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Edward Witten

  1. Mar 13, 2008 #1
    Edward Witten is one of the world's leading researchers in superstring theory. He received his bachelor's degree in history (with a minor in linguistics) from Brandeis University, then he completed graduate studies in physics at Princeton University receiving a Ph.D. in physics in 1976. In1990 he was awarded the Fields Medal for his influence on the development of mathematics.(from Wikipedia)

    So anyone knows how he shifted from undergraduate history degree to graduate physics degree?!!! Was he studying physics and math during his undergraduate studies or even before?!!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 13, 2008 #2


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    Yes, that is something I also allways wanted to know. :confused:

    BTW, I would also like to know what historians think about that. Do they think that "It proves that we (the historians) are very clever", or that "It's a pity that such a clever man left history"?
  4. Mar 13, 2008 #3

    George Jones

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    The full route, in chronological order, goes something like: got a degree in history and linguistics: started grad school in economics; tried a behind-the-scenes career in politics; started grad school in math; started grad school in physics.

    Witten's father was a well-known physicist (relativist).
  5. Mar 13, 2008 #4
    I heard he worked for the Goldwater campaign.
  6. Mar 13, 2008 #5
    I'd actually be more interested to see how long his PhD took him. I wonder if he had a pretty solid background from his father, or if he had to catch up on the basics like EM and classical mechanics?
  7. Mar 17, 2008 #6
    It took him 5 years (from the time he decided to switch into physics) to receive his PhD. But that all what you could find through Google. No information whether these 5 years includes undergraduate studies or it was only for graduate studies. If it was only for graduate studies, then you can assume that he was (alongside with history) self studding physics and mathematics (maybe with some help from his father).
  8. Mar 17, 2008 #7
    He worked as a speechwriter for the McGovern campaign, not the Goldwater campaign. I'm also curious as to whether he studied math/physics as an undergraduate. Given the fact that he originally enrolled as an applied mathematics graduate student at Princeton, I would say that it's likely he had at least some prior training in mathematics.
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