Good Will Hunting (William Sidis)

Good Will Hunting
William James Sidis
Will Sidis
model for
(Will Hunting)

Boris Sidis
Boris Sidis
model for
(Sean Maguire)
Harvard alumni Matt Damon and comedian Robin Williams playing the roles of Boston prodigy Will Hunting and MIT psychologist Sean Maguire.Boston prodigy William Sidis (IQ=250-300) the role model for Will Hunting: accepted to MIT at age 8; Harvard mathematics age 16, law school age 17.Harvard psychologist Boris Sidis, the role model for Sean Maguire: was Will's parole psychologist for one year (1919) after his arrest for assaulting an officer.
In film trivia, Good Will Hunting the 1997 film about a Boston child prodigy William Hunting, to a near 90% overlap, was based on the true life story of IQ 225+ cited Boston ‘Southie’ William Sidis (1898-1944) a Harvard-trained, MIT-working, war-protesting, officer-assaulting, FBI-followed (film: CIA recruited), asylum-inmate, child prodigy, lawyer-mathematician-physicist, who fell in love with a girl he met in jail (film: girl he called from jail), who was released from jail on the condition that he see a psychologist (reality: psychologist was his father, Boris Sidis).

Sidis was a forced prodigy who became a mathematician-astrophysicist-lawyer with an eidetic memory, who at age eight scored a hundred percent on the MIT entrance exam; graduated from Harvard at age sixteen; was in Harvard law school by age seventeen; and at the age of twenty-one was sentenced to 18-months jail time for assaulting an officer; but was release on bail on the condition that he see a therapist, who happened to be his father, Harvard psychologist Boris Sidis.

In the film, the character Will Hunting was played by Harvard alumnus Matt Damon, who also co-wrote the script. The first article on the similarities between the two was published the following year in Harvard Magazine, entitled “Good Will Sidis”. [1] The following bullets summarize some of the main similarities:

● Sidis scored perfect on the MIT entrance exam at age 8.
● Both Hunting and Sidis were Boston "Southies"; Sidis living his out his post-MIT life in a "small South End apartment" (as did Hunting).
● In 1909, Sidis (age 11) he lectured to Harvard mathematics professors (as did Hunting); specifically on four dimensions, to the Mathematics Club.
● On the subject of vector analysis, Sidis was said to have surpassed his professors (as did Hunting).

Good Will Sidis (1998)
Clip of the 1998 article "Good Will Sidis", first publication to note the similarities between those of Sidis and Hunting. [1]

● In 1919 (age 21), after spending two years in Harvard Law School, Sidis defended himself in court, getting the charges dropped (so to speak)
● In 1919 (age 21), Sidis was sentenced to eighteen months jail—six months for rioting and a year for assaulting an officer (for protesting on May Day).

● Both Hunting and Sidis meet the love of their lives just before going to jail (Hunting calls his love from jail; Sidis meets his love in jail, a co-protester at the May Day protests).
● Sidis appealed, and was released on five hundred dollars bail under the condition that he spend a year seeing a psychologist, a psychologist that happen to be his father, Harvard psychologist Boris Sidis who puts Will in his private asylum for one year of treatment, which Will, in retrospect, described as "mental torture".

● Both Hunting and Sidis worked at MIT labs, as a condition of their parole.
● Both Hunting and Sidis spent the remainder of their life working menial clerical jobs.
● Sidis ends up going out to California following is period of psychological probation, just as does Hunting at the end of the movie, so "to see about a girl."

● Both Sidis (age 20) and Damon (age 22) dropped out during their last semester of coursework at Harvard (Sidis while in Harvard Law), while in good academic standing, for no apparent reason, failing to degree.

The Prodigy (1986)Amy Wallace
Amy Wallace
Daniel Mahony
Daniel Mahony
The Prodigy: a Biography of William James Sidis, America's Greatest Child Prodigy, the book on which the script for the 1997 film Good Will Hunting is based.Written by Amy Wallace (1986) who built on the prior biographical research (1976-79) of Daniel Mahony.
Matt Damon | Amy Wallace
To note, there does not seem to exist an actual published statement where Damon explicitly claims to have based the story on Sidis. In a 2010 interview, Damon says that the film started as a 40-page draft written in a play-writing class at Harvard of which a couple of pages survived and made it into the film. [13]

This is weakly evidence by an anonymous 2007 Wikipedia talk page post by someone from Seattle Washington who commented: [14]

“I knew Matt when they were writing this script and remember that the central character was based on a story that was circulating at the time about someone.”

whom the poster seems to recall as being someone from Yale? The more than near two dozen coincidence similarities between Sidis and Hunting, discussed herein, however, more than substantiate, beyond doubt, that the film was based on the life of Sidis, at Harvard/MIT.

What most likely occurred is that, while a student at Harvard, during the years 1988-1992, Damon came across the infamous story of Harvard legend William Sidis (1898-1944), who has famously been on the cover of the New York Times over nineteen times for his intellectual abilities at MIT and Harvard, and in turn read the recently published 1986 book The Prodigy by biographer Amy Wallace. Wallace's book contains pictures (shown in this article), biographical depictions, and anecdotes of the main characters in Sidis' life, which fit precisely those of the characters in the film.

Wallace's biography, in turn, is a continuation of the earlier 1976-79 biographical researches of American political psychologist Dan Mahony, the legal official biographer of Sidis, who had been studying Sidis' writings and notes in attempts to write a biography on both William Sidis and his father Boris Sidis. [2] Mahony is the curator of the 1999 site, a growing collected works, notes, and related writings of Sidis. [10] A scene by scene comparison of the structure of the film clearly indicates that the script of the film came from Wallace’s book, as discussed further below. [3]

Damon, having dropped out of Harvard, one year away from completing an English degree, was betting his money on his acting/screenwriting ability, and would have thus been intuitively aware that a “based on true story” movie would be less-marketable than an "original screenplay" film, of such a grand story as Sidis, albeit keeping the script origin an inside secret.

Damon | 2013 interview
In a 2013, in a 15-year anniversary interview for Boston Magazine, Damon states that he started working on the script during a 1992 playwriting class at Harvard, the culmination of which was to write a one-act play, which resulted in a 40-some-odd-page document. Damon then moved to LA and began working on the expanding the script with Ben Affleck, daily: “We would improvise and drink like six or twelve beers or whatever and record it with a tape recorder”, as Affleck says. The script was finished in 1994, at which point Damon and Affleck approached their agent. The shooting started on April 14, 1997, and was completed in just nine weeks. (Ѻ) The multi-cast and director interview, to note, makes no mention of Sidis.

Film title
The first name, Will, no doubt, is modeled on Will (Sidis) or "Bill" as he was called by friends. The name "William", in the naming of William James Sidis (1898-1944), was assigned in honor of American psychologist William James (1842-1910), mentor to Boris Sidis at Harvard, and the originator of the reserve energy theory, used in the accelerated mental raising of the William Sidis.

The surname, ‘Hunting’, may have come from numerous reports of how Sidis parents spent their remaining life ‘hunting’ him down after he escaped from their asylum in 1921. In his Sidis' own retrospect words, “the parents resorted, from time to time, to various efforts to track him down and to persuade his friends to turn him over” so to get him back to the “old tortures”. [4]

William Sidis (reading)Will Hunting  (reading)
Will Sidis intensely reading as a child at about age 8 when he was about to graduated from high school and passed the MIT entrance exam.
Will Hunting reading a psychology book at a rate of one page per second in his apartment while he works as a janitor at MIT. [5]

Physical abuse
The part in the film where the judge states that he is aware that Hunting had been through several foster homes, experiencing severe physical abuse in some, would likely again come from Sidis published commentary on how he was he was "railroaded" into an asylum and afterwords moved from home to home, in California and Boston.

During his year-long stay at the asylum, Sidis commented in retrospect that he was “kept under various kinds of mental torture, verbally abused while sedated with sleep medication, and threatened to be transferred to a regular insane asylum.” [4]

Carmine beat Will up in kindergarten
The part where Will gets revenge on a bully named Carmine Scarpaglia, who, according to Will, used to "beat the **** out of him in kindergarten" was no doubt based on the incident in which Sidis, at age 16, after graduating from Harvard with his undergraduate mathematics degree, had enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and while walking home one day after school “a gang of Harvard boys took William outside and threatened to beat him up”, after which Sidis was said to have only “confided his rage and humiliation to his five-year-old sister.” [3] Owing to this incident, his parents convinced Sidis to leave Harvard graduate school and move to Rice University in Houston to work as a mathematics professor with a stipend of $750 per annum, while he worked towards his doctorate degree, so as to leave the “hostile environment of the Harvard campus.”

It is also known that in his sophomore year, owing to his very young age (age 12) as compared to his college classmates (age 19), Sidis had roomed for a time in the Yard, but was teased so remorselessly that his parents moved him to an apartment. [1]
Skylar (left), in the racetrack scene, styles her hair (side part) based on the photo of Martha (right) in the Wallace's book The Prodigy.
Minnie DriverMartha Foley
Skylar (Minnie Driver)
Hunting called her from jail.
Martha Foley (model for Skylar)
Sidis met her in jail.

One noted and significant inconsistency between the film version and the real life version is that in the film Hunting assaults the officer while prominently wearing a gold Christian cross, whereas in real life, Sidis was a confirmed atheist at age 6 and at age 21, while in court for assaulting an officer, when asked if he believed in god, he replied “No” and clarified that evolution was his god; when pressed further about this he stated that he did not believe in the “big boss of the Christians”, but that he did believe in something “that is in a way apart from a human being”. The probability of someone who wears a gold cross replying no to belief in god while in court is slim to none.

Skylar | Martha Foley
The photographs of the key people in Sidis' life are all found in chapter ten of The Prodigy; two of these, invariably, served as the function of the story to the characters Skylar, Hunting's love interest, and Chuckie Sullivan, Hunting's best buddy.

The character Skylar, played by Minnie Driver, whom Hunting meets at a bar and who he later telephones while in jail is no doubt based on Sidis’ only love interest, a 20-year-old Irish socialist Martha Foley (pictured adjacent), who Hunting (age 21) meets while in jail in 1919; both Foley and Sidis were among the 114 people arrested May 1st, for the May Day communist anti-war rally protest.

When Sidis died from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1944, he was still carrying Martha Foley's picture (although she'd long since married someone else).

William Sidis and Isaac RabinowitzGood Will  Hunting (Chuckie)
William Sidis and life-long friend
Isaac Rabinowitz (1943), nicknamed "Rab" by Sidis

Will Hunting and is life-long friend Charles Sullivan (1997), nicknamed "Chuckie" by Hunting.

Chuckie | Isaac Rabinowitz
Chuckie was most likely based on Sidis' life long buddy Isaac Rabinowtiz, who was well-aware that Sidis lived out the reminder of his life working menial jobs, thus doing little with his so-called mental "lottery ticket", as expressed by Chuckie in the film.

Morgan and Billy
Hunting's other friends in the movie, Morgan O'Mally (Casey Affleck) and Billy McBride (Cole Hauser) were most likely based on Sidis’ college buddies, as described in The Prodigy, who were said to help him out from time to time and try to visit him while he was locked up.

Professor Lambeau | Professor comstock
As to the person behind the character MIT professor Gerald Lambeau, the character was based on MIT physics professor Daniel Comstock, a noted Technicolor inventor, who was an MIT graduate himself (1904) and who in the 1910s was working on researching the relation between matter and electricity. [6] Comstock was well acquainted with Sidis during his early Harvard years and is mentioned several times in The Prodigy. Early on Comstock commented about Sidis that:
Daniel Frost ComstockGerald Lambeau
Daniel Comstock
MIT professor who gave Will Sidis his first job working at MIT working on
“some advanced theoretical problems”.
Gerald Lambeau
(Stellan Skarsgard)
MIT professor who gave Will Hunting a job at MIT working on "some advanced combinatorial mathematics".

“Gauss is the only example in history, of all prodigies, whom Sidis resembles.

Sidis, at age 5, invented a base twelve logarithm table; Gauss, at age 23, having previously taught himself math and reading before age three (similar to Sidis), famously calculated the trajectory for the missing planetoid Ceres, in his head, using logarithms, a calculation that puzzled many, being that it would normally have taken multiple months if not years, if done via the logarithmic look up method. [12]

After Sidis’ 1909 (age 11) lecture to the Harvard Mathematical Society on "Four-Dimensional Bodies", Comstock told reporters that the boy would someday be the greatest mathematician of the century.

In 1918 (age 20), Sidis got his first job working with Comstock at MIT who needed an assistant in his laboratory, which at the time was working on the development of a submarine-detection program. As Comstock explained to William’s mother Sarah: [3]

Comstock: “I’m hiring Will for two reasons—I need a brilliant mind, and I hope to keep the boy out of jail for his refusal to go to war.”

The film version:

Lambeau: “Well, if he doesn’t show up and I have to file a report saying he wasn’t here and he goes back to jail, it won’t be on my conscience,
Lambeau: “What problems does he have, Sean, that he is better off as a janitor or in jail or hanging around with –”

Comstock, likewise, was said to have given Sidis “some advanced theoretical problems”, just as Lambeau was said to have brought Hunting into his laboratory to work on “some advanced combinatorial mathematics”. In real life, to note, Comstock did not tell Sidis of their military application (that the programming work he was doing was to be used to destroy submarines). In fact, when Sidis found out that the theoretical physics problems he was working on had underlying military applications, he was said to be “extremely indignant” and resigned immediately. [3] This incident was played out in the famous "club a baby seal" interview response (below).

To note, this biographical factoid about Sidis finding out the work he was doing was to be used to kill people, seems to be the basis behind the story in the 1985 film Real Genius about how the supergenius Lazlo Hollyfeld "cracked" severely when he found out the work he was doing and the problems he was solving were killing people.

NSA interview "club a baby seal" scene, which is based on Sidis quitting MIT labs after finding out his work is to be used for military purposes.

Club a baby seal scene
The part of Sidis resigning after finding out that his programming work was to be used to destroy submarines, discussed previously, was played out brilliantly during Hunting’s interview with the national security agency (NSA) where after being asked “the question isn’t why should you work for the NSA, the question is why shouldn’t you?”, Hunting responds with:

“Why shouldn’t I work for the NSA? That’s a tough one, but I’ll take a shot. Say I’m working at the NSA and somebody puts a code on my desk. Something no one else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it, maybe I break it. I’m real happy with myself because I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or Middle East.

Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels are hiding. Fifteen hundred people that I never met, never had no problems with, get killed. Now the politicians are saying, ‘Send in the Marines to secure the area’, ‘cause they don’t give a ****. It won’t be their kid over their getting’ shot, just like it wasn’t them when they their number got called ‘cause they were off doing a tour in National Guard. It’ll be some kid from Southie over there takin’ shrapnel in the ass.

He comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he got back from, and the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, ‘cause he’ll work for 15 cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so that we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price.

Of course, the oil companies used a skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain’t helpin’ by buddy at 2.50 a gallon. They’re takin’ their sweet time bringin’ the oil back, for course. Maybe they even took the liberty to hire an alcoholic skipper, who likes to drink martinis and ******’ play slalom with the icebergs. It ain’t too long till he hits one, spills the oil…and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy’s out of work, he can’t afford to drive, so he’s walkin’ to the ******’ job interviews…which sucks because the shrapnel in his ass is givin’ him chronic hemorrhoids. Meanwhile, he’s starvin’, ‘cause every time he tries to get a bit to eat, the only blue plate special he’s servin’ is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State.

So what did I think? I’m holding out for somethin’ better. I figure, **** it. While I’m at it, why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pip and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.”

In real life the FBI had tracked and monitored Sidis, believing him to be a dangerous radical; originally, during the period WWI, Sidis was classified as 1-A for a time, but eventually reclassified as 4-F. In 1940, one of the bureau's agents wrote two letters to Bureau chief J. Edgar Hoover, describing Sidis as the leader of the "Boston Metropolitan Transfer Group", a group mistaken for a communist activities group, and went on to track various alias' of Sidis, such as Parker Greene, wherein, supposedly, in The New Yorker, he is described as a "promising Red", for his earlier anti-draft anti-war protesting activities.

In the film version, Damon and Affleck, in the original version of the script, were going to make Hunting become a "G-man". Specifically, Affleck and Damon originally wrote the screenplay as a thriller: Young man in the rough-and-tumble streets of South Boston, who possesses a superior intelligence, is targeted by the FBI to become a G-Man. Castle Rock Entertainment president Rob Reiner later urged them to drop the thriller aspect of the story and to focus the relationship between Will Hunting (Damon) and his psychologist (Robbin Williams). At Reiner's request, noted screenwriter William Goldman read the script and further suggested that the film's climax ought to be Will's decision to follow his girlfriend Skylar to California.

In the film, Hunting solves Skylar's chemistry homework on the proton structure for the Ebola virus; in real life, as described in The Prodigy, Sidis would help Bill Rab (Isaac Rab's son) with his chemistry homework, when he visited the house. In Bill Rab's own words "I was particularly stupid in chemistry. I had problems with it in school. But Bill's [William Sidis] approach made it hold some scope. It helped me out a hell of a lot."

In the film, Skylar explains that after Harvard she is going to Stanford Medical school, but is going to experiment on Will first for her anatomy class; in real life, Sidis had passed the Harvard Medical School anatomy exam at age six.

Daniel Vickers
Daniel Vickers
(Clark is said to plagiarize his views to impress Skylar
at the Harvard bar) [11]
Farmers &  Fishermen - Two Centuries of Work in Essex County 200px
Bar scene
In the famous bar scene, which is one of the intellectual peaks in the film, Hunting calls out Harvard graduate student Clark on his plagiarism of quotes, by instantaneously citing the page number, i.e. page 98, of the 1994 book Farmers & Fisherman: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850 by early America historian Daniel Vickers: [9]

“Wood drastically underestimates the impact of social distinctions predicated upon wealth, especially inherited wealth. You got that from Vickers, Work in Essex County, page 98, right?”

This quote, however, does not in reality exist on page 98 of Vickers' work, nor does Vickers cite Gordon Wood, but may have been a bit of movie fiction. As Vickers commented on this scene in 2010: [11]

“Actually, I have no idea where "Wood 'drastically underestimates the impact of social distinctions predicated upon wealth, especially inherited wealth.' You got that from Vickers, 'Work in Essex County,' page 98, right?" comes from. On p. 98, I discuss the rise of the Massachusetts cod fishery in the 17th century, and nowhere in the book do I refer to Gordon Wood; I don't think I even footnote him. Finally, although I have disagreements with Wood, they don't relate much to inequality, let alone inequality based on inherited wealth. Other historians have taken him to task on this, but not me. I think Matt Damon, who I have been told took history courses at Harvard, was writing this from memory and confused both the book's title and its contents.”

The exchange between Hunting and Clark, however, as some have noted, may have been based on an obscure 1994 New York Review of Books article by American historian Gordon Wood that discussed Canadian historical geographer James T. Lemon's writings; referring, it seems, also to a subsequent letter to the editor by Lemon rather than on Wood's more well-known writings. Whatever the case, the famous dialog is played out as follows:

Clark (1)Clark (2)Clark (3)
"No, no...there's no problem here. I was just hoping you might give me some insight into the evolution of the market economy in the Southern colonies. My contention is that prior to the Revolutionary War, the economic modalities, especially in the southern colonies, could most aptly be characterized as agrarian, pre-capitalist …" "Of course that's your contention. You're a first year grad student. You just got finished readin' some Marxian historian -- Pete Garrison probably. You're gonna be convinced of that 'til next month when you get to James Lemon, and then you're gonna be talkin' about how the economies of Virginia and Pennsylvania were entrepreneurial and capitalist way back in 1740. That's gonna last until next year - you're gonna be in here regurgitating Gordon Wood, talkin' about, you know, the Pre-revolutionary utopia and the capital-forming effects of military mobilization." "Well, as a matter of fact, I won't, because Wood drastically underestimates the impact of --."
Clark (4)Clark (5)Clark (6)
"Wood drastically -- Wood 'drastically underestimates the impact of social distinctions predicated upon wealth, especially inherited wealth.' You got that from Vickers, 'Work in Essex County,' page 98, right? Yeah, I read that too. Were you gonna plagiarize the whole thing for us? Do you have any thoughts of your own on this matter? Or do that your thing? You come into a bar. You read some obscure passage and then pawn it off as your own idea just to impress some girls and embarrass my friend? See the sad thing about a guy like you is in 50 years you're gonna start doin' some thinkin' on your own and you're gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One: don't do that. And two: You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a f****n' education you coulda' got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library." "eah, but I will have a degree. And you'll be serving my kids fries at a drive-through on our way to a skiing trip." "Yeah, maybe. Yeah, but at least I won't be unoriginal. But .... if you have a problem with that ... we could just step outside and we could figure it out."

Photographic memory
The famous bar scene, alludes to the idea that Hunting had the ability to recall volumes of memorized books down to the page number, almost instantaneously. As to if William Sidis had this ability to recall quotes down to the page number, is a matter of some debate, or in fact if anyone has this ability. Sidis, certainly was well-read and did seem to have a photographic memory. At age six, to give a comparison example, he recited the first scene of the first act of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “with full intelligence and expression”, supposedly taking the teacher’s breath away.

In later life, Sidis' ability to do crossword puzzles was legendary. Sidis, according to Bill Rab, could do the entire New York Times crossword puzzle, in a matter of minutes, without ever writing anything down, but would do them in his head:

“My father [Isaac Rab] would do it in ink, right off the bat. But Bill—Jesus! He would just look at the thing. He had a photographic memory and didn’t have to write down too much. Maybe one letter instead of a word, sometime in the middle so he wouldn’t lose his place, while he was doing the downs. But it was mostly done mentally.”

After Sidis finished a puzzle in his head, Isaac Rab would then quiz him "What have you got for thirty-six across?", where after Sidis would explain from where he got the answer.

Other noted book memorizes
As it is difficult to find a reference stating that Sidis knew citations down to the page numbers, it is worth while to note that others claim to be be able memorize 1,000s of books down to the comma:

Naida CamukovaThe ability is similar to the claims of Russian Naida Camukova (c. 1976-), with a supposed IQ=200, who claims to read a book a day and have a photographic memory of over 3,000 books, where she remembers every comma in each book, Camukova also, coincidently had a brain hemorrhage at age 23 (in coma for 20-days) similar to Sidis who died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 46. Similar to Sidis, Camukova, started talking age 1, learned to read and write at age 2; age 14 was enrolled in both Moscow State University (history) and Daghestan State University (literature); began medical school at age 9 (or 15); speaks seven languages; age 25 became professor of history and literature; has published 25-books.

American mega-savant Kim Peek (1951-2009), person behind the 1988 film Rain Main, who was born without a corpus callosum (the bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain), may have had this ability. He would read books, memorized them, and then placed them upside down on the shelf to show that he had finished reading them, a practice he maintained. He can read a book in about an hour, and remember almost everything he had read, and was thus able to memorizing vast amounts of information in subjects ranging from history and literature, geography, and numbers to sports, music, and dates.

His reading technique consisted of reading the left page with his left eye and the right page with his right eye and in this way he could read two pages at a time with a rate of about 8-10 seconds per page. It is believed he could recall the content of at least 12,000 books from memory. On a side note, this ability is similar to John Stuart Mill (IQ=200), who “could write Greek with his left hand while writing Latin with his right.”
Kim Peek

Clip on how thermodynamicist William Sidis is the basis for the 1997 film Good Will Hunting.
Other trivia
● Damon was a neighbor of American Howard Zinn, author of the 1980 book A People’s History of the United States, which as Hunting comments in the film “that book will knock you on your ass.”
● In the film, Hunting is compared to Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (IQ =190-210) (link).
● The Unabomber American mathematician Theodore Kaczynski (IQ=170) is also mentioned in the film.

Other citations
● Doug Renselle (c.2000) reasons: “Amy describes incredible visits by Sidis and Sharfman to Paul Saunders' home. Sharfman told Saunders that Sidis was the greatest brain in our USA. Sidis loved Saunders' library. He would browse Saunders' 20 volume Golden Bough set (by James Frazer) with ease and almost as if he knew it all, in parallel, instantaneously. He knew what material was on which page in Saunders' whole set! Sharfman brought to mind a recent movie, Good Will Hunting, touched upon briefly in a Harvard link near this page's top.” (link)
● John H. Lienhard (1999) argues that Sidis was a likely model for Hunting, along with Evariste Galois (link).

Other claims
Other more doubtful claims as to origin of various that parts of Good Will Hunting include the following stories, which are more likely simply coincidences:

(a) That Hunting was based on MIT janitor Walter Pitts. [7]
(b) That the parts where Hunting solves two famous unsolved problems he finds on the hallway chalkboard is based on the 1939 story of Berkeley PhD mathematics student George Dantzig coming late for class, finding two famous unsolved problems in statistics on the blackboard, and assuming they were homework problems. [8]
(c) That Hunting was modeled on music prodigy Henry Cowell, whom IQ test originator Lewis Terman met in circa 1920 at Stanford University, who had been unschooled since the age of seven and at the time was working as a janitor in a one-room schoolhouse not far from the Stanford campus. Cowell would sneak away from his job and play the school piano. Terman was fascinated by him and tested his IQ to be at genius level of 140 (Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, 2008). This model, although an interesting similarity, is highly doubtful, being that as Hunting says when he looks at piano keys, "all he sees is chopsticks".

10% myth
Sidis is also, by no coincidence, the very same person behind the now-famous ten percent myth, the idea that the average person uses only ten percent of his or her brain; a myth based on American psychologist William James' 1890 "reserve energy theory", as used by his father, Harvard psychologist Boris Sidis (role model for Sean Maguire/Robin Williams) to raise his son, from birth, in an extremely-accelerated rate.

Other films
Other movies to have been steeped in thermodynamics in basis, biography, or theory include: the 1973 film The Exorcist, based in part on French religiosity philosopher Pierre Teilhard (the role model for character of Father Merrin) and his Omega point theory, and the 2006 film The Celestine Prophecy, discusses how all relationships function as means to get energy, via transformations, power, etc., a book based on the 1964 book The Games People Play by Eric Berne, which in turn was based on the Freud's psychodynamic id-ego model to explain human interactions as role play in a game.

1. Anon. (1998). “Good Will Sidis”, Harvard Magazine, March.
2. (a) Sidis, Helen. (1978). "Notary Letter: authorizing Daniel H. Mahony to be the official biographer on Boris Sidis and William Sidis, authorizing him to receive any and all documents related to the Sidis family ", Notary Public, New York, Aug 26.
(b) Quote: “To Dan, without you this book probably could not have been written--Amy (autograph), The Prodigy, 1986."
3. Wallace, Amy. (1986). The Prodigy: a Biography of William James Sidis: America's Greatest Child Prodigy (threatening to get beat up, pg. 122; black holes, pg. 157; Dan Mahony, pgs. 157, 188-89; Daniel Comstock, pgs. 53-54, 135, 231-32). Dutton Adult.
4. Sidis, William J. (c.1941). “Railroading in the Past” (scan); from: various mimeographed handouts, total 20p, presumably unpublished, most archived in the Eichel Collection, Swarthmore Univ., some found in Helena Sidis' files, 1977.
5. Note (on reading at rate of one reading at a rate of one page per second): Not even Kim Peek (above) who, having is corpus callosum missing, could read the left page with his left eye and the right page with his right eye and in this way he could read two pages at a time with a rate of about 8-10 seconds per page, could read at the rate shown in the film clip and also have and eidetic memory of content down to the page number and references.
6. (a) Daniel Frost Comstock – Wikipedia.
(b) Comstock, Daniel Frost. (1908). “The Relation of Mass to Energy”, London, Edinburg, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine, Jan. pgs. 1-21.
(c) Comstock, Daniel Frost and Troland, Leonard T. (1917). The Nature of Matter and Electricity: an Outline of Modern Views. D. Van Nostrand Co.
7. The Real “Good Will Hunting” (2010) -
8. Mikkelson, David P. and Mikkelson, Barbara. (2005). “The Unsolved Math Problem: George Dantzig: 1939” (Quote: “The legend is used as the setup of the plot in the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting.”), May 23, Urban Legends Reference Page,
9. Vickers, Daniel. (1994). Farmers & Fisherman: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850. University of North Carolina Press.
10. (a) - home page.
(b) William James Sidis Archives (2000) - Internet Archive.
(b) (launched: 1999) - Internet Archive.
11. Email from Daniel Vickers to Libb Thims (31 Mar 2010).
12. Valentine, Cawley. (2007). “Johann Gauss”, Blog, The Boy Who Knew Too Much: A Child Prodigy, Jun 11.
13. Damon, Matt. (2010). “Interview: EyeBiteTV Presents: American Cinematheque honors Matt Damon. Matt Damon talks about his favorite movie he created.” Beverly Hilton Hotel. Beverly Hills, Ca. Mar 27.
14. The Real Good Will Hunting – Talk:Good Will Hunting, Wikipedia.

Further reading
● Damon, Matt and Affleck, Ben. (1997). Good Will Hunting: a Screenplay. Miramax Books.

External links
Good Will Hunting – Wikipedia.

More pages