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Oral History Transcript — Dr. George Vinal

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Interview with Dr. George Vinal
By W. James King
In Weston, Massachusetts
March 20, 1964

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George Vinal; March 20, 1964

ABSTRACT: Deals mainly with Vinal's 43 years at National Bureau of Standards and his work on battery devices and their standards. Summer assistant to Edward B. Rose in at National Bureau of Standards (NBL), 1904; work with EMF of the Weston cell; Johns Hopkins Graduate School, 1906; work with J. F. Ames, Robert Wood; work on arc discharge between metallic electrodes. Return to Bureau in 1908; first work on silver voltmeter; 1910 conference on international electrical standards in Washington; work during World War I on anti-submarine warfare devices, development of dry cell; 1917 work on storage and perchloric acid batteries; trip to Europe to compare EMF standards, 1930; Dry Battery Research Committee activities under Hyman G. Rickover during World War II; comments on Rosa, early voltmeter work of P. W. Richards, E. N. Darcy, F. A. Wolfe and S. W. Stranton.

Transcript

Vinal:

I went to Wesleyan largely at the instigation of Judge Martin A. Knapp, who at the time was Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington. He was a friend of the family, and also a Trustee of Wesleyan. At Wesleyan I went into the Liberal Arts course as a candidate for a Bachelor of Arts, and during my first year I had a continuation of Latin and Greek. I had no definite idea of what I would do afterwards. I would probably go into Law. At the end of my second year at Wesleyan, I was given an appointment as an apprentice in the National Bureau Standards by Dr. W. B. Rose, formerly a professor at Wesleyan, and I found the work so very interesting, that when I went back to Wesleyan, I changed my course and tried to take as many of the scientific courses as I could.

King:

How did you happen to obtain the summer job with Dr. Rose?

Vinal:

I had been promised an appointment in the Library of Congress presumably in the Catalogue Division, but the notification did not reach me in time, and when I reported for duty, I was told that somebody else had been given my place. Rather discouraged I went out to the Bureau of Standards knowing that Dr. Rose had been a professor at Wesleyan and he asked me if I knew any stenography typewriting, to which I said no. Then he asked me if I had any courses in Physics, and I replied yes, I had Professor Crawfordís first course.

King:

What kind of work did you do for Professor Rose during this summer job?

Vinal:

In the electrical laboratory, there was a matter of testing and certifying instruments. Of course, the certifying was done by Dr. Rose, but we did testing and during the course of the summer, he sent me to St. Louis at the time of the International Exposition, and there they had an electrical laboratory as part of their exhibit, and I stayed there until it was time to come back to college in the fall.

King:

Letís see, Forest had an exhibit there at the 1904 Fair, didnít he?

Vinal:

I suppose he did. I donít recall particularly.

King:

You went back to school, and in the following summer you had another job.

Vinal:

The following summer I had another appointment in the Bureau of Standards as an assistant to Dr. Gueter, who at the time was making measurements with a bi-filler dynamiter, the electromotive force of the Weston cell, and I continued in that work until it was time to go back to school in the fall.

King:

This was based upon using the mercury resistance —

Vinal:

No, no. The bi-filer dynamometer was an absolute measurement of electromotive force. The mercury resistance didnít come into that.

King:

How did he do that?

Vinal:

He had two single-layer coils and the smaller one laying movable on the bi-filer suspension. He could move that through a certain arc which he measured, and then he could measure, I suppose, the fares of restitution. Iíve forgotten some of the details.

King:

Then after that summer job, you went back to Wesleyan.

Vinal:

I went back to Wesleyan. I graduated from Wesleyan in 1906, and then in the fall entered graduate school in Johns Hopkins.

King:

There you did work under R.W. Wood and. J. F. Ames?

Vinal:

Principally under Ames, and some under Wood. Also, under this man Jones.

King:

You have any very distinct impressions of Professor Wood?

Vinal:

Yes he was a very interesting man and he was always trying something quite unusual. I remember one time he had a large dish, a very large dish with mercury, and he was rotating that with the idea of getting a mirror. Another time he was taking photographs of the Washington Monuments at the corner of Monument Street and Charles Street, and the camera was pointed up and he was plagued by little pickaninnies and others coming along to look and see what he was doing. So finally, he got the idea of cranking the thing up and running like the devil, and the rest of them ran too.

King:

How about J. F. Ames?

Vinal:

Ames was a very good counsellor. I think he gave me good advice at the time, near the end of the year. He knew I had an offer from the Westinghouse Company, and that I was rather interested in getting into electrical engineering. He though that I could try it, and perhaps come back if I needed to. Actually, I never did come back because the Westinghouse Company failed at the time, and I lost my job. In fact, I had been in the Bureau of Standards that summer. Dr. Rose had asked me to come in with the idea that Iíd go back to Hopkins and complete my work, but as things worked out, I never did.

King:

Were you working on a Doctorate thesis then?

Vinal:

I wasnít actually working on a thesis. No, it was on a laboratory work. Another professor there that I did work for, was Professor Bliss.

King:

Looking back on your years as an undergraduate student, and as a graduate student, what do you feel was the most important thing that you learned during those years in terms of your later work?

Vinal:

Itís a little hard to say. I tried to take all the courses in Physics at Wesleyan. I didnít quite succeed. In Johns Hopkins the viewpoint was different. It was a broader viewpoint, and there was more discussion of Physics that existed in those days by some of the great physicists in Europe and elsewhere. One of the chief courses I had at Johns Hopkins was thermodynamics.

King:

This was the course taught by Professor Jones?

Vinal:

No, thermodynamics was Ames.

King:

Then you went to work for Westinghouse?

Vinal:

Well, I never got to Westinghouse. I had my trunk packed and got a telegram, donít come. That was the time of the financial panic in 1907. Then I was out of a job. Then I got an appointment in the Coast and Geodetic Survey. My father was an officer in the Coast and Geodetic Survey, and I was appointed an aide, and while I was there I did work in connection with triangulation and tidal predictions.

King:

From there you went back to Wesleyan?

Vinal:

I went back to Wesleyan. Professor Cady kindly took me back and I was his research assistant until June 1908. While I was there he very kindly allowed me to use the work that I had done as a thesis, and in 1909, I went back there and took examinations on work which I had done at Johns Hopkins. There were four examinations, and then an examination on the thesis which Professor Cady had allowed me to write, and I was awarded a Masters Degree.

King:

This thesis was on the subject of an arc discharge?

Vinal:

Yes, it was, on the arc between metallic electrodes. That was published in the American Journal of Science, and also in one of the German papers. I think it was the Physikalische Zeitschrift.

King:

What was your impression of Professor Cady?

Vinal:

He was a wonderful man, he was very friendly, and I think he did a lot for the students. We used to go down to his house sometimes in the evening at his invitation. His wife was most gracious. She was a German, the daughter of Professor Mueller of the University of Berlin, and I remember her well. They had one son. She died rather early.

King:

How did you evaluate Professor Cady as a teacher as compared with the men at Johns Hopkins?

Vinal:

I would say that he was an excellent teacher. I think he was a little more friendly. Johns Hopkins was a little more formal. It was a larger institution and of course it was a new there, and it seemed it was a little more formal there than at Wesleyan. I have the highest admiration for Professor Cady.

King:

After graduation with a M.A. Degree, then you went to the Bureau. Is that right?

Vinal:

Yes. In 1908. Well, really, it was the year before. July 1, 1908 was when I returned to the Bureau permanently. I actually got the M.A. Degree in June 1909. Getting back to the Bureau, I decided Iíd better stay there, and I did for the remainder of the 43 years.

King:

You went back into the electrical work —

Vinal:

— into the electrical work under Dr. E. B. Rose, and the main job then was on the silver voltameter which was the standard for the international ampere, and it was a Coulombmeter which was not well understood and we didnít know why results differed, why different forms were used, why they didnít agree, and so forth.

King:

There were several men who had been working on the problem of the voltameter, but these men were at the universities.

Vinal:

Professor Hewitt, at Princeton, had several students who had worked on the voltameter. Then there was Professor Richards, P. W. Richards, of Harvard, and he had published on the voltameter. We ran somewhat in conflict with them, although the differences with Professor Hewitt were completely cleared up, and eventually with Richards, although the controversy with Richards was at one time, rather acute. In order to try to settle some of these differences, for the reason that this country was finding it difficult to discuss specifications with the foreign laboratories when we had differences on our own side of the water. That was the reason I was sent to Princeton as a guest, and I worked in Professor Hewittís laboratory for one semester. I had just been married and I was actually on my honeymoon at Princeton. The work with Professor Hewitt came out beautifully, and in the end, I think we were able to disprove some of the assertions of Professor Richards, and Professor Richards, in the end wrote a letter to Dr. Rose, wrote it longhand, which was unusual, in which he acknowledged that he had given up his criticisms of the Bureau. At one time he said it was a good thing for physicists to work with pure materials because they didnít know much about it.

King:

Well, then in 1910, there was a conference at the Bureau, on the voltameters of various countries.

Vinal:

Yes, thatís correct. The International Conference on Electrical Units and Standards in London, which I think was in 1908, had distinguished between the international units with standards to represent them, and the absolute units which at that time we couldnít handle. This Electrical Conference in London, as I say, was on electrical units and standards, and some Englishman was reported to have said he didnít understand why there was so much brain work there to fix the standards, which were the electric light poles in the streets. It was a high level conference with 21 countries, as I recall it, represented, many of them by diplomatic representatives. Something had to be done to fix the electromotive force so that the Weston normal cell, the mercury-ohm and silver voltameter had been adopted as the two planned standards, and the standard cell was to have its electromotive force fixed by Ohmís law on the basis of those two standards. As a result of that, the Bureau invited the various foreign laboratories to send representatives, and from the German Physikalisch-Technische Reichanstait, Professor Doctor H. Von Steinbaer came to Washington from the Laboratoire Central díElectricité in Paris, Professor La Porte and from the English National Physical Laboratory, Sir Frank Smith. They brought their voltameters with them, their standard cells with them, and so forth. It was agreed that for the unit of resistance, they would take the mean results of the English and the German, and so then it amounted to a comparison of standard cells, and making cooperative experiments with a voltameter in which the voltameters of the different countries were connected in series. The report of that Conference, which was completed in May 1910, was a rather lengthy report. It fizzed the electromotive force, the Weston normal cell as (voice cuts off) degrees centigrade.

King:

So itís one and one eight three, at 20 degrees centigrade. While the EMF of Western cell was fixed as a result of this Conference, which was held in Washington — Iím rather surprised that the Conference was held in Washington. Was the work of the Bureau held in high esteem by these other governments?

Vinal:

(voice cut off)

King:

What kind of relations did you have with the European scientists?

Vinal:

Later, when I went over, very friendly, and certainly always with Sir Frank Smith of England. Later on, Sir Frank Smith came over to this country on a visit, and I was appointed as somebody to escort him around, and I enjoyed that very much. He was always very friendly to me. The Frenchmen we knew less about. He didnít speak English very well, and consequently, there was probably less conversation with his than with some of the others.

King:

Each nation, more or less, participated equally.

Vinal:

They participated equally, thatís correct.

King:

Was there any feeling of perhaps American science was relatively new, whereas the European scientists had been at this game a long time?

Vinal:

I donít remember anything of that kind. No, I donít. We had more discussion of that kind with Professor Richards.

King:

What was the Bureau like during the early days before World War I?

Vinal:

It was a Bureau that was new, and interesting to the public and growing rather rapidly. I think that they were mostly young people, we were nearly all young people in the Bureau, and everybody, I used to say, everybody knew what everybody else was doing. We had meetings twice a week, usually one meeting for a discussion of journal articles, and another meeting for discussion of the work that was actually in progress in the several laboratories.

King:

After these meetings, the men from all the various parts of the Bureau would be present?

Vinal:

Yes.

King:

It was not broken up into any departments?

Vinal:

No. Of course, great changes began when the First World War began.

King:

What happened during World War I at the Bureau?

Vinal:

Of course, the country was faced with very serious problems — the sinking of ships — the German submarine war — the idea was to do what we could. There was a committee formed for the purpose of trying to design a net to go across the North Sea, a bombed net and a great deal of effort was put into designing the net in such a way that it could be folded in the hold of a ship, and the bombs attached as they net came out. Actually, that was never used. Then, there were two French Officers came over, and gave us a talk on how they were spotting the heavy German guns by triangulation, and it appeared very strongly to Dr. Stranton and Dr. Rose, with the results that our efforts then were largely directed toward accomplishing more or less the same purpose with American equipment.

King:

Did they bring over their own equipment?

Vinal:

No, they didnít. There were two branches of the world from then on. One was in charge of Dr. H. L. Curtis, and the other under Mr. McCullum, Burton McCullum. One of those projects, I think it was McCullum's but Iím not sure, was taken to France toward the end of the war with a young man who was appointed as an officer. His name was Weible, and he was just getting it going at the close of the War when he was killed. Then, of course, there was other work. We tried to develop listening devices in the water, and some of the work was done down at the mouth of the Patuxent River where the water was deep, and we were sitting in an old farm house down there to watch for some motor boat to come down the River and hope we could detect it with these devices. That work was not very successful.

King:

What kind of devices were they? Were they electronic devices?

Vinal:

Well, no. My mind is hazy about those. One of them was a diaphragm. One time we were working with metals. We were trying some devices of that sort. But, I donít think any of them were very successful.

King:

Was this work done strictly at the Bureau, or did you employ men from outside as consultants?

Vinal:

No, it was done by Bureau personnel, but, for example the listening devices in the water were taken down to the mouth of the Patuxent River where the water was deep near the shore.

King:

I was wondering whether you employed consultants from the universities, for instance, in some of the sound devices?

Vinal:

No, I donít recall that we did. Iím looking at this largely from the work I knew about in the Bureau, but please realize that thereís a lot more I canít talk about.

King:

Were you working on silver sulphide at that time?

Vinal:

I came across that later on. Oh, no, that was just before we got in all that war work. The Agriculture Department had put out a bulletin on one of these electrolytic cleaning devices for silver, and they had come into some kind of a conflict with the manufacturer, and that job was referred to us. And thatís where I got into the silver sulphide end of it. We eventually made many experiments on the tarnishing and detarnishing of silver, and to find out why silver tarnishes and why sterling silver tarnishes, sometimes more than pure silver, and what different methods there were for de-tarnishing silver. Then I went on and investigated some of the properties of silver sulphide in the massive form which is a semi-conductive, but we didnít know much about semi-conductors in those days.

King:

You also worked on dry cells?

Vinal:

The dry cell work began during the War. The British came to us and said they had been purchasing their supplies of dry cells from Scandinavia, and now that the United States was actually in the War they wanted to know sources of dry cell batteries in this country. The Bureau was faced with the proposition that we did not know anything about the quality of the manufacturers. We knew only of a few manufacturers, and so, we went to work making tests and tried to write specifications for dry cells which were rather resented by some of the manufacturers, but later on, I will say they showed their goodwill and cooperated most heartily with the Bureau. And that went on for years afterwards.

King:

Did you have an opportunity to compare some of the European dry cells with the American?

Vinal:

Yes, I did. I requested, at one time, that a commercial attache in Europe would furnish a few samples of dry cells that we could compare, and a great truck drove up with $400 worth of dry cells, and I was more or less in a panic, because there was no money to pay for them, but somehow or other the thing was ironed out. We did test a great many of the Hillison cells.

King:

How did the European cells compare with the American?

Vinal:

Well, they were very good quality. Now, as far as the American producers were concerned, I donít think the quality was good, but they improved the quality very much after we began working on it. At one time, the War Department asked me to send a man to the storehouse in Atlanta, Georgia where they were stocking these small radio batteries for shipment to France, and I found, in some cases, 99% of them were unfit for service. That just raised a rumpus. Then we tried all kinds of things in the way of disassembled cells to be activated at a later date. But finally, the best results came after the Bridges Battery Company got into the picture and began supplying cells, and then later on, the National Carbon Company. In the case of one National Carbon battery, I remember that the output was improved from something like from 300 hours to 1500 hours on the same batteries. There was indication of the great improvement in the production.

King:

Did they have research laboratories?

Vinal:

Yes, they did, but part of the trouble was that the National Carbon Company at the time, as the biggest producer, had taken over a small battery company in New York, and their responsibility, I guess for the production was largely in the hands of this company, and it was inadequate. Do you think I am criticizing things too much here?

King:

No. You are acquainted with these matters, and speaking as professional now, this is quite important.

Vinal:

I want to emphasize the fact that as years went on, we had wonderful cooperation with companies like National Carbon Company, the Burgess Battery Company, the Rayovac Company, and we had committees that went ahead and developed specifications that the Bureau had originally written and they were revised periodically. We had meetings of all the manufacturers. There was a great deal of effort and cordial effort put into it, whereas originally, that cordiality wasnít so evident.

King:

The making of dry cells at the time of World War I was pretty much of an art rather than a science.

Vinal:

Youíre quite right. It was an art. Part of the trouble was that the dry cell manufacturers had depended on the pyrolusite obtained from the Caucasus.

King:

Thatís manganese dioxides.

Vidal:

Yes. It made a dry cell that was reasonably good at that time, but then the War shut off the supply. Then they were thrown on other types of manganese ore which were not good and as a matter of fact, later on we found out we had far superior ores to the pyrolusite. The pyrolusite is a hard crystal of manganese dioxide, and some of the softer manganese dioxides, as I think perhaps with an imperfect lattice, gave a much better output than the pyrolusite they all thought was so good.

King:

Maybe it had a larger surface area —

Vinal:

It did. It was soft, and we found by the electron microscope that we could distinguish pictures of ores which presumably would be better than others.

King:

I was wondering, what was the basis for the design of dry cells at that time? Did someone come up to the company with an idea for an invention?

Vinal:

No. The small dry cells, at the beginning of the War, were largely toys, and things like that. The critical use for small dry cells at that time were in these radio B batteries of 22 Ĺ volts that were used for radio which played a very important part in the First World War.

King:

Actually, these dry cells must have first appeared about this time, didnít they?

Vinal:

The B batteries did, yes. The first B batteries I ever saw were during the First World War. Now they were assemblages of 15 dry cells, and the chance of the battery surviving was roughly 1/15th. In other words, one bad cell could spoil the whole thing.

King:

That was quite a critical problem?

Vinal:

It was a very critical problem, and we did a great deal of work on that for the War Department, and towards the end of the War, the National Carbon Company had developed a disassembled battery that could be shipped to France and assembled over there, and some of those proved to be good. That came near the end of the War. There was an officer appointed to take the project over there, and later on, some of those disassembled batteries were brought back to the Bureau and we tested them and they gave an excellent performance.

King:

Were there any development at the bureaus which resulted in improved commercial production of these cells? Were they in such a form as to be patentable?

Vinal:

I donít recall any particular patents. We were less concerned with patents than we were with making tests, and these, perhaps, were goading the manufacturers into increased efforts. We learned a lot about dry cells; about methods of making them, and so forth, but the Bureau has no patents.

King:

So, this information simply flowed out into industry?

Vinal:

I will say this, that in the course of the work, some of which was done for the Navy Department of some of it for the War Department, I was requested to call a conference of dry battery manufacturers by Admiral Rickover who then was Captain Rickover — he was in the Bureau of Ships. The conference proved to be quite a large one, and it was held in the auditorium of the Interior Department Building downtown. Admiral Rickover gave the opening address and the end of the conference, he asked me to bring the leading men from each company over to his office for further consultations, and he laid down the law. These manufacturers, they were to cooperate with the Bureau, and he had little regard for what you might call ďtheir own secrets.Ē The crowd was not too happy with his address, but at the end of a month, with Paul Howard whoís now with the Yardney Electric Company, he and I managed to organize the committee that Captain Rickover wanted, and it became a Dry Battery Research Committee with regular meetings, and it lasted throughout the War. We had good cooperation from the manufactures, and I think in many respects it met the desires of Admiral Rickover, although later on, I suppose he probably forgot all about it.

King:

I see. The Signal Corps was also involved in the work on dry cells?

Vinal:

They were at that time, yes. We had a battery advisory committee and at one time, there was a Navy officer who was chairman of it. Later on, it was a joint Army, Navy, National Bureau of Standards Advisory Committee. A Navy officer was Chairman of it. Later on, there was another man — Iíve forgotten his name — and at one time I was Chairman of it. Now, that finally more or less faded out of the picture when the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth took over most of it.

King:

To whom did you have to report at the end of a certain period?

Vinal:

Yes, there were reports.

King:

I mean to whom were they sent?

Vinal:

I donít know. I remember making verbal reports to the Committee out in Chicago. I remember we had a meeting one time at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and there were other meetings. It finally got to the point where it was a little awkward having a civilian as head of a committee. We actually had our own stationery, Joint Army, Navy Battery Advisory Committee, and it was dealing with other things other than dry cells. Wait a minute. Thatís in the Second World War. Gosh, I hope it was. My 81 year old mind is a little weak sometimes.

King:

Letís go on to the work on storage batteries. You began that work —

Vinal:

That work was begun at the request of the Motor Transport Division, and the General Staff. It related very largely to batteries for trucks and tractors that were used in loading the ships.

King:

I see. That was in 1917?

Vinal:

Yes. They were large batteries, and they were submitted by some six or eight firms, and we made tests of them, both in the laboratory and in tractors running a specified course on the streets. That was really the beginning, and at that time I had quite a number of men detailed from the War Department for doing that work. Then, from that, we went on to the other types of batteries, and the question of developing new types. Now, one thing that I think I neglected to put into that autobiography, was the work that we did on perchloric acid battery.

King:

This was a World War II development.

Vinal:

(Not clear) — one was the fact that it was a battery of very great power, and another, it was a battery that could be used at low temperatures. We carried on that work, on perchloric acid battery along successfully without any accidents, but some people did have accidents, and of course, they were leery of perchloric acid.

King:

What kind of electrodes did these batteries have?

Vinal:

They had lead dioxide and lead, but the difference between them and the ordinary lead battery was that the lead dioxide was soluble. We could have a solid non-porous electrode. It had good low temperature characteristics, and batteries were made for these radio sones that were used in weather forecasting, and so forth. There was a large battery, as I recall it, which was made — I think it was made by the Electric Storage Battery Company — and we took it up to a Naval Station in Newport for tests. Everybody was a little afraid of it, and the dynamometer, as I recall it, was in the laboratory building, with the shaft going through the wall — no, wait a minute. Well, the battery was outside the building, and teh dynamometer was inside the building. I donít remember all the details clearly, but as I say, we were a little afraid of it and we had the Fire Department standing alongside of it. Nothing happened, but the Navy did try out the perchloric acid battery and they were afraid that in a collision, it would be too dangerous. Then, another development that came along, I think I mentioned. There was a Dr. Irving Dennison at the Bureau who was engaged in underground corrosion work and he was to be transferred to some other work, more of a war-type. They said they were going to transfer him to me. I was asked what I would put him on, and I said I would put him on silver batteries, and the way silver batteries have developed since then, I think is marvelous.

King:

In 1930, you took a trip to Berlin. How did this happen?

Vinal:

In comparisons of the standards of electromotive force between the several countries, particularly England and Germany and the United States, had shown that there were significant difference. The larger difference being with the Germans. About that time, the Bureau had made an arrangement with the Reichenstalt in Berlin for an annual exchange of personnel, and I was picked as the first one to go over there with the idea of trying to reconcile the difference in the electromotive force of the Weston cell. From England, Dr. Paul Vigoureaux was sent as their representative, so that the two of us worked together with Dr. von Steinvayer of the Reichenstalt, in carrying out a series of measurements that really were quite similar in nature to the international meetings in Washington in 1910. As a result of that series of experiments in Berlin, it was shown that the English and American standards were in essential agreement, but the German standards were 80 microvolts below. Then the Germans, I understand, changed their standards. There were three papers published by each of the three laboratories. The English and the American papers detailed the situation as we found it when we went to Berlin. The German paper detailed the work after they had changed the 80 microvolts. Now references to those papers can be given — I canít give them offhand.

King:

How was the working relation between yourself and the German?

Vinal:

Very good at that time when Steinvayer was friendly, and Professor W. Yaeger, who was a, a — oh, heavens, I wonder if Iíve made a mistake in talking about the work in 1910. Professor Yaeger was the one who came over, not von Steinvayer. We had quite a successful meeting over there. It was a little embarrassing, perhaps, that the German standard was different from ours.

King:

Why do you think that this happened?

Vinal:

I canít say. Of course, cells tend to deteriorate, and if they hadnít kept them up with new cells, that might have been the cause. But, in addition to the work in Berlin, I took our standards to Paris, and there were measurements made at the Laboratoire Central díElectricité. Then there were also measurements over about a month in the National Physical Laboratory in England, and I also took some time for sightseeing. I had Mrs. Vinal and my son with me.

King:

How long were you in Germany?

Vinal:

We got over there in May, about the middle of May, and we stayed there until the latter part of July when we left and went down to Czechoslovakia and Austria, and over into France, and then we were in England until the middle of September and then we came home.

King:

The, at the beginning of World War II you became involved in other work at the Bureau.

Vinal:

Yes, they were expanded considerably at that time. We had funds from different parts of the Navy, War Department — they were all on special projects. Then, of course, we had most actively, the work on the maintenance of the volt, standard cell work which was actually transferred to me in 1924. We were certifying large numbers of cells for the public, for manufacturers, public utility commissions, and the public generally. They sent their cells to the Bureau for comparison with the Bureauís standards. Some of that work on standard cells proved to be interesting. We made experiments with heavy water; found difference in electromotive force; cells with an increased amount of heavy water; and, one of the most interesting things we ran into was the question of metal stability of cadmium sulphate. At one time we were making some solubility determinations, and the results were going wild, and then it was developed that we had two crystal forms there. Then we learned about the metal stability of cadmium sulphate and we were able to bring out some interesting relations with the electromotive force.

King:

In 1948 you wrote a paper on the change from the international unit which had prevailed before then to the absolute units.

Vinal:

Yes, of course they had agreed to go over to the international — no go over from the international to the absolute units. Now actually, I had no part in that. I was largely in the International Bureau in Paris, and in meetings over there. The methods of measuring electrical units in absolute measure had been improved as a result of long researches in the Bureau which were not part of my work, and the paper that I wrote for the American Chemical Society and later published in the Journal of the Washington Academy of Science, was mainly directed to give physical chemists knowledge of a change that had occurred. I canít claim a particular originality for that.

King:

Were there many changes in the Bureau because of World War II? That is, were there changes you could see at the end of the War?

Vinal:

Well, of course, the Bureau had enlarged tremendously in all different kinds of work. Now it seems to be going through more expansion of which I know nothing about.

King:

I would like to ask a few questions about your impressions about some of these men you have known? Can you comment on E. B. Rose?

Vinal:

Dr. Rose was my boss for 14 years, and he was a good boss. I perhaps told you before that there were times we may have difference somewhat, but he was a very conscientious man. He and his wife, I think they were quite religiously inclined. One thing that I remember distinctly about him was the presentation of the scientific work in his lectures. He was a past master on putting it on the blackboard and making it clear. His notes were always very precise, and of course, one of the chief occupations in those days was the formulas for computing mutual and self-inductance. Actually, I had no particular part in that, although I enjoyed hearing his lectures, because it was educational for me. As far as the voltameter was concerned, that was one of the chief projects, and that was the one I was intimately concerned with. I think the fact that we were able to prove that in all these different forms of voltameter, the commonest form, the one with the filter paper which Richards had said was not good because heavy anode iron could permeate the filter paper. That idea was upset in our experiments by the fact that we could take Richardsí porous porcelain cup and wrap the filter paper around the outside and get just as bad results as if the porous cup wasnít there. That was one point. The next point was, that on the matter of inclusions, that Richards had the idea of determining the inclusions of electrolyte behind the crystals by heating the cups with the silver deposits, but that produced platinum black when the silver was taken off, and the absorptive properties of that platinum black upset the argument entirely. Those were the two principal things that came out of that controversy with Richards.

King:

How E. N. Darcy?

Vinal:

Darcy was a dear old man. He was a Johns Hopkins graduate. He came from Maryland with all that southern cordiality. He was very precise. He did a very fine piece of work on measuring the ration of electromagnetic, electrostatic unit of capacitance. What it really came down to was the measurement of the velocity of light. He did very fine work there. That was largely his work. At the same time they were using two condensers — I should say capacitors — that had belonged to Roland at Johns Hopkins. One was a spherical capacitor and the other was a cylindrical capacitor. They were such geometric shapes that the capacitance in absolute measurement could be computed, and then you could measure in terms of the electrical units that were used then.

King:

How about F. A. Wolfe?

Vinal:

Wolfe was a graduate of Johns Hopkins, and he really goes back to before the time of the Bureau. He was with the Coast and Geodetic Survey, with a kind of electrical laboratory. He was quite instrumental in getting the Act of Congress for the establishment of the Bureau. Wolfe was a man — in fact, I was asked to work with him at one time, but I wouldnít work with him. I told Dr. Rose that. Wolfe was the first Chairman of the Washington section of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and he likes to tell the story of a demonstration he gave in his laboratory. He had a lamp bank of old lamps, some of them old carbon lamps, and some of them lit up before others. Some people at that time — I wonít say who — said, "Well now you see, this lamp lights up, and this tells you tells you how fast the electricity goes." Iíve heard Wolfe tell that story many times.

King:

Did he believe it?

Vinal:

No, of course not. He was a PhD of Johns Hopkins. In his later years, he sort of got switched off into telephone calculations, and I donít think that ever led to anything.

King:

About S. W. Stranton, can you comment on him?

Vinal:

S. W. Stranton was a very interesting man. Of course, he had been associated with Michelson and Stargell, and became first director of the Bureau, and he was a powerful man with Congress. I think the Congressman really had a very high admiration for Stranton. For that reason he was successful in getting an increase in appropriations as years went on. Dr. Stranton was a very able man. I canít say that I was too closely associated with him. Of course, I was in the Bureau, but just how he regarded some of us youngsters, I donít know.