Ed was a living answer to the essential human question: How to be? A star to many, a sun to those close to him. He will be missed, but never forgotten.
Ed was amazingly erudite in so many areas; and none more than in his science. He was also a funny, open and kind. Our lives were so much richer for his presence. I will miss him but remain grateful that he shared the planet with us.
Ed was the most inspiring person I ever worked with. At GFD/WHOI he opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at research, literally poles apart from the ethos of my Cambridge upbringing. It was a great privilege subsequently to be one of his first two postdoctoral colleagues, and a wonderful experience to work closely with him for two exhilarating years in New York. Aside from our daytime discussions, almost every evening we would spend hours together on the phone struggling with the most complicated matched asymptotic expansions that I have ever encountered -- and, during that period, also discussing other approximating procedures together with much wider issues in physics. Ed's physical intuition was amazing, and to have had the opportunity to benefit from his insight was a most precious gift.
Ed loved good food and good wine, recognition of which led to his investiture as a Chevalier du Tastevin. He also had the courage to act on impulse: I recall, for example, that in 1967 Ed had bumped into a lawyer friend who was in the process of disposing of a deceased rich client's wine collection, and Ed had seized the opportunity to buy the whole of the remaining stock, using all the money that he and Barbara had saved for seriously remodelling their apartment to a degree appropriate to Barbara's interior-designing business. Barbara exploded in fury, but her anger soon dissolved as she was introduced to some of the world's greatest wines.
Of course I, like everyone else who encountered Ed, gained enormously from his kindness. Ed was a highly principled man. He was cultured, being fluent in French and Italian, and with a wide range of interests beyond science, and consequently a wide range of friends. He was a true gentleman.
I have not had the fortune to see much of him in recent years, but my memory of him has remained extremely vivid, and my respect for and appreciation of him remains extremely strong. I am deeply saddened to realize that we shall never be together again; the loss has left an aching emptiness in my being.
I was Ed's graduate student at Columbia in the late eighties. I don't remember our first meeting in detail, but I was captivated by his colorful personality. I asked him to take me in as a graduate student even though I was in Physics (Ed was in Astronomy). From that day on there was never a dull moment! Ed was more of a friend and family to his students. We could just come and knock on his door at anytime .... as did various strange characters from all over NY with outlandish "scientific theories". "Why do they always come to me?" Ed would say. I know why, Ed was too kind to turn anyone away. I once asked him how he could give such captivating talks where nobody fell asleep. He immediately shared the story of someone who would regularly "fall asleep at his own talk". Ed was never short of a story. We will miss you Ed!
Tu deconnes, Tu me manque trop: we were in the middles of so many conversations. Cries won't help, I presume! People who set up this memorial cite only had my old address, so that Léa discovered the bad news by coincidence today, January 13 2020.
What a bad day.What a bad day, What a hole. Big shoess to be filled. and whp will make the jokes, tell the funny things.
Léa and I still mourn Barbara you should not have gone so early, while Léa and I leave so far from you.So many more discussion about Quantum Physics, realism, and more that were cut out, some time ago indeed for many of them. Doesn't help bu I will still cry, and try to cry a bit more to try to wash away part of the pain.
Rest in peace: isn't it ironical that "we" are now much older than you were when we me and started to explain to other what Piere and I had done,,,was it yesterday? Anyway I miss you and nothing will cure that: I still remember how you dressed yp to come see me at the hospital. Ciao, since it is too late for "zai me geint".
I met Ed when I was a home health aid taking care of his wife Barbara. Two lovely people. He was such an inspiration with the way how he tended to Barbara. I will never forget our morning ritual of reading the NY times and doing the crossword puzzle. We bonded over the care of Barbara but Ed became a good friend whom I will never forget. RIP my friend.
It is a great loss for me and my wife. I met Ed thanks to Stéphane Zaleski during my PhD in Paris. I remember our first dinner in Quartier Latin. Ed was brilliant, open minded and funny and in the following days we had very open conversations about collisions between stars, bubbles and drops during which my mind could wander far beyond what I had allowed myself before. We never really worked together but during these discussions Ed was able to help me drop off scientific boundaries and think creatively. Since then, Ed has helped me getting jobs at incredible places like NYU's Courant Institute which allowed me to work with fantastic people. It is funny that Ed sounds like 'aide' in French which means 'help' in English and this is precisely what Ed did : he helped me tremendously and I know Ed also helped a lot of young researchers finding great jobs at the beginning of their careers.
My wife and I remember very fondly the many dinners we had at Ed and Barbara in Greenwich Village or at our place near Columbia.
Ed, Thank you!
I happened to enroll in an undergraduate astrophysics course that Ed taught in the early 2000's. Quickly I learned that he was an inspiriting, intriguing, and genuinely kind human being, and with a humor that was always startling and often profound. Thereafter I enrolled in all courses that he taught, regardless of conflicts with requirements for graduation.
During class, I would jot down his intermittent comments and interchanges in the margins of my notebook. I have saved those notebooks. Here is one scene I recall from a Thursday afternoon class on general relativity:
A few minutes before class begins, Ed stands at the blackboard preparing, and I take my seat. ____ [another student] approaches Ed.
Student: "Um, Professor Spiegel, I missed class on Tuesday. What did you do on Tuesday?"
Ed: "On Tuesday, I said everything that I had said on the previous Thursday, only twice as fast."
Student: "Um, I don't pick up on sarcasm."
Ed: "Oh, that's fine; I never use any."
The student looks at the floor, uncertain, and makes his way to his seat.
I kept in touch with Ed over the years, visiting for dinner when I was in town. I last visited him at his home this past September, just before my new faculty job began and the semester swallowed me whole. On New Year's Eve I suddenly realized that I had time to visit before the spring semester, and I made a mental note to do so. On January 2 I received the news of his death. I will always wish for just one more conversation with him.
But more so, I feel grateful. The existence of a person like Ed Spiegel was a highly improbable event. I feel lucky to have known him.
Ed was like a massive bright star with many bodies in orbit about him. From my years in the wilds in Michigan, then out to San Diego, then back in retirement to Michigan, I was in a highly eccentric orbit compared to most. But it was my great fortune to make a first close approach in the summer of '78, and thereafter at irregular intervals down all the years until my last visit with him some 40 years later.
Ed & Barbara both knew the city intimately. One time the subject of "egg creams" came up and I confessed complete ignorance. There was nothing for it but for Ed to take me off to the finest emporium for such an offering, somewhere down in Soho as I recall. On the way Ed noted that, in his youth, he had served up any number of egg creams as a soda jerk, so he brought an expert's eye to the occasion, as he did on countless other occasions about a seemingly infinite diversity of topics from wine, to the opera, to stellar dynamics, to asymptotic expansions... Ed, however, had to give way to Barbara when it came time to find the exact wallpaper needed for a room in my house, or when preparing any and all food with a master's touch -- save only for Ed's sacred ritual of coffee making.
I never had a postdoc position but, over the course of many years and a variety of works, some published, and some not, my education never ceased with Ed as a lifelong adviser, representing the very best academic traditions, the most scholarly development, and - of course with Ed - the most beautiful distillation of the mathematics, with not a single superfluous element.
The best way I can think to honor Ed is to press on regardless, or in the words of the sage "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
Ed was a master and a teacher for me. He guided me through science and also through many aspects of life. He and Barbara were always available and ready to help, was it for a scientific issue, was it for a work decision, was it for a personal problem. I have enjoyed Ed's company, his criticisms, his enthusiasm, his vision and his deep sense of truth and justice. And his humour is still with me and I remember many of the stories and comments he made.
I miss him, and will miss his quiet disrespectful attitude forever.
Ed was one of those people who was supreme at making life worth living. A
great thinker and a wonderful inspiration. Without his early mentoring I would
never have done the work I did on the solar tachocline with Douglas Gough and
Toby Wood, with its surprising cross-fertilization from my main interests in
terrestrial stratospheric dynamics and self-sharpening jetstreams -- "negative
viscosity and all that". It was exactly the kind of thing that Ed encouraged
so kindly and so brilliantly, even though it went against some work he'd done
earlier. Ed cared about understanding things, not about being right all the
time. And Barbara, too, was a wonderful friend both to me and to my wonderful
wife Ruth, sharing our deep interest in that profoundly mysterious phenomenon
we call music. Dear Ed, dear Barbara, rest in peace both.
My father could not have had better friends than Ed and of course Barbara. In the late 1960s, Ed helped my father get his job at NYU, his NYU housing at 29 Washington Square West, and his long-time beloved housekeeper Meta. Dinner with Ed and Barbara always involved numerous stories, laughs, good food, and a few "goobs." I have yet to meet anyone in my lifetime who could talk about so many diverse subjects (e.g. growing up in the South Bronx, playing pool, watching basketball, food, wine, science) with an amazing ability to tell stories and make people laugh. Ed loved his students, friends, work, and Barbara. I shall continue to tell Ed's legendary stories such as turning down a job at Cambridge with Lord Martin Rees, with Lord Rees saying: "Always welcome, but never forgiven." I am grateful that Ed was my father's best friend, and I am thankful for all of his wonderful friends who have helped him in recent years, such as Phil Yecko, Alan Wolf, and Steve Childress.