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The 13 Presidents with the Highest IQ Scores

It takes a lot of brainpower to run a country—see how the top presidents stack up!

Vice Presidential Seal and Empty Podium, awaiting Vice President Joe Biden Speech, Culinary Union, Las Vegas, NevadaJoseph Sohm/Shutterstock

The brains of a president

Just how smart do you have to be to lead an entire nation? Dean Simonton, a researcher and psychologist from UC Davis, sought to quantify the intelligence of U.S. presidents by estimating their IQ levels. Using factors such as intellectual brilliance and openness, Simonton was able to get a picture of how smart our leaders were. All of the data below is from Simonton's corrected estimates of the presidents' IQs after age 18. For context, every IQ test differs, but an average IQ generally hovers around 100. Humor is a sign of intelligence, too—here are the funniest quotes from U.S. presidents

John Quincy ADAMS, 1767-1848 6th American President (1825-29) (George Healy)Gianni Dagli Orti/Shutterstock

John Quincy Adams

At a score of 175, Harvard grad John Quincy Adams has the highest estimated IQ of all U.S. presidents. He studied all around the world, becoming fluent in seven languages throughout his life. Without even completing law school, he became a lawyer. A notable diplomat, Adams first served as Secretary of State for President James Monroe. Highlights of his government career included shaping the Monroe Doctrine and helping to negotiate the end of the War of 1812. He was called "Old Man Eloquent" for his top-notch oratorial skills, and has even been called one of the fittest presidents. He's also a president with one of the most famous first pets to live in the White House.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Third President of the United States 1801-1809. Coloured lithograph half-length portrait of Jefferson seated at desk, c1845.Universal History Archive/Shutterstock

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson had so many books to feed his IQ of 160 that he sold them to the Library of Congress after it was ransacked by the British. A true Renaissance man, he lists achievements in the areas of economics, architecture, food and wine, agriculture, paleontology, astronomy, music, and writing. Oh, and he wrote the Declaration of Independence and doubled the size of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. Check out more hidden talents of U.S. presidents that you might not have known

Portrait of James Madison, 1806Universal History Archive/Shutterstock

James Madison

At 5 feet 4 inches, James Madison is the shortest U.S. president, but his IQ definitely stacked up: It was estimated to be 160. A scholar at heart, he is considered Princeton's first graduate student, though he didn't technically earn a degree. He is called the "Father of the Constitution," and authored the Bill of Rights. His wife, Dolley, also helped define the role of First Lady in its social and philanthropical aspects. Can you guess the middle name of all the U.S. Presidents

John F. Kennedy, John Kennedy, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, JFK President-elect John F. Kennedy is shown at his residence in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.CHenry Griffin/Shutterstock

John F. Kennedy

Even with an IQ of 159.8, John F. Kennedy had a reputation in childhood of being a poor student, preferring games and sports. He came around, though, and graduated from Harvard in 1940. A Navy man, he won a Purple Heart in World War II for heroic actions in the South Pacific, and after being elected to both the House and Senate, he became the second-youngest president in history and the first and only Catholic president. In his tenure, he dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis and authorized the Bay of Pigs invasion, in addition to creating the Peace Corps and getting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. He was also the only president to win a Pulitzer Prize. What many people also don't know is that JFK's achievements were accompanied by his struggle with chronic health problems, which threatened his life several times. Here are the presidential "facts" that aren't actually true

Bill ClintonGriffin Lipson/Shutterstock

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton's IQ was estimated to be 159. Born in Arkansas, he later attended school at Georgetown, Oxford, and Yale, where he met his wife, Hillary Rodham. He started his political career in Arkansas state government before becoming president in 1992; one of his big achievements while in office was the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement. His smarts weren't enough for him to avoid impeachment, however, as Congress voted to impeach Clinton over his relationship with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, although he stayed in office for another two years afterward. Here's what he looked like before-and-after his time in office, along with other presidents

Former President Jimmy Carter, 93, sits for an interview about his new book "Faith: A Journey For All" which will debut at no. 7 on the NYT best sellers list, pictured before a book signing, in AtlantaJohn Amis/Shutterstock

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter came from humble beginnings in rural Georgia, but he was no less smart, with an IQ of 156.8. He engaged in important diplomatic work in his time as president, and continued humanitarian work after his years in the White House, becoming a professor at Emory, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Check out these words and phrases that were actually made up by presidents

Woodrow Wilson 28th President of of U S Seated at His Desk and Holding A Document 1856 - 1924Historia/Shutterstock

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson served as president from 1913 to 1921, and his IQ of 155.2 didn't hurt as he made sweeping achievements in world affairs and American politics. He was born in Virginia a few years before the Civil War and studied at Princeton, the University of Virginia, and Johns Hopkins. Wilson was actually a professor before his government career. After leading the country through World War I in his presidency, he advocated for world peace and created the League of Nations to achieve it, for which he earned a Nobel Peace Prize. This ties into his surprising presidential first. Want to know what goes on in the West Wing? Here's what happens when the president pardons a turkey. 

John Adams, President of the United States of America. Adams was the second president of the United States having already served as the country's first vice president. He was also one of America's Founding Fathers.Universal History Archive/Shutterstock

John Adams

Not to be confused with his son, John Quincy Adams, John Adams had an IQ of about 155. If you want to get a feel for what this famous president was like, you can check out the extensive archives of letters between Adams and his wife, Abigail. He was the only one of the first five presidents to not hail from Virginia—he was from Massachusetts, and he was the one to draft the Massachusetts Constitution, which is still in effect today. This is the U.S. state that produced the most presidents.

Theodore ROOSEVELT 1858-1919, 26th President of the United States, photographed c. 1902F&A Archive/Shutterstock

Teddy Roosevelt

The Constitution Center called Teddy Roosevelt "one of the most dynamic presidents in White House history," and with an IQ of 153, he was also one the smartest. He came from a wealthy New York family and attended Harvard and Columbia Law School, though he did not graduate from the latter. He is called the Father of the U.S. Navy and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his peacemaking efforts in the Russo-Japanese War. During his time in office, he banned something from the White House.

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