Mythbusted: Professor says WikiLeaks founder was ‘no star’ mathematician

John Rosenthal Contributor
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Despite the media narrative that reputed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is some sort of mathematical wizard, the chair of the math department at the university in Australia Assange attended tells The Daily Caller the WikiLeaker’s academic record indicates he was ‘no star.’

From the amount of media attention he is presently receiving, it would appear that Assange must be the “man of the year.” But the sole source for almost everything that the public knows – or thinks it knows – about the reputed founder of WikiLeaks is none other than Julian Assange himself. One element of the Assange legend is the notion that he was some sort of mathematics wiz before turning his attention to the development of the WikiLeaks website.

A May profile of Assange in the Sydney Morning Herald, for instance, depicts him madly scribbling mathematical formulas on the “walls and doors” of his flat in Melbourne and notes that “in another life, Assange might have been a mathematician.”

“He spent four years studying maths, mostly at Melbourne University,” the article continues, “but never graduated, disenchanted, he says, with how many of his fellow students were conducting research for the US defence system.”

A current BBC profile adds that “the development of the internet gave him a chance to use his early promise at maths” and notes that while pursuing “a course in physics and maths at Melbourne University…he became a prominent member of a mathematics society, inventing an elaborate maths puzzle that contemporaries said he excelled at.”

It is not clear what “contemporaries” the BBC has in mind.

CNN, duly noting Assange’s alleged “mathematics and physics” background, gushes that “in interviews his scientific precision shines through.”

But Assange’s mathematics professors were evidently not so impressed by his mathematical abilities. In a conversation with TheDC, Prof. Peter Taylor, the chair of the Mathematics Department at the University of Melbourne, explained that while he did not himself have Assange as a student, based on Assange’s academic record one could conclude, “He’s definitely no star as a mathematician.”

In most of his math courses at Melbourne, Assange just received “pass” grades. This does not mean that Assange took a “pass/fail” option. The University of Melbourne grading system runs from a highest grade of H1 or “first class honors” to N, a failing grade. The “pass” grade is the lowest grade that one can receive without failing.

The professor confirmed that Assange studied math while enrolled at the university between 2002 and 2005. He was not a graduate student, as some reports suggest, but merely an undergraduate who, while pursuing a bachelors of science degree, took some courses in math. Assange never completed the degree.

This means, incidentally, that the currently 39-year-old Assange began his undergraduate studies at the age of thirty-one and abandoned them when he was thirty-four.