Tuesday, May 10, 2016


A Reactionary Mastodon

George Steiner, quoted by Peter Appleblome, "A Humanist and Elitist? Perhaps," New York Times (April 18, 1998):
I walked into my classes and said: 'I'm a reactionary mastodon out of the lost past. You don't need to come to this lecture. But if you do I will explain something to you. I know an embarrassing lot. Terrible. You know almost nothing. I've taken an oath before God to change this equation in your favor. Now shut up.'
This reminds me of a mathematics class I took at the University of Maine, taught by Henry Pogorzelski (1922-2015). On the first day of class he said something like (I'm quoting from memory), "I hate students. I love mathematics." Then he turned his back and started to write equations and proofs on the blackboard. Hundreds of students attended the first class in the huge lecture hall, but only a few dozen showed up for subsequent classes. My dilettante interest in mathematics started with Dr. Pogorzelski's class and continues to this day, although my formal training never got beyond two semesters of calculus.

Related post: Dinosaurs.

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