WAIS thanks Gene Franklin

WAIS thanks Gene Franklin for his contribution to the WAIS survival and development fund. He joins several other WAISers who are Professors Emeriti of Electrical Engineering at Stanford. I was prompted to open the Stanford Bulletin and read what it says about that department.  Reading the Bulletin is a humbling experience, because it makes one realize how complicated the world is. a complexity reflected in the array of schools and departments. Stanford has a north south axis, Palm Drive, which leads to the quad.  My world, the humanities and social sciences, is on the east side of the quad. The sciences are on the west side, many of them housed in new buildings.  It is a world I scarcely know.  Since Silicon Valley is its brainchild, the Department of Electrical Engineering is a big and complex affair, although not as large as the School of  Humanities and Sciences, It has nine departments, three of which are directly involved in computers.  In addition to Electrical Engineering, they are  Computer Science (which was once in Humanities and Sciences) and Scientific Computing and Computational Mathematics.

Electrical Engineering is itself is a complex world.  It has nine areas of research: Communications,  Computer Systems (which must be different from computer science); Information Systems; Integrated Circuits; Lasers and Quantum Electronics;  Microwaves, Acoustics and Optics; Radio Science and Remote Sensing; Solid State: Space Physics and Electromagnetics.  Reading the descriptions`of the activities of the various faculty members makes one aware of one's ignorance.  There are indeed two cultures.  The scientists know more about the humanities than the humanists know about the sciences. With specialization, things are getting worse. I am an odd survival of a world in which for example Alexander von Humboldt could write a book on the cosmos.  Modern graduate studies program were scorned as producing Fachidioten. Unfortunately there is no turning back.

The ground plan of Stanford University described above is a manifestation of the two cultures. Linking the two areas is the Quad, the focal point of which is Memorial Church,  where people properly  wonder what life is all about and how we should behave.  No two cultures there.  I am reminded on a train trip I once took in Ecuador from Quito in the highlands to Guayaquil on the Pacific Coast. The line climbs down the slope of the Andes in a dizzying series of switchbacks.  If the brakes failed, the train would go hurtling into the abyss. On the rock face opposite one switchback, enterprising American missionaries had painted in large black letters: WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO SPEND ETERNITY? READ THE BIBLE!  I am not sure that just reading it would have the desired effect.  I have a more timely counsel: Read the Stanford Bulletin, or the corresponding publication of any other university.  The word "bulletin" is inappropriate for a volume of 704 pages; a bulletin is defined as a brief official statement. It may have been brief once when the world seemed to be a simpler place.  Reading it now will is like looking through a telescope at the myriad of stars.  The cosmos should fill you with awe.

Your comments are invited. Read the home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on:   http://wais.stanford.edu/ E-mail to hilton@stanford.edu. Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: October 25, 2004