I asked him, "What would you suggest?" He mentioned engineering, to which I replied, "I'd rather starve. If I designed anything it would fall apart." And sure enough when I took an aptitude test a year later I was told to take up anything but engineering. Then my father suggested, "Why don't we compromise — on physics?"

I pointed out to him that I had taken a course in "physics" in high school which was not only the dullest class I had ever had but also the only one in which I had ever done badly. We memorized the seven kinds of simple machines and then learned little bits about heat, light, electricity, magnetism, wave motion, and mechanics, but without any hint that these things might be related to one another. I couldn't possibly study such a subject. He said, "It'll be very different when you take advanced courses in physics. You'll learn general relativity and quantum mechanics, and those are very, very beautiful." I thought I would please the old man since it didn't really make any difference what I wrote down on this form. If through some miracle I were admitted to Yale and also got that one scholarship that would permit me to attend, I could always change my mind. In the end I was fortunate enough to be admitted and to get that scholarship. some physics.

When I arrived in New Haven I was too lazy to switch major subjects, so I actually took physics courses, among others. I got hooked on quantum mechanics and relativity, just the way my father had predicted, and I worked on physics for many, many years. Now, at the Santa Fe Institute, I'm encouraged to work on a broad spectrum of fields, so I'm back to archaeology, linguistics, and many other topics along with some physics.


The scholarship that made it possible for me to attend Yale was called the Medill McCormick Scholarship. It provided for everything. I didn't even have to work at a "bursary job" like just about everybody else on scholarship. I was a little troubled about the names on the scholarship, though, because I knew Bertie McCormick ran the Chicago Tribune and Joseph Medill Patterson ran the New York Daily News, neither of which was especially anti-fascist in the days leading up to the war. As a strong opponent of fascism — after all, the Second World War was still going on when I got to Yale — I was troubled to know that I was receiving money from people with those names.

Nothing happened, though, until 1947, when I went to see the scholarship authorities to ask if I could spend a ninth term at Yale because the scholarship was about to expire. I was due to graduate in January, 1948, but preferred to stay until June because I didn't think that it was possible to enter graduate school in the middle of the year. They suggested that I graduate after seven terms and try to get a Henry Fellowship to Cambridge University in England. They handed me the form, and I filled it out overnight and turned it in the next morning, but that was too late — it had been due the previous day. The scholarship people at Yale didn't realize that the Henry Fellowship authorities would be so rigid about the date, but because the application was a day late they refused to consider it. The scholarship people finally agreed to give me the ninth term but requested that I write a letter to my unknown benefactor.

I was not only strongly anti-fascist, but also rather left-wing at that time. I struggled with the notion of writing a letter, thinking it was likely that the donor was connected with these newspaper-owning families.

At one point I composed a note that I had no real intention of sending, saying in essence "I'm very grateful for your generosity in providing this money that allows poor boys to attend Yale and that has made an enormous difference to my future, but I'm somewhat troubled about the possible origin of the money." I went on to complain about the newspapers, thinking that perhaps they were involved. I didn't send that letter; in fact I didn't send any letter.


At Yale I was very fond of history classes, and I found Professor Dunham's course on English constitutional history and Hajo Holborn's courses on German and medieval history very stimulating.

In physics I was fortunate enough to have a course with Henry Margenau. He completed his Ph.D. at Yale in 1929, and although he didn't accomplish an enormous amount of research in physics, he was a spectacular teacher. He taught a course called "Philosophy of Physics" on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at something like ten in the morning. I still see a number of fellow students from that class: my friend Harold Morowitz, who spends a good deal of time at the Santa Fe Institute and was for many years a professor of biophysics at Yale; Paul MacCready, a very close friend; and George Rathjens, who became a political science professor at MIT specializing in arms control.

Margenau's course didn't confine itself to philosophy of physics. It was really about physics itself, with some mention of philosophy in connection with each topic. I was quite happy to tolerate that much philosophy, and the teaching about physics was spectacular. Margenau by-passed all the fears that people have about learning relatively advanced subjects. I was only a sophomore and some of the students were juniors; we hadn't studied a great deal of theoretical physics. The advanced topics like quantum mechanics and general relativity loomed as difficult obstacles to overcome in the future, but he made everything so easy.

We started with Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics, and Margenau began by saying, "I assume you've all studied the calculus of variations."?" We said no. He then asked, "What do your math teachers do in class today? Apparently they don't teach you anything useful, just epsilons and deltas." He was talking about the highly rigorous approach to analysis that's often taken by professional mathematicians. He said, "I'll teach you the calculus of variations today, and then on Thursday and Saturday we'll do Lagrangian mechanics." That's what he did, and it didn't take longer than he said it would.

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