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The Amazing Story of Genius William James Sidis

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William James Sidis

William James Sidis

William James Sidis was the son of a successful Russian immigrant psychologist. Sidis was able to read the New York Times when he was 18-months old. At the age of three, he could use a typewriter. He was a student at Harvard when he was 11 years old. His memory and concentration as well as reasoning skills overwhelmed his school teachers.

Early Years

William James Sidis was born on April 1, 1898, in New York City. His parents were Jewish emigrants and came to the United States from Ukraine. Both had come to America to avoid anti-Semitic persecution. His father's name was Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D. His mother's name was Sarah and her maiden name was Mandelbaum. She attended Boston University in 1897. She graduated from the university's School of Medicine. William was named after a friend of his parents called William James. This person was also his godfather. Boris was a successful psychiatrist. He published many books and articles on the subject of abnormal psychology. He spoke several languages and made certain his son William could as well.

William Jame Sidis as a child

William Jame Sidis as a child

Home Life

The parents of Sidis did not provide a home environment of warmth, love, and reassurance. They were more concerned with developing his intelligence and getting publicity. When Sidis was 5 months old, his parents decided he would be treated as an adult. During meals, he was included in all areas of adult talk. He quickly learned to use cutlery during a meal to feed himself. His parents made themselves available to provide answers to his questions. They encouraged his learning.

Exceptional IQ

The average IQ is between 90 and 109. Anyone with an IQ of more than 140 is classified as a genius. It has been said that Stephen Hawking's IQ was 160, the IQ of Albert Einstein was also estimated to be 160. It was established that Sidis was an exceptionally intelligent individual. It is estimated his IQ was from 250 to 300.

School Work

Sidis completed seven years of schoolwork in six months. Unfortunately, he was unable to make friends and became a true loner. Sidis wrote many books between the ages of six and eight. They included his studies of such complex subjects as anatomy and astronomy. Sidis also wrote a book about the grammar of a language he created. It was called Vandergood. When he was eight, Sidis invented a new table of logarithms; it had twelve as its base instead of ten.

Harvard University

The university had refused to enroll Sidis at the age of 9 because he was considered to be a child. In 1909, Sidis set a record by being the youngest person to ever become a student at Harvard University. He was 11 years old. A year later in 1910, Sidis had such an impressive grasp of higher mathematics, he was permitted to give lectures at the Harvard Mathematical Club. His topic was four-dimensional bodies. This lecture got him attention from around the country. In 1910, Sidis started having a full-time course load. On June 18, 1914, Sidis earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude. He was 16 years old. He responded to the reporter's questions about what he wanted to do after graduation by saying he wanted to live a life of seclusion. To him, this was a perfect life. He also vowed to not marry and remain celibate. He later became a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts.


A group of Harvard students physically threatened Sidis. After this, his parents were able to get Sidis a position with William Rice Institute, Science and Art in Houston, TX. It is now known as Rice University. Sidis was a graduate fellow who was working on obtaining his doctorate. He was 17 years old. During this time, Sidis taught freshman math, non-Euclidean geometry as well as Euclidean geometry. In less than a year, he was very frustrated. Sidis didn't like his teaching requirements as well as the treatment he received from students who were older than him. He then went back to Boston. He no longer wanted to earn a graduate degree in mathematics. Sidis began attending Harvard Law School. He withdrew before completing it in 1919.

Political Activism

Sidis was arrested in 1919 for his participation in a Boston May Day parade that became violent. For his part in the violence, Sidis was charged and convicted under the Sedition Act of 1918. He was given a sentence of 18 months in prison. The arrest of Sidis was the main feature of many prominent newspapers in Boston. He was newsworthy because graduating from Harvard at the age of 16 had gotten him a lot of local attention. During his trial, Sidis told the court he had been a conscientious objector when it came to World War I. He also informed the court he was a socialist and did not believe in God. Sidis had his own libertarian philosophy he based on a person's individual rights. His father worked with the court to keep his son out of prison. His parents took him to the sanatorium where they worked for a year. Sidis was then taken to another sanatorium in California for a year. During this time, his parents were determined to reform their son. They told him they would transfer him to an insane asylum if he did not cooperate.

Later Life

Sidis eventually made his way back to the east coast in 1921. During this time, he took menial jobs such as running an adding machine, and more. His goal was to remain living independently from his parents. It was several years before he could legally return to Massachusetts. Sidis self-published periodicals and was busy teaching friends his view of American history. When in New York, he took a Civil Service exam, Sidis had a low ranking score.

New Yorker

Sidis won a settlement from the New Yorker in 1944 based on an article the publication wrote about him. The article's title was “Boy Brain Prodigy of 1909 Now $23-a-Week Adding Machine Clerk” which was published in 1937. It made Sidis out to be a failure who couldn't live up to all the promise he displayed during his childhood. Sidis claimed the article contained many false statements about him. It described him as a lonely man only able to live in the shabby South End of Boston. A judge claimed the article exposed him to public contempt, scorn, and ridicule. He ruled Sidis had a right to live his life from the prying eyes of the press.

Book by William James Sidis

Book by William James Sidis

Animate and Inanimate

Sidis wrote a book called “The Animate and the Inanimate.” This detailed his thoughts on the origins of cosmology and the origins of life. He also suggested the second law through Maxwell's Demon could be reversed and more. It was published in 1925 and did not get much attention. In 1979, a copy of it was discovered by Buckminster Fuller who was also a graduate of Harvard. He was overwhelmed that Sidis had accurately predicted the existence of black holes in space.


The dead body of William James Sidis was found in his apartment by his landlady on July 17, 1944. He had died from a cerebral hemorrhage. The amazing genius was 46 years old. He died alone and penniless.



Learning Mind

TheNew Yorker


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© 2021 Readmikenow


Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 08, 2021:

Mike, you're welcome.

Readmikenow (author) on September 08, 2021:

Pamela, thanks. I think he was a fascinating person.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 08, 2021:

Sidis was certainly brilliant. What he did as a child s amazing. I really enjoyed your article, Mike.

Readmikenow (author) on September 08, 2021:

John, thanks. I do wonder what he would have accomplished being raised under different circumstances.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 08, 2021:

What an amazingly talented individual was William James Sidis, who if nurtured more lovingly would have been capable of anything. This is such a sad tale. Thank you for sharing his story.

Readmikenow (author) on September 08, 2021:

Fran, thanks. I agree with you. Who knows what would have happened if he'd experienced a parent's love.

Readmikenow (author) on September 08, 2021:

Miebakagh, thanks. I agree with you. It was a difficult life for him.

Readmikenow (author) on September 08, 2021:

Dora, thanks. I agree with you. He had parents who treated him as an experiment.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on September 08, 2021:

Mike, what an interesting and tragic article. I immediately thought of what cost this poor young fellow suffered. A genius never getting love from anyone, and never any true friends. And dying alone and penniless is tragic.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 08, 2021:

Well that is it. Exceptional intelligent to the extreme. Such characters are not balanced in the first place. I pity Sidi.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 08, 2021:

So sad that this genius was not allowed to be a child. If he had received the love and security that children deserve, he might have still blossomed into an exceptional individual.Thanks for another amazing story.

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