I was born in
in 1943, and graduated from
in 1961. My father was a "roughneck" in the West Texas oilfields, and just finished the 7th grade. Both he and my mother came from large (12 children!) farming families.
The spring and summer of the year I graduated from high school (1961) was the "Freedom Rides" spring and summer. In the fall of 1961, as a freshman at Rice University, I took part in the first large civil rights demostration in Houston, picketing a meeting of the National School Boards Association. I am not sure whether I was more scared of the Houston police or of my father if he had found out what I was doing. We were not afraid of being arrested, we were afraid of disappearing and showing up in a bayou the next day. If you think that fear was unfounded, take a look at the link above.
I graduated from
with a double major in math and physics in 1965, summa cum laude. I then went to Caltech for graduate school.
Feynman got the Nobel Prize the first year I was there, and later on, in 1969,
Gell-Mann got one as well.
I did my doctoral thesis working with
Professor Leverett Davis, Jr., who was an
astrophysical theorist who had started off working on the galactic magnetic
field. Early on in his career, he came up with an explanation for the observed
polarization of starlight.
' first graduate student was Eugene Parker, who originated
the idea of the solar wind, the continuous expansion of the outer atmosphere of
the sun at supersonic speeds.
was the first to suggest that the interstellar medium near the sun was blown
away by the solar wind, with the result that the sun
sits in a cavity in the interstellar medium about 100 AU (1 light day) in
radius. Inside that cavity, the material is just the supersonically expanding
outer atmosphere of the sun; outside that cavity, the material is the
named this cavity the heliosphere.
subsequently became involved in early space missions
which measured the interplanetary magnetic field. For my thesis, I did some
analysis of the data from one of those missions, Mariner 5, a 1967 mission to
Venus, and also some theoretical work on the acceleration of the solar wind.
I came to MIT after my doctorate (1971), to
Herbert Bridge and Alan
Lazarus, who had the plasma probe on board Mariner 5. Just after I came, the
Space Plasma Group wrote a proposal for the Voyager mission to Jupiter and
Saturn. After reaching these two planets as well as Uranus and
Neptune, Voyager is still going strong. In its most
recent incarnation, it is refered to as the Voyager Interstellar
Mission. Within the next two years, it is probable that the MIT plasma
instrument on Voyager 2 will make measurements in the interstellar medium.