Who is the smartest man in the world?
Christopher Langan is the smartest man in the world.
As Malcolm Gladwell noted when he profiled Langan for the bestseller, Outliers: “He got a perfect score on his SAT, even though he fell asleep at one point during the test.”:
The television news show 20/ 20 once hired a neuropsychologist to give Langan an IQ test, and Langan’s score was literally off the charts— too high to be accurately measured. Another time, Langan took an IQ test specially designed for people too smart for ordinary IQ tests. He got all the questions right except one.* He was speaking at six months of age. When he was three, he would listen to the radio on Sundays as the announcer read the comics aloud, and he would follow along on his own until he had taught himself to read. At five, he began questioning his grandfather about the existence of God— and remembers being disappointed in the answers he got.
In school, Langan could walk into a test in a foreign-language class, not having studied at all, and if there were two or three minutes before the instructor arrived, he could skim through the textbook and ace the test. In his early teenage years, while working as a farmhand, he started to read widely in the area of theoretical physics. At sixteen, he made his way through Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead’s famously abstruse masterpiece Principia Mathematica. He got a perfect score on his SAT, even though he fell asleep at one point during the test.
Esquire profiled him and other geniuses in 1999 saying: “IQs like Chris’s exist among us at a rate of roughly one in one hundred million.“
Here’s a short profile ABC did about Langan:
The best look at Langan comes from an extended interview Errol Morris did with him for the fantastic (but short-lived) series First Person. Here’s what the smartest man in the world has to say:
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