A 96-year-old Canadian physicist and entrepreneur looks back on his long life in this debut memoir.
Burgener gives a thorough accounting of his life, from his birth in 1917 through his childhood, education, later family life and extensive career in the physical sciences. His main career focus was spectrographic sampling and analysis, and although he writes mostly about the workings and growing complexity of the spectrography business, he also takes the time to briefly describe the science behind his life’s work. Throughout, he sketches in important historical events, including both world wars, the Cold War and the 1945 Soviet invasion of Hungary, and their effect on his life and career. Burgener has a sharp mind, and his writing style and voice reflect the straightforward, rational approach he describes in his work. His sentences are clear and unadorned, if a touch lengthy at times (as in the book’s subtitle, “107 Years of Interesting Anecdotes in the Life of a Canadian Physicist Who Changed the World with Spectroscopy and Analytical Chemistry”). As a result, his prose is easy to absorb. More to the point, Burgener’s life is truly fascinating, filled with relevant work, travel all over the world and a family life that was clearly fulfilling. The picture that emerges is of a man who’s humble and grateful for the life he’s led. His story is so wide-ranging, however, that it lacks focus; it feels more like a compilation of memories than a unified narrative, and some readers may wish that the memoir had a more coherent framework. Most others, however, will simply enjoy Burgener’s clear thinking and grateful appreciation.
A charming, if unfocused, memoir that offers readable reflections from start to finish.