my father, myself

That my father was a difficult man is a commonly shared viewpoint by most people who knew him. He died at the age of 89 in 2008. He was an astrogeologist at the right place at the right time. The minerals he discovered from craters in Arizona and Germany were called “tektite” and “coesite”, scientific precursors that put him on the world map when the United States sent men to the moon. They collected moon rocks in addition to taking giant steps for mankind. My Dad was loaned to NASA from the U.S. Geological Survey to train the astronauts what to look for when they were on the moon. “The Andromeda Strain” was published around the same time. When one of the robot gloves handling the moon rocks blew a hole, he was quarantined with the astronauts for three weeks in a silver Airstream trailer.

His single-minded dedication to science made him moody and impatient in real life when he was away from his lab. Once when he was in his eighties, I asked him what single thing accounted for his success. Without hesitation, he responded “Intuition.” A scientist is exposed to lots of data, his, theirs, other people’s, historical. Following his intuitive sense for where to look for the minerals, how to read the data and what conclusions to draw came from his inner sense, his heart, as much as it came from his brain.

I thought this was worth remembering because it aligns with something unspoken he has imparted to me and through me to my children: to follow your instincts no matter what. To trust yourself even if it means taking an independent or minority viewpoint. It can be lonely sometimes. It’s also a good idea to have enough humility to be able to distinguish the difference between just being stubborn and being true to one’s integrity.

He was a Tiger Dad as much as anyone. We just didn’t know it at the time.