Fritz Gassmann published his classic paper “Elastic waves through a packing of spheres” in Geophysics in 1951. At that time I was a member of a motley group of Gassmann's graduate students—one mathematician, one theoretical physicist, one experimental physicist, one civil engineer, and two geologists (there was no undergraduate geophysics program in those days)—who were blissfully unaware of its fundamental significance. This is hardly a surprise considering our inexperience.

The broad background of our graduate student group proved helpful in many ways. Just two incidents may illustrate the point. The other geologist had to deal with a well-rounded clastic...

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