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Who's the cleverest person in history (to you)?

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What qualities did they possess that puts them above all others? I've always admired Leonardo Da Vinci because he seemed to be a prodigy at everything he put his hand to and advanced those fields as well which seems extremely rare. He had phenomenal imagination as well as technical execution. He married art and science without apparent internal conflict which I've never really been able to do ...to me they are at odds philosophically and I inhabit one state or the other generally. He was a great artisan with his hands as well.

 

There are no right answers and this is not intended as an argument for one or another. I'm just interested in your opinion about who and what qualities makes that someone the height of human intellect or ability. Doesn't have to be in the field of science necessarily.

 

 

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I struggle to see da Vinci as a scientist as I think of the word. An amazing intellect no doubt, a fabulous painter, with an imagination for design perhaps unparalleled - but as a devotee of the scientist I would put him behind his fellow countryman Galileo, who I would put behind others.

 

In no particular order - Newton, Gauss, Darwin, Einstein, Turing - game-changers. Plato/Socrates, Aristotle, Euclid - still providing insight after thousands of years. The great great artists - Shakespeare, Mozart, Bach, Michaelangelo, Picasso. Those whose ideologies changed the world - most often for the worse - whom I shall not name. From the East you have people like Ibn Sina, Averoes, Al Kwarizmi., Brahmagupta.

 

In terms of breadth I agree that no one quite comes close to da Vinci - but is wide range the only criteria? I would go for those who scaled the very highest peak. Probably Einstein

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The list Imatfaal made is a good one, I'd like to add Archimedes, who was close to inventing the calculus.

 

Archimedes is generally considered to be the greatest mathematician of antiquity and one of the greatest of all time.[3][4] He used the method of exhaustion to calculate the area under the arc of a parabola with the summation of an infinite series, and gave a remarkably accurate approximation of pi. He also defined the spiral bearing his name, formulae for the volumes of solids of revolution, and an ingenious system for expressing very large numbers.

I'd also like to add the Buddha; although, the Buddha may not be an individual but a myth developed by a culture. Whichever the case, it does not actually matter. Buddha was perhaps the first humanitarian philosopher, and responsible for ideas that are eternally good.

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In a way I do see Plato and Aristotle a bit more critical when it comes to their ideas with regards to form and matter. Specifically the idea that things have an inherent essence of sorts (the often cited tableness, for example).

While it is not adhered to nowadays, I still think that this school of thought is still present in the way we learn to perceive and categorize things. One example is e.g. the difference between live and dead matter that we often find on this forum. Or the false dichotomy between humans and animals. Or species concepts in general.

But I guess I am only grumbling because it makes my work harder since unlearning concepts is usually harder than learning new ones.

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Leonardo Da Vinci and Nikola Tesla - they were both mechanical geniuses, clever solutions abounded with these two. Tesla luckily lived at the dawn of the electric age and could make his mark there. What ideas would Da Vinci have had during that period of rapid change?

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Tesla gets much credit, but was not nearly as good an engineer, mathematician and scientist as Steinmetz.

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I agree, but I have a soft spot for the eccentrics, they have an inclined plane to lean into, sometimes it is what drives them. That need to prove the skeptics wrong.

 

 

All that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combated, suppressed - only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle. Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs, the future, for which I really worked, is mine.

Nikola Tesla

And I like how his inventive mind worked;

Before I put a sketch on paper, the whole idea is worked out mentally. In my mind I change the construction, make improvements, and even operate the device. Without ever having drawn a sketch I can give the measurements of all parts to workmen, and when completed all these parts will fit, just as certainly as though I had made the actual drawings. It is immaterial to me whether I run my machine in my mind or test it in my shop. The inventions I have conceived in this way have always worked. In thirty years there has not been a single exception. My first electric motor, the vacuum wireless light, my turbine engine and many other devices have all been developed in exactly this way.

This is also a strong indicator of Aspergers .

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Who's the cleverest person in history (to you)?

Easy. MacGyver.

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Those are some very clever people, but let's not forget the person who came up with gourmet coffee. Before that, we bought pre-ground coffee in steel cans with plastic resealable lids. Now, we pay five times more for beans in a paper bag we have to grind ourselves.

 

The clever part? We're convinced it's better this way.

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I have no idea, but from a modern physics perspective the likes of Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Einstein and Dirac provided new ways to think about our world and these have really shaped physics as we know it today.

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Those are some very clever people, but let's not forget the person who came up with gourmet coffee. Before that, we bought pre-ground coffee in steel cans with plastic resealable lids. Now, we pay five times more for beans in a paper bag we have to grind ourselves.

 

The clever part? We're convinced it's better this way.

 

Actually, if you have even decently freshly roasted coffee and a good grinder, grinding yourself does preserve taste better and allows to adjust the grind to your extraction method.

 

The guy who manages to convince people that Folgers and their ilk is coffee at all (instead of scantily painted wood chips) is a genius, though.

Edited by CharonY

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Actually, if you have even decently freshly roasted coffee and a good grinder, grinding yourself does preserve taste better and allows to adjust the grind to your extraction method.

 

The guy who manages to convince people that Folgers and their ilk is coffee at all (instead of scantily painted wood chips) is a genius, though.

 

See what I mean? Clever. wink.png

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A) I hate you.

B) I have got LCMS and GCMS data to substantitate differences between stale and fresh coffee.

C) I am no addict, I can quit any time.

D) STOP JUDGING ME!!!

Edited by CharonY

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My personal favourite is Leibniz

 

Despite Netwon's brilliance in understanding the domain of the universe that was available to him, Leibniz's vision was more creative and stretched further. His relational views were diametrically opposed to the notions of absolutism held by Netwon and provided the philosophical foundation stones for the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics. The central tenets of Leibniz's philosophies are particular valid today in theoretical physics such as the 'identify of indiscernibles', the 'identify/contradiction' and the 'Principle of Sufficient Reason'.

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I like a polymath, me.

So do I but some prefer those who scale the sheerest heights of a single discipline.

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So do I but some prefer those who scale the sheerest heights of a single discipline.

 

I agree entirely - but as we were talking about Ben Franklin I am not sure that this doesn't apply as well. Whilst undoubtedly a polymath - I struggle to think of anyone who is head and shoulders above Ben Franklin in terms of practical political science and actual politics. He not only had breadth of knowledge - he scaled the heights as well.

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I agree entirely - but as we were talking about Ben Franklin I am not sure that this doesn't apply as well. Whilst undoubtedly a polymath - I struggle to think of anyone who is head and shoulders above Ben Franklin in terms of practical political science and actual politics. He not only had breadth of knowledge - he scaled the heights as well.

It doesn't matter, the intention of the thread was just to get people's personal idea of 'genius' and I wasn't looking for them to justify it and nor will I. I consciously resisted the urge to rebut what you said earlier about Da Vinci because I'm not looking for arguments. The more familiar you are with a person and their endeavours the more important they become to you. Unless one is omniscient one cannot know who the cleverest is/was because it is all relative to your own cognitive ability and knowledge.

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My personal favourite is Leibniz

 

Despite Netwon's brilliance in understanding the domain of the universe that was available to him, Leibniz's vision was more creative and stretched further. His relational views were diametrically opposed to the notions of absolutism held by Netwon and provided the philosophical foundation stones for the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics. The central tenets of Leibniz's philosophies are particular valid today in theoretical physics such as the 'identify of indiscernibles', the 'identify/contradiction' and the 'Principle of Sufficient Reason'.

Leibniz is also a delicious biscuit.

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