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high-IQ society in the world. The organization restricts its membership to people with high testable IQs. Specifically, potential members must score within the top 2% (98th percentile) of any approved standardized intelligence test.
Roland Berrill, an Australian barrister, and Dr. Lancelot Ware, an English scientist and lawyer, founded Mensa in England in 1946. They had the idea of forming a society for bright people, the only qualification for membership being a high IQ.
The original aims were, as they are today, to create a non-political society free from all social distinctions (racial, religious, etc.) The society welcomes all people, regardless of background, whose IQs meet the criteria, with the objective of members enjoying each other's company and participating in a wide range of social and cultural activities.
Mensa accepts individuals who score in the 98th percentile on certain standardised IQ tests, such as the Stanford-Binet. Because different tests are scaled differently, it is not meaningful to compare raw scores between tests, only percentiles. For example, the minimum accepted score on the Stanford-Binet is 132, while for the Cattell it is 148..
In addition to encouraging social interaction among its members, the organization is also involved with programs for gifted children, literacy, and scholarships. The name comes from mensa, the Latin word for "table," and indicates that it is a round-table society of equals (although the logo can be seen as depicting a square table).
Mensa has three stated purposes: to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research in the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to promote stimulating intellectual and social opportunities for its members.
Mensa has published a number of books, including Poetry Mensa (1966), an anthology of poems by Mensans from all over the world, in which languages other than English are represented. Mensa edits and publishes its own Mensa Research Journal, in which both Mensans and non-Mensans are published on various topics surrounding the concept and measure of intelligence. The national groups also issue periodicals, such as Mensa Bulletin, the monthly publication of American Mensa, Ltd.
Mensa International consists of over 100,000 members in 50 national groups. Individuals who live in a country with a national group join it, while others may join Mensa International directly. The two largest national groups are American Mensa, with about 50,000 members, and British Mensa, with about 25,500 members. Larger national groups are further subdivided into local groups. For example, American Mensa has over 135 local groups, with the largest having over 2,000 members and the smallest having fewer than 100.
Additionally, members may form Special Interest Groups (SIGs) at international, national, and local levels; these SIGs represent a wide variety of interests, both commonplace and obscure, ranging from motorcycle clubs to entrepreneurial cooperations, reflecting the wide diversity of members in occupation and social class. Some SIGs are associated with various geographic groups, whereas others act independently of official hierarchy. There are now quite a number of electronic SIGs (eSIGs), which operate primarily as e-mail lists, where members may or may not meet each other in person.
Mensa has many events for members, from the local to the international level. Several countries hold a large event called the Annual Gathering (AG). It is held in a different city every year, with speakers, dances, games (Carnelli is a popular Mensa game played at American gatherings) and other activities. There are also smaller gatherings called Regional Gatherings (RGs) held in various locations. In 2006, The Mensa World Gathering was held from August 8 to August 13 in Orlando, Florida to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of Mensa. An estimated 2500 attendees from over 30 countries gathered for this celebration. The International Board of Directors also had a formal meeting there.
The 2006 British AG was held in Nottingham between September 28 and October 2. This incorporated a birthday party to celebrate Mensa's 60th birthday on 1 October 2006 (1 October 1946 being the date that Berrill and Ware filed papers with Companies House for the society).
Mensans come from all walks of life and almost every job and profession, representing almost every age group. There are many famous and prominent members. Members pay annual membership dues that vary by country; some national groups offer a "Life Membership," but it is not transferable between groups.
All national and local groups welcome children; some offer activities, resources and newsletters specifically geared toward gifted children and their parents. American Mensa, for instance, has 1300 child members, ranging in age from 3 to 18.  The organization's youngest documented member was two years and 10 months when he joined in the mid-1990s.
- Mensa (IPA: /ˈmɛnsə/) means table in Latin as is symbolized in the organization's logo.
- Mensa's only requirement for membership is a measured intelligence level in the upper two percent of the population. Statistically, about six million people in the United States alone qualify for membership, of whom 50,000 (less than 1%) have joined. Worldwide, about 120 million people qualify for membership, of whom only 100,000 (0.08%) have joined.
- At Mensa's 50th Anniversary, Dr. Ware, one of the founders, addressed Mensans by stating that he hoped "Mensa will have a role in society when it gets through the ages of infancy and adolescence." He also said, "I do get disappointed that so many members spend so much time solving puzzles," expressing his desire for Mensans instead to be solving some of the world's problems.
- Densa is a humorous antithesis of Mensa. (A fictitious association whose membership is restricted to the most stupid 98% of the population.)
- Ironically, the word "Mensa" is an insult for females in Spanish. It means "stupid".
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