How difficult it is to review such a long, active and fruitful life as Tommy’ s or “Tomito”’s, as he was called in “the Commission”, the Argentine National Commission of Atomic Energy (CNEA, in Spanish), and in INVAP.
He was born in Germany in 1931. His parents found refuge in Argentina fleeing from Nazi persecution when he was still a child. He finished his primary and secondary school in our country and then entered the University of Buenos Aires’ Exact and Natural Sciences School, wherefrom he got his degree in Chemical Science.
In 1955, he came to Bariloche to become a member, as professor and assistant of the Chemistry Laboratory, of the recently opened Institute of Physics, founded by José A. Balseiro. There he attended advanced courses in physics as an auditor-student, which broadened his knowledge in the field. His good relation with his pupils made for long-standing friendships. The Institute helped him developed his artistic bent and he conducted the choir that sang the academic hymn “Gaudeamus Igitur” (So Let Us Rejoice) at the graduation ceremony of the first graduated physicists.
He went to U.S.A. and graduated from the Northwestern University in 1960. Once he returned to Argentina, he joined the University of Buenos Aires (UBA, in Spanish) as research professor. In 1966, after The Night of the Long Batons (Noche de los Bastones Largos, in Spanish), he was one out of almost a hundred professors who had to emigrate to Chile.
During his long academic and professional career, he came to be an outstanding researcher, technologist, university teacher, writer and historian of Argentine science and technology. In line with his artistic vein, he attended classes in pottery for several years; during the breaks he used to read short stories (some of which were of his own authorship) to his mates, while giving his hands a rest.
He was a “founding member” –as he liked to say– of INVAP, and was part of its first projects, such as the development of the zirconium sponge.
Among his most outstanding books are El tecnoscopio (The Technoscope), Aique, 1996; Sistemas tecnológicos (Technological Systems), Aique, 1999; Tecnología en la vida cotidiana (Technology in Everyday Life), Eudeba, 2004; De los quipus a los satélites: historia de la tecnología en la Argentina (From the Khipus to the Satellites: History of Technology in Argentina), co-authored by Carlos E. Solivérez, Universidad de Quilmes, 2011; and Desarrollo y ecopolítica: los grandes debates de la tecnología, el ambiente y la sociedad (Development and Ecopolitics: the Most Important Debates on Technology, Environment and Society), Lenguaje Claro, 2013. He also collaborated with Río Negro newspaper as a columnist for more than ten years. In his journalistic writings, he not only dealt with scientific issues, but also reflected profoundly on the most important things in life, always showing his deep vocation for ecology and education.
Between 1977 and 1992, while being Coordinator of the School of Engineering Technology created by an agreement between the National University of Comahue and INVAP, he was devoted to the development of new technologies at INVAP.
During those years he was also head of several projects, Deputy Manager of Research and Development, Chief Researcher of Prospective Studies, as well as Human Resource Manager.
His companions through life, including myself, always considered him the wise man of the group. In the commemorative book INVAP 30 años: tecnología argentina para el mundo (INVAP’s 30 Years: Argentine Technology for the World), Tommy is referred to as a “pioneer”.
He worked as an advisor to INVAP’s General Management from 1992 until his death, which occurred last March 5 in the early morning.
In addition to all, the professionals he contributed to educate with his teachings, the different projects and tasks in which he has been involved at our beloved company, his ceramic sculptures and the books and writings he left us, Tommy was a cheerful person, the owner of a sense of humor greatly appreciated by all his colleagues throughout his life.
In spite of our sorrow for this recent loss, I would say, as the title of the hymn mentioned before, “Gaudeamos Igitur”. This is the way we will always remember you, Tommy. Let us rejoice for having known such a luminous person as you were. Till eternity, my friend!
Lic. Héctor Otheguy
General Manager and CEO