There’s something strange going on at Harvard. An 11-year-old-boy is addressing the crowd — and he’s being taken very seriously. He speaks about complex math, and what he says wows folks many decades his senior. No, this is definitely no normal kid. But who is he? And given that he was smarter than Einstein, why don’t you know his name?
A child prodigy like no other
That boy was William Sidis — the son of a psychologist and a doctor. And for a while, he got off to a promising start that made it look as if he would achieve true greatness. By the time he was a mere eight years old, reports claim, he could speak multiple languages, including one he had made up himself. It was in mathematics that he really excelled, though. Sidis even made history through his remarkable talent.
The very youngest Ivy-League student
At just 11 years of age, Sidis became the youngest person ever to enroll at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was not just any college, but arguably the most prestigious of them all — it marked quite an achievement for the young scholar. All the pieces were in place for the child prodigy to grow into an incredible adult, one with the capability to change the world. But somewhere along the line, something went very wrong.
Supposedly smarter than Einstein
Although solid facts are hard to come by, many academics who interacted with the boy believed that Sidis had an IQ far above that of Albert Einstein. Surely, then, he was destined for big things? But a quick glance through any history book will confirm the strange truth: this genius never reached his full potential. In fact, he did not seem to leave much of an impression at all. And that has to make you ask: what happened?
Sidis had plenty of support, after all — at least when he was a child. Born in 1898 in New York, he was the son of parents who had both fled persecution. His mother Sarah had escaped a series of religious purges in Russia during the 1880s, while his father Boris had run from politically motivated oppression to settle in the U.S. But despite — or perhaps because of — their turbulent backgrounds, the couple had big dreams for their young son.