Saturday, November 26, 2005

In Memoriam: Ronald Scott

Professor Ronald Scott has died.

I did not know him well. I believe I met him exactly twice. On both occasions he was on one of my oral examining committees, and on both occasions he was the examiner who gave me the most trouble.

The first time it was during my so-called mini-orals and he brought in two little rubber balls with very different coefficients of restitution. Unfortunately at that time I had never heard of Newton's Law of Restitution.

The second time was a year later, during the real orals. He asked some question about vibrations due to earthquakes. My answer must not have been very good since he offered the encouragement, "You don't really know this stuff at all, do you?"

Ah, good times.

He was from Scotland so we spoke a little bit about that. He seemed bitter about the economic malaise in Scotland that had caused him to leave in the 1950s. "Shortages of everything... Shortages of potatoes, in a country practically built of potatoes!" His mother tried to get him to come back from America and get a job as an engineer in Scotland, but when he quoted the interviewer his monthly American salary, they thought he was talking about an annual salary.


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