On a recent trip to Boston, I had the good fortune to stay at the (now Omni) Parker House Hotel. The particular lodge has been in continuous operation since 1855 and has played host to more famous people than you or I could possibly name in our lifetimes. Among the enfamed were writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; noted baseball superstars like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and David Ortiz; and presidents and politicians the likes of Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Colin Powell, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, and William Jefferson Clinton. …quite the “A List” in many various professions.
During one of my many conversations with my outstanding bartender Reggie (who makes the most incredible Gibson Martini I’ve ever tasted), I learned a bit of the hotel lore that is passed from generation to generation of the staff who help make the hotel the premier establishment it is. This bit of history is so obscure that I don’t know whether to believe it or not. On the one hand, it’s almost completely unverifiable and this should make me suspicious. On the other hand, it’s so specific, so simple, and so plausible that it’s almost impossible to discount.
Reggie told me that in 1905, the American Psychological Association held its annual meeting in Cambridge. Even though the APA was a relatively young organization at that point, the annual meetings were quite the place to be for anyone in the field of Psychology. The meetings attracted attendees from all over the United States and many developed countries throughout the world. During this particular 1905 meeting, many of the attendees stayed at the Parker House Hotel and two of the attendees, Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon, were among the hotel guests that year. As the legend goes, Binet and Simon, both from France and both in the field of child psychology, were attending sessions at the APA meeting and happened upon each other in the hotel lounge after the day’s sessions concluded. Over dinner and cocktails, the duo formed a fast friendship and ultimately devised the basis of the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scales while dining in the very lounge in which I was sitting during the telling of this story.
Their work, revised and re-published twice in subsequent years, went on to become the seminal concepts that laid the foundation for our modern IQ Tests. So basically, I was sitting in the same room (I like to think at the same table) as the men who devised a method to measure our individual levels of intelligence.
…and that, my friends, is an amazing chapter in the story that makes up the history of the iq test.