By Francis J. Kelly
The profound scientist, Clyde Lorraine Cowan
Designed a test to demonstrate how an
Elementary particle can show
It’s truly in reactions, even though
It’s chargeless. For neutrinos can through pass
The mighty earth; and, with their little mass,
The energy, unseen in weak decay,
Remove to farthest realms of night and day,
Because of their cross section, very small,
That their detection almost blocked to all.
By proving Pauli’s profound supposition,
Prolife physicist, Clyde Lorraine Cowan,
Deserved rare renown and recognition
And brought home a Nobel Prize to our land.
He showed neutrinos to be detectable
And made the Fermi theory respectable.
The Detection of the Neutrino
While at Los Alamos, Clyde did his best
In that very exciting milieu,
To measure and monitor nuclear tests,
And made a great friend, who’d always prove true.
Fred Reines had brains and ability
To plot and plan with agility.
Clyde and Fred Reines, his Jewish colleague,
Produced a scintillation detector.
They had to make it remarkably big
To count neutrinos from a reactor.
In nineteen fifty six, it was the first
Neutrino counter in the universe.
With paired pulses of scintillation,
This detector caused much reaction,
Proved Pauli’s prophetic prediction
And gave physicists much satisfaction.
After thirty nine years it was recognized;
And Fred Reines received the Nobel Prize.
The Nobel committee honored Clyde’s name
And these words are written to further his fame.
But Clyde was already twenty years dead,
When they gave the prize to his good friend, Fred.
But I’ve gotten ahead in my story
Of Clyde L. Cowan’s parade to glory.
The famous professor, Wolfgang Pauli,
Told the guests at the Tubigen congress,
In a short letter in nineteen thirty,
To begin to expect extreme progress
By concentrating on a new problem,
Seen in the beta energy spectrum.
It made Pauli extremely curious
That beta decay electron pulses
Had an energy range continuous
From isotopic nuclear sources.
Because the mass of the first nucleus
And the mass of the product nucleus
Can be known with highest accuracy
And only denied with mendacity.
The energies come the law of Einstein,
Which all understand since he first declared
That when the masses are known, well and fine,
The energies come out as em see squared (mc2 ).
This relation is one of the basic
Suppositions of all physics.
So we comprehend Pauli’s problem
Which ‘til then had no clear solution.
The nub of the trouble was a real gem
As is told by the next short locution:
Each spectrum of beta radiation
Disobeyed energy conservation.
Since the energy of the first atom
And the energy of the next atom
Are fixed at definite measured amounts,
The energy in all electron counts
Should be the unique difference
Of the first and the second nucleus;
And should not appear continuous
To balance energy in the process.
So Pauli, the brilliant theorist,
Made a theory, now taken serious,
That a new particle as yet not known
Steasl the parcel of energy not shown.
This new particle that they didn’t know
Fermi named with the new name, “Neutrino.”
(While attending one of Clyde’s courses,
At the Catholic University,
I spoke on stellar neutrino sources
And discussed particles elementary.
So now I think that it’s only prudent
To proudly reveal that I was his student.
At the meeting, that I still remember
About my Ph. D. thesis defense--
Remember as if t’were last September,
And where I was understandably tense,
Clyde inquired about basic principles
Of phenomena, quantum mechanical.
I saw from his genial smile, so kind,
And so it turned out, to make my mind free,
Tha blessed success in the test, I’d find
And duly deserve a doctor’s degree.
The Catholic scientist, Clyde L. Cowan
Was truly kind to his fellow man.)
Ester May Koenig, a comely young woman,
Was a devout Catholic catecumen.
She prayed that a proper Catholic man
Should become her soul’s sole companion.
(She was born in eighteen ninety seven
And was ninety nine when she went to heaven.)
Protestant Clyde, of Scotch-Irish birth,
Recognized Ester’s immeasurable worth.
But when he wooed the pure, pious Ester,
Only a Catholic could she consider.
Clyde was not one to be devastated.
Instead, her Faith he investigated.
Clyde came back to Ester after a year
To plead politely, “PLease marry me, dear,
Or I certainly shall succomb, heartsick.
I’ve converted--now, I’m a Catholic.”
Ester accepted Clyde’s proper proposal
And married him after a brief betrothal.
And the brightest boy they had ever seen
Was baby Clyde, born in Nineteen nineteen (1919),
On St. Nick’s feast that we all remember
To be on the sixth day of December.
On leaving Detroit, Clyde’s whole family
Moved to Saint Louis in fair Missouri.
Grade school he attended in Lindenwood,
A solidly middle-class neighborhood,
And quickly proved to be nobody’s fool
At Theodore Roosevelt Public High School.
Clyde’s mind was quite keen; it had a firm grip;
And, to college, he went on scholarship.
Clyde always was an intelligent lad,
Who walked in the thoughtful ways of his dad.
He earned a Chem. Engineering degree
From the mining school in Rolla, Missouri.
Clyde later obtained the Ph. D.
(which stands for Doctor of Philosophy)
At the Washington University
Also in saint Louis, Missouri.
Clyde received his complete education
In the middle of our raw-boned nation.
Clyde Goes to War
But between degrees there was a world war,
Where Clyde met and wed a bride from afar.
On Clyde’s twenty third birthday plus one day more,
The Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor.
December seventh nineteen forty two,
Then Clyde had just reached age twenty three, too.
Our cruisers were crushed by Japan’s warplanes.
World war was engaged; and ships sank in flames.
Calm Clyde enlisted, this sadness to share,
And soon was assigned chemical warfare.
His chemical skill was laid on the line.
Defensive devices he dared to design.
In London clyde met bright British Betty
And deftly declard that he should go steady
With this sweet smiling and lovely lass,
Whose beauty was very hard to surpass.
Their romance ripened; and cannily Clyde,
Begged Betty to be his British war-bride.
Betty accepted and the knot was tied
For she was deeply in love with her Clyde.
When Clyde came back from the wedding event,
His captain sighed, “I’m tasked to prevent
Officers neat from rushing to marry
The girls they meet wherever they tarry.
The Army Air Force makes it my mission
To curb your course and rescinds permission
That it had granted to marry Betty.”
Clyde was not daunted; he replied, ready,
“So sorry, sir; we are legally wed.
This bond can n’ere break ‘til one spouse is dead.”
Trials at childbirth
The Eighth Army Air Force was forced to see
That Clyde and Betty were true family.
Bright Betty and Clyde cleaved without regret;
With love all alive t hey began to beget.
Their first, ‘Liabeth, was quite normal;
But later babies gave them much trouble.
Betty had a double RH negative factor
Putting their infants in imminent danger.
They were immune to the blood they should cherish
So they would sadly suffer and perish.
This was a sosre sorrow; poor Betty and Clyde
Suffered and cried as each baby died.
The babies that died by number wer seven
That soon passed away and went straight to heaven.
By dint of their genetic chemistry,
Three natural children survived finally.
Two more were adopted by betty and Clyde,
But fromillness and in a car crash they died.
Clyde’s great faith in the communion of saints
Encouraged him and eased all his complaints,
Confirmed to him that he was not alone
Brought him Christ’s comfort and soothed every moan.
Clyde knew his babies were praying for him
With their heavenly friends, the seraphim.
The Nutrino Experiment
When clyde and Fred began first to try
To find neutrinos, Clyde knew, in the sky,
His little darlings would watch out for him
And keep them all safe through thick and through thin,
And grant success to the whole enterprise
With its detector of tremendous size.
You see, at that time it was uncommon
To have a detector weighing a ton.
From Los Alamos in New Mexico
The neutrino detector had to go
Over the long highway, by trailer,
To Georgia at Savannah River.
Just before the trailers left for the east,
Clyde thought well to ask his good friend, a priest,
To bless the progress of the caravan
And ask God’s help for each woman and man.
Clyde received the good priest’s intercession
On the neutrino trailer procession.
Vlyde’s kin joined in this grand expedition
With Fred and his wife and the technicians.
Each day a scout car in front of the trucks
Would look for low bridges where trucks might get stuck.
If they found on, then they must measure
The span to surely secure their treasure.
If the bridge was too low, they’d have to find
Another route round to escape the bind.
So in the end the big trucks did deliver
Their contents safe at savannah River.
At the reactor they had to install
Tubes and electronics in a small hall.
They also had to make a large shield
To block cosmic rays and increase the yield.
A shield of sawdust they made readily
And included in it some grits ust for glee.
After a time they had the thing working
And soon the neutrino counter was perking.
But to prove their point they’d have to compare
To the background withno neutrinos there.
Now, it is not such a trivial thing
To keep uranium from fissioning.
No reactor time was to be sacrificed
To the goals of Clyde’s Project Poltergeist.
The engineers at savannah River
Had the great goal to duly deliver
Products and energy from the reactor
To the government that did provide for
The pay and food of all men and women
Who worked to keep the reactor open.
So when he thought that a break was needed,
Clyde prayed for a break and his prayer was heeded!
For in spite of the workers’ intentions
To keep it on, there were some suspensions
To give Clydeand Fred the much-needed break
Enough to provide the true counting rate.
Clyde’s Church and Children
Whenever Clyde found his Faith was opposed,
He responded bravely, keeping composed.
For all his life lon the Church he’d defend;
So when his earthly life came to an end,
He greeted Saint Peter with naught to fear,
And went into heaven with Jesus, so dear.
Clyde’s welcome above was no one’s surprise
Because there already were eighteen eyes
Of his little children watching for him
And their playmates among the cherubim.
First were John, Heather Joan and Angela here,
Then David, Mary and Joseph, the dear.
Then Michael and Joan Eleanor, while Jude
Behind came politely not to be rude.
There would have been some pushing and shoving
To welcome home a father so loving;
But heavenly souls don’t occupy space;
So every child could stay calm in his place.
Now this is not the whole story of Clyde
And of his Betty, his British war-bride.
For many more triumphs and trials came their way
About which I hope to tell you one day.
But for the present, this tale must suffice
Honor this Catholic man beyond price.