Smart versus Intelligent

In an article I will post soon, I mention the difference between smart and intelligent people. I have seen this explained in more ways than I can count, but none the way I define it. Rather than burying this in an already long piece, I want to talk about it here so that I can flesh it out and then cite it later.

Out of all my professors in college, I remember a few of the best. Two of these stand out as prime examples of the difference between smart and intelligent people.

The first, a programmer by trade and a teacher on the side, knew all one could know about C++. He had such a firm grasp on the language, and conveyed his knowledge so well, that I learned more in that class than any before or after it. This depth made him smart. The second, a programmer turned full-time teacher, knew the theory and science behind operating systems so well that he often spent hours on the subject. He could also speak several languages, and dabbled in a handful of others. This depth and breadth together made him intelligent.

This implies a hierarchy, but I do not see it that way. Becoming smart, a subject matter expert, means learning everything about a topic. Becoming intelligent means learning as much as possible about more than one topic, which entails understanding each to a lesser degree. Both have great value, and depending on the industry, some value one more than the other. In general, though, smart people fill entry-level jobs, who then become intelligent people to move up the ladder.