We have read numerous success stories, stories of people who were super smart and extremely intelligent. Stories illustrating how these amazing people made a difference with their intellect and were highly recognized. But, this a story of a prodigy, a genius that never grew up to be one. This is the story of William James Sidis.

William James Sidis who? He’s one of the smartest people we have never heard of. Starting from being the youngest person to be enrolled at Harvard at the age of 11 at his time, to an absolute reclusive adult he is a perfect example of unrealized potential. He was an American prodigy who was born in Boston in 1898. Born to Boris and Sarah Sidis he had an IQ which was estimated to be 50 or 100 points higher than Albert Einstein’s. Both of his parents were doctors, well-renowned in their respective fields, giving William an early kickstart at attaining knowledge.

Sidis was able to read the New York Times before the age of 2, and by the age of 5, he was featured in the same of his accomplishment. Being a linguistic genius, he had mastered eight languages and had even created his own, known as Vandergood by the age of nine. He was also accepted into Harvard at the age of 9, but his application was rejected because he was too young at the time. Later, he was accepted after two years and graduated from Harvard at the age of 16 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude. At the young age of 17, he started teaching mathematics at William Marsh Rice University in Texas. Eventually, he had to leave his post due to the strain of teaching older students.

His arrest in 1919 for participating in a riotous socialist May Day parade which turned out to be violent, led to the end of his public fame. Sidis was sentenced to 18 years in prison for this, but, his parents managed to keep him away from behind bars, and instead sent him to a sanatorium for a year in New Hampshire. He spent another year in California, where he was threatened by his parents, saying that if he did not “reform” they would send him to an insane asylum.

William’s introvert behavior led him to constrict in a shell of his own. Deciding to live a reclusive and private life away from the prying eyes of the public, he moved back to the East Coast in 1921. He became estranged from his parents. He lived the major part of his later life writing books under pseudonyms so as to avoid any unwanted attention. Later a scathing article published in the New Yorker titled “April Fool” made him sue them for the invasion of privacy, as it gave critical details of his personal life. Although, Sidis won his victory was bittersweet and he didn’t live very long after this. At the age of 46, in 1944 he died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Several experts believe that the strict parenting of William James Sidis led to the burning out of his potential before he could fully realize it, at the correct age. The exposure to public scrutiny at such a young age led to the death of this star before reaching its peak brilliance. Thus, he was a child prodigy but the rest was not history.


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