Who is and was the smartest person?

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Chief Eating Officer
Jul 14, 2004
My mind was wondering on the way into work and I started to think of all the smart people who lived. Every generation has a handful of people who are light years smarter than the rest.

With that in mind, here are my two questions.

In you opinion...
1. Who is the smartest person alive today.
2. Who is the smartest person who ever lived

Reason why you feel this way would be helpful, but if you just want to list names without reasons that is cool too.

For the person still alive my first thought is Steven Hawking.

Da Vinci is the first person who popped into my head for #2.

I am not sold on either of these two just yet so I would not say they are my final answer, but they are who I would pick right now if I had to make a choice. Who would you pick?
How do you define "smart"? Are you talking empirical terms like IQ? Fantastic ideas? Non linear thinkers? World changers? The measurement is an issue for me.

I'd have a tough time with this one. I think Bill Gates is pretty danged smart. Steven Hawking is amazing too, but there are so many folks out there who have incredible insights and thoughts that are not recognized. I think Linus Pauling was amazing. Banting and Best, all those folks who figure out what goes wrong in the human body and figure out ways to fix it. How about the artists and writers? Michelangelo?

My Dad was pretty amazingly smart. He knew people and what motivated them. He was never wrong. When I was younger, I'd THINK he was wrong about someone, but as time goes on he is proven correct time and again.

Great question GB, I just don't think I can pick one single person who is the smartest.
How do you define "smart"?
Each person will need to define it for themselves. This is not something that anyone could ever really measure so no one is right or wrong. To you, your dad may be the smartest person in the world. To someone else it could be someone famous or even their 9 year old kid. "Smart" can mean many different things to everyone. I think that is part of what makes this question so interesting to me.

I like your list Alix.
Alix, I understand your point. Different measures will yield different results. We, as distant observers, can only respond based on what we know/read/see.

I like GB's choices. DaVinci has always awed me with the broad scope of his intelligence from art to military weapons to aerodynamics, chemistry etc. History supports him as one of the very best.

Steven Hawkings has demonstrated his abilities as well.

Another possibility may be Marilyn vos Savant. I have read she has the highest tested IQ ever. Not sure what that proves.
I agree with Alix - this is a toughie. And smartest in what field?

OK, a few potential candidates:

Thomas Sowell (economics)
Quincy Jones (music producer)
David McCullough (historian)

From the past:
Da Vinci (no argument there)
Ben Franklin
Henry Ford
Eric Hoffer (philosopher)
I have to define as they relate to my life.

Living I would have to say Neil Diamond. His music, since I was 8 years old, has always had an affect on me or reflected an event or factor in my life.

Not with us anymore would have to be my Paternal Great Grandfather. The life he lived from leaving Quincy, Mass, at 15 until his death in Regina 60 years later included building the town of Saltcoats, joining the Northwest Mounted Police, traveling the world and so much more. He is written in several compilations and left a wonderful, if sometimes secret legacy that I am still trying to trace.

I know those are probably not the types of answers you are looking for, but that's how I see it.
(applauds Mudbug's list!)

I was going to remark on the definition of "smart" but Alix beat me to it.

Interesting question. Living? I'd have to give the nod to Stephen Hawking. Dead? I'm going to vote Thomas Jefferson, simply due to his sweeping interests and wide-ranging abilities. Plus, he wrote several of the most important, far reaching documents ever.
I think inventors of ANYTHING have to be on my list.
James would agree with you for sure (I do too). Some of his heroes are Leonardo di Vinci, Thomas Edison, and my dad (who has patented several of his inventions).

actually, sistah, I was initially going to go with those guys too. Like those who invented

air conditioning
electric guitars
ice cream
duct tape
yoga pants

Leaving off the list the inventors of the torture devices...pantyhose and bras. :LOL:
The inventor of elastic waistbands is high on my list of favorites!

I got one!!! Gutenburg, the printing press guy. HE was a smart cookie. And without him, knowledge couldn't have spread as well to as many people.
You mean besides "Moi"!
No mention of Einstein yet, interesting. The problem with a question like this is that if the whole of recorded history is taken into account, with the exception of a big chunk of the "Dark Ages", dozens if not hundreds or even thousands would qualify.
Just from the "Ancients", you'd have to give a mention to Euclid, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Ptolemy etc.
Closer to our time, some candidates would certainly be Newton, Pasteur, Tesla, Darwin and on and on.
Then there are the thousands of super-bright people known personally to a few select friends and acquaintances, but never had a public persona. I think we've all known somebody like that.
Finally, and I'm really trying hard to be objective!...it appears to me that for many and varied factors that 'intelligence' is slipping and the baseline for IQ that is supposed to be 100, has eroded at least 10 points south of the border. Obviously IMO. I look forward to other comments.
I've know incredibly smart people, if you consider their Academic work, but in real life they are stupid...i.e. can't boil water or change a diaper.

One vert smart person I know never made it past high school and she is the smartest person I know.

I can't argue with Da'Vinci, Einstein, Mandelbrot, Plato or Hawking.
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