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Presidential rankings emerged in 1948 when Life Magazine published an article by the prominent historian, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., who had selected 55 experts on the presidency and asked them to rank the presidents. He asked his respondents to rank presidents into categories of "Great," "Near Great," "Average," "Below Average" and "Failure." The result was a substantial article that attracted wide public attention. His work and similar studies have not escaped criticism, however.
Many general works on the presidency have discussed presidential greatness and identified presidents who stood out for good or ill. There are likely unavoidable inadequacies in all ranking schemes, regardless of the complicated measures that many authors employ in their attempts to be "scientific." This book provides useful criticism of these presidential rankings. It is arranged chronologically, and discusses each presidential performance and each ranking study in detail. Perhaps it would be sufficient to say that most who held the office were right for their time. [via]