The Freakishly Smart President
Who was our most Freakishly Intelligent Commander-in-Chief?
Jefferson? Yes, definitely a contender. Besides all his noble efforts designing our government, Jefferson was instrumental in bringing enology (wine making) state-side, and for that I personally thank him. It could also go to Carter, who despite a beleaguered presidency is widely regarded as the brightest bulb of the modern era (his alleged 174 IQ has been repeated far and wide, even there’s no official source verifying this, i.e., don’t trust celebrity IQ web sites). He has also shown remarkable innovation in his post-presidential years: please listen to this 5 minute interview on how he helped eradicate the Guinea worm epidemic.
Unfortunately these fellas take a backseat to the one I dub “most freakishly smart,” none other than our 20th president, James Garfield. The evidence for this assertion includes the following:
1) He was fluent in both Greek and Latin. He even taught classics before becoming a lawyer (and eventually a president).
2) He was ambidextrous. In fact, he could write in different languages in each hand at the same time.
3) And the best for last: Garfield developed his own proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. It’s really quite elegant and surprisingly easy to follow: Garfield’s Proof
Alas, Garfield was assassinated by a gunman while standing in a train station. What makes his death particularly horrific is that he suffered for eleven weeks after being shot. The cause of death was not the shot itself, but blood poisoning caused by his doctors repeatedly probing for the bullet with unclean instruments (and fingers!). Gross.
There you have it.
Personally, I think Carter got a bad rap because of bad times — I commend him particularly for his stance on the national debt (which he also got railed for).
Nearly a year ago, I listened to an author interview on NPR about the Garfield assassination. I still haven’t gotten the book, though it’s a fascinating story. It’s on my very long “need to read” list. Now, if I just had the extra time.
I completely agree about Carter. He also did a lot of great work on the peace process between Israel and Egypt. I have mad respect for the guy.