What is High IQ & What Is The Highest IQ In The World Ever Recorded?

What Is The Highest IQ In The World Ever Recorded?

The Intelligence Quotient or “IQ” has become the go-to term during discussions of a person’s mental abilities. By trying to measure someone’s intelligence, a debate has been fueled about whether that person has any control over his IQ whatsoever. Some believe that it might simply be affected by the genes they inherit, while others believe that it is nourished through hard work as they grow older. Whatever may be the case, one thing is for sure. IQ is the best measure of intelligence, as of now.

What is IQ?

Although we might have come across this term plenty of times during our lives, we still need to set some standards so that we can distinguish a great score from an average one.

IQ is nothing but the number that a person scores after taking one of the many standardized tests to measure the intelligence level of individuals. Originally, the intelligence quotient was calculated as the ratio of mental age and chronological age (IQ= MA/CA x 100, where MA is mental age, CA is chronological age). However, today, intelligence scores are calibrated against values of actual population scores. Here is a graph that shows how people fare when they take an IQ test:

iq scores

This is, as you can see, a bell-shaped curve. It depicts that most measurements fall in the middle, and fewer fall at points farther away from the middle. What this means in our case is that most people’s IQ scores fall in and around the average range, while much fewer people score very low or very high.

The general score of 95% of the population from these tests ranges between 70 and 130. Since there are quite a few different classifications, the Stanford-Binet Scale of Human Intelligence is the most commonly used one and we shall use that as a reference. According to this scale, people who have a score higher than 145 are considered geniuses.

You already saw the list of the people with the highest IQ in the world; let’s meet these geniuses, but please remember that IQ tests are not necessarily all that accurate in estimating someone’s overall intelligence, even if they are good markers for specific cognitive skills, such as mathematical ability and logical reasoning.

Also, note that this list is NOT an exhaustive one, and therefore may not feature the name of every high-IQ individual.

Stephen Hawking (IQ Score: 160)

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

This man needs no introduction. Considered one of the greatest minds of our time, Stephen Hawking was a professor, author and world-renowned theoretical physicist. His book “A Brief History of Time” has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Moreover, he was the undisputed champion when it comes to the study of black holes, which was also his particular field of study at the time of his death in March 2018. Due to his inspiring battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and his undying love for physics, Hawking was viewed as a symbol of knowledge and intelligence in pop culture, an honour he definitely deserved!

Paul Allen (IQ Score: 160-170)

paul allen

Paul Allen (Photo Credit: Google)

Paul Allen is one of the founders of tech giant Microsoft. He was born in 1953 in Seattle, US and made friends with Bill Gates while they were both at school together. He quit his studies in 1974 and convinced Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard University too. The following year, they founded Microsoft – what’s now a multi-billion dollar tech giant. Paul is a well-known philanthropist, just like his friend and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates.

Albert Einstein (IQ Score: 160-190)

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Speaking of ‘symbols of knowledge’, the name of this scientist is actually synonymous with genius. It cannot be denied that he shaped the future of science. He received a Nobel Prize for the discovery of the law of photoelectric effect. The theory of relativity was also his brainchild. Although there is no scientific method of calculating his IQ posthumously, researchers have had to resort to estimating his score through careful analysis of his papers.

Judit Polgar (IQ Score: 170)

Judit Polgar

Judit Polgar

Chess Grandmasters rarely aren’t geniuses, and by rarely, I mean never. Judit Polgar became the youngest one at the age of 15 and still proudly holds that record. She is not only viewed as a pioneer for women in chess, but also as one of the greatest chess players to ever live. She defeated Garry Kasparov, the reigning world champion, in 2002 and went on to conquer 10 other world championships.

John H. Sununu (IQ Score: 180)

john h sununu

John H. Sununu (Photo Credit: Discovery .com)

John Sununu was born in 1939 in Cuba, Havana. He then went on to study Mechanical Engineering at MIT. He got his doctorate in 1966. After his graduation he worked as a professor in Tufts University till 1968, after which, he was appointed as the associate dean of engineering. He held that position till 1973. He also served as the governor of New Hampshire and in 1989 became the White House Chief of Staff.

Philip Emeagwali (IQ Score: 190)

philip emeagwali

Philip Emeagwali

Philip Emeagwali is a Nigerian-born engineer, mathematician, computer scientist and geologist. He left school at an early age of 13 due to the Nigerian-Biafran War. Through hard work and self-study, he earned a degree in Mathematics.  He went on to win the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, a prize from the IEEE, for his use of a Connection Machine supercomputer to help detect petroleum fields. Even after facing rejection due to racial discrimination, he didn’t give up and continued to inspire people worldwide by earning three Master’s degree in Mathematics, Environmental and Marine Engineering from various universities.

Mislav Predavec (IQ Score: 190)

Mislav Predavec

Mislav Predavec

Mislav Predavec is a math professor from Croatia who is reported to have an IQ score of 190. He says “I always felt I was a step ahead of others. As material in school increased, I just solved the problems faster and better.”

Predavec was born in Zagreb in 1967, and teaches at Zagreb’s Schola Medica Zagrabiensis. Furthermore, he has been running a trading company since 1989. He founded a exclusive IQ society called GenerIQ, which is a part of his wider IQ society network. He says that “doing very difficult intelligence tests is his favorite hobby.”

Garry Kasparov (IQ Score: 194)

Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov

Being ranked world No.1 225 times over the course of 228 months is no small achievement. Russian by birth, Kasparov is considered by some to be the greatest chess player of all time.  As a testament to his brilliance, he once tied a match with IBM’s Deep Blue, a chess computer that could calculate 100 million moves per second! He is also the proud record holder of the highest number of consecutive wins.

Christopher Michael Langan (IQ Score: 190-210)

Christopher Michael Langan

Christopher Michael Langan (Photo Credit: By TeaFoam / Flickr.com)

Born in San Francisco, California, Christopher Langan began speaking at the age of 6 months, and taught himself to read when he was just 3 years old. It is said about Langan that he managed to hit the perfect score in SAT despite falling asleep during the exam! He is frequently hailed as the ‘smartest man in America’. He has also developed a theory called “Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe” (CTMU) which basically deals with “the relationship between mind and reality”.

Edith Stern (IQ Score: 200+)

edith stern

A 16-year-old Edith Stern teaching college trigonometry

Born in 1952 to Aaron Stern (a concentration camp survivor whose cancer treatment was paid for by Albert Einstein), Edith Stern could communicate with cards when she was no older than 11 months. At 1, she could identify letters and by 2 she could speak the entire alphabet. At 12, she had already entered college and 4 years later, she was teaching trigonometry there. Her IQ score is reported to be more than 200. Currently, she holds a PhD in Mathematics, and is a distinguished engineer and inventor at IBM.

Kim Ung-Yong (IQ Score: 210)

Kim Ung-Yong

Kim Ung-Yong

Born in 1963 in Korea, Kim Ung-Yong started speaking when he was just 6 months old. By his third birthday, Kim Ung-Yong could already read English, Korean, Japanese, and German. As if this wasn’t mind-boggling enough, he was writing poetry and had completed two short stories by the time he was four years old! His drive and thirst for knowledge made him decline enrollment in Korea’s most prestigious university at the age of 16 and he instead started to pursue a PhD in Civil Engineering. Presently, he spends his time doing invaluable research and teaching students at Chungbuk National University in South Korea.

Christopher Hirata (IQ Score: 225)

Christopher Hirata

Christopher Hirata (Photo Credit: The Ohio State University)

A former child prodigy, Hirata became the youngest American to clinch a gold medal at the International Physics Olympiad in 1996, and e accomplished the incredible feat when he was just 13! He was involved in a project at NASA when he was 16, and obtained his PhD from the prestigious Princeton University at a young age of 22. Presently, he is a visiting professor of astronomy and physics at Ohio State University.

Marilyn Vos Savant (IQ Score: 228)


Marilyn vos Savant (Photo Credit: Shelly Pippin / quotesgram.com)

Marilyn was born in Missouri, US in 1946. She believes that one should keep their premarital surnames, and hence she kept the surname of her mother, Marina vos Savant. As a teenager, she worked at her father’s general store and wrote articles for local newspapers under different names. She rose to fame when she first topped the Guinness Book of World Records list of the “highest iq” category in 1986 and stayed there until 1989. She was reported to have an IQ score of 228.

However, a psychology professor and author of IQ tests named Alan Kaufman challenged this and claimed that…

Miss Savant was given an old version of the Stanford-Binet (Terman & Merrill 1937), which did, indeed, use the antiquated formula of MA/CA × 100. But in the test manual’s norms, the Binet does not permit IQs to rise above 170 at any age. So, the psychologist who came up with an IQ of 228 committed an extrapolation of a misconception, thereby violating almost every rule imaginable concerning the meaning of IQs.

Terence Tao (IQ Score: 225-230)

Terence Tao

Terence Tao (Photo Credit: UCLA Department of Mathematics)

Born in 1975 to a Chinese family, Terence displayed exceptional aptitude towards Mathematics from a very early age. The fact that he had started attending university-level Math courses should be proof enough of that. He had acquired his PhD when he was just 20, and perhaps more importantly, he was the co-recipient of the Fields Medal in 2006. For the uninitiated, the Fields Medal can be thought of as the Nobel-equivalent awarded in the field of Mathematics, only they give out that award once every 4 years. Presently, Tao resides in Los Angeles with his wife and kids and focuses on theories regarding partial differential equations, algebraic combinatorics, harmonic analysis and analytic number theory.

William James Sidis (IQ Score: ~ 250-300… probably)

William James Sidis

William James Sidis

This man simply plays in an altogether different league. Born in 1898 in New York City,  and raised in a family of intellectuals, he was gifted from the very beginning. At the age of 5, he could use a typewriter and had learnt to speak Latin, Greek, Russian, French, German and Hebrew. He was denied admission to Harvard at the age of 6 because he was called too emotionally immature.

Later, at age 11, they were forced to admit him, after which he gave his well-received first lecture on 4-dimensional physics! He was threatened by some fellow students at Harvard, so his parents assigned him to a teaching job in Texas. Due to this he could not pursue academics and instead decided to focus on his political career. He died of a stroke at the age of 46 as a reclusive, penniless clerk.

It should be noted that the fact that he was the smartest man ever is often challenged, because William’s sister and mother had developed a reputation of making exaggerated claims about the Sidis family, (source) and it was his sister who told a famous psychologist and author Abraham Sperling that his brother had an IQ score of 250+.

To quote Sperling, author of the 1946 book Psychology for the Millions:

Helena Sidis (William’s sister) told me that a few years before his death, her brother Bill took an intelligence test with a psychologist. His score was the very highest that had ever been obtained. In terms of IQ, the psychologist related that the figure would be between 250 and 300. Late in life William Sidis took general intelligence tests for Civil Service positions in New York and Boston. His phenomenal ratings are matter of record.

However, it seems that Sperling never actually gave Sidis an IQ test himself in order to test his IQ. Because if he did, then why didn’t he talk about it in A Story of Genius, which is basically Sterling’s account of Sidis’ intellectual prowess?

The controversy pertaining to Sidisreal IQ score aside, he undoubtedly was an extraordinarily intelligent individual (a fact that is evidenced by the outstanding feats he accomplished so early in his life), and there is no telling what Sidis might have accomplished in the fields of mathematics and science if his talents had not been squandered.

Ainan Celeste Cawley (IQ Score: 263)

Ainan Celeste Cawley

Ainan Celeste Cawley (Photo Credit: Youtube)

This man is the youngest of the lot. Born in 1999, Ainan Celeste Cawley is projected to have an IQ score of 263! At the age of 7, Ainan became the youngest person in the world to pass Chemistry-O level. By the age of 8, he was taking Chemistry lectures at Singapore Polytechnic (an institution of higher learning in Singapore). He composes music and can recite Pi to 518 decimal places.

But wait a minute! Why were these people with extremely advanced IQ scores unable to hold our interest? More importantly, what is IQ anyways? Did us not paying attention have anything to do with our own IQs? What does a high score on these tests really imply?

What is intelligence?

Intelligence is the human mind’s ability to collect information and use it appropriately, but there is no consensus within the scientific community about what kind of information this constitutes. Some theorists believe that there is one intelligence that underlies all specific abilities, while others believe that there are multiple intelligences.

pink color human brain with glasses hits with a hammer to measure level iq on(wowomnom)s

Debunking the concept of IQ (Photo Credit : wowomnom/ Shutterstock)

Charles Spearman, one of the early pioneers in the study of intelligence, said that there was a general intelligence that represented a person’s overall ability. This postulate was definitely backed by research, but there were plenty of loopholes and nuances. Louis Thurstone openly opposed Spearman and proposed that intelligence for each ability was different. For example, one could not predict a person’s mathematical ability based on their verbal ability.

Taking this concept forward, many theorists built on this and proposed various different theories. Howard Garner said that there were eight different intelligences—linguistic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, special, musical, kinesthetic, and naturalistic. He based his idea on the existence of people with autism who had severe social deficits, but displayed a high or even virtuosic ability in a particular domain (remember Forrest Gump?).

Forrest Gump was a movie about a boy who was constantly labelled as 'dumb' but had abilities surpassing the best of us

Forrest Gump was a movie about a boy who was constantly labelled as ‘dumb’, but had certain abilities that surpassed the best of us (Photo Credit : Flickr)

Other theorists, such as Sternberg, were more general in their outlook and proposed that intelligence could be divided into three main areas—creative, analytical and practical abilities. Although these theories were incorporated into improving school performances or measuring student ability, the world needed a single number and a standardized measure to represent intelligence.

How Is Intelligence Tested?

The first ever intelligence test was developed by Francis Dalton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. He based his test on trying to determine if differences in intelligence were due to the environment or if it was based on one’s genes. However, this test had various drawbacks and the testing areas did not correlate with one another.

Much later, Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon were commissioned to design a test to identify ‘mentally subnormal’ children in French schools. This test was a pioneering moment in intelligence testing and is still used as a baseline to this day. The Binet-Simon test became rather famous and widely accepted because of two factors that it introduced—mental age and standardization.

Mental age is the functioning age of a child or a person. That is, if a seven-year-old could pass all the items that a child of five could pass, then his mental age would be considered to be five, while his chronological age would be seven (you’ll see why this is important a bit later).

The next innovation was the concept of standardization. The final IQ score would be calculated by comparing one’s performance to others of their age, rather than a general number.

Binet’s concept of mental age was a critical moment of innovation, and paved the way towards determining a person’s intelligence quotient. William Stern told us that there was no point in only identifying a child’s mental age when there was nothing it could be compared to. Therefore, Stern compared a child’s mental age to their chronological age in order to guess his intelligence. Thus, if a child of ten had a mental age of eight, then he was below average; if his mental age was ten, he was average; and if his mental age was greater than ten, he was considered above average.

Lewis Terman finally called this an ‘intelligence quotient’ and presented the world with the concept of IQ. He revised the concept slightly and made IQ a percentage measure.

The final formula now used to calculate IQ is MA/CA*100, where MA is mental age and CA is chronological age.

This approach works until an individual reaches the age of 17 or 18, but beyond that, it gives a rather skewed perspective. A more statistical approach was then adopted, where scores were converted into set scores to determine the final IQ score.

Visual intelligence questions(Visual intelligence questions(Emir Kaan)ss

What questions on intelligence tests look like (Photo Credit : Emir Kaan/ Shutterstock)

Currently, the Wechsler Scales, the Binet Kamet Test of Intelligence, MISIC, Raven’s Progressive Matrices etc., are used to assess IQ. The questions on these scales are different for children and for adults. These tests are composed of various subtests. For example, Wechsler’s consists of Information, Digit Span, Vocabulary, Arithmetic, Comprehension, Similarities, Picture Completion, Picture Design, Object Assembly, and Digit Symbol sub-tests.

What is considered a high IQ?

When a person scores 120 or above on an IQ test, they are said to have a high IQ; in fact, they are called ‘gifted’. A person who is gifted can have various characteristics, like an unusually brilliant memory and alertness, is deeply intuitive, can solve problems beyond his age, or have a vast vocabulary. These characteristics vary between individuals.

classification of iq

Classification of IQ Scores

It often happens that a student who is a daydreamer in class may be gifted, but is in a class that is not challenging enough to raise his curiosity or engage him effectively.

How can you increase your IQ: 5 ways to improve your IQ score

Many people try to enhance their IQ scores. Though some studies claim that IQ is hereditary and is fairly stable throughout a person’s lifetime, others claim that it can be enhanced.

How, you ask? As we said earlier, IQ is a comprehensive score, so by increasing the factors that contribute to it, we can increase it on the whole.

Education – Some studies suggest that the more time we spend in school or in the process of learning something, the more we can increase our IQ.

Exercise – This is more of a biological reason. Working out increases blood flow to the brain, which means an increase in oxygen. This causes the brain to be more active and its cognitive skills are generally enhanced.

Learning a new language – Learning a second language causes the brain to use its thinking skills, associating skills, memory and retrieval skills, as well as decision-making skills.

Meditation – We’ve all heard psychologists go on about the use of meditation, as the potential benefits of this practice are immense. Recent studies have indeed shown that meditating increases brain plasticity, which is the brain’s ability to regenerate. In turn, this increases our ability to retain information and boosts our overall cognitive ability.

Brain Training Programs – These programs, have been called out by many researchers as unreliable. They argue that once a person knows he is going to be “brain trained”, the hope of it working automatically boosts performance, similar to a placebo effect. That being said, many brain training programs do lead to a significant increase in a person’s performance, as they help people utilize more parts of the brain than normal.

Does ‘high IQ’ mean academic or professional success?

A high IQ is not a predictor of academic achievement or professional success. In fact, Richard Lobe and Nathan Leopold had IQs of 169 and 210; Jeffry Dahmer and Ted Bundy had IQ scores of 145 and 136, respectively (Source). If you’re wondering who these people are, they’re some of the world’s most ruthless serial killers. Lobe and Leopold believed that their ‘intellectual superiority’ helped them pull off their killing with at most ease. And it did, if not for their need to show off their crime.

Researcher Stephen Gourd believed that general intelligence was more of a mathematical artifact than anything else. Intelligence is definitely important, but rational thinking skills like judgement and decision-making are equally important, and intelligence scores do not encompass any of these areas.

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If intelligence tests aren’t fully valid, then what’s the best way to determine intelligence? The “emotional quotient”, a person’s ability to understand one’s own emotions and those of others has recently been gaining attention in the psychological community. It has been able to predict one’s job performance, leadership skills and mental health. So now, we can’t help but wonder, is EQ the new IQ?

Read more on ScienceABC about IQ:

Is Your IQ Fixed For Life?

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About the Author

Harsh Gupta graduated from IIT Bombay, India with a Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering. His pedantic and ‘know-it-all’ nature made it impossible for him not to spread knowledge about (hopefully) interesting topics. He likes movies, music and does not shy away from talking and writing about that too.

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