Richard Feynman IQ test myth

by admin on 05/21/2015

It has been intermittently reported on various blogs, including Quora, that the great theoretical physicist (and the physicist’s physicist) Richard Feynman was tested suprisingly low on his IQ test: just 124. One has to be immediately suspicious about this number. First, nowhere has ever been specified what kind of test it was, what subtests it comprised and what was the ceiling of the test. One can presume that testing such a high-powered physicist would require high-ceiling tests, at least for the math section. Again and again am I disappointed by the quality of answers on Quora where the users (furtively obsessed with their own IQ scores) are not willing to ponder for a while about the legitimacy of the mentioned score and cite the number as a dogma (or is it because Wikipedia says so?).

I turned to a psychometrist and physicist himself Stephen Hsu whether he has anything to say about Feynman’s IQ score. Here is the quote taken from his well-know blog, which I recommend dearly:

Feynman’s 124: in this context one often hears of Feynman’s modest grade school IQ score of 124. To understand this score we have to remember that typical IQ tests (e.g., administered to public school children) tend to have low ceilings. They are not of the kind that Roe used in her study. One can imagine that the ceiling on Feynman’s exam was roughly 135 (say, 99th percentile). If Feynman received the highest score on the mathematical portion, and a modest score of 115 on the verbal, we can easily understand the resulting average of 124. However, it is well known that Feynman was extremely strong mathematically. He was asked on short notice to take the Putnam exam for MIT as a senior, and received the top score in the country that year! On Roe’s test Feynman’s math score would presumably have been > 190, with a correspondingly higher composite IQ.1)HSU, Annals of psychometry: IQs of eminent scientists



HSU, Stephen. Annals of psychometry: IQs of eminent scientists [online]. [cit. 2015-05-21]. Dostupné z:

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1. HSU, Annals of psychometry: IQs of eminent scientists

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