[of Atatürk] Always the teacher, he examined quantities of pupils in the schools. He would stride into a classroom, often petrifying the teacher into silence by his presence, and wander around the class, questioning the ...
students and scrutinizing their text-books.
In one of these, written by a young official of the Ministry of Education on his staff, Hassan Ali, he detected some Arabic words, and summoned him to dinner for a discussion on the reform of the language.
He fired at him a number of questions on mathematics, which, as the young man was careful to explain, was only incidentally his subject. 'What is a point? What is a line?' the Gazi asked him. Then,
'What is a zero?'
Hassan Ali, with his wits about him, replied,
'It may be best defined, Pasha, as "myself in your presence".'
'But zero,' Kemal insisted, 'is important.'
'So must I be, Pasha, if I am here in your presence.'
Kemal filled Hassan Ali's glass with raki , and said aloud before the rest of the table, 'You have passed your exam.' He was later to be rewarded by many years' service as Minister of Education.