Throughout history, the presidents of the United States have been giants in the political world. But in a literal sense, it’s not always easy to discern their actual heights when we see them on stage behind a podium. So keeping that in mind, we’ve ranked the American leaders in the order of their size, from tallest to shortest — and the smallest one might surprise you!
This article was originally published on WHerMoments
Measuring in at over six feet tall, Abraham Lincoln sits at the summit as America’s biggest president. But did you know that Honest Abe’s size might’ve been caused by an ailment named Marfan syndrome?
It’s a genetic condition that alters your cellular structure, resulting in gangly appendages and a large frame. And whether it caused Lincoln’s height has long interested experts.
While Lyndon B. Johnson may not have expected to be president, the untimely demise of JFK means he makes this list ahead of Kennedy as one of the country’s tallest leaders. At the same time, he wasn’t that healthy either.
According to a study by the Medicare Supplement website, Johnson was overweight at 210 pounds. Overall, the site named him 31st in the presidential health rankings.
Thomas Jefferson was another presidential giant at over six feet tall – but how did he carry himself? Well, a senator named William Maclay offered a vivid description in his diary back in 1790.
He said, “Jefferson is a slender man, [and] has rather the air of stiffness in his manner. His clothes seem too small for him. [And] his whole figure has a loose, shackling air.”
As one of the tallest presidents of recent times, Bill Clinton was pretty active during his spell in the White House. Then again, that didn’t save him from injury, as he needed a knee operation in 1997.
But Clinton’s size wasn’t to blame. According to the Chicago Tribune, he blew it out following a fall at a golfer’s house. Ouch!
George Washington wrote his name into the history books as America’s first president. And his size was also pretty notable at the time. You see, Ohio State University researchers reported that the “average height” in the 1700s was roughly 5 ft 5.7 in.
Washington blew that number out of the water, so he would’ve seemed very tall to those around him.
While Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the tallest men to take office, his size wasn’t always that clear to the public. Why’s that? Well, Roosevelt suffered with polio.
Unfortunately for FDR, his encounter with the ailment left him without the use of his legs at just 39 years old.
George H. W. Bush was another towering presence in the White House during his time as president. But how was his health?
As it turned out, Bush was always trying to be active, taking up jogging as he got older. Mind you, he still tipped the scales at 196 pounds.
At just over six feet tall, Andrew Jackson joined the ranks of America’s biggest leaders. He was also very light compared to several of his counterparts, weighing 140 pounds.
Despite his notable size, though, Jackson is probably best remembered for surviving an assassination attempt when the would-be killer’s pair of pistols both malfunctioned. How lucky!
Ronald Reagan was a pretty tall guy when he became president, but towards the end there were real question marks regarding his health. To explain more, a writer named Gil Troy spoke to Medicare Supplement.
He said, “Did [Reagan] have Alzheimer’s before he retired? I think he was on his way. He was forgetful, he was ailing.”
It could be argued that John F. Kennedy is one of the most famous American presidents in history. He was a sizable man too, standing at over six feet.
On that note, Kennedy didn’t have a particularly strong back, so he required a brace. The leader had it on when he was killed in 1963.
Coming in at exactly six feet tall, James Monroe was the fifth president in office in the United States. It’s said that he was a big fan of dishes from the southern states, as well as French-inspired food.
That’s quite a mix! Anyway, all that grub meant that Monroe weighed 189 pounds: the 13th-heaviest president on record.
Upon closer inspection, John Tyler is seen as one of the healthiest presidents to take office. According to Medicare Supplement, he wasn’t a big fan of alcohol or smoking. Then again, Tyler’s spell in power wasn’t without its problems.
When a bad bout of flu hit America, people referred to it as the “Tyler grippe.” That’s pretty harsh!
Gerald Ford was another president to stand at six feet tall; but when he was younger his life could’ve taken a very different turn. Ford had the chance to become a professional football player after a stellar spell with his college side.
Maybe his size had something to do with it? After he finished university, both the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions wanted to sign him.
On the surface, Warren G. Harding seemed to be in pretty good shape: he tipped the scales at 173 pounds. Yet all was not as it seemed.
You see, Harding had a bad diet, enjoyed smoking, and suffered with heart issues. On top of that, he endured a mental breakdown as well.
As another six-footer, James Buchanan stands among some of the White House’s tallest occupants. We hope the door frames reflected that! Anyway, what kind of a person was he?
Pennsylvania State University’s Dr. Amy Greenberg told Medicare Supplement, “[Buchanan] was such a heavy drinker. Even by the standards of the time, he could drink anyone under the table.”
James A. Garfield must have been expecting a long, fruitful time in office when he had the honor of becoming America’s 20th leader in 1881. Unfortunately for him, though, his time as president was cut tragically short.
Garfield got shot that July, before he succumbed to his injuries over two months later. He was just 49 years old.
Coming in just a few inches shorter than his dad, George W. Bush is the first president on this list under six feet. Mind you, it could be argued that he was one of the fittest leaders in the White House.
It’s reported that Bush finished a marathon in less than four hours as he approached his 50s. Pretty impressive right?
Of all the men to take office, William H. Taft holds the record as the heaviest American president in history. He weighed in at the scales at 340 pounds. Wow!
It’s no wonder, though, because Taft’s breakfast often included a 12-ounce steak, so that might go some way to explaining his size.
Herbert Hoover once said, “If a man has not made a million dollars by the time he is 40, he is not worth much.” But don’t be fooled by that statement.
As it turned out, the tall leader worked very hard in his attempts to eradicate hunger following World War One and Two. His colleague Neil MacNeil even noted, “He fed more people and saved more lives than any other man in history.”
Richard Nixon is without doubt one of the most recognizable presidents in America’s history. And he was taller than you might’ve expected! How was his health, though? Well, Dr. Robert Kaufman informed Medicare Supplement, “Looks can be very deceiving.
Overall, Nixon was an extremely fit man, not just physically but intellectually, until the end of his life.”
Standing at nearly five feet 11 inches tall, Woodrow Wilson’s time in the White House hit a significant speed bump in 1919 following a stroke.
“He should’ve stepped down from the presidency [after that], but the White House campaign of deception convinced enough members of Congress that he could finish the job,” Dr. Stephen F. Knott told Medicare Supplement. Wilson passed away five years later.
When you think of famous U.S. presidents, Grover Cleveland probably won’t pop into your head straightaway. But here’s the thing: he’s a real history-maker!
You see, Cleveland is the only leader to serve two distinct terms in the White House. He’s also the second-heaviest president on record at 260 pounds.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was reasonably tall at a bit more than five feet ten inches. But he suffered from a long list of medical issues that ranged from weight problems to heart trouble.
Yet Eisenhower didn’t let that stop him from enjoying himself. Apparently, he loved playing golf as he got older.
Calvin Coolidge was named the 30th president of the United States back in 1923. And in terms of his physical condition, Medicare Supplement claims that he was the 22nd-healthiest leader.
Sadly, though, Coolidge had to deal with a bout of depression 12 months after his election when his son passed away. He then died in 1933.
While Franklin Pierce was one of several presidents to measure five feet 10 inches high, he stood out in a different way. A skinny type, he’s the third-lightest leader on record at 144 pounds.
Mind you, Pierce’s lengthy battle with alcohol and depression might explain that low number in the grand scheme of things.
Here’s something to remember for your next trivia night. After Andrew Johnson’s victory in the presidential race, he was due to speak at his inauguration. But the leader became anxious beforehand.
So he gulped down an alcoholic beverage – unaware of its strong effects. In the end, Johnson was pretty drunk when he made his address!
One of America’s most iconic leaders, Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t the literal giant that you’d expect when you hear his name. In fact, he was under six feet tall. Yet despite his size, Roosevelt was an incredibly active president.
Among other things, he liked horse riding, swimming, boxing, hiking, and climbing. That’s some set of interests!
At 5 ft 9½ in, Jimmy Carter wasn’t the biggest president to take office in the White House. Plus, he was on the lighter side as well, weighing just 160 pounds.
Yet Carter is up there with the country’s healthiest leaders. Yes, he came fourth in Medicare Supplement’s rankings.
While Harry S. Truman was another shorter, healthy president, his life nearly came to a shocking end back in 1950. What happened? Well, Truman was the target of an assassination plot while he lived outside the White House.
Apparently, one of his bodyguards met his end while halting the attack.
Even though Rutherford B. Hayes wasn’t particularly tall, he was named the healthiest American president in history by Medicare Supplement. Incredibly, this man had no major medical problems up until his passing from a heart attack.
He didn’t drink or smoke. Swearing was off the table too – yes, you’re reading that correctly!
At just over five feet eight inches tall, Zachary Taylor is certainly in the bottom half when it comes to height. Unfortunately, though, he’s probably best remembered for his untimely passing after a heat stroke in 1850.
As Dr. Robert Watson told Medicare Supplement, “Some early presidential health issues were either caused or exacerbated by environmental conditions and poor medical technology.”
When William Henry Harrison won the presidential race in 1841, he delivered a speech that lasted for around an hour-and-a-half in the rain. And despite the passage of time, that still stands as the lengthiest inauguration in history.
It’s suggested, though, that the speech might’ve indirectly led to his death: Harrison got sick and passed away from pneumonia a few weeks later.
If we were ranking presidents by their names, Ulysses S. Grant would surely be at the top. It’s awesome! Mind you, The middle letter only came about due to a clerical mistake.
The short leader humorously touched on that while corresponding with his girlfriend, writing, “You know I have an ‘S’ in my name and don’t know what it stands for.”
Another one of the White House’s shortest residents, James K. Polk had to deal with some tricky illnesses when he was president. And, in the end, he succumbed to a bout of cholera after his term concluded.
Polk wasn’t the only person to either: up to six patients lost their lives every 24 hours because of the infection at that time.
John Quincy Adams might not have been the tallest man in office, but he still kept himself relatively fit. Yes, he would either go for a six-mile stroll or a swim each morning.
That puts most of us to shame! Adams was a big fruit fan as well, so his health never came into question.
Although William McKinley stood just shy of five feet seven inches, he’s in the upper bracket of heaviest presidents. He weighed 199 pounds – so only seven men who reached the Oval Office were bigger than him.
Anyway, McKinley’s time in the White House was cut tragically short after his murder in 1901.
John Adams made his name as America’s second leader after George Washington’s spell. But here’s an interesting fact to consider.
Champlain College’s Willard Sterne Randall told Medicare Supplement, “Adams stayed in Massachusetts all through the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. [It] killed 6,000 Philadelphians, one-fifth of the capital’s populace.” He became president four years later.
While William Henry Harrison wasn’t one of the taller presidents, he was still bigger than his grandson Benjamin. Yes, the 23rd leader of the country was some two inches smaller when he took office.
Not only that, but the younger Harrison was slightly lighter too, weighing exactly 160 pounds.
We don’t know about you, but we feel a great deal of sympathy for Martin Van Buren. Why’s that? Well, the former leader faced down some rather derogatory nicknamess – all referencing his height.
For instance, those monikers included the “Red Fox of Kinderhook” and “Sly Fox.” Poor guy!
At just over five feet four inches tall, James Madison is the smallest American president on record. He was also the lightest by a considerable distance: he weighed only 100 pounds. Wow!
Madison suffered with his health too, and, no surprise with his small frame, he struggled to project his vocals when addressing large crowds.
Height is one thing, but just how smart do you have to be to win an American presidential election? Well, it helps if you have some brains to work with, as all of these 43 presidents have exceptionally high IQs – well over the U.S. average of 98.
We know this because professor Dean Simonton, a psychologist from the University of California, Davis, totted up the evidence and used biographical information to make his informed estimates. So, who’s the most intelligent man to have ever stepped into the Oval Office? Read on and find out...
Ulysses S. Grant may be low on this list, but that doesn’t mean he was dumb by any stretch. Nowadays, in fact, his estimated IQ of 130 is a whole 32 points above the average American’s.
Grant was the 18th president, serving two terms from 1869, although he’s arguably just as well-remembered as a Unionist Civil War general. And since he was on the winning side of the conflict, that suggests he was indeed pretty smart after all.
As you may well remember, George W. Bush served two terms as president until he was succeeded by Barack Obama. However, his tenure – which spanned from 2001 to 2009 – was far from an easy ride. Famously, 9/11 happened on his watch. That tragedy was then followed by the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – events that would have tested any leader to the limit.
But despite his verbal gaffes, the 43rd President of the United States is no intellectual slouch. In his study, professor Simonton wrote that Bush Jr. is “in the upper range of college graduates in raw intellect.”
The fifth president, James Monroe served from 1817 to 1825. Interestingly, he was also the last man to hold office who could lay claim to being one of the Founding Fathers. But he apparently wasn’t particularly flashy or boastful about his considerable achievements.
According to the White House website, one woman from Virginia who met Monroe described him as “tall and well-formed, his dress plain and in the old style. His manner was quiet and dignified.” He was also bright enough to learn law under Thomas Jefferson.
William Howard Taft came to the presidency in 1909 – making him the 27th man to ever do so. Though he did little to distinguish himself during his single term in office. In fact, you could say that Taft only came into his own following his departure from the White House.
Eventually, you see, he became a professor of law at Yale. And in 1921 he even took the position of United States Chief Justice – a demanding role that naturally requires a keen intellect.
James Buchanan was the 15th president – serving a single term from 1857 during the years leading up to the Civil War. As you’d expect, his presidency was marked by rising tensions as the conflict loomed.
According to the White House website, Buchanan was “gifted as a debater and learned in the law.” Those qualities are also reflected in his IQ, which is well above the average and within the top two percent of scores.
Andrew Johnson had the unenviable job of becoming president after his predecessor Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated in 1865. That meant he took office during the period of reconstruction after the horrors of the Civil War – a task that practically demanded smarts. But as you may remember from history classes in high school, Johnson doesn’t exactly have a shining legacy.
He was the first American leader to face impeachment and was acquitted by the Senate by just one vote. Johnson later continued in politics as a Tennessee senator.
Zachary Taylor became the 12th U.S. president back in 1849 – although it wasn’t a role he’d hold for long. In fact, his most enduring achievements came before his term in office. Taylor’s role as a general during both the Mexican-American and 1812 wars had made him somewhat of a folk hero.
Unfortunately, less than a year and a half into his presidential term, he was struck down by gastrointestinal disease and ultimately died after a five-day illness.
A matter of weeks after being elected vice president, Harry S. Truman found himself thrust into the top job when the incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt died in April 1945. But Truman made his own mark soon after – helping end WWII when he ordered atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan.
The White House website quotes Truman’s recollections of becoming president, with the leader having said, “I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me.”
Warren G. Harding won his bid to become president in 1921 – and on his 56th birthday, too. This triumph came after a successful spell as a newspaper publisher and time as a senator representing Ohio. Harding was also said to have been a strong supporter of votes for women.
All this suggests some savvy, and yet Harding is actually remembered as one of the worst U.S. presidents, as he didn’t appear to know which direction to take the country.
It was in 1789 that George Washington became the very first President of the United States. And his estimated IQ score of 140 means that he can be classed as exceptionally clever – almost at genius level, in fact.
This makes sense, as Washington famously commanded the armies that eventually saw off the British in the Revolutionary War. That’s hardly the achievement of a mediocre military man.
After the Watergate scandal forced Richard Nixon to resign, Gerald Ford became his successor in August 1974. And as Ford was inaugurated, he reflected on the tumultuous times by saying, “I assume the presidency under extraordinary circumstances. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.”
The 38th President of the United States needed all the resources that his considerable intelligence gave him to steer America right again.
Lyndon Johnson was another man unexpectedly catapulted into the presidency – in his case, in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination. And Johnson inherited the latter’s ambition to fly men to the Moon, which he pursued with enthusiasm.
Less welcome was the escalation of the Vietnam War and the civil rights crisis for African Americans. But after his first brief tenure as president, Johnson nevertheless went on to resounding victory in the 1964 election.
Calvin Coolidge was vice president when Warren Harding died in 1923 and so succeeded him in office. And as his IQ testifies, he had a keen intellect. Before his political career, Coolidge used his smarts to train as a lawyer before starting his own law firm in 1898.
He also stood for a second term in 1924 – winning that election with a convincing popular vote majority of 2.5 million.
By the time that Herbert Hoover gave his inaugural presidential speech in 1929, he was already a millionaire businessman. And since he had achieved all of this despite humble beginnings – his father was a blacksmith – it’s perhaps evidence of his ready intelligence.
But Hoover wasn’t mean with his money. He gave the entirety of his presidential salary to charitable organizations, in fact, and possessed an international reputation for philanthropy.
Before his two terms as president, Ronald Reagan famously enjoyed a successful career in Hollywood. But while the Gipper could have easily added to his screen resume for many more decades, he decided instead to run for – and win – the position of Governor of California. And Reagan was 69 when he defeated Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election.
This made him the oldest man to become his country’s leader at that time. Now, many credit him with ending the Cold War with the Soviet Union – no mean feat.
Barack Obama served two terms as the 44th president from 2009. There has been no official assessment of his IQ, though it is estimated to be 142 at a minimum. This figure is derived from the fact that Obama attended Harvard where he studied law. The average IQ of graduates from Ivy League colleges like Harvard is 142.
So it’s an entirely plausible assumption that Obama – an outstanding student who was the first African-American to be the Harvard Law Review’s president – has an IQ of at least that level.
Richard Nixon’s main achievement as president was to end America’s military offensive in Vietnam. But, of course, this point of pride was almost completely overshadowed by the Watergate affair. The scandal memorably led Nixon to resign, and to date, he remains the only president ever to have done so. Yet the 37th President of the U.S. was smarter than his blemished record may suggest.
As a younger man, he had even won a scholarship to Harvard – although he ultimately couldn’t afford the other costs that came with receiving an Ivy League education.
George H. W. Bush was the first member of his family to become president when he won the 1988 election. And he had the smarts to serve him well in the role. The White House website claims that, while studying at Yale, the young Bush “excelled both in sports and in his studies.
He was captain of the baseball team and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.” Despite his undoubted talents, though, he ultimately lost out on a second term to Bill Clinton.
William McKinley took office as America’s 25th president in 1897. And history perhaps remembers him best as the leader who achieved victory for his country in the Spanish-American War. Before politics dominated his life, McKinley had gone to college and had been a teacher when the American Civil War erupted.
After that, he put his smarts to studying law and eventually opened a private practice. Marrying a banker’s daughter was a pretty savvy move, too.
Way before becoming president in 1845, James K. Polk was a diligent honors student at the University of North Carolina. Then, like so many politicians, he went on to work as a lawyer before heading to Washington, D.C. And after military action against Mexico, Polk made one of his smartest moves.
He snapped up California and New Mexico for the U.S. for just $15 million. Surely, that’s one of the best bargains in U.S. history.
In 1884 Grover Cleveland became the first Democrat to emerge victorious in a presidential race since the end of the Civil War. This wouldn’t be the only election he would win, either. Famously, Cleveland left the White House at the end of his first term in 1889 – though he became president once again in 1893.
And despite financial hardship that meant he had to leave formal education at 16, the future leader stuck at part-time study and succeeded in passing his bar exams.
Andrew Jackson was the seventh U.S. president – serving two terms from 1829 to 1837. Apparently, he received little structured education as a youngster. Though according to the White House website, Jackson still had the gumption and intelligence to “[become] an outstanding young lawyer in Tennessee.”
Mind you, Jackson also had a hair-trigger temper. In 1806 he fought a duel with a man who had allegedly defamed his wife – shooting him dead.
Dwight D. Eisenhower first came to fame as a commander of the Allied forces that helped crushed Hitler’s Nazis in western Europe in 1945. He was perhaps the most accomplished military man of his day, in fact, with an outstanding intellect.
And after his landslide 1952 election victory, Eisenhower went on to negotiate a truce in the Korean War that fortunately brought an end to the bloodshed.
Before winning the 1888 election, Benjamin Harrison was known as an exceptional lawyer. And that wasn’t the extent of his achievements prior to taking the highest office in the land. You see, Harrison also rose to the rank of colonel with the Unionist forces in the Civil War.
Despite all this, the 23rd President of the United States was only elected by virtue of his victory in the Electoral College, as he actually lost the popular vote.
Martin Van Buren was elected in 1837 after serving as vice president to Andrew Jackson for two terms. He had a nifty nickname, too, being known as the “Little Magician” because of his relatively diminutive height.
And though Van Buren left school at 14, he still proved his intelligence by taking a law apprenticeship and passing his bar exams before entering office.
Having defeated the incumbent Martin Van Buren in the 1840 election, William Henry Harrison briefly served as America’s ninth president. He had born into what the White House website describes as the “Virginian planter aristocracy” – making him more privileged than most.
Despite this, though, Harrison managed to present himself to the public as “a simple frontier Indian fighter, living in a log cabin and drinking cider.” And this was despite the fact that he possessed a history and classics degree from Hampden-Sydney College.
Rutherford B. Hayes triumphed in the election of 1876, at a time when the national wounds of the Civil War were still healing. Hayes had previously studied law at Harvard and went on to fight with the Unionists in the Civil War – attaining the rank of brevet major general.
But perhaps he stayed sharper than the average bear by avoiding booze. Hayes even went so far as to banish liquors and wines from the White House – an order carried out by his wife.
Franklin Pierce came to office in 1853 as America’s 14th president. And as was the case with many who have held the same office, he both studied and practiced law before moving into politics.
Personal tragedy marked Pierce’s days as president, though, as not long before he was inaugurated, his 11-year-old son died in a railroad crash. The president and his wife were both on the train when it happened.
When William Henry Harrison died after just 32 days in office, his vice president John Tyler succeeded him.
That made Tyler the first man to earn the top job without an election – leading to his political enemies rather cruelly calling him “His Accidency.” Tyler attended the College of William and Mary, where, almost inevitably, he had studied law.
Millard Fillmore became the 13th president in 1850 – stepping up from the position of vice president when his predecessor Zachary Taylor died in office. He was a member of the Whig party and the last president to hold office who was neither a Democrat nor a Republican.
Fillmore also apparently had a rough and ready early education. Though his high IQ was evident when – despite his difficult beginnings – he succeeded in being admitted to the bar in 1823.
Abraham Lincoln will always be known as the man who signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation – finally bringing an end to slavery in the United States. That was by no means his only achievement, of course, as he was also the president who led the Unionist forces to victory in the Civil War.
And, incredibly, Lincoln rose to lead his country despite only 18 months or so of formal education – surely a testimony to his fierce intelligence.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency began during one of the most difficult periods of U.S. history: the Great Depression. It was lucky, then, that FDR had the brains to help put the country back on track. A high-achieving scholar who had studied at both Harvard University and Columbia Law School, Roosevelt started on the road to the White House in 1910 with his election to the New York Senate.
But his presidency wasn’t a smooth run even after the success of the New Deal. FDR would be greatly tested again, you see, by America’s entry into WWII in 1941.
The son of an Irish immigrant, Chester A. Arthur came to the presidency in 1881 after James Garfield had been assassinated. He was a graduate of New York State’s Union College and passed the bar in New York City – making him yet another lawyer to earn the most prestigious job in the land.
Within a year of succeeding to the presidency, though, Arthur was diagnosed with terminal kidney disease – a condition he kept under wraps. And, ultimately, he failed to win the Republican nomination for the 1884 election.
After a long political career – including 17 years in the House of Representatives – James Garfield won the 1880 election to become the 20th President of the United States. He had been a talented scholar, too, displaying a particular aptitude for Greek and Latin.
And as history buffs will know, Garfield fought on the Unionist side during the Civil War, rising to the rank of brigadier general. Sadly, though, Garfield is one of the four American presidents to have been assassinated in office.
Vice president when William McKinley was assassinated, Theodore Roosevelt succeeded to the highest office in September 1901 when he was just 42. The youngest-ever president, he had previously graduated magna cum laude from Harvard before studying law at Columbia.
And the man who would become universally known as Teddy distinguished himself in combat, too – becoming 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 election of 1904.
John Adams was famously the first vice president to George Washington before earning the top job himself. And in a comment that perhaps reflects Adams’ considerable intelligence, the White House website describes him as “more remarkable as a political philosopher than as a politician.”
In any case, he was an excellent student, gaining a scholarship to Harvard and ultimately earning a master’s degree at the prestigious Ivy.
Woodrow Wilson’s two terms as president placed him in power as WWI raged. And Wilson maintained America’s neutrality in the conflict until 1917 when, as he famously put it, the U.S. jumped in to “make the world safe for democracy.”
But despite his high IQ, the commander-in-chief was apparently a poor student as a boy. Some suspect that he may have been dyslexic, which could explain a lot.
Before rising to president in 1976, Jimmy Carter had studied at the elite Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, graduating in the top 10 percent of students. Then, after he had served in the U.S. Navy for seven years, he took over his family’s Georgia peanut farm following the death of his father.
Still, while Carter may be very smart indeed, it wasn’t enough to take him to a second term. Famously, his presidency was blighted by the Iran hostage crisis, which ended only after Reagan took office.
By common consensus, Bill Clinton oversaw an extraordinary period of prosperity in the States, with unemployment and inflation both remaining at low levels for much of his two terms in office. Well before winning the 1992 election, Clinton had excelled as a student, too, winning a Rhodes Scholarship to England’s University of Oxford.
But for all his smarts, Clinton couldn’t keep his hands to himself, and an affair with intern Monica Lewinsky tarnished his tenure – as well as his legacy.
John F. Kennedy became president aged just 43 – making him one of the youngest men ever elected to America’s highest office. As a boy, though, he wasn’t a conscientious student and often got into trouble.
Biography.com even claims that a young JFK “[preferred] sports, girls and practical jokes to coursework.” Eventually, of course, he applied himself, and his all-too-brief time in office is still well thought of today.
One of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated as America’s third president in 1801. And he was a man of high principles, as is clear from a letter he composed just before his election win.
Jefferson wrote, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Not only that, but he was reputedly one of the best-schooled lawyers in America. Perhaps that helps explain his super-high IQ.
James Madison won the presidential election of 1808, succeeding Thomas Jefferson in the White House and serving for two terms. Plagued by poor health throughout his life, Madison received much of his education at his family’s estate in Orange County, Virginia.
He proved himself, too, by going on to attend the College of New Jersey – the forerunner of Princeton University. Madison is often called the “Father of the Constitution” because of his diligent work in drafting the document.
John Quincy Adams – the eldest son of second president John Adams – won the 1824 election to become the sixth President of the United States. He apparently also had an outrageously high IQ, which probably stood him in good stead when in office.
In any case, he was smart enough to be a fluent speaker of Dutch, French and German as well as English. Adams studied at Harvard, too – testament enough to his incredible intellect.