The 5 Smartest People in the World: You Might Be Surprised

When do you think of the smartest people in the world, who comes to mind? Bill Gates? Neil DeGrasse Tyson? Elon Musk? Someone with an IQ over 200? While these men are all brilliant and accomplished, they’re not actually the smartest people on earth – at least according to one set of criteria. That set of criteria comes from the controversial The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, which considers factors like intelligence and social mobility to rank how smart different people are based on their race, ethnicity, and class.

Albert Einstein

He was born on March 14, 1879, and died on April 18th, 1955. He is a German-born theoretical physicist. Einstein is best known for his theory of relativity and specifically mass-energy equivalence, also called E=mc2, which has been shown to be a general law of nature that applies to all physical interactions. He received many awards including 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his services to Theoretical Physics. One of the world’s most famous scientists, he’s one of five smartest people who ever lived.  His contributions to science are immense, influencing physics even today.

Though he often stated that does not play dice with the universe, Albert Einstein became widely known as the godfather of modern science. With his 1905 Special Theory of Relativity and 1915 General Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein proposed theories about gravity that transformed our understanding of the nature of space and time. With these two theories, Albert Einstein fundamentally altered our understanding about the laws governing this world by proposing an entirely new set of laws governing the matter in motion – from stars orbiting around galaxies to apples falling from trees.

Bill Gates

He is a Harvard University dropout who always seemed to know what he wanted from life. Gates was one of the founders of Microsoft, which revolutionized personal computing and made him one of America’s richest men. With his wife, Melinda, he has been spearheading an ambitious effort to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems by giving away most of his wealth.

He co-founded The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with more than US$30 billion in assets; as of 2009 it had given away more than US$5 billion in grants. Gates also created the Giving Pledge which challenges the wealthiest individuals and families to give half their fortunes to philanthropic causes. Warren Buffett: A legendary investor whose net worth totals about US$58 billion as of 2010. Buffett is chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., an investment holding company that owns businesses such as clothing manufacturer Fruit of the Loom, ice cream maker Dairy Queen and furniture chain Crate & Barrel.

Richard Branson

Branson has used his success to help others succeed through The Virgin Group which includes 400 companies with over 60,000 employees worldwide. He founded a health research and treatment company in 2010, Virgin HealthMiles Ltd., an online health care platform. He also started the first commercial spaceflight company called Virgin Galactic in 2004 and even made a one-way trip into space on November 22nd, 2014! If that’s not enough he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to entrepreneurship and to international trade. Wow! I didn’t know any of this! What else do you know about Richard Branson?

Mark Zuckerberg

In 2007, Time Magazine named him Person of the Year for making a leading role in transforming how we live our lives. In 2010, he was named one of 100 most influential people by TIME magazine and included among The Wealthiest 100 Americans by Forbes Magazine. He’s also ranked number 1 on Vanity Fair’s 2009 New Establishment List. Mark has been declared The Youngest Self-Made Billionaire Ever by ABC News, due to his successful invention of Facebook which he started while attending Harvard University as a 19 year old sophomore. Mark is known as Zuck within the company.

In 2006, Zuckerberg announced plans to donate $100 million of Facebook’s proceeds from its IPO to create an organization called Startup: Education foundation aimed at providing disadvantaged youth access to education through new technologies.

In 2011, Zuckerberg donated $500 million worth of shares in Facebook towards Newark public school system. In 2013, a share drive with Bill Gates’ charity was organized to collect supplies for needy families during the holiday season.

In December 2014, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced that over the course of their lives they will give 99% of their wealth over time to charitable causes.

Elon Musk

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk is one of the smartest people on Earth. He has created multiple companies that have disrupted whole industries. His latest company, Tesla, manufactures electric cars and just became the most valuable car company in America. His other company, SpaceX, makes rockets for missions to space. Now he’s making it possible for everyone to live on Mars.

How does he find time to run two multi-billion dollar companies? You should take every meeting, Musk says. Most meetings are a waste of time. Either you know what you’re talking about and then there’s not much point in discussing it or you don’t know what you’re talking about and the other person should quickly figure out this fact because whatever you think doesn’t matter. I can be convinced of anything when I sit down with somebody who knows more than I do about something. And if they’re wrong then at least I’ve learned something from their perspective and can hopefully tell them why they might be wrong later on.


There are many people that have been considered some of the most intelligent and successful people on the planet. However, while they may be smart, there are others who deserve to be included on this list. They may not be as well-known or as successful, but they have contributed to society in their own way.

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