World-Famous Figures Who Shaped History, Ranked By IQ

Who comes to mind when you think of the world’s greatest geniuses? Is it Stephen Hawking — or maybe Albert Einstein? Well, it turns out that plenty of others can be described this way, and some may take you by surprise. We all know that intelligence comes in different shapes and sizes, but IQ tests are a pretty useful way to put a number on it. A score of 140 or more tends to indicate that a person is a genius – meaning that countless big names from history fall into this category. And we’re not just talking about distinguished scientists and thinkers, either. Some A-list celebs such as Madonna even crop up on this comprehensive list of brainy historical figures!

40. Arnold Schwarzenegger: 132

Arnold Schwarzenegger had incredible successes in the worlds of bodybuilding and Hollywood acting, but the star also forged a significant political career for himself. Over an eight-year period from 2003 he was California’s governor – perhaps the clearest indicator of the star’s sheer determination when he sets his mind to something. It probably helps that he has a far-above-average IQ, which, according to CBS News, comes in at 132.

39. Napoleon Bonaparte: 180

One doesn’t manage to take control of huge swathes of the European continent without having something of a brilliant mind. French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was a military genius, with his ability to strategize leading to incredible successes for his conquering forces. Though IQ tests were only invented long after Napoleon’s death, the website Geni has estimated that he’d have a score of around 180.

38. Madonna: 140

There’s no doubt that Madonna helped to revolutionize the music industry forever. Across her decades-spanning career, she’s reinvented herself countless times and set the bar for what pop stars can achieve. Unsurprisingly, Madonna is reported to have quite a sharp mind and has in the past claimed to have an IQ of 140.

37. Geena Davis: 140

Geena Davis has done a lot in her life. The Hollywood star has famously picked up an Oscar, but she’s also a skilled archer and a notable activist concerned with making the media industry more equal. She’s even in Mensa – an organization for people with abnormally high IQs. According to, Davis’ is 140.

36. Tony Hawk: 144

Few would argue with the assertion that Tony Hawk is the most important person to ever take up skateboarding. It was a pursuit he mastered partly thanks to his high energy levels as a teenager. CBS News notes that Hawk’s IQ is 144, and the sportsman clearly exhibited his intellect as a child. And his parents apparently supported his skateboarding obsession so he had something to focus his unique mind on.

35. Mozart: 155

Thanks to his vast catalogue of compositions, Wolfgang Mozart is remembered as one of the most important figures in classical music. He was, undoubtedly, a musical genius who started on his path to greatness from an extremely young age. We can never know for sure how he would’ve fared in an IQ test, but contemporary psychologists have suggested his score may have been up to 155.

34. Martha Graham: 150

Martha Graham left quite the legacy; she’s considered to be the “Dancer of the Century” by Time magazine. More broadly, People has listed her as one of the most iconic women of the 20th century. Graham clearly had exceptional abilities, and her apparent IQ of 150 would definitely attest to that!

33. Mark Zuckerberg: 152

Mark Zuckerberg has most certainly changed the face of our world. His social network platform Facebook has had a profound impact on our lives and turned him into a multi-billionaire in the process. Zuckerberg, then, evidently has a mind tailored for success in the worlds of technology and business. According to the website IQTest, he has a score of 152.

32. Hedy Lamarr: 154

Fans of old cinema might recognize Hedy Lamarr as the star of such movies as Sampson and Delilah and Algiers. But there was actually so much more to this remarkable woman than her acting career. The Hollywood star was also an inventor, with perhaps her finest creation laying the groundwork for contemporary bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies. Lamarr clearly had a brilliant mind, and her IQ is reportedly thought to have been 154.

31. Michael Jordan: 154

Michael Jordan’s influence on basketball is undeniable. It’s arguable that other athletes have played the sport better than he did, but nobody has ever done as much to champion it as Jordan. The star’s flair for business combined with his skills on the court ultimately turned him into an icon. The website Celebrity IQs estimates his score to be 154, so Jordan clearly had the brains to do something significant with his life.

30. Elon Musk: 155

As the leader of companies like SpaceX and Tesla Motors, Elon Musk’s innovations and business acumen have seen him make a lot of money. Nowadays, he battles it out with Jeff Bezos as the richest person on Earth. The website IQTest puts his score at 155 – well over the average.

29. Mary Wollstonecraft: 160

Philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft is remembered for her work in developing the feminist movement as we know it today. In addition to that, she also profoundly influenced literature – particularly the development of travel writing as a distinct genre. Wollstonecraft definitely had a unique mind, and Geni estimates that her IQ would’ve been around 160 had she ever taken a test.

28. Bill Gates: 160

Bill Gates technological ingenuity has led him to make billions. IQTest estimates his score to be 160, but he personally doesn’t regard conventional intelligence as very important. He told clinical psychologist Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2018, “I was so naive about different skill sets. I thought if somebody had a high IQ, they could be good at everything.” Nowadays, he values people with numerous skill sets.

27. Thomas Jefferson: 160

Thomas Jefferson was a skilled politician and former U.S. president, but he also held interests in things like gardening and architecture. The Founding Father clearly possessed an expansive mind, which allowed him to pursue many fields during his lifetime. If he’d had the chance to take an IQ test, University of California at Davis psychology professor Dean Simonton estimates that he would have come in at 160.

26. Stephen Hawking: 160-170

There are few people who have done more than Stephen Hawking to thrust science into mainstream focus. Thanks to his incredible ideas on black holes and time, he became a celebrity – even showing up in The Simpsons. Naturally, his IQ was through the roof, with reported figures coming in between 160 and 170.

25. Nikola Tesla: 160

Different estimates have placed Nikola Tesla’s IQ within a vast range. According to Reader’s Digest, they start at 160 and go all the way up to 310! Regardless, there’s no doubt that the inventor had a remarkable mind. He came up with some incredible ideas in his time, but perhaps the most famous was his alternating current motor.

24. Stanley Kubrick: 160

Any movie fan knows that Stanley Kubrick was a revolutionary force in cinema. Hits such as Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining have ensured that he is remembered as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. An artist of that stature, then, must certainly possess a keen intellect. According to the website IQTest, he scored in at 200. That’s likely an overestimation, though, and the slightly more reasonable figure of 160 has also been posited.

23. Sylvia Plath: 160

It was clear that Sylvia Plath was special by the time she’d turned eight. Just four years later, it was made official with an IQ test. At 12 years of age the writer scored 160 – meaning that she was comfortably defined as a genius. Today, her poignant poems are still studied and loved.

22. Steve Jobs: 160

During his younger days, Steve Jobs struggled a little at school. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t extremely intelligent. To the contrary, it was just that formal education bored him. According to psychologist Jonathan Wai, he had an IQ of around 160 and an intellect that later helped him revolutionize technology as we know it.

21. Charles Dickens: 165

The work of Charles Dickens is up there with the best of what the English language has to offer. The author’s keen intellect allowed him to come up with his great masterpieces – such as Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist. And according to the website IQTest, he would have reached a scored of 165.

20. Charlotte Brontë: 165

Along with Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë is remembered as one of the finest writers to emerge from the Victorian era. Her works are still revered to this day – particularly the novel Jane Eyre. Brontë is thought to have been a genius with an IQ of around 165, according to Geni.

19. Carl Sagan: 170

Thanks to his educational TV shows, Carl Sagan was pivotal in exposing the general public to scientific ideas and principles. The astronomer was also an acclaimed scientist – particularly because of his research on planets during the ’70s. Sagan’s intellect was powerful, and the website IQTest has given him a score of 170.

18. Mark Twain: 170

Thanks to timeless classics such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to his name, Mark Twain is widely considered to be one of America’s greatest writers. Clearly, he was an intelligent man. But estimates have suggested that he may have had an IQ of 170, according to Geni.

17. Judit Polgár: 170

For those of you who’ve never heard of her name, Judit Polgár is widely regarded as the greatest woman to ever play chess. She became an international grandmaster at the age of just 15 – making her the youngest person to ever achieve such an honor. Unsurprisingly, Polgár’s immense IQ comes in at 170, Reader’s Digest notes.

16. Immanuel Kant: 175

The influence of Immanuel Kant on contemporary philosophy is undeniable. He’s probably known best for his idea that reason lies at the heart of human morality, but the figure’s thoughts have extended to many different fields. The website Celebrity IQs estimates that his vast intelligence would’ve seen him score 175.

15. Mary Shelley: 175

Mary Shelley’s primary claim to fame is her book Frankenstein, which she released to the world in 1818. Having said that, the writer produced many other literary marvels. And just like her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley was an outright genius. The latter’s IQ is estimated to have been around 175, according to Geni.

14. Pablo Picasso: 175

Pablo Picasso’s creativity was boundless. In addition to his incredible paintings such as The Old Guitarist and Guernica, he also produced some incredible sculptures, ceramics and written pieces. Picasso’s mind was clearly very special, so it’s hardly surprising that Geni put his IQ at 175.

13. Michelangelo: 177

You don’t gain a reputation as one of the greatest artists of all time without possessing something of a special mind. Michelangelo’s artistic flair extended to sculptures, poetry, architectural designs and engineering. But it’s perhaps the artist’s painting works on the Sistine Chapel and his sculpture of David for which he’s most famous. And the website FinancesOnline estimates that Michelangelo’s IQ would have been 177.

12. Rene Descartes: 177

The influential thinker Rene Descartes has an estimated IQ score of 177, according to FinancesOnline. But that’s hardly a surprise for a man referred to as the Father of Modern Philosophy. In addition, the Frenchman also added some significant ideas and theories to the field of mathematics.

11. Cleopatra: 180

In popular culture, the Egyptian queen Cleopatra is widely renowned for her beauty. But she was also incredibly intelligent – proficient in more than ten languages and schooled in fields such as astronomy and maths. Reader’s Digest estimates that her IQ would have been around 180 if measured in contemporary times.

10. Galileo Galilei: 182

Italy’s Galileo Galilei invented the telescope, but his scientific achievements extended well beyond this. For one thing, he actually used his telescope to great effect – discovering a number of planets and moons in space. For reference, FinancesOnline reports that Galileo would have scored 182 in an IQ test.

9. Marie Curie: 180-200

Marie Curie is mainly known for her research on radioactivity and X-rays, which ultimately saw her land the Nobel Prize on two separate occasions. Of course, a person doesn’t achieve such a feat without the sharpest of minds. In terms of her IQ, Reader’s Digest says that it could’ve been anything from 180 to 200!

8. Thomas Edison: 185

For many people, Thomas Edison represents the archetypal inventor. With things like the phonograph, lightbulb and movie camera attributed to him, he was undoubtedly an influential figure. Edison was clearly able to view things differently than most people, which is probably why Geni puts his IQ at an impressive 185.

7. Alan Turing: 185

Alan Turing didn’t just develop the world’s first computer, he also helped to refine the field of artificial intelligence. The Englishman was one of the greatest minds of his time, and this is backed up by IQTest, which gives him a score of 185.

6. Friedrich Nietzsche: 190

In his day, Friedrich Nietzsche developed a reputation for questioning conventional ideas of morality as it existed in 19th-century Europe. His understanding of philosophy, psychology and society would go on to profoundly influence thinkers who came after him. Nietzsche had a unique way of seeing the world, and Geni estimates that his IQ was around 190.

5. Voltaire: 190-200

Voltaire is widely considered to be one of the best philosophers in French history. His wit and insights often took aim at the conventional wisdom of his time, which put him at odds with his nation’s elite. Given his legacy, then, it’s no surprise that his estimated IQ of between 190 and 200 puts him at the extreme end of the genius scale.

4. Isaac Newton: 190-200

Isaac Newton is one of the most famous and celebrated scientists in history. His ideas about gravity, maths and astronomy were revolutionary, and his legacy is still very much felt today. Reader’s Digest notes that his IQ would fall between 190 and 200 today – a testament to his unusually vast intellect.

3. Albert Einstein: 205-225

Einstein is one of the most famous scientists in history – and for obvious reasons. The German’s work totally revolutionized theoretical physics and even brought science into the general public’s consciousness. You shouldn’t be surprised, then, to learn that estimates of his IQ are pretty high! Business Insider notes that it would have fallen somewhere between 205 and 225.

2. William Shakespeare: 210

One doesn’t come up with some of the greatest works of English literature without having a particularly special mind. William Shakespeare’s literary output is unparalleled, and he has more masterpieces to his name than we can mention. According to Reader’s Digest, he has an estimated IQ of 210 – a fittingly strong score for an unquestionable genius.

1. Leonardo da Vinci: 220

With his mastery of so many fields, Leonardo da Vinci’s intelligence is unequivocal. He’s obviously known best for his art, but he was also an architect, musician, scientist and inventor. According to Reader’s Digest, estimates of da Vinci’s IQ have gone as far as 220, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the man’s achievements during his own lifetime.