RD.COM Knowledge Brain Games
Elizabeth YukoUpdated: Jan. 05, 2023
We're going to need another name to be synonymous with "genius."
Who has the highest IQ?
Intelligence is the type of thing that seems like it would be difficult to measure, and the truth is, it is. But that hasn’t stopped us from being fascinated by intelligence tests that attempt to assign a numerical value to how smart we are—and trying to figure out who has the highest IQ in the world.
While there is no “standard” intelligence quotient (IQ) test, the scoring tends to be similar across the various versions, with 100 being considered an “average” IQ and anything 140 or above considered genius territory. And though new tests and revisions of existing tests have come and gone over the years, there are a handful that are most commonly used today, including the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, and Peabody Individual Achievement Test. In addition to the tests, there are many different types of intelligence itself, including emotional, musical, visual-spatial, naturalistic, and linguistic-verbal.
This is all to say that we should take a person’s IQ scores with a grain (or a pound) of salt—yes, even Albert Einstein’s. In fact, though his IQ is commonly cited as being 160, that’s just an estimate; it’s unlikely that he ever took an IQ test during his lifetime. In fact, given that IQ tests are relatively recent inventions, there is no way of definitively knowing who has the highest IQ of all time.
All of those caveats aside, here are 35 people with IQs (either based on testing or an estimate) higher than Einstein’s. And if you want to put your own mind to the test, here are some brain games, brain teasers, and a Mensa IQ test to get you started.
Jacob Barnett: IQ 170
Jacob Barnett was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism at two years old, and doctors predicted he’d never learn to tie his own shoes. Needless to say, he’s mastered that task. The American child prodigy finished grades 6 through 12 in less than a year, then went to college at age 10. He was a published physicist by the time he was 13. Now he’s 21 and working toward his PhD.
Judit Polgár: IQ 170
The Hungarian chess master is considered the best female chess player of all time. When she was 15 years and 4 months old in 1991, she was the youngest player to become an International Grandmaster. She’s reported to have an IQ of 170. Chess, by the way, is just one of the strategy board games that will help develop your smarts.
courtesy Carole Rosner
Rick Rosner: IQ 192–198
Rick Rosner has taken more than 30 IQ tests, revealing his IQ is between 192 and 198, depending on how the tests define their scores. Before the allegedly second-smartest man in the world became a TV writer, he worked as a bouncer, stripper, and nude model. He famously sued the ABC network for a faulty question after losing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? at the $16,000 level, but lost the case.
courtesy Dr Evangelos Katsioulis
Evangelos Katsioulis: IQ 198
With a score of 198, Evangelos Katsioulis, MD, MSc, MA, PhD, has the highest tested IQ in the world, according to the World Genius Directory. The Greek psychiatrist also has degrees in philosophy and medical research technology.
Sho Yano: IQ 200
American physician Sho Yano started college at age nine and earned an MD and PhD by the time he was 21. He started composing music when he was four, but he’s put his focus on child neurology. In case you were wondering, this is what it’s like to teach a genius.
Nathan Leopold: IQ 200
The infamous Nathan Leopold had an IQ of 200 and spoke nine languages by age 18, but he didn’t use his intelligence for the greater good. When he was 19, he and an accomplice were arrested for murder in 1924 after trying to commit the “perfect crime”—you know, the type of crime that never gets solved. Leopold spent 33 years in jail before being released on parole. He died in 1971.
Courtesy ethan hill
Marilyn vos Savant: IQ 228
When Marilyn vos Savant was 10 years old, an adult-level Stanford-Binet test revealed she had an IQ of 228, which later landed her a Guinness World Record until the company removed the category in 1990 because the numbers are considered inexact. She’s been answering philosophical and mathematical questions for Parade magazine readers in her “Ask Marilyn” column since 1986.
Ainan Cawley: IQ 263
This former Irish child genius, who’s now 21, is projected to have an IQ of 263. At eight years old, he was already taking third-year chemistry courses at Singapore Polytechnic, and by the time he was nine, he’d memorized the first 518 decimal places of pi. He also seems to have a knack for entertainment, having written the script and composed music for a short film called Reflection at age 12.
Roger Viollet/Getty Images
Johann Goethe: IQ 210–225
When American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims set out to find the person with the highest IQ in history, he did so using a methodology that predicts a person’s IQ based on how much they accomplished every 10 years of their life. This came in handy when attempting to rank people who themselves predated IQ tests. Based on his own approach, Thims estimated that German Renaissance man Johann Goethe was the person with the highest IQ of all time, with a score ranging from 210 to 225. While typically labeled as a philosopher, Goethe was also an accomplished scientist and poet.
RELATED: Can You Pass the World’s Shortest IQ Test?
Christopher Langan: IQ 174–210
Routinely referred to as “the smartest man in America,” Christopher Langan is a former cowboy, current horse rancher, and an independent researcher and reality theorist. One of his signature works is his Cognition-Theoretic Model of the Universe, which he refers to as “the CTMU” and says is pronounced cat-mew. In a 2007 interview with Esquire, Langan told the magazine that it was “a true ‘Theory of Everything,’ a cross between John Archibald Wheeler’s ‘Participatory Universe’ and Stephen Hawking’s ‘Imaginary Time’ theory of cosmology.”
A. Martin UW Photography/Getty Images
Marnen Laibow-Koser: IQ 268
When Marnen Laibow-Koser was tested as a child, he was given a projected IQ of 268. Now, he’s a composer and performing musician living in Randolph, Massachusetts. He has been both playing and composing music since the age of three. In case you were wondering (and if you’re a parent, you probably are), these are the signs your child could be gifted.
ATU Images/Getty Images
Adragon De Mello: IQ 400
In 1988, when Adragon De Mello graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a degree in computational mathematics at the age of 11, he was the youngest college graduate in the United States (a record he no longer holds). Though he was reported to have a projected IQ of 400, De Mello hasn’t been in the public eye much in the past 20 years. We do know that in 2001, when he was a 24-year-old “high-tech worker,” he took custody of his father who was dying of bladder cancer.
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Michael Kearney: IQ 200–325
Michael Kearney—who graduated from the University of South Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 1994 at the age of 10—is the person who broke De Mello’s record. By the age of 22, Kearney had earned four undergraduate degrees in computer science, geology, and chemistry, in addition to his first degree in anthropology. Kearney has an IQ score that ranges from 200 to 325, depending on the test.
DEA/D. DAGLI ORTI/Getty Images
Leonardo da Vinci: IQ 180–220
While IQ tests weren’t around when Leonardo da Vinci was, it is now estimated that his score would have been between 180 and 220. This makes sense when you think about it: With skills ranging from artand science to music and architecture, da Vinci didn’t just work in different fields—he excelled at them. In fact, he was so ahead of his time that many of his inventions (like flying machines, the telescope, and the submarine) didn’t come to fruition until long after his death. Find out thesecret messages he hid in his paintings.
Isaac Newton: IQ 190–200
Sir Isaac Newton is another example of a scientist—in this case, a physicist—far ahead of his time. Though he’s best known for his universal principles of gravity, the 17th-century thinker was also a mathematician, astronomer, and writer. It is estimated that his IQ score would fall between 190 and 200, depending on the measures used. Fun fact: Isaac Newton was one of the geniuses who made history in quarantine.
Michael Grost: IQ 200
In 1964, when Michael Grost first began his college career at Michigan State University (MSU), he was only 10 years old. Now in his 60s, Grost has undergraduate and Masters’s degrees from MSU, as well as a PhD in mathematics from the University of Michigan. Reportedly, Grost has an IQ of 200. Currently, he is writing mystery and detective stories, and also enjoys classical music, poetry, film, art, and architecture.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Nicolaus Copernicus: IQ 160
Polish astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus may have had an estimated IQ score ranging from 160 to 200, but his ideas weren’t always the most popular. For example, the Catholic Church banned his book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) for more than two centuries. In it, he put forth the heliocentric model of the universe, which places the sun—and not Earth—at the center of the solar system. Looking to expand your own mind? Here are 24 astronomy facts you never learned in school.
Kim Ung-Yong: IQ 200–210
Somehow, Kim Ung-Yong has been dubbed both a “failed genius” and the person with the highest IQ of all time. The truth depends on who you ask—similar to his IQ score, which ranges from 200 to 210, depending on the test. Known for his ability to solve complex mathematical equations at the age of four, Ung-Yong was invited to work for NASA when he was eight years old. Though he worked there for a decade, he ultimately left the position because he was lonely, he told The Korea Herald in 2010.
Nikola Tesla: IQ 160–310
Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor—and arch-rival of Thomas Edison—reportedly had an estimated IQ falling somewhere between 160 and 310, depending on the measure. Though he’s responsible for dreaming up (and, in some cases, creating) a wide range of new technologies, Tesla is best known for inventing the first alternating current (AC) motor and developing AC generation and transmission technology. In the final years of his life, Tesla’s mental health deteriorated, and he died alone in the New York hotel room where he’d resided.
Ramarni Wilfred: IQ 162
By the time Ramarni Wilfred got to preschool, he already knew how to read and write. When he was 10 years old, he wrote a paper on justice theory and was awarded a prize for his work by Oxford University. When Wilfred was 11, he took an IQ test and scored 162. Now 18, it’s unclear what this Londoner will do next, but in his downtime, he enjoys reading New Scientist, playing with his dog, and reading comic books.
RELATED: What Is Practical Intelligence and Can It Be Improved?
Adhara Pérez: IQ 162
Initially, Adhara Pérez had a challenging childhood, including being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of three and not fitting in at school. After her mother, Nallely Sanchez, sought professional advice regarding her daughter, Pérez was given an IQ test and got a score of 162. She finished elementary school by the age of five and high school by age eight. Now, at the age of 10, she is currently working on two online degrees and was recently offered a place at the International Air and Space Program.
Marie Curie: IQ 180–200
Not only was Marie Curie the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, but she was also the first person to win it twice. Most of her work focused on radioactivity—discoveries that contributed to the development of X-rays used during surgery. Curie put her technology to work in World War I, where she served on the front lines as the head of radiological service for the international Red Cross. Her IQ is estimated to have been between 180 and 200.
Philip Emeagwali: IQ 190
In 1967, when Philip Emeagwali was 13 years old, he left school to participate in the Nigerian-Biafran war. After that, he obtained his high school equivalency, then completed an undergraduate degree in math at Oregon State University, followed by three graduate degrees in math, environmental engineering, and marine engineering. A computer scientist who is credited with developing microprocessor technology that exponentially sped up computers, his work paved the way for the development of the Internet. His IQ score is reported to be 190.
RELATED: Black Inventors Who Made Your Life Easier
Archive Photos/Getty Images
William Sidis: IQ 200–300
The name William Sidis might not sound familiar, but you probably do know something about his story, given that it was the basis for the movie Good Will Hunting. The child prodigy’s IQ scores ranged from 200 to 300, depending on the measure. Sadly, Sidis died at the age of 46 in 1944 from a stroke.
Hypatia: IQ 170–210
Though Hypatia was Greek, the 4th-century philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician lived in Egypt and the Eastern Roman Empire. Her IQ is estimated to have been between 170 and 210. Hypatia was also an inventor, creating the astrolabe for ship navigation, as well as devices for measuring the density of fluids. Those are just a few of the things you never knew were invented by women.
Srinivasa Ramanujan: IQ 185
Born in India in 1887, Srinivasa Ramanujan is one of the most influential mathematicians in the world. He made significant contributions to the analytical theory of numbers, as well as elliptic functions, continued fractions, and infinite series. He had an estimated IQ of 185.
William Shakespeare: IQ 210
William Shakespeare needs no introduction, but we’ll give him one, anyway. You already know that he was an English poet, playwright, and actor. Over the course of his lifetime, he completed 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two narrative poems, and a variety of other poems. What you may not know is that the Bard had an estimated IQ of 210. Not that much of a surprise when you think about it!
RELATED: Everyday Phrases Invented by Shakespeare
DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/Getty Images
Cleopatra: IQ 180
Although she’s best known today for her beauty, eyeliner, and feminine wiles, back in Cleopatra’s time, it was her intellect that was the real draw. After all, she spoke up to 12 languages and was educated in mathematics, philosophy, oratory, and astronomy. And that’s on top of ruling Egypt for close to 30 years. Estimates put Cleopatra’s IQ score around 180.
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Terence Tao: IQ 211–230
Even as a child, Terence Tao excelled in math. For example, he started learning calculus when he was seven years old…which was also the year he started high school. By the age of 20, Tao—also known as the “Mozart of Math”—earned his PhD from Princeton University. That same year (1996), he joined the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles, and was promoted to being a full professor four years later. His IQ scores range from 211 to 230, depending on the test.
RELATED: Genius Brain Boosters You Can Do with Your Kids
ABIR SULTAN/Getty Images
Benjamin Netanyahu: IQ 180
Benjamin Netanyahu served as the prime minister of Israel from 1996 to 1999, and then a decade later, was reelected to the same position. He has remained in power since 2009, making him Israel’s longest-serving prime minister since independence. Netanyahu reportedly has an IQ of 180.
David Ramos/Getty Images
Edith Stern: IQ 203
By the time Edith Stern was five years old, her father had read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica aloud to her, with the idea of setting her up for intellectual success. The child prodigy—who began college at age 12—continued to excel at math as an adult, including starting at IBM in the 1970s and rising through the ranks until she was vice president for research and development. It is reported that her IQ is 203.
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images
John H. Sununu: IQ 176
Born in Havana, Cuba, to Lebanese parents, John H. Sununu earned a PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT in 1966. After working in the engineering field for decades, Sununu became the 75th governor of New Hampshire in 1983 and served until President George H. W. Bush appointed him as his chief of staff in 1989. According to a 1988 article in the Washington Post, Sununu has an IQ of 176.
RELATED: Brain Teasers That Will Leave You Stumped
Kian Yong Tan/EyeEm/Getty Images
Ophelia Morgan: IQ 171
Though Ophelia Morgan’s parents knew she was advanced, it wasn’t until she started preschool that they realized how far ahead she was of other kids her age from an academic perspective. The Stanford-Binet test indicated that Ophelia’s IQ score was 171. But other than her extensive vocabulary and knowledge far beyond her years, her parents told the BBC that Ophelia (who’s now six) is still very much a child and enjoys the usual activities for someone her age.
Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images
Garry Kasparov: IQ 190+
Soviet-born chess master Garry Kasparov was considered the world’s best chess player for nearly two decades. In fact, when he was 22 years old, Kasparov became the youngest world chess champion in 1985. His IQ is reportedly in the 190s.
Fabiola Mann: IQ 162
Back in 2012, when Fabiola Mann was 15 years old, she took an IQ test and received a score of 162. She is currently a medical student at Imperial College London. In a 2012 interview with the BBC, Mann said that she enjoys playing chess, and one day hopes to become a surgeon.
- Healthline: “Types of IQ Tests”
- Very Well Mind: “Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences”
- Business Insider: “The 40 smartest people of all time”
- New York Daily News: “Boy genius diagnosed with autism has IQ higher than Einstein”
- Esquire: “The Smartest Man in America”
- Big Think: “24 of the Smartest People Who Ever Lived”
Originally Published: April 01, 2021
Elizabeth is a bioethicist and journalist covering politics, public health, pop culture, travel, and the lesser-known histories of holidays and traditions for RD.com. She's always mentally planning her next trip, which she'll base around visits to medical museums or former hospitals, flea markets, local cuisine, and stays in unusual Airbnbs or historic hotels.