A few days ago the question arose: who was the smartest person in history? I immediately offered the obvious answer, “the Earl of Sandwich.” To my surprise, some of the people disagreed and there was a heated argument. Let me lay out my case here in full.

Aristotle said, “a man is defined by his actions.” Under this definition the smartest person would be the one who had done the smartest thing. The person with the former Guinness world record for highest tested IQ is Marilyn Vos Savant who is a role model to all aspiring young girls for doing a very smart thing indeed–marrying a rich man. Has she done anything else? Not really, so let’s move on. One might give a stock answer such as “Einstein” or “Newton,” but remember that they were standing on the shoulders of giants so their accomplishments were not so much a matter of genius as that of good balance. The Earl of Sandwich, on the other hand, invented the sandwich. I am tempted to end the article right here.

However, there are those who full of contentious urges would vehemently deny the contribution to all humanity of this grand patron. To silence such blathering fools I will present incontrovertible proof of his surpassing intellect. The first objection they will raise is that the sandwich was invented by some rabbi thousands of years ago. Wrong! The rabbi used unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and everyone choked it down politely while secretly swearing never to eat anything even remotely similar again. Then they will scoffingly impair his legacy saying it is not important enough. Wrong! A common idiom for an important invention is, “the best thing since sliced bread.” For what purpose would one need sliced bread except to make sandwiches? On the topic of world-changing inventions we might well mention Gutenberg’s printing press. But what is a printing press, really, if not a lead-and-paper sandwich? So we see that the sandwich is the foremost invention after which all others are patterned and it was the Earl of Sandwich who brought the idea into the modern perfection so beloved today.

The idea has spread to other cultures which have developed their own particular style of sandwich. The Japanese, not wanting to discriminate between top and bottom, encased the filling uniformly in breading to form a sushi roll. The Mexicans made a grilled cheese out of tortillas and called it a quesodilla. The people of Philadelphia created possibly the greatest sandwich ever conceived and then proceeded to ruin it by using cheese whiz instead of the white cheddar and provolone that a sane person would. I have received marriage proposals from men and women alike merely by describing a cheesesteak I had concocted. For devising a thing that in making and eating has given purpose to the lives of both halves of our species, I hereby declare John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, the smartest person in human history.