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Intelligence quotient: The world’s smartest people

September 28, 2013


Willam James
Willam James
Terrence Tao
Terrence Tao
Marilyn Vos Savant
Marilyn Vos Savant
Christopher Hirata
Christopher Hirata
Kim Unh Yong
Kim Unh Yong
Dr Evangelos Katsioulis
Dr Evangelos Katsioulis
Rick Rosner
Rick Rosner
Gary Kasparov
Gary Kasparov
James Wood
James Wood
Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking

“MIRROR, mirror on the wall! Who is the smartest of us all?” is what many people today would like to ask the magic mirror that Snow White’s wicked step mum had.

Why? Well, simply because being smart and intelligent can give you more power than being simply beautiful.

We can’t look at someone’s brains to see who has the best, but we can test its grey cells to find out whose brain works the best. This is done through IQ tests.

IQ or intelligence quotient is a measure of relative intelligence determined by a standardised test. Simply put, it is an assessment of your ability to think and reason.

There are various tests to measure IQ and a person’s score can give an indication of their ability to think, reason and solve problems, but it does not reflect many other abilities of a person, such as musical talent. Those with average IQ or the normal intelligence score between range of 95 to 105. However, a person’s actual IQ score may vary plus or minus five points each time he or she takes it, because it is very difficult to get an accurate IQ score.

But being the smartest with the highest IQ score doesn’t guarantee that the person’s accomplishments are going to be as extraordinary as their IQ score, or does it? Read on to learn more about some amazing people with unbelievable IQ scores and their stunning, sometimes disappointing, accomplishments.

William James Sidis — IQ 250

A human calculator and linguistic genius, Sidis was born to Russian immigrant parents in America in 1898, and is estimated to have had an astounding IQ estimated between 250 and 300.

He went to a grammar school at six and graduated just within seven months, and by eight years of age he finished high school. He tried to join Harvard University but, being too young, he was advised to wait a couple of years and finally at 11, he became the youngest student to have ever enrolled at Harvard University. He graduated at the age of 16 and entered Harvard Law School at 18.

By this time he was probably sick and tired of being remarkable and he dropped out before completing his degree. He taught maths at a university for sometime but left that to do something ordinary and tried to become anonymous by being a bookkeeper, a clerk and doing other jobs that were incommensurate with his talents. All the attention he got due to his remarkable mind made him almost a recluse and he died lonely and poor at the young age of 46.

Terence Tao – IQ 230

One of the world’s most intelligent people on earth today is Terence Tao, with an amazing IQ of 230! Born in Australia to immigrant parents from Hong Kong in 1975, Tao has been surprising the world and creating records from an early age. At two, he could do basic arithmetic and when he was eight, he became the only two children in the history of Johns Hopkins Study of Exceptional Talent programme to score over 700 (with a score of 760) in SAT math section.

At 10, he took part in International Mathematical Olympiad and became the youngest winner in his section by winning the bronze medal. During the next two years Tao took part in this competition and won the silver and gold, respectively, each time as the youngest winner in the history of the competition.

At 15, Tao published his first research paper and received an Honours degree at 16 from Flinders University Adelaide, and completed Masters the following year.

Tao’s exceptional achievements continued when he moved on a Fulbright scholarship to Princeton University, US, and received his Ph.D. when he was barely 21! He then joined the faculty of the prestigious University of California, Los Angeles, and at 24 when he became a full professor, he was the youngest person at the institute’s history to have reached that position.

Tao’s field of interest and expertise are additive combinatorics, analytic number theory, harmonic analysis, partial differential equations and random matrix theory. Tao also has to his credit over 250 research papers and 17 books, along with numberous awards, among them being the prestigious Fields medal, in 2006, which is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in mathematics.

Tao holds the James and Carol Collins chair in mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Marilyn Vos Savant – IQ 228

A popular columnist, author, playwright has the distinction of being in the Guinness Book of World Records as the woman with the highest IQ ever recorded, 228, from 1986 to 1989 after which this category was dropped.

She writes a column in which she answers questions on various subjects, mostly academic, from readers and has devised many quizzes and puzzles.

Christopher Hirata – IQ 225

This Japanese-American astrophysicist with the phenomenal IQ of 225 won the gold medal at the Internat-ional Physics Olympiad at the age of 13, the youngest American to do so. This was not surprising since he was already doing algebra in first grade and taking college-level courses in physics and multivariable calculus at the age of 12!

When 14, Hirata entered the California Institute of Technology and two years later he was working at Nasa on a project exploring the possibility of colonising Mars! At the age of 18, he completed his BS in mathematics and four years later he earned a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton. Currently Hirata is a professor of physics and astronomy in the US.

Kim Unh-Yong – IQ 210

Intelligent children are smarter than their peers but highly intelligent children are smarter than many adults and that is what Kim Ung-Yong was when, by the age of three, he could read Japanese, Korean, German and English! Well, Ung-Yong had an early start because he had started speaking when he was just six months old!

Soon after his fourth birthday, he sat in an IQ test meant for seven-year-olds and scored an incredible 210!

Born in 1962 in South Korea, Ung-Yong stunned everyone by solving complex differential and integral calculus problems live on Japanese TV as a child. By eight, he was invited by Nasa to — you will not believe it — work for them! An eight-year-old child!

Society should not judge anyone with unilateral standards — everyone has different learning levels, hopes, talents, and dreams and we should respect that.

— Kim Unh-Yong

Ung-Yong solved any problem given to him at Nasa and also obtained a doctorate in physics from the University of Colorado before turning 15! Now tired of his extraordinary and fast-paced life, Ung-Yong took a U-turn and returned home to South Korea to try and become an ordinary teen and experience studying with people his own age and pursuing his dream — reuniting with his mother and doing civil engineering.

He had no school or college certificate or diploma, but that wasn’t a problem for Ung-Yong as he says, “At school, I lived my freshmen year as an elementary school kid, my sophomore year as a middle schooler, my junior year as a high school student, and spent my senior year like a normal college kid.”

He then earned a civil engineering degree and later a Ph.D. in it and joined the local development corporation of the city rather than take a high-profile job abroad.

Dr Evangelos Katsioulis – IQ 198

This Greek psychiatrist was born in 1976 and has earned degrees in three fields — philosophy, medical research technology and psychopharmacology. Katsioulis is also the founder of World Intelligence Network, a society for the highly intelligent, besides many other such groups. And is a professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Rick Rosner – IQ 192

With an IQ of 192, placing him among the most intelligent persons in the world in a recent test, Rick Rosner is a perfect example of someone highly intelligent and using that intelligence for useless or flawed things. Rosner goes out of the way to draw attention to himself, though not through activities that would suit a person of his calibre.

This American television writer, media person, former model and waiter, has appeared in a number of intelligence tests and scored quite high, which is said to be the result of spending almost 20 hours a day in preparations!

When he graduated from high school in 1978, his IQ score was 170 and he used his smartness not to further his academic pursuits but in fooling school officials four times to repeat the 12th grade! He easily did this by using fake IDs, disguises and makeup.

Once he was on the quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire and, on getting a question wrong, he sued the show, claiming that the question was flawed. Rosner didn’t get a million dollars but got the attention he craved.

Gary Kasparov – IQ 190

This chess grandmaster and former World Chess Champion is considered the greatest chess player of all time. By the time he was 14, he had won all the junior titles in Soviet Union and represented the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympiad at the age of just 17 and become the youngest World Chess Champion at 22 when he defeated the then champion Anatoly Karpov in 1985.

Kasparov’s victories in 15 individual tournaments from 1981 to 1990 led to a record of most consecutive professional tournament victories till 1991, when he fell just half a point behind Vasily Ivanchuk. In a very interesting match in 1997, Kasparov played against Deep Blue, a supercomputer that could calculate 200 million moves per second. Surprisingly, Kasparov lost but he remained the ‘Classical’ World Chess Champion until 2000 when he was defeated by Valdimid.

Chess helps you to concentrate, improve your logic. It teaches you to play by the rules and take responsibility for your actions, how to problem solve in an uncertain environment.

— Garry Kasparov

This Russian chess grandmaster enjoys challenges and in 1999 the greatest match in the history of the game took place — Kasparov Versus The World, where more than 50,000 participants from approximately 75 countries played against Kasparov.

Gifted with exceptional memory, Kasparov can visualise up to 15 moves ahead and recall games and moves as far back as 30 years ago! Now retired from the game, he has become a political activist.

James Wood – IQ 180

James Woods proves that movie stars and actors have more than talent and good looks — they can have amazingly high IQs, as high as 180 in his case.

Woods is said to have scored a perfect 800 on the verbal section of the SAT and 779 on the math section. He was a full scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but dropped out to become an actor in 1969.

He has so far been nominated twice for the Oscar (for Salvador and Ghosts Of Mississippi), won two Emmy Awards, and Golden Globe Awards.

Stephen Hawking – IQ 170

Considered the most remarkable mind since Einstein, Stephen Hawking is a physicist and cosmologist born in Oxford, England, in 1942. Perhaps more remarkable than his contributions to science is the fact that he was able to accomplish so much despite suffering from a disease that left him paralysed. He not just lost the control of his body but also his speech. Today he uses a computer with a speech synthesiser that he directs through a cheek muscle attached to a sensor!

He wasn’t too bright in his initial student days and is said to have been the third from the bottom of his high school class! But once in Oxford, he focused on his interest — cosmology, and graduated with honours, moving to Cambridge for a Ph.D. in cosmology. But then he was diagnosed with the motor neuron disease Lou Gehrig’s disease, and the doctors gave him just two years to live. Hawking then focused on completing his Ph.D. in the little time he had, and but has his physical power deteriorated, his mental capabilities stunned everyone as Hawking’s researches and books, such as A Brief History of Time, A Briefer History of Time, and many more, helped make science accessible and understandable for everyone.

Hawking doesn’t give much importance to IQ and once said, “I have no idea. People who boast about their IQ are losers.” His IQ, when compared to most others already discussed, isn’t very high – it is estimated to be in the 160 range.

Note: Albert Einstein was considered to ‘only’ have an IQ of about 160 — but we all remember him for being the guy who gave us the world’s most famous equation — E = mc2 — and so became the father of modern science.


CERYS COOKSAMMY-PARNELL, an 11-year-old girl has become one of the smartest people in the UK by getting the maximum score on a Mensa IQ test — a mind-blowing 162 on the Cattell B scale, which is likely higher than that of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Cerys sat the supervised test in August this year with her father Dean, 45, who too has a high IQ of 142. Her father finished each section of the test after her as the competitive pair sat apart in the test room. The sixth grader was pleased to have beaten her father in the test but she doesn’t think of herself in the league of Einstein or Stephen Hawking because they have achieved so much.

In June this year, NEHA RAMU, a 13-year-old girl from London scored the highest possible mark for people under the age of 18 in the intelligence test and has joined Mensa with an IQ of 162. The average adult score is 100 and a score above 140 is considered to be of a genius level. Neha wants to be a neurologist when she’s older, as she has a strong interest in the brain and the nervous system.