Joseph Sohm/Visions of America/Corbis
Joseph Sohm/Visions of America/Corbis

9 Other Famous Harvard Dropouts

Joseph Sohm/Visions of America/Corbis
Joseph Sohm/Visions of America/Corbis

Most people are familiar with the stories of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who achieved great success as the founders of Microsoft and Facebook, respectively, after dropping out of Harvard. Here are nine other former Harvard students who made out just fine without earning their degrees.

1. Robert Frost

Frost, a San Francisco native who had previously dropped out of Dartmouth after only two months, was accepted for admission at Harvard in the fall of 1897 and studied liberal arts in Cambridge. Two years later, Frost, who had married and become a father just prior to enrolling at Harvard, left school to support his growing family. “They could not make a student of me here, but they gave it their best,” Frost later said. Frost won four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry in his lifetime and received an honorary degree from Harvard in 1937.

2. Matt Damon

The future Hollywood star entered Harvard in 1988 and took time off during the second semester of his sophomore year to act in Rising Son, a made-for-TV movie. Damon stepped out during his junior and senior years as well, and never accrued enough credits to graduate. “What was happening is that I would keep coming back, and I would almost get done with the semester and then I would be yanked out,” Damon recalled in an interview with the Harvard Crimson. It’s fitting, then, that Damon’s big break was Good Will Hunting, the 1997 film he co-wrote and starred in with his friend Ben Affleck. In one scene, Damon’s character tells a Harvard student, “You drop $150,000 on an education that you could have gotten for $1.50 on late charges at the public library.” Damon appeared on Ellen earlier this month and said he doesn’t have any plans to go back and finish his degree. “I feel like I got everything I needed to get from that experience,” he said.

3. William Randolph Hearst

Hearst, the son of millionaire mining engineer George Hearst, enrolled at Harvard in 1885 and acted as the first business manager of the Harvard Lampoon, the school’s humor publication. It didn’t take long for Hearst, who kept a pet alligator named Champagne Charlie in his room, to establish a reputation as a trouble-maker. According to legend, the future newspaper magnate once bought a jackass and snuck the animal into a professor’s room, leaving a card around its neck with the note, “Now there are two of you.” Hearst survived that stunt, but was later expelled for sending his professors chamber pots with their names inscribed on the bottom. After leaving Harvard, Hearst launched his successful career by taking control of one of his father’s newspapers, the San Francisco Examiner.

4. Edwin H. Land

After graduating with honors from the Norwich Academy in Connecticut, Land enrolled at Harvard in 1926. The son of a scrap metal yard owner, Land studied chemistry as a freshman and launched experiments on ways to polarize light. Land dropped out of Harvard to focus full-time on his research, which he conducted at the New York Public Library, before returning to Cambridge to establish the Land-Wheelwright Laboratories with his former Harvard physics instructor in 1932. In 1937, Land co-founded the Polaroid Corporation, which would introduce the first instant camera in 1947. Land said the idea was inspired by his then-3-year-old daughter, who asked why she couldn’t immediately see a photograph he took of her on a family vacation. Polaroid made another breakthrough in 1963 with the introduction of instant color photography. By the time of his death in 1991, Land, who was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in 1957 and had a street in Cambridge named after him, owned more than 500 patents, second only to Thomas Edison. Among his other inventions were instant X-rays, Polaroid sunglasses, and glare-reducing goggles for dogs.

5. James B. Connolly

Connolly, who was admitted to Harvard in 1895 despite never graduating high school, left Cambridge to participate in the first Olympic Games one year later. Connolly reportedly requested a leave of absence from the Harvard dean, but it was denied as a result of his low academic standing. Harvard informed Connolly that he would have to reapply for admission upon his return from Athens, but he left anyway, and became the first modern Olympic champion with a win in the triple jump. Connolly never returned to Harvard to finish his degree, but he was awarded an honorary Harvard sweater in 1948.

6. Pete Seeger

As Seeger explains it, the folk singer and activist had his financial aid rescinded after his sophomore year because he got too interested in left-wing politics and let his grades slip. Seeger, who would’ve graduated in 1940, achieved fame after dropping out of Harvard as a member of The Weavers, whose rendition of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight, Irene” topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1950. Seeger doesn’t seem to harbor any ill will toward the school. As the Harvard Crimson reported, he wrote the following in his alumni yearbook: “I remember thinking when 1940 came along that I was glad I had spent the two years there, that I had learned certain invaluable things, but also that I had learned in two years that I had been away from certain things that Harvard wouldn’t have been able to teach.”

7. R. Buckminster Fuller

The inventor, philosopher, and futurist was the fifth generation of his family to enroll at Harvard and the first not to graduate. Fuller wasn’t accepted into any of Harvard’s social clubs, so he sought companionship elsewhere and regularly skipped classes to attend Broadway shows. During one such trip to New York City, Fuller treated actress Marilyn Miller and her entire chorus to dinner, blowing all of his tuition money for that year in the process. Harvard dismissed Fuller, who went to work as a factory worker in Quebec before his mother convinced him to reapply. Fuller was readmitted and earned several academic honors, but eventually became bored and left Harvard for good. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, Fuller embarked on the first of many commercial failures, including the prefabricated Dymaxion House, before achieving fortune and fame in 1947 with the invention of the geodesic dome. Fuller returned to Harvard in 1961 to accept the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry.

8. Bonnie Raitt

Raitt enrolled at Radcliffe College, Harvard’s then-coordinate college, in 1967. The daughter of a Broadway musical performer, Raitt planned to major in African studies and travel to Tanzania to help “undo the damage that Western colonialism had done.” Those dreams were sidetracked when Raitt, a skilled guitar player, met blues promoter Dick Waterman in Cambridge. Waterman introduced Raitt to established performers such as Son House and Fred McDowell. Though Raitt had every intention of graduating, she took a semester off during her sophomore year to explore the possibility of a musical career with Waterman and became a star. Raitt signed a recording deal with Warner Bros. in 1970 and released her debut album in 1971. Raitt won four Grammy awards in 1990 and received Harvard’s third Arts Medal in 1997. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

9. Elisabeth Shue

At least one famous Harvard dropout eventually decided to return to school. Shue, who transferred to Harvard from Wellesley College, dropped out of school one semester short of receiving her political science degree in 1985 to pursue an acting career. Fifteen years later, she returned to Cambridge to complete her degree. “My brain was starting to dry up,” Shue told Movieline magazine. “In Hollywood, you’re fortunate if you get a role where your brain is engaged, but those experiences are rare. I felt like I needed to do something with my life. I wanted to feel more connected to the world.” At the time, Shue said she would eventually like to teach and make documentaries. Best known for her Oscar-nominated role in Leaving Las Vegas, one of Shue’s most recent roles was as Sheriff Julie Forester in Piranha 3D.

9 Curses for Book Thieves From the Middle Ages and Beyond

It may seem extreme to threaten the gallows for the theft of a book, but that's just one example in the long, respected tradition of book curses. Before the invention of moveable type in the West, the cost of a single book could be tremendous. As medievalist Eric Kwakkel explains, stealing a book then was more like stealing someone’s car today. Now, we have car alarms; then, they had chains, chests … and curses. And since the heyday of the book curse occurred during the Middle Ages in Europe, it was often spiced with Dante-quality torments of hell.

The earliest such curses go back to the 7th century BCE. They appear in Latin, vernacular European languages, Arabic, Greek, and more. And they continued, in some cases, into the era of print, gradually fading as books became less expensive. Here are nine that capture the flavor of this bizarre custom.


A book curse from the Arnstein Bible, circa 1172
A curse in the Arnstein Bible
British Library // Public Domain

The Arnstein Bible at the British Library, written in Germany circa 1172, has a particularly vivid torture in mind for the book thief: “If anyone steals it: may he die, may he be roasted in a frying pan, may the falling sickness [i.e. epilepsy] and fever attack him, and may he be rotated [on the breaking wheel] and hanged. Amen.”


A 15th-century French curse featured by Marc Drogin in his book Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses has a familiar "House That Jack Built"-type structure:

“Whoever steals this book
Will hang on a gallows in Paris,
And, if he isn’t hung, he’ll drown,
And, if he doesn’t drown, he’ll roast,
And, if he doesn’t roast, a worse end will befall him.”


A book curse excerpted from the 13th-century Historia scholastica
A book curse from the Historia scholastica
Yale Beinecke Library // Public Domain

In The Medieval Book, Barbara A. Shailor records a curse from Northeastern France found in the 12th-century Historia scholastica: “Peter, of all the monks the least significant, gave this book to the most blessed martyr, Saint Quentin. If anyone should steal it, let him know that on the Day of Judgment the most sainted martyr himself will be the accuser against him before the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.”


Drogin also records this 13th-century curse from a manuscript at the Vatican Library, as notes. It escalates rapidly.

"The finished book before you lies;
This humble scribe don’t criticize.
Whoever takes away this book
May he never on Christ look.
Whoever to steal this volume durst
May he be killed as one accursed.
Whoever to steal this volume tries
Out with his eyes, out with his eyes!"


A book curse from an 11th century lectionary
A book curse from an 11th century lectionary
Beinecke Library // Public Domain

An 11th-century book curse from a church in Italy, spotted by Kwakkel, offers potential thieves the chance to make good: “Whoever takes this book or steals it or in some evil way removes it from the Church of St Caecilia, may he be damned and cursed forever, unless he returns it or atones for his act.”


This book curse was written in a combination of Latin and German, as Drogin records:

"To steal this book, if you should try,
It’s by the throat you’ll hang high.
And ravens then will gather ’bout
To find your eyes and pull them out.
And when you’re screaming 'oh, oh, oh!'
Remember, you deserved this woe."


This 18th-century curse from a manuscript found in Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, is written in Arabic: “Property of the monastery of the Syrians in honorable Jerusalem. Anyone who steals or removes [it] from its place of donation will be cursed from the mouth of God! God (may he be exalted) will be angry with him! Amen.”


A book curse in a 17th century manuscript cookbook
A book curse in a 17th century cookbook

A 17th-century manuscript cookbook now at the New York Academy of Medicine contains this inscription: "Jean Gembel her book I wish she may be drouned yt steals it from her."


An ownership inscription on a 1632 book printed in London, via the Rochester Institute of Technology, contains a familiar motif:

“Steal not this Book my honest friend
For fear the gallows be yr end
For when you die the Lord will say
Where is the book you stole away.”


One of the most elaborate book curses found on the internet runs as follows: "For him that stealeth a Book from this Library, let it change to a Serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with Palsy, and all his Members blasted. Let him languish in Pain, crying aloud for Mercy and let there be no surcease to his Agony till he sink to Dissolution. Let Book-worms gnaw his Entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, and when at last he goeth to his final Punishment let the Flames of Hell consume him for ever and aye.”

Alas, this curse—still often bandied about as real—was in fact part of a 1909 hoax by the librarian and mystery writer Edmund Pearson, who published it in his "rediscovered" Old Librarian's Almanack. The Almanack was supposed to be the creation of a notably curmudgeonly 18th-century librarian; in fact, it was a product of Pearson's fevered imagination.

5 Things We Know About Deadpool 2

After Deadpool pocketed more than $750 million worldwide in its theatrical run, a sequel was put on the fast track by Fox to capitalize on the original's momentum. It's a much different position to be in for a would-be franchise that was stuck in development hell for a decade, and with Deadpool 2's May 18, 2018 release date looming, the slow trickle of information is going to start picking up speed—beginning with the trailer, which just dropped. Though most of the movie is still under wraps, here's what we know so far about the next Deadpool.


The tendency with comic book movie sequels is to keep cramming more characters in until the main hero becomes a supporting role. While Deadpool 2 is set to expand the cast from the first film with the addition of Domino (Zazie Beetz), the return of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and the formation of X-Force, writer Rhett Reese is adamant about still making sure it's a Deadpool movie.

"Yeah, it’ll be a solo movie," Reese told Deadline. "It’ll be populated with a lot of characters, but it is still Deadpool’s movie, this next one."


Fans have been waiting for Cable to come to theaters ever since the first X-Men movie debuted in 2000, but up until now, the silver-haired time traveler has been a forgotten man. Thankfully, that will change with Deadpool 2, and he'll be played by Josh Brolin, who is also making another superhero movie appearance in 2018 as the villain Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. In the comics, Cable and Deadpool are frequent partners—they even had their own team-up series a few years back—and that dynamic will play out in the sequel. The characters are so intertwined, there were talks of possibly having him in the original.

"It’s a world that’s so rich and we always thought Cable should be in the sequel," Reese told Deadline. "There was always debate whether to put him in the original, and it felt like we needed to set up Deadpool and create his world first, and then bring those characters into his world in the next one."

Cable is actually the son of X-Men member Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey named Madelyne Pryor (that's probably the least confusing thing about him, to be honest). While the movie might not deal with all that history, expect Cable to still play a big role in the story.


Although Deadpool grossed more than $750 million worldwide and was a critical success, it still wasn't enough to keep original director Tim Miller around for the sequel. Miller recently came out and said he left over concerns that the sequel would become too expensive and stylized. Instead, Deadpool 2 will be helmed by John Wick (2014) director David Leitch. Despite the creative shuffling, the sequel will still feature star Ryan Reynolds and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.

“He’s just a guy who’s so muscular with his action," Reynolds told Entertainment Weekly of Leitch's hiring. "One of the things that David Leitch does that very few filmmakers can do these days is they can make a movie on an ultra tight minimal budget look like it was shot for 10 to 15 times what it cost,"


No, this won't be the title of the movie when it hits theaters, but the working title for Deadpool 2 while it was in production was, appropriately, Love Machine.


The natural instinct for any studio is to make the sequel to a hit film even bigger. More money for special effects, more action scenes, more everything. That's not the direction Deadpool 2 is likely heading in, though, despite Miller's fears. As producer Simon Kinberg explained, it's about keeping the unique tone and feel of the original intact.

"That’s the biggest mandate going into on the second film: to not make it bigger," Kinberg told Entertainment Weekly. "We have to resist the temptation to make it bigger in scale and scope, which is normally what you do when you have a surprise hit movie."


More from mental floss studios