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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of Herbert Fusfeld by Tom Lassman on 2005 April 2,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
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Topics dicussed include: family background; early education; undergraduate studies at Brooklyn College; work at Frankford Arsenal Research Laboratory; gradute work at University of Pennsylvania; research on internal friction of metals with Tom Read; American Machine Foundry; Fred Seitz; Morehead Patterson; Rodney Gott; Carter Burgess; Walter Bedell Smith; Kennecott; Center for Science and Technology Policy at New York University and later moved to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; university and industry relations; Fusfeld Group.
First, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to participate in this. We'll start at the beginning. You were born in Brooklyn, New York on February 13, 1921. Could you tell me a little bit about your father's and mother's family background?
Well, I'd have to draw on my memory a bit. Both had their own parents and grandparents from somewhere in Eastern Europe. History kept changing, so whether it was Poland or Russia or Austria at any given time, I'm not sure. My father's family, I believe, came from Brody, which was in Austria. The family migrated to the United States around the early 1890s. My father was born in 1890. I think he was born in Liverpool and has a birth certificate signed by King George. He came here at the age of six months, so he was brought up here. My mother was born in the United States. Her parents also came from somewhere in Eastern Europe. As to the work, it's hard to say. I think my mother's father was a tailor. My father's father was more of the entrepreneur. I think he had a small business in Europe, and when he came here, he eventually went to Virginia and set up a big department store there.
Department store? Retail?
Yes, it became a department store. It started out much smaller than that, but there was a time when it was the largest store in Henry County, Virginia.
Martinsville. My family was in Martinsville, Virginia, although my father spent most of his formative years in New York.
His family came to New York?
No. My mother and father both ended up together in New York. Her parents stayed there, but my father's father went on. He went on to Duluth, Minnesota and South Dakota, and ended up in Martinsville, Virginia where he thought the weather was a little better. My father, however, spent his early years pretty much in New York, and then when the family went to Virginia, he stayed in New York. At that time, he was either married or planning to be married and ready to go to work in New York
What did he do in New York?
My father was an accountant. He was a CPA, one of the early graduates of NYU's School of Commerce.
Who did he work for?
He worked for a number of small companies. He worked into the Depression when I think the company finally closed up shop, and then he and my mother went to Virginia where the rest of the family was until he passed away. He was retired, but he just kept his hand in doing a little bit of accounting work in Virginia.
In New York, which of the boroughs?
In Brooklyn. My wife and I both grew up in Brooklyn.
Do you have any siblings?
Well, I had two older sisters. They're both passed away now. One was five years older than I and one was four years older than I. They were both married, and my oldest sister, moved out to California years ago, but the younger one stayed in Brooklyn. She passed away just two years ago. Now I'm the last of the siblings.
Tell me a bit about your youth: childhood activities, and hobbies.
I always liked to read a lot, which I did plenty of. At one point in my life I was an avid collector of stamps. I still have some books downstairs, stamp albums, and if any of my grandchildren had saved stamps they'd have had a nice gift, but none of them are interested anymore. Today the kids don't seem to save stamps anymore, at least not the ones I know. Hobbies, well, I was always interested in science. I had chemistry sets and things like that when I was a kid. In fact I remember in Brooklyn they used to have something, I think they may still have it, called the Children's Museum. I used to go there every Saturday morning, and there would be little lectures. One in particular that I remember - They used to have a series of lectures on mineralogy, and each of the kids who came was given a little card which they had to then look up things, the hardness of a particular mineral and so on. When they turned it in successfully, they got a sample of the mineral. You could build up a rock collection fairly easily. It was interesting, and I enjoyed it. Other than that, I'm not sure I could have any identifiable hobbies.
What was the importance of learning and education in the household?
Well, we were certainly not what I call well off. My father was probably considered a middle-class professional. We just assumed that we would all go to college somehow. But we were very fortunate living in New York because I went to Brooklyn College. In fact, in those days it wasn't a question of going out of town to college. It was a question of whether you were smart enough to get into Brooklyn or City College. I went to college because it was just unthinkable not to.
Were there any specific books or any things that you read during your youth that had an impact?
I read everything. I read all the typical, traditional books you're supposed to read when you're younger. I remember reading all the books by James Fenimore Cooper. I even had a bunch of the old Horatio Alger books, the little paperback books. I was a very voracious reader. I read a lot of the Tom Swift books in those days. I subscribed to, Popular Mechanics, and Popular Science. I should have saved them; they'd make a nice collection today. Other than that, I didn't go in so much for the great books, and certainly not when I was young, anyway.
What was the religious orientation in the household and in the community where you grew up?
Well, we lived in New York, so it's quite a community. The family is Jewish, but I wouldn't say religious. I can't ever remember as a kid going to many services. My parents didn't attend services regularly. I never had any formal religious training when I was younger.
Did your parents or their parents?
To the best of my knowledge, my parents didn't either. Now the grandparents did. They came from Europe. They had more of a tradition, so they were more involved with it. My grandfather who went to Martinsville, Virginia ended up founding a temple there in Martinsville. From my own personal heritage, I just was simply not active religiously. We observed the holidays. I knew I was Jewish, but not because I went to services. I think this is typical New Yorker in those days. As a matter of fact, eventually after we came to Connecticut-I mean, we are members of a temple here-I remember the rabbi in Connecticut saying that my age group is what he called the Lost Generation. People of Jewish background settled into big cities and really, the bulk of them did not remain actively affiliated with anything. It was only later when they moved to the suburbs and the kids went to Sunday school when they became more active.
I'd like to know more about the general community and what it was like growing up. You were a youth during the Great Depression.
Well, of course during the Depression I went to high school and started college. We were fortunate that my father worked in that sense; but on the other hand, there certainly wasn't a lot of money involved. For example, as I mentioned, I just never thought about going away to college away from the community just because the expenses might have been too great. Besides in the 1930s, if you go back and do some of these studies of this, city colleges in New York were extremely well thought of. In fact, in my graduating class in Brooklyn College, there were ten of us who were physics majors and every one got a PhD. So the training in Brooklyn college as an undergraduate was very well though of by the graduate schools. A lot of my colleagues went to Johns Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania, very good schools. I never felt deprived by not going out of town to college. Although growing up that way, you didn't have the traditional college life. You still lived in a big community, so your social life was more that of the neighborhood rather than that of the college. Other than that, I guess I'm sort of reminded of the story that Sam Levenson used to say. He was a Jewish comedian that you may not have heard of. His family was brought up on the East Side of New York, and he came from a big family, and he said, "We didn't know we were poor until somebody told us." You just have a good life, a lot of friends, and school was an important part of it. I guess I knew there was a depression just because I read about it, but it's hard to say that it affected me, fortunately, in any adverse way at all.
What's the place of science and technology in Brooklyn or in the community, and how does your interest in science and technology develop as you move into high school and as you're going through high school?
I guess I always was good in math, and so I gravitated naturally to things where, first of all, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed doing problems. I remember taking four years of math in high school, which is not usual. I got to go right through solid geometry just because I enjoyed it.
You said that was atypical?
It's atypical for anybody to take four full years.
What was the standard?
The standard would have taken me through algebra, maybe trigonometry, but to go beyond it to advanced algebra or solid geometry was not usual. It wasn't because I necessarily planned anything or wanted to be a math major; I just enjoyed the problem areas. I don't think I took physics as a high school student. Some of my colleagues in physics would say that's a good idea because you might have been spoiled if you had the wrong kind of teacher. I did enjoy chemistry which I took there. When I went to college, I expected to be a chemistry major.
Was there a fast track in high school that you would get on?
Yes. In those days we had ability grouping, which today is frowned upon. Today they worry about social consequences in ability grouping. In high school, I went through four years with one group of 30 or 35 kids that were all in the top class of each year. Just to give you an idea of the caliber of the group, myself not included, there's a Regent Scholarship every year in the state of New York. They used to give out Regent Scholarships.
The state of New York. In order to qualify, there were a series of exams you had to take: certain language exams, math exams, English, etcetera. There were awards given for this. The year I graduated, the first, third, and fifth in the state of New York were in my class, which is already an amazing statistic. They were very bright kids. I still remember some of them.
Did you get one?
Yes, I did. I had good company. To go back to your question, it was a very stimulating group. These are bright kids.
These are all from the community?
Yes. Again, in those days in the '30s, you went to school based on your district. You couldn't just choose your own school. I apologize. You could to some extent choose your school if it was in Brooklyn. Some people from out of the neighborhood would go to the school I went to. Later on they restricted addresses to the immediate neighborhoods, and as a result of it, changed the quality of the school, I think. In any event, in those days, we had a great group of kids that still seem very well. I haven't seen them in many, many years. But it was a very stimulating group. I enjoyed high school. That was Erasmus Hall High School. It was one of the oldest ones in the country. In fact, for a high school it was unusual. There was a quadrangle, and the buildings were built really around the quadrangle. But in the center of the quadrangle was a little wooden building where Alexander Hamilton went to school. It had a bit of a cachet-as much as a high school could have a cachet-in those days plus the fact they had a good football team. Sid Luckman was on the football tem.
I'm sorry, who?
Sid Luckman, who eventually became a very famous professional football player. You'd have to go back in the history books.
Okay. That one I don't know. I'm sorry, will you continue.
It was a very stimulating experience generally. I enjoyed it.
When you were taking these advanced math courses and you said chemistry courses also, were there other elective courses that you could take, or was the curriculum pretty set?
No, you could take some. I'm trying to think. Not too much stays in my mind. We had a broad range of courses. I can remember courses and what they used to call civics or political science today. And of course, obligatory certain languages because if you were going to college, then you had to have two languages acceptable for college. Today you don't anymore.
Two foreign languages. You had to pass exams in two foreign languages to be accepted into college.
Was that reading and spoken, or what was the procedure?
It's a mixture, but in general you had to take written exams. Of course, they stopped that requirement some years ago, which I think is very unfortunate. I mean, Americans aren't great at foreign languages, but they became even less so after that requirement was dropped. When we went there everybody had to take two foreign languages, and I chose French and German, thinking that that might be more usable in science later on.
Are you already thinking about a career in science at this point?
Vaguely. You know, we didn't plan it. We didn't sit down with a book of where the jobs are going to be or anything like that, but I enjoyed it, so given the choices of arts, humanities, or science, I stuck to science.
You said that your high school didn't have a physics course.
No, I didn't say that. I said I didn't take it.
You didn't take the physics course. I'm sorry. What drew you to chemistry?
Again, think of a kid that doesn't know that much about the different fields in science. Traditionally, science more than likely, meant chemistry although some were drawn to maybe astronomy or things like that. In your experience, we tended to experience chemistry. As a young kid I had a chemistry set. I didn't have a physics set. We did experiments in chemistry. It was only later on that I guess I realized that there were subjects like optics and like electricity and so on which I enjoyed and wanted to find out more about. But I didn't think about that when I was in high school.
As you're moving through high school, you mentioned this group of other students who were in your group. Was that your peer group? In addition to being in school together, did you also spend time together outside high school?
Well, it's a mixture. I still have friends who were in that group, for example, socially, but the complication was-and again, we're talking about a city where people didn't have automobiles-once we were out of school, we kids lived in different parts of Brooklyn. Of course, we could travel by public transportation, and we did, but outside of high school, outside of the school itself, there's a neighborhood that I lived in. That's where most of my social life was with the kids in the neighborhood rather than from the high school. I did fortunately maintain some good social relationships with a handful of people from the high school. For example, Jack Garrity, who's a good friend of mine, went on to become an Emeritus Professor of History at Columbia. He's very well knows for his study of—
John Garrity wrote a book on the Great Depression.
John A. Garrity.
Yes. I read his book, which is excellent.
That's my boy. He was in one of my peer groups. We were very friendly socially.
You went to high school with him?
Yes, and college.
That is a great book.
He's actually written books on the American Presidents, a number of them. I'm trying to think of who else was in that peer group that you might now. Well, it was a Charlotte Feldman who went to Columbia, and she became the editor of the Columbia magazine or journal. I'm sure these people have had great careers that I've lost touch with. I've kept in touch with Jack, but see, he was one of the handful that we saw each other socially quite a bit while I was in high school and college.
Did you have any mentors in high school?
Well, the only mentor was, each group had a grade advisor and particularly our so-called peer group that we talked about. The grade advisor for that group, we all got to know very, very well over the four years, and almost all of us did something on a voluntary basis in the grade advisor's office. There's this group of kids who are always hanging around the grade advisor's office after time, and that gave us sort of a sense of unity to meet each other and clown around with each other, and also to meet him and know him. Everybody got on a very good, first name basis. We might not have called him on a first name basis, but everybody with each other certainly did. In various times over the years, we managed to keep in touch and meet each other. Overall, I really enjoyed myself in high school.
It sounds like it. You mentioned this grade advisor. This is a person who just monitored your progress through each of the years.
He would advise us. If you wanted to go to college, if you wanted to do anything, what courses to take. If your love life is ruined, you could come talk to him. It was a wide range. Whether he was unique or not, I honestly don't know. But he provided a wide range of context.
Were there any mentors outside of school?
In my case, no, not really, not in high school.
You mentioned earlier that your thoughts about when you graduated high school, you were already thinking about going to Brooklyn College. Were there any other alternatives that you were thinking about?
I didn't. The funny thing was if we look back, the chances are most of us probably would have qualified for scholarships of one sort or another at the outside universities, but going away from home, even with a scholarship, would have been somewhat expensive, so we just simply never thought about it. It was always a question of would your marks be good enough to get into Brooklyn College, which in those days was merit-based. I think they had a minimum that for a boy, you had to have at least an 80 average or better to get in; a girl had to have an 85 or better. It seems to me there was some discrimination there. I'm not sure why. Maybe they thought girls weren't as likely to stay with it-I don't know what the reasoning was. As long as you did well and your scholarship stayed up there, you knew you had a pretty good chance of getting into Brooklyn College. As long as you can be sure of that, you stop planning.
Did most of your classmates go to Brooklyn College?
Many of them did. I wouldn't say most. A couple were smarter than I was and they did get scholarships to Columbia, for example. I can think of two or three others who went to Columbia, and a couple of them went to other ones. By the way, there were a number of people in our class who did come from families with a lot more money and they did go to out of town schools without any question. So it was a mixture.
You graduated high school then in what year?
Just one last question on this. Were there any extra-curricular activities and hobbies you had while you were in high school that you did outside of the classroom.
The hobbies outside of stamp collecting, I'm trying to think. Yes, there were extra-curricular activities, some of the clubs. Then I guess I got involved in the shows, entertainment, so we ended up at the end with a big class stage show that I was responsible for in our graduating class. Jack Garrity is with me. Oscar Brand, does that name sound familiar to you?
Oscar Brand is today a very well known folk singer. We were in shows together at Erasmus Hall and at Brooklyn College later on. I guess just getting involved with those kinds of class-night activities sort of took a lot of time.
Let's move on to your undergraduate experience. This is 1937. You're preparing to go to Brooklyn College. Did Brooklyn College have strong fields in science and engineering there, or what was the academic make-up of the school?
It was generally accepted, and I say that in quotes, "generally accepted", that the math and science departments were very, very good. As a kid I couldn't have proven that. It turned out to be right. It was well known in the fields, I found out later on. I remember it was 50 undergraduates there. In those days they didn't give Masters degrees. You must remember something else, too. In the Depression, jobs anywhere, including education were very hard to get. A job as a faculty, as a professor at the city and state universities paid better than the private universities. That's no longer true today. But a full professor at Brooklyn College would have been, financially speaking, at the top ranks of the academic field. It was a very plum job to get. People who today would perhaps much prefer to go to Harvard, to teach at Harvard and Princeton, were happy to get a teaching job at Brooklyn College. So we had good people there, no question about it. It turned out to be right. I entered there intending to be a chemistry major, and two things changed my mind. The first one was that, chemistry one was in a room of 120 people or something like that, getting lectured at. That didn't make me feel great about it. In fact, I felt I knew as much from my high school chemistry as I was getting in this huge lecture hall. That was number one. Also, as I found out a year later, by the time I took qualitative analysis, which follows elementary chemistry, we'd be given a test to identify a certain substance. I have no sense of smell, and my friends in the class would take one sniff of whatever it was, and they could get the right answer. I'd sweat out all the tests, and I still wasn't sure of it. I felt that this was not a very good competitive place for me to be. At the same time, fortunately it worked out without my planning. Because I had all of those math courses in high school, I was eligible to take higher math the first year in college, so I started out my first year in college with differential calculus. Now normally you wouldn't take that until at least your second year because you'd be busy taking courses in advanced algebra or something. I was eligible to take it in my first year. In fact, I even hold a record. In my second half of my freshman year I took integral calculus.
You were talking about this contest.
They had an integration contest consisting of this great number of integrals that you had to solve. That required knowing all sorts of tricks, tricks in substitution of integrals and so on. I was the individual winner of that. I was the only freshman that ever won that contest, mostly because freshman weren't even eligible to take integral calculus. I still have a little book that I kept—winner of the integration contest, 1938. Anyway, the other thing was that in looking for courses to take, I ended up finding out I could take physics courses that were open for me. I didn't want to take anymore of the chemistry courses, so I began to take physics courses. And I was able to do it, I was eligible to do it because I had the math background. You needed calculus in order to take it. I was able to take physics courses starting very early. I think I was either a freshman or at least the first part of my sophomore year. To make a long story short, by the time I was a sophomore I decided to stop chemistry and take physics.
What was the physics curriculum? What types of courses were you taking?
You started out with courses in mechanics and optics and electricity and so on. As then as you went on, there were some courses I took in nuclear physics. And of course a very important part of it was the laboratories. You got to a point towards your junior year where you take advanced laboratories. It wasn't so much lectures as there was a series of experimental programs that you had to carry out in the laboratory. By the time you were a senior, I've forgotten now what electives there were, but to my memory it was basically doing lab courses, which each of them took up hours and hours of work. There wasn't much time for anything else at that point.
You mentioned nuclear physics. The field is pretty new at this time.
Well, I guess probably atomic physics would have been better. We were still being taught periodic tables and whether the electrons were in the right orbits and things of that sort. That was old by that time. I really don't remember the details of what order the courses came in.
Did you have any other fields of interest besides math and physics at that point? Were you still taking chemistry courses or other courses?
No. I stopped chemistry after qualitative. I got into quantitative analysis, and I did better in that because it was more mathematical. I had already decided this was not to be my major, so I didn't take any more after that. I enjoyed the other courses. I really enjoyed college. I liked the courses that I had in economics and political science. I enjoyed them thoroughly. Also, about midway through college, we got a new president at Brooklyn College. You should look at it from the standpoint of 1938 and '39. There was tremendous turmoil in the world in those days, and something else I became aware of by that point that maybe played a role later on in our discussion, the kids at the city colleges perhaps were more politicized than the typical college undergraduate. I have no way of measuring that, but it seemed to me everyday when I went to school I was besieged by people with leaflets being handed out. There were demonstrations going on all the time. You've got to remember that this is the time of the Spanish Civil War. Students on campus felt strongly about the Spanish Civil War. I barely knew what was going on. I wasn't very knowledgeable about it all. But on campus people began to suddenly get tagged with names like "left" and "right", or "conservative" and "liberal." I was always basically very conservative. The college, however, as a whole was considered "left." Some people felt that would even affect the opportunities open to graduates at the college if that became a permanent tag. About '39 or '40, the college got a new president, Harry Gideonse. The name may not mean anything to you. He was an economics professor from the University of Chicago and eventually became head of the New School in New York. Gideonse was, by most thoughts of the day, conservative. It was clear that whether he had been directed to this or accepted it as his mission, he was going to try to change the political reputation of Brooklyn College. Fortunately, he and I got along very well. I ended up as president of the senior class, so I had a lot of interaction with him. But there were students there that were constantly demonstrating against him. I don't even know why at this stage of the game. Anyway, the college was tagged with a sort of a leftish picture. I wish I could tell you; it certainly wasn't true in my case, it wasn't true for most of my friends. But those who felt strongly about that were certainly loud and made their presence known. There were constant demonstrations. The American Students Union was very active on our campus at that time. Of course, what to me was so stupid and disturbing at the time, there were groups who came out-you could see every twist and turn of the political forces favoring the Soviet Union. They were favoring. So number one, a number of them not only were very active during the Spanish Civil War, but several of them went to fight in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade over in Spain. Then when the War broke out, they somehow defended Stalin's pact with Hitler early on around 1939 and 1940. Then, of course, when Hitler invaded Russia, it completely turned around. To those of us who were annoyed more than anything else by these kinds of demonstrations, the complete hypocrisy of it was so foolish that it offended everybody almost. But I can't translate for them. The point is that being at Brooklyn College, you suddenly became very much aware of politics and political issues that we might have not even thought about if it weren't for all of these demonstrations. That was part of the bringing up. It had nothing to do with physics.
But that had an impact on the way you looked at things?
Possibly. Again, as I think about it, I can't remember any of my colleagues who were majors in physics who were at all involved with any of these political forces. However, looking back on it and probably talking to people today, I would guess as a whole the body of students there including physics and others would probably be classed as liberal, but not in my mind. My experience was not as radical as anything like that even though there were really radicals present on campus. I think Gideonse felt his job was to see to it that that didn't besmirch the reputation of everybody else. Of course, there were many funny incidents that may have nothing to do with your interview now. I remember one of my friends, Leo Bogart, who was then the editor of our college newspaper which was a little more to the left of the left generally-I mean, a college newspaper is always a little more radical than the typical student. I can remember him being involved in editorials that I saw were more left than they should have been. In any event, years and years later I met Leo in New York. He had had an interesting career. He was with the ASNE, American Society of Newspapers. He had a high executive position. In chatting, he had stayed in Manhattan and raised a family in Manhattan. I said something casually, I said, "Leo, how is it raising kids in Manhattan in the school system and so on? There are certainly a lot of troubles in the schools. They're run down, etc." He looks at me kind of sheepishly and says, "Well, we send them to private schools." I said, "You send your kids to private schools?" I mean this would have been complete heresy for anybody who believes honestly in the sort of more social policies and public education and so on. He says, "Well, you've got to be realistic when you grow up." People change. Anyway, it was an interesting time.
Were there any mentors that you had, particular faculty members that you remember?
In college, yes. I mean, there by this time, everybody was beginning to focus a little more on their areas of interest and so on. I would say that three senior professors in the physics department who really were good. I couldn't even judge if they were good physicists, but they were good teachers.
Did the faculty do research?
Very little. One of them, Bill Rarita did some published work, more published work than the others. They all had done some when they were in graduate school, but once they got into Brooklyn, there really wasn't— By the way, I mentioned earlier that the salaries were pretty good, but they were busy. They each had to teach the undergraduate school. They were teaching more courses than you would teach at a typical private university. They wouldn't have had much time, but Bill Rarita I did remember him publishing things. I kept seeing the Physical Review occasionally. The three there were Bernard Kivrrelmayer, Walter Maas, who eventually became dean, and Bill Green. These three were good guys. I mean, you could talk to them, of course, mostly about physics, but you could talk about your career, what you wanted to do, anything, they were accessible. And I think they in turn appreciated the fact that they had some good students who were interested and sincere about trying to work hard. I think that must make a professor feel good, too. They were the closest things to mentors that I can think of.
Did you have the equivalent of an advisor? For example, were you assigned to work with somebody?
I honestly don't remember being formally assigned to one. We had a small group of majors, there was a small group of professors, so in a way everybody has access to everybody else. There wasn't any reason for me to go to one more than another.
You said there were ten physics majors?
In my year, yes. I have a picture of them.
How big was the college overall?
Well, the college was substantial, 7000. I remember it as a city.
But a small number of physics majors.
Very small number of physics majors. It's what I liked. I want to share one of these with you. This is a graduate... [tape cut]
We were just looking at a photograph from the 1941graduating class in physics at Brooklyn College. But you were to continue.
In the Brooklyn school system in those days, they had a system they don't use anymore called "skipping" or "rapid advance". That is when you've got a bright kid who is doing well in school, they would advance them. You'd got from the second grade to the fourth grade in elementary school, or the fourth to the sixth. The bulk of my friends, including myself, were advanced like that. I was not alone. I graduated at age 20 from college whereas typically you would have been 22.
What grades did you skip?
A couple in elementary. They wouldn't have done it beyond the sixth or seventh grade, but early on if they found you could read quickly, write, understand a little arithmetic and things like that, they kept jumping you. It was possible to graduate a couple of years earlier, younger. So most of the class was younger. Most of these graduating classes were, by today's standards, relatively young. One of my friends who is an economics and history major was 19 when he graduated. Then they stopped that again because of this concept of— first they stopped the ability grouping, and then they stopped the advancement on the grounds of social incompatibility or something like that. They're worried more about your social acceptability than getting you through quickly; in other words according to whatever you could do. You should realize that a lot of these kids are younger than they would be today in graduation.
What did you do during your summers?
Well, that's interesting. I used to tutor a lot when I was in high school. I did some of that. Again, either people knew me or sometimes they'd go to a professor, and say, "Hey, my son or daughter isn't doing too well. Can I have him catch up during the summer in math," or something like that. The teacher would recommend somebody as a tutor. I did a certain amount of tutoring. I never really worked in the sense that we have today where you get a job for a month or two. I had another situation, too, which was good for me, but it complicated— My grandmother used to take a bungalow out in Long Beach, Long Island for the summer. My aunt and uncle lived with her, and they both worked. They wanted me to stay with her as much as I could, and so each summer I would spend maybe a month at the beach-rough life. I was there. I'd run down to the beach. I'd come back to the house about a block away to see if everything was all right, to see of she needed anything, and I'd go back to the beach again. I spent many summers, when I was in college especially, half of the summer would be at Long Beach. I remember once that I went on a trip to Washington with Jack Garrity and about three others in Jack's old car. He had a car named Cordelia, a green car. I remember there were five of us, and we went down to Washington for a trip. None of us had been there before. We hadn't gotten near there. We all looked like five college-aged kids who were dirty and beat up. I remember a cop pulled us over. I guess we looked suspicious, and he asked us a lot of questions. Finally satisfied that we were relatively harmless, he said, "Okay. Go ahead, but don't go over the speed limit," and Jack suddenly says, "Go over it? We're trying to reach it!" That was a typical summer.
You switched from chemistry to physics. You're finishing up college. How are your scientific interests developing towards the end of your undergraduate studies? What are you thinking about in terms of career and what you want to do? This is 1941.
Good question, because, well, I knew I had majored in physics. I didn't know enough or even have a strong enough feeling to separate out what area in physics. Typically I started out by thinking of what kind of companies hired what kind of physicists. But along the way— let's see, I graduated in June of '41. By 1940 already, there was a lot of war beginning to stir up. We weren't at war, but there was certainly a lot of consciousness about the war. The government was, in fact, I didn't know too much about it at the time, but it was stepping up considerably government activities related to weapons development and things like that. So about the time I was seriously trying to find out where's a good place to work-again looking mostly at the New York area just out of force of habit if nothing else, but there were a lot of places in New Jersey and around New York, so that didn't seem to be an obstacle-the government began to expand its interests, and I had simply applied for a civil service position. When you apply for that, you don't apply for a particular job; you just fill out an application for civil services, physicist, P1, the lowest level, and let the chips fall where they may. I got out, and I went for a couple of interviews through companies nearby. The usual runners go to Bell Labs, and I forget now what other ones are in the area, International Nickel or something like that. Then along the way in the summer, lo and behold, I get a call from the government that says, "Hey, your application's been accepted. We've got a job for you." I said, "Great. Where?" Frankford Arsenal.
I just want to stop for a second. Had you thought about graduate school?
Yes, I thought about it. And I'm trying to think if I had actually signed up for anything . I think I had made some inquiries. I remember going down to NYU and going up to Columbia to speak to people. I may even have traveled up to New Haven to Yale at one point. I have a vague memory of that. So I was exploring that. And then I got this note about Frankford Arsenal, so I said, "Here I am." Unattached, 20 years old.
Did you get any advice from your professors about what to do?
None that helped me make a decision. I think the general attitude was to get started with something. As long as you don't have a strong feeling for optics or electronics or something, then it really isn't too important where you start as long as you get started somewhere in physics. The fact that I had a job offer, to me, was a very important feature of it.
You weren't thinking, "I want to do solid state."
No. I didn't know. I wouldn't have known what it meant at that time. So I went to Frankford Arsenal. I started there in September of 1941.
Good question. There is where luck played a very, very important role in my career and probably that of everybody else. I'm a great believer in, one, luck; and two, in personal chemistry and things like that. Whenever I read books on systems for doing things, I get very, very skeptical about advanced planning. I was assigned to work with Tom Read. Tom Read was a very, very good physicist. He had got his degree in Columbia where he worked with Quimby and a couple of others.
Yes. And Sid Siegel also there.
I did an oral history interview with Sid Siegel.
Okay, whom I got to know very well. Tom got involved with them on internal friction of metals. Tom then was hired by Westinghouse. He went to Westinghouse where they wanted him to do work on that following his work at Columbia. That's where he met Fred Seitz who was a consultant of Westinghouse. That must have been about '39 or something like that.
I'm just going to pause here for a second. You're mentioning now you're working with Tom Read.
I'm assigned to Tom Read who's working on internal friction of metals. Within the first month I was at the arsenal, Fred Seitz by now was at the University of Pennsylvania. That may be how Tom got there because Fred Seitz at the University of Pennsylvania, he had been hired as a consultant to the Frankford Arsenal in metals, in materials. He might have been instrumental in making the offer to Tom to come to the Frankford Arsenal. Fred, was himself a consultant to the Frankford Arsenal.
What was the Frankford Arsenal doing?
Frankford Arsenal, which you should visit one of these days if you haven't been there is no longer part of the government. It was a huge area consisting of about 40, 50, or 60 buildings. It was a major manufacturing plant for the Ordnance Department. It made shells. It made ammunition, and it made optical equipment for sights on guns and things like that, optical reticles for sighting things, and they had a laboratory. It was all part of the Army Ordnance Department. And very old-Frankford Arsenal goes back to the 1790s or something like that.
When you joined Read, was he in the laboratory or in a division of the lab?
Yes. He was in the laboratory. He was part of the Frankford Arsenal Research Laboratory. That's how come I ended up working in solid-state physics, on the internal friction of metals. Now, I met Fred the first month I came there, which was in November of 1941. In chatting with Fred, he said to me what you said, he said, "Have you thought of going to graduate school?" I said, "Well, yes, thought of it. And I'm still thinking of it." Basically he said, "Why don't you look into the University of Pennsylvania and come on down?" Of course, I'm just barely getting started then; I could barely find my way around Philadelphia. So I looked into it, and it turned out I could become a graduate student and take courses without being part of the regular full-time program. Luck played a very important part of this. It turned out that by the end of '41— well, let's see, we went to war in December of 1941, the month after I came to the arsenal. Now the government was serious about anything connected with the war. Before that, there were a lot of things going on that President Roosevelt got us involved with and so on, but now we're serious.
So a big recruiting effort went underway, and we had to train all of these people that they were recruiting for various kinds of responsibilities. The program set-up called ESMT, whatever it stands for, Engineering in Science Manpower Training or something or other. Large numbers of people who were now part of the US Army and Navy began showing up at University of Pennsylvania to be trained in science and engineering. Who's going to do all the training? Well, it turned out they had a good group of people, mainly the graduate students. So the physics students, among others, all the graduate students in physics were thrown in to train the Army and Navy recruits, which meant that the regular graduate school was moved to the night instead of the day, and I could go to school with the people who were regular graduate students. I wasn't; I was working, and I could only take a couple of courses a semester. This dragged on from '41 to what? I finished my coursework four years later. I could have done it in two if I were there full time. But I was doing it with the same professors and the same students which otherwise wouldn't have been possible.
But at night.
All at night. In 1950, I got the PhD. But anyway, somewhere along the line, about 1949, it suddenly dawned on the Physics Department that somebody might actually get a PhD at night, which they'd never done before because it wasn't possible-you wouldn't have had all of the courses offered at night. At that time, Gaylord Harnwell was the head of the Physics Department. Gaylord said, "That's not really right. They should have some formal involvement with the University." He got me to come in and talk to him, and he said, "Herbert, this is causing quite a fuss. We don't want to make it impossible. We feel that's not right either since you've been at this for years." So we finally worked out a compromise. I had picked a PhD thesis in internal friction, which I was doing at the Arsenal.
Harnwell had me select an advisor from the department, and I picked Foster Nix.
Foster Nix, wasn't he at Bell Labs?
Yes, yes, with Shockley. He had done some research with Shockley. And Foster Nix had done some work in solid state, a lot of work in solid state, so technically he was my advisor. Actually, Tom Read was my advisor, but Tom Read wasn't on the faculty of Penn. But Foster Nix was, and so I consulted with him. I had agreed that I would do some measurements at the University, which I did using radioactive zinc for some of the studies. But that technically...they let that satisfy the requirement. But as a result, the Physics Department at Penn put in something that they called the Fusfeld Amendment in their Bylaws. They had a bylaw about doing work for a graduate degree. And the bylaw said, "You have to spend at least one year in residence, but this doesn't apply to Fusfeld."
So basically the issue was that you needed to do some work there to get...?
Yes, they felt that you shouldn't be able to get a PhD unless you spend a year there; that really wasn't right, because they felt that then the university role or contribution was minimal, of just teaching the courses. But this way we gave them a little bit of involvement with the actual research part. Of course, the research had been worked out in advance with Tom Read talking to them. In other words, the original research program had been worked out with the people who were there, like Park Miller and Bill Stevens, who were in the Department. We had all worked out what I would do my work on, what the objective was going to be, and so on. But having done that, then they weren't involved. It was just me at the Arsenal with Tom Read. Because Tom had all the credentials you need, but he still wasn't a member of the faculty. We talked about all sorts of things, like making Tom Read an adjunct professor in tandem, all sorts of things like that. But anyway, it solved that, so I ended up with a PhD, having done it all at night.
Let me just ask you a couple of questions. I want to take you back to the time when you get to Frankford Arsenal. When you get to Frankford Arsenal in 1941, and you're there for at least a decade up until you get your PhD.
Oh, yes, from '41 to I left in '53.
So you were there for a while.
Let's focus first on the war years. What actually were you working on? You said it was internal friction of metals. But what was Tom Read doing, and what work were you doing?
We were in a military laboratory, and like any other laboratory, industry or otherwise, you had a range of programs, some of which were very long term, like studying internal friction of metals, but for a purpose; and some which were very short term. I have a patent on a certain kind of fuse that came up during the course of the work.
For arming artillery shells. But, there were certain requirements. Things kept coming up, just as they do in industry. Problems came up related to arms, munitions, weapons, and some of those problems required us to work on it. So we weren't working on internal friction of metals 100% of the time; we were doing it a certain amount of the time. To give you an example, that fuse. The concept was to have a shell, which when you fire it is not armed. You see, one of the problems you always have to worry about is that you don't want the damn thing to explode while you're at the cannon or while you're nearby. So you don't want it to arm until it's far away. And those days, they didn't have electronic timers the way we do today; it'd be a simple thing to do today. . . . So we worked out a system.
I don't want to bore you with what a munition is, but if we can fire a weapon, you hit a primer, it sets a spark, which goes through a little channel to the powder and explodes the powder. And what we did was between where the primer went off and where the powder was, we put a little ball-if you can picture a ball, like a billiard ball, with a whole drilled all the way through. So the only way it would fire would be if that ball were lined up in such a way that the hole was where the spark went through. If it were in any other position, it wouldn't fire because it would be blocked. And so we worked out a beautiful problem. It was a gorgeous problem of mechanics: a ball of a certain density with a hole through it, and when a cannon is fired, there are grooves in the cannon which catch in the base of it and forces it to spin, so when it comes out it's stable; otherwise, it would roll all over the place. So this projectile comes out spinning, which keeps it straight. Inside the projectile is this ball that was set in such a position that it couldn't fire.
But when it sets into rotation, the ball spins, and after a certain time, depending on the density, it lines up. So that was a physics problem we solved: how to do that and how to place it. So that's the kind of thing we did, too. We weren't just working on the internal friction of metals. This was in the Physics Department. Now, the internal friction was also very, very practical. I mean, sure, we wanted to learn about internal friction, which is basically when you have a crystal and it's not perfect, there are some things out of line, then any vibration or any wave that goes into it, instead of vibrating beautifully and clearly like a bell through the thing, it would start to dissipate. If you have a bell that's perfect and you hit it, it'll go, "Ding!" If there's a crack in it, it'll go, "Bong!" So what does this in the crystal is what's called internal friction-you dissipate energy. You absorb the energy at a point where there's an imperfection. That's called internal friction.
So you could use it to measure the amount of imperfection that was in the metal. You could determine cracks, or you could do sonic detection better, but anyway. So it turns out that there was a fundamental problem in ordnance. Whenever you store ammunition (and you've got to store it somewhere; if you have thousands of shells, you don't just keep them around loose), the powder, the contents of them, gives off ammonia-there are odors, gasses given off. Now, the cartridges are composed of three things. There's a hollow brass tube called the case, and in it they then put powder, and they squeeze. Then in it, they put the actual shot, like a projectile, and you crimp it, you squeeze the brass around it, so you have this combination now. So when you see a rifle with this ammunition, it's the base of the shell, the powder's in there, and the bullet on top. Now, when the stuff is stored for any long period of time, particularly in an atmosphere where there's ammonia present, which there always is when you have ammunition, you could create cracks in the metal in the brass that's supposed to be holding it. It's a phenomenon called season cracking. Season cracking of brass means that you've absorbed ammonia and you've created cracks in here. Now, if you have a case to hold this combination, this cartridge, and the case has cracks in it, when you fire it, it's likely to explode right there in the gun and blow up the gun and kill somebody. And it does.
So we were using internal friction to study how this cracking took place-what was the environment that would make it crack? And we were using internal friction as a way of measuring the degree of cracking that may have taken place without having to take the thing apart and cut it apart, which was the way they usually do it. They do a lot of experiments, they'd slice each one up, and they'd look to see if there were cracks in it. We could identify the cracks by the way energy was absorbed in the brass. And that was our reason for studying internal friction of brass. Brass was a good thing to use because it's a metal about which we know a great deal, we know the properties of it very well. And it happened to be extremely practical because that's the metal that's used in making cartridge cases. So that's how come we were at the Frankford Arsenal.
Were you also using this technique to test shells after they were manufactured?
No, that was the ultimate thing. In fact one of the things we have here is a patent that Tom Read has with my name on it and another colleague for developing a testing device using this principle. So in principle, you could set up, and they did, they set up testing where they could examine. But remember, too, it isn't worth doing it for the kind of stuff you use in a normal shotgun, but it is worth doing it for every shell if it's a cannon. It's worth more; and secondly, it's more disastrous if you have a problem.
You just mentioned briefly that another way of testing is by sonic ...
Yes, you can always have a sonic beam go into metal, and it's reflected back from a crack.
So what's the advantage here?
Well, today with our current instrumentation, that is the easiest way to do things, although your internal friction would measure something at a much earlier stage. For the other you have to have a visible crack. With internal friction, you could do it if 20 atoms are out of place. I should tell you a slight anecdote on this, related to it. Somewhere towards the end of the war, about 1943 or 1944, Fred Seitz came up for a visit. I had no idea what Fred was doing during the war. It turned out later that he was at Oak Ridge, set up the Oak Ridge Institute and so on because Fred was a resident expert in metals and material. Fred says, "Gee! You know, I could use your equipment," which I had built there to do my thesis. And he said, musing out loud, "Do you think I could borrow your equipment?" And I said, "Gee. I'm working on a thesis among other things, but you know, is there any way I can help. Whatever you want to measure, send me the stuff you want to measure, and I'll measure it for you, whatever experiment you're working on." "No," he said, "I can't do that." And I said, "I'll give you all the circuit diagrams. You can build equipment then." Well, then he said, "I don't think we have time." Fred's mumbling around like this, and I said, "Is it really that important?" "Oh, yeah. You know, the war could depend on it," and all that sort of stuff. I can't remember whether we actually shipped the equipment or built something for him. But what it turned out was that what they were running into at Oak Ridge was that they now had this big structure of a reactor, and it's being bombarded by this radiation, and they had no idea what the radiation is doing to the metal.
Was it going to crack up, was it going to break, or what? And Fred, who knew all of our work, realized that, "Gee, you could use internal friction to measure the amount of damage that was going to go on in it." So we solved something, or else the war ended or something like that. But that was another thing they were doing. Again today, our instruments are so refined that I'm sure there are easier ways of doing it than with internal friction. See, internal friction means that you've got to get a sample and somehow set into vibration by having a pulse of energy go into it. Now we measured absorption. In other words, you could measure the pulse when it went into the metal, and you could measure when it comes out, and you could see how it was dissipated. You measure cracks by seeing the reflection, and that's one thing. And I'm sure they've probably got that so refined that they can do it at finer and finer levels. And this was 40 or 50 years ago. Things have changed. But it all fit into a pattern. This is all progress, believe it or not.
You mentioned that when you went to Frankford Arsenal this was just out of college, you were 20 years old. Is your situation there unique? Or are there other people, physicists your age, who were coming out of college, who were doing the same type of thing that you're doing?
Do you mean at the same age or...?
Maybe not necessarily same age, but it's the same professional level, your same level just coming out of college.
Oh, yes, sure. Everybody who took this exam for a Physicist P1 was assigned somewhere. I went to the Frankford Arsenal; or I could have gone to the Naval Research Laboratory, or I could have gone anywhere. The government was expanding in all of its areas in a way that we just hadn't done before. Bureau of Standards, for example.
Were there others there at the Arsenal who were doing graduate work in physics at Penn like you?
I don't think so. Well, that's not quite true. Another one of my colleagues and I went there at the same time. He didn't stay with it, though. The two of us went down together. And there were a couple. Sid Fernback might have been another. Sid Fernback was with me at the Arsenal. He eventually went to Los Alamos and was in charge of all their computer development at Los Alamos. But I can't really think of anybody else where we went right through to the very end. And somewhere along the line, you give up, and you go full time, or you stop. It just takes too long. I was married. I got married in '43, and so I wasn't in the position to go full-time and quit my work and keep my job. And after awhile, I remind people, if I had taken a break from college, I don't think I ever would have gone. I think when you break the habit of studying; it's not easy to get back to. And I kept going, as I picked it up again with one lapse of six months maybe. I was still used to the habit of studying and taking exams and things like that. I don't think I'd have had the courage to do it if I had dropped out for a year or two and not have thought what it meant to go full-time to a university. It's a lot of work.
Well, I'm sure doing a day job and then going to school at night must have been ...
But I never thought about it; I just kept going. So it was sort of force of habit. So I give Fred Seitz a lot of credit for that.
Tell me a little bit more about Tom Read, what it was like working with him, what his style was as a mentor, manager, and as a physicist.
Well, Tom was so good. I guess I would have to say that Tom is basically an experimental physicist. By that I don't mean that he didn't do the theory; he was very good at theory. I was probably as good or better in the math, but Tom was much better in the concept. Tom had a better grasp, as he should have, of the theory of what we were doing, what he was driving at. He could see the thing, and he was very good experimentally. I know because I'm not that good at it. For example, when you make a measurement of the kind we were making, you made a sample of the brass or whatever material you were measuring. At first, we had to turn it on a machine. Like, the first thing he taught me when I came to Frankford Arsenal was how to use a lathe. Never mind physics, you had to learn how to use a lathe to cut material and so on. And then you had a sample in a little tube. And then you had a quartz rod.
Now, the quartz rod had to be plated with silver coating so you could make an electrical contact. And the quartz rod had to be cemented with a very thin, fine bit of cement to the metal rod. Now, first of all, I was quite sloppy. I would try to cement it, and I'd find I had too thick a layer or too thin, and it wouldn't hold. And I had to do it two or three times so I got it right. I could see Tom would do this, "Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing!" And it's all set. You've got it done. This is a good experimental physicist. You plate the thing; you have to put it in a jar of silver that you're plating onto it. For each step of the process, I would be essentially fumbling my way around, and Tom could do it almost second hand. So he was a natural experimental physicist. And of course, he could articulate and write it. Now, I have it somewhere around, but Fred Seitz wrote two books. He wrote The Modern Theory of Solids Have you seen it?
I have an autographed copy; he autographed it for me.
Have you read it?
I read the introduction, but past that I don't have the knowledge.
Tom Read and Fred wrote a book on the physics of metals. And I'm sure Tom did most of the writing because Tom's book you can read. [laughs] So I always told Fred after I had the degree, I was giving a course at Penn on the physics of metals, and I would very duly assign chapters in Fred's big book. Then I would also assign the parallel chapter in the other book because I knew the kids could read it. They wouldn't understand-see, I could barely make out the mathematics in it. Fred, after all, is a theoretical physicist. Tom Read was a good writer, good experimental physicist, good strategist, and so on. And of course I got to know him personally very well, his family and all that. It was a small group, and here we were tucked away in the northeast section of Philadelphia, so we visited socially, occasionally and all that.
Were there any other physicists or staff members at Frankford Arsenal who stand out, like Tom Read who were particularly influential?
Tom is the only one who would be accepted as an academic physicist. All the others were really applied physicists.
Accepted by other academics as an academic physicist?
Accepted by other academics. Well, I shouldn't have said it so quickly. Look, everybody, by the time they get a PhD in physics has done some work in physics just to get the PhD. Then after that, depending on what area you're in and what your personal interest are, you may pursue publishable work that makes you better recognized in academic physics, or you may not, which is an unfortunate fact of life. For example, one of the other guys at the Arsenal is a chap named Bill Kroeger. You've never heard of Bill Kroeger. Bill was a great mathematical physicist and experimental physicist, and he had worked out the general principals for the recoilless rifle. You've heard of a recoilless rifle? It was invented in Frankford Arsenal by a combination of Bill Kroeger, who was a physicist, and Walt Musser, who was a mechanical engineer. A recoilless rifle is one where you can mount it on your shoulder, and you put little Venturi tubes in which the gasses can go, and you can balance the recoil in such a way that you could have an artillery shell fired from a gun that you're holding on your shoulder, which gives an infantry man the ability to kill a tank. It's a big deal. Bill worked out the physics of these things, and Walt Musser was the engineer who had to design everything.
You said Walt Musser?
And he didn't go beyond high school, by the way. I remember Walt coming to me one day and saying, "Herb, what's calculus?" He said, "I want you to teach me what calculus is and how to use it." I must have spent maybe two hours with him, and so he says, "Okay. That's it. I got it." But he probably did! [Chuckles] So the kind of people we had, they were very bright people, but you would never find them in a listing of academic physics. The head of the laboratory, Herschel Smith, had been at NYU. He was the director of the lab, and he had brought with him from NYU Frank Myers who'd also been with him there. They were both very good physicists, but again, at NYU, they weren't doing much research, and both were thoroughly capable of carrying out programs which required not only applying physics to practical problems but managing a team. That's the other thing-not everybody can do that. So, this is what you need in an organization which is geared to some broad objective as opposed to not having a well-defined objective, which ends up making the difference.
When you came to the arsenal in 1941, you said you had to be taught how to use a lathe. Was there any other type of formal instruction that you had to go through, or was it just going straight to the lab bench and start working on internal friction of metals?
I had no further formal instruction. At that point, everything was experiential. In fact, there was a gentleman there named James Howe. If you ever have time to look up the theory of guns and rifles and rifling, you'll find the name of James Howe in there. He was considered a world expert. And Tom turned me over to Howe to learn how to use a lathe. He was an expert in everything you do with machines and machinery, especially those dealing with guns and rifles. Which by the way, calls for very advanced technology and machining to make a gun. The rifling and things of that sort calls for precision that's well beyond the precision of, say, ordinary household products. It's an old story in science helping technology which helps science-they go up and back, depending on which level you're at.
I want to shift a few questions around so lets get back to the University of Pennsylvania. You finished your Master's degree in 1945, and you finished your PhD in 1950. I'd like to get a little more information about the Department. What fields was it particularly well known in? Strength and reputation during this time, the 1940s?
Well, there were two things. There was solid state. Park Miller was very active in Solid State. Herb Callen, his younger brother was Earl Callen; Herb Callen was well known there. Foster Nix was there. Fred was there for a while, but he left early in the war.
That's right, to go to Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh.
He was at Penn from '39 or so until about '42. Then he went to Oak Ridge really. Actually I forgot how he spent his time between Oak Ridge and Carnegie, but at some point he went full-time to Carnegie. He was probably also well known. Well, Gaylord Harnwell was well known in theory of electromagnetism or electromagnetic theory. His book was a classic we used in courses in electromagnetism. Harnwell became head of the Naval Laboratory in San Diego during the war. He then came back and became president of the University of Pennsylvania. And in nuclear physics, I remember there was Bill Stephens.
Another Westinghouse research fellow.
I was trying to think of who else in nuclear [physics]. Oh, I can picture them. I forgot the names, but they were known in that. Now you talk only about the physics department. Penn, as a whole, had other things there. For example, that's where the first numerical computer was built. In the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, so we knew a lot of guys who were working on that. It was a good environment, a good atmosphere.
Did you study in other departments as well or was it that you were only taking physics courses?
No. At this time I was through with my general courses and I only took physics. Except in one respect. It turned out that once or twice when the physics course I wanted was full, I took an equivalent course either in the Moore School or the Towne School of Mechanical Engineering. So for example, I took thermodynamics in the Towne School. I'm one of the few physicists I know that got brought up on BTU per degree Rankine. Never mind calories per degree Kelvin, which is a typical physicists, you learned it from an engineering viewpoint. But it was refreshing. The law of thermodynamics stayed the same in both.
In both fields. That's right. This is of course during the war. So when you're getting your Master's degree, is there a noticeable influence of wartime work in the Department, or does that not affect you really as a graduate student?
It didn't affect me. Of course, I wasn't dependent on it for my support. If I were, I might have been more affected. Also I was too young and naïve to even think much about it. In other words, it turned out that Penn had a very large amount of government funding that got bigger and bigger like most universities did after the war. Harnwell came back to the Department, then he became president, but I remember when he became president of the University. There was an article in the local newspaper. He followed Harold Stassers, who was a bit of a disaster at the university.
He'd been a Presidential candidate, and there was a lot of poor feeling about the fact that he used the endowment in part to pay for the operating budget, which you're not supposed to do. So when Harnwell came in, among other things, the newspaper said, "Thank goodness, Penn now has somebody who was chosen strictly on his academic merits," which is not exactly correct. It's true, he deserved it on his academic merits; but he really got it, in part though, in that he raised millions of dollars for a new Physics building, got millions of dollars in government support and showed that he knew how to raise money for a university. So Gaylord Harnwell was a very engaging man, charming, very bright. You could just see how he had the personality and the poise. He looked like a university president to begin with. Tall guy, big guy, spoke beautifully, and clearly knew his way with the government. And really effective at management. He ran the Navy laboratory in San Diego during the war. So he could manage resources, raise funds, etc, set priorities. He also happened to be academically meretricious.
Let's move on to 1950. You get your PhD. What's the status of solid state physics research at that time?
Well, that's an interesting question. Of course solid state, as we know it today, has several sub-areas in it. It includes both the physics of metals, by which we mean the strength of metals, the structure of metals, which is what I got involved with originally, to the electronic properties of metals, which is semiconductors-two quite separate things. Both of them began building up. After the war there was a great demand for advances in materials everywhere. Supersonic airplanes, guided missiles, and things like that needed materials that would stand up under environmental conditions that were very different than what they would have been twenty years before. What do we know about metals at these conditions? How can we create stronger metals, etc.? That was a very important part of that area of solid state, quite different from what was going on in the development of semiconductor materials, which was all the development of solid state electronic devices.
They separated into those, and of course immediately after the war, the demands on structural properties of materials came from the need to manufacture. The demand and advances in electronics were still largely at universities, but once its practicality was proven, quickly joined in by many big companies, which of course were involved in it right away anyway, like Bell Labs and GE, Sylvania, etc. But clearly there was an explosion of that after the 1960s. Sometime around the '60s, when Fred [Seitz] was still at Carnegie, I remember they had the first meeting of a solid state division of the American Physical Society, and I can remember it being like 60 people in the room at a room at either [the University of] Pittsburgh or Carnegie [Tech], I forget which. It took place in Pittsburgh. Well, today the so-called March meeting, which is a solid state meeting, you have thousands of people.
I was going to say, it must be huge now.
If that's any measure of anything. When it started, you knew practically everybody in the field. I've came across something here, one of the Gordon Conferences. You familiar with those?
The Gordon Research Conferences, yes.
There's one here in solid state that Jay Dienes organized. He invited me to be chairman of one of the sessions. I'm looking at the names on the list, and of course, it's all of the early days of the solid state things. Very well know names there. Again, it's that oscillation between university and industry. Once the practical aspects began to be not even witnessed, but simply envisioned, efforts began to build up in many of the companies, and once the efforts built up in the companies, the bigger the demand on the universities, in a way. So, they fed each other, really, so there was a great growth in both of them. The more the companies were interested, the more money was available at the university. Not as a direct request from the company necessarily, but the government groups. Again, you have to remember, there's a fascinating play among those three players: university, industry, and government.
Fortunately, I've seen it now from all the sides. But in the government, you have a number of institutions and agencies that were very much involved in solid state research, funding agencies, not just NSF and ONR, but many of the user agencies-Department of the Army, Department of the Navy, you name it. And the bulk of their funding of course went to the universities, at least from places like NSF. But the motivation for the funding, you might say the sense of what's important, was certainly influenced by the amount of interest industry had. So industry would have an interest, government agencies would want to feel that they're serving a useful function, and universities could get funded. So you had this constant interplay, and anybody in the university who thinks they are completely independent is simply not aware of the way the system works. There's definitely an interplay. Recently, a much greater and stronger and direct interplay now that everybody's has gotten a lot more knowledgeable; now you have a more direct relation of industry and university, which wouldn't have been as true 20 or 30 years ago. So then it was more covert without meaning to be . . . .
Let me just ask a few more wrap-up questions about Penn. Jump back to that for just a second. You said your dissertation advisor was Foster Nix?
And Penn. Just for the record, what was your thesis?
The name of it? The exact title?
Yes, if you have it.
I just happen to have it. It's called "Internal Friction and Its Dependence on Macroscopic Stress."
I'd just like to have that for the record. Was any of the research that you were doing, since the first part of your graduate school experience was during the war, was any of it classified?
Oh, yes. Yes. I did work on the fuse, for example. That was classified.
But did you also publish? Did you have an opportunity to publish as a graduate student or while you were at Frankford Arsenal?
Oh yes. There were a number that were not classified. It was fairly general and didn't refer to an application or could easily be seen as a direct application, then there was no problem. We did some work in plastic defamation of solids. Very general. Hopefully useful in many areas. For people working in structure metals and materials it gave them a convenient mathematical law for simplifying some of their calculations and measurements. There was classified work related to the munitions field. We have no reason not to be classified. We'd wait till somebody else had to make a better gun or munitions.
Right. Okay, I see. What about your draft status? Did you automatically get deferred because of your work?
That was interesting. Yes and no. Automatically the arsenal sent in a request for deferment. But I did have to go before a draft board in Philadelphia anyway. Nothing automatic about the request being approved necessarily. The Draft Board was the local board, people who live in your neighborhood. I always remember this one chap asking me from the board—I had to go before for a hearing. And he's got this arsenal paper in front of him. He said, "Tell me, what's a physicist?" So I tried to explain that the work in physics is like mechanics and optics and electricity. He says, "Oh, an electrician?" He put down, "Electrician, deferred." [laughs]. As far as he was concerned, that was fine for him.
But that wasn't what you were conveying.
I wasn't trying to. He happened to pick up the word "electric." Now, I will tell you that toward the end of the war, about the last year of the war, there was a great deal of publicity, advertisements, particularly by the Department of the Navy more than the others, how badly they needed technically-trained offers. There were desperate shortages of them. A couple of my friends and I, by this time, were beginning to feel very guilty that we had not enlisted; that we had been deferred. So I remember, I mentioned earlier-Sid Fernback, who went to Los Alamos later on...
You graduated with him? Was this one of the...?
Well, we had been in school together at the University of Pennsylvania, we worked at the arsenal together. We had both been deferred. I was married, but he wasn't. I said, "You know, the Navy really is making such a case. Maybe we really should go down and enlist." You know, I feel patriotic about the thing. So he and I go down. I can still picture him. Well first of all, Sid Fernback's about 5'2". So the recruitment officer looks at him and says, "How tall are you?" And he says, "5'2"." He said, "I'm sorry, our minimum requirement is 5'4"." That was out. And he gets to me. He talks to me, he says, "Those are pretty thick glasses you're wearing, aren't they?" I said, "Well..." He says, "Let me see them." So I had them over. He's holding my glasses and he says, "Read that chart." I said, "What chart?"
You couldn't even see it.
He said, "Start walking toward that wall till you can see it." So I start walking; he finally says, "Stop. Forget it. Go back to the arsenal." [laughs] So that was end of this thing.
That's just like my father. My father had to appear before the draft board and he couldn't see; his vision was terrible and they told him to leave too.
Does the research program at the Frankford Arsenal change after the war? What do you see as shifts in the programming there, staffing?
Well, there certainly was a shift in the projects. There was no shift in the objectives of the broad programs, but things kept changing in the projects. For example, we had no further immediate requirements for improving ammunitions, they began to work on things like cartridge actuated devices, what they called CADs. Because you had jet planes, you had to eject the pilot when he got into trouble. So he got ejected by pushing a button and having an explosion remove his canopy, and he and the seat and everything went up in the air. So there were problems in connection with that, which related to the expertise of the arsenal in explosive devices. So anything connected with explosive devices. They're still involved. But the project was different. There was some classified work connected with nuclear energy, the idea of possible tactical weapons that could be fired in the field. Some of that was done at the arsenal. Though there the actual work was maybe done somewhere else, but the arsenal had responsibility for sort of managing the program.
Were you working on any of these?
No, I wasn't.
Were you still working with Tom Read throughout this period?
Well, when did Tom leave? I don't remember. He went to Illinois around '50 or '51. Yes, I was working with Tom in the late '40s until he left. Then as time went on, I became head of the physics division.
That was my next question. Tell me the story of your progression from bench scientist into a management position.
How do you explain it? There was a very broad range of programs, and of course, in things other than the solid state; I was hardly an expert in it, so I couldn't very well judge much about it.
We were just talking about the post-war Frankford Arsenal and you were just about to tell me about how you moved into a management position there, particularly to the head of the physics and mathematics division.
It's hard to say how these things happen because it's a matter of probably an accident. I certainly wasn't anymore brilliant than anybody else there, and we're talking about being responsible in areas where you don't have the expertise beyond that of anybody who's working in the same group. So it's really a matter of getting along with people. Sometimes it's as simple as that. And interacting with people from other organizations that became involved. So it's a lot of personal characteristics. It's hard to put your finger on anything for which you could be trained or educated. At least I believe that. I honestly don't believe you can go to a business school and then suddenly learn how to be a good manager. You can learn some tools, but how you use those tools is very important. All I can say is I guess I'm just fortunate enough to be able to get along well with people. It just turns out that when you work with a group of people and can do it in a reasonably amicable way and make some progress and understand, by the way, what the goals are of the group, not just of the individual, that those are the kinds of things that count. For example, I knew that there are people who worked with me-I'm thinking one in particular, a physicist who was very competent in things like electron microscopes and x-rays and things of that sort where you're measuring for certain properties of materials. I'm sure this person had absolutely no interest in having a whole lot of people working with him or for him. His great personal satisfaction is in his own expertise and his applications of his skill. I guess I get some satisfaction out of the fact that if there's a certain goal for the group of trying to meet the goal, instead of focusing on what I'm doing in particular in physics per se. Well, I love physics and I love doing physics. I wouldn't exactly win a Nobel Prize in it. There are many people around me and I knew many of them who were far better at that than I. But I was better at certain other things than they were, and I enjoyed it. So I would say just sort of a natural evolving of things, not the kind of thing....You certainly don't plan on it. At least I didn't.
How did you get that position, though?
I was just asked to do it by somebody higher up.
And so then you became supervisor for these two divisions and all of the projects within those divisions?
Yes, I guess I was responsible for signing all the time cards or whatever.
Did you leave physics at that point?
That's an interesting question. As long as I was at the Frankford Arsenal and physically seated in an office in the laboratory, I could still continue to do certain things, working with some of the other people. For example, I remember that work in plastic deformation of metals, I was doing something with Josephine Carr. Obviously she did a lot more of the work than I did. I could talk to her about the results and we could work together on the interpretation of the results and things like that, so it would not be illegitimate to have my name on the paper when it was through. I'm not sure I carried on a program, certainly not an experimental program, if I were doing it all by myself because that just simply would take too much commitment. But fortunately there were other people that had worked with me and I could at least participate in some of it. But I think it would be wrong, if not foolish, to try to do something on my own if I had the responsibility for the whole group.
And did the group vary in size during this period?
No, it wasn't huge; I guess it wasn't more than 20 people or so, 25 people.
One question I just wanted to ask, when does the future Mrs. Fusfeld appear on the scene? And what's her story and family background?
Well, we went to college together. I met her when I was a senior and she was a sophomore. That was in the fall of 1940. So by the time I graduated college in '41, we were thinking of getting married. I got this job in Philadelphia and I was commuting back to New York about every weekend. Of course, my parents still lived in Brooklyn. Then we were married in the summer of '43.
And what's her background?
She majored in French and Spanish. After we were married, she worked temporarily for the school district of Philadelphia. Then we had children and raised a family and that was a while, until finally in about 1968 or so, she went back to teaching. She had been asked to take over somebody's class who had gotten sick for about six months. She sort of liked it again, so she went back full time. She taught French and Spanish in the high school here from roughly '68 to '88 or '89 before she retired. We have the same background socially, though. We both came from families that were raised in Brooklyn. We lived about two blocks away from each other.
Did you know each other growing up?
No, we met in college.
Okay, I see.
Two blocks away is a very great distance in a big city. It's a whole different neighborhood.
Just off the top of my head, was Brooklyn a particularly Jewish community at that time?
Brooklyn is divided into ethnic areas, and not as much now as then, maybe. Maybe more so, I don't know; I haven't been there for years. But there was a recognizable Jewish area, and right across one boundary was a recognizable Italian area. If you went to the Fort Hamilton Parkway there was an Irish area. So I guess there really were separate communities. Of course, there were some areas that were completely diverse. Perhaps right around Prospect Park might have been one, where they all came together. But in general, there was a division geographically within the boroughs that was reasonably well defined. If you told me where somebody lived, I could reasonably guess their religious background or ethnic background in some way. There was never any real problem. I mean, not the kind of problems you have today, thank God. In public school, you might have gotten into a fight with somebody from a different group. If you did, nobody got killed. You'd come home bruised or something, but nobody pulled a knife or anything like that. And in general, we all co-existed in school. We all went to the same public schools because the public school is not just in any one area. They came from many different areas to go to it. So both elementary school and high school were completely desegregated, if you wish. Today there are also ethnic areas, but they're different ethnic groups.
Related to that then, what was it like living in wartime Philadelphia? Did you live near the arsenal when you were there or did you live in downtown Philadelphia?
We lived in Northeast Philadelphia, although I wouldn't say it was near the Arsenal. It still took me 25 minutes on a bus to get there, but I could get there by one bus, thank goodness. I didn't need a car until we began to have kids.
I think I've got everything. Let's move to the early 1950s. You were at Frankford Arsenal till 1953, and then in that same year, you moved to American Machine and Foundry. Tell me about the transition. What are you thinking about in terms of career? Why did you decide to make the shift?
Can you repeat the question?
Sure. It's 1953. That's the year that you decide to leave Frankford Arsenal to become a physicist at American Machine and Foundry Company, and I'd like to ask you about that. What prompted that transition and what were you thinking about in terms of your career and what you wanted to do at that point?
Well, let me say it again, it was a matter of external circumstances rather than any deliberate planning on my part. I want to make a divergence here to something, though. We're going to talk eventually about industrial research. I want to mention an interesting institution that someday you may want to do some research on, which are the nonprofit or not-for-profit foundations that have an interesting history of their own. The biggest one today is probably Stanford Research Institute. The oldest one and better-known one is Battelle Memorial Institute. But there are others. They started out years and years ago as, literally, non-profit groups. They got some funding usually through a private philanthropist. Got a big endowment, and went into research in a variety of fields from their endowments. During the war, there was a big change in that. They began to be drawn upon more and more to do work for the government because of the war effort. So the government gave great deals of money to them and their emphasis changed a lot, as a result.
Just to recap, you were discussing the private research institutes.
Well, we're talking about non-profit groups, which was a name usually given to those like Battelle, which literally supported research out of their endowments and did not intend to make a profit. During the war, there was a great pressure from the government to expand that work, to do government work in areas that were needed, and new groups sprang up to do contract research work. They were no longer called non-profit groups because they made a profit, but they were called not-for-profit groups-an interesting distinction. Nobody owned the shares; they didn't get profits as a result, but they definitely made money on the contracts. There was a great growth of that. The Frankford Arsenal began to do work with a number of these and began to give contracts, particularly to the Armour Research Foundation in Chicago, some to Battelle, and to the Midwest Research Institute in Kansas City. So we all began working on programs together and knew each other quite well. Now in the '50s, I encountered an interesting experience. Following the war, there was a great deal of activity and thought in the scientific community...now I do mean mostly the academic community, starting with the ones working on the atomic bomb, who were very concerned with the results of atomic energy following the war. They were concerned with what influence they should have, what was the government responsibility...they'd have to inform the public about it. And one of the things that focused their attention was the bills presented in Congress for advancing atomic energy and controlling it. One was called the May-Johnson Bill, which would've given much of the control to the military, and the other was either sponsored by Bernard Baruch or his name was attached to it.
The McMahon Bill. He [Brien McMahon] was a Senator from Connecticut.
Correct. [The McMahon Bill] would have left much of the control to the civilian agencies and/or the academic community. So a great deal of discussion among the scientists. And different organizations began to spring up. Historically, while everything was still classified, a group was founded at the atomic laboratory at Los Alamos and elsewhere, called the Federation of Atomic Scientists. But by 1950, after the war, after the bomb, and so on, this began to be broadened and there was an organization set up called the Federation of American Scientists, which had chapters in a number of different cities. One of them is Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, the thrust for that came from the University of Pennsylvania. And among those that were most active were Leonard I. Schiff of the Physics Department, Bill Stephens in the Physics Department, and a couple of others. They were anxious to get involved.
They had their chapter, the Philadelphia chapter. For a variety of reasons, which I never quite completely understood, they asked me to be president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Federation of American Scientists. Whether they thought they wanted somebody with a government background (I was at the Frankford Arsenal at the time) I don't really know. And as a result, as president of the chapter I had been asked to give talks; I remember the other people did, too, at various local clubs and groups in the suburban communities. Basically on what is atomic energy, what is it all about, what does it mean, and so on. What I didn't realize at the time though was that these kinds of activities are looked upon very carefully by the officers responsible for security at government agencies. And so the security people at the Frankford Arsenal, who I knew, by the way, personally over the years, asked me a lot of questions not so much about the subject matter, but who I was associating with as members of the Philadelphia chapter, and essentially said to me, "Are you aware of the fact that there are people connected with it who may be communists?" And I said, "No." I said, "I wouldn't be surprised, but I don't know them, and I don't know." Of course, I realized later that one of the reasons that Leonard Schiff and the others asked me to be president was as a counterweight against any of the faculty who might be leaning too much to the left. And they thought that maybe my presence would make it far more neutral, in fact, even conservative. However, in due course of time, I was presented with a statement that said that I've been affiliated with an institution that has certain people connected with it; they have reason to believe are either members of the Communist Party or are potentially members, and therefore until they can clarify the matter, my clearances are going to be removed.
And of course the practical effect of removing a clearance is that I couldn't be on the premises. Very fortunately, by this time I had a lot of good friends. Two or three things happened. The first thing was that it turned out that the Mechanics Research Division of the Armour Research Foundation, which had people I've known for many years, had decided to set up their own organization away from the Armour Research Foundation. And their group had been bought by AMF, American Machine and Foundryle. In other words, what had been the Mechanics Research Division of Armour was now a Mechanics Research Division of the American Machine and Foundry Company located in Chicago. That group located in Chicago. That was a group that I had worked with for many years.
While you were at Frankford?
Yes. So within something like two days after I got my notice at the Arsenal, I had accepted a position with them in Chicago. So I never missed a paycheck. [Chuckles] I mean obviously, they [Mechanics Research Division of AMF] had gotten a call from the people at Frankford, who were my superiors-in the laboratory, not the security people, the laboratory people. So that was item number one. And of course, being part of AMF, they [Mechanics Research Division] could separate; they had certain things to do that were wholly related to the company and had nothing to do with government work, as well as a lot that did have to do with government work. So they took me on without any clearances. Meanwhile, this other charge at the arsenal is dragging on. Of course, the security people were hinting that if I would just resign, they'd forget the whole thing, but I had no intention of it. So it was a very interesting experience. The whole study went on for about six months or so.
Then there was an actual hearing in Philadelphia. Now, I should give you another aside while this is going on. During the early '50s, the ordnance department was setting up an Office of Ordnance Research [OOR] in Durham, North Carolina, and I had been a scientist part time as the acting head of the physics division of the OOR. So I was running down there a lot. I had a lot of interaction with people and had even helped them set up the OOR. So we had this clearance hearing. And let's see. I'm trying to remember exactly. Well, we had two university presidents that came. Harnwell came up from the University of Pennsylvania, and Harry Gideons came down from Brooklyn [College]. They were very nice about that. But I thought the upshot was at one point during the hearing... You see, the Frankford Arsenal has a commanding officer whose responsibility is to pass judgments on these things. He was a full colonel; that is his rank. The Office of Ordnance Research in Durham also had a full colonel. It was a small group, only 30 or 40 people, not like the Arsenal. Nevertheless, the commanding officer has exactly the same responsibilities and authority. So at one point, my lawyer was there. He said to Colonel Walker Holler from the OOR in Durham, he said, "You've seen this file." He said, "What would you do with the file if it were your responsibility?" Holler said, "I'd throw it in the wastebasket." So after that, everything was cleared up. I got a nice letter that says, "You're fine. Come back." I said, "No thanks." What's the old Chinese proverb, "Fool me once, shame on you.- Fool me twice, shame on me."? Chances are, if it hadn't been for that, I'd have stayed with the government all my life.
You would've stayed at the Arsenal.
I had no reason to leave. I never even thought much of it. I told you before, I rarely planned in a deliberate way to do something like that as far as my personal career. By this time, of course, I was in with a group at Chicago. When I went there, they knew that they were probably going to be transferred to the East somewhere. My wife didn't really want to live in Chicago or the area. So I told them [Frankford Arsenal] forget about it, and stayed with that. Matter of fact, I didn't even get any money at all because I was getting paid more with AMF than I was making at the Arsenal. They reimburse you for your lost income, but I didn't lose any income. Unfortunately.
That must've been a very traumatic experience though.
No. It was for my wife. I never think too much of those ways. As far as I'm concerned, it was just a problem to be resolved. But I was very lucky. If I didn't have these connections and didn't know these people that thought well of me, I'd have had no great defense. It was a very unusual time. You've got to remember, this was a time of Mr. [Senator Joseph] McCarthy, and there were some very bad cases. Of course, the silly thing in my case is that I'm actually very conservative, politically.
Well, if I just may ask about this organization in Philadelphia, the Federation of American Scientists, what was its mandate? Was it just to discuss these issues among the local chapters?
Well, public dissemination of information about science and the implications of science to society. Things of that sort. Very general. It had no reference at all to things like the McMahon Bill. It was just deliberately very general. [shuffling papers] Yes, this is an article in Fortune. What year was it again?
It says 1946 on the back.
Okay, that could be right. It's a meeting of this federation, of the officers of the group in the federation. And here am I, here's Leonard Schiff...
And there, by the way, is Ed Condon.
Yes, he got into more trouble, you know.
And Harlow Shapley.
This is a story of all the difficulty scientists that gotten into at this...
And there's [Leo] Szilard. And this is a picture of the Philadelphia chapter?
No, no; this is the [leadership of the] federation. See, I was there and Leonard Schiff was there representing the Philadelphia chapter. And here are the names. Recognize the other names there?
I'm just going to pause this for a moment. [Tape cut] Let me rephrase that question. What's been written about the history of scientists and their interaction with McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee in the early 1950s is focused very much on events in academia, and not really very much at all with what happened in industry, if in fact similar types of problems appeared among industrial scientists. I'd like to get your views on that.
Well, one thing it immediately shows is that one moral is that industry is a lot more flexible than the government and decisions can be made to resolve problems at levels very close to you; whereas in government, if there's a problem, sometimes decisions can't be made by anybody close to you and might have to take a long time to resolve through bureaucracy. Industry can take authority to do certain things, and is more flexible at having instruments and tools and mechanisms to make it happen. In this case, the company was free to separate areas, have different clearance areas, and was willing to make provisions to assign me, in particular, certain things that had nothing to do with government work, without taking the easy way out and saying, "No, we can't have anybody here who can't do everything." So to me, in fact, industry is flexible and is a very powerful thing that you don't always appreciate.
If I may ask a couple more questions about the Frankford Arsenal, did this happen to other scientists there?
I knew of one or two other people who got into trouble. I never did hear how it was all resolved. It wasn't a lot. It wasn't any huge thing. I mean it wasn't exactly a witch-hunt or anything like that. My impression basically was that a situation came to the attention of the guy in charge of security at the Arsenal, who although, I knew him over the years, I don't think he pretended to be any great intellectual achiever. He just had this, he said to himself, "Well gee, do I have a problem here or don't I have a problem? And how do I resolve this so I don't get hurt?"—meaning him. It goes through certain accepted procedures and channels without really exercising any judgment. In industry, people at different levels can exercise judgment and make decisions, and do. And the government, sometimes you get into trouble doing that. That's one of the morals of this thing.
Just so I'm clear on exactly what transpired, you said during the hearing, the colonel who was in charge of the facility down in Raleigh-Durham basically said, "Throw out the file." And at that point, the hearing just ended?
Well, it didn't have to. He was not responsible for this decision, but clearly the comparison was quite clear that two commanding officers with the same level of authority have quite different opinions about a file. There was nothing automatic about it. Of course, I did have pretty good references on my side.
Just recapping a little bit, within a very short time, you had this position in Chicago with AMF.
And what was the name of that division?
They called it the Mechanics Research Division. That was their name when they were with Armour and they kept the same name when they went to AMF.
And what did that division do?
The bulk of their work was contract work with the government, which they had.
Oh, okay. That's why you had the longstanding relationship with the people there.
Right. I was a scientist... I had interesting growth at AMF, which maybe gets into the heart of your whole inquiry.
Can I ask one other question before we jump into that?
Did you consider other firms at that point?
No. I wasn't shopping. I knew my wife was getting very unhappy about the whole situation, so I was just very pleased to have gotten the offer, and that was it. For six months I commuted to Chicago from Philadelphia.
What did you do for that first six months?
That was the beginning of, you might say, my life with AMF. First of all, I was assigned to a couple of problem areas, one that had to do with, of all things, cigarette machinery. AMF was the primary manufacturer of machinery for the cigarette industry. They had a laboratory in Raleigh, and so I kept running down to Raleigh one week and Chicago the next. Chicago had an office and Raleigh had a place that had something I was supposed to do, and it had something to do with statistical analysis of the products. And then I had some overlooking of the programs that they were setting up there. But then I was being used for some miscellaneous things. In fact, once I was asked by the chairman of the board to go to some meeting in Carolina sponsored by the Cecily and Bryce Dewitt. Does that sound familiar to you? The Dewitts. Bryce Dewitt just died recently. The Dewitts are very well known in nuclear physics. They sponsored seminars in Europe and in the United States, so I shared a room with Freeman Dyson and a couple of others. I was being used for those kind of miscellaneous things that would come up in the life of a corporation. But I knew the decision was made that the group [Mechanics Research Division] was going to go east. So after six months, they had made plans to move the group completely, but as a start, they were going to move a kind of a trial group of about ten people. I was one, obviously. So a group of us from Chicago moved to Greenwich, Connecticut.
Are these just physicists?
No. I was probably the only— No, I wasn't the only one. There were two others who were physicists. Mechanical engineers, mostly. So we moved to Greenwich. And I had an interesting assignment. By this time, AMF was beginning to be a real conglomerate. They had bought into a number of different industries and were thinking of getting into more. And the question arose, basically, "What kind of a technical organization do we have? What kind of resources do we have in our technical organization? What should we have, looking ahead?"
What was in Greenwich, though?
Well there happened to be a military group called the General Engineering Division, which existed largely on military contracts. But they had some extra office space there, so they set up an office for me. No actually, I take that back. When I first came to the East, while much of the group was stationed in Greenwich, I was given an office in Manhattan in New York at the corporate office, and commuting. And the reason was that the chairman had this project (this is Morehead Patterson) of looking at their technical resources and studying it, and then coming up with some recommendation. Like what do they have and what should they have, looking ahead? So I spent the year traveling through all of AMF, including going to Europe, and came out with a big report, which I realized years later, was stupid of me. Nobody looks at a big report. I should've given a little report. But anyway, one of the recommendations I made was to set up a central laboratory. So the chairman at least accepted that, and said that, "You do it."
How did you get that position?
Well, now it's another diversion here, if you don't mind.
No, no, not at all.
In the 1950s, first of all, right after World War II there was a lot of increased awareness on the part of industry in general that there might be something to the science and technology stuff after all. Now this is not just the GEs and the IBMs or the Duponts which knew about that. So a number of companies had the idea that Morehead Patterson had (most of them were wrong) that if they could only bring in some people who were very sophisticated and skilled because they're working on government work. And what's more, they're being supported on government money, so it's not going to cost the company anything. We, a company, would have access to these great scientific resources that we could then build on. None of that is correct, but they thought it was correct. So a number of companies...it was almost the fad that you had to have more science; you had to have more sophistication and so on. So Morehead Patterson now had a new toy out in Chicago. He had this group of scientists, or so he thought. Actually, they're mostly engineers. The group, as far as Mr. Patterson was concerned, had a certain aura or cachet about them. We weren't any smarter than the guys that he had all along from the different divisions, although the guys in the different divisions were working on very mundane things like cigarette machines and bowling machines and things like that. But Mr. Patterson wanted a fresh look at something, so he went out to that group. And the head of the Chicago group, LeVan Griffis, who was involved with the discussion, said to Mr. Patterson, "Gee, why don't you ask Herb to do this?"
These were all government guys? You were all doing gov—
Most of the people in Chicago had been working for years on government contracts. They're part of these not-for-profit groups.
And so Patterson, you said, kind of saw this as an entrance into...
It's a sophisticated world of new science and technology. He was essentially downplaying the expertise that he himself had built up over the years in the company. And, as I once told you, when they bought subsidiaries, he picked up a lot of expertise in the subsidiaries, too. But he wasn't looking at it that way because they weren't hired for their science; they were hired because of the different business.
So this group in Chicago, you mentioned the head of this? I'm sorry.
His name is Griffis. LeVan Griffis.
So he suggested to Patterson that you be the one to assess the company's technical capabilities?
Yes. I think Griffis was in some discussion in New York in which the idea of this kind of a study came up.
What was Griffis's background?
He was a PhD in mechanical engineering. He had been at Stanford or the University of California.
And what had he done at AMF?
Hard to say. I don't really know for sure.
So you move into this position assessing the....
So I spent my first year in New York in a New York office, which of course, exposed me to meeting all the officers of AMF, which didn't hurt.
Tell me about that year. What were you doing to put together this—
I was traveling around to the different locations of AMF, meeting the technical people, finding out what they were working on, what their backgrounds were, and trying to see if some serendipity could be gained by any combination or coordination or whether it wasn't worth the trouble or whatever. AMF had a lot of resources, but they were scattered around in different authorities, and just putting them together in one place wouldn't necessarily help anything. I wrote a huge report.
Recommending that the company set up a central—
Well, the report covered a lot of things. It covered the technical problems and challenges facing each of those separate companies. But among other recommendations was the recommendation that there was an opportunity to do some good with a central research laboratory. That was one recommendation.
And what led you to make that recommendation?
Well, because there were things in common. For example, the simplest thing would be special expertise or instrumentation, which we couldn't afford at every one of the locations, for example. We eventually brought in a guy in operations research. There's no reason to have a man in operations research at every one of the small laboratories that we had around. Certain instrumentation. And also, in the 1950s, remember people were just beginning to get used to working with semiconductors and solid-state devices. Again, that was not typically used in every one of the locations, but if you had one central source of expertise in the company, they could do some good with other parts of the company. So I was looking for those kinds of special things that we felt there might be of some use. Plus the fact, since Patterson himself was very ambitious and looking for new opportunities for the company that would have arisen normally from one of the existing divisions...
Continuing on Saturday evening, and returning to American Machine and Foundry. We had just gotten to the point where you had spent the year touring AMF facilities, coming up with a report dealing with the technical resources of the company. And you presented that to Morehead Patterson, who was the head of the company at that time. What were your conclusions about AMF's technical capabilities at that time?
Well, there were official and unofficial conclusions. The official conclusions were that it was very difficult to see how a central laboratory could really provide support for the various subsidiary divisions as a broad objective, but that there were certain things that a central laboratory could do from a standpoint of efficiency or effectiveness, such as having experts on hand that couldn't be afforded by each laboratory separately, or having certain expensive types of specialized equipment, like x-ray equipment, that again, couldn't be justified by each one. That was one broad area of usefulness. And the second item was that a central laboratory could explore areas which might become the basis for business interests of the company that would not normally be explored by the division of an existing company, which has a very narrow objective, quite properly. Now the unofficial justification really was it was very dependent on the nature of the chairman of the board, Morehead Patterson, who himself liked the results of technology and wanted to find a basis for new interests. If someone had been there who was in a more traditional role, who was not willing to explore too many little things, then you'd remove a lot of the justification for a central laboratory. And so the central laboratory was proposed as much because of the personality of Morehead Patterson. Later on, when Morehead Patterson died (I think it was-1962, something like that), I personally felt that the future of the central laboratory was very questionable given the general personalities and leanings, preferences, of the people who were going to become the heads of AMF, which was what I actively believed after he passed away. But to go back to the basic conclusions, at that time it seemed to make sense, and Morehead Patterson was indeed interested in many different things.
You mentioned that one of the bases for having the lab was to develop new products or to come up with new products.
Possibly. And is that something that had not been done before?
Well, let me put it differently. Each subsidiary, each company, always took care of its own future, so to speak. Voit Rubber Company had continuing additions to its product line, and Potter & Brumfield in the switching field always had interests. But there's a good example. Potter & Brumfield was one of the leading companies in the country, maybe the world, in traditional electromechanical switching. Now, here we were in the '50s where solid-state devices were suddenly beginning to pop up in different places. There certainly was not a general familiarity within Potter & Brumfield of the nature of silicon devices and solid-state devices in general. Realizing that you had a good engineering group at Potter & Brumfield, but one that was not terribly familiar with solid state, we developed at the laboratory what I guess you have to call hybrid devices, which was not so much replacing electromechanical switches with solid state, but which was combining a solid state device with existing electromechanical switches. So it became a relatively comfortable thing for them to expand into that. They might not have done that on their own without the central laboratory coming forward. Now having come forward with the idea, and by the way, supporting them so that when they began to look into it more seriously, we had people who could then go out to Potter & Brumfield and work with them till everything was properly developed. Then they went ahead and they began to develop a line of hybrid switches. They probably would not have done that if the central lab had not been there. On the other hand, it probably would not have made much sense for the central laboratory to suddenly have gone into a completely solid state device and find that Potter & Brumfield rejected it because the engineers weren't familiar enough with it. So you needed the combination of the two.
Did you eventually make the full switch to solid state after that transition?
Eventually, and this is probably after I left AMF, they began to come out with solid-state devices. Interestingly enough, in recent years, they became very familiar with Siemens America, Siemens Corporation, which has a very large operation in the United States-I think 5,000 employees. Siemens has a laboratory. Lo and behold, somewhere along the line of about five years ago, Siemens bought Potter & Brumfield, which by then had sort of spun off again from AMF. And I do believe that by then they had solid-state devices. But anyway, that was an example of one way we could work with them. I think what Mr. Patterson really had hoped for was coming out with some kind of major programs that would be quite different-fuel cells, for example, which we did look at, by the way. Again, that was building on something they knew about. AMF had gotten involved with membranes. They had gotten into the business, or at least the development, of water purification. One way to purify water is with electrolytic membranes. So they were good at making membranes, and they knew something about different kinds of membranes. And so we at the central laboratory then picked up on that a little bit and began to develop models of fuel cells. That was the kind of thing Mr. Patterson liked, and he was quite prepared to pursue that into a business, if it made sense. It was about then that I think he died. But that was the kind of thing he was looking for-something where we could use the scientific background we had to get into wholly different products.
He wanted you to create new markets.
Yes. He was really intrigued with science and technology. I remember Mr. Patterson did get a lot of advice to get into atomic reactors. Remember, AMF was the largest supplier of atomic reactors for a while-research reactors, not power reactors. And Patterson himself became the U.S. ambassador to what was then, I guess, the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Authority. So he always had that love of science-based business, but of course AMF never became in the big time in that. But again, at least it provided a sense that if a central laboratory began to go into new areas and had made any sense, he was prepared to pursue it and exploit it, which the people who followed him were not.
Was he looking at other companies as models? I want to just try to get a sense of what was it that was driving him to think that way.
Well, I know of the lines that he was thinking along because I got involved with it. One was this idea that you could somehow build up a contract operation that would get money from the government that would pursue new areas, probably more scientific-based, sophisticated areas, using government money, and somehow that would parlay you into a major new business. That has rarely worked out for any company. Remington Rand started with Sperry. They wanted to merge with Sperry on the idea that here's Sperry with these wonderful technologies and electronics; here's Remington Rand, an old manufacturer of electromechnical devices.
We'll marry the two, and we will use sophisticated government-funded technology to build the civilian business. It never worked. They always had two divisions-Remington Rand and Sperry. That was the only way they operated. So Patterson had that kind of a thing as a model, but I must say, I was always skeptical. And I mentioned (very hesitantly, by the way) that I didn't think it was such a great idea. [laughs] Needless to say, you don't come out bluntly with that sort of thing safely. But that was one model. Then he [Patterson] had another one. This is, again, something I got involved in; it's a measure of my influence that he pushed me into things that I recommended against—and that was the idea of putting up a European laboratory. Now I spent some time visiting in Europe and going to these different places to see what experiences other American companies had in Europe.
Again, his idea was, one, you had these unused, unexploited scientific resources in Europe, which you could hire at much lower salaries than American companies and American scientists. Not too different than today's thinking, in some ways. And they'll do this wonderful research, we'll get a lot of ideas, and we'll come back and we'll build new products based on it. I made a study in Europe and I made two recommendations, both of which were completely ignored. One was...I think my most brilliant remark in the report was that yes, it was cheaper to do your failures there than your successes. The reason is, a certain amount of R&D fails, and it does cost less to do R&D in Europe, so if it's going to fail, you haven't spent as much money. On the other hand, if you've got something that seems like it's going to succeed, you're going to transfer that from a laboratory in Europe, from a different language, different specifications, different culture, to an operating division in the United States.
And by the time you get through with the problems of transfer and trying to change all the working conditions, it'll probably cost you more money than if you had done it in the United States to begin with. That was number one. Number two, I said if you did set it up in Europe, there are certain preferred locations. There are some places where if you want diversity, people will work in Europe-Paris, maybe Geneva, maybe Brussels, not Italy, not England, etc. He said, "Okay. I want you to put up a laboratory and I want you to do it in England." That was his [Patterson's] decision. But his thinking was what I've mentioned-low-priced R&D. Why England? Well, he was persuaded... We had a lot of customers in England. I think that was in the back of his mind. So it wasn't really irrational. It wasn't good R&D judgment, but it was maybe good business judgment. We did a lot of business with tobacco companies. One of our biggest customers was British-American Tobacco. So by having a laboratory in England, somebody that some of their technical people could talk to, it would improve the relationships with big customers. And you know, that's a judgment I can't make. It's very valuable. By the way, I did come to some conclusions myself about foreign laboratories.
I was just going to ask about that.
I wrote a couple of articles that showed up somewhere in Research Management. That was the following. I checked around my American friends first who had laboratories. I said, "Why did you put a laboratory in Europe?" There's a whole list of reasons: smart people in certain areas, particular expertise in certain areas, lower cost in certain areas, and so on. But there was one anomaly that stood out as far as I was concerned. If that were true, then the same reasons that made Union Carbide put up a laboratory in Europe, for example, should also apply to other chemical companies-Dow and so on. How come they didn't put up a laboratory in Europe? And the same is true up and down the line. In other words, some American companies put up laboratories in Europe, a lot of American companies did not.
What was the common denominator? It turned out the common denominator was that the companies that put up laboratories had a large and successful operation in Europe, a manufacturing operation-products. And so putting up a European laboratory not only maybe satisfied these other conditions, but it did a couple of other things that would only hold if you had an operation there. Number one, it gave you a better image and better relationships with that local government. They liked to have foreign companies invest in R&D in their own country. So that might help you someday when you had a tax argument or something like that. Very good reason. Secondly, a laboratory doesn't work in a vacuum. The way a laboratory works (and I went into some detail in this chapter in my book, Industry's Future), is of all the things a laboratory comes out with, only a few, maybe, are really great new product areas. Most of them can be taken away by being improvements in existing products.
If you have a laboratory near a factory somewhere, you have an operating group you can work with. The chances are pretty good you can do something useful with them that'll pay your way. So at the end of the year when you have to justify your budget to the company headquarters in New York, you don't have to say, "Well, I've got these bright ideas and someday they're going to pay off." You can say, "Gee, ask Joe at the factory. He'll tell you that I helped him with this and this and this." And so you had somebody on your side who is in the moneymaking part of the business. Very important. Third of all, when you run a laboratory, just like anything else, you've got a lot of overhead and administrative work. Quite often, if you have a laboratory not very far from an operation, they can absorb a certain amount of these costs: the costs of handling personnel for you, the costs of making out your taxes-all the things it takes to run any organization. So it turns out that if you have a substantial business operation in the foreign country, then you could put up a laboratory in that country and maybe not terribly far from it with reasonable confidence that you can do some good and pay your way. You might then be able to take advantage of lower costs, smart people, etc. But you almost never could justify it only on that basis. It just takes too long to come through with things. So that, I felt, was a useful insight I got. Didn't help AMF particularly, but it helped me.
How long did that European laboratory last?
Well, we set it up in about '59. I left AMF in '63. But about three years later, it was sold to a food company in England. Turned out more of the people could fit in with that-there were chemists and so on, and also the estate. By the way, in countries like England, it's not a trivial thing to get zoning for that kind of an operation. Once you've got it, that turns out to be a very major asset. Not only the property itself, but the use of the property. So it was sold, but it lasted a total of about maybe six or seven years.
What were the major programs that you set up there?
Yes. What were the major research programs?
A bunch of it had to do with tobacco research, and some of the related areas like polymers and sheet. One of the major product areas of AMF, they were making what they called reconstituted tobacco sheets. You take all the scraps and drippings from when you make the cigarettes, and you end up with a mass of what looks like a sawdust, but it's not, it's really tobacco. Like a papermaking operation, you can end up with sheets that have been bound together with chemicals to give sheets that are really tobacco sheet, which when cut up are used as fillers in making cigars. So it turned out to be a useful product. And looking at those different things with polymers and so on, that's one of the things they were doing there, and some of the membrane was going on in England.
Did you have any fields that you picked that were just pure speculative fields that you had no specific products involved?
No. Well, I said no too quickly. The head of the laboratory that I think I mentioned was a well-known computer scientist in England, David Bell. So I encouraged him to suggest programs in which some computer work-remember in the beginning, that was very early days-essentially, it could be used in automation and some of the machines we made and things of that sort. But it didn't last long enough, really, to give it a fair chance.
Did AMF have any manufacturing facilities in Europe at all at that point?
Yes, but not in England. In England, they had customers. But the manufacturing, they had in... In Bologna, they had a subsidiary. In Geneva, they had a subsidiary. Bologna had a subsidiary that made bicycles. No, I'm confused. Bologna might have been tobacco and Milan was the bicycles.
Was that Roadmaster?
Roadmaster bicycles. The fact that you've done your research recently...I've forgotten. Yes, they owned Roadmaster. And they did have this tobacco operation in a number of areas because that's an international business, really. Are those the only two or three? Well, they had something in Holland. They had a bread-making operation in Holland, a small one. But they were too small and too scattered to give much support to the lab, although it would've made more sense to put the lab in Italy by that kind of reasoning.
But Patterson wanted it in London.
Well, it was outside of London.
It was in England. There was another reason, I don't want to put too great a stress on it, but he [Patterson] had a British advisor, Sir William Elliot, who turned out to be a good friend of mine after a while. Sir William Elliot was like a second cousin to the Queen; he was an Air Force Chief Commander in World War II, extremely well connected in England. So any things that AMF wanted to do in England and needed a contact and needed permmission, needed an audience with anybody high up, Sir William Elliot could make the arrangement in no time at all. He may very well have suggested to Patterson that it'd be a good idea to have a lab in England. I know he liked the idea. And he was very helpful to me in setting it up. Nice guy and all that. But they worked then, as probably still do, through connections. Doesn't seem right, but it works.
How many staff were in that laboratory?
Probably on the order of 30 or 40. There's a little argument about that. I argued with David [Bell] all the time. We'd set a budget for the laboratory, and he'd be within budget, except he'd send me back the roster of personnel. I see there's a lady who serves tea in the afternoon; there's somebody else who goes out for different things on errands. He needs an accountant, then the accountant, of course, has to have an automobile. So I called out and I said, "David, they're going to throw us out with this budget. You can't do this." I said, "Not everybody in New York is in favor of a British laboratory. They're going to jump all over me for this." He said, "Yes, but that's the custom." But he said, "Look at the money. This lady costs like $10 a day." I said, "Yes, but you've got to remember people don't even look at the details. They just see, "Gee, all these people on staff!" He said, "She only works in the afternoons!" So we had things like that going on. So I would guess we still had about 30 people, but maybe it was only 20 full time.
Okay, and most of them were the researchers.
Yes. Of the professionals, I would guess two-thirds were chemists. The others were mechanical engineers of one sort or another.
Were they PhDs?
About four were PhDs.
The chemists and one of the engineers. And they went on after the lab closed. One of them became president of a University in Australia. As he told me, he said "In top-right corner." And then he went on to go out to Montana, I think. He ended his career in Montana at the university. Another one came over [to the U.S.] and eventually went to work with IBM. So the people did all right and they benefited from the connection and all that. It just didn't work out as a long-term investment.
How big was the budget?
I'm trying to remember. It couldn't have been that much, by our standards. In those days, perhaps half a million dollars or a little more, which today would be in the order of three million, five million.
Okay. Jumping back to this report that you wrote for Patterson on setting up a central lab here in the states, in addition to looking at AMF's technical capabilities, were you looking at what other firms were doing and seeing how they were running their central labs? And if so, which firms were you looking at?
Not necessarily. I didn't worry too much about what American companies were doing internally except that I knew through my own contacts-I had a lot of colleagues in these different companies. But maybe I instinctively realized that AMF was not like these other companies. I guess I would've said, "What difference would it make how GE does it?" It wouldn't help me in any way whatsoever with AMF. And I didn't any big deal out of it, but I knew the people at ITT [International Telephone and Telegraph]. Another one, ACF, was also a bit of a conglomerate, but it's now American Car and Foundry. Another group was Textron. I remember looking at Textron, which also had agglomerated different things.
I looked in American Man of Science for your first position in AMF and it says Senior Physicist. Were you doing research at AMF when you got there?
Well, that was my title when I went there from Frankford Arsenal.
Were you doing any bench science there?
No. We didn't have any benches. It was a set of offices in downtown Chicago. But again, most of the work was on government programs, and they maintained a firing range somewhere else for testing. They had some external laboratory space. But mostly a lot of it was paperwork originating in downtown Chicago.
Was there work within the company going on in solid-state physics?
Only what we were doing eventually.
Okay, so not in the early '50s at the time you got there.
No, no. See, Potter & Brumfield would've been the most logical place and they weren't doing anything. As a matter of fact, let me give you another illustration; it might give you some insights into the ways these companies work. At one point, AMF was thinking of buying one of the semiconductor firms up in Boston, because Patterson realized that if he's going to get into it seriously, he's got to not just build up one step at a time, it's going to take too long. So Patterson set up a three-person study group to investigate and study this company. He spoke to them. He was interested, but he wanted to study it. So he had me for technical purposes, and somebody from the marketing arm of AMF, and somebody from the financial arm of AMF. And the three of us spent three months or so visiting ...Transitron.
Is there a company called Transitron in the early days of semiconductors? It may have been in Waltham, Massachusetts. Anyway...So we looked at it, and we went to it. Patterson didn't like recommendations to buy or not buy. He always made it clear that when he had a study, he'd make the decision. He just wanted the facts. He says, "It's not up to you to tell me when I'm going to buy or not. Just give me the facts." So the three of us made a study of its status technically, where it fit in to things, what the marketing problems were— We didn't make recommendations, but it was clear from the tone of our studies that everything was positive. The market looked good, the cash flow was alright, technical people were fine, etc, etc. We made this summary to Patterson who had invited Dick Brumfield in. Dick was the president of Potter & Brumfield. By this time he [Patterson] had enough different subsidiaries that he had little groups, so he had an electrical group, which included Potter & Brumfield, Leland Electric, and something else I think. They made different things. Dick Brumfield was the chairman of the electrical products group of AMF. Dick Bumfield was a very sweet guy, a very lovely guy. After we were through Patterson said, "Dick, what do you think?" Because if we bought it [Transitron?], it would be part of the electrical products group. Dick says, "You know, Mr. Patterson, I don't know much about semiconductors. I just don't feel comfortable with going into the business." Patterson said, "Okay. That's it." In one sense we could have been annoyed like, "Gee, you could have said that three months ago," and he should have.
I guess he was hoping that we'd come up with a completely negative...we'd get him off the hook. The logic of it was very reasonable. Dick Brumfield was going to be responsible for the company. Every year he's got to put in a budget, a capital budget that says we need so much equipment. He's got to approve a marketing plan. If he's not in a position to make those decisions and be comfortable about it, we're not going to have a very good business. Patterson said, "Well, okay, if you don't think you personally feel up to it, I'm not about to fire you. We won't get it." You look at that kind of procedure, and all of your management books would come down hard on the company and they'd come down hard on Patterson. They'd say, "Well, if it's a good deal you should fire the guy and get somebody else who would feel comfortable." There's all sorts of ways to do it, but that's not really the way they work in industry. Very rarely do they work the way the books say you're supposed to work. You do an awful lot by instinct, by chemistry, by whether you have confidence in people or not, that sort of thing. That, by the way, is not an illogical way to run a business, but that was the closest we came to being in the semiconductor business.
This would have been in the mid 50s?
I would say probably about '60, '61 maybe.
Did you report directly to Patterson?
No, although he was clearly the spiritual mentor. I may have briefly, but then I reported to— At the time I made this study I was reporting to the Vice President of Engineering. When the study was completed and Patterson approved it, I think I was still reporting to him while we were starting out, but then as AMF was growing and had more new business interest, Patterson set up a division of commercial development to essentially be responsible for everything outside of the existing businesses, and I reported to the Vice President of that. It was certainly an interesting experience that I had.
In '55 then you became director of the Central Research Laboratory. Was that actually when the lab was built?
Built, no. We started out in existing buildings downtown.
Stamford. We started out with offices in Greenwich. By this time I was back in the East remember.
Just refresh my memory for a second. What was in Greenwich?
There was at the time a division called the General Engineering Division, which was doing almost exclusively government work. They occupied a building, and there was a wing of the building that used to be owned by the Fawcett Publishing Company. We started out with about six or eight people, and we had very nice offices there, only offices. Then we took space in downtown Stamford in the old Yale and Towne buildings that were in Stamford, and here we took over a lot more space and put some laboratories in there. It was still an old building. Then within two years of that, we built a big laboratory building over in Springdale. It's in a part of Stamford. Here we had the central laboratory, and now we added to it a couple of engineering divisions devoted only to commercial development, not part of the government engineering work at all. That's also in Stamford.
So the government work moved from Greenwich?
No, they stayed there. We put up a building which had room for the central laboratory and an engineering division that was concerned with strictly commercial proprietary work in new areas.
And this all happened when?
That was probably in the early '60s.
You were Director of Central Research even before the new laboratory went up because you had these existing facilities that you staffed?
What kind of researchers were you recruiting?
Again, as I said, since one of the justifications for the lab was to be able to provide some expertise that could be drawn on in general, the first idea was that we'd have to get some people with expertise that they [AMF] don't have in any other places and in different fields. So we got someone in operations research. Of course I had in mind building up around them in mechanical engineering. He Dr. Milton Hollander had a PhD from Columbia; one in chemistry; he had a PhD from somewhere else, I forgot, but who was good in membrane work and research and that sort. One in physics, Bill Miller, who eventually left and became a professor at City College in New York. Vic Ragosine who was a physicist, used to be with Sprague Electric, and eventually left AMF and became vice president of a company in California that made tape for photographic films. It's a very well known company, I just can't think of the name right now. It is in the Stanford area. A good technical company, one of the Silicon Valley offshoots. The original five or six people that we had, each of them did very well in life even after the thing disbanded.
For you, coming from your background in ordnance at Frankford Arsenal, what was the learning curve like coming to a company like AMF?
First of all, as I told you before, I always liked problem solving, and to me it was just a bunch of different problems. Although it was ordnance-remember that's not exactly a field in physics. Ordnance involved mechanics, it involved sometimes optics and a lot of mathematics. From the standpoint of the subject matter, there wasn't much of a learning curve. The real learning curve was in working within an industrial organization. That becomes fairly easy after a while. If you get the right people, and you quickly realize that you're dealing with personalities. Each employee was different. For example, Rodney Gott was Executive Vice President, became President, and was obviously going to take over when Patterson died. I came to know Rodney Gott fairly well. I always remember when I made that study of AMF I went to talk to Rodney Gott because he was Executive Vice President. I said to him. I said, "What's your opinion of research in an industrial environment?" He said, "Well, I've got to be honest with you. The various divisions of the company make money, and research spends it." That was his view of research. And I always remembered that. Years later-first of all, when Patterson died and I knew Rodney was going to take over, that was something I always kept in mind. After I had left AMF I remembered some of the people who would come and cry on my shoulder. Here's Rodney, now he's president of AMF, and he would give talks at business meetings or at annual meetings to show how progressive the company was and how they had these great technical resources and how they were therefore modern and looking ahead and so on and so forth. Two months later he'd cut the laboratory's budget. People would complain to me. I said, "As far as I know, I've known Rodney Gott now for ten years, 12 years, and he's never changed. He's okay. He's never changed." You have to learn from that. For a while, Carter Burgess was there, and he was a fascinating character all by himself.
Burgess was there after Gott wasn't he?
Burgess was there before. He was president before Gott. It gets very complicated if you're interested in the personalities and all that sort of thing.
How different was Carter Burgess from Patterson? What was Burgess' management style, and what was his background?
Completely different. Patterson grew up in the style of the old Southern gentlemen. As a matter of fact, I remember at one point two vice presidents got into a fight. Let's say a very substantial disagreement, which ended up in Patterson's office, which is already a no-no. If two officers can't resolve their problems themselves, going to the chairman, immediately everybody loses. You shouldn't have to take it to them. They apparently went to him, and they began shouting at each other in his office. One of them apparently slipped and called the other a son of a bitch. Patterson fired him on the spot-just like that. You'd have to know the man, but that was his style. In other words, you just didn't do business that way. He was completely old line in a way, trying to adapt to a new scientific base, which was interesting. His father had started the company, so right away he had a paternal interest in it. He's been known to say, "Business would be more fun if you didn't have to make money."
Was Burgess a technical person?
No. He was a military man. But his major asset was the fact that he was brought in by Walter Bedell Smith. Walter Bedell Smith is very famous. He was the Chief of Staff for Eisenhower. Dwight Eisenhower and Bedell Smith ran the war. After the war he became the first head of the CIA. He became ambassador to Russia, etc, etc, etc. Then he was hired by AMF. He had a little meeting with everybody in the company after he had been there for a while. He said, "I understand there are questions among everybody as to what my responsibilities are here. It's my understanding that when Mr. Patterson isn't here I'm in charge. Are there any other questions?" [Laughs] I got to know him fairly well because once Patterson had approved the idea of setting up a laboratory and asking me to run it, I was getting a little smarter by that time. I figured I needed some friends besides Mr. Patterson. I went to General Smith and asked him if he would mind if he could help getting this thing organized-just to stand beside me a little bit, which he agreed to do. There were times when that helped a lot. As a matter of fact, once I was away on a trip, I come back, and [my wife] said, "You had a phone call." I said, "Who from?" She said, "From some joker who said he was General Smith." I said, "It was General Smith." [Laughs] There was an interesting anecdote on that one, which maybe you'd better... [Tape turns off] I just thought that was not as relevant.
When you're setting up the Central Research Laboratory in the existing buildings before you build a new facility, what are the main lines of research that you wanted to pursue?
I envisioned it along the lines of the areas rather than by product line. I really intended to have a physics group or a chemical group which could address problems in physics or chemistry as they may relate to one of the divisions, rather than have a little group backing up Potter & Brumfield and a little group back up Beard. It just didn't seem to make sense to me. We had no idea. My guess would have been we'd have more to do in certain of the divisions than others because they were more technically oriented. In fact, we had almost nothing to do with the bowling division except we had a mathematical question once about statistics. So I didn't envision any particular product. I did it in terms of what kinds of problems. By the way, when I made this survey, I had kept track of a few of the kinds of problems that would be helpful to these people if we had a scientific laboratory. At the moment I can't even remember them, but that was the way it was being organized in my mind.
When you first set up the laboratory, what was your annual budget?
When we first set up there were only six or seven people. I don't quite know when to start counting. When we were in Greenwich, we had office space only, so the chances are the budget was-Again, remember you're talking 1959 budgets here. Multiply it by a factor of at least six or ten today almost. My guess is it would have been on the order of...I doubt if it was half a million dollars if that. Today's a multiple of that, six times that. Maybe our travel budget was a little higher because we started out by having to talk to people everywhere. We were doing more talking than doing. But it was very modest and built up very slowly over the years. By the time we were through when I left it was maybe 40 or 50 people, so it must have been about seven times that or so, eight times that. It was in the millions. Today it would have been $20 million, something of that sort.
This is just the Central Research Lab?
At what point do you actually decide to build the new laboratory?
There I was no longer alone in that because as I say, the company had set up this commercial division, which in addition to the Central Laboratory now was going to have a chemical engineering laboratory which would actually design process plants, and a mechanical engineering laboratory which would work with them in certain aspects. So if they had a new product, they could actually build a power plant and run it for a while, which we could not do in the Central Laboratory. Those two groups were with us, and a handful of people with marketing backgrounds who could do product planning. Among us we had to agree on the plans for building this space for everybody.
Roughly how big was that? Was this a campus-like facility?
It was one big building. It was two stories, a two story building. Looked at from the outside, it was very substantial I thought at the time. Our work was all on the second floor. We had about more than half of the second floor. I wish I could give you numbers. I can't. It was a big building.
Roughly how many staff did you have, say by the time you left?
By the time I left it was 40-50 people. It was a very modest group, but we were supported. By the way, we too could do contract work if we needed something. We could go to Stanford Research Institute and so on and get certain things done. If we had a need for a mass spectroscope, we weren't going to buy one; we were going to give the work to somebody who had one.
Did you encourage your researchers to do more speculative work or to pursue their own ideas, or was it still very focused?
We relied on them and encouraged them to talk to the people at the companies.
You mean the operating divisions?
The operating divisions. Become friendly with them, and when you have any reason to go out there, try to explore what kinds of things could be useful to them and might be valuable, whether they ask you or not.
Did that work? Were there good relationships?
The whole trick was to develop relations, sure. There are some interesting questions there. One of the questions you have to ask when you have a central laboratory and you have a number of operating divisions is who pays for the work, and how is it paid for? Now, when we started out, I made a point as part of these recommendations to Patterson that, "If you want us to have good relations with these people, you better make us part of the company overhead. I'm going to have a hard enough time getting these people to spend the time of day with us let alone getting them to pay for it." So at the start at least, our work was free as far as they were concerned. That's not as silly as it may sound. Most of these guys, I found out even more so with Kennecott later on, most of these guys are kind of hardboiled people. Not much sentiment when it comes to their budgets in R&D, and they're not going to waste their time talking to you if you can't help them.
You're talking about the operating divisions?
Yes. As a matter of fact, again go back to Rodney Gott who after all, despite the fact that he was a little tough-minded, was very practical in many ways. I remember asking Rodney, "How will I know if I'm successful? If you build a laboratory, how do I measure success as far as you're concerned?" I knew that Rodney Gott was really running the company day to day. Patterson was up there, and he could override anybody, but he wasn't the one that I was going to be working with all the time. Rodney thought about it a little bit. He said, "I'll tell you what. If the people in divisions work with you, I'll be happy. Because believe me, if you're not doing them any good, they're not going to pay any attention to you at all. If you are doing them some good, I won't worry about trying to measure how much good." That's actually a pretty sensible way of looking at it. As a result, I got very skeptical as the years went by of measurements of the effectiveness of R&D. It turns out that normally speaking there are very simple ways to measure whether the group is effective or not. I found out, again as the years went on, that if I'm visiting a laboratory-not my own, somebody else's, not AMF-let's just say visiting another company laboratory, I could walk through the labs and talk to the people a little bit and I could get a sense of whether the laboratory was an effective laboratory or not. There's something about the way the people spoke about their projects, the enthusiasm they had, did they feel good about things, and things like that. There are certain things that were characteristics of effective laboratories and things that were not. You could just get a sense of whether the people were doing well or not. If you work in industry or anywhere long enough, you can pick up something like that.
Did you get the operating divisions to work with you pretty well?
We did. Again, some more than others. Partly it was personal, but partly it was a matter of the subject matter of their work. We couldn't do as much good for Voit Rubber Company as we might for Potter & Brumfield, for example. We had a big operations research program with Roadmaster, with the bicycle company. It's kind of seasonal. They sell most of their bikes either in the summer or at Christmas time. The question is what's the best way of leveling out the production so that you have the minimum cost to get the maximum out of it? It's a classic study in operations research. Do you make them all at once for the whole year? Do you make them every month or what? We examined what their markets were and came out with a result. They were very unhappy. I said, "Why are you unhappy?" "Well, what you recommended is that we keep doing what we're doing." I said, "Look. You guys have been doing this for 20 years. You've worked out the optimum system. We can't improve it." They wanted change. I said, "Don't change it. You're doing fine." You had to talk your way through something like that.
How did the continued diversification under Patterson affect your plan for R&D, or did it?
Well, there wasn't that much. The lab really got moving in '59. By that time we had moved into the building and so on. It was only a period of three or four years before I left. The company still was diversifying somewhat. I'm trying to think about when they bought Harley Davidson. That was later.
That was '69. They sold it in '81.
Yes. I had left already, and then they had gotten into the yacht business.
Was that under Gott or his successor?
That might have been Gott, and he got the Ben Hogan Company.
Right. Golf clubs.
Ben Hogan, I think I was there when they bought that. I'm not sure.
It was the Hatteras Company [yachts] from North American Rockwell. They bought that later.
Yes. I don't think there was much going on in the early '60s. They were kind of absorbing what they had and so on. Then Patterson died, and I guess maybe from that point on maybe Gott and the board felt they had to show what they could do. I don't know. But they did seem to be going in for a new wave of it after I left. It didn't affect me at all. The lab itself did not last that long after I left because much of the work got transferred to Alexandria where there was an electronics group. Rodney Gott had many of the people transferred to that where a lot of the work that looked like it was relevant was going on already. Did they sell the building at that point? I'm trying to remember what they did. Anyway, it was clear that the lab was going down, and Gott was following his instinct of decentralizing rather than centralizing.
You said there was an electronics group that that?
There was an electronics group that was doing a lot of government work in Alexandria. It was an offshoot of the government division.
Eventually the research lab here disappeared all together?
Yes, people were farmed out in different divisions. The one chap I had who was doing operations research became a vice president of the bowling division, and so it separated out.
One more question about your research staff. From the time you became director of the Central Research Laboratory, and then director of research, did your staff publish in professional journals, attend conferences?
No. They attended conferences and various things, but the minimal-There were some publications. I shouldn't answer so quickly. But that was not a prime output.
Did you encourage them to do that?
When it was relevant, yes. As the work was focused so much on product areas and product development, there wasn't as much opportunity. Lloyd Schafer? might have published something on his work on membranes and fuel cells, which was general enough. Other than that, I don't think there was much.
Fuel cells. That's early for fuel cell research.
Yes, but it was logical area to look at. Once we got involved with the water purification, you were looking at electrolytic membranes. Once you're working with membranes, they can transfer things at your own control electrically, then you're onto fuel cells. The only question was what you were transferring. Of course today that's so advanced that it would be amateurish now.
Was anybody else doing fuel cell research that you knew of?
A company in Massachusetts called Ionics, and a couple of the military groups.
We're resuming on Sunday morning, April 3rd, 2005. I'd like to just finish up with questions on AMF. The first one has to do with a specific project that AMF was involved in in the atomic reactor work. I was reading about a reactor that was built in New Jersey for cooperative research.
I'm glad you mentioned that.
I wanted to ask you about the origins of that.
I'd forgotten about that, and it's important for one very simple reason. As far as I know, it was the first example of a cooperative industrial activity where a number of large companies were interested in exploring the use of a new tool, which in this case was an atomic reactor, for research purposes. Rather than have each one of them build a reactor, they agreed to get together and build a reactor. It was in Plainsboro, New Jersey. It was so designed that the outlets from the reactor had neutrons and had other particles coming out were divided like a clock into pieces of pie. I think there were eight companies, so each had its own laboratory and its own rays of particles coming out that they could work with any way they liked.
We maintained confidentiality among the companies-people from one company didn't go into the laboratories of the other companies. They shared a common cafeteria, and of course the people knew each other who were working there. But in general, each one then had a small laboratory with which they could have access to an atomic reactor and could run whatever experiments they wanted. The origin of it I suppose you might say was fairly crass in a sense because AMF built reactors. At that time I think the program was kind of pushed by General Walter Bedell Smith, who made the contact with the chief officers of a number of major companies, most of them in the area, but not all. I've forgotten now all, but it certainly included Mobil Oil, Continental Can Company I believe headed by General Lucius Clay, RCA, National Lead, AMF of course was one of them, and perhaps you have the names of the others. They set up articles of incorporation. Each one paid an equal cost, and we had a board of directors. I represented AMF on the board. Most of the others were chief technical officers.
It was Dayton Clewell who was the chief technical officer of Mobil. Dayton I think might have been a physicist, I'm not sure now. I don't honestly remember all of the other representatives. We would meet every two or three months as a board. We'd go over whatever things may have arisen. It served its purpose. A couple of the companies, I think Corning may have been one of them, a couple of the companies found out that it was indeed a very useful tool in their materials research. They either built or developed access to a reactor close to their own home laboratory. A couple of them stayed with it for the duration but never really did anything on their own separately. A few others just did not find it useful at all. It was an interesting experiment in how companies could use a common research tool to do separate research, maintain the confidentiality, since they're always worried about patent infringement. If you peek into somebody else's laboratory and make a suggestion, all of a sudden there's a patent problem that arises. The people who worked there, each company must have had several people on their staff, so it must have been a staff of 20 some odd plus maintenance people. Presumably there was a gentleman's agreement not to talk to each other at lunch about their confidential work, anymore than you would if you met at some restaurant in New York. It was a kind of collegial atmosphere. It's close to Princeton.
What did AMF expect to get out of it?
Well, at least they built a reactor. Don't forget. In those days, AMF was designing, building, and selling research reactors, so presumably if a number of companies could find useful ways to use a research reactor, they might have sales of more research reactors individually to companies. This was sort of, you might say, a sample for everybody to try. However, in the long run it did not lead to that kind of a market. First of all, things were changing so rapidly in the field anyway. The number of institutions—not-for-profit foundations had research reactors. Battelle had a reactor, for example. Companies could go elsewhere if they needed just to have samples or have a program set up using a reactor. More universities began to get research reactors and could offer the same kind of services. In the long run, AMF's idea that it could lead to a larger market for them probably did not work out. To me, the fascinating tool was how do you work with seven or eight other companies, which, by the way, we tried to pick in such a way that they were not competing companies anyway. We wouldn't have had two metals companies or two oil companies; we thought that might be looking for trouble.
So you chose the companies you wanted to participate, or did you solicit bids?
It was a mixture. We picked the first several and got the word around. Then maybe got invitations out to a couple of others, they made inquiries. When all the dust settled down, we had eight. The idea was to pick non competing companies to minimize conflicts. Even so, companies could still have their own confidentialities. Eventually it stopped, and the board voted to give the reactor to Rutgers.
When was this?
Well, that's an interesting question. I left in '63. It must have been within a couple of years after I left. They decided it had served its purpose, the companies knew what they could or couldn't do with it, and that was it. They didn't want to stay with it indefinitely, and none of us were in the mood to run a contract research institute there with others. I think the decision was made for both philanthropic as well as tax purposes to just give it away to a state university.
As research director during this time, what was your view about the commercialization of atomic energy and nuclear physics research?
I'd have to reorient myself a little bit. We really believed that it could be very important in studying materials. We were very concerned in those days with radiation damaging materials, for example. We were concerned with it for two reasons. One, could there be defects induced by radiation that we have to be concerned about? Or, more interestingly, could you use radiation to do research, to get information about materials, about atomic structure and so on? I just answered you from the physicist standpoint. The chemists were interested in reactions that could be stimulated by radiation, for example. So everyone had their own interest and their own phenomena that they were concerned with. In the long run as the field moved on, and as it turned out, there were many other ways of getting useful radiation—isotopes, for example, and so on. They did not develop a huge market for having to have a research reactor in order to do research, but there were enough of them around so that people who had a need for a program could get one somewhere under contract, had access to it. To me it was an interesting experiment in the organization of how companies could work together and work out the details and patents. Of course, the lawyers were very worried about the whole thing, and they were hovering over everybody's shoulder to see how they wrote this thing up. It worked out all right, and to the best of my knowledge there never was a conflict. There was never a lawsuit or anything like that among the companies.
Did AMF ever consider moving into commercial power reactor development like GE and Westinghouse and Babcock and Wilcox were doing at that time?
I think the answer is they thought of it, yes. They may even have made a bid on one to build one. There was always, I think, the unspoken idea that maybe this might be a little too big in terms of the priorities of using their [AMF's] capital resources and so on. They'd be up against, you can imagine, the GEs, the Westinghouses, and so on, I'm not sure AMF was prepared to back it to that extent. I think I told you the anecdote that they did make a bid on building one power reactor. I think it was for the government or for a private group. During the board meeting, the word came in that they had lost the bid. To a man, the board cheered! Because the board was just nervous about what were the implications of the drain on finances and resources of getting into that kind of a field. A research reactor is different. First of all, it wasn't that big a deal. It wasn't as expensive. Second of all, the timing was different too. You could get an order and build it and have the whole thing finished and funded and so on within a matter of a few years. Whereas the power reactors take a much longer time, much more licensing involved, continual maintenance, and concerns afterwards. It turned out that probably that was a smart move not to get into that field.
In terms of the staffing that you would require just to build the research reactors, where were you getting your nuclear expertise for the AMF lab?
First of all, AMF was in the business of building reactors, so we had experts as far as the design and construction of the facility. We had a nuclear division at AMF that could do that. As far as the actual research programs that we were conducting in the lab, we hired I think it was Jerry Salkind, a physicist. He had done some work with one of the universities, and he had done work using a reactor for work in chemicals and materials. We hired him to be stationed at Plainsboro. We had a couple of technicians working with him. I guess that was the extent of our activity there.
He was a nuclear physicist?
I'm trying to think if he was a nuclear physicist or chemist. It was one or the other.
I just want to shift for a second to a general question about staff recruitment for the AMF laboratories here in Stamford. What was the climate like in the 1950s for recruiting PhD scientists? Was it easy for you to recruit physicists?
Very interesting. You're now getting close to science policy. Good. Well, it was relatively easy when we started the laboratory. That was around the late '50s. I was very fortunate that we got five or six really very competent people that I mentioned to you yesterday. They went on, and almost all of them became vice presidents of research for other companies eventually. We got some interesting programs started. We offered the attraction of a new group starting up so you can do your own thing a little bit. We had personal flexibility. We had the resources of a relatively big company for those days. Yet at the same time, we had a certain amount of flexibility. There was discipline, but we were pretty free to do a number of things. I didn't find any great problem with that. As a matter of fact, the interesting thing, and this is where the science policy comes in, is that as we built up, we didn't really lose people. We had relatively little turnover. The turnover began just shortly before I left. We lost one or two of our good people. That was 1962. The first person we lost went to a university. What woke me up at the time to the fact that something was happening in the country, this guy, why did he go there? Well, he liked the university life, but he was free to do other things with us too.
Who was this by the way?
Jim Lubkin, a PhD from... I forget where now. Jim got interested in cutting research, machining research, and he went to Michigan or Michigan State, I forget which it was. He went there because he could make more money. Then I started to do a double take. That's not supposed to be the way it works.
It's the other way around isn't it?
You're supposed to make more money if you work in industry. I explored it with Jim, and I guess up to that point I hadn't really looked much outside AMF except casually talking to my colleagues at IRI and so on. Then I suddenly began realizing...I guess that was the beginning of my awakening you might say, a little bit, that the world of science and technology had changed in the United States. Anyone on a faculty doing research at a major research university-so I qualify this; this does not hold for any small liberal arts school-if you combined the salary with contract money with consulting, it could end up easily to more money than the person is making in industry. Now about this time I was getting more active with the AIP. I forget when I joined the corporate associates, it might have been later. Elmer Hutchisson had gotten me interested in a couple of things, then Wallare Waterfall asked me to do some things, and finally Bill Koch when he came. Among other things, there are a couple of studies that AIP had made, such as salaries and jobs. They were publishing these graphs that showed salaries of people years after getting a BA, in government, in industry, in universities. Of course, the universities tailed off after a while, and industry kept rising. The young lady doing it, Suzanne Ellis, I believe, at the AIP at the time, I got involved in sort of looking over her shoulder on some of this. I said, "Suzanne, why don't you do me a favor. Based on my own personal observations, but not very scientific, I want you to redo these and look at total compensation. Never mind the nine-month's salary from small liberal arts colleges. I want to find how does total compensation of physicists count for those at major research universities?" After about five, seven years it went up over industry. In any event, I suddenly began to realize and get more interested in the overall changing status of the total research enterprise.
You were just saying that the total compensation of major research universities was tracking higher than industry at that time.
Yes, total compensation. After all, what the AIP was publishing all along were typical nine-month salaries. First of all, most people did not just goof off for three months; they did something else. Not everybody, but certainly in the physical sciences, and certainly in engineering, by the way. In most of the physical sciences, a reasonably competent research professor could either work with companies during the summer, for example, or more probably develop a longer term consultancy arrangement. Which was fine. Again, looking ahead now, in the long run, that turned out to be the best mechanism for developing industry/university relationships. Universities that eventually start to cut down on it, on their faculty's consulting, probably lost out in developing strong research relationships and sources of money with companies. Almost every university/industry relationship that was significant over the years had started out somewhere with a university person consulting with that company until the familiarity was built up and so on. In any event, much of this growth of research was fueled of course by government funding. Again, that three-way business of who interacts with whom, and everybody benefited, although there were concerns about whether the system could be corrupted in some way by doing too much of this. You had different schools of thought about that. In any event, in a sense it went back to the day when Jim Lubkin left, and I spoke to him and he said, "I'm going to get more money." He was guaranteed certain extra money from the research he was going to do there. They explained to him the opportunities he had, especially in the machining field, for consulting with companies in the Michigan area. Michigan's full of them.
Is this the University of Michigan?
It was either Michigan or Michigan State, and I can't remember honestly whether he was at East Lansing or near Detroit. But things were changing. Obviously things had changed during and after the War. The university life that people thought about before the War was simply not the same and will never be the same again. Changes in the last 20 years of course have been more so.
This situation with Lubkin is kind of a turning point. Did you rethink your management or your recruiting strategy then?
Well, we thought a little bit about salaries. We wondered about what we had emphasized. I guess we felt that there was nothing we could do about it. After all, university life especially if you get a tenured position, had many advantages, no question about it. Which is why many people liked it even at lower salaries, at lower incomes, because you did have more freedom and more flexibility in many ways. In a way we really couldn't compete. Sometimes you compete because—my colleagues at the university would sometimes complain about being burdened by teaching or the nuisance side of the administration. Those things we could compete with. We could take care of all the paperwork. We could take care of teachers because we didn't teach. But there wasn't much we really could do. Eventually, of course, all salaries rose to a point where salary differences whichever way they came were not big enough to make the difference anymore in what kind of a career you want. There weren't 20-30% differences. Mind you, having mentioned that earlier statistic, if you then went to what you might call managerial positions, obviously managerial positions in industry could go higher, much higher than universities. If you went to the point where you were director of a laboratory or a vice president of research or what have you, you could clearly make far better income than a research professor. We're not talking about that. We're talking about people who stayed more or less in the research field. Again, to be fair, we're probably only talking about the top 100 universities in the country. You might be teaching at Bowling Green University. You're not going to make a big amount of money consulting probably.
You said earlier too that at AMF you weren't losing researchers to other firms.
No. We did eventually. We lost a couple.
I was just asking you about staff turnover and researchers who went to other firms while you were at AMF.
As I said, in the '60s, about '62, we lost two other people. One, Bill Miller, took a position as a professor at City University in New York. He did not make more money, but Bill at that time he was doing well. I think he may have been given a tenured position, which helped. Vic Ragosine went down to California. He became vice president of a company there. Milton Hollander stayed on after I left. He was head of the mechanical engineering work. George Bott stayed; he eventually went to the [AMF] Bowling division. People went onto their own ways starting around the early '60s. Each for good and sufficient personal reasons, so it wasn't for institutional reasons per se.
On that point, let's focus on the early '60s with your decision to move from AMF to Kennecott.
There the decision was a fairly straightforward career change. Everything was fine at AMF as far as I was concerned. I was aware of some jockeying in the top levels that didn't really concern me. I was on good terms with the people who were there, like Rodney Gott and Carter Burgess. They had their own differences, but that was not something I had to worry about. Then Patterson died.
Was that sudden, or had he been sick?
He had a heart attack and suddenly died. By that time I think Burgess had left and Rodney Gott was the president and chief executive officer. I forget the exact year, but anyway Rodney was clearly the head of it [AMF]. I felt that took away a certain amount of the justification for the laboratory in the sense that, and I mentioned earlier Mr. Patterson was really looking for the basis for new areas. While Rodney Gott was interested in opportunities, he was I would say lukewarm about whether or not it was science-based or not science-based-he couldn't care less as long as it made good business sense. I really wasn't sure that we'd have the continued support in the laboratory or that if we came out with something good it would be exploited properly or used properly. Which may or may not have been fair, but I just felt very nervous about it. In any event, I mentioned this to a couple people that I knew.
One day at the IRI meeting, Les Jenness, who was then vice president of research for Kennecott, happened to mention to me, "I'm retiring this year." Jenness was a physical chemist or a metallurgist, I forget which. He said, "Would you like to talk to the people at Kennecott?" Which I did, and things worked out well. There were a couple of interesting discussions that took place. One when I was speaking with Frank Milliken, who was the president. I said, "How big of a budget do you have for research, central research, or whatever research you have?" Frank said, "We don't have a budget." I was taken aback a little bit. I said, "What do you mean you don't have a budget?" He said, "Well, we know how much money we spend and all that. I control the number of people. I don't ask them to give me a dollar budget. I ask them to tell me how many people they're going to need. Either we let them hire or not hire. I find out that when I make a budget it doesn't mean anything. They always have a way of either spending it. I don't feel I control it. I always feel that I know approximately how much damage an individual can do financially, and if I control the number of people, that's good enough." That was his way of budgeting. Of course, there always was a budget—something that had to be submitted to the board—but his unit of control was numbers of people. Also when I came I said, "Frank, I hope you realize that I don't know much about mining." He said, "Look, we've got 1,000 people here who are supposed to." In other words, he wanted some more science background; he wanted somebody who had been managing R&D and so on. He said, "Don't worry about the actual subject matter of mining."
What was their research like at that point?
That was an interesting point. A few years before this, maybe two years, very close, this is now back in the early '60s. Kennecott was getting concerned that maybe they weren't paying enough attention to the opportunities raised by advances in science. They weren't particularly concerned with getting into new fields. As I said, the copper industry was a very simple industry, but they wanted to be sure that they were making the best use of the latest advances in science, among other things. They had hired Mervin Kelly, formerly the head of Bell Labs, as a consultant. Mervin Kelly took the traditional Bell Labs approach and said, "Well, you've got to have a laboratory doing basic science and basic research." Years later I would argue with that in a way. At least argue with the emphasis. But basically he went over the history of Bell Laboratories.
Of course, it's not well understood by many people. Remember, out of the 25,000 people that were technically working for Bell Labs, less than 5% were engaged in what you and I might call basic research. You didn't have 25,000 people all doing basic research at Bell Labs. That was the impression, and it was perpetuated by people there, not to give the false conclusion that 25,000 people worked in basic research, but that the people that did do work in basic research was the foundation on which the others built. There's certainly an element of truth in that, but I've never traced the numbers down to track that down. Believe me, the bulk of the work that went on there was supporting the Bell System in many simple ways, not winning Nobel Prizes. In any event, Mervin Kelly had persuaded Frank Milliken to do that, and Frank was on the board of trustees at MIT. Low and behold, they decided to put up a lab near Boston, and they hired a guy who was actually from Harvard, Evean Fletcher, to direct the laboratory they were going to build right on Route 2. So they set up a laboratory at Ledgemont, called it Ledgemont Laboratory-that was the name of the little piece of property they had bought. And that was in business at the time, whereas the position we were talking about was not to direct that laboratory but to be the director of research from the New York office.
Is that where the headquarters was?
Yes. That was a moment of truth, because up until that point, despite my title, I was nevertheless always in the laboratory, whether it was at the Frankford Arsenal or with AMF. While it was a corporate-wide title I was physically sitting in the lab, so you're associating everyday with the people doing research and all that. Here I was going to have an office in New York. It forces you to sort of look in the mirror and say, "Wait a minute. If I'm not at the laboratory and I'm not personally doing anything, what's my job? What am I supposed to do?" There's a danger when you're sitting in a laboratory that you sort of can fool yourself that you're part of the research process, which you're not. If you know more than somebody in the lab about a particular area of research, something's wrong. When you get down to the specialty, whether it's metal physics or what have you, if you've got a program in it somebody working on it fulltime had better be the most knowledgeable person in the group, not you.
Just because you hired him doesn't mean you know more. In a way it forces some thinking of what is the role of research in the company, where is it going strategically, etc? Not what project in studying the structure of copper should I be thinking about necessarily. Which is a big change psychologically. In any event, I took the position. I began as a result more and more to get involved in the interface between research and the operations, because everyday I would eat lunch or be with somebody from one of the operating divisions. You were soaked up in the company now. Rather than eating lunch with the people who were doing research, be it with the marketing people at Kennecott, the sales people, or the mining people, each of whom had a staff in New York. That was one more interaction. Secondly, increasingly, more and more interaction with the outside world because now the president would lean on me whenever he had something to do outside. For example, at one point you might remember in the early '70s there was an energy crunch, an oil squeeze, and so on. Everybody was concerned with energy. The president asked me to represent Kennecott and actually represent the non-ferrous metals industry in Washington on some legislation that was coming up.
The Secretary of Commerce had an industry committee on conserving energy in industry, and I was on that. Actually Frank was on it, but I was the one that attended all the meetings. I always remember at one point there was legislation which required that every company would account for its energy use by fuel and by function and so on. I had to make a report to the Secretary of Commerce so he could see where energy was being used and what areas. Big regulatory mess, and there were fines and punishments if you didn't do it. You could make mistakes, that was alright, but if you didn't do it at all— you had to do it. It was mandatory. I remember when Frank called me in and said, "Talk to me about that." I said, "Tell me, what do you expect from me on this particular assignment?" Which by the way, it was in addition to what I had to do, not instead of. He said, "There's only one thing I want. Keep me out of jail!" [Laughs] Because if you didn't obey and follow through on all the government regulations, the president could get in trouble. I must say that was a very simple objective. Very clearly defined and easily stated. So I got more and more involved with those kind of things—environment, energy, and more involved in questions involving government policy. Kennecott traditionally like many old-line companies had a very simple position vis-à-vis government: the less you have to do with it, the better off you are. Do what you have to do, go about your business, and try not to get too involved with the government.
By about 1970 it was clear that that wasn't quite good enough because whether you liked it or not the government was getting involved in more and more things having to do with company operations, company sales, etc, etc. Most of it was usually from a simple tax standpoint, and I wasn't involved with that at all. Well, I was involved in it very slightly. There was always a question of where do you allocate your R&D expenses. Do you allocate it on a corporate basis, or do you allocate it to the divisions, and so on? The answer was that the controller allocated to minimize taxes. Regardless of where the money came from-there was always a rational of allocating it to the correct division. There was a lot of merit to it because it meant you had to go look at your projects and decide which ones were relevant to most divisions. Even though the decision to allocate money came from Frank Milliken, from this corporate office, the judgment on which work went with which division meant that the money was actually charged to certain divisions, at his instructions.
You were just talking about budget allocation.
I was just saying that the money for the central corporate laboratory, not the engineering divisions that are part of mining or other things. The corporate laboratory money came from the corporation as a single lump appropriation, but was counted as an expense by different divisions of the company depending on which work was done for them. I think what started all of that was saying we were always concerned more and more with government activity. There was always concern about taxes and so on.
Was the budget like a taxation, a tax on the operating divisions?
Yes. That was occasionally a minor source of friction or contention.
Well, because they didn't like to be taxed! It was that simple-taxation without representation. Of course as much as possible, there was representation discussion all the time. Something you learn quickly is that technical groups within an operating division of a company are very focused and very disciplined, and not always, but usually they take a very tough-minded and narrow definition of what's helpful to them, and usually not a very long range view. The big difference in a company is that divisional laboratories tend to be short range in nature, and central laboratories tend to be longer ranged. Deliberately so, so the shorter range divisional groups take care of the immediate problems in production and from their customers and so on and product problems. Somebody has to worry about five years from now and eight years from now. Then the central groups traditionally are supposed to do that. However, there's always a modest amount of conflict between these two, especially if the long range central group is charging the short ranged divisional groups for their services. There's a counter argument of course, which has a lot of merit, and you've got to examine each company separately.
The counter argument is that well, when a group gets its money from the corporate headquarters, and nobody else is charged for it, they might get off into a lot of things that never have any relevance to anybody. Conversely, if in order to get its money, a central group has to go to the operating division and convince them why they should approve a certain program, even though it's long range in nature, then you tend to be more relevant, which is undoubtedly true. Somewhere in the last decade or so, GE [General Electric] began to shift more and more of its central laboratory expenses to programs that had to be sold to the divisions. In other words, the GE central corporate laboratory had to get funding from the separate divisions to do their work, presumably following this theory that this way you make everybody more relevant, more meaningful, more effective, etc. I don't know the answer to this, but I'm sure the environment and the atmosphere as a result was quite different than it would have been when Guy Suits was running the laboratory. It would be a logical consequence in the nature of funding. Which is correct and which is more effective at any given time, I don't know; you'd have to go to each company separately.
Let me ask about the central lab at Kennecott, then. So what kind of work was this lab in Boston doing?
They did work on properties of copper, which you might imagine. They did research on chemical processes that might be involved in the mining operation. Remember, mining is basically a lot of hydraulics and chemistry. Are you familiar at all with how you get copper out of the ore?
Well, there are lots of ways, but the most effective way over the last century would be what they call flotation, which basically means you take ore, which in the case of American ore is so low in copper that it just looks like dirt. You don't expect any dirt to look copper colored, not at the concentrations they had. You put the ore through a variety of steps, including crushing it so that what comes in is a stream of basically dirt and particles. It's washed in a huge flow of water and mixed with what they call flotation agents, chemicals, which make a froth. By now the specks are small enough so some of those specs are very rich in copper. Some of it is just plain dirt. The dirt doesn't stick to anything; it goes to the bottom of this flood of water. But the particles that contain copper are sticking to what looks like little bubbles. It's like a froth going downstream, and it's fascinating to watch because as this stream goes along, it's getting to look more and more copper colored. It's very rich in it. Basically you just separate these two, so as the water flows, the dirt and so on goes down there, and the top layer of bubbles of the copper stuff is going here. You use flotation to separate out the bulk of the copper containing ore. Now you have a concentrate that is moderately rich in copper because you started out with something that's maybe a couple tenths of a percent of copper, then a few percent, 5%, or more. Now it begins to go through various kinds of heat-treating processes into refining it down to where you're smelting. What you're getting is stuff that's very rich in copper, and now you have to put it through smelters and so on. You're separating things by metallurgical considerations. Anyway, somewhere in all that process is room for improvement. Examining each step of that process there's certain problem areas that gave the laboratory ideas for things to think about. They also looked at things that could be done that could improve the use of copper, such as properties of alloys. As I mentioned, we eventually got them into making solar energy receivers.
Was the lab doing the kind of research that Mervin Kelly had envisioned for it?
It was very difficult to find justifiable work because of the nature of the copper industry. Let me give you an example. Copper ore has many byproducts. The same ore that has the copper has molybdenum-you always find molybdenum in connection with copper. Even the molybdenum, if you're trying to get that out, has some rare earths connected with it like rhenium.
Are those valuable?
They're valuable. Not valuable enough to mine for it, but valuable enough to extract from what's left of the ore. Whenever you're through separating things out as much as you can that's worth sending to the smelter for the copper, all the rest goes into a huge pile. Every mine has outside where the refining takes place a large pile of stuff, which is the residue from these operations. In total, that pile of stuff is very valuable. If only you could get the stuff out cheaply! People are constantly coming out with processes and they go back into the pile to try to separate them out a little more. When I first came to Kennecott, I took one quick look at the operation and said I didn't know much about mining. I was quite naïve. I guess I said to myself, "Oh gee. There must be a lot of ways to separate this out using all this high-class physics that I'm supposed to know," and so on. For example, from AMF, I was used to thinking in terms of membranes and electrolytic membranes. I had pictured wouldn't it be nice if you had this material flowing in such a way that the copper ions would flow right out of the membrane. You'd separate the copper ions out electrolytically.
As soon as you do some arithmetic, you realize something very fundamental about mining, which is the economics of mining depends on moving tremendous amounts of material very, very quickly. Anything that slows it down is a priori uneconomic. You have to see a mining operation. It's absolutely fascinating how many thousands of tons get moved a day. Of course as soon as you look at something that sounds a little sophisticated like membranes, you're not only going to just slow it down, you'll probably use a membrane every tenth of a second. It wouldn't last. So all of a sudden you go back again to very fundamental engineering of moving, transportation. One of the biggest advances in mining in this last century was going from trains to trucks. You can picture you have to lay tracks. You can have these spirals in open pit mining, and you lay tracks, and you have ore trains that run on these tracks. As you get to an area where they're taking the ore out, they're constantly using big dredges and shovels to push the thing into these tracks. Of course it is also an expensive thing to put the tracks in there. Then you've got to back the trains out. Somewhere in the mid 20th century they began to develop trucks with tires and engines heavy enough so that each truck could carry 100 tons of material.
That changed the economics of mining more than any scientific approach. The trucks had tires that were bigger than this room. In fact the guys who worked in the open pit, the miners, used to take their families to the place on a Sunday afternoon to show them the trucks-the kids were fascinated by them. Anyway, mining is a huge engineering operation. While there's plenty of room for science and mathematics and planning and doing things certainly in the geology end of it and the exploration, it's not easy to justify the kind of basic research that you think of when you're talking about the use of the metal. Remember, we didn't make our money at Kennecott in the use of the metal as much as we made it in producing large quantities of bars and rods and things like that. For example, what started me on this, one of the other byproducts of copper is selenium. Selenium is a critical factor in xerography. The thought would come up occasionally, in fact people from Xerox and others years ago would come nag us about it, they said, "Why don't you do some more research in making selenium more attractive and purer, etc, etc so we can use more of it." We'd say, "You know, just do a little arithmetic. How much selenium do you use in xerography?" You're talking about ounces or things like that, and you take the total use of selenium is a very modest amount of metal even though it's a very critical metal, expensive metal. Xerox would get the benefit because the real value is in the use of selenium in xerography, not in selling a little extra quantity of selenium, which is where Kennecott got its money. We said, "We can't justify doing research in selenium." What we did do in the industry, more in metals and some other industries, a certain amount of that kind of research was done through trade associations. Trade associations have a number of different functions, and they vary widely by industry.
In many industries a trade association is either a lobbying organization, or the real thrust is taxes, get lower taxes for the industry, or customer information. The bulk of the trade associations in American industry offer public relations purposes for informing the users of that industry, etc, etc. In the metals industry, we had trade associations that did research. Not a lot of research, but some. In the example of selenium, no one metal company could make a lot of money out of selling a little more selenium. Industry-wide, if somebody could sponsor some of the research, maybe you could justify it for the industry, and interestingly enough, you could stimulate research at universities which could eventually do it. So there was a selenium-tellurium development association which we all chipped in for. I was on the board of it, of course representing Kennecott. Everybody chipped in some money, and they would sponsor research at universities which could lead to more uses of selenium and/or tellurium, another rare metal that was contained.
For all producers?
For anybody producing. Again, we didn't compete among other producers. Our competition was based more on who owned the best ore body. Once you had an ore body you were stuck-you either had one with a great ore body or a poor ore body. That was a fundamental distinction between the companies.
So it was cheaper to get that knowledge through a trade association than through your in-house laboratory?
Yes, correct. And it was even cheaper to stimulate the university structure to do that work because out of it you would get not only knowledge, but you'd get professors who start their students working in areas like that. You get a growth effect that was very helpful. There was an International Copper Research Association which also did research like that in copper. There was a Copper Development Association, which as its name implies they really worked on uses of copper. It was the Copper Development Association that would get involved in pushing solar energy, for example. The Copper Development Association would put out pamphlets for plumbers of what size pipes to use for hot water or for cold water, etc, etc.
Did these trade associations have their own laboratories in addition to sponsoring research in universities?
No. They had their own staffs. CDA [Copper Development Association] had a staff in almost every copper using country in the world. When I would go to Europe, I would spend a lot of time with these CDA people in France and England, for example. Their money went to local research institutions of one sort or another. Or it went to work with potential users. Plumbers. They work with the automobile companies in making up samples for them to use in radiators. They work with electrical companies in getting better insulation on their cables to use copper wire. Copper wire was in competition with aluminum for different things, although we really believed that aluminum didn't have a chance, but nevertheless, when it came to aluminum radiators in automobiles it was a serious effort made by the aluminum industry.
As Director of Research with this central laboratory, how did you justify that, or how did your views about that lab change? Or did they change?
You realized after a while that it was not easy to justify. Certainly not easy to justify the kind of work that Mervin Kelly had envisaged. Because almost everything that would fall into the category of long-term basic research in copper was more easily justified by the user, not by the people who produced copper. Kennecott was not vertically integrated. It did own a wire and cable company, which did turn out cable for the electrical industry. It did own Chase Copper and Brass which made sheets, and the sheets could be used in different things. Neither of them I don't think was terribly profitable. The cable company probably more so than Chase Brass, mostly because there were more cost cutting and competition in the-Whenever you get closer to the consumer, you entered a world of competition and price cutting that you didn't have with mining. The mining industry is simply a cyclical industry by nature. You had a certain market that was stable. Then as time goes on, let's say somebody was slipping. The automobile industry might slip or something like that, and the demand for copper went down. Since the demand for copper went down, you closed the mine, you didn't produce as much; until suddenly you couldn't fill the demand, then the price goes up, and you open mines. You did more exploration until demand went down again. Then you did the opposite.
Very cyclical, and very interesting in many ways. It's fascinating. In most industries you think of economy of scale, that whenever you're able to increase your production because you have the market for it, that your cost per pound or cost per unit goes down. Not in copper. In copper, the opposite happens. If you feel you're going to have to cut your production and next year produce only half as much, your cost per pound goes down. Why does it go down? Because you're mining your highest grade ore. If you only need a smaller amount, you mine the ore that has 2% copper instead of the ore that has 2/10% copper. As you need more and more copper you've got to go to poorer and poorer ores. While you may sell more, the cost per unit goes up. It's a funny industry, and people don't always understand that. Anyway, it turns out that in Kennecott's case, and partly because it was not vertically integrated, there were not that many opportunities for what you would normally think of as basic physics research, certainly. As you got more into environmental problems of recent years which affect the process by which you made copper, there there's a lot of opportunity for work. Then in order to follow through, you really need to get into major engineering programs. Here we joined up with other companies in certain major programs for that. Again, not as much opportunity for a small basic research laboratory near Boston.
Did your competitors Phelps Dodge and Anaconda have central research labs like Kennecott did?
We were the first, probably. Not quite. I should say no, organizationally no, but they had some comparable work going on within their traditional R&D divisions, which normally encompass research, engineering, and so on. Whether they were central or not is an interesting question. Asarco is another one you didn't mention, by the way. American Smelting and Refining Company is Asarco. They were the smallest, but they did a lot of research; more in chemicals, if I remember correctly. I don't think any of them, though, had a structurally separate recognizable central research laboratory. They might have had and did have a corporate technical division with a technical arm, which encompassed a lot of things rather than have divisional groups. So in that case, the corporate technical arm would be doing things that our engineering laboratory in Salt Lake City might have been doing. It's hard to say.
Did the central lab come out with any breakthroughs while you were there?
The research staff, was it mostly PhDs in science?
Well, they had more PhDs than any other part of the company, that's for sure, within scientific fields.
Was there any discipline that predominated?
Nope, we tried different things. In fact, I remember an interesting incident that happened once. There might be some interest here. I remember a very nice chap, Dennis Howling, was a physicist. Dennis was involved with a number of things including ultrasonics and I'm trying to think what else he was involved with. Dennis was on a program which involved the application of that to some research he was doing. Somewhere along the line we felt that that whole area of research probably should be stopped. I had an interesting conversation with Dennis. That project would be stopped, but Dennis had a job. There were a lot of other things he could work on. I sat down with him. Not that it wasn't going anywhere; it probably would have resulted in a lot of publications, in fact. But it really was going away from the main interest of the company, and the chances are that we should probably spend more time on some other area. I forget now what the heck it was even. And Dennis said, "I quit." I said, "Come on, what do you mean you quit? What's the problem?" He said to me, "You don't understand." This is a very interesting conversation. He said, "My career insurance, so to speak, is not Kennecott. It's my work. People know me in the field. If I were not to continue in this field, I wouldn't really have a sense of security. I would be dependant completely on what project Kennecott might decide was most useful. I want to follow my field. In order to do that, I have to find someplace where I want to continue this area of work." So he quit. It was interesting. Most of the other people in the lab and throughout Kennecott were engineers of one sort or another, even PhD engineers. Could be chemical engineers, metallurgical engineers, etc. I realized then and later I would never have gotten that answer from the engineers. The engineers were basically problem solvers. "You don't want me to work on this? What do you want me to work on?" A physicist was more tied to his career choice and field choice than to the company. The engineers, they joined the company and they'll work on anything in the company that needed their assistance. If it wasn't one thing it would be another. They were more flexible than physicists. The thing is, all my life I've been trained to believe that physicists are the most flexible. Why? Because of your background in electricity, optics, and so on you can do anything. It turned out that's not true in practice.
When did this happen?
Probably about the early '70s.
Did that change the way you thought about the central lab? Did that incident—
No. It changed what I thought about physicists.
His name, Dennis?
Dennis Howling. I'm not sure where Dennis went. A good man, and a good physicist. I could have thought of lots of things that his talents could have been applied to. But in that sense of the word of being married to a field or devoting yourself to a field, a physicist becomes less and less flexible as time goes on as you become more and more specialized.
As you've been telling this history of the lab's role in the company while you were there, I want to try to understand why Frank Milliken embraced Kelly's view of what research should be done.
You'd have to go back again to you might almost say the fashions in industry of different times and the policies. And also the individual. Undoubtedly Frank liked keeping in touch with these things. I say he was on the board of trustees at MIT. I remember at one point, for example, he called me into his office. He had some request from the Ledgemont Laboratory, an electron microscope or something; the electron microscope was one of the newer devices that was coming up for doing studies of materials. Frank said, "What do you think?" I said, "Frank, you should never have gotten that piece of paper." I said, "I'll be happy to tell you what I think, and I'll be happy to make a study of it, and I'll be happy to pass it onto you with a note. But why do you want them to send to you?" He sort of looked at me funny and he said, "I like it." [Laughs] He wanted to be involved in these ways. The president of a billion dollar company had no right to be involved in that detail.
Did he have a technical background in science?
He was a metallurgical engineer. All the people who ran Kennecott were engineers, either mechanical or metallurgical, in some cases maybe even a few chemical. Again, like Patterson to some extent, Frank liked the idea maybe because-I don't want to judge too much-he associated with his colleagues on the board of trustees at MIT. How can you not embrace scientific and technical advances if you're going to be socializing with them? Who knows? Hard to say.
Regarding the laboratory itself, how big was your budget? How did your budget grow over the years, and how many staff members did you have in that lab?
The chances are by the time I left, on the order of 80-100.
Of just professional research staff?
No, I think in total. Probably almost half were professionals.
About half of the professionals were PhDs, yes, at least. You've got to know there are different industries. If you're doing bench type research, for example, then the professional staff is a very high proportion of the total staff, 40-50%. If you're doing engineering programs where you're building a lot of prototypes, then the professional staff drops to about 1/3 or less because more of the people doing it are technicians, whereas when you have a laboratory devoted to smaller projects, there's a professional person with every project with maybe one technician or so working with him. With an engineer, you might have two, three, four, five technicians working with you building things. So traditionally a physical science laboratory would have a very high percentage of professionals as part of the total staff.
How big was the budget?
Again, it's so hard to look back through all these years. Of course it sounds trivial compared to today's budgets, but my guess would be somewhere between $10-15 million, $10-$12 million.
Yes. Well, it came to about $100,000 per person.
Just at the central lab?
That's a lot of money back then.
Yes. Again, if you went to the engineering groups, the cost per person would come to more because there's more heavy equipment involved in engineering, more capital equipment, more building of heavy stuff. It was very hard to compare. If you look at laboratories in say the oil industry and compare it with the pharmaceutical industry, and you're looking at the research arm, not the engineering arm, you find that a handful of people in the oil industry might be involved in a project involving a big refining unit somewhere where you have a prototype somewhere that they're working with, whereas in pharmaceuticals it's more of the laboratory involved, which makes it less capital equipment per person. Now having said that, I must confess over the last five years there's been a change in the oil industry. There's such a growth of physical instruments that you can use in every industry that now even the basic research in the chemical or pharmaceutical industry might be as expensive as basic research in the oil industry. I don't know. You don't envision huge equipment in these other industries.
What was the relationship like between the central lab and the operating divisions? Was there a close connection?
Well, it was cordial on a personal basis. I think the general attitude of the divisional labs was that, "Gee, we can take care of whatever we need. If you have anything interesting, let us know. Don't hesitate to call." But to the best of my memory there was not any substantial amount of ongoing cooperative R&D programs where a piece of it was being done in both places. Very little of it.
Did researchers in the lab have some discretion to do their own work?
Well, they were encouraged to. You say discretion. They still have to pass muster, so to speak. Let's say they're encouraged to come in with ideas for new things. People have a funny way of looking at it. I remember one of the chaps from Ledgemont came to see me one day. I've forgotten what the program was. But he had laid out a program of $20,000 worth of really good science studies. If that proved positive, you then got to go to the next step of maybe $50-$100,000 of making a model or prototype, followed by who knows what, maybe $1 million in building an actual operating system. It looked reasonably modest, but it clearly had implications that could be important to the company. I said, "Let me think me about it. I'll take it up." So the next time I had an opportunity to meet with Milliken, I sort of went over this whole layout with him. He said, "Okay. Go ahead." I went back and got the guy from Ledgemont. I said, "Well, Milliken thinks it's a good idea. Let's start it." He said, "Gosh. That's great. He approved a million dollar program just like that." I said, "No he didn't. He approved $15,000. You've got to remember the way the company works, you do one step at a time." They weren't going to approve the whole thing in advance. Go ahead here and see where you stand. Then we'll go to the next step and see where we stand. The president wasn't about to guess what was going to happen. It just was a misconception on this guy's part. "If everything looks positive and the market still looks good and... Sure, we'll go ahead to the next step."
Did you report directly to Milliken?
Yes. Well, for a good part of the time. Later on, no. Halfway through with my tenure, two steps took place. In fact, before we got Carborundum. First, he brought in a vice president of technology with a heavy background in mining. I reported to him.
Who was that?
Dave Swan, who had been at Union Carbide in the division that developed flotation agents and things like that for the mining industry. Then later on, [there was] set up the president for something like commercial development, which really meant new opportunities in new businesses, who then went out and acquired Carborundum and things like that. Then I found myself reporting in his division because then R&D that was not part of mining, all was considered part of commercial development.
Who was in charge of that?
Milt Stern, also from Union Carbide at that point. Clearly there was a transition in the company itself going first to Peabody [Coal Co.] then Carborundum. It was a change [of Kennecott] from basic copper mining. Of course, it's hard to say what-I mean I wasn't privy to all the reasoning that went on in that, but clearly there was a change going on in the mindset of the top management as to where they were going. Remember too, they had a traumatic incident when communists won in Chile and confiscated the mines in Chile.
Oh, they nationalized the mine. That's when Allende became head of the country.
Even though Allende was there and eventually thrown out, the company never got the mines back. It was a popular move in Chile. Maybe they were looking at the future of the mining business in general at that point. Who knows? They were getting more deeply involved with the government now in antitrust problems and so on. The whole nature of the kind of considerations the president of the company had were changing rapidly. At about that same time, all these changes took place in the R&D too.
Thinking about this, there are two ways you can diversify. One is to diversify through research, and one is to diversify by acquiring other companies. It looks like what they're doing is they're diversifying by buying other firms.
Yes. Anyway, hiring somebody like Milt Stern whose function it was to grow the things—
Not specified. How are you going to do it easily within a reasonable job tenure? You do it externally.
What was Stern's background?
Milt was a PhD in something, either chemical or metallurgical engineering.
This takes you up to the mid-'70s. What are you thinking about in terms of career and what you want to do?
By this time I must have been spending 80% of my time on external activities. I mentioned it's a wonder they tolerated me at that point, except hopefully it benefited the company in various ways, but not so much directly.
When you say external activities, what do you mean specifically?
Well, I was on various government commissions. I was active with the IRI. That was not unheard of. For example, one of the biggest professional organizations in the United States is the AIME, the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers. When somebody from Kennecott— at one point the head of our mining division became president of that. Number one, because I had to do this too, but it was a minor item at the IRI, but at the AIME...
The AIME was about to take up probably 70-75% of this man's time. But here's a guy who's responsible for the mining operations of Kennecott. But on the other hand, it's a very prestigious position in the industry, so they put space aside where he had two secretaries from the AIME parked next to his office. He had to travel around to meet with the divisional groups of the AIME, in California, the Southwest, everywhere. It took a tremendous amount of time. I had nothing like that. Nevertheless, I needed the president's permission to serve as President of IRI. I'd been on two Boards of Directors, I needed his permission to accept a directorship, not so much the time, but to be sure there wasn't any conflict of interest. I was on the Board of Directors at Hazeltine, which is an electronics corporation. So I was involved in that. I had gotten much more involved in a lot of the government activities in Washington, the State Department, particularly the State Department at one point in the mid-'70s, and the National Science Foundation. I think I told you, I was probably responsible for NSF beginning to add industrial research to their data collection. The early collection of the science indicators for the first 20 years or so, they barely mentioned industrial research. There was all this study of academic research and government research. It's the where the money went. But industry was coming up strong, so they finally began to add it, and now that's one of the more important sections of the science indicators. I was on the National Materials Advisory Board, which was a relevant one. The Board of Science and Technology in Development, which is international. Then I'd been doing some things that took me to the OECD in Paris for odds and ends.
So what made you finally decide to leave Kennecott in 1978?
Well, it was interesting. First of all, I could see that the nature of the company was shifting. I'm not sure I ever worked it out in my mind as analytically as we are talking about it now even, but just kind of a sense that maybe what I was doing was getting extraneous and maybe the whole idea of internal central research was slightly extraneous, compared not only to the fact that the big technology groups were in the divisions, but to the fact that there was more and more activity bringing new companies in [through acquisition], and if that is the way you are going to grow, then you obviously have less dependence on an internal one. And we didn't have Morehead Patterson there at AMF who was deliberately looking at more science-based opportunities to grow. So I couldn't rationalize this thing anymore. And I was getting more and more interested in science policy. I guess I convinced myself that, number one, the government is involved with policies that showed that they didn't understand industrial research particularly. Where they did understand it, they didn't know how to work with it or how to make the contacts with it, and I could probably suggest ways to do a better job than they were doing. I began to feel that maybe I should spend full time on it, and so I outlined a plan for setting up such a center.
Can I just go back to ask one question before we get to the Science Policy Center. Milliken steps down.
Not while I was there.
Oh, he was still there through the whole time?
Okay. Because I had here a note that his successor was Thomas Barrow who was from Exxon.
He'd been on the Board. Milliken was there when I was there.
We were talking about your decision to leave Kennecott in 1978. Let's shift the discussion to the Center for Science and Technology Policy, and this is first at New York University and then it moved to RPI?
Yes, what happened was I had laid out a plan for such a center, what it would do, the kinds of subject matters, why I thought it needed to be done, and so on.
Can you talk a little bit about what your thoughts were?
Sure. As I say, I had begun to be deeply involved with questions of both national and international activities: what role industrial research could play in the country, the fact that I didn't think it was at all understood properly within the country, and the role of different government agencies interacting with it, and what areas we really needed to know more about in order to make intelligent decisions on policies. I felt in order to do it-I'm going to be immodest at this point-you should have somebody doing it who knew something about industrial research. Because if you look at what is going on now in the way of studying science policy, you have two basic types of groups. You have government agencies themselves where it's the nature of their business to study it, and then you have people within the Bureau of Standards or people at NSF; or you have people in academia who, by the way, are basically from the social sciences, not from the physical sciences, and they are looking at science policy of such groups as "science in society" from the standpoint of both social and political meetings, not with regard to how do you get the most effective results from American science and technology for the common good. That's not what they are looking at, and the government doesn't have the know how to do it. So I said, "You really need an independent group with some exposure to these problems so we can get started on them."
Weren't agencies like IRI or the National Research Council looking at these issues?
The IRI is made up of people who have fulltime jobs. And yes, they were looking at issues, and I was hopefully responsible again for pushing them into this. We had two groups at IRI. And IRI works largely by committees. We had one committee called Research On Research, which comes the closest to that. They look at things like what's the impact of patent policy on innovation, and things of that sort. And what we set up, pretty much myself and Phil White set it up, pushed them into setting up a government-industry committee to look at the relation between industry and government. That turned out to be one of the biggest and strongest committees that the IRI had for many years, probably not so much today. There are other committees—university, industry, education committees, and so on. So yes, IRI could react. If somebody brought up a particular issue, IRI could act to bring together a handful of people with knowledge from the industrial viewpoint who could look at a particular issue and issue a report, and they did. But that's not exactly the same thing as getting people to spend a year fulltime studying something.
That's a wholly different thing. So I prepared a proposal along those lines. I had known John Sawhill. I'd met John Sawhill a number of times. John Sawhill was...was he ever Secretary of Energy? He was deeply involved with the energy conservation problem, and he was also connected with the synthetic fuel area. He was head of the Synthetic Fuel Program. So I had come to know him through some of these energy contacts, and by this time he was President of NYU [New York University]. So I wrote a note to John Sawhill saying, "John, this is what I'm thinking about. Do you think you would have any interest?" I learned later, after I got to NYU, he was an almost impossible guy to get to. NYU is the largest private university in the United States. It's a tremendously time consuming job. Anyway, two days later he called me up, or his office called me and said, "Come and have lunch." It turned out to have come at a very propitious time for NYU because by the late '70s, there are a lot of things going on now in the scientific world, the advances in science and technology, and NYU a few years earlier, had sold its engineering division, engineering school. I don't know how much time you want to spend on that; that was a very complex deal. NYU found its engineering school to be a tremendous user of money, and by their standards they were losing money running it. It was at a separate campus; it wasn't downtown, it was up in the Bronx.
And they felt that in order to have a really top rate engineering school, they'd have to plough a lot more money into it than they were prepared to do, so it made more sense to get rid of it. But to get rid of it, they had a lot of tenured faculty. So they made a three way deal. They made a deal with Brooklyn Polytech. Brooklyn Poly would take over most of the faculty and move them to Brooklyn Poly, which wasn't too bad, and the building and campus that they had up in the Bronx would go to the state of New York, and the state of New York would do something about absorbing the pension commitments of the tenured faculty or something. Anyway, it was a three way deal in which NYU got out of its commitments to the school; the faculty, generally speaking, had positions at Brooklyn Poly which got bigger and was more ambitious, and the state of New York got the ground. But, John Sawhill came in as President at a time when science and technology were getting more important in the United States. He said, "Hey, I've just come into a big university and they've got no engineering school. How do I make contact, keep in contact, and make a contribution in the technical area without bankrupting the University?" Because the original analysis was right-if they wanted to have a school that competed with Columbia and Fordham and so on, they'd have to put a lot of money into it. And there was my letter! So John said, "Well, we can't have an engineering school, but we can have a Center for Science and Technology Policy."
So that worked out very well. And it did work well. Now that was in '78. By '85, we had done some very good work, published some very important reports. We were the first ones to put out a major study of university/industry relations.
How was it organized and how did you get people?
Well, it started with me, and I brought in a young woman who some friends of mine told me had been with a research group in California and she and her husband had just moved to New York, so she became the Deputy or Assistant Director. And I got a few people to work with us. I paid them actually on a halftime basis. Dick Nelson who's a tenured professor at Columbia. Dick worked with us for the first few years or so. Yes, in fact Rick Levin also did something with us, who is now President of Yale. So we ended up, gradually we brought in people like that in order to get started; people who were coming sort of on a halftime basis who I could never have gotten fulltime anyway. We gradually built up a small staff of people. Of course, what we tried to do was to find existing faculty who were interested in the subject areas and get them to work on the programs with us. We had graduate students who we could get into it who we could pay.
Where did you get funding for the Center?
We had two basic sources. First I set up an industry membership of some sort. I forget what we called it, where people could join for $15,000 a year.
These are companies?
Companies, yes. So we quickly signed up about 15 or so companies. That gave us a few hundred thousand dollars a year right off the bat.
What were they supposed to get?
Well, input, number one; and output, number two. Input that they identified a problem area, and I could give you some very good examples of that. We could work on it. They'd bring it to our attention. And a general belief that what we said we were going to do would be helpful to them. We'd get intelligent government policy regarding industrial research.
What kind of firms did you get? Were they all manufacturing?
Pretty much. Well in those days there wasn't too much software. GE, Proctor and Gamble, Dupont, IBM, Exxon. Good companies. Let me give you an example: GE. I had a visit from Art Bueche who then was Senior Technical Officer of GE and Roland Schmitt, whom you know from the AIP. And GE was a member of our Center, but I'd known both of them for years in other contexts, through the IRI and government committees we were on and all that. They were encountering a problem that they thought was a national problem and should be looked at very carefully which had to do with foreign scientists working in their laboratories. There were some notices coming out from the Commerce Department and others that implied that if you look at the law for transmitting information to foreign countries, you need a permit. If you would try to ship a technical report to a foreign country, you need a permit to do it.
In most cases, an institution has a blanket permit, but you could go to jail and get in trouble if you tried to ship a technical report about any new development to a foreign country. A lot of this has been changing, some loosened and some made more strict, but in general, and Art was saying, "Look, we got this notice that this applies to foreign scientists." The logic is clear enough, the best way to transmit information is not on paper, but through people, and if you have a foreign scientist working in your laboratory, you sure as hell are transmitting information. You may try to keep it classified or concealed or confidential, but that person... And you need a permit from us to do this and if you don't do it, you are in violation of the law. And Art said, "If we take this literally, not only are we going to be in trouble, but all industry is going to be in trouble." So I said, "Yes, it does sound serious. I hadn't realized myself the extent of it." And so we set up a study. We had enough funds to do little things ourselves. We could have a $5,000 study that we could fund internally, which is enough to give us money to go to others, and we did it just that way. We set up a study that we carried out for a few months, and then went to it was either DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] or the Pentagon to get some money from them to study a situation with regard to foreign scientists and what should our policies be vis-à-vis what kind of permission do you need? What's the nature of it? GE knew enough that they wouldn't expose them to government classified information-the law for that was well understood.
But this didn't apply to classified information; this applied to advances in science and technology. We wrote a nice little study, and DARPA appreciated it, outlining the pros and cons and the benefits you gain, etc., for liberalizing this [policy]. You want some control over it, but you also have to remember that there are benefits to be gained by international exchanges. And so that was one of the kinds of studies that we carried out at the Center. We got involved in other things, but largely in the international field. Then we had this big study on university industry relations, which, as I say, it came out in the early '80s and that was the first, probably, substantial study of the nature of university-industry exchanges. A flood of stuff came out after that, many of which for years would refer to our study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation. Then we got later on into a number of studies looking at the growth of cooperative research in industry. What's good and bad about it? And, again, there are ways in which government policies could get involved in that. I'm sort of racking my memory here. I can get you a list of these reports as we run along. Then one of the things that we did that was very interesting from an international viewpoint, we held a series of international conferences on different issues. Very nice. We started one in 1979 in New York, just an opening one, just generally what are the issues today in science and technology policy? And we had a number of people from overseas, Lord Rothschild from England and people like that.
Then the next year, 1980, we had one in Paris. Roland [Schmitt] was at that one. Then successively we had it in '83 in Stockholm; in '86 it was in Lucca in Italy, beautiful place in Tuscany; '89 we were back to Stockholm again; in '92 in Lake Maggiore in Italy: and '98 in Santiago in Chile. We had built up through these quite a network of people involved managing industrial research all over the world. And a number of them, especially outside the United States, had said to me, it was really the only milieu, the only venue that they had been to where they could meet on a very relaxed basis with not only their counterparts in industry but with officials in government and some from academia, though not too many, to discuss problems over lunch, dinner, whatever you want. So it sort of built up a worldwide network of people, and we had a very impressive attendee list at these things. We probably had the top R&D managers from major corporations in the world at these meetings. Each one built on the other. The more you did of this, the greater your network and the greater your contacts. That was a very important contribution. I have records of all this stuff, if you need it.
To what extent did this work impact changes on the policy level?
Well, that's always hard to say. My general feeling on these things is the probability of any study or any recommendation or any activity at all changing something for the better is very, very little; but the probability is zero if you don't do anything. Hard to say. Probably influence is more exerted by just speaking to people personally. You find out where the action lies and so on. I think we stirred up consciousness of some of these issues. I'm sure we got more people in government looking at more serious problems of industrial research than existed before. Unfortunately that doesn't last. One thing you learn quickly, there's no such thing as an institutional memory. Everybody has to repeat all the mistakes all over again despite the fact that if you forget history you are bound to repeat it. If you knew the history, you're bound to repeat it. Nobody believes that they can't do it better or differently. I find that a hard thing to say. I always remember a very amusing discussion I had with Harvey Picker. By the way, his family owned Picker X-Ray Company, so physicists know that.
Harvey became the Dean of International Studies at Columbia. He and I became very friendly. And in the mid-'80s I had decided that we should probably leave NYU, the reason being, as I told Harvey, I said, "We haven't solved the problem of continuity." I said, "Everything is fine. As long as I keep bringing money in the group will survive. But I don't see the tenured professors taking part in it so much, which would give you stability. And I don't see the school hiring people for their normal faculty positions with an eye toward who has an interest to this area." They were leaving it pretty much up to me. I said, "The day I leave it's going to collapse." Harvey looks at me, he says, "So what?" I said, "Well, I sort of thought it would be nice if we build a base of continuity." He said, "Ah, it's just an ego trip." He said, "Look. You do your best and you carry it out as long as you can, as long as you want to, and if it stops it stops, and somebody else will have to pick up the ball and do something different." Obviously very realistic.
But you did move?
But I said, yes, we want to move. So I made clear to a number of people that we wanted to move and we had offers from three people, from three groups: RPI, Brooklyn Poly (George Bugliarello was the President of Brooklyn Poly), and Lehigh, Peter Likens who had been an engineering dean at Columbia, had become president of Lehigh. So Peter Lichens and George Bugliarello and Dan Berg, who was President of RPI, each said they would like the Center to come there. I wasn't going to go Lehigh in general, I wasn't about to move there. I told George Bugliarello, I said, "As it is, I come to Grand Central Station in New York. I take a subway downtown. I'm not going to stay on it for three more subway stops to go to Brooklyn Poly," which was across the river. So we went to RPI. And they set it up properly.
Did they give you a better deal too? How did you measure...
They promised— I should say not only was Dan Berg President but Bob Hawkins who had been Dean of Management at NYU where we located was now Dean of Management at RPI, so Bob was personally interested, and he allowed as how they would in fact see to it that a number of the faculty not only would take part in the activities of the Center but that they would keep that in mind when they hired new faculty. So that worked out alright. Also, of course, our staff dissipated, but we had two really good permanent members, two ladies who worked with me for years by then. One was Mela Haklisch, and she had worked on a number of our studies together and she was going to stay with us, and Lois Peters. Lois had carried out that study of university/industry relations. Lois was going to move up to Troy with her husband; Mela was going to stay where she lived in New York. So Lois went up there and she eventually became a tenured faculty member at RPI. See, at NYU nobody was tenured, so there was always that divide between... It worked out well. We did some good work for a number of years. The studies changed a little bit in nature depending on what the problems were. Then I decided or we mutually decided that I would gradually ease out. First of all, I was never up there full time. Ruth wasn't about to move. And so for three years we had two offices. We had the group up there, but we had offices on Park Avenue in New York. Park Avenue and 70th, which wasn't quite as bad as it sounds because we had offices in the Asia Society building. It's a lovely building on Park Avenue and 70th and they could only rent space to 501C organizations.
So that fit.
So the rent was still not cheap, but it wasn't anywhere near as expensive as an office building on Park Avenue would normally have been. So that was a very pleasant existence for three years. Then we mutually agreed that it probably could not easily be justified anymore. For a while we justified it in two ways. One, we had work going on in the New York area like with Dick Nelson, for example; and we had some graduate students who were working on thesis, for example. One of whom now, Nick Vonortas. Nick is now at George Washington University, he's a professor there, and he heads a group called the International Center for Science and Technology Policy. So Nick is one of our pride and joy. He became a tenured professor now. Anyway, Nick was finishing his PhD thesis with us, so we couldn't move out on him either. We had some others we were working with.
But it wasn't a degree granting institution?
No, it had to go through a department. I've learned a lot about centers at universities, but that's a whole separate matter, which is how to do it and how not to do it and what the problems are with regard to it. For example, it's fine if it's within an academic department where your appointments come from the department. It doesn't work so well when it's interdisciplinary and the people in it have department homes through whom their appointments have to come. It's very complicated. A university is not a great place to carry on interdisciplinary research. It's simply not structured for it. Unless you set up an interdisciplinary group with a huge endowment of it's own and you are completely independent financially, then you can do it. In any event, so we have this office in New York for three years, then we close that down and I was going up there two days a week.
When did you close that down?
We closed that down in '89, I think it was. I was going there two days a week so I said, "All right, I should probably phase out." By this time I was already 68 years old. The management school had hired Joe Morone.
Joseph Morone, author of Winning in High Tech Markets.
That's our boy.
Yes, I read that book. It's a good book.
It's a good book. He wrote about it on Corning.
Corning and GE and Motorola is the third company.
So Joe became the Director of the Center. But, at about the time he did it—everything seemed to be working out all right. At this time we are now into 1990 or so. I take it back, it was closer to '92, because we had one last meeting, our international meeting in Italy on one of the major lakes there. I had Joe come. I was introducing him as the next head of the Center. That same year though, Bob Hawkins, who had been Dean, took a job as Dean at Georgia Tech. And after some hemming and hawing they named Joe to be Dean of the management school. So the Center was in the middle of nowhere. And Joe had already decided to change the name from the Center for Science and Technology Policy, now that he's dean, he changed it to the Center for the Study of Management and Technology. I objected. I hope it wasn't just sentimental, but I said, "Joe, you know, we spent a lot of years building up what you call brand recognition. The name is known in places all over the world." Joe's argument was he wanted to provide an incentive to other faculty people who were not interested in science, but could be interested in management and technology, to take part in it. I didn't think it worked as well. Anyway, then two years later Joe left and became President of Bentley College up in Boston. So then the Center phased out. Lois Peters is still there, and from time to time she and the new dean have talked about resurrecting it. But then things change and something else comes up, so Harvey Picker was right-as much as I hate to admit it.
The last institution I'd like to talk about a little bit is the Fusfeld Group.
Well, institutionally that's interesting.
Was that started by you?
No, my son. My son, Alan, who had gone to MIT Sloan School, and then he worked with Ed Roberts in this company called Pugh Roberts. Ed is a very well known professor at MIT, [based on some studies he made 25 years ago], and did a lot of work in innovation generally. And Ed had a consulting group and Alan become the head of one of them, was a Vice President of the Technology Management consulting group. The other one was hospital computing. For some reason they had gotten involved in applying computers to hospitals. They had developed quite a clientele in that. Then somewhere along the lines, about ten years ago, Alan decided to set up his own company. He was thinking about it for quite awhile, and along came a British company which made an offer to Ed Roberts to buy out Pugh Roberts. And Alan spoke to them at great length and wasn't completely happy with the arrangement, and then Ed did nothing much about it, so Alan said, "Well, you're going to do that, I'm going to set up my own company." Whereupon Ed got very mad at Alan. Why? Because among other things, the British company dropped their offer by about a million dollars. And I said, "Ed, you've been teaching courses in management all these years, and you tell people about incentives and how to keep people and what drives people." I said, "You did all the wrong things in Alan's case! He had no incentive to stay. You were going to appoint somebody else as head of the whole group. What did you think he was going to do?" Anyway, for a while he wasn't even talking to Alan, but now they are talking again. So Alan set up his own group and did very, very well.
Were you involved in that?
No, he set it up. I advised him on things. He would talk to me about it. He set up the group formally and asked me to be Chairman of it. He did all the work. Alan travels all the time and if you look it up on the Internet, he's got a number of people that work with him. And the way these consulting companies work, nobody is on a salary. They get paid only if they work on a program. So it doesn't cost anything for him to have people there. I would say maybe three or four of them earn a good fulltime living, and the rest get paid periodically and it doesn't mean that much to them. Most of them are pensioned and so on. And so I, too, would help occasionally with the work. For example, one time Mobil Oil Company wanted to set up a scientific advisory board and got us, and I had responsibility for this, of getting people to join that board for them. I got Roland Schmitt to be a member of the board, and a good friend of mine from Italy, Umberto Columbo, who at one point was the Minister of Research in Italy and was President of the Italian Oil Company for a short while. So we set the board up for them, helped them layout a charter for the board, what they should do, and so on. Coincidentally I had some assignments from Exxon and a couple of things. Exxon and Mobil finally merged. That was one. A couple of other small things I would help out with from time to time, but I can't leave Ruth particularly so I really can't travel or be at these places at all.
That's a good sign. I think that covers all the topical issues I wanted to discuss. But I want to end with just a section here on reflections. Looking back, I'll ask two related questions. What do you see as your major accomplishments? And are there any regrets?
Well, my answer is colored by the last 20 years or so, which has really been in the science policy area, so any accomplishments have really been, I would say, in focusing the attention of a number of institutions on industrial research and how it operates, and making recommendations-of course to people who are transient, unfortunately. And contributing to our knowledge of cooperative industrial research; I think we did a lot in that. Of tracking this whole, and hopefully making some inputs in, this whole trend in recent years of companies working jointly where it suits both their purposes, which has led to a fascinating development in industrial research.
Namely that traditionally if you go back 30 years or more, you only should do research in things which your company eventually somehow would gain from either because it concerned their present products or because they are willing to exploit it. If they didn't want to do either, you shouldn't work on the research. That was traditionally the research end of it. Secondly, far from choosing the research, either because it fit at the company or sometimes you'd stop because you couldn't solve a marketing problem, but either you shouldn't start research in the first place if it didn't fit the company; and number, two you might not be able to exploit some good idea you had and you had to stop it. Now once you cross the barrier it says, "Well, we are willing to work with another company on a very well-defined specific set of conditions," then you've removed all the boundaries. In other words, if you do research and it doesn't fit your company's ability to market it, you might make an alliance with a company that has the marketing ability but not the R&D part, and you can have a joint company set up, is one thing.
And the other is, if you start on a project, you have an idea for a project and it would fit your company, and your company has got the manufacturing and the marketing skills to push it, but the research itself calls for a couple of specialties that you don't have, you could make an alliance with another company to fill in those gaps. In other words, in a way the sky is the limit on what you choose to work on. You've solved most of the problems of how do you decide what to work on. Now, you still have severe limitations. You have your own budget, your own limitations, your own people, and you have to decide right away what are your key strengths, or people say "core strengths." It really forces you to define what kind of a company you are and where you going. But you don't have to hold back if you have a gap-not a crucial gap, but a gap, either in the exploitation of the research or even in the completion of the research. Because you can fill the gap with an appropriate strategic alliance, and that's what people have been doing to grow in industry for years. Now, we were among the first to publish some studies that pointed out these opportunities.
We weren't necessarily completely original, but we began to map out what you might say is some of the intellectual basis for doing these things. Of course in the last ten years there's been a flood of publications on all of this. Now we can't pretend to swamp anything. So if we have any contribution at all, it's kind of spotting some of these trends and opportunities before other people did, and beginning to sketch out some of the problem areas, some of the solutions and so on. And, in particular, perhaps, how institutional groups can work together, like university and industry or government and industry. So out of that had grown a whole lot of specific more narrowly based studies of the nature of university/industry cooperation and the nature of government/industry cooperation if we did do some studies of that. So I've got a long list of the studies we did do. It was an interesting time. I learned a lot. And in the course of that I personally got deeply involved with various and sundry government agencies. At one point in time I even considered going down to Washington, but Ruth ruled against it.
Professionally it would have been fun if I could have gone into the State Department in particular. But no, not really I suppose. It would have meant the dislocation and who knows what the result of that would have been.
Are there any specific lessons learned?
I certainly learned some lessons about working at a university.
More about your industrial experience?
Industrial experience. I guess there are a lot of insights that one learns. As I look back, I learned so much about industrial research, and it's sort of amusing to me in some ways that when I had a position where the company itself is an influential company like the Director of Kennecott Research, I'd be invited to give talks many places, I'm sure based on the fact that my title sounded reasonable, and I'd be invited to talk on all sorts of subjects. Now, you've got to remember, and to be very modest about this, I knew a lot about industrial research. I knew a lot about the copper industry, more than most people, and I knew much more than most people on research at Kennecott Copper. But that wasn't what I was talking about. I would go out and give a talk on university research or a talk on government policy, what have you, which I probably in retrospect had no right to do.
At least I didn't know any specialized information about it. Then I started the Center and we carried out a lot of in-depth studies. I now knew a great deal about certain of these issues, but you don't get invited to talk anymore because you don't have the title. So as a result, you get very skeptical about, when you hear a talk by somebody, you look at the title and you can see the subject of the talk and you have to say, "Is there really any relationship between the person's real expertise and what he or she is talking about?" I've always been amused by that phenomenon and am very sensitive to it. Your question really was did you learn anything about it. Well you do. You always pick up experiences. Certainly working inside an industrial organization you realize the importance of not working in isolation. If you don't already know that instinctively, you learn it very quickly.
You learn that when you are considering a program of R&D within an industrial organization, it's true that you encourage people to think broadly and to think in new directions and to consider long range research. Even under those conditions though, if you are in industry, only in industry, you have an obligation to let your imagination run ahead of you a little bit and say, "If I get this understanding I'm looking for in basic research, if I understand what makes this material behave the way it does and so on, can I imagine remotely anything that I would do next with that knowledge? And if I do, can I then imagine remotely how that could possibly be used by people in life, a process or a product or what have you?" Now you don't have to be responsible for doing it, but you have to be able to at least imagine that. Like today we are all looking at things in nanotechnology. A fascinating new field, but even today you can pick up even a popular magazine and their imagination is ranging all over the world in what you can do with it. Probably 99% of it is not very practical, but nevertheless they did it. Now they are doing it because it's good public relations and it sounds good. People do it because it's fun. In industry you should do it because it's necessary. It's an obligation, I think, if you are an industrial organization, to at least imagine how a basic study can someday lead to something that your company either is able to do something with now or is willing to do something about it. If the answer is no to both cases, you really shouldn't be doing it in that organization.
A lot of the early work in lasers was done at Hughes Aircraft Company out in California, and people in management, some of them, had criticized Hughes as saying, "You should never have been doing that work in lasers. You didn't benefit from it at the time, you didn't use it." That's the kind of work that should have been going on at a Bell Labs or an AT&T or what have you. People will argue that point and they might criticize Hughes as not being imaginative enough maybe. But there are some obligations in industry that don't exist in other institutions. However, it's also true that only in industry do you have the discipline for making decisions like this. The most difficult thing in the world is to take a lot of people and ask them what they want to do research on, and how do you figure it out? If it's only a game, it doesn't make any difference. At a university, almost anything is tolerated. But in industry you want to be sure that you use those people in a way that gets the most effective results from their work. Otherwise you are just guessing in the dark. Let's just say that you come to conclusions like that and then there are auxiliary things you learn. You learn differences in structure between countries, for example, and how industrial research goes on, and government policies in different countries.
You see ways in which industrial research contributes or plays a role to development in countries. More recently I've gotten involved very heavily in the last ten years with the Organization of American States, the OAS, which is concerned with how can technical progress be used to advance economic development in these countries. As usual, the money in all these countries tends to go to academia. You say, "See, we're spending more money on R&D." Yes, but we have to tell you, there's a gap. Here's the academia and here's the productive end of the country making things for people. There's no bridge in between the two-you have no industrial research. So one of the things you learn along the way is that you've got to fill that gap in. You talk to most government people in most countries, including the United States, about what they mean by policy, by technical development and so on, and their meaning of it, first of all, is money-which is not the best measure; it's one measure, but not the only one-and people. In fact, my biggest criticism of most government policies in these areas is that when a country, in all countries this seems to be true, when they say that a particular government science policy is good or bad, unfortunately what they really mean is it is good or bad for basic research. That's important, but it's not the only thing.
For example, one unusual example is the state of Israel. Israel for years, for obvious reasons, was getting people coming in from Europe who were highly skilled and highly trained in research. People coming all over from Europe, from the universities particularly, came to Israel and I was speaking with a guy I knew who was then the head of the equivalent of our Science and Technology Ministry. We don't have one, but if it were a science base in industry, that would be it. He said, "We have a problem in Israel." This goes back now 25 years. He said, "If you look at all the R&D that's going on in Israel, 70% is basic research. What other country in the world can say that?" He said, "Our problem is to get these people interested in applied research." And the government policy in Israel for years was based on how can you change that ratio? Because it was not balanced. Because in most countries they don't feel that's the problem. There's so little basic research that they don't worry about balance, and for a while they don't have to. You look at the polices being considered in Eastern Europe and many developing countries and everybody is saying, "Gee, you've got to learn how to do more basic research and get it done there." And for awhile it was certainly under funded. I wouldn't mind if they understood what they were doing and intended someday to have a balance, but they don't really understand. I think they feel if they only had a strong base of basic research, that's it. All the rest would flow automatically and be self-sufficient, and it's not. These are the kinds of things that at least I've been influenced by and have tried to influence other people whenever I get a chance to talk to them. So I have no regrets in looking back on that.
Okay. That sounds good. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me.
If you think of any other questions, come and yell.
I sure will. Thank you.