Intelligence is humanity’s greatest asset. We’re not particularly strong or speedy, but we do have mighty brains that enable us to store lots of information and solve complex problems. And whilst our species does have a knack for making bad decisions, history is full of remarkable people who are still talked about today.
When we think about the smartest human beings of all time, certain cultures spring to mind. Ancient Greece and the European Renaissance, for instance, are historically renowned as centres of excellence. Yet every major civilisation has given birth to impressive intellect, and as such, narrowing down humanity’s greatest minds is no mean feat.
Cleverness isn't bound by a particular academic discipline, either. The fields of science, philosophy, literature, and art are all crammed with individuals whose achievements are so outstanding it’s hard for most of us to fathom how one person could be so brilliant.
But what separates a true genius from the rest of the pack is originality and longevity. Those who are able to rise above their peers and walk their own path are the ones who go down in history...
10. Alan Turing
The story of Alan Turing was popularised with the release of The Imitation Game in 2014. Though the film deviated from historical fact, the real-life Turing was still a remarkable individual.
During his childhood, he developed an interest in maths and science. And due to his intellect, he gained a place at King’s College Cambridge and left with a first-class degree. This was followed by further research into probability theory and algorithms. Whilst this is all very impressive, it’s Turing’s activities during the Second World War that secured his place in the history books.
Following the declaration of war, Turing entered the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire. Using the work of Polish mathematician Marian Rejewski as a baseline, Turing developed a machine called 'the bombe'. The machine enabled the British to crack the device known as Enigma and decrypt German messages.
Historians have estimated that cracking Enigma shortened the war by more than two years, saving fourteen million lives as a consequence. In addition to this amazing feat, Turing’s machine also led to the development of the computer technology you're reading this very article on.