Putin’s IQ is 130

putin-with-bookPumpkin Person (PP), an up and coming IQ blogger, has estimated Putin’s IQ to be about 127.

He derives this based on a z-factor analysis of Putin’s status as the most powerful White person in the world (135), based on the 0.4 correlation between IQ and income (and presumably, power), minus an adjustment for his relatively dimunitive height (-8), based on the 0.24 correlation between IQ and height.

The method is of course questionable for any number of reasons. That said, for someone who openly admits to knowing “virtually nothing” about Putin, this is entirely understandable. Even people who know more about him will have a hard time making very good estimates because of the paucity of public records of Putin’s academic performance.

That said, I think in general that is a fair estimate, not least because my own impression of Putin’s IQ has also long been about 130.

Below I will be trying to substantiate this estimate with more detail.

First off, a little expounding on PP’s argument

historical-height-of-russian-menPP probably makes too much of the height thing. First of all, he uses an estimate of 63.5 inches (161cm), versus the official figure of 67 inches (170cm), on the basis that there is a conspiracy theory to inflate Putin’s height. Second, he compares Putin’s height with old American dudes (174cm), whereas the proper comparison would be with old Russian dudes (168-170cm as shown right). In fact, if we posit that there is no conspiracy to overstate Putin’s height, and it really is 170cm, then he would be entirely typical of men of his generation. (This would make him similar to Napoleon, another very powerful man who was reputed to be short but was in fact entirely average in that respect for a late 18th century Corsican).

Of course these points are also rather moot in the sense that you’d also then have to adjust down for Flynn Effect, especially since this is the 1950s USSR you’re talking about, i.e. still a semi-Third World country in socio-economic terms, with residual malnutrition. This would have almost the same exact effect of knocking 5-10 points off and getting 125-130.

(Another point raised by the commentator SFG is that another issue to consider is that shorter dudes face face extra headwinds to success due to purely social factors, so the IQ of a short person who manages to attain power nonetheless might be expected to be higher, if anything. PP argues that the correlation between height and money is actually very slight once adjusted for IQ. But I am not sure you can so cavalierly extend this from from money – which you can make without much in the way of social status – to power – where having status and a telegenic presence is a necessity).

Additional arguments for Putin having an IQ of 130

He got into Leningrad State, one of the USSR’s elite universities (though not the most elite Moscow institutions – but then as far as I know he didn’t apply to them anyway). His performance, though classified, was evidently good enough for him to be eventually accepted into the KGB’s foreign espionage department. However, his career progression in the KGB was slow. He only began to rise fast after joining the world of 1990s Russian politics.

He is known for making witty rejoinders and having a very good grasp of facts, numbers, and statistics in discussions.

He is fully fluent in German. Since becoming President, he has also developed semi-fluency in the English language, despite an obviously crowded schedule. All this hints at a solid degree of intelligence.

According to insider accounts, his typical reading material consists of bulky historical tomes. That suggests high intelligence and discipline.

He is also genuinely religious, and religiosity has a negative correlation with IQ. His family are both working class; grandfather was a chef for Lenin and Stalin. But the Putin family is also surprisingly long-lived, especially by Russian standards – most of them tend to live into their late 80s and even 90s. Longevity is positively correlated with IQ.

Though I have trouble recalling any very specific examples, my general impression is that he is NOT at an elite level of intelligence (i.e. 145+). This loose impression is backed up by another commentator at PP’s blog, Konstantin Surzhikov, who appears to be both Russian and familiar with psychometrics (he might be this guy with an IQ of 144).

Hi there. I am blessed to know several persons with recorded IQ’s from 123 to 142 (sd 15,age-addjasted western norms). So, I’d like to put my 50 cent here. Putin acts and talks as a person with IQ definitely lower than 137, but slightly higher than 125. My subjective impression that it can be a bit higher than 127, but all in all it fits your guess very well/ I understand clearly that this kind of approach can hardly be better than your calculation , but my only – but important – advantage is that I am a Russia citizen, a native Russian, watching that very active and talkative guy on TV here for years. Well done anyways!

Could Putin’s IQ be much higher than 130? The argument from geopolitics.

There is a well-established stereotype of Putin “outplaying” Obama on the world stage (see all the Putin playing chess while Obama plays checkers rhetoric floating around), which PP alludes to.

One problem with estimating Putin’s IQ at 127 is that there is reason to believe Obama’s IQ is close to 140. Can Obama really be smarter than Putin when we keep seeing reports that Putin is always outsmarting Obama.

It has been found that IQ correlated postively with assessments of US Presidential leadership performance, so this is certainly worth bearing in mind.

However, there are two caveats to be borne in mind here.

First, we will only know how geopolitically successful (or not) Putin truly is not today, but in a decade’s time or so. As I have covered on this very blog, the concept of mnogokhodovka – the concept that Putin is carrying out a long-term, very intelligent series of chess moves that will end up in the creation of Novorossiya and the defeat of the US empire that – is fast becoming a laughing stock amongst both liberals and anti-Kremlin nationalists. Even the pro-Kremlin nationalists who created this concept are now abandoning it.

Second, there are reasons to believe the correlation between IQ and leadership performance in Russia might not hold nearly as strongly in Russia as it does in the US. That is because the Russian elites are far less loyal to Russia than American elites are to the US. Some literally care more about having access to French cheese than the lives and wellbeing of their less privileged compatriots in Crimea. Much more exposed to Western influence thanks to their international contacts and English  language proficiency, they tend to develop a cargo cult mentality towards the West, which expresses itself in cringing obeisance to Western foreign policy and the wholesale adoption of Western ways, and should the people object, they could always be dissolved and another elected (as per Bertolt Brecht). This is based on the idea that Western acculturation will reap great dividents and that the West itself has Russia’s best interests at heart. Of course, neither has been true historically.

It is worth noting in particular that Gorbachev, possibly the USSR’s most intelligent leader, was also the one who failed in the most singular, spectacular way: His country ceased to exist, and his approval ratings in Russia remain within polling margins of error to this day.

This does not just apply to the politicians, but to voters too. A map of voting patterns in Moscow shows the richest places displaying the highest support for liberal pro-Western figures like Navalny, with the very highest support for them registering in areas around elite universities. As such, supporters of patriotic and conservative currents in Russian politics (as opposed to liberal) suffer from a cruel bind – we are objectively dumber than the people who would have us kneel before the likes of Obama.

However, as the HBDsphere will know better than anyone else, this does not mean we are wrong.

The media and academia are constantly promoting multiculturalism and these elites may make more of an effort to brainwash high IQ people because they’re the future elites. Little effort is made to convince low IQ whites to embrace multiculturalism because it doesn’t matter what they think; and indeed allowing low IQ whites to dwell in racialism further stigmatizes it as low class, which is exactly what the intelligentsia wants. Further, low IQ whites might be harder to brainwash anyway because they don’t have enough brains to wash.

Ergo Russians and the Western media/political complex.

Could Putin’s IQ be much lower than 130? The argument from plagiarism, aggression, corruption, and unwillingness to engage in debates.

Putin did have his PhD thesis written for him in the 1990s, but every Russian politician was doing the same thing. In Russia’s context, that say’s nothing about Putin’s IQ.

Aggressiveness is negatively correlated with IQ. Probably so is corruption.

putin-vs-obamaPutin is undoubtedly more “aggressive” than the average Western politician, as humorously documented by numerous Internet memes like the one on the right. In his series of 1999 interviews documented in the book From the First Person, Putin admitted to being involved in street fights and consorting with riffraff in his schoolboy days (though this may have motivated by a strategy to project an “everyman” image). Even so, no conclusions can be made from this on his intelligence. That is because Russian politics and business is systemically more aggressive than in Western countries. That’s simply what you have to do to survive there.

For instance, take Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Thanks to a skilful and well-funded “rebranding” campaign and cultivation of ties with American neocons in the 2000s, he is primarily known in the West as a genteel Jewish intellectual of moderate social democratic views who got repressed by Putin for supporting corporate transparency and human rights. But in the long-forgotten 1990s, he had the reputation of a gangster who abused minority investors and had his business and political rivals whacked. And yet this very unscrupulous and possibly outright murderous man undoubtedly has a very high IQ.

And these examples can be extended almsot indefinitely so far as the Russian elites are concerned.

Ergo for corruption. Though it need hardly be said that everyone is still waiting for any evidence of his $70 billion offshore fortune.

One final observation is that Putin has studiously avoided debates with political rivals. Performance in debates correlates well with IQ, so if Putin’s was low, he might feel afraid to take on his political challengers so directly. But this has a perfectly rational explanation. In all Presidential elections to date, his poll ratings have massively outstripped those of the Communist, nationalist, and liberal candidates. He is not obligated to debate any of them by law. Doing so would only introduce the chance of him making some costly rhetorical blunder and suffering a big blow in the polls. As such, to participate in them at all would be a mistake.

While he has not participated in debates, he does field unrehearsed questions from journalists and citizens on a somewhat regular basis. My observation is that for the most part, his answers tend to be lucid, erudite, and witty. This is a fair but not great indicator of IQ.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. The IQ-universalism connection (to use Moldbug’s terminology) is twofold, I think.

    One, smart people tend to be better at getting into elite universities and so on, and tend to benefit from globalization more. While nobody is safe, they tend not to be the ones whose jobs get outsourced. Certainly lots of coders lost their jobs to Indians a few years ago, but tech has rebounded. We don’t see lots of manufacturing jobs getting created here. I imagine the same is true in Russia (though I’d love to hear from Russians who actually know!)

    Two, the elite brainwashing tends to occur at the elite universities, as you state above.

    (Thanks for the hat tip–I often think interactions between variables are ignored because people like to construct simple models. Rule of 10 and so on.)

  2. But does it really matter?
    How smart and accomplished his advisers/executants are is the most important parameter here.

    Even if his IQ was one standard deviation higher he wouldn’t be able to master economic, military, diplomatic etc… files all at once. So how he selects his entourage is key.

  3. This stuff makes astrology look like particle physics.

  4. German_reader says

    “Thanks to a skilful and well-funded “rebranding” campaign and cultivation of ties with American neocons in the 2000s, he is primarily known in the West as a genteel Jewish intellectual of moderate social democratic views”

    Yes, it’s pretty disgusting how Western media portray Khodorkovsky as some great liberal hope for Russia…but I’m not sure if it works among non-“elite” sections of Western populations. When comments are allowed on pro-Khodorkovsky-panegyrics, lots of commenters will call him criminal scum who got what he deserved. Not that it matters though…as in so many other matters, Western “elites” create their own reality.
    And Obama has an IQ of 140? I find that difficult to believe, the man has always struck me as fairly mediocre, incurious and incapable of uttering anything but liberal platitudes.

  5. Erik Sieven says

    To be honest I do not see the point of discussing the IQ of individuals. As I understand it IQ is very useful to predict the average behaviour of groups, but less so for individuals, there is to much variance. I would put people in broad categories like 85-115 (average), 115-145 (over average), over 145 (genius).

  6. Lion of the Judah-sphere says

    This is pretty much entirely correct. Except estimating IQ is fun, so why not?

  7. Seamus Padraig says

    Russian elites are far less loyal to Russia than American elites are to the US. Some literally care more about having access to French cheese than the lives and wellbeing of their less privileged compatriots in Crimea.

    I don’t believe that US elites can really be described as loyal the country, just themselves–no different than Russian elites.

    It is worth noting in particular that Gorbachev, possibly the USSR’s most intelligent leader, was also the one who failed in the most singular, spectacular way: His country ceased to exist, and his approval ratings in Russia remain within polling margins of error to this day.

    This is one of many reasons I don’t take too much stock in IQ scores for most professions.

    Though it need hardly be said that everyone is still waiting for any evidence of his $70 billion offshore fortune.

    He probably stashed it all away in his imaginary mansion in Marbella!

    In all Presidential elections to date, his poll ratings have massively outstripped those of the Communist, nationalist, and liberal candidates. He is not obligated to debate any of them by law. Doing so would only introduce the chance of him making some costly rhetorical blunder and suffering a big blow in the polls. As such, to participate in them at all would be a mistake.

    I also suspect that’s the real reason that our debates never include third-party candidates.

  8. This stuff makes astrology look like particle physics.

    Indeed, speculations upon speculation to figure out who is taller based on visual perception is like that Nobel committee to figure out who is better. Only way to find someone height is to measure him with ruler. Only objective way to get true intelligence of Russian leader is giving Putin IQ test.

  9. Stubborn in Germany says

    When Putin was a KGB agent, what was his preferred method of snuffing people — garotte, silenced .22 pistol, … ?

  10. Robert Anderson says

    He could compare notes with George H.W. Bush, former CIA director,

  11. Being a tough guy and aggressiveness are two different things. Chris Langan (having one of the highest recorded IQs at 210) worked as a bouncer on Long Island, NY.

    As for chess/strategic thinking, Geoff Colvin in Talent is Overrated states that there have been international chess masters with below average IQs (Colvin cites a German study from 1987 on intelligence and chess).

    As for being religious and IQ, it certainly doesn’t seem to apply to my cognitive-elite area outside of Boston. And if you include Chinese and Korean cognitive elites I’d say it is more common for the higher IQed to be religious. I think Charles Murray’s Coming Apart said cognitive elites tended to attend church at higher rates?

    OT: Lavrov strikes me as having a very high IQ (not that 130 isn’t, it’s higher than Richard Feynman’s and fellow Nobel Laureate and MIT PhD in physics, William Shockley).

  12. As for chess/strategic thinking, Geoff Colvin in Talent is Overrated states that there have been international chess masters with below average IQs (Colvin cites a German study from 1987 on intelligence and chess).

    The talent doesn’t matter literature is great at coming up with anecdotal evidence to support its preferred narrative. I wasn’t able to find the German paper: Doll, J., & Mayr, U. (1987). Intelligenz und Schachleistung – eine Untersuchung an Schachexperten. Psychologische Beiträge, 29, 270–289,
    but a 2005 paper “Individual differences in chess expertise: A psychometric investigation” looks at IQ and ELO correlations. Table 1 gives correlations of o.35 (general), 0.38 (verbal), and 0.46 (numerical). The IQ/ELO scatterplots in Figure 1 are interesting and show that trend (except Figural IQ with r=0.02), but there are still outliers (e.g. IQ~90, ELO~2200). So IQ is clearly not everything when it comes to chess, but it does appear to matter. It would be interesting to study the low IQ chess experts and see if there are any psychometric areas where they clearly excel.

    P.S. A metric I use for evaluating literature like this is the use of actual numbers, statistics, and plots to support what should be an easy quantitative/statistical argument to make if the conclusions are actually true. It is interesting to read Chanda Chisala’s articles on unz.com keeping this metric in mind.

  13. Stubborn in Germany says

    Chris Langan (having one of the highest recorded IQs at 210)

    Super-high IQ scores are not to be taken seriously. Read the WP article.

    Feynman may or may not have said once that his IQ was 120, the source is not solid. He was known to joke a lot. He may have been dyslexic and any IQ test that he took back then (if he did take one) might have been insufficiently adapted to dyslexics. What he accomplished would of course have been impossible with a 120 IQ. He was a Renaissance man who could write with sparkling clarity, think deeply about physics, do math like a mathematician, and work with others to get things done. (Not to mention playing the bongo drums!)

    I don’t know anything about Shockley but the idea that any scientist doing work at the topmost level could function with a mere 120 IQ is preposterous.

    A person with 120 IQ could, however, be a successful politician or entrepreneur. There’s a lot of room for animal cunning, drive and determination, and people skills in 120 IQ.

  14. Richard Feynman was a horrible writer and spoke like he had no education at all. If anything his IQ was BELOW 120.

  15. Some literally care more about having access to French cheese than the lives and wellbeing of their less privileged compatriots in Crimea.


    Where does French cheese come from?

  16. James Watson has admitted that his IQ is only in the 120s. His partner Francis Crick was even lower, around 115-120, I believe. Nobel Laureate in Physics Luis Alvarez missed the IQ cutoff for Lewis Terman’s high IQ “termites” group, which was 135.

    Only a delusional IQ-worshiping autist thinks you need an IQ of 130+ to do trailblazing work in a hard science.

  17. Simon in London says

    I would have guessed a bit higher, maybe 135, but 130 is believable.

    I’m not sure why Obama would be thought to have a very high IQ – he seems more intelligent than the Bush/Kerry ‘dumb pol’ types ca IQ 120, obviously much smarter than his wife (is she even three figures?) but not a Bill (ca 145?) or even a Hillary Clinton. Somewhere in the 125-135 range in fact, much like Putin!

  18. 130 feels about right as a guess, but the means by which this was “statistically” derived look like utter sophistry to me.

    Thankfully though I did see this tagged as “Humor.”

  19. It is pretty funny as a joke, probably not too far off from how our Kremlinologist buffoons arrive at their assessment of Pitin as an autistic and so on.

  20. I agree with the 130 estimate. I’m mostly basing that on having heard him speak a lot. The things Anatoly mentioned – the command of facts, the wry, spontaneous humor – are important.

    A few months ago Anatoly Shariy published a fascinating video interview with a classmate of Putin’s who was then living in the Donetsk People’s Republic.

    This man said that Putin did extremely well in humanitarian subjects – literature, history, geography, sociology. He also did well in math and biology, but had trouble with physics and chemistry. The interviewee helped Putin with the latter two subjects, while Putin helped the interviewee write papers for literature class.

    Other things from that video:

    The interviewee said that he and Putin had opposite personalities. He was a nice (Jewish, mama’s) boy type, while Putin sometimes got involved in physical fights and had his parents summoned to school on that account.

    “Volodya” was an informal leader in any group. Shocking, I know. “He was an example of honor and honesty to us all”. In disputes his word was final. The interviewer asked what could set Putin off. “Rudeness, coarseness, especially towards women.”

    The interviewee remembered two girls almost fighting over Putin. At the same time he doesn’t remember him having any girlfriends. He had no interest in alcohol. He played the accordion well and was progressing through the various ranks of judo while still in school. In 9th grade he transferred to a school with an emphasis on chemistry because he wanted to apply to the KGB School later, and chemistry was his weak subject.

    Starting in school and continuing in adulthood Putin and the interviewee went for walks in the evenings almost daily, often arguing about politics for hours. Putin usually supported the official, government line. The interviewee had “dissident” views, which was typical for Soviet Jews at that time.

    Their friendship ended when Putin went to work in Moscow in 1979. After a stint in America the interviewee moved to Gorlovka, near Donetsk, in 2004. Ten years later Gorlovka was engulfed in the Donbass War. The interviewee had very harsh words for Putin on that score. He accused him of betraying the Donbass – encouraging it to revolt, leading it to believe that Russia would help, and then standing by as it was shelled by the junta.

    I suspect that much of that happened due to circumstances beyond Putin’s control, but unlike the interviewee I’ve never lived in a war zone, so I’m not going to judge him too harshly for getting emotional.

  21. “since this is the 1950s USSR you’re talking about, i.e. still a semi-Third World country in socio-economic terms, with residual malnutrition. “

    It’s my understanding that the last year of food shortages in the USSR was 1947. I wouldn’t call post-WWII USSR semi-Third-World. GDP comparisons are misleading partly because in the USSR you couldn’t add to the GDP by scamming people. The more market-oriented a system is, the more economic activity it will produce. A lot of economic activity is useless or harmful though.

    “There is a well-established stereotype of Putin “outplaying” Obama on the world stage”

    Obama sees through the neocons a little. This was obvious long before the Iran deal. From their perspective he’s the worst president since Nixon. They had some trouble with Bush I, but I think it was minor in comparison. The neocons express their displeasure with Obama through this “weak and outplayed” line. It’s not to be taken literally. That’s not the reason they don’t like him. If he was being outplayed by THEM, they’d be calling him tough and courageous. I think that his policies are somewhat divergent from their wishes because he wants them to be that way.

    As for intelligence, I think that like Putin, Obama is in the 120 – 130 range.

    “That is because the Russian elites are far less loyal to Russia than American elites are to the US.”

    I wouldn’t say that. There’s lots of hatred of America among American elites.

    “It is worth noting in particular that Gorbachev, possibly the USSR’s most intelligent leader”

    Top pols are usually smart. Stalin got stellar grades at seminary. I don’t know what Brezhnev was like before senility. Khruschev is remembered as a country bumpkin, but he wasn’t stupid. In America LBJ and Jimmy Carter are remembered in a similar way, but neither of them was stupid.

  22. This man said that Putin did extremely well in humanitarian subjects

    Literal translation, and those are so often incorrect. I should have typed “the humanities” instead.

  23. Anatoly Karlin says

    Re-Feynman’s “low” IQ. That is a myth. He had an elite-level IQ.


    3. Is it true Feynman’s IQ score was only 125?

    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.

  24. I’m assuming that Feynman had sky-high IQ. Maybe he enjoyed acting the rube – surprising people that way, having fun with them – and maybe his story about having gotten a score of 125 in school was a part of that. I’m guessing here.

    It’s rare for super-smart people to speak their native language in a prole, low-status accent, yet I’ve seen him speak with a New York accent in videos. That might have been a part of that too.

  25. Exactly. The Brooklyn radio repairman thing was an act from start to finish.

  26. Putin turned 63, just yesterday, according to Wikipedia.org; so, he has been shrinking, vertically, for over half of his life, by now. Anyway, someone should have talked Charlie Rose into giving Putin a reverse-digit-span test, during their recent “60 Minutes” interview.

  27. Since most national politicians are lawyers, these days, the press should habitually ask candidates for high office who are lawyers what their respective LSAT percentiles were!?! Barry apparently scored between the 94th and 98th percentiles, about twenty-five years ago:


  28. After high school, Carter enrolled at Georgia Southwestern College, in Americus.

    He would later apply to the United States Naval Academy and, after taking additional mathematics courses at Georgia Tech, he was admitted in 1943. Carter graduated 59th out of 820 midshipmen.

    Carter served on surface ships and on diesel-electric submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. As a junior officer, he completed qualification for command of a diesel-electric submarine. He applied for the US Navy’s fledgling nuclear submarine program run by then Captain Hyman G. Rickover. Rickover’s demands on his men and machines were legendary, and Carter later said that, next to his parents, Rickover had the greatest influence on him.

    Carter has said that he loved the Navy, and had planned to make it his career. His ultimate goal was to become Chief of Naval Operations. Carter felt the best route for promotion was with submarine duty since he felt that nuclear power would be increasingly used in submarines. During service on the diesel-electric submarine USS Pomfret, Carter was almost washed overboard. After six years of military service, Carter trained for the position of engineering officer in submarine USS Seawolf, then under construction. Carter completed a non-credit introductory course in nuclear reactor power at Union College starting in March 1953. This followed Carter’s first-hand experience as part of a group of American and Canadian servicemen who took part in cleaning up after a partial nuclear meltdown at Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories reactor in 1952.

    Upon the death of his father, James Earl Carter, Sr., in July 1953, Lieutenant Carter immediately resigned his commission, and he was discharged from the Navy on October 9, 1953. This cut short his nuclear powerplant operator training, and he was never able to serve on a nuclear submarine, since the first boat of that fleet, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), was launched on January 17, 1955, over a year after his discharge from the Navy.

    Competition to get into the military academies was particularly stiff, during the war. Jimmy Carter certainly acquitted himself decently, during his three years at Annapolis.

  29. smart people to speak their native language in a prole, low-status accent, yet I’ve seen him speak with a New York accent in videos. That might have been a part of that too.

    Two people come to mind in this regard. Bernie Sanders (B.A., Chicago) and Michael Savage (Ph.D., Cal-Berkeley). Both sound like NYC dock workers.

  30. All I got from that is that Feynman was good in math and math-based science (i.e., physics). It’s evidence of being bright with good skills in math, not necessarily a stellar IQ. If you read Surely Your Joking Mr. Feynman you can understand how he could’ve developed exceptional mathematical skills. From a young age he was teaching himself from stacks of math and science books he borrowed from the library. He even says he read books with math techniques no longer covered in textbooks, which gave him many more tools in his toolbag than others. If someone starts out at a young age and is obsessive and focused on a subject and pursues it on his or her own, he or she will reach levels way beyond someone who limits him or herself to school learning. Even if the former is a mental tortoise and the latter a mental hare. Quick-mindedness is one of the few things that can’t be learned that is evidence of a higher IQ and I’m not sure Feynman demonstrated a lot of that.

    Btw, if you haven’t watched Murray Gell-Mann talking about Feynman you must. Great insights. Not flattering to Feynman. He possessed personality traits not consistent with a stratospheric IQ.

  31. Sanders is from a not-rich Jewish family in Brooklyn and Savage has a similar background, from the Bronx. I’m not sure if smart people with humble backgrounds almost always lose their accents when they become successful.

  32. You seem to be somewhat unclear on the concept of human intelligence.
    Gell-Mann was the anti-Feynman. He pretended to be much more well read and sophisticated than he was.

  33. Junk science. Largely conjectural. Very narrow understanding of intelligence. Overestimates the intelligence of scientists and mathematicians, whereas their intelligence otherwise tends to be very ordinary, e.g. Einstein’s opinions on practically everything. Examples of true genius not so easily measured: Dante, Plato. Profundity–ontological scope–of intelligence is worth far more than mental agility along a narrow band. The philosophical muddle in contemporary physics is a good example of the mediocre mentality of scientists outside the narrow band of their specialty. Intelligence is of all things the least amenable to quantitative measurement. The mania for quantity–in itself unintelligible unless allied to the element of quality–is a sign of mediocrity. Bad inheritance from Descartes. In short, the whole notion of IQ is itself a mediocre and rather banal one. Good for applications in regard to the homo economicus of our ant heap quantity-driven industrial world, though.

  34. IQ, as measured by paper-and-pencil tests, correlates with two very important things: success in society and biometric measurements. By success I mean income, longevity, the likelihood of spending time in jail, etc. By biometric measurements I mean reaction times and brain size.

    The above constitutes overwhelming evidence that IQ tests measure something that’s real and important.

  35. Mark Eugenikos says

    I agree that estimating someone’s IQ based on height, wealth and power is hocus-pocus. But you also said “…the whole notion of IQ is itself a mediocre and rather banal one. Good for applications in regard to the homo economicus of our ant heap quantity-driven industrial world, though.”

    Are you disputing that IQ has predictive value wrt cognitive abilities, or are you saying that, despite predictive value, it is still banal? So much about our world revolves around cognitive abilities of some sort that I fail to see the banality. Can you elaborate?

  36. Taras Gitlerov says

    Boris Berezovsky, like Khodorkovsky, was also very smart and aggressive. Killing people (such as your political/business enemies) in a thought out, calculated manner if anything indicates intelligence, and is unlike stabbing someone for their wallet in front of a police station.

    Evariste Galois was very smart but also aggressive. Stalin was, too, although the macho Kavkaz culture definitely played a role in that.

    The smarter you are the less aggressive you are conceit is more a product of the milieu of the cognitive elite crowd than anything else.

  37. Evidently, the notion of General Staff, analytical structures of GRU and Russian military academies are not known to people here. Well, throw in FSB and FSO just for the good measure too.

  38. reiner Tor says

    His activities consisted of reading bureaucratic reports and writing other reports to his bosses, correspondence with his equals, etc.

    I guess most people in places like the Gestapo headquarters did the same. Except that when a genocide is going on, those reports correspondences tend to contain numbers of people killed or deported etc., but obviously that was not the case while Putin worked in Eastern Germany.

  39. Mark Eugenikos says

    His preferred method of snuffing people must have been feeding them sauerkraut and telling them German jokes. As an additional benefit, it was also a form of torture.

  40. Simon in London says

    I’m actually a law lecturer, teaching lawyers. I think they tend to have high verbal IQ, but may not have high non-verbal IQ.

    Re Obama again, he is quite intelligent, his not being fooled by the neocons was not just ideology, partly because he could see through them. OTOH he’s not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. I would guess Putin might be slightly ahead of Obama overall, probably higher non-verbal, lower verbal, but despite their very different personalities I’d guess they’d score very similarly.
    My own leader David Cameron probably would score quite a lot higher than either of them (and his chancellor George Osborne much higher), but that does not mean Cameron is a wiser or better politician than them. Putin certainly seems to have the soundest judgement of any major politician today.

  41. “Aggressiveness is negatively correlated with IQ. Probably so is corruption.”

    This sure doesn’t work with Jews.

  42. Drapetomaniac says

    That doesn’t say much for the emotional brain.

    Painting, writing, music, etc. will be done by machine intelligence considerably sooner than theoretical physics.

  43. Guessing at IQ is useless.

  44. If you believe in machine intelligence, you have little actual intelligence.

  45. I am a reformed lawyer myself. As a youth, I was more quantitative, in terms of the usual academic sorting exams (PSAT / SAT / GRE / GMAT / LSAT)– whether because of my mild dyslexia or just because Mathematics was my naturally strong(er) suit. I noticed that when I took a trial SAT, at a public library, on a lark, as a middle-aged man, I scored equally well on the two halves. (Mostly I noticed how much faster the allotted time slipped by me than almost twenty-five years earlier!) My “official” IQ score, at about age 50, was somewhat higher than my LSAT score (96-97th percentile) would have predicted, I believe.

    Are lawyers trending overwhelmingly female, over there? When my brother went to law school (1969-1972), here, it was overwhelmingly male. When I went (1982-1985), it was roughly equal. By about the turn of the century, my alma mater was sending me magazines that included the current enrollment breakdowns, and it had become overwhelmingly female– about two-to-one. I certainly would expect that a mostly female legal profession would lean even more heavily verbal-over-quantitative than the profession was in my day, let alone back when my brother was starting out…!?!

  46. “Where does French cheese come from?”

    That’s an easy question. Why, it comes from the same place as “Freedom Fries”: Freedomland. At least that was what I was taught in high school in 2003. “Freedomland,” for those of you who don’t know, is where “Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys” come from. And I heard that straight from my high school French teacher, Groundskeeper Willie.

  47. While we are over-generalizing, here goes:

    There are a lot of Christians among Koreans here. Among Chinese in the US, it would be a higher percentage among Chinese diaspora (ethnic Chinese from places like Malaysia) than from Red China Chinese.

    Among Russians, there are more Christians who have settled in Sacramento and the Portland/Vancouver (Washington) area, as well as those who are scattered throughout the Midwest. The ones in LA and SD are more secular. And the ones in NYC are disproportionately Jewish. There are a lot of Muslims from the former Soviet Union on the NJ side of NYC.

  48. Re: Napoleon’s height

    If you look at military records from revolutionary France, the inducted soldiers are ALL ridiculously short, When they went to the metric system, people still wanted to measure in feet and inches, so they re-defined a foot as being 1/3 of a meter. I suspect this is where the misunderstanding about Napoleon’s height comes from originally. In Revolutionary feet and inches, his height would be around 8 or 9% less than in English feet.

  49. I really don’t pay attention to the idiot Sanders, but Savage’s manner of speaking, while certainly not upper class, would not be unusual for a doctor, lawyer, butcher, baker, or candle stick maker in Chicago. I only met one dock worker during my time in Chicago (the St. Lawrence Seaway never really got off the ground) and he was Stalloneish in manner and had an Anglo-Saxon surname (Flowers.)

  50. Fran Macadam says

    “The media and academia are constantly promoting multiculturalism and these elites may make more of an effort to brainwash high IQ people because they’re the future elites. Little effort is made to convince low IQ whites … low IQ whites might be harder to brainwash anyway because they don’t have enough brains to wash.”

    This is the phenomenon of being too smart by half – of being intelligent enough to be able to outsmart yourself. Those above and below are better off – neither are impressed by intellectual bullshit.

  51. Whatever Putin might lack in raw mental agility, he more than compensates for in wisdom. There are many psychopaths with sky-high IQ, but you don’t want them to be anywhere near you. Let alone to lead the country.

  52. I don’t know whether any earlier poster already made this point, but one thought occurred to me. The only way you can reconcile your estimate of an IQ of 130 for Barack Obama with Steve Sailer’s “revelation” of two years ago of Obama’s LSAT scores (94 to 98 percentile) http://isteve.blogspot.com/2013/05/obamas-lsat-score.html is to assume he was the one who scored the highest LSAT score (98 percentile). (” Best Answer: Assuming you have taken an IQ test administered by a psychologist (such as the Wechsler or the Stanford-Binet), an IQ of 130 would indicate that you have scored higher than roughly 98 percent of the population. You also need to consider that the test taken for children ages 6 to 16 is somewhat easier than the test administered to adults over the age of 16.” https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081026020312AAYUU7t) I just did a little quick Googling, so I am assuming the answer above about IQ percentile is correct.

    BTW, if Sailer’s numbers are correct (94 to 98 percentile, based on LSAT scores), then I am not terribly impressed with Obama’s “genius.” If his score was the one in the 94 percentile, that would mean an IQ between 120 (91 percentile) and 125 (95 percentile), if my quick Googling is correct. But, then, I have been less than impressed with his intelligence from the time he assumed his Presidency, especially after the Henry Louis Gates incident in Cambridge: “Gates is a close friend of mine, I wasn’t there, and I don’t have all the facts, but here is what I think about that stupid policeman in Cambridge, Mass.” My jaw dropped when I heard him say that in response to the last question at the press conference in the summer of 2009, while the fawning press broke out in wild applause over the next several days, while his other black friend in Cambridge, Prof. Ogletree of Harvard Law, said that Obama had botched the matter. (Since the last question was asked by Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times, one of his hometown newspapers, and it was the only question not pertaining to his healthcare bill, I assume the question was prearranged by the White House, which means Obama had time to prepare, and that makes his answer even more appalling.) I’m guessing an IQ of around 124.

  53. “In America LBJ and Jimmy Carter are remembered in a similar way, but neither of them was stupid.”

    Many years ago, I worked together with a somewhat older man who had married one of LBJ’s lovely secretaries from Texas (a very nice woman btw). We got into a discussion in a favorite bar after work, and I must have made a disparaging remark about LBJ, which my friend erroneously interpreted as questioning LBJ’s intelligence. I can remember this guy,who was very intelligent himself and whose politics was far to the right of LBJ, saying “no, no, no. LBJ is a very smart guy. He may be a total asshole, but he is very far from being stupid.” (That was something I knew as early as high school when LBJ was majority leader of the Senate. I was an avid follower of politics, and a favorite teacher of mine was high on LBJ even then. She used to talk about going to the Senate and watching LBJ in action on the Senate floor. I gathered he was a real show, based on what I read.) I guess my friend had a lot of contact with LBJ as a result of courting his future wife. On the other hand, he thought the world of Lady Bird Johnson, LBJ’s wife, and couldn’t say enough nice things about her. Another habitue of the same bar was the late Robert Novak, a pretty sharp guy himself. I can remember erroneously referring to Carter as a “nuclear scientist,” only to be sharply corrected by Novak who said he was a “nuclear engineer,” not a “nuclear scientist.” I believe he said something about his father, whom he clearly admired and respected, being a “engineer” and being aware of the big difference between being a “engineer” and being a “scientist,” as Carter himself falsely referred to himself on occasion. At least with Carter, you could tell he was a very intelligent man, even though he was a lousy President imo, because he talked in a rather crisp manner and not like your typical slow-talking Southerner with a pronounced drawl. On the other hand, too many people were hoodwinked by LBJ’s Texas/Southern manner and assumed he was stupid, something that far from the actual case. I have long argued that the worst thing about JFK’s assassination was that it wound up replacing a rather ineffectual politician who could get little done in Congress with LBJ, a man of much greater intelligence and more formidable political skills who was able to get too much done by Congress. Hence, the “Great Society.”

    Being born and raised in Washington, D.C. when it was still an overgrown Southern town and people came from all over the U.S., I grew up with “northern” friends and “southern” friends. I learned at a relatively early age that you couldn’t base somebody’s intelligence on the accent he spoke with. I later learned that the most dangerous creature on Earth was an attractive Southern belle, who oozed charm together with a slow spoken Southern drawl that often masked a very sharp intelligence.

  54. In rereading the blog, I realize I erred by referring to Obama’s IQ of 130. I guess I should have reread the blog before posting my comment. The blog deals with Putin’s estimated IQ of 130, but it contains a reference to Obama’s even higher purported IQ of 140: ” One problem with estimating Putin’s IQ at 127 is that there is reason to believe Obama’s IQ is close to 140. Can Obama really be smarter than Putin when we keep seeing reports that Putin is always outsmarting Obama.” Sorry for the confusion, but what I said in reference to Obama’s purported IQ of 130 would apply with much greater force to an even higher purported IQ of 140. I’m sticking to my guess of 124 for Obama.

    As far as Putin is concerned, I have no reason to question the author’s estimate of 130. I wouldn’t have been surprised by an even higher estimate. Based on what I saw and heard from Putin in various interviews, I am greatly impressed by his ability to articulate with great clarity his various positions and his refreshing openness and honesty in discussing political issues, in stark contrast to Obama’s dissembling obscurantism and obfuscation, which serve as a cloak to hide his intellectual shortcomings and poor decision-making. I guess the differences between Obama and Putin can also be explained by the differences in training and background: the trained KGB agent vs. the community organizer. But I would argue that Putin’s superior intelligence benefitted by the superior discipline of being a trained intelligence officer, whereas Obama’s inferior intelligence benefitted not at all by his service as a community organizer (as far as serving in the executive office as President of the U.S.). When I saw the dual interviews with Putin and Trump on 60 Minutes two weeks ago, I was struck by how similar the thinking of Putin and Trump was. Somebody just posted a video of Trump on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” on another thread, and I was surprised to see Trump himself make the same comparison.

  55. Scoring at the 98th percentile on the LSAT is not like scoring at the 98th percentile on an IQ test. Although the LSAT is highly g-loaded, as all such scholastic-aptitude tests are, it is designed for prospective law-school applicants, not for the general public. Mensa accepts a score on the GMAT from my era (I took it six weeks before the LSAT, in the autumn of 1980) at the 96th percentile, for instance, in lieu of an official IQ-test result at the 98th percentile. I was at the 99th percentile on the GMAT– even with a score that was ten points lower than what I scored on the LSAT! If the president actually scored at the 98th percentile on the LSAT, he probably would score at the lower end of the genius range, on an official IQ test. Even if he scored at only the 94th percentile on the LSAT, that still might translate into an expected IQ score in the near-genius range!?!

  56. Wizard of Oz says

    You are suggesting that administering an IQ test to Putin would reliably measure and demonstrate his “true intelligence”?????

  57. Wizard of Oz says

    An American friend, retired investment banker/private equity, Princeton graduate, who has been saying for several years that he would like to be able to support Republican candidates told me recently that Prof Lawrence Tribe had told him of being at the meeting of law students where Obama was chosen as editor (?board chairman) of the Harvard Law Review and that Obama stood out as superior. I haven’t got all the words precisely in mind even at my end of these Chinese whispers but I got the impression that he carried the day with fluency and charisma. So, no problem believing closer to 3 sds. Apart from his father being a clever Luo his mother was apparently mathematically gifted and accepted for university entrance at 15.

    There are of course plenty of people with IQs over 140 who speak and behave foolishly and live pretty useless lives but at least Obama can hardly be classed amongst them.

  58. Wizard of Oz says

    There’s no way Richard Feynman’s IQ was less than 4 SDs above average. I recall a discussion – perhaps involving Jerry Pournelle who knew Feynman – that put to rest the joke about his IQ.

  59. Wizard of Oz says

    And I recall reading that Feynman taught himself enough Japanese to be able to lecture in Japanese. Cf. Frank Ramsey 1903 – 1930 (“one of the chief intellectual glories of Cambridge”) who taught himself enough German in six weeks to be able to supervise Wittgenstein’s PhD.

  60. Wizard of Oz says

    Would Khodorkovsky be generally regarded as Jewish in Russia? When I said something about his being Jewish to a friend in the West who runs a big Khodorkovsky funded charity he told me that K was Orthodox Christian. Presumably there was a conversion some time by someone. Who? Which generation?

  61. If you actually do “recall” reading such nonsense, it is further evidence of your sad mental plight.

  62. Well, it turns out that our own Steve Sailer posted a blog back in 2009 on the relationship between LSAT scores and IQ. http://isteve.blogspot.com/2009/03/lsat-and-iq.html But the link he provided to a conversion chart showing how to convert LSAT scores to IQ no longer exists. However, I found other charts showing SAT scores and how they correspond to IQ scores. Since I can still remember the exact scores I received on the SAT more than 50 years ago, I decided to check it out. My SAT scores were pretty high, but I found out that my IQ score according to the conversion chart was much higher than I was told by a fellow student years earlier who had access to the “private” school records of my public school, so I have a hard time believing the conversion chart.

    BTW here is what someone says at another link I found:

    “This chart, courtesy of some grad student’s quant blog, runs a linear regression analysis from the numbers used by five high IQ societies that accept LSAT tests for entrance. IQ societies appear to simply use the percentile LSAT as if it would be equivalent to an IQ test percentile as long as you accounted for difference in the two populations taking the test.

    They do this because the LSAT only measures you against other LSAT takers, not the general population. The LSAT is a pool of people who have gone to college, generally did well there, and are still seeking more education, so the average LSAT taker is arguably quite a bit sharper (IQ test wise anyway) than the average person in the population at large. So, if a High-IQ society requires a 99th percentile IQ for entrance, then a somewhat lower percentile LSAT score will get you in as well. Mensa, for example let’s you in with a 98th percentile IQ test score (meaning you did better that 98% of people), whereas you’d only need a 95th percentile LSAT score score to join up and do whatever it is that Mensa people do (anyone know what that is? I’ve always been curious).

    IQ societies, then, are treating the LSAT as if it does in fact test IQ in more or less the same way as a “regular” IQ test does. Obviously, people who don’t believe the LSAT tests the same skills as a general intelligence test are going to have a big problem with that.”

    I’m still convinced that Obama does not have anywhere near a 140 IQ. I’m still sticking with my guess of 124.

  63. If your public-school IQ was from a younger age than your SAT scores, that alone could explain the difference. Childhood IQ tests conflate native intelligence with maturation. They assume that those born in the same month of the same year are equally mature– which is an obvious fallacy! Childhood IQ distributions contain markedly more scores in the respective tails than does the normal curve itself. Since I started taking on-line IQ tests, in 1997, my results have been higher than I would have guessed, even with my aforementioned LSAT and GMAT scores, from 1980; but, my “official” IQ score, from one of the high-IQ societies, taken at about age 50, fell right where those unofficial tests themselves had clustered. (I was clinically depressed, in the fall of 1980, and I did not prep for either test, so that might have hindered my results!?!)