The Edison job quiz
Thomas Edison had an encyclopedic memory and expected job applicants to have a similar knowledge. The test he administered to every job seeker had 150 questions; each test was tailored for a specific job. Some of the things college graduates were expected to know:
1. What city in the United States is noted for its laundry-machine making?
2. Who was Leonidas?
3. Who invented logarithms?
4. Where is Magdalena Bay?
5. What is the first line in the Aeneid?
6. What is the weight of air in a room 10 by 20 by 30 feet?
7. Who composed Il Trovatore?
8. What voltage is used on streetcars?
CabinetMakers had to know:
9. Which countries supply the most mahogany?
10. Who was the Roman emperor when Jesus Christ was born?
Masons were asked:
11. How many cubic yards of concrete in a wall 12 by 20 by 2 feet?
12. Who assassinated President Lincoln?
Edison did not demand perfect scores--merely 90 percent, which has been likened to having an IQ of 180. Out of 718 college men Edison tested for jobs, only 10 percent got a "fair" or passing grade. Edison said, "Only 2 percent of the people think, as I gather from my questionnaire." Magazines, which loved running stories on Edison's employment test, gave Edison pop quizzes with similar questions on a variety of subjects. He averaged 95 percent.
ANSWERS: 1. Newton, Iowa 2. Spartan general who died at Thermopylae 3. John Napier 4. Baja California 5. Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris 6. Air at 0.075 pounds per cubic foot x 6,000= 450 pounds 7. Giuseppe Verdi 8. 600 volts, at the time 9. Brazil, Bolivia 10. Augustus 11. 17.78 cubic yards 12. John Wilkes Booth
This story appears in the October 11, 2004 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.