Math Professors Question Denial Of Smale Grant
Stephen Smale, the outspoken war critic and mathematician from the University of California at Berkeley, has received the support of six Harvard faculty members in his struggle to retain a $250,00 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Raoul Bott, professor of Mathematics who, incidentally, directed Smale's doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan some fifteen years ago, and five others whose names were withheld from the press, sent a letter yesterday to the director of the NSF, Leland J. Haworth. In it, Bott referred to what he called "political pressures" which affected the NFS's decision to reject Smale's request for a continuation of his present grant.
On The Steps
Smale's problems began in the summer of 1966, when he traveled to Russia under his grant to accept the Fields Award, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of mathematics. Once in Moscow, Smale climed the steps of the University there and denounced the American position in Vietnam, Soviet maltreatment of intellectuals, and Soviet foreign policy, paticularly in respect to the Hungarian uprising.
Several congressmen, led by Rep. Richard L. Roudebush (R.-Ind.) quickly attacked Smale and threatened the NSF for financing a trip used for what they called "anti-American purposes."
Early last month, Smale sent a request for an renewal of his grant to Haworth, the NSF director. Haworth wrote back, saying in part, "that, in light of Professor Smale's performance in the administration of the present grant, we cannot tender a new grant to the University (Berkeley) based on the proposal in its present form."
Bott said Tuesday that the NSF pointed to certain irregularities of Smale's trip, such as receiving travel expenses from another group, returning to America on the "France" violating the NSF rule that American vessels should be used on financed trips, Bott felt that such irregularities "are of such minor nature that a more realistic approach would have been just to tell him, 'Look, just be more careful next time."
Bott admitted that he had a "certain amount of sympathy for the NSF" but added "I think they did wrong."
The NSF has also received letters in support of Smale from M.I.T., Columbia, Brandeis, and Berkeley, and fifty faculty members of the University of Pennsylvania signed a statement, in which they said they would refuse to accept any from the NSF until the Smale rsy is settled favorably