THE UNACKNOWLEDGED ENTREPRENEUR
When my father died in March of 2009, I felt startled by obituaries that identified him as a “scientist and entrepreneur.”
A scientist… well, of course, but at no point in my life had it ever occurred to me to describe my dad as an “entrepreneur” or “businessman.” When speaking about him, I always proudly announced his profession as “physicist,” or “physics professor,” or “NASA researcher,” or even as “scientist astronaut.” (He qualified for the Apollo Program in the late ‘60’s, but never received his final mission assignment from NASA because of some laughably minor problems with his teeth and gums). At one point during my senior year at Yale, I jokingly introduced my father to my friends as “a member of the military-industrial complex” – a designation that my dad always remembered and savored. As an aspiring intellectual, with dreams of future glory in writing or politics, I could handle the idea that my brilliant, adventurous papa played a role in the defense establishment but I couldn’t accept the notion that he qualified as an ordinary, money-grubbing capitalist. Stressing his government or academic work provided a much better way to impress my pals, or the women I pursued, or even complete strangers, but that emphasis seriously distorted the focus of his work life.