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TIA: Tennessee Inventors Association in Knoxville Tenn and Oak Ridge TN
Oak Ridge and Knoxville, TN  

The passing of a great inventor

Tom Kulaga's picture

Igor AlexeffThe Tennessee Inventors Association became a smaller group last week. On October 25, 2012, Igor Alexeff passed away. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1931, Igor left this world too soon.

I met Igor when I first joined the TIA seven years ago. When I walked in the door at that meeting, he was there to greet me and everyone else that showed up. With his wild hair and his Russian features, he reminded me of the stereotypical mad scientist. But his looks were deceiving. He was brilliant and quite sane.

At Igor's funeral, I had the good fortune to read the eulogy prepared by Ted Anderson. Ted was a colleague and friend of Igor. Unfortunately, the Frankenstorm that hit the East Coast prevented Ted from making the trip from Massachusetts to Oak Ridge. With Ted's permission, I reproduce the eulogy below. 

Eulogy for Professor Igor Alexeff by Dr. Ted Anderson

I started working with Igor Alexeff on plasma antennas in 1999. Since then I got to know him on a deep intellectual and personal level. For me he was a colleague and brother at the same time. Sometimes I called him 2 or 3 times a day on whatever popped into my mind.

On an intellectual level he was supreme. Igor could take material junk and turn it into a profound experiment in physics. I never met anyone except Igor who could do that.

We developed the smart plasma antenna with Jeff Peck. This device was based on equations and designs I did in 1996. Igor did experiments on the smart plasma antenna and worked with Jeff Peck to make it into a working device. I was amazed he did that.

Also in 1996, I had worked out the mathematical model on what we would later call the Modified Nyquist Theorem on plasma thermal noise. For some reason, I was too shy to show it to anyone. I showed my derivation to Igor in 2007. Igor re-derived it and got the same result. Igor then substituted the numbers in and it showed that plasma antenna thermal noise was actually less than in a corresponding metal antenna.

Igor noted that this was a milestone in plasma antennas and plasma physics in general. Igor and I, along with Fred Dyer and Jeff Peck, advanced the plasma antenna technology from obscurity to a technology with international respect. I am continuing the work I did with Igor on plasma antennas. Igor’s intellect is still in my mind.

Igor’s intellect was more than just about physics. We had many discussions on politics, the arts, travel, philosophy, and religion. I think he thought about religion in a way that most physicists do, but he had a profound knowledge of the world’s religions. He thoroughly read and knew several versions of the Bible. He understood the Eastern religions. In the past year he read the entire Koran.

In regard to Igor’s generosity, I think the best way to explain this is what I observed while we were at a scientific meeting in Huntsville, Alabama. I was walking on a sidewalk with Igor when Igor saw a beetle on its back, kicking furiously and struggling to right itself up. Igor bent down, picked up the beetle, turned the beetle right side up, put the beetle down, and the beetle moved off to safety.

I told this story to Igor’s wife Anne on Saturday, and she told me how Igor would stop the car when he saw a turtle in the road. Igor would get out of the car and move the turtle to a safe location.

These seemingly small generosities reflect the bigger generosities that Igor provided. Igor often fixed or mitigated a problem that another human had. This was true especially for disadvantaged humans.

Igor experienced mysterious incidences that physics could not explain. He told me that he and Ann saw a mysterious apparition one morning while in a hotel in Spain. In another case he told me about an apparition at Oak Ridge National Lab: when a colleague was killed while doing an experiment with a powerful magnet.

If most people tell me stories like this, I do not believe them; but since Igor told me this, I believed him. It makes me think that perhaps Igor is in some sort some of dimension that physics cannot explain.

I finish this eulogy with my own modification of Hamlet’s soliloquy in that great play by Shakespeare.

TO IGOR

To be with you was a great pleasure
Whether it is better in your mind to suffer,
the slings and arrows of an unfortunate disease,
or to take arms against a sea of illness.

And by opposing them - you died - you sleep.

No more suffering,
And by a sleep to say you end,
That your body ached with a thousand natural shocks that flesh is prone to,
is a consummation.

Devoutly to your wish, to die – to sleep.

To sleep perchance to dream.

For in that sleep of death,
that dreams may come,
Now that you have shuffled off your mortal coil,
this gives me sadness and grief.

But you have borne