Oral History Transcript — Dr. William Havens
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Interview with Dr. William Havens
William Havens; August 14, 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 a sixth interview with Dr. William Havens. (Today is August 14, 1991). I recall in 1981 that there was concern within the APS about the flow of scientific information within the Federal Government, and that you were appointed to a Committee that request you to contact, Frank Press and George Keyworth to advise them of APS concerns. I'm wondering what you recall of how that came about, and your involvement in it.
Havens:Well, there were great concerns in the Reagan Administration about classifying information. And they had a category there for a while (I forget the exact name they attached to it) but it wasn't classified in the formal sense of the word. There are two major categories of classification: one is confidential, and the other is secret. There are a lot of further sub-degrees of classification. For example, anyone who has a secret clearance isn't necessarily cleared to have weapons information. Many things in classification are on a “need to know” basis. Even though you have complete security clearance, right through top secret, you can't get certain information because there's no need for you to know. Curiosity isn't sufficient need. Now they were introducing a category which did not come under the classification rules of the Federal Government, where there is a clear penalty, criminal penalty for violation of classification rules. It was uncertain as to what the meaning of this new type of classification category was. It was not a criminal offense to break this category, but they implied some severe penalty which was unstated. And certainly physicists felt that scientific interchange could not be satisfactory under conditions of that type. So it was very important for the physics community to know what the rules were by which it had to operate. Actually there was a report which was issued by the National Academy of Sciences, and the former president of Cornell University, who was in the theoretical division of Los Alamos during the war. I should remember his name.
Doel:We'll put it on later.
Havens:He was the chairman of the committee to look into classification of scientific information. And I remember the report very well. It was very well done. They came out dividing the information up into several different categories. The first one of course was pure research: the second one was applied research; the third one was transfer to technology; the fourth one was technological production, you might call it. Now, these are very rough, broad categories, but [???] as I remember the conclusions of the report, there was very little need for any classification in the pure research: namely, determining what the principles were behind whatever operated. As I've stated about the U2-35 experiments: if you did them in Moscow or at Columbia University, you got the same result if you did the same experiment. On the other hand, they found that in the borderline between, say, sales of new products and production information, there was good reason to classify things, because the timing of a new product would have a tremendous economic impact on the prosperity of the concern that came out with a new product. If competition could be developed on that new product within weeks of its introduction, then they didn't have any lead on it and any advanced sales. On the other hand, if it took a year or two to develop some competitive product, then they would have a real economic advantage in the marketplace. So as you got further and further away from pure research and over to the market, the categories of classification were markedly different. In fact, they recommended that there should not be any classification in their pure research, and there was no good reason that they could determine for having a classification. I gave testimony to Congress somewhere in that period using the laser as an example of something that ten years later one may have thought it should be classified. The laser was invented in 1958 [???] in a paper by Townes and Sharlow, which in my opinion was the definitive paper on the laser. I remember having lunch table conversations with Townes and Sharlow, and they were speculating about whether a laser could ever be built! They had the principle on which the laser could operation, and they published that in the Physical Review. But at that time, no laser had ever been built. I'm not sure exactly when the first laser was built but I think it was 1960, a couple of years after the paper was published. Now, if you'll look at the literature you'll find that there was a group of Russian physicists who were very interested in what later turned out to be the laser principle. There was no advantage the U.S. physicists, namely Townes and Sharlow at that time, had over the Russian physicists on the principle of the laser. That was the structure of the items and molecules which determined the laser principle. It was certainly a genius who had discovered it. But it was a fundamental principle, like Newton's law of gravity, which you can't patent or make use of as a unique discovery. When lasers were first built, I remember Arthur Sharlow going around, giving lectures where he used a laser as a pointer. He said, “Here is a great invention looking for a necessity.” Nobody at that time, in the early 60s, knew where a laser could be applied. Right now the laser industry is a multi-billion dollar industry — maybe even up into the trillions. With the optical fibers, lasers now are one of the basic instruments in all communications. But in the late 1950s they didn't even know whether a laser could be built, and in much of the 1960s nobody knew how to apply a laser.
Doel:What reaction did you get from your Congressional testimony?
Havens:My Congressional testimony was very well received. And I think that the Congressmen who were present (very few were present when I gave testimony) saw the point about the fundamentals. And I did use at that time my own experience with U-235 cross-sections as measured at Columbia and measured in Moscow. They had to admit that there was no way you could classify this type of information. From history you can find different groups going off in the same directions and making the same discovery. Especially, in the classified area [???] later applications of lasers.
Doel:Do you recall any particular discussions with Keyworth or with Press on these issues?
Havens:Oh, well, I certainly had some discussions with Keyworth, about how far do you go in declassifying information which in the mechanics of a nuclear weapon. And I concluded, certainly along with Keyworth, that the actual designs of the nuclear weapons and the details of the triggering mechanism [???] (the energy transfer method from the fission explosion to production of neutrons by tritium in some way) certainly should be classified. Because they were details which required a great deal of effort to implement in getting an efficient bond. You do testing on bonds to determine how efficient they were. When they started they were extremely inefficient, and they increased in efficiency considerably. But you can't classify the fact that the DN [???] reaction gives a lot of neutrons and can be used to trigger further neutron reactions.
Doel:What impressions did you have of Keyworth and the Reagan Administration Science Policy?
Havens:Well, I think Keyworth was very effective at his job. I think if you look back over that time, he was not certainly a distinguished scientist like some of his predecessors or some of his successors. But he certainly convinced the administration that fundamental science was worth supporting and increased the appropriations for fundamental science. Now he might not like the way it was done, because it was done more through the military than it was through the civilian agencies. But he certainly got increases in budget for science much more effectively than some of his predecessors had. Now I think Frank Press, as Carter's Science Advisor, was certainly a much more distinguished scientist and he had a much broader view of science than Jay Keyworth had. On the other hand, he wasn't anywhere near as effective at getting money for science as Keyworth was. [laughs.] So which are you? An idealist or a pragmatist?
Doel:That raises an interesting question: how did you feel about the development of the Star Wars project? Do you recall discussions within the APS about that?
Havens:Oh, I sure do. I sure do. Here comes some personal impressions which are hearsay, but I did discuss the speech that Reagan gave on March 1983 on Star Wars. From my discussions with Keyworth — and it's been since confirmed by my discussions with other people — he knew absolutely nothing about that section of the speech hours before the speech was given. I think (now this is my own speculation) that maybe 24 hours or something like that before the speech was made he was given a copy of it, and he saw this allusion to having a defensive mechanism which could put an umbrella over the whole United States. He realized that it was impossible and probably objected to it, although he couldn't say that to me because he was part of the Administration and had to follow the Administration policy. But he tried to get ameliorated somewhat and he was completely unsuccessful. Therefore, since it was the Reagan policy and Reagan commanded that everybody follow his policy literally, he couldn't say anything against it. I recognize that. In fact, he told me that the role of the Presidential Science Advisor was entirely misinterpreted by almost every physicist he discussed it with. He was told in no uncertain terms that the purpose of the Presidential Science Advisor was to sell the administration to the scientists; not the scientists to the administration. He was not an advocate and should not be an advocate of science for the Administration. His focus should be the other way.
Doel:That's very interesting. Who did you feel were the main scientists in the Reagan circle?
Havens:Oh, Edward Teller in my opinion was by far the central figure in the Star Wars introduction.
Doel:Clearly. Were there others in other fields who you feel were equally as influential in by setting science policy?
Havens:Well, there was a whole contingent of physicists from Livermore who were disciples — real disciples, in the religious sense of the word — of Teller, and they were the ones who were promoting the Star Wars. Some of the statements that Teller made at the time in my opinion were irresponsible, like saying that an x-ray laser the size of the desk could control the whole of outer space. Nonsense statements like that. But you had to know Edward Teller to understand these statements. As I said to you previously, I think Edward had more ideas than 99-1/2 percent of all other physicists, and 90 percent of his ideas were not practical. But the other 10 percent was probably more than most men have during their whole lifetime, and certainly should be looked at fairly carefully. I think that this was one of the ideas which didn't have enough examination by other people before it was issued publicly. He's had other ideas like that which I could talk about — they're more details in neutron spectroscopy which were impossible and foolish. This one should have gotten some examination by some scientists before it was put out, because at no time did any one of the credible physicists who had anything to do with defense mechanisms ever say that they thought Reagan's idealized defense system could be accomplished. In fact, I was surprised when I first met General Abramson, who was in charge of the project. He was the General in charge of Star Wars. He knew the limitations of the nature of it, and he felt that he had been given an impossible job of trying to sell an impossible objective. And I felt — now, he never said this to me directly — that he was really supportive of the American Physical Society's study on Star Wars because we'd get him off the hook, since he knew there was no possibility of accomplishing it. He was as cooperative as any person I have ever dealt with in the Federal Government. And he was Lieutenant General and he was Director of the Star Wars project. We couldn't have done the APS report without his cooperation.
Doel:That's interesting. What was the impetus behind the report? How involved were you in that?
Havens:Oh, I wrote the proposal for the report. The idea was originated, I think at the 40th Anniversary of the Los Alamos Laboratory. It was Bob Marshak’s talks with Don Kerr, who was then Director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, which originated this idea of having some APS study on the Star Wars project. Since I have been involved with Los Alamos since its beginning almost, I got into it very quickly, and having been working with Jay Keyworth at Los Alamos (working essentially originally in the group that he was the head of), I knew him fairly well. So we put together a proposal for the APS to do a study. Unfortunately, when we had it all cleared through the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Science Foundation, with a lot of help from Jay Keyworth, the Director of the National Science Foundation changed, as well as the Director of Research of the Department of Energy. So six months later we had to start all over again. Ed Knapp, who had been the Director of the NSF, was succeeded by Eric Bloch, who had quite different ideas than Ed Knapp and quite different experience. Ed Knapp had been the Director of the Accelerator Division of Los Alamos and had worked on weapons; he knew the whole weapons situation. Eric Bloch came from computer development. He was Vice President of Engineering of IBM — not of research, but of engineering — and had no or very little experience with weapons themselves. He had experience with computers, but not with weapons. Of course a lot of the system which governs the weapons has to do with computers, but their weapon system is a lot more than just computers. So we had to sort of start all over again. I forget the role of the actors in the Atomic Energy Commission, but I remember they had a change of Administration as well. Then Keyworth resigned, so you didn't know who you were dealing with there in Washington for a while.
Doel:And this delayed the report?
Havens:All this delayed the report. As I remember it, Jay Keyworth was the after-dinner speaker at the April 1983 meeting. We had quite a few discussions during that April 1983 meeting about what APS could do and should do about it. And that's the stack on Star Wars.
Havens:And it was then that Chuck Heble [?] and I wrote up the proposal about what APS could do about Star Wars. In fact, Bob Marshak was active in that phase of it. We went around to the Rockefeller Foundation, to the Exxon Foundation, to several other foundations to see if we could get support for our Star Wars project. I went to see my former student Harold Brown, where I had several conversations with Harold about it, and it quickly became obvious to me that the APS should stick with the physics of it, rather than the politics of it. It's obvious that politics governed the situation, but there was so many misconceptions about what physics could do in that project that it appeared to me — and it turned out later to be true — that if you really got a good review of what you can and cannot do with the physics, then the politics will get into some sort of perspective. That was not true in '83. There were extremely unreasonable expectations of what you could do, along the lines of, “We put a man on the moon, why can't we cure cancer?” There's no relation between the two of them. One is [???] and the other is cell biology. So just because you can put a man on the moon doesn't mean you can do anything about cancer at all.
Doel:Was there any serious controversy within the APS over what the scope of the report should include?
Havens:The greatest controversy was whether or not we could do a report that would be valuable. Everyone realized immediately that if you were going to get into this sort of a report, you had to have access to classified information. And that's where General Abramson's cooperation was so valuable. But you see, APS is an open organization. We don't have any mechanism for handling classified information — nor should we, in my opinion, have any mechanism for classified information. But I had to handle classified projects before, and what I did was to arrange it. Well, what I recommended, and what turned out to be true, was that everyone on the project should be cleared, but cleared through their home organizations or some consulting arrangements. For example, I had clearance at that time through the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a visiting staff member at Los Alamos, arranged by Don Kerr at Los Alamos for complete access to weapons information. I'd had it previously in the design of weapons, so there was no difficulty in getting me clearance there, but it wasn't through APS that I was cleared.
Havens:Everyone else on the project was cleared. Now, this doesn't mean they had clearance for some of the top secret information that was necessary, but there were sufficient number who had top secret weapons clearance to have a subgroup to go look at the top secret things, like the X-ray laser, and report back to the group on the capabilities of that. So the way it finally was done, there was a meeting in Cornell in the summer. I guess it was '83, I'm not sure. Hans Bethe was sort of the chairman of the meeting, and that's why it was at Cornell. Its purpose was to decide whether or not it was possible for APS to come out with an unclassified report on a classified subject. And we concluded at that time it was, provided all of the members of the study group had access to classified information. And also General Abramson did put a condition on the report: namely that they review the report before it was released, the unclassified version of the report. In other words, the original version of the report (because everybody had access to classified information) had to be classified. And then it had to be submitted to the Star Wars program, to General Abramson's office, for declassification.
Doel:Were you comfortable with that?
Havens:If we were going to do it, there wasn't anything else we could do. It turned out that the declassification process took an awful lot longer than I ever expected to occur. We submitted the report for declassification at the end of September in whatever year it was, and it wasn't declassified until the following April. So it took more than six months to declassify that report. And I remember one time when we were talking about laser beams in space. The declassification offices from DOD objected very strenuously to one particular part of it. Luckily Andy Susklow [?] was there, and he said, “But that, I published that in Physical Review Letters a month ago,” and produced the reprint from Physical Review Letters saying that they couldn't classify this particular thing which had already been published in Physical Review Letters. So their problem was that the declassification offices were not up on what was available in the published literature. We had a great discussion about the maximum power which had been achieved by lasers, and our report was not able to report on power greater than 1 megawatt. I think it was. I think it was or perhaps ended with 2. But anyway, before our report was published, one of the national magazines, which name I don't remember, reported on the Air Force developing a 5-megawatt laser. [chuckles] So we had problems with declassification. There were whole sections of the report originally that they said could not be unclassified which were in the published area, in the free literature area.
Havens:Therefore I remember a lot of discussions with the study group and with the declassification offices from General Abramson's office about what could be classified, what would have to remain classified and what would be declassified.
Doel:How satisfied were you with the final version?
Havens:Oh, I was quite satisfied with the final version. There was one thing we wanted to have in the report, and we tried, and that was a chapter to connect the technical part of it with the political part of it. And Panofsky and Pake tried outlining it and even tried writing it, and they were not successful. So they got a fellow from the Livermore Laboratory who was regularly a writer in their office, who regularly dealt with classified information, to write up a chapter which introduced this sort of thing. Obviously that's all classified so I can't tell you what it said. But, after three or four people tried to improve this — people like Panofsky and Pake — they concluded that the quality of that chapter was so inferior to the quality of the technical chapters that it was better not to publish it. APS had been criticized for not having a chapter of that type in the report. But the answer is, several of the people tried to do it, and were unable to do it satisfactorily.
Doel:That's a very interesting point. I recall in 1983 that George Keyworth was critical of the APS for issuing the Nuclear Arms Limitation Resolution.
Havens:That's right. Oh very, very critical of the APS about that.
Doel:Was that something, given your relations with him, that you would have expected?
Havens:Oh, knowing me well, the minute that came out, he called me, and gave me hell over the telephone for subverting his efforts to increase support for physics. Because when physicists sabotaged him by coming out with a statement like that, how could he get credence in administrative circles for any support for the physicists? He felt very definitely that the physics community didn't appreciate his efforts to get increased funding for physics.
Doel:How did you feel about that, the letter?
Havens:Well, it had been very carefully thought through. I remember that—in Physics Today is the letter from George Keyworth, and then later was an answer from Marshak, I think it was. I remember crafting that answer and then discussing it with Sal Buxbaum [?], who was the Chairman of Jay Keyworth's Advisory Committee. Sal was very helpful in getting that written in a way which would be satisfactory to all concerned. I'm sure it wasn't completely satisfactory to all concerned, because no compromise ever is, but I think it came out. I was certainly satisfied with the way it came out, knowing all of the difficulties there were in writing a statement of that type.
Doel:Were you concerned that APS was growing too active in the politics of science in the 1980s?
Havens:That's what I was worried about. The political concerns are the governing factors in the arms control. It is not technical things. The technical things can affect it, because if a politician comes out and says you could do this and you can't, then obviously that doesn't remain secret for very long. They have very good scientists in the USSR or other countries as well. On the other hand, the politics in some ways is much more intriguing than the technical aspects of it, and it was with great difficulty that the physics report was confined to the physics aspects of it. My own statement about this is that you'll be listened to as physicists on physics, but you will not be listened to as physicists on politics, because they are much better acquainted with the political situation than you are. Yes, there was a great concern about getting it too political.
Doel:When you think about Keyworth's assigned role to be an advocate to the Administration, rather than the conduit of science concerns into the president's office, did the Star Wars issue seem in your opinion an exception to the evolving structure of American Science policy, or part of a new pattern?
Havens:Oh no, it seemed to be an exception to the evolving structure. I think all of those people in the science office realized they were on a hook, and the APS report by APS would help them off the hook — show what was proposed was impossible.
Doel:That's an interesting point, which it did seem to be the exception to the general practice of science policy.
Havens:That's right. Oh yes. And I think the APS report did that. If you'll read the report, you'll find out what they said finally in the report was that information did not exist at the present time to design the system, much less try to determine its economics or its feasibility in an operational sense. Absolutely correct.
Doel:Did you have any interactions with Teller on this issue?
Havens:Not on this particular issue, no.
Doel:How effective was Marshak as President of the APS? He was President, I think in 1983, at this time.
Havens:That's correct. Well, Marshak took certain projects, and he was outstanding on those projects in which he was particularly interested. Star Wars was one of them, and the other one was the China-American Cooperative Program. On those he did a wonderful job. He didn't pay much attention to the other parts of it though.
Doel:Just in looking generally over the late 1970s or 1980s, who seemed to you to be the most effective of the APS presidents? Or are there other individuals within the APS who come to mind?
Havens:The ‘70s and ‘80s?
Doel:Yes. During this later period?
Havens:Oh, this later period. I don't know. I really can't say that, because they were effective in different ways. Now you would think that Bob Wilson and Sid Drell, who are both high-energy physicists, would be the same. But I can say that they're quite different, because Bob Wilson is entirely an experimentalist and known for his being an ingenious experimental physicist, and Sid Drell, I don't know what his laboratory abilities are, but he certainly isn't an experimentalist. So they both contributed very substantially to the development of the American Physical Society, but in quite different ways. In fact, that's what I've said all along was one of the strengths of the American Physical Society: all of their presidents have contributed in some way. And sometimes it was even hard to predict the way they would have contributed. Who would have expected that John Bardeen as president would have been able to diffuse the revolution in 1968 when he was president? But he was able to do it very easily and very well. It was hard to predict exactly what their strong points would have been. But every one of them I can say took the job very seriously and contributed in their own way. So I wouldn't really want to rate one as a major contributor and another one as a minor contributor. During my past experience I think the one who made least contributions to the American Physical Society was J. Robert Oppenheimer, because he didn't pay any attention to it at all! Really he hardly even, in my opinion, knew what was going on. He wasn't particularly interested in it. He was certainly a good speaker and a very prominent individual, but he really didn't pay much attention to the American Physical Society.
Doel:That's interesting. Again, thinking back — and I don't mean to limit this to just more contemporary periods — were there others that we haven't discussed, not necessarily officers in the society, who you feel had a major influence over the way the Society developed?
Havens:Well, Phil Moas was a President, and Jim Krumhansl was later a President. They had a very wide influence on the way the society developed after 1972. Because, you see, the Physical Society let's say [???] through 1970 only had publications and meetings. It didn't have a Committee on Women in Physics, or a Panel on Public Affairs [POPA], and CIFS, Committee on the International Freedom of Scientists. It didn't have any of these projects. It didn't have an education program.
Havens:It didn't have any of these outreach activities. And it was in that early 70s period that these programs developed. Phil Moas was certainly instrumental, later becoming chairman of the board of the AIP. He was unable to continue keeping his hand in these particular types of affairs, but he was very influential. And Jim Krumhansl was the chairman of the long-range planning committee under Moas, and she was influential in that role. But there were a lot of developments which took place in the 70s, for instance the establishment of the Professional Fellows. This essentially started in 1972, and I guess the first Fellow was in 1974. It always takes a year or two to get something like that into operation. That was established. POPA was established about the same time; the committee on Women in Physics was established at the same time. So many of these outreach activities were started there in the beginning of the 1970s.
Doel:And it was in the 1980s when there was renewed worry about the question of education in physics…
Doel:…and the possible role that AAPT could play in that.
Doel:Do you recall any discussions at that time about actions that AAPT could take, or about its relationship with the APS?
Havens:Well, I'm trying to separate that out. Actually in the early 1970s Ron Gibald [?] was chairman of a committee to look into what APS should do about education. And there was a report to Council. Unfortunately, it was much too comprehensive. It started out as I remember it (and it's rather vague in my memory at the moment) saying that you had to start teaching science to children in kindergarten, and there was some debate about how the APS should react to a report of this type, because most of the members of APS are research physicists. They have very little to do even with the elementary or high school educational system. In addition to that, if you look at it, you'll find that the general elementary and high school education system of this country is diversified. I don't know how many boards of education you have in this country, but it's probably in the order of 100,000, because every school district has its own board of education. So how you deal with a structure of that type when you have really very few physicists compared, say, to the number of high school teachers or plumbers or electricians or electrical engineers, it was certainly something nobody knew how to solve. So the APS decided that it would confine its efforts to, say, the upper levels of college and graduate training, rather than trying to take on the whole educational problem, where it didn't have the resources or the mechanism to do anything about. Many of the physicists were very unhappy about the way the AAPT educational programs were going, and felt that the research physicists should become more involved with education. It was that feeling that stimulated in the 1980s the education committee to become more active and seek to have an education officer for the American Physical Society. It was clear that the science education in this country was very poor.
Doel:Yes. I was wondering if you recall particular reasons why physicists were dissatisfied with what AAPT had been doing?
Havens:No, I don't know of any particular reason. I think it was just the general reason that the students coming out of high schools were not very inspired or knowledgeable about science.
Doel:Did this strain the relation between the APS and the AAPT?
Havens:No, I don't think it ever strained the relationship between the APS and the AAPT. When the APS finally did get an Education Officer (Ken Ford was the Education Officer), he had been formerly the President of AAPT and was looked on by the AAPT I think as their man in APS to take care of the education programs. So immediately the programs that were done were undertaken cooperatively between APS and AAPT. Ken Ford did a very good job on that.
Doel:Right. He was still down at New Mexico at this time?
Havens:Well, no. He was here.
Doel:He was here?
Havens:Well, actually he was just sort of ending that company that he was working on in Philadelphia.
Doel:All right. And it was in the early 1980s that Ford had established the Washington office for Public Education?
Havens:Ford didn't establish the Washington office.
Doel:Then I'm misinformed. Do you recall any discussions of how the Office for Public Education in Science came about?
Havens:Oh no. He established that in 1988 or 1989, something like that.
Doel:It was much later, then?
Havens:It was much later. We're not even talking about that period. Let's see, Ford, I don't remember what [???]. I think he became Education Officer of APS somewhere around 1985, something like that. Maybe he was part of it in 1984. Then he was Education Officer until he became Director of AIP. I guess that was 1985-1986, and 1987 he became Director of AIP.
Doel:Yes. And this was an idea that he wanted to propose earlier on that did not come into being, as you say, the late 1980s.
Havens:That's right; until he was director. That's correct. I must say that the members of the APS are not, in most cases, people who have contacts with high school science teachers. They have contacts with research organizations, but not with teaching organizations below, as I say, the upper college level.
Doel:So there wasn't really much overlap between the AAPT and APS?
Havens:So there wasn't very much what I would call competition between APS and AAPT. As I always looked at it, you had to have physics majors and physicists if you were going to have any research in physics. They all start as students and have to go up and get educated in some way. Therefore, APS was always very supportive of cooperative programs with APS where we could do some good. But how you reach the science teachers in high school and elementary school was something that we (the APS) and I personally had very little experience with. I do know that I ran with Polly Kush a course in the summer — I guess it was 1953, something like — that, for science teachers. This was at Columbia in the New York area, supported by the National Science Foundation. My experience at that time was that even the best science teachers in the New York area knew very little science, and that what you had to do was to upgrade the scientific knowledge of the science teachers before you did anything else. My other experience was that a lot of the science teachers started out as gym teachers. They didn't have enough for them to do as gym teachers so they put 'em to teach the physics courses. They had never done well in physics, they hated physics, and they imparted this to their students. So you had an anti-science attitude with a lot of the students who when through high school science courses. And I think I even said at that particular time that it would be better for physics if they didn't take high school physics, but came right into college physics, with at least somebody who knew more physics and was enthusiastic about physics, rather than opposed to physics. But it's a very difficult problem. I think the basis of the problem has to do with our society, rather than the science structure of the society. Because as long as your high school teacher is not very well respected by the physics community — and part of the respect is in the value of the salaries paid to them — then you're not going to have very well qualified science teachers in high school.
Doel:Yes. Were there any others in the AAPT besides Ken Ford who you had regular contact with?
Havens:Oh, Jack Wilson. Of course Jack Wilson was the executive officer of AAPT, and I actually had a lot of contact with Arnie Straussenburg, even though he was Dean of Stony Brook. He was still the main operating officer of AAPT when it was at Stony Brook, and before Jack Wilson came, and I had a lot of contact with Arnie. But he was quite a different person than Jack Wilson.
Doel:What sort of person was he?
Havens:Oh, he was a very thoughtful individual with good basics in physics. He had an accomplishment obviously as chairman of the physics department, and then dean of the college there at Stony Brook. He was quite a different age and quite a different character from Jack Wilson, who came with very minimum qualifications, as far as his background in physics was concerned. He been chairman of a very small department of physics in a very small college in Texas, but he didn't have really any research credentials. On the other hand, Arnie had been NSF officer for three years while he was on leave and had a wide experience with physics [???]. Jack Wilson, on the other hand, devoted his full efforts and time to the AAPT, and that was in my opinion very beneficial to the AAPT. Because he is very energetic and very imaginative and able, he therefore essentially put the AAPT on the map — made it much more visible and much more effective than it had been previously when it was handled by a part-timer, even with much better qualifications but not able to devote full-time to that aspect of it.
Doel:That's awfully interesting. There was also a debate in the early 1980s over the size of the executive committee, the council of APS. I'm wondering what you recall of that. Did it seem a major issue to you?
Havens:Oh, there was some dissatisfaction with some members of the council that APS was getting to be an old boy network and that there wasn't enough input from the physics community as to how the governance went. In my opinion, this was just the opposite of what the situation actually was. Certainly the APS officers and staff tried to get as wide contacts as they possibly could to get the Executive Committee and Council to be as widely represented over the physics community as it could be. On the other hand, many of the people you would like to have on the Executive Committee and Council turned down these positions because they were too busy with other aspects of physics. So the problem was really getting well qualified people who would fulfill these posts. In the APS, the most recent past President was always Chairman of the Nominating Committee, and therefore he chose essentially the future Presidents of the APS. The Executive Committee was sort of nominated by the previous Executive Committee. But then the whole structure of nominations procedure in APS was changed. In fact, I think it was at that time that the Chair of the Nominating Committee was elected by the Membership Board. He is elected to Vice Chair, and then next year assumes the chair. But the members of the Nominating Committee are still elected by the Council. In the bylaws of the APS (and I guess it's in the constitution of the APS) it says that the nominating committee shall be broadly representative, so that the Chair and Vice-chair are elected by the membership, and the members of the nominating committee are now nominated by the council committee on committees and elected by council to be members of the nominating committee. There were restrictions. For instance, the number of councils who may be on the Nominating Committee are restricted. And I think the past President is now officially a member of the Nominating Committee, but not Chairman of the Nominating Committee. So those procedures were changed, and were looked at as being made more democratic. On the other hand, it certainly takes a lot more work to do it this way, and I'm not sure that it's so much more democratic. You still have the same external boundary conditions in that many of the people you would love to have working for the American Physical Society are very involved with other activities.
Doel:You mentioned before that it was difficult to get people who are in the industry to participate?
Doel:Did that remain true in the 1980s?
Havens:It still is true.
Doel:It's good to know.
Havens:In fact to get the industrial participants is particularly difficult from small industry. You see the Bell Labs and IBM and Xeroxes have enough staff so that if one of their top notch workers is diverted for 20 percent of his time or something like that, they can afford it. But when you have a research group with three or four people and you take half of one person out, then it's a major fraction of the total research time of that small company and they can't afford it. So it's very difficult to get representation from small companies. Now in addition to that, many small companies differ from one another in very significant ways. So if you get a representative from one small company, his viewpoint may be entirely different from the problems or possibilities of another small company. So that's a problem that I don't know will ever be solved. But there are an awful lot of small physicists working for small companies.
Doel:You already mentioned this briefly, but in 1985 to 1986 you argued in favor of topical groups for industry.
Havens:Yes. Actually, I think I wrote those regulations in 1983 or 4.
Havens:But the first suggestion that we have topical groups first came up in 1972, believe it or not. And really nothing was done about it, because there didn't seem to be enough demand for any change of the APS. On the other hand, by the beginning of the 1980s there were all sorts of small groups that wanted some sort of recognition. And what I did was to take the model guideline bylaws for a division and sort of minimize them, and also the numbers. For instance, to be a division you have to have — what is it [???] — 3 percent of the total membership of the APS. At 40,000 that's 1200 members approximately. At 42,000 that's 1260 members. But a topical group that has to have well over a thousand members to begin with will never get started. They get started small. The idea of the topical group, was that either it would thrive and develop into becoming a division or disappear.
Havens:Because nothing remains small forever. It grows or it disappears. So I wrote up a set of regulations which was published in the Bulletin by [???] which the APS could have Tropical groups. It had to give some money to Topical groups annually for them to operate, but would not be so cumbersome that it was equivalent to forming a new division. At the time, you had to have 150 members. I think now in the new constitution it has to be 200 members. But then you have the same sort of Elected Offices in a Topical group as you have in a Division, and in the new constitution it's a Chair, a Chair-Elect, and a Vice-Chair. I was Secretary-Treasurer, so four offices and four to six additional members were added to the Executive Committee. But it enabled the Topical groups to operate. They get a subvention for each member of the Topical group. Well now it's four dollars for each member. The topical group has a treasury four dollars for each member of a topical group.
Doel:Did that procedure generally work as you expected?
Havens:In general, yes, it worked as I expected, except that I must say I wasn't foresighted enough to realize it would then come in conflict with the divisions. Because the topical groups had no representation on council until they became a division. It's still that way. There was a great debate about that, in writing up the new constitution. So what could a division do that a topical group couldn't do, and vice versa? Well, Harry Lustig [?] recently looked into it when we were writing and putting together the new constitution; and found that except for representation on council a Topical group could do just about everything that a division could do. I think the representation on council is the big difference. We have in our bylaws that a division will disappear under certain conditions unless it has 3 percent of the total membership of the APS. On the other hand, whereas a Topical group can continue on if it has more than 200 members for a period of I think it's either three or four years. If it was less than 200 members then it will be discontinued.
Doel:The 1980's was a period of growing tension between the APS and the AIP over matter’s such as the program charges, charges for indexing, as well as the AIP’s role within the physics community, was it not?
Havens:I don't think that started until Ken Ford became Director.
Doel:You didn't feel that that was true in the early 1980’s?
Havens:No, I didn't. I didn't feel that under Koch. There has always been tension between the APS and the AIP. In fact I pulled out a memorandum from Wigner about it someplace. No, it isn't there. It's here in one of these stacks of papers. It was written when he was president, about the tensions between the APS and the AIP.
Havens:So the things haven't changed, simply because they have the same purpose. But I think, as far as indexing and concerns like that — and the charges for indexing — it was the feeling of the editorial staff that the AIP didn't make good use of what the APS had already, done indexing by computer. You see, the APS office was computerized long before the AIP was computerized. Because it was a Brookhaven before Ridge was built, and had the advantage of having an applied mathematics department at Brookhaven helping with this sort of computerization.
Havens:And therefore, if you look at the mechanism by which manuscripts are received, cataloged and indexed — and only a fraction of them are published — you'll find out you have to have an index system before any journal article is published. The AIP therefore didn't make use at all of the index system the APS has created to handle its own problems, and went at it from an entirely different point of view. Therefore, that in itself introduced some tension between the two of them. Because the index came out produced according to the AIP's categorizing system rather than the system which was regularly in use out at Brookhaven by the APS office at Brookhaven. I don't know, the charges are difficult to determine exactly, because, as I said, there's always a conflict about what should be in overhead and what should be in direct charges. The conflict came about I think after the AIP set up what was originally Division 2 (well, I think it's Division 3 now in publishing). Then it went back to Division 2, the latest reorganization, whereby there was an independent division within AIP that was publishing journals of the APS. The question is, “How much should that be independent of Publications Division 1?” and how much should they be dependent, or should they be interdependent? APS insisted that the Division 2 (as it originally was) be exclusively used for APS publications. If AIP got into a jam at some point — and it did a couple of times over the years — then the facilities which were available would be used to help get them out of a jam. But they shouldn't count on using APS facilities for publishing AIP or other member society journals. That was only to be used in cases of emergency. That worked out very well for APS. I don't think that Koch and Marks liked it very much, because they weren't completely in control. But from an APS point of view it was an excellent arrangement and has continued to work very well.
Doel:There was a note in the minutes in 1983 about emerging friction over whether AIP ought to have the right to make statements of concern to the physics community.
Havens:Oh, there was a whole committee on that, yes. In fact, there's a whole protocol in AIP, which has been passed by the governing board, in which [???] looks at the statements which are made. And I think this came about because the AIP wasn't following the AIP procedures. Some of the physicists took severe objection to some of the statements on physics which had been made by offices of AIP.
Doel:What kinds of statements were being put out?
Havens:Oh, there was one thing I remember. AIP put out the statement, but they didn't make the statement. In the controversy about the magnetic pole, a statement was put out that if you could have individual magnetic poles they could be used to propel ships across the Atlantic. I'd like somebody to describe to me the mechanism that you used. In other words, they were questioning this action. When you get down to the actual physicists, AIP is not an organization of physicists. Most of the staff of AIP are not physicists, and therefore they shouldn't take to issuing statements on the physics. If they are going to issue statements on physics, they damn well better get the experts. Now that's what the AIP procedures are, and we describe that. The APS feels very strongly about its statements. In other words, we have a very definite policy that the president shall be the spokesman for the American Physical Society. And you can delegate this. I mean, if it's not a public information matter, you may delegate Bob Park to speak for the society on that particular point. Or he may have asked Bob Park to draft a statement for him to publish.
Doel:Right. And was appointed, in 1985 Director of Public Affairs, Bob Park.
Havens:That was Bob Park. Yes. But anyway, we are very careful that the president can speak for the American Physical Society, and he has to state what order he shaping [???]. That way he can speak for the Society, but has to say that he hasn't had time to, or the facility, to discuss it with the Council and Executive Committee. Therefore, he is speaking as President, and not as for the Society. On the other hand, he can also say he has had the approval of the Executive Committee, or it can come out, the APS Council has issued a statement, which then has to be approved by Council. So there are three categories of publicity released in the name of the American Physical Society; the President, without further support of the Executive Committee, (or now it will be the Executive Board which we changed), or the full council approval. But remember the Council by law is the American Physical Society.
Doel:Given the relations that we've already talked about between APS and the AIP, I would imagine that the search for Koch’s replacement was an extremely important matter to you.
Havens:I was Chairman of the Committee.
Doel:What I'm curious about, when you look back on it, did the criteria for hiring Koch’s replacement seem very different to you from that used when Koch was hired?
Havens:No, absolutely not. The criteria were almost the same. Namely, I wanted a distinguished physicist who had administrative experience and would know how to run a large organization. He didn't necessarily have to be a Nobel Prize winner. In fact, just as a matter of a personal note, when Charlie Townes was offered the job as provost of MIT, I advised him against taking it, because he was a damned good physicist, one of the best there is, and it would take too much of his time away from physics. I thought he would do a much better job as a physicist than he could as a provost at the university. I think I was right. I think he knows it now. [laughs] But I remember talking to Charlie on that particular topic.
Doel:Of course you'd known Ken Ford for a number of years.
Doel:He had worked under you, if I recall, prior to his appointment?
Havens:Well, yes, he worked as education officer at APS for two years prior to his appointment as director.
Doel:Yes. What were your impressions of Ken Ford?
Havens:Well, I think when he was education of APS office he was a delight to work with. He would think through a program, he would prepare for a council action, he knew how to take care of the details, and they were well thought through and practical and programs which could be implemented. So I was delighted with him as an education officer for APS. My problem with him now, as far as I'm concerned, is that I think his overall judgment is fallacious on many of the more important things for the physics community.
Doel:That's a matter I wanted to pursue.
Havens:I think in a very narrow area, as Education Officer, which was a well-directed program, he did an excellent job. So I think that he is excellent in a particular narrow place where he can have a limited effect, but I don't think he's very able as a director of AIP.
Doel:When you say that there are various issues that you've come to disagree with him on, I'm curious to hear some of the concerns you're thinking about, as far as the direction of AIP?
Havens:Well, I don't know whether you want to get into the building and the location. If you do, yes, I disagree in principal with the move to Washington.
Doel:Right. The move to Washington was being one of the major issues to face the APS in the late 1980s.
Havens:That's right. That would be one of the major issues. And my reason for being against the move is that I have found from experience, as I have said previously, that physicists are listened to, when they are talking to politicians about physics, and not talking to politicians about politics. I find that if you were going to be effective in Washington on a particular physics area, then you have to get the experts from wherever they are in the country. They may be at a university, they may be at a national lab, they may be at an industrial company. But you've got to get the experts in to talk to the congressmen about that particular issue. Congressmen will listen to the experts. And most of the time they're not in Washington. It's someplace else than in Washington. So where the headquarters of APS is located has very little to do with what expert testimony you need in Washington. I also found that if I wanted to speak to a Congressman, Bob Park could make an appointment for me to speak with a Congressman, and because I was coming from New York to Washington, it was very unusual if the appointment was not kept. If you had a House vote at that instant obviously I was second class, but whereas with Bob, since he was in Washington all the time appointments would be canceled and reset and canceled and reset and so forth and so on. So in some ways, not being in Washington you can be more effective than being in Washington. In addition most of the AIP's business has nothing to do with Washington. They are primarily a publishing organization, and a major fraction of their employees have to do with publishing. Washington and New York are by the way very expensive areas, and there's no reason why you should have a publishing operation in a very expensive area. Therefore, even though it does divide up the organization, I think that the ball [???] got it, and the main expenditure should be in an area which is cheaper than a major metropolitan area. Now, I've always advocated APS and AIP having a Washington office, but the total number of people in that Washington office does not have to be very large. You will never, in my opinion, want to do any of your major production or operations in the Washington area, since it is much too expensive to do it there. It's much too expensive in New York where costs are way up. AIP has Woodbury [Long Island printing facilities], but APS has Ridge for different reasons, because an editorial office has to be close to a major research laboratory in order to be effective. I feel that the major operations should not be in a very expensive location. I think that you better not put them in the middle of Nevada, say, because communications would be much too difficult in the middle of Nevada. But I think there are large areas of the country where publications efforts and the major production efforts of APS or AIP could be, rather than in New York or Washington, or suburban New York or suburban Washington. The Washington office is another matter. I think that you have to have people in Washington who know the ropes, who can get appointments for political action as well as information reasons. I think APS and AIP should stick to the information business and not the political business. In other words, neither APS nor AIP should become 501C (6) organizations (under U.S. tax codes) where they are established for the benefit of the profession. I say that following the definition of the IRS, namely, for the benefit of people in the profession rather than from the benefit of a subject matter itself. As long as you follow that principal, then the APS and AIP have to be gatherers and purveyors of information about the subject, not about the people. So I don't think that either APS or AIP should be very active politically. I think they have to say that we need more support for the subject, because I think the subject is much more important than most people give it credit for. If you look at most of the developments in the last 50 years, they've originated — and that includes developments in biology and chemistry as well — in physics. Certainly the DNA. Crick was a physicist before he did the DNA work, because he did the structural x-ray spectroscopy. That's the way he got onto the DNA. And almost all of the techniques used in diagnostic medicine now originated in physics. Therefore, chemistry is only slightly different than physics when you get on the research end of it; there isn't very much difference at all. Consequently, I think the subject is much more important than it's being given credit for, and should have more support if it's going to fuse into the other subjects. But that's different than being like the AMA [American Medical Allociation] or the IEEE, where you're going for the benefit of the individual in the profession.
Doel:Yes. Do you feel in addition to the political concerns that there were other factors motivating the decision to move?
Havens:I think there were mostly emotional factors. I must admit that New York is a zoo, and getting in here from even La Guardia or Kennedy or Newark takes a long time and is very hectic. New York also is not the center of entertainment that it was years back when, if you wanted to see a good play, the only place you could see it was in New York. That no longer holds. There are entertainments all over the country, and New York doesn't have a corner on that market. So I must admit, I don't think that it's as attractive for a physicist from other parts of the country to come to New York as it was 25 or 40 years ago.
Havens:The support of physics is in Washington; 90 percent probably of physics is directly or indirectly supported by the federal government, and so physicists have to go to Washington for support of their own particular projects. Therefore, there is some logic to having the society offices in Washington. But the thing I object to, strenuously, is the University of Maryland and College Park is not Washington.
Doel:That you're still dome distance from the center.
Havens:The necessity of appointments and things like that can be taken care of by a Washington office in Washington, not outside of Washington. I believe that even though if APS and AIP move to College Park, they are still going to have to have an office in Washington. The College Park office will not serve the purpose of an office close to the White House and the Capitol. I think that the move to College Park is neither fish nor fowl. I don't think that it is as good as suburban New York, because from my own information about College Park, it's equivalent to the South Bronx. And I don't think I'd like to see AIP move to the South Bronx. On the other hand, they do have strong support from the Administration at the University of Maryland. Don Langenberg was just elected Vice-President of the APS, and he's Chancellor now of the University of Maryland; he's going to be very supportive of anything the APS does near the University of Maryland. But taken together with the depression that's going on now the physics community can't be prosperous when all the rest of the nation is depressed. The physics is not absolutely necessary to the day-to-day operations of the country. If all of the physicists quit today, there are probably some inventions you wouldn't have five years from now, but it wouldn't interfere with the production of television or Star Wars or anything else which probably were invented 15 to 50 years back. I would hate to think they are disposable luxury; they are a lot more than a luxury, but they are not critical to the continued operation of the country as the doctors are or the street cleaners are or garbage men are.
Havens:Therefore I think that physicists as a group are so small in number and so indirectly connected to the major operations of the society that they can't have very much political clout. In fact, I think, with the way we've operated by not being a political organization, being relatively pure and being regarded in Washington as relatively pure, we have been much more effective than we could have been had we had the same effort in a political milieu rather than in a scientific milieu.
Doel:Were there other leading people in the APS who favored the move?
Havens:Oh yes. I think Krumhansl favored the move very definitely. I'm sure Mertzbarker [?] did. These are the ones in the Presidential position. Blumberg [?] also I think favored the move to Washington. They look at it as a move to Washington. You see, I don't look at it as a move to Washington; I look at it as a move to College Park, with College Park not being the same as Washington. I would say if you were coming from Chicago to New York, moving to White Plains would be a little bit different than moving to New York City. [???] and that's the difference.
Doel:Did you feel that you were a minority among the leading people in the APS on this point?
Havens:I was a minority. I was certainly not a minority on the staff of the APS. The staff of the APS felt very strongly. But I certainly did end up being minority in the Executive Committee at APS, because the Executive Committee voted that APS should move with AIP.
Doel:Do you remember any particular discussions with Ford about these issues?
Havens:Oh yes. I remember some discussions. He just doesn't agree with me, that's all. He feels that being at the University of Maryland will be close enough to Washington to be much more effective in Washington than we are at the present time. And I just disagree with that. But there are other things about the AIP that I think add to the tensions of APS and AIP. For example, the APS is quite different than AIP. APS is a membership organization and in my opinion has to depend on its members to be a strong organization. AIP is not a membership organization except as member Societies are members of AIP. But the direct contact is through the members of the member Societies. Now, the meetings base of APS is essentially the contributed papers of the APS meetings. If we didn't have the contributed papers you couldn't have APS meetings. It's the practitioners of the art getting together to exchange information, which in my opinion is the main strength of the APS. And from that, if you look at the origin of all scientific Societies, they came together as a forum first and then started publications later. And of course the publications come directly from what's originally presented at meetings, because if it's shot down in a meeting, it probably won't be continued to a point where you get a publication out of it, unless it can be altered in a major way. So all APS meetings are based in the contributed papers, and this means in the interests of the physicists. AIP meetings on the other hand are based from the top down, rather than from the bottom up. That is, the program committee decides what sort of program is to be presented and then has invited papers, but very few contribute papers. So I don't think AIP has the experience or the incentive or the experience to handle meetings as they have been handled by the scientific Societies. No, that's quite different than having a meetings department which has the service function of handling a meeting after it's been established by the practitioners of the art. [???] was very strong before APS had any permanent staff to enable the AIP to have a meetings department. In fact they did have a meetings department when Emily Wolf was running meetings for the American Physical Society. But after Bill Koch came as Director, the AIP management decided that it was APS who principally used the services of the meetings department, and therefore if they were going to want a meetings department, they ought to have their own meetings department. The APS in fact now has its own meetings department which supplies a service function of the divisions and Topical groups of the meetings in the same way that AIP supplies a service function to publishing journals of the society. But the meetings have to originate with the scientists rather than with the administrators. So I don't think AIP should even try to get into the meetings area, as Ken Ford seems to be trying to do.
Doel:Was there opposition to Ford's leadership among the Executive Council of APS in general do you feel?
Havens:No, I don't think the elected offices really knew enough about the details of the differences between APS and AIP. You see, AIP is a large organization with a lot of inertia in it. The AIP has kept going the way it did in the past as a result of the large inertia built into it.
Doel:Did you feel then that Ford was moving rapidly away from the direction for AIP that Koch had established?
Havens:Well, after the IRS decision that AIP would remain a 501C(3)organization, because it had charitable acts of its own, Bill Koch began looking around for what other charitable acts it could have which were independent of the member Societies. Remember however, that Bill Koch during most of his career (up until '79 or '80), was of the ilk that AIP was a service organization for the member Societies. So it was relatively hard to change that particular attitude, even though I think he himself wanted to see the AIP to become a more independent operator. I think toward the end he regarded the AIP as the principal organization, with the member Societies reporting to the AIP. Of course I look at it the opposite way; the AIP is the service organization for the APS. And I think that the AIP needs the APS a lot more than the APS needs the AIP. Of course that's obviously a biased viewpoint.
Doel:Do you remember any discussions that you may have had with the main people in other Societies about this?
Havens:Yes, I certainly had discussed it with the main people in other Societies. As far as the technical part of the subject is concerned, their opinions are like those — the Optics Society. You're never going to get Jarris Quinn [?] to admit that the AIP should worry at all about the technical aspect of optics. That's the province of the Optical Society. Or should AIP have anything to do with — what other society can I say? — geophysics. On the technical aspects of that particular the American Geophysical Union will handle them. And I think it's the same with the crystallographers. All of them are very deeply involved with the technical aspects of their specialty.
Doel:Were there any other issues relating to the relationship between APS and AIP that we haven't covered, that you want to talk about?
Havens:Well, what other major things are there? I think the history project for instance is a natural for AIP, because history isn't confined to physics of chemistry or high polymers or crystallography or astronomy. For that matter, there is a great connection between all of them. Public Information is getting to be a difficult area, because the Societies are getting so large that they are capable of having their own public information divisions rather than as it used to be, with no permanent staff and going through the AIP. I still think it would be much better for AIP to have a strong public information department, but it would have to be run in a way which may not be satisfactory to AIP. Because it would have to get all its information from the member Societies. And collectively I think they might be able to do a better job of public information than they can individually. On the other hand, most of them are big enough now, (except possibly the Rheology Society) that they're doing it independently themselves. It seems that many physics administrators love doing the public relations themselves. And what else? Manpower and Statistics is a Division. I think that's better done collectively than separately, but the APS has certainly cooperated very closely with AIP on that. What else do we have among the AIP Division?
Doel:You've covered the Divisions well. Is there a worry in your mind, not necessarily limited to the move to Washington but in general, about what seems to be the increasing Balkanization of physics?
Havens:Oh, very definitely. It's leading for instance in the SSC to real serious divisions in the physics community. I don't want to end up by saying all high-energy physicists are going to hate solid-state physicists because they're competing for exactly the same funds, but maybe that's the way it will end up, if you can't get some of these devices through. However, we had a meeting in June; I guess it was, of the Committee on Meetings of APS which had representation from a lot of the Divisions and Topical groups. All of them feel that they are subdivisions of physics and the best thing to do is to inform people and the general public and Congressmen and so forth of the great benefits of physics as a whole, rather than only of their specialty. There is very definitely a coherence there that may or may not exist, say, between organic and inorganic chemistry. How you do this, not only with APS and AIP but within APS, is a problem. For example, the plasma physicists feel that they are not highly enough respected by the other physicists. On the other hand, they always want to have their separate meeting where nobody else is around to tell them what they ought to have at that meeting. Thus it becomes a very specialized meeting which nobody else wants to attend. So how can you compromise on the dilemma where you want to have your specialty and very specialized meetings, but also be part of a greater unity?
Doel:Yes. When you look back over, say, even the last two decades, what impresses you as the greatest change in the conduct of research?
Havens:The greatest change is everybody is becoming more and more specialized. When I was a graduate student you had to take a very much broader program of graduate studies. Now, there wasn't that much to each one of those programs as there is today, so it's a matter of time. You see, if you spend all of your life being educated and never do anything, then you're not very much good to society as a whole. On the other hand, if you spend very little of your life getting educated, then you're not good for doing anything for society either. So it's the old one of being a specialist and knowing everything about nothing, or being a generalist and knowing nothing about everything. But obviously someplace in between is where you have to compromise. Having the old New York meeting of the APS and AAPT was sort of the epitome of the generalist meeting, where you had enough specialists there giving their papers on their own specialty, and you would also have a good general program. But the way it's developing, this is no longer possible. I also think the economics has something to do with it, namely, a person who is in a specialty has to go to a meeting in that specialty. You can't justify going to a general meeting. So all of the specialists' meetings are well attended and supported, but general meetings are not well attended or supported.
Doel:I remember reading by the mid-1980s the number of people attending the January meeting was down to the 1944 level.
Havens:That's right. Well, I don't think it was that low, because during the war there were very few people attending. In fact meetings were forbidden for a while, because of the transportation problems. But certainly they were down to the 50s.
Doel:That's interesting. When you look back to your experience in the Columbia Physics Department, how great an impact did the emergence of the collaborations have in the operation or the structure of the departments?
Havens:Well, you mean collaboration with Fermilab and Brookhaven, things like that? It has an enormous effect. Essentially you had to have two professors for one. In high-energy physics it got to be a real problem, because all of the high-energy physics facilities were someplace else, say by the 1980s. And if high-energy physicists were going to do any experimental work at all, they could stage the experiments at the university, but in order to do them, they had to move out to Fermilab and Stanford and Brookhaven or whatever those places. That meant if your professor was going to supervise the particular experiment, he had to be able to schedule some time to be at the major national laboratory in order to do the experiment, and so professors would get scheduled to teach in either the spring or the fall. Now, since you have to have a complete set of courses going both spring and fall, it meant that half of the staff in the high-energy physics arena was away at any one time, and therefore you had to have twice as many professors. Well, this obviously has an economic impact on the university if you have to have twice as many professors; you better have twice the budget and so forth and so on. Oh, it isn't that bad, I mean I've exaggerated a little bit. But it's close to it. So it had a very marked effect on the Universities. Now on the other hand, the advantages were that these people were closely connected with everybody else in the field, so you always had the latest information about developments in any particular field. So it's not only a disadvantage; there are advantages, but they're quite different. I know I was really mad when I taught the big engineering physics courses, and had instructors who weren't there except during times they actually had recitations so that no student could see them for advice or anything else.
Doel:That's a good point. A general question I wanted to ask concerns your personal outlook. I'm wondering if you have any strong religious convictions or any other strong articles of faith that have become important to you?
Havens:Oh yes, well I mean I certainly do. I feel that supporting pure research in physics is something that's important for the nation in the long run both economically and intellectually. You are stimulated by your colleagues and your contemporaries and your students, and if physics becomes a place where the best people enter into the profession, then it's going to slide. Physics has been very fortunate, in that some of the most brilliant people in the world have been physicists and have advanced physics, Einstein of course being one of the prime examples. But it's very easy to get into a syndrome whereby you have specialists who praise specialists who support specialists, even though they don't really have very much impact outside of their specialty. And that in my opinion is a sure way to ensure the demise of the subject. It's got to have some output to the society as a whole, and as I say, if you look back on the last 40 or 50 years, physics has a major impact on all aspects of society. I think that you can overdo the support of pure research, and in fact we may very well have overdone the support of pure research. And where I say pure research, I mean you are doing the research only for the intellectual development of the subject, not for any practical applications. Sometimes you can't distinguish them; you do the same thing, whether you're doing it for one purpose or the other, you still have to do the same thing. But, there are only a finite number of ideas around that you can work on at any time. And if you work on an idea at the wrong time, it'll die. It may revive sometimes later and be very, very important, but timing is also very important to it. For instance it was the photoelectron multipliers which were developed for movie projectors which enabled you to do all of the counting. And if they hadn't been developed for movie projectors, you wouldn't have had them for particle counting. Rutherford did a lot of particle counting with his spinthariscope, but you couldn't have done anything like the experiments you could do with the optical viewing of particle scintillations on the screen. Thus the timing is also very important. We have to keep a very strong science operation going in this country, with some of the best intellects that exist, in order to make it stimulating to the other great intellects that exist.
Doel:I think that's a very good point, and perhaps that would be a very good place to bring this interview to a close.
Havens:Okay, that's fine.
Doel:And we will of course — and this should go on the tape — not make the tape available to anyone or its transcript without your express knowledge and approval as defined on the permission forms that you have already received along with the edited transcripts.
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