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Charles Van Doren

L. Drew of Denver, Colo., asks,

Charles Van Doren has scrupulously avoided publicity for four decades. An author and editor of many books on history and literature, he is best known for the role he played in the quiz-show scandals of the 1950s.

As a contestant on TV's "Twenty-One," Mr. Van Doren enjoyed huge success. But his celebrity became notoriety when he confessed, in 1959, that show producers had fed answers to him.

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Van Doren resigned from teaching at Columbia University and slipped into obscurity. Though dogged by the scandal (the 1994 movie "Quiz Show" revived it), he has had a long and fruitful career.

He became an editorial vice president at Encyclopaedia Britannica and has written several books. His best-known is titled "A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future" (1991).

Last year he addressed Columbia's Class of 1959 at their reunion. His subject was Aristotle's "good life." "Despite the abrupt caesura in my academic career that occurred in 1959," Van Doren told them, "I have gone on teaching the humanities almost continually to students of all kinds and ages.... I remind you that according to Aristotle, happiness is not a feeling or sensation but instead is the quality of a whole life. The emphasis is on 'whole,' a life from beginning to end. Especially the end."

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(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society


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