Lancelot Ware, 85, Co-Founder of Mensa
By WILLIAM H. HONAN
ancelot Ware, a British barrister who was the co-founder
of Mensa, the society for intellectually gifted people, died on Aug. 15 in a
nursing home in Surrey, England. He was 85.
Ware became interested in unusually bright people when his
father died, leaving him to care for his sister, who was ten years younger than
he. His realization that both of them were highly intelligent led to an
interest in intelligence testing.
In 1945, when Ware was a postgraduate student of law at
Lincoln College, Oxford, he met Roland Berrill, an eccentric barrister from
Australia who had become fixated with Oxford since being rejected by the
school. Together the two men founded an association for people with strong
Today, there are about 100,000 Mensa members in 100
countries and active Mensa organizations in over 40 countries, on every
continent except Antarctica.
The only requirement for membership is proof that the
applicant has an IQ in the top 2 percent of the population.
Members range in age from 4 to 94, but most are between 20
and 49. They include both high school dropouts and people with multiple
doctorates. Some are on welfare, while some are millionaires. And they hold
many jobs -- professors, truck drivers, scientists, firefighters, farmers,
computer programmers, glass blowers, artists and police officers.
Smart as the two founders were, they could not at first
settle on a name for their aristocracy of intellect.
They began by calling it the High IQ Club. When that sounded
too prosaic they considered "Mens" -- Latin for mind. But that was also the
name of a racy gentleman's magazine. So they made it Mensa, and clung to that
even though it was soon discovered that Mensa, which means table in Latin, also
means idiot in Mexican slang.
The original object of Mensa was to create a list of the
names and addresses of 600 of the most intelligent people in Britain so that
they could be contacted by scholars and governmental officials in case of need.
It was perhaps not surprising that Mensa's courting of the government went
But Ware did not lose his enthusiasm. "I found that people
of high intelligence were people I had an easy rapport with," he once said.
Mensa developed as its goals to identify and foster human
intelligence for the benefit of humanity, to encourage research in the field of
intelligence and to promote stimulating activities for its members.
Currently, though, the stated object of the association is
"enjoying each other's company and participating in a wide range of social and
Membership is still determined by intelligence testing --
even after the worth of such tests was challenged. In 1995, International Mensa
was attacked when its Los Angeles newsletter proposed euthanasia for the old,
ill or mentally retarded.
Lancelot Lionel Ware was born in Mitcham, Surrey. During
World War II, he served as a research chemist, but later said he quit because
he was given three months' worth of work to do in three days.
In addition to his study of law, he studied at the Imperial
College of Science and Technology in London, and was a medical researcher and
lecturer at St. Thomas' Hospital in London.
In his legal work, Ware specialized in intellectual
property, copyright and patents.
Ware is survived by his wife, Francesca Quint Ware, a fellow
member of Mensa.
Ware lost interest in Mensa in 1950, but after Berrill died
in 1961 Ware rejoined the society and became vigorously active in the 1970s.
In recent years, Ware had traveled widely to meet Mensa
members. Last year he was named president of the Mensa Foundation for Gifted
But Mensa was still an organization in search of a purpose,
and to some degree remains so today.