From chemical engineering to Goethe

Today we will be ‘reviewing the tape’ from the 2019 National Classical Education Symposium, where our theme was literature and the art of seminar. Dr. Bernhardt Trout, a professor of chemical engineering at MIT, joined us for that Symposium, delighting the audience with an exposition of the life and work of the great Enlightenment humanist and natural scientist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). As Dr. Trout explained, one does not need to be either humanist or scientist. For, as Goethe so ably demonstrated, one can be both! 

We sat down with Dr. Trout for a leisurely conversation, which is captured on video below. As he explains, apart from his early childhood love of natural experiments, Dr. Trout’s prep school experience in Memphis (TN) set his life’s course as a liberal artistwhich continues to inform his work as scientist and professor at one of the nation’s premier institutions of higher education. One such manifestation of his commitment to liberal education is found in his efforts with the Society, Engineering, and Ethics department at MIT, including his leadership of the Benjamin Franklin Project 


Dr. Trout serves as an Academic Advisor to the Institute for Classical Education, where he provides continuing counsel for our work and its necessary emphasis on the continued pursuit of the modern sciences—as both exhilarating study and humane enterprise. 


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