(7) Stephen Colbert vs. (10) J.K. Rowling

(7) Stephen Colbert

America's favorite ultraconservative political commentator may appear on a comedy network, but he's seriously a genius. He's got an incredibly popular and influential TV show, penned a book that hit number one on the New York Times Best-Seller List, made Time's list of the 100 most influential people, and is probably really nice to dogs. Colbert leveraged his 2008 run for the White House into thousands of dollars of viewer "campaign contribution" donations to needy schools.

Colbert's got intellectual street cred, too. The American Dialect Society named the Colbert-coined "truthiness" the Word of the Year for 2005, an honor that put him in the company of such timeless past winners as 2000's "chad" and 1992's "Not!" Throughout all of these adventures and accolades, Colbert has forced us to laugh at news that would otherwise have made us cringe. That's a genius.

(10) J.K. Rowling

A genius can get by with one idea as long as it's a really, really good idea. Rowling's idea of a school for young wizards was certainly one of those ideas, as her series of Harry Potter novels propelled her from welfare to unspeakable wealth in just a few years. Not only have Rowling's novels thrown millions of confirmed non-readers back into books, they've also made her the first author to become a billionaire simply by writing. Not too shabby for a lady who didn't have a job while she finished her first novel.

The Breakdown

Rowling has millions of readers worldwide, but does she have an entire nation at her disposal to stuff the ballot box? Colbert does. Rowling's chief creation inhabits a fantasy world of infinite magic, while Colbert's commentator inhabits a fantasy world of infinite Reaganism. Who's the bigger genius? Just ask yourself who would win in a battle: Harry Potter's magic, or Muggle Colbert's perfectly coiffed hair and trusty handgun Sweetness?


[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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