From Science to War Time to Love
Stories from a Life
Walter Meyerhof was born in 1922 and was raised in Germany. His roots were Jewish, but he and his siblings attended the Lutheran church. His father was a prominent physiologist who won the Nobel Prize the year that Walter was born. As he grew, Walter too became interested in science, but the one he choseor the science that chose himwas physics, a passion that would last a lifetime. Now a professor emeritus at Stanford University, he still has the microscope his parents gave him as a boy. He describes that instrument with the same respect and awe as he feels for the two-mile-long linear accelerator in the Stanford hills.
That microscope is one of several artifacts that have inspired the reminiscences in In The Shadow of LoveStories From My Life, a warm collection of autobiographical essays. A photograph of his mother, his fathers pocketwatch, letters written in haste
these all serve to bring the authors memories into focus. What unfolds in these pages is a long life full of wonder, danger, hard work, love, and accomplishment.
Growing up in Germany during those years was not easy for a young man with a Jewish background. Walter Meyerhof and his family experienced the growth of Nazi bullying, until finally they left for friendlier countries. Walter became a student in France, but then France too fell under the shadow of Nazi occupation. Part of the book tells of the Foreign Workers Camp where he had to put in his time, and of his eventual escape to Portugal, a hair-raising adventure of lost and faked documents, near capture, and the heroic and generous help of an American named Varian Fry, who helped many refugees escape Vichy France. By the time Walter was able to join his parents in Philadelphia, he had already been through more danger than most men face in a lifetime.
His years in America were devoted to academic accomplishment and to learning about life as a young man. He delicately and respectfully recounts a couple of his romances. Then, in the summer of 1947, he took a trip to England, and met a young woman named Miriam. Theyd actually met as teenagers; she had called him a dumb ape when he asked to go out with her. But this time love took over, and the couple was engaged within a matter of weeks. That love affair has lasted more than fifty years.
Now Walter Meyerhof is retired, after a forty-three-year career as a Professor of Physics at Stanford University. Now hes co-directing the Varian Fry Foundation Project to educate the young about Fry. And hes writing the stories of his life. In the Shadow of Love leaves us with the fond impression of an elderly man who takes walks and stops to have conversations with an elderly dog named Sam. Sam is a good listener, and Walter Meyerhof is a good storyteller.