\Cox, Catherine Morris. The Early Mental Traits of Three Hundred Geniuses. Volume II. Genetic

 

\Cox, Catherine Morris. The Early Mental Traits of Three Hundred Geniuses. Volume II. Genetic
Studies of Genius. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1959. (Originally, 1926)\

Lewis M. Terman is not the author of this book but he is the editor of this entire series and, as
stated on the first pages of this work, his thinking permeates the book. However, this is so bad
that Terman did himself a favor in not authoring it. (Both Gould and Chase, both haters of
Terman, almost apologize for the quality of this book. It is one thing to hate a man and another to
take advantage of his blind spots; and this book is one of those blind spots. It is that bad.)

The three hundred "geniuses" studied in this book are drawn from a list made up some years
before by James McKeen Cattell! As Terman puts it in his Editor's Preface, "By basing her
selection upon Cattell's objectively determined list of the thousand most eminent individuals of
history, and by the adoption of certain rules in the reduction of this list, the author has avoided
the common errors arising from this source." How's that for objectivity? It is almost as good as
Galton's procedure of using the list of Scientists and Judges selected by his good friends, who
were also members of the upper class.

The first genius mentioned in the book is, not surprisingly, Francis Galton who, it is suggested,
had an IQ of about 200. (p. v) Galton is ascribed the highest IQ in history! That fits very well
with the position of labeling theorists: the man who gave us modern Eugenics gets called "the
brightest in history." Although I cannot imagine on what basis anyone can claim knowledge of
Newton's prowess at an early age, he is here assigned an early age IQ of 130 and, in his 20s, an
IQ of 170. There is no basis in fact for assigning Newton any IQ at all at an early age; there is no
information on his early life. Here Cox is allowing her own labels to betray her. She can praise
(raise a score) or condemn (lower a score) in terms of her predilections. An IQ score here is a
label.

George Berkeley is listed here as having a higher IQ than Newton, a score of 175 (p. 557)
Galton's more famous cousin, Charles Darwin, had an IQ of 135 in his early years and 140 in
later life (although I wonder how Cox can call him "bright" as a child; his family couldn't). The
only other genius in history to have approached Galton's score of 200 is John Stewart Mill. Of
course, there were some lesser lights at 190: Leibnitz, Grotious, Goethe; and Blaise Pascal comes
in at 180.

Of course there are no negative cases found here, no Mensa types who never became world
renowned. If they are truly geniuses, they will undoubtedly find ways to let their intelligence
quotients shine though.

This book stands as a monument to the arrogance of psychology and the hubris of Terman. The
entire profession must blanch at the very mention of this book. The entire field of tests and
measurements stands condemned by it. Sometime, as an exercise for some undergraduate, have
him or her go through this book and pick out the absurdities. The footnote on page 63 might be a
good place to start.