This idiosyncratic and episodic collection of stories reflects a life filled with love and adventure, both cerebral and physical. I have been extraordinarily blessed to have loved two exquisite women and, amazingly, to have been loved by them. At the same time I tried not to miss any opportunity for challenge and for adventure. If I have a regret, it is that in the pell-mell rush to achieve and experience, I sometimes did not wait to adequately consider what was really important, namely my relationships with those close to me. Herein I have tried to acknowledge those mistakes.
OF LOVE AND EXPLORATION
- AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY © Christopher Earls Brennen
I have always believed that exploration is a way of life and whether in science or in the outdoors one mode of exploration enriches the other. In the words of some anonymous poet:
``I have travelled through great beauty
To some measure of understanding
You cannot ask for more than that.''
I also have a small framed quotation in my office, a quotation from the English poet T.S.Eliot that has always been a talisman for me:
``We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.''
For the ultimate discovery always seemed to me to lie within my own soul whether the route lay through some intellectual endeavour or through some unexplored canyon or mountain peak.
As a teacher throughout my working life, another lifelong quest was to instill in my students, the belief that as scientists and engineers we should never forget that it is our responsibility to ensure that what we do and what we build are used for the benefit of humanity and not for its destruction. This belief that concern for humanity should always remain the guiding principle was most eloquently expressed in a quote I came upon many years ago:
``Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors..... ..... in order that the creations of our mind shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations''
The speaker was Albert Einstein. The occasion was an address in 1931 at the California Institute of Technology. That sentiment is a powerful and important principle that should be part of every technical education.
History also tells us that peace does not come easily. That it takes vigilant international cooperation. In this regard I made it my policy to place all that I learnt on the internet to be freely available to all who wish to use that knowledge. This policy was founded on two coupled beliefs. First that the most effective way to roll back the limits of knowledge is to share it as widely and freely as possible. And second that through the process of sharing knowledge we achieve a mutual respect and cooperation that is to the benefit of all mankind. For this reason we must do all we can to resist all attempts to place censorship on that marvellous new means of communication and education that we call the Internet.
Many of the friends and companions who enriched my life appear in these pages. Hopefully, they are not displeased by their appearance. While it is not possible to acknowledge all of them and all of their gifts, there are a special few to whom I wish to pay particular homage. First and foremost I recognize my unmeasurable debt and infinite gratitude to those two women, Doreen and Barbara, to whom this book is most humbly dedicated. My daughters Dana and Kathy also deserve very special mention for they held me up through some extraordinarily difficult times. Thanks are also due to my other daughters Susan, Kim, Nicki and Keri for their unwavering support at some critical moments. Outside the family a group of great colleagues and students at the California Institute of Technology played a very important role in my life and in the adventures embodied in these stories. Ted Wu and Allan Acosta were mentors without equal and the debt I owe them is immeasurable. Most rewardingly, my PhD students became my academic children and I hope that I managed to plant some seed of exploration and invention in each and every one of them. Some like Doug Hart, Garrett Reisman, Clancy Rowley and Mark Duttweiler also became kindred explorers and these pages are riven through by their roles and their friendships. Others without that academic connection also became soulmates through shared experiences in the wilderness. Of them, Troy Sette, Scott Smith, Randi Poer and John Perry merit special thanks for few men can have been blessed with such thoughtful and kind friends.
This book is dedicated to the two exquisite women with whom I was blessed to share my life, to Doreen and to Barbara.
Last updated 1/1/2010.
Christopher E. Brennen