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Oral History Transcript — Robert V. Pound

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Interview with Robert V. Pound
By Ursula Pavlish
At Cadbury Commons Retirement Home, Cambridge, MA
November 4, 2006

open tab View abstract

Robert Pound; November 4, 2006

ABSTRACT: On family physics connections. On The Submarine Signal Company sonar and radar work. On Britain during World War Two. On Charles Lindbergh. The Tizard Mission. E. G. Bowen. Pound as chair of Harvard Physics for eight years. Number of physicists at The MIT Rad Lab. Molecular beams and magnetic resonance. Gorter’s summer at Harvard. Alfred Loomis. On The Queen Mary ship docked in Boston harbor. 50-cm radar. Pulsed vs. continuous radar. Radar as similar to NMR. Erwin Hahn and Spin Echoes. On The New Yorker magazine. Transfer of equipment from The Rad Lab to Harvard. Signal-to-noise work at MIT. On Bell Labs. First teaching assignment at Harvard. BPP paper.

Transcript

Session I | Session II | Session III | Session IV | Session V

Pound:

That is the MRM meeting in Vancouver. I enjoyed that because I enjoyed Vancouver. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to go there.

Pavlish:

Let me formally introduce the tape. It is November 4, 2006. I am here to interview Professor Robert V. Pound in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The topic I would like to focus on today, Professor Pound, is your work at The MIT Radiation Lab and its connection to your work in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Also, I would like to get a feel for what it was like to work at The MIT Radiation Lab. You were recruited to go there before you even had a graduate degree. You were finishing your undergraduate degree in Physics at The University of Buffalo, where your father, who was a professor, taught. You moved to Cambridge, as I understand, to work for a company.

Pound:

In the same field. That company was The Submarine Signal Company. My sister’s husband was the head of their radar development program there. He had come there having been a graduate student at Yale. My other sister’s husband was also a graduate student at Yale, although he finished his PhD work there and was also at the MIT Radiation Lab during the war.

Pavlish:

Did the Submarine Signal Company begin radar work before The Radiation Lab?

Pound:

Yes.

Pavlish:

How did that work? One of the things I am trying to understand is the interaction between scientists and government and industry during World War II.

Pound:

Well, The Submarine Signal Company was founded during the First World War (or before). Its particular expertise was in underwater sound; that is why it was called The Submarine Signal Company. They developed the equipment that the Navy used in order to try to detect and locate submarines.

Pavlish:

That was SONAR?

Pound:

Yes, SONAR. SONAR, of course, is the complete analog to RADAR in the acoustics world. I would say that radar was the analog to sonar. That is why The Submarine Signal Company was one of the first companies to be involved in the radar program. In fact, they started their own radio program, which became radar later, in the early 1930s. There was some interest in doing that kind of thing in the United States military, but nothing comparable to what was going on overseas. The English and the British had gone much further in that respect than anybody in this country at the time.

Pavlish:

Do you know when The Submarine Signal Company started developing radar? Were they thinking of military applications?

Pound:

Oh, yes. You see, The Submarine Signal Company had a hand in glove with the Navy. They were regarded as one of the few corporations in this country who knew how to build that the Navy respected. They built a large fraction of Asdic [Anti Submarine Detection Investigation Committee, acronym, known to Americans as Sonar] as the British called it. It was the complete analog to radar. You see, when we came into all this, the British were there with their backs against the wall. They were under continuous bombardment from the continent, from the German airforce. It is now regarded that the British had won the Battle of Britain, which meant that it was credit to The Royal Airforce that with their limited equipment, they actually stood up to and won in battle against the German Air Force coming in from the continent. The Germans had already occupied all of Europe including the Low Countries and the Scandinavian countries and France and so forth. So, Britain was there with its back against the wall. The RAF did a remarkable thing, of being able to survive the oncoming attacks from the German airforce, which was a much bigger organization. Charles Lindbergh — I do not like him at all — went over there, to Britain and Germany. When he came back with his wife, he pronounced that the United States should not back the British because it was a lost cause, because he said that the German airforce was so much more strong and that The RAF would not have any chance against it. Whereas it turned out to be the other way around. The RAF was so much better organized and they had some excellent airplanes. The United States had some very poor airplanes at that time; these so-called P-40s, the airplanes that Curtis made.

Pavlish:

So the air force of the British was comparable to the Germans’, but their radar development was well ahead of the Germans’?

Pound:

Not necessarily. The Germans had as much equipment but they did not have the organization to recognize what it was good for. So it was rather startling that they never put it together as the British did. You have seen those pictures of girls pushing rods with models of the aircraft that are out to defend, and simulate the battles on the tabletop. That is often in the movies. That is what put them so far ahead of the Germans. The Germans did not believe in the idea that you could do useful things that way, like the radar program. They had as much radar as the British did. Oh no, not really. England had the Chain Home system. The Chain Home system was the system of antennas all along the English coasts, which gave them advanced warning of any raids coming in from the continent. Since the continent was completely occupied by Germany at that time, they only had to keep an eye on what was coming from France. The ‘CH’ or Chain Home system, had all those antennas along the English coast. There is one book that describes how the Germans were trying to figure out what all those antennas were doing. They sent the Graph Zeppelin over at one stage. They had it re-activated; the Graph Zeppelin had been de-activated in the 1920s. Hindenburg replaced it with a much bigger airship. I have a book wherein there is a picture of the Graph Zeppelin coasting along, looking at those radar antennas. According to the record, they never figured out what they were doing.

Pavlish:

You started with The Submarine Signal Company. Were you working on radar there?

Pound:

Yes, that is right. I did not do very much there. I did not stay long; I went there because my brother-in-law was the head of the radar program there. He had been a student at Yale and his professor there, a man named McKean [sp?] was a consultant for The Submarine Signal Company. In particular, his specialty was magnetism, magnetic materials. The reason that he was of interest to The Submarine Signal Company was that one of the things that they had to develop was projectors for the underwater sound; they used magneto-friction methods to make these things that they put on destroyers in order to put out the pulses and detect the echoes for the SONAR.

Pavlish:

That was even before World War II that McKean was a consultant? Was McKean a physicist?

Pound:

He was a professor, yes.

Pavlish:

My impression was that physicists became consultants, actively helping out, during World War II. From what you say, it sounds like they were doing so already during World War I.

Pound:

That is right. I think it is fair to say that one of the motivations was because of The Battle of Britain that was going on there. Most of us were very sympathetic with the plight that Britain was in, with respect to being under attack continuously from the continent by the German air force. There was little expectation that The RAF would hold its own against that. As I have said, Charles Lindbergh was very pessimistic in that respect; whether that was his own feeling or whether he cared was never clear to me. This is one of the reasons why I have never been fond of him. He and his wife both made speeches telling America to forget what was going on over there because the Germans were going to swarm over the whole country. They were very pessimistic about the future.

Pavlish:

How did you initially hear about the British radar program? I assume that it was classified research. Was that something you learned about after the war? While you were at the Radiation Lab?

Pound:

A mission, called The Tizard Mission, brought all their technology over and offered it to the United States, including models of the magnetron, the pulsed magnetron, which was making the future of the radar program possible. The important thing was to get short wavelength radar, so that it could be fitted into aircraft, because the dimensions of the antennae that you have to use are determined by the wavelength. Short wavelength means that you can make antennae small enough to get them in the front-end of aircraft. That was the big breakthrough that the British produced.

Pavlish:

I am aware that Tizard came over to the United States with information to exchange that for cooperation on war research.

Pound:

Tizard was the mission, but his main technical person was Edward George Bowen, E. G. Bowen; Taffy Bowen, we called him. Many years later, there was a reunion at MIT, a dinner party. When we were leaving that dinner, my colleague Henry Torrey could not find his over-coat, so he started looking for it. Some graduate student was who was drifting said the he saw this man who was kind-of tipsy walking off in a beautiful black overcoat. We figured it might have been Taffy Bowen. [laughs] The investigation later turned out that it was. So, later, when Henry finally got his coat back, I had a little ditty from him that said, “Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief. Taffy took my overcoat and caused me lots of grief.” [laughs]

Pavlish:

[laughs] That is a funny story. That was at a dinner party? After the war? At a reunion?

Pound:

Oh, yes. This was probably in the 1980s or in the 1970s. It was a reunion. MIT would have that once in a while. They had a couple of those.

Pavlish:

Really? People would come back even from far away? I assume that Taffy came all the way from England?

Pound:

No. Taffy was in Australia. He had become the science advisor to the Australian embassy in Washington. So, he was living in Washington, D.C. and when we tried to find Henry’s overcoat, we had to trace him back to Washington. It turned out, he had been staying in Quincy, Massachusetts. He had put that coat into the trunk of his car and had driven it down to Washington. We finally got it back.

Pavlish:

He was absent-minded.

Pound:

He knew what he was doing, but he did not think it would be missed that quickly. [laughs] We spoke to some people and there was an MIT graduate student who said, “I saw this man who was kind of tipsy.” I had been talking to Taffy, so I knew he was kind of tipsy at that point. He was a dear friend, actually.

Pavlish:

How big were these reunions at MIT? The Radiation Lab itself was enormous!

Pound:

This involved bringing people back; for example Henry Torrey, my close friend, came up from New Jersey. He and his wife stayed with us during those few days. Then, the other close friends we had there were called Howard Doolittle and his wife Phyllis, who was a close friend of my wife. Howard Doolittle had been the head of The Modulator Group at MIT Radiation Lab during the war, which designed the pulsers that made the magnetrons work. He had gone into industry. He was in a company that built very large, powerful vacuum tubes, for powerful radar transfer.

Pavlish:

A lot of the physicists who worked at The Radiation Lab went into industry afterwards?

Pound:

Oh, yes.

Pavlish:

Because they had really good practical skills as a result of their work there?

Pound:

It is a much more remunerative thing than academia. A large fraction of the people at Radiation Lab had come there from academic backgrounds. Many of them were on leave from their academic positions. Those who had that status could go back to those positions. But then the young squirts like me did not have that kind of connection from our backgrounds.

Pavlish:

You were asked to join The Harvard Society of Fellows, but not everyone was so lucky.

Pound:

That is right. That is because I became a recognized person during those years. I had lots of influential colleagues, ranging from Isaac Isador Rabi, I. I. Rabi of Columbia, to of course, John H. Van Vleck, who was the head of The Physics Department at Harvard in those days. The Physics Department at Harvard has always had a rotating chairmanship.

Pavlish:

You were chair for a while, right?

Pound:

Oh, yes. I had my term, for about eight years, as chairman.

Pavlish:

Rabi got his Nobel Prize during the war years. You would have met Rabi at MIT?

Pound:

Yes.

Pavlish:

How many people were at The Radiation Lab?

Pound:

Of the professional physicist types, there were approximately 1,300 or something like that.

Pavlish:

How did you meet Rabi?

Pound:

He was the head of some of the groups there. In particular, he was the head of the division under which Purcell worked. Purcell was head of the group called Advanced Development and Research. His predecessor in that group was Norman Ramsey. Norman Ramsey had been a student of Rabi at Columbia, before coming to The Radiation Lab.

Pavlish:

Where they had done their molecular beam experiments. How much were those a precursor to your Nuclear Magnetic Resonance experiment? Did you think about those molecular beam experiments when you were setting up NMR?

Pound:

We were happy that we did not have to do the kind of high-vacuum work and so forth that the Molecular Beam people had to do. That is why this was a great simplification of the whole game. The idea of Magnetic Resonance was already well-established by those Molecular Beam experiments. Rabi was the instigator thereof. Another person who had a main role in describing the expectation of what you could do was Cornelius Gorter. He was from Amsterdam, but then he moved to Leiden. He became a very close friend over the years after that.

Pavlish:

Really?

Pound:

Oh yes.

Pavlish:

How so? It seemed to me from what I had read that he tried to find nuclear magnetic resonance and it failed.

Pound:

Yes.

Pavlish:

And then you tried it, and it worked.

Pound:

Well, yes…

Pavlish:

Did he come visit your lab?

Pound:

He spent the summer of 1947 at Harvard. He had just written a book on magnetic relaxation, which is something that he studied in its own right. Not as part of the magnetic resonance subject, but just as part of the study of paramagnetism. He had written a book called “Relaxation.” He came; we had invited him as a summer lecturer at The Harvard Summer School. That was one of the few years the Harvard Summer School actually had advanced physics coursework for the summer; and he gave a course on that subject. I always remember his going to his mailbox where he had a letter. He looked at it and said, “Oh, I hate that kind of thing.” The letter said, “Dear Professor, Sehr gelernt, C. H. Gorter.” He said that he did not like their using that kind of European address. [laughs] He said, “Furthermore, it is wrong. It should not be sehr gelernt; it should be hogh gelernt.”

Pavlish:

Those were Germans writing to him?

Pound:

I do not know if they were German or European in general. The French would do that too. They might write it in German because they would recognize that his ability, his reading would be as a German.

Pavlish:

So Rabi was head of a division…

Pound:

He was head of Division Five of The Radiation Lab, yes. One of his subordinates was Ed Purcell, who was head of The Advanced Development Group.

Pavlish:

Were you in Purcell’s group?

Pound:

No, I was not. I was in a different division altogether. I was not under Rabi, but I spent a lot of time consulting with Purcell. Ramsey was the previous head of that group before Purcell took it over, but Ramsey had picked up and gone off to Washington. He was in the office of the Secretary of War. He was playing a major role in Washington, pushing the radar program.

Pavlish:

The Tizard Mission brought over the pulsed magnetron. I assume that means that The Submarine Signal Company did not have a pulsed magnetron at the time?

Pound:

Yes, we had one.

Pavlish:

You did?

Pound:

They gave us one, yes.

Pavlish:

They gave you one?

Pound:

We got one of the first ones. What happened, was, the British brought one over (there are pictures in the books of Rabi and others holding that magnetron which still had pumping leads on it to pump the vacuum). It was demonstrated and made a tremendous impression on the man who was designated as the chairman of the subcommittee for microwaves, of The National Defense Research Committee, that was this man from Tuxedo Park, Alfred Loomis. There is a book by James Conant’s granddaughter, which is about Alfred Loomis, called “Tuxedo Park.” It is quite an interesting book. But I do feel, it may be over-credits Alfred Loomis in his role in founding The MIT Radiation Lab. He really was, basically, a founder of The Radiation Lab, but not so completely as she makes out. He had chaired what was called The Microwave Subcommittee of The NDRC, the National Defense Research Committee. The NDRC was chaired by Vannevar Bush. I always remember this lovely book called “Radar Days” by E. G. Bowen. You should read that. Taffy was such a great writer. Taffy wrote that book called “Radar Days,” and in it he describes the anomaly of the man who grew up in the Welsh mining country, spending his evenings in Tuxedo Park where somebody would drop him in the evenings where he was staying, called Avril Harriman. Avril Harriman was a very distinguished politician in those days. He was a neighbor there in Tuxedo Park. Harriman was a financier.

Pavlish:

Getting back to my question about the establishment of The Radiation Lab — the Tizard Mission brought over the pulsed magnetron. They showed it to the physicists here.

Pound:

Not to the physicists as such, but it got spread around. It was given, originally, to The NDRC, The National Defense Research Committee, which mean Vannevar Bush, Conant, and Compton. A particular person of biggest interest in this is the one we were just speaking of, who had his own laboratory at Tuxedo Park, namely Alfred Loomis. He had been investigating efforts to develop microwaves for some years before that. His particular pressure was then, to develop aircraft landing systems. That is why he wanted microwaves particularly. I did not know that much about it; except when I came here to The Submarine Signal Company, we were aware that there were efforts to develop aircraft traffic control systems and landing systems at East Boston, just across the harbor from us, because we were based in Atlantic Avenue in Boston. It was impressive that The Queen Mary came in and docked down at the Army base in South Boston. It was an image that was a large part of our horizon when we looked out of our windows there, from Atlantic Avenue. It was quite illegal to mention it in the newspapers, because being a British ship; they were extremely sensitive about any kind of indication as to what they were up to or where they would be, at a given time. They went out one afternoon, at about four o’clock in the afternoon. Twelve tug-boats pulled it out from its pier and pulled it out to sea. Our simple, elementary radar, that was a 50-centimeter system at Submarine Signal, was able to track it far out, eight miles out to sea. We had seen that ship going out from Boston further than any other ship we had seen. There were big freighters and others that would go out, but The Queen Mary was another story.

Pavlish:

So you actually did experimentation with the radar out on the sea?

Pound:

Oh, we had an antenna on the roof of the building on Atlantic Avenue. This was always by way of testing to see how it worked, you see. It was a 50-centimeter radar that had been developed by my brother-in-law, the Yale person, when he first came to that company. My brother-in-law’s name is Harold Hart, and there was a person named Hart, of not the same family at all, who had started The Submarine Signal Company in radar, way back in the 1930-era, before anyone else. The Military used to ask, “How come you are using pulsed techniques?” Because, most of the people playing with radar were using continuous radar, where you get interference effects. But, at The Submarine Signal Company it was a natural translation, from the underwater sound, which was all pulsed echo technology. By analog, the radar program was straight-forward, exactly parallel to underwater sound, which was a well-established technology.

Pavlish:

Speaking of technology how was research at The Radiation Lab — your research, Purcell’s research, Torrey’s research — translated into your NMR experiment? Were there specific importations of scientific objects from The Radiation Lab into the NMR experiment? In contrast, were there scientific objects from pre-war times, for example from the molecular beam experiments, imported into The Radiation Lab?

Pound:

I do not know quite how to answer that; because I like to point out that the whole radar problem is almost identical to the NMR problem. Namely, in both cases you apply a driving signal and look for its after-effects. In the case of radar, you look for echoes; back-scatter from whatever it is that is out there. And, in NMR you activate it by applying a large RF-signal and it may have persistence in response which you can see later. In some cases it was soon discovered that if you put on a sequence of pulses you can get special kinds of things called spin-echoes, and so-forth. It was Erwin Hahn who got the Spin-Echo thing started.

Pavlish:

He was not at The Radiation Lab, right?

Pound:

No, he was from The University of Illinois, but he did come and visit me and Ed Purcell in the year before he got going, before he got into it, because he wanted to find out how to do NMR; he had been a graduate student at Illinois. A former student of Ed Purcell, called Charles Slichter had gone to Illinois. He headed the graduate program at Illinois. Erwin Hahn was the inventor of the Spin Echo. That was such a significant thing that many of us enjoyed ourselves in thinking about it, and explaining it. Purcell used to explain the Spin Echo in terms of people running around a race-course, how they would fall back or catch up on one another.

Pavlish:

Can you name other metaphors you thought of in your scientific work?

Pound:

I do not know. I cannot think of how to answer that kind of question.

Pavlish:

You mentioned before that you read “The New Yorker.” Did you read it a lot?

Pound:

Oh, yes. My wife and I read “The New Yorker” religiously, I should say.

Pavlish:

Would you say the name one more time?

Pound:

A. J. Leibling [sp?]

Pavlish:

He wrote about science for The New Yorker?

Pound:

He wrote more about politics. I always remember an article in which he dumped on the United States aircraft in North Africa, saying it was nearly criminal for the United States to send our pilots off in these poor United States aircraft to fight against Europeans and German aircraft in North Africa. Because the P-40s and the P-38s, just could not either maneuver or have the power of the opposition German aircraft of that era. Spitfires and Hurricanes, which were in the RAF could maintain their own. They were actually a step better than the Europeans’ at that stage. Of course, so much of this depended on pilots as well.

Pavlish:

Getting back to the topic of NMR, were there specific components that you carried over from The Radiation Lab to your NMR work?

Pound:

Yes, I stole some things that I took down to that shed at Harvard. In fact, they were parts of an apparatus that I was using — the diode crystals we used for the front-end of our radar systems.

Pavlish:

I know you had an office at The Radiation Lab. Did you also have a laboratory space there?

Pound:

Oh, yes.

Pavlish:

You had various equipment there?

Pound:

Henry Torrey had also, we had test equipment for semi-conductor crystals. I had apparatuses to develop new ways of putting together the front-end of radar receivers.

Pavlish:

Were you working on receivers, specifically?

Pound:

Well, the front end, the crystal. Crystal detectors. My book is called “Microwave Mixers.” That is the thing in which you convert microwaves into ordinary radio-frequencies, which could be amplified by conventional technology.

Pavlish:

In order to view the signal?

Pound:

In order to amplify it and turn it into something you could put on oscilloscopes or into meters, and decide whether you could improve the signal-to-noise ratio. The signal-to-noise ratio is a very fundamental concept in this kind of communication engineering. Purcell had always said, “We were not doing physics, we were doing engineering” in those days. I did say that there is a very close analogy between radar, in which you send out a signal and get an echo, and NMR in which you activate the magnetic properties of a material and you observe how it reacts to that, which in a way is a very similar property, but which may or may not be different in time or may or may not be in the same time scale.

Pavlish:

What do you mean by that?

Pound:

I mean that you may observe it instantly rather than looking at the after-effect. That is what we were thinking of when we looked at the absorption in a cavity resonator. I always regret that we were not smart enough to recognize that the easy thing would have been to look at things in the time domain and look at pulses, to use pulse techniques. Erwin Hahn was very smart in introducing the pulsed techniques. Although Henry Torrey, when he went back to Rutgers after we worked together, he started pulsed techniques also. None of us went as far as we should have gone, then; because, to recognize that by looking at high resolution in time, we could have seen a lot of things that we did not see. We would have learned more about NMR than we did, the way we did it.

Pavlish:

There was continuous wave as well as pulsed technique in radar as well, right? Were those ideas coming from radar to NMR directly?

Pound:

In our group, we did not push ourselves into using the analogy of pulsed radar, which is what we should have done much sooner.

Pavlish:

In your Radiation Lab work were you working in continuous wave or pulsed radar detection?

Pound:

I was more doing continuous wave things because I was not really doing radar as such. I was developing the instrumentations for getting good signal-to-noise ratios, being able to detect small effects.

Pavlish:

Was this improved signal-to-noise ratio that you got through your efforts at The Radiation Lab the defining step in making NMR in condensed matter possible? Would it have been possible to do this without the developments at The Radiation Lab during the war?

Pound:

Oh, I think so, yes.

Pavlish:

So, the advances made at The Radiation Lab were not integral to the experiment?

Pound:

I think the advantage was better understanding what was involved in all these methodologies.

Pavlish:

At several levels?

Pound:

It has been said; Purcell has said it in my presence too: we became much more aware of how the signal-to-noise ratios were the important factor in all these things. Noise was something that was not that well documented before those days; except in an exceptional place; namely, The Bell Laboratories. There was a man named Rice, and a couple of others in The Bell Labs who did very thorough studies of signal-to-noise ratios in various conditions in electronics. When I first came to Harvard, my first teaching activity was to give courses in that subject, about noise, yes. I gave a course in what was ESAP then, ‘Engineering Science and Applied Physics,’ which was a spinoff from the Harvard Physics Department and became the origin of The Division of Applied Science at Harvard. I was asked if I would be willing or interested in giving a course. So, I said, okay. I gave this course before I was even a faculty member. I was still in The Society of Fellows. In principle, being in The Society of Fellows was not a legal way of giving a course, from the point of view of the IRS, because our stipend in The Society of Fellows was a tax-exempt fellowship stipend. It was not wanted that you regard it as a salary.

Pavlish:

Did that course influence your research at all or was what you taught really a product of your research?

Pound:

Oh, it influenced a lot of the things I wrote then. Actually, one of the basic backgrounds for that course and for my knowledge in that field was one of The Radiation Lab Series books by one of the better technologists of The Radiation Lab, who remained a friend but went to General Electric after the war, James L. Lawson, and by Uhlenbeck. They wrote one of the volumes of The Rad Lab series. It is called “Threshold Signals.” I had their manuscript when I gave my course, so I benefited by that enormously. They had a very sound technological introduction to all those problems. In those days it was vacuum tube technology and I learned more than I had ever known about what effect the signal-to-noise ratio had in vacuum tube amplifiers. There were other books in that series; one by Valley and Waldwin [sp?] called “Amplifiers.” George Valley and Henry Waldwin [sp?]. Henry Waldwin was really a mathematician converted to a biophysics person. He went to Sweden after the war. He headed a big biophysics group at Uppsala.

Pavlish:

That reminds me; I wanted to ask you more about your visit to England during the war?

Pound:

No, I never went to England [during the war]. I was planning to. It was suggested that I should be going, and I got all my credentials and paperwork together including all the shots I had to have to go overseas. I was sort-of an assistant to Gerald Zacharias, but I did not actually go.

Pavlish:

I must have misunderstood that, then. Were a lot of United States physicists going to England?

Pound:

Yes. Instead of sending me separately like that, The Radiation Lab set up a British Branch Radiation Lab, The BBRL. That was based in Great Malvern, which is where the English lab called TRE, Telecommunications Research Establishment, which is what our labs were patterned after. I do not know if it still exists, but it existed as of a few years ago, called RRE, Radar Research Establishment. I asked Taffy Bowen, “What does TRE stand for?” He said, “You do not know? That means Traveling Round England.” [laughs] Then, somebody came through and said, “No, it means Telecommunications Research Establishment.”

Pavlish:

That is an apt ending to the interview, perhaps. On a humorous note. Although I did want to ask you also about the BPP paper.

Pound:

What about The BPP paper? It is considered one of the landmarks of the field. There was a stage in which Nico Bloembergen had communications that it was one of the most cited documents. But there have been recent reviews like that and it is not in that list anymore.

Pavlish:

Which does not mean that it was not hugely influential. With time, more and more scientific papers are published.

Pound:

It was one of the most cited papers in history — BPP, Bloembergen, Pound, and Purcell.

Pavlish:

Well, thank you. I learned a lot.

Session I | Session II | Session III | Session IV | Session V