36 People With The Highest IQs Of All Time

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36 People With The Highest IQs Ever: World's Smartest People
Self

IQ is a standardized measure of brain power that’s short for Intelligence Quotient.

IQ tests have been around for over a hundred years, and used by scientists, schools, nonprofit organizations, and even the government to establish an individual’s intelligence or evaluate potential employees.

How is IQ measured?

Test scores take into account things like memory, math, reasoning, language, and more. They often feature puzzle-solving challenges that evaluate cognitive abilities across the board.

There’s no standard IQ test, and several kinds have been developed and are currently in use. But the consensus is that 100 is an average score, and 140 is the minimum IQ of geniuses.

Since most people fall within one standard deviation from “average,” almost 70% of the population falls within the IQ range of 85-115.

What is the highest possible IQ?

The highest possible IQ score is theoretically infinite. Mensa, a member organization that restricts applicants based on their score, requires an IQ of 132 for entrance. This means only about 2% of the general population would even be considered.

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What Intelligence Quotient Tests Don’t Evaluate

IQ is fairly controversial, though. Because there’s no standard intelligence test, different tests can bring about different results.

Many tests rely on cultural knowledge to determine a score, and that can actively disadvantage groups who aren’t in the know, don’t receive the same standard of education, or haven’t been taught to take tests, which is a unique skill in itself.

Not to mention, because IQ tests are often found to be problematic for a variety of reasons, it’s difficult to verify their reliability across the board to begin with. So, many assumptions are really just that.

We can make educated guesses as to the intelligence levels of geniuses through time, even though IQ is not such a reliable measure, nor are the claims of the individuals themselves at times.

Who has the highest IQ ever?

With an IQ of 228, writer Marilyn vos Savant is often cited as the person with the highest IQ ever. However, others have been said to have scored higher, as you will see in the list below.

Regardless, identifying which individual truly has the highest IQ is somewhat difficult to determine. Many of the famous geniuses in our society existed before intelligence tests as we know them existed, so there’s no way to evaluate their intellects in comparison to the smartest people of today.

And as stated above, these tests aren't always considered reliable anyway.

List Of People With The Highest IQs Of All Time

1. William Sidis, Author and Professor — IQ 250-300

In 1909, William Sidis broke the record for the youngest person ever to be accepted into Harvard University. He was eleven years old.

Sidis would go on to write “The Animate and the Inanimate,” about thermodynamics and the origins of life. He is said to have spoken 25 languages, and at one point he even invented his own.

If the claims about him are true, he may have had the highest IQ ever. Critics propose that 254 was actually just the place where he fell in the ranking on the exam.

2. Terence Tao, Professor of Mathematics — IQ 230

Terence Tao was born in Australia in 1975 to immigrant parents from Hong Kong. At the age of nine, he took advanced university courses in mathematics and is one of two children to score over 700 in the math section of the SAT.

Tao won the Fields Medal in 2006, along with numerous other awards and prizes, like a MacArthur Fellowship, and memberships to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, among others.

Tao has made so many contributions to mathematics that he’s listed as one of the greatest living mathematicians. He’s written countless papers and textbooks to expand the field and solve previously unsolved problems.

3. Marilyn vos Savant, Columnist and Author — IQ 228

Marilyn vos Savant currently holds the Guinness Book of Records position as the person with the highest recorded IQ. She’s currently a columnist for Parade magazine, where she’s worked since 1986.

Famously, she wrote the solution to the Monty Hall Problem in a 1990 column, where she correctly concluded that a contestant had greater odds of winning if they switched their initial choice between doors 1, 2, or 3.

Angry academics and mathematicians wrote in from all over the world to vehemently disagree with the columnist they concluded was a “hare-brained idiot.”

4. Leonardo da Vinci, Polymath — IQ 220

Leonardo da Vinci was a famous polymath, or a person of vast talents in multiple areas. He was born in 1452 in Italy, and is best known for painting the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.

But he also invented, sculpted, studied anatomy, paleontology, and did much, much more. Da Vinci is the one individual that most people think of when they use the term “Renaissance Man.”

5. Johann Woflgang von Goethe, Polymath — IQ 210-225

Goethe is probably most famous for writing the celebrated "Faust," which still inspires countless adaptations and homages to this day.

Part II of "Faust" was published in 1832, the same year that Goethe died. He also made numerous contributions to the sciences.

6. Kim Ung-Yong, Professor — IQ 210

Born in Seoul in 1962, Kim was a published author at the age of three. He went on TV on multiple occasions as a young child to demonstrate his ability to solve complex math problems well beyond his perceived age limits.

Kim later worked at the Chungbuk National University, and eventually became the vice president of the North Kyeong-gi Development Research Center.

7. Christopher Langan, Horse Rancher — IQ 195-210

Langan is most known for pushing conspiracy theories and getting in with the alt-right movement. He’s been widely criticized for views that appear to be thinly veiled hate speech.

Langan developed a “Cognitive-Theoretical Model of the Universe,” though he has no official qualifications in the fields it covers, like physics, cognition, or theology.

8. Isaac Newton, Physicist — IQ 193

Isaac Newton was born in England in 1642 and is most famous for his contributions to foundational physics, namely the theory of gravity. Most schoolchildren will know the story of the apple falling onto his head.

He also made waves in mathematics, astronomy, optics, and more. Newton calculated the shape of the Earth to be an oblate spheroid, confirmed that the sun was at the center of the solar system, invented calculus, posited the idea of Newtonian fluid, among other accomplishments.

Newton was a professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. He is buried in a tomb at Westminster Abbey, where a nearby monument memorializes the intellectual giant and his effects on the world.

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9. Albert Einstein, Physicist — IQ 160

Albert Einstein is likely the most famous physicist of all time. He’s the creator of the most well-known equation in the world. Einstein won the Nobel Prize in 2021 for his work in relativity. He’s such a celebrated member of the world’s smartest people that even his name has become synonymous with the concept of genius.

There are many myths floating around about Einstein’s life and career. The truth is that he excelled in his studies from an early age, particularly in the areas of math and physics. He was married twice and romantically involved with a Russian spy. He did work briefly at a patent office before publishing widely read papers and landing a position at the University of Bern.

Einstein was targeted by the Nazis and sought refuge from Hitler’s violent regime in the U.S. Eventually, he would become involved in the Manhattan Project and work on the creation of the first atomic bomb. He died in 1955 at the age of 76.

10. Ramarni Wilfred, Student — IQ 162

Ramarni Wilfred is a Black teen from London who could read and write by the time he got to preschool.

At 11, he scored higher on an IQ test than Albert Einstein. He belongs to a family that encourages him to find his passion in life, and they travel together on unusual adventures like fossil hunting.

11. Nathan Leopold, Murderer — IQ 210

Nathan Leopold was a child prodigy. He first spoke at just 4 months old. He also killed a teenage boy in 1924.

The idea was to commit the perfect crime. Instead, the incident became the inspiration for the movie “Rope” by Alfred Hitchock.

12. Marnen Laibow-Koser, Composer and Musician — IQ 268

Marnen Laibow-Koser lists a variety of things on his Twitter account as occupations, including musician, composer, and web developer.

He has a projected IQ of 268. He holds a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory.

13. Adragon De Mello, Retail — IQ 400

Adragon, or A.D., De Mello was once the youngest person to graduate from a U.S. college, at 11 years old. He has a degree in computational mathematics.

Since graduating in 1988 and finding fame through multiple media outlet interviews, De Mello has come out to say that his father was the one to push him so hard in a direction he didn’t want to go. The elder De Mello wanted to see his son win the Nobel Prize before he was 16, but as of 2003, A.D. was working at Home Depot.

14. Michael Kearney, Unknown — IQ 200-325

Michael Kearney holds the current record for youngest person to graduate college at 10 years old. He taught college courses shortly after. Born in Hawaii in 1984, Kearney dreamed of becoming a game show host.

ABC followed his progress from child prodigy to adult, and discovered that his expectations of himself were modest. Despite holding several advanced degrees, he was more interested in having a “normal life.”

15. Voltaire, Writer — IQ 190-200

Voltaire is famous for being one of the most influential and prolific writers of his time. Born in Paris in 1694, he’s most well known for the satirical work “Candide.”

He was a deist who believed in the equality of the human race and used his celebrity status to advocate for justice.

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16. Michael Grost, System Architect — IQ 200

Michael Grost entered college at the age of 10. He studied at Michigan State University, and later was admitted to Yale and the University of Michigan. He achieved a doctorate at the age of 23 in mathematics.

Michael’s interests and hobbies include abstract painting, evolutionary biology, classical music, and architecture.

17. Nikola Tesla, Inventor — IQ 160-300

Nikola Tesla has become somewhat of a cult figure in recent years. Widely known for his experiments with conducting electricity long rang through the air or beneath the ground, he used “Tesla coils” to produce alternating-current electricity. He also invented numerous other devices for radio remote control, X-rays, and more. Tesla spoke eight languages and possessed a photographic memory.

Though Tesla had once worked for Thomas Edison, the two famously feuded later. Edison launched a marketing campaign to convince the public that his own DC current was safer than Tesla’s AC current. Tesla has been portrayed in numerous movies, TV shows, and video games, and commemorated in statues and memorials around the world.

18. Paul Allen, Cofounder of Microsoft — IQ 160-170

Paul Allen cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates. He was worth an estimated $20.3 million when he died in 2018. In 1983, Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and stepped back from an active leadership role at Microsoft.

In 2009, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and succumbed to complications from the disease in 2018.

19. Carl Gauss, Mathematician — IQ 250-300

Carl Gauss is said to be the most important mathematician since antiquity. He was born in 1777 but his mother was illiterate and never recorded the date.

Gauss would go on to figure it out himself after discovering ways to figure out dates both in the past and the future.

Gauss wrote his best-known work at the age of 21, “Diquisitiones Arithmeticae,” which solidified number theory into its present form.

20. Judit Polgar, Chess Grandmaster — IQ 170

Judit Polgar became a chess grandmaster in 1991 when she was 15 years old. She beat Bobby Fischer's record of becoming the youngest grandmaster ever.

Polgar was the only woman to be rated in the top 10 of all chess players before she retired in 2014.

21. Edith Stern, Vice President at IBM — IQ 203

Edith Stern holds over 120 patents and had read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica by the age of 5. Her father said that he set out to create “the perfect human being” when Stern was born.

She later went on to become a VP at IBM, where she worked in research and development.

22. Hugo Grotius, Polymath — IQ 200

Hugo Grotius was a teenage prodigy born in Holland in 1583. He made contributions to several fields like philosophy, law, international law, political theory, and more.

He made significant headway in the idea of attaching rights to individuals instead of objects. Grotius was also a playwright and poet.

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23. Mislav Predavec, Professor — IQ 190

Mislav Predavec is a professor of mathematics in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. Predavec once stated that a hobby of his is to tackle “very difficult intelligence tests.”

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He founded his own exclusive society for high IQ individuals called GenerIQ.

24. Sir Francis Galton, Polymath — IQ 200

Sir Francis Galton was an English polymath who became knighted in 1909 for his contributions to numerous fields.

Galton was pivotal in the development of fingerprinting as a means of evidence in criminal proceedings.

He was also very much into eugenics and the idea that only favorable traits should be passed on, and only marriages between elite families should be encouraged.

25. Sho Yano, Physician — IQ 200

Sho Yano was born in Portland in 1990 and attended Loyola University Chicago at the age of 9. He grated summa cum laude at 12.

Yano achieved a doctorate of molecular biology at 18. He was called a “real-life Doogie Howser” for becoming the youngest person to hold an MD from the University of Chicago, when he graduated in 2009 at 21.

26. Marie Curie, Physicist and Chemist — IQ 180-200

Marie Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and the first person ever to win the Nobel twice. She remains the only person to win the Nobel in two separate fields (physics and chemistry).

Curie famously worked with radioactive elements to establish the first studies on radioactive isotopes and develop new technologies and practices in areas like X-ray medicine and more. Curie died at 66 from complications arising from exposure to radiation.

27. Richard Rosner, Television Writer — IQ 192

Richard Rosner is a television writer who’s worked on shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live and Crank Yankers, among others. He supposedly graduated from high school after ten years of study in his late twenties.

Rosner has a controversial personality and work history for a classical genius, if his claims are indeed true. He’s said to have once been a bouncer, a stripper, a nude model, and other various gig work positions one wouldn’t normally associate with the average Einstein.

28. Hypatia, Greek Philosopher — IQ 170-210

Hypatia is the first female mathematician that we have a decent record of. She was born in 350 AD in Alexandria, and went on to become a major influence in the Neoplatonic school of philosophy.

Hypatia was murdered by a mob and turned into a martyr. In the Enlightenment era, she became a symbol of opposition to Catholicism.

29. William Shakespeare, Playwright — IQ 210

William Shakespeare is very likely the most famous English language writer of all time. His works are read by high school students in English classes everywhere, and his plays are performed around the world by elite theater companies and volunteer players alike.

Shakespeare lived from 1564-1616. He wrote 39 plays, 154 sonnets, and many more works that cross categories. He’s famous for his association with the Globe Theater where his performances took place.

Over the years there have been several conspiracy theories regarding the true identity of Shakespeare, none of which have ever contained enough evidence to be taken seriously.

30. Chris Hirata, Astrophysicist — IQ 225

Chris Hirata currently works at the Ohio State University as a professor of cosmology and astroparticle physics. He won the International Physics Olympiad at the age of 13, and was considered a child prodigy.

He went on to graduate from Caltech at 18. Hirata focuses on research into the cosmic background radiation and the first structures that evolved in the universe.

31. Thomas Young, Physician — IQ 185-200

Thomas Young was a British polymath who lived from 1773-1829. One of his greatest feats was his groundbreaking work on the Rosetta Stone and the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Perhaps even more importantly, Young demonstrated the evidence for the wave theory of light, which would form the basis for research in optics for generations to come.

32. Emanuel Swedenborg, Theologian — IQ 165-210

Emanuel Swedenborg was a scientist who began to experience visions later in life that led to a “spiritual awakening."

In 1758, he wrote his best-known work, “Heaven and Hell,” which presents a detailed account of the afterlife. He claimed that it was a work of divine inspiration. He would go on to publish several more works in the same vein. He wrote detailed accounts of what happens to married couples and their relationships in the afterlife.

33. Galileo Galilei, Astronomer — IQ 180-200

Galileo is one of the most famous scientific minds of all time. He’s contributed so much to our understanding of the universe and the natural world that it’s almost impossible to overstate his importance.

One of the many things he’s known for is discovering the four largest moons of Jupiter. This led him to advocate for a heliocentric solar system, which brought him into intense conflict with the Catholic Church.

Galileo died at the age of 77 in 1642. Before his death, he advanced the collective knowledge of astronomy, physics, engineering, mathematics, gravity, and so much more.

34. Rudolf Clausius, Physicist — IQ 190-205

Rudolf Clausius was a German scientist whose work laid the foundation for the second law of thermodynamics. His conclusion, called the Clausius statement, reads as follows: “Heat can never pass from a colder to a warmer body without some change, connected therewith, occurring at the same time.”

In 1865, Clausius came up with an explanation of entropy that could be demonstrated mathematically. He was the recipient of numerous international awards and honors from universities and organizations.

35. Garry Kasparov, Chess Grandmaster — IQ 190

Garry Kasparov was the highest rated chess player in the world until 2013. He’s probably most well known to the general public for losing to the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in 1997.

Kasparov retired from chess in 2005 and serves as the current chairman of the Human Rights Foundation.

36. Stephen Hawking, Physicist — IQ 160

Stephen Hawking was very likely the most well-known physicist after Albert Einstein. He discovered that black holes emit radiation, which came to be called Hawking radiation.

Hawking popularized the field of quantum mechanics through commercial efforts, including the book “A Brief History of Time.”

Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and lived with the side effects for over 50 years. His life is loosely documented in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything,” where he is portrayed by actor Eddie Redmayne.

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Kevin Lankes, MFA, is an editor and author. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Here Comes Everyone, Pigeon Pages, Owl Hollow Press, The Huffington Post, The Riverdale Press, and more.