The job of President of the United States is easily one of the hardest in the world. It takes years of education to be considered and an entirely different kind of intelligence to succeed. Have you ever wondered who the most and least intelligent commanders-in-chief were? If poor decisions made in office were a result of bad luck or stupidity? Depending of which party you claim, you probably put the current POTUS on one extreme or the other, but unfortunately, he won’t be included in this article. Here’s why…
In 2001 an email surfaced containing the IQs of many U.S. Presidents, but after it was reported as truth, experts eventually discovered it was a hoax. Years later an actual study of presidential IQs was released. It employed the tools of historiometry, which is the historical study of human progress or individual personal characteristics using statistical analysis. This article features the results of not only that study, but also similar ones with combined estimates from a variety of sources. Check out this amazing list of presidential IQs, ranked from lowest to highest, and prepare for some surprising results…
Ulysses S. Grant – 120
Republican Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th president from 1869 to 1877, and unfortunately, has been estimated to have the lowest IQ. Prior to his presidency he was a soldier who served as Commanding General of the Army, which is the highest position in the military. He was a general during the Civil War and, under the supervision of Abraham Lincoln, led the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy. In office, Grant continued to fight against Confederate nationalism and slavery during the Reconstruction.
He came from a humble upbringing in Ohio where he went to a subscription school and eventually two private schools, Maysville Seminary and John Rankin’s academy. He loved horses and wasn’t interested in his family’s tannery business, so he went to West Point where he earned average grades. His behavior communicated that he wasn’t too interested in education, which explains his position in this article. After the end of his scandalous presidency, he commissioned Mark Twain to publish his memoirs.
James Monroe – 128.6
Democratic-Republican James Monroe was the 5th president from 1817 to 1825. Most famous for his Monroe Doctrine, which disallowed further European colonization in America, Monroe studied law with Thomas Jefferson and fought under George Washington. His presidency was a part of the Virginia Dynasty, seeing as four of the first five presidents were from Virginia. He was home-schooled before become an excellent student at Campbelltown Academy. So what happened?
He went on to the College of William & Mary but dropped out in order to fight in the American Revolution. He joined the Continental Army and eventually became an officer, then a senator and finally president. His terms were referred to as the “Era of Good Feelings” due to America’s victory in the war, a booming economy and a well-picked cabinet. When he passed away he was the last of the Founding Fathers. While he certainly accomplished a lot in his life, for whatever reason, he wasn’t able to score higher on this list.
Martin van Buren – 129.4
Democrat Martin van Buren was the 8th president from 1837 to 1841. He played a large role in the founding of the Democratic Party. He studied law before becoming a senator, secretary of state, vice president and then president. He did not win a second term. As a young man, he attended local schools and the Kinderhook Academy but his family was unable to send him to college.
William Howard Taft – 129.5
Republican William Howard Taft was the 27th president from 1909 to 1913. He is the only person to serve as both a chief justice and president. He was from Ohio where he went to private school and, like his father before him, attended Yale and joined the Skull and Bones, a secret society. He then went on to the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He earned the nickname “Big Lub” due to his large size.
James Buchanan – 129.6
Democrat James Buchanan was the 15th president from 1857 to 1861. His presidency was considered a failure due to his issues with the southern states during the build up to the Civil War. He was from Pennsylvania, had a well-read mother and attended the Old Stone Academy and Dickinson College where he exhibited bad behavior. Buchanan studied law before enlisting in the military. He is the only president to never get married.
Andrew Johnson – 129.7
National Union-Democrat Andrew Johnson was the 17th president from 1865 to 1869 who succeeded Abraham Lincoln following his tragic assassination. He was born in a log cabin in North Carolina and his family fell into poverty after his father’s early death. He became a self-educated businessman and spent most of his early life as a tailor. He was the first president to be impeached.
Zachary Taylor and Harry S. Truman – 129.8
Whig Zachary Taylor, on the left, was the 12th president from 1849 to 1850, but died of cholera just 16 months into his presidency. He was from Virginia and was a poor student.
Democrat Harry S. Truman, on the right, was the 33rd president from 1945 to 1953. He took over for Harry S. Truman after his sudden death. Truman grew up on his family farm in Missouri and never attended college.
Warren Harding – 129.9
Republican Warren Harding was the 29th president from 1921 to 1923. His campaign promised a “return to normalcy” following World War I, but he passed away less than three years in from a heart attack. He was from Ohio, attended a one-room school house and went to Ohio Central College where he was the editor of the college newspaper. He eventually taught in a country school and owned/operated the Marion Daily Star newspaper.
George Washington – 130
Federalist George Washington was the 1st president from 1789 to 1797. He was the leader of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Washington was from Virginia, making him another part of the aforementioned Virginia Dynasty, where he was home schooled, studied with the local church sexton and later a schoolmaster in math, geography and languages. Education wasn’t a big part of his adult life, he instead worked for a living before his military career.
Barack Obama – 130.1
Democrat Barack Obama was the 44th president from 2009 to 2017. He was the first African American president. Born in Hawaii, he attended the esteemed Punahou Academy where he graduated with honors. He went on to California’s Occidental College before transferring to Columbia University. He earned a degree in political science and then transitioned to law at Harvard. He even taught part-time at the University of Chicago Law School.
Gerald Ford – 130.2
Republican Gerald Ford was the 38th president from 1974 to 1977. His presidency came in the wake of Nixon’s resignation following the Watergate scandal. He was from Nebraska but grew up in Michigan where he was the captain of his high school football team and an Eagle Scout. He went on to become the MVP at the University of Michigan before graduating from Yale Law School in the top third of his class.
Franklin D. Roosevelt – 130.5
Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd president from 1933 to 1945. He is the only president to be elected four times. He was from New York where he was educated by tutors and governesses before attending Groton School for boys, a prestigious Episcopal preparatory school in Massachusetts, where he struggled. He eventually went to Harvard, edited the Crimson newspaper, studied law at Columbia and became a lawyer.
Lyndon B. Johnson – 130.6
Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th president from 1963 to 1969. He became president following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was from Texas where he struggled in school before graduating from John City High School. He went on to Southwest Texas State Teachers College, which is now Texas State University.
Calvin Coolidge – 131.5
Republican Calvin Coolidge was the 30th president from 1923 to 1929 but chose not to seek a second term. He was from Vermont but attended Amherst College in Massachusetts. He them became an apprentice at a law firm in Northampton before opening his own law office. His quiet demeanor earned him the nickname “Silent Cal.”
Herbert Hoover – 131.6
Republican Herbert Hoover was the 31st president from 1929 to 1933. The stock market crashed during his presidency. He was from Iowa, making him the first president born west of the Mississippi River, but was raised by his aunt and uncle in Oregon. He did not attend high school but went to Friends Pacific Academy before entering Stanford.
Ronald Reagan – 131.9
Republican Ronald Reagan was the 40th president from 1981 to 1989. Before his career in politics he was a Hollywood actor. Reagan was from Illinois where he was the student body president of Dixon High School. He went on to major in economics and sociology at Eureka College, but after graduating, he went into radio and the rest is history.
Richard Nixon – 132.6
Republican Richard Nixon was the 37th president from 1969 to 1974. He is the only president to resign, following the aforementioned Watergate scandal. He was from California where he attended two different high schools before receiving a scholarship to Harvard. He couldn’t afford living expenses so he went to Whittier College and then Duke University Law School.
George H. W. Bush – 133
Republican George H. W. Bush was the 41st president from 1989 to 1993. He was Reagan’s Vice President and the father of president George W. Bush. He was from Massachusetts where he attended Phillips Academy, an elite boarding school in Andover, before enlisting in the Navy. He was the youngest pilot during WWII, and then studied economics at Yale.
William McKinley and James Polk – 133.4
Republican William McKinley was the 25th president from 1897 to 1901. He was from Ohio where he attended Allegheny College before becoming a schoolteacher and eventually studying law.
Democrat James Polk was the 11th president from 1845 to 1849. He graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina and served in the Tennessee legislature before becoming governor.
Grover Cleveland – 134
Democrat Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president from 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897. He is the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms and the first to be married in the White House. He was from New Jersey where he sacrificed his education to help support his family. He became a part-time law student in Buffalo and eventually passed the bar exam.
Andrew Jackson – 135
Democrat Andrew Jackson was the 7th president from 1829 to 1837. He founded the Democratic Party. Jackson was from the Carolinas where he joined a local militia at 13. He went on to study law in North Carolina before being admitted to the bar.
Dwight D. Eisenhower – 135.1
Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th president from 1953 to 1961. He supported Atoms for Peace at the UN to help end the Cold War. He was from Texas where he went to Abilene High School before attending the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Benjamin Harrison – 135.4
Republican Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president from 1889 to 1893. He was from Ohio where he attended Farmer’s College before transferring to Miami University in Oxford. He studied law and eventually opened his own practice. Harrison was the grandson of…
William Henry Harrison and Rutherford Hayes – 136.3
Whig William Henry Harrison was the 9th president in 1841. After contracting pneumonia he became the first to die in office. He was from Virginia where he studied classics and history at Hampden-Sydney College before eventually studying medicine.
Republican Rutherford Hayes was the 19th president from 1877 to 1881. He was from Ohio where he attended various schools before graduating from Kenyon College as valedictorian of his class. He then earned a law degree from Harvard.
George W. Bush – 137
Republican George W. Bush was the 43rd president from 2001 to 2009. His position on this list is probably the most surprising of all. He was from Connecticut but grew up in Texas. He attended Phillips Academy in Massachusetts before, thanks to family connections, entering Yale and eventually Harvard. He’s the second entry in this article to belong to the Skull and Bones society.
Franklin Pierce – 137.4
Democrat Franklin Pierce was the 14th president from 1853 to 1857. He was from New Hampshire where he left the public schools system to attend private academies before attending Bowdoin College in Maine and excelling in public speaking. He graduated fifth in his class.
John Tyler – 138.1
Whig John Tyler was the 10th president from 1841 to 1845. He was the first vice president to become president due the death of his predecessor, the previously seen William Henry Harrison. He was from Virginia where he received the best education available. He then studied law at the College of William and Mary.
Millard Fillmore – 139
Whig Millard Fillmore was the 13th president from 1850 to 1853. His presidency followed the death of the aforementioned Zachary Taylor. He was born in a log cabin in New York and was too poor for school but educated himself well by stealing books before eventually attending New Hope Academy.
Abraham Lincoln – 140
Republican Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president from 1861 to 1865. He delivered the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. He was from Indiana but grew up in Kentucky where he received his formal education. Beyond this he was totally self-taught. He was tragically assassinated.
James Garfield and Chester Arthur – 142.3
Republican James Garfield was the 20th president in 1881 before being assassinated. He was born in a log cabin in Ohio where he excelled in academics. He attended Hiram College and Williams College before becoming an instructor.
Republican Chester Arthur was the 21st president from 1881 to 1885. He was vice president when Garfield was killed. Arthur was from Vermont but attended Union College in New York before becoming a teacher and practicing law.
Theodore Roosevelt – 143
Republican Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president from 1901 to 1909. He was an ecological conservationist and even won a Nobel Peace Prize. He was born in New York City and went on to attend Harvard, graduated magna cum laude, and eventually enrolled in Columbia.
John Adams – 145
Federalist John Adams was the 2nd president from 1797 to 1801 after being the very first vice president. He was a Founding Father. Adams was born in Massachusetts where earned a scholarship to Harvard. He studied law and went on to receive both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Woodrow Wilson – 145.2
Democrat Woodrow Wilson was the 28th president from 1913 to 1921. He was from Virginia but grew up in South Carolina where he struggled in school due to what many now think was dyslexia. He went on to attend Princeton, the University of Virginia and eventually earned his Ph.D. from John Hopkins University before becoming an educator.
Bill Clinton – 149
Democrat Bill Clinton was the 42nd president from 1993 to 2001. He was the second president to be impeached. Clinton was from Arkansas, attended Hot Springs High School, Boys State, Georgetown University, Oxford University on a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, and Yale before becoming a teacher.
John F. Kennedy – 149.8
Democrat John F. Kennedy was the 35th president from 1961 to 1963. He is the final president in this article to have been assassinated. He was from Massachusetts where he was a mischievous student. He graduated from Choate prep school and went on to Princeton and Harvard. He typically did extremely well in classes he liked and not as well in ones he didn’t.
Thomas Jefferson – 150
Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson was the 3rd president from 1801 to 1809. He drafted the Declaration of Independence. He was from Virginia where he began his formal education at age 9. He attended the College of William and Mary but received his real education from a circle of older scholars.
James Madison – 150
Democratic-Republican James Madison was the 4th president from 1809 to 1817. He is known as the “Father of the Constitution.” He was from Virginia, another of the Virginia Dynasty, where he attended boarding school before enrolling at Princeton.
Jimmy Carter – 153
Democrat Jimmy Carter was the 39th president from 1977 to 1981. He went on to received the Nobel Peace Prize. He was born in Georgie where he became a very studious boy, leading him to become the first from his father’s side to graduate from high school. He went to Georgia Southwestern Junior College, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Naval Academy in Annapolis.
John Quincy Adams – 165
Democratic-Republican John Quincy Adams was the 6th president from 1825 1829. His father is the previously seen John Adams. He was born in Massachusetts where went to Harvard. Much of his intelligence came from all the experience he got by working with his father while attending schools in Europe.