December 12, 2006

The Einsteins of Wall Street

In the spring of 1969, I got the somewhat lunatic idea of going to the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan to see the high mountains—K-2, Nanga Parbat, and the like. As it happened, I had a Pakistani colleague in physics with a connection to both the University of Islamabad and the Ford Foundation. He arranged for me to become a Ford Foundation visiting professor at the university, and before taking up my teaching duties I managed to explore all sorts of places on the frontier that are now presumably inaccessible to travelers.

In Islamabad I led a pleasant but somewhat lonely existence—until, after about a month, I heard a pair of English-speaking voices that turned out to belong to another Ford Foundation professor and his wife. This was not any old professor. It was Marshall Stone, one of the world's best mathematicians. In addition to creating, at the University of Chicago, the leading school of mathematics in the country, Stone had also been the teacher of my teacher at Harvard, George Mackey, who had interested me in the mathematical foundations of quantum theory. Now here he was, accompanied by his rather recently acquired wife Vila, a very attractive and voluble Yugoslavian.

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