Oral History Transcript — Dr. Alan Holden
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Alan Holden; July 30, 1974
ABSTRACT: Harvard University to Bell Laboratories in 1925 seeking job as chemist, ending up in the General Methods and Audits Department for five years; Publications Department, 1930; editor of Bell Laboratories Record. Depression lay-offs at Bell Labs. Holden to Chemistry Department (under Girard T. Kohman), 1936; W. Edgerton. Informal groups studying Mott and Jones Theory of Metals, Tolmanís Statistical Mechanics. Comments on numerous other scientists including William Shockley, Foster Nix, James Fisk, Bancroft Gherardi. Solid state group formed in 1945. Why scientists may prefer Bell Labs to a university setting. Comments on continuities in the fields of solid state; dielectrics in the chemistry department rather than in physics department. Holdenís work on piezoelectricity and with Charles Kittel on paramagnetic resonance absorption in crystals. Also prominently mentioned are: John Bardeen, Joseph A. Becker, Walter Houser Brattain, Joseph Ashby Burton, Clinton Joseph Davisson, Lester Halbert Germer, Ronald Gurney, Phillip James, Edwin Crawford Kemble, Warren Perry Mason, Merritt, Stanley Owen Morgan, Sir Nevill Francis Mott, John Clarke Slater, Charles Hard Townes, John Hasbrouck Van Vleck, Addison Hughson White, Dean E. Wooldridge, Bill Yager; Bell System Technical Journal, Columbia University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Session I | Session II
Hoddeson:Iím trying to learn as much as I possibly can about the development of solid state physics at Bell Labs especially in the period, 1925 - 40. Iím just beginning work. Iím getting a lot of information by talking to people, looking at old organization charts, and internal memos that were circulated in those days. Soon arrangements will be made to enable ne to get into Warren, where records are kept. I know Bell laboratory notebooks are sent over to Warren but I donít believe they are keeping personal correspondence of former staff members.
Holden:They have absolutely nothing of mine, which is all right.
Hoddeson:Where is your correspondence?
Holden:Well, I was a very poor record keeper. Oh, there may be a laboratory notebook there, but it will be a far from definitive sort of a piece. No, Iím a very poor record keeper. I deeply regret it.
Hoddeson:Letís see now, you came to Bell Labs right from Harvard in 1925.
Holden:I did, but if you want my curious history --
Hoddeson:Iíd love to hear it.
Holden:I came to Bell Labs from Harvard in 1925 looking for a job as a chemist, and it was the last of my leads for a job as a chemist. I was interviewed there, and then heard nothing. So then I went back there and said ďWhat about it?Ē and they said, ďWell, unfortunately, we donít have any jobs for chemists right now.Ē I said, ďWhat sorts of jobs do you have? I need dough.Ē And they said, ďWell, we have a job in the accounting department.Ē And I said, ďFine, Iíll take it.Ē So I became an accountant, well, a general methods and audits department member, and spent a happy five years in that department, learning a lot of things you donít learn at Harvard, and in particular a great deal about a kind of people that you never meet at Harvard, and this fascinated me. And Iíve not regretted it, really, except insofar as one must remember that 1925 was the year of Schrodingerís first paper, and by the time five years were over, most of quantum mechanics really had been wrapped up, you know, done.
Hoddeson:That was the time when quantum mechanics was being applied to solids, by Sommerfeld in Ď28, and others, Bethe, Bloch, --
Holden:Bloch, Pauli, Pauli paramagnetism, all these things.
Hoddeson:Yes, Born, Mayer -- and others.
Holden:At the end of five years, 1930, I guess, thereabouts they needed somebody in the publications department and somebody said, ďWell, thereís a little boy down in the accounting department who knows some science and who seems to be able to write reasonably well.Ē So they moved me up to the publications department, where I edited other peopleís papers for a certain amount of time, and for the most part really wrote Bell Laboratories Record a magazine which youíre now acquainted with.
Hoddeson:You edited the articles for the magazine?
Holden:Well, yes, they had two or three editors for Bell Laboratories Record and essentially what we did was to write those articles, on the basis of either interviews or little scratchings from the ostensible authors, and we wrote Bell Laboratories Record once a month.
Hoddeson:Who else was --?
Holden:Well, Phillip Jones and Alex Findly were the editors, along with me. The editor-in-chief of the thing was Paul Findley, not related to Alex.
Hoddeson:Did you divide up the responsibilities by subject matter?
Holden:No, -- well, somewhat, yes. Yes, it tended to go that way. Phil took the articles on systems design and things of that sort, and I tended to get the science articles because of my background. Well, I stayed in the publications department for, I guess, six years. So in 1936 or thereabouts, when the Depression had -- I was nearly fired, because they let out a thousand people at that time. It was an important fraction of the people at the Bell Laboratories. And I think it was in 1936 probably, when all that let-out had been finished, and departments were still not allowed to hire any new people, that there was a general moving about and department heads were catching as catch could. They went about trying to persuade so and so to join their department, transfer and this kind of thing. And the chemical people, of whom Iíd seen quite a bit by that time, the chemical people said ďHey, thereís a guy, you know, in the publications department, knows some chemistry, letís see if we canít get him.Ē And I moved over to the chemistry department, very happily.
Hoddeson:Which group in chemistry did you join?
Holden:The first group was G. T. Kohman, about 1936.
Hoddeson:Here we are, (see Organization Chart 1935), you worked with Egerton, is that right?
Holden:Yes, Egerton. Yes, I was in that area.
Hoddeson:What was the focus? It says here ďphysico-chemical research.Ē
Holden:Yes. You know, or maybe you donít know, that the chemistry department was primarily in those days a service department. It was a grubby department really, a service department, and whereas it was a branch of the research department as a whole, it was a pretty grubby organization. And I did all sorts of workaday chemical things, mostly physical chemical, yes, but if you want to know a characteristic thing, I recall having spent some time on the following: The tube: The vacuum tube department had got wind of the fact that you could make a better barium oxide, strontium oxide coating to a vacuum tube filament if you followed a recipe other than that which they were following, namely, one that they had managed to find that the General Electric Co. had worked up. This involved precipitating co-precipitating the carbonates of barium and strontium in a particular way and under particular conditions and things, and then firing them in a particular way. And they put an order on the chemistry department to prepare for them some of these co-precipitated carbonates, and they wanted a whale of a lot, so I set up a rig to do that whole thing on a moderately large scale for such an operation in the laboratory, and precipitated these things and filtered them and dried them and did all that sort of business. This was, as I say, a characteristic sort of thing which was done in the chemistry department.
Hoddeson:In the period between 1924 and Ď30, were you in touch with the development of quantum mechanics?
Holden:1925, 1930, no, not at all --
Hoddeson:I happened to read the transcript of an interview that you conducted with Brattain in, I think, 1964.
Holden:When was it? 64?
Hoddeson:No, wait a minute, this is another interview. Iíll come back to that one. This is a second interview that Charlie Weiner did with Brattain. In it there is some discussion about a long period when Brattain and Becker didnít publish anything. And then he mentioned that you got interested in their work, and they got out an article on the copper oxide work in the Record. But I couldnít find that article.
Holden:Does he recall if it was in the Bell Laboratories Record? I recall writing that thing.
Hoddeson:Yes, thatís what he said, but I couldnít find it there.
Holden:Yes, thatís quite possible. Itís quite possible that it never finally showed up in the Record, or was never indeed published. But I did have that interaction with Walter, and I forget why the thing wasnít published, but I do begin to recall that it wasnít. I do begin to recall that it wasnít, and it seems to me that Brattain -- I donít want to do Brattain an injustice here, but it seems to me that Brattain, or maybe Becker or somebody there, decided that the article wouldnít do. Or perhaps that it was censored from above, and they didnít like the way that was handled. I donít know, I think youíre right. I think it didnít show up. I think it didnít.
Hoddeson:Hearing that remark of Brattainís gave me the impression that you must have been communicating rather closely with the scientists who were working around the Labs on various projects of interest.
Holden:Yes, thatís right. Well, you have to you know, if you want to write articles like that. You do communicate fairly closely. I would not say that I was communicating fairly closely with them on anything other than their articles. I was not interacting beyond that point. Sometimes I suggested to people, -- well, I would go to the Bell Labs Colloquium where people would be talking about their work, and I would suggest to one or another of them, ďHey, why donít you write that up for Bell Labs Record? Or why donít you let me write it up for Bell Labs Record?Ē That degree of interaction, yes. Then Iíd do it or theyíd do it. Weíd do it. That occurred on a number of occasions I can think of. Brattain, Stanley Morgan of the dielectrics people, probably others.
Hoddeson:Did you go to most of the colloquia?
Holden:Yes, I went to those things.
Hoddeson:I see. Then you must have heard de Broglie when he came. I just read about that in the Record yesterday; I think it was Ď31.
Hoddeson:And also Wigner?
Holden:I donít remember Wigner from that time. I remember Wigner coming again, much later, after World War II.
Hoddeson:When you wrote for the Record how did you get your information? Did you have certain liable sources for the news items, colloquia announcements? How was that done?
Holden:I think we had set up routines for submission from the colloquia secretary, for example, for programs of that kind, and I was for a number of years responsible for the news items about little goings about and travelings and goings off to do something, company business in other towns. Maybe you saw those? Meeting notes, that kind of stuff. I was responsible for writing those up. But there was a routine for departmental secretaries to send in those notices, and I would simply rephrase them or work them into proper shape.
Hoddeson:Do you think those files might still exist somewhere? That would be fascinating.
Holden:The Bell Laboratories Record has such things from those days, doesnít it?
Hoddeson:I was wondering whether everything that came in was published in the Record.
Holden:I think pretty well, yes.
Hoddeson:Is that the best place to find out who was visiting?
Holden:Who was visiting, yes. Yes, it would be a pretty good place to do that. I know of no better place to do it. Departmental secretaries were sometimes very diligent about it, and sometimes very derelict over there, you know, so you couldnít say that it was a homogeneous collection of things.
Hoddeson:I know that not everything appeared there. For example, I learned from listening to the recent Brattain interview that Brattain was sent by Becker to attend the Michigan summer school on the electron theory of solids. In his papers, thereís a notice that was sent to the members of Beckerís group when Brattain returned to Bell announcing a set of 16 or 18 informal lectures that perhaps 20 people attended. (?) based on what he learned in Michigan. Thatís not in the Bell Labs Record and I thought perhaps you might have been one of the 20 people who attended the lectures that Brattain gave.
Holden:If that was in the early thirties, Ď31, when he came back from those -- then I would not have attended, no.
Hoddeson:When did you start?
Holden:Memory doesnít strike me at all on that. Didnít know he went, didnít know he did it.
Hoddeson:Do you know other people from Bell Labs besides Brattain who went to attend the Michigan summer school? That was one of the places where leading physicists from throughout the world got together in the summer.
Holden:Whether others from Bell Labs attended? I think, since Brattain did, wouldnít a long distance call to Brattain give you the answer.
Hoddeson:Iíve heard he still has his lecture notes from his summer at Michigan.
Holden:Good for him. I recently turned up some lecture notes, but theyíre rather further back than that, namely, from Harvard, from the first course that was ever given at Harvard, which I didnít take but I sat in on it, by Edwin Kemble. The first course in quantum mechanics that they ever gave at Harvard. Fascinating.
Hoddeson:That would be very interesting for historians. You should consider letting the archivist, Joan Warnow, at AIP have a copy. I donít know if sheís been in communication with you about your papers?
Holden:No, she hasnít. There were many notes which Kemble himself cranked up for us. They werenít my personal notes. When I went into them, they were yellowing. I hope I can lay hands on them now. Iím not sure.
Hoddeson:Iíd love to see them. Maybe youíll come across them. Itís amazing how these little things that you donít think are very important when youíre putting things in boxes turn out to be very important. They have little dates and little facts.
Holden:Yes, I know.
Hoddeson:Letís talk about your Brattain interview in l964. How did you happen to do that interview?
Holden:Letís see. There was a project at the time, wasnít there, Center for History, beginning to be organized -- verbal history --
Hoddeson:the project that Charles Weiner has since been continuing.
Holden:Yes, and who was doing it, at that time, I forget.
Holden:Yes. Well, how come? My recollection is that Brattain requested me to interview him, for that thing. Now, Brattain -- I probably should request you to turn off the tape recorder -- has always been very touching in his devotion to me. He likes me. Well, ever since I did that article that you mentioned, that wasnít published, Brattain has always felt, ďGee, heís a good guy,Ē and we have known each other better and better as time went on. And he asked me if I would do this interview. I said, ďSure, swell, Iíd be glad to. Iím honored. Iím charmed.Ē
Hoddeson:Itís a good interview. I learned a great deal from it. Among other things, about an informal study group which he discussed with you on the tape.
Holden:Informal study groups were, before the war, very numerous at the Labs.
Hoddeson:Iíll read from the interview transcript of January, 1964: ďJust about 1935 we wished to educate ourselves, some of us, further than we had in our formal education, and I think the first idea was that it might be well to study the book of Mott and Jones on the theory of metals, and we decided to set the thing up on the basis that certain ones of us would take part in the discussion from time to time of the book. It was decided on pressure from others in the laboratories to allow listeners. And we ran the seminar, as you might call it, as I remember, one night a week after work for about three or four months.Ē Then he says, ďAfter summer vacations, the group of us who had been leading the discussions decided that this had not been a complete success, and that actually, if we wanted it to be good, the thing to do was to have a small group in which only those who agreed to take turns in leading the discussions were allowed to be members of the group.Ē Then he includes a list of the members as he recalls them -- Fisk, Wooldridge, Teal, Holden, Foster Nix, Addison White, Shockley, Williams.Ē Is there a Williams?
Holden:Yes, Howell Williams.
Hoddeson:-- and Brattain. Then he recalls that they started over with Mott and Jones again with the small group and then spent something like two years on Tolmanís Statistical Mechanics and then Mott and Gurney and then work that was apparently interrupted by the war. That means the study group must have gone on for at least five years.
Hoddeson:And then after the war, Paulingís Chemical bonds was studied, and it would be tremendously interesting for me to get as much information as you recall about that group, about the way it was organized, how it was decided who would do what, in what detail? Did everybody read everything, or did one person teach a given topic to the other members? Why you did it? Was it directly related to the work that was going on or was it just interest. All these questions are very interesting to me. How did it relate to other seminars that were being run at the time --
Holden:Let me articulate that after Iíve gone through filling my mouth with food, which interferes with articulation, to a certain extentÖ (Break for lunch)
Hoddeson:One other question about your days in the publications department. Did you do any other work besides writing for the Record there?
Hoddeson:What were some of the other things?
Holden:That I did? Oh, steered important visitors around the place. The odd jobs of the publication department. Wrote biographies of people on interview, biographies of Bell Labs people for use outside. For a while, a certain amount of work attempting to place in the little science, or sometimes alumni, magazines of small colleges pieces which printed in the Laboratories by graduates of those places. Well, all sorts of things that get dreamed up in a publication department with a publicity orientation. It was a lot of fun.
Hoddeson:You must have gotten to know the inner workings of Bell Labs quite well, which must have been quite different from those of Harvard.
Holden:Thatís right. You came to know the McDonoughs and the McCormicks and so on of the place. Very different crowd of people, people with a very different sort of intelligence, and a very subtle, very able intelligence, that of how to boss a group of people doing essentially uninteresting work. Letís say the comptometer operators. How to make them happy. How to deal equitably with them. How to manage it, how to do it -- essentially a big human job.
Mrs. Holden:That was your first job? Not the publications job.
Holden:Yes. Not so much the publications job, but more the methods and audits department. The audits things gave me a curious insight into the scientists at Bell Labs. Among the commercial people, the scientists at Bell Labs are regarded as a bunch of kooks --
Hoddeson:-- still are --
Holden:-- who, ostensibly the place is for. Maybe it is even is; but theyíre kooks, and you have to be very careful how you deal with them. And, unfortunately, they are more important than you are. So youíve got to be very careful how you deal with these otherwise somewhat intractable, impossible people. And I must say, from the point of view of the commercial department, I did observe a tremendous amount of arrogance on the part of the technical people at Bell Labs, toward commercial people. A fairly universal air of degrading them, of automatically regarding them as somewhat inferior people which they arenít, mostly. Itís unfortunate. Itís the ďtwo cultures,Ē so speak, in our own little enclave.
Hoddeson:But then you joined the technical people yourself.
Holden:Yes, I joined the technical people myself and stayed there.
Hoddeson:Letís get back to the study group. Do you recall the atmosphere in- that group in which you were trying to learn about theory of metals, statistics, chemical bonds and so forth? And was there one person in that group who was the steam behind it? How did it start?
Holden:I think the largest head of steam, and general level of competence, in that operation was Bill Shockley. Bill has always had strong pedagogical leanings, you know, likes to teach people something. And he still does, damn it. Oh dear. And he was at that time extremely good at it. He had done it some at MIT, and I remember Slater saying, shortly after Bill came with us, that he lost his best teacher when Bill joined the Laboratories. Bill had been tremendously inventive on how to teach courses at MIT and had had the steam to do something about it. You know, introduction of experiments, introduction to methods of teaching, all kinds of things like that. Well, Bill instantly recognized that Bell Laboratories was some eight years behind the times in its grasp of and use of modern physics, and he put himself into the whole bit of trying to enlist and encourage people to get together in groups and learn about this stuff. And he did a lot of the teaching himself. He gave colloquium talks. He wrote a succession, as I recall it, of three articles for the Bell System Technical Journal.
Hoddeson:Iíve seen the first one. I donít know if the other two ever appeared.
Holden:Maybe they never appeared. He wrote at least one more.
Hoddeson:The first one says that itís the first of three.
Holden:Maybe youíre right, maybe they never published the others.
Hoddeson:Itís a good article.
Holden:Oh yes, itís a good article. Sure. Bill was an awfully good teacher.
Hoddeson:Did he choose the books?
Holden:That I donít know. I think he may have done. In the sense that he may have talked to other people about it, but nudged them in the directions of these books. Now, he and Jim Fisk, you see, had been good friends at MIT before they came here, and they may have worked together in some part of this kind of thing, on suggesting these things. Jim would know better than I. Could be that you can get him on the phone and find out, if you like -- Jim -- heís kind of right around the corner here. If heís still free, we can run around and see him.
Hoddeson:May weíll do that, if not today, another time.
Holden:Another time, yes. Another sparkplug here was Foster Nix. In a way that I donít really quite -- Iím having a hard time putting my finger on. When I joined the chemistry department in Ď36, I early became acquainted with Foster Nix in the physics department because he was one who had put an order, so to speak, on the chemistry department to do something about something. I think it was to grow crystals of mercuric iodide and this was delegated to me. So I became acquainted with Foster. Foster early on said, ďYou know, weíve got to learn this new physics. I donít know any of it and you donít know any of it, and a way to do this is for us to get together once a week and go through a book.Ē He and I, quite independently of any of the rest of these things, went through the first edition of Slater and Frankís Introduction To Theoretical Physics, and we really worked, we worked awfully hard on that. We met once a week, after having covered a chapter each week, and having done all the problems on it, and met once a week to correct each otherís problems and we worked on it -- we worked good and hard. And I learned more physics from that operation than from any other. Has the name of Foster Cary Nix shown up in your work before?
Hoddeson:Well, heís one of the people who Brattain mentioned were in the study group. Also, Iíve come across his name on some of these organization charts. See, here in 1936 heís under Bozorth.
Holden:Oh, by golly, thatís right, he was for a while. He resented that.
Holden:He tended to resent whoever he was under. He regarded them all as dodos. Pretty arrogant fellow. Poster sort of got knocked around from one boss to another, because of the fact that he resented whatever boss he was with, and I think thatís why they switched him around quite a lot. He was bossed by some electro-optical people, and --
Hoddeson:I see. Does he live near you?
Holden:No, he lives in Philadelphia.
Hoddeson:I could go down and speak with him in Philadelphia. That isnít very far away.
Holden:He left the Bell Labs very shortly after the war. During the war, he worked on a project associated with the Manhattan Project in the Bell Labs, which of course did a whole lot of things like that associated with all kinds of special war jobs. And then he left, to go to the Sharples Co. Then he left the Sharples Co. He was bossing research for the Sharples Co. and what the devil sort of research he was bossing, I have no idea. I remember Foster saying to me that he was going to go to the company and do this. They wanted him to be a director of research. I said, ďWell, what the hell kind of research are you going to do with the Sharples Co.Ē which is a centrifuge company? He said, ďWell, they want to branch out into more general physics.Ē I said, ďThey think they do, do they?Ē Well, Sharples, I guess, was wealthy and this began, you see, to be the time, directly after the war, when so many organizations were -- what is the word Iím looking for? -- were perfuming their image by putting in a little fundamental research. My impression is that Sharples did that and Foster said, ďWell, theyíre going to pay me so much that if I stick with it for three years, I wonít have to worry about the rest of my life, so Iím going to go there.Ē And I think he stuck with them for three years, and I donít think he worried very much about the rest of his life. He did some work for the Franklin Institute. And the last I heard of Foster, he didnít do any work at all. He lived in a splendid mansion. He made a lot of money in the Stock Market. He had a younger brother who was a stock broker and was quite good at it, and I think Foster just carried on the life of a traveling man. He said he always wanted to go to Bali, and he probably did. Heís a great guy, I miss him.
Hoddeson:What about some of the other people in the group? As yet I know very little about Dean Wooldridge and Addison White.
Holden:Well, what do you need to know? Dean Wooldridge came to the Laboratories with a Ph.D. from California. Whether it was Caltech or the University of California, I donít know. And was one of that small group of, what, so that were hired at the beginning of the breakthrough of the no-hiring policy which had been necessitated by the Depression. See, there was a frozen organization there for some six to seven years, frozen by the great Depression.
Hoddeson:Just before the Depression, there was an expansion.
Holden:Oh, very great expansion just before the Depression.
Hoddeson:Just before it, do you know why that occurred about Ď29?
Holden:Yes, I think I roughly do. It was a result of -- finally and essentially, a result of a bust of the -- not so much the statistical department of the AT and T, as of the executive department under Bancroft Gherardi who was vice president for general administration of AT&T at that time. He had the new economic era theory, which you may have heard of, so that he ignored the results of his own statistical department, which was predicting the Depression. And Bancroft Gherardi said, ďNo, the trouble with you statisticians is you live in the past. All you have to deal with is the data from the past, and this is something new.Ē So the whole Bell System was in an expansionist mode and got hit by the. Great Depression. I think this expansion was a reflection of that.
Hoddeson:I see. And then they were stuck, and they didnít hire again until Ď36. Now, there was also, I think around Ď36, another big reorganization of the research department. Isnít that true?
Holden:The question of dating these things is very hard for me. There was a big reorganization when Jim Fisk was put at the head of it, of physical research, at least. No, that big reorganization was after the War, wasnít it? The research department was pretty thoroughly busted up, I would say, by the War.
Hoddeson:In Ď45 the solid state group was formed. Before that, there were just general research physicists, groups. And then suddenly, they begin to have names -- ďcontact physics,Ē ďgeneral physics,Ē ďsolid state physics,Ē and that happened around Ď45, when these groups were formed. Here we have a ďsolid stateĒ group formed in Ď45 under Morgan and Shockley.
Holden:-- yes, then, Harvey Fletcher and Jim Fisk jointly ran --
Hoddeson:You were also part of the solid state group. Your name appears here under Morgan.
Holden:See, I was in the chemistry department, up to that time, through the war. After all, I was trained as an organic chemist. Knocked around all kinds of ways. So when the formation of this whole thing was projected, Stan Morgan, whom Iíd been working under in the chemistry department, he too had been in the chemistry department, you know. He was a physical chemist. He was asked to move over to this new physical research thing, and asked me if I would join his group. Now, the point of that -- well, the point of Morgan-Shockley was that Bill Shockley did not want to take on the routine administrative responsibilities of running a group. He was much more interested in taking on only the intellectual leadership of a group. But the elaboration of time cards and the rest of this sort of stuff bored the devil out of him. Stan Morgan said he was perfectly willing to take on that kind of responsibility and give Bill Shockley the major intellectual leadership of the group, and they divided up responsibilities that way. I believe thereís now a comparable division arising under Joe Burton and Phil Anderson. Joe is going to be taking on all the administrative responsibilities, and Phil a great deal of the intellectual leadership responsibilities for that group that theyíre now jointly in charge of.
Hoddeson:Was there a great deal of enthusiasm connected with the establishment of this new group?
Holden:Oh yes. Oh yes, there was quite a bit of sizzle, I should say, through the whole bunch.
Hoddeson:You felt you were all going to work together to really get a clear understanding of what solids were.
Holden:Somewhat that way. Yes, an important sense of, ďGee, weíre getting back into research, instead of running a damn war,Ē which had not bored people, there was a lot of interesting work in that, but a certain feeling of a lack of fundamental concern with such things as that, and all kinds of people were eager to get back to a more fundamental kind of research. Charlie Townes, for instance, very strongly so. The development groups, having found during the war that Charlie was damned good, tried hard to persuade him to stay in development work, but Charlie said no. Didnít want to do that. ďHere are these new techniques that have been discovered in connection with radar, and applicable to fundamental crystal questions, and I want to apply them.Ē Set up that little group that he had with, who was it, Bill Yager? Is Charlie Townes listed there?
Hoddeson:Letís see, in July 1945 Townes is still under military research under MacNair.
Holden:They hung onto him as hard as they could.
Hoddeson:Here, in November Ď47 heís in solid state research. Military research is gone.
Holden:Charlie finally showed up in that solid state research group, because there were jokes about the fact that in the solid state research group we were working on extremely dilute gases. Charlie thought that was kind of funny.
Hoddeson:Have we finished with everything that you think is worth mentioning about the study group? Iíd be very interested in knowing what happened after the war when the new solid state group was formed.
Holden:Well, the self study group was killed by the war, of course, wasnít it?
Hoddeson:I got the impression from Brattainís interview that it continued for a little while after the war --
Holden:-- maybe so -- It certainly didnít continue during the war, thatís a cinch. None of us could do that then.
Hoddeson:Brattain didnít say much about it. What the study group did after the war. But he mentioned Paulingís book. Do you remember studying that then?
Holden:Oh yes. Was that after the war? Maybe so. That may have been. That was run in a rather different way from the others, you see. That -- I donít know whether that was, under whose stimulus that thing was started, but it may again have been Bill Shockley partly. It was of course of primary interest to the chemists, but also to the physicists, and that was run by a small -- yes, that was of course after the war -- a small group, of which I was one, in which we had a seminar amongst ourselves, and then one or another of us in turn lectured to a larger group; yes, the larger group being a group that wasnít as sophisticated in these matters and wasnít really as intrusively interested in them either, but wanted to get something the flavor of how modern physics applied to chemistry. I suspect that book was chosen by Bill Shockley. Maybe not. The Nature Of The Chemical Bond (Pauling) and it seems to me that we went, in some part, all of us, rather outside of that book, as well as in it, in doing our seminar work and giving our lectures. I know I jolly well did. Iím not quite sure, if Iím understanding the force of your question, what the upshot of this was.
Hoddeson:Iím wondering what finally happened to the group. Did it then turn into a -- now they have a Journal Club which is different, but is again a somewhat --
Holden:Yes, there were Journal Clubs at various times which were -- which may even have been contemporary with that thing. There was a Journal Club it seems to me in the physics department. It may have been contemporary with that. Iím not sure of the dating on that. Yes, you see, at this stage of the game, what was the small group that was doing that thing? By that time, John Bardeen was there, and Charlie Kittel was there. I donít know about Charlie -- John certainly was. Charlie Kittel --
Hoddeson:By July, 1946, Townes was in the solid state physics group, and then we have Conyers Herring under physical electronics. Was he part of that study group?
Holden:I donít think Conyers took part. I donít know why he perfectly natural that he would be called on to do that, would call upon himself to do it, as a matter of fact. Iím a little surprised at this. Conyers --
Hoddeson:-- he was of course in a different group, he was under physical electronics, whereas the people in the solid state physics group under Shockley were Bardeen, Brattain, this looks like Foy, is that correct?
Hoddeson:-- Gibney, Griffith, Moore, Pearson, and then under Morgan we have Danielson, Hewitt, Holden, Murphy, Richardson, Townes and I think this says Yager.
Holden:John Richardson was in this picture too, really Richardson was a theoretical chemist, I guess. Did his graduate work at Cornell with Debye. He was in that seminar cum lecture group after the war that I was speaking of. But is it of concern to you to try to recapture the names of those who did participate in that one? If so, Iíll try and do it.
Hoddeson:If you can.
Holden:It will have been Bill Shockley and John Bardeen, and almost certainly John Richardson, me, and Walter Brattain may have taken part in that too. It was a small group. I think that was perhaps the sum of it. Stan Morgan may have. I doubt it. Gee, itís hard to cudgel forced memories of this business out.
Hoddeson:You wouldnít have any notes?
Holden:No, I would not. I wouldnít, Iím sorry to say and other people may have better memories of the past then I do for this stuff.
Hoddeson:Did any of these people take note?
Holden:I wouldnít even know that. Some of the people who were in the seminar, some of the people who were auditors, in that auditory section, undoubtedly took notes. And one of the people that, if you wish, you might try calling up on that, who I know sat in the auditory group on that whole thing, has a pretty good memory too, is Upton Thomas in the chemistry department. And Upie Thomas is available on the telephone at home, heís retired. He lives in Summit. U. D. Thomas. Cal Fuller would perhaps have taken notes, but Cal is now in Florida.
Hoddeson:Is he Bob Fullerís father?
Holden:Yes. You mean Bob Fuller, the president of Oberlin?
Hoddeson:I knew him when he was at Columbia.
Holden:I never met Bob Fuller. I have a son who went to Oberlin, but he went to Oberlin somewhat before Bob Fullerís time there.
Hoddeson:Iíve noticed in the little work Iíve done so far, that a good number of the people who came to work at Bell Labs in solid state physics had worked in some capacity either with Slater or with Van Vleck.
Holden:Iím a little surprised that many people had worked with Van Vleck.
Hoddeson:Theyíd taken courses with him.
Holden:Well, that surprises me.
Hoddeson:For example, Brattain learned his quantum mechanics from Van Vleck. And Ė-
Holden:Van taught at Wisconsin, didnít he, before he went to Harvard?
Hoddeson:I think it was Minnesota as well.
Holden:Minnesota? Maybe so, Well, thatís possible then.
Hoddeson:He was also at Wisconsin, but I think Brattain --
Holden:Brattain went through Minnesota, yes, did his graduate work at Minnesota.
Hoddeson:Yes, and Van Vleck was there.
Holden:Well, thatís interesting. I hadnít realized that. I know heís been a friend of Vanís, and then Van had him up at Harvard, oh, not too long ago, as a visiting lecturer. Yes but who else -- of course Phil Anderson did his graduate work with Van Vleck. More contacts, I would have thought came from Slater.
Hoddeson:Probably more from Slater. When I was speaking with Betty Wood and her husband the other day, she told me a little bit about Kelly College.
Hoddeson:I was wondering if you had any connections with it.
Holden:Yes. I taught physics at Kelly College for four years.
Hoddeson:When was Kelly College organized and why?
Holden:When? Again, I would urge you to find out from some other source. That ought to be easy. Personnel can probably tell you. Someone can tell you. Why? Some recognition that modern engineering was sufficiently complicated and sufficiently sophisticated that the electrical engineers particularly, and the mechanical engineers also, who were coming to the Laboratories with just EE and ME degrees didnít know enough. Now, the thing you had to do was teach them. And they resented this, I must say, because they had left the educational process more or less voluntarily. I think those were the days when you could get quite a bit of financial assistance to go on and do more work in technological areas in particular, if you wanted to. So they were kids who had come to the Laboratories to start life, and get married and buy houses and clean out the chimneys and get going, and they resented the whole business of going back to school. So it was the hardest kind of teaching work I ever did in my life. It was done under circumstances in a loft building on Varick St. which was just dreadful, with the Italians down below shooting each other and the Mack trucks backfiring and all the rest of it. And then that operation, conducted in the first instance and for some years by Bell Laboratories people, was taken over by NYU, which ran classes out here at Murray Hill, and in important part this was done because of the fact that NYU was accredited to give them a masterís degree, whereas we were not, and the kids, if they were going to do that much work, wanted to get something out of it in the way of a degree. So they get a masterís degree now. I think the thing is called the Communications Development Training Program and not Kelly College. I guess it never was called Kelly College except by those of us who labored in it.
Hoddeson:I see. It was Kellyís idea?
Holden:I think it was. He was a strong proponent of it in any case. Yes. Good God, we worked like hell.
Hoddeson:Were you asked to do it? Did you have any choice in the matter?
Holden:Oh, I had complete choice in the matter. Yes. I was asked if I would do it. And I thought it would be a good thing to do, and I still do think it was a good thing to do. And in some sense, I enjoyed it, you know. Youíve taught, you know what Iím talking about. Itís an extremely demanding and exacting business, and to --
Hoddeson:Had you taught before?
Holden:Not as systematically as that. Iíd done a little, yes, a little hit and run sort of teaching. Oh, I had done some substitute teaching in a high school in Montclair. What else? It doesnít come to mind at the moment now. You were asking me about Dean Wooldridge and then we got off on something else. He was working on secondary emission problems, from bombarded metals, I guess. But Joe Burton would be able to give you precisely the answers on that, because Joe worked directly under him as his immediate associate.
Hoddeson:Yes. A lot of people seem to have been working on emission problems. The reason for Brattain going to Michigan in 1931 was to learn more about thermionic emission, according to --
Holden:Well, gee whiz, think back -- there was the vacuum tube that depended on it, and you tried to make it better, and understand it.
Hoddeson:That really seems to be the starting point for many of the future developments in solid state physics.
Holden:Almost, one would think that it was. Youíve got to talk to Jim Fisk, who was a vital factor, a really vital factor, in the organization of the solid state research and in the early insistence to Mervin Kelly that the research department by golly should be a research department, damn it, no fooling, and getting permission to organize such a thing. I remember when Jim came back from having been down to the Atomic Energy Commission. You may recall that he was the first research director for the AEC, left the Labs to do that, and then went to Harvard for a year or so, in Huntís department, and then came back to the Laboratories. In the meantime the transistor had been inventor or discovered or whatever word you prefer, and Jim said to me, ďWell maybe this gives my policy for a research department a few more yearsí lease on life. Maybe weíve proved that itís useful.Ē This kind of thing.
Hoddeson:Was there a lot of resistance to those ideas?
Holden:I donít know, because Iím not high enough in the organization to know that sort of thing, to know to what extent there was. I can imagine that there will have been, from time to time, probably, depending on general economic conditions, a lot of resistance, to pay the Bell Laboratories bill, for research in particular, on the part of the operating telephone companies, which are after all the organizations that support the place, in the last analysis. They collect the money from the subscribers and we live on their sufferance, and they have repeatedly felt, I know, that the Bell Laboratories doesnít pay enough attention to their immediate needs, and pays too much attention to some starry-eyed thing thatís going on elsewhere. And that kind of feeling ebbs and flows. But you have constantly to justify to the the people who pay the bills, who are up against the necessity of providing a service which works, constantly to justify the notion that fundamental research is a worthy thing to be doing. You may even have to justify it to the telephone subscriber. I donít know. This is a problem which AT&Tís publicity organization has had to think about constantly, I think. There used to be I remember, back before the war, in the Laboratories a small group of two people, two or three people, whose sole task was to go over the case folders of the past year, and pick out and analyze those cases which had saved the telephone business money, by God, that year. And they usually turned out to be something like work which had been done to reduce the cost of it by say half a cent.
Hoddeson:I find it amazing that so many top level scientists did go to Bell Labs and stay there. When I try to think of reasons why, I think that the atmosphere there must have been the crucial factor. Perhaps at Bell there was more time to do research than at a University, and more money and more facilities. The morale seems to have been consistently very high. These are my naive answers to that question.
Holden:Those are important parts of the answers. There was the fact, or used to be the fact, and probably still is, that you are permitted to be a self-starter, so to speak, in the Bell Labs. Once you have shown that you are a competent and energetic person, you donít get bossed around very much. Now, in this respect I think itís a little unlike most other commercial organizations.  If you want to contrast it with an academic post, then what you have said probably covers most of it. Contrasted with other commercial organizations, I think it is the relative freedom, and probably by now, probably for some time since the war, the existence of a super-critical mass of intellect in any of the interested areas. Iíd been working moderately closely with Charlie Townes on that dilute gas spectroscopy, the early work that he did on those rotation transition developments. I made a lot of the stuff that he used. And when he went to Columbia, Charlie said, ďThereís something awfully nice about Bell because there are people like you, and people in the metallurgy department and so on, ho can all be got interested in what Iím doing. In Columbia, the chemistry department all has its own fish to fry. You canít get them interested in what Iím doing.Ē So the level of collaboration, the ebb and flow of groupings covering a wide spectrum, tends to be larger.
Hoddeson:You mentioned Columbia, and I remembered a question that I forgot to ask you earlier -- I canít remember now where I learned this, perhaps Joe Burton mentioned it last week -- think he said that during the Depression, many Bell Labs Staff members were working just three or four days a week, and they were free to go to Columbia to participate in the activities there in the sciences. Did you take part in those at all?
Holden:No, I didnít.
Hoddeson:That was during the time that you were doing publications, I suppose.
Holden:I guess mostly it was. Yes, mostly.
Hoddeson:Do you recall anything more about this?
Holden:Who did that kind of thing?
Hoddeson:Yes. Or anything more precise about the work during the Depression. For example, was it three days or four days that people were working?
Holden:My recollection is it got down to four days, but not below four days. Recalling that this had been therefore a decline from 5 1/2 days -- there had been a Saturday morning regular business going on. That never came back, I guess, in any such industry after the Depression, but it was quite universal before that, and in Bell Labs as well. So it was a big decline in our incomes as well as our work. Who took part in those things? Of the people you have the names of, the main ones, I think youíd find that Ad White went to Columbia and took a course under Rabi in quantum mechanics, elementary, introductory course in quantum mechanics. Dick Grisdale may have, Iím not sure, I think he did.
Hoddeson:I understand that some of the Bell Labs people went to the colloquia at Columbia.
Holden:At Columbia. Probably did, yes.
Hoddeson:So that thatís a source -- if I can get the Columbia colloquium list from that period, I can probably get an idea of some of the ideas that were likely to reach Bell in those days.
Holden:Ad White comes over here. He lives in Paris now, but he comes over here to consult some, and when he does, if youíre looking up such people as a source, he usually comes in midwinter, and we always have him and Betty over for a lobster dinner, because they donít get decent lobsters there. They have langoustes. My favorite French recipe reads, ďTake a langouste, a fat lively langouste, plunge it into two quarts of boiling champagne.Ē
Hoddeson:Whereís that from?
Holden:From a book by Paul Reboux thatís been translated from the French under the title Food For The Rich, which is a hell of a title. Very amusing book.
Holden:Not really, well, yes, in part I guess it is. That certainly is food for the rich.
Hoddeson:(Glancing at books on Holdenís table) I notice youíre reading Mott and Jones and Mott and Gurney right now.
Holden:I brought those out of my book case to try to remind myself of what it was we were doing in those very early days, because I knew that you were coming. That was all. Those were the copies that I used of those things on those seminars.
Hoddeson:Mott and Jones, then Mott and Gurney later.
Holden:But the big job of that seminar of eight of us who worked pretty hard on it was the job on Tolmanís Statistical Mechanics.
Hoddeson:In the early days, before the seminar got large after the war, how did you divide the work up? Each take a chapter?
Holden:We went through the book by the device of meeting for two hours, as I recall it, in the Bell Laboratories, after work.
Hoddeson:On West St.?
Holden:Did it start at West St.? Yes. Anyway, we went through the book, and a person got up on his back legs and expounded the book, until it was quitting time, and then quit. And then the next guy on the list was supposed to pick up at that point the next week and go on from there. Subject to heckling, interruption of all descriptions, a general beating up, he stood up at the blackboard and behaved like a lecturer. A lecturer however who was being looked at pretty darn narrowly by a bunch of people who presumably had read the chapter, and you were working it through with sidelights, perhaps, with hitting high points, that kind of thing.
Hoddeson:Didnít Shockley have a great advantage, having grown up with quantum mechanics?
Holden:Have a greater advantage over me?
Hoddeson:Over all of the others in the group.
Holden:Well, not I would think over Dean Wooldridge, who had grown up with it. Letís see, who had grown up with it? Shockley and Dean Wooldridge, and I guess to some considerable extent Joe Burton had.
Hoddeson:Joe Burton must have joined the group a little bit later.
Holden:Yes, he came to the Laboratories in Ď38, didnít he. I guess he wasnít in that initial group.
Hoddeson:Not in the initial group, but he does remember attending some of the meetings later on.
Holden:He surely got in on the Mott and Gurney thing. He may not have been in that Ö all right, who else had been brought up in it? Who else was there? -- Foster Nix had certainly not been, Howell Williams had not been, Add White had not been, except insofar as he had attended I.I. Rabiís class. I canít think of anybody else who had. Jim Fisk had. That about exhausts the list. Have I named seven? I think I have. Three who had been, four who hadnít -- some one person is missing here --
Holden:Brattain, he hadnít been.
Hoddeson:Well, heíd learned a little quantum mechanics with Van Vleck.
Holden:Yes. Iíd be the first to say that Walter Brattain is a magnificent experimental physicist, with a superb sense of what cooks, of what goes on, but I think Brattain would be the first to say, I hope he would be the first to say, that he is not a powerful theorist, and he has trouble with his mathematics. So that his upbringing in this area will have been a struggle.
Holden:Teal wasnít in that bunch of eight. Who says Gordon Teal was some place in this thing?
Hoddeson:Brattain mentioned it in his interview, but he may have included Teal earlier than he should have.
Holden:I think Teal wasnít there then.
Hoddeson:One thing Iím looking for -- itís always dangerous to look for something, because then you end up finding it, and it might not in fact really be there -- is a kind of continuity in the solid state physics work, right from the late twenties, with Davisson and Germer right up through 1945. That may be dangerous for me to look for. What do you think?
Holden:Well, there were continuities; the major continuities that occur to me in the solid state physics work are the continuities in magnetics, and the continuities in semiconductors. I think that these were continuous concerns and efforts, feathering out in various ways by various people, but Joe Becker and Walter Brattain conducted -- and some people in the chemistry department kind of working in with it, particularly Dick Grisdale -- certainly maintained a certain continuity over the years in work on semiconductors. Now, it was mostly aimed at the copper oxide rectifier and such things as that, of course in its earliest days at least. It began moving toward semiconductors like silicon carbide, and their use in the varistors, and there are probably some other istors that fit into this. But all two-contact devices. Attempts to understand them, really. Attempts to perfect them at the hands of the chemistry and metallurgy people, but at the hands of Becker and Brattain, attempts to understand them. Now in magnetics of course there was this continuity that Rick Bozorth can tell you about, that was a considerable continuity -- aimed at understanding enough about magnetic devices to be able to design magnetic materials with predictable properties. Is that the kind of thing you mean? There were those two considerable threads. There was before that, beginning before that, ending probably -- yes, when? --
Hoddeson:-- perhaps threads is a better word.
Holden:Yes. There was the thread of dielectrics, carried on in the chemistry department, not in the physics department, but carried on with a considerable physical chemical understanding, and thatís where Stan Morgan and Ad White and so on had been concerned and -- now, that concern dropped, before the concern with magnetics and semiconductors dropped. Well, they never dropped. But dielectrics went out of the picture. Iím not quite sure why. Somebody decided I guess that this simply was leading nowhere, pretty much, correctly, I suspect. They turned up some interesting stuff, though, over that area of time. They turned up a great deal of this business of polar molecules which will rotate in the solid state, so that you have large regions in which you have high dielectric constants, due to the rotability of the polar molecules, and they got pretty sophisticated in designing molecules which were polar but which were geometrically symmetrical enough so that they could be expected to go whizzing around. My piezo-electric stuff, I suppose, had a continuity, my continuity; when I first joined the chemical department, R. R. Williams asked me to look around the department and see what there was that I might like to get connected with. And instead of deciding that I would like to get connected with anything which was going on there, I had read some memoranda by that time on the problem of piezo-electric materials, in particular the fact that quartz was our entire resource for piezo-electric materials, and the feeling that this was a dangerous thing to be dependent on, because of the fact that we didnít have good supplies in this country, and that perhaps we ought to look up some substitute. So I got interested in how you would design and make piezo-electric materials, and did that pretty much single handed so far as the dreaming of the materials, the development of ways of making crystals of them, and that kind of thing was concerned. And then I handed them over to Warren Mason and Walter Bond and such people to make measurements on them.
Hoddeson:Do you recall about when that was?
Holden:Yes, it began when I joined the department. Then my ability to work on the thing continuously got interfered with. I mean, I was asked to do other things various times. So I didnít get back at it really until after World War II, after an interruption of not only World War II, but some two or three years before that, I guess, two years before that. Then after World War II, I got back to it, and within a year or two, I guess, yes, turned up a promising piezo-electric material for actual use. You can turn up piezo-electric materials, but they have to be more than piezo-electric for the kinds of uses the Bell Labs makes, the Bell system makes, you have to have something whose internal damping is low. You have to have something that has a natural frequency of vibration which is substantially temperature independent, and so on. And finally one showed up, ethylene diamine tartrate, and they put up a factory in Allentown to make it. Then I turned over to work with Charlie Townes having worked myself out of a job.
Hoddeson:Right. And then Charlie Townes went to Columbia.
Holden:Charlie Townes then went to Columbia, right, and I worked with Charlie Kittel on paramagnetic resonance absorption in crystals, and -- come to think of it, Charlie Kittel and Quin Luttinger worked together on it, as a matter of fact. And then we turned up the paramagnetic resonance absorption in organic free radicals. I think we turned that up at Bell Labs. That has expanded in an enormous number of ways since. Itís become a rather interesting method of examining organic materials.
Hoddeson:What were summers like then at Bell? Now there are lots of visitors during the summer, people coming for short periods of time. Was that true in the early days as well?
Holden:No. No. There were some summer visitors, but very few, as I recall it.
Hoddeson:Do you remember anybody who came at that time?
Holden:Yes, I remember -- I remember because he was a classmate of mine at Harvard -- Professor of Physics at Williams -- was there for one summer working on the cathode ray oscillograph. Howard Stabler. He was working on AIP stuff at some point. Stabler, yes. Yes, I donít know what kind of program they used to have for that sort of thing.
Hoddeson:Iíve been unsuccessful so far in trying to get information about visitors, short term visitors or foreign visitors, or visits actually that Bell Labs peopleí made to other places, from the existing records --
Holden:I would think, in the area of physics, a guy who would have been very sensitive to that and knowledgeable about it would have been K. K. Darrow. Because he was a considerable outside contact, as you can imagine. He had an office at the Laboratories, and he was there about half the time at least, and he knew the visitors fairly well, knew the foreign visitors too, and -- now, Karl, isnít Karl accessible? Where the hell is he?
Hoddeson:I think he lives near Columbia.
Holden:Used to, maybe he still does. Heís been spending a lot of time in Switzerland, I know. Whether he finally got himself a place in Lausanne, I have a vague idea he did. You know, Betty Wood would know the answer to that. Sheís kept in touch with Karl and his wife.
Hoddeson:Darrowís articles in the Bell Technical Journal, I believe were widely read and awaited outside of Bell Labs. I donít know whether they were read as much inside of Bell Labs.
Holden:I donít either. His articles, those which were collected, were very very popular pieces of work. Instructed a lot of people --
Hoddeson:They werenít very detailed -- I donít think you could have read one of those articles and then gone to work in the field.
Holden:They were attempts to expound fundamental physics, really, werenít they, statistical mechanics and so on? My recollection of them is a little dim. At the time when I read a few of them, I got a somewhat unfavorable impression of them. Because of the fact that it seemed to me that they had a leaping and lingering quality that I didnít like. Karl would labor, as it seemed to me, a relatively elementary point, and have a fairly long careful build-up of something -- and then all of a sudden take off into Neumann quadruple integrals and snow you at the end. It seemed an odd way of expounding something.
Hoddeson:Was his presence at the Labs felt by -- By the people who were working in the research Labs?
Holden:I think his presence was felt fairly strongly in the early days. I think his presence was not felt so much after the War, certainly, and even perhaps before that. And why not? Well, of course, Karl was hard to communicate with, and I donít know why that was, either, because -- I think it was perhaps because of the fact that Karl, if youíve ever had any contact with him you know what Iím talking about when I say that he had a formal, interpretable as pompous, way of dealing with anybody, which I think put a great many people off. More a matter of delivery than anything else. I recall that when Karl gave a colloquium, rather early, soon after Bill Shockley and Jim Fisk had joined the Laboratories, they, in their early days, were two great practical jokers -- as they had been, I guess, at MIT. Anyway they were at the Laboratories. They arranged to have pulled across the stage behind Karl, where he couldnít see it, a toy duck which would go quack, quack, quack with its mouth, without saying anything. Well, all right, it somehow symbolized Karl, to a lot of people, I think. The audience of course nearly expired. Karl didnít know what was wrong. Then there were, later on, attempts to use Karl, deliberate attempts to find something for Karl to do which would be useful and informative to people. And I forget what that last assignment that I knew anything about was. It was to work up and give a few seminars on some subject, and I forget what the subject was. I guess it was -- yes, I think it was, forces between nucleons. He was asked to work up the present state of theory and controversy about forces between nucleons, and this was, when? Maybe nineteen fiftyish. I remember asking Karl what are Majorani forces?
Hoddeson:The Davisson and Germer work must have caused a lot of excitement. That was done soon after you arrived.
Holden:Very soon after I arrived. Yes, I dare say it did, but I was probably down in the accounting department around then.
Hoddeson:I see, so you didnít --
Holden:I was almost completely unaware of it, down there.
Hoddeson:Did you have any contact with either of them later on?
Holden:Oh yes, I came to know both of them later on. I came to know both of them, and have a kind of contact with them. In Davyís later years he became interested in piezo-electricity, simply on the theory, to try to analyze what was going on in these things, and he put out a little memorandum on the theory of piezo-electricity. It was, Iím sorry to say, wrong, and Davy when I pointed it out to him, he was quite nice about it, very shortly saw that it was wrong, yes, no problem convincing Davy of that. He was a charming man. Oh God, heís a lovely guy, and I guess I was responsible in fact for putting through the business of having a 70th birthday party for Davy at Murray Hill, getting him back from Virginia for his 70th Birthday party. And getting up a Davisson Festschrift issue of Bell System Technical Journal. And then in the hall afterwards, Davy said, ďDo you really believe in anniversaries?Ē
Hoddeson:What did you say?
Holden:ďI believe in yours.Ē Germer, of course, was at the Labs much much after Davy had left and I saw him reasonably regularly, interacted with him, loaned him organic chemicals to try in his shenanigans relating to the corruption of contacts which he did some work on, and finally, I guess after heíd gone to Cornell and left the Laboratories, when I was working with Fran Friedman at MIT on the PSSC film series, you know that bunch of things? -- Jerrold Zacharias asked me to do a movie in that film series on matter waves. He said, ďNow you are the guy to do this. Bell Labs after all was responsible for it, so you make the movie.Ē I said, ďWait a minute, you have the unique opportunity to have that movie made by Lester Germer, whoís still alive and kicking, for Godís sake, and he did it --Ē Zach, you know Zacharias?
Hoddeson:I donít know him.
Holden:Youíve seen him in action? Know his style?
Hoddeson:-- no --
Holden:-- too bad. -- Zach said, ďAw, Come on, you donít want Lester Germer to make that movie. Heíd make a lousy movie. You make that movie.Ē Well, the compromise we reached was that I made the movie, but I put in a long section in which Lester does the acting and the talking, and Lester more than fulfilled my fondest hopes. That section is just bully, Lester was swell in that thing. Bell Labs had, and probably still does have in the museum, the original tube on which they did that, and we got that out or there, and Lester took it, talked about the Davisson-Germer experiment which was great. Sweet as you can get. Oh, you want to see that some time, itís called ďMatter WavesĒ and my name is on it, not1 Lesterís, I think --
Hoddeson:Iíd like to see that. I noticed the film, actually, in the Bell Labs Film Catalog.
Holden:Yes, Bell Labs would probably have it. So thatís my last interaction with Lester, actually.
Hoddeson:Was there a lot or excitement when they got the Novel Prize?
Holden:Davisson and Germer? Iím sure there must have been, but you see -- well, now when would that have been?
Hoddeson:Ď37 or Ď38.
Holden:That was later. Yes, thatís right, there was a lot of excitement, a lot of excitement. I donít know. I donít think there was as much excitement frankly as there was when Shockley, Brattain and Bardeen got it. And I say this Just as a matter of personal memory, which may be very defective. You might rind that there was more excitement. After all, it was a smaller community, and you would imagine that there would be more excitement. For my money, there should have been more excitement. Itís a more fundamental experiment. It seems to me itís a bigger thing in physics than the Shockley-Bardeen-Brattain prize. They deserved a prize. But God, that experiment of Davyís was a humdinger. Purely accidental, but even so.
Iíd love to continue our discussion sometime, perhaps after Iíve gathered some more information about the developments. Thank you very very much Alan.
Bell Telephone Laboratories Record Center, Warren, New Jersey.
Actually in West Chester, Pa., some 20 miles from Wilmington.
The department was "Engineering Sciences and Applied Physics," usually known by it's acronym ESAP.
As Jim Fisk once put it, "The criterion for our work is primarily relevence, not utility."
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