Oral History Transcript — Dr. David Lazarus
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David Lazarus; December 4, 1981
ABSTRACT: Family background; freshman course instructors at the University of Chicago; war-time training program; living next door to Manhattan Project people; Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University; work on jamming tools (radar counter-measures) and antennas; work and graduate study at the Institute for the Study of Metals the University of Chicago (with Clarence Zener); work with Andy Lawson; E. R. Piore and the Office of Naval Research; early history of the Institute for the Study of Metals; Cyril Stanley Smith; Zener’s course in solid state physics; Lazarus’ doctoral dissertation; University of Illinois at Urbana, fall 1949; work on diffusion in metals; interaction with Frederick Seitz and Japanese physicists. Also prominently mentioned are: Chuck Barrett, Enrico Fermi, Doug Fitchen, James Franck, Bill Fretter, George Friedel, Lou Girifalco, Marvin Leonard Goldberger, Mel Gottlieb, Pete Harvey, Gerald Holton, Hillard B. Huntington, Peter Gerald Kruger, Ting Tsui Kuh, Harvey Brace Lemon, Earl Long, Francis Wheeler Loomis, Robert Joseph Maurer, Douglas McArthur, Louis Ridenour, Win Salzberg, Larry Slitkin, Don Stevens, Leo Szilard, Carl Tomizuka, Chen Ning Yang; Argonne National Laboratory, Columbia University, General Electric Company, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States Atomic Energy Commission.
Lazarus:… because I was concerned, you know, when I was at the meeting, and I particularly wanted to hear the thing on defects because that's my own research area. And I was somewhat surprised and I suppose dismayed to discover the extraordinarily brief limitation of the definition of the term which, as I say, omits almost all the work done at the University of Illinois, which happens to be one of the modern centers for this research. And it surprised me particularly as well as it did Fred Seitz, who was a member of this group. And Fred, of course, is the great father of all of the work on defects and mechanical properties. John also has done a huge amount in that area as well as on the other aspects; I was a little amazed they hadn't interjected their arm in there before.
Hoddeson:Well, that's why we have Krzysztof working on this now.
Lazarus:I mean, you know, I think it should not be omitted because it still is one of the large areas of solid state research and it grew, as I mentioned, here mostly because of Fred's interest. I know when I came from Chicago and my thesis was on totally different things. I had done high pressures and elastic properties and Fred says, "Why don't you think about diffusion as something to work on?" And so I got involved with diffusion and mass transport things, vacancies and all of this kind of stuff here and, well, this became a major center. Not just because of me. Bob Maurer, I was doing it in metals, (knock on door) and Bob was doing this in ionic crystals. Excuse me. (Answers the door.) Hi, I'm going to be busy the rest of this afternoon.
Person at door:Okay.
Lazarus:I'll call you. (Continuing) And Jimmie Koehler came in the next year and started the program on radiation damage which again is very related to these rather more complex defects.
Szymborski:Yes. I already talked to Koehler.
Lazarus:You did? Good.
Lazarus:Did you talk to Maurer, too?
Lazarus:Good. Because it just happened that the three of us, the group was sort of, well, I was the young kid, I was an instructor, Koehler and Maurer were associate professors and Seitz was a full professor. And Fred was, of course, a theorist and strongly interacting with us in our programs, but a great deal of the work here started along these lines and then Charlie Slichter came the same time I did, but as a nuclear physicist. At that particular time, Irwin Hann was finishing his thesis here and Irwin's thesis was probably, well, it certainly was the first application of nuclear resonance to defects in solids -- in metals, specifically -- he invented the pulse echo technique and this…turned out with Charlie who then got converted from being a nuclear to a solid-state physicist. Charlie adapted this to precisely the same studies; I mean, Dick Norberg was one of Charlie's first students and did classic work on using NMR for diffusion so that Charlie's work and my work were really, in very different approaches, parallel in concerns.
Szymborski:Yes. It was a very strong center.
Lazarus:Yes. So that it became a very strong center for this kind of research and NMR was really developed as a quantitative solid state tool here. And then Charlie got Herb Gatowski going on that sort of similar stuff in chemistry so that between the two of them it just really built up to an immense thing. I hope it will get adequate coverage. I would perfectly be charmed to read drafts as you go and feed you what input I can.
Hoddeson:That would be great.
Lazarus:My own work was pretty much for many years mostly diffusion in metals; I sort of grabbed off a chunk of metal and did a lot of work on that to sort of try to establish the validity of the vacancy as a concept. It really took a lot of doing, as the theories went on…
Szymborski:I would like you to go back in time, because we usually ask people questions starting from early childhood, and so on.
Hoddeson:We'd like to have you in our catalogue of people who were interviewed autobiographically, and so …
Lazarus:Well, I'll take off my jacket.
Hoddeson:Take off your jacket, relax, and let me start at this point and introduce just a note on the tape that this is going to be an interview by Krzysztof Szymborski at the University of Illinois on the 4th of December with David Lazarus about his life in solid-state physics, mainly, and assorted other subjects. And while you're talking about your own work if you think of related work that was going on that we should be aware of, other people to interview and other subjects to look into, don't hold that back.
Szymborski:I have gathered some information about you. I know that you were born in September 18, 1921 as far as I know it was in Buffalo.
Szymborski:There are usually questions which are most interesting to us, such as: what was your family background, what an impact the atmosphere at home had on your scientific interests.
Lazarus:I'll be glad to tell you. I'm a second child, I have one older brother and I have no younger sibs. My parents were immigrants to this country as very young children. My mother at age five, I believe, having been born somewhere, it was either in Poland or East Prussia, depending on where the border was that day (Hoddeson laughs), but brought up in a typical Stadtel community. Her father and mother and older sisters emigrated to the United States, leaving her and her brother behind for one year. She lived with her grandfather, and her brother with a different grandfather. And then her elder sister came back and got them, smuggled them across the border and brought them to this country. She was then five, I believe. My father was born in England and came to this country at the age of six months with his two older brothers, and then the balance of both of those families were born in this country. They were not well educated nor were they in the least bit wealthy families; they were working-class people. My two grandfathers, my maternal grandfather opened a dry cleaning establishment, a small dry cleaning establishment. My parents met somewhere around nineteen-or-something and were married in 1910, and lived in Rochester where my father was a cutter, that was a person who cuts cloth in a tailor shop. In around 1915 or thereabouts my maternal grandfather started dying of cancer and asked my father to come to Buffalo and take over this small dry cleaning establishment because my father was older than his older sons and my father, kicking and screaming, did it. And so my brother was born in 1917 in Buffalo; I was born in 1921. We grew up in a family in which there was…and my father was then for the rest of his life involved in the family business; first it was this dry cleaning business, and then later an electrical heating fixture business, which was run by the family. And I had many cousins, 35 first cousins I believe (Hoddeson laughs) there were 7 each in my father's and mother's family; most of them ended up in Buffalo and they begot, so it was a very interesting extended family, not intellectual at all. I mean, there was really no intellectual stimulation in this. My mother belonged to the Book-of-the-Month Club later in life, and that was one way I got to reading a lot of books. I read and reread every book in the house many times as a child. We had an encyclopedia of no great merit which I consumed.
Szymborski:Did you have any technical or scientific books?
Lazarus:Not originally. I was a great library goer, and I would take three or four books a week out of the library and read them, but they were miscellaneous. I would read junk as well as anything valuable. I was very undisciplined until I got to high school, probably, and at that point there were really two influences which I would consider major in my life. One was my English teacher. Her name was Mary Clary, who then married Carl Walls, and became Mary Walls. But she gave me some real things to read instead of the usual pap that we read. She started giving me Pirandello and stuff like that to read. I discovered the language, I would say, beyond the usual class assignments and discovered the richness of language, and this is something which has stayed with me forever. I'm terribly conscious of prose and style and things. And the other notable thing which dictated my professional career is as a little kid I kept wanting to be an inventor. I had build a little lab in the basement and my brother had a chemistry set and I built a little electrical system.
Szymborski:How did this idea occur to you?
Lazarus:Just from reading. Edison was a big hero. But things got focused when I was about 14, I would say, 14, somewhere around there, one of my father's pinochle-playing friends was a man named Leo Dana who was a physicist, in fact, and their association was they were good friends and social friends obviously but Leo -- who is still alive, incidentally, and whom I still see from time to time -- was at that point associated with the Lindy Air Products Company which was just outside Buffalo in Tonawana, New York, and he took me out there. I think I was then about 13 or 14 years old, and I saw all the machinery for making liquid oxygen and nitrogen and the labs and stuff and I said, you know, "Wow, this is for me!" And he also lent me books. I bought myself Einstein and Infeld, he loaned me a book by Harvey Lemon called From Galileo to Cosmic Rays which was written for a physical science freshman course, I discovered, at the University of Chicago. And anyway, I just made up my mind instantly that that's what I wanted to be, that all the rest of these things were childish, I was going to be a physicist. By the time I was 16, I was absolutely convinced I was going to be a physicist. And I went off to Chicago; I only applied to two colleges, MIT and Chicago.
Hoddeson:Why did you pick Chicago?
Lazarus:I picked Chicago, really you know why? Because it was cheaper. I had friends at both, and I found that MIT had $600 a year tuition and they were giving me a $100 scholarship. And Chicago was $300 a year tuition and with no scholarship it was still cheaper to go to Chicago.
Lazarus:So that's why I went to Chicago.
Szymborski:Going back to your high school, you don't have much to tell us about your physics teachers, do you?
Lazarus:My physics teacher in high school was an abomination. He was named John Peak, who did not know anything. We took up, there was a book by a man named Dull.
Hoddeson:Oh, I had that book too (Hoddeson laughs).
Lazarus:I think Dull, Metcalf, and something. In my day, it was just Dull. It's still, incidentally, around and still one of the big sellers. It now has many authors. Mr. Dull has gone to his reward. It was an abominable book, it was one of these things where there was a picture of a lift pump, and your physics assignment would be "draw a picture of a lift pump," and you trace it, and then "draw a force pump." And Mr. Peak knew nothing beyond what was in that book. Then I read in my outside things, I remember reading about thermoelectricity, and I said -- and that wasn't in Dull -- and so I said, "now, explain to me about thermoeletricity," and he says, "well, it's not in the course."
Szymborski:So you were not instructed.
Lazarus:No, that's not quite true. There was a lab instructor who was a graduate student at the University of Buffalo, actually, a man named Art Hammond, who was a lot of fun and of considerable inspiration, but he was never allowed to teach. I ran into Hammond again many years later who was by then a working, breathing physicist and was I think in industry or something. He turned up in Urbana. I think it was the neatest thing. I had not seen him or thought of him since high school. Anyway, my physics course in high school was not an inspiration; needless to say, this was not the famous high school…
Szymborski:Did you have any colleagues in school or schoolmates with whom you could discuss about science?
Lazarus:Not really. I was very close to lots of kids in school, but not with the viewpoint, probably as a matter of fact one or two, but none of them turned into scientists. It was a typical big city high school. I don't know, what, 2000 students or something like that. I was the smart boy. I was the bright kid. There was a girl smarter than I; she beat me out for valedictorian by .2%. I keep wondering what happened to her; she was very bright. She was not a science type, she was a humanist, extremely bright; I envied her enormously. She could write much better than I, but I was better in math. Her name is Charlotte George; I looked her up to see if she was in Who's Who or something, but she's not. I wonder…
Szymborski:Maybe she changed her name.
Lazarus:Then there was one other kid in my high school class who turned up on the faculty here in economics later, Don Hodgeson, whom I haven't seen since we graduated high school. That was sort of interesting. Then the rest of them I've lost track of, they were not intellectually stimulated. I went to the University of Chicago, went into physics.
Szymborski:This was what year?
Lazarus:This was 1938, and started taking courses there and never wavered from wanting to be in physics. It was one of those things that…
Hoddeson:Who did you take courses from?
Lazarus:My freshman physics course was taught by Michael Ferentz, who ended up later at the General Motors Research Lab, actually, and I ran into him later too. He had written a book with Harvey Lemon who had written this book From Galileo to Cosmic Rays. Lemon was also one of the instructors; Lemon turned out to be an abominable teacher. I mean one of the reasons I think I chose Chicago was because Lemon was there. Lemon, it turned out, was a total idiot.
Hoddeson:He was a lemon.
Lazarus:He had done, he was a lemon, yes (laughs). He had done some great stuff in popularizing physics. He was the one that had done a lot of work in the Museum of Science and Industry making push-button exhibits and it turned out he had married the daughter of I think it was Gail, who had been earlier the department chairman at Chicago, and it's probably how Lemon got to be tenured, because he really didn't know any physics at all. It was quite amazing to find such a person. This, after all, was the department of Michelson and stuff like that and here was Harvey Brace Lemon in there as a full professor. And later when I took a course in statistical, if I remember, it was kinetic theory, he didn't know it if wasn't in the book. You could not ask this man a question and get an answer. And he would say things like "well, if I were going to be shot at sunrise I guess I could answer that, but I'm not." He couldn't answer anything, his understanding was just like that. He was a popularizer, not a very formidable man. There were, of course, formidable people on the faculty.
Hoddeson:Did you come into contact with any of them as an undergraduate?
Lazarus:No, as a matter of fact, the ones I got to know my senior year, by my senior year, yes, one or two, Willy Zacharias, I took a course in classical mechanics, sort of the level of [the] Goldstein [textbook]. There was a Goldstein, and I did get to know him at least a little and was enormously impressed. And there were other teachers that I've had as an undergraduate who were notably not stars. There was a man named Albert Shaw who didn't survive, he was an instructor and never got tenure, and a man named Bob Moon; I got very close to them. They ran lab courses and I adored the lab. A man named George Monk who ran the optics course, again not distinguished. Some of the distinguished people didn't take too much to undergraduates and the faculty before the war was not so terribly distinguished. Fermi came after, Teller came after, Dempster was there and I did have a course from Dempster but he was a terribly uninspiring teacher, really unbelievable. I had a course from Mullikan that was after the war. He holds the world's record as the world's most uninspiring teacher. So, anyway, I was there as an undergraduate. It was a very small, department, of course…
Szymborski:You started in '38, you made your bachelor's degree in '42. This was already the war period.
Lazarus:The war had just started, and I graduated in March of '42, which was one quarter earlier -- we were on a quarter system -- and along with let's see, who else, there was Wally Sellov, who was a classmate of mine then, and he is now at Penn, he's in high energy there. A guy named Dave Fischer I think was still there. There were like three of us, or maybe four. It was a very large group to graduate in physics at that point. I got involved immediately with Bob Moon and Albert Shaw who were starting a wartime sort of pre-radar training program; it was called in this country the ESMWT program -- Engineering Science War M, Management something, anyway, war training.
Szymborski:What was your subject in which you specialized?
Lazarus:I didn't, as an undergraduate. We did not specialize there, you just took a lot of good, general physics plus intermediate physics and stuff like that. I got involved immediately with this thing, though, in which we were going to teach electronics and some11 other stuff to people who were enlisted in the service but were not yet in uniform. They were called the enlisted reserve and they were going to, they were being sent around to universities all over to get various background training and then they would go into service either with or without commissions and our group was supposed to go into radar. That was the plan. Okay, so we were trying to teach them on a mad schedule. They were going to school eight hours a day, five days a week, and we were trying to teach them all of mathematics, physics (Hoddeson laughs), electricity and magnetism, both practical and theoretical, and in three months, I think it was. We ourselves, of course, had just got bachelor's degrees.
Hoddeson:And had never taught.
Lazarus:And had never taught, no. One of us in our group, it was a small group, Wally Sellov and I who had just graduated, Mel Gottlieb -- who was one of my nearest and dearest friends, who just retired as head of the Princeton plasma lab who was my best man and my roommate very shortly at that point and has remained one of my closest friends -- there were about six or so, Dave Hess, who is, I think, at Argonne now. I forgot who the other one was, a small group, working with Moon, who was really a madman, and Shaw, who was, too, a young faculty, who later never did get tenured at Chicago. And we set up this incredible course; one can only admire our gall. We didn't know what the hell we were doing. And we were really trying to take people through a book like Stratton, starting them with at high school level, in sort of three months, and give them lab work. It was absurd, the whole thing was absurd. We would be up writing curricula and making up class notes and junk, you know, up until midnight, and then meeting at class at eight A.M., teaching the stuff we had just written the night before, and then the same thing the following night. It was an adventure. During this interval, we were getting pushed around the university because the Manhattan Project had blossomed and a lot of my friends and classmates had gotten involved in that. We were offered jobs but we hated them because they were pushing us out of the physics building. I remember when they were machining all this sparky material in the machine shop in Ryerson's lab, which was the stuff for the first reactor, but we didn't know that at the time it was uranium. We didn't know, I mean, it was funny. We didn't know that Fermi was there. Fermi, of course, was there by then and was invisible to us. We were eventually pushed out of the physics building into the east wing of the Museum of Science and Industry.
Szymborski:But did you realize that something important was going on?
Lazarus:Oh, we knew there was a big project and we knew it was nuclear. We certainly did not know it was a bomb. I remember that I was enormously amazed when they dropped the thing on Hiroshima and announced it on the radio. By then I was at Cambridge, and I started laughing and said, "My God, that's what they were doing!" As far as I was concerned, because we were living next door to these guys, and you know, we had been undergraduates, guys my age, were 21 years old, we were undergraduates together. We joked back and forth but they never really said what they were doing and we never really asked because it was understood that it was a secret, but that it obviously involved nuclear physics, because we were told that when they tried to recruit us, and we knew that they were working at the cyclotron, for example.
Hoddeson:How could Fermi have been invisible?
Lazarus:Because Fermi was, of course, not there as a member of the faculty. He was imported there to be technical director of the Manhattan Project at that point and he was also at that point an enemy alien because we were at war with Italy and so he couldn't be cleared to get into his own project. I learned later a very interesting way of getting Fermi in…
Lazarus:…which was that on a particular signal, a guard was instructed to leave his post by a backdoor of the cyclotron, and the door was opened, and Fermi would walk in. And then the guard would reappear, not seeing Fermi. But he couldn't be cleared, so legally he couldn't walk in the front door of his own project.
Hoddeson:And everybody knew this.
Lazarus:Oh, of course, inside the project, not outside. Outside, Fermi talked to Al Wattenburg, because he came with Fermi from Columbia to Chicago at exactly the same time. But, it was a well guarded secret as far as I was concerned, and those on the inside did know what was going on, but you really didn't play that game. Anyway, because we were so angry with these people, when our project started folding, which was in '43 -- no, it was in '42 and '43 we taught this succession of three month courses in this rather wild curriculum -- I was offered a job; Gottlieb and I were offered jobs to go to Harvard.
Szymborski:Officially, formally, your position was that of instructor in electronics?
Lazarus:That's right. But it was an ad hoc position, it wasn't real faculty. We were given these titles and given some pittance; I believe my salary was about $1800 a year.
Szymborski:But you published something about electronics, I found these papers which are not on the list…
Lazarus:Not then, later. That was at the end of the war. My first publications were in antennas, actually.
Szymborski:This was (showing him paper) undated.
Lazarus:Oh, 1945, in the very high frequency techniques book…
Szymborski:It's with Nelson…
Lazarus:…here in this set (gets book from shelf) which was like the Radiation Lab Series for Radiation Lab at MIT. Our lab at Harvard, which was the countermeasures, we did radar countermeasures.
Szymborski:But you worked on it later.
Lazarus:I worked on it from '43 to '45.
Lazarus:I was just saying, that when our project was folding in '43, we were asked by the Manhattan Project which was called the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago if we would like to come to work there. And we were so angry with them for having pushed us out of the physics building that we really didn't want to work there.
Hoddeson:So what did you do?
Lazarus:Sam Allerson, I think, we interviewed with. Anyway, we were also offered this chance to go to Harvard to the Radio Research Laboratory which was the offshoot of the Radiation Lab at MIT, and it was moved up to Harvard because in principle, the level of military classification for countermeasures was one level above that for radar. We were all at the SECRET and TOP SECRET level, whereas they were mostly at the CONFIDENTIAL level. The Germans were not supposed to know that we knew about their radar, so we were working on countermeasures. And so Gottlieb and I went too, I got married the day before I left. For a honeymoon, I took a train ride to Cambridge and started to work (Hoddeson laughs). Betty went out to try to find an apartment and Mel and I ended up living in the same building, he one floor down.
Szymborski:Is she also a physicist?
Lazarus:Mel Gottlieb? Yes.
Szymborski:No, your wife.
Lazarus:No, absolutely not. She's a person (Hoddeson laughs). No, I met her when I was a freshman in college and she was a junior in high school. And she was definitely not a scientist. It has nothing to do with being smart, she's much smarter than I am. She was an English major in college, actually, and she quit when the war started and took a job at the Treasury Department, and things like that. Never did end up finishing her degree, which made no difference to her general intelligence.
Hoddeson:Tell us more about this laboratory in Harvard.
Hoddeson:We have almost no information about it.
Lazarus:Okay. The head of the laboratory was Fred Terman from Stanford, and the head physicist was John van Vleck.
Hoddeson:Okay, Bloch was there, too.
Felix Block was there. He was a bete noire, he was hateful. Bob Sard worked with Bloch, Bob and Mort Hammermesh. Bob was then a theorist, I met him then in 1943 and he and Mort Hammermesh and Bloch comprised the theoretical group in the lab, which was mostly doing calculations about noise because that was our main jamming tool, broadcasting noise and things like that. Fred Terman was the director of the lab. My boss was an absolute madman, my first boss, Win Salzberg, who's still around and kicking every once in a while. I saw a letter in Physics Today from Salzberg recently. Mel and I started working on high-power transmitter tubes of experimental sorts. Something invented by Dave Sloan and Larry Marshall called the Sloan-Marshall tube, a resonatron, and also one by Sloan and Bill Fretter who was also a good physicist then at G.E., a magnetron. They were both abominations, these two. We are able to get kilowatt powers in the microwave region, which was otherwise quite unobtainable in those days. Continuously pumped, they were real physicists' tubes; the resonatron thing would actually, well, Salzburg would claim it would give 30 kilowatts, it actually would give 10, in the most unbelievable system you ever saw in your life.
It was portable, in 24 trucks (Hoddeson laughs), it had to be continuously pumped, it made a huge vacuum system and it was tunable through 24 sylphon bellows that were always leaking, and we kept this thing going and nursed it along. There were several other guys in our group working on this thing, one of whom was John Gall, who is now head of Sandia labs, I guess. He and I worked together. There were a bunch of people who were engineers rather than physicists; Bill Welch, who is now a professor in Phoenix -- he teaches at the University there in Electrical Engineering -- he had been at Michigan; Jim Black, who is at Motorola in Phoenix, who was working on our project; I remember reminiscing about some of the other guys. There was one other physics person, a guy named Pete Harvery, who was killed almost immediately after the war at the Harvard Cyclotron; he electrocuted himself doing one of the tricks that we had always done, tying back the interlock as he walked in to fix the power supply, except he tripped and fell across the condenser and was electrocuted. It was one of the standard things we were always doing, tying back interlocks to go in to service it; it was too bad. Anyway, I spent the war years working first on these high-powered transmitters, and then I moved after about a year to the fourth floor to another group in which I started working on broad-band antennas.
Szymborski:This was also for a countermeasure, of for other…
These countermeasures, yes. Both transmitters and receiving antennas. I invented a class of antennas at that point, more by luck than by talent, which were known as slot antennas, that is, they didn't stick out inside the skin of the airplane. Jet planes were just being invented, and there was great concern that you couldn't put anything on the outside; that the vibration would shake the plane to pieces, so there was concern about building an antenna which didn't protrude from the skin of the plane and somebody assigned me this as a project when I went up to the fourth floor. And without thinking terribly hard about it, I said, "let me just try this," and I tried it and it worked. I took a coax-to-waveguide feed and just put in a few variables and put it in a plane, turned it around, and I got something with a two-to-one frequency bandwidth. And then I suddenly had a bear by the tail, because people had predicted that it was impossible to make something with more than 10% bandwidth and here I had made something with a two-to-one bandwidth, and suddenly had to make good on these things. And we started producing them and testing them and flight testing and shipping them out. We worked very closely; in the countermeasures business we worked very closely with… The atmosphere was so totally different from what it is now. We would get a signal that we had detected at radar and we would within a week have that apparatus out of which we had built in the lab, flown out and running and jamming up radar. It was totally different from the way one does now.
Before D-Day, for example, with the invasion of Europe, everybody in the lab was building apparatus, and it was flown over, installed on every landing craft and airplane in England, and with instructions "when you go in, turn this switch." They didn't know what it was, and there were diversionary raids up and down the entire coast, so that until the actual fleet appeared at wherever the hell they landed, that meant you could not tell. From a radar picture the entire west coast of Europe was being saturated and invaded by airplanes and ships and things like that. We like to think it contributed to the success of the landing; there was enough cover that nobody actually saw the landing craft until they really appeared where they did and there was no way of knowing where they were coming in. It was a saturation countermeasures thing, and we did a lot of it. Anyway, my first papers had to do with these antennas and things like that, and that was at the end of the war.
Szymborski:And you still were not interested in solid state?
Lazarus:Oh, no, no. I will tell you how I got into that.
Szymborski:You didn't meet Bridgeman, for example, at Harvard?
Lazarus:He probably wasn't there. You see, during the war, the universities ceased functioning, basically, as universities. They were all mobilized, there were almost no regular students, and almost no regular faculty. Bridgeman, I think, was actually at the arsenal during the entire war, either in Frankford or Philadelphia. Nobody except a few people who were unclearable remained students or faculty.
Szymborski:What about people at MIT at this time?
Lazarus:They were all involved, they worked there, they were either involved in either the Rad Lab or the Bomb project, the Manhattan Project, something.
Szymborski:You didn't have too much contact with them?
Lazarus:I went down to MIT a few times but this was just the Radiation Lab. No, there was no university, there were no seminars, there was no physics department anywhere except as, I say, there were accelerated students like Charlie Slichter and Dick Brown here who were accelerated students at Harvard at that point, did their undergraduate stuff in two years, again, going eight hours a day, five days a week and there were a few people assigned to teach them. Just a skeleton faculty taught courses during the war there, but the entire country was mobilized. In Chicago, I think, there was one professor left, Marcel Schein, because he was an enemy alien and couldn't be cleared. And there were two graduate students, one of whom was Harold Tiko, who is now my good friend at UCLA, and I think he still may be department chairman, but Harold had a wooden leg so he couldn't be drafted, and he was also an alien; and Ralph Latt, whose uncle was on his draft board, and who finished his Ph.D. (Hoddeson laughs) while all the rest of us left. Well, anyway, at the end of the war, I was offered a job to go to Airborne Instrument Laboratories, in Long Island, with many of the colleagues that I had worked with at the Radio Research Lab. I went to the point of driving down once we could get gas, and trying to find an apartment. By then Betty was pregnant with our oldest child, so we needed an actual place to live. And I couldn't find an apartment, and then I decided "oh, the hell with it, I think I'll go back to graduate school anyway." And so, I called Willy Zach -- it was then November of '45, I guess, something like that -- and I called him up and said, "what do I have to do to come back to graduate school at Chicago?" He said, "Just come. Be here by the first of January or so, and you'll be a student here." So anyway that's what we did, we went to Chicago.
Hoddeson:And then did you and Betty live off your graduate student salary?
I had a little, well, we had a teeny bit of savings from War Bonds that we had gotten for wedding presents, which we had used up, plus my graduate student -- you didn't get a salary for being a graduate student in those days, I should explain that. Assistantships were not what they are now. Let me explain this, because that's how I got in solid state physics. Okay, there were two, you could be a fellow, okay, or you could be an assistant. But if you were an assistant, you had to assist, you could not, for example, be paid for doing your thesis. That was absolutely out of the question, I mean, only fellows could be paid for that. And of the group who showed up in '46 -- I had left with a handful of graduate students, and came back with a flood of people who suddenly were starting or continuing going to go to graduate school. In the meantime, Fermi, Teller and all of these other people were arriving. I arrived in January of '46, looking for some way to make money, I was not a fellow. And I was offered, Clarence Zener had just arrived and Cyril Smith, and there was a post-doc, a man named Ting Tsui Kuh, Chinese, whom I just saw last fall, not having seen him for 30 years.
They were the vanguard of something that was called the Institute for the Study of Metals, which at the moment occupied one room in Jones' laboratory (Hoddeson laughs) in Chicago, but was going to move to its quarters underneath the West Stand shortly. Anyway, Kuh was going to start to do some measurements on internal friction but needed some apparatus built, and I got wind of this somehow, I don't remember who told me that there was this crazy man named Zener who was looking for someone to build some circuits and I had just spent the war doing electronics and I figured I could fake it. I knew nothing about building amplifiers, of course; I knew how to build radar jammers, but that was it. But anyway so I went to see Zener and he said, "can you build an amplifier for Kuh that can do this and that and the other," and I said, "sure!" (Hoddeson laughs) and so when he wasn't looking, I just went to the library, got some books out, saw how to build an amplifier, and built an amplifier. Clarence was paying me by the hour; he offered me a dollar an hour or something vast to do this. Then he discovered at the end of a couple of weeks that in the meantime I had produced this amplifier for Kuh and he said he wanted to make me an assistant, make me a research assistant because it would pay me a little better than this hourly thing, so I said, "great!" So I became a research assistant. In the meantime, classes started and I signed up for whatever the hell, and met my new classmates. Now the only one from before was Wally Sellov. Mel Gottlieb was there, Al Wattenberg, whom I met first at that point, Frank Yang, Jeff Chew, Merv Goldberger, Harold Agnew, Marshall Rosenbloom; there were about 25 or so in that particular…
Lazarus:No, Murray Gell-Mann was not a student at Chicago, he came later. We were told that the old pre-war examination system would not apply that there was going to be a new examination system, that this was a new faculty, which indeed it was. Willy Zach, and Sam Allison, who was still there, there was Teller, and all kinds of new people, and they were, by God, going to have the best graduate school in the country. I in the meantime was building my amplifiers and stuff, this…my assistantship, and they liked what I was doing so well. In the meantime, they got their space under the West Stands, the old squash courts (Hoddeson laughs), because they moved the reactor out and we took over that space. And so, Clarence arranged a better appointment for me as Electronics Engineer; he could pay me more than he could as an R.A., and since I was the electronics shop -- I was it, I designed, I bought, went out and bought stuff, and scrounged and got surplus parts, I designed apparatus for everybody in the Institute.
Hoddeson:Did you use surplus from the war?
Yes, you could get radars free. Yes, that's what we did. And the whole idea was to design stuff with free parts. In the meantime, all the people started arriving for the Institute, the low-temperature guys, Willard Stout, Earl Long, the metallurgy people, Chuck Barrett, Joe Burke, and Dave Garinski, and my own boss, Andy Lawson, who became my boss later, who was my thesis advisor. Norm Nachtrieb, who was a chemist and stuff, and the whole Institute started coalescing and being built and everybody needed apparatus and there was no money. And so I had to design apparatus for everybody in the entire Institute and so this was one of the great learning experiences of my life. It turned out I could do it without working too hard at it (Hoddeson laughs). Although I never, you try to just figure out that everybody had to let me know what their research was going to be, so I had learnt what everyone was going to do, what they wanted to control, what the available signal was, and then just go about designing and building something for them to do it with.
So it was great because I got to know what the hell the low-temperature people were going to do, what the chemists were going to do, what the metallurgists were going to do and everything, and I was one of the family. I was the only student; there were no other students in the Institute for at least a year and a half while the place grew. And then when it came time to choose my own thesis field it was clear I was going to go into solid state, because that's where I was. I that much younger than some of the younger faculty. Andy, my boss, was four years older than I, and anyway I was treated like a member of the family, and they were very good to me because I could be good to them on account of I designed and built their instruments. Later, they bought me an undergraduate assistant who some years after that came down here and was one of my Ph.D. students here, oddly enough. And then later, an actual technician, a real guy, who had been a radio service man and later ran the shop while I went on to other things. But that was an excellent introduction to research. I mean, it really was; all aspects of it, from the hardware side up. The famous exam that we were going to take, that I mentioned before that we were warned that it would be a new type of examination and we were also finally told in the winter of '47 -- it was after about a year. We took our courses in the first year while this was going on.
We were told that this exam would be on all of physics, it would be four days written, from 9 to 5, closed book, that's all. It would not be restricted to the material in the courses. We were told that there were three possibilities for taking the exam. You could pass and be encouraged to go on for Ph.D., you could -- actually four. You could be given a Master's degree and dismissed, you could fail and be told that you could retake it, or you could fail and you were out. I mentioned that there were about 25 of us who were starting to take all of these courses together and we were the first group who were to take this exam, and people had to sign up, and people kept crossing their names off the list, and about half the 25 disappeared by the time the first one was given, which was in something like April or May of 1947, and the rest of us studied together enormously. I'm conscious of this, because I just saw 6 of the 12 of us were just together at Francis Low's Festschrift which was rather incredible. All but one of us studied, actually two, we used to meet once or twice a week and Truman Goldberg had a large office in physics and what we did is we would go and prepare the old Penn problems, the Cambridge tripost problems, anything, and we would go and do them individually, then come back and compare solutions and discuss these things. We got to be very close, Wattenberg, Goldberg, Chew, Chamberlain, Sellov, Brights, Wolfenstein.
Hoddeson:That's who I just saw.
Whom I saw, were Frank Yang, Lincoln Wolfenstein, Merv Goldberger, Jeff Chew, Al Wattenberger, and I which were six of the twelve were all at Francis' thing and it was sort of amazing. And Rudolf Sternheimer, who suddenly…(tape stops)…Chamberlain, I mentioned, and Brights, and Sellov. And Rudolf came up and disappeared, and then Jack Steinberger. Of all people, Jack flunked. I think Jack flunked not because of how he performed on the examination, but because he was so mean. And I think the faculty wanted to flunk someone. I never really did know, because Jack was permitted to take it again, and was a high man on the second examination, and I think he even beat out T.D. Lee, who took the second one. And so, he succeeded, but he failed the first one.
But the rest of us all passed, which was a great relief, needless to say. We were also told originally that following this four-day written exam, there would be an experimental exam, an exam in experimental physics, but that the experimenters which were Sellov and me and, I think, Chamberlain, would be excused, all the theorists would have to take it, and it was, again, something that only a young and slightly crazy faculty would think of doing, in which they tried to examine people in one day in experimental physics, and then finally decided they would skip the experimental exam, (Hoddeson laughs), because they had things like "there is a radio transmitter hidden on this campus. Find it." Now this is to a person like Merv Goldberger who didn't know which end of a soddering iron to pick up, literally. I mean they were supposed to build a search receiver to find this thing, but they were crazy. Anyway, nobody could do anything, so they decided, okay, there will be no experimental exam. Then we were also supposed to have an oral following this, and they decided after making us sit around for about two weeks more, that, well, they would skip the24 orals, there would be no orals. And eleven of the twelve of us were passed and were admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. Only a couple, Mel Gottlieb, was excused from this exam because he had passed his prelims before the war under the old system. Al Wattenberg had actually finished his thesis but had no prelims and he immediately was given his Ph.D. sort of as fast as he was passed in this exam. And the rest of us all started, except for Frank Yang, who was given special permission to start early because Frank decided he wanted to be an experimentalist…
Hoddeson:He did? Gee.
Lazarus:…and he already knew theoretical physics, so in '47, he was allowed to work even before in the lab, and he went to work for Sam Allison, and his first job was to repair a scalar. And a year and a half later, Frank still had not repaired the scalar (Hoddeson laughs), and Fermi went up to him and said, "Frank, why don't you get your degree in theoretical physics and then go to the laboratory." (Hoddeson laughs). And that was I think on January 15 and on February 28, Frank handed in his thesis, which was the Fermi-Yang theory, a very classic paper, six weeks from the day he started, and he never went back to the lab, needless to say. Anyway, I was the only student who decided because of where I was working to go into solid state, and I was the only physics student in the Institute and there wouldn't be another one for at least a year. And I decided to work for Lawson and we were going to build up a high-pressure lab from scratch.
Hoddeson:What was Lawson's main interest at that time?
Lazarus:Andy was, Andy died a couple of years ago unfortunately, from alcoholism. You should ask Fred Seitz sometimes about Andy.
Hoddeson:He mentioned him a lot.
He was an incredible person. Extraordinarily bright and extraordinarily erratic, at the same time. Undisciplined, full of ideas, but who almost never followed up anything. He had worked with Fred earlier; he got his degree actually at Columbia. He was a contemporary of Schwinger's and Anderson's and got his degree -- he was a student at Quimby's -- did some elastic stuff for his thesis. And then, noisy, brash, outspoken, everything marvelous person, and full of ideas, and didn't give a damn about anybody. He'd chew out anybody, he didn't care, he'd chew out Fermi when he was an assistant, when Lawson was a little kid he'd chew out Fermi, and he'd be wrong just as often as he was right. But he could also be very right. He was an interesting guy to work with. I got involved with him building apparatus for him, and then I decided that I'd like to do my thesis with him. And it turned out he had never had a thesis student before. He had actually had some, I think, at Penn, but had never finished anybody -- I think people would quit or would flunk out or something. I was the first one, it turned out, who had ever succeeded. Anyway, we were building up a high-pressure lab, and it was decided that I would do some elastic constant measurements at high pressure, and I first, of course, had to build my apparatus, because you didn't buy anything in those days.
There was no money, and nobody making apparatus, and so I took a war surplus radar, and this was one time I could get paid for doing my own thesis, because I was also the electronic shop, remember, getting paid for doing electronic work. So the electronic shop was assigned to me to build some of my own electronics. So I built my receiver out of old radar parts, and had built just about everything but my pulser. I built my receiver, what I didn't, what I needed was a scope and I was just getting ready to worry about how to build a precision timing oscilloscope with microsecond resolution, which was not going to be an easy thing, and thank God for the Office of Naval Research, Andy got some money and was able to buy me a scope. And so I had a store bought Dumont scope. And in '47, was able to start taking data.
Hoddeson:Where did you get the second-hand radar equipment?
Lazarus:Oh, just war surplus stores in Chicago; I'd go downtown and scrounge around and pick stuff up for almost nothing and sometimes you'd get, we'd get fliers in the mail that you could get them free. And so, if they didn't get 'em free, you'd buy a whole radar for $20 or something like that. The stores were just dumping the stuff out.
Szymborski:I think Maurer was the head of the physics group at the Office of Naval Research at this time.
Lazarus:No, there was no physics -- no, Maurer was, later went to ONR, the guy at ONR was a man named Manny Piore, who later became Chief Scientist for IBM and retired as that, and he invented the whole idea of the federal support of basic research in this country. I give Manny a lot of credit, he sold it to the admirals, who never would have thought of it, and the idea that you find good young scientists and just give them money, let them ask for it, give it to them and don't ask them what they're going to do -- let 'em write a proposal and then don't pay any attention.
Hoddeson:How come they were receptive?
Lazarus:Well, we just won a war. And physics had paid off in a big way through radar and the bomb, so Manny was able to sell the program and he started really in about '46, or '47, something like that. Bob later took leave and spent a year at ONR.
Hoddeson:Did you mention what Manny's position was at that time?
Lazarus:At that time he was a civilian with the Navy. He was the first head of the Office of Naval Research, I think. It was actually an admiral or a captain who stood ahead of him in the hierarchy.
Hoddeson:He must have a physics training.
Lazarus:Manny's a physicist, yes. He had his degree maybe at Columbia, I'm not even sure. No, the Midwest. Wisconsin, I think. Yes, he and Nora met in Wisconsin. He got his degree at Wisconsin. But then anyway, he worked for the Navy Department during the Second World War and then ended up sort of inventing the Office of Naval Research which became the prototype for all of the government sponsorship. Anyway, we got some money in 1947 and that bought my scope and so I could then get busy right away getting data.
Szymborski:This was then published…
Lazarus:It was published in Physical Review in 1949, that was my thesis. And I did some measurements in elastic constants before that which I published as a letter to the editor of Physical Review.
Szymborski:Before proceeding to this, I want to ask you something more about the Institute for the Study of Metals.
Lazarus:Yes, it's now called the James Franck Institute.
Szymborski:Yes. I learned that this was supposed to be the oldest interdisciplinary institute of this kind in the United States.
Lazarus:Well, I'll be darned. I never thought about that. It probably was; such things didn't exist. The director was Cyril Smith, who was a metallurgist and there was not even a metallurgy department at Chicago, so Cyril had no departmental affiliation. There were physicists, Zener and Lawson, who were members of the physics faculty; chemists, and then Barrett, and Smith had no department affiliation, Stout was a chemist, Nachtrieb was a chemist. I might even somewhere around here have an old catalogue of who was in the thing (searches in drawer)…
Hoddeson:That would be fun.
Lazarus:I might even have some of the old papers.
Hoddeson:Maybe we could borrow it.
Lazarus:Here's a copy of my thesis.
Hoddeson:Do you have an extra one?
Lazarus:Yes, I have two of them.
Hoddeson:Can we have an extra one.
Lazarus:Let me just see if I happen by any chance…here I have my old notebook. We were allowed to take away our thesis notebooks at Chicago, and here I keep all of my students' notebooks. I don't see it (still rummaging).
Hoddeson:Well, when you clear out your office…
Lazarus:Anyway, they started three institutes at the same time at Chicago. One was called the Institute for the Study of Metals, one was called the Institute for Nuclear Studies, and one was called the Institute for Biophysics, with Szilard. It was really built around Szilard and others. And eventually, the building was actually built for the Institute across the street from the West Stands, and so the three Institutes were then side by side, but they coexisted. We were under the West Stands, and the nuclear studies was mostly over in physics, and the biophysical thing was sitting around in the chemistry building. But eventually the things were completed. It was a very interesting thing; it really worked very well at Chicago. It was, I think, in part a mechanism for raising money, because they could go to industry and get some industrial sponsorship. And they did get some; the Institute actually started almost entirely with industrial money, plus some contribution from the University. There was no federal support.
Szymborski:This was the study of metals, which was organized…
Lazarus:And that was, I think, a good catchall name because they hoped to get a lot of money from the metals industry. It turned out they didn't get much at all from the metals industry, and much later after Franck died they changed the name of the Institute because Franck was never a member of the Institute, he was in the biophysics business, he wasn't at all in the Metals Institute.
Szymborski:But also it doesn't mean that everybody studied metals in this Institute.
Lazarus:Oh, by no means. In fact, the whole idea was that you could study metals by studying anything. We had the largest liquid helium system in the Midwest, probably Earl Long built this thing, which was a huge Joke(?)-type hydrogen liquifier, and then you made your liquid helium in a Joule-Thomson expansion; it was a huge plant. It was before the Collins machine was invented; that was the only way to get liquid helium.
Hoddeson:I thought the Collins machine was invented just after…
Lazarus:It wasn't made commercially. It may have been invented or existed in the l's, but in '46 you couldn't buy a Collins machine. Long was from Ohio State and of course cryogenics was done in chemistry, you have to remember. It was a chemistry department's through Mendelsohn, and the Ohio State chemistry, Joke(?) was the head of the thing there, and that group went to Los Alamos and Long built the plant in Los Alamos modeling it after Joke's(?) plant at Ohio State, and came to Chicago and built the plant there modeling it after the Los Alamos plant. So it was basically a large hydrogen liquifier and then later made your Helium on a J-T from that. So that low temperature physics was done there; that's where low temperature physics was done, was in the Institute for the Study of Metals. My own thesis was partly metals, partly non-metals, I mean, so nobody took the name "metals" very seriously. As I say, it was partly a ploy; they expected a lot of money I think, from U.S. Steel and Anaconda Copper and they didn't, they got almost nothing from them. They ended up getting the money from people who had nothing to do with metals.
Hoddeson:Do you remember where the money came from?
Lazarus:Well, let's see if I still have any of those old reports. I should have something where they used to list the sponsors. Union Carbide was a good steady one, there were several of them.
Hoddeson:You see, I'm going to be getting some books about the James Franck Institute from Cyril Smith.
Lazarus:Well, Cyril was the director, of course, but he was then, I mean you can get all of this stuff much better from Cyril. Cyril was a metallurgist and that was, I think, the very reason for picking the name. He was a very famous metallurgist. He had been a practical metallurgist he was head of the Metallurgy Group at Los Alamos. He did all the stuff for, I guess, you know, how to cast your plow shards into swords (Hoddeson laughs), basically.
Hoddeson:He's doing a wonderful history of metals now.
Lazarus:I know, a marvelous man. Absolutely one of the great things in my life was Cyril Smith.
Hoddeson:I love him.
Lazarus:A total humanist and a marvelous guy. I spent one afternoon with Cyril many years later in the basement of the National Gallery…
Hoddeson:Oh, that must have been wonderful..
Lazarus:…where they had all of those old swords and plates, and Cyril, they're like old friends to him, and you just look and he could take me and show me how they did this and that, and what that, oh God! I mean read his book, he's just a beautiful, beautiful man. Anyway, I think that it was partly because it was Cyril that they expected to raise a lot of money, but there was no attempt to direct the research along specific lines. There was a metallurgy group, Joe Burke and Dave Garinski were really the practical guys running the thing, and Chuck Barrett set up an x-ray thing, and it was a fairly close-knit organization.
Szymborski:But did Smith have some ideas about the general strategic directions of development of research?
Lazarus:In the research laboratory? I would say not, he was very unobtrusive in this regard. If it were, it was not clear to me, let's put it that way. Everybody seemed to be picked because they were good and they were each running their own show, and Cyril was not directing things in any sense at all. I would say no. Clarence Zener was the oldest, the senior guy as a physicist, and he was something of a madman, then as well as now and was, again, full of ideas, just wildly full of ideas and crazy, half crazy, half inspired. But you couldn't tell which was which.
Hoddeson:Did you interact with him at all?
Oh, a lot. Clarence was my, I learned, my only course in solid state physics was from Clarence. Oh, I made a mistake by saying Mullikan was the worst teacher, Clarence was way and above (Hoddeson laughs) the worst teacher anybody ever had. I must tell you a story about Clarence because I think it's typical. We were taking his course in solid-state physics, we being the same group who studied for the qual later, we all were about to flunk the course because nobody could do any, we couldn't, we didn't know what he was doing. He would use no text. The first day of the course he said, "there will be no text for this course and the only thing you are forbidden from ever looking at is Seitz' Modern Theory of Solids; that book is wrong from cover to cover." So naturally, we all went out and bought Seitz (Hoddeson laughs) and thank God we did or we wouldn't have learned anything. Clarence then would start off on these tangents of his own and he had his own way of explaining everything and nobody could follow him. I mean he, for example, at the beginning of one class he introduced Miller indices: "Well, there's 100, 110, 111 and it means this. You take a lattice, you have this, this, and this," -- all this in thirty seconds -- and he says, "now, for a homework problem, suppose you have a body-centered cubic lattice like this, bing, bing, bing, and now you want to put carbon in there, too. Okay, now, explain to me why steel forms a phase called austenite, and calculate the rate at which it forms when you put so much carbon and so much iron to quench it." And then he sent us home to work on this problem.
Of course, nobody, I mean nobody could even begin to even write down one thing which remained of this problem (Hoddeson laughs). I mean this was a typical Zener problem. I mean, it turns out that he had published a paper in some journal which was unavailable in the University of Chicago library on the kinetic on the decomposition of austenite. We didn't even know what austenite (?) was, of course. We didn't even know for sure what a body-centered cubic lattice was. But he would give us homework problems. Well, he went on like this for about a month, giving us problems that nobody could solve. Not one person could make headway on one problem. Finally, around the middle of the semester we came to him. And we stopped trying to do these independently; we collaborated, we'd all get together.
Szymborski:How many were in the class?
About twenty of us in the class. And we got around and finally went to see him en masse, and said, "Please, Professor Zener, we're trying to learn this material, would you please give us any problems we could solve. If you can't give us problems we could solve, please stop giving them to us, because we're failing all the rest of our courses, because we're spending all of our time on your problems and making no headway. We can never get even vague solutions." And so he was grousing around and said, "all right, you dumb kids," and he stopped giving us problems for about the last month of the course. And then the last week he was doing electrical and thermal conductivity and wrote out the matrix and said, "okay, here's something even you dumb guys ought to be able to do. Prove by Thevenin's theorem that the cross-coefficients have to be equal." And then we all started working again, and nobody could get started on this problem and so he asked me he said, "how are you coming on the problem, Dave?" And I said, "I can't do it and nobody else can. We've all been working on it," and this was Thursday, and the class was going to meet Friday, and he was going to call for solutions. Well he said I'd better work on it, and he came in, called for solutions.
Nobody had done it, nobody could solve it, and he said, "Well you dumb kids, here's how you do it," and he wrote down "well you take this variational principle," which he worked (?) out of thin air, he was very intuitive, and Yang's hand went up and he said, "I'm sorry, Professor Zener, that violates energy conservation, you can't do that." And he says, "Oh, is that so?" Zener then worked on it for six more months (Hoddeson laughs) after the end of the semester. He passed us all, we all got C's, or something, Goldberger actually got an A because he did one problem and it turned out he had worked with Seitz during the war. It had nothing to do with the course but it turned out the solution was identical to something he had happened to do with Seitz during the war. Anyway, and then later, Onsager's, it was the Onsager problem, microscopic reversibility, Onsager's paper appeared in 1947 and that was the solution to that homework problem. Apparently it had been posed a century earlier, and was a famous problem in physics and34 nobody had been able to solve it. Zener didn't know what he was assigning us, the Onsager solution was the thing he had.
Hoddeson:Did he solve the Zener problem?
Lazarus:Onsager's microscopic reversibility, the whole idea of the identity of the cross-coefficients essentially being a theorem was what Onsager proved by microscopic reversibility.
Hoddeson:You said Zener worked on it himself.
Lazarus:No, he never came up with a solution, of course not. Onsager published. And so that was typical. It was a crazy course. None of us learned anything except what we learned from reading Seitz's book and so I was doing solid state physics, but I didn't know what it was when Clarence taught it. But I did interact with him; on other levels he was a marvelous man, but an abominable teacher, just totally disorganized. He could not stick to one subject for even one full lecture, much less a sequence of lectures. He would start at something, and then he would go flittering off into something else.
Szymborski:You frequently cite his paper on diffusion.
Lazarus:Later he did some stuff on diffusion, right. Particularly with Charlie Wert, who was then a post-doc at Chicago, and is head of our metallurgy department here. Later he did some very nice semi-intuitive work, because he drew parallels between elastic behavior and diffusional behavior and things like that. Part of the idea behind my thesis were some ideas of Zener's. Beta-brass, which was one of the materials I worked on, has a very anomalous temperature coefficient in which its got a negative temperature coefficient for the 110 shear modulus. As you cool it, it gets weaker. And so his feeling was, well, when you compress it, it should also get weaker. It turned out that it didn't, it behaved oppositely. But then, unexpectedly, potassium chloride behaved -- which has a normal temperature coefficient -- behave anomalously under pressure and weakened under compression -- in that case, the 100 direction -- and that was fascinating, and trying to understand this as best I could, which wasn't too well. Zener was a great help interpreting my data because I got involved with the Peierls(?)…
Szymborski:Your first two publications are on these elasticity problems and the first is on the Beta-brass. Then there's a whole bunch of different substances like ionic crystals.
Lazarus:That was my thesis then, right, that's what I just gave Lillian, was this paper in Physical Review.
Szymborski:And that these two papers were parts of your thesis.
Lazarus:The second paper was my thesis, I should explain, not part of, it was my actual thesis.
Lazarus:At Chicago in those days your thesis was a Physical Review paper which had to be accepted before you could take your final.
Hoddeson:You didn't need to write out a…
Lazarus:You not only didn't need to, you couldn't.
Lazarus:It was all changed later, but in those days, your thesis was an actual paper which had been accepted by Physical Review. And it could have no one else's name on it, you could not have a co-author. And for many years afterwards, I never put my name on the publications of my own students' papers here until later they asked me to, because Andy's name, if you notice, is not on my thesis, and this was typical of the physics department at Chicago in those days. They changed it later because of some embarrassing things, papers that were accepted and then found to be in error on the guy's final.
Szymborski:I have a few questions concerning these two papers.
Szymborski:I wanted to ask you about the state of the art in this field when you entered. There were some papers published earlier by Gould and other people, and when you…
Lazarus:You mean in ultrasonic measurements of elastic constants?
Szymborski:Elastic constants, I think.
Lazarus:The ultrasonic stuff had just been done; there were a couple of people who were doing it around the country, around the world, but not very many.
Szymborski:Who were they?
Of all people, Hill Huntington -- who was, of course, famous as a theorist in diffusion -- was doing ultrasonic experimentation at that point. I think there was somebody at MIT who was doing it. I remember getting when I was a student a very irate letter from Gerald Holton who was then at Harvard. He doesn't remember this anymore but I remember it well, I have the letter. It's sort of one of these, Gerald had just finished his thesis, I think, at Harvard and just had said that "how dare you say you're going to measure elastic constants under high pressure? I have announced to the seminar at Harvard that I'm planning to do this." He never did it, needless to say (Hoddeson laughs), but that's beside the point. But I got this very strange letter, and I sort of took to Andy and said, "What do I do with this? and he said, "Forget it." (Hoddeson laughs.) It was really sort of amusing that he had announced at a Harvard seminar that he was going to do it so nobody else in the world was allowed to do it. The technique was not very well developed; it was certainly nothing, the precision was not anything like what Andy Granato and company do routinely. Now they get three orders of magnitude better than I could get back then. There are now resonance techniques, there are much finer timing circuits and things.
I could get a couple of tenths of a percent by careful calibration and a lot of luck, and they can get parts in 105, 106 routinely now. So one had to use a lot of pressure to get anything measurable. I had to go up to many kilobars. And one of the problems was in the interpretation of my data. It doesn't show in my thesis but I fought bitterly with my thesis advisor about the interpretation because the pressures were very large compared to my elastic stresses that I'd used; the question was, what am I I mean, I'm measuring sound velocities, that's clear, but then you're interpreting them in terms of elastic constants. And we fought; it turned out we were both wrong. But we fought bitterly about this, I wanted to use the Gibbs free energy and take derivatives of it, he kept insisting I used the Helmholtz free energy and take derivatives of that, and it turned out they were both wrong, and Harry Jones some years later actually, I believe, sent in the correction. It made a minor difference in that you're not just measuring an elastic constant; the pressure does enter explicitly, also, but it wasn't clear then. And Mernahan's theory was just being developed for higher order elasticities and things like that and I couldn't make too much sense out of it.
Anyway, we both got it wrong, but we did argue bitterly about this, and my final examination was a disaster, an absolute disaster. Normally, your thesis advisor is your protector. And the first and only question on my final was Andy Lawson asking me this question which we had been arguing about for six months and of course I could argue with Andy; we were good friends and socially as well as just being my advisor. But in front of Fermi and Zaccharias who were on my committee, this was, needless to say, more than slightly embarrassing and after about an hour of this, I was reduced to an amoeba. Also the temperature was about 120 degrees, it was a hot day in May, very hot, and I just about died, and finally they excused me. Nobody else even asked a question. Fermi started to ask a question and then said, "Oh, forget it," and then excused me from the room. Presuming I had flunked, but not knowing nobody flunks final examinations, but it was a very strange experience, I went off to the bar with Andy. I remember feeling absolutely dead; it took me weeks to recover from it.
Szymborski:And what about the high-pressure techniques you used?
Lazarus:Well, these were freely copied from Bridgeman. We had his papers, Andy had visited Bridgeman's lab -- we built up all of our own apparatus, of course, because we couldn't buy anything. We had two machinists that we hired, one was Norman Nachtrieb's father, actually, and Norman is, well he's now a dean of something in Chicago and was head of the chemistry department at the time. His father was a machinist and a very good one. And he worked for Andy. And Norman himself at that point was an assistant professor of chemistry in the Institute and we had another one, Carl Lindholm. And between the two of them, they built everything, we designed it, they built it. We had a chance to blow it up and test it. Andy and I built up the lab, so my first job in doing it my thesis was to build a high-pressure lab and build my apparatus and then I could take data. The techniques, it was marginal, let's put it that way, but we did get some data.
Szymborski:But you also at this time published two articles on technique, experimental technique, it was a proportional temperature controller.
Lazarus:That was one of the things I made out of war surplus parts.
Szymborski:I see. And then the vacuum furnace for metals and for crystals.
Lazarus:Oh, yes. How about that! I actually grew my own, I forgot about that paper. Yes, that's how I grew my crystals. Of course you couldn't buy, I bought salt crystals from Harshaw's, sodium and potassium chloride, but all metal crystals I grew myself. And so I designed my own furnace and stuff for doing it. That I did here, actually, that one I did at Illinois, excuse me. I did grow crystals at Chicago, but when I came down here I had a clever idea how to do it better. And that was my first paper from Urbana, was the vacuum furnace. It was just a very short thing. I think it was a letter to the editor.
Szymborski:It's one of two papers.
Lazarus:Yes, it's very short, and that was my first paper in Urbana. (Telephone rings, Lazarus answers) Hello? Yes. Yes. Exactly. (Tape stops) (Tape resumes) Okay, so I guess we got me to Chicago, from Chicago to here.
Hoddeson:Chicago to here.
Lazarus:And I came here in the fall of '49. I had been, the job was set up, incidentally, by Andy, at what probably historically is important, the first meeting of the solid-state division of the American Physical Society was in the spring of 1949. It was a two-day meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, in March. And no simultaneous sessions, with about 150 people in attendance and I had just finished my thesis and I gave my first paper.
Hoddeson:We should look at that.
And Andy introduced me at that point to Fred Seitz, John Bardeen, I think I met every living solid-state physicist in the United States (Hoddeson laughs), and we all fit in one lecture room, I mean, there weren't that many people. And I was just finishing my Ph.D., Dillon Mapother was just finishing his at Carnegie at the same time, and I think there were four of us in the United States getting our Ph.D.'s in solid state. We were kind of the first post-war class. And anyway, I got back to Chicago, and Andy said, "write Fred Seitz a letter." Fred, of course, was at Carnegie Tech as department chairman. And I said, "what will I say?" And Andy said, "just say you exist and you're finishing." So I wrote, you know, "Dear Professor Seitz: I exist and I'm finishing my thesis." I got back immediately this letter, "Dear Dave, as you no doubt know," which I didn't, "I'm going to the University of Illinois next fall and I'm looking for good people. I'm very pleased to know that you've completed your stuff and maybe will consider coming with us and joining us and I'm writing Wheeler Loomis today to ask him to invite you down." And boom! Three days later I got a letter from Wheeler Loomis saying, "Please come down to Urbana immediately as fast as you possibly can." And I borrowed my brother's car, I didn't even know where it was, even though we were in Chicago, and drove down, and Loomis met me. I was late because I couldn't find the University.
Loomis met me and took me to lunch with Jerry Kruger and then immediately told me things which I didn't know again he says, "you know, we're starting a whole solid-state group." I didn't know that. "And we're going to have labs in this building and then you're going to move to this building." And he took me to what was then an old power plant building also on Matthews Street and said, "the solid-state group will settle in here." And he says, "well, do you want to come?" Just like that. He says, "your salary will be $4200 a year." And he says, "well, well?" I said "look, can I think about it?" And he says, "yes, you can think about it. You've got till Monday." (Hoddeson laughs.) And this was Saturday, I think. And so I went home and pretended to think about it and phoned him on Monday and I said, "I'll take the job." It was a very good offer, $4200. I'd been offered, Rabi had offered me $3500 to go to Columbia and I'd had other offers, a big one from Brookhaven which was just starting, $6000, that was very hard to turn down, because Betty was by then pregnant with our second child.
Hoddeson:Why did you choose Urbana over Brookhaven?
Lazarus:Brookhaven was non-existent. Also, I mean, it was clear who the hell Fred Seitz was. I mean, the idea of being able to come and work with Fred was, that was pretty heady stuff.
Hoddeson:What sort of offer did you have at Brookhaven at that time? It was just a reactor.
Lazarus:Well, they were just starting up, and they offered me, I had never visited the place because it didn't exist, they were just going to start it, and they offered me the position, you know, of being a staff member, a junior staff member, for $6000, it was big money. There weren't a lot of good academic jobs. I was offered a job at Vanderbilt, at Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, Shell Development Company in Houston, Columbia, and Illinois. And there was no question. And Loomis' attitude about young people was then, and has also been the strength of this department. It was really the great thing, I mean, it was you know, "you're supposed to be good. You're coming in at our minimum rank, instructor, but you're supposed to be good, you're to set up your own research group, you'll be junior to nobody. Get your own students, and if you're good, we'll promote you and if you're not, you'll go out the door. But don't worry about there being a slot, there will be a position if you're good," and he meant it. He meant every word of it. You were treated from the word "go" as full members of the faculty, given full teaching responsibility, given the freedom to set up and run our own research group, to recruit our own students, an incredible man. And he would fight anybody, he fought the AEC on my behalf when I was still an instructor.
Lazarus:He came in my first year, and said -- I'll never forget this man, he was incredible -- he said, "Hey, Dave, we have a chance to hire John Bardeen. What do you think?" Not that my opinion, but the fact that the respect that this was showing for me, I mean, you could only love a man like that. And you know, I mean, this kind of thing. And when, in my second year, when I was still an instructor and the AEC proposed to -- I got an AEC contract my first year -- they proposed to cut my overhead rate, from something to something because I was young, and Loomis called me and the AEC guy into his office. And just said, "I understand you want to cut Dr. Lazarus' contract overhead rate from 20% to 8%, or something like that." The guy says, "Yes, he's a young faculty member, he doesn't need that much." And Loomis just says, "Well, take your money and leave, we don't want it. He can get it from somebody else." He says, "If you're not honored to support his work, then we just don't want your money at all." By the end of half an hour the guy was pleading with us, "Please take the money that was originally requested at the original overhead rate." And at the end, Loomis just laughed at the guy, and said, "I wonder if we could have gotten it from somebody else." (Hoddeson laughs.) I mean, as far as he was concerned, you were in his department, he would defend you against anybody, and that was internal, external. He was an incredible man. And he meant it, I mean, he would make it possible for you to do your research; that was his job, and he would free you up. You were as good as an equal professor, and no better no worse no anything, it was all just faculty, and he meant it. It was a socially coherent group, we sort of all grew up together, a lot of drinking, partying like you couldn't believe. Three parties a week we would average in the physics department. We were known as the hard drinking crew on campus. But it was quite a spectacular life, I mean, we did grow. And of course, the solid-state community grew around us enormously here.
Szymborski:There was someone else who was behind this idea of creating this solid-state group, it was Louie…
Lazarus:Louie Ridenour. Louie was the guy who managed to get the money for Loomis. Louie was a member of the physics faculty, but he was also a dean of the Graduate College. And he had been at Radiation Lab at MIT during the war, and Loomis was, of course, Associate Director of Radiation Lab. So Loomis brought Louie back here, and put him in as dean of the Graduate College, where he then had access to pockets of money at the University, so when Wheeler had the opportunity to get Fred he could also get the money to bring him and hire him. A very interesting pipeline. He didn't work through deans and things. He worked through Louie and he worked directly to the provost. If he could do something, he would just do it. We didn't have to search the maze. Everything was done under the table.
Szymborski:It's since that you also changed your specialty.
Lazarus:Completely. As I mentioned before at the beginning, this was Seitz' suggestion. I had no desire to stay in the high-pressure business or to continue doing any elastic constant work, I had done that. Fred suggested I take a look at diffusion, mentioned that radio tracers were now, had just become available and that it was possible that this was a fruitful area and so I got very involved in that and did, and of course indeed…
Szymborski:How did you learn this?
Taught myself, just read papers, I visited, did I visit anybody? No. The only people in the country who had actually done any experiments worth anything were David Trendall and Bob Hoffman at GE, who had published one good paper on tracer methods, but I mostly just read and then we just tried it. I got my first post-doc, who was Larry Slitkin, who is now at Chapel Hill, and my first student. Well, there was my zeroth student, who I don't count, a man named Paloviskis, whom Fred picked up in an airport, and who was on his way to Washington, he passed his prelims at Ames and was going to go do his thesis at the Naval Ordnance Lab and we were desperate for students at that point, and Fred said, "why don't you come to Illinois and do your thesis there and get your degree at Ohio State?" And somehow this guy turned up and he was older than I and about four years older and he was Felix S. Paloviskis. He was driving a Cadillac convertible and wearing a beret and I had just bought an old Chevy, I guess. He got himself a room in the Men's Faculty Club, came around and said he was the new graduate student, and where was his laboratory (Hoddeson laughs), and he just came to work with Seitz. And was somewhat surprised to find Seitz was not an experimentalist and Fred gave him to me, and my little laboratory consisted of one room in the old, now metallurgy building, which was my office, my research lab, my students' offices, my students' research laboratory, and that was it.
We had a room, about the size of this room, like so, and that was it. And Paloviskis was sort of thrust on me. He never liked me a lot. He was older than I was, I was a young kid as far as he was concerned. And then Larry came, and I had a student named Dave Chipman, who subsequently left, and went to MIT where his father was head of the metallurgy department, and he finally took his degree in metallurgy at MIT, but he was working with me and helped me the very first year building up apparatus in the lab, and then Dave left. And then Larry came, Paloviskis came, and I think, did Carl Tomizuka come then or a little later? Tomizuka was my first real student. And he came from Japan. He was sent over by the McArthur government to be democritized. McArthur, in his wisdom, was picking young Japanese to be democritized. Now it was very funny, because Carl was born in Japan and raised in Japan but had been -- when his mother had been a graduate student -- at Berkeley during, before the war, and for two years, Carl lived at Berkeley at ages 9 and 10 or 8 and 9 or something, learned English at that point, spoke it idiomatically and colloquially with almost no accent, was an only child whose parents were enormous Americophiles, just enormous, was given the name Carl, which is unpronounceable in Japanese and that's his actual given name, Carl.
And so was raised reading and speaking English at home all during the war and then was sent over to be democratized, supposedly, full of contempt for McArthur, who was a big fascist. I'll never forget, I mean, when Carl walked into the lab the first time. Larry and I were in this one room, and he walked in carrying a copy of a book which was very popular in the Second World War called Know Your Enemy, by Joseph Drew who had been our ambassador to Japan before the war, and it told you how you could tell the bad Japanese from the good Chinese. And Carl was six feet tall or something, walked in carrying this book, looked at us and said, "Did you guys believe this shit?" (Hoddeson laughs.) And we fell in love instantly and it has been an affair that has been going on the rest of our lives. He was just a totally atypical Japanese. He's one of the only people in the world who can simultaneously translate from Japanese to American and back, because, I mean, he is totally bilingual.