Sunday, January 21, 2007


In 1909, four prodigies enrolled at Harvard. Adolf Augustus Berle (14), Cedric Wing Huffington (15), William James Sidis (11) and Norbert Weiner (14). Roger Sessions (14) appeared a year later in 1910. The phenomenon didn't escape media attention; they were pretty well dogged by the press.

In light of prodigy films of recent years, I think the collective story of these prodigies could make for a great film. In fact, there's a great film to be made just in the telling of the story of William James Sidis alone. If you're unfamiliar, a little Googling is recommended. There are also some interesting links at the end of the Wikipedia entry on Sidis.

One of the books I currently have in heavy rotation is Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Weiner The Father of Cybernetics, and from it I've learned a number of interesting things about Weiner. I didn't realize he'd studied under so many great minds, including Bertrand Russell, G.H. Hardy, David Hilbert, Henri Lebesgue, Edmund Husserl and others. According to the book, Hardy really helped in opening Weiner's eyes to higher mathematics (pb. 32)

Weiner's story is yet another instance of a prodigy who was driven too hard by a highly-educated, overbearing father. I'm not sure how many times I've seen this, but the stories of John Stuart Mill and William James Sidis come immediately to mind.

Finally, in the process of researching the subject of prodigies, I found this page on Michael Kearney, who, if true, even surpassed Sidis in early language skills: "He spoke his first words at four months. At the age of six months, he said to his pediatrician "I have a left ear infection" [1] and learned to read at the age of ten months. [2]"



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home