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Creative Genius: The World's Greatest Minds

Great Minds

(Image credit: Apple)

News of the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs on Oct. 5, 2011, has been received with sadness, admiration and gratefulness for a man considered a "creative genius" who "changed the world" in many ways. In addition to Jobs, plenty of great minds have challenged paradigms, opened windows into worlds we didn't even know existed, and produced innovations that have persisted through time. Here's a look at the world's titanic thinkers, from Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking.

Albert Einstein

einstein writing an equation on chalkboard

Not many are as bright as Einstein, but it turns out some global regions have a higher average IQ than others, and scientists are beginning ot figure out why.

1879-1955: Being labeled a "slow learner" in grade school didn't stop Einstein from making some of the greatest-ever achievements in science. He proposed the general theory of relativity, helped develop quantum theory, and received a Nobel Prize in physics for his description of the photoelectric effect. [Nobel Prize in Physics: 1901-Present]

Alexander Graham Bell

this profile photo shows alexander graham bell, best known for inventing the telephone

One of the greatest modern minds.
(Image credit: Library and Archives Canada, Public Domain)

1847-1922: Determined to find a way for his deaf mother to hear, Alexander Graham Bell was one of the most prolific inventors of his time. Although best known for inventing the telephone, in 2002 it was determined that Antonio Meucci invented it several years prior. Bell is, however, credited with the metal detector, photophone and hydrofoil.

Marie Curie

photo of physicist and chemist marie curie

(Image credit: Public Domain)

1867-1934: A pioneer in radiology, Curie won Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics and had a unit of radioactivity, the curie, named for her and her husband Pierre's work. She isolated two radioactive elements, polonium and radium, to study their properties and potential uses. Although she was particularly interested in their therapeutic potential, she eventually died from long-term radiation exposure.

Sir Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton laid the blueprints for his three laws of motion, still recited by physics students, in 1666.

Isaac Newton laid the blueprints for his three laws of motion, still recited by physics students, in 1666.
(Image credit: Library of Congress)

1643-1727: Everybody knows his "what goes up, must come down" universal theory of gravity, but Sir Isaac Newton also showed that color is inherent in white light, studied the speed of sound, advanced the heliocentric view of the solar system, and postulated on the origin of the stars. He's also known for his three laws of motion, including inertia and "for every action there is an equal, but opposite, reaction."

Thomas Edison

photo of Thomas Edision at National Portrait Gallery

Photo of Thomas Edision taken at the National Portrait Gallery.
(Image credit: National Portrait Gallery, Public Domain)

1847-1931: Generally considered the most productive inventor of all time, Edison holds nearly 1,100 patents. He improved the typewriter and helped develop motion pictures and many of his inventions, such as the incandescent light bulb, phonograph, and tattoo guns are still used today.

Charles Darwin

Darwin and son

Charles Darwin and his son William in 1842.
(Image credit: public domain)

1809-1882: From his observations on the Galapagos Islands, Charles Darwin developed the theory of evolution whereby changes in species are driven, over time, by natural and sexual selection. He struggled internally with this idea, finally publishing "The Origin of Species" 20 years after returning from his voyage. [Charles Darwin: Family Man, Scientist and Skeptic]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1756-1791: This musical prodigy was composing by age 5 and wrote his first symphony by age 10. As an adult, Mozart's music was extraordinarily complex, drawing influence from many different styles, and considered radical at the time. He composed more than 600 pieces, including concertos, operas and symphonies, in his short life and is considered the most significant European classical composer. [Mozart's Death Was Written in the Key of (Vitamin) D]

Wernher von Braun

von braun and others hold a model of Explorer I satellite in this 1958 photo

U.S. Explorer 1 in early 1958 discovered radiation belt around the Earth. Holding a model of the satellite in celebration after its successful orbiting: (left to right) William H. Pickering, former director of JPL, which built and operated the satellite; James A. van Allen, center, of the State University of Iowa, designed and built the instrument on Explorer that detected the radiation that circles Earth; and at right, Wernher von Braun, leader of the Army's Redstone Arsenal team.

1912-1977: Generally regarded as the father of the U.S. space program, von Braun powered astronauts and satellites into space on giant rockets. But his more significant contribution may have been his vision for the future. His dreams of space stations and airplane-styled spacecraft paved the way for today's space age. [Satellites Gallery: Science from Above]

Shown above in a 1958 photo from left to right: William H. Pickering, former director of JPL, James A. van Allen, of the State University of Iowa, and Wernher von Braun, leader of the Army's Redstone Arsenal team.

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin is known for, among other things, Drawing Electricity from the Sky, which is the title of this Benjamin West painting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Benjamin Franklin is known for, among other things, Drawing Electricity from the Sky, which is the title of this Benjamin West painting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
(Image credit: GPTMC)

1706-1790: Hailed by historians as the "First American," Benjamin Franklin shaped the American Revolution and was an intellectual leader of the "Enlightenment" Noted for his ingenuity and diversity of interests, he invented bifocals, the Franklin stove, the lightning rod, the glass harmonica, swimfins and is famous for his experiments with electricity. [Trove of Unknown Ben Franklin Letters Found]

Mohandas Gandhi

profile photo of mohandas gandhi

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and spiritual leader of India.
(Image credit: Public Domain)

1869-1948: Gandhi freed India from British rule through nonviolent protest, fasting while others fought. His nonviolent philosophy continues to influence national and international resistance movements to this day. [10 Historically Significant Political Protests]