James Madison's IQ Might Surprise You

Often called the "Father of the Constitution," President James Madison was one of the smartest men to hold the country's top job. He grew up in Orange County, Virginia, as the oldest of 12 children, and he left home at 18 to attend the College of New Jersey (which is now known as Princeton University), according to History. Madison studied history, government, and law (via the White House). During the Revolutionary War, he became a colonel in his local militia in Virginia. Better suited to politics than soldiering, Madison served as a representative of his home county at Virginia's Constitution Convention in 1776.

Madison went on to represent his state at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, where he demonstrated his skills as a debater and befriended Thomas Jefferson. He further helped shape the country's future by writing the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to support the passing of the Constitution. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Madison also worked on the Bill of Rights. He later joined the administration of Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State in 1801. In this post, Madison assisted in one of America's biggest land deals, the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. He won the presidency in 1808 and steered the country through such difficult times as the War of 1812.

James Madison really was a genius

So just how bright was James Madison? According to one researcher, he was tied for second place with Thomas Jefferson on the list of presidents with the highest IQ, or Intelligence Quotient. Dean Simonton, a psychologist from University of California Davis, worked on determining the intelligence of each past president and developing an estimate of each of their IQs. He published his findings in 2006 (posted at JSTOR). He estimated that both Madison and his friend Jefferson probably had an IQ of approximately 160. The pair were only beaten out by John Quincy Adams, who had the highest estimated IQ of a staggering 175.

Madison's IQ is very impressive, especially considering that the average American has an IQ of 100, according to U.S. News & World Report. Anyone with a score above 130 is considered a genius, and a very small fraction of the population — only 3% — gets a score that high. In addition to being one of the smartest presidents, Madison comes first in another presidential category. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, James Madison was the shortest president in history. He stood at only 1.63 meters tall, which is roughly 5 foot 4 inches.