All in the Family – Samuel Becker

In telling you about the many engineers and scientists in my family, my father’s father, Samuel Lubkin, would be an obvious person to start with. But I think that one who was neither is a better choice.

My mother’s father, Samuel Becker, had wanted to be an engineer. He had to quit school early to help support the family. Still, he always loved gadgets and science.

My uncle and my mother discovered chemistry in the darkroom of Sam’s portrait studio. He grew up to become a chemical engineer. His kid sister went into nuclear physics before taking a job at Physics Today, where she reported on physics for 45 years.

I, too, learned to develop pictures. And watched Star Trek with him, which we both loved.

I’m proud to be in Sam Lubkin’s profession. But it was Sam Becker who planted the seed.

Clever Hans

Physicist John Killeen was director of the National Magnetic Fusion Energy Computer Center (NMFECC) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, but deputy director Hans Bruijnes was our day-to-day boss.

The morning would almost always start with a Hans-led all-hands meeting. It usually felt like a waste of time. But he believed in it. We should come together every day as a team, and all know what everyone was working on and what the key issues were.

Hans was a great practitioner of management by walking around, long before it became popular. He’d randomly stop by your office, ask what you were up to. Occasionally confusing matters by telling you to do X when your group leader had told you to do Y. Eminently mockable, but always with affection and respect.

I wish I’d known all the backstory in his obit when I’d see him every day. Find a long lunch at the Concannon winery to hear his version.

A good man, who will be missed by anyone who knew him.