Dick Taylor Story
My first encounter with Dick Taylor came in May 1970, when I arrived at SLAC as a
wet-behind-the-ears MIT graduate student about to become involved in the MIT-SLAC
inelastic electron-scattering experiments in End Station A. Actually my initial
encounter was with his booming voice echoing along a corridor of the Central Lab Annex,
followed by a broad-shouldered, six-foot-plus bear of a man sporting an unruly mop of
curly hair. At first I was a bit cowed by him, but I soon came to see and understand
the warm-hearted person beneath all the bluster.
My last memory of Dick, or at least my most lasting one, came on the evening of December 10, 1990, when he spoke on behalf of the physics laureates — including Jerry Friedman, Henry Kendall and himself — at the banquet after the Nobel Prize ceremonies that afternoon. I had expected the usual solemnities, but Dick regaled the august international audience (most of whom were decked out in formal wear) with a series of jokes that had us in stitches. I laughed so hard I almost knocked over my glass of wine!
More than anyone else, it was Dick who got the huge ESA spectrometers built, especially the 8 GeV and 20 GeV spectrometers that would catch the first glimpses of quarks inside the proton and neutron during the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were marvelously supple and flexible devices that counted the number of electrons scattering from liquid hydrogen and deuterium targets at the ESA pivot at angles up to 34 degrees. Actually, the longer 20 GeV spectrometer was a little too flexible; its magnets had to be resurveyed every time one moved it to a new angle.
My own efforts were focused on the 8 GeV spectrometer, which could be rolled out in minutes to large angles to count the electrons that scattered at higher momentum transfers. This device proved crucial in detailed testing of the predicted “scaling” of the proton (and later neutron) structure functions, confirming insights of theorist James “BJ” Bjorken and suggesting that there are point-like objects inside.
We owe it to Dick that these spectrometers functioned so well, serving as the “eyes” that allowed dozens of physicists who worked in End Station A to peer deep within the nucleons and begin to discern the intriguing substructure within.
Michael (aka "Ed") Riordan
Dick Taylor in a relaxing moment as events pile up in the End Station A computer monitoring an electron scattering experiment.(SLAC Photo M2294)