I find the concept of “genius” very interesting.

My step-grandfather is a novelist, and he believes that he is a genius. He will tell you so very loudly (and, if you admit that you haven’t read his novels, very angrily).

I disagree. Not for any reason to do with his novels. Rather, because I think true geniuses are very, very rare. If we get even a couple of bona fide geniuses in a generation, we should consider ourselves very lucky. Intelligence and brilliance are fairly common – but genius, well that is something altogether different.

The consultants at Synectics, however disagree. They think its pretty common, and have compiled a list of the world’s top 100 living “geniuses”, people whose “thinking and work led to a complete re-appraisal of everything that had gone before.” I’d generally agree with that definition.

The list is pretty broad, covering mathematicians, physicists, chess champions, biochemists, political and spiritual leaders, plus a healthy dose of pop-culture icons, such as Philip Glass (9), Matt Groening (4), and Quentin Tarantino (100).

But who tops the list you ask? Albert Hofmann, the inventor of LSD.


“Through the late 1940s and most of the 1950s, LSD caused a revolution in psychiatry. Therapists and doctors used it to treat forms of mental illness, including neurosis, psychosis and depression. More than 40,000 people underwent psychedelic therapy…Hofmann calls LSD “medicine for the soul” and is frustrated by the worldwide prohibition that has pushed it underground.”

I’m not sure what they were smoking (or, more likely, dropping) at Synetics, but it must be off the hook. I’m not a prohibitionist – but I’ve seen enough acid casualties to think twice about giving the inventor of LSD the honour of the world’s greatest living genius.

In fact, the entire list – based in part on public opinion – has simply reinforced my opinion that the word “genius” is not to be used lightly.

Look, I love Stevie Wonder (49), JK Rowling (83), Jane Goodall (58), and Aretha Franklin (67) as much as the next gal – in face, their presence on this earth makes my life appreciably better. But I wouldn’t call them geniuses.

Moreover, there are a lot of pretty mediocre – in some cases downright moronic – entries on this list. You’ll find Richard Branson at 49 (psht), Margaret Atwood at 49 (whose tiresomely misanthropic books I only ever read because my teachers forced me to), Damien Hirst at 15 (for the LOVE of CHRIST), and Rupert Murdoch at 20 (well, I’d agree with that – but only if you qualify it with the word “evil”).

Lastly, as further evidence to the fact that the folks at Synectics were high, lazy and thoughtless when they compiled this, the bastards even list Montrealer Leonard Cohen (58) as “American.” Jerks. They couldn’t even be bothered to look up his Wikipedia entry? Pathetic.