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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of William Havens by Ronald Doel on 1991 August 12,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Topics include his youth and education; his Ph.D. work at Columbia University; building the Nevis cyclotron; nuclear fission; the United Nations Nuclear Cross-section Committee; his appointment as Secretary to the American Physical Society; recollections of Karl Darrow; Physical Review; Physical Review Letters; various divisions of the American Physical Society; Committee on the Future of Nuclear Physics; his consulting work with Los Alamos in 1962; schism of APS membership over military patronage and Viet Nam War; the changing role of the American Institute of Physics; impressions of William Koch; recollections of Goudsmit retirement as Physical Review editor; his appointment as Professor of Applied Physics and Engineering at Columbia University in 1978; APS involvement in the Star Wars Project; impressions of collaborations in high-energy physics; personal impressions of the role of physics in society. Prominently mentioned names include: Karl Darrow, John Dunning, Maurice Ewing, Enrico Fermi, James Fletcher, William Koch, Willis Lamb, George Pegram, Frank Press, Shirley Quimby, I.I. Rabi, James Rainwater, Emilio Segre, Charles Schwartz, Henry Smyth, Edward Teller, Harold Urey, Hermann Weyl, John Wheeler, Herbert York, Also the American Physical Society, American Institute of Physics, Columbia University, American Association of Physics Teachers.
This is Ron Doel, and this is the fifth session of an oral history interview with Dr. William Havens. One of the issues that you mentioned you wanted cover was the question of subscription fulfillment with the AIP. This involving the journal subscriptions, AIP's role — fulfilling.
Yes. This has been a problem for AIP ever since they first started using computers.
This was in early 1970s?
No, I guess it was when Hutchisson was Director. In fact he offered his resignation at one time because the subscription fulfillment. The situation was not satisfactory — not only to AIP, but to all of the other societies. At that time he offered his resignation I think Ralph Sawyer was the Chairman of the Board (I'm not sure of that). Ralph pointed out that the situation was so bad not only at AIP but at almost every organization which had undertaken to use computers for that purpose at that time that it wasn't his fault, but it was a fault of the situation. Hutch was convinced to stay on as Director of AIP for a few more years. But the AIP still faces the same problem generically that it did when it first undertook computers, in that there doesn't seem to be anyone able enough and expert enough in computers to estimate actually what it will take and how long it will take to get a system operating satisfactorily. The general purpose of the AIP, as it was originally established, was for it to do things collectively which could be better done by a federation it could be done alone by the individual societies. And when computers first began to come in in a big way in the late 50s and early 60s, it appeared better for the AIP to get a centralized computer and do the subscription and membership files and subscription fulfillment for all of the member societies, because none of the member societies could afford to establish an elaborate system. This was one of the things which was looked at as being much better done collectively than individually.
Were you part of the group that helped to decide that?
I was part of the group at that time. In fact, I was regarded more of a computer expert at that time; I am not now. Because I was designing and building neutron velocity selectors, which were not called computers at that time, but used a lot of the computer technology and latest techniques of computer technology. So AIP decided to buy a big centralized computer for the subscription fulfillment problem. All of the records from APS and the other four founding member societies were transferred to AIP and put on the computer. It was expected that it would be a relatively simple job because Life and Time for example had over a million subscriptions and could run their subscription labels out in a very short period of time. The total of AIP subscriptions was probably less than 50,000.
This is all the member societies that were involved?
All the member societies. It was considerably less than 50,000, and what's a 50,000 subscription run compared with a million subscription run? But it turned out that none of the systems that were used by commercial publishers could be used by AIP. They essentially had just a linear problem, in that you added one subscription which was exactly the same as the previous subscription, or may be terminated at a different date, but since you had to have the termination date in anyway on every subscription this was a routine problem. On the other hand, AIP published a large number of journals: I think it was 25 total at the time, although my memory is not clear on that item. It had five member societies, and therefore instead of a linear system, you had a matrix system. And if you take a 25-by-5 matrix, you have 125 matrix elements in the matrix, and you have to specify the 125 spaces. Of course there's some redundancy in this and you can reduce the matrix to a considerable extent. But it still is a much more complicated problem than it is with a linear network. Even the experts in computer technology didn't seem to recognize it at that particular time, and they went on with trying to develop the system as a linear network when it really needed a matrix network. That I think was the basic fault. I remember the arguments. Ed Condon was president of the AAPT and I think on the governing board of the AIP at the time. He felt that the system AIP was developing for subscription fulfillment was much more expensive than the AAPT could afford and that the system didn't need to be as complicated as it obviously had to be in order to handle the problems. Well, the net result was that before they really got the computer system operating, the subscription fulfillment department or the John DeCaro got about nine months behind. People would send in their checks and their subscriptions, and John's group couldn't keep up with the work. They just put them in cardboard boxes in the back of the office in this building. Eventually subscription fulfillment itself was more than nine months behind in processing the subscriptions. So that meant that the subscription for the January 1st Physical Review wouldn't get processed until October and therefore there was a tremendous backlog of back numbers and all sorts of things, such that the system toppled itself. And this is what led to Elmer Hutchisson, who was Director of the institute at the time, saying that he'd better resign because the whole service aspect in the routine journal subscription fulfillment was toppling. Well, Ralph Sawyer convinced him to stay on, and computer systems did develop further and speed up. Eventually they got the Remington Rand system, which later turned out to be Sperry Rand. This was the system that the AIP used — even though it was outdated — up until probably 1988, maybe even 1989. The computer problem hasn't changed in character. It's changed in solution and hardware and in software, but the very character of the problem has not hanged.
Was this a problem that the membership themselves noted, aside from the new subscriptions?
Oh, the membership certainly. In the late 60s the membership noted it, because all of the journals were behind.
The journals themselves were coming out late?
The journals themselves. The journal would be dated May 1,st and you would get it September 15th.
So all the major journals were affected?
Oh, absolutely. It affected all of the journal subscriptions. I think the only one that was sort of kept up-to-date was Physics Today, because that was not back issued, in that it wasn't a journal of record; and therefore if they didn't keep up-to-date they didn't have a magazine.
So Physics Today was handled somewhat differently than the journals of record — the Physical Review, the Review of Modern Physics, the Journal of Mathematical Physics (RSI) [?], the Journal of Chemical Physics, namely the journals of records, which are published by the societies and the AIP. But it was really a disaster. Not only was it a disaster in the subscription fulfillment, but you see, if you don't record the checks until nine months after they come in, you're well behind in your accounting. This led the AIP, at the end of the 60s, to be as much as 18 months behind in reporting collections and expenditures to the member societies. I remember one year — I think it was '69, it may have been '70 — the APS got a shock of a $600,000 increase over the bill they expected to receive, because AIP was trying to catch up and didn't inform APS that it had hired more people to handle the APS account. It didn't bankrupt the APS, but it was a real — what do they call it in the car business — a real sticker shock when the bill came in at the end of the year. APS had reserves to cover it, but it put the APS on a ragged financial basis for a time. It actually made the administration at APS — namely at that time Quimby and myself — realize that AIP could bankrupt the APS without APS realizing it. Therefore, we at that time set up a committee to determine whether or not there should be a reserve fund for APS operations. I think Bacher, one of the former Presidents, was on this committee. He had a lot of financial experience being Provost at Cal Tech, and a policy was established at that time that APS shall strive to have a year's operating funds as reserve funds for fulfilling the regular obligations of APS to its membership. I'm not sure whether this was stimulated by APS or independently, because there was a lot of interlocking directorate at the time. But AIP also began to set up reserve funds at that particular time to take care of its current operations. And this led AIP and all of its member societies to get onto a more firm financial operational action. AAPT actually was in the red, partially as a result of their own overspending, and partially a result of the fact that they didn't know what they were spending. And AIP was doing more of the operations for AAPT — certainly than it does now. In fact it was financing practically all of the operations at AAPT. When AAPT finally got the bill it didn't have the funds to pay the bill and AIP supported AAPT for a couple of years until it could recoup its financial situation and get on a more current operative basis.
That's interesting. When did this occur?
I think it was in the late 60s and early 70s.
By what means did AAPT replenish their funds?
Well, they had to increase. Obviously they had to increase the prices of their journals and their membership fee, and they started charging for abstracts at their meetings. They put in several measures to increase their revenue. But none of the societies had a really good accounting system. Everything had been done by volunteers up until that time. For example, the annual meeting of APS and AAPT was most of the time run at Columbia University. I was chairman of the local committee. And Columbia University, directly or indirectly, picked up most of the expenses of that particular meeting. The only thing that was billed to AAPS was the extra janitorial service needed to clean up the rooms on Sunday which were normally cleaned up on Saturday. And there was overtime involved, extra janitors, things like that. So the meetings were subsidized. The journals were subsidized in different ways. For example, no one figured that the expenses of putting together a meeting were part of the meeting expenses. They were part of running the society, so they were taken into the overhead. It wasn't until actually the 80s that the APS auditing firm pointed out that we were unrealistically charging meeting expenses to general overhead; and that we should know where our money was going, and for which of the services supplied we were paying for. And we, the APS, mostly under Joe Burton, went into entirely different accounting systems. Not that it would change the dues or the operations of the society, but at least we had to know where the money was being spent. Now we know where the money is being spent. We may not be able to change it very much, but at least we know where the money is going and how it's being spent. AIP was also more accounting oriented than APS was or any of the member societies were, but it sort of led the role in getting an auditing firm to overlook their books, and to set up accounting systems which kept a record of all expenses. After all, the AIP was supposed to do services for the member societies at cost, and I never realized how many different interpretations there could be of what a cost is and to whom it should be charged until the APS and AIP began debating as to what was an actual cost for one particular service.
Was this also in the 1970s when these frictions began to appear?
Absolutely. Oh yes.
What forms did this friction take?
Gerry Gilbert of course was the central actor. Wallace Waterfall and Gerry Gilbert were the central actors in that particular phase of the AIP, but it was Gerry Gilbert who was the "detail man," shall I say. Wallace Waterfall was the supervisor and Gerry Gilbert was his assistant at the time, but it was Gerry Gilbert together with the auditing firm of Conroy Smith that sort of brought AIP accounting-wise into the modern age.
That's interesting. You mentioned the different journals that had been affected by the mailing and subscriptions. Were the very rapid journals, including the Physical Review Letters also affected?
Physical Review Letters was never published by AIP. It always came out independently, and was handled from Brookhaven and then from Ridge, and so that it did not affect Physical Review Letters. Physical Review Letters was handled independently with its own mailing list and in an entirely different way. So that was not affected. Now all of the journals of AIP were affected. And as I say, some of them were behind three or four months — not in fulfilling a subscription, but in the journal being mailed three or four months late.
Right. It is a very important problem. Were other scientific societies outside the AIP family experiencing similar problems?
Up and down, yes. For instance the IEEE was when they first put in their computing system. You'd think the actual [???], after all that's some of their specialties. They also got into the same sort of troubles AIP got into. It wasn't unique to AIP. It was almost any organization which had a subscription more complicated than a linear subscription fulfillment system.
Yes. That's a very interesting point.
Well, the problem that APS and AIP got into unsolved what should be part of the overhead and what should be direct charges. It's always a gray area, because if the director of publications is working on a particular journal at some particular time, should he then allocate his time as a direct charge to that particular journal? Or do you consider all of the time of the director of publications as part of overhead to keep the whole operations running? Bill Koch's policy was (finally) to charge as much to direct operations as he could, keeping the overhead low. And the Universities have gotten into this problem. I know that Columbia University always charged as much to direct operations as it could. On the other hand Princeton University, which had a very much higher overhead, charged a lot of things to overhead which Columbia charged to direct operations. That's always a gray area. Also how you charge it. I think it came to a real head when the computers began to get expensive. And this has nothing to do with AIP. It's suffered from some of the [???] problem, but you get into a syndrome because the Federal Government was very assiduously auditing computer expenses. You see, if you throw everything into direct operations, then the computer operations are extremely expensive. Therefore, people with modest budgets can't afford the computer, which means that it's going to be more expensive for the fewer people who use it, which means it's going to be still more expensive. You get it spiraling up there until you end up at the ultimate limit, with one user taking all of the expenses. Well, that obviously didn't work either, because then the computers weren't used very efficiently. It was the Department of Defense that said that they would pay computer expenses at an hourly rate that's charged everybody else. That precipitated this problem of how do you charge for computers.
Was this also in the 1970s?
This was in the 70s. Oh yes.
Was there a particular instance that you recall from Columbia?
Well, I recall from Columbia when the DOD put in this regulation that it would only pay what everybody else paid and the university had to set up an accounting system which charged everybody exactly the same for the computer. They began to look into computer costs and finding out exactly what had been charged to overhead and what had been charged to computer. When they ironed that out, the computer cost came out to be considerably more than anyone had ever anticipated. However, what they then had to do was set up a system where they realistically accounted for computer costs and then appropriate to each department a certain amount of computer hours. They didn't put a money value on it, but they allowed us, each department, a certain number of computer hours, and then the department was in charge of determining how much of their computer hours went to research, how much of it went to teaching, how much of it went to student problems, and how much of it went to faculty problems and so forth. In Columbia I had a couple of classes that I taught, and I was allocated a certain number of computer hours for students — per student, obviously it was — to use the general computer for a semester. I could have them do a big problem at the end of the semester, or I could have them doing a series of small problems, but the total amount of computer time had to come out the same. This really revolutionized the way computers were allocated and charged. The AIP of course had to do the same things.
It's a very interesting point that you're making. Did you have access then principally to one university-wide computer?
Well, the university had established a computer center. And we had small computers, you know, private computers within the department, but at that time central computers were so much better developed than the small computers the way they are today, that the only way you could get any elaborate calculations done was using a central computer. And therefore you had to go through the central computer center for [???]. And I remember when Columbia's computing center got saturated, I sent graduate students down to Oak Ridge or even Los Alamos to use their computers. They had more computer time and we were an AEC contract and got an access to their computers through the AEC. In fact, I had a lot of graduate students working down with the NYU computing center simply because the Columbia computing center was saturated and they couldn't get time. And that was supported by the AEC, so we had access to it.
That was quite a card to play then, the AEC access.
Oh yes. For sure.
One other matter that also occurred during the early 1970s was the Committee on the Future of the AIP.
Oh yes. That was chaired by Fred Seitz. And I was one of the APS representatives on that committee.
And this is in the mid-1970s, early 1970s?
The Committee never produced a final report which could be acted on by the AIP governing board, but as I remember it sort of culminated around 1975.
How did that all come about? What was the purpose of that Committee?
Well, it was actually Fred Seitz's foresight, along with Bill Koch’s. The whole physics community was going through a transition at that particular time, the late 60s and early 70s. Up until that time, all of the member societies were run entirely by volunteers, and they didn't have any staff to speak of. The AIP was the operating arm of the five founding member societies, and any project which took more than a volunteer effort could supply had to be run by AIP. And therefore AIP expanded. For instance, during Hutch's term as Director the History Division was founded as well as, the Manpower Statistics Division is what (as it was called; now it's got a different name). Public Information Division was formed. These were all things that were done for the member societies. In fact the placement bureau as it started out was founded by Wallace Waterfall and myself at Columbia in the early 50s, when there was a lot of graduate students coming out and there was no forum for them to look for jobs. We set up interviews at the annual meeting of the APS/AAPT at Columbia University during the late 40s and early 50s. What we found out very quickly was that you couldn't do this at a spot time, at an instant in time; you had to have a continuous operation for placement. Jobs didn't come available only in January; they came available throughout the year, and people didn't get fired only in January; they got fired throughout the year. You had to have some follow-up.
So there was some debate as to how this should be done, because the AIP was the only organization that had a continuous operating staff. This is what led to the founding of the Placement Bureau of the AIP. And it later developed into the Manpower Statistics and the [???] Reporter [???] was hired [???]. That's a very active and important division of AIP at the present time. It started at the annual meetings of APS/AAPT at Columbia University.
When you say that even in the late ‘40s, early ‘50s that there were problems for graduate students coming out looking for jobs, clearly there were far more opportunities for employment than there were in, say, the late ‘60s, ‘70s.
Oh, the early ‘70s was the bottom point of employment: '71, '72, something like that. But it wasn't so much that. There were jobs available, but the communications between the people who had jobs and the people who wanted jobs didn't exist. That's when the placement bureau was set up. And there were plenty of opportunities for people, but the real problem was getting to know where the opportunities were. Of course at the meeting all of the companies had cocktail parties and invited all the possible new PhDs they could possibly lay their hands on. And we thought, well, whether the meetings were at hotels or at Columbia, we thought we'd set up, a place where employers could register and people who wanted jobs could register, and maybe we could match 'em. We did. We quickly found out that the best way to do that was to have interviews, and they used the classrooms at Columbia for this: we set aside a few classrooms where the employer would come and interview a list of candidates who came looking for jobs. It was started very informally. Actually, as I say, Wallace Waterfall and I got together and set up the whole thing. And then it got bigger very, very rapidly, until we had to use one of the big lecture rooms, because there were so many people there. We couldn't go in a classroom that only held 20 or 30.
Right. This is still at the January meeting?
That's still the January meeting. Absolutely.
You mentioned — the Origins of the Public Information Office.
The Public Information Bureau was also started at the annual meeting. Because reporters kept looking around. By that time, physics was important. If you invented the nuclear energy, the proximity fuse, and radar, the annual meetings and Washington meetings were of interest to reporters. Reporters would come around and they would go looking for Karl Darrow and never could find him, or they couldn't find anybody to talk to them. So we designated one of the professors at Columbia to talk to reporters. Now obviously he didn't know all the physics, but he knew a lot of physicists and he knew experts in the different fields and therefore could get hold of some of his colleagues or his friends to talk to the reporters about any development in physics. Pretty soon it looked like a good idea to get some information out ahead of time about what was going to be in the meeting, and since that required a staff, AIP was the only one with a staff. And that was the start of the Public Information division of AIP. I remember Gene Collin was hired as a part-time consultant in order to head what later turned out to be the Public Information Division. He was the public relations man for Rockefeller University, but he gave part of his time to AIP in order to handle the reporters at the annual meeting. Then we used to get out sheets (which are still gotten out) about the important developments in physics so that we could have some information available to reporters when they wanted to know what was going on at the meeting. Doel: Was this in the early 1970s?
That was developed during the 60s. By the early 1970s that was fairly well developed.
Was it a sense of crisis that helped to precipitate the Committee on the Future?
Well, there were new divisions at AIP that were being created, and obviously they were implemented through and cooperatively with the societies. So once this course was set, we asked, "What is the future of AIP and how is it to develop relative to the way the physics member societies are developing?"
And you say this was coming from the inspiration of both Bill Koch and Fred Seitz?
Bill Koch and Fred Seitz. Fred Seitz had been chairman of the [???] Board. He was no longer chairman of the board. I think, as I said, I believe Ralph Sawyer was chairman at the time, although I'd have to look it up through the AIP history on that. I remember that Koch retired, and then Van Zandt Williams was Director for a year.
But he died very suddenly of a heart attack. Then Ralph Sawyer was acting director for a while before Bill Koch became Director of AIP.
Bill Koch was there in 1966, I believe.
In 1968 I think is when he first camei. From 1965 to about 1968 I think it was Van Zandt Williams, who was a short-termer and really never got settled in. I think it was either about a year or less than year that he was director, but he died very suddenly.
And Sawyer then became something of a Caretaker Director?
And then, well, Ralph Sawyer was chairman of the board and acting director. He was only a caretaker because he was Vice President of the University of Michigan and had a full-time job there. So we were very actively looking for an AIP Director. I think Bruce Lindsay was chairman of the committee, but I know I was on the search committee. I remember Fred Seitz was also active in looking for a Director of AIP. He was by that time President for the National Academy of Sciences and had lots of contacts throughout the private and the academic and industrial world. So we had participation of the most renowned physicists in the country in looking for a Director of AIP. Bill Koch was then head of the Radiation Division at the National Bureau of Standards and was convinced to come to the AIP. I know I interviewed several people as possible directors of AIP.
What qualities were you looking for in these candidate’s?
Well the qualities of the candidate were that he had to have some record of distinction in physics, because it is a physics institute. Therefore, we felt that the Director of the institute had to be a distinguished physicist. He also had to have some record of accomplishment in management of some sort, and therefore had to have managed a research project or a division, or at least been Chairman of a department or Dean or something like that. We placed the Director of AIP as sort of equivalent to one of the major Vice Presidents of one of the major universities, but not equivalent to the President of a major university. In other words, I think the President of Harvard University is a more prestigious job than Director of the American Institute of Physics.
Was there any attempt to bring in a physicist from a particular branch of physics?
Did the question of applied physics come up?
No, there was no — the idea was to take a distinguished physicist with management experience, who had demonstrated management experience, who would be interested in the job. Now there were lots of people who fulfilled the first two categories, but this is a restricted interview. I remember I interviewed Bob Sproul, who was then I think at the University of Rochester and later became President of the University of Rochester, as a possible director. And a fellow who just retired from the Chancellor at the University of Maryland, who was one of the strongest candidates. Oh, what's his name? He's just retired. Tom Langenburg [?] took over for him as Chancellor of the University of Maryland. But he was then Chairman of the Physics Department at the University of Maryland, then he became President of Stony Brook, and later he went to be Chancellor of the University of Maryland. And I should know his name, just like that.
We'll put that on the tape. Did you find the search difficult? Were there many candidates who were interested at the time in the AIP position?
Well, those people were. Bill Koch was in competition with those two people, and those were two that I remember, but I remember interviewing a lot of other people. I remember interviewing several professors from MIT who had been active in the radar program, and then a couple from Stanford. The industrial pay was so much larger than the academic pay at that time that anyone that was at the category we would want in industrial physics, we couldn't afford. So, although it would have been nice to have somebody like George Pake or Lou Granscon [?], they were being paid so much by the industrial companies. But, you know, Lou Granscon was Director of the Bureau of Standards at that time, and then went to be Vice President and Chief Scientist of IBM. It would have been nice, but all of the industrial people were in that category. I think Al Clarkston [?] for instance was Executive Director of Research at Bell Labs. Would have been a good director, but we couldn't pay as much as Bell Labs. We were pretty much confined to academics or government officials, and of course we ended up with somebody who had had experience in the Bureau of Standards.
How closely involved were you in the discussions that Seitz and Koch had about the future of AIP?
I was not intimately involved in that. Of course Bill Koch had been chairman of the local committee for the Washington meeting of the American Physical Society, and in that capacity I had a lot to do with him. Radiation Division had the neutron work, and I was on the neutron advisory committee, so I had a lot to do with them both through the APS and through my Columbia neutron work. So I knew him pretty well, and I had a lot of discussions with him about what AIP was. AIP was at that time a service organization for its member societies, and that's how it was regarded. I remember Wallace Waterfall with his famous statement, "We'll wash your Cadillacs if you'll pay us to do it." Not too many physicists had Cadillacs, but …” [laughs].
Was it your impression that Bill Koch shared that perspective at that time?
At the time, yes. AIP was regarded entirely as a service organization at that time. And it did not do anything independently of a member society. Now, I remember certain proposals. For example the one that almost bankrupted AIP was what is called the Journals Program. They had a million dollar-a-year contract with NSF to look into improving in general scientific communications to all parts of the scientific community, and the general public. And since it was a big amount (I think it was about a million dollar a year contract) they hired a lot of people. For instance Rita Lerner was hired on that program, and Arthur Herschman was also. He had been an editor of Physical Review, and he came in to work for AIP on that program. They had a very elaborate computerized bibliographic system and were developing bibliographic indexes. It was part of the overall program which was invented by Al Weinberg and the Presidential Science Advisory Committee for improving communications in science and assimilating more information. On the other hand, long about 1970 — I forget exactly when — the total amount of money for science began going down. This NSF contract was terminated in something like three months. And it cost the AIP an awful lot of money, because they weren't prepared to terminate everything within three months and had commitments to employees to go on beyond three months. So they hired a lot of the people who had been on that contract, on the AIP staff, which meant they had an over-commitment of salaries at the AIP. It was a very tough time, both technically and financially. As a result of that, Fred Seitz and Bill Koch said we'd better get our chickens in order, and determine what can be undertaken by AIP and its member societies. Therefore they set up a committee of representatives of member societies to determine what AIP should be, and what its future should be, and how it should cooperate and work with its member societies. Now the whole AIP operation was analyzed at that particular time. We had a series of meetings and wrote up different papers. There were two things: one, there were the benefits of being a member of AIP, and two, the obligations of being a member of the AIP. And I wrote up a paper where I said that since many organizations felt they would benefit from being members of AIP, they should be willing to pay to be members of AIP. I based it on the initiation fee and regular dues of any organization of this type, and felt that it was very important for an organization have some sort of an investment in AIP, then continue to support AIP and take a minimum amount of services from AIP. That never went over with the member societies. Of course APS was more dependent on AIP then than it is now, because APS had no staff. When we moved down here from Columbia University we had three on the staff, a total of three on the staff. So it was very important to work things out properly with AIP. And I certainly felt that the other member societies should be willing to commit themselves to AIP in order to collectively development services a lot more efficiently and economically than they could otherwise. I realized also that it took capital to develop these sorts of services. None of the other member societies were willing to increase their financial input to AIP. In fact, increasing the assessment to member societies from a dollar per year per member to two dollars per year per member took more than ten years to implement.
Why do you feel the other societies resisted?
Well, the whole philosophy in my opinion was incorrect. They felt that physicists were very poor, and if you increased the dues that you'd lose a lot of members. There were [???] various physical societies. Therefore they wanted to keep the dues as low as possible. Here again, it was not realistically assessing where your costs were. So I supported all along an increase in the membership dues to AIP. In fact, I proposed but not never got any support for an initial investment in AIP when the organization became a member of AIP. This would have given the AIP a kitty to develop things which it thought was of benefit to the whole physics community. But AIP could never get very much support from other member societies. It got more support from APS than any of the other member societies, both in cooperative projects and in assessed charges for of the services they provided. It had to rely for all of its programs on the income from its journals, which I think is not the way it should have gone. There was also a lot of debate about what sort of services AIP should supply its member societies and how it should charge for these. Here again APS was quite different in its attitude toward the operation of these services and founding new services and the support of these services than the other member societies. My opinion — and this is a personal opinion — was that except for APS, all of the other member societies were treating the AIP as a cash cow, and wanted to get out of it whatever they could. Whereas, APS and AIP's mutual interests were so very much entwined that APS had to support new efforts of AIP to do things for the benefit of the physics community. In fact, I was accused (I probably was guilty also) of thinking that the APS was physics, and the other member societies were rather adjuncts to physics. What was good for APS was good for AIP, but what was good for AIP was not always necessarily good for APS.
Do you remember any discussions with others at the time about this issue?
Well, I'll tell you my perception in the late 80s, when I was accused of all sorts of things for opposing the move to Washington. At that time — and I have to be careful of how I phrase this — the other member societies felt that APS was the only society which was large enough and had a sufficient staff to keep good check on AIP. And as long as APS was keeping AIP honest, they were content to go along with the expansions and new programs which APS approved of. In other words, they didn't like big brother (APS) but they felt big brother was also protecting them. On the other hand, when we got into the 80s, the other societies had grown, and had their own staffs. They then felt that APS was trying to dominate AIP. My own opinion was that APS's attitude hadn't changed at all; it was the other societies’ attitudes that had changed. Whereas previously they had to be dependent for almost all of their operations for outside organizations, they now could do some of it themselves, and wanted to be more independent of AIP. So we had an entirely different view in the 70s compared to the 80s, and the attitude of the member societies to AIP changed. For instance, I can't see why the American Geophysical Union joined AIP, because it has no services from the AIP; it does everything independently. Therefore I must conclude that it joined not for the benefit of the collective group, but for the benefit of the AGU. So they are looking to get out of AIP whatever they can without worrying about putting anything into AIP. And I don't think that AIP can survive on that.
Do you remember any discussions about the applications of any other physics-based societies that joined AIP during this period — the Vacuum Society for instance?
Very definitely. I recall the application of the Vacuum Society to join. In fact, when it first applied to join it was turned down.
Was this prior to the early 1970s?
Well, I'm not sure exactly. I don't remember exactly when it was. But I remember they came in with an application from the Vacuum Society, and what we did was to look at the membership list of the Vacuum Society to find out how much it overlapped with the members of all of the other member societies, and what the credentials of most of the members of the vacuum society were. Almost the entire membership was technicians — in other words, people who hadn't progressed beyond the B.S. degree. Maybe we are elitist, but that wasn't the composition about most of the other member societies, and we concluded that most of the members of the American Vacuum Society weren't physicists. They were technicians; they were not interested in physics, and therefore weren't appropriate members of the AIP.
Continuing on about the Vacuum Society, it was very, very strange then (I guess is the best word), to find that because the surface physicists were dissatisfied with their treatment by APS, or the Division of Condensed Matter Physics, that they then joined the Vacuum Society. They were led by Charlie Duke from Xerox. Thus, by the time they applied again to be members of AIP, at least 15 to 20 percent of the members of the Vacuum Society were also members of the American Physical Society and some of the other societies. So when there were so many physicists in the Vacuum Society, the governing board concluded that the Vacuum Society was really interested in physics, and accepted them as a regular member of AIP.
In my opinion it was one of the break-off societies of APS. If more of the people in what was then the solid-state physics division had been interested in surface physics, then we would have had a different division of surface physics, which was most of the people like Charlie Duke and the people who are interested in surfaces would have been another division in the APS rather than a separate society.
What sort of person was Charlie Duke?
Very dynamic and able and was a good physicist, a good manager. I liked him; I had a great respect for him. I didn't like what he did, but I could see why he did it. I pointed out to the officers of the solid-state division that if they didn't give more attention to surface physics they were going to break off — which they did — but most of them were interested in the structure of solids rather than in surfaces, and consequently they did break off. You see the whole physics of surfaces changed almost completely when high vacuum — by high vacuum I mean 10-10 to 10-11 torr — came into effect. People realized that they had never been studying pure surfaces; they had been studying the surfaces of oxides or nitrides or some sort of a chemical combination. You never study an aluminum surface out in the air because it immediately forms an aluminum oxide. Well, that happens to some extent in almost all materials. Up until very high vacuum techniques were invented no one had ever looked at a pure surface. Therefore the whole field of surface physics changed when the technique of looking at things at high vacuum was developed. You couldn't do most of the things you do now like optical coating, or study [???] deal with [???] the surfaces that they have in the micro-electronics with the knowledge we had of those things in the 60s.
That's interesting. You said a moment ago that one role you took on was to actively attempt to convince the people to become familiar with this work?
In putting together the March meeting, I independently arranged some sessions on surface physics.
But it didn't work.
Did you find yourself playing that role often in other divisions?
Well, not very often. I didn't know enough to. I mean, I didn't all the physics, and I still don't know all the physics. At that time I knew nuclear and particle physics fairly well. Now I guess I don't know any of the fields very well. I've gotten to the point where I've been a generalist so long that I know nothing about everything.
What was the outcome of the committee in the 1970s on the future of AIP?
Well, finally all they did was just collect together the sets of reports that had been written, like mine on joining AIP, and what members should be, and gave them to the governing board. And then what Dick Crane did was to take all of these reports and try to distill some general conclusions from this report. He did finally submit a report to the governing board, which was received by the governing board. Now all it means if I “received” is exactly that. We never took any action on it. As far as I can determine, that committee did nothing but sow seeds of dissention throughout.
In what way?
Well, people recognized that they had different ideas about what the AIP was and what its role should be.
Was it a disappointment to you that nothing further happened?
It was a great disappointment to me. For example, I knew all along that there were two things that could happen. APS could absorb AIP, or AIP could absorb APS. I always felt that it would be undesirable to have two competing organizations in the physics community, because you had to have a hierarchy at both ends, and that's expensive. That may not be true anymore. When I joined the Physical Society there were 3000 members, and now there are 42,000 members; the whole circumstances are different now. But I still feel that there should be a very strong coordination between the physical societies and that can be done through AIP. Therefore AIP should have a role of coordination and not competition with member societies. And I think certainly since Ken Ford has been Director, there has been more emphasis on the competition with member societies than on the cooperation of member societies.
This is since 1987?
When Ford became AIP Director. When you look back on it, do you recall any particular discussions with Bill Koch on this point in the 1970s?
Oh, I certainly had lots of discussions with Bill Koch. At that time I think Bill Koch still looked at the AIP as a service organization to member societies. It wasn't until the IRS began examining the AIP that that attitude changed. When the IRS decision finally came out that AIP was granted its 501C (3) status on the basis of its own charitable works (which required it to do its own charitable works) that Bill Koch took the attitude that AIP was an independent organization with its own charitable works, and therefore could do whatever it wanted to for the benefit of physics. This is where, in my opinion, the competition began. Because if you look at the objectives of both the APS and the AIP they're both about the same, so it isn't surprising that they should try to do the same things to accomplish the same purposes. I think that's where the basic difficulty is.
That's a very interesting point a legal decision based on a tax code played a strong role in shaping the missions of both organizations.
Oh, I think that played a crucial role in the change in attitude. I didn't realize it at the time, but I subsequently have realized this.
And it was also around that time, in 1973, when there was retrenchment in the physics community?
There was a definite retrenchment. I'm not sure of the figures, but I think the maximum number of Ph.D.s, produced a year was either in 1971 or 1972. It was up around 1,800. And I think by the early 1980s that I'd dropped to about 900 a year. It's gone up now; I think it's around 1,100 and maybe up to 1,200 in 1990, say. But there was a real retrenchment in the number of Ph.D.s produced in physics, and this was only a reflection of the number of jobs that were available, and the amount of money available to the whole physics community. In the 1960s the money for physics had been going up exponentially. Well, you can't continue an exponential, no matter what you do, so it had to level off. But it leveled off rather rapidly in 1970, and physics suffered very badly — because there were Ph.D.s that were pumping gas in 1971 and '72.
Right. And within AIP there was also retrenchment?
Well, they got this cutoff of the NSF contract for a million dollars a year, and they had to absorb some fraction of that. They didn't have the money to take on any additional programs at that time. So things were very, very tight. And I remember Bill Koch, being a government employee, never looked at the prosperity of the community. I remember saying to him that the AIP can't be prosperous unless the physics community is prosperous — because the AIP, APS, and all of the physics societies depend on being prosperous for the prosperity of their individual members.
Do you feel that was a point that was difficult for him to recognize?
It was absolutely difficult. I learned a long time ago that the government — the administrators and the government of physics programs — never have an increase. Bill Koch was probably one of the worst offenders on this. They come in each year with a program which is very much expanded over the program they operated the previous year. Therefore if they don't get the program they propose; they're getting a cut — even though their budget is up 15 percent. Let's take the 1967 or the 1966 budget. They still got a cut, because they had proposed a 25 percent increase in budget. Bill Koch certainly had that attitude. I knew about him from my experience with him in the National Bureau of Standards. I gave a set of lectures down at the Bureau of Standards on neutron standardization. Bill Koch came in with a proposal for the Bureau of Standards to have every accelerator that had ever been thought of, and including a competition [???] that later turned out to be Fermilab. He wasn't shooting at the hundred million dollar mark; he was shooting at the billion dollar mark for expansion in the Radiation Division of the National Bureau of Standards. But that isn't characteristic of only Bill Koch; that was characteristic of almost every government science administrator.
But, as you say, the reality was retrenchment?
No. It wasn't really, if you look at it. I don't know whether or not the actual total amount of money ever went down, but it certainly stopped expanding at the rate it had been expanding. People in let's say in 1988, counted on the situation continuing as it was, where they could expand. They made commitments on the basis of assumptions that they would expand, and then they didn't expand. They had to retrench on these commitments.
In 1973, for example, there was debate over which programs needed to get cut from AIP. The history center was slated to be cut.
Was there a broad discussion in that instance, the range of activities the AIP ought to be doing? I'm curious about the broader context.
Yes, there was. In fact I was misquoted by Bill Koch on that in saying that I was opposed to and wanted to cut out the history program. The answer is, I did introduce a motion at the executive board when there was a real retrenchment, that we could not afford to continue to support the History Program. On the other hand, Gerry Holton from Harvard, was chairman of the Committee on the History Program at the time. There was a storm and he couldn't get the shuttle here on time, but he came in the afternoon and convinced the Executive Committee that the History Program was an important program to sustain at a minimum level. So we voted to sustain it at a minimum level that we could possible afford. But, the fellow who later went to MIT, who was he?
Charlie Weiner had plans for the History Division to be more than all the rest of the AIP, and this I felt we couldn't support at all. Soon after that he left because it wasn't going to expand the way he thought it should expand. His plans were that the History Division would be 90 percent of the AIP, and the rest would be publishing, published information, things like that. The problem was that Ralph Sawyer and Fred Seitz both went around seeing if they could raise money independently for the History of Physics division to support it. In fact there was a brochure that was developed to solicit support. They found that it was sort of a betwixt and between; it wasn't science, it wasn't history, it wasn't regarded science by scientists, it wasn't regarded history by historians. Therefore you couldn't get support for this history of science as a specialty. It's developed more recently than it had in the 60s and 70s, but when they tried to get support for it, they really were very unsuccessful. They felt very depressed that they couldn't get support for this, what they regarded and I regard also as a very important division of AIP — one that is collectively done better than by the individual societies.
That's an interesting point. I'm curious also about Goudsmit. Goudsmit had retired from the Physical Review I believe in 1974?
Did that seem the end of an era to you, or was there continuity in the transition?
Well, it sort of was an end of an era. I think it was Ed Condon that called Sam Goudsmit the "Czar of Physics Publications." Sam was an independent operator, and he had come from a family which had developed small businesses. He ran the APS publications like a small family business. Everybody knew it couldn't continue that way; it was grown much too large. And as long as Sam was there, nobody was going to change it. I remember Sam was very bitter about leaving the editor-in-chief, and called it statutory senility. He had been relegated to statutory senility. He moved away from Brookhaven and moved out to Reno, and he became sort of a mentor out there of the Desert Institute. But he was very, very bitter about giving up the editor-in-chief job. It was certainly the end of an era. Just like I think Young was supposed to be the last all-around physicist who knew everything — the Young’s and Young fringes. Nobody could even read an entire Physical Review by that time, much less be an expert in all parts of physics.
What changes occurred after Goudsmit left?
Well, we didn't have any editor-in-chief for a while. We had a Managing Editor and Chalmers Fraser was the Managing Editor. I think Joe Winnasa [?] was the head of the physics department at [???] and Chalmers was the Deputy Director: and he was also Managing Editor of the Physical Review. We quickly found out that we needed somebody who was a distinguished physicist to reject papers. In fact Sam Goudsmit characterized his job as writing friendly answers to unfriendly letters. When a distinguished physicist submits a paper and it's rejected by an undistinguished physicist, he feels that he didn't get proper treatment. On the other hand, even though the distinguished physicist hadn't read it and took the opinion of the undistinguished physicist and the distinguished physicist rejected it, he feels a lot better. So it had to do purely with, shall I say, pecking order and egos and things like that. But the person who was in charge of rejecting papers. If you accept papers, you have no problem, but the person who is in charge of rejecting papers had to be a distinguished physicist. And at that time it was found necessary to re-create the job of Editor-in-Chief. It had to be a person who had an excellent publication record and had contributed to the science and could be equivalent to the people whose papers had to be rejected. Now, I don't know, is anybody the equivalent of Murray Gell-Mann or Eugene Wigner or Hans Bethe. But those aren't the people you have problems with. [chuckles]
Yes. One other event that occurred in 1975 was the proposal to establish an institute for theoretical physics. I wonder if you recall any of the debate about that. The NSF was indicated as the likely patron.
Oh, well, yes Jim Krumhansl was heavily involved in that. He later became director of physics and mathematics programs, assistant director it was, at the NSF. And yes, there was a lot of debate about having an independent theoretical institute. In part the debate was whether or not you should have applied physics separate from pure physics. And there was one contingent that felt that having an independent theoretical institute was undesirable because the theorists would go off into the wild blue yonder and not really be connected with reality. It was only experiment that got them connected with reality, and limited the theories that they could speculate about. If you had all speculators, and nothing to bring them back to the ground, they would go off without being really connected. There was a group also that heavily favored the theoretical institute because you could then have the theorists interacting with one another with the same attitude, rather than with the experimentalist (who are always skeptical of theorists), and could bring the collective wisdom to bear on any new theory, and really whip it into shape where it'll be more useful. It was only proposed by one individual who could only do a limited exploration of what benefit the theory would be. Well obviously those people who were in favor of having a theoretical institute won out. It was created. It wasn't the panacea that the theorists thought it might have been; it wasn't the debacle that the experimentalists thought it might be. It's valuable, I think it works, it works reasonably well, I think it is an [???] for physics, but it certainly is no panacea. I think at any university you have to have both theorists and experimentalists, because the students have to get the idea that it's the theorists that run everything, or the experimentalists that run everything. There has to be (and I think we've definitely proven over the years), an interchange between the two groups. That really enables you to make real progress.
Yes. It's one of the themes that you mentioned in an earlier interview.
I'm wondering who seemed to be, in your opinion, the protagonists and opponents in debates over whether to establish the institute? Does anyone stand out in your mind?
Well, obviously Jim Krumhansl and Bob — the fella from conductivity. Bob Schafer, not Schafer — Schafer's in Argonne, that's [???] physics. No, wait a minute, no Bob — yeah. I think it was Bob Schafer. Isn't he Director or just resigned as Director of the Theoretical Institute?
It could be. I'll check.
Well anyway, the original three on superconductivity were Bardeen, Cooper and Schafer. Yeah, I think it's Schafer. I'm getting mixed up now.
We'll check on that.
There's a nuclear physicist at Argonne which I think is Schafer. But anyway, Bob, who was a Nobel Prize winner, together with John Bardeen and Leon Cooper for the superconductivity work, favored it. But one of their main proponents was a fella by the name of Flynn, who is a distinguished solid-state theorist as well. In fact, many of the theorists are strong proponents of the theoretical institute. Ernie Hanley has just had a theoretical institute for nuclear physics created in the University of Washington. So I must admit that I learned an awful lot from the theorists when I spent a year in Copenhagen at the Bohr Institute.
What view did you have about establishing the Theoretical Institute?
Well, my own opinion was that it would be much better to have a Theoretical Institute at a place where there was an awful lot of experimental work going on, than to have a theoretical institute all isolated by itself. However, that situation has changed, because communications are so much better these days than they were 30 or 40 years ago. I mean, I think nothing now of picking up the telephone and calling someone at Stanford, whereas 30 years ago a long distance telephone call was something that you thought four or five times about before you really had to make it. Communications have much improved. And also you have all sorts of newsletters and electronic communications, so that the technology has changed the situation. As I've said before, if any discovery is made at CERN, the people at Stanford know it the next day. Your communications is now so excellent that you don't have isolation of the theorists from the experimentalists, no matter where they are. Although I must admit that informal discussion over lunchtime can be very, very productive.
Yes. That's certainly missed if you're isolated for a long time. There was also by 1977 an APS Industrial Postdoctoral Fellowship Program?
Oh yes. That was started in that time because we felt very strongly that the graduate student… it was not postdoc.
For graduate students?
For graduate students, yes. We don't have a postdoc position. In fact Sid Milmand [?] was very active in starting that and following up on it. Because, after all, students are taught by academics, and therefore they have no real understanding of what goes on in an industrial research laboratory. And it was felt very important to show students in some way that in many cases an applied physics career was just as rewarding and productive as a pure physics career. Of course if you're in a university, you're very much biased toward pure physics over practical physics, because that's where your bread and butter is and that's what you're doing. We have not had enough industrial physicists in offices of APS for other reasons. We felt that it was very, very necessary to get students acquainted with industrial research and started this program. I think it was very successful, for a while. On the other hand, as academic jobs dried up, the necessity for it became less and less, because that's where the jobs were. Students are very perceptive and able, and therefore they find out about the programs. But when the academic establishment was expanding so rapidly, there was very little opportunity for students to find out about industrial jobs, and they didn't. And in fact many of the professors had a very elitist attitude that going into industrial research was prostituting your profession. That attitude rubbed off into the students and was very detrimental to industrial research.
We've mentioned this briefly in one of the earlier interviews, but in 1978 you received the appointment as Professor in Engineering Science.
Applied Physics and Nuclear Engineering, right.
Yes. Was there anything else that you wanted to add to our earlier discussion about your role in this division?
Well actually I had been in that role for a long period of time before 1978.
Although I was formally in the physics department until 1978, I was really more than half in the engineering school, in the applied parts of physics, than I was in the pure parts of physics.
And the reason why it occurred in 1978 is because they formally established in the engineering school a department of applied physics and nuclear engineering. I had proposed that department first in 1967, but it didn't materialize until 1978.
What made it possible to do this in '78?
We got a new dean. Pierre Lichens became Dean of the Engineering School and he pushed it through. Dunning in his prime could have pushed it through, but by the time I proposed that, Dunning was not as influential in the administration. That was, you know, just about the time of the Columbia riots when everything was “in flux”. Certainly all of the Administrations of all the Universities throughout the country were in turmoil. Columbia had just realized it had lost $80 million during the previous five years from its endowment, and anything new proposed in '68, no matter what it was, could not have happened. As far as my proposal was concerned, I just dropped it. Timing.
Yes. Do you have any regrets at all, moving out of the physics department? Did it seem significant to you?
No, it was insignificant to me. By that time I was well established in this job, whereas as Executive Secretary in the APS I had much more connections with physics than most of the Professors at Columbia. I do think I had more. I think the only one that had any more connections with physics than I did was Rabi for different reasons. But I felt that I was much more acquainted and knowledgeable about the physics community than any other professor at Columbia than Rabi. So that it had very little effect on my role in physics.
Right. It's good to have that on record.
And I still feel that applied physics is underrated by the physics community.
That's right. Absolutely, but it's different in different parts of the physics community, because it certainly is underrated by the particle and field physicists — because they're all pretty pure and academic. On the other hand, the condensed matter physicists are a large fraction industrial, and they think very highly of applied physics. So it's different within various parts of the physics community.
But the point would be that these different factions have grown strong within the physics community?
Yes, so that there's more turmoil in the physics community because of that. For instance, look at the solid-state physicists coming out against the SSC. Then the particle physicists are saying that, you know, solid-state physics really isn't physics, we're doing the real physics. [chuckles]
There was an article in Physics Today not that many years ago by Wilson about the unity of physics.
Yes, oh absolutely. Well, that was part of the reason for it.
Did you attempt even in more contemporary times, in the 1980s, to try to form another common voice for physics? Or did you find in your own opinion that that was no longer possible?
Well, it's very, very difficult to determine whether we've had any effect on that or not. The latest effort of the APS involves the physics planning community, which is still operable. It was established as an experiment because Eric Bloch, who was at that time Director of the NSF, said that the separate specialties had to get together to establish priorities, or they would be established for them by the Congress. That is what has happened. I concluded at that time that APS could never be an organization which established priorities. The funding agencies can establish priorities because they've got the money. The Physical Society itself is a membership organization which has all types of physicists from a to z, and therefore can't establish a set of priorities in detailed order. And this comes about from my experience at being chairman of the nuclear cross-section group, where we established a set of priorities, and then the political forces take over and completely reverse the set of priorities. This happened when Glenn Seaborg, Gerry Reasoner [?] and I met to establish the priorities of accelerators which went from the President and from the Atomic Energy Commission. By the time Congress got through with it, their priority order had just reversed. So what my experience is, the minute you say something is low priority, it's immediately canceled out because it isn't high priority. Therefore everything has to be high priority if it's going to compete. The role of the Physical Society in this is to give enough good information to alter the system so that the funding agencies can make a decision on their own as to what they think the priorities should be. I attempted to do that in the March 1985 issue of Physics Today. Although it doesn't appear that way, I put that issue together, the whole thing. Officially I only had a little role in it, because it was much better for Millie Dresslehaus and Chuck Hebo [?], who were very important actors in the whole thing, to sign the introduction and the editorial, than it was for me as Executive Secretary of APS to put that together. But that's the sort of thing I thought. There's an article in this issue about the SSC, about the light sources, and about all of the major, the high flux reactor, all of the major physical facilities which were considered at that time. And there was also an article on small science as well, and how it competes with big science. I thought the role of the APS was to get information out on the various subdivisions of physics. Now my own position on the SSC is that I think it is the forefront of physics, but I don't think it's something which is absolutely essential to produce tomorrow. In other words, I wouldn't give it the highest priority, as you might say, a Patriot missile system in a war where you're saving lives. It's not that sort of a priority. And it has certainly different priorities than an X-ray light source. You can't compare apples and oranges. It has a certain role which can't be fulfilled by any other major facility, because they have different purposes. And it is not a scientific decision to decide what the priorities of the country should be. That's a political decision. Therefore whether you fund the SSC and how much you fund the space station, or whether you should take money from the space station for the SSC or vice versa, is not a scientific decision; they have entirely different roles to play. And so it's the values the nation places on pure science and prestige and cutting edge, if you want to use that trite expression, versus the practical applications you can get out. I have a list in my bag of what the NASA says are the practical applications of the space station. They encompass all the physics. The SSC has also claimed credit for going to higher energy and thus improving everything that's ever been done in physics, but neither is correct. I mean, superconductivity didn't come out of the SSC, although they gain credit for doing the SSC. I can't find that list. Oh, here it is. There's the list of the congressional record of the spin-offs from the space program, and they encompass all of physics. [laughs]
Yes. For the record, you’re referring to an item you received July the 23rd of this year.
That's right. That's correct.
It's very interesting.
You can't set priorities for major investments like the ASC [?], which is estimated how at $8.3 billion, but my bet is it'll end up more than $12 billion, if it ever gets finished. Or consider the SSC versus the space station, which originally started out at $8 billion and is now estimated at $40 billion.
There has to be more than just technical input to make a decision on that basis. Kennedy made a decision on going to the moon, and there were a lot of spinoffs from the moon program. I think probably a lot of the microcomputers were spinoffs from the moon program, but you can't prove that; it may have occurred anyway. But it was, as I think I said it at a previous interview, the most expensive television production that has ever been produced.
Did you find though that, in discussions with others, or even in your own experience, that drawing this distinction was in practice difficult? Was it difficult, in other words, to simply evaluate these projects on their technical merits, and disseminate information about them?
Oh, I found that very difficult. I remember that the article on the SSC was written by Leon Lederman and Shelly Glashow, and their article almost claims this full list of accomplishments I just mentioned, for the SSC. But everyone that you can get to write an article on a particular development has to be enthusiastic about that particular development. So what you have to accept is that any article that you're going to get written on one of these programs is going to be a heavily biased article in favor of that particular development. About the only thing you can do is try to get a whole set of them, each one being an advocate of that particular development. Maybe reading all of them you'll get some sort of a balanced view. If you only read the SSC article, you'll find that the SSC is the panacea for all situations. It isn't; nor is the X-ray light source panacea for it. They have different ways of going.
And Physics Today seemed to you, as well as other members of the council, to be an appropriate forum for debating these issues.
Absolutely. And the March 1985 issue was my attempt to get the information of all the major developments at that time. Now obviously it's changed, from 1985 to 1991. But that didn't have any effect whatsoever. I was really kind of disappointed that it didn't stimulate a lot more debate among the physicists. I arranged sessions at APS meetings where I had the SSC presented at an evening session at the Condensed Matter meeting. Well, I must admit that that was a disaster, because the people who made the presentation for the SSC were so imbued with the specialties in their subject that they were talking a language which was quite different than was understood by the condensed matter physicists. And it was a specialists meeting rather than a pedagogical meeting. On the other hand, you know, the enthusiasts are specialists, and they have to be. Anyway, those didn't work very well either. In fact they were counterproductive in some ways, because some of the high-energy physicists claimed credit for the development of superconducting magnets. To tell that to a group of people who have developed the superconducting magnets was certainly not very politically knowledgeable. But that's what happened. So I did not succeed in getting a wide debate going on the basis of the benefits and liabilities of the major installations. It still remained a provincial point of view.
That's very interesting.
Now the PPC is still meeting, and I don't know, there are two opposite views in what the PPC should do. There's the group who believe that the PPC should say okay for physics. Accelerator 1 should be priority 1, accelerator 3 should be priority 2, accelerator 4 should be priority 12, and make a real list of accelerators. All that's going to do is cut off the bottom. You know, you can't compare apples and oranges and come out with the right answer.
Do you remember any discussions with any other physicists in particular over that issue?
Oh sure. Lots of them. In fact, there's a very excellent paper by, I think, Penrose. He was president to the British Physical Society at the time. I circulated it to the council. It’s not about priorities but about methods for setting priorities, which I urged the APS to adopt. But the APS, established the PPC rather than adopt the principles of how you set priorities. Not setting the priorities, but how you go about setting priorities.
Did you have any direct discussions with Penrose?
I did a couple of times, yes, when he was over here. But the paper he wrote as a retiring presidential address was very, very thoughtful and very well done.
Was there grounds in your opinion to compare the funding systems for physics in Britain to the United States?
No, it wasn't the funding systems.
It was the means of making the evaluation per se.
It was how did you go about setting priorities. He had in there the perception of national prestige (which may be somewhat different than your actual national prestige) the spinoffs, the practical applications, the education of students. He was a very thoughtful paper about all of the things which investing in science did and how you should set priorities at any particular time. Now, the priorities from 1942 to 1945 were quite different than the priorities from 1965 to 1985 — and they should have been quite different.
I mean, when I was working on the Manhattan Project, the important thing was to get a bomb. That was the [???] and to end World War II. Most of the people that I knew anyway felt that if we did get the bomb, it would end World War II. Whether it did or not is subject to debate. When they dropped the atomic bomb, World War II ended.
There are quite a few questions we haven't covered yet from the 1980s. We're rapidly approaching lunchtime. I wonder if we should save those for a final interview.
Okay, fine. You said that this would be the last interview.
But you ended up having much to say. Let me thank you for this session.
 Hutchisson served from 1957-1964; Koch served from 1966 to 1987. R.E.D.