Category Archives: Personalities

Memories No. 7: “— But Its Bread and Butter to Us!”

In most large organizations, like GE, engineering managers may be put in charge of a variety of operations. Once you are promoted for the second time you find yourself managing some unfamiliar work. Your first promotion was to be manager of the group you worked in and helped build. You were, therefore, quite knowledgeable of the work and the people.

The next promotion would be to manage about seven such groups, almost always including the one you just ran. The other groups were doing work you were aware of but certainly not an expert in. You would have to learn each group’s work as best you could and, most importantly, determine the real technical leaders of the work, probably but not always, including the manager, and rely on their ideas and suggestions.

In the aerospace industry at GE our major customer was the US Government which often was a “moving target” in that they had uncertain/changeable budgets which sometimes had us in whiplash from stops, starts, sudden budget changes, etc. As a result many reorganizations occurred in our divisions resulting in layoffs and hiring, sometimes at the same time because a new contract may need “brain surgeons” while we had too many “plastic surgeons”.

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Memories No. 6: Do You Buy New or Used Cars?

That was the first question my new boss asked me. It was late summer of 1953 at the General Electric Jet Engine Plant in Evendale, Ohio just outside Cincinnati. I had arrived as an employee in early June 1953, hired to do controls analysis and design, the subject I had been teaching at Brooklyn Poly. So a few months after I arrived a few development groups were transferred to the new boss. He was to choose part of us to stay with him and part to form a more advanced work team. Welcome to big business – where you can count on change!

So who was this new boss who asked about used cars, and what was to be the goal of the re-organization?

The new boss was Gerhard Neumann, who later was to lead GE to become the largest jet engine manufacturer in the world. He is pictured below in the mid-nineties, not long before he died from leukemia in 1997.
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Memories No. 5: I Joined the Vermont Militia

In the spring of 1950 I was looking for a teaching job in electrical engineering while I completed my MSEE thesis for scheduled UK graduation in summer 1951. One day a professor in the EE Department gave me an ad for an assistant professorship at Norwich University starting in September. I went to the library and read what I could find about Norwich. It is a military school in Vermont, near the capitol, Montpelier, and was founded in 1819. It’s enrollment averaged around 2000. There were only two colleges: Collegeof Arts and Sciences and the Engineering College which had: Electrical, Civil and Mechanical Engineering Departments. Only West Point is an older military school. Continue reading

Periodic Table and Oliver Sacks

Here’s more on the periodic table.

I was listening to a podcast on my iPod while walking my dog Genji. I often do that, not only because he is deaf (he never was a good conversationalist even when he had his hearing), but there are so many interesting podcasts available, and free. I subscribe to a few and every few days they are automatically downloaded to my computer from which I copy (“sync”) them to my iPod.

The podcast I enjoy most, along with “Car Talk”, is “Radiolab” that is produced by WNYC and NPR. I was listening to it while walking Genji one day and the hosts were visiting Oliver Sacks in his apartment and he was showing them his bathroom which, to their surprise, had a large periodic table on the wall.  Then, with a “you ain’t seen nothing yet” type response, Sacks said, “Let me show you my bedroom.” And there on his bed was a coverlet, full bed size that was “quilted” as a periodic table!  Continue reading

Periodic Table (tin), Amundsen, Scott and Antarctica

Earlier I posted a story about meeting Glenn Seaborg, who participated in the discovery of about ten elements, and getting his autograph and his entering Sg (for Seaborgium) in the element 106 place in the periodic table I brought to the dinner where he was the honoree and main speaker. Element 106 was named for him a year or so after the dinner making him the first living person to have an element in the periodic table named for him.

My daughter knew of my interest and for the last Christmas she got me a large periodic table that I will get framed and mount over my desk, a book; “The Periodic Table” by Eric Scerri, that I am yet to read, and another; “The Disappearing Spoon” by Sam Kean that I have trouble putting down. There is so much fascinating information and so many stories about the personalities and discoveries of the elements that I had no idea about. If only my chemistry professor in college had presented some of this kind of information I might have learned more. One such sad but interesting story involving tin follows. Continue reading

While We’re on the Subject of Bear Bryant

My Nephew, John Slone, contributed this and it ties nicely with the Great Lakes story.


At a Touchdown Club meeting many years before his death, Coach Paul “Bear”Bryant told the following story:

I had just been named the new head coach at Alabama and was off in my old car down in South Alabama recruiting a prospect who was supposed to have been a pretty good player and I was having’ trouble finding the place.

Getting hungry I spied an old cinder block building with a small sign out front that simply said “Restaurant.” I pull up, go in and every head in the place turns to stare at me. Seems I’m the only white fella in the place. But the food smelled good so I skip a table and go up to a cement bar and sit. A big ole man in a tee shirt and cap comes over and says, “What do you need?”
I told him I needed lunch and what did they have today?

He says, “You probably won’t like it here, today we’re having chitlins, collared greens and black eyed peas with cornbread. I’ll bet you don’t even know what chitlins are, do you?”(small intestines of hogs prepared as food in the deep South)
I looked him square in the eye and said, “I’m from Arkansas, I’ve probably eaten a mile of them. Sounds like I’m in the right place.” They all smiled as he left to serve me up a big plate. Continue reading

Colonel Sanders and a Colored Drinking Fountain

It was in November, 1948 and I was set to get my BS in January, the end of the semester. Professor Nierenberg stopped me in the hall of the Engineering Building and asked me to come to his office. He had a letter from the headquarters of the Electrical Engineering Honorary Society, Eta Kappa Nu. They were asking for UK members to assist in the installation of the first chapter in Tennessee the next month.

Since I was the elected president of the UK chapter, Professor Nierenberg, our faculty advisor, and I were requested to participate in the ceremony at UT/Knoxville in December. The professor planned to drive and suggested we choose two more to go since we had room in his car. He was to make other arrangements to fill a weekend. The installation ceremony was to be held on Saturday night and conducted by the “big wigs” from the national office in Pennsylvania with us locals having small “sword carrier” roles. Continue reading

Glenn T. Seaborg, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry – 1951

(The Epitome of the Phrase: “A Gentleman and a Scholar”)

I am sure Glenn Seaborg made an excellent first impression on most everyone he met, whether or not knowledge of his amazing achievements had preceded him. He had a gentle demeanor which evidenced no trace of superiority feeling. He focused on you intensely while you were speaking and responded to questions with a graciousness that never hinted that you perhaps should have already known the answer.

I met him only one time and that was during a visit he made to Richland, WA in 1994 to participate in the 50th Anniversary of the first production of plutonium, the element co-discovered by him and Edwin McMillan, and for which they received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry when Seaborg was 39 years old. In addition to plutonium, he is credited as a lead discoverer of americium, curium, and berkelium, and as a co-discoverer of californium, einsteinium, fermium, mendelevium, nobelium and seaborgium. Continue reading