Lewis Madison Terman

10 Pages   |   3,286 Words
Table of Contents
Introduction. 3
Education. 3
Career. 3
Major Contributions. 4
Stanford-Binet Achievement test. 4
Studies of Gifted Children-Terman’s termites. 6
Educational suggestions from follow up studies on intellectually gifted children. 7
Publications. 8
Conclusion. 8
References. 10


The subject of genius has received a lot of attention as it is of crucial importance in our lives. The question of whether one is born genius or is made into one has been answered by several cognitive psychologists. One the great pioneers of education psychology is Lewis Madison Terman. Terman is known for his great contribution in developing a measurement of intelligence and achievement that is used all over the world for measuring IQ levels and for his influential studies of children of high intelligence.

Lewis Madison Terman was born on January 15, 1877 in Johnson County, Indiana on a farm. He was an American psychologist greatly known for his work in the field of education psychology. Since childhood Terman had developed a keen interest in reading and had a pressing urge for education. He was intrigued by the personalities of others from an early and was impressed by those who differed from the rest in some respect. This increased Terman’s interest in the human intelligence.Terman has made various breakthroughs in intelligence and achievement testing and is still known for his classic longevity study on gifted children. Till today, Terman’s work on human intelligence has been very beneficial for the society and is even applied in various other fields.

Yes, We Can Help!

We promise to deliver high quality papers on time which will improve your grades. Get help now!

Plagiarism Free Work
Best Price Guarantee
100% Money Back Guarantee
Top Quality Work


Terman did his elementary education in a one-room, “little red schoolhouse" which didn’t have a single library book. At the age of 15, he was sent to Central Normal College to prepare for teaching. His hard work paid off, and Terman received a B.S, B.pd and B.A from Central Normal College in 1894 and 1898. In 1903, he went to the Indiana University Bloomington and secured his A.B and A.M from there. He received his PhD in psychology from Clark University in 1905.


Terman started off his career by teaching in various rural schools. During his career, he worked as a  school principal in  San Bernardino,  California in 1905, and in 1907 he was hired as a  professor at  Los Angeles Normal School in 1907. After receiving an invitation from Ellwod Patterson Cubberley in 1910, Terman became a professor of educational psychology in Stanford University. He remained associated with Stanford University till his death and also brought great fame to the University as a result of his great achievements. He also held the position of chairman of the psychology department from 1922 to 1945.

Major Contributions

Stanford-Binet Achievement test

The Binet-Simon scale coincidently first appeared in 1905, the year in which Terman received his PhD. In 1910, he was appointed to Stanford University's department of education. In those days, Americans were greatly investing in intelligence testing due to the dissemination of various versions of the Binet-Simon scales during this time. Terman did not just translate the Binet-Simon scale, he also gathered ample normative data methodically on each of the existing tests in the Binet-Simon Test and based on this data evaluated many of these tests at different age levels as compared to the one level in the original. He devised and added his own tests and also used some that had been previously developed by other testers. His Stanford revision was a more successful version of the Binet-Simon test, and his methodical and comprehensive approach to the creation of the test was reflected in his work. Several graduate students assisted him with the research as he had the university appointment benefit.

Terman published his first faltering revision of the Binet in 1912. Terman and his team of graduate students kept working on it for several years, and the final "Stanford" revision was published in 1916 accompanied by a monograph which gave details of the scale and contained guidelines for its use. The inclusion of the one numerical index to represent test performance was the most creative feature of the revision. This was known as the "intelligence quotient" or "IQ"--the ratio between actual age and mental age. This numerical index was originally devised by the German psychologist, William Stern in 1912. The Binet-Simon consisted of fifty-four tests while Terman included ninety tests and sixteen alternatives in his Stanford revision and hence the revised version of the Binet-Simon test was longer. The Terman version also included two adult levels (average and superior), as compared to the one adult original level which was based on a sample of fifteen-year Olds (Minton, 1998). In addition, Terman supplemented the Binet-Simon tests with newer tests such as arithmetic reasoning items developed by Bonser (1910) and a form board developed by Healy and Fernald (1911). The Stanford-Binet Intelligence test assesses the cognitive abilities in children and adults between the ages of two to 23 and it is a standardized test.

The Stanford-Binet IQ Test assesses intelligence in four areas including quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, short-term memory skills, and abstract and visual reasoning. The revision of the Binet-Simon tests made Terman and Stanford University famous and name “Stanford” was made a school household word amongst the English-Speaking world. Other proposed measures of intelligence were calculated using the Stanford-Binet test as a benchmark.  Terman and Dr. Maud Merrill prepared for 22 years for the 1937 Revision, and the term IQ was universally understood as a measurement obtained by use of the Stanford-Binet Test. Terman's revision, the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (Terman, 1916); quickly became the dominant measure in American intelligence testing. (Boake, 2002 pp. 383-405).

Terman mentioned the future benefits and uses of mental tests like the Stanford-Binet achievement test in various places. He disagrees with the flawed assumption by educators that all children can make relatively equal academic progress within the normal intellectual range. He emphasizes on the fact that’s school administrators must be aware that there are a lot of differences in the intellectual levels of children and they should develop a differentiated curriculum for children with different intellectual levels. Compared to Binet, Terman openly expressed his views about etiology that states that the differences in intelligence are usually heredity. Mental tests can be used as a more objective foundation for more accurate analysis and categorization as they are based on the principles of scientific methodology. IQ tests can be extremely useful in detecting individuals with high intellectual levels amongst those who enter the general education pool. The appropriate classification by IQ tests of these highly intelligent individuals can help to bring them under observation and protection of society. With eugenics principles in mind, Terman ensures that the advantages of categorizing this population are great. These benefits include controlled reproduction; and a reduction in crime, industrial inefficiency, and poverty. The mentally weak lack self control and make poor decisions while disregarding the consequences of their actions; hence they are more prone to criminal behavior. Terman's suggests that the use of IQ testing to mental retardation point can help in protecting the gene pool, reducing criminal activity, and instill and increase morality.
Terman's goals was to further refine the gradation in the distribution of test scores then which was later achieved by revising the Binet-Simon scales. Terman accomplished this goal by further lengthening the test that is he included 45 tests and extended the age range to more than one level in his normative sample. Terman states that IQ tests can be useful in placing children into grades and making decisions about promotion and school transfers accordingly. In his later work, Terman argued for the allotment of schoolchildren whose academic progress was matched by their intellectual into a tracking system. Terman was fascinated by the idea of identifying gifted children through IQ testing. He believes that intellectually superior children must receive an education that matches their intellectual potential so that they are motivated to excel. He strongly endorses the need to place these children into special classes so that these children are not thought of as nonconformists or misfits because they are out performing better than their peers  are not at par with them. Investing in their appropriate education, can result in producing future leaders of society. Intelligence is plays a major role in a child's future at this stage of social evolution. The “rule of brawn” can no longer be used to differentiate the labor force. Intelligence testing has become increasingly important for a proficient and progressive social order. The occupational fitness of workers and the long-term occupation prediction for children can be analyzed using IQ tests (Minton, 1998).

Studies of Gifted Children-Terman’s termites

The Commonwealth Foundation awarded a grant to Dr. Lewis M. Terman and Dr. Catherine Miles Cox in 1912, to conduct a lifelong study of approximately 1500 gifted schoolchildren who were selected from a population of at least 268,000 California schoolchildren. He asked the San Francisco teachers to pick pout their brightest students who were about 10 years old so he could try and identify the high potential at an early age. Terman was inquisitive about whether children with high IQ levels had Intellectual success or failure when they grow up. The teachers selected the children as having shown signs of giftedness, and they were then further shortlisted based on intelligence testing. Terman was more interested in the intellectual achievement of the kids. The study’s participants were given the name of Terman’s termites and were very bright students with a high IQ level. The high IQ or an advanced degree however didn’t play a direct role in longevity. The ability to navigate life’s challenges and persistence were better predictors of one’s longevity.

 The subjective ratings showed great unreliability when used in isolation as was seen in numerous investigations. These trainings are usually based on the child's class work and don’t assign much weight to the age as a factor. Age-grade status is  a better criteria, but it has its limitations due to its differential standards across different cities, or even across different schools in the same city, and also due to the difficulty of measuring various degrees of acceleration for children of the various ages. The age-grade status of a given child is heavily dependent upon a teacher's rating; that is, upon the potential to succeed and receive promotion. Factors such as the age of school joining, regular attendance, adaptability to school requirements, and various other factors have no impact whatsoever on intelligence. Achievement tests, were not seriously considered due to them being more costly than intelligence tests and were thought inferior to them as measures of native ability, even thought they were objective" (Terman, 1925).

The findings of the longevity Project were surprising and troubling. Some of the findings in the longevity project were that the sober classmates of the Cheerful Children lived longer. The death of a parent at an early age has no measure bale effect on children’s lifespan but the long term effects of broken families on the health of the children was distressing. The single strongest predictor of early death in childhood was parental divorce. On average the grown children of intact families lived five years longer than the grown children of divorced parents. The causes of death ranged from accidents and violence to cancer, heart attack, and stroke (Terman, 1925). The Terman Study revealed that the Termites were, more successful, taller, better educated, and were better adjusted than average. For example, on the whole 70% graduated from college, amongst them there were 67% of the men and 60% women who continued on to graduate school in their thirties. Among the men, 86% were professionals and semi professionals, and some had higher business. The gifted males were on the highest occupational level, compared to 13% of the general population. Terman’s longevity study on gifted children was presented in five volumes called  Genetic Studies of Genius. The follow-ups Terman did throughout the lives of the termites were reviewed in various volumes. The 35 year follow-ups were recorded in the fifth volume which looked at the gifted group during mid-life. This study is still under progress among the "Termites" who are still alive.

Educational suggestions from follow up studies on intellectually gifted children

Terman tried to create a new pedagogy of children based on factual data. He did this because he felt it was necessary to firstly have a measure of human intelligence so that a topic can be positioned in the scale of human abilities with reasonable accuracy and secondly to remove the qualms that people had about the physical and psychological characteristics regarding the gifted children. The stereotypes regarding the gifted children have been removed. Gifted children don’t necessarily have to be considered freaks or social outcasts. The gifted children are more intelligent, physically better, above average in social effectiveness and characteristics trait. Intellectually gifted children can be found amongst all social and racial classes, and they are usually in classes far below their intellectual level. They are in two or three grades below whereas they could have easily mastered that curriculum in a few days rather than take years. A gifted child if held two or three years below his desired class loses motivation and confidence and become less ambitious. Lots of follow up studies were done with regard to the 1922 data for elementary and high school students. The most common finding was that most boys and girls were compelled to earn for their undergraduate studies. Gifted students in general are also usually self educated. The personality differences which have no effect on the I.Q of a person can affect the success rate in school and life. The extent of the effect can be measured by the environment at home, and school and their genetic origin which is hard to tell.

The aim of the school is to nourish kids with all levels of intellectual abilities. The foremost educational problem has been identified as the lack of opportunities for the naturally gifted and more concentration on manufacturing intelligent students.Terman strongly suggests educators to the take an initiative and provide the gifted children with an opportunity to flourish.


Terman has the following publications under his name:
  • 1916 -The Measurement of Intelligence: An Explanation of and a Complete Guide for the use of the Stanford Revision and Extension of the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Co.
  • 1917-The Stanford Revision and Extension of the Binet - Simon scale for Measuring Intelligence. Baltimore. Warwick & York, Inc.
  • 1919- The Intelligence of School Children: How Children Differ in Ability, the use of Mental Tests in School Grading and the Proper Education of Exceptional Children. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Company.
  • 1925 - Genetic Studies of Genius. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • 1930-Autobiography of Lewis Terman. In Carl A. Murchison, and Edwin G. Boring. A History of Psychology in Autobiography. Worcester, MA: Clark University Press.
  • 1936-Terman, Lewis. M. and Catharine Cox Miles. Sex and Personality; Studies in Masculinity and Femininity. New York. McGraw-Hill.
  • 1937-Terman, Lewis. M. and Maud A. Merrill. Measuring Intelligence: A Guide to the Administration of the new Revised Stanford-Binet tests of Intelligence. Boston: Houghton Mifflin company.
  • 1947-Terman, Lewis M., Melita H. Oden., and Nancy Bayley. The Gifted Child Grows Up: Twenty-five Years' Follow-up of a Superior Group. Genetic studies of genius. v. 4. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • 1975- Genius and Stupidity. Classics in Child Development. New York: Arno Press.
  • 1983- Terman Life Cycle Study of Children with High Ability, 1922-1982. Ann Arbor: Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research.  (New World Encyclopedia, no date)


The unusually intelligent children were more likely to succeed in their later lives, according to Terman. Terman stated that the gifted children amongst the top 1 percent in intelligence. He also emphasized on the early identification of the gifted children, that is, as early as childhood so that they should be given courses matching their abilities and they should have a differentiated curriculum and set of instructions. Also, they should be accelerated through school as they can cover the curriculum of some classes in a matter of days rather than years. He believed that teachers should be specially trained to address the needs of the gifted children as they are a national resource for the betterment of society. They should be provided the liberty to dictate the direction of their talents and interests. (Human Intelligence, 2012)

Terman always emphasized on the identification of gifted children during childhood so that proper encouragement could be provided to nourish their abilities. The children would be more likely to reach their full potential if they are supported in the right way. The early identification enable the acceleration of education of gifted children through skipping grade levels in school and graduating from high schools earlier than expected.

Terman was elected President of the American Psychological Association in 1923 and was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Member of the National Academy of Science.  He believed that his greatest success which gives him pleasure was that that over 90 percent of the termites still living stayed in touch with him even after 36 years of research with the gifted subjects, and were still enthusiastic about helping him to record what happens to the lives of those who have been gifted and were a part of the top 1 percent of the population. Terman's studies certainly are still the most renowned and often quoted on the gifted and his IQ test is still being used in schools everywhere. His accomplishments in the field of cognitive are the multivolume Genetic Studies of Genius which started in 1925 and continued on till his death and even after that. The last report on the on this continuing longevity study was published in 1947 known as “The Gifted Child Grows Up”.

Terman died before the completion of the fifth volume of Genetic Studies of Genius. The fifth volume was completed and published by Terman’s colleague; Melita Oden. Terman selected Robert Richardon Sears, a successful participant in the study and also his colleague, to continue with the work to ensure that the study was carried out even after Terman’s death. Stanford University fully supports the study and will ensure that it is continued until the very last of the “termites” either withdraws from the study or dies.


Boake, C (2002) 'From the Binet-Simon to the Wechsler-Bellevue: Tracing the History of Intelligence Testing', Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 4, pp. 383-405.
Kreuter, G (1962) 'The Vanishing Genius: Lewis Terman and the Stanford Study, History of Educational Quarterly, 1, pp. 6-18.
Murchison, C (1930) History of Psychology in Autobiography.  1 Worcester, MA.: Clark University Pres.
Terman, L (1916) The Measurement of Intelligence: An Explanation of and a Complete Guide for the Use of the Stanford Revision and Extension of the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale.  1 Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Terman, L (1917) 'The Intelligence Quotient of Francis Galton in Childhood, The American Journal of Psychology, 2, pp. 209-215.
Terman, L (1920) 'The Use of Intelligence Tests in the Grading of School Children', The Journal of Educational Research, 1, pp. 20-32.
Terman, L (1924) 'The Possibilities and Limitations of Training', The Journal of Educational Research, 5, pp. 335-343.
Terman, L (1925) Genetic Studies Of Genius Volume I Mental And Physical Traits Of A Thousand Gifted Children.  1 London: Oxford University Press.
Terman, L (1925) Mental and Physical Traits of a Thousand Gifted Children. 1  USA: Stanford University Press.
Terman, L (1939) 'Educational Suggestions from Follow-Up Studies of Intellectually Gifted Children', Journal of Educational Sociology, 2, pp. 82-89.
New World Encyclopedia (no date). Available at: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Lewis_Terman (Accessed: 2 June 2012).
Human Intelligence (2012). Available at: http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/terman.shtml (Accessed: 2 June 2012).

Download Full Answer

Order Now