Although a gifted math student throughout high school and college, Abraham Nemeth received only discouragement when he tried to major in the field in college. As we reported on the occasion of his death—at age 94—in October 2013, Nemeth, who was born blind, overcame resistance and eventually earned his Ph.D. in math. He went on to become a tenured full professor in math, start a program in computer science, and devise a manual code for recording mathematical notation that has permitted countless visually impaired people to succeed in math and other fields where mathematical notation is required.
Eight decades after Nemeth’s college days, the University World News reports that Argyris Koumtzis, a top student and winner of math and physics prizes who is blind, was at first denied admittance into the physics program at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. But in his case—in an indication that times have changed—things worked out OK.
According to his rejection letter, Koumtzis was rejected because the university decided that he wouldn’t be able to complete the required lab work. When Koumtzis and his supporters protested, university rector Giannis Mylopoulos suggested he pursue a degree in mathematics instead, and then do graduate work in theoretical physics.
When Koumtzis declined this offer, Mylopoulos kept trying. He suggested forming “a committee of university lecturers, which would also include Argyris’ school teacher, to examine needs in terms of infrastructure, materials, academic know-how, special staff etc in order to give Argyris the best possible opportunity to study and complete the course successfully.” The rector asked the national education ministry to pay for the effort, “but already the mayor of a nearby local authority had stated that the council would be happy to contribute towards the expenses,” the article continues.
“Our basic aim,” says Mylopoulos, quoted in the article, “is that nobody should be excluded from knowledge, study, education or the university. Argyris will study at Aristotle University and we will all help him to complete his studies and realise his dream with the support of the state.”