Chocolate and Gold Coins

Monday, February 12, 2007

My Father's Paper

After my last post, I was curious: was there any trace of my father's illustrious career in all of the world wide web? I took some serious googling but I finally found this:

Abstract : Wind-tunnel tests have been performed to investigate the effect of surface heating on boundary-layer transition on a flat plate. The tests were performed at a nominal Mach number of 2.40 and a free-stream temperature of 205 deg F, and the data were obtained at nominal plate temperature levels of 60 deg (adiabatic recovery temperature), 100 deg, 140 deg, 180 deg, and 260 deg F over a length Reynolds number range from 0.475 x 10(exp 6) to 3.93 x 10(exp 6). The identification of the onset and end of transition was made by inspection of the curves of surface-tube Mach number reading as a function of length Reynolds number obtained through the transition region. Boundary-layer-velocity profiles were obtained at points corresponding to the onset and end of transition to enable the computation of critical Reynolds numbers based on boundary-layer dimensions.

The best thing is, I can actually download the pdf! It is amazing to read something my father labored on more than 50 years ago. I was printed out on an old typewriter (with special scientific notation keys). I just wished I had thought of looking for this while he was still alive. What a kick he would have gotten out of seeing this again.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Death of the Greatest Person I'll Ever Know

It happens to nearly everyone at some point in their lives: the death of the greatest person that you will ever know. Of course, most of you will not know it at the time. The loss will only really hit you years later when you think "I knew that person - too bad I didn't spend more time with him when I had the chance."

Yesterday, my father passed away at age 84. He lived a most remarkable life. I hinted at that in this post from two years ago:

My father certainly qualifies as a great American. He fought with distinction during WWII. He did cutting-edge scientific research on boundary layer behavior and heat ablation for the infant space program. He created numerous inventions for the various companies and organizations that employed him. And when he came home from a long day’s work, we worked several more hours at home creating gadgets for improving our quality of life. He invented one of the very first automatic sprinkler systems more than fifty years ago. He never profited from it, he made it just for our home.

However that post really did not do justice to the man. He was awesome. For example, during WWII, he helped capture more that 50 enemy soldiers in an amusing but very brave operation. And he really did a lot in the early days of the space program.

What really struck me today was that not only is the body gone - and it was mostly worn out after 84 years - and the mind gone - again mostly worn out - but the stories were gone. The stories were gone forever. He could talk for hours about his childhood of poverty in Montana in the Depression, his college years, his military service in Italy during WWII, and his excellent career as a mechanical engineer. I remember those stories. I was occasionally really bored by those stories - he never learn the art of making a long story short although that was one of his favorite expressions which he would insert at about hour 1 or 2 into the story. But usually I was captivated - he really could put you right there where and when the action occurred.

And now all that is gone - forever.

All that is left of this great man is the memories of his life imprinted in the minds of those who knew him and loved him. I need to remember. My son spent too little time with him and I need to share all that my father had to offer with him. I need to remember every detail that I can - because that is all that is left.