Oral History Transcript — Dr. Norman Ramsey
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Interview with Dr. Norman Ramsey
Norman Ramsey; January 18, 1979
ABSTRACT: In this interview Norman Ramsey discusses topics such as: his childhood and family background; I. I. Rabi; Bergen Davis; Columbia University; P. A. M. Dirac; Cambridge University; molecular beams; Harold Urey; Enrico Fermi; Herb Anderson; Los Alamos National Laboratory; Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Radiation Laboratory; Jerrold Zacharias; Ernest Lawrence; Carnegie Institution; Jim Van Allen; Ed Salant; Merle Tuve; cyclotrons; high energy accelerators; University of Illinois; Maurice Goldhaber; radar research; Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab); Brookhaven National Laboratory; Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI); Atomic Energy Commission (AEC); high energy physics; Stan Livingston; alternate radiant principle; Argonne National Laboratory; President's Science Advisory Committee; Jerry Weisner; Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC); John F. Kennedy; Ed McMillan; Frederick Seitz; Phil Abelson; T. D. Lee; Owen Chamberlain; Murray Gell-Mann; Ed Purcell; Edwin Goldwasser; Cambridge Electron Accelerator.
TranscriptSession I | Session II | Session III
Hoddeson:We were in the middle of our discussion of the Ramsey Panel last time.
Ramsey:All right, fine.
Hoddeson:Let me just start with Greenberg's book, page 237, of the paperback, he referred to the Ramsey Panel as the "summit conference of high energy physics, or a Munich Conference, with the Bureau of the Budget as the power to be appeased,Ē and you're in the role of Czechoslovakia. Do you agree?
Ramsey:No. I think it was much more straightforward. In the first place, I think, on Greenberg's book — the key to understanding Greenbergís book and understanding his misunderstanding is contained in the introduction or preface, which sounds like a very straightforward clarification of what heís doing, and putting his cards on the table, but it makes the whole thing rather misleading. Namely, he begins by saying, his book is going to be on the politics of science and not on questions of scientific merit. That is, he will simply exclude from the discussion the scientific considerations, and view only the political aspects. Well, the trouble with that is that of course it excludes what should be the very grounds of a decision — namely, you should make the decision on whatís the most promising device, where the best physics is going to go. And even if you honestly in your book say youíre excluding that from consideration, then if you go interpreting what the report was all about, you lose the very heart of the report, as you would in almost anything of that — I mean, if youíre going to review a book and you say, Iím going to exclude the questions of literary merits and interest, well, youíve sort of — it would be an interesting review, but it would slightly confuse things. I think thatís basically — there, it was, in a certain sense you can say, yes, there is a problem of the Bureau of the Budget. Our committee was not appointed just because of MIRA. It was appointed because of some dozen or more different accelerator proposals that had been made. We had actually a couple of members on our committee who were extremely favorable to MIRA, were from the Midwest, and had been on the MIRA board. It included John Williams, who had also been a commissioner, and on the board, one of the key people on it, and also Ned Goldwasser, who was from University of Illinois, and there was certainly no particular ganging up of people one way versus another. Certainly the Bureau of the Budget was a major specter in the background, in the sense that clearly we had to come up with the best plan for the money available. If there were going to be an unlimited amount of money, then you know we could do everything, but it was quite clear that there wasn't an unlimited amount of money — Indicative though of what their role was, itís true that at the beginning of our study, we made an effort to find out just how much money would be available. In fact, we felt, if we could be told how much money there was, we could design a good program, and in fact we asked people from the Bureau of the Budget. We asked various people. It also soon became apparent that that wasnít the way we were going to get a solution, that in fact, there was really going to be a matter of successive approximations. We would have to guess a little bit what would be the total amount of money that might be available. We could make a recommendation and then others were going to review it and it would go that way that the Bureau of the Budget really didnít know at all. In fact, rather intriguingly, the best initial advice we got from it was a rather entertaining one from Jerry Weisner who was then Presidentís Science Advisor. Did I tell you this story previously?
Hoddeson:No, you didnít tell me. You mentioned it I think in your little talk. But tell me in more detail.
Ramsey:OK. I can tell you in a little more detail. As I sayÖ we asked Bureau of the Budget people, and they really weren't very helpful, to be perfectly frank. Said, well, we're tight on money, canít do everything — but we can do some exciting things — and that was about the most that we could get. When we asked Jeremy Weisner, he said, well, he also couldn't tell us that, this is what we were —
Hoddeson:When did you ask him, just at the beginning?
Ramsey:The very beginning of our within our first — we did a wise thing with the meetings, which was not done I think unfortunately in the case of some of the later reviews. We actually had quite a long lapse of time between our first meeting and our final meeting. We met a dozen or — well, there's a list of the meetings.
Hoddeson:A six month period.
Ramsey:A six months period with quite a few meetings in the intervening period of time. That proved to be extremely useful for the committee to be able to, you know, think of their original thoughts, try them out and then go back to the drawing board, try again, and keep trying, as we tried to understand things. I think we would have had a much less satisfactory report, had we been obliged to produce it within one month, even if weíd worked full time for that month, even if weíd worked the same amount of time, because it takes just a certain amount of thinking things over in your spare time, and wondering what you had best do and talking to people. All of this takes an elapsed time, and I think we were rather fortunate in having that. But in our very beginning, the first even month or so, we got some reports of what some of the proposals were, and then, we did try to get, initially, one of our less successful efforts was to get information on how much money would be available. The most useful information, It has these somewhat intriguing characteristics, was that provided by Leon Letterman, provided by Jerry Weisner, who was then the Presidentís Science Advisor, and he said the following: that he also could not say how much money but there was one statement that had been made that he thought was probably rather binding, and that was — now approximately quoting him — that was when Eisenhower persuaded the Bureau of the Budget to allow him to go ahead with the Stanford Linear Accelerator, Eisenhower promised the Bureau of the Budget there would only be one such magnitude request no more frequently than about once every six years. And that, five or six years, something on that order, and that this commitment was sort of binding. Now, in a certain sense it shows the peculiarity of government and politics, in the sense that, in one sense it was a totally ridiculous statement in that, in the first place, the Bureau of the Budget works for the President, not the President for the Bureau of the Budget, so that he doesnít have to make promises to the Bureau of the Budget. In the second place, thereíd been an election since that time, and not only was there a new President but the new President was of the opposite party, so that there was really no reason why President Kennedy should be bound by President Eisenhowerís promise to the Bureau of the Budget. However, with the practicality and reality of government politics, it was probably also a fairly valid statement, in that it's clear that if, say, Kennedy had wished, in the initial phase, to take this as one of the major issues, really — take it as one of the 15 most important issues, he could have put the Bureau of the Budget in its place, and it would have gone. On the other hand, there were hundreds of different major issues that he had to contend with. If it were going to be a more minor issue, which he was generally favorable to but he wasnít going to personally spearhead it, then the bureaucracy of the Bureau of the Budget would indeed continue from one time to the next, and it would be hard for lesser people than Kennedy himself to actually persuade them to make a major change in this ďcommitmentĒ of the President Eisenhower to the Bureau of the Budget. In any case, I think the feeling we got from that, at least in the multi-hundred million dollar categories, it would be pretty infrequent that you would be able to make big steps, in accelerators. And therefore we felt, and I think with quite good agreement — the report was signed by all members of it, including some people pro-MIRA, including rather surprisingly Phil Abelson, whoís really on the committee as one who was sort of notably opposed to big accelerators — at least at the end of the report, we got him to sign, and Iím not sure he didnít regret it a year later, but nevertheless he did sign. I think we all did agree on the report, we got him to sign, and Iím not sure he didnít regret it a year later, but nevertheless he did sign. I think we all did agree on the report. But one of the other things I think we all basically agreed was, there were going to be — that you really should make, with any limited, limitations which you clearly had on funds, you should really make each step count, and should count vigorously. It should be a major step forward in one of the frontier directions, and particularly the most important of which was energy, energy and center of mass system, and which the secondary abut important also was intensively. And I think with that, when you looked at the costs concerned, it was quite clear that the MIRA machine, though an interesting machine, a valuable machine, was not in the league of major excitement when you look at the sum of money spent. And I think I would feel now even more clearly than before, and I think I would suspect most of the MIRA people would too agree, that it was less interesting than a big step forward in energy. So our recommendation, I recall that one, was that yes, it would be find to do, but it should only be done (the MIRA machine) it if would not significantly delay the major steps to high energy, which included essentially the 200 and 80 GEV machines. We also had another problem that was fairly severe to content with, which was, we had recommendations on higher energy machines both from Berkeley and from Brookhaven. One of the problems I always felt rather acutely and badly about was that in one respect, the best place to do 200 GEV machine was at Brookhaven, because they had a bigger area of land. They could put it right on their site. Berkeley was going to have to move out to a new site. Whatever they did. On the other hand, it was clearly, if you were really going to try to keep alive the two main centers then going, or three if you could SLAC, then, the next turn was clearly the turn of the Berkeley group, who had not had a major machine, as the Brookhaven group had. And secondly, the Brookhaven group had just barely gotten, or were in the throes of de-bugging the AGS, so that it could be correctly argued that they werenít in the position to devote the effort — this was the case made fairly strongly by the Berkeley proponents. We did as I say finally decide that there really should be both machines, the 200 one there and eventually an 800 one at Brookhaven. The thing got merged to a 500 one at FermiLab.
Hoddeson:Did the fact that California was then receiving some 35 percent or so of federal money for research and development ever come up?
Ramsey:Yes, (crosstalk) — no, this was a worry. Of course, thereís all sorts of different federal money. In the first place, as far as the Midwestern argument goes, it depends on how you divided things, you got quite different reports. In a certain sense the Midwest, although they made quite a convincing case that they were being underprivileged, they werenít really all that badly off. You look at the total budget of Argonne Lab, it was really quite a large budget, and the —
Hoddeson:I guess California was weighed —
Ramsey:California was high but the Midwest was pretty high too. It depends, if you include the aircraft industries, yes, but I mean, and again, different areas have different things. If you included wheat support, then at that particular time, the Midwest is getting huge sums, and California getting rather less, because their crops were getting — so each place that — if you really wanted to do it say in, who was getting least federal funds, Iím not sure but what Texas might have been getting the least of federal funds — they had a fair number of their own. So, itís rather peculiar, if you really want to do it, and it was worried about, but as far as, let us say, depending on what subdivision you made, certainly as far as, let us say, depending on what subdivision you made, certainly as far as I recall, as say the AEC research funds, there wasnít this misdistribution as many people felt.
Hoddeson:Was it also assumed that, although Berkeley got the money for the design proposal and they would be running the machine — that the site would definitely be in California — at that time?
Ramsey:No. I think the nature of our recommendation would have tended to encourage that — I mean, that it should be done, I think the implication being that it would be a site not too far. In fact, they had two specific side proposals. We didnít try to choose between them, although I think probably the more distant site was the better one. But I think really basically, the key thing that entered in, on our view, was the difficulty for the federal government to support a new center, and in a certain sense you can say, well, Argonne Laboratory was a partial center, but it was quite clear that if you went into any of the really expensive machines, it was a new center, and then you would be, one more center to support. And it was clearly no great advantage, in fact a disadvantage, to building up a center and then destroying it, and that had certain disadvantages and probably ended up usually being quite costly to the government, because an obsolete center, when you arenít going to give it any new things, tends to perpetuate itself for quite a long time. So we did feel, I think, rather strongly that the government could ill afford a new center. Now, in a certain sense, the decision to put the FermiLab here, if I can think of reasons as to how that developed, did mean it was combining a little bit, it was close enough to the Argonne Lab so you could say it was sort of a common center. It wasnít necessarily — that is, in fact, is what it developing as the care — so that you could say it wasnít quite so much of a new center.
Hoddeson:Thereís also the issue of Berkeleyís attitude towards outside users.
Hoddeson:Now, I understand that that attitude became very clear shortly after the Ramsey Panel Report.
Hoddeson:Under the efforts of Fry — is that? Maybe you can tell me that story.
Ramsey:Well, there are several things. In the first place, there have always been, and it fluctuates up and down, at about the time of our panel report, there was indeed quite a large amount of discontent of the users at Argonne Lab, as a matter of fact, and the users at SLAC, Stanford Linear Accelerator. There were quite a lot of complaints, I mean, that it was being run as a Stanford machine, and at the Berkeley machine — that is, in all of these cases, that the outside users were not getting a fair shake. We had recommended in our report in general that wherever the machine was, that it should be a national machine, and that it might require, certainly would require a committee or something of that kind, not necessarily a new organization, although we may have, probably did state since it was familiar (like Brookhaven) that thatís one of the ways it could be done, but we certainly did not make a major push as to whether it be run by a consortium of universities, or whether it should be run by Berkeley. In fact, my own belief was and still is that it there is, if the director and the laboratory make the effort, a single university — as Stanford for example — can run a fairly objective and fair project. But they do need some kind of a committee, to do the other. Letís see, where are we now.
Hoddeson:Weíre on page 12 of the report, section 3. That discusses the idea — of users —
Ramsey:Yes, in the matter of administration of the use of the new high energy accelerator deserves more attention than this panel is focused on. It is clear that there must be a national representation on the committee or board which determines the policies of use. We said — the scientific policy committee is what we talked of then, to deal with the problem, with the danger of overwhelming advantage to the local places. I think that, we felt, now, subsequent to that time —
Hoddeson:And you though Berkeley would go along with this.
Ramsey:I think we felt Berkeley would or should. It if didnít, that it should be willing to. And I think then two things really happened. One is, independently of us, the problems at SLAC and Argonne and Berkeley all became somewhat more acute. And then secondly, and I think very unwisely, Berkeley somewhat dug in their feels, to really argue almost that really to be successful, a laboratory has to have really great independence of the users, and that the really right relationship is to have sort of a totally independent body of trustees such as the trustees of the University of California, who really appoint the director, and from that point on, he carries on. This, Ed McMillian was arguing vigorously. I remember I had a particularly long argument with Ed McMillan in [???] — there was an international meeting in Russia, and I could see that our whole committee report —
Hoddeson:Was this after?
Ramsey:This was after our report was written, on the order almost of a year after, while they were digging in their heels and resisting any committee. I might add, subsequent to our committee, thatís the one you were referring to, subsequent to our report, there was another committee appointed, I think under the chairmanship of Good.
Hoddeson:Thatís another one yet.
Ramsey:Yes, there are quite a few committees. In fact, I jokingly made the comment that the usual fate of any committee is, it spawns the existence of another committee, but never has a committee spawned so many committees as did ours, because actually, not only did we spawn a couple of review committees that followed in the general field, but then the National Academy of Sciences set up an overall committee to do the same kind of a job for all sciences, with subcommittees in every possible field. That, I think, was only one — Tate was just the physics portion of the overall Academy committee. It was all science that was being reviewed in that case, so there must have been on the order of a hundred committees, in one form or another, that followed suit afterwards. Well, in any case, we felt that, there as one of the committees was the Good Committee, which I had a rather intriguing problem, created the following problem, namely, I was chairman of one committee, and the next committee was known as the Good Committee, which had an implication that we were the Bad Committee. But actually their recommendations ended up by being remarkably similar to ours. They in fact recommended, as far as the basic machine — the main way in which they differed from us was, they made even more of a major case that it should actually be operated, not merely an advisory committee, but it should I think be operated more by a consortium, or something of that kind. I believe Iím right on that. In any case, they certainly pressed, even more than we did, the necessity for an important management level and a strong, if it were a policy committee, a very strong role for a policy committee representing a number of potential users.
Hoddeson:Yes, thereís a summary in here —
Ramsey:Thereís a summary in that report of all those committees.
Hoddeson:— users — yeah, and then thereís a summary.
Ramsey:Itís so long ago, I canít remember exactly what each committee did —
Hoddeson:— Section C, something Ö
Ramsey:Then there was of course the government committee which wrote a White Paper which was sort of the final —
Hoddeson:Which one is that?
Ramsey:Thatís the basic one given in that report, I believe. Itís the first one — given as a Policy for National Action, is what itís called, and that was a committee all of whose members were government employees.
Hoddeson:Yes. This attachment C., to a letter you wrote to Weisner, December 11, comes as a result of the Good Committee, and itís from a group of users, and it outlines a purely national laboratory idea, almost in the same words as a paper which Leon Letterman presented at Brookhaven in June, í63, of a purely national laboratory. I was just wondering — if the discussion was going on at that time? Of this concept?
Ramsey:Well, letís see — this is a letter, not from me but from Don Hornig. Thatís a letter from Don Hornig.
Hoddeson:Iím sorry, Hornig, excuse me.
Ramsey:He appointed the — there was this committee — I guess that is probably —
Hoddeson:— yes, this extends the discussion in the Ramsey Panel Report.
Hoddeson:— of what is now called the truly national laboratory.
Ramsey:Yes, right, thatís correct.
Hoddeson:Where the governing board is nationwide.
Hoddeson:— controls the directorship.
Ramsey:— right. Right. But now, I think, my own feeling at the time as it was going, was essentially, there was the order of a year or so, in which the, getting the new thing going, really bogged down partly by the Berkeley group resisting vigorously even an advisory committee, with an power. I mean, I felt always the limit that would basically determine is, you should as a minimum have the advisory or policy committee or whatever have some say in the employment of the director. If they did not, then their advice would be, you know, not linked. But if they really had a line role, that could do a lot, whereas the Berkeley group were really resisting very vigorously having anything other than essentially the present arrangement that they then had, which was basically responsibility only to the trustees of California. Well, I had a long discussion in Dubna(?) with Ed McMillan, who was director of the lab, and pointed out that it really looked, as of that time, until this problem arose, as if our recommendations were going to go through in just about the from indicated, the form recommended, namely, that there would be, at least as far as the 200 GEV accelerator, and it would go to Berkeley; but that he was really throwing it away, that if too long a time elapsed with arguments about this and they didnít five in on that one, theyíd probably get the question totally opened up, and some period of time thereafter, it really opened up completely. The Midwest put in a proposal, and Brookhaven said, well, if itís opened up — and they put in their proposal — so that the so that, each with a 200 GEV — Weíd actually recommended, part of our recommendation, weíd made what we thought, and Iím sure subsequent events proved would have been an excellent recommendation for Brookhaven, which was not only that eventually they should do the 800 GEV, but in the meantime, they should do 30 GEV, but in the meantime, they should do 30 GEV colliding beam with their machine, which was very serious. I think it was our No. 2 recommendation. Or 3 maybe, basically certainly one of our high recommendation. This, they unfortunately decided not to do. I think No.2, yes — and it was really meant seriously, and I think it was apparent later that — weíre now very interested in colliding beams. At the time, their feeling was, they wouldnít, well; they had a committee of users who felt that there wouldnít be enough colliding beam areas to maintain a fairly good program. They also had a rather sad, in a certain sense, technical development occurred between our report and the time of the Brookhaven review, as to what they should do, on our recommendation in Brookhaven, which was, that a thing known as peripheral interaction was discovered. It was discovered experimentally that if you look at essentially very soft collisions of very high energy particles, ones where the two particles just came almost tangentially at a distance, so there was only a very small amount of momentum transfer in the center of mass system, that you could correlate the results of those collisions very well with lower energy experiments. And since at the time people were having great difficulty doing any thin interpreting any of the high energy data, this suggested, this was a great promising direction, the first place that theory and experiment were tending to agree. Now, I think in my opinion and I think it was confirmed later, the basic reason they agreed was that this was a way of doing low energy physics with a high energy accelerator — namely, they werenít high momentum transfer collisions, that they were really equivalent to low energy physics done with a big and expensive accelerator, and therefore not all that exciting. And it wasnít surprising that they agreed. But, right at the moment, in the first blush of enthusiasm, people sort of could say, ďHereís one place, the only place almost, where theory and experiment were agreeing —Ē And before it was realized, generally at least, that the reason they were agreeing was that it was just a means of doing low energy physics with a high energy accelerator, with the enthusiasm for that, they were much more interested in a high intensity beam that would be good for the peripheral interaction studies and physics of that kind, than the colliding beam one, which still would have a high energy in the center of mass system, would not actually have a very high intensity and would not accommodate many users. So they recommended about the same sum of money, maybe even more eventually, than weíd recommended for the colliding beam, should go into so-called improvement program, which did occur. I donít think terribly successfully. There were improvements, but they had the machine off the air for a while, and certainly nothing spectacularly new or different subsequently.
Hoddeson:By the way Ė
Ramsey:We also, incidentally, did recommend highly electron colliding beam machines as well. Incidentally, I think that was — in fact, thatís my Number 6.
Hoddeson:— electron positron —
Ramsey:Yes, thatís right, thatís right, and I think we had in addition to electron positron, yeah, OK — Which was clearly a great proposal. Wasnít taken too seriously at the time.
Hoddeson:Öso much to talk about Ö (off tape)
Ramsey:Ösorry, I hope Iím not taking Ö
Hoddeson:Yes, Iím confused about the role of Fred Seitz in this. Did he play any role at all in the Ramsey Panel?
Ramsey:He played no role whatsoever in the Ramsey Panel. He — but he was two things. He was at the time president of the National Academy of Sciences. This was actually not — organized — sometimes — these studies are organized at the request of the government under the National Academy — this was not. This was actually a joint committee panel of the Presidentís Science Advisory Committee and the general advisory committee of the Atomic Energy Commission, and Seitz did not have a direct role in that. I think he did have some meetings. He was familiar with it. But he I think was two things. On the one hand, he was president of the National Academy. He had been rather active and involved in MIRA, and had also been very much, I think very actively involved in the Midwest essentially, had been a professor at the University of Illinois, and I think had very strongly the feeling, though I may be discounted a little bit, that the Midwest was terribly neglected in the support of basic research. But in any case he felt that one rather strongly, and felt two things, I think. I think he would have liked to have seen it go there. He did think that for this machine, it should go there. But then he also felt that in general, wherever the machine went, that it should be some form of consortium, somewhat on the Brookhaven mode, and quite independently of our panel, although that was included, as you see, as one of the ways of organization, he called together in I think 1955? (í65?), the Presidents of, I think itís around 32, 35 institutions, to see what should be done about organizing for the management of the machine, wherever it might be, though I think he had perhaps somewhat in mind hopefully that it might be in the MidwestÖ And by that time, the question of the location, which was done around the time of í65 — this was after the site question was really opened up — it was sort of from í63 to, oh, í64, it was I would think, fairly expected it would go to Berkeley and the other groups were not particularly arguing. But then it opened up somewhere at the end of í64, with a rather long lag on the part of the Berkeley group in accepting an advisory committee, and then more unhappiness. The other thing, particularly then after the MIRA machine had been rejected — although we had a positive recommendation for it, it was only it if didnít significantly interfere, and President Johnson decided (who was by then the President) that it would significantly interfere, and told the group that there would not be a MIRA.
Hoddeson:Do you know anything about the Fry Committee?
Ramsey:The answer is yes, but I donít really remember too much now. I have to worry a little bit — was that a MIRA appointed committee?
Hoddeson:I was under the impression, but I have very little information about it, that this was a committee appointed by McMillan, to investigate something about the attitude towards, of Berkeley toward the outside users, the attitude of other people in other parts of the country toward Berkeley; and revealed that it was a very anti-Berkeley; and revealed that it was a very anti-Berkeley attitude and that Berkeley was anti-national laboratory. Something like that. So far I have no hard information. (crosstalk)
Ramsey:I donít really remember. Iím sure I had the information at some time, but it certainly now escapes me. I really donít remember.
Hoddeson:Well, Iíll have to pursue that with Fry.
Ramsey:Yes, pursue it with Fry. I canít remember. Iím sure I know of it, I mean, I knew of the committee, but at the moment I would not even be willing to say what the subject of the committee was. The Good one, I remember a little bit more, because that was somewhat reviewing some of our recommendations. But there were several other committees.
Hoddeson:Why donít — before we leave the Ramsey — Iíd like to go over. There are an awful lot of people listed in the panel report, connected in some way, in addition to the panel members.
Ramsey:Yes, those are people whom — all right, those are people, essentially we listed all people who were invited or volunteered to come and appear before us, so —
Hoddeson:— I see, everybody —
Ramsey:— for example, when Brookhaven was making its presentation, they brought these people with them, to point out why it should be an 800 GEV machine at Brookhaven. And when the Berkeley group made theirs — basically we had each one primarily by itself, although we had a few cases where there were overlapping people invited. In general we did not invite all the others in to everybodyís presentation, although there was some overlap, I remember. But these are all people — basically, well you can see how this goes, I mean, for example, Los Alamos, Louis Rosen had a proposal for prions. We had four proposals for pion factories, one from Los Alamos (as they were then called), now LAMP, but at that time the terminology was, pion factory, where you make a large number of pions. And Yale University had a proposal. Youíll find them listed somewhere, Vernon Hughes is probably on that, yes. And Ö
Ramsey:And also, Louis Rosen from Los Alamos had a proposal for one. There was I think a proposal from San Diego.
Hoddeson:CERN had one.
Ramsey:No, CERN did not. These are panel members and participants — anyone who participated in any way. For example, these people, were all on the committee; these people were invited participants, National Science Foundation had a representative, the Office of Science and Technology had a representative, the Atomic Energy Committee provided the executive secretary and that provided their representative, although Paul — and then there were others from the commission that met quite frequently. Bill Wallemeyer actually met with us extensively. Though not full time. Severance was there as sort of our secretary. These people had some people in, but then, Argonne Lab had some proposals, wanted to talk to the — Brookhaven had a proposal. Well, Bureau of the Budget didnít have a proposal, but they met with us. University of California at Los Angeles, I believe, was involved, at least in the proposal, may have been even the primary proposers of one of the pion factories. Cornell had a proposal for an electron accelerator for an upgrading of their machine there. That, we felt was sufficiently far along, it was really a little outside of our terms of reference. We gave it a blessing, but it wasnít really primarily our business, but we did think it looked good. Bob Wilson was there on that one. Weisskopf from CERN, I think we just had in to discuss relations between the policies of the two laboratories, theyíd been out making — Swan — then, I think Jones was part of the Midwestern universities, the MIRA proposals to us. NASA I think was there because they were supporting some NEV accelerator in Virginia. These were NSF. These were government representative. Oak Ridge, just talking about what they might be interested in doing. Neil was proposing colliding beams at Stanford, and Stanford University entered in two ways. Well, it entered I guess here in one way only. SLAC was already under construction, so that did not enter. On the other hand, the Stanford, thereís been somewhat of a feud between the physics department at Stanford felt he was not willing to work with SLAC, but he felt that the Stanford University should have an accelerator, an electron accelerator of lower energy which would be available for him. Our feeling on the committee, when we saw the shortness of supply of accelerators, was that if we approved a second machine at Stanford, which already had one, weíd have to approve practically everything, and out report would have had no value whatsoever. Good, for example appeared before the committee. That was before the Good Committee. And then the Yale people — all of those were in fact people who — we just kept the attendance record and listed everybody who met with us at any time.
Hoddeson:Did you take notes?
Ramsey:Oh, I had voluminous notes, and I think I probably destroyed them. They were sort of illegible anyway.
Hoddeson:No tape recordings?
Ramsey:No, there were no tape recordings. One of the really bad things about the — I think one thing that made us feel very sad, we did not have a tape recording, and somewhat deliberately didnít. We wanted people to feel free, and relaxed in their conversation, but we really paid a heavy penalty when in one of our meetings actually, not outsiders, Phil Abelson, who was sort of on the committee as the anti-accelerator man, was really belittling sort of research that we got with it and sort of arguing for applied research over basic research — and got T.D. Lee just furious. And suddenly T.D., in absolute anger, gave the most eloquent statement I have just about ever heard, as to why one does basic research. Just beautifully done. We were all just sort of open mouthed admiring it. And after it was all done, nobody could reconstruct exactly what was said. We did ask T.D., as a result, to write the section, the first draft of the section on why you do want to do basic research, but it never came off with quite the zing that the original had. So we suffered from not having a tape recorder.
Hoddeson:Thatís too bad. Are there other outstanding recollections? When you look at the names of the people on the committee — Abelson I understand took a very strong position versus Brookhaven?
Ramsey:He was also a member, he and I were the only (crosstalk) Uh, no, I donít think very much, if so I donít remember it. No, I would say the difference, the category of the different people — Abelson and I in the first place were the only two members of the Atomic Energy Commission. We were both members of the general advisory committee of the AEC, and really — incidentally, on this, there are different ways you get the constitution of the committee. In the case of this one, I was appointed as chairman first, and was really asked to make suggestions to both bodies as to who members should be, so that actually in some of the selection I certainly played a fairly major role, in the determining of what they were. And they were on in different categories, Abelson was as I say a member of the general advisory committee, and known to me to be, although heís a physicist and even has built some accelerators, certainly known to be pretty lukewarm to negative on high energy physics. And I think our feeling was, we wanted to have a distribution of people. Owen Chamberlain, at that time young, a very bright young experimentalist using high energy accelerators. Murray Gell-Mann was just an outstanding theorist in the field. We felt that a large question of the accelerator matters did depend upon where the — theoretically promising directions — we didnít want it to be determined solely by theorists, but on the other hand, they had a big input. Murray Gell-Mann and Goldwasser are just known to have excellent judgment, a very good physicist from the Midwest. T.D. Lee was great on the committee, as a theorist. Panofsky again was perhaps the most experienced accelerator man on the committee. Iíd had some experience, but Panofsky certainly more, and had the advantage of being, both he and I had the advantage of not being contenders for new machines, in that SLAC was just being finished, and the Cambridge Electronic Accelerator was just being constructed, so that neither of us was making proposals for anything. Purcell was on there. I think our feeling was, we didnít want to have it just the group of people in particle physics saying ďYes, you should spend more money on particle physics,Ē but we wanted to have some just first rate physicists, the kind of people who appreciated good physics. Some people I think in physics only appreciate their own particular field, and even if itís a dull field, thatís all they think of. And then there are some who just have excellent taste in physics and admire great physics. Rabi, for example, is I think one such person and Purcell is another, I mean, although heís a low energy physicist, never has done any high energy experiments, he has a real taste and appreciation for great physics. Fred Seitz was on the committee, both to give a little bit to the Midwest, his background which he had, and also as a President of the National Academy. John Williams had been a former member of the Atomic Energy Commission, who was from the Midwest, had been very active in the MIRA group but wasnít totally connected with the MIRA group. We tried not to have people who were directly in each of the other groups. Otherwise theyíd just do a mutual patting on the back, and anyway, there were too many proposals. So we didnít have anybody who, for example, — we did not have anyone from Brookhaven, deliberately, because Brookhaven was a contender.
Hoddeson:Was Rabi behind the scenes in any of this?
Ramsey:Rabi is always behind the scenes in one way or another, but not directly. I donít think he had any overt power with the committee. In fact, I think he was a little unhappy with some of the initial — I think he did not appreciate as much as we did the value of the colliding beams recommended at Brookhaven. I think his feeling — well, he argued before our committee. He did meet — Iím surprised we donít have him listed. He talked with us, and I would say offhand, he met with us, but — one time, not regularly. Because I think at one time, maybe just in personal conversations, what he was advocating was that we should build several machines just like the AGS at Brookhaven and in fact one of them should be built at Columbia. That was what he sort of advocated a little bit before the committee met. Actually after our report was out, he somewhat jumped us for not having recommended, for having recommended as low as 200 GEV and having put it at Berkeley rather than at Brookhaven.
Hoddeson:I understand he wept.
Ramsey:Well, I wasnít present when he — He certainly was not happy. But intriguingly enough, he never advocated — the advocacy, in any conversations we had, was not actually —well, by implication I guess, he would imply he certainly favored the Brookhaven. The Brookhaven machine.
Hoddeson:Well, it's 5 o'c1ock — I have two more questions.
Ramsey:OK, why donít we do that, unless you have to go? I think I can take a few more. Go ahead.
Hoddeson:I'd like to know where the panel met, just in general.
Ramsey:Yes. Basically the panel almost all of the meetings of the panel were in the executive office building of the White House. Thatís the old State, War and Navy Building, the same building — well, the one that's adjacent to the White House. Now, whether all of themÖ I think almost all of them were there. Now, we did do some trips —
Hoddeson:— New York and California —
Ramsey:That's right, we went to — we had a meeting in New York and we had a meeting in California. We met usually Saturday and Sunday, though we met other days. Usually they were two day meetings.
Hoddeson:Did people prepare papers, discussion?
Ramsey:Yes, thatís right. In the first place the most important things were what our recommendations would be. We heard a lot of things and weíd argue, sort of as they went along, what were good, what was bad about the proposals, and we deliberately did not try to focus too early on what our recommendations would be. So I would think, close to the first half of it, of our hearings and what not, werenít trying to focus on any particular recommendations. Then, after we had all of our reports, we discussed things amongst ourselves. We then tended to, in some instances we called people back for some more information. I mean a rather intriguing case that we did that on pertained to MIRA, where we first met with MIRA. MIRA had a proposal in, Iím not so sure of the numbers, but I would think initially, that may be arbitrary, for say 10 GEV high intensity machine. We felt that was rather low and we asked them, how much would it cost to make it — maybe Iíd better look and get my numbers, what did we recommend?Ö OK, well, I guess maybe that occurred. Yes, that occurred, but there was one final meeting after — I have to slightly revise my statement in the following form. We recommended for example that the MIRA should go to 12.5 BEV instead of 10 as they had originally proposed, because we felt that would get above some more interesting thresholds and we were really very unhappy that the energy was so low, that that seemed to be the parameter that seemed to be of greatest value, but also the cost was going to go up very high. They then came back, subsequent to our report, with how much it would cost to do that, and in fact, we got called together once again after the report was written, six months or so later, to review, see if we wanted to change our minds, but in that case specifically with MIRA in mind —
Hoddeson:Six months later. WellÖthat would be after the meeting in December, 1963, when Johnson and Humphrey —
Ramsey:Weil, then it wasnít six months. (crosstalk) Let me see if I canít get a comment here —
Hoddeson:— yeah, the timing is important, because at that meeting —
Ramsey:— it would certainly have been before the final decision on the part of — '63 —
Hoddeson:There was a meeting in Washington, December, '63. Definitely.
Ramsey:Oh, here, I think — OK, here it is, weíve got it here. Itís Annex A to this green book, and —
Hoddeson:This is the February í65 —
Ramsey:— and I guess, my covering — in response toÖ single paper, summarize the high energy physics meeting of November 16-17, 1963.
Hoddeson:Oh, just before, yes.
Ramsey:And this was — what we say here, the list of members of panel, high energy accelerator met on Nov. 16-17, to consider the various technical developments that had occurred since April 1963, insofar as these developments affect the panelís recommendation concerning MIRA. Those at the meeting unanimously agreed that these developments reduced the desirability of the previously recommended energy increase from 10 to 12.5 BEV, as the costs run up quite a lot, and the 10 BEV objective in the original MIRA proposal was more suitable. The panel also agreed that the accelerator should be located in the Middle West. The exact site should not be fixed by the panel. The panel wishes to re-affirm its general position in regards to the high energy and his intensity frontiers in elementary article physics, which means that statement weíd made previously that applied, and it should be done if it did not significantly interfere. And that was a very, actually quite a difficult meeting, whereas the others seemed to have gone fairly well. We were getting together and there was a big push on the part of the MURA advocates at the meeting, to try to get us to be more enthusiastic about it, but we indeed decided to stick with what we had said, as far as that — The amusing thing about the effect of the 10, the 10 Ĺ and back to 10, is, a lovely ratchet effect occurred namely, we felt it should be 12 Ĺ for scientific reasons. We asked them to make an estimate of the cost, and the price practically doubled in going from 10 to 12 Ĺ, so we said — not doubled but went up a lot more than proportionate — so we said, gee, it isnít worth it. Thatís why we said here, itís best to go back to 10. Rather intriguingly, when they went back to 10, the price didnít go back to what it was before, in the sense that they clearly — when they really began cost estimating the increase, they had a chance to relieve themselves of places where in the earlier proposal theyíd been too tight, but when they came down, they realized that this original cost estimate had really been a little low. So that actually it ended up with a price somewhat in between the original estimate of the 10, and the estimate of the 12 1/2.
Hoddeson:Ned Goldwasser told me informally once that there was a great difficulty at the end in wording the proposal, and that you werenít happy with it.
Ramsey:I think the greatest difficulty, I believe, pertained to the MURA aspects. There certainly were difficult — we did a lot of work on the wording. I mean, with this kind of report, everybody as to agree with more or less every word. You take it really quite seriously. No, we had quite a few meetings at the end on writing the report. I mean, there was a great deal of difference, when you express the relative priority of energy versus intensity, well, that has big deep implications on what machine gets done, so on this we had some fairly major arguments. But I think perhaps where we had the biggest argument on wording pertained, intriguingly enough, on this last letter, and thatís a little bit implied by my letter here, where we had the meeting on November 16-17, and that, in response to a request from Dr. Tate that we keep the agreement on a single paper to summarize — I think each of us said what his views were. That we were trying to settle on, and they werenít totally in agreement. A single paper to summarize the high energy accelerator physics meeting of Nov. 16-17, — we have succeeded in doing so, I mean, closing the report. It took us from November 16th to December 11th to succeed in doing so, and itís only one paragraph. I mean the thing we succeeded in doing was to say that the panel wishes to re-affirm its general position in regards to the high energy and high intensity frontiers of elementary particle physics. We had a much greater difficulty on that one than we did on the others. In fact, following it we went out to — one of the great pleasures of such a committee, is, if T.D. Lee is on the committee, you go to Chinese restaurants, and in any Chinese restaurant heís a very famous individual, and the — in the Chinese-American community. So you get excellent service and free drinks on the part of the management, in honor of T.D. Lee coming to their place. And we went to a Chinese restaurant, following this rather horrendous last meeting, sort of wishing we hadnít had to — We ended up fairly happily on the other ones. This was obviously much more harrowing than any of the precious ones, and at the end of it, they brought around Chinese fortune cookies. And my fortune said: ďNever reconsider your decision.Ē I thought, if weíd only gotten this fortune earlier we could have saved ourselves a dayís worth of trouble.
Hoddeson:Thatís marvelous. Letís see, weíre just about finished with the Ramsey Panel except for one question I have. In this report, you stress the idea of a massive design report before building some place.
Ramsey:Yes. I guess we do. I donít remember that so much.
Hoddeson:Oh. I was wondering if that was something new or if that was a major part of the discussion.
Ramsey:Oh no, certainly I donít think it was a major part. I mean, in general, clearly there usually have been somewhat — in fact, there had sort of been an increasing escalation in the size of the design reports that the accelerator — but all of them had fairly good detailed designs. Before you construct it, you want to work out a fair number of — In fact, we had some pretty massive, heavens, we had two volumes of proposals from Berkeley already.
Hoddeson:That was after.
Ramsey:That was before, even before we met. Yes.
Hoddeson:But these Blue Books came out afterwards?
Ramsey:I guess those, maybe Iíve got it wrong, no, youíre right, the big Blue Books came out afterwards (crosstalk)Ö Youíre quite right.
Hoddeson:It was my impression that those are the first big ones, but maybe thatís not sure. I donít know what happened at —
Ramsey:— I think youíre probably right, that those were the first big ones. We certainly had some. We certainly had proposals from them, which were more than a sheet of paper. I donít remember, I really now donít remember the details, the size of thickness.
Hoddeson:I was just, page 14, No. 2, because of the large cost of new high energy facilities etc., it appears worthwhile to —
Ramsey:Letís see. Oh —
Hoddeson:Here, these feasibility studies should be permitted to proceed to greater detail.
Ramsey:Oh this is actually something a little bit different. The purpose of this one was in a somewhat different direction, namely, we realized that you couldnít build all the accelerators that you would like to build, but clearly the way ideasÖ Iíll read this while youíre doing that, make sure Iím keeping in orderÖ No, the whole purpose, this was actually a very important section of the report, was extensively discussed, and we feel was one of the important recommendations, that — but its interpretation is somewhat different than you implied. It really had relatively little to do with the actual accelerators that we were recommending for construction such as the 200 GEV. Presumably they could do more detailed designs. But it was recommended as a project to go ahead. The difficulty we saw, that all of the laboratories were complaining about, was when they were in process of trying to invent new proposals, things to come after these or different directions, was that they could do a little bit of paper study on the side, people working on the side on that. Then, once it got beyond various modestly extensive — by the time the real feasibility was being investigated, by the time that the time for invention of real new ideas came in, it ran into the difficulty of an AEC rule that you could only work on the design of an approved project, because this was a somewhat understandable thing of not wanting to divert resources to things that werenít going to be actually built. I mean, if you were doing buildings, if you were constructing buildings, clearly you donít want a laboratory developing lots of architectural fees for building that arenít going to be built. So this is sort of a general AEC rule that you shouldnít carry things beyond just the very preliminary stages without having an authorization for construction or at least an authorization for — a specific authorization for the study, and that always had an implication, which you would then follow on. In fact, in all cases, when you got that one, you did follow on. This meant that the inventive process of developing and inventing new machines was essentially forbidden. It had to be bootlegged within the laboratory, to get as much proposals as these places were, and people would look over them and say ďNo, you canít go further in that study without an authorization of a project.Ē Thatís exactly the wrong thing, when youíre trying to get the best possible accelerators. What we really would like to see and like to encourage was all sorts of ideas coming up. Maybe make life difficult for future panels, such as ours, but clearly we would also do a much better selection of — weíd rather have more proposals, even though we had to turn them down, more good proposals, because out of that youíd get a better product. What we were here recommending was that the laboratories be authorized to do more detailed studies than they had been authorized in the past, of even accelerators not yet approved. And that was more or less adopted since then. I mean, after all, various kinds of things that were done on the energy doubler saver here — now, when you start really constructing things, you have to get approval, but — and the whole exploratory work can be encouraged.
Hoddeson:Do you think itís a good characterization of this period to say that, this is the point when high energy physics moved into the era of the design proposal?
Ramsey:No. No, there were design proposals. For example, for the Cambridge Electronic Accelerator —
Hoddeson:But they werenít massive.
They werenít so massive, but I mean, the size didnít go up proportional to cost, either. There was a tendency, I think, not particularly encouraged by our committee, of people, as the cost of the machine went up, to feel that you should have a bigger proposal. And I think there was sort of rather a food step backwards, in a certain sense, in the FermiLab proposal, when it finally came forth — it was rather thinner than had been the trend. At least, it was off the curve of ever-increasing size. And this had nothing to do with that one. This was to encourage — basically, youíd almost put it, to encourage research in accelerator design. Well, I think with this, I probably had better be on my way.