Galton's IQ

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A 1926 poster, designed by Philip Benson's London advertising agency, commissioned by the English Eugenics Education Society, meant to illustrated Francis Galton's 1869 theory that "genius is hereditary-based", and to bolster his 1883 eugenics theory. Presumably, this idea was in the air when Lewis Terman in 1917 calculated the IQ of an age 5 Galton as being "near 200".[1]

In genius studies, Galton's IQ (LH:6) refers to the 1917 IQ calculation, by Lewis Terman, using his new "historiometric method", of the age 3-8 range IQ of Francis Galton as being "not far from 200". This was the first-ever calculation of the IQ of an historical figure, according to the newly-invented IQ scale (Terman, 1916). This method expanded into the 1926 calculation of 300 geniuses by Catherine Cox, Terman's PhD student.


In 1869, Francis Galton, on the heels of his cousin Charles Darwin's 1859 On the Origin of Species, published Hereditary Genius, characterized as the first scientific attempt to study genius and greatness.[2] While path breaking, the study was biased from the get-go, per Galton's underlying aim to prove that genius was inherited. This didn't meet well with many:

“Galton, in Hereditary Genius, went to great lengths to show that talent runs in families and was coded into our biology. Oddly enough, he never pointed out that more than half of his ‘geniuses’ is turned up in families with no history of distinction at all such was the power of prejudice that he concentrated only on those who supported his hereditarian views.”
— Steve Jones (1994), The Language of Genes (pg. 225)[3]

Moreover, presently, via analysis of the top 2000 minds, "genius families" are very rare, meaning genius generally is not something in the genes or inherited, as Galton believed. Nevertheless, this was on of the first main publications in the now-popular science of genius studies.


In 1917, Lewis Terman, in his “The Intelligence Quotient of Francis Galton in Childhood”[1], after inventing his IQ scale and "IQ" determination, via his intelligence testing and mental age method, the previous year, sought to apply this method to the calculation of IQs of historical figures, which he did by using Karl Pearson's The Life, Letters and Labors of Francis Galton, Volume One[4], and from the facts detailed therein, such as the following:

“I am four years old and I can read any English book. I can say all the Latin substantives and adjectives and active verbs besides fifty-two lines of Latin poetry. I can cast up any sum in addition and can multiply by 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11. I can also say the pence table. I read French a little and know the clock.”
Francis Galton (1826), “Letter to Sister: Summary of my Abilities”, at age 4-years and 365-days

Terman, on the basis of this existographical data, concluded:

“From the evidence given, one is justified in concluding that between ages of three and eight years, at least, Francis Galton must have had an intelligence quotient [IQ] not far from 200.”
— Lewis Terman (1917), “The Intelligence Quotient of Francis Galton in Childhood” (pg. #)

Mathematically, Terman determined this number as follows:


where "10" was Galton's "mental age", "5" was his "actual age", and 100 is Terman's scaling factor.

As he later summarized: "Galton as a child had an intelligence quotient not far from 200, i.e. his ‘mental age’ was about twice his actual age".[5] This Galton IQ calculation was the first-ever calculation of an IQ of an historical person.


In 1921, Terman assigned Catherine Cox, his graduate student, the job for her PhD dissertation, the task of expanding on what he done with Galton by calculating the IQs of the top 300 geniuses of the Cattell 1000 of adult age between 1350 and 1850. When this effort was completed and published, as Early Mental Traits of Three Hundred Geniuses, we see more realistic ceiling genius IQs, as shown below, which are the so-called AII IQs or "young adulthood IQs" of each person, in the age range of 17 to mid-20s:[6]

  1. Goethe (IQ:210)
  2. Leibniz (IQ:205)
  3. Grotius (IQ:200)
  4. Wolsey (IQ:200)
  5. Pascal (IQ:195)
  6. Sarpi (IQ:195)
  7. Newton (IQ:190)
  8. Laplace (IQ:190)
  9. Voltaire (IQ:190)
  10. Schelling (IQ:190)

Wherein, the premise of Galton falling, in intellect, between say Newton and Goethe, becomes laughable! Hence, in the decades to follow, Terman's so-called "first effort IQ calculation" of a childhood Galton, came to be seen as a novel, but correctly an off-base calculation, when compared to the say the top ten Cox IQs, shown above.

Thims 185

In 2008, Galton and his IQ of 200 were listed as #10 in Libb Thims growing list (see: Thims 15) of purported-to-be IQs in the 200+ range. The in-congruence of this IQ, along with others found later, was one of the goads that, by 2010, initiated Thims into a "re-ranking" of the IQs, correctly, of all geniuses and purported-to-be top minds.


The following are related quotes:

“God alone knows how [Terman] estimated Galton’s IQ as 200.”
— Peter Medawar (1977), "Unnatural Science" [7]
“I point out that Sir Francis was taken quite seriously as a leading intellect of his time. The American hereditarian Lewis Terman, the man most responsible for instituting IQ tests in America, retrospectively calculated Gallon's IQ at above 200, but accorded only 135 to Darwin and a mere 100-110 to Copernicus? On this ludicrous incident in the history of mental testing, see: pgs. 213-218. Darwin, who approached hereditarian arguments with strong suspicion, wrote after reading Hereditary Genius: ‘You have made a convert of an opponent in one sense, for I have always maintained that, excepting fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work"’ (Galton, 1909, pf. 290). Galton responded: ‘The rejoinder that might be made to his remark about hard work, is that character, including the aptitude for work, is heritable like every other faculty’.”
— Stephen Gould (1980), The Mismeasure of Man (pg. #)
“Based on Karl Pearson's four volume biography of Galton, Terman (1917) analyzed Galton's intellectual accomplishments as a child and estimated Galton's mental age as a child as roughly twice his physical age. That is, at age five he was reasoning as would a normal ten-year-old, and by the time he was eight, had accomplished what a nor-mal 16-year-old could do. Thus, Terman estimated Galton's IQ as surpassing 200. Although trained in mathematics and medicine at Cambridge, when he was 22 the death of his father and the resulting inheritance allowed him to forgo continuing in medicine and instead to satisfy the desire to travel he had acquired as a brilliant if somewhat cavalier student.”
— William Revelle (2014), “Francis Galton”[8]

End matter

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Terman, Lewis. (1917). “The Intelligence Quotient of Francis Galton in Childhood” (GB), American Journal of Psychology, 28: 209-15.
  2. Galton, Francis. (1869). Hereditary Genius: an Inquiry into its Law and Consequences. London: Macmillan.
  3. (a) Jones, S. (1994). The Language of Genius (pg. 225). London.
    (b) Sesardic, Neven. (2005). Making Sense of Heritability (pg. 17). Cambridge University Press.
  4. Pearson, Karl. (1914). The Life, Letters and Labors of Francis Galton, Volume One. Cambridge, 2011.
  5. Cox, Catharine. (1926). Genetic Studies of Genius. Volume II. The Early Mental Traits of Three Hundred Geniuses (Editor's Preface, pgs. v-ix, Galton IQ of 200, pg. v) (GB) (Arc) (pdf) (ratings, pg. viii). Stanford University Press.
  6. Cox IQ – Hmolpedia 2020.
  7. (a) Medawar, Peter. (1977). "Unnatural Science", The New York Review of Books, 24 (1,3), Feb.; reviewing The Science and Politics of IQ, by Leon J. Kamin, and The IQ Controversy, edited by N.J. Block, edited by Gerald Dworkin.
    (b) Sesardic, Neven. (2005). Making Sense of Heritability (pg. 17). Cambridge University Press.
  8. Revelle, William. (2014). “Francis Galton”, in: The Encyclopedia of Clinical Psychology (editors: R. Cautin and S. Lilienfeld) (pdf). Publisher.

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