The following is a transcript of the presentations given and read out by friends and colleagues.
We are here to-day to commemorate the life of Tom, and I am going to call him Tom, because everybody did. Tom was my first boss, and he was the man who converted me from being a Solar Astronomer to a Cosmic Dust man and I have been forever grateful for that, and needless to say even though he did convert me from one field of Astronomy to another, he didn't manage to convert me from being a Conservative into a .....
When it comes to Tom I can seriously say that he was a genius. You know how in science you meets lots and lots of people, but with Tom it was special, I have just never been in the company of somebody who had such an agile and active mind, and this was a great honour. He was one of the very small band of people who have written research papers that I would literally have died to write. And Tom's was on radio echo studies of meteors and came out in Phil Mag Supplement 2 Vol 2 Oct 1953. It is one those wonderful 'terminal' research papers because in essence, nobody has ever written about radio echoes from meteors since. Tom wrote the paper, he got it right, and the subject was finished. It is there in the references of all subsequent papers.
Now I come from North Nottinghamshire, I haven't travelled a great distance in my life, I have moved 16 miles west, and in Nottinghamshire we would have said that Tom was a man with 'no side'. I think you will all appreciate this, because we all knew Tom - what you saw was what there was. He was as open as the day was long, he never said anything behind your back. He said many things to your face, but not behind your back. You knew where you were with Tom Kaiser. If you had done something wrong - and who hadn't? - you were told about it and it was impressed upon you that you should go away and try not to do these things wrong again. This happened in many cases. Tom never wrote anonymous references for people. If you asked Tom for a reference he would give you a copy of it before sending it off. You might read the copy and never ask him for a reference again, but you knew where you were, and with all the research papers that he had to referee, and we all have these research papers, Tom never responded to any request without sending the author a letter and signing it. I have tried very hard to do that ever since.
I will always remember the stories about Tom. We all know so many stories about Tom. I am going to tell you only one or two if I may. We were in Czechoslovakia, and there was a very snooty Czechoslovak astronomer talking to us. He turned to Tom and said "Ah, I see you have brought your assistant", and Tom said "Oh no, this is a colleague". And there I was at my first conference, just come out of Oxford, green as you could be, and there was Tom calling me a colleague, and this of course meant a huge deal. We have all, or many of us have, spent many happy nights with Tom up at the observatory, up at Bradfield site and he always impressed upon me as a sort of 'can do' person. You can imagine the site, you can see pictures of it here in this room, racks and racks of crude electronics that were so advanced that everything had to be made here in Sheffield and quite often it went wrong. But you knew that if Tom was with you, everything would be done to get it going right and he would get the whole group searching and searching to get this stuff going right, so that we could observe meteors like the Quadrantids, Perseids and Geminids. Very very happy days. I can always remember when he used to come up to Bradfield and I had actually got things going right. You could always tell at the site when it was working because it had this wonderful hum and Tom would look in and say "Everything OK?" and you would say "Yes" and he would hold his hand up, and touch the aerial wires and sparks would fly off them and he would stand there going Brrrrr... "Oh yes its doing well this". Marvelous.
I always remember Tom was never happier than when he was telling a good story. He always used to have this lovely tale about when he was deported from America because his plane had been forced to land at Miami and the whole group had been placed in the wrong lounge at the airport. He was then deported to the West Indies. This always reminds me of the time I was with him in Czechoslovakia - we had that lovely old Cortina of Tom's and we had driven all the way from Sheffield, and because we were convinced that in Czechoslovakia they only had 'one star' petrol, Tom had decided to take two jerrycans of five star in the back in case we ran out, but of course we didn't. But in the middle of nowhere there was this poor Slovak beside the road with a German car clearly run out of petrol, we screamed to a halt, poured a jerry-can of five star into this car, shook him by the hand, and then went zooming off- I have no idea what it did to the car, but this was typical of Tom, very very generous. I can remember also, one of his stories completely failing. We were coming back from this conference and we had been all over the place, so he had written very carefully a list of what he had bought and he got to Dover and handed this list to the Customs man. The Customs man just read it and said "Ah yes well, there is nothing there Professor Kaiser that this Government is worried about. Thank you very much, have a safe journey". And you could see Tom's face drop, because the chance of a good story had just disappeared.
All I can really say is that Tom was one of the fairest and most considerate men that I have met and I know this might go against the grain a bit because Tom was a good Communist until Hungary, but I must say that to me, Tom was the nearest person I have come across in my life who was a good Christian.
I would now like to make two brief announcements and then read some of the comments that have been sent to us by people who cannot be here to-day.
Firstly I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the fund that we have set up for Tom. This is standing at the moment at £1,500 and is going to provide one of the most munificent prizes in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and we are all very grateful for your help. Most of you know that in 1973 Tom introduced Astronomy to the University of Sheffield and we became one of the first universities in the country offering dual degrees in Astronomy and Physics, Astronomy and Maths and Astronomy and Chemistry. Now everyone seems to have followed on and hardly a year goes by without you hearing that, for example, only last year the University of Nottingham employed a whole gang of astronomers to do likewise, Bristol the year before and every university in the country is now doing the same thing that Tom started. When it came to Astronomy here he bought telescopes and the telescope that we now have on the roof of the Hicks Building is going to be called the Kaiser Observatory in his memory.
I am glad that Kaiser carried forward his interests in meteors to Sheffield, and those of us who knew him at Jodrell Bank followed his subsequent career with great interest but it is the inspiration of his presence here that remains prominent in the memory.
Professor Sir Bernard Lovell
Adrian Tatnall - University of Southampton (former research student)
Gillian Gehring - Head of Department of Physics and Astronomy
Professor Michael Rycroft - Director of Research, International Space University, France
Tom often spoke of his "two-dimensional empire" but it was pride in his students' achievements and their global diversity that he expressed rather than an emphasis on the possessive, "his".
To we research students Tom's character, his concern for the underprivileged, his lack of any pomposity or concern for rank and his directness was an example to us all.
As a student Tom introduced me to the world of the science research organisations. On several occasions he took me along with him on his organisational visits to places like London and Cambridge. I realised later of course that Tom was acquainting me (and I'm sure other students) with the personalities and committee people and sources of funding in order to prepare me for future science politics.
Tom's very genuine, warm-hearted treament of we students as friends and colleagues rather than as a mentor was an important part of our early careers. On several occasions Tom would acquire a barrel of beer and sandwiches and gather us together for an evening. Tom had no presence and was quite open about revealing some aspect of himself that many more formal or more secretive individuals would view as a weakness. He had the ability to put people at ease and to bring out the best in everyone; sociable while being earnest, never flippant or trivial. Although Tom held strong political views he never allowed his stance to sour his respect for people holding opposing views or his friendship with others.
Tom served both the Physics Department and the University generally in many capacities outstandingly during his career. We certainly are forever in his debt.
Professor Jack Baggaley - University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand (former research student)
Before I read Bill's words I would first like to just account how I first heard about Tom. I came to this department and I was given the task of doing third year tutorials and asked some students how they were getting on, how was to-day's lecture and they said "Oh we had Professor Kaiser to-day - he forgot his notes but he gave us a brilliant lecture" and I think that encapsulated an impression of Tom which was reinforced as I went through my career here in the department.
Now I am not Tom Kaiser! I have my notes here from Bill Galbraith and I am going to read his message on this occasion.
We occupied adjacent offices in the adjacent 'wing' of the Hicks Building. 'So Neighbours, all you need is Good Neighbours', and I can certainly say Tom was that, particularly when he might come into my room reeking of cigar smoke but NOT actually smoking. I guess my room may well have been the first NO SMOKING zone in the University.
Others closer to his particular research disciplines, a radio astronomer of outstanding credentials, will be better fitted than me to laud his scientific achievements. David Hughes in his excellent Times Obituary gave a moving and informative account of this man, who to some was an enigma, awkward, argumentative, hind-legs-off-a-donkey standard. To others he was a warm hearted and sensitive colleague, who fell over backwards to see justice was done to staff and students alike, who might have some grounds for some grievance or other. His political background was not appreciated in Australia nor, I would imagine, was it in Jodrell Bank, but fortunately he came here and set up a distinguished Space Physics Group. And later he proposed an Astronomy Course for Undergraduates, with which I was also involved. This course led essentially to a later change in our Departments name, and in keeping with present fashion in other places we are the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Tom was a very professional Physicist, which overcame any feeling of his being a bit of a maverick. Although protesting that writing out draft solutions to exam questions was a waste of time (which Institute, I wonder, installed that idea in him?) he always came round in the end and toed the line. His "quickies" were original and probing of physics and left you wishing you had thought of it. A tough Australian exterior concealed a soft and warm interior only exposed by further acquaintance. Scratch Tom Kaiser and you found a gentle, sensitive heart.
Some years ago he was instrumental, along with Roy Moffett in Mathematics, in bringing the Sazhin family to Sheffield, and I know personally how much they felt indebted to Tom and Roy in giving them new hope and life, after a sad life in Leningrad in the 80's. That family are now settled in Sussex in the University of Brighton, and all thanks are due, in long measure to Tom's lifelong belief in Socialism and the Brotherhood of Man.
He was very proud of the achievements of his family and their great support to him in the recent years. There are few people now-a-days one might call "characters" in the University and he may well be one of the last of this academic breed.
I for one miss him, and say, in ending, to his family, you were lucky to have such a man as your head-of-house. He would be the first to tell me I was wrong exaggerating his qualities, but I know they were not fully appreciated around the University, as indeed they should have been.
Professor Bill Galbraith - University of Sheffield
The last time I was in this room was four years ago for the presentation of the Gold Medal to Tom a very happy occasion. I think to-day also should be a happy occasion because Tom was not a man who would want you to go to great ceremony for him. I have known him for 48 years. By coincidence we both arrived at the University of Manchester at the same time, he as a postdoc fellow, I as a young, timid, rather scared undergraduate. He turned out, by happy accident, to be my tutor in my first year there. Many things have been said already and I can only repeat some of them because there aren't enough words in the English language to say all that one would like to. I do remember that, as a tutor, he was very kind and gentle with students. He did not let any slip occur in academic rigour but he always helped, he had an inspiring way of dealing with problems. Students eyes were opened to deeper physics when he went through a solution. He usually made sure that you had had a pretty good go at it yourself and that you had bashed your brains out before he would show you how it was best done. He was an excellent tutor. I must have had tutors for my second and third year but I can't remember anything about them, Tom I remember vividly. Later in my undergraduate career I met him in labs and had a few lectures from him. This was during the days of Blackett in the 1950s. Manchester Physics Department was a really exciting place to be. There were many people there who subsequently went on to be distinguished, too many to name. Tom of course was one of them. Blackett had been awarded a Nobel Prize two years before so there was still a buzz around the place from that. I can say that having heard lectures from both of them, I preferred being lectured to by Tom. After I graduated in 1953 I went to Jodrell Bank as a graduate student - it would be an exaggeration to say that I did this because Tom was there but certainly I had been given encouragement in that direction by him. I already knew Tom, many other students who were arriving didn't, but pretty soon got to know him. Tom had a natural ease and rapport with students. I don't think Tom ever stopped being a student - that was basically it. Although students worked in many different areas away from Tom's specific area of interest, they could always talk to Tom about problems with physics and electronics. Tom was always ready to help and became a sort of guru to students of my generation at Jodrell Bank. He was very generous. He also initiated other activities at Jodrell Bank. One that might have been seen by some as being slightly subversive was that he started some Russian classes. He suggested this and the students thought this was a good idea. Russian was obviously something we should know. By accident or design, Tom reserved a room for us at the George and Dragon in Wilmslow, and we all went along there and I think other interests rather than Russian took over once we all got there. I don't think it lasted very long - a few weeks - but a fair bit of beer was drunk, and not much Russian was learnt. In 1956 Tom left Jodrell and shortly after arrived here in Sheffield. I left Jodrell shortly after that and moved on and in some cases through coincidence and others less so, our paths continued to cross from then until four years ago. After Jodrell Bank I went off to the States to do radio astronomy from space vehicles, Tom of course was doing mainly geophysical work here. So technically we had much in common, but the astrophysical and physical applications were quite different. We had had no direct contact for several year, but I was working on theoretical problems of antennas in magneto-plasma. Tom was also doing something quite similar here and I did see a paper by him that was very interesting. I was working on my own approach to the problem. I met Tom in 1963 when we were both on our way to COSPAR Conference in Warsaw. We met at Manchester Airport and travelled together and in those days it took three separate planes to get to Warsaw so a fair bit of beer was drunk as we cruised across Europe. I talked to him about the work I was doing on antennas in plasmas and showed him a paper I was presenting at the conference. He glanced through it on the plane and gave it back to me and said "I wish I'd thought of doing it that way". It was one of the greatest moments of my life, I had arrived - Tom Kaiser said that to me. So from then on it was less 'guru' and 'student' than the association of, I don't want to say equal, because I wouldn't ever claim to be Tom's equal, but a relationship between people of equal status. There was one other incident that I recall on our visit to Warsaw. One evening when there was no evening programme, he got out a little black book which he said contained some good numbers. We got a taxi and went across Warsaw to a rather anonymous, grim looking block of flats. The taxi driver tipped us out there and we went round knocking on doors because the numbering system was chaotic. We eventually knocked on the right door and a little, shall I kindly say a middle-aged lady answered and Tom said "I'm Tom Kaiser from Sheffield, is Elena here?" When she heard Kaiser and Sheffield, she brought us in and sat us down and made us understand that Elena was not there but would be in an hour or so. She switched on the TV and we watched a Polish western and she disappeared. She came back a little later with a bottle of wine and eventually Elena arrived. Elena was her daughter. I'm sure Mrs Kaiser knows who I am talking about. Elena had led a school party visiting Sheffield from Poland and Tom and his wife had made contact with them and got to know Elena, so this was returning the compliment. Elena acted as a guide to us around Warsaw after that. I was just interested to think that suppose in this country two strange men had knocked on your door and speaking in a foreign language asked to speak to your daughter, how many mothers would have entertained them in the way we were entertained. In the late 1960sI returned to this country from the United States, and to Jodrell Bank, where I have been ever since. Tom came over to Jodrell Bank to help interview a student for a PhD and I came over to Sheffield to do the same here. As an examiner, Tom was, as you can imagine, really excellent. He helped the student relax, he did not try any of the under-hand tactics of a seemingly simple question with a really tricky answer, but he conducted a straightforward examination from which a student would feel they had benefitted (if the thesis was up to standard). But there was no relaxing of academic standards. I was also colloquium secretary at Jodrell Bank in the 1970s and invited Tom over to give us a colloquium. That was about 20 years after he had left and I believe it was his first visit back. Now lets move into the 1990s. I was absolutely delighted when he was awarded the Gold Medal of the RAS four years ago. I was on the RAS Council at the time and I had the privilege of phoning the news to Tom and I was delighted to be here and see him receive his award.
Just one postcript I would add, indirectly to do with Tom and that is that after knowing Tom for 48 years, my relationship, if I may call it that, with the Kaiser family continues. Tom and I, although we had some overlap on technical matters, we had been studying different astronomical and geophysical problems, but Nick, Tom's son, now is working on gravitational lenses, a subject which has been my main interest over the last 20 years so I have encountered Nick and hope to encounter the Kaiser family for some time to come. I think all I can say about Tom is that it was a great honour to have known him and I am better for it, and I am sure many other people feel that way too.
Listening to Dennis Walsh reminds me of my own PhD oral with Tom and Owen Storey. In the course of that oral Tom and Owen Storey got into such a furious argument about something, that I hardly was examined at all, and I think this must be the secret of success at PhD orals if you can manage to swing that one. Tom was a man of whom stories and legends grew up around and if you are Irish you will know that legends are always true and that they are only told about significant places and very significant people. A favourite story of mine was one I heard in South Africa, where someone told me that Tom, who was Professor of Physics in Sheffield, was in fact now working as a technician in Australia fixing radars. It seemed somewhat unlikely, but I learnt the full truth of this story some time later from Brian Fraser who is Professor of Physics at Newcastle University. It came about in this way. Tom had wanted to visit his mother and his sister in Australia and Brian Fraser had got a very complex radar system that had resisted all efforts to make it work. Tom had suggested that perhaps he could help. He had a certain amount of experience in radar, and perhaps he could help to make the wretched thing work. The only money Brian Fraser had was funds for a vacant technician's post and so he duly offered this to Tom and Tom worked as a technician at the University of Newcastle. And within a very short space of time, I think two weeks, Tom had got that radar up and running very well. It was on this occasion also, that Brian told me that Tom, (I am sure this must be confidential, so I will reveal it to you immediately), that Tom had been turned down on political grounds for a professorship in New Zealand against all academic opinion and Brian added that in fact he regarded this as a really great misfortune for radio astronomy and radar astronomy in New Zealand to this day. That was a very important aspect of Tom's life; one that we all appreciate. Had Tom been a member of the Young Conservatives in his youth rather than a member of the Communist Party his path to success would have been very much easier. If I could just leave you with the image of Tom Kaiser playing table tennis with the Young Conservatives - it's a concept that my mind can't begin to grapple with. Tom has left us, and his family, with wonderful memories and he will be remembered and talked about at conferences throughout the world for many, many years to come. Tom Kaiser - we salute you.
I am feeling humble, and exalted at the same time, because the Torn that you have all been speaking about here was our very dear friend. He was a very dear friend for a very long time and I think for families to have the kind of friendship which we have had from Tom, and have still got with the family, you are very fortunate indeed. I suppose I can testify to his lack of 'side', which has been spoken of several times here, because I had known him for quite a number of years before I knew that he actually worked in these ivory towers. I knew he had a sharp mind, because if I ever took the opposite view to his I knew about it, and knew I had lost the argument before I had started! But I don't believe it stopped me from trying. When I put myself forward to speak here to-day, I realised I would have to find a scientific story to allow me to be here - and I have got one. It is to do with our kids, who grew up side by side with Tom's kids - even going to the same school. They obviously realised Tom's great potential before we did. When one of them was about 12 years old, she had a transistor radio given to her for her birthday, (this is about 30 years ago when to buy a transistor radio was a 'big deal'). I have to tell you that I was a humble primary teacher in those days, and here I was, 'fretting' with this exalted professor and he never made me feel like that, not for one minute. We had left the children to go out for the evening in the charge of their 15 year old sister and Helen was so fond of this radio that she took it to the bathroom with her to have a bath. She stood it on the side of the bath - and it fell in. What to do! My younger daughter told me that she just heard her sister screaming; she didn't have the foresight to fish it out. We lived very close to each other so, 'I'll take it round to Uncle Tom" and round she ran. He cured it of course - with a hair dryer and it worked for many years. So Tom, dear friend, it's not by accident that I am wearing this red jacket, on your behalf I love the inscription inside your programme that "he is having a wild time somewhere" and I want to tell you that Pam and I will endeavour to have a wild time too from time to time. Thank you for having me.
Flexibility is one of the attributes for going to the Antarctic and I would just like to say a few words about Tom's Antarctic contribution. Let me say that I am probably the worst person around to give this small tribute to Tom, because some of the key players who have been involved in the Antarctic cannot be with us to-day. One of whom is Roy Piggott, whose tribute you will see inside the programme. Unfortunately his wife is not too well and he cannot travel. Bill Sloman, another person who has been very friendly and well known to Tom over 20 or 30 years at BAS cannot be here either. Another key player is Andy Smith, who was first employed here in 1971 and Andy is in the Antarctic, so I am a poor substitute. It was nice to hear the comments about examinations, because I too was a student who was examined by Tom Kaiser and somebody called Dennis Walsh actually. Dennis may not even remember doing it. I remember Tom giving me an absolutely fantastic tutorial in the course of that exam and I now use it on all prospective students myself. You have all been very kind to Tom, and I am going to tell you a little tale that maybe doesn't reflect Tom in quite the same way. It concerns Andy Smith. Tom was absent from Sheffield in 1971 for a few weeks and it was a critical few weeks because it was during that time that you were looking for a physicist to take a new experiment, a VLF experiment, down to Halley and I believe that Tom was incredibly angry when he came back because he found that the guy they had employed, Andy Smith, was a theoretical solid state physicist from Oxford. Tom's comment, succinct as ever, was "over qualified and technically incompetent".
Sheffield has had a great involvement in the Antarctic for a long time. As early as 1964 I believe there was a radar sent from Sheffield to look at auroral back scatter and we heard a little bit about that to-day. That radar is still actually in Antarctica you may like to know. What happened was that it was put in a small hut, and with snow accumulation at Halley it eventually became buried and the snow pressure became so great that when it came to move the station on to another place, it was unsafe to go in there. So that hut, and that radar, is still somewhere floating on an ice shelf somewhere in the Antarctic. When VLF got to the Antarctic, again it was Sheffield and Tom Kaiser that recognised the importance of the Antarctic. It was through Ariel III that they wanted ground-based stations to go to the Antarctic to make complimentary measurements from the ground as well those from space. Tom realised that Halley was a unique site, in the sense that it was very low in electromagnetic noise but also geomagnetically conjugate to North Eastern seaboard states of America. But I won't bore you with the scientific reasons why that is important. The next stage was another VLF receiver built in 1971. It was this that Andy Smith took South. Also a new research programme started when Ariel IV was launched. That programme has been continuing ever since, so there has been a steady succession and the continual generation of lots of people who came to Sheffield to train, and then went to the Antarctic. We know that Tom was a very practical man. In fact during his trip south to the Antarctic in 1982, would you believe, the ship's echo-sounder broke. So it wasn't a radar or a radio that he mended at this time. Without circuit diagrams and without any manual Tom fixed the radio echo-sounder so that we could have a safe trip to the Antarctic. However, there are other things that he did that you probably didn't hear about on this trip, and some of those are absolutely critical. He actually saved BAS from perhaps its biggest disaster of all time. What happens at Halley is that you offload all the cargo onto the sea-ice next door to the ship, and then you move it from the sea-ice up to the station. Well, the entire beer supply for the year was offloaded onto the ice and the ice began to break up and drift out and who was in the vanguard leading the rescue mission? I don't need to mention any names do I? But let me say that with true professionalism, not a tin was lost.
Perhaps this is a particularly poignant month because this month in Geophysics Research Letters, one of the publications of our community, there is a paper that actually has an analysis of 25 years worth of VLF measurements at Halley. VLF measurements that were started by Tom and have been continuing through the succession of people who have passed through Sheffield. It actually, I think, also reflects yet another dimension of Tom's work. What this work has been involved in doing, is looking at even larger global change, by looking at the rate at which lightening occurs. So not only has Tom contributed to radio echo investigation out there, his work is now used to monitor lightning variability. The data sets for which he was initially responsible is now looking into the changes in global temperature. I encourage you to read this paper when you have a spare moment.
Enough from the Antarctic. I would just like to say that Tom was responsible for all of the VLF programme in the Antarctic - it is continuing from strength to strength. I am not a member of the group so I think I am allowed to say that it is a world leading group and it is only through Tom's contribution, guidance, stimulation that it has become that. He has inspired many generations of youngsters and some of them, I am delighted to see, are in the audience to-day. He was a great physicist, a great entertainer in many ways, a good engineer. He had this unbelievable balance between theory and experiment - not many people can manage to do that. As far as BAS is concerned he has got a great legacy, and he is also due a great debt of gratitude for starting these experiments. Thank you.