Mensa International
Mensa is the largest and oldest high-IQ society
High IQ society
A high IQ society is an organization that limits its membership to people who are within a certain high percentile of Intelligence quotient test results. The oldest, largest and best-known such society is Mensa International, which was founded by Roland Berrill and Dr. Lancelot Ware in 1946...

 in the world. It is a non-profit organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile
In statistics, a percentile is the value of a variable below which a certain percent of observations fall. For example, the 20th percentile is the value below which 20 percent of the observations may be found...

 or higher on a standardised, supervised IQ
Intelligence quotient
An intelligence quotient, or IQ, is a score derived from one of several different standardized tests designed to assess intelligence. When modern IQ tests are constructed, the mean score within an age group is set to 100 and the standard deviation to 15...

 or other approved intelligence test. Mensa is formally composed of national groups and the umbrella organisation Mensa International, with a registered office in Caythorpe, Lincolnshire
Caythorpe, Lincolnshire
Caythorpe is a large village and civil parish in the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England. It lies on the A607, 5 miles south from Leadenham and 8 miles north from Grantham. Caythorpe Heath stretches east of the village to Ermine Street and Byards Leap.-Village:Caythorpe Grade I listed...

, England.

Mensa (icon; Latin: ˈmensa) means "table
Table (furniture)
A table is a form of furniture with a flat and satisfactory horizontal upper surface used to support objects of interest, for storage, show, and/or manipulation...

" in Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, as is symbolized in the organization's logo, and was chosen to demonstrate the round-table nature of the organization; the coming together of equals.


Roland Berrill, an Australian barrister
A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

, and Dr Lancelot Ware
Lancelot Ware
Lancelot Lionel Ware OBE was an English barrister, biochemist and co-founder of Mensa.Lancelot Ware's main claim to fame is co-founding Mensa, the international society for intellectually gifted people, with the Australian barrister Roland Berrill in 1946...

, a British scientist and lawyer, founded Mensa at Lincoln College
Lincoln College, Oxford
Lincoln College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is situated on Turl Street in central Oxford, backing onto Brasenose College and adjacent to Exeter College...

, in Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, England, in 1946. They had the idea of forming a society for very intelligent people, the only qualification for membership being a high IQ. It was to be free from all social distinctions (racial, religious, etc.), represented by the name of the organisation, which comprises two Latin words: mēns, which means "mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

"; and mēnsa, which means "table
Table (furniture)
A table is a form of furniture with a flat and satisfactory horizontal upper surface used to support objects of interest, for storage, show, and/or manipulation...

", indicating that it is a round-table society of minds. Mensa was also to be a non-political organisation, reflected in its constitution: "Mensa encompasses members representing many points of view. Consequently, Mensa as an organisation shall not express an opinion as being that of Mensa, take any political action other than the publication of the results of its investigations, or have any ideological, philosophical, political, or religious affiliations."

American Mensa was the second major branch of Mensa. Its success has been linked to the efforts of its early and longstanding organizer, Margot Seitelman
Margot Seitelman
Margot Seitelman was long-serving the first executive director of American Mensa, from 1961 until her death in 1989. The offices of the organization were originally in her apartment.-Early life:...


Membership requirement

Mensa's only requirement for membership is that one score at or above the 98th percentile
In statistics, a percentile is the value of a variable below which a certain percent of observations fall. For example, the 20th percentile is the value below which 20 percent of the observations may be found...

 on certain standardised IQ or other approved intelligence tests, such as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales. Because different tests are scaled differently, it is not meaningful to compare raw scores between tests, only percentiles. For example, the minimum accepted score on the Stanford-Binet is 132, while for the Cattell
Cattell Culture Fair III
In seeking to develop a culture-fair intelligence or IQ test that separated environmental and genetic factors, Raymond B. Cattell created the CFIT or Culture Fair Intelligence Test. Cattell argued that general intelligence exists and that it consists of fluid intelligence and crystallized...

 it is 148. But most IQ tests are designed to yield a mean score of 100 with a standard deviation
Standard deviation
Standard deviation is a widely used measure of variability or diversity used in statistics and probability theory. It shows how much variation or "dispersion" there is from the average...

 of 15; the 98th-percentile score under these conditions is 130.82.

Mensa also has its own application exam, and some national groups offer alternative batteries of culture-fair, non-language tests. These exams are proctored by Mensa and do not provide a quantified score; they serve only to qualify a person for membership. In some national groups, a person may take a Mensa offered test only once, although one may later submit an application with results from a different qualifying test. For some national Mensa groups, such as American Mensa, having a high enough score on some graduate school admissions exams is enough to qualify for Mensa membership.


Mensa's constitution lists three purposes: "to identify and to foster human intelligence
Intelligence has been defined in different ways, including the abilities for abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, emotional intelligence and problem solving....

 for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members".

To this end, the organisation is also involved with programs for gifted children
Intellectual giftedness
Intellectual giftedness is an intellectual ability significantly higher than average. It is different from a skill, in that skills are learned or acquired behaviors...

, literacy
Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about printed material.Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print...

 and scholarships, and it also holds numerous "gatherings" (see below).

Organisational structure

Mensa International consists of more than 110,000 members in 50 national groups. Individuals who live in a country with a national group join the national group, while those living in countries without a recognised chapter may join Mensa International directly. The two largest national groups are American Mensa, with more than 56,000 members, and British Mensa, with about 23,500 members. Larger national groups are further subdivided into local groups. For example, American Mensa has 134 local groups, with the largest having over 2,000 members and the smallest having fewer than 100.

Additionally, members may form Special Interest Group
Special Interest Group
A Special Interest Group is a community with an interest in advancing a specific area of knowledge, learning or technology where members cooperate to effect or to produce solutions within their particular field, and may communicate, meet, and organize conferences...

s (SIGs) at international, national, and local levels; these SIGs represent a wide variety of interests, both commonplace and obscure, ranging from motorcycle clubs to entrepreneurial cooperations, reflecting the wide diversity of members in occupation and social class. Some SIGs are associated with various geographic groups, whereas others act independently of official hierarchy. There are now quite a number of electronic SIGs (eSIGs), which operate primarily as e-mail lists, where members may or may not meet each other in person.

The Mensa Foundation, a separate charitable U.S. corporation, edits and publishes its own Mensa Research Journal, in which both Mensans and non-Mensans are published on various topics surrounding the concept and measure of intelligence. The national groups also issue periodicals, such as Mensa Bulletin, the monthly publication of American Mensa, and Mensa Magazine, the monthly publication of British Mensa.


Mensa has many events for members, from the local to the international level. Several countries hold a large event called the Annual Gathering (AG). It is held in a different city every year, with speakers, dances, leadership workshops, children's events, games, and other activities. The American and Canadian AGs are usually held during the American Independence Day
Independence Day (United States)
Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain...

 (4 July) or Canada Day
Canada Day
Canada Day , formerly Dominion Day , is the national day of Canada, a federal statutory holiday celebrating the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act , which united three British colonies into a single country, called Canada, within the British Empire...

 weekends respectively.

There are also smaller gatherings called Regional Gatherings (RGs) held in various cities that attract members from large areas; the largest in the United States is held in the Chicago area around Halloween
Hallowe'en , also known as Halloween or All Hallows' Eve, is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31, the night before All Saints' Day...

, and features a costume party for which many members create pun-based costumes.

In 2006, The Mensa World Gathering was held from 8–13 August in Orlando, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Orlando is a city in the central region of the U.S. state of Florida. It is the county seat of Orange County, and the center of the Greater Orlando metropolitan area. According to the 2010 US Census, the city had a population of 238,300, making Orlando the 79th largest city in the United States...

 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of Mensa. An estimated 2,500 attenders from over 30 countries gathered for this celebration. The International Board of Directors also had a formal meeting there. In 2010, a joint American-Canadian Annual Gathering was held in Dearborn, Michigan
Dearborn, Michigan
-Economy:Ford Motor Company has its world headquarters in Dearborn. In addition its Dearborn campus contains many research, testing, finance and some production facilities. Ford Land controls the numerous properties owned by Ford including sales and leasing to unrelated businesses such as the...

, to mark the 50th anniversary of Mensa in North America.

Since 1990 Mensa also sponsors the annual Mensa Mind Games competition, whereat the Mensa Select award is given by American Mensa to five board games that are "original, challenging and well designed."

Individual local groups and their members also host smaller events for members and their guests. Lunch or dinner events, lectures, tours, theatre outings, and games nights are all common.


Many national Mensa groups have a members-only hard copy newsletter, such as those in Australia, Sweden, Singapore and elsewhere.

American Mensa's flagship publication is the Mensa Bulletin, published 10 times per year, which includes articles and columns written by members. The Mensa Bulletin also contains International Journal, "a separate publication featuring news from other national Mensas and Mensa International." Mensa also publishes the Mensa Research Journal.

Mensa also has published a number of books, including Poetry Mensa (1966), an anthology of poems by Mensans from all over the world, in which languages other than English are represented. Third party profit publishers also sell commercial products using the official Mensa name.


Mensans come from many different backgrounds, vary in job and profession, and are represented among all age groups. There are many famous and prominent members (see list of Mensans). Members pay annual membership dues that vary by country; some national groups offer a "Life Membership", but it is not transferable between groups.

All national and local groups welcome children; many offer activities, resources and newsletters specifically geared toward gifted children and their parents. Both American and British Mensa's youngest members joined at the age of two, such as Beatrix Townsend, Elise Tan Roberts, and Oscar Wrigley. The Mensa Research Journal, which is published quarterly, includes a TAG (Talented and Gifted) Progeny section especially for younger members.

At the other extreme, American Mensa's oldest member is 107, and British Mensa had a member aged 103. According to American Mensa, 41 percent of its members are baby boomers between the ages of 47 and 64, and there are more than 1,700 families with two or more Mensa members.

See also

External links

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