Carl Kaysen

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ORAL HISTORIES
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Interviewed by
Dan Ford
Interview dates
December 2004
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Interview of Carl Kaysen by Dan

Ford on 2004 December,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/40912-15

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In this interview Carl Kaysen discusses topics such as: Richard Garwin, President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), John F. Kennedy, science policy, STARFISH,  Jerome Wiesner, Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), 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]

Kaysen:

STARFISH nuclear shot — you see I don't use sugar very often [laughter]

Ford:

I could do the mining operation here.

Kaysen:

There had been a — well, you know all this. There had been a big wrangle about this shot as to what its effect would be on the upper atmosphere, on the Van Allen belt.

Ford:

I guess one of the — I just heard of STARFISH from Dick when I was at his archives in September, and I was surprised, because I read more or less every popular book, et cetera, on nuclear things. I'd never heard of STARFISH, so I was — what was this?

Kaysen:

What was it, 100 kilometers high?

Ford:

400.

Kaysen:

400?

Ford:

400.

Kaysen:

There'd been a lot of debate about what it would do, and of course the — as I understood or as I remember what I understood, maybe not accurately — the essential question was what the sign of the sort of wavefront or explosive front would be. Would it be positive, negative, or neutral? What would the mixture of particles be and so on. And people argued about it, that it was an experiment that it had never been made, so they didn't know. And Dick was chairman at the PSAC panel to evaluate the shot.

Ford:

I think he said that Panofsky was chairman, and Dick came in later.

Kaysen:

All right, I'm sure you’re right. The reason I said he was chairman — well, I think he was chairman — I now understand. I'd heard the discussion, and I remember when Kennedy listened to some of this discussion, as reported by Wiesner One of the questions is, would this destroy all or part of the Van Allen belt? Kennedy's comment was, have you asked Van Allen? After all it's his belt [laughs]. But what I remember very vividly, and it's the first so-to-speak small-group encounter in which I focused on Garwin, was the following: Garwin came in with Glenn Seaborg to Bundy's office to sort of say what the panel findings were. As you remember, Seaborg was chairman of the AEC at the time.

Bundy started to hear Garwin and said — I happened to be in the office at that time for entirely other reasons. I mean, not to do with this now. And Bundy thought I'm not the one to try to summarize this; why don't I see if the president's free, and if he is, we'll go up and do it directly now. So the president was free, and we all marched upstairs. Bundy's office was in the west basement. We all marched upstairs and into the Oval Office. And Garwin gave one of his usual clear, forceful expositions, and he used the phrase 'an order of magnitude.' Kennedy had clearly never heard that phrase, and so he interrupted and said, "Doctor Garwin, you said — what does that mean exactly? I've never heard that." And Garwin explained it was a factor of 10 one way or another, and Kennedy rolled the phrase around on his tongue a couple of times. Then he turned to Glenn, and he said, "Now I know, Glenn, whenever I ask you for advice, I'll know you're always right within an order of magnitude." So that made an impression on me.

I saw Garwin in many connections during this period. There were lots of issues on whether a test-ban treaty was verifiable, focused on the underground explosion and seismic detection. PSAC panels talked about that. That was not Garwin's specialty, but he had something to say about that. And speaking again in a very general way, now talking not just about 1962 or 3, but over my now 40 years' experience, one of the things about Garwin that's very impressive is his enormous range. Lots of physicists have learned how to design nuclear weapons. I think Garwin's the only physicist who could design a good six-wheel 4x4 truck if you asked him to. He does have just enormous technical range, and that's very impressive.

Then another thing to say about Dick which you've experienced, I'm sure, yourself: He's a very open and generous guy. He's really very nice to work with. Another thing to say about him, which you've heard, is he doesn't get high marks for diplomacy. He doesn't suffer fools gladly, and he makes it known. There are stories about that. I don't know whether it's true. One I remember is the story about — and I wouldn't like to be quoted to Garwin on this, although if I asked him, he'd tell me whether it's true, I'm sure. He was on some panel looking at mine warfare, and he asked — sent over to the navy department and asked for their leading expert on mine warfare. He got an admiral, and he was a bit disappointed. He didn't think the admiral answered the specifications. He is reported to — have you heard this story?

Ford:

No.

Kaysen:

He is reported to have said, "If I want an admiral, I'll ask for an admiral." I'll tell you a story I witnessed quite directly, which shows a certain thing about Garwin. We were both, along with a lot of other people, on a panel that was paid for and I think really convened — convoked — by the Ford Foundation to examine the nuclear power issue. This was just before the Carter election.

Ford:

This is 1976?

Kaysen:

Yeah, and Harold Brown, who was then out of the government, was on the panel. Shortly after the inauguration, Harold was then — had become Secretary of Defense. He arranged for the panel to meet with the president and sort of brief him, and we did. I don't know if we were all there, but many of us were there. There were three economists of reasonable distinction on the panel: Tom Schelling and myself, and I can't remember the third one. It wasn't —

Ford:

Kenneth Arrow.

Kaysen:

Was it Ken Arrow? OK. Then one economist with very great distinction [laughs] and two other respectable economists. After the briefing Carter said something. He sort of thanked us and so on, and then he made a few remarks, and the remarks had the force of — how shall I put it — invoking an energy standard of value for government actions that — he said he's going to evaluate every policy in terms of how much energy it involved and used. Anything you could do to save energy.

We were all sitting around the cabinet table with different locations, but Schelling, Arrow, and I were not sitting next to each other. We looked at each other all with the same impulse: Somebody has to say, you know Mr. President, that's not a good idea. You can't really do it right by trying to do it that way. Other things are costly, too. Of the three, Ken was the best economist, whatever that means. But I was the most experienced in that setting, having worked in the White House and so on. There was a kind of why-don't-you-do-it look everybody was giving everybody else. In this hesitation, Garwin spoke out loud and clear. He gave an excellent comment. None of us would have done it better. But it was characteristic of Dick that he didn't feel inhibited. I don't know whether he's — he never got the National Medal of Science?

Ford:

He finally did.

Kaysen:

He did?

Ford:

He finally did in 2003.

Kaysen:

Good. Good. I should've remembered that. I'm glad he did. He should also have got that — whatever the other general declaration is…

Ford:

He got the Enrico Fermi -

Kaysen:

No, not the physics award. The kind of thing you get for being a great citizen…

Ford:

He got the R. V. Jones Intelligence Award.

Kaysen:

Yes. He's been — I think he's been a tremendous contributor to American policy and done it in a very disinterested and honest way. There are few people who can equal the length of his record…

Ford:

One of his old friends told me that he would've gotten the National Medal of Science 10 or 15 years earlier if he hadn't stepped on so many toes through the course of his —

Kaysen:

Yeah, well, you know the SST business, which made Johnson mad and made Nixon mad, made lots of people mad. As I say, he will never get the National Medal for Diplomacy.

Ford:

I met him 30-odd years ago, because I worked closely with Henry Kendall and the Union of Concerned Scientists. I was the executive director for 10 years in the '70s.

Kaysen:

That's why I know your name. I mean, I knew I knew your name, but I couldn't remember why.

Ford:

I also wrote several things for the New Yorker that you might've read. I wrote one book about the nuclear command and control system called "The Button" in '85.

Kaysen:

No, I didn't…

Ford:

I met Garwin in the early '70s with Henry. Henry was petrified of him just because, if you were right, he would say you were right, and if you were wrong, he would say you were wrong. But just [whistles].

Kaysen:

Yes. But there was no — and there is no — animus in it. Some people who were malevolently wrong-headed would make him mad, but in general he's kind of even about things.

Ford:

In the government-policy making circle, he had so many run-ins with so many deputy, secretary-level people and so forth. If he had 10% percent more diplomacy, he might have had 100% percent more effect.

Kaysen:

Maybe. He was too blunt, and he was — Dick never seems to be in doubt, which can make people angry. I don't mean he's bullheaded when he doesn't know something; he knows when he doesn't know something. But when he knows something, he's sort of — has low tolerance for people who he is sure don't know what he knows.

Ford:

Go back to the STARFISH, when you first met him. One of the things that I was trying to — I still haven’t found very much written on STARFISH. I'm just trying to figure out exactly how big of a crisis was it, and was it something that would reasonably be thought of as having affected the way — affected Kennedy's caution during the Cuban Missile Crisis and something like that?

Kaysen:

No. Somebody whom if you haven't interviewed you should interview, is Spurgeon Keeny. Do you know him?

Ford:

He's on my list.

Kaysen:

Yeah, well Spurgeon will remember the STARFISH — his memory's pretty good. I think it's better than mine. He's a little bit younger than I am, but not much. But he was certainly around. He was Wiesner's assistant for national security matters, and he was — had been in and worked for the Air Force and worked for PSAC under Eisenhower, so he was a veteran.

My memory of this, and I don't press this as at all complete or even at all accurate — I'm not sure of it. STARFISH was a kind of experiment. It was a nuclear experiment. There was just curiosity in the labs as to what would happen. There was no obvious military function for this thing. The anxiety was the anxiety of the scientists who thought it might just have unexpected effects that would be bad, and why the hell were you doing this anyway?

I think the important thing to find out is really why the Labs were pushing this, why they wanted it on the schedule. Now, one of the things a nuclear explosion at that height would do, of course, would be — if it's 400 kilometers, that's 250 miles — that's low Earth orbit. It would probably knock out all satellites within line of sight. But it would be a funny thing for us to do, because at that point we were the ones who had satellites. The Soviets were just beginning to have —

Ford:

Well that's what the test did: It knocked out ours, which was a surprise.

Kaysen:

Yes. Although I'm surprised that it was a surprise, since it sends a great big blast of electromagnetic energy.

Ford:

I think the thing is that they did not anticipate how much of a —

Kaysen:

It was a one-megaton…?

Ford:

1.4.

Kaysen:

Roughly, yeah.

Ford:

Apparently what Garwin recalled — Weisner was concerned that the manned space flight program could be curtailed so the astronauts couldn't fly —

Kaysen:

There'd be a radiation — intense radiation belt, yeah.

Ford:

And apparently when —

Kaysen:

I hadn't remembered that, but that's a point, obviously.

Ford:

I think that they had a fairly intense program for a couple weeks to launch emergency satellites to measure the strength of the radiation belt and try to figure out how long it would last. I just found a reference on the Internet that refers to White House tape recordings, and it's possible that the meeting with Kennedy to discuss this was tape recorded. But I couldn't connect through it —

Kaysen:

You have to get to the Kennedy Library, yeah.

Ford:

Yeah, so I'm going to go to the library. Would that be the place to go for the PSAC records themselves?

Kaysen:

Presumably yes. My experience — I don't want to discourage you, but my experience with Kennedy Library is that it's not the best organized library in the world in terms of… I've looked for stuff of mine that I know should be there, and it takes a lot of digging and some — but they're very helpful. They try hard.

Ford:

What was the — in terms of later on in Garwin's career, I know that there were many strong policy recommendations that he was making: trying to push the government to do the Global Positioning System and things like that. But at the period during Kennedy's administration when you just met him, was he associated with any particular policy movement at the time, or was he just a bright member of the team?

Kaysen:

No, he was just a bright member of the team. I would say that — remember that I tended to see PSAC through Wiesner's eyes. Wiesner was pushed into arms control. I don't know how much of a role PSAC played, but we did — well, we tried to tell Kennedy that he was building up the missile forces too fast and he didn't need to do it. I wrote several memorandas to that effect. Wiesner and I joined in writing the memorandas to that effect.

I don't think Garwin was at all involved in the civil defense business. One of the strangest things I ever did was to write a memorandum about what our civil defense program should be. This was the time when the Tellers and the like and Nelson Rockefeller were pressing for a big — building a big shelter program. You may or may not have come across that. And Kennedy resisted that, and I had the duty on that. I worked with a fellow named — well, I worked with Spurgeon and a fellow named Vince McRae, who worked for Wiesner. Wiesner was very strong on making the point to Kennedy that the shelter program in itself was really of little use unless people were drilled and disciplined and so on. Wiesner expressed a great deal of skepticism about the achievability of that. He was correct.

I don't remember that PSAC in general was involved in — there was a lot of discussion of seismology. A lot of discussion during the whole Kennedy administration of the verifiability of the test-ban treaty. Dick may well have been involved in that. He probably was. The man I think of as having been most involved in that was Frank Press, who was a geophysicist.

I think it was Frank, although I'm not sure, but some PSAC panel did discover that the people who ran what was called AFTAC, an Air Force enterprise that monitored Soviet nuclear explosions and had some seismic stations in Pakistan and Iran. And the chief scientist with that enterprise was a man named Carl Romney, I remember him. He went into hiding when the White House tried [laughs]. Almost literally. The degree of insubordination in the military and then —

Ford:

He went into hiding over what?

Kaysen:

He would not — when people tried to get hold of him, he seemed to disappear. Within the military and within the Labs, there was tremendous resistance to sort of ”interference.”

Ford:

I remember I've heard the story. I don't know, I think it was in — I don't know if it was in one of Fred Kaplan's books or somewhere…

Kaysen:

"The Wizards of Armageddon?"

Ford:

I think it was in that book, but it was about how — I guess it was McNamara who wanted to send somebody to Omaha to review the SIOP. And the Air Force took the position that SIOP is ours.

Kaysen:

Harry Rowen, Adam Yarmolinsky, and I went to Omaha. Maybe that to which — we went there in the Fall of — either late summer or early Fall of '61. We were met with extraordinarily hostile reception. “This isn't your business. What are you civilians mixing in with this for,” and so on.

Ford:

I just read on the Internet a declassified version of the memo you wrote in September of '61 referring to SIOP of '62 and something to do with some possible limited strike in case something went wrong over [overlapping].

Kaysen:

Well yes, there was a whole to-do. Part of that was reproduced in an article in The Atlantic, and it was reproduced in the context of saying that I recommended that we have a limited nuclear attack [capability]. But yes, that — most of that memorandum has been declassified.

Ford:

I remember when I wrote the book "The Button" and I had looked at all of the different difficulties of responding to a first-strike, a Russian first-strike, et cetera — all the fragility of satellite communications is — of everything. But then when I was looking at it, I said maybe this was an active…. It wasn't just negligence. The thing is, in the minds of the Air Force planning —

Kaysen:

We were going to strike.

Ford:

We would go first if it ever came to it.

Kaysen:

That was perfectly clear in LeMay's mind.

Ford:

I know when I published the book, James Schlesinger and everybody was on television denouncing all of this. But I had a fair amount of documentation myself in the book, and then subsequently there’s been so much more documentation about the actual plan…But on things like — Dick was not involved in SIOP —

Kaysen:

No, I do not —

Ford:

He was involved in something called the Joint Strategic Target [Planning] Staff or something, I don't know what that —

Kaysen:

JSTT [JSTPS].

Ford:

I don't know what that does or did.

Kaysen:

Well, they actually laid out what the targets were, how many weapons you were going to put on each target, what the vehicles were that would deliver them, and so on and so on.

Ford:

I guess one global question that I have is, I know people like Dick, people like you, many, many people worked for quite a long time to try to shape the policy in a more rational fashion. I guess one of my questions is, in retrospect, what would you have done differently if you could in terms of just the whole manner of trying to affect those national policies on those big issues?

Kaysen:

In retrospect, maybe the answer is, it wouldn't have mattered very much. I mean, from my perspective, the reason that Kennedy accelerated the buildup of nuclear weapons as much as he did was that he had created himself the political atmosphere that generated demand for… When I got involved in the discussion — said, you know, the Russians — it's clear that the Russians don't have very many missiles and that they're not going to have very many for quite a while. What McNamara said to him was the 1,000 Minutemen and the 36 boats, which were the targets of the Kennedy buildup — the Minutemen were achieved much sooner than the boats, which take longer to produce — was the minimum he thought that the Congress would put up with. So it wasn't a question of…

Now, I did look into — and this is sort of off the subject with Garwin — I did look in the last several years to the question of what briefings can —

[change of tapes]

Kaysen:

… never got a briefing, which gave him the information that the administration had about the Russian systems.

Ford:

I'd have to check where I saw something on that very point. I don't know whether if… I think it might have been something that Herb York told me. I'd have to check.

Kaysen:

That would be plausible. Herb would know.

Ford:

Somebody told me of an offer to Kennedy, as candidate, to show him Corona satellite images, or something like that.

Kaysen:

There were very few at the time.

Ford:

To show him what they had, which suggested that the Russians did not have much. And I can't remember whether the story was that Eisenhower didn't want this, because he didn't want to jeopardize the security, or whether Kennedy didn't want it because he didn't want to interfere with his campaign…

Kaysen:

My understanding — I had some correspondence with a couple of ex-agency guys, and people in the NRO, and my understanding is he never got such a briefing. I don't know why. And of course, it's also case that, as I'm sure you know, even in 1962, not to speak of 1961, the Air Force was still dissenting from the NIE on how many missiles the Russians had. Kennedy, as a campaigner, was being fed by Stuart Symington, who was being fed by the Air Force.

Ford:

The whole Cold War question of what did we know and when did we know it — I remember, I think it was 1976, I was reading Hedrick Smith's book, The Russians. I read that book. I said, "This isn't the Russia that I have grown up hearing about. This is a very, very backward society." And ten years later, I went over to the New Yorker to write the first detailed article about perestroika, and I spent a couple months in Russia. And I couldn't get over — anybody who visits just looking out the window as you're landing at the airport and seeing all the dirt roads.

The US has had an embassy there throughout the whole Cold War. Anybody with eyes would know that these estimates of the size of the Soviet military and blah blah blah are political concoctions. But the country spends these trillions of dollars, doesn't know the reappraisal…

Kaysen:

There's been some, but not enough.

Ford:

Nothing that's touched the grand public, but the country went on this enormous wasteful escapade for no good reason.

Kaysen:

That's true.

Ford:

It just seems, in terms of how the country can never get its act together when it has no way of reevaluating big decisions like that is one of our most fantastic problems. People can write books about it, but 10,000 people will read the book and that will be the end of it.

Kaysen:

I'm afraid that's true.

Ford:

In terms of Dick's work with outfits like the Federation of American Scientists, did that have concrete impact? In UCS, I always the one who said to Henry Kendall, "But what are you accomplishing?" It wasn't the most popular question.

Kaysen:

I don't know how to answer that question. I think there are… let me give one example. It wasn't the federation particularly, but the whole business of the informal contact between American and Soviet scientists which was promoted in lots of ways: Pugwash, the FAS, everybody was doing it. I would say that the ABM treaty, a blessed memory, was made possible by that contact, because the first Soviet reaction to the proposal of the ABM treaty was a Ronald Reagan like reaction: How can defense be bad? And because through these various channels, and Dick was part of many of them we were talking to people like Emelyanov, who was head of the Russian AEC; a rather interesting man called Millionshchikov, who was the vice-president of the Academy of Sciences, to Artsimovich, to a whole list of people.

And one of the peculiarities of Soviet society, which you probably had some sense of, is that the top scientists were the people who came nearest to having some independence and being able to speak their minds of anybody in the Soviet Union. I don’t want to exaggerate that, but they were listened to to some degree. But whether you can point to a piece of legislation that the Federation produced in the way that you can point to a piece of legislation that the American Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association has produced.

Ford:

If they had a list of successes, it would be on a big marble wall.

Kaysen:

In that sense, that's true. But maybe just because I've spent enough effort on it over my lifetime, I continue to think that there was a positive result in keeping these issues before the public. The Federation was fairly successful, I think, in some ways, more than UCS, although this may not be right, in keeping the press alert to certain issues. That's partly because Jeremy — did you know Jeremy? He was a little crazy, and unlike Henry Kendall, who was a perfectly sensible man, Jeremy did have a talent for capturing attention. He was good at that. He was also good at going off the deep end.

Ford:

Herb York explained the scientists' predicaments to be the best by saying that if you want to start a public movement, you have to exaggerate. But scientists don't like to exaggerate. But if you say, "The ocean is dying." People will get very upset. If you say, "There's an increase in the pollution levels in the oceans that we should be concerned about," people won't pay any attention.

Kaysen:

That's right. But I think since we're now in a political atmosphere in which all, anything that seems constrained is unacceptable to the United States. This all is distant. But I would say that starting with the test ban treaty, the scientific community deserves substantial credit for the test ban treaty, non-proliferation ABMs, chemical warfare convention, biological warfare convention. All that leaves a lot to be desired, with verification, because they kept pounding at the issues, and I think they've done it more consistently than any other group.

Ford:

That was the golden age of activist scientists. What is happening today with the next generation of scientists? Are they in action or on the sidelines?

Kaysen:

They're in action, but they don't seem to have a political constituency. Do you regularly look at Science?

Ford:

I've been living in Paris for the last 15 years, so I'm somewhat like a Martian.

Kaysen:

What are you doing in Paris?

Ford:

I worked for a number of years for Lazard Freres, and I had worked for UCS for ten years, then I worked for the New Yorker for ten years. And as a result of all the things I wrote about perestroika, Lazard hired me to work for them in Russia. So I worked in Russia on oil and gas projects, and things like that. So I'm just now coming back to writing and to public policy. I have a big gap in my knowledge of what's gone on in the last seven years.

Kaysen:

Where do you live in Paris?

Ford:

I live in the Marais, right next to the St. Paul Metro station.

Kaysen:

My wife, who's an art historian, this is irrelevant to your recording, but is a specialist student of 19th/20th century French art, and especially a student of Rodin's. She's on the board of the Rodin Museum. So she goes to Paris with some regularity.

Ford:

You should come.

Kaysen:

I usually go with her once a year, not three times.

Ford:

By all means, look me up.

Kaysen:

I will.

But I think the Reagan administration marked the end of the political influence of science. But Clinton never really recovered it. This was not his interest. I can't even remember now who was Clinton's science advisor. But PSAC as such was never reconstituted.

Ford:

Having the institutional apparatus was quite important, and just having his own designated science advisor was…

Continuing the work that Garwin does and people like Drell do, the nuclear stewardship and all of this… what is your feeling about that?

Kaysen:

My feeling is that it's important that the work goes on. This is based, I suppose on some perhaps ultimately foolish belief in the power of reason so that even if people aren't listening now, they will listen, although I'm perhaps a product of old age, more inclined to think of it in terms of what catastrophe will make people listen. But Garwin has just finished running a panel at the Council of Foreign Relations on the problems of weaponizing space. I'm not really a member of the panel, but I've gone to some of the meetings, and our committee at the Academy is doing a paper on the problems of weaponization of space. Garwin has focused on the technical parameters, what you can and can't do and so on. And we're going more into the policy questions.

But the hope is that somebody will listen. It may be that, at the moment, the budget constraints, the fact that they're spending so much money on Iraq, will inhibit the administration from doing some of the foolish things that Space Command and the Air Force want to do. So the hope is that if we don't get committed to these foolish things now, we'll have a chance to have some second thoughts. So there's a big set of issues about the possibilities that biological warfare and what can be done about them. Again, I think that it's only — Garwin is not a biologist, but he has concerns about this kind of thing. And it's only if people who had the expertise and the energy to keep at it that there's any hope that we'll behave sensibly. None of it looks very cheerful at the moment.

One good thing we can say is that Bush can be president for only four more years.

Ford:

He did surpass himself already in getting into various messes. It's hard to see what he can do to top himself.

In terms of my being able to focus my work, is there any particular suggestions that you would have that I would approach Garwin in his life?

Kaysen:

Well, I never had any idea what Garwin did inside the IBM labs. I always thought that he sort of had a license to do whatever he wanted to do, and what he wanted to do was try to focus mostly, but not entirely, but mostly on military problems, to see that we didn't do foolish things — things that were foolish either because they were technically silly, and inefficient in various ways, or foolish because they were very dangerous. I see Dick as someone who has spent his whole life on that enterprise, and with as much success as any single individual has had

Ford:

I can tell you, inside IBM he did a lot. And as you said before as someone with a range, he did lots of valuable things for them. Like the laser printer, touchscreen computers, the hard drives for laptops, all sorts of very practical innovations for the computing business.

Kaysen:

I said that not in any sense of doubt, but just that we never talked about these things, and so I never knew. And you're confirming my sense about one of the things about Dick that's unusual is that he was a good engineer as well as a good physicist. And since, as a physicist, he was primarily a theoretician, it's interesting that he was such a good engineer.

Ford:

He was very practical. He has a patent for a device that washes mussels before you cook them. Some neighbor ran a mussel farm or whatever, and they would end up with large heaps of mussels that he would have to scrub and clean.

Kaysen:

He's full of practical ideas. Did you ever come across his idea of refueling a bomber rather than aerial refueling?

Ford:

No.

Kaysen:

You ought to ask him about that. I don't remember much of the detail. But he made the point that the aerial refueling was a very expensive, very difficult business, at least for long-range bombers, you could arrange an at sea refueling system, and it would be… he worked on that. Again, it's not a theoretical physics idea. It's an engineering idea.

Ford:

Are you familiar with the JASON organization that he belongs to?

Kaysen:

Yes. I'll tell you somebody you might talk to who would have an interesting view because he's a very, very interesting man, and he was a very interesting man. And that’s Freeman Dyson. Have you talked to him? He's at the Princeton Institute. He is, I gather, still as lively as ever, although he's getting on too. I think he's about 80, isn't he?

Ford:

He's 76, 77.

Kaysen:

Seventy-seven. A little bit younger than I thought. Dyson is probably that age or near it. But he was a member of JASON.

Ford:

I went out to La Jolla in July. I couldn't go to JASON’s meeting, but there were so many of them there that it was convenient way to interview people. But Dyson wasn't there this year. I don't know if he's still active, but I can try to track him down.

Kaysen:

Yes. He's been a longtime member of JASON. Goldberger was there when you were there.

Ford:

I interviewed him. He's retired and living in La Jolla. La Jolla's a lovely place. I'd been to San Diego before but I'd never been to La Jolla. It's quite charming.

Anybody else do you think would be…

Kaysen:

Well, everybody I can think of is really quite old. There is Frank Press, who was Carter's science advisor, and who was president of the National Academy. And I'm sure you've talked to Herb York. Harold Brown, who might have a — how should I say — a more reserved view of Garwin both when he was DDRE and when he was Secretary of Defense. He might have been on the receiving end of Garwin's comments. He, you know, was also a wunderkind the way Dick was.

Ford:

Somebody else had told me that — I only know Brown from what I saw of him on television when he was Secretary of Defense, and he wasn't a very captivating television personality.

Kaysen:

I knew him when he worked for McNamara when he was DDRE. He was fairly helpful. I think he was among the good guys in that context. You know, I find it absolutely incredible at the time, and I find it incredible in reflection that he should have, as Secretary of Defense, he should have approved that Desert Storm operation. He just had too much experience to think of something like that would be able to work well.

Gell-Mann was never a JASON, was he?

Ford:

I don’t know. I know he was a contemporary of his from the University of Chicago.

Kaysen:

No. Gell-Mann was never at Chicago. [Not true. Physics Dept. Instructor 1952-3]

Ford:

Or was it Columbia? They were together somewhere.

Kaysen:

Well, I don't think Gell-Mann was at Columbia either. I'm trying to think — maybe he was an undergraduate at Columbia? I should remember that, and I don't. He got his PhD at MIT, didn't he?

Ford:

I don't know. I can check… I know they were together somewhere along the line.

Kaysen:

Well, Murray is the man who makes Dick Garwin look modest. Don't quote me on that either. But he'd be worth talking to.

I don't know who of Garwin's contemporaries who were at the weapons lab when he was there are still around.

Ford:

People like Carson Mark and Harold Agnew.

Good, well, I have a list of about 200 people to interview. It's going to be three years' worth of research, I imagine. And the archives are — on the one hand, they are extremely well-organized, but on the other hand they are overwhelming.

Kaysen:

Well, Dick is very well-organized.

Someone you might talk to of the younger generation who is, I won't say is analogous to Dick, but he has a pretty broad range. He is very energetic and interesting. John Holdren.

Ford:

I've been trying to get a hold of him. I've known from the UCS days when he used to work with Paul Ehrlich.

Kaysen:

Yes.

Ford:

I just kind of find it all extremely interesting. There are so many topic interviews to add a little bit of light to this and a little bit of light to that. It would be a good channel of putting bounds on the discussion, because when you write for a contemporary audience, they may have heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis or Chernobyl or something like that, but one of the things that frightens me is that Dick has worked on so many things, even just giving one paragraph of background, that's already 200 pages of the book and you haven't said anything new. You're just giving background. It becomes quite a challenge to focus on a small set, or a reasonable set of manageable topics.

Good, well, I appreciate very much for your time.

[End of recorded material]