In Response to: Adventures in Fine Hall

It was a special delight to see “Adventures in Fine Hall” (feature, Jan. 10) fronted by the splendid photograph of Albert Einstein standing alongside my great-uncle, Luther Eisenhart. Hired to teach mathematics at Princeton in 1900, Luther was named by Woodrow Wilson 1879 as an original preceptor and later became chair of the math department and dean of the Graduate School. Princetonians since the mid-1920s have Luther to thank for the four-course plan, with its upperclass years’ independent study and accompanying senior thesis. 

Luther’s hiring at Princeton marked the beginning of my family’s connection to the University. He persuaded his younger brother Martin Herbert Eisenhart 1905, my grandfather, to apply, and later his son Churchill ’34, before succeeding generations also gravitated to the orange and black. 

I have never found much humor in mathematics, though the Fine Hall article proves otherwise. But I can share one bit of Princeton math humor, at my own expense. My high school calculus teacher, Paul Furrer ’33, had studied with Luther at Princeton. Upon seeing an Eisenhart in his class, he was excited at the possibilities. Alas, at the end of the year his comment next to my less-than-stellar grade read something to the effect that “Doug has inherited all of his great-uncle’s charm but none of his mathematical ability.” The assessment was accurate. In my time at Princeton I felt very much at home in the English department.

Douglas M. Eisenhart ’72
Natick, Mass.