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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of Brian Schwartz by Patrick McCray on 2001 August 10, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/32103
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Discussion includes Schwartz's childhood and early education, his undergraduate study at Cooper Union and City College of New York; his graduate work at Brown University under Leon Cooper; his post doc at Rutgers; move to MIT's National Magnet Lab; early work with superconductivity and magnets; prevalence of classified work; emerging interest in science policy; interest and role in the Anti-ballistic missile movement; Charlie Schwartz; ABM's effect on American Physical Society meetings; Schwartz's "Alchemical method" and APS reaction to it; tenure at MIT denied; move to Brooklyn College; building up the science program there; academic politics; becomes Education Officer of the American Physical Society in the late 1980s; AIP/APS move to College Park, Maryland; fund raising for APS; planning Centennial; major changes in physics during his career.
I received your CV, and that provided a good place to start with questions. As you may know, these are autobiographical, so it will be about you. So probably the most logical place to start, like a therapist, tell me about your childhood.
At the beginning. Well, I was born in Brooklyn, the second of four children. Both my father and my mother were immigrants who came to the United States right after World War One. My mother had a high school education, my father had to quit before he even graduated from high school. My father ended up becoming a grocer, and I, as a result of that, grew up in a grocery store. I was an assistant and helped in the grocery store as I got older. I went to a local high school. I didn’t go to any specialized high school, but I was on the math team at the time. In my senior year, which was 1955, I was second in New York City in mathematics. They have a weekly test, and five students from area high schools sort of compete, and my local high school, New Utrecht High School came in sort of very high, and this is competing with Stuyvesant and Bronx High School Science and other things like that.
What was the name of your high school?
New Utrecht High School. That actually comes from a Dutch city. In working in the grocery store, being mathematically inclined is very good because in those days we didn’t have a calculator, and so we would write on a plain brown paper bag all the numbers and then add it up, and I was a whiz at addition, so I could add them up very, very quickly, as could my father as well.
Where did you parents immigrate from?
Both came from Poland. My mother came from Warsaw, which is a major city, and my father came from a tiny city called Pshemish. I don’t know if that’s really the right name, but he described a city that used to have progroms running through here and there, and they used to have to hide the girls. It was an agricultural region. My father described issues of during the War when he would pick up cast shells from bullets. But my father was an unusual character because he was extremely independent, and in fact, I get some of that independence from him, who used to have a sign in the grocery store like, “It’s a privilege that I allow you to shop here.” And so he used to be very, very tough. If a customer misbehaved, he would tell the customer, “You can’t come back.”
So the customer wasn’t always right.
The customer was never right, in fact [laugh]. In that sense, what happened is the grocery store was also a little bit like a Robin Hood. Not a price was marked, and as a result, you charged everyone a different price according to the service they got and according to their wealth. So if you were very poor, you were charged much less, sometimes less than what it cost you because you were really the welfare at the period. And if they were very rich and they wanted service — in other words, when they walked in, they wanted to be waited on, because it wasn’t a supermarket, it was the type of store where you got things for them — then they paid more. Which I think was a very fair system. But as a kid working in the store, it made me very aware of people. I had to look at a can of tuna fish, look at the customer, sort of know what it costs wholesale, and then make a decision of what the price would be. That was actually incredibly good training for the brain because there were a thousand items, a thousand customers. You multiply all these numbers so you carry a billion bits of information in your head, and it was very good training.
Did you ever have situations where the same customer would buy the same thing and be charged two different prices?
Yes. They understood it. The customers understood it. They understood what they were getting into. And there were a lot of very poor customers who would come in and if it was busy, they would just wait. I remember one customer had loads of children, and we used to give her milk at fifteen cents a container, and maybe it cost us that then, but years later it was costing us twenty cents and we were still charging here fifteen cents.
Did you parents speak at all, or speak much once they got to the States, about their experiences during the War or before the War? Was this a significant part of growing up?
No. Because both of them were near the youngest in their family, and so as a result, they were children at the time, and really didn’t experience it as suffering. My mother tells a wonderful story of when she came to Ellis Island. She was there with her whole family. Her father had come beforehand, before the War, and then she then came with the rest of the family, the mother and all the children. And it was a very hot day on Ellis Island, and they were all at the edge of the water, and they were standing with all their goods, and then people began jumping into the water because it was just so hot it was unbearable. Suddenly, they were drowning. Her sister was drowning, and this…She said her thoughts that went through her head were, “What am I going to do with all this luggage?” As a little kid, she was more worried about “What am I going to do with all this luggage here if I’m the only one left?” She then told stories about her father, who when she met her father — It was one of those, like if you have a kid, there’s a little book called Are You my Mother? I don’t know if you read that to your kids. A little bird falls out of the nest and looks around. So she kept looking for her father, and finally when she found her father, sitting on her father’s lap was a cousin of hers who she instantly hated from that day on. So there were stories like that told, but no tragedies. Of course, they grew up during the Depression, but since my father had a grocery store, they always had food, and in fact, he was again, the welfare for the family. Whoever needed food, he would take care of. He was very generous in that way
You mentioned your siblings. I missed how many.
I have an older brother who is two years older than me named Harold. All the children were gifted in mathematics. We all had a very good gift. In addition, the family had lots of cousins because there were a lot of children on my mother’s side and on my father’s side.
A big family.
A big family. And each one had four or five children, so I have 30 or 40 cousins, and cousins are close in age. When you’re a kid, you really have a good time with cousins because you sleep over at their house, they sleep over at your house. So the cousins became an important thing in my life as well. I’m still friendly with some of the cousins. In the end, because their parents were older, none of my cousins went to college. My mother’s children were the first on either my father’s side or my mother’s side to go to college. My older brother started at Brooklyn College and after two years flunked out because he found girls as well. I started college a year later than he did, and I started at a college called Cooper Union. After two years, then switched to City College, and got a degree in four years total, two at Cooper Union, two at City College, in physics. I was the first one on both sides of the family to get a college degree. So even my older brother, beat him out. He ultimately went back to college, went to night school, got a degree in accounting, became an accountant for a while, and then ultimately he became the mail order king of the United States. He became involved in mail order business, and if you were to ask, “Who’s Harold Schwartz?” among mail order people, he was at one time the mail order king. He knew more about mail order than anyone, he was a very good entrepreneur. He made a lot of money, and ultimately, when he retired young, he used to be called back in to save a situation. One time, he was called back in when Mobil Oil bought Montgomery Ward. Montgomery Ward, like Sears, had a big catalogue division. So they called my brother in to save the catalogue division, but they weren’t sure they wanted to save it. So he went out to Chicago, lived in the John Hancock Building on the 85th floor. Only ten people lived above him, or something like that. He waited around for nine months, and then they decided not to save Montgomery Ward. He had a golden parachute and made a fortune. My sister, who is four and a half years younger than me, is named Sheila. She was also good in math and science, not as good as my brother and myself. I was better than my brother. She was treated as a girl. This is an old fashioned Jewish family who treated girls differently than boys in those days.
The aspirations for the girls were much less. Going to college wasn’t as necessary. My sister ended up wanting to be a nurse, and my father sort of pooh-poohed it in the sense of, “How are you going to deal with all these dirty things and all?” She really wanted to become a nurse and became a nurse, but it wasn’t encouraged. Even her math skills weren’t really encouraged. I, at the time, used to get involved with even my older brother, and then with my sister, and then later on with my younger brother, in sort of helping them. I was very good, and a smart kid. With my sister, she was really terrorized by me a little bit because I was so good, and I was not as graceful as I would be now toward her. So I think I traumatized her a little bit. My younger brother, who is nine and a half years younger than me, is named Sam. Again, I think I became partly a father to him, him being that much younger, and my father being a grocer, worked very hard. In fact, I tell the story that I had two fathers. The same person was two fathers. One was this man in the grocery store who was king. He was really fun, dynamic, and almost a psychiatrist to all of the customers, plus all of the women, he would flirt with them in a fun-like way. Then at home, there was this tired man. He used to come home very, very tired and go right to bed. So if I didn’t work in the grocery store, I would have seen a very tired man coming home and going to bed. So there were two different views and all.
Did you mother work in the store as well?
Later on, when all the kids left, my mother ended up working in the grocery store. The grocery store was the central focus. On the weekends my father would be looking at what he has to order, and there would be these books of what to order.
So there were two places that life revolved around, one perhaps being the house, and one being the grocery store.
Right. And we ended up later on, by the time I was 12, we moved within three blocks of the grocery store. So there was no escaping it. In fact, my father would close for lunch. He was really a wild man. He did things that no one else did. My younger brother, nine and a half years younger, I sort of took under my wing and I used to pay him a quarter for every book he read, I used to help him with various kinds of things. But eventually, as I went to college, I began leaving the house, so I didn’t stick with him. My younger brother ended up… This is a story I tell, which is a true story. He got his Bachelor’s degree in 1969 at Brooklyn College in physics. I was already a physicist on the faculty at MIT. He then asked me, “Should I get a Ph.D. in physics?” Later on, I’ll tell you. I was very involved at that time with careers, and Ph.D. problems, and that was when the Vietnamese War, and lots of people were coming out. I said, “Don’t get a Ph.D.” He said, “Why?” And he later on told me that he thought maybe I was worried that he would be competing with me. I said, “No. Because when you come out in ’73 or ’74, there will be no really good jobs, even if you’re smart. You’re going to end up where you don’t want to be, and I think a person with your brains can do more.” So then he said, “So, what should I do?” And I whispered in his ear, much like the film The Graduate. I didn’t say, “Plastics.” I whispered in his ear, “Transportation.” And then he said to me, “What should I do with transportation?” I said, “Become Commissioner of Traffic for New York City.” Eleven years later, he was the Commissioner of Traffic for New York City. He coined the word gridlock. There’s credit for it in William Safire’s article dealing with where words came from, and he is the happiest person I know in terms of career because when I, a physicist, go to a party, and they say, “What do you do?” and I say, “I’m a physicist,” it makes people stumble. They can’t even speak anymore. They don’t know what to say. They say, “I…I…I… In high school, I was terrible… I didn’t have a good…. You must be smart.” There were a few key things, but they want to get away. The main thing is, “I don’t want to talk to you.” Whereas my brother, when he says, “I’m in charge of traffic for New York City,” everyone has a complaint. “This block is no good. In my street, there’s a pothole here. Why don’t you do this?” So, he’s the head and he’s very good in giving quotes. So wherever there’s a problem, there he is being quoted on traffic. He said if there was a Nobel Prize in traffic, he would win it. Not because he’s so smart, not that he’s not smart, but the number of smart people in it as compared to physics is way smaller. So he’s really a genius in it. He knows numbers, he knows this. So what he ended up doing when I gave him that advice, he then went to the University of Penn and studied in civil engineering transportation. And the joke was that at Brooklyn College, which was really a superb college at the time, he was going from the hydrogen atom with doing Eigen functions and all, to, “Now we have 200 feet, and we’ve got to fit in ten cars. Where do we draw the line?”
So it wasn’t a difficult transition for him.
It wasn’t a difficult transition for him. The same thing happened a little bit to my older brother. My older brother, when he flunked out of college, openly went to the Army. He enlisted in the Army, and he went to Fort Dix, and he then was asked to type and others, to take the test. Of course he was a very bright guy, and he came out in the top of the class, and he became what was called a Remmington Raider at the time. They made him into a typist. He could spell, read, and write. So when he graduated first in the class, he had his choice. If he could go anywhere in the world, because he was top in the class, they said, “That’s one of the rewards.” So it turned out he had a girlfriend in Brooklyn. So he ended up going to a base in Brooklyn, from anywhere in the world.
Did things work out with the girl?
No. She was very pretty, but it didn’t work out.
Tell me about math. You were going to New Utrecht High School, you were doing very well in math. Were you interested in science or a career in science?
Science, too. I was very good in science and math.
What was your parents’ reaction?
I used to take things apart. I used to like taking things apart, more mechanical than electrical, and there were always a few pieces that didn’t go back. But I would take everything apart. I had tremendous curiosity as a kid. The other thing that I didn’t know at the time, but I was actually a very good teacher. So what happened is when I knew things, I would help lots of people. I would help lots of other students. I just did that. My elementary school, I went to a yeshiva for the first eight years of my career, and it was a very strange yeshiva in the sense that it had boys and girls. There were two types of yeshivas in those days. One was this killer place where you just studied all day and they used to whip you or the equivalent, and then there was this, called Crown Heights Yeshiva, which in the morning you study Hebrew with only boys, and then in the afternoon, we did English, and it was boys and girls. So it was a very social, very progressive place. What was strange about the yeshiva is although they taught you religion, and you read the Bible and things like that in Hebrew, the way they taught you Hebrew was you read the first book in grade one, the second book in grade two. In other words, they never taught you Hebrew. We used to translate from Hebrew to Hebrew. I think had they taught you just the language, by the third grade you could read it all yourself. At the time, when I was very young, I had almost a photographic memory. I was very, very good. And also probably what would be called an ADD student, attention deficit, because I was always doing five things simultaneously, and I still do it a little bit. At any rate, I was very good in Hebrew, too. The teacher used to get enough of me. I would be playing with a yo-yo in the aisle or something, and if my teacher called on me with my book being closed, the way they would test you is they would begin reading, and then they would stop and point, “Continue,” to make sure you were paying attention. And I had it memorized in my head, and I would begin spouting the next sentence still playing with the yo-yo. It used to drive him crazy. But then I lost that ability, or at least didn’t hone in on it. When I got to high school, I entered high school in the ninth grade. Most people went to high school in the tenth grade. In those days, there was junior high school, which was a three year. Seven, eight, nine was junior high school, and then you went ten, eleven, and twelve to high school. So when I got to the high school, there were very few kids in the ninth grade. The reason I remember this is in the tenth grade, a lot of kids came in, and there were some smart kids coming in in the tenth grade who were very good in math. There were two people who ultimately became physicists. A man named Alan Franklin was a historian and physicist, in fact, at Colorado. Then there was a man named Joe Krieger [?] who was a physicist at Columbia, and is now at Brooklyn College. They were very good friends, and they thought they were number one and two and would be passing around the math. Since they entered in the tenth grade, they had no idea that — So at New Utrecht High School, they used to give an exam at the end to whoever wanted to take it, and then they would give a prize to the best student. They were sitting down figuring which one of the two of them would win the prize, and then I won the prize, and like, “Where did I come from? What happened here?” So the three of us became very good friends, and in fact, because the three of us were very good, we were all a part of the math team. The way the math team worked was that all kids good in math went to a classroom, and it was after class, and you would do problems. You would sit in the order of the best to the worst. So when you came in, you were in the last row, last seat…
Like a pole position in race car driving.
Right. As you did better, you moved up and they would reseat you. The idea was to be in the first five seats because those five people competed with five people from another high school and all. Although others came along and took the test, it didn’t count. It was like they were the bush leagues. They were practicing. So the idea was to get to the front row, first seat, and then you were captain of the math team. That, ultimately, I did. I spent a lot of time with the math team. But at the same time, because I worked in the grocery store, I didn’t spend as much time as these characters and others did.
What was your parents’ reaction to doing this?
They were very encouraging. Very encouraging, very proud of it. Jokingly, if I came home with a 99, “Where’s the other point?” and the like. It was really a gift. I was really very, very good. They were very proud of it. In addition, because we had gone to yeshiva, we were good Jewish boys. My mother had a sort of politeness, so if we went to somebody’s house and they offered you a candy, you took one, while my cousins took eight. So we were not faggy in those terms, we were polite, and then wild on the side. So in front of other people, we were very polite. And I use faggy in a period that was not meant sexually. It was like you were not athletic. So a lot of kids that were bright—I was pretty good in athletics, I was pretty good in other things, I was fairly social, but in the situation where my parents had us in front of the other cousins, we were like too goody-goody. We were too good. So it was that type of thing, which the cousins would say, “You guys are so good.” But then on the outside, we were as wild as they were. So my parents were very proud of the fact that we were doing well in school. My brother did well in school, I did better. At the time, in my school, Alan Franklin was at the top of the class. In other subjects, I was good. I mean, in history and that, I would get a 90 or 95, but in math it was 99, and science it was 99. Alan Franklin would get a 95 and 99 in English as well. Allen was tough to deal with at the time.
So you were at Cooper Union for two years and then you were at City College for two years, and you majored in math and physics or just physics?
What happened is here I’m a kid with parents that really didn’t go to college. There’s no one I can talk to. I have no idea what college is. No one in the family knew what the college was, and especially going into science. So I befriended a teacher named Mr. Molino. He was partly the physics teacher, but more like the equipment manager of the science equipment, and he took me under his wing in some ways, like letting me help and all. He said, “Go to Cooper Union.” And Cooper Union doesn’t even sound like a college. What the hell is it? The words don’t go. And it’s the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Arts. That’s the full title. So it wasn’t the days of the web or anything, so I got an application, I looked at it, and it said there was engineering, and then there was art. I certainly wasn’t applying for the art or architecture of it. Then there were four boxes you had to check. Do you want to be an electrical engineer, a chemical engineer, a civil engineer, or mechanical engineer. That was it. You had to check the box. And they used to admit a hundred students total, 25 in each field. Electrical I didn’t know anything about. Civil, I didn’t even know what it was. Mechanical… So I picked chemical because I knew chemistry, the words. So I picked the word chemical engineering, and then went to Cooper Union. Cooper Union used to brag, and they still brag. At that time, Cooper Union, in terms of percentage of graduates who got a Ph.D., they were like second in the nation. Percentage not the numbers. After we were there a little while, it was in spite of Cooper Union not because of Cooper Union. There were these specialized high schools, even in New York now in Stuyvesant, where the students are better than the faculty. I mean, the students are just so good, that in spite of the faculty, whatever they want to do, the students prosper. Cooper Union was a little like that. The faculty was not a known faculty. And there at Cooper Union, I began making some good life-long friends, but again, I was also very smart there, and among smart kids, and especially gifted in mathematics. Again, I used to take under my wing lots of people and help them and tutor them. After the first year, I had a 3.5 average, which was good because it was a very tough school, and if you fail one course, you become what was called a “five year man” because in such small classes, it was not repeated. In the second year, and it was part of my trade, I was fairly childish, and I would cause everyone to act a little bit childish. I used to get good grades. Other people couldn’t afford to do what I used to do. So the class average was unbelievable. The class average should have flunked out at the end of the second year. I remember there was a teacher named Raddish [?], he was in chemistry, and he had a list and he said, “Schwartz, what happened to this class?” Because I didn’t do so well, I had a B average, but compared to the rest of the class, the class just went wild. After two years, I knew I didn’t want to be a chemical engineer. The smell, the number of hours in the lab, which just wasn’t me. I was very good in math. So I was thinking about two things. One was to go to night school and study math at NYU or something, to do Cooper Union and that. And then the other one was a friend of mine came by who was very friendly and said, “Let’s go to City College.” I could have gone to Brooklyn College, which was also pretty good, but my brother had gone there and there were girls there also, and not at City College. I was pretty dumb at the time. So I went to City College which is in Manhattan, and it was an hour and a quarter train ride every day back and forth and all. City College at that time was a superb university. It was for gifted kids and you needed a terrific average to get in. I remember going to Cooper Union and saying, “I’d like to resign from Cooper Union and send my transcript to City College,” and they said, “Nobody resigns from Cooper Union. You flunk out. You don’t resign.” Anyhow, I did resign. When I got into City College, it had, at those times, not a core curriculum; it was an unbelievable amount of required courses. For example, a year of history, a year of geology, a year of biology, a year of economics. You can’t believe the number of things they required in those days. Because I was transferring, I had none of that. So between doing things over the summer, between doing reading courses and taking the tests, between being forgiven from some, received some threats to the school that I would bomb it and all, I was able to get out in two more years. I was taking like 24 credits a semester and all, focusing on math and physics. I left chemical engineering. In fact, really thought a little bit about mathematics, and it was becoming very clear to me, the nature of mathematics is if you’re good, you know two times four when you were a kid very quickly. If you then go up, and then there’s a step. There’s step one, step two, and step three. So to get from one to three, you have to know where two is. Then as you get on, there’s on and then through ten, and then you get to ten. And the nature of mathematics is you almost have to leave the planet to do very high level mathematics, because it requires you start here, you know where you want to get, and you begin working both ways to get to the middle, and you have to keep track of these many avenues that these trees, that nothing is working, it’s not there, and all. It’s just the nature of very high level mathematics, and I was very good. Then I began saying, “If I really go with the mathematics, I have to leave the planet.” I was too social to want to leave the planet. In fact, the solution for Fermat’s last therom while I was at Princeton left to work for seven years. He went up to his attic and didn’t come down until seven years later. That’s the type, one, you have to be smart, and two, you have to do that. I used to watch mathematicians because there was this one mathematician who would have a big piece of paper in front of him and would start writing in very small letters in the corner because if he turned the page, he would have lost a lot. So he had to be able to look at everything on one page to be able to do mathematics. So I thought that theoretical physics was close enough.
Just curious. You parents, having their background, and your childhood in Brooklyn, chemical engineering might seem the way to a career and a job, whereas theoretical physics maybe…what’s that?
They didn’t know what it was, and neither did I.
I graduated from college in ’59. It was two years after Sputnik, and people who didn’t live through that era have to realize what was going on. I had already made a commitment to be a scientist before Sputnik, but once it occurred, there was tremendous promotion of science, a tremendous input of dollars and money and all. So what happened to a lot of people is the world opened up. As I went to graduate school, everything was open. It wasn’t like it was hard to do, everything could be done, and especially if you were good in math and science. I graduated from City College after two more years. In fact, in math, I used to get an A plus. In physics, I would get an A and a B or a B plus. I was not as good in physics as in math, that’s why theoretical physics fit. There was more mathematical. And also, although I was mechanically inclined and I liked to take things apart, I was not — At that time, electronics was the way everything was done in experimental physics. You had to build these things and all. Somehow, I didn’t know the way the electrons moved. There are some people who can look at a circuit and know right away, “Well, this one passes here for this,” instinctively. I didn’t have that talent. So I said, “I can’t be an experimental physicist because I’d have to know electronics to do the experiments,” and so I went into theoretical physics.
Was there anybody, as you began to think about doing this, who was instrumental in encouraging you or discouraging you?
Nobody was there — At City College, there used to be 100 physics majors a year there. I was one of the better ones, but again, coming there after two years, there were lots of very good ones. City College was known for very good teachers, but not researchers. It was not a research institution. They didn’t give a Ph.D. So it was really an undergraduate school, rather the lead undergraduate school. What had happened is a friend of mine at Cooper Union, Marv Leventhal who is now Chair of the Department of Astronomy here at Maryland, had left and went to City and was one of the inspirations of why I and a friend named Joel Dueck [?] who also got a Ph.D. in physics and was a very good colleague of mine at Cooper Union, all three of us left and went to City College. Marv Leventhal was a year ahead of us. When it came time to go to graduate school, I applied to the very best graduate schools. I did not get into Harvard or Cornell, I got into some other schools, but ended up going to Brown because my friend Marv Leventhal went to Brown and it was on the east coast. I really didn’t want to go too far away. They offered me money, a scholarship, and all the rest of that. It was at the time, not as good of a school as it is now. It’s now a much better school. So as soon as I left it got a lot better.
One of the people I’ve interviewed previously is Bob Park. Was he at Brown?
Yes. But I didn’t really know him very well then.
His advisor’s name was Farnsworth.
So what was your reaction to starting at Brown, in going from Cooper Union to City College and then to…
I had no idea what to expect. When I went to City College and Cooper Union, I used to still work in the grocery store and I lived at home. Both of them were not sleep away colleges. They had no dormitories. Going to Brown, suddenly I’m now in a dormitory for graduate students; I wasn’t traveling two and a half hours a day. So graduate school became very easy because I walked to school. In theoretical physics, I took physics and math, and I was at the top of the class, one of the top students in the class. In math, I used to get an A-plus, and in physics, I would get an A or an A-minus. So I was still much better in math, but I really had decided not to go into math because it was too unsocial for me. At Brown, there was a new young professor named Leon Cooper, and I was aware there was the Bardeen-Cooper-Schneider Theory. So I was 25 at the time and he was 33, so he was a very young man, and I decided to study under him.
How did that process work? Did you go to him and say, “I want to be your student?”
I went to him and said, “I want to be a student,” and since he saw I had good grades, he took me on.
Did you pick him because of his age, or were there types of research that you were interested in?
I had to pick a theoretical physicist, and he was one, and he was famous. I was lucky with good taste at the time, and it was a good idea. It turns out that he had had two other students at the same time. He had then a total of four students. One was a man named Berger Stolan, who was Norwegian, who was a year ahead of me. There was another one named Silver, and I can’t remember his first name. He was Brown’s best student in 1958. I graduated from City College in ’59. He then went to Harvard, and then equivalently flunked out of Harvard physics. He just didn’t do well. He had a lot of smart kids and got nervous. He then came back to Brown. So he was a character, and he was working for Leon Cooper. There were many cases like that where a student was practically a genius, and then never really ended up becoming something. They lost something at some age.
These were Cooper’s students?
There was another guy named David Scholpski at City College who the kids always talked about, “This is the guy who is really smart,” but he really became an ordinary person. Sometimes they’re really smart, and then they become something. He became an ordinary person.
Sometimes people who are really ordinary become…
Very smart. So at any rate, I then began studying with Cooper. He was doing a problem on flux quantization.
Again related to superconductivity.
Again related to superconductivity. And I worked on that problem. But also after being there a little over a year and a half, I got married, and after being there a little over three years, my wife was pregnant, and I told Leon, “I’ve got to get out of here.” So I graduated with a Ph.D. after four years. The Ph.D. was awarded in the fifth year, but I essentially finished everything at the end of four years.
What was your first real research project then?
It was really doing the flux quantization. It was trying to understand why the flux was quantitized. There was one day where I really understood something, which later in my career had a good effect. Electrons, as they move around in a circle, even in a normal metal are quantitized. Of course, all electrons are quantitized. So the question was what was the difference between the superconductor and the normal metal if the electrons are quantitized? Shouldn’t the flux, which ends up being related to the magnetic field inside that’s a donut shaped material — And what was unique about a superconductor was two things. Most people understood that in the superconductor, something very unusual happens to the electrons. They pair up. So you get what’s called Cooper pairs. That everyone understood. What they less, not that they less understood, but less realized was that all the Cooper pairs did exactly the same things. So there were 1022 pairs approximately, and if you’ve seen one Cooper pair, you’ve seen them all. So when one pair is quantitized, it gets multiplied by this 1022 whereas in a normal case, and electron which gets quantitized, it’s one out of the 1022. So although the flux is quantitized in both cases, it’s one part in 1022. At any rate, the question why it was quantitized is because there were other energies involved in the system. That was essentially my thesis, and that got published in Phys. Rev. I was very proud. I was very happy. It was my first publication. I had done another publication with him where he did most of the work. That was the first time that I realized because when I gave a colloquium lecture there, at the end, Cooper said, “That was a pretty good lecture.” And it was the beginning of me realizing that I had a gift for teaching, and I had a gift for lecturing. I used to do it, but I didn’t realize it was a gift. I thought everyone could do what I was doing. I just didn’t know that people can’t do it.
I’m curious about the nature of the research you were doing. You said it was theoretical. Were you doing any laboratory activity of preparing any superconductivity materials?
No. I was not preparing any materials. It was completely theoretical. It was pencil and paper. It was thinking about things and reading papers. It was in a day before Xeroxing, so you used to have this thermal paper. So I’m doing library research, and it was really a pain because you used to take this book and get this paper which after a while would become crumbly. But it turns out that there were some really classic papers, besides Bardeen Cooper Schreiffer. There was some work by the Russians, Apercoscov and Gaukov, and superconductivity was exploding at the time.
Where were most of the papers being published? What were the common journals that everyone was reading in your field?
Phys Rev and Phys Rev letters, and then whatever the main Russian journal is. I forget it. It was four letters or something.
Was it in Russian though?
It was in Russian, but the AIP had it translated. So they were already being translated. In fact, one of the translators was a Brown man named R.T. Byer, Bob Byer. So it was being translated. There was a paper in 1956 by Apercoscov, who predicted flux quantization, type II Superconductors. The Josephson effect. But no one understood. It was a mystery paper, and only afterwards did people come back and appreciate it.
So you’re working with Cooper and doing this theoretical work, is there a research group that you’re a part of, and were they doing more of the experimental side?
No. He was doing all theoretical. He had four students, two students that started before me. I was the first to get out, partly because I just told Cooper, “Hey. My wife is pregnant. I’ve got to earn some money. I’ve got to get out of here.” At the time, I was on assistantships, and it was a fellowship, all sorts of things.
So that’s how you were being supportive at the time.
Yes. It was all teaching assistantships a little bit, but then it was NSF fellowships, summer money. At the time I was making $211.11 a month, $1900 for nine months, and then a little bit over the summer, but my rent was $55 a month. I was fairly rich. There were no problems.
How did you find the environment at Brown overall?
I liked it a lot. What was nice about Brown, which got recognized later, was Brown didn’t have a gigantic graduate school, or a gigantic undergraduate school. It had a women’s college at the time, Pennbrook which ultimately married with Brown, so it was then men and women. And it was not too far from New York, and not too far from Boston. It was a real Ivy League campus. It was just the right size, not too big or too small. I think that’s why it’s like it is today. Brown is a very popular school to go to now because a lot of kids are afraid to go to a big city, are afraid to go too far away, afraid that the school is like Harvard with thousands of professors. So it is really just the right size.
So as you’re finishing up at Brown, did you have your eyes set for where you wanted to go after? You said your wife was pregnant and you needed to move on.
Well, I wanted to get back because family was kind of important to me and to my wife, and so I wanted to go where superconductivity was happening. It ended up in those days, jobs were plentiful and your advisor had a lot of say and was able to do things. So it ended up that I applied for two jobs, really. One was at Bell Labs, which was a hotbed of superconductivity, and the other was at Rutgers. Rutgers was very strong in superconductivity, especially experimental superconductivity. I had found that I liked working with experimentalists, as a theorist, because I was able to explain things, and it was more of the real world. I did get the job offer from Rutgers, but I did not get a job offer from Bell Labs. When I went to Bell Labs, I remember — They used to have a seminar. You would have to give a seminar on your work, at 11 a.m., and after that, they took you to lunch, and then they brought you into a room. Here I was just a fresh graduate, and “What else have you done?” I was proud of what I did. Then for the next three hours, they are pumping you and bothering you, and all. At the time, I had made arrangements that there was a truck service to Manhattan that they used to have. I had made arrangements to get on at five. Now it’s 4:30 and they’re talking to me and, “Do you want to stay some more?” “No.” So I ended up going to Rutgers as a post-doctorate, and getting paid $8,500, I remember.
Did Cooper help arrange this?
A little bit, but not a hell of a lot. You didn’t need to do a lot of work in those days.
I guess what I’m trying to say is did he provide guidance for your career, or was he more of a hands off advisor?
He helped me with the thesis and pointed me in the direction, but after that, not really.
Was your relationship with him as student/advisor fairly close?
It was very good. What happened is I think Leon Cooper had gone to Bronx High School of Science and was a New Yorker. But now he was sort of a famous professor. He knew at the time that he would win a Nobel Prize. He was kind of annoyed that he hadn’t won it already.
Did he tell you this?
No. This is my reading of the situation. He once told me he was—I guess, what happened was Bardeen had won a Nobel Prize in ’56 for the transistor. Now Bardeen Cooper Schrieffer come out in ’57 with superconductivity. If it happened today, the next year, they would have won the Nobel Prize. But since they had just given a Nobel Prize to Bardeen and they would have to give a second one to him in the same field of physics. They made him wait. And Cooper, in my view, it’s off the record, but I’ll say it anyhow. He began realizing right away that he would win the Nobel Prize, and began living as if he had a Nobel Prize. So he became very important.
Just important. So he would spend the summers in Paris, and his Bronx background began disappearing, and there was this now intellectual. I used to tease him a little bit about it.
So you witnessed the transition?
I witnessed the transition, but I was from Brooklyn, and I never, in an acute way, I let him know I remembered he was from the Bronx. It was one of those that if you were from New York, you know what that means. So there used to be a little bit of that, so he was very polished and oral, but I said, “I know you were from the Bronx.”
Had he lost his Bronx accent?
A little bit. Yes. He had worked on it. In fact, shortly thereafter, I think he had married an older woman from when he was at Illinois. She had some children, and in fact, one of the children was old enough to be going as a student to Brown. So he was 33 and he had a stepchild going to Brown. Then later on, he ran off with his secretary, who was a lot younger, who he is still married to. At any rate, I had a good relationship with him.
Would he have weekly meetings with his students?
More like every two or three weeks. There was a point where he suddenly said, “Ah. I understand what you’re doing. That’s right. That’s good. Just keep going in this direction.” I think in theoretical, there’s a point where you’re working, and working, and working, and making a little progress, and then there’s a leap where suddenly you’re like, “Oh! I solved it,” or, “I’m close to solving it. I know now how to solve it,” and then you work on that. So I had gotten this leap, and then once I did the leap, then there was more winding up. When I got to Rutgers, it was a place where a man named Bernie Serin, who was a very good experimentalist — And there was man named Peter Lindenfeld [?] who is still alive who is there. There was a man named Ernest Litman [?], Phil McLane [?]…There were four or five very good experimentalists there, and then there were some theorists as well. A man named Peter Weiss who is more theorist in magnetism, and Ellier Waverms [?] who was a many-body theorist. So it was a very good place to go to. It was the beginning of strange times because I remember the place was not as warm as I wanted. I was a friendly guy who liked talking to everybody, and there were a little colder. It was social during the day, but not really a very warm environment.
Was it more corporate-like in that sense?
A little bit. They had just moved into a new building, and the building was a little like this building, more with offices, but then had this central place. The central place was laboratories, so you had these long hallways where people had their offices. I was there with another young theorist who had come from Illinois, I think, named David Markowitz. So here with two young post-doctorals at the place. What happened is at the time, Type II Superconductors was breaking. Suddenly, there were superconductors that bred very high magnetic fields, and their properties. There was a book about to come out by Pierre Degennes. He ultimately won a Nobel Prize. The book was in French, and I had a preview copy. It wasn’t even a copy, it was the manuscript. And it wasn’t going to be translated into English for a year or something, but scientific French is like English. There’s nothing there, especially like l’equation and that kind of stuff. So I then developed a series of lectures based on that book for the whole experimental group, and suddenly I was very valuable. In addition to doing theoretical physics, I was now a translator of physics. And experimentalists liked me because I did it without embarrassing them, and I did it at the level that they wanted and not more. There were just lots of experiments to propose and so superconductivity was just blowing up at the time. In addition, another thing had happened. This is now ’63. In ’62, Brian Josephson had done the Josephson Effect which surprised everybody. In fact, Physics Today had a whole article on the Josephson Effect of why Bardeen was wrong. I used to tell this story a little bit. When Brian Josephson got up in Cambridge and said, “I discovered the Josephson Effect,” then everyone said he was wrong for various reasons. One tunneling between pairs would be down by orders of magnitude because one goes down — One electron, and you had to multiply these big decreases. So that’s one thing. Secondly, it turns out that no one had seen the effects, so if there was such an effect…And third, more importantly, Bardeen said Josephson was wrong because I used to give talks and say why Josephson was considered wrong, and all of those were actually overcome. Pairs did tunnel. They actually did see the effect many times, but they thought they had a short, they would throw away these best Josephson samples. Then Bardeen was really wrong.
Who was supporting superconductivity research in the mid-60’s? Was it from the NSF?
No. It was not so much from the NSF. It was from the Air Force, the Navy. Especially the Josephson Effect and all of that was supported by the Navy because it became a sensitive detector. And detectors and submarines and all kinds of things like that, so the Navy really supported a lot.
Did you have any reaction having previously received support from NSF to moving to a place where support was coming from the Armed Forces?
Not at the time. Not at the time. Later on, yes. People really enjoyed the lectures, and I used to put a lot of humor into them, and sometimes I’d have the title in French. So I gave a whole series of lectures, and that just made all the experimentalists know what to do. Then I went back and found the paper by Apercoscov, and then married that to what Degennes what doing. Then I just really understood everything that was going on. Then there were papers by Apercoscov by Gockov, both who were in the United States now. A couple years after Bardeen Cooper Schrieffer did it, they all did it by Green’s Functions. So you could now do superconductivity in two lines, and it was very powerful. There was another visitor named Toshihito Shuneto [?], who was a very good Japanese theorist, and worked with this theorist Elio Abrams [?] who was there too. He and I worked a little bit together. I worked with Dave Markowitz. So it was a place where you were able to get a lot of things done. It was a busy two years, but it was not a very friendly place. I was very happy to be near New York, and they were building the Verrazano Bridge, so getting into New York was about to become easier, and as soon as they built the bridge, then the two years were off. But we had our first child at the time.
No. A boy. No. A girl. It was Robin, the girl. It was 50/50 I should say. So my daughter was born. She was born in Providence, actually, and when we moved to New Jersey she was three weeks old.
You soon moved to MIT then?
Yes. What then happened, and in those days, you got a post-doc, it was expected to get a post-doc, and then you go get a job. So I began then looking around for a more permanent job.
Was there any possibility of staying at Rutgers?
I didn’t want to. I had the feeling that — not that they didn’t want me, but I have a feeling they were really interested in rotation and moving around, and they were fairly well set. They had enough theorists and the department wasn’t expanding in that sense. I would not have stayed. At the time, I then applied for lots of jobs, and I had a job offer from RPI, and then from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. I wanted to stay on the east coast of course. Then I had a job from the National Magnet Lab at MIT. The Magnet Lab was clearly the best job. I remember when I went to speak; they were impressed that I had worked for Cooper. When I came there and gave these lectures, and they realized that I worked with experimentalists…This was a laboratory full of experimentalists, so they really thought, “Wow. We could use him.” So I really fit in very well. In addition, there was a man named Manuel [Manny] Maxwell, who with Bernie Serin, after WWII, had discovered what was called the isotope effect. What happened is during WWII, they developed a lot of isotopes of various materials, so you would take lead, and then come in the way that comes, but there would be some isotopes. They, both Serin, and independently Maxwell, asked a question, “Lead is a superconductor. What if I use an isotope of lead? Would the transition temperature be the same?”
From superconducting to non-superconducting?
Yes. And they found it varied with the mass of the nucleus. In other words, if it was a different isotope, there was a change in the transition temperature, which meant, in a very strange way, that the nucleus has to be involved in the transition temperature in the superconductor.
Because if it’s dependent on the…
On the isotope. That then was called the electron phonon, gave them the idea that the electrons and phonons, phonons being the shaking of the nucleus, the vibrations of the nucleus, were intimately related to superconductivity. So in the 1950s when Serin and Maxwell discovered that, there was a man named Forleck [?] and Bardeen and others began saying, “It’s the electron/phonon interaction.” It was in 1956 that Cooper said, “If there’s any attraction between the electrons, any…no matter how small. Normally electron repel. But with any attraction, then the system is unstable to Cooper pairs.” So Maxwell and Serin…Maxwell was very impressed by me, and so he had a lot to do with it, and I had a lot to do with Maxwell afterwards. So I ended up going just to the Magnet Lab at MIT. I was not on the faculty.
Okay. What was your reaction to it?
Thrilled. When my wife and I had lived in Providence, we used to travel to Boston to shop. At that time, there was Fileen’s, now it’s more national, but then it was only one store. In the basement of Fileen’s was a great place to buy things. And Boston is such a college town and such a youthful town, and MIT is the big leagues. So it was really just wonderful, just absolutely wonderful. So I was really thrilled with going there, and of all the jobs I had applied for, this was really the best job. I was getting a salary of $13,800, which at the time was a higher salary than most. I fit in beautifully at the Magnet Lab. It was really the right place. The Magnet Lab at the time had just been founded by a very strong director, a man named Ben Lax [?] who actually had gone to and graduated from Cooper Union. He was the type of person who single mindedly wanted to be the director of this lab and just fought for it like crazy. The lab was supported at the time almost completely by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, AFOSR. The reason for that was that there was previously a man named Francis Bitter who developed what was called Bitter Plates. To make a magnet, you put a very big current in the wire. Instead of making it a wire, he made it a flat plate, which looked like the wire, but then he punched holes in the plate and ran water through it. Then he kept the plates together, and tremendous forces take place and all. So Francis Bitter invented what’s called the Bitter Magnet. It’s just putting power, a big DC current in a wire, and tremendous heat was getting generated.
You know, we used to have a big heat exchange with the Charles River water, and it was really a — It was a young, youthful laboratory where lots of either post-doctorals or people on their first real job, and I think the average age was 30. You know, I was 27 at the time. It was just a wonderful place.
Eventually, according to your CV, you lead the theoretical physics group. Did you start doing that, or is that something that you moved up into?
Yeah, I moved up into it. What happened is there was a theorist there named Arthur Freedman who eventually went to Northwestern. He was the Associate Director; and he and the Director didn’t get along very well. I mean, they just saw the world differently. They were both nice people, but they just saw the world differently. And I became like his assistant after a while, and then ultimately when he left I took over the theoretical physics school, which was about five to six people. And I would make sure that the theoretical group there worked with experimentalists. It wasn’t theory for theory sake; it was theory as it related to experiments that could be done in high magnetic field involving either superconductivity or magnetism. And that’s what I became a specialist at.
Superconductivity and magnetism. And being a very practical theorist, as well as being a lecturer on the various subjects related to superconductivity and magnetism. I used to be invited to give a lot of talks because I would also try to add some humor; I had also in those days it was slides, so I would have fun slides as well. I remember whenever I gave a talk on superconductivity I would start off with a slide that would say that they had measured resistance down to about 20 Kelvin, and superconductivity in those days started at about 4 Kelvin. So I would plot a graph of it going down to 20, and the resistance goes down for two reasons. One was that these phonons which caused the shaking of this lattice would cause interference with the electrons and they would shake less. And then there was some impurities also effects, and so where it looked like it leveled off depended upon how many impurities. If you have a lot of impurities, the resistance would be higher; a lot less impurities… So then they would then say, “Let’s make it very pure. What should happen?” And then I would say, “Well, they would ask a theorist, and a theorist would give three answers. One, it would continue to go down to zero. One, it would level off. And one, it would go up.” In some sense they had it all covered. And this happens very truly in a lot of theory. In other words, before the event, there were a lot of theories. And then after the event, the one who was right says, “See, I told you all the time.” The other people disappear. Well, it turns out that actually there were reasons for all three of them occurring, and they actually do occur. In fact, there was something called the condo effect later on which was discovered where it went up. But nobody predicted that suddenly at 4 Kelvin the resistance would go to zero. I mean, that just — So I would tell the story, and have an overlay with the one, two, three. So I used to be able to invent stories and make it more interesting. So I would get invited to do a lot of talks. In addition to that, the applications of superconductivity to levitate a train to medical devices to all sorts of things, to pollution control and I used to collect all that information and prepare a talk, so I would always get invited to give talks whenever there was applied superconductivity.
Again, thinking about the support for you, you said most of this is coming from the Air Force. Did that change during the 12 years you were there?
Yes, it did change. It changed very precipitously with the Mansfield Amendment.
Yes. It changed a lot. And I was now doing a lot of lecturing and all. And there was now beginning signs in about ’67 — What had happened is, one, I remember vividly in ’64 the Beatles came to America, something like that. And I still remember being at Rutgers, because the people there were a little stuck-up, and I think the Beatles came to the Ed Sullivan Show, and it was, “Did you see the Beatles?” They were the type, like they couldn’t understand all this fuss. And I sort of resonated a little bit with the Beatles. And when, like, the free speech movement had started at Berkeley, and then there were things at Columbia, and I was at MIT and things were fairly quiet.
I’m just curious, political wise, was Rutgers fairly conservative?
It was fairly conservative.
MIT as well?
MIT was fairly conservative too. But MIT was a lot better in the sense that it allowed extremes. In other words, the way I explained MIT is it felt so stable that it wasn’t threatened by anybody. In other words, if something was going to happen, it said, “Let it happen.” You know, we’re not going to disappear; we’re going to be here. But that’s a little bit ahead of the story. So I was now like in a really good part of my career, really doing things well, getting the recognition, being invited, going overseas at times, lead speaker at a conference and all. And I was not, and I never was, like a top theorist, like people would say, “Who’s the best theorist here?” I was not among them. That was not me. But if they said, “Who gives a very clear talk; who can explain things to people?” I was really one of those types of people. Really very clear. I think we had a cover once, we did something in Physics Today and Applied Superconductivity. I have a cover story there. And I began working with a colleague of mine at the time called Cy Foner, who was a very good experimentalist. He could do anything; he really could just do anything. His one problem (and again, I hope he doesn’t get mad at me if he ever hears this; I don’t think he will), but he didn’t know exactly what to do. In other words, he would do with the same gusto a crummy experiment as well as a good experiment. In other words, you said, “Do this,” he would do that; you said, “Do this,” he would do that. And just as happy with both and one was way more important than the other. Because some people would say I’m not going to do a crummy experiment. But Cy was such a good natured guy, if somebody said, “Do this,” he did it. And he and I paired up to do summer schools, NATO summer schools, ultimately, and that happened in ’70, so I’m a little bit ahead.
Explain what a NATO summer school is.
What happens is NATO at the time was trying to encourage scientific cooperation between all the NATO countries, and they would take requests for proposals on a particular topic in science and chemistry and physics and all, and they would award a certain amount of the money, and give a director, or in this case it was co-directors, money to run a conference. It was up to the directors to decide where the conference was and what the exact topic was and what the speakers were, and it was for them to then run the whole thing. NATO would give you X dollars, and then you did the whole thing. So Cy Foner and I ran three NATO schools in the ‘70s on superconductivity.
I’m curious about the choice of topics, the name of the summer schools. North Atlantic Treaty Organization would imply that the topics had some military connection. Was that the case?
Not at all. In fact, with the Air Force funding the Magnet Lab, it was the nicest time because of the following. One, we used to have to write quarterly reports. The quarterly reports would be the type of thing like, “Holy smokes, it’s due yesterday! Get me in a page.” And you would do it like just do it. And then somebody collected it, put it in a book, and that was it. And then the annual report was you collected your quarterly reports and did it. Then when the proposal got written for the next year’s funding, someone would say, “What do you want to do next year?” you would write up two or three pages, it would go to the Assistant Director and he would put in something, he would give it to the Air Force and back would come millions of dollars. And so it was like the easiest time of all.
It’s hard to imagine.
It’s hard to imagine. It was really like that at the time. And again, why it was the Air Force — it could have easily been the Navy. It was like they had research money. I think that if I had to say why would the Air Force do it, or why would the Navy do it, at the time they had visions of like things would be discovered that would be of use for them. It wasn’t really that it was all altruistic. And then it was in their interest to have scientists around. And again, if there was something that they really wanted you to push, they could say like, “Look into this area,” and I think you’d say, “Okay, I’ll look into this area.”
Would that happen often where you would see some attempts to guide the direction of research?
I would see it more with the Navy, because superconductivity in terms of the Navy, what you could see were really quasi-mil — no, were really military uses. Detection of submarines was always a big issue, and here was a new technology that could detect if you had under water a big chunk of metal and you were flying this detector over the sea, if there was a big chunk of metal it would be able to say, “Hey, there’s a big chunk of metal under there.” So it was clearer what the Navy was doing. The Magnet Lab, again, since we used to do fields that I was not in, magneto optics and others, they were fields that the Air Force was interested in. But really they were giving the money because somebody in 1960 talked them out of the money, and they had money, and it was the best proposal that came to them and they gave it. And we used to have once a year a review in which there was a terrific committee — Nobel prize winners and others in which we would then — review the last year’s progress of the lab and the Air Force would determine on the basis of that report whether we were doing well or not. What was very good about that review, and I almost recommend it anywhere, is that we would rehearse for it. So that about a month beforehand we would decide in the group who would speak and what the topic would be and how long people would speak, and then they would go and speak. It used to be brutal. In other words, the people who were listening to the draft of it, you know, nobody else was hearing it, and we would say, “That’s the worst thing I ever heard.” And especially the Director, who was never prepared. You know, that was his trait. So he used to get beat up tremendously by everybody. So Benjamin Lax, the Director, would get beat up, and we all enjoyed that time. You know, he was actually a good director. After he got his money and was satisfied, he left everyone alone. So he had to get his chunk, and once he got that, he left everyone alone.
I’m curious about contacts that the Magnet Lab may have had with other entities. For example, were there any other contacts with other MIT labs, such as Lincoln Labs?
Yes. It turns out that we were a lab on campus, so we were right on campus in an old bakery building on Albany Street. So we were 150 yards or something from the main building. What happened in those days, which again, is like every day there was a speaker at the Magnet Lab, or a speaker at the Physics Department or a speaker in Material Science, and the faculty at MIT and us and others were all young at the time so we would all interact. So if there were a colloquium speaker or what we’d go to lunch together. So there was a fairly good interaction. With respect to Lincoln Labs, Ben Lax came from Lincoln Labs, and Lincoln Labs was clearly — again, supported by the Air Force, and clearly military motivated — clearly. In addition to that, there was a laboratory right next to the campus, quasi on campus, called the Charles…
Charles Stark Draper?
But before the Draper Lab it was called… it had a name, and I’m trying to remember the name. It was also almost like a military name. And that was on campus. And in fact, there were things on campus that were — legally they were classified. This Draper Lab, or whatever the name was beforehand which I’m trying to remember its name, was classified. It doesn’t mean the whole lab was classified, but there was classified material. And on the MIT campus there was also classified stuff.
Were you involved with any of the classified work that was going on?
No, never classified. The closest I ever came to some classified work — I left out summers when I worked the summers. I’ll have to say something about that, go back. Once I was invited to give a talk in Moscow. Then the money, the budget of the lab, went to hell and they couldn’t afford to send me.
I see it wasn’t connected to you wanting to go to Moscow.
No. Then I got a, I won’t say a direct hint, but if I went to Moscow and wrote a report, and I didn’t have to go searching and all, but if I wrote a report on what I saw, I would have money to travel. And I declined. I just declined. I thought that that was not a good idea.
One thing that people who look at the science during this period of the Cold War have been interested in is the compartmentalization of research in terms of classified, not classified, and then the gray area of course, and then people who would move back and forth between that membrane that would separate those two areas. And it sounds as if you’re saying you weren’t one of the people who would go back and forth. But were there people, or would you witness people who would be working in one area and wouldn’t be able to talk about it, and would be able to talk about…
Not a hell of a lot. Just the type of research that I did was not really there. But I’m sure that probably Ben Lax, who really still worked at Lincoln Labs, had classified status and would learn about some classified things. Let me just parenthetically now mention. After one year of graduate school, I spent — No, no. When I graduated from college I then spent the summer in California working for Hughes Aircraft Company.
This is between under-grad and graduate?
Yes, the summer of 1959. Hughes Aircraft had a special program for scientists, and I was chosen, and I spent the summer there. They gave me more money — I didn’t catch up to making that amount of money until five years later or something that I made more money, plus they paid my travel, plus I was treated very nicely. It was just at the time, these big defense places were anxious to get people, so this was like a nurturing program, hoping years later I would come to them. Two years later I worked for North American Aviation.
Again as summer…
As a summer employee. Doing nothing classified, but I was working on detecting submarines using electromagnetic waves. So I wrote a report which then probably became classified. But again, compared to the regular workers, once a week they would take us on a trip and a treat. I was treated wonderful. So both summers I made a lot of money on a relative scale, I guess making $500 or $400 a week, which was a lot of money. Because they were paying me a per diem and other things. So those were two summers. So I knew a little bit about that world. Somewhere about I became a little bit unhappy with science in some ways. I knew I was good, but I was not a genius. In science, like the difference between a genius and a very good person is really a lot. And I was always realistic about myself. There was a beginning of a sort of dissatisfaction. At one time I even thought about going to medical school, going back. I thought then, like now, if I’m not a genius doctor — I like interacting with people, I knew I had talent in science, I would have good judgment. But I decided not to. I then began getting a little more political as the job problem began tightening.
About ’67, ’68.
Again before the Mansfield Amendment passed.
Before the Mansfield Amendment passed. I was just beginning to do that. Even in my talks — I remember once giving the talk about pollution, a specific kind of pollution, and I would talk about the oil companies. Like one guy in the audience was so mad at me, “Errrr,” because I would add a little politics to this talk. Some people would get upset by it. And I was being more playful than very rigid and all. It was just a little tweaking of the system. About that time, this was about ’68, a couple of things happened. One of which was Vicky Weiskopf, who was the chair of the Physics Department, was the type of person who loved explaining things simply. And that was a little bit of my talent. He had not been understanding superconductivity, and he lectured about a lot of things, and he used to lecture about superconductivity when he would give a popular talk. He had been asking this question of everybody, and no one could answer it. Finally he came to me. It was just like what I was telling you earlier, I had worked on my thesis. It was dealing with why is the flux quantized and all, and I explained it to him and he jumped up and down. He was so thrilled that he finally understood it the way he wanted. Other people could explain it, but it was then so theoretical, it wasn’t in words. He wanted a picture in words and that’s what I did. And he says, “You’ve got to join the Physics Department.” So in 1969 I was made an Associate Professor in the Physics Department, without tenure, with a three-year appointment. So I had been at MIT for four years, and in year five now. So I was now in the Physics Department and at the Magnet Lab and headed the theoretical group. And Ben Lax, for example, was also a Professor in the Physics Department and also the director of the lab. What happened at MIT at the time is that they were two classes of people: those who were faculty members and everyone else, and this happens at a lot of institutions. And the people at the Magnet Lab, someone like Cy Foner or someone like Manny Maxwell, their same as a fac — you know, there was no difference. They were terrific people, but they got treated as second-class citizens. There was no Tenure; there was no — There was just a lot of things not going on. And in fact, I got in that time involved a little in this relationship, which now I was on both sides. As a result of that period, they gave something to the people like a three-year rolling tenure — you’ve got to get three years’ notice before you’ll be fired. So people got some kind of stability. In addition there was permission given to mentor Ph.D. students. One day later I was now a faculty member — I could do all these things that the day before I couldn’t do, and I was the same person. So I was on both sides, and really in some ways brokered. In addition, at the time I got interested — I was always interested in the politics of science, and I began sitting in on courses on science policy. MIT had a strong — And there was a guy named Kaufman (I’m trying to remember his first name) who was an advisor, and he was like a deputy defense — something in the Defense Department at one time. He used to lecture on weapons, what the Russians had, what we had, what policy was, all of this thing. So I sat in on a course by him, and some other courses, mostly in the Political Science Department. And Kaufman was really fairly liberal, but clearly had access to classified information, and probably had a safe on campus that had classified information. So here was an example of someone…And he was really a good guy. So I was now beginning on the edge of politics in two ways: one, this interest in it; and then secondly just the interest in the job problem.
Define the job problem as you began to study it.
I began noticing that this post-Sputnik burst of people was exponential, and I remember in like 1968-‘69 that the people coming are growing exponentially, the jobs are beginning to level off — for a few reasons, the Vietnamese War; places were filling up, everyone was young, no one was dying — and there’s going to be a collision in the number of people coming out and the number of opportunities. I remember Vicky Weiskopf, telling this to Vicky, and he said, “Brian, is everyone working?” and I said, “Today everyone is working. But we scientists know, we can predict the future if we have some data, and a year from now, two years from now not everyone is going to be working. So why are we producing all these people?” And, “Don’t bother me, Brian.” It was like, you know, “I don’t want to hear this.”
That’s an unpopular message.
So I really got annoyed where people were being inconsistent. I didn’t mind if somebody would say, “Wow, that’s a real problem. I don't know what to do about it.” But when people sort of like denied it, because they would say like was everyone working and I would say sure, right now there are more jobs than people. But two lines are going to cross at a very steep angle, and a lot of people are going to be screwed. I was of the opinion, and I had lots of different ideas, but my major opinion is that you have to give out accurate information. They used to say, “Well, what’s accurate information?” and I would say, “Five opinions. The data plus five opinions on it. And what’s your batting average?” People began getting a little bit annoyed with me. I’m not sure of the exact times on all this. At the same time, there were about four or five things that happened very close to one another. I was a member of the APS, and began realizing that the APS meetings weren’t dealing with, one, the job problem, and two, they weren’t dealing with the reality of where do people work and who is going to be our employees, and all of the things that were going on in physics.
What were they focusing on?
Papers, you know, physics — The APS was a clearly scientific organization, nothing more.
Science very narrowing defined.
Very narrowly defined. These organizations are very, very different today than from what they used to be. And intentionally would not get involved in anything else. “We just do science, it’s the dissemination of science, and that’s it.” So I became concerned about that. The third thing, I got involved also in some creative teaching. You know, MIT is doing this kind of teaching, there must be a better way of doing it. And then, I’m not sure of the exact year, but a fourth thing was the government wanted to put in the anti-ballistic missile, and they decided, “Gee, who do we have to protect in the United States? We have to protect MIT and Harvard, because if they blow up those brains, then we’re in trouble. So we’re going to put the first site in North Andover.” That’s what they decided. I remember going to this debate. It was a big thing, and this general was talking about how they were bringing this anti-ballistic hear, and they’re going to protect us, and they showed a beautiful park with green and all. Of course, everything was buried, and it was like, “Wonderful!” and all. And I had done two things for that meeting. One, I had designed a button with a stop sign that said “Stop ABM,” and I had at my own expense printed up a thousand of them. The second thing is I was prepared to ask some questions. That was a talent that I had, what is the right question to ask? So after he finishes I raised my hand, I’m called on, and the press is there and all. I said, “General, if it were to accidentally go off, could you draw a circle of the destruction around there.” He said, “It’s not going to go off.” I said, “I know. But if is just…” I’m asking one of these questions which is a killer question. So it got reported in the press. These buttons suddenly sold probably a million in the end. People then reproduced them, the “Stop ABM” button. I donated a few of them to the archives. I was on my way, in some sense, of really being involved. And just about that time the students at MIT ignited, and they created a day called March Forth [4th?]. It was a day that MIT was supposed to stop doing research and do introspection — what are we doing? And I became like an advisor to the students, you know, in a sense. Chomsky was around talking already against the war and Jerry Leckfin [?] was a character that was there. It was now like a hot bed of people who were against the war, or tended to be against the war. Now I came at all of this really more as not knowing — I didn’t know who Sol Olenisky [?] was, but Sol Olenisky was a very political person at the time, and he knew what to press on that would make the system jump. And that was my style. I knew what to press on and make the system respond. I was not a Marxist or the heavy rhetoric and all. The closest thing I can say is I was a scientist yippie, if there is such a thing. I was more interested in changing things. So with respect to the APS, which I really began resenting that they’re not dealing with the job issue, we’re not dealing with what’s going on here in the Vietnamese War and all the rest of the stuff. Charlie Schwartz had begun attacking the APS from the West Coast. Charlie Schwartz was a professor on the West Coast —
Not related, I presume.
No, not related at all. But Charlie sent in an abstract to the APS with a peace symbol. In those days they used to photograph — whatever you sent in, you sent it in within a box, and as long as it was in the box, if anything was out of the box it didn’t get photographed. You had a box, you put your abstract in the box, and it must be accepted.
Camera ready, all that?
Camera ready, yeah. And the reason that came about, at least my understanding of it, is in the old days, in the ‘30s, an abstract was objected and a crazy man came in and shot a secretary at APS dead. So after that day they accepted everything. It was too dangerous to work at the APS. So APS has a policy. Remember the APS, you send in the abstract, we print it. So this abstract got printed with this peace symbol, so that right way was a statement within that. And I like looked at APS and I looked at the constitution, and it said with one percent of the signatures you can form a division. So I went with this man Manny Maxwell, who was at a meeting of the APS in probably ’69, ’70. At that time the membership was 20,000 or so, so by collecting 200 signatures. So I collected 200 signatures to create a division on physics and society. And I handed it in to the powers that be, and here it meets all the requirements of the constitution, and now we want a division on Physics and Society. At that time Bill Havens was the director or the executive officer, or executive secretary they called it at the time, of the American Physical Society, and he went wild, as did the whole board.
No, wild like “Oh my God, what are we going to do now?” So that really presented the APS with a problem, because it is a democratic organization with rules and regulations, now suddenly comes this thing. Charlie Schwartz, who was much more radical than I was in a sense, and much more…I don’t want to use the word serious in that I wasn’t serious, but took a very somber tone to it. So this now presented an incredible challenge to the APS.
Do you remember what year this happened in?
I would say it was ’69 or ’70. But it would be in the archives. And in fact it may have gotten written up; there were some books written a little bit about the time. APS just went crazy. They then began meetings and all, finally yielded in a way and created what was called the Forum which was different from a division. The Forum on Physics and Society, which still exists today.
Did you have any reaction to it not having an official division?
I didn’t care. There were a few things I wanted it to be able to do. One was to hold sessions. Once I could hold sessions, who cared about the rest? What they were really worried about and why they created a Forum was that they said, “Divisions elect their own offices, they do whatever they want.” So they said, “No. We need a different kind of animal where two of the people get appointed by the counsel who are on your Board of Directors,” or the equivalent. They didn’t want them to have a finger in it because they were really worried. I really then took on a big responsibility at the time to arrange sessions at APS meetings that had never been held before, like sessions on the anti-ballistic missile. So many of the topics dealt with the issues of war and peace.
Who would be speakers who would come?
Speakers would be like Rathagens, who was someone who was at MIT, and various people who were involved in ABM. It would be from the government, from that.
I’m thinking that the first ABM paper that I’m aware of is one that Hans Bethe and Richard Garwin wrote.
Bethe, Garwin, they would be part of it. But it would also be pro-ABM. I was very fair. It wasn’t always easy getting someone from government to speak. What happened is they were very well attended, and again changing the nature of the meeting.
Well, one, people wouldn’t only go to physics sections, so they had an alternative. In addition because these were hot topics, the press would come. The press hardly ever comes to a physics meeting. So now physicists were being interviewed for the press. Again, I was very aware, and a few other people who were in leadership of this movement, of what gets attention. So we would have a march. We did a march on Washington before the White House. I was on the front page of the New York Times with a “Stop ABM” sign, which I had learned afterwards why you have a pole so it doesn’t cover your face. Only a mother would recognize my body. But there were a few pictures, and in fact, for the centennial of APS, there was a cover issue, and on that cover, they reproduced a picture of I with the sign showing “Stop ABM” that was in the shape of a stop sign. It just meant there was a lot of attention now begin given to that issue. And the other issue I began forcing through the Forum, which I called issues of professionalism, careers. Those were the two issues I was forcing through the APS.
ABM and careers?
It was a Physics and Society issue, so it could end up being pollution…
Was SST part of it?
No. Later on, maybe. And it now exists today, and it has a director, it has a program, it has a newsletter. I was involved with two other things, as with some other people… I don’t want to take all the credit. We right away said, “The Forum has to give out a prize so we look like any other division.” So we gave out two prizes. There was the Szilard Prize, and this other.
Named after Leo Szilard?
Later on, it got named Szilard. It had two names, now one is the pertinent part. But there were two kinds of prizes, one for a scientist doing politics, and one for a non-scientist doing politics of science. So we created it and made it look like a real division, and it got a tremendous number of members. Of course at the time, it was free. Everyone enjoyed that. There was no cost to join. In addition to that, the Forum was responsible for creating the congressional fellowship as well. So the Forum acted always very responsible, but it really tweaked the system. Now, Charlie Schwartz from the west coast challenged the system in wanting to change the Constitution of APS. It was like the dissemination of knowledge, and then it was the follow up of that knowledge to make sure it was good. Charlie was into a Hippocratic Oath for scientists, and all sorts of other things. It was like APS was being squeezed from the east coast and the west coast by two Schwartzes.
Did you two work closely together throughout this whole thing?
He and I were friends, but he was more on the Marxist-serious side, and I would help him, but I never got into that. That was not me. I came from the working class, so I didn’t…
At the same time, Marty Pearl [?] who was a Nobel Prize winner was very involved with this as well, and Marty and Charlie, both being on the west coast, were very good friends. Charlie kept at it, and is still at it at the very heavy, serious level, and paying quite a price, career-wise. Again, what happens is when issues don’t become as important… Let’s say Chomsky now, if he writes about American militarism now, it’s not taken the same way. It’s like they’ve heard it, they’ve heard. Well, Chomsky is still quite something, but they got tired of Charlie, and Charlie never stopped pushing, and I give him tremendous credit. But he then began getting, if I recall, ostracized, marginalized. Like, “Well, we know. We won’t go over any issue. We know where he’s going to take a stand.”
So there’s nothing new there to be heard.
But Charlie stayed with it, and I give him credit. So the APS then began changing, and in fact, I think I was nominated as a token to be on the APS counsel, and Handely won. I was the youngest person at the time that ever served on the APS counsel. This was about ’73, probably ’73 or ’74. What happened is that they always were nervous about me. The planning would be, “How we can handle him,” so it would be an idea of how to handle him. And my things were all to work with the system and just push the system and force the system to change. And they were always so nervous, would I go crazy one day, and really that was not me. That was not my type. I always liked to press and press very hard. So there was that professional division, there was the career thing. A lot of information about jobs became, so I worked with the AIP career thing. Just a lot of information came out.
Did you have a favorite issue throughout that period that you felt particularly strong about?
The two issues that I really cared about was one, the job problem, and what it meant in terms of opportunities and all, and that people weren’t aware. The second was the fact that they could separate science and the military so clearly. I would have an argument with Vicky Weiskopf and he would say, “None of my students are doing anything bad.” And I would say, “We’re teaching very powerful knowledge, and maybe none of your graduate students, but all of these undergraduate students…We’re doing things and we have to really take responsibilities.” And I began actually developing a quasi-radical philosophy which was almost too strong for the system to take. I began attacking the scientific method. I’ll give you an example. I gave a talk once at Harvard, and everyone was talking about science and whether it was good or evil, and all, and the very sort of naïve view, or maybe real view is it’s like a knife. Is a knife good or bad? If you stab somebody, it’s no good. If you use it in surgery, it’s good. So it’s maybe neutral. It’s highly a used science that really becomes a…And I said, “No. No. I think it’s worse than that because the scientific method says if there’s a problem we can solve it by using these techniques, and it’s a very powerful technique. You do experiments, you have hypotheses and all. And we professors teach the scientific method to anyone who will pay tuition. We don’t ask the church. The church would say, ‘You want to study to be a priest or something like that, are you a good person?’ Because it’s powerful knowledge and if you say that you’re a mean person, then they won’t teach you. But in science, you pay the tuition, and we teach.”
So anybody with the talent and the money can learn.
Can learn. We teach this very powerful knowledge to anyone. Then the question is let’s say there’s a very tough problem, what is the scientific method. Well, we break it in two, we break it in four. We keep breaking it down, that ordinary people doing ordinary things, when gathered together, there’s a great big powerful knowledge of which no one of them did it, and who is collecting all of this knowledge, and what is it being done? So, “I’m making a spring, and I’m making some chemical, and I’m making this,” and it’s all going into this laser bomb, and no one built a laser bomb. Nobody did it. So I then said there should be another method, another scientific method, not the scientific method we had. I got really challenged on this, I remember, because the topic would get everyone to jump. So I invented a new method which I called the Alchemical Method, which made them jump further, just the name. The alchemist, and I was doing a lot of reading on alchemy at the time by Jung and others, and it turns out that the alchemists got a lot of bad press. What the alchemists were trying to do, and I’m not saying all of them because there was plenty of charlatanism, but what the alchemists said, “In Mother Earth, if there’s something sitting there for a long time and being heated and compressed, Earth becomes gold. So we can start with a low base material, and by pressing and squeezing, it becomes perfect gold. So what we’re going to try to do is by taking these materials and by cooking them and pressing them and heating them and looking at them, slowly change the color, and in fact there was a color change and all, and we’ll make it into gold. But at the same time, I the alchemist, who am very base and low, will begin perfecting my life. So I will also make the transmutation at the same time, and if you ask me what I was doing as an alchemist, I wouldn’t say to you, ‘I’m heating something to 400 degrees.’ I would say, ‘I’m involved in the Great Work, and my great work is this, and this is what came before, and this is what is coming afterwards, and I’m keeping track of it all.’” So I said, “That’s what a scientist has to do. The alchemical scientist says, when asked what they are doing, you don’t say, ‘I’m doing flux quantization superconductors.’ You say, ‘I’m doing a great work.’”
What was the response to that? I should preface that with the idea that in physics, one of the icons is Isaac Newton, and he devoted a considerable amount of his time to alchemy, which sometimes physicists and historians aren’t entirely comfortable with.
I think what it is is I modernized it a lot. Using the word just gets people… Although it’s now a soft work, alchemists, like environmentally pleasing now. There was a group called the New Alchemists in fact out on the Cape. But I really did believe it was very important for someone to know where their work was going, to follow it up. I wasn’t giving the alchemists that part of it, but it was really to be concerned about your life in doing you work and where does it fit in? And people were very uncomfortable with that. I then said, “Another problem with science is there’s no ritual.” “What do you mean by ritual?” If you know MIT, there’s this big dome building, Building Seven. I said, “What we really should do is there should be a big gong. And every morning at 9:00 takes a big swing at the gong and it rings out, and for about one minute, we say to ourselves, ‘What am I doing today, where does this fit in?” as an experience where we don’t do anything and we think about it.” So we should be adding ritual to force us to think about it. And this is such an — I mean, people didn’t know how to handle it. And I didn’t want to write it up in an erudite way. That’s not what I was trying to do. I was trying to really make the system look at itself and think about it, and think about alternatives. So I used to get a lot of people jumping. I once gave an invited talk for the APS at a San Francisco meeting called “Can the Counterculture Save Physics.” That was the title of the talk. I ran into a little trouble with that talk because I was joking with the press and the press really…
What was the mainstream APS reaction? To boil down the stereotypes, were you seen as sort of a young radical hippie physicist?
I was seen as a young radical. They were really puzzled because I wasn’t a graduate student. I was a professor now at MIT, I was publishing at the time in Phys Rev letters. So I was like a real person, because a lot of times, a lot of the protestors were unreal. I was really very lucky because I woke up and became very political after having my Ph.D., after having a job, and I also had to keep my job because I had a wife, two kids, and a mortgage. So I worked very hard. When I was doing my politics, I was also doing my physics. So they were really puzzled by me. I was also in good humor. It wasn’t like I said, “You’re a pig,” or any of that. So they didn’t know how to deal with me. They really had a problem. And I always tried to have a good time in the doing of it, not at someone’s expense, but to make it enjoyable. So I would bring humor into it, or press the system, or bring drama into the system. So the APS reacted and ultimately had the Forum, had these talks, and the APS was just in the state of confusion at the time. Actually, because of that, we were way ahead of a lot of other societies. We were in the Avant garde; even the AAAS had hardly anything. We were way ahead of everyone.
Were there any issues at the time associated with censorship, or having any sort of military or government presence at meetings, of attending, or just keeping tabs on what the physicists were doing at meetings in attempts to keep them in a certain box?
If they were, I didn’t see them. I know what happened when I began talking about jobs, I scared the hell out of the military because I was beginning to say the jobs…I’m going to tell everybody there are no jobs in physics and no good jobs, and the only jobs are with the military. So it’s not that less people are going to go with the physics, but nobody’s going to go with the physics. That made the military jump. They were aware of me. They were aware. They really got angry. In fact, I ran a conference at MIT on the job problem, and MIT got again, a little bit annoyed with me because I was pressing MIT very hard. It was MIT producing all of these people, and where were they going? And now when jobs began getting tight, there was only one place to go is the military jobs, and I don’t think the students started out their career knowing that that might be the only option. It wasn’t 100 percent, but a lot of them really had to do that. Again, once you found that someone took a job with the military, they weren’t bad people, but once you had your job, you had to justify it or rationalize it. So I just thought you should know about it before you choose your career, and they were very annoyed that I was doing this. I ran a conference, which a book got published on in 1971, and I ran it with a Professor Sandy Brown. He was the Assistant Dean, a very nice physicist. It was a very good conference, and a lot of people attended because it was very early in the game of really explaining. I remember, and I was pretty good at quotes, that Time Magazine covered it, and the ending line of it that the physics book should have stamped in it, “Caution. Studying physics can be dangerous to your career.” Boy, MIT jumped because it wasn’t MIT students, it was an MIT professor. And I was a real professor. I was really teaching, I was real.
In ’77, you leave MIT.
Let me do one more thing with MIT. The other thing that I did at MIT was teaching. A group of young professors that were a little on the radical side began saying that MIT was doing it wrong, and so we petitioned to at the time the president, who was Jerry Wiesner, saying, “We seven professors know how to do it right.” It was me in physics, someone in chemistry, someone in math, someone in aeronautical engineering, two people in humanities, someone in landscape architecture. And we said, “What we really want to do is do it a different way.” MIT said, “What do you want to do?” We said, “We’re not sure, but we need $100,000 over the summer. Our objective is to overthrow the MIT educational system.” They said, “$100,000? Here. Fine. Go do it.” They were really not nervous about it. In fact, at the time, David Baltimore, who is the Nobel Laureate, was part of the team, and then he said, “Well, I’m doing my work and it’s coming along very well. I can’t do it.” So we had really very good people. We devised a program in which we spent the summer seeing if the seven people could work together and develop a program. The two big issues were, could we work together, and what would be the name of the program. At MIT, every program has a number or a letter. So you are L, and course eight is physics, and sixteen is aeronautical, so when MIT people talked, they’d say, “I’m going to Building 13, 217, to study course eight, subject number this…” It’s all code. Nobody knows what you’re talking about. So we decided it couldn’t be anything that could be abbreviated, and we ended up with the name Concourse.
Was it an acronym?
No, just Concourse. Well, there was Concourse, which is somewhere were people hang around. And then the second thing is we decided if we could work together. Somebody had mentioned, “Let’s build a clock,” and so the team, over the summer, decided to build a clock.
Why a clock?
It caught everyone’s fancy.
A big clock? A grandfather clock?
That was the whole issue. What kind of clock would we build? And so the humanities type people were thinking gears and they were going to chop and do this. And I was thinking, more of an ephemeral clock. There was a very long tube with a big ball at the bottom. It was a glass tube. And we had different liquids in it of different viscosities and color, and we dropped the ball into it, which fell at different speeds very slowly down, and then collected at the bottom. So the concept of time was there, and it was different kinds of time, and there was a little color, and then the ball is time collected.
Almost like a Galilean thermometer with the balls…
The ball just going down… And then we were at the presentation. We had $100,000, the summer was over, and we make the presentation. So we do it in the form of a play. I still remember. Reason was there, all the administration was there, and we opened the curtain, and there is this thing standing, and we drop a ball, and we don’t talk for about four minutes, and this ball is going slowly. And I know what’s going in their mind is they’re saying, “Boy, did we get taken.” Of course, what happens with academics is they hate to speak. We call on students and force them to speak, and then we make them look like a jerk, but an academic doesn’t want to look like a jerk, so they never will speak. Anyhow, we did get the money, we did do this, and Concourse developed the theme where the idea behind it — And these were years where I was doing politics, physics, and this teaching. I was really energetic at the time. One, we were an integrator of the sciences, two, the faculty were going to teach more than their own discipline, third, the students were not going to get grades, fourth… And we would do it around a theme. So every year, it would be different. You would pick a theme. So I was with it for two years. The first year’s theme was 17th century. And then in the 17th century, you have to go back to Greek time, what happened before. The second year was perception. You had to go back to the Greeks. So it was all perception, prediction, and prophecies. So we would do Oedipus Rex and all this. It was wonderful. I remember giving a lecture on Kierkegaard, and I was reading “In Fear”, and trembling, and then studying it, and then I gave a two hour lecture on Kierkegaard. It was a lot of work. What happened that was interesting is that every time we tried to change Concourse to meet the student’s needs, it was going back to the university as it was. The reason for it, and I really understand experimental education now, is that it was always economy. We knew 50 students. I knew every student’s life history and story and all. What a pain in the ass to know that. I’m exaggerating a little bit. I knew about their girlfriend, their parents, their brother, this and that. What a pleasure, walk into a place, give a lecture, go out, and grade them and all, and you’re done. Here, it was like we used to go away for weekends with them. Very involved. What’s interesting is Concourse now exists, and it’s 30 years later. It’s one of the few programs from the ‘70s that still exists many years later, and the reason for it is because we said, “Your career can’t get mixed up in the success of the program. You have to stay with it a very short period of time.”
So faculty would…?
Come and go. They would do their thing. And then based on a theme, they would do it, and whatever was contemporary. In fact, even the politics. If it was more conservative, it was a more conservative program, and it was okay with me. So 50 out of the 1,000 students that came to MIT came into Concourse.
How are the students selected?
Self-selected. I did not get tenure at MIT. I was causing a lot of trouble at MIT after three years. A new director came into the Magnet Lab, and I was publishing like crazy, and doing a lot of things. I was working very hard, and I had some graduate students, and I warned the graduate students. It looked like I was having a good time. I’d go home and work like a dog so I can pretend by day all of this comes easy to me, but I am working. So don’t look at me and think you can do what I do without any work. I’m working very hard. So after my three year term was nearly up, a man named Peter Wolf, who I’m now friendly with, called me in and said, “Brian, you didn’t publish much or do this, and so we’re going to give you one more year, and that’s it in terms of being a Associate Professor in the physics department.”
You would still have the Magnet Lab.
I was in both places. So I said to him, “Do you know what I published?” “Oh, well…” I said, “Tell me.” He had no idea. This was just done. And so I went to see Vicki Weiskopf who was first my big friend, and now was really puzzled because I was causing a lot of trouble for him. Vicki said, “Well, we know. Come see me again.” And what he really meant is, “Don’t come see me again.” But I did force them to review me. I did force them. Today they would be sued. You can’t do that. This changed their whole policy on how to reject people at all. They really had no policy.
You must have been hurt and upset.
I was hurt and upset, but I knew what I was doing. In other words, at the time, things were so tight that very good physicists were being let go as well, and they didn’t have a good time. I had a lot of young people, and things got tight at MIT and everything was going. I was in a group where a lot of people were leaving, but I had a good time, and I did exactly what I wanted to do.
Did you ever feel that there was any connection between your activist activities, and not receiving tenure?
Yes. But I think if I were not an activist, and I really gave very high standards for who should get tenure, I would not have given myself tenure. If they said, “We want someone who communicates well, who explains well, who trains students well,” I would have given myself tenure. If they would have said, “I want a genius of physics, and that’s all we have room for,” I would not have given myself tenure. So I was not really very upset. I was not thrilled, but…
But you understood what the situation was as opposed to just being befuddled by it.
I knew what the situation was. I forced them to look at me, I did force them to get real reviews. They really understood. I wanted them to know what they’re not getting as well. I just felt that way. So I then just continued at the Magnet Lab. I had three graduate students then.
When did this happen?
I think in ’73. So I then had four more years. In 1970, the Magnet Lab was told by the Air Force, “We’re not giving you any more money.” We were getting like two million then. With the Mansfield amendment, we got in trouble one year before a lot of other labs, so we went down to the NSF and fought, and fought, and fought. The NSF took us over at about 80 percent of what we had. That then changed the whole nature of the Magnet Lab, where not only did we get this big contract, but then we all had to go out and get grants. So instead of me just writing this one page report, I had to now hustle and get grants. It was like the Air Force was a pleasure, and now with NSF, it was like…So I was good at getting grants, and I got them from NSF and from the department of energy. I had no trouble getting grants. I worked with Cy Foner and I worked with experimentalists. It was easy to get grants.
Did it change the nature of the research at all?
It did in the sense that we then did wherever the money was, that’s what we did. That’s the rules of the game, so we did things on health, so we began getting NIH money. We went all over to get the money. What it did is it put a certain pressure on everybody, and the pressure was very different from the faculty member because a faculty member has to get some salary, a post-doctoral, a graduate student…We had to get our whole salary, which was not…
Living on soft money…
On soft money is not easy when you have to get your whole salary. But there was a basic [???] from the NSF, so you really didn’t have to get your whole salary. But after a while, the NSF began getting a little upset with us. “If we give this money to a department, we only have to pay two months of anyone’s salary. If we give it to you, we have to pay five or six months.” So there was a little upsetness and all. Right before ’77, the lab was beginning to have troubles. It was not as pleasant a place to work in because everyone had to hustle, and as I said, you had to hustle for way more than just your post-doc or something, it was salary. And budgets would get tight and loose and tight and loose, and it was not a very pleasant life. And if you said, “Boy, I’m 40-ish years old, I got another 25 years of this,” it would not be pleasant, although I thought I could do it. So my wife wanted to go to New York. And there was a quasi-Women’s Liberation movement at the time. And said, “Here is a job for you.” There was a job advertised in the New York Times, a Dean of Science at Brooklyn College. And said, “You apply for that job.” And I said, “Do I have to? Do I have to?” So anyhow, she said, “Yes,” and I applied for the job. And it was a very strange situation because I had never been to Brooklyn College before although I grew up in Brooklyn. And when I went there, the City University, which Brooklyn College is part of; in 1970 they were paid the highest salaries of anyone. And they began doing what was called open admissions, anyone can go to college. And Brooklyn College increased in size from 15,000 students to 35,000 students in three years. So by 1973, again, before I was there, the College would now have 35,000 and they had a downturn, they had campuses and buildings and this all over. In 1973, the city went broke. New York City went broke and in fact peoples’ salary stopped. People did not get paid period. Their salary stopped. And from 1973 to 1976, Brooklyn College went from 35,000 to 15, 000 back. When you grow, you add faculty, this, that, the other. When you compress, you fire secretaries, and janitors, and keep as many faculty. By 1977 when I visited, it was in turmoil. People were shell-shocked. There was no grass left because there were no janitors, secretaries, or anything. And a very angry group of people who hadn’t been paid and all. And to live in New York was expensive, not as expensive as now. And so, it ended up that when I first interviewed there a friend of mine said, “No. It’s a fix. It’s not a real job. They’re gonna appoint someone inside.” But I was such a good candidate that the president said, “I want to appoint you.” As I told my wife, “I can’t take this job. They don’t pay enough. It’s a terrible job and all.” So she said, “Take it for a year.” So I told the president, “I’ll take it for a year.” But they were so desperate, they took me. And once I became the Dean — I became the Dean of Science — you get stuck in a position. You get stuck. I then began doing things and all. The faculty was shell-shocked. When I got there, I was shocked. The faculty was thirty people. It was a big faculty. All had Ph.D.s from Cornell, and Columbia, and Harvard. I mean, a very good faculty. But they really felt they couldn’t do anything because the city was broke. This was when everything was broke. And I had just come from MIT where I had to raise my whole salary. I had to pay, I had to raise my secretary’s money. I had to pay for Xeroxing. I had to pay for the phone. I had to pay for everything. And I was looking at all these people, “Whoa. Your salary is fixed. Wow. This is paradise. Are you kidding? All I have to do is get the extra money and the phone is paid for.” And in those days, they used to charge you for computing. They had infinite computing. I was flabbergasted that how much was there. And I was 39 at the time, young. I was energetic. And I did so many things there that I got into trouble immediately. I did ten times as much as you should do. I right away said, “We should hire some very good people. I think I can hire people who have $300,000 or $400,000 dollars a year in grants.” What happened is, I knew a lot of people because I had been very active in the APS, I had been active in physics, and my field of solid state physics as well. And as a result, I really just knew, I was really on top of everything. I was in the prime of my career, both of research and a little bit of administration. And so the Physics Department, which I was now a part of, I said, “I believe I can get you a terrific guy.” And I convinced the president if I can find someone who has $300,000 dollars in grants and all, he’d hire him. And so I hired a man named Fred Pollock who was terrific. And you couldn’t then and you can’t today at City University, hire who you want. What you can do is by keeping your antennae up and finding out, well, who’s getting divorced, who’s fighting with their chair, who’s learning a mental institution, who’s having a tremendous desire for a New York pastrami sandwich, you know what I mean? If you keep your antenna up, you can find very good people. But you can’t go to someone and say, “I want you to come here.” That person will say, “No.” So I hired that and then the second year I said to every department, “Bring me someone like that.” Though none of them wanted to take the bait. They were like, “Leave me alone. We had all these troubles. Just leave me alone.” And so I’d find a very good chemist and I offered it to the Chemistry Department, they were, “Oh no, no, no.” So I started him in the Physics Department. And then I had an agreement. The new president came on that I could hire one person per year at this level for the next ten years. And I said, “I’ll hire it in condensed matter physics.” Because its bench top. You can do it on benches. But then the Physics Department said, “No. We don’t want anyone else. We’re out of balance.” So I said, “Guys, you’re not gonna get another appointment in the physics department with thirty people and no students for the next twenty years. Take it. I’m telling you.” They said, “No.” Now the department has fifteen people. It’s really a department of ancients; they’re all 65 and older. Anyhow, I got involved in the administration of the University. It was very funny because I didn’t realize it then but I realize it now, what I’m very good at and when I go to a place is getting a hold of the budget. I know how to move this to here and that to there. And when the dust clears, I have some real money that I can do things with. And so, people would come into my office angry and they would say, “You know, I need $5000 dollars to do this and if you gave me $5000 dollars, I would be able to do this, and this, and this.” And I would say to them, “Well, you got it.” They’d say, “You’re not understanding. I need $5000 dollars.” I’d say, “You got $5000 dollars.” They’d say, “Well, what do I have to do?” I’d say, “Well, you told me what you are going to do, just do what you said you were going to do.” And they would say, “Well, what if I don’t accomplish it?” I’d say, “Make a best effort, a best effort.” They’d walk out angry, I didn’t know that.
Because what happened is they really were exhausted. They didn’t want to work. And prior to that, every dean would say, “We have no money. We have no money.” So people would walk around, “I’m terrific but no one will give me any money.” And now I said, you got the money and they would walk out, “Is he trying to show me up? Is he trying to show that I —”
Now they actually have to do something.
“Now I have to do something.” And every time they said, “Well, what if I don’t do it?” I would answer, “Well, make a best attempt.” You know, if you’re doing research, you can’t guarantee it. They were furious. I didn’t know that. It was so funny there; there are really funny stories. They had a process where, when I came, the president was on the ropes. And the faculty and the faculty senate had decided to have a review of the president. The president really gets reviewed by the chairs but not by the faculty. So they did a 25-page killer report on the president, like he did nothing right. And he responded with a 200-page response. But of course, he still got thrown out. All the presidents were involved in this. He came in 1970 and because of the growth and then the decrease, everyone was mad at the president of Brooklyn, and Hunter, and City, and of Queens Colleges. They all got thrown out after seven, eight years. And so, they had on the books that they’ll study the dean every three years, the vice presidents every four years, the presidents every five years. So I came as Dean of Science. Well, whatever this president did, this president because the college got very big, broke up the college into schools: the Science School, the Social Sciences. Well, now the faculty wanted no more schools. One dean over the Dean of Undergraduates. So now my job was disappearing. By the time my job disappeared, I was Dean of Research. Okay? But I wasn’t in the position of Dean of Science three years, only two years and I was Dean of Research for two years. By the time they got to get after me as the Dean of Research, I was now Vice President for Research and Development. I kept moving around in jobs. So after about five years of being there, they said, “Schwartz, we’re studying you anyhow.” So the way the faculty did a study was they called in people. “Anyone has any comments to say about Schwartz, come in and tell us.” And then they called me in and I recorded what I said. And then they write a report. And the report really wasn’t that bad. It was a report like Schwartz does this, he does that. He gets things done but it had an edge to it. And so, I asked them, “Well, who said this?” And, “Who said I said this?” “We can’t tell you.” I said, “How can I not confront my accuser?” “Well, that’s the way it’s going to be.” At the time, I was doing work in sort of bio-magnetics. I had formed a little company in bio-magnetism.
What was the name?
It was called Biomagnetech. It was using magnetic bacteria. I was working with a colleague at MIT who was in magnetic bacteria. And a biologist at the University of New Hampshire who had discovered magnetic bacteria. And we were trying to venture capitalize this company. And it was a lot of very interesting things about that company. But at any rate, I was dealing with a lawyer and this lawyer was very sharp. And I was having a good time so now they give me this report. And my lawyer writes them a letter saying, “If you issue this report without giving my client due process, I’m going to take away your houses, your children, your TIAA.” It was, I mean, it was a letter that if you opened up that letter, you would shake. So now, there’s an emergency meeting of the faculty senate because that’s the group. And they now go, “Why didn’t we take out insurance? What a mistake we made.” And they never issued the report. They were about to study the new president who had come in, a man named Bob Hess, who I got along with very well, who kissed me for stopping the faculty from doing it. Because they had gone to the president and said, “Schwartz is threatening to sue us. Will you back us?” So he said, I’m exaggerating a little bit, “Schwartz, Schwartz. I know that name. Oh yeah, he’s my Vice President for Research and Development. Don’t I evaluate him?” “Oh, you want to do it, sure. It’s okay. But it’s up to you.” They went to the Chancellor, and the Chancellor said the same thing. “Oh, Schwartz. Let’s see. He works for Hess.” So they all played. And they never issued the report. I would have issued the report. What could I do? It was 800 of them and one of me. But they chickened out. I still have the report.
In the safe in your office.
In the safe in my office and all. So it was an unpleasant time for me because at MIT, although I was very political, I was really loved. I mean, I worked with the experimentalists, I worked with students, I really got along. And when I pressed the system, it pressed back. It was almost a fair way of pressing back. They were tough. I was tough. I mean, I didn’t mind it. It was very fair.
But this was different.
But this was really politics and I had grown up in it. I just didn’t recognize it. I was too naïve. I was really trying to say, “You know, you guys are terrific.” And everything I did was wrong. When I came there, I said to them, “Well, we can’t compete with MIT per se, but let’s do the following. One quarter of the faculty will do research as we know it. One quarter of the faculty will do research on education. One quarter will do research of science that pertains to New York City. And one quarter will be in outer space. And you can move around whichever quarter. But that’s the way we’re going to do it.” And so, I ran down to NSF and said to NSF. You know, I was a young guy and I was saying, “I want some money for the physics of transportation, the physics of pollution.” They looked at me. “What? Huh? Who?” It was before the NSF had gotten divisions that were doing this. It was way ahead of its time. So I said, “Well, what are you funding?” And they said, “Well, we have this education program that’s due in two weeks.” It was called the Cause for Science Education. I said, “Well, our proposal is ready.” I went back. In two weeks wrote a proposal, got a quarter of a million dollars. They were furious with me. Because I was the dean and I was writing proposals. It was a disaster. I would do it differently. Now, when people come to me —
When did it begin to settle down?
Well what happened is, I stayed there for ten years, and then I essentially left and went to work for the APS.
So I think I’d like to end here, actually.
That’s a very good point. And there are some questions about Brooklyn College that I’d like to fill in.
The last time we finished up talking about your time which was still continuing at Brooklyn College. Today, I’d like to talk about APS and AIP topics. So why don’t we start with something we talked about earlier off-tape, which is AIP’s move to College Park.
How did this come about?
Well, let me give a little pre-history on that. I was a Dean of Science at Brooklyn College. And Harry Lustig — who was a Provost at City College and a former teacher of mine when I went to City College — had become Treasurer of the American Physical Society. And I believe that Ken Ford was, at that time, retired from wherever he retired from and was the Education Officer of the American Physical Society. The very next year, this was about 1986-7, the very next year, Ken Ford became the Director of the American Institute of Physics and there was a job opening being opened of Education Officer of the APS. And so, I had just resigned as Dean of Science at Brooklyn College and had taken a year off to do various kinds of things, and Harry Lustig called me to ask me whether I was interested in doing that. And I ended up taking on the job as Education Officer of the American Physical Society and also remaining teaching part time at Brooklyn College. It was like 50/50. Very quickly at the APS, it was at a time when Bill Havens, who was sort of very leery of me in the old days when I was very political, now began working with me and we got along very, very well. And so, the lead people there were me, and Harry Lustig, and Bill Havens. There was another woman; I don’t remember her name, who was Associate Executive Officer. But Bill Havens was getting close to retirement and two things were happening simultaneously. One of which was, when Ken Ford took over the AIP, he immediately began hiring some consultants to look into whether we were outgrowing our building, and whether or not we should move, and also some turmoil began going. And in the very early days of the thinking about the move, the APS presented a very, very solid front saying, “Absolutely not. We’re not moving.” And this is my opinion now, the AIP until Ken Ford took it over was sort of the whipping boy of the APS. The APS was the muscle organization and what it did is, in the history of the AIP, created AIP to do all of the dog work for all of the societies including APS. And the dog work was like the journals and if a new thing came up, “You take it, AIP.” And I believe the APS didn’t realize that over the years, they were giving the AIP a lot of very good things like applied physics and some other things like that and a whole bunch of journals. And soon, when Ken Ford took over, he realized that the AIP was a very strong organization and could deal from strength rather than from being subservient. And so Ken began flexing the muscles of AIP.
In what way?
Well, in some sense when he said we could look into whether to move or not. He was beginning to do different things in terms of the journals. He realized that the AIP had a lot of money. That it wasn’t a poor society. He realized that there was a lot of resentment towards APS by the other societies. He realized that the governing board, although APS had a big number of members, they didn’t have a majority and you could by working with crowds, could get your way. And so, Ken was very adept at that.
Just for purposes of the tape, could you clarify the relationship between APS and AIP in terms of…
Again, this will be a very brief. APS was an organization founded in 1899 as a professional society which held meetings and published journals. Apparently in the early 1930’s, all professional societies, partly due to the depression, got into trouble and couldn’t publish their journals very easily. I think the Carnegie Corporation or someone like that put some money in and said, “Create sort of an umbrella organization to be able to go over the dog work, publishing, and all and so you don’t have to worry about it.”
Conference organizing. All sorts of work, but no membership. And so, the AIP got created which has no members but at the present time has 10 society members. And so, when it was time to buy a building, they said, “We APS, we don’t know about cleaning or anything. So you buy the building.” So AIP bought the building. Real estate in New York became good. So everything AIP did, applied physics, we don’t want to touch it. You make a journal of applied physics. So all of that happened with the APS being the tough guy. And the APS was way bigger than the other member societies like the Optical Society and the Geophysics. But over time, the Optical Society grew a lot, geophysics grew a lot. I mean a lot of things grew to resent APS being the muscle organization.
So then, Ken had sort of commissioned a group to look into where should we move if we were to move? And set up a group, a bunch of criteria: where’s the workforce good, where’s the cost high and low, what the advantages, the disadvantages. And came out with a report from one of these professional organizations that do such reports. And it came out that the number one city we should locate in was Philadelphia. Number two city was Baltimore. And number three city was New York. And absolutely stay away from Washington. That was the recommendation. And it turns out; of course, guess who lived in Philadelphia while working at the AIP? Ken Ford. And there were other advantages to Philadelphia in terms of cost. They wanted to locate near the University of Pennsylvania and there were some empty buildings. And it would have been fairly low priced. But a lot of the arguments they were dealing dealt with 35 hour, 40 hour week. And when you got into it, moving is always very expensive. There are lots of arguments about the workforce. Could you get a good workforce here, there? The feeling was that at Washington you couldn’t get a good workforce and in New York, you could. I mean, there were all sorts of things. And when I began looking at it, I wrote a critique of that report. And unlike anyone who worked for AIP who couldn’t critique it or felt badly about critiquing it, I didn’t work for AIP. I worked part time for APS so I could do it. And that report was embraced by APS like crazy. Oh, wonderful. I dealt with it in a logical way the way physicists like. I had dealt with all the issues and as a result, they really appointed another committee, an inside sort of committee, to begin looking around at space. But the one thing that Ken Ford said was, “We don’t want to locate in New York. It’s too expensive.” So I took on the job that I would look into the real estate in New York and also be involved in the whole decision making process. At the same time with respect to the APS, we were, they had asked Bill Havens to retire. And so we were in the mood of searching for a new director and executive officer. And one of the questions asked to any new, incoming executive officer, because the search for a new site was going on, “Would you be willing to move?” And it turns out that I also applied to be executive officer of APS at the time. And there were, the APS was in the mood to get into a more corporate mode. That, you know, it’s no longer a mom and pop shop. That we have to have corporate and all. And so when it came down to the last two candidates, the last two candidates that were in there were a man named Dick Wertheimer, who has a lot to do with the move, which is why I mentioned him. He eventually got the job and Harry Lustig. And there were a lot of people sentimentally voting for Harry Lustig although he was treasurer, he sort of deserved the executive officer.
A promotion from within and also felt that Harry deserved it. He had been a good trooper. What was interesting is, I was probably — I’m not bragging. I mean it seriously. I had had very good relations with lots of people on the board. And had they nominated me, they probably couldn’t have controlled the board of APS. So I could of, if I would have ended up being the last two, they couldn’t be sure how the vote would come out. And I was qualified to do it. And I had even said I would move and all, even though I was winking my eye a little bit in doing it. Because I just had a lot of friends who knew me and thought I could do a job and try to do it creatively. What then happened was we had gone through a process of narrowing it down to now New York and the Washington area. We had gone on a tour and I was one of the people that saw facilities in Philadelphia. We then went to see the facilities, the possible facilities in Baltimore and the people in Baltimore were delightful. They took us out. They showed us this. They were willing to build something on the pier in Baltimore. I mean, really, a very nice facility. And they had just gotten a bit grant in which the parent director of the NSF, head of the Marine — What is her name?
Yes. Rita Colwell was handling a marine biology thing there and she was located there. So it was really a beautiful site. And then we were looking around the Washington area and I was in charge of looking in New York. And because it was a downtime of the market, I found a building at, and I remember the address, at 555 Broadway, which was two blocks south of NYU. And the building was owned by three women whose father gave it to them. The building was a former department store, twelve stories high, and 230,000 square feet. The building of the APS, the American Center for Physics is about 120,000 square feet.
So about twice as large.
Twice as large as this building. Twice as large as what they wanted. And it was under a distressed sale. We could get it for $15 million dollars, was the asking price. The women had already put in $12 million dollars, had gotten cheated, so they really only had $7 million dollars’ worth of fixing up. And the floors were like bathrooms on half the floors, new lobby, new elevators, and everything gutted. Ready to just shell out. And it came down that a lot of people liked the building. I, in promoting it, brought in the Hall of Science in Queens who said, “Wow. This is such a great neighborhood.” Alan Freedman, who was a Director. They said, “Wow. This is such a great location. The people who walk by this building are like every type of person in the world.” And so they said, we would be running the museum at no cost to you on the ground floor and the basement. We’re not talking about a display. We’re talking about a museum. They had been very anxious to get a toehold in Manhattan because the American Museum of Natural History controls Manhattan and doesn’t let them come in. And they always felt when they tried to use money, nobody wanted to give their money to open an exhibit in Queens. But if they could use this Manhattan place, and open it in Manhattan and then bring it to Queens, they would have access to tons of money that they wouldn’t have.
The benefits of a Manhattan address.
Manhattan address. And it’s a hot area and Soho was becoming hot. It really is hot now. At any rate, we were working with a company called Julian Stubley, Incorporated. It was run by a very old, sort of classy gentleman who funded music on WQXR from Vienna. And Harry Lustig being from Vienna and got along with him very well. And Julian Stubley was involved in the selling of our building in New York and looking for new real estate, be it wherever it was. And when I proposed this building, what real estate people do is they then go into a spreadsheet and work out the next 15, 20 years. The money goes this way, that way, upward. Certain assumptions. And they can prove whatever they want, comes out at the end. And everybody was criticizing me. “Brian, its 230,000 square feet. What are we gonna do?” And it turns out that the plan was that we would take half the building and use it for APS/AIP and all. And the other half of the building, we would rent out. So half the building would be tax free, the other half of the building we’d have to pay taxes. Half the building, we’d be able to get a low cost loan because you can get on tax-free. The other one we’d have to do that. And so it turns out that when he did the calculations, something came out and it wasn’t so bad compared to anything else. But I did a lot of thinking about it one weekend. I said, “Here’s what we’re gonna do. The other half of the building, we’re gonna leave empty.” Okay. Just empty. The second worry was, “What if we don’t rent it out?” I said, “Well, we’ll leave it empty.” Under those conditions, the interest on the whole building became tax-free. It turns out that the taxes; we wouldn’t have to pay taxes on the other part.
Because you’re not renting it.
And when you rent, and it’s still true today, if you rent out some space, you give what’s called a work letter. So if you sign a ten-year lease, they usually give you a certain amount of money per square foot. At that time, it could have rented for $15 dollars a square foot. And you would have to give what’s called a $30 dollar per foot rental which is like two years of rent. And the market was so down; you’d have to give another year of rent. So if you rented it out with three years of rent and all the other things, it was better to leave it empty. And it worked. It was cheaper at the end. Physicists were now coming back to me and saying, “Brian, it can’t be.” And these are physicists who understand numbers. And I said, “Go to the numbers,” and they would refuse to. Just like in a prejudiced like way. So then it turns out I said, “No, no. I’m gonna do better. I’m gonna rent it out to not-for-profits at $5 dollars a square foot. We don’t fix it up. No lease. You know, three months’ notice to get out.” That then brought in another $600,000 a year. On the spot, Julian Stubley offered me a job in real estate. What then happened is, it came down to such a controversy and me playing a central role in that controversy, that the AIP threw up its hands and said, “Whatever the APS decides, that’s what we’re going to do.”
So, even despite having all these member organizations —
They just decided they were going to defer to the APS. So the APS has a governing board of twelve people. And it turns out that a meeting was going to be held on should we or shouldn’t we. And I became a big part of that meeting. And at that meeting, this was a meeting and then another meeting later, they would take a vote. At that meeting, I made a presentation. Well, everybody else had treated it rather cavalierly and they were talking about the space here. They’d already seen a little bit of a space here. And so, here was a group that wanted to move out of New York and a group that wanted to be here. And everyone was making arguments. And I began writing an argument; let’s think about the pluses of this, the minuses of New York, the pluses of anything down here and the minuses. Almost nobody wanted to think that way. They just, they wanted to do it on instinct, on gut feeling. And it turns out that many people didn’t understand when I would say to them, “Why do you want to be near a university?” “It was good. You get cheap help. I don’t know.” But I said, the reality is, if you’re near a university, the staff like me can go to a colloquium and feel like I’m a physicist and feel up to date. And I was arguing very strongly for the New York part because you were within walking distance, four blocks, of the physics department. Which meant that you would really hear people, they would visit, the physics department visit you, and you would feel like a physicist. And here, although they said we’re on the campus, we’re not on the campus of University of Maryland. And if you have to drive, you know, everyone says, we’re on the campus. I brought an aerial map. I showed the circles. One mile, two miles, three miles. And jokingly when the Chancellor of the systems, Don Langenburg who wanted us to come and promised us the world.
Chancellor of —
Chancellor of the University of Maryland. He wanted us to come. “I’ll give you library privileges. I’ll give you a swimming privilege. I’ll give you a health privilege.” I said, “Can we get ten parking spots?” He said, “Don’t come.” I mean, I’m exaggerating a little bit. But that’s the real currency. If they really want you, they give you a parking spot. That, they weren’t interested in us. In addition, they didn’t really say where we were located. And I really argued, because the university had some land or there was some land right next to the station, I argued that it’s six-tenths of a mile from the station.
When people come into town and we’re a volunteer organization, what you want to do is you don’t want to pay for that help. So we have Nobel Laureates helping us, and chairs of departments, and heads of laboratories. What you want to do is make it very convenient for them. And convenience for them means is they fly in late at night after working a very hard day, they hop a cab, which is not a long cab ride into a city, they then check into a hotel that has meals all hours of the night. The next morning, they wake up, they can go to a bank. They can walk over to where we are. They can that evening go to the theater if they want to. They can do things. So I argued about the fact that the site out here had none of those qualities. No restaurants, no hotels, and wouldn’t. Because I had flown up in a helicopter and I saw the area and I saw there’s nothing here and there’s no reason for there to be anything here. Well at any rate, when I argued in favor of the place in New York, and at that time, the president of the APS was Nicolaas Bloembergen, a Noble laureate. In addition to that, Jim Krumhansl was the former president. I remember, I think, Pat Daimer who’s now in basic energy sciences was involved. Marty Perl from SLAC was involved. The three officers of the APS. A man named Richard Freeman who was at Bell Labs. I’m trying to remember all the players. But there were twelve players who were involved and these were the people we had to convince. About a month later, there was now going to be a meeting for the vote. And again, the AIP said — Fergen Moitzbacher [?] was on that as well. Eugen Merzbacher from Carolina, North Carolina. So now, a vote was going to take place and the AIP said, “Whatever the APS does, we’ll do.” And nine people came to vote. Nine people were there. And I had had the three officers of APS for staying. That’s three. Then I had Marty Perl, that was four. And they had five. They had Richard Freedman, I’m trying to get them all. Merzbacher, Krumhansl, there was the guy was the education from Williams College, and Bloembergen. So Bloembergen and Krumhansl, Richard Freedman, Merzbacher, and I hope I’m not repeating myself, and this guy from Williams College. I can’t remember his name. Well the guy from Williams College was intimidated and he was voting with them. So it was five-four. And we were having a debate. And at lunchtime, I and others convinced Richard Freedman to change his vote to stay in New York. And Richard Freedman was a graduate student of Nicolaas Bloembergen doing laser work. And by the end of lunchtime, they had heard that Richard was switching his vote. So suddenly, panic struck in them and they began saying, “Five-four, four-five. It really doesn’t matter. That’s like a tie.” And so, as a result of that, we’ll just report it’s a tie, and we’ll give it back to the AIP to decide, and let their governing board make the decision.
So no one really wanted to take the responsibility.
And so now, the big vote is everybody in the building is waiting for the vote and they know who’s there. And the vote comes out four-four. Four against and one abstention. Richard Freedman did switch his vote to us and Harry Lustig abstained becoming suddenly a purist saying, “I have a self-interest in the outcome and so I can’t vote.” But it didn’t matter. Everyone was angry at Harry at that time because they thought he would vote. But I, the vote would not have mattered if it was five-four to stay, it wouldn’t have mattered. So it ended up being a tie. And the next thing was that it then went to the governing board.
Of AIP. Now you have to understand, the governing board consists of other societies, half of them located in Washington. They couldn’t care. The Optical Society couldn’t care where the hell the APS is. The AAPT is here in Washington, why not. The Geophysical Society is in Washington and is only has been throwing a monkey wrench into the operation of any system that it’s interested in.
What about the Astronomical Society?
The Astronomical Society is here. And if they’re gonna vote, it’s a no vote. They don’t care. It doesn’t affect them. They’re not going to be moving. They’re not going to be affected. Nothing would happen. The only one who could potentially be affected was the AAPT and in order to get them to come into this building, they were bribed, essentially. The AAPT claimed poverty and that was its strength. We have no money, we have nothing. That was their strength and we wanted to save them. But anyhow, the vote eventually took place and they voted to come to Washington. And in coming to Washington, they were told by a real estate agent, don’t pick a particular place because then they won’t have any bargaining move. So you say within fifty miles of Washington.
Fifteen or fifty?
Five-zero. Just to say that it’s a big area involved. But they had been looking at this spot. It turns out that the person who was selling it wanted about a half a million dollars an acre and there’s 24 acres here. And at one time, the plan was to move everything, the things on Long Island down to here, and other things, and make this into a publishing, printing hall. But when they really looked at the economics of moving the publishing, it was like crazy. There’s no reason it has to be in a high rent area. While we were negotiating now to buy this site, it turns out that the market really fell out and as a result, there were lots of properties that were vacant built in Washington built on speculation that were available. In addition to that, prices were changing. And again, this may be true and I really do believe it is true but there was a point where the negotiation gets tough whenever you’re about to close a deal. And I was arguing that, “Well, pay them half the price for the land. Don’t buy it at that price and all.” And somehow, their lawyers, our lawyers, someone said, “It’s not good form to change.” I mean, we overpaid tremendously. There are two things you have to know in real estate. One is location, location, location. And the second thing is buy low and sell high. Well, the building in New York we sold low and when we bought the land here, we bought high. And then it’s anti-location, anti-location, anti-location. So we were very close.
So the opposite of everything.
180 degrees out of phase. But it was close. When they then decided we had to build something here, I first of all argued, once we went to Washington, I threw in the towel. I gave up. And it really hurt me because I had really done tremendous research. And when I was arguing to force people to write the pluses and minuses, one of the people who wrote a minus said, “I don’t enjoy the cab ride from La Guardia into Manhattan.” And I mean, you know, you would think the person was retarded and this was a very smart person. He was not retarded. But if you read his reasons for not wanting it, you’d say, “Thirty IQ, maybe.” It was unbelievable the rationalization going on here. So then they had to really hire an architect and all to do the building. They bought the 24 acres for something like $12 million dollars. It became very clear that the land was now worthless. So, I mean there’s no one. Again, one of the arguments I made for downtown was one, the normal thing that you’re near hotels, you’re near food, you’re near all the other societies, and all. But also, it turns out interestingly enough, if you go into a sort of a business mall thirty years later after they build it, it looks wrong. It just doesn’t hit your eye very well. It’s old fashioned, they’re now into steel, it was glass and all.
It doesn’t age well.
It doesn’t age well. It ages as what it was and it looks very old fashioned. Whereas a building in downtown, no matter what it looks like, after a while, it grows into it and it looks good. So I was really concerned with the long-term value of it. But it really turned out that both the APS and AIP were very rich societies and they were allowed, unlike other places, to make major mistakes and it didn’t affect their real bottom line. So you could do things because they both were very successful publishing outfits who had taken profits and invested them wisely. And they were, both had big balances in the bank. And so, could do a lot of things. Not that they don’t worry about money but unlike a very poor organization which would have to worry about it. Well, they sold the property in New York. They bought this property and then began and then began designing it. And by that time, Dick Wertheimer was hired, Richard Wertheimer, formerly at Bell Labs who had left Bell Labs, who was a very good physicist. I knew him and I was in the same field. Very good theoretical physicist who had gone into business, into industry and other things and was now the director, the executive officer of APS. And he was a very neat person and into detail. Dressed beautifully, meticulously, not a thread hanging. And really just loved the idea of getting involved in the building, in the building design. And he took a lead role in that. And I think we went with Skidmore, Owens, and Merrill to design the building. And Dick Wertheimer was very involved in picking out the furniture and other things like that. And I think he did a good job in general but I was then arguing, “Let’s get a real exotic designer.” I mentioned Frank Gehry or something like that. “Let’s make the building a statement,” you know. “Suppose you gave some architect a design to design a physics building.” Not design an office building but a physics building. Something that gives some character and somebody says, “Oh that looks different. What is it?” “The Physics building.” And again, if you really said to some architect who thought, well suppose you put up things like, you know, we’ll take, you know, length, time, and mass, which are the three keys. And make that, it used to be the logo for the AIP. It was a pendulum with a weight and a ruler, you know. It was a little old fashioned but I think you could really have done something. And my view was, if you’re going to be located outside and you have land, do something that people will come to, to look at. Anyhow, the construction took place. I then began working more and more for the APS. And I was now in the position of Associate Executive Officer.
What does that entail, being Associate Executive Officer?
To do, the Treasurer was the treasurer. APS had a governing which was the strangest governing of any organization in the world and it seemed to work. They had three co-equal Directors. One was in charge of publishing, the Editor in Chief. A second one was the Treasurer. And the third was the Executive Secretary, which was then changed to Executive Officer. The Treasurer, you know what a treasurer does. You know what the Editor in Chief does. And the other person does all the rest. And I was involved in doing a lot of all the rest as well. And so I was involved in education, I was involved in fund raising; I was involved in minority affairs, involved in a lot of things. Well, it turns out that Dick Wertheimer was not a success at being the Executive Officer. And again without being disparaging to say it like, a meticulous person but he didn’t understand being an Executive Officer how you have to like work with your board and how you have to ask people what to do. It’s not like a free job. You have to cooperate with people. And Dick had certain ideas but it just wasn’t working out. And he hardly knew that it wasn’t working out. And there would be times when Harry and I would go in and begin telling him what we’re going to do and Harry is very fast and I am very fast. And we would be like passing the ball back and forth and then we were like finished. And he would still be on step one. And what are we going to do? And with his meticulousness wanted to go that slowly through the things. We got him started in fundraising. And again, just didn’t have any ability in doing that.
You mentioned fundraising. Where were you going, or who were the patrons for you?
I’ll tell you that in a moment.
The fundraising became a big part of what I ended up doing. It turns out that they then decided in a very sudden-like way to let Dick Wertheimer go. So there was a meeting, I remember, in I think it was, in June. And then a call —
The year before we moved. I can’t say. I don’t know whether we moved here 1994. It might have been June of 1993. In which, Dick Wertheimer was told goodbye. And Dick had bought apartments down here thinking he was going to move here. And it was a tough negotiation because we hadn’t really signed what you would call a real professional contract with someone. And so, letting him go was very expensive. And it wasn’t like it was expensive because we had an agreement that was expensive; it was that we had no real good agreement. I think the APS learned something from that in making a better agreement. And so, Harry was asked to be Acting Executive Officer and I ended up being Harry’s right hand man.
This is Harry Lustig?
Harry Lustig. And he and I were involved in the move. Basically, when we moved down here, I was, I took some time off and spent a lot of time here. And moving down here was not, as any move was, a most pleasant experience because you always move into a building before it’s ready, no matter what they tell you. And when it wasn’t ready, there was construction going on and I would say ten times a day the fire alarm would go off, and it’s very loud. Because both they’re testing and they’re both doing and they’re both making mistakes. Things aren’t working. Everyone’s in boxes, out of boxes. So it was a very rough time.
How long did the move take? The process.
Only a couple of months. It really didn’t take long. I mean, it didn’t take long but I mean for everyone to settle. And they made, like, very attractive offers to anyone who would come to Washington. They would pay for the move. They would give them some bonus. They would take care of a low cost mortgage. They would pay for real estate agent or something more than a real estate agent to show you around and all. So I think it was made kind of convenient. And for some people who really didn’t want to move, but again didn’t feel they had much employment opportunity or as good employment opportunity, moved sort of kicking and screaming. But most people moved. A good fifty percent moved and I’d say of the fifty percent, of the people who could have moved, there’s maybe only seventy percent couldn’t move because of family and others. And even now, like, you know, as you know Spencer Weart still lives in New York. He commutes and some people have done that. I told him right away that I wasn’t moving but I really did help them in the move. At that time, then the APS went on a campaign to find a new Executive Officer because Dick Wertheimer was now gone. Harry was acting. And Harry was, at that time, probably in his mid-sixties and almost everyone felt, “Let’s appoint him as the Interim, for two years.” Because he suffered through all this mess and just to honor him. And you know, the place will get along. And then let’s do a real search when the building is settled and all. But the APS in its wisdom or whatever you want to call it, you know, did a search. And ended up picking Judy Franz. Now, at the time, Judy was her only real experience at management had been that she had been president of the AAPT. And she had also been chair of the division of condensed matter physics of the APS. But she hadn’t been a chair of a department, hadn’t been a dean, hadn’t been a provost, hadn’t been just a lot of other things. Judy’s skill was she had very good detail kind of skills. Her weakness is that she didn’t have a lot of these things. And I think it hurt Harry a lot in choosing her.
Was he looking forward to having that two-year period?
Well, he just, I think he felt like he was skipped over once when Dick Wertheimer was appointed. And then he had worked like a dog. Harry worked like a dog. I worked like a dog. But he worked like five dogs in getting the move all done. And Harry takes everything very serious. I know when I have a lot of jobs, if some things don’t matter if I write as well, don’t write as well. Then I’m not going to write it well or I’ll give it orally. But Harry does everything perfectly, every bit. Even when some things don’t have to be done perfectly. And a lot of people felt he deserved it. And it wasn’t exactly a tragedy if he ended up getting the position. Well, when Judy was appointed, there were even more complications. Judy’s husband is the President of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, a physicist, Frank Franz, I believe. And Judy was going to commute to do the job, which was very strange that they would choose somebody over Harry who would commute. And so, I think Harry was really hurt by that and I was annoyed by it.
And the commute from Huntsville to D. C. is not a trivial.
It’s not a single plane. Or maybe sometimes it is. But I don’t think it is. I think it’s a two plane event. And Judy said she would get an apartment here and work and do that. And I was surprised that they would agree to that. As it turns out, Judy ended up working out with a lot of problems in the beginning. And there are still a lot of problems now. I don’t think I’m telling things out of school in the sense that Judy is a very smart woman, but very often if you ever tell her anything she knows, she will tell you the negative side of it first. So, everyone who worked with her had to get used to this form of management. I’ll ignore that part because she can’t help herself. She can see the whole thing and then instead of saying, “Well, you did a wonderful job. And here’s an area where you could even improve.” It would be, “This isn’t going to work for this reason.” And the APS, in fact, fought a little bit and they forced someone from outside, a consultant, to come in to talk to her about management. In fact, even the Board may have forced her to take some management courses and others. But in all, she’s really managed the Society and all, and done a fair job. I mean, even I’d say a good job. Very cautious. Harry was much more adventurous and I think would have done more adventure. At any rate, I’m a big fan of Harry’s and I’m in his corner. I get along very well with Judy as well, but there is this thing about Judy which I, at least, luckily being a consultant, don’t have to put up with. I can be kind of independent. So the move was a very traumatic thing and I really feel very bad because I now revisit that building at 555 Broadway, which was ultimately bought by Scholastic Magazine. And the building is in the hottest area of New York. The building is gorgeous. The rents in that building now go for like $50 dollars a square foot. The building, we could have bought for less than $15 million is now worth about $80 million dollars.
So it would have been a big profit.
Oh, it would have been a big profit. But not only a big profit, a very good location. There are hotels all around, restaurants all around. And in fact, the way the building was constructed, it’s a beautiful building. It’s over a hundred years old. It would have been historic. You could have even had an apartment or two on the top floor. You could have had an outdoor restaurant on top. It was just one of these that you really could think about. That’s why I’m sad whenever I come here because we’re in a building that’s pleasant but non-descriptive. It’s like any other building. There’s nothing about it that if you saw the building, you’d say, “Oh, don’t. They over missed.” The only thing in the building, I point out the people when they come is that we have a little, I guess it’s a watching over the kids.
Daycare center. And in there there’s a little toilet bowl. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in that. But it’s a beautiful little toilet seat for children. The cutest thing in the whole building. You’ll have to go and visit. That’s what I show people when they come to the building. But you know, I think everyone’s gotten used to it. Again, I think the building, in my view, doesn’t work. It works in the sense that all the work gets done. I, when arguing when they built the building here, I really said that we have to have a big presence downtown. Although we have a small presence downtown and you can get those people downtown to come out here or move out here if life was dependent upon it. We do have a bigger presence downtown in the, you know, PR building and all, the National Press Building in downtown Washington.
That’s where What’s New comes out of.
Yes. I was even arguing that in today’s electronic times, this building could have been in Santa Fe and have a presence. I was then arguing once they began thinking about this area that to have about 25 people in the downtown Washington office. And have a real presence there. One of the reasons they gave for being here is that the APS and the AIP were against lobbying. And so, they didn’t want to be seen as a lobbying organization.
They didn’t want to be located right in D.C.
So they didn’t want to be located right inside. But they pretend that the distance matters, it doesn’t matter at all. And the cost of not being in Washington is severe in terms of education, in terms careers, and the other things that people do around here. It’s just the meeting with your colleagues, I think, is so important. And, you know, you can see when the AAAS was forced to move, they built another building right on, I think, Twelfth Street or Fourteenth.
Twelfth and New York.
Twelfth and New York. I mean, so, you know, that’s what we should have done. But we didn’t. And it would have cost less than this building. And now we have twelve acres of which, no, 24 acres? Twelve acres? Twenty-four acres, of which we’re only using one-quarter of it. It was supposed to be in this oval. Three other buildings.
Can anything be done with that?
We could still build but it’s not economical. Why would anyone build here? And why would you try to relocate anyone here? So, I don’t think it’s going to happen in our lifetime.
Tell me about the fundraising.
I then, once the APS moved here, I then became a consultant to the APS. I was always a consultant because I always had a job at APS but then I lowered. At one time I was here seventy percent of the time or something. But really a hundred percent of the time but I was cheating. I shouldn’t say it. But I was really cheating Brooklyn College in a way even though I was doing my job but perfunctorily. Just meeting a class or two and that’s that. The APS, again with Ken Ford, when Ken Ford was director, because of my experience, when I was at Brooklyn College after being the Dean of Science and the Dean of Research, I then became Vice President for Research and Development at Brooklyn College in about 1984. What had happened is the president had hired a professional person in development. And development professionals are about two-thirds of them are charlatans and they go from job to job because the nature of development is they say, “Well, I need one year to find out what is going on. And I need a second year to gear up. And the third year, you’ll begin seeing results.” So what happens, nothing happens the first year, the second year, and the third year they then fire them and they go on to another three-year job. And you can’t really fire them on day one because you really have to give them that trial. It turns out, at the time; Brooklyn College was an elite undergraduate school at one time. Everyone who was very smart who went to Brooklyn College became a professor. Everyone who was very dumb went to Wall Street and became multi-millionaires. Again, exaggerating a little bit. So it turns out that our alumni were rich as hell but since it was a free, public institution which when it went to open admissions completely ruined the concept of the degree. All the alumni were angry and once the alumni got successful and moved out to the suburbs or something, they sent their kids to the Ivy League schools. Although they went to Brooklyn College, their kids went to Harvard, and Brown, and all. And they donated money to Harvard and Brown which didn’t need it. So, the president saw me and asked me to take over the development of a college. And it turns out that the development is so easy, it’s a scandal how easy it is because it turns out that there’s an organization called CASE, although I don’t know what the acronym stands for. But where everyone tells all. They all tell what they’re doing. So Columbia will say, this works and this doesn’t work and this works. And the great thing about it is Columbia’s alumni are not Brooklyn College’s alumni. So, we’re not overlapping. And so everyone tells all. And so, if you want to do development, you see what works elsewhere and what can be transferred to you. So if there’s a great brochure which shows a picture of the kids under the tree talking to the professor, and then there’s the kid on the basketball court, and there’s a pond and all. You just erase the name. Instead of saying, you know, Columbia, you write down Brooklyn College and you go steal it. I’m exaggerating. But I mean, you can just do the same brochure. You can do the same thing. If you see a fundraising letter, you can take that letter and adjust it. So you don’t have to be creative.
So there are sort of universal tools.
Universal tools and they can tell you what works, what it cost to work, and all. So I did development at Brooklyn College and was incredibly successful. Partly because I knew how to deal with the board and partly I got along very well with the president. And so, after raising a ton of money for Brooklyn College, I was raising money for all these people, professors who I didn’t really like. I mean, they’re all professors, they’re a tough crowd, and they’re all very needy. And so, after a while I said, “Hey, that’s enough.” And so I had done my ten years of academia. I don’t remember the last time if I told you what happened when I sued the whole faculty.
I think I did. Yeah. So, I had a lot of experience in development. So when the APS said and when AIP said that they wanted to do fundraising, I said there’s a classical way of doing fundraising. Let’s find out how other societies did it and it turns out that the Chemical Society had just completed a $25 million dollar fundraising campaign. Let’s find out who did it for them. Let’s invite that person in and let’s talk to that person. The person ended up being a man named Walter Plotch. Walter Plotch, who had done things for them. So Walter Plotch came in, made his sales pitch, and we hired him as the consultant to help the AIP, all the member societies with fundraising. And the idea was, how should we do this and Walter Plotch was involved. Do we do it one at a time? Do we collectively? And finally it came down after meeting with the board and everyone else, which only three societies would get involved in it: the AIP, the APS, and the AAPT. The other societies opted out because it would cost money to hire the consultant. And doing anything, you have to invest money first and then you have to put some people onto it. And the other societies decided that they didn’t want to do it. And then what happened is, if you then want to go out and fundraise, you have to do what’s called a case. You write up what is it that you want money for and make the case for it. And again, what most people make the mistake in fundraising is they say, “This is the case. I want this.” And no one is interested in it. So it doesn’t matter, even if the case is persuasive. So your cases have to match what people are interested in. So what you have to do is make a lot of cases and then figure out which ones match what other people are interested in.
So you sort of tailor make the request to match the donor’s interest.
Part of it matches your interest in it. For example, like in the case of the AIP they would be, you know, a lot of people are interested in history. A lot of people are interested in the library. If you said, “Well, I want you to do,” let’s say, “Add something to this building.” Nobody is interested in adding. There’s no sexiness about it and nobody cares about this building, nobody works it. And you may very well need an extension to this building. It may be very pressing, that’s what you really need money for, but no one is going to give it to you. It doesn’t mean you don’t write it up and think about it. But then when you go and look, will anyone give you money, you have to be very honest. And what happened is, the APS wrote something. The AAPT, very difficult getting them to write, so we wrote it for them. And the AIP wrote something. And then Walter Plotch, who had lots of connections to the scientific world, went around and shopped them. So what he would do is, with his connections, he’d go in front of a CEO and say, “Would your society, your organization, would your corporation, fund any of these things? Which are you interested in? And do you know these people, do you know who the APS is?” And it turns out that of the three organizations, AIP, AAPT, APS, the only one they knew about was APS. No one would know on the outside what is AIP. But APS, some of the people, some of their workers had belonged to the APS. They had gone to APS meetings. And secondly the thing that sold that was most sexy was education. Everyone was interested in, is always interested in education. And so the AIP request, the only AIP request that was really sexy was the history. And finally when it came down to go ahead and it’s sort of like the study that you get was not negative towards AIP but it really was honest. No one heard of AIP at all. And Ken Ford got a little bit insulted by all that and decided not to go along with fundraising, that he would hire his own. And so, now we had the APS and the AAPT. Now, as I said before, the AAPT in negotiating for this building said, “We won’t pay more than X dollars per square foot.” And the building was coming out at 1.5 times X. Their X was $160 and it was now coming in at $230. They didn’t want to pay more than $160. In addition, they wouldn’t pay for the lunchroom part. You know, when you buy a building or you pay for a building, you get charged your share of the bathrooms, your share of the lobby. No, they didn’t want.
Just their space.
And they would argue. And since both the AIP and APS felt we were the muscle organization because we had a ton of money, we always felt sorry for them and gave them whatever they wanted. Well, the same thing happened with development now. The AAPT couldn’t get their act together. Anyway, AAPT was just not a strong organization. And in fact, the organization was changing its nature from being sort of college teachers and some high school teachers to being more high school teachers and less college teachers.
K through 12?
Yes. Well, really more high school. Mostly high school. But it really was beginning to lose people. And in the past, a lot of researchers would, for good will, belong to it as well and they were beginning to lose that and were focusing a lot more on high school teachers, which was an important part. At any rate, when fundraising began happening, I played a very important role in that in the sense that, you have to have a certain either skill or nerve to ask people for money. And most physicists hate the idea of asking anyone for money. And what turns out is that people who are very rich like giving. They really like it. If the cause is something they’re interested in, they know why you’re visiting them, and they’re not surprised. You’re not the only one who asks them for money. And if the cause is good and you really believe in it and will do it, then there’s nothing wrong with it. Everyone else is asking them for money. But the people felt very, very awkward. So the reality is, most of the times, we went out with the executive board members, Bloembergen being one of them a lot. I can’t remember his name. Henning out at the University of Washington, one of our presidents. But a few people really volunteered to really get involved. And Harry and I, and mostly I and then with this consultant. And we hired Darlene Logan, who still works with us now. Darlene Logan is now the development officer for the American Physical Society, and she was hired on as a consultant to Walter Plotch. And then ultimately when the campaign ended, we hired her permanently. The nature of fundraising is that you have to do your homework. You have to butter people up. You have to get introductions to people at the corporation. You don’t just walk in, but you do a lot of pre-work before you do the fundraising. And we have our membership, and you find out who’s on boards. There’s a lot of what is called prospect research and other things. And they did all of that. And so, when we would go on a trip, we knew what they were interested in funding, we knew how big they funded. And we used the following trick. The trick we used is that we were now dealing with captains of industry and we would bring along a Nobel laureate. So if you brought along a Nobel laureate, that person was at the same level as the captain of industry.
So who did you bring?
Nicolaas Bloembergen. We would bring along the former director [?] of SLAC. It will come to me. Just a bunch of Nobel Laureates who would really help us.
Somebody that these corporate heads could relate to.
It was just wonderful. And then when you would ask, we’d have something that we would do beforehand. We would usually have a very high person from that corporation with us, so you have someone very high from Bell Labs. So we worked with Rakesh Patel, who was now, he’s at UCLA, was very high up at that time in the AT&T Foundation. So there were various connections. We worked with Charlie Duke who was very important in Xerox. And so we went to see the high people in Xerox. And people knew Hewlett Packard. We saw Mr. Hewlett, in fact. In fact, I remember that we asked because I, Walter Plotch, and Nicolaas Bloembergen were going to see Bill Hewlett. And Bill Hewlett had had a minor stroke. He wasn’t really perfectly well but he came to see us. And we had agreed that we would ask for a half a million dollars. In addition, we wanted him to be like acting chair of our campaign, plus we wanted the company to give some money, plus we wanted the Hewlett Foundation to give some money. And so now we’re in the room, we had already talked beforehand and it was a point where Nicolaas had to do the asking. And we had a very nice social conversation. And we’re all kicking Nicolaas, ask, ask, ask. And finally he said, “Well, could you give a half a million dollars?” And he said, “Yes.” But it took a while to educate them. Ferus Henle is the guy from the University of Washington.
I’m just curious. When they say they are going to give a half a million dollars, do they pull out a checkbook and write it?
No. What happens is they give that. And then what you do is you then write a note thanking them very much for the half a million dollars. And then you say, “Well, how would you like to give it?” Because you can give it over one year or two years. “Who should we contact?” You write them a nice follow up thank you letter and all. So it’s, how important you are and all the rest. Then we would write up brochures and did a lot of things like that. And it’s hard to raise money. Everybody thinks it’s easy because they all say, “Microsoft, they got ten billion, a hundred billion dollars. They only gave us one billion of it.” It turns out, all these places are bombarded by places. If you don’t know someone, if you don’t do it right, you know, you’re just another letter out the door and you won’t even get to see anybody. We really did it by the book. The rule of the game is, your top ten gifts bring in half the money you are going to bring from all other sources. And you don’t announce the campaign until you’ve got, like, those top ten gifts because you want to be successful and that tells you how much the campaign was. We hoped it would be, I think, five million. It ended up being three million. I mean, he estimated we could do, you know, five to ten. We actually did three million. In addition, our whole board had to give. I gave, you know, I gave five thousand dollars. I mean, in order to ask, you have to give it. And then I became like a single person. I had a lot of friends who I would then ask. It was just more of a challenge to me. And I just knew who had money. And I would go up to them and say, “I gave my five. You should give five.” And they would. And I remember there was a guy named Gene Stanley who works at BU, who didn’t realize I was going to ask him for money. So we went out to lunch. I treated him to lunch and then asked him for five thousand dollars. And since we were using his picture in the campaign — he does fractal work — he couldn’t turn me down but to this day, whenever he meets me or meets other people, he says, “The most expensive lunch he’s ever had in his life.” He has hardly recovered. And I treated it like if I was going for a lousy cause, I really couldn’t do it. I was really going for a good cause. But again, if you really go into the amount of effort that goes into it, you have to ask yourself, would it be better to raise the price of the Journal by 1/10 of 1% percent than do it that way? But fundraising is a very good thing to do because you contact your membership. You give them. So, it should be done. It has a lot of other purposes.
It has benefits other than just getting money.
It has a lot of other benefits. And now we have meetings where we try. It turns out that most physicists don’t realize how rich they are. This is a spiel I once gave, a talk at the University of Nebraska. And somebody came to me worrying about how poor he was and I gave him talk. And after I was finished, he was on air because here is what happens. A typical life of a physicist. At age thirty they get their first job after a postdoctoral. They’re making a very low salary. They’re beginning to have kids. They just moved. They have no furniture and all. So they have no money. By the time they hit forty, it turns out that they’re now moving up in their career. They bought a house but they have mortgages on the house and all and they have no money. They hit fifty, they’re getting a better salary but their kids are beginning to go to college and all, so they have no money. But then they hit fifty-five; three things happen simultaneously. One of which is, the kids leave home. Second thing, the house is paid off. And the third thing is, well four things, the high salary. And their pension, which used to be a tiny little part of their total wealth, is now so big that the daily increase in their pension is comparable in more than their salary. And most of them have lived their lives such that the income and outflow match each other to one part and 106. One part in a million because physicists are suddenly, the spending increases, can extrapolate that in thirty years they’ll be broke in debtor’s prison. So they begin adjusting it, not when they’re out and beginning to go into debt but adjust it on day one, when they can extrapolate. In addition to that, I joke around and this is really true. I ask physicists, “Did you ever pay interest on a credit card?” And they all say, “No.” Never ever paid interest because they understand what 1.5% percent per month means or 20% percent a year. But then I jokingly say to them, “But occasionally, you forgot to pay the bill but you called them and got it rescinded.”
It sounds very familiar.
In addition, they drive a car ten years old and are proud of it. They’re not out to show off. They only things they really like to do are scholarly things, and plays, and maybe some travel, but nothing that is very expensive. So they end up accruing a mass of money, and don’t know that they have this mass of money, and don’t know how to spend it. And my view is that the APS has an incredible source of money. I would say at MIT, almost every physicist who is 65, who has been there for thirty years and bought a house in the area is worth three million dollars. And that’s assuming they did nothing. I mean, they didn’t invest wisely. It’s just the house is worth a million.
So consulting and patents and all that.
Forget that. Then they’re really rich. I’m saying, just on their salary, they belong to TIAA and supplemental TIAA and live their lives modestly without buying a car every year. So, then if you extrapolate the number of years you have left and you have three million dollars, you can’t spend it. They don’t even know how to spend it. So I have to like lecture them on how to spend money when I give that lecture. But in terms of fundraising, that’s a tremendous potential. And people like giving. I mean, they don’t mind giving. And when they really begin thinking about, “What is $5000? What is $10,000?” Some people even more. And we have some very good members who have given a couple of hundred thousand dollars while still alive. They don’t know what they are going to do with their money. Some of the people have no children. They really don’t know what they are going to do with their money. Now you have to understand that we’re third in line in getting money. First is really their children and family. The second one might be the university. The third one might be their church or synagogue. And we’re usually fourth. But fourth isn’t so bad. It’s worth a lot of money. So you have to hit them correctly. In fact, the APS is now going on another campaign right now. Maybe with the AAPT and AIP with the focus on education. I know you and your group does the library and that is a very good seller.
That really works in very well and it’s also something very real, very solid. Most scientists have a love for learning and love for books.
Yes. You can’t disparage libraries.
You can’t. And it works.
Tell me about the centennial because that ties a bit into fundraising because you also had to raise money for that as well.
What happened with the centennial is now, after doing this fundraising, which exhausted everybody. And we really were successful, and had receptions, and parties, and all. And now, I was now much less with APS. I was ready to pull back because I had done this year of penance during the move and whatever else happened. The APS began thinking in 1992 about the centennial in 1999. And they had appointed a committee under the leadership of Millie Dresslehaus, who was past president of the APS. And a very organized woman who is a professor at MIT, who I knew very well when I was there and still know well. And she had a committee to talk about what would we do with the centennial. And they came back with a report with like what was a pie in the sky, just anything you could imagine was being there. But it should have been that way. In fact, that report got written by Harry Lustig. Harry Lustig loves to write, writes very well, writes very fast but gave the credit to Millie. But Harry wrote the report, essentially but everyone still deferred to Millie. But by around 1995 when it was really becoming more of a reality, there was a question of like what would we really do. And so, we reexamined it. And the way Harry had it was that the meeting would consist of combining — The APS always has a very large March meeting, which runs five days with five thousand people. A not so healthy spring meeting in April which has usually about two or three thousand people and a dwindling source. The March meeting focused on condensed matter physics; the April meeting would be nuclear and high energy. And that usually got two thousand people. And the idea was to combine the two. And then to maybe run it four days of the meeting, three days of celebration, four days of meeting. Something like that. A ten day event. And when you asked around, you found that nobody had ten days to give to anything. And although you might think it’s very important, to other people, it was just another day in their lives, the fact that we were a hundred years old, and not that anyone was against it. But practicality had to come in. And so, it ended up, they gave me the job. I ended up partly because Judy knew me and although Judy and I have what I’ll call a respect for each other, we both know each other’s strength/weaknesses. So, it isn’t like we’re lovey-dovey. It’s respectful. So in choosing me, she knew what I could do well. In other words, she wasn’t like, you know, finding me the greatest thing in all. But in terms of doing the centennial, “I like the way you do things.” And so she asked me to be in charge of the centennial. So this was about 1995. And so I brought together a committee and began outlining what we could do. What could we do for the centennial? And I’m also a very pragmatic, I’m a very hard worker, very risky, but when I do the risk, I know how far out I can go. I don’t usually go beyond. Sometime by accident, I do but then I have to work very hard to make sure it happens. But I’ve never in my life have not delivered on what I promised. Sometimes I promise too much, so then I just have to work harder. So we ended up doing a whole bunch of things and I really, I’m very proud because I take a lot of credit for a lot of the creativity that went into this. So there was something to reach out in terms of education. There was something to deal with a lot of Nobel Laureates in one place at one time. There was some various things like things in the city of Atlanta and all. And when it came down to it —
Why Atlanta, by the way?
The issue was, and you’re asking a very good question, and it was where should the centennial take place because we were worried about it 1992. By 1994/1995, we have to choose a place because you have to be four, five years ahead to get a hotel and all. And so it came down that we had a person who was in charge of meetings who looks into places and we told him to look into New York, to look into Washington, Baltimore, or anywhere else. It came down with three possibilities: New York, Washington, or Atlanta. Well it turns out that New York, the APS hasn’t met in New York since 1987 and will never again, ever met there.
It’s just too expensive for physicists. So, New York was out of it although Harry, being the Treasurer, looked into how to subsidize it and all. And when you get around to it, the amount of difference would have been very small. Two hundred thousand dollars or something. It ended up being a five million dollar meeting. It would have been relatively small and could have been subsidized and all. And Harry felt since the organization was founded in New York, it should be New York. The other place was Washington but again we were expecting seven, eight thousand people. And it was at the peak time in Washington around, you know, the best weather in Washington. It’s not too hot; it’s not too cold. You’re getting the cherry blossoms and all. So it would be very hard to manage that. So it ended up being Atlanta. Atlanta was supposedly cheaper and all. It ended up not being that cheap. And so we ended up picking Atlanta. Harry was always very unhappy about that. In the end, Atlanta wasn’t such a bad choice because in Atlanta we were really a little bit of mini hit.
One of the things that was created for this was the timeline, a Century of Physics. And I’m curious, as that was being created, were there any debates about what physic history was, or what controversies, or what things to include in that?
That ended up being my baby. And I had, years before, seen a timeline done by Charles Eames, a very famous American architect/designer who in fact designed what’s called the Eames chair.
Oh, yes. Okay.
And Charles Eames worked with Charles and Ray Eames where they had a little company that did powers of ten, the movie Powers of Ten. And I in my radical days in 1973, before the centennial, was invited as the local radical to a meeting of intellectuals out in New Mexico or Arizona, I think, where Herman Kahn was there, Jacob Bronowski, a whole bunch of people, and me. And I was the local radical. And I still remember when Herman Kahn got up to give a talk. And Herman Kahn did Thinking the Unthinkable about blowing up nuclear weapons and all the rest. He was like Mr. Bad Guy. And Herman Kahn was the only guy who really enjoyed his life. He went into the pool. He was a very fat, heavy man. But he really like enjoyed his life and recognized — and I’m exaggerating maybe — that he could have argued both sides. He was smart enough to argue both sides. But he said that everyone is in favor of peace and all and all. You can’t make a living there. So he argued in favor of the H-bomb and all the rest. So he enjoyed almost teasing the situation. But I met Charles Eames there and I had known about him before. And so, I liked the style, the way Charles Eames did history. So he did this timeline for mathematics. It came out in 1973 called “Men of Mathematics” although it had some women on it but that’s what it was called. And it was a certain style and it went back to antiquity and dealt with mathematics. And it sort of had a linear flow to it. And so one of the things when I had this committee was I said, one of the things I wanted to do was I wanted to do a timeline on the history of 20th century physics. And we began arguing how big, how wide, and all. And finally, we came down as big as we could make it. And Hans von Baeyer was on the committee, who’s a writer/author/historian at College of William and Mary. A very strong intellectual with very high standards who wrote for the Sciences magazine as well as writes books. And he and I hit it off very, very well. And so the idea was to do this project and when I estimated the project, I underestimated it intentionally a little bit but really underestimated it anyhow, both in time and terms of dollars. Because I really wanted to get it started. And we began arguing, what is the most important thing to do here? And we decided there were two crucial people that had to be hired. One was a designer and the second one was a writer/historian/physicist. And which would be the most important, the historian, writer, or physicist, which would come first? And the answer was the writer. And so, we then went on a campaign to find the designer and find a writer. And the writer that I picked, and again out of a whole bunch of people and asking around, was a man named Sid Perkowitz, who ended up accidentally being at Emory University in Atlanta, which had nothing to really do with it. And then a designer named Albert Gregory who had worked on some project called Harvard Project Physics in the 1960s and 1970s. And had a real interest and a real good designer but a real interest in physics as well. And I believe his wife worked for, what’s the name of the historian at Harvard? The famous historian, I’m blanking out on that. It will come to me. The designer’s wife worked for Gerald Holton. Sorry. It was slipping around in my head. So he was really interested and then we brought him down. And then the question was, everybody knows what a book is and everybody knows what a record is, nobody knows what a timeline is. And if I would say you are going to do a timeline, what do you think it is? You’d have a vision but it wouldn’t necessarily be my vision or even close to it. So a timeline is something that has a lot of mystery to it. And so we began by, the first thing that Sid Perkowitz did was to identify 1200 major events of the 20th century. Just go over every single event. So now we had on a piece of paper, classified the event, we could look at the scale of the event, and then we could also look at, you know, is it visual, just a whole bunch of things. And then we set about like giving that. We had, like, review committee after review committee, giving it to some people to pick out in nuclear physics, what do you think were the major events? In condensed matter, what? We got back lots of feedback.
Give me an example of one where some people felt very strongly that this is important, this needs to be represented and other people thought.
Yes. Well, let’s go to the discovery of particles. Some particles, you know, the J-PSI particle might be very important then another particle, you know, that’s the pion, that’s in the scheme of things that would have happened anyhow. So I mean, there were things like that. And you know the theories in nuclear physics. And then we decided we wanted to add not only physics but technology. Not only physics but physics-hyphenated biophysics, chemical physics, that type of stuff. And so, because we had all these divisions, we asked many people to review. And finally it came down that we had an idea that we were going to do much less than 1200. And then the question was the design. And so the person working on the design. Now Gregory designed, we decided that there would be very early on, that there would be like ten or eleven panels, one for each decade. That came across very quickly. Each decade wasn’t as busy as every other decade, you know, I mean, all of that. And finally we designed two panels to just to be able to show somebody and that was like a bomb.
In a good way or a bad way?
In a bad way. Because we then had every one come up. And the idea was to use the fifth floor here, which was empty, as a workshop because you had to spread things out. And so, it would be spread out and all. And then finally, we invited some people in to look at the first two panels to get their feedback. And I’d say everyone disliked it. And the reason they disliked it, they all had a different vision of what is a timeline. Some thought it was a poster, you know, a poster has one item on it. You have a poster behind you where there’s a big picture and a couple of words. Some others thought it was something else. Now everyone had a different view and it was the type of thing that had a little shock value. They had to think about it. And at one time, it became contentious, like what would we include? And everybody realized, this one would be insulted, you know, should we include every single Nobel Laureate? Isn’t that important? And we were certainly not going to include every single, which was not a criterion that it was a Nobel Prize.
Were there people who were still living who were excluded?
Yeah. There were some people living.
What? I mean most Nobel Laureates; the recent Nobel Laureates are not there. I know, for example, Phil Anderson ended up not making it and he’s the type who was upset by it and let people know. Let people know how upset he was. He has a very strong, big self-ego but in the end, we couldn’t include everything. And part of it was, you had to get balance, you had to get, but there were many things like that that was going on.
Did people come to you directly and say, “Brian, I’m not on this timeline. Why not?”
No, they didn’t say that. But they came to me saying that every single division said, “Fine. You’re doing okay. But you left out most of the stuff in our division.” Which I heard from every single one of them. But what happened, there was a crisis. There was a crisis at one point where a meeting took place, and I wasn’t at the meeting, but I hear it secondhand in which people said, “This is a disaster. Let’s bury it.” Let’s bury it. And I got that feedback but I continued ahead, I just knew that if I got it over a certain barrier that it would then roll down. Like in physics, the activation barrier. I had to get to at least the top of it. But it was to get on the other side of the barrier. And finally, again taking some of the feedback, which was constructive and all, but many of it was like, you know, “That’s not a timeline. I wouldn’t do that. I would do this.” Or people saying, “Using green? I would use orange.” I mean, people with no taste. I’m exaggerating but the design had to be Okayed. And finally I got over the barrier where the thing was now taking shape. So the shape it took, which I think was excellent, and I had something to do with it, of course being involved. But mostly, I was the producer and playing, you know, letting the creative people be creative. Not that they didn’t add to it, but they were very creative. But I was making sure that their creativity would not be bounded, or that resources would be there, or they wouldn’t hear all the bad things being said.
So they wouldn’t be affected by that. Were you under pressure to include certain aspects, then?
Yes, under pressure, but I’ll give you an example. What then happened is there would then be ten or eleven panels. Each panel would be approximately a decade. We would do like a pre-decade because a lot of things were happening —
Yes. A lot of things were happening that were the precursors. You would have Planck and Einstein was just coming along there and there was all these questions. Michelson Morley. So a lot of things were bubbling at that time. And there would be a major figure of the decade, or a major picture of the decade, a major essay of the decade. And then there were going to be five strands moving along, color coded in which one strand was the world of the very big, that’s astrophysics; the world we live in; then the world of the very small, so nuclear particle physics; the world of physics and medicine and biology; and the world of physics and technology. And that would move along. And some things appeared in more than one and had two colors and all. It was a real overall, serious design. In each of them, there would be some very big background pictures that you could see from a distance. It was going to have a lot more words than a poster because it really had content and it was meant to be very close to reading it. With enough busyness to it that if you came back and said, “This wasn’t here yesterday. I didn’t see this,” because you didn’t read it all. And you don’t read it all. It was read in little bits. And then at the bottom was to be the art, architecture, and artifacts of that decade. So you got a warm, fuzzy feeling. I, in particular, was insisting because in the decades of the 1940s, I remember there was what is now called an Art Deco radio called a FADA radio. It was Bakelite and I remember that radio and it was very popular. Now it sells for a lot of money. But that radio was the radio we had in our house. So, you would have the telephone of that era, a car of that era, it would have an architectural building of that era, so it would have some painting from that era. So it ended up becoming a very beautiful design now. And again when it got now all written by this Sid Perkowitz. And whenever somebody would then read what Sid Perkowitz wrote, they wanted to correct it and change it. “Oh, this is terrible.” And people who couldn’t write would be saying, “No. You have to do this, and that, and all.” And Sid Perkowitz’s ego was hurt. He was like sensitive and ran out of steam. He ran out of gas. And at the point that he ran out of gas, I would say the project was worth a B- [minus]. And I could have gone ahead with a B — but it was really a B- and I knew it was a B-. Although other people might think it was okay. So then I cajoled Hans von Baeyer to take over and he, because he was involved in the early days of saying we should do this, took over enthusiastically. And almost rewrote everything although we don’t say this to Sid Perkowitz. We say that Sid Perkowitz was the writer because he did a lot of research and a lot of things changed. But Hans is an elegant writer. I think Sid Perkowitz is a good writer but Hans is an elegant writer. And it just kept getting better, and better, and better. And I remember me spending a lot of time with the whole text and dealing with issues of accuracy, not that I did. I would send it out and it would come back. And I did a lot of the dog work. I wanted to use them for creativity and I shouldn’t have been doing it, but there was no one else around to do it.
And then suddenly, it reached a barrier where everyone began liking it. Now they could see it, they began liking it.
Get a picture of what it looked like.
They got a picture of what it would look like. And now the problem is what I would call trivial problems. “You didn’t include this. You didn’t include that.” One of the big issues, I’ll give an example where they interfered was, “What are we doing with the 1940s when physics did the Atom Bomb?” Do we not show the Atom Bomb? I mean, if there’s anything that physics did. And so in fact the background picture was the picture of Groves, and Oppenheimer, and others overlooking the Trinity site. A very dramatic scene but that was the big picture in the background. And each of these things had a title. And what was going to be the title of that? So I think the original title was Physics and War. Well, that was, everyone was upset. So they wanted Physics in the National Defense. And if you remember the 1940s, which I do, there was a Secretary of War, not a Secretary of Defense. And war in that time was a good word. And it was a bad war and nobody was unhappy with using the word war. So we finally ended up, Physics and World War II was the title. We refused to budge.
Who would be the people on one side of that debate or the other? Was it generational or…?
Partly generational but not really. It was the old timers who were afraid that the APS would get a bad name and people would be angry.
Sort of the opposite of what you would think. You might think people who had the Vietnam experience and all that would be much more opposed to that.
It was really the older people who were worried that the Society was going off on the edge.
Was there any question about what the physics community was? You’ve defined or described these different strands but did people from industry complain that there was too much emphasis on academic physics?
No. We really did what I’ll call an incredible balance. And one of the things we promised them that there would someday be a Web version. And during the Web version, we would give you as much space as you want because it was a two dimensional thing. There was a little worry about that but I always allayed their fears by saying, “Look. We got a deadline. We have to hit the deadline. This is it,” and all. And there was a little pressure, for example, when it turned out that AT&T/Bell Labs was supporting us and then they won a Nobel Prize that year for something important. Should we squeeze it in, not squeeze it in? It was important enough to put in there but it didn’t hurt that they were giving us money. But that really wasn’t the purpose.
You got funding from Lucent, IBM, and UPS. Did IBM and Lucent —
Here is the story on that funding. Okay. It turned out to be much more expensive than I thought because we really designed a gorgeous product, which was very big, and we were very ambitious in that we wanted to give away 20,000 of them. So 20,000 times 11 is a lot. So even the handling of it was a big problem. So our thought was that we’ll go to multiple funders. The funder we were going to go to do the printing was going to be Lucent/Bell Labs. The funding that we would go to do the mailing/distribution — because that deals with getting it out to the community — would be the NSF and DOE. The funder that we would go for the packaging would be UPS, not that these were the only funders but these were the funders that ended up working. The funders that we would go to for the Website and other things would be IBM. The funder that we would go to for the teachers ended up being the Lonsberry Foundation, I think has given the museum here. That’s Fred Seitz and also we know him. So it turns out that that ended up being the funding. We got $300,000 [dollars] from the NSF and BOE together, so that was three hundred. Three hundred [thousand] from Lucent which ended up being six hundred [thousand]. The equivalent of about one hundred and twenty-five [thousand] out of IBM. Seventy thousand out of UPS and seventy-five thousand out of that. That’s a lot of money. Then, plus the APS put in money and all. The raising of the money was not easy because times were getting a little tighter. And Lucent, actually they have a foundation, Bell Labs/Lucent Foundation. And what happened is the researchers said, “You can take the money out of our research. We want this to happen.” With respect to IBM, IBM doesn’t fund anything like this. But there was a guy named Stevenson who was second in command who was a physicist who was a student of Alan Bromley who was president of the Society at the time. And he used pressure and we used incredible pressure going right up to the CEO, to put pressure on the guy who had the purse strings and we got some money out of them. UPS headquarters was in Atlanta and they were a natural and they gave us the design. I don’t know if you’ve seen the beautiful box it comes in.
I haven’t seen the box. I’ve only seen the product.
Beautifully designed box. Again the designer was meticulous about the box, the handles. Just every part of it was really designed very well. And then we did a Teacher’s Guide where we got teachers in on how to use it. So everything really fit together. But we were under tremendous pressure that there’s a real deadline date and so we wanted it printed by that date. And again, the printing took place up in the Massachusetts area where the designer knew a printer with one of the printers that prints for museums and other things like that. And because we made 20,000 copies, actually 21,000 copies, of 11 pieces each was like 250 sheets of 22 x 40 paper of a certain quality which was the whole U. S. one month production of it. And it was a major thing because it went on an eight-color press plus a coating. And when the presses begin running, they’re going to print 20,000 so they do a hundred of them until you get the colors adjusted right. And the person actually, you know, every time they put another plate on there had to be there for a few hours. So, it was a major job. And again, it was done out of love. By the time it ended, the designer was doing it out of love. He was getting paid but there was more love than pay. The same thing was happening with respect to Hans von Baeyer, more love than pay. And I was really the producer and I felt very good about it because there were so many points in there that it would not have happened. And I view that, if you were to ask me what my best skill is, I think my skill is a producer.
What is your favorite recollection or anecdote from the whole event? The centennial?
I think the poster was one thing but the poster then we ended up making a big version that came down from the ceiling. It was a whole event. But I think I did a few things in Atlanta that I really liked, one of which was the festival. I did the first ever physics festival held in any city. You say, “What’s a physics festival?” No one knows what that is. But when I look back at the event, I can give you the details, I could you send you what the program was. I don’t remember who was this person who did this because what we ended up doing is having all the universities do things on their site. We had talks. It was sort of my idea to do — In fact, in doing the timeline, one of the major motivations for the timeline before it’s beauty was that when you have a celebration of a hundredth anniversary, those who come had a good time. And those that didn’t come, it’s gone. And there’s nothing left, even if those had a good time. It was a great meeting. But there’s nothing there, whether it’s papers or experiences. But with a timeline, there is going to be something left behind and so that was a real strong motivation that there is something physical that was left. The two things that I liked was I did the festival and one of my grand coups was getting Stephen Hawking to speak.
How did you arrange that?
Very difficult. With great difficulty. Because getting to Stephen Hawking, and all, and getting him to come, and then making sure he comes, and getting Stephen Hawking here. You need to buy two first class tickets and four other tickets because he comes with three nurses, an assistant, himself. He has to be in first class. He has to come with oxygen and special food. I mean, it’s really a real hassle. And we put him in a big 5,000-seat auditorium with a TV feed outside and gave away all the tickets free. Normally, there would be a charge for that. But there were other things all around. And again, that is the second thing is like when you have a meeting and the physicists come to it, how does that affect anyone outside. And so my idea was to do the physics of dance and you do that with the Atlanta Ballet downtown theater. We did the physics of Star Trek and that was down at a regular theater with all the Trekkies coming dressed. And so we got a terrific review in the paper and a lot of press. Again, it all evaporates in the end really. But my pièce de résistance that I did was I was in charge of the gala. And I had gotten to know Atlanta very well and settled on a beautiful museum called Fernbank Museum of Natural History. A very beautifully designed building. A very big atrium. And I was doing the gala. And by that time, I really had my hands full. I was doing the festival. I was doing the gala. I was doing things. There was one incident about two and a half years out where Alan Bromley, who actually with a couple of drinks in him is a nice guy, but really is a very strongly opinionated man. Very conservative. But I had, you know, had shots with him; drank. I had a very good time. Just made a decision that nobody with a ponytail was going to run this meeting. And so what we need, and there was a little sabotage going on. As I say, the timeline had it problems and all. But it was these barriers that had to get over with and I was working very hard. That what we really need is a general. That this requires a general and that was almost the terms used. A Military person. And they interviewed a few people and suddenly we were going to bring in somebody. And I was really hurt by that. You know, hurt enough to think about quitting but damn it, I’m not because I’ve got the festival, I’ve got this, I’ve got these other things I’m gonna do. It’s a once in a lifetime. And in spite of the way I’m getting treated, I’m gonna continue doing this. So then they ended up hiring this very attractive, flighty woman named Fran Marie Kennedy. Very attractive who, I think, flirted with every man there. Who was very good at doing what I’ll call socialization of all the parties to get involved to get along with one another. But was not the type who had ideas to get things done. She was very good at socializing. So she came in as a consultant and I got along very well with her. But she was brought in, in a way that was very strange. But I was really the person behind it; the director. And the way she did things was by just hiring very expensive outside help. For example, we spent about $800,000 dollars to hire a PR firm which did absolutely nothing. Because one, we don’t know how to use a PR firm. And two, they promised to get us the president, the vice president. We ended up with the Secretary of Energy, who we could have gotten ourselves without anybody. And we did get, in the end, ourselves. I’m just saying, all of these things were being promised, and we didn’t even know how to work with them. And I ended up with the festival and other things getting more PR for the centennial than anyone. But the gala was now going to take place and my hope for the gala was to be the type of thing that if you didn’t go, the next day you were really kicking yourself. That was type of gala I wanted to do. I wanted to have it to be very unusual, very good food, a very good location, a lot of surprises, a great program. And it ended up that they left me alone. They were just too busy and by this time, they had no energy left to control me. And I was out of control in a way that no one knew what I was doing. But I was within budget and other things. And I’m very good on budgets, and made them go very far, and I had to deal with events planners, and bands, and others. And so, I ended up in this museum having many things going on at the same time. They were going to come in at around 6:30. There would be food and other things. But then I had, in an auditorium that they had of 200, the physics chanteuse entertaining and a science musician. I had in another place a band, in another place I had an exhibit.
Many things going on.
Many things going on so it was really like a gala of a real gala. I had hired actors. There were two Einsteins running around, a Madam Curie, a J. Robert Oppenheimer. I mean, I’m good at this. So it was really very unusual and I knew it would get good press.
A young Oppenheimer or an older Oppenheimer?
Middle-aged. A good hat. I had met some actors with a pipe and all. The one Einstein was very good. One was a cheat. What happened is, I had hired two Einsteins because I thought it would be more interesting two Einsteins because of the twin paradigms and other things like that. And one was like a guy with a mop on his head, practically. And I didn’t end up paying for him. The other one I hired from a local theater group who was terrific. At any rate, when people came, they were shocked by the gala. And even the food. What I had done is I had done regional Georgia foods, so each table was Southern Georgia, you know, cosmopolitan. It was really done. I, of course, couldn’t enjoy it because I was running around. I could enjoy the event happening and it was really like a peak experience. The timeline was, the day it was issued wasn’t really one day. It was being printed. But this was everything focusing on from 7:00 to 11:00 on one day. And it ended up being almost 2,000 people. A spectacular event. And I was very pleased with it. At one point, Judy Franz got very nervous because Judy is very strong on the woman’s movement and here I had a woman who was going to shake her body, who was a physicist. And got very nervous with this. And it was lovely and they all enjoyed it. And so we had to put on extra shows. There was an IMAX theater that was doing showing. It was like a mini-happening. And again, dancing with tents. You know, I had tents out there. I had planned for everything. I knew people would come early and so I had a place to send them where there was food so they don’t get hanging around. I had many photographers. I hired some lightening. The lightening was spectacular lightening. I mean, it was really a major event.
Wish I had been there.
Yeah. And I have some beautiful pictures of it that I can maybe in the archives. They’re really gorgeous.
I have a last set of questions and I realize you have to go. The one on physics education. And they deal more with just trends that you have noted throughout your career. Let’s start, for example, attitudes among physicists towards education and outreach. And just one step further, people who are also good at that. What is your experience with it?
Well, my experience is that there, I’ll call it like general physics education for the general public and then physics for physicists. I have no problem with physics for physicists. We know how to do that and even if done badly, it almost doesn’t matter. Very smart kids want to learn physics, it doesn’t matter. And in fact, I have a philosophy that teaching physics is a little bit like pornography, when I see it, I know it. I know good teaching. And it isn’t one kind. I really believe that there could people who are very entertaining and good teachers, and people who are very pedantic and good teachers. I just think there are many styles and they can all be functional. But I believe the way to evaluate it is to have a master teacher or a group of master teachers in the back and say, “That’s good teaching,” without saying you have to change to be this is good teaching. So that’s one. The second one is for the general public; I really believe we missed the boat in like not understanding at what level people really want to understand the world. And I used to teach intentionally at Brooklyn College when I was doing all these things for APS. I would teach at night so I would make my teaching two nights a week. I would do a six-hour course but that would be my teaching load and as a result, let me work a full day. And I would teach adults who were returning to college who were about 45-years-old, on average, who would get like one-quarter of the college credits for life experience. That was the good news. The bad news is, they had to take physics. So now I had a bunch of 45-year-olds in the classroom, having to take physics and frightened to death. And you know with an 18-year-old I could say to the class, “You don’t learn physics, your life is over. You’re never going to get anywhere.” But with a 45, they have children, they’re earning a living. You can’t say, “If you don’t know physics, you’re not going to be able to live a life.” So they all lived a life. And I’m a big fan of teaching two things, really. One is order of magnitude. To just understand, to be able to estimate the world around you. And another one is to do a little bit of physics, which looks hard, to get an idea of what it is that physicists do. And then to say that everything else is logical and there is someone around who can really do it. And you know, a plane flies for real reasons and there are people who know why it flies and what the laws are and all. And although you don’t have to calculate the laws, there are people who really work on the basis of laws and understand it. So there’s a part of the world that is very rational and all. So I would give them a diagnostic test, and I would give them the same test every year it wouldn’t matter. “Take it home and talk to anybody.” So there were four questions. One question would be, “A man jumps off a bridge. It’s 140 feet high. How long does it take to hit the ground.” The second question was, “McDonald’s bread. They sold 60 billion hamburgers. Suppose you went and said, ’60 billion to go.’ How big a cubic box would you need?” The third question was, “How many cars come into Manhattan a day?” And the fourth question was, “What is the maximum population of the earth?” That’s the number of people. They’d come back. They couldn’t answer any of them. The first one, they’d come back, “I don’t know. 32 feet a second. They would hear something.” Nobody would know about what and all. And I would get them to begin talking about it, which is my style. And finally, I would get them to the point where they would guess at times. Some would say, “60 seconds. 10 seconds.” And then I would tell them to imagine that there is a fifteen-story building and someone’s jumping off. And in your mind’s eye, when I clap, they jump off and when they hit the ground, you clap. So, it turns out, you can’t keep a person jumping off a fifteen story building in the air for more than 3 or 4 seconds. It becomes brutal. They’re in the air. They’re still in the air. They still haven’t hit the ground. They can’t do it. So, I say that common sense says it is not a millionth of a second. It’s not ten seconds. Its five seconds, you know, that’s a good answer. I said, I am going to teach you how to do that problem. And all the formulas and all of it.
How about the McDonald’s?
The McDonald’s is we begin arguing. “Is it a Big Mac?” So I know there’s a lot of humor built into and I can play around with them and get them to relax a little bit. Finally, you know, somebody is going, “It’s 2 inches by 1 inch,” and they begin multiplying. They don’t know whether to multiply this by that. They don’t know what to do; they really don’t. So I said I am going to show you a way to think. Let’s think about a box that is 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot. Let’s imagine how many we can put into it. So we’ll begin arguing and I finally get them to say, “Well, if you put three by three and then you put a few layers. Let’s say, 60.” Okay, it’s 60 billion. How many boxes will we need? We’ll need a billion boxes. All right. So then I say, if we have ten boxes by ten boxes by ten boxes, how much is that? So that 1,000. I have a hundred by a hundred by a hundred, how much is that? That’s a million. I have a thousand by a thousand by a thousand, that’s a billion. So now, it’s a box a thousand feet long, a thousand feet wide, a thousand feet high. As tall and wide as the Empire State Building and all. And they begin giggling. How many cars come into Manhattan? They now get the picture. There are things that stick into Manhattan called bridges and tunnels and all. And well, how do you do it? Well, let’s take a certain time and stand there and see how many cars passes. Is it one a minute? No, more than one a minute. Is it 10,000 a minute? No, way less than that. Well, they begin thinking how many cars. Thirty, fifty. I don’t know. So we can then multiply it. Is it night that they come by as much. We get an answer, a half a million. And I say, “Well, my brother was Commissioner. It’s 800,000.” Okay. The fourth one, they really get pissed at me because I tell them there’s 5 billion or 6 billion people. They say, “2 billion.” I say, “No, no, no.” They say, “Well 2 billion. 6 billion is already too much.” I said, “That’s not the question. The question is what is the maximum number that the earth can have at any one time?” Well, they finally get around to where everyone is standing on a little thing. And I keep upping the odds. But why can’t they stand on each other’s heads. And it gets excruciating. The numbers get to be so many more times than we have; you know, a billion times, billions and billions times more than what we have now. And they’re in pain and they’re arguing, “But they won’t live long.” I’d say, “That was not the question. Aliens will put them down suddenly.” We’re just asking for one second, how long. I said, “If you guys don’t learn science, how are we going to answer questions like that?” There are values here. They really begin seeing there are values and then the whole class, I always give them questions like that. So on my first test will be, “How many barbers are there that cut men’s hair in Brooklyn.” That’s called a Fermi problem because Fermi used to do the back of the envelope. “Well, it’s very easy. Typical man. There are two million people. There are a million men. A man takes a haircut once a month. Ten times a year. We need ten million haircuts that has to be done in a year. How many haircuts does a barber give?” Then he does how many in a day? Twenty in a day. A hundred in a week. Five thousand in a year. So five thousand a year is one barber. So I got to do ten million haircuts, it ends up being two thousand barbers. But that’s what I want them to understand that they can really think about these. Then I teach them about two things just motion of a car and car crashes, and then sports. And I do that. And I have a book which is a very early book by Hewitt really at a high school level almost. And the book has 35 chapters. I do about 6 chapters and the class is twice as long as any other class. At the end, they will never not wear a seatbelt again because I’ve convinced them and they really believe me that when a body is in motion and continues in motion unless acted on by a force. And if you’re not in the seatbelt, there’s going to be some kind of collision. I convince them of three collisions. The front of the car collides, it stops. You haven’t stopped yet. The next thing happens is that you then hit the dashboard and the steering wheel, and you begin stopping. They don’t like that. And I say, “But, not everything has stopped yet. Your brain is still moving ahead, your heart, your brain crashes into the front of your skull, and your heart crashes into your chest.” And that image, they believe me because it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, black or white, nice or not nice, young or old, American or Spanish. Nothing matters. You’re a body in motion. They believe it. So I believe in the teaching of science that we’re always weighed by an order of magnitude towards complicated.
Too many formulas and numbers?
Not too many formulas. It’s not what people need. I know the world is a very interesting place. There’s a certain percentage, 10% percent of the people who like science and they’re going to jump in on it. But then most people want something else. I mean, I go to watch theater, I mean, I’m an average guy. I want to see theater. Somebody else will study it and all. So I want to have an experience. I don’t want to know how this thing works and that thing works or how they did the stage or how they rehearsed. I’m a theater buff of a different kind. And I think in science, most people want that. And so in fact, I’m working now on something I began thinking about. One of the projects I’d like to do and I don’t think I’ll ever get to do it, but I’m beginning to put things in place is my view of scientific breakthroughs that take place always get announced the same way. There some guy with wild hair in front of a machine which is usually a chart recorder and says, “See. We cured cancer.” Next day, the same guy is there. “See, we cleared pollution.” The day after the same guy and there is no content to that. And I think, if you want to communicate science to the public, there are now ways of visual, the public is very visual, and that you have to use visualization. And it’s communication of a certain kind, it’s not the high level and all. But when Princess Di died a few years ago, they said she crashed in the tunnel and got killed. And I said, “Impossible.” Because if you’re running in the Holland Tunnel, one of these tunnels, the Baltimore Tunnel, you bang off the walls. You’re not going to get killed. There’s no way of getting killed. It’s very hard to get killed. But then they drew an animation of the tunnel. One side of the tunnel was a wall and the other side of the tunnel was barriers every thirty feet. You can get killed. That made it just so clear. So I believe you should use animation. My fantasy would be the following that every week, you know, Science, Nature announces like a week before hand what’s big. Could you in less than a week animate in twenty seconds just what is happening with tremendous exaggeration where there is this real tension between what I call, and it’s a duality, between clarity and accuracy. There’s a duality. Very clear, not too accurate. Very accurate, not too clear. And you know, if you’re very, very clear and not accurate, all your friends say, “What a schmuck. Doesn’t know any physics.” I mean, really. And if you’re very accurate, everyone says, “What a schmuck. Can’t communicate at all.” So it’s that balance that you want to get to. And I began thinking about like, what is it that you could do and I have, in fact, a little thing that I’m doing now. Two things I’m doing now. One, turns out that a few months ago physicists had announced they had stopped light. All right?
So they had captured the photon and held it there.
Nobody knows what it means. So you ask a physicist, “What did they do? What do you mean by stopping light?” No one can answer you. It was so sexy because it was light, stopping, and all. Every newspaper reported it, everybody TV station. “Physicists in Cambridge recently announced that they stopped light using,” dah, dah, dah. There’s no content. It means nothing. And then everybody said, “Physicists stopped light. But Einstein said light always moves at the same speed at 186. Einstein’s wrong.” And so what happens is like everything goes a little crazy. And what happens is, no information is conveyed. And now I ask physicists, “Well, show me what you mean by stopping light.” They can’t do it. Even physicists in the field. A normal physicist is not doing optics or anything. I’m not supposed to understand everything and all. But I, 98% percent of physicists can’t explain it. So I said, “Can’t we animate this and can’t we exaggerate it?” And what really happens is you take a little beam of light and it turns out there are materials in which light moves very slowly. And so this beam, which might be 2 miles wide, when it moves into this new medium, will move at a speed slower. And it’ll shrink because the front end got in and the backend is still catching up with it and now you have a very small, a snippet of light. Let’s say it’s a millimeter wide moving through this little beam. Then it turns out by making the system transparent and not transparent. There are ways of making it. Suddenly you remove something and the light gets stuck where it was. That little packet of light moving for a millionth of a second becomes excited, goes into another state. But then if you then make the medium again transparent, it will reappear where it was not where it should have been a millionth of a second later. So in a sense, you stopped light. No one has ever said it in those words. No one. And so I have a feeling that, you know, that there’s another way of communicating. So that’s at one level. But at another level, and when I teach physics I found that I talk to people, “How do you walk on ice?” Nobody knows. But I say, what you see is when you walk on ice; if you really think about, and then I make them actually try to walk, imagine its ice. So what they do is they pick up their foot, they move it ahead slowly, they place it down very flat. So one, they walk slowly in a very deliberate. And then the question is, “Why?” Well I had just taught them a little bit before that when you walk, you’re first of all a body at rest when you’re standing there. Then when you begin moving, you had to be acted upon by a force, Newton says. Where does the force come from? So finally I’ll get them to believe that the floor is pushing you forward. They hate that idea. I mean, I can spend a whole hour, that’s why I mean, when you’re teaching in another course, the force is here and that’s it. I fight with them. “It can’t be.” “That’s Newton Law. There has to be a force. Where is it?” And I convince them. And then when you talk about ice if there’s ice and you want to move quickly forward, the floor can’t push you because there’s no friction. So one of the things you want to do is change your state very slowly. In other words, you don’t want to change your position quickly because that’s called velocity, changing position with time. Now I can imagine whenever it gets slippery outside, that we do a little animation. How do you walk on ice and why? I think teaching physics at that level would be much more appealing and it would play year after year after year. Every year, when there’s an ice storm, which would play.
How could history be integrated into that?
Well, again I haven’t thought about it very much but you’re really catching me a little bit. There are some — Physics, if you really go with history, if you ask people to name a physicist, Einstein and that may be it.
Newton, I’d say no, if he’s a physicist. Newton is an old timer. But I mean, that’s it. Einstein is it. I think you’ve asked sort of an educated person, they might go, “Newton, Einstein, Hawking.” They might talk a little bit about during the War, they might have known Oppenheimer. They may know —
You have to really play on that.
Of whom they actually know.
Of whom they know.
Of whom they know. And again, in fact, I’m working on a project with Alan Lightman who wrote a book called Einstein’s Dreams. And I’m trying to make that into a play. And although it has been made into a play by some very weak groups, I’m really working seriously on trying to do something serious with it. And again, what I’m very good at is in production, in producing something. So my fantasy is when the play is ready to go, or close to being ready to go, I’ll have a cattle call, which will be for people to come as Einstein. Instead of having a whole bunch of people show up as Groucho Marx, I’ll have two, three hundred Einsteins outside the door trying to audition for the part of Einstein. But there are some sexy things about the history of science that do sell. I think people, Einstein in anything dealing with time, space, time travel. I mean, if it gets into that thing, into that realm, you can catch their attention. I’m always a big fan of catching their attention and then bringing them to where I want to bring them because I think the hardest thing is to catch their attention. It’s a very, very busy world. Some people will say, “You’re pandering.” But my view is, I’d rather catch their attention and not worry about the pandering part. So I haven’t thought a lot about history. The timeline is one of the things that uses history to bring people in. It actually works quite well. We did a little survey of sending out, and I really mean random, 500 people got a random note, 100 of them, approximately, sent it back. And many of them said that we’re using it in the historical sense. A lot of the challenges of the new standards of science is to somehow integrate science and technology, science and history. And the timeline has been something that could be used for that.
Final question. Since you got into physics, how has it changed?
One, I think there are a lot more physicists then there was when I went there. I think that when I went into physics, I think there wasn’t really good information, what is a physicist? I mean, my parents didn’t have any information. And there was no Peterson Guide, there was no SAT. There was nothing. Now, students get a tremendous choice of careers with lots of excellent information and good skills and their parents are usually better educated. And so, there’s a lot more information. I think had I known more, I mean, I’m good in physics but I’m actually better in some other things. And I would think like some of the entrepreneur skills that I have use, I’ve used in physics but it’s been that I’ve created those jobs. There was no such job. So I think the younger people now who come in are more serious. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I think they do know what they’re getting into. I don’t think they know about the job problem so much, but I think they do know what physics is about.
In terms of what they expect to be doing with their careers.
Yes. What is a physicist, have they ever seen a physicist? They’ll go to a college and meet with a physicist. They may know a physicist. Their teacher may give them good advice. They may have gone to a science library or science museum which hardly — I mean, the only museum I ever went to as a kid was the Museum of Natural History and what I saw were dinosaur bones, which I loved, but had nothing to do with physics. I didn’t know what physics was. Now you have the Rose Museum, so there’s a lot more physics. The whole nature of teaching physics changed to be more hands on. I’m big fan of that kind of teaching, in fact. They’re called constructivists and I do that a lot with a class. What’s very important is that most teachers who teach think that the students know something. And what they’re going to do is, in a very uniform way, put A and then followed by B and then followed by C followed by D. And then when they ask, it will come out A, B, C, D. What really happens is the student’s brain is like a broken watch, all screwed up. And if they teach it A, B, C, D half of it doesn’t go in. If it goes in, it goes in backwards, upside down when you want to get it out. So the style that I use in teaching is I find out what they know, so I’ll ask them a question. I accept every answer and then I try to find the contradictions. I think physics is wonderful in the sense of really, I really enjoy being able to understand the world around me. Most physicists ending up understanding a little of the minutia of the world around them. I view the bigger things are more important. When I come here and I’m on a train and the train moves and I’m holding on, I said like, “I was at rest. There must be a force near me and I can feel that force.” I’m holding on to the bar and I can really feel it. It’s pushing me. And when I’m stopping, it’s pulling. I like going around in life being aware of these kinds of things. And I think it’s a tremendous advantage if you can give that to people and say that one part of the world is very rational and understandable. Not everything. Not your whole life and your social life, your married life. All of that can be very complex and illogical. But there’s a part of the world that is absolutely logical and can be understood. It’s nice to understand it.
Any thoughts on science and religion, and the interaction?
Not really. And not even in the mystical sense. I mean, I just think that they’re two different realms. Both can be important in different ways to different people. I can spout some philosophies about that, but I’m not skilled on it. It would be very amateurish. But I mean certainly in terms of the religion, you know, formal religion of miracles and all of that. That I’m not into. But do people get value of it, as a way to lead your life? In fact, I used to be very provocative where I think I told you where I was dealing with astrology. And people read astrological papers and it tells you to do this today, do that. It’s as logical as people lead their lives. So I mean, if religion helps you lead a logical life, I have no problem with it. I think against dogmatic type of religion where people think they have the right answers, things like that.
Well, good. Thank you very much for answering all the questions and putting up with hours and hours of this.