The New York Times on Amy Bishop

Covers all the major angles. Nice that there's a newspaper which can support this sort of reporting (on the other hand). Not surprising that Amy Bishop seems to have some history of delusions of grandeur, she's claiming that both she and her husband have an I.Q. of 180. That's 5.3 standard deviations above the mean. Assuming a normal distribution that's a 1 in 20 million probability. Of course the tails of the distribution are fatter beyond 2 standard deviations than expectation for I.Q., but at these really high levels (above 160) I'm skeptical that most tests are measuring anything real.

More like this

My understanding is that the Wechsler scales are the only universally respected IQ tests. The ceiling on the Wechsler is 150, if I'm not mistaken. I once read an article comparing testees' Wechsler results with their scores on another scale, the old Standford-Binet. The two tests tended to yield identical IQ scores for people in the low average, average, and high average categories (IQ's of roughly 90 to 119). At higher levels, though, the Binet yielded scores higher than the corresponding Wechsler score. For individuals in the superior range (120 to 129 IQ), the difference was usually two to six IQ points. For individuals in the very superior range, IQ 130 and above (two or more standard deviations over the mean), the Binet score was usually ten to 50 points higher than the testee's corresponding Wechsler IQ. So, who knows what a claimed IQ of 180 really means.

"Have you ever been convicted of an offense other than a minor traffic violation?" Amy Bishop, who took a tenure-track job there in 2003, answered the question with a simple "no."

Technically, she was correct.

No "technically" about it. It was an easy answer to an easy question: she had never been convicted of anything. The question was not "Have you ever done anything that some people think should have been prosecuted?"

Habeas corpus is in bad shape. We might as well forget about it, because no one believes in it any more, not even on the liberal New York Times.

By John Emerson (not verified) on 20 Feb 2010 #permalink

This story is most depressing and shocking as is any incident that is out of character for its time, place and actors. That said, the ivory tower of the academia is a place where huge egos are at play. Given the territorial battles, pressure of peer reviews and the all or nothing tenure games, that Amy Bishop is an aberration rather than the norm, speaks well of the academic community. On the other hand, Amy Bishop's loose canon nature may have gone unnoticed or unsuspected precisely because she was in a profession that is not "expected" to spawn or breed violence.

Bishop may not have been as brilliant (or at least, not as productive) as the media and many of her colleagues think she is. This blogger seems to have ferreted out a lot about her background including a publication that is extremely fishy. (Look at all the Andersons)…

Mr. Miller [her lawyer] said Dr. Bishop told him that biologists do not make much money in academia, and added that she and her husband each had an I.Q. of 180.
She surely must have some sort of narcissistic personality disorder. Even if it were true about the IQs it certainly seems like a strange and random thing to share with your lawyer. Perhaps she bragged about the IQs to deflect attention away from her lack of money and her loser husband, who probably doesn't have any income. He must be a bit crazy himself to have put up with her all these years.

Academic killing sprees aren't all that rare. Theodore Streleski, Valery Fabrikant, and Gang Lu arq three others, and you could probably throw in the Unabomber.

Not getting tenure at Alabama U. is pretty low on the not-getting-tenure ladder.

By John Emerson (not verified) on 20 Feb 2010 #permalink


Some say there is a delusional mania or grandiosity that drives the great minds to produce brilliant scientific breakthroughs, a compulsive-obsessive, competitive drive that wonât nor canât take a back seat to rejection. Whether this is true or not is yet to be proven. However, when I encountered the case of Amy Bishop, it somehow reminded me of the insane, radical philosophy of the protagonist in the novel Crime and Punishment by Russian author, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Perhaps Dostoevskyâs character contains a clue to understanding her nemesis.

An impoverished student, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, devises a plan to murder and rob an elderly pawnbroker to solve his financial problems. His moral dilemma is whether it is acceptable to murder âan evil, worthless parasiteâ in pursuit of higher purpose. By rationalizing himself as Napoleon, he justified his behavior. The novel explores the moral and psychological dangers of Raskolnikovâs âradicalâ ideology. He commits the crime with the belief that he has a strong emotional and intellectual foundation to deal with the ramifications...…