Many years ago while taking an electrical engineering class at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, I was thoroughly impressed by my professor, a Prof. Bartolome Blanco, who solved a differential equation with initial conditions by some sort of a “trick.” He called his trick the Laplace transform.
With thirty some bright-eyed classmates agog at learning new ideas, I was wondering if he was pulling our legs. Ever quick on the uptake, Prof. Blanco said, “If any of you wish to impugn what I taught here, you can check out my solution by plugging it into the equation or you can run to the Math Department to see what was going on.”
Wow! Some of us had brushed elbows with the simplest differential equations, never heard of transforms except in reference to converting high voltage to low voltage. And “impugn”? I had read that word somewhere in a long forgotten book but that was the first time I heard it used. Now you understand why I was impressed with my prof and I had visions of following in his footsteps.
And so, I jumped on the opportunity to teach engineering at UP upon my graduation when the dean offered me an instructorship. At the same time I took more math classes on the side: a class on differential equations here, a class on advanced engineering math there. It certainly gave me a step up when I went abroad for graduate studies.
Now fast forward to what I ended up doing. My Ph. D. dissertation at the State University of New York at Stony Brook was on the Hankel transformation of generalized functions.
The University of the Philippines is a great source of inspiration for our youth despite its poverty of material resources. It is however rich in a faculty that is a fountain of wisdom and knowledge. I credit Prof. Blanco in igniting a spark to my career. But there were many excellent profs I had. I would be remiss not to acknowledge Professor Josefina Constantino who instilled in me a love of the English language. And thanks to our late beloved editor Linda Cantiveros, I had this column for my outlet since 1993. From the time I retired in 1999, I have published short stories, poems and essays online and in print.
American poet Adelaide Crapsey invented a verse form in the 1920s called cinquain, which is a poem of five iambic lines of two, four, six, eight and two syllables. There are no restrictions on rhyme but there is a central theme in the cinquain. Here are some cinquains of mine on scientists.
Felt the apple
Dropped on his head with such
Gravity, he couldn’t help yell,
Tinker with his
Relatives; speed boggles
The mind as energy and mass
Out in the buff
For he had found that buoyant force
He used for thoughts,
Logic was the richer,
And calculus was brought to the