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Myths, Facts, and Lies about Prodigies - A Historiography of William James Sidis

Copyright©2007,2010 by Larry Gowdy

An expanded version of this page can be viewed with art at Myths of William Sidis.

            Abbreviated review: "[Myths] an important work and contribution to intellectual history and should be presented to the public. ...the literature review is the strongest, but the intro paragraphs do a great job of outlining the significance and importance of Sidis. [It should be] visible and available for comment and review. - C.L., Ph.D.

            A Brief Chronological Overview - The Primary Underlying Influences
            Underlying Concepts about Intelligence
            Newspaper Articles
            Bending the Twig
            The Sidis Story
            Ex-Prodigy - My Childhood and Youth
            The Broken Twig
            Source of Sources - Dan Mahony, M.Phil.
            The Prodigy
            The Outsiders

            Abstract: Myths are in part the result of individuals claiming and believing that inaccurate information is accurate, and today there exist numerous myths about intellectual prodigies. The myths’ errors are easily recognized, but the question is raised of how the myths originated. This article uses the child prodigy William Sidis story as an example of how some biographies have relied heavily on popular opinion, personal bias, imagination, and little or no evidence. The biographies’ misinterpretations have been directly responsible for many negative myths about William Sidis and prodigies in general. The cause of the errors did not originate from any single author or from any one particular source, but rather the misinterpretations were the result of numerous simultaneous influences. Psychology and philosophy were two of the primary influences that existed prior to William Sidis’ birth, and it was from those two influences that the general public’s worldview about prodigious talents was already formed. Two additional influences were non-prodigy interpretations and the lack of evidence. The result was that for over half a century biographers belittled child prodigy William Sidis as a burned-out failure, a “woeful specimen of misspent brilliance”.(1)

            “…one of the greatest realizations an infant prodigy must make: He is not wanted by the community.” Norbert Wiener.

Keywords: Prodigy, The Prodigy, Ex-Prodigy, The Bent Twig, The Broken Twig, The Outsiders, Art of Peace, The Measurement of Intelligence, The Varieties of Religious Experience, The Principles of Psychology, William James Sidis, William James, Boris Sidis, Sarah Sidis, Helena Sidis, Norbert Wiener, Lewis Terman, Kathleen Montour, Dan Mahony, John Wheeler, David Bohm, Plato, John Calvin, Edward Sapir, Benjamin Whorf, Charles Darwin, Morihei Ueshiba, H. Addington Bruce, Buckminster Fuller, Grady Towers, Amy Wallace, genius, IQ, IQ tests, intelligence, psychology, philosophy, cosmology, physics, history, Christianity, Buddhism, Zen, Islam, Aikido, American Psychological Association, American Psychologist, National Academy of Science, Harvard, Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, government, education, politics, socialism, communism, misinterpretations, inventions, hearsay, myths, beauty.

            (Below is an abbreviated list of references cited in this book. Note that specific pages and comments have been deleted. A full reference listing is in the book.)

1. Kathleen Montour, "William James Sidis, The Broken Twig", American Psychologist - Journal of the American Psychological Association.
2. Amy Wallace, The Prodigy: A Biography of William James Sidis, America's Greatest Child Prodigy.
3. Harold Addington Bruce, "Masters of the Mind - Remarkable Cures Effected by Four Great Experts Without the Aid of Drugs or Surgical Tools".
4. Wiener, Ex-Prodigy - My Childhood and Youth.
5. Wiener, Ex-Prodigy.
6. Boris Sidis, "The Psychotherapeutic Value of the Hypnoidal State", Psychotherapeutics.
7. Wiener, Ex-Prodigy.
8. Wallace, The Prodigy.
9. Wiener, Ex-Prodigy.
10. Wallace, The Prodigy.
11. Wiener, Ex-Prodigy.
12. Wallace, The Prodigy.
13. Wallace, The Prodigy.
14. Wallace, The Prodigy.
15. Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club - A Story of Ideas in America.
16. Kenneth S. Pope, "Memory, Abuse, and Science: Questioning Claims about the False Memory Syndrome Epidemic".
17. Wiener, Ex-Prodigy.
18. Dr. Brent Logan, "Infant Outcomes of a Prenatal Stimulation Pilot Study", Pre and Perinatal Psychology Journal.
19. William James Sidis, "Unconscious Intelligence".
20. Robin A. H. Waterfield, Plato - Theaetetus.
21. John Calvin, Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John, Calvin's Commentaries.
22. Benjamin Whorf, The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language.
23. Edward Sapir, The Status of Linguistics as a Science.
24. Charles Darwin, Descent of Man, 1874.
25. An interview with David Bohm conducted by F. David Peat and John Briggs.
26. Alfred Binet, The Mind and the Brain.
27. Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace.
28. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience.
30. (comments)
31. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience.
32. William K. Clifford, The Ethics of Belief.
33. Larry Neal Gowdy, Logics Origin of Ethics, Morals, Virtue, and Quality.
34. William James, The Principles of Psychology.
35. James, Principles of Psychology.
36. James, Principles of Psychology.
37. Lewis Terman, The Measurement of Intelligence - An Explanation of and a Complete Guide for the Use of the Stanford Revision and Extension of the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale.
38. Terman, Measurement of Intelligence.
39. Terman, Measurement of Intelligence.
40. Wallace, The Prodigy.
41. Jared Manley, "Where are they Now? April Fool!", The New Yorker.
42. District Court of the United States decision.
43. Wallace, The Prodigy.
44. "Prodigy", Boston Traveler.
45. Wallace, The Prodigy.
46. Boston Traveler.
47. Boston Traveler.
48. Boston Traveler.
49. Wallace, The Prodigy.
50. Boston Traveler.
51. Alice Burke, "Sidis' Boyhood Seen Case of All Work and No Play", Boston Traveler.
53. Ruth Reynolds, "Taught Son Everything But How to Live", Boston Sunday Post.
54. Sarah Sidis, The Sidis Story.
55. Harold Addington Bruce, "Bending the Twig: The Education of the Eleven-year-old Boy Who Lectured Before the Harvard Professors on the Fourth Dimension", American Magazine.
56. Wiener, Ex-Prodigy.
57. Montour, "The Broken Twig".
58. Harold Addington Bruce, "Masters of the Mind - Remarkable Cures Effected by Four Great Experts Without the Aid of Drugs or Surgical Tools", American Magazine.
59. Sarah Sidis, The Sidis Story.
60. Wiener, Ex-Prodigy.
61. Wiener, Ex-Prodigy.
62. Larry Neal Gowdy, Myths, Facts, and Lies about Prodigies, an unfinished manuscript.
63. Montour, Broken Twig.
64. Montour, Broken Twig.
65. Wiener, Ex-Prodigy.
66. Wallace, The Prodigy.
67. Pope, Memory, Abuse, and Science.
68. Montour, Broken Twig.
69. Montour, Broken Twig.
70. Dan Mahony, Sidis Archives.
71. Mahony, Sidis Archives.
72. Pope, Memory, Abuse, and Science.
73. Dan Mahony, The Failure Myth - A Short Biography of W. J. Sidis.
74. Wallace, The Prodigy.
75. Wallace, The Prodigy.
76. William James Sidis, The Animate and the Inanimate.
77. Wallace, The Prodigy.
78. Wallace, The Prodigy.
79. Wallace, The Prodigy.
80. Grady Towers, "The Outsiders", The Gift of Fire.
81. Towers, Outsiders.
82. William Sidis, Passaconaway in the White Mountains.
83. Wallace, The Prodigy.
84. Wallace, The Prodigy.
85. Sperling, A Story of Genius.
86. Wallace, The Prodigy.
87. Sarah Sidis, The Sidis Story.
88. Wallace, The Prodigy.
89. "Attacks In 6 Other Cities", The New York Times.
90. "Attacks In 6 Other Cities", The New York Times.

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