Gene Byrd received his BS
in physics from Texas A&M University and doctorate
in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin
which means (to those who know about Texas) he has
a complete education comparable to an ancient Greek
who first studied in Sparta then Athens. His access
to this education was mainly due to one thing, Sputnik.
A childhood in the isolating mud roads of rural
Texas with no one in his family having attended
college would have made college, much less graduate
school, very unlikely. However, the shock of Sputnik's
``beep beep" changed both the nation and local attitudes
toward education. After getting his Ph. D., he starting
applying for jobs at universities around the country.
His wife, Kathy, who was born and raised in Colorado
placed only one restriction on the job search, ``any
place but the deep south." As luck would have it,
a postdoc in the study of the spiral structure of
galaxies, his area of research, became available
at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. Kathy
said, ``OK, for a year or two." A permanent faculty
position then opened up and they've happily been
members of the University community ever since.
He first noticed the strange spiral structure in
NGC 4622 during the 1980's in a photo in the new
astronomy text ``The Physical Universe" by the eminent
astronomer Frank Shu who included a large photo
of NGC4622 but made no mention that it has a two-way
spiral structure, a single inner counter clockwise-opening
arm plus an outer pair of clockwise-opening arms.
He knew that this beautiful but strange galaxy had
to have either one or maybe two leading arms, something
that at first glance appears impossible.