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Chapter 13 - Exegesis

I suppose I should not close this book without some of my own impressions over almost three years of observing him. (This book is his own story in his own words, the extent of my participation merely a selection from among his own papers.) As to his character, I must bow to the most grievous subjectivity, for quite simply he is the most extraordinary human being I have ever met, and my affection for him is enormous.

Zworykin, like all successful creative men, is both single-minded and pragmatic. This ferocious sense of purpose and tenacity has, of course, gotten him into trouble in his lifetime and has inevitably engendered some not exactly enamored of his "modus operandi." Indeed, his character would be diminished if this were not so.

Without natural sons, he has over his lifetime gathered around him an entourage of scientific heirs, most of whom to this day stand in awe of him—this "awe" inevitably mixed with the entire gamut of human emotions. Whatever the remembrances of these "sons," loving or otherwise, to a man they acknowledge that somehow he sensed, isolated, and brought out the best that was in them. Whatever his method of doing this, and he has a plentiful arsenal, the results have revolutionized electronic technology. His role with his "sons" has therefore been as paternal catalyst.

Curiosity, I would say, is his most obvious trait and the key to his complex character. One night I took he and his wife to dinner at the house of a friend of mine. After dinner our hostess was performing a Vivaldi sonata on a harpsichord. Seated next to him, I became aware of him moving uneasily in his chair. Remembering his age, I began to plot how I was going to graciously exit him from this assemblage to the nearest bathroom. Then suddenly, unable to contain himself any longer, he jumped out of his chair, bolted to the open harpsichord and looked inside it—compelled to see how the damn thing was working. In this one motion is the essence of his character; in this was he sustained in his long journey from primitive nineteenth-century Russia to observing on electronic television, largely through his own scientific effort, men walking among the mountains of the moon.

From what I can see, his has been a complete life and of him I can honestly say, he is one of the few truly happy men I have ever known. It is really so simple in his own terms. He said his work was fun, "like playing all the time" and so the child became the man, the man the child, and the unity—completeness.

Frederick Olessi
October 1972

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