A Beaut’

To the Editors:

As if to illustrate the truth of Russell Baker’s remark on page 12 [“Back to Normalcy!” NYR, February 12] that “history has now joined Latin in the graveyard of American education,” Sherwin B. Nuland on page 35 [“Getting in Nature’s Way”] misplaces Michel de Montaigne “two centuries earlier” than Francis Bacon, “the father of the scientific method.” As Montaigne died in 1592, when Bacon was more than thirty years old, Professor Nuland may have meant “two decades earlier.” But I thank Professor Nuland, who does have a keen sense of history if not of dates, for redeeming from the graveyard a maxim of Bacon’s as relevant now as it was five centuries ago: “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.”

Richard Murphy
Durban, South Africa

Sherwin B. Nuland replies:

I am grateful to Richard Murphy not only for correcting such a whopper (or, as Fiorello La Guardia might have called it, “a beaut”), but even more so for his gentle way of doing it. As unlikely as it may now seem, I do know better.