Edward Gerjuoy - Session I

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ORAL HISTORIES
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Interviewed by
Greg Good
Interview date
Location
Convention Center, Baltimore, Maryland
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Interview of Edward Gerjuoy by Greg Good on 2012 April 1, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/40682-1

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Edward Gerjuoy ws born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 19, 1918, of a Romanian immigrant mother and Russian immigrant father. He attended Thomas Jefferson High School, along with other classmates who became well-known physicists. He studied at City College of New York. He was minimally involved in the Young Communist League. He completed the Ph.D. in physics under J. Robert Oppenheimer at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1942. Gerjuoy discusses his teachers, professors, and fellow students. He describes the classroom atmosphere, the personalities, and the courses. Gerjuoy, who learned no calculus in high school, became a theoretical physicist, specializing in quantum mechanics. During World War II, Gerjuoy worked as a civilian scientist on anti-submarine warfare, ultimately leaving a Sonar Analysis Group under Lyman Spitzer. After the war, he taught at the University of Southern California, New York University, and the University of Pittsburgh. He also worked at Westinghouse Research Laboratory, General Atomic Laboratory, and directed a plasma research group at RCA Laboratories in New Jersey. At age 56, Gerjuoy decided to take a sabbatical and started a degree in law. While on leave from the University of Pittsburgh, he served as one of three judges on the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board. He nevertheless remained active in the American Physical Society, especially on the Committee on the International Freedom of Scientists (CIFS) and the Panel on Public Affairs (POPA). He played a role in the Wen Ho Lee case regardin gnational security matters at Los Alamos. He was editor-in-chief of Jurimetrics Journal of Law, Science, and Technology for six years. His interest in recent years relates to quantum computing.

Transcript

Good:

Today is April 1, 2012. I’m Greg Good. I will be conducting this oral history interview.

Gerjuoy:

I am Edward Gerjuoy. As you know, I am presently an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Pittsburgh. I obtained my Ph.D. in physics from the University of California at Berkeley under the supervision of Robert Oppenheimer in 1942. I think that’s a good start.

Good:

That’s a good start. Okay. So this interview, Ed, will be a life interview. We won't get it all done today, I don't think, but we’ll get a good start at it. I know that you have this one article that just came out last year in Physics in Perspective that’s a partial transcription of another interview that was done with you. We’ll try to go beyond that interview, because obviously we’re going to repeat some things that are in there. But we’ll try to make this the interview of record that people will come to when there’s a historian interested in this.

Gerjuoy:

Very well.

Good:

So let’s start with your birth, your parents, your immediate family, your childhood.

Gerjuoy:

All right. Okay. I was born actually in Brooklyn on Eastern Parkway (it’s a big street in Brooklyn) on May 19, 1918. I’ll tell you about my parents. My mother came from Romania when she was eight years old. She came here shortly before the war, I think. My father is from Russia. He was near Odessa. He came here in 1905. He was very uncommunicative about his past to me, but I believe he came because he got in trouble with the czar. There was a revolution of some kind, attempted revolution in 1905. As I’ve mentioned, he came here actually in the company of a Gentile. My father is Jewish, and he came in the company of a Gentile named Anton. Anton was about 6’3” as I remember; my father was about 5’6”. But they came over here as brothers. When they got to Ellis Island, my father’s name in Russia was Gerjuoy, probably pronounced something like Gerzhoi. He was asked what his name was and he told them. The Ellis Island guy says, “Gerjuoy, Gerjuoy.” He says, “What kind of a name is that?” He says, “Are you Jewish?” My father says, “Yes.” He says, “All right. Your name is going to be Greenberg.” So my father came to this country as Abraham Greenberg. This other guy was coming over as his brother. They were on false passports. He came in as Anton Greenberg. The other guy was a Gentile, and in fact my father and he remained good friends until I was about ten years old, so I used to see him and I used to see his children. His children lived in a Gentile neighborhood and they were beaten up regularly because their names were Greenberg. [Laughter]

Good:

Do you know if Anton and your father had been involved in political activity together back in Russia?

Gerjuoy:

Well as I told you, my father just didn’t — I learned very little about him and his family. He had a younger brother whose name was Benjamin, and he actually was a Communist Party organizer in this country. There was some kind of radical — But my father was really… I mean whatever my father had had in his past, in this country he essentially refused to think about politics when I knew him. He got into the garment industry. He was very good; he was fast. But he spent his time playing bridge and chess and cards — he was very good at Pinochle — and he really spent his time that way.

My mother, who came over here younger, she spoke English with absolutely no accent. She had become a schoolteacher, and she was an elementary schoolteacher in a school in Brooklyn in Brownsville at the end of the New Lots Avenue line. She had married my father. I gathered, again, that my father had been married previously or something like that, but I learned nothing about this until relatively recently. I knew that my father had a younger sister who had died in the Triangle fire. You know about the Triangle fire? [I do.] Well, she had died in the Triangle fire. Anyway, I got a call from somebody named Hirsch in New York because HBO was making a documentary on the Triangle fire, and apparently a number of the victims are buried at Staten Island somewhere. He had gone over there and he had seen the name Gerjuoy, and he looked it up and he found me in Google. So he called me.

Good:

Right. There aren’t very many Gerjuoys!

Gerjuoy:

That’s right. He spoke to me and we talked and that was about it. He had a census record in 1910, I guess it was. The fire was 1911. He had a census record in 1910 showing where she lived. It was Diana, Dina Gerjuoy. I looked on this thing and to my astonishment, on the top my father was living there it said, and on the bottom my mother was living with her family, which I had never known before. They were living in the same building, and that’s obviously how they met! I had never learned that before. And not only that, there was another sister of my father’s who I had never heard of before — my father had never mentioned her. And another whole branch of my family who were living out actually in… well, one relation was living in Miami. She got in touch with me. I had never met any of them or heard about them before. So that was my father. He was very…

Good:

Very quiet about his past.

Gerjuoy:

Yes. So those relatives also had come over. Now what I can tell you, again, is this. In 1927, my father, my mother and I — I was my mother’s only child at that time. My younger brother is 11 years younger. We went to Europe, and my father was trying to get into the Soviet Union to visit his parents who were living near Odessa, and he couldn't get a visa. We spent the whole summer, he was trying to get a visa, and we finally left and had to come back. Then his parents were killed by the Germans when they came into Russia. So he never saw his parents and that was the end. But my mother, her family I was just involved in all the time. I knew all my cousins and so on.

Good:

Mm-hmm [yes]. So it was your mother’s family that you really associated with more.

Gerjuoy:

Yes. And in fact as I say, I was born on Eastern Parkway. But my memories start at a street in Brooklyn in Brownsville called Watkins Street where my mother and father were living in an apartment above a candy store that my grandfather and my grandmother on my mother’s side were using. Then my grandfather died and my mother moved from there. We bought a house on East 96th Street in Brooklyn, and my grandmother came to live with us there. As a matter of fact, I was sort of brought up by my grandmother, really; until I started elementary school, I was living with my grandmother. In fact, Yiddish was really a second language. I spoke Yiddish because she actually was illiterate, essentially, and she did not speak English, only a few words. So as I say, yes, I had my cousins. My mother had several brothers and their children. I knew them. My father’s family I didn't know at all.

Good:

You didn’t know at all. You said that your mother’s side of the family was from Romania?

Gerjuoy:

My mother’s side of the family was from Romania from a town called Vaslui, and my father as I say was near Odessa. It was a town called Aurieve. But the interesting thing is that when I went to Russia — I’ve been to Russia a number of times. The first time was in 1967. There was a conference there in Leningrad, and I was actually interested in sort of seeing where my father’s family were. But the first thing I want to tell you is when I got to Europe, when I got to Russia, they said to me, “Gerjuoy. What kind of a name is that?” [Laughter] They’d never heard of it!

Good:

So they said, “We’ll call you Greenberg.” [Laughter]

Gerjuoy:

Well, they didn't say that. But actually, there was a famous historian of the French Revolution called Leo Gershoy whom I knew about, and I actually once wrote him thinking he was a relative, and you know, I never got a response. But what I think is — I mean it’s not a bad guess — is that my father is somehow related to the Mongols or somebody who came and conquered that part of Russia, and that’s how he got his name. But it was a name which was unknown to the people in Leningrad.

Good:

Sure, sure. Yeah, especially if it’s from outside of the central part of Russia. [Yes.] Yeah, okay. So with these two sides of your family, both Jewish sides…

Gerjuoy:

Yes, both Jewish, both Jewish.

Good:

Were they devout? Did they go to temple?

Gerjuoy:

Well, this you see again. I do not think I had a very good upbringing. I was really quite unhappy as a child. I was very unhappy. My mother taught me to read, but I learned to read when I was three years old and I read voraciously. But I really had very few friends. My mother was extremely nervous. What happened was I was with my grandmother until I started elementary school at about six or so. But after one term there in my school in my neighborhood, she worried about me. She insisted on taking me with her to school in the elementary school where she taught in Brooklyn. So I’d get up early in the morning. We’d catch the subway with a five-station ride. We’d go there and we had to walk to the school. Then I’d stay there and I’d go into school there. Then I’d have to wait for her because she had things to do and I’d have to just sit around. Then we rode back together. Then when I was about eight years old, she insisted that I go to Hebrew school. She lit candles and things like that, which was not really devout. So I went to Hebrew school from the years 8 to 13. She wouldn't let me get in the street and play in the street the way other children did. So the result was I really had essentially no friends. I mean the only friends I made, and there weren’t too many, when I was in elementary school because I was a teacher’s pet because everybody assumed I was a teacher pet because my mother was a teacher in that school. But when I went to high school I started making some friends. But because I was in elementary school in that part of Brownsville, I went to junior high near there, and then I went to Thomas Jefferson High School, which is also in Brownsville, whereas there was a high school closer to where I lived in Brooklyn. So the result was that I really had no real friends and really was lonely. I was really quite lonely until I got into college, and then I started making some real friends.

Good:

Yeah. In high school, were you involved in any extracurricular activities?

Gerjuoy:

Yes. I was on the math team, and I actually was captain of the math team eventually. I came out third in the league. There was an interscholastic math league in New York, which is very good. In fact I think I’ve said this somewhere else, I don't know. But I would say that the most tense moments I can recall in my life were taking those math team contests. The way they were done, there was somebody in New York, a teacher somewhere, who would make up these problems. They were essentially algebra problems and maybe elementary calculus, some algebra, geometry sometimes. But you had a limited amount of time to do a problem. The teams were five people on a team. So there were two or three teams that would meet. We’d sit in rows. There would be teams, five seats one behind each other and so on. Then we’d all sit there, no pencils going. The problem would be written on the board and then told to watch, and then stop, and then we’d start. There were some problems you only had a minute or less, and all they cared about was the answer, just how to get the answer. As they say, working like that and getting it, just yes and no…

Good:

That’s high tension.

Gerjuoy:

Yes. And you had the answer. The thing was graded right there and they got the scores. And we learned. In fact, see, the last year I was in high school I was captain of the team, and we actually had sessions I was conducting. I had a book. Somewhere I have a book of all kinds of problems of that kind, which is a long time ago. But you learned all kinds of trick methods. For instance, one of the kinds of problem you got, you get some algebraic expression and you’re asked to simplify fractions and so on, and the answer would come out usually something simple. What you learned, what you were taught, for instance, is that if you saw you couldn't do it, it was too tough, put numerical numbers into the things you’re starting with, and they come out zero or one, you can guess that’s the simplification, and you write that as the answer because all that counted was the answer. Well now you got there. So that was, for instance, the kind of simplification you had. And there were other things like that. For instance, one-seventh is .142857, the seventh. It’s a repeated decimal and you get a numerical problem which involved these repeated decimal things. You learn, for instance, that so if you got a problem in which A, B, C, D, E, F, multiply G is C, D, E, F, A, B, you know that that’s 142857 because you had about a half minute to do the problem. That’s the kind of thing I learned. [Laughs]

Good:

Okay. Now you were, as we would say today, accelerated through school, weren’t you? [Yes.] You went through more quickly.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah, of course. Well, I started even a little late. As I say, I spent one semester or so near where I lived, and then actually the second semester I was out because I got the measles or something and my mother didn't want to let me go to school.

But my first semester, I remember two things very distinctly. First of all, as I say, I could read. I could read extremely well. So we started reading. They had some elementary book, and so you know, I was sort of going through the book reading it. And the teacher came along, and she saw me and said, “You know, you’ve got to keep the…” She brought the book back to the first chapter somewhere, put it there, and then she went away. Then she came back again, and she slapped my hand. She said, “No, no, you mustn’t do that.” [Laughter] So I don't know. But nothing really very much.

But at some time, I don't know exactly how much later, she told some story, something about Abraham Lincoln. I raised my hand and I said, “I know a story about Abraham Lincoln.” You know, first grade. She said, “Yes? What is it?” So I told a story about Abraham Lincoln, rather complicated; I’ve forgotten the story. She said, “Where did you learn that story?” and I said, “I read it in the book.” She said, “You read it in the book?” So she called me up and she got out a book and she said, “Read that.” So I zoomed away because I could read it, and then she had my mother come to school. And that’s when she learned that I could read and then I started to skip. As I say, I went to my mother’s school but I skipped, and I skipped a number of grades. And then actually I put my foot down and I refused to skip anymore because the kids in my classes got to be… I was not particularly big, and they were just so much older than I. So I guess I gained between two and three years. But I went to junior high school; that picked up a year. But anyway, I graduated high school at 15 and I graduated college at 19.

Good:

Yeah. Did you notice that in ways you were getting closer to the other students when you were in college? Because the age difference means a little bit less as you go on further.

Gerjuoy:

No, it means a little bit less. And also for some reason, by the time I got to college, first of all… Now I’d been on the math team, and the math team made trips to a number of other schools, particularly to Boys High. Boys High at that time was the center. Practically every year they won the intercollegiate championship. I got to know a number of the people in the Boys High class who became very, very good friends of mine. Several of them got into college when I did. One of them is still a lifelong friend. And in fact he was also 15; he was even a month younger than I at the time. His name is Sidney Borowitz. He was actually chancellor at NYU for a while and he also has a Ph.D. in physics. So anyway, I made some friends.

In fact, if you want to hear this story, I was rescued from my mother by my friend Isidore Hodes, who was also on the math team in Boys High but he was actually older. He lived in Brownsville actually, but he went to Boys High. What happened was that when I started going to college, as I say, City College is on 137th Street and Convent Avenue in the upper edge of Manhattan. I lived on the New Lots Avenue line near Livonia Avenue, so it was subway all the way. It was a good hour’s ride, close to an hour. I’d get up and go on the subway. And then my mother knew my schedule and she knew when my last class was, and if I didn't arrive home at what, an hour and 15 minutes or whatever it was afterward, she would start to worry. I mean she would. I’d come home and she’d be worried and we’d have a big argument. So I was doing this, and the other kids who we knew got to know this.

Now City College at that time had lockers, and there were at that time, maybe still, underground passages between all the buildings. The campus was much smaller then. Those passages were lined with lockers, and each kid got a locker when he came in and that was where he kept his things. You put your coat there and so on; there was nowhere else for it. And so four or five of us got to be good friends, and we all got to know each other’s locker combinations, and so really that’s what happened. Anyway, one day I got there and I was getting ready to go home, and I came to my locker and an entirely strange lock was on the locker. I couldn't get in, so I knew somebody had done something. So I started to look for my friends. I couldn't find a single one of them. I just couldn't find them, and I was just getting frantic. Finally after about three hours or so one of them turned up and I got my things, and I was furious, you know. But anyway, I knew I had to get home, and I rushed home. So when I got home, it was a good three hours or more late by the time I got home, and my mother had a fit. But I realized, it really dawned on me that the fit she had was no worse than if I’d come home 15 minutes late. [Laughter] So after that I stayed there and spent some time with my fellow students, and it was done deliberately. This guy Isidore Hodes did it; he arranged it. [Laughter] So that’s how I was rescued.

Good:

City College was very much a commuter’s college, wasn't it? Everyone lived at home.

Gerjuoy:

Oh yeah. At that time, there were absolutely no dormitories. No dormitories whatsoever. And you know, this was the Depression. If you haven't lived through that Depression, it’s hard to believe it. I didn't believe it myself in a certain sense, because my father was in the garment industry, but he was out of a job for some time. But he was really very good, and so apparently when people got hired, he was one of the people who got hired more often than not. And my mother, she was working as a schoolteacher, so she had a regular salary. So we were really pretty well to do. She had bought a house and was living in a house she owned. But my schoolmates, the friends I made, they were — And I remember I had an allowance when I was in college of $5 a month. That $5 was supposed to pay for my carfare back and forth — it was a nickel on the subway — and whatever I bought. That was it. And I usually brought some lunch from home. But I remember quite distinctly on very many occasions sort of giving money to my classmates so they could buy some lunch, because they were really broke. We had a cafeteria in the basement in the main building at City College. In the subway going back and forth, especially during the wintertime, the subway was just full of obviously homeless people who were just in the subway because they somehow got a nickel and they could ride back and forth all day and keep warm, because that was the only way. That was what it was like.

Good:

Yeah, tough times. [Yes, yes.] Very tough times. You’re not the first person I’ve interviewed who talks back to that time.

Gerjuoy:

I see, yes.

Good:

So that was what, 1933 to ‘37. Now were there any teachers in high school or at City College who struck you as especially important for you?

Gerjuoy:

Well, there was really nobody in high school. There was a teacher. I mean as I say, I was very good at math, and I learned algebra. Not calculus. Calculus I didn't have until I got to college. By the way, I never had a physics course in high school. I had chemistry but not physics. But in college, City College at that time, the students were marvelous. They didn’t have the SAT, but they had something like the SAT. The City College average was a good 100 points above, so it really was… And as a matter of fact, the year I got in (since we’re bragging, I’ll brag a little bit), I was third in the whole list. There was one boy who was first. He was a guy named Leo Saperstein. He was only 13½ when he got into City College. He and I became very good friends. In fact, he was the reason I went to Berkeley.

Good:

Mm-hmm [yes]. So there will be more Saperstein stories later.

Gerjuoy:

Maybe, I don’t know. Then the guy who was second was this guy Isidore Hodes who rescued me. So the class was terrific, as I say. The instructors were not. I had one or two good instructors. The one who made the most impression on me was Mark Zemansky. Mark Zemansky was there, and he wrote a book on thermodynamics as a matter of fact which is used quite a lot. In fact, when I took his class in thermodynamics, I did well in the course. The next year, he did his book and I did the problems to make sure and give him the answers. So I did and it was Zemansky who recommended that I go to Berkeley. But let me tell you about that.

See, when I got out of college, I did not want to go to graduate school. I wanted to get away from home. I just could no longer stand it. I mean there are other things I won't tell you about my life. [Laughs] I’ll tell you this. I will tell you this, that when my mother would tell me why it was that she didn't have another child until I was 11 years old — my brother is 11 years younger than I — she would always say it was because you were such a rotten kid. [Laughter] That was what she would tell me. Always would. I was the best kid in the world! [Laughs]

Anyway, I tried to get a job. And I got out of college. I had good grades. I was in Phi Beta Kappa and so on. At first I tried Bell Labs. Anyway, I could not get a job.

Good:

Was it because of your age or was it because you were Jewish?

Gerjuoy:

Well, it was both. I think it was both. But I’ll just tell you this one incident which is about when I gave up. There was an ad in the newspaper that Macy’s was hiring. I got up early in the morning and I got down there. Macy’s is located on 34th Street and Broadway. I got down there, and there was sort of a little park outside. The place was just absolutely swarming with people fighting to get to the application place. I never got to the application before it was closed. I mean that’s what it was like.

Good:

Right. A cruel joke, almost.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah. So I gave up. My friend Leo Saperstein had gone to Berkeley, and he and I corresponded. We had lots of typing letters back and forth, back and forth. He told me how beautiful it was out there and how great. He was a biology major; he got his degree in physiology. So when I finally decided I had to go back to graduate school because I can't stay at home anymore, I applied because of him really. I applied to Berkeley to get a teaching assistantship and I was denied. I did not get it. But I decided the hell with it, I’m just going to go. And so my mother gave me enough money to sort of get there and first pay the tuition. The tuition was $75 a term. So I paid that and I got out to Berkeley, as I say, and I went in to see Raymond Thayer Birge because all the entering graduates every year had to get their program approved. So I came in to see Birge, and he looked at me. The first thing he said to me was, “I told you not to come.” He had sent me a letter denying my TA application. He said, “I told you not to come.” Then the next thing he said to me, “I was born in Brooklyn.” [Laughter]

Anyway, although he did this, he actually was a decent guy. He was a strange guy. He gave me NYA, National Youth Administration funds. Now this was something done by Roosevelt, you see, that Obama did not do. I mean there was money poured into actually hiring people. There was the Civilian Conservation Corps. There was this and that. The National Youth Administration made money available for people for whatever it was. Anyway, I earned 40¢ an hour, 100 hours a month. I was doing calculations for a student of Oppenheimer’s named Joe Keller [Joseph Bishop Keller]. There’s another Joe Keller, but this also was Joe Keller. He was doing something involving collision theory which involved Coulomb wave functions. I was calculating Coulomb wave function for him using a Marchant calculator or a Monroe, and that’s all I had. I was grinding away at this 100 hours a month and he was using them. So I made $40 a month, and I could live on that. I mean I could live on $40. I rented a room for $10 a month. Actually, Saperstein and I were sharing a room. So I was actually living with him and I had enough money.

As a matter of fact, this is a true story — hard to believe. [Chuckles] But at the end of the first semester, I had gotten all A’s. I mean I did very well. Birge called me in again and said he was giving me a teaching assistantship, and my salary went up to $65 a month. I felt so rich I bought a car! [Laughter] I bought an old Ford. So that’s what happened.

Good:

So you said you did apply to Bell Labs for a job. [Yes.] How did you find out about that job and how did you do the application?

Gerjuoy:

Oh no. I mean I just went down there. I just went down.

Good:

Ah, okay. So you went to their human resources department or whatever it was. Yeah.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah, whatever it was. They had something in Manhattan at that time. I think this was before they went out to Bell Labs in New Jersey.

Good:

Okay. Yeah. So you actually could just go down by subway.

Gerjuoy:

Yes. That’s what I did. That’s what I did, yeah. I should also tell you this. See, I had not had a course in physics in high school. As I said, mathematics, and my intent was to be a math major. When I got to City College, I took a course in physics because it was required. City College had an enormous number of required courses. So I had to take physics and I took it my first semester there. Really, it was the first time I had a course where I was having trouble. Now I know it’s because I had the most miserable instructor and a terrible text! But I was having trouble, and I was so mad because I actually really worked at it, you know. Then at the same time, I was being a math major. The chairman of the math department was somebody named Reynolds [John Hamilton Reynolds?], and he discovered me. I talked to him. He said I would never get a job as a mathematician because I was Jewish. I mean he made it clear. “You should try something else.” I was not the only one. There were quite a few other people like that. One person, for instance, was Morton Hamermesh. Morton Hamermesh came from my high school. He was two years ahead of me. I knew Mort, and he became a physics Ph.D. for the same reason. Quite a few others. Actually, I had a joint math and physics major. I got them both. But that’s the only reason I became a physics major. First because when I started, I got so irritated that I wasn't able to do well in it, and then afterward I — yeah. And so that’s what happened.

Good:

Did you have the feeling that Reynolds was benign? He was trying to give good advice?

Gerjuoy:

Well at that time, I did. But as I say, I learned later. I didn't quite realize that he had done the same with too many others, and so yes. Oh, I can tell you. [Chuckles] And I should also tell you that Julian Schwinger got to college the same time I did, and Julian was my age. We were a few months apart. I didn't get to meet Julian the first year I was there, but the second year Julian and I were together in the class in intermediate mechanics which followed the first year in physics. So Julian was there, and I mean in a week it was clear to me and others that this guy was sort of a different class because he could do things. He just knew mathematics. For instance, I had never heard of a vector until I got to college, and we learned to take the cross product, you know what I mean? Julian, he knew Green’s theorem, he knew all kinds of things we didn’t know. So that’s what happened.

So I am now going to tell you my greatest claim to fame, my real claim to fame. The claim is that at the end of that course, I got an A and Julian got a B. [Laughter] That’s my claim to fame. The instructor in the course, as I say, he did it clearly because Julian didn't come to class. He worked at night. And in fact, Julian was doing this in all his courses at City College. So Julian was flunking out at the end of his sophomore year. He really was flunking out, and he got saved. I.I. Rabi tells how he saved him. But you know, he could do OK in math and physics courses. He didn't have to go to class. But in ancient history and modern history and drafting and all the other required courses he and I had to take, he couldn't get through without going to class. So that’s what happened.

Good:

And he was trying to.

Gerjuoy:

I don’t know if he was trying to or not, but he was certainly flunking out.

Good:

Okay. So that was in your sophomore year that you first got to know Julian Schwinger.

Gerjuoy:

Yes. It was the beginning of my sophomore year I was taking this course, after the first year in physics.

Good:

So you went parallel with each other the rest of the way through?

Gerjuoy:

No, no, no. That’s what I was going to say. He didn't last. It was either in the end of his sophomore year, or the beginning of his junior year, they dropped him. He was knocked out. And in fact the story about this is a story I tell. I give this talk about it. But what happened, this is all completely clear, because it’s told about in the biography of Rabi that’s written by John Rigden. What happened was…Rabi tells this. Rabi says he was trying to understand the Einstein, Rosen, Podolsky paper which had come out. He had a student, and this student as a matter of fact was an instructor or something at City College, and he had gotten to know Julian. Julian was doing calculations and writing papers when he was at this phase. So Rabi says, “And I called in this student, who was working with Rabi at City College. So I called him in. I said I’d like to discuss this Einstein paper with him.” And the student, this guy said, “Well, I have a young guy here with me.” So Rabi said, “Bring him in.” These are now Rabi’s words. He said, “We were discussing, and we came to sort of an end where we were puzzled. And then this boy pipes up and he solves the whole thing using Green’s theorem or something like that.” Rabi says, “What’s this? What’s this?” and he starts asking. He said, “I learned he was at City College and was doing poorly.” He was flunking out of City College. So I said, “How would you like to come to Columbia?” So Rabi says, “I got some information about him. I got his record, and I went to the dean or somebody who was in charge and asked, ‘Would you be willing to give this student a scholarship?’ The guy looks at me and says, ‘With this record, we won't even admit him.’” Rabi said to him, “Well, suppose he was coming for the football team.” [Laughter] Anyway, Rabi got him in, and Julian finished up and he graduated from Columbia.

Good:

Okay. So he finished his school just about the same time that you did anyway.

Gerjuoy:

Roughly. I may have finished a little ahead. I don’t really remember because Julian had a strange career also. He finished, he got his Ph.D., and then he came out to Berkeley and was Oppenheimer’s postdoc. Let’s see. He came out in 1940. Yes, it was 1940. He was there, sort of ‘40, ‘41, and he left then. He got an instructorship at Purdue. Yeah. So he was out that year and that year I wrote a paper with him and I worked with him, yeah. When he first came out to Berkeley actually, Oppenheimer was not very happy about him, and it’s known that Oppenheimer wrote to Rabi and said he was thinking of letting him go. Rabi wrote him back and said, “No, don't do it. He’s really very, very good,” and so on, and so Oppenheimer stayed with Julian.

Good:

Gave him a chance, yeah.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah, that’s right. And then afterward he got to like him.

Good:

Okay. So let’s go back to your move out to California. Now when you went out to California, you were sharing a room with your old friend.

Gerjuoy:

Yes, but I’ll tell you about that trip because I think that will interest you. I had learned to drive early. I went out to California with two other people. One was my friend Leo Saperstein, and the other one was somebody named Hank Gilbarg who was a brother of Dave Gilbarg’s. Dave Gilbarg had also been a math team guy from Boys High whom I’d gotten to know. Dave got his Ph.D. and ended up actually chairing the math department at Stanford for a while. But the three of us went out, and I was the only one of the three who could drive. And the owner of the car — I don't quite know how we did this, but he was a rogue driver. I forget; that’s not quite the word. And again, people couldn’t get jobs. He was essentially running a limousine service carrying people, but he was not licensed to do it. He couldn't do it. In fact, there were some states which we went around purposely because he had been through there too many times and they would have known him and gotten him. So we drove from New York to California. I was the only driver, except for the limo owner. And this guy’s name was Miles [chuckles]. We drove from New York to California in three days. That is no kidding. I remember he took the wheel. When we got to Salt Lake City, he got a phone call or a telegram or whatever that there was a job waiting for him in San Francisco to carry somebody up to Seattle, and he wanted it — he had to get there. He took the wheel and we drove through those mountains [laughs], I mean it was just really risking our lives. In fact, he’s supposed to take us to Berkeley, see, and when we got to San Francisco, he wanted to let us out there. We insisted no, he take us to Berkeley. We had originally paid for that, because otherwise we’d report him. So then he took us to Berkeley. [Laughter]

As a matter of fact, we started out and we each paid $15. He charged us $15 to go. But then when we got into the wilds of New Jersey, I’ll not forget this, he stopped. He was a big burly guy, too, and he said he was going to throw us out of the car, we had to give him more money. So we insisted, and we finally each of us gave him $5 more, so actually it cost us $20. Hank Gilbarg was really very reluctant. We finally got him to pay the extra $5. So when we got to Berkeley, Leo and I celebrated Hanksgiving! [Laughter]

Good:

How long before the beginning of classes and term did you get out to Berkeley?

Gerjuoy:

Oh, not too long. Not too long. But when I got out there, like I say we found the room. Leo and I were rooming together. Berkeley was really astonishing. You know, it was sunny and shining. As a matter of fact, I immediately got in bad in Berkeley because what happened was I took three courses that first term. The course by Lenzen on mechanics, graduate mechanics. There was a course by Oppenheimer in the elementary principles of quantum mechanics I knew nothing about. Yes, it was the first term, I think.

Good:

Of course, not very many other people in the United States knew anything about it, too.

Gerjuoy:

No, no. No, that’s right. Yeah, and then there was a first term of a year of electromagnetic theory which was taught by [Ernest O.] Lawrence. So I started going to that class. Now I had done well in City College. In that year in which I’d been out of school, one of the things I did was I read through Jeans. [James] Jeans has a book on electromagnetism, and I really knew it. Anyway, so Lawrence got in. The course was at 8 a.m., and I don’t like to get up early now and I didn’t then. Lawrence would come in, and he was unprepared, and it was clear he was unprepared. He’d fumble on the board and wouldn’t know what the hell he was doing. So after a couple of weeks, I stopped going to class. I’d come for the exams and so on, but I stopped going to class. Lawrence obviously remembered that, because I had to take an oral prelim. There were four oral preliminary exams there before you would be qualified. He gave me problems. So that was one of the things.

But then the second term in electricity and magnetism was given by Oppenheimer. So I had him for elementary — and that’s when I got to know him, see — and that was really very different. It was a terrific course.

Good:

Well, he was always intensely focused on his lecture, wasn't he?

Gerjuoy:

Oh yeah. Well let me say he obviously prepared or else he knew the thing. He lectured very fast. I mean actually his lectures were not good from the sense that he lectured very fast and it was difficult to get him to answer questions. I mean you could ask him questions and he’d give you an answer, but if you persisted and didn't understand it, he really got impatient. It was sort of difficult in that respect, and that’s why I give my talk on Oppenheimer. My judgment on him is that he lacked empathy. He did not really understand. So he was not a good instructor. I think I was a good student, and in fact one of the things I did when I took his quantum mechanics — not this course, but later I took a more advanced quantum mechanics course — I wrote up the notes for it. [George] Volkoff had written up the notes and he used the notes and he liked them. But a lot of students were having trouble with his class.

But his course, you had to go to that class. And he was lecturing away at a mile a minute. You’d have to take notes and then write them up very fast afterward. In fact, the thing about his course is that he smoked. He would smoke like a chimney. And he had this ability — it really was amazing — that he would smoke with a cigarette in one hand. I remember this. He’d write on the board, and then he’d get to the end of the cigarette and somehow still writing he got another cigarette lit and would just sort of… There was no stop, and that was it. There was a swirl of smoke around his head. When I give this talk on Oppenheimer, I remark that cigarette manufacturers, since I’m really quite old and doing okay, that they should get a hold of me and show that tobacco smoke is really not so bad for the health as you might think, because every student in that class was surrounded by smoke! [Laughter]

Good:

Yeah. Well, that was a different time, wasn't it?

Gerjuoy:

Oh, of course. Well you know Oppenheimer died relatively young, and he died of throat cancer. I’m sure it was related to this.

Good:

Yeah. So you took those three courses in the first semester you were there. [Yes.] Then you took another course with Oppenheimer in the second semester.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah, and then I took another — I mean in other words, he had actually a year of more advanced quantum mechanics. That was essentially the material that [Leonard I.] Schiff — Schiff was Oppenheimer’s postdoc in two of the years I was there. That was essentially the material that Schiff used, or a lot of it, to write his book on quantum mechanics. Then he had another course in field theory and quantum electrodynamics. So that’s what, yeah.

Good:

Okay, yeah. Did the program assume you would have one year of courses and then start your research project, or two years of courses?

Gerjuoy:

Well, I’m really not sure how this worked. See, there were a lot of students there at Berkeley, quite a few, amazing number. Most of them were working with Lawrence. Lawrence was building cyclotrons and a lot of them were working with him and they had research projects. I mean there were some very good students and some real duds, I mean really.

Good:

So Lawrence was really the center of experimental physics.

Gerjuoy:

Oh yes. He was the reason that the place was famous. There was no doubt about it. Now there were people there who were doing cosmic rays, a man named [Robert B.] Brode. There were people doing optics. [Francis A.] Jenkins and [Harvey E.] White were there. They wrote their book. Lenzen was the guy I took mechanics from and I don’t know, he never did anything. Then there was Birge, who had already started working on the values of the physical constants. That’s what he was famous for. So what happened with me, and I’m really not sure quite when, was that sort of toward the end of the first year, I told Oppenheimer I was interested in working with him. I guess he knew. I mean I’d done pretty good work in his classes. He said, “All right. Start coming to my seminar and we’ll see what you can do.” Those were his words. He had a sort of group meeting, rough seminar every week that all of his students were expected to attend. He had a large number of students. I mean in those days people didn't get Ph.D.s very easily. [Philip] Morrison was a student of his. I think he got his Ph.D. in 1939, but he stayed on till the war began, for example, and quite a few others. Then there were some people there who just were coming as essentially… Somebody from Brooklyn College, for instance, had come there.

Good:

So maybe on sabbatical or…

Gerjuoy:

Yeah, that’s what I mean, every year. So there was quite a large group. Then he had his postdoc Schiff, who was his postdoc most of the years I was there. It was Schiff’s job… I mean this is a very good system Oppenheimer had. When he couldn't get another speaker, his students spoke sometimes. I spoke a couple of times, the work I was doing. Students spoke on their Ph.D.s. What he was always trying to do, he would try to get some famous guy. Lawrence’s place was being visited by famous people all the time. So he got pretty famous people coming, and they would speak. Well when they couldn't speak and he didn't have another speaker, it was the job of his postdoc to speak. Schiff for instance, during the period I was there, one of the things Schiff had to do was to go through the book by Mott and Massey, on collision theory, which at that time was relatively. Mott and Massey is a good book, but it’s really full of a lot of mathematics, which nowadays everybody knows, except now they don't learn mathematics anymore because they just do computers. But it was mathematics, hypergeometric functions, things like that, which people did not know well at that time. So Schiff was having trouble with this book going through it, and I remember Oppenheimer would pepper him with questions, and he would interrupt him and he would really drive Schiff to the verge of tears, really literally. I remember very clearly, you see, that the students would talk, and we had no idea that Schiff was good. I mean the fact that he ended up writing this textbook and being chair of the department at Stanford, you know, [was] completely outside our expectation.

Schiff was there for two years, and then Schwinger came out as Oppenheimer’s postdoc. I remember, again very clearly, the students were waiting to see how Oppenheimer would drive Schwinger to distraction. I was betting already he won't do this at all because Julian is quite another order of magnitude, because I knew Julian from the City College. And of course I proved to be right, because what happened was the first time Schwinger talked, Oppenheimer started to pepper him with questions. He asked him one question after another, and Julian answered them all, as I say in my talk, he answered these questions and he was hardly breathing fast. After about a dozen questions, Oppenheimer just gave up and he didn't bother him anymore and that was the end of it. [Laughs]

Good:

Mm-hmm [yes]. Classic school yard bully.

Gerjuoy:

Yes. But as I say, my judgment is just from other stories I’ve heard about Oppenheimer. I don't think he quite understood that he would bother people. I think he liked Schiff. I don’t think he wanted — I think it just didn’t enter his head that when people ask questions and they can’t answer them — He was pretty quick himself, obviously yeah. So, that’s what I think was going on. See, he would do this to famous people. I saw him do it. He’d go up to the board and grab the chalk, and I couldn't believe it. In Max Born’s autobiography, he writes a paragraph, which I quote in this talk I give. Oppenheimer got his Ph.D. from Born. Max Born writes that there was a student he had, Oppenheimer, who was very smart, but he gave Born problems. These are Born’s words. He said he was very rude, and sometimes he would interrupt, stating his questions, and sometimes he would go up to the board and grab the chalk. This is Oppenheimer as a student there in Germany! And he [Born] tells the story that finally the students got very mad and they presented Born with a piece of parchment on it saying that they wanted Oppenheimer to stop, that he shouldn't do this. Born said, “I didn't know what to do. I was a little afraid of Oppenheimer!” [Laughter] So finally what Born did — You know, his students came out to see him regularly. He was writing this Born-Oppenheimer paper. He put this parchment thing signed by them on the desk in such a way that Oppenheimer couldn't help seeing it. Then after that, it stopped. [Laughter]

Good:

So let’s see, when exactly did you arrive in Berkeley?

Gerjuoy:

I arrived there in August 1938. In January 1942, I had my Ph.D. December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor. December 8, I got to LeConte Hall and Oppenheimer said to me, “You’ve done enough work. You can get your Ph.D.” I had three papers. I put those three papers together, took a perfunctory oral, and I had my Ph.D. That’s what happened. Then is when my troubles began because then Birge called me in and said, “Now that you have a Ph.D., I can't give you a teaching assistantship.” [Laughter]

Good:

So all of a sudden you were Ph.D. and unemployed.

Gerjuoy:

I was unemployed, yes.

Good:

Yeah, yeah. Now let’s not leave Berkeley yet, though, because I think you have some more stories that you can tell about Berkeley. Who were some of the people who visited and gave talks who you got to know?

Gerjuoy:

Oh, well one of the people was [Wolfgang] Pauli. Pauli, I forget whether he gave a talk in Oppenheimer’s seminar. As I say, Oppenheimer tried to — I forget. But the thing I remember about Pauli’s visit because it was so funny, I mean so unexpected, there was a regular colloquium at Berkeley. It was really a big room. When Pauli came it was full of people, obviously. Pauli was speaking about his paper he had just published I think not long before that on the connection between spin and statistics, something like that. Anyway, that was what he was talking about. There was another professor at Berkeley named Williams; he was a theoretical physicist. He was a pretty decent guy, but he was obviously an alcoholic. The story at Berkeley was — whether true or not, I don’t know — was that he’d become an alcoholic after Oppenheimer had come there. [Laughter] It’s a good story, right? But at this seminar, I was sitting right behind Birge. Now first of all, Birge had his own troubles. He always introduced his speakers awkwardly, and so when he introduced Pauli, what he said about him is he is best known for the Pauli effect. Now I don't know if you know what the Pauli effect is, but the Pauli effect is the experiments go wrong when Pauli comes in. So that was his introduction, and Pauli goes, “Hee, hee, hee.” [Laughter]

Anyway, he starts talking, and had hardly gotten three sentences out and Williams says, “Oh Professor Pauli, what is an electron?” [Laughter] Pauli looks at him and says something, and then Williams kept interrupting Pauli with dumb questions. After about oh, I don't think more than ten minutes, Pauli just threw the chalk down and stalked out and did not come back. I was sitting behind Birge. Everything had just happened. He was in the front row, and I could see he was getting redder and redder while all this was going on. That was the end of that colloquium. [Laughter]

Good:

Wow. Did that ever happen another time with anyone else?

Gerjuoy:

Well, there were other people. As I say, he always introduced people awkwardly, but I don't remember that. But the other story I remember, there were two other stories of this kind. First of all, Thomas of the Thomas precession, L. H. Thomas gave a talk at Berkeley and Oppenheimer got him to talk in the seminar. So he came in and began to talk, and he said he was going to talk about a paper by [Fritz] Zwicky, I guess it was. But anyway, it was a paper, something or other. So Thomas starts talking, and he writes an equation on the board. It was rather complicated. It was sort of a different version of the Schrödinger equation. And he says, “Now this equation has two solutions,” and Oppenheimer says, “Wait a minute. How do you know it has two solutions?” Thomas just looked at him. He said, “Well, look at this equation. It’s so complicated. It certainly has more than one solution, and more than two would be too many.” [Laughter] That also shut Oppenheimer up, and that was the end of that. [Laughter]

Then there was a Japanese Nobel Prize winner [Hideki] Yukawa came and he gave a seminar, gave a colloquium and Oppenheimer came. But what happened there was that Oppenheimer asked Yukawa to talk in his seminar and Yukawa said no, he wasn’t prepared or something. Oppenheimer asked him again and again and again. This is the lack of empathy. I could see that Yukawa didn’t know how to say no. I guess he was a good Japanese. So finally Yukawa says, “Oh, all right. But I have to go back and get my notes at the office.” So Oppenheimer says, “Fine.” So Yukawa leaves; he never came back. [Laughter] He never came back. We sat there for another half hour and he never — So that was that adventure. That’s the kind of thing I remember.

Good:

So that was his solution.

Gerjuoy:

That’s right. That was his solution. Then the other thing which is really actually more significant, Berkeley is a good distance from Stanford. In those days, when I first got to Berkeley, the Bay Bridge wasn’t built, so it was really a long way around. Anyway, Felix Bloch used to come to that seminar regularly. He didn't get there every time, but he came quite regularly. He would ask questions of Oppenheimer and so on, and Oppenheimer would treat him in essentially the same way. He’d be rude and so on. I remember he would say, “But Oppenheimer…” and the students would call Felix Bloch Oppenheimer’s most experienced graduate student, somebody like that. That’s the way we spoke of him. Again, I had no idea of what Felix Bloch was doing. Only well after I got my Ph.D. and I started looking at the literature did I realize what a reputation he had and that he went on to get a Nobel Prize. I had no idea. This was Oppenheimer’s most experienced graduate student. [Laughter] That’s what it was like.

Good:

One of the kinds of questions that I like to explore is about what it was like to be among that group of students. Can you say something about what it was like as a group?

Gerjuoy:

Oh surely. I mean as I say, there were a lot of very smart guys there. Oppenheimer was certainly the leader. But Julian got there. I should elaborate on what I said before. As it happened, I never really worked with Oppenheimer except on one problem which I didn't succeed in doing which was his fault and he was mad at me for not doing it. I’ll tell you that. But my first problem was a long range… Somebody had done an experiment, I forget who it was, on the long range alphas from protons on fluorine, fluorine-19 p alpha. The angular distribution was peculiar and so on. So he wrote to Oppenheimer, and Oppenheimer gave it over to [Robert] Serber, who was the first postdoc when I first got there. Serber asked me if I wanted to work on it, and I said “Sure.” So I started looking at the problem. I didn't know very much, so I started reading. It turned out I had — I was sure this was right — that it was a resonance and there were two resonant frequencies of different total angular momentum together, and the interference of these causing angle of distribution so it wasn’t the same front and back. That was the point.

So I wrote this paper and I gave it to Serber, and it was okay. I published it. It was published in the Phys Rev under my own name. That was it. Then not long after that — by that time, Schiff was there — there were some people who had come. One of them was actually a refugee from Poland who was working with Jenkins. They were working on the forbidden radiation from lead. They were doing the Zeeman effect, and again they were getting some peculiar things in the Zeeman effect. So they spoke to Oppenheimer about it, who spoke to Schiff about it, and Schiff asked me if I wanted to work on it. So I said again I didn’t know.

So I started working on it, and I think again, here I understood it. This was a transition in lead which was forbidden, a forbidden transition, but you could have both quadrupole and magnetic dipole, which essentially was forbidden because it was the same parity. You know, lead is amazing. So this forbidden transition was actually in the visible, so it was part of the same configuration. Anyway, I started reading [Edward U.] Condon and [G. H.] Shortley [Theory of Atomic Spectra] and so on, and I worked it out due to its interference. I wrote this paper. In fact, Julian was there by that time. I was puzzled by some things and was talking to Julian about it. I wrote the paper. But Oppenheimer was sort of a little concerned, and what happened was that Condon came to visit Berkeley. I talked to Condon about it, and Condon had written a paper about it in which he had not realized the possibility of this interference. He said, “Oh yeah, you’re absolutely right.” And so then Oppenheimer agreed I could publish that paper, and that was also written just by me. Then afterward I published a paper with Julian. So all three problems I worked on for my Ph.D., Oppenheimer was not involved, see, except he would approve them.

Good:

Yeah, just at a distance.

Gerjuoy:

That’s right, at a distance. That’s right. [Part 2] As I said, the only time I worked with Oppenheimer was on a problem he suggested which didn't work. I’ll tell you more details. He was sort of mad at me that I couldn’t do it.

But what happened was this. In all the time I was there, somebody at Berkeley, oh, the name will come to me, was doing work on cosmic rays and that kind of thing. And there was this great mystery. Yukawa had come out I guess in ‘33 or not that long before, but he had come out with the idea that there were strong forces, nuclear forces. What was clear, there was a particle coming to the ground in the cosmic rays on which the data then were no good. So there was just sort of a single peak which centered at around 200 and something. So it was reasonable to equate this particle to the Yukawa boson, which had spin 1, see, or spin zero. Anyway, even spin. This was the particle which was responsible for the strong forces in nuclei. Therefore, it was very difficult to understand and that was a problem. How did this particle manage to come down to the ground from the top of the atmosphere in such volume if it had only strong forces, because it should have just been absorbed by something? So Oppenheimer kept worrying about this and worrying about this, and he asked a number of his students to do problems related to this, one of them being Bob Christy. He nowhere made the guess that gee, maybe the Yukawa meson actually decayed itself to a particle which was weakly interacting, and that was the particle that was coming down to the ground in such volume. Only after the war did the data get good enough and they saw there were actually two peaks, and indeed the big one was the new meson, not the pi meson. That was the point.

So anyway, Oppenheimer asked me to work on a theory of a spin 1 particle or spin zero (but I didn't want to do spin zero) in which somehow the interaction depended on the angle between spin and momentum, so that in such a way that you could work out the spin was this way and the thing was coming down to the atmosphere and would only be weakly interacting with the nucleons. That’s why, according to this idea of Oppenheimer’s, it was possible for this particle to get down to the bottom of the atmosphere. Well, I started trying to make a theory of this kind, and it just wasn't possible.

Good:

It wasn’t working.

Gerjuoy:

It wasn’t good, yeah, and he was mad at me when I couldn’t do it! [Laughter] If I had done it, I would have been really a jerk. So that’s what happened, and that was the only time I worked on something directly with Oppenheimer.

Good:

This was not that unusual that the postdoc would work more directly with a lot of the students.

Gerjuoy:

No, no. But most of Oppenheimer’s students… You see, he had favorites. That was another thing. A number of his students used to be invited regularly to have dinner with him and so on. When I got to Berkeley, he was unmarried. He got married there about two years after I got there, and then he bought or built a huge house. He would invite all the students. He’d give parties sometimes where all the students would be invited. But for the other things, they’d go to dinner. He had four or five students, and I never was invited. I mean Dancoff, Morrison, Frankel, some of the other students. So that was one thing I really sort of resented. I didn't think he should have done it.

Good:

And I guess other students felt the same way?

Gerjuoy:

I don’t know. See, it’s hard to say. Actually, of the active students… There were students who had their Ph.D.s already. Dancoff and Morrison essentially had their Ph.D.s before I started doing research with him. So I’m not quite clear. But I think that of the students who were not favored by him, that I ended up by far the most successful. Actually, I think if you do it objectively, I certainly published more than Morrison did. Morrison was very smart. He didn't publish very much in Physics. Now he made a record. He wrote for the Scientific American and things like that. But whatever it is, I was not one of Oppenheimer’s favorite students. I was not that close to the other students either. I had Leo Saperstein who was a friend of mine, and through him, he was friendly with people in physiology. He got his Ph.D. in physiology. Actually, I met my future wife whom I married at Berkeley through him. So actually, my social life was not so much.

Now I did have some friends. I had one very good friend, Ronald Geballe, who was a student of Leonard Loeb who was doing arc discharge then. So he was there and another student. But I did not interact socially so much with the other students of Oppenheimer’s. Sid Dancoff I did. I liked him. I was good friends with Sid, and I can tell you a story about Sid Dancoff which is revealing about Oppenheimer.

When I was there, Sid Dancoff was already married and in fact he had a child as I remember. Well, he got his Ph.D. about the time or shortly after I arrived, something like that. But I remember, he told me he wanted to look for a job, and he looked. I don’t know what happened. But anyway, Oppenheimer said to him, “Why don’t you stay here for a year?” and Sid said, “Well, I just can't afford it. I mean I have a…” And Oppenheimer says to him, “Oh, the money will come from somewhere.” [Laughs] And to Oppenheimer, the money did come from somewhere! [Laughter] And in fact one of the things about Oppenheimer, he had an office and it was very nice. I mean you could go into his office. You didn't even have to knock. He had a bunch of books in his office, and these were books [useful], especially when you took his quantum mechanics course. There was no text of any value, and you could go in there and borrow those books, actually, and Volkoff had notes which you could look at. So I used to do that and I’d go in there; frequently and there’d be nobody in the office. In some things he was rather careless, and his office was frequently just littered on the floor with papers. I remember a number of times picking them up, and there would be envelopes from this stock broker and that stock broker, and they were obviously dividend checks coming in. [Laughs]

Good:

So most of your socializing was through your friend Leo and the physiology department.

Gerjuoy:

Yes, and him. But as I say, I knew Ronald Geballe and I knew Leon Fisher also, who had been born in San Francisco and knew Geballe. These were students of Leonard Loeb. For instance, we had a little lunch group. We’d eat lunch on the lawn outside LeConte Hall and so on. But there were these guys, and there wasn’t anybody of the group of Oppenheimer’s students in that group that I was with. In fact, I played bridge and chess, sometimes with these guys. Somehow or other I did not do this with anybody in Oppenheimer’s group.

Good:

Mm-hmm [yes]. Is it one of those experimentalist theoretician contrasts?

Gerjuoy:

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I may answer I was different. I can tell you this. You know, my wife is not Jewish, and she told me I was essentially the first Jew she’d ever known well. I was different [chuckles], that’s all I can say! [Laughter] I was different in my own way. I was a New York Jew in there, mm-hmm [yes].

Good:

Yeah. Well, you certainly would have stood out in California at that time.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah, it was true. You know, and you see Julian came out there. He was also a New York Jew. Oh, I should tell you Joe Weinberg was there. He was a student of Oppenheimer’s, too. He didn't get his Ph.D. until after I did, I think. Now Joe had been at City College. I knew him at City College. He was ahead of me, and he had gone to work with Breit and didn't do very well; he ended up with Oppenheimer. And yes I did know him because I knew him from City College, but I didn't spend a lot of time with Joe. What I can tell you is what my wife told me once. I think this was before she married me and she met Weinberg somewhere, I wasn't there, and Weinberg told her not to marry me. He told her that the student of Oppenheimer, David Bohm, was ten times as smart as me and I’m ten times as smart as Ed! [Laughter] But she married me anyway.

Good:

But she married you anyway. So you got to know her through this friend group of physiology students.

Gerjuoy:

Oh yeah. Well, I can tell you the sidebar. When I got out to Berkeley, Leo [Saperstein] had been there for a year already. He had gotten to know very well a guy named George Feigen, who was older, he had had a complicated life, and whom I got friendly with. In fact, he ended up in the Stanford Physiology Department. Anyway, George had known some women and so on, and there were three young women living together. One of them was named Jacqueline Reid, who was my wife. Another one was Beatriz Gabaldon, who was a girlfriend. She was Mexican-American; she was born in this country, she came from New Mexico. Another one named Alice; I forget what her last name was. So Jacqueline was the one that told me I was essentially the first Jew she’d ever really known. Leo had gotten to be good friends with George, I got to know George, and that's how I got to know her. Actually, I’d had very little experience with women. I had nothing to do with women when I was in high school, just nothing. City College was all male.

Good:

It was all male, right.

Gerjuoy:

So I really did not know anybody. I did a little bit, but only when I got out to Berkeley. What happened was the first real event on this thing was that Beatriz threw a Christmas party and we were invited. I was invited, George was invited, Leo was invited, and Jacqueline was there of course. She made a Mexican meal. Now in my whole life I’d never had a Mexican meal before, and so I ate it. Really I filled up. We went home. Leo and I were living together, as I said. I got up sometime in the wee hours and I had the most terrible pains in the stomach. It was absolutely awful. So Leo got frightened and he called an ambulance. The ambulance came and they took me to a small hospital that was associated with Berkeley actually, Cowell Hospital, and they took me there and the doctor diagnosed me as having appendicitis and he said I would need an operation. Okay. You see, this was my first term there. I was only 20. I didn’t get to be 21 until May 19 and I’d come out there. So this was Christmas.

Good:

Okay, your first time away from home.

Gerjuoy:

Yes, that’s right. But the point is he asked me my age and so on, and he said well, he’s not allowed to operate on me because I wasn't 21; he had to get my parents’ permission, and so he wanted to know how he could get in touch with my parents. This again completely true. He diagnosed appendicitis. I did not want my mother to know because I was afraid she’d get on the plane and come out and she’d never go away. [Laughs] So I would not tell him how to get in touch with my parents. I fell asleep and I woke up, and there was this light flashing in my eyes and this guy saying, “How do I get in touch with your mother?” [Laughter] I refused to tell him. And then I got up the next morning. I was in no pain. I had not had appendicitis. I just had a terrific reaction that I’d eaten all this Mexican food!

Good:

To food you had never tried before.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah. They were obviously highly spiced and I’m sure that’s what had happened. So that was it. But I would not, and you know, I was willing to risk my life not to have my mother come out! [Laughter]

Good:

So how long did you know your wife before you got married?

Gerjuoy:

Well actually, I got to know her… And I came back to Brooklyn one year. The first year I was away I came back to Brooklyn. So I came back, and actually I’d gotten to know her but she was just about the first girl I’d ever spent much time with. I’d spent a little time with one of the women in the Young Communist League whom I’d gotten to know, but I really hadn’t. I had actually sort of decided and told her that I thought we should break up. I just wanted to know more women. I went back to Brooklyn, and then I went back to Berkeley, as I said. But I don't know, somehow we got back together. We very soon after that started living together although we were unmarried, and this was an unusual thing.

Good:

That was a very unusual thing for that time period.

Gerjuoy:

Yes, and I guess when I got back… let’s see. I was already 21. She and I were just a few months apart. Her birthday was September 30th. Let’s see, let me get this straight. When I went to Berkeley, I was 20. I got out of City College at 19, I spent a year. I went to Berkeley when I was 20. Yeah. So, when I came back to Berkeley I was already 21, but she was not yet 21. She started living with me, and her parents found out about this and her mother was very upset. Her mother came up to Berkeley and first tried to break us up and I wouldn’t. And she tried… then she went to the authorities. She went to the police, and the police told her that Jacqueline was so close to 21 that she had no right. So that’s what happened. So we started living together, and we got married in 1940. So it was a year later we got married.

Good:

Okay. I don’t think we should quite leave Berkeley yet. I think there are still more stories that you probably haven’t thought too much about. So other than playing card games, what did you do for entertainment? What did you do when you took a little time off?

Gerjuoy:

Well, I didn't really… It’s sort of interesting. I played bridge, as I said, and chess — some, not much. Not much. I played squash. I played handball, and I used to play handball in New York. That was my first athletic endeavor. Maybe I should tell you. What happened was my mother really sort of kept me out of doing it. I never learned to swim because although we went to Rockaway every year, she was afraid of the water and I was therefore afraid of the water, and I never learned to swim. But there was somebody who taught in my mother’s school named Fineman who I’m pretty sure now, you know, who knows what, had had a crush on her or something. She took us out to Rockaway every year. He also was out in Rockaway in some way or another, and that was the first time I met him. He came around to where we lived and he invited me over to his place. At that time I would say at that time I was about 13 or 14, something on that order, and he had a ping pong table and I started playing. I discovered, to everyone’s surprise including mine, that I had very good reflexes. I got to be a pretty good ping pong player. Because in high school — in fact, this was true even when I got to college — you know, I never really used my muscles. I was young. For instance, everybody was chinning and I couldn’t chin, and then I didn’t even try because I was ashamed to get up there. So I didn’t realize, and actually as I say, I turned out…

Then I started in my last year in high school to play handball. The schools in those days, during the Depression especially, that’s one of the things again the New York mayor put up and so on, they put up all these courts. And so there was a public school not far that had a handball court. I started playing handball there and was good, not bad. So when I got to Berkeley, they didn’t have a handball court, but they had squash courts and I started playing squash. So I did play squash. I did do that. When I had some spare time, I’d put on a pair of sneakers and go down and find somebody to play squash with.

Good:

Okay. Is that the way you would do it? You would just go and pick up a game with anybody who was around?

Gerjuoy:

Oh yeah. Yeah, there were none of the other graduate students and none of my friends. Yeah, I would just pick up a game and get to know those guys. But I was taking these courses. There were problem sets to do. I was a TA, I had to teach my classes. So I was really kept pretty busy. Well I mean you know, we’d go to the movies now and then. A group of us, Saperstein Saperstein and Hank Gilbarg — he was a student of Oppenheimer’s but didn't get his Ph.D., as a matter of fact. Every so often we’d go out to San Francisco and have dinner there or something. Hank was pretty funny in his own way. We went out in this place and Hank ordered some steak or something like that, and he wanted it rare. They brought it, and his thing was absolutely uncooked. You could see. They asked him did he want any sauce, and he said, “Do you have any blood?” [Laughter] So that was essentially it.

Even in Berkeley, actually we started — Well, after I got to be a teaching assistant, my wife was working as a waitress. When we had some spare money, we’d buy records. I had known and learned a little bit of music but not much when I was in college. Actually, Herman Feshbach was also in my class at City College. He had gone on to MIT. So I did have a primitive Victrola record player. In fact, that was one thing that Phil Morrison did for me, put it together. He was really pretty good experimentally with his hands; I was not. So I did that and playing records. But I think I pretty much told you what I spent my time doing.

Good:

Yeah, okay. Well, let’s see. Where do we go next? [Part 3]

Gerjuoy:

During the time, I mean it was just a nine-month salary essentially, but she was working as a waitress and we managed to get along. It was really amazing. And things were so cheap. So that’s what I did at first.

Good:

Okay. So you’ve graduated. You have your Ph.D. You have no teaching assistantship because of Birge. [Yes.] So how long do you stay around Berkeley after that point?

Gerjuoy:

Well, what happened is I managed to make enemies, I say. I managed to make an enemy of Leonard Loeb in an innocent fashion. Before I left New York, and actually it was Zemansky who told me about Oppenheimer. I told him finally I decided to go, and he told me I should say hello to Leonard Loeb when I got out there for him. All right. Well, I drove out to California with Hank Gilbarg. Leonard Loeb was actually a captain in the Naval Reserve. He apparently was a terrible reactionary. During 1929 there were some riots or something, and he had gotten involved with that. So anyway, Hank Gilbarg, who was quite radical, was telling what a terrible guy Loeb was. And I was pretty radical, so I didn't see what the hell do I have to say hello to Len Loeb for. I think what must have happened was that Zemansky must have written him, told him I was a very good student and so on, because I really had done a lot of good work for Zemansky. Loeb may have been thinking he’d get me into his group. You know, who knows? But anyway, my first contact with Loeb, and I know this is my first contact, was after I got a TA — this is still my first year — I was teaching this class. The bell rang, and I don't know, I stayed behind for an extra minute — you know, the teaching assistant. The room door just burst open. There’s Loeb there, and he just bawls the hell out of me in front of all the students. He was obviously furious with me. I decided it must be that.

Then what happened was I had to take these four qualifying exams, and I had trouble on just about every one for different reasons. On my electromagnetic theory class, I had trouble with Lawrence, and in particular what happened with Lawrence was that he asked me a question. I was both to explain why there was some — I forget exactly what it was — but anyway, why an electron had trouble penetrating a surface. I forget. Anyway, I gave him some explanation, a theoretical interpretation, which was based on using Maxwell’s equation. I don’t know what it was. He apparently wanted something which was more physical and I hadn’t done it. But again, he got very angry at me. I’m just assuming it was of course I had the nerve not to attend his class. Well, I got an A from him in the first year because I really did all the work.

Then when I took my exam in heat, what happened was the chair of that committee was Loeb. I had gone to Loeb and asked him and he had told me what to read. One of the things he told me to read was something in his book on heat and thermodynamics, an explanation of Wien’s Law. I read it and I didn't think it made any sense, and I found in the library a little book by Planck. It was a very nice derivation explanation. So he asked me about this on the exam, and I gave him this explanation. He said to me, “Didn’t you read my book? I told you to read my book!” I said, “Yeah, but this…” He said, “Well…” and he just got very furious with me. And in fact, he just didn't want to pass me. I think, if I remember correctly, he called Oppenheimer and finally agreed to pass me. [Laughs] There were two other people on the committee. One didn't know me. One was this guy Williams.

Then when I took my optics exam, I had a different… [laughing] This is a story, and this is true again. I took optics. It wasn’t optics. When I came to Berkeley, Birge had laid out what courses I was supposed to take. One day he said to me, “Did you ever have an experimental course in optics?” and I said no. City College did not have much lab and I didn't have a course. So he said he thought I should have an optics lab course. So I was supposed to take that during my first year. I started taking it, and I told you it was completely dull — things I understood. So after a couple of sessions, I didn’t go anymore. I was supposed to attend it. It was not on my record, see. One of two experiments I did was just some effect; I forget what it was now. Anyway, I take this optics oral, and the people there are Jenkins, White, and Birge. Those are the three. Birge was very officious, and so he reads my whole record, and he said, “When he came to Berkeley,” he said when I came here, “he never had an optics laboratory course, and so I told him he had to audit.” Yes, audit they say. “And he said he would,” and he says to me, “Did you?” I said, “Yes.” [Laughs] Then Jenkins immediately pipes up, and Jenkins asked me something about the double slit experiment. I was panicked anyway, and I started going on that double slit experiment. I just went at it. I derived relations. And they finally stopped me. “Okay,” and they were through asking me about the double slit experiment. [Laughs] I don't know what I would have done. And that was how I got — I mean that would have been a legitimate reason for flunking me. I really had lied, because I just couldn’t… yeah. But that was one experiment I said… You know, they asked me about the equipment, and so I was able to…

Actually in Birge’s course — One thing I didn’t do. I didn’t take Birge’s course on numerical analysis, which he wanted all the students to take. I’d heard about how terrible it was, so again I didn't want to take it and he let me not take it. But my friend Leon Fisher did take it, and he tells me the following story which again, here it is! Birge would interrupt the class and start rambling, talk about this and that. One of the things he told them was this story that he had seen a formula in the Physical Review and he didn’t understand the formula; it didn't make any sense to him. So he just put it into his adding machine to see if it worked out. He put it into four significant figures, and it worked out to his surprise. So he put it into five significant figures and it didn't. So he said, “I knew it wasn’t true.” This is Fisher quoting Birge. “I knew it wasn't correct, because if it was correct it had to fit to all significant figures.” So at this point, my friend Leon Fisher raises his hand and says, “But Professor Birge, suppose it would have come out agreement on the fifth significant figure,” and Birge without hesitation said, “I would have gone on to the sixth.” [Laughter]

Good:

Yeah. So this numerical techniques course, was this different like Fourier transforms?

Gerjuoy:

No, no. That’s the point. It was really numerical techniques and it was… For instance, I did take optics from Birge. First of all, you sort of had to write up the notes. The grade depended in large part on the notes you wrote up, and people had trouble. I had learned if you didn’t use the notation that Birge had used, for instance, you’d be in trouble when he went over your notes. There were things like that. There’s another story I can tell you, and again this is true. We had a journal club in Berkeley on Monday nights, I think it was. Everybody, students and graduates were expected to attend, and people spoke on various topics. In fact, not long after the Hahn and Strassmann thing, Oppenheimer spoke on the possibility of nuclear fission, things like that.

Anyway, one day we get in there, I come in there, and there’s a long table, which wasn’t always there but it was there. At one end of the table is Edwin McMillan. On the other end of the table is a Nobel Laureate Alvarez. In front of McMillan is a Marchant calculating machine, and in front of Alvarez is a different machine. And Birge is standing there with a clock — he has in his hand a clock. And he gives them a calculation, and they start going. Over here is Alvarez. At that time both of them were instructors at Berkeley. Birge sees which one of them finishes first, because apparently he’d gotten money to order a bunch of new machines, so this was his way of testing which machine was faster. And that was the journal club. We sat there through it. [Laughs]

Good:

So it wasn’t always about the best ideas. [Laughs]

Gerjuoy:

Well no. But the thing is of course, we didn’t know that Alvarez and McMillan were both going to win Nobel Prizes and things. But we did know — they were known to be smart, yes. But that was one of the things that they took in.

Good:

Okay, yeah. So you had the journal club and you had the seminar…

Gerjuoy:

The seminar and the regular colloquium. Yes, we had them.

Good:

And these were department — Well, the seminar was Oppenheimer’s seminar.

Gerjuoy:

Yes. The other two, you were expected to attend.

Good:

Yeah. The difference for the journal club in principle was that you would talk about other people’s results and computations.

Gerjuoy:

Always. That’s right, new results and there were really a lot of new results.

Good:

Sure there were.

Gerjuoy:

I never talked in the journal club. A couple of people talked who were graduate students. But mostly, as I say most of the students there, a real large bulk — well, there were a lot of students — were working for Lawrence in one way or the other. Both Alvarez and McMillan were working with Lawrence, as a matter of fact. So a lot of the stuff there was on cyclotrons and new machines and things like that and nuclear physics. Again, in fact I remember this so clearly also. Fission was discovered, and the report got to us, and essentially 24 hours after the report, the thing was verified empirically. But they hadn’t done it first, and that was the thing. That cyclotron, there were some, but amazingly few if you think of it. Because what happened was that Lawrence was just interested in machine building, and of course people knew it. But anyway, it was just interesting to me because I noticed it at the time that it took them so little time to verify it, and yet they had not discovered it. At that time we had what was the best cyclotron in the world by far.

Good:

Yeah. Contrast that with in the 1930s at the Cavendish Lab, with relatively insignificant equipment.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah, that’s right, that’s right. Yeah, that’s right.

Good:

They were always going after the next big thing.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah, that’s right. That’s exactly right. So that’s what was going on. Actually, some of Lawrence’s students got their Ph.D.s for a really terrible thing. One of the people that was at USC had graduated about the same time I did. He had gotten his Ph.D. from Lawrence. What he had done was just measured. The whole thing was he measured the stray radioactivity lying around there in different parts of the cyclotron building, and that was his Ph.D.

Good:

Yeah. You can tell me you don’t want to explore this if you don’t, but could we have something on record about your experience with the Communist Party?

Gerjuoy:

Oh yeah. I mean it’s long ago gone. First of all, I never was a Communist. I was a member of the Young Communist League. Well, I think I told you, my father, whatever had happened to him in Europe I don't know. He was not political. He had a brother who was a member of the Communist Party; in fact his brother was an organizer. Ben Gerjuoy, my uncle, was an organizer for the Communist Party. He was about four years younger than my father. You know, it was the Depression. I was sort of liberal anyway. I don't quite know how.

I got to City College, and City College was very radical. A lot of radical students there. I became in part… I would say that my primary initial radical experience in this regard, aside from just the Depression and seeing these poor bastards and so on, was the fact that the Spanish Revolution began. That was while I was in City College. I think it was around 1935, something like that. Boys I knew at City College, a couple at least, went and actually joined the Loyalists. One of them who had been on the math team, one of the people I knew in Boys High, died. So that had an effect. But the thing that got me, and I know this is true. I mean I haven't looked, but my recollection is so clear on this. When Franco started, Roosevelt was on a warship somewhere or some sort of a cruise or something. As I recollect, he was on a warship and he rushed back to the United States. He got together the representatives of all the big nations, France, England, and so on, and they agreed to have an arms boycott of both sides, so neither side would get arms. The point is immediately — So this agreement came, and in fact United States warships and British warships and so on… But Germany and Italy immediately broke the blockade. But Russia could not finish. I mean it was much easier for Germany. They were almost there with Russia. I know that Franco would never have won if it weren’t for the fact that the Loyalists didn't have any arms. I just was so mad at Roosevelt for doing that, because it was so obvious. He would know about — Why would Hitler and Mussolini, for example, count on them not to break faith? So that’s what happened. I would say that that was the event which really radicalized me, although I was sort of radical already. Although my father read the Journal which was a Hearst publication. [Laughs] It was the only publication he brought home.

So in any event, I joined the Young Communist League while I was at City College. But I was shrewd in many ways. I decided I didn’t want to spend time with the Young Communist League there. So I joined the Young Communist League there, but the branch I attended was in my neighborhood. I did not attend the City College branch, but I sort of knew some of the people there. I’ll tell you a story or two about that. Actually, I was not too active, but then after my closing year of college and the first year when I was out of work and so on, I was really fairly active. But that coincided almost with the big court battles in the Stalinist regime where they arrested all these guys and all these officials of the Communist Party were expelled from the party. Well you know, the way the Communist Party worked, the Communist Party in the United States imitated the Communist Party in Russia. The Young Communist League in the United States imitated the Communist Party in the United States and so on. Anyway, for one reason or another, somewhat deserved maybe, but I’ll inform you that before I left Brooklyn, actually a few months before that, I was expelled from the Young Communist League for laughing at meetings. There was a trial. There was a whole trial, and I defended myself and I was expelled. So I was not a member of the Young Communist League anymore when I got to Berkeley. And in fact after I was expelled, I decided that I was not going to spend — I mean I’d sort of had my radical experiences. But that I did have, you see, I had some experience.

So one of the things, I sort of soon knew and recognized who were the real guys of similar feelings in Oppenheimer’s students. I immediately recognized that in Phil Morrison. As a matter of fact, Phil Morrison was a member of the Communist Party. I know that for a fact. And one of the things I can say about Phil Morrison, and this is now, how shall I put it? This is something which he can't defend himself against, so it isn’t really right for me to say it. But nevertheless, while I was in Berkeley, before I left, Phil Morrison asked me for money for the Communist Party. Now no one asks somebody for money for the Communist Party if he’s not a member of the Communist Party. That’s why I know Phil was a member. And the thing I’m going to say, you see, which surprises me, see, during the McCarthy era, a number of people were called up to testify. Phil Morrison was one of the people called up. But he was not — See, what they did, they testified in private before the committee. Then those people who would not collaborate, those were then given these public hearings. Phil never got a public hearing, and all I can conclude from this is that actually he did collaborate and tell them what he was. So anyway, that’s the story about Phil.

Now in my own case, I probably was sort of rescued in a way, because when the war began and Oppenheimer did not want me to work — I told you that I didn’t want to work on it [the Manhattan Project]. [Yes.] Then after the war started and Birge took away my teaching assistantship, I went to Oppenheimer again and said well I’d be willing to work in it, because I was frightened to death. I mean I didn’t want to do war work, but I sure didn’t want to be in the Army shooting at people. Oppenheimer said, “With your attitude, I don’t want you,” is what he said. So I was really left alone.

The first thing I did was I went around. There’s a Navy something or other station right across the bay from Berkeley in San Francisco. I went there to try to get a job, and as a matter of fact, they had a whole degaussing station there. They talked to me and they said sure, and then I didn't hear from them and I didn't hear from them. Then I found this out through my friends Leon Fisher and Ronald Geballe, who were students of Loeb, that Loeb had been ranting about me being a Communist in his seminar that he was conducting with his students, and apparently Naval Intelligence people had come to Loeb and he had told them that I was a Communist, so I didn’t get the job offer. As a matter of fact, this was obviously known to Birge because when I finally got a job offer, I didn’t have a job and actually I worked in the Richmond shipyard near Berkeley. I got a job there and I worked there until I was able to go off. What I did, I had written — My friend Sidney Borowitz had sort of told me. I had not known about the National Roster of Specialized Scientific Personnel that had been set up. I wrote to them, and I got a letter from them finally telling me they were offering me a job in New London, Connecticut. I immediately went out there with my wife. I told Birge about it, and Birge told me that I shouldn’t talk about it too much and he would not tell Loeb about it. He said that, see.

Anyway, I went out to this job. And New London, Connecticut, there’s a submarine base right across Groton, Connecticut. New London had a Coast Guard station there, and this Coast Guard station had been adopted and it was doing antisubmarine research. I was hired there. What they were doing, among other things — They had actually a lot of personnel there from Bell Labs, and they were doing studies on sonar devices. They had a barge which they had bought. It was tied up in the Thames River in New London, Connecticut. They had a barge, and they drilled a hole through one end of the barge and they drilled another hole at the other end, and they would put a transmitting device on this end and they’d put various receivers and so on at the other end. They were measuring the operations of these transmitting and receiving devices. Mostly this research was being done by these people from Bell Labs. There was actually an old guy there named Thuras whom I got to like. He really was smart and he was inventing all kinds of things. The barge was doing this work. When I got out there, they put me to work there and that was customary because I had to be cleared, see?

Anyway, I got out there, and after I was there for a couple of days, the results they would get would vary by up to 20 decibels. That’s a factor of ten, you know. It was ridiculous. I just knew it was some elementary physics. The other people there didn’t. I said this must be because this barge is being moored right against the shoreline, and the Thames goes up and down with the tide. And as the tide level changes, you gain different reflection from the bottom and the whole thing — I said if you towed it out in the middle of the river, it wouldn’t happen. So, by God, a couple of days later they towed the barge out to the middle of the river, and sure enough the fluctuations went down to a couple of decibels. All right. The next thing I knew was that the Director said to me, “You’re going to be in charge of the barge,” and I was put in charge of the barge.

What this meant was, first of all, it was dull as hell. I mean all I did — You see, I’d come in there in the morning. The barge would be towed out there or it was already towed out there. And then a rowboat would row me out to the barge. Then I’d be on the barge and I’d be there all day. People would come out or they’d already have there these devices sticking to one end or the other. I had one assistant who would go down there and sort of tie these things on and you put a big pole down. Then the results would come up. They’d be on these reels of paper, and I would look at them and we’d make copies of them. I would write a little report, what was being tested and what had been done, and those were the reports. This was my job. I just did this and I did this and I did this. I never had a chance to talk to anybody because, I don’t know what, but I really didn’t get to know the people in the lab very much. I don’t know what was going on. They weren’t that smart. But I didn't even get to know them because I was out on that damn barge all day long. It really was true, and it was driving me crazy.

So for lack of anything else to do with my time, I started to work on essentially operational research of what it was like. In other words, the problem of a destroyer versus a submarine as a function of various things. At those times, maybe now even, the seas were divided into five different levels in terms of height, and there’s a certain amount of noise. As the sea level changes, usually there’s a wave action as background noise and so on. It’s a very complicated question when you try to send sound from a destroyer or listen. It’s a very complicated function of speed. And in fact, if you get up at the high destroyer speeds above, you can't hear a damn thing because you have cavitation noise, which I had not known about before. So it’s really a problem the destroyer has.

Also, the sea is a much more complicated place than you think. The salt content varies with height. The density of the water varies with height. The salt content and the velocity of sound vary with temperature, and the result is when a transducer sends out a sound signal, most of the time the conditions are such the thing bends down. So actually, the damn thing doesn’t go more than a mile, frequently less. So you have to get —

So anyway, taking things like this into account, I started writing some reports on this. After I’d been there about a year and a half I guess, I got a call from somebody I’d never heard of before named Lyman Spitzer. He said he had seen my reports, and would I like to come and talk to him in New York? So I said sure. So I came and talked to Lyman Spitzer in New York. He was in the Empire State Building, and Lyman told me he was a leader of what is called the Sonar Analysis Group and did I want a job there? So I said sure! I was delighted. I mean anything to get out of New London. So I took a job there and I went there.

Good:

So this would be…?

Gerjuoy:

This would be roughly 1944, something like that. I mean I’d gone to New London in June 1942. I’d gotten my Ph.D. I’d taken the oral and finished and I’d lost my job at Berkeley at the end of January. Then I worked, and finally got this job and I rushed out there and was at New London. I forget exactly when, but it was in the summer of 1942. Then I was there for about a year and a half. And then I guess it must have been early 1944 because I’m just not sure how long I was there. So I got this call and I went out. I was hired by Lyman Spitzer, and I got out there.

Good:

How big was the office? How many people worked there?

Gerjuoy:

Oh, well the Sonar Analysis Group per se had only about 10, 15 people. But actually, sort of this whole floor — we’re on the 34th floor and then later the 64th — the whole floor was quite a lot of people in different groups. This was under the Columbia University Division of War Research, and that whole floor, a lot of groups there. As a matter of fact, Henry Primakoff was there, for example; not in my group. And Leslie Foldy was in one of those groups. In my group was Peter Bergmann, as a matter of fact. So that’s what it was. As it turned out, those other groups are working in different things. One of them was working on explosives and things like that. But Lyman’s group, Sonar Analysis Group, its function was actually to serve as a liaison between the Navy and particularly the undersea warfare division of the Navy and the scientific community. That’s what Lyman was doing. In fact, his counterpart whom we visited in Washington frequently was Roger Revelle. Roger at that time was in the Navy; in fact he was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy.

Anyway, what happened was that I started working, and it just turned out I seemed to have a gift for this. So shortly it became pretty clear that I was a guy who was most likely to do practical things. In fact, I spent the last year of the war — I was transferred to Washington, D.C., and although I was still an employee of the Sonar Analysis Group, I had an office in the Navy Department. I would contact Roger and Roger then through me I had contact with the various submarine and so on services. And in fact, I was permitted — Roger had to sign this for me, but I was permitted to see Top Secret stuff which I didn’t have a chance to see earlier; it was only Secret. For instance, one of the things I got to see was the reports written by the United States submarine commanders who came back from a trip. It was required of every submarine commander when he came back from a trip to write a detailed report about what had happened. This was important because there were people doing operational research. I got to read those reports and see the things. There were some terrific things in there which I may tell you about, but I’m being distracted now.

So anyway, I did this. And in fact I spent a lot of time with Roger. Roger had money then, and he would take me to the Cosmos Club. In fact, we were in the Cosmos Club — I remember this again so clearly — when the announcement came that Roosevelt had died. I remember being there, you know, and then we went back to work. Anyway, what happened was that so then the bomb got dropped and Germany surrendered. Then Lyman went back to Princeton, and he appointed me as the head of the Group. So I served as head of the Group in the last six months or so while I still stayed there after Lyman left while the war was still going on with Japan. So I really was.

The first thing I did was I went through the files and got the file of Edward Gerjuoy, which I hadn’t had a chance to look at before that, but now I was Director of the Group and I could do it. So I opened the file and I found a lot of marvelous things there. One of the things I found was this. There was correspondence there between the Naval Intelligence and the head of the Laboratory. Naval Intelligence said that they had investigated me and they’d spoken to a Leonard Loeb, professor at Berkeley, and that I was a Communist and I should be fired. That was in there. The Director of this New London thing had written back that I had done very good work; I was doing very good work. I didn’t know I’d been saved by my…! And was it really necessary to, so on? Then there’s correspondence back and forth, and then they said, “Well okay, you can keep him, but see that he doesn't get anything that’s of important secrecy.” That’s undoubtedly why I was kept out there on the barge. See? And now what clearly happened was that Lyman didn’t know anything. My records were sent over, of course, from New London and he never even looked at them obviously. So that’s what happened.

Good:

So Lyman knew what he needed.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah, that’s right. He was — yeah.

Good:

Yeah, and you had the skills that he needed.

Gerjuoy:

Yes! So that’s what took place. So it was really true. I mean Loeb had no reason, I mean really no reason for him to — I can’t think of any reason why he shouldn’t have said what he did say to Naval Intelligence, except that he had this grudge against me. He really did, you know… And I’ll tell you one thing also. Some years later, I had a flight from New York to the coast or something. I get in the seat and who is sitting next to me but Leonard Loeb? Loeb said hello to me and he’s perfectly friendly, you know? I decided not to say a thing about this, so I didn't. You could not tell. I mean it isn’t as if he was mean to me. He was friendly. “Oh yes, Gerjuoy,” and so on. Son of a bitch! [Laughs]

Good:

Very strange.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah. So that’s what happened.

But now to go on afterward, after the war, at the end of the war, I started looking for a job. I finally was out and wanted to get a job. What happened in Berkeley had really hurt my career. I didn't have the slightest idea how to — didn’t know anybody. So a couple of people whom I had known, graduate students at the same time I was in Berkeley, one of them was working for Brode as a matter of fact and the other one worked for Lawrence. They had gotten jobs at USC and they wrote me a letter and asked me if I would like a job at USC. I just said yes immediately. Of course I resigned from the Sonar Analysis Group, and when the Navy heard about it, I was offered a job by the Navy as a senior something, whatever it was. It was a really high level in the Civil Service for $8,200 a year. The offer at USC was $3,600, a year and I accepted the one at USC. I mean I didn't even think. Again, I just did not want to do that kind of work.

Good:

Yeah. You’d had four years of the Navy.

Gerjuoy:

Well, no. It wasn’t so much that, but again I’m not sure; I may have been naive. But I didn’t like the idea of defense work and war work. As a matter of fact, when I went out to New London, one of the things I was happy about was I thought I was going to be doing antisubmarine work. I had this idea, and I still have in a certain sense, that if you’re doing antisubmarine work, that’s not really bad. You’re saving people’s lives when the submarine is out there to kill them. What I didn’t know until I got to work with Lyman is that antisubmarine work is pro-submarine work. I mean they take these results, these reports that come in from the submarine commanders and so on are all put together in deciding on pro-submarine tactics as well and all kinds of things like that and all the things I was learning. So I was doing pro-submarine work, in fact more than antisubmarine by the end of the war. So I really was sick about it. It was cowboy and Indian stuff really, and it certainly wasn't making a real use. Whatever talents I had as a physicist, I didn't feel you know… I mean a measure of this sort of thing, as I say, is the fact when I got out there — Now that lab had been going for quite a while and the barge had been going for quite a while, and nobody had the sense to tell them to pull the barge out in the middle of the river. [Laughter] You know, it was just trivial. And these were people from Bell Labs who had been there. Yeah, that’s a fact.

So I went out to USC. Actually, I found out later — I mean Lyman had written some good letters for me, but I’m not sure how well known Lyman was at that time. But I remained friends with him. But he didn’t know too many physicists; he was an astronomer. But anyway, I went out to USC, and then as a matter of fact for a while, I really sort of floundered because again, I didn’t know quite what to do. I never really had thought about doing independent work in physics. I wasn’t Julian Schwinger; we admit that. The first few papers I wrote, as a matter of fact, were related to the work I had done on underwater sound. Then I started doing some other things.

There was another experimentalist who had come out to USC, actually, a little after I did, and his name was A. T. Forrester. He had come into my office one day and was asking me, “Why can’t light waves interfere just the way sound waves interfere?” I told him, “Oh, they do interfere, but you have to have a nonlinear mechanism.” We wrote a little “Letter” to the Physical Review in which we worked out — it was actually my idea really — but if you send light from two different independent sources on a same photoelectric surface, the number of electrons coming out is a function of the intensity. That’s a nonlinear power of the electric fields. So the electric fields are actually interfering, and therefore the number of electrons coming out should be fluctuating and they will show the interference. Essentially that’s the interference of the light waves coming in. My friend Theodore Forrester said he’s going to do this experiment, and I remember saying, “Ted, don’t. It’s a very hard experiment.” This was before the laser. I mean it was really hard. He insisted on doing the experiment, and so he started working on it. We wrote this “Letter” and eventually he did the experiment about six years later, and in fact it was a famous experiment. The Smithsonian Institution kept it. I was, we were, I was the first person to predict that there would be interference. I don’t know if we were predicting very much, but I do remember that Gamow… no, not Gamow. Somebody else. I’ll get there. He came out to USC, a well-known guy, and argued with me about this. You know, “How could it be?” and so on. So anyway, I did that and I did some other things. Then I finally got started doing things, and then I was invited to New York University.

Good:

Yeah. How long were you at USC?

Gerjuoy:

I was at USC from 1946 to 1951. Then ‘51, I was invited to New York University to spend a year there, and I went for reasons which if you want to go into, I’ll go into. But I went to NYU and I spent a year there. During that year, I had the opportunity to spend time at Courant Institute a little bit, and also I sort of was working with a guy named Bernard Friedman whom I had known in City College and was a student of Corrant’s, so he was a good mathematician. He got a job in Berkeley in the Math Department. I sort of began learning more about the formal theory of scattering, which was something embedded in Mott and Massey. That’s what I began to work on. I began to work on formal scattering theory and application of scattering theory. I wrote on a number of things, but that’s mostly what I made my reputation at when I was doing my research. So I sort of started that at NYU, and then I came back to the University of Pittsburgh; I ended up at Pitt. That’s mostly what I did at Pitt. So that’s what it is.

Good:

Okay. Well you introduced it, so why did you go to NYU?

Gerjuoy:

Well, what happened was this. After that first year, I really had begun to write a number of papers. I wrote a number of papers on different subjects. USC was not a very good Physics Department. But the result of all this was that I actually got promoted fairly soon. In fact, I had been promoted… if I came in ‘46, I guess I was promoted in 1949 or 1950. I was promoted soon. Forrester had come a few months after I did and he had not been promoted, and one of the reasons was he hadn’t done very much. He was working on this experiment, against my advice.

Well, during that period, a man named Otto Halpern came to USC. We got a letter from Rabi recommending why don’t we try to hire Otto Halpern? Now Halpern had been at NYU, and I had friends at NYU, people I had known at City College. Primakoff was working for Halpern. I had gotten to know Primakoff during the war. Hamermesh was working with Halpern. Hamermesh I had known very well. He was a chess player and he’d come from my high school. So I knew people. Halpern was a pill. [Laughter] He had a reputation. It was terrible. So when he wrote this letter to USC, nobody there… I was the only one who sort of knew who Halpern was. It turned out Halpern was living — somebody had money and so on — in Beverly Hills in a big, yeah. So I thought to myself, “Well look. Okay, he’s a pill,” but everybody agreed he was a good physicist. So I recommended him, and Halpern was hired.

He came to USC and he started working with me. He had an idea; it was his idea. He worked on neutron scattering things. If you send neutrons onto a collection of crystals, normally you expect that the number of neutron collisions is proportional to the number of crystals in the incoming current. But it turns out — and it was his idea and it was right because I worked it out — that if the crystals were cut in a certain way, you actually got an enhanced sort of interference in the forward direction, and this cross section in the forward direction, instead of going as N to 1st power, the number of incidents, it went to number of crystals N to the 7/6th. So the thing was not linear with the number of crystals. Therefore, if you measured the cross section that way, you would make a mistake, and you had to know it. So anyway, this was his idea and he talked to me about it. I worked it out; I did the mathematics and it was right. We wrote a nice little paper together. Then I was talking to him about it — again, it was sort of my idea — that look, the calculation had been done by me in essentially a Born approximation calculation, and it was perfectly valid for neutron scattering. But it occurred to me, “Gee, suppose the last crystals — I mean we’re not doing neutron scattering — supposing we’re doing light scattering? The theory should be just the same.” So I told this to Halpern and he agreed. So the last section of our report was whether this thing would be observable. Okay.

Then what happened was just about the beginning of that academic year, whatever it was, Halpern had to go back to Vienna where he’d come from originally for personal business. I don’t even know what it was, something, I don’t know. But he had to go back to Vienna, so he went on leave. In the meantime, Ted Forrester was working, and I knew that his promotion was going to come up. I was already as I say in the tenure stream. Ted was a good friend. I said, “Look, Ted. You haven’t published anything. Look, here’s an idea. Halpern and I predicted this effect of the N to the 7/6th power. Why don't you get some crystals made and test that? You should do that very fast. You’d have a paper, a publication.” He said, “Sure.” So he had some crystals cut, and he put them and he didn't see the effect. He came to me and said he didn't see the effect. I remember saying, “Ted, it’s just not possible. I bet you don’t have parallel light. Why don't you use sunlight?” So he put them up and he didn’t see the effect, and he came to me and told me. So I went back and looked for myself and I didn't see any effect. [Laughs] So then I went back and looked at the calculation carefully, and I realized that the Born approximation really didn’t apply to this problem, although you think so, because what happens is that in light, the index refraction inside the glass is 2 something. So what happens is that in an instant in the wave front that hits the crystal, it really breaks up. The part of the wave front inside the crystal moves much more slowly than the part of the wave function outside. This, if you look at it carefully, just screws up the Born approximation, which did not happen in the case of the neutrons at all. So I said okay, and Ted published a little ”Letter” in the Physical Review saying that he had checked this effect of Gerjuoy and Halpern and it’s not there. Okay. All right.

Just about the time this paper appeared, Halpern returned from Vienna. He comes into my office and he’s in a fury. “How does this whippersnapper Forrester have the nerve to say that anything he, Halpern, had done was wrong?” [Laughter] I tried to tell him and he just wouldn't listen. He points his finger at me and he says, “We’re having a promotion discussion in a couple of weeks,” something like that. “You’re going to vote against Forrester,” and that’s what he said. So anyway, we had this promotion discussion in a couple of weeks and I didn't vote against Forrester. But you see, again, the department, younger people had been hired. There was a bunch of older guys who really didn’t know anything. Then Halpern got up and made a speech, and he was the distinguished professor there, about what a terrible experimentalist Forrester is and so on. So again, they refused to promote Forrester. In fact, he had to leave. He would have had to leave.

But you never know. What happened was that Forrester had gotten married not long before that, or maybe about a year or so, to a woman named Joy something or other, I think Joy Levin, Joy Forrester. My wife and I were good friends with the Forresters. Ted was probably my best friend there by far. Joy had been working for a Ph.D. in biochemistry with somebody, and just about the time all this happened, this guy whom she had been working with (his name was Buell I think), he was appointed dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at USC. So after Forrester was told that his promotion was refused and he had to leave, she went weeping to Buell’s office. She really was weeping. And Buell ruled that the thing had to be reopened, and the thing was reopened. Then after that happened, it was impossible at USC. We were fighting at meetings every day and so on, and I was just disgusted. Just about that time I got this letter from my friend Leon Fisher at NYU. He asked me if I’d like to spend the year at NYU, and I said yes immediately. I just wanted to get away. I was expecting, though, to return to USC.

Anyway, I went out to NYU. I spent the year there. And as a matter of fact, they offered me a job at NYU as an associate professor. But they didn’t offer tenure; I would have to sort of fight for tenure. After what had happened, although I had no doubt that I deserved tenure, I didn't want to do it. They did not want to give me tenure immediately. So I was going back to USC. But when I went out to New York, it was expensive. In fact, we bought a house in New Jersey where my friend Leon Fisher was living, right next to him. So I was broke and I ran into Ted Holstein, who had also had been a graduate student; he had been a graduate student of Halpern’s, in fact. He was at Westinghouse Research Laboratory in Pittsburgh and he asked me if I’d like to spend the summer at Westinghouse. I needed the money. I said sure. And so I went out to Westinghouse for the summer. I left my wife actually in New York; we had a house there with two children — we had two young children then. I went out to Westinghouse. I was going to spend the summer there. But I had not gotten my contract from USC; they were always late. After I’d been at Westinghouse some period of time I got my contract, and to my surprise, before I left USC I had been told I was going to get an $800 raise. Now that was 20% of my salary in those days, so it was really quite a raise. All I got was a $200 raise. So what the hell? So I called my chairman. And by this time a decision had been come to: Forrester was kept. Forrester got his promotion. Halpern was a man of honor and resigned the next day. I mean he resigned immediately. [Laughs] A new chairman had been appointed, and I talked to this guy. He said well yes, he knows I’m supposed to get an $800 a year raise. But I had not been on the budget last year because I had been at NYU and he said they had done a freeze on the department. The result was $200 a year is all we can do for you. So my reaction to this was he doesn't care if I come back or not. That was my reaction, and I remember.

So I asked Ted Holstein, “Is there a university in this town?” I didn't even know. He said, “Yeah, the University of Pittsburgh.” If he had told me Carnegie Tech, I would have ended up at a better place; I don't know. Anyway, he said the University of Pittsburgh. So I went down to the University; I had never been there before. I went to the Physics Department. David Halliday was chairman of the department. I talked to him, and I said I was interested in a job. So he said to me, “Well, it might be possible. Why don’t you give us a talk?” So I gave him a talk — I forget on what — and they offered me a job and I took it. And that’s how I got to Pittsburgh.

Now, if you want to know how I nearly got divorced, that’s when that happened too, because what happened was during this period, while I was at the lab at Westinghouse, my wife and I would be in contact by phone and mail, and I kept telling my wife that I couldn't understand all these stories about Pittsburgh. It was beautiful in Pittsburgh. It was absolutely gorgeous I say. I mean you’ll see it. Actually there are lots of trees and parks; it’s beautiful. So she came, although she was really very unhappy about leaving USC because her family came from Los Angeles. But anyway, she came out and two or three days, not more than that I swear, after she came out, the strike ended. I had not even realized there was a strike of the steel mills in Pittsburgh, and the steel mills started blasting and the soot started pouring down. It was a very difficult time for a while! [Laughs] It’s really true. You know, I hadn’t been reading the local news. I didn’t know! [Laughter]

Good:

Yes, it was a very different day in those days when the steel mills did shut down.

Gerjuoy:

Oh listen. After they started, it was actually a glorious sight. We used to sort of drive. There are smoke stacks up and down on each side of both rivers, and at night those smoke stacks… it was just gorgeous. You had to forget about what they were doing to the atmosphere. But yeah, I mean it was really impressive. There are no steel mills left there. There’s one coke plant left. And they started cleaning, and as a matter of fact — I guess I got to Pittsburgh in 1952. I guess around 1960 or so they started cleaning. And buildings, there’s a Mellon Institute there, the big beautiful building. Well I got there and it was sort of all black. They had cleaned it all up. It’s not black at all! [Laughs]

Good:

Yeah. As a child, I was taken into Pittsburgh from Monroeville. Every time you’d come over that hill just before the Oakland exit, you’d see the furnaces laid out in front of you. Pretty spectacular.

Gerjuoy:

Yeah, that’s right. Yes, it was spectacular. It really was.

Good:

So you had one year at NYU and you had already decided not to go back to USC because of the staff.

Gerjuoy:

Yes. So I started. What happened was all these schools—I had to wait one year to definitely get tenure at Pittsburgh, but it was sort of confirmed. I didn’t have to have a regular tenure evaluation. See, at NYU I would have had to actually go through a tenure visit and get references and stuff like that and I just did not want to do that. Although I would have liked to stay at NYU. I liked New York. Pittsburgh was an unknown place to me. I didn't know. But I was there and I had to start looking for a job again. So the first thing I did was went to Pitt and they offered me a job and I took it. But I stayed at Pitt, and what happened was again I was really doing pretty good work. In 1958, I would have been at Pitt six years, and that’s the normal time to get promoted again. So I went to Halliday and I told him. Halliday and I got along very well, and he knew I was doing well. That was shortly after the first discovery of parity violation. There was a guy in the department named — and I guess he’s dead now, so he won’t be able to sue me — but his name was Lorne Page. Lorne Page was a guy who was smart, but he really had not done very much. He was an experimentalist. Then this parity experiment was done by Richard Garwin and group. They did a rather complicated experiment. In fact, they came out to the cyclotron in Pittsburgh in Saxonburg to do the experiment. Lorne — Lorne Page was able to do essentially an experiment on electron decay in which he was able to show that the electrons didn't come out symmetrically and that this could be attributed to parity violation. That was his experiment he did, and he got a lot of credit for it.

So what Halliday said to me in effect was that Page, I’d like to get him promoted. He’s gotten a lot of publicity from this. This year I don't know what he’ll be doing. I want to promote him this year and I don't think I can promote two people in one year. You’ll be promoted next year. My reaction to this was I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. I mean if I deserve to be promoted, I want to be promoted. If Page is lucky now, if he doesn’t deserve to be promoted, then why should he be promoted because he got lucky this year? I want to be promoted. I mean again I knew what sorts of things can happen. So Dave said no, he wouldn’t, couldn't do it.

So I had known Edward Creutz, who was chairman of the department at Carnegie Tech. I’d been going there for seminars. Creutz had been appointed director of this new laboratory called General Atomic in La Jolla. So I wrote to Creutz and told him I was interested in a job, and Creutz offered me a job. My wife, again, she was delighted to go back to California, and I wasn't really sorry either. So I told Halliday I decided to go. Then he was sorry, as a matter of fact, and he said he’d try to get me — But I just sort of didn't. So I left Pitt in 1958 and I went out to the General Atomic Laboratory. I got there in the fall of ’58 and I stayed there.

I started working actually on essentially plasma physics connected with fusion and so on. Marshall Rosenbluth was there and I’d never known him. I worked there, and I was doing fine. I wrote some papers and so on. But again, more and more it was not the climate I really liked. I didn't feel comfortable in it. I had decided pretty well by 1960 or so I was really going to look for another job.

Good:

Thinking that you wanted to get back into University?

Gerjuoy:

Yeah, I wanted to get back to academia. Then again to my complete surprise, I got a letter from RCA Laboratories offering me a job as head of a plasma physics group at RCA Labs. They invited me out to talk to them and I went out and talked to them, and they offered me $36,000 a year, which was an incredible salary. So I went back, and I had tried… I was sort of trying to get — But I went back again and talked to my wife about it. I wasn't happy at General Atomic, and the conditions were really getting worse. RCA Labs was a famous lab and so on. So I went out to work at RCA Labs; they had this group. Then soon again it became clear it just was not… What had happened was this, and I hadn’t even known this until I got out there. RCA had decided to start a plasma physics group or something, a lab, and they had gotten a contract from the U.S. Army. Actually, they have a headquarters in New Mexico near Albuquerque. It was essentially to study the plasma clouds and so on. This had to do with nuclear bomb explosions. They were supposed to make measurements every time the Kennedy Space Center in Florida sent up something or other, what was sent up would leave a trail of some kind; it has a plasma behind it. They had a group which was not in RCA Labs but RCA had a subsidiary down there, they had a group there who was working at getting these experimental numbers and so on. Then this group that RCA, at the laboratory the theoretical group was supposed to be working on this and analyzing it and somehow learning things about plasmas and so on. This was what they were supposed to work on. RCA had hired as consultants a number of people from the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab because RCA didn't have anybody that knew anything about plasmas. They’d hired Russell Kulsrud and a couple of people like that, and they had written a report for RCA. This report had gone to the U.S. Army, and it was so impractical. It was so purely theoretical, and it had nothing to do with anything the Army was interested in that the Army refused to accept the report and wouldn't pay RCA Princeton for the project. It was a couple of million dollars project. So in desperation—and I don't know if they talked to Lyman or what, but somehow they had gotten my name as having worked on plasma physics and they offered me this job. My primary responsibility when I got out there was to do something with this project so they would get paid for it! [Laughter] And that’s actually what I did.

The first thing I did was to go — and I really wasn’t a terribly — You know, from my experience during the war, I mean there are theorists and theorists. I mean I’m not the greatest. I really am not. It’s obvious. But there are some people who have… and I just did have that practical feeling. When I got to Lyman, in no time at all I was the guy in Lyman’s group who was really talking to the Navy and Peter Bergmann and so on. They were just writing things. So it was the same thing here. I got there and I rewrote the report from beginning to end and it did get accepted. Okay. So that was great.

But then it became clear what RCA wanted me to do. They wanted me to build up a big group in plasma physics. I mean I’d hired a few people I knew. I hired about ten people. But then it became clear first of all they’d like me to support most of the research by grants, and then they wanted me to develop all kinds of applications of plasmas and they’d be making a lot of money on this. I told them that I didn't feel that plasma devices… Now I must admit I hadn’t thought about plasma screens and so on, but there really aren’t many applications. So I stopped hiring, because I knew if I hired more people they would be fired and I just couldn't do that. But then you see, here they were paying me $35,000 a year and that’s a group of 50 people, you know. I don’t know what it is. I had these people down, I can’t think of this town again, where they were working also who were doing the experimental work down there.

Good:

Yeah. So the theoreticians were…?

Gerjuoy:

That’s right. I had hired the theoreticians essentially.

Good:

And they were outside Princeton?

Gerjuoy:

Yeah. They were in a town called Moorestown, about 45 miles south of Princeton where RCA had a manufacturing plant.

Good:

Right. Then where were the experimentalists?

Gerjuoy:

They were down there. That’s where they were, except for the people at the Kennedy Center, of course. And in fact I’ll tell you a story about that because that’s a story that deserves telling. So I just couldn't do it, and it became clear about it. I knew I would have to leave. In fact, just before I decided to leave I was told they were transferring my group from RCA Lab to outside the lab, which is a sign, you see? [Yes.] Yeah. But I already had gotten a new job, as a matter of fact. What happened was I started looking around, but I didn’t look very long because just about the same time, I got a letter. Halliday had become Dean as a matter of fact, and somebody else now was Chairman. Whatever it was, they wrote me a letter offering me a job as a professor. I wouldn’t have to go through, and it had a pretty good salary. It was not 35, but it was $21,000 a year, which was still a pretty good salary. So I accepted that and that’s how I got back to Pitt. That was in 1964, see. Yeah.

So I left, but I did the following. I freely want to be boasting about this. Before I left RCA, I talked to the Lab about this and told them. I said that I didn't want these people I had hired, about ten people or so, I wanted them absorbed into the Lab. I didn't want them fired as soon as I left because I was afraid that was what they were going to do. They said you know, they couldn’t commit and I said, “Well, if you fire them, I’m going to do all I can to give RCA Labs a bad reputation, because it’s not their fault. You hired me and I hired them and it just didn't work out. But they’re not bad and you should be able to absorb them. If you fire them, I’m going to…” And they kept them is what happened. So they did keep them. That’s right, yes.

Good:

Okay, great. So that will be it for today.

Gerjuoy:

Okay and I want you to remind me to tell you this story of the experience I had down at that group down there who was doing the experimental work whom I was supposed to supervise.

Good:

This is the RCA experimental group in Moorestown.

Gerjuoy:

That’s right. They were supposed to be doing the plasma physics experiments on the things that went on at the Kennedy Center in Florida.

Good:

Very good. Yeah, that does interest me.