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Oral History Transcript — Dr. G. Rossi Lomanitz

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Interview with Dr. G. Rossi Lomanitz
By Shawn Mullet
At his home outside Pahoa, Hawaii
July 26, 2001

 
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G. Rossi Lomanitz; July 26, 2001

ABSTRACT: Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz, was born on October 10, 1921 in Bryan, Texas. He would grow up in Oklahoma and receive his bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in the spring of 1940. In the fall of 1940 he enrolled in University of California –- Berkeley to pursue a PhD in theoretical physics under the direction of J. Robert Oppenheimer. He continued with his graduate work until June 1942, when he began working at the Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley on topics related to the production of atomic weapons. While employed at the Radiation Laboratory, he was active in attempting to organize a union in the workplace. This continued until September 20, 1943, when he was drafted out of the Radiation Laboratory and into the Army. This drafting occurred in spite of the fact that men such as Ernest Lawrence and Oppenheimer informed officials that they felt his war work was essential and that a deferment was certainly warranted. In the spring of 1949, Lomanitz was called before the House Committee of Un-American Activities to investigate his activities while employed at the Radiation Lab. At this point he invoked the 5th Amendment and in December of 1950 he was indicted for contempt of Congress. The following year he was found not guilty of this charge. He had, however, been effectively, if not officially, blacklisted from any academic work. This oral history focuses primarily on the period of time from 1940, when he first went to Berkeley, through the mid-1950s, when he had to face many problems that resulted from his political views and his appearance before HUAC. The oral history was conducted in July 2001 at his home in Hawaii.

Transcript

Session I | Session II | Session III | Session IV

Mullet:

This is an oral history by Shawn Mullet interviewing Dr. Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz at his home outside of Pahoa, Hawaii on July 26, 2001. Dr. Lomanitz, you were born in Bryan, Texas on October 10th of 1921 and I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about your family life and your childhood. I know you moved to Oklahoma in 1926 and that’s where you grew up and went to elementary school and high school. Could you talk some more about your family life and particularly your parents and any siblings that you had?

Lomanitz:

Yeah. Most of my memories, although I was born in 1921 in Texas, most of my memories begin with Oklahoma where I came in 1926. My mother and father were both immigrants from Eastern Europe. My father [from what] at that time was Russian Poland, and my mother from what at that time was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. My mother had come over with her mother and father and an older sister in steerage on a boat which landed in Galveston, Texas. I don’t know the exact date of that but I know that it was before 1900 because she often spoke of a hurricane in 1900. My father — he basically was a draft dodger. He left Russian Poland when he was about to become drafted into the czar’s army apparently on a deal that had been reached so that his elder brother, Shimshone was not drafted. My father was supposed to be taking his place when the time came. And when the time came my father, who was perhaps sixteen at the time, left the country. He first tried to see whether he couldn’t go to a relative’s house in Western Europe, France I think. He wasn’t particularly welcomed there.

He saw an ad in a newspaper for what was called an anarchist colony that had been set up in Brazil under the leadership of a man named Dr. Giovanni Rossi — if it makes any sense for an anarchist colony to have leadership. He went to Brazil, became part of this colony which didn’t last very long. He probably arrived in Brazil somewhat before 1900 himself, or about 1900. He became very, very partial to Dr. Rossi and I think also probably very much infatuated with Dr. Rossi’s daughter. No romance developed permanently at least with the daughter mostly because my father was unable to overcome the taboo that had said that a Jewish man does not marry a non-Jewish woman and vice versa. I think it’s very unfortunate. Or in one sense it’s very fortunate, because I am now here and I doubt if I would have been here otherwise. In any case, my mother and father — My father left Brazil after the anarchist colony disbanded and went to Galveston, Texas and there he found some work from some farmers.

He particularly wanted this work because he had been brought up with one of the things that was supposed to be held against Jews was that they were not farmers. He wanted to prove that this was untrue, so he worked as farm labor. And of the men for whom he worked as a farm laborer, a Mr. Bushway I think — in Alvin, Texas somewhere between Galveston and Houston — asked him after a while whether he would give any thought to going to Texas A&M and studying agriculture. My father did this. He had not had high school, but he did this and finished at Texas A&M I believe in the year 1908 with a bachelor degree. Later on in 1922 he went back and got a master’s degree at Texas A&M and in 1924 a Ph.D. at Rutgers New Jersey. In the meantime, my mother’s family set up a little grocery store in Galveston, a mom and pop store, and my mother eventually got a chance to go to Normal school for two years and did in fact do some teaching after that. The family moved to Houston. I don’t know the exact year, but I do know that my mother met my father at a synagogue in Houston.

Each one of them thought that the thing to do was to marry. In the case of my mother, a Jewish scholar; in the case of my father, a nice Jewish girl. As things turned out, I think that it was rather unhappy for both of them that the emphasis was put on whom they were supposed to marry. But anyway, they did. They married in 1911. My mother’s older sister and father both died of tuberculosis in El Paso, Texas in 1909. My older brother, Benjamin Feld Lomanitz, who later changed his name to Benjamin Feld, was born in 1913 in Houston. My sister, Rachel Lomanitz, was born in 1915. In between time my father who had gone to Mexico to work for the Mexican government, got caught up in various aspects of the revolutions there. But from the stories I heard it rather excited him. He rather liked this life. My mother, I think, did not like it very much at all. And in any case, I was born considerably later six years after my sister, in 1921. And I was born in Bryan, Texas where my father had gone back to work on his master’s degree which he got in 1922. In 1922 the family moved to New Jersey; New Brunswick.

My father finished his doctor’s degree at Rutgers in 1924 in agricultural chemistry. For a year or so he worked for I believe it was the Cuban government while my mother and her three children stayed with her sister Leah in Houston, Texas. My father apparently had the ambition of setting up a chemistry laboratory in some frontier part of the country. And at that time he considered the two frontier places to be Oklahoma and Wyoming. He considered Wyoming to be too cold, so he set up his laboratory in Oklahoma City in 1926 and brought his family there to Oklahoma City, which is where we grew up. My sister Rachel, after finishing high school at Central High School in Oklahoma City — actually she went to junior high school in Oklahoma City also, Roosevelt Junior High. Then she finished Central in 1931, went to the University of Oklahoma at Norman that year, graduated in 1935. She had started out as a probable chemistry major, ended up as a botany major. My brother, Benjamin, went to Central High School also from which he graduated in 1929, and then he had the opportunity to go to college at Rice Institute in Houston, Texas where he stayed with the same aunt of mine, Leah, the first two years he was there, and he was to be taking courses in chemical engineering. What he did do was, after a couple of years he switched. Well, he got his degree in chemical engineering but he switched his main interests over to business where his uncle, my mother’s younger brother, Mose Mordecai Feld had just started up a second hand bag factory or a bag company. And then from then on he basically was in business with his uncle. My sister eventually went on and got a master’s degree at Oklahoma and eventually a Ph.D. in microbiology. Both are now dead, my sister Rachel having died in 1995 and my brother Benjamin in 1999. I could go on with more but I think I’ll stop.

Mullet:

Growing up as a child, did your parents encourage you to pursue science or was that an interest that you cultivated on your own?

Lomanitz:

There was a certain pressure. My father I think wanted all his children to follow in his footsteps and become chemists. He was disappointed as each of us turned away from that. And my older brother Benjamin as I say went into business with his uncle. My sister Rachel went into botany and then into microbiology. And I went into physics by accident because although I had disliked the physics course I took in high school, when I took freshman physics by accident at the University of Oklahoma — I say by accident because I was going to take chemistry but all the laboratories were full freshman courses in chemistry, including even the Saturday morning one so I took physics instead. And much to my surprise I found myself thinking, “What poetry this is.” I had a wonderful instructor and his name was Dr. George Allison Van Lear, Jr. He helped open up physics to me as something beautiful.

Mullet:

So prior to that experience you had no real inclination to go into physics. You had no experiences in your formative years that would have led you to physics, correct?

Lomanitz:

Not to physics. I thought that I might go into chemistry or perhaps if not that into mathematics. I still like mathematics.

Mullet:

And what year did you graduate high school?

Lomanitz:

1936.

Mullet:

So you would have only been fourteen at the time?

Lomanitz:

Yes.

Mullet:

How did it occur that you were able to finish high school at such a young age?

Lomanitz:

Well, my mother and father both had the idea that if they home taught their kids before it was time to start school that — I don’t know what their idea was. My own personal opinion now is one of their main ideas was it would show how smart they were to have such smart kids. In any case, they did this, and it was done with and to me even slightly more than with my brother and sister, so I started in third grade when I was probably just before six.

Mullet:

Growing up, how exposed were you to things politically? I mean I know your father admired the anarchist leader Giovanni Rossi after whom you were named. Correct?

Lomanitz:

That’s right.

Mullet:

And were you exposed to a lot of left wing or radical politics growing up prior to your going to college at Oklahoma, or was it a fairly politically neutral household?

Lomanitz:

It was not politically neutral. It ranged. The ideas might change from day to day. It might range. Of course my father’s opinion from voting for William T. Foster at one time, who was the communist candidate for President of the United States, to becoming a member of the Revisionist Zionist Organization which is known by most of the other Zionist groups as the fascist side of the Zionist organizations. I think my father tended to be quite a romantic, and to him if something sounded like an ideal he would go for it without, in my opinion, respect for how does this really tie in to his own personal experiences, his own personal life and so on. And I grew up with some of this peripatetic political alignment in my life, and I came more and more to the conclusion that it really didn’t matter much anyway because none of it was going to be very effective, whether it was communism or socialism or Zionism or whatever. That I might believe in and think it would be good for certain things to be accomplished, but I wanted to see them done effectively if they are going to be attempted at all.

Mullet:

So when you entered Oklahoma you were only fourteen. Being so young how did that affect, how were your experiences as a young student at Oklahoma? Do you think that affected your development in any way? Or what were your experiences like as a fourteen-year-old at Oklahoma?

Lomanitz:

I was immature. I tended to be uncomfortable in social situations. I didn’t date for some time. I felt a bit out of my medium except that I also had some very good friends older than I — because in my grade most of the kids were older than I — but with whom we could transcend barriers such as race, religion and discuss all kinds of things like, “Gee, do you suppose our mother and father really did it? We’re here, so they must have, and I really made some very good friends that way even though overall I was sort of a social nerd.

Mullet:

Had you had any really close friends prior to that? Growing up were there any people that you feel exerted a particularly strong influence on you prior to your going to Oklahoma or do you think that you pretty much grew up in a more isolated setting?

Lomanitz:

Well, some of the friends I’ve been talking about, like Gladwyn Lago for example I had known since junior high school, and Troy Knowles and Earl Boyden. So it wasn’t just that I made these friends at the University of Oklahoma. And it certainly influenced me to have these good friends, because I had been brought up with a certain amount of junk, prejudices which come in any family. But in my family for example, having both been brought up in the ghettos of Europe, my parents both tended to be suspicious of gentiles while at the same time recognizing that there were many opportunities in the United States for which they were grateful. And my good luck or whatever in being able to make associations with kids not my age, many two or three years older than I but in my grade at school, we were from a totally different background and we could discuss these things. It was very important to me.

Mullet:

Would you backtrack a little bit? Was it always expected of you to go to college, though? Was that pretty much a foregone conclusion early in life or was that something that only came on later?

Lomanitz:

I think it was expected. I don’t think my parents would have pushed us to school early without that in mind.

Mullet:

Sure.

Lomanitz:

However the fact that there was the New Deal with the NYA Program, when Franklin Roosevelt came in, helped a great deal to be able to carry that out.

Mullet:

Now the NYA Program was what?

Lomanitz:

National Youth Administration. And it was one of the federal programs to basically make jobs available to people. In the case of the NYA and students, it was to make jobs available to college students to be able to partially support themselves through school. My own case, the jobs made available were grading papers and making photographic solutions for a Dr. Nielsen who was a physics professor at Norman. These things by the way also helped him because he did not have to do all that in addition to his particular duties. There were many other programs, by the way — the WPA, the PWA. Many civic centers were built in various cities; murals were painted by unemployed artists. Mathematical tables were made by unemployed mathematicians which I used later on.

Mullet:

And how much did you get paid for your grading of physics papers and making photographic solutions?

Lomanitz:

Oh. Twenty-five cents an hour.

Mullet:

And how many hours a week would you work?

Lomanitz:

Let’s see. I made $12 a month at 25˘ an hour.

Mullet:

About 12 hours a week roughly.

Lomanitz:

Yeah.

Mullet:

And this is — how old were you when you were doing this?

Lomanitz:

I guess I was fifteen when I started out.

Mullet:

So you were a sophomore in college?

Lomanitz:

Yeah.

Mullet:

You talked a little bit earlier about your first experience in a freshman physics class and how its poetry or its beauty appealed to you. Did you decide then and there that you were going to pursue physics or was that just more a case of you no longer had an aversion to physics? When did you make the decision to pursue physics as a major?

Lomanitz:

Oh. I like that question. Let’s see if I can give an answer. I didn’t just immediately say, “I’m going to pursue physics as a major.” I entertained it as a possibility. Then the second semester I remember when we got into electromagnetism things began to bother me and I wasn’t sure I saw the poetry so much. And in fact, even in electrostatic. I thought, “Well, maybe I don’t want to be a physics major.” Then we kind of got on through that portion of it. I thought, “Maybe I can sort this out and understand better what’s behind it.” Because part of the poetry of physics to me is to understand what is behind things so you can take a few simple assumptions, the assumptions themselves being theories derived from experiments, and from those assumptions, from those theories be able to predict a vast array of things that don’t even seem to be related to a discovery. And so anyway, the answer to your question is not right away. By the time the first year of physics was over I was very, very seriously thinking about becoming a physics major.

Mullet:

Now we’re at the point where you’re at Oklahoma and you’ve decided that you want to pursue physics. You mentioned a professor earlier in your first physics class. I was wondering if you could elaborate more on any professors you had at Oklahoma or any influences at Oklahoma that you felt had a particularly profound influence on your development as a young physicist.

Lomanitz:

Well I mentioned of course Dr. George Allison Van Lear, Jr. in my freshman physics class, and he gave me basically carte blanche to come to his office during any of his office hours and talk with him, ask him questions and so forth about any part of the subject that was bothering. And he was not reluctant to shoot me down when I was wrong and to invite me to come back, put it together and on. For example, I remember one time I said to Dr. Van Lear, I said, “Listen,” in his class actually. He had been discussing Newton’s First Law of Motion that things at rest will remain at rest and things in motion will continue in motion along the same straight line with the same speed unless acted on by external forces. And I thought, “You know, if I understand it, this thing ought to be made more clear. Shouldn’t it be put in something like this?” and I raised my hand and said, “Dr. Van Lear, Dr. Van Lear, shouldn’t the First Law of Motion say that things at rest will remain at rest if not acted on by external forces and things in motion will remain in motion in a straight line if they are originally going in a straight line — but not if for example they are originally going in a circle. If they are originally going in a circle, then wouldn’t they continue to go around in a circle? Shouldn’t Newton’s Law be changed to make that point more clear?” And his answer to me was, “No!” and caused me to rethink entirely what the meaning of the First Law of Motion really was. He was a very good influence.

Many of the students didn’t really like him, but to me he was a great influence. Another one to influence me a lot in physics was Dr. Jens Rud Nielsen, who had been a student of Niels Bohr and under whom I worked grading papers and making up photographic solution. And Dr. Nielsen was a gentleman of the old school. He was a scientist who didn’t let anybody cut corners. And also he had the philosophy that in his class the only things to be discussed were physics. He’d be happy to discuss other things outside of class. One day in the spring of 1940 he came to class and he did not discuss physics. He discussed the invasion of Denmark, his native country, by the Nazis and the threat that the Nazis meant to this world civilization. And I was impressed by this too, because I knew that if he cut corners, cut his, had a principle and he did not follow it there must be some terribly big reason why he didn’t follow it. Since then I found I do exactly the same thing.

Mullet:

So when you first heard about the Nazi invasion of Denmark and such, what was your opinion? Had you begun to formulate your own political opinions by that point? Especially the fate of European Jews.

Lomanitz:

Yeah. And on some of this I really agreed very much with both my mother and my father. I had by the way been corresponding — My father got a newspaper out of Germany for a while called Judische Rundschau which means Jewish Review. And in this little newspaper there was one part of it that was given over to kids. And I remember there was a kid named Gerhard Klein who wrote in the newspaper that he was looking for a pen pal, somebody to correspond with in the United States. And I picked it up and corresponded with him. He was able to write in English as well as in German. I was able only to write a few words in German. And we exchanged pennies and you know what our lives were like and so forth. And then one of the later things I heard from him was that his father, who was a rabbi in apparently a pretty well-to-do section of Berlin, Berlin Hermsdors I think, was having to move to another section, a much poorer section of Berlin. And then pretty soon I didn’t hear from him at all. And this of course was in the period after Hitler had come in. Hitler came in in 1933.

I don’t remember exactly when I corresponded with Gerhardt, but I think it was before I started college, sometime between 1933 and 1936. So already I was getting the idea of bad things happening — bad things happening of course to European Jews, but also happening to other people, whether it was communists, socialists, dissenters, Catholics, gypsies, that terrible things were being done to them as well as to Jews. So when my mother and father decided that we should try to picket the Nazi Consul who had been invited from St. Louis to talk at an institution called the Norman Forum which prided itself on inviting people in who had all kinds of various political views, when my mother and father decided that we should picket this place and they had hoped for support from liberal camps to get other people to join them most of the Jewish community that they appealed to was afraid. I remember Mr. Otto Hart (President of the synagogue) saying, “Oh no. We’ll do harm. Let it be.” Well, I think that this is a very sad attitude and I think it’s one of the ghetto attitudes that I’m very happy to see, I hope, really being destroyed. Anyway, so my mother and my father and my sister and I made little picket signs, we took them down there and — and picketed in front of the auditorium. And I remember that the sign I carried had the slogan on it, “Hitler Verrecke” which means “May Hitler Perish.” And this was taken from a Nazi slogan with “Juden Verrecken”, “May All the Jews Perish.”

Mullet:

And when you picketed was it just you and your family or how large of a group of people were there?

Lomanitz:

In my memory that was all that ended up there. I think of course that we should have appealed to other people then– I think my father mostly went to the synagogue and appealed to Jews there. Jews were afraid. I think there were plenty of people. There were some people (non-Jews) who would have known what an outrage the Nazis were and would have been glad to join in and I think it would have been much better if some way had been found to appeal to them also. The next day in the paper by the way there came a statement by three pro-Nazi professors at the University of Oklahoma. One of them was named Gustav Muller in the philosophy department. One of them was named Ermarth in the languages department. And one of them was named Malthaner also in the languages department. And they had this little write-up in the Oklahoma City paper that this picketing was done by an organized band of Oklahoma City Jews and that was a very uncivilized thing to do. Anyway, so I had that experience. Actually there were, I found later, there were a little group of students who came together and discussed things like the Student Problems Committee but they tied them into bigger social issues like “Is capitalism the best system or wouldn’t we be better off if we had socialism?” or some such thing as that and “Is segregation the best thing?” or “Wouldn’t we be better off if we broke down these barriers?” But I actually never really got into those groups or that group while I was at the University of Oklahoma. I’m sort of sorry I didn’t, because it was there — a little bit.

Mullet:

You said that you and your family were the only ones to picket and that the other people were kind of afraid or just wanted to let things be. Why do you think it was that your family or your parents didn’t share in that sentiment? What do you think it was that led you and your family to be the ones that actually went out there and picketed?

Lomanitz:

Let’s see. Can I answer that question? No, it’s all right. As I found in my own life, there are a lot of things that I can be afraid of. Some of the things that I’m afraid of I have found myself acting in what I later call a cowardly way about and saying, “I shouldn’t have done that. I should have just stood up and let the chips fall where they may.” Some of the things I said, “No. I just have to do this, and who knows where the chips may fall.” And I do not know right now what forms the difference between which things I am cowardly about and which things I am brave about. I keep trying to get braver about everything, but I also realize there is no point in being plum foolhardy about everything. And I think it may have been something of that difference, that the Jews from Eastern Europe, immigrants from Eastern Europe, had probably been so accustomed to the idea that somebody else is running their country, that they have no say in it and that you better not antagonize the powers that be, which I’m very sorry to see this as an attitude but I think this is an attitude. My father may have shown, in some ways at least, an advance over that when he became a draft dodger and when he went to Brazil and so on like that — although there are plenty of places in my father’s life where he didn’t show courage.

Mullet:

So after you decided to — now you were kind of bouncing back and forth between the physics and the politics and such, but after you decided to become a physics major did you feel like, “This is my career. This is what I am going to do with the rest of my life.” When did you come to the point of saying, “I want to pursue physics not just as my major but as my livelihood, as my career”?

Lomanitz:

You know that’s a really funny question, because at that time to major in physics was something like to major in philosophy or to major in music. If you felt you were going to make a career out of it, it was sort of like if you were a kid going to school and you decided you were going to make a career out of being a professional athlete of some sort or another. Now there are kids who decide this, but when it’s all said and done there are not nearly as many berths open for outstanding professional athletes as there are for kids aspiring to be professional athletes. For me, at first I thought, “Well, I like this.” I didn’t have any great idea as to how and if I could pursue it or not. It seemed to me that maybe the jobs available, there might be teaching, there might be civil service, there might be a few industrial jobs in physics open, so I guess I kind of left this in the background and thought that, “Well, maybe I might be able to get a job teaching.” It wasn’t even just do I want to get a teaching job. I’d have to find that out. As it has happened, it turns out that I like teaching very much at the college level. But at the time, no, I certainly did not say, “Aha. I’m going to get in here and I see my life in a secure either tenure track position or working for the government.” No, I did not see that.

Mullet:

You majored in physics strictly because it appealed to you on an intellectual or on a aesthetic basis.

Lomanitz:

[laughs]

Mullet:

So by the time, when you graduated your studies at Oklahoma you did well academically. You never had any problems or anything, so by the time you graduated you had decided to pursue physics at Cal Berkeley. But at that time when you graduated you really still had no — You mentioned earlier about you had — there were some groups that were interested in capitalism versus socialism, integration versus segregation, but as you were deciding to go off to Berkeley you still, politically you had not become active in any of these groups. Is that correct?

Lomanitz:

Oh, that’s absolutely right. You know I mean I had — I had run a little bit when I was a kid into some of the ideas that my father and mother might have had and so on and had basically come to the conclusion that I just didn’t see there was any vehicle for achieving them regardless of whether they were good or bad or indifferent. So I had almost a cynical attitude before I ever went to Berkeley.

Mullet:

So you started Berkeley in the fall of 1940, but how did you arrive at choosing Berkeley. What factors contributed to the decision to go to Berkeley?

Lomanitz:

I didn’t choose Berkeley. I talked to the same Dr. Nielsen of whom I’ve spoken before and asked him what schools, what universities in theoretical physics he would recommend as being first rate and he took enough time to make a list of what he thought at the time were first rate schools and then a longer list of what he felt were quite good but not quite up to the first rate schools. And he suggested I might want to apply to all of them. Well, I ended up applying only to his first rate group, that was five schools, because if I weren’t accepted there at any of them I could continue at the University of Oklahoma working on a master’s degree and it would have been with Dr. Nielsen. I even knew sort of what I would be doing for it. And it would have been theoretical physics, no laboratory. So I thought I’d just apply to the top five and see if I get any response. And of course what I needed in the way of response was two things: one of them was acceptance into graduate school and the other one was a teaching assistantship or fellowship or some such thing as that to pay my way. And there were only two of the schools that answered favorably on both scores. By the way the five schools at that time as seen through Dr. Nielsen’s eyes were Harvard, MIT, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin at Madison and University of California at Berkeley. And I wrote to all five schools and there were only two of them that answered by offering me both admission at a graduate level and a teaching assistantship. And the one offered by Wisconsin wasn’t that good. It was only a half-time teaching assistantship. So Berkeley, I didn’t really choose Berkeley; it chose me. It was the only one that had both of the things that I needed.

Mullet:

You said before about your preference for theoretical physics as opposed to laboratory physics. I am curious as to how that developed. Was it just that the theoretical physics had that more aesthetic appeal or was there particular aspects of laboratory physics that didn’t appeal to you, how did you choose theoretical over experimental?

Lomanitz:

Well, theoretical physics was where I felt that beauty in that freshman course I had taken — how you could start off with force equals mass times acceleration and apply it to so many different situations and end up with what was going to happen. And not only from a — what would you say? — from a completely theoretical viewpoint, but that engineers were doing it all the time to build bridges or transmit electricity or one thing or another like that. However, I felt very uncomfortable with the engineering part of it. Why I grew up with this uncomfortable feeling is probably a whole other story in psychology or who knows what, but I have found actually as many years have gone by that in my old age I can do things better with my hands than I could when I was younger. But I still don’t believe I can. So anyway, the beauty was in the theory. It was also in the experimental in the sense of somebody else’s experiments. They could confirm this, you know, because if they didn’t turn out to be right then you better find another theory. The experimental was absolutely required, but not for me.

Mullet:

And when you made the decision to go to Berkeley, what kind of reaction did you get from your family or your parents in particular? Were they supportive of your decision to move west to go to graduate school for physics?

Lomanitz:

I’d say they were willing. I remember people coming to dinner at one time just after I had received the acceptance from Berkeley. And in that respect, this might have been a time in which the focus should have been kind of on me. “Hey, did you know that our son has got this thing?” But it wasn’t. I was completely ignored at the dinner. And I think that was really a great deal of what happened. I myself unfortunately have taken many years to come to this realization, because I think I kept on hoping that there was something there more than there was. But you can’t get blood out of a turnip.

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