Oral History Transcript — Dr. Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky
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Interview with Dr. Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky
Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky; June 3, 1974
ABSTRACT:Family background and childhood in Germany, 1919-1934; emigration to U.S. and undergraduate study and life at Princeton University, 1934-1938. Graduate work at California Institute of Technology, 1938-1942; work with Jesse W. N. DuNond, course load, and importance of his thesis. War work at California Institute of Technology; problems because of enemy alien status; work on firing error indicators. War work at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory: atomic bomb explosion, feelings concerning implications. Research at University of California at Berkeley, 1945-1951: construction of linear accelerator under Luis Alvarez (training, funding, working relationships, work schedules, relationship with other research groups), work on synchrotron, bevatron, Material Testing Accelerator project, neutal meson work and pion work; campus life, teaching responsibilities, textbook writing with Melba Phillips; security measures at Berkeley, 1945- 1951: Berkeley’s loyalty oath leads to move to Stanford University, 1951. The “Screw Driver” report (with Robert Hofstadter) for the Atomic Energy Commission. Korean War-related work (Felix Bloch, Edward L. Ginzton, Robert Kyhl); rigid politics of physics department; Washington involvement; consultant to the Air Force Science Advisory Board; Hans Bethe, Edward Teller; Bethe’s Conference of Experts, 1958; Geneva negotiations, 1959; George Kistiakowski and Isidor I. Rabi; appointment to President’s Science Advisory Committee, 1960; Dwight D. Eisenhower. Government support of science; Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC); Joint Committee on Atomic Energy hearings (Ginzton, Varian Associates); avoiding the “Berkeley image” at SLAC. Also prominently mentioned are: Sue Gray Norton Alsalan, Carl David Anderson, Raymond Thayer Birge, Hugh Bradner, Henry Eyring, Don Gow, Alex E. S. Green, William Webster Hansen, Joel Henry Hildebrand, Giulo Lattes, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Edwin Mattison McMillan, John Francis Neylan, Hans Arnold Panof sky, Ryokishi Sagane, Robert Gordon Sproul, Raymond L. Steinberger, Charles Hard Townes, Watters, Gian Carlo Wick, John Robert Woodyard, Dean E. Wooldridge, Fritz Zwicky; Federation of American Scientists, and Lawrence Radiation Laboratory.
Weiner:In our preliminary conversation we said we were going to pick up with the transition to Stanford, and in our last session, you said to remind you about your work with Hofstadter, on the “screw driver report,” which played some role in your transition to Stanford. That’s all I know about it. I’d like you to open up on that point.
The term “screw driver” came about as follows. When Oppenheimer testified before a Congressional committee and was asked how smuggled nuclear weapons might get discovered when crossing the border, he reportedly replied, “With a screw driver.” Then after the war, the Atomic Energy Commission wanted to do some fact-finding about how easy it would really be to detect nuclear weapons if they were smuggled into this country.
They wanted to find out whether, as an example, one could detect such things by having certain accelerator arrangements irradiate incoming shipment — whether there would be come very characteristic signals which would indicate whether these things were or were not nuclear weapons. I believe Hofstadter was asked first to participate in this. I don’t remember the arrangements, but it ended up as a collaboration between Hofstadter and myself, with Hofstadter already being at Stanford, while I was at Berkeley. We just got together and did a study on the subject and wrote a report.
Weiner:Was this part of a particular committee?
Panofsky:No. It was not a committee. it was just the two of us doing this study.
Weiner:No, was it commissioned by the General Advisory Committee of the AEC?
I don’t really know. It was for the AEC, and I really don’t know how it got going. We had some meetings with the AEC military applications people, and with other interested parties. Afterwards there were some actual contracts let, mainly with the Naval Research Laboratory, to try out some of the gadgets that were suggested in the “Screw Driver Report.” By and large, it was clear that it would be a very difficult problem to handle in any fundamental way, not so much because of the physics of the situation, but simply because of the fact that this country has some very long boundaries.
It’s one thing to invent special gadgets for detecting what goes in and out, but it’s even harder to decide where to put them — the actual surveillance is much harder than the tools that you have to do things. But it was an interesting exercise, and was probably the first time I got in contact with the sort of problem involved in studying an applied nuclear physics military issue. And I learned from that study that the non-technical issues are far more important than the technical ones in determining whether something useful really is going to come out of it.
Weiner:So it was just the two of you.
Panofsky:Yes, it was just the two of us. Later there were some follow-on projects about actual experimental undertakings to follow up some of the specific gadgetry. But it was a relatively naive study, on just what radiations into a box could be used to find out whether they had nuclear weapons inside — what kind of detectors were available to verify that.
Weiner:Think of the difficulties we’re having at airports now, it’s a bit ordinary.
Panofsky:That’s right, it’s the same kind of thing. And of course, it was also recognized that such a thing could also serve some other activities, such as the detection of smuggling of radioactive materials and so forth, not just weapons. There were some installations made, and one instance which I remember was that of a woman who tried to smuggle in several hundred watches, which had luminous dials, and which were taped to her corset. So that was probably the most practical outcome of the entire exercise. But at any rate, so it was a —
Weiner:The lady was taking a chance.
Panofsky:That’s right. But it was an interesting thing. Hofstadter and I were acquainted beforehand. He had been a visitor at Berkeley for I believe six months during the previous year. Macmillan had invited him to work on the synchrotron, previously, and we had got acquainted at the time.
Weiner:How did that acquaintance with Hofstadter relate to Stanford? You gave a lot of the other reasons why you came.
Panofsky:Not at all. We beame acquainted, and got along well, but there were no collaborations. He was doing completely different things.
Weiner:But when you came over here, when the offer came, he was one person at least that you’d worked closely with.
Panofsky:That’s right. He was the only person here who was really a nuclear physicist. And he had, by the time I came, already quite firmly decided what research to do with the accelerator, but he had not taken any interest in, or responsibility for, the accelerator construction itself. He had engineered a setup at the halfway point of the Mark III accelerator where he used what were essentially scaled-up versions of a double-focusing spectrometer originally developed at Cal Tech and he made a direct adaptation of that. Since the accelerator here was making rather slow progress, he had decided to install that apparatus at the halfway point of the accelerator, and leave the completion of the accelerator and what to do at the far end of it to others.
Weiner:To others meaning Hansen, for example?
Panofsky:No, Hansen had died, and the work had been left largely to Ginzton. When I came, I found what was a somewhat chaotic situation, because the Korean War was imminent, and at Stanford there was much debate about what to do in case the Korean War should go into a full scale conflagration, because Stanford had had the experience during World War II that a large fraction of its technical faculty had left to work at MIT, Los Alamos and so forth, and there was essentially no advanced work left at home. So to forestall that, Stanford’s Dean, Fred Terman, called a number of meetings, to which I was invited, after I had accepted Stanford, even before I actually moved, to discuss what should be done to initiate some work of national military interest at Stanford. The objective very frankly was to keep the faculty at home, in case the national involvement in the Korean War would get worse. At that time, Bloch agreed to do some military magnetometer work, and G i nzton agreed to do some military high-power microwave tube work.
Weiner:They agreed among themselves, or with people from government?
Panofsky:With both. Both among the faculty group (there was a sort of mixed faculty group of engineering and physics) and also with government. So when I came then to Stanford, I found that Ginzton, who was director of the laboratory, was really quite heavily involved in applied tube developments, some of which were classified, and Hofstadter was very preoccupied with exploiting the accelerator for research, as good or as bad as it was, by making up a setup at the halfway point. There was also a fellow by the name of Kyhl who is now at MIT, I believe Kyhl—
Weiner:Not Alfred Kyhl?
Panofsky:No, Bob Kyhl, who was in charge of the machine Kyhl had been quite sick, He was not physically very strong. He’s a great man but he’s mainly an analyst, a microwave circuit analyst. And so there was a rather bogged-down situation. Not only that, Hansen had decided to extend the accelerator to a longer length than was originally intended, because 1 BeV, one billion volts, remained the goal, and it was clear that one could not get that much energy in the original length. So the accelerator ended about six inches from the end of the building, which is not quite enough for building apparatus and for doing physics! So I found that not only was the accelerator fairly sick, but also that Hofstadter was working on the side, that Kyhl was struggling valiantly to beat some of the very difficult problems about klystron performance and vacuum problems and many other problems in the accelerator, and that Ginzton was very much tied up with his activities in the klystron area.
Weiner:The relation to the military work, the desire for Stanford to develop something here — the relevance here is that it took people away from the Mark III?
That’s right, particularly Ginzton, who is a very good manager, and his group were very much diverted to do applied high-power tube work for military customers, so he simply didn’t have very much time to dedicate to the accelerator. So when I came to Stanford, we made a number of agreements — which were by the way totally amicably reached — namely, that we should create a broader complex called the Hansen Laboratories of Physics which would share shops and administration, but where the technical responsibility for the particle physics part would be mine, as director of what we then called the High Energy Physics Lab, and where Ginzton then became the director of what became the Microwave Lab.
So we shared a common administrative superstructure, but we split the responsibilities for what we then named the High Energy Physics Lab and what we called the Microwave Lab, both of which became units of what was called the Hansen Laboratories, plural, of Physics. After that was done. I persuaded the Stanford administration to extend the basic laboratory so that there would be room for experimental work at the end of the accelerator, which before simply wouldn’t have been available. Then we re-embarked on a relatively substantial construction activity, so that the 1 BeV machine, if and when it got to 1 BeV, could be used.
Weiner:The funds for that came out of the ONR and AEC contracts?
Panofsky:No, the building-extension funds came from Stanford general funds, but the overhead structure within the arrangements with ONR was such that the university in effect charged the government agencies for use of buildings, with the understanding that if enough money went into that fund, that this could then lead to extension of buildings. So it’s probably true that ONR indirectly did pay for that extension.
Weiner:Let me get back to your expectations when you came. Did you have any teaching responsibilities at all?
Weiner:So you had a regular position in the physics department?
Panofsky:Yes. I joined immediately as a physics professor, and I had teaching responsibilities, in fact, the Stanford University Physics Department had and still has some very rigid policies, which are both good and bad, that all members of the faculty have what amounts to identical division between research and teaching, so that the number of units, contact hours or whatever you call it, of all members of the faculty are very closely the same, irrespective of the depth of their involvement in research. And so Bloch and Hofstadter and Schiff and Meyerhoff and whoever else were there were by and large teaching the same amount and had the same amount of time for research activities.
Weiner:How many hours was that?
Panofsky:Well, of course it changed on a year-by-year basis. It would be the equivalent of one or two 3-unit courses each quarter, so it would run to four or five quarter courses a year. I also had responsibility for an upper division lab, which needed a lot of technical work done. So I did a fair amount of teaching and the usual academic things.
Weiner:Plus running an entire laboratory for research, and in a construction stage.
That’s right. But that was sort of a general custom, and it was one reason, one of the many reasons, why SLAC was not organized that way — that this sort of egalitarian policy, which does make for good homogeneity of the faculty, is simply very difficult to maintain once the purely technical administrative responsibilities of members of the faculty become really very large. I taught the main freshman physics course, one quarter each year, for five years. It was a big chore.
I remember that it would meet three times a week, and the same lecture had to be repeated three times on a given day because of the size of the lecture hall, so it was nine lectures a week in this course. Once the new physics building was built, it could be done in two lectures a day instead of three. I remember quite well that at that time I started taking trips to Washington, so I would come in on an evening flight, then get my long-suffering wife to watch lecture demonstrations that same evening to check whether they were really visible in all the corners of the auditorium.
Then the next morning at the crack of dawn I would hit the poor freshmen. But that was a policy of the physics department, particularly in the elementary courses, to involve the people who were very active in research. So if anything were true, it led to a short-changing of the upper division students, because graduate courses by definition could only be taught by specialists, and by policy the freshmen were taught by the more senior members. So the upper division courses tended to be taught by the instructors or the younger faculty people.
Weiner:These people in the freshmen courses were not yet physics majors?
Panofsky:Oh no, not at all.
Weiner:They were just first—year students in all fields who either were required or elected to take physics, without necessarily being majors in physics.
Panofsky:That’s right. It’s the usual system, where you have a two- year physics curriculum, either for people who are going to become involved in technical professions, such as geology or metallurgy or what have you, where calculus was required. There was also another series which did not require calculus, which I never taught.
Weiner:So you were busy with the teaching. How did the work progress, then, let’s say from 1951 to the period in ‘55 where you published with all of your colleagues this major RSI article on the Mark III?
Well, it went very well, although some rather dramatic things had to be done. Actually the whole accelerator was almost completely replaced, because there were many thing wrong with it. For one, the entire vacuum system had been contaminated, and we had to go into a large cleaning process. Then there was trouble with the shrinking technique which Hansen had invented, by which the discs were joined to the outer cylinder by shrinking. The discs turned out to become loosened because there was gradual cold flow, so that arcing started in the contacts between the discs and the cylinder.
Therefore other brazing techniques had to be developed, In addition to that, lots of the shielding calculations turned out to be less than conservative by modern standards, so a lot of major shielding redesign had to be done. And one of the most important things is that we had to design what we called the beam switch yard. I recognized that in order to make the machine useful for physics, we had to create at that time what I call “purgatory—“ namely, a place where the beam could be dispersed to the different physicists, but at the same time be energy analyzed, so that the energy and energy band of the beam could be fixed before it reached the experimental station.
It turns out to be a special characteristic of an electron accelerator that it’s a very tolerant machine. It will accelerate almost anything and therefore what comes out is either low energy, high energy, good energy spectrum, bad energy spectrum, depending as to how It’s adjusted. One thing about a cyclotron is that either no beam comes out, or a beam of rather predictable quality. However, that’s not true of an electron linear accelerator. Therefore, the need for what is essentially a filter interposed between the physicist and the accelerator is a characteristic associated with an electron linear accelerator. So a rather large amount of hardware had to be designed and built which was not envisioned in the original plan, quite apart from the simple space problem.
Weiner:Was there good support facility for it here?
Panofsky:No. By and large, Stanford followed the Hansen tradition. One of Hansen’s famous quotations was, “Don’t hire an engineer, hire another machinist.” He believed—and I have a great deal of sympathy for that— that one should interpose the minimum number of layers of professionals between physicists and the actual individual who puts things together in the shop. So we never did have much in the way of engineering competence. We had some competent draftmen and some absolutely first—rate mechanicians. Some really superb individuals.
Weiner:By mechanicians, you would mean?
Panofsky:Machinists, or people who were experts in specialized brazing techniques, and so forth. That was the great strength in support, but there was very little strength in formal engineering, and a lot of the expertise in microwave work was diluted because of involvement in Ginzton’s activities.
Weiner:So how did you solve that problem?
Panofsky:Well, we taught some of the draftsmen magnet design—magnets were simply designed by myself or students primarily. Hofstadter at that time, and I think from his point of view wisely,concentrated pretty much on actually doing experiments. I mean, he did not wish to have his initial experimental program delayed, so together with Jack Mcintyre whom he brought over from Princeton he did the first experiment on electron scattering at Stanford. In that repect I think he was very wise, because that was the first work in which the proton structure was indeed discovered, and where the first evidence was generated that the proton was not a point, for which he eventually received the Nobel Prize. So that pioneering work was done at that time, while the rest of the evolution of the laboratory proceeded.
Weiner:That meant, as far as your own work in the period, let’s say from your arrival in ‘51 ‘till about ‘55, that you were not doing very much physics.
Panofsky:Not too much.
Weiner:Publications talk about focussing and beams, design and so forth.
Panofsky:Well, I had a couple of things going. I had one student by the name of Daryl Reagan who worked on the N^14 (gamma, 2n). N^12 reaction, and another student named George Tautfest who was working on elastic ep scattering to measure radiative corrections. Tautfest later went to Purdue and died about five years ago. That was Taufest’s thesis. We got started quite early, and it actually was a very good experiment, but the data analysis was very slow, because it was a photographic plate experiment.
Weiner:Yes, but I got the impression that those came after ‘55.
Panofsky:No, the publication, maybe. But execution, that started quite soon, actually. So those were the two experiments in the early period, and they were actually done with a partially constructed accelerator. They were done together in the Hofstadter area, in what we called the “halfway station,” whereas the other work, on pion production by electrons, and bremsstrahlung in hydrogen and some of these other things, the muon pair observation, all these were done in the finished target area building. But those first two experiments were not in any way tied in with the new construction.
Weiner:You were still able then to work with students on research, while doing the elementary teaching and running that advanced lab, then running the research lab which involved mostly construction.
Weiner:Busy time. Now, where did the Washington part come in? You said, by that time—
I think the first time I actually got involved in Washington things, other than the “screw driver” was, I believe, in 1955 or ‘56. You can probably look that up, I was a consultant to the Scientific Advisory Board to the Air Force, in a subcommittee of the Scientific Advisory Board, that was worrying about early warning systems against missiles. I got acquained at that time with quite a few people. Incidentally, at that time Guy Stever, who is now head of the National Science Foundation, was chairman of the Air Force Science Advisory Board. I had known Stever before. We were graduate students together at Cal Tech. He used to build Geiger counters in the basement.
But that was a relatively minor involvement. A bit later, about 1958, I got involved as chairman of a panel for what at that time was PSAC, to investigate the problem of whether nuclear weapons could be tested clandestinely in outer space to avoid a nuclear test ban. Now, the history of that was that, as you know, in 1958 Hans Bethe was chairman of what was called the “Conference of Experts,” and had negotiated with the Russians a technical basis of possible agreements on cessation of nuclear testing. Then, after that meeting was completed, Teller had come forward very vociferously with the opinion that any nuclear test ban could be evaded by the Soviets putting bombs on rockets and conducting their tests in space.
So that caused a great big argument, and I was asked by PSAC to chair a panel which would have both Bethe and Teller as members. The general idea was that if the panel could agree, then presumably that would be a safe basis for going back to Geneva. So the miracle did happen. We did indeed come out with an agreed report on the detection of nuclear explosions in outer space. And this in turn became the basis of a separate negotiation, in 1959 in Geneva, which was called Technical Working Group No. 1, of which I became the chairman, the general theory being, if I could get Bethe and Teller to agree, then anything involving the Russians would be a snap. (laughter) So, in addition to that, there was essentially no lead time to get ready for the technical negotiation, because the Russians unexpectedly agreed to participate on avery short notice, and therefore it was natural that the chairman and some of the members of this committee which had dealt with the subject would be the only eligible individuals to really conduct the negotiation vis-a-vis the Soviets. But that was 1959.
Weiner:How did you get involved, to be asked to chair that panel with Bethe and Teller?
Panofsky:I don’t really know, frankly, because my only real contact with that type of thing had been (a) the “screw driver” report, which was not very well known, and (b) my work as a participant in the Scientific Advisory Board panel, which I guess maybe was known a little better. And otherwise just my general work with accelerators and physics. So I really don’t know. And you have to—
Weiner:You don’t know who the person was who might have been the key one who knew you well enough to think you’d be able to do that?
Panofsky:No, it could have been Bethe himself, He was in PSAC at the time, and he knew my work in other areas, but I really don’t know. I don’t have the slightest idea.
Weiner:While we’re talking about it, what was your reaction when you were put into the realm of international diplomacy? Was that very different than the Bethe-Teller negotiations?
Panofsky:Well, surely, yes, it was. Probably one of the toughest three-week periods in my life. Because the whole framework of that negotiation was a somewhat vicious arrangement. What had happened was the following: In 1958, there was the Conference of Experts. Then after the Conference of Experts, the negotiation on the political level was put together in Geneva. These negotiations went very badly, and part of the reason they went badly, not the only reason, was because the American delegation was instructed to say that the Conference of Experts output of 1958 was out of date. Now, this caused a great deal of consternation among the Russians, because there was never any very clear picture reached either among the Americans or the Russians what the Report of the Conference of Experts really meant. Many scientists welcomed the idea of separating scientific negotiations from political negotiations. I don’t know whether you’ve talked to Bethe about this.
Weiner:I don’t know whether we touched on this.
So, many people felt it was a great thing, that scientists from the two countries could collaborate in 1958, to firstly set up a scientific basis for what then would become a political negotiation. However, there were many weaknesses. The first weakness was that there was never any agreement on whether the report of the Bethe Conference of Experts was supposed to be essentially a treaty— at least an agreement which would be inviolate to future amendment and which would then be the agreed basis for future negotiations —- or whether it was just a scientific document which would be amended as soon as anybody from the scientific community got any new data to update it.
So as far as the Russians were concerned, they took the position, “Well, we agreed on that, so it is unamendable,” while the Americans took the position, “It’s a scientific document, and it’s amendable if and when science so indicates that it should be.” So, therefore, the whole idea to propose a new scientific look at detection of nuclear explosion in space, because Dr. Teller had identified more possibilities along these lines, made the Russians very suspicious. And nobody really expected they would agree to negotiate on that topic that soon, because it effectively compromised their position, in considering the Report of the 1958 Conference of Experts to be the agreed basis of negotiation. Anyway, they suddenly caved in.
However the political negotiators issued instructions that a technical panel should be convened and report back to the political panel within one week. So, the American negotiators, the political negotiators, were sufficiently naive to accept that agreement. They in turn turned back to the machinery of the US. government to put a panel, i.e., a scientific negotiating team together. So I got roped into chairing that panel. It turns out by that time, 1959, I had a sabbatical which I was going to spend at CERN. Since I was tired, I’d agreed to go by boat, but I got a phone call two days before we were to go by boat that I was supposed to start negotiating in three days in Geneva. So I got a quick briefing by the Secretary of State Herter at that time, about U.S. positions, and dumped my family on the boat, took an airplane and flew over their heads, and started negotiating the next morning in Geneva. And then of course it turned out to be a total illusion that negotiations could be completed on complex and contentious issues, in one week.
Actually it took three weeks; moreover the format was just impossible, because we would negotiate for four or five or six hours. As a result the UN translators would go almost insane because it was very technical, and we couldn’t formulate positions for the next morning until we had all the transcripts typed out, both in Russian and English, that same day. So I think you know from your experience here that getting four hours’ worth of talk transcribed, in the same day, and then getting new positions for the next morning, is hard to do. Just as a technical exercise. So people had very little sleep, and took three weeks, and the Russians quite explicitly, as far as we could tell, were trying to wear us out, because the nature of the negotiations was that the Russians didn’t want it to start with. I mean, they had agreed to the negotiations as a concession.
So the burden of proof on introducing any new technical material was on our shoulders. And the whole process constituted a rather complex scene. There are many interesting stories associated with it. You probably know the book by Jacobsen called SCIENTIST, DIPLOMATS AND POLITICIANS. It’s a very thorough account of the 1958 conference, and then of the so-called Technical Working Group No. 1, and Technical Working Group No. 2, which was at the end of 1959.
Weiner:Do you think it’s pretty accurate documentation?
Panofsky:It is quite accurate documentation. Quite a good job.
Weiner:So this was the beginning of sabbatical for you.
Panofsky:That’s right, but it got clipped on both ends.
Weiner:Seems to me a double burden — one is to be thrown into international diplomacy, second is to have the responsibility for the whole group.
Weiner:Did you find it was difficult to work with these other technical experts as a unit?
Panofsky:No, because most of the technical people I knew anyway. They were by and large members of the panel which had worked on this problem beforehand, with the notable absence of Bethe and Teller.
Weiner:Well, let’s get back to Bethe and Teller. How did you manage to bring them together on these issues?
Panofsky:Oh, I think mainly by attrition. I think that—-
Weiner:— I’d think they would wear you down.
Panofsky:Basically by narrowing down some of the differences, by setting rather specific tasks which had to be analyzed— that it was not our job to make an assessment of whether a test ban applying to bombs in space was or was not desirable, but it was our task to assess how much testing in outer space would cost, how big the risks were, what kinds of vehicles were available to both the Russians and ourselves, how to carry out such tests, what the radiations were, at what distance it could be done, and all that. That means that I tried to prevent the entire group from making a net assessment of the entire picture, before the technical inputs were in. Then even though the group was not in agreement on a net assessment the reader could then draw his own conclusions from the data which were there, depending as to how conservative a view he would take.
Weiner:Essentially you kept them from combat—
Panofsky:That’s right — by getting them to agree on technical assessments. Although they disagreed on some items, in view of the ignorance of the time on many of these things, there was a fair amount of latitude. However, the conclusions really aren’t that sensitive to the spread of technical inputs which were submitted. That’s essentially the way it worked.
Weiner:Conclusions were not needed anyway for the negotiations. You need more the technical input rather than the conclusions.
Weiner:You say that was an exhausting three weeks. What was your feeling at the end of it, were you satisfied?
I was quite satisfied at the end of the first session, because it was probably the most successful one of the group of negotiations. On the other hand, it also made me very disillusioned about this process of separating science from diplomacy. I thought that this whole idealistic concept of having scientists agree on a common scientific basis, because science is supposed to be objective, and then throwing it to the politicians, that such a process was fundamentally futile. I had many encounters with my Soviet counterparts where it was clear that their instructions were essentially political.
And our instructions de facto became political. Now, I think you probably know what the issue is — that in general the Soviets were trying to get a test ban with minimum invasion of their privacy, and on the other hand, our side tended to be very much concerned, to some extent paranoid, about the problem of cheating on the other side. So we would invent cheating scenaria and put the burden of proof on the other side, “Why can’t you cheat that way?” and often the other side would at least pretend not to have understood our line of argument, which may even have been true. But at any rate, the national interest of the Soviets was to make detection and identification of explosions look as easy as possible, and our national interest, if you wish, was to make it look as hard as possible.
So even though we were all technicians, all the negotiations tended to become totally polarized. In view of the ignorance, which was quite pervasive on the subject, there was a wide latitude of technical interpretations possible, for instance of such things as backgrounds in outer space due to solar winds, or meteoric impact, or natural radiations of all sorts. Therefore, the question of how easy or hard it is to detect nuclear explosions in space by satellite-borne detectors was a very difficult thing to assess. I can give you one example of this. We came very close to complete agreement, and then I proposed an innocent paragraph which said something like this: “This assessment of the ease of conducting nuclear explosions in space and detecting them represents the best of our knowledge at this time, and future developments will tell whether this assessment is going to get better or worse” —— whether the optimists or pessimists are right.
Federov, my Soviet partner, said, “Oh no, we can’t agree to that, because it is in the interest of the Soviet Union that detection becomes easier, and since science and the interest of the Soviet Union move in the same direction, therefore it must become easier.” We argued about this, and he didn’t want to move from that—it was fundamentally a religious statement, it was not a cynical statement, and we had to drop the whole thing. So episodes of that kind were very instructive to me, in recognizing that, at that level, the separation of science and politics didn’t work, because you had to forecast the future evolution of knowledge, where it was a mixture of judgment and hard facts, and the judgment was highly influenced by the sort of political atmosphere in which each party found himself.
Weiner:While you were conducting negotiations, did you have contact with American political advisors?
Weiner:It was not completely separate.
Panofsky:No. It was not completely separate, except that the political advisors, actually in a sort of almost disdainful way, tried to stay out of our way, saying, “We have nothing to contribute to this,” and in fact it was impossible to get instructions or anything of that kind.
Weiner:On a daily basis, you had barely enough timeto assess what happened during the day — considering it was technical information swell — it would seem they wouldn’t have very much input.
They didn’t have much input. We’d have joint meetings, but they would usually sort of duck out of the meetings as soon as possible. We had to send cables home every day as to what we’d accomplished. But for instance, on one item, we had to reach agreement to disagree, because the Soviets wouldn’t buy it. We didn’t understand why and we decided to omit it, but I had to cable for instructions, whether it was acceptable to the Secretary of State for us to “agree to disagree” on this one item.
It had to do with an item called ionospheric radar. People in the State Department said, “What in the devil is ionospheric radar?” So they asked the Special Assistant to the President, at that time Kistiakowsky, and he said, “Well, I don’t know too well what it is, but let’s ask Mr. Keeny.” Mr. Keeny happened to be the man on Kistiakowsky’s staff with me in Geneva, so thay asked him, and then Mr. Keeny and I talked it over, so that was the end of “instruction” So this was a completely closed loop within the political process, simply because in our country, the contact between the technical content of these things and the political instruction part of it was essentially nil.
Weiner:So that was our first experience. In your later experience, did you get involved in any of the Pugwash things? Here’s an attempt to—
Weiner:— do it in a different way, or was it really that different from your viewpoint?
Panofsky:Oh yes. I went to one Pugwash meeting, in Stowe, Vermont, during one month. I forget when that was, either in 1960 or very closely thereafter—I remember Kissinger was there— and the thing which was impressive there was that the Soviets attending Pugwash were in effect behaving like an instructed delegation, while the Western people, whatever was good or bad about them, presented uncoordinated opinions.
Weiner:You say the Americans were somewhat independent, argued among themselves—
Panofsky:Yes, and presented quite independent viewpoints which were often in disagreement with one another. I was not too interested in Pugwash. I had nothing to do with its beginnings, and was invited quite a few times, but for various mechanical reasons, not reasons of principle, never got there until the meeting in Vermont. I think I once got to another one, I don’t remember, but I didn’t go to more than two.
Weiner:The reason I raise it is because of the question you talked about, the separation of the political and the technical. The advantage of PugWash was supposed to be, technical people can cut through all this political stuff.
Panofsky:Yes. Well, that of course was not true.
Weiner:You’re saying that in fact the two were so closely linked—
Panofsky:In fact, I think Pugwash is very important, but not for that reason at all, but simply for the reason that Pugwash was extremely useful as an informal sounding board for various ideas on collaboration, arms control, and disarmament, which on an official level are very difficult to put into the system. Just because science and politics in some of these sensitive areas are not easily separable, but because scientists generally have a much better informal rapport with one another, even in the face of the ideological difference, I do think that the Pugwash kind of contacts are extremely useful. They have in fact been very useful, but not because of the separation of science and politics, but just because of the fact that scientists can talk to one another, and just because science and politics are connected, in some of these sensitive areas. So it’s very valuable, but not for the official reason.
Weiner:We’re on this track now, so let me take it a little further into the PSAC period, then we’ll get back to SLAC, origins of the accelerator. You were appointed to PSAC I think in 1960?
Panofsky:received a phone call while I was still in Geneva in ‘59 that I had been nominated for PSAC, and I believe I joined in ‘60, that’s probably right, yes ... I stayed from ‘60 through ‘61 or ‘65. I don’t remember.
Weiner:I have something that says ‘65 but I don’t know the month. I wonder if you can characterize that period. For example, there were some changes in administration, and — that was Kennedy, Johnson—
That’s right. I made the acquaintance of Kennedy and Johnson and Eisenhower, for that matter. I still met with Eisenhower. And at that time PSAC worked a great deal more effectively than it did in its last years. For one thing, PSAC was the creature of Eisenhower, and therefore he intended fully to use it. Secondly, PSAC dedicated itself initially to a much narrower range of issues than it dedicated itself to later on in its existence. PSAC as a whole at that time was a very excellent deliberative body. Later when there were a much larger number of problems in focus, there were very diverse members — political scientists, engineers, biologists, medical people — so that PSAC became mainly a source of panel chairmen, and any one topic was only of interest to a small fraction of it. Therefore any cohesive debate by the whole PSAC group later on became all but impossible.
While at that earlier time, most of the problems that were being discussed — arms control, test ban — big projects, to be authorized or not, scientific manpower — the beginning of the space program — many of these things were of interest to all PSAC members, and the PSAC really could take the time to debate some of them out, quite apart from the work that was being done by separate panels. But above all, the chairmen of PSAC had quite good rapport with the President, so that the work of the group really related to providing useful inputs. This of course meant that people would really dedicate a large amount of time to it. I would guess that I probably spent a quarter of my time on PSAC work, one way or another.
Weiner:A quarter of your time through that whole period?
Panofsky:I would say so, yes, because just the mechanics of it —- I mean, they scheduled two-day meetings once a month. Then you had to get there. Then I was a member of some of the panels. During all that time I was part of the rategic mil itary panel, the civil defense panel — then for a while the high energy panel of the General Advisory Committee — and the special ad hoc missile vulnerability panel. One had to visit various installations and get briefings and write papers, and fight with one’s fellow members to get the papers cleaned up and all that.
Weiner:This was in addition to the actual meetings. The meetings were deliberations.
Weiner:The other stuff, visits, papers, were all in addition to that.
Panofsky:That’s right. So my guess is, probably during that period from ‘60 to ‘65, probably something like a quarter time went into that.
Weiner:Can you characterize the differences not only in national administration, but in the leadership of PSAC, in that period— were there differences in style?
Oh, very much so. Kistiakowsky was very insistent on the fact that we were technicians first, political advisors second. Therefore unless we did our homework on technical issues in depth, we wouldn’t be listened to. Some members of the panel were less convinced of this being right, and there used to be many debates between Kistiakowsky and Rabi about the*lldifferent philosophies in this respect. Rabi felt that, very frequently, useful advice, necessary advice, could be given simply out of one’s intuition and experience, rather than deep, more detailed study and analysis.
So that was a difference in view. Kistiakowsky had a very good relationship with the President, and for that reason communication was very effective. Killian, the first chairman, was more of a statesman and had relatively less personal feeling about the technical situation, but he was an excellent organizer of studies and draftsman of reports.
Then Weisner was sort of halfway in between Kistiakowsky and Rabi, as far as the balance between detailed technical analysis and broad-based intuitional advice was concerned, mean, he would be more willing to generate advice, not backed up by detailed homework, but at the same time, by virtue of his contacts he had enormous amount of access to studies of all kinds.
Then later, under Hornig, the relationship between the President and the Science Advisory Committee deteriorated partially, not so much because of the fault of the individuals, but just because of the shadow of Vietnam. The relationship between the President and the scientific community deteriorated, and that couldn’t help but reflect very adversely on that particular relationship.
Weiner:How about the morale of the committee under these various leaders?
Panofsky:Oh, I don’t know. I probably wasn’t very sensitive to it. I thought the morale was always good. It was almost impossible to say “no” to a request for advice originating from the President, or even from the head of an agency. Therefore the majority of the topics that PSAC concerned itself with were generated by the President. Only a small fraction were generated from within the committee itself, although the terms of the committee permitted that. So the morale was good. There were frustrations of many kinds in facing problems which couldn’t be solved, within the machinery set up and so forth. By and large, it was an experience where at least many felt that the information gap between lay decision makers and scientists was being bridged at least reasonably effectively.
Weiner:When scientists serve on advisory committees very often their major goal is to demonstrate the importance of basic research and of government support for basic research. in this case, if the problems originated from the President generally, did that issue come up, where the committee itself had to introduce the basic aspects?
Yes. To some extent. But the committee was very conscious of the fact that there were really two quite distinct spheres in which it was operating — on, which you might call “government in science,” i.e., support of science by government, and, the other “science in government.” Here the government was facing all sorts of decisions, in military areas, the use of pesticides, or never mind what all, where scientific input was needed to lead to intelligent governmental decision.
In these areas the support of science by government was not the issue at all, had nothing to do with it, and I would say during the initial time, by far the largest amount of time was spent on “science in government,” and not on government support of science. And in fact I would say that whenever the committee did get involved in government support of science, that was probably the least satisfactory part of PSAC’s work, simply because the problem of priorities among competing scientific fields, or between pure and applied fields, simply cannot be resolved by the consent of those affected.
So the problems of science in government” can be attacked quite readily by a group of this kind, without the problem of conflict of interest entering. On the other hand, the problem of government supporting science is very hard to resolve, because if you put a nuclear physicist, a high energy physicist, a biologist, and a solid state man and what have you together in one room, clearly no decision can be made about the relative importance of solid state physics and high energy physics, in terms of funding support.
Weiner:Was it really different from the National Science Board — which may have as its task government support of science, but still represents different constituencies?
Panofsky:The National Science Board has a quite different role. It does not advise the President explicitly; it has a primary responsibility to worry about the health of the National Science Foundation as such. Its general advisory role, about the health of science and so forth, is secondary. Now, different Science Boards have interpreted their role somewhat differently. To some extent they are also a general scientific advisory body — but their primary mission has always been to be responsible for the health of the National Science Foundation.
Weiner:I understand. I meant that within that, you still have the problem of certain constituencies —- one interested in radio astronomy, for a good example, might feel that field was not getting proper support, where a molecular biology man would advise the National Science Foundation in another direction.
Panofsky:Well, I think it’s fair to say that no scientific committee, be it under the auspices of the National Science Foundation, or the National Academy or PSAC or whatever it might be, has ever come to a satisfactory mechanism for dealing with that problem, because to some extent by choosing the staffing of the particular committee or board, you affect the outcome. It’s simply a rather basic problem, that in any resource allocation, you simply cannot get a converging and generally agreed position out of a group which consists entirely of those affected by the decision. That doesn’t work, whether you’re talking about the allocation of running time on an accelerator, or budgets for science, or allocation of frequencies and wavelengths in the radio spectrum. So it didn’t work any better at PSAC.
Weiner:If you were to assess the five year period you put in at PSAC in terms of accomplishments, is there anything you would say about your own role? Any particular position or decision you helped to implement?
Panofsky:Well, I think I probably had most personal involvement in the nuclear test ban deliberations, and the willingness of the President to take that item extremely seriously, in 1963. And in studying some of the alternatives to the decision which was made in terms of a total test ban, a limited test ban, and all that. I take a certain amount of pride in that, also in some of the prior decisions by Eisenhower and — not to resume testing when many people urged him to do so, exercising some kind of judgment beyond the interest of the AEC and the Weapons Laboratories as to whether testing should go forward.
Weiner:Did you meet with Eisenhower?
Panofsky:Yes. I met with Eisenhower.
Weiner:Was that a private conversation?
Weiner:At his behest?
Panofsky:It was a meeting of PSAC at his behest, mainly, but not exclusively, dedicated to nuclear test ban issues. And then I did some work in identifying at that time the fact that missiles were quite vulnerable to interception by certain physical mechanisms, which was not really believed by the Air Force at the time. The Air Force had a parochial interest in the fact that missiles were essentially invincible—well, had a parochial interest in the preeminence of missilry, and would not really do any good work on vulnerability. I ran a panel on that problem, which shook quite a few people.
Weiner:Was that a panel at someone’s request, or something that came out of PSAC?
Panofsky:I don’t know how that was.
Weiner:Anyway, you were saying that it changed their view.
Panofsky:I think it changed their view. And then I worked on purely scientific matters. On a more parochial thing, I was involved in the joint panel of PSAC and the General Advisory Committee of the AEC, worrying— making long range plans on high energy physics. The work of this panel led to the high priority given to NAL, which was certainly an important thing. An attempt was made to put a few non-high energy physicists, even anti- high energy physicists, on the same panel, so that it wouldn’t be so parochial. I remember Phil Abelron was sort of the devil’s advocate on that particular panel. And there were other activities of that kind.
Weiner:While you were on PSAC, the SLAC proposal was in the hopper. Did it come up to PSAC in any way?
Panofsky:It came up, but I would disqualify myself and disappear while that was being discussed. Emanuel Piore ran a panel on that subject.
Weiner:I see. Let’s go back — there’s probably a lot more to say on this.
Panofsky:Yes, there’s a lot more to say. Of course, on the other hand, there’s also a lot already written.
Weiner:I know very little about the inside history of it, and there’s enough written so that I’m not prepared to ask questions that will get us
Panofsky:It’s a huge topic.
Weiner:Yes, and, persons like Herman Kahn, people like that—
Panofsky:You probably know that Killian is now chairing a study group on science advisors, which is sort of a mixture between somewhat nostalgic studies, and what is hopefully the way of making a projection for the future if and when the science advisory system is reestablished. The Killian study will help to learn from the lessons of the past. It’s a little bit the PSAC Alumni Association.
Weiner:There was a panel meeting at MIT which involved some of the President’s former science advisors, all four of them actually. Well, getting back to SLAC — the reason we got into the Washington thing, we were talking about all the activities—the physics activities, the teaching, the construction activities on the Mark III. How would you date, when would you date the interest in making a multi-BeV machine out of the Mark III?
I think that for the origin of going to a multi-BeV machine, I would give credit to Hofstadter personally. He was encouraged by the rather spectacular success of the electron scattering experiments. He would talk about the need for a much larger machine. Then at a meeting at my house, where he pushed this concept while my initial position on this was fairly negative, as being essentially hubris and way out. Bloch was, I guess a sort of benevolent and cautious bystander in this meeting.
I mean, he was not very strongly enthusiastic but also not particularly negative. One thing which bothered me very much was that, quite apart from the technical feasibility of this scheme, it was very clear that it was simply socially indefensible to have a venture of that magnitude simply be the extension of the arm or mind of the members of the Stanford Physics department. Once one went beyond that Mark III size, one really was talking about a national sharing of what one was doing, That was totally clear to me, quite apart from that being a political necessity for ever getting it approved. I felt that as a social principle, this was clearly a necessity.
After all the numbers of individuals in any one department is small, and as they get old under tenure, their productivity would go down and all that. But that particular point of view was not shared by Hofstadter but to some extent by Felix Bloch. Some disagreement resulted at that time, after this initial meeting, whether one should go forward with such a large venture, as a national facility, or still just as a proposal from the Stanford Physics department. Eventually, Bloch agreed with me that it should go forward as a national facility, partially I guess colored by his experiences at CERN, when he was Director General for a short period of time.
At that time Hofstadter still was saying that the importance of the work which he and others were doing was such that he really saw nothing wrong, why one shouldn’t take the next step without any change in social structure. But that argument finally lost. We then conducted a one year study, to design the two-mile machine, and something like 30 or 40 people participated in that, and that turned out to be a somewhat different crowd than the ones who met at my house.
Weiner:Before we get into that, it seems that the other documents mention the discussion started before the meeting at your house. That was the first official meeting, which took place April 10th, 1956, and that in 1955 people like Schiff were involved, Ginzton, Bloch, Hofstadter, regarding the possibility. Do you recall those? They’re not documented very well.
Panofsky:They’re not documented very well and my memory isn’t very good either. I don’t remember but I think it can probably be reconstructed from the documents here. We formed at some point what you might call a “moonlighting” study group, namely, a group of individuals trying to define such a machine and doing it on our own time, so it was not an activity that was supported from the ONR funds that were supporting HEPL. These meetings involved, in addition to Schiff and Hofstadter, a large number of the staff members of the High Energy Physics Laboratory and Microwave Laboratory. They’re given credit in the Stanford proposal. I’m somewhat confused as to how this particular meeting at my house ties into this ongoing study, which went on for about a year.
Weiner:There was a larger group at the meeting than the names you’ve mentioned. By this time there were about 10 or 11 people. Their names are given in one of the reports.
Panofsky:Yes. Well, if you want to cut it off for a moment I can—
Weiner:I don’t think it’s important so far as the names, if we have them somewhere.
Panofsky:I have some problem as to the juxtaposition in time, as to where this meeting to go forward was, when it took place in relationship to the study.
Weiner:Well, that meeting produced certain specific statements about the kind of facility, what the criteria would be, about the openness, the non- classified nature of it and so forth — that demonstrates that it was pretty far along.
Yes. That meeting was essentially a policy meeting. It was essentially a meeting trying to find out what were the terms of reference under which the thing was supposed to proceed. And the technical discussions were quite far along. But what I’m confused about is the following. The technical discussions involved something like 30 or Li0 peotfl,and in addition to that, at some point, we went to the Stanford Board of Trustees. Also, Steve Bechtel, the chairman of Bechtel Corporation, volunteered what amounted to about $50,000 worth of work from his corporation, simply to help us to do some of the civil engineering studies which had to go with the proposal.
So we got a great deal of support through that channel. When this proposal was written, we avoided the chicken and eggs problem which is now so prevalent in generating large proposals. I mean, now the very process of generating a proposal for a construction project is itself a very large enterprise. That situation now has gotten much more severe, because first, the government expects much more detailed engineering before approving a proposal, and second, there are no flexible resources lying around which can be fed into preparing such a thing.
At that time, we were simply able to meet informally with what amounts to a large part of the technical staff of both the Microwave Lab and the High Energy Physics Laboratory and design it. In addition to that, industry contributed a rather substantial civil engineering feasibility effort.
Weiner:What was the basis of that?
Panofsky:Well, it was fundamentally that Bechtel was a faithful member of the Board of Trustees of Stanford University, and the project interested him. He received a briefing on these plans. I think it was mainly Ginzton’s persuasiveness.
Weiner:There was no embarrassment about them not getting the contract?
Panofsky:That’s right. They didn’t get it, in fact. They bid, they were actually one of the bidders for what we called the architect-engineering management contract. And they lost.
Weiner:There was no bitterness about that?
Panofsky:No. On the contrary. Obviously, this was a condition under which we accepted their help, because it would have been certainly immoral, and probably illegal, to use this $50,000 down payment as a means of getting the inside track on a multi—million dollar project. No, they didn’t get it, but they did indeed bid.
Weiner:That clarifies — the question was raised in my mind and I hadn’t seen the outcome. This account talks about the meeting at your house which included Mallory, Barber, Brown, Debs, Neal, Mozley, Pindar, Sonkin, Jasberg and others, in addition to the group you mentioned ... (Note: No name list on these names.) It was quite far along. ... from the minutes here, right in that passage.
Panofsky:OK, that gets it straight. These individuals were sort of what you might call the group leaders in this study, so this meeting must have been carried out once the study was already pretty far down the pike. By the way, that time sequence can easily be reconstructed from notes, because the study group generated a set of documents called the “M” notes (“M” for “Monster”) which I have sitting around somewhere.
Weiner:When did that term originate?
Panofsky:I don’t really know.
Weiner:Could have meant “Multi—BeV,”
Panofsky:That’s right. There was sort of a standard pun. I don’t really know who deserves credit or blame for that.
Weiner:What about the arguments you used in your own minds, of establishing it at Stanford — were you aware of what other laboratories were doing, what relative role Stanford would play?
Weiner:What kinds of considerations—
Well, for one, I was acquainted in detail with what was going on at Brookhaven and Berkeley, and the beginning of the 200 GeV studies which were being done at that time. I made a deliberate effort actually to inquire whether the other western institutions were willing to have this laboratory with the two-mile accelerator be under the management control of a Western University Association. I was well acquained with AUI which was running Brookhaven at the time.
So I got into correspondence with Bob Bacher at Cal Tech and Ed McMillan at Berkeley, to formally request their counsel on whether to incorporate an AUI, a WAUI, for the sponsorship of this. Both of them turned me down because neither the Rad Lab nor Cal Tech at that time had any deep interest in high energy electron accelerators.
Both of them at that time were beginning to think about the next step in proton accelerators, and they didn’t want to prejudice their freedom to go forward with a high energy proton accelerator by being partners in the Stanford enterprise. Both Cal Tech and Berkeley, being the leading high-energy institutions on the West Coast, encouraqed us to go it alone. We have literature and correspondence on that subject in the file.
Weiner:There was no question anyway of Berkeley or Cal Tech collaborating on the accelerator. There seems to have been, if not competition, an agreement to leave this field to the other.
Panofsky:Well, that’s not quite true. For instance, the Cal Tech synchrotron is a quarter-scale model of the Bevatron which was turned over by Berkeley to Cal Tech. But that collaboration was not on equal terms. Berkeley had clear preeminence in this field on the West Coast. Berkeley frequently was quite generous in giving things away or in being of technical assistance to other institutions. For instance, the Harvard cyclotron was designed at Berkeley — as were many others. So, there was I guess what you might call generosity, but not collaboration on equal terms.
Weiner:In this case you did approach them and they, for the reasons you stated, told you to go it alone.
That’s right. And to be honest, I recognized in approaching them that the chances that they would indeed agree to going forward with a WAUI would not be large, simply because that was not in their tradition, either and also because Berkeley did not really feel that the AUI on the East Coast really had helped the management structure of Brookhaven very much.
Anyway, whatever the reasons were, we decided then to go it alone. We then went through with the study, and got a blessing from Terman, who was in effect very positive for such a thing. We got approval from the Trustees to go forward with the proposal. We then submitted the proposal simultaneously to NSF, AEC and the Defense Department. I remember giving a personal presentation to some Defense Department review body. After that there were many discussions among the different government agencies, and it was generally agreed that within the government agencies, that if it was going to go at all, it would have to be an AEC project.
Weiner:Where did the concept of a national facility, as opposed to university lab, a national lab — this term national facility as being a compromise — when did this come into being?
Panofsky:Again, as you have found out by now, I’m terrible at dates. However, I can take some personal credit for the fact of pushing that idea very hard. I pushed very hard for the fact that it had to be nationally available. On the other hand, in talking to the AEC people, I recognized that the term “national laboratory” had then a somewhat different connotation. A national laboratory usually originated from an applied interdisciplinary mission. So the term “national facility” was fundamentally just a linguistic invention to straddle the problem, the area between a university laboratory on the one hand, and a national laboratory on the other hand. That’s all that is about.
Weiner:This was a part too of your feel ing, that if it was going to be done, it had to be —
— it had to be national, and safeguards had to be erected, to signal to the community and to the government agencies and to Congress, that Stanford people would not have a fjored position in the utilization of the facilities. And it was on that score that there was very substantial disagreement, involving some of the Stanford Physics Department people, who simply did not see that such a large change in scale would necessitate nationalization. Clearly that is a matter of judgment.
Clearly at some size, that is necessary. And in those days, when things were really expanding very rapidly and where no ceilings were yet in sight, people were quite naive about seeing this, and so several of the members of the Physics Department felt that there was no need to have this initiative be anything except a straightforward proposal to assist Stanford’s great men in their work. And I disagreed with that.
Weiner:Hofstadter would be one who would take that position.
Panofsky:He took that position certainly for a very long time. Felix Bloch, less so.
Weiner:But it was resolved before the proposal.
Panofsky:Oh yes. It was in essence fully resolved before the proposal, and was so submitted and negotiated.
Weiner:Prior to the proposal being submitted in three places, 1957 — this is almost two years from the original informal discussions, then the meeting at your house in April of ’56 — other than talking with people at Berkeley and Cal Tech about it, did you talk with people, at other accelerator centers?
Panofsky:Yes, I talked to some Brookhaven people.
Weiner:What was the response of these people? What did they think of the idea technically? Secondly, was there any question that they were concerned with competition?
Let me answer the second question first. At that time, they were not concerned with competition at all, Partially because many people were skeptical that it was going to go anyway, but partially because electron physics had never been quite in the mainstream of American high energy physics, and therefore they felt that it would not compete on a scientific basis. At that time, competition within a total financial ceiling was really not very much in the front of people’s minds.
I mean, those were the days — 1957 — that a ceiling to scientific growth just was not really much of a subject for discussion. And since it was not a technical rivalry, by and large, there were friendly technical discussions and so forth. Now, as far as physics utility is concerned, I got some adverse reaction from a small number of relatively outspoken people in the physics community — I have some letters around somewhere — who felt that because of the short duty cycle of the machine experimentation would be extremely difficult. And I had some rather extenstve, somewhat acrimonious correspondence on that subject, the point being that in the Stanford Linear Accelerator the beam is on for only one part in 2000 of the time, as compared to a few percent on-time with proton synchrotrons, and continuous on-time with cyclotrons.
The use of electronics coincidence techniques is badly impaired if the duty cycle of a machine is poor, and at that time of course, many techniques which are now in very good shape were not invented yet. Also, the problem with coincidences relates very much to the time resolution of the instrumentation, and between 1957 and today the time resolution which one can obtain with electronic gadgets of course has vastly improved. So people criticized this machine particularly from the point of view that detection technology was not up to the bad duty cycle of the machine.
That was the main criticism. There was agreement that the scientific extension was very promising, that the engineering was good, that the cost estimates were by and large sound, and that one didn’t have to worry about earthquakes. So there was fairly good endorsement on that score, exdepting on this one item.
Weiner:Well, did you modify the proposal or your plans in any way to put more emphasn the development of new detection techniques?
Not exactly. I mean, we handled that question by a combination of pinpointing the few areas where existing detection techniques were indeed adequate, and by faith in the future. That is, by the time the new machine got on the air, detection techniques would generally also evolve. That’s one of the problems, as you know from the history of cyclotrons. For instance, the scintillation counter was invented after the 184-inch cyclotron was developed, and the bubble chamber was invented after the Bevatron appeared on the scene.
Very frequently, the technique which is the most powerful for exploiting the machine is invented after that machine has been authorized and constructed. Obviously, there’s no law of physics which says this will always be so. But one also cannot be quite so parochial as to believe that before you authorize a given machine one has to prove that existing detection technology is totally adequate. So it’s a complicated issue.
Weiner:I don’t know that those arguments were ever raised with earlier machines. It seems to me a recent phenomenon, to raise the argument about detection, because in the early cyclotrons and the next generation of the larger ones, they never felt it.
Well, I think that the much broader argument is true in general — that in the more recent machines, the burden of proof to show that research is not only desirable but also in real detail feasible has become much heavier, simply because money is tighter and because the sums are larger, so that the predictability of success is demanded to be greater in more recent machines. That’s actually a very interesting piece of history — that by and large, if you look through the entire history of accelerators, there are very few if any real failures.
The Australian 10 GeV machine is the closest thing to a real failure which exists. The Birmingham cyclotron wasn’t used much, because it was very primitive, but it worked all right. It simply wasn’t designed in such a way that it could do much physics, for reasons of geography and access as much as anything else. But by and large, all big accelerator projects not only have worked, but their record in getting built within expectations is also very good, relative to many high technology enterprises in this country and around the world. And it’s an interesting question to ask, why? Because it’s a very impressive sort of thing. And I don’t know the answer. Part of it is probably just plain luck.
Weiner:You mentioned about the design study sort of being done before the proposals are really in, and that seems to me part of it—
Panofsky:—Oh sure, but it was not a design study with the engineering detail which is demanded these days. I mean, these days a design study report — before you authorize a larger machine — involves much greater depth and much more peer review and administrative review, and much more predictability. But by and large, the whole history of accelerators is a very exceptional thing, in the sense the NAL machine, the Bevatron, the Cosmotron, the AGS and SLAC where all built on budget, on schedule, and on performance. Comparing that with the B-l (bomber) or FB-lll (fighter plane) or C-S (military transport airplane) or some of the big military things, it’s certainly very exceptional, and it’s a good question to ask, since they are all high technology developments.
Weiner:Yes. That’s a separate thing I’d like to think about. There’s another question I’d like to ask on this, and that is about the time lag. The proposal was submitted in 1957, to these three agencies. They decided, I don’t know how soon, that it would be appropriate for AEC. The final contract wasn’t awarded till 1962.
Weiner:So the overall question is, about your personal expectations and feelings in the period. Was there a time when you thought it wouldn’t go through? Were you really worried about it?
Panofsky:Oh, I was actually fairly relaxed.
Weiner:We were talking about your expectations during the period when the proposal was being considered, whether you had any doubts.
Yes. The answer is yes, but we also didn’t feel much pressure. Somehow in this day and age, often in connection with these proposals, one feels that the whole future of a laboratory is at stake, the future of the institution. But at that time, since it was in a Stanford University framework, there was no feeling that the future of Stanford was at stake, not even the future of the Hansen Laboratories. At that time, we got interested in storage ring ideas, and so nobody was particularly hysterical about getting it approved one year or the next. On the contrary, there was a certain amount of lethargy.
For instance, the University under Fred Terman had appointed a whole group of committees to consider various issues about the interaction of the proposed new laboratory with the academic part of the university and the administrative part of the university and all that. But these committees never met, because you couldn’t get any enthusiasm from any of these committees to do any work until this whole project looked more real.
Then once it did look real, things began to move so fast that we couldn’t use a committee to get any answers, and a lot of the answers had to be generated in a much more summary fashion. So there was a period when only a narrow group of individuals kept pursuing the politics of the project, while work went on as usual. And then suddenly, it was real. There was not a large community which kept after it.
Weiner:When did you first have the idea that it was definitely going through?
Panofsky:Well, in 1959, while I was in Geneva, Ginzton was sort of the spear carrier. At that time, there were the first hearings of the joint Committee on Atomic Energy about the project, and there were at that time—I think I’ve got it right — it was at that time that the problem with Ginzton and the possible conflict of interest arose. I think you probably know the history of that.
Weiner:When he became the head of Varian?
That was part of it, but there was also another interesting situation. There were preliminary hearings about the project, and he testified. He was suddenly forced to give a firm cost estimate. The original cost estimate of the proposal was something like 78 million dollars, and since that time, several changes had occurred. There was some inflation, but more important, the AEC has certain financial rules about contingency allowances and all that. So Ginzton met with the Construction Division of the AEC and had to make very rapid decisions about changing the whole proposal and the cost estimates, in order to put it into the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy.
I was at Geneva at that time. But then in 1960, there were hearings again, and I don’t remember the exact time sequence, but it was a rather amusing situation. Eisenhower was supposed to give a speech before the Sloan Fellows, the Sloan Foundation, and he asked his speech writers to put in an item which would have universal appeal. So at that time, the decision to go along with SLAC had already been fairly well formulated, and it was decided to have an announcement by the Executive Branch approving SLAC be part of this particular address of the President’s. So we were told one day before the announcement that an announcement would be forthcoming, and we listened to the radio and there it was.
But it turned out that the very existence of this announcement irritated the Congress. At that time there was a Republican Administration and a Democratic Congress. And because the prior agreement of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, which was very powerful at that time, had not been sought, the Joint Committee decided not to approve it, just because the President had announced it. That happened I believe in 1960.
Weiner:This was a period when they were feuding with the President anyway on the very question of who advises—
—that’s right. So then hearings were held by the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, and Ginzton was a primary witness, since at that time he was the Director of the study, and I was Deputy Director for research. The titles were never very well defined. So then the Joint Committee staff deliberately agreed to make the project look bad, because they needed an excuse to disapprove it, even if funds were available in the executive budget, so they used two arguments for disapproval. One was an attack on Ginzton personally, in terms of the fact that Varian Associates was going to get very rich out of making klystrons for the accelerator, and secondly that the cost estimates were not well enough defined.
Ginzton was actually quite deeply hurt by this. Senator Clinton Anderson attacked him personally on such things as the time coincidence between Varian Associates’ announcing some kind of a stock split, at the same date at which Eisenhower made the speech, and all sorts of other nonsense. Ginzton was very badly attacked, and then, behind the scenes, the Joint Committee staff and the AEC staff agreed that the thing to do was to have the Joint Committee approve a three million dollar partial authorization, to continue design and engineering, but not to approve the whole project. So in 1960 it did not get approved, and then—
Weiner:Was that the first actual allocation of money for design, outside of Stanford?
That’s correct. That was 1960. But then the position which Ginzton should take became a real problem. Even though the allegations about conflict of interest were totally false, there was a very real problem that Ginzton was trying to straddle his involvement both with the affairs of Varian Associates and the University. Both Sigurd and Russell Varian had died, and actually Ginzton was essentially the only survivor of the original four founders who had the management ability to keep the company going. So he was trying to straddle the academic and the commercial work, which under no circumstances would have been possible anyway.
It was not a matter of conflict of interest, but conflict of time. So he then made the decision that he would maintain an involvement with the project, but eventually go full time to Varian Associates, and I would become the director. This decision was approved by the university. There wasn’t any selection process or active search for Director. I mean nobody disagreed. It was sort of a logical evolution. So Ginzton continued then for a while as Director of the Microwave Laboratory and President of Varian, but he soon began to realize that it just wouldn’t work, and after the attack by Senator Anderson he decided to relinquish leadership of the project. So that’s what happened.
Then, the project finally got authorized in 1961 — but again after a rather amusing set of coincidences. At that time the Stanford project was sort of known as the Republican project because Eisenhower had proposed it to a Democratic Congress. At that time there was a project that the Democrats wanted in Congress which the Republican administration did not want. This was for the Hanford Reactor to generate power into the electrical net, because it was considered to be socialized electricity by the Republicans, to have power generated by a production reactor. There was also good economic and technical reasons against such a project. It’s a very inefficient reactor, for power generation because of the low temperature at which the Hanford reactor operates. Anyway, the Democrats wanted it and the Republicans didn't.
On the other hand, the Stanford linear accelerator was considered to be a Republican proposal, opposed by the Democrats. So after a while the Republicans and Democrats in the Joint Committee essentially said, "If you approve Hanford, then we approve Stanford." So it ended up with both of them getting approved, and it was this entirely political infighting in the Congress which resulted in that last hurdle being passed. However in 1960, we already had very good confidence that it would go, because the three million dollars was fundamentally a signal to us that Congress really meant it but that they wanted to slap Mr. Eisenhower’s wrist for non-consultation.
Weiner:Now, the authorization was '61, the contract was singed in ‘62.
On engineering work only, yes. Negotiation of the contract was very contentious. There was a rather lengthy negotiation between the Atomic Energy Commission and Stanford, and on that one I took a very personal role, because the AEC at that time was quite worried about our inexperience in managing such work, and they were trying to manage a lot of the activity directly out of Washington. But I didn’t want that, as I felt it would dilute the effort and would not work.
Also, they were very insistent then on introducing some of the security and other provisions which were still in existence at some of the other AEC establishments, which I also didn’t want, and which I felt would be counter-productive to running the project at a university. So the negotiations which led to this contract were quite contentious, both in terms of the management and division of responsibility between the AEC on the one hand and Stanford and ourselves on the other.
Weiner:Well, the point about the openness of the laboratory was made in the original minutes of the 1956 meeting.
Panofsky:That’s right. Now, that was not a legally binding document. I mean, it’s a negotiating position if you wish, but it would have been impaired had the AEC prevailed in some of the negotiating positions.
Weiner:Were any compromises made on that?
Panofsky:No. The only compromise made was that if the AEC felt it was necessary to use SLAC for purposes which we did not want to have it used for, then they could bring in their own crew to run it. It was to some extent a pro formal contractual provision. There were no compromises made, and actually our provisions later became a model of a liberalization of provisions for other laboratories.
Weiner:I’m aware of some of the problems that came up, for example, the location of the power lines, the problems of earthquakes and all that. I don’t know necessarily that they were the major obstacles.
Panofsky:No, they were not—
Weiner:What would you consider the major obstacle to approval of this during that period? What arguments needed to be made?
Oh, by far the largest obstacle was that the AEC insisted that the conventional construction be managed directly by the Washington Division of Construction, through an outside architect engineering firm with us advising them what should be built, rather than being responsible for building it ourselves. It meant that they wanted to put the technical team in an advisory role, as far as conventional construction was concerned — that means site development, buildings, the housing of the accelerator—but would give us the responsibility for building the hardware which would go inside.
And that came to an actual locking of horns, which finally was resolved by a peace conference on Alameda Island, where McCone, the chairman of the AEC, flew in, together with General Luedecke, the general manager of AEC. I enlisted the help of President Sterling of Stanford and mainly of David Packard, who was Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the time. Packard himself was a fundamentally self-made man who was known to General Luedecke to have made over 100 million dollars, and without benefit of a large outside organization, and he carried a great deal of weight in this meeting. And he essentially said, “Look, we have confidence in these people, we think that they can do it, and that’s the way they want to do it.” McCone overruled the general manager right there which resulted in a somewhat strained situation. But at that particular instance, it was really a touch and go situation, of losing the project.
Weiner:Really, that far—when was this?
Panofsky:I guess it probably was either late 1961 or early 1962.
Weiner:After the authorization?
Panofsky:After it was fully authorized, but we essentially said, “Over our dead bodies,” because we knew that the Construction Division of the AEC simply did not know the technical content of the work. And I had the deep conviction, which since then I think has been borne out, that if you start separating the conventional construction then you deny yourself any tradeoff s between those two areas, and therefore if one of them costs more or is harder to do than you thought, you can’t reshuffle your resources and your talents. And that the so-called conventional construction is not as conventional as all that, as the future brought out. So we took a very stiff position on that line, and eventually won, but we won fundamentally because of the personal respect of McCone for Dave Packard, not because of the respect of Mr. Luedecke for Mr. Ginzton or Mr. Panofsky.
Weiner:Or because of the issues.
Or because of the issues. So that was one issue. And another was the security issue, that the AEC wanted to incorporate a contractual provision that even though the project was now totally unclassified and open, that the university would live by any of the security regulations of the Commission, or an open-ended basis. I objected to that. Seaborg, who was head of the AEC at that time, advised me not to push it, even though he was on my side; that he would get outvoted two to three by the commissioners and we’d lose the project. And because the whole issue of security was sufficiently sacrosanct that for a contractor to refuse to accept the contract which would say that he would abide by all security regulations, was simply not done.
And after thinking about the thing very carefully and talking to other people, we insisted that it be brought to the Commission, and the Commission voted five to zero not to require it. So that was really a turning point in this whole liberalization of the administration of unclassified facilities. So there were two real cliff hangers, where there was a certain amount of real brinksmanship involved, in at least jeopardizing the whole thing. Those were the two main ones. The rest of them were —
Weiner:Did the Congress, the poeple from the Joint Committee get involved in any of those—
Panofsky:Yes, they did. They did, and that was one of the problems -— because of the fact that the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy has to be kept currently informed under the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act. They did indeed get informed, and when the contract came up— the contract of course had to be approved by the Congress —- there were hearinon that, and some very loaded questions in the hearings about the particular issue of how the conventional construction was supposed to be done, and which project in the AEC had had cost overruns, and wasn’t that correlated with this particular question, and so forth and so forth.
Weiner:What about the security? That would have been a hotter political issue.
Panofsky:The security issue never got into the hearings. So they were informed about it, but I have no information as to how much noise, if any, that created. I just don’t know.
Weiner:Getting back to the Congress, what do you think was the most effective argument that was made for the the authorization of the project? I’m not talking about the contract now but the authorization. What do you think was in their minds, and what position—
I think, not really anything terribly particular, other than the fact that the Piore panel had certified it as being the next logical step in high energy physics. The Congress was not at that time beset with any feeling of ceilings and limits on basic research. At that time, the Congress was simply in an expansionist mood as far as technological things were concerned. I mean, it was not a matter of conflicting priorities. So if the executive budgeted it and satisfied it on the basis of scientific review that it was the next logical step, that was good enough for them. Fortunately there was no regional politics.
We had gotten no support from California Senators. One of the rather amusing things was that the only interested other member of Congress who testified for the project was a local Congressman, Charles Gubser. After he testified, we quietly told him that the project had been moved out of his district. It turned out, in the site studies, when alternative siting plans were discussed, it was originally in Mr. Gubser’s district, but it finally ended up in a different place. But he had forgotten that, and he kept testifying about it as being in his district.
Weiner:But no arguments or questions raised, such as the ultimate payoff in this field of research?
Panofsky:No. Just general questions — I mean, they asked for the record, for us to talk about anticipated results and so forth, but not in terms of anticipated results for technology.
Weiner:This was not an issue?
Panofsky:It was not an issue.
Weiner:And the question of competition with the Russians, was this an issue, did this come up in any way?
Panofsky:No, not in any way that I recall. Perhaps in other hearings, but not that I recall. Somehow, the Congress had been quite well convinced about the value of basic research, and in a peculiar way, the executive branch was much more skeptical than the Congress. That has always been so. In fact, many Congressmen in some respects have been fully convinced that there is no mechanism of discriminating pure and applied research. It is generally a mistake to believe that, particularly the members of those Congressional committees which deal with technological issues, will always demand visible payoff.
Weiner:That’s the argument that’s made for insurance purposes.
Panofsky:Oh yes. They do not accept the role of science in our culture type argument, in general, but they do accept the argument of the general openness and the continuity of history. That means that last year’s, last decade’s basic research is today’s application, kind of argument that they do accept.
Weiner:Was that made specifically in—
Panofsky:That has certainly been made frequently in various hearings.
Weiner:I mean, on SLAC?
Panofsky:I don’t recall.
Weiner:What you’re saying is, it didn’t need to be made explicitly anyway, because they accepted that, and this was the assumption ft was resting on.
Panofsky:That is correct. And also, there were relatively few competitive arguments involved in that kind of thing at the time. We were essentially in a situation where there was 10 or 15 percent a year growth of science, and therefore the question of whether this year’s authorization would bump something else two years later, was not in people’s minds.
Weiner:Let me ask, in the remaining time that we have, one question, a related one about locally. Did you have any convincing to do locally? I know the issue of the location of the power lines was something -—
Panofsky:—that was much later, Much later, after the contract.
Weiner:All right, let’s take it before the contract. Was there any kind of local publicity, local education done?
Yes. There was a lot. There was a great deal of determination on our part, and Ginzton was a very strong protagonist of this, that we had to do a good job in terms of landscaping, architectural control, and all the rest of it. We actually had many fights with the AEC to permit landscaping, architectural treatment and so forth, to be a permissible line item in our budget analysis. And we in turn made many presentations about the project, to neighborhood groups and to the Trustees, and so forth.
So we were very much concerned about the environmental aesthetic impact of the project here. In fact, we felt we were actually improving the situation, because this whole area was at that time intended in the Stanford master plan for quarter-acre subdivisions, and in the process of building SLAC, we in effect persuaded the University to return it to the academic reserve.
The University and the neighboring communitites were worried about the economic impact and traffic and all the rest of it, and we did spend a great deal of effort, and sincere effort, in everything from landscaping, preserving the trees, to architectural control, to making analyses of the lines of sight from different neighboring communities, what we would look like, and all that. We did all that.
Weiner:Were any community people involved in this planning effort?
Panofsky:Only in terms of reactions to presentations.
Weiner:Was there any organized serious resistance?
Panofsky:Not at the time. I mean, all the organized opposition came in the power-line flap. There was opposition and some worries on campus about simply the magnitude of the project, and it was essentially in two connections. It was either in terms of the academic component of SLAC being too large, or the non-academic component being too large. I don’t think there’s much point to spend time on that, but I had to give quite a few talks about how we wanted to be academically joined but bureaucratically separate, that we were not going to overload the campus administration — we would have a totally autonomous administration as far as the normal business and personnel functions went.
Weiner:How about people in the physics department? Did they feel that this was “Panofsky’s empire?”
Yes. To some extent. We’ve had a lot of friction in the Physics Department that was generated from the project, most of which is now relieved and in good shape. The friction originated principally from the decision which was made— I’ve forgotten when it was made, actually, in 1962 I think, or 1961, to create a faculty here. The problem essentially was the following, which is a very basic problem, and whichever way you do it there is no ideal solution.
Here is SLAC, which offers enormous opportunities for physics research in many areas. The technology to do work at SLAC, is very difficult and requires a large, dedicated effort. Because of the bad duty cycle, high intensity and so forth you have to be able to attract first rate minds, first rate people to work here. Now, on campus, the, first-class citizen is a professor. So the problem is how do you do this? How do you attract first—class citizens to take the responsibility for initiating research, building complex apparatus, in different areas unless you make them professors?
If you do make them professors in the Physics Department, then many members of the Physics Department would worry about the “Berkeley image” I mentioned to you last time, I believe, that in Berkeley when I got there, the majority of people, faculty members, were doing work at the Radiation Laboratory. Lawrence was the king of the Radiation Laboratory, so the Physics Department sort of lost control of its own destiny, because Lawrence effectively controlled the research opportunities for the department.
So the problem would have been that had one added lots of faculty members to the Physics Department to work on SLAC, then those Physics Department faculty members would have been de facto dependent on the SLAC management, and therefore the only way the Physics Department could regain its balance, in terms of the different fields of science, would be to expand enormously, which they didn’t want to do and also had no money to do. So that option of adding more high energy physicists to the physics department was not open and I fully agreed with that. I thought it was a bad idea, and the other members of the Physics Department felt it was a bad idea also.
At the same time it had also become clear to me and also to Terman that we simply could not staff this laboratory, establish intellectual leadership, unless there were more independent minds here, so the decision was reached to create a faculty at SLAC. That means to have what I sort of called “professors of monstrology” — so there exists now, based on that agreement, professors not “of physics” but “at SLAC.”
Weiner:But professors of Stanford University?
Yes, of Stanford University, they vote in the Academic Council and have the dubious privilege of serving on University committees and all that, and the Physics Department did not oppose that, as such. I mean, the Physics Department took the position that SLAC was a totally separate institution from the Physics Department. So the administration went ahead and appointed professors at SLAC. This turned out to be a source of friction in the subsequent decade, primarily because of the fact that the professors who did join SLAC did indeed turn out to be truly excellent people.
The physics department took the position, which makes a certain amount of sense, that they had the sole prerogative to control the instructional program in physics, but they went beyond this and maintained that the SLAC professors here would be forbidden to teach. Now, that position has in turn caused some other problems, because there was rising student criticism about excessive involvement of faculty in research, and dereliction in terms of student-faculty interactions.
So having the situation where there was a group of faculty of Stanford University who were prohibited from teaching, even though some of them would have liked to do some teaching, was a situation which the university found difficult to accept. At the same time, the faculty of SLAC is not the physics faculty. Had they been the physics faculty, then the rules of the physics faculty under which I lived for all that time namely, that everybody teaches the same amount would have been very hard to accept, simply because there’s too much work to do at SLAC apart from teaching. So all these rather complex questions created some friction between the Physics Department and part of the SLAC faculty. This problem has been pretty well relieved, but not fully resolved, in the last couple of years. It’s now in pretty good shape.
Weiner:How does something like that get resolved? It seems to me—
Panofsky:Oh, partially by people getting tired of it. Also, by the fact that younger people are smarter than older people — namely as a practical matter, one-third of all the graduate students in the physics department are working at SLAC anyway. I mean, the ones who are doing experimental research. And even though pro forma physics department professors are cosigners, they are de facto working with members of the SLAC faculty.
Weiner:So it’s close to the Berkeley situation anyway.
Panofsky:No, it’s only one-third of the experimentalists. And an excellent working relationship — for instance, two or three of the physics professors are working on research here, and essentially all the young theorists in particle physics in the Physics Department are working here, so as a practical matter it worked out anyway. And then, a year ago, there was a formal agreement that SLAC will have responsibility for post-Ph.D. education, in running certain instruction there. However the Physics Department remains responsible for the undergraduate and graduate education here, but that educational opportunities at SLAC should not be denied to students. So within these general rules, everybody is now pretty relaxed, and life continues.
Weiner:We have a few more minutes before you wanted to quit — just one question for this section, and that is, when it was decided rather informally that you would become director when SLAC was created by contract in 1962, you were officially director, did you have any special feelings about that decision, about what it entailed?
Panofsky:No, again, I didn’t think about it very hard. Actually — I had been director of the High Energy Physics Lab, and that seemed like a practical thing to be and still do some physics. And it was clear that the Ginzton situation was simply untenable. I mean, it was simply not practical for him to keep a seat in both the commercial world and the academic world, and there simply wasn’t anybody else around who was even vaguely interested in the job.
Weiner:You weren’t concerned about this enormous responsibility of running this with all the money and everything?
Panofsky:No. No. Again, it was sort of a drift, again—
Weiner:I was waiting for that—
Panofsky:—no, I mean because actually the High Energy Lab, by the standards of the time, was not a small enterprise either, and—
Weiner:—What happened to that when you took over—
Panofsky:Carl Barber became the Director for a while, and then Hofstadter.
Weiner:I see, but that still continues its function, not threatened by SLAC— but diversified?
Panofsky:No, it is not threatened. It diversified into superconductivity work. However, its high energy work is threatened in the sense that the small accelerator, the Mark III accelerator, has indeed been phased out. It’s in moth balls essentially. It occasionally gets turned on. And the group there is trying to make a superconducting accelerator work. The whole future, as to whether high energy physics or nuclear structure physics will or will not continue there, is largely dependent on the success of that superconducting venture. However the High Energy Laboratory continues to be an essential staging base for high energy experiments done by Stanford faculty at SLAC. So it’s not threatened by SLAC, but its future as an accelerator lab on its own right is becoming captive to the success or non-success of the superconducting work, under the direction of Fairbanks and Schwettman there. That’s an open ended question at this time.
Weiner:Let’s just talk about for the remianing minute or two the kinds of things that seem particularly to be worth talking about some more, then see how we can do it. I wanted to talk about those years from ‘62 to the time of the first beam, not in detail, but to get the feeling of it and the atmosphere of it. I want to also talk about the user concept, of how it was devised, how it started funtioning, how it has changed, what the pressures and frictions are there.
Panofsky:Actually that won’t take much time, because both of these topics are reasonably well documented, and about some of them, there’s not too much to say.
Weiner:OK. But the thing we agreed is interesting, that will take time, is the comparison of the atmosphere and style of SLAC, of Berkeley, BNL, NAL, and so forth, which has to do a great deal — I want to get your personal philosophy of research and how its run in there too. I can’t separate the two. All right, now, other questions I had were about this single purpose lab concept, and about second thoughts about that; about the problems of obsolescence of the machines, and then, to talk about the major achievements to date compared to expectations at the beginning. They may be trivial, but they may be deep, I don’t know.
Panofsky:No, that can take forever. Most of those topics are quite extensive.
Right. Anyway, for the record — the problems that come in when the funding crunch is on, and the change in your role, which might have results because of that. Now, another complete thing, and that is the highlights — well, a lot of things in high energy physics in general. After all, you’re participating in the Rochester Conference— the overall growth of high energy as a field — and then, back to scientific work in the fifties, some things I left out about the role of people like Feynman whom you acknowledge in a number of papers, and other theorists, and the kind of collaborative effort that developed with instrument people, operating people and theorists, and that we didn’t touch on. Now, you see what we’ve got in front of us. Well, let me turn it off.
That’s the end of this portion of the interview, conducted 3 June 1974 with Dr. Panofsky—with the continuation coming sometime in the future.