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Big Bang Theory: Every Main Character, Ranked By Intelligence

The Big Bang Theory centers itself around the incredible minds of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Dr. Leonard Hofstadter, Dr. Rajesh Koothrappali, and Howard Wolowitz. With the foursome working in separate departments at Caltech, viewers learned more about science’s magical ways through engineering, astrophysics, String Theory, and experimental physics. Along the way, viewers met the fab four’s wives (Penny, Bernadette, and Amy) and co-workers at the university.

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Seeing this group of intellects join together for dinner night after night proved that each person brought their own strengths and weaknesses to the group. Sheldon may have had the highest IQ but there was no way he had more street smarts than Penny. Likewise, Howard may have had a cushy job at Caltech and working for NASA but was he smarter than his wife who has her doctorate in microbiology? While fans don’t know the entire cast’s IQ, let’s attempt breaking down 10 important characters of The Big Bang Theory by their intelligence.

Updated on June 12th, 2021, by Lynn Gibbs: Part of what makes The Big Bang Theory untouchable is the smarts of the characters. The contrasts in intelligence make for interesting conversation and create humorous storylines (especially with Penny). Although the show was about the characters’ jobs and what they were working on, it was also widely based on friendship. This group of friends helped each other with everything from String Theory to parenthood. Considering everyone’s own wits and charm, the likes of Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, Howard, and beyond all had something to teach each other. Sheldon may have been the smartest of the bunch but he couldn’t have completed everything he achieved without the help of his friends’ brains. 

10 Penny Never Graduated College, But Don’t Count Her Out On Street Smarts

When fans first meet Penny, she tells the guys that she’s an aspiring actress but in the meantime, she’s a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory. When she starts casually dating Leonard, viewers learn that she attempted community college but dropped out. High school was her highest form of education.

When she and Leonard get more serious, Penny starts taking classes at the local community college to try and get her degree. However, there wasn’t much talk of her classes once she quits acting, waitressing, and gets a cushy job in pharmaceutical sales. And while Penny has more common sense and street smarts than the rest of the group, her lack of education puts her last on the list.

9 Stuart Had A Degree From A Prestigious Art School

Stuart may seem like a depressed comic shop owner who goes to therapy more than he goes on dates but when you take a step back to look at what he’s achieved, he’s not as dumb as he (sometimes) acts. Not only is he a business owner who brought his shop back to life after it burnt down but he’s also a college graduate.

As an artist, going to the Road Island School of Design is a big deal and that’s exactly what Stuart achieved. If his depression wasn’t so consuming throughout the years, fans would have seen more vigor from him career-wise. Due to his diploma from college, he’s coming in one spot before Penny.

8 Leslie Winkle Is The Female Counterpart To Leonard

Dr. Leslie Winkle is another co-worker of Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj’s over at Caltech. As an experimental physicist, she and Leonard had a lot in common (and even dated for a little). She pops up regularly throughout the show’s 12 seasons and has a spiteful relationship with Sheldon.

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Thanks to Sheldon’s high IQ, he often thinks Leslie’s ideas are childish and dumb. Likewise, she thinks he’s a “dumbass” who’s full of himself. Leslie has a high (if not similar) IQ to the boys because they asked her to join their team to replace Sheldon in the Physics Bowl. Had it not been for Leslie, the boys wouldn’t be able to compete or win.

7 Howard Is The Only One Without His Doctorate (But His Skills Took Him To Space)

Aside from Penny and Stuart, Howard is the only person in the group without his doctorate. He is constantly picked on for only having a master’s degree. Howard, however, is an engineer with a master’s degree from the prestigious MIT, so having a doctorate never intrigued him, especially after he got his job with NASA.

Howard goes head-to-head with Sheldon quite often and the two try to prove who’s smarter. When Sheldon begins teaching Howard in a class at Caltech, Howard surprisingly proved that he was just as smart as Sheldon when he wanted to be. Unfortunately, due to him not having his doctorate, he falls behind his best friends and wife, Bernadette.

6 Bernadette Was Born To Be The Boss

As much as it kills Howard’s manhood, his wife Bernadette is one smart cookie who is often smarter than him. In the beginning, when Bernadette and Howard started dating, Bernadette loved Howard’s odd combination of intelligence and wit. As time went on though, Bernadette graduated with a focus in microbiology, and the company she was working for paid for her to get her Ph.D.

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Bernadette works for the same company as Penny and often makes jokes about making a “buttload” more than Howard. After the couple had two kids, her education and her job would allow the couple to live comfortably if Howard decided to stay home with the kids.

5 Leonard Has An IQ Of 173

In the pilot of The Big Bang Theory, viewers learn that Sheldon has an IQ of 187. It’s a fact that he loves to tell everyone, actually. He later says he and Leonard have a “combined IQ of 360,” which would mean Leonard’s IQ is around 173.

Regardless of his IQ, Sheldon wouldn’t live with someone who didn’t have a similar intelligence to him. He also graduated from an Ivy League university, Princeton, and has his Ph.D. He and Sheldon also put their minds together to create a new scientific theory that broke grounds in the field of science.

4 Raj’s Lack Of Romance Overpowered His Smarts

Many believe that Leonard is smarter than Raj but Sheldon has noted time and time again how intelligent Raj can be. He was even recognized by People’s 30 under 30 in season 2. Sheldon subtly feels so strongly about the work that Raj was doing that he tried hiring him at the university so that he wouldn’t be deported back to India.

Being a graduate of Cambridge University with his doctorate in astrophysics, Raj helps the group in a different way than Sheldon, Leonard, and Howard do. He has even helped Sheldon work on Dark Matter. Raj may not get the same attention as the other three do, but he’s definitely up there in intelligence.

3 Barry Kripke Gave Sheldon A Run For His Money

John Ross Bowie as Barry Kripke in The Big Bang Theory

Granted, Barry Kripke may be Sheldon’s nemesis but that’s mainly because Barry lowkey threatens Sheldon. With his Ph.D., Barry also works on string theory at Caltech. Viewers first catch a glimpse of Kripke in season two when he challenges Sheldon and co., in a robot battle. Kripke’s robot was far better than Sheldon’s but this wasn’t the first time that he was superior to Sheldon’s intelligence.

In season 6’s ‘The Cooper/Kripke Inversion,’ Barry and Sheldon have to work together for a grant proposal. Sheldon mocked the fact that anyone could ever compete with his brain but as he finds out, Barry’s research was far and beyond his own. It was the one time fans saw Sheldon completely fall apart, realizing that someone else out there could have been better.

2 Amy Farrah Fowler Isn’t Far Behind Sheldon

Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory

As smart as Barry Kripke is, many believe Amy Farrah Folwer—Sheldon’s wife—is smarter. One fan even suggested that due to her position and intellect, her IQ would be between 180 and 185. Amy has her doctorate in neurobiology from Harvard, one of the world’s top universities.

She also gets the chance to work at Caltech to finish one of her studies, proving she’s an implemental part of the science program. And let’s not forget without her help Sheldon wouldn’t have gotten that Nobel Prize he’s been gunning for since birth. Regarding her relationship with Sheldon, she seems to know him more than he knows himself. She plays small mental mind-games with him to get things to fall in favor. She’s so crafty with this that Sheldon doesn’t even know she’s doing it until it’s too late.

1 Sheldon Has An IQ Of 187

It can’t be much of a surprise that Sheldon Cooper comes out as the smartest (intelligence-wise) in the group. He did attend college at the age of 11, after all. And although he’s missing crucial cues in understanding other human beings, he is the star protagonist in the show.

He’s a “wunderkind” who is so smart and odd that he’s the go-to person for everyone’s scientific problems, questions, and theories. The show is basically about Sheldon and his buddies which prompted a spinoff once The Big Bang Theory ended (Young Sheldon). While Sheldon can be rude and egotistical, he’ll always be “Shelly” to so many of the show’s deepest fans.

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