Bob Walker is one of the physics profs whom I remember most fondly from my Caltech grad school days—not least for his signature silver-and-turquoise bolo ties. He was a fine instructor, patient and empathetic. The final test in the particle physics class that he taught was the first one-on-one oral exam that I ever took. In his office I sweated, stammered, and stumbled over the quark model; Bob smiled and gently led me toward the right answers via artfully-chosen questions. He wanted his students to learn.

Walker's blackboard manner was quiet, sometimes hesitant, always precise. With fellow professor Jon Mathews he took Richard Feynman's labyrinth of idiosyncratic tricks and turned them into a splendidly structured textbook, Mathematical Methods of Physics. Until I saw his obituary in the Caltech News yesterday I hadn't known that Bob was also one of the Los Alamos wunderkinder, who interrupted his own graduate studies to work on the Manhattan Project. He never mentioned it. In 1981 he retired from the California Institute of Technology, moved to the high country of New Mexico, and began to build harpsichords.

Robert Walker — 1919-2005

(cf., JonMathews (1999-04-25), FractalFeynman (2003-01-30), ...)

TopicProfiles - TopicScience TopicPersonalHistory - 2005-05-29

(correlates: JonMathews, AntiArrogance, LowryOnWriting, ...)