(3) Blaise Pascal vs. (14) Robert Venturi

(3) Blaise Pascal

If it's possible to be considered a genius and still be underrated, Pascal pulls off the trick. In the 17th century, Pascal made landmark contributions to religious philosophy (where he contended that God shouldn't be experienced through reason and logic), mathematics (where his development of Pascal's triangle laid the groundwork for the study of probability), engineering (he made one of the first mechanical calculators), and physics (where Pascal's law describes what happens to a liquid under pressure). Given all of these huge achievements, it's hard to believe he died at just 39.

(14) Robert Venturi

Other nominees killed off diseases or fended off military forces, but Venturi helped save us from an even more insidious threat: boring buildings. At a time when the bland, clean-lined functionalism of the International style was all the rage among architects, Venturi appeared as a voice in the wilderness advocating a more vibrant architecture that wasn't totally divorced from historical influence and also drew on kitschy influences. His texts like Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture and Learning From Las Vegas, a serious study of Vegas' heavily ornamented styles, helped shape architecture in the second half of the 20th century, and his eclectic designs explore just how playful and fun postmodernism can be.

The Breakdown

Venturi's writings may have changed the way we look at architecture and struck a blow for anyone bored by boxy skyscrapers, but Pascal was the intellectual equivalent of a five-tool player. The Frenchman originally made his breakthrough studies in probability to answer questions related to gambling, and we're pretty sure he wouldn't bet against himself here.


[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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