. the discovery of viscocity, mechanics and transcendent critical art forms….uhmmm

  19. youarecool Aug 7, 2008 6:10 pm

    Jesus Christ

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