Is This The Smartest Man Who Ever Lived?



When William Sidis was barely 3 years old, he taught himself Latin. By the time he was 6, he had added Russian, French, German, Hebrew, Armenian and Turkish to his lengthy linguistic resume, along with his native tongue, English. His mother, Sarah, who was a doctor, read him Greek myths as bedtime stories, and his father, Boris, a budding superstar in the field of psychology, engaged his son in debates. William, who toted a volume of Shakespeare with him when he entered first grade, graduated from elementary school in a mere seven months. Between the ages of 6 and 8, he wrote at least four books, and at 8 he passed both the Harvard Medical School anatomy exam and the entrance exam to MIT. His IQ was believed to be between 250 and 300 (the average IQ is 85-115). As intelligent as he was, William's future took turns that no one expected. He failed miserably outside of the classroom and was often ridiculed by his much older classmates. Still, he graduated Harvard magna cum laude in 1914, when he was just 16. Struggling to adjust to life outside the academic setting, he was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in jail for his part in a socialist demonstration in Boston. After his release, he moved to California, but soon returned to the East Coast, where he worked a series of uninspired jobs. By then, though, the media had declared the one-time boy genius a bust. He retreated even more from the public eye. William died of a brain bleed in 1944, when he was just 46 years old.