Robert Terhune

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ORAL HISTORIES
Interviewed by
Michael Field Wolff
Location
Ann Arbor, Michigan
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This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.

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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:

Interview of Robert Terhune by Michael Field Wolff on 1978 October 29, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/31928

For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location. 

This interview covers Terhune's life and career through 1978. Starting with his Detroit, Michigan youth, it goes on to his World War II Naval training, graduate school years at the University of Michigan, where he also directed work in computers, infrared componentry and ruby maser applications at the Willow Run Laboratories, and his subsequent career as a manager/physicist at Ford Motor Company, where he led a pioneering research group in non-linear optics. The tensions of working in a military-sponsored university laboratory are discussed, as are those that exist between research and management in a large auto company.

Transcript

Wolff:

This is Michael Wolff interviewing Dr. Robert Terhune on October 29, 1978, in the family room of his home in Ann Arbor on Chalmers Drive. I would like to start with how you got into physics, and then we can go into your industrial career. I know that you were born on February 7, 1926, but I don't know where and I don't know anything about your family, so I'd like to start off by asking you, who were your parents and what did they do?

Terhune:

My mother was — well, both my mother and father worked at all times. They were divorced when I was around four. My mother worked as an office worker in a steel company and a dairy, book-keeper, tasks like that. My father was a salesman type, going from job to job, establishing businesses, going bankrupt every so many years.

Wolff:

Sounds like an editor.

Terhune:

No, there was always a pot of gold, so he moved to the next job. If he was successful, he got unhappy, and there was always something better on the horizon.

Wolff:

What sort of salesman was he?

Terhune:

Most of his career was actually selling appliances. He did work for Sears Roebuck in commercial sales, selling gloves, apparel for use in factories. He sold, for instance, wholesale appliances. I remember in World War II, he sold the appliances used over here in Pittsfield Village, for the whole village, that sort of thing. But he moved on to greener pastures.

Wolff:

What sort of education did they have?

Terhune:

Both high school.

Wolff:

Meaning, neither went to college?

Terhune:

Neither one went on to college. Nothing beyond high school. I had a step-father too, by the way. My mother remarried when I was about ten, and he was a delivery man, a milk man, and delivered linen for the rest of his career.

Wolff:

I see. Where?

Terhune:

In central Detroit, where I was raised.

Wolff:

Did you have brothers and sisters?

Terhune:

One brother.

Wolff:

Was he older or?

Terhune:

One brother, 16 months older. He works for Michigan Tractor now. He went to college, business administration major.

Wolff:

I see. And your step-father, he was not a college graduate?

Terhune:

No, In fact, I'm not sure whether he finished high school. I'm not sure of his education,

Wolff:

What sort of preparation do you think your early home life gave you for a scientific career, if any?

Terhune:

Well, my early home life wasn't that smooth. I guess I’ve been independent since I was 11 years old. Primarily I’ve earned my allowance, clothing, everything since I was 11.

Wolff:

Living with your mother and step-father in Detroit, but earning all your spending money?

Terhune:

Right. And by the time I was 12, I was earning all my clothing money and became totally independent.

Wolff:

Was this out of a real financial need or just a desire to be independent?

Terhune:

Probably a desire, not a real — it certainly helps. We didn't have much money. It was Depression times. But I certainly wouldn't have starved and I certainly would have had clothes.

Wolff:

What sorts of jobs did you have?

Terhune:

Oh, I started out with newspapers, which is the usual one, worked up to about 250 customers, and then switched over to working in a meat market, and various jobs of that type.

Wolff:

You were going to high school all that time?

Terhune:

I graduated from high school when I was just 16.

Wolff:

Does that mean you skipped a year somewhere?

Terhune:

A year and a half, actually.

Wolff:

Is that because your school work was very good or you were older?

Terhune:

No, my 1st through 8th grade I went to a parochial school, and my schoolwork was very good, but they had the need to only have one classroom per grade, so — I think that’s what happened — because, they had one — plus rooms in the 7th grade and empty slots in the 8th, they just moved a few of us up into the 8th grade and then at the end of the year they promoted us to the 9th.

Wolff:

What denomination parochial school?

Terhune:

Catholic.

Wolff:

Your family was a religious family?

Terhune:

No, not at all. My mother was Polish Catholic, but since she was divorced, she was out of the church. She sent us to Catholic school. I never liked it. Primarily because the people teaching refused to answer questions.

Wolff:

What kinds of questions?

Terhune:

Anything that had to do with religion. You'd ask why? or something like that, and they’d slap you down and say, “That’s what it says in the catechism.” Nobody would talk to you in those days. I don’t think the modern Catholic Church is like that, but that’s the way it was in those days. And I was turned off. I went to church as little as possible after the 1st grade.

Wolff:

Why did your mother send you to the parochial school?

Terhune:

Because she was brought up Catholic.

Wolff:

Then it wasn't a situation where that was the best in the area?

Terhune:

No. No.

Wolff:

Then after parochial school, you went to what kind of high school?

Terhune:

Junior high, and high in Northwestern High School in Detroit.

Wolff:

That's a public high school.

Terhune:

That’s a very large public school. I think it was a very good school at the time. It was more like a college in many ways, in terms of the way you elected classes and so on. I used to elect classes and be out of school by noon, 1 o’clock at the latest, and I would take a very heavy academic program just out of interest. But I’d be out of school by 1, and off doing what I wanted to do, working and so on.

Wolff:

Was there any special emphasis on science at the school?

Terhune:

No. No. Just on basics. Math was for the full term. They did have chemistry. I was totally disinterested. That's sort of interesting, I was totally disinterested by my senior year, in going to school. Only got there about two thirds of the time. Took physics that year. When I come to think of it, I’m not sure why, whether he was trying to keep me busy or what, but the physics teacher appointed me to be the one to go around doing all the demonstrations around the school.

Wolff:

And you don’t know why he would have done that?

Terhune:

No. I most certainly wasn’t around enough to — I mean, I enjoyed it, but it was just another math type of thing.

Wolff:

Well, did you have particularly good grades to call yourself to his attention?

Terhune:

Yes. I had very good grades.

Wolff:

In the physics course?

Terhune:

In everything.

Wolff:

And your first exposure to physics was in this senior course?

Terhune:

That's right.

Wolff:

Did you do any science or experimenting on your own at home or inventing, as a kid?

Terhune:

Absolutely none. Nothing.

Wolff:

Did you read a lot?

Terhune:

Not technical. I think I read a fair amount, but not technical reading.

Wolff:

Let’s talk about college. When did you think you would go to college? Or had you always planned on it?

Terhune:

No. We were headed for California right after I graduated from high school, and the car broke down.

Wolff:

You mean, the family was —?

Terhune:

No, no, a friend of mine and I were heading for California, and the car broke down. So I decided, “Well, since I’m here I might as well go to Wayne for the year, go to college.”

Wolff:

Wait a minute — why were you going to go to California?

Terhune:

Just to do something. Just to do anything, to get out. To have fun.

Wolff:

And you got as far as Wayne?

Terhune:

No, we didn’t get as far. We had the whole trip planned. We were all set to take off, and the car broke down. And we didn’t have the money to fix the car. I said, “Well, might as well go to school.” So that’s how I got into college.

Wolff:

And you said Wayne?

Terhune:

Yes, that was in Detroit, you see. That’s where I lived. I lived near downtown Detroit. I’d had offers of scholarships but I turned those down.

Wolff:

You had made application to colleges?

Terhune:

No.

Wolff:

But after the car broke down, you then applied.

Terhune:

Oh yes — but there was no problem getting in, I just went down and got into Wayne.

Wolff:

But I’m asking about the scholarship offers.

Terhune:

Oh, that was before. They'd just offered them to me, in school.

Wolff:

Without your having applied?

Terhune:

Without my having applied.

Wolff:

What year was this?

Terhune:

That would be 1942. I was 16. Yes, ‘42.

Wolff:

So, 1942 finds you at age 16 enrolling in Wayne University in Detroit. What did you study?

Terhune:

I enrolled as a math major. See, I had to work full time too to support my way, so I had to pay for everything myself. So I carried a full time job, well, several jobs, but the primary one was working as a bell hop. I went there for one semester.

Wolff:

Why did you decide to major in math?

Terhune:

Easiest.

Wolff:

So I gather your high school math came easy to you.

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

Well, had you any career goal in mind?

Terhune:

None.

Wolff:

No career goal. All right, so you studied math there for a year and then?

Terhune:

Then I went in the Navy. See, I turned 17 in February of the next year, ‘43.

Wolff:

Wait, I've got you here, “University of Michigan, ‘43.”

Terhune:

That's right. I came in July of ‘43, you see. See, I graduated from –

Wolff:

— you took the year at Wayne —

Terhune:

‘42 to ‘43. That was from September ‘42 to June of ‘43. Then I started at University of Michigan in July of ‘43, in the Navy program.

Wolff:

Oh, that’s how I got mixed up. You said “in the Navy.”

Terhune:

No, no, I meant, in the Navy V-12 program.

Wolff:

What was the Navy V-12 program?

Terhune:

Well, that’s an officers’ training program, where they sent people to college so they’d have a continued supply of officers for the Navy during the war.

Wolff:

Now, why did you decide to switch to Michigan?

Terhune:

Oh, I didn't decide. I decided to go in the Navy. I took the examination program for this. I don’t know why I decided to take it, but I did take it, and from then on, of course my education was paid for by the Navy.

Wolff:

Let me be sure I understand this. At the end of your one year at Wayne, you decided —

Terhune:

— no, in the middle of my second semester, I took the test. Wolff': You had decided, you didn't want to continue at Wayne but wanted to go into the Navy, is that it?

Terhune:

Well, I knew I was going into the service some place, because everybody was being drafted, and I’d just turned 17. I had a whole year — I could have stayed out for another year — They didn’t draft you till you were 18. But I took the tests, and they offered me an opening in the V-12 program and I took it.

Wolff:

I see. So it wasn’t a decision to go study at the University of Michigan, but —

Terhune:

— as a matter of fact, it was exactly the opposite. They said they wanted engineers, so I put down “engineer.” And when I got to Michigan, I enrolled as a math major.

Wolff:

Wait a minute, who said they wanted engineers?

Terhune:

The Navy did.

Wolff:

But you had decided you wanted to go into the Navy — as an engineer?

Terhune:

Well, I filled out the form that way.

Wolff:

OK, so you wanted to go into the Navy, and then?

Terhune:

They sent all the math majors off to Hope College or something and sent the engineers to the University of Michigan.

Wolff:

I see. So you take this exam and you’re assigned to the University of Michigan V-12 program.

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

Why would you have filled it out as an engineer, when you had been studying mathematics?

Terhune:

I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know the details of it. I don’t know.

Wolff:

So, OK, you end up on the University of Michigan campus in the V- 12 program. You were there for —?

Terhune:

Three semesters or one year. From July of ‘43 to July of ‘44.

Wolff:

And what sort of studying did you do then?

Terhune:

Well, I got up here and enrolled as a math major, even though they sent me as an engineer.

Wolff:

You’re a hard guy to keep track of.

Terhune:

Well, they called me in three months later and asked me whether I was a math major or an engineer, and I said, math major.

Wolff:

Do you recall why you decided to be a math major again? Why not stick with the engineering?

Terhune:

I never had an interest in engineering. I didn’t know what engineering was. I had no interest in it. I could have done it, of course.

Wolff:

OK, so you were still interested in math. So during that year at Michigan, you —?

Terhune:

Oh, I had a ball. You can imagine, going from going to school and working full time, to just going to school and having all the money you wanted. I used to go out and get drunk every night.

Wolff:

What kind of stipend did they give you?

Terhune:

Oh, it wasn’t that much. It was like $100 a month. But you had all your room and board and everything else paid for.

 

Wolff:

So this was $100 free and clear, which was good in those days.

Terhune:

Right. Yes. You can imagine going to school and working full time, and then switching to a program like this. It was great. I had a ball. Went out am got drunk every night. You know, 17 year old kid, I had a lot of fun. Most of the guys flunked out, that I was with, first semester. They couldn’t take the carousing. But it was a ball.

Wolff:

And you were taking mostly math courses, how did that —?

Terhune:

Well, I carried 18 hours, which was a heavy load, and probably out of the 18, probably two math. Oh, then I took physics. Yes, that was when I started off in physics, sophomore year there. I took math, physics –- the standard Lit school program, nothing special.

Wolff:

I see. And at the end of the year, they sent you into the Navy?

Terhune:

To Notre Dame, to midshipman training. In July of ‘44.

Wolff:

And the next two years you were in the Navy?

Terhune:

Then I was commissioned an officer in the Navy October of ‘44.

Wolff:

In the Navy, you were in electronics?

Terhune:

Well, what happened there, I think I was too young for them. There’s a regulation where you’re supposed to be 19 to be an officer in the Navy, and I was only 18, when I was commissioned.

Wolff:

So you were commissioned in the Navy at 18, and what did you do?

Terhune:

They sent me to electronics maintenance school. That’s where I learned electrical engineering.

Wolff:

Was that because you were too young?

Terhune:

No. They were desperate. They ran out of graduate electrical engineers for radar work, and we took a battery of tests, and of course, I did very well in the testing battery. I did very well in midshipman school. So they sent me off to do that. Essentially the pre-radar was a training program that taught you electrical engineering in four months. It was the type of program you couldn’t flunk out of. Your worst penalty was to have to repeat the months. It was four months of an intensive program in electronic engineering. Everybody was qualified to take it. And if people didn’t work hard enough, they had to repeat the month. That was the worst penalty. I went to Bowdoin College up in Maine.

Wolff:

Was it a good electrical engineering program?

Terhune:

For me it was just great, because it was intensive, it went through basic circuits, right through beginnings of systems work, and — see, I had never been through any complex analysis of circuits or used complex notations before, in circuit analysis. And I knew nothing about vacuum tubes or anything like that, or feedback circuits. So I went through that. It was a very good program for a person with my background, because I had all the math and so on needed to handle it, and I was mature enough at that point. So it was great. Only I was getting awfully tired of school. You've got to realize that I’d been going to school for five, six, this is the 7th semester in a row, without any breaks whatsoever. In fact, it goes on for another month —

Wolff:

What did you do after the course at Bowdoin?

Terhune:

Then you go to the regular radar training program at MIT.

Wolff:

So then you went to radar training at MIT. Was that at the Radiation Lab there?

Terhune:

No. It was run essentially by the group, but it was down in the Harbor Building. It’s associated with the Radiation Lab. It was just run in a little bit different place, that’s all.

Wolff:

This was to train you to operate the —?

Terhune:

No, to repair and maintain and so on.

Wolff:

What kind of program was that? Was that a solid program?

Terhune:

That was an intensive program, where we were in school eight or ten hours a day, five or six days a week. I’ve forgotten how many. A very intensive program, going through radar systems — actual operating systems — learning how they work, how to repair them, etc. That was done very well. I was fully competent to maintain and repair radar, sonar, and so on. Caught jaundice there, though. Just too much, with the intensive training program and the night life, I was going out every night, you know, and I just ground to a halt. My body couldn’t take any more. I caught jaundice and was laid up for a month or so. I was having a ball, yeah. You can imagine, a young fellow being in Boston, no worries.

I met my wife in the latter part of that period when I was there.

Wolff:

What was she doing?

Terhune:

She was in an executive secretaries program at Fisher College. There’s not much else to say. I met her.

Wolff:

When did you get married?

Terhune:

not for about a year and a half after that.

Wolff:

What happened after you recovered from jaundice?

Terhune:

I finished up the sonar and then headed for overseas. In fact, I made it to San Francisco just after V-J Day. So I missed the action.

I went from there to Honolulu, spent some time there in an officers’ rest camp overseas, went on to Yokosuka, the main part of Tokyo. The fleet was just going in with the occupation, and I went in with the initial occupation. I was the communications officer on a destroyer.

That was a very interesting thing, the occupation, because being young and not thinking about things, I just went in with the crews that were doing demolition work and wandered about the country (This was the initial occupation). And then just took off with anther fellow in a strange country, and didn’t worry about it. One thing we came across was a laboratory with an electromagnetic gun the Japanese had set up to fire five inch projectiles. It was a three story high soonoid(?), and had a power plant that went with it, and they were going to replace gunpowder.

Wolff:

Was this anything that was technologically feasible, or was it just a wild idea?

Terhune:

It's one of these things that was always do-able, but sort of foolish, to think or doing it that way. In some special circumstances it might work out. Some scientist had sold them a bill of goods.

I guess the most interesting thing was just wandering through the villages, and as I think about it now — the initial occupation, off by yourself in the countryside, and no problems.

Wolff:

You didn’t worry about being found AWOL or anything?

Terhune:

Oh, no, I had no problem, I was officially on shore. One of my first jobs was to close down the whorehouses. I was given 60 shore patrol, and my job was to take them around, just drop them off one or two at a time, at each of the whorehouses, and — you know, the minute the fleet comes in these things get set up, the next day, and so, I took the fellows around, and I went over some place and had a few beers. I had a terrible job getting them back aboard ship. They were always bribed so heavily. Dead drunk, every one of them.

Wolff:

These were the people who were supposed to close them down?

Terhune:

Right. Well, it’s obvious what happened: they got treated royally. Everybody wanted that duty. Because nobody was really serious about it. And the biggest problem was that you had to go back and deliver them to all the ships that were in the harbor. Each ship contributed so many men to this Shore Patrol group, and getting them back aboard their ship was a terrible chore. (laughter)

In other words, I was officially on shore. That wasn’t a problem. Then I’d go out with demolition crews and so on, like that.

Wolff:

What were you supposed to demolish?

Terhune:

Gun sites and so on. But I wasn’t doing any demolition, I was just observing. And wandering through the countryside.

Wolff:

Did you encounter any other Japanese scientists or installations?

Terhune:

No. this one we found was empty. We tried to talk to people. We wandered over to the international settlements and so on. But this was very, very early in the occupation, and people just weren’t around, the scientists and so on.

That was a very short period. That ended and we dashed home for Christmas. Full speed home for Christmas.

Wolff:

Then you were discharged in ‘46, right? August of ‘46.

Terhune:

Right. And I had trouble from then on getting drinks in bars. See, I was just 20 then. Of course in an officer’s uniform, there hadn’t been any problem at all.

Wolff:

So you got home for Christmas and were discharged in August of ‘46.

Terhune:

I was in charge of decommissioning all the electronics in the squadron of destroyers. I was communications officer on one, then when we pulled in…

Yes, I actually got to stand duty watch underway on a destroyer that was fun. After the end of the war, there were so few fellows left, I was a pretty senior ensign by then. So I got to stand officer of the deck watch under way.

Yes, we got out in ‘46.

Wolff:

Then you went to Dartmouth?

Terhune:

No, I went to University of Michigan. See, I had to finish up then. I had plenty of credits for a degree, but because of all the extraneous course work, I’d taken, all the electronics training, I had more than enough credits for a degree, but I hadn't established any major yet. So that's when I first made the decision, to take physics. Came back here for one year. Dick Crane was my advisor then.

Wolff:

This is Professor Richard Crane?

Terhune:

Professor Richard Crane, yes. I took a course in heat, and a course in atomic structure, and that was sort of interesting, because I had skipped all the inbetween courses in physics and just took the atomic structure. Never knew what angular momentum was. It was sort of a hassle to do it, but a lot of fun. I took that, and electrical measurements — somehow, he insisted I take electrical measurements, which was of course a complete waste. I could have taught the course better than he taught it. And heat, and atomic structure, and that was it. I got my degree.

Wolff:

On the basis of all your previous experience? Is that why they gave it to you?

Terhune:

Right. I had enough hours credit, and Dick Crane was very lenient. He didn't insist that I do anything unusual. He just let me take those three courses and gave me a degree, even though I ended up with only 16, 17 hours of physics.

Wolff:

Why now did you decide to major in physics? Because all your experience has been in electrical engineering and radar.

Terhune:

I guess somehow those two came together and when you combined them, they spelled physics to me, I guess. But I really hadn’t made any solid career decision in that sense. In fact, you’re going to find that at no point in my career did I make a solid decision. (laughter) It was more, this is what happened.

Wolff:

You just drifted into physics is what you’re saying.

Terhune:

Just drifted into physics. Because it combined the two very nicely. It combined my training at that time very nicely. Then I went to Dartmouth.

Wolff:

Why did you go to Dartmouth?

Terhune:

Well, you have to remember that at that graduate students were not paid. First of all, I was self-supporting. I had to support myself. I had the GI Bill, but I got married in my senior year, and graduate students were not paid at that time. So, I needed some additional money to support my wife, and my wife was pregnant too.

Wolff:

Had she been to college?

Terhune:

Well, through junior college.

Wolff:

She went to a junior college.

Terhune:

And graduated; and, I needed the money. The confidence of youth — I wrote one application. And that went to Dartmouth. I saw it advertised. There weren’t many positions advertised then. There was a huge flood of students, post-war, and Gordon Hull, Jr. advertised that they had a job which paid money.

Wolff:

Where was this ad?

Terhune:

Possibly even on the bulletin board at school. So I wrote. Morrel Cohen[1] and I were the only two graduate students up there at that time. That’s the year Cohen learned not to be an experimentalist. He’s an excellent theoretician. But he spent the year measuring heat resistance. It was a very frustrating year, because Hull was not much of a physicist. He’d gotten the money, and —

Wolff:

So you were to be a research assistant to him, right?

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

And what was the work supposed to involve?

Terhune:

Just studying electrical discharges between separating contact, and Morrel was studying the molten metal bridges between them. And we did all right, because the two of us were there. We supported each other nicely and it worked quite well. It was beautiful country. One of the nicest years of my life, up there.

Wolff:

But you say it was frustrating.

Terhune:

It was only frustrating in an academic or intellectual sense. We didn’t really learn that much by being associated with Professor Hull. But, I must say, the living was just great. The place we lived in, the country, the school, marvelous. Marvelous year.

So then after that year, I applied to several schools.

Wolff:

Applied for what?

Terhune:

For a fellowship. Again I needed support. And Johns Hopkins accepted me. But my wife wanted to come back to Michigan, because of family.

Wolff:

She was from Michigan also?

Terhune:

My family was here. So there would be somebody around that she knew. She wanted to come back.

Wolff:

She knew your family?

Terhune:

Right. We’d been here a year, you see. She didn't want to be off in completely strange country. So, Johns Hopkins accepted me. But Michigan belatedly accepted me, for a teaching fellowship, and I begged out of the Johns Hopkins and accepted the Michigan and came back here, to graduate school. That would be the fall of ’48.

Wolff:

You were a teaching fellow for three years, ‘48 to ’51. In the physics department?

Terhune:

Right. Passed the prelims in ‘50, I guess. In fact, I sort of burned myself out on course work. I spent the first year fulfilling a lot of requirements. The second year I took — the requirement here for a PhD was that you take four graduate level courses, that you be tested on three of them for prelims, and I just took three of them in one year, and did fine. But I’d burned myself out then. I wasn’t interested in studying, after that.

Wolff:

Were you also working?

Terhune:

Probably another half time job. At one point I had three half time jobs at the university. And going to school. It was a matter of existing, because they didn’t pay. And I had a family.

Wolff:

What was your thesis?

Terhune:

Before that, there’s a big dip here. I left school. Because my wife had a nervous breakdown, and just decided it was too much, so I left in ‘51. I was working on a thesis problem, and I could see it was going to take a long time, and I took a job at Willow Run Labs.

Wolff:

So in 1951, you left school?

Terhune:

Well, it’s around ’51 or ’52. I’m not sure it’s exactly then, because there’s an overlap. I held two or three jobs at one time when I there. I was a research assistant on campus, I was a teaching fellow, and I also had a half time appointment in Willow Run Laboratories.

After my wife had the breakdown I decided that I had to make some money so we could move out of Willow Run Village, which is low income housing, I took the full time position at Willow Run.

Wolff:

What was your half time position at Willow Run?

Terhune:

That was one of the most exciting things. It started off as several things. Willow Run was in the air defense business. One of the first assignments I was given (I’m not sure it was the first but very close to the first) was to look into an automated air defense system — a full scale national air defense system — using advanced switching. I wrote a report on that.

Wolff:

What do you mean by using switching?

Terhune:

Well, an analogue system, the storage being accessed by telephone type switching, for a full scale air defense system for the whole United States. We designed that.

Then this fellow Harvey Garner, who’s now dean of the Moore School of Engineering — he was a young graduate student like myself — we were told to design a digital system, for comparison purposes. We didn’t know what digital was. That was my first exposure to digital. So we went off and learned what digital was, and then we designed the system. Then the generals came in. I was the analogue expert, and he was the digital expert, and I gave this talk on how you could do this air defense system this way, and he gave the talk, how you could do it digitally, and the conclusion of our whole presentation was that it should be done digitally. I was still a half time student at that point.

Wolff:

When you say, “doing it digitally,” was this with vacuum tube switching?

Terhune:

Vacuum tube switching. We recommended they build the system. The generals came in and we were the spokesmen for the laboratory. Two graduate students. That’s interesting.

Wolff:

I’m also interested, in whether or not there was any linkage between what you were doing and what Eckert and Mauchly had done with the ENIAC at the Moore School.

Terhune:

No linkage. It’s basically the same ideas, but we were complete novices.

Wolff:

But had you drawn on their work at all? Did you know about their work?

Terhune:

Not really. Not really. We must have drawn on the work, in the sense that —

Wolff:

Did you know about the ENIAC? [2]

Terhune:

No. No, we didn’t know. We were young and — well, we learned a little Boolean algebra, we learned how circuits worked. As a matter of fact, after we gave this presentation, they said, “Go ahead now and build a demonstration model,” to the two of us. They gave us a few hundred thousand dollars and said, “Go out and buy some equipment.” I don’t know how much money it was, but it must have been a few hundred thousand. That’s when we discovered diodes.

That was an amazing period. We went to Boston, to Laboratory For Electronics, to decide exactly what equipment we were going to assemble, and there we discovered diodes. Of course, just using the crystal diodes along with the vacuum tubes, you can get about ten times as much logic per tube. So, we sat up all night redesigning the whole system, and instead of cutting the order, we ordered ten times as much. I went away then, and Harvey Garner actually assembled equipment. Then when I came back full time we actually assembled one of the first — I was in charge of the logical design, and Harvey did the equipment.

Wolff:

You say you went away?

Terhune:

I was working on campus. What I did was help him set this whole business up, did the logical design, did the equipment ordering, and for some reason went to the campus and was spending more time on campus. Then when I had the problems, I came back to the laboratory —

Wolff:

Full time?

Terhune:

I think I came back part time, and took over the task of assembling the system and making it operate. Harvey had done a lot of work in the meantime getting stuff going. We assembled one of the first digital trackers, where all the information was stored on a drum and all digital processing was used for display on an oscilloscope, with a pen, and so on, to pick out targets. We had different targets displayed on the oscilloscope. This was when the military was making the decision to go away from analogue to digital for all their missile systems. This was one of the first digital tracking systems ever put together.

Wolff:

Was this the so-called Project Michigan?

Terhune:

No, it was pre-Project Michigan. It was ADUS — Air Defense, something.

There were two Air Defense Systems, ADUS and the MIT Lincoln Lab system, which I can’t think of the name of. ADUS started from the viewpoint of being evolutionary from the analogue system. They were just going to replace function for function and have this system grow up.

I was pretty much doing all the system design, as he was a part time student, for the ADUS system, and it was merging toward the fully automated system. The Lincoln Lab people started from the other way. They were going to centralize the automation, and come down, and only approach the present-day system when they had to compromise with it. But the two systems were just pulling right together, so they were beginning to look fairly similar, not too far apart. And they were also coming to the implementation stage. The government had to decide which to implement.

They did make the decision to go to the Lincoln Lab system, and that’s when the university got Project Michigan. It was to replace the ADUS program. They had a big facility here and now they were able to take on a big problem.

But before that happened, we designed and built several large scale processing systems. Then after the decision was made, it was my job to do all the report writing and summarizing for the whole program.

It was a fun period, because so much was going on. Of course, as a student, to have all that responsibility — of course it didn’t strike me as that.

Wolff:

It was basically you and this other fellow. You didn’t have a big group.

Terhune:

Oh, no. I had 50 people working for me. Even as a part time student. I did not have a management position in the structure. I was not a manager, as such. I was a leader of the program. In other words, the people reported to me technically.

Wolff:

What kind of people worked for you?

Terhune:

Engineers. Electrical engineers primarily.

Wolff:

How did you get to be in charge of the program? The way you described it, you had this part time job, where they said, “Design this system.”

Terhune:

The problem was that there were so few people who could keep all the aspects of the system in their minds at once. In other words, this was a national air defense system and it was being designed on a rush rush basis. It was a very complex system with lots of interfaces, and you had to keep track of all the interface specifications so that when somebody would work on a part they would fit together. If you didn’t understand and have all those in your mind at once, just the logic of how you’re going to couple these – it’s like programming a modern day computer. If you didn’t have all these things in mind, you couldn’t work on the system as such. Well the system wasn’t even documented. The system existed in the minds of a smaller and smaller group of people who knew how the thing was connected together, so naturally these were the ones they had to come to. We documented as fast as we could. It would be like working with a present day modern computer, without the extensive documentation and rules written out.

Wolff:

So you were able to keep all this in your mind, basically, and that’s why you were running the thing.

Terhune:

Right. That’s basically it.

Wolff:

Did you hire these people?

Terhune:

Some. Later on, I did a lot of hiring, but no as a student I did not do any hiring at all. All I did was the technical end. Then, after I went back full time, I did a lot of hiring.

Wolff:

I'm talking about the designing of the digital system.

Terhune:

Well, I did both; the initial designing was done as a student.

Wolff:

Did you have 50 people under you then?

Terhune:

Well, I had from 25 to 50 at every stage.

Wolff:

What kind of work did they do? They did pieces?

Terhune:

No, remember, we actually designed, built and assembled a computer which was of the magnitude of a large scale computer.

Wolff:

But it was only when you started to build that you had to add to the group?

Terhune:

Oh, that’s when we really had to start adding. Right. We didn’t add that much until we started to build, and then we got into system design. You’re right.

Wolff:

And this is building the demonstration model.

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

OK so you got this demonstration model built, but then it was decided to go with the Lincoln Lab system. Why did they make that decision?

Terhune:

The Lincoln Lab program was a much more mature program. I think ADUS served its purpose very well in showing that the problems could be tackled from an evolutionary way, and solved. Then when the MIT system solved a lot of the MIT system problems by adopting some of the philosophy of ADUS, it didn’t make any sense to build the two systems. ADUS had served its purpose by bringing the MIT system back to reality.

Wolff:

Was this Project Whirlwind?

Terhune:

It used the Whirlwind computer, and that’s the point. They were using a much more general purpose computer, and we were building a special purpose computer.

Wolff:

So after you got this demonstration model built, and the work went to MIT, what happened to you?

Terhune:

Tiffany and I formed the Infra-Red Laboratory. He’s a senior scientist for Bendix Corporation, working now on oceanographic work. He had an administrative job at the laboratories.

I had decided I wanted to do a thesis, and when it looked like they were going to establish an infra-red lab, I decided that was the way to go, so I got into the infra-red lab. Lyle and I were the first ones in it. And I did all the assembly of equipment and everything else to get the laboratory started.

Wolff:

Before we take that up, did your building this demonstration digital computer, cover the period, ’53 to ’55, where you are listed as “research associate, digital computation department,” and also “Supervisor, Logical Design Station”?

Terhune:

Yes. ’53 is when I went back to work full time.

Wolff:

You also initiated a training program in digital computer techniques during this period.

Terhune:

The Air Force had a facility nearby, and since we were building an advanced air defense system, it was obvious things were going to go digital. We recommended to them that they start training their technicians, and that we would set up a training course for them. So they sent over around 25 electronics technicians, radar types, and we set up the training course. That was one of the first digital (training courses) that the Air Force had.

Wolff:

Isn’t it correct that this was one of the pioneering digital computer projects in the country?

Terhune:

It’s in the second stage. The digital work at Michigan started under John D. Turk, and the computer philosophy used was dynamic storage, while the computer was of the SEAC used by the… (off tape)

So Michigan had MIDAC computer which was as I said, the second phase, while ILLIAC[3] was in its second or third phase, MIDAC was coordinate with that.

But then when we built our actual systems, we did not stick with the dynamic storage. We went back to the static, bistable, flip flop, which was the conventional way. I’m not really sure why we did that, but the people doing the display systems and data processing went the opposite way from the computer people. That was Garner’s and my decision. I don’t know why we did that.

Wolff:

Now we’re up to 1955, when you went to the Infra-Red Laboratory. I think you said earlier that infra-red seemed to you to be the way to go?

Terhune:

No, they had taken on the task of Project Michigan, which was battlefield surveillance. It started off as a tri-service contract, administered by the Department of Defense. Later on it went to the Army, I think, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, they were going to set this program up, and they set up various laboratories. The lab was very strong in radar, and that was going to be one. They set up acoustics, and they wanted to have infra-red, because that was one means of surveillance. I wanted to do a thesis in physics, so the question in my mind was: which one is most closely related to physics? So I chose infra-red and went with infra-red. I essentially did all the technical aspects of setting up the laboratory, while Lyle handled administrative type things.

Wolff:

Technical aspects, being what, the hiring?

Terhune:

The hiring, choosing the people, the equipment, ordering all the equipment. See, it was just by fiat. They were going to have a laboratory here of 50 to 100 people, and they needed facilities and equipment and all that, to be able to operate. So I ordered all the equipment ahead.

Wolff:

And what was the charter of the Infra-Red Laboratory?

Terhune:

To explore the use of infra-red in battlefield surveillance.

Wolff:

What precisely were you trying to surveil?

Terhune:

Well, like, infra-red scanners, flying from airplanes, to actually see what’s on the ground, see through clouds, pattern recognition. Also, the problem of seekers for missiles. In other words, any place where you could use infra-red as a detecting or sensing device.

Wolff:

And you say you set up the lab? You’re listed here as associate research engineer.

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

Who did you report to?

Terhune:

I’m not sure. It probably was Lyle to start with.

Wolff:

Did you start on your thesis at the same time?

Terhune:

Not quite. I spent about a year setting up the laboratory and doing some infra-red work. Then I decided I’d go to campus and do a thesis. So I went to campus and did a thesis. But see, I could do it under very nice circumstances, because I had control of all the equipment.

I went to campus to do a thesis, ended up working with Professor Peters, Wilbur C. Peters. One of the first things we did was, re-do all the electronics for the infra-red spectrometers, and then we — oh, no, I started my thesis for G.B.B.M. Sutherland. In fact, I wrote a report for Sutherland on rapid scan infra-red spectroscopy. I did a study of possible techniques or ways of implementing rapid scan spectroscopy and wrote a report for him.

Wolff:

Was this a part of University of Michigan academic work?

Terhune:

Well, see, at this point I’m a free agent, in the sense that my position at Willow Run Labs is such that I’m a very independent senior person in the laboratory without administrative responsibilities, and nobody was telling me what to do. I set my own tasks. There was no division between university and Willow Run, as such, I was busy.

Wolff:

So you just decided you would do this report for Sutherland for academic credit, is that it?

Terhune:

No, no credit. No, I talked to him about doing thesis work, and he suggested I look into this. So I looked into it and wrote a report. And after I finished the report, I decided that if I were going to do a thesis, utilizing the base of that report, it would be better done with Peters, because he was an experimentalist. He would be available. So I went to work for Peters. But when I went to work for Peters, I had the resources of the laboratory behind me. So I was able to completely re-do his instrumentation, and bring in liquid helium capabilities, bring in all sorts of equipment. I was not a typical student, because I had an equipment budget, I could get anything I wanted done. So I moved into campus and did the thesis under Peters.

Wolff:

While you were a research engineer at the Infra-Red Laboratory?

Terhune:

Right. The only restriction was I had to cut back from full time, so it didn’t appear I was making more money than he was making. In actual fact I did make more than he was making.

Wolff:

Wasn’t this Project Michigan that you’re working on there a classified project?

Terhune:

All this stuff for years has been classified. Yes. The air defense research was classified.

Wolff:

But you still had no problem writing reports?

Terhune:

Oh, you didn’t write on classified matters. The whole project wasn’t classified. It was only certain aspects of the project that were classified. The thing is, with a big project like that, there’s room for lots of exploratory type things, and I was the exploratory arm. I just got approval, and they paid me for doing my thesis.

Wolff:

Now, in 1956, you published your first paper, “improving the signal to noise ratios of a signal crystal photoconductive detectors” [4]

Terhune:

That was done from my work in the Infra-Red Lab. That work was done in the year that I was setting up the laboratory as part of the initial work on learning how detectors work and the electronics that goes with them.

Wolff:

Now, that was funded by the Army Signal Corps.

Terhune:

OK, then Project Michigan was probably an Army Signal Corps project.

Wolff:

But what’s a little confusing is that, when the paper is published, you are identified as being with the University of Michigan’s Engineering Research Institute. Now, what is the relationship between that and Willow Run?

Terhune:

Willow Run was part of the Engineering Research Institute. Willow Run Labs were not listed as Willow Run Labs.

Wolff:

So Project Michigan is really being done for the Army Signal Corps.

Terhune:

For the Army Signal Corps. Right.

Wolff:

But under the umbrella of the University’s Engineering Research Institute.

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

Did you have any involvement with military people? Did they come around and ask “What are you doing?”

Terhune:

Tremendous involvement. It was very interesting. During the ADUS period, I was sort of the protegee of the labs director at that time, you know, since I was running so much of the effort, and —

Wolff:

Who was the lab director?

Terhune:

Harry Goode. He wrote, I think, the first real text book on systems engineering, with Machol(?). Anyway, they used to have to ask permission to come and talk to me. They weren’t allowed to come in because they would interfere with the work. And he meant it. There wasn’t any question. They weren’t allowed in the building, period. We were busy, and had work to do, and it was a real independent laboratory. But when Project Michigan started, the military got a tighter and tighter hold on things. In other words, they were in less immediate need of the outputs of the laboratory, so therefore, since they controlled the purse strings, they got their fingers in more pies as time went on. You saw a gradual conversion from the totally independent operation, to really, just another military outpost laboratory.

Wolff:

When would you say that transition had occurred?

Terhune:

During the ADUS period they desperately needed independent scientific thought. And when they went to Project Michigan, they needed it to start with; then it gradually went downhill from there.

Wolff:

Well, we’re talking about 1955 when you got involved with Project Michigan.

Terhune:

Oh, there were lots of military around then.

Wolff:

Yes, but when would you say they had gotten in so deeply that it was a military lab? Was that after six months or two years, or?

Terhune:

No, no, no. It was a gradual transition. I’d say, by the time we were in the maser work, it was significantly different than it was. In other words, by 1958 or so, it was significantly different than ‘55. And the early sixties, things had changed even more.

Wolff:

When you say, “significantly different,” explain the difference in terms of how it affected you and the other scientists working there.

Terhune:

I think you’d probably get your best example when you come to the work on the maser. That’s a very good example of the change in attitude toward the scientist.

Wolff:

Then, we’ll hold that. Coming back to your first paper on photo conductor crystals, was this was an example of exploratory research?

Terhune:

Right. I had set the task for myself of learning the forefront of the art of using detectors.

Wolff:

You say you set the task.

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

The Signal Corps didn’t send the word down that —?

Terhune:

— no, no, no, no. I don’t think anybody has told me what to work on since… Well, it’s so long I can’t even remember.

Wolff:

So this was just a problem you identified as being important?

Terhune:

I identified, as the problem that I wanted to understand, was the forefront of the state of art of detectors, pre-amplifiers, and detection systems. Was that with Hickmott?

Wolff:

Right, Hickmott and Page.

Terhune:

Hickmott worked for me for five years. He worked for me all the time from ‘55 through ‘60, and he came to Ford Motor Co., and was sort of my personal electronics engineer for — it was an ongoing research program into advanced electronics. He worked for me for years.

He was just an aside, looking into new types of — again, that comes back again to the maser problem. One reason I got into the maser was because we had developed all the electronics for handling the problem, as part of this infra-red detector business. But John worked for years — he’s a very thoughtful conscientious research electrical engineer — and we developed a lot of concepts which were very important, in that field. Didn’t do too much publishing.

Wolff:

Why, because it was classified, or —?

Terhune:

No, John just wasn’t that sort of a guy. No, not classified. Some of it was, but primarily, because it was always a side issue, and this work was being used as part of the system. It wasn’t being done for publication reasons.

Wolff:

Do you recall why you decided that you wanted to be in the forefront of this detector understanding? I mean, there were many other things you could have done.

Terhune:

No, because that was the forefront problem for infra-red. I mean, the laboratory was an infra-red instrumentation laboratory, and that’s sort of the first problem: how do you get the signal? You could have gone to optics.

That’s an interesting story. My choice by the way, when I went to infra-red, was whether to go with Cutrona and do holography. Lou Cutrona is the one who hired Leith and Upatnieks and did all the basic holography work, and the ideas were basically Lou Cutrona’s ideas, implemented by Leith and so on, for side-looking radars. This was pre-laser. They were following on Faber’s ideas, and my choice, whether to go —

It’s great to have choices like that. My choice was whether to go to infra-red, or to go holography and do the initial holography work.

Wolff:

Why do you suppose you chose the infra-red as opposed to the other one?

Terhune:

I don’t know. I think probably, it was more equipment-oriented, and I guess I was more used to that by this point, and the other was — well, I don’t know why. But that’s sort of an interesting period. It shows what an active vital lab can get involved in, when it’s truly independent.

Wolff:

And this was a vital active laboratory.

Terhune:

Right, one of the really — a youthful, alive place. Well, any place where students can come in and have such control — in other words, the hierarchy did not have control of the laboratory. It was ideas that ruled the roost, not the administrators.

Wolff:

So, it was an exciting place to work.

Terhune:

Right. Terribly exciting. Yes. Because whatever you wanted to do, you could do it. If the idea were accepted as a good idea, — by the way, I should say, why did I leave systems engineering and computers?

A very simple reason: everything I said was accepted as gospel, and I didn’t believe it.

In other words —

Wolff:

Let me just understand this. I had assumed that you left it because the project went to Lincoln Lab.

Terhune:

— oh no, I could have done all sorts of — I could have gone on in computers and done anything I wanted to.

Wolff:

At Willow Run?

Terhune:

At Willow Run, yes.

Wolff:

Oh, that laboratory continued to —

Terhune:

Well, it didn’t continue in that area, but the digital computers continued, and I could have, in one way or another, done digital computer work with no problem.

I made a conscious decision to get away from that. See, I was really into systems work. And I was very disturbed by it, because people seemed to accept consistency as truth.

Now, it’s true, if you could interlink all the pieces so that it worked, that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean you’ve done the optimum design. And I just didn’t like that business. It seemed too shallow for me. I was looking for something on a little firmer footing, that I could believe in.

Wolff:

When you say you couldn’t believe in it, you mean, you didn’t know that it was optimum?

Terhune:

I knew it wasn’t optimum.

Wolff:

You knew it was not optimum. And that made you uneasy. Well, the obvious question is, why didn’t you go into it deeper and try to make it optimum?

Terhune:

Well, we started some work like that. I had some people working for me. But that was going off into a more of a theoretical, analytical area, as opposed to an experimental area. It’s sort of funny, when you think about it in retrospect. Harvey Farner and I were the ones that did all this work. We were both young physicists. He ended up in the theory of computers, and I ended up going back to physics. In other words, I went back to equipment. I did all the logical design work, he did all the equipment work, and we shifted.

Wolff:

So you went into infra-red because of your unease over systems work. Now, your second paper: “Excess Noise in InSb,” with G. H. Suits and W. D. Schmitz. [5]

Terhune:

Glen Suits, yes, he ended up in the Infra-Red later on. He was a student at that time. That’s still part or the same work.

Wolff:

Yes, this is also part of Project Michigan. Now, I just wanted to ask you, were you ever involved with Project Jason?

Terhune:

No.

Wolff:

All right, now, you're working here in the lab and you’ve published a couple of papers, and you’re also working on your thesis for Peters, correct?

Terhune:

I started that around ‘55.

Wolff:

OK. And you got your PhD in –-

Terhune:

‘57. I finished the work in late ‘56.

Wolff:

And the thesis again was on —

Terhune:

Electric Field Induced Vibration of Rotation Spectrum of the Hydrogen and Deuterium.

Wolff:

What happened to the scanning?

Terhune:

Well, that’s an interesting story. I looked into the problem and decided that the best method of making a rapid scan spectrometer was to use a scanning Fabry-Perot and I actually built a scanning Fabry-Perot for hydrogen and it worked quite well. I built it for doing spectroscopy in the infra-red. It had tremendous light-gathering power. It was a 2-inch Fabry-Perot which would scan at 60 cycles/second. For its day it was a truly novel spectrometer. However, then the question came up: What was I going to do for a thesis? That is not a physics thesis — to build an instrument.

So I looked around for a problem to do. You see, hydrogen and deuterium do not absorb in the infra-red except when there is an induced absorption when they collide. However, somebody had pointed out that they can be induced to absorb by an electric field and I calculated and decided that “Gee, I can see that signal.” So I did the electric field induced spectrum, was a signal detection problem. It’s sort of interesting because the thesis sounds unrelated to the later work, but actually the thesis is really non-linear optics.

Wolff:

I was going to say that it seemed to be unrelated to earlier work.

Terhune:

It is unrelated to the rapid scan. But it turns out to be directly related to non-linear optics.

Wolff:

Let’s clear that up a little later. But first, how did you come to the subject of your thesis?

Terhune:

Oh I don’t know, I just went to a meeting and read. The thing that I knew how to do well, at this point in time, was any difficult problem in detection of radiation. Low level detection of signals. So the thesis really consisted of setting up an instrument, and the spectra were run at detecting absorptions of one part in one hundred thousand by using modulation techniques. You see, modulation techniques had barely come in. There is a whole era there that came in after World War II. I remember sitting down with Boris Deutschev from the University of Toronto way way back, about 1950. And we were talking about this and saying that “If you knew how to put together phase sensitive detectors and you could modulate things…” We just listed off experiments galore. That seemed to be the thing. Maybe it was ‘55 when I was talking to him. Possibly ‘55 or ‘60. And that was essentially what was done in that whole era of physics. A major fraction of physics in the 60s was people discovering phase sensitive detectors and modulation techniques. I was essentially into that in the late 50s. We built some of the best equipment. I had this fellow Hickmott working for me. This was before you could buy phase sensitive detectors. We had some of the best phase sensitive detectors you could make. We really had absolutely first class instrumentation for spectroscopy that other people didn’t have.

Wolff:

So this thesis was simply done because this was a good thing to try and detect.

Terhune:

It really was an exercise in the detection of very weak signals. By the way, that era was sort of interesting too because that was when Peters did the work on fiber optics. That was the first use of glass coated fibers to keep the radiation trapped within them. That was the basic fiber optics work. He’s got the patent on that. They made the first one, put it down somebody’s stomach, and took pictures. That was while I was in the basement there with him in 1956-57.

Wolff:

Is there a link between this detection work that you did your thesis on and getting into the maser?

Terhune:

Well, yes. The reason why I got into the maser was Kikuchi had the basic ideas. He had done his homework in paramagnetic resonance, and he had read the maser literature and come up with the idea of using ruby.

I essentially provided the instrumentation. From my radar work, I knew microwave technology. From the detector work, I provided them with the phase sensitive detectors and instrumentation for their microwave spectrometers. My work with them, my initial maser work was done on a part time basis. I did the instrumentation.

Wolff:

Now, you were in the Infra-Red Lab. Was Kikuchi in that?

Terhune:

Kikuchi was in that. Right.

Wolff:

So this was part of the Infra-Red Laboratory.

Terhune:

Right. We were a small group in the Infra-Red Lab, called Solid State Group. That group was headed up by Lyle Tiffany at the time. He was, I’d say, a figurehead, really, but it had remarkable people in it. Kikuchi was very good. John Lambe was a young student who’s gone on and done great things, in Josephson tunneling and all sorts of great experiments. George Makhov, he died, drank himself to death, and myself. For an outpost laboratory away from academia, it was a tremendously talented group of people.

Wolff:

Why do you say you were away from academia?

Terhune:

Willow Run was not considered part of the university by the academics.

Wolff:

Earlier you said it was all the same thing.

Terhune:

No, I said it was part of the Engineering Research Center. Engineering Research Center is not considered by the academics part of the academic university. It’s strictly an appendage.

Wolff:

Are you saying really that Peters and Sutherland had no involvement with what you guys were doing?

Terhune:

Oh no. I went into campus, and did my things with them as an individual.

Wolff:

And they were not interested in what was going on at Willow Run, or there wasn’t any cross-fertilization, is that what you mean?

Terhune:

Well, I wouldn’t say “no cross-fertilization,” because I of course had strong ties with them.

Wolff:

You were the carrier.

Terhune:

I was the carrier. Yes. In fact as part of good citizenship or bribery or whatever, Project Michigan used to sponsor a whole bunch of programs on the campus, and it was one of my jobs to…(off tape) …administer the distribution –- it’s like a government person responsible for contracts — I was liason for Project Michigan with the university people, and there were something like a half a dozen or ten contracts, totaling a few hundred thousand dollars, and my job was to do the administering, make sure the reports were in, see what was going on, solicit proposals, handle the whole business. That was in addition to my job, and my being a student.

Wolff:

Some professors might work on these contracts?

Terhune:

Oh yes. They were professors’ contracts. And they had students working on the contracts, and I would go around, talk to them, you know.

Wolff:

I’m just trying to understand your comment, though, that the lab was “an isolated outpost.”

Terhune:

Oh. The lab was an isolated outpost because people looked down their noses at it, and it was not part of the regular departments — part of the reason for giving these contracts was to make themselves more liked, you know, it certainly didn’t hurt.

That’s all. It was not considered the heart of the university, as such. And as I say, it was a remarkable group of people, to assemble at that point of time, to work on that problem. We staffed the whole thing with graduate students, and they were a remarkable bunch too, at that time. We just assembled a nucleus of very good people, all of which could pull their own weight. That’s a tremendous group.

Wolff:

We were starting to talk about the link with the maser work. It might be easier just to polish off the thesis. So you did your thesis, you got your PhD, in —

Terhune:

— in 1957. I finished the work late ‘56, did a little bit more work with Peters, and got the degree in ‘57.

Wolff:

Did Peters, as your advisor, exercise much direction in your thesis research?

Terhune:

Not direction. I sure learned a lot from him. He is a great person. One thing he doesn’t provide is direction. He has remarkable intellect and his understanding of things, his standard of excellence, and he really is a tremendous experimentalist. The things he could do – I learned a lot just watching him do things. He is a different type experimentalist in the sense that he is more of a classical rather than an electronic experimentalist. But that is why they were successful with the fiber optics. I fully expected to just go in there and “do a thesis.” Because I had all the resources. And I would have. But it turned out that I learned a lot. Professor Peters was just great. In fact it is sort of interesting how your career is affected by the few really good people you associate with. Harry Goode was just tremendous. And John Deturk in the computer field was really one of the powers — it’s hard to imagine. And then working with Peters was a similar experience.

Wolff:

How did Goode affect your career?

Terhune:

He was the one who gave me the complete freedom. In other words, he was the one who set the situation up so that as a student I did all that computer work. As director of the laboratory he has control of all that administrative structure. He was the one who set the atmosphere so things could be done.

Wolff:

You credit him with creating this dynamism and freedom?

Terhune:

Yes.

Wolff:

Did Peters have other students?

Terhune:

Eventually they followed on in pretty much the same way. Charley Church and Paul Maker. Paul Maker came and worked with me later on the laser work. There were about three or four students that followed on in essentially the same thesis area that I was in.

Wolff:

Do you think they felt the same way about him as you did?

Terhune:

Oh yes. I think so.

Wolff:

So now you get your PhD in Physics having completed your thesis. Did you want to say something about your children’s reaction?

Terhune:

Oh, I was remembering getting my degree and having a ten year old son. (Laughter) The picture of me getting a degree with a 10 year old son standing there makes you feel like an old man. I was 31.

My wife had been through a lot. I had worked awfully hard. The number of hours per week was way way up, during the while decade — just because I was just so interested.

Wolff:

In 1957, when you received your degree, had you started on the maser work with Kikuchi then?

Terhune:

I should mention one other thing. While I was going to school I did many other jobs to earn money that I guess I haven’t mentioned. I peddled milk during the summers. (This was in the early fifties.) And I cleaned telephone booths for years. I got paid fifty cents per booth for sweeping them out.

Wolff:

And you were doing these sorts of jobs while you were at Willow Run?

Terhune:

Plus all these other things to earn money.

Wolff:

Wow!

Terhune:

Well, we had to live. (laughter) You can see why my wife had problems.

Wolff:

Yes. But when you were full time in the Infra-Red Laboratory as an associate?

Terhune:

Once I went full time I cut the other work out.

Wolff:

So in ‘57 you started with Kikuchi?

Terhune:

Well, not working for him, with him rather. He was in the Infra-red Lab and, as I said, he had the idea of doing the ruby maser.

Wolff:

Was he in the solid state group?

Terhune:

He was in the solid state group. There were four or five of us.

Wolff:

You were also in that group?

Terhune:

Yes, at that point. They just divided the Infra-Red Lab up into sections, and the physicists were put in that group and called the Solid State group.

Wolff:

So you start working with him on this maser.

Terhune:

Right. It was a part time thing. I did the instrumentation, and it worked. It was published in ‘57 — when did we publish?

Wolff:

‘58.

Terhune:

Well, I started in ‘57, that’s right. ‘58 would be the publication. [6]

Let me add something that I think will interest you. The maser work was not supported by Project Michigan. That work was done despite Project Michigan, on a full contract that Chihiro had.

Wolff:

That’s interesting, because the paper says “Supported by Project Michigan and US Air Force Office of Scientific Research.”

Terhune:

Right. Well, the real maser work was not supported by Project Michigan. It was eventually supported, before the publication. But getting it done, the initial phase of it was not supported by Project Michigan, except insofar as my being a free agent and the time I put in. You see, I was not accountable. My time was not accountable. I would just put down some project. I didn’t have to account for my time. So I donated time helping them with the instrumentation. But the direct support for the program, the technician help and equipment and so on, did not come from Project Michigan.

Wolff:

But they credit it anyway.

Terhune:

Right, because at that time we were picking up support for the continuing work on it. But the interesting point is, it was done despite Project Michigan. The administrators —

Wolff:

Why?

Terhune:

Well, the administrators were becoming very anti-intellectual. Now we’re entering the era where the Army people have stepped in. And they’re going to direct Project Michigan and make it “more meaningful and relevant” and so on.

And in so doing, they indeed did make it more meaningful and relevant, but they cut out practically all new ideas. Any new exploration they began to clamp down on, because that cost money and effort, took away from their immediate objectives.

Wolff:

Which were?

Terhune:

Which were to implement battlefield surveillance systems. With the existing state of the art, rather than try to develop new state of the art.

Wolff:

Is Goode still director during this period?

Terhune:

Goode died. Goode went to campus and died. We had a series of directors. Then the military is taking over at this point.

Wolff:

This now is ‘57, ‘58.

Terhune:

‘57, ‘58. Now we did the maser work — you’ve got to picture this laboratory, now — there’s the Solid State Group, of the order of four or five PhD’s, and representing a major fraction of the PhD’s in the laboratory — all in one room, one small room, all the desks piled on top of each other, and completely out of favor with the administration. If they could get rid of us, they’d be happy.

That was the situation when the ruby maser started to work. The Infra-Red Laboratory had dedicated itself to state of the art, pushing infra-red, and closed to research as such. Like the stuff we were doing just shouldn’t be done, and get out of their way.

Wolff:

I wonder if this was a result of the pressures generated by the Korean War.

Terhune:

Part of it was an internal decision by Gwen Suits, who took over the lab. His decision was essentially to build the lab by doing what the military wanted done. See, rather than operate it as an independent person, he would turn the lab — by the way, hugely successful. It works fine. You know the recipe, if you want to build a laboratory of the military research type. He did what the people wanted done, and the laboratory grew like mad. But the thing they didn’t want was people striking off in independent directions. So they took all of us, and we were in one room, off by ourselves, and essentially, “Go get lost.” We were the intellectual arm of the lab, and they didn’t want to have anything to do with us.

Wolff:

So in this environment, Kikuchi decides to push —

Terhune:

— the ruby maser. And we supported him.

Wolff:

Now, why did he decide to do this, do you know?

Terhune:

He had, a year or so or some time previously, gone through and studied up on paramagnetic resonance in solids, as a tool for studying defects in solids. Had written a review article, which is a good way to catch up to date. And the idea of the maser had come along, and he’d applied these ideas, and he came up with the idea that ruby ought to work. Then he wanted to implement it and we helped him implement it.

By the way, there were other things like this going on. That wasn’t the only thing. I was doing some work on detectors and so on. But the point was, you were given a choice, whether to go along with the short term immediate goals, or — not be fired — get your support pulled away and office and so on.

And we chose as a group — not as a group, individually, I’m pretty sure — and in the Infra-Red Lab, we represented practically all the PhD’s in the laboratory.

Wolff:

And you chose —

Terhune:

— to stay with that group. So, then the ruby maser worked. OK. Now, that changed night to day. Then we became the fair-haired children all of a sudden.

Wolff:

Was this the Army principally?

 

Terhune:

Well, I wouldn’t fault the Army at this point. I would say that the research administration at the university had given in to the usual pressures of the Army more than they should have. They were squelching initiative, at that point in time.

Wolff:

Yes, but it was the Army that was funding it?

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

So now the maser works and the Army gets all excited?

Terhune:

Right. And the administration gets all excited, and so on, like that. So then the answer was, we formed a new department. We moved out from the Infra-Red Laboratory to form the Solid State Laboratory. As I said, the Infra-Red Laboratory continued to grow and was hugely successful.

Wolff:

But you’re now in the Solid State —

Terhune:

— Laboratory. That Kikuchi headed.

Wolff:

Why did they get excited about the maser?

Terhune:

Well, it was absolute forefront technology, promised entirely new detection capabilities, and for a surveillance system, that’s great.

Wolff:

So you go now into the —

Terhune:

— Solid State Lab.

Wolff:

Working full time on this maser?

Terhune:

I’m trying to think whether I was full time. I don’t think I was ever full time on anything. Three-quarters anyway. Essentially full time.

Wolff:

All right, now, soon after that another paper is published, “Ruby as a Maser Material.” [7]

Terhune:

That’s really the same work. The first one’s a letter, the second one is a whole bunch of measurements. John Lambe did the majority of the writing in that thing.

Wolff:

Was there any sense of competition with other laboratories? Were you in any sense racing against anybody?

Terhune:

Not really. I mean, there was always the sense of excitement, of being able to contribute something new. I don’t think we ever had a feeling that we were both working on the same idea and rushing toward that result. Now Chihiro probably had that idea, when there was the idea of first getting the ruby maser going — and rightly so, because people were rushing to find a material at that point. I didn’t because I didn’t understand the area at that point.

You always seem to extend your technical horizons when you take on a new problem. You don’t like to go into unfamiliar areas, because they’re usually not very productive, or not too unfamiliar. Prior to that time, I’d never worked with magnetic levels, magnetic phenomena, or anything. I didn’t understand spin resonance at all. So that opened up a whole new horizon for me in terms of the phenomena.

Wolff:

There is an intriguing phrase in your paper: “It became clear that thermal conductivity might be an important factor.” Is there a story in that, do you remember?

Terhune:

No. The only —

Wolff:

Did that work go pretty smoothly?

Terhune:

The work went very smoothly. Absolutely nothing to it at all. The only mystery was that we tended to get higher gain-bandwidth products than the theory would predict. I guess it isn’t written up, but about the time of the first Quantum Electronics conference we explained that as actually a resonance in the coupling. See, the theory is written, that the gain-bandwidth product should be a constant value for a simple resonance circuit. Now, if you have two resonance circuits then you can violate the rule. And the thing that was confusing there was that the coupling hole itself was a resonance circuit. Am this allowed us to get a higher gain-bandwidth product than theory would predict. It wasn’t until about the time or the first Quantum Electronics Conference — I don’t know which year that was. It’s been every two years. I should know that. But anyway, it wasn’t until then that I figured that out.

Actually there really was no problem at all. A congenial group. A happy group. A very good group.

Wolff:

Now we have you supervising the design and test of a maser amplifier for a radio telescope.

Terhune:

Oh yes. Lambe continued to work on spin resonance research, and I took on the instrumentation program for exploiting the maser. And that was the way I chose to exploit it — to develop a system for doing radio astronomy, because of the low noise receiver. They’ve got an 85 foot diameter thing — that was a real forefront instrument in its day. They had an 85 foot diameter dish, which was good at X-Band.

Wolff:

This was University of Michigan.

Terhune:

University of Michigan, on Peach Mountain. That’s a fairly common thing now, because of satellite communications. But this was right at the forefront of antenna building in those days, to be able to have an 85 foot dish, with the quality — a fully steerable dish, and so, since the advantage of the maser was that it was a good low noise amplifier, that looked like an obvious application.

It’s sort of interesting, we just set out to do it without even worrying about what problems we might encounter, and just didn’t encounter any, really. Just didn’t. I mean, there was a lot of engineering. But we didn’t encounter any problems.

Wolff:

Why did you decide to go into the radio astronomy area, as opposed to say, some more related application for the military?

Terhune:

Oh, because the radio astronomy area was the obvious area where you could use low-noise instrumentation. It had yet to be proven that low-noise instrumentation would do them any good. In fact, the maser type instrumentation to this day hasn’t been used for that type of application.

For surveillance they essentially need a reasonable noise level, but for looking at the earth too low a noise level doesn’t help them, because they get their background radiation from the earth. (They need) really wide band systems, wide dynamic range, more than they need low noise. It’s only when you’re looking out into space —

Wolff:

The management of the lab were all excited about the maser, and they’re concentrating on state of the art technology. How did they feel as you guys went off into radio astronomy?

Terhune:

Since it was the first time, we had their support at this point in time. No question about that. It was new. You couldn’t answer where it was going to go at that point. And you could see that it was an entirely new type of electronic device. So there was no question about that.

These were students at that point in time. [8]

Wolff:

You’re talking about whom, now?

Terhune:

Cook, Cross and Bair. These were all graduate students at the university who were working for me. And these were the ones that actually – you’ve got to see that antenna to appreciate it, 85 feet in diameter. That means it’s eight stories tall. The maser was mounted at the focus of this antenna, and the way you got to that was, you went up on an elevator, which was nothing more than a pedestal, you climbed on the pedestal, and then you went shooting 65 feet up in the air, and you had to transfer your liquid helium while you were 65 feet — six floors — above ground. You had to reach out and transfer your liquid helium, in the middle of winter, at night! (laughter) Into this Dewar up there, and out in the country there. And that was a cold, cold job.

See, all this equipment is mounted way up in the air. This was liquid helium cooled equipment. Had to be designed also so that the equipment could turn in any direction, and wouldn’t spill the helium. And had to operate at theoretical noise levels. And it all worked, and we measured the thermal radiation from the planet Saturn. In other words, measured the temperature as determined by its radiation in the X band region, which was a quantity of interest. We took a couple of problems and carried them through. And that’s what was reported in this — well, the system was reported.

Wolff:

In this paper “Low Noise X Band Radiometer.”

Terhune:

Right. That was the first one. Well, the first use of the maser was by Joe Giordmaine at NRL, and he beat us by several months. Then this was the second use of the maser, in radio astronomy.

Wolff:

This was published in 1961, after you had left to go to Ford.

Terhune:

I had left, but the work had been done.

Wolff:

When did you become supervisor of the Willow Run Solid State Physics Lab?

Terhune:

I’m not sure exactly when Chihiro left, but I was department head for, on the order of the last year I was there. [9]

What happened was, see, Chihiro got into arguments with the management about, again, support for research, whether it was going to be directed or not.

Wolff:

So maybe there was a jaundiced eye being cast on —

Terhune:

Oh, yes, there was —

Wolff:

— this radio astronomy, huh?

Terhune:

There might have been. But nobody mentioned that. Not to the point of cutting it out. That was not suspect in that sense, I don’t think, because it was very equipment-oriented, which tended to make it more acceptable than spin resonance studies. See, we did this like the zero field maser — that probably was less appreciated.

Wolff:

This is “Zero Field X Band Maser.”

Terhune:

The thing was, you didn’t have to use a magnet, to show whether you could or could not do that. That type of thing was probably less appreciated. But anyway, Chihiro got into a real hassle with the management of the lab, essentially on the support for research. We were going through the same cycle. So I took over the laboratory.

Wolff:

How many people were in the lab?

Terhune:

Oh, 25, 30.

Wolff:

Why do you think you were chosen to head it?

Terhune:

Oh — well, around then, the senior people were John Lambe and myself, and John Lambe was more research oriented at that point while I was doing administrative things. So, I don’t think there was a question, in a sense. It was just sort of automatic. I was doing many of the things anyway. And I had been a part of management. See, throughout the whole career, you’ll find that I’ve turned down management things, rather than accept them. So, I’ve always been sort of thought of, as a member of the group one level or so above the actual title of the position I have. Even though I was always a part of management, I always adopted the view that I wanted to push for independent research as the primary goal, and this meant that you couldn’t take too high a position in the conventional structure, or you would be immediately limited in what you could do in terms of innovative type things. (off tape)

I was the logical choice. In fact, there was no way they could put anybody else in charge, because the technical leadership of the thing rested solely with myself and John Lambe, and more me than John Lambe. I’m not saying John didn’t — he was even more researchy than I was, so he was less acceptable, and I took it over conditionally. That was a period of great stress, because I —

Wolff:

Wait, what was the condition?

Terhune:

Well, the condition was, to run the independent laboratory.

Wolff:

In other words, you made that clear to —

Terhune:

— I made that clear to the administration. It was clear from the beginning. So then the question became, well, should we go out and seek support? And build — since we had the foundation for a good laboratory there, should it be saved, and if they didn’t want to support it, should we go out and seek support?

I made the decision that, “OK, I would do that,” but the one condition I put on the thing was that the laboratory move to North Campus. You see, the Research Institute had space on North Campus which they could give the laboratory. But the thing about being on North Campus, you could be much more academic. You would be much more attractive to people and more a part of the university as such, and under those circumstances it seemed reasonable to move laboratory.

Well, the director made the decision not to do that, on the one reason that he would lose control of the laboratory. We talked about it and he came to that decision, Joe Boyd, a very clear decision: “no, he could not do that,” he would lose control of the lab. We’d become an independent identity.

Of course it was the wrong decision to make, in my opinion. That’s why I left. I mean, we left under mutually agreed terms, that he wasn’t going to support it, he wasn’t going to do that because he didn’t want to lose control.

Wolff:

And that was one year after you took over.

Terhune:

No. I left one year after — the split probably came six months after. We both agreed, we’d do it on our own convenience. It wasn’t anything to do tomorrow or anything like that. But I was going to leave, that was it, and I began to look for a job.

Wolff:

All right, we’ll get to that in a minute. But meanwhile, you have apparently left the radio astronomy maser work, and gone on to work on a paper that was published with Peters in 1961, “Rapid Scan Spectroscopy with a Fabry-Perot Interferometer.” [10] Or is that just a continuation of the old work?

Terhune:

No, that was a late publication of the old work, because if you know Peters, that sat on his desk for years. (laughs) I gave a talk on it and essentially half published it, at the Ohio State meeting. I guess I didn’t list that in the list of publications. Then I finally got around to writing it up.

No, I was all pretty much doing spin resonance type things, and the chromium-53 was also done in that period. I was also working with John Lambe and doing spin resonance. That’s when we came upon the double resonance work, which was of course very exciting for us, because it was into a new type of physics.

Wolff:

You may have told me this before, but why did you build that interferometer with Peters?

Terhune:

I did a study of new possible techniques for rapid scan spectroscopy.

Wolff:

Oh, that’s right that was originally for Sutherland.

Terhune:

For Sutherland, I did the study. By the way, looking back on it, that study was very good, because many or the advances that I predicted or thought about were going to happen, happened. It really set sort of a foundation for me for lots of things. And I built the scanning Fabry-Perot — it’s just that I didn’t use it on my thesis. I reported it.

Wolff:

You just built it as an outgrowth of that study.

Terhune:

Yes. For instance, I predicted these wedge filters for spectrometers, and went through their characteristics. Now it would be old hat, but for its day, it was a really quite a paper. But I sort of made it a policy to not publish analysis, only publish experimental results — analysis with experimental results. I’ve not published analysis on its own.

Wolff:

Why?

Terhune:

I just don’t consider myself a theorist. If I can prove it with experiment, then it’s got to be right.

Wolff:

You have told me that independent research has always you’re your primary goal, and yet on these first 12 papers you’re always part of a group.

Terhune:

I think you’ll find that through the whole career. One thing you’ll see there is something I guess I learned from Kikuchi and that is the importance of including people on publications. If you can at all rationalize it, you gain an awful lot from it. That’s one aspect of it.

Wolff:

What would you gain?

Terhune:

You gain the support of the people; the working environment is so much better. The last thing in the world you want to do is to get in a hassle about who should be on a paper, and who shouldn’t be on a paper. If there’s a problem at all, we just put people’s names on. It’s not a problem, if there’s any question at all the thing to do would be to put people’s names on it. So that’s one. Not to push for sole authorship of a paper.

The other one is, you’ve always got to have somebody to work with. You can do this alone, but I find it sterile, and very non-productive. You’ve got to have somebody to talk over your ideas with, and — or you want to have, you don’t have to. But I’ve found it’s a pretty essential ingredient of research, to be working with somebody, and even if you’re carrying 90 percent of it, that other person is essential, as somebody to talk to.

Wolff:

Do you see yourself as having taken on a consistent role through all this work?

Terhune:

Pretty consistent role of doing all the analysis, and project direction. And being participant in the experimental work, but mostly with the details being handled by other people.

Wolff:

But I also got the sense, earlier, that you saw yourself as more an experimentalist than a theoretician.

Terhune:

Right, but analysis is not theory.

Wolff:

How would you distinguish?

Terhune:

Theory, to me, is heavily mathematical, heavily based on going back to the basics. Analysis is, given the basic equations describing the phenomena, and the equipment capabilities which one then can express in an analytical way, what designing and experimental system to measure and determine things, determine its capabilities. But I consider that different than theory.

Wolff:

It has been said of you that you have a knack for getting at the heart of problems quickly. That you don’t get lost in the theory. That you’re able to make a quick estimate of the chances that an experiment will succeed. Do you think that’s a fair —?

Terhune:

That’s what I just said, in the sense that that’s where I’ve concentrated my efforts, in exactly that sort of an area. I want to understand theory enough to know what part of it I can believe and what part of it I can’t believe, constructively. And then it has to do with the analysis of experimental capabilities, to apply to a given problem. That’s the area that I think I’ve concentrated on. In fact, that’s exactly to the point. I would hope that somebody would say that.

Wolff:

Do you pride yourself as being able to see an approach quicker than other people might? Are you aware that you have a particular talent for getting to the heart of a problem quickly?

Terhune:

Yes. I know that. I know that I understand the instrumentation problems and how to formulate the capabilities of instrumentation, and the limitations of measurements, noise problems. I’ve learned that if I calculate what I’m able to do, I fully expect to be able to do it, period. I mean, if I calculate the noise level of a piece of equipment, I’m going to realize that noise level when I build it. And it works. If you just don’t give ground, insist that — and a lot of people have a different attitude toward noise and so on, you know, as something mysterious. But it’s like anything else, if you become analytical about it, it will work out.

And I don’t know how true it is now, but I would say that over the last 20 years, particularly 10, 15 years ago, as far as knowledge of the state of instrumentation, of what one could do, I was probably way ahead of the majority of physicists.

Wolff:

Let’s come back to your split with Dr. Boyd, and you decide that since they’re not going to move closer to the university, you’re going to go elsewhere. It’s kind of interesting that you end up working for an automobile company when you leave a job because you couldn’t get closer to the university.

Terhune:

That was an interesting era. By the way, John Lambe went there first. He’s the other major figure. He went there first. This was the golden era of science in industry. It’s hard to comprehend that it existed. Science for science’s sake. There was more freedom, more support in the Ford Motor Co. than you could possibly get at any university.

And Jack Goldman was just a genius for — here again, he’s a tremendous figure. He now is executive vice president for Xerox, senior technical person for Xerox. He was a department manager then, and he was given the job of building the Ford Scientific Laboratory. That’s a story in itself.

And he built with one idea in mind: excellence. And a sort of inner standards, rather than external standards. In other words, flashiness didn’t count. He just built a tremendous group in the laboratory.

Wolff:

When you started looking for a job, did you look at universities?

Terhune:

No. I could have gone any place I wanted to, except, I don’t know about university physics departments because I wasn’t looking at those at that time. I’d established a pretty solid reputation by then, and — no, I was not interested in universities.

Wolff:

Well, why did you go to Ford? Was it because you knew already what kind of environment they’d created, from Lambe, is that it?

Terhune:

I knew that. And Overhauser was there, of the Overhauser Effect, a young man then, just starting. It was obvious that — it was a very small group but they were a very excellent group of people.

Wolff:

When had Goldman started the lab?

Terhune:

Oh, about four years before that.

Wolff:

So you were familiar with the lab.

Terhune:

No. It was just that John Lambe came out one day and said, “Why don’t you come to Ford?” I said “Well, OK, I’ll go down and take a look at it.” I took a look at it. It obviously was a congenial, competent group of people, working under completely unfettered conditions. Jack Goldman wanted me to come, and I said, “No, I’m going to California for the summer.” You know, go out and get a summer job at least. I didn’t know what I was going to do yet. He said he’d send me to California for the summer. So he hired me and sent me out to Aeroneutronics for the summer.

Wolff:

To Ford Aeroneutronics.

Terhune:

To consult with them. Really just a lark, and I got a chance to be in California and see what was going on out there. It turned out to be a very good thing. But his sole purpose in sending me out there was to hire me.

Wolff:

What was your first assignment at Ford?

Terhune:

That was sort of interesting. I’m only confused on calendar. I did a number of things. Oh, the first thing I did was some spin resonance studies, double resonance studies, such as are listed in here.

Wolff:

I should put the question differently. Did Goldman give you any kind of charter, or was there an area that you —?

Terhune:

No, no. No, no, none. I was a free agent.

Wolff:

To do whatever you wanted?

Terhune:

Do whatever I wanted.

Wolff:

And what was the rationale for having this unfettered laboratory at the Fore Motor Co.?

Terhune:

Good people will do good things.

Wolff:

It was just sort of faith by Henry Ford that great things would happen.

Terhune:

Right. Great things would happen. And, great things did happen. The laser work I think was outstanding for the number of people working on it. The Josephson junction work came out of the laboratory. This quantum interference effects, the new magnetic detectors that came out of the laboratory. The sodium-sulfur battery came out of unfettered research. Quite a few things happened in that era, with those people. For very little money.

Wolff:

Well, I was wondering, did good things happen that were useful to Ford in its business?

Terhune:

Well, that’s more debatable. The sodium-sulfar battery is probably the only one, and that’s still in the development stage. Probably the answer is, “no,” for the physics type area. I mean, they really did great things, but Ford’s an automotive company, and the chances of contributing — that, by the way, is what I came across much later, which I’ll get into, in administrative work, relative to that.

But it’s hard to see, if you start asking tough questions, how the research is going to impact, how physics and electrical engineering were advanced, are going to do much.

Wolff:

So you started off at Ford doing this spin resonance, and within a year, you’re supervisor of the Physical and Quantum Electronics Section.

Terhune:

That’s another story. Jack Goldman was molding the laboratory at that time, am he had let the head of the electrical engineering department go because he wanted to run too classical an electrical engineering effort, and he asked me whether I would supervise the department for a while. I didn’t want to be manager or anything — so, I took over and supervised the department. I don’t know how many people, 30, 40 people, something like that, and we did work in homo polar motors and automated control systems, did some design or traffic automated control systems — oh gosh, new types or transducers — electrical engineering research, in other words. But I did this as a half time job.

The other half time, I went out — I’d decided I wanted to study nonlinear properties or crystals.

Wolff:

I want to spend some time on that. You got into nonlinear optics.

Terhune:

By spending six months off to the side, before lasers.

Wolff:

OK, why did you decide you wanted to study nonlinear crystals?

Terhune:

I don’t know. I just made the decision, that that looked like a very interesting thing with lots of good physics in it. And I went off in a corner for six months, and studied the group theory and as much as I could about nonlinear properties of crystals.

Wolff:

But there must have been hundreds of interesting things.

Terhune:

Right. Right. Se, the problem is you choose one and you make that one work.

Wolff:

Well, I’m wondering if we can learn anything more about why you chose that one. Did anyone talk to you about it or did you read anything about it that inspired you or made you interested?

Terhune:

Not that I recollect. I guess I’d come to appreciate how important, if you want to do anything in solid state with the materials, how important the nonlinear properties were, a real understanding of them, and so I just took of the order of six months, maybe a little longer, and just studied that. Period. I didn’t do anything — I mean, I did this supervising in these other areas.

Wolff:

The supervising of the —

Terhune:

— 30 or 40 people in the electrical engineering things. But I was off in a corner — Oh, you see, prior to this, I’d always been doing both. I’d been doing spin resonance type things, and I quit the spin resonance and then went off and said: OK, all my research effort is now going to be in nonlinear properties of crystals. Not nonlinear optics yet, just nonlinear acoustics, nonlinear properties, and so I just went off in a corner and read everything I could.

So you see, when the laser came along, and we decided to go into nonlinear optics, all the homework had been done. It wasn’t as if we were just starting fresh. The instrumentation had all been developed. Paul Maker and I had done our homework with spectroscopy. The electric field induced spectrum of hydrogen is a nonlinear optics experiment. It’s an electric field. It’s a four photon type, only two of them are DC.

Wolff:

Well, you said you’re studying these nonlinear properties of crystals for six months, off in a corner, yet you’re supervising. How were you able to do that?

Terhune:

As I say, I always operated that way. I have, for my whole career, had more than one thing going, but only one thing really capturing my intellectual — sort of central.

Wolff:

When you say, “off in a corner” is that meant literally?

Terhune:

Literally. I moved my office to a location which was remote. So that I could essentially study.

Wolff:

My understanding of management is that there are always interruptions and phones and people with problems.

Terhune:

No. No. I didn’t take a secretary with me.

Wolff:

So you had a certain period each day when you were in this —

Terhune:

— only when I wandered out — in fact, they gave me a secretary solely for the purpose, ‘cause I wouldn’t answer my phone. If you weren’t independent, see, you couldn’t get anything done.

Wolff:

So you moved yourself off to this office, and you did your supervising only when you wanted to venture out.

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

Other times you would sit literally and read in your office.

Terhune:

Or in the library. Right.

Wolff:

Now you’re studying the crystals at Ford. Does Theodore Maiman’s demonstration of the ruby laser come at this time?

Terhune:

Comes right about then.

Wolff:

And when you read about that or heard about it, what did you do?

Terhune:

First, I was very familiar with the subject. There was a group, and Weiner at Westinghouse had done some experiments on ruby — there’s an interesting story. He’d done exactly the Maiman experiments and failed.

Wolff:

Who is this?

Terhune:

Weeder at Westinghouse Research lab. He was trying to change the populations of the spin resonance levels by optical means. And he reported on this work at the first Quantum Electronics Conference, and I remember driving home with Lambe and deciding he’d done it all wrong. And that’s exactly what Maiman — if Wieder had done it right, he’d have had all the numbers. Maybe he wouldn’t have gotten the laser action, but he’d have had the key numbers.

Anyway, the laser came up. I didn’t do anything then. I was studying nonlinear properties. Then the work at the University of Michigan on nonlinear properties was done by Peters, Waneright, Franken, one other person, I’ve forgotten who it was. Then I hired Paul Maker and we decided we’d put together a ruby laser. We’d heard about their work at Michigan, and we decided, gee, that’s logical, we’ll just go into nonlinear optics.

Wolff:

You decided to do the ruby laser first?

Terhune:

First.

Wolff:

Was this after Maiman’s?

Terhune:

After Maiman’s, we decided to put together a ruby laser.

We didn’t do anything right away at all. I waited six months or a year, and I hired Paul Maker. Remember, I had all these things going on, so I can’t really assemble equipment myself, ‘cause I’m doing too much. So I hired Paul. Boy, that was a marvelous choice. He’s so great, it’s hard to believe. Very quiet, competent person. Very much like Peters, same mold as Peters, does everything extremely well in the laboratory. Not much of a driver. Isn’t going to publish much. But everything’s done right. What more can you ask for?

He was full of vim and vigor then. You know, the lab was open — we worked nights in the lab, weekends and so on, and I remember once the doors were locked, when Paul first came, and he just took a hammer and knocked the lock right off the door.

That was the attitude. The work was paramount. Whatever had to be done to make the work go was what you did. You were your own boss. You were answering to yourself.

Wolff:

So you hire him, and —

Terhune:

Marty — was floating around, I hired Marty for something else.

Wolff:

And you decided you were going to make a ruby laser.

Terhune:

Laser, right.

Wolff:

And then they did the work at Michigan?

Terhune:

At Michigan. They did the first nonlinear optics work at Michigan.

Wolff:

So what was the influence of that work on you?

Terhune:

Well, we decided: “great, we’ll look into this.” I mean, we had the laser now and this looked like a great thing to look into, so we started to look into it.

Wolff:

— well, were you interested in looking into this for its power as a theoretical tool?

Terhune:

Nothing as profound as that. It is always, new and different things. No rationale as to what it’s going to do.

By the way, that was another interesting period, too, in the sense that — here’s a case of mismanagement. You know, we had this nonlinear area to ourselves for years, because the government decided they were going to put their money in other directions, which is sort or typical government management. Rather than have the scientists decide, they decide. Anyway, they were pushing their money into making high power lasers with rods and so on. And we were a completely independent group. The only thing that determined what we did was my decision. I decided to do it, that was it.

Wolff:

I may not have phrased the question too well. When you say it looked interesting, did it look interesting because this was a way of testing theories in quantum electronics, or did it look interesting for some other reason?

Terhune:

Interesting is two things. One is motivation to do something that’s never been done before. And to find new effects and phenomena. That’s what I mean by “interesting.” Not specifically, what applications in mind — that was never a goal.

Wolff:

Nor was it to test any theory.

Terhune:

Nor to check any theory. It was really always to stay at the very forefront of what one can do to discover new things.

Wolff:

What was the first important work of yours to come out of this?

Terhune:

One weekend, when Paul was working on the weekend, we had gone through an analysis, and set up an experiment on the angular dependence of the second harmonic generation, and Paul was working one weekend, and he said, “You’ve got to come in to the lab, I can’t explain this.”

He explained what was happening. All of a sudden the light was coming up so bright it was burning things. Prior to that, it was a part in 106.

Wolff:

Prior to that it was what?

Terhune:

A part in a millionth. When you sent the ruby laser into the crystal, you just got just a few photons, a part per million, was converted into second harmonic. But if you lined the crystal up right, then a very high percentage of the energy got converted to second harmonic. It was the idea of index matching. I knew the answer immediately from the analysis, and we were getting half million figures and so on.

This Paper 15 here is essentially the discovery of index matching. By the way, that paper came out at the same time as the paper by George did. Remember, I mentioned George Makhov and the laser days? Well, his career certainly paralleled in a sense, because he also published a paper at exactly the same time on the discovery of index matching. He did more of an analytical job on it. We did a better demonstration of the effects, in terms of the practical. Anyway, it was the same idea. The papers were essentially the same paper, published in the same issue of Phys. Rev. Letters.

That was the first real contribution.

Wolff:

What is index matching?

Terhune:

Index matching is where you maintain the phase relationship between the fundamental and the second harmonics, so you get amplitude addition, and thus you get conversion. Normally the index mis-match is such that you can only use something like one micron of crystal for your second harmonic production. But if you index match, you tilt the crystal at exactly the right angle, then everything remains in phase the whole time. You get amplitude addition and you get a very high percentage conversion between the harmonic and the fundamental. We rushed out the first paper there. That was very exciting.

Wolff:

This is number?

Terhune:

15. The other papers are all very interesting — 15, 16, 17 — because these are really the foundation papers for much of the nonlinear optics that took place. There’s a lot of stuff in there.

Wolff:

Now again, your interest in pursuing these was just because these were interesting effects that you were seeing and new?

Terhune:

New and interesting.

Wolff:

And what was your contribution to these papers? Was it again, this analysis of how to proceed?

Terhune:

The way we worked was that Paul Maker — well, Nisenoff was on the first paper, but he dropped out — Paul Maker and I did the work together. Neil Savage was the master studio assistant and all that. He worked in the lab full time. Paul Maker worked in the lab essentially full time, and some analysis. Every day at 4 o’clock I would work in the lab from 4 to 7 with Paul. And —

Wolff:

What were you doing before?

Terhune:

Well, I had all these people working for me and I had some other things going too. So every day from 4 to 7 we would work in the laboratory together, he and I, would get our hands on the equipment, and then we would leave a message for Savage and we would decide what Savage was going to do the next day. That’s the way we operated during this whole period. So it was sort of a mixture — oh, Paul was then in the laboratory much of the day, too. He was in the laboratory much more than I was in the laboratory. So I spent — oh, then I of course had to do the analysis. I did most of the analytical work on this. Of course, not alone. It was great to have good friends like G. W. Ford to — Professor Ford here at the University of Michigan is one of my closest friends, and just a marvelous theorist. He taught us all the theory, all the nonlinear equation theory, the nonlinear time dependent perturbation theory, how to write it and so on like that. He was an invaluable man to have around to talk to.

Wolff:

I’d be interested in how you see the difference between nonlinear optics and the classical optics, geometrical optics. Do you look back on that as having been a stagnant fie1d, sort of passé, with nonlinear optics a radically different turn in the road?

Terhune:

Well, not passé. All interesting effects involve nonlinearity, so it’s hard to say, to answer your question. Everything in detection of radiation involves nonlinearities. The nonlinear optics, yes, it opens the doors for tremendous variety of new things. It also involved a tremendous amount of new physics. Well, I shouldn’t say, new physics. I don’t know of any new ideas that came in because of nonlinear optics in terms of physics. What it is is, we made a whole bunch of new measurements on materials, gases, and so on. The new physical concepts are relatively rare. I’d have to think real hard.

Wolff:

I thought it allowed you to confirm theories in quantum electrodynamics.

Terhune:

No. Well, maybe some of the very latest stuff does but — it allowed you to use quantum electrodynamics, and everything came out exactly the way it was supposed to. There were no surprises. What it was was, all of a sudden you had tremendously increased capability to do things, and the problem was to organize your thoughts and catalogue and see what you really could do.

Wolff:

Years ago you observed that nonlinear work is closer to radio engineering than it is to geometrical optics.

Terhune:

Sure. Sure. Because you’re keeping track of the phase and handling it. It’s very close. Very close. The laser, as has been said many times, was really the extension of the maser work. Really there was no fundamental development in that. All the real work was done in the maser area. The whole laser field, non-linear optics and all that, was very good applied physics work. But very little fundamental physics.

Wolff:

Is that why your paper No. 18 got published in the APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS?

Terhune:

That’s why we chose to publish it there. — I think these publication places were chosen by us, more than any — right, that’s why it was published in APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS.

Wolff:

So you saw all this as applied physics.

Terhune:

Paper 21, this Optical Third Harmonic Generation paper, had the first breakdown in air. That’s an interesting story. That’s the first time anybody ever created a breakdown effect, plasma, with a laser. That’s reported in that paper.

Wolff:

How did you get onto doing that?

Terhune:

That’s an interesting story. See, the reason we were able to do many of the experiments that other people couldn’t do, was because of the work that Paul did with the laser. He got our laser performing as well or better than anybody’s laser around. The military was — as a matter of fact, later on here, well, just about this time, around the early sixties, they asked me to sit in on the Death Ray Meeting.

That was sort of an interesting one.

Wolff:

“They” being whom?

Terhune:

The government. First question I asked them, after I had sat there and listened to them talk a while, was “How do you know the beam isn’t going to come back and hit you?”

Because that’s what the Stimulated Raman Effect does.

You send a laser beam down, and the beam comes back. And that’s what should happen in air. Instead of hitting that, it will come back and hit you. And they didn’t know the answer to the question. We agreed to try to get the answer for them, and then we decided we didn’t have quite enough power. And they shipped in a laser which used two eight inch ruby rods, for us to try the experiment with, and it wasn’t as bright as our laser. We were using little quarter inch, two inch ruby rods, but Paul had worked on the laser enough that he had gotten more brightness. So this allowed us to do experiments that other people couldn’t do.

One day we were sitting, and had a crystal in the beam, and it broke down the crystal. You know, it shattered, inside the crystal. In fact I asked Paul, “Gee, if that works, it ought to spark.”

”OK, we’ll get a lens,” and we put it infront of it, and it sparked. Then we got a Bunsen burner and lit the Bunsen burner. And that was it. That was the first —

Wolff:

You lit the Bunsen burner with the spark?

Terhune:

From the laser. And that was reported in this paper, 21, and then other people have taken it on and done an awful lot or work on it.

But the key to all of our work here was the good work that Paul did. Our laser performed.

Wolff:

What was it that he was able to do that made the laser perform?

Terhune:

He just did his optical engineering extremely well and carefully. It doesn’t show up any place. You see this paper, you think, it’s just that that laser performed more reliably, 1onger, and was brighter than anybody’s laser around, even though it looked exactly the same.

Wolff:

And you’re doing all this from 4 to 7 pm.

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

Here’s a question about your Paper #18, which seemed to be a dramatic demonstration — stimulating molecular hydrogen and deuterium.

Terhune:

Let’s see, where’s the interesting paper? That’s a good paper, but where’s the more interesting one?

Wolff:

I was just going to ask why you picked that? All your previous work had been done with liquids.

Terhune:

I’m looking for — see, what’s missing from here is, the sequence doesn’t show up in these papers. The four-photon work is reported here in Reference 27. That’s a summary of all of our work on four-photon. Now, that goes on throughout this whole period here, and is actually reported in talks.

And this H2, D2 and CH4 (paper 18) followed some very exciting work on four-photon interactions, which is reported in this Reference 27, but was reported back here in meetings.

There are a few things that are well known in this area. One is the ring pattern that you get out of sending a laser into benzene. That picture was widely known throughout the community, and still is, and is used in textbooks and so on.

You see, that’s done back in here, and that’s the —

Wolff:

Back at what year?

Terhune:

That would be back in ‘62 or so. And we did the first CARS spectroscopy back then, and that’s all reported in the ‘65 paper.

Wolff:

The first what spectroscopy?

Terhune:

CAR: Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Spectroscopy. That’s reported in this ‘65 paper. But it’s not written up here as a separate publication. I wonder why we didn’t?

This four-photon interaction — H2, D2, and CH4 — was after doing this work for the military. They were interested in N22, the stimulated Raman effect of the laser beam coming back to them, and the self-focusing laser beam. That was another phenomenon we were into at that time. And none of that’s reported here.

Wolff:

Are you saying that your four-photon work came out of this request by the military?

Terhune:

No. The four-photon work preceded the request and it preceded this Reference 18. It doesn’t show up here in the references. That’s all I’m saying.

Wolff:

All right. How did you get into that avenue?

Terhune:

That’s an interesting one. I was out talking to the University of California, giving a talk, and talking to Norman Kroll, and he was doing some theory on four-photon interactions, and we got talking. I don’t know how it came out, but, whether the minus frequencies applied or something, and — this was following the talk I’d given — came out with the idea of essentially doing CARS on the four wave mixing, in talking with him, explaining to him as if I understood it all along. (laughs)

But anyway, I called Paul up that night and told him to set up the experiment, and it worked like a charm.

Wolff:

The experiment to do —?

Terhune:

Four-wave mixing. To send in two different frequencies and observe the new frequency due to a third-order interaction. Just called him up by phone, and he set the experiment up, and the next day when I got back, it was done.

Wolff:

Did any of your work result from the Death Ray request by the government?

Terhune:

Only in the sense that — no. No, we never, we detoured somewhat and accepted the equipment in the lab to try this one experiment, and we eventually settled it, the Brillouin threshold was the lower threshold rather than the Raman threshold. But no, none of our program was pointed at all toward their efforts.

Wolff:

Nor did their request lead you into something else. Now, by 1963, you’d been asked to give a big overview paper for the American Physical Society. So it’s clear that by now you have a reputation in nonlinear optics. I was going to ask you, what you think what was it that gave you this reputation? Were you the only group working on it or?

Terhune:

We did two thirds of the new things in that area. Every invited paper I gave during that period, I reported something new. Like the four-wave mixing. Like the test independent rotation. Every time I gave a paper, I never repeated. So that was a very unusual period, in that sense.

Look at Bloembergen’s book, the fundamental book on nonlinear optics. That paper by Bloembergen and Perchon and Armstrong, ADP, set the basis for all the analysis of nonlinear optic effects. When Bloembergen wrote a summary of his first papers, describing the field of nonlinear optics, I think three quarters of the experimental work he references to support his analysis is ours.

It wasn’t that other people weren’t working, but we were grinding out a new effect one right after another.

Wolff:

Did you want to comment about another paper?

Terhune:

No, I was just looking in here because of the dates, because while I was doing this, I was also doing magnetic spin wave work. That’s these other papers, with Nisenoff.

Wolff:

You’re juggling a lot of balls, as usual.

Terhune:

As usual, right. But that turned out to be very successful work.

Wolff:

What would you say was the significance of all that work?

Terhune:

Well, what it had to do was, people had been studying spin waves in thin films, and getting very unusual results. They had the theory in hand, but to explain their experiments they were presuming all sorts of things. What we finally ended up with was very simple. If we made the films under very high vacuum conditions we got very beautiful clean results. And once you got that, that opened up a way for doing a whole next level of interpretation of experiments, and we published this, showing we got clean results if we made the films in this way. I mean the lines were nice and uniformly spaced and everything followed the way it was supposed to, and you could start getting out relaxation times and a whole series of other effects.

This is sort of interesting, because, that work was done working with Jim Mercero, who’s a professor at Cal Tech now, but while we were doing this, they were doing the super work on Josephson Junctions. So he had a very exciting program going on the side, too, and we were looking into the possibility of opening up work on magnetic thin films, and so we decided to collaborate together, and Marty Nisenoff was doing the experimental work, and I ended up doing the bulk of the work with Marty, and so that’s the way published, but it really started with Jim Merero.

Wolff:

Let me wind up the nonlinear optics work by asking you what you think is the importance of the field today.

Terhune:

Gosh, it’s a standard technique, now.

Wolff:

Well, for what?

Terhune:

For generation of radiation sources.

Wolff:

What is its importance today?

Terhune:

Well, practically all laser systems which are being used, and there’s a whole raft of them nowadays, involve nonlinear or electrooptic or something like that, in them. In other words, these laser recording systems, in one way or another they involve nonlinear optics. The only quibble with that is, where do you define the line between — do you call Kerr Effect nonlinear optics or not nonlinear optics? I’m including all of that. The idea of electro-optics, nonlinear optics to steer, to change the frequency, to focus, to process the light beam – that’s all nonlinear optics, and that’s the heart of the newer systems that are coming out. Most of them are esoteric systems. Very few have found their way into the home yet.

Wolff:

But it’s ended up with a “practical” application, in terms of making laser systems.

Terhune:

Oh, it’s the heart of many laser systems. Or within the laser itself, modulating the laser, Q switching — that’s all nonlinear optics.

It hasn’t found its way to the automobile. (laughs) No, it is the heart of the system. No question about it.

Wolff:

And did you — this is a dangerous question to ask, but I’ll ask it anyway — did you foresee any of this, when you were doing these papers?

Terhune:

Oh — I would say, yes. The minute we did this paper 17, that’s the key point, you know that great things are going to happen when you do 17.

Wolff:

Which was what, again?

Terhune:

Observation of saturation effects in optical harmonic generation. That’s the paper that’s the turning point. It converts it from a laboratory curiosity to a meaningful technology. See, what happened there, is that we demonstrated 20 percent energy conversion efficiency, in the harmonic generation. So now that means you can use it as a primary process. We didn’t know what was limiting us, but you’ve got such a high conversion efficiency now, you know great things are going to happen. You can change the color of light at will, so to speak. You can plan on doing that for a system. And that means you’ve opened all sorts of horizons. The minute you saw that, you knew it was going to be used. You didn’t know how. And so the question about whether we had application in mind is not an important question. It had already been proven it was going to be applied, as far as I was concerned. It was just a question of how.

Wolff:

How did you feel when you got this result, 17, do you remember?

Terhune:

Oh well, it was very interesting. We were very happy about it. See, 15 was the basic paper, where we discovered what to do. Then 17 was the one where we actually carried it through and got the high conversion efficiency. That really changed everything — that was the night and day, right there, that Paper 17. Because even 15, just showing we’d improved it by a million, still didn’t mean it wasn’t just a laboratory curiosity. But 17 meant: look now, it’s an engineering thing. Any good optical engineer knew now that it had arrived. It was only going to be a matter of time.

Wolff:

Was Goldman following this closely?

Terhune:

Well, Goldman is a great guy for enthusing about things, but he didn’t understand. He recognized we were getting recognition that good people were doing things, and he was happy. It was a very pleasant relationship. He’s great. He was a great manager. Meanwhile he was going up in the structure and becoming director and so on.

Wolff:

I want to move on now to your moving up in the structure.

Picking up now, after lunch, it seems that in 1965 you got the title of manager of physical electronics at Ford.

Terhune:

That was really taking over the central research laboratory of Philco-Ford.

Wolff:

Tell me a little about that.

Terhune:

That’s the laboratory in Bluebell, Penna. Philco was taken over by the Ford Motor Co. in the early sixties. See, my job in the Ford Laboratories, besides doing this research, was really supervising the electrical engineering department, and I was involved in any new ideas in electrical engineering that had to do with interfacing with the company and the outside world, as far as the lab was concerned — I did it, the physics department.

We bought Philco-Ford in about 1961, so I did a lot of liaison work with Philco-Ford from about ‘61 on.

Wolff:

What did that liaison work involve?

Terhune:

Oh, it involved traveling to there, and consulting with them on programs. We set up some research work there, in the research lab, on nonlinear optics, and applications — light scanning, equipment, things like that. That was before ‘65.

Wolff:

So it was sort of natural then for you to become the manager of that?

Terhune:

No. That was a traumatic thing. See, Philco-Ford had expanded and was trying to get into computers, and everything else. They had a big central research laboratory which, as long as the government was paying the bill was all right, but the government was cutting back on their support for research in companies.

The reason they were bought by Ford is that the company went bankrupt with the computer field, and then they kept trying to have the image of a company that was going to do everything in electronics. And that kept costing them a fortune, like running the central research lab. Philco-Ford is basically an electronic systems house, and they had a very large laboratory, and they devoted the major part of it to devices, which contributed almost nothing to the development of the company.

So then they were deciding: what can we do with this? The first thing you do, you’ve got to… make it a branch lab. Cut the lab way down in size, but provide the support by tapping the main Ford lab, and having a branch Ford Motor Co. laboratory.

So I went to Bluebell, Penn. to set this up, and I took over and reorganized a brand new lab there with Philco-Ford people.

Wolff:

Were you involved in the decision to cut the lab?

Terhune:

No. I was pushed, cajoled, or whatever by — I didn’t really want to take the lab at all. But Jack Goldman talked himself into a situation where we were going to take over the lab, and I guess I was the only one who could take it over and do the job.

Wolff:

Why were you the only one? Was it because of your liaison work, and your familiarity with it?

Terhune:

No, there’s more than that. See, in a lab like ours, we were much more sheltered and much more research oriented, doing very little project work, not too much in government contracts. See, I’d been in the government contract world, I understood the systems, I’d been in radar, I understood electronics. I understood Philco’s business-communications. In fact, I liked systems. I’d done a lot of systems work in my day, and, as I said, I did almost all the interfacing work in electrical engineering at the laboratory, because we just didn’t do that sort of thing. So I was the only one who could really take over. So I took over. I did it.

First thing, I decided after I took over was that they’d made the wrong decision. And that took about a year to reverse. What we did was close the laboratory. We just extended the work at Dearborn rather than forming a branch laboratory.

Wolff:

The wrong decision being to form the branch laboratory?

Terhune:

Remote from the main lab — to try to operate a small laboratory remote from the main laboratory. It didn’t appear to me to be a feasible thing, or any reason for a laboratory to be located there, because Philco wasn’t located there. Philco was distributed around the country, and paying a huge price to operate a lab in Philadelphia, when you weren’t really close to anything. So, that took me about — oh, I was in Philadelphia for nine months before we decided to close that lab.

See, I had to make the decision whether to establish a West Coast lab. Jack Goldman’s dream was to establish a West Coast lab, and I voted against that, so we didn’t do it. That came into fruition when Xerox established a West Coast lab. (laughs)

Wolff:

He was determined to have his West Coast laboratory.

Terhune:

Yes, and I think it’s the right thing, in the right circumstances. It’s just that I didn’t think Philco could support a West Coast laboratory.

Oh, the charter was confusing then, too, because they insisted that we stay out of the systems business, and stay in the device business. Well, if you’re not going to be in the main line of business or more closely related to it, you’re going to be in trouble. So, I was not for it. So what we did was move the whole operation then back to Dearborn in ’66.

Wolff:

You said this was traumatic. What was traumatic?

Terhune:

Oh, my wife didn’t want to go, and I didn’t want to get into management as such.

Wolff:

Well, is this ‘65 to ’75 period when you’re listed as manager of physical electronics, is that the Philco-Ford period?

Terhune:

Well, it started off as that. See, it was a branch lab of Ford and I’m still working for Ford. I’ve always worked for Ford. But the ‘64, ‘65, period was essentially taking over the research for Philco-Ford, closing it down, establishing the department back in Dearborn.

Wolff:

I see, so this department in Dearborn was different from the Ford Scientific Laboratory?

Terhune:

It was to extend the activities in the Ford Scientific Laboratory into areas of interest to Philco-Ford.

Wolff:

Those areas being what?

Terhune:

Oh, semiconductor work, infra-red detectors, more laser work, things like that.

Wolff:

Why couldn’t that just have been part of the scientific laboratory? I mean, was it supposed to be more applied?

Terhune:

It was supposed to be more applied, if we could make it so, — like one thing we did was to develop a detector technology that Philco-Ford is now using. (It’s back to being just Ford again. We got rid of Philco.)

Wolff:

What was the interest to Ford in detector technology?

Terhune:

None – to support Philco — it was the central lab for the whole company. Philco-Ford was interested in detectors, so we got into detectors.

Wolff:

Well, what was Philco-Ford’s business?

Terhune:

One of their major businesses is missiles. And the seeker systems on missiles involved infra-red detectors and scanning systems.

Wolff:

OK. I get it. All right, so you were the manager of this, and how many people did you have under you?

Terhune:

I don’t know, I built it up slowly — 25, 30, something like that. 30.

Wolff:

I see. You were involved in these kinds of components, things like that.

Terhune:

No — it’s a funny story. Only very few people, about four people came back with me from Philadelphia. And I took a couple of people from the laboratory, but then I went out and hired everybody else, built a new department, starting right from scratch. And the thing that made it very difficult was that this was during sort of the peak period, when science was so popular and jobs were so easy to get, it was very very hard to get good people. So I didn’t build up very fast purposely. I wouldn’t hire anybody unless I felt that they would really add to the organization.

So that limited the growth rate. Then we got into an era, the early seventies. Things were going along very fine, and then the whole era of relevance started to hit, which has hit all laboratories and universities. Everything is to be programmed. Programmed research, highly objective oriented, and so on like that.

Wolff:

Did you still report to Goldman?

Terhune:

Well, that was another thing that went on during this period. He went through a great big hassle with the management. What it really came down to was that he wanted the vice president of research fired and he wanted to be vice president. (laughs) And they got into a hassle. Nobody wins at that. Both people lose. But Jack came out smelling like a rose. He ended up —

This confused the situation greatly. It was about 1970 that this hassle went on. And everything was split in camps — you know, “who are you loyal to?” and so on, like that.

But Jack came out smelling like a rose. He got the job at Xerox, and he’s done very well there. Ference retired early. They both had to leave the company. You just can’t stand that sort of friction in a company like Ford.

The whole thing changed then, after that period.

Wolff:

When did he leave Ford?

Terhune:

Around ‘70, ‘71. I’m guessing there.

Wolff:

Did that have an impact on you?

Terhune:

I think what had more of an impact was trying to do something in a sensible way while everybody was hassling. It was really a terrible environment, administratively, from about ‘67 on, until ‘70 or so when Jack left. You couldn’t really do anything constructive during that period.

Wolff:

And then after he left, there was the stress on relevance?

Terhune:

After he left, we went into a new era. There was a complete change in attitude, what they wanted out of research. They wanted to see it immediately relevant.

Wolff:

How did these pressures manifest themselves on you? Were you called upon to make presentations about what you’re doing, and why it’s relevant to the automobile industry, or what? How does that work?

Terhune:

No. It only had — let’s see, there didn’t seem to be any — if I was going to be in management, it was going to be to build or do something constructive and remain in very advanced research and development work. It was not to take on large scale applied programs. I did not want to do that.

This sort of put me at odds, friendly odds, with the director, vice president now, because I would only help him so far. Like, we did the first work on digital control systems for timing, and so on, on cars. I had a couple of physicists in my department do it, put together some digital controls, and they’ve gone on to that quite heavily — the labs, and everything built on it. But I didn’t want to head any further work on it. Things like that. It was not interesting to me. What I wanted to do was build a quality research development group.

I didn’t mind it being applied. That wasn’t the point. But I wanted to have some degrees of freedom in deciding what was applied and what was not applied. And so, I decided to leave. I left management, you see, in ’75.

I left. There was nothing negative. The only negative thing was that the ground rules were set in such a way that there was not going to be any expansion. In fact there was obviously going to be a contraction of the research in the laboratory. And that’s the way it is now. We’ve now come to a steady state. I’d say the amount of research in the lab now, compared to what it was ten years ago, has been cut by a factor of 5. It’s just hard to imagine the difference, the attitude. Research – it’s really put up with. It’s tokenism. Low priorities. No shop priorities.

Wolff:

Well, from Henry Ford’s viewpoint, do you think this is justified, in light of what we were saying earlier about its being difficult to see how much of your physics was directly useful to Ford?

Terhune:

No, it’s not justified in that sense. The whole thing makes a lot of sense in that the whole country is turned around, on this whole relevance kick. I mean Ford Motor Co. is still one of the better labs in the country. The only difference is that we were so research that we had farther to go to come back to what they consider “reality” at the present time. So the present lab is a good place. But it’s just a shadow of what was there. It’s amazing, the difference.

Wolff:

But I’m wondering whether one could justify this on the basis that, when you were doing all this great physics, it was important physics but it didn’t lead to anything that would be useful to the automobile business except possibly the battery.

Terhune:

No. It’s a matter of how long a view you want to take. It’s true, you can say that about the physics. But you really couldn’t say it about the physical electronics stuff that I had the department doing. It was more long range applied research going on.

Wolff:

Yes, the Philco-Ford stuff.

Terhune:

Well, the stuff that was connected with that, you could definitely see that it had connection. But it was longer range. It’s a pendulum problem. It swung too far. In other words, to do research, you’ve got to have faith. It’s a religious thing almost, to support long range research. True, it’s not going to affect your product line. But to support good advanced applied work, not stuff that you can see within the next year or two but stuff that’s five to ten years away, calls for more vision, and the automobile companies have just adopted the view of, nose to the grindstone to the immediate problems. They’ve got so many immediate problems. They’re going to face those. And this is an environment where the government is preaching relevance and programmed research and so on, so all this stuff comes back and reflects itself down to highly directed work. So I left management.

Wolff:

When was Philco-Ford sold?

Terhune:

Oh, I don’t know.

Wolff:

Was that before you left?

Terhune:

Well, it was sold in pieces.

Wolff:

So you’re managing this as it’s being sold off?

Terhune:

Right. But it took on a broader role than just Philco-Ford while I was in the Ford laboratory. We did other things for Ford, too. We did sensor development, for instance, for the air to fuel sensors. That’s a good case in point. We did sensor development, and it was sort of over the dead body of the applied people, because we wanted to take a view: well, what is the next problem? Where are things going? What might be done? You know, just normal good applied work, other than solving the immediate problem at hand. And oh, they were madder than heck at me for two years. But at the end of the two years the fellow who was doing the work took over the program. Their program disappeared and his program is still going strong.

Wolff:

Because you were successful?

Terhune:

We were successful in defining what was the next stage of the problem. And they hadn’t even begun to look at the next stage problem. And when the problem arose they had nothing.

I consider that poor management. I don’t want to get in an argument about any individual, but I think you can do good, very advanced, applied work. It calls for very careful management and taste and judgment about what’s worth working on and what’s not. And most of the time, I’ve seen it, the views of people are too short range.

Wolff:

It’s interesting that between ’65 and ‘75 you don’t publish any papers, except one in 1972 on detecting OH2 in the atmosphere.

Terhune:

That worked quite well.

Wolff:

Yes, but let’s talk first about the hiatus. Through all this, were you able to —

Terhune:

— oh, I was working with people at all times.

Wolff:

You were able to continue your research?

Terhune:

But I didn’t publish.

Wolff:

Why not?

Terhune:

I didn’t want to compete with people. See, I was hiring fresh PhD’s and trying to get them going. That was my job. And, what I did was to work with them, but I just didn’t publish. I don’t want to compete with them in other words.

Wolff:

I see. Were you still able to spend three hours a day in the lab working with people while you’re running this?

Terhune:

Oh yes. I spent practically all my time talking to people. Yes. Working on problems. Only I just didn’t publish.

Wolff:

Normally when a scientist moves into management he gives up his science, because management is a full time job. Are you still without a secretary now, in this situation?

Terhune:

Oh no. I had a secretary from about 1962 on, because they had to keep track of me. No, no, I — I’m just as involved. Management isn’t that hard, in that environment. In fact, running the department was doing less managing than I was doing when I was running the electrical engineering department when I first came there. That was less work.

Wolff:

So you’re spending most of your time, then —

Terhune:

— I did a lot of recruiting. Oh, I did a lot of recruiting. I was traveling all over the country, recruiting, talking to people.

Wolff:

That takes away from research time.

Terhune:

Oh no, I lost a lot of research time. There’s no question about that. But even that time which I did spend on research, which was still an appreciable fraction, I spent a lot of time working with Charlie Wang on the nonlinear optics things, but I didn’t publish. I didn’t want to compete with the people. Now, this 1970 paper, that was a —

Wolff:

Was this something that you personally were interested in?

Terhune:

— that’s one. In 1970, we were searching around for applied problems, and I went to the atmospheric chemists and asked them what they really wanted to know about the atmosphere. They said they wanted to know the number of OH molecules right here in the room.

Wolff:

Why did you go to that? Were you looking for?

Terhune:

A new forefront problem, that’s right. So in 1970 I wrote an internal memorandum saying how to do it, and this paper here is the experimental demonstration of the technique. Charlie Wang now has taken over and it seems to be working quite well.

Wolff:

This is Paper 31.

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

What made you ask the question “What do you want to know about the atmosphere?”

Terhune:

Well, because I was always looking for forefront problems which could contribute to the Ford Motor Co. See, the Ford Motor Co. is interested in atmospheric chemistry because of the emissions problem. As physical electronics, we wanted to contribute to this, but you want to contribute on the most meaningful problem you can define. They defined this as probably the most meaningful one they could think of. That’s a very difficult problem. It’s a tour de force in the instrumentation to get it. And it seems to be working. But I took off a couple of months and did the study and wrote that. I did that in 1970. Baardsen was a student here, you see.

Wolff:

Was it your idea to use the dye laser?

Terhune:

Oh yes. I did everything. I sat down and did it all.

Wolff:

Now you seem to have been moving away from this emission problem or smog chemistry to detection of aerosols and those —

Terhune:

— well, you see I went to Stanford for a year, in ‘75.

Wolff:

Oh, you left Ford?

Terhune:

Ford sent me for a sabbatical. And that’s this X-ray and gamma ray emission. That’s the stuff I did at Stanford. I did some other stuff there, on imaging and —

Wolff:

Well, again, are those areas that you think will be important to Ford?

Terhune:

Yes. Important. New technologies. Yes. That’s what I was looking for. In fact, my interest in the X-rays was X-ray lasers. And I wrote this paper with Pantell, did this study and wrote this paper with Pantell with that in mind. That work turned out to be pretty — he’s got a $400,000 contract now, to follow that up.

Wolff:

He’s not at Ford.

Terhune:

No. He’s at Stanford. Now I’m in the role of senior scientist, reporting to the director directly, not in a department. I don’t charge my time any place. I’m a free agent, told to think up what I'm going to do. I’ve been in that role now for a couple, three years.

Wolff:

How do you like that as opposed to management?

Terhune:

Oh, it’s great. Maybe eventually I’ll turn back to management to have more control and do things, you know. But I’m working with four or five different groups of people, starting new programs, and – it’s fun.

Wolff:

Is it correct that during those ten years when you were managing the physical electronics department, most of your management time was spent with recruiting?

Terhune:

It went through phases. I’d say that in the ‘66 through ’70 phase, of the management time, most of it was recruiting.

Wolff:

Tell me about recruiting. People have said you have a talent for this.

Terhune:

A willingness to work at it, is more it.

Wolff:

Well, what does it take to recruit good people? Wwhat do you mean by willingness to work at it?

Terhune:

Well, it turns out that it’s a very, very hard job, because there aren’t that many good people. Finding good people, getting people to really give you a real tough evaluation of people is difficult. If I’d go to a university like Cornell or Stanford, and come away with the names of more than one or two people I would really like to have, I’d be surprised. From a large school like that. And it took a lot of cross-checking, calibrating of references, and then after you found out who might be good, then you’ve got the problem of talking people into coming.

Wolff:

You did not then recruit a guy on the basis of your own reaction to him personally, but you did a lot of —

Terhune:

— oh, absolutely. Plus my reaction, of course.

Wolff:

But you didn’t leave it at that. You did a lot of —

Terhune:

— oh, absolutely. No, no, it was just good hard work. Just set out to cross- check everything you did, and talk to lots of people.

Wolff:

Now, did you find that you had to do a lot of selling to get physics people to come work at the Ford Motor Co.?

Terhune:

Well, I was hiring more than physicists. There were electrical engineers. Yes. Yes. The era in which I was recruiting was a particularly hard era to recruit in. Because that’s when jobs were very easy to come by.

Wolff:

Did you like recruiting?

Terhune:

Oh yes. It’s a lot of fun. Well, it was a lot of technical discussion, you see. In other words, I think the heart of recruiting, besides the talking about people, is extended technical discussions. I was always getting involved in those, where you find out what’s going on, who’s doing what, and with the students too, to find out what they’re doing. When I was talking to people, probably three-quarters of the talk would be technical discussion.

Wolff:

Well, in the sense of your trying to size them up as potential investigators, right?

Terhune:

Well, both with the professors and the people. No — yeah, in a sense that, establishing a relationship with the individual is an important part of the thing. And with the professors. It’s like this one professor at Stanford. I went to him a number of times, and finally, the last time, before I quit recruiting, he said, “Now I know what you’re talking about, about what type of people you want me to recommend…”

Wolff:

What type was that?

Terhune:

Well, I wanted somebody who was really good. And I wasn’t willing to compromise. Somebody that he’d be willing to consider as a potential colleague. And anything else he could forget about.

So he knew now. “Well, there’s just one — that guy, over there.” That sort of reaction.

Wolff:

What was the principal inducement you offered? Or, let’s put it this way — why did people accept your invitation to come to Ford?

Terhune:

Well, it’s one of the better labs. The salary is good. The people we ended up getting were almost exclusively from the Middle West. If they had any geographical prejudices, we couldn’t overcome them. If you wanted to work in an industrial lab in the Middle West, then I don’t think you could find a better one than Ford.

Wolff:

Let me go back to the business about the Philco lab. You recommended that they move it to Dearborn rather than try to keep it alive.

Terhune:

Yes.

Wolff:

Was that a difficult decision for you to make? Did it involve people’s careers?

Terhune:

Oh, yeah. It shut lots of people’s jobs.

Wolff:

How did you feel about making that decision? Was it hard for you?

Terhune:

Not really, because that was an era when other jobs were readily available.

In other words, if you trade a decision like that at a time when people couldn’t get other jobs, then OK, you’ve got a problem. But this was primarily changing jobs. That’s all.

Wolff:

What did you find the most satisfying aspect of the ten years you were managing at Ford?

Terhune:

Oh, watching young people develop. It’s fun working with them.

Wolff:

And what of the opposite? What was the least satisfying or, depending on how you want to put it, the most aggravating?

Terhune:

Oh, some of the personnel hassles were just hard to believe.

Wolff:

I’m trying to get a picture of what it’s like to be an industrial science manager.

Terhune:

The hardest problems are when people get upset with other people and then you try and straighten things out. And it’s like being a psychiatrist, you know, having them on a couch. There was a lot of that, talking to people for hours on end about their career goals, almost psychoanalysis.

Wolff:

People who felt they were passed over?

Terhune:

No. No. Just… career decisions. These are a1ll very difficult decisions to make. The guy starts off in research, and the problem is that most of the young guys come out of school not knowing, really, what they want to do. They get into a research lab, and sometimes they love it, other times they now find they want to go in other directions. They value other things. They value position, respect of people, things that you don’t get out of pure research, you know, office, secretary, program control. Some do. Some don’t. They have to figure out what they want to do. That takes a lot of time. You have all fresh people, and big turnover, a lot of them go into the company. That surprised me.

Wolff:

A lot of them did what?

Terhune:

A lot of them went into the company.

Wolff:

What do you mean, went into the company?

Terhune:

They left the lab, and took a job in the company.

Wolff:

In Ford?

Terhune:

In Ford. Yes.

Wolff:

As what?

Terhune:

Oh, all sorts of positions. Did very well, of course… One fellow left, and inside of a year and a half, he was the chief engineer in one of the divisions, which of course was fabulous.

Wolff:

But you spent a lot of time helping with this transition, in other words, helping these people sort their goals out.

Terhune:

Right.

Wolff:

Now, in 1975, you essentially resigned as manager?

Terhune:

Yes. It’s a cyclic industry, and that was one of the bottom periods. They were compressing research more, and they cut out all research expenditures. They didn’t fire anybody but they were holding things to an absolute one year hiatus, don’t do anything that costs money. Those were the ground rules of the game in that year.

Well, that seemed sort of foolish to me. That sort of ended things as far as building any sort or a new structure. That was certainly not a period to do any expansion, or try to take on any new problems or anything, so that’s when I quit and decided, well, the best thing to do since there wasn’t going to be any work going on in the lab — that was the official policy, the only work that goes on is established and doesn’t cost money —

Wolff:

Well, how can any work go on, that —?

Terhune:

It doesn’t.

Wolff:

So the lab is non-existent now?

Terhune:

No, no, just for that year. They made the decision that rather than let people go they would just essentially cut out all expenditures.

Wolff:

So what did the people do for the year?

Terhune:

Well, they filled in. They used what they had. You know. Just wrote things up, things like that. Research was not important enough to maintain the funding. But the company operates with a very conservative personnel policy, so that their decision was not to let people go, but rather to hold the people and not spend any money.

Wolff:

So you resigned as a result of that.

Terhune:

As manager. And my going to Stanford then was the same thing, as far as they’re concerned.

Wolff:

That didn’t cost them money. That was just the salary.

Terhune:

That was just the salary, which was in the ground rules of the game.

Wolff:

Did you have any desire to go higher in management at Ford?

Terhune:

Oh, mixed feelings. Probably not. I don’t know. No, I don’t think so. You never know what you desire and what you don’t desire. Obviously I didn’t. I knew what I had to do if I wanted to.

Wolff:

Which was?

Terhune:

Well, the work I had to do and the way I had to do it. The way I had to lead the program. The responsibilities I had to take.

Wolff:

You mean leading it at zero cost?

Terhune:

No, no. I’m saying that at any time in my career I knew what to do if I wanted more management responsibilities. I purposely avoided doing those things.

Wolff:

What I’m getting at is that it would have meant giving up the science work.

Terhune:

Oh yes. Oh, yes, that’s right, see, it would have meant giving up the science. And that’s what I was unwilling to do.

Wolff:

In other words, to have been manager of that department was as high as you could go and still do science.

Terhune:

Right. Absolutely. In fact, I was beyond it, really, as a manager. But within the normal structure, the manager does not usually do science.

Wolff:

You say you were beyond it. You mean, you were?

Terhune:

An unusual manager, in other words, to be involved in the science.

Wolff:

What did you give up to be involved in the science? Anything?

Terhune:

Well, if I wanted to play the game for promotion, that’s what you give up. I mean, if you wanted to do the paper work and things, if you wanted to be director, vice president, or something like that, then you’d do different type things.

Wolff:

Like what?

Terhune:

Well, do far more program planning, and get involved more with applied activities. Just turn the efforts in much more company-directed ways.

Wolff:

Yet your job was applied activities.

Terhune:

Ah, but advanced applied. See, you can interpret that. You can turn your efforts to immediate problems.

Wolff:

Such as continuing on that digital control system.

Terhune:

Such as taking responsibility for that – that’s right — the electronics development. Which could easily be done.

Wolff:

Some people claim industry today is doing more research that’s aimed at complying with government regulations, and not enough basic research. Do you feel that’s a valid criticism? Earlier you said, they’re just not doing research at all.

Terhune:

I guess that question has two parts to it. There is the government regulation, which is true. But then, the word “basic.” When people use the word “basic,” unfortunately, they usually mean unrelated research, and that confuses the issue.

I think there are two aspects. From the company’s point of view, there’s long range applied research, and then there’s fundamental research in the sciences. The fundamental research in the sciences, to support that is a religious thing. It’s definitely going to be a long term impact. It isn’t going to do anything around the corner. You’d better get other reasons rather than the immediate, such as you want people around, or it’s going to be a way of feeding people into your applied programs. But then, imaginative long range applied work — I don’t see much of that. Like in our place, we have people doing fundamental work, and we don’t have enough imaginative long range applied work so there is nothing to feed to, so why have the fundamental? You know one needs the other.

So the question is sort of confusing in using that word “basic”.

Wolff:

All right, so we got rid of that. We talk about applied.

Terhune:

Long range company or product-oriented efforts.

Wolff:

Is the reason that’s not being done because of work going on to meet government regulations?

Terhune:

Well, the automobile industry is so loaded with it now, it’s a moot question. There are just so many regulations, so many changes on the books that they have to come up with. That just takes all their resources, period. They can’t think sensibly. The government has given them so many tasks. You take the emissions task, and the fuel economy task. Those are tremendous things. The safety tests. All at the same time.

Wolff:

So do you feel that that’s diverting resources from the long range applied work?

Terhune:

Oh, there’s no question it is. Absolutely it is. With no value judgment right or wrong — sure. It’s doing it for the whole country nowadays.

Wolff:

Let me move on to a couple of other topics. Have you served on any advisory bodies, or government panels? You mentioned the death ray committee. I wondered if you’d done more?

Terhune:

Well, some. The Bromley report, I was on the atomic molecular physics panel, which is a general report, like the Pake Report, on what should be done for physics. Also the NBS visiting committee for the laser work. I participated in a study last summer, on the future military applications of superconducting electronics.

Wolff:

Let me ask you about that last one. How were you chosen for that?

Terhune:

Oh, I was chosen for that not as an expert in superconducting electronics, but as a person with a broad background in electronics and its applications, and yet enough understanding of superconductors to criticize what they were saying to me. Most of the people were insiders — I was the knowledgeable outsider.

Wolff:

And how did the group function?

Terhune:

Oh, a discussion group. I wrote up part of the report, on various application areas.

Wolff:

Can you say what the different points of views were, or what the —?

Terhune:

Well, actually, I don’t think there were —

Wolff:

Or what the group recommended? Or —? What you contributed, besides a general outsider’s view?

Terhune:

I don’t think there’s much to say. The results of the discussions were technical, having to do with detection systems for submarines and things like that.

Wolff:

What about the Bromley Report?

Terhune:

Oh, I wrote a sub-section, like everybody else. It was divided into two parts. One was sort of a state of the art. The other was a recommendation, what’s been done lately type and I wrote part of the what’s been done lately section.

Wolff:

In what?

Terhune:

In lasers. I don’t remember the detailed section, but Bloembergen, the chairman, took almost all the responsibility, and we each gave him contributions, which he put together into a sub-section of the report.

Wolff:

Now, what about OPTICS LETTERS? You were the editor of that.

Terhune:

Yes. Founding editor. It’s a year and a half old.

Wolff:

You founded that, a year and a half ago?

Terhune:

That’s right.

Wolff:

Why? What niche does that fill?

Terhune:

Oh, part of my job at Ford is relating to the outside community. And it seemed to be something that was needed, and they asked me to do it. A friend of mine called me up and asked me. And I found what it was, and why not?

Wolff:

You mean, you didn’t decide this needed to be done and then —?

Terhune:

Oh no, no, no. I didn’t decide it needed to be done. This friend of mine who is president of the Optical Society —

Wolff:

Can you say who that was?

Terhune:

Oh, of course, Boris Deutschov.

Wolff:

Boris Deutschov?

Terhune:

University of Toronto.

Wolff:

He asked you to be the first editor?

Terhune:

Right. I can imagine what happened was that there are very few people who would be qualified for that job, and he knew I was temporarily at loose ends, so it was the obvious thing to ask. So he called up one day here and just asked me, and I thought about it a while and said “OK” and did it.

Wolff:

Is there anything about OPTICS LETTERS editorially, or the way it’s published, that’s different from other physics journals? Do you do anything different?

Terhune:

No. Not different than any other journal. What we’re doing is establishing a new journal and maintaining high technical standards for papers in this specific area. In fact, not trying to do anything different. I set out and just defined that what I wanted to do was to establish a high quality journal serving this particular group of people. And then I looked at the other journals, and picked what I thought were the good points and rejected the bad points, and it seems to be working.

Wolff:

Do you have any strong opinions on any of the big issues that relate to science — responsibility of scientists to society, disarmament, decline of resources, parapsychology or anything?

Terhune:

Not really. Fortunately — the resources one — we’re lucky enough that our science has developed slowly, that we can't get at them all, to dissipate them all. (laughs) I was sort of afraid we would

Wolff:

Is there anything that we’ve missed, that you want to add?

Terhune:

Well, there are obviously things left out, but I don’t think of any.

Wolff:

So, looking back over your career, what would you say has given you the greatest satisfaction? We’ve talked about two things, science and management.

Terhune:

Oh, science, by far. But — that’s hard to say, because, it depends upon the level you’re operating on. If you want to be effective in science, the more applied you get the more you have to move into management to do anything. So, you’re sort of caught on the edge there. That’s why I’ve done all the managing I’ve done, because if you stay as the scientist, you’re not going to be able to control or direct resources to solve problems. That means you’ve got to move a certain distance up the hierarchy, and, depending upon how applied it is, you go further or less. If it’s more applied, you go further up the ladder because your controls go further up.

I wouldn’t fault management in that sense. In fact, I would say it the other way around. If I were not in management, I guess I’d be disappointed. I don’t like the image of the lone scientist working in the laboratory trying to solve the problem. That’s not modern science.

Wolff:

You say, that’s not modern?

Terhune:

No. The individual makes the contribution, but you can’t bring the technology to bear as an individual. There’s too much required.

Wolff:

That’s a good note on which to end. I thank you very much.

[1]Prof. Cohen, now at the University of Chicago

[2]The first operational digital computer, running around 1946

[3]at the U. of Illinois

[4]J. Hickmott, R. W. Terhune, and R. Page, J. Appl. Phys. 27, 307 (1956)

[5]J. Appl. Phys. 27, 1385 (1956)

[6]”Maser Action in Ruby,” G. Makhov, C. Kikuchi, J. Lambe, and R. W. Terhune, J. Appl. Phys. 27, 1399 (1958)

[7]C. Kikuchi, J. Lambe, G. Makhov, and R. W. Terhune, J. Appl. Phys. 30, 1061 (1959)

[8]”A Low Noise X-Band Radiometer Using Maser,” J. Cook, L. G. Cross, M. E. Blair, and R. W. Terhune, Proc. IRE 49, 768 (1961)

[9]May 1959 – May 1960

[10]J. Opt. Soc. Am. 51, 530 (1961)