October 15, 2003
The Classical Nobel winner

The Philosophical Cowboy reproduces in full this letter to The Times, concerning former Balliol classicist Anthony Leggett who has just been awarded a Nobel Prize. They don't give you one of those just for doing Latin or Greek.

The key line from the letter is the Oxford dictum that: "the Greats man can turn his mind to anything". In Leggett's case this proved to be so, with stunning success.

Says the PhC:

I find this a wonderful parable about the benefits of a broad education, particularly of the type furnished by Oxford, and by subjects (such as Classics) that serve as mental training.

But was it Classics that made Leggett clever, or Leggett's cleverness that made him good, first at Classics, and then at science? Certainly the Classics doesn't seem to have done any permanent harm in his case, but in general, Classics is an unnecessary and insufficient educational basis for winning a Nobel Prize. Science, on the other hand, is necessary but insufficient.

You can tell I did Latin and Greek at school can't you? How else could I possibly have learned to think?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:58 AM
Category: Higher education