Did You Know...
Some considered William James Sidis (April 1, 1898 – July 17, 1944), to be the smartest man who ever lived? He was an American child prodigy with exceptional mathematical and linguistic abilities. He became famous first for his precocity, and later for his eccentricity and withdrawal from the public eye. He avoided mathematics entirely in later life, writing on other subjects under a number of pseudonyms.
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's friend and colleague, the American philosopher William James. Boris earned his degrees at Harvard University, and taught psychology there. He 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 by age eight, and invented another, which he called Vendergood.
Young Sidis was truly an intellectual phenomenon. He was later estimated to have an IQ in the 250-300 range, and while that's been open to discussion or argument, there's little doubt that he was a very smart guy. His childhood achievements ranked with those of John Stuart Mill, Thomas Macaulay, and Johann Goethe. By the time William Sidis was two he could read English and, at four he was typing original work in French. At the age of five he had devised a formula whereby he could name the day of the week for any given historical date. At eight he projected a new logarithms table based on the number twelve. He entered Harvard at the age of twelve and graduated cum laude before he was sixteen. Mathematics was not his only forte. he could speak and read fluently French, German, Russian, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Armenian and Turkish. During his first year at Harvard University the boy astounded students and scientists with his theories on "Fourth Dimensional Bodies."
After a group of Harvard students threatened Sidis physically, he dropped out before completing his degree and 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. After a short time there, he eventually stopped teaching after being harassed by the students who were older than he was. 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 1916, but withdrew in good standing in his final year in March 1919.
He flirted with leftist causes and was briefly in the news in 1919 after being arrested for his involvement in a socialist rally that turned into a riot.
Around 1921, Sidis was determined to live an independent and private life. He once 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 which reported Sidis's vows to remain celibate and never to marry, as he said women did not appeal to him. He only took work running adding machines or other fairly menial tasks. He worked in New York City and became estranged from his parents.Sidis died in 1944 of a cerebral hemorrhage in Boston at the age of 46. His father had died of the same malady in 1923 at age 56.
From writings on cosmology, (In 1925 he published a remarkable book on cosmology in which he predicted black holes --14 years before Chandrasekhar did), to American Indian history, to a comprehensive and definitive taxonomy of vehicle transfers, an equally comprehensive study of civil engineering and vehicles, and several well-substantiated 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 1930, Sidis was awarded a patent for a rotary perpetual calendar that took into account leap years. In his adult years, it was estimated that he could speak more than forty languages!
Did You Know for the Month of
- 1969, July 6, Brian Jones and Jim Morrison Died, Two Years Apart to the Day. Rolling Stones original leader and guitarist Brian Jones is found dead of an apparent accidental drowning on this day in 1969. Two years later to the day, in 1971, Jim Morrison, the charismatic frontman of the iconic 1960s group The Doors, died of heart failure in a Paris bathtub.
- 1970, July 3, Charter Jet Crashed Mysteriously. On this day in 1970, a British Dan-Air charter, flying a Comet 4 turbojet, crashed into the sea near Barcelona, Spain, killing 112 people.
The charter was commissioned by a tourist group who were headed for a summer vacation on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. The passengers boarded in the afternoon of July 3, the plane took off without incident and, as early evening approached, they neared their destination of Barcelona. The pilot called the air-traffic controller and indicated that they were 12 miles away and at 6,000 feet altitude.
This was the last anyone heard from the jet. No further contact was made to the air-traffic controllers. Witnesses in Mataro, Spain, spotted the plane going down. There were no survivors and the remains of the wreckage provided no clues as to the cause of the sudden crash. It remains a mystery.1985, July 03, "Back to the Future" Released, Featuring the 1981 DeLorean DMC-12.
The DC-8 broke into pieces in mid-air near the airport. All 108 people onboard were killed
- 1970, July 5, Pilot Error Caused Crash In Toronto. An Air Canada DC-8 crashes while landing in Toronto, killing 108 people on this day in 1970. The crash was caused by poor landing procedures and inadvertent pilot error. The terrible accident came less than two days after another jet crash had killed more than 100 people in Spain. The roots of this accident can be found in the working relationship of pilot Peter Hamilton and his co-pilot Donald Rowland.
The DC-8 broke into pieces in mid-air near the airport. All 108 people onboard were killed
On this day in 1985, the blockbuster action-comedy "Back to the Future"--in which John DeLorean's iconic concept car is memorably transformed into a time-travel device--is released in theaters across the United States.
"Back to the Future," directed by Robert Zemeckis, starred Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, a teenager who travels back 30 years using a time machine built by the zany scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Doc's mind-blowing creation consists of a DeLorean DMC-12 sports car outfitted with a nuclear reactor. Once the car reaches a speed of 88 miles per hour, the plutonium-powered reactor achieves the "1.21 gigawatts" of power necessary to travel through time. Marty arrives in 1955 only to stumble in the way of his own parents (Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson) and keep them from meeting for the first time, thus putting his own life in jeopardy.
- 1988, July 3, U.S. Warship Downed Iranian Passenger Jet. In the Persian Gulf, the U.S. Navy cruiser Vincennes shoots down an Iranian passenger jet that it mistakes for a hostile Iranian fighter aircraft. Two missiles were fired from the American warship--the aircraft was hit, and all 290 people aboard were killed. The attack came near the end of the Iran-Iraq War, when U.S. vessels were in the gulf defending Kuwaiti oil tankers. Minutes before Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down, the Vincennes had engaged Iranian gunboats that shot at its helicopter.Iran called the downing of the aircraft a "barbaric massacre," but U.S. officials defended the action, claiming that the aircraft was outside the commercial jet flight corridor, flying at only 7,800 feet, and was on a descent toward the Vincennes. However, one month later, U.S. authorities acknowledged that the airbus was in the commercial flight corridor, flying at 12,000 feet, and not descending. The U.S. Navy report blamed crew error caused by psychological stress on men who were in combat for the first time. In 1996, the U.S. agreed to pay $62 million in damages to the families of the Iranians killed in the attack.
- 1996, July 5, First Successful Cloning of a Mammal. On this day in 1996, Dolly the sheep--the first mammal to have been successfully cloned from an adult cell--is born at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. Over the course of her short life, Dolly was mated to a male sheep named David and eventually gave birth to four lambs. In January 2002 she was found to have arthritis in her hind legs, a diagnosis that raised questions about genetic abnormalities that may have been caused in the cloning process. After suffering from a progressive lung disease, Dolly was put down on February 14, 2003, at the age of six. Her early death raised more questions about the safety of cloning, both animal and human. Though Ian Wilmut, the lead scientist on the team that produced Dolly, has spoken out publicly against human cloning, its supporters are unlikely to be dissuaded. As for Dolly, the historic sheep was stuffed and is now on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
wikipedia, straightdope.com, uh.edu/engines, history.com