tournament-of-genius
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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... READ ON
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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... READ ON
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(2) Ben Franklin vs. (1) Leonardo Da Vinci
The Breakdown Two of history's most diverse minds are squaring off here, and it's going to be tough to pick a winner. Not content to just be one of the greatest artists of all time, Leonardo basically spent every waking moment of his life trying to absorb some sort of knowledge. This plan worked perfectly, and in addition to his art he also made huge strides in architectural and scientific studies of fields like botany and anatomy in addition to his breathtaking artistic output.... READ ON
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(1) Albert Einstein vs. (1) Isaac Newton
The Breakdown Talk about a clash of titans. Einstein's name may be synonymous with "genius," but Newton's resume is just as incredible. In his 84 years the man managed to develop calculus, confirm the existence of gravity, build the first practical reflecting telescope, formulate the principle of conservation of momentum and the three laws of motion, and discover the composition of white light. Before his death he even managed to bring out new editions of work that had been... READ ON
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(1) Leonardo Da Vinci vs. (7) Nikola Tesla
The Breakdown Tesla continued his Cinderella run through the tournament by knocking off Descarte, but will the electrical wizard be able to drop one of history's most beloved geniuses? Leonardo's got the more diverse résumé with top-flight artworks, sketches for flying machines, anatomical studies, early notes on botany, bridge designs, and nearly everything else one could possibly study. Tesla, while far more limited in scope, possibly had an even more profound effect on modern... READ ON
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(1) Thomas Jefferson vs. (2) Ben Franklin
The Breakdown An epic clash between two Founding Fathers! Both were prolific writers, Jefferson of the Declaration of Independence and his own version of the Bible, Franklin of Poor Richard's Almanack and countless newspapers and pamphlets. Franklin invented the lightning rod, bifocals, and a carriage odometer, but Jefferson was no scientific slouch himself and filled Monticello, which he also designed, with a number of little inventions of his own, including a gadget that made copies of letters as... READ ON
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(1) Isaac Newton vs. (3) Louis Pasteur
The Breakdown Pasteur is fresh off of his upset of Shakespeare, but a matchup against Sir Isaac Newton hardly gives him a chance to catch his breath. Pasteur's discoveries and innovations in microbiology and vaccinology help keep all of us healthy and give us unspoiled beer and milk, not to mention helping the silk industry to thrive. The stats on the back of Newton's trading card are just staggering, though; he discovered gravity, developed calculus, built the first practical reflecting... READ ON
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(1) Einstein vs. (2) Plato
The Breakdown Any competition between guys who go by one-word names is going to be tight, and this one's no exception. Our beloved cover boy Einstein has a pretty solid claim to being the 20th century's greatest scientist on the merits of his explanation of Brownian motion and formulation of the theory of relativity alone. Plato, for his part, is one of the key figures in the development in philosophy. Not just a student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle, Plato's dialogues and... READ ON
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(3) Rene Descartes vs. (7) Nikola Tesla
The Breakdown Tesla zapped his old rival Edison in the second round, but how will he fare against the father of modern philosophy? Tesla's got the fan following and the slew of inventions to keep him rolling through the bracket, but don't discount Descartes' body of work. The clever Frenchman crafted an ontological argument that God exists, came up with the Cartesian coordinate system that laid the groundwork for calculus, and helped drive the Scientific Revolution. Sure, David Bowie... READ ON
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(3) Michelangelo vs. (2) Benjamin Franklin
The Breakdown Two of the bracket's more colorful characters square off here. The ever-quotable Franklin was an inventor, scientist, author, and diplomat without peer in his day, but he was also a fellow who enjoyed a good beer and a fur hat and had an illegitimate son. (William Franklin later became the last Loyalist governor of New Jersey, presumably in the ultimate act of filial rebellion.) Michelangelo, for his part, gained renown for his arrogance and single-minded devotion to his work, which... READ ON
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(1) Leonardo Da Vinci vs. (4) Galileo
The Breakdown This matchup features two Italian guys who need no last names, much less introductions. Leonardo's going to come out on top in the diversity department; not only did he do a little bit of everything, he did all of it really well. Galileo is no pushover, though. He's got a strong claim to the position of "father of science," and he made huge strides in astronomy and physics. His work as a mathematician doesn't get as much publicity, but he was a big dog in... READ ON
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(1) Thomas Jefferson vs. (5) Marie Curie
The Breakdown Curie keeps rolling through this tournament after her second-round upset of Aristotle. Does the two-time Nobel winner have what it takes to take down the man who bought Louisiana and sent Lewis and Clark out on their famous expedition? Curie coined the word "radioactivity," while Jefferson can claim the Earth-shattering "When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another"¦"... READ ON
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(3) Louis Pasteur vs. (2) William Shakespeare
The Breakdown Shakespeare's catalog of poems and plays is unrivaled, and with his tight plots, beautiful wordplay, and ribald puns, there's really something for everyone in the Bard's work. Pasteur was less entertaining, but it's tough to find any fault with his work. After all, he told us that microorganisms cause disease, which led to all sorts of health breakthroughs in addition to the rabies and anthrax vaccines Pasteur himself created. Without pasteurization, our milk and... READ ON
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(6) Pythagoras vs. (2) Plato
The Breakdown Someone's getting his chiton ripped up in this matchup. These two ancient Greek heavyweights both have a lot going for them. Both made their marks on philosophy, and both were known as strong mathematical thinkers. (It's sometimes forgotten that Plato was an early mathematician who helped stratify the discipline into applied math and pure mathematics.) Plato had a number of notable students, including Aristotle, while Pythagoras had a whole brotherhood following his teachings.... READ ON
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(1) Isaac Newton vs. (4) Beethoven
The Breakdown Newton's résumé is certainly more diverse; he's got the gravity thing, calculus, his contributions to optics, and his laws of motion. Each of those things would make him a standout genius in history. Beethoven, though, has scores of brilliant compositions and the impressive feat that he overcame deafness to write them. Beethoven was the central figure in music's transition from Classicism to Romanticism, while Newton was able to formulate calculus while he was... READ ON
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(1) Albert Einstein vs. (12) Jonas Salk
The Breakdown Tough to pick against either of these guys. Einstein's breakthroughs have been pushing physics to exciting new places for nearly a century now, and he made wild hair seem like a terrific cosmetic decision. Salk, though, saved us from polio, and by establishing the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, he created a place where top-flight scientific research is still being done almost 14 years after his death. Plus, he was popular with the ladies; Salk's... READ ON

George de Mestral, the inventor of Velcro, also received a patent for a toy plane at age 12.

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