Two early pioneers in nonlinear science with strong links to the Center for Nonlinear Studies passed away recently. On December 26, 2006, Martin Kruskal died at his home in Princeton, NJ. Martin was a member of the first CNLS External Advisory Committee and served for many years as an advisor and frequent attendee and invited speaker at CNLS conferences. Most recently Martin presented his historical views of the Fermi-Pasta-Ulam problem, to which he made numerous important contributions, at the 25th CNLS Annual Conference in May 2005. His obituary in the New York Times describes his career and his numerous contributions to science and mathematics.
Robert Ecke, current CNLS Director, recalled how Martin played an important role in early CNLS activities: "Martin was an effective chair of the CNLS External Advisory Committee, and I enjoyed very much interacting with him about how CNLS should position itself for future scientific challenges. I remember well a talk Martin gave at the 1990 CNLS Annual Conference on his interests in 'surreal' numbers. It was a fascinating elucidation of the nature and hierarchy of infinities - broadly speaking the notion that all infinities are not the same. Martin was a great friend of the CNLS and his wisdom and insight will certainly be missed."
Several weeks later, on January 11, 2007, Alwyn Scott, the first Director of the CNLS, passed away. Al was the first Director of CNLS, serving from 1981 until 1985. He played a critical role in the early 80's in establishing CNLS as an internationally recognized force in nonlinear science. His interview with Los Alamos Science reflects well his spirit and enthusiasm. He later spent time at the University of Arizona and the Technical Institute of Denmark. His recently published Encyclopedia of Nonlinear Science will surely become a classic in the field. Al will be remembered for his leadership, his wisdom and his good humor. His webpage describes in his own words his adventures in and contributions to nonlinear science. He later spent time at the University of Arizona and the Technical Institute of Denmark. His recently published Encyclopedia of Nonlinear Science will surely become a classic in the field. Al will be remembered for his leadership, his wisdom and his good humor.
Fond Memories of Al Scott
Robert Ecke, reflected on Al's important legacy: "Al was CNLS Director when I first came to the Lab in 1983. I remember his influence on my postdoc supervisor, John Wheatley, who recognized the importance of the ideas of energy localization and launched an early effort to explore those ideas experimentally. Later, as a member of the CNLS External Advisory Committee, Al always had clear and important advice for the Center. In 2005 Al spoke eloquently about his work on solitons at the Fermi-Pasta-Ulam Conference that I helped organize. I think he was proud of the endearing success that CNLS has had since his founding efforts in the early 1980s. He deserves great credit for his contributions to science and to CNLS."
David Campbell, also a former CNLS Director and currently Provost at Boston University, recalls how Al became the first Director of CNLS: "When the idea of the CNLS was first broached, we discussed our plans among ourselves and the T-Division and Lab management, but also with the two 'Polish wisemen'--Stan Ulam and Mark Kac--who were consultants at the Lab. Both were very supportive, and Stan gave us the famous quote about 'nonlinear science' being the study of 'non-elephants'. Mark gave us the idea of setting up a very strong external advisory committee and deliberately putting someone on that committee whom we might try to recruit as the permanent director of the Center. We took that advice to heart, and put together a committee that included Al Scott, who was universally known among nonlinear scientists for his seminal article with McLaughlin and Chu on solitons. We knew that Al could provide the vision and leadership we needed and that his appointment as the first Director would immediately put the CNLS on the map. Al came to review the Center, got very excited about the opportunity to be its Director, and the rest is history."
Alan Newell, the 1990 CNLS Mark Kac Memorial Lecturer and a good friend of Al's at the University of Arizona, describes Al as "a Garrison-Keillor-like character (except Al could sing!) who never lost his natural wonder for things scientific". He was in on the ground floor on nonlinear science, working on pulse-like solutions to the Hodgkin Huxley equations for the propagation of pulses along nerve axons. I first met him at what has turned out to be a pioneering conference at Clarkson on nonlinear waves when the soliton revolution became so much more than KdV. We had arranged to pick participants up at Montreal Airport. Al wandered down the baggage pickup dressed in a large green pullover that sort of resembled a sheep; clearly a participant. He engaged and very soon after wrote a seminal popular paper on the soliton, a new concept in nonlinear science. Very soon after he came to Los Alamos and inspired by the work of Davidov, he started writing a series of papers on the localization of energy along proteins. After moving to the University of Arizona in 1985, Al started the 'consciousness' series of very popular conferences at Tucson and recently completed the Encyclopaedia of Nonlinear Science. He also wrote a very interesting book on the brain, Stairway to the Mind. Al was a major player in the then emerging area of nonlinear science who recognized the importance and the new things which solitons, chaos, and collective behavior brought to the scientific table. He was not a believer in reductionism.
Mac Hyman, another early CNLS founder, recalled the locally memorable "Milk-Stool" memo that Al wrote to Lab management. In the early days, CNLS had a tiny footprint in a corner of the T-Division Building. Al complained in the memo that "all I have to offer the distinguished scientists and Nobel Laureates who come to visit CNLS is a milk stool in the corner." His vision of a larger CNLS was realized a few years later when the current CNLS building was constructed.