Jonathan King: (Bruce Parry)
I’ve known Jon for about 40 years. I’ve always called him Jon, not Jonathan. He never corrected me, so to this day I don’t really know which he prefers.
I suppose we met in Jobs with Peace in the early 1980s, although we were also in the same political organization by that time. We both served on the National Board of Jobs with Peace, me from Baltimore and Jon from the Massachusetts JwP. We had numerous meetings over the years. I stayed with him in Cambridge on occasion and we connected.
The next big series of events was the JobTech seminar held at MIT in the 1990s. This was a conference on the job-replacing nature of electronic technology. All of us participated in some way and the conference was a great success. While this was the 1990s, the concept of JobTech – that the electronic revolution was the deciding economic factor in capitalism – remains to this day as a decisive insight to the economic, political and social deterioration that plagues our society today. It has given rise to the Poor People’s Campaign, the National Union of the Homeless, and countless other expressions of the poverty, low-wage, low-income, racist and sexist society we live in.
Some of the highlights I remember in discussion with Jon include the fact that he knew Richard Feynman at CalTech. He said a lot of the people he met who were brilliant in, for example, physics were very smart in a very narrow range of knowledge. Feynman, on the other hand, was brilliant across the board. I had been highly interested in physics and Feynman in particular and was very impressed that Jon had met him.
Jon also gave me a tour of his lab. He pointed out that while it was impressive that he was a world-renowned microbiologist, that meant putting out at least 300 pages of research a year. As a budding economist, I appreciated how much less I put out and how much pressure something like that could be. It helped keep it real for me.
Finally, I just want to say that his research was always fascinating to me. I don’t really understand protein folding, but for years, I keep a picture of his virus on my bulletin board in front of my desk. I just spent some time looking for it. I know I have it somewhere, but I couldn’t find it. I believe it was the first picture he had of it. I’m sure with the advances in microelectronic imagery, he has much more detailed pictures since then. I also read some articles he wrote for the popular press, including one that he wrote for The New York Times.
Very early on (in the 1980s), I met a microbiology grad student from Johns Hopkins. When I mentioned I knew Jonathan, he was duly impressed. Later, Jon recognized the grad student’s name and knew his research. He explained to me how our understanding of dialectics put us ahead of the curve in scientific research, even in microbiology.
We’ve kept in touch over the years, although there have been big gaps. We always caught up and I’ve felt a closeness to him that our social contact might not indicate. He’s my senior by about 5 years, but we’ve both been in academia, in politics together and in the movement. I treasure his friendship and wish him a terrific Big 8-0!