A story from
I came to graduate school at Stanford University as a young refugee from Poland, helped by Professors Robert Hofstadter and Leonard Schiff. I wanted to
work in elementary particles theory. In the middle of my second year, my advisor Professor Schiff died suddenly. There were no other particle theory
tenured faculty at the Physics Department so I asked SLAC theory faculty if I could work with them. Professor Fred Gilman welcomed me and I joined other
graduate students in SLAC Theory Group in the summer 1971.
Sid Drell was the head of Theory Group. Sid's warmth and accessibility were striking. I remember "My name is Sid !", in his loud voice,
to anyone who called him "Professor Drell," be it students or secretaries. His office was always open to all. Sid's style helped made the
theory group at SLAC supportive and friendly for all, including graduate students. Sid also organized talks by graduate students, where we learned, in a
protected setting, to
give talks and to think on our feet, with no faculty or postdocs allowed. The only PhD in the room was Sid, supportive and constructive in his responses.
The open atmosphere extended to politics. While people at SLAC had different opinions about Vietnam and about President Nixon, Sid was open to talk, and I
remember listening to many discussions. During the Watergate era we were all watching in horror and fascination the uncovered facts about people holding
the highest offices in the country. For me, perhaps the most memorable moment from that time involving Sid Drell came at a public discussion of
disarmament at Stanford, with professors and government advisors Sid Drell and Edward Teller on the panel. Teller tried to assert that he knew things
the audience did not have access to, so we should trust his argument. Sid Drell, who had the same clearance as Teller, bellowed: "You and I know
it's not true !". I still think "Wow!" when I remember it. For me, a recent refugee from an authoritarian country, this was amazing.
Sid used to pretend and joke that he tried to prevent his daughter Persis from becoming a physicist. But he asked me to meet Persis, then in high school,
at a party in his house, so that she would meet a woman physicist. At the time I was the *only* female physicist at SLAC.
Finally, another topic, given frequent assumption of "superiority" of theorists, I remember Sid's enormous respect for Pief. When Pief took
a sabbatical and Sid was the acting director, Sid loudly counted days and new gray hairs, and wondered how Pief managed all this without getting as
exhausted as he did.