Doug Beck is a professor of physics.
I’ve recently finished a couple of books—a biography of Albert Hirschman, Worldly Philosopher, by Jeremy Adelman and The Birth of a Theorem by Cédric Villani. Hirschman was a developmental economist and thinker whose path took him from Weimar Germany, to education in Paris and London, to the Spanish civil war, to the resistance in Marseille, to the U.S. and the Marshall Plan State Department. Repelled by Senator McCarthy, he moved to the ground in Columbia, only returning to the U.S. later in his career to eventually lead the nascent social science program at the IAS in Princeton. His life was nothing if not remarkable. Cédric Villani is a winner of the Fields Medal in mathematics—his idiosyncrasy is on display as he describes the halting, sometimes almost
painful, but ultimately exhilarating extraction of a kernel from nature. (I don’t understand the excerpts from his papers either.) Currently, it’s on to American Pastoral by Philip Roth and then to the new biography of Frank Gehry—I’m always interested in the emergence of ideas and the way they are expressed.