When Dagney Taggert went to see Dr. Robert Stadler at the State Science Institute, in explanation for his mistrust of humans and human reason, he told the story of his three students:
"These three men, these three who held all the hope which the gift of intelligence ever proffered, these three from whom we expected such a magnificent future - one of them was Francisco d'Anconia, who became a depraved playboy. Another was Ragnar Danneskjold, who became a plain bandit. So much for the promise of the human mind."
"Who was the third one?" [Dagney] asked.
He shrugged. "The third one did not achieve even that sort of notorious distinction. He vanished without a trace - into the great unknown of mediocrity. He is probably a second assistant bookkeeper somewhere."
I realize that Ayn Rand couldn't reveal that his third student was John Galt at that point, but why did he say that?
Dr. Stadler had shown considerable degree of obliviousness (both feigned and real - he appeared to be only dimly aware of the statement issued by Dr. Floyd Farris, he had to be reminded that Taggart Transcontinental was building a new branch line from Rearden Metal, and he pretended not to know about the properties of Rearden Metal); he appeared to have lost much of his will for personally investigating things at that point (such as Floyd Farris's activity). Was he simply too oblivious to know the phrase "Who is John Galt?"
Alternatively, is he kidding himself about it being a different John Galt? (I have a vague recollection that that's the case from later in the book, but I can't remember exactly where). Or is he lying? And why didn't he actually state John Galt's name?