Undergraduate Quotes (8 quotes)
A formative influence on my undergraduate self was the response of a respected elder statesmen of the Oxford Zoology Department when an American visitor had just publicly disproved his favourite theory. The old man strode to the front of the lecture hall, shook the American warmly by the hand and declared in ringing, emotional tones: My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years. And we clapped our hands red. Can you imagine a Government Minister being cheered in the House of Commons for a similar admission? Resign, Resign is a much more likely response!
As an undergraduate who believed himself destined to be a mathematician I happened upon Man and Superman and as I read it at a library table I felt like Saul of Tarsus when the light broke. If literature, I said to myself, can be like this then literature is the stuff for me. And to this day I never see a differential equation written out without breathing a prayer of thanks.
Doubtless many can recall certain books which have greatly influenced their lives, and in my own case one stands out especiallya translation of Hofmeister's epoch-making treatise on the comparative morphology of plants. This book, studied while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, was undoubtedly the most important factor in determining the trend of my botanical investigation for many years.
My decision to begin research in radio astronomy was influenced both by my wartime experience with electronics and antennas and by one of my teachers, Jack Ratcliffe, who had given an excellent course on electromagnetic theory during my final undergraduate year.
The final results [of his work on the theory of relativity] appear almost simple; any intelligent undergraduate can understand them without much trouble. But the years of searching in the dark for a truth that one feels, but cannot express; the intense effort and the alternations of confidence and misgiving, until one breaks through to clarity and understanding, are only known to him who has himself experienced them.
The physics of undergraduate text-books is 90% true; the contents of the primary research journals of physics is 90% false.
When we look back beyond one hundred years over the long trails of history, we see immediately why the age we live in differs from all other ages in human annals. It remained stationary in India and in China for thousands of years. But now it is moving very fast. A priest from Thebes would probably have felt more at home at the council of Trent, two thousand years after Thebes had vanished, than Sir Isaac Newton at a modern undergraduate physical society, or George Stephenson in the Institute of Electrical Engineers. The changes have have been so sudden and so gigantic, that no period in history can be compared with the last century. The past no longer enables us even dimly to measure the future.
[Presently, science undergraduates] do not learn to write clearly and briefly, marshalling their points in due and aesthetically satisfying order, and eliminating inessentials. They are inept at those turns of phrase or happy analogy which throw a flying bridge across a chasm of misunderstanding and make contact between mind and mind.