The History of Mensa
Chapter 1: The Early Years (1945-1953)
It all started with a trivial happening on a hot August day, a few days after World War II had ended. Two people, an Englishman and an Australian, met on a train in Surrey, and if their meeting had not had these far-reaching consequences that it did have, nobody would remember it today.
The Englishman was Lancelot Lionel Ware, a 30-year old upper-class law student from Oxford. Lance already had a bachelor in mathematics and a PhD in chemistry from the Royal College of Science in London. He had done medical research at the National Institute of Medical Research, had lectured in biochemistry at St. Thomas’s Hospital, and – during World War II – had been sent to work at England’s secret chemical weapons research establishment at Porton Down. However, he recently had decided on a change of career and had enrolled as a law student at Lincoln College, Oxford. Right now he was on his way home to Godalming, reading Hansard, the British Parliamentary Report.
The other man was Roland Fabien Berrill, a 48-year old, sturdy, eccentric, and prosperously dressed Australian who was now living in England. By hard work and clever investments, he had become a man of independent means. Liberated from the need to work, he was now living off the dividends of his investments. Furthermore, he objected to the uniformity of men’s fashion common in his days and usually wore bright, colorful clothes. And he regretted the passing of the aristocratic tradition.
As he sought to make conversation, Roland asked, if the publication Lance was reading was “Hansard”, the report of proceedings in Parliament.
“Well, obviously.” Lance replied. “You can see it from the title.”
Despite this not so promising first encounter, after a few minutes the conversation got going. Berrill disclosed to Ware that he had once applied to Oxford University too, only to be rejected. This led them to discuss cleverness and how to assess it. Berrill said that he could detect it just by looking at somebody. Lance suggested a more scientific approach, intelligence tests, some of which he had already tried on his gifted sister Elaine. They also talked about psychologist Cyril Burt, who recently had suggested in a radio broadcast to ask a pool of highly intelligent people to devise solutions to the post-war problems.
By the end of the journey, the two men had formed a tentative interest in each other and exchanged addresses before they left the train.
On March 11th, Ware and Berrill met again to continue their discussions. It was at this meeting that, apparently just for fun, Ware gave Berrill the Cattell Intelligence Test. Berrill scored somewhere in the top 1%, which surprised him. They discussed forming a High IQ Club and followed through a few months later.
On October 1st, they founded Mensa and set the entry criterion at IQ 155 on the Cattell scale (sd 24), which is at the 99th percentile, so the top 1% qualified. Recruitment came from personal approaches to friends and acquaintances.
On November 2nd, Mensa had six members: Lance Ware, Roland Berrill, Elaine Ware (Lance’s 20-year old sister), Schupbach, Crompton and Dorothy Gee (a friend of Elaine).
In February, Mensa had 14 members. Later in the year the 30-member mark was passed, and in December the Mensans began to meet regularly for dinners in London.
The Mensa magazine Mensa Quarterly was also introduced in that year.
The declared aim of Mensa at that time was to grow the organization to 600 members - and then close the door and admit no more people. Furthermore, the original aim was to keep Mensa a completely secret organization, unknown to the public, working behind the scenes.
Image from www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzH9zf7vS7Q
Berrill decreed that Mensa should be an “aristocracy of the intellect” and led by a queen, a young woman selected for beauty. The first Queen of Mensa was Dorothy Gee. When she resigned a year later, Vera Davies became the second Queen. Berrill paid for the fine robes the Queen should wear at official Mensa meetings, and built a throne for her that was covered with a leopard skin. The queen was enthroned by a ritual of investiture with an official enrobing ceremony (and prior to that, of course, an undressing ceremony). Berrill became Mensa Secretary. However, de facto he was still the man in charge, while the Queen had a mostly representative role.
As a sidenote, in order to join the exclusive ranks of Mensa in those times, successful test candidates had to write application letters of great formality to the Queen.
In 1948, three new traditions started in Mensa. The most important one was the Annual Gathering, the first of which was held on Saturday, November 6th in the Cumberland Hotel in London.
The second was the Booklet of common interests and unique skills, a publication that listed all members together with their interests, skills and professions. It still exists today, now in electronic form on our web site.
The third was the monthly dinner. In 1948, these were formal black-tie dinners, until the dress code deteriorated in later years.
The second Annual Gathering was held and 60 members turned up. "One could feel that the society had come into being, and it showed a strange vitality and appetite for discussion on a wide range of topics.", Serebriakoff wrote later.
The number of members continued to grow. It also became apparent by now that Mensa attracted more singles than married people, possibly indicating that a membership in Mensa was more valuable to singles.
Meanwhile, Lance Ware's law career was prospering. He also took an interest in local politics, so he couldn't devote as much time to Mensa as in earlier years. Besides, he was a bit disappointed by the fact that many Mensa members spent so much time solving puzzles instead of striving to make great contributions to society. He decided to quit Mensa, leaving Roland Berrill in sole command.
Another less nice development that was taking shape now was that Berrill began to assume increasingly unpopular views. He favored palmistry and astrology, for example. That drove away several members, and an opposition movement began to form.
In particular, members objected to his habit of deciding everything himself, and to his habit of promoting his own views as the views of Mensa. At the Annual Gathering, a commission was set up to give Mensa a new constitution.
In March, the commission presented the new constitution, which was extraordinary to the extreme. It suggested that Mensa should be run by a board – called council at the time. What made it special was that the council members were not elected, but selected by chance – by drawing names out of a hat. Unbelievably the 242 Mensa members voted for this ridiculous recommendation by a 57% vote.
The hat-picked board was predictably ineffective. No one did anything. Probably the lucky board members had never wished to win a seat on the board in the first place. The opposition grew stronger.
Things came to a head at the Annual Gathering 1951. The first of uncountably many power struggles began. Berrill, however, had still the majority of members behind him and survived the attempted impeachment at the AG. The opposition leader, Dr. Eastwood, stormed out of the hall in disgust. The hat-picked council resigned en bloc. The AG broke up in amused disorder.
Berrill was still in power, but disappointed and demotivated to do anything anymore. "This society lacks cohesion", he bitterly complained.
In January, deeply disappointed with the society of 325 members that he created, Berrill resigned as Secretary and handed over to Joseph Wilson:
"Although I seem to have mastered the problem of expansion, I have found myself after five years still baffled to the problem of cohesion, and so decide to pass the problem to another mind. ... A fresh mind may be able to think of something, a psychological device, some piece of emotional engineering, that will galvanise members and bring Mensa a new vigour and a new life."
However, it turned out quite differently. Throughout 1952 and 1953, Mensa shrank like a badly tied balloon. Without Berrill's charismatic leadership, members became apathic. Only a few members showed up at the dinners. Activities declined. The Mensa Quarterly (edited by Berrill himself in former days) shrank to two pages.
Late in the year, at a Mensa monthly dinner at Beguinot's restaurant, Joseph Wilson threw in the towel. The once impressive crowd that attended the dinners in former times had shrunk to four members: Joseph Wilson, his brother, Win, and Victor Serebriakoff. "Let's face it", Wilson said, "We are the same four as at the last few dinners. This club does not exist anymore. We are just four friends who enjoy eating out together."
In this moment, it might have all ended. Mensa was on the brink of being dissolved, just seven years after its founding. But luckily for us, this is not what happened.
"Let me have a try", Victor replied. "We are not dead yet."
Chapter 2: The Builder of Mensa (1953-1965)
Victor Serebriakoff, the son of a Russian father and cockney mother, was born in London in 1912. Unlike Ware and Berrill, who were both upper-class and grew up in an environment suited for gifted children, Victor was one of the less fortunate kids whose high intelligence was not noticed early. He dropped out of school and worked as an office clerk for a timber company for a time, but soon was dismissed for lack of attention to detail. After that, he worked as a manual laborer, interrupted by periods of unemployment during the Great Depression. The first employer who finally recognized his cognitive ability was the British army. In the standardized Army intelligence test, he achieved a score of 161 (sd24), which equals IQ 138 (sd 15). Based on this high result, the army assigned him to train recruits in the teaching corps. After the war, he went back to the timber business, only that this time he was much more self-assured and convinced of his ability. He invented a machine for grading timber, wrote a book “British sawmilling practice”, and became manager of a sawmill. He joined Mensa in 1950 at the age of 38, and married another Mensa member, Winifred Rouse, in 1953. In a way, Victor had joined Mensa during the good old days, then experienced the decline from 1950 to 1953, but still believed in the original idea. And just as Lance Ware and Roland Berrill are known as the founders of Mensa today, Victor Serebriakoff was to become known as the builder of Mensa.
In late 1953, Victor Serebriakoff took over the offices of Secretary, Chief Executive and Principal Officer of Mensa, and went to work. As a first step, he rewrote the brochure used for advertising, dropping the "aristocracy of the intellect", throwing out all mention of the goal of being a Think Tank to advise the authorities, and just emphasizing the social aspects of Mensa instead. And he put some advertisements in serious newspapers, where he simply offered to test the applicants' intelligence, without saying too much about why. The idea was that people would be curious to know their IQ, and Mensa could be advertised to them after they had passed the test.
This strategy worked. A flow of new members poured in, and Mensa was on the rise again.
In order to stop the habit of some members of promoting their own views as the views of Mensa, as Roland Berrill himself had done in the early days, Serebriakoff introduced the famous rule "Members and groups within Mensa have views, but Mensa itself has none.", which is still in the constitution today. The rule is sometimes misunderstood and interpreted too strictly though, sometimes intentionally to stop the board from taking action on an issue that some members perceive as too political. However, the rule still leaves some room for articulating opinions. For example, it is explicitly allowed to publish the results of internal opinion polls, like “70% of our members prefer A, and 30% prefer B.”. After all, members and groups within Mensa do have views. The rule only says that there is no view attached to the organization itself.
Serebriakoff formed two teams of volunteers: the recruiting team and the committee. The recruiting team’s job was to advertise the IQ test, administer the tests, and encourage successful candidates to join Mensa. This way the recruiting team provided a steady stream of new members to Mensa, and the committee could focus on other things, which mainly was organizing a social program to keep the growing band happy.
In order to spread Mensa from the London-Oxford area to all of the British Isles, another Mensa institution was introduced: the first beginnings of a Local Group structure. Bernard Billings became the world’s first Local Secretary. Local Secretaries or “LocSecs” welcome new members to Mensa, organize monthly events in their regions, and serve as first contact persons for the members.
A vital decision that was made this year was to accept oversea members. Berrill’s original idea had been for a British club, but in 1956 Mensa opened itself to the world.
At the Annual Gathering 1956, democracy was introduced. Serebriakoff’s board was now routinely confirmed in office.
Also, a series called The Annual Lecture was started. From now on, at each Annual Gathering an invited speaker gave a speech. The first Annual Lecture was held by Professor Philip Vernon.
New members came steadily now. The first members living in America joined. Professor Stanislav Andreski gave the second Annual Lecture.
Few of our members know that until 1958 candidates could join Mensa by passing an unsupervised test. The test was sent to the candidate by post, the candidate was asked to fill it in honestly, and send it back for evaluation. The risk that candidates might cheat was known, but accepted due to lack of test officers. In order to discourage cheating at least to some degree, candidates were told that the unsupervised test was only the first hurdle to take, and a second supervised test would be administered later. However, this was only a bluff.
In 1958, Serebriakoff decided it was time to get more professional and abolish this practice. For the first time Mensa actually called the applicants to the “later supervised test”. Predictably, only some scored in the top 1%, but nearly everyone scored in the top 2%, so it seemed that candidates had been at least approximately honest. Nevertheless, the situation had to be addressed.
Mensa didn’t want to re-test all members and probably lose half of them, so instead the entry criterion was changed. From now on, Mensa accepted the top 2% on supervised tests. For a short time the top 1% on unsupervised tests was also still accepted, but later the supervised test became the only acceptable qualification.
Professor Sir Cyril Burt, at the time one of the world's leading psychologists, joined Mensa and accepted the honorary position of Mensa World President. Burt is famous for his twin studies, in which he discovered that the correlation between the IQs of identical twins reared apart is still an enormous 0.77, which almost irrefutably supports a large genetic influence on IQ. Burt’s result was heavily attacked for decades - until it was confirmed in 1990 by the University of Minnesota, who conducted an even more detailed study and found the correlation to be 0.78.
Strategically, to have Burt as World President was a decisive victory for Mensa: Burt's support helped Mensa to overcome the increasing opposition from professional psychologists, who saw Mensa as a business competitor and who frowned upon intelligence tests that were not administered by skilled practitioners.
May 1959 was the historic month when Berrill's original target of 600 members was reached. However, Mensa did not close the door now, but continued to accept new members.
American Mensa started forming. The first members had already joined between 1956 and 1959 and were mostly expatriated Britons or Americans who had learned about Mensa while visiting England. One such American was a reporter named John Wilcock, who attended a Mensa meeting while visiting England. He returned and wrote a column about Mensa for The Village Voice. Peter A. Sturgeon, a medical writer in Brooklyn, fortuitously read that article, wrote to the Mensa Selection Agency on March 8th, and became a member in May.
In August, Peter was authorized to start forming a New York City regional group and was sent the list of the 22 Mensans in the United States. This group was the first outside Britain to be recognized and has since evolved into American Mensa, Ltd..
Victor Serebriakoff and Peter Sturgeon
Also in this year, Australian Mensa started forming. All in all, 1960 was the real beginning of Mensa as an international organization, although at this time the USA and Australia were still regarded as regional groups of Mensa UK.
Mensa UK had 10 regions with LocSecs meanwhile. Membership had increased to 800. The need for a better, more formal constitution arose. A three-man committee was set up to work out a new constitution for Mensa. However, the three were unable to agree on a single constitution, so in the end they presented two alternative constitutions that had to be put to a referendum of the members.
By September, Mensa had 1'550 members worldwide. The two constitutions worked out by the committee were put to a referendum - and both of them were rejected. The old statutes stayed in effect.
Lance Ware rejoined Mensa.
Mensa began to spread. In June, Mensa France was founded. Meanwhile American Mensa was expanding rapidly. By November 1962, there already were 641 members in America.
The British Annual Gathering was held at the Conway Hall in London, and the annual lecture was given by Sir Peter Medawar, a distinguished biologist.
On June 15th the first American Annual Gathering was held. It was a huge success and 160 members showed up. In the same month was the very first meeting of Mensa Netherlands. In October the world membership had risen to 2'623.
The Annual Gathering in London at the Conway Hall was shown on television. The Annual Lecturer was nobody less than Sir Karl Popper, the famous philosopher.
In October, an article about Mensa in the newspaper got the attention of Vera and Georg Fischhoff, two psychologists from Austria whose IQs qualified them for Mensa. They wrote a letter to Victor Serebriakoff, told him that they would love to start Mensa Austria, and asked him how to proceed.
In April, Victor Serebriakoff visited Austria for a week and met with the Fischhoffs. Mensa Austria was founded by Vera and Georg, who immediately began to search for more members. Their jobs helped them a lot here: As a profession, they tested the intelligence of candidates for jobs. And whenever any candidate got a score over the threshold, they would issue an invitation to join Mensa.
One of the first candidates they found (and who then joined Mensa Austria) was Dr. Hans Eberstark, a 35-year-old extraordinary linguist and calculating genius, who later became a world-record holder in memorizing pi: He spoke 16 languages and could recite 12'000 digits from memory.
British membership now was a little over 4'000, growing at a rate of 10% per year. American Mensa had 1'400 members in June and was growing at an even more spectacular rate of 10% per month.
The first formal international constitution was approved in June (2,206 for, 264 against); it provided for 8 officers (Chairman, General Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Officer, Developments Officer, Editorial Committee Chair, Research Committee Chair and Premises Committee Chair). It further provided for one representative from each of the recognized national Mensa groups (United Nations style – one country, one vote, without regard to size). The two highest offices, Chairman and General Secretary, were to be elected directly by the members in a worldwide election by postal ballot.
In September 1964, the first such international election was held. The election procedures required that two people, both from the same country, had to run for the offices of Chairman and General Secretary together. The reason for this “slate” or “panel” system was that Mensa could see no way in which a mixed group from several countries could meet regularly within a reasonable budget. Two panels decided to run in the election: Joe Wilson and Victor Serebriakoff from British Mensa versus two members from American Mensa. The panels were strongly opposed to each other, with the American panel presenting itself as an anti-establishment, anti-Serebriakoff movement. However, the Wilson/Serebriakoff panel won by a large majority (by about 4 to 1).
Mensa had become a true international organization. Now there was Mensa International, led by Joe Wilson as International Chairman and Victor Serebriakoff as International General Secretary. And there were National Mensas in Britain, the USA, Australia, France, the Netherlands, and Austria, led by their respective boards.
1965: Enter Switzerland
In June, American Mensa topped 4'400 members and overtook British Mensa.
Meanwhile, things began to move in Europe. At the European Founder's Meeting in Frankfurt in June, members from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland met and discussed how to spread Mensa to their countries. Switzerland was represented by Dr. Hans Eberstark, the linguist who had joined Mensa Austria in the year before. Meanwhile he had moved to Geneva, where he had assumed a position at the International Labour Organization (ILO), and was interested in starting a new Mensa in Switzerland.
Mensa International gave him the addresses of the international members who were already living in Switzerland, so Hans could contact them and invite them to the founding meeting of Mensa Switzerland. Three months later, on September 24th, Mensa Switzerland was founded in Geneva, and Hans Eberstark became our first president.
Chapter 3: "Eggheads heading for Trouble" (1966-1970)
A strange phenomenon in Mensa are the many power struggles that occur over and over again. This is surprising and amusing, as who runs Mensa is, so far, hardly a question of world-shaking importance. As Serebriakoff wrote in his book "Mensa" in 1985, the recurring pattern is as follows:
The active group who currently runs a National Mensa or Mensa International is allowed to do so with some encouragement for a time. After some successes, an out-group arises that contests the leadership of the active group. This out-group is often composed of underachievers and/or unemployed members with lots of spare time and little to lose. The active group now finds themselves in a position where they not only have to devote all their spare time to running Mensa, but also engage in a political struggle for the doubtful privilege of being allowed to go on doing so. As they have better things to do in their lives, the active workers just stop and quit, and the dissident group takes over. Then it turns out that they are incapable of running Mensa, and a period of decline and apathy sets in. One day, a new group of active enthusiasts comes forward, takes over from the dissidents, and puts Mensa on an upward path again.
The largest Mensa crisis worldwide so far started in 1966, when according to Serebriakoff three members that he calls the three musketeers - Porthos, Athos, and Aramis - formed SIGRIM, the Special Interest Group for Reform In Mensa, and set out to get rid of John Codella, the chairman of American Mensa, and then to gain control of Mensa International. By a campaign of harrassment, untruthful and libellous attacks on volunteers in key positions, they made many of them resign from their positions or quit Mensa completely, which weakened the organization and created a vacuum at the top, into which their supporters could move. The crisis also made it to the media. One headline in the Times, on the morning of the Saturday of the British Annual Gathering 1966, was "Eggheads heading for trouble".
In Switzerland, meanwhile, everything was still on track. In January 1967 the first issue of the Swiss Mensa magazine (today called Mensa Inside) appeared. At that time, Mensa Switzerland had about 30 members. At least two regions, Geneva and Basel, existed back then.
Austria, France and the Netherlands prospered too. At the Swiss Annual Gathering in Lugano, many visitors from abroad showed up. All the British/American troubles did not affect the main continent of Europe.
In England and the USA, however, the crisis intensified. "Violence threat in Mensa feud" was one of the Sunday Times' headlines. Though in reality there was no real violence, the three musketeers apparently wrote letters to the employers of their political opponents, in which the musketeers accused them of stealing money from their firms or having severe psychological problems. Unfortunately, this was a quite effective technique to discourage active members, so more of them resigned, among them John Codella who had been chairman of American Mensa for six years, during which American Mensa expanded from six to 9’000 members. Serebriakoff did not resign, but the musketeers’ harassment cost him a lot of energy that he otherwise could have spent on his election campaign.
1968: Victor Serebriakoff loses the election
In the international election in March 1968, the formerly unthinkable happened. The panel that had the support of the three musketeers won. Victor Serebriakoff was voted out of office, after 15 years of building up Mensa from its near death in 1953 to the international organization it had become in 1968.
Athos became editor of the Mensa International journal. The first issue then gave a flattering profile of Porthos and well posed pictures of himself, leading to severe criticism of his editorship at the British Annual Gathering.
However, as even Serebriakoff admitted later, no actual harm was being done to Mensa at the international level, except much wasteful spending. British Mensa shrank a little from the peak of 3500 members, but American Mensa remained fairly constant, as the new American chairman Sander Rubin did his best to repair the damage of the SIGRIM episode.
In June, Peter Devenish won a competition for the design of the Mensa logo that we still use today. It replaced the terrible old Mensa logo of 1946-1969, which depicted three individuals sitting around a round table with the M protruding at the bottom of the table, and which unfortunately looked like a bunch of Ku Klux Klan figures.
Mensa Logo 1946-1969 Mensa Logo 1969-today
Opposition against the three musketeers increased steadily over the year, until in late 1969 Athos gave up as editor.
The government of the two remaining musketeers, which was characterized mainly by inactivity, broke up. Frank Weil became the new interim chairman of Mensa International. The days of the three musketeers were over. Porthos was expelled from Mensa. Athos let his membership lapse. Aramis disappeared and has not been heard of again.
As Serebriakoff wrote later, the malicious disrupter problem is a recurring one in Mensa, and it seems to arise from the fact that most intelligent people are reasonable, polite, and constructive. So when they encounter inexplicable malice in other people like themselves, they cannot believe it. “Time after time, peace makers come forward saying that if only the destructive few could be treated with better tact and understanding they could be brought to see reason and behave more normally. Time after time, challenged to try this, they have come surprisedly unstuck.”
Chapter 4: From the Silver Anniversary to Today (1971-2016)
Under the interim leadership of Frank Weil, Mensa recovered from the crisis. Later in the year, in the international election in October, Serebriakoff returned and became International Chairman again. Allen Henderson from Mensa Switzerland who was in Serebriakoff's team became International Development Officer.
With Mensa back on track again, new projects could be undertaken. As you maybe know, one of the three goals of Mensa is to encourage research into the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence. In 1971, Mensa began pursuing this goal seriously with the creation of the Mensa Education and Research Foundation (mensafoundation.org). The Foundation has grown over the years, and today each year it gives away an average of $85,000 through a scholarship program; it presents national and international awards in recognition of research, education and practical achievement regarding giftedness, intelligence and creativity; and it publishes the Mensa Research Journal.
In October, Mensa's Silver Anniversary was celebrated with a reception in Lincoln's Inn where many old timers met each other again, among them the founder Lance Ware who had not been an active member anymore for years. Lance Ware was given the honorary position of “fons et origo” (Latin for “source and origin”). Lance arranged for the installation of the blue plaque on the wall of the house in Oxford where it had all begun 25 years earlier.
1972 - 1973
to be filled
Professor Richard Buckminster Fuller, the futuristic architect and inventor after whom the C60 molecule was named "Buckminster-Fullerene" or "Buckyball", became the second World President of Mensa.
1975 - 1978
to be filled
Mensa Germany was dissolved and founded again under the new name Mensa in Germany (Mensa in Deutschland e.V.).
Sir Clive Sinclair, chairman of British Mensa, entered the home computer market with his Sinclair ZX80.
Meanwhile a transatlantic rift opened up. American Mensa had grown to 42'000 members, and the rest of the world had not managed to keep up with that growth, so now 80% of all Mensa members worldwide were living in the USA. By the current constitution though, each of the 17 countries, however small, had one vote in the international committee. In the eyes of American Mensa it was "taxation without representation" all over again. A revision of the constitution became necessary to avoid a break-up of Mensa.
Following a period of several unsuccessful attempts to create an acceptable revised international constitution, Hyman Brock (the chairman of Mensa Canada at that time) brought the major players together in Miami and a compromise ("The Miami Pact") was hammered out on October 31, 1981. The subsequently-approved constitutional changes and election created the IBD (International Board of Directors), consisting of the International Chairman, Director of Administration, Director of Development and Treasurer (the four elected International Officers), and representatives ("Nat Reps") chosen by each recognized national Mensa meeting a specified minimum membership level. The IBD meets annually at the IBD Meeting.
The revised constitution was put to a worldwide referendum and accepted. Hyman Brock was elected International Chairman. Viktor Serebriakoff assumed the non-executive honorary office of Mensa World President.
Lance Ware is appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
1984 - 1989
to be filled
Mensa Switzerland lost their status as Full National Mensa and was demoted to Emerging Mensa, because it had only 70 members, the newsletter was published irregularly, and reports to the IBD were not submitted.
American Mensa Membership hit an all-time high in March 1990 with 57'947 members, but then fell back and stabilized slightly below 56'000.
American Mensa: 55'886 members
American Mensa: 55'808 members
In the American election in mid-1993, lots of infighting happened during the campaigning and into the new term, causing a lot of members to quit.
American Mensa: 51'498 members
American Mensa: 49'198 members
American Mensa: 47'209 members
American Mensa: 45'581 members
American Mensa membership hit a low point at 44'156 members. Finally, the committee managed to put on the brakes. The losses stopped by March 1998, and then it turned around.
American Mensa: 44'825 members
On January 1st, after 47 years of distinguished service to Mensa, Victor Serebriakoff died at the age of 87.
On August 15th, Lance Ware, the founder, died at the age of 85.
Having grown to 420 members, Mensa Switzerland was promoted to Provisional National Mensa (PNM) again.
After a growth spurt to 636 members, Mensa Switzerland was promoted to Full National Mensa (FNM) and got a seat on the IBD again.
2003 - 2005
to be filled
In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of Mensa, the IBD Meeting and the American Gathering were combined into one event: the first explicitly designated Mensa World Gathering. It was held from August 8th to 13th at Disney's Coronado Spring Resort in Disney World, near Orlando, Florida. It attracted 2'242 Mensans from all around the world - the highest attendance of any Mensa gathering to date.
The first European Mensa Annual Gathering (EMAG) was held in Cologne, Germany, from July 30th to August 3rd.
The second EMAG was held in Utrecht, Netherlands.
The third EMAG was held in Prague, Czech Republic.
From January to April, Mensa Switzerland went through a small version of the three-musketeer crisis of 1966-1970, but fortunately recovered quickly.
The fourth EMAG was held in Paris, France. In September, the first Asian Mensa Annual Gathering was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The fifth EMAG was held in Stockholm, Sweden.
The 120'000 member barrier was breached. Mensa had grown to 60'000 members in Europe, 50'000 in America, and 10'000 in Asia and Australia.
The sixth EMAG was held in Bratislava, Slovakia.
On April 27th, the 1000th member joined Mensa Switzerland. In July, about 2200 Mensans attended the American Gathering in Boston, which just narrowly missed the world record set in 2006 and made it the second-largest gathering of all time. From July 30th to August 3rd, the seventh EMAG was held in Zurich, Switzerland. In September, the fourth Asian Mensa Gathering was held in Osaka, Japan.
On the weekend of September 25-27, Mensa Switzerland celebrates its 50th anniversary in Visp.
Mensa celebrates its 70th anniversary.
Where does all this information come from?
Most of the information on this page, in particular regarding the years 1945 to 1984, comes from the book "Mensa: The society of the highly intelligent", which was written by our former International Chairman Victor Serebriakoff in 1985.
Other parts come from old newspaper articles, the websites of other National Mensas, protocols of board meetings, or from personal memories of long-standing members.
If you spot an error or know a story that should be added to this page, I'd be happy to hear about it.