Monday, June 29, 2015

David Cline

I learned today that he died not long ago. He hired me after I graduated: my adviser and he were riding in the same elevator and Cline asked if he knew any candidates for a job. I've been at UW ever since.

He was not a good manager. He traveled a great deal and so his sessions for direction were rather short. In 5 minutes one day he gave me no less than 3 absolute number 1 top priority jobs. Little details like "I can't go to that conference because my wife is due then" didn't seem to register. I learned later that the proper thing to do was say "yes" and then find something related and productive to do; he sometimes forgot in between visits. (Not always!)

He was extremely ambitious, and wanted a Nobel more than anything. He was bitterly disappointed when Fermilab elected to continue fixed target work instead of trying to build a collider. His friend Carlo Rubbia shared the Nobel instead of Dave. Thomasso has another anecdote about him. When Fermilab did build a collider he was on CDF, and I was working with Atac's forward tracking chamber for Dave. The noise rates were much higher than expected and the wire crimping tool seems to have silently worn out during construction, so the detector had to be abandoned.

He also wanted to do liquid argon based astronomy; and I spent time on liquid argon time projection studies too. He wasn't happy with all of our conclusions...

I declined to follow him to UCLA--the cost of living would have been way too high. He spent some of his time there working with new accelerator technologies--plasma wake field in particular.

I eavesdropped on a conversation between him and Rubbio at lunch once. It was delightful--two brilliant and innovative people bouncing ideas off each other--most of them no good, but so many that some were...

He was enthusiastic. He often jumped the gun--once he grabbed a slide from an absent grad student's desk and wound up presenting a simulation as though it were actual results. The rule of thumb is a slide per minute: his rate was 10x that fast. And he could spot the critical features of a plot quickly too--much faster than I did. And Bob reminded me today that when Cline was still at Madison he arranged for at least one major conference a year to be held there--kept the place on the map.

He will be missed. Probably has been already--at his age he wasn't very active any more.

1 comment:

Ann Hammon said...

Sorry, James. I'm remembering history I wasn't part of, but listened to you tell. Cline made a good decision when he hired you. The stories have been great, and I'm hoping there are more to tell. Love you. Older younger sister.