Oral History Transcript — Dr. Charles Schwartz
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Interview with Dr. Charles Schwartz
By Finn Aaserud
In Berkeley, California
May 15, 1987
Charles Schwartz; May 15, 1987
ABSTRACT: Family background, education, and development of interest in physics; experience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, absorbs prevailing political views. Postdoc position at Stanford University; relationship with Sidney Drell; fails to get tenure. Victor Weisskopf helps obtain position at University of California, Berkeley; Berkeley's environment. Participates in 1962 summer study as junior JASON; work on arms control issues with Matthew Sands; not invited back; negative implications of government consulting. Political transformation, 1966-1967; joins faculty peace group; letter to Physics Today refused publication on political grounds; SPD hearing; drafts proposal to amend American Physical Society constitution. Activism extends to concern with role of science in society; formation of Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action (SESPA); attack on JASON; research on power structures. Other activities: Hippocratic Oath for scientists; organizes free speech protests at Livermore; publication of Murray Gell-Mann papers; impact on career. Current involvements; views on crisis within physics.
Aaserud:Good morning. We're going to talk about your involvement in the question of physicists and social responsibility (the origins of it and in particular your criticism of the JASON group, because that is my main concern now. But I'd like to place it in a general context, both in terms of your more general criticism and in terms of putting it in the context in your career, and even your family, youth and childhood (whatever is relevant. Chancing that that is relevant, let's start with that anyway, and let's talk a little bit about your background. You were born where and when?
Schwartz:1931 in Brooklyn, New York. My parents were both Jewish immigrants from around the turn of the century. My father was actually born in Russia and came out here with his family when he was about five years old. I think my mother's parents came to this country from another part of Middle Eastern Europe and I think she was born in this country. The first ten years of my life we lived in different parts of New York City. Then my family moved out to Connecticut, and that's where I guess I did most of what's usually called growing up.
Aaserud:What was the background of your parents in terms of education?
Schwartz:I think my mother finished high school. My father never did. My father got into photography as a business, and then invented some useful gadgets, and went into the manufacturing of those things. The photoflash synchronizer and the range finder are things that he invented and then made a good business out of manufacturing. The company was called the Kalart Company, which he set up in the late twenties.
Aaserud:That was in Brooklyn?
Schwartz:Brooklyn or New York, and then when that expanded moving out to Connecticut for a larger working space. So he really did very well in terms of a person starting off with nothing. Through hard work and diligence and creativity, and a certain amount of, I guess, command abilities, he established a good business, I think a good reputation in the photographic technical profession, as well as a very comfortable economic environment for the family.
Aaserud:You had a relatively good economic situation at home when you were growing up?
Schwartz:Yes. That's right.
Aaserud:You started to go to school in New York then. You stayed there until you were ten, you say?
Schwartz:That's right. I have not much particular by way of memories, except I recall moving from New York to Connecticut and going into the local public school. The teachers found that I was somewhat ahead in some subject or other, because that's just the way it was, and she did the very nice thing of giving me more advanced material. So I somehow reflect on that as a very helpful push in becoming more of what I would now call an academic junkie. And again, I just have the general recollection of becoming a very diligent student, working hard at many subjects, getting ahead, getting all top kinds of grades. And that became essentially the focus of my life, to the exclusion of other developmental characteristics, and I think that's not an unfamiliar experience among many people who end up in sciences.
Aaserud:Do you have any siblings?
Schwartz:A younger brother and an older sister.
Aaserud:Did they go similar ways, different ways?
Schwartz:My sister also did very well in school and went off to college at an early age and never returned. She is presently a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. My younger brother did not particularly pursue academic studies with great success.
Aaserud:It's a variation. Were there other particular influences at home that you would mention (religious, political, intellectual?
Schwartz:Jewish, with only very slight involvement. I was bar mitzvahed but that's about it. My father was mostly concerned with his business and not particularly involved with his children. My mother provided in a very passive way probably something of a standard Jewish New York. What's Woody Allen's phrase?" A Jewish New York intellectual Commie symp." Not really. I mean, a tinge of liberalism was around, but not discussed much, not pursued much, so there was really nothing. You know, all the nice cultural things were available. I was interested somewhat in music and things like that, but nothing very serious or very dedicated.
Aaserud:What was it that brought you on to physics as such? Was that an early experience that that was the way to go?
Schwartz:I don't know. Throughout high school, I was just going into many subjects and doing well (mostly memory kinds of things, languages and math and science and no particular differentiation of one from another. My father of course wanted me to go and learn stuff like optics that might be useful in his business, so that was perhaps one reason why I ended up going to MIT.
Aaserud:So he expected or wanted you to take over some time?
Schwartz:Yes. Sure. I think from pretty early on, I knew I didn't want to do that, and just ignored his suggestions. As I recall, I applied to two schools. One was MIT and one was Yale. Yale refused me so I went to MIT. It was really there in 1948, just getting in deeply into a very heavy science (oriented curriculum, then again finding that I could do well (that physics quickly appeared to me as the most interesting, the most challenging subject. And then I just followed that track. So it was not as if there was any guidance or plan. Just the sort of thing that just worked out. It was just tumbling in. Everything was easy. I performed well so I just fell downhill.
Aaserud:Did the gadgeteering of your father have any effect? I mean, you're a theorist obviously.
Schwartz:Yes, well, it's not completely clear. I would spend summers working at the shop and learn some manual skills, at which I was not extraordinarily good. I didn't know that I wanted to be a theorist. You know, to this day I retain the joy of doing some experimental work (fixing appliances at home and giving demonstrations in class (but it just worked out that way.
Aaserud:Any particular pre-university or pre-college teachers that played any role?
Schwartz:Vaguely. It's hard to say. I think I remember a geometry teacher in high school who was good, and a biology teacher, but it usually meant just someone who would make it interesting and challenging, not particularly connected to larger concepts of the world. I was just, as I say, an academic junkie I think that's a fair description of me then.
Aaserud:I'm not going to make you say any more on that. OK, let's move on to college and post-college education then. Could you say anything generally about MIT when you came there? What was the experience?
Schwartz:Well, we were just barely coming out of the war, so the first year we lived in something called the barracks, a wooden structure with I suppose 20 people in a room with a cot and a foot locker and maybe a place to study. That was no discomfort. And no, I don't think of anything unusually enlightening throughout my entire undergraduate or graduate studies I stayed on there for a couple years of graduate study and a couple of years postdoc. Basically no change in this structure and orientation.
Aaserud:Were your parents supportive when you decided to go there, and decided to go into physics?
Schwartz:There was certainly no reluctance. I gather it was supportive. In general my attitude was I was going my own way. They were happy to support me and that was fine. So there was no (pressure.
Aaserud:So economically you were supported by your parents?
Schwartz:Yes. Well, going into graduate school there were fellowships and such things. And so, I was, on the one hand, independent, but had some additional financial support which made things easier for me than for some of the other graduate students who really had to scrape a lot.
Aaserud:So you kind of drifted into physics during your time at MIT? Is that the way to describe it?
Schwartz:Well, I would say, got into it quite rapidly by the second year there. I knew that's what I wanted to do, and then just nose forward without ever asking any questions.
Aaserud:Who were the teachers who were most important for deciding your field, your way to go, your research topics?
Schwartz:I can't really say. I ended up doing my thesis nominally under Viki Weisskopf. That was almost just a matter of default. You know, you're a graduate student, need a project, ask somebody, go to somebody's door, someone's got a project, you work on it, do it (I worked largely alone.
Aaserud:Could you describe briefly your dissertation topic?
Schwartz:I first got into doing some project with Amos de-Shalit on theoretical nuclear structure, learned some mathematical tools, and then fell in with Jerrold Zacharias's group who were doing some interesting experiments on magnetic octopole moments in atomic hyperfine structure. So I became sort of their theorist and my thesis developed out of that.
Aaserud:During this time at MIT, were there any beginnings of another kind of involvement, an interest in the physicists' or scientists' role in society.
Schwartz:No. In later times, looking back at that period, I have the following post-view of it. What was the period when I was a graduate student? Well, it was the height of McCarthyism. It was the height of the Oppenheimer-Teller affair, 1952, 1954, 1956. And I recall, you know, frequently at lunches and so on, with professors and postdocs and graduate students, this would be made mention of, and it was clear to me that Oppenheimer was the angel and Teller was the devil. I heard that and took that to be true, but had no deeper understanding and no interest in what was going on. I mean, I recognize that, looking back, and I say, my God, how amazing! I see that now as part of the familiar cloistered environment that physicists fall into (are encouraged into, and probably want (in getting into this profession. Sort of related to that is perceptions and attitudes toward the larger world that were, in a sense, formed by listening to some of the more senior people. In typical lunch time conversations someone would mention elections or they would say some things about Stevenson. So I would listen and I'd accept, that's the truth, or the gospel. And in just so many ways, attitudes toward the world just became papered on to me because these were the views expressed by not just my peers, but those above me whom I certainly was out to emulate and to copy and to follow in their footsteps, if not overtake them. And therefore I just assumed all those attitudes. Again, I speak to students here often about something which I can recall, is the aspect by which graduate students shape themselves in the model of their teachers. And I remark that I recall, when Weisskopf was my supervisor, I found at a certain point that I was affecting a Germanic accent, as a really absurd manifestation of that attitude. And then also, you know, if you ask me what were the kinds of hopes and aspirations that I had, well, I think before going to MIT I had a book that my father had bought about science written by George Harrison, who was (I forget his title (the provost or something like that at MIT. So when I went to MIT, well I was going to be the dean of science at MIT; that was clear. Of course, everyone expects to win a Nobel Prize if not be an Einstein. These are the fundamental motivations of physicists. So there was this concept of the successful people (the professors are higher, these are what you aspire to be. This emulation takes on a very powerful influence, and I think this is not unique to me. I think this happens widely and happens today, and is a very negative force. I'm sure it's true somewhat in other professions, but I have the sense that it's very intense in physics. They become undeveloped particularly as they advance in the profession and at graduate school. They just become narrower and more focused, and carbon copies of what is defined by their superiors. What an unhealthy arrangement this is. And yet physicists define what is good and what is successful by the enormous success that physics has, that no one can deny, and therefore this must be right. So to criticize this doesn't get anywhere.
Aaserud:But there must have been some variations within MIT at the time. You say you emulated Weisskopf. Were there other approaches either to physics or to politics? Weren't there any discussions?
Schwartz:I wasn't paying attention to them in a serious enough way, and my only impression is that there was a kind of uniformity and there was very little diversity. I'm sure it existed, but either I did not see it or didn't want to see it or just ignored it.
Aaserud:At that time too of course MIT had fairly strong connections with the military after the Second World War.
Aaserud:Were you encouraged to go into that kind of work in any way?
Schwartz:No, the question never seemed to come up one way or another to me. There was a general sense of standard snobbism, that, you know, thinking of a job, certainly you want an academic job. That's highly preferable. That status attitude was very quickly absorbed. I do recall at one point getting a thing in the mail from Sandia Laboratories, to see if I was interested in a job. I don't remember exactly at what point. I made some inquiry, and found out what it was, and just threw it in the wastebasket. So, no, it was just not an issue.
Aaserud:So that there was a perceived distinction there between the good, valuable academic life and the...
Schwartz:I wouldn't even phrase it in terms of good and valuable. It was just a matter of status and snobbism, tied to one's glorious expectations of achievement.
Aaserud:Yes, if you rise up one step. But if you had described it at that time, that wouldn't have been what you said, right?
Schwartz:No, I think at that time, it was snobbism. I mean, I might not have been so candid about it but that certainly was the feeling. It had nothing to do with any questions of social value. I mean, that concept just didn't exist in my thinking as I look back. Now, maybe it was there in some form, and of course I'm sure if I was asked I would have spouted the liberal views.
Aaserud:But there weren't any regular requests of joining some kind of summer study or some other kind of activity that may have added to your pocketbook.
Schwartz:No, I didn't. Perhaps I was too junior at that time. I mean, at a later time, I had such an invitation. Conceivably there were. I don't recall. I mean, I'm sure if I had done a little bit of inquiring, I would have found if such opportunities were there.
Aaserud:Yes. Were there any alternatives at all that you could have grabbed on to, like students with a different perspective, faculty with a different perspective, when you look back now?
Schwartz:I don't know. I don't know. I never tried it. It was not of interest to me. I'm pretty sure that there were, among my own peer group, graduate students who were more politically advanced at that time than I was. I mean, recently I've met one or two of them who've made just that comment, you know, after thirty years, "Boy, Charlie, you've changed!" That's certainly true. So while I make these comments about myself and I project them on other people, I'm sure I'm unfair in some ways.
Aaserud:Yes. That was your inclination. It might even be possible you're saying that there were others there but you were just not aware of them.
Aaserud:So you graduated from MIT. You got your Ph.D. in 1954. And then you continued there for a while.
Schwartz:Yes. To do some postdoc work.
Aaserud:Was that a natural thing to do at the time?
Schwartz:I think it was just inertia. Yes, it just seemed interesting. There was work to do and I had opportunity. I wasn't quite sure where things were going to go afterwards. And then the next step also came really quite easily. Sid Drell was there, I guess as an instructor. He then got a faculty offer at Stanford, and he offered me a job there as a postdoc and I said, "Hey, that sounds fine; OK, I'll take it." So up through that period, I essentially never had to sweat or worry about even looking for a job. You know, the spoiled child.
Aaserud:So you didn't go out actively looking for offers.
Aaserud:Or apply. So Drell was your main influence at that time, after taking the Ph.D.?
Schwartz:Well, I was really not working much with him in terms of physics research. We were doing somewhat different things, although, you know, we interacted. He was a go-getter fellow, as he is today. I think he had a sense probably of coming back to Stanford and building up some enterprise there, and probably saw me as fitting into it in some sensible way, so it sounded like a fine opportunity.
Aaserud:You came to Stanford in 1956.
Aaserud:As an assistant professor?
Schwartz:No, I think, came as a postdoc and then got an assistant professor appointment one year later, which I think I was told at the time was a great achievement. Stanford had a practice of never promoting people from postdocs to assistant professors, and apparently I broke that tradition. But I of course failed then to break the next barrier, which was getting from there to tenure. So after a couple of years, Leonard Schiff let me know I should start looking for another job.
Aaserud:But before then, what was the change if any in environment from MIT to Stanford?
Schwartz:None. I continued in the same.
Aaserud:Both in terms of physics and non-physics?
Schwartz:Yes. My wife and I enjoyed getting to California, in a mixed way. I think we were both happy to get farther away from our families. We were raising children, and there's something pleasant about living in California. But we also felt a strong lack of what we called the "real culture of the East" (Boston and New York and so on (and were always telling ourselves, "Well, of course, we're just here for a little while, of course we're going to go back East." And then when we left Stanford that was not an easy out. I did a lot of pushing and searching trying to get a job that I was happy with, was not successful for a while, and ended up at Berkeley. Probably the greatest piece of good luck that ever happened to me was just that we ended up in Berkeley.
Aaserud:Before we get to that, you said that by the time you came to Stanford you had a wife. You were raising children.
Aaserud:When did you marry?
Schwartz:I got married right after graduation in 1952. My wife lived in Boston. I met her there. We had our first child a couple of years later.
Aaserud:Did you meet her in the university environment?
Schwartz:One of my room mates was going with a girl in Boston, and fixed up a blind date. Classical story.
Aaserud:So by the time you came here you had how many children?
Schwartz:We had one there, then we had two more when we were living in Palo Alto.
Aaserud:But when you came to Stanford you had already...
Schwartz:One. One small one.
Aaserud:OK. What was your wife's career, or did she devote herself to the family?
Schwartz:Let's see, how shall we say this these days? I was looking for a classic wife, and I either found and/or made one. She had been working in some areas of art in college and in Boston. She was, again, raised to be a wife and mother, and so she fell into that role with great talent and happiness. And we had the, you know, many familiar struggles of parents who have to grow up.
Aaserud:But there were no conflicts of principle there, at that early time anyway?
Schwartz:No. We would have good, constructive, necessary arguments about various things. I think one thing that we had in common was a kind of feistiness, each of us, in slightly different but similar ways. So that in Boston, we wanted to live out of the so-called intellectual community, and each of us didn't like the very snobbish intellectualism that academics fall into rapidly, so we'd always live a little bit farther out. And our socializing, while there was certainly some with our peers, was also outside of the academic circles.
Aaserud:Your social life was with both academic and non-academic.
Aaserud:That must have been a change, though, coming from Boston to Stanford. There's less of an opportunity in Stanford for different milieus like that, isn't there?
Schwartz:Yes. Well, we rapidly found that we enjoyed spending time in San Francisco and in Berkeley, even though we lived in Palo Alto, as most stimulating city places. But largely our interests were in eating and theater and music.
Aaserud:Which you could find in San Francisco at any rate.
Aaserud:So we could go back to your being thrown into the realities of life. I don't know if you would agree with that expression. You said that that was the first time you actively had to look for a new job (after the Stanford experience.
Aaserud:And that was in?
Schwartz:1958, 1959. I think there were a couple of people who were very helpful at trying to find me a job. In 1958 I was starting to look for a job, and was having some trouble. So I went back to some of the places in the East where I thought they were interested in the atomic physics and didn't find anything. George Pake, who was then at Stanford, and used to be at Washington University in St. Louis, made some arrangements there. I went out and visited, was offered a job there, and it appeared I think in late 1959 that that's where we were going to go. That was the only job offer I had. Again, with classic bicoastal snobbism, I was not happy about that. But it seemed the only opportunity, and I don't know exactly how it happened that I got an invitation from Berkeley. I have a recollection of Weisskopf coming, traveling around at Stanford and giving a talk. And then, I don't know where I got the courage to get him in a corner and holler at him and say, "You've got to help me!"
Aaserud:OK, after this brief interruption we're back again, and you were talking about getting Weisskopf in a corner at Stanford.
Schwartz:And pleading and hollering at him, saying, "You've got to get me a good job somewhere." I don't know where I got the nerve to do that. I'm glad I did. And I don't know how or why or what he did or said to people at Berkeley, but I got a call from someone saying, "Would you be interested in a job here?" It sounded very exciting. I remember coming up and visiting with Geoff Chew, who was looked upon as essentially the leading person in the theoretical physics group. I remember talking to him. What were the questions on my mind? Obviously some stories about Berkeley that I thought I should clarify, which in retrospect had nothing to do with any of the real political issues. Oh, I remember what it was. I asked him, I said, "I've heard these stories about all these battling kingdoms up at the Rad Lab. Is that a serious thing? Should I worry about being caught up in that kind of situation?" And he told me not to worry about it. Again, a charming example how one picks up from somewhere what is the issue, without any real appreciation.
Aaserud:So it was more polite talk than any real concern at that point, about the thing you brought up?
Schwartz:Well, you know, it was a plausible issue, and he told me not to worry about it, and that was fine. I mean, I had great excitement about Berkeley. You know, we would come up here for cultural events. While at Stanford I was doing some computer work, and they had a computer here, so I was frequently coming up here and using that. And I just have a recollection of what an exciting feeling Berkeley gave me. Sometimes just walking around looking at the buildings and the place just exuded a vibrancy, so I was absolutely thrilled to get to come here.
Aaserud:You're beginning to get Californianized?
Schwartz:Oh, of course, yes. It still took a couple of more years until I learned to say, "In summer the hills are golden." Up until then, it was a disgusting place. You know, it's supposed to be green in the summer, but what a miserable desert. It took a while until I could say, "Oh, what beautiful golden hills." So that's becoming a Californian.
Aaserud:So after that both you and your wife were determined to stay or at least accepted the fact that you might be staying.
Schwartz:Yes. Of course, as I say, our plan was to go back East, and we said, "Well, at least we're going east across the Bay to Berkeley." And then I look at the map and see; Berkeley is actually west of Palo Alto. But you know, it wears off. We came to be very happy and love this place.
Aaserud:In terms of physics, were there any changes that went along with the move, forced or otherwise?
Schwartz:No. No, physics is rather the same. My work was going nicely, expanding somewhat, still mostly working alone. [Telephone interruption.]
Aaserud:OK, before the telephone rang you were saying that you were still mostly working alone.
Schwartz:Yes, I think that's generally been my style. I've done a few collaborations with other people, but mostly it's just chewing away at some problems that I find interesting.
Aaserud:Yes. The first collaborative thing I can see here was with Zemach in 1966.
Schwartz:Yes. Now, Chuck Zemach and I had known each other when I was at MIT. We were both postdocs there at the same time, and then we met each other here.
Aaserud:Does that mean that you also were socially alone, or was this just in doing physics?
Schwartz:No, during most of the sixties, we had quite a good integrated social life with other younger members of the physics department. The physics department was growing rapidly then, adding a lot of new faculty people, so we had a pretty wide active social involvement with many others.
Aaserud:How was that compared to MIT and Stanford before?
Schwartz:Qualitatively similar but I think just larger in extend. And we were then living here and having kids in school, so Sylvia would meet other people, and that would build even a broader base of social contacts.
Aaserud:Yes. She continued to be at home?
Schwartz:Yes, she has focused her life and work and activities around home. After the kids have gone, she's picked up again some of her interest in various kinds of artwork, but mostly at home, occasionally getting some outside involvements as well.
Aaserud:Through 1969, you published fairly regularly on physics matters. Then of course there was a big change. Is there any way in which you could describe your physics interests and work up to that time in brief terms?
Schwartz:Well, through the sixties, I guess, developing more sophisticated views of the overlap of mathematical analysis and computational techniques, starting from work on atomic physics and getting somewhat into more complicated problems (many particle systems, field theory. I guess if I have a specialty, it's that overlap of, mathematical analysis and computational techniques.
Aaserud:You were here as an assistant professor from 1960 to 1962, associate professor 1962 to 1967. That involved tenure, right?
Schwartz:Yes, tenure came in 1962. I remember a couple of episodes in the early years, which suggested a slight funniness in my behavior. When I came here, I thought I was going to get promoted to tenure after one year. Well, I didn't get that.
Aaserud:Was that the common thing?
Schwartz:Well, there was a general expectation that I was on a tenure track, and I thought I was going to get it after one year here. I ended up getting it after two years. But after the one year I didn't get it, I actually went in to the department chairman and asked why, and apparently the department chairman was quite surprised.
Aaserud:Who was it at that time?
Schwartz:I don't recall. But this just wasn't done. You know, either you got a promotion or you didn't, but you didn't go in and ask why. And I said, "You know, it would be nice and constructive to have some feedback. If there's something I'm deficient in, why not tell me? I think that would be useful." Quite a shocking idea. Again, I don't know exactly where I got the boldness to do that, but there's a little healthiness there. But again, it's just, as you see, related to personal matters. Throughout the whole famous period of the Free Speech Movement here in Berkeley and the anti-war movement (so that's 1964 going on until the latter sixties (I was aware of those things. I watched them from the periphery. I had sympathies on the liberal side. You know, I would go to academic senate meetings and vote on the liberal side. But I was not at all involved, and really not deeply concerned.
Aaserud:How were your activities at that time, say 1964 to 1967 or whatever? How did they relate or compare to the involvement of your physicists colleagues here?
Schwartz:Well, I don't think I was very far off the norm. That is, you know, having sort of liberal attitudes, not much involved. But of course there were other people who were much more involved. Owen Chamberlain was a very important, outstanding proponent of many good things, and, as I recall, Steve Weinberg, who was here then, was one of the people who was involved in the very earliest anti- Vietnam War demonstrations, when I was not at all interested then. I think I recall many years later him rubbing that back in my face, and properly so (what a laggard I was in those days.) It's certainly true.
Aaserud:Did he try to get you along?
Schwartz:No, I don't recall any effort. There may have been. I just was not interested. Really not interested.
Aaserud:That was essentially because you were more interested in doing physics work? Or was it that you disagreed politically?
Schwartz:No, if I had an opinion, it was liberal opinion, in agreement, but based on no understanding, no thought, no analysis, and just no desire to be involved. It just was not important. I'm sure I felt something exciting about the events. I have a sense of you know, watching it at a distance. It is somewhat exciting, but in a thoroughly vicarious way. Early on, let's see, in 1962, Ken Watson asked me to spend the summer in Washington as a consultant for IDA. This was a sort of junior JASON effort.
Aaserud:Yes. How closely was that related to JASON as such?
Schwartz:OK. Well, JASON worked out of IDA, Institute for Defense Analyses, and this was a summer program in the summer of 1962 (six week session where apparently a number of the JASON people invited some of the younger up and coming folks at their different colleges to come and be these neophyte trainee consultants for six weeks.
Aaserud:But it was the regular JASON summer meeting?
Schwartz:I don't know precisely. We thought of it and referred to it as a junior JASON, or a JASON recruiting or training ground. It wasn't officially that, but that was certainly the impression, and there were a couple of dozen of us who went and did that. With regard to my area of research, Ken Watson wasn't my guardian, my mentor, but he was sort of the head of that domain of physics work. He was the Principal Investigator on the Air Force Research grant to which I was attached, so he was in that sense sort of my academic patron.
Aaserud:In what sense were you attached to that?
Schwartz:Well, when I came here I was asked to be part of the contract, so that was then money for my graduate students, for my summer salary, so here it is, fine, thank you, OK.
Aaserud:Did that affect your work in any way?
Schwartz:No, I continued to do the work that I wanted to do. Standard arrangement, very nice and comfortable, easy, everything provided for you. So that summer study was interesting. There was a sense of glamour attached to it. I had to get a security clearance, go to Washington, get paid, have a bunch of briefings, encouraged to work on some problem or other, and the headiness (wow, you know, now we're really getting into it! There were talks about hydrogen bombs, and security systems and technological developments, and discussions of outstanding problems that were of interest to the national defense. Of course, when the problem was presented of things like better infra-red detectors, you know, we understood what that was for, how to find bad people in a jungle at night and kill them. But you know, just another technically challenging problem.
Schwartz:Yes, that was pretty clear. Not that, that bothered me (well, sort of.) I mean, I had "peacey" feelings, you know, so I'd say, "That's not nice." But no depth to it.
Aaserud:But the technical sweetness of it was very important.
Schwartz:Well, these were presented as problems, you know, so it might have been interesting. The standard advice was, "There are all important problems, we'd really like you people to get involved, let your imaginations wander, anything up to 10 percent of the GNP is worth thinking about." That's a very seductive guideline. So getting a lecture from Herman Kahn, having some general come and talk about this or that, is fairly heady. I think I ended up working with Matt Sands and a group who were looking at what might have been called arms controllish kinds of things (sort of on the peace wing of the spectrum of things.)
Aaserud:He was a regular in JASON at the time?.
Schwartz:I think so, yes. I recall writing some little paper for them on ways to manage de-escalation in a nuclear crisis.
Aaserud:So you were on the JASON publication list even?
Schwartz:Well, again, I don't know if this was JASON. This was IDA.
Aaserud:It doesn't matter much.
Schwartz:You know, every several years I go and get this thing out and look at it. On the one hand, it's thoroughly sophomoric. On the other hand, it's basically intelligent and sensible, you know, what ought to be done. And it's still more advanced than what is being done in Washington these days. All that ridiculous spectrum. So I completed that experience. I was never invited back, so in that sense, I failed certain tests. But something stuck, and one of my sharpest memories is (again, it's so many years back), but I'll focus it up in a minute (maybe around l965 or so) at the height of the Vietnam War protests out here in Berkeley, from a party, and I think it was the wife of one of the younger physics people. I believe she was in the English department or something like that. She was talking about the war in Vietnam and Johnson's bombing of Vietnam and what a terrible thing this was. I recall my response, which was, "It's better that we have small wars like that than that we have a nuclear war." And she just thought that was a terrible thing. She was aghast, that I could say such a thing. But I felt very smug and very well-informed. And when I look back at that statement, I find that that's a disgusting thing to have said, and I understand where that came from. That's the residue of my summer in Washington, where I had picked up this, "I understand the world, I've been to Washington, I've heard from the people who know, this is what it's really all about." And then, in cute little boxes, any problem I can handle and manage. The war in Vietnam? Well, better let off steam there so we don't have to worry about nuclear war. And it's just so outrageous!
Aaserud:You mean you even picked up a world view in Washington?
Schwartz:Exactly. Well, by going to Washington, you pick a worldview, and it's available, it's easy, it's comfortable (these must be important people, this is what they think.) Furthermore it seems to fit my own personal career environment. It fits very well, so it must be right. And then you use that as a shield, until you run into some real people in the world who say, "What a terrible thing."
Aaserud:How was that brought to you?
Schwartz:Well, as I say, at the time, at this party, I said this thing and this woman responded in some way that let me know it was rather a shocking thing to say. That didn't change my mind at the time, but that interaction stuck in my head, so some years later I was able to call up this memory and say, hey, that's very interesting.
Aaserud:I mean in Washington, how was that brought to you? How consciously, how effectively?
Schwartz:I think it's just as I described in graduate school, how I would pick up attitudes from those people who I saw were a bit more advanced than me. And if they said it, it must be right. It seemed to fit, keep it. So this was just the same thing carried now to a more elevated level.
Aaserud:So it was more from the physicists than from the government briefings, you're saying.
Schwartz:Well, but the physicists were the ones who introduced me to this environment. And the government is still the government, so that must be important. Of course, I had a physicist's disdain of government and military people, as physicists disdain everybody else, but physicists were, you know, the leaders in this enterprise, so that mixture is then very powerful. And so when we come to later times (when I start criticizing JASON) people and other scientists who become part of the government advisory system (I have a pretty good sense of what seduces them into that. I mean, I got a small taste, only a small taste of it. I certainly don't claim to be an expert on that. But I think those are the essential features of how people get psychologically sucked into that system and form certain walls around themselves, and get their minds structured.
Aaserud:Who did you work with there? Did you work with anybody in particular?
Schwartz:No, as I said, I worked with Matt Sands on a project, but I didn't have a terribly close attraction to anyone in particular.
Aaserud:Was that a specific effort in that year, do you know, to obtain new people?
Schwartz:I think it was. Of course JASON has continued to recruit new people. I think this was a major big push. Now, a number of the other people of my age group who were there (I maintained some contact with. You know, there's good interaction among the number of us, and a number of us had some contact for a number of years later. And then obviously I drifted far, far away from that center. I don't know how many of that group actually continued in JASON. I would guess, rather few.
Aaserud:Anybody you remember in particular of the junior JASONs that you came with?
Schwartz:No. I might remember one or two but it would be an unfair selective memory. Mostly I don't.
Aaserud:OK. So you went back after the experience and you weren't invited back you said. Are there other experiences similar to that, that you had either before or after?
Schwartz:No, I think that was pretty unique.
Aaserud:No summer studies of any sort?
Schwartz:No. I really spent all my time on the campus.
Aaserud:And on your regular physics work. Teaching of courses.
Schwartz:Yes. My attitude toward teaching at that time was, well, teaching is a chore you have to do and research is everything. Teaching is something you have to do, and in the beginning, I remember my very first (I guess at Stanford (my first teaching job. My attitude was, "Well, I go into the classroom to show all these graduate students how smart I am." Some years later I was perhaps relaxing a little more and starting to think about the students and how to be a good teacher, but still that activity was so clearly secondary to research. Of course, that attitude is what everybody else knows and believes and operates on, and that's what the reward system is built on, and that of course is absolutely unchanged till today, in spite of the lip service given to teaching. Not that people are bad teachers. A lot of physics people are very good teachers, but in a very narrow sense.
Aaserud:There are variations, of course.
Schwartz:Well, I'm talking about those who are acknowledged to be successful physicists. You know. If, at a certain time in your life, you slack off on the research productivity and decide to be really interested in teaching, well, you don't really count any more.
Aaserud:Some people have decided to do that nevertheless.
Aaserud:So that was an isolated thing, you're saying, at the time.
Aaserud:So it seems that we're almost working towards a conversion of some sort. I don't know.
Schwartz:Well, no, I wasn't really working towards anything. I mean, I certainly underwent a transformation in 1966-67. And I find it hard to see that there was much precedence toward that, or that I was seeking it or trying for it.
Aaserud:No, I say we're working towards it.
Schwartz:Yes, we're working towards it, yes. There was certainly stuff going on in Berkeley, and then I was hearing it, so things were around in my mind. But it was just an external (I mean, in my reconstruction (an external event that gave me some provocation to re-assess myself. It was in the summer of 1966. My brother died. He was killed in a small airplane accident. I think that, you know, just in a fundamental emotional way, had me saying things to myself like, "Well, Charlie, there's death, and what's the meaning of life, and maybe you want to think about that again." So that provided a deep psychological emotional opening, in which new things came up, and a major result was my taking these, I guess, echoes, in my mind from everything at Berkeley, and letting them be real questions for me, that I then started addressing and started acting upon.
Aaserud:So there was a potentiality that had been building up, you're saying.
Schwartz:Well, I don't know whether to call it a potentiality. I don't know.
Aaserud:But there were some chords there that you could strike. Well, let's talk about the facts. How did this translate itself into action? Was it obvious to you what you had to do to resolve those questions that now posed themselves?
Schwartz:No, not all at once, but step by step in a progressive way. I think one of the earlier things was, just you know, responding to things that were around. There would be faculty people who were circulating petitions to sign, so one day I walked into the office and some guy in the English department had drawn up some petition about opposing the war in Vietnam and left copies around for people to sign. And so I looked at it, I read it, said, "OK, it makes sense, I'll write my name on it." So that's something I would never have deigned to do before, but I said, "Alright I'll do that." Then I find some people advocating something like withholding your taxes because you don't want to support the war in Vietnam. So I looked into that, thought about that, said, "OK, I'm going to do that." So that part of my taxes that I owed, I didn't pay, I wrote a letter to President Johnson. Then I started telling my family and friends about that, and then I found, you know, you get a nice reaction. And that makes you feel good. It's a kind of positive support. I mean, not that everyone loved it, you know (some felt a little bit awkward (but you had a sense that this was useful, and there was a little bit of feedback.
Aaserud:Was it something in your brother's life that you responded to?
Schwartz:I don't know. Conceivably some guilt. I was his older brother. When we were little kids, I would beat up on him. Academically I shone, he didn't. That's conceivably there. His life was, I think, generally a rather unhappy one.
Aaserud:Yes, but there was no mission that you'd seen in his life that you lacked.
Schwartz:No, I think the interpretation was thoroughly personal. He's my brother. He's dead. I cry over that. But then I think about my own death. And then I think about my own life. And I think it was just that, which is so obvious and so real. But it takes an external shock to make you look at it in a truthful way, because, you know, in a sense, I'm then beginning to recognize how much of the former construction of my life as a physicist has been so artificial and unreal. I wouldn't say I acknowledged that at the time, but that's what was happening.
Aaserud:Did that have something to do with the way you did physics work, the physics work that you did, the extent to which you did it?
Schwartz:I don't know. There are probably are various components of the physics work and my personality and the political involvement, and the three having various stimuli on each other. I can't untangle all that.
Aaserud:What about the relationship with the larger work in Berkeley? How did that change? Did you socialize with the same people, different people?
Schwartz:It started to change. I then started getting involved with some faculty peace group. You know, I would go to their meetings and listen, and learn a great deal. So my political education began by going and listening. I mean the opportunities were there earlier but I never picked them up. And one of the attributes of being a physicist that I think served me well then, and continued to, is the concept of, you go at a problem and you want to get something done. You don't want to just be a dilettante, you don't just talk, you want to do things. So I would get involved with the faculty peace committee, and I wasn't interested in arguing finer and finer points as some people from other fields are. I wanted to do something. So, if something had to be taken over to the print shop. I would take it over to the print shop. I would do chores and in the process learn some fundamental political skills. So this was the beginning of an apprenticeship.
Aaserud:Did this mean that you went outside the physics community here entirely, or that you changed within it to some extent?
Schwartz:Well, I started being involved with people outside the physics department. Of course there were some physics people associated with that as well. That was not turning away from physics people, but beginning in this other. And then, of course, after a little bit of that involvement there, I said to myself, "Well, OK, these people are academics, they're facing this issue, and some of them are relating it to their own disciplines in one way or another, so well, what about physics?" And then of course, it's immediately obvious that physics has some pretty heavy duty stuff to do with all this. And this is not my own idea, of course. Students have always been talking about the contribution of science to the war, the contribution of the university, the connection of the university to the Livermore Lab. So all these things were around, and then I started acknowledging them and saying, "Well, OK, if I'm serious about this, there are some responsibilities that I have as a physicist, within physics, to start doing things." And so I started turning my efforts in that direction. One of the first was this Letter to the Editor in Physics Today (I guess that was early 1967 (which was directly an attempt to say, "Hey, fellow physicists, there's this war in Vietnam, I think it affects us, I think we're a part of it in a significant way, let's talk about it." That I think is what the letter was trying to say.
Aaserud:Yes, which of course wasn't published.
Schwartz:That was of course the beginning of my real education (not just, you know, the words and the analyses from more advanced political colleagues, but the experimental results of trying to do something in what I thought was a familiar territory, and then finding, "Oh, there's a brick wall there, bump." And then deciding what to do after that.
Aaserud:How expected or unexpected was that? Was it a shock?
Schwartz:Oh yes. Oh yes. I'm continually surprised by the negative reactions, the lack of response, because certainly in the earlier stages, the actions I took were extremely modest, and what I thought was entirely in conformity with traditional American values and morality. Just, you know, a few contradictions needed to be clarified and resolved (why can't we talk about this in free speech America?
Schwartz:I had a very rich experimental activity, and learning in the process.
Aaserud:Prior to or contemporary with that letter, did you try your thoughts out on the physicists here? Did you clear the letter, for example, with some of your colleagues?
Schwartz:Good question. I don't remember. I may have. Not very widely. I might have discussed it with one person, or possibly two people, I don't remember. Again, see, I think my style is pretty much a loner. I usually do my work alone, decide when I'm going to publish a paper alone. So I may well have not checked it out with other people. But I really don't remember.
Aaserud:You don't remember particularly. Well, you said you were a loner, but was it in any way a change from the established faculty to the student part of the physicists?
Schwartz:There's certainly a point here, when there was an important change, when I started taking my main stimulus and main involvement from and with students rather than faculty. Now, just when does that occur? I think a little bit later. I think a little bit later. I think it was first being involved with a faculty group, although of course the students led everything and, you know, made it possible and necessary for faculty to organize. But my first involvement was with faculty people.
Aaserud:So that it was a resolution in your mind and then you decided where you should go with that or where that fitted in.
Schwartz:Yes. What I guess is a very interesting question is that I took the concern and the involvement, let's say with the Vietnam War, and brought it back into my own professional arena, rather than a possible alternative attitude, which might be to make sure that I keep it out of my professional arena. That certainly was the attitude that I would get from everyone else. "Oh, fine, you want to do politics, good, do politics over there, that has nothing to do with physics." Now, why did I not have that feeling? I don't know the answer.
Aaserud:Was that an early response or was that something that was taken as obvious by your colleagues? Were there other colleagues that took that approach here? That's a lot of questions.
Schwartz:It would depend on what I was doing, and to this day, this continues to be more or less how things are. If you're engaged in, you know, some political activity that's out there, then mostly your colleagues don't know about it and would just as soon not know about it, whether they're sympathetic or not. Some things are more or less OK. If you want to circulate a petition, you know, you don't bother people too much, but you make it available and people might respond, or not respond: that's free speech, that's OK. If you raise an issue that requires them to deal with it, and put it on the official agenda, or do something that raises some kind of a perceived threat, and then you get a very different reaction. And I've experienced all of these things.
Aaserud:Well, let's go through them in terms of your actual experiences. You sent the letter to Physics Today. I don't have the exact date but I think it was early 1967. It was not accepted. Did you receive an explicit letter to that effect?
Schwartz:I'm trying to recall. I'm not sure. I might have gotten a letter that said sort of nothing, and then perhaps I called up and spoke to the editor. Who was that? Was that Harold Davis? I've forgotten the name. I think there probably was a phone conversation trying to clarify what was going on. I was outraged when I understood what it was. I mean, this was direct political censorship.
Aaserud:That was what you took it as.
Schwartz:Oh yes. I mean, I understood it, in a sense, but I was outraged at it. And my reaction then, and, if you will, my continued characteristic reaction, is to fight back. And that's absolutely critical to the career.
Aaserud:Was there discussion of it here? Did you have any support?
Schwartz:Again, I don't know. I mean, I eventually built a campaign, and then got a lot of support. In the early stages, I do not remember to what extent I discussed it with one or two other people and got their advice. I may well have, and gotten some kind of advice, encouragement. At the early stage, I didn't get offers of support, "Oh, we're with you," you know, that kind of thing. But, "Sure, if you want to do it, OK," might have been expressed. I may have tried to, you know, maybe writing a letter to various people on, I don't know, the APS Council Advisory Board, trying to get appeal beyond the editor. I actually did get a hearing at an APS Council meeting. I guess it was later that spring. I was squawking and they allowed me to come in and listened to me. I just have a vague recollection of the meeting. I felt quite intimidated, being there, but stuck to my guns, and got nowhere, but it was interesting. And then I formulated a plan of action which was, you know, go read the rule books, figure out what does this institution provide you. I found out that the only thing that a small number of people could do was to amend the constitution of the APS. So I drafted a proposal which I thought was eminently open, advocating democratic principles even within the narrow confines of physics. I had to get (what was it (some 300 signatures to put it on a ballot, so that was a task. And so I remember taking that petition. I got the APS membership list and found everyone at Berkeley...
Schwartz:Where were we?
Aaserud:We were talking about your change in strategy.
Schwartz:Oh yes, the petition, APS, right. So I went to a large number of people, described the issues, showed them the petition, asked them if they would sign, and collected a fair number of signatures, in the process doing an interesting little bit of social science research, seeing what people's attitudes were. And I kept some statistical record of the various reactions. But then I also wrote to, I don't know how many, a dozen or so friends at different places around the country and asked them if they would circulate it there, and a large number of them responded quite vigorously, so that was really very good. A lot of people picked that up, and we got enough signatures, and the thing got formally put on the ballot. And then the establishment behaved very badly, in essentially controlling the election as best they could, so eventually Physics Today allowed letters to be published debating this. Of course, they never published the original letter I had. The exchange of letters in Physics Today was certainly stimulating and interesting.
Aaserud:Yes, that's what you describe in that article, in this book here.
Schwartz:Yes. And as I recall, you know, I felt I should be allowed some larger space in Physics Today to lay out the issues more in depth, and they said, "You can write a letter." I think at the end, when it came to actually voting on this thing, the APS Council was sort of stuffing the ballots, as I recall. When you got the ballot in the mail, there was also an argument against it and the Council took a position against it. But, you know, they would say they were doing their duty in protecting the society and so on. So the vote actually failed to pass. I guess there was a substantial support for it, but not enough to pass. You know, it's an interesting exercise for people to review the arguments and see what they meant.
Aaserud:The petition was for the ability to take up certain points?
Schwartz:I guess it was saying that there should be an initiative process within APS, that any time some special number of people wanted to propose a certain issue, that issue would be put on the ballot and people would be allowed to debate it and vote on it. It seemed a fundamental democratic thing. The argument against it, of course, was that this is opening us up to all kinds of political things that don't belong here. I'm wondering whether you could call it paternalism versus participatory democracy. Probably a large component of the negative vote was a kind of fear, that (and this I continue to see as a powerful motivating element in the issues I continue to be involved in. Physicists know which side their bread is buttered on. They know it's heavily integrated with controversial things (big business, the Pentagon and so on. And even those who have let's say liberal views on these things understand we're all part of that arrangement, and you don't rock the boat. You don't do things that might offend the powers that be. So you claim to be neutral and apolitical and resist any attempts that might put you in a position where you might encourage the disfavor of important people (that is, those who have the money to give out.
Aaserud:And this was a new experience to you.
Schwartz:Well, yes, this is layer by layer education, radicalization, figuring out what's going on structurally (that is, how physics fits into the national political scene, internally, psychologically; how physicists behave; how they structure their institutions. I was also beginning to focus on the role of leaders, the leaders of the profession, and their several loyalties. I recall very early in this debate on, "Can I have this letter on Vietnam in Physics Today," one of the things I held up as a counter-example was a photograph published in Physics Today at that very same time. That was a picture at the APS annual meeting in Washington, of APS president, Charles Townes introducing a surprise speaker, President Lyndon B. Johnson. To me this was just an explicit political alignment. President Johnson was having a tough time those days because of the anti-war protests, he managed to get an invitation to appear before this prestigious group of physicists, and he was happy to take the invitation. To me this was a legitimization of his Vietnam War policies, by being invited and accepted to an APS meeting, and here's the APS playing this explicit political role. And here's Charlie Townes, the leader, who probably brokered that affair, and this is a political sell-out for the APS, and here it is in the magazine! I say, well, that's political; let's argue about it. I mean, you know, these are nice, clear, sharp contradictions.
Aaserud:Townes was here at the time?
Schwartz:Well, it's interesting. My recollection is, Townes came to Berkeley at just that time. I think he'd just come here, and he actually got in touch with me, saying, "I understand there's this problem, shall we have lunch and talk about it?" So we actually had lunch and talked about it.
Aaserud:That was your first encounter with Townes?
Schwartz:Yes, I think so. Yes. And of course he's a very famous man, he's a very intelligent man. I thought he would without any doubt understand and see the clarity and rightness of my position when I explained it. But of course nothing of the sort came forward at all. He listened in a very thoughtful patronizing way, and nothing, nothing happened. He tried to straighten me out and failed.
Aaserud:But you continued to do physics. Did this affect your physics at the time, 1967, 1968?
Schwartz:No, not particularly .
Aaserud:So physics was still the main activity.
Schwartz:Well, it would be hard to say. I mean, this involvement is now serious and important and taking a fair amount of time, but it's not that I was, you know, consciously putting physics aside.
Aaserud:And needless to say, it continued after the vote failed.
Schwartz:After the vote failed, well, let's see. Let me get my chronologies right. That's within the APS. Then I started getting more and more involved in other things around here. Let's see, in the fall of 1967 there was a large anti-Vietnam war draft, Oakland draft center protest. It was a big rather violent demonstration. I was not involved in that. But then a few weeks later, there was another visit going back there to protest and a faculty group was going to go. So I went with that faculty group, so that was my first involvement in a public demonstration, where there are police nearby, and it was very dangerous and very exciting and so on. So, I went along, you know, as a silent junior member of a group of faculty who got up early in the morning to go down to the Oakland draft induction center, and I just remember with awe watching one of the other members, John Kelly, a math professor, who stood up and read the statement, you know, to the TV cameras, with the police nearby. He has just a wonderful speaking voice, and I was just thrilled to be nearby and watching this, so it was very exciting is the right word. Also, you know, a deep sense of value of participating, of worth in being involved and committed to something that one has now said, this is real, this is important. In the spring of 1968, another issue came up on campus around perpetual fights over racism in one form or another, and there was a protest in Sproul Hall, about some action that the Regents had taken. I was sympathetic and I went and visited inside Sproul Hall, and the students were sitting there in the afternoon to show, you know, moral support for what they were doing. And then I stayed on a little bit too late and then got locked in, and then got arrested and carried off to the county jail.
Aaserud:As the only faculty?
Schwartz:Yes. I didn't intend to be arrested, but I was, and it wasn't completely unanticipated. It was exciting and I felt morally right about that. I got some public notoriety about that, and became, you know, then a campus figure, that students then identified and would come to me. So perhaps around then I started having more interaction with the students, as they came to, well, use me or whatever, and I was perfectly happy to be used. So rather soon I found I would spend more of my involvement with students. Pretty soon, that started to then come back to physics as well, since there were a number of physics students who had been active in these things in various ways. So they would come and talk to me about this or that activity. I can recall a group of physics students coming and saying, "Hey, why don't we organize and go out and picket at Livermore?" OK, that was a good idea. And we did that for a number of weeks. Maybe this was 1968 or 1969. We'd got other people from the campus to get up there. We'd have to get up very early in the morning, drive an hour, and get people going in to work and stand out in the middle of the road and hand leaflets into the cars. You weren't quite sure how people felt about you, but again this was a physical activity, and so that was then the beginning of being involved with the Livermore Lab as a place.
Aaserud:Did that lead to any conflict within the faculty here, or with colleagues more generally, including Livermore?
Schwartz:Yes, I'm trying to think. I didn't sense any conflict from colleagues here. Many of my colleagues, then as now, are unhappy about the Livermore Labs, their association with them. Though attitudes have fluctuated.
Aaserud:Though not joining you in the picketing.
Schwartz:Yes. There may have been one or two of my colleagues who did join us in the picketing. Yes. I think there were a couple.
Aaserud:So at this stage there were at least two kinds of activities on your part; the more traditional one of writing Physics Today and trying to change the APS constitution, and the more active kind of picketing and of joining the students.
Schwartz:Well again, you know, really my models (my teachers in all this (were activist students, somewhat activist faculty, but really more so the activist students.
Aaserud:At this point too I suppose your criticism of JASON, as a group in particular, begins.
Schwartz:I'm trying to think exactly, but (yes, yes.
Aaserud:Yes. I have a chronology here.
Schwartz:Yes. I don't know exactly. Certainly I was aware of JASON for a long time. At what point I did choose to focus on JASON as a major issue I don't recall just right now, but the public stuff around JASON comes out around 1970, 1971, 1972. I may have had it in my mind somewhat earlier; I don't recall just when I chose to focus on it. I think prior to that was the beginning of Science for the People, or SESPA. I guess the main impetus there was the aftermath of the APS vote. I mean so it's over and lost and I didn't have any particular sense of doing anything more about it. I thought that was just over. You know, I guess I was hopeful that well, we lost the vote, but maybe there is some good residue. And of course before very long everything I'd wanted at least in terms of opening up Physics Today happened, so fine. There were repeated attempts, but I think Marty Perl at Stanford really said the thing to do is to start an alternative organization. Now this sort of had mixed appeals to me. On the one hand this was what I would always be told by the conservative establishment people. "Good, you want to do these things, don't do it in the APS, do it on the outside." And I recognized that there are things that don't belong within these institutions. But there are things that do belong in these institutions and to push them outside is dishonest and that's a political fight. But Marty, who certainly had been very helpful and supportive to me in the earlier campaign and was a person with some background and sense in political activities, said no, let's form a group that would be analogous to an explicitly radical caucus within the profession. And there were several groups that formed in many other academic disciplines, specifically around the Vietnam War issue. So he said let's build such an organization in physics. So I said "OK. Fine." So we drew up some initial statement.
Aaserud:Do you remember the time?
Schwartz:Let's see. I remember it led to January, 1969. So this was probably the fall of 1968. Yes, of course, because the vote in the APS was around late spring 1968. Yes, so it was fall of 1968. And Marty made the suggestion. And I invented a name, and I invented some evocative statement which was pretty pompous.
Aaserud:After two interruptions we're back. There's also the MIT 4th of March activities, of course. They come now. So that's 1968, am I right?
Schwartz:But that started organizing fall of 1968 about the ABM issue and the Vietnam War and science and war. And then they're looking toward March 4, 1969 (that big research strike. So we heard about that and that was a stimulating thing.
Aaserud:Was that something you were actively involved in, having been at MIT before?
Schwartz:Not for that reason. There were a group of graduate students here who were active in anti-war stuff and so that got picked up. I think Owen Chamberlain also took an active part in organizing that, so that that was beginning and that happened here as well as many other places.
Aaserud:But there's no cause and effect here, those are just simultaneous.
Schwartz:Well, they're just overlap of concerns and people. So we focused on the APS meeting in New York in January of 1969, where we contacted various other people around the country who we thought might be interested.
Aaserud:"We" are now SESPA
Schwartz:This is now the beginning of SESPA. We had sort of a group of people meet in a hotel room the night before and then leafletted the meeting and had a session in the hotel room, which was sort of inviting people to come and join this new organization. There was a lot of response to that; I mean a couple of hundred people come to this meeting and so they were interested in such an organization. I remember the most interesting part was trying to define more or less what the organization was. I remember Marty Perl giving the first speech in which he made it very clear that this was not going to be a radical organization. And then I gave the second speech in which I said in my opinion this was going to be a radical organization. You know, fine, just let that ambiguity sit out there. It was designed as very much an unorganized organization, encouraging local activity and organization and initiative. Marty undertook to keep a newsletter going for a while. So the organization came into existence.
Aaserud:That was even before Union of Concerned Scientists.
Schwartz:I don't remember exactly when and where. I think the Union of Concerned Scientists grew out of the faculty who got involved with the March 4th thing at MIT. So exactly when they called themselves that name I don't know.
Aaserud:But they were independent developments.
Schwartz:Oh yes. Right.
Aaserud:Makes sense. And SACC too?
Schwartz:Yes. Well now let's see the SACC (Science Action Coordinating Committee) (again I know these things only from a distance. The SACC at MIT is basically graduate students, and the UCS was the faculty, and there was some polarization there, OK. So that was those two.
Aaserud:The only reason I bring them up is that I want to know to what extend they relate to your activities.
Schwartz:Yes. SESPA was formulated independently and comes from the West coast. There was no attempt to fight, one against the other, or to take over; you know, whatever interchange there was fine and so I think that was very much the attitude. I think SESPA had a very mixed population among people who were students and people who were faculty and some people who were no longer at academic institutions, which was healthy too. Now after several months, a group in Boston and Cambridge formed a SESPA group and they were quite active and they offered to take on the job of the newsletter from Marty Perl. And that signified a transformation to a much more radical perspective and posture. Let's see, there was a group at Harvard, science students that became very active. I forget what was the particular event, maybe it was March 4 or something else. No, it was that there was an AAAS meeting I think. So there was some very active, organized thing at Harvard and that became the focus of a radicalized science group there. So that had a lot to do with this Boston Cambridge group of SESPA and they rapidly became the core of SESPA and decided to put out a magazine in a regular way. When I first heard the group was going to a develop a magazine, I felt kind of negative about it, because to me that was academic rather than activist. On the other hand, that magazine persisted in being published every two months for almost two decades, which is extraordinary. There's plenty to complain about in the inadequacies of the magazine but its continuation as an organizational activity and as an information basis is, I think, really remarkable.
Aaserud:That's Science for the People we're talking about.
Schwartz:Yes. They changed the name. Well, Science for the People is the magazine, and eventually the aim of the organization. I mean, you know, we had SESPA, Scientists for Social and Political Action, then others said, "Hey, let's include engineers." So OK sure; I needed a bit of updating as we went along. I think the first issue of the magazine had come out and it had this large, red fist on the cover. I think that's when Marty Perl told me he doesn't want anything more to do with this organization. So there was a definite cleavage, or a splitting away, if you wish, of liberals from radicals. I was perfectly happy to have this be a very explicitly radical organization. I felt that was important. Not that I had any deep appreciation of all the things that (that) meant. There were certainly elements with it who had various doctrinaire lines of one or another form of Marxism, and I was neither excited nor bothered by all those things. I was for a very incisive analysis, very sharp criticism, very potent action and very open, so I felt all those things were very, very healthy.
Aaserud:You were pragmatic about that.
Schwartz:Yes. I remember also Jeremy Stone getting in touch with me somewhere around here, proposing that SESPA (that he was delighted to see it (that wouldn't you love to be a branch of FAS. Now he was very actively at work at revitalizing FAS, which had been moribund for a long time, around largely the ABM issue. They saw and did achieve a considerable revitalization of the organization.
Aaserud:And had you had any previous connections?
Schwartz:I had never been involved. I knew of it. It wasn't active in a radical perspective. I had, you know, almost negative thoughts about it. This is an organization that sells itself by the number of Nobel prize-winning names it can list on the letterhead. But aside from that it just looked like a group that lobbied with senators and took your money and claimed to be the conscience of science and/or just another log in the Washington lobby machine, and that didn't look like a very activist or participating organization. I mean I understood they were, you know, more or less on the good side, but I didn't think much of that political approach. When Jeremy Stone urged me to try to get SESPA as one of their chapters, I had a pretty fast reaction. I said, "No, you guys do your thing, we'll do our things. We're fighting on the same side, that's fine, but I think we really should be independent." I'm glad I maintained that posture. I mean I'm not suggesting that I had control of this membership, but at least I had that attitude that this needs to be a very independent and noisy group.
Aaserud:Yes. We'll have to change the tape.
Aaserud:Did Stone agree with or at least understand your point of view in this?
Schwartz:Well, I don't know. He tried to sell me something. He didn't succeed. So...
Aaserud:You also became more successful in your traditional approach, so to speak, within the APS?
Schwartz:I didn't see it as success. I saw a succession of failures. After the first vote, I decided to try again. I was unhappy. I felt people aren't behaving right; that they're not doing what they should be doing; there are contradictions; we'll have to try again. So, you know, in this very physicist kind of a way, what's the problem, let's find the root of it, let's reformulate it. That is, when I say a physicist's approach I'm not really thinking in terms of political dynamics and group psychology and all those things. So I said, well, the main argument against the First Amendment (the Schwartz amendment (was that the Society defines itself as being concerned with (what a wonderful phrase (the dissemination of the knowledge of physics. It's something on dissemination. I've forgotten the words. So in other words, this is dealing with the knowledge of physics, but devoid of any question of social content, social value. So this is the argument for people to say, no, you don't vote on other things. I said, all right, let's got to the source. So I said, let's try to redefine the American Physical Society that it's concerned not only with the development and dissemination of the knowledge of physics, but doing that for the purpose, which should be the betterment of humanity or something like that. So let's get to the philosophical core of the problem. I said, all right, let's try to amend the constitution of the APS in this direction. And then I said, well, let's see, I think this might get better if we don't have the Schwartz name associated with it, so I spoke to Bob March at Madison, Wisconsin, and he said, "OK," So he took this thing forward as a second attempt. So that was the March amendment where I deliberately stayed in the background. And that also failed. It was probably not a terribly wise investment of effort. Nowadays I would say, trying to deal with political problems from a philosophical point of view, that's not what people are concerned about; it's a false thing.
Aaserud:Different from the SESPA approach anyway.
Schwartz:Yes. About that time, as you say, within APS, things happened; Physics Today certainly opened up. There was the formation of the Forum on Physics and Society, and Marty Perl was very interested and very positive about that. I stayed away from it, or not away but very aloof toward it. I felt, this is cooptation. This is just a way to get all those people who are concerned about these things within and under the wing and under the control of the establishment people, so that they can't do too much damage. I didn't think it was worth very much. If some of you people want to do that, fine; I'll work with SESPA. So again, looking at what the Forum does and what the APS Panel on Public Affairs does, I have very mixed feelings about it. I think the physics establishment is still controlled by the set of people who integrate physics and the political center. It's not the center, it's a little bit right of center, because that's where money and power is, and that's where certain leaders of the physics profession get sucked into and see physics as, see this all as, integrated. So it's the way the responsible people know how to deal with so-called science advice. Those who have been in the National Academy understand know how it works. You're very selective about your membership. You have balanced committees, but balanced means a very narrow range of all the people who are not too far to the right and not too far to the left, which means a very narrow spectrum. They define certain things as not to be considered, therefore all the political givens are given again, so it's politically biased without being understanding about it. And then there's a procedure where any reports that are written that have to do with controversial issues are reviewed by senior people whose job, it was once described to me, is to take the final report and massage it into a form to make sure that it will not in any way offend important people. You know, I understood about this process and just seeing how thoroughly political this is and how dishonest it is has always made me queasy about the kind of things that APS does with POPA, so it's mixed. Now, I'm not saying it does no good. But it has a mixed contribution.
Aaserud:But you wouldn't say that you were part of the developments leading to that. You distanced yourself fairly quickly.
Schwartz:Well, you know, one would like to imagine that since I had been a leader and provocateur in this whole line of work, that if the establishment wanted to go into this activity, they would have involved me, for example. I mean, if they really wanted to bring in a broad base of people. But I was never invited, never asked to participate. I've never been asked to be on any one of these committees. Now, of course, they would say, well, we know Charlie Schwartz, he's so far left; we want to be effective, we want to be credible, therefore we have to have people in the center, which means they've defined their political turf.
Aaserud:Would you have accepted?
Schwartz:I have no idea. I don't know. Occasionally, on this campus, you know, similar things arise. I've raised many controversial issues, and sometimes they actually are dealt with. On one occasion, I was actually put on a committee. Some years ago I essentially forced the campus administration to face the question of potential conflicts of interest when faculty are involved as outside consultants for government or industry, and actually got the academic senate to set up a special committee to study this issue, and they actually put me on the committee. This was the first time that had happened, and I accepted it and I worked with the committee. At the end of the time, there was a majority report and a minority report, and nothing ever came of it, because most people say, "Oh, we're all honorable men, there's no problem." So you know, people know what will happen if they put me on a committee. I'll do diligent work and I will write a minority report, which I think is the right thing to do. I am very unhappy when people who are liberal and progressive, or conceivably at the other end of the spectrum, get to be on a committee dealing with an important subject, and then buy the line that if our report is going to have any effect on the important people who will decide, we have to all come to a consensus. And in the name of consensus, people tell lies. They bury what they really believe and think. You can argue politically whether it has any effect, but educationally it has no effect because you've washed all the truth out of it, and I've seen this happen again and again. So, you know, people usually don't put me on important committees, because they know, I can compromise within reason, but I don't sell out.
Aaserud:On the other hand, this affected the membership of SESPA, of course. I don't know, what was the membership?
Schwartz:Very hard to define, very hard to define. I don't think it's ever been a very large membership. I think it very early and consistently defined itself as being of a consistent and radical posture, so that people who found themselves uncomfortable with that had nothing to do with it. On the other hand, where people were open to be stimulated by these ideas, well, then it was there, and that's really its purpose, to stimulate people and to provide an opportunity for people to get together and to do various things. It has never been centrally directed in terms of activities. And it has not been very active for a long time. Now, after a rather short period of time, the dominant people in it became people in the biological sciences, and so most of the activism and most of the issues in the magazine have had to do with biotechnology, health care, sexism, sociobiology and so on, which I think makes sense, because those are the issues in which science and politics involving numbers of people on the street, if you will, have been most clear and most sharp, and so needing that kind of exercise. The physicists' concern about the bomb, the arms race and so on (those questions certainly persist, but in a sense not qualitatively new. So I have had, you know, more of a grandfather than activist role in Science for the People for a number of years. I would like to be more involved, but I'm not at all unhappy about how it's gone.
Aaserud:Did you have hopes for it to become, or even intend it to be a majority position or anything of that sort?
Schwartz:No, I don't think I ever expected to be a majority. I hoped that it would be powerful, stimulating, involving a number of people, and being effective in the sense of being a presence that would be presenting the ideas, the agendas and the controversy that others would have to attend to, that eventually these ideas would become, well, perhaps even dominant. That's the concept of radicals and progressives, and I like to think in my own personal work that's what I'm trying to do. Now, mostly you set out to do that, and you know you're going to have mostly failures, at least failures in terms of seeing concrete achievements. But over a period of time, you can see some of the things are moving in those directions, and you like to imagine you've contributed to that.
Aaserud:Back in the early days, when the grandfather was younger, physics did indeed play a large part in SESPA.
Aaserud:And criticism of JASON in particular played a large role within that again. How did that come about? Was that through you essentially?
Schwartz:Yes. I guess it was two parts. One part is me, and let's see, what really was it about? I'm concerned with these big issues. I'm concerned with physics. Now, in what sense do I come to be concerned some of with my best, oldest friends who happen to be members of JASON? What is this? Is this a form of patricide? I don't know. Certainly there was some sense of conflict with the leaders of the physics profession, as a class, as a group. Of course, there are individuals, and there are times when I publicly criticized individuals for their complicity with the war machine, for being war criminals and so on. And I think that's the price of leadership, to face such criticism. Now, within JASON were such people whom I felt could be and perhaps needed to be identified as war criminals. There were others about whom I felt much less severely, some very good personal friends, but with whom there was, you know, still personal warmth but serious political argument. You know I really wanted these people to get out. Now, as some of the JASONs have said, you don't get a person to get out by condemning them publicly as a war criminal. I understand that. Nevertheless, it seemed to me politically that this group needs to be exposed, and perhaps their influence countered, and the public be made aware of this. But to what extent there were other personal feelings, it's hard to say. I know I felt conflicted about it, and how these worked out, I don't know. Now the real sparkplug came from the other activities, the release of the Pentagon Papers in which JASON was identified as having played a certain role in the electronic battlefield in Vietnam. Then this being picked up by people in Europe, and made the target of protests against individuals (Gell-Mann, Drell and others (in a highly politicized, highly public way. When did that occur?
Schwartz:As late as 1972. OK. Well, if that was 1972, we must have already started on something. So, I guess I had been thinking about JASON. I mean, I had background information, because we brought out this booklet in December, 1972. And I guess we had started interviewing some of these people.
Aaserud:Science Against the People.
Schwartz:Science Against the People, yes. So we probably started interviewing these people also during the summer. So clearly something like this was on my mind earlier. And I was working with a group of students here, saying, "You know, that's an interesting group to look into and do an exposé." And I remember the interviews I thought would be really good. We went with two or three of the students, and I was one of them, and we interviewed Charlie Townes and Ken Watson and Goldberger and Glaser. We sat down. I let the students ask most of the questions and took a lot of notes.
Aaserud:No tape recorders at the time?
Schwartz:No, just taking notes, and then I would write up these things, and I sent them to each of the people, saying that we're thinking of publishing this, have you got any corrections or comments about it? And the wonderful letters I got in reply, many of which we published. So that was tough on those people. They weren't used to being treated in that way. I felt then (I feel now (it was appropriate to do. They were acting in a way that had very heavy public consequences, and I felt they needed to be accountable, to be held accountable. I felt they were given a fair opportunity to represent their views.
Aaserud:I should have asked you this before I brought JASON up out of the blue, so to speak. How large a part was the criticism of JASON within your general involvement in SESPA and your general criticism of the physicists' role?
Schwartz:I don't think I saw JASON as THE issue, in any sense. I see it now as an exemplary study that highlights a number of the problems, and on the one hand, will have a political effect of combatting the institution of JASON, which I think needs to be combatted, as well as serving as an illuminating lesson for many other people, in and out of science, about the way in which science, scientists, the best scientists, the most brilliant scientists, the ones with the best intentions, get caught up in this machine and do these awful things. So I think that that's what I hope I was intending to do.
Aaserud:So, it was a case study of a larger problem.
Schwartz:I think so. But you know, focused in a concrete way.
Aaserud:We're back after another telephone call. We were talking about JASON as a case study, but an important one.
Schwartz:There were a number of people involved in the project (some students, a couple in particular who were very much more politically experienced people and were very helpful at giving other perspectives on what we were writing. So my contribution to the pamphlet was certain portions that I did a lot of, but other parts were almost entirely by other people, in particular the part at the end, which presents a kind of thematic analysis.
Aaserud:The concluding part?
Schwartz:Yes, you know, what are their rationales and how to puncture holes in them, and what do we perceive as the kind of dominating psychology of the intoxication of power, of being around powerful people. These were all ideas developed by other members of the group, which I don't think I was capable of perceiving and figuring out by myself. So, I was gaining a lot of insight from working with some other people.
Aaserud:Well, it's interesting, I think, to what extent the JASONs responded. I mean, they seem to have been fairly willing to discuss their involvement. Is that correct?
Schwartz:Yes. I suppose some of them may have felt rather betrayed. I mean, they agreed to talk, because here was Charlie Schwartz, a colleague, asking to talk with them. I told them about the students, and I'm sure they were aware of, you know, the potentialities involved. And certainly in the responses (the letters from Townes and some of the others (they were very unhappy with what we ended up writing up on it. I think it's both accurate and fair, what we put in there about them. I mean, that letter from Hal Lewis is pretty fierce, and the response letters. There again, the co-author Martin Brown, one of these students, was very much my teacher, and he composed that letter. Now, that's a tough fighting back letter. I did not have the kind of intelligence to write that sharp a letter, so this is largely his, but I agree with it. So there's a real good healthy political fight going on there.
Aaserud:All possibilities for communication were gone by that time. I mean, there was absolutely no space there for talking any more.
Schwartz:Well, there's different kinds of talking. There's private persuasion, and I had no expectations of doing anything constructive there. So this was a public debate.
Aaserud:We're talking about the comparison between killing innocent Vietnamese, as put in your letters, and threatening JASON families on the telephone. Weren't those the two things that were put up against each other?
Schwartz:Yes, right. Well, I mean, we had written to Hal Lewis asking for a membership list. We get back this letter complaining of "your Gestapo tactics," and then our response was, OK, here we are.
Aaserud:That was before Science Against the People was put out?
Schwartz:Yes, this was the research for that. So we published, you know, a lot of the research elements in that.
Aaserud:Yes, because there were strong conflicts within JASON also at the time, as to whether or not openness was a good thing, even openness towards SESPA. I've seen some correspondence.
Schwartz:Oh, I'm sure those guys suffered. I mean, the decent people would have to suffer under the conflicts that were there, and it's not a nice position. Many of them went in and retained really good intentions that I have a lot of sympathy with. But really the criticism was the concept of the political implications of how you do your work. And you know, I think there are some who have or are reported to have acknowledged that they did quit somewhat as a result of this, but at a later time. So, you know, on their own time, they chose to quit or just drop out quietly. That's fine.
Aaserud:Pride didn't allow them to quit immediately.
Schwartz:Well, that's OK. I mean, that's all right. So in some sense, there was constructive residue from that. And the exposé that's there (I would like to imagine that this book is something people use, and teach to students again, because I think it is a very strong object lesson.
Aaserud:So you would think that all in all that specific attack on JASON had a net positive effect?
Schwartz:Oh, very much so. Yes. I think it was very worthwhile. Now, you know, what does that really mean? JASON continued and continues to do its work largely unchanged. Did I imagine that this was going to destroy JASON? I hope I didn't imagine that. That's not to be expected. So really, the purpose of this is not to change the JASON's eyes, but to teach a larger public (including other people in science as well (about this institution and how science is involved with the government. So what is the message? That people should be wary. That people should not "trust" experts. That people should not trust great scientists, particularly when they're involved working for powerful institutions, that their work is political, that by that association they take on a political cloak, that they must be looked at and their advice must be looked at in a political way, even though they claim to be just doing technical advice. This is a lesson that one has to repeat and repeat all the time, and the JASON story gives very sharp examples of how bad people can end up doing by accepting the rules of working within a political system.
Aaserud:If you put it in the framework of the possibilities of external and internal action, external and internal advice, you certainly would be very strongly on the external side.
Schwartz:Well, let me put it this way: there will always be internal advice. People in power need technical advice, and they will find scientists who will work for them. Now, I just want to make sure everyone knows that the scientist working for a political leader is a political person, a political animal, and that their claims of scientific objectivity, neutrality, and balance should not be taken at face value. And one of the ways you do this is by citing case studies, and the other is by creating and maintaining an active outside presence (individuals, organizations, who are squawking and giving different interpretations, providing not only a counter technical advice, but within a counter political environment. So I mean, this is not something one solves. This is a perpetual problem, which I think is an enormous problem. It may be one of the fundamental problems of contemporary civilization, in terms of the relation between power, decision-making, and science and technology. And where does democracy survive in that? By "democracy" I mean the interests and the needs of people in general, outside of those institutions that mostly control power, and that mostly have a kind of dominance over the directions of science and technology. So to me these are absolutely fundamental questions of survival, and in my own course that I teach on the subject, and in a lot of the work I do, these are being addressed in different ways, so the JASON story is I think one sharp illumination of it.
Aaserud:We've come to 1972 now essentially, and you started your involvement in 1967 basically. According to your publication list 1969 was one of your most productive years in physics, if counted by numbers of publications, whatever that means. There were four publications and all in physics in 1969. Then, beginning in 1970 and ending in 1975, that was a period of only political publications on your part. So that your involvement was much broader than we have implied now, which also shows on your publications. It was not only criticism of JASON. It was not only the establishment of SESPA. It was a broad attack on the role of scientists in general.
Schwartz:Yes. And not just scientists, but the university as an institution that is more than just science, and these themes have become really the major part of my professional interest and work and political activity (the role of science and the universities as institutions, as I was just talking about, in society, and their very powerful but often hidden political and economic roles (exposing these, challenging these, talking about whose interest is served, whose is not. A lot of power structure research, interlocking corporate directors and all those kinds of stuff, so this was the kind of studies that I was getting involved in. Doing these kinds of research, I ended up in a sort of surprising position. In 1974, when Nelson Rockefeller was nominated to be Vice President, he had to go through a public hearing, and lo and behold, I turned out to be the nation's leading expert on the question of the financial involvements of the Rockefeller family, and got myself invited to testify before a Congressional committee on that.
Aaserud:What was the pre-history of that?
Schwartz:OK, let's see. I was interested in the questions of who controlled science and the universities and so on, and so I think it was maybe during a sabbatical that I said, "I want to learn something about this. I want to learn about the business world." So I go to the business library and I start picking up the annual reports of major companies involved with technology and looking them over to see who are the people who run these things. And then I would occasionally see, you know, familiar names, or a name with an identification of this person from the Rockefeller Family and Associates. So I thought this was interesting, and I decided to do a systematic research.
Aaserud:Rockefeller Family and Associates, in capitals?
Schwartz:That's a formal designation. You know, on a board of directors, there'll be so and so from the Chase Manhattan Bank and so and so (Rockefeller Family and Associates. So I said, what's that? You know, the Rockefeller name and cultural mythology, well, the greatest richest family (what is this they're doing? The image of them was, well, you know, that John D. was this great figure that belonged to another era. They're into philanthropy, Nelson's into politics. Each of the sons has his own thing, but what is this going on here?
Aaserud:Was that effort motivated by Rockefeller's candidacy?
Schwartz:No. No, I had done this work many months before. As I say, it was just accidental. But I said, "Well, let's be systematic." So if you will, this is exactly the way a scientist does research: You have a general area that you're interested in. You start sifting through some collection of data. You find certain interesting things that suggest a correlation. So you say, let me pursue that and see how strong is this correlation. Now, in the political realm this is called, "Ah, you're addicted to conspiracy theories." All right. But from science, you're looking for some correlation, some systematic in the data, trying to find a root, a theory. OK, fine. It's a very, very obvious activity for someone with scientific training. So it means many hours in the library and combing and looking and finding other data. So I collected a fair amount and I found out that there is an office in Rockefeller Center that is Rockefeller Family and Associates, that the family has its money collectively invested, that they have a group of managers; and I traced out a bunch of these people. I had done this stuff and I said, "Oh, that's cute, so what, who cares?" And then comes this announcement of Nelson Rockefeller to be Vice President. I guess this was late summer of 1974, after the Nixon resignation. So I say, "Hey, this may be a great opening." So I got in touch with Bill Domhoff at Santa Cruz, sort of the patron saint of this kind of power structure research, and said, "This is what we've got." So we got together and looked it over and put it together as a little report, sent it to some people in Washington, and then they invited us to testify. That was fun. That was just pure research, and just whammo. It paid off in a way that was very exciting. Again, you know, we didn't stop Rockefeller's nomination, but I think it got a lot of public attention, newspaper things, and it forced the Rockefeller Family into an uncomfortable position where they had to come forward and disclose a lot. I think in the end one finds out that the Rockefellers were not as rich as people thought, not as important and as powerful as people thought, and yet there was a sense in which they were trying to be. They were organized to be and they were after it as best they could.
Aaserud:You wrote this article on the Rockefeller Family and Associates. It seems to be the most carefully researched of these articles with the possible exception of the PSAC thing too that we're coming to.
Schwartz:Well, it has a lot of detailed data. That required an enormous amount of library time, and picking up little bits here and there. But obviously, there's a place where all the information is known, and that's within that family. From the outside, finding little bits of evidence and painting a picture, that's tedious work, but again, that's what a lot of scientific research is about.
Aaserud:So you didn't find it all too different, in principle anyway, from your physics work.
Schwartz:That's right, yes. Let me make a comment. There's something related here that I've often thought about or commented upon. From the Vietnam War episode on the campus, there were many faculty who got very deeply involved with that. There are a small number who had been active a long time before and maintained some activism afterwards. There are a great many others who got burnt out, and some got turned around politically and became very conservative. But most of that activity died off and as I say, through the seventies there was very little of that. I think I'm rather unique in that I have persisted and maintained all the time a high level of either the same issues or new issues, and going after them in a very active, pushy, very time-consuming, very high profile way. And the question is, what keeps a person like that going? I think it has something to do with the background in physics, that that's how you do physics research. You just keep after it and keep after it, and you get a theory and you try it and it doesn't work, and you get another one and try it and it doesn't work, and then occasionally you find something that works a bit. Just this terrible grinding dedication, the keeping after it. So I think that part of the physics training has been very valuable to me in maintaining the push on these political issues.
Aaserud:Yes, which isn't the case for most physicists, of course, so there must be another reason as well.
Schwartz:Well, I mean, most physicists pursue physics like that. I mean, that's how you survive and succeed as a physicist, by being very creative but understanding that most of your creative ideas are wrong, and you have to work through to prove them wrong and then go back and try again. And much of this political work is of that character.
Aaserud:Yes, but there are many physicists, and there are not many who have drawn that from physics, are there?
Schwartz:Yes, but what I'm really comparing is, say, people from other academic backgrounds who get involved with political things and usually burn out very quickly. That's the comparison I was making.
Aaserud:There was a definite peak here though, at least in terms of publications, whatever that proves.
Schwartz:Well, yes. Another peak in political activity that doesn't show up there was 1970. Let's see, I was doing some outrageous things on campus. In the spring I announced this Hippocratic Oath for Scientists. I thought, you know, that's a good idea, and I tried to get my colleagues on the faculty to introduce a ceremonial Hippocratic Oath for Scientists in the graduation ceremonies.
Aaserud:That was a local thing here.
Schwartz:A local thing here, again sponsored by some students. Some students started this thing, and there was a pledge that "I won't work on weapons research." Some students thought that up and I went with them and this was promulgated, but in a voluntary way. People carried that to APS meetings for a couple of years. But I wanted institutions to do something. This is what the Hippocratic Oath was about. This was not to say, I won't work on weapons, it was just to say that I will consider the consequences of the uses of my work. That's adopting the principle of social responsibility, and I thought, you know, this institution (we as teachers (should proclaim that and should encourage students to adopt this as a philosophy, as an ethic. There was absolutely no interest in it by my colleagues, so I felt that, you know, I'm serious about this, and even as a teacher I have social responsibilities. Social responsibility means to think about the consequences of your work, and if you think it might be harmful, maybe don't do it. So that applies to research. You never know how your research is going to be used, but you can guess, you can try, you can make estimations, and you can make a personal judgment. But then also in teaching I give my knowledge to other people, and I want them to use the knowledge in a thoughtful way. So I announced that I was going to require any student of mine in a class or private research to subscribe to a very, very, very modest form of a Hippocratic Oath, that I felt was necessary for me to transmit my knowledge. They would say, "Yes, I will think about how I use it, I will try to be socially responsible." This created enormous conflict on the campus. My faculty was outraged by it. People were not speaking to me for a long period of time. They felt really offended by what I had done. People complained about forcing other people to take an oath, which I admit is obnoxious. I didn't make people sign, I didn't make them swear, but I asked for a verbal acknowledgement, and eventually, though many students complained about this, I accepted everyone into my classroom and the discussions around it were excellent. But the formal result was the thing hanging on the wall behind you there, a formal reprimand from the Chancellor (this is an official disciplinary act. The Committee on Academic Freedom concluded that what I had done was a violation of academic freedom, because I had created an ideological criterion governing admission to the classroom, and this was not tolerable. And that's a good principle. But I would always ask, whom am I excluding? What's the ideological barrier? All I've done is to ask people to guarantee that they will think about how they will use their talents. I haven't said what's good or bad, I've said they must think about it and make those choices. So I was never able to engage with any of my colleagues about, whom am I excluding? It was just that the procedure and the formality was intolerable. So that was quite a fascinating controversy.
Aaserud:Was it students who brought it up to the higher levels or was it your colleagues?
Schwartz:It was my colleagues. In the first meeting of the class that spring there were a couple of faculty that came and sat in the back of the room taking notes. This was an outrage.
Aaserud:How long did it last?
Schwartz:I never actually retracted, but I did not continue the practice in the future. Any oath is an obnoxious thing. On the other hand, the question of social responsibility is something that the professions of teaching and the profession of physicists ought to adopt as something that they positively address themselves to in an institutional way; but have consistently refused to do. This continues to be a problem. This was, you know, ideologically, the conflict between academic freedom and social responsibility. Right? And academics do not like to imagine that there are boundaries to academic freedom, so they cannot deal with these questions.
Aaserud:Social responsibility can also mean a lot of things of course to different people.
Schwartz:Yes. The other thing that same summer in 1970 was that I went for my regular summer employment up at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, and followed through on a campaign that other people had been conducting there for years to get that place to allow free speech. I just directly confronted the director of the lab and said, "I'm going to arrange for some noontime lectures here on popular and controversial topics of science and society, and I'd like to have the auditorium." And the director said, "No, you can't." And I said, "OK." So I handed out leaflets anyway and the director locked up the auditorium, and so we had a wonderful mini-Free Speech confrontation up there, which ended in my getting fired from the Rad Lab. A year or two later they changed their policies. But I never got my job back there. So 1970 was a busy year.
Aaserud:You were denied to work there in 1971, isn't that right?
Schwartz:Let's see. I mean, during that summer of 1970, and that's the other letter I have on my wall, from the director, "for flagrant and repeated defiance of authority, you are herewith suspended," for (I don't know (three weeks or one week or three days or something or other. I had a wonderful exercise in appealing those things to faculty committees saying, "Hey, you guys ever heard of free speech?" Oh no no. I actually went to court eventually and won a decision, but I never got the job back.
Aaserud:Well, you supplied the letter of resignation, didn't you?
Schwartz:No. I never resigned.
Schwartz:Eventually they went through the appropriate, careful way and decided, "No, Schwartz, budgets are tight, you're just not doing much physics, so you know we don't have the money to hire you." So I couldn't fight that. You know, there's some element of truth to it. I was doing less physics, but these things are all interrelated. Once you start locking a person out, then they're not going to do much physics.
Aaserud:That was one kind of a summer involvement you had been doing in previous years, right?
Schwartz:Yes, for many years. I was a regular staff member at LBL and during the summer I had either had my summer salary paid from there or by the contract. Those were familiar kinds of arrangements.
Aaserud:How was that work compared to the regular work?
Schwartz:Well, again, I'd be doing the same research work. It was just a question of whose budget. So when everyone is friendly and money is plentiful, those things are no problem. Then when money gets a little tight and you're politically controversial, then things change very drastically. So within a few years I had no summer salary; I haven't had summer salary for a decade and a half. And I've had no research contracts since 1970. Oh, that was the Air Force contract I resigned from in 1970. I had been, you know, a PI with Ken Watson on this Air Force contract for a long time, and there was no problem. I wasn't doing weapons research, I thought. And then came the Mansfield Amendment in 1970 that said that the Defense Department will not fund any research that does not have a direct and apparent relationship to a military function or operation. So I read this in the newspaper, and I wrote a letter to my contract officer, saying, "Hey, are we in trouble here? Because I'm quite sure that my work has no relation at all to any military work, so I don't know if it's right for you to continue to send me the money." And he wrote back and said, "Dear Professor Schwartz, Don't worry, I assure you that your work is of vital importance to military programs, but just what those are, I cannot tell you because that's classified." So I then wrote back and resigned.
Aaserud:What effect did that have?
Schwartz:Well, let's see. Immediately it seemed to have no effect. All right, so I wasn't getting money from there. The graduate students working with me could get funded at LBL and I could get summer salary at LBL. But then just and as I just told you, very quickly I was kicked out of LBL. For one short interval my colleagues who had an NSF grant put me on there for summer salary, but mostly since then I have had no summer salary, no external source of research funds, which means I have been in a condition in which I have had no physics students doing research work for me, and I have been completely free, because I have nothing left to lose. I mean, I have my salary, I have my tenure, but all the other perqs are long gone, so I am completely free, and don't worry about losing anything more. So I still lead a very comfortable life, and my position has become relatively stable, and I try to maintain this high level of activity, what's the word?
Aaserud:Activism? Activity, I guess.
Aaserud:So, for the record, that was Edward McMillan who was the director of LBL.
Schwartz:Ed was the director there, yes. I love Ed McMillan. I mean, when it came to this trial in the courtroom, he got up on the witness stand and told the whole truth, and then the judge saw what was happening. So he's wonderful. He's not like other people who know how to lie. Through that period, Ed McMillan was the director of the lab, and through that episode and after it, he and I had consistently the most pleasant personal relationships. It was just nice all the way. So I really enjoyed, you know, fighting with him, and I have a sense that he enjoyed it very much too. And afterwards, it was just a very nice warm relationship. You know, honest straightforward people are always wonderful to work with or against.
Aaserud:You can't do that with everybody, that's for sure.
Schwartz:A lot of people behave quite differently. Too bad.
Aaserud:I'm going a little back, unfortunately, now. But I had a specific question in relation to the activities against JASON in Europe in 1972. To what extent were you involved in that?
Schwartz:Not at all. I heard about it, and they certainly were stimulating and got us to complete this book and get it out (the book that we wrote, Science Against the People.
Aaserud:But Vitale was entirely separate?
Schwartz:Yes. Yes. I mean, I gather Bruno Vitale was collecting the many memoranda that people there were writing, and then he just picked up our stuff and used that as well. No, we picked up one or two of their documents and used them in our book as well, but really I had no contact with him at all.
Aaserud:I've seen reference to what's was called the "pilfered Gell-Mann papers." Does that ring a bell?
Aaserud:OK. Because there was a meeting, a JASON meeting, I'm not exactly sure which year.
Schwartz:Oh, the "pilfered," yes, oh yes, I know what you mean. This was a document called the Student Mobilizer or something like that, a special newspaper publication that was put out around that time.
Aaserud:Where was it put out?
Schwartz:I don't remember. It just appeared on, I think, many campuses.
Aaserud:But it was a national thing.
Schwartz:I think so. I think it was more than just at Berkeley. I don't know who wrote it. It just appeared, and it had this extraordinary set of documents that included among them Murray Gell-Mann's comments about how you deal with counter-insurgency. But it had a lot more in it, such as what was described as a social science version of JASON. So I think it was mostly people in the social sciences. Some had gotten sucked in, others learned about it and were very outraged and somehow these papers came out. I think the Gell-Mann papers was a small part of the whole thing, but of course, for physicists, this was irresistibly exciting or outraging or whatever. And I guess we did take some of those quotes and use them in the book. Murray claimed then and has always claimed that they were taken very much out of context, and I don't know how to resolve that.
Aaserud:Yes, I think that was a meeting of JASONs with social scientists. Well, that's another matter anyway. There's a small letter here that we didn't talk about, which is in the early period of your involvement, as reflected in the publications anyway, "World Population Growth," in the IEEE Spectrum. How does that fit in?
Schwartz:Well, you know it starts with the Vietnam War and the role of science, and once you get radicalized, you realize one issue connects to another and another. Environmental concerns and population growth, these were big issues just after 1970.
Aaserud:It was a response to a specific article?
Schwartz:And somewhere there was an article (I don't remember where I saw it (in which there was some sort of scientific analysis of population growth leading to some conclusions. The conclusions had very potent political consequences, and I don't remember how or why I looked at it twice. I just got on the little computer and started playing with the data and realized that I could fit any curve you wanted to the data, and so I wrote that up and published it I guess after some nasty back and forths with the authors. Oh, I remember, wasn't one of the authors someone at Livermore?
Schwartz:OK, so I'm sure that helped heighten some of the sense of contest involved there, yes. It was... I suppose it could be called amateurish in many ways. You know, scientist gets his teeth into something, figures he's got a hold of something good so you just chew it over and spit it out.
Aaserud:To what extent did this involvement affect your career in physics and your ambitions in physics?
Schwartz:Good question. Well, certainly in terms of the career, you've noticed that my physics publication rate dropped very much then. That did not pass unnoticed by those in the university who decide on salary increases, and so I certainly did not advance much there for a long time. I've never gotten any recognition within the academic reward system for my activities in these other domains. From time to time I'd go back and do a little physics work, publish a few papers and then get a little salary hike for that, making it perfectly clear what you get rewarded for and what you don't. At one point I remember even a letter coming back from the dean saying, "We feel confident that if Professor Schwartz returns to doing the sort of physics he used to do, that he will be able to get more merit increases," which I read as a direct statement, "Cut out the political work, Schwartz, and we'll be kind to you again."
Aaserud:When was that?
Schwartz:Some time during the seventies. Well, you know, that's the way it is. It's really absurd for me to complain about that, because I have this extraordinary thing called tenure which lets me do things that most people in the real world of employment could not economically survive at in doing. So I've got absolutely nothing real to gripe about. If I've got something to complain about on this whole concept of tenure, it's not to praise and thank the institution and my colleagues for protecting me with tenure, but to complain that more people who have the potentiality to be active, sticking-their-neck-out critics because they've got tenure don't do so. The fact that most academics with tenure are content to be conformists, in such a pathetic waste.
Aaserud:During those heated times, your tenure was never questioned in any way.
Schwartz:I have engaged in many activities which I thought brought me close to the line where it might be endangered, and I have always thought very clearly (I hope clearly and carefully (about that. In one sense, I didn't want to lose my job. On the other hand, I wanted to do as much as I could, and this involves a certain level of risk. But I always tried to think carefully about it, so you know, when I sat in the university president's office in 1978 (sat there overnight and then got arrested the next day (I felt that the reason I was there was because the university president and other officials refused to enter into public debate about the university's role with Livermore and Los Alamos. I wasn't demanding that they stop it; I was demanding that they engage in public debate. What more academic failure than that, for them to refuse to do so? So I was conducting, engaging in, civil disobedience on that wonderful principle, arrested and was put on trial. There was a point during the trial when I became a little bit afraid that I would actually be convicted, and that the university would use that as an excuse to haul me up and fire me, or something like that, because I'd then be convicted of a crime. I won't go into the details of it, but that was one time when I was worried. But I was acquitted then, and the university has not at any time moved against me on it. I mean I have done many things that have brought me into conflict with the administration. I've been in jail several times for various civil disobedience actions. It used to be that on almost any opportunity I would go to some public function, and you know, occasionally even stand up and interrupt the chancellor or the president with some sharp remarks, which were unkind, but, you know, promoting the political discourse. I've done a lot of that kind of thing, always, I feel, within what is not only permissible but ought to be encouraged by the academic environment. I think I've gotten a little lazy in recent years and I regret that.
Aaserud:Obviously there was quite a transition in your life that occurred in about 1967 and onwards in terms of political activity and your approach to problems generally. Did that affect you family life in any way?
Schwartz:Sure. It was very stressful.
Aaserud:Was it supportive in any way?
Schwartz:Let's just say, it was then and even continues today to be a subject of stress, but one that my wife and I have managed to manage, though not resolve. So it's not easy but it's important that we have, let me just say, managed it. So it's not resolved but it is managed. And I must say it's very important that my marriage has survived. That's an important part of what lets me do these things, that there is a strong stable family base there, even if it is not completely happy about these things that I'm doing. It's very important.
Aaserud:We haven't talked about the articles during the latter part of that peak period, from 1970 to 1975, when your articles were solely devoted to these activist issues.
Schwartz:Actually my feeling is, I haven't published much.
Aaserud:But that's what I have to refer to.
Schwartz:But I'm talking about not the physics (but you have this list. A lot of that stuff I don't look at as great work and telling much. A lot of it is absolutely unique and in a sense useful and so on, but I find it hard to write in that domain in a way that's powerful. I don't know how.
Aaserud:Chronologically, shortly after your probing of the Rockefeller fortune, as it's called here, you publish an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists called "The Corporate Connection" which essentially points to the connection of PSAC members and also other science advisers to corporate America.
Aaserud:Was that motivated by the Rockefeller thing?
Schwartz:It was part of the same line of research, what they call power structure research. You look for the leadership in what you consider important institutions, and see whether they overlap, and you try to draw some structural or other conclusions about that. That work had been done in other domains; I brought it back into science. Again, library searching and finding, and I thought it was kind of interesting. I think a lot of people were a little surprised to read that, so that's a nice little piece of research. I recall the editor of the Bulletin at that time telling me that he had a lot of flak when he decided to publish that. I'm glad he did.
Aaserud:Who was he?
Schwartz:Sam Day. He had recently come on there from somewhere else. He's no longer there, because you know, while it doesn't say bad things about people, it mentions a number of illustrious names in a way that some people feel implies something un-nice. And you know, the Bulletin's board of (whatever it's called (it's just full of those same names. So there was either explicit or implicit pressure on the editor not to publish such trash, but he did it. I must say, funny things happen. Within the last year, I've sent three or four things to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and they've all been rejected.
Aaserud:Was that only during this last period?
Schwartz:Yes, just within the last year. You know, maybe I've lost touch with what's interesting, or maybe the Bulletin has changed. I don't know.
Aaserud:Generally throughout this period, have you had difficulties publishing your things?
Schwartz:I really haven't written a great deal. Have I had difficulty publishing? Yes, I'd say so. I mean, many things I've wanted to get published in much more central places. You know, I've made a few attempts to get something in Science Magazine. Once I got a letter (just no way. I remember once having something rejected by Phil Abelson, when he was the editor of Science Magazine, and I had the audacity to write back and say, "Why have you rejected this?" And he explained to me (these aren't exactly his words but it's very close (that, "There are some dangerous ideas here." Well, I mean, he's a loyal man, he knows where his duties are.
Aaserud:I think it's in that article, "The Corporate Connection," in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, where you conclude towards the end that we have to go towards a more socialist society.
Aaserud:In other connections, you're more careful. You talk about democratic ideals for example in Congressional testimony. What was and what is your larger scheme of things?
Schwartz:I don't know. You know, it's this poverty of the American political scene that on the one hand, people don't have the opportunity to develop these questions of alternative political systems, and most of the language is even forbidden, and certain words, you know, define you as someone who should certainly not be listened to, if not deported or killed or something.
Aaserud:"Socialism" is one of these words.
Schwartz:Yes, so, through interacting with students, I hear a lot of Marxist talk, and I've made several attempts to learn Marxism. You know, I've gone to some student-run schools in the late sixties to learn what is this all about that all these students are excited about? And it's the most unpleasant effort to try to learn Marxism. To read either some original stuff or what the professional Marxists say you have to read (it's just impossible stuff to read. I've always imagined it's like trying to learn physics by reading Isaac Newton. I mean, there must be a better way to learn it, I've felt, but I never found someone who could teach it. So I think I've picked up some of the concepts of Marxism, which once you sort of understand them, they make perfectly good sense. It's the only way to look at the social sciences, to understand things, to get a sense of what's going on. I've never fallen in with any particular dogmatic group. I've tried to listen to many of them, even some of the more outrageous ones. I've worked with many groups that even explicitly call themselves Communist Revolutionary this or that. You know. if there's an issue, and they're not out to do violence, I frequently work with all kinds of groups.
Aaserud:But there's always that pragmatic side to it.
Schwartz:Yes, now, the concepts of socialism seem to be absolutely right (I mean, that economic power needs to be subjected to democratic control in some real way, not in the phony way that so many so-called Socialist countries do it, and that capitalism is in some senses highly productive and in other ways enormously destructive. You know, this is real and I don't have answers to these questions. So when I wrote that article, I was feeling in a certain mood, and I worried about it and said, "OK, yes, I'm going to put down the word socialism, big deal, OK." Big deal. It just doesn't seem terribly important. I don't know. I still, you know, think that that is a direction in which socially we can be evolving, hopefully faster, but the problem is always, what are people willing to consider?
Aaserud:Trying to round this off, first of all, is there anything more recent that we haven't talked about that you think we should talk about?
Schwartz:No. Well, let's see. Yes. I described this Hippocratic Oath thing in 1970, which was an activity really, though I didn't see it that way, that was directed inward at my colleagues. And it evoked a lot of negative reaction. So at around that time, I sort of decided, "Well, I'm going to stop beating on my colleagues. I'm going to stop beating on the American Physical Society. I'll direct my activities outward. Whatever that meant. In recent years, I've sort of come back, and I've said, hey, things have gotten worse. The arms race is a lot worse. The job market for physicists is getting extraordinarily skewed, in terms of military work and not much else. I think there's a kind of crisis situation, both with regard to the arms race and with regard to the career of physicists. And I think I've got to bring this issue back to my friends. This is what I've been doing the last couple of years. A lot has been stimulated by students, who have been coming back from the campus placement center and saying very sadly and with great anguish that they can't find jobs that aren't weapons-related. So, you know, that reminds me, now that I've got a nice comfortable position here, I know I can't solve that question, but I can think about it. So I've taken the extraordinary step recently of concluding that as a teacher of the basic physics courses, I was a very significant contributor to the military programs of this country by training the people who will be building the weapons, and that I should stop doing that. So I have recently taken the position that, given the state of the world, I'm no longer willing to teach most of the regular physics courses, and at least temporarily, the department chairman has agreed to assign me to a few courses that are for biology majors or liberal arts majors. I also teach a course on science and politics and a course on the nuclear arms race. So I hope we can continue with that arrangement, where I'm happy about using my teaching skills in that way.
Aaserud:But that's more of a negative tactic.
Schwartz:It's negative and it's personal. It follows after the complete failure of my approach to organize all the physicists in the world to go on strike against the arms race. But you know, it seems a natural progression, talking about withholding services. It is negative, but on the one hand, let's say if I spend all my time criticizing what Reagan is doing, criticizing what the Pentagon is doing, criticizing what the people in Livermore are doing, because I say they're taking us to nuclear war, I would like those people to stop what they're doing then I have to ask the question, am I a part of that system in some way? Now, of course, I pay taxes, I breathe the air, and so on, but very concretely, I teach physics, and physics is a very potent part of the whole weapons program. I mean, that is really feeding into that, I have taught thousands of people basic science, and I'm sure many of them are building the weapons that I don't want to be built. So I just cannot deny my part in that role, and I have a choice. When a student of physics looks for a job, they have to choose whether to work for Lockheed or to drive a taxicab; there may be some intermediates though not too many. That's a real choice that person has to make, and why should I be immune? Why should I allow myself to give the standard false thing, "Oh, I'm just teaching pure science, it could be used for good or for evil, let's just hope for the best." That's the standard attitude. And the truth is, I know which way the world is going. I know where the jobs are, and I see what I am contributing to it. So if I'm for social responsibility, I have a choice to make. That's very harsh, but that's the reality. So I've made that choice, and the most frustrating thing about that is, I can't get my colleagues to talk about it. It's not just that they think I'm absurd, they don't even want to talk about it. So I'm trying to break through these layers of silence. I'm trying to get my colleagues to acknowledge and undertake the fact that they have to be talking with students about these issues, that they should be telling students about the job market early on, that they should be advising students which research specialties are most likely to trap you into a military-only career, and make that information available early on. And my colleagues just don't want to deal with these questions. This is not a matter of saying you will or won't work on SDI. This is a question of fulfilling your obligations as a teacher, to tell your students where they're headed. Not that you can know with all certainty, but to provide the best data available. Now, of course, to do that has political consequences. But to not do that also has political consequences, and this is the issue that I'm trying to push. It's very hard, but I think it's important. I've been giving a physics department colloquium talk in the last couple of years about this, in places where they're willing to invite me. Then afterwards when I sit down and talk with some physics students, in many parts of the country, they're very unhappy about the prospects for work other than weapons, and yet many of the teachers are personally concerned but just cannot find that this is an issue that they need to do something about as teachers. I think it's a crisis that is not acknowledged as a crisis, and I don't know how to make it break through.
Aaserud:Have you tried some alternative teaching, or have you taken up a positive position towards students in this in any way, formal or informal?
Schwartz:Well, as I say, I'll teach the things that I think are constructive, that are still about science. And I certainly want to work with the physics students in ways, but it's hard to know how. And people say, "Well, why don't you continue teaching physics, you teach the physics class, and then in the class you tell them what you think about this and that?" I said, "I have trouble with that. People get upset if they say you're using the classroom to promote your political ideology." And on the other hand, can I really say, "I'm teaching you this physics and I don't want you to use it?" I mean, there's something absurd about that. So I really have to weigh how much good I do in the classroom versus how much evil, and I really think I've done a lot of evil, and the best I can do is just stop that.
Aaserud:You can't distinguish between types of physics either?
Schwartz:Well, it would be nice to try to develop that. Maybe I'll have to do it myself, just to do the best I can to assess the different areas of physics research, get some Pentagon documents, see which areas they're interested in, write this up and just get it into every graduate student's hands. Maybe if I do that, then my colleagues will say, "Oh, this is not accurate enough," and then maybe they'll do an accurate job. Maybe I'll have to do it that way.
Aaserud:To what extent do you see the peak that I've been calling it as an episode? Obviously the times are very different now. To what extent do you see that it has led to something?
Schwartz:I don't think the times are that different. I mean, all this talk about the sixties being different from the seventies and eighties. You know, the emphasis (what the newspapers say is in and what's out (is different. But that's always a nonsensical statement. Things have always been mixed. I think many people sense, say, "the crisis of militarism in science" intensely now, but also are so confused about what to do about it, what to think, and so seek the avenue of just burying it. Physicists in particular I think are full of that inner tension. You know, things will happen in the world, good things and bad things. Maybe the problems will go away. Maybe some crisis will come. Maybe people will be forced to break through in one way or another. I don't know. I mean, history controls itself. So I see myself as, you know, doing what I can to thoroughly, honestly, sharply raise these questions, bring them before people, give them opinions and analyses, which I think are thoroughly warranted, and many call extreme (you know, within the context of language, overlap with people, and keep trying. I have no idea how to measure the success of that. Once you acknowledge what's going on in the world and the role physics plays, I think there's an obligation to do something in this direction, and each person should do the best that they can find to do. I've certainly had the opportunity to do a lot, and I've tried to take advantage of that. I'd like to have a list of successes, but I could make an enormous list of failures. I could claim successes in various things indirectly. I don't know whether I deserve that or not. I don't care. I feel very good about this kind of a life. It is very stressful, very frustrating, but not the kind of frustration that makes one feel bad inside. I feel very good.
Aaserud:You talked about a list of successes, a list of failures; any items that you could point to in particular?
Schwartz:No, I let other people do that. I don't care.
OK, well, thank you very much.