GI Professor Emeritus Glenn Shaw pens autobiography

January 4, 2012


Glenn Shaw, GI Professor Emeritus of Physics and a fixture in these parts since 1971, has just written a memoir, Fingerprints on the Moon: My Life in Physics. It is available from the man himself or here.


In his book, Shaw describes adventures that arose from following his curiousity. His interests took him from Africa to the South Pole to working on an instrument that probably still stands on the moon.


Here's an excerpt of a northward turning point in the atmospheric scientist's life:


"I graduated with my Ph.D. in 1971, after having lived in Tucson for six years. I was 32 years old, almost half of a life expectancy. We had better get moving and do something! . . .


"We had two job offers: one in Australia as staff scientist at the Commenweath Scientific Industrial Research Organization in Sydney, Australia, and the other as a tenure-track assistant professor at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. I accepted the job in Australia, this being by far the best prospect for living in a pleasant climate, like we had done in California and Tucson and during my stint in the Navy in the South China Sea. With its tough winters, Alaska was the last place I wanted to head for.


"Keith Mather (pronounced with a long a), director of the Geophysical Institute, called me up and talked to me in direct, no-nonsense language. He was Australian himself and knew a thing or two about life and its possibilities, having been raised in a grand old Victorian-England-style tradition, and having gone off to India, Antarctica and other exotic places.


"'Look, Dr. Shaw, the future is still on the other side of the Atlantic, and in this case the Pacific,' Mather said. 'Oil has been discovered and is being developed in Alaska, and Alaska is about to become a wealthy state, whereas Australia is now more or less holding its own. We can offer you a lot of stability and exciting scientific prospects through the Geophysical Institute and if I were in your position I would choose to move here in Alaska, rather than to Australia . . .'


"So I told Keith, 'OK, I'll look into it.' The next day, I wrote a letter asking to be let off the hook of the job I had accepted at CSIRO and called up Mather and took the job at the University of Alaska.


"'Here we go. Starting up again on another college career,' I thought. It turned into one of the best decisions we ever made."