(1) Albert Einstein vs. (16) Edward McSweegan

(1) Albert Einstein

Does the man even need an introduction? Nobel Prize winner. Relativity theorizer. Brownian motion explainer. Legitimizer of crazy-haired thinkers everywhere. Frequent mental_floss cover boy. It's tough to think of a 20th century physics breakthrough that doesn't have Einstein's fingerprints on it. He's earned his #1 seed in this tournament.

(16) Edward McSweegan

McSweegan, who defeated Paris Hilton in our play-in game, is not as famous as some our other nominees, but he's certainly some sort of genius. According to McSweegan, a former vaccine scientist for the National Institutes of Health, he went to work from 1996 to 2003 without ever doing any work. At all. McSweegan told the Washington Post that he went to the NIH office but never did anything work-related. He allegedly received a salary of about $100K a year despite never having a single job responsibility. McSweegan sat at his desk and wrote two novels and would take breaks to go to a nearby health club, all while getting paid. Now that's a genius!

The Breakdown

Einstein showed us the relationship between an object's mass and its energy. McSweegan showed us that getting paid doesn't necessarily require doing your job. Einstein won a Nobel Prize, but he had to work for it. McSweegan got paid for seven years of doing nothing. Sure, he eventually opened his mouth and blew the sweet deal, but what's tougher: explaining capillary action like Einstein did or explaining how you've been skating by without lifting a finger for seven years?


[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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