A letter from a reader: Overlooking John Kemeny '46 *49

March 19, 2008:

The recent PAW article on the Princeton mathematics department (feature, Nov. 7) was a most enjoyable example of in-depth coverage as well as longitudinal reporting. However, amid the array of luminaries reviewed was a singular omission: John Kemeny '46 *49.

Kemeny was unquestionably an individual of outstanding personal achievements. As an undergraduate he had a double major in math and philosophy. He was a graduate student of Alonzo Church '24 *27. He worked for Richard Feynman and John von Neumann in Los Alamos during the war. He was the long-term president of Dartmouth College, and he still managed to teach two courses a year during this period.

However, his development with Thomas Kurtz of the BASIC programming language quite possibly had the most significant social impact of any of the individuals featured in the article. BASIC essentially democratized computer programming, taking it out of the hands of wizards and opening it to the world, and the world to it. It was one of the most far-reaching achievements to which any person can aspire.


Cherry Hill, N.J.

Respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW

Go back to our online Letter Box Table of Contents


Current Issue    Online Archives    Printed Issue Archives
Advertising Info    Reader Services    Search    Contact PAW    Your Class Secretary