Dear Editor,

I was a student of Professor Jerrold Zacharias at MIT and am interested in gathering material for an article about the informal but direct ways he influenced the careers of his students and colleagues. A great deal is known about his critical role in changing American science education beginning in the late 1950s. As a principal driver of the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) program, he and colleagues in diverse disciplines developed a radically new approach to teaching physics at the high school level—an approach that propelled many young people to pursue careers in physics and other sciences.

Less is known about Zacharias's profound influence on the professional lives and careers of students and colleagues who—like myself—were strongly influenced by his taste and style as experienced in direct interactions. The primary reason I am writing to the American Journal of Physics is the hope that readers who knew Zacharias will respond to this letter with their recollections.

There must also be a rich legacy of stories and colorful experiences in the memories of people who interacted with him. I remember such Zacharias aphorisms as, “What can a fly eat?” said if a thing of no consequence somehow became important in an argument. Or in response to a study he considered unworthy, he might have said, “Some people, when they mess up a golf shot, find diamonds in the rough. You found a lot of golf balls.” There are doubtless many other colorful and sometimes profound phrases and situations his former students and colleagues can recall. I would like to know them and include them in the article.

I hope readers of the American Journal of Physics who remember Jerrold Zacharias will respond to this letter by sending their recollections to Herb Lison, one of my former students, who is assisting me in this effort, at this email address: lisonh@alum.mit.edu.

Rainer Weiss Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, MIT