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Marilyn vos Savant - the highest IQ ever recorded


Marilyn vos Savant - the world's highest IQ

If you are here, you are probably looking for the answer to the question: what is the world's highest IQ, and who scored the biggest IQ in history? What is the world record in this category?


From 1986 to 1989, Marilyn vos Savant appeared in the Guinness Book of Records as the person with the highest IQ in history. This world record category was then removed from the book, and the IQ record achieved by Marilyn has not been broken to this day.



The highest IQ test result that Marilyn vos Savant achieved (and she was tested many times) was 228!


This fact was written about, among others, by the US Today Daily in the column titled "The highest IQ ever recorded" and the portal encyclopedia.com called Marilyn "the smartest person in the world,"


If you think she belongs to the group of brilliant scientists or Nobel prize winners, I am sorry to inform you that she is an American columnist and writer. And what characterizes her best is the following quote:


There is a lot of intelligence in the world. But there is no courage to do things differently

I decided to write about her not so much because of the result of her high IQ score, but because of her personality and the fact that - like me - she is crazy about ballroom dancing 😉


How was it possible that an American columnist and writer had the highest IQ listed and what did she do to deserve to be listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the person with the highest IQ in history? Let me explain! At this point, I will lift the veil of secrecy and say that Marylin vos Savant proved her extraordinary abilities by accidentally entering the world of the most advanced mathematics associated with concepts such as solving Monty Hall's paradox and the "famous math" case.


Marilyn vos Savant. The world's highest IQ. A short biography

She was born in 1946 in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother was an Italian, Marin vos Savant, and her father was a German son - the son of scientist Ernst Mach, who made important discoveries in optics, acoustics, and thermodynamics.


When Marilyn was a child, she underwent several IQ tests. At the age of seven, she scored 127 points. However, three years after the measurement showed as many as 167 points. And the highest result measured in childhood (!) was 228 points. This is more than double the average adult intelligence quotient defined as 104 points.


On this occasion, it is worth mentioning that about 50% of the human population has an IQ value range of 84 - 116 points, defined as the mean range. Only 13% of the population is between 117 and 147, and 1.5% of the world's population above 147 are geniuses.


In 1986, after it was placed in the Guinness Book of Records, the media began to take an interest in its story. Parade magazine was the first to publish an article with a question-and-answer section. The popularity of this article inspired the column "Ask Marilyn", where he still answers questions on mathematics, logic, philosophy, and politics, as well as other, more "common" topics.


In 1990, Marilyn received a letter from Craig F. Whitaker with the following puzzle:


"Suppose you are in a game show and have three doors to choose from. One door is a car, and another is a goat. You choose door number 1, and a show host who knows what's behind the door opens door number 3 instead, behind which there is a goat. He asks you the question "Do you want to choose door number 2?" Is changing the door selection beneficial for you? "


To which Marilyn replied:


“Yes, you should change your choice. The first door has a 1/3 chance to win, but the second door has a 2/3 chance. "


However, she did not expect what reaction her (correct!) answer would provoke.

After her response was published, Parade began receiving thousands of letters from people outraged by her solution, including scientists and experts in the field of mathematics.


Despite the mounting pressure, Marilyn refused to change her answer. It was unacceptable for her to do this to please and soothe others. Moreover, she wrote four dedicated articles explaining the method of calculating probabilities and thus solved the famous Monty Hall paradox.


As a result, even the famous mathematician Paul Erdős had to beg her forgiveness after claiming that she had solved the problem wrong.


Marilyn's work in Parade magazine inspired her to publish ten publications under her name. This took place between 1985 and 2002. The following books should be highlighted:

  • "Ask Marilyn: Answers to America's Most Frequently Asked Questions" (1992);

  • "More Marilyn: Someone Like It Bright" (1994)

  • "Of Course I'm for Monogamy: I'm Also For Everlasting Peace and an End to Taxes" (1996)

  • "The Power of Logical Thinking: Easy Lessons in the Art of Reasoning...and Hard Facts About Its Absence in Our Lives" (1996)


and a book published in 1993 entitled "The World's Most Famous Math Problem: The Proof of Fermat's Last Theorem and Other Mathematical Mysteries", which vos Savant devoted to the most famous mathematical problem of all time, the so-called Fermat's Little and Great Theorem.


Marilyn vos Savant's life philosophy

Despite having one of the most brilliant minds in the world, Marilyn is humble. She believes she is not a great mathematician. Instead, she thinks her strengths are objective analysis, problem-solving, and decision-making.


She also believes that we often confuse intelligence with a high level of knowledge in a specific, narrow field. And it encourages EVERYONE to think critically.


And the best way to get to know her is by watching the following interview conducted in 2016:



Interesting facts - other people with the highest IQ in the world of all time

The reason for removing the highest recorded IQ category from the Guinness Book of Records was scientists' objections regarding the objectivity and scientific reliability of the intelligence test. One of the reasons is, for example, that we distinguish many types of intelligence (e.g. motor or emotional intelligence), the so-called Flynn effect, and the ability to learn the correct answers by taking the test multiple times. The undeniable fact, however, is that since 1986, there has been no person with a test score higher than Marilyn vos Savant, and she was deservedly listed in the book as the person with the highest measured intelligence quotient in the world.


Other adults considered geniuses include Albert Einstein (160), Stephen Hawking (160), Bill Gates (160), and Garry Kasparov (185 or 135 - scores obtained in two different tests).


Most recently the names of Terence Tao and Christopher Hirata are boasting.

Terence Tao is called "the Mozart of Math" and his scores range from 211 to 230, depending on the test. Christopher Hirata is an American cosmologist with a test score measured as 225.


Among the presidents of the United States, Donald Trump boasts a very high score of 156, followed by Barack Obama (130) and John Fitzgerald Kennedy (119).


Other contemporary names are also worth mentioning. The first of them is James Woods, an American actor, screenwriter, and film producer, who is considered the person with the highest IQ in the world of actors. His score is 180. James showed his extraordinary abilities already in his childhood and youth. At the age of several years, he learned to play the guitar, and while a high school student, he also studied mathematics at university.


The second, above-average intelligent actor is Rowan Atkinson aka Mister Bean. Yes, this is the famous English actor known mainly for his comedy roles! His quotient amounts to 178. Atkinson earned a Master of Science from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Newcastle. Interestingly, he did not graduate from any acting school, and he stuttered as a child.


Other famous names from show business include Leonardo di Caprio (177), Quentin Tarantino (160), and Arnold Schwarzenegger - IQ of 135.


Brilliant children are a separate topic, to which we may devote a special entry on our blog. Among them, several names are worth quickly mentioning along with their world's highest IQ scores:

  • William James Sidis (200-300),

  • Sho Yano (200),

  • Adragon de Mello (400),

  • Michael Kearney (200-325),

  • Kim Ung-Yong (200 to 210),

  • Ainan Celeste Cawley (263).


William James Sidis, born in 1898, in New York City, was an American child prodigy from the early 20th century and is believed by some to be the smartest man who ever lived,

By the time he was 18 months old, he could read The New York Times. When Sidis was six, he could speak multiple languages, including English, French, German, Russian, Hebrew, and Turkish. By the time he was just 18 months old, he could read The New York Times. When Sidis was six, he could speak multiple languages, including English, French, German, Russian, Hebrew, and Turkish.


Kim Ung-Yong, born in 1962 in Seoul, is known for his ability to solve complex mathematical equations at the age of four. In 1970, Ung-Yong was invited to work for NASA when he was eight.


Born in 1976, De Mello was the youngest person to graduate college in the U.S. for six years until Michael Kearney broke the record.


Kearney, born in Honolulu in 1984, is the youngest person that has graduated from college in the U.S., at age ten.


Sho Yano was born in 1990 in Portland, Oregon. The child prodigy who entered Loyola University when he was nine years old.


Ainan Celeste Cawley was born in 1999 in Singapore. The child prodigy gave his first chemistry lecture at just six years old, and a year later, he passed the General Certificate of Secondary Education, moving on to study chemistry at Singapore Polytechnic by the time he was eight.


Most recently, Kashe Quest, a two-year-old from California with a score of 140, was admitted to American Mensa in 2021 and is one of the youngest people admitted to this association in world history.


It is crucial to consider whether a person has taken the IQ tests or if their score has been estimated based on their achievements. There are various lists available on the internet that rank the "smartest people in the world" with their scores mentioned. But, in the case of well-known personalities who have made significant contributions to the world, their IQ is usually estimated rather than measured with a test.


This applies for instance to Leonardo da Vinci (180-220), Nicolaus Copernicus (160-200), Galileo Galilei (180-200), Isaac Newton (190-200), Voltaire (190-200), William Shakespeare (210), Nikola Tesla (160-310), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (210-225), Srinivasa Ramanujan (185), or Marie Curie (180-200).


Two female names from ancient times hold a special place in the category of intelligence quotient estimations and the world's highest IQ held by women. These are Cleopatra and Hypatia.


  • Cleopatra was born in 69 BC in Alexandria, Egypt. She was a Queen of Egypt and played a significant role in influencing Roman politics. Her quotient is estimated to be 180.

  • Hypatia was born around 350 C.E. in Alexandria, Egypt, and is considered one of the world's first female mathematicians and astronomers. Her IQ is estimated to be between 170 and 210.


Sir Francis Galton, born in 1822, was an English polymath whose work inspired the first IQ test. Although he was an accomplished explorer who created the first weather map, he was also a proponent of eugenics and scientific racism, both of which he supported until he died in 1911. Despite his contributions to science, it is important to acknowledge and condemn his harmful and discriminatory beliefs.


Finally, it is debated whether Albert Einstein took the test. Similarly, Stephen Hawking's IQ was estimated, but when he was asked about it, he famously replied, "I have no idea. People who boast about their IQ are losers."


See also other biographies:


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