(5) Marie Curie vs. (12) Linus Pauling

(5) Marie Curie

Science's undisputed first lady has a C.V. that may never come along again. Along with her husband Pierre, she discovered the chemical elements polonium and radium. The tag team also discovered radioactivity, which netted her the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics. Even after Pierre's death in 1906, Marie kept working and eventually isolated pure radium, which won her the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. Her name is still synonymous with radioactivity, a word she coined. Even more impressive: she did it all as a working mother.

(12) Linus Pauling

No scientific slouch himself, Pauling won the 1954 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on the nature of chemical bonds and the structure of molecules. Pauling then turned his attention to humanitarian efforts, specifically an attempt to ban atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. He collected thousands of scientists' signatures on a petition to warn the United Nations of the dangers of nuclear testing and proliferation. His pacifist politics got him in hot water with Congress, but they also netted him a second Nobel, the 1962 Nobel Prize for Peace, which he accepted on the day the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty went into effect.

The Breakdown

The competition in the two-Nobel division is pretty fierce. Curie's the only person to win Nobels in two different scientific disciplines, but Pauling is the only person to ever win two unshared prizes. Then again, Curie gave birth to another Nobel winner; her daughter Irene won the chemistry prize in 1935. Pauling may have saved us all from a nuclear holocaust, though. There are no wrong answers 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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