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Ancient to Modern

The Loeb Classical Library goes digital

OCT 6, 2014, VOL. 20, NO. 04 • BY SUSAN KRISTOL

“Chemistry and Physics Get Million from Loeb,” blared the Harvard Crimson headline. “Funds will modernize laboratory facilities and establish chemistry chairs.” The donor: scientist Morris Loeb ’83. A million dollars is indeed generous. But on the Harvard scale, did it really warrant a Crimson headline? 

Kevin Dzuban

The answer is yes—given that Morris Loeb graduated not in 1983 but in 1883. In today’s dollars, his gift (received in 1953, upon the death of his widow) would be worth almost $9 million. A distinguished chemist and scion of a wealthy New York banking family, he was a philanthropist of both Jewish and non-Jewish institutions. Although wildly generous, he had some odd habits, such as hiding thousand-dollar bills under the wallpaper. Sadly, he died at 49 of typhoid, contracted from an oyster he ate at a chemical society convention. Reform Jews—especially of this period, and especially those born in Cincinnati—had no restrictions against eating shellfish. 

What is the connection between Morris Loeb, the eccentric but brilliant scientist, and the Loeb Classical Library, a collection of more than 520 Greek and Latin volumes published by Harvard University Press and now entering its digital age? Morris’s strong-willed decision to go into chemistry instead of joining the family investment-banking business reportedly led to increased pressure on his younger brother James (Harvard ’88) to become part of Kuhn, Loeb & Co. with their father, Solomon. James, a sensitive lover of literature and music and a gifted cellist, reluctantly gave up a potential career as an archaeologist or a classicist to join the family business. But he never lost his love of Greek and Latin. And one result of his thwarted passion for antiquity was his decision to create the Loeb Classical Library in 1911. 

Source and remainder of article: http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/ancient-modern_806147.html

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