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Interview of Wolfgang Panofsky by Elizabeth Paris and Jean Deken on 2004 April 7, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/39783-1
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In this interview Wolfgang Panofsky discusses topics such as: his time at the High Energy Physics Laboratory at Stanford University; Stanford Linear Accelerators Center (SLAC); Atomic Energy Commission (AEC); Edwin McMillan; Burton Richter; running a physical laboratory; Luis Alvarez; the Cold War; University of California, Berkeley; teaching and setting up research projects for graduate students; serving on the President's Science Advisory Committee; Robert Marshak; McCarthyism and House Committee on Un-American Activities; Paul McDaniel; Vietnam War's effect; working with Chinese physicists; Frank Oppenheimer; Department of Energy; safety measures in the laboratories; arms control; Marvin Goldberger; JASON group; Richard Garwin; John Holdren.
So we thought, just for this afternoon, to just pick out a piece that we could talk about. So what we first thought would be the evolution of a program committee, the idea of a program committee, and then moving forward into a more formal thing, starting from your time at HEPL [High-Energy Physics Laboratory] when it was a Stanford-run laboratory. There was no notion of formal procedure for outside experimenters. And so maybe if we could just begin with thinking about the monster and thinking about how experiments would be proposed and go from there, and then at the end maybe we’ll talk about this for about half an hour or so, and then at the end we can talk about what we want to do tomorrow and get some ideas from you if you have things you want to talk about.
As you know, when SLAC was originally proposed, there was a great deal of tension about the nature of the proposed laboratory. On the one extreme, remember the Physics Department felt that we should continue tradition of having SLAC, despite of its size, be simply an instrument of the Stanford Physics Department with preferred access to that. On the other extreme, where people, particularly Leon Lederman, from who then became director of Fermilab who said we should create a “truly national laboratory”, meaning that it should be disconnected from Stanford and that an independent contracting body should be established. What we decided to do was something in between. I, actually, made what turned out to be a perfunctory attempt to create a western university association by contacting people, both at Caltech and at the University of California at Berkeley, and got, essentially, the answer from both of them, “We are busy. Run your own laboratory.” So we decided to set it up as a university contract. At the same time, I personally was so were essentially most other people that because of the size and large investment, it had to be available to the total community.
On the other hand, I also felt quite strongly that the principles of access really didn’t make all that much difference. That in fact the technology really forced what had to be done, because the technology of electron accelerators is such that the traditional approach to doing particle physics, namely of assembling, essentially, components — magnets, detectors and so forth — into various experiments, simply wasn’t going to work here, and that one needed dedicated facilities, which took a long time to construct. Therefore, independent of what the formal administrative structure should be, we decided that we had to create very strong, inside talent to design central facilities. Now, as you probably know, that approach had not become universally accepted, because in the modern colliding beam facilities, you do need central facilities, and that the construction of such central facilities takes a lead time comparable to the construction of the basic accelerators storage in itself but, at that time, that was far from being generally established. In fact, my own experience was that when the PS turned on, and, at that time, there was literally no preparation that the machine would actually work. And when it actually started getting a beam, everybody scrambled around trying to scrounge existing facilities, detectors and whatever and threw some experiments together, and I became strongly convinced that that simply wasn’t going to work in an electron machine simply because of the fact that the intensity was large, the duty-cycle was bad, the soft electromagnetic processes would dominate the total reaction rate. So it would take a much more deliberate approach for designing experiments. So irrespective as to how you actually allocate experiments and running time, we concluded that, (a) we need a strong in-house staff to get these central facilities underway, because there simply wasn’t enough interest in the outside community in electron physics to twist people’s arms to get to work to design such facilities.
At the same time, we also recognized that simply having the local staff decide who gets running time and all that would be totally unacceptable, so we proposed, basically, two committees, a two layer structure, namely the Program Advisory Committee, which was basically a group partially composed of local inmates and partially of outside physicists, but reporting to the Director. The main restriction was that the Director would have to make decisions in the presence of the committee. That means he didn’t have the right to say, “Thank you for your advice. Go away and I decide “in camera” what should be done.”
The other body was the scientific policy committee. Now, it was designed not to report to the Director but to report to the president of the university. And that committee’s charter provided that the president of the university would have to forward that part of the committee’s recommendation — that which related to the accessibility by outside users to the Director of Research of AEC at the time. Initially, the president forwarded the entire report. Once, I don’t remember when, he only transmitted the part relating to outside access and immediately got a nasty letter back from Paul McDaniel, from the Atomic Energy Commission, saying, “Where the devil is the rest of it?” So as a practical matter of the entire SBC report gets forwarded on to DOE.
Are you saying it currently gets forwarded to DOE or it got forwarded to the AEC even then?
Essentially, he tried to forward only that part, which according to the rules, dealt with outside access and did not deal with the general review of the laboratory. Even though the rules provided for that, the Director of Research of AEC didn’t like it. With the benefit of hindsight, it appears to me, that despite of all this differentiation between proprietary laboratory, national laboratory, “truly national laboratory”, and we were actually called a “national facility,” so sure, we were not a national laboratory, the practical procedures are really now, essentially, all the same the whole world over. I mean that de facto in all the big accelerator laboratories, people write, proposals; committees of outside scientists review them; the inside staff review them as to the demand the proposals put on the local resources; and then the director makes a decision. So irrespective of the formal setup, it is in fact the technical nature of the situation would pretty well control that. For instance, in the early days of SLAC, some of the experiments weren’t really experiments, namely that a small group put things together and did experiments, and those proposals were considered by the committee. To a minor extent that is still true, but by and large, now, a large fraction of the proposals are simply for allocating running time and local resources on existing facilities to various collaborations. And again, that turned out to be the same the whole world over to some extent simply because of the technical nature of the thing.
So it turns out that the initial discussion about Program Advisory Committee, Scientific Policy Committee, and all that, while sort of clarifying the situation, actually didn’t lead to any consequences of decision-making about how the outside community has access, which differs in any significant way from that practice in any of the other large accelerator laboratories.
And when did that conversation to setup that sort of formal structure take place?
That was setup at the time of the time of the negotiation of the original contract, so I guess that would mean 1961 or somewhere thereabouts. So that provision of the Scientific Policy Committee, I think, is written in the contract. The Program Advisory Committee, I think, is not written in the contract, although, I’m not sure about that.
I think that’s right. I think the Program Advisory Committee is not in the contract.
Is not in a contract. Okay.
Was there any thought as to the composition of these committees in terms of, you said there were some local inmates, and some outside —
Well, the PAC is a mixture of local people and outside people, usually about 50/50.
Was that something that just happened to be 50/50?
No. We talked about it, but I basically decided that, and also some theorists and some experimentalists, and also the process involved that when proposals are received, we firstly have the local technical staff make a resource analysis so that the committee knows whether they’re basically allocating the crown jewels or whether they’re basically allocating trifles I mean, because usually the proponents usually aren’t all that well-informed about really how much of a drain on local resources that proposal would imply. And the director certainly doesn’t either, so therefore, an analysis is needed.
So that was something that was also conceived of from the beginning?
That’s right. That was conceived here by us, and it worked fairly well. It’s rather an old reasonably controversial I might add, and to some extent, like the plague, it has spread to all other high-energy laboratories, partially because central facilities have become the rule rather than the exception. Also, at the put on them…
Who and how did you get these folks to serve on these committees, especially the outside?
I don’t know: we had no systematic process. I mean we didn’t ask for applications. It was mainly by the grapevine and telephone calls and arm twisting and giving them a party and all that. I don’t remember. We didn’t have much trouble. I mean it’s not a major drain on their time. I mean we never even thought about paying any consulting fees or anything of that kind. We paid their expenses, and, like I said, give them a party. And also, it’s basically an offer you can’t refuse, in general, in a sense because if a senior member of the community gets asked to serve on one of these things, firstly, it’s a form of flattery, and it’s also thought of as a certain sense of duty. So you actually get very few refusals when you ask people to serve on these committees, unless there are outright conflicts in time.
And did these people feel like they had some power? Because the way you’ve described it, it sort of all came down to the director anyway. So did they feel like they had some power? Did they feel like they wished they had more power or were there complaints?
There were jokes made, more than complaints. I mean people sort of made jokes, “alright, fine, but ultimately you do what you want to do anyway.” At the same time, I think they felt they were having a real input, but the ultimate decision was made by the lab. For one thing, because ultimately there were so many resources, so many hours and all that available. The committee cannot allocate things which don’t exist, so they have to obey… they are constrained by the resources available, and the lab tells them that. So therefore, right from the very beginning, the committees can’t invent a new program for the laboratory from scratch. I mean they simply don’t have the input, the analysis for that. I mean in those days we did do much less than what’s now much more prevalent today. I mean there wasn’t much pressure, not even much thought of having long-range planning documents, 10-year facility plans, and so forth and so forth. There was much less of that kind of thing. There wasn’t much more than going from one step to the next.
Do any individuals stand out in your mind in those first few program committees or people that you wanted to get who ended up not serving?
Not particularly. Roger Hildebrand, as I recall, was at The University of Chicago. We got him as the first head of the Scientific Policy Committee, I believe, and he took it very seriously. And we established rotating, overlapping terms and all that, but I think —
Was that after the lab had already started? When did you establish the terms? After it had already started running, ‘65? ‘65 or before then?
I don’t remember when exactly we did that. That, I think, is available in the record.
You mentioned about Lederman wanting SLAC to be a truly national laboratory. In the early years, SLAC is just starting up, and then Fermilab is happening, which Wilson did explicitly try to make a truly national laboratory. So can you maybe talk about the interaction there between the kind of program committee that was here operating at SLAC and the kind that Wilson was setting up and your interaction with that?
Frankly, I don’t remember exactly. Maybe you know it better whether at that time what kind of committee structure Fermilab had. I served on the URA [University Research Associates] Board of Trustees for a while, but I confess I don’t recall at that time ever having any discussion about the committee advisory structure. So frankly, I don’t know.
So if you served, did you feel like it was working pretty much the same way at SLAC even though they characterize it as something different?
Yes. I came to the conclusion that despite of all the discussions about the official terminology that the de facto working arrangements were really very similar at Fermilab as at SLAC. The main difference being, I think the large difference, was that in the beginning when SLAC started, there was acquiescence by the outside community for electron physics, but there wasn’t any enthusiasm and there wasn’t certainly any feeling of commitment by anybody outside the community. I mean there were not people beating down the doors, “Can I build something there? Can I join the experiments?” and so forth. So, quite a part of the formal structure, the responsibility for getting things going was ours. I mean there weren’t any people beating down the doors and saying, “Can I join you? Can I help you? Can I participate at this and that and the other?” So we initially felt a strong need for developing a very capable in-house staff.
Now, the main transition, if you look at the statistics of outside users, inside users, and all that stuff, it was dominated by technology largely. For instance, when Luis Alvarez from Berkeley decided to transfer his 72-inch bubble chamber to SLAC and convert it into 82- inch bubble chamber, we suddenly became the world’s largest producer of bubble chamber pictures, and we suddenly acquired an absolutely enormous user community in terms of bubble chamber analysts, and that was not a matter of policy or principle or “truly national”. Not “truly national”. It was simply the fact that there existed in bubble chamber community all over the world at the time partially because of the success of the bubble chamber enterprise of the laboratories. But then because of the high repetition rate at SLAC, the transfer of the bubble chamber from Berkeley to here amplified the production rate of bubble chamber pictures by an order of magnitude. So we essentially saturated for a while, sort of, the analysis capacity of the world, and our formal user statistics suddenly flipped from inside dominated to outside dominated, but that had nothing to do with politics or policy or plotting or whatever; it had to do with the technology of the situation.
I want to go back to something you said about the electron physics, which I think is a wonderful point about not having people beating down the doors of electron physics. You’ve talked elsewhere about there being, maybe not so much tension between electron positron, but also perhaps characterizing that as a tension between east and west coast for different reasons.
Partially that. But it was simply a fact that even though the electron synchrotron — at the time when SLAC started, the most productive electron machine was the electron synchrotron of Ed McMillan at Berkeley, and then there was a betatron at Illinois and other places. But by and large the productivity in particle physics… there was a CEA [Cambridge Electron Accelerator]. But the productivity in particle physics was certainly dominated by proton machines between the Berkeley machine and the Brookhaven machines. Most of the user community was interested in that, and the CEA had some problems. The electron scattering activities at the CEA were beset with some technical problems; not much happened. The so-called bypass at the CEA had relatively low luminosity. If you went to the High Energy Physics, the annual Rochester Conferences, the electron machines just didn’t contribute all that much, and so the advent of SLAC really made a real sea-change in that. And again, that was not necessarily a plot. That was simply a matter of technological opportunity and the high data rate, and the fact that we did develop good instruments and all the rest of it.
So you don’t feel that there is a preference for instance to work more east of the Mississippi on the machines rather than [inaudible; overlapping voices]?
I don’t think so. I don’t think it was an east/west effect. I mean there was, of course, an east/west competition. When Brookhaven was started, there was a big competition between the Brookhaven machines and the Berkeley anti-proton machine, and the Atomic Energy Commission was very much conflicted about that. But the east/west competition, in my view, was mainly competition among the proton machines; it was not correlated with the electron-proton question.
No, the origin of the electron machines here was simply the gradual evolution of the Linear Accelerators starting out with Bill Hansen’s initial Mark I machine, to the Mark II machine, Mark III machine, to SLAC. For instance, other than the sort of perfunctory question “let’s build it in my abandoned railroad tunnel in the state of Washington,” there was never any pressure from the scientific community to say, “Yes, you’re building a great machine, but let’s build it in my part of the world rather than your part of the world.” There was nothing like that. Simply because, a), there was not a real tradition of major scientific results; and secondly, because the witchcraft was basically the local radio frequency technology, microwave technology, and most particle physicists were not really that involved in the microwave technology. So I think I’m saying it correctly in saying that the atmosphere in which we lived was basically one of acquiescence rather than a real tug-of-war as to where to put it.
Did the other laboratory directors envy you your… ?
Well, you are to talk to them. I’m not aware of that particularly. I had very good personal relations with Ed McMillan. I had good personal relations with Bob Wilson. We talked a lot. And I visited Brookhaven reasonably frequently. But envy, I think, was sort of a non-existing topic of discussion. But you have to remember that in the beginning of SLAC the science budget was expanding at a fairly high rate, so simply the problem of how to allocate a fixed resource was not in the atmosphere, but yet we were in the ambience of a growing resource.
Well, how did that work? I mean for the proton machines there was certainly a tug-of-war over the AGS for example. That was happening about this same time.
That’s right. There was definitely a tug-of-war about AGS and the bevatron and then, of course, there was a famous Box Top Competition. It was called the Box Top Competition because at that time grocery stores were—basically, you took a Box Top, but you got an award if you got the right number or something. I don’t remember how it worked, but it was called the Box Top Competition where the AEC decided there should be one, not-national machine in the east, and then Princeton and the CEA basically competed for the eastern machine. And that competition finally got resolved by giving the machine to both rather than making it — The AEC was essentially unable to make a decision, and so both the Princeton-Penn Accelerator and the CEA were both simultaneously, essentially, created. Yeah, that was called, colloquially, the Box Top Competition, which decided not to be a competition.
That was certainly different budget times if the decision is to build both.
That’s right. They finally said, “The devil with it. Let’s build them both.”
But that didn’t happen with respect to the larger proton machine.
No. Well, to some extent, it happened there too. I mean after all, the bevatron and AGS were both approved. There was some argument about energy and size, but there was certainly no argument, “Should there be a bevatron or an AGS?” You probably know the history better than I do.
Well, I was just curious about it, because in this sort of largess that you’ve described of resources, it seems like there was still quite a bit of competition for the next large machine.
Well, that’s right. No. I was involved at that time on some of the so-called GACSAC committees and several others. The one machine which was actually turned down was the MURA machine, which was a high intensity, where basically their argument was to push the intensity frontier rather than the energy frontier. That was not funded. But the east/west competition got settled, essentially, both and the Stanford machine really had no direct competition, and there wasn’t really much of an argument whether to build the Stanford machine or something else. There was an argument whether to build the Stanford machine, and I don’t know if you want to talk about that, but the original flaps about President Eisenhower and all that where Eisenhower endorsed the Stanford machine and then the joint committee was not consulted and was angry, and then Stanford got approved together with the Hanford power machine. You know about that?
Well, you’ve talked about it previously.
Yeah. Basically that particular exercise didn’t involve the particle physics community at all. That was pure politics. It involved Congress and the Presidency and the budget people, but it had nothing to do with competition among particle physicists. I mean the Hanford-Stanford business was that Hanford was a plutonium production reactor operating at relatively low temperature, and therefore was not an efficient electric power producer because of the thermodynamic efficiency being low. But the Democrats wanted as a demonstration of public power, they wanted to have an electric power adjunct added to the Hanford plutonium production reactor. Since Eisenhower had supported, on the advice of his President’s Science Advisory Committee, had supported SLAC, it became a Republican accelerator, so essentially it resulted to be a political pairing. But the Hanford thing had nothing to do with particle physics. There was just traditional log rolling in Washington.
To go back to our thread of the Program Committee. Maybe you can talk a little bit about the difference between what the Program Committee had in front of them for the linac [linear accelerator] which has plenty of secondary beams available, and then when the storage ring and the collider comes online, it’s a different…
That’s right. The situation was quite different. When SPEAR started, I took a very strong position that there should be two interaction regions, and Burt Richter was, of course, the original, I guess, inventor of the solenoid that has now become sort of the standard detector of almost all colliding beam machines, namely having a big solenoid surrounding a group of detectors inside. I felt very strongly, but probably wrongly, that that should not dominate the storage ring, so I insisted that the second interaction region be dedicated to more traditional, small experiments.
So SPEAR had two interaction regions. One had Burt’s Mark I detector, and then the other interaction region under the advice of the Program Committee had a succession of experiments. One was an experiment by G. K. O’Neill of Princeton University to look at secondary pions and kaons of energy higher than could be resolved with the general purpose Mark I detector, and then the other one was an experiment by Bob Hofstadter, using sodium iodide detectors focusing on gamma ray production by zero production.
It turns out, in retrospect, neither of those — I was wrong basically. I mean the productivity of that second interaction region was poor even though we allocated different experiments to different proponents. The G. K. O’Neill experiment was basically a failure because even though it fulfilled its promise that it could detect energies above the energy accessible to the Mark I detector, but the interaction rate at those high-energy secondaries was so low that it essentially produced no results, and the same thing was true of the Hofstadter sodium iodide detector because the solid angle of the sodium iodide detector was so small relative to the big solenoid detectors that the data rate was not very useful.
So because of a fundamentally low data rate in colliding beam machines, Burt Richter’s idea of essentially recording everything that happens in a general purpose detector with lots of different things and then sorting it out off-line turned out to be the right approach. That means in colliding beam machines you have to be greedy and basically log everything that happens rather than having dedicated experiments which are dedicated to look at a small solid angle with specialized tools. So that was sort of an interesting thing. But the Program Advisory Committee endorsed the idea of having two interaction regions and one dedicated to the general purpose Mark I and the other interaction region dedicated to a variety of “smaller proponents” excepting the smaller proponents didn’t contribute much physics.
Just a point of clarification. The Mark I area, the first interaction region was then no longer controlled by the program committee?
Oh no, it was controlled a little bit by the program committee in the sense but it was really pro-forma because the detector was there. The collaboration which was using that detector, there were two experimental groups which was a mixture of inside and outside people using that detector. Of course a classical example was Martin Perl’s Nobel Prize discovery of the tau where he basically did an offline experiment. He didn’t use any running time. He just decided — with two graduate students — to spend time to basically mine the tapes for e mu coincidences which were above accidental incidences and thereby discovered the tau plus, tau minus channel which independently decayed into e plus and e’s and mus. That was a classical example where a great discovery was made, and I don’t really remember what, if anything, the Program Committee had to do with that because he didn’t take any running time, he mined the tapes. I don’t remember whether the Program Committee was involved in giving him permission to mine the tapes or whether that was simply something which we did.
The Program Committee is then looking at both the experiments on the linac and the second interaction region. That’s the same Program Committee.
And you talked about that on the linac, since people weren’t beating down the door, it wasn’t that difficult.
That’s right. We had of course the Mixed Program of Colliding Beam Experiments and Stationary Target Experiments, and the stationary target experiments were various forms of electron scattering experiments, different energy regions, elastic, inelastic and all of that. Then there were separate dedicated secondary beam experiments. There was a separate experiment on the charge asymmetry and muon production. Then there were the David Leith’s multi-spark chamber experiments. There was the whole bubble chamber business. There were the rapid cycling bubble chamber experiments and the 82-inch bubble chamber experiments. There were a large variety of things quite separate from the question of the interaction regions and the colliding beams. The Program Committee had their hands full, and there was a major overload then of proposals relative to the running time so they had to make some quite difficult decisions.
How did that change the types of interactions? All of a sudden they had much more difficult decisions than they had had before. And more of them.
Well, yes. They had a lot of difficult decisions because of proposals. Once SLAC showed that really exciting physics flowed from the place, there was a much larger variety of proposals, both inside and outside. They had a lot of conflicting — I mean, there was not an overload by a factor of three or four, but overload maybe of something like a factor of two in terms of available time. So it was not a super overload, but it was an overload because all of the various experiments were not compatible. There were a lot of difficult decisions to be made. But in most cases, they were not all that complicated and contentious.
Can you describe the process of a meeting?
The process of a meeting was as it is today where basically first a proposal comes in and then the in-house staff tells the committee the results of the resource analysis, and then the proponents give a slide show about what they want to do.
I'm assuming, but I want to check. Do the proponents get the resource analysis also?
The proponents are also in on that.
Oh, yes. There’s nothing secret about it. In fact, the proponents usually work with the — [break in tape] — EFD, the Experimental Facilities Department whose job it was both to give engineering support to outside groups who were largely physicists but didn’t have much technical support staff or technician staff, but they would also do the resource analysis. So the proponents would work with the EFD people to do the rough estimates about how many bodies would be needed to get the experiments going and to man the shifts and blah blah blah and all of that. It’s not that you have a proposal, throw it over the transom and then…
Right. And hope and keep your fingers crossed.
And hope. But the proponents would work with the EFD folks or the business people to get the resourcing together. As I remember, there was no argument between the proponents and the in-house resource people as to saying how many bodies it would take to do this and that and the other. So the facts were fairly well there. Basically all the Program Advisory Committee had were the limits: namely the limits of dollars effectively, which defines how many people and how much money and time, running time. We worked very hard to make things compatible. Since the accelerator has a repetition rate which is sometimes higher than the experiments need, and we had the electronics for the pulse by pulse business, so funding the bubble chamber experiments didn’t take any running time in the conventional sense because they only needed such a small fraction of the pulses. So the running time question was only relevant for either the storage ring experiments or the experiments which used counters or streamer chamber. With the streamer chamber, for instance, you trigger on the events, but you run at higher repetition rate.
I’d like to ask about if this seems like a good point to ask what was the Program Advisory Committee’s role in the decision to put a port onto SPEAR for the synchrotron radiation? Were they involved in that decision?
No, not initially. The decision to establish the synchrotron radiation business was fundamentally pretty much done locally. That means that several professors from the Applied Physics Department came to the laboratory and said, “We want to do synchrotron radiation,” so we discussed that. Then we agreed it was a good idea, but again, this is now somewhat controversial. They obtained support from the National Science Foundation so that their proposals did not compete financially in any way with the particle physics. Initially, they were operating parasitically, so they didn’t compete in terms of running time either. So initially, it was just the decision “do it.”
Their proposals didn’t go to the SLAC Program Advisory Committee?
No. Initially not.
It was completely separate?
Not only that, again, this was a decision I made, which in benefit of hindsight may well be wrong. We decided we would like to remain a single function laboratory, so we made a big point of the fact that the synchrotron radiation laboratory was initially called the Synchrotron Radiation Program. It was not part of SLAC, but it was supported by the National Science Foundation financially. It reported in the Stanford bureaucracy to the Vice Provost for Research so it had a different reporting channel in the internal bureaucracy of the university. Now the reason I felt strongly about it, which was probably, in the benefit of hindsight, probably unnecessary and it was later changed, was we felt that being a single function laboratory, supported by a single part of AEC /ERDA / DOE, that they would have a real responsibility for the help that one part of the government would identify their interest with our interest, so that by having a single source of support, a single program, that it would be identity of interest and no tendency in case of financial shortness of resources to say, “Why don’t you get your support from somebody else?” Because there was no “somebody else.” See, in the beginning, I was somewhat troubled by the image, which maybe you view somewhat negative, of the Argonne National Laboratory, which was highly multi-function and Oak Ridge, which was highly multi-function, and it was always a constant hassle as to which part of the government would support what. By keeping one sort of single function — we had sort of a monogamy principle.
Monogamous relationship with AEC.
It was one division of AEC. And therefore, since, after all, the scientific purpose of synchrotron radiation was to spread all over the different sciences; that would cease. Well, that turned out to be probably more of a principle than a reality. Later, under Burt’s directorship, SSRL became a division of SLAC. Frankly I don’t think, in the benefit of hindsight, that it didn’t make a heck of a lot of difference.
When did SSRL start becoming DOE funded? Because they are DOE Basic Energy Sciences, right? Was that under your watch?
Not under — if I remember, during my tenure, I think that we were all NSF-funded. I may be wrong about that, but I think that’s correct. Of course, even now they are now DOE-funded but on a different division, of course.
Basic Energy Science.
BES. And now also NIH. The single function sort of ideal which I had, just by the necessity, simply became technologically obsolete. It was essentially overtaken by events
Did you know that Zinn [Argonne] had threatened to resign many times over having a separate entity on his campus when they wanted to build the large accelerator there?
It’s very interesting.
I didn’t remember that.
He threatened to resign?
This happened before you, this is in the ‘50s. So I wondered if you were taking from that experience…
Well, it did happen before me, but I was involved with some of that when I was in the President’s Science Advisory Committee, I mean some of these conflicts. But I didn’t know that he actually threatened to resign over that.
I mean more than one resignation letter. I was just curious whether that had influenced what you then did here later, but you didn’t know about it.
No. I didn’t even know about it. I mean, I knew there was controversy about it, but I didn’t know that he threatened resignations or that it was a big flap.
Well, of course, he never said specifically that that’s why he was threatening resignation.
You know the history of the ZGS. When Fermilab got started, there was of course a big question whether Fermilab should be at Argonne or should be a new entity. Wilson, you probably know it better than I do, basically felt quite strongly that he didn’t want in any way to have his freedom of action limited by the tradition and old folks and baggage of a preexisting laboratory. I think I'm describing that more or less correctly. He wanted to start from a green field and with his own vision and his own style. Wilson was a great protagonist of — he always used the words “my style” in his vocabulary very strongly, so he didn’t want to be bound by the preexisting tribal customs of another laboratory.
Maybe this is a good point to stop today.
Is this the kind of thing that you wanted?
This is great.
We are sort of going all over the place.
Let me ask you first if there are subjects and topics that you would like over these next two days to get —
I looked at your list. Let’s see, in your list.
We did talk about some of those today. They came out.
I think some of the things which — you’ve seen this list. [Reading from list] “Evolution of relationship between physicist, engineers, and technology at SLAC,” that’s a local problem: I'm happy to talk about that. I'm happy to talk about affirmative action. “SLAC’s role as trainer of physicists”, I don’t have anything to say. It happens but it was not any kind of deliberate thing. “What a Nobel Prize means for a laboratory”, I don’t have much to say other than saying it’s a good thing.
(laughs) The more the better, right?
“The relations with AEC,” I'm happy to talk about. “Effect of changes of agencies AEC, ERDA, DOE,” I can dismiss with one sentence — it didn’t make any difference to the first approximation. “Relations meeting with other AEC lab directors, lab director’s club,” I'm happy to talk about it, but there wasn’t much. That single purpose/multi-purpose we just talked about. We can talk more. “National competition/collaboration” we talked about. “Particle physics status during the Cold War:” I’m not sure what you’re talking about. There wasn’t much impact, but we can talk about it. “Electrons versus proton physics in various spheres.” We already talked some about. “The effect of the rise of the safety culture,” I can talk about that: I have some strong views on that subject. “Changes and major concerns of that time,” we can talk about. In the National Competition Collaboration I'm happy to talk about. “Present day arms-control issues:” the trouble with that is that it’s a huge topic, and I can pontificate for 15 sessions. I don’t know whether you want to include that or not. “Tensions between crazy work hours, traveling and being a father” — my private life, I can talk about that if you want to, but it would be short.
That’s okay. It seems like the safety culture is something you’d very much like to dwell on and the international?
Yes. That’s right.
Were there topics that you didn’t see on there that you’d hoped that we would talk about?
No. I think that’s certainly fine.
There was something that you mentioned to me earlier that we kind of didn’t talk about which was to go back to the ‘50s and ‘60s. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
I think maybe for tomorrow what we might start with is to talk about going through the ‘50s and ‘60s and early ‘70s, and we’ll get as far as we can. Rather than talk about the physics specifically that was happening here which you’ve talked about in other interviews, let’s try to widen the gaze a little bit and look at the culture, what was going on in the wider culture of physics at SLAC and in relation to —
I talked about the Berkeley years in other interviews.
This would be starting at HEPL and then up and through the ‘60s and SLAC. There are several events, national and international, which really changed landscape in the ‘50s: Stalin’s death, the 1955 Geneva Conference —
There was a first big break in the Iron Curtain in 1956. It was the first trip High-energy physics; it really was pioneering, in some respect, in penetrating the Iron Curtain. There was a first visit in 1956 where Luis Alvarez went and I guess Bob Marshak went and I went.
Let’s save this until tomorrow.
Yes, we can talk about that. It was so interesting because, among other things, we had to make an unscheduled landing on the way to Russia. We had to make an unscheduled landing because the plane didn’t work. We landed in Estonia, which was part of the Soviet Union at the time, and they didn't know what to do with us. Here, we were honored guests, but they were totally unprepared as to what to do with a strange animal suddenly arriving on their territory.
Did they have the parts you needed to fix the plane or was that even a problem?
It had to be flown in. It was an SAS plane, and something went wrong with it, and we made a landing there, and we were confined to the airport. Everybody was sort of pussyfooting around, trying to figure out what to do with us. I mean, they were perfectly friendly, but they were confused.
We’ll look forward to hearing more about it tomorrow.
That sounds like a great place to start tomorrow