89-Year-Old Earns Ph.D. in Physics, Proving Age is Just a Number


In October 2021, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream unfolded for 89-year-old Manfred Steiner as he earned a Ph.D. in physics from Brown University in Rhode Island. This remarkable achievement, however, came after a unique and unconventional path, shaped by post-World War II circumstances and familial advice.

A Deferred Dream: Choosing Medicine Over Physics

Born in Vienna, Steiner’s childhood dream of becoming a physicist took a backseat when, post-war, his family steered him towards the stability of a medical career. Despite a profound passion for physics, Steiner yielded to their counsel, obtaining a medical doctorate from the University of Vienna in 1955.

Hematology Career and Academic Pursuits

Settling in Washington D.C. after graduation, Steiner carved a successful career in hematology, eventually becoming a professor at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School. His contributions to hematology spanned nearly three decades, including the establishment of a research program.

Rediscovering a Passion: Pursuit of Physics

Despite his accomplishments in medicine, Steiner’s love for physics endured. Upon retirement, at the age of 70, he decided to revisit his childhood dream. Initially enrolling in undergraduate physics classes at MIT, he later transferred to Brown University for convenience.

Inspiring Presence in Physics Classes

Welcomed warmly by the physics department, Steiner’s presence in classes became a source of inspiration for both teachers and students. What started as a quest to keep his mind sharp evolved unexpectedly into enrollment in the Ph.D. program by 2007.

Challenges and Skepticism: Ph.D. Pursuit in Advanced Age

Facing skepticism due to his advanced age, Steiner found an ally in condensed matter theorist Brad Marston, who assigned him a challenging project on bosonization. Despite the complexity, Steiner persevered and successfully defended his thesis, achieving his long-sought Ph.D. in physics.

Reflections on a Cherished Achievement

In reflecting on his journey, Steiner expressed unparalleled joy, stating, “This Ph.D. is the one that I most cherish because it’s the one that I was striving for my whole life.” His story serves as a testament to the resilience of pursuing one’s dreams regardless of age, inspiring others to follow their passions wholeheartedly.

Inspirational Lessons for All Ages

In conclusion, Manfred Steiner’s remarkable achievement at the age of 89 underscores the timeless message that it is never too late to chase lifelong dreams. His journey, marked by dedication and a relentless pursuit of passion, serves as an inspiration for all, reminding us that following our hearts will never lead to disappointment.

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