Natchez resident took class from Einstein

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 1, 2000

John MacIlroy thinks Time magazine’s &uot;Man of the Century,&uot; Albert Einstein, is &uot;one of the best brains of the century.&uot; MacIlroy should know. He took a class from the famous physicist at Princeton in the 1930s.

&uot;I thought I’d like to take it just to say I’d been there,&uot; MacIlroy said Saturday at Magnolia House, where he’s staying for a few weeks.

Although MacIlroy eventually graduated with a degree in English, he wanted to take a class from the famous scientist.

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&uot;It was quite interesting,&uot; he said, admitting he’s &uot;not altogether sure&uot; he understood all the concepts he was supposed to be learning.

MacIlroy remembers Einstein as the same white-haired, absent-minded professor the genius is often characterized as.

&uot;He was a pleasant man, but that’s all I remember,&uot; he said. &uot;He looked pretty much like his pictures. He was pretty down-to-earth.&uot;

Einstein, who usually had assistants offer after-class help, had a small enough class to know everyone’s name, MacIlroy said.

&uot;You were expected to study yourself,&uot; MacIlroy said.

Since graduating from Princeton, MacIlroy became a World War II pilot and a salesman in the textile industry.

After he met his wife, the late Margaret Whittington, they retired to her hometown of Natchez in the 1960s. They lived at her family home, Lansdowne, and MacIlroy has lived there since her death.

He enjoys making Natchez a second home. &uot;I’ve been coming in and out of here for years and know a lot of people,&uot; he said.

He doesn’t think Einstein’s class, in which he made Bs and Cs, had too great an impact on his life, but he is glad to have taken a course with the famous genius.

And was the class hard? &uot;You betcha,&uot; MacIlroy said with a laugh.