IQ tests assess many facets of an individual's mental functions, and it's taken a century to produce the nuanced versions available today. Without the work of psychologists through the years, kids and adults alike wouldn't have access to the same level of information about their intelligence that they enjoy today. In honor of the leaps and bounds IQ testing has made, let's rewind to look at the development of its early predecessor, created by scientist Alfred Binet.
The early days of Binet
Born in Nice, France, in 1859, Alfred Binet would grow up to become an important figure in psychology. He showed great intelligence from early on, earning awards in literary composition and translation when he was 15 years old. In college, Binet studied law and medicine, eventually earning a degree in the former. However, Binet's passion did not lie in law, so he decided to pursue other courses of study.
During his 20s, Binet studied psychology at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, a decision that would lead to his important scientific work.
Family and research
Binet married Laure Balbiani in 1884 and had two children. The psychologist often studied the behavior of his kids and recorded his findings. He also researched school children and joined the Free Society for the Psychological Study of the Child. His chief interests concerned the study of individual intelligence in children.
From there, the French government appointed Binet a member of the Commission on the Education of Retarded Children, where he attempted to learn the science behind why some children excelled intellectually while others did not. Specifically, Binet was tasked with learning a way to tell which children would need special schooling, which was important given that the French government had recently made school mandatory for all children.
To discern intelligence in children, Binet teamed up with Theodore Simon, and the two together created a system of measurement in 1905. Called the Binet-Simon scale, this early IQ test helped psychologists measure children's intellectual capacity. They modified the scale in 1908 and again in 1911. The scale achieved what the men hoped it would, provide a way to distinguish between typical and atypical children.
The end of Binet and beginning of IQ
Binet passed away in October of 1911, so he was unable to continue work on his intelligence scale. However, other scientists picked up the torch (as is common in scientific study). The IQ test got its current title (Intelligence Quotient) in 1912, named by German psychologist William Stern.
Though IQ testing has gone through many iterations, traces of Binet's original research remain in the assessments we use today.