The son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, the youngest student at Harvard, professor. The author of many scientific works - biographers of William James Sidis believe that he was the most gifted person who ever lived on Earth.
At the end of the nineteenth century, ships filled with immigrants from Europe and Russia arrived in New York harbor. Boris and Sarah Sidis (Saidis) arrived in one of these ships from tsarist Russia to America. They quickly rose to prominence in the States as individuals of extraordinary ability. Boris became a pioneer in the study of psychology, and Sarah, one of a small number of women in those years, received a medical degree.
Under the tutelage of his ingenious, but eccentric parents, young William James Sidis grew up as a man endowed with extraordinary talents. The baby's education began in the very first months of his life: Boris and Sarah tried to make the baby's brain absorb information in extraordinary volumes.
Using wooden blocks, Boris began to show his little son the alphabet - while he introduced the boy into a hypnotic state, so that he would repeat letters after him.
In six months, William was able to pronounce the word "door", and after a month his vocabulary had doubled - the baby pronounced the word "moon". At eight months, proud parents noted that their son can eat from a spoon on his own - a skill few babies learn even in a year. He was able to recognize and repeat letters on the cubes, thus demonstrating the character recognition abilities characteristic of four-year-olds. At the age of one and a half, he read a daily newspaper.
Towards the fifth birthday of William, the press began to show interest in his extraordinary abilities. The kid already knew how to type on a typewriter from his high chair, tapping out a list of his toys on it. He also took over the study of Latin, Greek, Russian, French, German and Hebrew.
His thirst for knowledge seemed insatiable: William easily overcame such to study volumes as Gray's Anatomy or Homer's books. He went to high school at six, but after six months his knowledge corresponded to the level of the curriculum of the graduating classes. His staggering accomplishments were the perfect reason for the boy to appear on the front page of the New York Times.
At the age of nine, William Sidis tried to enter Harvard: the entrance exams were not a serious test for him, but the university commission refused him under the pretext of "emotional immaturity" for student life.
Two years that the teenager was waiting for permission to enter, he spent in college. He found he could figure out which day of the week the date falls on in the past or future, and wrote four books. In 1909, when the young genius was 11 years old, the leadership of the prestigious university finally softened and allowed the boy to join the ranks of students. It was a brilliant course: in 1909, Norbert Wiener, the father of cybernetics, and composer Roger Seshins entered Harvard with Sidis.
Sidis graduated at age 16, graduating with honors from Harvard. He taught for some time at the University of Houston, but soon retired: it became obvious that his age and fame attracted students much more than his lectures. Sidis returned briefly to Harvard to pursue a law degree, but even here he was disappointed: he was not interested in the law.
In 1919, William again succumbed to public persecution when he participated in a demonstration that turned into a real riot. This episode further emphasized his unconventional philosophy - lack of faith in God, for example (William called him "the big boss of Christians"), and social isolation. Sidis's political views later developed into something that most closely resembles liberalism.
The young man escaped imprisonment only thanks to the influence of his parents, but they put him under house arrest in a summer house in California. In a frenzy, William headed to the east coast to avoid the pressure of his parents and not to think about his talents, which he regarded as unnecessary archaism. He mastered the simplest specialties, a clerk and an accountant, each time changing jobs when his fame as a mathematical genius emerged. He once said: “I feel bad about one kind of mathematical formula. Everything I want to do is done by a calculating machine. But they don't leave me alone!"
Sidis, even in an older age, made attempts to shield himself from the attention of society. He wrote several books, but under assumed names. One such book, titled A Guide to Collecting Train Tickets, painstakingly describes the hobby to which Sidis has devoted most of his life. He wrote it under the pseudonym "Frank Falupa".
William's biographers called this work "the most boring book ever written." In another voluminous manuscript, called Tribes and States, Sidis provides compelling evidence that the New England political system is heavily influenced by the democratic principles of Penaccoque federalism.
In parallel, Sidis continued to study languages - he knew about 200 of them, and he invented one himself. Areas of knowledge for which Sidis's work has survived include American history, cosmology, and psychology.
Sidis did not live long. He was significantly undermined by the constant attention of newspaper people. The press, which had admired him before, turned its back on him. The most derogatory article appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1937 under the title "April Fool's Fool." It ridiculed everything from Sidis's hobbies and ending with his physical data.
Sidis sued for defamation and invasion of privacy. Although he won a small amount out of court, the charge of invasion of privacy was denied by the US Supreme Court. He died in 1944. In obituaries he was called "an amazing loser" and "a burned out genius."
In psychiatry, there is the term "Sidis phenomenon", and they denote a person who was extremely gifted in his youth, but did not achieve anything significant in his adult life.