Mr. Sinnett has “never been bored” and “doesn’t understand how anybody ever could be with all the things there are to learn and read and experiment on.” Hailing from Wyoming, as a sixth grader Mr. Sinnett fell in love with The Microbe Hunter by Paul de Kruif as it explains how scientists reason their way through an experiment. He has the same copy today, cover long gone, and remembers some of the classes he had on it more clearly than he remembers “what happened yesterday.”
While this book started his love of learning, he has always been interested in lots of subjects so St. John’s, with its lack of departments, suits him perfectly. His undergraduate degree is in mathematics, but only “accidentally”, as he is “not very organized” and was meant to be majoring in physics but hadn’t been taking the requirements. He instead had taken classes that interested him which helped him discover that his true passion lies in mathematics.
Mr. Sinnett has a relationship with theology as he came to SJC from ministering a Presbyterian church. He misses it as he is “not good at involving myself with people on the street or an informal gathering” but “if I have a context where I know the roles, that’s a way of being with people and I like it.” Yet he has always valued that at St. John’s, when we read religious texts, “there isn’t a fixed set of presupposition that governs the conversation.”
Mr. Sinnett will most likely be leaving St. John’s in the next couple of years and is excited to continue his personal projects in mathematical physics where he hopes to go on investigating “the mysterious powers of mathematics to disclose novel features of the world.”
He has noticed a shift in mathematics in his lifetime that excites him for the future. He explained that when he started to go to The American Mathematical Society meetings it was mostly attended by white men from the local area. Now, “we literally have people from all over the world and half of them are women which is amazing, just extraordinary.” He says that this is proof of what we always have believed, that “mathematics is a universal language that anyone can speak.”
Mr. Sinnett’s favorite book on the program is Gulliver’s Travels, which always get him “laughing, angry, mad, sad” and “vexed”, vexed being one of Jonathan Swift’s “favorite words”.
He also has no idea why we are interviewing him anyways. He says “it just doesn’t seem to fit why would anyone have a question about me, I can’t figure it out.” In order to maybe answer this question I thought I might quote his answer to me about if contemporary books should be on the program. He said, “100 years from now we will have to read Homer and Plato and Augustine because thats where we came from.” So too Mr. Sinnett, you are a part of where we, St. John’s College, comes from, and we have to know it!