Bio of William Sidis
 

 

 

 Archives Home

 

FAILURE?

 
Compiled by Dan Mahony

 


"The lust for fame is the last infirmity
cast off even by the wise."
Tacitus

 

 

"His numerous friends do not like the false newspaper picture of him, as a pauper and anti-social recluse. ... Bill Sidis was a quiet man who enjoyed the normal things of life. His friends respected him and enjoyed his company. I am glad to have been one of his friends."Shirley S. Smith, Wellesley Hills

 

 

 

And all the while, he adhered to the Okamakammesset principle of anonymous contribution.—Dan Mahony

  

 

W. J. Sidis, 1898 - 1944

 

 +


 

    


BEYONDREPROACH


 

DECLARATIONS OF ITS JOURNALISTIC STANDARDS


"For more than a century, men and women of The Times have jealously guarded the paper’s integrity. ... it is imperative that The Times and its staff maintain the highest possible standards to insure that we do nothing that might erode readers’ faith and confidence in our news columns. This means that the journalism we practice daily must be beyond reproach."

http://www.nytco.com/who-we-are/culture/standards-and-ethics/

"It is our policy to correct our errors, large and small, as soon as we become aware of them. ... If a reader asks for a correction, that request should be passed promptly to a supervisor."

http://www.nytco.com/wp-content/uploads/NYT_Ethical_Journalism_0904-1.pdf

 


 

 

Compiled by Dan Mahony

 

" ... or something worse ... "

 

(Click / tap images to open, again to enlarge.)

 

SIDIS COULD READ AT TWO YEARS OLD
Youngest Harvard Undergraduate
Under Father's Scientific Forcing Process Almost from Birth

GOOD TYPEWRITER AT FOUR

At 5 Composed  Textbook on Anatomy, in Grammar School at 6, Then Studied German, French, Latin, and Russian

Special to The New York Times.


Mon., Oct. 18, 1909

ARTICLE ALLEDGES "SCIENTIFIC FORCING EXPERIMENT"

DOESN'T  CITE ANY SOURCE.

1. NOT TRUE!

------------

"William has taught himself a large part of what he knows."
NYTimes, Sun., Oct. 17, 1909.

His mother Sarah re his early education:

"He asked me a question one day, and then triumphantly said, 'But you will say, "Let's look it up!" and I can look it up myself!' That is the last lesson I gave Billy."—Sidis Story, Chap. 5.

------------

Boris Sidis's early education of his son::

"With the aid of a box of alphabet blocks, [his father Dr. Sidis] actually succeeded in teaching him how to spell and read before he was three. He did this by playing with the boy, shifting the alphabet blocks around to spell different words, pointing to the objects spelt, and naming them aloud. The effect of this was not simply to teach the child spelling and reading, but also to give him a thorough grounding in the principles of sound reasoning.
"Moreover, the method employed by Dr. Sidis seemed to impart to his son a power of mental concentration seldom seen in children. ... Once his attention was arrested, his interest aroused, he was not content until he had learned the exact nature of whatever had excited his curiosity.

Cont. →    

 

 

 

"The child is essentially a thinking animal. No power on earth can keep him from thinking, from using his mind. From the moment his inquiring eyes first take in the details of his surroundings he begins the mental processes which education is intended to guide and develop. He observes, he draws inferences from everything he sees and hears, he seeks to give expression to his thoughts.

“Left to himself, however, he is certain to observe inaccurately and to make many erroneous inferences. Unless he is taught how to think he is sure to think incorrectly, and to acquire wrong thought habits, causing him to form bad judgments respecting matters not only vital to his own welfare but also important to the welfare of society. In fact, in order to get the best results, his training in the principles of correct thinking should begin as soon as, or even before, he starts to talk. There need be no fear of over-taxing his mind. On the contrary, the effect will be to develop and strengthen it, by accustoming him to make habitual use of the latent energy which most people never utilize at all.”—
Boris Sidis In Bending the Twig by Harold Addington Bruce, writer and family friend who witnessed the above.

 

"You must begin a child's education as soon as he displays any power to think. Everybody knows how hard it is to learn a new language late in life. The same holds good of all our acquisitions. The earlier they are acquired the more truly they become part of us."Boris Sidis in Current Literature, 1910

2. The New York Times reports his age incorrectly  on the front page, and

3. in its Sunday magazine.

HARVARD'S CHILD PRODIGY
All Amazed at Mathematical Grasp of  Youngest Matriculate, Aged 13 Years


Mon., Oct. 11, 1909

HE WAS ELEVEN NOT THIRTEEN

His age was the was the most important news detail. 

SAYS HE WENT TO TUFTS THE PREVIOUS YEAR.  4. NOT TRUE.

 SAYS SIDIS WAS CHUMS WITH NORBERT  WIENER THERE. 5. COMPLETE FANTASY.

SAYS HE IS OF POLISH DESCENT. 6.  NOT TRUE. BOTH PARENTS FROM RUSSIA (UKRAINE).

 

 


A Savant at Thirteen, Young Sidis Knows More on Entering Than Many on Leaving.
A Scholar at Three

Sun., Oct. 17, 1909 

7. AGE WRONG FOR FOURTH TIME

"For two years he has been studying at Tufts College."

8.  NOT TRUE. NEVER WENT THERE.  Completely invented, either by the editorial staff, or their unattributed source.

9. Burnout  '...usual fate of child wonders ..." says TNYT AS IT ASSERTS BURNOUT MYTH #1 IS TRUE OF SIDIS

"...the usual fate of child wonders, which is to fall into mediocrity or something worse ..."-ILLUSTRATING A SYSTEM OF EDUCATION, 01/07/1910.

*

FAILURE MYTH REFUTED BY PHILOSOPHER CHARLES SANDERS PEIRCE

       The idea that precocity―or at any rate precocity of any such character as this― generally dies down into mediocrity has very little foundation. Some actually go so far as to think that the very fact of unusual brilliancy in a child at so early an age is a prophesy of little ability when he grows up; a notion that rests upon the same fallacy as that which regards the children of highly gifted parents as less likely to be highly endowed than other children. They are vastly more likely to be thus endowed― as Galton conclusively demonstrated in his "Hereditary Genius."C. S. Peirce, The Nation, 1910

 



BOY OF TEN ADDRESSES HARVARD TEACHERS
Young Sidis Kidnaps the Fourth Dimension and "Revolutionizes Geometry"
PROPOUNDS NEW THEORIES
After the Lecture the Learned Professors Crowd Round the Lad for Further Elucidation


Thursday, Jan. 6, 1910

  

10. AGE WRONG FOR FIFTH TIME

NOW TNYT SAYS HE'S TEN



TOPICS OF THE TIMES
Illustrating a System of Education


Fri., Jan 7, 1910

"The usual fate of child wonders is that they fall into mediocrity or something worse as soon as their years catch up with their precocious achievements." —assures The New York Times.

11. AGE WRONG FOR SIXTH TIME, ALONG WITH

12.  BURNOUT MYTH #1


 

Wonderful Boys of History Compared with Sidis:
All Except Mcauley Showed Special Ability in Mathematics---Instances of Boys Having "Universal Genius"

Sun., Jan. 16, 1910

WORTH  READING. TALKS ABOUT PRODIGIES WHO WERE SUCCESSFUL AS ADULTS.

 

 

13. AGE WRONG FOR SEVENTH TIME

HARVARD'S CHILD QUARTET
Sidis, Aged 13, Has Three Rivals 15 Years Old and Younger
One A Girl


Mon., Jan. 10, 1910

*

PHILOSOPHER CHARLES SANDERS PEIRCE RE BORIS'S ROLE IN SON'S GENIUS

Another question raised in connection with young Sidis is that of training versus native endowment. Dr. Boris Sidis, the eminent psychologist who is the boy's father, is said to regard his son's achievements as indicating that by proper methods of instruction several years could be cut off from the time actually employed in bringing boys up to the college or university stage. With the proposition itself we have no particular fault to find; but that young Sidis's exploits serve in any degree to establish it we deny without hesitation. The part played by native genius is so manifestly predominant in this case as to nullify any general application. This is evident on the face of the matter; but confirmation of the strongest kind is given, if any were needed, in such precedents as those of Pascal or Hamilton, both of whom made the amazing mathematical conquests of their youth without any outside help whatsoever.―C. S. Peirce, The Nation, 1910

 


 DR. SIDIS TO CURE HOBBIES
Receives Gift of Estate for Sanitarium

Mon., Jan. 17, 1910

"CURE HOBBIES"

14.  DISPARAGES BORIS SIDIS
H
ere's what he actually said:

"We know that it is a good thing for a person to have a hobby, since it acts as a mental alternative and serves to relieve the mind from too close application to the business of life. But when the hobby becomes the rider instead of the ridden a halt must be called or insanity is the outcome. Such cases will be treated at the institute."


 

SIDIS, BOY PRODIGY, ILL
Attacked With Grip After His Lecture on "The Fourth Dimension"

Thurs., Jan. 27, 1910

The paper says: "Boy is frail and of an extremely nervous temperament ... he has been weakened recently by overstudy ..." 

15. NOT TRUE. HE'S HEALTHY AND STRONG.

"His cheeks have a ruddy glow, his eyes sparkle, he has a ringing laugh, and is fairly bubbling over with animal spirits."-H. A. Bruce, In Bending the Twig

 

" ... his bodily vigor ... sufficed to secure his admission ..."NYTimect 18, 1909.

THE GRIPPE IS THE FLU.

 



" ... broken down from overwork."  16. .NOT TRUE!

" ... sure to excite a chorus of, "I told you so!"  17. Failure Myth

Young Sidis Suffers a Breakdown


Thurs., Jan. 27, 1910

 Article then says he suffers from "psychasthenia" (a psychological disorder characterized by phobias, obsessions, compulsions, or excessive anxiety) which, it says, is caused by his inability to manage his new-found fame. No source of diagnosis is cited.

18. NOT TRUE.

19. Unethical to  publish a psychiatric diagnosis attributed TO an identified MINOR

POSSIBLY UNLAWFUL.

 

 

 


This little one, based entirely on rumor, packs a big punch in the damage it might have  done to young Sidis's reputation.

FEAR IS FELT FOR SIDIS
Harvard's Boy Scientist May Never Resume his University Work
Special to The New York Times


Fri., Jan. 28, 1910

20.. ITEM 'S MAIN TOPIC IS BASED SOLELY ON RUMOR: "There are rumors in Cambridge that he will never return to his studies."

21.Then iit quotes but does not identify friends of the family: "Too great mental exertion has had a great deal to do with the boy's sudden collapse." Thus again is transmitted the burn-out myth three: all work and no play..

*

   "William James Sidis was a genius. He was by far the most precocious intellectual child of his generation. His death in 1944 as an undistinguished figure was made the occasion for reawakening the old wives tales about nervous breakdowns, burned out prodigies and insanity among geniuses."—-Dr. Abraham Sperling in Psychology for the Millions  

*

FLU'S  GRIP LOOSENS AND HE'S RIGHT  BACK AT SCHOOL. HE PROBABLY TOOK MID-YEAR EXAMS LATE.. HIS TRANSCRIPT SHOWS NO INTERRUPTION OF HIS STUDIES.

 MID-YEAR EXAMS BEGAN THURSDAY, JAN. 27. SAME DAY TNYT  PUBLISHED ARTICLE SAYING HE HAD FLU: Harvard Calendar, 1910.

 


SIDIS OF HARVARD

Mon., Oct. 18, 1909

22. Age wrong again. Says he's 13.

23. Says he went to Tufts.  Not true.


HARVARD A. B. AT 16
William James Sidis the Youngest Student to Get That Degree There


Sun., June 14, 1914, p. 1.

A HUGE SUCCESS BUT THE TIMES CAN SPARE ONLY TWO COLUMN INCHES

BUT STILL IT'S ENOUGH SPACE FOR THREE MORE FACTUAL ERRORS: "He completed his full course of study last year but was declared too young to graduate." 

 24. NOT TRUE! HIS TRANSCRIPT SHOWS A FULL COURSE OF STUDY IN HIS FINAL YEAR.

Youngest Student to Get That Degree There   25. NOT TRUE. COTTON MATHER WAS. SIDIS WAS YOUNGEST ENTRANT, NOT YOUNGEST GRADUATE

TIMES MANAGES TO GET MATHER'S AGE WRONG TOO! "GRADUATED FROM HARVARD AT THE AGE OF 13 ACCORDING TO MUSTY RECORDS"

MATHER ENTERED AT 12, GRADUATED AT 15wiki


 

 

TOPICS OF THE TIMES
PRECOCITY DOESN'T WEAR WELL

Fri., Jan 11, 1924

*

26. A general summary of  the failure myths.


 

 

 

 

 


 

 

DURING THIS TIME HE  COMPLETED HIS STUNNING ACHIEVEMENT IN COSMOLOGY, The Animate and the Inanimate. IN WHICH HE DISCOVERED THE OTHER HALF OF THE UNIVERSE

Not knowing about this book, TNYT wrote:

"The mental fires that burned early have died down."

"The record of achievement ends."

"Disorderly conduct at a socialist meeting."

"At work as a clerk."

"Dresses carelessly."

"Hard not to regret his marvels should have been confined to his adolescence."


SIDIS, A "WONDER" IN BOYHOOD, DIES
Graduate of Harvard  at 16.
He Later Sought Jobs Requiring Little Training
RAN ADDING MACHINE HERE
Retiring to Boston He Taught in School Some Called "Bolshevistic"

Tues., July 18, 1944

IN A REPORT OF A MAN'S DEATH THE NEW YORK TIMES DISPARAGES HIM!

" ... apparently destitute."

27. NOT SO! HIS RENT MUST HAVE BEEN UP TO DATE OR HE WOULDN'T BE LIVING THERE. 

AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH SIDIS HAD TODAY'S EQUIVALENT OF $2500 IN SAVINGS.. SEE BANK LETTER.

"Bill Sidis paid his way; he was no burden on society." Shirley Smith (personal friend)

 DURING A LIFE OF FULL TIME JOBS SIDIS PRODUCED DOZENS OF BOOKS AND OTHER WRITINGS

SAYS "Taught in School Some Called "Bolshevistic"

28.  NOT SO!

"We were both libertarians ... Sidis had a strong love for America and its traditions of freedom." (From Bio by friend Julius Eichel.)

29. SAYS FOR FOURTH TIME HE WENT TO TUFTS.  NOT TRUE.

30..WRONG AGE FOR NINTH TIME. SAYS HE WAS FOURTEEN WHEN HE SPOKE AT A HARVARD MATH CLUB. HE WAS ELEVEN. 



 

 

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES SHOULD CORRECT ALL OF THE ABOVE ERRORS ON THE SAME PAGES THEY ORIGINALLY APPEARED.

*

THE NEW YORK TIMES SHOULD PUBLISH SEVEN WORKS BY W. J. SIDIS IN PAPERBACK AND IN ALL eBOOK, AUDIO AND VIDEO FORMATS WORLDWIDE. ROYALTIES FROM THE SEVEN WORKS SHOULD BE USED TO PROVIDE NECESSARY EQUIPMENT, MATERIALS AND RELATED COSTS TO PERSONS WHO REMAIN IN UNRELATED FULL-TIME EMPLOYMENT WHILE PRODUCING LEGITIMATE WORKS IN ARTS AND SCIENCE ON THEIR OWN TIME.

*

THE NEW YORK TIMES SHOULD FUND SUBSTANTIAL BORIS SIDIS SCHOLARSHIPS IN PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY.

*

THE NEW YORK TIMES SHOULD FUND ALL WEB HOSTING AND MAINTENANCE COSTS OF SIDIS.NET FOR 30 YEARS DURING WHICH NOT A SINGLE WORD OR PUNCTUATION MARK MAY BE CHANGED
 

 





Boris Sidis, Ph. D., M.D.

After years of untrue and unkind journalism regarding himself and his son, this great American psychologist and psychiatrist was deleted from the history books of American psychology.

But now his works get more than a thousand page-views per month here, and The Psychology of Suggestion pdf here has lately averaged more than 5000 page-views per month. (See the Boris Sidis Archive, especially the clickable bibliography.)


 

FORTY-FIVE ITEMS IN THE NEW YORK TIMES
1904 - 1944 re BORIS SIDIS, W. J. SIDIS

 

      (Click / tap images to open, enlarge.)

[Notice of publication of
Multiple Personality
]


Sat., March 26, 1904
 

 

TWO MEN IN ONE
Dr. Sidis Considers the Strange Case of T. C. Hannah as an Instance of Multiple Personality

Sat., December 3, 1904

[Badger Takes Over Publication of The Journal of Abnormal Psychology]

Sat., Feb.9, 1907
IN BOSTON "TECH" AT TEN
Willie Sidis Passes Examinations
Average Age of Freshmen 21
Mon., Sept. 28, 1908
A STUDY OF SLEEP

Sat., May 1, 1909

 

 

HARVARD'S CHILD PRODIGY
All Amazed at Mathematical Grasp of  Youngest Matriculate, Aged 13 Years

Mon., Oct. 11, 1909

*

A Savant at Thirteen, Young Sidis Knows More on Entering Than Many on Leaving.
A Scholar at Three

Sun., Oct. 17, 1909 

SIDIS COULD READ AT TWO YEARS OLD
Youngest Harvard Undergraduate Under Father's Scientific Forcing Process Almost from Birth
GOOD TYPEWRITER AT FOUR
At 5 Composed  Textbook on Anatomy, in Grammar School at 6, Then Studied German, French, Latin, and Russian


Mon., Oct. 18, 1909
SIDIS OF HARVARD

Mon., Oct. 18, 1909
BOY OF TEN ADDRESSES HARVARD TEACHERS
Young Sidis Kidnaps the Fourth Dimension and "Revolutionizes Geometry"
PROPOUNDS NEW THEORIES
After the Lecture the Learned Professors Crowd Round the Lad for Further Elucidation


Thursday, Jan. 6, 1910
TOPICS OF THE TIMES
Illustrating a System of Education


Fri., Jan 7, 1910
YOUNG SIDIS'S TRAINING
Demonstration of It Ought to Revolutionize Our Teaching Methods

(To the Editor)


Sun., Jan. 9, 1910
HARVARD'S CHILD QUARTET
Sidis, Aged 13, Has Three Rivals 15 Years Old and YoungerOne A Girl

Mon., Jan. 10, 1910
The Golden Age of Youth
(To the Editor)


Tue., Jan. 11, 1910

*

SIDIS AN AVATAR?
(To the Editor)

Wed., Jan. 12, 1910




HARVARD'S QUARTET OF MENTAL PRODIGIES
Unique Problem for Psychologists in Education of Young Sidis and His Three
Contemporaries

Sun., Jan., 16, 1910
Wonderful Boys of History Compared with Sidis:
All Except Mcauley Showed Special Ability in Mathematics---Instances of Boys Having "Universal Genius"

Sun., Jan. 16, 1910
DR. SIDIS TO CURE HOBBIES
Receives Gift of Estate for Sanitarium

Mon., Jan. 17, 1910
REINCARNATION

Mon., Jan.,17, 1910
THE FOURTH DIMENSION
It Is a Mathematical Pretension and Quite Profitless
Letter to the Editor

Sun., Jan. 23, 1910
SIDIS, BOY PRODIGY, ILL
Attacked With Grip After His Lecture on "The Fourth Dimension"

Thurs., Jan. 27, 1910
Young Sidis Suffers a Breakdown"


Thurs., Jan. 27, 1910
FEAR IS FELT FOR SIDIS
Harvard's Boy Scientist May Never Resume his University Work

Fri., Jan. 28, 1910
FARMER A RIVAL TO HARVARD PRODIGY
Lightning Calculator Demonstrates His Powers to forty University Professors
WORKS INTRICATE PROBLEMS
Multiplication of Figures of Four Digits Each, Cubes of Three Figures, Cube Roots in a Flash

Sat., Feb. 19, 1910
TOPICS OF THE WEEK
WILLIAM JAMES SIDIS


Sat., March 5, 1910

*

PROFESSOR LOWELL AND MASTER SIDIS

Sun., March 27, 1910

SEE EUCLID IN SIDIS
Theosophists Believe Harvard Prodigy is the Mathematician Reborn


Sun., April 10, 1910
"PHILISTINE AND GENIUS"

Sun., June 25, 1911

*

DR. SIDIS IN AN UNKIND MOOD
His Vigorous and Bitter Indictment of the American System of Popular Education

Sun., June 25, 1911

 

THE DORMANT WAKER
Case of Harvard Professor Who Needs No Sleep Explained

Tues., Feb. 18, 1913

WHAT IS LAUGHTER?
Dr. Boris Sidis Makes a Serious Study of a Humorous Thing

Sun., July 27, 1913
HARVARD A. B. AT 16
William James Sidis the Youngest Student to Get That Degree There


Sun., June 14, 1914, p1.
HOW TO MAKE GENIUSES OF CHILDREN
H. Addington Bruce Gives the Results of "Intensive Child Culture" as Shown in Such Cases as the Son of Dr. Boris Sidis
—New Theories of Education

Sun., July 25, 1915
 

A NOVEL MYSTERY
Exciting and Well-Knit Crook Play Based on Abnormal Psychology
JANE GREY SCORES HEAVILY
Cast and Production of Unusual Quality


Wed., Sept. 5, 1917

FOUR BOSTON RADICALS GET PRISON SENTENCES

Sat., May 3, 1919

*

Young Sidis, 'Harvard Prodigy,' Sentenced to a Year and a Half in Jail for Rioting

Wed., May 14, 1919



 

 

When Infant Prodigies Grow Up
Some of Them Who Did Are Confucius, Caesar, Milton, Galileo, Beethoven and Voltaire


Sun., July 15, 1923

*

DR. BORIS SIDIS DIES
Internationally Known Expert in Psychology Was 56 Years Old


Thu., Oct. 25, 1923

TOPICS OF THE TIMES
PRECOCITY DOESN'T WEAR WELL


Fri., Jan 11, 1924

*

YOUTHFUL PRODIGIES AT GENIUS MEETING
Transfer Collector Speaks

Sun., June 20, 1926, p8.

SUPREME COURT REJECTS SIDIS SUIT


Tues., Dec. 17, 1940

*

NO PRIVACY FOR PRODIGY
High Court Refuses to Grant Seclusion Thirty Years After


Tues., Dec. 17, 1940

 

SIDIS, A "WONDER" IN BOYHOOD, DIES
Graduate of Harvard  at 16.
He Later Sought Jobs Requiring Little Training
RAN ADDING MACHINE HERE
Retiring to Boston He Taught in School Some Called "Bolshevistic"

Tues., July 18, 1944

THE HIDDEN GENIUS


Wed., July 19, 1944

 

 

First Myth: Young Sidis Suffers a Breakdown
 ... sure to excite a chorus of, "I told you so!"

declares The New York Times.

 

Not so!




Thurs., Jan. 27, 1910

 

"The usual fate of child wonders is that they fall

into mediocrity or something worse as soon

as their years catch up with their precocious

achievements," we are assured.

TOPICS OF THE TIMES
Illustrating a System of Education


Fri., Jan 7, 1910

 

Just why so many believed the fallacy that
child prodigies tend toward nervous breakdowns
and unproductive lives is hard to know. There has
never been any actual evidence for it.
 

 

(See Dr. Sperling's short bio of Sidis; research by Dr. Lewis Terman.)

===================================

 

Second Myth: it was supposed that his father, 

Boris Sidis, a great psychologist, somehow caused his

son's genius.

 
Youngest Harvard Undergraduate Under Father's Scientific

Forcing Process Almost from Birth Times declares..

Mon., Oct. 18, 1909

 

Not so!

"William has taught himself a large part of what he knows."NYTimes, Sun., Oct. 17, 1909.

 

His mother Sarah re his education:

"He asked me a question one day, and then triumphantly said, 'But you will say, "Let's look it up!" and I can look it up myself!' That is the last lesson I gave Billy."Sidis Story, Chap. 5.

 

His father's methods:

To realize his great aim of energizing and rationalizing the child, his father Boris began to train him in the use of his observational and reasoning faculties before he was two years old, and, with the aid of a box of alphabet blocks, actually succeeded in teaching him how to spell and read before he was three. He did this by playing with the boy, shifting the alphabet blocks around to spell different words, pointing to the objects spelt, and naming them aloud. The effect of this was not simply to teach the child spelling and reading, but also to give him a thorough grounding in the principles of sound reasoning.

Moreover, the method employed by Dr. Sidis seemed to impart to his son a power of mental concentration seldom seen in children. ... Once his attention was arrested, his interest aroused, he was not content until he had learned the exact nature of whatever had excited his curiosity.—In Bending the Twig by Harold Addington Bruce, writer and family friend who witnessed the above.

 

===================================

 

Third Myth: too much mental exertion caused his supposed failure.

This little one packs a big punch in the damage done to

young Sidis's reputation under the guise of empathy.

 

FEAR IS FELT FOR SIDIS
Harvard's Boy Scientist May Never Resume his University Work
--Times.


Fri., Jan. 28, 1910

THE SOLE SOURCE FOR THIS ITEM IS RUMOR:

"There are rumors in Cambridge that he will never return to his studies."

Then it quotes but does not identify friends of the family:

"Too great mental exertion has had a great deal to do with

the boy's sudden collapse."

 

Not so! HE HAD THE FLU!

 

HE WAS SOON BACK AT SCHOOL.

HIS TRANSCRIPT SHOWS NO INTERRUPTION OF HIS STUDIES.

 

PERHAPS THE ARTICLE OF JAN. 28 WAS PROMPTED BY HIS

ABSENCE THE DAY BEFORE WHEN THE MID-YEAR EXAMS

BEGAN. ONCE RECOVERED, HE PROBABLY TOOK THE EXAMS LATE.

 

 

 

===================================

Fourth Myth: his not working at high-paying

jobs was confirmation of failure.

 

He paid his way and funded his own research.




Tues., July 18, 1944

He Later Sought Jobs Requiring Little Training
RAN ADDING MACHINE HERE
--Times.

 

People's Editor:

This is about Bill Sidis, who died Monday. His numerous friends do not like the false newspaper picture of him as a pauper and anti-social recluse. Bill Sidis held a clerical position until two weeks ago. For two weeks he had received unemployment compensation. the first time in his life. Today he was to start on a new job for which he had already been hired. Bill Sidis paid his way; he was no burden on society.Shirley S. Smith, Wellesley Hills
 

 

 


Comptometer

(Click/tap to enlarge, and again.)

"The "adding machines" that the newspapers described him to be working in later life were comptometers. Moreover, he would work two of them at a time, one with his left hand and one with his right, using his elbows for the space bar. That's not all. Supplied with a full share work that was supposed to consume an eight hour day, he would finish all of it within one hour."--Dr. Abraham Sperling
 

 

===================================

 

Fifth Myth, that his political beliefs

were evidence of failure because he was supposedly

a "Bolshevist."

 

lign="justify"> Not so!

"We were both libertarians ... Sidis had a strong love

for America and its traditions of freedom."

 

(From Bio by friend Julius Eichel.)

 

At the center of his philosophy of life were

(1) the principle of anonymous contribution

(2) the supremacy of individual rights. (See

Continuity News menu. See America's Search

for Liberty in Song and Poem.) Wrote Sidis:

"Unfortunately, too many Americans consider

the search for liberty as at an end, as if it had

been secured and made safe for all time by the

founding fathers. To the contrary, the struggle

for liberty is one requiring eternal vigilance."

 

===================================

 

Myth Six: Inability to Manage Fame.

 Article says he suffers from "psychasthenia"

(a psychiatric disorder characterized by phobias,

obsessions, compulsions, or excessive anxiety) which,

The NYTimes says is " ... caused by his inability to

manage the morbid excitements and excessive attention

to which he probably has been subjected ever since he

leaped into fame..." No source of diagnosis is cited.

Attribution of a psychiatric diagnosis to an identified

minor is certainly unethical, perhaps even unlawful.




Thurs., Jan. 27, 1910

 

===================================

 

  Myth Seven, that his brain hemorrhage

was caused by too much thinking rests on a confusion

of mind and brain.

 

Heredity may have played a role. His father died of

the same infirmity.

 

==================================================

 

It is not difficult to refute the failure myths.

 

That prodigies "burn-out" has been disproved by

abundant historical and statistical evidence. The

well-known research by Lewis Terman shows

that the vast majority of prodigies go on to lead

productive lives. As did Sidis.

 

The second misconception is contradicted by the

practical fact that no psychologist would claim

that genius can be created by any of the methods

of psychology.

 

The third, "all-work-and-no-play," is contradicted

by his mother's description of his early education

much of which was self-motivated.

 

"He asked me a question one day, and then triumphantly

said, 'But you will say, "Let's look it up," and I can

look it up myself!' That is the last lesson I gave Billy."

The Sidis Story

 

Said his father: "My boy plays—plays with his toys,

and plays with his books. And that is the key to the

whole situation. Get the child so interested in study

that study will truly be play."Bending the Twig

 

The fourth, because Harvard's youngest graduate was as an adult engaged at mere labor, he was therefore a failure. This despite the fact that many great scientific discoveries and works of art have been made by persons who were not employees of university corporations. He put in a honest day's work and then did his thinking and writing.

The list is impressive. Here are a few.

Einstein developed his theory of relativity while working as an assistant patent examiner. Presumably when a supervisor came by he slipped his worksheets under the interesting descriptions and diagrams of devices.

Newton? Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Descartes? Artillery advisor to his kingcoordinate geometry.

Philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce? Hundreds of articles for serious journals, encyclopedias and magazines.

Painter Paul Gauguin was a bank teller until he quit to pursue his art full time.

Composer Charles Ives? Insurance. (He once said business life made his music richer.) 

 

 

 

And Sidis? Accountancy Clerk. He paid his own way instead of academe. His hard-earned pay went into his research and self-publishing, especially his extensive travel by street-car across the country researching American history at the local level. At least during his return from Los Angeles. And while Tacitus's warning about the addictive nature of fame might have guided him to some degree, the Okamakammesset principle of anonymous contribution was the path under foot―the hardest to find. The fifth misconception, that his fatal cerebral hemorrhage at age 46 was caused by "thinking too much," rested on the popular confusion of brain with mind. His father, Boris Sidis, died at age 56 from the same physiological cause.

Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D., wrote in 1919 that there is a widespread fear of precocity: "This abject fear of genius and of precocity is one of the most pernicious philistine superstitions, causing the retardation of the progress of humanity."Precocity in Children

 

 

In the first discussion of William's genius, in The Nation  in 1910, possibly written by the great Charles Sanders Peirce, we read: "Dr. Boris Sidis, the eminent psychologist who is the boy's father, is said to regard his son's achievements as indicating that by proper methods of instruction several years could be cut off from the time actually employed in bringing boys up to the college or university stage." With the proposition itself we have no particular fault to find; but that young Sidis's exploits serve in any degree to establish it we deny without hesitation. The part played by native genius is so manifestly predominant in this case as to nullify any general application."

 

And all the while, Sidis's adherence to the

Okamakammesset principle of anonymous contribution

further fed the journalistic nonsense.

(See also Notes on the Collection of Sidis's Pseudonyms.)

 

 

 Sidis, William James, AB. 1914; 8 Concord Ave., Cambridge, Mass. 

From Harvard Law School Directory

 

 

 

 

AN ANNOTATED CHRONOLOGICAL BIBLIOGRAPHY

The following weaves an annotated bibliography of Sidis's writings with another of news articles about him during his lifetime. The only book about him does not dispute the failure myth. One reviewer wrote, "Amy Wallace ... skillfully weaves vitality and wit into this very unfortunate story of wasted genius." Not so! Well spent genius. Very well spent.

 

[William James to Boris Sidis, letters and

postcards 1896 - 1907, Houghton Library,

Harvard University]

-------------------------------------------------------

We see that James occasionally visited the Sidises.

Re W. J. he wrote: "Exercise his motor activities

exclusively for many years now. His intellect will

take care of itself." (James Letters)

Boris was one of James's students at Harvard, and was 

among the first to get the new degree of Ph. D. in

Psychology.

 

At birth came his extremely rare IQ, and a photographic memory.  

Some news stories told of his ability to memorize trolley schedules.

 

Then came a fine academic home-schooling generated

mostly by himself, but happily and ably aided by his parents 

(e.g., his mother taught him to how to spell as he learned

to speak). 

 

Then came a, presumably, excellent education at Harvard

College, and then Harvard Law School. (He completed two

years there and left in good standing.)

 

 But declining any further academic affiliation, his life-long

self-education and research included hundreds of trolley-car

rides to distant libraries and research sites.

 

Sidis tried to lead a perfect moral life, and remained celibate 

as part of that goal. He never spoke ill of anyone. His guiding

principle was the ancient wisdom of a Native-American

nation he had discovered under foot in Middlesex  County,

Massachusetts.

 

An additional benefit of his principled lifestyle was that he

avoided the common ad hominem fallacy of linking his

own great abilities with the truth or falsity of his writings. 

(We readers must do the same. We will judge the truth or

falsity of his writings regardless of their author.)

 

 

A PHENOMENON IN KILTS

Boston Transcript, Nov. 16, 1906

Massachusetts law required boys to attend school,

so he had to endure primary school even though

he already had a college-level education. The

article described his progress through grade school.

One wonders why the 3rd and 5th grades took so long.

 

"...the record from the school register of his advance runs: 

   "First Grade - Only a day or two.

   Second Grade - A few Days.

   Third Grade - Three months.

   Fourth Grade - One week.

   Fifth Grade - Fifteen weeks.

   Sixth and Seventh Grades - Five and a half weeks.

Yesterday morning,  Headmaster. . . of the Brookline High School was persuaded to allow me to see the boy at his work at school without letting him know that anyone was looking at him."

This article, while admiring of him, is an

early example of invasion of his privacy.

This subject would come up again in a big

way 30 years later.

 

AN INFANT PRODIGY

North American Review, 1907, #184, 887-888

It wasn't long before naysayers laid down what

would be a lifelong gauntlet. "With this pathetic

eagerness for utterly irrelevant knowledge, went

also an exaggerated reverence for the written

word." Not so. In fact he had, at an early age, an

eagerness for true knowledge and reverence for

the truth.  

 

At least the confused article concluded with a 

positive: "It is to be hoped that the premature

development will not stop short, but that the

disinterested love of knowledge and of law may

solve some of this world's scientific problems."

Such as the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The article also mentions he "spent his summers at a 

hotel in the mountains...It was his pleasing custom 

to speak of all the guests in the house, in which he

spent his summers..." The guesthouse was

Shackford's in Albany, NH.

 

-------------------------------------------------------

 

DR. SIDIS OF BROOKLINE

Brookline [MA] Chronicle, Mar. 7, 1908

Boris gets his M.D., becoming perhaps the first to

have both a Ph. D. in psychology and M.D. from Harvard.

His Ph.D. in psychology was likely looked down upon

in the field of psychopathology which was ruled by M.D.'s

with little knowledge or understanding of the subject. It's

just that they had Rx power. Boris's sarcastic opening 

sentence in a 1899 talk to the American Medico-

Psychological Assn. was: "I cannot help feeling grateful

to you for the honor you have bestowed on me, a mere

psychologist, by your kind invitation to read a paper on

any subject in my line of work." Nature & Principles of Psychology

-------------------------------------------------------

CHILD ENTERS HARVARD

Boy Prodigy of  Eleven Will

Pursue Special Studies

New York Times, Sunday, Oct. 10, 1909, p.1.

-------------------------------------------------

He is front-page news in the Sunday

Edition of this prestigious international 

newspaper: "The youngest and smallest 

student ever matriculated at Harvard, 

entered to-day as a special student. He is 

William J. Sidis of Brookline, the 11-year-

old son of  Dr. and Mrs. Boris Sidis." The

Times went on to say his parents were

originally from Poland. Not true. They

were from Russia.

 

-------------------------------------------------------

HARVARD'S CHILD PRODIGY

All Amazed at Mathematical Grasp of

Youngest Matriculate Aged 13 Years

"Three years ago the boy first knocked at

the classic gates of Harvard for admittance,

but the powers that be refused him on 

account of his youth."

New York Times, Mon., Oct. 11, 1909, p.1

Front page news for a second day.

But the Times makes a major error:

he is not thirteen but eleven, as the

globally respected newspaper correctly

reported just the day before. His age

is the subject of the story, not his

entering Harvard, which would not

be of interest if he were 17.

-------------------------------------------------

We begin to see just how much falsity

can make its way into the news





.
The article goes on to tell how the registrar,

referring to previous attempts at  admission,

asks: "What, again?" W. J. had passed

the entrance exams two years earlier but

was rejected because of his age. This year

was different however. There was now a

prodigy project. Boris had just delivered

"Philistine and Genius" at the Harvard

Summer School graduation ceremony.

It dealt with the faults of the educational

system and urged early-childhood education.

It would come back to haunt him and his son.

The real story was early-childhood education.

-------------------------------------------------

 

A SAVANT AT THIRTEEN YOUNG

SIDIS KNOWS MORE ON ENTERING

THAN MANY ON LEAVING

A Scholar at Three

New York Times, Sunday, Oct. 17, 1909, Pt.5, p.9

 

For the second time the Times gets the central fact

wrong: his age! And things go downhill from there:

"He is a Russian Jewone is tempted to write

'of course' after that sentence, so common are boy

wonders among the Jews, and especially among

Russian Jews." What follows is even worse: the

first signs of the Burnout Myth that would persist

in the press to his last day: "Child wonders are

usually looked on rather coldly and there are

always prophets to predict the sad end of precocity.

 

-------------------------------------------------

SIDIS COULD READ AT TWO YEARS OLD

Under Father's Scientific Forcing Almost

from Birth

New York Times, Oct. 18, 1909

Boris has somehow managed to force genius.

-------------------------------------------------

 

SIDIS OF HARVARD

New York Times, Oct. 18, 1909, p.6

 

Asks intelligent questions about his

education. Decides reserve energy

is his secret power. Maybe so. But as

The Nation would soon assert, it is a

case of unusual abilities at the far end

of the Bell Curve, combined with a pre-

school education and home schooling

and a student with a love of knowledge.

-------------------------------------------------

 

SIDIS OF HARVARD

Youngest Freshman in the History of the College

Boston Sunday Herald, Nov. 7, 1909, p.5

 

A picture is worth a thousand words. The distortion

 of his image implies that there must be something

wrong with him.

 

He was not a freshman. He was admitted as a
special student in a experimental prodigies project.
A number of child prodigies from around the
country were "accepted" (assembled) to take
part in an experimental curriculum. The aim was
to educate them in such a way as to grant them a
real BA, not one with an asterisk. He was to take
a so-called Half-Course (Mathematics 6 1)
extended over a full year. He got a B.

He remained a special student for the next three

years taking a full course load, and was matriculated

as a senior in his fifth year in 1913. His grades?

10 A's, 9 B's, 4 C's:  transcript1.jpg (669299 bytes) 

 

The senior class included one Richard Buckminster

Fuller who, upon receiving a copy of The Animate

and the Inanimate 65 years later, expressed in a

letter to Scientific American his "...excitement and

joy that Sidis did go on to fulfill his promise."

--------------------------------------------------

 

ELEVEN YEAR OLD BOY LECTURES TO

MATHEMATICIANS

Answers Questions for Half An Hour; Talks

About  Parallelopipedon and

Hectatonacosahedron With Utmost Ease

[Boston Globe ?], Jan. 6, 1910, p.1.

 

Fragments: "In the games played in fourth-

dimension land the good player is he who can find 

new short cuts in arriving at points, planes, faces 

and sides. When you find a new short cut you get the 

same pleasant sensation as when you are able to

fit two pieces into a jig-saw puzzle at the same time.

But the real situation is that we live in a three-dimensional 

world. We know length, breadth, and height. Suppose we...

had one more dimension, a fourth?

The easy manner in which, in his discussions, he

approached and passed over the word "parallelopipedon"

made the professors gasp, and when he began to coin

a few words and between breaths slipped out 

"hectatonacosahedragon" [hectatonacosahedron?]...

After drawing figures and proving theories until everyone

in the room was amazed, young Sidis suddenly glanced 

at his watch in true platform style and brought his lecture

to a close. Then the professors asked him questions for 

half an hour."

 

 --------------------------------------------------

Boy of 11 Astounds Professors

Boston Transcript, Jan. 6, 1910, p.1

 

Front-page hyperbole. Only a few

faculty were present, and none said he

was astounded, though one thought

Sidis showed "great promise."

 --------------------------------------------------

BOY OF TEN ADDRESSES

HARVARD TEACHERS

New York Times, Jan. 6, 1910, p.1

The Times gets his age wrong a third

time, this time lower rather than higher.

His age was the most important aspect

of the news about him at the time.

--------------------------------------------------

Here are the minutes of that meeting of the Harvard Math Club.


 [Collected Minutes of the Harvard Math Club, p 93.]

 

 

--------------------------------------------------

 

ILLUSTRATING A SYSTEM OF EDUCATION

(letter to the Editor)

New York Times, Jan. 7, 1910, p.8

Young Sidis' Training (letter to the Editor)

New York Times, Jan. 9, 1910, p.8

The Golden Age of Youth (letter to the Editor)

New York Times, Jan. 11, 1910, p.8

Readers begin to wonder about 'burnout'. It is

here we begin to see the public's role in what

a newspaper says. The burnout myth was a 

public misconception. The media here reiterate

that misconception.

 

-----------------------------------------------------

Sidis An Avatar? (letter to the Editor)

New York Times, Jan. 12, 1910, p.8

 

Apparently not all its readers believed in burnout.

-----------------------------------------------------

 

Precocity and Genius

The Nation, Jan. 13, 1910, pp. 31-32

 

This article, possibly written by the great

American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce,

discusses nurture vs. nature.

 

       The idea that precocity―or at any rate precocity of any such character as this―generally dies down into mediocrity has very little foundation. Some actually go so far as to think that the very fact of unusual brilliancy in a child at so early an age is a prophesy of little ability when he grows up; a notion that rests upon the same fallacy as that which regards the children of highly gifted parents as less likely to be highly endowed than other children. They are vastly more likely to be thus endowed―as Galton conclusively demonstrated in his "Hereditary Genius."

       Another question raised in connection with young Sidis is that of training versus native endowment. Dr. Boris Sidis, the eminent psychologist who is the boy's father, is said to regard his son's achievements as indicating that by proper methods of instruction several years could be cut off from the time actually employed in bringing boys up to the college or university stage. With the proposition itself we have no particular fault to find; but that young Sidis's exploits serve in any degree to establish it we deny without hesitation. The part played by native genius is so manifestly predominant in this case as to nullify any general application. This is evident on the face of the matter; but confirmation of the strongest kind is given, if any were needed, in such precedents as those of Pascal or Hamilton, both of whom made the amazing mathematical conquests of their youth without any outside help whatsoever.

 

-----------------------------------------------------

He Has No Equal: William James Sidis

World's Most Wonderful Boy

Utica [NY] Saturday Globe, Jan. 15, 1910

 

Article says, "Oh well, look at his father

and mother. Dr. Sidis is a Harvard man

and has an international reputation for

his brilliant work...while his wife [Dr.

Sarah Sidis] holds the degree of medicine

and is wonderfully brilliant."

 

 

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------

Professor Sidis Assails Harvard Methods

Offers New Child Training Ideas

Fragment from Boston (?) newspaper,

Jan. 17, 1910.

 

Article about Boris's new book  Philistine and Genius

reads, "...or at least it is supposed that [Harvard's]

President Eliot was referred to..." There must have

been some Harvard brew-ha-ha over this matter. 

The average Harvard professor doesn't get much

media attention at all, let alone a taste of 15-minute 

superstardom. But Boris was mainly questioning the

educational system in and did not mention Harvard.

This matter will reappear shortly.

 

  -----------------------------------------------------

Of Personal Interest

Boston Advocate, Jan. 17, 1910

" ... he is of extremely happy disposition, brimming over with humor and fun. His physical condition is splendid, his cheeks glow with health. Many a girl would envy his complexion. Being above five feet four, he towers over the average boy his age. ... He is healthy, strong, and sturdy.

------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

-----------------------------------------

THE OUTLOOK

A Weekly Newspaper

Vol. XCIV, March 5, 1910, p.545.

LETTERS TO THE OUTLOOK

 

 

Transcript   Harvard Calendar, 1910

------------------------------------------------------------

"Bending the Twig" by Harold Addington Bruce

American Monthly, 1910, #69, 690-695

Writer Harold Bruce was a Sidis family friend.

------------------------------------------------------------

 

"Masters of the Mind" by H. A. Bruce

American Magazine, 1910, #71, 71-81

 

Article about the major psychologists of

the time presents Boris Sidis and Sigmund

Freud as equal in influence. Boris strongly

argued against the fundamental assumptions

of psychoanalysis in a number of his books.

Freud made sure to ignore him.

---------------------------------------------------------

The Boy Prodigy of Harvard

 

Current Literature, 1910, #48, 291-293

 

---------------------------------------------------------

"Boy prodigy and the Fourth Dimension"

by F. Fleischman

Harpers Weekly, 1910, #54, 9

---------------------------------------------------------

Sidis Boy

Independent, 1910, #68, 162

---------------------------------------------------------

 

NOTES AND NEWS

        Mrs. Martha S. Jones, of Boston, Mass., has presented her estate and magnificent parks near Portsmouth, N. H., to Dr. Boris Sidis, of Brookline, Mass., for the purpose of establishing a private hospital, to be named 'The Maplewood Farms, Sidis Psychotherapeutic Institute,' in which modern methods of psychopathology and psychotherapeutics will be employed in the treatment of functional nervous diseases. The hospital will open in the early spring.

[Psychological Bulletin, 1910, 7, 75.]

 

 

 

Advertisement in Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1910

   

 

 ---------------------------------------------------------

Dr. Sidis To Open Novel Institution

Made Possible by Mrs. Martha Jones Gift

New Bedford [MA] Standard, June 25, 1911

 (Click.)

 

The first of what was to become known as residential

treatment centers. One of its many innovations

was residential family therapy.

---------------------------------------------------------

 

[Book review of] Philistine and Genius  by

Boris Sidis. New York Times, June 25, 1911, p. 404

---------------------------------------------------------

 

Dr. Sidis In An Unkind Mood: His Vigorous

and Unkind Indictment of the American

System of Popular Education

New York Times, June 25, 1911, p. 402

-------------------------------------------------------------

Review of Boris's 10th book, Philistine and Genius

 in which he argued that education

should begin much earlier than age five. He

added that "In every child there is genius."

 

 

Dr. Sidis On Education

Boston Transcript, July 1, 1911

 

 

"Intellectual Precocity: Comparison Between

J. S. Mill and the Son of Dr. Boris Sidis"

by Tom Williams

Pedagogical Seminary, 1911, #18, 85-103

 

 

"Lightning Calculators"

by Harold Addington Bruce

McClure's Magazine, 1912, #39, 586-596

----------------------------------------------------------

Has picture of WJS but nothing about him.

 

 

"Precocious Children" by Katherine Dolbear

Pedagogical Seminary, 1912, #19, 461-491

----------------------------------------------------------

"The effect of his education seems to have been

to produce a boy who can do wonderful, even

brilliant reasoning but has difficulty in transferring

that reasoning power to everyday affairs. In a class

room at Harvard where a formula was being explained

the boy became bored and began to balance his

hat upside down on his head."

Academic statement of the burnout myth.

 

Portrait

McClure's Magazine, 1912, #39, 586

 

 

Portrait

Literary Digest, 1912, #54, 514

 

 

"A Record of Experiments" by Joseph Hyslop

Proc. of Amer. Soc. of Psychical Research,

1912, #6, 371-372

--------------------------------------------------------------

A subject in an experimental investigation of

psychic processes happens to mention Sidis.

 

 

The Dormant Waker

New York Times, Feb. 18, 1913, p.12

----------------------------------------------------

Discusses Boris's Psychology of Sleep but refers to

him as "a Harvard Professor, unnamed"

 

 

 

[Untitled]

New York Times, May 7, 1914, p.10

----------------------------------------------------

Leaks, a month early, impending

graduation of Sidis from Harvard.

 

 

Harvard A. B. At 16, William James Sidis,

the youngest student to get degree there

New York Times, June 14, 1914, p.1

----------------------------------------------------------

His transcript indicates he was given no

special treatment and that he did well

enough on his exams and other

requirements to graduate Cum Laude

at the age of an average high school senior.

 

 

Sidis, W. J., Unconscious Intelligence

Appendix IV of Symptomatology,

Psychognosis, and Diagnosis of

Psychopathic Diseases by Boris Sidis

Ph.D., M.D. Boston: Badger, 1914, 432-439.

------------------------------------------------------

Presents a logical argument against the

foundations of psychoanalysis. 

The subconscious has been explained in two ways; according to one of these, the phenomena of the subconscious are manifestations of a consciousness, possessing all the attributes of intelligence and other adaptations that any consciousness possesses, while according to the other theory there is behind these phenomena an "unconscious intelligence" which has all the properties of intelligence, but which somehow or other is not conscious.

He argues that psychoanalytic theory makes a classic

scientific error by assigning different causes to the same

effects. The effects caused by a psychoanalytic

'unconscious' and the effects caused by conscious

processes, "...have no points of difference sufficient

to justify a difference in explanation (p. 435)." 

Unconscious Intelligence

 

 

This Plan Is Full Of Promise

New York Times, April 24, 1915, p.10

------------------------------------------------------

Subtly hints at 'burnout'.

 

 

'14 - William James Sidis Is A Fellow In

Mathematics (instructing) at the Rice

Institute, Houston, Tex.

Harvard Alumni Bulletin, Oct. 20, 1915

--------------------------------------------------

Being constitutionally unable to be

a faculty member, then or thereafter,

he returned to Boston and entered

Harvard Law School.

 

 

"A Twelve Year Old Boy Wonder Child"

by R. H. Moulton

American Magazine, Feb. 1915, #79, 56-58

 

 

"Portrait"

Illustrated World, 1915, #24, 49

 

 

"William James Sidis, the Harvard Prodigy

Who Graduated At 16, as he looks today

(caption under photo)."

 

Fragment from Boston Sunday Herald

 

------------------------------------------

Bruce, Harold Addington

The Riddle of Personality

NY: Moffat Yard, 1915, 88-93

 

Bruce offers a 'bending the twig'

theory of education.

 

------------------------------------------

 

------------------------------------------

'Nerves' and Experts On What To Eat:

Dr. Boris Sidis Considers Abnormal

Psychology Exaggerated Heredity

Boston Herald, March 24, 1917

-------------------------------------------------------

A complete confusion of Boris's theory

that genes play a major part in our 

makeup and his distinction between the

'abnormal' and the 'pathological' in his

masterwork The Foundations of Normal

and Abnormal Psychology : "The

abnormal is the normal out of place [e.g.,

walking is normal but not while asleep], the

'pathological' is the normal under extreme

conditions [e.g., excessive cleanliness]

                   Boris Sidis Archives

 

 

[Transcript from Harvard Law School, 1917]

That he also completed two years at Harvard Law,

was never mentioned by the press.

 

 

Sidis, William "A Remark on the Occurrence of 

Revolutions" (with foreword by Boris Sidis

Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1918, 13, 213-228

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sidis remarks on a statistical correlation between sunspot 

cycles the occurrence of revolutions.

 However, I do not wish to be understood as saying that the sun-spots cause revolutions. An appearance of sun-spots could not, by itself, produce revolution unless other circumstances are already such as to cause the revolution. All such revolutions would occur anyway, even without the sun-spot variations; but these sun-spot variations superadd natural extremes of climate, causing not only physical discomfort but danger to life and health, thus hastening a revolt that might otherwise have waited for a very long time."   

 

Revolutions

 

 

Arrest 114 Men and Women In Connection with Riot

Boston Herald, May 3, 1919

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Riot" = peaceful protest.

 

 

Arrest 102 In Roxbury

Boston Transcript, May 3, 1919

 

 

Four Boston Radicals Get Prison Sentences

New York Times, May 3, 1919

 

 

Boston Rioters' Cases Disposed Of

Bangor [Maine] Commercial, May 3, 1919

 

 

Sidis Gets Year And Half In Jail

Boston Herald, May 14, 1919.

 

 

 

 

Distortion of his beliefs and picture notwithstanding, this article 

details his testimony in the trial that focused on his beliefs. 

Interestingly, his political socialism at age 21seems based on 

the Declaration of Independence and government by consent of 

the governed. His later libertarianism and pacifism were based 

on the same principles of the primacy of individual rights. Click

the picture or the link above it for full text of this article.

 

 

Young Sidis, "Harvard Prodigy," Sentenced

To A Year And A Half In Jail For Rioting

New York Times, May 14, 1919, p.1

--------------------------------------------------------------

 

He served the time in house arrest supervised 

by his parents. See his reaction to it in 

"Railroading" in the Past

 

 

A Youthful Prodigy In Trouble

New York Times, May 15, 1919, p.16

Genius Early Revealed

New York Times, May 15, 1919, p.16

 

Burnout myth grows. Having taken

part in an anti-draft demonstration

suggests burn-out.

 

------------------------------------------------------

JUNE 3, 1919

------------------------------------------------------

Boris Sidis The Harvard Boy Prodigy A

Candidate To Serve Out A Jail Sentence

Is A Candidate For Attorney General of

Massachusetts

Lowell [MA] Courier-Citizen, June 11, 1919

 

Article states, "He stands to know a few

things about the law before he gets through."

This was a period of high activism and personal

profile in public life. His declared "candidacy"

was a symbolic act to make a point.

 

April 25, 1923: Prosecutor will not proceed with case.

 

 ------------------------------------------------------

 

[Tuesday, January 6, 1920. Sidis completes The Animate

and the Inanimate, and then waits five years to publish it

(see below.)]

 

"The Secret Of Sound Sleep"

by Boris Sidis M.D., Ph.D.

American Monthly, Dec. 1922, p.36

---------------------------------------------------

This article, one of more than 50, was his last.

 

 

Dr. Boris Sidis Dies Suddenly

Portsmouth [NH] Herald, Oct. 25, 1923

 

 

Dr. Boris Sidis Dies

New York Times, Oct. 25, 1923, p.19

 

 

Precocity Doesn't Wear Well

New York Times, Jan. 11, 1924, p.16

-----------------------------------------------------

More 'burnout' myth.

 

Sidis Inherits $4000, May 23, 1924

----------------------------------------------------

 Documents

 

 

 

 

Sidis, W. J., The Animate and the Inanimate.

(Boston: Badger, 1925).

----------------------------------------------------------------

He begins the first chapter of this earthshaking work with a

remarkable discovery of what might be called the first law

of physical laws, modestly presented:

Among the physical laws it is a general characteristic that there is reversibility in time; that is, should the whole universe trace back the various positions that bodies in it have passed through in a given interval of time, but in the reverse order to that in which these positions actually occurred, then the universe, in this imaginary case, would still obey the same laws.      

The only physical law that does not meet the reversibility

requirement is the second law of thermodynamics. And 

therein lies a great secret:

In the theory herein set forth, we suppose that reversals of the second law are a regular phenomenon, and identify them with what is generally known as life. This changes the idea of unavailable energy into that of a reserve fund of energy, used only by life, and created by non-living forces.

Hence, in the last analysis, the second law of thermodynamics is to be interpreted as a mental law, as the law determining the direction in which a given mind will conceive of time as flowing.

His discovery has immense ramifications for the way we
understand the universe and indeed ourselves. In Chapter 3,
he presents a devastating argument against the still popular
Big Bang theory. He concludes that the highest probability is
that the universe is infinite and eternal as per the First Law of
Thermodynamics: energy is neither created nor destroyed;
and that the second law of thermodynamics is a psychological
law governing the way we perceive the universe. There are
other more mysterious ramifications such as the continuity of
consciousness after physical death, but this last matter must be
left to time.

 

 

Sidis, W. J. Notes on the Collection of Transfers

by Frank Folupa (pseud.) Phila.: Dorrance, 1926

From Introduction:

This book is a description of what is, so far as the author is aware, a new kind of hobby, but one which seems on the face of it to be as reasonable, as interesting, and as instructive as any other sort of collection fad. This is the collection of streetcar transfers and allied forms. The author himself has already collected over 1000 such forms, there being no duplicates included. We have been very much tempted to give this process of transfer collection some special name, similar to 'philately,' for stamp collection, and 'numismatics' for coin and medal collection. Consequently, we went so far as to coin the term 'peridromophilly' for the general subject of transfer collection, and concurrently with this, 'peridromophile' for the transfer collector.

As usual, Sidis is modest about the importance of his work.

The book preserves for posterity a complete record of the US

trolley-car system of the 1920s. The press, apparently

without exception, saw it as further evidence of his 'burnout'.

But Notes on the Collection of Transfers is taxonomy

Aristotelian in breadth and detail.

 

The transfers were collected while he was "riding his hobby"

in order to research the Tribes and the States at the local level.

 

Many suggestions have been made re his pseudonym. Perhaps

Frank = French, and Folupa = fallu pas (wasn't practical or necessary).

 

 

Russia Has Opportunities: Dr. [Sarah] Sidis

Recently Returned from Foreign Land Says

Wages of People High, Art Appreciated,

But Bread Is Scarcity

Manchester [NH] Union, March 4, 1929

 

196 West Canton St., Boston (ca 1981)

 

                                                                                112 W119, NYC Today

 

 

[Ripley's Believe Or Not]

 

 

Calend1.jpg (140313 bytes) Sidis, W. J., Perpetual Calendar

US Patent No. 1,718,314 , June 25, 1929
US Index of Patents, 1929, 658 - 660.
US Patent No. 1,784,117, Dec. 9, 1930
US Index of Patents, 1930, 638 - 640.
------------------------------------------------------
His great discovery is (1) a mere 56 calendars are 
necessary for a perpetual calendar, and that (2) 
they can be quite simply organized within a circle 
which rotates within a surrounding square.
 

   The invention relates to perpetual calendars in which week-days can be found directly for any given date whatever; and its object is, first, to provide a means by which all such weekdays can be looked up in a direct, simple, and easily understandable manner; secondly, to avoid the cross-reference tables or complex mechanism, one or the other of which have hitherto generally been features of perpetual calendars providing means to look up the week-day of any given date whatever; thirdly, to provide a perpetual calendar in which, once the calendar is adjusted for any given year, a complete and condensed calendar for the year is plainly visible; fourthly, to simplify the parts and their interrelation by the elimination of indicators or pointers which add to the difficulty and expense of manufacture and to the derangement of the operation of the calendar.

Dare anyone dream of the royalties

for this invention? Better yet, dare

anyone dream of inventing such a

device after so many great

mathematicians had failed to do so?

Patent   Photo

 

 

Sidis, W. J. The Orarch 

A newsletter on liberty and related subjects. 

Orarchy = limited government, as opposed

to anarchy = no government. Sidis was by this

time a 'libertarian', maybe the first to use the term. 

He may be hinting at this in: The Modern Gray Champion.

 

 

Sidis, W. J., The Tribes and the States  by John

W. Shattuck (pseud.), ca. 1932. Unpub. ms. 620 pages.

     There are certain definite departures from the common and well-known points of view regarding America and its past that the reader will notice. At the opening, it is obvious that the beginnings of American history are sought not in Europe but here in America, among the peoples who originally inhabited this country.

    The material is partly the legends and traditions of the tribe itself, some of which are embodied in its poems, which are freely quoted throughout this history; partly well-known historical facts and dates, as interpreted from this different point of view; partly facts which are definitely known but which the ordinary history fails to bring out because varying from the standard "patriotic point of view―all originally presented by the "tribe" as isolated material, but in this history for the first time woven into a continuous whole.

---

There are other points of difference from the established text-book view of history, such as: picturing America as a country where popular revolts have been the rule rather than the exception, and even as the origin and inspiration of such revolts throughout the world; describing George Washington, not as the hero of the American Revolution, as he is ordinarily considered, but rather as one who had little sympathy with democracy, and finally overthrew by conspiracy the republic the Revolution established; the existence of a First Republic (John Hancock being its first president) representing the American Revolution, and a Second Republic representing a political counter-revolution; the pre-revolutionary co-operative factory and civil disobedience systems in Massachusetts; or the various peculiar theories of economic and political functions and development as presented here.

At the heart of this extraordinary history of North

America from prehistoric times is Sidis's Continuity Theory:

The history is thus not a history from the point of view of ancestry, but rather of locality. The idea developed is that in each locality there is a certain continuity of tradition that persists in spite of the changing character of its population—not that the geographical characteristics compel this, as some have supposed, but rather that each successive wave of invasion or immigration acquires the traditions from the previous inhabitants of the region.

In America, as in most cases of this sort, the original institutions of the place not merely have a strong influence on the new people and guide them to the formation of their own societies, but, in so far as they are displaced, show a strong tendency to come back

To this day, twenty-six American states retain their Native-American
names. The Massachusetts state flag depicts a red man, and even 
the Mass. Confederacy, the first white democratic government in 
America, adopted a red man as its symbol. Not to mention
the concept of federation invented by the Iroquois 
(Hodenosaunee) which is still spreading around the world
today, and well-established in the rotating presidership
(presidency) of the UN Security Council.
Sidis's sources for the history of the red people were:
 

 "The various designs of the colored beads in a wampum belt expressed ideas as definitely as any form of writing; and tribal history, minutes of meetings--even personal letters, were written by weaving wampums to express the ideas intended to be conveyed(Chapter III)."

The Tribes and the States

 

 

Out Today: Harvard Prodigy

New York World Telegram,

Aug. 13, 1937, p.15

 

Reports publication of infamous

 New Yorker article.

 

--------------------------------------------

"Where Are They Now? April Fool" by Jared L. Manley
The New Yorker, August 14, 1937, 22-26
----------------------------------------------------------------
This article, written by James Thurber, was central to a
a well-known US Supreme Court decision in 1941. It implied
that Sidis's enthusiasm for the Okamakammessets 
was evidence of burn-out. As to "April Fool," he 
was born on April 1. Many celebrities, such as Carol
Burnett, have lost invasion-of-privacy cases due to the
legal precedent set by the Sidis case. And paparazzi

cases with many movie stars.
 

 

Sidis, W. J., Atlantis  ca. 1937. Unpub. ms. missing.

Atlantisltr.jpg (201585 bytes)

--------------------------------------------

 

No Privacy for Prodigy

New York Times, Dec. 17, 1941, p.21

 

Reports US Supreme Court decision  on Sidis's case against The New Yorker magazine for having violated his rights to privacy in its 1937 article. He had not assented to an interview. Sidis probably personally funded his case.

 

--------------------------------------------

Sidis vs. F-R Pub. Corp

Federal Reporter, 1941, #113, 807-811

 

In a 5 - 4 opinion, hence by the vote of a single
Justice, the US Supreme Court decided that fame
cast upon one's shoulders the burden of losing
one's rights of privacy. Chief Justice Brandeis, the
deciding vote, said The New Yorker article was,
"...merciless in its dissection of intimate details
of its subject's life," and further admitted that
ALL have the "... right to be protected from
the prying of the press..." But he proceeded to
deny Sidis that right because he was a public
figure! This case set the precedent which has
come up time and again in celebrity libel cases
against the press.
 

--------------------------------------------

Boston1.jpg (167689 bytes) "Meet Boston" by Jacob Marmor (pseud.)

What's New In Town, Jan. 3, 1941 - Sept. 18, 1942

---------------------------------------------------------------------

89 weekly columns on interesting and little known 

facts about Boston and its history. First week was

titled "Strange But True."  (Marmor was Boris's

mother's maiden name.)

--------------------------------------------

 

Peridromophily and Mr. Willie Sidis

The Evening Sun (Baltimore), Jan. 8, 1943

 

"Peridromophily" was Sidis's name for his

hobby of collecting trolley-car transfers.

 

 --------------------------------------------

One Time Child Prodigy Found Destitute Here

Boston Traveler, July 14, 1944, p. 1

--------------------------------------------

 

Hub Prodigy Who Held Clerk's Job Dies Penniless

Boston Traveler, July 17, 1944

 

Most  Bostonians considered their lovely city to be

the Hub of the Universe then. Perhaps it was.

 

--------------------------------------------

Landlady Tells How Sidis Was Stricken

Boston Traveler, July 17, 1944

--------------------------------------------

 

Sidis A "Wonder" In Childhood Dies

New York Times, Wednesday, July 18, 1944. p. 21

  "... apparently destitute ... "

It is just amazing how the New York Times,

respected around the world for the quality

and accuracy of its journalism, could so often

print mistakes re W. J. Destitute? He had

$652.81 in his bank account. That amounts

to $8,674.84 in 2013.

--------------------------------------------

Sidis Once Prodigy Dies In Hospital In Obscurity

Boston Herald, July 18, 1944

His death after a lifetime of press

attention was international news.

--------------------------------------------

 

The Hidden Genius

New York Times, Wednesday,

July 19, 1944, p.18

 

'Burnout' one last  time.

--------------------------------------------

"Sidis' Boyhood Seen Case of All Work

and No Play" by Alice Burke

Boston Traveler, July 19, 1944

--------------------------------------------

"Sidis Was Victim Of An Experiment"

by Shirley S. Smith.

Boston Traveler, July 19, 1944

 

--------------------------------------------

"What Happened To One Child Prodigy"

by Ruth Reynolds

New York Sunday News, July 23, 1944, 38-41;

"Taught Son Everything But How To Live"

by Ruth Reynolds

Boston Sunday Post, August 6, 1944

Same article, different titles.

--------------------------------------------

 

Prodigious Failure

Time, July 31, 1944, #44, p.60

 

To entitle an obituary of any human being
in this way makes this a low point in the
history of journalism. An apology has long
been in order given the prestige of this
periodical.
 

--------------------------------------------

Burned Out Prodigy

Newsweek, July 31, 1944, #24, 77-78

--------------------------------------------

 

"William James Sidis" by Hallowell Bowser

Saturday Review, July, 1944

--------------------------------------------

 

Psychology for the Millions

by Abraham Sperling, Ph.D.

NY: F. Fell, Inc., 1946, 332-339.

 

City College of New York professor was

the first Sidis biographer. He visited Helena

Sidis and tells of having seen a dozen

manuscripts written by Sidis.  See also

Re Atlantis Manuscript   

Re Philology & Anthropology Mss.

--------------------------------------------

In a letter to Julius Eichel, who had been

a friend of Sidis, Sperling wrote:

Also I am thoroughly familiar with his desire to avoid publicity and his friends' wishes to observe that desire. However, since the appearance of so many distorted news and magazine articles about Bill since his passing, a true and worthy account of the noble spirit and motives that guided Bill Sidis through life is more than justified (Monday, June 25, 1945).

Amen to that!

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