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Interview of Jack Ruina 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/40912-22
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In this interview Jack Ruina discusses topics such as: Richard Garwin, hydrogen bomb, Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM), Soviet-American Disarmament Studies group (SADS), Paul Doty, Henry Kissinger, JASON, Herb York, the New Yorker. Edith Ruina, Jack's wife, also participates in the interview.This interview is part of a collection of interviews on the life and work of Richard Garwin. To see all associated interviews, click here.
Let me say something quickly about Garwin and the H-bomb program. I was in a meeting at Erice with Garwin. It was a small group, the number of Americans may have been five or six or something like that. But it was an international group. And Mr. Zichichi likes to get very well-known people, Nobel prizewinners and so on, for these meetings. And one meeting that Teller was there, and there was some discussion about H-bombs that I forgot. I forgot the issue.
What interested me was that Teller said to the audience, "I want to tell you that this man has made tremendous contributions to the H-bomb." This is Teller speaking. I don't know what the nature of the contributions are myself, but I'm just saying. So that's not classified. But the fact that Teller made a point of telling the group of Garwin's contribution, which I had not known before.
Did you see the big article in The New York Times in 2001? There was a huge article by Bill Broad in the Science Section. It was the whole top of the page and the whole inside page. I'll send you a copy.
I'd like to see it.
… “debate revives over who designed” …
Ulam, is that it?
It was specifically somebody gave Broad a copy of what they refer to as Teller's testament. After he had his heart attack in 1979, he sat down with George Keyworth, and Keyworth reported and transcribed a 20-25-page document on how the H-bomb was created. That said in it that Dick Garwin was the principal designer of the bomb, and that Teller and Ulam had the rough concept and Garwin of course was a student of Fermi and came to Los Alamos as a summer job arranged by Fermi. And his job was to come up with the practical architecture of the first bomb to take this whole concept of radiation implosion and whatnot and actually choose the materials and the specs and the whole thing. He produced this thing in six weeks.
Teller was somewhat mischievous in this description, because according to the various people that I've spoken to, he was of course doing this to attack Ulam, but that he probably exaggerated Garwin's role — not because Garwin didn't do what he said, but that he didn’t …
He wanted to downplay Ulam.
To describe the devil Marshall Rosenbluth…
And Longmire and
Wasn't Freddy de Hoffman involved some of the detailed calculations?
That doesn't ring a bell. But at any rate, Teller talked a lot about Garwin. He should have been talking about Rosenbluth and Longmire and some other people, too. And why he wasn't doing that, and of course, various people got mad at Garwin thinking that he must have been behind the leak of this thing to the New York Times.
I've never heard Garwin boast about anything like that.
No, but the thing was … in fact he did a tremendous amount of work on the first bomb, but he was involved on other projects immediately thereafter, designing other hydrogen weapons that nobody knows anything about. For example, … the first bomb was too big. Couldn't move it. … So the next thing was to make, to reduce the size of it, make something you could put on an airplane. Garwin did that.
Two things that are surprising — one is that Garwin didn't stick to it, given that he did well, and he didn't stick to that business, and two, that he didn't go into an academic career.
Those are interesting questions.
Did he go to IBM directly from…?
Yes. He only stayed in Chicago until 1952. He did the H-bomb thing in 1951, and I think he stayed one more year in Chicago. And then he went to IBM. But he remained heavily involved in the work at Los Alamos as well as doing all sorts of stuff for IBM and …
But the stuff he was doing for IBM must have been in an entirely different area.
Oh yeah, he was all over the place. I was very interested in knowing what did he do for IBM. I had no information on it at all. But he did all sorts of things. He played a big role in the invention of laser printers, touch screen computers, hard drives for laptop computers, on and on. He has a book of patents.
A person who might know a little bit about this is the guy who was at IBM years later, but Lew Branscomb. He just moved to La Jolla, or did he move yet?
I spoke with him briefly this summer.
He was moving to La Jolla.
I was going to add a side note on that Erice meeting. You may have forgotten. After the session that Jack was talking about, we were walking out with Dixy Lee Ray, who was at the meeting — perhaps you've heard this story.
No. Very few people were there. Edith
When she accused Dick Garwin of being a traitor, and subsequently — what's that journalist's name that was there?
Flora Lewis was there. She heard this story. I told her this story, and she subsequently wrote an article on it. That's a little side note.
Well that Erice meeting …
I don't know how you know that much about it, because there weren't that many people there.
He told me about it.
Did he tell you about that incident? He did tell you about that. You know she wrote an article about it.
I have it.
Oh you have it, so you know about that. I was the one who told Flora Lewis about that.
It's very interesting. I have to verify these things from more than one source. That meeting was interesting because …
There were about two or three meetings in a row.
Dixy Lee Ray was there with her dog on a leash.
I had various run-ins with Dixy Lee Ray myself.
She was not a ray of sunshine.
She was an abomination. I remember when I was with the Union of Concerned Scientists, we were suing Dixy Lee Ray, among other joyous tasks. She became chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission because she was an expert on marine worms — these things that grow …
Wasn't she a governor in Washington?
She subsequently ran for governor of the state of Washington, and became governor for one term. She was very thin-skinned and the press … she was obviously right about everything and everybody else was wrong.
She was “right” in more than one sense of the word.
Anytime a reporter asked her a question, she would say, "That's a stupid question." And the reporters of course went into great combat with her. But she was totally incompetent at anything relevant.
How did she get the government jobs that she got?
She was a right-wing talk show host in Seattle. She was the head of a tourist trap science museum at the Seattle World's Fair, and she had her talk show on the radio. And she was a good friend of John Ehrlichman and Haldeman. That's how she became chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. That was one of the worst appointments of government office.
Well, yes. At this Eric meeting, I heard of that. I heard the Teller business. Lois Garwin learned then for the first time that Dick had worked on the hydrogen bomb. She didn't know anything about it. I interviewed his daughter the other day.
Here at Harvard, and she didn't know about it until she read the 2000 article in 2001.
I'd appreciate a copy of that article. We get the Times and I read the science section all the time, so I don't know why we missed that.
To make a bad pun, Jack has ‘broad’ interest.
You have to learn, Edith is a punster from way back.
I can't tell you much about Garwin that others haven't told you. I must have met him in the early 60s. I became director of ARPA on January 20, 1961. It was the day the president was appointed or sworn in, and was there in that job until the summer of 1963, when I came to MIT. In that period, I got involved with JASON. We paid for JASON in those days.
Did he testify on nuclear testing?
No, no. If he did he was not in the foreground on that one, nor on ABM. He was not active, not a prominent person in those days. Hans Bethe was, but he wasn't particularly. But he came across right away as a guy who, if he was not the world's smartest man, he was close to being the world's smartest man. And everybody respected him.
As you point out, Henry Kendall, and I remember others, Fred Zachariasen, and so on, saying very laudatory things about him in physics. I knew him just related to applied physics or military technology and so on. But the fact that even the pure physicists, those who had reputations in pure physics, thought so highly of him was something new to me. It was interesting. As you point out, he’s involved in every technology there is that interests him. And as Edith has pointed out, if you want anything fixed in your house, invite Garwin, and he'll come and look.
He'll come to your house and look through everything. Just mention anything that's wrong, and he'll be there. In their house, well, you've probably been there, they had every imaginable gadget, and he knows about every single one of them.
Some of them were not very interesting gadgets. When we were there, he just got something to seal food. You could wrap food in some cellophane bag and pump the air out of it and it seals it. It was a very unimpressive gadget but he was very proud of it at the time.
We met his mother, too. Remember when we were at dinner once and his mother was there.
At his house?
It must have been Thanksgiving.
What was his mom like?
I don't remember her.
She was very nice lady. I think she talked a little bit about how precocious he was. When he was a little kid — did you tell him the Erwin…
I didn't tell him anything, he [Ford] just walked in.
I'll tell you something you can't check on the fact, but it's a fact.
Somebody we know went to school with him in Cleveland. This is Erwin Fishman.
Who later became a professor of chemistry; he was a scientist in his own right.
He said he used to think he was pretty smart in second grade until Dick Garwin got into the class, and then his status declined.
He said from then on, he realized he was pretty dumb guy compared to Garwin.
That Dick Garwin was so amazingly outstanding.
Even in second grade.
Where is this Fishman today?
He lives in California. He was a professor of chemistry at Union College. He got his PhD at Brown. I taught at Brown for a while, and Fishman was a graduate student.
We haven’t seen him in years.
He got his degree with Don Hornig, I think. That I'm not sure about. But he got a degree in chemistry.
Do you have an address for him?
If we do it would be a pretty old one but I think it’s in the L.A.
What school was he at?
He got his PhD at Brown. He taught at Union College, chemistry. Then he went into industry. I think he worked for TRW. But the last time we saw him must have been 20 years ago. But we were very close to them when we were at Brown, 50 years ago.
I'll look him up.
If you want to know about his early years …
I've talked with his babysitter.
Oh really? Did she talk about how precocious he was?
Oh yeah. She said he was relatively slow to speak.
And that he didn't say a lot of da-da ma-ma things at all. But then when he was around 1, he started speaking in complete sentences. She realized he was unusual but didn't realize how unusual until she had her own children. She said his father was an electrical engineer, and said this father had this rather strange habit that sort of influenced the child. He said he spoke to him like an adult. His father would be fixing or doing something and he just spoke, "Now we take this bracket and we unwind this and do that." She said when Dick could barely walk, he knew the instruments on the dashboard of the car and what they did and could explain it to you.
She said, later on his father liked fixing things, and all of this. And she was his aunt and she was like 14 when she was babysitter for him. When she got her first television set, she said Dick and his brother just took it apart. She was going oh my God, they took the whole thing apart. They wanted to see how it worked. And they put it back together and it worked. She was relieved. He really had a total immersion in technology from the earliest possible moment.
Did he read books?
Not very big on literature or history or art.
I wouldn't think so. Or music.
He goes to concerts and goes to museums. He came to visit me in Paris where he been many times lately. They stayed in my guest apartment. He and Lois laid out a whole set of guidebooks and maps.
I'm sure it was very organized.
They went running around Paris like a couple of 20 year olds. They wanted to see this, they wanted to see that. They'd come back and work late into the night, banging away, banging out some technical article on the computer. I would invite some people to dinner. He was working up until the minute they rang the doorbell. We had a very relaxed dinner and all of that. When these people left, he jumped up, loaded the dishwasher, and then went right back to the computer working away.
Have you talked to his kids about what kind of parent he was? I shouldn't be interviewing you. Get on with your questions.
Yeah, but you made the suggestion that I mention this Fishman guy.
Did Fishman spell his name with a C or no?
Fish. And it's Erwin. With an E.
I don't know where in Los Angeles they live. The last I think, I knew he worked for TRW, but I'm talking 20 years ago. The last time we saw them.
His father grew up in a Jewish orphanage in Cleveland. And some sociologists have written a book about the orphanage. I have the book, and one of the main documentary sources in the book is a journal of a couple hundred pages long, written by Dick's uncle [Louis O. Garwin] who was also in this orphanage. So I have written to the orphanage.
One of the troubles you're going to have in writing this stuff is you can write it up as it is, and call it as it is, and people will think you're exaggerating tremendously.
You can have a title that's sort of “It’s Unbelievable” or something.
The working title I have for it, I'm having a "Name the book" contest.
She just entered.
You're free to enter the contest. So far the best title is from a lawyer, a friend of mine from Chicago. He'd never heard of Garwin. He said, "Call the book, The Man behind Everything."
I'd say "The Man in Front of Everything."
But at any rate, there is a case of champagne for someone who comes up with the title.
In the Chicago years, was he close to Goldberger at the time? And Murray Gell-Mann. He was there at the time, wasn’t he?
I didn't have the impression that they were friends?
No, but they were doing physics in Chicago. I don’t know if it was exactly the same time or not.
They certainly knew each other. And Goldberger was very close to him for many, many years.
Yeah. JASON and all that.
Whether they were actually that close after Chicago itself, I don't know.
What about Murray?
That, I don't know either. His best friend in Chicago was a physicist named Telegdi. He's at CERN and was at Caltech.
I know the name, but I don’t know him. I'm not a physicist. I'm not in that world. But I got to know all these guys. I saw Goldberger just last week. So I keep in touch with some of them who are still alive.
Did you talk at all about Jerry?
He didn't talk about any of them. He just walked in.
Oh, I see. Because I was going to say your attitudes about public policy ….
Oh I'm sure people will tell you that his brilliance in science and technology does not translate into necessarily good judgment about politics or societal situations. I wouldn't go to Garwin, for example — not that I wouldn’t go to him, but I wouldn't rely on his judgment in any of those areas at all.
His people skills — let me give an example. He was chairman of a panel on ASW, a PSAC panel years ago. And I was on that panel. And I remember being appalled once when we had an admiral starting a talk, and Garwin as chairman stopped him after four sentences, and said, "We didn't want you here. We wanted someone who knows what he is talking about." He didn't quite say it that way. "We want somebody who knows the technology. We don't want hear from admirals." Something like that. You don’t talk that way to anybody, no less an admiral in charge of anything. That kind of thing sort of took me…. I can't imagine no matter how people would feel, I wouldn't express it quite that way.
I've talked to several of his friends. One of his friends who was saying when he got the National Medal of Science. He would have gotten it 20 years earlier if he hadn't made so many enemies, if so many people didn't hate him for that type of ….
People don't know him very well, people in the establishment. And then he got into this bind …. I’m sure you know about the question of the SST … At that time people, maybe that's why it’s so sensitive, people thought two things, that he was giving away privileged information, or using privileged information. I don't know if they ever accused him of giving away classified information, but the question of privileged information, PSAC deliberations would be privileged, and that he went on a campaign on the basis of knowledge he had in PSAC. I wasn't on that panel, so I don't know. My information is second and third hand. The government people thought that he used his knowledge that he learned from the PSAC panel to then go public attacking the SST.
So what else can I say about Garwin? I could say that he wouldn't be a person I would use for political judgment. He has a tendency — this is very clear, and I'm sure you've heard this from everybody. He has a tendency to have technical solutions to the world's problems. Technological or some kind of technical-type fix. If Garwin was here and we had a long conversation about my difficulty with my cousin, he would suggest solutions that would be technical solution, like "Why don't you write her every third week on Tuesday night." Some kind of gadgetry, maybe it's social gadgetry, solution to the problem. I've heard him do that on social situations where the solution was — to exaggerate, if the government was doing a program which was absolutely wrong in every way, based on what the technology has to offer, and what the policy implications are, Dick would be very negative about it, because he had a better solution. Rather than saying, the whole thing's crazy, "We don't need that at all."
Currently the ABM problem, which is facing an administration which has its belief in ABM, and which makes no sense, given the fundamental flaws the system has. Not because it failed a test or anything like that; the fundamental flaw is that it has to do what the government is saying it might do. I can get into all that if you wish. But Dick's approach would be, "They've got the wrong ABM system" rather than saying, "The whole thing is so nutty." For basic policy reasons, given the fundamental flaws it has, which everybody will admit to.
I personally find it bizarre that he will say, "The whole ABM system is completely ridiculous;" it shouldn’t happen. And then he'll turn around and go to a JASON meeting and be working with people and say, "Turn this and do this this way and do this that way. It's still a system that we shouldn't build it, but if you’re going to build it, this would be a better version of a bad system than whatever."
Exactly. No, that's just like him. And sometimes that goes to extremes. Now what I'm going to tell you is a story which, I think it's Garwin, and he was serious about it. And if so, you've probably heard about it before. But when we were going through all the business of deterrence and it's our mutually assured destruction and so on, I think he was proposing, actually, setting bombs under each other's cities …. and he said that would be much cheaper, easier, much more reliable. Especially, he made up some command and control system I'm sure. And we wasted a lot of money on all these missiles and protecting them and then having decoys when you have a simple system: the Russians would set bombs under our cities. We’d set bombs under their cities. And that's the ultimate deterrent. You know, if you go this far, I'll press the button and you're blown up and there's no question about it, unambiguous, no fooling around with escalation control and all the bullshit the administration was talking about. He had a very simple solution.
From a technical point of view, I'm sure it was brilliant. But can you imagine what — and I think he was serious about it.
I always have had my own pet idea. I always thought that things were much more stable with the submarine deterrent, than with the land-based …. We could just rely on…
The Russians had big problems with reliability of their submarines that they didn't want to let them out to sea. So I thought, "Well why don't we just give them some of ours and then everybody can…"
You give them yours. If they're very good, they can test them out and can see how good they are.
They could put their own missiles on them if they'd like. Why don't you just give them some good submarines?
Much stabler than if we thought that we can have some military advantage. Much better for us.
I couldn't actually go out in public advocating that without being laughed at. And in fact, I did testify once when I wrote this book about command and control. There were congressional hearings about it all, and I testified that … I guess I had written at some point about my thoughts about submarines. Somehow or other the Republican staff person discovered this. This guy is going at me, hammer and tongs, "Are you the one that just wants to have a submarine deterrent?" I said, "Well, yes. That is my feeling."
What would the Air Force think?
He's probably hard to get to, but did you talk to Harold Brown at all?
He might be a little hard to get, because he's all over the place. I think he spends most of the time in the New York these days. But Harold was in government, and maybe even with Livermore, and certainly had some relationships with Garwin, too, and was a government customer for Garwinian thought. And the other is, to a lesser extent, is Herb York.
Yes, I've had long talks with him.
Well, the other people on JASON.
Well, Mel Ruderman is a very good personal friend.
I've talked to Ruderman.
Well those guys have seen him much more working with him jointly. I never worked with Garwin on anything jointly. So my contact was social and on many committees, on an infinite number of — he was part of a group that Doty chaired, which was a very important group. I just had lunch with Doty today. I think that has not gotten enough credit. I think that in terms of all government advisory groups, and NGOs and so on, I think they made more of a difference to the extent that anybody has made any difference on government policy than any other.
It was the first place where ABM was discussed with the Russians. And they knew nothing … they never thought about it in any detail.
Does he [Ford] know what committee?
This is the committee that Doty chaired. It was called SADS, that stood for something. Soviet American Disarmament Studies group or something like that. Doty was the chairman. It was a small group of about eight of us, six of us, something like that. Garwin was on it. I was on it. I think Sid Drell, Panofsky, Kissinger went to one of the meetings, a very important meeting, and Cy Vance went to one meeting. But they were not regulars. The regulars were the people I mentioned, and I forgot who else. I know Drell and Panofsky and Garwin for sure were on this group, and Doty.
There were a lot of discussions with the Russians. I was the first one who proposed an ABM treaty, an agreement with the Russians. It was at a Pugwash meeting. Doty, Carl Kaysen, myself, and Murray Gell-Mann, raised that issue with the Russians. The Russians said, "We think the translator got it all wrong because what you seem to be saying was so crazy that it just doesn't make any sense at all." They said, "Do you mind writing it out?" So that night, I wrote it out. And Murray looked it over in the morning, and edited it, and so on, and therefore the paper is Ruina and Gell-Mann. 1964 Pugwash meeting.
And Millionshchikov, who was the chief Russian said, "The translator wasn’t screwed up, it's just you guys are screwed up." He didn't say it quite that way. He said, "How can any country not protect its people, or try to protect its people, even if that's all they do?" So the first Russian reaction was, "This is the nuttiest idea. How can you possibly say, 'We're not even going to try to defend ourselves'?" You ought to read that paper. But Garwin wasn't involved.
But then later when SADS got started, I was the one who kept the ABM issue, talking about ABM all the time. And saying why it would make sense The first paper, the language, I recall, I was very apologetic. I said this may seem nutty, but I think an agreement not to defend yourself might be a sensible thing to do.
[Change of tapes]
So my claim to fame: Well, I was very involved in government. You know, ARPA had all the responsibility for ABM research and development. The Army built Nike Zeus, but ARPA did all the so-called Advanced Research and Development. ABM [???] involved in that issue, and the only issue I ever spoke to McNamara about was either ABM or the test ban, because we did the technology for those areas. Otherwise my — McNamara didn’t give a damn what we were doing in fuel cells or rocket propulsion, or anything like that. But those two areas were — had such policy implications that my dealing with top policymakers — like, I was the first one to brief the president about, about — about ABM. In fact, Jerry Wiesner’s recent book — I was surprised. He says that — mentions the fact that my talking to Kennedy convinced him that ABM was a bad idea. I like — I like that. But that was the first time the president got briefed on ABM.
So I was sort of the ABM man on the SADS committee, and, and — but we pumped away at ABM all the time, every — and then, then I remember in, in ’67, a meeting that Kissinger was at — and I can tell you a Kissinger story, if that’s relevant — and Garwin was at, where the Russians said, “Don’t — don’t think your message about ABM is not reaching the top of our government.” And that was in ’67. That was Christmas time — or, I don’t know whether it was Christmas or New Year’s, but — we were there for New Year’s, so it was just after Christmas. So that was the first inkling we got that, that despite the fact that they used to argue with us — and who was the guy who wrote a book? One of the Russians, a genera — a retired general — wrote a book, and I think he said, ‘Only western …’ I’m paraphrasing this, but it’s, ‘Only the degenerate western imperialists would ever think that not defending yourself makes any sense.’ Something like that.
Polanski[??]. Is Polanski …? Polanski wrote a book. And he attended one of these meetings. But then later the Russians said, you know, said this: “Don’t think your message isn’t getting to the top.” And that was ’67.
Did Dick get involved in talking with [???] or anything in Russia about this, in the course of all this?
You mean other than — you know, in straight science?
Not to my knowledge. That doesn’t mean he didn’t. [???]. But those meetings with the Russians at the — Doty’s group had, on many topics — I just mentioned ABM because that’s [???], but it’s extremely important; much more important than anything subsequent, before, after, because the government wasn’t talking in such terms to the Russians. That’s the important thing. And Kissinger was at that meeting in ’67. And what’s impressive about Kissinger: He used to talk — his, his job [in the SADS activity] was to talk about Viet Nam. His role — mine was ABM. Kissinger’s was Viet Nam.
And, and he gave at talk to the, the Russian group, equivalent, about the terrible situation we were in in Viet Nam, and that only they can help us out of it. Before it was over, we all were crying about what terrible shape America’s in. Not the Vietnamese, but we — when — the world has to help us out of this mess. I mean, Kissinger was so persuasive. It was fantastic. I mean, I never felt — I’d known him before. I taught in his classes. He used to invite me to give lectures in his class here, but I’d never heard his — never heard him perform this way. The Russians were all crying. It was all that, and they were saying, “How can we help America?”
Did Dick have any particular opinions about anything [???]?
Oh, I’m sure he was — his opinions agreed with his …
Oh, he wrote a big article in [???].
With, with, with Bethe. Yes.
With Bethe in ’68, I think it was.
In Scientific American, a very technical article about — one of the things was how nuclear bursts can mask everything, amongst other things, I — yes, yes. That came later. I’m talking about early days, like ’64.
So far as I know, I was the first guy to mention to the Russians about the possibility of an agreement that we — it would, it would seem so politically nutty.
Had Kissinger written about his performance at this meeting [???]?
I don’t know if he did. I don’t know if he did, but you can check that. The other people who were there were — Doty was there, and Garwin was there. I think George Rathjens was there.
And this was held where?
And then — and I remember, Kissinger left. He had — Kissinger always had deals with other people, you know. While we would be talking to the Russians, their scientists, Kissinger would be off talking to the prime minister, or something like that. He had some way of doing that. So he’d come back the next day, and we knew — or he’d fly off to Viet Nam and come back. I don’t know. He was always very involved with sort of high-level discussions.
Well, I mean, Doty is working on his memoir, and [???]
Oh, he’s been working a long time. He’s trying to do something too ambitious. Yes. I wish he would just concentrate on a series of little essays about different things. Then he’d get it done, instead of trying to be complete.
I, I …
That’s your technological fix.
That’s my technological fix.
I, I wonder how far advanced he is on the, the write-up of the SADS [???].
Well, the only person who wrote up SADS a little bit is a German guy. Did he show you that? It was a German guy who wrote up something, which is half good. You know, it’s not-quite good. I’d give it a B minus. I forgot his name. He wrote up about the SADS business a little bit. And, and Doty would certainly remember his name. And in my files somewhere I, I have a copy of the paper or book, but I certainly couldn’t put my finger on it.
But it was interesting, you know. I’ll tell you a little story in this regard, which is, is that, Millionshchikov, who was sort of the chief Russian of — on their side, who has died since, after the Kissinger performance, he came back the next day, and he said he, he thought about what Kissinger said; and it reminded him of the following Russian story. And the story he told is about this kid, this kid who’s on a farm. His father’s a farmer. He comes running to his father, who’s chopping wood, and says, “Father, come quickly. There’s a guy who’s stuck in the swamp way down at the end of the field.” And the father says, “Well, I’ll be right there, you know, just let me finish this.” The kid says, you know, “No, he’s already up to his knees.” The father said, okay, okay. Let me just finish this.” He says, “You still don’t understand. He’s upside down.” That was — the Russians always had a good story. He said that was the American situation.
But, I was so impressed by the Kissinger performance, and by the Russians saying, “Your message is getting to the top.” And sure enough, later, when we started negotiating, when Nixon came in, ’68, we start — we started negotiating SALT-I. This was in ’69, and I was on the general advisory committee then, and — the so-called, you know, advisory committee to the president on arms control, and to — and to the director of ACDA [Arms Control and Disarmament Agency][???]. And the Russians started to talk seriously about ABM, very seriously, and we ended up with a treaty. So it’s from ’67 — the treaty was signed in ’72, and there was no serious discussion with Americans until Nixon and Kissinger came in. So that was ’69, and then … And that stuff’s written up somewhere. Must be.
So other than that, I can’t tell you — I can tell you little anecdotes about Garwin here and there, but …
Well, go right ahead.
I don’t remember the — well, I was just — I said I’ve been on an infinite number of committees and studies and so on with him. He was a great person, but I would not say he’s a great chairman of a committee, for sure. The other committee — the — an important committee that he was on, but his contributions weren’t that outstanding there — not because of lack of technical talent but — I was chairman of a committee that looked into the South African event, the, the — there’s a White House committee to look into whether the light flash seen by one of our radio satellites was or was not a nuclear explosion, and he was on that one too, and so was Panofsky. But the guys who made the important contributions was a guy who later won a Nobel Prize. It’s Riccardo Giacconi, who just got a Nobel Prize a few years ago. And guy from Lincoln Laboratory [Sarles ??], who — I don’t remember his name. But he did — he did some detailed analysis of stuff that was given to us, so it was very revealing.
But Dick’s — I mean, his contributions are always very important and very … But he didn’t make the key contribution to that one. That was Giacconi and Sarles …
What — what are some of the committees that you were on with him where he made the, the key contributions?
I don’t know if I can say — anyplace where I can say he made the contribution, but he always was a, a very important guy and very solid citizen, and was more involved in sort of the technological details than anybody else. I mean, that sort of stands out. I think he’s on the committee that — there was a committee in the Carter administration that Frank Press organized that was looking into whether a temporary halt, an agreement with the Russians to stop nuclear testing for a period of three to five years, was any risk to our security. And the committee came out unanimously that it would be no risk.
Then Carter did something — well, Schlesinger talked him into it. Schlesinger was then secretary of energy — that he should talk to the two lab directors. So Carter, thinking that he was a nuclear engineer [???] invited the two lab directors only — nobody from the committee. I forgot who chaired that committee. I think Herb York was on it. Panofsky was on it. Garwin was sure to be on it. And he invited — the president invited — or Schlesinger arranged for him to meet with — the two lab directors [Los Alamos National Laboratory and Livermore National Laboratory], who of course were able to swamp him on the nuclear issues, and the president never went forward with that possibility. The issue was a temporary hold, a five-year hold. Something like that.
But Garwin was — and every other — every one of the committees that I was on that had any technological or scientific content, or where the scientific content was important, Garwin was on. And I’m sure he was on many that I wasn’t on, so … And properly so. I mean, he was the right man for each of these things. But he was as solid — that doesn’t mean he was always technically correct. I mean, his judgment on some of the technologies, where they’re going and what their future might be, isn’t — well, nobody’s is. Nobody’s is. But, but he was clearly, you know, the world’s greatest scientist, technologist, that covers so many fields. I mean, I, I cannot think of any match. Historically, there was a guy in World War 2, the Radiation Laboratory at MIT[??][???], named Hansen [W.W. Hansen], and everybody thought — from Stanford — was considered a Garwin-type person, but I’ve, I’ve never met — I’ve met a lot of guys, a lot of Nobel prize winners, and none of them had that kind of technological and scientific — combination of breadth and depth that Garwin has.
I, I think — I’ve met a number of Nobel Prize winners that [???], but I’ve never met anybody who was — you know, who could run very far in a race with Dick.
Well, and Harold Brown is, is said — I didn’t hear it from Harold myself — to have said that Garwin is the only guy he met who he knew was smarter than he was.
Does Herb York know a lot about [???]?
Well, there’s a lot — there must have been overlap with Herb York, yes.
[???] Herb — he, he told me a lot of things [???].
Yes. Must have been — well, Herb was DDR&E for a long time.
Actually, Herb was the first director of Defense Research & Engineering, the first …
That’s because he’s such a wise, sensible person.
Yes, yes. But what’s — what’s, what’s interesting is that Garwin — and Garwin isn’t unique in that — that all this fantastic brilliance does not translate into, necessarily, very good judgment in political or social — I don’t use the word “social.” I don’t want to talk about human interactions, but societal problems.
No, I, I guess one of the things that I wonder about is … You know … How good is he at choosing what things to work on?
That’s an interesting … I don’t know what he works on. I just know his work in, in the public where he’s called upon. I mean, what he does himself, like what he did for IBM. I’m told that, you know, for — he had a short time as — I’m — this is second or third hand. But a short time — he was given and administrative job in IBM and failed at it.
Well, we know somebody who worked for him who couldn’t stand him
Oh, no. Yes, that’s right. If you like I can give him — give him the name.
Somebody who worked for him at IBM.
… worked for him and thought he was impossible, or very [???].
A man who became a very wealthy entrepreneur.
A very competent scientist, we think, who had — Dick was his boss, and he couldn’t stand him.
Well, I, I think …
It was understandable. I mean, from what you know about Dick, you can …
I mean, I’ve spent some, some time at his office at my little desk in the corner, and this was a suite of three [???] …
At Yorktown Heights, and [???] IBM.
Oh, you were at IBM? Oh, I see.
No, I mean, working on this project.
Oh, yes. I see.
And it, it’s a suite of three, three rooms with him at one end and a secretary in the middle, and a bare, bare desk in the third [???].
So he still goes to IBM?
Oh yes. He’s an IBM [???] Fellow Emeritus.
Senior Fellow or something. Yes.
Or something, and they, you know, provide him with an office and a secretary [???] …
Good, good. That’s great. That’s great. Good for IBM.
… and whatnot, but you know, he showed me the whole setup of the office and the archives, and it’s all meticulously organized, and so forth; and a good part of it is computerized and searchable and …
Oh, sure. I’m sure.
… and all this stuff, but, but there’s a manual this thick, called “Office,” and it’s how to run his office. And the secretary was saying that, you know, every time he’d find, you know, just a shortcut on the keyboard for performing some operation relative to the office, that goes into the manual, and that is what she is supposed to use the next time she performs that operation. And …
Yes. No, that’s — that’s just absolutely consistent.
Drives her nuts?
Well, well, she, she [???] She said, “I work flat out for eight hours,” and you know, she says, “He watches me like a hawk, and you know, I didn’t use the shortcut,” and so forth. And apparently [???] losing secretaries left and right. They were just quitting. And …
No, I can imagine. I don’t think he has any real understanding; doesn’t put himself in the other person’s position at all.
I, I think he must not have been a very easy husband. I would think …
[???] but one of the, one of the people in his office told me about the secretarial difficulty, and he has been losing so many secretaries that IBM finally told him they were going to give him another one, but if he loses this one, it’s the last.
It’s too hard on the personnel office to have to keep …
Incidentally, somebody you, you must talk to, who will give you a very different slant because he’s got his own sort of view of the world, is Murray Gell-Mann, because Murray, I think, sees the world somewhat differently. Also less conventional than the rest of us. And so he’s going to give you a somewhat different slant, and I don’t know — again, I don’t know …
[???] competitive with — do you think he’s competitive with …
Garwin doesn’t seem like a competitive guy.
No, Gell-Mann is competitive with [???].
Oh, Gell-Mann has got so much recognition that I don’t think he has to be worried about being competitive. I — the — once I — I was at JASON for one summer before I became president of IDA, and I couldn’t be both — JASON and president of IDA — at the same time. I mean, JASON was part of IDA, so I couldn’t very well … And that summer, no, I don’t know what, what Garwin was working on. And, and … And Murray — I know what Murray was working on, because I was in — I was working in the same area. But, but I don’t — I didn’t sense that at all. I think Murray’s maybe very competitive, but in different sort of things.
No, in other things. The other thing is, do you know there’s a book being written about JASON?
By a lady, Ann Finkbeiner …
Yes, I, I have a copy of it.
Well, she’s still writing it. She’s still rewriting parts of it.
Possibly, but, but whatever her latest version is.
Yes. So that must have a fair amount of Garwin in it.
It — I have to — haven’t — I would rather get — I’m overwhelmed.
I mean, I will get, every day, you know, a few thousand pages of stuff from him.
Oh, sure. Sure.
So my, my [???] is …
I have a title: “Garwin the Great.”
But he — but she would have, more than anybody else, sort of, JASON’s history, which the — a lot of people — the [???] read it all — well, whenever you know something, a lot about a subject, you find somebody who wrote about it, whether newspaper person, or — didn’t quite get it right. So, I know Goldberger and you both have complained about something in her book, but I’ve seen the, some — you know, she’s sent me the sections that I’m involved in, and she has it — you know, there are some errors, of course, but she — it’s not a bad story.
I just looked at the — the writing style seemed rather pedestrian, [???].
I can’t imagine that that book — anybody’s interested in it except JASON members. It’s not going to be a big sale.
It didn’t seem to have any …
… throw any bones at the general reader. [???].
Well, it may have — this might have been important in the days — in the missile gap days or something like that, when science in government was so important. But right now I just can’t imagine, especially when you look at JASON now, and they’re doing rather pedestrian things, as far as I’m concerned. They don’t — they’re not doing any of the — in the old days they worked on, you know, ‘Should we have a test ban,’ ABM. [???] was a character, doing fantastically interesting things. But, but now, I — my impression is, it’s very pedestrian, detail work for the Pentagon.
You know, I guess — I mean, that’s something that interests me a lot. I sort of have the same impression. I don’t have documentation for it.
It’s, it’s my impression. I wonder — I keep asking myself, why did he let himself get so absorbed in …
All over the place?
Well, in, in a lot of things that just don’t seem like they’re worthy of him.
Yes, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
And, and in a lot of [???] You know, I have the impression that it’s just beating a dead horse. I mean, you give him [???] …
No, I think — I think, I think you’re right.
He’s given the same talk on safe weapons, you know, 5000 times.
When nobody’s that interested in the subject anymore.
And no [???] in the subject. He’s not actually saying any — I haven’t actually compared one, one paper to the, the next.
It’s on my list of things to do, but my impression is, he’s not adding anything; he’s just [???].
Filling in all the gaps.
He’s just regurgitating the same argument he’s made in a, in a previous [???].
No, I think — I would — I’ll make a statement I’ve never before. It’s: I think, given his fantastic abilities, maybe because he, he doesn’t come across as a wise man — just a very smart man — his contribution is not as great as it could be.
Well, I mean, my sort of preliminary impression, is this guy really needed a manager.
Manage his brain.
Well, to manage — yes, to, to, to manage his choice of projects.
Not only choice of projects, but to sort of get into the policy ramifications.
And, and …
In a more direct way.
… and to really, you know, manage his career, and, and — you know, I think for example one, one, one thing I would like to know — and I haven’t, so I’ll ask you — but I, I haven’t, I haven’t asked if of any of the other people before, but I’d like to know: I mean, the, you know, the bad behavior, insulting behavior and needless …
Well, the one example I gave you about the admiral was …
Well, I’ve heard 50 [???] …
Like that. Yes.
… 50 stories like that, and I guess, you know, one of my questions is, didn’t anybody ever take him aside and say, “Dick, [???] …
… shouldn’t do things like that.
I expect Lois has done that.
Yes, but she hasn’t seen him in that …
She doesn’t know [???].
She has never seen him in that context.
But I bet she has, in a very …
I, I don’t know. I will ask her, and I will ask other people. I will ask him.
I bet — I bet — I mean, if you ask her a little bit about his relationship with his kids, and her relationship to his behavior, I bet you would elicit some of that, that there would be [???].
I — you know, I, I want to talk with her and him and the kids, and the …
… the people who know him well. Because, I mean, I remember, you know, when, when I started working with Henry Kendall, you know, obviously I was very helpful to him, because he was a relatively shy person.
He didn’t — the whole process of public debate and dealing with the press and all of this — so he, you know …
[???] this building?
Yes. Oh, I know. I know.
Yes. It’s …
I know. I’ve visited his [???] many times, but at any rate, you know, we had a very good collaboration; but the thing is that, I remember — you know, I had been, been, you know, working with him for a year or so, and at one point, he said, “I want to talk to you.” And he sat me down, and he said, “There are some things you are doing that are making me very nervous.” And you know, he just said it. He said, “You exaggerate things, and it’s going to get you in trouble. It’s going to get me in trouble, and you’ve got to learn to start to think like a scientist. You don’t have to learn technical things, but you have to learn [???].
More — less, less certainty.
… You know, he said — you know, he said, “When we write a scientific paper, you know, the, the black circle in the middle, we know everything for sure about what’s in that black circle. Then the next ring is this gray circle, dark gray.” And he said, “We’re very, very confident of that. And then you go to lighter grays, and all of this. “And he said, “But the rule is,” he said, “When we write a scientific paper, we don’t go out of the black circle, even to the dark gray thing where we’re pretty confident.” He said, “At most we’ll say that it is worth investigating such and such a possibility, even though we’re pretty much convinced that that is in fact correct and, and whatnot; but we’re not totally convinced, and it isn’t inside the black circle.”
[???] never do a biography with him.
[???] never have a biography.
Well, and, but the, the thing is, he didn’t — you know, you pick up things, and you find a way of communicating them, and it’s a sexy way of communicating them and whatever; but he said, “The evidence isn’t necessarily there for it. You have to say, “Is this black circle material, or is this …”
It’s a good …
“… have some element of speculation?”
And, I mean — you know, but the, the force and directness of his, you know, sitting me down and, and whatnot, I mean, it had a very big effect of …
How you think, what you do.
You know, I, I, I thought much more carefully, et cetera, about what I was saying and whatnot. And, and similarly, with Henry, I would sit Henry down, and you know, discuss his career. And you know, like, ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’ And, you know, we had lots of arguments about how to run UCS, and, and whatnot, and I remember, you know, in Henry’s apartment here. I mean, after he won the Nobel prize and so forth, and his life was taken over by giving [???] …
Sure. I think he’s still every …
… all, all that stuff, but at any rate, he was all involved in putting together these scientists’ statements on world problems, and the thing is that I have to take the blame for starting that, because oh, back in 1976 …
Seems to me I wrote something on command and control for one of those books you have.
It’s quite possible.
Yes. I, I’m sure I wrote something.
It’s, it’s quite possible. And, but I, I started [???] UCS. [???] scientists’ declaration on nuclear energy. Fine: 2000 scientists signed it, and they get some publicity, and blah, blah. But then, Henry actually didn’t want that. He, he didn’t think there was any value. But then when he saw that it worked, he then went — over the next 15 years, every year they would come out with a declaration, and of course, the, the declarations got less and less press coverage and whatnot.
And so I had left [???].
He said, at a recent UCS thing, on, on the political — the administration’s attitude toward science has really gotten a lot of publicity and [???].
Oh, yes. But, but that’s really the first interesting thing that UCS has done in a decade.
Roughly — roughly speaking, and, and I remember, you know, right in Henry’s apartment here, they had issued one of their declarations, and so forth, and it was signed by three quarters of the members of the National Academy of Science of the United States, by half of the National Academy of Science of Peru, all of [???], and — but Henry was incensed that the New York Times hadn’t covered it; and not only had the New York Times not covered it, they told the UCS press person in Washington …
Don’t call us.
… not to give them any more UCS press releases.
And Henry was furious, and I said, “Well, why don’t you make an appointment and go call up [???], you know? Complain.” He said, “Whatever.” I said, “Show me the press release to — show me what you’re, what you’re talking about.” And he presents the press release, and it’s about this thick, and I’m, I’m looking at the, the scientists’ declaration, and it’s basically, you know, the do-gooder scientists saying something about every issue from population control to environmental control to — any — it’s just a total grab bag of things that all these people have said before. And, and I said, “Henry, this is total crap.” I said, “There’s absolutely no …”
What’s the message? Where’s the message?
“… there’s absolutely no news value to having a statement, you know …” I said, “The only way it — you know, the newspaper reporter would write this up is by saying, ‘Well, scientists who have said a lot of stuff and a lot of things have said it again, in this …’”
Yes. Well, it’s very much — even worse is Pugwash. Pugwash used to get a lot of press. Then it started getting on page 8 of the New York Times, a little article, and now nobody gives a damn what Pugwash has to say; for the reasons you give. Nearly all the scientists saying, “Nuclear weapons are bad for your health.”
And — but I think part, part of what I want, want to do is to, you know, just look at the range of things that he’s been involved — involved in, and you know, try to just — you know, I mean, look at the quality of it, and …
Well, two things: Quality, breadth and depth; and the next question is relevance and effectiveness. And as you speak, what occurs to me is that, it’s interesting that Garwin — although if somebody who knows him well said, “Where is he politically,” you’d say, “Well, he’s left of center or enlightened center,” or something like that. He certainly doesn’t stand out as being, you know, an extreme liberal or anything in that category whatsoever. But, but it’s interesting that he sort of — every administration and every, every department of every administration, respects him and caters to him and is willing to put him on a committee or so on, unlike other people who are saying, “Well, this guy — we don’t want to touch that guy with a 10-foot pole, no matter how brilliant he is;” but you know, we know what his message is. But Garwin is sort of — because of that, because he doesn’t come across with strong policy recommendations …
… that, that seem ideological based — except for the [???], and I don’t recall his standing out publicly as a leading figure for a certain position. And it’s interesting. I’ll bet he was never offered a high-level government post — same reason. The thing is, they say, “This guy — judgment and administrative abilities don’t match his outstanding technical skills.” Well, let’s put it this way. If I were in government, which I once was, I would never think of Garwin as somebody to try to recruit for some important position.
You wouldn’t have him in [???] position, for example.
I wouldn’t have had [???] in [???] position, either. He’s not sort of a solid citizen with as good skills in that area.
But you’re sort of suggesting that he’s all over the map, and why doesn’t he — you know, what …?
Well, it’s just my question, you know? Is he all over the map or is — and, you know…
Is there some [???]?
Well, he’s attracted to every technology there is. I mean, everything appeals to him.
You know, I, I, I — you know, he said various things to the, you know, to the effect that he really can’t control himself too well. You know, once he gets interested in something, he just — he just goes. And, and he was, you know, saying, saying something to me a few weeks ago that he had — he was at Yorktown Heights, and he had time in his schedule to sit in and, and listen to, you know, some presentation or something or other, and it was somebody’s inventions; and, and he said, to me, he said, “You know, I really like to invent things.” [???].
Yes. That’s for sure. He didn’t have to tell you that.
No, but — he, he said, “That was …” He said, “That just gives me so much pleasure.” And he said, “I don’t really care if it’s important invention; just that it’s …”
New and interesting.
“… something that came up out of nowhere and that is new, and it works, and I did it.”
And he said, “Maybe I should be doing something more important, but if I’m left to my own devices, that’s what I do. I like to invent.”
Yes. Yes. Perfectly consistent with what other people think of him.
And, and, I guess, I’ve seen — I mean, so many people … [???] the career of being a participant in high-level committees. I have a feeling it sort of gets to people, in the sense that they’re, they’re flattered to be on these committees, and that they’re a famous person; they’re there with all of these other [???].
And the chance to make some — have some effect.
But I, I, I think very often — or at least in, in too many cases, there’s an awful lot of pointless committees, and it sucks up an awful lot of valuable [???].
Well, committees are created for strictly political reasons.
And I, I remember at one point, I was a student of Leontief [???], and I was — I started to write his profile for the New Yorker, and so I spent a couple months tagging along with, with him; and he was on all sorts of committees and, and whatnot; and I remember there was a meeting at Castel Gandolfo. There were, you know, six or eight Nobel Prize winners at [???] advise The Pope on issues of the day.
And the thing is that, you know, I went along, and it was all very agreeable — very nice food and whatnot — but it struck me as totally pointless, and [???] just sort of made a joke of the whole, the whole exercise, and you know, they discussed various issues for a couple days and had nice dinners and whatnot, and then it came time to, to write their recommendations, and [???] was hilarious, and he said, “Well …” He said, “The most important thing to decide,” he would recommend, and decided at the outset, “was how many recommendations we’re going to have.” And he said, “I propose we have three recommendations,” he said, “because if you have just two recommendations …”
You, you didn’t do …
“… people don’t think you worked hard enough, or you mustn’t be very creative, to only have two things to say.” He said, “But then, if you go on and you have four or five things to say, people think, ‘Well, you’re just sort of padding things out.’” He said, “Three is the correct number of recommendations.” So I, I put it to the meeting that we resolve to have three recommendations.
And he said, “What they are isn’t particularly important, just as long as [???].”
His economic analysis of how many [???] you should have.
And, and then he [???], and he says, “As for the substance,” he says, “Obviously we want to say something to The Holy Father, which he ought to hear, is that he ought to change his policy on birth control; but our client does not want to listen to that. So the most important recommendation that we should be making, we cannot make; so I leave it to the rest of you to come up with [??? …”
“… three secondary [???].”
Well, you’ve raised an interesting question. You know, these committees, you know, which I’ve been on and off, and — they’re nice social occasions. You meet people you haven’t seen, and like, if I was going to be on a committee with Garwin and Goldberger and so on, I’d say, “These are nice fellows. Nice to see them and spend an evening talking to them.” There’s no hard work involved. Never very hard work except for the poor guy who has to write the report. There’s usually some guy. John Holdren will usually write it up if he’s there, or what’s — George Rathjens is another one. Always good to have on a committee, because they’re willing to write the report. And … But they’re sort of fun.
So, now, some — some committees are so obviously pointless that you just feel offended by spending your time with them; but most are not, and you say, “Why not?”
I think, I think for Dick, I, I think he can’t tolerate fools, no matter where they are, and [???], you know, everybody’s making foolish decisions, and then if he comes in, he won’t help them, and they [???].
Yes, the smartest decisions they can make, and it sort of doesn’t matter what the issue is.
So the bottom line — I mean, this — I find this discussion sort of interesting. I never thought about Garwin as somebody — you know, the bottom line is, how important is Garwin in the world of science and science policy in this age? And you say, “Has he really been very important, just — you know, given …?” And what judgment do you come out on that one? It’s — it’s an interesting question, because he’s been all over the place, he’s on every committee, he’s considered an important guy no matter where he is; but is — has his impact really been felt? I mean, you look at a guy like Herb York. I don’t know how much you know about Herb York’s background. I think, in the Eisenhower administration, Herb York was the single most important guy, by far, who kept us from deploying ABM at the time. Singlehandedly, he was — convinced the secretary of defense — I was with him, and we …
[???] I had not [???]?
The, the congress allocated preproduction funds, and the administration did not spend them. There was a question: ‘Is that legal, for them not to spend money congress gave them?’ I remember meeting with Gates[??] with York, when Gates was secretary in the [???] days, and Gates would ask a question like, you know, ‘Isn’t civil defense more important than ABM if you want to protect the people?’ You know, without going into details, there was a [???] along those lines, and the answer was, ‘Yes, it looks that way.’ He says, “Well, the United States — the people in the United States will never accept civil defense, so let’s forget about ABM.’ And I remember Herb, or, or I — one of us — said, ‘Don’t you want to hear from the Army about what …?’ And he said, ‘No, I don’t want to hear from the Army.
And — Herb would singlehandedly — he’d, he’d go to committee meetings. I went — I was his sort of backup on, on the PSAC committee, where the Army showed up with 40 generals, and Herb came by himself, and — to talk about — and he was so effective in congress when we testified on the appropriations committee — I was the second guy to testify [???], but he was first. Then the committee would go off the record. They’d say, “Now let’s go off the record,” and they’d talk to him candidly. They’d say, “What do you really think is going on here, and what do you think is going …?” And he’d be fantastically effective. He’d say, “You know, look: This might work, but the chances are the government is spending its money foolishly.” It wouldn’t be on the record kind of — they respected him so much for these off the record conversations.
But Jack, let me ask you a question: To what extent was that because of the position he held? I mean, is that …?
And — the times. The position he held, and the times, and his style.
Not just — no, but I mean, it wasn’t just — it could have been a committee, for example. You know, like Dick would be on. He probably [???].
Would be … Maybe. I don’t know.
No, but you have a good point. At that time, it was the first DDR&E. Sputnik was there. The missile gap was there, and there was the guy, the number one spokesman. But his style was so persuasive. I really think if Garwin was in that position, he couldn’t be nearly as effective.
I mean, Garwin has tremendous weakness as a communicator, and I remember Henry Kendall — he had a very good skill, when somebody asked him a question — I would always ask him, you know, science questions [???] …
… ‘Would such and such work,’ or whatnot. And he would be very good, because — and I saw many other people asking him questions — if someone would [???], he’d pause. He had a two-step process: One of course, was, all right, he seized on the answer; and then two, he did a calculation on, ‘What is the level of sophistication of the person I’m talking to?’
And, ‘How do I translate this answer into something that’s on the right level for them?’
And certainly I think, the few times I’ve heard Garwin talk at a committee when an issue came up, they’d say, “Well, how does that laser work?” And Garwin would go out and give a lecture. He did it very well.
He is a good expositor on technical things.
On, on, on purely technical things.
That’s not a problem. But when he’d get into anything that is just beyond the purely technical …
No, I agree.
… he does this data dump, and he just — and [???].
No, I’m sure.
He just goes on a blue streak, and with no awareness at all of, of whether he’s — of distinguishing key information from [???].
No, you’re exactly right. Well, I think — take the ABM issue now. And I’m sure if he testified instead of Herb York — he was there testifying about ballistic missile defense or nuclear test detection, he would say, “Well, the trouble is we need two more radars in Greenland, working at these frequencies,” and try to explain why we need those, rather than saying, “The whole thing doesn’t work.” No, I … I’m just saying …
Kind of a little kid, showing off.
I don’t think he’s showing off. He’s not showing off. It’s the wrong word.
I — I think — it’s not showing off, it’s — it’s — he just doesn’t get the communication process.
I think — I think you’re right.
He operates from his own — rather than from [???].
He, he, he just starts telling you what his mind is telling him on that subject.
And like, for example, when I was going to interview his aunt, and he wrote a letter to her — [???] email, but he wrote a letter, just to, to say, “This fellow is going to call you up, and talk with him if you like,” and whatever. But the thing is that, in the letter, he just — there were just a few paragraphs of totally irrelevant stuff, and, and it was like — something like, you know, I think he’d been to the recent [???] meeting, or something like that; but instead of something that, you know, his aunt might have been interested in — ‘Oh, we had a nice time,’ and blah, blah, he said something — ‘I gave a paper that described this and this, and …’ And he just [???] giving sort of excerpts from his paper.
And, ‘And hope you’re very well, and say “hi” to cousin Joe.’ But, and, it was …
[The actual letter:
Richard L. Garwin
[contact information redacted to protect privacy]
October 6, 2004
Mrs. M.B. Goldfarb
[address redacted to protect privacy]
All is well with us, and I hope with you. Lois and I are going this coming weekend to Chapel Hill to visit Jeffrey, Tabatha, and our new grandson Jacob Elijah, by now 4 1/2 months old. And Tabatha's two daughters who live with her, Nicole and Victoria. We leave early Saturday morning and return Sunday evening, so we should have a good visit with them.
For Thanksgiving we are having Samantha and Kendra and their mother, June. Also Laura will be coming down from Cambridge. We just wrote Tom and Sally's daughter, Rachel, to see whether she could come from Harvard with Laura. But she may be busy doing something else.
Lois and I will call you to talk about this, either before you receive this letter or after. My particular point in writing is to introduce my biographer, Daniel F. Ford. Dan Ford has written a lot for the New Yorker, worked some ten years ago for a few years for Lazard Freres in Paris, and is a very interesting and intelligent person. I knew him from 30 years ago or so, when he worked with the Union of Concerned Scientists, to help them with their public relations work on safety of nuclear reactors. Dan then published a book about such, as well as one on U.S. command and control of nuclear weapons, "The Button," which sold well and received favorable acclaim.
Earlier this year, Dan decided that it was about time to do something new, and he suggested to some mutual friends (Kurt Gottfried, in particular — the Chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists) that it might be interesting to write a book about me. So that is what he is doing.
He has a very substantial advance from his publisher, Harcourt Brace, and expects to deliver a manuscript in two or three years. I have a lot of papers and official correspondence that I have shown him, and more to come. In fact, all of my outgoing correspondence is available in computer form since about 1977 or so, and I have a listing (one line per letter) of letters I wrote before that, together with copies on microfiche.
I have copies of every paper I ever published, but retrieving some of these is not so easy.
In any case, my interest in having Dan Ford do this is to encourage others to enter the career path of advising the government and trying to set it right. I certainly have put a lot of effort into this, as have a good many of my friends.
Dan Ford has interviewed perhaps six of my JASON colleagues and is on his way to interview two of my oldest friends in Paris and Geneva. There are, though, at least 20 or 30 to go.
He has also spoken with the former Director of Research of IBM, Ralph Gomory, and my long-time colleague in IBM Research, Jim Levine.
He is curious about my family background, and I think a little dismayed that I have been able to tell him so little. He has talked with Lois some, who has told him more.
You are the person who has known me longest in this world, and if you would be willing to talk with Dan Ford, I think it would be interesting for him and also for you. He would send you a letter with some of the questions and topics that he is interested in, so you could think about it, and then he would call you and talk to you at length by telephone. You shouldn't tell him anything that would embarrass you or anybody else, but other than that, feel free to give him your views and comments. Of course, you know your family far better than I ever did, and you knew my father a good deal longer than I did.
As you know, I retired from IBM in June, 1993, and have been IBM Fellow Emeritus since then. I have my old office at Yorktown Heights, and a secretary, Jean Hernandez, who has been with me for many years. For five years after I retired, IBM paid her salary, and now I do. She works three days a week, and is a tremendous asset.
Beginning in 1997 I worked half-time for the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. But we concluded that association March, 2004. Since then I have been very busy helping to popularize a Task Force Report on Non-Lethal Weapons that I had organized and run for the Council, and completing a report on space weapons that will be published next month in the Harvard-MIT journal, International Security. And I wrote a current article on missile defense that will appear in the Scientific American, on the stands October 15.
With those obligations complete, and another one winding up, I hope to have more time for reading and travel. Lois and I hope to come to see you pretty soon.
A final long-standing effort is a long article, this time with four co-authors, revisiting our work of 1982 on the Dallas Police Department acoustic recordings related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. There I have managed to do a lot with modern computer tools, and we are more sure than we were in 1982 that the acoustic recordings did not capture the gunshots of the assassination.
Very best wishes from Lois and me.
[end of letter]
But am — but am I wrong in thinking that, that maybe his impact, given that I’m sure everybody you talked to said some fantastically — I wouldn’t say “nice” things, but admiring things about Garwin, has he had as much impact as he might have had? Is, is he an underachiever in terms of impact?
My, my feeling is pretty strongly, yes.
But do you have a — do you have a design for what the alternative would have been, so he would have had greater impact?
Well, as, as I said, I — I think he needed a manager.
Yes, but how could he — you know, what, what would have been the optimum — I mean, maybe [???].
Well, I’ll tell you somebody — somebody who’s a physicist whose judgment about the world about him is much, much better is somebody like Murph Goldberger. Harold Brown. I can name a lot of people who are …
Who, who sort of made this, this …
Who understand the political world.
… jump from, from scientific …
[???] was just …
… expertise to sort of political savvy.
Well, whose judgment in that, in that other sphere is, is more consistent with their mental abilities.
Maybe — what if he stayed just in physics? He could have done — if somebody had looked into his career, [???].
Had he gone to the University of Chicago, or Caltech, and become a physics professor?
His interests were all over the place, I think. Maybe he’s too broad.
He was a technologist. I mean, most physicists aren’t such technologists. [???] be such a technologist as well as a physicist.
Yes, interested in gadgetry.
Yes. So …
Yes. I don’t remember if Garwin was involved in that summer study, in the summer of ’66, which ended up recommending the McNamara wall, and so on.
With the wall, and …?
Oh, he was heavily involved in that.
Was he? I don’t remember him as much there. I remember Henry Kendall and Murray Gell-Mann and — and then of course [Kistiakowski] and Zacharias, and those were the heavies at the time.
Yes, but he, he was very heavily involved in that [???].
His house was picketed, and [???].
Well, he was picketed and all that because he’s a member of JASON, and the left wing — you know, I was hung in effigy at — despite what I think are very liberal credentials, solid arms controller from way back. At MIT I was — since I had been in government, in the defense department, that’s all it took. So Garwin, who was still an active JASON member, I’m sure was a, a demon of some sort.
Were, were you literally hung in effigy.
Yes, he was. That was terrible. In the ‘60s. [???].
Oh, every day — going into the office every day in that time was like …
And the faculty [???].
… was a confrontation. It was like — I felt like I was a labor union leader, or something, rather than …
Well, and besides that, besides the students, there wasn’t a single person on the [???].
That’s not true.
Practically none …
There were not many, but there …
… at the time who spoke out or said anything. That’s, that’s not part of your book, but …
No, no. But it was a very unhappy time. Now, I was a student, undergraduate at Harvard, from ’66 to ’70.
Oh, that was just the time.
That was exactly the time.
It was just — it was just the time, and it was, it was a very unhappy period for everybody, and I remember at one point going back — for some reason or other, interviewing one of my former professors, like 20 years later; in some — you know, some business matter. But at any rate, we, we were just talking about, you know, you know, what a miserable, unhappy time it was for, for everybody. You didn’t want your youth and your Harvard education interfered with in …
In this way.
Remember the time we walked — we lived — well, you know where we lived. We lived in a big house just a few blocks away before we moved into this, and we walked to Harvard Square, and there was a big demonstration in Harvard Square, and some kids were running away and saying, “Don’t get near Harvard Square. You shouldn’t go there.” And I said, “Well, guys like us — who’s going to do us any harm?” [???]. And they said, “Have you looked in the mirror? I wouldn’t go there if I were you.” No, that’s …
And there was a demonstration every day.
Those years at Harvard?
Oh, because he wrote a book.
No, he came afterwards.
No, no, no.
He came in a little afterwards.
No, right during that time. He wrote a book about those years.
Victor Zorza. You’re talking about his, his son, Richard.
The son — the father, Victor Zorza, was, was the expert, the criminologist, who wrote for the Manchester Guardian, and he wrote a weekly column or daily column and was, was sort of their expert on Kremlin activities. And his son went to Harvard and became one of the very leftwing guys, but I think he was more sensible.
Yes he was. Leftwing — not activist. I’m not saying he was going around throwing rocks at things, but he was — his sympathies were all very leftwing.
And he wrote a book about that period, your period at Harvard. I don’t think it got much attention, but …
I, I mean, I remember … You know, I …
I’m going to have a drink, and why — can I offer you one, too?
What would you like?
You have whiskey?
Scotch, bourbon, you name it.
Jack Daniels? [???].
Well, I don’t know if it’s Jack Daniels, but it’s bourbon.
Any, any type of bourbon on the rocks would be [???].
Okay. Can I take this off?
This shouldn’t see us drinking, or hear us drinking. The book wouldn’t be very [???].
How did you — what motivated you to get interested in the Garwin particularly? How did you come to — how did a nice guy like you come to a topic like this?
Oh, not — I, I was telling Jack earlier. No, it’s …
We ask all the same questions.
No, that’s fine. It’s, it’s just that … You know, the, the biggest factor in a writing career is choosing interesting topics. There, there are an awful lot of …
How about Early Times?
That looks just fine. There are — you know, there are lots of people who have the skills to put sentences together and tell stories and all that, but the biggest trick is to come up with the interesting topic.
Like “Beautiful Mind,” or something.
Yes, that was a very nice book, and — I mean, I happen to like biographies, and I think some of my favorite books are biographies. And I don’t — the — this Walter Jackson Bate at Harvard was in the English department, and he wrote this magnificent of Samuel Johnson, and I think I’ve read it three times.
Really? You liked it so much?
And Samuel Johnson was an interesting character. The book does him full justice, and it’s such an inspiring — I read it anytime I get depressed, because I mean, Samuel Johnson had every type of problem going. He was practically blind. He had, you know, every type of dysfunction and — he was a drunk, and he stuttered, and he couldn’t deal with women, and, and all this; but he overcame all of these things. You know, he wrote the first dictionary in the, in the English language. He invented what we call ‘the magazine.’ He wrote all sorts of wonderful books and poems, and this, that and the other thing. He knew everybody in his age, had a jolly old time of it, et cetera, et cetera; and you know, I just loved, loved that book. And I, I was so pleased that, a couple years ago, I was just in the, in the CVS pharmacy in, in Harvard Square, and I was waiting for this old guy who was — with his shaky hand, you know, filling in the credit card thing to pay for his, pay for his medicine.
Thank you very much. And, and anyway, so I’m just, you know, standing over his, his shoulder, and it was Walter Jackson Bate.
And so …
Had you taken courses from him at Harvard [???]?
No, I, I just picked up his book by random — at random, and liked it.
Was — when did this happen? [???]?
Oh, just a couple years ago. And so I then said to him, I said, “Excuse me, are you …?”
Are you the [???]?
“… are you the Johnson biographer?”
The real …
And he said, “Why, yes, I am.” I said, “It’s my favorite book.”
Which — who are you talking about?
The — I’m talking about the biography of Samuel Johnson …
Oh, I see. Yes.
… that I like very much. And so I, I met the, the author as an old man at the pharmacy, and told him how much I liked his, liked his book, and he said, “Oh, that made my day.”
And actually, I, I was stupid, because … I, I thought to myself, ‘Well, I should just call him up and invite him to lunch,’ you know? Why not? But I — you know, I was too busy. I never got around to it.
Is he dead now?
And he, he died a couple — like a year later, or …
[???] one of many regrets. Yes.
But, I said no. I think you’ve got a lot more.
You know? And, actually, one of the things that, you know, I like about the Garwin biography is I’m meeting all sorts of interesting people, extremely interesting.
And they all have something to say about Garwin.
They all have something to say about Garwin, but they all are just interesting people in their own right.
Did you ever read a short story by a guy named Priestley called “The Inspector Calls”?
No. J.B. Priestley?
Yes. I think the title’s “The Inspector Calls.” And what the story’s about is a family gathering. And a guy knocks at the door, and it turns out to be a police inspector. He said that somebody, xyz, just committed suicide, or something happened to him, and that he’s investigating his background a little bit. It turns out that everybody in the room knew this guy in a different walk of life. And everybody said different things about him. After the inspector leaves, they start arguing with each other about what they said and what they knew. And then, finally, I forgot what… I read this about forty years ago. [???] said, let’s call this guy again, and talk to him. And they call up, and they found that there was no such inspector and there was no such suicide. It never existed. But the idea that everybody had something very interesting to say about this guy that was being investigated. And I, sort of, feel you have the same thing, except my guess is…
That people don’t have such different [???]
That’s right. There’s a kind of uniformity of views about Garwin. Shades of difference.
Is that right? Have you gotten some very unique perspectives that…
No. I say they’re fairly uniform.
I think you’d get something different if you spoke to Murray. You may have to go to Tucson. Not Tucson. Where is he in, now? Santa Fe.
Santa Fe. He wants to donate his pieces. He’s going to Tucson for a month in January. And she said, we have a wonderful house with an extra bedroom.
Edith and I [Peter and I] are going to Austin, Texas, which I’ve never been to. And we said, while we’re in Austin, we should do something else.
We’re always blasting[??] him.
Austin’s a nice place.
How much time would you spend there, as a tourist. I’m there for 2 days of business. How much time would you spend as a tourist.
Have you gone to the Johnson Library?
No. I haven’t been to that. I have to go to it. I haven’t been there yet. No, I was in Austin 20 years ago.
Make that the answer to this.
My guess is that it’s worth 2 days as a tourist.
Okay, because today I asked, I guess, Paul Doty that question. And he said, it’s a very interesting place. And I said, how much time, you think? And he said, half a day.
Well, this is like the book, you know, worth a detour.
That’s right. I mean, what I would do is… The New York Times online has a very good travel section. Just look up Austin.
First you look up New York Times and then Austin?
Did you read the Times on line?
Oh, it’s great.
What do you get that you don’t get in reading the daily paper?
One of the main convenience’s for me, is since I’m researching various subjects, if I read it online, I can save an article and file it into the right file…
Without clipping anything.
Without stacks of…
Do you have to subscribe to it, or do you get it free?
It’s free. You register, and they just use the register for, you know, supposedly for demographic information.
So, how do you [???] You look up New York Times dot com, or something.
NY Times dot com…
And then go on from there.
And it will just ask you to register. And most people put in false information. That’s fine.
Why? What difference does it make?
Well, so people won’t be sending you junk mail. The New York Times, I think is…
I just discovered something. The Federal Register that has all this incredible… I didn’t know about that until…
…yesterday. I mean, like, I looked up Romania to see what they had on Romania. And you get all this printout of, you know, very brief summaries of everything you could imagine related to Romania. I’ve been working on something. I’m not a professional writer like you are, but I’ve been working on a Holocaust book for an eternity…
…that I’m hoping to finish this week. And I interview a lot of people in Israel. I’ve been looking… I mean, I shouldn’t be looking up information anymore, because I have to get rid of the thing. But just for kicks, I started looking on the Web for information and just discovered all this stuff from the Federal Register…
Do you use Google?
I mean, Google is unbelievable.
I know. It’s incredible.
Well, I don’t remember. Yesterday, I just got to the Federal Register. I don’t know…
Here or in Washington?
…online. I don’t even remember how I got to it, but it’s now listed as one of my Favorites you know.
Well, the New York Times website, I just, you know, love it, and…
Can you look up…? Like, if you wanted to look up Garwin in the New York Times. Will it show you all the articles they ever wrote about Garwin?
How much can you go back?
How far back?
Once you go back… Their archives go back, I think it’s 15 years.
Oh, that’s nice.
But you have to pay. If it’s within the last month, it’s free. But if you go back beyond that. But, the fact of the matter is, there are so many other websites that will reprint things from the New York Times, and whatever, you know. You just take the names and dates of the article from the pay list and put it into Google and…
And you’ll get it from another source.
…you will very likely be able to get it for free.
Well, in fact, that’s one of the problems, though, because a lot of… I mean, like, when I was looking for some stuff, one of the problems is that you don’t get, necessarily, a very authoritative source. They might refer you to somebody who’s mentioned somebody, and, you know, you get their note, and you have no idea who they…
Well, the thing about Google is that, I don’t exactly know how the algorithm…
Yeah, I don’t either.
…works. But, that they, essentially, use all of the users of the internet as the filter. And that when Google… You know, if you want to look up, you know…
Garwin. What they will do is give you the set of articles about Garwin that are most popular among all the users of the internet.
When you look up, for example, scientific things, essentially, you get the benefit of the judgment of all the scientists that use the internet. That these are the articles most consulted by scientists on that topic. Sometimes, Google proposes some, you know, flakey source, but my experience is nine times out of ten…
Take them seriously.
…it gets you directly to an authoritative article on whatever it is you wanted to filter.
The trouble here, is we don’t have a high speed, and I tried to sign up for DSL, but DSL doesn’t reach this inland[??], or this building.
Well, if it reaches [Hereford], I can’t understand.
I don’t know. I gave this address, and they said, we can’t give you DSL. And for technical reasons, I don’t want to do it on cable. No. There are technical reasons why. You don’t want to use cable, but I’d like to have DSL.
Wait. Do you have cable television?
You don’t want cable…?
We have to explain…
Garwin will explain.
We have to explain? It’s been [???] to be an ethical problem.
Is that what you’re talking about?
It turns out that when we signed up for cable. Edith was sick for a while, and she was homebound, and we decided to sign up for cable. So, the cable company said, well then, for two months, we’re going to give you 5000 stations, and you don’t have pay, and then you can choose. So, we took the 5000 stations. At the time, we were interested and dove into public broadcasting no matter what the hell was on. So, after a month, I said, you know, take everything away. Just leave this. The simplest cable for seniors is only seven dollars a month. How would you know that?
He’s not old enough [???] kid’s life.
No. So, for seven dollars a month, we get three PBS stations, which is good enough for me, and that’s it. So, they came around and disconnected, and they took out their boxes and everything. But they did something wrong, because when I pressed one of the buttons, the thing called ‘cable’ or something, I found I was getting 40 stations.
Yes. That’s the basic.
No, the basic… It was the super basic that you get…
I see. No, because the thing is, they did the same thing with me, because when I came this summer, I had been away for a long time, so I just cut all of the services, and whatnot. And, I had used DSL before, but I had just checked what the rates were, and so forth — I didn’t even have a television in my apartment. I like to watch movies from time to time. I’m not that much interested in television. I said, well, I might as well get the basic cable service and get the cable internet, and do it all that way. But, the thing was, the French cable that I’m used to, has like… The basic cable service has, like, fifteen excellent movie channels, and there’s no advertising during the movie. They put all the ads at the beginning or the end. There’s no advertising.
They’re like public broadcasting.
But, when the cable movies, most of the channels had advertising. And I said,…
…I don’t want that. So, I just… There was, like, a, you know, this free trial of the premium service, or whatever, so I just said, switch me to basic, or some basic that has, like, forty stations, or whatnot. But, at any rate, when the technician came, he came and removed some box that had been the control thing, or whatever. And, I said, how does it work now? He says, you just connect the cable to the television. He says, I’m supposed to put a filter onto your thing that blocks the premium service, but I don’t have any, so he said, you will have the premium service anyway. You don’t need this box.
No, but [???] if you’re getting it only in analog, [???]
So, you’re not paying for it like we are.
That’s right, so I…
We were about to write to the New York Times Ethicist and say, what should we do.
Especially, since the only channel we watch, other than the basic, is that we watch CSPAN on weekends, most of all. Other than that, we don’t watch anything. So, it’s not worth for me to pay forty bucks a month, whatever.
Jack is nervous that if a guy comes in here and sells something else, he’ll discover.
No, they won’t pay any attention.
That’s what I said. I don’t think the installer’s [???]
What do they do about putting the cable… Like, the cable connection is in places where I don’t have a computer or telephone.
I believe it’s Comcast. What they’re advertising, now, is wireless cable. That they will install cable, wherever it is, and it will have a wireless device in it so any computer in the house can be linked to the internet.
I think our whole building should do something.
And what happens to the… Does the T.V…. Does it do that, too? Does the T.V. come through the same wireless connection.
That I don’t know, but your T.V. will stay connected to the cable as it is. And, it’s the same cable. I just put a splitter on it, and in my apartment, the splitter just is another cable [???].
And then what do they do? They put some transmitter and receiver on the splitter.
I guess. I haven’t gotten this yet. I just…
Oh, I see.
Where are you in [McHenry]?
I’m on Broadway just on the other side of [???]
How much does cable cost? About twenty-nine a month, or something like that? Can you shut if off for the summer or things like that?
No. Well, maybe you can.
When you go away for several months.
Well, that’s right. I knew I was going to go away for a year, so I just…
No, but now, when you’re…
Now I know that I’m going to be back here a lot. The book and I will be here one month and…
What took you to Paris?
I worked for Lazard Freres Investment Bank.
She’s asking all the questions I have. We’ve been married 57 years, so we ask the same questions.
Just like Dick and Lois.
Is that right?
Were you married at 18?
No. We’re older.
No. No, we’re older than Dick.
We both are older than they are.
We were married in 19…
We’re 80 and 81. [???] younger.
The result is, we ask the same questions.
I was very impressed when they were there, I mean, they obviously had life down to a routine.
Well, they sure didn’t have [???]
I’m sure they didn’t when they had kids at home. I’m sure it wasn’t as routine.
I don’t know, but, like, when we went somewhere on the Metro, and I live right on the main Metro lines I love. I hate commuting.
You mean in Boston?
Paris. I live in the Marais.
Oh, that’s great.
And, I live right next to the St. Paul Metro Station, which is on Line 1, and I can essentially, by Metro, be anywhere in Paris in less than 30 minutes. And, most of the places I want to go are within ten minutes, so I never use my car in the city.
We never use the car here for that same reason.
Well, you probably don’t either in Cambridge. You use a car [???]? Probably not.
Unless you want to go to Lexington or someplace like that.
No. We don’t want to go to Lexington. We don’t want to go anywhere anymore, except Harvard Square. We’re trying to limit our friends. Within a mile.
Did you know Henry Rosovsky?
Sure. He’s moving into [???]
Yes. He told me.
They[??] are said to have had a fine correspondence…
But he doesn’t know Garwin, does he?
He’s met him, yes.
He has? How has he met Garwin?
Because, I’ve had a funny correspondence with him, which I’m embarrassed about because… Do you know Nitza, his wife?
Nitza has called me about ten times to try and make an appointment with us because they think Jack’s great technological expertise will help them to avoid the terrible sound from their heat pump. Jack doesn’t think it’s going to help them at all, but anyway, she has written to me about ten times…
They need Garwin, I mean they need [???].
They’d like to show us their apartment, and they’d also like to use Jack’s expertise. So, every single time she has called me, we have some other thing going on. And, I just got an email from her today saying, what about next Tuesday or Thursday. And, I said, “Oh dear.” Because Thursday we’re leaving for Toronto, and Tuesday I spend all day at Santa Barbara[??] getting medical treatment, so I can’t meet them again, so, I mean, it’s the most ridiculous thing that’s been going on.
And pay for Garwin’s fare and bring mim up, and he can do it. Probably fix it on the spot.
Fix the heat pump [???] they should get… If they know Dick, they should get him here to fix the heat pump. But, anyway, so we haven’t yet gotten together with the Rosovskys.
I’ve known him since…
Do you know him from your Harvard days?
Actually, just after. I never studied with him, but I had a good friend who was a graduate student in economics, who used to play tennis with Rosovsky, often, and he would beat Rosovsky terribly, and this guy would also play tennis with me. And he would beat me terribly. And it got very boring for this guy to be playing…
Your courtship, and…
…the two of us. So, he said to both Rosovsky and me — We didn’t know each other. You two guys should play together.
Get me another partner.
You started playing together?
I’ll go play with more proficient people, so I started playing with…
And then when he became a dean, he awarded himself a key to the indoor tennis court. And, I think, in those days, the court opened at 8:00 in the morning, so if we went at 7:00, there was nobody there, and he has the key.
Were you a good match for each other?
Do you still play with him?
Yes. From time to time. Unfortunately, the age advantage was not very important 30 years ago…
…or 35 years ago. We played the last time… We played once this summer. I wasn’t doing anything. I hadn’t played…
You’re looking for a more useful partner. I hear the message.
I made the mistake of telling him I hadn’t played for ages, but I won so easily, and he was enormously frustrated, you know. Nothing would work for him.
Well, I don’t recommend growing old.
Oh, you know, there are certain things, I think, that are very good about that. There are certain things that are great about it.
I told him, subsequently, that the consequence of my not having played for a long time and having won, was lumbago that lasted for about 2 months. So, [???] was… It wasn’t that easy for me, either.
Do you know the [Rainwater’s] by any chance? [Natalie Rainwater]?
He wasn’t at Harvard. He came to Harvard later.
Yeah, but he’s a sociologist, but I [???]. But they have had an apartment in Paris, which… They owned an apartment and they sold it and got one of these long-term rentals that apparently [???]. And, they’re just about to give it up because of the exchange rate.
Exchange rate [???]
Well, the price is just… The dollar has gone down 50% in the two years, so…
Oh, I see.
And it’s just going to cost them. And, she said it cost them twenty-eight thousand dollars a year to have their apartment, which they rent part of the time. But, she said, you know, it’s just ridiculous. [???].
I was very lucky to…
To own your apartment? Well, that’s a good thing.
I own two apartments.
Oh, that’s great.
Do you rent the other one for a couple of weeks at a time?
No. I just use the other one as my…
We’re just asking in case we go to Paris.
You know who else owns an apartment in Paris and goes there regularly? You know David Landis?
Yes. I’ve met him. He lives around the corner from me…
Oh, he does?
Oh, I see.
…in Paris. I’ve never seen him there, but I’ve met him here.
I know he’s [???] We’ve met them once, accidently, in Goldberger’s Delicatessen or something?
Yeah, because they’re friends of ours. I call them my fair-weather friends, because we all go to [???] in the summer, including the Rosovskys now.
That’s right. That’s right.
Somehow, we don’t see these people in Cambridge, but we see them in the summer. So, we have winter friends and fair-weather friends. They’re among our fair-weather friends.
You have to get an apartment in La Jolla, and that will complete your…
We almost did. We almost did.
I mean, La Jolla’s a great place.
We go there. For ten years in a row, I used to work there every January.
And we almost bought an apartment in the building that allows the JASON people to rent. You know, The Shores? La Jolla Shores. We were…
Is that the building that Drell is in?
It’s the building that… I don’t know. It’s the building that was…
It’s just like a pink building?
It’s right in the heart of La Jolla Shores. It’s next to the Sea Lodge.
And, we almost bought an apartment there, and it was good for us that we didn’t do it.
All furnished. All…
Because we used to go there every, you know…
MIT didn’t have classes in January, and I had appointments…I had a job at the University of California, so I went there every January. And we did a year, [at the end], this apartment became available, and we said, “Gee, you know, we’re coming here every year” It was a nice apartment. Perfect location.
And we had friends there from various places. From Washington, from Buffalo, New York, where I come from. From the University of Illinois.
And we all ended up there. So, it was really quite a junket to go there, beyond [La Jolla] and not seeing our [???].
You know, I was… I’ve, you know, visited San Diego once thirty years ago, but I went there in July, because Dick was going to be there for JASON.
Oh, for JASON.
And I could both interview him and lots of people that he worked with. Plus, Goldberger is retired and lives there. And Herb York lives there.
We’re in touch with…
Harold Agnew is there.
He was traveling when I was there, but I’ll catch up with him.
Who’s the guy that she had [???]
Oh, I know, and I can picture both of them. She had this beautiful Indian jewelry.
Oh, really? Why can’t you think of the name?
I can picture them. We’ll both think of it later. The name begins with “A”
No. I’m not talking about Agnew. I’m talking about the guy the Agnews were following. The guy had a little more [???] for a short time. He talked for a while. Had an apartment in the same building we talked about.
Oh, the Stanford one.
May. Between the two of us, we [???]
If you can get it all together. Put it all together.
… a personal version of Google.
Right. Right. Sort of, search, and search. This is what we have to do with our memories now.
Actually, I mean, as something for people who want memory enhancements, Dick told me about this software called X1. And it’s, basically, the Google but for your own computer. It indexes everything on your own computer. So, when you’re looking for something. I mean, you know, I file…
How did I file this?
Well, I mean, you know, there was a water leak in my apartment, and there was correspondence with the insurance company. And then I realize, I never got my check or anything, but with this X1 thing…
No. But what do you put down that would make you do a prefix?
What you do is you think of anything that you think is in the document, and so I just put…
But you have to put the documents in the machine.
Well, the documents originated in the machine. This is a letter that I wrote to the insurance company.
Oh, I see.
So, it you put ‘leak,’ would you…?
Yes. I typed in water leak insurance, and the thing is… The nice thing about it is that X1 gives you two panels. On one panel, just a list of the documents that contain the words that you typed in. But, the best thing is that on the right hand side is a preview of the document so that you can just…
Oh. You could just tell quickly that you…
I mean, in 12 seconds I have my letter to the insurance company.
You know, you ought to tell that to Ellen. She uses the computer for everything.
[???] the personal letters. No. I bet Andy knows it. We have a son at Cornell who’s very adept. I’ll have to ask him. X1?
I’ll have to put this in my computer, and then I’ll say, “Now, who told us about something that had some letter of the alphabet? What was the letter of the alphabet?
And Google has come out with their own version of this.
But X1 works better, so far.
So, is it cheap stuff? [?] I can buy at Staples?
No. You can, actually, if you have a high-speed connection, you can just download it on the internet.
Why don’t they give it away free?
Oh, no. They charge… I think it’s thirty-nine dollars, or…
You just put X1 in Google and you get it?
Yes. Or, certainly, if you typed in X1 dot com, you get it.
Yes. X1 dot com, and it’s, like, I was talking to…
But we don’t do enough things on the computer…
I don’t have enough stuff that I…
We’re not that computer-oriented.
Well, we’re not. I have to tell you…
I’m the one that uses the computer. He has hardly…
I just do it for you now.
He hardly does it.
Who found airline reservations? That’s all I do.
No. So I’m the one who’s using it all the time.
Well, then, you just have your own copy and you don’t let him touch it. I was interviewing Georges Charpak.
One of Garwin’s oldest friends.
Wrote a booklet on it together.
He’s in France. He’s in France.
Yeah, we knew him from [???]. He was in [???].
Quite possibly. And he’s not in very good health at all, and his memory is really horrendous.
Good or bad?
I mean, bad. And so, he was trying to show me something on his computer. He was having a terrible time finding it.
But you found it?
I kept telling him about this X1 software.
He probably can’t really cope with it, right?
It’s very easy to use.
No. But, I mean, if you’re already, you know, getting a little…
No. He’s not that far gone, but he’s clearly somebody who is, … still using the computer a lot, but…
[???] used it.
But, he could use it.
Remember, he had a house in Sardinia, as I recall. He used to go summers…
Sardinia [Actually, Corsica].
And I think the Garwins were going there.
It was Sardinia that he went to. One [arm] into that. Strange fact.
I have lots of correspondence between Garwin and Charpak, so I can use X1 and just put in Sardinia. Sardinia and Charpak.
Something. You’ll get something. How does Dick feel about you writing this book. I mean, is he a little nervous about it. I would think he’d be a little uneasy about…
At the beginning, yes. At first, he said, “I’ll go write something about the Science Advisory System, or write something about Panofsky or this and that, but I think, at this point, he’s quite into it. You know, he’s flooding me with information.
Well, now he likes the idea.
But even if it comes out… I mean, if you end up saying things, like, you know, you’d wonder if you’d made the best use of himself, for example.
Yes. The same question that [???] and whatever.
That’s not a question. You could ask that question about anybody.
And the thing is that… He does get nervous from time to time, and you know, at one point… One of the things that I’m going to do is to set up a website called the Garwin Biography Project.
Oh, so you can get information to go all over the place.
Well, and… No. I just want to describe the project and some of the questions I’m researching, and that, for example, you know, people that I interview, you know, the next month or the next week, or whatever, they may think of something that is relevant, and…
How much do you mention your sources?
I can keep the sources quite anonymous, but, you know, I can… I mean, for example, one of the things that Dick told me about, which I found interesting, was this Starfish Nuclear Test. Have you heard of that?
Yes. The high altitude test?
The high altitude test. This was in July of 1962. And it had quite unexpected consequences…
Ionization spread around the world. Is that it?
Yes. I mean,… You know, they set it off, I think it was at 300  kilometers above, some island in the Pacific.
And, at any rate, instead of all the nasty stuff just drifting off into space, the earth’s magnetic field captured the high-energy electrons from this, and it essentially created an x-ray machine that went from the north pole to the south pole, and…
Didn’t Christofilis want to take advantage of that?
Oh, well, he was behind all of this testing, but they hadn’t… They were hoping that they would have electromagnetic effects that would just drop Russian radar, and stuff like that. They did not intend to change the planet. And, Jerry Wiesner, science advisor, was concerned that the Apollo program would have to be cancelled, because the astronauts might not be able to fly through this x-ray machine. And, at the time, there were three Russian cosmonauts already in orbit. And, Panofsky was the Chairman of the…
The PSAC panel that had approved this test, but he’s on vacation. You know, hiking in Baja California, etc. And, so, Garwin was on the PSAC at the time, but he didn’t know about this test. It was very restricted. But, nevertheless, he was called in to, you know, help evaluate this, and so forth. And, at any rate, I just, sort of, stumbled across this in Garwin’s archives and talked with him. And, he said, yes. And, you know, Wiesner dragged him in to see Kennedy. And he said, “What’s happening? What have we done.” And I’ve talked to Carl Kaysen, who was also at this…
He was the Deputy National Security Advisor.
…meeting, and whatnot. And Glenn Seaborg was there and, all of this. There was a big, you know, it was a big crisis. And, the government was launching instrument probes, etc.…
To try to [???] might help…
To try and measure, you know, what’s going on. I’ve read lots and lots of books and articles about nuclear things and I never heard of the Starfish, and so forth. And, one of the things that limited the public awareness of all of this. I mean, normally, the government, you know, it would be, sort of, hard to keep something like this quiet…
I was thinking of your computer saying, “Wait.”
Yeah. That’s right. But, the New York Times was on strike.
As luck would have it.
And, you know, that’s where most of the news comes from. The rest of the networks just repeat what they read in the New York Times, etc., etc. So, the lid was kept on all this.
Well, I knew about Starfish but I didn’t know this business about the danger to astronauts, and so on.
So, what happened? Tell me the end of the story.
Well, I don’t know if I should. Actually, in the book proposal, I describe the Garwin meeting with Kennedy, and so forth. So, I just leave it in the air, like this. And, I just say that Garwin told me that they knew more of this story. But, he said to me quite… And, I said, “Well, this definitely goes into the biography,” and Dick responded, “But why?” He said, “There are so many more interesting stories.” And, I go… But, what happened was that Garwin did his calculations. And the question was — How long is this going to last? I mean, it’s like an x-ray machine you can’t turn off. But, what will happen to it?
It’ll be [???]
You know, it’s going to run out of steam, but how quickly? And, so Garwin calculated that… He explained to Kennedy, within an order of magnitude, he estimated that it would decay away in 5 years. And Kennedy had never heard the term, order of magnitude. And he asked Garwin what did it mean. And he says, “It means a factor of ten.” And he said, “If I say five, what I’m really saying it might only last two years or it might last twenty.” And…
Kennedy was aghast.
Kennedy was aghast. And, he said, “Well, can you say something more precisely?” Garwin said, “No. All we can talk about is order of magnitude.” And so, Kaysen was telling me Kennedy sat there and said, “Order of magnitude. Order of magnitude.” And then he turned to Glenn Seaborg, Chairman of the AEC, which has done the thing. And to Glenn, he said, “The next time you tell me something, am I supposed to believe you within an order of magnitude?” At any rate, for the website, you know, I want to, you know, note that I’m currently researching the Starfish.
Now, when you say you have a website, I don’t understand why people use websites.
What would make me, or anybody else, even go to your website. I mean, it’ll be just somebody looking randomly for Dick Garwin?
Well, if someone’s looked up Garwin in Google, they would probably…
But, nobody would purposefully… I mean, people would have to…
That’s correct. And so, what I was thinking of doing, for example, was, you know, to… I was actually going to write, like, a little press release about…
About the website, but not just about, specifically, the Garwin website, but about the idea of using websites for researching biographies.
No, but where would that go?
I would like to get the New York Times to do a little article.
Oh, I see.
Or just get a little bit of press coverage.
You know, occasionally, in the New York Review of Books and other places like that you’ll see a little letter, you know — I’m writing a biography of xyz.
But what I was thinking of doing was to see if I could get the New York Review of Books to write a little article about this.
Do they write little articles?
They write letters to the editor, which I liked a lot because… And people read those.
And people read those.
Maybe it could be a letter to the editor to [???].
If they don’t have their articles, how can you [know]?
Or, I mean, you know, I mentioned this to the Sloan Foundation, which supports biographies of scientists.
Do they still do that?
Well, they rejected me. They say they still do it. Why they didn’t like my [???].
Well, the guy who was doing it, behind it was Art Singer. He’s not there anymore, is he?
No. Some guy named Doron Weber
How senior was he? Originally, the guy they hired.
He didn’t do any of them.
No, but I mean, he was…
And there was a guy named Ralph Gomory, who’s the head of…
I don’t know him, you know.
Well, he’s the head of Sloan, but he’s the former Chief Scientist of IBM.
Maybe that’s why. Maybe he has some feelings about Garwin.
Well, I interviewed him. Garwin wanted me to interview him, and what not. And, he was one of the few… I would say about… He was pretty cold.
Yes. I’ll bet that related to their interest in vote[??].
It wasn’t a good interview.
Certainly, I thought the series was very important but not very good. And, of those that I read…
The Sloan Series.
Oh, no. I haven’t read any of those [???]
Oh, I read about three or four of them.
Well, you read [???]
I read York’s, I read Luis Alvarez. I read Rabi’s. I read about four of them. And I said, “None of them are memorable, but it was good to have such a series.
Were they all autobiographies?
They were all autobiographies [???]
Sometimes there’s a co-author.
Yeah, but I think, as to your point of who can write.
I must say that, in general, I do not like foundation people. I mean they think very highly of themselves. They have a very easy job, giving away money, but they think…
They think that they’re real gods, and, “Oh, we know this and we know that.”
No. I know exactly how you feel.
And, I had a lousy interview with Gomory, and then I met the Program Manager for their book program, and he’s telling me, who has written for the New Yorker for twenty years and has written several books, and whatnot. He’s telling me what I have to do to make…
I’m going to look up you. I’m going to have to look on the web.
…to make an interesting book.
And, you know, like I’m a high school student.
Is Ted Greenwood still there? Do you know his name?
No. I just dealt with Gomory and with this Weber.
I never met Gomory, but the few things I heard about him are not good. Somehow… I don’t even remember what it was, but somehow I’d always end up saying…
Art Singer was a great man. He did a lot of interesting things for the foundation.
[???] things about Gomory, maybe.
[???] Now that it’s, you know… Somehow Gomory doesn’t come across in my mind as being an admirable fellow.
I mean, but just of all of the people — I just shut off my own tape recorder. Of all the people that I’ve…
You did shut it off, didn’t you? I think you shut it off.
Yeah, it’s shut… Well, you know…
No. It keeps going. It doesn’t… Our cocktail party…
Doesn’t have to be recorded, but… Of all the people I’ve interviewed — All of them, except Gomory. And there was something, sort of, rat-like about him. I mean, I don’t know. He’s very, very secretive. And, you know, I was asking the usual questions, “What were your interactions with Garwin?” And, “How do you…?” “What can you tell me about him?” And so forth. And, he said, “Well, tell me specific things…” And I said I was wanting to know from him, since he was part of the IBM management, what was Garwin’s contribution and value to IBM, as a company. And, he says, “Well, tell me specific things that he did, and I’ll tell you what I think of him.” And, I said, “Well, you know, the Fast Fourier Transform?” And, he said, “Dick was involved in that?” And, I said, “Yes, it’s one of his major claims to fame.”
It was before Gomory.
That was pre-Gomory. The Fast Fourier Transform was run in October[??].
It was about 1962, or something like that.
Oh, that’s before Gomory.
Well, yes, but…
You’d think Gomory would know [???]
But, nevertheless, Gomory’s a mathematician, etc., and he didn’t say it was before me or after me. He just drew a blank.
Too bad you don’t have Fubini around to talk to — who was Chief Scientist for a while at IBM. [Actually Chief Technologist — Vice President and Group Executive]
You’re just jealous because you didn’t even know him.
But, at any rate, I didn’t win the hearts and minds of the Sloan…
Do you have a contract for your book?
Yes. I have a contract with Harcourt Brace.
Oh, that’s pretty nice.
What other books… I know your name, but I can’t remember why.
Well, I haven’t written anything for ages, but I wrote a book about the 3-mile Island accident. It was a series of articles in the New Yorker, and then a book. And I wrote another book called The Cult of the Atom. A history of the…
…nuclear power program.
The most influential book I wrote was something called The Button about the nuclear command and control system.
Have you written for the New Yorker recently.
No. Not since… I wrote the first detailed assessment of perestroika. I spent a couple of months in Russia in, I guess, ’86, ’87.
Do you know Russian?
You had translators?
Translators, but I interviewed all of the economic advisors, and so forth, that had put together Gorbachev’s economic plan.
How did you get from economics to writing?
I don’t know. I think it was the…
Had you written in college?
And it was, sort of, shocking to many of my contemporaries, because, you know, I think Harvard students have three or four main ambitions. Either to be President, a billionaire, write for the New Yorker, or win a Nobel Prize.
And/or. Or someone wants to do all. And, I’ve never said anything about my interest in writing.
Were you interesting in writing when you were a kid?
Oh, when I was, like, thirteen, there was, I think, a Boy Scout’s science fair, or something. And, the scoutmaster said, “There should be a poster, or something, explaining what this science fair is all about.” And he just, sort of, looked at me.
Were you interested in science at that point?
No, I mean, you weren’t…
I was not a science nut at all, but, you know, this was 1960.
Let me change the subject a little bit. In this day and age…
Sure. Is the New Yorker [???] a better place for the New Yorker to write, so there’s a serious article about a current event? I look to the New Yorker to be more than [???]
But it’s not nearly as popular. No comparison on the circulation.
No. I mean, frankly, I mean, I think the New Yorker is going downhill rapidly.
You don’t like Remnick?
He is brilliant, and I wish he would just write for the magazine.
But he does, occasionally [???]
He does, occasionally, but, as far as I can tell, he has no skill as an editor, or no enormous skill as an editor. He is a fantastic writer. And, you know, it’s one of the big mismatches of talent and position.
That’s interesting. Do you like Gopnik? Adam Gopnik? Did you know him in Paris, at all.
No, actually, I knew him in New York, and… Thank you very much. And Gopnik is somebody who has enormous potential, and he’s done a number of very good things, but I would say he’s never really gotten his act together to do something, you know…
I never read him. You know, I used to, but I don’t…
What about Hertzberg?
I think he’s pretty run-of-the-mill. He’s not bad.
No, but it’s interesting reading.
I like to read his things.
I think his analyses are some… And, he did one a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know if it was he or somebody else. Front section of the New Yorker that I thought was great. I mean, whatever you said, he’s just got…
Yeah. He’s good, but the thing is, I’m a very hard critic. But compared to the… You know, E.B. White, or Jonathan Schell, or whatever. I mean, he’s a very good writer, analyst, something like that, but in terms of… I look at the grace and style of the writing, not just the common sense content or even the subtle comment. I don’t know if you ever read Jonathan Schell’s…
His first book.
His first book, The Age of Illusion.
No. He wrote something about the nuclear issues.
His first book was The Village…
You didn’t like that.
I didn’t like it.
No. That was junk.
But he wrote two good books. He wrote a book about Vietnam, called The Village of Ben Suc.
He’s young, isn’t he? Is he your age?
He’s a little older. He must about 60 now.
Your age? No.
That’s young, I think.
Well, that’s just a kid.
I remember when young used to be 40.
Not to remember.
You remember when 40 was old.
I’m pushing [???]
I only agree to tell people this… About ten years ago, I re-read Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons.
But it starts out with the father meeting the son who’s coming home from college. He hasn’t seen him for two years. And they talk about the elderly father, who was 46.
Yes. But, at any rate, Jonathan Schell, he doesn’t understand science at all, and his nuclear winter book, or whatever it is…
Whatever it was, it was very, very bad.
That was terrible, and I’m actually responsible because I introduced him to the subject. He had never heard of nuclear winter, and so forth. And, Henry Kendall tried mightily…
To educate him?
…to educate him, and whatnot. But he was just, you know, off the deep end.
The other guy who writes about radiation stuff, who’s off the wall, is the guy that lives in [???]…
Oh, Paul Brodeur.
I mean, he really is… You know, I sympathize… I have sympathy for his sympathies and for his sentiments, but, now the New Yorker publishes his stuff without any peer review. I mean, some of the stuff he writes is… How could it be so unsound?
I know him, and…
I don’t, but we know people who do, and know him well, and that he is a very nice fellow, and I’m sure he is.
He’s a very nice guy, but he does not have the ability to keep his mind open for very long. He fixates on something, and he gets so emotional…
But why doesn’t the New Yorker have some kind of peer review.
Well, they fired him.
No, but you’d think before they publish an article, they have some guy who reads it and sends it to this one. The other guy they publish who also, used to write terrible things, who I knew a lot better is Barry Commoner.
Oh, yes, well… The thing is that when I started to write for the New Yorker, at that point, they… Just quite shortly before I started to write for them, they had published a Barry Commoner anti-nuclear diatribe. And they had published a Jeremy Bernstein pro-nuclear diatribe. And, so I arrived, and I wanted to write an article about the 3-Mile Island accident. Anyway, I submitted it. The editor, Shawn, the legendary Mr. Shawn. He said to me. I just walked in off the street, you know. I was tired of working for UCS, and I always thought that I would someday end up writing. And, I figured, well, let’s start at the top. And, you know, I just called up and made an appointment to see Shawn, and he was very nice, and whatever. But, he told me. You know, he said, “The 3-Mile Island, the nuclear accident. What’s up with you?” Because that’s a very complicated subject. And, he said, “I’m not sure that the best writers that we have here, could do a satisfactory job of writing on that subject for the general audience, to meet our standards.”
Who is this, the editor?
The editor of The New Yorker, yeah.
Shawn. But, he said, “If you want to try, we’ll let you try.” But, he says, “It’s completely at your own risk. We will not pay for it unless we publish it.” I said, “No problem.”
Who was the editor then?
He was the editor from, like, 1952 till ’78.
And, then so, I did it, and when I submitted it, and so forth. Shawn said to me, he said, “Oh, this is such a relief.” He said, “This is not ideological; this is what happened at 3-Mile Island.” He said, “I published the Commoner article and the Jeremy Bernstein thing…
But, the Jeremy Bernstein… I would have thought Bernstein would have been better.
Well, Shawn said, “I wish I hadn’t published either of them.”
Well, Commoner was just wrong. He was just off the wall. And then he [???] like the [doors].
Is he still around?
He, sort of, disappeared.
Yeah. He moved from Washington University to City College. I was Chairman of the Committee of the AAAS on Environmental Issues, or something like that. I forgot.
You don’t like if [???] take it?
I know you’re going to do it, but I thought you were going to do a biography of Jack.
It has nothing to do with Garwin.
Well, I don’t know.
No. I don’t think you want to do that.
But, I was…