Do you know any person with an IQ between 250 and 300? Who is the most intelligent man to ever walk on Earth? Yes, there was a boy with an IQ more than that of Albert Einstein (160), Isaac Newton (190) and Mark Zuckerberg (152), he is William James Sidis, an exceptional mathematician, and a child prodigy with extraordinary linguistic skills. He was a mastermind, a gifted author, and an expert at multiple dialects. The sad part is that he is not too popular.
Let’s read about William’s life and figure out the reasons why he’s not as well-known as he probably should be.
William James Sidis was born on April 1, 1898, in New York City. His parents were Jewish emigrants from Ukraine. His mother graduated from the School of Medicine at the Boston University in 1897. His father was an exemplary psychologist who published numerous books and articles with 4 degrees from Harvard. The son of such brilliant parents is expected to be brilliant as well, but William’s brilliance was extraordinary.
When he was just 18 months old, he was able to read The New York Times. His linguistic skills were remarkable as he taught Greek, Latin, Russian, German, French, Turkish, Hebrew, and Armenian himself at the age of 8. Imagine, 8 languages at the age of 8! In addition to these 8 languages, he also invented one of his own and named it as Vendergood. As an adult, he was conversant in about 25 languages and dialects.
Well acquainted with his intelligence, his father tried to enroll him in the Harvard University when he was 9 years old, but he was refused. On the second attempt 2 years later, the institute accepted him and the brilliant William became the youngest person to be admitted to Harvard in 1909. By the next year, his mathematical knowledge peaked so much that one could see him lecturing his professors, earning him the title of “child prodigy.” At the age of 16, he completed his B.A. degree.
Ever wondered what most geniuses do when they wish to maintain a low profile? They go for low-paid clerical jobs. The same was done by William. Even then, he got recognized often, which left no choice for him rather than switching his job again and again. In 1924, reporters mocked his intelligence by creating headlines when they discovered him working a $23-a week job. It was said that he was no longer capable of doing what he did as a child. But, this statement was not true. The child prodigy wrote multiple valuable books throughout his life using numerous pseudonyms. His notable works include The Animate and the Inanimate (1925) and The Tribes and the States (1935).
He worked at the League of Nations for a short span of time. He moved to Rice University in Texas in 1915 as a mathematics teaching assistant where he was a graduate fellow working towards his doctorate. He left that job in less than a year and enrolled at the Harvard Law School in September 1916, but withdrew in good standing in his final year in March 1919.
William James Sidis decided to live a secluded life. He wished to live the perfect life, which, according to him, was a life of seclusion. He shared this with the reporters shortly after his graduation. His decision about living a secluded life also reflected the pressure that he faced since birth, as his father was keen to make his son shine as bright as a star. A fact behind this desire is that his father was a gifted psychologist. In the initial years, William enjoyed learning, but when he grew to be an adult, his opinions changed and he blamed his father for it. When Boris Sidis passed away in the year 1923, William refused to attend his funeral.
William was a socialist. He was arrested for a protest in 1919 due to its violent turnover in Boston, due to which, he was sentenced to prison for 18 months. However, his parents found a way to keep him out of jail and locked him up in their sanatorium for 2 years instead.
He became estranged from his parents after returning to the East Coast in 1921 as he decided to live an independent and private life. He worked as a machine runner and took to petty jobs to sustain life. Sadly, he suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1944, dying an unfortunate death at 46 in Boston, the same malady which took his father in 1923.