1

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?

2

Well, Galt did disappear - he went straight to 20th Century Motor corp in a junior position, and the developments there escaped the public domain, except for the oblique 'Who's John Galt' the origins of which are a mystery to all.

I took '2nd Asst Book Keeper' to indicate Stadlers indoctrination into the social justice movements destroying the US at the time. Stadler deploys it as a slur against Galt for moving straight into a commercial concern, signalling his distaste that he didn't apply himself to public work, the 'public good' etc. Book keeper indicates Stadler thought a great engineer was only going to be in it for the money, basically.

As to how Stadler doesn't name check him - the first two are famous men in the headlines. Galt is not, bar the epiphet, which I have to assume Stadler was entirely unaware of?

2

Later, when Dagney saw Stadler on a different occasion, it becomes clear that Dr. Stadler didn't want to believe that "who is John Galt?" referred to the John Galt he knew.

They were silent, then [Robert Stadler] said, "I knew a John Galt once. Only he died long ago."
"Who was he?"
"I used to think that he was still alive. But now I'm certain that he must have died. He had such a mind that, had he lived, the whole world would have been talking of him by now."
"But the whole world is talking of him."
He stopped still. "Yes..." he said slowly, staring at a thought that had never struck him before, "yes... why?" The word was heavy with the sound of terror....
"Who is he, Dr. Stadler?"
"Why are they talking of him?"
"Who was he?"
He shook his head with a shudder and said simply, "It's just a coincidence. The name is not uncommon at all. It's a meaningless coincidence. It has no connection with the man I knew. That man is dead." He did not permit himself to know the full meaning of the words he added: "He has to be dead."

It had apparently never occurred to him that "Who is John Galt?" was referring to the John Galt he knew. Once he did think of it, though, he was absolutely terrified by the possibility that the John Galt he knew was the one that they were talking about.

Before that, he was also evidently rather disgusted and disappointed that no one had heard of John Galt yet, because he was expecting that he would become famous.

When John was captured and asked to see Robert Stadler, Dr. Stadler begged not to be forced to see him. As soon as he went in to see John, he immediately started protesting that "he couldn't help it" and started trying to rationalize his behavior (in fact, before John even said anything if I remember correctly - I couldn't locate the quote for that, though).

Ironically, Stadler's office at the State Science Institute was described as "a small room that looked like the office of the bookkeeper of an unsuccessful firm."

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