Milton E. Gardner, Physics: Davis

Professor Emeritus

Milton Eugene Gardner was born February 10, 1901 in Santa Cruz, California. He would have been born in China if his father, a missionary under the American Board of Missions, had not returned temporarily to the United States for safety during the Boxer Rebellion.

After spending his first nine years in China, Milton moved with his family to Claremont, California where he completed his elementary and secondary education and received a B.A. degree from Pomona College in 1924. While at Pomona, Milton won numerous metals in wrestling and track. Milton became quite a good ventriloquist and magician and belonged to the International Brotherhood of Magicians. After graduating from college, he worked at several jobs before starting graduate work in physics at UC Berkeley where he received his M.A. degree in 1934 and his Ph.D. degree in 1936. In 1937, Milton accepted a position as an “instructor in physics” at the then “Branch of the College of Agriculture at Davis” where he remained until his retirement as professor of physics in 1968.

From 1942 to 1946 during World War II, he joined the MIT Radiation Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he helped in that gigantic effort to develop and improve the radar systems which were of major importance in enabling the Allied Forces to overcome the German and Japanese aggressors. He spent the 1955-56 year at the University of Peshawar in Pakistan where he had the honor of teaching the first graduate physics class at that institution.

Milton will always be remembered by the hundreds of students who took their first physics course, Physics 4A, from him. He was an outstanding teacher and spent countless hours perfecting his lecture notes and exams, counseling students, and preparing and building lecture demonstrations. If it helped to get his point across in a lecture, Milton enjoyed using his magician's abilities to give demonstrations which would appear to defy the laws of nature. In addition to answers to the homework problems, Milton not only insisted that his students understand what they were doing

but that they also do a dimensional analysis of every problem. Although may students thought at the time that some of the things he demanded were not really necessary, a large number of them came back a year or two later to thank him for what he had taught them.

All faculty members of the University Retirement System should be indebted to Milton. Originally, if a faculty member who was eligible to retire died before retirement, his spouse did not receive the maximum benefit option which was possible for surviving spouses. Milton was instrumental in getting this changed in the sixties and now the maximum benefit option is the standard option for the surviving spouse when a faculty member dies before retirement provided he was eligible to retire.

Milton was also an avid and frequent writer of letters which appeared in “Letters To The Editor” in the local Davis papers where he attempted to bring common sense and order to the sometimes seemingly complicated ideas and actions often taken by the various city and county governing bodies. Milton was a strong believer in world government, was always ready to stand up for what he believed in, and deplored hypocrisy of any sort.

After the death of his first wife, Jennie (Jeanne) Walker Gardner, he generously established the Jennie W. Gardner Nursing Scholarship at the UC San Francisco School of Nursing. He is survived by his second wife, Elizabeth (Betty) Johnson Gardner, a brother, Wayne, and a nephew, Richard. Milton E. Gardner was a wonderful person who positively affected everyone with whom he came in contact.

William W. True Lawrence J. Andrews Franklin Paul Brady