[visionlist] Jack Pettigrew 1943-2019

Edward Hubbard edhubbard at gmail.com
Thu May 9 00:50:22 -04 2019

Hi everyone,

I shared with Rama, who is not on the lists, about Jack (with whom he was a
post-doc at CalTech many years ago).  He asked me to pass this along to you
(I have lightly edited for typos and so on).

I was shocked to hear of Jack's fatal accident. He had phoned me a couple
of months ago to say he was trapped in a small cabin amidst forest fires in
Australia - and was very apologetic that he couldn't make it to the annual
fossil and mineral show in Tucson where  a small group of us would assemble
every year to admire, study and purchase fossils. We have been doing it for
20 years. Evenings with Jack were the high point - topics ranging from rock
art to baobab trees to switching hemispheres (which I never fully
understood even though he generously maintains he got the idea from me),
stereopsis, consciousness, the SHIVA crater which, according to him (not
Chixulub) caused the demise of the dinosaurs.

Tucson won't be the same anymore. The world will not be the same.

Jack was truly a *rara avis* - a designation he would have liked given his
great passion for birds.

When I look back over my shoulder to contemplate the long journey of my
life so far - its defined by a sequence of surprisingly few turning points
and poignant memories ... just  a handful of people (in my case a dozen)
who have profoundly influenced my life

For me, Jack Pettigrew and Richard Gregory loom large (and when I moved to
La Jolla - Francis Crick) they were similar in many respects - a playful
yet passionate attitude toward science, an extraordinarily diverse range of
interests. Always challenging the accepted dogma  - especially Jack. A
love- hate relationship with the "establishment".

He was an outstanding scientist (one isn't supposed to say "great" in this
day and age). Who can forget his paper co-authored with Colin Blakemore and
Horace Barlow on disparity detecting cells in V1. Or his masterpiece on
post-chiasmatic decussation in owls.

I won't enumerate his long list of discoveries.

Beyond  his scientific achievements, anyone who has spent any time talking
to Jack would have soon come to realize that he doesn't quite seem like
a real  person -  he could have stepped out of a Dickens novel, a romantic
poem from Shelley or Keats or out of a  renaissance painting (or perhaps  a
Dali !) His life was short by today's standards but as the cliche goes he
packed more into those years than most of us could have in twice as much
time!  He lived and thought more passionately than almost anyone else I
know and therein lay his happiness

Jack was not afraid to speculate wildly and I was happy to goad him along.
Sometimes he wandered even further almost into the realm of the

Well Jack, I hope you are right, and not really gone but having an out of
body experience and watching over all of us who were inspired by you and
your unique style of research.


PLEASE circulate among vision scholars on your lists.
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