There have always been some pretty smart—make that incredibly smart—teenagers around.
Take, for example, the French mathematician Evariste Galois (1811–1832; at left), who invented the field of abstract algebra known as group theory while still in his teens. This branch of mathematics lies at the heart of modern quantum mechanics, among other things.
Galois may have been brilliant, but he was no nerd: He died in a duel over a love affair at the tender age of 21! So, teen geniuses are nothing new. However, it does seem like there are more of them around today than ever before.
Some of them are inventors; some, like Galois, solve difficult mathematical problems; some are brilliant artists, performers, or entrepreneurs; and some have encyclopedic knowledge, speak multiple languages, or can correctly spell any word.
They are all smart. Very smart. Smart way beyond their years. So, how do we measure intelligence? The most popular measure for intelligence is the Stanford-Binet IQ test offered through Mensa International, an organization for high-IQ people. An average IQ score is 85–114; 144 or above is considered genius-level. Yet, some people have intelligence and gifts that defy or go beyond a test score.
At first glance, it’s pretty hard to recognize the smartest teenagers. Just like fruit and other gifts of nature, we can’t (and shouldn’t) judge that proverbial book by its cover. You’ll recognize the diversity among these 50 smart teenagers and find very little in common among them in terms of physical characteristics, locations, background, etc.