Oral History Transcript — Dr. William Havens
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Interview with Dr. William Havens
William Havens; July 29, 1991
ABSTRACT: Topics include his youth and education; his Ph.D. work at Columbia University; building the Nevis cyclotron; nuclear fission; the United Nations Nuclear Cross-section Committee; his appointment as Secretary to the American Physical Society; recollections of Karl Darrow; Physical Review; Physical Review Letters; various divisions of the American Physical Society; Committee on the Future of Nuclear Physics; his consulting work with Los Alamos in 1962; schism of APS membership over military patronage and Viet Nam War; the changing role of the American Institute of Physics; impressions of William Koch; recollections of Goudsmit retirement as Physical Review editor; his appointment as Professor of Applied Physics and Engineering at Columbia University in 1978; APS involvement in the Star Wars Project; impressions of collaborations in high-energy physics; personal impressions of the role of physics in society. Prominently mentioned names include: Karl Darrow, John Dunning, Maurice Ewing, Enrico Fermi, James Fletcher, William Koch, Willis Lamb, George Pegram, Frank Press, Shirley Quimby, I.I. Rabi, James Rainwater, Emilio Segre, Charles Schwartz, Henry Smyth, Edward Teller, Harold Urey, Hermann Weyl, John Wheeler, Herbert York, Also the American Physical Society, American Institute of Physics, Columbia University, American Association of Physics Teachers.
TranscriptSession I | Session II | Session III | Session IV | Session V | Session VI
Doel:This is the third interview with Dr. William Havens. Today is July 29, 1991. You mentioned in the last interview that we had your appointment as Aeros [?] Deputy Secretary. I don't think you mentioned to me though your impressions of Darrow — how he was operating the society at the time — and I am curious of your impressions of that period.
Havens:Darrow was a unique character. He was a gentleman of the old school and believed, for example, that no gentleman should get to work before 10:00 nor should work after 4:00 P.M. He enjoyed his positions and working in that way. He, I think, had a subscription to the opera two nights a week. He went to the concerts. He had people out for dinner and his style of living I think was that of the 1890s and 1900 rather than the 1940s and 1950s, much less to say than the 1980s or 1990s, which is quite different. He came from an era when gentlemen took summer vacations for a couple of months. One of the things I noted very early in the game is that Darrow left for Europe early in May and didn't return from Europe until late September of early October. Consequently, there was nobody in charge of the American Physical Society from June to September. There was one woman in the APS office who forwarded correspondence to Darrow — wherever he was in Europe. Of course at that time air mail wasn't as prevalent as it was today so you might get an answer within a month or you might not get an answer until Darrow returned. Things during the summer were a very low key. On the other hand, when I first went to Columbia as a graduate student, Harold Webb who was in charge of what would now be called the Atomic Physics Laboratory and then Professor Bergen Davis who was in charge of the x-ray laboratory, shut down at noon and didn't start working again until 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon during the academic year and left June 15 and returned September 15. There was very little research going on during the summer time. That was a time for taking a vacation and going to meetings around the country.
Doel:Does that seem unusual in your experience even then? Of course others were operating your laboratories —
Havens:I come from a later generation, so yes. My daughter says all the time that both my wife and I are a product of the Depression Syndrome. Remember, I got out of high school in 1935 when some of my classmates were very delighted to get jobs at all. They got about $5.00 a week. You worked for that. You knew very well that if you didn't work there was always somebody very ready to take the job you had for $5.00 a week. My daughter is correct. We are a product of the Depression Syndrome. I am not unhappy about it because I certainly learned to work and learned to compete in that environment. But that was quite different. So, it was foreign to my way of thinking and my way of operating. That is the way Darrow handled it. Darrow was very well educated. I don't only mean in physics, I mean in music and the arts and culture. Call it that. He tried to get some of that into the American Physical Society. He didn't believe that scientists should be one-track and know nothing about the other parts of intellectual development. He himself, I'd say, was an all-around intellectual. That's the way he had been brought up and that is what he demonstrated.
Doel:How did he try to bring in wider culture to the APS?
Havens:He, for example, was very knowledgeable about art and in which museums certain pieces of art were hung. Whenever he was at an APS meeting and he went to a lot of them and he also hung around a great deal in order to hear speakers who might be invited to APS meeting she would invite people to come to museums with him or invite physicists to go to concerts with him, in order to broaden their aspect of it. He was very well read in the literature of the time and in the classical literature. That's the way he did that sort of thing. He wasn't a research physicist in that he produced new results. From stories I've heard about contemporaries of his at Bell Labs, he really never produced any new research. His job at Bell Labs developed into seeking out new developments wherever they were, finding out about them and writing up new developments in any part of physics for the people at Bell Labs and giving lectures at Bell Labs on the latest developments in physics. If you look at the books he wrote, they were really excellent treatise on the latest in developments in physics of his time which came out of his lectures to the staff at Bell Labs on what the latest in developments in physics were.
Doel:Where he had synthesized the [???] together.
Havens:That's right. He was very highly respected and should have been. He spoke very well and he told me why he spokes very well because in college he took a public speaking course when he was a freshman and he failed. He said anybody could pass public speaking and therefore he decided that he was going to learn how to speak well publicly and he did. Not only in English. He spoke French very well. He was there every summer. I remember when we first had a joint meeting with Mexico. In Mexico City he took Spanish lessons during the previous winter so that he could give the opening address in Spanish. That's the sort of thing that he did. He's an entirely different character from me. There's no doubt about it.
Doel:In the 1950s, 1954 when you came on as a staff [???] were there concerns expressed by other leaders in the APS about Darrow's absences?
Havens:No. Physics was much lower key at that particular time. You see, during the war of course physics ran 'round the clock 'round the year, as well. However, from my impression remember I graduated from college in 1939 so I don't know too much about how it was before the war physics was started at a much more leisurely pace than it was during the war and certainly after the war. It was only well after the war say in the early 1950s that the universities got on a full year schedule. That came about, in my opinion, because of the tremendous number of students that came back under the G. I. Bill of Rights. Therefore they couldn't accommodate those who wanted to get their education in a relatively short period of time having been laid four or five years. So the universities sort of by popular demand had to go on a full year schedule. Whereas Columbia, there's still the semester started in the end of September and ended the end of January. The second one began the first of February and ended the middle of June and everybody's gone in the middle of June; at least they were in the university. They may have been someplace else visiting or research laboratory visiting but they were doing something differently than they did during the regular academic year. The thing that required Darrow to be back was the old Thanksgiving meeting and —
Doel:To prepare the program.
Havens:To prepare the program for the Thanksgiving meeting, which was always a small meeting because most of the physicists were away during the summer and they weren't ready to prepare abstracts for the fall meeting. I was always interested to find out and I don't think this was public though I've said it on many occasions that Darrow was born and grew up in Chicago and therefore he always had Thanksgiving in Chicago and he wanted to have Thanksgiving in Chicago. So the Thanksgiving meeting was the Friday after, and Saturday after, Thanksgiving because Darrow wanted to have Thanksgiving dinner in Chicago. He always went out on the train. He never traveled by air. He always traveled by train and so he went out on the Twentieth Century on Tuesday or Wednesday so as to be there for a pleasant day on Thanksgiving and then the APS meetings started on Friday morning.
Doel:That's interesting. Clearly then you were then stepping in, in the summers —
Havens:Yes. Well certainly sort of the first crisis I had during the summer was (I don't remember what year it was) but the division of fluid dynamics was supposed to have a meeting. Bulletins were issued for meetings at that time. They weren't on a regular schedule. The secretary of the division called me and said he hadn't heard anything about the program for the meeting which he had sent to Darrow in May. I went up and rifled Darrow's desk and found an unopened envelope in the bottom left-hand drawer. That may not be accurate, but essentially. Sure enough, there was the program for the division of fluid dynamics. I quickly organized it into a bulletin and sent it to the AIP to be published and got that bulletin out because it was before the Thanksgiving meeting sometime. But before, the division was always holding its meeting at Thanksgiving. Yes, crises did occur but Darrow should have done something about it but it may have come in the last day he was there and he shoved it in the bottom drawer and forgot about it. Yes, I did do whatever had to be done or which required a physicist over the summer although Pegram was always there and he could handle the summer was a lower key operation at Columbia that was later in time his job and Darrow's job. He was very knowledgeable about physics and cultural affairs as well.
Doel:So he would be willing and able to step in?
Havens:Yes. If something came up you could always get in touch with Pegram. By that time he was no longer chairman of the Physics Department.
Doel:Because his health was —
Havens:No, I mean Rabe took over for him I think when he returned from the war. It must have been either 1946 or 1947. I am not sure when Rabe became Chair of the Department. Rabe didn't last very long in that because he didn't like it. He was really much better suited for the research than he was as an administrator so he gave it up very shortly thereafter. Pegram became the Academic Vice President of the university so he always was around and available for consultation or physics or things of the Physical Society. He also helped found several other societies in engineering because he was Dean of Engineering at Columbia for about ten or fifteen years.
Doel:I am curious about it. It was just after your appointment that discussions started coming up about splitting the Physics Review into different sections. I am wondering what you recall about those discussions. Were you involved in any of them?
Havens:I certainly was involved in the discussions of that type because there was supposedly a unity of physics. I would have to go back to the Minutes of the Council. There was great division in the Council about whether or not physics is one subject or should be divided up into specialties. In fact, there was one something like a six or seven page letter from one of the members of the APS Council. He was a cosmic ray physicist and he was the head of a place in Maryland that specializes in cosmic rays. I will remember his name sometime later. He was a very famous physicist and he wrote this long letter about physics, the unity of physics and how Physical Review had to remain one so that the nuclear physicist could learn about the solid state physics, could learn about fluids, and could learn about optics. There were others who were younger who felt that really you couldn't know everything therefore you had to specialize in order to make any contributions. It reminds me of the stories that went around at the time of Nicholas Maury Butler and proposedly Professor Jacobi, in faculty meeting after the First World War. This is a general story and I am sure it occurs in every university but the President of the university namely Nicholas Maury Butler was supposed to have said in order to be successful as a university professor you have to specialize. And you get to know more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing! Jacobi is supposed to have gotten up and said "yes, he's just the opposite of a university president who has to know a little about everything and gets to know less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything." Yes, there was great debate about dividing the Physical Review. In fact, Sam Goudsmit actually divided the Physical Review a year or two before it was officially divided because he thought that was the way physics was going. Therefore, what he did was to put all nuclear and what is now nuclear particle cosmology in the Physical Review that came out the first I don't know whether it was the first or the fifteenth and he put all solid state and things like that in the (solid state was growing very rapidly) and put those in the fifteenth. If you looked at the journals for the two years before they were split into A and B you will find that the papers were segregated. I think it was the first that was the nuclear particle and that part of physics and the fifteenth was the solid state and condensed matter and that part of physics. Then when it came to dividing it, it was easy. That changed the whole character of the Physical Review because until that time the Physical Review was a journal on membership. I think everybody at that time referred to the "creeping green monster" because it was expanding so rapidly, partially because the physics was expanding so rapidly and the numbers of physicists were increasing so rapidly. Every member of the American Physical Society got the entire Physical Review which came out twice a month at that time — the first and the fifteenth. When it was divided it was decided that people shall be able to subscribe to that part of the Physical Review which they were interested in. This also was one of the instances which shut my faith in questionnaires to members and answers that you got because before dividing the Physical Review the Council sent out a questionnaire to all members saying that if they could subscribe to one section of the Physical Review would they subscribe to that section? And the answer was "yes." They much prefer to subscribe to the section in which they were interested in than to get the whole Physical Review. That was a clear result of the questionnaire. When the final result came in, the answer was that a very small fraction of the members subscribed to either part of it.
Doel:Is that right?
Havens:Yes, the number of subscribers to Physical Review decreased materially when it went to separate subscriptions than when it had been an on-membership journal. When it was on-membership journal everybody got it.
Doel:Was that in your opinion because a smaller fraction of them were practicing scientists? Were they getting it through —?
Havens:My opinion is and it's sort of borne out by the statistics now that more than half of the members were not actively involved in research. They sort of got the Physical Review as a badge of being a physicist. When they didn't have to get it as an on-membership journal, they didn't subscribe to it because they never read it anyway. I think it was a realistic situation; mainly all members weren't interested in reading all of the Physical Review.
Doel:And that came as a surprise to you?
Havens:It didn't come as a surprise to me because I felt that giving the whole Physical Review to everybody was a waste of paper. I saw people, even professors at Columbia who were getting on in years, who got the Physical Review and put it on their shelves and may or may not have taken it out of the wrapper. I thought it was just recognizing the way the world changed.
Doel:I am curious, you felt then — you were on Goudsmit's side on that?
Doel:Who do you recall as being the leaders on the APS Council?
Havens:I would have to really look up and see who the Council was at that time. Darrow was against splitting the Physical Review, I know that. I couldn't continue to publish the APS Council entire membership in the directory so I only went back a few years and I don't think I went back to the 1950s. I should remember the name of the person who —
Doel:That we can look up.
Havens:We can look that up sometime later but if you look at the president of that particular time — Dubridge, for instance, was against splitting the Physical Review. Charlie Lawrenceson was against it. I don't remember the way Rabe felt about it. One could never get a clear cut statement from him on that. Fermi didn't care. He read all the physics anyway. Hans Bethe didn't care. Birge, I really don't know. Wigner was in favor of splitting it even though he knew all the physics as well. Those were the presidents of the time. None of the ones —
Doel:Did people like Wigner subscribe then to both sections?
Havens:Yes, absolutely. Even John Wheeler still, I think, subscribes to all sections but there are very few John Wheelers and Eugene Wigners — I'll tell you that. I only have councils in here going back to 1974. I can't give you the names of the people but there were some of the older councils who were very strenuously opposed to dividing the Physical Review.
Doel:Was it then an acrimonious decision to do this?
Havens:No, I think they recognized the inevitable but they didn't like it.
Doel:There was also the question of producing another fast-tracked journal.
Havens:Oh, Physical Review Letters?
Doel:Yes. I am curious if you recall any discussions on that?
Havens:Well, the Physical Review Letters were originally in the Physical Review and published along with the Physical Review. They didn't get any galley proof or anything like that on Letters and actually I think they were probably published faster than Physical Review Letters are, at that time because the red tape wasn't as large. The review wasn't as extensive as it is now before they get in to the Physical Review Letters. I don't think — I think the two items were separate. In other words, I don't think the publishing of the separate letters journal came up until after the Physical Review had been split and in operation for a couple of years. Then, of course, it came about that you have fast developments in physics published in two different places namely A or in Band that half the physics community wasn't aware of what was happening in the other half of the physics community. There ought to be then some journal which really did tell the physicists about the new developments in physics. That sort of was the origin of the Physical Review Letters.
Doel:The Letters began about 1957.
Havens:I thought it was later than that.
Doel:Perhaps that was the initial discussions about how to format it —
Havens:We will have to check on that. My memory is when the Letters start somewhere around 1960; in the early 1960s.
Doel:Probably the preliminary discussions about how to —
Havens:I know there were preliminary discussions about two years after the Physical Review had been split. Not when Sam split it – Sub-rosa — but when it was actually allowed to have separate subscriptions to the two journals. Then, of course, it was recognized that people weren't getting the latest information on the other part of it. There became some agitation and then there was a lot of discussion on how do you handle it and Sam Goudsmit came out with the typewriter composition and the mechanism of handling very rapid publication of Physical Review Letters and that was all done at Brookhaven and still isn't done by AIP. It is still published directly by the American Physical Society because of the speed and because you don't have galley proofs. Everything goes directly to page and is published directly from Brookhaven.
Havens:In fact, our argument is current at the present time because there are publishers who feel they can publish Physical Review letters faster than Brookhaven or now can publish it and therefore why should we go this way. The argument against that is since the author's get no proof and have no way of checking the editors have to be where it is published in order to check the final copy and make sure it is correct. With modern electronic methods of transmission maybe you can go to a different method of production than has occurred at Ridge ever since Physical Review Letters was first started. That is the argument at the present time.
Doel:In 1956 there is also an application for the Society of Exploration Geophysicists to become part of the AIP and there was some concern that they were such a large organization and might overwhelm —
Havens:Another thing — I don't remember whether I was on the governing board of AIP at the time —
Doel:That would have been just one year before you came on. I am curious if that was —
Havens:I remember some of the discussion on that. I don't think the discussion so much was that it was a very large organization and would overwhelm the other societies. It may have. But the discussion was whether or not it was primarily physics. I remember talking to Paul Kerr who was Chairman of the Geology at Columbia at the time in order to find out exactly what exploration geophysicists did. Maurice Ewing who was a Ph.D. physicist in geophysics and started the whole oceanographic area as a physicist was one of the keys to this whole thing. He said there were very few physicists in exploration geophysics. His statement was there should be a hell of a lot more physicists in exploration geophysics and it has developed that way because there are a lot of good physical measurements. Most of the exploration geophysics at that time was descriptive. They'd go out and hit a rock and break a rock and look at structure. Or they would drill a hole and look at the core and determine what the structure was. They were doing some sounding. They would blast dynamite and have sonic pickups. They were getting in to the nuclear and electrical type of structure studies. In the early 1950s there was very, very little of that. Most of the exploration geophysicists had gotten their education ten or fifteen years previous to that. That was in the 1930s and early 1940s, so they had very little physics. Therefore most of the people who were in the society of exploration geologists are not physicists. Very few of them, for example, were members of any of the five founder societies of the American Institute of Physics. It was decided that they really were not primarily interested in physics. They were interested in geology. That's why I think they were turned down. I don't think I was on the board at the time so I am not sure. I remember Pegram and I had lunch with Paul Kerr and a couple of other people Maurice Ewing and a couple of other people in the Geology department in order to discuss this point but it was purely informal at the time for me.
Doel:Did both Kerr and Ewing agree that the society was not —
Havens:They were sort of on opposite sides of the fence because Ewing felt they all should be physicists but weren't. Kerr thought they should all be geologists and that physicists were interlopers in the field! They certainly agreed that most of the people in the society were not physics and had no loyalty to physics; didn't have a physics background and were in it because it looked like the exploration geology in the future. It's turned out to be but that was the reason. I did hear, you know, there would be so many of them that they'd overwhelm us — but I don't think that was the prime reason for rejection.
Doel:This probably is a good time to talk about how you came on to the governing board — the executive committee of the AIP. Was that 1957?
Havens:I don't remember.
Doel:I've got a note on that here.
Havens:It's in the records of the AIP. I know that on occasion I have had to ask to find out. I know I was on in 1959. I think I was on in 1958 first but I am not sure. It may have been 1957. After I became deputy secretary, I did handle all of Darrow's work from May to October essentially. Also Darrow called on me to sort the papers that were nuclear and particle physics, and also get other professors at Columbia to sort the other papers because I knew the faculty at Columbia a lot better than he did. Also I was there and had access to them. Shirley Quimby did the sorting and solid state physics but he didn't know the microwave people and things like that — what's now atomic physics. I could get the people in the microwave laboratory to work on putting the meetings together and the bulletin together. Essentially at that time I really became involved with putting the bulletin together. Since the annual meetings were in Columbia, and I was chairman of the local committee in Columbia, and the whole AIP staff came up to man the registration desks at the Columbian meeting, I became very familiar with the staff of the AIP — Wallace Waterfall in particular. I don't know whether it was Waterfall or Pegram — Pegram was then treasurer of AIP. Talk about an incestuous relationship. He was treasurer of the AIP and treasurer of the APS! Since I was getting involved with the publication of the bulletin and the AIP published the bulletin, I had to get well acquainted with the people down here. Ruth Bryans, I think, was the one who was in charge of it at that time. It was then suggested but as I say I don't know who suggested it that the council of the APS appointed me as an APS representative of the governing board of AIP. I was on the board from 1957 until 1989.
Doel:When you first came on what sense did you have of responsibility? What did you see as your task on the governing board?
Havens:The whole attitude was very, very different at that time because the only staff the only permanent staff or paid staff that existed was at the AIP. There was one secretary at Columbia; one staff at APS. Everybody else was a volunteer. Therefore, if you wanted to do anything which required any substantial amount of staff time the only way it could be done is through the AIP and through Waterfall and Hutchisson. Any project which the APS wanted to do and couldn't be done on a volunteer basis was given to the AIP to do. I remember Wallace Waterfall saying that "if you pay us to do it we will wash your Cadillacs." Or, arrange to have them washed! Very few physicists had Cadillacs! The AIP was very definitely a service organization for the member societies. Anything that required more than a day or two secretarial work was given to AIP to implement. AIP was regarded as the sort of central staff of all of the five member societies. I always likened it to the business office of the university relative to the faculty — the faculty with the member societies and the business office was the AIP.
Doel:Did you feel, was it your impression that Hutchisson agreed with that perception of the AIP?
Havens:What Hutch did remember physics was expanding very rapidly and AIP was the only organization with a paid staff he was the one that suggested all the methods of expansion of the AIP, namely by the founding of the division of the history of physics. I think that was a perfect job for the AIP because history of physics is not confined to the American Physical Society.
Doel:That seems an appropriate role —
Havens:It seemed a very appropriate role for the AIP. Obviously that needed funding so it was funded even at that time mostly by the publications of the AIP. I remember very well the founding of the Journal of the Physics of Fluids. This came up as a journal suggested by Francoise Frankel [?] who was the editor and father of that journal as a journal of the American Physical Society. The Physical Society had the Physical Review. They couldn't do an additional journal and had no mechanism — I think at that time Tate — I don't remember when the physics of fluids was started but I was around when it was started.
Doel:The division started around 1959. There was the debate —
Havens:But anyway, they wanted a journal of their own and the APS, being composed of all volunteers, wasn't ready to start a new journal and therefore it was given to the AIP. The same thing happened — Leonard Sheff was the one that suggested the Journal of Mathematical Physics. That one was started. The Journal of Applied Physics, I understand from Jim Crumhansel [?] and from Elma Hutchisson who first came in as editor of the Journal of Applied Physics, that the same thing happened in the 1930s when that journal was started. Namely, they were on the board of the APS and wanted a journal of applied physics and scientific instruments and suggested that APS —. AIP was then given the task. I say Pegram was treasurer of both so he was the fellow who had to implement whether it was APS or AIP but he had no staff for APS so the only way he could implement it was hiring staff at AIP. Chemical physics was the same way although I don't know from my own personal experience about the Journal of Chemical Physics. I do know the fluids dynamics of the mathematical physics. When you say relative to today, the whole situation was so different because there was no paid staff at any of the member societies. Darrow wasn't paid until he retired from Bell Labs. Quimby certainly wasn't paid until well after he retired from Columbia University. I wasn't paid until, I guess, the middle 1960s or something like that and then I think I got $1,000 a year. What happened with me is I remember the reason I got paid is they had a council meeting and I was supposed to be at the council meeting and I also had a sort of emergency [???] from one of my consulting things. I had to give up five days of consulting very, very lucrative consulting with Schlumberger in order to go to the council meeting, which I did. Darrow said "you shouldn't have to give up something like that" so he arranged for a token sort of payment from the American Physical Society. That was before he was paid. He was still on the staff of Bell Labs at the time.
Doel:That's interesting. So, your appointments payment came before his own.
Havens:Yes. In fact there is a letter that should be in your files — when Darrow retired, what should they pay him? Van [???] was chairman of the committee to determine what Darrow should be paid. I don't know — I had a copy of the letter at one time but I think I turned it over to Spencer Weart.
Doel:Quite a few things, of course, begin to occur in the early 1960s but I want to wrap up just a few events in the late 1950s. I am curious, given the strings that appeared later in the APS, how much experience in industrial physics was there among the APS leadership do you feel in the late 1950s?
Havens:There was still primarily an academic operation simply because it was so difficult to get the industrial physicist to commit the time necessary to be an operating officer of the American Physical Society. Remember they were all completely volunteer at the time. Bell Labs was by far the most cooperative. IBM was nothing like Bell Labs at the time. Essentially our pool was Bell Labs and some of the national laboratories but they weren't industrial. There were two things, really. One is that the very prominent industrialist who Harvey Fletcher, for example, or Davidson or Gurmer [?] and so forth were in a position that they could do what they want to, were very few. The others had to be committed to their company. I remember one time when one of the executive directors at Bell Labs who was very conscientious of his obligations at APS was supposed to be at an APS and he called me up ahead of time and said the president of Bell Labs had called an emergency meeting of senior staff and I had no choice. Ma Bell pays me! He had to go to that meeting at Skytop. Anyway, not only that but the industrial physicists were not as well-known as the academic physicists though if you put two of them up for election industrial vs. an academic the academic would almost always be elected, especially if he'd written a textbook.
Doel:That's an interesting point that you make there. Was there a sense that this was already a critical problem among the API in the late 1950s? Do you feel your own recollections —
Havens:My own recollection is that the APS always tried to get more industrial physicist participation than it was able to get. In other words, if you had anybody who had any chance of being elected who would be a good person for the council, you grabbed him! There were very few. Even if you put them up they didn't get elected.
Doel:Institutional professional difficulties.
Havens:That's right. We knew that this would spin off other specialties. In fact, Pegram was probably the best one at spinning off other specialties. I think he was actually the founder of what was the aeronautics engineering society which is now aeronautics and astronautics.
Doel:Astronautics — that's right.
Havens:I think he founded that. He was very influential in all of the engineering societies as dean of the engineering school at Columbia. I think he even founded the Institute of Industrial Engineers but I am not sure of that because it was when he was dean that technocracy got invented at Columbia.
Doel:[???] movement of the 1930s.
Havens:There were a couple of other societies that are at the engineering center here at 47th Street who owe their existence to Pegram or at least — I know he was heavily involved with several other societies which were spinoffs of physics. One of the things the space physicist today have against the physical society is that it didn't pay enough attention to the space physicist. On the other hand, the Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics was the society that spun off from the American Physical Society which specialized in space physics. The same partially with the American Geophysical Union. We didn't pay enough attention to the geophysicists.
Doel:The academic geophysicists.
Havens:Right. But with volunteers we could only do a certain amount. It's quite different today.
Doel:It's certainly an issue that we want to get back into as we get into that point.
Havens:Dividing into specialties.
Doel:Right. One other thing that we didn't cover outside of just a few words is the sabbatical year you took in 1959. In the Atom for Peace — you were chairman, as I recall?
Havens:I was chairman of the advisory of the nuclear cross-sections advisory committee.
Doel:How did it come about to design for this particular conference? What goals did you have in mind?
Havens:The Atoms for Peace conference was in 1955.
Doel:I stand corrected then. In 1959 what was the goal?
Havens:You mean why did I go on sabbatical?
Doel:My impression, rather mistaken, was connected —
The first Atoms for Peace conference were in 1955 and the second one was in 1958. The first one I think that's when it came out that nuclear energy was going to be so cheap that it was too cheap to meter. By 1958, I would say that was the bottom of nuclear energy because people realized that nothing came free. There was no free lunch. It was going to be that the cost was not the fuel which was the only saving uranium could possibly be. Even though you had no cost to the fuel, your electric bill wouldn't change very much because you needed all the service people. You needed the grid. You had to maintain it; you had to bill people. You had to collect. You had to have auditors and lawyers — all of the infrastructure necessary in a public utility. By that time the fuel was really a very small fraction of the total operation and nuclear wasn't that much better when you looked at the full cycle than coal or oil. In fact, at that time, oil was in glut on the market and it was very cheap. Therefore nuclear energy couldn't compete economically. By 1958 when you looked at the process required to clarify the uranium and utilize it and then handle the waste products. Only in very selected individual places like in Greenland or packaged reactor which you can bury in the ice or in special cases did it look as though nuclear energy was going to be practical. I have a personal story on the sabbatical but it had very little to do with Atoms for Peace. I was a U. S. delegate at both the 1955 and the 1958 conferences and although I was much more active in the 1955 conference than I was in the 1958 conference, I still had a lot to do with the physics program. Although the physics program in the 1958 conference was a very minor part of the conference. Whereas in 1955 it was a major part of the conference because the whole thing had gone over into the engineering phase of it rather than the fundamental phase of it. One of the reasons why I took a sabbatical was that I was getting rather disillusioned with nuclear physics. Namely, I suppose I was too idealistic about what theoretical physicists could do and at that time having been disillusioned a long time previously about experimental physics because I was one and knew what the limitations were.
This is rather philosophical rather than physical. Here we were using nuclear forces weapons and for energy and we didn't know what nuclear forces were. They couldn't be well described. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, they still can't be well described although there are relatively satisfactory theories on it. Here if you couldn't describe what the fundamental nuclear physics forces were how could you build up a theory which would enable you to do what you could do for the atom? The atom atomic theory is really damn good because the nucleus can be completed at charge point and electrons can be considered essentially points. You don't worry anything about the derivatives of the surface of the nucleus or the surface of the electron and so forth and so on. The fine structure is exactly what it means. It is really practically independent of the Bohr atom and the hyper-fine structure is even down by 1,800 from that. You did have a concept of a nucleus in electrons around it. You could do pretty darn well without worrying about all of the details. You couldn't do that in nuclear physics because the forces were short range but because they were short range it was only those closely packed things which enabled you to build up a theory but it was dependent in great detail on exactly what the range were and what the surface conditions were. Therefore it [???] to me at that time you could never get a satisfactory theory. I took a sabbatical at the theoretical institute of theoretical physics in Copenhagen, where I would have not to do any experimental work but to really get involved with theorists. So the first thing I undertook was to look into the hydrogen atom and hydrogen molecule. I got disillusioned by that almost immediately because I found that even something as simple as the hydrogen molecule you could not calculate simultaneously the ionization potential and inter-nuclear spacing to anything like you could measure them experimentally. What does that mean? Well, it means your fundamental theory is not very good. It wasn't actually until about computers until large computers got into operation that you could calculate simultaneously those two parameters which are really fundamental to the hydrogen molecule. What do you do about the green mercury line, which probably you can measure more precisely than anything else on earth and the fine hyper-fine structure of the green line of mercury? Well, what they do is take the experimental value and then do an epsilon change from the experimental value. That's exactly what they did with the hydrogen molecule namely you could measure the inter-atomic spacing of the hydrogen molecule very accurately with x-rays. So you said "OK we know the spacing" and then you can calculate the ionization [???]. Or, you can take the ionization [???] and you can calculate the spacing but from fundamental theory you can't do the two of them simultaneously. After I did a lot of some other things and reviewed atomic physics much more thoroughly than I had done when I was a graduate student, I came to the conclusion that really theory was nowhere near as good as experiment. If you are going to have any theory I don't care what it is unless it was tied to an experiment in some way it may or may not be correct. The experimental physics was the basis of all physics rather than theory being the basis of all physics. I remember very well in a lecture where I sort of led Ben Modelston [?] astray he was giving the collective theory of the nucleus for which he later got the Nobel Prize and he said we were calculating the magnetic moment of potassium 39. Now it is a closed double shell minus one neutron passing forty minus one neutron, potassium 39, and low and behold! You calculate the magnetic moment from the collective theory and the experimental measurements is in complete agreement with the theoretical calculation. I said to Ben, "When was this calculation done?" Well, this was done in 1960. "And when was the potassium 39 measured?" Of course having come from Columbia I knew it was one of the first things Rabe had ever measured. That was done in 1934. In other words, if the collective theory did not agree with the magnetic moment of potassium 39 then it wasn't any good at all. You had to devise theories such that they agreed with certain experimental measurements or they were useless. Of course that's the history of physics. I just wasn't intelligent enough to know it at the time. It sort of revived my faith in what you could do in nuclear physics. I also had lots of discussions with Ben Modelston[?], Aage Bohr and some with Niels Bohr. I realized that, for instance, the neutron theory — I realized that by that time the binding energy of the neutron is 8 MeV on the average and therefore you were in a highly excited nucleus when you were doing any neutron experiments and nobody would try to describe from basic atomic theory the structure around the mercury green line, which is sort of what you were looking at in the equivalent of the binding energy of the neutron. What you had to do is write down the theory which was consistent over a very, very limited span of parameters. For instance, that's what thermodynamics is. You look at your clouscious[?] clapeyron equation for evaporation and the only reason why that is any good is because there is a whole set of experimental parameters you can put in there. That's what all of thermodynamics is. It doesn't say anything about absolute values at all. It only has relative values. The whole of thermodynamics depends on the handbooks, where they have measured the constants that go into these thermodynamics formulas.
Doel:All bounded by the experimental parameters —
Havens:All bounded by these experimental parameters. In fact, they're going a lot further in advance of this. I didn't realize at that time until I got onto the National Academy Board of Data, that the nuclear data was so much better in fundamental physics than the data in almost any other field including thermodynamics, that I was living in a fool's paradise when I wanted to get, say, the fission cross-section of Uranium 235 to one tenth of a percent. When we were doing the power hydrogen experiment at Columbia which we never finished because it was done better other places, well it was finished as we drew the measurements but that was critical to nuclear theory and I found out that we couldn't do any better in our nuclear measurements until we did a better determination of the molecular weight of the hydrogen molecule. That was the limitation on our precision finally on getting the NP cross-section at low energy. So you know you could only do so well. In fact, I have written several letters recently when older physicists who are in my generation have said "what do we do?" — I've written and said that when I look back at this I find that we established a very excellent scientific base for the whole neutron program, which is nuclear energy and weapons. In fact, the cross-section business is so much more precise in the determination of the action of reactors than the heat transfer of corrosion that there's not much point to measuring cross-sections anymore except in very specific critical situations because the others are so terrible that there is the limitation of any design you can come about. Not your nuclear part. You can design the nuclear part of a reactor much more precisely than you can design the heat transfer system. I feel I've contributed to measuring and putting on a firm theoretical basis the whole neutron theory, even though it isn't a good fundamental nuclear theory! They are as a thermodynamic approximation as you can use and enough experimental parameters that you can hang it on, that you can do a reasonable calculation for anything you want to know better than you can know it from other areas which come up in weapons and nuclear reactor design.
Doel:I am very intrigued by that.
Havens:And that came to me while I was working in Copenhagen — all the theoretical physicists that year.
Doel:And came as a revelation, not something that was confirmed from any of your other thinking.
Havens:No, I knew about it from the experimental side. I knew enough to discount the experimental results because everybody thinks his results are better than they really are. You've forgotten systematic errors or you've overlooked some data which may be contradictory with what you want to say. I'm not saying this is done purposefully but I am saying that people have a tendency to be optimistic.
Doel:That's a good way to put it. Did any one person stand out as being particularly influential to your thinking when you spent the year in Copenhagen?
Havens:I mentioned the three. Actually Otto Hansen — he was out at Rizo [?] and had worked with me at Columbia for a year on sabbatical. I would say that Otto and Ben, and Niels Bohr very seldom but he was the great man and I still think he's a great man that had very definite influence on that phase in my development in physics.
Doel:And this is when you were the NSF senior postdoc?
Havens:I was an NSF senior postdoc fellow. That is correct.
Doel:Why Copenhagen? Were there any other choices that came to mind or was that the —
Havens:Not really. That was sort of the center of theoretical physics. Aage Bohr I knew fairly well. He'd been at Columbia for a year and shared an office with Jim Rainwater. In fact, that was the start of the collective model. [???] married his wife. She lived over in New Jersey while he was — I guess he married her after he went back to Copenhagen. He met her while he was at Columbia. I knew Marietta fairly well. I was quite familiar with the Bohr and friendly with the Bohr family and that just seemed the place to go because I didn't want to go a place which was like CERN which was developing at the time. I would have been involved in the experimental work that I had been involved with all along. I wanted to get with a set of theorists. I had a lot of other things to do. Actually while I was on that fellowship I was also a consultant to the Atomic Energy Commission and that was when we founded the European-American Nuclear Data Committee — Dick Tashak[?]. We had the Tripartite Nuclear Data Committee that was Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States and then when the Atomic Energy Agency was formed we got a directive from the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, and again I will have to look up his name (he died recently) to go to Vienna and find out why we couldn't have the International Atomic Energy. We had formed European-American Nuclear Data Committee. That came directly out of the 1955 conference but you couldn't do things on a classified basis that way. In fact, the first meeting of the EANBC, which was formed out of the 1958 Geneva conference, was in Stockholm and all of the United States delegates came from my home in Copenhagen on their way to Stockholm as well as half of the European delegates came that way. Then it was very soon after that McCone was the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission at the time. He said to Colstead [?], who was in charge of the physics programs of the AEC, that he'd better go to Vienna with some advisors to see whether or not we could convert the EANDC into an INDC. George Colstead, Dick Tashak, and I in the Fall of 1959 visited Vienna to talk to Sterling Cole who was a former Congressman from New York State and then director of the agency and various people about setting up an International Nuclear Data Committee. We concluded, correctly I think, that it could not take the place of a European-American Nuclear Data Committee because you didn't have the relations with the Eastern European countries India and Japan and so forth that you had with the Western European countries — that we should continue with the EANDC and we would form an INDC and see how it worked. That is what was done. Now the INDC was a little bit different from the EANDC in that it had official delegates from countries. So a government employee had to be an official delegate. Consequently George Colstead was the official delegate to the INDC and Dick Tashak and I were advisors. I was at all meetings of the INDC up until 1971 or 1972 — something like that.
Doel:Before we turn away from the Copenhagen period, I am wondering what reactions you got from some of the theoretical physicists when you presented your ideas on the value and the experimental data.
Havens:I found that they had accepted this a long time ago. I mean, I remember having some very extensive conversations with Vickie Wiesskopf and Eugene Wigner on this very subject when they got back. They said "you were just working around in a cloud beforehand." Every theorist knows any theory they put up is only as good as the experimental evidence which supports it and all you try to do is to give a brief and clear cut description of something which is better than the last description that was given. I was just a babe in the woods, that's all. They just looked at me as if I was just growing up!
Havens:They accepted my conclusions on that. They had come to this conclusion before I had. I remember one particular discussion with Bohr when I said "what good is the neutron theory because you can't connect it back to the fundamental properties." He said, "well it's good within the energy range that you're interested in and there it works and what more can you expect?"
Doel:What more can you expect!
Havens:Right. It works!
Doel:That's good. In 1962 and this is may be an appropriate time to bring that up you moved into the Nuclear Engineering Department at Columbia —
Havens:No, I was still in the Physics Department in 1962.
Doel:When did you become director of the Division of Nuclear Engineering?
Havens:In 1962. But I was still Professor of Physics.
Doel:How did that come about that you became the director?
Havens:There are two versions of this — my version and probably some of the engineering professor's version. Their version I can give you very, very succinctly and I don't agree with it at all. Namely, I was one of Dunning's graduate students and Dunning was Dean of the School of Engineering and he wanted somebody who was close to him and they say would do what he said, which I never did what he said — to be director of that division rather than taking an engineering professor. Dunning convinced me, I mean I very reluctantly became director of that division because he convinced me I could contribute there in a way I could not contribute in other ways simply because I knew more about the fundamentals of nuclear energy than anyone else in the engineering school. I learned at that time that the implementation of nuclear energy was quite different than the research in nuclear energy. The other experts in nuclear energy at Columbia were primarily chemical engineers who were heat transfer experts. Although they were chemical engineers and knew something about the chemistry and various processes involved they had been at Dupont during the war which builds the Hanford reactors and so they were deeply involved in the design and development of the Hance-Hanford reactors. On the other hand they did not have a very good grasp of the overall nuclear physics of it. I actually then gave the fundamental physics course in nuclear energy and the fundamental reactor course, which meant I had to learn an awful lot about reactors because I hadn't been concentrating on the engineering at all. My version of it was the one I gave you, namely that I had great confidence in the future of nuclear energy. I still do but it's only the time scale that is different than I thought. I felt that I could contribute to the development of an engineering program at Columbia. The reason why it didn't develop was two-fold. One is it was never given any money. I never had any but a minor budget for administrative operations of the division. For instance, I never had the salary of a professor. The professor had to be appointed in a department. For instance, Lee Ladobski [?] and Herb Goldstein whom I recruited as professors were appointed in the Mechanical Engineering Department. Or Carlos Benito[?] was in the Chemical Engineering Department and —
Doel:Just what you needed to —
Havens:That's right. They had to go into the already existing departments because it was a division that was supposed to go across departments. It was not really set up as an independent organization with a budget that could operate. That didn't happen until very much later when it became the Department of Applied Physics in Nuclear Engineering. That's when I switched over, which was in the 1970s.
Doel:Did you have discussions with Dunning about trying to gather more —
Havens:Absolutely. In fact, I was congratulated one time by the vice president of the university saying that the president was taking to the trustees my proposal that there be a new nuclear engineering department at Columbia which I would be the founder and chairman. It never got through the trustees.
Doel:Did you ever hear an explanation why —
Havens:I wasn't privileged to go to trustee's meetings or anything like that but evidently I think the trustees were very realistic about it. They felt that if there were going to be a new department created in this they would have to have a certain endowment which would allow it to become a first-rate department. Dunning was involved in the fund-raising and the Nuclear Engineering Department was secondary to the engineering school itself. He was over-committed on the funds that he had raised for the engineering school and consequently having gone through a new building program. W. Mudd Building and so forth was built with funds Dunning raised and was mortgaged that was just about the time when they began to recognize that Columbia was over-spending. Columbia spent eighty million dollars of its endowment between 1962 and 1967 in order for current operations. You can't continue that way. They didn't know that until about 1972 when Bill McGill came in as president and sort of put a hold on things until they knew what was going on. Anyway, the trustees I think were right in that they recognized that Columbia had taken on more than it could carry out and nuclear engineering although at that time looked like it had a great future was a very small part of engineering. It was much better to soup off the present departments like the Electrical Engineering Department, and Communications and Computers than it was to establish a Nuclear Engineering Department. I had to operate it as a "mutt" for all the years it existed until the 1970s when other people became head of it.
Doel:You said Ladobski [?] was —
Havens:Lee Ladobski, yes.
Doel:Given that you are operating under the constraints, what goals then did you set for the 1960s?
Havens:I had two goals, obviously. I wrote the first report. I don't think I have a copy of it here. I have it at home. It was later the report and the Brownlee report and the Brinkman report. I did it only for nuclear physics for the NSF and the AEC. I did that in 1960. I was interested in the further development of nuclear physics. In fact, I noticed the way high energy physics was going, namely I was in charge of teaching the engineering physics at one time in that era. Sam Ting was one of my instructors; J. Steinberger was one of my instructors — and they were never around! They were off at Brookhaven or Stanford or Chicago, or something like that. They weren't at Columbia. It was my objective and I failed to get more physics research at Columbia so that you would have some of the physics professors there. In fact, I had violent arguments with Rabe about this because I felt that solid state was the growing field and that Columbia ought to commit itself to at least hiring at least five professors in the solid state area and I felt five was the critical mass to have a viable solid state group. Every time it came up to appoint a new professor, they were appointed in high energy physics because they had to have somebody else who was expert in bubble chamber or fast electronics or something like that. We did get Bell Labs to subsidize Quin Lutinger who was a well-known in theoretical solid state physics. Then there was some work going on in solid state physics in a microwave laboratory but Columbia never made commitment. Rabe and I had opposite arguments on this. Rabe always said to me that we could never compete with Bell Labs and IBM. I agreed with him completely — we couldn't compete with IBM but had we had a strong solid state physics department we would have had a hell of a lot of cooperation and support from IBM and Bell Labs. I felt and I went out on my own to speak to people at Bell Labs and IBM. Sid Millman was the executive director of physics research at Bell Labs and he was the one that arranged the Quin Lutinger subsidy. I know Sid would have arranged more but Columbia just wouldn't accept that sort of an arrangement.
Doel:Columbia or Rabe wouldn't?
Havens:Rabe was the force in the department but they had to — well, I don't know what it was on higher levels. Columbia wanted some sort of a guarantee that industrial companies would support that sort of an operation which the industrial companies in my opinion aren't capable of giving. For instance, IBM is a very responsible company and we have the New Materials Prize sponsored by IBM. What I had when I was executive secretary from IBM was a letter from the chairman of the board of IBM committing IBM to give the American Physical Society sixty-five hundred dollars per year for the next ten years. You're not going to get any company to — that's sixty-five thousand dollars, smaller than IBM's total operation but that's what they felt they could do in support of the New Materials Prize. No industrial company in my opinion can commit itself. I think the only thing that would have subsidized the trustees is I don't know what the amount of money for subsidizing a chair professorship, endowing a chair professorship, but I know now it is two and a half million dollars. If you say you need a minimum of five, this means that the companies would have to give ten million dollars to Columbia as an endowment in order for Columbia to set up that department. It wasn't only Rabe. It was the administrative structure and the fact that Columbia was over spending and didn't see its way clear on the money to expand in that direction. I think it was wrong but I lost.
Doel:At the same time appointments were being made as opportunities came up. You weren't able to get any of the solid state people in even at regular —
Havens:For instance, I wrote in a proposal in 1968 to form a Department of Computer Science. I was turned down by the president and vice-president by Grayson Kerr and Jacque Barsonne that computers were just a tool. There wasn't anything like computer science. It was just a collection of other sciences put together. I argued strenuously against that. They did form it. We now have, at Columbia, but I guess it was formed in the 1980s. It had been formed in 1968 and when I proposed it, it would have been one of the first. With IBM and Bell Labs the two biggest even though you don't want to consider Bell a computer company, they are and we also had strong support from Xerox. Columbia could have been the outstanding computer science specialists. The mathematics department opposed it.
Doel:Is that right?
Havens:Oh, there's no mathematics in computers! I was on a committee in that era. I'm not sure what year it was but I think it was around 1965 or 1966. There was Wally Eckert and Luellen Thomas. Sammy Eilenberg was [from the] mathematics department and I was from the physics department. There was one other mathematics professor. I forget but I think Wally Eckert was chairman of the committee. The only one they would hear of as being satisfactory for a Professor of Applied Mathematics was Johnny Venoyman. Anybody else was —
Doel:Was just not going to fit.
Havens:Was just not going to fit. I just concluded that was impossible. That was when the whole thing went to the president and vice-president, who as I said turned it down on forming a Department of Computer Science. It turns out that the fellow who finally was made chairman of the Department of Computer Science was a graduate student of Henry Foley and did all of his Ph.D. thesis under Luellen Thomas on the structure of helium — the atomic structure of helium. Joe Tau [?] is chairman of the department now. He was the one who founded, supposedly, the Department of Computer Science.
Doel:That's real interesting.
Havens:What they did with me is they made me chairman of the committee on computer science in the university. I ran for two years a set of seminars on computer science trying to prove to them that it was a highly interesting and important intellectual field of development. I certainly could never had convinced Jacque Barsonne[?]. He was the sort of man "don't bother me with the facts—my mind is made up" — at least that's my opinion of him!
Doel:And you were on the committee in the 1960s?
Doel:Were there others who supported you on this?
Havens:Wally Eckert and Luellen Thomas supported me. They were employees of IBM; adjunct professors in physics. Wally Eckert was the first director of research for IBM when the Watson Research Laboratory was at Columbia University on 16th Street between Riverside and Broadway. I had his full support but he wasn't even a Columbia employee. He was an IBM employee.
Doel:Do you recall having any discussions with Rabe about the —
Havens:What was his view?
Doel:His view was that computing was a technique and not an intellectual, not equivalent — and I agree with him. It's not the equivalent to physics or mathematics or chemistry. On the other hand, how pragmatic do you want to get? I don't want to get entirely pragmatic but I don't want a cause at Columbia University on the networking of computers. Cause would be alright but I don't want a department in networking of computers. But I do think that you have to recognize a situation that existed, my anticipation that computers were going to be very important throughout our society; not only in the scientific calculations. At that time very few people had any contact with computers. Therefore it wasn't generally pervading through the society. That was one of the disappointments of my life. I used an argument that in the 1950s there were more professors of electrical engineering who had Ph.D.s in solid state physics than there were professors of electrical engineering who had Ph.D.s in electrical engineering. That's the way the solid state electronics developed in electrical engineering. I felt the same way about computer science. There were no computer scientists. There were no nuclear engineers when I started either. You don't have a field to develop until you have a field!
Doel:Outside of the problem that you laid out with Columbia's endowment, do you feel that Rabe did not like bringing in the solid state physics department?
Doel:Because of the fact that they weren't equivalent in his view? He had a prejudice —
Havens:Yes. I don't know whether I am denigrating Rabe or not because I thought he was one of the best physicists that lived. On the other hand, I remember him saying at one time that the only problem the physicist can solve is a two-body problem. If it's a three-body problem it is chemistry! I don't know whether that's a direct quote. I wouldn't want to put it as a direct quote but certainly he said things like that and so he wanted to keep physics as sort of a pure subject. In fact he felt in many of the sessions that I arranged on the applications of physics, for an American Physical Society meeting, that I was prostituting physics — that really you should remain pure and then you had your virtue; had any money!
Doel:That's a good way to put it. Did you feel that — how many people on the faculty in the physics department were coming to accept the view that Columbia needed solid state physicists coming in or did you find that a majority —
Havens:No, they were very [???] because it was mostly made up of particle physicists and microwave physicists. Microwave is much more sympathetic, having solid state physicists and particle physics. But particle physicists felt that particle physics was physics and that solid state physics was chemistry. In fact, I was even accused of that by some of the offices of the divisions of particle in fields when they said, "do these solid state papers that are in Washington really have anything to do with physics?" See, they didn't really have anything to do with particle physics but I felt that they had something to do with physics.
Doel:It's probably a good time to get back into the work that you were doing at the APS, although I should ask if there is anything else from your Columbia career the early 1960s that you'd like to cover?
Havens:Maybe I will think of some things. I hadn't thought about those ahead of time, the ones that I just told you about. Going back to the APS, it was —
Doel:Just to be certain. It was 1959 that the posted Deputy Secretary became maintained on an indefinite term appointment.
Havens:I don't really remember. I went on sabbatical in 1959. Weiskopf was president, I believe, at that time. I had a lot of correspondence with him while I was in Copenhagen. He was active in the European scene as well so he came over. I saw him a couple of times during the year. They wanted to know what to do with me because I was away. They decided that they wanted to keep me. I was on sabbatical from the APS as well as being on sabbatical from Columbia University and therefore they wanted me back as deputy secretary when I came back from Europe. There was no hiatus in that. I did actually handle a lot of the things for APS while I was in — even while over there. I came back, I think, twice during the year. One was at the cost of the Atomic Energy Commission, one at the cost of the American Institute of Physics. I think I went to a board meeting and an executive meeting, and so forth. I guess I wasn't on the executive committee in 1959 but I was on the board though, I know. I came from Copenhagen for the board meeting. I remember that I also went around the company because I was on the review committee for Argon and for Lawrence Radiation Laboratory and one of those [???] trips.
Doel:When you think back to broad questions that were coming up at APS at that time and we've already mentioned it in passing, that there were anxieties in developing the electronic physics and the fluid dynamics divisions I am wondering if you recall any particular discussions?
Havens:There were lots of discussions in the early 1960s. The ones that I remember who were sort of leaders in this area were Bill Houston of Rice, Johnny Wheeler of Princeton, Eugene Wigner was very active in it, and Bob Walker who was also one spent a lot of time on it. George was off to himself. Weiskopf was also involved but he was in Europe at the time, as director of CERN. Although he was very interested in it he did not participate in a lot of the discussions. What they recognized is sort of the old Nicholas Murray Butler joke that really if a physicist was going to contribute he had to specialize. There were no what they called middle-aged men Renaissance men anymore because there wasn't anyone who could know all of solid state, nuclear, particle, fluids, optics. If you were going to write a research paper it had to be on a specialized subject. The airplane had come in and telephones had improved considerably, so I remember saying at the time that the solid state physicist in Berkeley knew the solid state physics in Bel Air better than he knew the particles and field theorist who was in the next office to him. It looked as if the way and Bob Sacks who was the deputy secretary to the Midwest at the time went around the country trying to organize geographical sections and had absolutely no success. How do you have a Rocky Mountain section when there are less than one thousand physicists between, let's say, the east of the Rockies and the west of the Rockies. They regarded themselves as being part of the national scene rather than a Rocky Mountain section or something like that. He did a lot of traveling around the Midwest and west trying to organize geographical section and came up with zilch. It was at that time, after he went through all of that, the Texas section resulted from that but that was primarily Bill Houston. I never knew how Bill Houston could maintain his name "Houston" in Houston when it's spelled the same and he was a chancellor of Rice University. The Texas section was put together by Walt Lehman. It was the southeastern section that he put together. Texas was part of the southeast. We have the southeastern section and therefore we have to have the southwestern section. It was different from the western section which was California, Oregon and Washington. But it started with Texas to New Mexico and Arizona and Colorado, and so forth. That was never really prominent or very able. It was concluded at that time that the only way that the Physical Society was going to have to subdivide, simply because nobody can encompass the whole thing and it was much better to subdivide it by specialty than it was by geographical location. I said Bob Sacks had taken on the task of trying to divide it by geographical section and come up with the conclusion that it wasn't going to work.
Doel:Were the New York meetings already beginning to lose ground as the central meeting by the 1960s?
Havens:I can tell you, the answer is no. They didn't really lose ground until the 1970s, until after we divided up into a divisional structure. I have a report I wrote looking at the future of APS meetings which documents this.
Doel:Of course a number of things were going on in the early 1960s. Haven: It was actually Johnny Wheeler who was responsible for redoing the constitution. I don't know whether he was the sparkplug of it he did most of the work — Johnny is a bear for worker Bill Houston or Bob Barker. Those three were the ones who essentially got together and I know they held a series of meetings which they told me about but I was not there because they didn't want Darrow in on it.
Doel:Because of Darrow's opposition to do —
Havens:That's right. Darrow didn't want anything to change. He wanted the physical society to go back to the 1910s rather than having any change. They didn't tell Darrow about it at all. He didn't even know of the existence of these meetings until very much later. They were the ones who developed the concept that the American Physical Society should be divided up by specialty and it should be divisions. Then it was the first chairman of the division of high [???] physics who was the one who actually wrote the new constitution and bylaws. It wasn't the first chairman it was W. James Lyons who was the first secretary of the division of [???]. He was at Princeton. He was at the… I forget the name of the institute but it had to do with fabric. Jim Lyons was chair. I guess he was chairman of the division a long time. Dillion of the Dillion Metal was actually the director of the institute. I forget the name of it. It's still there at Princeton. We can look up high polanar[?] physicists. Anyway, Jim Lyons they enlisted the aid of Jim Lyons who was a good sort of a lawyer in a way, who was secretary of that institute in Princeton and secretary of the division and they enlisted his help in their drafting of a constitution. It was a new constitution which divided, gave divisions representation on the council and had general councilors, and essentially the structure which was put in the constitution which was adopted in the Fall of 1966.
Doel:It was a major change.
Havens:It was a major change because, you see, previously we had regional secretaries. They were sort of disappearing.
Doel:West coast secretary, for example —
Havens:Well Birge was west coast secretary for a long time. Leonard Lobe was west coast secretary; Bill Nuremberg, Kaplan —
Havens:Not Joe Kaplan he was at Rochester, wasn't he?
Doel:There is also a Kaplan out in Los Angeles.
Havens:I guess it was Joe Kaplan from Los Angeles. He was regional secretary. Bob Sacks was the regional secretary for the central states. I forget — there was a whole series of ones from the southeastern states. That's what I say. Bob Sacks in the 1960s investigated that very thoroughly and came up with the conclusion that would work. There was lots of discussion on whether it could be made to work and concluded that it wouldn't work and would be better to go by divisions. That is why Jim Lyons. Jim Lyons and Johnny Wheeler were essentially the ones who were responsible for writing that constitution, although they had very close supervision and contact with Bill Houston and Bob [???]. Those four were responsible for it.
Doel:And those four were the ones who favored the division of having —
Doel:Was there any significant opposition to division versus the regions?
Doel:Who led that opposition?
Havens:I would say Darrow led that opposition.
Doel:Who else was involved?
Havens:Sacks. I think later he was won over after he — but he felt that it would be possible to do and he did an awful lot of work trying to do it and finally concluded that it couldn't be done.
Doel:That it wouldn't work.
Havens:Who else — I really don't remember who else. I was actively involved with council at that time and so I felt I strongly felt that if we did not go to a divisional structure there would be other societies.
Doel:Competing societies —
Havens:Competing societies, as there already were. I mean, for instance, I think because of the short-sightedness some people say of me but I can only do what the council would do that we have the Material's Research Society now, the Vacuum Society would have been part of the APS had they treated the surface physicists better. Charlie Duke was the one who led that report and had all of the surface physicists join Vacuum Society and took over the management of the Vacuum Society. All of our divisions would have been separate societies, in my opinion had we not gone to the — because I don't know what pure physics is. There is no difference, in my opinion, between — maybe I should say the only difference between pure physics and applied physics is the motivation. You do the same thing. I've used this as an illustration on many occasions. Maybe I've already used it on you! I could have measured the of fission cross-section of uranium 235 from the point of view of a reactor. It costs one hundred million dollars to load a reactor and if you know it's at ten percent you have to have a ten percent overload which is ten million dollars. Therefore the more precisely you know that cross-section the more economic you can be in establishing the loading of a reactor. On the other hand, there were six different measurements of the fission cross-section, all of which was supposed to be accurate to one percent and they differed six to seven percent. Therefore something was wrong. I spent a lot of time trying to find out, though not from the point of view of the economics of it but from the point of view what was wrong with the physics. Most of the experiments had very much over-stated the accuracy. Not the precision, but the accuracy with which they had made the measurements and therefore when I got copper accuracies on, they were all consistent within the five percent and didn't know the fission cross-section to one percent with the five percent. That's why I say I'm very disillusioned with the experimental physics because they are not as accurate as they think they are. They may be as precise as they think they are but not as accurate as they think they are. Anyway, we would have had a split-up of the physical society had we not gone to a division structure. That's an opinion. There is no way you can prove it one way or another but that's my opinion.
Doel:Were people like Fred [???] playing a major role in those discussions?
Havens:I don't think Fred played a major role. He was chairman of the AIP at the time, as I recall, and felt it inappropriate for him to play a major role in that, but because he was more associated by that time with the AIP than with APS. He had been president of APS. I think he was 62 when he was president. So he was interested and very active in the solid state division which was what later became the condensed matter division. I don't think he played an active role in that. The four that I mentioned were the ones who were very active in it.
Doel:You were also in the early 1960s chairing a committee, I believe, on whether the Physical Review would be split into four sections. Were the battles already fought? Was it more a matter of developing an established procedure and splitting —
Havens:The battles were already fought. Once you decided to divide the Physical Review it was the sort of logistics of how much could a person legitimately look at? In fact, in my opinion this is a personal opinion and the editors don't agree with me the Physical Review hasn't been subdivided sufficiently because if you look at the Physical Review B which is condensed matter physicist is now in three issues a month, all of which are the order of 700-1,000 pages. Let's say the minimum is 700, how can somebody read 2,100 pages per month? It's impossible! I would say that a reasonable size for a magazine technical magazine is 5,000 pages a year. When it gets above that you better subdivide it. There are lots of people who don't agree with me.
Doel:We're going to be coming back to that of course when we get a little closer to the future. One other thing that was going on in the early 1960s was the problem of financing the APS. I remember reading was worried that the society was heading for bankruptcy.
Havens:Remember that the Physical Society was running on a shoe-string with all volunteers at that particular time. What Shirley meant by bankruptcy was that the expenses were larger than the income. If you continue that you are going to bankruptcy. The APS was never in danger of the bankruptcy like the AAPT was. When the AIP bailed out the AAPT, they actually had a read deficit where they had spent more money than they had taken in. The APS never got to that point, possible because of me and Shirley [???]. Bob Barker and Johnny Wheeler and I and Eugene Wigner also looked at the APS very, very carefully and decided that we could not — the first thing that we had to do in order to be viable is to not be bankrupt and to have an operating surplus. It was then that we established the principle that there are vestiges of it even in the present constitution. Namely, that when you set a registration fee for a meeting you shall make sure that the total collection of the registration fee is more than the expenses of the meeting. If you can't exactly hit it and if it's less, then you lose money. So we began on a very conservative policy of building up. It was that time we began building up a reserve fund for the American Physical Society. I remember the boundary positions — the counting methods were nowhere near as good at that time as they are now. In fact, the AIP was doing our accounting and at one time was eighteen months behind in the accounting.
Doel:This was back in the 1960s?
Havens:The 1960s — oh yes they computed the work. You can't operate that way because when we set journal subscription prices we have to do it no later than June, which means you are committing yourself to publish eighteen months in advance. We were essentially thirty-six months behind what we had to set up. What we were set up then is that we would have a reserve; our objective was to have a reserve fund which was equivalent to one year’s operating expenses. That's a moving target because your operating expenses go up and it proved to be more of a moving target than we ever anticipated even at the time. I don't remember what the budgets of the APS were. Now they are around twenty million dollars. Then they were probably one or two million dollars at that time. I would have to look back to find out. We started on accumulating reserve primarily to insure that we could publish the journals if we suddenly got cut off. The journals at that time were supported mostly by page charges. The page charges were in debate as to whether they would be allowed by the federal government. Eighty percent of the financing of the journal came from page charges and if suddenly the administration decided that page charges weren't a legitimate charge against the contract, how could you continue the journals? That is why APS began building up a reserve fund — to insure solvency until you could regroup and get some sort of a different set of boundary conditions to operate. We've changed that. Now we are dependent on the libraries. We decided that the first principle was that the APS had to be economically viable before it could do anything. It was certainly Barker and Wheeler who were very active in that process. Sam Goudsmit was also active in it because the publications were a source of income and we realized that it was the publications where the money was and therefore in order to be solvent now that doesn't mean we were foolproof. I remember in 1969 the AIP was eighteen months behind in its accounting and suddenly they came in with an increased publication bill for Physical Review increase over what they had estimated of six hundred thousand dollars.
Doel:That's a sizeable charge.
Havens:And it almost bankrupted the American Physical Society. By that time we were accumulating reserve. We did have six hundred thousand dollars but not much [???]. Anyway, it was that six hundred dollars where Quimby wrote that we were almost a bankrupt society, which was true. We were very careful about finances. Of course we do a lot better on the accounting now. We had to take the AIP to task to make sure they did a lot better on the accounting and timing than they did previous to that time.
Doel:Were there things that you recall in the mid-1960s about moving the New York meeting elsewhere — moving it outside New York?
Havens:Oh yes. There was a lot of that. In fact, why should the meeting always be in New York? Fred Seitz was one of the active — I think it was Fred Seitz and John Bardeen who first caused the meeting in 1968 to be moved to Chicago. That was a very unfortunate circumstance because of the turmoil that existed not only in the APS but throughout the country and especially with the Chicago riots they had. Chicago was a particularly bad city to have chosen and the timing was very, very unsatisfactory. But the meeting had been in New York regularly. There had been meetings previously in the 1940s and 1950s. I think the 1950 meeting was at Harvard. I think the 1955 meeting was at Harvard. Very few of them had been outside New York. It was in Chicago in 1968 and then the west coast said "why can't we have one on the west coast" and so it evolved that the annual meeting would move and would be in the Midwest and I am told that is looking at the United States from an easterner's point of view the Midwest, West, and East Coast every year. We started then the rotation. 1972 was in San Francisco, I think the 1973 was in New York, I think the 1974 was in Chicago. I can look those up because I really don't remember. Anyway, we started a rotation of meetings. That is when the annual meetings began to decrease in prominence. By 1978 in my opinion the annual meeting was disappearing because Lou [???] went to extraordinary efforts to have marvelous programs for the annual meeting for two or three years in a row and it didn't have one iota effect on the attendance.
Doel:Something I want to get into when we get into your phase as the executive secretary —
Havens:That's not until 1967.
Doel:I am wondering if this might be a good point to draw this to a close today. Was there anything else from the early 1960s with your work in the APS that you wanted to cover that we haven't?
Havens:No, I don't think so unless you want to go into the relations with AIP.
I want to make sure we cover that but why don't we begin that in our next session.Session I | Session II | Session III | Session IV | Session V | Session VI