THIS BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE.
"Men, Rockets, and Space Rats"
By Lloyd Mallan, (C)1955, Pub. Julian Messner, Inc.
One day my brother Bob and I were sitting with our wives while visiting my parents in Indiana. I told Bob "If I had not seen this book, we would be sitting here with someone else. We would both be married to some other woman. We'd be taking someone else back to the motel tonight. Connie and Lynne wouldn't even know who we are".
This library book caught my eye because I was going to be a physicist-astronaut. The moment I reached for it in late 1956, there should have been the sound of a submarine dive horn. The direction of my life was to completely change - my career, where I would live, who I would marry, and who my children would be. It changed the life of my first wife Mini, my second wife Connie, my brother Bob, and his wife Lynne. It "gave life" to my son Kevin and daughter Sonja and all their descendants from now on. It changed the life of my son-in-law Adrian and daughter-in-law Marylee, and everyone their descendants would marry from now on. It affected the lives of people I have been in contact with since then.
As a senior at Calumet High School in Gary, Indiana, I had already been accepted by the Purdue University Physics Department (Indiana). I learned from this book about White Sands Missile Range and the co-op program with New Mexico State University where you work 6 months and go to school 6 months of the year. I wrote to Dr. Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of the planet Pluto, and mentioned the 6" telescope mirror I ground, building a telescope with it, and winning a first place award at the 1957 Northwest Indiana Regional Science Fair. I asked about my prospects of getting on the co-op program at White Sands, and he wrote back an encouraging letter. So, I switched to New Mexico. Brother Bob later followed and there he met Lynne. The rest is history. The fateful pages are 50-51.
Below are the people listed in the index who I worked with or worked for.
Capen, Jr., Charles - I worked with Chick Capen mid-1960 to mid-1961 at Cloudcroft, New Mexico investigating the feasibility of an observatory site. We shared an apartment the last half of 1960 while he was a backup pilot for a high altitude balloon flight and parachute jump. Chick, a former fighter pilot, was the backup for Captain Joseph Kittinger, U.S. Air Force; the balloon flight was done on Aug. 16, 1960 from the Excelsior III, and the parachute jump was from 102,800 feet. Chick's space suit was hanging in the closet. To stay awake during the long nights of telescope observing, we snacked on dilled okra and sipped whiskey sours. Funny, but our task was to observe the sharpness of double stars. I remember one time after a long session at the telescope in the winter, my feet were so cold I couldn't feel them on the ground as I walked. Chick seemed to be always ordering inexpensive little gadgets from the Edmund Scientific catalog. He smoked a pipe and drove a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.
Dunn, Richard B. - I worked with Dr. Dunn 1967-68 at Sacramento Peak Observatory at Sunspot, N. Mex., near Cloudcroft. He came to parties at our house and once stood on his head in the hallway. He was an exceptionally brilliant man, and designed the Solar Tower at the observatory.
Evans, Dr. John - Chief Scientist of Sacrament Peak Observatory. I did some FORTRAN computer programs for him using his formulas for smoothing & analysis algorithms on graphical data.
Tombaugh, Professor Clyde W. - I worked for Clyde from 1959 to 1965 at the New Mexico State University Research Center, and at the NMSU Observatory up on "A" Mountain. I sold him my 12" mirror blank, I did the inital grinding, and he did the final corrections and polishing. When my wife Connie and I last visited him on June 5, 1993 at his home, he was 87. We took pictures and video tape, and went to the Clyde Tombaugh Planetarium in Alamogordo, NM. I think the astronomy building at NMSU was renamed Tombaugh Hall. Whenever I drive mountain roads I'm reminded of Clyde because he used to tell me not to go across the yellow line on curves. These were the times I drove when we went from the University in Las Cruces to the observatory site at Cloudcroft.
THIS BOOK HAD A HUGE IMPACT ON MY LIFE."One Two Three... Infinity"
By George Gamow, (C)1947, Viking Press.
I first read about Einstein's Theory of Relativity in this book. It was a paperback that I bought in 1956 as a senior in high school. It was so fascinating I read it several times and still remember some of the diagrams, like the spiral world-time drawing of Earth's orbit around the Sun. I wish I knew what happened to my copy of that book, because of all my notes and comments in the margins.
I ordered a copy from amazon.com 9/5/2007, but I don't think the picture on the front cover is the same as the book I had. Maybe eBay...
I had a second book by George Gamow, but don't remember what it was.