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John Harvard's Journal

On Your Summer Vacation...

July-August 2015

Would-be learners seeking to keep mentally buff this summer, indoors or out, may enjoy sampling online courses and other University resources.

HarvardX courses open for summer enrollment include “Science and Cooking” (a popular School of Engineering and Applied Sciences offering—enroll by June 17); “Tangible Things” (history based on material objects and evidence—begins in August); and “Introduction to Computer Science” (anytime). The courses, along with other virtual resources, are accessible via Coming this fall is an original course, starring many faculty members, on the history of the book. Accompanying it are repeat versions of courses on neuroscience, moral philosophy, and global health, and a new offering on American government. 

Meanwhile, the Harvard Gazette “Experience” series features extended interviews with intellectual luminaries in diverse disciplines. Most contain charming anecdotes about how scholars found their particular passions. For example:

At 15, I became intensely engaged with Dylan Thomas’s poetry and found out that his manuscripts were in Buffalo [in the Lockwood Library, the University of Buffalo]. I asked for the loan of their microfilms and read them all with enormous profit.…I was set up at the microfilm reader [at the Boston Public Library]. I sat at the screen for hours and hours, week after week. The librarian in Buffalo began sending me books and journal articles on Thomas as well, on his own initiative.

Thus did one sainted librarian promote the early development of the teenager who became Porter University Professor Helen Vendler, America’s preeminent poetry critic. The interviews limn entire fields succinctly. Subjects range from sociobiologist E.O. Wilson and Business School dean Nitin Nohria to physicist and historian of science Gerald Holton. Each briskly introduces an interesting subject, as pursued by someone who is having an interesting life exploring it—and is masterly about explaining where it has all led. Available at