I think I've soiled myself

The smartest person ever?

YouTube channel Thoughty2—or is that Forty2?*—claims, in The Smartest Person Ever Is Not Who You Think, that Leonardo da Vinci was the smartest person to ever live. The basis for this assertion is not only da Vinci's artistic prowess, but also his contributions to anatomy and invention. I think that Arran—or Steven Rix, who wrote the article—rather overstates the case, since da Vinci didn't invent the helicopter, submarine, and parachute, so much as conceptualise them.

da Vinci's sketch of a helicopter
It'll never fly, Leonardo!

Invention is more than doodling on a piece of paper; it requires practical demonstration, or at least a detailed explanation of how something that could work, would work. Otherwise, Gene Roddenberry invented teleportation and faster-than-light travel, or whatever the hell warp drive is; H.G. Wells invented time travel; and Alex Raymond, the man behind Flash Gordon, invented interplanetary rocket ships. da Vinci may have caught lucky with the parachute, but his helicopter was never going to get off the ground. And he wasn't even the first to conceptualise man-powered flight, the story of Icarus predates him by a hefty chunk of time.

This is not to say that I'm down on Leonardo, I'm not. He achieved more than most people could ever dream of. The real problem in determining the smartest person ever, or even at the current time, is that—unlike fastest, heaviest, tallest—there is no objective measure of intellectual achievement that covers all fields in which it might be made. And that's before we even consider the unconsidered; even objective measures, such as the fastest man, are only applied to those individuals who are evaluated. Who's to say that the fastest, heaviest, tallest, or most intelligent doesn't lie undiscovered somewhere?

Incidentally, in one of their books—I can't remember which one—The Goodies claimed that da Vinci also invented the telephone. But it wasn't until Bell created the second, that a call could actually be made. By then, da Vinci had been dead for over 300 years, and couldn't get to the 'phone. Truly, a man ahead of his time.


Whether or not Bell actually invented the telephone, or is just renowned for doing so, is a moot point.

* Aaron Lomas either has a speech impediment—in which case I should feel bad for nit-picking—or the annoyingly chavvy habit of pronouncing th as f. (grumpy)