Education: Making Waves

Scientists, like lyric poets, tend to do their best work before they are 30. Einstein produced the first part of his theory of relativity at 26, for example, and James D. Watson was 25 when he helped find the double-helixed key to DNA. Still, it was something of a surprise when the University of Chicago last month promoted Charles Fefferman to full professor of mathematics. His age: 22.

Actually, Fefferman has already had a reasonably long career as a mathematician. He began his studies in earnest at age nine: elementary math, he discovered, could not explain college physics. He started taking a...

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