Who Had The Highest IQ Ever Recorded?

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Intelligence is a fascinating, though complex subject, and it’s one that is difficult to study for that reason. Researchers have developed IQ tests to try and create some kind of objective, quantitative measure of human intelligence. Despite their many flaws, IQ tests present a clear quantitative bell curve with 95% of their participants scoring within a range of 70 to 130.

There are a couple different classifications of IQ scores. One common classification is Wechsler’s, which ranks 90-109 as the true average. 120-129 is High, and 130 and over is “Gifted.” 80-89 is Low Average, 70-79 is “Borderline,” and below 69 is “Extremely Low.” The Stanford-Binet Scale of Human Intelligence rates those with scores 145 and above as Genius.

So who has the highest IQ ever recorded? Unfortunately it is a little difficult to actually answer this question with a specific name, though there are several contenders for the highest IQ in the world. The reason it is tough to give a really firm answer to this question is that the test really was designed with the regular population in mind. Individuals who rank as extreme outliers are all so far removed from the normal population that a separate test would really need to be developed to sort these people according to their own gifts.

Nonetheless the following geniuses have been widely credited as having the highest IQs ever.

  1. William Sidis, USA, 250-300 (estimated)
  2. hris Langan, USA, 243
  3. Paul Johns, UK, 240
  4. Rolf Mifflin, USA, 238
  5. Andreas Gunnarsson, Sweden, 235
  6. Thomas R. A. Wolf, Germany 235
  7. Evangelos G. Katsioulis, Greece, 235
  8. Scott Durgin, USA, 235
  9. Marilyn vos Savant, USA, 228

Marilyn vos Savant

marilyn bio photo

Marilyn vos Savant (Photo credit: marilynvossavant.com)

She’s at the bottom of the list above, but she’s still one of the most famous contenders. In fact, she’s probably more famous than the guy who actually appears to win the high IQ contest. Marilyn vos Savant was born in St. Louis, MO in 1946, and works as a magazine columnist, author, lecturer, and playwright. Her main claim to fame was her entry (in 1985) into the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest IQ. She studied philosophy in school, despite her parents’ objections that it was a useless topic. She briefly delved into the family investment business before deciding to pursue her passion for writing. Guinness itself no longer maintains a record for IQ holders, since as of 1990 they determined that indeed the measurement could not really determine a “winner.”

She is well known for her solutions to a couple of different logic problems. The most well known is the Monty Hall problem. In short, you are at a game show, and you are shown three doors and told to pick one. One of the doors hides a car, while two hide goats. The host opens one of the other doors, revealing a goat. Then he asks if you want to stick with the door you chose or switch to the other. Savant argued that switching ups the odds of winning the car. In response, she received thousands of letters arguing it makes no difference.

Savant’s logic goes as follows. The role of the host is important and often overlooked. The initial choice presented gives the contestant a 1/3 chance of picking a car and a 2/3 chance of picking a goat. If a contestant picks a goat door, the host, who knows this, is forced to open the particular other door which hides a goat, and not the one that hides the car. If the player chooses the car door initially, switching the bet will result in a loss, but this can only happen 1/3 of the time. This means that contestants who switch must have a 2/3 chance of winning the car (if you are like me, you can run this around in your brain for the rest of the day; if you are like Savant and understand it straight away, congratulations).

William James Sidis

William James Sidis' Harvard graduation photo

William James Sidis’ Harvard graduation photo

William James Sidis comes closest to achieving the highest IQ ever recorded, even though technically his IQ was undeterminable. Born in New York City in 1898, he was a child prodigy. He could read a newspaper at 18 months, and apparently knew eight languages by the age of eight, and invented his own language to top it off. He was a well-known war draft protestor during WWI, and nearly went to prison for it. Instead, he ended up spending a year in a sanatorium, as arranged by his parents.

When Sidis was tested for an IQ score, he was apparently off the charts—literally. After his death, Abraham Sperling, director of New York City’s Aptitude Testing Institute, stated that he “easily had an IQ between 250 and 300.” IQ tests worked a bit differently in those days. That translated to saying that his intellectual age was 2.5-3 times his actual age. The veracity of the claim has been debated (as has its meaning) in the years since his death. So while he has quite a legacy and he was certainly brilliant, it is again hard to quantify his intelligence.

Criticisms of IQ as a Measure of IntelligenceCritics of IQ tests point out that they are not only nebulous, but also dismissive of other types of intelligence. People with high intellectual capacity for math and language may fail in other areas, such as emotional intelligence. It also isn’t uncommon for a very smart person to fail utterly at common sense.

There is also the matter of commitment; the test looks for speed, whereas true brilliance often is the work of a lifetime. And then there are very brilliant people who do not even have IQs that are sky high. Stephen Hawking’s IQ is reportedly around 160. Genius level, certainly, but way below 200. His Mensa score is much higher, but it just goes to show, there are many aspects of genius that are immeasurable.


19 Comments

  1. Ahosaphat Lence

    April 12, 2014 at 12:23 am

    This article gives no sources to back up its claims. It lists Chris Langan’s score as 243, where other sources give it as 195-210.

  2. ben

    May 17, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    mine is 165…. is that good?

    • Anonymous

      September 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      You’re an idiot for many reasons,
      But mainly you’re obviously an attention seeker!

      Ps. If you’re iq was that high you would be asking that question.

      • KeiKei90

        October 1, 2014 at 6:21 am

        While my IQ may not be up there…I’m smart enough to SO agree with you. He’s an attention sponge.

      • Arjun Mayilvaganan

        October 25, 2014 at 12:34 pm

        Perfectly said!

    • KeiKei90

      October 1, 2014 at 6:32 am

      Put your flag down. People with high IQ’s…usually have more pressing concerns. And asking the world if they rank??…isn’t one of them. Try 16.5?

    • Jack Johnson

      November 22, 2014 at 5:43 am

      that obviously good look it up before you ask, your just trying to get attention.

      also the average is around 100, and that took me about under a minute to look up fyi

  3. dag

    August 29, 2014 at 6:51 am

    My penis is seven inches

    • KeiKei90

      October 1, 2014 at 6:24 am

      Amazing…!!!! You’re IQ is the same number….7. And I think you broken a record for the lowest one yet. You genius you!!

      • Dan

        October 2, 2014 at 11:31 pm

        Your* Who’s stupid now?

        • Daniel

          October 10, 2014 at 8:49 am

          You’re*
          And the answer to your question is you, Dan.

          • grammarmarm

            November 2, 2014 at 7:26 am

            Um… Did you really just try and correct him by stating wrong grammar?

            It’s your in this context.

  4. Robert

    October 14, 2014 at 4:53 am

    This article over looks several componants. It is a direct cut and paste from another list, who’s site I will not link. The list was posted by them in 2011. The test applied to Sidi was the MA/CA × 100. The same as applied to Miss Savant. The test was proven antiquated and inaccurate by LARGE measures.
    Several of the people on this list were judged by the Hoeflin’s Mega Test which is scoffed at these days.

    If the writer did actually care…and had actual writting skill, he would have done his leg work, rather than PLAGIARIZING his data and palming it off as fact, which it is not
    Not a single person, in that list, is over 190 by today’s testing standard. When all things are taken into consideration and tests rebuked and addressed, Kim Ung-Yong is the holder of the highest IQ. Hell, no one on that list even hits Rick Rosner’s score as far as I am concerned. By using the same data that was applied to several people on this list, you may as well add Davinci and Aristotle :)

    • E

      November 10, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      I agree, though with countless exceptions I can only touch on here and there, but don’t have the time or communicative intelligence to express everything that comes up in my mind while reading the article and your comment. Since we didn’t test someone like Sidis with the tests of today or tomorrow, we can’t say he wouldn’t test as high as Ung-Yong or Rosner. Lack of evidence proves we don’t know, not that it “can’t be”… one of the most common (and atrocious) mistakes many scientists make today.
      This site reels me in with interesting subjects, then (as you wrote) they are sometimes terribly explained and written. I can’t believe the vague tangled mess they sometimes make out of some tasty ideas.
      Back to the excuses and exceptions… I could figure out ratio and statistic-type problems easily up until I was about 21 years old, and I never had a genus IQ… only considered “gifted” on Wechsler’s test. What caused me to get more and more confused on that and many other type of quiz or problem after 21 years or so, is a mystery but I have ideas. It leads to only more questions about intelligence that the article (I must give credit) at least touched on where most people immediately dismiss. The very first sentence is in the “hard to measure” and complex” vein, and I find that most other people rather have number or measurement so they can go on their merry way, delusional that they have “an answer” about someone’s intelligence. Humans love finite answers and hardly have the patience anymore to think about what I’m writing.
      I received some damage from the first gulf war, and I also had many personal problems snowball on me right around that same age, affecting me emotionally and even physically. And those problems fed each other.
      I also developed a habit of thinking deeper and deeper about everything, every point leading up to every concern, until I became the way I am today; orally pausing and undecided when speaking, so people mistake my thoughtful ways to be the opposite… to them any change of mind or pondering suggests stupidity. Their attitudes have been exacerbated with the popularity of the (rather inaccurate) way the internet and vague,”neato” ways to communicate with texts, etc… have hurried their lives.
      So does the damage I have, and the habits of thought, possibly from the way I was berated as a child, snowballed to blocks on my mental performance? When I was passing mensa tests read to me from the N.Y. times as a kid, I knew I couldn’t be an idiot. Yet I don’t even want to try those tests now.
      Apply that and many other real-life, undetectable unfortunate obstacles that may be happening to others while being tested and judged, and you have to conclude IQ tests and other assessments are loaded with trouble. I agree it’s interesting and maybe necessary in some situations to use tests like those to get an idea of what you’re dealing with, but sad as it may be, we are not giving some people even close to a chance to show what they’re capable of ( I know I certainly didn’t live up to it), and we are also over-rating some supposed “geniuses” and wrongly giving them too much respect and attention. They often lead us to terrible situations that need multiple repairs, especially when we assume their fast answers must mean “ease” with accuracy.

  5. Elvis

    October 22, 2014 at 12:15 am

    Elvis Presley IQ 5000 – USA – invented Rock and Roll
    Obama – IQ 6000 – USA/Kenia – invented the Obamacare

    • grammarmarm

      November 2, 2014 at 7:28 am

      Actually, conservatives invented the core of what came to be known as Obamacare in the 1990s as a market-based alternative to government-run healthcare.

  6. Samrawit Mulugeta

    November 19, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Well ,I am inspired of finding out about IQ.Inform me more !

  7. friday gideon

    November 30, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    with all the high IQ whatz have they achieved in life?

  8. Erin

    December 16, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Oh “E”. Thank you for your service, but please get some mental health counseling. Good luck.

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