memory lane with Mike

Created by Doekele 3 years ago

For Mike,

A trip through memory lane is not always sheer pleasure, because that lane is not only fringed by many flowering shrubs, but there are also several parts sided by trees with dark shades. It therefore has taken me some effort to walk through it again, being filled with the sad feelings caused by the loss of Mike.
            I first heard about Mike during a visit as a student to Tübingen (1973), then a famous centre of insect vision research, packed with very expensive, sophisticated experimental equipment: this guy from England had analysed the visually-guided behaviour of flies with a miserable glue-and-rubber-band approach and had still been able to gain far-reaching insights; how embarrassing! Of course, I started to follow Mike’s publications. Later, in 1979 on vacation in England with my wife Jeannette and our young kids, I took the opportunity to visit Lewes. The boys much appreciated the company of Adam. We stayed a few days longer than planned, because Mike and I, joined by Jochen Zeil, then Mike’s student, not only had much to discuss about the optics of insect eyes, but also fueled our discussion with booze. They taught me many things, notably that their ability to avoid the alcohol diffraction limit was much better than mine. Since then, we maintained regular contact, among others during meetings in Regensburg (Germany), Sherbrooke (Canada), in Sussex, various places in England, and when he visited Groningen. Of those occasions I add a few pictures. When in Sussex, I had the great pleasure to be lodged comfortably and with great hospitality by the Land family.     
            Mike has been a most significant scientist. He has inspired numerous workers in the field, including myself, both by his profound insight that he shared in his books and many lucid papers and reviews, and by his exemplary tendency to devise effective and simple setups and analyses. This sometimes became almost a matter of a conflicting way of doing science. As an example, when I developed a rather detailed and complicated analysis of fly eye optics, Mike’s response was humbling: why can’t you give us a simple formula, so that we can really understand what is going on. I couldn’t comply nor disagree. The difference between continental and British approaches has a long tradition, however I should note that Mike also inspired the famous A.F. Huxley to publish a rather involved theoretical treatment of optical multilayers (JEB, 1968).
              I will often feel that we no longer can witness Mike’s sharp intellect, his witty and often pointed remarks, as well as his amiable and charismatic personality.

Groningen, January 20, 2021                                                  Doekele Stavenga