Vivien Chung

I stumbled upon the sad news of Professor Bridgeman’s sudden death recently. I attended school with his daughter Tess from first grade through High School. I can still fondly remember the presentations he and his wife gave to our 5th grade class (maybe younger). One was discussing the importance of reversing the greenhouse effect, and other on the education of women around the world in order to reduce over population. These were very serious and timely issues, and Bruce and Diane spoke in such a way as to make me feel I could make a difference. The time they took to speak to us really affected me and helped influence my world view. My heart goes out to his family and friends who must miss him dearly.

Brian Fisher

I first met Bruce on an exploratory visit to UCSC. I was considering leaving my job as a programmer to go back to school to earn a Ph.D. To investigate this possibility I visited a number of universities in the Bay Area to try to see what it might be like to go to go to grad school there. As it happened, Bruce’s door was open and so I thought I would introduce myself. Bruce was quite gracious, bringing me to his lab and showing me around (I suspect the fact that I could code in Fortran may have helped spark some enthusiasm). After some conversation and a glance at the transcripts and GRE scores that I had thought to bring, he more or less agreed to take me on as a student and gave me a copy of Ian Howard’s “Human Visual Orientation” for a bit of light reading. This did set the pace for much of my graduate work with Bruce– he would propose that I read something large and dense, and I would do my best to comply (I note that it took me nearly 9 years to finish). He also wanted me to learn German, which I did not do.
Later, I went to my first ARVO (now VSS) conference where I was excited to meet all of the famous vision scientists whose work I had studied. I was at one of the many evening parties sitting with a group of top researchers when conversation turned to a particularly esoteric question about the history of vision science. I can’t recall the specifics but I do remember that the  group fell silent as everyone tried to remember what it was that Helmholtz might have written about the topic. Suddenly one of our company shouted out “Bruce! Bruce will know!”. So we all went off together to look for Bruce, and he did know.
Another memory that comes to mind is when we were responding to a review of one of our papers, where the editor pointed us to some of his own work that we had neglected to reference in our paper. In our response we thanked him for his input, and Bruce pointed out to him that his theory was actually first proposed by William James. We included both references in the revised paper.
My career has taken its own turn since leaving Bruce’s lab. I work now mostly in visual analytics, an interdisciplinary field with its own IEEE conference that seeks to understand vision and cognition in complex interactive computer visualization environments. This was in many ways an outgrowth of the work I did with Bruce, who was not at all concerned about the kinds of visual environments we studied, so long as there was good science to be done. I still read entire books, from any era, not just current research papers, and I look forward some day to telling an editor that his theory was first proposed by Descartes.
I ran into Bruce a couple of years ago at a restaurant during Psychonomics.  I was with my family, and Bruce joined us for the meal. It was great to connect with him again after a number of years, to introduce him to my family and to see him interact with my clever, science-engaged 9 year old son, who still remembers meeting Dad’s grad advisor. It is a very fond memory for me.

Anthony Adams

Dear family and friends,

I am unable to attend the tribute tomorrow (Saturday), but I do want the family to know that so many of Bruce’s UCB friends, including me, absolutely treasured his curiosity and open-mindedness as he explored vision– and science in general.

A superb colleague.
We will definitely miss him, and remember him.

Joe Palca

I met Bruce in the fall of 1977 when I started grad school at UCSC. I’d come to Santa Cruz to work with Ralph Berger, a sleep researcher I’d admired. The human sleep lab was in the basement of Kerr Hall, right next door to Bruce’s lab.

Prior to grad school, I had worked as a lab technician in a research institute. I learned that some researchers were not at all generous when it came to sharing resources or ideas with their neighbors. Bruce was the opposite. Always helpful, always generous with his time and his equipment. He epitomized the way science should work.

In winter quarter of my first year, I was a TA in Bruce’s course on physiological psychology. I loved that class, and I loved being Bruce’s TA. Even though he was a lofty professor and I a lowly grad student, he treated me like an equal. At one point in his class, we covered the topic of the function of micro-saccades. These are tiny eye movements that occur all the time, but nobody knew what they were for. One explanation was that they might be providing slightly different perspectives on a visual scene that might help the brain construct a more detailed scene when we need to do very precise tasks like thread a needle. I liked this explanation, but there was a problem with it. If it were right, the number of micro-saccades should go up as a subject performed the task of threading a needle…but a group of researchers had tested this, and they found the number went down, not up.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up on this hypothesis, so I told Bruce there might be a flaw in this group’s methodology. Maybe the physical act of threading the needle was suppressing all other muscular activity, including the tiny eye movements. If the subjects had merely been asked to watch a thread heading for a needle and decide if would go through the eye or not … without having to actually manipulate the thread themselves…. maybe the number of micro-saccades would go up.

To my total surprise, Bruce said, “let’s do the experiment.” So here I was, a first year grad student collaborating on a scientific paper. Bruce even offered to make me first author. I was impressed then, but even more impressed subsequently as I learned that not every mentor was as generous with his time as Bruce was, or as willing to share credit.

By the way, my idea was wrong. The number of micro-saccades still went down even though our subjects didn’t have to do anything but sit there and watch. But the paper made it into a top tier journal, and it still gets cited.

In the years since 1982 when I graduated, Bruce and I kept in touch. I was pleased that he embraced my decision to leave academic science, another quality that sets Bruce apart from many other mentors.

I feel privileged to be counted among the people he called friends. I’ll miss him a lot.