8 Awesome Geniuses

7 05 2010

The following people, in my mind, exemplify the adjective genius.  I got thinking on the topic after seeing several of them in the media recently.  Notably, Stephen Hawking’s statements concerning intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and the possibility of time travel.  There are many people I could have included on a list such as this, these were just some of the first to pop into my mind.  Please comment if you think of some noteworthy geniuses I’ve left out.  The following are people that inspire me with their dedication to science and humankind and I am amazed at the sheer scope of their accomplishments.

Dean Kamen

  • No degree.
  • Invented the Segway.
  • He and his company, DEKA, have also invented a water purification device for developing countries, a dialysis machine, the iBot electric wheelchair, and a brain-controlled prosthetic arm, among other things.
  • Member of National Inventor’s Hall of Fame
  • (It seems like he only owns one outfit, a denim shirt and jeans.  Maybe he has a closet full of them like Ernest P. Worrell)

Ray Kurzweil

  • BS in Computer Science and Literature at MIT and Honorary Degrees from 16 schools.
  • By age 20, he sold his first company for $100,000.
  • He developed new speech recognition technology for the disabled and music synthesizers, among other things.
  • He has written books on artificial intelligence, futurism and nutrition.
  • Is the recipient of many technology awards and is a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
  • An Arizona band named themselves after his book The Singularity Is Near and later changed their name to Ray Kurzweil’s Face.
  • Canadian band (and my favorite band) Our Lady Peace named one of their albums after his book The Age of Spiritual Machines and the album contains excerpts from the book.
  • In 1990, he predicted that a computer would beat a human at chess in 1998.  IBM’s Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in May 1997.

Bill Gates

  • Founder and chairman of Microsoft.
  • Began writing computer programs as a teenager; was banned from computer use at his school for exploiting bugs in the operating system.
  • Scored 1590 on the SAT; went to Harvard.
  • Wealthiest man in the world from 1995-2009.
  • Founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; has given more than $28 billion to charity.
  • Has been recognized several times as one of the most influential people of the 20th century.

Steve Jobs

  • Co-founder of Apple.
  • As a teenager, he attended after school lectures at Hewlett-Packard.
  • Dropped out of college, but continued auditing courses.
  • In his early career, developed a circuit board for Atari that was too compact to reproduce on an assembly line.
  • Received the first ever National Medal of Technology along with Steve Wozniak.
  • One of Forbes’ World’s Most Powerful People.

Albert Einstein

  • Father of modern physics.
  • Received Nobel Prize in physics in 1921.
  • Time Magazine’s Person of the Century in 1999.
  • One biographer said, “to the scientifically literate and the public at large, Einstein is synonymous with genius.”

Thomas Alva Edison

  • One of the most prolific inventors in history with 1093 U.S. patents and more patents in the UK, France and Germany.
  • Invented the phonograph, the motion-picture camera, a practical electric light bulb, and much more.
  • Once said something along the lines of, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
  • Has a town in New Jersey named after him.

Stephen Hawking

  • Responsible for various theories in theoretical physics, many of which build on Einstein’s own work.
  • Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and many other awards.
  • Honorary fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts
  • Best-selling author of several books.
  • Most of his work has been done while confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak.
  • The sheer volume of words I don’t understand on his Wikipedia page serves as pretty convincing evidence to me of his genius.

Noam Chomsky

  • Considered one of the fathers of modern linguistics.
  • From 1980-1992 he was the most cited living scholar in the world and 8th most cited overall.
  • Taught at MIT for over 50 years.
  • Has made major contributions to the fields of linguistics, psychology, politics, computer science and philosophy
  • One of the Unabomber’s planned targets because of his political views.
  • Has honorary degrees from more than 30 schools.



4 responses

9 05 2010

I love the post, man. Keep fighting the good fight. By the way I googled the band you mentioned under Kurzweil, and that stuff is crazy. It’s revolutionary. Have you watched their videos?

10 05 2010

Interesting and Inspiring!

16 01 2011
Anirban Sarkar

Dear Peter,
While looking for an image of the early vacuum cleaners for a children’s book (we are a small book packaging company in India), we happened to across the image on your blog. Could you please mail me the highres image for the same and allow us to use it in a book. (Editorial use only, and with a credit line mentioning your help on the credit page).

18 01 2011
Peter Leavitt

I can’t give you permission to use that image. Not my image. Sorry.

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