My grandfather was a physicist. A brilliant man, who aspired to greatness. His remarkably distinguished academic career culminated in professorship and ultimately, leadership over a major university. He worked in the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

To say that he wasn't a terribly social man would be to put it kindly. He was extremely well read and loved to argue. Some people found him overbearing. It never bothered me much. As a child I would sit in his study when we visited and we would argue heatedly about things. I learned his favorite phrase early. "You're wrong, you're just wrong.."

A giant of a man, in several respects. He moved heavily, he thought heavily, and he condemned heavily the things he simply could not accept. A teacher, he loathed ignorance, or what he saw as such, and spent massive amounts of time pouring through his sizeable library. It seemed you could not speak to him of a thing which he hadn't read several books about and he occasionally enjoyed quoting by page number. He multiplied six digit numbers in his head for the enjoyment of his grandchildren.

He bought me the first PC I would ever own, at a time when the price of food and clothing were more a concern than any form of luxury. It arrived in large brown boxes, unloaded one at a time by the UPS driver in the middle of the summer, unrelated to any holiday or birthday in the family. No lengthy note was included and when we thanked him, he just sort of grumbled, but you could see happiness in his eyes.

As I grew older, he grew more and more distant from the world at large. He would spend most of his days in his study, reading and following the fields of research he had lived for, advances in particle theory, acoustics, and a plethora of other subjects. I think he had always thought he might one day win the Nobel Prize. As he got older, he seemed irritated with the state of the world and tired of trying to fight it.

I always got along better with him than most of the rest of the family. They took his remarks that they were wrong to mean they were stupid, his disbelief as insult. I always found it a little amusing and it wasn't so important that we agree in the end, but that I learn something. I always learned something.

Shortly before he died, I got into a conversation with him about nuclear energy. "Listen," he said. "What do you think of when you think of nuclear power?" The child of two ex-hippies, I shrugged and envisioned mushroom clouds, "Death." He sighed and argued back about the benefit of nuclear reactors in powering our houses, about why use of the bomb was necessary when it was used, about how nuclear technology had spawned developments in other directions. In the end he seemed only frustrated at my nonacceptance.

I don't think I ever saw him again after that, or if I did, the subject never came up. He died shortly thereafter. It wasn't until a long time later that I realized he had not just been defending his belief, but his field, and beyond that, his life. He'd given his health and the majority of his lifetime to the creation of something that people openly ridiculed as a horror to humanity. No doubt it wasn't the first time he'd heard the words in my responses, but I can't help feeling it added a particular barb to receive such blatant rejection from the children of his own blood.

This man knew Einstein, was at the peak of his field, and fought for what he thought was right. Was it worth it? Are the deeds of great men to be reflected through public sentiment? What happens when you fight your entire life for something you think is right and in the end, nobody thanks you?

I miss my grandfather sometimes. He was a great man. Human, imperfect, and great. I don't have to agree with all that he did to respect it. Sometimes I consider what I might have seen in his eyes had my answers been different. I wonder if I won't have my own conversations with grandchildren in the future. By what measure will my own life be judged?