Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics


Richard Tames’s A Traveller’s History of Oxford describes the “Long Room” of New College, a range of first-floor latrines built over a huge cesspit. Robert Plot, first superintendent of the Ashmolean Museum rhapsodised in the late 17th century that it was

stupendous… so large and deep that it has never been emptied since the foundation of the College, which was above three hundred years since, nor is it ever likely to want it.

The book also notes that this historical appraisal was in fact erroneous, as the pit had in fact, according to College records, been emptied in 1485.

The author does not make clear whether this description is intended as an allegory of academic productivity.

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