What is Mensa


Mensa is an international community of persons who have scored in the top 2% on a standardized IQ test. Since its founding in 1946, Mensa has grown to more than 130'000 members. Members are not obliged to perform specific tasks but many choose to attend meetings, parties, courses, and international journeys. At Mensa different people meet having different interests and opinions, but the organisation itself does not represent any political or religious opinion.

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What is Mensa?

Mensa is a worldwide connection of intelligent people. As previously stated the only requirement for admission is to score in the top 2% on a standardized IQ test. Because of this, you will find that there is no such thing as a "typical" Mensan- and that's what makes the club exciting.

Fun with intelligence

Yes, you read right. In Mensa you may also - not only - have joy in using your head and find surprising answers to questions seemingly answered a long time ago. What is Intelligence? Scholars debate and amateurs speculate. In science there are detailed outlines like intelligence should be "the state of the physical functions (memory, ability to learn, ability to recognize, ability to concentrate, will) at handling new situations" as well as the short formula "Intelligence is what the intelligence test is measuring." Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), biochemist, science fiction author, and honorary vice-president of Mensa, formulated the difficulties of describing and measuring intelligence: "The human brain is [...] much more complex as a star more or less; and that's the cause we know much more about the stars than about the human brain. And the most complex aspect about the brain is its intelligence." A founded discussion about the many folded subject of Intelligence needs lots of knowledge of the state of the art in its research. As one member says, intelligence is like concrete: "it simply depends, what you are doing with it." Intelligence is a gift you may use or let it go.

Intelligence and personality

Intelligence is one of many facets that make men. Therefore a high IQ is no cause for intellectual arrogance (someone who wants to show off at a Mensa meeting with his IQ will have the same problem as an exhibitionist on a nudist camp: nobody is looking). Mensa members have only a high IQ in common, for the other they don't differ from the rest of mankind. In Mensa you may find small and fat, big and little, beautiful and ugly, lazy and hardworking, tactless and discrete, concerned and thoughtless people.

Mythical: The IQ

The intelligence quotient is the result of a measurement done by an intelligence test. Not all procedures use the same scale, therefore you need to know the test to evaluate the result. That does not differ from temperature statements: the result "20 degree" is poor information as long as it is not clarified if "Celsius" or "Fahrenheit" are meant. Commonly the IQ is understood as a measure for intelligence but a test can exam only certain abilities, logical thinking or spatial imagination for example. Other aspects of intellectual ability are not or cannot be tested by a standardized exam such as creativity as well as social skills. No test will state if somebody is doing "right" by his fellows - even if exactly this ability is of high importance for living together. In spite of these known insufficiencies IQ tests are still the best means we have for measuring intelligence.

How it all began

In 1946 by chance an Englishman and an Australian sat together in a train rattling through the bombed suburbs of London. Both developed the idea to use intelligence for peace and the well being of mankind. They named the club "Mensa", Latin for "table" because of their target to bring intelligent people together at a table. At the same time in this word is hidden the Latin word "mens" meaning mind or intellect.

When was Mensa Switzerland founded?

The first meeting of Mensa Switzerland was held on September 24th, 1965, in Geneva. This is considered as our founding date by Mensa International. Dr. Hans Eberstark was the founder and first chairman. The list of all chairmen and chairwomen is:

1965 - 1969 : Hans Eberstark †
1969 - 1975 : Paul Kaufmann
1975 - 1979 : Max Frenkel
1979 - 1982 : Katia Chestopalov
1982 - 1986 : Aymar de Brossin
1986 - 1989 : Jean-Charles Berrini
1989 - 1993 : Laura Anne Hartmann
1993 - 2000 : Beat Unternährer †
2000 - 2001 : Tugrul Kircali
2001 - 2003 : Sophie Delaloye
2003 - 2005 : Michael Zwahlen
2005 - 2009 : François Aubert
2009 - 2011 : Ute Blasche 
2011 - 2011 : Stefan Berner
2011 - today : Mark Dettinger

What's Mensa "doing"?

Mensa wants to bring in contact intelligent people and to support exploration of intelligence. These targets are established in the statutes of Mensa International (residence: London). Mensa delivers solely a frame - the members have to fill it with life. The offerings have a wide range, the list of activities is a long one - everybody and each may join, but no one has to. If someone has the time and inclination to go to meetings, if he is communicative or is more reserved, does not matter for membership to the club. Also introverted people find their place in Mensa. Passive members may hold contact to the club by means of the club magazine.


Monthly meetings are held in the larger towns. Whoever plans to organize an additional activity does not need to restrain her or his fantasy - from going to a restaurant or cinema, as well as seminars or sight seeing up to a New year's Eve meeting everything was done already. Not to forget about international meetings where often all five continents are represented, when there are around a bunch of people. Non-members and "not-yet-members" are welcome at meetings on invitation. Nobody will ask them after their IQ - Mensans don't do it as well between each other, by the way.

Hobby groups

Whoever is interested in exchange of knowledge or in contributing to discussions of e specific topic may join a "Special Interest Group" (short: SIG) or found one. There are over 300 SIGs worldwide; Alpinists meet in the GamSIG, riddle enthusiasts in the EnigmaSIG, bikers at the EaSIG Riders and experts in the LexiG.

International encounter: SIGHT and MensaMate

The abbreviation "SIGHT" stands for "Service of Information, Guidance and Hospitality to Travellers". Hidden in there is nothing other than worldwide hospitality on an exchange base. Often the hosts will serve as guides, show visitors their town and point out a country's sights. The program MensaMate has the purpose of bringing together local groups of different countries.

What will You find at Mensa?

A wise man once said: "go to a Mensa meeting and you will find only what you are looking for. If you look for discussions you will find them. If you look for games you will find them. If you look for interesting and thought binding lectures you will find them. If you look for good entertainment you will find it. If you look for bad entertainment you will find it also." Mensa is a mixed bunch of characters having in common only a tiny facet of their personality, you see, the good result at an intelligence test accepted by science. The members have knowledge of many different areas - and share it. Therefore don't be surprised, if you get a well-informed answer to the most extravagant question - or a humorous one. That's because in Mensa people meet in an atmosphere which is becoming serious only on rare occasions and leaves lot of space for brainwaves, discussions, and creativity. Therefore members described Mensa as a "hybrid of an intellectual sports club and a self help group", as "Eggheads Anonymous", but also as "one of many possibilities to organize leisure time". Mensa is not a replacement for friends and acquaintances - Mensa is an add on.