Visit to Israel

Jerusalem, 1990

I have been in Israel twice. Once alone passing through on the return trip from Calcutta in 1956 and once from Austria in the 1980s. On the first visit I was taken on the back of a motorcycle, to the top of a hill from which I could look out over the Dead Sea, far away but clearly visible, to which we could approach no closer than the hilltop on which we stood. And Jerusalem was divided in two by a heavy corrugated metal fence to defend against sniper fire.

I certainly met friendly people-was wined and dined at the home of Roberto Bacchi

The second visit was 30 years and one war later, and we could go right down to the Dead Sea, in which many Israelis were swimming about. Jerusalem was no longer divided. This time I was with my family--Beatrice and Barby and Rob. It was a peaceful time in Jerusalem, and we could walk about the streets, eat fallafel, shop, and generally act the way tourists anywhere act. We were lucky in choosing that risk free time to travel-today there is no such thing as risk-free in Jerusalem. .

Beatrice was impressed with the difference between her treatment in the Arab section and in the more strictly Jewish area. Jewish shops were businesslike--a table cloth was so and so many shekels and that was it. The transaction was quick and efficient.

No so in the Arab shops. When we entered we were warmly welcomed, taken into a back room, offered tea, had a leisurely conversation the whole made pleasant by a characteristic courtliness that is part of Arab culture.. We had met it in Cairo and met it in the United States among Arab acquaintances. Then the bargaining started. Robert, ever the economist, did some comparisons and concluded that at the end of the bargaining the price was almost exactly that charged right off in the Jewish stores.

Among the people who impressed us was-at the tope of the list-Roberto Muhsam. He had been a curator of the Berlin Art Museum. one of the most people I have met anywhere. When we dined at his house what impressed us even more than the art work he has rescued from the Nazis was his effort to make personal contacts with the Arab population. He had taken the trouble to learn the language, and did everything in his power to build bridges. More people like Muhsam would have made a very different Middle East from the one in which Israel is mired today.

And then there was an Italian Jew, Roberto Bacchi, also cultivated, who told me without any note of apology that the fine house he was living in had been taken from the Arab owner after the Six-Day War.

Our experience of the Arctic

Abisco, Sweden 1992

Towards the end of our ten-year stay in Vienna IIASA's Director, Dr. Peter de Janosi, asked me to attend a conference in Sweden. I had other urgent things to complete, but he explained that he really needed some senior person to represent IIASA. So I went, and was very glad I did. Beatrice came with me.

The Swedish Government was sponsoring the conference, and the place they held it was not in use at the moment; it was a research station in Abisco, a village in Lapland, north of the Arctic circle. Here I discovered a new world, perhaps barren, but with a certain indescribable beauty. It was May, and charming wild flowers were starting to appear. Reindeer wandered past our station. The loneliness, the bare landscape, the jagged mountain peaks stretching into the sky all contributed to the sense of mystery that clings to the Arctic equally in Sweden, and in Canada where Robert Service celebrated it. Here is a verse from one of his many poems on the same theme:

  The lonely sunsets flare forlorn
  Down valleys deadly desolate;
  The lordly mountains soar in scorn
  As still as death, as stern as fate.

By day our conference was in session, an international discussion on problems of the environment, while Beatrice sat reading in the library or wandered over narrow roads between fields with flowers and other vegetation starting to life after the Arctic winter. By night the never ending daylight made sleeping difficult, but we managed.

When the conference was over we with some other participants decided to take the slow train to Narvik in the Norwegian Arctic. The ride was thrilling as we went over bridges that looked down on fjords appearing just as they do on maps. Narvik is a town somewhat larger than Abisco, and there ought to be souvenirs to be had there. There were. We bought our souvenirs in a store in Narvik and asked what people do in the winter, with 24 hours dark lightened only about noon by a dim twilight. The clerk answered, "It is not so bad, we think of the summer coming."

After that we took the train back to Abisco, then returned to Vienna, passing through Stockholm and Copenhagen on the way.

And not long after that we packed over 100 large corrugated boxes with the goods we had accumulated during 10 years in Austria, and took a plane to Boston.

What Austrian medicine did to me.

Before World War I Austrian medicine was the best in the world. Vienna was where people came to have difficult health problems solved. Between then and now something happened to debase Austrian medicine.

All I can say here is how it dealt with my problems. First off, if a doctor has time for 20 patients on one morning, they are all summoned for 9:00 a.m... At that hour they duly come, and begin to wait, as they are called in random order at 15 minute intervals.

Now just think what this is saying. For it has an unambiguous symbolic meaning. It is asserting the superiority of the doctor; his time is more valuable than that of all the patients together. In fact the patients' time is worth nothing at all. So not only is the patient robbed of his time; he is robbed of his self-esteem.

But what happens when he finally gets to see the almighty doctor? In my case there was some precancerous tissue --actinic keratosis-- that had to be removed. The doctor took out a knife and began to scrape. Painful and with danger of infection. The American doctor uses a quick spray of liquid nitrogen that is hardly felt.

Further along during our stay in Austria, I had an enlarged prostate, and got Dr. Huber to do it. I should have been warned by his telling me with pride that he had done five such operations the day before--when I had mine at the Massachusetts General I was the only one operated by my doctor that day. He also told me that American doctors don't cut away enough because they don't want to risk damaging some vital part. That should have warned me doubly, but I was too simple-minded, too trusting of any one in any country with an M.D., and he went ahead. He must have cut away an essential muscle, because instead of being able to urinate better, I was more helpless than before.

It seemed to him after a short time and several complaints that I needed another operation, and he did another operation.

And an even shorter time and I needed a third operation. That did no good at all and I completely lost the capacity to void naturally, and I have had to catheterize from then on and to this day.

OK, so I catheterize. More exactly, the Austrian doctor inserts an indwelling catheter, and instructs me to come back in a month. But that caused infection, so he ordered me to drink water, a liter a day. Didn't help, so he raised it to one and a half liters. Still infection, so he ordered an antibiotic to be taken daily. Prophylactic daily use of an antibiotic generates a resistant strain of the bacterium and so makes itself useless.

It was not until my ten years in Austria were up and I got back to the US that I was told about self-catheterization, and I still remember the date when I started: August 11, 1994. The American doctor had his assistant coach me, and following that I have been free of infection for months at a time, as long as I remember (or Beatrice remembers) that I am to drink a class of water at each meal, and one in the middle of the night. In Austria (I don't know about the rest of Europe) the patient is not trusted to use a catheter on his own, and besides the doctor needs the steady income of the once-a-month visit to change the indwelling catheter.

It is fortunate I didn't have any other medical problems in Austria, or I would have other mementos in my body of my stay in that country.

But I cannot leave this subject without mentioning one problem that was diagnosed and solved by a Dr. Thumb and his younger associates while I was in the Baden hospital for one of my periodic spells of breathlessness. They had been discussing my case and came up with the unlikely suggestion that the difficulty breathing was related to a beta-blocker called timoptic that had been prescribed for glaucoma in the US. I switched to a different treatment for glaucoma, and my breathing has been normal ever since. I had learned something that good physicians keep constantly in mind--the complex interrelations within the human body.

Beatrice and I also had occasion to check out Austrian dentistry. She came to Austria with four of her own teeth left and when she returned to Cambridge she had only one, and that one ailing. She consulted the telephone directory and found Dr. Loren Wilson, a humane dentist in Cambridge willing to come down to his office on a Saturday morning. He found that that the tooth was aching because it had become infected; evidently standard defenses against bacteria had not been put in place.

What American Medicine did for me

At one time there was no therapy for any case of blood pressure that was high and rising over time. Of course one could reduce one's salt consumption; one could avoid excitement, stop smoking, but these offered a small respite from death by heart attack or smoke.

Then some 20 years back the pharmaceutical industry came into the picture. I remember one early drug--adalat--that I used for a while, but in the course of use it turned out to have some fatal side-affects.

My pressure continued to rise, and luckily so did the power of the drugs available to fight it. Now I have complete control with a combination of Zestril and Dilacor, worked out by Dr. Michael Carty of Harvard.. I not only have the luck that these pharmaceuticals are available, but good luck in that my doctor knows about them and prescribes them. That plus daily exercise, deep breathing, and meditation is keeping me going into my nineties. .

The net effect of medicine plus more suitable behavior is that there are now estimated to be some 76,000 American centenarians, and this is the fastest growing age group. George Burns died in 1996 aged 100. A nephew of my father's, Ben Keyfetz, is going strong at 101.

There are many voices on this matter of longevity. One, McKeown, says that medicine does not have much to do with it--much more depends on behavior. Another, Calahan, says that we should not be using our resources to extend life at that end--those people have had enough resources already, and we should be working on mortality at younger ages. I doubt if these negative perspectives will ever have much of a hearing.

What should be more talked about is the present combination of low birth rates and low death rates. There will be more old people and fewer people of working age to support them. We should be accumulating reserves to handle a problem that will start to affect us in the next ten years. What we are doing instead is running budget deficits that will have to be repaid by the generation hard pressed by having fewer working members to support more old people..

A visit to Kenya

Nairobi, 1991

Our Robert went out to Kenya in 1990 under a Canadian foreign aid program that would help the Kenyan economy, and he stayed for four years. Kenya was then enjoying a period of relative peace and civil order, but nonetheless there were such events as this: his colleague was driving out a lonely road, and he came to a barrier. At the barrier a policeman stepped out, and said "Give me your money" and then to underline the importance of the request he added "I have a gun" and he showed his service revolver. There was no argument.

The reputation of Kenya for wild game is entirely deserved. On our one visit there Beatrice and I went to a park near Nairobi, with Robert as our guide and driver, all part of the entertainment he had laid on. It was a wooded hilly area, of several square miles. As we came to a pride of lions on the left-hand side of the road we stopped to look at them while they looked lazily at us. They seemed so lethargic that we might have descended from the car to see them at closer range, perhaps to pat one of them on the head, except that there were signs all over warning, "Don't open your car door. If you have a breakdown, just stay in your car and wait for help." And the park management does have a regular patrol.

And we saw exotic animals like giraffes, zebras and elephants of which we had seen pictures, plus at least one of which we had never even heard the name--Elands. There was a lookout where one could go out on a second story balcony, and I remember Beatrice offering food to a giraffe that didn't even have to stretch to reach her. It took the food daintily out of her hand.

And Robert took us to a fancy open air restaurant in which those animals were cooked and served. There was no lion meat on the menu that night--and when there was such the price was over $20 per pound-- cost that reflects the fact that lions, nourished entirely on animal meat, necessarily cost the total of the meat they eat.

Rob and Nazrat

Kenya, 1990-93

The marriage was to Nazrat Mirza, a young doctor teaching in Nairobi but whose home was in the port city of Mombasa, an admirable young lady, beautiful, with a charming smile, behind which is a will of iron. To show the courageous and decisive person Nazrat is, late one night a man was brought into the bush hospital where she was on night duty. He had a ruptured appendix, and unless he was operated on immediately he would die. Nairobi was 200 miles away, and the connection was on tracks through the jungle. She was a pediatrician with no experience in surgery, though she had a certain amount of instruction at the Kenyan medical school where she got her degree. Still the only solution was for Nazrat to do the operation and immediately, in the primitive operating room available. She patched the man up; he recovered sufficiently to be sent to Nairobi, and there was brought back to complete health. He owed his life to Nazrat's courage and decisiveness.

I have never discussed Nazrat's ancestry with her, but assume it to be Middle Eastern. She is certainly not African. As I understand it, the Sultan of Oman had trading rights on a 10 mile strip down the east coast of Africa (or at least Kenya and Tanganyika), the main items of trade being ivory and slaves. To carry out this work on the large scale demanded by the market, the Sultan needed soldiers, bureaucrats, and other functionaries. These employees of the Sultan were the Swahili speaking people, who now number about 75,000. They never intermarried with the Africans. It is understandable, considering why their ancestors came in the first place, that they are not popular locally, and most would like to get out. Needless to say the spirit of the slave trader is not inherited, and we know few people who are as humane and public spirited as Nazrat.

Nazrat always had a vision beyond curing sick children, important as that is. She wanted to do research, to contribute new knowledge. She was interested in health problems affecting communities, and at one point she got an M.A. in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University.

They loved each other, both wanted to get married, but Nazrat laid down a condition: Robert had to convert to Islam, the religion of which she was a pious practitioner. Robert held out for most of the four years he lived in Kenya, then he caved in. At one point he phoned me and asked my opinion. I said "If you are as good a Muslim as you have been a Jew, then your conversion will make no difference at all." In short yes, he should go ahead and convert if he and Nazrat really loved one another. They were married shortly before coming back to Canada.

That did not solve their economic problem. True, Robert had a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, but now no job; Nazrat's medical degree from Kenya did not permit her to practice in Canada. I will not dwell on the details, but as they ended up about five years ago, Robert has a responsible job at the World Bank and Nazrat is a senior pediatrician in one of America's best hospitals. Their combined income must be fabulous. They have now engaged an architect to draw plans for a modification to their Washington home that will cost what to me would be a fortune

Wilhelm Flieger (1931-1999)

Having a student die during one's lifetime is not unlike a parent losing a child. In the natural order of things parents die before their children, and teachers before their ex-students. Of the students I had in the course of 30 years teaching, Father Flieger was the quickest to learn, and in every matter that I took up in class he went beyond his teacher.

Quite aside from scholarship, I have never met his equal for sheer energy. During the four years he was with us at the University of Chicago, he was a full-time student, following the demanding program set by the faculty, he was a full-time research assistant to myself, he was effectively in charge of a parish some 27 miles away that he drove his little VW out to visit at least twice a week. I never heard him say of any assignment that it was too much for him; to him everything was possible. Yet he was modest--for him to say how much he was doing would have been totally out of character.

Yet these activities are not what he will be most remembered for. It will rather be for his qualities of total integrity, of human sympathy, of total unselfishness.

His qualities would have made him stand out in any age, but they were particularly conspicuous in our materialistic, grasping age,

The following is a message received from the Office of Population Studies, the institution that Father Flieger founded and led.

According to the doctors, Fr. Flieger died of a massive heart attack. His death was discovered in the early hours of Sunday morning, December 19, when he failed to show up for his 5:00 a.m. mass.

Final rites were held on the morning of Wednesday, December 22 with a requiem mass at the University of San Carlos main chapel. At the request of his family, his remains were cremated and sent to Germany.

Although we are shocked and shaken by this great loss, we at OPS will continue the good work of Father Flieger and uphold the standards that OPS has always been known for.

The Staff

Office of Population Studies

University of San Carlos

Talamban Campus

Tel # (6332) 3460102

Stephen Jay Gould (1942-2002)

Among the matters for which Stephen Gould is remembered the idea of punctuated equilibrium is prominent. Instead of continuous change (Darwin's frequently reiterated Natura non facit saltum) evolution has periods of rapid change, alternating with no change at all.

Also very prominent in Gould's work is the rejection of the notion, that has come to life more than o once during the course of the last century or two, that people are formed by their genes. Tiresome promotion of the assertion that "Intelligence" (whatever that is) musical ability, literary creativity, all are determined by our genes. The theory is shown to be groundless and the debate is forgotten for a while, but after a time it springs to life again. Gould was diligent, persuasive and skilled in debate against what amounts to racism. Perhaps it will be heard no more, but given the history, one cannot be sure.

Gould, one of the scholars and teachers of which Harvard has been proudest. We lost him at the age of 60, and he will be badly missed.

JBS Haldane

See above.

Morris H. Hansen (1910-1990)

Philip M. Hauser (1909-1994)

I first heard of Phil as a graduate of the University of Chicago, like myself a protege of William Ogburn, who went on to become Deputy Director of the US Bureau of the Census. In that capacity he gave unfailing support to the creative people in the Bureau, to Morris Hansen and others. When for political reasons he was passed over for the Directorship he joined the University of Chicago and became Chair of its Sociology Department. In that capacity I got to know him very well indeed.

It was Phil who not only recruited me to the Department, but who gave me every assistence in the work. When a man whom he recognised as uniquely talented and devoted, Fr. Wilhelm Flieger, turned up as a graduate student, he assigned him to me as research assistent.

The last time I saw Phil was at a population meeting in Florence. His health was not good, his sight was especially bad. His beloved Zelda had passed away, and he seemed terribly alone All the fun had gone out of him. Something of the kind happens to all of us, but usually the contrast between youth and age is not quite so great.

Peter Laslett 1915-2001

In the early 1990s Beatrice and I visited Peter Laslett in Trinity College, Cambridge. Peter by then was widely known for his book, The World We Have Lost, that described the lives of ordinary people as England was emerging from the Middle Ages. Then an industrial concern--a bakery for instance--was a family enterprise with a patriarchal organization, and including children of the head, perhaps nephews and nieces, perhaps up to a dozen or more in all. That bakery was their livelihood. Any person, for instance a widow, who had no income of her own and was not attached to such a unit was in a bad way.

Trinity was Peter's life. He walked us through it, pointing out mementos of Isaac Newton and other long past fellows. He had us to lunch, seated beside him at the head table.

I seem to remember that on another visit we were lunching at Cambridge, and Norman and Leslie Lewis drove over to pick us up. Somehow Norman and Peter did not see one another as the great people that we thought they both were. Norman had little use for academics, and Peter little use for anyone who was not an academic.

Norman Lewis

(See above)

David Riesman (1909-2002)

David started work when sociology was young. His Lonely Crowd remains "not only the best selling book by a professional sociologist in American history, but also arguably the one that has had the widest influence on the nation at large." (as Orlando Patterson says) The thesis is that each of us city-dwellers encounters more people, has more contacts than ever his rural ancestors had, yet the contacts are superficial, secondary. The result is an existential loneliness, an anomie that dominates modern life today..

Gazette Staff:

Sociologist David Riesman, best known for his influential study of post-World War II American society, "The Lonely Crowd," died May 10 in Binghamton, N.Y., of natural causes. He was 92.

Born in Philadelphia in 1909, the son of a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Riesman attended Harvard College, graduating in 1931.

He earned a degree from Harvard Law School in 1934 and embarked on a law career, which included clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and teaching at the University of Buffalo Law School.

As a research fellow at Columbia Law School, Riesman had the opportunity to discuss comparative social issues with anthropologists Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, philosopher Hannah Arendt, and literary critic Lionel Trilling. Later he studied psychoanalysis with Erich Fromm and Harry Stack Sullivan.

In 1949, he was invited to join the social science faculty of the University of Chicago. "The Lonely Crowd" was published in 1950, and became a best seller, as well as winning the admiration of his academic peers. He co-authored the book with Nathan Glazer, professor of education and social structure emeritus, and Reuel Denney, but, according to Glazer, Riesman was the real author of the work. Riesman taught at Chicago until 1958, when he was named the Henry Ford II Professor of Social Sciences at Harvard.

For almost 20 years he taught a popular undergraduate course, "American Character and Social Structure," and, through his voluminous correspondence, continued to exert an influence on many of his students long after they had left Harvard.

Marcel-Paul Schutzenberger (1920-1996)

Beatrice and I spent the year 1952 in Jakarta, as a member of a panel that was being consulted by the Government of Indonesia. As part of the officially assigned task I studied the village of Balearjo, in East Java, where with a team of students I lived for about 6 weeks.

After that sojourn, one of the most exciting of my life, I returned to Jakarta where Beatrice had had a certain amount of social life.. Marco Schutzenberger, who subsequently became one of France's great mathematicians. He was at an intellectual level far higher than we usually encounter, so it may be worth while to give some indication of the way we met and became firm friends.

In my absence Beatrice took a train trip to Jogja in the middle of the island on which Jakarta is situated. There she stayed with the parents of Suljanti, (Suljanti was a devoted student of population and active in the cause of population control, whom we knew well both personally and by reputation. In her week in Djokja Beatrice encountered Haryati, a nurse who was Suljanti's local deputy. Haryati was keeping company with Marco, a medical doctor who was also staying a year as a consultant appointed by WHO. Marco was at the time of Beatrice's trip to Jokja a patient in the local hospital, and was visited by Haryati who brought along Beatrice. That was the beginning of a 40 year acquaintance between Marco and the Keyfitzes.

We saw him several times during the year and found him one of the most knowledgeable and entertaining people we had ever met, the most humane, the most intolerant of fools and poseurs . There was as yet no presence of Marco the mathematician. He and Haryati were married soon after returning to France.

Marco was born in Lyons, of an old Alsatian family that had left Alsace after the 1870-1 War, when it was taken over by Germany.

On returning to France this medical doctor discovered that he was endowed as a mathematician. He terminated his medical practice and turned to mathematical research and publication, in the specialty called combinatorics, and within a short time had important findings, and was internationally recognized as one of France's greats in mathematics. His prominence was partly due to the numerous applications of combinatorics for which he was responsibility--in the study of natural and artificial languages, in cryptography and in the construction of codes that self-correct.

Marco was involved in disputes on evolution as developed by Darwin. He showed for one thing that in the time that paleontology tells us was available, natural selection would not suffice to produce the changes that we know occurred. I suspect that part of his animus against Darwinism was the hospitality it provided to ideas of racism that offended the solidarity that Marco felt with the whole of mankind.. His view of artificial intelligence was similarly negative, neglecting the indescribable subtlety of the human mind. The successes of what is called artificial intelligence are all highly specific applications, and show none of the spontaneity and originality that would make them human..

Marco's knowledge and scepticism went into many fields. He was informed by an interviewer that Stephen Hawking, a top cosmologist, had traced the universe back from its present mass to its origin in a single point, infinitely heavy and infinitely hot, and located nowhere. Marco responded with "It is just as easy to believe in Adam and Eve as in that infinitely hot and infinitely small spot that wasn't anywhere." It made me think of the succinct last sentence of Wittgenstein's famous Tractatus, the dictum, "Worauf es gibt nichts zu sagen, darauf sol man schweigen. "Of what nothing can be said, on that one should be silent." Unfortunately scientists, responding to a public that expects them to know everything, accept an ideology that every question must have an answer.

During the forty or so subsequent years I passed through Paris about a dozen times on one kind of business or another, and each time I called Marco, spoke to him or to Haryati, and each time was warmly invited to dinner.

Marco liked to put spice into his conversation. On one occasion as we were holding our drinks before sitting down to dine, he asked "Don't you think it is wrong to taboo the eating of human flesh, wasting the proteins it contains?" Never having considered such a matter I had no answer. When we did sit down to the table, and were offered a meat course I wondered just what meat that was.

In 1980 when I was in Paris to give a lecture on Malthus at a UNESCO conference, and I called Marco, Haryati answered, and barely able to contain herself, said that their son Mahar, 23 years of age, had just been killed in an automobile accident. Beatrice had to catch a plane to Nice where our daughter Barbara was teaching for a few months, but even if she missed the plane we simply had to look in at Marco's and offer what consolation we could.

To judge by externals, Marco was taking the loss more deeply than Haryati did. He sat holding her hand and couldn't say a word during the brief visit. We left, and were in such a hurry to get Beatrice on to her plane that she broke her foot on a curb.

Marco never quite recovered from that blow. He did have a daughter, Helene, from a previous marriage, and she provided much comfort. But a final blow, Haryati, on whom he depended enormously, died in 1993. He fell seriously ill and evidently didn't want to live any longer.

My last contact was again by telephone. Morris Halle, Institute Professor at M.I.T. called and introduced himself and said he had been in Paris and Marco would like to talk to me. (Morris and I have been close friends ever since.) I had three talks with Marco, each a harrowing experience. He talked continuously, I had no choice but to listen and agree. In fact I did agree, for even in his low condition his political judgment was sound. He recognized the charlatanry and total lack of principle in Mitterand, the troubles ahead for the United States as it sought world domination. But what a come-down from the cheery Marco, always fresh and ready for a joke, that we had known in his prime.

The end, announced to the world in Le Monde, came on July 29, 1996. France's great mathematician, the greatest combinatorialist of the century, was dead at 75. There was a life of large success and large tragedy.