Monday, April 18, 2005

Why no paper should ever be rejected...

From a commenter on an earlier post:
Suresh, maybe you are being too hard on the guy. Maybe Professor Callos was afraid of being murdered by the author of a rejected paper?

Think I'm joking? The American Physical Society NEVER rejects an abstract submission to their conference. Why? Well, they used to, but some crazy guy who was "misunderstood" and had some great new theory of everything killed the APS president and his secretary because of multiple rejections. After that, they instituted an open door policy to the conference. Of course, there are special sessions for kooks....
What appears to be the source of this story, from the alumni magazine of Winona State University:

At the 50th anniversary of the murder of his friend and co-worker, Winona State University alumnus Tom Baab, '48, of Park Ridge, Ill., established the Eileen Fahey Memorial Scholarship. Fahey, a secretary at Columbia University, was shot and killed at her desk on July 14, 1952.

While earning his master's degree in American letters at Columbia, Tom worked part-time for the American Physical Society (APS), headquartered at the Pupin Physics Laboratory on the Columbia campus in New York City. Fahey, a 20-year-old secretary, was sitting at her desk reading a letter from her fiancé, a Marine serving in Korea, when Bayard Peakes entered the office and emptied a clip of .22 caliber pistol shots into Fahey, killing her. Peakes then fled the campus.

In the weeks that followed, Tom was among those questioned by police for possible leads and motives. Peakes was finally traced through a letter written to him by Karl K. Darrow, head of Bell Labs and secretary of the APS. Darrow had declined to accept a paper Peakes wanted to present at the next APS meeting. Peakes's paper proposed the non-existence of the electron and Darrow rejected it, suggesting that Peakes might ruin his career in physics with such a theory.

At his arrest, Peakes said he wanted to kill a man at the APS since his rejection letter had come from a male. Fahey was the only person in the office and the shots were directed at her instead. Peakes was tried and sentenced to the Rockland County Asylum for the Criminally Insane.


  1. Thanks for setting the record straight for this intemperate anonymous poster.

    It's interesting that the guy killed a secretary working at APS when apparently he wanted to kill THE Secretary of APS.

    In my inebriated opinion, this incident is no reason to reject papers. There are far more dangerous professions in the world than theoretical computer science -- even if you are a PC chair.


    Posted by Anonymous

  2. This secretary is not the only person to be killed in academia. IIRC, back in the 80s a professor of mathematics was murdered by a rich grad student because the prof wouldn't approve his dissertation or something of that nature. The guy finally got out of jail and made a bizarre comment to the media. I'm paraphrasing but it was something like...."I cannot say that I will not kill again because it cannot be logically proven."

    Totally wacko! 

    Posted by Anonymous


  3. "...back in the 80s a professor of mathematics was murdered by a rich grad student because the prof wouldn't approve his dissertation or something of that nature."

    That was Theodore Streleski, who killed a Stanford math professor  with a ball-peen hammer in 1978. As you might imagine, ball-peen hammers have held a special place in grad student lore ever since.

    Posted by Mike Stiber


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