Once, asked which historical figure I would most like to spend time with, I answered Albert Einstein (1879-1955) or Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), both on my short list. If asked again, my choice would be
George Wallingford Downs (1911 – 1964).
Granted, the name recognition is not there, but he was a contemporary of both Churchill and Einstein, and he was my uncle. The three were connected by the events of the Second World War – Einstein and Uncle George were further connected by place and field of interest: both arrived at the California Institute of Technology in the year 1931 – Einstein as a researcher, Downs as a first year student – both in physics. Only seventeen when he died, I was much more interested in who was taking me to the Homecoming Dance, than my uncle’s views on people, science, and world events. I would love a second chance………….
So many levels of common interest to explore here:
Caltech – its architecture and history, accomplishments and philosophical stances of the three men, WWII, the Manhattan project…
this building, a victim of the insipid architecture of the late 1960’s, constructed with funds from the Downs’ estate and a matching grant from the National Science Foundation,
still, a cherished memorial.