Pancakes and X-Rays: A Requiem for my Father

I’ve been away from my blog for a while, because I knew the next post I wrote had to be about my father; a eulogy, a requiem, something, anything.  But my dad would have hated that.  He would have hated me posting anything personal about him on the internet.

He did have a public face, though, this Leon Kaufman.  He shied away from it as much as possible, but his accomplishments were not small.

He ran the team which created the first MRI machine for medical use.  Here’s a 43 minute documentary about it.  I grew up a guinea pig for this project, spending countless staying very still inside large, loud, metal tubes.

He had multiple degrees, a small truckload of patents, and a lifetime of experience with diagnostic imaging technologies.  So when he had something to say about, for instance, X-Rays, people listened.

The morning of his funeral, my father’s final article from the Journal of Transportation Security hit Gizmodo, Boing BoingSlashdot, and probably any number of other sites.  In the following days and weeks it had been mentioned in just about every major newspaper in the country.  The article detailed experiments that illustrated how the shape of an explosive charge, or its position on the body, could make it invisible to TSA body scanners.  He’d previously questioned the potential side-effects of x-ray body scanners, and now he’d illustrated the basic uselessness of the technology.

He saw the U.S. government using the threat of terrorism to inflate spending, invade people’s privacy, and possibly endanger their health.   And he stopped trusting the country he had called his home for more than forty years.  It’s easy to understand his fears; his parents fled to Argentina from Poland just before the Nazi’s took over, and my dad lived through some of the worst years of Argentine politics before coming to the U.S. in the early sixties to attend U.C. Berkeley.  He knew how easily a government could slip over the line from “protective” to “dangerous.”

This was his last public effort, to use his professional skills and knowledge to try and do some good in the world.  I hope it works, I can think of no better way for him to exist just a little bit longer in our world.


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2 Responses to “Pancakes and X-Rays: A Requiem for my Father”

  1. Rochelle Tennen Says:

    Did Leon Kaufman have relatives in Israel who would have been his aunt and uncle, who are now both dead. They have children who would be interested in connecting with his family.

    • Will Kaufman Says:

      Getting my dad to talk about his past could be…challenging. I know his mother came from a relatively large family, and that some of her siblings escaped. Are you a relative?

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