November 17, 2010

Britton Chance (1913-2010)

We note with sadness the passing yesterday, at age 97, of Britton Chance, Ph.D., Sc.D. (Cantab.), M.D. (Hon.), Member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), Foreign Member of the Royal Society (London), Member of the American Philosophical Society, Fellow of the American Physical Society, American Olympian (Gold Medal, Sailing, 1952), recipient of the Presidential Medal of Science, engineer, scientist, and mentor to generations. He will be greatly missed and long remembered. Our sympathies go to his wife, children, friends, and colleagues.

In the early Spring of 1983, a bunch of us from the lab left Philadelphia for a long weekend to go to Mantaloking, New Jersey, in order to go sailing with Brit on his boat. Soon after we were out on the water, fishing tackle was distributed, so that we could fish for flounder. Now, from my childhood, I was familiar with flounder: It came in the form of a whiteish fillet, with some paprika powder, and a lemon wedge.

I was the first person to get a hit on my line! I was excited, but managed to reel it in gently but firmly, until the end of my line broke water, revealing a hideous flattened slimy greenish-grey creature, with both eyes on one side of its head. I said "Eeew! What's that?" And Brit replied, "It's a flounder, you idiot. Get it over the boat before it falls off your line." So I did.

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