Lincoln was not a genius by present-day psychological ratings. Genius is the highest range of mental ability; the intelligence quotient (I.Q.) would range above 175, compared to the 90-110 range for the average person. Nonetheless, Lincoln was possessed with remarkable ability and natural fitness, and his I.Q. would range far above average by today's rating scales.
Although not widely known outside professional circles, the intelligence range of Lincoln (and 300 other eminent persons born before 1850) was carefully studied by Catherine Cox Miles and was estimated to be between 125 and 140, which is comfortably high.
Mrs. Miles pointed out that Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, was aware of her son's unusual promise and took a lively interest in his education. While he seemed slower in comprehension than other boys, he was unusually studious, had an investigating mind, and dug relentlessly into facts and ideas. Once learned, a fact was not forgotten.
Lincoln studied long and hard, often at night by a log fire, and stood at the head of his class in grammar school. His power of concentration was intense. He became a champion speller
in his district, and somewhat of an authority on astronomy.
As a schoolboy, Lincoln was equally thorough in doing farm chores but always carried a book in his pocket to pursue during free moments. By age 17 he was writing essays on government and temperance and reading everything that was available in print.
In these early intellectual prowling (move around restlessly and stealthily) was laid the foundation of Lincoln's later career. Unlike many prodigies, he was a bootstrap genius who rose above his surroundings by independent efforts of indefatigable (persisting tirelessly) study.
ADDITIONAL READING: "How Lincoln Learned to Tell When a Thing Is Proved."
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.