The Arts of Physics — Ron Drever (R.I.ST.P.)

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Prof. Dr. Ronald William Prest Drever (1931-2017), Rest In Spacetime Peace (R.I.ST.P.)

Excerpts from an article by Rainer Weiss for NATURE – Nobel Laureate in Physics, 2017

[Ronald] “Drever [R.I.P.], who died aged 85 in Scotland on 7 March, was an intuitive and imaginative physicist who thought primarily in pictures. Those pictures — of concepts or devices — gave him an elegant way to circumvent a lot of analytical reasoning, and provided a way to think about problems that often resulted in an invention.

As a child in Scotland, guided by an engineer uncle, Drever assembled a television receiver from parts left over from the Second World War.  He did not do well in preparatory school, but came into his own at the University of Glasgow, UK.  There he studied nuclear physics, including particle detectors and their electronics.  His 1958 PhD thesis was on radiation counters for nuclear decay…”

Prof. Dr. Drever of California Institute of Technology was a founder, along with Kip Thorne (GRAVITATION) of Caltech and Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, of LIGO, a pair of L-shaped antennas  in Washington State and Louisiana.  Prof. Dr. Weiss’ final comment in his article showed that while Ron Drever has passed, his ideas and concepts are very much alive in the minds of humans…

It is well known that Drever and I had different views about the direction for technical development for LIGO. I disagreed with him about the use of optical cavities; it turned out he was right. I held out for a solid-state laser while he insisted on a green argon one; Drever was wrong on that one.  But we always respected each other’s views, and as LIGO’s construction progressed we became close colleagues and friends.”

When you can hold something like an ‘Irish-Scientific Wake’ for the man pointing out he was right on the big questions and you on the little ones, it demonstrates the huge admiration of the “kid from Glasgow”.

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