Feynman's IQ

Richard Feynman's IQ
A smattering of 2020 Quora requests surrounding Richard Feynman's high school IQ, reported as 125 by him or 123 by his sister.
In IQ anomalies, Feynman's IQ refers to []

In c.1933, Richard Feynman, aged 17, Far Rockaway High School, took an intelligence test (see: IQ test) of some sort, and scored an IQ of “125”, according to his own later report (R. Feynman, 1965) or “123” according to a joking report by his sister Joan Feynman (J. Feynman, 1994), who said she saw both of their test scores, when she snuck into see them.

In 1935, Feynman entered MIT. [2]

In 1939, Feynman, as an MIT senior, had the highest score in the nation on the Putnam.

In 1941, Feynman, age 23, was said to have had a physics prowess power as comparable to Einstein and Lev Landau (Gleick, 1992).

In 1965 Feynman, during his “Address to Far Rockaway High School”, supposedly, stated that his high school IQ was 125.

In 1979, Feynman was named, by Omni magazine, as the "smartest man in the world" (Ѻ).

In 1994, Joan Feynman, Richard’s younger sister, stated that, in joking interview way, that she had seen her brother’s IQ test, when she was young, and that his IQ score was 123 and hers was 124:

“When I was a kid, I sneaked off and got into the files and looked up our IQs. Mine was 124, his was 123. So, I was actually smarter than he was.”
— Joan Feynman (1994), No Ordinary Genius (pg. 25) [1]

Feynman, supposedly, had a standing bet that he could solve any problem to within 10% within 60 seconds; and some have suggested his non-verbal IQ was greater than 190 (Ѻ) Dirac is generally ranked, e.g. by Freeman Dyson (Ѻ), among others (Ѻ), as smarter than Feynman.

See main: Mislabeled geniuses and IQ tests
The general confusion surrounding the so-called age 17 “Feynman IQ anomaly”, is similar, in a reverse respect, to the age 4 “Galton IQ anomaly”, namely the infamy surrounding Lewis Terman’s 1917 calculation of the IQ of Francis Galton to be 200, based on a paragraph of the trivial things Galton, at age four, wrote that he was able to do, such as “read any English book” or multiply single digit numbers (see: miscalculated IQ).

Both, in turn, are similar to the anomalies of Henri Poincare being judged an imbecile (IQ:35) by Alfred Binet on the Binet IQ scale; William Shockley, the main person behind the invention of the semi-conductor, in 1918, at age 8, scoring 129 on Terman’s IQ test; John Kennedy scoring 119 on the Otis Intelligence Test; or Ayaan Ali doing poorly in her Netherlands IQ test.

“Funny how I could not qualify for Terman’s gifted study (1918), yet still win a Nobel Prize (1959) in physics.”
William Shockley (c.1970), “joke often said in later years”; cited by Joel Shurkin (2006) in Broken Genius (pg. 13)

“I point out that Ayaan Hirsi Ali was given an IQ test in the Netherlands and did very poorly. Yet, it’s hard to imagine someone brighter.”
— Jason Richwine (2008), panel, at the American Enterprise Group, discussing (Ѻ) new book by Mark Krikorian, director of Center for Immigration Studies

The following are modern intelligence ranking and influence states for each:

● Francis Galton (1822-1911) (IQ:145|#714) [RGM:294|1,500+] (Becker 160:123) [CR:51]
● Henri Poincare (1854-1912) (IQ:180|#180) [RGM:476|1,500+] [LPKE:12] (GME:9) (GPE:63) [CR:76]
William Shockley (1910-1989) (IQ:175|#260)
John Kennedy (1917-1963) (IQ:155|#664) [RGM:947|1,500+]
Richard Feynman (1918-1988) (IQ:185|#48) [RGM:131|1,500+] (GPE:9) (FA:166) [CR:103]
Ayaan Hirsi Ali (1969-) (IQ:#|#) (RGM:1052|1,500+) (FA:159) (CR:11)

While Ali’s IQ has not been gauged, her books, eloquence, and debate sharpness, during the new atheism movement, would at least put her in the 140+ range. All of these show that what one’s test scores were as a child, on a test designed to see if you will be a capable adult or good in college, do not predict, to at least a 80 to 90 percent probability, that one will become a “genius” as an adult. Secondly, people who become genius as adults tend not to waste their time, energy, for focus on trivial questions, not that they don’t at least obtain a general education or above, on average, but will be attracted to questions or areas of work that are not solved or open questions. This is the nature of the gravito-electro-magnetic that guides the proton-electron configurations that humans are made of, as well as future potential wells, points, or holes they fill with the growth of their mind.

Thirdly, by in large, more than 95% of those “tested” as geniuses, while a child or a teenager, never actually become geniuses as adults (see: inflated IQs), per reason that they were given a “false positive” by purported “genius” level ability as reported by their test score, in respect to trivial questions. This is perpetuated by psychologists who continue to corelated scores of the general population tests into the genius range, which one would suppose is something that Lewis Terman never intended, if he were to look back presently at what his “IQ” test concept has become, not necessarily for testing to get into college, but moreso giving false positives that to people that they are a genius, who are actually not.

Fourthly, there are those, as young adults, generally motivated by the praise of their parents, who expend considerable energy to amass "general knowledge", such as would be found on an intelligence test, e.g. SAT, ACT, Stanford-Binet, etc., or to finish at the top of their class, and who as adults, in large parts, become well-off and in a respectable position in society, but do not, more often than not, enter the "genius" range category, as we now look back on human history, and classify, categorize, and rank the top 1000 geniuses.

Fifth, the situation faced by Feynman, at age 17, would be akin to someone faced with answering the following question:

Question: "Teeth is to Hen as Nest is to ________?"

Which comes from Ronald Hoeflin’s 1985 so-called ‘Mega Test’ who boasted that if you answer this question, along with 47 others, then you would have an IQ of 202.

In 1936, Feynman, instead of wasting his energy on getting trivial teeth-hen questions like this, was trying to learn quantum mechanics in his summer spare time, because they did not offer such a course at MIT, an was exchanging letters with fellow student T.A. Welton, in attempts to discuss questions on a possible electrical version of spacetime: [2]

Question: “Electrical phenomena [are] a result of the metric of a space in the same way that gravitational phenomena are?”

Feynman, of course, went on to develop quantum electrodynamics.
Young geniuses, in other words, are drawn to their own derived or invented “questions”, which arise in their own mind, attracting their interest greatly; which, accordingly, are thus questions not yet able to make it into basic, trivial, or mundane high school intelligence tests; hence, the presumed anomaly between "genius recognition" on tests and tests that geniuses put their own minds to.

The following are related quotes:

“when he started high school, he came home upset by the apparent triviality of Algebra One. He went into his sister's room and asked, ‘Joanie, if 2^x is equal to 4 and x is an unknown number, can you tell me what x is?’ Of course she could, and Richard wanted to know why he should have to learn anything so obvious in high school. The same year, he could see just as easily what x must be if 2' was 32. The school quickly switched him into Algebra Two, taught by Miss Moore, a plump woman with an exquisite sense of discipline. Her class ran as a roundelay of problem solving, the students making a continual stream to and from the blackboard. Feynman was slightly ill at ease among the older students, but he already let friends know that he thought he was smarter. Still, his score on the school IQ test was a merely respectable 125.”
James Gleick (1992), Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (pg. 30)

“According to his biographer, in high school the brilliant mathematician Richard Feynman's score on the school's IQ test was a ‘merely respectable 125’ (Gleick, 1992, p. 30). It was probably a paper-and-pencil test that had a ceiling, and an IQ of 125 under these circumstances is hardly to be shrugged off, because it is about 1.6 standard deviations above the mean of 100. The general experience of psychologists in applying tests would lead them to expect that Feynman would have made a much higher IQ if he had been properly tested.”
— John Carroll (1996), The Nature of Mathematical Thinking (pg. 9)

“Feynman was universally regarded as one of the fastest-thinking and most creative theorists in his generation. Yet, it has been reported-including by Feynman himself-that he only obtained a score of 125 on a school IQ test. I suspect that this test emphasized verbal, as opposed to mathematical, ability. Feynman received the highest score in the country by a large margin on the notoriously difficult Putnam mathematics competition exam, although he joined the MIT team on short notice and did not prepare for the test. He also reportedly had the highest scores on record on the math/physics graduate admission exams at Princeton. It seems quite possible to me that Feynman's cognitive abilities might have been a bit lopsided — his vocabulary and verbal ability were well above average, but perhaps not as great as his mathematical abilities. I recall looking at excerpts from a notebook Feynman kept while an undergraduate. While the notes covered very advanced topics for an undergraduate — including general relativity and the Dirac equation — it also contained a number of misspellings and grammatical errors. I doubt Feynman cared very much about such things.”
— Steve Hsu (2011), “Reply to: ‘Is it true that Feynman’s IQ was only 125?” [4]

1. Feynman, Richard. (1994). No Ordinary Genius: the Illustrated Richard Feynman (editor: Christopher Sykes) (IQ, pgs. 25, 29). Norton.
2. Richard Feynman – MacTutor.
3. (a) Feynman, Richard. (1965). “Address to Far Rockaway High School”, Transcript CIT. (pg. 15). Vintage.
(b) Gleick, James. (1992). Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (IQ, pgs. 30, 448). Publisher.
4. Wai, Jonathan. (2011). "A Polymath Physicist on Richard Feynman's ‘Low’ IQ And Finding Another Einstein: A Conversation with Steve Hsu" (Ѻ), Psychology Today, Dec 26.

Further reading
● Anon. (2014). “Richard Feynman’s IQ” (Ѻ), GrayEnlightenment.com, Sep 7.
● Why do people act like Richard Feynman’s 125 IQ destroyed the concept of IQ? (2018) (Ѻ) – Quora.

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