A letter from a reader: How to nurture the new Einsteins?

March 19, 2008:

It is interesting to me that no one who attended Princeton as an undergraduate has ever won a Nobel Prize in the sciences or medicine. Considering the outstanding science and math faculties Princeton has always had, this is puzzling. Swarthmore, a small college, has, on the other hand, had four such Nobel winners, and Harvard, Yale, and Columbia have had theirs. Colleges like Haverford and Augustana have produced them. There has been an increase in undergraduates majoring in physics, chemistry and other sciences, so this could well change. In the past, however, social pressures at Princeton tended to make students into other-directed, success-oriented types. Even now, being accepted is a prime objective of many who come to Princeton. Half of the eating clubs are still exclusive, and there are now fraternities and sororities to add to this environment. Nerdiness is not a quality much admired at Princeton.

Princeton, which has become so phenomenal in recent years, needs to provide a nurturing environment to students who might not necessarily seek to be well-rounded, but who have the potential to be the new Einsteins. I'm not sure how one goes about doing this, but it is something that needs to be addressed.

Bridgehampton, N.Y.

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