Mental Floss

(2) Ben Franklin vs. (7) Hypatia

Tournament of Genius

(2) Benjamin Franklin

Possibly the first great American genius, Franklin was many things. Statesman. Diplomat. Almanac writer. Bifocal inventor. Ill-timed flyer of kites. Glass harmonica maker. Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Lover of turkeys. In all of them, though, he showed an undeniable genius.

(7) Hypatia

Think sexism kept women out of math until fairly recently? Think again. Hypatia, who lived in fourth- and fifth-century Alexandria, was one of the most notable mathematicians of her day. Hypatia wrote commentaries on some of math's most important texts and also made advanced astronomical studies. Furthermore, she lectured to a large number of followers on both math and Neoplatonist philosophy, another discipline in which she excelled. Unfortunately, brains were not so popular in those days, and Hypatia was murdered as a pagan by a Christian mob.

The Breakdown

Here's a matchup of two scientific thinkers you probably wouldn't find in a church. Hypatia valiantly fought to keep scientific and religious thinking separate, a decision that ultimately cost the scholar her life. Franklin, on the other hand, used Sundays as his "studying day" and rarely went to church, although he was a firm believer in Deism. Hypatia's name eventually became synonymous with scholarship and virtue, while Franklin's writings perfectly encapsulated his own cleverly Puritanical values. Who's the greater genius, though: the lightning rod for early Christian anti-intellectualism or the man who invented the lightning rod?


[See the whole bracket here.]