Robert Reynolds - Doctorate: Physics, 1960

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Robert Reynolds


After completing an experimental MA project with W. W. Robertson in 1958 in spectroscopic analysis of the effect of high pressure on a mixture of molecular fluids, I began a dissertation project in what would come gradually to be seen as computational physics. The topic was the spectral effect of pressure on a gas mixture, this time with atomic gases. University computers were just beginning to be acquired. The work began on an IBM CPC (8 byte memory) and was concluded on an IBM 650 (1 kB rotating drum memory). All night computing sessions were accompanied by reading Proust and by playing the soprano recorder, the latter of which unfailingly brought out a white mouse that had found its freedom in the Experimental Science Building. The mouse listened patiently for as long as I would play, but I never learned its hiding place.

Final computational details were addressed using a Bendix computer that was available at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, where I was assigned for Air Force duty in 1960 because of my ROTC involvement at UT. The PhD was awarded in 1961. I had worked under Air Force contracts in Robertson’s lab and in the Matson lab, and taught introductory courses in the Mathematics Department. My active duty Air Force work, ending in 1963, was devoted to aspects of nuclear weapon effects in the atmosphere and involved participation in the Johnston Island atmospheric test series in 1962-63.

I joined the Reed College faculty in 1943, where I taught for 41 years, retiring after 39 years as David W. Brauer Professor of Physics in 2002, then returning to full time teaching for 2006-08. I published only a few papers (teaching emphasis and the supervision of 79 senior theses played a role in this outcome). I established an astronomical observatory in 1999 and taught a course in astrophysics for about the last 20 years in addition to classical and quantum mechanics, thermal physics, general physics, natural science for non-majors, and senior symposium.

Other interests have included political activism, writing and publication of some poetry, motorcycle touring, and the maintenance of “The Subway Page” on the world wide web.

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