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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of David Bohm by Maurice Wilkins on 1986 October 3,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
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Science fiction story idea The Matter of the Beings; dream about cats and missing the big picture because of concern about details; religious community compared to the scientific community; University of Sao Paolo, Brazil (1951-1955); work with Walter Schutzer, Ralph Shiller, Mario Schoenberg; exploration of philosophy including Hegel, Monou, Marx; necessity and contingency; Causality and Chance in Modern Physics; Brazilian nationality; visit to Jeanne-Pierre Vigier in Paris and Eric Burrup in England.
Let’s see. Last time, we were more or less finishing Princeton. I thought I would add one more point and then go on to discuss Brazil. You see, remember what I was saying about this science fiction story and the attitude to science that suggested, which I think indicated the way I was thinking about science and the way I continued to think about it for at least 20 or more years after that. It would be fundamentally something that would transform human beings if they would see the full meaning of it, of that science fiction story. Do you remember?
Can you remind me?
It was The Matter of the Beings.
Yeah. But how did it transform you?
You see the scientist saw, when he was asked to enter the plot to dominate the universe, he began to think it over, and he saw the full implications of the knowledge they were getting, that there was such unity in everything, that there was no meaning to trying to dominate that only friendship and cooperation would have any meaning.
You mean because friendship and cooperation is an expression of unity, make it a form of unity.
The wholeness. Yes. And that these people, these other beings had reached that stage a million years ago.
Yes. I haven’t quite got that. Yes. I see. I was saying the same thing. In this whole business of weapons research. I was saying the essence of science is sort of unity, which comes out in all sorts of different ways, and therefore, the whole idea of fighting with other people is essentially?
Yes. It’s contrary to the essential spirit.
Not only the spirit of sense, but I was trying to say that this knowledge, when perceived deeply, would be contrary to the content of science as well as to its spirit.
So it wouldn’t work.
It wouldn’t work, which obviously it doesn’t. And that is?
Beyond scientific, I think.
Well, contrary to the factual nature of things.
So it would be unscientific to work in that way.
Yes. And that the result must be disaster, which in fact, it has been.
Yes. So it’s really unscientific to do weapons research.
Yes. Well, it’s unscientific to have nationalities fighting each other and so on.
That’s part of weapons research.
Yes. So then after the whole thing, the whole nations were organized into a world government. But I neglected to say that part of this was the infusion of this knowledge into all of mankind. In other words, in this very sensitive state the people got into when they were so terrified and didn’t know what was going to happen, they were open for a moment to something new. At that very moment when the beings came out of their own insanity, remember, because they had been for millions of years never exposed to this, and they had it deep down in the unconscious, their violence. So therefore, the human race was exposed to this knowledge in the way this particular scientist had been, at a moment when they were really very ready to listen, and therefore, there was a widespread comprehension of the futility of all this conflict. So that this time when they set up an international organization, it worked because the people saw that there was no other way, whereas previously they sort of went through the motions, or else they stuck together merely in order to conquer the rest of the universe.
And then once it was set up, it would remain?
It would remain as long as people could see this was the basis of reality. In the same sense people would say, we are not going to try to walk through the wall because that doesn’t make any sense.
You mean once they’ve got, so to speak, into the habit and learned to live in a certain way, they maintained it continually.
Also because they continue understanding that is the only way possible. Every other way is going to lead to destruction.
It leaves open the thing as to whether they could be backsliding or not.
They might or might not, but at least that was the suggestion. And possibly they would be better. See, even the beings, after a million years?
They were backsliding?
Certain circumstances made them backslide, so the human beings, doubtless, would have gone through many, many phases of backsliding, but with the hope that they somehow would get through it.
It’s a little bit like the idea of evolution, sort of once you’ve gone forward, and you’re not going to step backwards again.
You may step back a little, but it’s going to generally go forward. That was the idea.
Pity you couldn’t find some writer to talk about this with and try and get some? Do you know any science fiction writers?
No. I don’t. You would have to have somebody with a very good imagination, that understands these beings, you see. Well, there was another point I wanted to bring up. A little bit before I had this idea of a science fiction story, also I had another dream which somehow seems related. It was?
By the way, you don’t think it can be made into a play?
Well, you would have to think of the plot and the dialogue, and what nature these beings would have.
I wonder whether this playwright, Halliwell [?], that I know, would be? He seems to have a good mind.
Well, we’d have to really work on it intensively. You’ve got to make these beings plausible in this society, but not really give the glimpse of them. You’ve got to sort of get an intimate look at them.
Anyway, you say this dream? What was this dream?
I was staying in a certain house where they had a cat, and in this dream, I came into the kitchen, and I saw the cat talking to another cat, and making a date to meet at a certain time. I said, there must be something wrong here. I wonder what it is. So I thought about it for a while, and I said, oh yes. I know wrong. Cats can’t tell time.
A cat is not able to tell time. So I said, Okay. I understand what’s wrong. So I said to the cat, “You cats are not able to tell time.” The cat answered me back and said, Of course we can tell time. And I said, “Well, look at the clock. What time is it?” It was about three o’clock. It was him that hawed and said, A quarter past eight, five past nine. So I said, there. That proves that cats can’t tell time. And then I woke up laughing. See, the point of the dream was that we are concentrating on small inconsistencies in the whole situation. There’s something fundamentally wrong staring us in the face that we are assuming, and just simply accepting.
What do you mean? You were ignoring the important fact that cats can’t talk.
Yes. That’s right. I simply took it for granted that cats can talk. And I said, “That’s very mysterious.” How in the world can they tell time? They don’t have the equipment for telling time. They never heard of time. So the meaning of the dream was that something similar must be happening in society, that people are arguing about small points, and their taking for granted some very obvious point that should be staring us in the face.
Sort of not paying any attention to something important.
Yes. And sort of diverting ourselves by arguing about small points so that we won’t see the main point.
Yes. This whole thing, you may know that something is there, but if you pay no attention to it? It seems to me a peculiar state of affairs, but it happens in ordinary life a lot, doesn’t it?
The mind doesn’t want to pay attention to some very fundamental factor. It’s obvious.
But if you pay attention to anything, it means that there must be something that tends to set that attention in motion. So I don’t think it’s always a question of not wanting to, is it?
Well, if it’s very obvious, then the question is why isn’t it noticed? Things that you want to see, which are not obvious, you’re able to notice.
Yes. So sometimes I agree that there are blocks, and I suppose there are sometimes other things that you don’t pay attention to. I don’t know whether the block theory is quite enough, but anyway, I agree. So what kind of thing?
Well, it wasn’t clear to me. The vague idea I had at the time was that there’s something in society we’re overlooking, and we’re just arguing about all sorts of things like socialism, capitalism, this system, that system, and everything. Probably it was related to this science fiction story in the sense it was the unity of everything that we’re overlooking. Pretending that all of these people were separate, and all these nations are separate and arguing, “How in the world are we going to do something about it?” What should we do? Assuming that we have all these separate people and nations and races and social systems? What I had in mind is that we simply overlooked the evident unity of mankind, the oneness, and we’re arguing about all these side issues, and having accepted division, and we say, “What are we going to do with it?”
Do you think that some people have had a sense of this unity in the past?
Well, some people have, and many people haven’t.
For example, what kind of people?
Even ordinary people have it, and it’s implicit in many religions, such as the Christian religion.
So it’s mainly religious people who have had the strongest feeling for this unity.
Some scientists have had it, I suppose in the past, and a few?
Who, for example?
For example, I was very impressed once when I was in college, when I read about a whole bunch of scientists in World War I who were sort of in different nations that were fighting, but they simply continued to work together by some indirect correspondence somehow. They simply ignored this nationalism.
I suppose that you might say Newton or Faraday, for example, might both be examples of somebody’s strong sense of unity.
And they both happen to be religious people, of course. Yes. So really?
Even the socialists had the dream of the unity of mankind, but they got caught up in accepting all of the divisions and that overcame their dream of unity.
Yes. Presumably, the main sort of motivation or origin in socialism has been from the Sophists and the Protestants, Christians, and other origins like that, which had a philosophical religious basis?
Or even the Catholic Church, the word Catholic means universal, and they take it seriously. They say that ought to be the universal church. Buddhists believe essentially that view is constant with unity of mankind. Even the Muhammadans have that view, but then they have the view that their particular approach has got to dominate, as the Christians have, and as some others have had. So when you start arguing about what’s better, Catholicism, Socialism, Muhammadism, or all these other things, then you’re arguing about whether the cat can tell time. So you’re saying, “Which of these are better?” You’re overlooking the fact that you’re splitting this very argument as well as splitting the one mankind.
I remember a Muslim professor of philosophy in Delhi who said to me in all his life, he had a very strong sense of these sort of other dimensions in life. Incidentally, it was he who was seriously reading David Bone [?] and [???] Whitehead. I looked up this professor other day and told him about a book, for example. I think I would like to have asked him whether this clear apprehension of this other dimension to life did somehow sort of embrace this idea of unity.
I think the Muslims do because the word Allah is the god that cannot be defined at all. The whole idea of Muslim is that everybody should become a Muslim. That was the way the Muslim Empire developed, they said either Allah or death. And they were motivated by the notion of establishing unity. The trouble is that that way of establishing unity divides people. It’s like overlooking the fact that the cat was talking. That very way is division, the way you concentrate on different ways of trying to make unity and which is better, you are engaged in division all the time.
The Muslims seem to have gone in all different directions of crazy, fanaticism?
Also that they have mystical partner, Sufism and so on. On the other side, the Christians have done their share fanaticism, and the Jews are getting into it now, and so on. It’s a disease that all humanity is libel to.
I think the scientists haven’t tended to make divisions so much.
They divide in themselves. In science, they establish their divisions. They’ve established?
But they don’t go around fighting each other.
Well, no. Not yet anyway.
I think one has to admit that the scientists have been better than religious people in not falling...
They do because they back up their nations in war. What impressed me terribly was to say, here in the middle of a war, there were those scientists that continued to work together in different nations that were fighting. That was rare. Most scientists were very patriotic and backed their nations, and many of them hated the enemy and so on just like everybody else.
Yes. But Humphrey Davey had this thing about the scientists in one nation to fight scientists in another would be like civil war within science.
That was an older idea, you see. Now, with Star Wars, and such, that’s changing.
As you were saying, it was that World War I. So it’s still there, so I do feel one can say that science is different from religions, and it’s been less of this business of divisions.
Yes. But even to a certain extent, say the common Christian religion during the Middle Ages transcended the differences in nations. Unfortunately, the Church got involved in all that, and that went.
But if you take the whole history of science compared with the whole history of religion, I think the science comes out the better in that in that particular respect it does.
Yes. It may, but?
They haven’t gone around blowing up each other’s labs unless they get mixed up in political differences like wars and so on, and of course in Germany and so on.
Some of the? Back with the Nazis?
So being this kind of rubbish that’s crept in, but all in the whole, that’s been a minor side of science. So I think in the scientific community — it has something to do with the belief systems not being so dogmatic. I think that’s what it is.
Scientists are a bit open-minded.
They are. But I think that this dogmatism is increasing as you get involved in this new society.
I think you’re probably quite right. It’s getting worse now. Anyway, you were saying?
Anyway, sort of a theme of my thinking, probably which went through the next 20 years, that there is something obvious that we don’t pay attention to, and that probably has to do with this question of unity. From the very moment when we think we’re establishing unity, we argue about things that establish disunity.
What you might say then is would you say that a sense of spirituality may necessarily entail some degree of feeling for this unity? Do you know what I’m saying?
Yes. I think it’s essential to say that we have a fellow feeling for people with whom we disagree. And to say that that is not as important as people make it, that does not go so far as to say that the other person is evil and you can sort of mistreat them or kill them.
Kind of the same as that.
Yes. So the notion is that particular views are not as important some general spirit with which truth is approached, and also in which a certain kind of friendship is maintained in spite of differences. The differences are not important enough to engage in destruction and violence. Once you do that, then I think you are caught in the business of arguing about the cat telling time. While the cat’s talking merrily away you pay not attention.
It’s worse really because you end up with one cat killing the other.
Yes. But I meant that the cat talking stands for people killing each other while they argue about how to establish unity and peace. In the very way of trying to establish unity and peace they nevertheless are engaged in killing each other or destroying each other. You have to begin by seeing this basic thing so that we don’t go on with it.
By the way, did you find one person at the meeting in Cambridge that you felt you had any sort of similar vibration with?
It was interesting enough, a fellow who works at Computers here in London, he was very mechanistic, but he was very open and we started talking. It turned out he was ready to listen to things.
Ready to what? [glitch]
I hadn’t got there yet, huh?
No. You said that you, this story about cats or something was the last thing, which came up about Princeton. Now we’re going to get on with —
Yes. So I think that’s about all I’ll say about Princeton, and now we’ll get on toward Brazil. Of course it was early in October 1950 when I left for Brazil. I remember there was a hurricane in New York the night I left. Some of the streets were flooded. We finally left and it was little worrying because the plane taxied out and then taxied back. Somebody had something wrong with his passport. I didn’t know who it was, but it turned out to be somebody else.
They wanted to pull him off the plane?
They did, they pulled him off. Then we went again and finally got off. The hurricane had sort of more or less blown itself out. We landed in Puerto Rico and stayed for a while. Then went on to various, in those days you stopped in Corisou [?] and some other South American countries and finally landed in Brazil. When we got to San Paulo it was late, it was already evening. I had sent a telegram that I was expecting to be met, but nobody was there. I called the University of San Paulo, but there’s so many branches of it that there was nobody who knew how to deliver it. I should have said which faculty. Therefore there was nobody there to meet me. I asked the name of a hotel and they gave me the name of a hotel in San Paulo and the taxi took me there. When I got there nobody spoke English. They gave me a room. I was getting worried. What was I going to do? I didn’t know why they didn’t meet me. I remember I went through some anxious hours, but I sort of calmed down by studying Portuguese. I was worried because I couldn’t talk to anybody, you see. The next morning I phoned up the university and in English I asked for this fellow Tiomno, who’s the man I knew. I had some trouble making myself understood, but they finally got a hold of him and he came to meet me.
Did you say which department?
It would’ve been Physiciose [?] or something. I suppose somebody like an orderly had answered the phone and he probably had a hard time knowing what I meant. Then we came and they had put me in the Pension [?] there. It was a place where a lot of different people were staying from abroad. It wasn’t all that comfortable, but it was all right in there. A terrible amount of noise there. I went to the department and we got established. Only about a week later I got really very ill, some sort of an infection.
A stomach thing?
It started out in the intestine. The room apparently was a bit damp and cold at night. Finally somebody from the university came and got their doctor to come to me and they found a spot in my lung, noise in my lung. So he said, Let’s put you in a hospital right away. They put in there and gave me penicillin and it cleared up within a day. I was weak for a while. I had one or two of these bad infections in these early days because I didn’t — Well I was eating only in the Pension, but later I ate in some of their restaurants. I didn’t really know which restaurants were reliable so for a while I had a lot of trouble. The streets were really chaotic and noisy. You may remember them too. Terrible traffic. They had these streetcars, they called them bondis [?], which because it came from the word bond the English in the beginning of the century had sold bonds to set up a streetcar company. So their streetcar was called bondis. They made terrible noise. The people sort of crowded onto them. You had to squeeze onto them and hold on. I began to learn Portuguese. I bought a Portuguese-English dictionary and a Portuguese-Portuguese dictionary and various novels and started to read them. I studied the grammar. I had a small book with the grammar in it.
But didn’t the physics people speak English?
They all spoke English, but you evidently would need some Portuguese.
Yes, for life generally.
And anyway, I was expected to give my lectures in Portuguese. The students were not all that good in English. They knew English to some extent so that I could always ask for help, but they wouldn’t have understood a lecture in English. I fortunately arrived there just about the beginning of vacation, and it was a long summer vacation from say December until March, so I had four months. I began to work with this fellow Tiomno to continue this work on the casual Interpretation extending it into spin. But meanwhile, after I had not been there for very long, probably not even a month, some sort of Brazilian chap came into the Pension and said, They wanted me to come down to the American Consulate. And I said, “What for?” He said, “Oh, they just want me to register.” He came with a car and we went down there. When I got there the Consulate took my passport and said that I wouldn’t get it back expect for return to the United States. Fortunately I had an identity card so I could stay there. That worried me a great deal for a while because I had hoped that I would be able to make a trip to Europe and look around. Anyway, I was wondering what their intentions were. He was very unfriendly, but sort of implied in what he said that they had no objections to my staying in Brazil, but they didn’t want them traveling anywhere else.
What would’ve happened if you’d refused to go to the Consulate?
Well, the passport was only valid two years anyway so it wouldn’t have made much difference. It hardly would have been worth it.
No. I agree that you wouldn’t have wanted to act in a provocative way unless you knew you had to.
There was no point to being provocative at all. Nothing could have been gained and I might have lost something.
You could have kept your passport. You could then have got to Europe and back.
Well, in the atmosphere that was there I had no confidence in being able to get anything. Don’t forget that McCarthyism was at its height and Americans were having their passports taken away right and left. I mean that evening I left evidently somebody was unable to go because essentially they took away his passport.
But once you were in Brazil they couldn’t have taken your passport away unless you had actually gone to the Consulate, could they?
No, no. There would’ve been no point in it. That would have only been a delay because the passport was only valid two years and then it had to be renewed.
Yes, but you would’ve been all right for two years.
But I wasn’t planning to go to Europe that fast anyway. Anyway, I didn’t know they were going to take the passport when he came for me anyway. I might have suspected it. You could say why should I get into worse relations with them by refusing to come?
It became clear after a little while that they weren’t going to bother me so I more or less forgot about it and got on with life. Not long after that this fellow Tiomno came to me and said he’s moving on to Rio because he likes it better, his wife is there and so on. He was one of the main people I would be able to work with. There was another fellow, Walter Schutzer [?]. I was able to work with him later, but to a much smaller extent. This was a big blow in a way that I was sort of left alone.
You mean you make an appointment there and you couldn’t move to Rio.
No. The main person I would’ve worked with was gone. Later it turned out I had found one or two others, but I didn’t know about that then. All that was depressing. It didn’t get me down at the time because I was determined that I would try to do something. The life in Brazil, I was trying to find out about it. In some ways it did remind of the earlier times in America. The stores were much smaller and businesses and so on. A little bit more like my father’s little business when he had been starting out. It sort of had an air of small scale, which seemed reassuring because of these tremendous enterprises in America worried me, you know, they’re so impersonal. There was nothing you could do about it. Nobody to talk to if you once got around the wrong situation. That was sort of superficial because basically there’s only a small middle class in Brazil. Basically most people are either very poor or feel very wealthy.
I remember that. Middle Class almost completely missing.
Yes. Perhaps there was more later, but at that time it was really very small. The university was for sort of middle class or some people who were a bit poor who were trying to raise themselves.
And most of the staff had private means?
No. There was enough money. The salaries were not bad. I can’t remember what their value was, but it was distinctly more money than I’d be making in America. Of course I had an assistant professor, American professor. That was probably a bit less than the American professor would’ve gotten, but not much less. In other words, I was not short of money and the staff really was very well paid. Compared by Brazilian standards, really well paid.
Let me put it a different way. Weren’t many of the staff, didn’t they have private means in addition to their salaries?
Not those that I knew, no. There may have been one or two who did.
But I thought that the impression I got back in Rio.
Maybe in Rio, but the people I knew in San Paulo — There were some who had private means, but most of them didn’t. But their salary was adequate for a comfortable standard. The problem was not money, although later it probably began to be the state didn’t have money to pay and sometimes months would go by before they paid you. Then later as the currency was inflating they had to find ways of paying you more. They gave us extra pay for night work. But at no stage was I really short of money. In fact, I accumulated quite a bit while I was there. My problem was really food. I met a fellow called Phil Smith who had been an American, who for some reason left America too. Was a little dissatisfied or something. He was in the Pension then. He had been there for a while. He knew Portuguese and he knew his way around and had friends. We found an apartment, he found it really. We furnished it and moved in, shared the flat. The remaining problem was to get food that wouldn’t make me ill. I found you could eat in one or two restaurants, which were really expensive restaurants by Brazilian standards, where everything had almost nothing but beef steaks and things like that, cooked stuff, cooked vegetable, then after every meal an apple.
I peeled, yes. I kept off salads.
Why didn’t you cook your own food?
Well, I didn’t really want to, and I didn’t know if I would be able to. But I didn’t really want to do it. It would’ve meant a lot of shopping and such.
You mean you hadn’t done it before?
No I hadn’t in America here and in Brazil I would have to find out where to —
What to buy and where to buy.
What to buy and where to buy it and so on. Also my language in the beginning in Portuguese wasn’t up to it. I was slowly learning Portuguese. I could make myself understood to buy simple things, but I mean any difficult question I couldn’t have made.
How long had you been there when I visited you?
It must’ve been well over a year.
I think I remember you saying that you had more or less perpetual diarrhea.
Yes. I never really solved the problem. I think their bacteria in the environment there which irritated me. I think the restaurant was very good, some of the restaurants, but I couldn’t quite solve the problem of all this diarrhea. So I was eating in mainly expensive restaurants. The other restaurants are really dirty. I ate once in one of those unusual restaurants and within a day I was very ill. The doctor said he thought it was salmonella and he gave me some sort of Oriamiacyn [?] and that cleared it up after a while. That was one of my problems that it was hard to get the kind of food I wanted. The heat was another problem. I didn’t like it.
The heat, it was rather too warm for me although San Paulo was not as bad as Rio. San Paulo is nice in the wintertime. It was just about an ideal climate. The summer was very rainy and muggy and hot. The other problem of course was lack of people to really work with. I had assistants. I had several assistants. The only one I could really work with was Walter Schutzer. We did some work after a year or two on probability, trying to understand probability theory in physics.
Do you mean that apart from working with Schutzer you were able to really do very little work at all?
I would do my work on my own, but you see, I had nobody to talk with very much. For quite a while anyway. I improved it a little later through several ways that I’ll explain.
But it wasn’t like the Princeton situation then when it was quite helpful not to have people to talk to.
No. It was really too much and too long.
Exactly. There are times and places you mean for being isolated.
Yes. Also the city is a hard city. It’s noisy. You can’t relax there with all that traffic.
Yes. I hear it is a horrible place.
It’s worse now, but tremendous contrasts of wealth. People coming into the city, men and women sleeping on the streets with their babies under the big skyscrapers. Outside on the edge they have all the pavellas [?], all the slums. Very poor people. You know, this contrast with wealth and poverty. I think that I found it a bit wearing. I began to improve to situation. I talked with Schutzer and he suggested that I could get some money from the National Research Council to bring somebody here from America. There’s a fellow called Peter Bergman I knew. I had a student named Ralph Shiller who said he would be ready to come. He was interested in my work. So we got enough money finally for Shiller to come down. With Shiller we continued to work on the various things including the work I’d done with Tiomno extending the Theory of Causal Interpretation to the spin. That made it more interesting and also somebody more to talk with all around. He came with his wife and they got themselves and apartment. They stayed two years. Then during one summer I managed to get money to bring this fellow Vigier for about a month or two from Paris. He was interested in the Causal Interpretation. While he was here we worked out sort of a statistical version of it, a stochastic version, which we had random Brownian [?] motion added to the motions of the particles to help explain the statistics. We discussed a lot of other things. He was very much of a left wing. He was a communist and he was working with DeBroglie. That’s how I got to know him, but DeBroglie recommended him.
Was DeBroglio left wing?
No, but DeBroglio wanted any support he could get for his work, because in the meantime DeBroglio, as a result of my paper had gone back to his earlier ideas. There were a few things that happened. I was in fairly regular correspondence with Einstein during this time. I wrote letters also to these people, the Collars [?] where I used to stay. Eric Collar and Lily. I have copies of some of those letters. I was complaining quite often about being ill and the terrible situation in Brazil, the absolute chaos and the complete corruption.
Have you got any of Einstein’s letters?
Yes, well copies of them yes.
You’ve got something then. What did Einstein write about? Was it physics or —
We talked about the bad situation in Brazil and he said that he understood and he understood my troubles with the stomach. He had similar troubles.
Did the fact that he was a Socialist come out?
No. But he understood my problems in Brazil, but he said it was no use returning to the United States because I would not get a job. We talked about some questions in physics. At one stage he wrote a paper criticizing the causal interpretation and a volume from Max Bohn. He gave me an opportunity to reply, and we have that. There’s also a fellow called Mario Bunge who came up from Argentina and was interested in the philosophy of science. Before I got to Brazil I was beginning to get interested in philosophy more strongly because for one thing this question of causality interested me. The Bohn interpretation, which I had favored, seemed to say there was no question of objectivity or causality or anything. I sat here with this new interpretation. It came up again so I wanted to understand what was meant by causality. I began going to what people had said about it philosophically.
What was the new interpretation?
That it was causal mine, yes.
Yes. So I was interested in general philosophy and the nature of things. I found the brother of Walter Schutzer was in the philosophy department and we used to have some discussion on Greek Philosophy. It was no wonder we had, but they sort of got me started. I used to go on this vacation to a mountain there called Compass Dejurdan [?]. It was about a mile high where it was a bit cooler and where there were forests and so on, which I found very invigorating. Every time I came back Phil Smith used to say I looked disgustingly healthy, but that look soon vanished in about a week living in San Paulo. Once we went with Jean Pierre Vigier when they were there and also a fellow called Yevick. I haven’t told you about him. I should have mentioned that in Princeton some of the people that I knew, in addition to Melba Phillips and my two students, Eugene Gross and David Pines and the Collars, I knew Yevick. George came to one of my talks in Princeton very early. He was interested in it and he invited me to his home. I met his wife Miriam, who was a mathematician. I used to see them quite often and talk about not only physics or philosophy, but also politics and all sorts of things from this generally left wing point of view. He came down during that summer also. We went together to this place in Compass Dejurdan. We talked about all sorts of things including the Dirac Equation, trying to make a causal model of the Dirac Equation.
I thought you said the act of creation. The Dirac Equation.
The Dirac Equation, yes. So we had people from time to time, but on the whole I felt a bit isolated. After two years the Shullars left and there was nobody else around. I did work with Walter Schutzer on probability theory trying to explain to some extent why probability theory works. I don’t know if I should go into the details here.
What sort of probability theory?
Any probability theory, in physics you see that. I tried to explain about what is now ideas which are essentially those that have come up in modern chaos theory to say that particles move in a complex system in a chaotic way, highly unstable, so that they move in very irregular orbits and the slightest perturbation will change them radically and so on. That way I tried to explain why some regular trends might arise in this chaos so on the average the probability theory would apply. In general I was dissatisfied with probability theory. It seemed it was only a formalism to crank out to get results. You didn’t understand why it should work at all. That was this business we were talking about the informative and the explanatory power of theories. Probability theories were mostly informative with very little explanation in it. It gives you information, but you have no?
That will cover the same general —
Given enough time, the initial conditions don’t matter.
Don’t matter, yes. That’s essentially what you show. That was a way of justifying probability theory, explaining it really. Of course I was interested in all of the philosophical questions at that time. I began to think of writing a book on causality. At this time another fellow, this fellow Mario Schoenberg returned. He’d been in Belgium. He’d been more or less exiled from Brazil. He’d been a communist and very active politically. At some stage he’d been arrested and imprisoned for about a week. Finally he left Brazil just before I came.
He’s lucky it wasn’t longer, knowing that country.
Yes, but he was ill so he spent most of his time in the hospital. He left Brazil for Belgium just before I came, apparently. There was a lot of intrigue going on there about people were intriguing against each other all the time and trying to get each other kicked out.
Within the university?
Yes. You know, making the situation intolerable for each other.
You mean to get the other person’s job or something?
To get rid of him, you know, just to get him out. Probably to consolidate their own power. There were all sorts of factions. I didn’t know anything about this in the beginning, but I began to sort of sense it later. There was intrigue against Mario Schoenberg because of his politics. Also just simply personally everybody is bound to have somebody who doesn’t like him. He finally came back. I could sort of sense that there was a dislike of Mario Schoenberg. They were prejudiced against him among some people. Others didn’t, others favored him of course. But he came back and he was in a much higher level scientifically than the people I’d seen so far were. He understood a lot of physics and he understood a lot of philosophy. He was also very interested in art and he had close associations with artists. He belonged to the artists’ club and his wife was a [???] I believe. He had some very broad interests.
Why did he want to go back to Brazil?
Finally it became clear that he could. He had no really permanent position in Belgium so it wasn’t a satisfactory situation. I think we began to discuss physics more and many different physical ideas and so on. I can’t really point to any of them. I had been discussing causality and essentially through discussions with Schoenberg had turned into more a dialectical direction. That is he was very interested in dialectic. He used to say that Lenin had said communists should read Hegel, and very few did. We did discuss dialectic and especially the question of causality and its opposite, which was chance with contingency really. Necessity and contingency were the two basic categories. Necessity is what cannot be otherwise and contingency is what can be otherwise. Necessity doesn’t yield, but contingency yields. It depends on things and so on in that contingencies are external. Well of course, these two qualities interchange. Because what was necessity seemed to be a contingency we looked at, it depends, actually within in a certain area it’s necessary. But when you broaden the context it’s contingency. What was contingency is seen as necessity. Like a very large number of random events, which are contingencies add up to kind of statistical necessity. The first thing is that the two categories weave together. They become each other; they turn into each other. They reflect each other because in necessity you see a reflection of contingency and vice versa. Eventually at bottom they are each other. They cannot really distinguish them. Contingency is necessity. Contingency first of all is necessary.
They’re not opposites are they?
They are opposites, yes.
They are opposites.
They are, because necessity is what cannot be otherwise and contingency is what can be otherwise exactly opposites. They’re opposites, which become each other and reflect each other and eventually identically.
So that their interaction gives rise for process of change of one into the other.
Transformation, yes. The one turns into the other in, which remains identical, and so on. It seemed to me that this dialectical deal, causality, was far better than the simple view which I had been looking at, which was to just simply try to accept causality and try to work out what it was and how it worked. I was interested in writing my ideas on the subject, and I began to write them out in chapters and it was gradually forming a book. I wrote a book from that point of view: Causality and Chance in Modern Physics I called it. I just about finished most of it when I got out of Brazil. I finished it finally in Israel, but the basic thing was done in Brazil. It was written to start out by just going into different kinds of necessity and causality. Then I mentioned mechanism as a basic form of causality and into all of its different developments starting with deterministic mechanism new to them. And saying that the idea of chance as done in physics was at first seemed to be a step away from mechanism, but eventually it became just as mechanistic. Like saying that if you have a pinball machine with chance it’s still mechanistic. Because the essential quality of mechanism was to some fixed set of rules and some dependence on the outside. The essential quality of mechanism was that first of all, you followed a fixed set of rules, and the thing was not internally related to the outside, but only externally related by some secondary superficial things like impingement and so on. Therefore, science was constantly moving toward a mechanistic view, a retaining mechanism each time it seemed to be changing. It went from a particle theory to a field theory, which enriched the ideas. It would seem to be move away from mechanism. But finally it became mechanistic any way. The assumptions were put in that form.
What happened to this book?
It’s the book I’ve written, Causality and Chance in Modern Physics. I wrote that book and I included my new interpretation in there. Then the idea of the qualitative infinitive nature to say that — I said nature was not limited, but was infinite in its qualities. Therefore every cause of law was limited by contingencies from beyond its context. Every law of chance was limited by cause of laws from beyond its context. The two kinds of laws wove together in an infinite, very rich structure with no limit. That if we’re always working we could extend it as far as we liked, but it would still always be infinite, the amount we haven’t learned.
Did this dialectal thinking he gave you was then usefully applied in your book?
Yes. I had this idea of a qualitative infinitive nature, which translated for me to some extent that idea of the science fiction story that I’d been writing, saying nature was infinitely rich and all woven together into one whole, that opposites were woven together in this dialectal way dynamically. I think it was a continuation of that vision. It sort of liberated me from the idea that nature could definitely fixed and known once and for all.
The unity then in nature is in a constant process of change.
Yes, in transformation. There’s no end to it. There’s no bottom to it.
In other words, you might almost say it’s alive.
Yes, but that was also what was implicit in my science fiction story.
You mean the science fiction story about the people in the spaceship.
These beings and also the human beings who learned this and saw that there was no point in this conflict.
So that you went into the nature of this unity in that science fiction?
Yes. I felt that I was really unfolding — that this interest in philosophy was aimed — I think I began to realize just about the time I was leaving Princeton that we had been accepting all sorts of philosophical ideas, taking them for granted without knowing if that was part of the cat dream scene, all these things we had never looked at. For example, we just said causality and then we thought, you know, we’re talking about, argued about it, but the main points we just took for granted.
Has that book stimulated other people to develop ideas further?
People have read it and some people have been stimulated in some way. It didn’t have the effect that it might have had. Let me say what happened later. I sent this book to Eric Burrup [?] and he passed it on to Normal Franklin.
Who’s Normal Franklin?
The editor for Rutledge and Kegenpaw [?]. He is the brother of Rosalind Franklin I think. Franklin agreed to publish it after I made some revisions. It was published just about the time I got to England. It got a number of reviews, which were good, but the philosophical fraternity paid very little attention to it because I’m not one of them. And also that’s not the sort of idea they wanted to hear. They want to hear some careful little bit of work sort of imitating what they think scientists do. The philosophers say we must each work on some tiny little thing and all together we will make some big structure of truth perhaps. It’s not like the old days of philosophy. It’s very modest now.
They wanted little technical points and you gave them framework.
Yes. Probably they didn’t quite see what to do with this anyway. Various different kinds of people have read it and have been affected in some way by it.
But times have changed in philosophy haven’t they?
Well, no, it’s not really very different now. But do you remember L. L. White? Lancelot White. He read the book and he liked it very much. In fact he wrote to Rutledge saying that they should really push it more and say that it was an important book, but they never did.
Which White is that?
He’s dead now, Lancelot White. He was sort of a generalized philosopher of some kind. He was quite an interesting man. He wrote a number of books. But I mean there were few people, who appreciated it like that, but in general it sort of sold slowly and then finally they discontinued it. But they’ve reprinted it now recently.
You mean interest has increased.
Yes. I think that book was basically a result of Brazil. I think in Brazil the main thing that happened was that my ideas transformed a great deal.
You had the dream and science fiction idea in Princeton.
But this Bohr fruit in Brazil.
It began to bear fruit in Brazil. Being far away from people had this affect that I really went much further into these philosophical things than I would’ve done probably elsewhere. I did meet Mario Schoenberg who helped. I think it was a period when I was in sort of a change looking at these assumptions, which were being taken for granted, as in the dream about the cat, you see. Scientifically not a lot Bohr fruit, but the main thing was probably this book.
You’re saying that that was more philosophical than scientific?
Yes, but there was some science and it was more philosophical. But I was trying to get free of all sorts of rigid assumptions, which were generally accepted. And also trying to realize this dream in the science fiction story. I think I still believed in it, which if people could really see science in another way people would change. In other words, it would be a very powerful factor for bringing about unity and peace and raising people’s hopes. Being in Brazil helped me to look at it that way because I wasn’t in contact with what was really going on in science. I wasn’t constantly learning that it was quite different.
Would you have said that the way that science has developed has affected the way people have developed?
It has developed in a rather negative way. I mean it’s almost the other way. That the mess that people are in has spread into science.
You mean the clarifying element in science has tended to sort of cloud peoples understanding of themselves if anything?
Well, because they looked at it so narrowly. I was trying to say if you look at this whole process, which I was trying to confront in the book, then you would not make this separation of the human being. It would say causality and chance interweave both between human affairs and nature in this infinite process without bottom or top, constantly transforming.
So that for example the scientific facts about the natural world would weave into the human values area?
Yet. In fact just seeing this interweaving of causality and chance would affect human values in the sense that human beings wouldn’t hold rigidly to certain fixed ideas, or they would know that whatever they are doing they are subject to contingencies and they must be ready to meet them. At the same time whatever necessity they set up and the other way around, that when various things which seem to be unrelated and meet in a contingency that that is the occasion for a creative move to see a new meaning there, a new necessity. In a way, Monou [?] has this in a very distorted form. He made almost a parity of it. Monou said you have chance and necessity. So he said you have a whole bunch of chance combination of molecules. Then they start of a mechanical chain of necessity. That’s a parity of this thing.
You mean that was really very negative.
It said apparently the same thing, but it came up with the essential meaning lost. The whole point is creativity. That when a whole bunch of things comes together, apparently contingent, then in that moment a new opportunity arises for a creative response to that whole new thing to see a new meaning of it all, which unfolds a new chain of necessity in a creative way.
Wasn’t this implicit in Hegel?
Yes it was, but it was not implicit. Monou turned this into a parody of that.
Yes. Certainly my impression was Monou was just the opposite.
He took something formally the same and turned it into the other.
What I’m getting at is why wasn’t this potential, as Hegel received a lot of attention in Germany in his time, I mean why wasn’t some of this potential expressed more in German philosophical thinking?
That’s because I think of the Industrial Revolution. That’s why I try to say people like Goethe and Hegel had this idea, but the general trend went against them because everybody wanted to make money and get ahead and get a useful product, so they said all of this is cloudy abstraction. We don’t care about it. We want to get down to the real stuff and make money.
He has enormous following in his lifetime.
He had. It didn’t affect the fact that science was being pushed to a large extent in Germany by the development of industry.
So you mean it was romantics largely that was interested in his philosophy, whereas the economic, technological development was not in the hands of the masses?
No. It was in the hands of people of very narrow interests who primarily wanted money and power.
But to some extent I suppose the Marxists —
Well, Marx claimed to have turned that upside down. See we will have to discuss Marx later. But I mean there was a bit of romanticism in Marx too.
But it was creative in a degree.
Yes. But then I mean again it got turned upside down. Just as Monou turned it upside down, the people who followed Marx turned his stuff upside down.
I don’t quite see why the materialists turning it upside down would destroy its essential creative —
Because eventually they got caught in the same thing that the businessmen got caught in, that they began to minimize the importance of spirit. When Russia said we’ve got to establish communism, Lenin’s slogan was, “Communism is Soviet Power, plus electrification.” Where was the spirit?
Yes, but originally in Marx there was this spiritual revolution.
That’s right, but once the time came to put it into power then the spirit went. They had the same problems as the businessmen, he’s first got to survive and get ahead in business.
So really you would say that Marx’s materialism sort of destroyed the central creativity —
It needn’t have, but in a way it was probably bound to. Constant stress on the material side would gradually erode the spiritual, right.
I remember in Brazil I used to think a lot about what was going on in the socialist countries. I had heard some terrible things. They said their scientific work was of mediocre quality and grinding away. I tried to say well maybe they’ve got to spend a generation or two just grinding away to lay a basis and then they will flower later, but that was wrong.
It affected them in the process.
They lost the whole spirit.
Maybe they’ll recover a little bit of it through Gorbachev or something.
His power is very limited. He’s got to go along with whatever the country is ready to do.
We’ve got to have some sort of hopes. We have to have some hopes for the labor party and some hopes for this.
Some small payment for the Republicans in American who put up sanctions, who agreed to sanctions.
Yes, who knows? It can always be the unexpected and unforeseen.
That’s right, but that’s this contingent combination of events which opens the opportunity to new creative necessity flowing out. The point is not that you can plan creativity. That’s where socialism also went wrong. But rather combinations of events which open new opportunities creatively and must open it and it must move and see their meaning or else you lose it.
You mean the creativity produces a necessity.
The creativity sees the meaning of necessity, and seeing that meaning you —
Recognizes the necessity.
I would say perceives the necessity. Recognizing it would be to know it again, but you didn’t know it before. Therefore I would say it perceives necessity. Then you’ve got to keep on seeing it. Of course recognize it once you’ve seen it. But the idea now is that seeing necessity, that necessity is created by the human being himself. He sees that necessity, and then he moves ahead not yielding along that line, which creates the very necessity. The new necessity is not just a mechanical necessity. It’s not like Monou saying a whole bunch of events comes about and then it starts a new mechanical chain, which grows entirely by itself. But rather various combination of events combined with the creative perception that was not there before at all. In Monou’s view it was all there before, but it just rearranged.
There seemed to be nothing dialectical about all of those things.
That’s entirely mechanical, and it’s uncreative.
It’s terribly barren.
The point is to say that the creative perception of a new necessity is the new necessity. In Monou’s view, the perception of necessity really shows the existence of the necessity, which would happen any way mechanically. But in this view the creative perception of the necessity is the factor, which makes the new necessity come into realization. Suppose you see a combination of events happen and you suddenly see the meaning of that, that it’s an opportunity for something new, and if several people see it they actually do it and then something new comes. And they stick to it, which is the necessity.
It’s like coming out of suffering, that when things go wrong it just then creates an opportunity to follow it up with things coming right. Uplift. I mean that suffering can produce —
Yes, but I mean not really suffering, but any particular unexpected combination of things will have a meaning of possibility that you see at that moment.
And that I think in particular the things which appear to have just the opposite.
Yes that often happens. It seems that the necessity as Hegel put it is to lay you low. That the various independent factors you have are laid low by what appears to be external necessity, which is suffering. But actually that is the destiny of all of these factors to do that. Once they’ve done it, you see that they were really implicitly each other really. Each one was implicitly not only related to the other, but really was essential, a factor of the other. When they met then if the meaning is seen, then a new reality comes into being creatively, which then uses those other things as factors rather than just mechanical, you know, just the main things. Therefore it’s not really possible to, this idea of planning socialism and so on. You have to make plans, but to make that the key point is really going to lead you astray. Making plans is a side issue.
You have to do planning and anti-planning.
Yes. The main point is you have to be free enough to take and manage these combinations of events creatively. One knows that people in the West have not been creative, but it wouldn’t solve that the Russians were even more rigid and that they failed to take advantage of combinations. For example, you have such a thing as this Korean plane flying over their military base, and they were unable to coordinate themselves sufficiently so they didn’t shoot it down. They didn’t realize you can also be very destructive if you don’t meet these combinations properly. They set the whole very bad thing in motion by that. So being able to meet these combinations is creative; not being able to meet them is destructive. We didn’t have all that worked out there in Brazil, but it was kind of implicit in what I was doing. I felt that all of this was really a continuation of (at least I feel now, I didn’t feel then), that this was a kind of continuation of the dream of the science fiction story. So that if we could really understand the nature of things deeply then we would see such unity that we would not go on with this crazy strife. We would really focus on the main point and not on these side issues as in the dream of the cat. Of course I found life very difficult in Brazil, especially as people moved away and the heat was bothering me, the food. The whole thing was depressing because it was all intrigue and chaos and the universities really had essentially only a very few students came. We didn’t see much point.
What were students doing? Going to be engineers and —
Various things, I can’t remember. But the number of students seemed ridiculously small compared with the size of the staff.
Not physics you mean.
Yes. One didn’t see how the whole thing really had very little point. I was getting isolated. And I thought I’d like to get away, and so I was looking into it.
After how long was that?
About three years.
Three years. So I met you after about one year.
So you went two years after that.
Yes. So I was thinking I’d like to get away. There had been a fellow who came called Corsiti [?]. He worked as an experimental physicists, but he went to Israel. He put me in contact with Nathan Rosen, who is a theoretical physicist who had worked with Einstein who was there in Haifa at the Technion. I found out that there was another fellow I had known in Berkeley called David Fox. I let them know I was interested. After a while they made me an offer, not a very good one, but I thought I’d take anything just to try to get away for a while anyway. It was my first plan was to say I’d go there for a while and I would just take a leave of absence from Brazil. Meanwhile I had the problem of the passport.
You hadn’t had it for two years. You hadn’t got it, anyway.
I hadn’t got it, so I was wondering should I go down there and ask them for one. But I said I didn’t know if they had found out I wanted to travel and maybe they would make trouble for me in Brazil. Finally I thought maybe I should take Brazilian citizenship and then I would have a passport. After a lot of consultation I wrote and discussed it with Einstein and a few other people and I did that, I got Brazilian Nationality. A little bit after that I went to Europe and then to Israel. As you know, I remained a Brazilian National until recently when an American Lawyer told me that I might be able to get the American Nationality back.
I hadn’t actually realized that you had a Brazilian Nationality. I knew you hadn’t got the American one. Was it fairly easy to get Brazilian Nationality?
In my position it was, being a professor and so on.
And you being there three years.
Well, five years would be normal, but being as a professor you only had three years. No, that wasn’t any problem at all really.
So you kept away from the Americans completely.
Well, I didn’t know what to think about them because it was a very bad period.
That was probably very wise because the McCarthy business was still carrying on.
Yes. And I said for all I know they would try to get me thrown out of Brazil.
I think they can. Where did you go first when —
You went straight from Brazil to —
No, I passed by way of Paris, and we had a trip to London. I remember Jean Pierre and I went and visited Eric Burrup.
You visited Eric Burrup straight after you left Brazil?
First to Paris and then the two of us made a trip to London.
The two of you?
Jean Pierre and Vigier and I made a trip from Paris to London.
Meeting him in Paris you mean?
Had you been in touch with Eric Burrup?
Only very indirectly.
Were you writing to him?
I don’t remember whom I wrote to. How I got in touch with him I can’t remember. But he was the one who somehow got my manuscript. Who did I send it to? Perhaps I must’ve sent it to him, I don’t remember. Oh, yes, it must’ve been him. You see I remembered I sent him a copy of my manuscript and through him it got eventually to Norman Franklin’s hands. And maybe it went through Bernal for all I know. I thought I would see him again because I had known him quite well in Berkeley.
He was a theorist of physics so it was —
He was an obvious person to see.
And I thought he would make some suggestions about England and so on. It turned out he had no suggestions. But what happened there was that I gave a talk in University College on the Causal Interpretation including the spin, which was well received. John Bell was there. He was a young physicist who later went to Geneva and he later worked out this Bell’s Theorem which people talk about it a lot on locality now. He was affected by this talk. He had believed that there was no way to understand quantum mechanics causally. Then suddenly he said, “Here it is in front of you.” That talk had an effect on Bell. I tried to do some work with Jean Pierre there in Paris. We talked about a lot of things. I don’t know if he managed to do very much work, but I sort of looked around. He lived under rather primitive — He was living in one of those old places in Rue de Bosarn [?], unheated flats on the fifth floor and you had to climb. He had a couple of small ones with his wife and kids.
He didn’t have much money?
I suppose not. I think Paris was still a very poor at ‘55 after the war. I remember when we went to Austria with Sara in ‘56, Vienna was fantastically poor. Not only the war, but also the Soviet occupation certainly left them in a miserable stand.
It’s odd because when people write about Rosalind Franklin coming from Paris in the very beginning of 1951, the whole line is that she had such a wonderful time in Paris and the food was so much better.
Well, I’m sure the food was a lot better than in England. When I got to England the food was terrible. I mean the food wasn’t bad. It was just that the living conditions were bad. The food was far better than the English food.
I think the other thing was that the Franklin’s are quite about —
Yes, if you had money you could do anything. You could’ve gotten very good conditions there. But I’m sure [???] didn’t have that much money. A tremendous number of people lived in rather poor conditions.
I think is one thing which the playwright Harry Well [?] has rather stressed in talking with me that people normally sort of pictured Rosalind Franklin as being sort of in many ways a very deprived martyred type of person. But in fact she in one respect at least she was the opposite because she came from quite a wealthy family. I think that she need never have been short of anything of a material nature. That didn’t mean of course that she wasn’t deprived in other ways.
She was deprived in other ways.
Very severely indeed.
I found Paris a bit hectic. I think it part Jean Pierre. He was so busy with his political activities and he would spend vast amounts of time suddenly going off to a communist party meeting. He’d put that first, and I began to get a little annoyed that I’d come all this way and he was spending so much time at these other stuff. Both he and his wife were then dedicated communists.
As a communist, what interest did he have in this dialectical aspect?
I don’t think he understood it at all. I never managed to talk it over with him.
Why do you think he didn’t understand it?
Just simply first, he wouldn’t talk about it, and secondly his subsequent work shows that he thinks very much the same as all the other physicists.
So you mean that the dialectical theory from Marxism didn’t really get through to him.
I never found a communist other than Mario Schoenberg to whom it did get through.
It’s very odd, isn’t it. I never really studied Marxism at all, but as an undergraduate I read any odd thing here or there. I must say all his dialectical stuff, I didn’t have the foggiest idea what it was about except quantity and equality and things like that. I could see very simple notions. It’s only very recently that I began to find out little bits about —
See it’s subtle and not easily appreciated. And most communists operate at a very naïve level. They’re just thinking of getting results. They’re not so different from the businessmen. They just want a different set of results that all.
I think that unfortunately is true.
Basically, there’s not a great deal of difference in the way most people think. You see the popularity of things like rock music in the Eastern Block. That’s much the same. Dialectical material has had the least possible affect in the Eastern Block. Somebody like Stalin simply would suppress it. He wouldn’t want the slightest bit of it. He wants everything to be rigid and well planned and organized. The name he chose for himself, Stalin, means steel.
But in the first few years after the Revolution there seems to have been an immense amount of artistic and [???].
I’m sure there was a lot of intellectual firm the first few years, but Stalin killed off almost all of the people that were involved. He frightened off the rest so that they wouldn’t think of these things.
I suppose that they felt it was very difficult to push through the big changes they wanted in industrialization and so on and keep this degree of open [???].
Also they felt that they were being attacked from the outside.
That of course is true.
It was true, but then that was the challenge they faced. If they didn’t face the challenge it was useless. They should’ve left it in the hands of the Czar.
But as you were saying, that if you didn’t react properly to the difficulties you turned it into a sort of negativism, destruction, and sort of death in life. They failed to make use of it. In a way one had to turn these negative factors into one had to [???].
There were plenty of people in the early days who were ready to do this, but these people who wanted the thing to be well organized and so on got rid of them. It’s not to say that people who are under challenge and tension can’t do this sort of thing. In fact they’re more likely to do it than otherwise, but not if from within they’re being threatened and killed and whatnot. The ordinary people were ready to go along because the government painted such a picture of how dangerous these people were. It was really a false picture. The danger was what Stalin was doing. That is one of the problems that insofar — It was only natural to make this mistake, but when Lenin says communism is Soviet power plus electrification, that was the mistake. The thing cannot be — neither Soviet power nor electrification can be the main point of that is at issue.
I agree it is a rather peculiar, what sounds of any sort of limited view, but presumably —
But I mean what he was thinking was once we’ve solved all of this then we will have a good material base and then we’ll open up. I’m sure that’s what he was thinking.
I’m sure they were right to think the material base was very important to push ahead for, but it wasn’t enough, was it?
Well, no, but unless you preserve this other thing during this period there won’t be any left. In fact they never even got the good material base. They never even arrived at it.
They’ve got a much better material base, better than they had before.
But they never arrived at a really good one. They sort of reached a self-limiting situation where the whole society is too corrupt to greatly improve it.
Gorbachev tried to —
Gorbachev was trying his best, but he’s only one man.
Anyway, they recognize more than they did where things have gone wrong. So you saw Eric Burrup, but there didn’t seem to be any job possibilities in England then.
No. I also went over to King’s College and talked to somebody. It all looked very limited at the time.
Which King’s College?
Your place in the physics department.
I must’ve been there.
But I didn’t know about that. There were young men I talked —
You mean you didn’t know that I was there at that time?
No. I didn’t know where you were. I’d forgotten.
Because I was. Biophysics hadn’t spit off at that — What year was that then?
Biophysics hadn’t spit off then. It was still in the physics department. You presumably talked to people in the theoretical?
Yes I did. One or two young men, they weren’t very encouraging. They said there wasn’t much.
Who was the —
I can’t remember any more.
Theoretical physicists, was it Longertaken or Coolson?
I can’t remember any more.
Maybe it was Coolson probably.
I really can’t even remember that.
I would guess it was Coolson and I would’ve guessed probably that Coolson was not the sort of physicist that you would’ve —
I had the impression that whatever they were doing wouldn’t interest me and what I was doing wouldn’t interest them.
You’re probably right. It might have been very good in its way but.
And of course at that time I was worried about it was hard to get good food here in any reasonable restaurant. Did I do anything else’ Yes, I think I went to Cambridge and saw somebody. Who it was I don’t even remember now. But it was Buneman who also had been on this project then. He had come later to the Manhattan Project.
I think I knew Buneman after the war. But what was he doing in Cambridge’
I don’t know. Maybe he was working somewhere in there.
I remember him vaguely.
Anyway, then I went back to Paris and finally went off to Israel. It became clear to me that the time wasn’t right for going to Europe. It didn’t really attract me to stay in France, and I didn’t want to bother to learn the language. But also I mean Paris looked a bit grim at the time. I had this feeling it was too much just moving around, empty movements. You know, how people running around making loud noise.
You mean French intellectuals sort of getting all caught up in this idea or that idea.
That was probably quite true, yes.
Is there anything else’ On the other hand I didn’t want to come back to Brazil. I felt it’s life was hard then. You know, it was a case of the society was very poor.