Thursday, August 13, 2020

Three Indians

First I want to deal with the term “Indian.” It’s a losing battle. I give up. We still have a Bureau of Indian Affairs but everyone seems to be using the term “Native-American,” which, contrary to all the other double named ethnic origin terms, is quite ambiguous. I have always claimed to be “Native-American” since I was born here in America. My father-in-law was born in England so that makes him “Native-Englishman.”. I’ve never heard the term, however. Mexican-American is quite clear, as is African-American – all these double word identifiers are much like what we find in the South with their given names = Mary-Jo and Billy-Bob.

Before talking about my Three Indians I have two anecdotes, both true, I swear. My wife, Barbara, and I were traveling near Gallup, NM, and interrupted our trip to visit the “Sky City,” the Acoma Indian Pueblo. I stopped to chat with a middle aged woman at a table loaded with jewelry and small pottery pieces. I asked her, “Do you prefer to be called Indian or Native-American?” She laughed and said, “Indian, of course.” She continued to tell me she had a son, a lieutenant in the army, stationed at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs. (Kit Carson is another very interesting story).

 The second story comes from Tony Hillerman’s autobiography. He tells of attending a conference in Washington of various tribal chiefs from across the country. At the end of one presentation an audience member asked the speaker, an important chief, whether he preferred “Indian” or “Native-American?” The speaker laughed and said. “Indian, of course. I’m just glad that Columbus wasn’t looking for Turkey.”

Now to my three Indians: Will Rogers, an Oklahoma Cherokee, he needs no introduction. He was a horseman, a rodeo entertainer, a movie star and certainly the heir of Mark Twain’s humor. His political punditry was legendary. When asked what party he belonged to he responded, “I don't belong to any organized party. I'm a Democrat.” When I was younger I thought he might be a Coloradan. My mother drove me and my new wife up to the Will Rogers memorial on top of Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs. Our dear family friend, Gil Traveler, wrote a book about his relationship to the man -title:”When I Met Will Rogers.” Later in my career I had a research project at Point Barrow, AK, just a couple of miles from where he and Wiley Post died in an airplane crash in 1935.


A little lesser known, but not unknown, thanks to “Antique Roadshow,” is Maria Montoya Martinez, the world famous potter of the San Ildefonso pueblo in NM. Her black-on-black pottery is world famous and I suspect that most of the surviving pieces are currently in museums. My folks met her and her husband, Julian, back in the 20s or early 30s. Julian was the governor of the pueblo and had a great sense of humor. He drove a Model-T painted black-on-black and when visitors came to the pueblo he would greet them with a little dance and say “Me big Indian chief.” He was, of course, well educated and sophisticated. The photo, taken from Wikipedia shows Maria during the period when nearby Los Alamos was deep into making atom bombs for the war. Fermi, a man she had met, is the author of “Fermi's Paradox,” and the naming of half the material substance of the universe, the Fermions - protons and neutrons. The other photo shows Maria with some of her creations.

 My third Indian, probably not well known among my readers, is a friend from my life in San Diego, Herb York was a Mohawk and a very famous American scientist. See his Wikipedia entry for details. I will only mention a few from my personal interests. He was one of the luncheon four in 1950 at Los Alamos present when Fermi made his remark, and he was the the one who reported it: “Where are they?” One of the final contacts I had with him occurred when he recommended a short story for my reading enjoyment, a little bit of “steam” science fiction, “The Brick Moon.” He was US ambassador to Switzerland for the arms control pacts. He and his wife, Sybil, spent two years there negotiating arms control with the Russians. He was also the founding chancellor of UCSD. My wife, Barbara, and his wife, Sybil, played bridge together over the years.


Below are listed a few of his more important publications.

Race to Oblivion (Simon & Schuster, 1970)

Arms Control (Readings from Scientific American (W.H. Freeman, 1973)

The Advisors: Oppenheimer, Teller and the Superbomb (W.H. Freeman, 1976), a book that Hans Bethe regarded as containing a highly accurate treatment of the "Russian H-bomb" test of 1953.

Autobiography (1978). "Race to Oblivion: A Participant's View of the Arms Race". Simon and Schuster. Retrieved 2008-10-23.

Making Weapons, Talking Peace: A Physicist's Journey from Hiroshima to Geneva (Harper & Row, 1987)

A Shield in Space? Technology, Politics and the Strategic Defense Initiative (U.C. Press, 1988, with Sanford Lakoff)

Arms and the Physicist (American Physical Society, 1994)

Friday, June 5, 2020

Family Stars

The recent fraught times reminded me that Barbara and I have a number of people on both sides of our families that have always been on the right side of history. This does not mean at all that there are not many many others who rate a mention in this blog but to keep it simple I will mention just a few. A lot are not blood relatives but they are family just the same.

Dorothy Anne Juby (nee Flemons), Barbara’s aunt, wife of Rev. Leonard Ward Juby went to Sierra Leone to minister to the needs of this poor west African nation, died of Dengue Fever, their children, Wendy and Paul, dear friends of ours.

Jerry Steering, lawyer, married to Barbara’s niece Ruth, has spent a lifetime fighting in the courts, successfully, for the legal rights of persons abused by police brutality.

Norman Stamper, husband of my cousin Dorothy Stamper (nee Bates), Asst Chief of Police of San Diego, Chief of Police of Seattle, wrote a book, “Breaking Ranks.” that exposed the corruption and brutality of members of the San Diego Police Department. Was a factor in bringing police reform to the fore in the public’s perception.

Robin Dever, and her partner drove from Santa Fe to Gallup NM to spend the day making 1000 sanitizers for the Navajo Nation, drove back to Santa Fe, then the next day marched in the George Floyd protest in Albuquerque.

Elizabeth Steering, daughter of Jerry and Ruth, spent over a year in Thailand with the Peace Corps, has a degree in social services and is in Louisville, Kentucky while her partner Trevor studying for the law.

Donald Sidney Flemons, a pharmacist, expat Englishman, and my father-in-law, never had any money, eventually owned his own small drug store in South Chicago. It was in an African American neighborhood. He was known as ‘Doc’ among the locals. If they couldn't pay for their medicines he just gave them to them.

I am inordinately proud of these people and glad I am part of the family. Damn, if I wasn't so blasted old I would be out marching with them.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Harold Horace Hopkins

It was the summer of 1965. I was in my office at NELC, the Navy lab in San Diego, when a friend of mine, known through our mutual activities in the OSA and the SPIE technical societies, appeared at my door. It was John Armitage of an IBM.research facility in Boulder, Colorado. In the course of our conversation that day he said, “John, these are hot times in our field -- optics. You’ve got a lot of exciting stuff going on in your division and you’ve got several PhDs working for you. You need to finish your education.” He was right, of course. He went on to describe a program in England at The Imperial College under H.H.Hopkins that was at the cutting edge of the field. He was sure that the Navy could be persuaded to sponsor me for PhD work there. After some effort I did get paid leave to join the program in London. How I managed that is another story--this piece is about HHH (an abbreviation we often used),

One year later my wife and I, two of our children, 13 bags, and an ice axe departed LA on a 707 for London. The ice axe, by the way, was for John who planned to do some Alps climbing. Arriving and getting settled in London is yet another tale.

My first personal encounter with Hopkins was a meeting at his invitation at Gordon’s Wine Bar on Villiers Street near Charing Cross. After descending the stairs together into this centuries old drinking establishment we sat at a makeshift table made from a wine barrel in this rather dark vaulted basement venue. He ordered the Madiera for the two of us and we had our first face to face conversation. I don't know if this is the way he greeted all new students but I suspect so. The wine was excellent and today it is very difficult to get a reservation for Gordon's. Hopkins was in his late forties, had grey thinning hair, a slight squint and generally was seen with a pipe in his mouth. To meet him was to like him immediately. To study with him or attend his brilliant lectures was to adore him. Only later did I learn that he was fluent in many languages, was a brilliant pianist, was a sought after engineer in optical and mechanical areas, and had world class taste in wine and cuisine.

In addition to the wine bar greeting he and his very charming and interesting wife, Christine, gave a dinner at their North London home for all the new students and their wives. There were perhaps ten or twelve us at the table. Christine was holding forth at one end. After the meal she passed around small cigars, including one for herself. We lit up and I presume had brandy as well.

I studied with Harold for a year at Imperial and then we all packed up and moved en-masse to Reading University, 40 miles west of London, where Harold had just received an appointment as Professor of Optical Science. It should be noted for Americans that in England the custom prevails that only the head of a department in a university bears the title of professor. All others, no matter how senior or famous, are lecturers. Not only that, he got a nice new building on the rapidly expanding White Knight's Campus of the University of Reading. Today one of the buildings at Reading bears his name.

It's time now to list as well as I can remember all the students and visitors who came to sit at the feet of this man. I will include brief notes as I know them about what became of them later.

Myself--John Hood, Head of the Electro-optics Divsion of the Navy Electronics Laboratory Center, later, staff for research to lab director and science advisor to the Commander of the 7th Fleet, Pacific.

Adam Kozma, research scientist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Adam was of Hungarian extraction but had never really been away from Michigan in his life. He had, however, learned Hungarian from his parents. During his studiies at Imperial and Reading Hopkins insisted he attend a technical meeting in Budapest and give a paper on his research in Hungarian. Adam did it. Adam did something else that was pretty memorable. At the time, a Hungarian scientist, Dennis Gabor, at the University in London was being considered for a Nobel prize in physics for his work in holography. Adam thought this was a joke and believed that Harold Hopkins should be the rightful recipient. He posted his objection on a sheet on the public bulletin board of the Imperial College. Harold spoke to him and Adam apologized. Gabor did receive the prize in 1971. Harold Horace Hopkins should have received it. Adam went on to become a leading research scientist at Ann Arbor and is now deceased.

John Armitage was actually finished and gone when I got there but he too was a leading scientist for IBM and an enthusiastic student and admirer of HHH.

Soni. I never did know his surname, or even if he had one. My wife, Barbara, and I were guests of him and his beautiful wife one evening in their small South London apartment. We heard the story of their marriage and of the sad troubles that had struck India with the division that occurred when Pakistan was formed. Soni’s wife was Brahmin and he was a caste below her, warrior. She had been raised in a very wealthy environment and it was a real come down for them to live in London where costs were so much higher. Soni was really struggling and many of us could not see him ever making it through the program. I talked to Harold once about this and he said, “We’ll give Soni all the help he needs and send him on his way back to New Dehli. He will spend the rest of his life lecturing elementary physics at the University of New Dehli in a large hall to hundreds of freshman students.” This was typical of Harold’s empathy.

Anthony (Bud) Vanderlugt, Also from Ann Arbor. I’m not sure if Bud was a PhD student or if he was there just for the lectures. Harold introduced him once at a technical meeting with the following words, “-- he’s very young to be the father of optical signal processing.” Bud is now deceased.

Lou Drummeter, an outstanding scientist, graduate of Johns Hopkins Univrsity, and head of the Electromagnetics research department of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C. Lou got his doctorate at Johns Hopkins under John Strong, author of several classic works on optical technology. He came to England on a sabbatical and attended Harold’s lectures at Reading. He and his family had a rented house in Ruislip, west of London. Now deceased.

Hans Tiziani, As I recall, originally from Switzerland, but web research shows him retired from a very eminent position at the University of Stuttgart. Awards bearing his name are given for excellence in optics research.

John MacDonald, a young and very bright Englishman. Later at Reading he succeeded to the leadership of the optics research.

Brian Blandford, A young Englishman. He and I collaborated by mail on some work after I returned to the Navy lab.

Canadian (name forgotten)

Mauritian (a man of Indian extractiion, name forgotten)

American, (Sandy complexion, loquacious, name forgotten)
Harold insisted that each of his PhD students publish a paper in a peer reviewed journal from their research before being granted a degree. I published an article in the January 1969 Journal, Optica Acta, “The Use of a Triangular Interferometer For Making Variable Frequency Gratings.” The issue used one of my illustrations for the cover art of that issue. In addition in the summer of 1969 I presented an oral paper on the basic theory of imaging phase objects under coherent illumination at an international conference on modern optics held in England.

The end of the “degree in England” story is not the end of the Harold Horace Hopkins story for me. Shortly after we had all gone our various ways in 70 or 71 Harold was nominated to receive the Ives Medal at the annual meeting in San Francisco of the Optical Society of America. We, his students, all got together and organized a celebratory banquet in San Francisco for him. His Ives address to the National group was on the “Optical Theory of the Compact Disc” and was a big hit. His lectures always were.

When he lectured at Imperial he would enter the hall wearing a somewhat tattered old linen coat and carrying his notes in a very limp and battered bief case. Every word he spoke was absolutely clear and his blackboard work was masterful. He could draw perfect circles and ovoids freehand and his 3D drawings of optical systems were totally understandable. We all copied his techniques – they probably stayed with us for the rest of our lives.
Later during his US visiit I went up to Cedar Sinai Hospital in LA to hear his address to the surgeons and staff. He was in much demand for major talks at hospitals. He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons as well as a Fellow of th Royal Society, elected to the former in recognition of his invention of the endoscope..

We had him at our house for dinner one evening. I offered him a martini. He accepted – he really liked good gin. The problem was I didn't know good gin from bad. He took one taste and set it down. “John, I can't drink this. The gin is terrible.” I didn't take offense, I took a lesson. I have bought good gin ever since.

There were two other occasions on which I interacted with Harold. I resigned from the Navy in 1975 and went to work at San Diego State University as a lecturer. Some of my best friends and close associates were in the astronomy department. They were planning a 100 inch telescope for the Mount Laguna Observatory at the time. We even had a beautiful scale model of the new facilities complete with removable dome and trucks parked outside next to the observatory. The model was displayed in the public area of the observatory for visitors. I told Harold about this and he assigned one of his grad students the task of designing an optical system for this new telescope. In due course the papers with all the calculations arrived. Sadly, we could never raise the money to realize this dream and nothing came of it.

Later Harold contacted me about some books that he wanted to get for his daughter --- art books. It seems they simply were not available in Britain. I checked around and wound up at the well known little book store in La Jolla, Cole's, that “had everything.” And sure enough, they could get them for me. I eventually got the complete set and was able to mail them to England “bag mail” which was very cheap and totally unknown before to either him or me. They got there safely and the procurement and delivery was considered a minor miracle.

The three men in my life who stand out above all others, primarily because of their intelligence and unfailing compassion are my dad, John M. Hood, my father-in-law, Donald Sidney Flemons, and my teacher, Harold Horace Hopkins.