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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Lew Kowarski

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Interview with Dr. Lew Kowarski
By Dr. Spencer Weart
In Geneva
August 2, 1976

open tab View abstract

Lew Kowarski; August 2, 1976

ABSTRACT: History of French accelerators, 1946-1950; events in French atomic energy, 1951.

Transcript

Session I | Session II

Weart:

Today we wanted to talk first about these accelerators. I have in front of me, “ (?) le grande accelerator,” December, 1950. Why don’t we work up to it by starting with my pointing out to you a passage here, which says that you remember a conversation in Autumn, 1947, with Debierne and Winter who both asked you to intervene with Joliot that the project for the 62 inch cyclotron would be replaced with one by a synchrotron. You were persuaded at that time that any attempt of that sort would weaken the necessary attempts to finish Zoe rapidly. Why was the 62 inch cyclotron started? Where that came from?

Kowarski:

This was the cyclotron which Joliot had already decided to build, before this conversation took place. With Winter and Debierne. When we arrived in Paris in ‘46, Auger was already there before, but when I say “we,” we were the famous three Canadians. Chronologically speaking, the first was Gueron, the second was me, the third was Goldschmit. (Goldschmit arrived on the maiden flight of TWA across the Atlantic.) At that time, we found Joliot already very much, if I may say so, on the defensive against our simple technical claims. Well, we knew so many things. And the more subtle claims of Auger and Francis Perrin (who came from true contact with up-to-date American science of 1944). And Joliot knew perfectly well that he fell behind because he stayed in France and he had no opportunities to see the work and he was in different ways surpassed in his being up-to-date by all five of us, in different ways. And he tenaciously clung to the ideas he had before, and therefore this cyclotron, which was definitely his idea, and Debierne was his man. It was a delicate question of equilibrium between us. I think that’s what I meant when in a somewhat -- well, Francis Perrin sometimes especially in writing, it was always a bit delicate -- all the time saying to you, “Now --” (crosstalk) Fabriquet(?)

Kowarski:

Yes. So I said that it would interfere with ZOE, and what I really meant was that it might upset my relations with Joliot. To replace by a synchrotron meant to apply knowledge which Joliot didn’t possess at all.

Weart:

Of course the synchrotron was quite a new idea to everyone at that time. It had just been started in the States.

Kowarski:

Plus we heard about it -- Auger in ‘46, both Auger and Perrin visited American labs extensively. So did I. I had this wonderful visit when I was treated so wonderfully by Lawrence, Oppenheimer and MacMillan, my first visit to Berkeley, in I think July, ‘46. We knew things which were completely outside of Joliot’s world. So that replacement meant that Joliot would have to give over another of his points on which he stood firm.

Weart:

I see. A cyclotron was something at least which was familiar to him.

Kowarski:

Yes. It was in July, I think ‘47, that Debierne and I went to Berkeley and had our memorable conversation, should we keep original design, which was what Joliot wanted? Or should we adapt it to synchronic action? Make a synchro-cyclotron out of it? By the way, when I said synchrotron, I probably meant synchro-cyclotron. That’s what I probably meant. It was a unique occasion, you know. It’s amazing what one could do. Debierne came to New York. I said, “Let’s go to San Francisco and talk to the inventor of the cyclotron and the inventor of the synchro-cyclotron principle.” They had both of them. And both of them arrived at the conclusion that the 62 inch machine in Paris now should still be classical. So we came back with that.

Weart:

Why is that?

Kowarski:

I don’t quite remember now the reasoning. I think they had the idea that probably a synchro-cyclotron of only 62 inch would not use the full advantages -- what’s called the continuous wave cyclotron is not synchronized. Better for certain types of experiments, especially, if I remember, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that continuous waves are continuous yield. Continuous yield, not in spurts.

Weart:

That’s right, of course. It’s not pulsed.

Kowarski:

No, whereas synchro-cyclotron is pulsed.

Weart:

Right, and I think in the early synchro-cyclotrons, the beam intensity was therefore considerably lower.

Kowarski:

Yes. And there is lots of physics that can be done with continuous wave at higher intensities. And they judged that dimension. Possibly they also felt, in France, now –- (laughter)

Weart:

And we needed isotope production, because we didn’t have a pile.

Kowarski:

Yes. And I don’t mention it here, I think, but that was one of the reasons which I -- but my real reason was, I didn’t want to re-open this question again. Because of my relations with Joliot.

Weart:

OK. Then, let’s see, when a van de Graaff was built but there’s probably not much there to be said about that.

Kowarski:

It was a classical van de Graaff, which was at that time one of the biggest in the world, highest energy. But, not quite the highest, but not very far from it.

Weart:

So then did anything occur between -- let’s see, then the next thing which appears at least in this paper was the alarm sounded by M. (?) on his return from Sweden, which I suppose would have been in about 1950.

Kowarski:

In Sweden there was, a synchro-cyclotron of fairly considerable energy, I don’t remember what. Just offhand I would say maybe reaching about 300 mega(?) or something like that. Which was a perfectly good machine, Swedish quality, and it probably started working in ‘52, ‘53 or something, or maybe it was already working in ‘51, I don’t know. But it was just finished about that time.

Weart:

And do you recall what (?) had to say about it?

Kowarski:

(?), I don’t remember how much you know about him, he was a (?) from (?), a colleague of (?) in the famous dichotomy of France into right and left, Catholic and non-Catholic and so on, he was definitely on the other side of the fence, so to, speak, and he was, in my opinion, a somewhat unbalanced man. He made one unmistakable discovery, but fairly small, I would say, relatively. He discovered one method of focusing, the troncolium method of electrons, which was used by him, not very outstandingly, was once used by Joliot in one of his most outstanding early papers. This led to some extent to the discovery, the confirmation in France of the discovery of the positron, and the work with the positron led Joliot later on to the observations which led him to artificial radioactivity.

Kowarski:

And he formed the idea that, because Joliot used the troncolium method, that he thought it was the fountainhead of everything. When he wrote the book about nuclear physics in about 1937, to my mind, it was a book written by a definitely unbalanced mind. He sort of derived practically all nuclear physics from the troncolium method. I exaggerate, of course.

Kowarski:

He got a chair in Lyons, not in Paris, which was considered (by him) a kind of disgrace, and spent all his life sort of mumbling about being done in by Jewish Freemason conspiracies. There were other disgraceful episodes later on, but I won’t dwell on that. And of course, he used every occasion, to show -- even as he was quite right in this case -- that France was falling very much behind compared to Europe and England.

Weart:

Did this get into the press?

Kowarski:

Oh yes. The press, half of the French press, and the most influential half, I would say, always considered that De B… wasn’t a real scientist.

Weart:

I see. Could you at all recall the date of that, so I can look it up in the press? I’m curious to see how this sort of thing was treated.

Kowarski:

De B…?

Weart:

Yes, De B…’s return from Sweden and his criticisms of the accelerators and so forth.

Kowarski:

I have no memory of that, but if this was written in December, ‘50, it must have been -- I don’t know whether that particular episode got to the press.

Weart:

You think this about the accelerator must have been just one case out of a number?

Kowarski:

Yes. In early ‘51 there was a question of confirmation of Francis Perrin’s High Commission. And then there was an article in TIME, showing how it was a little contest between the two leading physicists, the sort of straight minded De B… and the Communist sympathizer Francis Perrin. There are pictures of them.

Weart:

I must look that up. OK, that brings us down then to this paper of “le grand accelerator” December, 1950. Why did you write it? Were you asked?

Kowarski:

I don’t think I was asked. Most of the papers you saw in this collection, I was not asked. There was a piece which I also saw this evening, what work was being done on the G1 reactor, which I was asked to write. You see, I was at that time still the director of a very respectable bunch of radio service, among which there was the Service (?). That was winter.

Weart:

As part of your --

Kowarski:

Yes, it was definitely my director, and it was up to me to make future plans and tell the High Commissioner about it. Francis was not quite the High Commissioner then. It was just before he was confirmed. He was sort of acting, after Joliot was ousted in April, ’50.

Weart:

So you come to the conclusion that one can -- is this, do you suppose, the origin of the decision to go ahead and build a --

Kowarski:

No.

Weart:

That came later?

Kowarski:

That came much later. That decision was taken, I would say, in either late ‘53 or early ‘54.

Weart:

Had there been some provision for it? Was it foreseen already in the plan, in fact, even the things you write about?

Kowarski:

In my “blue ink” paper.

Weart:

Right, and also in the official Five Year Plan, it was foreseen that there would be --

Kowarski:

Yes. Well, I thought of it, of course.

Weart:

But no real idea of what it would look like.

Kowarski:

Nothing really was started.

Weart:

Well, then that becomes part of CERN history and so forth.

Kowarski:

No, it has nothing to do with CERN history. The synchro-cyclotron which was -- no, sorry, proton synchrotron, but not with (?). It probably would be with zero gravity nowadays.

Weart:

AGS.

Kowarski:

No, not AGS, precisely.

Weart:

Oh, not AGS?

Kowarski:

Not AGS. Rather, a copy of the bevatron.

Weart:

OK.

Kowarski:

No, sorry -- copy of the cosmotron, the Brookhaven cosmotron. Of higher energy, of course, somewhat. Not much. That was, the cosmotron by that time was already working. It was not only completed but working, and had been working already for at least a year or two years. But that was much later. As I say, at the earliest late ‘53, probably early ‘54.

Weart:

OK, well, that takes us a bit away from things now.

Kowarski:

This paper, like many other papers I wrote at that time, sort of had leaflets. You see, December ‘50 was a few days before the fateful date of 2nd January ‘51. 2nd January ‘51 was five years since the Commissariat, which was founded in October, ‘45, came into force 2nd of January ‘46. So it was five years. Officially everything had to be renewed.

Weart:

Also on 1 January, everybody packs up their desks and goes home, I suppose.

Kowarski:

What?

Weart:

Otherwise, on 1 January, everyone clears out their desks and goes home?

Kowarski:

That’s right. So the struggle then started, which I just alluded to, which was this article in TIME MAGAZINE. It went on through January, February, March I think. Finally Francis Perrin was confirmed only in April. And that was, of course, no time to -- And then started, very gradually grew, the other storm, which started with very small beginnings, which was originated by the push of the military to get plutonium. That started at about the same time, but grew very slowly. It became quite a storm immediately after the nuclear tests in August, ‘51. Then we are coming to what I call the October adventure.

Weart:

October, right. Well, why don’t you just go ahead?

Kowarski:

I have to order my thoughts. I was still in -- The summer of ‘51, I went to various meetings, mainly of JIF(?) in which it was, what do we do next? And was saying, “We should make plutonium,” to which we replied, “With what, our fingers?” ‘51 was the only year I think in the whole history of the Commissariat when the budget actually went down. The budget was filled, again thanks to (?), as a means of expressing the distrust in Francis Perrin. It turned out that (?) probably was genuinely convinced that we all were against making plutonium because that was against the Communist line. It is perfectly true that it was the Communist line, but none of us were following it. Certainly neither Francis Perrin who was a very orthodox rightist Socialist. Certainly not me, who was accused, and probably rightly so, of being completely sold to the Anglo-American ideas. Certainly not Goldschmit who was of the Rothschild family. Certainly not most of us, of immediate services. Who was Communist minded? Joliot and some of the physicists, pure physicists, around him, and of course a lot of the lower staff. That, yes, quite true. But they had no say in these things. I think (?) genuinely thought that, before he came and asked the government for some more money and so on, he has at least to have some idea that we have, against our wish, decided to make plutonium. So when Francis Perrin was against making plutonium, it was not -- well, it’s difficult to say. I think what he wanted really is to have greater means. Maybe I a little bit do him injustice, but I think what was in his mind, he certainly wanted greater means. He certainly wanted big natural uranium reactors. He wanted them for making peaceful purposes. That, everybody was talking, peaceful purposes. He probably knew that there would be plutonium as a byproduct.

Weart:

Hard to avoid, at some stage.

Kowarski:

Very hard to avoid it. But Goldschmit openly was already developing his process for making plutonium. ZOE was producing enough for minimum purposes, quite enough for developing methods. The first plutonium in France was made very openly, still there. Francis Perrin, I’m quite sure, he really had always a devious mind. He wanted to make sure we are making peaceful applications. Plutonium was therefore a byproduct -- well, yes, but why talk about it? Things will come by itself.

Weart:

So, not that his main aim was to produce plutonium?

Kowarski:

Well, why not? I think that was his state of mind.

Weart:

…this microphone is extraordinarily sensitive, hears everything.

Kowarski:

Yes, I see. (?), on the other hand, wanted a definite commitment to make plutonium above all, and the publicity didn’t embarrass him in the least. He was a bit more naive than Francis Perrin. He didn’t understand his subtleties. He thought, well, this bunch of people, they don’t want to make plutonium. That is my opinion. Don’t forget that I was considered to be a Communist follower, fellow traveler and so on. The Communists were far more understanding. They accused me of being an American agent. I certainly was much more of an American agent than a Russian agent in those days! But I was, of course, chiefly going along with the British, which was my main orientation. Well, I had no objection to making plutonium. In fact, as you see from my other notes, and of course from the famous September meeting of JIF, I was all for making plutonium. But, unlike (?), I knew perfectly well (?) at the rate we could hope for. France would spend many years, relatively, well, four or five years, before making just enough plutonium to make one explosion. And I wrote a big article in ‘52 in which I was arguing that it would be probably unwise, if we have so little, to spend it on one or two spectaculars.

Weart:

Right. As I recall, the order of magnitude at JIF was, after five years you might have a couple of kilograms in a normal reactor. (from a normal reactor)

Kowarski:

Yes. And so I said, with present budget we can’t do anything at all. We can ask for an increased budget, and maybe in that case we will make very modest quantities of plutonium, certainly of no military significance whatsoever, and we should not do it, because it’s much more interesting to spend plutonium on further researches, to build more powerful reactors, for which at that time I thought some arrangement was necessary. So it was a very realistic program, which read: “Kowarski puts obstacles to making plutonium.” Many years later, the (?) correspondent in some article for ‘56 issue, ‘58 issue, recalled this history, which he said, “All scientists in (?) at that time opposed making plutonium,” which of course is totally untrue. My point of view was strictly, what resources we have, what resources we can have, and, in view of these limited resources, what was the best course of action? (?) transmitted everywhere that scientists, left, around Joliot, refused to make plutonium. And then the whole action started. Francis Perrin -- there was a body in the (?) called the Scientific Council, which was created by Joliot, with various dignitaries -- both (?) and (?) were on it. (?) was on it, of course. But in ‘51 (?) was already sitting as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission, which was enlarged. I think it was enlarged at that time to ten or twelve members or something like that, and (?) had official title of Deputy, to High Commissioner, in High Commissioner’s absence.

That was from early ‘51. So, this Scientific Council then continued with other members of the Academy, some members which were on Joliot’s side, and some members which were frankly Communist. They all sat on it in some capacity. (?) was at that time officially a member of the Atomic Energy Commission, representing the foreign minister. Francis Perrin was asked to present, for an October meeting, in ‘51, of the Scientific Council a report on the design problem. In a characteristic way, in the autumn of ‘51, Francis Perrin went to a very important scientific conference in Chicago, to which I was invited, but at the last time I had to cancel because I didn’t get the visa. The refusal of the visa became official in August, ‘51. I was completely down and out. It meant, above other things, for France, that the American Consulate certified me as a Communist sympathizer. Francis Perrin was asked to do a paper, which was the first of two papers he wrote, and I think I have both of them here, both of them.

Weart:

I’m sure I’ve seen both of them.

Kowarski:

The first was probably, I would say, something like August. He probably wrote it just before going to the States.

Weart:

And as I recall, it looked pretty much like the expose you gave at JIF, it was a small --

Kowarski:

No, but, I remember, definitely it was stating, much more definitely than what I gave at JIF. At JIF I still was entirely in the limits of civilities, of the availability of uranium. Things, (?) couldn’t know a thing of the military. But in the first Francis Perrin paper -- you can check it, as I remember it -- he stated the doctrine, we must have big natural uranium reactors, in which the question of plutonium was sort of a little bit glossed over. That was the Francis -- Then, he went to the States. We three, I would say we three, Goldschmit, me, and (?), with me being a little bit not quite the same level of confidence as the other two, we knew what was preparing, you know, in October, and we were completely full of forebodings. What was prepared, I can of course say only from, partly from gossip I heard. In this respect, I think there is a man, I never met him, Jim Bauer?

Weart:

No, I never did.

Kowarski:

He seems to be very sick today. He is a man about 11 years younger than I am, but he is in really failing health. While you are in Paris, you might try to meet him. And I don’t know whether, first of all, he will remember everything, but he knew everything. He was very well with the establishment. He was actually (he was Jewish, of course) involved in Communist politics. But, when de Gaulle had a Communist as his deputy prime minister, ‘45, Bauer had something to do with his deputy prime minister, therefore, but he was from such a good family, a rich family, the Bauer family.

Weart:

Is that how it’s pronounced in French?

Kowarski:

With such good connections, that he was never touched by anything. That counts, you know. These Communist accusations in France, the McCarthyism in France, which was very strong, was really a tool to chase the undesirables. Bauer never was an undesirable. He was too high in the French ruling class.

Weart:

Is he the Bauer whose father was a scientist?

Kowarski:

Yes, a very great scientist, I would say, not brilliantly known, but a very deep one.

Weart:

I should see him simply to see whether he has any papers of his father’s.

Kowarski:

He might. His father was a remarkable personality.

Weart:

Do you know his address, by any chance?

Kowarski:

Bauer’s?

Weart:

Yes, so I can find him in the phone book.

Kowarski:

He lives I think in the 7th, if he still lives there, on the rue de (?). Characteristically, in the heart of the aristocracy.

Weart:

Yes.

Weart:

All right, I’ll see if I can find him. All right, so --

Kowarski:

Now, the three of us, I say, (?), Goldschmit and myself, we knew that things were brewing. And what things? As I say again, I can say only hearsay, and what I remember myself from one dramatic meeting of this Scientific Council in October, and various things I learned from various others, chiefly from Bauer. We were decided to ask Francis -- first of all, we have this meeting at JIF.

Weart:

Another meeting?

Kowarski:

The meeting, which was on the 14th of September, I think (?) wasn’t there. He was in the States.

Weart:

That’s right, because it says on the thing that (?) was president.

Kowarski:

Yes. (?) was (?) you see. He was a bit on his defense, because he had to deal with people who knew immensely more than he did. This obviously put him in a delicate position, but he handled it well.

Weart:

Let me go get the thing --

Kowarski:

-- oh, I don’t think it’s necessary.

Weart:

You remember?

Kowarski:

OK. What I would like you to read by yourself, compare this JIF meeting, 14th of September, and the first Francis Perrin paper. You will see that we were writing (working?) much beyond that, in the completeness of our proposals. Francis Perrin came back. With what we knew, and after this meeting, we implored him to write another version, and that was his second paper. The second paper is much more in agreement with the JIF meeting. Maybe in your memory you confused the two of them. (?) didn’t realize that this took place. We didn’t take him very much in our confidence, and he still was on the ideas which he had before Francis went and before the JIF meeting. And now, I pass from what I remember to what I was told. We made a scenario, complete. At the Scientific Council, Francis Perrin would be asked squarely whether he accepts to make plutonium. Francis Perrin would make his cagy answer, and (?) by that time, when he organized the scenario, didn’t know the second paper. He still probably had the first paper, and he said, he thought that he could very easily maneuver Francis Perrin into a peremptory question, “Do you or don’t you?” and Francis Perrin would say some cagy answer, and the Scientific Council would express their distrust. Then, there was no administrator then. The Commissariat had only Francis Perrin.

There was no (?) was not thought of at that date. It was only thought of about the same time, beginning. The idea was that this would be transmitted to the Ministry, and they would revoke Francis Perrin, smearing him, and so. His successor was already waiting. It was Ricard. What’s his name, Yves Ricard, who was (?), who was much more in the confidence of the military. He was always involved with the military. He had distinguished service with the English during the war. He was a distinguished man. He got his CBE, which is quite high, in the hierarchy. It’s the third degree already in that order. It’s almost as high as the French Commander of the (?). Not quite, but almost. Ricard was quite a distinguished man, not in knowledge -- he knew nothing of nuclear physics, but that was easy to arrange. He would have helpers. He was very credible for High Commissioner. He was ready. He was in New York. He fled. He didn’t want to be there. But (?) told me that private detail, that when Ricard learned -- wrote to him privately, “You know, Kowarski now has been scotched, he has been smeared” -- Ricard wrote in horror, “What have you done?” “We were rid of that guy, and now he is there as large as life.” He was quite right, because -- well, that is what I call the blue ink paper, which I hastily wrote in October, ‘51.

Weart:

Now, wait a minute, is this after Francis Perrin’s second paper or?

Kowarski:

More or less simultaneously. It was after the JIF meeting. I don’t guarantee that it was not written after the tragic meeting, but, it was sort of -- the same -- the ideas, we all had it before. (crosstalk) I had already plans for the Five Year Plan on the table, written, which I produced, the first thing to do was the G1 and the G2 reactors. G2 reactor was already obviously making plutonium in quantities, quite enough to make a couple of explosions.

Weart:

Right. It is particularly clear from your handwritten draft, the blue ink draft, that the G1 was to produce plutonium fast in order to have some for experimental purposes, G2 was to be the big plutonium producing device.

Kowarski:

Yes. All this was ready. Francis was still not sold on it. That, by the way, is why my blue ink paper finally was completely suppressed. Of course, he never knew that I still kept it in my… I don’t remember whether there are actually corrections in Goldschmit’s story. Maybe not.

Weart:

Not that I noticed.

Kowarski:

No. But it was very much in the context of both of them.

Weart:

Did that become a typed report?

Kowarski:

And Ricard still waited in New York to be sent a cable. It’s all in the basket, in the bag. Come back. What happened was that after this question was put to Francis, and Francis made slightly unsatisfactory reply, (?) with extraordinary presence of mind asked me, me, to tell about all the insufficiencies, in particular of uranium ore.

Weart:

This is at the Consay(?)?

Kowarski:

At the Consay(?). Also at the JIF meeting. The (?) I gave, was there, was already familiar with. I said it. I think (?) was quite content with my performance. But then Maurice (?), the old Maurice who was at that time, I think he was chairman of the Council or something, said -- he was an honest man, you see -- he said, “We didn’t know all this,” he said.

Weart:

Meaning the insufficiency of the --

Kowarski:

The insufficiency of the uranium supplies. The calculations of what what could come in immediate years. I think I said even then already that all this was quite related to certain budgetary assumptions. Of course, if the budget is incredibly enlarged, which appeared to us at that time completely incredible, we would be able to make rather bigger plutonium than G2. I said all that. Maurice (?) said, “We didn’t know all this.” And (?) -- he’s a diplomat, you see, and he was completely trusted by them -- he said, “Well, you see how it is.” I think he probably must have hinted that Francis Perrin was just back from the United States, and didn’t quite know the deliberations, or something. After the meeting, (?) was still pressing Maurice to make a report which would be derogatory to Francis Perrin but Maurice refused. (?) heard him. He was the (?), a great great master, and he was the Academy, he was everything, and (?) would not go behind it. And there was a very simple consideration, we cannot do it to Jacques Perrin’s son.

Weart:

That was not expressed?

Kowarski:

Oh, I think (?) told me about it, “We cannot do it.” And it’s not -- suddenly, Ricard did not receive the cable. Francis Perrin was not revoked. And they say, of course, now we have to go look for a good successor to (?) didn’t want that at all. He wanted some kind of a figurehead, so that he would be --

Weart:

(?) would be the successor to (?)?

Kowarski:

No, that he couldn’t.

Weart:

No, but in effect.

Kowarski:

In effect -- yes. (?) at that time was thinking of, let’s see, of some radical politician.

Weart:

So that the administration would in effect be run by him.

Kowarski:

(?) started pushing his brother-in-law, Hirsh, who later on became the chairman of Euratom. All this was to nothing. People -- no -- the old boys, (?), they knew what’s what.

Weart:

Now, there’s one part of this that we haven’t discussed yet, and that is the increase in funds that came around this time. Francis Perrin’s second paper, the one after this meeting with the roman numeral II says something about how the previous one was done under budget limits and so forth, but now, if we consider a larger budget, then we can go ahead and have G1 and G2.

Kowarski:

Yes. His pretext for changing.

Weart:

Now, at that time, had the extra funds been guaranteed, or this was sort of saying --?

Kowarski:

I don’t know whether Lescop already said it, -- I think, if I remember rightly, Lescop’s game was to first paint the picture that the Commissariat refuses to make plutonium.

Weart:

And then to go for greater funds.

Kowarski:

Then go for greater funds. In fact, I remember now that he told me exactly that already as early as ‘49. Before Joliot was ousted. He once told it to me. Lescop was sometimes, had moments of frankness, especially when he was a little bit under the influence. And this happened to him quite often.

Weart:

First Joliot would have to go out, and then there would be a search for more funds.

Kowarski:

More or less, Joliot, but when he said to me, “Joliot, Joliot” -- oh yes, I forgot to say, one part of the scenario. The first act of Ricard would be to fire me. That was also part of the scenario. Of course, there was no question of firing me now. I appeared practically as the man who presented the technical –- no. Of course, I didn’t claim that I had the leading ideas. Whatever I had, I didn’t claim, but I presented the technical details, clear in the head, everything possible, and so on. So why fire me?

Weart:

Right. This is why -- because you mentioned earlier, that in October, you remember particularly well, because it was a crisis not only for the Commissariat but for your own life as well.

Kowarski:

Oh yes, because at that time -- and that, I will have to rely on (?) Boyer -- it was decided between Lescop and Ricard that the first act of Ricard would be to fire me. Well, Ricard didn’t come. Guillaumat was found pretty soon after that. He was, in my opinion -- not many people would disagree with me -- was a very felicitous choice. From the point of view of the interest of the Commissariat. And from the military point of view. He was of the stable of Louis Armand, who was one of the great great lights of French technocracy. He was the pre-successor of the head of railways.

Weart:

I didn’t know that.

Kowarski:

Armand.

Weart:

Oh, Armand.

Kowarski:

Armand is now I think a member of the French Academy. A very remarkable person. I have made occasions to meet with him. We have had very interesting talks. Armand would not quit whatever he was doing. I think he was still doing the Railways then. But Guillaumat was one of his stable. Guillaumat’s name was brought up at a fairly early stage after that October meeting. Guillaumat actually came in in early November.

Weart:

I wonder whether -- well, I think we’ve covered it.

Kowarski:

That is what I call the October Tragedy.

Weart:

The October Tragedy.

Session I | Session II