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in honor of Derek's grandfather professor, Eugene Commins

I'm reminded again how a beautiful life can be recognized by the loving community that's arisen around them. Derek talked about his "grandfather professor" often. If you get a chance, ask him about Eugene Commins.

Professor Commins was part of this tight little community of atomic physicists who absolutely live for measurement, measurement of the most precise kind. So when one says "Commins' impact as a colleague, educator and mentor cannot be measured," it strikes me as a most loving expression of respect and camaraderie, and of grief.

In Derek's own words:

Two years ago Eugene very graciously came to visit me in Hayward and gave a colloquium on the history of electron spin and spent the day with me and my students and colleagues. It was a perfect day with my scientific grandfather, absolutely wonderful, filled with many good conversations about physics and life. I remember desperately not wanting it to end. Instead of bidding him goodbye at my office, I walked him back to his car to get just a few more minutes with him.

I feel the same way now. I wish I had a few more minutes with him.

And a beautiful quote from Professor Commins himself:

TL: What advice do you have for current students?

EC: Well, you have to take the long view, and you need to have self-confidence. But I think the most important thing is courage. When you try to do something interesting, it will certainly be hazardous. There’s a high likelihood it won’t work. You see, if you choose something that’s sure to work, it’s not going to be interesting. But if you choose a problem that’s really interesting, then chances are it’s not solved, and there’s always going to be danger in that. But it’s really worth it, in the end, isn’t it?


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