A letter from a reader: Remembering 'Mr. Church'                 

March 19, 2008:

My freshman calculus section (Math 103) was scheduled to meet Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday at 7:40 a.m. (ugh) and would be led by a Mr. Church [Alonzo Church '24 *27]. At 7:39 a large, white-haired, elderly man ("panda" actually fits rather well) walked in and diffidently, perhaps shyly, said, "Good morning, gentlemen," then turned and proceeded to start at the upper left-hand corner of the chalkboard, reciting as he wrote. At exactly 8:29, as he finished in precisely the lower right-hand corner of the chalkboard on the side of the room, he turned and said, as the bell rang, "Are there any questions?"

This went on for six weeks, until my curiosity got the better of me and I determined to find out why this elderly mathematician-manqué, without so much as a doctorate to his name, had been saddled with this dregs-of-a-section. So I looked him up in the course catalog. It took a good 30 minutes for me to figure out what all the honorary degrees listed after his name meant, and while I was no more enthusiastic about a 7:40 Saturday class, I like to think I sat up straighter for the rest of the semester.

Finally, I was shocked (shocked!) to read an article (feature, Nov. 7) about Princeton mathematics without even a passing mention of Kurt Godel. The Institute for Advanced Study, I know, but still … Einstein was heard to remark of the Triumvirate (Godel, John von Neumann, and himself), "Well, Johnnie has the quickest mind, but Kurt, I think, is doing the deepest work." Heady, heady days.

R. K. ALLEN '63
Rockville, Md.

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