Sunday, October 06, 2002

If Forrest Gump were a genius...

You remember Forrest Gump, don't you? If not, you have to see it. The younger you are the less of it you'll catch, but there's something for everybody.

In essence for my purposes, Forrest Gump was a dummy who always seemed to be around wherever history was being made. Somehow in the process he became a millionaire (by investments in "fruit companies" like Apple). Yes, he's a fictional character.

But in real life we had a man who was a very successful lawyer, investment banker, scientist, inventor, bureaucrat, and venture capitalist. He made his millions financing our electric utility infrastructure, then turned to his lifelong interest in science, opening up a prominent lab, hiring brilliant scientists to staff it, and performing original research himself. As he saw World War II looming, he used much of his money and influence in support of critical tasks like radar and the Manhattan Project. And I'm betting you've never heard his name.

From his behavior, he would have liked it that way. Alfred L. Loomis didn't seek the spotlight, he just wanted to get things done. And you can read all about it in a recent book called Tuxedo Park.

Yes, Tuxedo Park. Loomis lived in this onetime land of the snobs' snobs and set up his personal laboratory there. There he did some of the first research into brain waves and microwave radiation, and put up with cranky neighbors who didn't want riffraff like Niels Bohr and Ernest Lawrence hanging around.

And his sons were accomplished too. The youngest was still alive this past summer and had this to say.

Take that, Kennedys.

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