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    Re: Celestial Navigation as a college course
    From: Paul Saffo
    Date: 2010 Apr 11, 21:41 -0700

    Back when I was at Harvard, "gut" was slang for an outrageously easy
    course. One notorious gut (a "roaring gut" in the parlance of the
    time) was "Boats", J. H. Parry's course on the marine discovery 1450 -
    1650.  I thus scorned it as not a serious course, which I came to
    greatly regret when I read his book "The Age of Reconnaissance" some
    years later.  I am sure there is not a member of this list who didn't
    balance out a term full of tough classes with one or two others they
    could sail through -- "Boats" would have been a nice counterpoint to
    organic chemistry! In this instance, I wince at the thought that I
    passed up the opportunity to hear Parry lecture!
    By the time I took Frances Wright's class, she limited it to 6
    students/year and we met two nights a week at the observatory.  While
    not Organic Chem by a long shot, she ran a tight ship and it was a
    full curriculum with grading noticeably tougher than the average
    Harvard course.  This for two reasons. At least in my year, everyone
    who took the class was doing so for a specific reason -- I think I was
    the only one in the class who wasn't taking it in anticipation of
    doing some serious blue water sailing (In my case, I was trying to
    develop some archaeoastro methods). Dr. Wright wanted to be darn sure
    her students had the skills they needed to avoid getting drowned!
    The second reason (as I understand it) is that Dr, Wright and Bart Bok
    started the class during WWII to teach midshipmen navigation.  Back
    then of course, lives depended on mastering the subject, and Frances
    carried that attitude forward all the way to when I took the class.
    And it is always funny to discover what from a brief 4 years sticks
    with one for the long term. I wouldn't have guessed at the time that I
    would gain a major life lesson from Astro 99, but  "Constant
    Vigilance" has proved to be a guardian divinity on more than one
    occasion, helping me steer me away from countless close nicks and on
    at least one occasion, to divert me from major catastrophe.
    On Apr 11, at , Frank Reed wrote:
    > Spinning off from the "professionalism in Navy" thread...

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