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Being on the board of the Hertz Foundation


Feeling rich as a student
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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And then when September came, I went down... in those days, you would go down to actually collect your cheque at the cashier's office. And I went down to collect my teaching assistantship cheque, and the guy behind the counter said, 'Oh, I can't give you two cheques. You've got...' And I said, 'What do you mean, two cheques?' And he says, 'Well, you have the one for the teaching assistantship and you have the one from the Hertz Foundation.' I was like, 'Oh, you can keep the one from the teaching assistantship, just give me the one from the Hertz Foundation.' And so they paid for my entire graduate education for six years, because it stretched out and paid all my tuition. And in those days, it was like tax-free income, so I never felt so rich as I did then, because I was getting twice as much as all my friends were, and didn't know what to spend it on, even. But it was quite a luxurious fellowship.

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes George Dyson

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: cheque, fellowship, rich, money

Duration: 1 minute, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017