Professor Emeritus

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Back in the day, Rory Miller took an introductory Oceanography class that was taught by a professor emeritus who came out of retirement once a year just to teach this one class:

What follows is from memory, and I’m sure over the decades it has altered, but I remember his first lecture starting like this:

The sun rises in the East. It sets in the West. Warm air rises. Cold air falls. Your assignment for tomorrow is to use that information to draw a weather map of the world.

The class started to murmur in protest and several hands went up. Dr. Frohlander slammed his hand down, silencing the room:

The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Warm air rises, cold air falls. THAT IS ALL YOU NEED TO DRAW A BASIC WEATHER MAP.

Some of you think you are here to be spoonfed facts. Anyone can do that. You are here to learn to think. Part of that is taking what you already know and learning what it means and how to use it.

Most of us got the basic maps right. Might not have been perfect on the latitude where the easterlies ended and the westerlies began, but the concept was close enough.

In my time at college, Dr. Frohlander was the only one who demanded that I think for myself. Some requested it or suggested it. (Some of those then punished the free thought if they disagreed with the conclusions.) But only Dr. Frohlander, an elderly, retired hard scientist demanded it.

I can never thank him enough.

(Hat tip to Johnny Abacus, who recently brought this up in a comment.)

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