GOOD THINGS FROM OTHER MAGAZINES

The Most Wonderful Boy in the World

An Eleven-Year-Old Prodigy Astonishes the Sages of Harvard by His Learning and is Pronounced to be the Greatest Mental Marvel Ever Born.

February 1 1910
GOOD THINGS FROM OTHER MAGAZINES

The Most Wonderful Boy in the World

An Eleven-Year-Old Prodigy Astonishes the Sages of Harvard by His Learning and is Pronounced to be the Greatest Mental Marvel Ever Born.

February 1 1910

The Most Wonderful Boy in the World

An Eleven-Year-Old Prodigy Astonishes the Sages of Harvard by His Learning and is Pronounced to be the Greatest Mental Marvel Ever Born.

William James Sidis, acknowledged to be the greatest boy wonder in the world, is the subject of a sketch in the New York Herald, in the course of which the writer describes the methods

employed by the boy's father to develop his talents. He entered Harvard last fall at the age of eleven as a special student, who having completed all the ordinary higher mathematics, is

taking only the most difficult and advanced mathematical work taught at Harvard, work intended for seniors and graduates who have specialized for years in the science of numbers. He knows Greek and Latin so thoroughly that 'he can write original verses in each language.

But. most wonderful of all, he can think in the fourth dimension. Most people have never heard that there might be a fourth dimension, and only a very few of the most brilliant scientists who have ever lived have been able to think in it. Most people are content to believe that objects have but three dimensions—length, breadth and thickness. But try to imagine another dimension that they might have—the hypothetical fourth dimension, a hypothesis of such fine texture that the mentality of but few can discern it. Then, if you invent theories and problems involving this dimension, work them out to accurate conclusions and explain them lucidly to mathematicians so that you convert them completely to your way of thinking, and you will have done once what William J. Sidis, eleven years of age, does daily.

In appearance and many of his tastes this precocious boy is a normal youngster. His cheeks are a healthy pink, his grey eyes are clear and bright and his frequent squinting is a racial characteristic—for his parents are Russian Jews—not a sign of poor eyesight.

Though slender, he is, physicians declare, in perfectly sound physical condition. He is small even for his age, but both parents are short. His muscles are developed no more than those of any other eleven-year-old boy, but they are firm. When he speaks it is without a trace of nervousness or self-consciousness and in the rather high, sweet voice of a child.

His head, its brown hair trimmed in childish bangs, is not larger than the average. His knickerbockered legs are as active as those of any other boy, and they carry him with remarkable friskiness across the yard at Harvard, and two steps at a time up into Seaver Hall.

His parents, who are both doctors, are exceptionally gifted. His father believes that the boy’s marvellous precocity is the result of a training, in

which a practical application has been made of certain little known psychological laws. Most important among these is the so-called “law of reserve energy.”

According to this law, every human being possesses a great reservoir of latent energy, upon which he does not usually draw, but upon which he does draw in times of crises or other ex ceptional moments, with sufficient frequency to make its presence certain.

In explaining this Professor James seid :— “Every one knows what it is to start a piece of work, either intellectual or muscular, feeling stale or cold. And every one knows what it is to ‘warm up’ to the job. The process of vanning up gets particularly striking in what is known as the ‘second wind.’

“If an unusual necessity forces us to press onward a surprising thing occurs. The fatigue gets worse up to a certain point, when gradually or suddenly it passes away and we are fresher than before. We have evidently tapped a level of new energy, masked until then by the fatigue obstacle usually obeyed. There may be layer after layer of this experience.

“It is evident that our organism has stored up reserves of energy that are ordinarily not called upon, but that may be called upon and which repair themselves by rest as well as do the superficial strata.”

It is the belief of Dr. Sidis that the reason people do not more frequently make use of their “hidden energy” is because they have not been trained to do so, and that such training, to be most effective, should begin in. early childhood. This will not, in his opinion, entail any “forcing process” on the child. On the contrary, he is convinced that the modern practice of letting the child’s mind remain fallow for the first few years of his life is utterly and indefensibly wrong. No one can keep a child from thinking and using his mind, Dr. Sidis says, but unless he is taught how to think correctly he is certain to form bad thought habits, which the training of later years may never completely overcome.

Before he was two years old the infant could talk, read and spell. When he was three years old he could use a typewriter. When he was five, he was an expert accountant, had begun to study French and Latin, and was proficient in anatomy. At five he began to study arithmetic, but oddly enough he was for some time quite backward in this study. He entered Brookline High School when eight years old. Three years ago he applied to Harvard for admission, but was refused because of his youth.