Born as an April Fool’s joke in 1898, James William Sidis made the headlines in the early 20th century as a child prodigy with an amazing intellect.
Sidis’s IQ was estimated to be 50 to 100 points higher than Albert Einstein’s. He could read the New York Times before he was 11 months old and the age of 6, he taught himself English, Latin, Classical Greek, French, German, Russian, Hebrew, Turkish and Armenian. He also created his own language called Vergood which was a combination of Latin,Greek, French and German. At age 11, he entered Harvard University as one of the youngest students in the school’s history. He graduated with cum laude when he was 16 years old.
Sidis’s parents were Jewish Ukrainian Immigrants who fled the pogroms in eastern Europe. His parents wanted to nurture a precocious and fearless love for knowledge.
After a brief stint as a mathematics professor after graduation, Sidis went into hiding from public scrutiny, moving from city to city, job to job, often using an alias.All the while, he wrote a number of books, including a 1,200-page history of the United States and a book on streetcar transfer tickets, which he loved to collect. His books were never widely published, and he used at least eight pseudonyms.
“We probably will never know how many books he published under false names,” Wallace says.
Recently, an inscribed copy of a book he wrote in 1925 — The Animate and the Inanimate — was sold in London to an anonymous collector for 5,000 pounds — almost $8,000.
In 1944, he died from a brain hemorrhage. He was 46. Friends and family reported that he died a very happy man focusing on his love for mathematics and history.