University of Texas
Alfred Ernst Schild
September 7, 1921–May 24, 1977

 

 

Alfred Ernst Schild

 

IN MEMORIAM

Alfred Schild

IN MEMORIAM, ALFRED SCHILD,
The New York Times
, Wednesday, May 25, 1977,
Alfred Schild of U. of Texas Dead; Advanced Many Einstein Theories
Alfred Schild, a University of Texas physicist who pioneered many advances in the interpretation, verification and application of Einstein's theories of relativity, died yesterday in Downers Grove, Ill. He was 55 years old.

Dr. Schild's work opened many areas of theoretical physics that enabled him and others to calculate, for example, the gravitational fields surrounding rotating black holes in the Universe. In 1962, Dr. Schild established the Center for Relativity Theory at the University of Texas at Austin. The center, which Dr. Schild directed until 1972, has been in the forefront of research in relativity theory and its role in understanding such things as the formation of galaxies, alternative theories of gravitation and quantum mechanics."

The above abstract from his obituary in New York Times demonstrates the esteem with which our late colleague Alfred Schild is held.

Alfred was born in 1921 in Istanbul, Turkey. In World War II, he was studying in England when he was interned because of his German passport and was sent to Canada. There he completed his education, receiving BA, MA and PhD degrees from the University of Toronto. It was there also where he began work with Leopold Infeld, with whom he maintained a lifelong relationship. In 1946, Alfred joined the faculty of the Carnegie Institute of Technology.

He arrived at Texas in 1957 as a professor of mathematics and in 1963 was named Ashbel Smith Professor of Physics. He obtained and maintained his position in the world of science first through his own work, but also through his encouragement of his associates and students at the Center and by bringing to the Center a constant stream of the best people in the world. He, himself, made frequent visits, serving as visiting professor at universities in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, Paris, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Würzburg and Sydney. His co-founding of the Texas Symposia on Relativistic Astrophysics, symposia which are frequently held outside of Texas, and his service on the editorial boards of several scientific journals, including the Journal of Mathematical Physics and the Journal of General Relativity and Gravitation, greatly extended his influence.

It is hard to overestimate Alfred's contributions to physics at the University of Texas. He was one of the prime moving forces not only behind the establishment of the internationally recognized Center for Relativity but also helped in the development of the Centers for Plasma Physics, Particle Theory and Statistical Mechanics. Indeed, Alfred was mainly responsible for bringing to the University its first Nobel laureate, Professor Prigogine.

Alfred not only strove to move the University towards real excellence in recruiting outstanding scholar,s but he was also a vigorous champion of the freedom of students and faculty to learn to teach and to perform research. He was well-known for his participation in General Faculty debates when he felt that administrative officials unduly hampered freedom of expression. Yet, throughout, he was known for his courtesy and lack of enmity. No better tribute to his warmness and openness as a person can be found than the fact that even some of those with whom he was in strong opposition remained his friends. Alfred was also politically active in regard to national questions, being in early opposition to the Vietnam War. Outspoken in favor of peace, and against injustice, he had no hesitation in trying to promote what he considered decency and honor in international relations. As a member of the International Committee on General Relativity and Gravitation, his role was a sober one but not particularly conspicuous. He promoted the formation of the International Society formed by this committee in order to give encouragement to international scientific cooperation.

Even in his earliest papers one can see the geometrical viewpoint which characterized Alfred's work. In his discussions of the foundations of relativity, in particular, in his treatment of the equivalence principle, appears the well—known "Schild's Ladder." This diagram, more concretely than any formula, portrays the role of particle and light paths in determining the curved geometry of spacetime. Alfred's best known works, on foundations of relativity, on conformal techniques, on quantization, on algebraically special solutions, all demonstrate his physical-geometrical insight. His expository papers, his lectures on general relativity, the Tensor Calculus book written with J. L. Synge, his more popular papers on time and the twin paradox, the paper on lattice space-time, all are deservedly popular with students. His last works, on Fokker action principles and string models of particles, also bring a powerful and provocative geometrical viewpoint to physical problems. Alfred's goal was to explain nature. The mathematics used, the geometrical intuition developed, were for that purpose, not for purposes of elegance or even consistency. In his review of J. L. Synge's Relativity: The General Theory, Alfred wrote: "To the physicist, logical consistency, as such, is of no virtue. He is groping along a dark road towards a theory which will explain all of nature ... inconsistency is merely one of many indications that he is still ... far from his destination. A theory which explains a large region of experimental and observational facts, even though it is inconsistent on the blurred boundary of the region, tells him that he is on the right road. It is this road which is the physicist's truth; to him the great sin is to be lured away from it towards bright and beautiful mirages on either side."

Alfred's health had deteriorated these past couple of years. At the time of his death, he and his wife Winnie were living in Illinois, where he was Argonne Universities Association Distinguished Appointee for 1976–77. His appointment at Argonne allowed him to rest from teaching duties, and he did look much better this past spring, though he was working harder than ever on research and was looking forward to a lecture tour in early summer. But early in the morning of Tuesday, 24 May, he awoke with an apparent attack of indigestion. Shortly thereafter he had died, of a massive heart attack.

The loss of a friend is a shock, particularly when it happens with so little warning. Alfred was more than a friend. He was one whose insight into physics, academic life, politics, personal matters, could always be trusted; a guide and leader. We need people like him.

Alfred is survived by his wife, Winnie; a daughter, Mrs. Carol Everett, her husband and two children, of Anchorage, Alaska; a daughter, Kitty, of El Paso; a son, David, of Seattle, Washington; a sister, Mrs. Walter Lewin, of Scarsdale, New York; a sister, Mrs. Eric Forster, Scotch Plains, New Jersey; and his mother, Ms. Fanny Schild, Scarsdale, New York.

This Memorial Resolution was prepared by a Special Committee consisting of Professors F. A. Matsen (chairman), R. A. Matzner, and L. C. Shepley.

 


In Memoriam
Alfred Schild
1921–1977
by Lawrence Shepley

Alfred Schild of the University of Texas at Austin died on May 24, 1977, at the age of 55. At the time, he and his wife Winnie were living in Illinois, where he was Argonne Universities Association Distinguished Appointee for 1976–1977.

Alfred was born in 1921 in Istanbul, Turkey. In World War II he was studying in England when he was interned because of his German passport and was sent to Canada, where he completed his education, receiving BA, MA, and PhD degrees from the University of Toronto. There he worked with Leopold Infeld, with whom he maintained a lifelong relationship. In 1946, Alfred joined the faculty of the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He arrived at Texas in 1957 as a professor of mathematics and in 1963 was named Ashbel Smith Professor of Physics. He founded the Center for Relativity Theory at Texas in 1962, was cofounder (with Ivor Robinson and Engelbert Schucking) of the Texas Symposia on Relativistic Astrophysics, and from 1965 to 1974 was a member of the International Committee on General Relativity and Gravitation.

Even in his earliest papers one can see the geometrical viewpoint which characterized Alfred's work. In his discussions of the foundations of relativity, in particular in his treatment of the equivalence principle, appears the well-known "Schild's Ladder." This diagram, more concretely than any formula, portrays the role of particle and light paths in determining the curved geometry of space-time. Alfred's best-known works, on foundations of relativity, on conformal techniques, on quantization, on algebraically special solutions, all demonstrate his physical-geometrical insight. His expository papers, his lectures on general relativity, the Tensor Calculus book written with J. L. Synge, his more popular papers on time and the twin paradox, the paper on lattice space-time, all are deservedly popular with students. His last works, on Fokker action principles and string models of particles, also bring a powerful and provocative geometrical viewpoint to physical problems.

Alfred's goal was to explain nature. The mathematics used and the geometrical intuition developed were for that purpose, not for purposes of elegance or even consistency. In his review of J. L. Synge's Relativity: The General Theory, Alfred wrote, "To the physicist, logical consistency, as such, is no virtue. He is groping along a dark road towards a theory which will explain all of nature... inconsistency is merely one of many indications that he is still. . , far from his destination. A theory which explains a large region of experimental and observational facts, even though it is inconsistent on the blurred boundary of the region, tells him that he is on the right road. It is this road which is the physicist's truth; to him the great sin is to be lured away from it towards bright and beautiful mirages on either side."

Alfred was outspoken in favor of peace, against injustice, in support of the young and of freedom of expression. As a member of the GRG Committee he played a sober and decent role but not a conspicuous part. He was a promoter of the GRG Organization, yet he also supported André Mercier against the criticism of Mercier's refusal to attend the 1968 meeting at Tbilisi. In all his battles, Alfred was ever courteous. Most of his opponents admired him, and his friends were a beautiful mixture of people.

Alfred's health had deteriorated these past couple of years. His appointment at Argonne allowed him to rest from teaching duties, and he did look much better this past spring; though he was working harder than ever on research and "was looking forward to a lecture tour in early summer. But early in the morning of Tuesday, May 24, he awoke with an apparent attack of indigestion. Shortly thereafter, he died of a massive heart attack. The loss of a friend is a shock, particularly when it happens with so little warning. Alfred was more than a friend. He was one whose insight into physics, academic life, politics, personal matters, could always be trusted: a guide and leader. We need people like him.

Appeared in General Relativity and Gravitation, Vol. 8, No. 11, pp. 955-956
This journal is copyrighted by Plenum Publishing Corporation, 227 West 17th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.


About Winnie Schild (1923–2010) Mrs. Winnifred Schild, resident in Westminster Manor since 2004, is one of the very few Canadians enjoying its safe haven. When her late husband, Professor Alfred Schild died in 1997, she stayed in Austin rather than returning to Toronto where she had a very large family.

Winnie’s father, John Beames was born in Mussoorie, India, on the western slope of Mount Everest. His father, David, was a commander of British troops guarding the Khyber Pass to prevent attacks from its neighbor, Afghanistan. His mother, Ethel, was a daughter of the British High Commissioner and she had grown up in Government House in Calcutta. Rudyard Kipling wrote a novel The Story of the Gadsbys about their marriage. He had gone on their honeymoon, as a friend and bodyguard, to a famous but dangerous beauty spot in the Himalayas.

Grandfather David Beames was a compulsive gambler and had amassed a debt he could not repay, so he was cashiered from the British Army and ordered to leave India forever. Unable to find work in England to support his wife and four sons, he decided he wanted to homestead in Canada, so the family moved to a farm north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan in 1903. Major David had little useful ideas or skills needed to establish and keep a prosperous farm going. All the sons had to work very hard. John, the oldest son, worked as a lumberjack, mill hand, trapper, and hauled freight with dog teams and horses on winter trails. These experiences are all described in his book Army Without Banners (1930). He made his way off the farm by becoming a bookkeeper and part-time writer publishing stories in various pulp magazines. In 1928, his agent persuaded him to move to Toronto and devote himself to full-time writing. Unfortunately, the Depression got in the way of success because many of the magazines that published his stories went out of business. He wrote two other novels—Gateway (1932) and Duke (1933). He went on to write 69 short stories with the last being printed in 1951.

John married the daughter of an Irish immigrant family and fathered five children. The family moved to Toronto in 1926. Winnie, the youngest child enrolled in the University of Toronto in 1942. Three weeks later, she met Alfred Schild at a student mixer dance. It was billed as a "Come Single, Go Home Double” dance. Alfred accompanied her home. They were married ten months later.

Alfred was an Austrian war refugee, born in Turkey of immigrant parents, and was an 18-year-old university student at the University of London, when he was interned in England. After the disaster in France in WW II, Britain interned all foreign males as possible terrorists. They shipped 1,000 of these prisoners to Canada and put them in camps there. After two years, Alfred, a "friendly enemy alien” was released to go to the University where Winnie met him. He soon earned his PhD and took a job as Assistant Professor at Carnegie Tech, Pittsburgh. The following year, he was a resident scholar at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, New Jersey, where he met Albert Einstein. When Einstein asked him to be his scientific assistant, Alfred declined. "I can’t be anyone’s assistant," he told me later, "not even Einstein’s." He went back to Carnegie Tech.

In 1956, he was lured to the University of Texas by Dr. Cooper in the math department. He later transferred to the physics department. The Schilds had never heard of Austin and had to look it up in an atlas. He took the job and Winnie is still here after 53 years, living a quiet life after all the exciting years with Alfred.

Dr. Schild founded the Center for Relativity at UT in the1950s, and with colleagues established the Texas Symposia for Relativistic Astrophysics. The first gathering of this group was in Dallas in December 1963, and has been held every two years since. This year it will be held in Heidelberg, Germany. It draws participants from all over the world.

During those years, she met 45 Nobel Prize winners and spent nine periods as visiting faculty at universities around the world. Winnie worked as a counselor for twelve years, while raising three children. One son, David, teaches molecular science at Berkeley, a daughter, Carol, teaches math in Anchorage, Alaska; and daughter, Kitty, is a counsel for the juvenile court in El Paso. Kitty and Carol, shown in photo at right, with Al. Winnie goes to visit her children, and plans to go to Alaska this summer. Her travels have taken her to India, Australia, Japan, Belgium, England and Ireland. When she married, she lost her Canadian citizenship but has regained it and now has dual citizenship, Canadian and American.

Written by Bill Berger, Manor Banner, April 1, 2010

 

 

 

 



Winnifred Zara Schild, 86, died peacefully Sunday morning, May 9, 2010, at Christopher House following a stroke.

Winnie (shown at left in 1987 in Marrakech, Morocco) was born December 30. 1923, in Saskatchewan, Canada to John and Marguerite Beames. She met Alfred Schild at the University of Toronto. They raised three children together while following Alfred's academic career through Toronto, Princeton, and Pittsburgh before making a home in Austin at the University of Texas. Many in the UT physics department fondly remember Winnie's generous hospitality. When her children were grown, Winnie returned to school and became a counselor at the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, where she specialized in helping international graduate students adjust and thrive. This work sustained her sense of purpose in the years following Alfred’s death in 1977.

After she retired, she was an active member of U. LAMP for many years. Her commitment to political and social justice included numerous protests and volunteer work for Planned Parenthood, PFLAG, and programs for homeless youth.

Winnie was an adventurous travel companion and supportive listener to a wide circle of friends. She is survived by her sister, Amy Ward, and sisters-in-law, Jackie Beames, Hella Lewin, and Ema Forster; her daughters, Carol Everett and Kitty Schild; her son, David Schild, and his partner, Paul Romito; her granddaughter, Kathryn Schild; her grandson and his family, Toby and Corina Ovod-Everett with their beloved sons, Julian and Andreas; and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held in the chapel at Westminster Manor, 4100 Jackson Ave., on Friday, May 14, at 7:00 p.m. Parking is available at the Austin State School, off 35th Street, with a shuttle bus to Westminster, 6:30 p.m–9:30 p.m. Donations can be made in Winnie's memory to the University of Texas Physics Department, Animal Rescue League of El Paso (www.ar1ep.org), or your favorite charity. Arrangements by All Faiths, south location.

 

 

 

 

 

Alfred Schild Photo Album

Alfred Schild, (1921–1977)
Alfred and Winnie Schid, Toronto, Canada
Alfred and Winnie Schild, Toronto Graduation
Al Schild and sister, Erna Schild, school photos,
Fred Hoyle, Al Schild, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Lloyd Berkner, First Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics, 1963.
Unidentified, Fred Hoyle, Unidentified, Al Schild, and Unidentified, First Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics, 1963.
Fred Hoyle, Ivor Robinson, Engelbert Schücking, Al Schild, Unidentified, First Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics, 1963.
Bryce DeWitt, Spencer Weart, Steve Weinberg, Winnie Schild, William Muehberger and Cécile DeWitt
Paul A. M. Dirac, (1902–1984), (Picture taken in Painter Hall by Larry Shepley)
Alfred Schild, middle of third row, 1964, before he moved to physics department, University of Texas yearbook, Cactus
International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation, Jablonna Palace, Warsaw, Poland.
Austin American-Statesman article, May 29, 1977
Written by Brenda Bell
Winnie Schild, 1981
Winnie Schild, Larry Shepley's place.
Winnie Schild

 

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