Learning Never Stops: A Hundred and Two Year Old to Complete her PhD


Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport completes her thesis as a Neonatologist, passing her last oral exam. Rapoport was not allowed to defend her doctoral thesis in 1938 as her mother was Jewish. Under the Nazi rule she was forced to stop her studies and leave her PhD incomplete. However at 102, she became the oldest recipient of the doctoral degree and thus an inspiration in many ways.

100 year phdRapoport did her thesis on diphtheria, a serious disease at that time which caused death in children. But due to the Nazi racial law, the University of Hamburg denied her the final grant of degree as she was about to clear her oral exam. Due to Jewish family ties her thesis was denied by Doctor Rudolf Degkwitz. She fled from Berlin and went to US in 1938 and continued her studies there, finishing her degree in Philadelphia and worked as a pediatrician.

But at last after 80 years Rapoport was awarded her doctorate degree in a celebratory ceremony on Tuesday at the University of Hamburg itself. Burkhard Goke who is currently the medical director of the university’s hospital said, “We cannot undo injustices that have been committed, but our insights into the past shape our perspective for the future”.

In her acceptance speech, Rapoport said that her toil to complete her thesis was an act of rebellion against all injustice that debars a person from completing their education and as a symbolic act of protest for all those who suffered her fate during the Third Reich. University Dean said, “She was brilliant, and not only for her age.” Even at 102, Rapoport’s awareness and zeal to learn is extraordinary.

Photo Credit : www.worldbulletin.net 

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