Everyone is intelligent, but the fact remains that some people are just more intelligent than others. These exceptional individuals often go on to do some really exceptional things, and they serve an integral role in everyday society. In this article, I’m going to be talking a little bit about the top ten most intelligent people in the world. These are the world’s best and brightest, and they all have unique backgrounds and unique ways of sharing their intelligence with everyone else.
Top 10 Smartest People in the World in 2023
Without further ado, let’s see if we can’t dive head-first into this list of the most intelligent people in the world.
10. Judit Polgar
Judit Polgar is considered the strongest female chess player of all time. By the age of 15, she had obtained the title of Grandmaster at the age of 15. She also became the youngest player to be featured in the FIDE top 100 player list at the age of 12 and was the only female player to have been a serious candidate for the World Chess Championship.
Born and raised in Budapest, Hungary, she was trained by her sister in her early years. At the age of five, she won against a family friend without looking at the chessboard. Later at the age of six, she began participating in tournaments and was a member of the Budapest chest club, where she would play against master-level players.
To date, she’s the only woman to have won a chess game against a reigning number one player and has defeated a number of world championships, both current and former, including Anatoly Karpov, Magnus Carlsen, Boris Spassky, Alexander Khalifman, and Veselin Topalov.
At the age of 38, she announced that she would be retiring from competitive chess. Since then, she has become the head coach and captain of the Hungarian national men’s team.
9. Kim Ung-Yong
Kim Ung-Yong is a professor who held the Guinness World Record for having the highest IQ, at 210. The son of a medical professor and a physics professor, he had learned the Korean alphabet and 1,000 Chinese characters by the time he was one year old.
By the time he was three, he was able to solve a number of calculus problems. At one point, he even solved differential and integral calculus problems on live television. Fluent in five languages at the age of five, he went on to publish a best-selling book of essays, as well as his illustrations and calligraphy. That same year, he enrolled at Grand High School in Los Angeles and audited a physics lecture at Hanyang University.
While it has never been confirmed, some state that he went on to study nuclear physics at the University of Colorado at the age of eight. After studying in the United States, he returned to South Korea, where he completed his elementary, middle, and high school degrees in two years.
Nowadays, he’s the vice president of the North Kyeong-gi Development Research Center. He also teaches as an associate professor at Shinhan University, which is located in Ujeongbu, South Korea.
8. Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski
Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski is a theoretical physicist who’s known for her work on high energy physics and has a peculiar list of accomplishments, including a 5.00 GPA from MIT during her undergraduate years. Born and raised in Chicago, she was a student at the Edison Regional Gifted Center and later graduated from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.
While studying at Harvard University, she had the opportunity to work with theoretical physicist Andrew Strominger. During her time there, she discovered the “spin memory effect”, which describes gravitational waves. She also worked on a solo paper—one that Stephen Hawking would later cite in 2016.
By 2019, she had earned her Ph.D. degree from Harvard University. Currently, she’s working on completing a postdoc and is on leave from a faculty position at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Previously, she had received job offers from the aerospace company, Blue Origin, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, as well as NASA.
As of 2023, she has been named to the Forbes 30 under 30 Science List as well as the Forbes 30 under 30 All Star List. She was also a judge for Forbes’ all-female Science category in 2018.
7. Garry Kasparov
Garry Kasparov is a chess grandmaster, writer, and commentator. At the age of 22, he became the youngest World Chess Champion after defeating Anatoly Karpov. He ultimately held onto the title until 1993, when he set up the Professional Chess Association, after getting into a dispute with the International Chess Federation.
As a child, he got into chess after coming across a chess problem set up by his parents. At the age of ten, he began training under coach Vladimir Makogonov at Mikhail Botvinnik’s chess school. Later in 1976, he won the Soviet Junior Championships; he was thirteen at the time. He would go on to repeat the feat the next year.
In 1978, he qualified for his first Soviet Chess Championships, becoming the youngest player to have reached that level. From there, he quickly rose through the world rankings. By 1980, he had won the World Junior Chess Championship, which took place in West Germany.
Since retiring from professional chess in 2005, he has devoted his time to writing and politics. He is currently the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation and its International Council. He’s also the chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative, which he founded in 2017.
6. Andrew Wiles
Andrew Wiles is a mathematician who specializes in numbers theory. For his work on Fermat’s Last Theorem, he was given the Abel Prize in 2016. He also received the Copley Medal, which is awarded by the Royal Society for outstanding achievements in science, in 2017. Some of the other awards that he’s received include the Fermat Prize, Schock Prize, Junior Whitehead Prize, and Wolf Prize in Mathematics.
Born on April 11, 1953, Wiles grew up in Cambridge, England, where he attended King’s College School. At the age of ten, he came across Fermat’s Last Theorem while walking home from school. Wanting to learn more about it, he stopped at the library, where he found a book about the theorem. Fascinated by its existence, he decided to become the first person to prove it.
After earning his mathematics degree at Merton College, he studied at Clare College, from which he earned a Ph.D. in 1980. The following year, he became a Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University. Ultimately, it wasn’t until 1994, after several failed attempts, that he completed the proof with help from his former student Richard Taylor. The paper was subsequently published in the Annals of Mathematics.
5. Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee is a computer scientist who is best known for inventing the World Wide Web. Not only did he implement the first web server and browser, but he also helped foster the internet’s subsequent development. He currently directs the W3C, which develops standards and tools to further its potential. He’s also a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Professorial Fellow at the University of Oxford.
Not only that but he’s also the director of the W3C, an organization that oversees the continued development of the internet. He also co-founded the World Wide Web Foundation and is the president and founder of the Open Data Institute.
More recently, he started a new open-source startup called Inrupt, which aims to give individuals more control over their own personal details. He also launched Contract for the Web, a campaign initiative to persuade citizens, companies, and governments to commit to a number of principles to stop internet “misuse” in 2019.
For his pioneering work, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004. He was also featured in Time Magazine’s list of 100 Most Important People in the Twentieth Century and was given the Turing Award in 2016.
4. Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen is a five-time World Chess Champion who’s known for using a variety of openings to his advantage. As a young child, he showed an aptitude for intellectual challenges. He was able to solve 50-piece jigsaw puzzles at the age of two and enjoyed assembling complex Lego sets by the time he was four.
He was eventually introduced to chess by his father at the age of five. Though he initially showed little interest, he decided to take up chess seriously later on as he wanted to beat his older sister at the game. He would play by himself for endless hours, searching for combinations and replaying positions that were showed to him by his father.
In 2004, he made the headlines after winning at the Corus Chess Tournament. He would go on to earn the title of chess grandmaster several months later.
At the age of 23, he became a World Chess Champion after defeating then-champion Wiswanathan Anand. He successfully defended his title the following year and won both the 2014 World Blitz and World Rapid Championships, which made him the first chess player to hold all titles simultaneously. He later repeated this feat in 2019.
3. Edward Witten
Edward Witten is a theoretical and mathematical physicist who specializes in quantum gravity, string theory, and quantum field theories. He’s also regarded as the founder of M-theory. In 1990, he became the first physicist to receive the Fields Medal, one of the highest honors a mathematician can receive, for his mathematical insights.
Born on August 26, 1951, he attended Park School of Baltimore before graduating from Brandeis University with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history. He later studied applied mathematics at Princeton University, from which he obtained his pH.D. in physics.
From there, he held a fellowship at Harvard University. He also held a fellowship at the MacArthur Foundation and was a junior fellow at Harvard Society of Fellows.
Nowadays, he’s a professor in the School of Natural Sciences at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study. He’s also one of the board members of Americans for Peace Now.
2. Christopher Langan
Christopher Langan is often described as “the smartest man in America” with an IQ between 195 and 210. As a child, he often skipped grades and was bullied by his peers. During his last years of high school, he began teaching himself advanced physics, math, Latin, Greek, and philosophy, after being denied more challenging materials by his teachers.
He later earned a perfect score on the SAT exam, despite taking a nap in the middle of the test. He was subsequently offered two full scholarships, one to the University of Chicago and one to Reed College. He chose the latter but ultimately dropped out due to financial and transportation issues. For the next several years, he worked a series of labor-intensive jobs.
Since then, he has published a number of journals that have changed various aspects of philosophy and science. He also founded the Mega Foundation, which aims to help those with high IQs, in 1999.
1. Terence Tao
Terence Tao is a mathematician who specializes in partial differential equations, harmonic analysis, geometric combinatorics, algebraic combinatorics, and compressed sensing, among other topics. To date, he has written more than three hundred research papers and is considered one of the greatest living mathematicians in the world. In fact, he’s often regarded as the “Mozart of mathematics.”
Even as a child, he exhibited extraordinary mathematical abilities. By the time he was nine years old, he was attending college-level mathematic courses. He’s also one of only two children to have achieved a score of 700 or higher on the SAT math section in the history of John Hopkins’ Exceptional Talent program.
At the age of fourteen, he participated in a summer program at the Research Science Institute. Two years later, he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Flinders University. And in 1996, he received his Ph.D. at the age of 21.
That same year, he became a faculty member at the University of California, Los Angeles, making him the youngest individual to have achieved such a feat.