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A terrible chemistry teacher

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Fighting the school administration and censorship
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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I was a student but I was also very much a hippy. I became a hippy. And I was the head of the Coalition for Peace and Justice which I started. And, you know, there was a very active anti-war movement and I would bring anti-war movies to the school and, you know, show movies about the Vietnam War and how horrible it was, and go to war protests and things like that. And so the high school, like many high schools, was sort of divided into the nerds, the jocks, the hippies, the... I was mostly a hippy. And was always fighting with the administration.

So for instance, there was a student election and I ran on the anti-war ticket, and the reform ticket, and the principal insisted when he heard I was running that they got to censor our speeches. So he censored out all of my speech, basically, I wasn't allowed to say anything. So we got up before the student council, the student body, to make our speeches, and I said, I'm not allowed to... My speech has been censored, I'm not allowed to do it, but I have three minutes. So I'm going to use it. I took out an apple and I ate the apple for three minutes. And everybody was cheering. And then the principal suspended me for eating outside the cafeteria. That was the sort of battle.

And then they had the election, and I had people that were counting the votes who said that I was winning. But then the principal announced that I had lost, which I'm pretty sure was a rigged election. But that was, you know, the way things worked in those days.

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: George Dyson Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: hippy, Coalition for Peace and Justice, Vietnam War, administration, censorship, election, rigged

Duration: 2 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017