Have you ever met someone who not only claimed to be really smart, but also that they had a much higher IQ than anyone they know? Most of the time, these self proclaimed geniuses are actually full of it, and are simply parading around with the results of a faux IQ test they found online: using it as a way to feel better about themselves. But even though the world is full of pseudo-savants, there are a few places in the world where the real geniuses are walking among us (and it probably isn’t your local community college).
These brilliant minds can be found in some of the most exclusive intellectual societies, such as the widely respected “MENSA” and the “Mega Society.” The smartest people in the world are all harboring an IQ of 160 or more, so you might want to be a little skeptic when your friend Tiffany says she took a test and scored something comparable to Steven Hawking!
The IQ test is certainly an inexact science, but it provides us with a fairly accurate understanding of just how intelligent and advanced someone’s mind is. But who among us have the highest IQs in the world today? Here are the top 10 mega-minds boasting IQs that are astonishing.
#10 – Judit Polgar (170 IQ)
Chess is a game where the highest rankings are dominated by some of the smartest people in the world. In the Chess community it’s widely accepted that the best female player to ever live is Judit Polgar, a 37-year-old woman from Hungary. At only 15 years old, Judit Polgar was the youngest person to ever earn the title of “Chess Grandmaster” back in 1991, breaking Bobby Fischer’s already impressive record.
The Chess World Championship has always been an “old boys” club, but Polgar broke the trend by qualifying for the tournament in 2005. For 26 years, Polgar was easily the highest ranked female in chess, until finally in March of this year her spot was taken over by Hou Yifan; Polgar is still no slouch at chess, and you shouldn’t take it as a compliment when she says you’re soon to be “mated.”
#9 – Sir Andrew Wiles (170 IQ)
The 62-year-old Andrew Wiles is currently working as both a mathematician and a Royal Society Research Professor at one of the world’s most prestigious learning institutions in the world: the University of Oxford. After earning his Masters degree at Oxford, and his PhD from Cambridge, Wiles moved to the United States to become a professor at the much esteemed Princeton University. Perhaps the most impressive act that Wiles has managed to pull off is providing proof for Fermat’s Last Theorem, doing what others couldn’t for 358 years; to put that into perspective, Wiles solved a math problem that the Guinness Book of World Records heralded as one of the most difficult problems ever conceived, and I have a hard time working my dish washer!
Wiles is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, and has been there for nearly 20 years; he has a room completely full of awards to his name, including the “Wolf Prize” and “Shaw Prize” which sound about as cool as they probably are. The mathematical building at Oxford is named after Wiles, and in 1999 he even had an asteroid named after him, so you can’t even go to outer space without remembering how inadequate he makes you feel. Wiles is already a great name, but in 1989 he was named to the prestigious Royal Society, officially becoming a ‘Sir’ (the only time someone calls me “sir” is when I go shopping).
#8 – Jacob Barnett (170 IQ)
The youngest person on our list is Jacob Barnett: a 17-year-old from Indianapolis, Indiana. Barnett couldn’t speak until he was three years old, which was a full year after he was diagnosed with severe autism. Barnett was homeschooled in Indiana and it was there where it was discovered just how bright Barnett was; at only 12-years-old, he was believed to have a higher IQ than Albert Einstein, and began to work on his own theory of relativity (which I think is relatively mind blowing).
Barnett is already a student in college, and in 2013, at only 15 years old Barnett was admitted into the Perimeter Scholars International, which provided him with a one-year program to receive his master’s degree (and giving kids around the world an even harder time with their parents); Barnett is the youngest person to ever get admitted into the program, and after completing it, he is now a doctoral student Perimeter Institute: okay, we get it Mr. smarty pants, you’re a child prodigy, but how are you at talking to girls?
#7 – Benjamin Netanyahu (180 IQ)
Benjamin Netanyahu is the most controversial name on this list, as many have denied the accuracy of his IQ examinations. Despite the naysayers and negative reaction, Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel, the ninth person to ever assume the position, and the first to be named after Israel became its own state; Netanyahu has held the position since 2009, and has also served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Maybe it’s because I’m American, or maybe it’s because I’m a pessimist, but an intelligent politician just seems highly unlikely to me.
Netanyahu served in the military prior to coming to the United States, but once he settled in and adapted to the civilian life, he received his bachelors and masters degree from MIT in Boston. After graduating, Netanyahu returned to Israel in the late 70s, and founded the Yonatan Netanyahu Anti-Terror Institute. Netanyahu announced in May of this year that he would be running for Prime Minister of Israel a fifth run time, a feat which is unprecedented in Israel. If a politician was reelected four times here, we’d have to seriously start checking out the ballad box.
#6 – John H. Sununu (180 IQ)
76-year-old John Sununu served as the Governor of New Hampshire from 1983 to 1989, and was later named as the White House’s Chief of Staff when George H. W. Bush was the President; Sununu resigned from the position in 1991, upon the president’s recommendation, which has got to be a really hard opinion to ignore. After his resignation, Sununu became a television host, serving as the co-anchor for the show “Crossfire,” which ran on CNN from 1992 to 1998.
Sununu has a large family now, as he and Nancy Hayes are the proud parents of eight children, with one of his sons having served as a U.S. Senator. Sununu is currently a member of the “Mega Society,” which only opens its doors to the top .00001% of people with the highest IQ scores in the world (which means I’m probably out).
#5 – James Woods (180 IQ)
We know what you’re thinking, and yes, it is that James Woods, who just so happens to be among the smartest people in the world. 68-year-old Woods may be known for his acting, but he had plenty of prospects to fall back on if Hollywood wasn’t interested. Woods was accepted into the prestigious MIT in Boston and majored in political science, so getting into government work was actually a likely possibility.
Even though he was majoring in political science, Woods was spending an awful lot of time with the theater group at MIT, and his experiences there influenced him to pursue his career in acting; the reason for his sudden change of heart was because he had met Ben Affleck’s brother, Tim, who convinced him he was incredibly talented, and should be on Broadway. Woods has been regularly acting for more than 40 years now, downplaying his intelligence by taking on the roles of everyday people; Woods is a genius who makes you think he’s normal through his genius acting of normal people (that’s next level). .
#4 – Marilyn vos Savant (186 IQ)
Marilyn vos Savant was just a teenager when she first started to work at her father’s store, but found her true calling when she started writing for newspapers under various pen names; Savant used these names for several years until she was old enough to receive credit for her work. Savant was married at only 16 years old, and went to Meramec Community College to pursue her education, before transferring to the incredibly prestigious Washington University in St. Louis. Savant did not complete her entire college curriculum, opting instead to pursue a career in writing with an already loaded resume: she was truly providing justice to her last name.
Savant soon became an advice columnist, and would later be named in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world’s highest IQ from 1986 to 1989, but the category was removed by the records company in 1990, when they couldn’t find a perfect and consistent way to determine who had the highest score. Regardless of the number attached to her name, Marilyn is one of the finest writers to grace this generation, and seriously makes me consider a new line of work.
#3 – Garry Kasparov (190 IQ)
There are only a handful of people within the chess community that are recognized in the mainstream world, and Garry Kasparov is one the most well known. Kasparov is originally from the USSR, and played chess professionally from 1986 to 2005, with many titling him as the greatest chess player to ever live; Kasparov has been globally ranked as number one for all but three months out of the 19 years he has played. No chess player has even come close to winning more consecutive tournaments than Kasparov has, since at one point the prodigy was on a 15 tournament winning streak: some grandmasters weren’t even showing up anymore!
Kasparov was only 22 years old when he first became the champion in 1985, and was the youngest to ever accomplish the daunting feat. Kasparov’s most famous match occurred when he faced off against a “Deep Blue,” a computer that was designed by IBM for the sole purpose of playing Chess. Kasparov retired not long after his computerized match, but not because he was doing poorly; he wanted to pursue his passions of writing and politics, and felt that chess was a distraction for these things: these days Kasparov is making one heck of a check, but it’s not on a game board.
#2 – Christopher Michael Langan (195 IQ)
Christopher Langan is hailed as being the smartest person in the United States today. Langan skipped several grades while growing up, and gained entry into college level classes at a very young age; he spent his final years of high school reading, and teaching himself advanced courses in preparation for his University examinations, although often commented that the material was rather stale. Langan took the SAT where he quickly achieved a perfect score, before spending the rest of the available time sleeping while the other students worked (I slept too, but my score wasn’t as great).
Langan attended two different colleges, but dropped out of both due to growing financial problems, and the belief that he couldn’t be taught anything he didn’t already know (apparently money management wasn’t among them). Langan has been working on various theories regarding the nervous system while working regular 9-5 jobs during the day. Langan is also responsible for founding an organization that assists gifted students to be able to afford the opportunities he did not receive while growing up. For a man who is considered to be the most intelligent in the United States, you’d think he’d have figured out a better way to finance his pursuits.
#1 – Kim Ung-Yong (200 IQ)
Not to be confused with Kim Jong-un, the supreme dictator of North Korea,Kim Ung-Yong of South Korea is the smartest person in the entire world. Kim Ung-Yong is 52-years-old today, but was once considered to be quite the child prodigy, hold several IQ records before Guinness dismissed the category. Kim’s father was an esteemed professor who taught Kim from a very young age, and he achieved a 200 IQ score at only 4 years old which was around the time my parents stopped making airplane noises while feeding me.
By the time he was five Kim was appearing on television shows worldwide, and was solving differential equations as a parlor trick for guests (as if most people could even verify the answers). In the late 70s, Kim was working with NASA as a Senior Researcher before finally returning to South Korea to lead a normal life; now he works as an associate professor at Shinhan University, and has appeared as one of the ‘100’ in the Korean version of the game show “1 vs. 100” as a foreign parallel for Ken Jennings.