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Post Moe Berg and Princeton
Created by John Eipper on 02/04/14 5:46 AM

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Moe Berg and Princeton (David Duggan, USA, 02/04/14 5:46 am)

I recall reading Moe Berg's obituary in the NY Times shortly before I graduated from Dartmouth in 1972.  (See Richard Hancock, 3 February.)  The quip given then was that the baseball player "could speak 15 languages but couldn't hit in any of them." I don't recall reading of all of the cloak and dagger stuff in which Berg engaged, but as a Dartmouth grad, I'm personally chagrined that we didn't get him and that Princeton, at least historically the least accommodating of Jewish students among the Ivies and perhaps the least involved in the study and promulgation of foreign languages, did.

JE comments: David Duggan and I, both Dartmouth men, exchanged follow-up e-mails on this topic.  David pointed out that Princeton has historically been seen as a "Southern Gentleman's" school. Perhaps it's the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, the Virginian who ran the University from 1902-1910.  Dartmouth, on the other hand, had a Jewish president (Kemeny) and a Jewish Chairman of the Board of Trustees (Zimmerman) in the early 1970s.  I think I've mentioned before that I took Intro to Computer Programming with Prof. Kemeny in 1983.  A brilliant man with an extraordinary sense of humor.  I should add, however, that Kemeny was a graduate of...Princeton, where he was the mathematical assistant--more or less a human calculator--of Albert Einstein.

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  • John Kemeny and BASIC (Henry Levin, USA 02/04/14 9:33 AM)

    John Kemeny was truly brilliant. (See David Duggan's post of 4 February, together with JE's comments.) He was not only a distinguished mathematician, but the developer of BASIC, a simple programming language which took over high schools in the late seventies and early eighties (as I recall). This language was a great entry point for high school students. It was easy to learn and powerful and generated enthusiasm among high school students. The problem was that it developed programming skills, habits, and thinking that reduced proficiency in learning the standard languages at the time that were more advanced such as C++. At Stanford we had many students who had received Advanced Placement in Programming from their high school classes, but the Computer Science department still required that they begin with the Introduction to Computing Course because of problems of previous students with BASIC who had challenges in C++. I don't know if BASIC is still used at any level.

    JE comments:  I've also been curious if BASIC is still used.  The first-generation MacIntosh, introduced exactly 30 years ago, rendered computing languages irrelevant--or at least invisible--for everyone but the specialists. 

    Regarding Dr. Kemeny, I found these WAIS postings from fellow Hungarian mathematicians Istvan Simon (27 April 2009) and the late Steve Torok (28 April 2009):




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    • BASIC and Visual BASIC (Jordi Molins, -Spain 02/05/14 3:08 AM)
      Henry Levin (4 February) asked if BASIC is still used at any level.

      BASIC is not among the most popular programming languages, with Python, Java and C++ taking the lead:


      However, I believe there is a lot of Visual Basic legacy code as Excel scripts (the so-called VBA), especially within the corporate/banking world.

      Even though I learned to program with BASIC, there is no reason to use it as a programming language unless you are forced to manage legacy code. Python as a generalist language, and R as a scientific programming language, are infinitely better suited for anything else.

      JE comments:  Python, according to the link above, is by far the most common programming language in use today.  The R language, specifically suited for statistical computing and graphics, was designed by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman.  That's where the "R" comes from, I presume.  Here's a (to my brain, cryptic) primer:


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