The Cornell University 6-Year Ph.D. Program up ↑


As recalled by Anil Nerode, Professor of Mathematics:

... In the 1960's, Max Black, a very clever Cornell philosophy professor, made a proposal to the Mellon Foundation saying that humanities Ph.D.'s were taking 9 years to get their degrees, and this could be alleviated by a program which paid all expenses for a six year accelerated Ph.D. I have a feeling that Max knew what was going to happen, but others had to deal with the results. This was so attractive a program that while the program existed, Cornell skimmed the cream of US students who normally pick Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Stanford as first choice. These were extremely self-motivated and creative people. They proceeded to go in all possible directions, studying whatever they liked and generally livening up the campus. ... I don't think a single one got a Ph.D. in six years. They all lived interesting lives, at Cornell and after. ... (From Anil Nerode's on-line biography at

I was one of a few of these guinea-pig students, known to those involved in the program as "Phuds", who did manage to complete the Ph.D. in six years, but it was not in the humanities as the program originally intended.

Bob Lewis (PhD Mathematics, Cornell, 1976) put together a web page giving the history of the program, along with the stories of some of its members, at