Bold visionary. Humble. Pioneer. Respectful. Passionate. Kind. Encouraging. Fun. Patient. Father. Husband. Scientist. Gentleman. Role model.
In a ceremony dedicating the Raymond Davis Jr. Memorial sculpture, speakers used all of these words to describe the man who built his solar neutrino experiment on the 4850 Level of Homestake Mine in the 1960s. Davis created “the solar neutrino problem” when his experiment detected only about a third of the neutrinos predicted. But he never gave up. In 2002, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research.
“Ray Davis had bold, visionary ideas,” said Dr. John Wilkerson, Principal Investigator with the Majorana Demonstrator Project and a former colleague of Davis. “He was a soft-spoken, polite gentleman who treated everyone around him with respect. This monument is a tribute to his vision and accomplishments.”
The sculpture, designed by South Dakota Artist Laureate Dale Lamphere, is a tank support from Davis’ experiment. The sculpture features a stainless steel ring that “floats” off the interior of the tank support. The original tank was moved in segments to the 4850 Level then assembled. The segmented monument reflects that process.
“It was a great honor to create this tribute to Ray Davis and his profoundly important work,” Lamphere said.
Dr. David Kieda was a graduate student when he arrived at Homestake in 1983 to work with Davis. Now the Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Utah, Kieda recalls the first time he saw the tank sitting in the cavern. “It was enormous!” he said. “I couldn’t understand how it got down that tiny shaft.” He learned soon enough.
“Seeing the monument today is like seeing an old friend. The tank allowed us to see into the sun, now it is in the sun. It is beautiful and simple and reflects the qualities of a man who treated everyone with the same kind of respect, regardless of who they were.” Kieda said.
The final speaker of the day was Roger Davis, son of Ray Davis. Roger Davis shared many stories about his father, “a dedicated scientist who always found time to play with his children.”
Roger Davis and his four siblings, who grew up on Long Island, spent summers sailing, traveling and playing baseball. “My father was always the pitcher and he always pitched underhanded so everyone had the chance to hit a home run over the hedges out front.” And he treated every child in the neighborhood as if they were all his, including them in family outings and other activities, Roger said.
Roger Davis summarized his father’s philosophy on life this way: “Exercise your body and your mind. Get a good education. Stay healthy. Listen to great music. Help others in need. Work hard and do your best. Be around children as often as you can. Never forget to have fun after your work is done. And never give up.”
The monument, he said, “is a fitting tribute to him.”