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John Mather

Nobel Prize in Physics

John Mather: When I was a child, I was really interested in astronomy, and it was just one of those things that was full of mystery at that time. I studied lenses and telescopes and I saw the surface of the sun with a little telescope that I made with lenses in a cardboard tube. So I was all enthusiastic about astronomy when I was in grade school. And then I learned a little bit more in high school, and I took physics courses. And finally, through graduate school, I was thinking I wanted to be a particle physicist, because that was the biggest mystery of that time. Then I was looking for a thesis project though, and I found an adviser who had this new idea to measure the cosmic microwave background radiation -- the primordial heat of the universe. It had just been discovered five years before that, so it was time to go measure. So okay. Well, I'll try that. So that was the beginning of my career as an astrophysicist. Most of my training is as a physicist rather than as an astronomer.
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John Mather

Nobel Prize in Physics

John Mather: Personally my experience is we are going like crazy for ambitious projects to explore the solar system, to explore the cosmos, doing everything we possibly can. Our technology has gotten better and better and we can do these amazing things. Our application to things at home keeps on improving too. So as far as I can tell, we are continuing to do even more than we ever could before. Maybe the public isn't noticing, because their attention is on other things. Among other things we didn't have any big disasters lately. When the Hubble telescope was launched and was a problem, then everybody knew about it, and then we fixed it. So we were in the news. When you do everything right, people don't notice. They just say, "Oh, that's cool. They must not be doing anything exciting." But to me, what we're doing scientifically is as exciting as you could possibly imagine. I guess, perhaps you're also talking about the manned program, which has come to a temporary end in the sense of we no longer have a space shuttle to fly. But we're very close now to getting people to ride on our commercial launch vehicles that were set out as part of the plan. So pretty soon we should be able to do that again. That's pretty important.
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Johnny Mathis

Grammy Hall of Fame

Johnny Mathis: I'm really pretty much a regular person who just got very lucky. I got involved early on in my life with a lot of wonderful people who helped me and guided me. I found out what I really liked to do and that was sing. And I had a lot of help to accomplish most of my goals.
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Johnny Mathis

Grammy Hall of Fame

Johnny Mathis: I think the thing that stands out most in my mind -- about how excited I was to have an opportunity to do something with my voice -- is when I met Lennie Hayton, who was married to Lena Horne. Lena Horne used to come through San Francisco on a regular basis at this wonderful hotel -- the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco -- in the Venetian Room. My dad would take me to see her. It was something electric and magnificent about her. First of all she was gorgeous. She was a beautiful woman, and she had a history of learning her craft. She was a wonderful singer and dancer. As a youngster, I would go and listen to her and watch her, and she would mesmerize me. That was the thing that motivated me most, I think, to continue to perform, not just sing for recreational purposes. But I remember she was the shining light. And then of course I went and saw other people who became fabulous in my mind also, but she was the one that I remember was the motivator for me. I said, "I would love to be able to be that good, have something, a quality that good." And all my life -- I told her. I finally got a chance, after I met her, to tell her. But her husband was very kind to me -- Lennie Hayton -- because Lena was a little standoffish. Because she was a black woman in a white world, doing all of these incredible things, making roads for people like myself, so Lena was a little bit standoffish. But her husband Lennie Hayton, who was white, used to sneak me to her dressing room and I'd sit out in the foyer until she was all dolled up and made up -- she wouldn't see me without her makeup -- and put her gown on, and that was the Lena Horne I always remember. I never saw her -- I think maybe once I saw her offstage when she wasn't all dolled up. But of course she was the person, I think, more so than Nat King Cole, who I almost emulated from the time I was a little kid, because he's my favorite singer. But she was this incredible person that I thought was the epitome of what it would be like to be a singing star.
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Ernst Mayr

The Darwin of the 20th Century

As Darwin put it about himself, I was born a naturalist. At the age of six, already I was a passionate bird watcher. My older brother had an aquarium, which we jointly took care of, and we caught little fish and little sticklebacks in the streams and ponds of the neighborhood, and snails and things, and watched all the water life, the larvae of insects living in the water. And my mother was a great collector of mushrooms. She knew not only the poisonous and the edible ones but she knew everything about the in between kinds of mushrooms, which is the majority. She really knew mushrooms well. And both of my parents took us three boys every weekend on a little excursion, on a hike, on a walk, and we studied the spring flowers or my father took us to a limestone quarry where we found ammonites and other fossils, or we went to a heron colony and watched that. Anyhow I was almost trained to be a naturalist.
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Ernst Mayr

The Darwin of the 20th Century

Ernst Mayr: Stresemann took to me and he saw my enthusiasm and he said, "Would you be interested, in your college vacations, to come here to the museum as a volunteer?" I thought somebody had given me a key to paradise. I said, "Of course, I would," and I did. And he put me to work unpacking new collections that came from expeditions in various places of the world and I was permitted to identify specimens that hadn't been yet identified and so forth. I had a wonderful time, and I had opportunity to talk with Stresemann about all sorts of things. And one day he said to me, after I talked about my dreams about the tropics of expeditions and the jungles and all that, he said to me very seriously, "Now look here, young man. If you become a medical doctor you will never have a chance to go to the tropics, you will be far too busy." When he saw how my face fell, he said, "Well, but there is an alternative. Let me make a proposal. Suppose, after you finish your first half of the medical study " -- in Germany the preclinical period and the clinical are sharply separated -- " after you've finished your preclinical period, why don't you stop studying medicine, take a degree in zoology, a Ph.D., and when you have that then I can find a place for you in an expedition somewhere, I'm quite sure."
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Ernst Mayr

The Darwin of the 20th Century

As soon as I had my candidate of medicine degree, I stopped medicine and I went into zoology, and I did something that is almost unbelievable. In 16 months I fulfilled all the requirements of a Ph.D. candidate in zoology, including a semester of philosophy and a great deal of botany and so forth, and I had written my thesis in that time. I was ready for the examination, and on the 24th of June my oral examinations were all completed and I was awarded a Ph.D. in zoology.
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