Throughout history, certain individuals have stood out for their incredible intelligence and revolutionary discoveries or inventions. Many of these brilliant minds completely transformed various fields of science, mathematics, technology, and more. When considering the brainiest people who ever lived, the top five standouts are:
1. Leonardo da Vinci
The quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) had perhaps the most diverse and creative mind ever. Not only was da Vinci an amazing artist who painted works like the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, but he also made groundbreaking discoveries in anatomy, botany, geology, optics, and engineering. The notebooks da Vinci left behind, filled with drawings and musings, showcase how his extraordinary intellect was centuries ahead of his time with conceptual ideas like calculators, helicopters, tanks, solar power and more.
Was Leonardo born with his talents, or were they developed over time? This article on the science of super brains explains more.
2. Nikola Tesla
The Serbian-American engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was both a genius inventor and a complete maverick. With nearly 300 patents under his belt, Tesla pioneered modern alternating current (AC) electricity and developed AC motors and the Tesla coil transformer. He had many brilliant (and eccentric) ideas he was never able to perfect, like wireless transmission of electricity and energy, death rays and experimental devices that seem like something out of science fiction.
3. Isaac Newton
English physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) made monumental breakthroughs in mechanics, optics and mathematics. Newton invented integral and differential calculus, developed laws of motion and universal gravitation, built the first practical reflecting telescope and advanced the understanding of color spectrum of light. His 1687 publication Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica is one of the most influential books on physics and possibly the most important scientific book ever written.
4. Galileo Galilei
The quintessential scientist, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) championed experimentation and mathematics to prove many groundbreaking discoveries in astronomy. Galileo built telescopes to study the heavens and provided concrete evidence for the Copernican model of a sun-centric solar system. He discovered moons orbiting Jupiter, analyzed sunspots and the rugged terrain of Earth’s moon, championed the modern scientific method, and taught foundational concepts of physics that guided future innovation.
5. Albert Einstein
German physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) developed the revolutionary Theory of Relativity that completely changed understandings of time, space and gravity. He also made critical early discoveries explaining the photoelectric effect and brownian motion. Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”. To this day, Einstein’s brilliance and research on quantum physics, atoms, motion, light, mass and other concepts serve as a foundation for ongoing work in cosmology and science.
While many other masterminds deserve mention for their intellect and impact, these five represent the pinnacle of human potential when it comes to brainpower and changing the world with their unrivalled genius. Their legacy and achievements will no doubt inspire future scientific innovation for generations to come. From artistic Renaissance men to eccentric inventors to revolutionary physicists, these are undeniably the five brainiest people in history.