Friday, July 15, 2011

An Afternoon with George

I had the  pleasure of hanging out and swapping stories with George this afternoon. George is one of the last living bridges to Townsend in the flesh. And I am one of the very few people who have been able to read Townsend's early history in the fragile pages of records themselves, so we had much to share with one another.

George spoke of his day spent touring Stanford campus with Townsend.  Lunch was attended by  several professors who, in his recollection and estimation, though they came from many disciplines, all seemed most differential to his father-in-law*.  He also recalls that he had a startling interactive learning experience in the plant intelligence lab. Here he demonstrates a plant cringing in fear when he (mentally) zapped it with destructive intent.  He said  that Townsend's comment about the work in that particular lab,which he seemed quite cognizant of, was that they were "on the right track" but George felt as though he was saying they were still missing something and it was almost as if Townsend knew what it was.

And, in return, I tell him of having seen and read Townsend's own research action plan for1928 which included demonstrating his work via a  model ship. The construction of the model and the demonstration my have been held first for Charles Kettering, the depression intervened and that it was almost four years later before the correspondence in his Naval records indicates that he wowed his NRL bosses with a demonstration of a boat that was somehow propelled without batteries.  A couple of months later, Seaman Brown became Lt.jg  Brown of the Naval Reserves Engineering Bureau and silent running was never heard from again until fifty years later when Ronald Regan and Tom Clancy made submarines fashionable reading.

George never saw Townsend get angry. And he says that though Townsend's mind was always in science, he was also a man who absolutely reveled in the natural world. When I asked about his since of humor, what made him laugh, George tells me that most often it was something he saw in the way nature had constructed herself. I remember a vignette of him that Linda once shared.

Whenever Townsend had a cat or kitten who let him hold her upside down in his lap, he would play with her paws, and flex her toes, causing her to sheathe and unsheathe her claws. "Just look at that!" he would say."Isn't that wonderful?

George also said Townsend was also capable of being very  boyish when he was teasing Josephine to get her attention.  I like knowing that about him. And I like knowing that in return, Josephine had a favorite shtick with him, which she brought out when they were in a Naval town. "Sailors!" she would exclaim at the first sighting in (what I imagine to be) a tone of lascivious delight.

* And they ALL called him Dr. Brown.

No comments: