J. W. Smit
Jacobus Wilhelmus Smit (commonly known as J. W. Smit) (1930 - 2006) was the Queen Wilhelmina Professor of the Language and Literature of the Netherlands. Smit, a lover of learning, spent much of his time teaching and studying rather than engaging in research. Nevertheless, Smit was regarded as a world expert on the music of Hector Berlioz. Upon his death in 2006 he was attempting to learn Chinese and was still an active participant in the Nobility and Civility colloquia. His fans (and there were many) were known as the 'Smit-ten.'
Talents and Experiences
The following a list of Smit's (mostly verifiable) talents and experiences:
- Tobacco dealer.
- Tobacco smuggler.
- Radical left-wing activist and social organiser.
- Radical left-wing editor of a radical left-wing activist publication.
- Went to radical summer camp ("where they taught me how to take over organisations and shut people up at meetings and also make bombs").
- Supposedly fought in the Yugoslavian army at some point.
- Worked at the call money desk at Rabobank as a short-term bond trader.
- Played semi-professional soccer.
- Played piano in Amsterdam brothels for a few months.
- Cooked very good Indonesian.
- Knew English, French, Dutch, Latin, Greek, German, dabbled in Sanskrit and Japanese and was, at the time of his death, attempting to master Classical Chinese.
- Leading scholar on economic history and capitalism.
- He was the first and one of only two Columbia professors (along with Richard Bulliet) to have taught all four major Core Curriculum classes (including Lit Hum, Contemporary Civilization, Art Hum, and Music Hum).
- Lectured without notes. Or preparation.