How much do I want to read more? 8/10
What stroke me is the brillance his parents achieved through an astonishing hardship. I'm wondering if it's even possible to imagine such pain they must have endured with their life from age 1 to age 20. Things like sacrifice, leaving everything behind, tragical death, constant financial pressure, working on crappy jobs in harsh condition. Barely surviving. And still, studying, fulfilling their thirst for knowledge and being educated. It's really: Life breaks you or makes you. They must have ended up so strong making it!
My life is like 1 million times easier than theirs. If I would have been constantly set off my comfort zone like that, I wonder what I would have become. I just have great admiration here. And I feel ashamed for not struggling enough in my life, for not going through the pain that brings everything I value the most in life.
I feel ashamed because, their real story might be distorted here, but still, it gives a glimpse at our ancestor's life. How they struggled for the well-being of the next generations.
I feel ashamed for not giving my very best. It's like, ideally, I prefer to suffer material pain and make my life worthwhile than the reverse.
I don't feel worthwhile of the sweat and suffering of my ancestors, but in a good way, it encourages me to give my best from now on. And as far as I can, to give some contribution for the next generations.
I also got stroke with how detached from material necessities his father was. His unique concern was of the mind. He learned to think while being emprisonned in a rotten cell for two years. And thinking has been his focus for all his life since then.
It reminds me how I don't mind eating or how the material world doesn't concern me when I'm truly in flow with a mind activity. I imagine that x 1000 and for a lifetime. That's truly awesome.
His IQ was an estimated 50 to 100 points higher than Einstein's, the highest ever recorded or estimated. His father, a pioneer in the field of abnormal psychol- ogy, believed that he and his wife could create a genius in the cradle. They hung alphabet blocks over the baby's crib+ and within six months little Billy was speaking. At three, he was typing and had taught himself Latin. At five, ht wrote a treatise on anatomy, and, by age six, he spoke at least seven languages fluently.
By the time William entered Harvard at eleven, he was also a mathematical prodigy. He stunned the nation with his lecture on Four-Dimensional Bodies, and articles about him appeared on the front pages of the country's leading newspapers. By the time he graduated from Harvard at sixteen, he was desperf- ate for privacy. He told the press: "Th^ only way to live the perfect life is to live it in seclusion."
You know the old saying "As the twig is bent the tree's inclined."
Parents cannot too soon begin the work of bending the minds of their children in the right direction, of training them so that they shall grow up complete, efficient, really rational men and women.
-- BORIS sidis, 1909
The newspapers never missed a chance to try and prove that he was insane, or psychotic, or simply a freak. In truth, Billy was a completely normal child in every respect.
-- SARAH sidis, 1952
I often tried to talk to him about the fourth dimension, mathematics. I was interested in mathematics myself at the time. I was about seven- teen, he must have been about twenty-three. And he would turn upon me furiously, he scared me, saying, "I don't want to talk about that, I don't ever want to talk about that kind of thing!"
-- CLIFTON FADIMAN, 1983
1 - The little father
Boris Sidis was born in 1867 in Berdichev.
His father read Darwin and Huxley. Boris showed intellectual promise early. At eight, he knew several languages, was well read in history, and composed poetry.
Boris developed the values that would guide his life—a hatred of ignorance and tyranny, a passion for learning and teaching.
at sixteen Boris organized a small group of friends and embarked on his first mission teaching peasants to read.
He has been caught (it was forbidden), two were hanged, and he was emprisoned for two years in a cell. He was allowed neither books nor paper and pencil—he lived in a total vacuum.
This utter emptiness, which would have driven an ordinary man insane, had an extraordinary effect on Boris. These vile years gave him something precious. He owed to them, he said, his courage and his ability to reason. By concentrating on ideas, he left his bodily anguish behind. He later regarded it as one of his greatest creative periods. he had learned to think.
After moving to USA, New York, his plan was: Work one week, study for two weeks.
Then he moved to Boston, the city where intellect thrived. A crucial decision.
"When I first set foot in the Boston Pub- lic Library," he said, "I felt as though the gates of heaven had opened to me."
Sarah Mandelbaum was born on October 2, 1874, in Stara Constantine.
She did all the house chores with her older sister, and took care of her younger sisters and brothers.
when Sarah was thirteen, her orderly, busy life was turned topsy-turvy. one ugly day in 1887, a band of thugs attacked the household. They heard their dad saying "Run! Escape! Fly!"
The robbers overpowered the husband, caving in his front teeth. The wife was knocked unconscious, and the baby she held in her arms was picked up and dashed to the floor. It was killed instantly.
The husband said "We must leave a country where such things can happen." He only had enough money for two. He took Sarah, the brightest of her child with him.
Sarah was thinking "We are going to America, where I can learn everything".
Had she remained in Russia, she reflected, her fate would have been to marry the jeweler's son who had courted her, and by the time she was twenty, "there would have been nothing for me for the rest of my life except an endless grind of chores, childbearing, housework, living in ignorance, and eventually a premature death. This was the lot of all Russian women."
On the boar, she made her decision "In America I will become a doctor".
Sarah recalled her first year in America as the worst year of her life (sewing buttons on jackets twelve hours a day) to earn $3 a week.
Two years after her arrival in America, Sarah's whole family was reunited in Boston.
Sarah and Ida still did all the cooking and cleaning. But even with all this activity, their thirst for knowledge was unassuaged.
In 1891, when she was seventeen, she heard of a young man reputed to be a genius who made his living teaching English.
Sarah began to study with Boris Sidis. She was awestruck by him. He seemed to her infinitely wise, learned, and kind.
Sarah, who knew little math, despaired of learning algebra and geometry in three weeks. But Boris remained confident. He purchased a secondhand Euclid: "Use your good mind to work out the rest of them just as Euclid did. Don't try to memorize. Just try to understand".
She propped Euclid up above the sink, and studied while she washed the dishes.
She passed her tests with honors.
Sarah urged Boris to attend Harvard University. Boris refused, saying, "What can they teach me? They will enmesh me in scholastic red tape."
Still, she convinced him to enroll. Among other teachers were William James, philosopher / psychologist / scientist. James, then fifty years old, was intense and energetic. He had overcome youthful years of severe depression and was in his prime.
In addition to his philosophy course he offered a course in psy- chology.
To her surprise, Boris appeared one day on her doorstep. He confessed that he had fallen in love with her at first sight, and had always suffered taking her money. "But," he said, "I thought that if I did not take it, you wouldn't come back, and I would never see you again. Please come home. I can't sleep. I can't go home without you." Sarah returned to Boston with Boris, and they decided to marry.
Boris said: "Making money and living the life I want to live don't go together. No man can read and study and think and write deeply and honestly, and think about making money. I promise you this, we won't have any."
Boris was pleasantly surprised by Harvard. Harvard's professors were astounded by the fiery young Russian.
Sarah pressured Boris, urging him to speak to his teachers to see if he could graduate Harvard in two years instead of the normal four.
Boris was graduated in one year, he had received all A's.
William James would climb to their attic and ask Sarah, "how can two people who are so poor be so happy?"
Sidis and James called the unexplored subconscious "the subwaking mind."
Under what conditions is the mind most suggestible?
James told Boris, "Look, you know I have a little money of my own, and I don't spend all they pay me at Harvard, so that I have a small fund to help students. Let me loan you two hundred dollars and you can repay me without interest when you begin to make money. Get yourself an overcoat." Boris replied hotly, "I don't need any money, and there are students here who do. Also, there are other students who want to come to Harvard who don't because they can't pay the tuition. Loan your money to them. They need it. I don't."
To Palmer's dismay, Boris refused his money too. Palmer later told Sarah he had never met a man so proudly independent and so little concerned by the lack of material things that most people consider necessities.
"Boris came up the stairs into the apartment. He seemed all excited. 'James called me into his office today. He wants me to see Teddy Roosevelt."
"James asked me what my plans were after I got my degree. I told him that I had applied for several teaching positions in the West and the South. He said, "You don't want to teach. You'll get in a rut. Look at me—I'm in a rut. I have too little time to study, I'm not contributing anything to the world. We can't have this happen to you."
Boris soon left for Albany, and, presenting a letter from James, requested a fifteen-minute interview with the governor. The men talked for two hours, and Roosevelt, delighted with Boris, urged him to stay on in New York where he, Roosevelt, would find a position for him. Despite Boris's protests that he had work to attend to in Boston, Roosevelt persuaded him to remain.
To Boris Sidis, degrees were never the proper symbols of a man's accomplishments.
Harvard mailed Boris his Ph.D. in June, waiving all ordinary formalities. James told Sarah, "They wouldn't do this much for me. … If they call me a genius, what superlative have they saved for this husband of yours?"
Certainly, it seemed, Boris was destined to be famous, to have a name that would make headlines. But it was their baby boy, born on April Fool's Day, 1898, who would completely eclipse his father both in fame and notoriety.