Oral History Transcript — Robert V. Pound
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Interview with Robert V. Pound
Robert Pound; April 22, 2007
ABSTRACT: Time in Copenhagen. Olah Bohr. Van Vlecks’ friendship. John Tate, editor of The American Physical Review. Francis Bitter. On Pound’s house and Bauhaus movement. Bloch and Alvarez. On History in general, on Resonance in general. On Betty, Pound’s wife. On Classical v. Quantum Mechanics. Alnaco magnets. Bloch and NMR patent. Hansen’s lectures. On waveguides. Bob Dickey. Social phenomenon of The Rad Lab. C.P. Snow and Lord Charwell. Gorter. Spread of NMR from Physics to other fields.
TranscriptSession I | Session II | Session III | Session IV | Session V
Pound:My wife is Danish. Her parents were both Danish. When we went to Copenhagen, they even had an article about her in the newspapers because she is the descendant of a very distinguished Danish composer, called Karl Nielsen.
Pound:You have heard of him?
Pound:Well, that was her uncle, her Uncle Karl. When we got to Copenhagen, one of Karl Nielsen’s daughters, called Yermeline [sp?], called the press and told them that this descendant of Nielsen was coming with me to a conference at The Bohr Institute. It was Olah Bohr [sp?], the son of Niels Bohr, who invited us, me particularly, to attend that conference. It was a reunion of people who had spent time at the Institute with Bohr. The reason I got invited there, was I had introduced Olah to Betty, my wife, and I pointed out that her parents were both from Denmark; her mother was from Odense [sp?] and her father was from Copenhagen. I said, “Oh, we would love to go to Copenhagen. When would be a good time?” Olah suggested that we come there at the time that The Bohr Institute was holding a reunion for its former associates. Among other people I know that were going to that was Vicky Weisskopf. Vicky was an old time associate of Bohr. He had spent a postdoc year at Copenhagen. That was true of all that generation, including Bethe. Bethe was there, as a matter of fact, at that conference. As I said, as soon as we got there, there was a telephone call for my wife. It turned out it was a journalist from one of the Copenhagen newspapers who had been notified by a relative of Betty. She got written up in the newspapers. Betty’s mother lived with the Nielsens when she was growing up. She and Nielsen’s daughters were much the same age. So, when we were there, the daughter Yermeline let the newspapers know that this descendant of Nielsen was coming to town. Betty would not talk to the press person. Later that day, I went to the meetings at the Institute. Olah then had us come to the reception at his mother’s house, which is the former residential house of the Karlsberg foundation. The Karlsbergs were the big brewery in Copenhagen; Karlsberg beer. I was told that the Institute was always funded and supported by the Karlsberg foundation. And yet when they discovered a new element, they named it Hoffnium. They should have named it for Karlsberg who gave them all their support.
Pavlish:The way we got to talking about the conference, is that you said there was a meeting here at Harvard about the play “Copenhagen” by Michael Frayn. You were invited to that meeting partly because you had been in Copenhagen?
Pound:Not so much, I think, but I knew Olah, the son of Niels Bohr. Of course, some years before that, he had been a postdoc at MIT with Vicky.
Pavlish:Niels Bohr’s son had been a postdoc at MIT? That is how you got to know him at Cambridge?
Pound:Yes, he came to Harvard at that time.
Pavlish:Did he have stories about his father? Did he have opinions about that play?
Pound:No, that was well before any of that controversy occurred. I got to know Olah, and learned to pronounce his name more or less, and spent some time with him in the spring of that year. He used to come up from MIT to Harvard where some of our names were known in Nuclear Physics at the time. I and Kan Bambridge were the two persons that he spent time with when he came up from MIT to Harvard. Harvard was not all that second class to MIT. [laughs] The main nuclear physicist at MIT was John Trump. He is the uncle of Donald Trump. [laughs] Yes. He was the well-known nuclear physicist at MIT.
Pavlish:The work I would like to ask you about today is your nuclear physics work. I have talked to Professor Ramsey, to Norman Ramsey.
Pound:Yes, I know him. [laughs]
Pavlish:You and he worked at least once in collaboration with Purcell. You have a series of I think three papers together. This one I have with me is a short one. The name of the paper is, “Nuclear Audio-frequency Spectroscopy by Resonant Heating of the Nuclear System” in Physical Review, 1951. Does that ring a bell right away, or shall I read what Professor Ramsey has written about this? His version of the story is that you, Pound, discovered this phenomenon that was the resonant heating… the spins would stay oriented in one direction. You had discovered this phenomenon. Over one weekend, you, Purcell, and Ramsey worked out what was going on and published then, a series of three papers. He regards it as very important work.
Pound:That was the series of experiments that led to our negative temperature work. Ramsey honed in on the negative temperature concept which originated with Purcell, and which I and Purcell pursued rather thoroughly. But Ramsey took possession of it because he wrote a paper on the analytical aspect of it. He suggested that Purcell and I join in on that publication and neither of us wanted to because we felt that the issue was pretty much laid to rest by what we had already said. We did not need to play around and emphasize Norman’s involvement. He was not really involved in it, although he did bring up this one extension of the various experiments we did, the one about RF heating by NMR; resonant heating in low frequencies where without a magnetic field you did not need to have a large external applied field, or a high-frequency. We worked, basically around zero frequency.
Pavlish:That was with lithium fluoride?
Pound:Yes, well, lithium fluoride served as a proton.
Pavlish:But you are the one who discovered the phenomenon?
Pound:I discovered the long-term relaxation time. I wrote an initial paper that described that. I got a little bit annoyed at Norman who tended to ignore the fact that it all sprung from that paper and that essentially all the ingredients that got emphasis in the later experiments had already been suggested in that original paper. But never mind.
Pavlish:He sees it as a kind of first human-made maser. Did you see it that way?
Pavlish:You saw it as an extension of your NMR work that had been going on since 1945, 1946?
Pavlish:That was your initial publication. Then, the paper you wrote with Purcell and Bloembergen, the BPP theory came later.
Pound:That was 1947, 1948, yes. That was after Bloembergen had come to join us from the Netherlands as a graduate student. He took it over then, but I was party to all that work during that year. That was my first year back at Harvard. I keep saying, “back at Harvard,” but I was never a Harvard person before that. In fact, I was not anybody.
Pavlish:You were younger than the others. You had just gotten your PhD? [NO] And then you went to work at The Rad Lab after that?
Pound:I never got a PhD anywhere. I have never been admitted to any graduate school. I was nominated to The Society of Fellows by my dear colleagues at MIT, although some of them were ex-Harvard people at the time, like John H. Van Vleck, and Ed Purcell. Ed Purcell, however, had never been anything but a postdoc at Harvard. He had been a graduate student before the war, and then became a postdoc. The principal person of significance at Harvard during those days was John H. Van Vleck. He became a dear friend of mine. For some reason he seemed to have a lot of respect for me. [laughs] I never understood that, really. He and Abigail were very friendly with my wife as well. In the summer of 1948, Betty and I went to Europe. I, for the first time. The Van Vlecks went to France at the same time, so we saw a lot of them there in Paris. They used to come over to our Left Bank hotel and we would go over to their Right Bank hotel, The Lotte, I think it was called, in the middle of Paris. That was quite a summer. My wife and Abigail Van Vleck had a certain amount of differences of view about the world. [laughs] Abigail, I always remember how she told us how much Paris had changed since when they used to go there before World War II. She said they used to walk around in the Montparnasse part of Paris and she said, the women of the street would come up and tug at Van’s sleeve when she was walking with him. She had to spend a lot of time protecting him from these people.
Pavlish:Why is that?
Pound:They were after getting him to side track and spend the day with them. Abigail was a pretty worldly person at the time.
Pavlish:Did your friendship extend to scientific matters as well?
Pound:With Van it was scientific, yes. Van knew all about what we were doing. He was a major reference, with a background in the area that Purcell and I were up to. I always remember that Ed used to show our manuscripts to Van before getting them sent off to the publication. The person who was in charge of publications for physics in those days for The American Physical Society was John Tate. He was the father of a member of the Harvard Math department. There was a mathematician, a professor of mathematics called John Tate. He is at Texas now. He left Harvard. John Tate was the overall editor for The American Physical Society. He was an old friend of Van Vleck. In fact, he was the first person to have hired Van Vleck when Van got out of graduate school at Harvard in the 1930s. John Tate was a professor at Minnesota. He hired Van as a professor at Minnesota. Then, Van moved over to Wisconsin. Wisconsin became a major connection to Harvard Physics. There were a lot of people from Harvard Physics who went off to Wisconsin.
Pavlish:The connection you are elaborating is between you and Van Vleck. How was he connected to your work in NMR?
Pound:Oh, his subject was essentially the knowledge of ions in paramagnetic media. So, NMR was sort of the epitome of that kind of thing. And so Van was the person who knew the most about paramagnetism in materials. One of his closest admirers was Revis Bleeney [sp?] who was chairman of the Physics Department at Oxford. They were friends during that time. During the war years, Bleeney came over to our labs from England, a couple of times. So, I got to know him before the war was over. He became a dear friend and still is. He still is a good friend of mine, who now is one of the main people in that area in Europe.
Pound:In Condensed Matter materials including electron-spin interactions and paramagnetism. Bleeney had become pretty well-known for his study of magnetic resonance of various electron spin phenomena in paramagnetic materials after the war.
Pavlish:Did he set up NMR right after you did? Did you instruct him in how to do that?
Pound:We did not have to instruct Trevis, no. He was party to our whole operation. He came over quite a few times during the war.
Pavlish:Not while you were doing NMR, though?
Pound:He came over while we were doing NMR. There was not a clean break between the end of the war and then what we went on doing afterwards. After the war, I and Purcell went to Harvard. He had been there before and I had not. I think of myself as going back to Harvard but it was not true. I was still more connected with MIT than with Harvard in those days. We had all been together for some years in the MIT operation during the war. That was particularly supported by the United States military to enhance our involvement. One of the things that drove that we looked at NMR in various kinds of things.
Pavlish:Some of your NMR work was at MIT? Really?
Pound:We started it before we came back to Harvard. Our support came from the Navy, originally. MIT had very close connections in their physics department to Navy projects. They got their support from the Navy in that field. It was a while before we got support from Harvard for our work.
Pavlish:Rabi had invented magnetic resonance with molecular beams back in the late 1930s, right? So, that research stopped at Columbia, but then Rabi came to MIT, to The Radiation Lab. Was that kind of work continued at The Radiation Lab?
Pound:Oh, sure. Other people picked it up. One of the more well-known for it was a man named Francis Bitter. You have heard of the Bitter magnetism laboratory at MIT? Francis Bitter looked at it as a way of justifying investment in building more sophisticated magnets. The Bitter magnets were iron-free copper coils. That is what Francis Bitter specialized in. We always had a little bit of a difference of opinion with Bitter about what you could do with his magnets.
Pavlish:Did you collaborate with him at all?
Pound:Somewhat, yes. He built a house and he used the same architect that Betty and I used for our house in Arlington. Namely, a professor of architecture, who had been a Gropius student at Harvard during the war, Karl Coke.
Pavlish:There were some connections to the Bauhaus movement?
Pound:Yes. That is right. Gropius was the founder. He had come to Harvard to help their architecture department in the 1930s. He had quite a team of students. Of course, Karl Coke was one of the best known. He moved on the MIT as a professor.
Pavlish:How did you decide to ask him to build your house?
Pound:Well, we tried another person first. It did not work out, so we went to Karl after that. He had an office with several associates. They called it Karl Coke and associates. One of his associates was a man named Leon Lipschitz. Leon Lipshitz is the one who really worked on our house, originally.
Pavlish:Was it a sort of adherence to the philosophy of the Bauhaus movement that motivated your choice?
Pound:Oh, yes. The large windows, the overhangs on the roofs. It was more modulated by the American architect of that movement who was so famous. A very famous man who always had large roof overhangs that shaded the windows in high summer.
Pavlish:The Bauhaus movement had a kind of scientific theory of architecture.
Pound:In Lincoln there are two houses. Gropius’ house is preserved in Lincoln. They are both white rectangular houses that you associate with the Bauhaus movement. There is a high hill on what must be the east side of the town of Lincoln. That is where those houses were. That is where this Gropius movement took root.
Pavlish:I wonder if we ought to take a short break. I would like to continue to ask you questions. The kind of story that I was familiar with was that you, Purcell, and Torrey; and Bloch, Hansen, and Packard, in another group, independently, simultaneously invented NMR in the fall of 1945.
Pound:Yes, well, it is a little different from that in the sense that neither of us invented it. The group at Stanford was with Bloch. Bloch had already done some magnetic resonance things. In fact, Bloch did a beautiful experiment measuring the magnetic moment of the neutron. Bloch and Alvarez. You know about Luis Alvarez? Louis Alvarez was a member of the MIT Radiation Lab during the war, so I knew him in those days. We both knew Louis quite well, but he was not part of any of these things at the time. He became party with Bloch after the war at Stanford. We were running out of time as the war was ending. We were all going back into academia. My mentor was a man named L. Grant Hector. He was the second student of Rabi in Columbia. I have always felt that it was a little bit unfortunate that the world bases all of its history on political and military frontiers and so forth. Whereas such a formidable aspect of the history of the world should be based on the advances of technology. It has not really happened that way. People do not realize how much various technical advances have changed the world.
Pavlish:Magnetic resonance being one of them.
Pound:[laughs] Well. I suppose you could say it changed the world, yes. Resonance is a phenomenon that is of significant interest throughout the world of physics. You have very similar phenomena; just in nuclear physics for example. Various energy states of nuclei can be excited and they have resonance phenomena that are exactly the same as the resonance phenomena in Materials Science. You know, what with the dispersion laws, causality. I was telling you about visiting the Bohrs in Copenhagen. That person who telephoned Betty when she got there was not turned off by what she said to him. He put an article in the newspaper anyway. I think it was Yermeline in the Nielsen house in Copenhagen. She is the one who called the newspaper and told them about Betty coming as the descendant of this distinguished Danish person called Karl Nielsen. Betty was quite reticent about having any kind of discussion with that person. She was always trying to hide.
Pavlish:Did you discuss your scientific work with your wife?
Pound:Oh, she knew all about it of course. She was very much involved with us. But she did not have the background, the training in physics, which you needed to become appreciative of what the significance was. She certainly was aware of how we spent our time and what interested us. Say, magnetic resonance.
Pavlish:Do you have thoughts about where the creativity in science comes from, or is that too deep a question? We have been learning in this course, called The Einstein Revolution about Bohr’s ideas about Complementarity — an idea he developed in physics first and then applied to other areas later.
Pound:Bohr’s idea of complementarity was much more something I could cope with than the rest of that whole subject. That really emphasized the connections with what we already knew at the time about the foundations of physics and so forth. And so forth, and so forth… [laughs]
Pavlish:One interesting aspect of magnetic resonance is that it can be looked at classically, but it also needs the quantum mechanical formulation to work. It seems like there is a translation between languages, of classical mechanics (gyroscopic motion and that sort of thing) and between quantum mechanical excitation between energy levels. Is that something that the physicists were thinking about when doing these fundamental experiments in NMR? Would you analyze the problem classically or quantum mechanically?
Pound:Well, some of us tended to try to keep closer to the classical behavior of things in fields. Magnetic resonance, for example. It is not easy.
Pavlish:Perhaps it is too ambitious a project to try to figure out the overlap or disjunction between classical and quantum mechanics.
Pound:Well, there is nothing new about that. That is what it has been all about for many decades.
Pavlish:But magnetic resonance, NMR, is one interesting case. It is something that really works. Those images they show of medical imaging are quite impressive.
Pound:That is right. They give much more emphasis to it. And there is so much you can do by extending the classical concepts of how it works. Anyway. [The magnet used in NMR] It was made out of twenty-four pieces of Alnaco. Alnaco no longer is the basic ingredient of permanent magnets. It is now more elegant in the form of rare earth magnetic materials.
Pavlish:Is that the magnet that is big and red and yellow? That is the one that is on display in The Science Center [at the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments]?
Pound:[laughs] There was a person who was associated with that team who was an enthusiast for painting things in different colors. He not only painted them, but gave them all names, like the names of all the wives of Henry the Eighth.
Pound:Yes, they all had names.
Pavlish:All the magnets?
Pavlish:This was in your Harvard NMR work?
Pound:No, it was later. Afterwards, when I was running the teaching laboratory.
Pavlish:Do you remember when that was?
Pound:I had that magnet in my teaching lab, in Physics 191, in 247. There were three other magnets that got built by a company that made the Alnaco, which was the basic ingredient of permanent magnets.
Pavlish:That reminds me of the patent that Bloch and Varian took out on NMR. That must have an interesting history. They took out a patent and I think they asked your group whether you would want to be in on the patent and you said no.
Pound:I have told the story, that I saw Bloch at a cocktail party at the house on 72nd street in New York City, of J.B.H. Cooper. His wife, Marietta, had been a very well-known member of our groups in the war years. Marietta Cooper was the former wife of one of the best-known theoretical physicists of that era. She had been with us in The Radiation Lab days. His name was J. B. H., I do not remember what the JBH stood for, but those were his initials. She called him Desmond. [laughs]
Pavlish:You were at a party at their house in New York City and you ran into Bloch?
Pound:Bloch was there as well. Bloch and Hansen. Bloch came over and told me that he was planning to apply for a patent on the NMR concept and would the Harvard group like to join in on it. I did not know the response at the time but I knew that Purcell was not that interested in things like that. I did not think of it until afterwards, that that is a real violation of the rules of patenting. You cannot take out a patent by joining forces with another group. You have to settle it in court, to decide which one had the priority. That is what it was all about. I knew that would not have worked.
Pavlish:Did they make a lot of money off that patent?
Pound:They turned the patent over to Varian Associates. As Bloch said at the time, he felt that the Varians had been short-changed; the firm having invented the klystrons; they did not profit from that as they should have done because the government took over the rights to that patent and handed it over to the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Long Island. That is where we looked to get manufactured klystrons during the war, to Sperry. Bill Hansen became a kind of honorary employee of Sperry. I had great admiration for Bill Hansen, more so than for Bloch, actually. Yes. I think that Bill Hansen never got the attention and respect that he deserved for his role in all that. If anybody had invented the whole subject, it was Hansen. Hansen came to MIT and gave lectures for about three years on the foundations of things in magnetic resonance and in technical aspects of solid state physics. That is why I think that Hansen did not get the credit he deserved for having produced the textbook background for the whole field. I still have hectograph, as they call them, notes of the book that he wrote during those lecture periods. I still have a drawer in my office that is chock full of these. “Hansen’s Notes”, as we called them in the beginning.
Pavlish:They are unpublished?
Pound:They are not more published than that. That is right. I think one can get access to them possibly, by going to the MIT archives. I have them in detail in my own office.
Pavlish:I am interested in writing my PhD in history of science on the history of NMR. I am interested in things like this. If I do a library search it does not come up.
Pound:It would not. It was more MIT anyway. If I am ever back in my office, I can show you those. It is a volume about that thick. Hansen’s lectures, yes.
Pavlish:Those lectures were during the war?
Pound:They were in the 1945-1946 era.
Pavlish:Talking about old documents and things, I was at the archives at the MIT Science Museum. There was a photograph of a waveguide that looked like many different waveguides coming together and its title was “Purcell’s Folly.”
Pound:Purcell’s Junction, yes.
Pavlish:No, it was entitled “Purcell’s Folly.” I thought it was maybe a joke or something. Maybe he tried it and it did not work out?
Pound:He used to like to make matrices that would describe the interactions of waves in complicated junctions like that. They had as many elements as there were arms in those junctions, you know.
Pavlish:Were those just a fun exercise, or were they useful?
Pound:The ‘Magic T’ was the primary example. The Magic T had come about rather more directly. The person who was most knowledgeable about the fundamentals of the Magic T was Bob Dickey. He just died this year.
Pavlish:I am sorry to hear that. I know that you were good friends with him.
Pound:He was a Princeton man. We were very close.
Pavlish:His involvement in NMR was peripheral.
Pound:He did some things in Electron Spin Resonance. There is a fellow, one of his students, who came to Brandeis and started Electron Spin Resonance there.
Pavlish:I know that you have written some histories of NMR. But, may I ask you, if you had four or five years of a PhD in history of science, how would you write the history? The field has grown so much, with applications in Biology, Chemistry, Ecology, Medicine, and Materials Science. But it all started in Physics. Would there be an obvious chapter division, for instance?
Pound:I say that we had no idea that it was going to be such a big deal, covering all these areas, though we are not displeased that it has become so.
Pavlish:Would you start such a story in the 1930s or during the war or after the war? Where would you start such a history of NMR?
Pound:Oh, probably in the 1930s as you say. Along with not only Bloch, but Van Vleck. The thing that Bloch did that was so distinguished after that was the Bloch and Alvarez resonance phenomenon with the neutron. That was different from everything else.
Pavlish:Then, maybe a chapter about the Radiation Lab years? Would there be documents enough about that time, even though there are not published papers?
Pound:Not about NMR during that time. It was just the fact that those of us with our outlooks and interests were all together during that period and that makes a big difference. It is a social phenomenon. I have often emphasized the fact that the MIT Radiation Lab had a tremendous impact on the future of physics because so many people became such close collaborators and friends during those years. They would otherwise never have met each other. As Purcell pointed out, he had no concept of magnetic resonance before getting into the MIT Radiation Lab.
Pavlish:You might also include the side-work by Bitter and his Magnet group? Would that be central enough to the story?
Pound:Bitter, you mean? I do not know that I would bring him in much. He was very competitive and we did not see eye to eye with him. He had some mistaken ideas about aspects of magnetic resonance at low fields.
Pavlish:He did not actually get magnetic resonance?
Pound:Oh yes, he worked with it. He did some work on developing techniques for studying it at low magnetic fields. That led to The Bitter Magnet Lab, the Bitter Laboratory at MIT.
Pavlish:You say that he did not have the right ideas about it, but he was getting.
Pound:It was well along by the time he was doing that. We had already done all our NMR experiments.
Pavlish:That was in 1946 then?
Pavlish:He stayed on there?
Pound:Actually, he was working across the street from The MIT Radiation Lab at a place that ended up getting called the Airforce Cambridge Research Center, which moved out to Lincoln, and became The Lincoln Lab at MIT. [change of topic] My mother named the two of our birds Thisbe and Thesalon. Thisbe was the female.
Pavlish:That is from Shakespeare?
Pound:Yes, I expect so. My mother was very much into literary references of course.
Pavlish:Were you aware of C. P. Snow’s lecture, “The Two Cultures” when that happened, in 1959?
Pound:I was, and I took issue with it. He spent a lot of time making criticism of a person who became a friend of mine, who was called Lord Charwell. Lord Charwell was the head of the Physics Department at Oxford. C. P. Snow had never heard of some of the more creditable things that could be attached to Charwell’s name. During World War I, Charwell was an important figure in the Oxford Physics group and he took it upon himself to learn how to correct airplanes from crash diving. He figured it out analytically. Snow does not give him the credit for that. He figured out that the reason pilots always got into tail-spins in crash dives was because they panicked. They wanted to get the airplane out of a dive. They did always the wrong thing, which was to pull it out. The answer was, as he demonstrated, to let it have its nose [?]. If you let it get air speed then it could pull up and not crash. That is the thing that he demonstrated. He learned to fly himself so he could demonstrate that himself to the British Military, to The RAF. [laughs] After he demonstrated it, he pulled out of a dive, he went off in his airplane to land at another air field because he did not want to land in front of the audience that he had had for his pilotry. I think C. P. Snow did not do him justice by describing his contribution to the whole flying business. He regards Charwell as one of the villains of technical science, and the opposition between that and literary erudition at Oxford.
Pavlish:Did you ever try creative writing yourself?
Pound:Sort of, yes. I have quite a lot of writing that I have done. I have a big stack. I wrote the story of my work on NMR in great detail at one stage.
Pavlish:That is published?
Pound:I published two of the chapters of the book I had been writing in Rigden’s Journal.
Pavlish:And the rest of the book?
Pound:That is still stacked in my bedroom, I think. [laughs]
Pavlish:Why don’t you finish it and publish it?
Pound:I had trouble. I tried but nobody seemed to be interested to publish it. I still have the whole manuscript. It is more personal than the other part. It began by describing how I started life in Canada. You know about my father being a professor.
Pavlish:Yes, you talked about that in one of our early interviews.
Pound:We were not surprised at MRI in the sense that we knew perfectly well that there would be no problem about looking at magnetic resonance of the components of what living materials are made up. [topic change] It was a magnet made in Switzerland. It was a commercial magnet that had been brought by the previous administrator of the Physics Department.
Pavlish:That was the first magnet after the Curry Street magnet that you used?
Pound:Yes. When we came to Harvard, we picked up to use this electromagnet that originally ran from batteries over in Jefferson. We had a stack of what we used to call truck batteries. But there were other magnets with batteries that were being built in the department. Ramsey was building magnets in connection with his molecular beam activities in the basement. He was buying batteries. There were quite a few batteries in the Physics Department at that time.
Pavlish:Did you see an overlap between those molecular beam experiments and the NMR experiments?
Pound:Oh, of course. We referred to the fact that Ramsey had done magnetic resonance in molecular beams before we undertook NMR in materials. Our efforts in condensed matter were unique only in the sense that there were some who had tried to do that before us and failed.
Pound:Yes. The fact is, something that people do not realize, that in the summer of whatever year that was, Gorter came over and visited Rabi. He said to Rabi at that time, “Why don’t you try magnetic resonance?” He told me that Gorter had said that to him. It was after that that Rabi started working with magnetic resonance. We always pointed out that Rabi tended to give Gorter less credit than he probably deserved for getting him into the magnetic resonance thing. Rabi would say, he knew about that idea but just had not yet taken it up. Nico Bloembergen has said to me that that is not like Rabi. If Rabi knew of something that was going make a difference, he would be into it as soon as he could. He would not have let it lie dormant, which is what he was doing, waiting for his group to come through with the phenomenon of magnetic resonance.
Pavlish:What proportion of your career was taken up with magnetic resonance? Did you find it to be dominant?
Pound:It is hard to know. I got into magnetic resonance pretty early on in the post-war era. It was a wonderful new application of what we could do in those days. We did not recognize in the beginning how widely it would spread into Chemistry, Biology, and Medicine.
Pavlish:Do you remember when you saw that the spread was happening? Was that in the 1950s when it spread to Chemistry? When did you start to notice that it was catching on?
Pound:Even in the 1940s. I always remember, we tried to talk chemists into the view that magnetic resonance was something that demanded fairly large samples and therefore was not going to be of interest to chemistry people. But then we had to swallow those words because chemists became number one exponents of doing magnetic resonance. Not only was it something that they could do. The structural analysis of magnetic resonance line shapes turned out to be very useful for decoding molecular structure and became a significant tool for a lot of physical chemistry. They could determine the distances between various components of a molecule that way by looking at the fine structure of the NMR lines.
Pavlish:That is still going on!
Pound:Luis Alvarez was part of our organization at the MIT Radiation Lab too. I will always be grateful for those years when we were all together at The Radiation Lab because that was such a special organization, with people like Bloch and Hansen, Alvarez, Purcell. There is no end to the people I could bring up that were there. It established the sort of social relationship that brought the whole world of science together in a way that had never happened before as far as I know. Some of us went through my offices trying to find it. I was looking for this hardcover loose-leaf notebook that I had these first several chapters put in. I think that I have found it since, though.
Pavlish:Your Hansen notes are in your office. That, you said, is in your home.