The sign of a master is to make the difficult appear easy.
Created by Ron one year ago
Mike was obviously far cleverer than most of us. A friend, an FRS like Mike and therefore also a bright chap, said that Mike intimidated him “because he was so good at sums”, which he certainly was. Now I suspect that Mike wrestled with academic problems, like we all do, but looking at him from the outside it seemed to come easier to him than to the rest of us. He seemed to see the problem and find the solution with unnerving ease.
An example of this was when I spent time with him on a research cruise off the African coast in the 1990s (see picture elsewhere on these pages). Most events worth recounting on these trips are not suitable for a wider audience; what happens at sea stays at sea. However, one is suitable for public consumption. It is a well know phenomenon that your brain goes to mush after a few weeks at sea due to the combined effects of the constant motion, no sleep and perhaps the odd shandy. The result is that after a while you become less efficient than you might ordinarily be.
One of the last acts on any cruise is to write a summary of what you have done for the cruise report. This usually consists of trying to remember what you did and why, with a list of samples collected and what you might (or might not) do with them at some undetermined time in the future. Mike’s contribution, however, was a fully drafted paper ready for submission. He had come on board and based on what was caught (which you cannot predict), designed and performed an experiment, analysed the data and written it up. It was something hard for us mere mortals, with our scrambled brains, to comprehend. Like many of the greats in fields as diverse as the arts, sports and science, he made the difficult look effortless.