Take the intelligence test that Thomas Edison gave to job seekers


Link to the questions?

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This is not an intelligence test. It’s a knowledge test.


I think the job was on his pub trivia team


After seeing at least 18 questions that concerned themselves with who invented/who discovered/who wrote/who was a famous X, I see a man extremely obsessed with his place in history, and whether people would remember him.

That aside, when playing with various geography games online, I always wished some had questions of the form

  1. What countries bound France?

I feel like this is the ultimate (easily-testable) test of your ability to know where a country is on the planet and visualize it and all its surroundings.

When I get around to making my geography game site, this question will absolutely be included.


I would expect that it would be a knowledge test. If you want an intelligence test, talk to the man who’s name starts with “Tes” and ends with “la”…

Tesla on Edison: “If he had a needle to find in a haystack he would not stop to reason where it was most likely to be, but would proceed at once, with the feverish diligence of a bee, to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. … I was almost a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.”
—New York Times, October 19, 1931 (the day after Edison died)


So Edison basically just wanted to employ top ranking pub quizzers?

Maybe he just didn’t like people who were potentially smarter than him so wanted people with good memory not intelligence or creativity. Or he fundamentally didn’t understand the difference between basic knowledge and intelligence. What do you want, someone who can tell you who invented a modern paper making machine or someone who could potentially make a better one?

Facts are good and very useful (particularly when used to aide intelligence and creativity) But even in the field most of those questions are just useless. Being able to work out the weight of air in a room is a good question, but what air? is it sea level or higher? Also what does he mean what countries bound France? What counts as a country? Do you include Monaco, what about Andora?

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This isn’t a measure of intelligence, but of factual recall. Today, any of this could be Googled. It doesn’t test critical thinking skills at all.

I was going to dismiss it further as a trivia test.

The first part of the test is finding the test :stuck_out_tongue:

In all seriousness though, this doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. My response to the “what is the speed of sound” question would almost certainly have meant that I didn’t get hired, because I would have responded “through what medium?”

Thomas Edison’s formal education lasted about three months (per Wikipedia). I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that fact might have something to do with his “frustration” with college-educated applicants.


Knowing Edison, I wonder if there was a special edition for Jews.

If you include Basque Country and Alsace in the list, does that get extra credit?

It was a trivia test. Apparently he wanted to eliminate any more Teslas.

Seriously, “Who invented logarithms?” Isn’t that worthy of a paragraph or two on epistemology?


Probably not, but I would guess the vast majority of most people would forget Andorra, Monaco and Luxembourg.

Also do you count the Netherlands too? (Saint-Martin/ Sint Maarten)

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These are the kinds of things an asshole puts in an intelligence test.


Edison sounds like a badass You Don’t Know Jack player.

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“It is the group velocity of vibrational/pressure waves through a medium, as given by the Newton-Laplace equation”

Actually, the correct answer to many of these should have been, “I don’t know and neither do you.”
For example, for “Who invented printing?” He probably expected “Guttenberg,” not “a scholar of unknown name in Han dynasty China sometime up to two centuries before or after the birth of Christ.”

Also, you could have a lot of fun with “What is felt?”

And, he left the units off of the room dimensions for the weight of air in a room 10x20x30.

Lastly, in Edison’s day the evidence of having studied well and widely, and of remembering obscure facts for later recall, would have been much more useful than they are today. Also, good evidence of an interest in learning.


My response would simply be “Mach 1.”