Sheer genius: from the web to Homer Simpson

Originally appearing here.

London’s Guardian published an article about a consulting survey of the British public finding that Albert Hofmann, PhD, shares the top spot for #1 as the person considered to be the greatest living genius. Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who is best known for synthesizing LSD, shares the top spot with British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, and surprisingly ranks ahead of Stephen Hawking (#7), Nelson Mandela (#5), Matt Groening (#4) and George Soros (#3). Click here to read “Sheer Genius: From the Web to Homer Simpson.” In 2006, MAPS published a new edition of Hofmann’s long-out-of-print autobiographical book, LSD: My Problem Child. MAPS is also raising funds for LSD and psilocybin research by selling books and visionary artwork signed by Albert Hofmann. For details and more information, please visit the MAPS Webstore.

By Rachel Williams
Published on Monday October 29, 2007
In The Guardian

One is credited with dreaming up the technological innovation that has arguably done most to transform our lives in recent years; the other is behind a cartoon about a custard-hued family in middle America.

Yet both the worldwide web founder, Tim Berners-Lee, and the Simpsons creator, Matt Groening, are among the world’s top 10 living geniuses, according to a report which ranks individuals according to their “genius factor”.

It used a scoring system to assess contenders on how much their contribution had turned conventional thinking on its head, the popular acclaim they received, their intellectual power, their achievements and their cultural importance.

The top 100 features not just brainiacs and boffins, but 19 musicians, two artists (Damien Hirst and the illustrator Robert Crumb) and one sportsman (Muhammad Ali). He is joined at number 43 by a surprise entry: Osama bin Laden.

The British computer scientist Berners-Lee shares the top spot with Albert Hofmann, the 101-year-old Swiss chemist best known for synthesising LSD. Groening is at number four – one place ahead of Nelson Mandela. Stephen Hawking took seventh position.

Other names in the top 100, of whom only 15 are women, include Steven Spielberg, Richard Branson, Prince, Aretha Franklin and Morrissey. Twenty-three are British.

The global consulting business Synectics, which compiled the list, asked 4,000 people in the UK to nominate up to 10 living people they considered to qualify as a genius.

After removing candidates who were dead, unidentifiable, or who turned out to be self-nominations, they ended up with more than 400 people.

A panel of six consultants whittled them down to 100, giving them a score out of 10 for each of the five factors. The highest ranked got 27 out of 50, while the 100th had a genius factor of two out of 50.

Top 10

1= Albert Hofmann (Swiss) chemist (genius factor 27)

1= Tim Berners-Lee (British) computer scientist (27)

3 George Soros (American) investor and philanthropist (25)

4 Matt Groening (American) satirist and animator (24)

5= Nelson Mandela (South African) politician and diplomat (23)

5= Frederick Sanger (British) chemist (23)

7= Dario Fo (Italian) writer & dramatist (22)

7= Stephen Hawking (British) physicist (22)

9= Oscar Niemeyer (Brazilian) architect (21)

9= Philip Glass (American) composer (21)

9= Grigory Perelman (Russian) mathematician (21)

Back to the MAPS Homepage