49:30 minutes (23.77 MB)
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My father was enamored of the Renaissance Man and wanted me to be one.
You know how it is, when you father uses one particular phrase, over and over for decades, so that you know it's coming -- here it comes -- he's gonna say Renaissance Man!
He took me to Annapolis so I could see St. John's College, the last bastion of the broad-based education. I didn't get it. But I knew that if I got into Yale, everybody would get off my back, possibly forever. So I did. At Yale, I was assigned a faculty advisor, a European Jew who taught math. He was a dignified man and when we met, he would shake his head over my reluctance to pursue math or the sciences. He would sigh at the choices I made to get around the requirements. When he died and his obit ran in the Times, I realized Abraham Robinson was one of the most important mathematicians of his generation.
He was the last fork in a road that led to my being a polymath. I went the other way.
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***This broadcast orgininally aired Nov. 19, 2009.***