89-year-old pensioner obtains physics Ph.D. From Brown

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It is never too late to achieve your dreams in life. Just ask 89-year-old Manfred Steiner, who is getting his PhD. from Brown University’s Department of Physics in February.

After World War II, Steiner left his birthplace in Vienna, Austria, for the United States. As a young man, he dreamed of becoming a physicist.

“It’s an old dream that starts in my childhood,” Steiner said in an interview with Brown University. “I always wanted to be a physicist.”

His family, however, advised him to go on medication.

“My uncle was a doctor, ear, nose and throat specialist, and he had been teaching in the United States for a while,” he said. “He taught plastic surgery – and showed people how to make noses smaller or how to straighten them. My family’s advice was that medicine was the best way for me. So I reconciled myself: ‘They are older and wiser’, and I followed their advice.

AP Photo / Stew Milne

So Steiner got a doctorate in medicine in 1955, but he did not stop there. He began an internship in hematology at Tufts University, including a three-year degree in biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry there in 1967. He then accepted a position as a hematologist at Brown University, and became an assistant professor of medicine in 1968, a full professor in 1978 and head of the medical school’s hematology department in 1985.

In 1994, he helped establish a research program in hematology at the University of North Carolina at Greenville, where he continued to lead that program until 2000, when he retired from medicine. But retirement was no reason for him to stop learning. Instead, he decided to pursue his original goal, a little at a time.

“One or two classes a semester was enough for me,” Steiner told WPRI. “So I went to all the classes, and eventually I went on to after school, and I thought, ‘Why not go on now? I might as well get a PhD.'”

In September, he successfully defended his thesis. Steiner advises other retirees to stay sharp by giving themselves new things to think about.

“Now I have achieved what I have always wanted,” he told WPRI. “Now I want to do it. I know I’ll soon be 90, but it’s physics that interests me, and that’s what I want to end my life with.”

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