Have you read William James Sidis' story that proof that exceptional intelligence is more a curse than anything else?
In 1899, at age one, Sidis could already confidently read The New York Times by himself. At age eight, he was fluent in eight different languages (Armenian, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Russian and Turkish) and had invented one for himself called ‘Vendergood’.
Sidis set the world record in 1909 for the youngest enrolment in Harvard University—he was 11 years old—studying advanced mathematics.
Yet Sidis’ memories of this time were far from happy. His biographer, Amy Wallace, claimed that,
“He had been made a laughing stock [. . .] he admitted he had never kissed a girl. He was teased and chased [. . .] and all he wanted was to be away from academia [and] be a regular working man.”
If that wasn’t already enough, news reporters frequently followed Sidis around campus, seeking to sensationalise his story.
It is considered that Sidis’ IQ fell somewhere between 250 and 300 (Einstein’s IQ was estimated at 160).
After graduating Harvard at 16, Sidis worked a brief stint as a mathematics professor at Rice University (Houston, TX). He resigned shortly after, however, because he was harassed by journalists everywhere he went. He claimed,
“I want to live a perfect life. The only way to live a perfect life is to live in isolation.”
And that he did. Following his resignation, Sidis went into hiding, moving from city to city, working minimum wage jobs to earn his keep. During this time, he wrote a vast number of books in subjects ranging from modern history to mathematics.
In 1919, he was arrested for his coordination of a number of communist rallies and sentenced to 18 months in prison. After his release from prison, he isolated himself in his apartment in Boston. He was determined to finally live an independent and private life, becoming estranged from his own parents in the process.
It was there that he lived out the rest of his days. Isolated and, for the most part, completely alone until his death in 1944.
It seems all Sidis ever wanted was to lead a ‘normal life’. And he was, most certainly, cursed with one incredibly remarkable mind.
Written by Ibraheem Sikiru
Published on 2/12/2020 5:52:09 PM