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An Interview with Dr. Ronald K. Hoeflin on “The Encyclopedia of Categories,” Family History and Feelings, Upbringing and Giftedness, and Aptitudes (Part One)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/08/15


Dr. Ronald K. Hoeflin founded the Prometheus Society and the Mega Society, and created the Mega Test and the Titan Test. He discusses: family geographic, cultural, linguistic, and religious background; depth of known family history; feelings about some distinguished family members in personal history; upbringing for him; discovery and nurturance of giftedness; noteworthy or pivotal moments in the midst of early life; and early aptitude tests.

Keywords: Giftedness, intelligence, IQ, Mega Society, Mega Test, Prometheus Society, Ronald K. Hoeflin, The Encyclopedia of Categories, Titan Test.

An Interview with Dr. Ronald K. Hoeflin on “The Encyclopedia of Categories,” Family History and Feelings, Upbringing and Giftedness, and Aptitudes: Founder, Prometheus Society; Founder, Mega Society (Part One)[1],[2],[3]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

*Caption provided to the photo from Dr. Hoeflin in the third footnote.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In due course of this personal and educational comprehensive interview, we will focus, in-depth, on the monumental life work of the (currently) 10-volume The Encyclopedia of Categories – a truly colossal intellectual endeavour. You founded some of the, if not the, most respected general intelligence tests in the history of non-mainstream general intelligence testing: The Mega Test and the Titan Test. Also, you founded the Mega Society in 1982. Another respected product of a distinguished and serious career in the creation of societies for community and dialogue between the profoundly and exceptionally gifted individuals of society. Before coverage of this in the interview, let’s cover some of the family and personal background, I intend this as comprehensive while steering clear of disagreements or political controversies between societies, or clashes between individuals in the history of the high IQ societies – not my territory, not my feuds, not my business. Almost everything at the highest sigmas started with you [Ed. some integral founders in the higher-than-2-sigma range include Christopher Harding and Kevin Langdon], as far as I can tell, I want to cover this history and give it its due attention. What was family background, e.g., geography, culture, language, and religion or lack thereof? 

Dr. Ronald K. Hoeflin: I recently wrote a 51-page autobiographical sketch for inclusion in my upcoming multi-volume treatise titled The Encyclopedia of Categories, a 10-volume version of which will probably be available for free as ten email attachments by January of 2020. I was aiming for a 13-volume version, but I don’t think I can complete that length before the end of 2020. Given that my vision is way below 20/20, I liked the irony of publishing this final magnum opus of mine in the year 2020. I can always stretch it to 13 or more volumes in subsequent editions. I will not quote what I say in that autobiographical sketch, although the information provided will be roughly the same. My mother’s ancestors came from the British Isles (England, Scotland, and Ireland) mostly in the 1700s. My mother’s father was a hellfire-and-brimstone Southern Methodist itinerant preacher in the state of Georgia. He’s the only one of my four grandparents I never met. My mother brought me up as a Methodist, but I asked a lot of questions by my mid-teens and became a complete atheist by the age of 19, which I have remained ever since (I’m now 75). I gave my mother Bertrand Russell’s essay “Why I Am Not a Christian” to read aloud to me so we could discuss it. It seemed to convince her to give up religion, which shows unusual flexibility of mind for a person in her 50s. She had previously read such books as The Bible as History and Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus, his doctoral dissertation in theology. My father’s parents came to this country in the late 1890s, his mother from the Zurich region of Switzerland and his father from the Baden region of Germany. His father was a pattern maker, a sort of precision carpentry in which he made moulds for machine parts to be poured from molten metal in a foundry. My father became an electrical engineer, initially working on power lines in the state of Missouri, then becoming a mid-level executive for the main power company in St. Louis, Missouri, doing such things as preparing contracts with hospitals for emergency electrical power generation if the main city-wide power cut off. He had worked his way through college by playing the violin for dance bands, and as an adult he taught ballroom dancing in his own studio as a hobby. My mother was an opera singer. In my autobiography, I list the 17 operas she sang in during her career, usually with leading roles due to the excellence of her voice. My father initially spoke German up to the age of 2, but his parents decided they did not want their daughter doing so, so they started speaking English at home, so she never learned German. My father’s mother became a devoted Christian Scientist and got her husband and two daughters to adopt this religion. My father became an atheist, and when he heard that my brother was thinking of becoming a Methodist minister sent him a copy of Thomas Paine’s book The Age of Reason, which promotes Paine’s deism, in which he accepted a deity and an afterlife but rejected the Bible as a guide, regarding the universe itself as God’s true bible. My brother never read the book but I did, and I told my father I enjoyed the critique of the Bible but did not accept a God or afterlife, and my father said that these two beliefs could readily be discarded, but that Paine should be given credit for his advanced thinking in an era and country that so fiercely rejected atheism. My brother ultimately became a computer programmer for the pension system for employees of the state of California. My sister became a ballet dancer for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. I list 25 operas she danced in in my autobiography. She went on to teach ballet at an upstate New York college, being honored one year as the college’s most distinguished teacher.

2. Jacobsen: How far back is knowledge of the family history for you?

Hoeflin: I don’t know much beyond what is stated above. My sister has more detailed records. One of my mother’s grandfathers apparently owned over a hundred slaves in the South before the Civil War. My mother was occasionally treated badly in St. Louis due to her Southern accent, but she actually was very kindly toward black people and she once gave a black woman a ride in her car for a mile or so while I moved to the back seat. I do have memories of visits to my mother’s mother in Atlanta, Georgia. She died before my third birthday, but my memories go back much further than is normal with most people. I liked to swing on the swing in my mother’s mother back yard with one of her chickens in my lap. She raised the chickens to sell their eggs, but evidently also killed them for dinner. I am even now very tender-hearted towards animals and would never kill a chicken or cow or what have you. But I still do eat meat out of habit, even though I regard it as not very ethical to do so. If I had a better income I’d arrange to eat just a vegetarian diet, mostly fruits and oatmeal. I loathe cooked green vegetables except in soups.

3. Jacobsen: Some harbour sentiments and feelings based on distinguished family members from centuries or decades ago. Those who died with great achievements or honourable lives in the sense of a well-lived life – whether prominent or not. Any individuals like this for you? Any sentiments or feelings for you?

Hoeflin: A genealogist traced my mother’s ancestors to a close relative of a governor of Virginia. My mother said some of her relatives were distinguished doctors (M.D.s). I have a close friend who lives in Poland now, where she was raised, who is a great-great-great-great granddaughter of Catherine the Great (one of her great-grandmothers was a great-granddaughter of Catherine the Great). She shares a surprising number of characteristics that Catherine had despite the rather distant ancestry: a significant talent for learning languages, a love of art, an imperious attitude, and an embarrassing number of superstitions. I also dated a woman who was an out-of-wedlock daughter of Pablo Picasso, and there again there were striking similarities between the daughter and her father, even though she did not learn from her mother that he was her real father until 1988, some 15 year after his death in 1973. She started out as a virtuoso violinist, but by her 20s became a painter and had works of art in five different museums by the time she learned who her true father was. She also had facial features very much like Picasso’s, even though she was raised in a German family. I am proud that my mother and sister were so gifted in their respective arts (singing and ballet). When I drew up a list of my favourite classical musical pieces for my autobiography, I looked at YouTube to see the actual performances, and it struck me what a lot of amazingly talented people could perform these magnificent pieces of music, and I regret how limited I am in my talents. I can’t even drive a car due to my poor eyesight! It is chiefly or only in these incredible aptitude test scores that I seem to shine way beyond the norm. I read when I was in high school that the average high-school graduate could read 350 words per minute, so I tested myself, and I found that on a few pages of a very easy sci-fi novel I could read only 189 words per minute at top speed, which works out to just 54% as fast as the average high-school graduate. Yet on timed aptitude tests as a high-school sophomore, I reached the 99th percentile in verbal, spatial, and numerical aptitude despite this huge speed deficit. And on the verbal aptitude section of the Graduate Record Exam I reached the top one percent compared to college seniors trying to get into graduate school, an incredible achievement given my dreadful reading speed. As I mention in my autobiographical sketch, if I had to read aloud, even as an adult I read so haltingly that one would assume that I am mentally retarded if one did not know that the cause is poor eyesight, not poor mental ability.

4. Jacobsen: What was upbringing like for you?

Hoeflin: My parents were divorced when I was 5 and my mother went through hours-long hysterical tantrums every 2 or 3 weeks throughout my childhood, which were emotionally traumatic and nightmarish. My father had an affable and suave external demeanour but was very selfish and cruel underneath the smooth facade. My brother pushed me downstairs when I was 3 and I stuck my forehead on the concrete at the bottom, causing a gash that had to be clamped shut by a doctor. It was discovered that I had a detached retina when I was 7 (because I could not read the small print in the back of the second-grade reader that the teacher called on me to read), and I spent my 8th birthday in the hospital for an eye operation, for which my father refused to pay since he did not believe in modern medicine, just healthy living as the cure for everything. So even though he was an engineer, my mother had a more solid grasp of physical reality than he did, as I mentioned to her once. I flunked out of my first and third colleges due in large measure to my visual problems, but I eventually received two bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees, and a doctorate after going through a total of eight colleges and universities. So all in all my childhood was rocky and unpleasant. As an adult, I took the personality test in the book Personality Self-Portrait and my most striking score was on a trait called “sensitivity,” on which I got a perfect score of 100%. On the twelve other traits, I scored no higher than 56% on any of them. I never tried sexual relations until the age of 31, and I found that I could never reach a climax through standard intercourse. I had a nervous breakdown after trying group psychotherapy for a few sessions when the group’s criticism of the therapist after he left the room reminded me of my mother’s criticisms of my father, crying for 12 hours straight. When I mentioned this at the next therapy session, one of the other people in the group came up to me afterward and told me he thought I was feeling sorry for myself, despite the fact that my report to the group was very unemotional and matter-of fact, not dramatic. I accordingly gave up group therapy after that session. On the personality test, on the trait called “dramatic”, I actually scored 0%, probably because pretending to be unemotional discourages needling from sadistic people who love to goad a highly sensitive person like me.

5. Jacobsen: When was giftedness discovered for you? Was this encouraged, supported, and nurtured, or not, by the community, friends, school(s), and family?

Hoeflin: At the age of 2 my mother’s mother picked me up when I was running to her back yard upon arriving in Atlanta to grab one of her chickens to swing with it on my lap. At first I ignored her, but then I surmised that she wanted to ask me a question, so I looked at her face, waiting for her question, which never came. Maybe she didn’t realize that my command of the language had improved since my previous visit. She eventually tapped me on the head and told my mother “You don’t have to worry about this one, he’s got plenty upstairs.” My mother told me this story several times over the years, and I finally put two and two together and told my mother I recalled the incident, which shocked her considering how young I had been. I told her that her mother had probably been impressed by my long attention span. My mother then thought that the incident was not as important and mysterious as she has thought, but actually a long attention span at such a young age is probably a good sign of high intelligence. It was not until I was in the fifth grade that I was given aptitude tests and the teacher suddenly gave me eighth-grade reading books and sixth-grade math books. This was in a so-called “sight conservation class” for the visually impaired that I attended in grades 3 through 5. The teacher taught students in grades 1 through 8 in a single classroom because very poor vision is fairly rare even in a city as large as St. Louis, at that time the tenth-largest city in the United States. That gave me plenty of time to explore my own interests, such as geography using the world maps they had on an easel. In grade 8, back in a regular classroom, we were given another set of aptitude tests, and the teacher mentioned to the class that I had achieved a perfect score on a test of reading comprehension, meaning I was already reading at college level. The teacher gave us extra time on the test so I would have time to finish the test. A problem toward the end of the test clued me in on how to solve a problem that had stumped me earlier in the test, so I went back and corrected that previous answer. Then there were those three 99th percentile scores as a high-school sophomore that I’ve already mentioned. When I learned that my reading speed was so slow compared to others, I realized that my true aptitudes (minus the visual handicap) must be well within the top one percent on each of the three tests.

6. Jacobsen: Any noteworthy or pivotal moments in the midst of early life in school, in public, with friends, or with family?

Hoeflin: In the seventh grade I suddenly started creating crossword puzzles and mazes, a harbinger of my later creation of the two tests that appeared in Omni magazine in April 1985 and in April 1990. I also collected lists of fundamental things such as independent countries of the world, the Western Roman emperors, the chemical elements, the planets and their moons, etc., in keeping with my much earlier childhood ambition to know everything. If you can’t know everything, then at least know the basic concepts for important subjects like geography, history, chemistry, astronomy, etc. These lists were a harbinger of my current multi-volume treatise on categories.

7. Jacobsen: Were there early aptitude tests of ability for you? What were the scores and sub-test scores if any? Potentially, this is connected to an earlier question. 

Hoeflin: The only other test I should mention is the Concept Mastery Test. Lewis Terman collected a group of 1,528 California school children in grades 1 through 12 with IQs in the 135 to 200 range. To test their abilities as adults he and his colleagues constructed two 190-problem tests covering mostly vocabulary and general knowledge, which are easy problems to construct but are known to correlate well with general intelligence, the first test (Form A) administered to his group in 1939-1940 and the second one (Form B, latter called Form T) in 1950-52. About 954 members of his group tried the first one and I think 1,024 tried the second test. But Terman made the second test much easier than the first in order to make it easier to compare his group to much less intelligent groups such as Air Force captains. So the Mensa (98th percentile) cut-off would be a raw score of about 78 out of 190 on the first test and about 125 out of 190 on the second. I was editor for the Triple Nine Society (minimum requirement: 99.9 percentile) for a few years starting in 1979, and some members sent me copies of the two CMT tests so I could test TNS members. Since the CMT tests were untimed, I was not handicapped by the speed factor. Compared to Terman’s gifted group I reached the top one percent on both tests. According to Terman’s scaling of Form A, my raw score of 162.5 would be equivalent to an IQ of 169.4 (assuming a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 16 IQ points), where an IQ of 168.3 would be equivalent to the 99.999 percentile or one-in-100,000 in rarity. By comparing adult CMT IQs with childhood Stanford-Binet IQs for Terman’s group, I calculated that my adult 169.4 IQ would be equivalent to a childhood IQ of 192. The one-in-a-million level on the two tests (the 99.9999 percentile) would be about 176 IQ on the CMT and 204 IQ on the Stanford-Binet, respectively.

The Guinness Book of World Records abandoned its “Highest IQ” entry in 1989 because the new editor thought (correctly) that it is impossible to compare people’s IQs successfully at world-record level. The highest childhood IQ I know of was that of Alicia Witt, who had a mental age of 20 at the age of 3. Even if she had been 3 years 11 months old, this would still amount to an IQ of over 500! At the age of 7, she played the super-genius sister of the hero in the 1984 movie Dune. On a normal (Gaussian) curve such an IQ would be impossible since an IQ of 201 or so would be equivalent to a rarity of about one-in-7-billion, the current population of the Earth. But it is well known to psychometricians that childhood IQs using the traditional method of mental age divided by chronological age fail to conform to the normal curve at high IQ levels. The Stanford-Binet hid this embarrassing fact in its score interpretation booklet (which I found a copy of in the main library of the New York Public Library) by not awarding any IQs above 169, leaving the space for higher IQs blank! The CMT avoids the embarrassment of awarding IQs of 500 or more by having a maximum possible IQ on Form A (the harder of the two CMTs) of 181. Leta Speyer and Marilyn vos Savant, both of whom I had dated for a time, had been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having world-record IQs of 196 and of 228, respectively, Marilyn having displaced Leta in the 1986 edition. Leta felt that the 228 IQ of Marilyn was fake, but I was aware that these childhood scores could go well beyond 200 IQ because they fail to conform to the normal curve that Francis Galton had hypothesized as the shape of the intelligence curve in his seminal book Hereditary Genius (first edition 1869, second edition 1892). I was unable to contact Alicia Witt to see if she would be interested in joining the Mega Society. I should note that the three key founders of the ultra-high-IQ societies (99.9 percentile or above) were Chris Harding, Kevin Langdon, and myself. Harding founded his first such society in 1974, Langdon in 1978, and myself in 1982. Mensa, the granddaddy of all high-IQ societies with a 98th percentile minimum requirement, was founded in 1945 or 1946 by Roland Berrill and L. L Ware, and Intertel, with a 99th percentile minimum requirement, was founded in 1966 or 1967 by Ralph Haines. I don’t care to quibble about the precise dates that Mensa and Intertel were founded, so I have given two adjacent dates for each. In its article “High IQ Societies” Wikipedia lists just 5 main high-IQ societies: Mensa, Intertel, the Triple Nine Society, the Prometheus Society, and the Mega Society (minimum percentile requirements: 98, 99, 99.9, 99.997, and 99.9999, respectively; or one-in 50, one-in-100, one-in-1,000, one-in-30,000, and one-in-1,000,000; dates founded: roughly 1945, 1966, 1979, 1982, and 1982; founders: Berrill and Ware, Haines, Kevin Langdon, Ronald K. Hoeflin, and Ronald K. Hoeflin, respectively.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder, Mega Society (1982); Founder, Prometheus Society (1982); Founder, Top One Percent Society (1989); Founder, One-in-a-Thousand Society (1992); Founder, Epimetheus Society (2006); Founder, Omega Society (2006); Creator, Mega Test (April, 1985); Creator, Titan Test (April, 1990); Creator, Hoeflin Power Test; Author, The Encyclopedia of Categories; Ph.D., Philosophy, The New School for Social Research.

[2] Individual Publication Date: August 15, 2019:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019:

[3] Image Credit: Ronald K. Hoeflin. Caption: “Kitty porn? No, just the author and his pals.”


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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