Notice: We are in the process of migrating Oral History Interview metadata to this new version of our website.
During this migration, the following fields associated with interviews may be incomplete: Institutions, Additional Persons, and Subjects. Our Browse Subjects feature is also affected by this migration.
Please contact [email protected] with any feedback.
This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.
This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.
Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript is available.
In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of John Carpenter by Catherine Westfall on 2010 November 15,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
In this interview, John Carpenter discusses topics such as: his graduate school work in nuclear engineering; his early professorship at the University of Michigan; going to the Reactor Testing Station in Idaho to learn about neutron scattering; beginning work at Argonne National Laboratory; developing the first-ever pulsed spallation neutron sources equipped for neutron scattering, ZING-P and ZING-P'; development and implemention of the intense pulsed neutron source (IPNS); becoming an advisor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; spallation neutron source (SNS); his retirement; slow neutron scattering; Motoharu Kimura and winning the Clifford G. Shull prize.
This is Catherine Westfall. It’s the 15th of November 2010, and we’re at Argonne. I’m with Jack Carpenter and we are finishing our interview with this third installment. Jack, you and you were just going to start telling me about…
Something to start with. It seems we left off somewhere in 1996, which related to events in the year 2000. Let’s see what else was in the surroundings — SNS. We’re in the ’90s and the early 2000s. I guess I would back up, and I don’t remember saying anything about it, to mid-’90s when a number of us, including Yanglai Cho worked out the design of a one-megawatt pulsed spallation source. And by the way, Yanglai is very difficult person to work with. Never mind.
So you were working with Yanglai Cho.
And Bob Kustom, and also other members of the neutron group. I was working on target questions. The principle contributors to these efforts were Alvin Knox, Bob Kleb, Kent Crawford, and a lot of other people too. This was a several years’ effort.
I just want to say for the tape recorder that both Bob Kustom and Yang Cho are members of Argonne’s long-time accelerator building efforts. They both had worked on the Zero Gradient Synchrotron (ZGS). Did they both also help with the IPNS itself?
Oh yes, yes they did, yes indeed.
And then both of them —
Brought the accelerator into operation… they were among those that brought the rapid-cycling synchrotron up. Jim Simpson was a key contributor in the early times
And then also worked on the advanced photon source, so that’s just in addition.
These were big contributors to the accelerator efforts at Argonne Lab, yes. So we did our work generating a large, thick document, partly on the accelerator, which was an important aspect of the document, target systems, which were challenging, and instrumentation questions that Kent Crawford dealt with as leader of the instrument effort. Finally, when it came down to putting together the document, the way Yanglai Cho liked to do it was to have everybody in the same room; they would read the draft material and go through sentence by sentence. And if he didn’t like it, then it was his idea that you had to change it. I knew his mode of operation, and I’m rather confident in my own language abilities. So I was careful to present a well-refined draft for this process, which went on for weeks. I complained to Bruce Brown, who was director of IPNS at the time, I said, “Cho wants to change every phrase,” exaggerating, of course, “Cho seems to want to change every phrase that I’ve carefully written,” and he said, “Let it be, let it be. Let it be.” So I let it be.
How odd, given also that he’s not a native speaker.
That. And one of the odd things is that Cho sometimes deferred to Bob Kustom. Bob Kustom is no master of the English language either. But I let it be.
Good for you.
May I say to this recording device, I hated that.
But you fell on your sword.
Well, I didn’t disembowel myself. So we published the book, and then because a lot of people wanted copies of it, we had a lot of copies printed. I had so many requests for copies, that I had no more. By now Cho had moved on. I found that Cho had a big stash of the books, and I had requests for them books and he didn’t respond to my requests that we have a few for the people who asked us for them. They were locked in a cage in the basement of 360. I knew they were there, so I asked Davie Leach, “I’d like some copies of that book,” and I told him where they were, locked in this cage. And he says, “Okay, I’ll get some for you.” He got a ladder; climbed up over the wall of the cage and down inside, and passed some boxes of books outside. But that’s how I got enough copies to distribute, otherwise. How crazy was that! (laughs)
So that was mid-’90s, and at that same time the Oak Ridge Laboratory gave up on the ANS, the Advanced Neutron Source. I had been a member of their advisory committee for ten years already, and watched the thing get heavier and heavier, more expensive and more expensive, and doubt-fuller and doubt-fuller, until…
I remember people saying it’s going to die, it’s going to die, and it’s going to die.
So I watched it, and in a sense it died of its own weight. Then Oak Ridge needed something else to do, so instead of disparaging pulsed spallation sources, they became supporters of this idea and launched the SNS project, which had no chance at Argonne because Argonne was building the APS. And according to the Trivelpiece Treaty, all the major multi-purpose labs were to get a major project. Argonne had an APS, and Oak Ridge did not get an ANS, so the spallation source. That took off, and is delivering real service to the scientific community now in 2010.
This was multi-billion, or more than a billion.
Yes, it cost about $1.4 billion in the end, which included funds for four neutron scattering instruments, which were, as these things usually go, placed at lower priority to completion of the facility itself. And there was some secondary funding for instruments, which has since come in. Now we’re talking in 2010. A few years earlier, in, 2006, he SNS started up with first beam in April. There were two infusions of instrument money: SNS Instruments Next Generation, SING and SING-II. Each would fund about five instruments. And those instruments are coming into play now. A few more received funding from non-DOE sources.
So about how much is it if you add the instrument money in?
I’m not sure I have it all, but each of those was… I certainly can’t recall exact numbers. SING-II is about $50 million; SING-I was somewhat more. So let’s just guess that the whole total is about $150 million extra. Other funds flowed in as well.
So it’s a billion and a half.
A billion and a half or so for construction and instruments.
But not quite two billion.
Well under two billion. And there’s a marvelous facility
I’m really interested in this SNS and what you and others did. So explain to me how the deal was made so that Argonne helps. I know it wasn’t just Argonne; that the various pieces, the various labs that did —
Yes. There were six laboratories involved. It’s a Moncton concoction, and it worked. You’ve got Berkeley Lab working on the H- ion source and the front end of the accelerator, Los Alamos working on the normal-conducting, low-energy section of the Linac. And JLab working on the superconducting high-energy end of the Linac, Brookhaven working on the storage ring, and Argonne working on instrumentation, and Oak Ridge working on the targets and convectional facilities.
And that idea was…?
That was Moncton’s idea? [Yes.] And who called him in to — I imagine that people were worried that the whole project needed new leadership — tell that story.
Okay. As the ANS (Advanced Neutron Source) project folded, its director Phil Appleton, who had overseen that effort, disappeared; I think he went to a position at Harvard. I’m not sure exactly how it took place that David Moncton moved in, but he took over the new project that Bill Appleton really was not suited to do. It was in the beginning of the project that Bill left. Dave came in essentially immediately after and brought a lot of the Argonne people into the work.
He did it as a leave of absence.
Yes. What you say is true, however, David never moved from his place at Argonne, as director of the Advanced Proton Source. He never moved from Chicago or the western suburbs to Oak Ridge where you might have expected the director of a major project to take up residence. Instead he commuted, and that was somehow viewed as a somewhat less than total commitment to project leadership. Nevertheless, he pulled this off — I’ll count them again: Berkeley, Los Alamos, JLab, Brookhaven, Oak Ridge, and Argonne — a six-lab collaboration, which worked. Managing interfaces, schedules, funds distribution… must have been very tricky. The new source started up in 2006.
So what was happening at the IPNS, and how did you get —
We at IPNS were innovators on the instrument and target systems sides. We had experience in developing pulsed-source and moderators and targetry and pulsed-source neutron scattering instruments from the early ’70s.
You had pioneered the sourced idea?
Yes, from the germs that gathered in the CINS discussions in 1968 and 1969. Starting from there, and following my discovery of the decoupled beryllium reflector, we built three neutron sources — the story is out. ZING-P, ZING-P’, and IPNS I, and we designed IPNS II that never got funded (except that it is essentially ISIS.)
And so at what stage did — Tell me the story of how Moncton…
There is a little bit of a story here, because Argonne had been competing to build a big pulsed spallation neutron source (the IPNS Upgrade). Because Oak Ridge was inheriting the pulsed-source task, they were suspicious that Argonne might be angling to undercut them and get the project. Five laboratories had lined up. But for a long time Argonne and IPNS were distrusted. What I told to the management of the Oak Ridge project at the time was that, “No you have no reason to distrust Argonne Lab. They will not, and I will not to the extent that my actions had anything to do with it, undercut Oak Ridge’s position in this project. We should take part. We design instruments. We know a lot about targets.”
Because of this distrust there was some period during which Argonne had not gotten involved. But finally the involvement became very intimate and the scientists — I don't know, 20 people from Oak Ridge — who were to design the instruments came for four years, or five years in residence at Argonne while they worked out the parameters of the instruments that were first to be built at SNS. That was a success. It was also part of my idea (which I’m not so sure has worked) that the IPNS culture, which was widely admired and very effective in relation to serving the users, would move back to SNS with them. There were some sparkplugs in the IPNS organization that made things happen for the users, and it was part of a culture. And I had hoped that when the SNS people came and worked among these people that they would go away with that same culture. It’s only partly a success.
I was surprised to learn at an Advanced Photon Source meeting that as of a couple of years ago when I heard the talk, the number of users at the SNS was low.
It’s still true; it’s still low as we talk today.
And I can tell you why. There is a predominant reason for it. The authorized construction project included funds for only four instruments. And these had lower priority in the project than completing the basic aspects of the facility. Funding caught up with the later authorization of the SING programs. Among the four categories of instruments there were several chopper spectrometer instruments which do spectroscopy. They came on without too many startup problems and have been working now since the source delivered higher power this last couple of years. Everything turned on in April of 2006; that was the first operation. And debugging new instruments cannot begin without a neutron source. Aside from the necessary debugging, these are slow in terms of experiment throughput — spectroscopy is a lot harder than diffraction in this respect: more demanding of the source, the counting rates are lower. The instruments were complicated; nevertheless, they worked well.
One instrument that was really outstanding is the back-scattering spectrometer, called BASIS which got a lot of support in the beginning because it was a showpiece, and the instrument worked well. But that’s also slow. So the chopper spectrometers, the back-scattering spectrometer, these came on earlier and the high throughput instruments, like small angle scattering, and powder diffraction instruments, and single crystal diffractometers — they’re high throughput instruments — some of which are still not fully functioning because they depend on detector developments. The chopper spectrometers and the back-scattering spectrometers used conventional detectors. The high throughput instruments all required detector development.
Another category of instruments, the reflectometers — there are two of them — are high throughput instruments, and they came on rather soon, so they’re now functioning. But the general big picture is that most of the high throughput instruments are still not fully functioning, and it’s largely because of the need to develop and build new detectors and sort out their problems, and that’s been a slow process. The diffraction instruments are still not fully functional, only partly equipped with the needed detectors. So the high throughput instruments, the diffraction instruments in particular and the small angle scattering instruments, are just not running yet at full capabilities.
That’s where the large numbers of users come from. Ian Anderson knows this, but this doesn’t make his time down in Washington any easier [chuckles]. They’re asking, “Where are our users?” I’m sure he’s beaten up on this question. When I saw him last Thursday, he was going down on Friday to face the music again.
So anyway, there were things that I was more directly involved in, although I’ve always been involved in the SNS, and in your last interview I had told about the problems with the cavitation erosion in the target that people didn’t take up on until four years after I had warned them about this. It’s still not solved. So this relates to the present day, maybe jumping over from ten years ago into present time. They’re running SNS at a megawatt of proton power, and they know that they’re suffering cavitation erosion problems because they’ve now looked at two targets that had been operated at high power. The first wall facing the target region is peppered with holes and fragile and falling apart. Nevertheless they get away with it — they can run for a decent length of time at a megawatt — just continue to put in due targets and learn what happens, which in the circumstances is the right thing to do. But it isn’t a solution to this problem; it’s a way of living with this problem. And so far they get away with it, which delights me. I’m glad! [Chuckles] So that works.
But the problem continues, and solutions are not at hand. The Japanese have an even worse problem because of their mode of operation, which exacerbates the damage rate, and consequently they’re only running at a couple of hundred kilowatts of beam power.
Cavitation damage is a problem that’s cost $10 million a year of research ever since it got rolling in the early 2000’s. We get away with productive, although somewhat curtailed operation so far, but a solution is much desired.
And what could happen? Would there be damage? What would you have to do?
The system is designed as far as you could anticipate it is failsafe. It would maybe make a small mess, but there are enough layers of engineering safety measures built in that really any particularly bad events from failure of this kind will be well contained. Mercury leakage is contained within the target.
What sort of danger would it…?
The most horrific thing you could imagine, which I say the engineering safety measures are designed to avoid, is that you would have one and a half cubic meters of radioactive mercury spilled around on top of a mountain. But that won’t happen. This is the ultimate hazard that is designed out by safety measures and operational restraints.
Okay, so it’s contained. But if there is a problem, how much would it cost and how much time would it take?
The exercise has already been run. I should not use the passive voice. We/they have already run the exercise. They take out a target and replace it with another spare that they have on hand. They’ve done that twice now. It takes a week or two to do this, and a new target costs about quarter of a million dollars. But that kind of replacement is already anticipated in budgets and operating scenarios. Except for the fact that this surface gets riddled, all anticipated in terms of safety provisions and scheduling provisions and budget provision and so on.. That is not to say that there are not others problems. But that’s one out there unsolved, but we get away with it! We/they. I’ve been [laughs] invoked as a consultant in all of this for a very long time, and I don’t have anything more to offer than they already have implemented. It’s time to start over with a new approach based on what is already in place: a mercury coolant system, more-or-less fixed target system dimensions, and much better informed by high-power operation than at the outset.
Now I’d like to return to the early 2000’s and what we were doing here. We at Argonne have been a center of development on target, instrument, and moderator systems. I’m returning to say that we had a very meaningful conference among the neutron user community. It was the cold moderator workshop, in 1998/. We’re accustomed to doing these things, as we have hosted the ICANS (International Collaboration on Advanced Neutron Sources) meetings at least three times. But it was in about 2002 that we thought there’s a niche that Argonne might fill which SNS will not fill, as a source of very cold neutrons.
Brad Micklich and I and other people began to work on this, but it was really a small effort. It was mostly Monte Carlo calculations and working through ideas until we could see the picture. Bob Kustom worked on accelerator ideas. We came up with a concept for very cold neutron source. It probably took us two years until we documented it and convened a large meeting exploring the possible applications of the Very Cold Neutron Source (VCNS). But it never flew. The Department of Energy is not ready to build another billion-dollar facility, although the VCNS could be built for much less. So the idea is out there and in my mind it remains out there as an idea. But it’s not an idea that is likely to be funded say at Oak Ridge or funded here at Argonne.
But I will say today, and it’s been recognized as a possibility for some time, that this may be an avenue for collaboration with the Fermilab, where the Project X involves a high-current multi-GEV proton Linac. The X exactly has not been quantified, although one of the applications is in neutrino physics. But they don’t need all of the power of this Linac, but instead they could admit three users who would have shared access (one-third each, roughly speaking) to the photon beam. There might be room for collaboration with Argonne on another category of neutron source, a VCNS. The workshop revealed that most of its applications would be the study of nanomaterials (large-scale structures), low-frequency atomic motions and magnetism. So there’s a scientific area that VCNS would fill. There are a few interested people at Argonne. Jerry Nolen has expressed interested in this kind of collaboration, but he has different ideas than the very cold neutron source. Brad Micklich, who is very much involved, would be involved whenever the time came. But I don’t say it has an immediate prospect. We defined and explored the concept and worked it out in the early 2000s.
Then DOE came along and shut IPNS down in January of 2008, so IPNS kept running until the end of 2007 — that’s 26 years of service and many thousands of published papers.
Can you tell anything about the story of that final decision?
Very little! A partial story is that I was not consulted in this one bit. So if that’s a part of a story, it’s a nothing part of a story. But I was not consulted in one bit.
So you were totally taken —
I was astonished to hear this when I returned after the Christmas holiday early January 2008 to hear that IPNS was being shut down.
Who was the director of IPNS at that time?
Ray Teller was Director of IPNS.
Had Ray heard about it?
Oh yes. I can’t tell you exactly how much he was consulted or involved, but he was involved. But the shutdown was a surprise to me.
The other people at the IPNS were just astonished, I remember, too. [Oh yes.] The staff in general, wouldn’t you say, was totally taken aback?
I think everybody except possibly Ray, and maybe some others that I don't know. There may have been others who were informed. I was not. Not only not informed, but not consulted in how we might respond to this initiative to close IPNS down. There’s a nothing story in that. A nothing story!
So the laboratory director at the time, Bob Rosner…
They had been negotiating, or somehow talking with the DOE managers, and came to an agreement with them. I guess if cut off at the money source, then there’s nothing to do. But it was done precipitously. I call it decapitation, and it may be that decapitation is a less painful way to go than starvation, which would have been another way to close IPNS down.
I remember a couple of years before that when you had your last celebration…
Yes, we celebrated 25 years, yes.
I remember Rosner spoke at that, and I remember that event, and so did several other people including you. In fact, Brown came, and David Price, and they were all talking about how it was endangered, but it had lived through, and were hoping that it would persevere. And I know that I talked to Rosner about it after he closed IPNS, and I remember him saying, “I really had hoped that we had several more years.”
This was after IPNS was closed that you spoke with him. [Yes.] Well, we thought that IPNS had a role not only in the short term, where we had a lot of people flowing through and served the community well. We were very good in terms of productivity measures. Like dollars per paper, we were really good. [Laughs] Number of users, we had a lot of users. And so we could have served a role training users for SNS. We could have served a role doing easy experiments where SNS would take over where you needed high throughput instrumentation. We could have served a role in developing techniques, which was our special thing for nearly 30 years. So you need, say, something other than a barn-burner facility like SNS, a lower-power facility, to do these things that are less demanding of beam power but more demanding of intellectual power. It takes thinking as well as proton beam power to do these things. We had, I thought, roles like this.
Now I can go back a couple of years and say that probably around the 2005 year, I think it was Ray Teller who initiated some a study to figure out what IPNS might do to gin-up it’s base, if you wish. People went out and wrote some kind of a position paper, and I was not asked to get involved in this. In fact I wished to get involved, and I thought I tried to get involved, but somehow attempts to get involved in that were rebuffed, and the resulting white paper on what this might do was empty — we really didn’t have any good ideas! [Please record a grimace! (chuckles)] That was an opportunity when the laboratory had time to reconfigure IPNS in some respect. It never made a ball, let alone having a ball to drop. It just didn’t make a good proposition. [Hmppphhhfff!]
Now tell me a little bit about life after the IPNS, that precipitous IPNS closing.
Yes, okay. I retired in 2005, and I went to half-time working at half-pay as a special term appointee at Argonne, which was a very welcome thing because I could continue doing whatever when IPNS was running, and writing a book that was allowed for me to do, and traveling to SNS where I have a paid appointment for two or three days a month. I have become responsible as principle investigator for a new instrument, which I conceived and have now been adopted as an instrument to be built. We’re now in the middle of doing that project. As PI, principle investigator, I’m more of a symbol than anything else. But I do bring ideas, and instrument engineering experience, and am significant in that project. The Time-of-Flight USANS instrument was my idea. So I go to Oak Ridge and work on USANS, and I consult with people on other topics. At least two things that I do there are quite specific. One of them is working on the time-of-flight ultra-small-angle scattering instrument, USANS, and always pursue an active interest in the target systems development, in particular moderator systems development.
One of the principle people on their team is Erik Iverson. I first met Erik in 1988 when he and two other students from Iowa State, undergraduates at the time, came with Bob Williams, who was a professor there, to Argonne for a summer and we did some moderator measurements at IPNS. I became acquainted with Erik then. He returned to get his degree at Iowa State, entered grad school at the MIT Nuclear Engineering Department. He did his Ph.D. thesis there under Dick Lanza, and I I convinced Erik to come and work with me as a postdoc in many ways. Erik worked also on the very cold neutron source ideas. That was a wonderful collaboration. He moved to the SNS after the big crew moved to SNS. And I still work carefully and closely with Eric Iverson on questions of moderators, neutron beam characterization and other stuff.
I should mention another person involved in the IPNS upgrade study, Dong Wook Jerng, a Korean postdoc whom I enlisted from MIT in the early 1990s. He had done his Ph.D. in Thermal hydraulics analysis with Neal Todreas, then NE department chair. I gave Dong the task of calculating neutron fluxes and power densities, doing Monte Carlo calculations in support of the IPNS Upgrade. I thought it would take two years. He did all that work in one year, did it excellently and well, and then went to Korea where he has a responsible job, disappeared from the U.S. effort. These two guys that came to me as postdocs from MIT, because I had good acquaintances there, I served for about five years on the President’s Advisory Committee for the Nuclear Engineering Department. So I became acquainted with the people there pretty well, and I could draw on them to suggest postdocs for me, which they did. And I say Wow! [chuckles], they’re really wonderful with what they brought.
Anyway, now I fill my days with working on this book, which I hope is a task with a successful end.
Explain for the tape recorder what the book is.
The book is called Elements of Slow Neutron Scattering. We started working on this about 2004, with three of us coauthors. Chun-Keung Loong, a colleague at Argonne at INPS; and Marie-Louise Saboungi, working in the chemistry division, had agreed to collaborate on this book. We made adventures to the Cambridge University Press and gave them on outline and some sample writings, and they agreed to publish this. We have a contract with them. Since that time, both Marie-Louise and Chun have retired and gone elsewhere. Marie-Louise to take a position as a director of a small group in France, and Chun-Keung retired to southern China. His upbringing was in Hong Kong, but he went Guangzhou to because Hong Kong is too expensive. His intent was to spend time on studies of the Chinese culture and history as it bears upon the present day. Nevertheless when people in China found out that Chun was there, they started to ask him to help with this and that, and he has now become involved in positions more or less at five universities in one way and another. He is involved in the China Spallation Neutron Source (CSNS), an ISIS-level effort. ISIS is the big neutron facility in England, hugely successful. Nevertheless, something like a fifth as big as the SNS or the JSNS. CSNS has gotten stalled in China, but he continues to be involved in it, as I was in its beginning.
Also there is a small neutron source effort in Tsinghua University in Beijing, the Chinese MIT. They’re committed now to building a small neutron source — this is completely different than the big neutron sources both in concept and in application, the accelerator-based neutron source called Compact Pulsed Hadron Source (CPHS). Chun has become principle advisor to the CPHS, and I also serve in an advisory role there. He is still contributing to the book while being involved in many ways in China. He is not able to spend as much time on the book as I am, but we figure that we’ll complete a final draft half a year from now. Marie-Louise dropped out of the collaboration in about 2008.
So that’s where the book stands. I continue to go to SNS two days a month, three days a month, for which they pay me for this.
Are you an STA here at Argonne?
Yes, unpaid. This is not to say I don’t let people in my office because they seem to come to my office anyway. [Laughs] So, I’m willing to do whatever people ask, up to a point anyway, because the laboratory designates me an Argonne Distinguished Fellow and Emeritus Scientist. These provide me an office, computer facilities, telephone, mail services, and all of that. All this is very valuable to me, so I can certainly afford on that basis to do some things when people ask me to do them at ANL, which I do.
So I’m occupied writing a book, which is the background job, taking care of little things that come up, in Argonne Lab and the outside world.
What would be an example?
Well there’s a good one that is running just now. There’s a question about neutron dose rates around APS, how do we measure those? Bill Ruzicka suggested that the two people involved at APS talk to me about how you might measure these things. I have some knowledge about these things, and can direct them in what to consider as ways to measure. They should just ask what resources they bring in. For example, I know that someone here has a set of Bonner spheres, a method of doing this. Also there are possibilities of organic scintillators, which are proton recoil detectors, to get the neutron spectrum. I can recommend what kind of equipment is available along these lines and recommend how they might deploy these detectors. I’m just now in the middle of that. And Jerry Nolan occasionally asks me what about the collaboration with Fermilab, but we don’t talk about that often enough. These are examples.
Why don’t you end with this nice memoir of this Japanese collaborator?
Yes. This is one of my proudest lifetime accomplishments. I mentioned in an earlier context that Motoharu Kimura came to Argonne in 1973 and began to work with us as we developed the first spallation neutron sources. He would come, say, for periods of six weeks or three months or six months — it varied a lot from time to time — and IPNS would support him, and we’d work together on whatever were the current topics of pulse source development. I visited him in Japan, and we became not only colleagues but also good friends. My wife, Rhonda and I remain friends with his daughter and her husband and visit with them still. In 1988 when he was 80 years old, I went to Japan for his 80th birthday celebration. Kimura (Motoharu, Moto) had already published his memoirs in Japanese, and it was his idea to have the memoirs in English, and he asked me if I would help him see his memoirs published in English. I said yes I would do that. (Background information: If a Japanese makes a promise to do something, it is an obligation, and they almost always fulfill their promises. Now I felt this of myself; I promised to see this through, and I will do it. “I will do it” — that’s the imperative form. To say “I shall do it” is just to make a prediction for the future. So to myself I said, “I will do it.”)
The way I had in mind to do it was to ask Japanese colleagues that both of us knew to translate pieces of this into English. They were more capable than he. His speech was intelligible, but his writing in English was very ragged, so it needed translation. I had in mind tat maybe half a dozen Japanese would take portions of the Japanese and write English versions, and then I would make the English versions into more polished English. Not a one of them came through. This is not Japanese. On the other hand, they weren’t promising a Japanese — they were promising a Westerner! Anyway, none of them came through. Nevertheless, I felt I promised to do this.
By then Kimura had suffered a stroke, so his motor capabilities were very limited, and his speech was hardly intelligible, maybe even in Japanese Some of this time he was even hospitalized. As I said I don’t have the help I wanted, but how could we do this? Moto suggested that he speak into a tape recorder and I send him my own translations on a tape recorder. We tried this, and it just was not workable. I could not make sense of what I heard. First of all he had speech troubles because of the stroke, and then also his Japanese accent was in the way. I said this doesn’t work.
So this courageous old man taught himself to write again, and he translated and hand-wrote his entire book into his version of English, writing it out page by page by hand. And I could read it. It took three years. Many pieces of yellow foolscap came to me, a few at a time, and I spent about three hours each working day translating this japlish into English. I worked at home, I worked some in my office with Bruce Brown’s approval — I asked Bruce if I could do that, and he said, “Let’s see, this is about neutrons, right?” and I said yes, he said, “Okay.” [Laughs] Took three years, and it got done. We published the book. Living with Nuclei is the title of the book, 50 Years in the Life of a Japanese Physicist, which was more or less the title in Japanese. So it’s published, by a private publisher at Kimura’s expense and I think I gave you a copy one time.
You did, and it’s on my shelf.
Did you ever read it?
I have read through it, and I’ve even in the paper there…
I think you consulted that book for some of the contents of our interviews. [Yes.]
That’s an amazing story.
I sold books for him here, and he sold out all of the copies in Japan. There weren’t many; like a few thousand. And I still have about 100 copies at home that I haven’t sold or given away to friends, which is what I do now. But having done that is one of my proudest accomplishments.
You didn’t talk about your prize?
I have a number of prizes.
The Shull Prize is the one I was referring to. But list them as you can.
In 1982, I received the University of Chicago Distinguished Performance award of the University of Chicago, for having developed the IPNS. In 1998 the Joint Institute for Neutron Studies at Dubna, Russia awarded me the Frank Prize. Ilya Frank had been director at that laboratory, and he was revered as a caring, effective director. He himself also had a Nobel Prize for his work on Cherenkov radiation. And they gave me the Ilya M. Frank Prize in 1998, largely because of my analysis of the burping of irradiated cold solid methane. No money goes with it; there is a medal. At that time that was the most prestigious acknowledgement that I had ever received. At a later time I became Fellow of the American Nuclear Society, Fellow of the American Physical Society, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and was awarded the Engineering Alumni Society Merit Award from the University of Michigan in 2006.
Also receiving that recognition was another alumnus, Jack Lousma, who had been the commander of the spaceship Skylab, on board for something like three months. His wife was there at the awards ceremony. Skylab is now in the Smithsonian Museum. Or maybe it’s a replica, because I doubt that they could bring it down without destroying it. After three months or so there were some problems aboard, and the NASA ground crew decided to call the flight crew down. They talked to his wife, announcing, “We’re planning to bring your husband and the rest of the crew down because they have trouble up there.” And she said, “Don’t you dare bring him down before he’s finished his work! Don’t you dare! I’d never hear the end of it” [Laughs] and they didn’t. He and his crew safely served out the intended mission. But that is to me a precious story.
Then there was the Clifford Shull Prize in 2006, sponsored y the Neutron Scattering Society of America, given every two years I was the second recipient after Mike Rowe. That also made me a Fellow of the NSSA.
These were the big deal acknowledgements. A large number of people laid their reputations on the line to support my nominations for these recognitions. I am humbled and grateful for that, which is the highest acknowledgement of all.
Well good. Is that enough?
That’s enough. What do I need beyond that? [Laughs] I have been lavishly acknowledged, and it’s a great gratification. In my upbringing, people recognized that I had some talents and encouraged me along. My parents, my teachers, church associations, Boy Scouts… But they always said — work hard, be modest, use your skills to better the world. My father advised, “Leave whatever it is better than you found it.” I hope that I have done well.