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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.

Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.

© 1904




THE Rev. Thos. Hanna has a good family history, with no neurotic taint. Among his ancestors are men who have attained positions of eminence. The family history can be traced to a time dating almost to the arrival of the Mayflower. On the father’s side, Mr. Hanna is of Scotch-Irish descent, on the mother's side he is English. His maternal grandfather1 was a missionary—a man of genius and of energy of will. He became prominent as a writer in Oriental literature and also as the founder of extensive missions in the East. His maternal grandmother was a healthy, vigorous and energetic woman, and attained fame in the literary world. His paternal great-grandfather was a well-known writer in theology. His maternal great-grandfather was a surgeon of distinction and fought at Trafalgar under Nelson. His father is a man of good physique, healthy constitution, of high intellectual attainments, and possessed of a strong will and marked individuality. As a minister he leads a strictly moral life and is scrupulously conscientious in his actions.

            He does not belong to the emotional type; he is rather quiet and stern. The mother is a. perfectly healthy woman, a lady of a refined, kind and gentle nature. Mr. Hanna has three sisters and four brothers, all physically and mentally well. Among the near living relatives are men of prominence in the medical and clerical professions. There is no evidence of neurotic tendency in the lateral branches of the family.

            Hanna was born in the year 1872. All conditions at birth were favorable and normal. At birth he was well formed and proved to be a well-developed infant. His early infancy was free from disease; he suffered only from those ailments incident to babyhood. He began to talk at the age of eighteen months. He was not precocious; his mental and physical development was that characteristic of the average normal child. He showed a ready though not extraordinary facility of acquiring knowledge. He showed the usual interest in the sports and plays of children. He was rather quiet, though not of a shy and retiring character. He was not quarrelsome or mischievous.

            Up to his eleventh year he showed no signs of illness. At the age of eleven he had a slight attack of malaria. From his eleventh to his sixteenth year we find him again free from ill health. At this time he suffered from an inflammatory condition of the gums. One thing is apparent in the life of Mr. Hanna, and that is the absence of any illness of a serious nature.

            The young man had all the advantages of an excellent education. At the age of eight years he entered the public school, where he was a good scholar and regular attendant. At an early age he showed an especial interest in the study of languages and possessed a ready facility in acquiring them. Upon the return of his parents to Philadelphia he entered the Manual Training High School. High attainments in the latter institution gained for him a scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania. He was one of the best students at the manual training school. His scholarship admitted him to any department of the university. His preference for architectural work was largely determined by his love for the harmonious and the beautiful. His versatility is shown by the fact that he had been at one time a mechanical draughtsman, had done electrical work, and even spent some time as a carpenter. He was also employed as a telegraph operator in the ticket office and other departments of the railroad. Finally he passed examination as an architect. He was also a writer for a Philadelphia journal.

            Mr. Hanna was fond of music and showed a good deal of talent in acquiring familiarity with several music instruments. On the whole, he had an artistic taste in directions.

            As to his emotional nature, he seemed neither of an excitable nor of an impulsive character, and was not demonstrative in his affections. He was possessed of a strong will and capable of perfect self-control. He was not hasty to take offence, but was not one who readily forgot an offence once given. He was not vindictive or implacable. He was benevolent and sympathetic in nature and ready to alleviate pain and suffering. These qualities seemed less prompted by sentimentalism or tender-heartedness than by principle. He was a man influenced more by reason than by emotion. There was, however, no sternness about him, and he could readily enter into the sentiments and feelings of others. He had a keen appreciation of the humorous and took delight in comic periodicals and was an occasional contributor to the humorous journals.

            He could easily win the confidence of young folks and possessed unusual facility in the cultivation and maintenance of friendship. He could always make friends easily and knew well how to get along with individuals. In fact, he was one who could attract people.

            His religious feelings developed rather early. As a Baptist, he could not enter the church and be baptized until he had made a profession of faith before the elders. This consists in a declaration of the recognition of his religious guilt and a desire for religious conversion.

            In this relation Mr. Hanna, we may say, was rather precocious. The average age of conversion among the Baptists is about fifteen, while in his case the sense of guilt was awakened at about his tenth year. This sense of guilt, however, was not very intense, as would have been the case in an emotional, nervous child, but was rather of an intellectual sort. He was more familiar with the Bible than is the ordinary child. This may, on the one hand, be ascribed to the fact that his father was a minister, and on the other, to the intelligence of the boy himself.

            He displayed no remarkable degree of feeling during his religious experience of conversion, but seemed to feel comfort and peace. On the whole, the boy was very sincere, without displaying any marked religious excitement. Altogether, we would say he was like “a sensible little boy,” as his father characterized this period of the child’s experience.

            At the end of the second year of young Hanna’s university life, we find his religious interests again strongly awakened. He felt the conviction of a call to the ministry. Although his determination was met by discouragement on the part of his family, he remained firm in his resolution and left the architectural school to take up theological studies. This resolution, however, was not of sudden origin. The religious sense seemed to have been awakened gradually, but gained strength during the young man’s intellectual, moral and religious growth.

            The change from an architectural to a theological field of work seemed to have come about not without an intense struggle for the young man. There was on the one hand a strong desire to finish the course in the university, a desire not to be fickle and not to change his purpose. There was also a strong desire to become an architect, because he delighted in architectural studies and believed himself fitted for the work. On the other hand, the religious conviction had reached such a degree as to overcome all these desires and determine his course to renounce secular studies and devote himself to the work of the Gospel.

            Religious feelings seemed to have been implanted within the young man in his early childhood. As the son of a clergyman, it was natural he should be interested in clerical work at an early age. Mr. Hanna, when quite young, took an active interest in Sunday-school work and was a regular attendant at church and prayer meeting. He had much scriptural training and was unusually familiar with the Bible. At a very early age he was an ardent reader in theology, and upon this, as upon other subjects, he had read much more than the average young man, and had even acquired some knowledge of the Greek Testament.

            In order to take up scriptural work and pursue theological studies, the university not furnishing favorable environment for religious life, the young man left the institution to prepare for his newly chosen labor.

            To fit himself for the practical side of his adopted clerical profession he went to the town of Hazelton, Pa., to do missionary work. He visited families, gathered them in prayer meetings, and preached to the people. Then he entered the Baptist College at Lewisville, Pa., and became a member of the junior class, where he carried on zealously theological studies. While there he was one of the best students, and graduated with high merit, gaining the degree of “Summa cum laude.” He worked arduously while at the institution, taking all the elective courses open to him.

            Mr. Thomas Hanna took up clerical work not from pecuniary considerations, but rather from a profound sense of religious conviction for a work to which he felt himself called. After graduation he came to Plantsville and began to preach. He was immediately ordained. This was at the age of twenty-three.

            His active mind and an insatiable thirst for knowledge led him again to pursue theoretical studies; he entered the theological school at Yale, New Haven, being only a short distance from his home. At this institution he studied the Bible and took up Hebrew. While he was carrying on studies at the university he devoted a large portion of his time to his ministerial duties at Plantsville. He was very sociable and took an active interest in the social life of his congregation. Although a good scholar and possessed of great love for scientific work, he was not disposed to constant book application. He was very popular with the members of his congregation; would go among the people visiting them, would become acquainted with the children, for whom he had a strong liking.

            He was very active, far more than the average clergyman. He preached two sermons on the Sabbath, conducted regularly prayer meetings on the week-days, and at times also in the evening. So active was he in his religious work that he would have prayer meetings whenever he could obtain help. He used his every effort to awaken interest in a better religious and moral life. He greatly influenced young people. He was active in organizing young folks and in every way endeavored to inculcate religious ideas. At the same time, he never neglected to combine and harmonize the useful and the beautiful. At the religious services, music and song contributed to the interest and entertainment of the gatherings which the young minister carefully arranged. His preaching was invariably of extemporaneous character, never from manuscript.

            He was regular in his visits to the bedside of the sick, and contributed in every way within his means to charitable work. He was ardently devoted to the duties of his calling. To this he was prompted by the sympathetic side of his nature, by the earnestness of his views of life and by his deep and religious convictions.

            His ministerial duties and theological studies did not rob him of aesthetic feelings; his appreciation of the beautiful in nature was as keen as ever and he greatly enjoyed the beautiful wherever he met it. He greatly appreciated natural scenery and liked flowers and animals.

            Of an earnest and ardent nature, he was not too enthusiastic and in no sense one of the class known among the world’s “cranks.” He took such interest in politics as is usual for the average professional man. He had, of course, political and reformatory ideas, as is but natural for an active, intelligent young man, but was not one of the class of young people who think they have the one ideal of social and political life necessary for the world’s salvation. He had no nostrums or panaceas for all human woes.

            We may therefore say that Mr. Hanna in all respects was a man of well-balanced and normal mental constitution, without the least trace of disposition to any of the neuroses. He was not (before the accident) subject to distressing dreams. His sleep was quiet, never disturbed by talking or wanderings.

            After a careful examination, therefore, we found Mr. Hanna to be a young man of perfect mental and physical constitution before the disorder occurred, which almost instantaneously effected a profound change of his conscious being.



1 Adoniram Judson.


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