Jeopardy! Fame Finds Dartmouth Professor Tom Cormen
There’s famous, and then there’s Jeopardy!-clue famous.
Tom Cormen is a longtime neighbor of mine, and a regular guy. My husband and I often see him working outdoors as we pass by his home on our daily walk. During one of our recent conversations with Tom in his driveway, we weighed in on what shade of red he ought to choose to paint the trim on his house.
He’s a retired Dartmouth professor of computer science, and every now and then, we had heard him speak about the textbook he had written, especially when he was in the midst of editing and updating it. So we knew he was a smart guy.
Turns out he’s also now Jeopardy-famous. On February 16, 2022, in the prime-time National College Championship, this $1200 clue appeared in a category called “They Wrote Your Textbooks.”
Which of course caused me to send him an email that said, “Wait, what?”
You’d think if you’re about to be a clue on Jeopardy! you’d be given notice. Not so, and as Cormen says, if he had known, he certainly would have been watching. He was having dinner with his sister-in-law when the phone rang. It was Tom’s sister Jane telling him to check his email. She’d forwarded a video clip that a friend had sent her of that evening’s show. His reaction? “Laughter . . . If I had been watching in real time, I might have thought I was on drugs, seeing and hearing my name on Jeopardy.”
Why did Jeopardy! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the show’s title) choose this book and author? Tom says the book may be “the best-known textbook in Computer Science,” and it is “the second-most cited work in the field.” The 4th edition clocks in at 1311 pages and is scheduled to be released on April 4, 2022. According to Tom, when total book sales had reached 500,000, a computer science professor at MIT said “if you stacked up all the copies of the book, they would be as high as Mount Everest—three times.” Book sales have now reached one million.
My final question for my now-celebrity neighbor?
Me: Do you believe your neighbors will treat you differently now that you are Jeopardy-famous?
Tom: It is clearly so. You never interviewed me for Artful before, despite my gorgeous illustrations in Introduction to Algorithms.
(Photo, top, by Linda Howes, courtesy of Tom Cormen. Reformatted. To watch the show, click here. The Cormen clue appears at approximately 16:00)
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.