How I lost the Nobel Prize

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Your mother is your biggest fan. Regardless of what you do in your career, Mom will be the first to brag about your accomplishments. She may have a tendency to "oversell" you, but that's what Moms do.

I grew up in Lansinghburgh, NY. AKA North Troy, was a blue collar community. Both of my parents worked. Dad worked construction for an outdoor advertising company and Mom worked in several shirt factories. Their generation (Tom Brokaw calls it the Greatest Generation) wanted my generation (the Baby Boomers), to have a better life than they had. They grew up in the depression and fought for freedom in World War II.

I was educated in the public school system and did pretty well academically. I'm not sure why I did well, but certainly my parents had a lot to do with it.

I went to RPI, worked in the Maggs Research Center at Watervliet Arsenal and finished my career at GE Research in Niskayuna, NY.

The Arsenal provided a good base for my career in computer science and the Army paid for my MS in computer science at RPI. After ten years, I moved on to GE Research. GE presented technical challenges that shaped by career.

Technically, my most rewarding work was in medical imaging. My colleague Harvey and I invented a technique called Marching Cubes. Marching Cubes is a method to build 3D models from CT and MRI exams. This work eventually provided us with international recognition. Marching Cubes is arguably the the most-cited paper in Computer Graphics. GE was always good at publicizing research and we gained exposure in the national and local press.

Mom knew about my work in medical imaging, without understanding the details of the work. One year I gave a talk at her local AARP meeting.

Each year, when the Nobel Prizes were announced, she could not understand why I was not one of the winners. In 2003, Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for work leading to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Mom knew I did work with MRI and was upset that I did not receive the Nobel Prize.

She called me. I said "Mom, they called but I was not at home to answer, so I lost." There was silence on the phone. Then I confessed that I was joking and explained to her the difference between the work the winners' did and my work. Of course she still felt that I was overlooked.