Is Einstein the smartest person who has ever lived?

Wednesday 31st October 2012
Submitted by Robert Matthews
Dylan Ritchie, by email

Einstein has become synonymous with brilliance, and he’s certainly one of the greatest scientists of all time. But it’s hard to claim he’s the smartest person who ever lived. It’s often said (with scant evidence) that his IQ was 160; even if true, that would make him less intelligent than thousands of people alive today. In terms of mathematical ability, Einstein would not come close to matching today’s leading physicists like Stephen Hawking.

The depth and range of his achievements are not without precedent, either. Far less well-known scientists such as Carl Gauss and Leonhard Euler made fundamental contributions in many more fields. The person with perhaps the strongest claim to being the smartest person of all time is the Victorian polymath Sir Francis Galton, whose work on everything from statistics and evolution to the ‘wisdom of crowds’ is still used every day by researchers a century after his death.

How do USB flash drives hold so much data?
previous qanda Article
Why are nut allergies so common?
next qanda Article
Q&A Tabs

Phlegm is the mucous secretion of the respiratory passages. The cilia cells that line these passages are continually driving the phlegm upward to the throat, where it triggers the swallow reflex...

Astronomer Fred Hoyle was the first to point out that if you could drive a car upwards at 95km/h (60mph), it would only take about an hour to get into space. To get to the Moon would take a little...

It’s long been known that just over-heating, let alone burning, some foods can lead to the formation of compounds linked to cancer. These include heterocyclic amines and so-called polycyclic...

Lobsters and other shellfish have harmful bacteria naturally present in their flesh. Once the lobster is dead, these bacteria can rapidly multiply and release toxins that may not be destroyed by...

Mammals remove excess nitrogen from their bodies by converting it to a dilute solution of urea, stored in the bladder. Birds convert nitrogen to uric acid instead: this is metabolically more...

All female mammals have a clitoris, the sole purpose of which is to react to sexual stimulation, and presumably this stimulation has evolved to be pleasurable for most species. But establishing...

To create a sound, we have to set matter - whether it's a gas like air, a liquid or even a solid material - in regular motion, creating a wave of specific frequencies, which we hear as a sound of...

Mirrors don’t reverse left and right either – that’s just our interpretation of what happens. Your reflection in the mirror is actually reversed front to back – if you have...

Discovered by an American student named Gary Flandro in the mid-1960s, the slingshot manoeuvre usually involves spacecraft briefly 'coat-tailing' a planet orbiting the Sun, extracting some of the...

The ice disappears because the wind blows away water molecules that have evaporated or 'sublimed' from the ice, so the ice slowly shrinks in size. The molecules that escape are those with the...

We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here