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Nibbling the bullet

Prof. X was a physicist's physicist who never lost his passion for science, his imagination, or his irrepressible enthusiasm. Although the years dimmed his vision, stiffened his fingers, and, one must admit, somewhat dulled his mind, his students revered him. X was buried surrounded by his notebooks, his laboratory equipment, his stores of supplies and spare parts, and his students. By refusing to let death itself interfere with his research, he has added yet another first to his illustrious record: First physicist to pursue posthumous research. But much as I admire X's dedication to science, I cannot conceal some misgivings. Young scientists may turn their backs on academic careers when they notice that the faculty positions are all filled, for eternity. If professors refuse to retire at an appropriate age, morale throughout the department will inevitably suffer. And if I may be permitted a private word to Professor X, we think you are wonderful, but this is a good time to give up your Chair, to step aside or roll over, whichever you prefer. Young scientists are waiting for an opening and while they wait, your department is going broke paying you.

D. Kleppner (June '98 Physics Today)

(Editors note:  I hope Kleppner will forgive me for abbreviating his wonderful article in Physics Today to these few lines due to page restrictions. I urge everyone to read the full text.)