Even though it’s now generally accepted that intelligence cannot be quantified, IQ tests can nonetheless shed insight on a person’s mental processes, especially if it’s not possible to speak with them directly. It’s only reasonable to wonder how historical personalities would have performed, and given that the IQ test wasn’t developed until 1905, there are many historical figures about whom we might make assumptions.
In 2006, Dean Simonton, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, gave in to his curiosity and launched a study to determine each president’s IQ, starting with George Washington and ending with George W. Bush.
How would you rate the performance of the American presidents? To find out, keep reading.
The 38th president of the United States, Gerald Ford, scored a 127.08 on the IQ scale. He not only attended Yale Law School and received his degree there; he also did it while serving as the head coach of the Yale varsity football team.
The 30th president, commonly referred to as Silent Cal, had an IQ of 127.1. Coolidge earned a degree from Amherst College in Massachusetts with honours and is revered for his commitment to equal rights, however he is also credited by some with helping to create the Great Depression.
Harry Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, never finished college despite having an IQ of 127.55. Truman actually had one eye that was blind, which made it challenging for him to follow along. As a result, he left college after just one year.
Lyndon B. Johnson
After John F. Kennedy was killed, Lyndon B. Johnson, who had an IQ of 127.83 and had been a lifelong student, was elected as the 36th president. Johnson attended what is now Texas State University and finished with a teaching certificate and a bachelor’s degree in history after winning the election to lead his 11th grade class.
Despite not enjoying much popularity as the 31st president of the United States during the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover was accomplished and hardworking from an early age. Hoover, who had an IQ of 129.78 and was studying geology at Stanford, started his own business doing his classmates’ laundry as a side job.
The 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, scored 130 on the IQ test. Reagan had a C average in college and, despite his intelligence, showed little interest in his studies. After that, Reagan worked in radio and movies before becoming interested in politics.
George H.W. Bush / William McKinley
Despite having identical IQs of 130.13, the 25th and 41st presidents’ educational backgrounds could not have been more dissimilar. Bush completed his two and a half years at Yale University with a Phi Betta Kappa degree while also holding the positions of president of his fraternity and captain of the baseball team. In contrast to McKinley, who only enrolled for one year of college before opting to serve the Union in the Civil War.
James K. Polk
The 11th president of the United States, James K. Polk, had an IQ of 130.2 and seemed to employ every point of it. Polk, who is regarded as one of the most successful US presidents in history, kept every promise he made during his campaign and extended the US border all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
The only president in history to hold office for two terms that were not consecutive was Grover Cleveland, who served as the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. He was also one of the rare presidents who, in his case owing to economical reasons, did not attend college. But because of his 130.95 IQ, Cleveland was able to learn enough about the law on his own to pass the bar exam without any outside guidance.
Richard Nixon, the 37th president, had been a nearly perfect student long before the Watergate affair obliterated any opportunity he had of leaving behind a decent legacy. Nixon, who had an IQ of 131 and a bachelor’s degree in history from Whittier University, graduated with honours and was summa c u m laude before going on scholarship to Duke Law School.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Despite having a stellar IQ of 131.9, Dwight D. Eisenhower was well recognised for having a notably low interest in learning when he was younger. The potential 34th president was a below-average student and had a number of disciplinary issues while attending West Point Military Academy.
Despite not being a very well-remembered president, Benjamin Harrison had an IQ of 132.15, making him one of the sharpest presidents ever. Harrison was a trailblazer as a leader for trying (failedly) to enforce African-American voting rights towards the close of the 19th century, despite criticism for his extensive federal support.
Despite being estimated to have an IQ of 132.5, the first president of the United States, George Washington, never completed elementary school. Washington was a surveyor by the age of 17 and a military leader by the age of 23.
Martin Van Buren
Despite being little known today, Martin Van Buren stands out from all previous presidents as the first in history to not be of English ancestry and the only one to have studied English as a second language. The eighth president, who had an IQ of 133.35, was born into a working-class New York Dutch family.
Rutherford B. Hayes / William Henry Harrison
William Harrison and Rutherford Hayes, who served as presidents ten times each, both had an estimated IQ of 133.93. The ninth president, Harrison, served in office for about 30 days before succumbing to a terrible illness shortly after his inauguration. The 19th president, Hayes, practised law before entering politics and was devoted to protecting the rights of former slaves who had fled the Southern states.
Despite being regarded as one of the worst and most destructive presidents in history, Franklin Pierce had an IQ of 134.78. Before becoming president, Pierce was an ordinary and unremarkable student who espoused strong expansionist and anti-abolitionist ideas that sparked the Civil War.
The 13th president of the United States, Millard Fillmore, was thought to have an IQ of 135.98, which undoubtedly helped him as he struggled to get by as a young man with no formal education. With little formal education, Fillmore rose from these lowly beginnings to become a lawyer before becoming president in 1850.
John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, had an IQ of 136.2, which undoubtedly benefited him while he was attending the College of William and Mary, the second-oldest institution of higher learning in the country, from which he graduated at the tender age of 17.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
One of the most significant presidents in recent history would naturally have one of the highest IQ ratings. Roosevelt, who had an IQ of 139.6 prior to becoming president, was enrolled in Columbia Law School but left before completing after passing the New York Bar Exam.
Abraham Lincoln, one of the most well-known presidents in American history, had an estimated IQ of 140, putting him just short of being regarded as a genius. Prior to his illustrious presidency, Lincoln worked as a successful attorney without attending college by teaching himself the law.
With an IQ of 141.25, James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, excelled as a young student at Princeton University, finishing his three-year degree in just two years. He would later contribute significantly to the Constitution’s draught, earning him the honorific title of “Father of the Constitution.”
James Garfield / Chester Arthur
James Garfield, the 20th president of the United States, and Chester Arthur, the 21st president, both had IQs of 141.5. Garfield and Arthur were both tormented in school as children—Garfield for not having a father and Arthur for being overweight. Both, however, were also model students; Arthur served as president of his debate team, and Garfield graduated second in his class.
Theodore Roosevelt, also known as Teddy, was the 26th and current youngest president of the United States. He assumed office at the age of 42 following the assassination of President William McKinley, for whom Roosevelt had previously served as vice president. He also had one of the highest IQs of any president (142.28), and he utilised his intelligence to negotiate the peace that ended the Russo-Japanese War, give new life to the national parks programme, and jump-start antitrust legislation.
The official founder of the US Navy and the country’s second president, John Adams, had an IQ of 142.5. At the age of 16, he was able to enrol in Harvard thanks to his genius-level grade, where he studied classical literature in its original Greek and Latin.
Jimmy Carter / Woodrow Wilson
The shared IQ of Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson, the 39th and 28th presidents of the United States, is 145.1. Wilson led a lengthy academic career before entering politics as a historian and political scientist, whereas Carter had been an excellent student who went on to excel at the US Naval Academy.
The only president to also be a Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, has an IQ of 148.8. With the aid of his innate intelligence, Clinton was given a scholarship to Georgetown University in Virginia, where he later went on the Rhodes Scholarship, before attending Yale Law School.
John F. Kennedy
He had an IQ of 150.65 and was the 35th president of the United States for three years, is remembered as one of the most famous leaders the country has ever had. He played a significant role in some of the most turbulent Cold War events and was assassinated in one of the most widely reported assassinations in American history.
Undoubtedly, Thomas Jefferson was one of the most active Americans in history. Jefferson, who had an estimated IQ of 153.75, served as the third president of the United States in addition to being the founder of the University of Virginia, president of the American Philosophical Society, and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, is currently regarded to have had an astronomically high IQ score of 168.75, making him by far the president with the highest estimated IQ of all time. Adams had demonstrated intelligence at a young age and was a voracious reader and translator of classical Greek and Latin works, in large part due to the influence of his father John Adams. Infamously, from the time he was a little boy until his passing, he kept a diary.