I’m writing about the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, and reading an official history of the Search, published by Westinghouse PR.
I’m arguing that proponents of science recruitment during the time thought of STEM-loving kids as an endangered species wandering in a desert of unappreciative peers and underprepared teachers. I’m interested in instances in which the STS represented itself as offering a refuge where scientifically invested youth could build their identities. Because of that, this picture of Kirk Shinsky, the 1970 STS winner, caught my eye.
This kid is like the Beatles, arriving home in Allentown, PA to find “more than 500 students jamm[ing] the airport to meet him.” “The group carried banners and wore ‘Shinsky Fan Club’ badges,” so clearly Kirk must have been “well-adjusted” and well-liked—and the Allentown community had managed to create the science-appreciating culture so often sighed after in scientists’ writings from the time.
The writer of this history, Tom K. Phares, recounted the story of Shinsky’s win: the community support behind his trip to the contest; the fact that his father, who was a pipefitter, taught him how to make equipment; his later career at Cornell, then Princeton.
Then, Phares drops the bomb: “Shinsky was professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, when he died in 1983 at the age of 31.”
Nothing more than that. But I found out via Google that Shinsky, apparently also well-liked at Berkeley, had cancer.
Sometimes research makes me sad.