30 Smartest People on Earth Still Alive Today

30 Smartest People on Earth Still Alive Today

From Socrates, Newton, Da Vinci, to Descartes, and Einstein, the history is filled with individuals whose intelligence are way above normal people. These geniuses don’t have high IQ for displays, they have also greatly influenced the world with their groundbreaking ideas and works. Their works and theories are still highly regarded even after their death.

Today, there are also many individuals who possess intelligence to rival the great thinkers of the past. These individuals are following their footsteps with their great accomplishments in academics and in the practical world. Here are thirty of the smartest people alive today, in no particular order.


Paul Allen


Paul Allen is famous as being Bill Gates‘s partner-in-crime in founding Microsoft. He is reported to have an IQ of between 160 and 170. The genius attended Washington State University but decided to quit his studies. He also convinced his friend Bill Gates into leaving Harvard in 1974. The pair founded Microsoft the following year.

In 2000, Allen resigned from Microsoft but still remains as an adviser. The genius billionaire is a stakeholder in many technology and media companies. He owns sports franchises like Seattle Seahawks (football), Portland Trailblazers (basketball), and Seattle Sounders (soccer). In 2003 , he founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the space transport company Stratolaunch Systems in 2011. Aside from making himself rich, Allen is also a renowned philanthropist. He is known to give huge amount as donations to science, education, conservation, the arts, and technology.


Christopher Langan

29. Christopher Langan


Christopher Langan lived a life like the main titular character in the movie Good Will Hunting. Dubbed as the “smartest man in America,” Langan was born in 1952 in the city of San Francisco. Langan educated himself from early on. He taught himself how to read when he was four, and in high school, he tutored himself in math, physics, philosophy, Latin, and Greek. He is said to have achieved a 100 percent score on his SAT test even though he slept through some of it.

Langan attended Montana State University but stopped and chose to work as a doorman instead. During his downtime, he developed his Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe. His IQ was tested on TV news magazine, and neuropsychologist Robert Novelly said that Langan’s IQ is between 195 and 210.


Judit Polgár


Judit Polgar has a reported IQ of 170. According to her father, she and her sisters were raised as a part of an experiment to prove that “genuises are made, not born.” After reading what she accomplished, maybe her father was right.

Polgar was born in Budapest Hungary in 1976. She was a chess prodigy. Judit beat a grandmaster when she was just 11. At the age of 15 and five months, she won the Hungarian National Championship and became the youngest grandmaster eclipsing Bobby Fischer‘s record by one month. She is the only woman in the World Chess Federation Top 100 Players. She also beat nine world champions that include Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov.


Marilyn vos Savant

27. Marilyn vos Savant


Born in 1946 in Missouri, Savant, Marilyn vos Savant made history when she was named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the person with the highest IQ in 1986, she reportedly got a score of 228. In the 1980s, Savant took the Mega Test and scored an IQ of 186.

With her newfound fame, Parade magazine launched the popular “Ask Maruilyn” column, the column still runs today. In 1989, New York Magazine named her and her husband Robert Jarvik, designer of the first successful artificial heart, as the “smartest couple in New York.”


John H. Sununu

26. John H. Sununu


With an IQ of 180, John H. Sununu got his degree in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1961, his master’s in 1963, and his PhD in 1966. The genius from Havana, Cuba, worked as a professor at the Tufts University until 1983. Then he served as governor of New Hampshire in 1986. After his term as a governor, he went on to become the White House chief of staff in 1989.




Neil deGrasse Tyson

25. Neil deGrasse Tyson


Neil deGrasse Tyson became famous when he hosted PBS show called NOVA Science Now from 2006 to 2011. The New Yorker was born in 1958 and showed his love for astronomy at a young age. He went to Harvard and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1980. For his master’s in astronomy, he went to the University of Texas. He got his MPhil in astrophysics from Columbia in 1989 and PhD two years later.

Tyson is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History and also the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. The astrophysicist is well-known for hosting science shows to encourage young people to become scientists. For his works, he was recognized and awarded with many honors including a NASA Distinguish Public Service Medal, and the Asteroid 1994KA was renamed Tyson in his honor in 2001.


Kim Ung-yong


South Korean child prodigy Kim Ung-yong has a recorded IQ of 210. Born in 1963, the prodigy could already read Korean, Japanese, English and German when he was three. At the age of eight, Kim was recruited by NASA and moved to America. While in the States, Kim allegedly obtained his doctorate degree in physics (unconfirmed). In 1978, the adult Kim went home to South Korea and earned a PhD in civil engineering.


Mislav Predavec

23. Mislav Predavec


With an IQ of 190, the Croatian mathematics professor, teaches at Zagreb’s Schola Medica Zagrabiensis. Mislav Predavec also runs Preminis, a trading company since 1989. In 2002, Predavic formed an exclusive IQ society GenereIQ. The World Genius Directory ranks Predavec as the third-smartest person in the world.


Manahel Thabet

22. Manahel Thabet


Manahel Thabet is the youngest person to receive a financial engineering PhD magna cum laude at the age of 25 at the University of Illinois. The Yemini economist and scientist is reported to have an IQ higher than 168. Thabet submitted a revolutionary 350-page formula to calculate distance in space without the use of light.

Thabet was awarded the Genius of the Year Award and a spot on the 2013 World Genius Directory. Aside from studies, Thabet is also the founder of Smart Tips Consultants. She is also a renowned humanitarian, helping United Nations. For that, she was named the Woman of the Year by the Women’s Federation for World Peace.


Richard Rosner

21. Richard Rosner


Richard Rosner is an unusual case. He is a television writer known for writing for the Jimmy Kimmel Live! and other TV shows. He states that he worked as a stripper, doorman, male model, and waiter in the past. He is listed at second place in the World Genius Directory’s 2013 Genius of the Year Awards with an IQ of 192. He was reported to hit the books for 20 hours a day to try and outdo Greek psychiatrist Evangelos Katsioulis, but to no avail.

In 2000, Rosner courted controversy when he appeared on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, where he incorrectly answered questions about the altitude of capital cities. He reacted by suing the show unsuccessfully.




Chris Hirata


Chris Hirata became the youngest US citizen to receive an International Physics Olympiad gold medal at age 13. Hirata was already studying at the California Institute of Technology by age of 14. He earned a degree in physics from the school. With an IQ of 225, Hirata started working with NASA at the age of 16. He was involved in investigating whether it would be feasible for humans to settle on Mars.

By 2005, Hirata obtained his PhD in physics from Princeton. He is currently serving as a physics and astronomy professor at the the Ohio State University. The genius specializes in the fields of dark energy, gravitational lensing, the cosmic microwave background, galaxy clustering, and general relativity.


Steven Pinker

19. Steven Pinker


Born in Montreal in 1954, Steven Pinker is an expert in visual cognition and psycho-linguistics. He is currently serving as a professor of psychology at Harvard. Pinker’s works cover popular science, experimental psychology, linguistics, and cognitive science. Before teaching at Harvard, Pinker was a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor. He was part of the university’s brain and cognitive science department from 1982 to 2003.

TIME magazine featured him as one of the 100 most influential thinkers and scientists in 2004. For his works, Pinker received a Troland Research Award from the National Academy of Science and a Royal Institution Henry Dale Prize. His 2002 book, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, is one of the most read books in the field of psychology.


Ivan Ivec

18. Ivan Ivec


Ivan Ivec, born in 1976 in Croatia, has an IQ of 174. He has a PhD in mathematics and currently works at Gimnazija A. G. Matosa High School in Zagreb. The Croatian mathematician works with fellow Croatian mathematician Mislav Predavec to design IQ testing.

Ivec believes that time restrictions on IQ tests are not ideal for everybody. He believes that there are intelligent people who can perform complex actions and resolving complex tasks, but their speed of solving is low. That is why Ivec’s Web site is dedicated to IQ testing and results.


Garry Kasparov

17. Garry Kasparov


Garry Kasparov is famous throughout the world as one of the best chess players ever. Kasparov was born in Baku (Azerbaijan) in 1963. At the young age of 7, he got accepted at the Baku’s Young Pioneer Palace. At ten, he was already training at the school of the legendary Soviet chess grandmaster, Mikhail Botvinnik. By 1980, Kasparov was already a grandmaster, and after only five years, he became the then youngest-ever outright chess world champion. Kasparov held the title until 1993 and was the number one–ranked player three times longer than anyone. Kasparov is reported to have an IQ of 190.

In highly publicized event, Kasparov played against IBM computer Deep Blue winning 4 to 2 matches. He lost in a rematch against the upgraded version of the machine the following year. Kasparov retired from chess and focused his attention on politics and writing since 2005.


Terence Tao

Terence Tao - UCLA Math Department - 090629 for University Communications


Terence Tao was an Australian child prodigy who was born in Adelaide in 1975. Tao was already performing simple arithmetic when he was 2. At 9, he was tackling college-level math courses. By 13, he was the youngest gold medal winner in the 1988 International Mathematical Olympiad—a record that hasn’t been broken until today.

Tao continued his studies and earned his BSc and master’s degree in mathematics from Flinders University. By 20, Tao has already earned his PhD in 1996 from Princeton. His thesis was titled “Three Regularity Results in Harmonic Analysis.” Naturally, the genius received many awards including a 2006 Fields Medal. Today, he is currently serving as a mathematics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.




Scott Aaronson

15. Scott Aaronson


Scott Aaronson focuses his research on “the capabilities and limits of quantum computers and computational complexity theory, more generally.” He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Cornell and a PhD from UC-Berkeley. He was awarded the Alan T. Waterman Award for “illuminating the fundamental limits on what can be computed in the physical world” and breaking “important new ground in computational theory.”

Aaronson was born in Philadelphia in 1981. He is known for his very integral works to algebrization and the abstract quantum Turing machine.


Nikola Poljak

14. Nikola Poljak


Croatian researcher and physicist Nikola Poljak has an IQ of 183. At present, Poljak serves as an assistant research fellow at CERN. He is assigned on the collaborative A Large Ion Collider Experiment in Geneva. Poljak is also an assistant research fellow of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. He is involved in the STAR detector experiment at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider.

Poljak earned his PhD in physics from University of Zagreb in 2010. He has performed scientific assignments for the Croatian Ministry of Science and the Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes.


Alan Guth

13. Alan Guth


Alan Guth is an American physicist and cosmologist. Guth is famous for his theory of cosmic inflation, which he developed while he was a junior scientist at Cornell in 1979. He officially presented his theory in 1981, and it is widely accepted by many scientists. His theory suggests a time before Big Bang. According to him, the universe was able to evenly disperse itself thanks to its smaller size. His pre-Big Bang model looks to explain more clearly the conditions that resulted to the incredibly fast, exponential growth of the universe. Guth is “the man who put the ‘big’ in Big Bang” according to his colleagues.

Guth was born in 1947 in new Brunswick, New Jersey. He was very smart that he was allowed to leave school early to study straight at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Guth has held positions at Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, and Stanford. Currently he is working as a physics professor at MIT.


Donald Knuth

12. Donald Knuth


Donald Knuth is a groundbreaking computer scientist and mathematician. His multivolume book The Art of Computer Programming is very famous and well-received. He is referred as the “father” of algorithmic analysis for his pioneering works. His 1978 open typesetting system TeX was popular. It is one of the world’s most intricate typographical frameworks.

Knuth was awarded the inaugural Grace Murray Hopper Award in 1971. He also received the A. M. Turing Award and National Medal of Science. For his PhD in mathematics, Knuth went to CalTech. Today he is a professor emeritus at Stanford.


Noam Chomsky

11. Noam Chomsky


Noam Chomsky was born in Philadelphia in 1928. At a young age of 16, Chomsky was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania in 1945. He earned his BA, MA, and PhD degrees in linguistics in the university. He took up a teaching post at MIT where he taught philosophy. He is a professor emeritus at MIT.

Chomsky is the “father of modern linguistics.” He is a cultural icon and is politically active on issues of American foreign policy, state capitalism, and mass media news. He was named one of the “world’s top public intellectual” in a 2005 poll. Chomsky has also written over a hundred books on his expertise.




Evangelos Katsioulis


Greek doctor Evangelos Katsioulis is the winner of World Genius Directory’s 2013 Genius of the Year Awards. The doctor has an IQ of 198. He scored 205 on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale with a standard deviation of 16. Only 1 in 30 billion people can match his intelligence levels.


Magnus Carlsen

9. Magnus Carlsen


Magnus Carlsen is the current World Chess Champion. He became a grandmaster at the ripe age 13 in 2004. Carlsen started training under Garry Kasparov in 2009 but stopped working together after only one year. He became the youngest number one–ranked chess player in the world scarcely a month after his 19th birthday in 2010. He took the world champion title after defeating Indian grandmaster Viswanathan Anand in 2013. The victory prompted The Times of India to call Carlsen “a genius who’ll only get better.”

So far, Carlsen won four Chess Oscars just seven less than Kasparov. He is dubbed as “the Justin Bieber of chess” because of his modelling work.


Shahriar Afshar

8. Shahriar Afshar


Shahriar Afshar is a physicist and entrepreneur, and he is also a prolific inventor who has won numerous awards for his groundbreaking inventions. He is known for his 2004 Afshar experiment that he conducted at Harvard. The Iranian American worked on optical experiment to investigate the quantum mechanical principle of complementarity. According to him, his experiment contradicts the principle.

Afshar served as an associate at Harvard from 2003 to 2004. He was also a visiting scientist at Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in 2006, a visiting research professor of physics at New Jersey’s Rowan University as well as the president, CEO and CTO of consumer electronics startup Immerz. The award-winning “4D” Soundkix mini speaker is his creation.


Akshay Venkatesh

7. Akshay Venkatesh


Akshay Venkatesh is a former Indian prodigy who grew up in Australia. At age of 11, he won a bronze medal at the International Physics Olympiad in 1993 and another bronze at the International Mathematical Olympiad in 1994. He graduated as first in his class earning a degree in pure mathematics from the University of Western Australia. He was the youngest person to ever study at the university. At 20, he already earned his PhD from Princeton in 2002.

He has held position at the Clay Mathematics Institute in Rhode Island and at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Science. Currently, the math whiz is a professor in Stanford University’s mathematics faculty.


Saul Kripke

6. Saul Kripke


Saul Kripke is an award-winning logician and philosopher who is famous for his Kipke-Platek set theory, jointly developed, and his causal theory of reference and his Kripkenstein theory. Kripke started at a young age too. He was a child prodigy from Long Island, New York. He learned ancient Hebrew on his own at the age of six. Then he quickly grasped complex mathematics and philosophical questions.

Kripke published his Naming and Necessity in 1980. The book is very significant, and it discusses proper nouns within context of the philosophy of language. He is also an expert in mathematical logic, the philosophy of mathematics, metaphysics, and epistemology.

He was awarded the Rolf Schock Prize, and was named by his philosophers as the seventh most important philosopher of the past two centuries. Kripke taught at Harvard, Rockefeller University, and Princeton where he is a professor emeritus.




Ruth Lawrence

5. Ruth Lawrence


Ruth Lawrence was a child prodigy who earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Oxford University at the age of 13 in 1985. She also got a degree in physics in 1986 and in 1989, a DPhi. in mathematics from the same university. By 1990, she was made a junior fellow at Harvard. After a short stint as a fellow at the University of Michigan, she became an associate professor in the university in 1997.

Currently, she is an associate professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Einstein Institute of Mathematics. She focuses her time in investigating algebraic topology and knot theory. According to Charles Arthur of The Independent, “The branch of mathematics she is now researching . . . is so advanced, so abstruse, so mind-bogglingly complicated for the nonmathematician that it will be years before technology and science advance enough to make any practical use of it.”


Grigori Perelman

4. Grigori Perelman


Eccentric Russian Grigori Perelman mathematician is highly influential. He cracked one of topology’s most weighty and complicated problem—the Poincare conjecture. A year after solving the problem, Perelman quit mathematics to live with his mother.

Perelman was honored with the esteemed Fields Medal for his work in furthering the understanding of geometry and particularly the Ricci flow in 2006. True to his eccentric behavior, Perelman declined the award stating, “I’m not interested in money or fame; I don’t want to be on display like an animal in a zoo.” In 2010, he was offered the Clay Millenium Prize and one million dollars for solving the Poincare conjecture, but he declined again saying, “I know how to control the universe. Why would I run to get a million, tell me?”


Andrew Wiles

NPG x87245; Sir Andrew John Wiles by Unknown photographer


Born in Cambridge in 1953, Andrew Wiles is best known for officially proving Fermat’s Last Theorem in 1995. The theorem was listed as one of the world’s most difficult mathematical problem. The award-winning English mathematician is a bachelor’s degree holder in mathematics from Oxford. He earned a PhD from Cambridge in 1980.

Wiles worked as a professor at Princeton and Harvard. In 1985, he was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, which allowed him to spend time at Paris’ École Normale Supérieure and the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifique. Currently, he holds a Royal Society research professorship at Oxford. His awards include an International Mathematic Union silver plaque, The Shaw Prize, and a National Academy of Sciences Award in Mathematics.


Edward Witten

2. Edward Witten


Edward Witten  was born in Baltimore in 1951. He was originally a history major at Massachusetts’s Brandeis University, getting his degree in 1971. After five years, he obtained a PhD in physics from Princeton. Witten has been described as the most brilliant physicist of his generation. TIME magazine included him on its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. His research contributions to string theory, M-theory, quantum gravity, and supersymmetry earned him recognition from the physics world.

Witten earned many awards including his works on mathematics. He was awarded the Fields Medal, the Dirac Prize, the Albert Einstein Medal, and the Nemmers Prize in Mathematics. At present, he is a professor at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study.


Stephen Hawking

1. Stephen Hawking


Last but definitely not the least and might just be the best, Stephen Hawking is perhaps the most recognizable person on this list. His life was made into a movie titled The Theory of Everything (2014), and he also appeared as a guest on TV shows such as The Simpsons, Futurama, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The English astrophysicist was born in 1942. He received a scholarship to study physics and chemistry at Oxford University at the age of 17 in 1959. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1962 and then moved to Cambridge to study cosmology. By the age of 21, he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, which caused him to become depressed. However, he was inspired by his then fiancée, soon-to-be first wife, Jane Wilde. He returned to his studies and obtained his PhD in 1965. His pioneering theories on black holes and his best selling book A Brief History of Time cemented Hawking’s reputation as one of the most gifted thinkers today.


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