Oral History Transcript — Dr. Robert E. Marshak
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Robert Marshak; October 4, 1970
ABSTRACT: Childhood and early education in New York, undergraduate education in philosophy at Columbia College, 1932- 1936; years of graduate study in physics at Columbia University, 1936-1937; influence of Isidor I. Rabi, the joint NYU-Columbia seminar in physics; transfer to Cornell University for graduate work in nuclear physics, 1937-1939; influence of Hans Bethe; thesis work on white dwarfs; first teaching position at University of Rochester, joint work with Victor Weisskopf in nuclear physics and particles; remarks on war years, astrophysics, cyclotrons, and other matters; Shelter Island Conferences. Formation of the Federation of American Scientists (F.A.S.) in 1946; Marshak succeeds Robert Wilson as Chairman, 1947. World Federation of Scientific workers, chaired by Frederic Joliot-Curie, wants to enroll F.A.S. (1947, in Paris meeting). Marshak’s work on two-meson theory. F.A.S. issues in the l950s; the Emergency Committee and F.A.S.; Einstein’s interests and views on relation of science to society; comments on J. Robert Oppenheimer; chairmanship at University of Rochester; Lee DuBridge; long-range plan and extensive development of physics department funded through AEC contracts; training of students from abroad such as Okubo, Sudarshan, Messiah, Regge. Last half of interview covers the Rochester conferences. Scientific work during the l950s, the V-A interaction (George Sudarshan) theory (a.k.a. Feynman-Gell-Mann theory of weak interactions); books and works with graduate students. Travels to Europe and India (Tata Institute), 1953. Accepts City College (CUNY) presidency; reasons for leaving University of Rochester. Also prominently mentioned are: Robert Fox Bacher, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, George Braxton Pegram, Julian R. Schwinger, Edward Teller; Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation Laboratory.
Weiner:Let us start again by saying that this is our third meeting and today is October 4th. We are sitting in Dr. Marshak’s apartment in a different room with an even more interesting view. We did indicate when we left off that we were ready to start on the scientific work of the period of the 1950’s and then weave in these other biographical events as they occur. Let me ask about whether you were interested at all in the 1950-51 period in questions of nuclear structure, whether you were aware of following what was going on? This doesn’t come from reading your papers so much but I am just curious about this.
No, I think by 1950 I was focusing more and more on meson physics and actually it was during the summer of 1950 that I gave a summer series of lectures at Columbia University that led to the publication of the book, Meson Physics, which was the first comprehensive treatise on the new discipline of meson physics. Now, I did try to keep up with those aspects of nuclear structure that might be relevant to the interaction of mesons with nuclei. And, of course, during those years, I did teach an occasional course in nuclear physics, so I would have to prepare my lectures for the course. I might say I generally welcomed teaching courses in fields which were not of immediate research interest to me, simply to compel myself to at least try to learn the main problems in a field, having taught a course in solid state physics with Weisskopf back in 1940. But I would not say that I was working in nuclear structure in the early 1950s, except for occasional beta decay calculations.
There were too many interesting things to do in connection with elementary particles. I would follow up particle-theoretic work with applications to more complicated nuclei, simply in order to learn more about the particle properties. For example, during those fifties, as I think about it, I did have one program with my students - I would formulate a systematic program for a group of graduate students and try to push through more and more research in a coherent direction. I recall starting a program on the interaction of pions, first with protons: π- + p = n + λ or n + π°; that paper was published with Arthur Wightman, before he went to Princeton. And then I had a student, Steve Tamor, work on π- + d = 2n, 2n + λ, 2n + π°; then a student on π- + He3 (Albert Messiah); and the last one was π- + He4 since the calculations became too model-dependent. In those calculations, one would have to consider various nuclear models to some extent, but these were not the heavy nuclei. I stopped the student thesis program at the pion-alpha particle interaction so far as fairly detailed calculations were concerned. Later on, one student did a very nice thesis on the μ- + He3 process in order to learn more about the V-A theory. But always the intention was to learn something about the basic particle properties and conservation laws. Another example was connected to the N-N (N is nucleon) interaction; after a student of mine, Peter Signell, achieved a breakthrough with the two-nucleon interaction, I had another student, Johann de Swart, who followed him, apply the so-called Signell-Marshak potential to explain the angular distribution dilemma bearing on the photodisintegration of the deuteron in the medium energy range. So I would say I would not hesitate to consider the light nuclei, and with these light nuclei, actually, some fairly detailed calculations were done by some of my students. We were generally trying to focus on either the basic two-nucleon interaction or the basic pion-nucleon interaction.
Weiner:You even made a statement in one of these early papers in 1951. For example, in the paper that you originally delivered at the APS meeting in February ‘51 - it was a Review of Modern Physics paper on “Meson Reactions in Hydrogen and Deuterium” - and there you made a general point: “It is possible to learn about the meson-nucleon interaction without the knowledge of nuclear structure by studying the reaction of π mesons with hydrogen and deuterium.” So you developed a case there for not having to immerse yourself in problems of nuclear structure.
You see what I was after in those days, and I think Fermi, in his published Yale lectures, points out some of the things we had done, after the two-meson theory, and it was clear that the pion was the strongly interacting meson, and we knew we had to pin down the properties of π and μ mesons. Of course, soon we found that there were other intermediate mass particles. But, in the early 1950s, we were still short on experimental information. [Interruption] As soon as we were sure that we had distinct pi and mu mesons - this happened by the end of ‘48 - the pion as the strongly interacting meson and the muon as the weakly interacting one, it became of great interest to determine all the properties of these mesons. By that I mean, not only accurate measurements of the mass, which, in the early days, was very important because of the Bristol error in calibration due to nuclear emulsion fading.
The next question was: what are the spins of these particles? What is the parity of the pi meson? And what is the nature of the interaction? For example, if you had, as it turned out, a spin 0 negative parity particle - a pseudo scalar particle - then if you insisted on writing down the pion-nucleon interaction in the usual field-theoretic form, you could have pseudo scalar coupling or pseudo vector coupling, and so the question was, which is correct? Is it one or the other or a combination of both interactions, assuming that the question is meaningful. In later years, it was argued that this question is not really meaningful. I remember having a wager with Hans Bethe on whether it was pseudo scalar or pseudo vector coupling. The argument he had was that pseudo scalar coupling gave you a renormalizable theory, but I argued that, from the experimental results, the way the cross-sections behaved, it looked to me as if effectively it was pseudo vector coupling, even though it was not renormalizable in the usual sense. We can come back to that at a later time. Now, the point was that you wished to determine the properties of the pion without having to make detailed strong interaction calculations because of the uncertainties of such calculations.
So you wanted to cook up clean ways to determine the spin and the parity. That is what led to the phenomenological method of fixing the spin when I had Warren Cheston as a student. Out of a discussion with him emerged the idea that one could determine the π spin by using detailed balancing in the reaction π+ + p↔d + d, by measuring both cross-sections at equivalent center of, mass energies. The only unknown would then be the spin of the pion. This led to the first important experiment done with the U of R synchrocyclotron by Arthur Roberts and two post-docs, among them Richard Wilson - now at Harvard in charge of the high energy group. They did the measurement of π+ + d→p + p. Berkeley had previously measured the inverse reaction. So when the Rochester measurement was done, one determined the pion spin to be 0. The argument then arose as to who had measured the spin of the pion! The Berkeley people said they had done half of the measurement. Of course, they hadn’t thought of using detailed balancing which, after you think of it, is trivial. It is a well-known method that had been forgotten; I simply pointed out to Roberts that he could do this basic measurement just by measuring π+ + p→d + d with the low energy pions f the Rochester machine after Berkeley had measured p + p→π+ + d. You might wonder why Rochester could not measure the inverse reaction: simply kinematics because the energy of the Rochester protons was only 240 MeV and you needed about 300 MeV to exceed the threshold for pion production as Berkeley was able to do it because it had a 340 MeV machine. The reason that Rochester could do the inverse experiment is that the pi mesons were produced by 240 MeV protons hitting heavy nuclei and, in a heavy nucleus, you don’t need twice the mass of the π meson in order to produce it because of the Fermi motion of nucleons in the nucleus. The threshold for production of the pion goes down to about 180 MeV so that the Rochester proton beam could produce pions of about 30-40 MeV, and these pions could then be sent into a deuteron target to measure the pion spin. This measurement was first done at Rochester. When the Columbia people heard about the measurement before the paper was even published, they proceeded to rush...
Weiner:At Brookhaven, you mean?
Marshak:No, the Nevis machine at Columbia. Steinberger and associates - actually through shenanigans which we still joke about, although at the time we were annoyed - they got their paper published in the same issue, ahead of the Rochester paper by publishing it as a note instead of a letter. So that the pion spin measurement is usually quoted in the literature as having been first done by Columbia.
Weiner:What year was the Rochester paper?
Marshak:I think around 1951.
Weiner:Who were the authors on it?
Marshak:Roberts, Wilson and one other person. I discuss the experiment in my Meson Physics book.
Weiner:I can check it later. [Clark, Roberts and Wilson, Phys. Rev., 83: 649, 1951]
In any case, that was one of the first triumphs of the Rochester synchrocyclotron. That was part of the phenomenological program I was encouraging at the time. The next step was to try to determine the parity of the pi meson, whether it was positive or negative, i.e. whether it was a scalar or a pseudo scalar particle. That was very important. Bruno Ferretti, in a paper at some Italian meeting, was the first to point out what happens when a negative pion is absorbed from the K shell of the mesic-deuteron atom: that angular momentum selection rules will determine whether two neutrons will result; depending on the parity of pion, you could make - independent of the dynamics - a specific statement about the two-neutron reaction.
This struck me as a very interesting observation and led me to have a couple of students work on the general problem of &pi:- + d capture and they went much further, because they actually considered what happened when two neutrons were accompanied by a λ or π°. Thus, the possible π- + d reactions were completely worked out, so that the parity of the neutral pion could also be determined. It was this combination of calculations which led to my review paper that you cited, “Meson Reactions in Hydrogen and Deuterium,” which summarized our work on the spin and parity determinations of both charged and neutral pions. Actually, there were interesting by-products along the way. For example, if you studied the gamma ray spectrum from π- + d→2n + λ, you could learn a great deal about the final state two-neutron interaction, and so on. So it became quite an interesting program. Another important point that Ferretti had not considered was that we didn’t know much at that time about the π° meson. The meson was first found by Panofsky - the so-called Panofsky effect - and the mass was measured. That followed a paper by Wightman and myself where we had considered the possibility that π° might be less massive than π-, in which case π- + p→n + π° could occur. Since the neutron is heavier than the proton, the π° has to be lighter than it because π- is essentially absorbed from rest. You see, a negative meson slows down and gets captured into a high orbit and then quickly cascades down and, finally, is absorbed from the K shell, at least in the hydrogen and deuterium situation. And so if you have π- + p→n + π°; since n is 1.3 MeV heavier than p, π° has to be at least 1.3 MeV lighter than it in order for this reaction to take place. Wightman and I, in our paper, considered that possibility, and, indeed, it turns out that π° is about 3.5 MeV lighter than it. You don’t see π° directly the π° decaying into two gamma rays in something like 10-16 seconds; so what you have to do is to look for two gamma rays. This is a round-about way but very accurate. Similarly, the relative rates of π- + d = 2n or 2n + λ or 2n + π° shed light on the spins and parities of π- and π°. This program gave us all the basic information about the charged and neutral pions. Then the phenomenological program became even more subtle. The question was: how is π° coupled to the two isospin states (p and n) of the nucleon; and this could be established by considering the photo production of π° on deuterons. You get very different predictions depending on the relative signs of coupling of π° to p and n. Remember, it is very difficult to do rigorous calculations with strongly coupled particles but one could decide on qualitative grounds whether π° had the opposite sign of coupling to the proton, compared to that of the neutron, or the same sign. It turned to be the opposite sign. This is precisely what is predicted when you have isospin invariance but again, this was early in the game, before the Chicago experiments. And so, step by step, we were pinning down some crucial properties of the pion. This program is discussed fully in the book on meson physics, as of ‘52.
Weiner:You mean the results are discussed?
Weiner:What was the nature of the work with the students. Did you turn your attention to the problem and then turn them loose for a while, and then get together with them periodically?
Marshak:It depended, of course, on how good the student was, how much discussion was required. A very good student could pretty well be turned loose and he’d come around maybe once a month, and other students you would be meeting at least once a week. I can give you a relative rating of students...
Weiner:That is not the purpose. I was just getting at whether there was a characteristic style of collaboration.
Marshak:My students were generally self-reliant; they had to be - once I became chairman of the department in 1950 and had many other responsibilities. Nevertheless, I tried to carry my share of students. Actually, I think from 1948, when my first student, Conrad Longmire, finished, to 1963-64 when I resigned as chairman, as many as 20% of the Ph.D.s from the Rochester department were my own students. So I was carrying a fairly heavy burden of students and could not give them too much attention - and, so I would have to screen them to make sure I got fairly good ones. I didn’t have to supervise Regge much or Sudarshan or some of the others. But there were a few students along the way to whom I did have to give more attention.
Weiner:This appears to be a part of the program up to 1952. It was not a program to close off the field; you have the feeling that it was a program to open up a field. It is not a neat problem that has been facing people and then you tackle it, because everything is then being demonstrated - one thing led to another, and meanwhile the results are starting to come out of the machines - so things are getting more and more complex rather than simpler. Was this you’re feeling at the time?
Well, the field was getting richer and I was getting increasingly burdened with departmental duties. During those years, my students did most of the detailed calculations. We would discuss the calculations, of course, and if I could give advice and make suggestions, I did. But I did not work with the students the way some professors work - where they do the calculations at the same time as the students and check every step. I did rely much more on the students’ working out the details and, sometimes, if they made a mistake, I had to accept the responsibility. For example, there was such a case in Radium E where I was trying to determine, in the very early days, what the structure of the four-fermion interaction was for beta decay. This was a paper with Albert Petschek, where he did the calculations as my research assistant.
My students, if they were research assistants, would not work on their theses as research assistants. I would try to get them to work on some other problem of immediate interest to me, a smaller problem, say, and the main thesis was separate. So they weren’t just being paid to do their theses. For example, the same Petschek, while he did his thesis on pi- absorption by helium, was asked to do another calculation in beta decay. The possible presence of the pseudo scalar interaction in beta decay was important to establish and I thought a study of the Radius E spectrum could be useful. According to the shell model - you see, I occasionally did use nuclear structure concepts - one predicted odd parity for Radium E and the resulting spectrum that seemed to agree with experiment assumed a pseudo scalar interaction. I’m afraid that he just made a numerical error and that the final result was not correct. This was pointed out later by a Japanese physicist - I think Yamada. We learned soon after, that the pseudo scalar was not present because the correct interaction is V-A but this was in the early 1950s when we were still floundering around trying to determine the interaction from parity-conserving beta decay experiments.
Weiner:Was this the 1952 paper with Petschek, “Beta-Ray Spectrum of RaE and the Pseudo scalar Interaction?”
Weiner:In that you specifically used the shell model?
Marshak:Yes. The idea of using the shell model to predict the parity of RaE was a good idea because it has two magic shells. But the calculation of the actual decay, using the pseudo scalar interaction, had simply gone awry. Petschek had a wife who was a mathematician and he admitted to me later that she helped with the calculations, and a computer error had crept in. Anyway, there was a mistake and the paper has to be discarded.
Weiner:What prompted you to write the 1952 book? Was it that part of the program was complete and this was a good way to bring it together?
Marshak:I have found that various books just sort of develop naturally at a certain point in one’s career. In this case, I had quite a few students working in different aspects of meson physics; I had been involved in the two-meson theory rather closely and so I had followed up on it. When you develop a new theory, you tend to follow up on its consequences; the theory becomes a living thing. And my students were deriving additional results, sort of opening up the field of meson physics. Of course, we weren’t the only ones, but my students and I were playing a reasonable role in these advances. I was very much interested in the experimental programs that were beginning on the machines - I guess partly because I was chairman of the department and was taking a keener interest in our experimental program and exercising more jurisdiction over it than might otherwise have been the case. As I said, I had a sort of blueprint drawn up for the machine in the early days.
Weiner:You influenced the choice of energies and the type of machine before it was built.
Marshak:But even after it was built, I drew up a list of experiments to do on that machine, that was quite long and that served as a prospectus for quite a few years. It is around somewhere and it might be interesting to look at it.
Weiner:It should be available. Wouldn’t it be in the physics department’s files?
Marshak:I would think it would be.
Weiner:That is something to look for.
Marshak:Well, in any case, I gave a series of lectures on meson physics at Columbia in 1950, and then I gave them at Michigan in 1952. I tried to bring together the basic ideas and information in the lectures and I decided to publish them in book form. Also, I thought of the book as a way of compelling me to think a little more deeply and broadly about the field. And since I had quite a few students available to me as research assistants, I thought they could do some of the detailed calculations that could be included in the book. In other words, it should be a useful book since I could record the results produced by my own group as well as others, as well as mobilize my own research assistants to do some of the polishing up that is required for publishing.
Weiner:You commented, when we talked about it briefly in our first session at Rochester, that a meson physics book written in 1952 could not compare in mathematical elegance with, say, a book written about that time summarizing the developments in quantum electrodynamics. One of the things this reminds me of is that you, at that time, specifically disavowed any intention of discussing the theory of nuclear forces which you said was then in an unsatisfactory state. So in the book itself, if you wanted something on that, you couldn’t get it, because you said you weren’t going to do it. What was the major problem that you saw at the time? In retrospect, maybe it emerges clearly, but at the time what was the thing that bothered you about the theory of nuclear forces?
Well, you see the nuclear force problem depended on doing calculations with virtual mesons because you don’t see the mesons. So you consider the nuclear force as arising from the emission and reabsorption of one meson, and two mesons, and so on. This perturbation-theoretic approach was very complicated and was not leading - not unexpectedly - to even qualitatively correct answers. In a word, the QED approach to the nuclear force problem was bad and there were no promising alternatives at that time. The nucleon-nucleon scattering experiments were in a very preliminary stage. Only the single scattering cross-sections had been measured, and we learned pretty soon that in order to pin down the interaction, you had to do double and triple scattering experiments - you have to do polarization experiments.
They were under way at Rochester, where Dr. Charles Oxley was carrying on a brilliant program - for which he never really got full - credit. He was trying to measure double scattering of protons, which he successfully did by the Spring of ‘53 (because I remember the Japanese conference that Summer and what happened there, which I will mention in a little while). You needed double and triple scattering experiments in order to determine the so-called scattering matrix for two-nucleon scattering. So, even from a phenomenological point of view, we had a very incomplete picture. From the calculation point of view, because of the strong coupling - and effectively the coupling constant was 15 if you thought of it as pseudo scalar coupling - we had very poor methods. So it seemed to me hardly worthwhile discussing the two-nucleon problem in the book. Instead, I concentrated on real meson processes, that is, where you actually saw the pion. I also discussed the muon, and, at the end, the first rumblings of strange particle physics. But the book is chiefly about the pion, the key meson at that time, the lightest of the strongly interacting particles, that for many reasons plays such an important role. So I wanted to talk about real pion processes, and, there, parts of the book were definitive, in the sense that I used general methods, that did not depend on the detailed dynamics, in order to pin down particle properties.
But then, of course, if I was dealing with the real pion, I also had to consider the production of pions, the photo production of pions, the production of pions on nucleons, and so on. Now, with these topics, I realized that I was treading on dangerous ground since the pions were strongly coupled and strong radiative corrections would be important. I, nevertheless, tried to tread my way gingerly, using the best physical intuition and judgment available, as to what parts of the calculations (e.g. gauge invariance in photo production) could throw light on essential features of those processes. Remember, all this was at a very early stage. I confess that I did spend some time on the perturbation method - not because I thought it was great - but because it was one of the few methods available. I also tried to consider the strong coupling method at the other extreme, arguing that perhaps, under some circumstances, both the strong coupling and weak coupling approaches gave similar qualitative results that might be believable. But it was clear that this was a very dangerous exercise.
And, indeed, I was hit pretty hard when the book was in the process of publication by the very new results on pion-nucleon scattering found by Fermi and co-workers when they got those very unexpected ratios, 9 to 2 to 1; these only come from the presence of the low-lying (3/2, 3/2) resonance that, while not unexpected, had not been taken too seriously before. So some parts of the book were clearly going to age pretty quickly but I persuaded myself that I was using the theoretical calculations as a framework to tie together quite a string of new experimental results and this might be helpful in a new field. Then when I got to the multiple production of pions, I jumped into the discussion of the statistical approaches - the Fermi model and so on - which, in many ways, I think is still relevant. So I would say, trying to judge the value of the meson physics book, in those days, the assembling of the experimental results within some form of theoretical framework was quite helpful, I was told, to quite a few persons - but it was clear then that much would be superseded. I’d say now that perhaps half of it is still worth reading, the other half has been replaced by more recent data and theoretical approaches.
Weiner:That is because the book emerged at a particular stage in the development of the field, which meant that it was at the point where things were just opening up rather than being...
Yes, I was taking a gamble and I think I had a fairly realistic sense of what would be permanent and what would be evanescent. I was willing to engage in the evanescent part because I thought it would help make a contribution to progress in the field. Experimentalists could gain some insight, perhaps, into the interrelationship among different kinds of experiments and, even though the theories were shaky, what had been done to try and understand their experiments. In contrast to the meson physics book, in the second book that I wrote with George Sudarshan, Introduction to Elementary Particle Physics, it is pointed out in the Introduction that in this book we were going to focus on invariance principles and selection rules and not try to get into dynamics, because dynamics is the rapidly changing part whenever you deal with the strong interactions.
But, if you invoke applicable invariance principles like the detailed balancing argument, the predictions are independent of the dynamics and will not easily go out-of-date. By the time we wrote that book - it was published in ‘61, I think - there were a lot of new symmetries - or approximate symmetries - that had been discovered - and consideration of the invariance principles in particle physics became a fascinating undertaking. To have written a book in 1952 just on invariance principles would have been somewhat uninteresting because, at that time, we only had Lorentz invariance and baryon conservation. We still really didn’t know much about lepton conservation because the muon hadn’t been discussed very much and understood too well. We even thought at that time that the muon could be decaying into two particles - we were just getting out of that period. Isospin invariance was in its early stages, strangeness wasn’t known, SU(3) wasn’t known, a lot of interesting symmetries or approximate symmetries, which have helped to give structure in our particle work, were not known then. And so it would have been quite an uninteresting book. Well, it would have been a book on Lorentz invariance that can be interesting, of course, but which would have been very limited in appeal.
Weiner:It never occurred to you to write it, anyway.
Marshak:No. But, in general, the three books I have written are rather different, and I am conscious of their differences. The Meson Physics was written at a very early period and, while I do give results of dynamical calculations and discuss dynamical methods, it is clear that those discussions are very primitive. There were later developments, like dispersion theory, that supplanted those approaches although claims made along the way for some of these later methods have not always been fulfilled. The second book, Introduction to Elementary Particle Physics, focused on all the interactions - strong, electromagnetic and weak - but from the point of view of invariance principles, symmetries, and conservation laws. And I would say that very little of that book is out-of-date, as of now.
Weiner:It is nine years old.
Marshak:I guess I have written a book every eight or nine years. The book, Theory of Weak Interactions in Particle Physics, is a sort of combination of the two types. There is a very strong emphasis on the invariance principles in the weak interactions, but since I am focusing on the weak interactions, I also go into dynamical calculations. Now, if you only had to do with lowest order weak interactions, then, of course, the dynamical calculations would be trivial like the decay of a muon into an electron plus two neutrinos; these are all leptons, there are no strong interactions, and while there are electromagnetic radiative corrections which are a little messy, they have been worked out. In our book on weak interactions, we have to consider the fact that hadrons are not only weakly interacting but, at the same time, they are engaged in strong interactions and the corrections are important. But now the treatment of the strong interaction corrections are evaluated with the latest methods, dispersion theory, algebra of currents, and so on. Some of these, again, may have to be replaced in future years, but they are more sophisticated, certainly, than the earlier methods - to a certain extent because they commit themselves less to an explicit dynamical theory of strong interactions.
Weiner:At that time, in ‘52, you were also commenting in your papers that the meson experiments using accelerators had generally clarified the situation whereas the cosmic ray meson results had confused it. It seems to me that those years - ‘50, ‘51, ‘52 - are the years of transition. You see artificial meson production. Maybe we should talk briefly about the impact of this new source of hard data, of this transition from cosmic ray research. In other words, when it became clear that one was the wave of the future and the other might be interesting but not quite the most important.
Marshak:You put your finger on it. It was clear that the cosmic ray intensities are much less than the intensities that became available on the machines, particularly if you asked about intensities of particles with a reasonably well-defined energy. And, so, wherever the accelerator produced by man was capable of creating particles that had previously been studied in the cosmic rays, then, of course, you could do much more accurate experiments with the man-made machines. For this reason, accelerator experiments quickly supplanted cosmic ray work of the same type. Now, the reason cosmic ray work has been not completely replaced, not even to this day, is, of course, the fact that the cosmic ray energies go up to above 1020 electron volts, whereas the man-made machine at this point are only attaining about 1011 eV. You still have a factor of 109 higher energy in cosmic radiation. Of course, one must realize that the cosmic ray intensity also decreases rapidly as the energy goes up. The very high energy particles are not as abundant and so it becomes much more difficult to do cosmic ray experiments with 1013, 1014 or 1015 eV, but not impossible. If you are eager enough to try to find unknown new effects, you do experiments with cosmic radiation - as Reines and others are trying to study very high energy neutrino interactions in gold mines below the ground in India, but frankly, those experiments are very expensive, very difficult, and certainly up to now have not produced anything very exciting. But during those early years, it was not an abrupt transition from cosmic ray to acce1eratr physics. Remember we only had energies of several times 108 eV and reasonable intensities of cosmic ray particles of 1010 eV are available; so, in those early years, in general, the new strange particles were first seen in the cosmic radiation and then, as the bigger machines went into operation, they would measure the detailed properties of the new particles and also decide whether or not some of them were phonies. Some of the cosmic ray people would claim particles that didn’t exist, and this had to be sorted out. Quite a few of the strange particles were seen in the cosmic radiation, both in cloud chambers, and in nuclear plates. For example, Powell’s group discovered the θ and r mesons, that is, the decay modes of the kaon into 2 and 3 pions respectively, which later led to the θ-r dilemma and the Lee-Yang theory of parity nonconservation in 1956. You will find a statement in one of the early Rochester Conference proceedings, wherein some of the cosmic ray people lament that they are losing ground vis-a-vis the accelerator physicists and in a few years will not have much of a role in the Rochester conferences.
Weiner:Was there much of a controversy at the time, or discussion among theorists, regarding cosmic ray versus accelerators as to which was the better source of meson data?
Marshak:As soon as the machines produced the same data, they were manifestly more accurate, so it never become a controversy. It was always a question of how much time and money you wished to expend in trying to do experiments with the higher cosmic ray energies, that is, to look for new phenomena and to discover new particles, and to stay one step ahead of the machine people. And for a while that was a successful approach. The cosmic ray people did develop quite a bit of information about the K mesons before Berkeley came on the scene with its 6 BeV machine. The synchrocyclotrons were not capable of producing K mesons; their energies were too low. It wasn’t until Berkeley got the beavtron working that we had K mesons with good intensities.
Weiner:Was this in the late fifties?
Marshak:No, it was in middle fifties.
Weiner:1955, I think.
Marshak:Something like that.
Weiner:When money was available in this field - people and an increasing amount of new facilities were being planned - it’s not very likely that new cosmic ray facilities were be planned. The facility of choice for this field of physics would generally be large accelerators. Do you know of any case that would challenge that?
Marshak:There were some ambitious souls who had grandiose ideas. Even a few years ago, Alvarez was arguing for some major cosmic ray expenditures with rockets to do experiments that would use the very high energies of cosmic rays. In other words, it was a continual goad to one’s ingenuity to try to do cosmic ray experiments at energies that are beyond the machine.
Weiner:At the time when Alvarez proposed this, I think it became particularly clear that Berkeley wasn’t going to get a new machine.
Marshak:There may be psychological reasons. Actually, his proposals were not really accepted. Of course, the funding stopped for other reasons and decreased across the board so it became more difficult. Whether he would have gotten that sort of funding during the early 1960 period is not clear. Cosmic ray experiments have not been abandoned. A small core of cosmic ray people, particularly in Europe and particularly in countries without machines, continue to try to do some particle physics with the cosmic radiation, but a decreasing number. Those who are fascinated by cosmic radiation per se have moved into the astrophysical-geophysical aspects of the field. That’s the present cleavage. Essentially, the cosmic ray physicists, who organized the new cosmic ray division of the American Physical Society, are those who are interested in studying the composition of the cosmic rays with emphasis on the heavy primaries, and in learning about the origin of cosmic ray particles within the universe.
Weiner:Exactly what it originally was in the Millikan-Compton days.
Marshak:That’s correct. Machines have essentially replaced the cosmic radiation for particle experiments. I still think, as I indicated, that there are a small number of such experiments going on, trying to take advantage of the very high energies, but they are extremely difficult experiments.
Weiner:Let me go back a minute to the nuclear force question. When you were working on the meson work in 1951 and ‘52 - you spoke of a program - but was the long-range aim figuring out the nuclear force? Did you think that the result of it would be that in fact you would solve that very deep problem?
Marshak:I wanted to pin down the particle properties to justify - anyone’s embarking on elaborate two-nucleon interaction calculations. I think we made a key contribution in ‘57 by showing that the spin-orbit contribution to the two-nucleon potential was extremely important but that was done in a different context. If you want to cover this nuclear force work, we can do it.
Weiner:I do, but I wanted to get this related to that period of ‘52. You were writing a book and you say that the theory of nuclear forces had been in an unsatisfactory state. Did you think that the work that you were doing at that time would lead openly to a far better understanding of nuclear force? Was that one of the motivations?
Marshak:As I said, to some extent. But as you know, serious calculations of the two-nucleon interaction were still too hard. A partial solution came from another direction. Actually, I was always interested in the nuclear force problem and, right after I got back to Rochester, I suggested to Julius Ashkin, who had become a faculty member of our department that it would be worthwhile doing a calculation at the higher energies to see what the role of the tensor force would be. You see, the 340 MeV Berkeley machine was the first one to start operating after the war and they immediately produced evidence for the charge exchange character of nuclear forces, the cross-section for n-p scattering rose rapidly in the backward direction in the center of mass system, which led to the so-called Serber mixture. So I thought it would be interesting to see what the possible role of the tensor force would be and Ashkin applied the Born approximation to the problem.
Weiner:We were talking about Ashkin and his use of the Born approximation.
Marshak:The point is that until the Berkeley synchrocyclotron went on the air, proton-proton scattering and neutron-proton scattering experiments were done at quite low energies, say up to 20-30 MeV. Suddenly, one had experiments at several hundred MeV, which was pretty exciting, and some very new and interesting features were revealed for the first time like the exchange character - this big maximum in the backward direction - which was hidden at the low energies. So the two-nucleon potential became very interesting. It was one of the most important things one wanted to explore as a result of having these larger machines. So Ashkin was doing these calculations and the idea was to see to what extent the tensor force could help explain some of the results. He did calculations in a Born approximation because, at the higher energies, you would expect the Born approximation to be pretty good. However, the trouble is that in the Born approximation all polarization effects are eliminated. You predict zero polarization. Unfortunately, I didn’t push Ashkin to do any better calculations at the time, but then the computers were still primitive. Then, in another paper I wrote - a little paper - I wrote with Hartland Snyder, who is now unfortunately deceased. He was a very interesting chap who had taken his degree with Oppenheimer and had gone to Brookhaven. He was discovered by Oppenheimer - I think at the time he was driving a taxi - and he was the one who, with Courant and Livingston, proposed the method that led to the AGS machine.
Weiner:The strong focusing method.
In the first few summers after the war, I consulted at Brookhaven - and the first summer I discussed the nuclear force problem with him. I sort of wondered a little about the effect of relativity, that is, we were getting into several hundred MeV, and maybe relativistic effects would change the predictions. So we published a little paper on that but the relativistic effect was small at the Berkeley energy. So I was always interested in the nuclear force problem, but it was on the back burner. Then, when our machine started working in ‘49, a post-doc, Chuck Oxley, got very interested in trying to measure the polarization - through double scattering. There were no predictions for it because the one calculation that had been done by Ashkin predicted zero effect. It became clear that, in Born approximation, you would expect that result - you completely lose polarization effects in Born approximation even though the single scattering differential cross-sections are not too badly predicted.
I would say the next time I got interested in the problem was in 1953-54 when I was in Paris at the Ecole Normale Supériere with Maurice Levy. Maurice Levy had produced the so-called Levy potential the previous year, that he had presented to the Third Rochester Conference, where he showed that he could predict correctly the high energy differential cross-sections. Levy had come up with his potential based on a very detailed calculation of the meson theory of nuclear forces which he carried out while he was at the Institute for Advanced Study. In this paper he worked out the two-meson contributions in great detail and was led also to the two-nucleon repulsive core in the S state. Oppenheimer was very enthusiastic about the paper and Levy was the hero of the Third Rochester conference because his potential could explain the shape of the single scattering differential cross-section found in the 90 MeV n-p Berkeley scattering experiment. So, when I went to Paris in ‘53-’54, I talked with Levy quite a bit about these calculations and actually I gave a paper on the nuclear force problem at the Glasgow Conference in 1954. And I became very intrigued. By that time, Oxley had finished his experiments and had found a very large polarization effect in double scattering; Oxley’s result turned out to be devastating for the Levy potential.
To come back to the Japanese Conference in the Summer of ‘53, just before my trip to France, I presented Oxley’s results to the Japanese Conference, and it was at that Conference that Gregor Wentzel got up and said that the Chicago people had tried to redo the Oxley experiments (they had higher energy, 380 MeV) and could not confirm his results. I stated that Oxley had checked and rechecked his data and I was convinced that he was right but, of course, when someone like Wentzel gets up and says that Chicago does not confirm the results, people do not believe you. Actually, Oxley was right, and what had happened was that Chicago had looked at the wrong angle (at 380 MeV, you are supposed to look at a different angle than at the Rochester angle) and when they look at the correct angle, they found a very large effect - in complete agreement with Oxley. Soon Segre, my good friend at Berkeley, got into the picture and wrote me one of his interesting letters where he said that, of course, they should be doing polarization experiments at Berkeley, please tell them how Oxley had done it. And so Oxley sent Segre the preprint and Segre mobilized a very large effort at Berkeley on measuring double and triple scattering of nucleons.
This is another example of how the smaller laboratory is at a disadvantage. You get a new result and the larger laboratory can quickly mobilize their forces to get improved results, and then people forget the origins, and some of your colleagues become unhappy. It was a tragedy for Oxley - he never was given the credit that he so richly deserved. At Berkeley, Segre proceeded to recruit Chamberlain and others, and they not only repeated the double scattering but continued with triple scattering to fully pin down the scattering mechanism. The Berkeley work was very good but Rochester had done the initial double scattering experiment. It was another major discovery of the Rochester machine. A third one that I might mention, just in passing, was that Rochester was the first to see the pi-mesic X-rays. Joe Platt, who is now president of Harvey Mudd College, and a younger colleague, Mort Camac, did the first experiments on the pi-mesic X-rays at Rochester.
Weiner:When was that?
Marshak:About the same period. To continue with the nuclear force story, I realized fairly early in this game that it was important to work out the general velocity-dependent properties of the two-nucleon interaction; my theoretical colleague, Susumu Okubo, joined me in this undertaking and this is the paper by Okubo and myself on “Velocity Dependence of the Two-Nucleon Potential.” At the same time, Smorodinsky, in the U.S.S.R., was pointing out that in order to determine the scattering matrix for the two-nucleon interaction, one had to perform a minimum of five experiments of certain types; single, doublet and triple scattering experiments. One of the troubles had been that people in the early fifties were doing experiments at different energies and not digging in and doing single, double and triple scattering experiments at the same energy, to really determine the phase shifts and thereby the S matrix at each energy.
Weiner:There was no national or international collaboration in this area?
Initially, there was no intellectual understanding of the problem. The reason was this: if you do pion-nucleon scattering, the pion has spin 0 and the nucleon has spin 1/2. Then you have to do two types of experiments in order to pin down completely the phase shifts because you can have up spin or down spin. But, if you have two spin 1/2 particles colliding, then, when you look at all the terms that are consistent with Lorentz invariance, parity conservation, etc. you find you have five distinct structures possible in the two-nucleon potential; one structure leads to the ordinary force; a second to the spin dependent force; a third to the tensor force; a fourth to the spin-orbit force; and finally, a fifth to what is called the quadratic spin-orbit potential.
Now, in all the calculations that had been done up to the early 1950’s, the authors had considered the first three forces, but had never considered spin-orbit forces and certainly not quadratic-spin-orbit forces. And that is what Okubo and I did in our paper, published in the Annals of Physics, in 1958. That is, where we worked out the five general forces that you have in the elastic scattering of two nucleons. So that paper really pinned down just what the possible forces were, including the quadratic spin-orbit interaction that was used in later years. So the situation that was developing in the mid-1950s on the nuclear force problem was as follows: at several different energies, single, double and triple scattering experiments were being done so that one was getting the full story on what the scattering matrix was, or to put it another way, what the phase shifts were. One was beginning to fix pretty uniquely the phase shifts at each energy. When you know the scattering matrix, it means you know the phase shifts, or conversely, when you know the phase shifts, you know the scattering matrix.
Without at least five experiments, you could not determine the phase shifts. If you found a unique set of phase shifts, you could determine the S matrix for the two-nucleon interaction. But what about the explicit form of the two-nucleon potential - the five terms. You have the central parts - the first two terms - that you knew from low energy scattering - you have the tensor part, the third term that you knew from the quadruple moment of the deuteron. Do you have any spin-orbit parts? It was known that nuclei have spin-orbit forces, but you could generate a spin-orbit force in a nucleus even if you just had a tensor force between two nucleons - so that did not uniquely say to you that you had compel a spin-orbit interaction between two nucleons. However, a paper by Kenneth Case and Bram Pais, around 1955, had tried a pure spin-orbit two-nucleon potential and had found some interesting results. So I asked a student of mine, Herbert Gelernter - who has since gone into information theory at Stony Brook - I said to Gelernter after I got back from the Ecole Normale in Paris - I said, “Look, we now have these double scattering experiments at Rochester. I want you to test Levy’s potential against the double and triple scattering experiments and not just against the single scattering, where it agrees quite well.” That required a lot of numerical work. In those days, the graduate students used hand computers and to do a lot of it was not very pleasant; so Gelernter made contact with the IBM Corporation in New York City and they let him use their computers there. (Actually, when he finished his degree, he was hired by them!) He calculated with the Levy potential and made the predictions for double and triple scattering.
There were certain parameters that you predict that are related to the double and triple scattering measurements that are determined, in turn, by the phase shifts. If you know the potential, then you can predict the phase shifts and make the comparison. Well, he calculated the phase shifts on the basis of the Levy potential and found, as before, excellent agreement for the single scattering cross-section, but when he calculated the parameters connected with double and triple scattering, the Levy potential was terrible. So Gelernter killed the Levy potential! When Signell came along, I put him on the problem and suggested that he try adding the spin-orbit force to the Levy potential because of the promise of the Case-Pais work. At first, Signell wanted to try some of his own ideas, so I said OK. I would usually go along for a while with student initiative until they got into trouble. (I even did that with Tullio Regge who wanted to try out his own ideas on conformal invariance; when that didn’t pan out, he acquiesced in doing something that I suggested). After a few months of this, I said to Signell, “why don’t you do me one favor? You know how to use the computer, which I don’t. Why don’t you just arbitrarily add the Case-Pais potential with their parameters (since their parameters were in the right ball - park), to the Levy potential, and see what happens.” A few days later he came back - it was about a week before the Seventh Rochester Conference - and the agreement with the experiment was spectacular. All the predicted parameters at 150 MeV - the energy at which Rochester experiments had been done - came out on the nose. It was a fantastic thing to behold.
The reasons I wanted to add to the Levy potential was that, at large distances, it goes over to the one-pion potential, as it should. The repulsive core in the S state was good. And it did not violate field-theoretic ideas. I reported those results at the Seventh Rochester Conference. I might say that at the Conference, Gammel and Thaler had, independently, been working on this problem with the large computers at Los Alamos. And they had put in a spin-orbit potential with arbitrary parameters but their potential, for example, didn’t become the one-pion potential at large distances. It was sort of an arbitrary admixture. But in essence, they had also arrived at the basic conclusion that the spin-orbit contribution to the two-nucleon potential greatly improves the high energy experimental fits for double and triple scattering. That has led to many advances in this field since then. Signell continued with this program for many years and you will now hear names of other semi-phenomenological potentials. In later years, some Japanese developed the Hamada-Johnson potential, to which they added the quadratic spin-orbit potential, and got some extra improvement. I dare say that the big improvement came with the addition of the spin-orbit potential. Signell followed Gelernter in the two-nucleon potential program.
After Signell finished, I asked another graduate student, Johann de Swart, to look into the deuteron photodisintegration problem where, as I mentioned earlier, there was a bad contradiction between experiment and theory. - Norman Austern had written a paper saying he thought you’d have to give up an important theorem, called the Siegert theorem, which was used very effectively in photodisintegration calculations. So I suggested to de Swart that he just take over the so-called Signell-Marshak potential and recalculate the photodisintegration differential cross-section. There again, the theoretical prediction came out right on the nose. After that, I felt that since other people were getting into the act - Gregory Breit and co-workers and others began to enlist large computers to refine the potentials further and get better fits - I decided to change the two-nucleon into a nucleon-hyperon program. An enormous amount of work is now being done in the two-nucleon potential area where in an attempt is being made to take the lead from the five terms in the potential and ascribe the shorter range contributions to multi-pion resonant particles, e.g. to treat two pions as the ρ meson, three pions as the ω meson and so on. This is leading to a one-boson-exchange model of the two-nucleon potential. In any case, the only later papers that were produced by my Rochester group on this subject were connected with the hyperon-nucleon interaction, where we tried to use SU(3) unitary symmetry to make predictions about the hyperon-nucleon interaction from our knowledge of the nucleon-nucleon interaction. I thought that was more interesting than trying to refine the agreement in the two-nucleon program. I thought we had had some of the fun out of this semi-phenomenological program, and others were clearly carrying on very energetically.
Weiner:There were new things developing in your interest anyway at this time.
Marshak:Oh yes. Actually, 1957 was a great year in many ways because that was also the year of the V-A theory.
Weiner:Let me suggest at this point that, when we resume, we backtrack and talk about the Guggenheim year, the trip to India and Japan, the basis of the collaboration in France, how all this came about, and then to pick up the scientific work. Do you think it is good to go back to ‘53 when you were a Guggenheim Fellow and exchange professor at the Sorbonne? You also spent some time that year at the Tata Institute, Bombay. First of all, let us just talk about the circumstances of the Guggenheim. Was this a sabbatical year for you?
Marshak:Yes, this was my sabbatical year and perhaps some political overtones connected with that trip might be worth putting into the record. What happened was that I applied for a Fulbright Fellowship and I soon understood that the physics committee had sent along my name with a positive recommendation. But then, at the last minute, I was turned down by the State Department. The only thing I could piece together later - and it was not established but I mention it because I think it is probably correct - was that the chairman of the Fulbright committee that year was the president, or a friend of the president, of the University of Minnesota. Frank Oppenheimer had been a member of that university and during the summer of 1949 at the Idaho Springs Conference, we learned that he had just been fired. Ed Condon had come to this meeting asking all the participants to help try to get Frank Oppenheimer re-hired, and I think it was Hans Bethe and I who solicited the signatures and wrote the covering letter to the President of the U. of Minnesota on behalf of Frank Oppenheimer. Whether he or his friend, remembered this or not is a pure conjecture but it was a little strange to be turned down at the last minute. After all, by that time I had done a certain amount of work and should have been able to get a Fulbright Fellowship. And Sam Goudsmit, who was chairman of the committee, told me he had definitely recommended me very strongly.
Weiner:He was chairman of the Fulbright committee?
Marshak:Of the physics part. Actually, the episode was very embarrassing since I only found out about the refusal a few weeks before my scheduled departure. I had assumed it was all settled except for the Washington formality. Maurice Levy was very nice about the whole affair. He had invited me as Professeur d’Echange as part of the Fulbright arrangements that carried a stipend. After the Fulbright fiasco, Maurice arranged for me to be a consultant to the Commissariat a L’Energie Atomique. One day a week I would go to Saclay and talk with the head of the theory group, Prof. Yvon, and others, about neutron diffusion problems. By that time, Saclay had set up a little university to compete with the Sorbonne because Louis de Broglie had not allowed modern physics to be taught at the Sorbonne. So we were able to pay the family bills! I actually applied for the Guggenheim after I was in France telling them that I had run into this difficulty. The Guggenheim people were very nice and they awarded me a belated Guggenheim Fellowship that was retroactive to the beginning of the year. So, finally, I came out pretty well financially. I might say that I have never since then accepted an invitation to serve on a Fulbright Committee. I haven’t made a big issue of it because first I’m not absolutely sure of the reasons, but, as far as I am personally concerned, they can keep their Fulbright operation. I don’t think that was a very decent thing to do and that’s the end of that story
Weiner:This was at the height of the McCarthy period and they may have been supersensitive.
Marshak:Yes, I think that was part of it.
Weiner:I have from the PR file at Rochester a letter that you wrote in March ‘54 from France. You say: “Art Roberts has written that you would like to have a few details concerning my Guggenheim and other aspects of my European trip...I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in January 1954, valid for the academic year 1953-54 at the Sorbonne (as you know, I was turned down by the State Department on the Fulbright - since I am such a subversive character (the Eisenhower administration is now reaping the harvest of its timidity!)” I assume you’re referring to...
Marshak:. . . that McCarthy was riding high then.
Weiner:Yes, and embarrassing just about everyone in the Eisenhower administration. And you continue: “filed a late application for the Guggenheim. At the same time, I am ‘Professeur d’Echange’ at the Sorbonne under the terms of which I deliver a series of thirty lectures on high energy physics. While in Paris, I served as consultant for the various theoretical groups at the Institut d’Henri Poincaré (Sorbonne), École Normale Supérieure, École Polytechnique, French AEC, etc.” So you give her an itinerary. It might be good at lunch for you to read that, because I haven’t studied it, to pick up some of the details to fill in. But that doesn’t answer the question that I had in mind: why did you pick the Sorbonne as a place to go for your sabbatical?
Marshak:These things happen sometimes as a combination of personal reasons and intellectual reasons. The chief reason, I guess, was that Levy had come to me first. I had met him earlier and liked him very much and we became good friends. My family had never been to Paris so that while it would be interesting scientifically, it would also be great fun for the family, I thought. Actually, when you have a three-year-old, Paris is not ideal. It was very difficult to find a decent apartment, and with a three-year-old. It is not as pleasant as it is with grown children. From that point of view, the Paris year was much more interesting scientifically than it was for personal pleasure and family pleasure. My wife couldn’t get away much of the time.
Weiner:How had you met Maurice Levy?
Marshak:He was at the Institute for Advanced Study the previous year, before he went back to Paris. He came to the Rochester Conference that year and we had talked. Then, we became very friendly on the way to India. We travelled on the same plane to the Tata Institute in Bombay at the beginning of the Summer of ‘53. And then we had gone on to the Japanese Conference.
Weiner:But by that time, of course, you had already made your decision for the Paris trip.
Marshak:Yes. Another reason was that Albert Messiah, one of my former students, together with Levy had persuaded me that it would be nice to come to Paris. [Intermission]
Weiner:We are resuming now after a lunch break, and we were talking about the circumstances of your going to Paris. You said that prior to the time you went you had been persuaded by Messiah and Levy to go, that you became better acquainted with Levy on the plane to the meeting at the Tata Institute. Since you have mentioned the Tata Institute, why don’t we talk about that meeting, its purpose, what went on there, and what your reaction was?
Marshak:Not only had Maurice and I become better acquainted on the plane which, even in those days of slow travel, only consumed one day, but we spent a month together at the Tata Institute. Essentially, we were the two lecturers during that month, and we did all our touring together and so became quite friendly. The Tata Institute, at that time, was not in the present luxurious quarters. It was in the old British Naval Officers’ Club, which had old wine cellars, that Dr. Bhabha had taken over for purposes of building up the laboratory before the main buildings were constructed. And it was clear at that time that Dr. Bhabha was the top scientist in India and was in charge not only of the Tata Institute, but also was the chief science advisor to Nehru, and, I guess, by that time also chairman of their Atomic Energy Commission. So he wore many hats and was playing the key scientific role in the government. I had a very pleasant time in Bombay despite the fact that Bhabha catered, to some extent to the caste system in India. For example, Maurice Levy did not, at that time, have a professorship, so he was put in a different hotel. I was put in the Taj Mahal Hotel and he was put in a neighboring hotel, which was a little embarrassing to me, because scientifically Levy had been doing very nice things and I considered him an equal. But in any case, he would come over and join me for dinner at the Taj Mahal Hotel. Those were the early beginnings of the Tata Institute. They were building up a cosmic ray program with nuclear emulsions and a former member of the Rochester physics department, Bernard Peters, was in charge of that emulsion group.
Weiner:When did he go there?
Marshak:He left here about 1951 or 1952, just a couple of years before.
Weiner:He had successfully weathered the storm, though. In other words, Rochester retained him, or did they, on a long-range basis?
Marshak:That is another story. Actually, he was promoted to an associate professorship with tenure, despite the storm that he had encountered in 1949 as a result of Oppenheimer’s allegations about him, given to an executive session of the J. Parnell Thomas Committee and then published. He was in India by this time, having decided, despite his promotion at Rochester, to go to India. I think he had made a commitment to Dr. Bhabha a year earlier that he would come when I had arranged for him to go to India to do some experiments with balloons at that latitude. I guess he felt this was a way of helping India and perhaps preventing any further personal embarrassment in terms of accusations about his political past. In any case, there he was in charge of the nuclear emulsion group. And actually George Sudarshan, who came two years later to work with me and was the student involved in the universal V-A theory of weak interactions, was working in Peters’ group, and was one of two young Indian scientists who wrote up my lecture notes at the Tata Institute that summer. In those days, Sudarshan’s name was E.C.P. George. He is of Syrian Christian background and the reason he changed his name to Sudarshan was that he later married a Hindu girl, and part of the arrangement was that his name would be changed that way. So he became George Sudarshan.
Weiner:But he is an Indian in origin in terms of background.
Marshak:Yes, he is a Syrian Christian and comes from the state of Kerala. He showed great aptitude and energy while I was at Tata. He applied for admission to the Rochester graduate school perhaps a year after my visit in ‘53, but he said that Professor Peters wasn’t eager to let him go at the beginning. It took about two years before he was allowed to come. I think Peters perhaps wanted him to work on his program - I never really delved into that. But George did arrive in Rochester in 1955 to start working with me, and he finished up his thesis in 1957. He already had a master’s degree and some additional research experience.
Weiner:What was going on in the Tata Institute in the high energy field? Was it all cosmic rays?
Marshak:My recollection is that it was pretty much the cosmic ray nuclear emulsion work. Scientific conditions were rather primitive at that time. For example, I remember entering that building, which was not completely covered by a roof - it wasn’t that the roof was broken down but it was the type of building that was only partially covered, and you had pigeons all over the place, right in the labs - and I remember Bhabha issuing instructions one night to dispose of them. The next day they were all gone. Bhabha lived in sort of royal splendor even in that old building - he was the only one to have an air-conditioned office. The rest of the people lived under rather unpleasant conditions. It was quite warm - this was the month of August. As far as the scientific work was concerned, I don’t carry away an impression of much activity other than the Peters activity in nuclear emulsions and a lot of eager young people. As of ‘53, there was not that much going on. But Peters helped a great deal, I think, since he came in at a very early stage with a high level of competence and built up a serious operation in cosmic rays which, of course, later developed in other directions and into other types of activity in physics and science.
Weiner:Were you and Levy invited by the Tata Institute?
Marshak:No, Bhabha invited me personally. He had asked if I were going to the Tokyo Conference and when I said I was, he asked if I would agree to stop by the month before. It seemed like an interesting thing to do; and Levy did too. Bhabha discovered we were both going to Tokyo conference at the same time.
Weiner:It was the circumstances of your being in that part of the world and he thought he could take advantage of your presence at that time.
Marshak:Budgets were always very tight and I guess he figured that if we were going to Japan, it would be less expensive. Actually, what I did, was to go around the world because I went from New York to Paris to India...
Weiner:Had you left your family in Paris?
Marshak:No, I returned to Rochester and, shortly thereafter, took the whole family to Paris. There are some interesting stories but I don’t think you want to go into details.
Weiner:I would like a little if they have to do with the atmosphere and the organization of the laboratory. Someone I know has just completed his doctoral dissertation in anthropology based on a two-year study of Bhabha’s Institute and Saha’s Institute in India, living and working in both places. I’m very curious what your impression was of the style of doing physics there and the organization of it because his is the only source of data we will have, I think, and it might be nice to compare your impressions with what he has turned up.
It wasn’t enough of a laboratory yet to talk about styles. Essentially, Bhabha ran it as both the intellectual superior and the administrative dictator. He was the fellow who was in charge unquestionably and everything came to him. He had, as I recall, a British civil servant who was his chief assistant - his name slips me now, but the British assistant did a lot of the detailed work and made the social preparations. Bhabha was a bachelor. He took me to some of the clubs that he belonged to for swimming and so on. He was very pleasant in trying to entertain me; he was very hospitable. We became quite good friends. He lived in a magnificent house on Malabar Hill all through his years until his death in the 1960’s. He was a Parsi and was connected with the top Tata family and certainly was wealthy in his own right. He had great influence on the government so that whatever decisions he made at the Tata Institute, were carried out in terms of government support. So he was in a very special situation.
He also tried to build up mathematics, but he was chiefly trying to build up physics at that time and he had sense enough to try to build up experimental physics as well so that the institute would have a very solid base and be in a position to help India. To compare the present Tata Institute to those early days perhaps is not too rewarding except that obviously those were the beginnings and were essential to what happened afterwards. He was good for Tata and for India in that he insisted on quality. He wasn’t just trying to build up something for the sake of having greater size. He had good taste; he had a sense of what was superior physics and what was inferior physics, and what was a serious scientific undertaking and what was not. So he was a sound person; in many ways, he is responsible for the fact that the Tata Institute now is the leading scientific institution in India. “Big oaks out of little acorns grow” and the Tata Institute developed into a well-rounded physics institute and now it is going into other areas as well. I revisited the Tata Institute in later years and gave a week of lectures in January of 1964, about ten years later. Then they were in their new quarters. He had designed the building. You will find that he has much painting and sculpture in the building. He told me he had persuaded the government to let him use up to 1% of the scientific budget for art.
It was during that period that I told him, after a week of lecturing, that I would like to meet some of his painters and sculptors and perhaps I would take some things back to Rochester and persuade the University of Rochester to let me buy them for the physics department. Indeed, some of the things you see in my house now - the two paintings out there are from Gaitonde, from a leading modern artist in Bombay, whose paintings have since been purchased by the Museum of Modern Art; some of the sculpture pieces are by Davierwalla, who was the man who created most of the sculpture you see in the Tata Institute. So that I always look back to that visit with great pleasure because of the chance to visit the art studios in Bombay and actually acquire some of the first original art that we ever purchased anywhere. I never did turn over the Bombay works to the University of Rochester because it was not that expensive and I decided I might as well keep them for my family’s own pleasure. So the Tata Institute was certainly moving along. The derivative was large but the value of the function was still small in 1953.
Weiner:Did they get involved in the accelerator rush then?
Marshak:No, they never really tried to build large accelerators. Bhabha realized that India couldn’t afford large accelerators and, if they were going to make experimental investments, they should move more in the direction of nuclear reactor programs and non-accelerator particle physics. He certainly strongly supported basic research but he didn’t try to make large investments of essential funds in large accelerators.
Weiner:We have talked about India. Maybe we can talk about Japan now unless there’s something else you want to say.
Marshak:I guess there is one other point that might be worth making about Indian science. I did visit in 1953 the National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi which, at that time, was under the directorship of Sir Krishnan. This was a laboratory that was already built up. The building was there - it was a very beautiful building - and there were good facilities, but, for some reason, that laboratory never, really developed into the very high level that one might have expected. There are various reasons given for that. I recently had occasion to discuss the question with a top Indian scientist and official in the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. I think partly it was connected with Sir Krishnan’s apparent lack of administrative ability. Even though he was a distinguished scientist in crystallography, he was not a good administrator, which Bhabha was. I guess another trouble was that they never really tried to work together with Delhi University, which might have led to a very fruitful interaction. On my several trips to India, I tried to encourage them to do that. In any case, the National Physical Laboratory has not been the outstanding success it might have been.
Weiner:You went from India to Japan and presented a paper with the general title of “Recent Work on Nuclear Forces in Rochester.” I want to ask a number of things about the Conference - since we have been conference-conscious in our discussion; keeping the Rochester Conferences in mind - would you compare the international flavor and the kinds of issues that were discussed. Secondly, your own contribution to the Conference, which we did discuss earlier in terms of the misunderstanding regarding your earlier work.
Marshak:The two-meson misunderstanding happened at a later conference in 1965 when Sakata was still talking about it. I think at the ‘53 we were too busy talking about some of the new things to rehash the old.
Weiner:I wanted to ask you about that and also, thirdly, your impression of the general state of physics in Japan.
Well, the 1953 Conference in Japan was the first post-war conference in Japan. In many ways, I think it was a valuable conference for the Japanese and it probably came at the height of their collaborative spirit within their own country. What I mean is that the physics community in Japan now is badly fragmented for political reasons, whereas in 1953 they all seemed very collegial. You must realize this conference was not just in particle physics or high energy physics. This was a theoretical physics conference that covered all branches of theoretical physics, solid state physics, nuclear physics, cosmic ray physics, particle physics, and so on. For example, Charlie Townes was there. I have a nice picture of him and myself with some Kabuki dancers. This was a comprehensive conference covering all branches of physics and the Japanese had brought in all their young people to listen to the sessions.
My guess is that this conference was extremely important for the future progress of Japanese physics. The Japanese scientists had a chance, for the first time, to listen to some of the latest results from theorists around the world. They were still reconstructing their country after the war, overcoming the devastation of the war, and they were only beginning to start serious scientific programs. In terms of equipment, what we saw were small accelerators; there wasn’t too much in the way of actual activity going on in experimental physics. I think also the solid state program still had not started to do the important things it is doing now. They are excellent in many branches of solid state physics as of now. Looking back, I think that it was one of their most successful conferences. They had very good delegations in attendance from all over the world who were interested to visit Japan for the first time. The Japanese were very hospitable. They made a very good impression in terms of all the arrangements they had made. Yukawa was the great hero.
He had been awarded the Nobel Prize a year or two before, so wherever he went he was recognized by the public. I remember one of the entertainment events was to go to the Kabuki theatre - it goes on all day - and when we came in, Yukawa was announced over the loudspeaker - and there was a burst of applause. After the Conference, we went to visit various other laboratories. They arranged it very well in the sense that people fanned out and gave lectures at different universities, so that every university had a chance to meet some of the foreign scientists. And as you travelled through Japan, the governor of each province would be the host at a welcoming party. It was really done in a grand style and they left everyone grateful for their graciousness and interest in physics. And from their point of view, as I say, they were unified at that time - all the Japanese groups: the Tokyo group, the Nagoya group, and the Kyoto group. The Nagoya grout was pretty much Sakata and the pro-Maoist group.
Weiner:You are talking about real politics. I thought you were talking about internal scientific politics.
Marshak:Both. The Tokyo group was the pro-American group, the Nagoya group was anti-American, and the Kyoto group was the neutral group. Perhaps, to some extent, the issues were not so clearly defined in those days, but whatever the reasons, all these groups pitched in to make this conference a great success.
Weiner:Was this one of the International Union-sponsored Conferences?
Marshak:No, I don’t think so. The Science Council of Japan organized it, and it started out with a few days of ceremonial sessions in Tokyo and then continued in Kyoto for the actual sessions. The impression one had at that time was that Yukawa was the great national hero, that many students were going into theoretical physics, and particularly into theoretical particle physics, because of his great reputation, and that the Japanese contributions were not terribly exciting compared to those of other delegations, particularly the American; but there was a ferment going on and one expected good scientific activity later on. And I think that has happened, actually perhaps more in branches of theoretical physics other than particle physics. They are very good now in theoretical solid state physics. They have some good people in theoretical particle physics but I would say the ratio of the number of people they have in theoretical particle physics to the number of very good ones is a little too big for comfort. They have a lot of people who are not terribly exciting and doing some foolish things, partly because of this political background and bias, say in the Nagoya group, where they actually are trying to incorporate into their physics Maoist ideas. It gets a little complicated.
Weiner:How do you do that other than reading statements?
Marshak:You do it through semantics, when you identify names for certain stages in the identification of the fundamental constituents of matter.
Marshak:Well, they use different terms - essentialist stages - and terms that are sort of a mixture of the old Marxist terminology and more modern terminology. And when you pint out that most of these terms can be found in any good book on logic, they are a little surprised. But it affects their own scientific work in that a lot of the rhetoric in their papers uses that terminology and it distorts some of the models they construct, the particles that they hypothesize in order to explain the role of groups in particle physics. The Nagoya school, I think, is in pretty bad shape as a result of this type of approach.
Weiner:Is there anything parallel to that in Soviet physics?
Marshak:I thought you said Soviet science.
Weiner:No, I meant Soviet physics specifically because many people who had studied the subject say that the Lysenko incident didn’t affect physics.
Marshak:I think basically that is correct. I think some people, even Blochintsev, who is now a little ashamed of it, in some of the physics books, talked about the role of dialectical materialism in physics, and the fact that Bohr’s school was the center of bourgeois idealism in physics, and all that. Except for some rather sad sacks like Ivanenko, who tried to build a reputation during the bad Stalin years, most of Soviet physics was not infected. Perhaps the major reason was that people like Landau and Tamm, very good fellows and excellent physicists, simply fought such nonsense. They had been exposed to the West - some of them had been out of the country during the thirties - and they were never willing to let that infection spread. They fought it bitterly.
Weiner:I was just curious about this development in Japan.
Marshak:I would say that this particular school is more like a Lysenko-type effect than any recent development that I know of.
Weiner:What about the thing that was exciting people at the meeting, the subject matter that was most interesting.
Marshak:I think from the point of view of actual highlights, it consisted more of detailed argumentation than any new development. You see it was Sept. ‘53 - in December of ‘51, we held the Second Rochester Conference and the third one, I guess, was in December ‘52. At the Third Conference, the - strange particle results were reported in some detail but the big excitement of the pion-nucleon scattering experiments of Fermi and collaborators - and the role of the (3/2, 3/2) resonance - had already been felt. It was before the strangeness concept and so it was a period when there were discussions of detailed calculations. I remember arguments between Keith Brueckner, who wanted to calculate the two-nucleon interaction by meson theory by summing Feynman diagrams in one way - and the Japanese arguing for another way. So there were detailed discussions. I would say one didn’t come back from that conference saying “ah, this was an exciting conference,” in the sense that one had been exposed to a lot of new ideas. The Japanese themselves did not make any major contributions in that sense. Yukawa’s theory was an old theory; Tomonaga’s work was already absorbed in quantum electrodynamics a few years earlier. So there wasn’t any great excitement. The outcome was more what it did for future Japanese physics. In a more parochial way, as far as Rochester was concerned, they approached me at the time about taking some Japanese graduate students and I said I’d be glad to, so they set up a special committee to screen students for the physics department in Rochester under the Science Council of Japan. For a few years, the U of R sort of had a monopoly until departments elsewhere became aware of the opportunity. That is when we got Japanese graduate students like Koshiba and Okubo, who were very excellent and some of the best students who came to work at Rochester.
Weiner:Did most of them go back to Japan?
Marshak:Quite a few of them went back.
Weiner:I think that was the interlude that I wanted to cover. I would like now to do the final part of the Paris year. You have talked somewhat about the work that came out of it. There was a conference that occurred about this time - the Padua Conference on Elementary Particles in 1954 - when you were over in Europe.
Marshak:It was in the spring of ‘54.
Weiner:One paper of yours was based on calculations which were begun during the visit to the Tata Institute and apparently completed in France. This is the one you did with Levy. [S-Wave Pion-Nucleon Scattering]. First of all, why did you publish this particular paper in the Nuovo Cimento rather than a French journal?
Marshak:Because Nuovo Cimento was acquiring a reputation as being the journal for high energy physics whereas the French journals didn’t care too much to have papers in English - they wanted them in French. I did publish a paper in French that year on charge independence of nuclear forces (Independence de Charge en Physique Nucléaire) in the Journal de Physique et Radium. That had to be translated by the then Mrs. Levy - into French. I wrote it in English and she translated it into French.
Weiner:It wasn’t published until 1955 so that might account for the delay.
Marshak:It was toward the end of my stay and it took a while to translate it and they have slow publication. That was another point - publication was rather slow - and I think Levy felt that if we wanted to have our work brought to the attention of persons in the field, it would be better to publish in the neighboring journal, Nuovo Cimento.
Weiner:A couple of questions: one is on the Padua Conference itself. Here is a conference specifically on elementary particles. The Rochester Conferences became, really, a conference on elementary particles. There was a conference in England in ‘46 at Cambridge on fundamental particles. I think this is still pretty early to have specific conferences on that subject. But was this a specially important conference?
Yes. This was an interesting little conference. You raise a good question as to why they were beginning to focus now on elementary particles. I remember this conference fairly well because Levy and I gave a paper there which was sort of a precursor to the Sakata model, that we never really elaborated into Sakata’s form, but it is basically the Sakata model. First, let me explain why this was a fairly interesting conference. What happened was that there were fairly good experimental results by the Spring of ‘54 on strange particles, and there was still the outstanding question about associated production. They were not called strange particles because the concept of strangeness had not as yet been introduced.
The theory that was most plausible, or the one that was given a great deal of attention, was the one by Pais, where he introduced another quantum number, an ω quantum number; Pais’ quantum number was a multiplicative quantum number, that, like parity, either characterized the normal class by, say, even ω parity or the abnormal class with odd ω parity, but it was not, of course, the usual parity. The normal nucleons would have even t parity, and the - new particles that were coming along presumably would have odd w parity. In that sense, it is a multiplicative quantum number because if you go to the next class of particles, you should again have even ω parity. On the other hand, strangeness is an additive quantum number, that is, as you go to the more “strange” particles, the quantum number increases in magnitude, whereas, in the Pais scheme, you close the circle and come back, to the same ω parity. Pais could explain why you had associated production, that is, why you could not produce a hyperon and a pi meson together; you would have to produce a hyperon and a K meson together. So, if you go to the first stage of “strangeness” then it has the same consequences as ω parity, but as soon as you go to the second stage of strangeness - the cascade particle - then the multiplicative quantum number and the additive quantum number have very different consequences.
So Pais was having success with his ω parity theory in explaining associated production as long as one only had hyperons of strangeness one. As soon as you got to strangeness two, he would have said that the cascade particle has the same ω parity as the nucleon and then he would have been in trouble. There are two reasons I mention this. One is that it was the sort of experimental information that was on the table at the time of the Padua conference and it was important to try to understand associated production. Also, one began to ask whether one could develop a theory of elementary particles in terms of a small number of constituent particles. On the latter point, Levy and I gave a paper at this meeting that was an extension of the original Fermi-Yang theory of pions. Fermi and Yang had written a paper about 1950, when the pion was definitely established as a strongly interacting particle, in which they argued that you really only have a proton and neutron and that a pion - a pi minus meson - should be thought of as being an anti-proton and neutron bound together strongly - the pi- would have the right baryon number and the right charge and so on. They made a few qualitative calculations with that theory, which is called the Fermi-Yang theory. Our idea then was that if you take one of those odd ω parity anti-hyperons and an even ω parity nucleon, you can build odd ω parity mesons - “strange” mesons - and explain their long lifetimes, which is the key question. And all that was in the paper at the Padua meeting. We essentially had the Sakata model in the Pais framework. But since our theory was based on the multiplicative quantum number, of course, later on, it was not as good as Sakata’s theory, which was based on the additive quantum number of strangeness.
Weiner:Was this one of the more interesting points of discussion at the meeting? It certainly was for you, since it was your paper, but do you recall what the major issue was? I notice in the letter that you wrote to Rochester describing your activities, that I mentioned earlier, you say: “On April 12-13 I shall attend a small cosmic ray conference in Padua.”
Marshak:The main reason was that the Italians had no machines, and it was their cosmic ray physicists who were organizing the conference.
Weiner:The conference was called a conference on elementary particles but your characterization of it here is of a cosmic ray thing. Was there much international representation? Certainly you and Levy were two.
Marshak:I don’t think it was intended to be a truly international conference. It was a European conference with some American visitors. I don’t actually remember too many American visitors.
Weiner:Where was Messiah at the time? What institution was he in?
He was at Saclay and the reason was that he had a Ph.D. from Rochester, which he had received under me, and French universities would not hire professors who had non-French Ph.D.s, so he was forced to take a position at Saclay. This reminds me of an amusing sidelight that can be related quickly. Messiah started teaching quantum mechanics at Saclay because it could not be taught at the Sorbonne. Louis DeBroglie, the “professeur de physique theorique,” did not believe in all this new-fangled stuff. He had gone sour, I think, after his initial brilliant thesis that led to his Nobel Prize; he no longer believed in quantum mechanics, and he wouldn’t let any of his staff teach the new quantum mechanics.
The great need to train people in quantum mechanics, not only for particle physics but also for solid state physics, which the French wanted to get into in a big way, led to their setting up a series of quantum mechanics lectures at Saclay. That is why Messiah gave his lectures that led to his well-known book on quantum mechanics, a best-seller incidentally. But that is not the end of the story - while I was in Paris, Levy set up a meeting for me with the French Minister of Education to discuss the problem regarding the deficiency of modern physics at the Sorbonne. I emphasized what a disaster would ensue if the Minister didn’t overcome the obstacles that De Broglie had placed on French physics instruction. The Minister came forth with a very clever, typically French, solution. He created new chair in what was called “Théorie de Physiques” - in contradistinction to DeBroglie’s chair in “Physique Theorique.” Maurice Levy was given the new chair, and that is how Maurice Levy was able to reestablish the present-day French school of theoretical physics.
Weiner:Prior to that time, was Saclay and the Atomic Energy Commission the only other place where you were getting discussions of contemporary hot subjects? What about the College de France? Were there no other places where this was going on?
Marshak:There were other places where modern physics was being taught. The Ecole Polytechnique - Leprince-Ringuet was there - but that was a more experimentally-oriented group. The College de France had Frederic Joliot-Curie, but they were more experimentally oriented. So it was modern physics but not with enough of a theoretical slant. There wasn’t a strong enough theoretical tradition so that I would say that the post-war theoretical tradition was initiated at Saclay. Some of the best theorists are still there, like Claude Bloch in nuclear structure, Abragam in solid state. The shining lights in modern theoretical physics were at one time associated with Saclay or still are associated. I think Abragam now is at the College de France, so in recent years there has been a movement out of Saclay. But they carried the ball initially, not exclusively, but they made quite an impact in terms of training the modern generation of theorists.
Weiner:When you were there, there was a summer school for theoretical physics at Les Houches. What role did that play? As a matter of fact, I have a copy of the program of it for the summer you were there which you enclosed in your letter home indicating that you were heading there.
You have stuff that I had forgotten all about. Just before talking about this, let me say that one of the interesting things that happened during that year, scientifically, was that Maurice Levy became interested in trying to get some sort of high energy accelerator for France. He asked me to help him on that. When I thought about it, I realized that Bob Wilson, the one who is now constructing the Fermi laboratory, had constructed quite an inexpensive 1 BeV electron machine at Cornell, and he had told me he was eager to come to Paris for a year and was willing to help the French build a similar machine. Levy got very interested in that possibility. He came to Professor Rocard, who was director of the École Normale Supérieure where I had my office and Levy had his office - the École was one of the institutes belonging to the University of Paris - and Rocard was actually the gentleman who later pushed the French government in the direction of producing their own atomic bomb; in any case, it was to him that Maurice Levy went about a new accelerator and he brought me along. The proposition was presented to him and he became quite interested, but thought he needed the support of Joliot-Curie, Chairman of the French AEC.
The bad blood between some of the high-ranking Frenchmen was so great that Rocard asked me if I would be willing to talk to Joliot-Curie - even though I was an American - and to try to persuade him to support this project. I agreed to do it, and Joliot-Curie told me that he would support the accelerator. The amusing part of the story is that Bob Wilson came to the École Normale the following year but he never built a copy of the Cornell machine because Rocard decided, once he got Joliot-Curie’s backing, to build a Linac rather than a circular machine. Be that as it may, it was an interesting experience being exposed to scientific politics in France in this fashion. I am sure there are similar examples in other countries. As far as the summer school at Les Houches was concerned, the director, Cecille Morette, organized this summer school in a place called Les Houches, near Charmonix. There were some old houses there and the French government had revamped them so they were inhabitable. The 1954 school was one of the first and they are still going on; but their subjects cover all aspects of theoretical physics and the lectures are directed at the advanced graduate students. I gave some lectures there for three weeks. I guess Freeman Dyson was there and also Roy Glauber. The summer schools certainly make contributions to the advanced training of graduate students.
Weiner:That is why I was particularly interested in it. It seems to me one of the innovative institutional forms that get around the rigidity of existing forms.
Marshak:This was certainly one of its objectives. They were conscious of the fact that they had to do something to circumvent the rigidities of the French education system, particularly at the Sorbonne in the early days, and they did it through courses at Saclay as well as the Les Houches summer schools.
Weiner:It is an interesting general principle to me...
Marshak:Yes, when you come across a large rock, you try to go around it.
Weiner:You just devise an institutional form, usually on an informal basis. I would like to ask a question about the rest of that year. Among the things you did was to visit the European physics centers. In your letter, written in March, you say that by that time you had already given lectures in Switzerland at Basel, Bern and Zurich, at Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Sweden (several places in Sweden) and England, including the Poynting Lecture at Birmingham. Then you talk about turning down other invitations.
Marshak:Then I went to Italy for about two weeks of lectures in the Spring.
Weiner:Yes, “On April 1, we leave for a three week visit to Italy. Along the way, I shall speak at the University of Grenoble and then at the Universities of Turin, Milan, Padua and Rome in Italy.” I don’t think we want a travelogue of everything - there was an IUPAP meeting too and a Glasgow International Conference in Nuclear Physics. For a man trying to relax, it seemed that you were pretty busy. What I would like before we leave this particular year are two things. One is - you had a pretty wholesale exposure to physics enterprises throughout that year. Is it possible now for you to compare one place to another or to characterize the whole scene - whichever seems the more appropriate. And the other is for you to evaluate what you think you got out of the year personally, whether it was just a good rest, stimulation, or getting some important work done? So, the first question was about either characterizing European physics as a whole that year or making some specific country by country evaluations - for example, Denmark, which interests me because of the earlier strong position of the Bohr Institute.
One thing I could say is that, except for Italy, the interest in high energy physics was in its early stages and on felt when one went to Sweden or even Copenhagen, which was the center for nuclear structure, that there was not the sense of excitement, of wanting to participate in the field and not much was going on there. I remember visiting Upsala, Sweden, where they had a pretty good synchrocyclotron (150 MeV, I think, something like the Harvard machine) but they weren’t doing any high energy experiments; they were doing chemistry experiments. The Svedberg was in charge. I was trying to suggest to them some of the interesting physics experiments that might be done. Prigogine had invited me to Brussels - even gave me a medal - and there was some interest in talking about nuclear emulsion experiments. The problem was that there were no machines under construction by that time, except, possibly, in England. Birmingham was the first place that had started the construction of a high energy machine but it wasn’t working yet; so that, as far as accelerator physics was concerned, Americans had a monopoly of accelerator physics.
The Europeans were just getting into the act. From that point of view, I was bringing a new science to many of the European laboratories. In Italy, and in England, it was clear that there was tremendous excitement connected with the high energy cosmic ray experiments and the nuclear emulsion technique. Little of that was going on in these other countries. In Brussels, there was a nuclear emulsion group but it was not a major activity. So that one, in a sense, felt that one was giving more than one was taking back, for the simple reason that we were far ahead at that time. Thus, when I would tell them about the latest experimental results with accelerators, it was all new. I remember the lectures in Paris were on all completely new stuff so that one was bringing the latest word to laboratories that were just becoming interested in the field. Theory was another matter. There were good theorists in many European countries and quite a number of them were still working in quantum electrodynamics and in problems of general quantum field theory.
Weiner:CERN was on the horizon then.
Marshak:Yes, but it was not in existence.
Weiner:You don’t recall any discussions of it?
Marshak:I don’t recall anything in particular. I think it was even too early for that.
Weiner:The discussions started earlier than that, but they were not on the public level. There were small groups.
Marshak:I may have heard a little about it, but I don’t recall participating in discussions intended to set up CERN. Where I got involved was, as I say, in France trying to help them set up an experimental high energy program and bringing theory back to Paris. I was working with Maurice Levy and giving him the moral support that an outside scientist - still relatively young - could give him.
Weiner:By that time, there were lots of problems with French politics too. When was Joliot demoted?
Marshak:That was later. He was still important enough for Rocard to want me to see him. I think he was still High Commissioner of Atomic Energy at that time.
Weiner:Well, on the Glasgow Conference in Nuclear Physics, would you say it fits into this general characterization that there was nothing particularly...
Marshak:That conference emphasized a different set of problems. I was asked to report on the two-nucleon interaction from the point of view of the higher energy range to fill out the usual low energy nuclear physics discussions.
Weiner:By that time, when people used the term nuclear physics and had an international conference on it, I gather it was already a different set of people with different concerns. Somebody like yourself, for example, was already regarded maybe only as a liaison and you were definitely from a different field with different concerns and under ordinary circumstances you wouldn’t have attended the meeting.
Marshak:We called our conference High Energy Nuclear Physics. We were very explicit. The name has stuck. In the early days, it was necessary to be very careful, and call it high energy nuclear physics instead of low energy nuclear physics.
Weiner:But here, by 1954, the Rochester Conferences had been four years old by that time. It was clearly defined that the people in nuclear physics were not the people in high energy.
Marshak:Yes, they were moving apart, it is true. Glasgow was not a particle physics conference but more a liaison-type conference. Incidentally, I was interested in attending because of my interest in the nuclear force problem. I wanted to know what the latest results were. In order to pin down the nuclear interaction, you also want to know the phase shifts at low energy so you have the whole range; so it was good to find out what was going on. I hoped to get something out of it as well as to make a contribution.
Weiner:All right. That year, as you have indicated, was a very full one, with travelling and giving a great deal of lecturing and teaching. It was supposed to be a sabbatical year where you were concentrating on pulling things together and refreshing yourself and getting some work done. How would you evaluate the results of the year?
Marshak:I had lively collaboration with some fairly bright younger people - Maurice Levy was one - and the discussions with him I considered quite valuable and enabled me to dig more deeply into the meson theory of nuclear forces. I had not gone into that; essentially my discussions with Levy helped fill in the lacunae that existed in my book on meson physics, namely the meson theory of nuclear forces. And Levy had become a leader in that field. While the Levy potential did not hold up - I helped to kill it! - it was good to discuss in detail with him what he had done and I learned quite a bit from those discussions. So, in that sense, it was useful later on in my thinking about the two-nucleon potential. Then, Messiah was a very bright fellow, and we did one paper together on the polarization effects in pion production from nucleons; that was an extension of my program to dig more deeply into the pion-nucleon interaction. And then I discussed with Levy my ideas in connection with the pre-Sakata model, on which we reported at the Padua conference. I wouldn’t say that very brilliant papers resulted that year but some new avenues of research were started by me. I think if I should have focused a little more on the model for elementary particles because, in many ways, that was the most novel work that year. But I feel that overall it was a satisfactory year. I was the department chairman and the contacts that I made through lectures and visits all over Europe were extremely valuable in terms of student and staff recruitment, and in terms of the knowledge acquired of what was going on. So I considered it was a very satisfactory year. I had no complaints. But clearly it was not a year where I devoted myself exclusively to writing papers.
Weiner:You had four papers. The interesting thing is that you come back and if one were reading your life story just on the basis of publications, one would wonder what happened in 1955. Here is your year back and there is no publication.
Marshak:There is a good reason for that. That is the year my ulcers hemorrhaged. I had been suffering from ulcers since 1948 when I was finishing up as Chairman of the Federation of American Scientists. I might have gotten them anyway but certainly that year of hectic activity as FAS chairman triggered the ulcers. I suffered from the ulcers for a decade. You do have constant pain, but you sort of manage with pills and gritting your teeth. In 1955, I actually hemorrhaged - very seriously - for the first time and it was a delicate business for a while - it took many months to recover from it. So I was pretty much out of action and that is why I turned over the preparations for the 6th Rochester Conference in 1955 to Arthur Roberts. Joe Platt was acting chairman during my sabbatic year and I asked him to pitch in while I was recovering.
Weiner:You said the 6th Rochester Conference. Do you mean the 5th Rochester Conference, which ran from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, 1955?
Marshak:No, I ran the 5th Conference. I got my hemorrhage in Oct. ‘55.
Weiner:Oh, I thought it was just when you came back.
Marshak:No, you see when I came back, I was running a department as usual, but the department was bigger. I was running a conference as usual but the conference was bigger. So when I got back, here I was, right after my sabbatical, preparing for the 5th Conference that was a very large one. And then later in that year I had the ulcers and that knocked me out through the early spring of ‘56.
Weiner:You had a lot of anguish in preparing for the 5th Conference, - the controversy, about the McCarran-Walter Act...
Marshak:That’s right. There were new problems that had not come up before.
Weiner:In the ‘56 Conference, although you didn’t run it, were you present?
Marshak:Yes, and I was chairman of the Advisory Committee to Roberts. I was sort of functioning though he did most of the work.
Weiner:There were two things about that conference: the Russians and Lee and Yang’s nonconservation of parity. That is one Conference Proceedings that I did read because someone had suggested years ago that it was a very interesting conference. Somehow, we got our hands on the Proceedings of it and I remember reading through it. I got the impression that the Conference led to the Lee and Yang nonconservation thing rather than it happening at the Conference itself. Maybe you should clarify this in terms of the kinds of discussions. I would like you to recapitulate that if you recall enough about it. I know there was one point of discussion where there was—a great deal of difficulty and Martin Bloch had an idea that he wanted to advance and he asked Feynman to advance it for him because Feynman could get the floor or something. And there were objections on either the part of Lee or Yang that this just couldn’t go, that you would have to give up parity, and so they were in the position of sort of rejecting the idea. At least this is the superficial impression you get. I think Oppenheimer may have been the chairman of the particular session where this occurred. But, anyway, it didn’t go too far, and it was only afterwards that the meeting took on a great deal of significance. I don’t know if I am right in my impression of this and would like to ask you about it.
Marshak:You didn’t bring any of the Proceedings with you?
Weiner:No, I think we will save that until we have a copy of the Proceedings. It is not a major issue in our discussion. But let us talk about the Conference briefly as far as the fact that the Russians attended. How did that come about? We talked before that the previous year the Russians had not been invited for several reasons - one was that relationships were such that it was not diplomatically advisable; secondly, it wasn’t quite clear that they were doing anything in high energy physics that they were either willing or able to talk about. But in ‘56, you get Veksler, Markov and Sirlin, and Weisskopf, as you have indicated, helped bring them in.
Marshak:One has to realize that the 5th Conference was at the end of January 1955. Stalin’s death was, I think, at the end of ‘53 and it took them a year to dispose of Beria, so the de-Stalinization didn’t set in until the end of ‘54, or perhaps the beginning of ‘55. It was certainly too late for us to do anything in terms of the 1955 Conference. The declassification started around the same time. The first conference where we really had a chance to do anything about inviting a Soviet delegation was the 6th one and that is when we proceeded to look into the situation and see whether they were interested in receiving invitations. We only succeeded finally through the hard labor of Weisskopf and others, who were mobilized to persuade Lewis Strauss to make the recommendation to the State Department that the Russians should be allowed to enter. It was clear the State Department would agree if the Atomic Energy Commission would accept the responsibility for the recommendation.
Weiner:How was it decided who the three Russians would be?
Marshak:They really decided that. We did not although we had the power of approval. I think we suggested some names but we made it clear that we would not insist on our final selection as long as we recognized the Russians as bona fide high energy physicists.
Weiner:When they came, was it of special interest in terms of the things they had to say about what was going on in the U.S.S.R. or were they able to make much in the way of a contribution?
Marshak:My recollection is that they kept fairly quiet. They would pretty much just listen. This was April 1956. Before they arrived, some of us had received invitations to their conference in May. A few of the American physicists solicited invitations front Veksler while he was at our conference and several succeeded in getting them - I won’t mention the names. It almost became part of the deal - not consciously - that once they were admitted we would automatically be admitted to their conference. My recollection is that our invitations went out within a few days of when theirs reached us, so there was almost simultaneous movement to eliminate the Cold War obstacles in our discipline. Veksler said a little in Rochester but not too much. The Russians saved most of their results for their conference in May when they opened up and talked freely about their work. In Moscow and Dubna - which we visited - they told us all about their 680 MeV machine and the results obtained with it. I think that was the reason rather than secrecy - if they had not had their conference coming along right after ours. I think they would have been more forthcoming in Rochester. I think if you look at the Rochester Proceedings you will note that the Russians are relatively quiet, except that I recall Ed McMillian asking Veksler (they became very good friends because they had both discovered phase stability) to give an informal talk on his work. And Veksler did give an hour’s talk to a small group, but not at the conference itself. So, I do not believe that secrecy was the problem - the Russians did transfer more information than were included in the Proceedings. Also partly, I think the three of them were a bit overwhelmed by the advanced state of high energy physics in the U.S. at that time.
Weiner:By the way, on the Soviet trip itself, you’ve written very extensively - and I have a copy - which talks about the social circumstances, the atmosphere, and somewhat about the physics too. I think you gave a couple of talks on that. This manuscript doesn’t indicate where this particular one was presented. It is pretty good and reads almost like a travelogue.
Marshak:This one was done for the Rochester Alumnae Review. There are more confidential reports that I wrote at the time that are around somewhere which I will turn over to you if I can get to them.
Weiner:That would be good because some day someone will want to take a look at the world scene in the mid-fifties, what was going on at this place and that place, and an on-the-scene expert observer is really the best one to give comments. The best letters that I know of in the world are the ones from American physicists visiting in Europe in the thirties and showing from the twenties on, exactly what is going on there. These other reports would be in the same category. But getting back to your work, you presented a paper at the 6th meeting, #47 on this list of publications, “Spin 2 Hypothesis for K Mesons.” I think this is the time to pick up the story again of the work leading to the V-A interaction and the work with Sudarshan and whatever else was related to it. I don’t know if you want to go back in time now to start with the origins of this. It seems to me that you have touched on bits and pieces of it all along, but I would like to take the story as a complete story.
Marshak:In a sense, my involvement in the field of weak interactions - perhaps I will backtrack just a bit and then we will come up to this paper that can be covered in a few minutes. Certainly, one of the areas of my constant interest has been weak interactions and it started pretty much back in 1942 with my paper on the theory of forbidden transitions in beta decay; also forbidden capture of electrons, that is L-capture, M-capture (K-capture had been worked out by Moller). That little program at the time was intended to test out in close detail the Fermi theory of weak interactions that required taking seriously the expansion of the electron-neutrino wave function inside a nucleus and saying whether the transition which involved large spin changes led to uniquely forbidden spectra - the shape depending on the spin change - rather than allowed spectra. Under certain circumstances, for very high spin changes you could make unique predictions about the shape of the β spectrum if one accepted Gamow-Teller as well as Fermi selection rules. So, way back in ‘42, I worked out K40 decay, which had a spin change of 4 units, and Be10 with a spin change of 3 units, and so on. At that time, Konopinski and Uhlenbeck were working on the theory of forbidden transitions, but they were approaching it from another point of view in terms of using group theory to specify the different types of matrix elements, whereas I was more interested in making predictions on a minimum value of the lifetime in order to say whether the unique Gamow-Teller type of spectrum was present or not - for the known spin change in the &beta decay. The two methods are connected, of course, but I could tell the experimentalist what unique spectrum to look for.
Weiner:This is side 2 of what we have decided to call Tape 2.
Well, so the weak interaction area was of interest to me in the early days, and after the war I came back to it now and then. For example, there were a couple of papers on extensions of the old work, trying to update the calculations for Be10 and K40 and so on. The experiments were difficult bu0finally did work out very well. C. S. Wu measured the Be10 spectrum and found perfect agreement with the prediction, and then K40 and other forbidden &beta emitters. But this was strictly in beta decay, and, as my interest shifted to elementary particles, there were other interesting problems to worry about in the early fifties, which we have discussed. But now, coming down to ‘56, it was clear that some strange happenings were going on with the K mesons and their decay processes, K going into 2π and 3π. Also, it was interesting that when you made estimates of lifetimes, say, of the basic rates for the beta decay versus muon decay versus the weak decays of some of the new particles, that one was getting indications of universality. And so weak interactions started taking on a new interest.
Now, at the 1954 Padua Conference, about which we have already talked, Cell-Mann did present his first report on strangeness. No, it must have been at the 1955 Conference. Anyway, a year or two earlier, I had heard Cell-Mann make a presentation about strangeness, where he also made some additional remarks about the weak interactions. He was willing to accept a scalar plus tensor interaction for beta decay, which was the one that was indicated if one accepted the proclaimed result on the electron-neutrino correlation from He6. Nevertheless, it was clear that in order to understand the decay of the pseudoscalar pion into μ + ν and e+ν, one had to have axial vector or pseudoscalar structure for the β decay. And so Cell-Mann was suggesting that one could have perhaps a 1% admixture of the axial vector and/or the pseudo scalar 48 interaction and explain both pion decay and 48 decay. I remember saying to myself that looks rather ugly. There must be a better way to do that. But at the time - ‘54 or ‘55 - I didn’t do much about it. Then came this very intriguing, interesting and tantalizing question of the 2π and 3π decay from an apparently identical parent. By the time of the 6th Rochester Conference, the nuclear emulsion people made better measurements of the mass of the r meson (it was called r when it decayed into 3π) and the cloud chamber people made better measurements of the θ meson mass (going to 2π) and a curious thing happened. The masses of those two parent particles came closer and closer together; in other words, they were becoming equal to 965 me, within the experimental error of 5 me. And then the θe-r dilemma was staring you in the face! You could have an accident that these were two different particles with very close masses that are parity doublets, and actually that was one paper that Lee and Orear published. You see the problem was: if you believed that the spin was the minimum spin 0, then the r meson had to be pseudo scalar and the &theta meson had to be scalar; that is, the &theta meson had to have odd parity because it decayed to 3π and the &theta meson even parity because of its 2π decay. So that if they were the same particle, you are forced into parity violation. Thus, the question arose whether there was any way to reconcile parity conservation with the decay of the same particle into 2π and 3π. Well, being a conservative guy, I made one last desperate attempt to save the situation by considering a higher spin for the parent particle, the K meson. Now, you could quickly show that spin 1 wouldn’t work, but spin 2+ could obviously explain 2π decay, but it seemed, at first, that it could also explain 3π decay, because you could arrange for the relative orbital angular momentum of the 3π to combine together in such a way that the final state was 2+. In other words, spin 2+ for K meson decay into both 2π and 3π could be reconciled with parity conservation. So that was the idea. The point was to check the 2+ hypothesis against the observed energy distribution of the three ion decay products. At the time of the 6th Conference, the 2+ hypothesis was not excluded. It did not give a wonderful fit, but it was possible. I remember John Wheeler applauding my attempt and saying: “I also am reluctant to accept this parity breakdown. I’m glad you’re trying to solve it in some other way,” or something to that effect. After all, Pauli was also reluctant to give up parity!
Weiner:What Conference was this?
Marshak:At the ‘56 Conference. Isn’t that where I presented it?
Weiner:Right. It was presented there and published in Nuovo Cimento.
Marshak:But it soon became clear that it was difficult to squeeze the spin 2+ hypothesis into agreement with experiment. Spin 0 was in better agreement with the 3π energy distribution and parity violation in weak interactions was starting its successful journey. This outcome brought back my interest to the serious problems that were facing us in weak interactions, and that is when I suggested to George Sudarshan that we start looking systematically into the implications of parity violation for a universal theory of weak interactions.
Weiner:Was that one of many problems that interested you at the time or was it the major focus of your interest?
Marshak:It was one of many problems. Certainly, when it started there was no reason for thinking that we would be so successful. I was not putting all my bets on that. It was another thesis I handed out. Actually, I gave Sudarshan two parts to his thesis. I think perhaps he spent more time on the other part - it is much less known; it was to try to calculate the magnetic moments of the strange baryons. But let us talk about the universal (V-A) theory. There we faced, of course, some very serious questions. There were experiments that contradicted the theory but Lee and Yang had been spectacularly successful in terms of their hypothesis of parity violation and experiments had confirmed it. And since everyone believed that beta decay was scalar-tensor, this meant that the neutrino was right-handed. Lee and Yang thought that they were dealing with right-handed neutrinos and since vector and axial vector required a left-handed neutrino, we were fighting an uphill battle. I remember Yang came as a visiting lecturer to Rochester in early Spring of 1957. (We had a visiting lecturer-conference program. When I raised funds, as I told you, it was not just for the Rochester conferences but also to have some distinguished visiting lecturers.) Yang was up for two days and we discussed in great detail the problems of weak interactions; he thought it would be extremely difficult to accept V-A. He even stated that one of his students had tried to look at that possibility but he really didn’t see how He6 could be wrong. So he was very discouraged.
Weiner:By that time - the Spring of ‘57 - the experiments had brilliantly confirmed all of their work. In other words, their (Yang and Lee) ideas were advanced in ‘56 and the experimental confirmation that you mentioned had already taken place.
Marshak:Yes, the experiments on Co60 by Wu and collaborators were completed by the end of ‘56 and other experiments had also been done.
Weiner:Certainly, by the time of the Conference in the Spring of ‘57, that was all a foregone conclusion, but that is what made the conference interesting too.
Marshak:Yes, it was terribly exciting that parity had broken down and that charge conjugation had broken down, but the Lorentz structure of the beta decay interaction was still in a state of confusion. Furthermore, the challenge was to determine if there was a universal theory of the weak interactions and to find its structure.
Weiner:I want to follow up in terms of your work leading up to the universal theory.
Marshak:This was really the work of Sudarshan and myself because, as my student, he was carrying the additional burden of looking up the detailed experiments and trying to see how they fitted together. First, we had to sort out all the parity breakdown experiments. As far as the beta decay experiments were concerned, if you just looked at the parity-violating experiments - this I discussed fairly thoroughly in my 1967 paper on “Ten Years of the Universal V-A theory”, but we will cover a few highlights if you want - you could explain them with a left-handed neutrino and the V-A theory or a right-handed neutrino and a combination of S and T. In other words, there was a clean separation of the two possibilities. So the parity-violating experiments in beta decay by themselves, did not force you into the right-handed neutrino and the ST combination that Lee and Yang had accepted because of He6. Now, of course, there was the Co58 positron decay experiment that C.S. Wu discussed at the ‘57 Conference which confused the issue because it seemed to require the combination VT. And this is why I held Sudarshan back and why we didn’t talk about the V-A theory at the 7th Conference because I guess I took Wu’s VT proposal a little too seriously and worried about it and didn’t want to jump into the fray until it was clarified. Another reason I didn’t want to jump into the fray quite so quickly was that the V-A theory contradicted the He6 experiment; the He experiment - an electron-neutrino correlation measurement - indicated that the beta interaction was tensor, not axial vector, and the difference between the predictions of T and A was at least 8 standard deviations, which was fantastic. Instead of the observed λ = +1/3, it was supposed to be a λ = -1/3 (λ is the correlation coefficient). So V-A contradicted that experiment. If it were V-A, it contradicted the measurement of Herb Anderson on the π→eν to π→μν ratio, which our theory predicted to be 1.2 x 10-4 with no ifs, ands, or buts. The prediction was good to two significant figures, the third significant figure depending on the radiative correction - and Anderson was getting something less than 10-5. Our V-A theory contradicted an unpublished experiment of Lederman, where he had measured the polarization of the electron or positron from muon decay and had obtained the wrong sign; and finally there was some unpublished work of Telegdi on some correlation measurements with polarized neutrons that disagreed with theory. So there were four experiments, two published and two unpublished ones - during a period of such rapid activity, one was almost attaching as much importance to unpublished experiments as to published ones! - which were in contradiction with the V-A theory. That is quite a heavy burden to carry. So when C.S. Wu argued for VT, I got just a little nervous and held back. What happened then was that I had been invited to be a consultant to the Rand Corporation for several weeks beginning in late June and I finally agreed to do it - my wife’s persuasive powers: “Why don’t you try it out? It won’t hurt you to consult”. Actually Sudarshan came along with me, not to consult, but to visit California and to continue working on our paper. During lunch hours, we would continue our discussions.
Weiner:Did you go to the West Coast?
Marshak:Yes, Santa Monica. It was very attractive: all expenses paid for your family in good old California, and I think we were there six weeks. At that time, Rand had the crazy idea to recruit me for some top position. Anyway, it turned out that Cell-Mann was also a consultant for the Rand Corporation on a part-time basis. He would come to the lab and I started telling him about the V-A theory during my first week and he was very interested. Then the Padua-Venice Conference was coming along in Sept. ‘57 and I was going to that and the question arose about sending in an abstract. The deadline was mid-July. I wanted to check out the question of Co58 with Felix Boehm, an experimentalist at Caltech, and I asked Cell-Mann to arrange a luncheon meeting. Cell-Mann, Sudarshan, Boehm and myself (and I think B. Stech) met and discussed Boehm’s w results in which he stated that he had now resolved the Co58 contradiction and that his experiments were now reconcilable with V-A and the left-handed neutrino. So this was gratifying, and that is when I sent off the abstract of Sudarshan and myself to the Padua-Venice Conference before the mid-July deadline. We also completed our paper in the next few days.
Weiner:But you sent it out still with the full knowledge that it was contradicted by four experiments?
Weiner:Did this possible fifth experiment, which seemed to work out, give you some confidence that these other experiments might in fact be wrong?
Yes, because this meant that all the parity-nonconserving experiments in beta decay, where we had the best information, were now consistent with VA or ST. Of the four experiments that contradicted the V-A theory, one was not a parity-breakdown beta decay experiment; it was a parity-conserving experiment because it involved an electron-neutrino correlation measurement. The π→eν to π→μν ratio didn’t even involve beta decay. Lederman’s experiment didn’t involve beta decay, and Telegdi’s experiment involved beta decay but it was very preliminary. So the Caltech experiment encouraged me to take my stand with Sudarshan. I now thought V-A was really the truth and that there was a good chance the theory would be right and the four contradictory experiments would be reversed. And the universality aspect was a very important point. If you read our paper, you will see that we emphasize that V-A is the only way to obtain a universal theory, which, of course, was very desirable. That was a sort of turning point. If Boehm had told us something else, I probably would still have sent in the abstract but not with the same degree of confidence. We certainly seemed to have enough results to justify sending in a paper to the Padua-Venice Conference. As far as I can tell, what happened after that - just to clear up the business about the Feynman-Gell-Mann paper which is generally thought to have preceded ours. Apparently, Feynman came back in early September from a trip to Brazil; he had, at the time of the 7th Rochester Conference in April, talked briefly about how he liked the Klein-Gordon two-component approach to spin 1/2 particles, but he was still talking about S and T. After he came back - Feynman and Cell-Mann acknowledge in their paper that Cell-Mann had talked with us - he must have realized the clean separation we had shown to be the case for the parity-violating β decays.
Feynman must have immediately seen that by using his Klein-Gordon two-component approach and saying that there are no derivatives in the coupling, that you get the V-A theory, which we had obtained through the chirality invariance argument. So that’s when they must have gotten together and quickly written up their paper. It's a very nice paper, of course, and they also in that paper rediscovered and developed further the conserved vector current hypothesis, that Gershtein and Zeldovich had introduced a year or two earlier. We had not included the CVC part. In our paper, we focused on other things: e.g. trying to settle whether the V-A theory was viable in terms of all the beta deay material that had been piling up. It was clear that V-A worked for muon decay and it could work for strange particle decays. On the other hand, the Feynman-Cell-Mann paper had CVC. They, of course, had universality, but that had been communicated to Gell-Mann at the beginning of the summer. So it was CVC that was new - new compared to us, not new compared to Gershtein and Zeldovich who had published an earlier version. Finally, there was the Feynman derivation of the V-A current that was different from ours, it led to V-A in a more convoluted fashion and was soon discarded in favor of our chirality invariance argument. This brings us to the Fall of ‘57. I presented our paper at the Padua-Venice Conference. I must say, perhaps, I didn’t present it in as spectacular a way as I might have because the mistaken experiments were still sitting on the table and I was a little cautious. I do remember saying that one has to “murder these four experiments,” and then the V-A theory will be in the clear. And I also remember, during the intermission, Jack Steinberger saying to Leon Lederman, “What’s this crazy guy doing, rejecting the He6 experiment which is obviously very good?” I also remember Jim Cassels from England presenting results at the Conference, that were the opposite of Lederman’s, on the positron polarization from μ+ so that by the end of the meeting it was three to go, rather than four. Then things started happening pretty fast. I guess Madame Wu started worrying about He6. I sent preprints of our paper out just before I left for Padua; the date on that preprint turned out to be identical with the date of the Feynman-Cell-Mann paper sent off to Phys. Rev.
Weiner:Yes, Sept. 16.
Which led the Russians later, not knowing all the gory details, to always quote our papers together, whereas in the United States, Feynman and Gell-Mann had given so many talks that Fall on the West Coast that the news got to Oppenheimer. Oppie always got his information from the “horse’s mouth” and I guess, in this case, heard about V-A for the first time from his California friends rather than from me. He did hear about V-A directly from me at a meeting of our Rochester Conference Advisory Committee in December since he was not at the Padua-Venice Conference. He received a preprint from me in September but apparently had not read it. Understandably, Feynman and Cell-Mann got very excited about the V-A theory and started talking a great deal about it. I know that, after the Rand Corporation interlude, I passed through Stanford and told Panofsky about it. It seems that it didn’t register too much with him - so that when our Advisory Committee - of which Oppenheimer and Panofs.ky were members - met in December to plan for the 8th Rochester Conference to take place in CERN (I was now chairman of the American Advisory Committee to the CERN conference and we were meeting in Princeton), Oppenheimer said to all of us: “Isn’t this exciting - the Feynman-Cell-Mann V-A theory?” and Panofsky replied “Yes, it’s very interesting. We’ve been hearing talks about it.” At this point, I turned to Panofsky and said, “My God, Pief, I told you all about it.” “Oh, yes,” he said, and we began our advisory committee meeting! In any case, during the ensuing year, the He6 experiment was redone and agreed with theory, the π→eν to π→μν ratio was remeasured and agreed with theory; then, of course, V-A became famous. By the Fall of ‘58, the first big meeting was held - in Gatlinburg, Tennessee - at which the “murdered” experiments were buried and the theory was pronounced a great success. Feynman and Cell-Mann were at the Gatlinburg meeting, Sudarshan was there, but I was in Rochester recovering from my ulcer operation.
There was poor young Sudarshan defending the value of our work against two very distinguished physicists who, apparently, were eager at that point to establish their priority claim in this field. I think Feynman has at least regretted his behavior since then and has apologized. Indeed, in his 1962 book on “Fundamental Processes”, Feynman sets the record straight but very few persons seem to have noticed that correction. As a result, after the Gatlinburg conference, the universal V-A interaction became increasingly known as the Feynman-Cell-Mann theory. Their paper was a well-written paper and our Padua-Venice paper was published after their paper. Our original paper was finally published in the Proceedings of the Padua-Venice conference, in May 1958, even though it was supposed to come out quite a few months earlier. Our original paper was never published in a journal because I did not believe in double publication. Sudarshan and I did send in a short paper - pointing out that the new experiments were in agreement with V-A - to Phys. Rev. Letters, and that is why you will sometimes see quotations to that March 1958 note of ours. The original paper was reprinted in P.K. Kabir’s book Development of Weak Interaction Theory. But with the Feynman-Gell-Mann work appearing as a full-fledged paper first in the United States - before our Phys. Rev. Letter - the fact that they had the CVC hypothesis in their paper, in addition to the universality of V-A, and the fact that these two distinguished physicists were actively spreading their justified enthusiasm everywhere - while I was going through another bout of illness and the only rebuttal could be given by my young student, George Sudarshan - well it is understandable that the V-A theory soon became the Feynman-Gell-Mann theory of weak interactions. My annoyance reached the point several years ago that, when Leon Lederman wrote an article in the Columbia Review on all the interesting research he had done in weak interactions and opined about the V-A theory being the greatest physics advance during the previous decade and called it the Feynman-Gell-Mann theory, I asked him why he had done so since he had been present at the Padua-Venice conference in 1957. He apologized and said he always thought of the V-A theory as the Feynman-Gell-Mann theory because of CVC, because that was what he was interested in. Of course, CVC is an important element in our present-day theory of weak interactions, just as is the partially conserved axial vector current (P.C.A.C.). I believe that most people would agree that the two main features of the V-A theory - the revolutionary features at the time - were the universality property and the V-A structure, which we predicted on the basis of chirality invariance, the method of derivation now accepted by everyone.
Now, to talk about a couple of personal things here - this lack of recognition, needless to say, has a very discomforting effect, especially on the junior member of the team. I say “junior member” simply in terms of age, not in terms of actual contribution to our paper - I have always emphasized that George Sudarshan played a very important role all the way along - he was not just following orders - he had creative ideas and it was really a joint operation in the fullest sense of the word. But here was Sudarshan’s thesis, a terribly important thesis, a great thing in his life - and he must suffer years of constant reference to the Feynman-Gell-Mann theory when his work was earlier and equally good - well, Sudarshan became very disturbed about it. And, so much so, that he tried to compensate for this by very occasionally giving papers on research that had not been fully completed. This happened once at one of the Coral Gables Conferences where Sudarshan had given a paper on some subject which I also thought should have been held back until a more auspicious occasion; during the coffee break, Oppenheimer made some disparaging remark to me about that inadequacy in the paper. And I said, “You know, Robert, I don’t think it is his best paper but he suffers a great deal from the fact that he has received little credit for his brilliant work on V-A and I turned to Oppenheimer and said, “By the way, have you ever read our paper the Padua-Venice Conference Proceedings?” He confessed that he had not.
So I said, “I’ll send it to you.” This must have been about four or five years ago, perhaps eight or nine years after Padua-Venice. So I sent it to him, and I received a note from Oppenheimer saying he liked it very much, it was an excellent paper, and he was very sorry about what had happened. And, indeed, after his death, Tullio Regge, a student of mine at the same time as George Sudarshan, came up to me once and told me that at a lunch with Oppenheimer during the last month of his life, he was asked by Oppenheimer to try to see that justice was done with regard to the V-A theory. Now, of course, Regge is not the type to go around worrying about a thing like that - but, at least, he delivered Oppie’s message. I just mention this incident because it reveals how contrite Oppenheimer was at the end about what had happened, and what a bad break Sudarshan got. And the incident underlines, to some extent, the advantages and disadvantages of having such a dominant personality at the center of a discipline, like Oppie; that is, having one person at one place, like Princeton, establish the standards of appreciation. If you’re in, if he knows about it, by God, then all of the boys who talk to him achieve instant recognition but if he doesn’t know about it, then you have to fight harder. This was a good example. Oppenheimer had first heard about V-A directly from Gell-Mann and Feynman, and he did not find it necessary to read our original preprint. Why should he? He had many other interests.
But, as a result, he unwittingly perpetuated the unfair situation because of his great prestige. If, at any point, Oppenheimer had called attention to the true state of affairs, I think years of suffering by George Sudarshan would have been averted. I can’t say that I was happy about the historical distortion but I wasn’t so deeply troubled by it and, in recent years, I haven’t paid much attention to it. There was a period, about three or four years ago, when Sudarshan felt so badly about it that he said, “You ought to do something.” Then I responded to the extent that on a few occasions, I did point out to people that they really were misbehaving. For example, when Jeremy Bernstein wrote a book on currents in weak interactions, he sent me a draft of the book for comment; when I read about the canonical Feynman-Gell-Mann theory, I - dropped a half-kidding, half-serious note saying, “You ought to get it straight, Jeremy”, after commenting on other parts of the book in the normal way. And Jeremy placated me with a footnote of why he called it the Feynman-Gell-Mann theory (because it had CVC!)! There were a few occasions like that for a couple of years when I did speak up. Before that, I didn’t even bother - I just let it go. My impression is that there has been in American journals some reversal, to the extent that at least the names and papers re V-A are mentioned together - I haven’t checked it out because I don’t care now.
Weiner:Very often, when I’ve seen it, it says: “Presented first by Marshak and Sudarshan at the Padua Conference.”
Marshak:This may be partly because of the few key places that I chose three or four years ago to make it known that I was unhappy. And I did this because Sudarshan really felt so strongly about it and I felt I owed it to him to rectify whatever I could rectify. Of course, you couldn’t make a big continuous operation of it. Also, now that the weak interaction book has been published, citing chapter and verse, the situation may become more balanced. The V-A story is full of bizarre incidents - like the role of J.J. Sakurai. What happened there was that Sakurai - while still a graduate student at Cornell - got hold of a copy of our preprint on the V-A theory where we used chirality invariance to derive V-A. You can show easily - it’s rather obvious - that in its application to weak currents, chirality invariance is equivalent to so-called mass reversal invariance. So Sakurai comes to attend a seminar in Rochester, he speaks to me about our preprint, asks a lot of questions, goes back and realizes that chirality invariance is identical with mass reversal invariance, writes a paper on mass reversal invariance, sends the paper to Feynman and Cell-Mann with no reference to our paper, sends me a copy of his covering letter to Feynman and Cell-Mann with a little note asking for my reaction. It was almost enough to make me want to strangle him!
Weiner:This was done with full knowledge of what he was doing?
Marshak:I’m not sure. It’s hard to believe that anyone would want to be so obtuse about it - except possibly a graduate student. The foolish thing was sending me a copy of the letter he sent to Feynman and Cell-Mann which read, among other things: “From my derivation I can get your result and your theory,” after he had gotten most of the information from my preprint and discussed it with me. It was one of those incomprehensible things. But those things happen, I am sure, in many branches of science. That was why I have had to smile when once or twice I talked to Bob Merton, the historian of science at Columbia, and he raised the question of how scientific priorities are determined. I could talk from personal experience although I don’t think I told him I was talking from personal experience. But I knew what the nuances are and how people get boxed in and have to continue the fiction. And this leads to the last anecdote. I was invited to give a talk on the V-A theory at the APS meeting in January 1959, a year after Feynman had given a similar talk in January 1958. Hans Bethe was chairing the 1958 meeting, and I did the undignified thing at that time of actually getting up and pointing out to Feynman that we had done all this work earlier. I know Feynman was not present at the Padua-Venice Conference, but he repeated the same types of arguments that I had given there about how several experiments had to be killed off to validate the V-A theory. Just to hear that, and at the end of his talk not hear any mention of our own work, was just too much. With his usual flare for the dramatic, Feynman said, “I was in Brazil where I was thinking about all this.” I made a crack, “Well, I wasn’t in Brazil but I was talking about it in Padua.” It was not a very edifying performance on my part but it was very hard to restrain myself. And right then and there, Feynman admitted that he knew we had done it first but he wasn’t sure what Cell-Mann thought. But the audience had been given no inkling of the situation. So, over the years I never discussed the happening with Cell-Mann until last February at the Northwestern Conference - this year right after the Chicago meeting. He came up to me and was rather apologetic and so on. It was rather interesting.
Weiner:When you mentioned discussing it with Feynman, you meant publicly.
Marshak:That was the only time I ever discussed it. I just made the statement and when he answered me, he said, “I agree that Sudarshan and Marshak did it first, but I don’t know what Cell-Mann would say,” and left it at that.
Weiner:In their paper, there is an acknowledgement that says: “One of us” and it gives the initials MCM, “wishes to acknowledge conversations with Marshak,” which is the way you discussed it because you saw him that summer. As a matter of fact, in your paper, you acknowledge conversations with Cell-Mann because that had occurred that preceding summer. [Interruption] Just to recapitulate, you said that Cell-Mann raised it with you only just recently in the last year, and you told of this public discussion with Feynman. Then we were just discussing the particular acknowledgments in the paper. How would you characterize the way this developed? Maybe you already have, by saying it illustrates the role of the dominant individual in the way the information travels in certain channels, which sort of makes it convenient for people to think of an idea as having certain origins and then it is very difficult for them to unlearn it. This is my interpretation of what you said before. Let me go on from there to ask about the experiments themselves - those four experiments. You pointed out that already at the meeting where you presented the paper there were results contradicting Lederman’s results. In what sense were the experiments wrong? Was it only a question of reinterpretation?
Marshak:No, they gave wrong numbers. The numbers that the experimentalists said they were getting were just incorrect.
Weiner:Why were they incorrect?
Marshak:Each incorrect experiment had a different reason. For example, it seems hard to believe but take the He6 experiment; the prediction of the tensor interaction for the electron Λ - neutrino correlation coefficient λ is + 1/3, and for the axial vector is -1/3. So it is + 0.33 versus -0.33. Now the fellow that did the experiment got something like +0.33 ± 0.07. That is 8 standard deviations compared to the correct answer. Now, it seems that the mistake was all due to the way they were counting the amount of He in the chamber and, by sheer accident, they obtained a number in agreement with the tensor prediction; it was not the trivial numerical error of a sign change. The experiment was redone very carefully and λ comes out to be -0.33. Now, take the π→eν to π→μν ratio; that was a very difficult experiment and it was a question of being able to detect the electrons. What you’re doing is trying to measure the electrons and muons coming from the pions - to measure the relative probability of the two decays. Well, the muon is easy to detect because it, in turn, decays into an electron and you get a particle changing into another particle and that’s a good signature. But an electron is more difficult to detect directly. So, apparently, they had calibrated their detector efficiency incorrectly and they thought, on the basis of their calibration, that the ratio was less than 10-5 whereas the correct answer is 1.2 times 10-4. Now the new experiments have been done much more carefully, not just by Anderson himself, but by other groups. The measured ratio is coming out right on the nose, 1.2 x 10-4, to as many significant figures as you want. So it is a beautiful test of the theory. I could go on. The other two mistaken experiments all had different origins, basically because they were preliminary and one should not give them as much weight as published experiments. The only reasons that we mentioned them at the time was that we were living in such a rapidly moving environment that we tended to consider any results which got into the form of a preprint as being suitable for discussion.
Weiner:Did those two that were not published at the time of the paper remain unpublished?
Marshak:Yes, they remained unpublished. They never cluttered up the literature but were replaced by correct published papers.
Weiner:Would the re-doing of the two published experiments have occurred in the normal course of events, or did people deliberately set out to re-do them since your paper had called them important experiments?
Marshak:No question about their doing it because of the theory, sure.
Weiner:Were these people at the Conference?
Marshak:I think Herbert Anderson might have been at the Padua-Venice Conference. The low energy physicists were not at the conference but we soon called attention to the need to re-do these experiments. Madame Wu knew about the V-A theory very quickly because she was surrounded by high energy physicists and received all our preprints. She soon stimulated re-evaluation of what had gone wrong in the He6 experiment. With regard to the π→eν to π→μν ratio, - well, people were working on it anyway, and would probably have picked up the larger number, but it might have dragged on. One might have said, the ratio is less than 10-5, why spend time on it? But the high energy experimentalists were interested in this problem as well as in the two unpublished experiments contradicting the V-A theory. I think He might have hung around for a long time because everyone thought it was such a good experiment. It was considered a classic Columbia experiment and no one had detected anything wrong in - the original paper. I think it might have persevered for several years, undermining the idea of a universal weak interaction theory. As far as the theory of beta decay is concerned, there were signs of trouble from some other electron-neutrino correlation experiments, but it would have taken, I think, some time before one would have gotten wise to the discrepancies with theory if you were only working in beta decay. So I think this is an example where the universality of the theory also produced more rapid testing of the predictions in somewhat unrelated areas, whereas if each area had moved at its own pace, the truth might have come out more slowly. The fact that one was tying together all the weak processes and that the same theory was being tested in several areas, the universal V-A theory, naturally stimulated experiments in all the areas.
Weiner:Isn’t this the same aspect of it which induced you to present the paper in the first place, knowing that the experimental evidence on the surface was against it? In other words, because, if the theory was correct it had such significance and in fact was a universal theory, was what made you willing to present it even though you knew some existing experiments were opposed to it. What I’m asking is that if it had been an ordinary theory and not a theory which you thought had far-reaching significance, would you have taken a different attitude toward the experiments?
Marshak:Let’s put it this way. If we had just been working in the theory of weak interactions applied to beta decay, we certainly would not have so easily taken issue with a supposedly excellent experiment on electron-neutrino correlation. It would have been several years before other beta decay experiments would have indicated difficulties and brought into question the He experiment. Experiments were under way to measure electron-neutrino correlation in other nuclei but it would be some time before they would have required the revolutionary point of view that the Gamow-Teller term is axial vector, not tensor. But, as the result of looking at the weak interaction situation in terms of a universal theory, in terms of a single Lorentz structure for all weak interactions, the awareness of experimental lacunae was greatly hastened. I must say that the amount of confidence I had in the V-A theory at that time was quite high because of this rather tenuous argument of elegance and simplicity stemming from the chirality invariance and universality of the weak interaction. You couldn’t have the numbers so close and somehow not have the same structure; that seemed too accidental. To that extent, one was willing to take on the experimentalists in each of the areas where - the experiments contradicted the theory because of the apparent coherence of the whole theory. I think that this is a rather unusual historical situation, where one took on some experiments that seemed pretty good and that the experiments all fell in line with the theory.
Weiner:Did you have a sense of excitement about it, recognizing that this was a good piece of work in the basic physics sense, perhaps one of very far-reaching significance, and maybe a high point in terms of your productivity? Did you feel at the time a sense of this being very very special and of making a stir and getting a reaction from your colleagues?
Marshak:I had the courage to present it, for the reasons I indicated earlier, at the Padua-Venice Conference, but I still was prepared for negative answers; in other words, that there is no universal theory of this type and that the experiments would stand up. In that sense, the excitement started developing right at the Conference when Cassels contradicted one of the unpublished results. Then I started thinking we probably have hit the bull’s eye. But when I came to the Conference with four experiments against me, I had a certain amount of confidence, enough to expose myself, but not enough to absolutely feel that I...I would say at that point it perhaps was not the same feeling of assurance that I had about the two-meson theory when I suggested it at Shelter Island. In the case of the two-meson theory, I felt there was a rightness about it immediately, which here it took a little while to develop, but not very long!
Weiner:How about the other people at the Conference?
Marshak:Frankly, I don’t think it had much of an impact on the Conference and I think maybe it was partly because I didn’t represent it in a way which made it seem so natural. For example, I didn’t emphasize the way it was derived. I went more into our phenomenological analysis. I only had ten minutes; during this very short time, I emphasized the clear-cut separation between V-A with a left-handed neutrino and ST with a right-handed neutrino, as it emerged from our analysis of the experiments. So my talk did not have that plausibility that was in the paper and in the abstract. Because of lack of time, I did not really discuss the elegant theoretical arguments for V-A.
Weiner:Was the paper in the hands of the people at the meeting? The date of the paper was Sept. 16 and the date of the meeting was Sept. 22nd.
Marshak:No, I had a few copies with me.
Weiner:So their total knowledge of it then was in the abstract.
Marshak:Everyone had abstracts.
Weiner:I wonder if that is among the stuff you gave us. I’d like to see it.
Marshak:I have a copy of the Proceedings.
Weiner:I would like to see it some time. I know we don’t have that. Let me get back now and ask about your return. It seems that 1957 was a very busy year for you, that you had several publications that year, that the vector-axial vector paper was just one; then you were catching up on work related to shock wave behavior (stuff that had grown out of the war)...
Marshak:That was just an accident.
Weiner:I guess the work with Signell was probably the other big thing. [“Phenomenological Two-Nucleon Potential up to 150 MeV”]
Marshak:It was in 1958 that we started developing the implications of the V-A theory. I had young people like Steve Weinberg, Okubo and Sudarshan spend a few days in Rochester talking things over and that led to several key papers. I do recall that, at the 1958 Conference at CERN, Keith Brueckner came up to me and said that he thought our V-A theory was the highlight of the Conference.
Weiner:That was the Conference where the essential correctness of the universal theory was vindicated, or recognized anyway.
Weiner:There is a whole separate story about the international high energy physics commission which we won’t have time to get into but I really think we should. Maybe, after I have a chance to get into the fields which we have, we may be able to do that. But let me ask something which is appropriate to ask at this time and which shouldn’t be delayed, and that is about your decision to leave Rochester and to take this position [as president of City College]. The reason I’m tacking it on now is that it seems good to get you to think about it now and to record your feelings on it now while it is fresh in your mind, and then maybe compare it in future years to see if you think you were right. Do you want to tackle it?
Marshak:Only for a few minutes.
Weiner:I know, just to get an impression.
Actually, it is a fairly complex story. If I were to try to give you all the ingredients it would tend to drag out. If I were to summarize it, I would say that I felt that I had become involved in recent years in non-physics activities, trying to help society, or the world, or what have you, through various international activities. And I was doing it in a sort of patchwork way - work on the International Science Foundation here, or serve on that committee there - and perhaps if I was being called upon to spend a substantial amount of time in this way, I ought to do it in a more coordinated fashion where I would have more control of the situation. So that when I was offered the presidency - of course, a president is subject to constraints as I am finding out, all kinds of political constraints of a sort that I never expected - but still a considerable amount of initiative is possible, as well as responsibility. You have to take the rap if it doesn’t go well but you have a chance to guide things, and you’re the guy who is responsible.
So this is one element of the picture. I was beginning to think, “Gee whiz, instead of rushing to Washington with this committee or that committee and finding out that after I had contributed my input, I sort of lost control of the operation - not that I wanted absolute control, but someone else took it over, and it might or might not fly. A perfect example is this International Science Foundation, which I thought I had completely on the rails through a lot of effort with the Swedish Academy meeting last July; and I just was talking the other day to John Voss, the Executive Director of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, who called and told me that there is serious trouble. The Swedes and UNESCO were fighting. Can I get into the act again? I thought I had very carefully achieved a consensus. This is an example of the type of frustration I am talking about - where you exert considerable effort to achieve some objective and then, simply because that is not your chief objective, someone else picks it up and it immediately goes to pot. It might go to pot under your direction but at least you’d feel that you bear the burden. So that’s one element. Another element was that I had become involved, in 1968, again because of accidental reasons, in the U of R Faculty Senate. I had been elected Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate because the President of the University of Rochester, Allen Wallis, turned out to be a very dictatorial person and was alienating the faculty to a substantial extent.
As one of the senior faculty members, who had invested so much in the University of Rochester, I was discovering that some very good people were beginning to leave because of the president’s behavior. I had been paying very little attention to the U of R situation since I was involved in my international work and, above all, was enjoying my Distinguished University Professorship. And then I was drafted by the faculty for the Senate. When I agreed to serve as Faculty Senate chairman, I found that the overall situation was very bad - on the student front, on the faculty front, on the community front - so much so that I decided there was no alternative but to resign from the Faculty Senate, after one year. During the course of the year as Faculty Senate Chairman, with a public letter of explanation. I developed certain views and the conviction that you can work with people amiably, have good communication with them and still retain the ability to run a large university. So that when I was offered the job here, at City College in early 1970, it seemed to me that I ought to prove to myself and, to anyone else who was interested, that it is possible to use persuasion and be a successful president. Finally, on the physics side, I felt that I had trained quite a few young physicists and perhaps I ought to give some of them an opportunity to exercise leadership. And then I hope to continue to do some physics even in the present position. Actually, I’m giving my first weekly seminar next Tuesday. I’m keeping my fingers crossed - I’ve arranged it for an early hour, hoping that I will be able to make it. From 8:30 to 10:00 on Tuesday morning, I’m holding a weekly seminar, and I’ve succeeded in building up a particle physics group here that is quite good.
Weiner:A new group that didn’t exist here before?
Marshak:Yes. Lindenbaum has joined as an experimentalist and Sakita, Kikkawa and others are now in the particle theory group. I think, in many ways, Rochester has come on unfortunate times under President Wallis. When I was up there a few days ago, I heard many sad stories. People are saying they no longer enjoy going to the University because the atmosphere is so unpleasant. He is really so difficult - even after compromises were worked out - the Student-Faculty Judiciary Committee and his own Provost had agreed - he now says, “no, I won’t accept it. I will appoint all the members.” He’s obdurate. “No one is going to-force me out until I am ready to retire in 1978.” This has produced a bad atmosphere.. .when I was Faculty Senate Chairman, I tried to see whether I could get some compromise, get some movement from him in terms of some accommodation with the faculty, and thought that I had made some progress but, at a critical point - and without going into that story - the trustees backed down in supporting this compromise, even though privately they told me they would. And it was partly connected with the fact that they thought, if they agreed to the compromise, student disruption would increase. They heard about student disruption on other campuses, and for some reason, they translated that into more student disruption in Rochester if the president was more communicative with his faculty. It wasn’t even a question of the students: it was more a question of paying a little attention to the faculty. I find this even more incredible now because I am working closely with the Faculty Senate here at City College and we have very close relations. And I am delighted to have the Chairman of the Faculty Senate involved in all the deliberations because there are so many problems. But President Wallis was absolutely adamant about any real input from faculty. It’s a long and very sad story.
Weiner:It was sort of a negative model, then?
Yes, it was a very negative model, and to the extent to which I always like to accept challenges, this is now a challenge. Perhaps I should add a final reason for accepting the City College job. In a certain sense, New York City is my home town; I’m coming back to my boyhood home in New York. Rochester is very pleasant for bringing up a family and it has a good university but, in many ways, it is isolated. It seemed to me, since I was along in years, that it would be rather interesting to spend perhaps ten years - this is the maximum time I will spend here if I survive as a college president - in New York in one of the toughest jobs in the country, because it is not only a matter of dealing with the faculty and the students (which, frankly, I think, in many ways, I have already solved) but dealing as well with the pressures of the immediate community and urban politics as a whole. I am in a situation at the moment where the Harlem community wants to use the college as a battering ram to knock down the union’s opposition to minority workers in the construction trade - that’s the sort of situation that no one would dare bring up in a place like Rochester. The Rochester newspapers would absolutely destroy anyone who would bring it up. The point is that Rochester is such a conservative town that the idea that the community could importune the university to accept that sort of role, would be unheard of.
To call a demonstration in support of an argument with the local college or university would be dealt with by the police. I did not call the police and the situation is quite stable now. So, in a note that I just sent to someone who invited me to the 50th reunion of a little luncheon club that I belonged to in Rochester, I regretfully declined the invitation and made the crack that “I’m living from crisis to crisis, bloodied but unbowed,” and went on to say that Allen Wallis sure has a sinecure in Rochester compared to my situation. You see then that the challenge, the possibility of using the university as a way to help produce solutions for urban problems and to reverse deteriorating conditions in the Big Apple, the possibility of discussions with the Board of Higher Education about the future of the largest metropolis in the U.S., the combination of professional schools and the college of arts and sciences comprising the university that is City College - makes it all very exciting. There are so many vibrant things at City College itself in terms of educational programs like a National Center for Urban Problems, experimental colleges, projectorials, and you can go on and on. But in addition to that, City College is the so-called flagship college of the CUNY system of about 20 colleges, and, to some extent, it may even be possible to have quite an impact on the CUNY system which is what Fred Burkhard and Frank Keppel, the chairman and vice-chairman of the Board respectively, originally suggested that they hoped I would keep in mind. In one sense, I think it is a tremendous opportunity to do something useful but the difficulties are mind-boggling. I don’t know how it is going to work out. I would not, on this day of our Lord, October 4, 1970, venture to predict whether a year from now I shall still be here as President.
Weiner:I will make a date for a year from now. No, I won’t quite be back but soon thereafter. Just for historical comparison to review.
Marshak:I should keep memoirs on this job because the varieties of experience are very great. In many ways, I guess that I am becoming involved in some important issues: educational, sociological, political...
Why don’t you talk into a little machine? But we will stop talking into this one meanwhile.