Oral History Transcript — Dr. Frederick Seitz
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Frederick Seitz; July 19, 1994
Oral history interview with Frederick Seitz. Topics and people discussed include: Roger Adams, Armand Committee Report, Wallace Atwood Jr., L. F. Audrieth, Lloyd Berkner, Wallace R. Brode, Detlev Bronk, Stewart S. Cairns, Marshall Chadwell, Ralph Clark, Douglas Cornell, Bill Everett, Samuel Goudsmit, Hubert Humphrey, George Kistiakowsky, Joseph Koepfli, Willard Machle, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Ralph Osborne, Edgar Piret, powder metallurgy, Norman Ramsey; Louis Rideneour, H. P. Robertson, Sheppard Stone, Philip G. Strong, John Turkevich, Karl H. Weber, Merrett White, Walter Whitman, and Dael Woefle.
Needell:....and I wanted to ask you one question about that.
Seitz:Yeah, I never got the name of the air admiral who was an extimae.
Needell:That was the question I was going to ask. So you don't know who that was. Was it an air admiral?
Seitz:Yeah, he was in uniform, he was an air admiral at the time.
Needell:In the Navy? He was a navy —
Needell:Could it have been G.B.H. Hall?
Seitz:Could have been.
Needell:Bud Hall, they called him?
Seitz:Could well have been. They were in high school together.
Seitz:And Lloyd saw this ad that the Navy was going to pick a certain number, and said they were going to apply for that.
Seitz:And his pal said, "Gee, we don't stand a chance." And, of course, they didn't get chosen, but then Lloyd insisted that they go there.
Seitz:And go through all the paces.
And they stood at the sides while they were doing everything that they did and [???]. That's a really interesting story. His wife says that when she met him in '28 in Washington, that he was incredibly shy. And I've never heard anyone else refer to him as incredibly shy at all.
Seitz:Not Lloyd, no.
Needell:But maybe he was shy around women, I guess there are some people that are shy as far as, you know, that is concerned.
Doel: Okay, we're doing just fine here, and why don't I simply do the introductions, then we can continue from there. My name is Ron Doel, and with me is Allan Needell, and this is an interview with Dr. Frederick Seitz. Today is July 19th, 1994. Dr. Seitz, why don't you just say a few words to make sure the microphone is picking you up?
Seitz:Let's test it, 1-2-3-4-5-6.
Doel: We're doing just fine, thank you.
So why don't we just go back, and on the record, we were just talking briefly before we got into the substance that we'll talk about, about Lloyd Berkner, I was finishing this book on Lloyd Berkner, and you were telling me the story of an admiral who had told you how they got into the [???]. When did you first meet Lloyd Berkner?
Seitz:Oh, I probably met him in the early '50s, but I knew of him because he was fairly prominent in scientific circles.
Needell:I know that Everett, at Illinois wrote him in 1949 and asked him to consider sharing the EE Department — Electrical Engineering Department at Illinois, were you involved in the discussions of trying to recruit him?
Needell:Did you know that he had been asked?
Seitz:No. No, that's when Everett became dean, and he was looking for someone for his successor.
Needell:He had been the EE Chairman?
Seitz:Yes. I knew Bill very well, Bill Everett, great admiration. He — for complicated reasons, he was always shy and neat.
Needell:So you met the Berkner later in the '50s, maybe associated —
Seitz:Yeah, with the academy.
Needell:With the academy. Alright, well, why don't we sort of outline a couple of things that we though that we'd like to talk about?
Doel: Right, and what I'd like to note on tape is that we are aware that the former interviews that you've done with Lillian Huttoson [?], and Spencer Weird and we're going to not cover the same ground that they have already discussed with you. And, as I mentioned, we're interested particularly in the relationship of scientists with the State Department and other agencies, as these relationships developed in the period after World War II and through the intense part of the cold war period. One of the things that I was curious about that you mentioned briefly in Lillian Hoddeson's interview, was the work that you had done in Gottingham, in Germany in 1945. I'm wondering how that assignment came about.
Seitz:Well, I was the Manhattan District in Chicago, on a plutonium project, and things slacked off there, the reactors were working and so forth, and I got a call from Secretary Stimpson's [?] office. They were setting up an office under Eisenhower's command. The group to act as a consolidation of studies of what had gone on in German Science and Technology, the person to head it was H. P. Robertson, whom I'd known very well. He'd been a professor at Princeton, and also was with division, what would be two of NDRC, then was sent to England, where he spent most of the war. He was going to head it, it was the start of Versi [?] where Eisenhower's headquarters were in April of '45, then we'd move up to Germany, and I went over just as — at the end of April as the war was ending.
Needell:Then this is independent of Ausos [?]?
Seitz:Oh quite independent in a sense. Ausos, however, then used our office as its base.
Doel: Ausos was primarily in Frankfurt at the time, and then you were in —?
Seitz:Well, they had moved up into Germany, because they were always with the front of their army, and after VEE Day they wondered around Germany trying to pick up fragments of information that they thought they'd missed, also to pick up the scientists, Hisenburg [?] and those people who they were trying to gather up. We moved from Versi to Frankfurt, probably the middle of May, after the war had ended and things had begun settling down, and first we were stationed — took a suite of offices in the I. G. Farbin [?] building in Frankfurt.
Seitz:Eisenhower had set up headquarters. And then we were moved to a separate office building down near the railroad station, and the Ausos group found it very convenient to use that as a kind of headquarters we had.
Needell:You're charge was other than atomic energy then, yours was —
Seitz:Ours was broad, and I did almost anything I wanted, you know, pick an area that you think you know something about, and see what goes on, and then almost anyone coming through Frankfurt from US would stop by to see us. For one thing Robertson was very well known and popular, so people would all want to see Bob. He'd played a very prominent role in England on intelligence, so he had a big circle of friends, so he had a lot of people. We also had a lot of Germans coming in offering inventions of ways to win the Japanese war overnight, see that was still going on and would go on until August.
Needell:I've read a testimony as early '44 where Bush testified about the post war situation and that technical intelligence they gathered for war would also be valuable for economic development purposes, not only for the United States, in terms of our economic, but for the rehabilitation of Europe. So, was there a specific mandate for other than war intelligence or general gathering of intelligence for economic development purposes for post war planning?
Seitz:Anything like that, if someone in the Secretaries office had conceived it and had got his endorsement, I'd spent a couple of weeks in the Pentagon, you know, getting ready to go over, and it was more or less do what you can or see what you —. I took an interest in several areas, for example, powder metallurgy, happened to be something that I had some knowledge of, and visited some of the key places. I've visited a lot of other plants too. There were some requests from the chairman of the local governments to open factories for this or that. For example, they had no access to sugar, and wanted to re-open a small plant that had made artificial sweetener, and they came to us and asked. As a matter of fact, an American officer came and said, "I'm in control of this area around Henow [?]and the Mayor has asked if we could re-open this factory." And I went and examined it, and decided they hadn't made poison gas or anything there, it was a pretty clean cut —
Needell:So, these reports, where did they go? Did they go and then they were distributed to American companies?
Seitz:Well, the American companies took off on their own. Very often they passed through for advice and guidance. One of the things I followed, for example, was the tape recorder, which Ponnie [?] Yatoff [?] picked up, and developed Ampex [?] with. Had been a German invention, I think, going back to the late 1920s, which had not picked up commercially, but then Hitler picked it up, because he found it useful, and it was kept as a kind of secret, a personal secret of his security staff.
Needell:So did you file formal reports? And who did you send them to?
Seitz:Yeah, they would have stayed there. I don't know what has become of the organization who was known as Field Intelligent Agency Technical. I have no idea. One person who was there after me was Merritt P. White, he's a professor of mechanical engineering, I think it's the University of Massachusetts. We were good friends during the war; we worked together on the NDRC Committee II.
Needell:There's a historian now deceased, John Gimble, who died, I guess a year or so ago, wrote a book on this time. Are you familiar with that?
Seitz:No. On Fiat [?]?
Essentially on —
The question of war time and post war economics, scientific and technical operations [?]. The entire [???]
Seitz:Well what happened is a lot of entrepreneurs cased the field. Some cases we saw them, and in some cases they just went on their own.
Doel: Right. Were you in touch with Ralph Osborne at the time? He became, of course, one of the leading people in the Fiat program a few years ago.
Seitz:No, that was after my time. I came back just as the war was ending. I was head of the physics department at Carnage.
Seitz:I was in Carnage Tech, and wanted to get the department going again.
Needell:One more connection just now. Edwin Bowls [?] was a —
Seitz:Ed Bowls was a key people.
Needell:He was advisor to Stimpson I suppose during the war.
Needell:So did he have very much to do with sitting this up?
Seitz:Yeah, he —
Or did he actually deal with [???]
Seitz:He was the person who interviewed me, and I suspect was in — the person who called me in Chicago and asked if I would consider this.
And you were familiar with Bowls from — professionally —
Seitz:He was well known because he'd been one of K. T. Compton's [?] right hand men.
Seitz:Caused a lot of — just between us girls (sic) — a lot of trouble for Du Bridge [?] at the radiation lab and they decided that Bridge was doing a good job, and they should find a suitable employment for Bowls, so they got the secretary to take him where it was very useful get a lot of Bridge —
Needell:Du Bridge had personal differences and — I guess — fundamentals between Bowls and Bush issues, I guess, mainly after the war. I don't know whether —
Seitz:Yeah. Well, Bowls wanted to build himself up into a strong post war figure. Actually I don't know what happened to him eventually, he sort of disappeared from the —
Well, he got very much [???] with the Air Force, and he very much believed, in counter to Bush, that essentially the organizations for scientific input into military [???] should be within the organization of the military, rather than independently a partnership sort of governed by its own central rules.
Needell:And that's where the conflict was.
Seitz:Yeah. I never had much link with the Air Force because of the things I worked with; I was much closer to both the Army and the Navy. And it was an effort, for example, was on the advisory committee to the Air Force, which was probably the most prestigious of the various committees.
Needell:What we're going to be covering later on, are questions about the relationship between the scientific community and the state department, and the intelligence community and other aspects. I just wondered your thoughts about the experience of Fiat and in Germany, a lot of the people, of course, went on with other relationships after. Can — is there anything about that experience that, you know, we should be thinking about as a path breaking, as forming a paradigms or models or anything?
Seitz:Nothing that I can think of. It was too small. As I often said, it was like trying to capture Niagara Falls in a tin cup. It was too small. Personal experiences of the individuals in it we very important for them, but as a major collection agency, it didn't have the capacity.
Needell:What about the relations with the London office of the USRD, at the time? Did you collaborate with them?
Seitz:See that was White House we were Secretary of Defense. It was a tremendous experience for me, and I'm sure Merritt White will say the same for him, but if I ask "Did we make a significant difference in anything that happened?" I would find it hard put.
Do you want to move to — [???] Illinois, I think, is one of the key parts that was not covered in the other interviews. One thing that you did mention in one interview that intrigued was that the McCarthy Error [?] was particularly difficult for Illinois. I'm wondering what you meant when you had said that?
Seitz:Oh, the only thing is that an individual who'd been on our board —
Needell:The board of trustees?
Seitz:The board of trustees of the university suddenly decided to run either for the Senate or for Governor, a man named Park Livingston. He was a prominent businessman. I think he ran a big dairy chain. Had been a very good friend of the university, for example, he had helped raise state money to build the first beta tron, at the university after the war. The big beta tron that first had. And then he saw an opportunity to use McCarthy tactics to hoist himself in public image, and declared that the university was in the hands of communist, attack the president, and generally made a nuisance of himself as a completely local state affair. It had little to do with —
Needell:Was he aware of the high level connections of men like Ridenouer, and other people? I mean how much of the people at the university in physics?
Seitz:I think he was sufficiently ego centric, that he only thought of anything that he could do to promote his public image. He caused an awful lot of trouble for us in that since, because Staughtered [?] was forced to resign.
Doel: The president at the time.
Seitz:The result of that, we got an interim president for two years who was a troglodyte, he'd been head of finance for the university, and, you know, was an honest person, but didn't understand any of the things that were going on the intellectual side. And so, the university, not merely stayed still, but retrogressed. A lot of good people left, including Ridenouer. They resigned and went to other places. They all got good jobs. And the —
Do you feel that particularly effected the science departments? [???]
Seitz:No. We came through. We sweat a good deal because we didn't know what would happen. And then David Dodds [?] Henry accepted the presidency. That was a cliff hanger because he was subject to a certain amount of questioning, but hung in there.
Needell:Was the pressure mostly on the humanity of social sciences departments?
Seitz:And so forth, yeah.
Doel: Was it at that time that you first came to know Roger Adams?
Doel: Or did you know him earlier than that.
Seitz:Roger was a great friend of the Dupont's, and I was a consultant for Dupont. So we got to know one another because we had a number of friends in common, and we hit it off.
Doel: How did he become advisor to General Clay after the war?
Seitz:That I do not know. He was a good friend of Conan's [?], and it could be that there was some link there. Roger was a great statesman of science. During the war he had been Mr. Chemistry, you know in the circle of the chemists, was everywhere, a consultant to everyone, being a good friend to Conan, I'm sure Conan leaned on him.
Doel: Alright. Alright. Of course, a number of his students subsequently became involved in some other scientific statesmanship, if you will?
Seitz:That's right. There's almost no one to compare with him in the scientific community that I know at present.
Seitz:In influence, you know, a single man that could go anywhere in his field and exert some significant authority. He also was a big power house on campus. For example, he succeeded in keeping chemical engineering tied to chemistry, which is very unusual; usually it's in an engineering college. He was in arts and sciences. The physics department, incidentally, was in engineering.
Doel: Is that right?
Seitz:Yeah. It had started out as a branch of the engineering collage, you know, teaching engineers physics and then became an independent amity about — oh, I guess — 1894, or something. They had a century’s celebration last year, '93 — '92. So physics was in engineering, chemistry was in the arts.
Needell:Now by the time you overlapped with Hayworth when he was there?
Needell:Or had he already gone when you got there?
Seitz:We just missed.
Seitz:Hayworth would have stayed. He did not get along very well with Kirst [?]. And then this opportunity came.
Needell:From worst [inaudible]
Seitz:Brookhaven [?], and he took it.
Needell:When were you elected to the Academy?
Seitz:Either '50 or '51, I forget.
Needell:So Berkner was already, I guess, a member of the Academy by '48?
Seitz:The whole group liked Berkner, who had been quite prominent in war research, were elected immediately after the war.
Needell:Right, the creators.
Seitz:Yeah. We were very good friends. My wife's brother-in-law, was his close associate in that institution they set up in Dallas, which is now The University of Texas at Dallas.
Needell:That's right the graduate center of the Southwest.
Needell:Now that is your…?
Seitz:My wife's brother.
Doel: One other question on the Illinois period. At least until the time that Henry became university president, how did the university treat people like Adams who had to be away for considerable periods of time. Was it easy enough to do that, or were there particular difficulties?
Seitz:That was easy there. It was part of the universities charter that the faculty were expected to help develop the economics of the state and under any conditions they were allowed a day a week of private consulting.
And this was throughout the sciences or throughout the entire [???]
Seitz:They were regarded as an asset for more than teaching. See, the charter goes back to the immediate post war — civil war period. It was 1868, I think, when the state was pretty raw in trying to industrialize, so they regarded the university as an asset in helping industrialization. We never had any question about being away; it isn't like Harvard, where if you're away two years, you had to resign, or anything like that.
Seitz:I went off to NATO, and that was regarded as perfectly normal government service.
Doel: Right that was an 18 month period, roughly?
Seitz:Well, a little over a year.
Needell:So, do we talk about the Academy?
Doel: The early years.
Needell:You were then — how did that work? I mean, you know, the nomination and the election and had you been involved with NRC committees, and were you quite familiar with the academy, or was it an initiation, I mean, how important of an organization was it in the 1950 -'51 period?
Seitz:Well, it had been in the doldrums in the '30s, that's a long complicated story. Then a Du had picked it up, he had retired from Bell Labs and agreed, and that would be either —
Seitz:Thirty-nine. Yeah. And he made something of it again. He made it a focus. It would have been much more important if it hadn't been for the dismal period before. Probably it would have been the center of the NDRC, but K. T. Compton had had such an awful experience with it, in the '30s that he was anxious that it not be the center. But Du then, being a central figure, a doer, brought in, for example, it became a center for medicine, it was center for our division, too which was ballistics, related things. And when the war ended, it was quite important. Then they elected a president from Penn.
Needell:Ian [?] Richards.
Seitz:Richards, but he brought in Bronk, who was a good friend, who had been at Penn, to run the NDRC —
The National Research Council, which of course, the operating wing. And immediately debt started building up the activities, so you — conscience of a lot of life.
Seitz:And then he was elected president, and continued that. And I was on several NRC committees.
Needell:Can you recall which ones? And this is in the, what, before you were elected, or?
Seitz:Yeah, before I was elected. It's when I first got to know John Coleman. He was in the physics division, and the man who was from Cornell, Gibbs, was nominally chairman. Full time chairman, and he brought me into several committees.
Needell:Mainly in physics.
Needell:What about the International Relations Committee that was —
Seitz:That didn't amount to a great deal, and that came later, because Bronk always had a great deal of personal interest in international affairs, but that really didn't pick up until Harrison Brown was — which was what, '61, after Robertson.
Doel: Prior to that, that was run by Wallace Atwood, Jr. in that office. Did you know him?
Seitz:I knew Wally very well.
Doel: What sort of a person was he?
Seitz:He was very friendly, affable, industrious fellow. He also ran a marina on the Potomac.
Needell:He ran a marina? Huh.
Seitz:Which eventually took all his time. We were good friends. We used to visit him at his marina on a weekend.
Doel: His father had been an active geographer, as I recall.
Doel: Now they had served as a — the NRC had served as a back stop as an advisory committee to what became the first Berkner Report in 1951. You had no involvement?
Seitz:No involvement in that.
Needell:With that at all.
Doel: One thing that I wanted to be sure of, you joined the Academy Council before the time, of course, that you became Academy President, but do you recall when you first served on the council?
Seitz:I would guess that I was elected for three — four year term, in about '57.
Seitz:Because I know that I kept coming back to visit when I was at NATO, although I couldn't make all the meetings.
Needell:So how would you characterize then, the years of '51, or whenever it was that you joined up until '56 - '57, there was an active part of professional life?
Seitz:I went to meetings, I was on some of the advisory things, but until I got on the council, I wasn't really embedded deeply in it.
Doel: Prior to '57, do you recall discussions among any other Academy members or others outside about the effectiveness of Wally Atwood's office, the international relation's office? What did people in general, think about the Academy's efforts in this area?
Seitz:They were low key. See, Robertson was foreign secretary, he did a very thorough job in building up the slate of nominees for membership — you know, foreign nominees. He spent most of his time at the Pentagon; he spent a lot of his time after the war. He was quite celebrated, well known throughout the Pentagon. He, for example, chaired the defense science board when it was first created and made it into something quite formidable so that the top people in the Pentagon all came to the meetings. We had generals and so forth. He did not try to build up what — as Harrison did — foreign desks or anything of that kind. Bronk's interests were very closely tied to those of the royal society, so we saw a good deal of royal society members. He also created with the royal society the Federation of Academies that was more of a formality than anything else, but gave you a feeling that you were linked to the Academies around the world. The big change came when Harrison Brown took over, I guess in '61. I inherited Harrison when I became president.
Seitz:Very dynamic, reached out everywhere.
Needell:Berkner, when he went to the State Department in '49 to work for Webb and Atchison [?], and they were very much concerned with international relations and they developed the Berkner Report, were some leads to the science advisor, and the science attaches, under J. B. Koepfli as the first — actually not the first science advisor the —
Seitz:The first active. Spore [?] was very briefly in that year.
But there is — and we've found, and we've got some of this, it's very, very difficult thing for these historians to get into, is the question of the relationship of this kind of activity, to the scientific intelligence aspects of the first central intelligence group, and the central intelligence agency. The Academy was — like I say — was sort of an invo — served as a — helping Berkner with the report writing and recommending essentially stating that scientific community's interest in relations, foreign relations, and other stuff. I guess the question — I don't know how we're going to get at this, it's a difficult area — is, the relationship to the parallel organization of the scientific intelligence bodies within the CIA. Now we know that Robertson had, you know, long lasting contacts with OSI.
Needell:I guess we can go over some of the things that we know, and you can tell us whether, who we might ask and where we might go. But the first organization of OSI, Scientific Intelligence of the CIA, was directed by Wallace Brode in what, '48?
Seitz:Forty-seven through roughly '48.
Needell:And he actually came to Washington to the Bureau of Standards essentially as a cover for his activity of organizing OSI. How well known, or why — I mean, was this only known among the people who sort of had their feet in all these different worlds?
Seitz:That's right. That's right. About that, I know very little, other than that it existed. These figures like Berkner and Brode were generation somewhat different from mine, and I wasn't — I really didn't get links with that group, if you want to call it that, until I got on the council of the Academy, and by that time it had declined.
Needell:Alright, clearly one of the problems is coordination. I mean, you have various agent and government functions trying to do similar or related things, and clearly there's a secrete supplement to the Berkner Report in '49, which talks about how some of these people who — how the information can be distributed properly, how duplication of efforts and all this other stuff. We don't have that document. We know Robertson was on the advisory panel to the formation of OSI, so I guess the way to do this is really just to follow the people rather than —
Seitz:Yeah. I'm trying to think if there's anyone who might — still living, who might have a link with that, and I cannot — at least as I sit here — think of anyone.
Doel: Of course some of the other main people during that period besides Brode was Marshall Chadwell.
Well, he was the first — well, we don't know what happened —
Seitz:How about Bill Golden? I don't know whether he was close enough to it. He's still alive.
Doel: Alright. Willard Machle had been in that position in OSI preceding, at least for a brief period of time after Brode.
We know that Brode had left. I mean, he sent to organize things and then there was a —
I had a certain amount of trouble with Brode when I went to NATO because —
Doel: Right. Right.
Seitz:— he was not at all sympathetic to NATO, and did nothing whatever to help me in going through the hoops, and that's when Robertson picked it up. When he heard I was having trouble, he then stepped in and cleared the thing. You know, he went to all the offices and said, "This has got to be done, you know, get it out from the bottom of the pile and put it on top." And then things begin moving.
Needell:What we do know is that there was a great period of building up of science and farm relations in the State Department, in the period before Eisenhower was elected, and we know that there were efforts to coordinate that activity with activity in, you know, off scientific intelligence. Then we also know that the period from '53 through '57 were very, very difficult periods for the State Department.
Needell:And the whole. Do you have any —
Seitz:I don't have any direct experience, but you might talk to Bill Golden, he's —
Needell:See, he was an insider in the Truman —
Seitz:He was insider in the Truman thing.
Needell:And he was an outsider, of course, once —
Doel: Once the Eisenhower Administration initially — the initial dullest period.
Needell:But your involvement in the Academy, I guess you joined then the council, you say about '56 or so?
Seitz:Fifty-six or seven.
Needell:Mm-Hum. Was the relationship with the State Department or other agencies of government then a big problem?
Seitz:They were pretty much in the hands of Bronk.
Needell:Now Bronk was cautious, he didn't want to rock — when there were confrontations over, for instance, visa policies, and there were — some scientists were really quite — you know, wanted to protest and Bronk was, although sympathetic, he didn't want out —
Seitz:He never through his weight around, but he knew what was going on.
Seitz:And who the actors were.
Doel: Do you recall any discussions as you became on the council of the Academy about ways to increase the effectiveness of science representation of the State Department? Of course, at that time, the only person handling science affairs that we know of, in state, was Rudolf.
Seitz:Yeah. I knew him, but it was a low. The State Department was almost anti-science for a period. There wasn't a great deal going. For some reason, the culture was such that the average member of the State Department felt science was quite foreign.
Needell:Mm-Hum. Now this wasn't the case, obviously, with the military, with the Navy, for instance, who had a defense science board, and an advisory committee.
Needell:So, essentially, the working groups really worked with other agencies of the government rather than the State Department?
Seitz:They certainly worked with the other agencies. It was not an area which I personally got involved in much until after I joined the council, and particularly after I became president.
Seitz:The average individual who joins the State Department comes from sociology, or some other field, and when I was at NATO, I used to — I was a good friend of the American Military Group there, and they would get all of the reports that the State Department people who came to visit me at NATO would write, and they'd come over and say, "Here's what they're saying about you Fred, you ought to know." And none of them were laudatory or enthusiastic.
Needell:Now this is after Sputnik [?]?
Seitz:Right, after Sputnik, yeah.
Needell:Maybe we should get this story.
Doel: This is an appropriate time, I think, to get to it, and we're aware that in the interview that you did with Spencer, you covered fairly well some of the work that you'd done on the Defense Science Board, and I think what we did want to do now is concentrate a bit on development on the NATO program during the time that you took over for that.
Doel: Maybe to continue right with what you said a moment ago, I was curious about the causes of the friction as were reading these memos that were passed to you through friendly military officers. What was the content of the difficulty? As the State Department saw it? You mentioned, actually, I think at the interview with Spencer that some of the State Department people seemed to be spying on you in the office.
Seitz:Well, they were doing — they had a right, after all I was a foreign service officer in that period, so they had a right to come and talk to me about what was going on, and some of them even came at the time of our science committee meetings to sit on it, but they thought that there was far too much prominence given to science. That the real action should be at the diplomatic front.
Needell:Is this because, I mean, the idea behind the civilian NATO Science Group was such of this older idea of using our ability to enhance the scientific communities in the various NATO countries as a way to strengthen those countries, but in an abstract kind of way, rather than a specific military way, and there are those who felt that a lot of these beneficiaries, these scientists, were in fact — left us leaning, they were liberals, that in fact they might not work to the benefit of our side versus their side, I mean, is it a question about the loyalty of the beneficiaries of the program?
Seitz:No, no. This is more a cultural difference. These are people who had never taken a science course in their careers.
Needell:Just thought it was a waste of money and effort?
Seitz:Yeah. To put it in the crew's form, they hated the guts of the scientists, they thought that they were much to prominent.
Needell:Within the State Department, or within the government?
Seitz:The people who came to look into my office.
Needell:Mm-Hum. Yeah, but they hated the — sort of — people like you?
Seitz:The prominence of the scientific community in that era.
Needell:And felt that they were being eclipsed at their expertise [inaudible]
Seitz:Yeah, it was people who were in college, I think shunned anything to do with science.
Doel: And these are — just to be sure — career State Department Officials who are the ones making these evaluations.
Seitz:Yeah. We didn't get this up at the NATO Ambassador's level, or the deputy, Frederick Nolting [?], they were proud of the American contribution. These are people who came out of Washington.
Needell:And you really think it's a cultural thing?
Needell:Because they have their way of advancing and here these scientists come in —
Seitz:Where they thought the action should be.
Seitz:And it wasn't in science.
Doel: The —
Seitz:And that shows up. You know, there isn't a science office in the State Department, there's this thing on oceans and what not.
Needell:Oceans Atmospheres and Environment.
Needell:Yeah, oh yes.
Seitz:And I remember when what's her name moved over from being the AEC into the State Department, took that office. She stayed only a few weeks, and said this is no place for a person who has interest in science.
Needell:Now, was there any specific — I mean there was — we can go into this in more detail — a specific conflict between Brode and the Science Office at the State Department at that time? And the PESAC [?], so there's a conflict over the question of in general terms whether the scientists should — the science organizations under the government should subordinate their scientific goals to specific national security concerns over China issue or various others. Was that involved? I mean there were the specific issues of distrust over the scientists not towing the line.
Seitz:Well, the only thing that I would know that might be germane to that, in any specific way, is this: I was elected to be a member of what essentially the executive committee of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. I was head of the American delegation.
Needell:When was this?
Seitz:I think I was elected probably in '60 or '61.
Seitz:I know it was when I was president of the physical society, which would have probably been '61.
Doel: It's right in that time period. Yes.
Yeah. And what I found in mixing with this international group, was the statement, "Don't expect to propose an American as Secretary General" or whatever the title was. And I said, "Why not?" And they said, "Because, your State Department has said that they do not want a Soviet individual to hold that position. And we have agreed —" the other nations " — have agreed that we will not elect and American until there's a Soviet." Well this, as far as I was concerned, was against the whole spirit of the international unions, so I took the first opportunity to nominate Glokinsef [?], who was already on it as a representative of the Soviet Union. Actually, I frightened him by doing it because that wasn't the way you normally did things if you came from the Soviet Union. But he was elected, and then after that we got Bob Bauker [?] in, and broke that, but that had probably been a hangover from the '50s, the early '50s.
Seitz:Hangover from that — do you put the cover down?
Doel: It's alright.
Seitz:Probably a hangover from that '50 period and when the State Department was manipulating international science policy.
Needell:This was when Brode was the Science Advisor?
Seitz:I don't know.
Doel: I want to get into a lot more about the State Department in a moment, but concerning NATO, some of the first discussions that we've seen regarding developing a science office came as early as 1953. And some of the debates seemed to have been around the question of whether science would serve to enhance the second article of NATO, namely that science would stand for the economic and social development in opposition to the military development, but that some seemed to think that this was an untenable position, that the science had to be integrated to the military aspects for it to work within NATO at all.
Seitz:I wouldn't be surprised, but Sputnik changed it. That's when they formed a new committee, Robbie was very influential, and essentially proposed the office, which Ramsey occupied first, and then I occupied.
Doel: Mm-Hum. How influential was the Koepfli Report, that was in development prior to —
Seitz:I do not know. I've never seen that.
Needell:How far back does your relationship with Robbie go?
Seitz:Oh, I first met Robbie in 1932, I was an assistant to Ed Condin [?] at Princeton, and Robbie used to come down to consult with him about his research. See, Condin was one of the few people who had a working knowledge of quantum mechanics in the East Coast, and see Van Flect [?] was still in the Mid-West then. It was Gregory Bright in Washington.
Doel: And who was [inaudible]
Seitz:Ed Condin, and that was pretty much it.
Seitz:And Robbie would come down with his gang from Columbia, and spend a Saturday describing their research, so I knew him from that time onward. He was an easy person to know, and a very talkative and flamboyant person.
Doel: I'm curious, did you get to know Koepfli well in the 1950s or was his activities fairly separate during that entire period from yours?
Seitz:Separate. I'm not even sure I ever met him.
Seitz:Was the report written for State? The Koepfli Report?
Koepfli had been written for NATO, and was in production in 1956, carried over into '57, it was certainly boosted but had already been in preparation [???]
Seitz:Well, it may be a lapse of memory that I did know of it at the time.
Needell:Did you have stronger relations with Don Quarrels [?] in that office?
Seitz:Not any strong relation. I knew Quarrels, but he was very active in the setting up of Rand [?] and those organizations. I started a laboratory in 1950 at Illinois to bring back some of the unfinished war time technology in radar, and also to introduce computers into the military. And we hired a business manager who was a good friend of Quarrels'.
Needell:Aright, do you want to go back and talk about the NATO office? So, Ramsey was the first one that —
Seitz:Ramsey was first. He sat it up, introduced to the legislation.
Mm-Hmm. And the programs and the things that he wanted to do, and then your job was to get the [???] and get the —
Seitz:Yeah. Incidentally, during the war, Quarrels was the guardian of Bell Labs' rights, in various fields. If any of us wanted to visit the Bell Labs, to discuss, for example, the work on the silicon, we had to clear with Quarrels. And then he went over to the State Department later, I don't know whether it was on loan or —
Needell:Well, he went to — I guess — to the Research and Development Board, and then he took over — after they dissolved the RDB in '53, and they created the Assistant Secretary for Research —
Doel: Secretary of Defense and Development.
Needell:So, in a sense, he inherited the Research and Development Board apparatus as an insider, they used to have a civilian chairman, and he was the first internal director of various committee structure that there was. All through then, the period, you know the '50s up until —
Seitz:I didn't get involved much in that until it was dissolved and the Defense Science Board was formed, and I got — Robertson asked me to work in some of the panels.
So did his office, the Secretary of Defense, become absorbed or transformed into the [???] Science Board?
Needell:And that would have been about?
Seitz:Oh, '53. That period, as far as I remember.
Fifty-three is certainly when the — or '52, '53 was when the RDB was dissolved, and that new assistance secretary ship.
Seitz:And Robertson quickly built up the defense science board, so it was quite an important thing. That's when it was in the breakdown of the defense science board that Bronk got Doug Cornell, who'd been on that staff, to come to the Academy as the executive officer.
Doel: Right. Did you come to know Doug Cornell fairly well?
Seitz:Very well, yeah. I inherited him as executive officer and he was a stupendous person, his wife had just died, he was going through considerable emotional upheaval, and wanted to do something for youth. It was a period when a lot of oddball stuff was going on, and, unfortunately, I lost him because he decided to set up a bootmanite [?] college in upper Michigan Peninsula about 1965, maybe, four or five, but it never — he got the money to construct the buildings, but not to maintain it, and he then simply retired. He had independent means. He lives out in Santa Fe. He, incidentally, will know where a lot of various bodies are buried along the way, because he was in the thick of things.
Doel: He was fairly conservative in his political outlook, was he not?
Doel: I remember reading at one point that he was a member of Moral Rearmanage [?].
Seitz:Well, that was a bootmanite — the American version of the bootmanite movement, and his college was to be a Moral Rearmament college. At first he was disappointed when he had to abandon it, but then said later that it would have become the biggest hippie center, because he decided to focus on the field of communications.
Seitz:And he's — I haven't seen him for maybe three years, but he'd be a good person to interview if his memory has retained what it should.
Needell:He had a relationship with Berkner as well.
Seitz:Yeah, very close to all of those people.
Doel: Do you recall any discussions?
Seitz:My secretary could give you Cornell's address if by chance you.
Doel: Thank you. And you say he's in San Diego?
Seitz:No, Santa Fe.
Doel: Santa Fe, okay. I wonder if you recall any discussions with Doug Cornell? Either with yourself, or any with Bronk, about different approaches to internationality and science, clearly a number of people at that time, grew concerned that the only affective means of combatting Soviet advances in science was to put a greater amount of structure on US science, and to help coordinate research with more direct government authorization and involvement. Was that a point a discussion that emerged when you were at the Academy?
Seitz:I think it was more axiomatic, at the time, you know, build up science that went with the aftermath of sputnik, and all those things.
Doel: What I'm thinking of in particular, 1959 was the time when Hubert Humphrey was chairing the sub commission that dealt with the question of developing a Department of Science, and there were a number of people, in addition to Brode who supported that argument, Berkner, of course, was one of the people who testified for it. Dael Woefle —
Seitz:Creating naster [?] laughs [?].
Doel: Yeah. Was there much of a discussion — debate about that within the Academy? How did people feel about that proposal?
Seitz:As I say, I think it was taken among scientists as axiomatic, that it was a good thing.
Doel: But there was no organized opposition to the idea of a Department of Science, as you recall?
Seitz:I think that most people felt that the multiplicity of support was the right way, rather than have a single department. Early in the '50s there was this resurgence lead by a number of people such as Du Bridge to get the Science Foundation aboard, and finally, I forget whether it was at the end — it was at the end of the Truman Administration that it finally was agreed to.
Seitz:And Waterman was appointed head. But I don't remember any movement, there may have been people who hoped that it would develop into a kind of department of science, but most working scientists felt that the diversity was so great, that you needed a separate NIH. Needed a separate attention for the physical sciences, AC and so forth. The notion of a department would come up, but never had a strong support among the circle that I was familiar with.
Needell:I want to go back to the NATO experience for just a little bit.
Needell:That then was from 1958, it began?
Seitz:It began in '58.
Needell:And it lasted for a couple of years? How many years?
Seitz:Well, Ramsey was there a year, I was there a little over a year, that made Spock rather angry because he thought that a person should stay at least two years, and he put that condition on Merinberg [?].
Needell:He was your successor?
Seitz:Mm-Hum. My successor. But then Spock left when he saw, as I viewed it, how low a position NATO occupied in President Kennedy's view, because I don't think he appointed an ambassador until very late.
Needell:So you were in this position when the —
Seitz:I went in the spring of '59 and was there until the autumn of '60.
So does that correspond with the period when Herder [?] removed Spurta [?] from the Science Advisor's position in the sense [???] State Department?
So did you have any input into these [???] deliberations? And because Bronk is again, sets up the panel to look into science and foreign relations.
Seitz:No, I felt that Brode was distinctly antagonistic toward me, not as an individual, but to NATO, I got that through Piret, who was —
Doel: One of the attaches at the time.
Attaches. Because when I went to visit Piret, he said, "You don't belong here." And I said, "Why not? I'm an American citizen." He said, "Well that's what Brode tells me, that I should stay away from you." I said, "Well, we'll see one another, no and then." Which happened, because we'd get invited to the same clambakes. [???] wore off, we became good friends.
Did Piret tell you why Brode had made that [???]
Seitz:Well, he just said that NATO was bad.
Needell:NATO altogether or the science?
Seitz:Piret was a very fine person, but a little naive. This was his first Sally into anything beyond teaching chemistry. He had not been involved in many of the things. That is, he didn't work in military affairs during World War II or any of that. This was his first assignment of any kind, so he took Brode's word for it.
Seitz:He actually, very affluent in French and stayed on, I think, almost ten years before returning.
Needell:Now, you stayed on the Academy council during the period?
Seitz:It was only four years, and I may have had a brief laps, and then was elected president.
Needell:So, were you aware of the establishment of the Space Science Board and that activity?
Seitz:All of those, yeah, those occurred when I was on the council.
Needell:How ambitious was the Academy as far as the degree of planning the management role they would have over the Civilian Space Program?
Seitz:Well, it was felt that they would bring the scientific community into the space program. One of the troubles we ran into during my period as president, was that the Space Science Board got into the hands of a group of very good scientists who were against man in space.
Seitz:And that caused great anguish to Jim Webb, but there was nothing much I could about it. To dissolve the Board would have only created a crisis within the Academy.
Seitz:So I told Jim —
Needell:Berkner was able to finesse that while he was president of the —
Seitz:Yes, well, he appointed people who were interested in man in space.
Seitz:But then you have turn overs, he didn't want to be head of it forever, and gradually we got other groups in. People were who were well intentioned, and actually did very good work, but felt the money could be spent in other ways.
Needell:Can I ask another Berkner question while we're at this point?
Needell:You say that you were close to Berkner at that time, not only from the Academy point of view, I guess he became treasurer?
Seitz:He was treasurer when I took over.
Needell:And that was in '61?
Seitz:I took over in '62. He was already treasure.
Needell:Did you discuss with him his move from New York to Dallas, and encourage him to do that?
Seitz:No, he had already done that.
Needell:By that time. And so you hadn't really been close to him before, were you?
Seitz:No. I got to know him well once I got on the Academy council, because he was present at meetings.
Needell:Alright, that would have been as early then as '56 or so, is that right?
Needell:Can you characterize him?
Seitz:He was what was called an operator, which put him in a certain category. Once I got to know him, I realized that he was entirely constructive person.
Needell:Mm-Hum. And the idea was, as an operator, that he really did have his feet and contacts and a whole lot of other things, and that —
Seitz:There was no door that he couldn't go through, if he had to.
Doel: Operator —
Seitz:He had some very strange ideas about academic life.
Needell:Yeah, by that time, he was increasingly sure.
Seitz:By that time. Because he always said that his concept of the institution in Dallas was the wave of the future, whereas eventually it settled down into a fairly normal university. The people who saved it, were the entrepreneurs in Dallas, who decided they couldn't let it die, and had enough clout in Austin to get it taken under the wing.
Doel: I want to get back to Brode in a moment, and that whole State Department period, but it occurs to me that we're mentioning the mid and late 1950s, there were a number of other colleagues at Illinois, who became a part of both Robertson's activities and the NSA, the advisory panel, Stewart Cairns, from the mathematics department, and L. F. Audrieth. Did you know them fairly well?
Seitz:I knew Cairns very well, he was head of mathematics. We knew one another socially and at the senate meeting, but he was not, as I would put it, a highly experienced Washington operator.
Doel: Right. Did he talk to you, for example, about whether he ought to take the offer to be on the advisory committee?
Seitz:No, not that I remember.
Yeah. And did you know Audrieth, if I'm pronouncing that correctly, in the [???] an organic chemist?
Doel: Because he had been one of the attaches at Bond in 1959.
Seitz:Oh, I know who you're taking about.
Doel: I may be simply mispronouncing it.
Seitz:Yeah, he was attache at Bond. How do you spell his name?
Doel: A-U-D-R-E-I-T-H. [spelled A-U-D-R-I-E-T-H on OHI sheet]
Seitz:I knew him very well and visited him and his wife at Bond. That, again, was his first experience with anything outside of academic life.
Needell:So at Illinois at other universities, as you say, that you were encouraged to get involved either as consulting to industry, or —
Seitz:It was not frowned upon.
Needell:Was there most of the people who were fairly high up in their own fields eventually did these.
Doel: We mentioned Harvard as one of the other examples where it was much more difficult, but did most people find the Illinois experience exceptional as far as universities — major research universities in the late '50, or increasingly common?
Seitz:No, you know, Glen Seaboard [?] took off for many years as commissioner and went back.
Seitz:State universities, the land grant institutions, had a fairly deep rooted tradition, the public service. Harvard is almost the exception.
Needell:Right, but it's as though the Harvard faculty didn't play a very important role in these public service things.
Seitz:Yeah, to some degree during the war, you know, Kistiakowsky, during the war was very important, and Bright Wilson took over division two.
Doel: Right. Right.
Seitz:But that was an exception the war was on.
Needell:Well, it was Conan himself after the war.
Doel: Kistiakowsky's role in, for example, the foreign affairs panel. The PSAC [?] panel in the late '50s.
Doel: Did you ever hear why or how Brode was appointed to the position at the State Department? There were clearly a number of candidates that different agencies had recommended, indeed, on one list I've seen, you were one of the ones who had been.
Seitz:I don't know. I knew him, he also had a brother who was a physicist.
Doel: Right. Right. His twin brother.
Seitz:His brother was at Berkeley. Twin brother. And he was at Ohio in Chemistry.
He was quite — I mean, he was the president of the [???] chemical society. At the time he's president of the Triple A [???] I think.
Seitz:Yeah, he's very prominent as a scientist, chemist.
Needell:And there was actually quite optimism and a lot of the comments was they were very glad that they were going to revive this office, and Brode was the person to do it. But the disillusionment, or the disappointment, I mean how soon —
Seitz:Traits of personality emerged after he got the job.
Seitz:Very stubborn. I had first run into that when I was with the American Institute of Physics. He'd been active in the optical society, and insisted on not playing ball on many things. I was chairman of the governing board between '54 and '59, and that's where I encountered him as a personality for the first time. It wasn't clear that that would extrapolate to the things he did in state that got a scientific community worked up.
Needell:How quickly did the community sort of unit in opposition to Brode and his activities?
Seitz:Well, his weakness was that he insisted that everything that went on abroad in science pass through his hands and approval, and this was just too much.
Needell:And be evaluated and very narrow terms.
Seitz:Very narrow terms. Yeah. Instead of encouraging people, he was more apt to put on the brakes.
Needell:I mean, there was in the community, prior to this, in the earlier part, especially of the Eisenhower Administration, the feeling that there were people in the State Department, whether they were just the bureaucrats or the high levels, who were very antagonistic to scientists. They were distrustful. There's McCarthiest [?] — McCarthite [?] overtones. But this is really something quite different because it was —
Seitz:Well, this goes back to the old debate, should scientist be on tap or on top? The State Department certainly would have voted strongly for being on tap.
Needell:And you believe that in the 50s, now the totally counter what the Berkner Report was, and what the late Truman Administration activities were.
So there's a feeling, I mean, I'm just wondering, did this translate into just partisan where these are these republican — you know, it seems to me that a large part of leadership of scientific community had deep republican political roots. A lot of them had good relationships with Eisenhower, Robby, for instance.
Koepfli, and [???]
Needell:I mean, how did this then play out? I mean did they view the State Department was just sort of a wild card in and of itself that was the problem?
Seitz:I think that's the case. The scientists of the generation which I belong, were pretty much bipartisan. You worked with the administration.
Seitz:That would have been true of Berkner. He would work with any administration.
Seitz:I think that Brode's personality was so special, that he eventually — he no longer was compatible with the job. And that, I don't think, had anything to do with partisan politics. But it did have the effect that the State Department could then say, "See, scientists don't really fit in?"
Doel: By the time that you were in the Academy, on the council in the late '50s, were you were aware of Brode's former work in the CIA and setting up the science office there?
So that wasn't something that was generally known even among the top [???] people.
Seitz:Not generally, no.
Seitz:I knew Brode first as a very good spectroscopacist [?] — chemical spectroscopacist, in the '30s, and then came this period, when he merged.
Needell:Was Foster Dullus [?], the focus of Lymen? I mean, things changed after Herder became Secretary of State, somewhat, although the administration didn't change. I mean, was there a feeling that there was something about the Dullus Administration that was anti-science?
Seitz:I wouldn't know that.
Seitz:That would, so to speak, be occurring at a level higher than I operated at that time.
Needell:Mm-Hum. Was there a felling when Herder said that somehow could be easier to work with?
Seitz:He was easy to work with. I think Dullas was a man unto himself, you know, the brinkmanship [?] things, and so forth.
Seitz:But at the level of scientific — you know, Washington's scientific activity, didn't rub shoulders with Dullas.
Needell:But Herder was much more.
Seitz:Much more friendly.
Needell:Much more involved at that level.
Seitz:Yeah. Herder had a brother who was a Rockefeller.
Needell:Oh, I see.
Seitz:Mm-Hum. As a scientist.
Doel: And this is someone that you had known already by the 1950s?
Doel: Did you know Herders brother already?
Seitz:No, he had died. He died rather young, we have a portrait of him. He was a brilliant scientist. So science would have been a part of the family.
Seitz:And then Herders son was on our board for a number of years. That is Secretary Herder’s son.
Doel: That's interesting.
[???] think that this, you know, we were at a conference last night, and talk about all of these theories about government and all of this other stuff, but really, it comes in many cases to just personalities, experiences of individuals, and who's comfortable with what.
Seitz:When the people are high enough that personality plays a big role.
Doel: Yeah. Thinking about that, there was one letter that I had found some time ago, in working in Detlev Bronk's collection, which is now what would be the Rockefeller Archives Center, and you had mentioned your concern about the State Department in controlling the O&R's attempt to establish a listening post in Japan, I thought you might find it interesting to see that. Do you recall anything more about the concerns at that time?
Needell:When was this?
Doel: This is '59, 1959.
Seitz:No, I don't remember this.
Doel: It certainly comes —
Seitz:It's Brode's attitude vaguely. What probably happened is that Manny was concerned and asked if I would write to Bronk, because I was in on the council. Many of us had got close to the Japanese by this time. There was a famous meeting in 1953, Iupap [?] in Japan, it was a month long meeting. And that led to me having a number of Japanese post docs and so forth.
Doel: Hum. A month long meeting is unusual for that period of time.
Seitz:Yeah, well, to them it was the end of the war.
Seitz:They were opening the doors to science. They wanted to become part of the world.
Seitz:It was quite a meeting. We even met the emperor.
Doel: Hum. And O&R by that time, was very successful in London, had networked throughout Europe.
Doel: One of the controversies that emerged concerning Brode and the State Department was over whether Communist Chinese scientists, and others from non-recognized Rogenes [?] would be allowed into the United States if the meeting were held. Do you recall that being a major concern of the Academy? How prominent was that?
Seitz:Well, we were always struggling to try to help on the Visa problem. It had been in the spirit of the unions that they were open to all qualified scientists. You know, of course, that when you invited Russians, the only ones who would come would be those who were acceptable to their own government.
Seitz:But, none the less, there was policy issues that we thought ought to be defended.
Doel: Did it seem at the time, that certain unions were particularly affected by the political tensions of the time? Or did it seem, in your recollection to be a general problem?
Seitz:I think it was pretty uniform. I was most closely linked with the physics union, and it certainly was somewhere near the forefront of all the controversies, because of nuclear energy and all of that. I would have thought the chemists would have a little less trouble.
Doel: In one document that we've seen, Brode actually made the argument that because chemistry in the United States had advanced far beyond most other nations, that there were really no solid grounds for holding international meetings. That one could not have them and then not disclose as much information to the Eastern bloc.
Seitz:He underestimated what was going on in Europe. Europe was coming back very fast in chemistry in that period.
Doel: So even in his own field, you felt that Brode was not on top of developments of chemistry?
Seitz:No. The English were very far ahead and ICI and then that's a period of the German Miracle, you know, the turning ground of chemistry in Europe.
Seitz:I don't know why he would say that.
Doel: It seemed to be part of his general philosophy against, as he expressed it a number of points, the fear that his concern that the only appropriate response to the Soviet buildup of science in the mid-1950s was an equal response that would involve far greater control over American science, than it previously existed. And that seemed to be a consistent point that he would argue.
Seitz:Do you know the years in which Wallace Brode was linked to intelligence?
Doel: Forty-seven to '48, he left just about —
Seitz:Just about a year.
Needell:Maybe we should then move on to see if we can understand what you found at the Academy — or talk about the decision that — your election to the presidency, and what that involved. Now this was, at first, not a full time —?
Seitz:No, that was still part time.
Needell:Didn't — I'm sorry did I —
Doel: No, I think that's alright.
Seitz:There'd been two people who actually spent full time. One was an astronomer in the '30s who'd made an awful mess of it by the name Lee [?] Campbell [?].
Seitz:And then, of course, Jewit [?].
World War II. But then it went back to the old pattern. I was quite surprised when I was asked if I would serve, because I had assumed
You were still in Europe at that time? Or had come back?
Seitz:No, I'd come back. See, I got back in late '60s and I wasn't asked until when — maybe February of '62.
Needell:So this is after Kennedy had been in office for a year, and till the moon description [?]. Good. [?]
Seitz:Yeah. And I had assumed, you know in the way you do, if someone says, "Who do you think will be the next president of the Academy?" That it would be Kistiakowsky, and I as I say, I don't know whether he was asked and turned it down, or whether they decided they wanted someone who was slightly less excitable, as George could be. So it happened. But it was, and I said at the time, "You know I'd been on the council, and that's a tough job, I'm not sure you can get away any longer the way it's growing, with a part time president." And they said, "Well, one of the reasons we asked you, was that you can perhaps help us decide that in the course of a couple of years." So I said, "On those conditions."
Mm-Hmm. So what were the sort of the major issues or problems facing the Academy in 1962, as you saw it, from the advantage point of the council?
Seitz:Well, it was booming. Almost every field of science was very active. There were some 500 committees that had to be monitored if you were going to do the job right. It was a very burdensome job. Bronk, somehow was about to do with about three hours of sleep, or at least had a pattern of operation that allowed him, with Doug Cornell, to stay on top of it. Doug was a very loyal person who was thoroughly devoted to the Academy, and followed every bit of it, which he then could relate to Bronk, they'd meet a lot and so forth.
Needell:At the council level, how was, you know, this balance, between this being the, essentially the organization representing the interests of the scientific community versus the organization that served as a channel and a bridge, to take that expertise and contributions that community could make to the national interests? I mean, how did that balance out in the —?
Seitz:Well, a great majority of the activities were very directly related to the National Research Council. Most of the committees, there were few others.
Needell:Which is unconserviced [?] to them.
Seitz:That's right. So one had to keep track of the committees, and Doug did that with helping Det along the way.
Seitz:I don't think he could have done it with a person who was less qualified.
Seitz:That's probably why he persuaded Doug. There was one anecdote that Doug told me about, in which I had incidentally had mentioned in the biography that Det had a tendency to treat staff in a certain way, and when he tried that on Doug, it didn't work. And Doug took him aside and said, "Look Dr. Bronk, I have a great respect for you, but if you want me to work with you, our relations are going to have to be different." And Det waited and decided they should be different, after that he treated him as an equal. Which he was certainly was justified.
So the honorary aspects of the Academy and the [???] they sort of took care of themselves, they didn't need the high level management and organizations that the service aspects?
Seitz:It had long since ceased to be an honorary job, although, many of the members, even today, don't appreciate that.
Needell:That is, that job meaning membership in the Academy itself?
Seitz:Yeah. So many of the Academy members are directly tied to their laboratory research, or whatever, that they have had no administrative experience beyond running their labs.
Seitz:Where this was, you know, considering all the things that went on in Washington, and the fact that you were working for — one way or another — for most agencies that had any scientific activity, meant that it was a seven day a week job, and that became apparent to me at the end of two years.
Needell:How did the Academy avoid getting, you know, sort of tainted with the negative feelings that, you know, certain people in the government had about science? Is this by the usefulness, by the contributions that they could make?
Seitz:Yes, we had some allies at the time, I think that's gone now. Dadario [?] was much interested in science, and George Miller was much interested in science.
Needell:In promoting science or utilizing or making science?
Seitz:Well, in making sure that the people in congress knew about the Academy and what it could do.
Seitz:I had — having an interest in history, I'd gone through the history of the Academy pretty thoroughly, and discovered that we'd have very few requests directly from congress, but because of the activity of those people, and those like them, we began to be commonplace in bills to say that this matter can be referred to the Academy. I understand that that's reversing itself now. That the people on the hill are becoming affected by the anti-science mood of the '60s.
Doel: Do you feel that it's a reversal —
Seitz:Business is dropping.
You'd mentioned in one of the earlier interviews too, that Hubert Humphrey would come by the Academy periodically to discuss [???]
Seitz:Yeah, once a month we'd have Hubert for a few hours. He was a very interesting man.
Doel: And this was in the 1960s that he was doing this?
Seitz:Sixties, yes. When he was Vice-President.
Seitz:I got to be quite found of him. He'd call up and we'd have a lunch ready for him of some kind, and then meet maybe between one and four with a group that we'd select and talk to him about what they were doing.
Doel: Mm-Hum. Do you remember any particular discussions from those meetings with Humphrey?
Seitz:No, they were very general. He was interested in medicine in space.
Doel: So it wouldn't be so much a discussion about particularly current topics as a broad range of issues as they came up?
Seitz:It could be either. See, they — this — developed this tradition, I guess, probably began with Johnson when he was Vice-President, although it may have gone back earlier. The Vice-President had taken interest in the scientific affairs. And Hubert was in it up to his elbows.
Needell:May I, just for a second, change the subject, and then I can ask another Berkner question? The question is, that after 1963, after Kennedy was assassinated, Berkner, I guess, in early '64 has a heart attack and he resigns from the presidency, he stays on as treasurer of the Academy, but the impression is, by that time, that he's really — he doesn't have as many keys, and doors, he's not as influential. Can you characterize his role?
Seitz:Well, he wound down.
Seitz:He had very complex syndrome, a combination of diabetes and heart irregularity, and he would come to one of our board meetings with about 20 pills spread out in front of him, and work away during the day, taking one pill after another, in some prescribed sequence, and then one day at a council meeting had a stroke, and died that night.
Needell:Do you feel he was under proper medical care for all this time?
Seitz:As good as it could get at the time.
Needell:But as far as his activity in the Academy, I mean, he was active, was he ignored, gotten around?
Seitz:Oh no, he wasn't ignored. He was too dynamic for that.
Mm-Hum. And even in the amount of period after his [???]
Seitz:People like him and Roger Vell [?], if they were in the room, you knew it.
Needell:Mm-Hum. I mean, at one time though, and that could have been because — I mean, it could have degenerated into sort of a habit of behavior, and not really as useful as it once was.
Seitz:His mind was pretty clear.
Doel: I had a few questions that I was thinking about that we didn't treat on during Brode's period in the State Department. You were, in the late '50s, of course, in Paris, but you were asked, at one point, to review a document that Kistiakowsky as well as Alsconicoff [?] and some of the others in peace act in the foreign relations committee had drafted for the NSC, concerning the place of international science. In some sense, our impression is that the need for the draft came about from Brode's policy, in the State Department. I wonder if you recall any of those discussions about that document?
Seitz:No. Every time I'd come back to the United States, which was at the expense of the Department of Defense, who wanted to keep touch with the office, I would meet with PSAC, and we'd time it so that I could that, and we'd discuss various things. So I had a link with PSAC that went back to '59 through these meetings.
Right. And was in '59 that this particular document was generated and circulated among all of the members of the National [???]
Seitz:I don't remember it, although I might if I saw it.
Doel: Okay. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of that here. I'm curious, Koepfli had known a Gayther [?] at the Ford Foundation during the 1950s.
Seitz:Gayther, yes, Gayther.
Doel: Yeah, did you have any contacts with him during that period yourself?
Seitz:Oh, I met him, I remember once spending an evening with him. He was sizing me up for something or other, I don't know what, but apparently I wasn't what he wanted. He was quite prominent, but mainly on the West Coast.
Doel: That's interesting; I didn't realize that there was that strong of regional tendency in his influence.
Seitz:He was a person who was growing in power and influence, and then died suddenly.
Doel: Of course the —
Seitz:Because, remember, the Ford Foundation started in Santa Barbara?
Doel: But the Ford Foundation was also very helpful in the late 1950s for the Academy, in providing certain funds, as I understand it, when Brode and the State Department had cut the US membership for the International Academy, because of membership of the scientists for non-recognized Rogenes.
Seitz:Yeah, there was one individual who was much interested in science. As a matter of fact, he funded our study at NATO of improving the effectiveness science.
Doel: The Armand Report?
Yeah, [???] Which Armand never saw. What was his name? He ended up in Berlin, a very friendly person. He felt out of favor with the Ford Foundation, perhaps because of the turning in its interest, and left it.
Doel: He left it in the 1960s?
Doel: Okay. Did you have any contact with people in the Rockefeller Foundation during the '50s or '60s, say Warren Weaver, before his death?
No. I knew Warren, but not well. He accosted — was quite famous in the physics community because he had written a book on electromagnetic theory, which was a very good text of its day.
Seitz:And then went with the Rockefeller Foundation, and made that famous statement that they ought to be supporting the basics of biology, rather than physics. This was in the '30s, and giving money to physics was pouring money into a rat hole. Why he did that, I don't know.
Doel: Part had seemed tied to his desire to build up interdisciplinary research, to build up bridges between biology and chemistry and other fields.
Seitz:And he did a good job.
Doel: But it certainly did affect funding for the basic disciplines in this country in that it had a considerable influence on that.
Doel: I was curious too, during the late 1950s if you recall discussions about which cities ought to be added as places where science attaches ought to be located? The list began to expand after — from the initial period to include Buenos Aries.
Seitz:No that was in the '50s.
Doel: That was already in the late '50s, that's quite right.
Seitz:Yes. No, I didn't have much to do with that discussion, as I remember.
Doel: There was some concern when the Moscow office had started. It was closed again within about a month. John Turkevich, I think, at Princeton, was the one who had led that office.
Do you recall any reason it had —
No, I knew John quite well, we were roommates at Princeton, we both had fellowships, gave us common suite, so I got to know him very well.
Doel: In the old graduate collage?
Seitz:Old graduate collage. As a matter of fact, in 1986, I was asked by CIA to make this open study, you know, of Soviet science, and he was one of the first persons I talked to. It was just about a year after Gorbachev [?] had got in office, and John was saying, "Fred they're going to crash, the whole Soviet Union is unstable, it's going to crash." And I thought, "Well, if you say so." It was hard to believe at the time, but he had very good insights.
Needell:That brings another general question. People like Robertson, who was so deeply involved in both Academy type activities and defense really, and in the intelligence community, how sensitive was this kind of involvement? I mean, how difficult was it? Was this something that was just understood, you didn't talk about? I mean, this whole question about getting involved with the intelligence community, we have Koepfli saying how important it was to appoint people whose scientific stature was such, that they wouldn't be suspected of being getting their appointment simply as a cover for intelligence activities. So, obviously, it's really quite sensitive that scientists don't like to be labeled as intelligence operatives, and yet clearly the scientists have important intelligence functions.
Seitz:That wouldn't have been true during World War — during the war, but after it became such. I think it started with the McCarthy era.
But do you think that the McCarthy era would have just the opposite effect, where people would be standing up and saying, "Well, I work for my government," rather than being a — be [???] just simply because of distrust intellectuals, and distrust international?
Seitz:Well, give you a typical example, Wheeler Lumos [?] who was head of the physics department when I went to Illinois.
Seitz:Said, "I refuse to talk to any intelligence office, for fear that the information will get misused."
Needell:Mm-Hum. But now there were other scientists who were much more deeply involved who, I mean, obviously, interact with Lumos, so they just didn't tell Lumos that they were working with intelligence?
Seitz: Well, those that I know, were people like Robertson, who got involved in World War II and then continued, and were highly respected. No one ever criticized him.
Needell:There's someone like Goudsmit, who I think, I don't know whether he's well known in the community, that he had these kind of contacts or whether it's —
Seitz:Anyone who knew Sam knew he didn't.
Needell:Well, this was a problem then for recruiting, I mean, the people who were responsible for intelligence would have found it difficult to get scientists who were willing to work.
Needell:Recruited would have then impacted on the quality of the organization, and therefore exhaserbated [?] the problem, that things could get misused. Was this an active problem for the Academy? I mean, how does the Academy finesse this, provide access, protect the reputations and sensibilities of the scientists, and yet provide this valuable service to the country?
Seitz:Well, the one incident that I had, when the head of the CIA called me, I'd known him, he was a former Naval officer.
Needell:This is while you were president of the Academy?
Seitz:Yeah. And asked if I could help him get an advisory committee, what I found was I couldn't get anyone to serve.
Needell:Explicitly as a CIA Advisor? I mean people served all the time on committees.
Seitz:Well, it was just the mood of the period. The Vietnamese war was on, and the just said, "Don't want to get involved."
Doel: Do you recall what the committee was to address?
Seitz:It was to be a science advisory committee that would work —
Doel: In very broad terms not on a particular research topic?
I mean, people like Robby, I mean, spent a great deal of effort in the late '40s trying to build bridges between the intelligence [???]
Needell:And they didn't have this it was just such a new generation?
Seitz:New generation. The '60s brought something very new into the scene to vividness, and it's lingered. It's still there.
Needell:And this is something that the veterans, like Robby and Berkner, and somebody like that just —
Seitz:They were above it. No, they would have been trusted and their judgment would have been trusted.
Needell:Right, but how did they feel this attitude?
Seitz:The changing attitude?
Needell:The changing attitude when the science — Are you saying that what changed is the degree to which the scientists would be trusted by the intelligence community, or the willingness of the scientists —
Seitz:Of their colleagues. Facing their colleagues.
Needell:I see. So, in other words, in the earlier period this was not something you talked about, because it affected you, but it wasn't something that you were ashamed of or felt was wrong?
Seitz:No, you got it as part of your service to your government. Which is the attitude I would take.
Mm-Hmm. And then later on the sea change, that you're talking about in the '60s is —
Seitz:Yeah, remember there were those incidents where some university took on sort of a cover job, I forget the details but it —
[???] Camelot [???]
Seitz:Yes. It leaked, and then there was a big howl on the part of those who participated, that they should have known, and things like that gave a bad odor to being linked.
Mm-Hum. I mean, there are, I guess, most recently this blow up at the RIP, that I guess the president of the university wrote this Japan 2000 report for the CIA, and [???]. Do you want to follow up on this?
Doel: I was thinking of a quick question for the period of time when you were Academy president. At least for a time you overlapped with Walt Whitman, as the science advisor.
Doel: And generally it seemed — following on from what we were talking about with Brode, did it seem that it was more Whitman's personality that affected the changes that occurred within the science apparatus at state at that time, or was it in larger part, the change of administration that also occurred? What helped to, in that —
[???] the personalities of the people, less than the administration.
Seitz:The administrational differences didn't become prominent, I would say, until the '60s were rolling along.
Mm-Hmm. One of the debates in that period of time for the science advisor in state, was whether atomic energy matters would be reintegrated into one office in state at the time that Brode was there. I think it was Philip Farley [?] who was the head of the atomic energy office with the State Department. Do you recall debates about how that ought to be organized?
Doel: Was that something that ever came to your attention?
Seitz:Never came to my attention. I was close for a short while to the AC when John Von Neumann [?] was the commissioner.
Seitz:I even suspect that he might have asked me to become part of his staff, but then he got very ill. And that ended that. I don't know what I would have done.
Needell:So I take it that from the point of view of the Academy and its activities, really that the State Department is really a very minor player. Most of the relationships are with the Defense Department or the higher of the International Security Council, the NSC, essentially, the State Department's a pain in the neck because they control Visas.
Seitz:I always felt that Harrison Brown thought he was to some degree carrying on a war with the State Department.
Doel: That's interesting. Of course, in some ways a differential from that, is that — those sciences which had less to do with the military contacts then, would have been affected more by State Department policy than other areas where the military had greater influence?
And just to follow up on what you said a moment ago, you might have been tempted, you say, had you gotten an offer from John Von Neumann?
Seitz:Well, I had so much respect for him.
When did you first come in contact with Von Neumann?
Seitz:Well, he was on the Princeton faculty when I was a graduate student.
Seitz:It was in the late '20s.
Mm-Hmm. I was going to ask you if you had known him already.
Seitz:I saw a lot of him in the '40s and '50s at Los Alamos. He used to spend his summers there. He was good friend of Eugene Wagner [?]. Had different personalities, but they had been boyhood friends, in Budapest and retained a close link. They were complimentary people.
Mm-Hmm. Whereas Von Neumann had served in a very similar way to some of the other people we've been talking about within the broader defense, intelligence communities, attempting to retain those.
Seitz:Well, he covered the waterfront.
Doel: If you had to — in a way, are their clear differences in the way that someone like Von Neumann acted in developing these links compared to Robertson? Was there a very different style, or, as you look back on them, did they seem to be doing very similar?
Oh, they were very different. But Neumann had this — not that Robertson was not first class intellectual — but Von Neumann was overwhelming any issue after he thought about it for a few minutes, he could give a very clear quantitative response. Robertson simply exuded great trust. He was a person that you could work with and trust.
His personality was important.
Seitz:Personality was important. It was for both, but in different ways.
Needell:Most of the work that we've done really focuses on a period earlier than your involvement with the Academy, I just wanted a couple of the names that we've come across, whether you have any interaction with them. Philip Strong? He was at CAA in the Office of Scientific Intelligence, and apparently was — this is in the '50s — apparently the lead person in intelligence activities having to do with rocketry and space flight, sort of thing.
Seitz:Don't remember him. Well, wait a minute.
Needell:You weren't involved with the Academy activities with respect to the International Geophysical Year, very much at all.
Seitz:No. I knew of it, but not that well. This isn't the Strong who had been at Johns Hopkins?
Doel: No. No. That's John Strong.
Seitz:Yeah, another one.
Needell:How about Ralph Clark? He just passed away this past year. He worked with Berkner on the research then on the board.
Needell:Alright. Who were some of the other characters?
Doel: I think we already mentioned Karl Weber, or Weber [pronounced Vayber], I'm not sure how he would have pronounced it. He was also one of the architects of policy within the OSI as it began to emerge, and was in the generation that came with Willard Machle and his accessors, Marshall Chadwell. Were you aware of the reputations of any of these individuals? Did you of them in any capacity?
Seitz:No. If so it's bound too tightly in my memory. Let me ask you again about the chemist from Illinois, let's wright out his name. I ought to remember him, because I visited him in Bond [?].
Doel: Yes. His last name is spelled A-U-D
Seitz:Oh yea, Audrieth.
Doel: Audrieth is how we pronounce it.
Seitz:Yeah, I knew him well. That was his first assignment outside of the campus.
Seitz:I don't know whether he's still alive. I tried to get him into some Academy affairs, you know, NRC affairs, later, and he turned me down, said he didn't want to become a slave of the Washington system, but then he retired and found himself at loose ends, but by that time I was no longer president of the Academy.
Seitz:Couldn't do much for him, but he spent, I guess, a year and a half or two in Bond, in what was called West Chester on the Rhine, where the diplomats live.
Needell:Would you — unless you have —?
Doel: I just have one other very quick question, someone else at Illinois, Karl Marvel [?], who —
Doel: I was wondering how well you knew him? He happened to also be —
Seitz:He was easy to know. He was a giant of a person, knew every organic chemist in the country, if not the world.
Mm-Hmm. He also was on one of the lists of persons recommended as a potential science advisor at the State Department.
Seitz:That he would not have been good at, but as a general friend of the chemical community he was unique. When he would appear at an Academy meeting, he was immediately surrounded by a crowd of friends.
Had Hayworth already pulled Jerry Tate [?] out of [???] by the time that you had gotten there.
Seitz:What was the question?
Needell:Had Hayworth already pulled Jerry Tate out?
Needell:So he was already gone.
Seitz:Tate was there, but was pulled out within a year.
Mm-Hmm. So did US —
Seitz:Because I remember we were looking around for a house, we had moved to Illinois with a rented faculty sabbatical house, and in that year Tate's house came on the market because he was going to move.
Needell:Did you move into Tate's house?
Seitz:No. We looked it over and Betty had another idea.
Mm-Hum. Well, we didn't cover van [?] which we really hadn't prepared much to talk about, but I'm obviously interested in it, and we don't have too much more time probably. Is the debate over that relationship with the Academy to Webb's NASA in the [???] was a major? [note: loud banging in background here, cannot hear what he said]
Seitz:You mean the Space Science Board?
Needell:The Space Science Board, and I guess —
Seitz:Well, I saw both sides, and there wasn't much I could do without stirring up so much trouble, not for me, but just newspapers around. I told Jim that we'd perhaps help him in other ways.
Needell:Than to —
Seitz:But they almost became anti NASA, which was a great pity.
Seitz:Lloyd knew about this, but, again.
Needell:Really wasn't able to do very much about it.
Seitz:You pick a chairman who you think will fit in with some appreciation of the needs of the agency. Jim came back when my successor was present, but he was completely repulsed.
Needell:By your successor?
Seitz:Successor. On that issue, just said you'll have to take it or leave it.
Mm-Hum. So Webb was a [???] politician, and so he came and discussed what —
Seitz:He understood what we could and couldn't do.
Seitz:It never affected our friendship. We'd always say, "Where are the Lloyd Berkners today?"
Needell:Right. There's an interesting letter back at that where Webb wrote to Berkner and said that, "You know, back in the '40s when you were here, I mean, all one person could kind of juggle everything and keep everything together, but it just really can't be done."
Seitz:Can't be done anymore. I'm trying to think of the mean at the Ford Foundation, he's a very interesting person. Very colorful. He had a summer home in Vermont that he loved, and he ended up at a special post in Berlin. He'd studied at the University of Heidelberg and married a German student. He was given some very high award by the German government at the age of 70. You know of those top awards for his help at critical times. Sheppard Stone.
Needell:Now that name is —
Doel: It's familiar to me to, but I can't —
Seitz:He's probably still alive because I think he hit his 70th birthday within the last three years.
Seitz:Maybe it was the 80th, I don't know. But he spent a lot of time.
Doel: Did you say he has now retired to Vermont or is he living elsewhere, that you know of?
Seitz:He's apparently retired from this special post in Berlin.
Seitz:And he has a summer place near Dorset in Vermont. I had written up in the "Who's Who's" up at least until a few years ago.
Doel: Okay, we'll be able to locate him I'm sure.
Seitz:In New York.
Needell:Unless you have suggestions of other people of who we should look up or find, I think that probably says under the one sitting.
Seitz:The one person who would know a lot of the era you're interested in is Doug Cornell, although someone told me that he professes great forgetfulness. I'm sure it's not age in his case, but just that he's no longer interested, but you might try. My secretary can give you his address, and perhaps even telephone number.
Doel: I think that would be helpful. Well, let me thank you both — thank you very much from both of us for doing this interview. And we will not — this should be on the tape, release the tape or it's transcripts without your express knowledge and approval. You will be getting the transcripts of the interview once they are processed through the AIP, and they will be handled in a way that all previous interviews have been.
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