Phil Harriman (BS '59)

I retired from the NSF in 2001, but have been taking classes (and occasionally teaching) at nearby Sonoma State University (CA). Next month I'll be teaching a course on "Outstanding Women Scientists of the 20th Century". One of the women I will be talking about is Margaret Burbidge. As an undergraduate physics major (1955-1959) at Caltech I waited tables at the Atheneum for my meals. My attention was drawn to a group of four who often ate lunch together there. I noticed that one of them was a woman. Since there were no female faculty (or undergraduate students) at Caltech at the time she stood out. It turned out the foursome were visiting scientists Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge and Fred Hoyle, with Caltech professor William Fowler. I later figured out that at the period that they were working on their famous paper nicknamed "B(squared)FH". This paper was the first to show the steps occuring in the interiors of stars that make of all of the atomic nuclei found on earth (the origin of the phrase "We are made of stardust!"). Fowler later received a Nobel Prize for his contributions to this area.

In Their Own Words