Thomas Jefferson's IQ Will Surprise You

Thomas Jefferson was known as the primary draftsman of the Declaration of Independence, the country's first secretary of state, the second vice president, and the third president of the United States. And, if that wasn't enough, in his spare time after serving two terms as president, he designed his estate, Monticello, and founded the University of Virginia, per U.S. News & World Report. That's quite a resume for one person, but Jefferson was no ordinary person of ordinary intelligence. A number of biographers and psychologists consider him to be of a genius-level IQ.

Jefferson was born to a prominent family on April 13, 1743 at the Shadwell plantation, just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, per the Monticello website. As a child, he enjoyed spending time in the woods, practicing the violin, and reading — all of which would become staples in his life as an adult. His formal education began at the age of nine by studying Latin and Greek at a local private school. By the time he turned 14, he expanded his studies to literature and mathematics. A few years later, after learning all he could from local schools, Jefferson left home to attend the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia's capital. After two years there, he studied law with Virginia's prominent jurist, George Wythe, according to William & Mary, and recorded his first legal case in 1767 at just 24 years of age.

Thomas Jefferson may have been a genius

All of that training and hard work led to Thomas Jefferson landing a high IQ score of 160 (most people score around 100). Of course, the modern day IQ test wasn't created until 1905, when French psychologist Alfred Binet was commissioned by the French government to identify students who would likely struggle the most in school, per Politico. So, how did Jefferson score so well on a test that didn't yet exist? According to Newsweek, his brilliance was first determined in a 1926 study by an early intelligence researcher by the name of Catharine Cox, who pronounced eight presidents as geniuses after poring over biographies and establishing a method of IQ based on childhood and adolescent achievements.

More recently, Dean Keith Simonton, a psychologist at the University of California at Davis, applied a statistical model to a massive trove of presidential biographies, surveys, polls, and other historical sources of the first 42 presidents, according to The Washington Post. Simonton took Cox's IQ estimates for the early presidents, and checked them against biographical information of modern presidents, all the while building an intelligence matrix for all presidents up to George W. Bush. His findings were published in 2006 in Political Psychology, which assigned Jefferson that 160 IQ score. But, among presidents, Jefferson still only came in second. He lost out to the sixth president, John Quincy Adams, who had an IQ between 165 and 175 — a true genius.