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My Life in Science

Jerry Petrey

November 29, 2012

As I grew up in Texas in the 40's and 50's, I had a passion for science from the time I was about 6. I read about the German V2 rocket and Wernher von Braun and in the 4th grade I was drawing pictures of similar rockets with all the internal details and always talking about people going to the Moon. Most adults around me thought that it was just a silly kid's imagination. Then in 1957, Russia launched the Sputnik and the space race was on. I was hooked on science and space by then. I grew up and joined the Navy where I worked on radar and navigation systems for ships and nuclear submarines and later when to college while in the Navy and got my degree in Electronics Engineering. I watched the Moon landing in 1969 and some of my relatives who used to tease me about talking of such things called me and said "I guess you were right all along!" After the Navy, I spent my career doing electronics and software design on many DOD and NASA projects from underground nuclear weapons testing in Nevada to working on the Voyager space probes at JPL to working on the Space Shuttle launch control system an Cape Kennedy. Now that I am retired I continue to study science, build robots and do scientific programming. The excitement of learning and understanding better the world we live in has never diminished and still gives me that thrill I remember as a child. I feel so lucky to have had a great career in the scientific field and be alive at a time such as this when we are making such wonderful discoveries with things like the Hubble telescope, the LHC, and so many space missions. All the things we have and mostly take for granted have come from the work of so many scientific thinkers in the past like Newton, Maxwell, Einstein, Planck, Schrodinger, Dirac, Feynman and so many others. On the shoulders of these giants do we stand today and are seeing farther than anyone could have dreamed a century ago. The following quote from T.S. Eliot in 1943 sums up how I feel about our reason for pursuing science and the exploration of the unknown: “We shall not cease from exploration, And the end of all our exploring, Will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time.”

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