IQ and Genius

John Clark (
Mon, 30 Nov 1998 02:04:13 -0500

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The man with the highest IQ ever may have been a fellow by name of William James Sidis (1898-1944). He could read The New York Times when he was 18 months old and just a few yeas later solve its crossword puzzle in his head, he didn't write anything down until he'd finished all of it. Just for fun when he was seven he developed a set of logarithms in base 12. At eight he was given the final exam in anatomy from the Harvard Medical school, he passed. At the same age he was given the entrance test for MIT, he passed. At age nine he knew dozens of languages and could pick up a new one in a day or two.

Sidis's IQ can only be approximately known even though he took many IQ tests, the tests were just not up to the task, he was off the charts. Abraham Sterling, director of New York City's Aptitude Testing Institute said " he easily had an IQ between 250 and 300, I have never heard of anybody with such an IQ. I would say that he was the most prodigious intellect of our entire generation".

So what did this prodigious intellect accomplish in his 46 years? Not much, if he's remembered at all it's for writing the definitive book on streetcar transfers, perhaps the most boring tome on the planet. I'm not sure what the moral is, maybe it's not to push gifted children too hard as Sidis's parents did, or maybe it's that high IQ and genius are not quite synonymous.

John K Clark

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