Le Corbeiller: Philosophizing Physicist. . .
Trained as Scientist, He mixes Aristotle with Amperes
Out of the wire-cluttered and slide-rule-dominated anterooms of Lyman Laboratory have recently arisen the slightly incongruous Parisian the slightly incongruous Parisian intonations of Philippe E. Le Corbeiller, who periodically puts aside his parallel resistances and variable condensers to give the nation his ideas on life in the twenty-five and thirtieth centuries.
LeCorbeiller, a lecturer in Applied Physics, has managed to combine an "amateur" interest in philosophy with a highly respected knowledge of electric circuit theory. He has come up with a provoking series of predictions in the Atlantic Monthly that have amazed some of his scientific colleagues.
An End in view
In takes courage to tall a research man that "science is not infinite. . . it is finite." There are not many scholars willing to forecast that all physical and chemical theory will be polished off "let us say about the year 2000." And experimental sociologists are likely to gulp when they hear that we will have built a final framework for biology psychology, and sociology and possibly "a stable society" 500 to 1000 years from now.
But LeCorbeiller has used his knowlege of philosophy calculus, bridge-building, and all kinds of things, to build up his thesis and one faculty associate of his was recently forced to admit, "We don't all go along with him on his fundamental thesis, but the reasoning is brilliant."
LeCorbeilller is not content, however, to let his philosophical speculation on science lie dormant in back issues of the Monthly. Three times a week his short, rebust figure parades up and down in a a Byerly Hall lecture room filled with scientific neophytes enrolled in the General Education offering, Natural Sciences 1. Bent over so far that he appears to be sniffing out his path, he turns frequently to gaze at his flock with what one student called "the friendliest damn eyes I ever saw."
Opening up the profund mysteries of Newtonian physics or thermodynamics to an audience that once thought itself incapable of such heady stuff, LeCorbeiller tosses in Einstein, Euclid, Plato, or Aristotle wherever they are relevant--and often with a sudden thrust of refreshing Gallic humor.
As a matter of fact, LeCorbeiller's eyes grow a little misty when he reflects, "America is the country for General Education par excellence. I sec a tremendous opportunity for adult education here."
Arrives in 1941
The Ecole Polytechnique and the Sorbonne in his native France were the sources of LeCorbeiller's own general education. A worker in the French Ministry of Communications, he came to this country in 1941 to set up his Shepard Street household, which includes Mrs. L. who audits her husband's GE course and son Jean a College undergraduate.
Despite the LeCorbeillers deep interest in General Education the master of the house can easily be distracted. Just confront him with one of two listeners and a black board and both chalk and an excited index finger will start wagging as Philippe LeCorbeiller takes a long, penetrating glance at a world that is a long long way off.