Greatest Geniuses and Where They Went to School

From Stephen Hawking to Hans Zimmer, discover some of the world’s most amazing geniuses, read about their accomplishments, and find out which college they attended.

the greatest living geniuses and where they went t school

Science

 

Stephen Hawking

  • Physicist
  • School:
    • Oxford, B.A.
    • Cambridge, Ph.D.

With a name known well around the world, Stephen Hawking’s work has included gravitational singularity theorems and the prediction that black holes emit radiation, referred to by many as Hawking radiation. Millions have read his book, A Brief History of Time, addressing these theories. All of these accomplishments have been achieved by Hawking while somehow fighting through and surviving ALS.

 


Shirley Ann Jackson

  • Physicist
  • School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Shirley Ann Jackson is the first African American women to earn her Ph.D. from MIT and only the second in America to complete a Ph.D. in physics. Jackson chaired the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1995, and made president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1999. As a trailblazer, she is one of the best in her industry, and in history.

 


Bill James

  • Statistician
  • School: University of Kansas

As an academic statistician Bill James’ realm of influence is a surprising one — baseball. He created the approach sabermetrics, using statistical data to determine why teams win or lose. James’ influence has not only affected the way games are analyzed, but how teams are built, and trades are made. The book and movie Moneyball, centers around a GM applying Bill James’ methods. The Boston Red Sox have won three World Series since hiring and adopting Bill James’ philosophy.

 

 

Albert Hofmann

The Switzerland born chemist, Albert Hofmann, was the first to discover the psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). He created hundreds of articles and books outlining his research.

 


Neil deGrasse Tyson

  • Astrophysicist
  • School:
    • Harvard University
    • University of Texas at Austin
    • Columbia University

As a renowned astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson has helped to publicize and change the face of astronomy. Many may recognize Tyson from the PBS television show Science NOVANow on air from 2006 to 2011. He now hosts a podcast called StarTalk and has been a part of a related series on National Geographic. Tyson received a Public Welfare medal in 2015 from the U.S. National Academy of Science for inspiring and opening up the wonders of science for others.

 


Chris Hirata

  • Astrophysicist
  • School:
    • California Institute of Technology
    •  Princeton University

Considered a child prodigy, Chris Hirata was the youngest American to win gold at the International Physics Olympiad at just 13-years-old. Then by 16-years-old, he was a college graduate working for NASA in an effort to determine if mars will ever sustain human life. He is now an astronomy and physics professor at Ohio State University.

 


Alan Guth

  • Physicist
  • School: Massachusetts School of Technology

Alan Guth’s theory of cosmic inflation, developed while he was a junior scientist at Cornell, is now a widely accepted and recognized theory by scientists. The theory explores the expansion and existence of the universe prior to the Big Bang. He is currently a professor of physics at MIT, but has previously been at Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, and Stanford.

 


Steven Pinker

  • Cognitive Scientist
  • School:
    • Dawson College
    • McGill University
    • Harvard University

As a cognitive scientist, psychologist, linguist, and author of popular science, Steven Pinker is one of the world’s most influential intellectuals. Pinker currently works as a professor of psychology at Harvard.

 


Terence Tao

  • Mathematician
  • School:
    • Flinders University
    • Princeton University

As another child prodigy, Terence Tao was taking college level mathematics courses at the awfully young age of nine. He remains the youngest winner ever of a gold medal at the International Mathematical Olympiad at age 13. He has won numerous awards for his research and is currently a mathematics professor at UCLA.

 


Ruth Lawrence

  • Mathematician
  • School: University of Oxford

As a child prodigy, Ruth Lawrence was homeschooled by her father and broke a number of academic records. At just 10 years old, she became the youngest person to enter Oxford University. Today she is an expert in mathematical knots and teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

 

Politics & Philosophy

 

Noam Chomsky

  • Philosopher and Linguist
  • School: University of Pennsylvania

Many consider Noam Chomsky to be the “father of modern linguistics” as his work has influenced everything from foreign policy, to mass media, to musical theory. He is considered a cultural icon as well as an authoritative political activist.

 

Saul Kripke

  • Philosopher
  • School: Harvard University

Kripke is the son of a rabbi and a true prodigy. He had written papers on logic when he was still a teenager and, according to legend, was even offered a job at Harvard’s math department which he declined to finish high school. Later in life, he was awarded philosophy’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize, the Schock Prize, in 2001, and is considered the world’s greatest living philosopher.

 

Nelson Mandela

  • Politician & Diplomat
  • School: Fort Hare

Born amid a troubling time in South Africa, Nelson Mandela rose to be one of the greatest leaders of that nation. As a child, he dreamed of freedom in his country and Mandela was elected as the first black president of South Africa in 1994.

 

John H. Sununu

  • Politician
  • School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

John Sununu was born in Havana, Cuba, but immigrated to the United States. He graduated with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 1966. He served as the governor of New Hampshire and later as the White House Chief of Staff under George H. W. Bush.

 

Henry Kissinger

  • Diplomat & Politician
  • School:
    • City University of New York, City College
    • Lafayette College
    • Harvard University

Henry Kissinger is a German-born Jewish diplomat who served as the secretary of state under President Nixon. He also served as the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. He received a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts during the Vietnam War’s Paris accords.

 

Annette Baier

  • Philosopher
  • School: University of Otago

Annette Baier was known for being a Hume scholar and moral philosopher. She contributed to feminist philosophy. Baier also served as the President of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association.

 

Barack Obama

  • Politician
  • School:
    • Occidental College
    • Columbia University
    • Harvard University

Barack Obama began his career as a civil rights lawyer. He later became a politician and served in the Illinois State Senate and later in the U.S. Senate. He was elected president of the U.S. in 2008 and reelected in 2012.

 

Aung San Suu Kyi

  • Stateswoman
  • School:
    • University of Delhi
    • St. Hugh’s College, Oxford
    • SOAS, University of London

Born in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi is an activist who won a Nobel Peace Prize for Peace. She was placed under house arrest for 15 years speaking against dictator U Ne Win. After being released, she held a seat at the National League for Democracy in Myanmar. She was recently elected State Counselor.

 

Entertainment & Art

 

Joel Coen

  • Director
  • School: New York University Film School

This Minnesota-born director made his screen debut with his brother Ethan in 1984. Since then, he and his brother have created a number of films, including No Country for Old Men, which won three Academy Awards.

 

Sir Ian McKellen

  • Actor
  • School: St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge

Sir Ian McKellen is a British actor who has received Oscar nominations for his role in Gods and Monsters. He is known for his starring role in X-Men and The Lord of the Rings franchises. McKellen is also a gay activist.

 

Stephen Fry

  • Actor and comedian
  • School: Queen’s College, Cambridge

Stephen Fry can do just about anything in the entertainment industry from poetry to television. He has worked with Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie. He has written comedy skits and documentary films on a wide range of topics.

 

Hans Zimmer

  • Composer
  • School: Hurtwood House (Preparatory School)

Born in Germany, Hans Zimmer has become one of the most innovative composers. He began his career in film music in London, and later worked on solo projects. He is recognized as the father of integrating electronic music with orchestral arrangements. He has scored over 100 films including Gladiator, The Lion King, The Prince of Egypt, and The Last Samurai.

 

Marilyn vos Savant

  • Author
  • School: Washington University in St. Louis

This best-selling author held the spot for highest IQ in the Guinness Book of World Records for five years. Marilyn vos Savant is a national columnist and author who also serves as an executive at Jarvik Heart, Inc.

 

Matt Groening

  • Satirist & Animator
  • School: Evergreen State College

After honing his artistic skills through producing his own comic strip, Groening ultimately became the animator for The Simpsons. He is also the creator of Futurama. Both of which have received Emmy awards.

 

Philip Glass

  • Composer
  • School:
    • University of Chicago
    • The Juilliard School

Philip Glass is an Oscar-nominated composer. His works often reflects contemporary minimalism. He has written pieces including Einstein on the Beach, The Hours, and Notes on a Scandal.

 

Damian Hirst

  • Artist
  • School: University of London

This controversial artist has made works that include dean animal displays. He became part of the Young British Artists movement that was known for using unconventional materials and addressing difficult art concepts. Hirst is one of the wealthiest artists today.

 

Steven Spielberg

  • Film Maker
  • School: California State University, Long Beach

This award-winning director, screenwriter, and producer was one of the youngest television directors for Universal Studios when he began his career. Since then, Spielberg has created numerous films including Schindler’s List, The Color Purple, E.T., and Bridge of Spies.

 

George Lucas

  • Film Maker
  • School: University of Southern California

As a young boy, George Lucas became obsessed with movie cameras. This passion grew into a successful career as Lucas has written and directed the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series. He also created the George Lucas Educational Foundation to support project-based and team-based learning.

 

Technology

 

Tim Berners-Lee

  • Computer Scientist
  • School: Oxford University

Tim Berners-Lee is the inventor of the World Wide Web and serves as the director of the World Wide Web Consortium. He has founded several foundations to support technology and development. He fights for privacy on the web, but also supports its openness and freedom of expression.

 

Steve Jobs

  • Technology Inventor
  • School: Reed College

Even as a teenager in high school, Steve Jobs proved his innovative ideas in electronics and gadgets. He was the co-founder of Apple Computer Inc., a computer company that began in a garage. We can thank his vision for a “computer for the rest of us” for all of our iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

 

Sergey Brin

  • Computer Scientist
  • School:
    • University of Maryland, B.S.
    • Stanford University, M.S.

You can thank Sergey Brin for being able to quickly and easily Google and question and receive an answer. Brin was born in Russia, but came to the United States and co-founded Google in 1998. Today he serves as the president of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

 

Larry Page

  • Computer Scientist
  • School:
    • University of Michigan
    • Stanford University

Larry Page co-founded Google with Sergey Brin in 1998. Page invented Google’s search ranking algorithm, PageRank. He served as Google’s CEO until 2015 when he became CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. As of October of this year, he was the 11th richest person in the world!

 

Jeff Bezos

  • Entrepreneur & Investor
  • School: Princeton University

The founder of Amazon.com was born in 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He studied computer science and electrical engineering at Princeton before working on Wall Street. He became the youngest senior advisor at D. E. Shaw, but left that position to found Amazon. He also purchased The Washington Post in 2013.

 

Pierre Omidyar

  • Entrepreneur
  • School: Tufts University

Pierre Omidyar is a French-born entrepreneur and philanthropist. He wrote his first computer program at age 14 for his school. Omidyar worked for various technology companies before launching EBay in 1995.

 

Jack Dorsey

  • Computer Program & Entrepreneur
  • School: New York University, dropped out

You wouldn’t have a Twitter account if it weren’t for Jack Dorsey. He got involved in web development and founded the social networking site Twitter in 2006. He has served as the CEO, chairman, and executive chairman. In 2010, he also launched Square.

 

Scott Aaronson

  • Computer Scientist
  • School: Cornell University
  • University of California, Berkeley

This computer scientist began exhibiting his genius at a young age. At 11 he taught himself calculus and began computer programming. He is an expert in the field of theoretical and quantum computing. During the summer of 2016, Aaronson founded UT Austin’s new quantum computing center.

 

Donald Knuth

  • Computer Scientist
  • School:
    • Case Institute of Technology
    • California Institute of Technology

After attending Lutheran schools as a child, Donald Knuth developed a love for mathematics and music. He later studied computer science, and wrote the book The Art of Computer Programming. Knuth created the computer typesetting system TeX and the Computer Modern family of typefaces.

 

 

Business

 

Bill Gates

  • Businessman
  • School: Harvard

Bill Gates began learning computer programming at age 13. He got an almost perfect score on the SAT, and attended Harvard University to pursue his interests. He went on to found Microsoft with Paul Allen and later became one of the richest men in the world.

 

Ingvar Kamprad

  • Businessman
  • School: No University

This Swedish-born business man became a self-made billionaire. He began selling matches at age 5, and as he grew older, sold Christmas decorations and fish to his neighbors. From these humble beginnings, Kamprad founded IKEA in 1943, a company that has now grown to one of the world’s largest furniture stores.

 

Elon Musk

  • Businessman & Investor
  • School:
    • Queen’s University
    • University of Pennsylvania

Elon Musk was born in South Africa and became a multimillionaire in his late 20s after selling his startup company to Compaq Computers. He later founded Tesla Motors and SpaceX. SpaceX launched a rocket in 2012 to send the first commercial vehicle to the International Space Station.  

 

Howard Schultz

  • Businessman
  • School: Northern Michigan University

New Yorker Howard Schultz became the director of retail operations for Starbucks in 1982 and later purchased the company. He has served as CEO and chairman of Starbucks Coffee Tea and Spice Company.

 

Indra Nooyi

  • Businesswoman
  • School: Yale, M.S.

Indra K. Nooyi is the chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, which brings in the second-highest revenue for food and beverage businesses in the world. She directs the company’s global strategy. Nooyi was responsible for the acquisition of Tropicana, and the company’s merger with Quaker Oats.

 

Steve Case

  • Entrepreneur & Businessman
  • School: Williams College

Steve Case co-founded America Online (AOL). It became one of the most valuable Internet companies in the world. Case helped negotiate the merger of AOL with Time Warner, and is also the founding chair of Startup America Partnership.

 

Ted Turner

  • Businessman
  • School: Brown University

If you keep up with the news, you should be familiar with CNN. Ted Turner was made CEO of his father’s company, Turner Advertising. He later renamed the company to CNN as the first 24-hour cable news network in 1980.

 

Harold Simmons

  • Businessman
  • School: University of Texas

Harold Simmons was a self-made billionaire. He was raised in Texas and learned about indoor plumbing and electricity. He began building his empire in 1960 when he bought a pharmacy. Simmons later invested in old-line industrial conglomerates. He was known to donate generously to charity, and to help fund the Republican Party.

 

Reed Hastings

  • Entrepreneur
  • School: Stanford University

Reed Hastings understood our desire to watch movies from the comfort of our own homes. He co-founded Netflix with Marc Randolph in 1998. In 2007 he began streaming movies and TV shows online, that same year Hastings also joined the board of directors of Microsoft.

 

Marissa Mayer

  • Businesswoman
  • School: Stanford University

Marissa Mayer was born in a small town where she took ballet classes and participated in debates. She always wanted to be a doctor, but became the CEO of Yahoo instead. When she was appointed to CEO, Mayer was only one of twenty female CEOs over Fortune 500 companies.