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Being a nerd of nerds at high school


Interests in high school
Donald Knuth Scientist
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Back in high school… my main activities in high school, at… it was called Lutheran High School, and then during my senior year it… it split into two schools, Milwaukee Lutheran High School, which was the one I went to, and Wisconsin Lutheran High School. 1956 was the year I graduated, and that, well… the place where again I didn't have special… teachers who were… who were specialists in a world class sense, but they were… they were always real interested in… in nurturing us. I went on to be a mathematician, but the math… but I didn't have any interest very much in math at the time in high school, because my… I would ask questions to my teachers, and they didn't know the answer. You know, I could prove that one was equal to zero, and they couldn't find any mistakes in the proof, and so you know, and so… why should I go in, you know, go into mathematics? So my main interest at that time was in music, and also in… in physics. My… my chemistry-physics teacher was a wonderful man, who sort of wrote his own textbook.  He designed our chemical experiments, and… and I had a great admiration for him, and he encouraged me to, you know, to think some about physics, and although I spent most of my time in music, outside of school.  In fact I, well I played the piano with the… with the high school chorus, I sang in the chorus, I was in the band. I played the saxophone and I played tuba in the band, and I played, you know, in the All-City, Milwaukee All-City Band, or Symphonic Band. I wrote music, I arranged music for bands. I had… I had… at the time I took a… I was a big fan of Mad Magazine, and also of Roger Price, if anybody remembers Roger Price, and he… and he had written a short story called Milton and the Rhinoceros. And so I made a take-off on Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, with the words from Milton and the Rhinoceros. I was very naïve at the time; I had no idea about copyrights, or… or anything, so I took Prokofiev's music, and I scored it for band, and I took Roger Price's words, Milton and the Rhinoceros, and I made this… this piece for, I don't know, 20 minutes or something like this, for our… for our high school band to perform. And I proudly gave this to our band director, and he lost it, and I've never seen it again. So I have no idea whether it's any good, or whatever, but there it was.

Born in 1938, American computing pioneer Donald Knuth is known for his greatly influential multi-volume work, 'The Art of Computer Programming', his novel 'Surreal Numbers', his invention of TeX and METAFONT electronic publishing tools and his quirky sense of humor.

Listeners: Dikran Karagueuzian

Trained as a journalist, Dikran Karagueuzian is the director of CSLI Publications, publisher of seven books by Donald Knuth. He has known Knuth since the late seventies when Knuth was developing TeX and Metafont, the typesetting and type designing computer programs, respectively.

Tags: Lutheran High School, Milwaukee Lutheran High School, Wisconsin Lutheran High School, Milwaukee All-City Band, Mad Magazine, Roger Price, Milton and the Rhinoceros, Sergei Prokofiev, Peter and the Wolf

Duration: 3 minutes, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008