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Gary Becker

Nobel Prize in Economics

Gary Becker: I originally was in mathematics and thought I would go into mathematics. I went to Princeton, planning to go into mathematics, but I had a strong interest -- I think inherited from the discussions we had in my family, with my father and my brothers and sisters -- to do some good for society, that was my orientation. And then by happenstance, I took an economics course in my freshman year. Part of the course dealt with the use of mathematics. They were using mathematics -- the textbook had -- using mathematics to discuss economic questions. And it struck me, "This seems ideal for me, given my mathematics, my interest in math. I can combine it now to learn about my social problems." That's when I made the shift, and so it was, in a sense, early on in my college career, which is earlier than most people get so excited about economics. But I did get excited then. I thought I can use this as a way of doing good, if you will, in understanding and helping society.
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Gary Becker

Nobel Prize in Economics

The only area I was precocious on was sort of an ability to calculate and do arithmetic, so I had some mathematical talent. I had a great love for math, love for social issues, trying to do something for society. I think those motivated me once I got to be a teenager. And then it was just a series of events, partly lucky. I went to Princeton, which is a great place. I didn't think I would get into Princeton, but they accepted me and I went there. Took the economics course, had a couple of good teachers when I was at Princeton, and a crisis in my study of economics when I was an undergraduate. I didn't feel finally concluded it wasn't dealing with these important social issues. And I thought for a while about becoming a sociologist. Tried sociology but found it too difficult. I couldn't really get on top of it, as I began to read. And so came back to economics reluctantly, went to the University of Chicago, and that was a major again, lucky. Most of my contemporaries, the advice we'd get would be to go to Harvard. And a lot, Princeton, in those days, if you were a good student and you wanted to go to grad school, you went to Harvard. I did get a very attractive offer from Harvard, but maybe this was my rebellious streak. I felt I wanted to do something different. Chicago seemed like... interesting. It was out in the Midwest. I hadn't been in the Midwest. It had a good department, I thought I'd try Chicago. And I did go to Chicago, and I encountered great teachers. Mainly I would say Milton Friedman had the greatest influence on me. And he taught me that you could use economics for powerful problems. That was really a revelation at that time. And I would say that was the next big, important event in my development.
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Sir Timothy Berners-Lee

Father of the World Wide Web

My parents were both mathematicians. They obviously had a lot of fun with math. I was the eldest. I am the eldest of four. We all grew up in an atmosphere where math was sort of interesting, it was everywhere. So making pudding or making a pie involved some calculations and things. I suppose when I was little, I had two friends in elementary school, and we would discuss science. We weren't very athletic. We would walk around the playground and talk about chemistry and biology and physics, and we would wind electromagnets by taking transformer wire and wrap it around a nail. I remember those electromagnets didn't work very well. The book said you should put the nail in the hearth, in the embers of the fire, and let it cool, so that it got the right temper -- but we didn't have a fire with embers, so that never happened. The nail would become a permanent magnet. That was the first sort of interest in, I suppose, what was to become later electronics.
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Sir Timothy Berners-Lee

Father of the World Wide Web

Later on, as I went through high school, then I came across a couple of teachers who were also great: Daffy Pernell, who taught chemistry; Frank Grundy, who taught math. Both excited, just bubbling over with enthusiasm, just so excited about the idea. So you could talk to them. Just after class, the class would all leave, and they'd continue to talk excitedly about something, maybe going out from the curriculum to something that they were actually personally more interested in. And Frank was great. When he would put a problem on the board for the class, he would say, "Okay. Work this out, for N equals 2," and then for anybody who was interested, he sort of thought, "Is that true for all N?" or "Is there a quick, better way of doing this?" Just these little teasers. Or he'd end up with having got through the algebraic with a sum, the difference between two numbers to the power of 3.5 or something, and he'd then write it down to three decimal places straight off. We thought that was magic, or he cheated, and then he'd explain how he'd use the binomial theorem or whatever it is, and have an approximation. So he was full of -- I guess it's the passion is the main thing, and just letting it radiate. So both of those were good mentors, role models.
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Yogi Berra

Baseball Hall of Fame

We played ball all the time. I played every sport there was in St. Louis. Not basketball, I was too short. I played a lot of soccer. I played football. I played softball. And, we had a game called "cartball." Did you ever play with bottle caps? We'd played with bottle caps, with broomsticks. Softball, everything. I played every sport. I actually didn't know I liked to play baseball until I was 14.
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