This alumnus wanted to be a physicist from the moment he learned about the profession in grade school. So, when an uncle who lived in Pasadena told him about Caltech, he knew right away where he wanted to get his education.

During his first year at the Institute, he took a course taught by Richard Feynman. At the outset of the term, Feynman told students about the wonderful and exciting things they would learn. He finished by raising his arms and saying, “Including why the sky is blue!” That promise, met with chuckles, was fulfilled in the lecture on light scattering.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in physics, this alumnus earned master’s and doctoral degrees in the subject from the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona, respectively. In 1973, the year he obtained his PhD, he joined the Air Force and met his future wife on a blind date.

Dr. Gary D. Cable (BS ’69) and
Mrs. Celia A. Cable

He specialized in elementary particle physics and modeling and simulation. He developed software to evaluate both natural and induced near-earth radiation environments experienced by satellite systems, performing this work for the Air Force and government defense contractors. Along the way, he made major contributions to the understanding of security, vulnerability, and operational capabilities of satellite systems flown by the United States and other countries, and he became a recognized expert in the field.

He also taught an honors computing class at Luna Community College in Las Vegas, New Mexico. One year, to hold students’ interest, he borrowed a robot from his employer, Sandia National Laboratories. He asked his students to write programs to make the robot walk, raise its arms, shake hands, and whirl its head. Their final exam was to teach a class of elementary students to make the robot perform these same functions—to the great enjoyment of all.

In social situations, this alumnus found that most people shied away from physicists, so when he was asked what he did for a living, he would answer, “I bang on computers.” People would nod, smile, and stick around.

Our alumnus (far right) with colleagues, students, and the robot (Credit: Luna Community College LRC)
Our alumnus (far right) with colleagues, students, and
the robot (Credit: Luna Community College LRC)

Dr. Gary D. Cable (BS ’69) passed away in 2017. The following year, Mrs. Celia A. Cable made a gift to endow the Dr. Gary Dean and Celia Arias Cable Memorial Scholarship at Caltech and documented a bequest intention to augment the fund, which supports physics students.

She says, “It is hoped that future Cable scholars learn the academics to further our knowledge of the world around us and share that knowledge with people of all ages; that future Caltech physicists will learn physics and how to be approachable so as to make physics interesting to all peoples; and that this planned gift makes the wonders of physics, be it magnetics, radiation, light, quantum, or astronomical images of distant celestial bodies, including those dusty places where stars are born, simple enough to be taught and understood in elementary grades to encourage future generations of physicists.”