Imagine the world without Einstein, Darwin, Shakespeare, or Botticelli. We would all be in a very different place. Such amazing people change society for the better. They twist our thinking, reboot our reality and astonish us with their genius. And they all evolved their challenger mindset from an early age, fostered in the home, or at school, and throughout their university life.

The next crop of revolutionary figureheads is out there right now, using their student loan to study, learn and develop in great schools and universities around the globe. Maybe you’re one of them. Or maybe you study with one of them!

10 of the most brilliant students of all time, where they studied, what they went on to achieve

  • 1. Einstein: Physics, Zurich Polytechnic

Einstein - 10 brilliant students that changed the world

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was most famous for developing the general theory of relativity. He was both student and professor of physics at Zurich and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921.

  • 2. Darwin: Natural Science, Christ’s College, Cambridge

Darwin - 10 brilliant students that changed the world

Shropshire-born Charles Darwin (1809-1882) first studied medical education at Edinburgh but later found his brilliance for geology and evolution while at Cambridge.

  • 3. King: Systematic Theology, Boston University

King - 10 brilliant students that changed the world

The legendary activist, minister and civil rights leader Martin Luther King went to Boston in 1951 seeking a multicultural backdrop to his studies in ethics and philosophy.

  • 4. Marx: Law, University of Berlin

Marx - 10 brilliant students that changed the world

Revolutionary socialist, economist and journalist, Karl Marx actually studied law at his father’s insistence, despite his keen interest in philosophy, first in Bonn and then in Berlin.

  • 5. Miles: MBA, Darden School of Business

Miles - 10 brilliant students that changed the world

Carolyn Miles, the innovative, inspiring CEO & President of Save The Children graduated from Darden in 1988. She has more than doubled the number of children the organisation helps every year.

  • 6. Berners-Lee: Physics, Queens College Oxford University

Berners-Lee - 10 brilliant students that changed the world

Widely regarded as the inventor of the world wide web, self-confessed trainspotter Tim Berners-Lee received a First in Physics at Oxford in 1976.

  • 7. Maathai: Biology, University of Pittsburgh

Maathai - 10 brilliant students that changed the world

The Kenyan environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai (1940-2011) attained her Masters in Pittsburgh and in 2004 became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

  • 8. Gorbachev: Law, Moscow State University

Gorbachev - 10 brilliant students that changed the world

The eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev’s political reforms helped end the Cold War. He became a very active member of the Communist Party while at university.

  • 9. Curie: Physics, University of Paris

Curie - 10 brilliant students that changed the world

Multiple Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie, renowned for her pioneering research into radioactivity, made big sacrifices throughout her academic life. She came from a very poor background and lived in abject poverty while studying night and day in Warsaw and Paris.

  • 10. De Beauvoir: Philosophy, University of Paris

De Beauvoir - 10 brilliant students that changed the world

Known for her momentous influence on feminism in the 20th century, the famed existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir graduated from the Sorbonne in 1928.


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