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Who was William James Sidis and what did he do?
- About William James Sidis. William James Sidis (/ˈsaɪ dɪs/; April 1, 1898 – July 17, 1944) was an American child prodigy with exceptional mathematical abilities and a claimed mastery of many languages.
Feb 28, 2020 · William SIDIS was born in 1898 in the family of Boris SIDIS, who came to America from “the capital of the pale of settlement” of the city of Berdychiv (now in Ukraine). He was a disciple of the philosopher William James, engaged in psychology at Harvard University, and in the scientific community earned the nickname “Russian revolutionary”.
- Parents and Upbringing
- Harvard University and College Life
- Teaching and Further Education
- Politics and Arrest
- Later Life
- Publications and Subjects of Research
- Vendergood Language
- in Education Discussions
William James Sidis was born to Jewish Ukrainian immigrants on April 1, 1898, in New York City. His father, Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D., had emigrated in 1887 to escape political persecution. His mother, Sarah (Mandelbaum) Sidis, M.D., and her family had fled the pogroms in 1889. Sarah attended Boston University and graduated from its School of Medicine in 1897. William was named after his godfather, Boris' friend and colleague, the American philosopher William James. Boris was a psychiatrist, and published numerous books and articles, performing pioneering work in abnormal psychology. Boris was a polyglot and his son William would become one at a young age. Sidis's parents believed in nurturing a precocious and fearless love of knowledge, for which they were criticized. Sidis could read the New York Times at 18 months, had reportedly taught himself eight languages (Latin, Greek, French, Russian, German, Hebrew, Turkish, and Armenian) by age eight, and invented another, which he called...
Although the University had previously refused to let his father enrol him at age nine because he was still a child, Sidis set a record in 1909 by becoming the youngest person to enroll at Harvard University. In early 1910, Sidis' mastery of higher mathematics was such that he lectured the Harvard Mathematical Club on four-dimensional bodies. MIT professor Daniel F. Comstock predicted that Sidis would become a great mathematician and a leader in that field in the future. Sidis began taking a full-time course load in 1910 and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, on June 18, 1914, at age 16. Shortly after graduation, he told reporters that he wanted to live the perfect life, which to him meant living in seclusion. He granted an interview to a reporter from the Boston Herald. The paper reported Sidis's vows to remain celibate and never to marry, as he said women did not appeal to him. Later he developed a strong affection for a young woman named Martha Foley. He later enrolle...
After a group of Harvard students threatened Sidis physically, his parents secured him a job at the William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Letters, Science, and Art (now Rice University) in Houston, Texas as a mathematics teaching assistant. He arrived at Rice in December 1915 at the age of 17. He was a graduate fellow working toward his doctorate. Sidis taught three classes: Euclidean geometry, non-Euclidean geometry, and trigonometry (he wrote a textbook for the Euclidean geometry course in Greek). After less than a year, frustrated with the department, his teaching requirements, and his treatment by students older than he was, Sidis left his post and returned to New England. When a friend later asked him why he had left, he replied, "I never knew why they gave me the job in the first place—I'm not much of a teacher. I didn't leave—I was asked to go." Sidis abandoned his pursuit of a graduate degree in mathematics and enrolled at the Harvard Law School in September 19...
In 1919, shortly after his withdrawal from law school, Sidis was arrested for participating in a socialist May Day parade in Boston that turned violent. He was sentenced to eighteen months in prison under the Sedition Act of 1918. Sidis' arrest featured prominently in newspapers, as his early graduation from Harvard had garnered considerable local celebrity status. During the trial, Sidis stated that he had been a conscientious objector to the World War I draft, was a socialist, and spiritual. He later developed his own libertarian philosophy based on individual rights and "the American social continuity". His father arranged with the district attorney to keep Sidis out of prison before his appeal came to trial; his parents, instead, held him in their sanatorium in New Hampshire for a year. They took him to California, where he spent another year. While at the sanatorium, his parents set about "reforming" him and threatened him with transfer to an insane asylum.
After returning to the east coast in 1921, Sidis was determined to live an independent and private life. He only took work running adding machines or other fairly menial tasks. He worked in New York City and became estranged from his parents. It took years before he was cleared legally to return to Massachusetts, and he was concerned about his risk of arrest for years. He obsessively collected streetcar transfers, self-published periodicals, and taught small circles of interested friends his version of American history. In 1933, Sidis passed a Civil Service exam in New York but scored a low ranking of 254. In a private letter, Sidis wrote that this was "not so encouraging." In 1944, Sidis won a settlement from The New Yorker for an article published in 1937. He had alleged it contained many false statements. Under the title "Where Are They Now?", the pseudonymous article described Sidis's life as lonely, in a "hall bedroom in Boston's shabby South End". Lower courts had dismissed Si...
From writings on cosmology, to writings on American Indian history, to Notes on the Collection of Transfers, and several purported lost texts on anthropology, philology, and transportation systems, Sidis covered a broad range of subjects. Some of his ideas concerned cosmological reversibility, "social continuity," and individual rights in the United States. In The Animate and the Inanimate (1925), Sidis predicted the existence of regions of space where the second law of thermodynamics operated in reverse to the temporal direction that we experience in our local area. Everything outside of what we would today call a galaxy would be such a region. Sidis claimed that the matter in this region would not generate light. Sidis's The Tribes and the States(ca. 1935) employs the pseudonym "John W. Shattuck," purporting to give a 100,000-year history of the Settlement of the Americas, from prehistoric times to 1828. In this text, he suggests that "there were red men at one time in Europe as w...
Sidis created a constructed language called Vendergood in his second book, the Book of Vendergood, which he wrote at the age of eight. The language was mostly based on Latin and Greek, but also drew on German and French and other Romance languages. It distinguished between eight different moods: indicative, potential, imperative absolute, subjunctive, imperative, infinitive, optative, and Sidis's own strongeable.
After his death, Sidis's sister claimed Sidis had an IQ reported in Abraham Sperling's 1946 book Psychology for the Millions as "the very highest that had ever been obtained," but later authors found that some of his biographers, such as Amy Wallace, exaggerated how high his IQ actually was and exactly what Sperling had claimed. Sperling actually wrote: It has been acknowledged that Helena and William's mother Sarah had developed a reputation of exaggerated claims about the Sidis family. Helena had also falsely claimed that the Civil Service exam William took in 1933 was an IQ test and that his ranking of 254 was an IQ score of 254. Helena also claimed that "Billy knew all the languages in the world, while my father only knew twenty-seven. I wonder if there were any Billy didn’t know." This claim was not backed by any other source outside the Sidis family and Sarah Sidis also made an improbable claim in her 1950 book The Sidis Story that William could learn a language in just one da...
The debate about Sidis' manner of upbringing occurred within a larger discourse about the best way to educate children. Newspapers criticized Boris Sidis' child-rearing methods. Most educators of the day believed that schools should expose children to common experiences to create good citizens. Most psychologists thought intelligence was hereditary, a position that precluded early childhood education at home. The difficulties Sidis encountered in dealing with the social structure of a collegiate setting may have shaped opinion against allowing such children to rapidly advance through higher education in his day. Research indicates that a challenging curriculum can relieve social and emotional difficulties commonly experienced by gifted children. Embracing these findings, several colleges now have procedures for early entrance. The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has developed a guidebook on the topic. Sidis was portrayed derisively in the press of the day. The New York Tim...
- New York
- April 1, 1898
- New York, New York, United States
- July 17, 1944
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- Publications and Subjects of Research
- Sidis in Educational Discussions
- External Links
 Parents and upbringing
William James Sidis was born to Russian-Jewish immigrants on April 1, 1898 in New York City. His father, Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D., had emigrated in 1887 to escape political persecution. His mother, Sarah Mandelbaum Sidis, M.D., and her family had fled the pogroms about 1889. Sarah attended Boston University and graduated from its School of Medicine in 1897. William was named after his godfather, Boris's friend and colleague, the American philosopherWilliam James. Boris earned his degrees a...
 Harvard and college life
Although the University had previously refused to let his father enroll him at age nine because he was still a child, Sidis set a record in 1909 by becoming the youngest person to enroll at Harvard College. He was 11 years old, and entered Harvard as part of a program to enroll gifted students early. The experimental group included mathematician Norbert Wiener, Richard Buckminster Fuller, and composer Roger Sessions. In early 1910, his mastery of higher mathematics was such that he lectured t...
 Teaching and further education
After a group of Harvard students threatened physical harm, his parents secured him a job at the William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Letters, Science, and Art (now Rice University) in Houston, Texas as a mathematics teaching assistant. He arrived at Rice in December 1915 at the age of 17. He was a Graduate Fellow working toward his doctorate. Sidis taught three classes: Euclidean geometry, non-Euclidean geometry, and trigonometry (he wrote a textbook for the Euclidean geometry...
Aside from mathematics, subjects on which Sidis wrote or lectured included cosmology, psychology, and Native American history. Some of his ideas concerned cosmological reversibility,"social continuity,"  and individual rights in the United States. In The Animate and the Inanimate (1925), Sidis predicted the existence of regions of space where the second law of thermodynamics operated in reverse to the temporal direction that we experience in our local area. Everything outside of what we would today call a galaxy would be such a region. Sidis claimed that the matter in this region would not generate light. (These dark areas of the universe are not properly dark matter or black holes as they are used in contemporary cosmology.) This work on cosmology, based on his theory of reversibility of the second law of thermodynamics was the only book published under his name. Sidis' The Tribes and the States (ca. 1935) employs the pseudonym "John W. Shattuck," giving a 100,000-y...
The debate about Sidis' manner of upbringing occurred within a larger discourse about the best way to educate children. Newspapers criticized the child-rearing methods of Boris Sidis. Most educators of the day believed that schools should expose children to common experiences to create good citizens, and most psychologists thought that intelligence was hereditary — a position that precluded early childhood education at home. The difficulties that Sidis and other highly gifted young students encountered in dealing with the social structure of a university setting helped shape opinion against allowing them to rapidly advance through higher education. The debate over gifted education continues today, and Sidis remains a topic of discussion. Cast in modern standards, scholars usually classify Sidis as a profoundly gifted individual, and some critics use Sidis as the most vivid example of how gifted youth do not always achieve corresponding success as adults — in either material or c...LaMay, Craig L. (2003). Journalism and the Debate Over Privacy. LEA's Communication Series. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.. ISBN 9780805846263.Wallace, Amy (1986). The prodigy: a biography of William James Sidis, America's greatest child prodigy. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.. ISBN 0-525-24404-2.
THE MODERN GRAY CHAMPION. by William James Sidis (Written sometime between July 25, 1938 and July 17, 1944, probably during 1938; unsigned for reasons which become apparent once one reads his words. Bill Sidis apparently used this text as notes to his, The Tribes and the States, as you may verify by examining pp. 208-9 of Amy Wallace's, The ...
William James Sidis was quite possibly the smartest man who ever lived. Born in Boston in 1898, William James Sidis made the headlines in the early 20th century as a child prodigy with an amazing inte Methodology. My teaching method is based on the understanding level of the student and according to me practical knowledge should be given to ...
Apr 25, 2021 · [23:13] On the same day the boston herald carried a more detailed transcript of the DA’s questioning and Sidis’ testimony. [23:22] What did the chairman at the Opera House say to those assembled? He said that there was going to be a meeting at New International Hall and that we should all go.