Marvin Goldberger

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ORAL HISTORIES
Interviewed by
Dan Ford
Interview dates
June 2004
Location
La Jolla, California
Usage Information and Disclaimer
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Interview of Marvin Goldberger by Dan

Ford on 2004 June,Audio and video interviews about the life and work of Richard Garwin, 2004-2012Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,College Park, MD USA,www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/40912-10

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Abstract

In this interview Marvin "Murph" Goldberger discusses topics such as: Richard Garwin, University of Chicago, Enrico Fermi, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, JASON, Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC), national security policy, nuclear weapons.This interview is part of a collection of interviews on the life and work of Richard Garwin. To see all associated interviews, click here.

Transcript

[Abrupt start of recorded material]

Goldberger:

It's buried somehow in the antiquity, but my Jewish name is Moishe. My mother occasionally used to call me Moish, and a substantial fraction of my friends, when I was growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, had never heard a name like — they were Irish, Irish-Catholic kids in our neighborhood, and they had never heard a name like Moishe, and it was somehow Irish-ized. I was quite eager to have a nickname, because my real name, Marvin, is sort of a sissy name, and being a sissy in Youngstown, Ohio, was not an optimal strategy. So I leapt at the opportunity of being called that. Most of the kids that I went through high school with did not call me Murph. They called me Marv or Marvy, which my family called me. But in some fashion, which I'm no longer sure, when I went off to college I became sort of universally known as Murph. It's been with me now for quite a long time.

Ford:

Henry Kendall talked about you several times, and in the department of verification [i.e., just checking this with you], he attributed something to you which he referred to as Goldberger's theorem: In any group of people, howsoever selected, the percentage of fools was a constant. Is that attributable to you?

Goldberger:

I would be happy to take credit for that. I don't remember it explicitly. I remember Henry very well, of course. Now, what would you like to do? You want me to freely associate, or you want to ask me questions?

Ford:

I think free association is as good as anything. I basically want to find out how to get a grasp of Garwin and what the main things are about him that I should be focusing on.

Goldberger:

OK. I first met Dick in — I think it was the Fall of 1947, when he showed up in Chicago as a graduate student in the physics department. We had one sort of big, main office for the graduate students, and Dick got a place there. It was obvious, instantaneously, that he was an unusually bright person. I think Dick is about seven years younger than I am. He must be close to 75.

Ford:

76, I think.

Goldberger:

76, OK. Well, I'll be 82 in October. The group that he was — sort of sat with and became involved with was a rather unusual bunch of graduate students. We had almost, to a person — I can say to a man, because there were no women involved at that time — had been associated with one or another wartime activity, either working on the Manhattan Project or Aberdeen Proving Grounds. One or two people had actually even been in the service. Though I myself had been in the army during the war, but I was signed to the Chicago part of the Manhattan Project, called the Metallurgical Laboratory. I arrived there in early 1944 and worked on the project until I was discharged from the army in February of 1946, and in March of '46 started graduate school.

Dick was younger and didn't have this background, but he was obviously extraordinarily smart. We became friends. I believe that he was married. He was married at — I'm not entirely sure when he was — was he married as a graduate student?

Ford:

His marriage was before he went to graduate school.

Goldberger:

OK. My wife and I became friends with him, and we've been friends and very close interactions since 1948, or '47, whenever it was they came. Dick got his degree, I think formally, a year after I did. I got mine in 1948, and I think Dick got his in '49. He worked on a variety of things with Enrico Fermi, and I believe that his thesis consisted of designing a machine for integrating the Schrodinger equation. It was probably one of several things that he could've done with Fermi.

He was only the second person that I know of who was retained after getting their Ph.D to be on the faculty at the university. They had a rather strong policy, but they weren't criminally insane. C.N. Yang, a later Nobel Laureate, one of three of that first class of ours, and Dick were appointed as — I think Dick was appointed maybe directly as an assistant professor.

I came back to Chicago in the Fall of 1950. I'd been a post-doc at a couple of places. Came and joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the Fall of 1950. We sort of picked up with the Garwins where we had left off. We had one child at that time, and I think they had one child at that time.

I've never been entirely sure why Dick left Chicago and went to IBM. I have a conjecture. There was a close collaborator of Fermi's named Herbert Anderson, who was also on the faculty. I think he and Dick got crosswise. Now, this is a conjecture; I don't know whether it's true. Dick I think was attracted to IBM because of his rather very wide-ranging interests in all aspects of science and technology.

Ford:

When you said they got crosswise, was it like a personality conflict?

Goldberger:

Yeah, I think so. Herb had been sort of one of Fermi's pets beginning at Columbia, just before the Manhattan Project was formed. He went with Fermi to Chicago, went with Fermi to Los Alamos, came back to Chicago with Fermi, and as I say, this is a conjecture on my part. At any rate, he left and went to IBM, where he did extremely well. I mean, there were all kinds of ideas floating around, and one characteristic of Dick is, if he came to your office or your laboratory and asked you what you were doing, he would have three ways of doing it better. And it almost didn't matter what the subject was.

His knowledge is extraordinarily far-ranging, and he has a memory which is quite uncanny. Whenever he tells you something — he said, well on March 21st, 1949, I said the following. And you could bet the farm on that. One of his close friends in Chicago, and someone you ought to try to talk to somehow or other, is a physicist named Valentine Telegdi.

Ford:

His wife just mentioned him to me.

Goldberger:

Yeah, they've always been very close. Valentine came as an assistant professor to Chicago from Switzerland maybe a couple years after I did. But he's been very close to the Garwins ever since. Valentine, who's himself a very prominent physicist, said if Dick had really been interested in science, he would surely have won a Nobel Prize. And I think there's just little question about that: If he really concentrated his activities in a particular area, the chances were overwhelmingly large that he would've hit a big one.

He danced in and out of physics. After he went to IBM, he worked at CERN on a very major experiment. I'm sure that he was the intellectual leader of that experiment. He did a very important experiment right after the discovery of nonconservation of parity. It's just one of these things: I'm sure he walked in the laboratory and told Leon Lederman, you know, you're doing this wrong. You ought to do it this way. And they did.

A broad characterization of Dick, and I'll elaborate on this, is I sometimes refer to him as Guillotine Garwin. You know the story about the guys who were brought to the guillotine?

Ford:

Yes, that was in Science Magazine.

Goldberger:

Well, it describes Dick to a T. We have had, Dick and I have had, some extended discussions — let me put it that way — with regard to his involvement with the military, the intelligence agencies and so on. Dick feels that his job is to help them do things as efficiently as they possibly can. It's not that he doesn't think about the deeper implications of what they are doing, but his job is to solve the problem. And he's marvelously effective at that.

Fermi said of him that he thought that Dick was the only genuine genius that he ever met. Dick — I’ve met a lot of what I'll refer to as 'these people' in my life, and Dick is surely unique. I don't know what it means to classify someone as a genius, but Fermi was not lavish with his praise of other people.

Ford:

Fermi said this to you?

Goldberger:

To me.

Ford:

In what context?

Goldberger:

I don't know. We were probably sitting around slinging the bull or something like that. I don't remember the context. Dick got involved in military affairs at a disgracefully young age. During the Korean war, some of us sat around thinking about whether or not there was something, some role, for science that might help in that endeavor. By means — probably intervention by Fermi, but I don't really remember this. Fermi I know had some idea involving balloons, but I don't remember the details of it. But Dick and a much older physical — chemist physicist, Joe Mayer, actually went to Korea in —

Ford:

M-A-Y-E-R?

Goldberger:

Yeah. He was a very well known scientist. He was on the faculty at the University of Chicago, and under some auspices, he and Dick made a trip to Korea during the war and came back and reported. I don't remember any more. They did not solve the problem, but at any rate, it's was Dick's, I think, first introduction to that kind of thing. He was just a mere child at the time.

He then, as you know, started going to Los Alamos in summers and got very involved in designing the first test of a hydrogen bomb. It was almost single-handedly his design of the thing. He'd been assigned this by Edward Teller.

Ford:

Were you at Los Alamos at the time yourself?

Goldberger:

No. No, I went to Los Alamos for the first time in the summer of 1955, and I spent several subsequent summers there. But I never had any really formal connection with the laboratory. I don't need to tell you what I was doing, because you're writing about Dick. But when Dick was there, he was involved in the weapons program; I was not.

Ford:

There was the big public debate as to whether the country should go forward and make the hydrogen bomb. Did Dick discuss that issue with people?

Goldberger:

I don't know. I have no recollection of talking with him about it. Yeah, that was a very complicated debate associated with the fact that — well, it involved very intimately the fight — that's the only way to describe it — between Oppenheimer and Teller. A lot of the push for going forward with the bomb was in, my view, almost ludicrous, because at the time, when Truman said we're going to make a crash effort in building a hydrogen bomb, we didn't have the faintest goddamn idea of how to do it. The original Teller concept had been disproved. We announced this as a program, but there, in a certain since, was no program. It wasn't until the so-called Ulam-Teller, about which Teller insists it was all him and zero Ulam, and I don't want to get into that debate because I have no internal knowledge of it.

At any rate, when that concept came, it wasn't until about 1952, I think, whereas the big fight took place in October of 1949, when the Oppenheimer Advisory Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission recommended against going forward with the weapon. One of the reasons was we didn't know how to do it. The other reasons were ones that were voiced very passionately by Fermi and I. I. Rabi, who wrote an appendix to the report.

Ford:

How do you spell Rabi?

Goldberger:

R-A-B-I. They wrote an appendix to the report which said, essentially, this is a weapon of unlimited size, and it was sort of an offense against humanity, no matter if it were dropped on an enemy. That it was sort of — I could get you the exact quote. It's in fact the — this famous report of October 1949 is in the appendix of a book written by Herb York. I may have it here, if you don't have the reference already to it.

That was the closest Fermi — that I ever saw Fermi get to getting involved, in a certain sense, in a political issue. Although he was a member of the committee that, in a sense, said to go ahead with dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, that was not his thing. It wasn't that he was mindless of such concerns, but he wasn't a powerful — had not expressed himself powerfully. I think he was influenced by I. I. Rabi in that particular statement.

Meanwhile, coming back to Dick, we saw each other at various places, but I didn't have a very strong interaction with him until beginning around the middle of the '50s — '56, '57 — when a number of us became concerned about the advisory [???]. A number of us had begun to be invited to serve on panels from the White House, for the Department of Defense…

Ford:

Excuse me. Before we go onto… I know that Fermi brought Dick to Los Alamos. I didn't know about the Fermi position on the H-bomb. But Fermi brought him there in summer of 1950, and Dick started the actual work on the H-bomb in the spring of '51 —

Goldberger:

Something like that, yeah.

Ford:

I don't know whether Fermi was there then or not. I guess one of the questions which I'll ask Dick, but I just thought I'd ask it of you in case you have heard anything about it, is simply whether the question — if Fermi was an opponent of this thing on moral grounds, et cetera, did he ever had a Dutch uncle [???] talk with his protege saying, you know, what are you doing working on this thing?

Goldberger:

I don't think so. I don't know what kind of rationalization Fermi used to himself.

Ford:

It was an experiment Fermi kept working on.

Goldberger:

He did.

Ford:

And Bethe had been opposed to it, but then Bethe came back.

Goldberger:

That's right. I can't explain what those guys were doing. There's — it's a complex issue about the responsibility of scientists. There was a time when I was talking strongly in opposition to Star Wars, and some people and audiences would say, why do you scientists keep working on these things. The only thing I could tell them was that we were citizens of the country. We are as patriotic as the next person. Our government says this is of vital importance to the American people. Why do you expect us to stand up and fight that? That it's a decision which individuals have to make. It isn't that the scientists, as a group, should refuse to work on weapons. That's the only answer I can give to that question. I don't know what particular rationalization Fermi might have used, or Bethe. People get swept up — it was an acute physics problem. You know, it was fun.

Ford:

Yeah, I've read accounts like Freeman Dyson's stuff in the New Yorker, and you get the sense that these are people having the absolute time of their life of working on blowing up the world.

Goldberger:

Well, at any rate, to pick up: We began serving on committees, and a number of us expressed concern that the only people we ever saw when we went to these committees were A, the same people, and B, they were old-time Manhattan Project warriors and it was time for a new generation to step up and take some responsibility. In a complex way, which I don't want to divert you with, there was born the notion of the JASON group. I, together with a man named Kenneth Watson and another named Keith Brueckner, were the ones who really put this together, though the fundamental impetus came from the person who was director of research at IDA, the Institute for Defense Analyses, Charlie Townes.

Ford:

The laser person?

Goldberger:

Correct. We chose the people who formed the initial JASON group. We did not choose Dick because he was working for a company, and we didn't want there to appear any kind of conflict of interest or what have you. We wouldn't take anyone who was at the national laboratories at the time, either.

We, as a group, had interaction with Dick. I remember at one of our very early summer studies, he came up and talked about the effect of nuclear blasts on intercontinental ballistic missile warheads. At a point, and I don't remember exactly when it was, we decided we would graciously admit him and a physicist named Marshall Rosenbluth, who had been at Los Alamos and was very much involved with the weapon design, and whom we wanted very much to have. We allowed him to join.

Ford:

You knew at this point of Garwin's work on the H-bomb?

Goldberger:

Oh yeah. We were all cleared for all of those things. I was the chairman of the JASON group for the first seven years of its existence and began to see Dick in connection with JASON, and also we had moved to Princeton by that time. We moved to Princeton in 1957, and we were together with the Garwins frequently in New York, or they came to Princeton, or what have you.

Dick has been immensely important to the work of JASON, as a result of his many connections at the Department of Defense and his unbelievable ability of solving problems. He served a stint as chairman of JASON, and I had stopped my close association because I was involved in too many other things. I was on the President's Science Advisory Committee and various responsibilities at Princeton University. I just didn't have the time to devote to it as the chairman, but I stayed on as a member.

Dick was not a great success as chairman of JASON, primarily because he had no patience with letting other people work on things where he could see the solution instantly. He was also head of the so-called Watson Laboratory of IBM in New York City. I would conjecture, though I don't have any hard facts about this, that he had a similar problem there.

His commitment to working on national security issues has been very, very great. He served two terms on the President's Science Advisory Committee, was a chairman of several of the important panels of the PSAC, as we called it. I don't know — he was called a 'Fellow' at IBM, and I don't think he had any regular responsibility. Could sort of do whatever the hell he wanted, but he spent a great deal of time working for one or another government agency in an advisory role.

In late 1981, just before Reagan — Reagan was elected I guess in 1982. I mean, he became president in 1982. In late 1981, the National Academy of Sciences established the Committee on International Security and Arms Control. It's called CISAC, with the first letters of that longer series. I was the first chairman.

Ford:

Committee of International Security and Arms Control.

Goldberger:

Right. I was the first chairman of that group, and our charter, our objective, was to communicate with counterpart scientists in what was then the Soviet Union to talk about issues of arms control, weapons, missile defense, things like that.

Ford:

Is that committee that John Holdren is the chairman of today?

Goldberger:

That's right. That's correct. Dick was a charter member of that group and has been associated with it ever since. I left it after about, on first approximation, 10 years. I'm not sure exactly of the dates, but Dick continues to this day. The activities of the committee have spread to countries like China and India. Dick has been to China countless numbers of times, though he's never forgiven me for being there before he was. He went shortly thereafter.

He seems to work of the order of 16 to 18 hours a day, as far as I can tell judging from the times on emails I get from him occasionally. He's very efficient. He's unbelievably efficient, but I don't really see how he keeps up the pace that he does, of the amount of traveling that he does. His wife is a saint and often accompanies him on these travels, gets jerked back and forth from one continent to another and never complains about it. He's just a totally amazing phenomenon. The depth of his knowledge about so many fields is just truly amazing.

Ford:

You said you had discussions with him many times about his role with military intelligence.

Goldberger:

Well, not necessarily intelligence alone. I was very much more for being concerned about the broader implications of things. I didn't like the idea of simply trying to solve problems for the military. Most of the things that I worked on in connection with CISAC and with JASON were things that had tried to address somewhat deeper problems. I was not content to sit and do technical calculations in a vacuum. A lot of people at JASON just disagree entirely with me. Some of the people in the management say we don't do policy studies.

I wasn't necessarily urging policy studies, but there has been for — Christ, I don't know, since 1945, since the bomb was just dropped — a kind of total mindlessness about the real implications of nuclear weapons. It makes no sense whatsoever. They're entirely unusable in warfare except to kill an incredibly large number of people. There are no military applications that make any sense whatsoever, in spite of the fact that we talked ourselves into things like nuclear artillery or nuclear mines to stop mindless Soviets driving vast numbers of tanks to a certain death. It's just totally nuts. The number of nuclear weapons on both sides is just so absurd.

If you look at the number of nuclear weapons — not talking about battlefield weapons, but things where we could threaten the Russians, the Russian could threaten us — intercontinental things… You look at the growth curve and you look at the Soviet growth curve, they go right together, expect they're about three years behind us. Now, it's not impossible to understand, in a totally closed society of the Soviet Union, that they could do anything that they wanted, but how the hell did we do — sit still for this? When it was just totally nuts? People said things about it. McNamara said, "After a certain point, all you do is rearrange the rubble."

Ford:

"Make the rubble bounce."

Goldberger:

"Make the rubble bounce," right. You're not interested in my views about these things, but it's been getting to me more, let me put it that way.

Ford:

I'm quite interested, because the thing is — I'm not writing a hagiography. One of the big questions in my mind — clearly Garwin contributed all over the place, but the question is, did he let himself be excessively used as the servant of the powers of the moment?

Goldberger:

I have a mixed answer to that. I did some of it myself, so I can't — there's no well-designated halo above my head. My wife used to criticize me severely on this account. I had admit that at the height of the Cold War tensions — I made arguments in favor of continuing it, which I now regard as ludicrous, but I did them at the time. I'm not at all innocent, but I believe I've become more innocent over the years and keep trying to answer the question, how the hell do you ever bring this insanity to a close?

You read about this administration wanting to make nuclear weapons smaller so they'll be more usable. Now, what the hell kind of nonsense is that? They can't think of a target for which they're of any use, and as compared to the weapons that we already have, we're building weapons against foes around the world which are either useless or 20 years ahead of anything that they have at this time. Building a new attack aircraft when the F-16 is a factor of 10 better than anything anybody else has. But we have to have a new one. Those kinds of thoughtless — thoughtless momentum of this military thing has just gotten under my skin.

Ford:

I was talking to Sid Drell the other night. I wrote various things about nuclear weapons, and whatever. The last thing I wrote was in 1985, so what's happened since then? I haven't followed closely, but Drell was telling me about the nuclear stewardship program, and part of me was saying, well, that sort of impressive that they're doing all this. On the other hand, I remember talking to Kistiakowsky at one point. He was saying something — just explaining technical things about — that tritium, half-life and blah-blah, some type of maintenance is required, and whatever. So I was saying, what type of [???] systematic program should be put in place? And his answer was, just let them rot. And why people like Drell, or I guess Garwin's involved in it, and so forth — I haven’t made up my mind but I do have the question, why are you doing this? And when I talked to Herb York yesterday, if I understood correctly, part of it is to prevent accidental detonation, but the type of accident that could occur is so small that — if you have a megaton accident yes, but if you're going to have a four-pound accidents, let them happen.

Goldberger:

Let them happen. I mean, the only real concern now, I think, about nuclear weapons, is if they fall into the hands of these lunatics. There you have — nothing that we're doing has any bearing whatsoever on that. It's an entirely different problem. If we just let the weapons be as they are, you do have to refill the tritium periodically; everybody knows that. But no enemy would believe that your weapons wouldn't work. They would assume that they would work, and that's really all you need, since you can't use them anyway. Sid and I have actually talked about this recently, and I think that he's very much closer to my view than he is of the notion of the importance of maintaining this thing. Even though he was intimately involved in the establishment of this Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship concept, it was mostly that you didn't have to test in order to maintain the quality of the bombs.

I don't know, the feeling that you can't come to… everything is out of kilter. We spend — I don't know — maybe a trillion dollars a year on military things and $50 billion trying to do something about hunger in Africa and places like that. It's just totally upside-down. The serious problems are not being dealt with, and this lunacy continues. We don't spend a trillion dollars a year, but the world spends a trillion dollars a year. How much more you could do with that money if you did it in a sensible way.

There's a man named Philip Noel-Baker, who is a well-known British peer. Gave a speech at a Pugwash conference in — took place in Holland in 1980, I think it was — in which he said, "Now look, let's take this spending on military things and see what we could do with that money." He laid this out, — he hadn't done an in-depth analysis of this — but it made a very deep impression on me, and I'm trying to revive the notion of taking on that issue with some hard work to figure out what you could realistically do with these kinds of monies in that area.

Ford:

I was involved for years and years in the Union of Concerned Scientists and so forth. Comparisons like that were, at least to me — I'm an economist — what are we getting for all of these weapons that we don't need and we don't really know how to use them? I've had many talks with Henry Kendall, and the thing — you know him of course — and the things was that politics was not his cup of tea. He's a private person, and he would be very confident if he's in a lecture room speaking about physics, but if he has to go in front of a public meeting to talk to the general public — he didn't like it at all.

I remember after working for UCS for six or eight years, I awarded myself a sabbatical, and I just traveled a lot, and I was reading a lot, and I started thinking, what should UCS do next if it wants to influence policy? I wrote this memo — I wish I could find a copy of it, not because it was brilliant. Just because — I wrote it. I would like to if my recollection is correct, but it was just for Henry — What I was basically saying was — our whole approach was too narrow. We were banging one little drum. I said that I couldn't see that there's any solution, if we wanted to accomplish some of the general goals that we had — any other solution than creating a new political party. I said the system doesn't work just by individual drum bangers. You have to get together with some other person, and you help them promote their cause, and you teach them your cause. It's going to take 30 years, or whatever. And he said, "I'm not interested in politics." I said, "I know you're not interested in politics, you’re worried about the race race, but I'm telling you —"

Goldberger:

This is the only way to do it.

Ford:

Politics is the way to do it. I said — plus, Henry had an enormous private fortune, whatever. I said, "Spend the goddamn money. Buy politicians like everybody else does." But that was so alien to the scientific, problem-solving, et cetera, laboratory type of thinking.

Goldberger:

Henry was a JASON member for a period of time. Lately UCS was very active within this business about scientific integrity, but there was a recent and terrible blooper where attendance at WHO advisory groups has to OK'ed by HHS. You know, Health and Human Services. Right now, the wires are buzzing with that particular thing. They insisted those people had to be vetted by the politicians who were invited to serve on WHO panels. I just — I sent off an email to Kurt Gottfried about this. One person said, “How can Marburger [President’s Science Advisor] stay on under circumstances like this?” I suggested that someone who's close to him ought to talk with him and find out how he really stands on this. He's not a bad guy, but he's in an impossible position. At any rate, UCS is still doing good.

Ford:

Yeah, I was very pleased to see —

Goldberger:

Some of their environmental issues, they've done extremely well, I think, on the whole. But they've not… They've done the things that they can make a real contribution to. But unless you can get some political support, they go only so far.

Let me try to think if there's anything else I should tell you about Dick that I know. Since we've moved here, I've seen less of him. I see him when he comes out for JASON. He usually comes out to the winter meeting, and then he comes for the bulk of the summer. But the rest of the time, I don't see him. He did this stint with the Council on Foreign Relations, where he was head of a number of studies, and I think he did that all very well.

Right now he told me — I asked him, what are you doing now that you're free of the Council? He said he was writing a couple of articles on weapons in space. Now, that's about as useful as nuclear weapons. I don't know what the content of these articles is, and I don't — I'm going to try to ask him to let me see a copy of them.

Ford:

At the moment, he's involved in so many things. I've just been dealing with him since the middle of May, and I asked him, what are you working on? They'll be a big disgorgement of material. He sent me — he's heavily involved in studying the Dallas Police audio tapes of the Kennedy assassination. As you say, there are only so many hours in a day, and he sent me huge things.

Goldberger:

He writes continuously.

Ford:

How anybody simply can physically type this stuff that he does, much less think it through first so that it's correct…

Goldberger:

No, he's a — I've often referred to him as a national resource, which is a trivial observation.

Ford:

In terms of, I guess, concrete things — there's obviously nuclear weapons and stuff to talk about, ABM and SSC, and stuff like that… Things like his role in the GPS. Did you know anything about the details about it?

Goldberger:

I don't. I know he's been involved in that and I think he was probably one of the early people to think about the importance of it, but I don't know the details of that. He's also been heavily involved with the intelligence community over the years and got some sort of maximum award from them. It's amazing the number of things that he does.

Ford:

Is he training people to follow in his footsteps?

Goldberger:

I don't think so.

Ford:

Does JASON do that?

Goldberger:

I don't think he's a role model, in the sense that no one can keep up with him. I don't know whether Dick ever had any students at all while he was at Chicago. I mean, he's an inspiration to the younger JASON people, but probably depresses the hell out of them, because —

Ford:

They'll never be able to do that.

Goldberger:

They're young hotshots, and he knows more than they do. I don't know how you evaluate your accomplishments or your role in life. There are various measures. Some fit some people; some fit others. In some ways, Dick was clearly born to the job that he's been able to do.

Ford:

Is he a happy person?

Goldberger:

That's what I was just going to ask myself: Is he happy with what he has accomplished, what he has done? I don't know the answer to that. Dick jokes. He likes to tell jokes and so on, but I honestly don't have a feeling for whether he's happy. He's so driven. That's a question you'll have to try to answer.

Ford:

I must say, since most of my exposure, intimate exposure, to science has been exposure to Henry Kendall, and he was a special type. Henry was very ascetic, very gloomy. Often times probably clinically depressed. He could be very, very difficult to be around. I've met Garwin a few times — 15 minute maximum, whatever. I was a bit nervous while waiting to do this and had to spend a lot of time with him — what is the guy like? But I've been pleasantly surprised.

Goldberger:

I think he's pleased at what your doing.

Ford:

He was very nervous when I started it. He didn't want this. But yeah, I was just surprised, because he's just so different from what I came to expect of physicists from Henry.

Goldberger:

No, he's very different. He really is. I don't know — I don't really know who his closest friends are. There were some people that they knew and saw a lot of in New York. I don't know that they still see those people or not. We met them. I think their name was Friedman [Harold and Edith], but I'm not sure. I don't know any cute Garwin stories, for whatever that's worth.

Ford:

They're actually terribly important, simply because one of the big fears I have about writing the book is, since he worked on so many different subjects — fine. But for the reader, you have to give at least a few paragraphs of background on the technical stuff. People will put up with a little of that, but if there are 100 subjects and then 200 paragraphs of technical stuff —

Goldberger:

That's a hard problem.

Ford:

— and any little cute thing he did is going to help relieve the stress. Like, Herb York was saying when he was — Herb was often in Geneva negotiating some treaty or other. They were staying in some grand mansion the government owned. And there was a problem with the heating system, but GSA, or whoever operated it, had all these signs saying do not touch the heating system, blah-blah-blah-blah. But he said Garwin's just going down into the basement and looked at this ancient heating system — pipes and valves and all this — just looked at it and he just walked over and [makes creaking noises], and that was it. Then it worked. People will — that they can understand.

Goldberger:

All right, I'll give you one of a similar variety. Not as dramatic, but similar. My younger son got a Heathkit to build a color television set. He was quite young at the time, I don't know, 12 or so. He put the thing together entirely by himself. Occasionally I would screw things up by deciding there was some ambiguity in the instruction which he hadn't thought was the least bit ambiguous, and he proceeded to ignore what I was saying. But he put this thing together, turned it on, and it did not work. He was crushed by this. So first I — we were at Princeton at the time. I got the head of the electronics shop to come out and take a look at it. He couldn't find anything wrong that my son had done. I had two physicist friends that lived in the immediate neighborhood who won the Nobel Prize in 1964 who came and worked on this and failed to diagnose the difficulty. Dick showed up, and he looked at it. We had some equipment, ohmmeters and things like that, and he took a few measurements, and suddenly he said, "That transformer is not working." We were able to replace the transformer, and it worked perfectly. But the head of the electronics shop, two Nobel Prize winners in experimental physics — I mean, these were not some wooly-eyed theoreticians — and Dick came in and solved the problem. Hadn't thought about that for a long time.

Ford:

It sounds sort of like Jesus performing miracles. Bring me a cripple, and —

Goldberger:

Yeah, he knows where to put the hands and so on.

Ford:

I mean, Kurt Gottfried told me how — he said Garwin is well known for just walking into laboratories and just seeing what's around and saying, huh, we can do an experiment. I was just thinking of inviting him to some random college laboratory and say OK —

Goldberger:

Go ahead, have at it.

Ford:

I've heard the stories. Do it in front of me.

Goldberger:

Look, I will cull my memory for things and be happy to share with you things that I —

Ford:

I think part of what I wanted to do is establish a feeder [???] system of people.

Goldberger:

Well, you have to get a feel for the person. I've wondered about people who attempt such things, but it can be done. The guy who wrote the book about Paul O'Neill — I've forgotten his name for a moment — the secretary of —

Ford:

[???] Secretary …

Goldberger:

I thought he did very well. I happen to know O'Neill, so I was particularly impressed by that.

Ford:

I have a friend in Cambridge who — he's a Pulitzer Prize winning biographer. He wrote the biography of Mark Twain. He wrote another of Walt Whitman… I was going to sit down and talk with him. I personally like to read biographies, but they're all so different. You see a lot of things that — they go on for 20 pages with this genealogy which, as far as I can tell, is normally completely useless. Fine, if this person comes from a long line of bankers and it's a biography of a banker, then the family history of banking is of some relevance, but if the relatives are all over the lot, well who cares?

Goldberger:

I just remembered that I had this book out. That's a biography of Dr. Joseph Goldberger, who worked for the Public Health Service. He's the man who discovered the cure for pellagra.

Ford:

Pellagra is…?

Goldberger:

It's a nutritional deficiency that afflicted people largely in the South. The book is not very good. My father claimed that all Goldbergers were related, and there is reason to believe that, at least, in connection with this man, there was a sort of direct relationship of some very distant cousin, or something like that. But he was quite a remarkable guy. He died at age 55. He was involved in yellow fever and malaria, and his principal contribution was in the cure for pellagra.

I spotted a story about this book, and I communicated with author. I told him something about my own background, my father's claim about this. They had a — when the book was actually released, there was a — all known Goldbergers that had perhaps some connection were invited to a party in Washington, which I didn't go to. But the guy who organized it lived in Washington. He was out here recently and looked us up, and we went out to dinner with this couple. It was amusing to see that — I first read about him in one of those books by Paul de Kruif: Microbe Hunters. And this one was called Hunger Fighters, or something like that. But it's got a little too much history and a little too many references.

Ford:

There's a thing that they refer to in the writing business as selling your notes. It's simply, once you do the interview, you've got the notebook, well, you just —

Goldberger:

Dump it.

Ford:

— write it out. From my experience, the most important part of the process is throwing things away. Focusing on something that might mean something.

Goldberger:

You set yourself — as I think about it, it's not an easy task. It's not. But I think it's worthwhile.

Ford:

It's more difficult than I thought a month ago. I haven't lost hope at all, but it's a challenge. I'm at least glad that I like him personally. That was one hurdle to overcome. His wife is very nice. She was very helpful. I guess one of the things that I have to decide is, how much is this going to be a history of the Cold War, and how far do I follow these threads? Another problem is, of course, all the classified stuff. I was a bit unnerved when I read this intelligence award thing, but the person from the CIA giving the award said that it's a compliment to the continuing usefulness of what he's done, but we can't talk about most of it.

Goldberger:

There was a movie-like thing that was made in connection with that.

Ford:

Yes, there was a video. I have a transcript of that.

Goldberger:

I was in that movie, I think.

Ford:

I have the — like when you said the national research, that was in the video.

Goldberger:

Yeah, I tend to repeat myself.

Ford:

It'll be something. But I have your email and you have mine.

Goldberger:

I'll keep thinking about it.

Ford:

It may even make sense for me to make a private website and just put questions on it that I have, or suggestions that I've gotten. And say, does anybody else in the subset who know him — can they comment on this point? That might be useful.

Goldberger:

I'm trying to think of people that you should — you should surely try to talk to Telegdi. It may force you to go to Geneva or something like that.

Ford:

I live in Paris, so…

Goldberger:

OK, so it's not a big deal.

Ford:

[overlapping] service in Geneva, so…

Goldberger:

It used to be mine, too. I used to smoke cigars at one point, but we should never have lost Cuba.

Ford:

I was totally thrilled this winter because I had to make a trip to Asia. I made the reservations late and all this, so I had to switch in Abu Dhabi, where I'd never been. But it has a fantastic cigar store, and you can buy the same Romeo & Julieta cazadores. It costs $12 dollars in Paris and $8 dollars in Geneva. They're $4 dollars in Abu Dhabi, so I… Not good for my health, but good for the economy.

Goldberger:

This first time we went to China, I kept bugging the people with me. I said, now look, you guys have relations with the Cubans. I want you to get me some cigars. Well, they finally showed up one day with two Cuban cigars that were so damn dried out that they were absolutely unsmokable. I was reduced to smoking Great Wall cigars while I was in China. I ran out.

Ford:

What has Dick's work in China been?

Goldberger:

In connection primarily with CISAC.

Ford:

But trying to get the Chinese to do what?

Goldberger:

The group talks with China about nuclear weapons, about arms control, about ballistic defense: the whole spread of military things. I haven't been — we were not involved with China at the time I left CISAC, so I don't really know.

Ford:

Just another totally unrelated question: Holdren, how good is he? I just remember him from the old days as the sidekick of Paul Ehrlich I didn't realize that he had much to do with —

Goldberger:

Yeah, he has, for quite a few years, been involved in national security issues, partly through Pugwash. But he's a very good guy. He's very smart. He's trained originally as a physicist. He was at Cal-Tech for a while. That was before I went there. He didn't fit into the pegs that were there. He was already working on areas that were associated with the environment. He went from there to Berkeley, where he had a very successful endeavor going and ultimately moved to Harvard doing the same thing. He kept up an interest, through Pugwash and then with CISAC, on security issues.

Ford:

Has he worked with Garwin at all?

Goldberger:

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Ford:

I keep an apartment at Cambridge, and I tried to locate — I knew Holdren had moved back to —

Goldberger:

You should talk with him, because he's worked with Dick very closely on CISAC.

Ford:

I was also trying to — if I could get a research fellowship or something at the Kennedy School, because this project is going to go on for a couple years, and the publishers are not going to underwrite —

Goldberger:

No, they don't very often.

Ford:

— underwrite it so I'll have to hook up with some institution who can get foundation grants and stuff like that. But I don't think it would be terribly difficult to do. I've never done it before, so…

Goldberger:

I have no experience with this, but it doesn't seem at all out of the question. I think that Holdren is a good person to talk to about it. Another person you might talk with, if you know him, is Lewis Branscomb. He's at the — has some position at the Kennedy School. He's retired, but he's still associated with the Kennedy School. He's an old friend of Dick's. He was also a former JASON member. He was head of the Bureau of Standards. I guess that's what's now called NIST. But Lew was head of Bureau of Standards for a period of time and then got this appointment at Harvard.

Ford:

I'll look him up. Well thank you very much.