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A Ph.D Thesis Defense Delayed By Injustice 77 Years 134

Taco Cowboy writes: A story about a 102-year old lady doing her PhD thesis defense is not that common, but when the thesis defense was delayed by a whopping 77 years, that gotta raise some eyebrows. Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport studied diphtheria at the University of Hamburg in Germany and in 1938, the 25-year old Protestant-raised, German-born Ingeborg submitted for her doctorate thesis defense. She was denied her chance for her defense because her mother was of the Jewish ancestry, making her an official "cross-breed". As such the Nazi regime forbid the university from proceeding with her defense, for "racial reasons".

She became one of the thousands of scholars and researchers banished from German academe, which at the time included many of the world's most prestigious research institutions, because of Jewish ancestry or opposition to Nazi policies. Many of them ended up suffering or dying in concentration camps. Rudolf Degkwitz, Syllm's professor, was imprisoned for objecting to euthanizing children. Syllm, however, was able to reach the United States and earned her medical degree from the old Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Eventually she married a fellow physician named Samuel Mitja Rapoport, had a family, and moved back to Germany in the 1950s, where she achieved prominence in neonatology. Syllm-Rapoport, who is now 102 years old, might have remained just a doctor (if a very accomplished one) had not the present dean of the Hamburg medical school, Uwe Koch-Gromus, heard her story from a colleague of her son, Tom Rapoport, a Harvard cell biologist.

Determined to do what he could to mitigate this wrong, Koch-Gromus arranged Syllm-Rapoport's long-delayed defense. Despite failing eyesight, she brushed up on decades of developments in diphtheria research with the help of friends and the Internet. Koch-Gromus called the 45-minute oral exam given by him and two colleagues on 13 May in her Berlin living room "a very good test. Frau Rapoport has gathered notable knowledge about what's happened since then. Particularly given her age, she was brilliant."
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A Ph.D Thesis Defense Delayed By Injustice 77 Years

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  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Wednesday May 27, 2015 @01:49PM (#49784909) Homepage

    for arranging this. It might be largely symbolic, but I heartily approve of what he has done. Something bright & positive, better than the trials of ancient concentration camp officials.

    • for arranging this. It might be largely symbolic, but I heartily approve of what she has done. Something bright & positive, better than the trials of ancient concentration camp officials.


      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I understand identifying sexuality is a special challenge for you, so I'll just leave this here:

        Uwe Koch-Gromus [lmgtfy.com]
      • by Anonymous Coward

        WTF? The dude's a guy. Google his pic...he's an old white male with thinning grey hair and knee-low testicles.

        Hard to fuck that up.

        • I thought the poster was lauding the woman who defended her dissertation. My bad. Which ring of hell do you wish me to descend to?
      • for arranging this. It might be largely symbolic, but I heartily approve of what she has done. Something bright & positive, better than the trials of ancient concentration camp officials.


        I approve of what he has done, and I respect and admire what she has done - and not just because she successfully defended her thesis, but because of her accomplishments throughout her long career.

        See what I did there? There's plenty of respect and admiration to go around here. Maybe you should stop treating this as if it was a zero-sum game.

    • by nbauman ( 624611 )

      It happens a lot. There is a, shall we say, generation gap in Germany and Austria. The Germans also have this attitude about "making things right."

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org]
      When Kandel won the Nobel Prize in 2000, it was claimed in Vienna that he was an "Austrian" Nobel, something he found "typically Viennese: very opportunistic, very disingenuous, somewhat hypocritical." He also said it was "... certainly not an Austrian Nobel, it was a Jewish-American Nobel." After that, he got a call from then Aus

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        So how far have we come in life that, now, further education is a crippling fiscal penalty and not something government strives to achieve in the whole population. You would think governments would be endeavouring to get people to keep learning all their lives but no, higher education is considered a burden that is frowned upon as being a waste unless it generates profits for use by others to stupid to gain it.

    • This is a very touching story. I don't think it was symbolic, given the lengths to which both the examiners and Dr. Syllm-Rapoport went to legitimately defend her research. Kudos all around and a great wrong was righted. (Yes, there are and have been many atrocities committed and their number doesn't diminish the greatness of any individual act of restoration.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2015 @01:58PM (#49784995)

    She might have remained just a doctor, but now she's... a doctor doctor!
    ( huh? )

    But seriously, this is awesome.

    Also, WTF slashdot... how about linking to the primary source ( Wall Street Journal )

  • Can you imagine if it had been on Small Pox?

    Hmmm...we actually cured that in the mean time, so... how would they handle that? Brushing up on the new research could be fairly quick.

  • forbid forbade forbidden. It's forbade.

  • that gotta raise some eyebrows.

    And you gotta learn how to use apostrophes. And not write "gotta."

    As such the Nazi regime forbid

    Forbade, or possibly forbad. If you don't know the correct tense of the verb you want to use, either look it up or think of another one.

  • Thanks for posting this.

  • All I have to say.
  • Here's the final sentence from the article that didn't make it into TFS:

    At a ceremony on 9 June, Syllm-Rapoport will officially become an M.D.-Ph.D. and, without doubt, the oldest new graduate of this or any other academic year.

  • I just really enjoyed grad school too much to want to finish, and they eventually made it clear to me that I'd better defend soon or they'd kick me out. Of course, I also wasn't accomplishing nearly as much in the interim as the article's subject.

    It's an inspiring story. All the same, my dissertation defense is something that I'm just as happy I won't have the opportunity to tackle later in life...

  • A nightmare (Score:5, Funny)

    by clovis ( 4684 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2015 @03:02PM (#49785523)

    I still have this nightmare.
    I'm back in school 50 years later and have to finish some schoolwork I'd forgotten.
    The only variable is whether I'm naked or just in my underwear.

    • Is the teacher still hot?

    • by myid ( 3783581 )

      I sometimes have this nightmare: I haven't been attending a class that I'm signed up for. (Usually because I didn't know that I was signed up for it.) Since I'm so far behind in the class, I have to drop the class, and there's just a short time left to drop it. I'm frantically rushing to drop the class before the deadline, after which you can't drop the class.

      My friends have had the same kind of dream.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I have it too.

        This makes me think that there really are subliminal messages fed to us through TV somehow, or maybe on the radio, and the people behind this grand experiment are reading this thread in not-so-quiet anticipation. Bastards.

    • Given her age, lets hope for the sake of the auditors that she was at least wearing underwear.
    • I had the same nightmare. About you. And you were indeed naked, as well as being Scarlett Johansson's hotter sister.

      Wait, how did we get on this topic again?
  • My PhD thesis defense was delayed for three years, but for a different reason:

    https://youtu.be/WeYsTmIzjkw [youtu.be]

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      I have an interesting story about him that I probably should not share and most certainly should not share under my moniker... However...

      I had a younger friend call me and ask if I had any good weed. I, of course, did. They wanted to share some "Maine Skunk" with this gentleman as he was doing a gig at Sunday River. It is a rather long drive but I meandered down and was rather kind. So this old man met Afroman and I am going to stop the story here. The first part I am absolutely positive will impact nobody

      • I have an interesting story about him that I probably should not share

        Since you seem to be a pretty forthcoming fella, let me ask you a question about your part of the country.

        My wife's been offered a position at UVM in Brunswick, VT. You have any opinion about quality of life there? I'm a little worried about New England winters, but I can't imagine it's much nastier than Chicago. It looks beautiful and the wife's an avid skiier. We're probably pretty close in age to you, maybe 3 or 4 years younger.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          There are a lot of fake liberals there. I am not saying this with political motivations. Vermont is not as liberal as people think. They are, well, slow but the quality of life is good, the policing is lax, and the weather is probably a bit tamer actually as I have been to both in the winter.

          • There are a lot of fake liberals there.

            Having dealt with the Chicago "limousine liberal", I think I know what to expect.

            It doesn't really worry me. I can find decent people anywhere. Thanks for the heads up.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What's missing from TFA is that she wasn't just a "normal doctor" but became the first professor for neonatalogy ever worlwide - in the German Democratic Republic (i.e. the socialist part of Germany at the time), where she had moved to from the US, being a socialist and afraid of persecution during the McCarthy period.

    • "being a socialist and afraid of persecution during the McCarthy period."

      My, how things have changed...

  • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2015 @04:23PM (#49786175)
    She'll be at least 150 years old by the time she's paid off the student loans.
    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      She will pay that after she gets tenure at the same university. It will take a little longer though.

  • "earned her medical degree from the old Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "

    102 years old? Wow. But she wasn't so old when she earned her degree in the 'Old Women's Medical College'.

  • While the injustice was definitely egregious, the original injustice was not the reason for all 77 years of the 'delay'.

New systems generate new problems.