Some believe that technical genius Elon Musk has an IQ of about 150, which is close to the calculated IQ of great scientists like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, who were thought to have an IQ of about 160. However, Einstein, Musk and Hawking are not close to William James Sidis, a lesser-known individual who some say may have had an IQ between 210 and 250.
IQ is a controversial but widely used tool for assessing each person’s intelligence. It can be measured using any of several tests designed to measure reasoning and problem-solving skills. Tests are usually reviewed every few years to maintain 100 as an average score.
Now you may be wondering, if Sidis was so intelligent, why isn’t a name like Einstein or Hawking known? Why have most people never heard of it? The answer to this question lies in the rather unusual life he leads.
The Unheard Life of William James Sidis
Born in New York on April 1, 1898, into a family of Russian immigrants, Sidis could easily read the newspaper when he was only 18 months old. His parents were no ordinary people either, his mother Sarah Mandelbaum Sidis was a doctor educated at BUSM (Boston University School of Medicine), and his father Boris Sidis was a well-known psychologist who himself made remarkable contributions in the field of psychopathology.
In the biography of Sidis, The Prodigy, author Amy Wallace reveals that his parents were extremely persistent, as they desperately wanted him to seek knowledge and nothing else. His mother spent huge sums on books, maps and other materials to encourage his learning behavior. While Boris Sidis wanted to give his son the perfect tools to shape his reasoning and thinking abilities. He even debated with William Sidis on psychology and various other advanced topics from an early age. However, Sidis was not happy to receive such special treatment from his parents.
When Sidis turned eight, he could speak eight languages, including Greek, English and Russian. He later created his own language, which he called Wendergood. When Sidis was only nine years old, he was admitted to Harvard University, but on the condition that he must wait until the age of 11 to be officially enrolled in college. So for the next two years, Sidis studied mathematics at Tufts University, where he reportedly spent time correcting textbook errors and combing into Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Although there are no scorecards or test reports on his intelligence today, given Sidis’ age and academic brilliance, his IQ score is somewhere between 50 and 100 points higher than that of Einstein or Hawking.
In 1909, 11-year-old William Sidis became the youngest man to visit Harvard. He was considered the brightest of a group of prodigies at Harvard in 1909, inclusive Norbert Wiener, considered the father of cybernetics and composer Roger Sessions. That same year, Sidis gave a presentation on four-dimensional bodies at the Harvard Mathematical Club. His understanding of the complex topic attracted the attention of various experts.
Listening to Sidis, the American physicist Daniel F. Comstock, who was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the time, said, “I predict that young Sidis will be a great astronomical mathematician, a leader in this science in the future.”
How did intelligence become a curse for Sidis?
Unfortunately, Comstock’s predictions did not turn out to be correct. Shedding light on the years Sidis spent at Harvard, his biography reveals that Sidis struggled to live a normal life. He was often annoyed and ridiculed by other Harvard students, and he also felt disturbed by unwanted media coverage.
According to Amy Wallace “He had become a laughing stock at Harvard, all he wanted was to be away from academia and be a regular worker.” from Harvard University at age 16, Sidis too admitted to one of the reporters who pursued him: “I want to live the perfect life. The only way to live the perfect life is to live it in solitude. I’ve always hated crowds. ”
After graduating from Harvard at the age of 16, Sidis went to Rice University to work as an assistant professor of mathematics. He taught students for a year and also wrote a book on Euclidean geometry.
Soon, however, Sidis grew tired of the department and the disrespectful behavior of some students toward it, so he left Rice University and returned to Harvard to study law. Sidis studied law for almost three years, but then left college in 1919 for unknown reasons.
He engaged in socialist causes and was arrested the same year for participating in a communist-led anti-war rally. Because he had the status of a celebrity in the media, his arrest appeared in the headlines of several newspapers at the time. Sidis defended himself in the process and he was sentenced to 18 months in prison – six months for riots and one year for assaulting an officer. Later, however, his parents managed to keep him in his father’s sanitarium and work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology instead of in prison.
In 1921, he was released from his father’s institution and spent the rest of his life leading an independent existence out of the public eye. He renounced his knowledge of mathematics and took a job as an accountant, often using a pseudonym and changing jobs and cities every time someone recognized him.
And he writes books – some under his own name, others under various pseudonyms. He wrote a 1,200-page history of the United States and a book on tram tickets. In 1925, he published a remarkable book on cosmology in which he predicted black holes – 14 years before Chandrasekhar. But above all, he ran away from his childhood and ran away from his parents.
He kept changing his job and name because he no longer wanted to be identified as the “miracle child of William Sidis.” He spent his time writing books, collecting tram tickets, and even doing some unskilled work that could be considered very weak for a man of gifted intelligence like him.
In 1925, Sidis wrote Animated and inanimate, a book that discusses his thoughts on cosmology and the potential reversibility of the second law of thermodynamics. Ten years later, in 1935, he published another book entitled Tribes and states (under the false name John W. Shattuck), which covers various aspects of Indian history. He also invented a kind of perpetual calendar that was specifically designed to look for leap years.
Sidis managed to live without fame until 1937, when an article was published in The New Yorker about what happened to the “boy genius” returned it in the spotlight. Dissatisfied with the content of the article, he accused William Sidis The New Yorker magazine for defamation and violation of his personal life and filed a lawsuit against the publication. He won the defamation lawsuit in 1944, but died of a cerebral hemorrhage that year.
Intelligence is just one of many aspects of being human. William Sidis’ journey also shows that human life has so many different elements that intelligence alone cannot always guarantee a full life.