Monday, May 24, 2004
In memory of Leotardo, the Strain Gauge Guy...
I am sad to report that Dr. Edward Simmons passed away last Tuesday of prostate cancer at the age of 93. Although most of us at Caltech knew Dr. Simmons only as "Leotardo, the Strain Gauge Guy", everyone knew of him. Leotardo could hardly escape notice; he was an elderly man with skinny legs who always wore a lycra tutu, pantyhose, aqua booties and a turban. A constant presence on campus, he could often be observed sleeping in his station wagon on Wilson Avenue across from the Beckman Institute or in the library reading the latest journals. As a graduate student back in 1930's, Leotardo invented the strain gauge, which measures the amount of deformation that occurs in an object when a force is applied to it.
No disrespect intended, but Leotardo was a mascot for Caltech. He was a cautionary tale for prodigal physicists, a marginalized yet unrepentantly weird individual, and someone so drawn to academic life that one can't really imagine him living elsewhere.
He will be remembered fondly.