|Math and Science--left to right--Bob Hayes and Ed Herber; Loren Christensen, Bob Williams, and Art Papenfus; Kathryn Kinman and Elaine Fitzgerald; John Chapman; Darrell Halfling; Dan Comer||"The trouble with chemistry is that
it's too hard for the chemists."
"Mathematicians are ......lovers..."
Obviously a prime candidate for rescanning, but I wanted to give this page high priority because I remember Mr. Chapman and Mr. Christensen so fondly--those were great teachers. They loved science and managed to convey a little of that love to me.
My main concrete memory of Mr. Chapman was that he got me to apply to participate in the Frontiers of Science Institute at the University of Northern Colorado. That needs to be covered in it's own place, if I can find the memory album compiled that summer. My recollection is that Mr. Chapman described himself as having been a kind of high-tech janitor in an atomic project during or after the war.
Mr. Chapman always worked hard on giving interesting demonstrations, but I can't really remember many of them. There were some that involved a ruby laser, which was a pretty rare beast in those days. I also remember him as chronically cheerful.
Mr. Christensen used standardized tests for his finals, and thereby hangs a sordid little tale... Can't even remember which semester [Or did we have quarters?] it was, but one time a fellow named John suddenly became very friendly and wanted to sit at my lab table for the exam--the science classrooms had small two-person tables. The test was in two parts on two days, and after the first half, Mr. Christensen announced that I had the highest grade in the class. I think it was a 49 out of 50. Then he mentioned his surprise that the second highest grade in the class was John's, something like a 47 out of 50. Well, I got the obvious message, and for the second half of the exam I marked every question one off, with the last answer rolling over to the first. I worked quickly, and after John had turned in his answer sheet, I had plenty of time to correct all of my answers--but I think John had a 3 for that half. In one way I felt kind of bad about it, but if he had checked even one or two of the questions, he would have noticed there was something wrong, and with a little effort at that point, he probably could have made a passing grade. Probably well above passing with the little boost he'd already helped himself to.
Another memory of Mr. Christensen was that he had very bad teeth--full of metal fillings or maybe braces--, and he linked that to his strict rule to ALWAYS use suction bulbs when filling pipettes. Not sure I really remember the entire story correctly, but he said that his teeth were ruined in his university days when he was filling a pipette with an extremely powerful solvent, but using his mouth, and accidentally drew in too much, getting a mouthful of very dangerous poison. Obviously he didn't swallow any, and I have to believe he was lucky to survive even in that case--anything that can mess up tool enamel is seriously bad medicine.
I think Bob Williams was my biology teacher, but I don't know the rest of these teachers, except for Herber, who I still haven't forgiven. I still think he's the fellow who did the most to prevent me from becoming a mathematician. My theory is that math is crucial, beautiful, but rather like a language, and can and should be acquired pleasurably in its natural time and place--which didn't match his teaching schedule. My belief is that I wasted a couple of years in his math classes, and by the time I got to Rice (and more so at UT, in spite of the late great Professor Greenwood) it was too late to matter.