Tripos … or Tripe?

Voltaire and Euler

January 23, 2017

Agreed with the Co President of AIAS, Dr. Gareth John Evans. Voltaire was in the habit of using sharp wit, as in Kenneth Clark’s “Civilization”, the episode where he describes the eighteenth century enlightenment, called “The Smile of Reason”. This is on youtube for anyone to study. Voltaire himself was the object not only of vicious insults, but of threats, because he criticised the aristocracy, and they frequently threatened to beat him up with hired gangs. Euler kept out of politics completely, but this did not save him from being fired by Frederick of Prussia, who routinely insulted Euler by describing him as a cyclops because of his bad right eye. Voltaire was not insulting in a vulgar way, like a mindless, cowardly, criminal troll, but used sharp wit openly. That was accepted behaviour in the Paris salons for example, a battle of wits. Voltaire could write in many different literary forms. Not being able to understand Euler Lagrange mathematics is entirely understandable for the general public and non specialists, which is why we turn the maths into graphics and animations. However, all physicists are taught these mathematics as undergraduates. Some chemists like Gareth and myself were taught them in pure and applied mathematics, part of the tripos.”

‘Ron the historian’ seems to be completely unaware that Voltaire also carried out scientific experiments, and was largely instrumental (together with a brilliant French noblewoman mathematician) in popularizing Newtonian mechanics in France.  But the real cause of our ire here is the above highlighted passage. The term, ‘tripos’, has a very specific meaning in the academic world: it refers uniquely to examinations taken at Cambridge university. Are Ron and Sewage trying to invent a whole new back-story for themselves? Ron, on occasion, has also referred to various universities as being his alma mater, even though he spent only a short time at them … and did not graduate from them. Are you in fact ashamed of your Welsh academic roots, Ron? 

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