(1) Sir Isaac Newton vs. (16) Gottfried Leibniz

(1) Sir Isaac Newton

It may be a myth that Newton discovered the law of gravity when an apple bonked him on the noggin, but it's tough to argue with the guy's genius credentials. By parsing out the composition of white light, he made himself the father of optics. By enumerating his three laws of motion, he became the father of modern physics. By discovering calculus, he became the bane of college freshmen for centuries to come. If that's not enough, he also had a really terrific wig collection.

(16) Gottfried Leibniz

Newton may be hogging all of the credit for calculus, but Leibniz came up with the field independently and actually wrote out the notation we still use today. Leibniz wasn't just a mathematician, though. He was a political adviser to the Duke of Hanover. He tinkered with improving lamps, clocks, submarines, and other gadgets. His work as a mining engineer gets him credit for being one of the first geologists. By showing equal dexterity as a logician and a metaphysical thinker, Leibniz was also one of the preeminent philosophers of his day. In other words: Isaac Who?

The Breakdown

The Battle for Calculus! Leibniz probably deserved a higher seed, but we couldn't help making these two old rivals square off to see who the real king of the integral is. There was no love lost between these two geniuses, either; Leibniz spent the last years of his life in a bitter feud with Newton over whether or not he'd simply bogarted Newton's ideas.


[See the whole bracket here.]

Tournament of Genius: The Winner Is...

Leo wins! According to mental_floss's learned readers, Leonardo da Vinci is history's greatest genius. While the Renaissance man may have easily bested Albert Einstein in the 65-person tournament's final round, his path to the title wasn't so easy. He had to survive a controversial first-round matchup against Burt Reynolds that went into a runoff due to allegations of voter fraud, and then he had to slip past Sigmund Freud, Galileo, Nikola Tesla, and Benjamin Franklin.

Through it all, though, the Italian polymath's supporters came out in droves, and it seems that no other genius could quite match Leonardo's combination of artistic mastery and scientific acumen. Congratulations, Leonardo! Consider this one more addition to your lengthy, impressive resume.

The Title Game: Einstein vs. Leonardo

The Breakdown

This matchup has seemed inevitable since we released the brackets, hasn't it? We've already filled you in on what each of these geniuses accomplished, but it's worth running through the list one more time before you decide who should take the title.

Einstein's output in 1905 alone was enough for an entire lifetime of work. In that "miracle year" he published four papers that altered humanity's understanding of physics. One explained the photoelectric effect, while another offered an explanation for Brownian motion and the first experimental proof of the existence of atoms. The third and fourth papers laid out his theories of special relativity and his famous "E equals MC squared" formula. Any one of these papers would have been an incredible Nobel-worthy triumph, and he banged out all four in a single year. When early Nazi propaganda targeted Einstein and the "Jewish physics" of relativity and forced other scientists to renounce relativity, he fled to the United States, where he eventually helped convince Franklin Roosevelt to develop the atomic bombs that would end World War II. Later in his life Israeli officials offered Einstein the presidency of their country, although he declined.

Leonardo, for his part, was just as busy. The Renaissance man felt that it was his duty to take in as much knowledge as he possibly could, so he threw himself into all sorts of studies. Works like his Last Supper and Mona Lisa show his artistic virtuosity, particularly his mastery of smoky shadows, but it's his scientific and engineering work that really sets Leonardo apart from the crowd. When he died, Leonardo left hundreds of pages of journals detailing his observations on all sorts of natural sciences, including botany, anatomy, and zoology. His architectural studies were far-reaching and diverse, and his engineering sketches proved to be well ahead of their time, particularly his designs for flying machines, tanks, parachutes, and an early forerunner to the machine gun. Leonardo may not really have only slept for 15 minutes at a time, but with accomplishments like this, it's easy to see how that urban legend could spread.

Which one are you going to pick as your top genius, though? Einstein, the scientific powerhouse who won the Nobel and has given us fodder for countless magazine covers? Or do you like Leonardo, the brilliant artist who managed to learn a little bit about almost everything else, too? They're both great, but there can be only one champion.


[See the whole bracket here.]


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