“I only hope the boat won't tipple over!”
I am sometimes asked, “What was Fisher like?” The truth is that while I had a number of contacts with him, I did not know him well. When I married Joan in 1959, Fisher became my father-in-law. We visited him in England, of course, and he came to Madison twice. He died a short time later, in July 1962. When he came to Madison, I recall going with my daughter Helen, then a toddler, to meet him at the airport. He was delighted to see his grandchild, but when he went to take her in his arms, she burst into tears.
Fisher was a scientist versed in many subjects, and as we took our walks in Madison, he impressed me with his deep understanding of the local geology and the flora and fauna. He could be extremely absent minded. While visiting, he lit his pipe while holding a box of matches in his hand, and when the box burst into flames he badly burned his hand.
Someone who did know Fisher intimately was his friend, the distinguished geneticist E.B. Ford. After Fisher died, I sent a blank audiotape to Ford asking him to talk about his remembrances. Here is a transcription of part of his response:
Our [first] meeting, which took place in 1923, was typical of Fisher. Like so many good things in my life, it was due to Julian Huxley… Meeting Fisher somewhere, Huxley mentioned he knew an undergraduate [myself] who had interesting ideas on genetics and evolution. Fisher was a fellow of Caius [at Cambridge]; he was only ...