List of Italian geniuses

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This is a list of notable Italian geniuses, presented in chronological order by date of birth.

  • Thomas Aquinas[1] (1225 – 1274), was one of the greatest medieval philosophers and systematic theologians. His system has become known as Thomism, and his crowning work, Summa Theologica, is often compared with a vast Gothic cathedral. In the words of theologian Justo Gonzalaz, it is "an imposing monument in which each element of creation and the history of salvation has a place and stands in perfect balance and symmetry."[2]
  • Filippo Brunelleschi[1] (1377 – 1446), was a polymath, with interests in painting, sculpture, architecture, mathematics, and engineering. He designed and supervised the raising of the dome over the Cathedral of Florence. Furthermore, his interest in mathematics led to his invention of linear perspective,[3] a mathematical system for showing depth on a flat surface. Giorgio Vasari says Brunelleschi was a man of such exalted genius, that "we may truly declare him to have been given to us by Heaven."[4]
  • Leon Battista Alberti[1] (1404 – 1472), has been designated the "first universal genius of the Renaissance period" by Jacob Burckhardt.[5] He was a writer, humanist, and architect. Through his theoretical writings on painting, sculpture, and architecture, he raised them from the level of the mechanical arts to that of the liberal arts. In his personality, works, and breadth of learning, Alberti is considered the prototype of the Renaissance "universal man."[6]
  • Christopher Columbus[1] (1451 – 1506), was an outstanding navigator and organizer of expeditions. Columbus persuaded the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, to sponsor an expedition to sail across the Atlantic in search of Asia and to prove that the world was round. In 1492 he set sail with three small ships and discovered the New World (in fact various Caribbean islands). Until that time, Europeans and Native Americans had not been aware of each other's existence. His discoveries laid the basis for the Spanish Empire in the Americas.
  • Leonardo da Vinci[1][7] (April, 1452 – 1519), was more than a painter, he was a scientist and mathematician who explored botany, mechanics, astronomy, physics, biology, and optics. Leonardo developed prototypes of the modern helicopter, tank, and parachute, and he attributed his scientific discoveries to mathematics. Because Leonardo excelled in such an amazing number of areas of human knowledge, he is often called a universal genius. His portrait Mona Lisa and his religious scene The Last Supper rank among the most famous pictures ever painted.
  • Girolamo Savonarola[7] (September, 1452 – 1498), was a Christian preacher, reformer, and martyr, renowned for his clash with tyrannical rulers and a corrupt clergy. After the overthrow of the Medici in 1494, Savonarola was the sole leader of Florence, setting up a democratic republic. His chief enemies were the Duke of Milan and Pope Alexander VI, who issued numerous restraints against him, all of which were ignored. His humor, charm, and eloquence made him famous.
  • Niccolò Machiavelli[1] (1469 – 1527), was a statesman and writer whom many people consider the father of modern political science. He ranks as one of the most important political thinkers of the Renaissance. Machiavelli explained most of his ideas in The Prince, his best-known book, which was written in 1513 and published in 1532. This book describes the methods by which a strong ruler might gain and keep power.
  • Michelangelo[1][7] (1475 – 1564), as diversely talented as Leonardo, was an engineer, painter, architect, and poet. While primarily a sculptor — his Pietà and David are considered among the finest sculptures of all time. His frescoes for the Sistine Chapel (1508–1512) in Rome cover the ceiling with monumental figures in such dramatic Old Testament scenes as The Creation, in which a gray-bearded God reaches out his finger to impart the spark of life to Adam. Michelangelo achieved such renown in his lifetime that he was celebrated as Il Divino, the "Divine One."
  • Francesco Guicciardini[7] (March 6, 1483 – 1540), was a historian and statesman. An able administrator, he was appointed governor of Modena (1517), commissary of the papal army (1521), and president of the Romagna (1523). After 1527, when he lost his high office as a result of the invasion of the papal states by the army of Emperor Charles V, Guicciardini devoted himself chiefly to writing. His masterpiece, The History of Italy, was written from 1537 to 1540. Published in 1561, the work met with great success, spreading throughout Europe in translation.
  • Raphael[1][7] (April 6 or March 28, 1483 – 1520), was one of the greatest and most influential painters of the Italian Renaissance. Together with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Raphael personifies the genius of the Renaissance. He is best known for his Madonnas and for his large figure compositions in the Vatican. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Raphael was also an architect.
  • Titian[1] (c. 1488/1490 – 1576), was a great master of religious art and the creator of mythological compositions. During his long career, which lasted about 70 years, he became one of the most influential and successful painters in the history of art. Titian used bright colors, applied his paint in bold brushstrokes, and made one color seem to blend into another. This style of painting influenced many great artists, including El Greco, Rembrandt, and Peter Paul Rubens.
  • Gerolamo Cardano[7] (1501 – 1576), also known as Jerome Cardan, was a polymath, notable especially as mathematician, physician, and astrologer. His chief work was the Ars magna of 1545, which was devoted solely to algebra and was the first important printed work on the subject. It was published in Nuremberg and contained the theories of algebraic equations as they were known at that time. Cardano wrote other mathematical works and a book on games of chance which discussed probability theory.
  • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina[7] (c. 1525 – 1594), was one of the greatest masters of Renaissance music and the foremost composer of the Roman School. Palestrina was undisputed master of the mass, of which he wrote 105 for four, five, six, and eight voice parts. Best known is his Missa Papae Marcelli (about 1562). He also composed unaccompanied nonreligious choral pieces called madrigals. The most famous is Vestiva i colli (1566).
  • Torquato Tasso[7] (1544 – 1595), was a poet of the late Renaissance period. The musicality of his language and his mournful moods are considered unsurpassed. He was a member of the Court at Ferrara from 1565. His masterpiece, Jerusalem Delivered, an epic on the First Crusade, became a model for later writers. Besides his many lyrics, Tasso wrote philosophical dialogues, plays, and essays on literary theory. One of his greatest works is the pastoral drama Aminta.
  • Paolo Sarpi[7] (1552 – 1623), was one of the most remarkable figures in Europe at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century. Astronomer, historian, mathematician, linguist, lawyer and theologian,[8] who has been called "The Greatest of the Venetians,"[9] Sarpi is well known to historians of the Reformation for his History of the Council of Trent, but is seldom mentioned in histories of science and medicine. Yet Galileo Galilei described him as "my father and my master"[9] and wrote of him "No man in Europe surpasses Master Paolo Sarpi in his knowledge of the science of mathematics."[9] He carried on an extensive correspondence with the "father of modern algebra" and famous cryptographer, François Viète, and the Scottish mathematician, Alexander Anderson and was called upon to revise their works.[9] He communicated with William Gilbert on the magnet,[9] advised and assisted Sanctorius in his work on the measurement of metabolism.[9] Sir Henry Wotton, the British Ambassador to Venice who knew Sarpi well, commented not only on his mathematical ability, but added that he was "so expert in the history of plants, as if he had never perused any book but nature";[9] and Robert Sanderson, Bishop of Lincoln, lamented to Izaak Walton his regret at not accompanying Sir Henry as chaplain for he lost the opportunity of meeting "one of the late miracles of general learning, prudence and modesty..."[9]
  • Galileo Galilei[1][7] (1564 – 1642), scientist and philosopher. He was a "true Renaissance man, excelling at many different endeavors, including lute playing and painting."[10] By his investigation of natural laws he laid foundations for modern experimental science. In physics, Galileo discovered the properties of the pendulum, invented the thermometer, and formulated the laws that govern the motion of falling bodies. In astronomy, Galileo was the first to use the telescope to make observations of the moon, sun, planets, and stars.
  • Tommaso Campanella[7] (1568 – 1639), was one of the most important philosophers of Western tradition. He concerned himself with political thought, religion and the establishment of a utopian society, which he wrote extensively on in his best-known work The City of the Sun. He spent decades in detention for his controversial views and political involvement, yet was able to produce a large body of work.
  • Cardinal Mazarin[7] (1602 – 1661), a priest, later cardinal, and political genius in the service of the Pope, who sent him to France to negotiate with Cardinal Richelieu in 1630. Mazarin was, in effect, the ruler of France from 1643 until his death. He succeeded Cardinal Richelieu as chief minister to King Louis XIII in 1642. Louis died the following year. Mazarin then became the chief adviser of Anne of Austria, who ruled as regent (temporary ruler) for her 4-year-old son, Louis XIV.
  • Metastasio[7] (1698 – 1782), was a poet and opera librettist, whose original name was Pietro Trapassi. A prodigy at poetic improvisation, he became court poet at Vienna in 1729. He wrote melodious lyric verse; a masque, Gli orti esperidi; and librettos of many operas, including Didone abbandonata, Artaserse, La clemenza di Tito, and Il re pastore. His melodrama Attilio Regolo is generally considered his masterpiece.
  • Joseph-Louis Lagrange[7] (1736 – 1813), was a celebrated mathematician and astronomer. His early researches at the University of Turin included work on the calculus of variations and the harmonics of sound. In 1766, Lagrange succeeded Leonhard Euler as head of the Berlin Academy of Sciences. His most famous work, Analytical mechanics, is a purely algebraic study of forces and motions, including the orbits of planets, the flow of liquids, and the vibration of strings.
  • Vittorio Alfieri[7] (1749 – 1803), was a playwright and poet. Through his lyrics and dramas he helped to revive the national spirit of Italy and so earned the title of precursor of the Risorgimento. All his plays have a mythical, Biblical, or historical plot. His best works include Filippo (1775), Oreste (1786), and Mirra (1786). Alfieri wrote many poems, a treatise in defense of liberty, and a lively two-part Autobiography (1790, 1803).
  • Antonio Canova[7] (1757 – 1822), was one of the most famous and influential European sculptors of the neoclassic period. An admirer of Napoleon, Canova executed a bust of the emperor from life and several other portraits, including two where Napoleon is represented nude in the guise of a Roman emperor. Canova's greatness lies in his ability to fill these forms from another time with a distinct grace and vitality. His ability to carve pure white Italian marble has seldom been equaled.
  • Giacomo Leopardi[7] (1798 – 1837), Italy's first and greatest modern poet, was also an essayist, philosopher, and philologist. He was sickly and physically deformed, and felt lonely and unloved despite the brilliance of his career. Leopardi's genius, his frustrated hopes, and his pain found their best outlet in his poetry, which is admired for its brilliance, intensity, and effortless musicality. Leopardi's verse collections include Idylls (1825) and Songs (1836). His other important work is Le operette morali (Moral Essays, 1824–1832).
  • Giuseppe Mazzini[7] (1805 – 1872), was a patriot who played an important part in uniting Italy in 1861. He favored revolts that would free Italy from Austrian rule and unite it as a republic. Klemens von Metternich once testified: "I fought against the greatest soldier of our time [Napoleon]; I succeeded in uniting Emperors and Kings, Tsar, Sultan and Pope. But there was no man on earth who made things so difficult for me as that brigand of an Italian, lean, pale, in rags — yet eloquent, like a tempest; ardent, like an apostle; impudent, like a thief; insolent, like a comedian; unrelenting, like a lover; and that man was Giuseppe Mazzini!"[11]
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi[7] (1807 – 1882), was a patriot and soldier, a leading figure in the movement for Italian unification. He remains perhaps the most popular of all Italian heroes of the Risorgimento. Garibaldi also led military campaigns in Latin America and earned the title "Hero of Two Worlds." An unflagging foe of all tyranny, he devoted his life to fighting oppression. Many of the greatest intellectuals of his time, such as Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and George Sand showered him with admiration.
  • Vilfredo Pareto (1848 – 1923), was a sociologist, economist and polymath. He studied mathematics and engineering in Turin and worked as an engineer for many years, meanwhile becoming increasingly interested in social and economic problems. In 1907 he began writing his most famous and quite influential work, The Treatise on Sociology; he completed it in 1912 and published it in 1916.[nb 1]
  • Maria Montessori[1] (1870 – 1952), was a physician and educator. She won international fame for designing an educational system to aid children in the development of intelligence and independence. Her educational approach became known as the Montessori method. Montessori schools were formed throughout Europe, North America, and Asia. Governments in some countries officially adopted the Montessori method in their school systems.
  • Guglielmo Marconi[1] (1874 – 1937), was an inventor who designed and constructed the first wireless telegraph,[17] or radio. By 1897, he was able to demonstrate radio telegraphy over a distance of 19km (12mi). In 1899, he established radio communication between France and England. By 1901, radio transmissions were being received across the Atlantic Ocean. He shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun of Germany, who had developed ways of increasing the range of radio transmissions.
  • Enrico Fermi (1901 – 1954), has been called "the last universal physicist in the tradition of the great men of the 19th century," and "the last person who knew all of the physics of his day."[18] In 1942, he built the world's first nuclear reactor and produced the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. At Los Alamos, Fermi worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938.
  • Ettore Majorana[nb 2] (1906 – 1938), was one of the youngest child prodigies of all time. At the age of four he could multiply two three-digit numbers and get correct result in seconds.[21][22] In time he became one of the greatest physicists of the first half of the last century. First a student, then coworker with noted physicist Enrico Fermi, in 1937 Majorana elaborated a symmetrical theory of weak interaction, where the neutrino, an elementary particle emitted during the decay of other particles, is identical to the antineutrino.


  1. ^ The following are related quotes:

    "And now the astonishing and perturbing suspicion emerges that perhaps almost all that had passed for social science, political economy, politics, and ethics in the past may be brushed aside by future generations as mainly rationalizing. John Dewey has already reached this conclusion in regard to philosophy. Veblen and other writers have revealed the various unperceived presuppositions of the traditional political economy, and now comes an Italian sociologist, Vilfredo Pareto, who, in his huge treatise on general sociology, devotes hundreds of pages to substantiating a similar thesis affecting all the social sciences. This conclusion may be ranked by students of a hundred years hence [2021] as one of the several great discoveries of our age."[12]

    "Pareto's Trattato di Sociologia Generale is the hardest boiled book I have ever read. Three times, since I passed my puberty, has my mind been made over. Once by a nexus of which Henry Adams was the center, once by a matrix of which Frazer burned brightest, and once by a long study of genetics and evolution. Pareto is doing the job a fourth time, and far more vitally than any others."[13]

    "If we are to speak of Pareto's treatise as a seminal book, we must use the epithet in the sense in which we apply it to Newton's Principia. No revolution can follow it, except a revolution in the methods of the social sciences. That revolution is already in its first stages in Italy and in France, and my yet spread to England and to America."[14]

    "Pareto's monumental work, Trattato di Sociologia Generale, lies before us as the most massive and impressive statement of the mechanistic conception of social life."[15]

    "Pareto's Treatise is a work of genius."[16]
  2. ^ In 1938, Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, who took him in his group when he was a student, ranked Majorana with Galileo Galilei (IQ=180–185) and Isaac Newton (IQ=190[7]–195[1]):

    "In the world there are various categories of scientists, persons of the second and third rank, who improve themselves but who do not go very far. Persons of the first rank, who arrive at a discovery of great importance, fundamental to the development of science. Then there are the geniuses, like Galileo and Newton. Well, Ettore Majorana was one of these."[19]

    In a 1938 letter to Mussolini, asking the government to intensify the search for Majorana, Fermi commented further:

    "I have no hesitation to state to you, and I am not saying this as an hyperbolic statement, that of all Italian and foreign scholars that I have met, Majorana is among all of them the one that has most struck me for his deep sharpness."[20]

    This would corroborate Majorana with an extrapolated IQ of 182–192.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Buzan, Tony ; Keene, Raymond. Buzan's Book of Mental World Records. D&B Publishing, 2005. Pages 160. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

    Name: Buzan IQ
    The assigned IQs of the hundred greatest geniuses of all-time, from the 2005 Book of Mental World Records, determined by English accelerated learning experts Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene, based on an 835-point genius scoring method.

    List of Italian geniuses
    1. Leonardo da Vinci (IQ=220)
    11. Filippo Brunelleschi (IQ=190)
    19. Galileo Galilei (IQ=180)
    24. Leon Battista Alberti (IQ=180)
    41. Michelangelo (IQ=175)
    43. Dante Alighieri (IQ=175)
    63. Raphael (IQ=170)
    64. Guglielmo Marconi (IQ=165)
    67. Niccolò Machiavelli (IQ=165)
    68. Thomas Aquinas (IQ=165)
    80. Maria Montessori (IQ=157)
    84. Giuseppe Verdi (IQ=150)
    92. Titian (IQ=145)
    97. Christopher Columbus (IQ=140)
  2. ^ Willis, Jim. The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers. Visible Ink Press, 2003. p. 41. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.
  3. ^ Lindberg, David C. Theories of Vision from Al-kindi to Kepler. University of Chicago Press, 1981. p. 148. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  4. ^ Vasari, Giorgio. Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors, and architects. H.G. Bohn, 1850. p. 414. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  5. ^ Davis, Thomas J. This Is My Body: The Presence of Christ in Reformation Thought. Baker Academic, 2008. p. 178. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  6. ^ Leon Battista Alberti. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2014. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Cox, Catherine. The Early Mental Traits of Three Hundred Geniuses. Stanford University Press, 1926. Pages 842. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

    Name: Cox IQ
    The assigned IQs of the three-hundred greatest geniuses who lived between 1450 to 1850, from the 1926 book Early Mental Traits of 300 Geniuses, determined by IQ-scale inventor Lewis Terman's PhD student Catharine Cox Miles and a team of Stanford psychologists, based on both early mental traits and life-time intellectual accomplishments.

    List of Italian geniuses
    6. Paolo Sarpi (IQ=195)
    16. Tommaso Campanella (IQ=185)
    20. Galileo Galilei (IQ=185)
    23. Joseph-Louis Lagrange (IQ=185)
    24. Giacomo Leopardi (IQ=185)
    37. Leonardo da Vinci (IQ=180)
    48. Michelangelo (IQ=180)
    58. Torquato Tasso (IQ=180)
    65. Gerolamo Cardano (IQ=175)
    101. Metastasio (IQ=170)
    105. Raphael (IQ=170)
    136. Francesco Guicciardini (IQ=165)
    151. Giuseppe Mazzini (IQ=165)
    174. Vittorio Alfieri (IQ=160)
    176. Ludovico Ariosto (IQ=160)
    180. Antonio Canova (IQ=160)
    181. Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour (IQ=160)
    209. Cardinal Mazarin (IQ=160)
    242. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (IQ=155)
    246. Girolamo Savonarola (IQ=155)
    268. Giulio Alberoni (IQ=145)
    281. Gioachino Rossini (IQ=145)
    286. Giuseppe Garibaldi (IQ=140)
  8. ^ Wilson, Charles. The Transformation of Europe, 1558-1648. University of California Press, 1976. p. 195. Web. 02 Jan. 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Robertson, Alexander. Fra Paolo Sarpi, the Greatest of the Venetians. 1911. Reprint. Hong Kong: Forgotten Books, 2013. Print. Web. 02 Jan. 2014.
  10. ^ Weisstein, Eric W. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). ScienceWorld - Wolfram Research. Web. 02 Jan. 2014.
  11. ^ Braunthal, Julius. History of the International: 1864-1914. Nelson, 1967. p. 82. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.
  12. ^ Robinson, James Harvey. The Mind in the Making: The Relation of Intelligence to Social Reform. Harper & brothers, 1921. p. 47. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.
  13. ^ Stegner, Wallace Earle. The Uneasy Chair: A Biography of Bernard DeVoto. U of Nebraska Press, 2001. pp. 138–143. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.
  14. ^ Bongiorno, Andrew. A Study of Pareto's Treatise on General Sociology. American Journal of Sociology, 1930. p. 351. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.
  15. ^ Stark, Werner. The Fundamental Forms of Social Thought. Routledge, 1998 - Social Science. p. 125. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.
  16. ^ Henderson, Lawrence Joseph. Pareto's General Sociology: A Physiologist's Interpretation. Russell & Russell, 1967. p. 59. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.
  17. ^ Prochnow, Herbert Victor. Great stories from great lives: a gallery of portraits from famous biographies. Harper & Bros., 1944. p. 147. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
    "Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), inventor, electrical engineer, and winner of the Nobel prize for physics, was the first to perfect the devices used in space telegraphy. To his genius is due the great scientific triumph of wireless telegraphy. Orrin [Elmer] Dunlap states that he gives us the exciting story of how the first wireless signal was flashed across the Atlantic sky, because 'it is not only unforgettable, but one of the great climaxes in the history of wireless, and in Marconi's life'." [...]
  18. ^ Holton, Gerald James. The Scientific Imagination: Case Studies. CUP Archive, 1978. p. 157. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.
  19. ^ The Michigan Alumnus. UM Libraries, 1991. p. 23. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.
  20. ^ (Italian) Recami, Erasmo. Il caso Majorana: lettere, testimonianze, documenti. Mondadori, 1991. p. 51. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.
  21. ^ Bergmann, Peter G. ; De Sabbata, Venzo. Advances in the Interplay Between Quantum and Gravity Physics. Springer, 2002. p. 436. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.
  22. ^ Amaldi, Edoardo. 20th Century Physics: Essays and Recollections: a Selection of Historical Writings. World Scientific, 1998. p. 30. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.