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89-year-old retiree earns Ph.D. in physics from Ivy League school

89-year-old earns Ph.D.
89-year-old earns Ph.D. 01:51

Graduating from an Ivy League school is an impressive accomplishment for anyone. But for Manfred Steiner, graduating from Brown University in Rhode Island is monumental. Steiner had always dreamed of becoming at physicist. So at age 70, he started taking classes at Brown, CBS affiliate WPRI reports.

Steiner, now 89, already has a medical degree, which he earned because his family encouraged him to pursue that instead of physics. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry, then became a hematologist and researched blood disorders at the school. He also served as the head of the hematology section of Brown's medical school.

But when he retired 19 years ago, he did't want retirement to stop him from living his dream. He started taking physics classes at Brown. Why this field? "Precision," he said.

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Steiner, now 89, is already quite accomplished with a medical degree. But at 70, he decided to go back to school. WPRI

"In medicine, I always felt there were so many variables," Steiner told WPRI. "In physics, there are some variables, a lot of them actually, but you can go to a precision that is unmatched anywhere in the other scientific world."

At 70 he began taking one or two classes a semester and eventually made it to graduate school. "I thought, 'Why not continue now? I might as well get a Ph.D.'"

"It has always been my dream," he said. "I wanted this."

This year, Steiner defended his thesis, "Corrections to the Geometrical Interpretation of Bosonization," which officially earned him his Ph.D. in physics.

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"It has always been my dream," Steiner said about his physics degree. "I wanted this." WPRI

"I was elated, I was, really," he said. "I mean, I said, 'I made it! I really made it.'" 

As for going for a third Ph.D. in his 90s, Steiner has no plans. "There are other subjects that I was interested in — philosophy, history — but I said, 'No, it's enough.' Now I've reached what I've always wanted. Now I want to do it," he said. "I know I'm going to be 90 soon, but physics is what interests me, and this is what I want to end my life with."

Steiner's advice for other retirees is to keep your mind sharp by giving yourself new things to ponder. Now, he's pondering whether or not he'll walk at the commencement ceremony next spring, WPRI reports.

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