Who created Mensa?

29 Jan

When God was handing out useful traits such as logic and domesticity, I was not only hiding behind the door, I was in the cafe across the block reading a trashy magazine. And I’ve felt the effects all my life.

In high school, for example, I did chemistry, physics and advanced maths on the recommendation of the powers that be, only to find the most lasting memory is of crawling through a gas cabinet to steal a teacher’s chocolate biscuits.

If there’s such a thing as a pure right brain, I have it. So while I can give you a creative solution to any problem you care to throw at me, put a linear equation in there, and I’m utterly stumped.

To try and get around this, I like to do logic and reasoning-based puzzles as often as I can. So today, while I was at the newsagent buying the latest edition of Vanity Fair, I also picked up a book of Mensa mind games.

I had hoped to get even one puzzle right, but it seems all those sudokus have paid off, as I breezed through a bunch of them. It was enough to encourage me to go online and test out their workout, which returned a respectable score of 25/30. Perhaps not enough to be asked to join the likes of Geena Davis Sharon Stone in membership, but better than expected.

And it got me wondering about where the idea for a club of geniuses (I’m paraphrasing their charter) came from. Turns out there’s an Aussie connection.

His name was Roland Berrill, an eccentric and flamboyant barrister who was educated in England. He founded Mensa in 1946 with an Englishman called Lancelot Ware, a mature student at Oxford.

The pair met by chance on a train and while Ware is credited with the actual idea, the Aussie did the founding by, for example, supplying the start-up cash. By the time he died a few years later he had recruited about 400 people. Today, membership is about 110,000, on all continents except Antarctica.

To learn more about the Aussie chapter, visit their official website here.  Or if you just want to have a crack at the worksheet I did, you’ll find it here.

PS: The word “Mensa” means “table” in Latin, signifying its status as a round-table society where race, colour, creed, nation of origin, age, politics, education and social background are irrelevant.

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