(8) John Stuart Mill vs. (9) Humphrey Bogart

(8) John Stuart Mill

Although he sometimes gets lost in the shuffle in discussions of history's great thinkers, Mill's genius bona fides are hard to question. He started early; at the age of three he was already speaking Greek. As a philosopher, he influentially espoused Utilitarianism, the notion that an action should be judged by how it affects the overall contribution it makes to society's happiness. As an economist, his book Principles of Political Economy was the key text in the discipline for almost 70 years. Furthermore, he was an early advocate of women's rights.

(9) Humphrey Bogart

The American Film Institute named Bogart the greatest male film star, and while it's easy to make a case for other screen legends, it's hard to take anything away from Bogie. From his turns as tough detectives in the legendary noirs The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep to his portrayal of lovelorn bar owner in Casablanca, Bogart managed to exude cool movie-star charisma even when he took on a downtrodden character. (Bogart's depiction of a deliriously desperate prospector in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre alone could earn him a genius nod.) On top of that, he bagged Lauren Bacall.

The Breakdown

Of all the brackets in all the world, Mill had to walk into Bogart's. He might not walk out. While Mill was incredibly sharp, his Victorian prose lacks the immediacy of Bogart's conflicted facial contortions and ownership of his dialogue. They're very different geniuses, but who do you pick here: the child prodigy political philosopher or the actor who got expelled from prep school?


[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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