Posted by: slartibartifast | May 30, 2009

Herb York

     Another one of my favorite professors from UCSD (University of California, San Diego), Herb York, just died.


The photo run with Herb's obituary

The photo run with Herb's obituary

     He co-taught a class, The World Space Program, along with Hannes Alfven (who never told us during his introduction of himself that he won a Nobel Prize for Physics!!) that I thought was going to be a big bust, but turned out to be one of my favorite classes at UCSD.


     When I came to San Diego in December of 1976 to pre-register for the classes of my first Quarter everything was closed already and I picked this class because it was one of the few left. After getting most of the General Education classes out of the way in Colorado I was ready to jump into my major of Communications. Uh-un, not so fast…the rest of the students, who had already registered, leave mostly useless crap for transfer students, like me. Or so I thought.


     Herb (he insisted on us calling him that) and Dr. Alfven (he insisted on us calling him that too) were two of the most experienced and interesting profs I ever had. A lot of the class was War Stories 101 (or in this case Cold War Stories 101), but I learned a tremendous amount of space history and politics from these two guys, who lived a lot of it because they were part of it.


     I remember I busted my ass writing one of the best research papers I ever did in college- on a “still on the drawing board” satellite called HEAO-1. They gave me an A on the paper and even made note of it in class because of the fact that UCSD had a part of the research time on the bird. Little did I know then that Herb probably had a major part in it coming into being. It was launched in August of 1977 and I felt like I had a small part of ownership by writing about it.

How Herb looked when I got to hear him 2 times a week

How Herb looked when I got to hear him 2 times a week


     I learned more about Herb from this obit than he ever told us, too. I had no idea he was the first Chancellor of UCSD OR the first (28 year old!!!) director of Lawrence Livermore Labs. He mostly liked to talk about his days as an Assistant Secretary of Defense back in the Kennedy administration. Imagine that!


     He spoke fluent Russian and told us that the famous Kruschev line “we will bury you” was a mis-translation; that it was an idiom in Russian that meant, literally, “we will dance on your grave,” which just meant that their system of Communism would outlast Capitalism. Mis-translation, my ass. It had the desired effect on us.


     Funny and fascinating guy. I’ll miss him.

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