Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

January Photos of the Month

“Tea, Earl Grey, Hot,” is a familiar line if you have watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. In that show, Captain Jean-Luc Piccard orders his favorite beverage from the replicator in the same manner in practically every episode. A nice hot tea is also my beverage of choice during the cold winter months. Looking through the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, it is clear many a physicist has also enjoyed a delicious cup of tea. Enjoy this Photos of the Month post on the theme of tea with a cup of your favorite winter beverage.

Men in suits and women in dresses stand around chatting on a lawn in front of a house. in the background a table with food and drinks is visible.

Harvard College Observatory tea on the lawn of the residence, circa 1924. Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Shapley Collection. Harvard College Observatory D1.

Let’s start with a visit to the Harvard College Observatory where tea is being enjoyed outdoors on a day that doesn’t look like winter at all. Left to right are pictured staff members Donald H. Menzel, Willem J. Luyton, and Leon Campbell. At the far right, Miss Mowry is speaking with Clyde Fisher of the American Museum of Natural History. Also pictured in the center are Edward Skinner King and Mrs. Yamamoto, likely the wife of Issei Yamamoto.

There is currently a project underway to catalog, digitize, and transcribe all the handwritten notebooks produced by the astronomers and staff of the Harvard College Observatory. You can read more about Project PHaEDRA and why it is important for the history of women in astronomy in an article from the Spring 2022 AIP History Newsletter.

five men in suits and nametags sit on stools in front of a long table. they hold cups of tea in their hands. In the background are decorative paths and plants. A building is just visible in the background through some trees.

A tea party at the Garden of the Nijo Castle in Kyoto during the International Conference on Elementary Particles. September 1965. Left to right: Shoichi Sakata, unidentified, unidentified, Robert Marshak, and Hideki Yukawa. Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Yukawa Collection. Sakata Shoichi D1.

Weather permitting, tea is a wonderful thing to enjoy outdoors. It looks like the weather was very nice in September 1965 during the International Conference on Elementary Particles held in Kyoto. Pictured here at a tea party are (at least three) prominent particle physicists. (And possibly more; if you know the names of the two unidentified people in the center, please do write in to [email protected]!) Shoichi Sakata was a theoretical physicist who postulated the Sakata model, a precursor to the quark model. Sakata studied under Hideki Yukawa, and together they predicted the existence of the neutral pi meson. Yukawa, also pictured above, was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1949 for his prediction of a meson (the pion) to mediate the strong and weak nuclear forces. The third person who is identified above, Robert Marshak, was also a particle physicist who worked on mesons. He also served as president of the American Physical Society, and president of the City College of New York. Coincidentally, he is credited with starting the Rochester Conference, also known as the International Conference on High Energy Physics, featured in one of the other images in this post.

Men and women in suits and dresses sit around tables in a lush garden as waiters in tuxedos hover in the background.

Pieter Zeeman (front left between two women in hats), Benito Mussolini seated center, Hendrik Lorentz (possibly at same table third from right). A note with photo indicates Robert Millikan was also present. Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, W. F. Meggers Collection. Zeeman Pieter D3.

This outdoor tea party has a slightly different atmosphere from the previous two. Even though you can’t actually see the tea cups on the tables, the photograph is entitled “Tea with Mussolini,” and that’s good enough for me to include in this collection. (How could I not?) If the phrase sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also the title of a 1999 film about a group of American and British ex-pats living in Florence just before and during the Second World War.

The photo above was likely taken in 1927 at the first Volta Conference, which was attended by over 60 different physicists including 15 present or future Nobel Prize winners like Niels Bohr, James Franck, Max Planck, William Bragg, Ernest Rutherford, Max Born, etc., as well as Pieter Zeeman and Hendrick Lorentz shown above! The conference was named in honor of Alessandro Volta and held in Como, where Volta had lived most of his life. There are undoubtedly a number of interesting research topics waiting to be investigated here. A comparison of the Solvay and Volta Conferences anyone?

In a cafeteria with floor-to-ceiling windows and curtains, Emilio Segre sits at a table and stirs his cup of tea. To his left sits Homi Bhabha, who leans back in his chair with another cup of tea in front of him. A third man at the table has his back to the camera.

Emilio Segrè and Homi Bhabha enjoying tea near Mumbai (Bombay), circa November 1963. Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Segrè Collection. Segrè Emilio C12.

Next let’s move to India, where tea production and drinking has a long and storied history. But the photo above is just one snapshot of tea enjoyment where our photography archive’s namesake Emilio Segrè is sitting with Homi Bhabha, who has been called the “master builder of nuclear India.” At the time this photograph was taken, Segrè had been awarded his Nobel Prize and was working at the University of California, Berkeley. He was active in multiple professional capacities in nuclear and particle physics. This was no doubt a stimulating conversation then with Homi Bhabha, a nuclear physicist who founded and directed the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (later renamed the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre). The TIFR had just opened in its new, permanent, location the previous year. In fact, on the same trip on which this photo was taken, Emilio Segrè gave a talk to the TIFR in the institute’s auditorium. Perhaps this photo was even taken at the TIFR cafeteria to relax after the talk?

Oppenheimer and another man, both in suits, sit at a small table with cups of tea and plates of pastries in front of them. Oppenheimer wears a nametag and gestures while he talks to someone off camera. The second man is in the foreground looking down while he smokes a pipe.

Leonard (left) of Time Magazine interviewing Robert Oppenheimer (right) at the Seventh International Conference on High Energy Physics in 1957, (also known as The Rochester Conference). Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Marshak Collection. Oppenheimer J Robert C26.

Speaking of tea after talks … There is something about tea (or coffee) in standard cups with assorted pastries that look exactly like those above. It just screams “conference coffee break!” Maybe it’s also Robert Oppenheimer’s name tag that also lends this photo a definite conference atmosphere. I’ve looked but haven’t been able to find a copy of the interview shown above between Oppenheimer and Time Magazine. At the time of the interview, Oppenheimer had been stripped of his security clearance for three years. The U.S. Secretary of Energy recently nullified this 1954 decision by the Atomic Energy Commission.

Eight men and three women sit or stand behind a laboratory table on which is visible drinking cups and beakers with stirers in them. Some laboratory equipment is visible in the background.

Tea and a group portrait at Pierre Weiss's laboratory in ETH Zurich. Spring 1913. Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, gift of Karl F. Herzfeld. Herzfeld Karl E1.

Tea is not only a celebratory beverage, it can also be the fuel for in-progress scientific research. (Or even inspire some research of its own!) First, I should note the obvious safety issue in taking tea in the laboratory (or really consuming any food or drink) amongst the laboratory equipment. Unless they ran out of cups, in which case a beaker could be a handy substitute? Second, I’m still working out the identities of all the individuals in this photo – there may be an upcoming blog post about this photograph specifically! – however, there are some recognizable individuals immediately apparent. On the far left is Karl Herzfeld, and in the back row, second from the left, is Paul Ehrenfest. And of course, in the front row third from the left is Albert Einstein. At least half of the people pictured are visitors to the lab in one way or another, so this was definitely a hopping place to be!

Fifteen men and one woman sit or stand behind a table on which can be seen cups of tea.

Attendees of the Theoretical Physics Colloquium at the University of Michigan in 1929. Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Uhlenbeck Collection. University of Michigan E15.

You can just make out tea bags on some of the saucers in this group photo from the University of Michigan. Michigan in the 1920s and 1930s was quite the incubator for quantum physics in the United States. The University was especially known for its summer symposia, which drew many young physicists together along with prominent thinkers every summer from 1928 until the start of the Second World War. In honor of these symposia, in 2010 the American Physical Society marked the University of Michigan as a Historic Site in the history of physics. For more on the history of the Symposia, you can also check out this three-part oral history interview with Harrison Randall, a long-time chair of the U. Michigan physics department.

A greyed-out copy of the University of Michigan E15 photograph, where each person's face is circled and numbered. Seated in the front row, from left to right, are individuals 1, 15, 2, 13, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Standing in the back are, from left to right, 16, 14, 12, 11, 10, and 9.

An identification key for the University of Michigan E15 photograph. Credit: Joanna Behrman.

    Identified in this photograph are:

    1. Melba Phillips
    2. Leonard Ornstein
    3. Lorne Matheson
    4. Russell Fisher
    5. Harald Nielsen
    6. Unidentified. Perhaps an Englishman on fellowship named Brest?
    7. George Rainich
    8. George A. Van Lear Jr.
    9. Walter Colby
    10.  Lloyd Young
    11.  Robert F. Bacher
    12.  George E. Uhlenbeck
    13.  David R. Inglis
    14. Hugh C. Wolfe
    15.  Otto Laporte
    16.  David Dennison

    A note on the identification key in the ESVA records remarks, “The group is the Theoretical Physics Colloquium which came together in Sam & George’s office on the third floor of the (then new) East Physics Building now called Randall Physics Building in Ann Arbor.”

    From left to right, Yakov Zeldovich, Alla Genrikhovna Masevich, and Vera Rubin sit on a couch around a coffee table decked with a china tea set. Zeldovich and Rubin look towards the camera smiling while Masevich opens a bottle of a cold drink.

    Yakov Zeldovich, Alla Genrikhovna Masevich, and Vera Rubin having tea in Moscow in 1983. Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Rubin Collection. Zeldovich Yakov C1.

    Finally, this photograph of a celebratory tea was taken in Moscow in 1983 on the occasion of Yakov Zeldovich’s winning the Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, which is awarded every year for outstanding lifetime contributions to astronomy. It certainly seems like a very cheerful tea party, and the fine tea set is a nice nod to the celebratory nature of the occasion.

    Zeldovich worked in many different areas of physics, including chemical physics and nuclear and particle physics. He really got started in astrophysics when he was around 50 years old, but made many contributions to star formation, the cosmic microwave background, black holes, etc. It would be a bit easier to list what he didn’t work on.

    About Vera Rubin much has already been written, so for more I recommend reading through one of her oral histories or a recent interview with one of her biographers.

    And in the middle sits Alla Genrikhovna Masevich, a Soviet astronomer who worked as the Deputy Chairman for the Astronomical Council of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and frequently as an international spokesperson for Soviet astronomy. She also conducted research on the evolution of massive stars and was responsible for optically tracking Soviet satellites, beginning in 1957 with Sputnik 1.

    References and Further Reading

    Broad, William J. “J. Robert Oppenheimer Cleared of ‘Black Mark’ After 68 Years.” The New York Times (16 December 2022). https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/16/science/j-robert-oppenheimer-energy-department.html

    Brown, Laurie M. “Hideki Yukawa.” Physics Today 35, no. 2 (February 1982): 88-89. https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1063/1.2914949

    Carver, Nico. “Project PHaEDRA.” AIP History Newsletter 54, no. 1 (Spring 2022): 13-15. https://www.aip.org/sites/default/files/2022-06/v54n1_2022-digital-singles_0.pdf

    Gurshtein, Alexander. “Masevich, Alla Genrikhovna.” In Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. New York: Springer, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-9917-7_9357

    Interview of A. G. Masevich by Spencer Weart on 1976 September 1, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4761

    Interview of Harrison Randall by David Dennison and W. James King on 1964 February 19, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4840-1

    Interview of Vera Rubin by David DeVorkin on 1995 September 21, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/5920-1

    Leslie, Stuart and Indira Chowdhury. “Homi Bhabha, master builder of nuclear India.” Physics Today 71, no. 9 (September 2018): 48-55. https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/PT.3.4021

    Levine, Alaina G. “University of Michigan: Ann Arbor, Michigan.” APS Historic Sites Initiative. https://www.aps.org/programs/honors/history/historicsites/summer.cfm

    Lustig, Harry, Susumu Okubo, and E. C. George Sundarshan. “Robert E. Marshak.” Physics Today 46, no. 11 (November 1993): 105-106. https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1063/1.2809111

    Pancaldi, Giuliano. “The Social Uses of Past Science: Celebrating Volta in Fascist Italy.” In: Zwilling, R. (eds) Natural Sciences and Human Thought. Berlin: Springer, 1995. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-78685-3_20

    Reiner, Markus. “The teapot effect…a problem.” Physics Today 9, 9 (September 1956): 16. https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1063/1.3060089

    Scott, Douglas. “Zeldovich, Yakov Boris.” In Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. (New York: Springer, 2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-9917-7_1525

    “Shoichi Sakata.” Physics Today Online (18 January 2017). https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/pt.5.031400/full/

    Tea. This post was written with the help of multiple cups of tea – including mint, rooibos, ginger-lemon, and, of course, earl grey.

    Tobin, James. “Summer school for geniuses.” Michigan Today. (10 November 2010). https://michigantoday.umich.edu/2010/11/10/a7892/

    “Vera Rubin: A Life, with Author Dr. Jacqueline Mitton.” Ex Libris Universum (16 February 2021). https://www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/ex-libris-universum/vera-rubin-life-author-dr-jacqueline-mitton

    About the Author

    Joanna Behrman

    Joanna Behrman

    Joanna Behrman was the Assistant Public Historian at the Center for History of Physics (CHP). She holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and specializes in the history of women in physics. At CHP she was in charge of education and outreach projects. One of her favorite works in the collection is Dorothy Weeks’s unpublished memoir.

    Caption: Madalyn Avery, Household Physics Laboratory Manual (New York: Macmillan Company, 1940), page 8

    See all articles by Joanna Behrman

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