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Tau Beta Pi plans da Vinci program of dinners, speakers

The MIT chapter of Tau Beta Pi will host 13 weekly dinners during the fall semester at which invited faculty will join members of the national engineering honor society "in hearty conversation in the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci -- artist, architect, engineer, scientist and philosopher."

The program, announced by graduate student Panayiotis Kamvysselis, TBP's president, in Gilliland Auditorium last week, was created "to foster a spirit of liberal culture at engineering colleges," as stated in the TBP charter.

"We wanted to bring the members together in small groups, and we needed a focus," Mr. Kamvysselis said. In the hope that the professors' presentations will spark lively exchanges, "we selected the most diverse subjects -- ones that would interest our members the most." Mr. Kamvysselis said he hoped the dinners would lead to a da Vinci lecture series that would be open to all MIT students.

President Charles M. Vest, a TBP member himself, applauded the society for sponsoring the dinners. "I hope that the Tau Beta Pi da Vinci dinner will flourish for many years to come," he told the gathering of about 70 TBP members and faculty. "Even if we cannot match the breadth of intellect and mastery embodied in a da Vinci, we can certainly uphold the ideals������������������

"That the celebration of this ideal should occur outside the classroom as well as within it is very much in keeping with the MIT tradition. Each year, I tell incoming freshmen that they will learn as much from their fellow students as they do from their instructors," Dr. Vest said.

Assistant Professor Lakshmi-narayanan Mahadevan of mechanical engineering discussed da Vinci's genius in both the arts and sciences, and the key role in showing how one could apply what he or she learned in one area to the other. "He was a humble observer of nature," said Professor Mahadevan. "He showed how you could work in conjunction with nature by observing how nature solves problems."

Professor R. John Hansman Jr. of aeronautics and astronautics will speak at the first dinner tomorrow (September 11). Other speakers this month will be Alan Brody, Provost for the Arts, September 16; and Professor John Edmond of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences, September 25.

Other scheduled speakers are Professor Walter Lewin of physics, October 2; Assistant Professor Chris Luebkeman of architecture, October 9;������������������Professor Rainer Weiss of physics, October 16; Professor Emeritus David Gordon Wilson of mechanical engineering, October 23; J.W. Kieckhofer Associate Professor Martha Gray of electrical engineering and computer science, October 27; Associate Professor Louis Bucciarelli of the School of Engineering, November 6; Professor Bruce Mazlish of history, November 13; Associate Professor Bish Sanyal, head of urban studies and planning, November 24; Professor Emeritus Harry Gatos of Materials Science and Engineering, December 4; and Professor George Pratt of EECS, December 11.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 10, 1997.

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