What created this oddly local flowering of intellectual activity?


#1

Hello everyone,

From the book Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman.

Dear Tom,

It is an oddity often remarked upon that at the turn of the century, one small, obscure provincial area of Hungary, then under the benign tutelage of Emperor Franz Josef, spawned several towering figures in the fields of physics and mathematics— among them Edward Teller, George de Hevesy, Eugene Wigner, Leo Szilard and John von Neumann. This group, many of them Nobel Prize winners, all of them products of the Jewish middle class, were referred to in their diaspora as the “Men from Mars” because of their obscure provenance and their thick Finno-Ugaric accents. What explosive tinder in this remote corner of the Carpathians had nourished such a forest fire of genius? No one knows. Many years later, the Jewish middle class of remote and obscure St. Louis Park, Minn., produced a group of people who also emigrated and overcame funny accents to achieve their own measure of success. Their goyishe tutelary spirits were not Emperor Franz Josef but Don Fraser, Hubert Humphrey and, yes, Walter Mondale. What created this oddly local flowering of intellectual activity? Why, indeed, is St. Louis Park commonly called the City of Flowers? Because there’s a “Rosenbloom” on every corner? Coincidence? We doubt it . . . Maybe St. Louis Park, like the cosmos itself, defies easy explanation—even though, unlike the cosmos, it is next door to Hopkins. Maybe [the local commentators] George Rice or Al Austin could have explained it—or, if not them, Roundhouse Rodney. But they are gone. Maybe you, Tom, who have explained so much, could turn your attention to it.

We wish you all the best.

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

I’m not sure about the meaning of “What created this oddly local flowering of intellectual activity?”

Does it mean that this oddly local flowering of intellectual activiy created something and the question is what this something is? Or does it mean that something created this oddly local flowering of intellectual activity and the question is what this something is?

Thank you.


#2

This is it exactly. The author then goes on to say that this question cannot be answered - nobody really knows what created this flowering.