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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Lee DuBridge

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Interview with Dr. Lee DuBridge
By Thomas D. Cornell
At Pasadena, California
March 6, 1987

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March 6, 1987

ABSTRACT: A preliminary conversation mainly about the construction of the Rochester Cyclotron in the 1930s; comments on the Physics Department, the theorists, weekly colloquia; DuBridge as chairman and dean; Washington University’s graduate program’s influence on the Rochester program; work on the FP-54 vacuum tube; interest and support from Ernest O. Lawrence; design and building of cyclotron. Graduate projects; photoelectric research and cyclotron research at Rochester, cooperation with Hans Bethe at Cornell University. World War II work. Relationship of teaching and research at University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, and California Institute of Technology.

Transcript

Cornell:

One of the things I'd like to start with is your notion of what constitutes an ideal college education. Maybe that's too general, but what interests me is how smoothly you made the cyclotron an integral part of an academic setting. That's really surprising.

DuBridge:

We were all doing it then. Ernest O. Lawrence did it. They did it at Michigan. They did it at Cornell, at Pittsburgh, and at MIT. In those days, the cyclotron was a big thing. But you know, our laboratory wasn't very much larger than this room, and the cyclotron fit in very nicely. It was only 18 inches in diameter at the poles. Of course, Berkeley had a 60-inch one. But we had a higher energy proton beam than Berkeley did, because they were using deuterons. Are you a physicist, have you had physics training?

Cornell:

I've had some physics training, yes.

DuBridge:

So I do not regard the cyclotron as a special achievement, because this is what Ernest Lawrence was promoting. He was a very good lecturer, and his work was very exciting. He was traveling around the country, doing a good deal of lecturing on nuclear physics. At every university where he stopped he said: "Why don't you have a cyclotron? They're easy to build. I'll show you how. Just think of all the great things you could do with it." He came to Rochester and gave a talk. I'd known him before, so we were already good friends. He said, "Lee, you should have a cyclotron here." I said, "We don't have any place to put it." He said: "I bet you do. Let's look around." By golly, he found a big storage room in the basement that I'd forgotten about and said, "This is an ideal place" -- and it turned out to be. It was between two physics lecture rooms, on the ground floor, and so it was ideal. So the integration in the department was a simple, natural thing. I just switched over to a cyclotron from photoelectric tubes, which also involved a lot of vacuum equipment and measuring equipment and so on -- but without any big magnets, which the cyclotron had. You know, we only had about eight or ten graduate students in those days.

Cornell:

But that's up from almost none. If you compare, say, now to the thirties, it doesn't look like much. But if you compare the thirties to the twenties at Rochester, eight to ten graduate students is very impressive.

DuBridge:

Oh, yes. Because, you see they only moved to the River Campus in 1932, I guess -- I arrived in 1934. Well, they'd never even attempted any graduate work on the old campus. It was a small liberal arts college. First they started the medical school, and of course the music school downtown. Then when George Eastman left his large estate and they could build a new campus, they decided to make it a research university -- at least begin that. Rush Rhees [the President of the University] was a wise old fellow. He right away tried to find a young man to head each of the major science departments, to start a research operation. He had already brought in a man by the name of W. A. Noyes, Jr. to head the chemistry department. Benjamin H. Willier was already there in biology. I came in to head physics. Later Leonard Carmichael came in to head psychology. They had a great historian there -- a lovely fellow -- Dexter Perkins. So it was taking the first steps. But it had a good start toward becoming a research institution even by 1934. And, true, the resources available were small by modern standards. But they were far better than they were at Washington University, where I was. Eastman's money, you see, was a godsend. I had to struggle like everything to get $900 to buy a quartz monochromator. But at Rochester, I bought three of them right away -- so that each of the graduate students had one. Then we got the money for the cyclotron. That didn't take much. But it was more than we could have had at Washington University, which was truly quite poor in those days. It's better off now.

Cornell:

Did you have graduate students at Washington University?

DuBridge:

Oh, yes. Washington University had had a modest research program for a long time. The physics department at Washington University, when I was there from 1928 to 1934, had the munificent staff of five full-time faculty members, of which I was one (another one was a young instructor). They are all gone now except me. A. L. Hughes had made himself a reputation in England and had come to the Rice Institute, in this country -- and then came as head of the department at Washington University. A. H. Compton had been head of the department there. Compton had really started a good research program at Washington University and brought in graduate students. Hughes carried on -- in different fields -- and brought me in, in 1928, when I finished my post-doc here [at Caltech]. There were a dozen or so graduate students in physics. It was a very good group. I had one or two very good graduate students, Hughes had two or three, and G.E.M. Jauncey had some. It was small but typical of a small university physics department for those days.

Cornell:

Who were your graduate students?

DuBridge:

Well, the principal one who worked with me most was Walter W. Roehr. When he finished his work, university jobs were kind of scarce, so he got an industrial job and spent his life at the Institute of Paper Chemistry in Appleton, Wisconsin -- where I think he had a very successful career. He never became famous, because he was in industrial work. I lost track of him. I haven't heard from him for a long time. Walter D. Claus was another one. He went to the Mellon Institute and was there a number of years. Then I lost track of him, too. Al Hill, A. G. Hill, was my graduate student. When I went to Rochester, he was just getting his Master's degree and asked, "Can I come along with you?" So I took him along with me to Rochester, where he got his Ph.D. He later became vice president. Those were the principal ones. There were some others. There were two or three graduate students working with Hughes on electrical conductivity in gasses, gas discharge phenomena that he was interested in, ionization and spectroscopy. And there were two or three graduate students working with Jauncey on X-rays. Jauncey had been a close collaborator with Compton at the time Compton discovered the Compton effect. As a matter of fact, Jauncey always felt a little peeved that he'd been working closely with Compton right up until the time Compton suddenly got this idea about the momentum exchange and said, "I want to do an experiment, now, myself." He left Jauncey out of it. Compton got the Nobel Prize, and Jauncey got nothing. He was sort of bitter about that. He had two or three students working with him, so there were about a dozen graduate students at Washington University. But when I got to Rochester, there were only about three or four. The only member of the faculty doing any research in physics at that time was T. R. Wilkins. He was working on alpha-particle tracks in photographic emulsions. He was a pioneer in that, though unfortunately he died before his work really came to fruition. The photographic plates he could get, either from Kodak or from Ilford, in England, just didn't produce very long alpha-particle tracks -- maybe only ten grains or something like that.

Cornell:

I didn't realize it was that short.

DuBridge:

Yes. Therefore when he tried to measure the length of grains, to see if there was a spectrum of different energies, why, he was fooled, because the statistical fluctuations made him think that there were two or three different energies -- when later it turned out there was only one. He just didn't quite catch onto the fact that counting grains in short tracks was subject to large statistical errors. He opened up the field, but it was others who really developed it. He'd built himself a small cloud chamber and was interested in studies of radioactivity. He died at a young age, too, just after the beginning of the war. I succeeded the man who had been the head of the department for a long time and was retired. When I arrived, it wasn't clear who the chairman of the department was. Wilkins was on leave, and had been gone for a year. I've forgotten the name of the man whom I succeeded on his retirement.

Cornell:

Lawrence. I'm not sure of the first name. In addition, there was Fairbanks.

DuBridge:

Floyd C. Fairbanks was still there. He was the undergraduate teacher. But then the head of the department was an older man.

Cornell:

I think it was Henry E. Lawrence.

DuBridge:

Maybe it was. Well, I barely knew him. Of course, he was just stepping aside as I came in. He would come around occasionally. But he had not tried to develop any research interest at all -- except, you know, the kinds of things that a senior student would do. So Wilkins was the only research-minded person there. I was simply told that I was to start a research department.

Cornell:

Who told you that?

DuBridge:

Dr. Rhees, the president. And Dean Arthur S. Gale, who was the dean of students. Dean Gale was my mentor and guide and friend. He's the one who really took me in hand and showed me around the campus and got me acquainted with people and with what was going on. In the middle of it, he said: "You know, there's a question about who's chairman of the physics department. Wilkins has been acting chairman and probably expects to be chairman. But he isn't the proper one to do it."

Cornell:

Why not?

DuBridge:

Well, Wilkins had a strange personality. He seemed to have a source of money that none of the others had. He had a finer house and was much more of an aristocrat, you might say, in the minds of the other people around. He was not a very good manager or a very good teacher. He was a likeable fellow in many ways, and he and I got along all right. But his research never jelled. Anyway, Dean Gale felt -- and he convinced Dr. Rhees -- that I should be chairman of the department. Wilkins had no objection to that, because at the same time I became chairman of the physics department they made him director of the Institute of Optics. That suited me just fine, because I wasn't interested in optics. The physics department had a serious responsibility for the Optics Institute, which was right upstairs. I was glad that Wilkins had an interest in it. So he took it over as his interest and responsibility. Then fortunately a very bright young fellow, whose name I've forgotten [J. S. Campbell], arrived from Caltech. I'd known him here. He went in the Institute of Optics and really was the chief research man there for a long time.

Cornell:

O'Brien?

DuBridge:

No. Brian O'Brien was there, too. Yes, he was one. But he hadn't come from Caltech. Brian O'Brien was a very active and very good member of that Institute. But he was never director, as I recall -- until later, maybe, after Wilkins died. Wilkins died while I was at MIT, just during the war.

Cornell:

Did you have contact with Dean Weld?

DuBridge:

Oh, yes. He was the dean of the college.

Cornell:

And Gale?

DuBridge:

Yes. He was the dean of the students, and Weld was dean of the college. But it was Gale who made it a point to take me in hand. He was a mathematician, who was interested in physics, and so we made a very good pair, I believe. Weld and I got along fine, too. But his interests were not as deep in physics as were Gale's. So it was Gale that became my closest associate and friend and backer. Rush Rhees was extremely good to me. When he invited me to come there and look over the job, I was a guest in his house, the Eastman House. I was ensconced in George Eastman's bedroom upstairs. Have you seen the Eastman House?

Cornell:

Yes.

DuBridge:

It was the president's house then, full of servants, just the way Eastman had left it. That was an impressive thing for a young boy from St. Louis, to be ensconced in this palace. Rush Rhees was a delightful and marvelous man. I was sorry that he was so near the end of his life. He retired and died shortly thereafter. But Alan Valentine came in, and he and I got along fine. Ray [Raymond L.] Thompson was the treasurer. He was a gruff fellow, and I thought there might be trouble there. But he turned out to be just a marvelous supporter and helper. He helped me finance some of the things that had to be done.

Cornell:

All of these men must have agreed that it was important for the University of Rochester to move in the direction of research.

DuBridge:

Oh, yes. Rush was committed to it. Ray Thompson, the treasurer, had become committed to it. And certainly Gale was, as well as Weld -- although Weld was more interested in the social sciences than in the physical sciences. But then Benjamin Willier was there, and N. A. Noyes was there -- and, of course, the medical school was close by. People like Staff [Stafford L.] Warren and George P. Berry and so on, were quite interested in what was going on at the college science departments. So I felt I was moving into just as active a research group as they had at Washington University -- and one with a lot more resources.

Cornell:

Did it make a difference that you'd already had the experience at Washington University? Did that serve as a model?

DuBridge:

Oh, of course. I mean, I was just a green young post-doc when I went to Washington University. I'd done some teaching, but I'd never had charge of a course. I certainly had never been in charge of any graduate students. When I was a post-doc here at Caltech, I worked alone. One of the seniors helped me for a few weeks, but it was a one man job. At Washington University I got in with a research group -- a dozen graduate students, five faculty members, and good chemistry and mathematics and biology departments. The biologist at Washington University was Francis O. Schmitt, who later went to MIT. We tried to attract him to Rochester, but MIT outbid us. He made quite a name for himself. He is retired but is still very active in physiological and biological activities around MIT. He was a young assistant professor, as I was, at Washington University, and his brother was an undergraduate student in physics. So we became very closely acquainted with the family. We had a good crowd there. First there was Vladimir Rojansky, who was a new Ph.D. from Minnesota and who came to Washington University at the same time I did. He was then offered a job at Union College and spent most of the rest of his life there -- but later came out here (to California). He was followed by J. A. Van Den Akker, who was a Caltech Ph.D. in physics and who came to Washington University. So the Van Den Akkers and the Schmitts and a man in the medical school by the name of Gordon H. Scott, who was an anatomist -- physiologist, I guess -- and ourselves. We had a marvelous little social group. We all had our babies at about the same time, and it was a nice group of congenial wives and husbands. Then when I moved to Rochester, it was natural to have a similar group there. And we did. There was Noyes in chemistry and Willier in biology, and then our physics group. I brought in Sidney W. Barnes from Cornell. Then when we started the cyclotron, I brought in Stanley N. Van Voorhis from Berkeley. We also had some good graduate students. It was a very comfortable and joyful group to be with -- as well as a group of capable people.

Cornell:

It must have been exciting.

DuBridge:

Oh it was, quite, to start a new enterprise in a department where we were not hampered. We tried not to be extravagant. But at the same time, when we needed money for the cyclotron, we were able to get it. Of course, we had this wonderful cooperation from the local electrical engineers.

Cornell:

That's an astonishing thing, too.

DuBridge:

Oh, it came very naturally. Many years before I was there, there was an unusual group of electrical engineers in Rochester. They were from the local electrical utility and from the other industries in town -- especially the radio company (Stromberg-Carlson) and the telephone company. It was a group of electrical engineers who were quite lively. They had invited the Institute of Electrical Engineers -- which was not an enormous organization then -- to have a fall meeting at Rochester each year. This committee was called the Rochester Fall Meeting Committee of the IRE [Institute of Radio Engineers]. It was informal. It wasn't really official. But they arranged a fall meeting, which became quite popular among electrical engineers. Well, one of them -- I think it was the man from Stromberg [Virgil M. Graham] -- and also the man from the electric company, and I got acquainted at some university affair. They told me about this Fall Meeting Committee. There was a fall meeting coming up, with some interesting papers. So they asked me to come to it. Then they said: "Won't you join our committee and help organize the Fall Meeting Committee? We'd like to have physicists give papers at these fall meetings, too." Later I gave several papers on nuclear physics. But at first, I gave a paper on photoelectric effects.

Cornell:

That first fall you were there?

DuBridge:

Well, maybe not the first fall, but within the first year or so. We became good friends. We had meetings and parties together. Then when Ernest Lawrence brought up the cyclotron question, I was at a meeting of this Rochester committee, and I said, "You know, it would be nice to have a cyclotron at Rochester." I told them a little bit about the cyclotron and what it was for and what it would do. They got very excited and said, "Well, gee, we can help you on that." They got busy and scoured the town for equipment. They found a secondhand, almost obsolete, motor generator set. But it was ideal for us, with the transformers and the circuit breakers and everything. They collected all those and had them installed. Fortunately, the basement room that we had chosen had a big alcove just across the hall, where the motor generator set fit nicely, with its transformers and meters and control box and so on. So they were extremely helpful. The man in the telephone company [Harry Gordon] said, "I'm going to write to my friends at the Bell Labs and see if they can't give you some vacuum tube oscillators that they're not using any more" -- which happened. We got several, which at the time were enormous vacuum power oscillators for high frequency oscillations for the cyclotron. But I notice that you seem surprised that this Electrical Engineering Committee were so helpful. It came about on a very natural, personal, friendship basis. They certainly were extremely kind, and very much interested -- and they followed the work. So, as I say, I got these enormous power tubes that would have cost a lot of money. They were of a kind that were obsolete for the purpose they were used at the Bell Labs. But they were still in perfectly good condition, and we used them for a long, long time.

Cornell:

So it was this other person's (Gordon's) contacts with the Bell Labs, rather than your own contacts? Had you had extensive contact with electrical engineers before?

DuBridge:

No, not particularly. There were some friends at Washington University in electrical engineering, but I was not especially close to them.

Cornell:

You didn't participate in a chapter of the IRE in St. Louis?

DuBridge:

No, I never had connections with that. No, I had carefully avoided radio engineering.

Cornell:

Oh, that's so different from Lawrence, with his interest in ham radio.

DuBridge:

Oh, yes, I know. I avoided radio. Somebody told me when I went to Wisconsin: "Well, you'll be working on vacuum tubes." I said, "I hope to hell I won't!" But what I meant was the commercial vacuum tubes that they were monkeying with to make these complicated radios with 14 dials you had to tune to get a crackling station. I thought that was the bunk. Actually, I built my own tube to do some photoelectric work. But it was not a commercial vacuum tube. I never monkeyed with those, until one summer, looking for a summer job, I was lucky enough to get a job with the research laboratories of the General Electric Company at Schenectady -- the summer of 1930. I happened to be assigned to the laboratory of Albert W. Hull, who was one of their best known physicists. I soon got well acquainted with Hull and Irving Langmuir and the wonderful group of people at GE at that time. Hull had just developed a new four-element vacuum tube, the FP-54. He had developed it for some special purpose there at GE. But he said: "I think this might be useful for the type of measurements you're doing with the photoelectric effect. You're dealing with small direct currents." I was using a Compton electrometer, which was a very delicate, fragile, and somewhat difficult thing to use -- though we got some very good sensitivity out of it, providing we blew our own quartz fibers to suspend the mechanism. They had to be very fine. We then cut off a piece of the fiber and mounted it up. It was a very simple amplifying circuit with the FP-54. It didn't involve any complicated oscillators or anything like that. But I got more attention from the paper I published on the FP-54 amplifier[1] than from most of my photoelectric papers.

Cornell:

Why?

DuBridge:

Because it just came at a good time. A lot of people were measuring small currents. The cyclotron people were measuring small ionization currents from weak radioactive sources. They needed an amplifier to measure the ionization currents in the ionization chamber. I used it for that at Rochester, later. But the people at Berkeley used it, and all over the country people were building FP-54 amplifiers for their ionization chambers. So that was my one venture into vacuum tube circuits.

Cornell:

Did you keep up your contacts with the Rochester engineers once the cyclotron got going?

DuBridge:

Oh, yes, as long as I was there. I lost track of them after I left, of course.

Cornell:

Did they come to visit your laboratory?

DuBridge:

Yes, they often came out to see the cyclotron that they had helped to bring into existence. I gave papers on nuclear physics in Rochester. There was quite an interest in it in the early days of nuclear physics. I remember giving a Town Hall paper at the Rochester Town Hall. Hundreds of people came for that. Staff Warren at the medical school, who later became head of the UCLA Medical School, was interested in radiation treatment for patients. He was using X-rays. But he thought that some radioactive materials would be useful for that, too. So he was much interested in the fact that we could make induced radioactive materials. He didn't actually use any for treatment because they weren't strong enough for that. But he was interested in what some of the possibilities were. He was a great scrounger, too. He helped us dig up some equipment. I've forgotten what he was responsible for, but he had scrounged up a lot of equipment for his own laboratory. He was also treating venereal disease by high temperatures. He'd take a patient -- it must have been a prostitute -- and put her into kind of a coffin with heaters. He tried to paint some flowers on it or something, because some people were scared when they saw this coffin. He'd raise her body temperature until the body temperature was up to 105, 106 degrees. This was before penicillin and apparently it was a reasonably effective treatment. But in order to keep track that these women were all right during the long time they were exposed to these high temperatures, he rigged up a thing to measure the heartbeat. He amplified the heartbeat and piped it around to loud speakers all around his part of the hospital, so that wherever he was he could hear the heartbeat of his patient. If it was failing, he would go and take care of it. So he was a great asset to our group.

Cornell:

Did the engineers contribute anything to the actual design? As you said, they located some of the equipment.

DuBridge:

Yes.

Cornell:

Did they help design circuits?

DuBridge:

Well, I think in an informal way they did. In designing the oscillating circuit, we followed pretty much the Berkeley designs. But they were helpful in certain aspects of the auxiliary electrical equipment, yes.

Cornell:

How did the exchange with Berkeley take place? Were there blueprints? Were there visits? How did you get technical information from the physicists there?

DuBridge:

Well, it was primarily from their published papers, showing designs of the cyclotron pretty completely. I don't remember that we got any blueprints. It turned out that Sidney Barnes was a real instrument and equipment designer. He went out to Berkeley and looked over the material, made his own notes, spent some time there, then came back and designed the chamber for the cyclotron. The magnet was a simple thing to design but not so easy to build because it was so big. The water heating coils took some attention. These engineers also got us in touch with the local machine shop, which machined these great big chunks of iron. They charged us for it, but I think it was a very low price in comparison with what commercial prices would have been.

Cornell:

When did you first meet Ernest Lawrence? What is your earliest recollection of him?

DuBridge:

I guess it must have been when I was here at Caltech as a post-doc. I really don't recall the very first meeting. You know, all the physicists knew each other in those days. Ernest was at Yale when I first came here. Then I think he went to Berkeley about the time I was here. Whether I met him at a meeting or on a visit to Berkeley or on his visit to Caltech, I don't remember. I certainly saw him at meetings when I was at Washington University, so I felt quite well acquainted with him by the time I went to Rochester. But it was just like I was acquainted with the other physicists: Jesse W. Beams and Don [Donald] Cooksey, Bob [Robert F.] Bacher, and other people around the country. Oh, I know. I guess I first really got acquainted with Ernest at the Ann Arbor Summer Physics Symposium, which they used to have every summer. I went there to that symposium in the summer of 1929, after my first year at Washington University, and Ernest Lawrence was there part of the time. That was it. I went back to that Summer Symposium again in 1934, on my way to Rochester. I think Ernest Lawrence was there then for a while. I got acquainted with quite a few of the people at that Ann Arbor Symposium -- people like P. A. M. Dirac, Edward U. Condon, and Arnold Sommerfeld.

Cornell:

At what point do you recall becoming aware of the cyclotron? Is this something that Lawrence had told you about?

DuBridge:

Oh, everybody knew about that. It appeared in the physics journals. I remember Ernest giving a paper in Washington about it, at the Washington Physical Society meeting. It must have been when I first came to Rochester. The cyclotron was big news in physics. Every physicist was reading about the cyclotron work, getting high energy without high voltage. R. J. Van de Graaff was getting high energy with high voltage at the same time. Both techniques turned out to be very valuable.

Cornell:

Had you at any point considered building a Van de Graaff machine?

DuBridge:

No. That looked like a pretty big job. The cyclotron was a much more amenable thing to build, for a given energy. You see, a million-volt Van de Graaff machine was a big thing then. It was before they learned how to put them in pressurized containers. So that first million-volt Van de Graaff machine was an enormous structure. But our cyclotron would fit easily in this room and gave us six-million-volt protons.

Cornell:

But it was complicated enough.

DuBridge:

Well, not as complicated as an electrostatic machine, I don't believe.

Cornell:

Did you ever feel that you had bitten off more than you could chew, with the cyclotron?

DuBridge:

No. It came easily. I was so lucky to have Barnes, who was so mechanically ingenious and clever, and we had a very good man in the shop who could make the cyclotron chamber for us, and so on. Then we got Van Voorhis in, who knew about oscillators and knew everything about cyclotrons. He was an encyclopedia of information. A couple of graduate students got very skilled at it, too. No, we just thought we were having a hell of a good time! And it was so much fun, because Cornell was building a cyclotron at the same time. And Michigan was. Later Alex [Alexander J.] Allen at Pittsburgh started one. Bob Bacher was at Cornell and so was Stan [M. Stanley] Livingston, who'd been working with Lawrence. So there was a whole club of cyclotroneers growing around the country. We met each other at meetings and exchanged information and ideas by correspondence—and by telephone calls sometimes.

Cornell:

I'm curious about how the graduate students picked their projects. Did you encourage graduate students to take particular lines of research with the cyclotron, or did that just arise out of their participation?

DuBridge:

Well, a good deal of both. When I went to Rochester, there were several graduate students there, who didn't have anybody to work with. So right away they came and said: "Look, can't we work with you? Can you help us?" So I started them working on various aspects of the photoelectric effect. I would suggest a problem. But they would go ahead with it and often elaborate it and extend it. They became real collaborators. I think, for the most part, when they arrived they needed help. They couldn't pick out a problem. They didn't know what was available, what equipment there was, what the problems were. There were plenty of problems lying around for the cyclotron and for the photoelectric effect, which we continued along for some time. There was no dearth of problems. But there is a problem in helping a student to choose an exciting problem.

Cornell:

I'm curious about that procedure. Would the student come in and say, "I'm not sure what to do," and you'd say, "Try this, this, and this" -- or did it vary in each case?

DuBridge:

It varied in each case. But it was really very simple. Usually the graduate student had no real conception of what research was, or how to get started or what research problems there were, or what equipment there was available to carry them out. Usually I'd have a graduate student not try any research for the first few months at least, or maybe the first year, while he got acquainted with some of the elementary graduate courses and got acquainted with the department and saw what research was going on. Then maybe we'd assign him to work as an assistant to one of the other graduate students or something like that -- just to get his hands dirty and get a feel for what was going on. So it usually came about in a natural way. After a while we'd say: "Why don't you try this thing. Why don't you work with so and so. The two of you work together on that." I never thought it was any big deal.

Cornell:

Would you have regular, formal meetings where people in the department would present what they were doing?

DuBridge:

Oh, yes, sure. The weekly colloquium is an essential feature of any physics department. I remember getting introduced to it at Wisconsin as a graduate student. Every week, at 4 o'clock Thursday afternoon or whenever it was, there would be a colloquium attended by all members of the department -- faculty, graduate students, and often members of other departments if it was something of chemical or mathematical interest. As a matter of fact, one year my thesis advisor at Wisconsin asked me if I would take charge of organizing the colloquia. What we did was, he would look over the papers -- which he could understand much better than I -- and say: "Here's an interesting paper by these people over in Munich. I think we ought to report on that." Well, of course, it was in German in the Zeitschrift fur Physik, and I would have to read it and then find somebody to read it and report on it. It was a marvelous education for me. But it was simply a matter of picking someone -- a graduate student usually, or sometimes a faculty member -- to give a report on something that appeared in the literature. That continued, every place I went. The physics research conference goes on every Thursday afternoon here at Caltech.

Cornell:

How would a graduate student know when he was finished?

DuBridge:

Well, first there was a certain time requirement. Second, there were certain minimum course requirements that he had to complete. Usually he had to complete a Master's degree first, doing an acceptable thesis that would give him some experience in research. Then he went on to a Ph.D. thesis. When he got his research to a stage where the results were publishable, he had to write up his thesis and present it to the examining committee and get his thesis accepted and approved. We usually managed to see that in four years -- usually not more than five (it takes longer now, mostly) -- a man had his thesis completed and had passed his graduate courses. There was a preliminary examination on general topics in physics, a kind of a candidacy examination, to admit him to candidacy for the Ph.D. That was usually given shortly after he got his Master's degree. Then he had to pass all his courses. His thesis supervisor had to keep track of what he was doing and report to the chairman of the department that the work was or was not going all right. Then he had to defend his thesis and explain what he had done and answer questions about it. The faculty would try to find out if he knew what he was talking about, whether his thesis really represented some interesting results, and then pass him for the Ph.D. It seems to be more difficult now, because the thesis seems to take longer -- especially the ones where the people have to go to Fermilab or Stanford or someplace else to do the experimental work.

Cornell:

In looking over the dissertations at Rochester, I was surprised to find that there are about the same number of photoelectric effect dissertations as cyclotron dissertations. I guess I hadn't expected that you would run both those lines of research simultaneously.

DuBridge:

Well, you see, we didn't get the cyclotron going until about 1938. There were four years of nothing but photoelectric things going on. I've forgotten when the first theses on nuclear physics appeared. We had some preliminary papers on the design of the cyclotron and the early experiments on its energy. Then we began getting radioactivities produced. Anything we bombarded would come out radioactive, you know, so it was a matter of finding out what the radioactivities were and trying to work out the various decay periods that were involved. Then we had to get the chemical separation, to see whether it was this chemical or that chemical that was emitting for these various periods, and so on. But, yes, we kept the photoelectric work going, too. You see, just my last year or so at Washington University, R. H. Fowler had come out with a new theory of the photoelectric effect that was a godsend for me. It gave a guide to a lot of new theoretical and experimental work on the photoelectric effect. It had special value because it could confirm, or test, the Fermi theory of metallic conduction—which was an extraordinary theory in its time. Everybody thought that free electrons floated around in a metal, just like in a gas and that their energy would be determined by the Maxwell distribution function. No way, Enrico Fermi said. No two electrons can have the same spin and energy. There had to be a separate spin-energy state for each electron, which means that all the low energies were filled. Instead of electrons having energies of a few hundredths of a volt, they had energies of up to ten volts. This was a striking, shocking thing. Yet all the photoelectric experiments confirmed in detail the nature of the Fermi energy distribution. There are a lot of ways to do it: measuring the energy distribution of electrons, measuring the number emitted as a function of frequency, measuring the change of threshold with temperature, and things like that. All of these problems just popped right out of the Fowler theory.

Cornell:

Did the students who worked on that sort of project, have contact with the cyclotron students?

DuBridge:

They were all mixed together. Each one had his own problem. But they all came to the same seminars, and I think they kept in touch with each other's problems very continually. Occasionally a student would switch over. Maybe he'd do his Master's thesis on photoelectricity and then say, "Well, I'd like to do the nuclear thing now" -- and do his Doctor's on the cyclotron.

Cornell:

Which of the student projects did you feel you were most closely associated with? Presumably some students were more independent-minded than others. I'm not sure quite how to put the question. What particular student projects did you feel that you were most in touch with?

DuBridge:

Well, you see, all of the projects were collaborations between faculty and students. Essentially every paper that had my name on it also had a student's name on it. Later, as the student got more advanced, he would publish a paper under his own name and just acknowledge my assistance. But in nearly all the papers of those days you'll see first the name of Barnes or one of the other faculty members, then the student's. Each paper had one or two co-authors. I remember some of my friends enjoyed the paper in which the authors were "DuBridge, Barnes, Buck, and Strain."[2] Jack [J.H.] Buck and Charlie [C.V.] Strain were two of the graduate students who got their Ph.D.s there. If you look at the other papers, you'll see there are other names on them, too. So this was all a very close relationship. We were all working on the cyclotron together.

Cornell:

I think that's an important point. It really was a collaborative effort, faculty and students.

DuBridge:

Yes, that's right.

Cornell:

And not just physics faculty. Would there be chemistry people?

DuBridge:

The chemist was E. O. Wiig. He was very helpful with chemical separation. We'd have a piece of platinum that we'd bombarded with protons. There were radioactivities, but they weren't all platinum, of course. Some of the platinum had been transformed into something else, and there might also be impurities. So he would give us ways of separating the materials out. Some of these were quite critical, and it was very important to know whether the proton reaction had produced another element or simply another isotope of the same element. You see, the p-n reaction -- where a proton goes in and a neutron comes out -- gives you an element of the same weight but with one higher atomic number. On the other hand, a p-alpha reaction gives you one with an atomic number two less. And just a proton absorption -- a proton scattering, excitation, a proton in and a proton out -- that may excite the atom to a higher energy level. It would give off a gamma ray, but it would be the same element. So it was quite important to find out which elements we were dealing with.

Cornell:

That must have been very confusing at first.

DuBridge:

We tried to have a pure substance to be bombarded -- so you could pretty well figure out what possible elements could be produced. All of the elements produced had to be either the same atomic number or the atomic number plus one, or the atomic number minus two (for a p-alpha reaction). So you went after those first. That usually exhausted the important ones. Sometimes impurities confused you and then you tried a purer substance.

Cornell:

Did you ever make mistakes in the identifications?

DuBridge:

Oh, sure. I don't know how many mistakes we published. We made mistakes in the initial research. Usually we were able to check them out and get the right answer before we made the publication.

Cornell:

Was there pressure to publish rapidly, or did you have a chance to really check things?

DuBridge:

Oh, we didn't feel under very much pressure. We wanted to publish as much as we could, but we sure wanted it to be right and acceptable. We would often check our results with other laboratories: "Are you getting the same result? Are you doing this too?" Sometimes they were and sometimes not. One of our strong collaborators was Hans A. Bethe, who was at Cornell. He was really the first one to spot that we had discovered the proton-neutron reaction, because we had talked with him verbally. We had a very close relationship with the Cornell group. We'd talked to him about some of the radioactivities we were finding. They were due to an element with one atomic number above the number that we were bombarding. Yet it was not a proton capture, because that could be identified. It was something else, and Bethe first said, "That could be a proton-neutron reaction." He worked out the energetics of it, and under what conditions you could have a proton going in and then emitting a neutron. You'd get a radioactive electron emission of a certain energy, and the energies had to balance. So we had to check that. Bethe was a very fine collaborator.

Cornell:

Was there a theoretical physicist at Rochester?

DuBridge:

Oh, yes. One of the first things we did when I went to Rochester, was to bring in two theoretical physicists. One was Fred [Frederick] Seitz and the other one was Milton S. Plesset. You know Fred Seitz's career. Milton Plesset stayed with us two or three years. Then he came back to Caltech. He's still here.

Cornell:

Where did the interest to hire a theoretical physicist come from? Was that your idea?

DuBridge:

Oh, that was my idea. I knew as soon as I got there. We really didn't have a first class theoretical physicist at Washington University. Jauncey was pretty good at many things. But quantum mechanics was just breaking, and the only theoretical physicist at Washington University was Vladimir Rojansky, who had just arrived as a theoretical Ph.D. from Minnesota. But he only stayed a couple of years. Then there was nobody really familiar with quantum mechanics at Washington University, and we felt the lack of that. So the first thing I did when I came to Rochester was to make sure that we had a theoretician -- and I thought you needed two, because one would be lonesome. It's a good thing we did that. So we had Seitz and Plesset. Then later we got Victor F. Weisskopf, when Seitz left us for higher ground. Van Voorhis was a good theoretical physicist. So we always had two good theoretical physicists. R. E. Marshak came along later.

Cornell:

Was Banesh Hoffmann there?

DuBridge:

Benny Hoffmann was there, yes.

Cornell:

Was he associated with the physics department?

DuBridge:

Let's see. I think he had some kind of a joint relationship with mathematics. I can't recall his connection now. But, sure, Benny was around. He was more into relativity than quantum mechanics. We had a lot of visitors. Ed Condon used to come. He was an old friend of mine. And Niels Bohr came. It was Niels Bohr who put us onto Vicky Weisskopf. We needed a theoretical physicist, and while Bohr was visiting I asked, "Do you know any good theoretical physicists in Europe that we might get?" He said: "There's a wonderful one at Copenhagen now, a refugee from Austria, by the name of Victor Weisskopf. If you get him it would be great, and I think he'd like to come." Well, one cable and it was all set. That was one of my proudest achievements, bringing Vicky Weisskopf to the United States. I was a little sad later. He went to Los Alamos during the war and returned to Rochester before I got back and got hold of things. He was in negotiation with the president about his return. He had been offered other jobs, but he would have liked to have gone back to Rochester. But President Valentine, with whom he talked, was not willing to make him an adequate offer. I wasn't there, and I was upset when I found that Vicky had decided to go to MIT. Of course, it was a good thing for him. But it was a disappointment. I was leaving right away, it turned out afterwards, anyway. But I was sad that he wasn't given a proper postwar position at Rochester.

Cornell:

That must have been a difficult transition, with so many people leaving Rochester for the wartime projects and then coming back.

DuBridge:

Yes. The whole department was paralyzed. There were only two or three people left to do some teaching. But later on, the Atomic Energy Commission started some research there, largely through the medical school. They brought in some physicists to do some cyclotron work and got some money to improve the cyclotron a good deal. They were doing some work that was pertinent to the Atomic Energy Project -- especially on the biological side, with Staff Warren. So a war job did keep the department alive.

Cornell:

It must have been difficult to be in Valentine's position during the war.

DuBridge:

Yes. I felt sorry for him. It broke him. He wasn't the same man after the war, and I never understood why. I think there were too many personal strains. I remember that when I went to him after the war and told him I decided to come to Caltech, I really hated to go -- because he just said: "Oh my God, we're never going to have a department. Everybody's leaving!"

Cornell:

It was actually a measure of the success of Rochester, that it turned out an impressive faculty, graduate students and so forth, who were fully capable of going on to these other places.

DuBridge:

I know. But they recovered, and they got some wonderful people. Marshak rebuilt the department, and they brought in others. It's a booming place now. But it was tough on Valentine, and it broke him. I really think he had a nervous breakdown, because he had very uncharacteristic -- I thought very uncharacteristic -- bursts of temper towards the end of the war. As a matter of fact, when I told him that I was coming out here, he wrote an outrageously angry letter to the chairman of the Caltech board, denouncing him for stealing one of his people without letting him know. It just was a very improper thing to do. However, he forgot about it. He came out to my inauguration and went with us afterward to the little celebration with the gang that Alfred L. Loomis arranged at Pebble Beach. We had a weekend celebration up there with some old friends: Ernest Lawrence, Ed [Edwin M.] McMillan, Alfred Loomis, and some others.

Cornell:

Had you gotten offers before the war to go to other places?

DuBridge:

I had an offer to go to Westinghouse that I had to struggle with for quite a while. This was a question of going into industrial work. I went down and looked over the place. There was a fellow I knew slightly who was there then. But I've forgotten his name. (Joseph Slepian) I was seriously considering it. I told them that if I came I would want to bring a good theoretical physicist along. They agreed, and I said, "What I'd like to do is to get Ed Condon to come with me, if I come." Then I decided not to come. But by then they'd gotten interested in Condon. So they took him. He became the director of the Westinghouse Research Laboratory, and he remained there during the war. But I finally decided, in the first place, their salary offer was not nearly what I thought it ought to be to go into industrial work. It was not enough more than the Rochester one. So I declined it for that reason. Then I just finally decided that university work was my place. That was the only serious offer I had. After I came out here, I had several. But there was no problem there, because I didn't want anything that would take me away from Caltech.

Cornell:

What becomes clear is that you are very committed to academic life.

DuBridge:

Well, the Westinghouse thing was clear. It was the end of my doubts and my wife's doubts too. She was a little entranced with the idea that maybe an industrial job would put us much more on Easy Street financially. But when she found the Westinghouse offer was not nearly what she had hoped -- and Rochester, of course, came along and partially met it -- she was quite happy. She said, "Well, I can see you don't want to give up your cap and gown, and I guess maybe we shouldn't." Well, what else about Rochester?

Cornell:

I could ask about funding. How did you get in touch with the Research Corporation initially?

DuBridge:

Oh, everybody knew about the Research Corporation. It was just a shot in the dark. We didn't get a large grant from them. We got some. It was during the war that I really became acquainted with the Research Corporation, because we got them to run our model laboratory at MIT. They made model radar equipment for use in the field, fast and long before the production models were ready. The Research Corporation ran that as a subsidiary. Then, later, they gave me a Research Corporation award out here, an honorary award. I don't remember how much they gave us at Rochester. It was not very much, maybe $500.

Cornell:

But, still, it was something. If you compare it to now, it doesn't sound like much. But the real comparison is to the twenties.

DuBridge:

Of course.

Cornell:

That's an important sum.

DuBridge:

There were very, very few sources of external funding. I knew the Rockefeller Foundation people, Warren Weaver.

Cornell:

When had you met him?

DuBridge:

He was my math teacher at Wisconsin. He had been here, but I didn't know him here. But he was my math teacher at Wisconsin. I got along very well in his courses, and we became good friends. Then during the war, he was on one of the NDRC committees. I remember traveling on the train to Florida with him during the war for a meeting of this NDRC committee. We just had a marvelous time together. So I felt fairly close to Warren Weaver. The Rockefeller Foundation was switching over to biology at that time, so we didn't get any help from Rockefeller. There were not many other places to go.

Cornell:

Did Valentine ever give you the sense that physics was expanding too fast? It really was a remarkable expansion: the number of students, new faculty, equipment with these outside grants. Conceivably that could have put pressure on other departments in the university.

DuBridge:

Well, chemistry was doing very well. Noyes was a marvelous chemist, a nationally recognized chemist. He was building a strong chemistry department at the same time. I don't know how the funds compared. Chemistry equipment isn't often as expensive as physics equipment. But he was building a substantial department there, just across the campus. So was biology. Willier was building a strong biology department. Dave [David R.] Goddard succeeded him. Dave later became head of the biology department at Pennsylvania. Unfortunately he died recently. And Curt Stern was a world famous geneticist at Rochester. He later went to Berkeley. Under Rush Rhees's initial impetus, which Valentine carried on enthusiastically, they wanted to make a strong scientific research establishment there at the university -- to match the strength of the medical school.

Cornell:

I guess another thing I've never been clear on is how you were chosen as dean at Rochester.

DuBridge:

Well, let's see. Dean Weld left to become president of Wells College.

Cornell:

Then Leonard Carmichael came.

DuBridge:

He came to replace Weld, and then later went to Tufts. So there was a vacancy. Several of us were talking about it, and I thought that Dexter Perkins would be the ideal person. So I went to Valentine and said, "If you want my opinion, I'd love to see Dexter Perkins as the new dean of the faculty." And Valentine said, "Well, thanks, I'll think about it." Then I went to Dexter and said the same thing," I hope that you're the next dean of the faculty." And he said, "As a matter of fact, I hoped that you'd be." I said, "What?" He'd gone to Valentine and suggested that I be the dean of the faculty. Well, Valentine asked me to be. I don't know any more than that. I'm sure Valentine checked with other people around the campus. I've forgotten whether Willier was still there or not. Noyes certainly was.

Cornell:

Were they looking for someone who was already on the faculty?

DuBridge:

Not necessarily, no. But I think that if they found a faculty member, that would be a happy solution. But it didn't last long, because right away I went to MIT. I felt a bit sorry about that.

Cornell:

What were some of the faculty concerns at the time?

DuBridge:

Oh, dear.

Cornell:

Now people will talk about student enrollments. How do you keep enrollments up?

DuBridge:

I don't recall that being a problem there then. It's certainly is no problem here. The question is how to keep it down. How do you take 1200 applications and reduce them to 200 admissions? That's true at many universities, but not the small colleges. We had quite a lot of curricular reform. I remember Valentine appointed a curriculum committee that included Professor E. B. Taylor, who was the head of the education department -- the only professor of education I ever really respected, and he was fine -- and we had meetings with Valentine at the Eastman House, quite a lot of evening meetings where we'd sit around with a glass of scotch and talk about the curriculum for several hours. We finally submitted a report to the faculty, which was accepted. But don't ask me what the curriculum changes were. They were substantial but not wildly radical. It was a question about how many science courses should be required and what other requirements should be here and there. But we felt it was a useful improvement, because the university still had the kind of curricular requirements of the days when it was a small liberal arts church college.

Cornell:

That's one of the things that makes it interesting. The University of Rochester was very definitely going through a change in its character.

DuBridge:

Of course.

Cornell:

I'm curious to know what it looked like from your point of view.

DuBridge:

Well, it's not the only university that did that. Trinity College became Duke, you know. Same thing. But it was an interesting transition, and it was a brave and bold move on the part of the Rush Rhees. Eastman had said that he wasn't going to support education with his money, that he had other things to do. Rhees over the years prepared him, just with friendship and talking with him. He persuaded him that education was the most productive place for his money. So he made this enormous gift to MIT anonymously, and then these three enormous gifts to Rochester. But Rush Rhees knew exactly how to steer Eastman's gifts. He steered him into creating the music school, the medical school, and then finally the college. So it was Rush Rhees's wisdom, combined with George Eastman's money, that made the transformation, that made it work and made it go very smoothly and very effectively.

Cornell:

In one of my proposals that I sent to you, I pointed out the importance of the Eastman money. Then you reminded me in one of your marginal comments that the physics building was the "Bausch and Lomb" building.

DuBridge:

Oh, yes. And there's James E. Gleason. Gleason was a trustee, and I think he was very generous with Rochester -- not on the scale of Eastman, but still I think Gleason was a very important influence in the business community. He was a very highly respected man there. They had a little club. What did they call it? Some little exotic name of a club. There were about a dozen members. Gleason was a leading member of it and invited me to be part of it. I think Valentine was in it, too. We'd meet at homes, and have dinner and then spend the evening -- and somebody would have a paper for discussion. I remember what a fine man Gleason was, and I know how important he was in promoting Rochester and the community. There was also the Stomberg-Carlson Company. Their help was important. So Eastman was a good stimulus to others. That so often happens, when one man makes a generous gift and you see the spectacular results, then others come on his coattails.

Cornell:

It's almost as if the support for the cyclotron project reflected the larger community interest in the university as a whole.

DuBridge:

That's absolutely true, yes.

Cornell:

I think the extent of the community support is one of the things that stands out about the Rochester cyclotron.

DuBridge:

In dollars, you know, it was not very great. But the net result was a laboratory that really made a name for itself.

Cornell:

It reflects the genuine interest among leading Rochesterians for the university as a whole, as well as the particular project.

DuBridge:

That's right, yes. As far as I can tell, that still is true. There's good city support for the university.

Cornell:

I guess one question about the transition from Rochester to the wartime project: how did the things you'd done and learned at Rochester help you manage such a complex operation? Or was it just a wholly new enterprise that you had to learn as you went along?

DuBridge:

Both. It started out small, and the initial group was just my cyclotron friends from around the country. From Cornell, from Pittsburgh, from Princeton, from Columbia, from Michigan, from Berkeley. Ernest Lawrence was the leading light in the initial recruitment of me and the others. We just got our good cyclotron friends together, and we got briefed on the new job. We were all physicists. We'd all been dealing with high frequency oscillations in the cyclotron. So we got together there and got our first briefings, mostly from Taffy Bowen, E. G. Bowen, who had come over from England with the magnetron at the time that H. T. Tizard came over. He briefed us on microwave circuits and microwave applications, and on how these things worked in airplanes and how airplanes shot each other down. We found it all very exciting. Bowen knew perfectly well how to make a circuit to pulse the magnetron, and how to make the microwave circuits to carry the power to the antenna, and how to get the receivers to work, and so on. So it was not a big job. It was just applying our physics to a new field. We became electrical engineers, actually. As a matter of fact, towards the end of the war some of the physicists were saying, "We must publicize the fact that the physicists made a big contribution to the war." They turned to Mervin J. Kelly, who was head of the Bell Laboratories, and he said, "Yes, what the physicists did during the war was, they became good electrical engineers."

Cornell:

How about in an organizational sense? You were using physics, that you were comfortable with. But you had also served as chairman of the department and dean of the arts and science faculty. Was there a smooth transition there?

DuBridge:

Yes and no. In the first place, Alfred Loomis and Ernest Lawrence had preceded me in getting acquainted with the business. It was Lawrence who asked me to come, and Alfred asked me to be the director. They had already looked into this business and understood what had to be done. They'd actually gotten a group of industrial people on the microwave committee and had some of them at work making magnetrons and microwave receivers and so on. So they had a group of people already at work around the country on components. As we got together -- Ernest, Taffy Bowen, and Loomis -- we said, "Well, we've got to have somebody to work on pulsing equipment to supply high voltages pulses to the magnetron, some people working on magnetrons to improve and understand them, some people working on receivers, on transmission lines, on antennas." So we just organized a group for each one of those and appointed a head of the group. Those were the component groups. Then we were going to make an aircraft interceptor system -- radar for use in fighter aircraft -- which was called the AI. It was our first project, the Aircraft Interceptor. That was a 10-centimeter radar to fit into a fighter airplane. So we had a systems group to make that. Then later we were doing bombing radar and seaborne radar and gunlaying radar. So we had systems groups. These all came naturally. We kept a whole series of component groups. They were the same components, you know -- pulsers, magnetrons, transmission antennas, receivers, display -- and then the different systems. As each new idea for a system came along, a subgroup would be set up to develop an integrated system. They'd go to the receiver group and tell them: "This is the kind of receiver that we need." Similarly, they'd go to the pulser group, the antenna group, and so on, and bring them all together. So, again, it was different. But it was a transition. It was all so exciting. We were all so happily engaged in an exciting project together that was almost like continuing with our cyclotron work.

Cornell:

I guess there was a lot of continuity in personnel as well.

DuBridge:

Exactly, yes. We brought our friends in. Pretty soon we ran out of friends, and we had to bring in a lot of graduate students and others. But we combed the physics community first. We certainly had a large share of the active physicists. Many of them were later taken away from us to go to Los Alamos, but that was fair enough. Bacher, for example, and K. T. Bainbridge. They were originally with us at MIT but went to Los Alamos later.

Cornell:

After the war, you wrote a number of articles on research in the universities, on education. I'm still curious about your philosophy of education -- exactly how research fits in, how work like the cyclotron fits in. Maybe I could just ask you the question right out: which of your postwar speeches and articles most accurately reflect your philosophy?

DuBridge:

I don't even know what they are anymore!

Cornell:

Again that's a vague question.

DuBridge:

I suppose the archives at Caltech has a file of my published and unpublished papers and speeches. Have you inquired?

Cornell:

They've sent me a bibliography of your publications. I started looking through them, and I was surprised at the steady stream of articles after World War II, addressing the problem of research in universities. You've never felt that there was any problem with reconciling research with teaching.

DuBridge:

Oh, no.

Cornell:

Well, there are some people who do feel there is a tension between the two.

DuBridge:

I know. But that's an illusion, I thought. Because from the very beginning -- well, from my first year of graduate work at Wisconsin -- it was very clear to me that teaching and research were part of the same thing. All the professors in the Wisconsin department were doing both teaching and research, enjoying both, and each one reflecting values from the other. You know, in his research, when a man was talking thermodynamics and at the same time doing some important paper on the various thermodynamic effects in a basic physics laboratory, that sort of made his students sit up and take notice: this is real. And the same way with electronics and atomic physics and so on. You know, physics is a growing and developing field. If you're going to teach students about physics they've got to realize that it's not a static thing that was written down by Newton. Instead, it's something that's growing every day. The excitement of it is just in the growth and the change. If students don't get that, they don't get anything. I think that an essential feature of the university is the bringing of the new developments -- the new ideas and the new research -- and the students together.

Cornell:

And you think that that sense goes all the way back to your own graduate work?

DuBridge:

Oh, yes. In fact, I think even to my undergraduate teacher at Cornell College. He was the only man in the department. He had rather recently received his own Ph.D. at Illinois. But he always picked two or three of his undergraduate students to help him in the student laboratories. He didn't try to do any research, but he encouraged each of us to do some little experiment of our own. For example, he had me set up an ionization chamber to see if I could detect ionization by X-rays. Well, I couldn't. But it was an interesting experience. So each of us was doing a special experiment. He tried to do as much as possible, to take the good students and instead of giving them the standard experiments say, "Why don't you try this?" He was very good at that. It wasn't long after I got into my second year of physics that he said, "Look, you ought to go on to graduate work." That had never occurred to me before. I didn't know you could make money by being a physicist. But he got me interested, and he wrote to a friend of his at Wisconsin and said: "I've got a good student here. Why don't you give him an assistantship?" And he did. That was all there was to it.

Cornell:

There is this notion of research, that it's done as something separate from education. I really think it is important to see how closely related -- how naturally related-teaching and research are.

DuBridge:

In the universities, they are. One thing that people miss when they go to industrial laboratories is the contact with students. They usually make up for it by having young assistants coming in and learning the business, who are essentially their students. But the lack of contact with students is one of the things that the industrial physicists often say they miss, if they've had the experience before. If you talk with the Caltech people, their contact with the students is their joy, both the graduates and the undergraduates. So at Caltech it's always been the policy to have every member of the faculty be both a teacher and a research man. R. A. Millikan started the system of having very light teaching loads. He said, "You're being paid half of your time to do teaching and half of your time to do research, so you shouldn't be teaching more than one course." (Or maybe if it was an easy course, one and a half or something like that.) "The rest of the time you're doing research." Millikan established that policy from his experience at Chicago -- where they didn't have such a policy but he thought they should. He did, for himself, at Chicago. He had enough influence to say, "I'll teach one course and do research." So he did. But he spent an awful lot of time in teaching, too, and wrote a textbook. In fact, he spent his first year at Chicago doing teaching and writing textbooks for students. Then he got into research. No, I don't think anybody has any doubts about this anymore. The only question is the degree. There are some people who feel that the research has squeezed out teaching, and in some places the teaching is neglected. We've tried at Caltech -- during all of the administrations from Millikan on -- to emphasize the importance of the teaching aspect of the professor's job. So the professors devote a lot of time to student affairs, with joy. They don't regard it a chore necessarily. A few of the jobs are chores, but then some of the research jobs are chores, too. That's part of it.

Cornell:

OK. I think that covers the kinds of questions I wanted to talk with you about. I really appreciate your taking the time.

DuBridge:

All right. I'll be interested to see what you come up with.

[1]"The Amplification of Small Direct Currents," Physical Review, 37 (15 Feb. 1931), 392-400.

[2]"Proton Induced Radioactivities," Physical Review, 53 (15 Mar. 1938), 447-453.