Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers is getting lots of publicity these days. In a recent Wall Street Journal article Daniel Golden mentions that Summers vetoed bids to two 54-year-old academic superstars. Why? Dean Jeremy Knowles says that Summers is concerned about the problem of “‘extinct volcanoes’—academic giants past their prime.” At 47, Summers has seven years to go before his own potential for fire goes out.
Having this month celebrated the birthday that makes me 20 years older than those two unbidden “extinct volcanoes,” I naturally got to thinking about what’s ahead. One cannot be a realist or a fair appraiser of selfhood and the stages of life and pretend that at my time of life the prospect of fiery eruptions of creativity are rich.
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