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Interview of Orson L. Anderson by Craig Hickey on 2000 May 22,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Dr. Orson Anderson describes his family background; his military service, which influenced his entire scientific career; his educational background; his work at Bell Labs, Columbia University, and the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at the University of California Los Angeles; he also discusses his current family life and his plans for retirement.
My name is Craig Hickey. Today’s date is May 22, 2000. We are at the National Center for Physical Acoustics at the University of Mississippi in Mississippi, USA. I am about to interview Dr. Orson Anderson for the Acoustical Society of America. Technical Committee on Physical Acoustics. We’ll start by talking about Dr. Anderson’s military training. Were you ever in the military?
Yes I was.
What branch of the military?
I was in the Army Air Corps, which at that time was not a separate service. The Army Air Corps became the US Air Force after I separated from the service.
How long did you serve?
When did that occur?
They were between 1943 and 1946.
What were your duties in the military?
I went into the service as a pilot trainee, a cadet. After I graduated with my pilot wings, I was put on a very special experimental duty. I was taken directly from flight school to an Air Force Service Squadron in the South Pacific. A service squadron is like a garage for cars –- you bring old planes in and fix them up and then give them back. The pilots in that squadron are supposed to check a plane, check its performance before it’s delivered back to the owners, the military squadron from which it came.
And you were one of these test pilots?
I was one of these…they were called operational test pilots, as distinct from experimental test pilots. In the military service they have MOSs, Military Occupation Specialty. Mine was 4051.
Is there anything that you recall about the military service that you feel had some significance on your future?
Oh, yes! It affected my future career considerably. In this service squadron there were technical representatives from the major air companies, like North American, Lockheed, and Boeing. Because the Air Corps were flying their ships, the technical reps wanted to see their performance so their companies could make new models that were better. Part of the duty of these technical representatives was to interview the pilots that flew the planes being tested. They were not allowed to fly the planes, but they could interview the pilots who flew the planes. And as a consequence of this I became acquainted with the performance and the engineering aspects of the planes. I became very impressed with these people who introduced me to the design and functions of aircraft. I decided at that point that I would become one like them. I found that I wanted to become an aeronautical engineer after I was separated from the service. This was a big change in orientation for me because I was a son of a rancher and the last thing that was in the mind of my father was a college education for me.
So you hadn’t gone to college before you went to the military?
Yes, I did. I had a quarter in a junior college after I joined up but before I was called to duty. That was recommended by the recruiting officer who swore me into the service.
Did you see a lot of technical advances in the airplanes during those three years?
Oh yes. For example, a typical problem would be on, say, a B26, which had electric propellers. There was considerable improvement in the performance of the propeller between the early and later models. We had special assignments when we were testing this propeller. We went up and did certain functions and wrote certain things down as prescribed in the manual. When we came back we might talk to the engineers about the performance. We talked occasionally, not always. Sometimes they were very interested in what we found. They would ask leading questions and sometimes arrange for another flight to do something that wasn’t done, wasn’t prescribed in the manual. So I became acquainted with a kind of airplane performance that most pilots don’t think about very much.
What was your highest rank?
Second: Lieutenant. I was scheduled to be a First Lieutenant, but I cracked up a P51 and spoiled the General’s record. I don’t know why it got away from me on landing, but it did and it went through palm trees and left the wings behind. But I was safely ensconced in the cockpit. The commanding General of the island was very particular about the safety record on the island, and he didn’t like unknown causes for things. I knew that. I was only 20 years old when that happened. I knew the General would be displeased, but I decided that everybody else knew that as well. The Captains and Majors and Lieutenant Colonels between the General and me would know that, and so there would be all kinds of reviews and something close to court-martial because I could not truthfully say why my P51 got away from me on landing I decided to bypass all the intermediate reviews. I got into a Jeep and drove directly to the General’s headquarters. I was able to see him and tell him that “I cracked up a P51 and I’ll be damned if I know why.” He questioned me a little bit. He said, “You know, that’s a bad thing on the group’s record.” I said, “Yes, I’m sure of that.” He reached over in his basket and said, “You see what this is? This is your promotion to First Lieutenant.” [Tearing Sound] And threw it in the wastebasket. But that was a small price to pay, because everybody knew that I’d gone to see the General but they didn’t know what had happened in the General’s office. So the chief test pilot (my hero, Captain Lynch) decided not to have a review of the accident, and then the Major, the Squadron Commander, decided there was no use in having a review. (He might go against what the General had said). So the whole matter was dropped; that saved me a lot of pain. The price I paid was not to get my promotion to First Lieutenant.
But you survived the crash.
Oh, well, that was a small thing. Of course I survived the crash. We were trained to survive crashes. Our good chief test pilot, Captain Joseph Lynch, trained us to survive crashes.
How long of a training period did you have to go through before they actually got you up there testing?
It was unbelievable short. We were sent over to the repair squadron right out of flight school. And Captain Lynch was told, “Here’s your new pilots”. He said, “Oh my God, they’re giving me a bunch of kids.” So we were trained sort of on the spot. At that time, training consisted of flying 20 new B25s coming in on a carrier, which needed attention. They had to have a complete test check because in bringing them over on the carriers the wings had been taken off and the bomb bay racks needed to be installed. So everything had to be rechecked. There was poor Captain Lynch with these 20 B25s out there that needed immediate testing, and he had a bunch of unseasoned kids to help do the job. He taught us a little bit about the B25, took a few of us up, showed us how it landed, and then watched us while we landed it. Then he said, “Okay, it’s yours. You get to test the next B25 alone.”
That was the extent of your training?
That’s all the time there was, you see. Why he didn’t get experienced pilots to do this job is one of those mysteries in the service.
I guess the experienced pilots were needed somewhere else.
I imagine, but it seemed to everyone like an irregular thing to do. But out of the nine young men who came to him, all of us were under the age of 22, completely inexperienced with anything except the trainer plane. None of us were hurt or killed in the year and a half of operations that followed. That is due to the leadership of Joseph Lynch.
So you had to go through many different types of planes?
Whatever came in. As a matter of fact, I was checked out in 20 different planes in two years. The problem was that the planes arrived in bunches. That was the whole point. It wasn’t like a Mercedes, then a Ford, and then a Dodge coming into the garage. Suddenly you had 25 Hondas. And nobody in the garage knew much about Hondas. War-weary planes were sent to the repair squadron from the fighting front, and our job was to decide whether they were safe enough to fly. If they weren’t, they were supposed to be junked. Accidents often occurred with war weary planes, but none of the young pilots were hurt or killed.
You only crashed once?
No. I crashed five times. I guess you’d call it on the job training.
Accelerated on the job training I would call it.
That’s what it was. But it was a good experience for me. I was really lucky to have had this experience because it taught me a lot about technology.
Was the aircraft industry in a period of rapid technological advancement?
Oh yeah. Month by month you could see an increase in the quality and performance of all the planes. I cracked up a P51D, which was the fourth version of a P51.
Maybe they’d come out with the fifth version that solved the problem that caused you to crack it up. It was a mechanical failure of some sort? We’ll move on. Did you ever attend any technical, business, or trade schools?
Only this on the job training.
It was not very technical.
In the military?
Military. There should’ve been a test-flight school to send us to. And, of course, that was the way it was established later on. We didn’t have the experience of being taught in a test-flight school.
So you were sent up as a test pilot but with little experience, but how would you know if there was something wrong with the plane?
It’s kind of like a garage. There’s something wrong with the carburetor so you pay attention to the carburetor. There’s a focus on a part of the airplane that you’re looking at. We were not experimental test pilots. We were not evaluating the performance of a new aircraft. Our job was different, more like the job of a mechanic.
Did you ever get involved in the mechanical aspects of it or did you just fly the planes?
I reported for work, and my name was on a big board that told me what I was supposed to do. I went to that place and talked to the mechanics who had been working on the plane. If I weren’t familiar with this too much, I would go look at the manuals to see and decide what I was going to do. That was a typical day. I went through with the testing of the plane and came back and recorded what I had found. But I was supposed to check something on that plane, whatever it was. Perhaps the gas consumption, perhaps the RPM, whatever it was just exactly as a mechanic in a garage would approach a problem.
Did you ever take any correspondence courses?
Yes I did, because I had some free time in this job. After orienting myself towards becoming an aeronautical engineer, I realized that that would require a college education. I realized that I would need mathematics. So I took a series of correspondence courses, starting with Advanced Algebra and ending up with, I think, the second course in Differential Equations. I did that while in the service in New Guinea and the Philippine islands.
How about later on after the military? After your years in the military, have you ever taken correspondence courses?
You went to college after your service in the military?
I immediately became a full time college student.
I think that these other questions they have here are with reference to correspondence courses while you were in the military.
No, I didn’t take a correspondence course outside the military. By the way, those correspondence courses run by the military were very good.
We’ll now go on to your past professional careers. After college, what was your first place of employment?
Bell Telephone Laboratories. But I think it’s important here to say that I got into Bell Laboratories by a stroke of luck. During college I supported myself in the Air National Guard. That helped a lot with finances. I had a young family then. I got into graduate school and the GI Bill didn’t provide enough pay, so I went into the Air National Guard. But during the time I was writing my thesis, I noticed two things: I really didn’t have time to go out to fly planes, and I was losing the memory that you need to have as a pilot. You’ve got to remember a lot of things called the checklist. I suppose that thinking like physicists was developing one part of my brain at the expense of another part. So for those two reasons I decided that I shouldn’t fly anymore, and I resigned my commission in the Utah Air National Guard. Now, being in the Air National Guard means that you must resign to the governor of the state. That’s a rather fast process. I put my letter of resignation in to the governor and I was released rather speedily. Being in the Air National Guard means that when the governor signed the release, the national military had no hold on you. My release from the Air National Guard in 1951 came one month before the outbreak of the Korean War. I was saved from early action in the Korean War. Instead I went to my first job, which was at Bell Labs. I was recruited by a Bell Labs scout. Bell Labs had the idea, at that time at least, of setting out recent people who had graduated in the area, in the state or perhaps several surrounding states, to see physics and chemistry graduates in various schools in their assigned district. A Bell Labs scout came to the University of Utah when I graduated and reported back to Bell Labs about me. It turned out that I had some exceptional training and orientation; that is to say, not very many other physicists were doing what I was doing. So there weren’t an awful lot of new physicists like me. Warren Mason at Bell Labs wanted the type of physicist I had become. I got a good offer (which I accepted) to go and work in the research department under Warren Mason’s direction. I wasn’t in physical acoustics in Utah. I was in mechanics. The reason I was in mechanics was that I had had an inclination to become a mechanical engineer. I got a mechanical engineering degree and then switched to physics. I was in the classical field of physics that wasn’t very well populated. I was later told by Warren that was the reason they were interested in me — I had an inclination for mechanics. That is, mechanics as defined by physicists, not necessarily mechanics as defined by mechanical engineers.
If I may insert here, I’m Logan Hargrove, and I was in the same department at Bell Labs. Physical Acoustics was never to my knowledge an official department title. Ironically it was called Mechanics Research Department. Our local definition of mechanics was heat, sound, and electricity, and anything else we could get away with.
Hargrove is right: it was physics except that modern stuff. But I think sometimes we thought of ourselves as in physical acoustics, but Bell Labs thought we were in mechanics. My training was in mechanics, and so I was spotted because there were not very many physics graduates at that time that claimed a big interest in mechanics. I should say how I got into the Physics Department at the University of Utah. I earned a mechanical engineering degree, and I had faithfully pursued it. But as I took the classes I realized that I really didn’t care much for mechanical engineering, despite my earlier inclinations. One of the reasons why was that they had a lot of very old fashioned requirements in mechanical engineering. They had what they called a heat engine laboratory. There was lots of drafting and surveying to do, which were just not in my interest. Consequently, my grades in those things slipped, but I could always get an “A” in a math class without question, so I always took a math class. I became well acquainted very much with Professor Beasley, who was head of the math department. By the time I was a senior in mechanical engineering I was teaching calculus and algebra to the engineering classes of the math department. This tells you something about what I could do and couldn’t do. I wanted to get my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and get out of college and go to work. That seemed like the right thing to do at the time. And so I applied for a job and I ended up as a candidate for the Naval Ordinance Testing Laboratory in China Lake, California, I think. I had to take a Civil Service examination in China Lake. The Civil Service examination included something that showed your interests, abilities: a profile. My profile turned out to be kind of low in mechanical engineering and so they wouldn’t hire me. I was dumbfounded by that so I went and talked to Beasley. And he said, “You know, you don’t want to be a mechanical engineer. Your interests lie someplace else.” He says, “You should really think of math as a career.” I thought, “Math” You can’t earn a nickel in math.” So Beasley arranged for another interview. When I came in, and the head of the Department of Physics, Linford, was there with Beasley. They both said why don’t you split it down the middle and take physics as a graduate student. I followed their advice and it was a smart thing to do, because I picked up the physics I had not taken fairly fast. All the physics classes I hadn’t had because I was a mechanical engineer I breezed through. But still I had that inclination for mechanics and my thesis was in that field. I learned a lot of physics, and that’s how I became a physicist, with an inclination for mechanics.
At Bell Labs, what did you do?
That was a very strange experience; because when I got there I asked the same question. What should I do? And Mason said, do what you want to do. That was Warren Mason’s reply — a very unsatisfactory reply to me. So I cruised around and in the group. I can’t remember whether we were called a department or not. I think we were not big enough to be a department. We were a group or something. Anyway, I met some of Mason’s people and I started doing the things they were doing. They were all doing physical acoustics.
You might mention some of those names because I think a lot of people who may here this may recognize them.
Well, Robert Thurston was a theoretician in acoustics working for Mason. I admired his work very much. There was Herb McSkimin, who really put pulse echo ultrasonics on its feet more than anybody. I was an admirer of his work. Then Hans Bommel, recently from Germany, who did low temperature acoustic measurements and another theoretician from Switzerland, Konrad Brugger. Bommel later became a Professor of Physics at UCLA, well known for his work in superconductors.
Drownsfeld? Is it Clause Drownsfeld?
Yes him but there was another one too probably before you came.
Hans Bommel and I wrote several papers together and McSkimin and I wrote several papers together. They influenced me. They were experimentalists. Those were the people that I interacted with most. There were others also, but I don’t remember their names…Without being told, I ended up doing experiments with them and then something like what they were doing. I had my own interests in materials. Each one of these people had his own interests in certain kinds of materials. But I ended up doing things in minerals and glasses instead of metals and transistors. That was how I chose my career specialty. I think Mason gave up this requirement later, but when I got there Warren Mason wanted me to show him my workbook, my scientific notebook every week. I suppose he suspected that I wasn’t really a good experimentalist yet, so he was going to teach me. I had to write down whatever I did and find the important things in the work every week. I had to have my notebook reviewed and signed by a colleague such as Thurston or McSkimin. They witnessed the notebook, and they signed it. Mason would look at my notebook and make comments. His comments were usually to the effect that the witness hadn’t really seen the important things in this or identified things not done. I think this was an education for both the writer and the reviewer. Then pretty soon he didn’t do that much anymore, but I got the idea. I learned the importance of the notebook. The importance came out when patents were on the horizon.
In that department, probably more than others, the lab notebook was a very important part of culture. It turns out that organizationally we were in a funny position. We were part of research, and a patent was the next level of organization, so we were very patent-conscious. One consequence being (I think if not still), Warren Mason held the largest number of patents ever issued to a single person. So that’s where he was coming from.
He was training us.
Yes he was training us.
It was good training because I hadn’t done this before in college. I hadn’t thought about this problem, but when you write something about your experiment and you know your colleague is going to witness it, you’re more careful. Not only do you write down what you did, but knowing that colleague is going to be a witness, you have to think about the research result’s implications. I’ve noticed in my own work in recent years my notebooks are getting more careless that way — they’re not as sharp as they used to be when I was at Bell Labs. So those are my colleagues.
Do you require your students and post docs to keep lab books?
Sure. And I do the same thing Mason did.
Since you had such a strong liking for mathematics, I guess Bell Labs made you an experimentalist rather than a theorist?
Bell Labs did not decide to make me an experimentalist. I was allowed to choose, and I chose to become an experimentalist. I think my strength in mathematics was not oriented towards what became research mathematics. It was oriented towards practical solutions of problems of the type that experimentalists face. I really was more inclined for experiment than theory, but I must say that mathematics turned out to be a useful tool to design experiments. But I never developed my mathematical skills to a high degree.
At Bell Labs were there any special projects that stand out that you figure you contributed significantly towards?
Well, Bell Labs pays a lot of attention to the patents that you make. I made two patents in the field of adhesion, which in my opinion is a branch of mechanics. These patents were very profitable to AT&T. The first was called the solderless wrap connection. In cables put on the bottom of the ocean sturdy electrical connections between wires must be made. It’s usually done with solder. Western Electric had trouble with these cables because the solder in the connections broke after a few years on the sea bottom. To help Western Electric, the vice president of research at Bell Labs called for a study to determine how to put these pieces of wire together more sturdily. The vice president’s request was focused on the Mechanics Department. The Mechanics Department took this request as a directive. Everybody in the department tried their luck at finding a solution, but the one that I found turned out to be the successful one; it was eventually adopted by Western Electric’s factory. It was the simplest thing. It is nothing more than the idea of taking the pliers and twisting the wires together, except that there was a more elaborate twist than usual. The twist ended up as a double spiral on the wires. The tool that made this, which was found by my laboratory, scraped the sides of the wires very efficiently and put clean surfaces together: and there were a large number of these surface contacts. A very strong bond was created without soldering the wires. The patent for this was a very successful in the eyes of Bell Labs. I got some kudos over it. But that was an assignment. That was a problem assigned to the Department, and we were supposed to find a solution if we could. I, as a member of the group, found the solution. Western Electric had a serious problem that didn’t come down as a focus problem to our Department, that is, it didn’t come down from the Vice President as a focus problem for our department. This problem was within the transistor application group, and my department wasn’t informed about it. One day I was having lunch with an engineer in the Transistor Applications Department named Howard Christianson. He talked to me about the problem of putting electrical leads on transistors. They were trying variations of soldering the lead to the transistor, but were having a very high rejection rate at the factory. Apparently the PN junction of the transistor was spoiled by a little bit of impurity from the soldering wire. The melting took a foreign atom into the delicate PN junction and destroyed the transistor’s capabilities. They were losing about 95% of the transistors made at the factory. I told Howard Christianson, “Well, why don’t you just take a piece of gold wire and put it on the transistor and seal it with a soldering iron on top, and I think it’ll hold.” He said, “Nah, that won’t hold.” I replied, “That’s the way I put metallic leads on quartz.” “You’re kidding me!” “Well, let’s go see.” So we went to my lab and I showed him that with a wire attached in this way, you could pick up the quartz and shake it. The bond was very strong. I had never done this, but I was sure that if you took a cross section of the junction surfaces, you wouldn’t see penetration of the gold into the quartz. Then Howard said, “Let’s try it with the transistors.” While he went back to his lab and to get some transistors, I stayed in my lab, and, (remembering Warren Mason) I got out my notebook and recorded the conversation we had had and what we’d done and were about to do. Howard came back with the transistor and a little gold wire and we put a soldering iron on it and a strong bond was made. It was beautiful. It performed quite well. We went back to his lab and tested the performance of the transistor. I described all these procedures in my notebook. He sent it down for a cross section and all the stuff that physical chemists do. And I wrote the entire story in my notebook. Well, the resulting patent was called the “thermo-compression bond”, I believe, by the patent department. The acceptance range in the factory rose to 90%. This patent saved oodles and oodles of money for Western Electric. They also leased that patent to many transistor companies just being established, like Motorola. It made bundles of money for Western Electric and AT&T, and the Bell Labs was very grateful. I remember that Henry Pollack, Chair of the Mathematics Department, (we were in his department, I believe)…
Or division or something.
Well, anyway, Pollack was my boss’s boss. He called me in and said, “congratulations on this patent; it’s really getting a lot of attention in higher circles, so it’s doing you good.” I said, “Will it get me more money?” And he said, “No, but you’re going to get something more precious — freedom.” I think that was generally true at Bell Labs. If you did something useful, after that you got to do the research you wanted to do. What I wanted to do was what I had been doing, so I’m not sure I really had that much more freedom, but I felt as if I had more freedom, anyway. So these two patents that came as offshoots of my work turned out to be valuable inventions. Now neither of these patents was directly related to physical acoustics. But indirectly they were, because I was an experimentalist in physical acoustics, and I needed the thermo-compression bond device to do my experiments, and the solderless wrapped connection is related. They certainly weren’t classified as physical acoustics by my department. I think they called them adhesive devices. In answer to your question, these were the main things that stand out, but there were other things perhaps of more scientific value that also stand out. One special project that stands out is doing physical acoustics on minerals of low symmetry. I supplemented experimental results with theoretical ideas, and I became an expert in low symmetry mineralogy. The research I completed in this field later became a recognized research sub discipline that was given the name, Mineral Physics, which is now an accepted subdivision of geophysics in the American Geophysical Union. For that I got attention from a different kind of scientist outside of the physics community.
What was Bell Lab’s interest in minerals? Were they just searching for better ways of measuring properties?
To my knowledge, Bell Labs wasn’t interested in minerals. I was interested in minerals, and they gave me freedom to pursue that interest.
I’m just thinking along the lines of pharmaceutical companies. They’re interested in the study of natural products because they can use natural products, and I was wondering if Bell Labs had this same attitude towards minerals. Maybe they would find interesting properties of minerals, which might be beneficial to them.
No, they didn’t. Hendrik Bode, who was the predecessor of Henry Pollack as my boss’s boss, called me in and asked me why I had a predilection for minerals (he called them silicates). I answered, “Because they’re fun and interesting and there’s lots of them in the world.” And he said, “Well that’s not down the line of Bell Labs’ interest.” I responded, “Hendrik, if you have some material you’d rather have me measure acoustically, tell me and I’ll do it. Until you do that, I’d like to work with minerals.” But then later on after I’d gotten those patents, nobody said anything anymore about Bell Labs’ interests.
How did you come about with this idea of putting gold wire on the quartz? Is it just something you did one day in the lab?
Well, I had to have electrical leads on the quartz at the transducers, and that seemed to me to be a good way to make them. I didn’t think any more about it, but, fortunately, recorded the method in my notebook (Warren Mason’s training).
It’s just astonishing.
As a matter of fact, I was very lucky because a year or so before this thing with Howard Christianson came up, I had written about having made a bond between quartz and gold in my notebook and had it witnessed. The method just seemed obvious. Then big money became involved and a lot of people got interested in finding out how it worked. Jeff Courtney-Pratt, from Cambridge University in England, joined Bell Labs. Jeff told me that some people from Cambridge University whose names I’ve forgotten were very interested in the science of adhesion. So Jeff told his former colleagues about my method, and I corresponded with one of them. He felt that (and I think this is physically true), hot gold, being very soft, would push aside the skin of the quartz composed of surface impurity deposits from the air. Scoop them away, and leave part of the gold which was very soft touching the clean quartz and making atomic connections. That was the explanation I got from Cambridge. I think it’s reasonable. I put this idea in one of my papers. Later at Cambridge they began to explore that idea very thoroughly.
Was this David Tabarr?
Yes, Taber. David Taber. Thank you very much.
From the Cavendish.
Yes, from the Cavendish Laboratory. Taber was a colleague of Jeff Courtney-Pratt who was an expert in adhesion. It was he who found the explanation for why the thermo-compression bond works. I can’t take credit for that explanation. It was just an intuitive thing for me to do in the lab.
That’s how it all started — just intuition. This gold wire is going to go onto this quartz and you put the soldering iron and it worked.
Well, I just knew that silver or platinum wouldn’t work, but heated gold, being soft, ought to work, and to make it soft, we needed pure gold.
So how long did you stay at Bell Labs?
I was thinking of that last night. Thirteen years.
13 years. What year did you leave? Do you remember?
When did you leave Bell Labs?
That’s hard to say. I don’t know what to say because there was an intermediate period some between ‘61 and ‘64. My explanation for this uncertainty requires a story. I went to Columbia University for interesting and illuminating reasons that say something very important about Bell Labs’ management. One of the assignments recently hired young scientists had at Bell Labs been to be the ushers for important guests. Somebody important would arrive and a young scientist would be asked to take the person where he or she wanted to go, to see that he or she got to the right place, had a place to put belongings, and was entertained in the evenings. One such guest was Maurice Ewing; the head of the Lamont Geophysical Observatory at Columbia University Columbia University had an oceanographic fleet. They did oceanography and also seismology on a worldwide scale. This work was all encompassed in what they called an observatory. Ewing was the director and founder of the observatory, I was asked to be his usher during his visit to Bell Labs. Part of the reward for being an usher was getting to go to lunch with a distinguished visitor and some distinguished person in the laboratory hierarchy. At lunch, I sat between Maurice Ewing on the right and Bill Baker, the vice president of research, on the left. Of course, they talked about what Ewing had seen in the morning. I was silent. Baker said something like, “Well, did you see Orson Anderson’s lab?” “Oh yes, I’m very impressed with it. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a few ideas myself about that laboratory.” Baker said, “What are those?” And Ewing said, “Well, we send sound signals down to the bottom of the ocean.” And we get a reflection back as an electronic pulse, and we want to interpret these signals as indicative of ocean bottom structure. These time-lapse signals are used to find how deep the sediments are on the ocean. However, there are several reflections giving information about, the hard crust and the composition of sediments above the crust.” The difficulty of the interpretation is that these sediments are filled with water and various rocks and are sometimes compacted together. There’s also the problem of rock porosity. We have a hard time sorting this out in a quantitative way. We get an idea of what the thickness of the sediments, but we can’t quantify it as well as we’d like because of these problems. Ewing said, “I’m sure if we had laboratory sound velocity measurements made on ocean floor sediments themselves, we would be able to make a much better interpretation of the ocean floor than have been able to up to this time” And then Maurice Ewing said to Baker “You know, Bill, what are the chances of borrowing Orson Anderson for a few months to a year to set up a lab for Lamont to make the measurements we need?” Bill Baker responded, “I don’t see any problem with that.” (During this exchange, I was as silent as a slave at the slave market.) The ultimate upshot of this conversation was that my interest in measuring minerals had paid off, because measurement of minerals was exactly what Ewing wanted. So it was arranged that I would take a leave without any complications. I was entitled to come back to Bell Labs when I pleased, and arrangements were made that I would not lose any money by this transition. I would get the same salary and maybe a travel allotment from Bell Labs. I would go over to Columbia’s Lamont Observatory on the Hudson River, about 40 miles away, and set up a laboratory. I was given a year’s leave of absence, and Ewing had me appointed as an adjunct professor of geophysics at Columbia University. So I set up the laboratory at Lamont, a duplicate of my lab at Bell Labs. I was asked how much money I needed and gave a very generous estimate. I got the money at Columbia in an account so that I could buy equipment and hire people, which I did. Two young scientists, one from Kyoto, Japan, and one from Alfred University of New York, looked like first-rate experimentalists to me, and they were looking for jobs. Both had Ph.D.’s in Ceramic Science. So they were hired, and I taught them what I knew about physical acoustics measurement. To make sure they had been trained correctly, I sent them to Herb McSkimin at Bell Labs, and they spent six weeks with him. We began by concentrating on properties of minerals. At that time (1961-1965), physical acoustics of minerals was rarely done at research institutions. But minerals often have low symmetry. Many are orthorhombic, monoclinic, tetragonal, for example. That was where my interest lay. That’s where my training in mathematics came to my aid because I could work with complicated tensors in the data analysis. Sound velocities in the Earth are isotropic signals. I had to interpret the elastic constant data of low symmetry crystals and compare them with the Earth’s isotropic signals, a theoretical side of the experiment. I was doing very well at this, but my audience was a type of scientist I hadn’t encountered before, the geophysics community. So to market my results, I had to know something about geophysics. I joined the American Geophysical Union, and my attention to this new class of scientists caused me to taper off my activities in the Acoustical Society of America. And, by golly, at first these new results caused quite a little stir in the geophysics community. Then in 1965 I was appointed editor-in-chief of the Journal of Geophysical Research. At that time, the concept of plate tectonics very controversial and faced fierce resistance from the geological establishment. As Editor, my quandary was whether to publish this new, revolutionary idea, plate tectonics. Was it a crazy idea or was it reasonable? The American Geophysical Union was looking for an editor who didn’t have a foot in either side. That was surely me. The new editor of JGR didn’t need to have strong training in classical geophysics; because the experimental work on plate tectonics was quite different from classical geophysics. In fact, it was a revolution again much of classical physics. I think I was a success as the editor because The Journal of Geophysical Research (which arbitrated the plate tectonics papers) tripled in size in two years. With all this new material in plate tectonics being published, the new physical acoustics results from my own laboratory were not considered especially remarkable. Anyway, this was all very exciting. It may not surprise you to learn that I decided to terminate my association with Bell Labs, take my salary from the Columbia University, and became a professor. Now that’s a story that Logan knows about. Did I get it right? Is that what you remember?
Well, I think this is an interesting window into the operation of Bell Laboratories on the administrative level. I’ve talked with Art Shalow, the inventor of the laser or at least credited with it, who left and went to Stanford University, followed by Conyers Herring. I’ve talked to Phil Anderson, who left Bell Labs and went to Princeton and to Hans Bommel, who left for UCLA shortly after I went to Columbia. I believe there were lots of institutions and university departments with which Bell Labs’ senior people had sort of a lend-lease arrangement. And so Bell Labs has to be credited with helping many institutions get started and become lively back in the 1960’s. I think this is a service to the scientific community that is not well appreciated. Bell Labs was directly responsible for the flowering of physics and geophysics in America in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I left Bell Labs on the best of terms with everybody. As far as I know, nobody at Bell Labs had misgivings or was feeling any pain about my extended stay at Columbia. I think it was just part of Bell Labs’ way of becoming really well integrated with good departments all around the country. Here was a case where it wasn’t a physics department. It was a geophysics and geology department. I think the same is true with space physics. Bell Labs had two Nobel laureates in astrophysics. Do you remember their names?
Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson.
Yes, Penzias and Wilson. I heard from somebody else (not from them) that that particular research was integrated with astrophysics departments in many places, and that those two spent time at various institutions in astrophysics. They were really doing microwave research, but they found a background noise in the sky that had very big implications for astrophysics. I don’t think my story about going to Columbia is uncommon. It was very beneficial to me because it enabled me to do what I really wanted to do, which was physical acoustics on low symmetry minerals.
So at Columbia University, once you moved to the university environment, did you start teaching students? Did you get more students involved in your work?
Oh, yes. That was the nice thing about academia. I saw the reward of having students, but that’s also a big hindrance to research. You have to think of research as shared business, and not completely your own anymore. But, on balance, I enjoyed my association with students. I had some very good students who are now outstanding professors.
Is that when RUS entered the picture? The resonance ultrasound spectroscopy —
Yes. The big thing for me at Columbia was starting RUS. I was just starting in the geophysics community at that time, and my experiments were high-frequency ultrasonic measurements of elastic constants. There was a big effort on the part of experimentalists to get a piece of the Moon to measure. Lunar landings were going on, and twelve Apollo missions had brought lunar rocks and minerals back to Earth. They were in cabinets in the lunar laboratory in Houston, and they were sought by various laboratories to measure properties of the Moon and to make some theories about it. My laboratory was successful in getting a number of these lunar rocks and some lunar soil to measure sound velocities using ultrasonics. The lunar rocks looked as if they came from Mount Fuji or the lava fields in Hawaii. They had similar density and mineralogy. We measured the velocity by pulse superposition on samples 1 cm in thickness. The sound velocities we measured were a shocking surprise. We expected six to seven kilometers a second for “P” velocity, but the values for the P velocity of the Moon rocks came in at a little under two kilometers per second, which is similar to that of seawater. How could any rock that dense have such a low “P” velocity? Well this caused a lot of consternation. There weren’t any publications coming out from my lab or the other laboratory doing elastic constants of lunar rocks. I finally called Gene Simmons, my counterpart at MIT, and asked how he was coming with the sound velocity measurements of lunar rocks. He said, “Are you having trouble with your sound velocity measurements, too?” I said, “Yes.” So it became clear that the trouble wasn’t just in our laboratory, but that the Moon surface rocks really had a very slow sound velocity. Well, now, this was vexing and my laboratory was in a quandary. I thought of using the resonance of glass spheres as the way to verify the low speed of the rocks. The Moon’s surface was fractured by meteoritic impacts. We know that meteoritic impacts send out a liquid splash, which condenses, freezes in the atmosphere. And so a certain percentage of soil on the ground near the impact crater is composed of glass fragments. Although this glass has the composition of the rock, the velocities are isotropic. So we concluded that we needed to get some of that glass and measure its velocity. Sure enough, in the lunar soil, there were glass shards. But after a lot of examination, we found a few glass ellipsoids, less than a millimeter in diameter, but out of range of our pulse echo ultrasonic technique. I went back to Lord Rayleigh’s book on sound and found we could measure sound velocities on isotropic spheres as small as 1 mm. You can get the sound velocities by resonance. The equations are shown in Rayleigh’s book. So we decided to resonate these small spheroids from the Moon The samples were less than a millimeter in size and varied in sphericity. But they all came out with the true expected velocity of sound, five to seven kilometers a second. They peaked around six. So part of the disturbance, part of the reason for the spread in values, was that they weren’t all perfect spheres. They were just approximately spheres. We hadn’t yet gotten those correction factors in for shape or sphericity (but we found them later). But we had the main answer. The sound velocity of those lunar rocks should be about seven kilometers per second, and something has happened to them that made the path length too long. We ascribed this to a texture effect. That ended our quandary. It took a number of years to really explain what the texture effect was. It turned out that the texture effect was due to lack of a water meniscus in the crack. Water is ubiquitous on Earth. If you have an Earth rock with cracks in it, its cracks will be filled with water. On the Moon there’s no water; just a vacuum. In a lunar meteorite’s impact, the meteorite hits the rock and makes lots of little cracks, but they are not filled with water. On the Moon, a sound wave will not just simply jump across from one surface to another, so the sound wave is reflected, again and again. Thus, the travel time between transducers is much longer than the shortest distance between the transducers. That was the why the sound velocity was so low. It took a number of years to prove by experiments that the travel path in the lunar rock was very long. In the meantime, we had these little lunar soil spheres. A byproduct of our research on lunar rocks was that we could easily measure sound velocities on spherical materials. So we made big spheres and billiard balls and things like that. The new challenge was to resonate nonspherical objects and nonisotropic spheres. This became a common laboratory project. Everybody from the lab was enthused by the new project. We had two postdocs and three students at the Columbia mineral physics lab. It’s hard to remember where all the most important ideas come from. But a student, Harry Demarest, cut a piece of glass in the shape of a parallelepiped, and obtained a sharp spectrum. When we looked up the literature and found that a great mathematician (I think it was Pascal) said that you could calculate the elastic modes of a parallelepiped if you have pressure on two opposing surfaces. Thus, there are only four free surfaces. But if you have six free surfaces, the calculation is not closed. That’s the classical interpretation. But we have computers that Pascal didn’t have. So the thing to do was to see if we could approximate the answers to the free modes obtained in a glass parallelepiped. My student, Harry Demarest, said, I think I can do that, and he did it. His calculations were published in JASA (49, 768, 1971), a landmark paper in which he calculated and reproduced the measured modes of a parallelepiped. We had a meeting last year I at the University of Mississippi, at which I told the audience that it was Harry’s idea that solved the problem of how to make the calculation. Harry got up at the Mississippi meeting, and said, No that wasn’t his idea, that I (Orson) had told him to use the method d that proved to be successful. Harry pulled out the lecture notes that I had given him on the 27th of December in 1967 and said, look on the last page of these lecture notes on this topic. The lecture consisted of 27 carefully handwritten pages (I really wrote much more neatly in those days). And at the end of my written notes I had said, well, we might be able to get a good approximation to the value of the modes using the Rayleigh Ritz method, and then I gave a reference. And Harry said, “That’s Orson’s idea.” I just followed through and to see what the Rayleigh Ritz method was, and it worked.” Henry Bass, Logan Hargrove, Moises Levy, and a number of others heard Harry speak. Wherever the idea came from, it was a good one. There was, of course, more to it than just using a Rayleigh Ritz approximation, but Harry went and did it. He was the sole author of this important paper. There was a postdoc in the laboratory at that time (1969-1971) called Mineo Kumazawa, who was from Nagoya University; He was a little older than most postdocs. As a matter of fact, back in Nagoya he was an assistant professor. He went back to Nagoya, Harry graduated, and further progress on resonance theory at Columbia was stopped. I moved to UCLA. Mineo Kumazawa went back to Japan and got his students going on RUS, except that it was called RPR (rectangular parallelepiped resonance). Kumazawa had a student named Ohno, a very sharp guy, who did RPR theory for orthorhombic and tetragonal and hexagonal symmetries. Ohno worked out the mathematics, and Kumazawa’s other students did the measurements. After I moved to Los Angeles at UCLA, I got interested in RUS again. Kumazawa’s students came back to me, one by one, as postdocs, and we solved for all remaining symmetries except monoclinic, and we took RUS to very high temperatures. In the meantime, RUS was discovered by Migliori at Los Alamos independently of our work; he didn’t know about the Columbia-UCLA-Nagoya work (about 12 papers). Migliori got into RUS in the following way. New superconductor materials had orthorhombic symmetry. They were no longer cubic, and physicists began to look at the modes of low symmetry crystals, especially silicates. In other words, physicists were finally getting interested in minerals because working on superconductors forced them to go in a direction similar to mine. Similarly, lasers were often low symmetry silicates (Al2O3). So a lot of the physics that I had pioneered was reinvented by low temperature physicists, especially Migliori. There was a special problem in low temperature physics. Using the theory of superconductivity by Bardeen, Shreiver, and Cooper, the elastic constant C66 should be soft near the superconducting temperature. So Migliori was trying to find a way to measure C66 at low temperatures of an orthorhombic superconducting crystal to see whether C66 went soft, as the theory predicted. The problem is that the largest superconducting crystal that has been grown was too small for ultrasonic measurements. In order to make the measurements, Migliori re-invented RUS… here the guys at Los Alamos were getting into the path that we had taken. They had suddenly gotten into minerals with low symmetries. They knew that they had to measure C66. That’s physical acoustics. So it wasn’t long until Migliori, who is a genius with electronics, had succeeded in measuring C66 of an orthorhombic superconductor. Migliori and I happened to cross paths when I was at Los Alamos, and, after comparing notes, I think that you could say that the UCLA group were ahead on RUS theory. But Migliori did the mode experiments much better than we did.
They had the super computer power that they need to do them.
Yes. So it wasn’t long after we had exchanged views that they had the theory, too. I guess the Migliori group now is ahead in both theory and experiment. But that’s the story of RUS. You have to remember these names. RUS has a hierarchical status similar to that of the word ultrasonics. At a lower level in the hierarchy, there are names for techniques, like pulse-superposition or RPR (pulse-superposition falls under ultrasonics and RPR (rectangular parallelepiped resonance) under RUS)… Sometimes there is confusion about these names. Anyway, that’s the story of RUS that came out of an experiment we did a long time ago. We got into RUS because we were interested in the lunar rocks. And, due to certain difficulties, we ended up resonating glass spheres. Migliori and his colleagues got into RUS because they were very interested in the elastic constant, C66, of superconductors. It turned out, of course, as you might expect, that C66did get soft as the Bardeen Shreiver Cooper theory said it should. That was an experimental triumph of the first order. It wasn’t long until there were a number of laboratories across the country in super conductivity that was doing RUS experiments. But really the underlying story all here through all of these important discoveries is physical acoustics, isn’t it, doing ultrasonics or resonance or something to allow us to find out something we want to know about some material. I hope that answers your question. It’s a long answer.
We were discussing your work at Columbia is that — where you starting doing RPR?
Yes. That’s where I started doing RPR. I did a lot of ultrasonic work, too. I don’t want to minimize that. It was very, very important. I still do both depending upon the needs. In some cases, the RPR experiment is harder to develop than the ultrasonics experiment. If you want a quick answer, ultrasonics is best. I think both are useful in a physical acoustics laboratory. If you do a good ultrasonics experiment, you’ve got something pinned down, like the bulk modulus. With RPR you’ve got all the modes at once, so the ultrasonic answer is helpful to locate modes in the in myriad of measured RPR modes.
So you use ultrasonic pulse transmission and RPR hand in hand. They complement one another?
I’d say RPR is much better for small samples. I guess that’s why you went to RPR because of the size of the samples.
Sure. In both cases it was the answer because we were dealing with small material. Some super conductor guys couldn’t get a sizable crystal, and we couldn’t get a big piece of glass from the Moon. It’s the small size that led us into RUS.
But if you had large samples available you could get your starting values for the RUS.
Did you ever do RPR on the actual moon rock?
Yes, but I don’t think it revealed anything. For one thing, the attenuation is very large, and so the peaks are not easily resolved. I think RPR is pretty much for single crystals.
When did you leave Columbia?
Well, I’m a westerner, born and bred in Utah, and always hankered for that part of the country. My work attracted a number of geophysical institutions across the country. The Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at UCLA made an offer that I couldn’t resist. I didn’t gain any more financial reward by moving, but I got a nice laboratory and was back in the land I love, close enough to Utah. I don’t particularly love California.
Were there particular scientists at California that wanted you?
Yes, there were. Especially a geochemist, Professor George Kennedy. He was doing high-pressure experiments, where the measurement is P versus V. He needed to have the bulk modulus measured to better interpret his work. He knew that I was measuring the bulk modulus at Columbia, so he made a big effort to get me to UCLA.
This was in the early ‘70s that you moved to California?
In ‘71, I think. The association with Kennedy was good. Not only that, the geophysical institute at UCLA had more people who were interested in my work than were at Columbia. I was not closely linked to Lamont scientists’ work after I had found the answers Director Ewing wanted. The need for my work was more evident at UCLA. I couldn’t talk shop with scientists at Columbia like I could with those at UCLA.
Would you elaborate on some of the work that you’ve done at UCLA? Anything in particular that stands out?
I think that my most important contribution at UCLA was to bring together the knowledge of elastic constants that had come in dribs and drabs from ultrasonic and RPR regimens into a body of knowledge that was of importance. For instance, I would say that the most important thing I did at UCLA was to produce a database. If you want to know the velocity of sound or the shear modulus or the elastic constant at 700 degrees C for a particular mineral, you go look it up in my tables. So I spent a lot of time on processing data and cleaning it up and throwing out the extraneous data to produce these tables (Anderson and Isaak, A Handbook of Physical Constants, vol. 2, AGU Reference Shelf 2, pp. 64-97, American Geophysical Union, 1995). This was very important for the field of geophysics because these tables are the basis on which high-pressure experimentalists anchor their experiments. In the measurement of P and V in a diamond cell, for example, accurate pressure values are obtainable but measuring the temperature is tougher. That’s because of the nature of the diamond cell experiment. So experimentalists can take their P, V results and anchor them to my tabled values, where the elastic constants are good to four significant figures at a particular temperature. These values are for zero pressure, but the accuracy of elastic constants extends to high temperature with high pressure. Thirty-four minerals have some information, and 20 of them have a lot of information. With the measurement of thermal expansivity at P = 0 and high temperature, the tables provide information on many thermoelastic constants at high temperature, including the Gruneisen constants, the thermal pressure, the Debye temperature, and the specific heat. The other important thing t is what Logan Hargrove brought to my laboratory through an ONR grant to take a careful look at third order elastic constants. The more we look, the more problems we see. Anyway, here’s the problem. Third order constants involve pressure of some sort, a strain of some sort. You can’t talk about them without talking about strain. RUS doesn’t give you the effects of strain. It gives you only the effects of temperature at zero pressure. But there are lots of interrelations; certain lattice dynamics equations help if you can work them out. So we’re trying to do that. We’re trying to find out right now what happens to a crystal when you squeeze it what happens to the free modes of oscillation? The answer is very complicated because the pressure effect is not easily discerned. There’s no time to go into this, but some very complicated theories have been generated by people at the University of Wisconsin to help us understand what happens to the normal modes when you squeeze the sample. We have to understand that first before we can really use RUS to get the third order constants in shape to produce a table with numbers on third order constants. But I think we will. Another valuable thing I contributed at UCLA due to my association with ONR is the results on thermoelasticity. I think I presented an aspect of that yesterday. My talk was a draft of the chapter I agreed to write for a book called The Elastic Constants. Thermoelasticity is the relationship between the elastic constants and the thermal properties of a solid.
In your presentation yesterday you were talking about your analysis of the deep earth core-mantle boundary. Is there an interest there?
Well, there’s a big problem there, and I thought maybe I had the answer to one aspect of that problem. I’m a materials scientist as well as a geophysicist. Geophysicists need the value of properties of the Earth’s materials, such as, for example, the value of thermal conductivity at the core-mantle boundary. Geophysicists give us the value of the elastic constants, from seismology, at the core-mantle boundary, and we use this information to obtain the corresponding value of thermal conductivity. As a materials scientist, I have provided a good value of thermal conductivity for the core-mantle boundary. I am not dedicated to solving the problems of the interior of the Earth. Rather, I’m dedicated to getting material properties that help solve the problems of the interior of the Earth.
Earlier you mentioned that you measured 20 or 30 different minerals. Is there one in particular that has features that interested you more because you said some of them you have a lot more measurements on than others? Why did you pick the minerals to work on that you picked?
Well, I look at it from the point of view of the abundance of the elements. The minerals that are plentiful are going to be composed of the most abundant elements. The most abundant elements found in the primitive solar nebula are iron, silicon, oxygen, magnesium, and, to a lesser extent, calcium, and aluminum this list doesn’t include the volatile abundant elements that were lost during the early stages of the hot Earth. But those are the abundance elements that you see from stellar spectroscopy. Whether the spectrum is from the Sun or a star or a meteorite or whatever, those are the abundant elements. The minerals that are made of these then are the most abundant minerals, in which I am interested. Most physicists are not interested in the abundant minerals. They’re interested in specialties, such as Semi-conductors and ferroelectrics. These solids are often made up of non-abundant elements. My orientation was always the abundant minerals. Those are the ones that comprise the planets, and the ones that geologists often see and in the field. So that’s how these 30 minerals were selected. SiO2, for example, the very abundant mineral, quartz.
So you’ve done a lot of work on quartz?
We didn’t need to. Because of its technical importance, much work had already been done. But we added one measurement.
The RPR, did it work on quartz? The symmetry is quite — Yes. The symmetry, being trigonal, requires a careful RUS experiment.
What we did with RUS is find the piezoelectric constants with high precision.
You’re currently at UCLA so that finishes your professional experience?
I’d just like to add one thing that’s not on the questionnaire. Would you elaborate on your affiliation with organizations and what the importance of being a fellow in the American Ceramics Society, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and you’re a fellow of the Physical Society, the Royal Astronomical Society. So you participate in a lot of organizations?
Well, these are various stages of my career really. I’m not active in all of them at once. The American Ceramics Society affiliation was a result of my master’s thesis, which I talked about before. At that time, I was under the influence of Henry Eyring, who was on my thesis committee. When I was a student at Utah, he suggested that you could probably understand fracture using his rate process theory. Static fatigue is a time dependent fracture and the question is could you understand static fatigue? That’s the important thing in glassware, as in windshields. As a graduate student, I began this work and took it to a certain point. Then when I got to Bell Labs I decided to finish up that work so I prepared a paper for publication. So I was a member of the society because of my early interest in static fatigue. They gave me a couple of awards because of that work (best paper and all of that). I explained my membership in American Geophysical Union earlier. I was always a member of the Physical Society — I’m a physicist. G.J. Dienes of Brookhaven National Labs sponsored me for fellowship in the Physical Society. We had both worked on a common problem independently of each other. Lattice dynamics requires long-range order, but glass lacks long-range order (although it has enough short range order to define a cell). Dienes and I were interested in the fact that many lattice dynamics equations work very well for glass and other noncrystalline solids, and we tried to discover why, with some success. We met when we presented our papers at a meeting of the noncrystalline solid society. Our papers were so close that we decided to submit with joint authorship a paper called “Anomalous properties of vitreous silica”, as a chapter in a book in 1960. I don’t know why I am a fellow in the Royal Astronomical Society. Perhaps Keith Runcorn proposed me. As for the Mineralogical Society of America, I write papers on minerals of low symmetry, which are of interest to mineralogists. That leaves the Acoustical Society of America. I’m only a member because I was a member early in the 1950’s and 1960’s and then let my membership lapse due to my activities in the American Geophysical Union. Recently, I have become active in ASA largely due to Logan Hargrove. He said that I should get back to that and do something about writing some papers for JASA. And I did. But I’m sort of a latecomer in the Acoustical Society of America as far as activity is concerned. Now through ONR, RUS, which is associated with me, is now becoming more pronounced in the Acoustical Society of America. So I expect that I’m going to be more active in the Acoustical Society right away. Does that explain it? My list of fellows’ memberships is really a tour of my 45-year career.
I’m sure you meet many different people depending upon which society you’re in. I know from going to AGU meetings and going to ASA meetings it’s kind of a different focus, different types of people. Maybe it’s similar work but people just look at things in a very different way sometimes.
I think Logan Hargrove put it pretty much the other day, he said something like science is a subject of physical acoustics. I agree with him. All of my contacts with these societies resulted from my work in physical acoustics.
I notice you also have been an editorial reviewer for many journals.
Oh, yes. That was interesting. As I told you before, I was co-opted to become the Chief Editor of the Journal of Geophysical Research during the second year of my membership in the American Geophysical Union. I told them they were crazy but they said, no we’re not. We want to get somebody who is smart, but couldn’t possibly be associated with the one side or the other of plate tectonics, a very controversial subject at that time (1962). I said, “Well, that’s certainly true. No one would expect me to be on one side or the other because I don’t know much about either side.” They said, “Just the man we want.” And they were probably right, because I could say yeah or nay to some paper without violating any previous friendship or association. And I ended up saying yeah to the positive things of plate tectonics more than I said nay. The result of that was that the subject grew and grew and grew in the Journal of Physical Research. At the present time, I am a periodic reviewer of four physics journal, but only two geophysics journals.
Next thing on the agenda is to talk a little about your publications. Did you ever write books?
I’ve written two. I was the third author of the first book; the authors were N. Soga, E. Schreiber, and myself. Back at Columbia University we wrote a book, which was published by Wiley, which described methods of measurements for elastic constants. It’s very much outdated now.
Dr. Anderson was talking about his published book. You were talking about your first book that you had published.
Yes. I was published in 1971, I believe. As I stated earlier, it outdated today. My second book, Equations of State of Solids for Geophysics and Ceramic Science, was published in 1995 by Oxford University Press. Meaning the minerals that I usually do. Equations of State relate pressure to density and temperature. It took 400 pages to cover all the ways of doing that I could think of. It arose because I provided through my laboratory the numbers that are needed for the equation of state, the numbers that are coefficients in the equation of state. And naturally I was very interested in how accurate that equation of state would be used because my numbers were involved. There was always the question that if the equation of state failed, was it because of the equation of state or was it because of the parameters in the equation of state? I got very interested in that and did a thorough study of it and published this book. It’s been well received. It’s still used by people. I think I was able to do this analysis because of my training in mathematics. This is a mathematics business series. If one expands a function out and keeps the first three terms plus the estimated remainder, what error is made? It was fun for me because I enjoyed picking away at the various equations of state showing that they were all faulty. They were good but they have faults. So I thought it’s time for people to know about the limitations of the equations of state. Now I’m under contract with Cambridge Press for a book called Thermal Physics of the Earth. Whether that will come to fruit is very uncertain. But trying to write things about thermal properties of the earth has helped me a lot in various things. That’s essentially the material that I’m putting in this chapter called Thermal Elastic Properties is material that I uncovered while thinking about writing a book called Thermal Properties of the Earth. I don’t know. It’s such a vast subject that I think I might have bit off more than I can chew. On the other hand, I think a bite that I could manage to assimilate might be thermal elastic properties. In other words, focus on the materials rather than the geophysics of the earth, focus on make it a material science book. I had a lot of success with that chapter that is waiting to be in the book on the elasticity of that. I’m tempted to give up the idea of the book on thermal properties of the earth and write instead book called Thermal Elastic Properties.
It would be of different minerals?
Yes. The principles, usually you find for using different minerals. For instance, yesterday I talked about if you know this parameter, which you measure acoustically, what could you say about the conductive heat? That’s what I’m talking about. What can you say about that? If you do the right acoustic experiments, what can you say about the thermal conductivity of a solid? That’s the orientation that I’m beginning to develop now. I like writing a book because even if you don’t finish it, even if nobody ever sees it, you begin to ask yourself questions that you wouldn’t ordinarily ask. It’s a great stimulus for writing papers. So whether there’s a third book or not, I don’t know and what it’ll be, whether it’ll be this or that I’m not sure.
In terms of other publications. Do you have many papers published in journals?
I think there’s 203 published now. There are four in press.
Is there any particular papers that have more significance to you than others?
I don’t know how to answer that question because as I see my papers, they’re stepping stones. A paper that you write is built on previous papers, so to select one that is more important than the others would be difficult. I’d rather think that I would be remembered for the database that I left.
On all the mineral properties.
Which is just all of the papers.
This ends most of the professional and publications. The next questions are more of a personal nature. About your family what is your present marital status?
I’m married, and my spouse’s name is Bernice. Many of you have met her. She is a housewife. That is her occupation by choice. She was once a nurse. Several years ago I decided I wanted to buy a house in a town in which I would retire more like 20 years ago. Having grown up in Price, Utah, which was a small town but now is getting rather big, I decided on Green River, Utah, where my brother lives. So I bought a house. That stirred the interest of people in Green River. I’m sure that my brother’s wife passed the word around, and I was introduced to Bernice. We were engaged for a year or two, maybe 18 months. Does that answer the question?
Yes, that’s fine.
So I had a lot of help in meeting my spouse because I showed interest in Green River. When and where did you get married? Well, I think I’ve answered that. Oh, we got 24 years ago. That was my second marriage. My first marriage ended in divorce. When I was at Bell Labs and Columbia University I was married to another woman and we just didn’t get along very well. I was a bachelor for four years. Do you have any children? Yes. I have two children and four stepchildren. Is there anything special about them that you would care to mention? None of them are going to be scientists as far as I can see. But three grandchildren show great promise.
Sometimes it skips a generation.
And there are three children who often come to share our house, and twelve great children. I also have great-grandchildren (as of 6/1/03, 21 great-grandchildren).
Maybe they’ll become physicists?
I’m 76, so that’s not surprising perhaps, but I have 11 grandchildren varying in age from a few months to 12. Now, is there something special? Yes. I enjoy those children and grandchildren very much. When I married Berneice, I took her away from Green River and my family, my children and so on. I took her to that jungle called Los Angeles. She’s faithful and stayed with me until I was 65. Then the question of my retirement came up. I didn’t have to retire because I turned 65 one year after Congress said you didn’t have to retire at 65. So she asked me what I was planning to do I said, I think I won’t retire. She replied, “I understand that, and I hope you understand me because I want to retire”, which meant she wanted to get back to Utah fulltime. I thought about that for a little while. I concluded that decision could be good. We used to leave LA and go up to Green River during the summer, and it was a big hassle. The kids and grandkids had to get acquainted with us all over again. About the time we got things squared away, it was time to move back to LA. She returned to Green River to live fulltime in our house there. It’s a very popular place with my family. Some of the grandkids, that are in high school, come in for lunch. There’s a baby around all the time. Young children and people are coming to visit, and it’s all very nice. I enjoy this family atmosphere. When I return to Green River, I am treated as if I’ve never been away. That’s a very special situation, and everybody profits from it. I must say, however, that I admire my wife because it’s a heavy burden to have a continual set of visitors there without me. She says she enjoys it, and I guess she does, but I would find it to be hard. That takes care of my family.
Under personal interests, what’s your favorite form of entertainment? Maybe doing measurements of elastic constants here are your best form of entertainment.
I think that I’m going to have a hard time when I retire because I’ll be away from libraries. The compensation will be, I think that libraries are going to be put on CDs. I just have to have the computer facility necessary to use libraries. So my entertainment will probably be found on a computer. I think what you’re asking whether I go golfing and fishing and stuff like that.
Yes, or any hobbies?
Music, drama, opera.
I go fishing with my grandson because he enjoys it, and I enjoy being with him. I think that’s probably it. My entertainment is often coupled with people. Hunting I don’t do at all, although my family does a lot of hunting. My grandsons are all hunters. There’s a golf course in Green River, and I use it once in awhile but I am not avid about it. If the weather’s just right and I don’t have anything else to do, I’ll go golfing. I’m not into it so much that I can’t stay away. So I’m not sure what my entertainment is. I guess my entertainment is being around kids. I own 30 acres of beautiful land at 7300 ft altitude –- aspen, pine, and Utah juniper, with some sagebrush –- a legacy from my father’s ranch. There is a creek with 4 beaver ponds. It needs to be fixed up with fences and paths so my extended family can enjoy it. I will enjoy fixing it up.
Enjoying the company of your family.
Do you have your favorite quote? A saying of some sort that you have or a favorite quote?
One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein. He said, “Thermodynamics is the only part of physics that doesn’t depend upon a model.” I think that’s true. Another quote is by P. C. Bridgman: “We never have a clean-cut knowledge of anything, but all our experience is surrounded by a twilight zone, a penumbra of uncertainty. The penumbra is to be penetrated by improving the accuracy of measurement.” Another quote is from Novelist Julian Schwinger: “There is more joy in heaven in a good approximation than in an exact solution.”
You do something and there’s always a question, there’s always a gray area so you keep going ahead.
That’s right. There’s always a gray area. And he said; “Now the only way to get out of the penumbra is by doing an experiment.” I’ve discussed that with some theorists and they don’t like that last part. But I think it’s true because it essentially the trouble with theory is that there isn’t one, there’s several. Finding the experiment that chooses between the various theories marks where we start over.
Yes. I was just looking for, some people have particular quotes, which they go by or think about. It’s always something that they remember. What are your future plans? You mentioned that you’re going to be writing a book?
Well, I’m in the situation that when I retire I won’t be close to my lab or office; that’s by choice. I think that the saddest thing I see around UCLA is a retired professor who is now Emeriti. They’re lost souls going up and down the hall to their offices. I think that’s because if you’re going to do science, you’ve got to have a lot of momentum all the time. Just imagine losing your laboratory and being away for two years and starting over. Wouldn’t that be something? Hard to do? And these retired professors that have lost their momentum. They let it slip away while they were retiring, enjoying themselves and they can’t get it back. I think that retirement means that. The things that you’ve been doing are over. Then you have to think about something else to do. What I would like to do is get into genealogy in a big way when I retire. By that time, there’ll be tremendous amounts of records on CDs so the investment is CDs, get a whole bunch of CDs. For instance, it won’t be long before you get the passenger lists of all the passengers that brought people to the United States from the beginning. It’ll be on one CD. I think you can do a really big job, a good job at this using your own computer. Genealogy is not done just that way. When you find out something important in a city, you go and look at the records of that city; that gives you a chance to travel. I’m from Denmark. I could go back to Denmark and see the scenes there and find the histories of the local communities by that. Perhaps you can could even give a relative that could give me a story about those people. I think that is the intellectual stimulus that would keep me occupied. It’s possible to do that now because of the great improvement in computers now. The other thing that makes this possible is the Mormon church’s work in genealogy. They’ve gotten close to a billion names now and they’re organizing them all the time. All names in Russia are now becoming available. The point is that it’s getting complete. These are things that you don’t even have to be online for although you could be online. Whether these things will go on the web I don’t know, maybe they will. But you don’t have to have the web to do this. You just have to have the CDs. That’s something I think that will interest me and save me from being a lost soul wandering the halls.
That and many more grandchildren. They’ll keep you busy.
That won’t be a problem keeping them away. Now let me say this, that I’ve already had this experience once before. That’s when I found out that — remember I said when I was going through graduate school I was in the Utah Air National Guard. I suddenly found myself forgetting parts of the checklist. If you forget some of those things it’s fatal. You don’t have to remember them verbatim. You can always have a little list on the dash that you can check off. But there’s something about memory that’s very, very important in piloting. When I realized that I couldn’t remember the checklist perfectly, I realized that I was restructuring myself, and I didn’t have the sharp memory anymore. So I dropped flying. No more flying for me. I love it, but after the day I dropped it, I never went out to the airport and sunburned my tonsils looking at other people flying. That was the end. I was happy about that. Not that I didn’t like the past, I enjoyed it. I had a lot of momentum with the past. But I didn’t hang around the airports wishing I was a pilot again. I don’t think I’ll do that when I retire.
I think the current expression of that is been there, done that. People say they’ve been there, they’ve done that, now we get onto something else.
Something like that.
You have to give up a few things.
And I’m 76, and there’s going to be a time when I can’t do that. I think that I will retire in two years maybe. Something like that. I’ll bring things to an end. So that’s my future. I’m not sure that’s entertainment. It’s probably in vided of golf or something like that but it’s not in my future to get into a big trailer and go around the country, you know, in a big RV. That doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve done enough traveling, seen enough places to know that traveling is a bum. Travel itself is just not worth it. It’s getting there and doing something, that’s worth it but just to travel I’m not sure. And I’ve been to enough countries in the world to satisfy that need. I don’t need to try to go to another country. A lot of people don’t have that experience you see and they think well we’ll travel when we retire and most of them are disappointed. They don’t like to travel that much. I hope that answers your question.
In closing is there anything else that you would want to add?
Note added 7/17/2003. I retired a year ago, and my retirement is much as I expected it to be. I’ve built an office appointed as a study with computers and a fax machine. The Department of Earth and Space Sciences has kindly given me office space at UCLA, where Ms. Judy Hohl works 2 days per week processing my book. I spend 3 days per week in writing and study, and 1 day per week on my mountain land. I manage a garden and a yard in Green River. I spend Sundays in church with my family. I think you could say that I have retired from teaching but not from scientific research. I would like to add a list of things from my scientific career that, in my opinion, will be of lasting value: (1) An important thermoelastic parameter named after me (the Anderson-Gruneisen parameter). It was so named by Professor Hugh Barron of Bristol University, a famous physical chemist noted for his lattice dynamics theories; (2) the discipline, mineral physics, the name given to my laboratory at Columbia University (I expect this discipline to last and thrive); (3) the Orson Anderson fellowship, established at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, to provide one year’s funding for a mature visiting scientist; and (4) the extensive database (tables) of elastic constants and associated thermoelastic constants of many minerals, which will be used by scientists long after I am gone. The table for Al2O3, for example, has 16 rows for temperature between 300 K and 1800 K and 25 columns, including 7 for elastic constants and thermal expansivity, 7 for isotropic constants and isotropic sound velocities, 2 for specific heat, and the remainder for thermoelastic constants, including the Debye temperature, the Gruneisen ratio, and thermal pressure.
We’ve got 10 minutes before we’ve got to leave.
I think it’s just about to the end so put that in the record.
I didn’t do part of this yesterday but do you have names of people who are going to continue the type of work. I know you work closely with Dr. Isaac. Is there any current researchers that you know are doing the type of work that you’re doing now or are going to continue this?
Well, I think there’s one aspect of my career I forgot to mention. We ought to put that in the record because I had to have experience to supply the wisdom to answer that question. I was chosen to be Director of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) at the University of California. I was statewide director for seven years. I reported to the president of the university, which, I remind you, has 10 separate campuses (Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, Santa Cruz, etc). One of these IGPP branches (of which I was a member) was at UCLA. The was an IGPP branch the University of California at San Diego, at which there were such noted scientists as Walter Munk and Freeman Gilbert. There are 5 branches of IGPP. One of them is at Los Alamos; Migliori’s associated with that branch. Another, at the Livermore National Lab, has noteworthy people, such as astrophysicist Claire Max. My job was to see that the budgets arising from the university were healthy and to make sure the branches were protected from assault by various organizations. I didn’t hire or fire people, but I did a lot of things to ensure the security of the separate branches. I witnessed an occasional failure within branches of IGPP. From this experience I came to a conclusion: when an experimentalist leaves the laboratory of an institute branch, the best thing to do is to take all of his equipment and throw it in the junk pile, because if his replacement is really capable of making a future, he or she want his or her own equipment. A good scientist is not going to be a clone of his predecessor. For example, when George Kennedy died, the talk at the UCLA branch concerned who would take his place. Nobody took his place, and the laboratory was foolishly saved until the equipment was frittered away. Because time moves on, new ideas and principles that is important in the present that may not have been important in the past. So I interpret your question to mean, what’s going to happen to my laboratory? Well, I’m not going to try to influence the future of my laboratory in any way because I’ve seen failures in trying to continue with an old laboratory. So if Don Isaak wants to carry on with my laboratory, then he should, but if he doesn’t want to, then my research laboratory will be as dead as a doornail.
I guess not so much as taking over your laboratory but people who are working in say mineral physics to continue on.
Well. I know what you’re saying, but a field of science can’t be orchestrated. If mineral physics is to be carried on as a healthy discipline, it must be done by young people who really want to do it.
So if there’s nothing else you have to add, I’d like to thank you for sharing with us this oral history and this concludes this interview.