R.I.P.

On Tuesday evening, at 11:25 pm. a beautiful soul passed from this world leaving me without my sister-in-law, my brother without his wife, our children without a wonderful aunt. In less than a year of her diagnosis of lung cancer she transformed from a normal healthy individual into one very sick woman. After one course of chemotherapy she seemed to improve enough to be there for my brother when he was going through his health crisis. After my brother regained his health, Nancy seemed to be losing ground so she started another course of Chemo. She passed away from this treatment as much as from the disease. She knew it was coming and had enough time to say her farewells. She died with her loving family surrounding her right to her very last breath. The world is a much richer place because or her presence. She will be sorely missed.

Leslie

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Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 12.54.31 PMwith permission of the author.

Part 65:

The incident involved the arrival of a Mr. Moffat in the department at that time. I say “Mr.” because rumour had it that Mr. Moffat did not have a doctorate and yet had been hired as a professor. We all assumed that he had earned at least a Masters. Rumour had it also that Mr. Moffat’s claim to fame was that he was one of a half dozen or so, individuals in the world who could communicate in a learned manner with Einstein about his general theory of relativity. The fact was that he had done so on numerous occasions. The buzz also had it that Mr. Moffat had arranged to have the locks changed in one of Dr. Pugh’s rooms on a certain weekend, unbeknownst to all including the head of the department.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 12.54.31 PMwith permission of the author.

Part 64:

With that having been said, I will now try to recall an interesting incident that involved Dr. Pugh and another physicist, according to the best information we graduate students could garner at the time. I recall this incident because it illustrates the fact that even noble people like physicists can be petty – thus contradicting one of the reasons why I had been drawn to the study of physics, a discipline that I had assumed to be free of politics and personality conflicts.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 12.54.31 PMwith permission of the author.

Part 63:

At some point, a question arose about what dimension of microscope slide would contribute the largest error when determining the slide’s volume. I was a bit stunned when I overheard Dr. Pugh say that the length would yield the largest error. It was obvious to me that the thickness would be the hardest dimension to measure accurately, but I felt that the guy was so kind and gentle that I couldn’t contradict him before the class. My conclusion at the time was that he was a theoretical physicist. Sure enough, I later learned that Dr. Pugh was an expert in particle theory involving quarks and such.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 12.54.31 PMwith permission of the author.

Part 62:

One of the jobs I had as a TA (teaching assistant), was teaching in a lab for MD students (premeds) who had to take a compulsory course in physics. These students took the course seriously because “high marks” were required for their program. My supervisor this time was an assistant professor, R.E. Pugh, – a tall red haired man with a gentle disposition.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 12.54.31 PMwith permission of the author.

Part 61:

Over the years, one thing that struck me about physics in North America was that there were very few members of the fair sex in the ranks. When I went to France on a sabbatical some years later I found that at least 25% of the physics professionals there were women. This was sometimes referred to as the “Madame Curie” effect.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 12.54.31 PMwith permission of the author.

Part 60:

To my sorrow I noted that she (Dr. Cohen) had aged a lot. We exchanged pleasantries and at the end of our conversation she said, with a wry smile, that she was happy that my new career did not involve classical optics. I agreed and left after thanking her, and remarking that she had been one of the many blessings that had permitted me to pursue a career in physics, a subject I dearly loved.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 12.54.31 PMwith permission of the author.

Part 59:

A few years later after my graduation, she (Dr. Cohen) came to an annual meeting of the Canadian Physical Society in Calgary, where I was giving a talk. After the talk, I sought her out in the cafeteria. With tears in her eyes she said she was very happy to see me again. I replied that the pleasure was all mine and that I hadn’t realized she was interested in magnetism, the subject of my talk. 

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 12.54.31 PMWith permission of the author.

Part 58:

One of the students, in my Optics class, was the son of a professor at U. of T. at that time. One day during a pause  in our teaching she (Dr. Cohen) took me aside and said, “look at that poor boy whose father is a professor here; not only does he not have the necessary intellect for the job, but he doesn’t have good looks either”.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 12.54.31 PMWith permission of the author.

Part 57:

There was however, a person who soon cottoned on to my technique. This was a lady by the name of Dr. Cohen, the head of the optics lab. She was getting on in years, but fortunately she still had an appreciation for the opposite sex. After I was through marking and had gone home, she would always go over my work to point out where I had gone wrong. At first I felt that she might be out to expose the fraud that I was, but she didn’t. One day she gave me a clue why.