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Getting into arguments with the teacher


The worst teacher I ever had
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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The worst I ever had was in fourth grade. I went to a very good school which was called Lida Lee Tall Elementary School. But I had a teacher named Mrs Hughes who I was constantly getting into arguments with because she was constantly wrong and she was trying to teach people wrong things. And I would correct her. You know, she'd just... You know, had facts of history wrong, her geography wrong. And she didn't like me very much.

I remember one thing is... Because it was an experimental school we were allowed to build something and I decided I would build a magazine rack. And I designed it, really kind of interesting design for a magazine rack. And she said, 'That's not what a magazine rack looks like, you can't build it that way.' And I was like, 'No, this is the way I want to build it.' And I got into a big fight with her. And she said, 'Okay, well we'll have the carpenter when he comes, he'll tell you how a magazine rack is really built.' And so the carpenter who was supposed to teach us showed up, and he saw my drawing and he said, 'Oh, this is a brilliant way to build a magazine rack.' And I felt so vindicated and she was infuriated. And I built the magazine rack and she wouldn't let us keep it in the classroom, so they took it in the library, Mrs Wilner, the librarian, took it, and it became the magazine rack in the library. Which made me very happy but did not make her very happy.

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: teacher, argument, fight, magazine rack, carpentry

Duration: 1 minute, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017