Tales of Imperial Russia: The Life and Times of Sergei Witte, 1849-1915, Francis Wcislo, Oxford University Press.
A minor Russian aristocrat of German-Baltic roots, hence the surname, and a cousin of Madame Blavatsky. His own mysterious powers were a little more earthbound than hers.
Witte was one of those provincial top-of-the-class boys who was smarter than you and he knew it. He shamed his parents by opting to study mathematics rather than law at U of Odessa, with the aim of teaching at the college level. That was apparently too low an ambition for the family, and therefore scotched.
Instead he went into the high tech hot subject of the day – railroads. Continue reading