Monday, September 8, 2014

Who gave Bill Gates his C+ in organic chemistry?


The long policy article of the weekend was probably the New York Times Magazine article on Bill Gates' desire for an integrated history course. I think it is pretty awesome that he admits to a C+ plus in organic chemistry.

So who taught Gates organic chemistry? It would probably have been between 1973 and 1975 or so... Was it the Fiesers?

(Substantively, I don't think the article addresses what I want to know, which is "What has been the history of teaching world history? How does Gates' course fit into that, and are there prominent examples of this sort of curriculum either succeeding or dramatically failing?" 

10 comments:

  1. I'm curious. In an article he wrote in 1997, he specifically stated that he did not like the class. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/585289/Present-offers-many-clues-to-the-future.html "The basic idea of organic chemistry is super interesting to me, but the worst class I ever took was introductory organic chemistry in college. The instructor just kept giving specific chemical reactions without explaining the principles behind them. It was just a bunch of memorization, and it seemed totally irrelevant because I wasn't learning much in the larger sense.”

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    1. Interesting. I find that a lot of times professors do explain the principles, but students will still complain that the professor didn't explain the principles. Orgo is just a challenging class that requires studying. Even if his prof. didn't explain the principles, he still should have been reading the text book. I don't think you can learn orgo by simply going to lecture.

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  2. Bill Gates wouldn't be the first person who was not taught introductory organic chemistry properly. That's the tragedy.

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  3. I am thinking EJC as he was fond of teaching the undergraduates.

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  4. Ironic that someone who doesn't suffer fools well "He's a moron!" is interested in education. To me, this information suggests although he loves to learn, he probably be a piss-poor teacher.

    Yup. He's arrogant AND selfish.

    No wonder he's pushing "not enough STEM Workers" to effectively increase the Indian population in Reston.

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  5. This reminded me about how Cpt. Jean-Luc Picard failed organic chemistry.

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  6. If you must know, I flunked my first organic chemistry test as a first-year undergrad. It was an eye-opener. I had to take it again, and came to learn the only way to pass was to actually understand organic chemistry. That is what separates organic chemistry from most other subjects IMHO. You can pass almost any other course by memorizing old tests.

    I think it's cool that medical students have to take organic chemistry in the US. (To the best of my knowledge, nowhere else.) It has practically zero relevance for a physician, but if one has passed an organic chemistry course, it is means he or she is able to truly understand things.

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    1. I would disagree that organic chemistry has practically zero relevance for physicians. Is it absolutely required in order to become a physician? No. Is it relevant? Undoubtedly. Organic chemistry underlies all the metabolic reactions that a drug undergoes in the body. This set of processes in turn critically dictates the dosage and frequency of dosing of a drug, information that a physician literally cannot live without.

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  7. http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1973/2/10/chem-20-posts-grades-48-forced/

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  8. Doering and a Dolphin taught Chem 20 in 1973. It was apparently rather brutal on the students. Section leaders were skimped on, and the median grade was C+.

    In 1988, I took Chem 20. The median grade was C+. Bloody traditions....

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