The Telegraph newspaper has included the 74-year-old Polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki in its list of the top 100 living geniuses.
Gorecki is the 32nd most important genius on the list, which was based partly on a survey of 4,000 Britons and partly on an expert panel’s selections.
In first place are Britain’s Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, and Albert Hoffman, the Swiss scientist who created the drug LSD.
As might be expected, Americans dominate the list, with 43 names.
Britons make up almost a quarter of the list – 24. That is a great showing in light of the fact that Britain’s population is much smaller than America’s. The renowned British physicist and astronomer Stephen Hawking is seventh on the list.
Gorecki leaped from obscurity to worldwide fame when the American record company Elektra Recording released a recording of his Third Symphony in 1992. It featured the American soprano Dawn Upshaw.
Within two years Elektra sold a million copies of the recording, which Gorecki had composed 15 years earlier. It was also high on the classical-music charts in both the U.S. and Great Britain.
The British radio station Classic FM broadcast the symphony over and over because so many listeners asked for it. Classical music fans weren’t the only ones who liked it. So did young people, truck drivers and many others unfamiliar with the classical genre.
Gorecki is higher on the Telegraph‘s list of geniuses than such celebrities as rock star David Bowie, actress Meryl Streep, opera singer Placido Domingo and poet and singer Leonard Cohen. That indicates the deep impression his symphony made on Britain.
The 4,000 Britons who participated in the genius survey were asked to list 10 living geniuses. They came up with about 1,100 names.
A panel of six experts chose 100 of the 1,100, then ranked them from 1 to 100. The rankings were based on a genius’s breakthrough discoveries or innovations, intellectual power, achievements, popular acclaim and cultural importance.
The global consulting company Creators Synectics used the experts’ scores to compile the final ranking.
Nigel Clark, a managing partner of Creators Synectics, offered this explanation for why Tim Berners-Lee and Albert Hoffman were tied for first on the list: “Both of them have, in their own way, turned the world that we live in upside down. And it may be that alone that accounts for their acclamation as the world’s greatest living geniuses.”
Great Britain is the country with the highest number of geniuses on a population basis – one genius per 2.5 million people. Most are artists and musicians, including artist Damien Hirst at number 15, poet Seamus Heaney at 26, playwright Harold Pinter at 31, Sir Paul McCartney at 58, David Bowie at 67, Harry Potter author JK Rowling at 83 and filmmaker Ken Russell at 100.
Sir Richard Branson, the head of the Virgin Group of companies, is 49th, chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall 58th and psychologist Dorothy Rowe 72nd.
The most surprising person on the list is Osama bin Laden, who is tied for 43rd.
The irony is that he is tied with a man who is one of the symbols of the Western capitalist system that he hates – Microsoft founder Bill Gates. America’s former world heavyweight champion boxer Mohammed Ali is also tied for 43rd.