The Tragic Real-Life Story Behind The Smartest Man To Ever Live

In a world where 100 is considered an average IQ, it is not unheard of to find individuals who far exceed that (via Healthline). There are many people currently alive whose IQ has been measured in the high 100s and even low 200s. In the past, however, one man was found to have an astonishing 250 to 300 IQ, arguably the highest in history. William James Sidis entered the world in 1898 and quickly distinguished himself as gifted, earning a great deal of fame for his intellectual feats. 

He was supposedly able to read The New York Times before age 2, and by age 6, Sidis could speak in eight languages (via NPR). At 11 he was not only able to attend Harvard but he had actually been accepted two years prior. While exceptionally impressive, the experience had was far from acceptable to Sidis himself as he continued to work toward a career in mathematics. He was bullied constantly by his older peers and he became increasingly nihilistic and rebellious (via All That's Interesting). 

The smartest man in the world died alone with barely any money or support

As Sidis entered early adulthood, he was working toward careers in mathematics and law when he also began to embrace (at various points) a number of ideologies and outlooks on life including pacifism, socialism, atheism, and libertarianism (via Swarthmore). Criminally punished for his participation in socialist events, he spent several months in his psychiatrist father's sanitarium to avoid jail time. After this, he became increasingly reclusive, writing for publications under different pseudonyms as the public largely forgot him (via History Of Yesterday). Before and during his seclusion he wrote many books on the topics of his expertise, political opinions, and interests, such as public transportation. 

Toward the end of his life, Sidis largely made a living as an office clerk while living alone in a small apartment (via All That's Interesting). In 1937, The New Yorker located Sidis and published an exceptionally unflattering piece on his then-current living conditions. In later years he would seek restitution in court over the blatant invasion of his privacy but his case was dismissed in 1944. That same year Sidis, who at least in his time was considered the smartest man in the world, died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of only 46.