According to Judith Warner who writes the Domestic Disturbances blog for the New York Times, those terms have been used to describe the top dogs on Wall Street. The men and women who study the market, buy and sell, and make tons of money.
In a recent blog, she questioned why those Wall Street honchos are considered the best and the brightest. She wrote that the best and the brightest used to mean the people who were supposed to be the smartest, not who made the most money.
Amen to that.
Before reading her blog, I was not aware that we looked on the folks on Wall Street with such esteem. I certainly did not. My esteem was reserved for educators, doctors, some journalists, nurses, social workers, some members of clergy, and people like my father and grandfather who did not have a lot of formal education, but thought reading the entire set of encyclopedias was a good idea.