Oral History Transcript — Dr. William Havens
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Interview with Dr. William Havens
William Havens; August 5, 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 a continuing interview with Dr. William Havens at the APS offices in New York City. There were a few questions that we didn't get a chance to discuss in the last interview. You just mentioned a moment ago about your role in writing a report, once you returned from sabbatical, on the future of atomic energy. I would like to hear about that.
Havens:I had been chairman of the Nuclear Cross-sections Advisory Committee for the Atomic Energy Commission, and also on the original tripartite Cross-Section committee — which was U.S., Great Britain and Canada. Also I was one of the initial members of the European-American Nuclear Data Committee. Then I was asked by McCone, who was then chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, to go to Vienna to see if we could set up an international nuclear data committee, which was later set up under the auspices of the IAEA. I was asked by Dick Volt who was then, I think, the associate director of the National Science Foundation. He was of the Volt, Brannick and [???]. Anyway, he and Glen Seaborg, who was then chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, asked me to be chairman of the committee to look into the future of nuclear physics. We assembled quite a committee. I remember that Herman Feshbach was a member of it; Von [???] was a member of it. I would have to go over and look but there were quite a group of physicists who met together to try to predict what the future of nuclear physics would be and what its applications were.
Doel:Had you organized the membership of it?
Havens:I was one of the people that helped in membership. We had a discussion. I remember having a discussion with Glenn Seaborg about who the members of the committee should be. We had a physicist — I forget his name at the moment — from the Naval Research Laboratory, who was the secretary of this committee and kept all the records. He was very helpful to me, and the committee membership was established jointly by the National Science Foundation of the Atomic Energy Commission. I did organize the way the thing was put together and did organize the final report, which came out as a National Science Foundation publication. We looked at all aspects of the physics and tried to determine which were the most important to explore — not only what their implications were for nuclear physics but what they were for the practical side of nuclear energy and applications of nuclear physics. We finally did come out with a report which was, unfortunately, too widely circulated in draft form by the members of the staff of the National Science Foundation. When the final report came out, it was somewhat different than the initial report. I remember very distinctly being very annoyed, because those people who had read the draft report figured that the draft report was the same as the final report and would quote conclusions from the draft report which was not the conclusions of the final report. This was the first attempt to extrapolate what the future support of research should be. Of course, the nation was just going into an era of greatly expanded research. Remember Sputnik had just gone up in 1958 and there was a great effort to expand the number of science Ph.D.s in physics and chemistry. There were NASA fellowships, there were DOD fellowships, there were AEC fellowships. And NSF fellowships. In fact the number of fellowships then may even have been a lot more than the number of fellowships now. We were going into what actually turned out to be expedientially expanding funds for science; which obviously couldn't keep up. We had predicted a very bright future for physicists and for physics.
Doel:Was this on the draft report as well as the final report?
Havens:It was in the draft report and the final report. But for example as I recall the report (I would have to review it to see whether it's true because memory plays tricks) we recommended building certain accelerators. We established some sort of priorities of what would be the first, second and third accelerator.
Doel:At national facilities?
Havens:Throughout the entire country. That is, for instance, before the Los Alamos meson factory. What happened was that the priority list that we suggested was I think almost inverted by the political process, as far as the actual building of the accelerators. We did attempt to take a comprehensive look at nuclear physics and what its potentialities were and what should be developed. This was later taken over by the National Academy of Sciences and led to the Peck report, which was a report on the future of all of physics rather than just nuclear physics. The report I wrote was just nuclear physics.
Doel:Do you recall any other recommendations in particular that you and the committee made in the report?
Havens:Yes. The committee actually at that time devised two parts of physics which were sort of nuclear statics and nuclear dynamics. Obviously you have to study both if you are going to learn about the nucleus. But we called it nuclear structure physics and nuclear dynamics. The investigations proceeded along that way. It was also a time when we felt that high energy physics was quite different than nuclear physics. There was an intermediate category which was high energy physics applied into the nucleus. This was getting started and the budget category of intermediate energy physics was established. Nuclear physics, you might say — classical nuclear physics — might extend to thirty to fifty MeV. Above that for an act to a BeV was intermediate energy physics and above BeV at that time was high energy physics. The high energy physicists were not interested in anything but the highest energy. The intermediate energy physics was of interest but wasn't being adequately treated and also was very much more expensive than nuclear physics. If you funded intermediate physics than you had no money left for nuclear physics. Consequently the category of intermediate energy physics was invented. It turned out in, the practical application of it, that it didn't make very much difference. The same people were in charge of the budget for intermediate nuclear physics that were in charge of nuclear physics, and they distributed the money as to the best of their judgment. There was this category so as to protect nuclear physics from intermediate energy physics.
Doel:What differences were there between the draft report and the final report? Do you remember the details?
Havens:The differences were more in the way things should be handled, namely that the nuclear physics budgets of the Atomic Energy Commission were very much larger than the nuclear physics budgets of the National Science Foundation. A large fraction of their investment was in the national laboratories and not in the universities. The differences between the initial report and the final report were in the recommendations about how the national laboratories and university researchers should be supported. For example, I know I felt very strongly that the national laboratories should have facilities which could not be placed at a university. They were much too expensive and much too large and required too much engineering maintenance and were not appropriate for a university. On the other hand, the national laboratories should not undertake programs which could easily be undertaken by the universities. I felt that the national laboratories should be the very large facilities program and should not compete with universities which could be a smaller installation and run by the staff and the graduate students primarily, rather than a huge engineering staff. Well, if you look at the mixture now you will find that there isn't an enormous amount of distinction between what is done at the universities and what is done at national laboratories. It was that sort of recommendation which changed from the draft report to the final report. It was probably the politics of science rather than science which changed from the draft report to the final report.
Doel:The question of which districts would get funding for large projects?
Havens:No, not so much districts but national laboratories — if I would say it that way — vs. university research. To some extent the geographical distribution played a great part. For instance, the senators — I think it was Senator Johnson from Washington — wanted major installation up in some place in the state of Washington. Hanford was the biggest installation in the state of Washington, so he was plugging building major accelerators at Hanford, which of course would have been another national laboratory. It never developed into a major national laboratory like Argonne or Oak Ridge or Brookhaven or Berkeley, but there were political reasons for expanding the Hanford operation. So there was a good research group there at Hanford. But when it wasn't developed into a national laboratory that research group sort of disappeared.
Doel:Do you remember any particular discussions among the members of the committee? Were there any points which seemed to require considerable discussion before you were able to write the report?
Havens:Well, yes. There was quite a discussion within the committee about how you did physics for the development of the nuclear theory, and how you get physics for the development of not only the theory, but exploratory research. I remember feeling very strongly at the time that the theorists were in control and that experimentalists were not aggressive enough. They would try to do experiments which were impossible because the theorists said that this is the experiment to be done, overdoing exploratory experiments which might turn up some evidence in a different way. As I said before, when I was in Copenhagen. I learned that the theorists have an enormously greater flexibility than the experimentalists, but theory, unless it is tied to some sort of experiment, is not very useful.
Doel:I recall that you discussed this. Did you find that you had others who supported your position?
Havens:Oh yes. There was a good fight between the theorists, led by Herman Feshbach and the experimentalists led by me and Hans Bethe about what exploratory experiments you do. We worked out a report that I think was a credible report at the time.
Doel:It didn't fully resolve the philosophical disputes?
Havens:No, you will never fully resolve that philosophical issue.
Doel:In 1962 you also became a consultant at Los Alamos. How did that came about? Was that connected at all to your work on this committee?
Havens:No, it wasn't connected with the work on that committee. I am trying to think of why that happened in 1962. I think the reason why I became a consultant to Los Alamos at that time was that I was working a lot in the international arena. Believe it or not at that time we were looking at methods of detecting nuclear weapons. Since I had been doing experiments on neutron time of flight. Neutron time of flight was one of the methods that could be used to detect nuclear — especially clandestine — weapons through all sorts of barriers. I became a consultant to the Los Alamos on the general weapons program, mainly from the point of view of detecting using weapons as experimental neutron sources, and also detecting weapons by using neutron gamma ray techniques.
Doel:How much time did that involve?
Havens:I used to go out to meetings at Los Alamos during the academic year, and I usually spent one to two weeks at Los Alamos during the summers. Or, if there was a particular experiment running in which I was involved I would spend a few days at Las Vegas, or rather Mercury, which is near Las Vegas. They later changed consultants into what they called Visiting Staff Members and I was a Visiting Staff Member in the Physics Division.
Doel:This was in the 1970s?
Havens:This was the 1960s. Ben Diven was the leader of P-3, and then Jay Keyworth later became the leader of the P-3 since he had been Diven's leader in that work. This was essentially using nuclear weapons as a neutron source for time of flight experiments, which were very little different than the flight of time, except you had a lot lower repetition rate and a lot higher source of [???]. I was more of a consultant to Dick Taushak [?] who was then deputy director of the Los Alamos laboratory, because we had worked so closely together on so many things.
Doel:I am curious how many other kinds of experiments you advised when you were down at Los Alamos. Did you did intend to be particularly focused on Neutron time of flight research?
Havens:It tended to be focused on the neutron experiments but I had free access to everything there. Obviously I had something to do with the weapons program and what was going on in the weapons program.
Doel:One of the major topics I wanted to begin to cover with you today is your role in the American Physical Society. Given that you came on board at a very tumultuous time in the history of the society and in physics in the United States, there are quite a few things that I wanted to make sure we get a chance to cover. In late 1966 was when you were formally appointed APS Secretary.
Havens:Formally, that is correct.
Doel:I am wondering how difficult that was for Karl Darrow to retire at that time?
Havens:It was very difficult for Karl Darrow to retire. He was, as I said before, a gentleman of the old school and didn't want anything to change. He felt that anyone that suggested any change in the American Physical Society was a personal criticism. He took any change extremely hard. I remember when the regional secretary for the Midwest was created, with Bob Sachs. He was devastated by this and said it pointed out that he wasn't doing a good job. I remember saying to him that the Midwest needs its representation; that I don't care if you did a perfect job sitting in New York; you could not represent the Midwest. They needed somebody there who was in Chicago who represented the Midwest and it wasn't a personal criticism of him. It was a set of circumstances which required a different solution than he could provide as long as he remained in New York. I think that was true, although I don't think he ever really believed that. There was no doubt about it that the society was getting into the various specialties. I don't remember when the divisions were created, but sometime in the late 1940s I think the first division was that of electron and atomic physics. That was created mostly by the personnel of the atomic molecular and optical physics and it was established in 1943 as the Division of Electron and Atomic Physics. It was established really by [???] of the National Bureau of Standards. He said, “Well, there is electron atomic physics and there is nuclear physics and solid state physics, and they are really all separate. We really ought to have a group of atomic and electron physicists who can get together and discuss that rather than going off into this nuclear and high energy and solid state physics.” That was created in 1943. Then there was polymer physics, which involved chemists essentially. Joe Dillon of the Institute in Princeton (whose name I still don't remember) was the first chairman of that particular division, with Jim Lyons his Secretary-Treasurer. The Division of Condensed Matter, which was first the Division of Solid State Physics, was created in 1947 and didn't change its name until 1978. Fluid dynamics was also established in 1947, and chemical physics in 1950. Plasma physics was then established in 1959 and Nuclear Physics, which had been the predominant area in physics, was established in 1966. Hans Bethe and I were, I think, the moving forces behind creating the division of Nuclear Physics.
Doel:What were the feelings among the community at that time about creating a division of nuclear physics?
Havens:The feeling was, by some of the older nuclear physics, that nuclear physics was physics. Therefore why did you have to have a division of nuclear physics? It was quite obvious that solid state was growing extremely rapidly, with the solid state electronics. As I said before, there were more Ph.D. solid state physicists in electrical engineering departments around the country than there were electrical engineers. The solid state electronics was developing and expanding extremely rapidly, so that solid state was quickly becoming the predominant influence in physics. Nuclear physics could no longer claim to be the whole of physics and atomic physics — before Sputnik, for instance — was a dying field. Then the space program revived atomic physics, essentially. Clearly physicists were going off into their various specialties. It became clear (at least to me) in the late 1950s, early 1960s, that a person could no longer know all of physics. People read solid state physics or nuclear physics or particle physics or fluid dynamics or atomic physics, but there wasn't anybody — except possibly people like Wigner and Johnny Wheeler and Hans Bethe — who were able to know comprehensively just about all of physics. They were dying out. I find even from my own experience that the experiments which I did in the early 1950s on a crystal spectrometer at Brookhaven (which were primarily condensed matter — physics — rotations of molecules and torsional vibrations and things like that) are things that I couldn't pay any attention to now, but I always understand them because I was in on the early days of it. I don't know all the details. They've advanced way beyond what I ever thought possible but I certainly understand what they're after in those experiments. It's very easy for me to pick up the paper and know what is going on. On the other hand, had I not had that training I wouldn't be able to understand these papers at all. Again, one has to specialize if one is going to contribute. Since [???] physics had expanded tremendously in physics, and the money available to physicists had expanded tremendously, my usual statement was something I think I've said before in these interviews: that the solid state physicists intimately knew the solid state physicists at Bell Labs a lot better than they knew the high energy physicists in the next office. Bob Sacks (as I said before) tried to see whether or not it was possible to establish potent geographical sections as the AAPT does, and the American Chemical Society has geographical sections all over the country. But it didn't work. Consequently in the early 1960s it was decided that the American Physical Society had to develop into a technical divisional structure, and how best to go about that? I think, as I said before, that the moving forces behind that were Bob Barker and Bill Houston. Johnny Wheeler was sort of the implementer of it. He was the one who rewrote the constitution.
Doel:Giving more authority to the divisions?
Havens:What happened was that Bill Houston called a group of past and future presidents of the American Physical Society together in order to explore what the future of the Society should be.
Havens:I found out about it. I don't remember exactly how I found out about it, but I knew this was going on. I am not sure who told me — I think it was Bob Barker but it may have been Bill Houston or Johnny Wheeler — that I shouldn't tell anything to Darrow about it at all because this was something that he was not very sympathetic to and that they didn't want him to know about it until it was pretty well accomplished.
Doel:You felt that Darrow was the leader of the opposition?
Havens:Well, Darrow was certainly the leader of the opposition. I don't remember exactly who told me the story but it was about that time that I was informed — I know it wasn't Bill Houston who told me so it must have either been Bob Barker or Johnny Wheeler — that Bill Houston had said to Karl Darrow that if he resigned as secretary of the American Physical Society, Bill Houston would nominate him for President of the American Physical Society and Karl Darrow would go out in style. However, Karl Darrow thought about it for a while and came back to Bill Houston and said that he didn't see why he couldn't be both President and Secretary of the American Physical Society. Whereupon, Bill Houston felt that Darrow could no longer run the society satisfactorily because it was changing too rapidly, and Karl Darrow would not adapt to the new situation. It was at that time, I believe, that Bill Houston assembled the former and future presidents of the American Physical Society to have a conference on what the future should be which was the start of the Johnny Wheeler and Jim Lyons effort of rewriting the constitution of the American Physical Society.
Doel:That's a very interesting account. Were there any others who come to mind in addition to Darrow who offered serious opposition to the ideas that Houston and Wheeler and Lyons were presenting?
Havens:I am not sure what sort of a role Van Vleck played in it, but you see he and Bill Houston were regarded by Darrow as some of his best friends, as presidents of the American Physical Society. When he found out that they were revising the society without his input he was really devastated and very mad. The whole establishment was dissension.
Doel:I can understand that. Do you remember any particular discussions with Darrow about that? Did he come to talk to you?
Havens:Yes, I had many discussions with him about it. He was really depressed and annoyed by the whole thing, saying that he had sort of the feeling that he had done a lot for the society and they didn't want him anymore, and so forth and so on. I can understand this because it was true. It was one of the times that I resolved that when I got to be seventy I was going to retire whether I was vigorous or not because I didn't want to be in the position of being excess baggage.
Doel:I imagine that had a powerful influence on you, seeing the transition.
Havens:Another thing happened after the constitution was revised. Actually, after Darrow was no longer secretary he sent out without my help — but I knew he did it — about one thousand letters to friends in the American Physical Society asking them to nominate him for president by petition. Van Vleck was a former president of the APS and then chairman of the nominating committee. At that time the tradition was that the president essentially — as chairman of the nominating committee — named the successor about three years hence. He knew that you had to have a very powerful candidate for president of the American Physical Society, to oppose Darrow if Darrow ran on a petition. He persuaded Ed Purcell to accept the nomination of president of the American Physical Society. Ed was a marvelous president of the society. Anything Ed did he did extremely well. However, I don't think he was very happy or enamored with the job of the president of the American Physical Society and I know his wife was not very sympathetic to his being president. But he did a magnificent job as president of the society. I think it was an unopposed election. I don't think Darrow was nominated by petition, at least that's my memory. Ed Purcell, in the usual manner at that time, became president of the APS.
Doel:That's all very interesting. What kind of tasks did Purcell take on during that year?
Havens:It was very difficult because, you see, Ed was very liberal. I admire him for his action with respect to Nixon on the Presidential Advisory Committee. He was on the Presidential Scientific Advisory Committee (PSAC) but he wasn't sympathetic with Nixon nor his tactics or what he did. He felt that he couldn't work with Nixon and therefore he resigned from the committee. There were other members of the committee — who shall remain nameless — who didn't like what Nixon was doing and therefore did things which opposed what Nixon wanted. That led to the abolishment of the Presidential Science Advisory Committee, which I think was detrimental to the Nixon administration and to the nation as a whole. I did not think that was a good way to operate and therefore Ed Purcell did the right thing. He didn't like it and got out. He wasn't going to work in the underground. I don't know what's right anymore.
Doel:That's an interesting perception, that PSAC was in some ways sabotaged from within.
Havens:That's right. Oh, I know that!
Doel:Purcell's role in that would have been in the late 1960s?
Havens:Let's look up and see when Ed was president. [Reviews his files.] It runs together in my mind, and that is what the problem is. Every once in a while we ought to get back to actual dates. Ed was president in 1970, right after Louis Alvarez was president in 1969 and John Bardin in 1968; Charlie Towns in 1967.
Doel:Are those calendar or academic years?
Havens:Bill Houston was president in 1962. Johnny Williams was president in 1963 but he had serious cancer and therefore was not very active. Bob Barker was also head of the Research Division of the Atomic Energy Commission, but I think that was before he was president of the APS. He resigned from that position because of serious cancer operations and therefore could not be very active. I don't know how much Fred Seitz played in this role. He was president in 1961. I think he gave his blessing to it but wasn't very active in it. It was Bill Houston, Barker, and Johnny Wheeler. Felix Bloch must have been in on it because he was president in 1965 and he was certainly in sympathy with it. I don't think he was very active in the implementation of it. Charlie knew about it and I of course discussed it quite often with him.
Doel:Did Charles Townes play a role?
Havens:No, he didn't play when it was done because he was president in 1967 and so it was done by the time he came on board. It took almost two years, I think, to get an acceptable constitution and to get it to the Council and get it approved. I remember very well that it was approved at a meeting of the Council at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in November (I think but I can look it up) 1966, and put into effect in 1967. My own opinion was that if we hadn't provided the American Physical Society with divisions where the divisions could play an active role and have representation of Council, then we would have had a lot more splinter societies. There would have been a society of condensed matter physics, and there would have been a society of nuclear physics and a society of particles and fields, and a society of fluid dynamics and so forth. I think all the divisions would have separated out. I don't think they had enough in common to be one unit.
Doel:Once the movement towards the divisions was in place and the Houston-Wheeler meetings were occurring, how deeply involved did you become as deputy secretary?
Havens:By that time they were coming to me as far as the operations of the APS were concerned, rather than Darrow. Darrow was continuing in exactly what Darrow always had done. He had very little to do with the rest of the operations of the society.
Doel:This is by certainly the mid-1960s?
Havens:By the mid-1960s. I was more involved in the operations of the society. Darrow was going around and listening to invited speakers, and inviting speakers to come. He felt that I was really decreasing the power of the office of what was going to be the executive secretary. I felt it had very little power to start with and that if we hadn't divided it up into the divisional structure it would be gone. I was a nuclear physicist and I knew all the prominent actors in nuclear physics and could put a program together of nuclear physics for the Washington meeting, which was their principle meeting. From the context I know H, but I couldn't do any atomic physics; I couldn't do it in condensed matter physics and I certainly couldn't do it in fluid dynamics or in chemical physics or something like that. I realized that if you were going to have the hottest parts of all of the various divisions, you had to have the experts, and that no one person would know all of the branches of physics and be able to keep current with all the [???] of physics. Now a fellow like Wigner can be an expert in nuclear and then switch to be an expert in atomic and then switch to be an expert in fluids. But he can't be an expert in all of them at the same time, and know all the people who are the prominent actors in that field at the same time.
Doel:The field was growing experientially in any case.
Havens:That's right. So I felt that it was the only way to go, and in order to get good programs we had to go to the experts in the particular field to keep the interest of the research physicists in that field. So it was divided up into the divisional structure. I would say that the problems we have now in the American Physical Society are that we didn't think through the process of dividing it up into a divisional structure sufficiently to anticipate the problems that you have today. But then that was more than twenty years ago and it's pretty hard to see the problems that you're going to face twenty years in advance. So we did the best we could at the time and the world changes.
Doel:I want to get back to that point as we move a little further ahead in time. It's a very interesting point. How active were people like Wheeler and Houston in APS, in the late 1960s once all these changes were in place?
Havens:Houston and Wheeler remained very active in the APS. It wasn't until Johnny Wheeler left Princeton and went down to Texas — he essentially retired from Princeton — that he was active in the American Physical Society.
Doel:That's the 1980s?
Havens:I just don't remember when he went to Texas. Bill Houston was active in the American Physical Society until he died. Bob Barker was certainly active in the American Physical Society after he retired as provost at Cal Tech. They kept an active interest in the society.
Doel:Are there any other people that come to mind not necessarily officers in the society — who were also playing a major role as you became Executive Secretary?
Havens:As I said, Jim Lyons is the one who wrote the constitution. Vicki Weiskopf [?], when he got back from CERN, was again active in the society and helpful and all sorts of things. You could always call on these people for advice and work. The past presidents of the American Physical Society do actively support the society.
Doel:One of the issues that you faced very quickly after becoming Executive Secretary was how involved APS would be in broad social problems of the 1960’s, particularly the question of military funding for science — and the amendment that Charles Schwartz proposed. I am wondering, although I suspect I know how you felt about the Schwartz amendment and similar proposals made at the time.
Havens:I think that is best illustrated by my disagreement with Charlie Townes when he was president about whether or not Charlie Schwartz should be given time at the Council meeting to present his point of view.
Doel:Did you know Schwartz before this?
Havens:Charlie Schwartz? Oh yes. I had met him before out at Berkeley when I was visiting. He had seminars at Berkeley and so forth. I knew who he was and knew what he would stand for. My own opinion of Schwartz is that he was a good, competent physicist but realized that he was never going to be a great physicist. Therefore have a place in the universe; he decided to become a dissident rather than getting his distinction from brilliant physics papers. I think he realized that he was not a brilliant physicist to compare with Murray Gell-Mann or with Feyman [?] or people like that. Consequently he took on this role partially as a front. Now my argument with Charlie Townes was that the Council only met a few times a year and had a lot of business it had to take care of. To give Charlie Schwartz ten or fifteen minutes at a Council meeting was much too much for a sort of fringe activity of Council. It was really not the prime business of the American Physical Society. Charlie Townes insisted that the democratic process should hold and that Charlie Schwartz should be given time to Council because, as Charlie said, “If he talks a lot he will hang himself!” That's exactly what happened. There was a Council meeting in the American Institute. I remember it very well. It was in the Compton Room of the American Institute of Physics and I remember Charlie Schwartz was given time at Council. He presented his point of view about how things should be reviewed, which was the foundation of the Schwartz amendment. I remember Louie Alvarez questioning him afterwards. To give the setting properly, Charlie Schwartz had several sympathizers in the Council who were certainly as liberal or more liberal than Charlie Schwartz.
Doel:Do you recall who they were?
Havens:Brian Schwartz was one of them. We had the good Schwartz and the bad Schwartz, and Brian was the good Schwartz and Charlie was the bad Schwartz. When Charlie Schwartz got finished with his presentation, Louie Alvarez said to him, “now Charlie, I really can't understand from your presentation what you want us to do.” Charlie Schwartz, prepared, replied, “I think you ought to do what I tell you to do.” And that finished it. Because even his most ardent supporters on the left wing — if you want to call it that, although I don't know in that case what is left and what is right — side felt that Charlie Schwartz had no right telling Council what they ought to do for the American Physical Society. Charlie Townes was absolutely right. If he talked long enough he would hang himself! After that statement, when Charlie Schwartz said the APS Council ought to do what he tells them to do, he had absolutely no sympathizers whatsoever. Louie was the one who sort of finished him off. He said, “Well, I don't think Council is going to do what Charlie Schwartz tells Council to do.”
Doel:This was the particular point that Schwartz was raising — as I recall it had to do with the ABM controversy or was it more about military involvement in Vietnam?
Havens:Vietnam, defense support for physics research. The strange part of it was when I looked into how Charlie Schwartz was supported; he had an Air Force contract for support of theoretical research and statistical mechanics. He was supported by the military.
Doel:I believe he also wanted to conduct a poll of the AIP-APS members about how they individually felt about the Vietnam War.
Havens:What he felt was that anything which came out as a resolution of Council should go to the membership for a vote. In other words, if recently the Council of the American Physical Society issued a statement on the space station, it should go to the membership for a vote before the American Physical Society went on record with anything like that. So he wanted a referendum with everything. That was defeated by three to one.
Doel:I am curious what your feelings (and those of the other people such as, Charles Townes) were about military funding? Did that seem to be a worry or an issue?
Havens:No it wasn't. Certainly I wasn't worried about it. I thought that the military did a very good job of funding physics. They funded physics for a different reason than it had accepted the funds to do the physics. They were obviously funding fundamental research in the hopes that they come up with something brand new which could later develop into a weapon or a weapon system or a counter weapon system or something like that. Several things were discovered that way. Whereas the people who were doing the work were doing it not from a point of view of getting a system or weapon or something like that for advancing the science. The only way you're going to get these revolutionary discoveries, in my opinion, is to advance the science. You not only have this in physics but you have it in cancer research. You do put your money on the fundamental divisions of cells or you put it on clinical techniques.
Havens:Exactly how you spend the funds for research will depend on the times and the state of knowledge in a particular specialty at that particular time. There is no, I don't think, overall philosophical direction you can give to that at any time.
Doel:Was it your perception at the time that there was a solid group of members in the APS who were becoming concerned about military funding and the Vietnam issue?
Havens:Yes, very definitely. There were people who were worried about the military getting too much control of the researching business. In fact, I think it was the Mansfield Amendment that really had a very profound effect on physics research because the Mansfield Amendment said, in effect, that the military could not fund research unless it could be connected to a weapons system or some system which had to do with a military operation.
Doel:Effectively defining it as applied research?
Havens:As applied research. And therefore a lot of the exploratory research that had been supported by the military had to be cut off by the Mansfield amendment. That was what led, in my opinion, to the depression in physics in the early 1970s.
Doel:The Mansfield amendment was 1968, I believe?
Havens:I think it was 1968 but it may have been 1969.
Doel:It was also at that time that the Project Hindsight was published.
Havens:Project Hindsight didn't go “hind” enough — didn't go back far enough. When you look for instance at the atomic bomb, if you're going to look at the fundamental discoveries, there was first the discovery of radioactivity in 1896 by Becquerel. Then there was the discovery of radium by the Curies and Joliot. Then there was the Bohr nuclear theory of the atom and Einstein's special theory of relativity which [???] quite a mass and energy. The atomic bomb was first exploded in 1945, and we're talking about discoveries from 1896 to 1910.
Doel:How influential did you feel the Project Hindsight's contentions were?
Havens:I think that it was quickly recognized that the time scale of Project Hindsight was not long enough to determine what effect the support or research by the military had on the military weapons system. I remember very definitely at Los Alamos at that time, when I was a consultant to the director essentially, that it was devastating to connect any fundamental research to support a particular weapons system. It was McNamara that put that into effect. He wanted any development in a military supported laboratory to be connected to a weapons system, which may not be implemented for ten or fifteen years. A perfect example is that of the patriot missiles. They were around long before the Star Wars program was invented. Everybody attributes them to the developments in Star Wars. Some of the developments in Star Wars contributed to their perfection, but the fundamental principles of those were around long before Star Wars was invented. Some of the hardware was not good enough, but there were Patriot Missiles in the 1970s just after the Vietnam War. But they couldn't implement it because the things weren't sufficiently developed engineering-wise. After all, they put a television camera on a missile, and it had a computer which would compare the image you see in the television with the image that is on the tape. It is quite a development and is only being done in recent years. The fundamentals of the Patriot missiles were around in the 1950s and 1960s. It takes a long time to get from a fundamental idea to a military application.
Doel:It’s interesting to hear your views on Project Hindsight. You mentioned it in an article that you published in 1968, “Nuclear Research as a Source of Technology.” It seemed to be a concern on your part.
Havens:Well, [???] Sherwinn had been an instructor at Columbia when I was there, and I think he was the Director of Project Hindsight. This was done by the military and I think they went back twenty years. I think that twenty years is certainly not sufficient to go back to the fundamentals, as I pointed out with the Patriot missile example. And all of the space program, most of it was [???] mechanics. In fact one of the worst problems in the space program was how to get the astronauts to realize that you were not in the gravitational field, and that the Coriolis forces were very much larger in space applications than they were on the surface of the earth. In a twenty mile range gun you have to worry about your Coriolis forces also but that was about the only place previous to the space program where you had to worry about Coriolis forces. In fact if you look at the mechanics of a missile, you will find that when you are in orbit, if you accelerate the missile you go perpendicular to the direction of the motion simply because of the Coriolis force.
Doel:I would like to carry a little further the issues that Charlie Schwartz put before the APS. I believe it was about 1969 that he had proposed creating a separate section within the APS that would address the problems of physics in society. I am wondering what you recall of this?
Havens:I don't recall whether he proposed that or not.
Doel:There's discussion of that in some accounts.
Havens:I don't know whether he proposed that or not. I really can't say. I don't remember him proposing it. There were other names of people involved.
Doel:We can always put those on the record later.
Havens:There were two people. One of them is now at Princeton and he is chairman of the FAS. He also [???] for the APS. Franklin [???] was one of them. I will have to look up the name of the other one, but I think he is at Santa Barbara. He is a theoretical astrophysicist. They were the two that I remember being very active about the creation of the forum. I think it was caused by the depression in physics in the early 1970s. Remember the APS took a very active role in the job placement of physicists at that time. APS hired a consultant who later became director of the Manpower division of the AIP. Ray Sears, who had just retired from Bell Labs, was their Principle Recruitment Officer. He was also treasurer of the IEEE, so he was well acquainted with the engineering community. Ray set up all sorts of interviews for physicists who were without jobs. However APS had practically no staff at the time and therefore that whole activity was taken over by AIP. As I say, Ray became director of what was called the Manpower division of the AIP. Now it is called — Professional Activities — something like that! It's not Manpower and Statistics anymore either. But there was a moment in the society that APS should become more like a union than a learned society. Here I got into the picture, because the APS is a 501C3 organization. That means that the funds which were expended by APS have to go for the benefit of physics and not for the benefit of physicists. The AMA, for example, is a 501C6 organization, which is the equivalent of a union. They can spend money for the benefit of the members. There is a difference in tax laws on this. The IEEE at that time decided to change from a 501C3 organization to a 501C6 organization so that they could lobby Congress for the insurance programs and retirements for the electrical engineers who go from job to job. There was a great debate in the APS Council at the time as to whether APS should continue as a 501C3 for at that time it couldn't lobby. It can lobby now provided it declares itself a lobbying organization and then it can spend 15% of its assets on lobbying, provided it registers as a lobbyist. We couldn't afford to spend fifteen percent of our income on lobbying.
Doel:Was this debate in the early 1970s?
Havens:Yes, late 1960s and 1970s. At that time it was decided (and it has since been re-decided or re-supported), that APS is much better off as a 501C3 organization than it would be as a 501C6 organization. So we had to be very careful about what we did in the line of lobbying. We could support physics, but the two things which are specifically forbidden by the 501C3 organizations are: 1) to support a candidate for elected office; and 2) to support specific pieces of legislation. We cannot write to our members and say “support Senate bill 238” because this is then using resources of the Society in support of a specific piece of legislation. Nor can we say “support Congressman or Senator so and so” because that's obviously supporting a political candidate.
Doel:Did things like employment services seem a gray area to you?
Havens:Things like employment service are a gray area for a different reason. The employment practices are state regulated. Therefore, you get into competition with the employment agencies if you set up a placement bureau. Consequently APS or AIP, for example, cannot charge a fee equivalent to an employment agency. What they do is assemble information about physics and physicists and sell these packages of information. We cannot — neither APS nor AIP — act as an employment agency. But we can supply information about physics and physicists. APS, I think, has done extremely well in this relatively pure role, because APS is invited to give testimony at Congressional hearings. It does not support specific legislation or political candidates but it can say that for the development of physics we believe it is necessary to support a certain scientific project. For instance, in 1977 George Field gave some very important testimony on the Space Telescope. It is too bad there was a disaster in the Hubble telescope, but from the fundamental standpoint having a space telescope opens whole new fields of investigation. George Field did, as president of APS, give testimony in support of the space telescope for the benefit of physics — not for the benefit of physicists. Obviously there is a gray area, because unless you have all educated physicists you are not going to have good physics. You are not going to have well-educated physicists unless you have jobs for the physics. It is in a gray area but we certainly had actively supported that insofar as the federal regulations allow us to do so.
Doel:Another big change from the late 1960s was moving the offices of the APS into the AIP building, which I believe was in 1968?
Doel:How did this come about?
Havens:There were two things about that. One is that Columbia University had an expansion and was very short on space. The engineering building had not been completed yet. Some of the engineering departments were in the physics building and were expanding. The APS was by that time pretty much operating out of my office, as director of one of the major nuclear physics labs at Columbia University. It was quite obvious that we just needed more people to do the APS business.
Doel:How many employees did you have just before the move?
Havens:We had three or four employees just before the move but we had no space to put them at Columbia, and Pegram was no longer the vice president of the university. Consequently Columbia University just couldn't give us any more space. They felt they were doing more than their share by giving us two offices: one on the ninth floor and one on the fourth floor of Pupin. So obviously the APS had to expand if it was going to continue along the path it was going. So Wallace Waterfall and —I forget who was Director at the time, but Wallace Waterfall was the principle one behind it — certainly encouraged the APS to move down here. We had the whole front of the second floor when we first moved down here.
Doel:What was your view on the move? Did you favor coming to AIP Headquarters?
Havens:It was personally much more difficult for me because I had to try to operate in a remote way and come down here a couple of times a week. At that time — that was before the gas shortage — I drove into Columbia. I know five different ways of coming from Columbia down here and all of them take three quarters of an hour; it doesn't matter. I would take the subway down here and then go back and get my car and drive home. It was a lot of time wasted, I felt, on the subway train. On the other hand, Columbia just couldn't give us any more space so we couldn't expand at Columbia University in the way I thought it was absolutely necessary to expand.
Doel:How did you view your — or the Society's — relationship with AIP at the time? Bill Koch came on as Director just around the time that you did, I believe?
Havens:I think it was either 1968 or 1969 — I don't know. I had been chairman of the search committee to get Bill Koch as Director — no, I guess Bruce Lindsay was Chairman, but I was on the committee. I had worked very closely with Bill previously because he had been the chairman of the Washington meetings essentially. He ran the Washington meeting for the APS. The relations between APS and AIP were very excellent at the time. I was on the executive committee of AIP and had been for several years. AIP was much more of a service organization for the societies than it is now. In fact, I don't remember, but I guess I was beginning to be paid by APS in the beginning of 1967. It was not a significant part of my income, I will tell you that! APS was still principally run by volunteers but we needed more staff in order to support the volunteers. That is what I went about. AIP was still doing a lot of the things which had to be done with a permanent staff. It was so that the relations between APS and AIP were excellent and as far as I am concerned, I regarded the AIP as sort of the operating arm of the APS. It did publishing, it had a placement bureau, it had the history division, the manpower and statistics division, and all of the things which are necessary for APS to do what APS were implemented by AIP. I think I said this to you before, that I likened the APS and AIP to the difference between the faculty and the business office of the university. The APS was the faculty and academic side of it, and the AIP was the business and operating side of it.
Doel:Before we leave the 1960s for the later struggles, one of the things that certainly began to occur were problems at some of the meetings, when the controversy over the Vietnam War began spilling into them?
Havens:Into the society. That was worse when John Bardeen was President in 1968 when they had all those riots out in Chicago. They had the convention in Chicago.
Doel:When the Chicago meeting was disrupted?
Havens:That was a Chicago meeting. In fact we had a business session of the meeting of the society at that meeting and it was probably the largest attendance at a business meeting that APS ever had. There were a lot of protestors in there about the way the APS was operating and what they should do. John Bardeen, as President, was chairman of that meeting. I would never have suspected it but John being John Bardeen handled it beautifully. John Bardeen could concentrate on anything he wanted to concentrate on in the midst of the greatest turmoil that ever existed. Anything external didn't bother him one bit. I used to have very interesting telephone conversations with him which illustrate the way he handled the meeting. John was always very slow and I am not that way. John would stop to think and I would think he was finished with his conversation, and I would go and talk to him. He would listen to me very, very carefully and when I stopped he would continue as if I hadn't said anything at all. When he got up to handle this meeting where there were a great number of protestors, he would start talking and then he would get a bombast of noise and protests. He would just stand there until everybody was quiet and go on as if nothing had happened whatsoever. They realized that this was John Bardeen and they weren't going to faze him at all; they weren't going to panic him. John would do what John had to do. Pretty soon it was a perfectly standard meeting with John presiding and following along with the program that John had decided would take place. He gave them time to talk; he called on individuals to get up and speak. Some of the things that were said were impossible.
Doel:What sort of things?
Havens:That the American Physical Society was an old-boy organization which was only for the benefit for the authorities and had nothing to do with the benefit of the members, that they supported the administration in manners which they shouldn't (we had very little to do with the administration of the Federal Government at the time), that we were all militarists who were supported by the military who had to follow it or we wouldn't get research support. Those are some of the milder things that were said. I would rather not use the language of some of the other things that were said!
Doel:Was it mostly — in your recollections — the younger physicists who led this?
Havens:It was definitely the younger physicists.
Doel:Do any leaders come to mind?
Havens:Charlie Schwartz was very prominent. I remember Larry Cranberry saying some intemperate things at the time. I remember Leonard Shiff [?] answering some of these criticisms. I think he was a member of the Council at that time. Anyway, John Bardeen sort of tamed the whole thing by being John Bardeen. They realized that they were defeated because they couldn't get a real protest started.
Doel:Were you concerned at the time that the protests and concerns about military funding for physics would disrupt the Society itself?
Havens:They did disrupt the Society. There were people who felt that military funding was immoral to support physics. If they looked at the way physics was supported they would find at that time that probably fifty percent of physics was supported by the military. If they said “cut off all military support” you would have cut off half of physics. That was just completely impractical. You would have thrown half of the physicists in the country out of jobs.
Havens:The protestors did not understand the structure of physics and how much of the research and development was supported by the military and military contractors.
Doel:Were there any points that the protestors were raising that you found yourself in some sort of agreement with or did it represent a point of view you simply share?
Havens:I thought that they were very idealistic and impractical and that certainly it would be nice to support physics for its intellectual appeal alone. However — I've stated this on many occasions if you want to support physics on that basis then you will have the same type of support as the symphony, the opera, great literature and things like that, which is nowhere near the same type of support that has physics. Let's not kid ourselves. Congress doesn't support physics because of its intellectual appeal. It supports physics because they think the nation is going to get something out of supporting research in physics, and physics has come through. An enormous number of the things that you take for granted today were a result of the inventions which result from fundamental physics. It has worked out that way, but if you are going to say we're only going to support physics for the development of cosmology you aren't going to get very much support. If you support the space program because it can have military applications, and intelligence applications and a weather satellite to do better for crops in predicting the weather, that is why they support it. If physics is supported for the sake of physics which is supported for the sake of physics, to develop more physics, it has no feedback to society. It's not going to be supported for very long. It's the feedback to society that enables the Congress to support physics because of the developments which have occurred previously. That is what I thought they didn't recognize. It's very nice to be supported for intellectual activity but it doesn't have much favor with the general layman.
Doel:By 1970, Charlie Schwartz had proposed what ultimately became the forum for physics in society?
Havens:As I say, I don't think Charlie Schwartz was the one who first proposed that.
Doel:I see. But do you feel he was the one who attempted to provide leadership for it?
Havens:No, I think it was Frank Von Hipple and one of the fellows from Santa Barbara, whose name I don't remember. They were the ones who were leaders of it.
Doel:When you look back on it did you feel that that was an appropriate area for the society to consider supporting?
Havens:I certainly felt that it was an appropriate area. In fact I had put together a lot of symposia which were later taken over by the Forum. I remember in the early days inviting all of the people — from the NSF, the AEC, the DOD — to tell what the budgetary arrangements were and what they were proposing to the administration for support of physics research. I had personally arranged sessions of that type for our Washington meeting. I did it in Washington because that's where you can get the people to do it. We had Congressman to come and speak about research in physics and what Congress felt about it. I felt that if it were done, not as a union type of organization, but as an intellectual type of development, it was very beneficial. For I felt physics had a lot of effect on society and it ought to be more widely publicized — that a lot of these things were benefiting society, and that if we did it properly physics would get more support, as it has. I was in favor of having a much wider input so those people could show how physics was a benefit to society than not having it. The wider the input you get the more interest you get. I promoted the Forum personally and got it through Council. In fact, the problem was, what did you call it? It wasn't a technical division, and it had everybody in it from A-Z. I don't know who thought up the term “Forum” but we said we would have a discussion about physics and the way it affects society. Somebody came up and said this was the old Roman Forum. Therefore, we looked up a “Forum” in the dictionary and came up with that this was a discussion group; it was the Forum on Physics and the way it related to society. We also put it in very generally so that more forums could be formed. In fact within the next year we're going to have a Forum on History of Physics and a Forum on International Affairs. The division of history of physics is going to convert into the Forum of History of Physics, and the International Physics group is going to convert into the Forum on International Physics. I have a letter on my desk requesting that it be on the next Council agenda. That's how current it is. I don't know where it is right now but I know I have it.
Doel:In 1970, the Economics Concern Committee also became established. Did you view that in the same way?
Havens:That was really — Bud (Ray) Sears was in charge of it. The economic concerns were to get jobs for physicists.
Doel:Did you favor that being within the APS?
Havens:Oh yes. Joe Burton, who was our treasurer by that time, knew Ray Sears very well. Joe and I had long discussions with Ray Sears about how we should set this up. We had to act rapidly, so Ray Sears became a consultant for APS. Then it developed that it was better for them to be an employee for AIP, so it went over to be the manpower division of the AIP.
Doel:How rapidly was the APS growing in the early 1970s? How many more employees did you gain?
Havens:Oh, you mean the staff?
Doel:I am wondering how all those changes that we have been talking about affected how the Society operated.
Havens:We first had the front of the second floor of the new building, where the PR division is now. That wasn't enough room for us and so we moved across the hall and we had the whole back of the second floor. You know where the door comes out on the second floor from the stairway? If you went to the right the APS had the rest of that. There was also already a door between the old and the new building, in the back half of that building. APS first had the back half of the new building, and then expanded into the back half of the old building as well, before we moved up and took over this part of the new building on the fourth floor. I would say before we moved up to the fourth floor when this building was redone we must have had about four staff members or five staff members in the office of the executive secretary. No, there was more than that, because membership was also in the executive secretary. We had three in membership. George Carroll and Maryann and Joe, and then there was an assistant to Joe so that was four. I would say before we moved we must have had about fifteen employees. When I was at Columbia I had one and a half (one full time and one part time), women working for me. When we moved down here we had Dody [?], and my administrative assistant moved down. She became the administrator of the APS. [???] Davis was her name. She had an assistant, so there were three when we first came down here. Of course, Quimby and I were the Treasurer and the Executive Secretary. We had a staff of three and then I got a deputy in 1969, I think it was. We quickly expanded to about ten to fifteen. Now I think we have about thirty.
Doel:When you gained a deputy in 1969, did she or he have much responsibility? Did you delegate much?
Havens:What I felt is that somebody else beside me had to know what was going on. We divided up the work. I gave specific assignments to the deputy. For instance, Mary Schoop [?] was very interested in the Forum activities, and that was the origin of the Congressional Fellowship program. She took over a lot of that sort of work. I handled the meetings and the Council of the Executive Committee and worked with Joe Burton on budget and how it should be spent. Yes, I think I was able to delegate things fairly easily. My major principle was to delegate as much as I could because I felt it important that it be continuous without me. I had a full time job at Columbia. I was Director of the Nuclear Physics labs and then Director of the Energy Research Center. I had plenty to occupy me at Columbia. Therefore this operation had to go whether I was there or not. I never felt that I wanted the organization depending on me. I know of people who operate that way but I always wanted the organization to operate without me and so I set up things so that it could operate whether I was there or not.
Doel:As you say, you've been doing a number of jobs simultaneously, throughout your entire career. In the early 1970s yet another social concern for APS was what became the Committee on Women in Physics. I am curious what you felt about introducing that social issue as part of the Society's work.
Havens:I strongly supported that and have ever since it was originally formed. It actually originated with Vera Kistiakowsky, who was a Militant Physicist and had worked with me as a Research Associate at Columbia before she went to MIT — actually she didn't go to MIT directly; she went to another college in the Boston area and then later went to MIT as a professor. She was very militant and active. She was George Kistiakowsky's daughter and active in women's rights. She was a fanatic, I might say, in that particular area. I always got along very well with Vera and liked her very much, but recognized her ideas about certain things were somewhat different than mine. I always felt that women did not go into physics, not because of any discrimination on their part but because of our social structure. I know that I was laughed at when I got a set of electric trains for my older daughter. My wife always felt I got the electric trains for me rather than for her. My older daughter certainly should have been a man at that time because she had more inclinations to a tomboy than most girls do. She was a militant, especially later in college. She graduated from college in 1967 at Cornell. I was well indoctrinated by my wife and two daughters as to women were second class citizens and should become first class citizens. I agree with that. I think I understood that the sociology of physics, in the previous generations, had been that girls didn't go into physics or mathematics. There was a whole series of short stories in the Saturday Evening Post which I used to read diligently in the 1940s and 1950s, about brilliant women who hid their brilliance because they wanted to have a good social life. I know several cases where women were, in my opinion, were much brighter than their husbands, but in my generation they used their brilliance to advance their husbands rather than advancing themselves. It was time for the women to come out and be on their own. I think that physics is still missing half of the good apples because there are so few women physicists. On the other hand, I think that women in physics have had particular advantages which men don't have, (and also particular disadvantages) which are due to the social structure and not necessarily the physics. For instance, a man doesn't have to take any time off to have a child. A woman very definitely does! There's a difference between men and women. Viva la difference, but there is a difference and you have to recognize what these biological differences are. I think we have to do more to get more women in physics because I think physics is losing out by not using the brilliant women. I know several women physicists whom I consider as at least equal to many of the male physicists that I know, who aren't as prominent as the male physicists because they have had children or they've devoted more time to the household and the raising of the children. I don't know how to solve that problem. Certainly the number of women physicists is very much less than any of the other scientific professions. I think it is not because of the discrimination of the male physicists but because of the social structure of the whole society.
Doel:Back in the early 1970s, when the issue of the Committee for Women in Physics first came up, did you find that there were different groups on Council who favored or didn't favor them?
Havens:All I can say is the APS Council was always very supportive of what was originally labeled the Committee on Women in Physics.
Doel:There were no serious voices in opposition?
Havens:Anything essentially that the women proposed, which was logical and able to be done, was supported thoroughly. That's my perception. I think maybe if you talk to some of the militant women physicists they'd say they could have done some things that weren't supported. In my opinion they could not have been done but anything that was reasonable to be done, in my opinion, was supported generously.
Doel:As I recall a little bit later in the 1970s there was debate over whether to hold the meetings in states where the ERA had not been accepted.
Havens:Yes. That was a very difficult proposition because most of the states that had opposed the ERA were the southern states and therefore you were discriminating against southern physicists if you didn't hold meetings in the South. Then you were decreasing the support of physics in the South. The issue was not black and white. I know that, for example, at one time we couldn't hold the meeting in New Orleans because they would discriminate against black physicists. We don't have very many black physicists but we wouldn't hold the meeting there simply because the black physicists couldn't go into the hotel rooms which were capable of hosting the APS meetings. With the case with the women, it was much more complicated. We did have a big debate, when George Pate was president, about whether or not we should have meetings in states which had not supported the ERA. I always personally strongly supported the ERA but I didn't support the APS not allowing meetings to be held in states which did not pass an ERA amendment, for other reasons.
Doel:That was in 1978. It actually was approved, however, by the APS Council?
Havens:It was approved by the APS Council. We had a meeting in New York. It was at the Sheraton down on 37th Street and Park Avenue. I remember the meeting very well because we very seldom take formal votes of Council, but we did on this one. We took a secret ballot, I believe, in order to let people vote the way they wanted to. Then people say, “Well, you should have recorded the vote.” Maybe we should have but we didn't. We did have a secret ballot and we did vote not to hold meetings. Then of course we had a great problem with our southeastern section because practically none of the states in the southeast — except possibly Florida — had passed the ERA amendment. We were discriminating against the physicists in the southeast.
Doel:What was your impression of the general membership’s view on these issues?
Havens:I don't think most of them cared.
Doel:Indifference rather than strong feelings?
Havens:There were certainly militants who had strong feelings one way or the other but I don't think most of them cared. The way the committee on women was formed it that Bob Pate was president at the time and Vera Kistiakowsky got a hold of Rod [?] and said, “APS ought to do more to support women physicists.” Bob said, “Fine, Vera. You are chairman of the Committee on Women in Physics.” Then he said “Vera, come up with a suggestion to Council about what APS should do about this.” And she did. She was very active and still is to some extent but not as active as she was.
Doel:Who else seemed to be active at that time in women's issues?
Havens:Elizabeth Berringer, Harold Urey's daughter. She was at the last Council meeting. I saw her in Washington.
Havens:She was nine years old.
Doel:You had met her at Harold Urey's home?
Havens:I met her at Columbia. She was very active. Elizabeth and Vera were the two mainstays of that committee. I would have to go back and look at the members. Let's see, Esther Conwell was active in it, Millie Dresslehaus — but certainly has been actively recently. There is a gal out at Minnesota who was very active and was a cosmic ray physicist. I can't remember her name.
Doel:When you look back on the period now, or if you recall your feelings in the 1970s, did the APS seem to become a very different type of organization that had been in the early 1960s?
Havens:Let's say the 1950s. It was quite a different organization than it had been in the 1950s because it was only in the 1950s that began to split up into the different specialties. Previously, when I started in 1939, there were 3,300 in the American Physical Society and everybody sort of followed all branches of physics. Some did more than others, obviously, but you had to specialize in order to do some research. Yet you knew what was going on in most of the fields, at least the major developments in the fields because a physicist was a physicist. You were supposed to know what was going on with all of physics. You didn't, but you were supposed to! Whereas by the time of the late 1970s, the high energy physicist didn't know anything about condensed matter physics. And a condensed matter physicist didn't know anything about high energy physics. OK, they'd had some courses, but on the first year graduate level. Beyond that they specialized. They didn't know what the problems were; they didn't know what the solutions where; it was just a different field. Some of them couldn't even talk to each other.
Doel:Were there debates at the time, do you recall, about the unity of physics?
Havens:There were always efforts to keep physics unified in some way. In fact, as I said before, if you look at the annual meetings of the American Physical Society in the late 1970s, we had probably some of the most impressive meetings from an external point of view then by all branches of physics. But they weren't very well attended.
Doel:You are speaking of what had been the New York meetings? The January meetings?
Havens:That's exactly right. I remember I really made one big mistake. I put on one of the best condensed matter symposium set at the New York meeting that I ever put together in my life, except for two things happened. The Sunday night before the meeting we had a blizzard so nobody could get into New York, not even some of the speakers from Bell Labs! And the other one is, it was all teachers and nuclear physicists. None of the solid state people were there. That was around 1970 (I think it was). It was at the Hilton. The first meeting we had at the Hilton was 1968, around that time. The one I’m thinking of must have been 1971 or 1972.) We had a wonderful set in the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton. There are two parts of it: the east and west. The east holds 1,500 and the west holds 1,000. We had 75 to 100 people in there for this very outstanding symposium. If I had done it at the March meeting it would have taken off, but at the January meeting it didn't take off. I learned then you didn't run solid state symposia at the Washington meeting either, because that was all nuclear, cosmic rays, atomic physics. You had to run the solid state symposium at the solid state meeting. I tried a whole set of experiments, and did it for several years. At the March meeting I had a session on nuclear physics, cosmic ray physics, and atomic physics. If I put them in the daytime where they were in competition with all of the solid state physics papers, then nobody came. If you put them in the evening, some people would come.
Havens:We had an outstanding session in 1983 on nuclear physics at the Los Angeles meeting. All the people who were at that meeting came from Cal Tech (the nuclear physicists), and UCLA but they weren't the solid state physicists.
Doel:That's a good point. I am also curious about the changing relations between the AIP and the APS during the 1970s.
Havens:That came about I think because of the examination of APS and the AIP by the IRS in 1978-1980.
Doel:In 1972, I believe, the AIP was challenged by the IRS about its charitable functions. Did that have any serious impact?
Havens:That was an examination by the IRS of the AIP and APS that I think made the change. Up until that time, AIP had been pretty much regarded by all of its member societies as a service organization for the member societies. What happened was that there was a court case in Philadelphia, the Hospital Laundry Case, which set a precedent in the field. In this case a hospital laundry (which only took hospital laundry from 501C3 hospitals) had asked for 501C3 status. But they said it was not doing any charitable works on its own, and therefore could not have 501C3 status. When the 501C3 status of AIP was challenged, they had to point out what they did as a charitable work on their own. The charitable works on their own were their publications, the scholarly publications of AIP. That was sufficient because it was more than fifty percent of the total expenditures of the AIP. It was sufficient for them to qualify as a 501C3 organization, but it was recognized at that time that the AIP could not be purely a service organization for the member societies. It had to earn this status through so-called “charitable works on its own.” I think that was the turning point for the AIP in its attitude as a service organization to the attitude of being an independent organization on its own doing its own charitable works.
Doel:That's very interesting.
Havens:I think the problem stems from the fact that George Pegram wrote the objectives for both the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics. Both of them are for the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics. The AIP has a lot more for the benefit of mankind and society and so forth and so on, but essentially the objectives of the two organizations are the same. Therefore it is not surprising if they're going to have the same objectives that they compete in doing the same thing. I always felt, and I still do feel, that it isn't worthwhile for a segment of society as small as the physicists to have two organizations competing to do a better job of it. They would be much better to cooperate than to compete but I recognize the origins of the competition.
Doel:Thinking back to the 1970s, as this tension is emerging, what role did Bill Koch play?
Havens:He was always a very great supporter of AIP and wanted AIP to do as much as it could on its own as well as for the member societies. He was always in an expansionist mode.
Doel:Even though at the time he was something of a newcomer?
Havens:That was one of the many things he wanted to do, which are just not practical to do simply because there had been a reversal in the support of physics. I always remember saying to him that the AIP couldn't be prosperous if the physics community is in a depression, because the AIP depends for its support on the physics community and you could only be prosperous if the physics community is prosperous. I still believe that to be absolutely true.
Doel:There was a plan in 1976 that the AIP headquarters might actually move to Lake Success, out to the edge of Queens, New York.
Havens:I think I have written enough on that Lake Success move. It was quite obvious that this building was insufficient for the AIP. It was expanding, the publications were expanding, and there was a committee set up to look for new headquarters. Hindsight is so much better than foresight. In fact I was very active in that. I thought you were talking about something different. I thought you were talking about Fred Seitz committee on the future of AIP.
Doel:I haven't gotten to that yet.
Havens:That was a disaster. Anyway, Phil Morris, I think, was chairman of the board at that particular time. He set up a committee (of which I was a very active member), to look for a new site for AIP. There were two possibilities. One of the possibilities that was seriously investigated was to buy another building: give up this building [335 E. 45th Street] and buy another building in a less desirable part of the city. Looking back on it, what we should have done in 1974 or something like that was by the GE building, which was vacant and had been vacant for at least two years. I think it was on the corner of 27th Street or something like that on Madison Avenue. It was a building which was 200' by 200' and ten stories high. It had 200,000 square feet of floor space and could have accommodated more than the AIP was at that time with plenty of space to spare. But the building hadn't been occupied for three or four years and was dilapidated; it would require a major rehabilitation program. You would have had to practically gut the whole interior of the building and redo the insides completely. Then you would end up with twice as much space as needed. It was estimated at that time that AIP and all the societies needed on the order of 75,000 square feet — and you'd end up with 200,000 square feet. You would be a real estate agent! That didn't look very desirable to the committee. The other alternative was, of course, to move out to some remote location and so we went around to Westchester and to northern New Jersey and Long Island. Bill Koch was enamored by the building which had been the Levitt headquarters. That was probably the biggest controversy, and in fact I wrote something to the governing board about this recently because of Bill Koch's memoirs. He said that Joe Burton and I had sabotaged that effort. The answer is that we certainly did! I still feel that I did absolutely the right thing at the time. The Levitt building was built by Levitt for an advertising office, in my opinion, for the Levitt organization. It had four corners with suites for each one of the presidents and vice-presidents, with a shower and massage room and very elaborate things for the executives. Then it had an atrium in the middle. If AIP was going to use it, it would have had to fill in this space. It had a fountain in the middle of the atrium; they would have to cap the fountain and build levels in the middle of the atrium and destroy the character of the building. There was no possible expansion space, there because the Levitt headquarters building it was in a tight area which had been completely built up around it. There was no room for expansion. You would have destroyed the character of the building in order to use it for AIP purposes and I felt it was just absolutely the wrong thing for AIP to go into. I even went to the extent of saying that if AIP moved into that building, I thought I would do all I could to have the APS not move with AIP, but take a separate building of its own. I didn't think it was wise for AIP to go into a place where there was no possibility of expanding, in a building which was unsuitable for its purposes. It had designed by Philip Johnson. I don't know if you know anything about Philip Johnson's buildings, but my father was office manager for Philip Johnson and so I know a lot about his buildings. They were very elaborate, expensive buildings and not for the type of operation which the AIP has, with its main support and publishing. It's a decorative building, it's beautiful, it was elaborate and I can see Bill Koch picturing himself in Levitt's office! There was a board room next to it which was very elaborate. But it was not suitable for AIP. Somewhat after that the AIP bought the Woodbury property, which looked, at the time it was purchased, as if it had plenty of room for expansion. In fact, legally it still does but operationally it doesn't. Right now there is 60,000 square feet in there and I think they can build legally up to 120,000 square feet. But the neighbors wouldn't allow it and they probably couldn't get it past the zoning board. They are restricted to what exists at the present, in a practical sense. My own feeling is that had that been handled properly politically, we wouldn't have had that restriction. I don't think you can reverse it. Therefore, I was opposed to purchase of the Levitt building and was very active in opposing it and so was Joe Burke.
Doel:Were there other members of the APS Council who also felt strongly against this proposed move?
Havens:Well, Morris had been a past President of the APS by that time. I don't know whether he was for it or against it. Anyway, that result was there was a purchase and something further was looked at. You can go out and take a look at the building if you want to. It was a beautiful building.
Doel:And it was difficult for you to communicate your concerns about the building's utility to Bill Koch?
Havens:Absolutely. He was so emotionally taken by that building. He thought anything I was doing was wrong and I thought everything he was doing was wrong. It has nothing personal to it. He'd had his opinions and he felt I was wrong. I had my opinions and I felt he was wrong. I've stated my reasons. He felt that it was a beautiful building and we were preventing the upgrading and expansion of AIP. But if they had bought that building, they would have had to buy another building someplace else in order to house the staff, who was necessary to do the work, because it couldn't have been there. There wasn't any place where they could have put it there.
Doel:It is all interesting. I am glad we have your point of view.
Havens:I wrote a memorandum after Bill Koch's reminiscences of the year he was Director came out. I wrote a memorandum for Council on that particular point because he had mentioned me specifically in that and the APS threatening to pull out. Since APS is the biggest society and does business with AIP, he felt he had to give in on that point and that is what probably swung it. Several other people, including Peter Franken (who I know very well; he was a teaching assistant of mine for four years) felt that I had used too much muscle in order to clear that deal. I felt it was just the wrong deal for AIP.
Doel:There are a few other things that I want to cover with you on the 1970s. There was a committee formed on the future of the APS in 1972. What motivated the origin of this committee?
Havens:Phil Morris was Chairman of that committee, and Jim Krumhans was one of the most active people on it. In fact, I just pulled that out for Dick Wertheimer so he would know; it's in the minutes on the American Physical Society Council at that time. I have a copy someplace but I don't remember where I put it.
Doel:Was this something that you were deeply involved in?
Havens:Yes, very definitely. Actually Phil Morris and Jim Krumhans traveled all around the country to national laboratories and universities in order to find out what role these places felt the APS should play in the future development of physics. They did come up with a report, part of which has been implemented, part of which couldn't be implemented. Things go somewhat differently than one can anticipate. I was very active in supporting that particular survey so we could determine what the future of the APS how it should go. It didn't develop in some ways the way I had hoped it would develop.
Doel:How did you hope?
Havens:I had hoped there would be a give-and-take with the divisions of the American Physical Society. I would say that probably, though looking back on it and having to do it now, we should have given a little bit more thought with exactly how the divisions should operate and how they should interact with the central office of the society. That was much too loosely arranged. That's not surprising because, remember, the APS was run by volunteers. It didn't have very much of a central staff to either assist or oppose the divisions. Therefore the divisions grew up practically independently. They're very different and they are treated very different. When we looked at the whole thing recently to see how all the divisions worked, we found out that some of them had advantages in one way and others had different advantages, but they weren't uniform in the way they developed. Everybody feels that there is one APS and there should be some uniformity among the subdivisions at APS. Achieving that means that all of the divisions are going to have to give up something to get something else in return. It's easy enough to get something else but it is very difficult to give up what you have. We had a very fruitful meeting about that last January where we had representatives of all divisions present. I think they recognized this. Then we had another meeting with some of the division representatives — I guess it was in May — as to how really we would organize this setup. They recognized (I can't place it exactly now) that if they're going to get something out of it, they are going to have to put something into it. How it is going to be done, I am not sure. I remember the Division of Particles and Fields has been the most independent division, doing things quite differently than everybody else. Their secretary, who is at Johns Hopkins, gave a description of what they are doing now. It was quite different than anything APS had done previously. They have an unstructured meeting. They don't publish their program in the Bulletin. The proceedings are published later and I think they have been published by World Scientific. They are entirely different. It works and they have revived their meetings as an interesting forum for discussion of high energy physics problems. They all realize what benefit they are getting from the APS, as a central organization, and all the recommendation is that any division that gets anything has to pay for it in some way. We shouldn't have subsidies to one division or the other, and we've got to do a much better job of accounting for internal services. For example, we had division newsletters, and all divisions pay for are the incremental expenses: the printing and mailing of the individual newsletters. Obviously, it is a lot of effort to prepare and get them to this point, but the APS central office has absorbed all those expenses. The divisions are always complaining they don't have enough money to absorb all of the other expenses. The way they feel it ought to be done is we ought to give them more money so they can absorb these expenses, and then make them pay for the things which they are getting. It is going to take a while to unravel that and get it so that it is a satisfactory operation. I am sure it can be done but the only thing is that some of the divisions are going to lose some of their independence.
Doel:We have been talking for a while and we might try to bring this session to a close.
Havens:I think we ought to pretty soon.
Doel:Let me just end with this. There was another committee in 1972 that S. H. Koenig from IBM had chaired.
Doel:I think it was called the Subcommittee on Professional Concerns. One of its recommendations was that the APS establish closer ties between the AIP and the AAPT. I am wondering what recollections you have about this?
Havens:I had always been a strong supporter of the APS working with the AIP up until Bill Koch retired. Then I felt Ken Ford wanted to go off independently and make AIP independent of APS. I still think he wants to do that and I don't agree with that. I think we could have two competing physics organizations but I don't think it would be beneficial overall for the physics community. We worked very cooperatively with AAPT and AIP on all sorts of programs. You will find lots of educational programs which are cooperative between APS and AAPT. On the other hand, I always found that the AAPT really wanted in their meetings something different from what they asked for.
Doel:In what way?
Havens:They always said that they wanted invited sessions of the joint AAPT/APS meeting that were regular research meetings. When you have a regular research meeting; they are very highly specialized; in fact, too specialized for most of the physics teachers. So the physics teachers were only going to these really research sessions (because they were not involved in that particular field) in order to benefit from these research sessions.
Doel:By this you’re referring to the January meetings?
Havens:What they really wanted was a Chinese menu, with two from A and two from B in order to have a program. So they got an overall summary of what was new in various fields, and not the details of what was new in various fields. Most of them were not research physicists in those particular ones. In later years I adapted some of the programs of the annual meetings to the AAPT, what I thought they weren't, rather than what they told me they weren't.
Doel:By later do you mean the 1980s?
Havens:Yes. If you look at physics in developing countries; what they need and what they ask for are entirely different. They want to be on the forefront of physics research. How the devil can Zambia be on the forefront of high energy physics? There is no way they can possibly do that! What they need more is bicycle pumps for irrigation than they do a high energy physics research organization. What they want and what they need are quite different.
Doel:So you are saying that the AAPT wanted these sessions to be held at the non-January meetings, at the specialized meetings that occur at other times of the year?
Havens:They wanted to be involved in research sessions. In my opinion, and strictly my own opinion, they did really not want the details that have to be given in a research session. They wanted to hear the latest developments in any particular area and not the details of the latest development. They didn't care about the details. I don't know what I can use as an illustration. Suppose you look at the details of the multiparity of the gamma ray emissions from nuclei. They weren't really interested in whether one level had a spin of four or two or three or anything like that. They just wanted to know how you in general got some idea about the [???] structure of the nuclear levels from the multi-parity than [???] electrical multi-parity of the radiations through these particular levels. It becomes very important in the research side of it in deciding whether a particular level has a spin of two or four rather than three because it comes in through a whole different sequence. But it may take a whole paper in a research series to determine what the particular parity and spin of that particular level is. They are not interested in all of the details which you bring in as evidence to show exactly what the spin and parity of a particular level is. They wanted to know what the overall way of getting at the spin was so that they are entirely different — you ask different people to speak. I've heard many times people saying that the APS research sessions at the annual meetings were not well attended by the AAPT people. That's true and that is because they had too much detail. They really did not want a research session which would [???] interest. The people who were doing research in that particular area, they wanted an overall survey of what was going on in the various fields of physics.
Doel:Were part of the problems related to the decline of the January meeting?
Havens:Oh yes, absolutely. The problem with the January meeting was that APS works through its divisions and has to, in my opinion, at the present time. None of the divisions wanted to support the January meeting. They all wanted to have pretty much their own meeting which they could have what they wanted. Whereas the January meeting was looked at as a general meeting. I tried to get the division of what is now the atomic molecular and optical physics to have the January meeting as their principle meeting but they refused. The Forum and History are not technical divisions in the sense of the Fluids and Plasmas and so forth. Even though they support the January meeting, they don't have enough participants to insure good attendance. You've got to have the research component in order to have a good APS meeting. None of the divisions wanted to have their main meeting at the January meeting. That's why.
Doel:Leaving AAPT to try to seek allegiances with the other sections?
Havens:It became pretty much a teachers meeting rather than a meeting of research physicists. That was unsatisfactory to the AAPT because they wanted to meet jointly with the APS in order to be in a research meeting.
Doel:Who were the main people that you dealt with in the AAPT in the 1970s?
Havens:All of the Presidents over a whole period of years as they went through. Jack Wilson is probably the principle one, but Arnie Strassenberg was certainly first. We worked extremely well together. Jack Wilson was a real very serious and ardent promoter of AAPT and its independence. It was more difficult to work with him because he wanted to do things independently.
Doel:When you say independently what sort of things do you feel he had in mind to do?
Havens:He wanted, for instance, this show at the annual meeting. It used to be run by Ed Greeley and was cooperative with AAPT. He didn't think it was run properly at all for the AAPT purposes and therefore took over the show at the AAPT meeting. I never wanted to do that personally. I was very glad for Ed, really, to do that.
We've covered a lot of ground today and there are still things we ought to hold out for one further session. Thank you again.
 Membership Statistics.