Before answering this and other weighing questions, permit me, as a prelude, to explain about my own dealings with UCB, that is, about my reasons for coming to Berkeley back then and my experiences, once arrived. In order to make this more palatable to you, let me intersperse it with some pictures of flowers I took at a rainy day on Campus.
I started academic studies (in Vienna) already in 1962, but it took me ten more years to get my major in economics and be accepted as a graduate student in Stockholm. My first thesis adviser, the markedly creative economist Bengt Christer Ysander, encouraged me to write a thesis in the field of information (My main adviser was Professor Lars Werin, who aptly guided me through the thesis' final stages).
In those days, it was deemed important to improve the assessment of investments in public information systems, in particular the large scale EDP (electronic data processing) systems being introduced overall in Swedish administration during that time.
Whilst I was pondering these strategic questions, and not going anywhere with my thesis, Roland Andersson, a good old friend, came to rescue. He was just back from Berkeley and looked the part, with a long blond moustache and hair cascading down his shoulders. He advised me to go to UCB and said: “Whatever problem you may have with your thesis, there will be someone there to make sense out of it for you.” More to the point, he also lent me his UCB General Catalogue, in which I saw an interesting interdisciplinary graduate course with the impressive title “Economics of Decision, Information and Organisation”. This course was stretched out over the full academic year and appeared to solve all my problems.
The good news was however, as they put it, that this would enable me to garner the necessary prerequisites for the seminar, which consisted of courses in mathematics and statistics at intermediate level and which I had been sadly unaware of. With those digested, I would also be able to take a third quarter course on Game Theory, taught by John Harsanyi (another Nobel Laureate; where do all these geniuses at Berkeley come from?).
So a major part of my stay was not to be spent on studies directly relevant for me, as I saw it then. But how I was mistaken! These preparatory courses were among the most interesting academic exercises I had ever experienced. The course I remember most fondly was about “elementary” classical mathematical analysis. It was given by Tosio Kato, an amiable, somewhat absent-minded, scholar.
He distinguished himself by rarely being able to finish the day’s lecture topic within the allotted hour. He would put the proposition of the day on the blackboard, hesitating about its precise phrasing, and keep changing details for about 15 minutes, mumbling to himself, with his back to us faithful students. Once satisfied with the topic of the day, he would then proceed by outlining the proof of the proposition, but soon lose himself in all kinds of diverting arguments; and so it would continue until the clock tolled and us confused students were released from his guardianship.
|Professor Tosio Kato in 1988 (UCB Website)
Unfortunately, every two pages or so, I would get stuck in the mathematical arguments. This forced me to permanently occupy the poor professor’s premises during, and often also after, his office hours. Fortunately, I was the only one daring to do so. The often heated discussions that resulted usually ended with realising that my lack of understanding had its cause in printing errors or errors of presentation, and with Tosio congratulating me for pointing out these small issues in the book.
When it was time for the finals, Tosio had thought to make things easy for us students, by starting with two very simple warming-up questions, that actually belonged to the basic course, which I had never taken (not being prerequisite for the seminar I actually was interested in). Naturally, I was unable to answer those, but did my best to scribble in some formulas nonetheless. The last two questions were far more interesting and to the point, since they consisted of propositions we had to prove, but which had hitherto not been treated in class. Fortunately, both had been given as exercises in Marsden’s book and solved by me at home. I guess that only a few of the students were able to provide the right answers.
|Fellow (young) students of Professor Marschak
He added that it would be impossible to have such an educational set-up for present-day students, not even graduate students; the young generation was far to impatient and focussed on efficient transfer of knowledge to accept such a scheme. I thought that the students may have a point there if they had the ambition to finish graduate studies within four standard years, concurrent with extra-curricular activities such as the one shown below.
From this we switched our discussion to two friends of mine who also had participated in the seminar, or in the more lengthy one-year course. The first, Pavel Pelikan, he remembered very well. He had met him already back in the sixties, whilst being a visiting scholar in Yugoslavia and participating in a conference in Prague from there. Subsequently, Pavel had received a grant to visit Berkeley for a year. Thomas was intrigued to hear that I knew Pavel from his time at the Swedish Institute for Industrial Research. He also recalled Eva (see my posting on “El Escorial en Alta California”) who not only had taken the course, but later also had stayed shortly as scholar at UCB.
|Fellow (more mature) students of Professor Marschak