Because of my interest in gifted education and human intelligence, my news feed regularly features articles in the popular press about child prodigies. Often, the headline or article proclaims that the child has an IQ higher than Einstein. Here are a few examples:

This is not a new phenomenon. In a discussion of critics of intelligence testing, an article in TIME magazine stated,

These skeptics guffaw loudly when, every few months, some bright moppet turns up with an IQ claimed to be greater than Einstein’s.

TIME magazine, September 16, 1935

What was Einstein’s IQ?

In each of these articles, the journalist states that Einstein’s IQ was about 160. The top results of a Google search also indicate that Einstein’s IQ was about 160. If true, it would make him smarter than 99.9968% of the population. In other words, an IQ of 160 only occurs in 1 in every 31,250 people.

But is this widely reported number accurate? The Independent article states that “it is unknown whether either man [Einstein or Stephen Hawking] ever took an IQ test.” If that is the case, where did the 160 estimate come from? The Times of India article states that, “. . . based on his historical records, academics have estimated his score to be around 160.”

Did Einstein take an IQ test?

Historically, it is extremely unlikely that Albert Einstein took an intelligence test. He was born in 1879 in Germany, and he was already well into adulthood when the successful first intelligence test (for children) was invented in France in 1905. Coincidentally, that was Einstein’s “miracle year” in which he published four revolutionary physics papers. One of these was his described his special theory of relativity and another announced his famous equation E=mc2.

The first successful intelligence test for adults was the Army Alpha, invented in 1917 in the United States. At this time, Einstein was 39 years old, still living in Europe, and was an international celebrity. It is not clear what he would have to gain from taking an intelligence test in midlife or old age. Given his status (and the fact that he had better things to do), I find it unlikely that he would have bothered to take an intelligence test between 1917 and his death in 1955.

Estimates of Einstein’s IQ during his life

The earliest result in my search for information about an IQ score for Einstein during his lifetime was a LIFE magazine article published in 1945. The article discusses 14-year-old Merrill Kenneth Wolf (“Yale prodigy,” 1945), at the time the youngest graduate ever from Yale University. The magazine reported that Wolf had an IQ of 182, “which is only 23 points lower than Einstein’s” (p. 51). This would place Einstein’s IQ at 205.

LIFE was inconsistent about Einstein’s estimated IQ. In 1954, it published an estimate of 192 for Einstein’s IQ in an article about a child prodigy (“A little, lonely genius,” 1954). The inconsistency is not confined to LIFE. Coronet magazine suggested that Einstein’s IQ is “probably a little higher” than 160.

Later estimates

The inconsistency continues in the decades after Einstein’s death. A 1963 United States congressional hearing suggests that a person with an IQ of 180 would be “on the level of Darwin, Freud, Shaw, Pasteur, Einstein.” In 1962, a writer in Popular Mechanics stated, “Einstein, who never took an intelligence test, was estimated to have an IQ of 207” (Berland, 1962, p. 118). In 1974, eugenicist Mariann Olden plainly stated in a self-published work that, “Einstein’s I. Q. was 205” (p. 20).

By 1976, one magazine article author claimed that, “It has been estimated that Einstein’s IQ–Intelligence Quotient–was higher than that of any human being who has ever lived” (Sinha, 1976, p. 750). Moore and Frost, in a parenting book, claimed that Einstein had “a measured IQ of 200” (1986, p. 144). Cohen (2002, p. 133) stated, “Einstein’s IQ has been reckoned at above 180” (p. 133). In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell (2008, pp. 70, 80) gives a value of 150 for Einstein’s IQ.


The most striking aspect of these IQs is how inconsistent they are, ranging from 150 to 207 and beyond. That is a hint that any particular number may not be trustworthy. And even though 160 seems to be a typical value reported in the popular press in the 21st century, there does not seem to be anything special about that number, and it is not clear how modern the modern press has settled on it.

In my search for Einstein’s IQ, the vast majority of those claiming to know Einstein’s IQ are journalists and popular writers. People with expertise — such as historians, psychologists, developmentalists — are almost completely absent. A lot of people claiming to know Einstein’s IQ have no background or training that would make them competent to provide an accurate estimate or judge whether an IQ was reputable.

That being said, authors with scholarly backgrounds do occasionally show up. Brian M. Hughes is the only psychologist I found who made a claim about Einstein’s IQ. In his 2018 book Psychology in Crisis, he stated unambiguously that “Einstein’s IQ was 160 . . .” (p. 48), though provides no citation supporting this claim. Ruud Weijermars is a geomechanics professor who was more careful, stating, “. . . Einstein’s IQ is commonly estimated at about 160, but any formal test results have not been publicly confirmed” (2011, p. 4).

Beyond Hughes and Weijermars, I could find no other scientists writing about Einstein’s IQ in my search of Google Scholar. There seem to be no scholarly investigations of Einstein’s psychometric test performance or IQ from experts. However, I did find some scattered claims from non-psychologists, such as Reilly (2014, p. 344), but these were similar to the reports I was finding in the popular press.

Weijermars’s quote illustrates that the reports of Einstein’s IQ also usually lack any source for their number. One of the few exceptions is Gladwell, whose source for Einstein’s IQ is — wait for it — the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? That sounds par for the course for Gladwell, an author with a poor grasp of science and the father of the Igon Value Problem.

To be fair, some authors seem more confident in the number they report than others. As quoted above, Weijermars (2011) and Berland (1962) both gave caveats about the scores they reported. Other authors stated that the number they report is an estimate. But many of the numbers reported lacked such nuance, and often authors reported an IQ for Albert Einstein as being a known fact.

Last Thoughts

Based on my search, I have concluded that any currently existing claims of an IQ score for Albert Einstein are not credible. Journalists and other authors should stop reporting any number as Einstein’s IQ.

Ironically, historiometric methods exist that could provide an estimate of Albert Einstein’s IQ. Cox (1926) pioneered the estimation of IQ of historic figures, and her methods have been validated by later researchers (see Simonton, 2020, for a brief review). But no one has used this reputable methodology to estimate Einstein’s IQ.

I am sure that a scholarly estimate of Einstein’s IQ could get published in a peer-reviewed journal and that such an article would get a lot of press. But, beyond the attention for the author, what would there be to gain from such an estimating Einstein’s IQ? I do not think it really matters if Einstein’s IQ were 150 or 207. An IQ is a score that compares a person to their peers, and we already know that Einstein was at or near the top of his peers in intellectual accomplishment (whether those peers are physicists or all contemporary adults). What could a number like IQ tell us that we don’t already know?

Albert Einstein in 1947. His IQ score is probably irrelevant.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.


“A little, lonely genius” (1954, March 22). LIFE, 99-102.

Berland, T. (1962, October). Does anyone know what IQ means? Popular Mechanics, 118, 4, 113-119, 232.

Cohen, D. (2002). How the child’s mind develops. Routledge.

Cox, C. M. (1926). Genetic studies of genius, Volume II: The early mental traits of three hundred geniuses. Stanford University Press.

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. Little, Brown and Company.

Hughes, B. M. (2018). Psychology in crisis. Macmillan.

Moore, S., & Frost, R. (1986). The little boy book: A guide to the first eight years. Ballantine Books.

Olden, M. S. (1974). History of the development of the first national organization for sterilization. Author.

Reilly, K. W. (2014). If you Blink, you may be an Outlier and miss The Tipping Point: A review of the works of Malcolm Gladwell from a franchise law perspective. Franchise Law Journal, 33(3), 339-357.

Simonton, D. K. (2020). Galton, Terman, Cox: The distinctive Volume II in Genetic Studies of Genius. Gifted Child Quarterly, 64(4), 275-284.

Sinha, K. N. (1976, April 11). [Review of the book Einstein: The life and times, by R. W. Clark]. Akashvani, 41(15), 750.

“Yale prodigy” (1945, November 12). LIFE, 51-54.