Reader's View: Even in pandemic, students can change the world

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In the years 1665 and 1666, during the pandemic of the Great Plague in England, Cambridge University closed. Isaac Newton, then a work-study scholarship student and not yet Sir Isaac, went home to his family farm in Lincolnshire. This was when he sat under the apple tree in the orchard. During those two years, he invented calculus and used it to understand the orbits of the moon and planets and the rhythm of the tides. He formulated his three laws of motion, experimented with prisms and lenses, and developed a theory of optics that is the basis of everything from eyeglasses to telescopes. He changed forever how we understand nature.

Lesson to university students today: even in the midst of a pandemic, with universities closed, the future is before you, nature still beckons to be understood, and you can change the world just by thinking.

John Pastor


The writer is a professor emeritus of biology at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

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