Human progress relies on brilliant minds. In order to understand the world around us, we depend on geniuses to crack the mysteries behind gravity, physics, and medicine. While the likes of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking aren’t with us anymore, new generations of brilliant-minded people are proving there are no limits to what we can achieve. They might drink Starbucks and binge on Netflix like the rest of us, but they’re brains are built differently. Who are some of the most intelligent people alive today? Take a look at this list.
1. A Baby Who Taught Babies
While for most of us, turning 2 is when we master the art of potty training, the Australian-born Terence Tao was giving math and spelling lessons to five-year-olds. How was he able to do this when the average 2 year old can barely form a coherent sentence? You can thank Big Bird and Cookie Monster, of course! Sesame Street’s number one fan would spend hours upon hours reading calculus books not because he had a tiger mom, but because he was legitimately into that sort of thing. At the age of 10 he became the youngest ever International Mathematical Olympiads gold medalist. He started college at 14, and at 24 became UCLA’s youngest full-time professor. A man with an IQ of 225, he is also the recipient of the Fields Medal, which is the dream of every researcher.
2. Normal as Geniuses Go
Most toddlers might be able to count to 10 at best, but even before he was in preschool, Chris Hirata was taking numerical calculations to absurd levels that even full-grown adults often struggle with. For instance, when going to the grocery store with his family, Hirata would entertain himself by totaling up the bill as they were shopping, factoring in such things as weight, quality, discounts and sales tax. Not surprisingly, he had pretty much mastered algebra by 1st grade, and in middle school he was acing college-level courses. By high school he was already working for NASA on projects related to colonizing Mars. He ultimately got his Ph.D. from Princeton and he’s been winning all sorts of academic prizes since. So he must be a bit weirdo, right? Actually, he’s a regular married man and father, so nope!
3. The Russian Chess Wizard
There is little question that Garry Kasparov is one of the greatest chess players of all time. In 1985, at the age of 22, he defeated then-champion Anatoly Karpov to become the undisputed chess champion of the world, a title he held for a record 8 years. To put things in perspective, the typical champion rarely keeps the title for longer than a couple of years. At some point he got bored with playing against humans and instead ran circles around IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer in 1996, winning 4 matches out of 6. In a rematch the following year, our AI overlords finally got the best of him. But it turns out, not being accustomed to losing turns one into a not-so-gracious loser. He had all sorts of conspiracy theories to explain that one away. Although he’s a misogynistic jerk (more on that in a second), he’s also an outspoken critic of the Russian government and a champion of democratic rights.
4. Beater of Russian Chess Wizards
Judit Polgar and her sisters had a fairly unconventional upbringing, at least as education went. Homeschooled by their father, he incorporated chess as the central foundation for their learning. It certainly beats having to memorize when the Magna Carta was signed. All of this paid off for Polgar, who at the tender age of 15 became the youngest Grandmaster ever at the time. For more than 2 decades, she remained the top female player in the world and at 24 even took Garry Kasparov to school. Not surprisingly, he didn’t take kindly to being beaten by a woman and proceeded to say a whole bunch of sexist things that we see no need to repeat. Although retired, she coaches the men’s national chess team in her native Hungary. She was also awarded the Order of Saint Stephen for her achievements, the highest civilian honor given in Hungary.
5. Geniuses Think She’s a Genius
Although Sabrina Gonzales Pasterski hasn’t won any Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals yet, at 28 years old she has plenty of time to decorate her awards case. A proud product of the Chicago Public Schools System, she’s been called “the Next Einstein,” a label she doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable with, but when you achieve perfect GPAs at MIT and Harvard, respectively, who else would you compare her to? The late Stephen Hawking even cited her work in one of his papers. She isn’t just a genius when it comes to physics either. At the age of 10, she rebuilt an engine in an airplane and even made a solo flight to Canada when she was 14. She also has standing job offers from folks like Jeff Bezos.
6. This Savant is a Savant
A savant is defined as someone who has a detailed level of knowledge in some field of specialty whether it’s music, science or literature. So it would be reasonable to assume that Marilyn vos Savant, who held the Guinness World Record for highest IQ (228) until they retired that category, came up with her name as some kind of gimmick. But believe it or not, it was her mom’s maiden name. What does she do with all of that brain power? She runs the “Ask Marilyn” advice column for Parade Magazine, naturally. For more than three decades she’s been tackling deeply philosophical questions and solving readers’ challenging puzzles. She is perhaps best known for her answer to the Monty Hall Problem – an answer that seemed impossible but was demonstratively true – which caused a lot of dopey readers to convince themselves that they were smarter than literally the smartest person on the planet.
7. The OCP: Original Child Prodigy
Although child prodigies have been a thing for quite some time – think Mozart more than 270 years ago – the phenomena wasn’t widely celebrated until the 1960s when little Kim Ung-yong gained attention for his understanding of calculus at the age of three. Oh, and he was already speaking four languages by the time he was 5. When he was 8, the South Korean with an IQ of 210 was hired by NASA, where he worked for a decade before returning home. But unlike a lot of geniuses, he opted for a lowkey life. He didn’t graduate from a prestigious Ivy League school, instead choosing a normal, provincial college where he received a Ph.D in civil engineering. Today he teaches at a university in Cheongju, a city in South Korea that you’ve probably never heard of. He has always maintained that having a high IQ isn’t the key to happiness and that focusing on the things you love is what matters most.
8. Smart Without Looking the Part
Christopher Michael Langan sticks out from the rest because in spite of having an IQ possibly as high as 210, he has never made much of an interest in academic endeavors. He’s blue collar to the core, having worked as a cowboy, construction worker, farmhand, forest ranger, and even a bar bouncer. A lot of this has to do with his upbringing; he never received any support or encouragement from his parents, and therefore academics was never considered a priority. However, he insists he’s a happy man in spite of his lack of wealth. He’s busy writing books about the nature of reality and runs the Mega Foundation, helping folks who were bullied for being so much smarter than everybody else, much like he was.