« Barack's Rules for Responsible Financial Management | Main | Mind the [Energy] Gap »

April 02, 2013

Thought Provoking Comment of the Day


The irony is that I'd have never heard of Yvonne Brill the rocket scientist, had it not been for the stroganoff in the first line of her obituary.

Interesting, no matter how you interpret it. Reminds me of this poignant essay I meant to link to a while back:

Myra Ferguson was born in 1924. A fine student, she pursued studies that were nearly unheard of for women of her generation. She met my father, John E. Kilpatrick, when both were studying for advanced degrees in physical chemistry at the University of Kansas. They went on to study together at Berkeley, where my father, four years the elder, completed his Ph. D. My mother interrupted her own doctoral work to marry and have three children. I suppose she thought she would have time to return to her studies later, though as things worked out she did not.

In the meantime, she published research on her own and with my father. It is an amazing feature of the internet that some of her work is preserved there, like this paper on elastic constants and sound velocities from 1949, based on work for the Condensed Matter and Thermal Physics Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she and my father still make a ghostly appearance on the list of former consultants and collaborators. It is touching that, in some later published versions, my father is listed as co-author in the second position -- something that can't have been a common practice in 1949. They were very devoted to each other. I have copies of several other papers they published together, but none I can locate on the net.

Myra F. Kilpatrick was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the birth of her third child, myself. She must have known how unlikely it was that any of the rudimentary treatments of the time would cure her. Nevertheless, she kept a journal of the doctors' efforts, and considered herself to be contributing to research. After one treatment, she noted that the doctors had learned something about just how far a patient's white blood cell count could drop without resulting in death. She died at home in the spring of 1959.

Posted by Cassandra at April 2, 2013 07:59 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Well I'll be switched, I know of her work. It was part of my reading early on in my career.

I just can't stop laughing at what a small world it can sometimes be. Tex's mom wrote a paper that I read many years later that helped form some of my work.

We will not go into stress transients in solid uniform bars. I doubt if I could do the math any more.


This has made my day!

Posted by: Allen at April 2, 2013 04:22 PM

I'm so glad I remembered to link it!

Posted by: Cassandra at April 2, 2013 05:02 PM

"... I remembered..."

Hey, two Easter miracles! One before, and one after.

Posted by: DL Sly at April 2, 2013 05:39 PM

Ppppphhhhhhttttthhhhhh :)

Posted by: Cassandra at April 2, 2013 08:38 PM


Posted by: DL Sly at April 3, 2013 12:48 PM

No way! You remember her paper! I can't tell you what a charge I got out of Cassandra's linking my piece about my mother -- so lost to me, so distant -- but I never dreamed that someone would read it and be familiar with her work. Thank you for mentioning it, Allen.

My father talked about her rarely, but with great feeling. Growing up, I rarely encountered anyone who had known her. She didn't write her children messages before she died; I think dying parents of young children should to that. I have a friend who had a terrible scare late in her first pregnancy that required emergency brain surgery on mom and an accelerated delivery schedule for baby. She wrote a long message to her baby. Luckily she came through the surgery just fine, and her daughter was not harmed by the early delivery, but oh, she was a mess, trying to put down on paper everything she might not get a chance to say.

On a lighter note, it's now my ambition to ensure that the first line of my obituary contains the word "stroganoff."

Posted by: Texan99 at April 3, 2013 12:54 PM

On a lighter note, it's now my ambition to ensure that the first line of my obituary contains the word "stroganoff."

Funny - I made beef stroganoff just last weekend. Hadn't made it in years, and then this story showed up.

Sure hope it was memorable :p

Posted by: Cassandra at April 3, 2013 02:43 PM

Tex, I sure do remember it. An early mentor of mine was retired from Los Alamos, and he gave me a copy of it.

It falls under the rubric of "know thy transducer." I'm speculating, somewhat, but I bet the work was also about the use of discrete gauges to make dynamic measurements. Thus, the need to understand all the aspects of the gauge/material interactions.

I will say one thing. If this work was about what I think it was, then it was foundational to decades of work that followed.

All my best,

Posted by: Allen at April 3, 2013 05:51 PM