(3) Michelangelo vs. (11) Adam Smith

(3) Michelangelo

When he was alive, people thought Michelangelo was the best artist in the world. Since his death in 1564, that esteem hasn't faded much. After all, if someone wanted to see his credentials, he could just point to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and say, "Yeah, I did that"¦but I really think of myself as a sculptor. Those world-shattering paintings are just sort of a side project I took up. Oh, and I'm also an architect of some renown. No big deal." His David may be the most iconic sculpture of the entire Renaissance, and his acclaimed Pieta left his chisel when he was only 24 years old. Precocious and prolific, Michelangelo's tough to beat in the genius department.

(11) Adam Smith

The father of capitalism, the Scottish political economist changed the econ game forever when he penned The Wealth of Nations, which made the revolutionary argument that a country's fortunes weren't contingent on its land, but rather on the labor of its workers. By Smith's estimation, if everyone acted in their own self-interest, an invisible hand would drive up society's welfare, too. Or, in his own words: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages."

The Breakdown

These two geniuses have something surprising in common: strangely shaped noses. Michelangelo's arrogance and contempt for other artists often got him in hot water with his peers; at one point the sculptor Torrigiano socked Michelangelo in the face and left him with a permanently disfigured beak. Smith was no looker, either; he had a particularly large nose and remarked, "I am a beau in nothing but my books."

Luckily, this isn't a beauty contest. Who are you going to take here here? Smith's writings have laid the foundation for almost 250 years worth of economic debate and theorizing, while Michelangelo's artistic accomplishments are still jaw-dropping 450 years after his death. Whether you pick the invisible hand of Smith or the visible hand of God reaching out to Adam on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling, there's no wrong answer 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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