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|May 15, 1999
Cosmos Scientist Is a Down To Earth Man
On April 21, Abhay Ashtekar, a notorious late-riser, woke up at 7 am Pacific time and put in a call to a colleague at Penn State University, where he is Director of the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry. Dr Ashtekar wanted to make sure that the faculty would do something special for Karen Brewster, the Center's administrative assistant. April 21 was Secretaries Day.
Later the same day Dr Ashtekar, who was in Santa Barbara for a six-month workshop, once again took time from his busy day to call Brewster and leave a message thanking her for all the work she had done.
"That's just one example," Brewster says. "He treats everyone as equals. As great as he is, he always values people and makes them feel that they matter."
Dr Ashtekar, 49, is a world-renowned physicist and leader of a worldwide effort to reconcile Einstein's theory of relativity with the principles of quantum mechanics. He has had appointments in Oxford, Paris and Syracuse before settling in Pennsylvania. In 1992 Penn State University created the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry specifically for him. His work has been profiled in several mainstream publications including, recently, the weekly science section of The New York Times. In conversations with family, friends and colleagues, however, the picture that emerges is of a man who is as humble as he is brilliant, as warm as he is abstract and as caring as he is a detached scientist.
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