An 89-year-old medical doctor has earned a Ph.D. in physics from Brown University.
Manfred Steiner achieved his third doctorate after a lifetime in medicine, in which he practiced and taught student about hematology, NPR reported.
“I am really on top of the world,” Steiner said in a statement released by the college.
“I always had this dream: Gee, someday I would like to become a physicist,” Steiner told NPR.
The Austrian national grew up in Vienna and was a teenager when World War II ended.
He was fascinated with physics from an early age, but decided to pursue a career in medicine instead, taking his family’s advice.
“When I was a medical student in the early ‘50s, I used to sneak into the physical institute, which was very close by the medical school,” he said, “and listen to some talks there because I was so interested in quantum physics, particularly quantum physics, the new stuff at that time.”
Steiner is fascinated by the “precision” involved in physics, he says, which sees the same laws applied to both tiny subatomic areas and the vast expanses of space.
“I was always amazed that the laws that go for the quantum area, where you talk about distances of femtometers” — or quadrillionths of a meter — also apply to astronomy, with measures of light years, he said.
“Yet the physical laws exactly were the same, holding for the two extremes,” he added, “and that precision really always fascinated me. And of course, I always liked mathematics, which is sort of the language of physics.”
He says he is happy to have spent a career in medicine, although “in medicine, there are too many variables and, you know, too much imprecision,” he said.
He offered some advice to young people: “All the young people, if they have a dream, follow that dream. Don’t give up on it.” If the dream does not work out, he said, they can go into something else.
“But first, follow your dream.”
“I would like to continue with it as long as my mind says OK, I’m going to do some studies with theoretical physics,” he said. “I don’t need a lab. I just need a computer, and I need paper and pencil.”