Notice: We are in the process of migrating Oral History Interview metadata to this new version of our website.
During this migration, the following fields associated with interviews may be incomplete: Institutions, Additional Persons, and Subjects. Our Browse Subjects feature is also affected by this migration.
Please contact [email protected] with any feedback.
This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.
This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.
Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript is available.
In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of Edward Gerjuoy by Greg Good on 2012 October 7, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/40682-2
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
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.
This is Greg Good talking with Ed Gerjuoy on our second installment of an oral history interview. The date is the 7th of October, 2012.
Do you want me to sit closer to you?
Yeah, I think sitting closer would be good. So in the first interview, Ed, we talked about your youth and about your family and about your education up through City College and out to Berkeley. But now I think we need to spend more time talking about your later career.
It’s up to you.
Okay. So why don’t we start right after graduate school with a few basics about where you went first and why you went there.
All right. You know I got my Ph.D. in 1942 right after Pearl Harbor.
I don’t remember whether I told you the occasion — Speak louder, you mean?
No, no. It’s going well.
Okay. I don’t know whether I told you just what happened, why I didn’t go to Los Alamos and so on, but it’s all right.
You did. Yes.
Yes, I did. Okay. Well, what happened was that I was desperately trying to find a job. Oppie didn’t help me. I actually had written, and some friend of mine had suggested there was a National Roster of Specialized Scientific Personnel which was being maintained by the Defense Department, and they offered me a job in New London, Connecticut working on underwater sound which I immediately accepted and went out there. I went to New London, Connecticut. It was actually… There’s a base. I don’t know if you know this, but New London, Connecticut, right across the river there’s a big submarine base still and still was there then where they make submarines and so on. So this was across the river; it was a Coast Guard base. They had a group there working. It was one of the national defense… so on… working on sort of supporting the submarine people there and the submarine crews there. They had a barge which was tied up at the dock there, and this barge had a hole in one end that they’d drilled and a hole in the other end. They had somebody there who were working on manufacturing sonar devices. They put one down on one side and they’d have a source on the other side, and they were testing it. Because I was not yet cleared (I’d just gone out there), this was regarded as not particularly secret, so therefore I was assigned, as everybody who came there originally, until I got cleared, I was assigned a job of working on the barge. Okay.
So I got to the barge and we did some tests of something or other, and the results fluctuated by 10 to 20 dB from one time to another. So I made the remark, “You know, you’re tied up at the dock and we’re working on relatively low frequencies.” By the way, wavelengths are quite long because the velocity of sound in the water is five times the velocity of sound in air, some wavelengths. So I said, “You’re getting a lot of interference. You ought to go out in deeper water.” So actually, this got to somebody’s ears higher up, and then a couple of days later they towed the barge out to the middle of the river. We got out there and the fluctuations went down to a couple of decibels. I was told, “You’re going to be running the barge.” So I was out there every day after that, out in the middle of the river — I mean the dullest thing imagined. I had one assistant who helped me, and they’d bring out these hydrophone devices and so on. We’d test them and I’d write a little report on it, and that’s all I was doing out there! [Laughs]
So this is early work.
This is… I got there in June of ‘46.
Okay. Oh, it’s — okay.
I mean June of ‘42. I got there in June of ‘42. So I mean I was just bored to tears. So not having anything else to do, I started just writing reports of my own of essentially, you know, tactics — submarines versus destroyer and that type of thing. I just wrote these reports. After I’d been there about a year — a little more than a year, I guess — I got a phone call from somebody called Lyman Spitzer. Lyman said to me — He was in New York. He had read my reports, and would I like to come down and talk to him? He found them interesting. So I went down to New York. He was in the Empire State Building, as a matter of fact, on the 34th floor, the Columbia University Division of War Research. They had a branch there. He had a little group of about 15 people, 10. I don’t know. Anyway, Lyman talked to me and told me he’d like — and he offered me a job to come there, which I immediately accepted! [Laughs] So that’s how I left New London and came to New York with my wife.
There were actually quite a few…I mean Peter Bergmann was in the group with all kinds of various people. Anyway, it turned out that I had a gift for that sort of thing, and I really was a very worthwhile member of the group. As a matter of fact, after a little more than a year there — about 1945 or so, probably earlier than that — I was sent down to Washington. I actually had an office in the Navy Department, where I was the person representing our group right in the office of the Submarine Service. I was working and talking to submarine commanders and doing that, and that’s what they did until the end of the War. As a matter of fact, Roger Revelle at that time was a Lieutenant Commander, and he was supposed to keep in contact with the scientific community representatives working on underwater sound. He was my contact. Roger, who had lots of money, would take me to the Cosmos Club every day or so, and that’s where we heard that Roosevelt had died, for instance. So that’s what I did until the end of the War.
As a matter of fact, after Lyman left. I mean I’d never met Lyman before. We got to be pretty good friends. After Lyman left, which was shortly after Japan was bombed and I was still there, I became the Acting Director of the Sonar Analysis Group, which I did until I left. As a matter of fact, I was offered a civilian high-level G something or other job at a salary — at $8,200 as I remember. I was looking for a job. Again, I didn’t have much help. But I finally got an offer from the University of Southern California where a couple of graduate students who had known me at Berkeley, and I immediately accepted it at $3,600. I did not want to particularly continue working for — So that’s what happened.
You didn’t want to stay with the government.
No, I didn’t. I’ll tell you. As I say, I got to be pretty good, but I learned that anti-submarine is pro-submarine. One of the reasons I had been willing to go out in the first place was because I had this simplistic idea that gee, what I was going to do, I was going to prevent submarines from killing, you know, innocent civilians and so on. But I learned very soon — as I say, I got to know the business — that anti-submarine work is pro-submarine work.
Whatever works against the enemy works for us.
That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. So anyway, that’s what happened.
And that was work directly with the Navy.
That was directly with the Navy. I had an office in the Navy Department.
But you were a civilian in the Navy Department.
Yes, I was a civilian consultant. That’s right. I was working for the Columbia University Division of War Research. They had the 64th floor of the Empire State Building, and there were other groups there — I mean quite known people. Henry Primakoff was there, people like that. As I say, Peter Bergmann. Leslie Foldy was there. Yeah. But anyway, that was… But there were different groups. Some were working on mines and things like that. That’s what we were working. Anyway. So I came to USC and I started. That was in September of 1946, and I started my academic career there.
As an assistant professor?
As an assistant professor at $3,600 a year. Well, I mean for a while I kind of floundered because I mean I was on my own. For the first time, I started doing my own research and so on.
Right. Yeah. Since you had finished your degree, all of your research really had been dictated by the needs of the War.
That’s right. That’s right, yeah. And actually I wrote a paper. Actually, I did write a paper which had to do with sound. I mean it had to do essentially with how people test for underwater, under-land deposits of minerals and oil and so on, and what happens —
Okay. So sort of seismic work?
Yeah. That’s right. What happens is —
Yeah, but what happens is you take advantage of the fact that the signal first runs along the interface and then extends down below the interface. See, in this fashion it goes much further than you might expect. Anyway, I wrote a paper about that and so on. But I started working. There was somebody there named Ted Forrester, and he came into my office once and asked me how come photons don’t interfere because after all, sound waves interfere. I told him photons will interfere. You need a nonlinear device. So anyway, I wrote a paper on interference which he eventually did an experiment on, and I got to be — I wrote some papers. As a matter of fact, I was promoted. About three years later, I got promoted to associate professor. I had tenure. Then again, it made my problems begin! [Laughs] I don’t know. Do you want to hear all these details?
Well, we’ll go through some and…
All right. But I’ll tell you how I happened to leave USC and come to the University of Pittsburgh because that’s —
That’s a good story, yeah.
There’s a man named — the physicist named Otto Halpern. Did you ever hear of him?
I have heard of Halpern.
Yeah. He was a quite good physicist, and as a matter of fact, Holstein, Primakoff, and Hamermesh were all students of his. So was a man named Harvey Hall. And he was at NYU. While I was at USC, the third or fourth year or something like that, the department got a letter. I think it was from Rabi, actually. Anyway, somebody well-known. I’ve forgotten now, in the east — saying that Halpern was leaving NYU. I think he was leaving because he got into a fight there. He was a difficult person, and that he was coming out to Los Angeles. In fact, he got a place in Beverly Hills, a very expensive place. Why doesn't USC hire him? He was very good. And USC was — But I sort of knew about him because as I say, I knew Hamermesh, who had been at my high school. I knew Holstein. I knew Primakoff. I knew them all. He was a very good guy, although he was difficult, but I said, “We can handle him.” So anyway, the department hired him. He came as a full professor. I mean he was in his fifties. Started there, and I got to know him. As a matter of fact, he talked to me. We wrote a paper together on neutron scattering. Anyway, the first thing that I did when I met Halpern — He’d come in rarely. He’d come in only for his classes. He was living out in Beverly Hills…
Quite a distance.
Yeah, but that’s the point. But I mean it was a beautiful house and so on. So I went out to see him and talk to him, and when I came home, I remember telling my wife, “You know, he must be a very sick man. I mean his desk is just full of medicines!” Well, it turned out that he practiced homeopathy, and he prescribed. I got to know him better, and he told me he got this gift. His wife did handwriting reading for Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He told me they wouldn’t cast a movie without asking her about it. [Laughs] And she got gifts for him. Anyway, so he was doing this homeopathy, which of course I thought was a joke. But one day, you know, I figure he’s a smart guy; what the hell. So my gums were bleeding, so I said to him, “Otto, my gums have been bleeding. Maybe you can prescribe for that.” So he sits me down and he takes a complete medical history, and after he says, “I will prescribe for you.” All right. Then about a couple of weeks later — I forget — he came into USC and he handed me a little vial. He says, “Three drops a day on your wrist three times a day like this,” you know. He puts his tongue… Okay. So I started doing it.
Three drops of liquid on your wrist. Lick them, and this would treat your gums.
That’s right. So I started doing it, and as a matter of fact, about after a week or something, my gums got better! So the next time I saw Halpern, I said, “Otto, you know what you gave me has really worked! It’s helped my gums.” What do you think he said?
Uh…“I gave you water”?
No. He said, “That’s peculiar.” [Laughter] So I said, “Why is that peculiar, Otto?” and he says, “Well, you know, I took your medical history, and you had had infectious hepatitis,” which I did when I first got to USC. He said, “I decided that the doctors had not completely cured your infectious hepatitis, so I decided to recreate the disease in you and to cure that.” [Laughter] This is what he said! So I stopped treatment and he was very angry at me! [Laughter]
So you recreated the disease.
Well, I don’t know.
At least in his mind.
Yeah! Of course homeopathy — I mean I didn’t — But anyway, that’s what happened. That illustrates Halpern.
Well, while all this was going on, Halpern around this time — I forget — Halpern had to go back to Vienna (he came from Vienna) to attend to personal business. He was gone for a full semester. Ted Forrester, whom I had written this paper with and so on (it was actually a letter to the editor), Ted Forrester had decided to do the experiment on demonstrating interference, which is a very difficult experiment. He actually eventually did it, and in fact, the equipment was put in the Smithsonian. It’s a famous paper, but anyway. He came there when I did and we were both assistant professors. So as a result, he had not published anything hardly, so while Halpern was gone and the term was coming to an end, I said, “Ted, here’s something you can do.”
The paper with Halpern was based upon an idea of Halpern’s which was right, which was that if you have crystals in which the faces are cut in a certain way (you know, angle and so on), that because of interference between them and so on, that in the very forward direction, the intensity would go not as the number of crystals, number of little scatterers, but as the (7/6)th power. If you didn’t realize this, you would make a mistake in the cross section. You wouldn’t get it right. I wrote this — I mean he had the idea. I did the mathematics. I worked it out, and in doing it, I realized — and you know, I talked to Halpern about it — that this should work not just merely with neutron scattering, but it should work with light being scattered from small crystals as well.
Then we wrote this paper. It appeared in the Physical Review, as they say, and Halpern went off. So I said to Ted, “Look. Why don’t you verify this idea of ours? It’s a nice idea.” So he said, “All right.” I said, “It’s a very simple experiment.” So he put it up, and he came to me a couple of days later. He said he tried it and it didn’t work. I said, “Ted, that’s not possible. You must not be using parallel light.” So he set it up on an optical bench, you know, and it still didn’t work. So he came to me, so I went and looked and yes, it didn’t work. So then I thought about the thing some more, and I realized that what had happened was that in doing recalculation of the first part with our neutrons, I had used Born approximation. But for the optics, for the crystals, Born approximation didn’t work because the velocity of light in the crystal and outside the crystal was sufficiently different that the wave front got separated and it just didn’t really work. That was the reason. So I told him that, anyway, and he published a little paper, again a letter to the editor, I guess, in the Phys Rev saying that he’d done the experiment and that what Gerjuoy and Halpern had said would work didn’t work.
Well, not shortly after it appeared, Halpern came back from Vienna and he was just furious! How dare this whippersnapper Forrester say that anything Halpern had done was wrong! [Laughter] I said, “Look, Otto. You’re a famous man, but I’m just starting out. I’m not worried about it. So I made a mistake. I mean we’ll…” He would not hear of it, and he says, “You know, we’re meeting soon to decide promotions.” I was already on there because I had tenure. He points his finger at me and says, “When Forrester’s name comes up, you’re going to vote against him.”
Just like that.
Just like that. Well, I didn’t vote against him, and you know, that was the end of our relationship. Forrester was turned down because what had happened was there were a couple of younger people in the department like me, people that had been at Berkeley. But Halpern — there were older people in the department. It really was not a very good department. Halpern was a very distinguished theorist — and he got up and made this speech there about how terrible an experimentalist Forrester must be that he couldn’t verify this prediction by Gerjuoy and Halpern. And they voted against him. I mean as I say, they just voted him down. All right. So Forrester was told he’s going to have to leave in a year.
But… Forrester had gotten married while he was in USC. He had married a young woman named Joy who was a graduate student in biochemistry working for her Ph.D. She was working for her PhD — with someone named Buell I think it was. But anyway, shortly after this happened, after Forrester was told he’d have to leave USC, Buell was appointed dean of the College of Arts and Sciences there. So when this took place, Joy went to him and she wept all over his desk and so on, and he promised her he would reopen the case. Well, he reopened the case, and then I mean every day practically we’d have a department meeting and be fighting and screaming and yelling. I just couldn’t stand it. I mean it was just ridiculous. While all this was happening, I got a letter from my friends Sidney Borowitz and Leon Fisher. Sidney Borowitz was a long-time friend, and Leon Fisher was somebody who had been at Berkeley with me. They were at NYU and asked me if I wanted to spend a year at NYU. I said, “Absolutely!” [Laughs] And I accepted.
Get me out of this crazy kind of personal dispute.
That’s right. Well, that’s right. I didn’t want to hear any more about it. So I went out to NYU, and actually I’d been doing quite a bit of work. I was promised an $800 a year raise, which on a salary of about $5,000, that was really a pretty good raise. So okay. I went out there to NYU. I spent a year there. In fact, they offered me a job, but they didn’t want to offer me a professorship with tenure, and I was not going to go through that again. So I was planning to come back to USC, although USC was always late in sending out their yearly contracts. And I was broke. We had spent a lot of money going East and living in the East.
Which year was this?
This was 1951, 1952. So it was the summer of 1952 I’m talking about. I saw Ted Holstein, whom I had known, as I say, from New York and so on. Ted at that time was working in the Westinghouse Research Labs, and Ted asked me if I’d like to spend the summer at Westinghouse. I said yes because I needed the dough and so on. So I left my wife in New York — actually, we were living in New Jersey — and I came out here.
Where was your wife from?
My wife, I had met my wife from Berkeley. She was from Los Angeles. She actually —
Okay. So her family was out west.
Well, yes. Well, she had grown up and she had gone to City College in Los Angeles. She had taken a junior college degree, and then she came up to Berkeley and that’s where I met her, when I came there as a graduate student.
So when you left her in New Jersey, she didn’t have a lot of people there she knew.
No, no. Well, we were living near Leon Fisher. Actually, we were living near Leon Fisher purposely, so she knew him. We had two young kids, though, whom she was left with, yeah. But anyway, so I came out here, and after, oh, about two or three weeks and so on, I got my contract for next year from USC, and it said I had a $200 raise. So you know, I was surprised. So I called. Now by this time, what had happened was the department had turned upside down. Forrester had been reinstated; he had gotten a tenured job. The chairman had been replaced. When Forrester was reinstated, Halpern immediately resigned. So Halpern was out of the department. Anyway, they had a new chairman, and I called this guy and I said, “Look. I mean I was promised $800 a year. I was going to get it, but I was off the payroll for the year.” He starts telling me well, yes, I was off the payroll and that there was a freeze and so on, and that was the best they could do for me. So my interpretation of all this was that he didn’t care if I came back or not.
So I asked Ted Holstein whether there was a university in town because I had no idea! [Laughter] He said, “Yes, the University of Pittsburgh.” So I came down here and I saw Halliday, who at that time was the chairman of the department, for whom I wrote an obituary in Physics Today not so long ago. I told Halliday I was interested in a job, and he said, “Well, give us a talk.” So I gave them a talk, and they offered me the job and I took it. That’s how I came to be at Pitt.
And that was…?
That was in the end of the summer of 1952.
Okay. So the end of the summer of 1952, you told USC, “Thank you, no,” and you came to the University of Pittsburgh.
That’s right. Now I will tell you this because I think this is of note. While all this was going on, my wife and I were in communication by telephone, of course. But I kept telling — I mean she was not very happy. When I told her about the possibility of living here, she was not very happy about it. She loved Los Angeles, and her family was in Los Angeles. When we lived at USC, she was very close to her family. I kept telling her that Pittsburgh… Really, I didn’t understand why Pittsburgh had this bad reputation. It was beautiful here. It was sunny. Anyway, she came. She came here. Two days after she arrived — two days; I’m not kidding — the strike ended. I had not realized there was a strike in the steel, and the smoke started coming down.
So 1952, there was this big steelworkers strike.
Yeah, which I didn’t read the paper. Yeah. And the smoke started coming down, and that was as near as anybody came to getting a divorce. [Laughter] She was pretty mad!
Did you start looking upwind for somewhere to live?
Well, I had actually gotten a place. It was not a place, but yeah, I had gotten the place already before she came because yeah. [Laughter] I had gotten an apartment. But that’s what happened. I mean it really made a difference.
Well, yeah. Certainly in the 1950s in Pittsburgh it was very, very smoky.
Oh yes. [Laughter]
Lots of open hearth furnaces.
Yeah. So anyway, I stayed at Pitt from fall of ‘52. See, I wouldn’t have come, but I was given tenure. I was given associate professor with tenure but at a year or two, you know, but I didn’t have to go through any tenure recommendations from outside professors. Yeah. So I had tenure.
Right. You basically had to prove yourself.
Well, yeah. Yeah.
That’s without the formality.
That’s right. But see, NYU didn’t want to do that, didn’t want to offer me with tenure. So anyway, I stayed here from 1952 to 1958. In 1958, I had really done quite a — That was a productive year. I went to Halliday and said I thought it was time that I be promoted to professor, six years, and Halliday told me… And I got to know him. Halliday told me that — Well, there was somebody in the department named Lorne Page, whom he had been trying to get promoted. Page had just done an experiment which had to do with the front-back of symmetry of beta decay, having to do with time reversal and so on. He had done that, and it was a pretty good experiment. He hadn’t done much else or so on. I mean I think he’s dead now, so I can say this without Page or I being embarrassed.
But it was his opportunity for promotion.
That’s right. Dave said he didn’t think he could get two people promoted, so why didn’t I wait till next year. My reaction was I don’t want to wait for — I mean who knows? I mean it’s my time, I have really done good work, and I wanted to be promoted. He didn’t want to do it.
Well, about that time, Creutz, who had been the chair of the department at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon), he had gone out to La Jolla to head General Atomic. I don't know if you realize that. But you know, General Atomic, it was formed just about then. So I wrote. He had been hiring people.
So this is 1952 as well.
No, this is 1958.
Oh, 1958. Okay.
1958, yeah. I turned from Halliday. I wrote to Creutz and asked him if he was interested in offering me a job. My wife was elated, delighted to be going back to California.
Right. She’d like to go back there.
And Creutz offered me a job and so I took it, and I left Pittsburgh and I went out there.
So where was General Atomic?
In La Jolla.
Right north of La Jolla. Right north, yeah.
So in the area around Scripps Institution?
It was very close to Scripps. That’s right. That’s right. And Revelle was around there and so on, but —
And you had this old connection back to Revelle.
Yeah, but Revelle did not have anything to do with my General Atomic hiring. I mean Revelle was there, but Revelle did not have anything to do with —
This was a chance thing.
Yeah, but he had nothing to do with my appointment at General Atomic. That was Creutz. Yeah. So I came out there, and in fact I was put in the group working on fusion. They had quite an effort there in fusion.
Was this looking at commercial fusion power or…?
No, no, no. Well, this was — Well, it was trying to get a…
… a fusion reactor going. That’s right. That’s right. So I stayed out there, and actually what happened was I worked there for four years. We bought a house in La Jolla. I mean I can tell you all kinds of interesting — If you want to hear, if this is taking time, if you want to hear again a diversion which tells you about life…
Life in La Jolla?
Yeah. Well, yeah.
Yeah. I wouldn’t be disinterested in that. Okay?
Okay. I will tell you. What happened was we came out to La Jolla with our children, and there is some suburb of La Jolla — I forget — east of there where I found the apartment to live. I would go into General Atomic while I was there, and then during the day, she would hunt for a place, a house, something like that. She would look and every so often she’d find something. This happened two or three times — I would go out there and I would look at it then, and then something or other would come up — and it would not be available.
Something wouldn’t work out.
That’s right. Right. This happened a number of times. Then we went to a party. We were invited. You know, I knew some people through Revelle at the university, and I was invited to a party. My wife and I went to some party, and I was talking to somebody there about my difficulty in finding a place and so on. They indicated it was because I was Jewish. You know, they’d see my wife was not Jewish and then I’d come with my New York accent and so on, and they’d suddenly find out. So I spoke to an agent about that, one of these guys, and he says to me, “Wouldn’t you be happier living in this place north with your own kind?” That’s what he says.
Yeah. Well, for that time period, not too surprising.
Okay. So I said, “The hell with it,” you know. So I said, “I’m not talking to anymore of these real estate agents. I’m through with them.” What I did, I got in my car with my wife, and we drove around looking at houses which were for sale by the builder. Houses were being built all the time. We found a house which was being built which looked very nice. It was very close to being finished, and the guy who was selling it was not an agent. It was the guy who was building it. He didn’t give a good goddamn, and so we bought a house.
He wanted to sell his house.
That’s right, and so we bought the house and that’s how. So we got to live on La Jolla right near the top of the peak there. So that’s what we did. That’s how we got the house.
Okay. I guess you must have known people at Scripps Institution, then.
Yeah, I knew a few. Well, first of all, the guy named Leonard Lieberman who had been in our underwater — and he was there. But there weren’t too many. Eckert was there for a while. I knew him.
Eckert was there.
I didn’t know him. But I did know Eckert. Yeah, that’s right. But there weren’t too many people, you know.
It was a small place.
That’s right. But anyway, I guess Roger was back there by then.
Yeah, and Walter Munk was there.
Yes. I got to know him, but I had not known him before. Yes. So I got to know him. That’s right. Anyway. So this is what happened. Then for your interest, again, about a year later, I went to another party with my wife, again somebody from the… and I told this story about how this guy said, “Don’t you want to live with your own kind.” There’s a woman we’re talking to, very nice. She said, “Oh, they were not supposed to do that with people like you!” [Laughter]
Only with the undesirable Jews.
That’s right. That’s right! So anyway, that was… Anyway, so I stayed at General Atomic for four years. But actually, as time went on I got kind of more and more unhappy with the work at General Atomic and so on.
Well, actually I think that’s worth talking about because there aren’t a lot of stories on record of people who have moved from academic positions to industry and then back. So what made you unhappy?
Well, it really was… You know, fusion… Actually, Marshall Rosenbluth was there, and he was very smart. Actually, I’d not met Rosenbluth. He was sort of heading the group and so on. He was very smart. Marshall had either gone — I forget now — or was about to. He had been offered a job at the new university which was being formed at the same time, and he was leaving. The thing is it was an industrial lab, and as time went on, it was clear there was sort of more and more interest in people doing applied work. I mean this fusion —
Things that would pay off sooner than fusion.
That’s right. Well, but it was not so much that, but it was also getting hard to get research money. Yeah, it was both. So just something about the atmosphere of the lab began to change, and I just didn’t feel I had a future there. I didn’t really see where I was going. I decided I really wanted to go back to academia.
So this is about 1962.
Yeah, that’s right. As a matter of fact, I started thinking about a job, and then I got a letter from RCA Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey. See, I had never worked on plasma physics before I got to General Atomic, but I had written some things. There was a plasma physics group at the laboratory in Princeton, which as a matter of fact was started by Lyman Spitzer, who knew me. But the people there knew me. Anyway, what had happened was that they had gotten a contract from the Army Research Office or something, but it was headquartered in Albuquerque. It was having to do with doing something about analyzing the remnants of the ionization produced by rockets going off into the air — and so on. They had sort of written something on this, and it was just apparently so terrible, so devoid of any application that the Army had refused to pay for it. This is not the lab. It was RCA Labs, and they had hired these people from Princeton as consultants. They had heard about me and so on, anyway, they asked me if I wanted to lead that group which was doing this. They offered me an incredible salary. They offered me $35,000 a year, which in those —
At that point, a huge amount.
I mean it was just unheard. I just couldn’t turn it down! So anyway, I accepted. We went out to live in Princeton, New Jersey, and I did this job and so on. In fact, I headed a group further down and so on. But what happened then was, you see… So I got out there, and I was at RCA Labs, see. But it was sort of a subgroup in a way. It was not part — because the job was to head a plasma physics group they were trying to start.
Yeah. Was it physically located with the rest of the RCA folks?
In the Lab. At the Lab. At the Lab. Yes, it was at the Lab. I started hiring a few people. I knew some people who had been graduate students at NYU when I was there, and I hired about 10 or 12 people. Then it became apparent that what they wanted me to do was to get these people and develop all kinds of plasma devices which RCA would make a lot of money on. Essentially, I told them that plasma physics… I mean let me say it. My initial job was just to go over that report that had been written, which I did myself. So the report was paid for. So that happened. Okay. But then essentially it became clear that what they wanted of me was to build a big group getting patents and so on, and I told them, and I think it’s true that it was pretty hard to get working plasma devices and I didn’t… They obviously did not care for this assertion of mine, and as a result, I stopped hiring people. I just didn’t because I felt they would fire them.
It was a dead end for those people you would hire.
That’s right. Well, or they may get fired and so on. But the point is when I did this, I clearly was not having a group big enough to justify the salary they were paying me. They had envisioned me building a huge group, you know, and so on because this was a big salary.
And they sought development of fusion devices.
Well, whatever they did, yeah, that’s right. That’s right. And this was plasma, not just necessarily fusion. Yeah, yeah. That’s right. As I say, the people at the plasma lab had recommended me — probably Lyman had also himself. So after a couple of years, as a matter of fact, they told me that they were going to move the group. There’s another branch outside, and they were going to move the group there out of the lab and so on. So this is the handwriting on the wall, and so I told them I was going to leave. But I said if they fired the people — I wanted the people in my group to stay. If they fired them, I would do all I could to have RCA Labs have a bad name; that’s actually what I told them. Then just when this happened, really, I got a letter from Pitt, now with another chairman than Halliday.
So now we’re looking at ’’67 or ‘68?
No, no, no. Now we’re looking at ‘64. It’s two years after I got to RCA.
Aha. Two years, okay.
Yeah, yeah. The summer of ‘64. Right before the summer, I got a letter from Pitt. Some of them who knew me — Fred Keffer was the new chairman. Halliday was Dean now, as a matter of fact. But anyway, saying did I want to come back? They would give me a full professorship with tenure and so on and offered me a pretty good salary because, you know, I had this huge salary. Again, it was about $21,000. I mean it was still a pretty good salary, but it was a lot less than 35.
Not like industry, but —
That’s right, but a lot less than 35… But anyway, again I took it in a heartbeat, so that’s how I got back to Pitt.
Okay. So that was the fall of ‘64?
That was ‘64. Yes, that’s ‘64. Then I stayed at Pitt, you know, teaching and so on and so on. And I did quite a lot of — I mean I think my reputation was good and so on and published. But by about — let’s see. This would be half my career. By about ‘72, ‘73 or so, computers were beginning to come in — I mean just beginning. The field I was in, I was doing nonrelativistic collision theory and electron-atom collision collisions. I’d written quite a few papers on that, but other people were in the field and it became apparent, to me at least, that there was very little more that could be done analytically. I mean I was strong in math. There were a few people, other atomic collision theorists, who were building up big groups to do numerical calculations. You know, the point is you can do electron hydrogen. You can do electron helium. You want to start talking about electron oxygen or whatever approach. I mean you just can’t do that except numerically. I really didn’t want to do that. I was not interested in a numerical program. So I had actually seriously decided I was going to leave the atomic collision field and stop taking graduate students, as a matter of fact. I was going to go into statistical physics, and I started reading about statistical physics and so on. This would be about ‘74 or something like that. I had made up my mind that I probably would go into statistical physics, and I started looking in the literature seriously and so on. I realized there were a lot of pretty smart guys in statistical physics and that it would take me three years. I felt it would take me at least three years in order to get myself up to speed where I’d be able to publish something in statistical physics.
Did you think that you were coming up on 60 years of age at the time?
No, I didn’t.
Didn’t even occur to you. Yeah.
It did not even occur to me, no. But what did at the moment, a light bulb went off in my head, and I said, “You know, three years, I can do a lot in three years! I can get a law degree.” [Laughs] And that’s when I decided —
Was that something you had thought about doing before or was this a new idea?
Well, it was a new idea except that when I was young, I had thought a little bit about it. It was a new idea in that respect. But see, first of all, I knew I would have to retire at 70. At that time…
It was rigid.
…universities were not required to — That’s right. It was the Age Discrimination in Education Act, but it was not enforced for somebody my age. There was a window. So I would have had to retire, and I was not anxious to retire. Also, it was money. I mean I felt that I was likely to live a long time, I really did, and my health was very good. I thought if I got a law degree I can prolong my working career, which as a matter of fact I did. I mean I was able to keep earning money until my mid-eighties. Yeah, till more than that. Till 2003, yes. Okay, in 2002 or so. So that was quite a bit. It made a difference. So that’s part of it.
So anyway… But then the thing was that I had to… You know, the first thing I had to do, I had to get hold of my college records. City College had a hell of a time finding my record. [Laughter] And I had to apply to law school and had to take the LSAT.
Okay, so this is funny. You’re a full professor at the University of Pittsburgh. To apply to law school, you have to find someone who can say, “Yes, he did get a bachelor’s degree.”
That’s right. [Laughter] Exactly! Exactly. That’s right. So I applied, but see, I had been… Actually, I had been quite active in the university. I had been chairman of the Educational Policies Committee of the faculty senate for about seven, eight years. So I did not want to go to law school at least the first year here at Pitt.
You knew too many people.
Well, I was really afraid of flunking out. I’m not kidding. I mean I was old. I mean I really was old. But when I entered law school, I was 56, I guess. Yeah. And I graduated 59, yeah. I mean when I was applying I was 56.
Yeah, yeah. It was the year I’m giving you. Yeah. You know, if I was going to flunk out, I wanted to flunk out as far away as possible from Pittsburgh in all seriousness! So I applied to schools far from Pitt. You know, I applied to the University of California, and I was admitted to what was called Hastings, which is not — You know, Boult Hall is the main Law School on the Berkeley campus, but this is a quite good law school in San Francisco, Hastings School of Law. I was admitted there and I accepted. So my wife and I, by that time my children were gone, and we moved out and we spent a year at Hastings, and actually — Well, let me just say. So I took the LSAT, and I was sure I had flunked it. It turned out I was in the 90th percentile. I was really surprised! So I got in, and I got to Hastings, and it’s really true. I had sort of forgotten how to take exams. But I got better and better as time went on.
Yeah. Well, who hasn’t forgotten how to take exams?
Well, yeah. That’s right. So you know, I spent a year there, and I would have loved to spend more. But what happened, I had gotten a sabbatical, you know, and I just couldn’t afford to stay in law school. So I did apply back at Pitt and I was accepted. What happened was I came back. We came back to Pittsburgh. My wife really was unhappy, and she loved California. We came back to Pittsburgh, and I actually went on half-time salary. I taught at night. I stopped all my research. I taught at night, and I went to law school full-time during the day. I finished up my last two years here at Pitt.
Okay, and your law degree here is when?
My law degree here was in 1977 when I was 59 years old.
And as I say, in all pride, what the hell, I came out second in the class. In fact, I got the Law School Dean very mad at me because they had some sort of award he wanted me to take and I just refused. I stayed away from it. I just said I couldn’t go up there, you know, with all the other — and this ancient guy getting this award. I just couldn’t in front of the faculty who knew me. So that’s what happened. All right.
Then I got my law degree. I came back to Pitt full time, and I was trying to find something. You know, I had thought — As a matter of fact, let me say this. What I had thought I would do and I tried to do was to get a joint appointment in… So as a result, the Law School and in physics, and I just couldn’t maneuver it. The Dean of the law school wanted this part of my salary pay and the Dean of Arts and Sciences wanted a part — and they just couldn’t come together on the question of what part of my salary the Law School should pay.
They wouldn’t negotiate.
They wouldn’t negotiate. Part of it probably was I may have been too close to retirement by that time. You know, I was essentially 60 when this was going on. So I just floundered. I really did flounder for a while, didn’t quite know what to do.
Step back for a second. Do you think that it is just that the different colleges within a big university don’t know how to understand someone who is a chameleon?
Yes. Let me say yes, and also, there is something. See, the knowledge of science in the law school was just abysmal. Now it just happens that in the ‘90s, there was an opinion by the United States Supreme Court called something versus — Geez, I forget. But versus Merrell Dow. Yeah. This was a case in which a woman who had taken an anti-nausea drug which was advertised while she was pregnant, she gave birth to a very deformed child. She found some expert or other who testified that it was due to this anti-nausea drug, and she got this award from the jury. Merrell Dow appealed and it went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. Until that time, the Court had really not considered the issue of what was required of a scientific expert. See, that’s the thing. So the Court issued some rules and some guidelines for a trial court which was hearing such testimony. In fact, what courts are supposed to do, they’re supposed to interview the expert in advance before the jury hears them and decide whether the expert should be allowed to testify, things like that. Since that time, there has been a greater interest and I think a greater, maybe better understanding of science in law schools. So I think, for instance, if this were happening now or after that, I would have a much better chance of getting that joint appointment. But anyway, that was the situation.
But at that point, it was before…
Yes, yes. As I say, see I was going to tell you. After about two years of my sort of not knowing quite what to do, two or three years, I got an offer. I got a suggestion. The state of Pennsylvania has what’s called an Environmental Hearing Board which hears appeals from the state environmental enforcement agency, which at that time was called the Department of Environmental Resources. It’s now called the Department of Environmental Protection. This agency is the equivalent in Pennsylvania of the EPA. It licenses. It investigates allegations of environmental violations.
It oversees environmental regulation?
Yeah. That’s essentially what the DER does for the state of Pennsylvania. The State has actually — this is unusual now — an independent board called the Environmental Hearing Board (the EHB), which hears appeals from the actions of the DER. It was suggested that I be appointed to the EHB. I emphasize that the EHB is unusual because this independent agency and its employees, the members of the board, are not themselves agents the DER or the EPA for that matter. The Hearing Board is a completely independent agency. For instance, in the EPA, there are people who hear appeals from actions of the EPA, but those people work for the EPA. They’re not independent of the EPA, though they hear appeals from its actions. This Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board is really a court.
Right. It acts as an appeals court on environmental regulation.
Yeah. But the appeals courts, I mean if you go to an appeals court appealing, let’s say, your assessment, you’ll get to some people who hear your appeal, but they’re just not a court at all. But this EHB, we really were a court. Our rules of procedure were essentially the same as the regular courts. Now what had happened was that I was advised, I was urged to go into patent law when I was in law school, but I didn’t want to. Patent law at that time was rather dull. Now it’s gotten much more interesting because of intellectual property. But I didn’t want to search patents, and so I decided I would go into environmental law, and so that’s what I decided to do. My first year in law school was standard, no decisions to make, all required courses. When I came to Pitt I had to make some decision. As I’ve indicated, I wanted to do environmental law. At that time, Pitt did not have an environmental law program. They do now. But they had an arrangement with the state Department of Environmental Resources, which has a branch headquartered here in Pittsburgh that they had a program of external studies in which somebody at DER would supervise my environmental studies for the law school. So that’s what I did. I took this program that’s two or three credits a year, whatever it is, in environmental law. I would go down to DER headquarters various times, various hours, working there with my supervising DER attorney. My supervisor actually was just a young guy working for DER. And that’s how they got to know me. In fact, I’ve written a paper about my experience at DER, particularly cross examining.
So when this opening came on the Environmental Hearing Board, DER recommended me to the Governor. The appointments were made by the Governor. The EHB appointment was a high level position, appointed by the governor, confirmed by the State Senate. Well, the governor was Thornburgh, and Thornburgh knew me because during the Vietnam War, I had organized an anti-Vietnam War group at the University of Pittsburgh. At that time, Thornburgh was starting his political career. He was Republican. But he was considering running on an anti-Vietnam War platform. He heard about me, and he got in touch with me to talk to him and so on, which I did a number of times. So he got to know me.
So this is over several years before all of this comes about.
Oh, it was, I would say…
12 years earlier.
When was the Vietnam War? Jesus.
Mmm, ‘66 to ‘74.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was at least ten years earlier. That’s right. At that time, Thornburgh was starting out, but by this time he had become Governor. See?
You were on this Board then from 1982?
Well, it was sort of the end of 1981 until the summer of 1987 roughly — 1981 to 1987. I was on the Board a little less than six years. Yeah. That was my term, yeah. In a moment I’ll tell you why I left. But first let me say something about the kind of cases I heard.
Typically what happen on the cases I ruled on, was that each side put on experts. I had a lot of scientific expert testimony. Now let me explain how scientific testimony actually works. You or a lawyer and you want an expert. Okay. You hire an expert. You tell him about the case, and he gives you a report. You call him and you listen to him. You know what you want him to say. If he doesn’t say what you want him to say, you get another expert. You are not going to put an expert on who doesn’t say what you want him to say. The same thing goes for the other side. So let’s talk about a typical case which came up.
A typical case involved whether a coal mine was polluting a land owner’s well, his drinking water supply. Basically the issue was which way is the groundwater flowing? Is the groundwater flowing from the mine to the well, in which case pollution of the groundwater would explain what happened? Or is the groundwater flowing in another direction, in which case whatever happened to this land owner’s water, it wasn’t due to the mine. Okay. All right. So, I’d have these experts coming on, and they would testify as expected — and this happened every time. The expert appearing for the well owner would say that the groundwater flowed in a direct line from the mine to the well, see? The guy appearing for the mine owner would say it flowed perpendicular.
Right. Always perpendicular!
All perpendicular, right! Now how do you decide which way the water flows? Deciding which way the water flowed in an underground aquifer is actually a very tricky thing.
Oh you know about that?
You have to actually measure — Well, what you have to do is determine an equipotential. What you have to do is actually measure the height of the water in wells in various locations along the aquifer and you draw up an equipotential. Well, okay. So this guy, this expert, comes and he says he measured these well heights. Well, how the hell do I know how good were his measurements? I mean it’s only a matter of inches! So I mean there’s absolutely no way for me to tell whether this expert’s testimony is correct. The only way to tell is to sort of in general is he a person who would know what he’s talking about? For example, is he a person who always testified the DER was wrong? And other various things like that. But as I say, as far as the actual physics is concerned, I couldn’t tell most of the time. Only once in a few times could I tell.
And I would bet that rarely could you call in just a file report from the geological survey that would actually help.
It is permissible for a judge under the rules to hire an independent expert who would testify, but I didn’t have any practical way of getting competent witnesses — But that’s something which I’ve recommended, and that’s another matter. Anyway, there were a couple of times when I did exercise my own prejudices. There was one time in a case of this kind in which one of the parties wanted to put on an expert who was a dowser. You know what a dowser is?
Okay. I do.
He was going to tell where the underground water was.
Everyone from this part of Pennsylvania knows what a dowser is. [Laughs]
Yeah, okay. All right. Well, I refused to let him testify. I mean I didn’t — You see, nowadays, after Merrell Dow… Daubert vs. Merrell Dow, the criteria are such I might have had a better chance. There really weren’t any criteria then. The only precedent on scientific testimony was an old, old case 100 years old. So I just told the lawyer that I’m not letting him testify. I don't care. Appeal my decision. [Laughter] I will not let a dowsing expert testify in my court! He didn’t appeal. I don’t even remember which way the decision went, but anyway no dowsing testimony! [Laughter]
Yeah. Those sorts of decisions are obviously still very important around Pennsylvania and through the whole Marcellus shale area now.
That’s right. But anyway, my term was over after six years. Thornburgh was no longer governor, and I had seen how people were replaced. Several EHB colleagues had been appointed and their terms had ended, and they were generally replaced essentially summarily. Actually, what happened was they sort of stayed on. Sort of automatically they stayed on till they were replaced, and they just got replaced. You know, in a matter of weeks, they got a notice and then they were off, and I just didn’t want to let this happen to me. So I decided the hell with it. By that time, it was 1987. I was 69. I would only have been permitted to stay on the EHB until I was 70. So what I did actually, I took leave, actually a few months before the end of my term, I think. I knew people at Stanford, and in particular I knew somebody who was a good friend in the department of mathematics at Stanford. So I talked to him, and he invited me to spend four months at Stanford. So I went to Stanford, and while I was there, I started negotiating with law firms here in Pittsburgh because you see, while I was on the Board, I could not negotiate with anybody. It was a conflict of interest. Really, people from every big firm were appearing before me. So I began negotiating, and I was offered essentially to be “of counsel.” See, I was too old to be a…New appointees to law firms are usually called associates.
Wouldn’t work for you.
I was too old to be an associate. But at the same time, I was too close to retirement to be a partner. The business of a partner is to get business for the firm, and I didn’t want to do that and I really didn’t have the contacts to do it. So I became what is essentially a consultant. It was called “of counsel.” I had a desk at this law firm which was Rose Schmidt. It was actually a big law firm at the time. I had a desk there and I had a secretary and so on, and they paid me on an hourly basis. They had a group working on environmental —
Did they mainly do environmental law?
No, no, no. They did all kinds of law.
Broad spectrum. Okay.
That’s right. But they had a small environmental law group, and I was there. Having come from the Hearing Board, I had a lot of prestige and so on, so that’s what I started doing. [Laughing] And no sooner did I get to Rose Schmidt and the firm began to fall apart. [Laughter] I mean when I got there, there were 60 lawyers. By 2002, there were six lawyers left. This is really true! I mean it was just so mismanaged, and you know, I kept trying. They had partners meetings, you know, and I kept asking them wouldn’t they let me come to them? I mean I wouldn’t vote and so on, but I’m just curious as to what’s going on. They had a group doing corporate law and so on and they left and then another group and so on, and they’re just dwindling. Then after about, oh, seven years or so, the environmental group left. Now when I got there, as soon as I got there, I started working on a case which involved Superfund. It actually involved a Superfund site in Hastings, Nebraska. But the firm, the corporation which was involved which was being asked to clean that site up and so on, was Dravo Corporation. I don't know if you ever heard of it.
Okay. Dravo? Yeah.
Yeah. That was a big corporation which no longer exists. Dravo had gotten into this case because well before I got on the case, they had bought out a firm in Hastings, Nebraska which made heating and refrigeration equipment. I’m not going to go into details. So Dravo had hired Rose Schmidt here in Pittsburgh. I came on and I started working on the case. Then the Rose Schmidt lawyer whom Dravo had hired — his name is Demase — left Rose Schmidt and went to Reed Smith, which is one of the really big law firms in Pittsburgh, a national law firm. Demase continued with the case, and I remained as a consultant to him. So as a matter of fact, I also got myself a desk at Reed Smith and I was working there. This case went on. It started in 1985. I got on in 1987, you know, once I came to Rose Schmidt. It ended in 2002 roughly. At the same time, Rose Schmidt broke up. In 2002, it was down to six people, as I said, and it finally broke up. So I was not inclined to look for another law firm with which to be associated. I was a little old for that. Moreover the Dravo case essentially ended at Reed Smith at the same time. So that’s when I came back to Pitt — I had retained my connection with the University. I was emeritus. I had retained a parking place which I was paying for all that time, which is the most important part of all, and so I came back, got an office.
So in 2002, you came back to Pitt.
Yeah, roughly 2002. That’s right. So the last ten years I’ve been here at Pitt.
Okay. And back at the Physics Department.
How does the Physics Department feel? Well, how do the people feel about having someone who went away as an attorney for all those years come back to the department? Do they know what to do with you?
Well, they don’t have to do anything with me as far as that’s concerned. Also, all those years when I was being a lawyer, I’ve really been involved in APS affairs. The physics department was aware that I still was involved in physics.
So you had never left that anyway.
That’s right. I would attend seminars when I could and things like that. So they still knew me. On the whole, I think I have a very good reputation. For your interest in case you want to know it, I am teaching a course for them this term. I was asked by the chair to teach a course, and I said I would. I really think I should not have undertaken it. I’m really working like a dog.
What course is it?
Well, there was a guy named Bernard Cohen. Do you know of him?
I knew Bernard Cohen, yeah.
All right. Well, Bernie died recently. He had been teaching a course, Physics 87, which is essentially for liberal arts majors. You know, liberal arts majors have to take some science courses. But Bernie’s course concentrated on nuclear physics, which was Bernie’s field. When the chairman asked me to take this over after Bernie died, I did not want to spend all my time on teaching nuclear physics, so I revised the curriculum. The course is called “Physics in Society,” and it has to do essentially with policy. I mean it’s policy issues in which physics and knowledge of physics plays a role, and there are many such policy issues.
Mm-hmm [yes], many.
That’s what the course is about.
Okay. Very good.
But I was going to use a textbook by a man named Richard Muller, whom you may or may not have heard of.
I don't know him.
He’s a professor at the University of California in the Physics Department. He’s quite well-known. He got a MacArthur Award. He’s been teaching a course called “Physics and Technology for Future Presidents.”
Oh yeah, yeah. Okay.
He’s been teaching this course for quite a while, and he has a textbook. I thought I was going to use it, but for various reasons I don't want to go into —
It just didn’t fit.
It didn’t fit. So then this made teaching the course much, much harder for me.
So you’ve strung together other individual readings and things.
Well, that’s right. That’s right.
So it’s a one-semester course?
And it’s aimed at undergraduate physics majors?
No, no. Undergraduate arts majors.
There may be a physics major taking the course — I don’t think I have a physics major. Physics majors can take it, but it’s designed to satisfy the science requirement for liberal arts students. In my syllabus description, I say that I’m not going to give them any numerical problems. [Laughs]
Yeah, yeah. Okay. Well, it occurs to me then we have a couple of lines of questioning that we haven’t explored at all yet. One is the American Physical Society. I think that would be… Well, let’s start with that, and if we have time, we can go on to something else. So when you were doing your doctoral work and just after the War was over in the ‘40s, obviously APS was the main place you went to looking for a place to publish.
Oh, yeah. I mean that was the only place. Yeah. And I mean my publications, they were all in the Physical Review. I guess after not too long I may have published a few things in the American Journal of Physics.
Okay. But that’s sort of the intro level to getting involved with an organization like APS. You did more with APS than that.
Yes, but that was not how I got into it.
Okay. How did you get into it?
Well, I’m trying to think exactly what happened. But you know, I have always been — Human rights has been something I’ve been devoted to. I got appointed — I forget how or why, what I did — but I got appointed to CIFS (the Committee on the International Freedom of Scientists), when it was still a subcommittee. It really wasn’t an independent committee yet. But people knew me, and I was appointed to it.
About what time is this? What are we talking about? Even approximately is good enough for now.
Yeah, okay. Let’s say around 1975, I mean something like that. It was quite a while ago. So I got appointed, but see, after I started going to law school, and especially after I resigned from the department, I really deliberately tried to work with the APS and do things like that because I wanted to retain my contacts with the physics community. It’s still the case. I like physicists a lot more than I like lawyers, and I really did not want to break my contact with physicists. Since I wasn’t doing any research really; although actually, I published a number of things while I was lawyering. And I tried to go to APS meetings. So that’s what happened.
So sometime in the ‘70s you got involved with this other part of APS.
That’s right. That’s right, with the administration. That’s right.
And you were on one committee or several committees?
Oh, I eventually I was on quite a number. I was chair of CIFS actually several times. I actually —
What does CIFS stand for?
Committee on International Freedom of Scientists. I actually chaired POPA, I mean that’s an important committee. Physics of Public Affairs, something like that. I was on counsel. I was elected to council. So I mean I did all that. I was on the Sakharov Committee, you know for the Sakharov Prize, so I had various committees. The last one was about five years ago now. I’m still on the program committee of the Forum on the History of Physics. I’m still on that. But I stopped really doing this committee work about five years ago, and the reason was primarily because it became more and more apparent to me that I had lost touch with the community of young physicists. One of the things you really should do when you’re on the committee is you should make recommendations for new appointees and so on for people to get into administration. As a matter of fact, I’ve done that here at Pitt. For instance, one person who is now quite active in the APS, she’s on the Forum on Education. She does education work here in the Pitt physics department. Her name is Chandralekha Singh. That sort of thing.
So you started finding younger people who might fit into places.
That’s right. I’d been on the APS committee a long time and I decided I really was pushing it. But I was urged, actually, to go on the Forum on the History of Physics which I had not spent much time with, and so I’m on the program committee. I chaired a session for them last year and so on. So that’s where I am. I guess this year, there have been some recommendations for programs, and it’s going to start pretty soon.
Yeah. I guess the program will be filled out fairly soon.
Yeah, and I haven’t heard anything. So that’s what I’ve been doing.
Okay. How about involvement with the other parts of the University of Pittsburgh that have something to do with history of science? Anything to do with them?
No, I’ve not done that. I’ve not done that at all. Even before, no. I really have not. I’m not quite sure why, but it hasn’t come up. You know, since coming back to Pitt, I’ve tried to… I’ve done some research.
Tried to… yeah.
Yeah. So that’s what I’ve done, and I’m still trying to do some research, although —
Some physics research.
Yes. I mean I’ve actually published half a dozen papers since coming back to Pitt. But lately, the last few years, I mean I’m sort of making a last try right now.
Sure, sure. Yeah.
It may be true that I have to recognize my limitations, but I’m doing pretty well. That’s right. Yeah.
Yeah. Well, one has to do something, right?
Well, people keep urging me to write my memoirs, but I don’t want to do it mainly because I don’t think it’s going to be published. But oh, you’ve got my memoirs.
Yeah, we have some memoirs of yours. Of course, anything that a physicist writes, published in the future or not, we can put in the archives. So if there is an episode that you want to publish and you think it would probably never find the light of day, we can still take care of that. [Phone call] Oh, that’s a good point.
That was my son.
Oh, okay. Actually, he brought up a good point. I did bring my camera. [Laughter] So I should take a picture.
Oh, yes. Well, you took a picture once before, I think.
That wouldn’t surprise me, but we may as well do another picture.
Go ahead. Take another one. Can I sit?
You may sit. Absolutely. We’ll see if I can… Okay. No flash. Let’s do it with flash.
No, it certainly didn’t flash.
No. I’m a little more proficient with the camera than I am with the tape recorder.
I see. Well, don’t you tape record everybody?
You know, I don’t use this machine often enough. I really need to be better about it.
All right. Well, tell me a joke. Try to be something humorous.
Okay. Here’s a joke that I told my undergraduates just before I stopped teaching. Why is cell phone so good in Oakland?
There are four bars on every corner.
[Laughs] That’s not bad. Not bad.
We’ll do another one.
All right, do another one. I might have closed my eyes, actually.
Oh, very likely. Let’s see.
I just had a Pitt magazine. That’s the University of Pittsburgh just had a little thing about me.
Yeah. I got a little column. I’m getting famous, you see, for living. Yes.
You live long enough, people come up with all kinds of stories.
So that’s why we record these ones because that way we make sure that we get a good one. Okay. Eyes wide open! That’s the one. Okay. Very good. Well, I think we’ve done pretty well for tonight.
Are we through? Are we finished?
What else would you like to talk about?
Well, I’m trying to think. I don’t really know.
Yeah. Well you know, we’ve talked a lot about your time in graduate school and about your early years.
We haven’t really talked about my professional career, but I don’t know. Maybe we shouldn’t.
You know what? No. We can talk about that. Actually, we can also talk about… You’ve not said very much about your family, about your children. I don’t know how much you want to say, but that’s up to you.
But you know, this is off the record for the moment. I really think that I should have done more professionally than I did. I mean I think I’ve done pretty well. I was a pretty good student of Oppenheimer’s. When I think back on it, he really left me out on a limb, which made a big difference. But whatever the reason may be, I think I am now — I don't know. You probably know better than I. I know there are a couple of Oppenheimer Ph.D.s. You know, he had three Ph.D.s after World War II. Two of them are dead, however.
Who are they?
Leslie Foldy, who like me worked in the Empire State building during the war, and Siegfried Wouthuysen. I’m not sure what’s with the third Ph.D., Harold Lewis.
And I mean there may be one or two people who are really not — I mean have sort of disappeared from physics. I mean there are a couple of people like that. But I’m not sure I know anybody else who was a student of Oppenheimer. So in a way, I may be the last person to really remember what went on in Oppie’s group. Now did you by any chance ever look at that thing, biography or whatever it was of mine that was published in Physics in Perspective?
Oh, the one in Physics in Perspective. Yeah, I did. Yeah.
Yeah. Well, we’ve covered a lot of that ground.
Yeah, we have. Can you think of anything that you haven’t said that’s in that… or anything that…
That I want to say maybe.
That you want to say that isn’t in that article? Yeah.
Well, I don’t know. As I said, I haven’t talked about my family. My wife died four years ago. She was 90. I’m living in a quite large apartment here as you see alone. It is a little lonely. You know, I think I’d be a lot worse off if I hadn’t decided that I’m going to continue working. Again, I’m certainly of all the people I know my age, I don't know anybody else who’s seriously trying to do research.
Yeah, yeah. At 94, that’s unusual. So how long have you been in this apartment?
Since 2007. I mean my wife — We were living in a house in Pittsburgh not too far, in Point Breeze. But my wife, she got less and less able, and she wasn’t able —
Right. A house is too much.
That’s right. So we moved here, and she only lasted a year. I mean she died. She actually died December 24, 2008 is when she died. So I’ve been here almost four years since then. That’s right. It’s really a much larger apartment than I need, but I’m not going to… You haven’t seen it. It’s really quite a large apartment.
Yes. Well, in that case, moving is even more daunting. [Laughter]
Yeah, that’s right. Now I have a son. I don’t know if you want to — I mean I have a son who’s living here in Pittsburgh. He’s living also right in Point Breeze, right near Penn and Braddock.
Okay. I know the area.
I see him. He was here this afternoon and so on, so I mean I… We don’t spend… But I mean I see him. He just called me, as a matter of fact, to be sure that you had come and whatever.
Okay. So is he in the sciences at all?
No, no. He’s a musician. Well, he’s actually a pretty good guitarist, but he had surgery about — I mean he was living in California, and he didn’t really — Whatever it is, I mean he was suffering there. I got him to come back here to see somebody here who as soon as he took an X-ray, he said to him, “You’d better get into surgery or you’re going to become a quadriplegic.” He’s ended up — I mean the result of this was that his fingers were weakened and he found it — And so he’s actually on disability. But he’s slowly starting to play again, actually. His fingers have gotten stronger. But he really was not able to do it.
But it’s a real challenge to do that, yeah.
Yeah, that’s right.
Okay. Or how about other physicists who are retired in the area around Pittsburgh that you might know or in areas that you’ve worked in?
Well, the point is…
There aren’t many of course, but…
Somebody who was a very good friend of mine in graduate school, Leon Fisher, who was at Los Alamos, he’s actually just a few months younger than I. He got his Ph.D. from Leonard Loeb, that man.
Mm-hmm [yes]. That one.
Yeah. My wife and I were very good friends with him and his wife. His wife died a few months after my wife did, not that long. But he was living in Atherton, which if you know where that is, it’s between San Francisco and Palo Alto. A big house there. His wife was quite well-to-do. Anyway, I had kept in touch with him and so on. But I heard just, oh a month or two ago, that he had suffered something. As a matter of fact, I just heard last week from his family that he has an inoperable tumor in his lung and he just has a few months to live. So that’s going to be the end. The only other person who I really know well is a guy named Sidney Borowitz. Do you know him?
I don’t know Sidney Borowitz.
Sidney Borowitz was at City College with me, and in fact I knew him even before I got to college. He’s about a month younger than I. June 12th is his birthday. Sidney was a math team member from Boys High, and I was on the math team at Thomas Jefferson. Sid did not go to grad school immediately after graduating from City College. He went to work. Sidney did go to graduate school, but a year after I did. I urged him to come to California, to Berkeley, and he did. But then he had to leave because his older brother died. His brother died of leukemia, so then Sid really had to go back and go to work. He didn’t get his Ph.D. till after the War, as a matter of fact. He got his Ph.D. from Julian Schwinger, and he was at NYU. He’s one of the people who invited me to come to NYU. Another person on the Boys High math team who got a delayed physics Ph.D. is a guy named Isidore Hodes. He also was a good friend. During the War, he was in the Army working. He had been in engineering at City College mainly because family had never heard of a physicist, so they insisted on him being an engineer.
Yeah, but they knew engineering.
Yeah. I got him to come out to USC. He spent a couple of years there. He got a Master’s there. He was really a smart guy, too, and I just felt that I did not know — At that time, I was really just starting out. I did not know enough to really deservedly have a student like that. So he went to University of Chicago and he worked for Wentzel. He got his Ph.D from Wentzel and so on, and so that’s what happened with him. But he died quite a few years ago.
Sidney is still alive. Sidney actually rose to be essentially provost at NYU. He stayed at NYU, and he lives in the…
Still in the New York area.
He lives near Washington Square. He lives near there. We still sort of stay in touch. But first of all, his hearing has gotten very bad, so it’s difficult to talk to him on the phone. Now somebody else I know is Ben Bederson whom you probably know.
I know of him. Yeah.
He was actually head of the APS publications. He’s a little younger. When I got to NYU, I met him. He was a post-doc there. During the War, he was at Los Alamos as a member of the military. You know, the Army sent him there. He has actually talked a lot on this and reminisced about. I think you probably have heard some of his reminiscences.
We might actually have some oral interviews. Yeah.
But you know, of the old people I know, the older, I mean that’s essentially —
Now there are younger people I’ve certainly gotten to know.
Of course. Yeah.
Here and elsewhere. Do you know Cameron Reed?
But you know of him. I’ve gotten to know him. He’s sent me some manuscripts to review and so on. I’m still getting the Physical Review and Phys Rev Letters; I’m still being asked to referee papers. But I’ve written them. I just don’t have much extra time with this course I’m giving. But I do referee papers.
The other person I’ve been in touch with a couple of years ago was Resnick.
Yes. Well, Resnick is here in Pittsburgh.
He’s right here someplace. Yeah.
That’s right. He’s living in Squirrel Hill. Now Resnick, for reasons which are not clear, has become a recluse. I mean he is in depression. His wife has been ill for quite some time. He is living in a place called Weinberg Terrace in Squirrel Hill. You know where Squirrel Hill is?
I know Squirrel Hill, yeah.
Yeah. Weinberg Terrace is a sort of retirement community and medical thing for Jewish families. He brought her back from Florida to live there, and actually they have two separate apartments, but she requires a lot of care.
So she gets more care.
Yeah, she has a lot of care. That’s right.
And he can live a little more independently than… Yeah.
That’s right. But he just doesn’t seem to get out much. I’ve urged him to come to colloquia at Pitt, for instance, but he hardly ever comes. He doesn't drive. He just has to take a very convenient bus. It comes right down here. So there’s Bob Resnick, yes. Resnick was actually on the faculty when I got here to Pittsburgh. But I think he didn’t get promoted; that’s why he left. But anyway, he left not too long after I first came to Pitt here.
Getting back to physicists close to my age, Dave Saxon was a very good friend of mine. But he also died, you know. Actually, I went to his memorial service and I spoke there. I know a couple of people still at UCLA who know me.
One thing that you could think about is if you or any of these old colleagues of yours have collections of papers. A lot of stuff should not be preserved, but some things perhaps should be from the paper record.
What do you call collection of papers?
Professional letters, in particular notebooks from when you were a student or when they were students, notebooks pulling together your research. I’m afraid you’re going to bring out a great big suitcase, aren’t you?
Come with me. Come with me. This is my office. Actually, I’ve grown out of here. However, first of all, this is my accumulated correspondence. But that’s actually a lot of personal correspondence in there.
I probably should have brought the recorder with me. Okay, we’ve now walked into the study, and we’re looking at papers of various kinds.
But let’s see what I have here. I have all kinds of stuff. These are notes of courses I gave and so on. But what I was going to say was I still have my notebook, my notes on quantum mechanics and problems I took that I took with Oppenheimer.
With Oppenheimer. I knew it.
And with Oppenheimer’s notes here and there, “Very good.”
Oh my goodness!
I’m not going to give you that. I should sell that. I should sell that!
No, no. None of that should be given to me in any case. Typically, these things end up with the University archives, so we need to make sure that you get in touch with the University of Pittsburgh Archives.
Well, why the University of Pittsburgh? You mean…
Just because you had so much time with Pitt.
Oh. I don't know. You see, actually what I’ve done, let me just tell you. I have written a will, of course. I’ve written some fairly extensive instructions to my children about what to do with my things.
Oh good. Okay.
But let me say what I essentially have told them is to do whatever they will that once I’m gone I really don’t know. So I don't think I’ve told them to get in touch with the American Institute of Physics, for example.
Ask them to.
All right. Okay. I could certainly do that. I haven’t told them to get in touch with the University Archives, as a matter of fact. The only thing that I’ve told them, I have a lot of books, see? I mean some books I brought back because they really reduced the size of my office. But I told them, for instance, that as far as my books are concerned, they should ask the Physics Department whether they want them, but if not, I don’t know. I mean I just don’t want to… So that’s the problem.
Right. Oh, it’s a common problem. We certainly would look through the books and fill… We have about 18,000 volumes of physics books.
Yeah, I would think. I mean yeah.
It’s surprising. We still get lots of donations of books that are new to us.
I see. But you know, I have some… One of the things I have, I have some things, Schwinger’s lectures and so on which you may or may not have.
Right. We may not. I would have to check.
I wish if I had known this — I mean I think I still have most of those. But I may have — See, they reduced the size of my office recently. I really had to condense. Let’s see. Did I bring those things back here? I don't think so. These are law books. These are…Did you know that I was on the Wen Ho Lee defense team?
No! Wen Ho Lee?
Yeah. You remember Wen Ho Lee?
Oh, of course. Yeah.
Yes. I was a member of his defense team.
Oh my goodness. Okay, that tells me that I —
We have lots to talk about.
We need a whole other interview about that. That’s not a small interview.
Yeah. I’ll show you. Just a minute. I was a very important part of his defense team. Here. Wen Ho Lee. This is a book which he wrote obviously with…
Dan Stober and Ian Hoffman.
Yeah, yeah. Here’s a big… Here it is. Okay. There it is. 298. I think actually it’s in the…
In the table of contents.
No, not in the table. I think it’s in the introduction.
Oh. No, that’s not…
Oh, there’s another book. I have another book, so maybe it’s in this one. Oh, this is by Wen Ho Lee himself. Yeah, that’s right.
Oh yeah, there you are.
“The legal team led by Mark Holscher [and so on and so on], Edward Gerjuoy.” See? Yeah, the members of the… I really — I mean I can tell you that —
That’s a whole other interview. [Laughter]
Okay. I’m sorry. But I mean that’s… Yeah. Well you see, we really haven’t talked about my legal career at all.
No, we haven’t.
Actually, I’ve published. There are quite a few things I’ve published on the law, a lot of… Yeah. This is by Gerjuoy. Yeah, here it is. That’s right.
Yeah, here. Oppenheimer as a teacher of physics.
Yeah, that’s a talk which I gave. That’s when I got started on this.
Yeah. Essays like that are very hard to find. They aren’t well indexed.
I see. Well, I have a list of my publications. I think you have that.
Yeah, we have that. Yeah.
You have my legal and physics publications.
Yes. But that’s a whole other set of talks.
You know, I think I had some things to say about the law, as I say about law and science that I think are worthwhile. I don’t know how much they’ve affected anybody; I just don’t know. But I edited. I guess you know that I edited the Jurimetrics journal of the American Bar Association for six years. Did you know that?
Right, right. Yeah.
Yeah, okay. So I did that.
Yeah. That’s not something that usually we get around to talking about. [Laughter] Well, I think we should say good night.
Yes. Yes, you’re right.
This is good for one session. We can do another session another time.
Okay. All right. Well, it’s up to you to find the occasion. I probably will be coming to one of the APS meetings in this next year.
Right, and I certainly will be at — I think I will be at the April meeting.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ll be at the April meeting.
Yeah, okay. Very good.