I shared an office with Al and Jerry Romick for the better part of ten years, following my arrival as a fresh graduate student in 1958. It was a turbulent time at GI and in organized research in general, with IGY, the race to the moon, and a University of Alaska unprepared for notoriety. Fred Rees was my academic advisor, but Al and Jerry were senior graduate students and mentors to whom I could relate. There were many adventures, including the solar eclipse expedition, nights at the observatory and the everyday process of figuring out what to do in a system that, at that time, had few rules and regulations. In this environment, we all looked to Al because he seemed to know the right thing to do in any given situation.
Al read all of our publications for scientific content and English composition, which was remarkable enough, considering that it was a second language for him. I still remember most of the grammatical rules that he imparted in a very kindly and understanding manner. Beside the ordinary rules of grammar, his intent was to remove as many sources of ambiguity as possible: use “approximately” instead of “about”, “because” instead of “since” etc. His contribution in this effort was extraordinary also because of the magnitude of the production. Neil Davis surveyed the literature in the 60's and found that yearly number of publications out of the Geophysical Institute exceeded that of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Another impression is the great good humor that Al both radiated and reflected. It is true that Jerry was more easily heard, and we depended on him to laugh us out of desperate trouble. Al, however, made us see ourselves as a team possessed of strengths and foibles, the sum of which was a source of great good humor. This did not go unnoticed at Geophys. One day, Director Keith Mather wandered to our office, leaned against the counter, puffed his pipe and said “I hear gales of laughter coming from this office most of the time, and I just dropped by to find out what makes geophysics so much fun!”
The last publication we worked on together was in 2004. By that time, I had sufficient command of English to pass muster, but Al had significant comments on the scientific content, as did the other authors, Jerry, Fred and Dirk Lummerzheim. We had a great last laugh when it was pointed out that we were using data we took forty years earlier to correct a mistake we made thirty years ago. The biggest laugh came when Fred said he was not an author on the publication with the mistake in it, and we looked to find that he had forgotten that he had been one of the two reviewers. The word “data”, by the way, is a plural noun, and deserves a corresponding plural verb. Thanks, Al.
Chuck (& Tone) Deehr