Ever wondered how smart your favorite president is? It’s tempting to question politicians’ intellect, especially in the current American political standings. That’s why we’ve ranked previous presidents’ IQs.
So, who is the most intelligent president to have worked in the Oval Office?
43. Ulysses S. Grant – 130
On the bottom of the list, we have the country’s 18th president – Ulysses S. Grant. His estimated IQ is 130 which is 32 points above the average Joe, which probably helped him serve both his terms.
Grant is well-known as a Unionist Civil War general and was on the winning side of the mentioned conflict.
42. George W. Bush – 138.5
If you’re reading this article, you probably know who George W. Bush is.
He served two terms until he was succeeded by Barack Obama. Both his terms were not easy as the infamous 9/11 incident happened on his watch along with the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – all of which would require a lot of brains to handle. According to one of his past professors, George W. Bush is “in the upper range of college graduates in raw intellect.”
41. James Monroe – 138.6
James Monroe served from 1817 to 1825 and was also the last man who could say that he was one of the Founding Fathers. Unlike other politicians, Monroe wasn’t boastful and didn’t care much for publicity especially about his achievements. According to the White House website, a Virginian woman he met the late president described him as “tall and well-formed, his dress plain and in the old style. His manner was quiet and dignified.”
40. William Howard Taft – 139.5
William Howard was the 27th president of the United States of America and served in 1909. His acts aren’t known to much people and that some only know him from his departure from the White House.
However, his high intellect is proven to be much greater than any would have expected when he became a professor at Yale and took the position of United States Chief Justice. Both, by the way, would require keen intellect.
39. James Buchanan – 139.6
James Buchanan served a single term of presidency from 1857 up to the years that led up to the Civil War. His presidential run was known for the rising tension and looming conflict which could hint of his high intellect.
According to the White House website, Buchanan was “gifted as a debater and learned in the law.”
38. Andrew Johnson – 139.8
Andrew Johnson is famous for taking over office after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Sadly, he’s not given much credit for restoring balance to the chaos in the White House because not only does that require intellect but emotional maturity as well.
If you remember him from your history classes, you would also know about Johnson’s impeachment. That didn’t stop him though – he later ran as a Tennessee senator.
37. Zachary Taylor – 139.8
The 12th US president, Zachary Taylor, places as 37th in our list. His presidency did not last long but his bigger achievements came when he was a general during the Mexican-American war and made him into a folk hero.
Just so you know, his presidential term ended because he died of a gastrointestinal disease and died five days after the diagnosis.
36. Harry S. Truman – 139.8
Harry S. Truman found himself succeeding the presidency just a few weeks after being elected vice president. That is because, Franklin D. Roosevelt died in April 1945.
Truman recalled the experience and stated that he “felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.” He also made one of the biggest decisions in history by ordering atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan.
35. Warren G. Harding – 139.9
Warren G. Harding is known for one of the worst presidents the United States of America has ever had. But, did you know that his win happened on his 56th birthday?
34. George Washington – 140
Being the first-ever president of the United States, it does not come as shocking to anyone that George Washington’s IQ is almost at a genius level. His IQ score of 140 justifies how his decisions were carefully thought-out – when he commanded the armies and settled the Revolutionary War can never be done by your average Joe.
33. Gerald Ford – 140.4
Gerald Ford became Richard Nixon’s successor after the latter was forced to resign because of the Watergate scandal in August 1974. It was a pretty chaotic time for the United States and Ford’s intellect played an essential role in steering the country towards the right direction.
He addressed the difficult time during his inauguration by saying that, “I assume the presidency under extraordinary circumstances. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.”
32. Lyndon B. Johnson – 140.6
In true American fashion, we have another president who was catapulted into presidency – Lyndon Johnson. However, his case is delicate because his predecessor was assassinated.
Johnson shared President Kennedy’s ambition of flying men to the Moon. Apart from that, he dealt with the Vietnam War and the civil rights crisis for African Americans.
31. Calvin Coolidge – 141.6
Calvin Coolidge’s IQ was proven to be of high value when he studied to become a lawyer before starting his own firm in 1898. By then, people should have known that he was pursuing politics.
However, his first term as president didn’t come from getting elected. Coolidge was serving the country as the vice president when Warren Harding died in 1923. Calvin Coolidge redeemed himself by winning the 1924 election with a convincing popular vote of 2.5 million people.
30. Herbert Hoover – 141.6
Herbert Hoover had humble beginnings and he was known as a charitable person. He worked his way to the top and by the time he was elected president, he was already a millionaire.
Hoover’s philanthropist reputation started when he would give his whole presidential salary to charitable organizations.
29. Ronald Reagan – 141.9
Ronald Reagan changed the game. Before becoming president and completing two terms, Reagan had a successful career in Hollywood and could have continued on. Instead, he decided to run for and covet the position of Governor of California.
Whatever he learned in Hollywood as to how to highlight his charm and woo people with words has helped him defeat Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election. At the time, Ronald Reagan was the oldest to become the U.S. president. His intellect played a vital role in ending the Cold War with the Soviet Union – something that doesn’t come easy.
28. Barack Obama – 142+ (estimated)
Barack Obama is known to be a fan-favorite and has served two terms as the 44th president. While there has been no official assessment of his IQ, Obama is rumored to be 142 at a minimum.
The figure was calculated due to the fact that he attended and studied law in Harvard, where the average IQ of Ivy League graduates is 142. He was also the first African-American to be Harvard Law Review’s president.
27. Richard Nixon – 142.9
One of Richard Nixon’s biggest achievements as president was ending America’s military offensive in Vietnam. However, he was also involved in the Watergate scandal which overshadowed everything.
The affair led Nixon to resign and up until today, he remains to be the only one to have done so. Don’t be deceived with what his blemished record suggest because Nixon was smarter than he led us to thinking. He won a Harvard scholarship when he was younger – for that to happen, he would need to rise above the other applicants!
26. George H. W. Bush – 143
George H. W. Bush won the 1988 election and his intellect served him well.
According to the White House website, he “excelled both in sports and in his studies. He was captain of the baseball team and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.” Despite all this, he still lost to Bill Clinton.
25. William McKinley -143.4
According to history, William McKinley was the best president the country has ever had and leading the soldiers to victory in the Spanish-American War was his biggest achievement. Long before politics took over the 25th president’s life, McKinley went to college and became a teacher when the American Civil War erputed.
Not long after, he devoted his life to studying law and practiced privately.
24. James K. Polk – 143.4
James K. Polk was a diligent honors student at the University of North Carolina before becoming the U.S. president in 1845. After graduating, he went on to practice law before heading to DC.
Polk is known to snap up California and New Mexico for the U.S. for just $15 million after military action against Mexico. If that’s not a bargain, what is?
23. Grover Cleveland – 144
Grover Cleveland became the first Democrat to win the presidential race since the end of the Civil War. He was famous for leaving the White House at the end of his first term in 1889 and becoming president again in 1893..
Cleveland has also proven that financial hardships should not hinder you from pursuing education. Despite leaving formal education at 16, he decided to study part-time and eventually, passed his bar exams.
22. Andrew Jackson – 145
Although he received minimal structured education in his youth, Andrew Jackson still went on to be the seventh president of the United States and served two terms from 1829 to 1837.
According to the White House website, Jackson had the intelligence to “[become] an outstanding young lawyer in Tennesee.” He was also known to have an incredibly short temper as he fought a duel and shot a man dead for allegedly defaming Jackson’s wife.
21. Dwight D. Eisenhower – 145.1
Dwight D. Eisenhower is famous for commanding the Allied Forces that helped crush Hitler’s Nazi troop in Western Europe in 1945. He’s still probably the most accomplished military man with both brain and braun.
After his 1952 victory, he went on to negotiate a truce in the Korean War that put an end to the bloodshed.
20. Benjamin Harrison – 145.4
Before becoming the president in 1888, Benjamin Harrison was an exceptional lawyer and taking the highest office in the land is only one achievement. Harrison rose to the rank of colonel with the Unionist Forces in the Civil War.
Fun fact: he did not become the country’s 23rd president because he was popular. Harrison was actually elected by virtue of his Electoral College victory.
19. Martin Van Buren – 146
Martin “Little Magician” Van Buren was elected as president in 1837 after serving as Andrew Jackson’s vice president for two terms. His nickname “Little Magician” was coined because of his relatively small height.
Although Van Buren left school at 14, he still showed his exceptional intelligence by taking a law apprenticeship and passing his bar exams.
18. William Henry Harrison – 146.3
William Henry Harrison defeated Martin Van Buren in the 1840 election and briefly served as America’s ninth president.
The White House website describes him as born into the “Virginian Planter Aristocracy” which makes him more privileged than most. Despite this, Harrison was smart enough to publicly present himself as a “simple frontier Indian fighter, living in a log cabin and drinking cider.”
17. Rutherford B. Hayes – 146.3
Rutherford B. Hayes won the election of 1876 and during that time, the country was still recovering from the Civil War.
Hayes studied law at Harvard and fought with the Unionists in the Civil War – attaining the rank of brevet major general. Some say that he stayed sharper than the average Joe by avoiding booze. The ex-president even went as far as banishing liquor and wine from the White House – an order carried out by his wife.
16. Franklin Pierce – 147.4
Franklin Pierce entered the White House in 1853 as the country’s 14th president. Much like most of the presidents, he studied and practiced law before getting into politics.
However, not long before Pierce’s inauguration, his 11-year-old son died in a railroad crash. The president and his wife were both on the train when it happened.
15. John Tyler – 148.1
After just 32 days in office, John Tyler succeeded the presidency from William Henry Harrison. This incident made Tyler the first person to get the most coveted job without an election, making his political enemies coining “His Accidency” as a nickname for him.
14. Millard Fillmore – 149
Millard Fillmore became the 13th president when his predecessor Zachary Taylor died in 1850. He was the last president to hold office who was neither a Democrat nor a Republican. His IQ was evident despite the rough and ready early education and was admitted to the bar in 1823.
13. Abraham Lincoln – 150
Abraham Lincoln will always be known as the man who ended slavery in the United States by signing the Emancipation Proclamation. If this isn’t enough to convince you of Lincoln’s intellect, he was also the president who led the Unionist forces to victory in the Civil War.
Now, you would think that decisions like the ones previously mentioned would come from someone who completed formal education, right? Well, wrong! Lincoln only had 18 months or so of formal education – a solid testimony to his fierce intelligence.
12. Franklin D. Roosevelt – 150.5
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency started during the Great Depression and putting the country back on track was no easy feat, becoming FDR’s testament to his IQ.
He was a high-achieving scholar who had studied at Harvard University and Columbia Law, leading him to tread the road to the White House in 1910 by getting elected into the New York Senate. FDR’s presidency wasn’t as smooth as how it started because he was later tested by America’s entry into the second World War in 1941.
11. Chester A. Arthur – 152.3
Chester A. Arthur was a son of an Irish immigrant and came to presidency after James Garfield had been assassinated in 1881. He graduated from the New York State Union College. However, within a year of succeeding the most prestigious job in the land, Arthur was diagnosed with a terminal kidney disease.
Although he kept it under wraps, Chester A. Arthur failed to win the Republican nomination for the 1884 election.
10. James Garfield – 152.3
James Garfield has had a long political career – 17 years in the House of Representatives and a term in the White House. His IQ was highlighted by him being a scholar, being adept in Greek and Latin.
According to history, Garfield also fought on the Unionist side during the Civil War and rose to the rank of brigadier general. He was, unfortunately, one of the four presidents to have been killed in office.
9. Theodore Roosevelt – 153
When president William McKinley was assassinated, Theodore Roosevelt succeeded the highest position in the United States. He was the youngest president to ever step into office.
He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and went on to study law at Columbia. Teddy, as he is commonly called, is very adept to combat and became a well-known figure during the Spanish-American War as the leader of the Rough Riders. Roosevelt went on to nab a second term in the 1904 election.
8. John Adams – 155
John Adams was vice president to George Washington. According to the White House website, he is “more remarkable as a political philosopher than as a politician.” He was undoubtedly intelligent as an excellent student, gaining a scholarship to Harvard, and eventually earning a master’s degree at the prestigious Ivy League school.
7. Woodrow Wilson – 155.2
Woodrow Wilson served two terms as president which came in a pretty unusual circumstance as the first World War raged. He maintained America’s neutrality until 1917. Wilson put it that the U.S. jumped in to “make the world safe for democracy.”
Despite his high IQ, the ex-commander-in-chief was a poor student when he was a boy. Some would say that he was dyslexic which could explain a lot.
6. James Carter – 156.8
James “Jimmy” Carter studied at the elite Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland before rising to presidency in 1976. He graduated in the top 10 percentile of the students and went on to serve in the Navy for seven years before taking on his family’s peanut farm in Georgia after his father died.
While Carter’s intelligence is very evident, it wasn’t enough to get him a second term.
5. William J. Clinton – 159
William “Bill” Clinton has witnessed and managed an extraordinary period of prosperity in the U.S. Unemployment and inflation were at low levels during the majority of his two terms.
Before winning the 1992 elections, Bill was an excellent student and won a Rhodes Scholarship to England’s University of Oxford. Despite all his smarts, he couldn’t keep his pants on and had an affair with Monica Lewinsky (who was an intern) and tarnished his legacy.
4. John F. Kennedy – 159.8
John F. Kennedy is one of the youngest men ever coveting the commander-in-chief position. However, he wasn’t much of a diligent student and often got reprimanded for causing trouble. According to Biography.com, JFK
[preferred] sports, girls and practical jokes to coursework,” that was in his younger years of course. Eventually, he smartened up and became successful.
3. Thomas Jefferson – 160
Thomas Jefferson was one of the Founding Fathers and was inaugurated as the country’s third president back in 1801. He was a man of principles and it was evident when he wrote, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
Jefferson was also one of the best-schooled lawyers in America which proves how smart he was.
2. James Madison – 160
James Madison succeeded the presidency from Thomas Jefferson by winning the presidential election of 1808. Madison was plagued by poor health most of his life and most of his education was done at his family’s Orange County estate.
He proved his caliber by attending the College of New Jersey, the forerunner of Princeton University. He is often called the “Father of the Constitution” due to his diligent work in drafting the document.
1. John Quincy Adams – 175
John Quincy Adams was the eldest son of the country’s second president, John Adams. He won the 1824 election ang became the sixth commander-in-chief of the United States.
Apparently, he had an exceptionally high IQ, which gave him a lot to work with when he was in office. Adams was also smart enough to be fluent in Dutch, French, German, and, of course, English.