Have you gotten smarter over the last 20 years?
I have a friend who’s an optometrist, a delightful old man. On the wall in his office hangs a collection of rare eyeglasses and pince-nez from the 18-19th century. I once decided to try some on, and there was no question – they were all very small.
It turns out that we’ve grown a lot since then. If I were in the court of Queen Marie-Antoinette, with this more-than-modest growth – let’s say, during the Affair of the Diamond Necklace – I would be imposing and towering over everyone. Maybe it wouldn’t be like Gulliver’s Travels, but it would still attract attention. “And who is this giant?” the nobles whispered.
Not all of homo sapiens’ ancestors, of course, were so petite. Abraham Lincoln, for example, who was president from 1861 to 1865, was 6’4” and is still the tallest of all presidents. He was like a Shaquille O’Neal among pygmies, compared to his contemporaries.
And while we’re on that topic, second place goes to Lyndon Baines Johnson at 6’3 1/2”, and the bronze medal to Thomas Jefferson at 6’2”.
At present, we have Barack Obama at 6’1”, and then Donald Trump, who might become President, you never know… is 6’2 1/2”.
George Bush, Jr. is 5’10 1/2”. Even with him would be William Taft, Herbert Hoover, and Richard Nixon, and the record for shortest was James Madison at 5’4 1/2”, three centimeters shorter than Lenin. I wonder how tall comedian Andy Borowitz is, from the New Yorker? The jury is still out on it.
You ask, “Why do we need all these meaningless figures?” Be patient. By the end of the story, it’ll become clear.
First of all, we are interested in intellect…
There’s a worldwide-famous psychologist, whom I learned about today, by the name James Flynn. He believes that people recent years have wised up significantly. Intelligence, in his opinion, is influenced by a variety of factors, even down to the life partners we choose. You don’t have to be a famous psychologist for this discovery, but his other ideas at least deserve attention.
He believes that the current smartest students with their vast potential are, in fact, no different from the medieval peasants that were trapped in their own little world.
(To be continued)
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Text and photo: Sebastian Varo