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Interview of Lois Garwin by Dan
Ford on 2004 July 1,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/40912-7
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In this interview Lois Garwin discusses topics such as: how she and husband Richard Garwin met, Richard Garwin in school, growing up in Cleveland, Judaism and antisemitism, Richard Garwin's parents, University of Chicago, Edward Teller, Enrico Fermi, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, the hydrogen bomb, Jay Keyworth, IBM, the Garwin children.This interview is part of a collection of interviews on the life and work of Richard Garwin. To see all associated interviews, click here.
[Abrupt start of recorded material]
Great. I see it blinking when I talk. OK.
You know the Garwin family, obviously.
We might as well start in Cleveland. You met Dick when you were kids. Or teenagers?
Almost teenagers. The thing was, he moved into — until the 7th or 8th grade, I'm not quite sure which. 8th, probably. He lived in the city of Cleveland. Then in the 8th grade, his folks bought a house in University Heights, which is a suburb of Cleveland. University Heights residents used Cleveland Heights school system. I lived in Cleveland Heights. So he came to the junior high that I was — it was called a junior high then instead of a middle school. As it happens, I had been really a best friend with one of his first cousins, a girl. She informed us that her cousin was — it was in the middle of the year — and her cousin was coming to this school, and her cousin was something special, as far as intellectual capacity. He was going to be the star of the school, academically, of this school.
Did that turn out to be true?
No, because, coming in in the middle of the year, they had to just find — this system they had then was of homerooms, which were homogeneously separated, so everybody knew there was a top homeroom, a second, third, and it was a big school, so there were at least four. In any grade, there were at least four, maybe five homerooms. They had to fit him in to a homeroom where there was room. The homeroom where there was room was at the bottom. I'm afraid Dick had a very bad year, a very bad year.
I don't know, because I didn't really talk to him then at all. I got a few reports from his cousin Judy, but after I was already a member of the family, my father-in-law, who actually did quite a bit of — he was in the sound-installation business. Maybe Dick told you. It also had to do with repairing films. So he worked with the drama departments of the schools, helping them set up projectors, fix projectors, locate speakers, and that sort of thing. I heard the story, as I say, many years later, about how they went to the English teacher for an open house, and the English teacher, when they introduced themselves, expecting to hear her have accolades for Dick because they had never heard anything else but accolades for him — she told them, well, he really wasn't college material.
[off-topic chatter with house cleaner]
He'll never get to college. That's what she said. Well, years later, when she moved on to the high school as the director of the drama department then, he used to work — Dick's dad worked with her. By that time, Dick had finished Case with honors. He had gotten this scholarship to the University of Chicago. He was working on his Ph.D. He told the story: He never let her forget. I can't remember her name anymore. I used to remember it, but I don't anymore.
Because he was in this bottom class, he just —
He just gave up.
Yeah, because the guy — it was a man who was the homeroom teacher, and he was actually the science teacher for the school. He taught 9th grade science, and I don't know whether they had a 7th — anyway, he taught science, but he was… I had him for science, so I know what he was like. He was — he spoke like molasses in January. Slowly. But he had infinite patience, because he was used to dealing with these children, these non-achievers. I wouldn't guarantee that he knew any science. When I had him for a science teacher, of course they didn't have — in the middle school, they didn't have hands-on kind of science. It was just rote learning and answering questions from the book.
It was the science teacher who said he wasn't —
No, no, it was the English teacher.
It was the English teacher.
English teacher. But the reason I think he had such a bad time was this man who was his homeroom teacher and probably taught him science, and the kids in the class had — he had absolutely nothing in common with the kids in this class. My understanding is, he stayed — say it was the 8th grade, so he had to stay in that class through the 9th grade, I think. So it was really stultifying, but of course, coming from the kind of home he came from, with lots of books and his father was — his father was a teacher himself. His father, he had a bachelor's degree from Case in electrical engineering.
His father's name was Robert?
Robert. They're Jewish. Dad was born in 1998 [sic].
Yeah. So he graduated from Case in —
Yeah. What did I say? 19— I'm sorry. 1898, right. So he was 22 in 1920. That was really still in the height of the antisemitism. What's his name? I. I. Rabi, the Nobel Laureate, whom we knew extremely well. We were very friendly with the Rabis, and Dick worked with him all the time — had exactly the same experience. He graduated from Cornell, and before he got his Ph.D., he wanted to go to work because he came from a very poor family. He couldn't get a job. So Dick's father couldn't get a job, and the only thing he could do was be a part-time electrical — not electrical engineering but…
Cleveland at that time had a vocational high school. He taught kids at that vocational high school — how to wire houses and lamps, to become an electrician working in wherever. But he couldn't really make a living at that, because I don't think he had a full-time job. So he was a motion picture projectionist. I don't know whether Dick told you that. So he was a motion picture projectionist at night, and a high-school teacher during the day. So what I'm saying is, that he understood about teaching science to kids, and he was wonderful about explaining how things worked to Dick and exciting his interest in science and technology. So the fact that Dick didn't get much at school didn't really — it didn't damage him. His family were very — he had a very close-knit family. His aunts and uncles and cousins — they saw each other all the time. They all lived within — in the old-fashioned way. They all lived within sort of 10 to 30 minutes of each other, and they got together very often.
I've been trying to do some research to understand the antisemitism in Cleveland. The Cleveland Jewish Archives that I've been in touch with, and they've been sending me material. I haven't gone through it yet. I'm collecting it.
Actually, Cleveland as cities go, had a very prominent Jewish population. In fact, two of the most famous American reform congregations started in Cleveland. One was — I don't know what its technical name is — all synagogues have a Hebrew name, and I don't know what the names of these synagogues were, or are, but we referred to them as Rabbi Silver's temple and Rabbi [Barnett] Brickner's temple [Cong. Anshe Chesed]. Both Brickner and Silver — it was Abba Hillel Silver. A-B-B-A Hillel Silver. And now I'm confusing… Brickner's son became a very famous rabbi in Washington D.C. The name Balfour comes to mind, but now… Two names. One is Balfour, and the other is Barnett. But I can't remember anymore which was which.
I can look it up. The antisemitism itself, were people restricted in where they could live?
Yeah, but there were no restrictions that I know of. Not even unofficially. When I moved to New York — when we moved to New York and were looking to buy a house, we had very good friends who had grown up in New York. They no longer lived in — in fact, they had grown up — well, the woman had grown up in Westchester County. She lived in New Rochelle all her life. So I talked to her about neighborhoods in New York, particularly Westchester, because that's what we were mostly interested in at the time. She said anything is fine except for — and they're Jewish — anything is fine except Bronxville. Forget about Bronxville. Nobody's even — they'll get a whiff that you're Jewish, and they won't even — no real estate agent will show you a house in Bronxville.
I just don't think that ever existed in Cleveland. Let's put it this way: On the east side, Cleveland is divided by the Cuyahoga River between east and west. I knew absolutely nothing about the west side. I don't think there were any Jews on the west side of Cleveland. There would be no reason for them to want to live there either, because on the east side, there was every kind of neighborhood that you could possibly want to live in. Shaker Heights for instance, on the east side, has some of the most beautiful homes you'd ever want to see. Huge homes on beautiful land. They had a wonderful public school system. To my knowledge, I had Jewish friends who lived there from the time I was in school. I just don't know. Then there were lesser neighborhoods, but also very nice, like Cleveland Heights and University Heights. When it opened up beyond that to — I keep forgetting the names. Anyway, it doesn't matter. On the east side of Cleveland, I just don't know of any housing restrictions.
In getting a job — I think it had to do with prejudice among the big — the steel companies, the coal companies, the manufacturing that Cleveland had. There were some very big companies there. In fact, there is a woman photographer — I just learned this. She's very famous, and I'm sorry, but her name won't come to me. When she got out of college and she wanted to photograph — for whatever reason, she was interested in photographing industry. I think she went to college in Cornell, and she was a New Yorker, I believe. She could go any place. Where did she choose? Cleveland. I just learned that. I went to an exhibition of her work in Washington at the Women in the Arts. It's on New York avenue. The Museum of Women in the Arts. My mouth dropped open, because of all the places — this was in the '30s that she took those pictures.
You don't remember her name, do you?
I don't, but she's very famous. If you look up —
Begin in the Women in the Arts…
Maybe not that. Look up women photographers. She worked for Life.
Was she the one who took the photographs of workers standing on the —
— tops of skyscrapers?
She was known as an industrial photographer, and she did art.
Was it Diana Bourke White[Margaret Bourke-White] Was that it?
Maybe. Yeah, you won't have any trouble finding her. You won't. Anyway, that was where the prejudice was. Universities weren't hiring Jews in those years, either. That's why I don't think I. I. Rabi wanted to go to work in industry. I think he wanted a university position, and he couldn't get one. Yale — as I told you, I just finished "A Beautiful Mind," and the talks about how few Jews there were at Yale and Harvard.
I know people like Paul Samuelson, he got his Ph.D. at Harvard, but Harvard wouldn't give him a job.
He ended up at —
Yeah, exactly, because MIT was the new boy on the block at that time. They still hadn't established themselves as a major university. In fact, in those years MIT was closer to Carnegie Institution or Case or Caltech than it was to — it took a long time before it was considered as — like Harvard or Yale or Princeton.
Did you ever hear of Father Coughlin?
Oh sure. Cog-lin, they pronounced it.
Oh yeah, my grandfather, my maternal — no, my paternal grandfather used to listen to him, not because he believed what he said, but it was — it was so funny, because he rarely missed his broadcasts. He broadcast every Sunday afternoon, I think. It was sort of four or five o'clock on Sunday evening. He would — my grandparent’s house had a small living room but also a parlor, which was closed off from the entry to the house by doors that you could — I guess they're called panel doors. They disappear into the walls. He would closet himself in there and close the door, because he didn't want to be disturbed by the children running around or whatever. It was like wanting to hear what the other side was saying, you know? He wanted to hear — but he was a polemicist if there ever was one. Oh yeah. He was from Michigan, I believe; not Ohio.
I think he was based in —
Detroit. I was reading, I guess, Henry Ford was the publisher of some newspaper in Detroit which was like —
I can't remember what it did vis-a-vis Coughlin, but it was enormously antisemitic —
OK, there you are, so you can't get a job in the auto industry either. It's like — you must have read — seen that, but there was also a book, but then there was that famous moving picture [Gentleman’s Agreement] that had the tall, thin actor… Very good actor.
Gregory Peck, exactly. What was it called? I think it started with an A. Anyway — where he pretended to be Jewish…
I don't know that one…
Yeah, he pretended to be Jewish, and he went around to golf clubs and hotels, and that's the basis of the story. It was a wonderful novel.
It was a novel?
It was first a novel, yeah, and then made into a movie. I think it was Gregory Peck…
I'd just heard of this Father Coughlin, and I bought a book about him. There's a — I think it was in 1936, there was a big rally in Cleveland, with Father Coughlin speaking and talking…
He was a real… There's another word beside polemicist — a rhetorician. He spoke with fire and brimstone.
The subtitle of the book about him was "The Father of Hate Radio."
OK, he came before Rush Limbaugh [laughs].
He was one of the granddaddies of it all.
I don't know: “Father,” was he Catholic?
Oh yes, he was a Catholic priest. I can't remember how they — they eventually sort of shut him up, but not by criticizing him.
Yeah, get him out of the way. Yeah.
We'll get him out of the way. We'll do this more subtly. In terms of like this junior high school that you went to, was that largely Jewish, or was that —
Well, it was a mixture. Many of my friends were not Jewish, but for instance, there was another — there were two other junior high schools in Cleveland Heights. That's interesting: See, now I'm thinking — as I talk, I'm belying what I said before. The junior high that I'm thinking of now was called Monticello. South of Cleveland, at the south of Mayfield Road, which was sort of a dividing line, as I think about it now — were the suburbs that had large Jewish components. North of Mayfield Road, there was an area — it was off Maybell, there was a north-south street — Mayfield was an east-west street… Is that right? Yeah. There was a main street called Noble Road. On either side of Noble Road there were neighborhoods that were equally nice — no nicer, but comparable to Cleveland Heights and University Heights. That was all non-Jewish. I mean, it was well known.
One side was Jewish and one side was —
Was not. But my aunt and uncle bought a house in that neighborhood. Of course, not in the '30s. They bought their house probably, well, in the '50s. In the '50s. After the Second World War. We thought it was a little strange that they bought their house there, and not — the house had a marvelous garden, and my uncle loved to garden. He grew corn and dahlias and other vegetables. I just really don't remember, but maybe he bought the house — and it was a nice house — maybe he bought it because it had all that land that he could make into his wonderful garden. Anyway, I take back a little bit of what I said, because there was this nei — and the kids who went to Monticello, we all knew were mostly non-Jewish. Roxboro was probably a mix like Roosevelt, which was the junior high.
Roosevelt was where you and Dick went?
Yeah. And the other one was Roxboro. Maybe it was a little — there was a huge Catholic church. Catholic church? Yeah. Of course there was a lot of Catholic high schools and junior high — and elementary schools in Cleveland. Catholic kids didn't — tended not to go to public schools. It was Protestant kids who went to public school.
[off-topic technical chatter]
OK, I take it back about neighborhoods. I'd forgotten all about that.
It just seemed to be that there had to be a concrete manifestation of the —
Yeah, right. But on the whole, going through school, I wasn't aware of any antisemitism at all in school. My father and mother had a small — a mom and pop grocery story in a very non-Jewish neighborhood on Euclid Avenue, which is the main drag in Cleveland. It's also an east-west street. It goes from the river to out beyond Case and Western Reserve Universities. It goes all the way to the — it's Route 20 from what I remember, and it goes all the way to Painesville and I don't know how far. Anyway, they had a store, and all their customers were non-Jews. There was just no problem with running a business there.
Dick's father, what was his personality like?
He was very jovial. He loved to — I remember how he always made a fuss with the waitresses when we went — you know, he would chit-chat them. He didn't — I'm trying to remember. Did he tell jokes?
Would that be called flirting?
Flirting, right. Well, you know, in a very subdued way. He just wanted to make them feel good, you know? On the whole, his mother was somewhat more gregarious than his father. She was very outgoing. She had more friends than you can imagine, and she kept her friends for a lifetime.
What was Dick's mother's name?
Leona. Her maiden name was Schwartz. I'm sure Dick told you.
How is Schwartz spelled?
The father sounded reasonably outgoing, but you said she was more so?
Yeah. He was more subdued. He had good friends too, but he didn't play golf. He didn't play — they played cards, but not poker. They played bridge, and they had their bridge — my mother-in-law played bridge with ladies in the afternoon, and the two of them played bridge. They had — they didn't belong to a bridge club or anything, but they tended to see people for bridge on an ongoing basis. Just two couples, sometimes they had two tables of bridge, four couples. But my father-in-law got along with everybody — in his business. He and his — finally he took his brother into his business… I think a lot of the basis on which they built up the business was that people trusted and respected the two of them, particularly Bob, because he — Joe, his younger brother, had not — I don't think he'd even been to college. Or maybe he'd been for a couple years. But you know, my father-in-law had a degree in electric engineering, and he was a very smart man. He never stopped learning, so that when wire recorders — I don't even know if you know that term, 'wire recorders.' Before tape recorders, there were wire recorders.
Now the name manufacturer for wire recorders was Webcor. W-E-B-C-O-R. My father-in-law represented Webcor in the Cleveland area, and he sold them as well as repaired them. They were a mess because if you didn't treat them exactly right, then they — they used to call them rat's nests. The wire would unravel and get all tangled up, and people would have — it was like your hard drive, and if you lose it you want to retrieve the information. Well, people would record all this valuable information on this wire and end up with this rat's nest, and they would —
— they would bring these spools of wire to Dick's dad —
To fix it?
— to retrieve it, and they would do the best they could. I think even if you asked Dick, I think he worked on that when he was in high school, too.
Was Dick's father bitter about the fact that he couldn't be an electrical engineer?
Not really. Well, you know, by the time I knew them, he was doing OK. They weren't the kind of people who hold grudges. You go on with life, right? Philosophically, they were not the kind of people who remembered hurts or slights, that kind of thing. They really were people who… They considered themselves lucky. They started with nothing. They sent — both their sons have Ph.Ds. Both of them have been very successful. They themselves were able to travel. They visited us in Europe when we lived in Switzerland. They did sort of a grand tour. They took cruises to the Bahamas or the Caribbean. They actually went — they did a cruise in the Pacific or something, to Hong Kong, and — where else did they go? Oh, they spent a lot of time in Japan on that trip. They really considered themselves extremely fortunate. They were among the blessed.
Because the '30s must have been pretty hard for everybody.
The '30s were hard. Hard. But it was hard for everybody. It was hard for everybody. My folks lost their business. The reason they opened a mom and pop store on Euclid Avenue was because they had lost their — my father had been a haberdasher, and they lost that business. It just folded, and they had to walk away from it. It was really hard. It was really hard. Even people with — you know, who were smart and capable.
There's not much you can do when the whole ship is going down.
That's right. My father's problem was that we lived in Willoughby, Ohio, which is now a suburb of Cleveland, but at that time it was just a separated, small town. It was the home of Ohio Rubber. And Ohio Rubber just tanked. Just disappeared. I don't know if it disappeared; I shouldn't say that. But they fired everybody in the town. Everyone in the town worked for Ohio Rubber, and so nobody in the town was working. So nobody was buying anything. A lot of businesses — small businesses — failed because of that.
There were just the two sons —
— Dick and his brother, his name was Edward?
Edward, right. He works for SLAC and has for many, many years.
There were a lot of things that Dick did together with his father…
Yeah. Dick worked for — they had what they called the shop, at the back of the garage. When they bought their house in University Heights, it's on a very deep lot. Not a very wide lot, but a very deep lot. The house was not quite finished when they bought it. So they dealt with the builder, and they had the garage extended so that you could go through the garage and go through a door. So at the back of the garage was this area — oh, I would say it wasn't as big as from the wall to this sofa — or maybe it was that deep, but it certainly wasn't as wide. It was a — had I think only one workbench in it. Dick worked there. He helped his father, I don't know, rewire amplifiers or whatever. They worked together. Dick knew from — he always wanted to be a physicist. There was never any question in his mind what he wanted. Maybe he — yeah, I don't think he ever fooled with chemistry or… I think he didn't think he wanted to be an engineer. He went directly to the physics department. He was very lucky he had a wonderful mentor in… Did he tell you? I can find it.
I think he did, yes.
I still correspond with his widow, so I have my Christmas card list and it's on there. Ugh, why can't I think of it?
After junior high school, he went to…?
Cleveland Heights High School. I think he did much better. He finished early. He was only…
He was only 16 when he graduated.
— when he graduated, right. He was only 16 when he graduated, so he just ran through. He ran through the high school working as hard as he could. He just wanted to get out of there, I think. Because I don't think he was — I don't think he skipped a grade. Now, our daughter graduated high school at 16, but she started first grade when she should've started kindergarten, and then she was pushed ahead between the third and fourth grade, so that's why she did. But I don't think that was true for Dick, because they had — in the city, before he moved to Cleveland Heights, they had what was called major work. Cleveland had a marvelous school system. One of the best in the country. Cleveland this is, not Cleveland Heights. Cleveland Heights had a very good school system. I don't want to denigrate it. But Cleveland had this marvelous accelerated program for — starting with kindergarten, I think. Did he tell you he learned French in elementary school?
That was one of the added attractions for this group of kids whom — in other words they looked for things — enrichment is what they call it. One of the things they did was they taught them French.
Did you go to Cleveland Heights High School also?
Yes, I did. I did. But I graduated exactly on time, so he left… I really didn't over — I didn't go to school with Dick in the high school at all. I never had any classes with him in the middle school, because I was in the top and he was in the bottom. Those two groups didn't mix ever. Maybe at gym, but girls and boys had gym separately.
Then he went off to —
Case. Right away, right. Because his folks… I don't even know whether he applied to schools outside of Cleveland or any school other than Case. I think he just knew — I just don't remember. But they just couldn't afford the housing costs. When you live at home —
If he went away?
If he went away.
So he went to Case and lived at home?
And lived at home, right. I went to Reserve and lived at home. But a lot of — both of those schools, Reserve and Case, had students who lived at home. They really didn't have dormitory space for their school population.
He finished Case very quickly.
Yes, because of the war. He went around the clock. I mean, around the year. Summer and winter, so he finished Case at… He was almost 19 when he finished Case, because it took him just two years to get his Ph.D.
You got married then?
We got married just before he went off to Chicago, because he was very reluctant to go to Chicago and leave me behind. Sounds — it's so juvenile [laughter]. When we started having children, we used to discuss, what are we going to tell our children to keep them from marrying young? Not that we hadn't had a success, but we realized how lucky and how unusual it was to marry at such an early age and make a success of it. Well, times had changed so drastically by the time our children were 20 or whatever, none of them was interested in getting married. I mean, it was the farthest thing from their minds. So you see, the things you worry about are the things that never happen.
How old were you?
I was just… I'm trying to remember. I was born in '27. I'm older than Dick. Dick was born in '28. So I was — we were married in… I was 18.
So you both were probably 18.
That's right. That's right. We got married the day after Dick's 18th birthday. But I was going to be 19 in August.
What did he think would happen if he went off to Chicago without you?
I don't know. I don't know. He just — see, he had —
He didn't want to take any chances?
I guess. I don't know. He went… He could've gone to Case and gotten a master's degree, but Case, I don't believe, gave doctor's degrees in those days. So it was only a matter of a year, and it was really that professor — who's name I still can't remember — who convinced — I don't know whether Dick told you the story. It's really a nice story. Dick had this scholarship to Chicago, and Fermi and Teller were — it was after the war, so all those people had come back to Chicago or come to Chicago. Chicago had absolutely the top physics department in the country at that time. The professor invited Dick and his father to lunch. Wait, I don't know about his mother, but anyway.
This was a University of Chicago professor?
No, no. Case.
Oh, Case professor.
He literally said to Dick's dad and to Dick, "If you pass up this opportunity, you've got to be crazy. You just don't understand how important it is to take this opportunity." So Dick's father was convinced, and I guess maybe Dick was convinced too, by then. I wasn't at Reserve, but I didn't have any career… What do I want to say? I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had the feeling that I was just marking time until I could decide what it was I wanted to be. There was something I wanted to be, but at that time it, was impossible. I was very good in languages. I had Spanish, and French, and Latin by the time I graduated from high school. I decided I wanted to work for the Foreign Service. We used to do — I think kids still do it — a career term-paper, where you investigate what you want to be. I investigated, and I found that, for a woman, there was no career possibility at all unless you went and worked in an embassy as a secretary. Really, that wasn't for me. At that time, I didn't want to be a teacher. I didn't want to be a nurse. I didn't want… The idea of being a — now I realize, or I realized many, many years ago, that what I really wanted to be was a ling— I wanted to study linguistics as a science, but nobody… I don't even think people used that term among the general public, so I had no — there was no reason. I could move to Chicago and go to work just as easily as not, because I didn't really know what I wanted to be.
You didn't finish Reserve at the time?
Mm-mm. No. Just two years, and when I — I had thought I would go to the University of Chicago when I got there, but that was in the height of the Hutchins period, where two years qualified you for a bachelor's degree, and then you had to go on for a master's. Well, I didn't know what I wanted to be, so what was I going to study for a master's? It didn't make any sense. I could've traveled. A friend of mine, who was in the same position, went to Roosevelt College in downtown Chicago, but it wasn't really much of a college. I decided that I'd be better off working, so I had no trouble getting a job. In those years, if you had two years of college you were already a step ahead as a woman.
Was Dick flirtatious like his father?
Well, he pursued me. I wouldn't say he was flirtatious, no. He was very serious. Very serious, in fact. He used to — I could tell that he would think of things to talk about ahead of time. It wasn't… But he did pursue me. He found out, maybe from his cousin — I really don't know how he found it out — but he found out that I was what's called a corridor monitor. I don't know whether any school you went to had corridor monitors.
I remember the term.
During your free period, you would sit at a desk at the corner of a hall near a staircase, and you would watch for kids that were noisy in the hall, or running in the halls, that kind of thing. He found out that I was a hall monitor, and he came to see me. And once he found me, he came very often, because he didn't have to be at Case for as long as I had to be at school.
So one day after 18, it's done. His 18th birthday.
Right [laughs]. He convinced me. But I had been a very independent girl. I have one brother who's five years younger than me. In fact, our brothers knew each other very well. Our brothers were buddies in elementary school. They went to the same elementary school.
Your brother and Dick's brother?
And Dick's brother. There was that family connection. Now, I don't know why I mentioned that.
Your brother's name was Howard?
Howard, right. Oh, why I was so independent. My mother worked with my father, as I said. She worked six, seven days a week sometimes, depending upon the business. We had help in the house until… But I had large responsibilities for my brother and for getting dinner started, and that sort of thing. So I think… Oh, and when I was in high school, my father needed extra help in the store, and I arranged to have what was called a half-day program, where I only went to school from 8:30 to noon. Did all my coursework and then left and went to work in the store for the afternoon into the early evening. So I had more responsibility than most kids growing up in a middle-class neighborhood. I managed. By that time, I knew — I cooked quite a bit, and I knew how to iron clothes and wash clothes. I was capable.
Today's girls don't know most of that.
Cooking is a lost art.
And in my neighborhood, girls who grew up in the same sort of home I did, they didn't. But circumstances made it necessary.
So you end up with Dick at the University of Chicago. Did you live on the South Side?
Oh yeah, oh yeah.
That's a pretty rough area, no?
Well, it wasn't as bad then. Although, when I say it wasn't bad, did Dick tell you that he carried a monkey wrench to work in his pocket?
Yeah [laughs]. He would work at odd hours, because he was working on the cyclotron. No, maybe it wasn't a cyclotron there. What was it there? Anyway, whatever the — the atom smasher, or whatever… No, it's not an atom smasher. What is it?
I think they had a cyclotron.
They had a cyclotron? OK. Then that's what it is. They ran 24 hours a day sometimes, so he would come home for dinner and stay a few hours, and then maybe 10 o'clock or so, he'd walk back to the — we lived very close, only a block and a half or so. But even for that distance — and then he might come home at two in the morning — he carried a monkey wrench in his pocket.
You obviously got to meet Fermi —
— and all those —
All those people. I even had the nerve to invite them to our house for dinner, when nothing — when I say 'our house,' our apartment, where the only table I had was a Formica and chrome table in the kitchen. The kitchen was a large kitchen, and at one end of it, there was room for a table and chairs. I remember very well having the Fermis — I think it was the Fermis and Tellers, and maybe one other couple — to dinner. Then one other couple would've made eight of us. I don't think there was room around that table, so maybe it was just the Fermis and the Tellers to dinner, and I served them spaghetti with meat sauce [laughs]. How I had such nerve, such chutzpah. Terrible [laughs]. I blush to think of it.
Did you tell Dick before that you were inviting them to dinner?
Oh sure. We talked about it. I tell you, I had a great need to make contact with the people he saw. When he would come home, I would question him about whom he had seen, whom he had worked with, what kind of people were they. Finally, after a while, when we had this apartment where I could do this, I said, well, could we invite people home? And he said, I guess so. So I said, you tell me who, and then I guess he did the inviting, I think. Anyway, even before that, when we lived in the apartment where I had a huge living room but no table at all, we used to have — we bought trays, and it was buffet, and people would put their plate and silver on this tray and sit with the tray on their lap. We decided that would be more comfortable than just holding a plate.
It reminds me, when I was an undergraduate, I worked in this research project. There was a famous economist named Leontief —
Oh yes, I know Leontief.
I was Leontief's research assistant [overlapping].
He went to NYU didn't he?
He finally did.
Right. That's when I knew him, was when he was at NYU.
At any rate, there was one graduate student who was Australian, and his wife was Thai. She was just adorable. And she worked as a research assistant at this place. But without telling her husband, she — she was always inviting all the research assistants on Friday nights regularly… How she managed to make dinner with no money and whatnot… But at any rate, one time her husband told us, she invited Leontief to dinner, and he accepted [laughs]. And the house was in panic. He said, you have to come, because you can talk with him. He said, I won't know what —
What to say.
— what to say. We're in this little apartment, and they had a table, but like three chairs. So they pushed the table up to the bed, so we students sat on the bed, and Leontief —
Ah, but those stories are marvelous.
It was fantastic, because Leontief had a part of his jaw removed in his 20s. It was very lucky: It's how he got out of Russia, because the doctor said it was cancer. It wasn't, but he told him he had to go to Berlin for more treatment. At any rate, he had a terrible scar and part of his jaw missing. Everybody could see this. At any rate, at the dinner, I was thinking, what the hell are we going to talk about, or whatever. So I just said to him, professor, we all work for you, but we really don't know —
Anything about you.
— much about the history of your life and so forth. Well that's all — oh, fine. And he went on, and it was fascinating and whatever. But there were little appetizers and things. He got to the point of the story, 1925, and he said, "And that's when I got this," and he made this [laughter] [???]. And the Thai wife came in with the main course. He said, oh, we must —
Now we must eat.
Now we must eat. After we were all going, damn, we missed it. How can we go back and say, where did the scar come from? But fortunately, after dessert, et cetera —
He started talking again?
He said, "Well, back to the story."
I remember him as being a very voluble sort of man. Entertaining, too.
So how was the dinner party with the Fermis?
We had a good time. We had a very good time. You know, there was no problem. Teller is — or was — a very affable man. A very charming man. Anybody you talk to who knew him personally would say he was just — he was the life of the party. He was very gracious. No, he would — and his wife, Mitzi was — she was talkative. And Laura, I knew Laura and Enrico really well, because they used to invite us to their house. She was an absolutely marvelous woman. Very down to earth and generous and loving. She had lots of friends. Really a caring woman. Enrico was… He just had no airs at all. He was just like anybody else. He wasn't the grand professor. There was just no problem, no problem at all.
When they all got together in social settings like this, did they rush to talk about physics?
No, if it was a large group, then we always complained. The women complained that there was this segregation: The men got together and talked physics, and the women… We used to have strategies. The women would have strategies. They would say, you have to sit down between two men. You can't particularly — very few people really had sit-down dinners. It was mostly living room dinners. So if there's — two men are sitting on a sofa, then you have to sit between them [laughter]. Or pull up a chair so that you're sitting with two men, or three men. Anyway, you shouldn't let them get off on their own together.
This physicist Henry Kendall that I —
Yes, know so well.
— worked with, his wife was enormously sociable and whatever, but Henry was very serious —
Yes, I know.
— and he could be quite charming, especially if you gave him a drink. But he didn't like to drink. But if you could sneak one in, it would help a lot.
Loosen his tongue.
I remember one time there was some people he wanted to see. He was very awkward about inviting people to his house. He was a very wealthy man, and he just — he lived in an enormous estate, et cetera. He never invited his friends there, his colleagues and whatever. He was embarrassed by it, but after he got married, he got a very nice apartment in the city. So there his wife would invite people, but still Henry hadn't caught on to the sociability of it all. We were all about to sit down to dinner, and there were a couple of important people that Henry wanted to talk with — Henry said, well, those of us who want to discuss important issues can sit at this end of the table, and everybody else, please sit down. I have to give his wife credit: She had quite a temper, but she held her temper during that. But Henry didn't talk with anybody except the select group, the select ones. Like, the wife of one of these people, she was a professor of law and [???] all types of — Henry's stepson was a doctor. These were all people who were perfectly capable of contributing to the conversation. It was something. The research and things that Dick was doing, were these things that he explained to you, that you followed?
Yeah, to the best of my ability. He was wonderful in that regard. Over the years — as time went on, I began to feel sorry for my women friends whose husbands did not do that, because they — you really do get shut out, no matter how hard — no matter how much else you have in common, whether you play games, or you appreciate art or music, or whatever, or you travel. But if the core of your life isn't shared, then it gets harder and harder I think, rather than easier. But Dick was always wonderful about — not only to me, but to the children. In fact, I'm sure over the years the children were a little bored by his descriptions of how things happened, or how they worked, or whatever.
When Dick went to Los Alamos — I think the first time was in the summer of '50 —
— did you stay in Chicago?
No, no. Oh no, no, no, no, no. I was part of everything. He wasn't… Well, and we had our baby by then. Jeffrey was born in November of '49, so we took him along. We traveled by car from Chicago to Los Alamos, and we — it was before the days of car seats, so what we did was, we filled the space between the back and the front seats level to the front seat — level to the back seat, with boxes and suitcases and whatever. Then we took the mattress from Jeffrey's crib, and we put in on top. Then Jeffrey had a playpen. And it worked very well. Worked very well.
When Dick was at Los Alamos, and the stuff he was working on was quite classified —
Right, he didn't talk about it at all. That was one period when — I mean, I knew what they did at Los Alamos. I knew that they developed atomic weapons there, so I assumed… Now, I remember something — I'm not sure Dick actually remembers it: How did we get to Los Alamos? Did he tell you how we got to Los Alamos? Really very interesting. He came home one day, and he said, “do you think we could go to Los Alamos for the summer?” I said “sure, if you want to, why not?” So he said, well… He said, I asked Enrico a question, a technical question, and he sort of looked at me strangely, and he said, “I can't talk to you about that now. But if you — “ I don't know whether it happened at the same time, or whether he went away, and then a day or two later said to Dick, “you know that question you asked me? If you'd like to know more about it, you could come to Los Alamos in the summertime, and then we could discuss that there. You could get clearance, and you could discuss that with me, or I could discuss it with you.” That's how we went to Los Alamos. Now, that's what I remember. I'm not sure Dick remembers that really.
He told me that he never had any classified discussions in Chicago.
That's right. That’s right. They were very careful. Very, very careful. Letter of the law, absolutely. Letter of the law. Even at IBM — I don't know whether he mentioned this to you — he has a classified safe there that people come and investigate, or whatever, every I don't know how often. He's extremely careful. Extremely careful.
I was going to ask him… I assume if he's working on these classified projects at — he's at IBM, and they must have some method for safeguarding things. I didn't know whether he had to go to a special room, or…
Yeah. They're not a special room, but as far as I know, he just stores them there. And maybe — I really don't know. You have to ask him about that. But I know that that safe — he calls it his classified safe.
At Los Alamos you couldn't discuss, obviously, the specifics of —
No, I had no idea.
— of what he was doing, but at the time there was a big public debate about whether the country should build the hydrogen bomb, et cetera. Did you ever discuss that with him?
Yeah. Yeah, we talked about — I don't know that I talked… I heard conversations. Let's put it that way. I really don't know that I discussed it with Dick, but certainly at parties at Los Alamos, they talked about it. There were people who were in favor; there were people who were against. I didn't know that Dick had anything to do with it at all. When he went to the Pacific, I assumed that it was other versions of the atomic weapon, the nuclear weapon that was dropped, that they were making changes or whatever. It never occurred to me that he was working on another kind of bomb.
At the parties and so forth, when they were discussing the pros and cons of building it, did he take any position?
I don't remember that. I really just don't remember at all.
Teller must've been one of the people at the parties.
Some of them, yeah. Although you know, he started Livermore, or Livermore was started for him, so he wasn't at Los Alamos so much. I don't know the dates. I don't remember anymore what those dates were.
He was sort of at both, I think. But he was certainly at Los Alamos at least part of the time when Dick was there, because Dick was working for him.
Yes, that's right. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
But whether that was a couple months a year versus the rest of the —
If he came, he tended to be there in the summer. All the people — it was… You know, when you stop to think about it, it was sort of like JASON, because these scientists came from all over the country to work on various projects. They didn't work — and Los Alamos was very generous. They were called consultant housing. They were houses in the community. It wasn't a ghetto of any kind. It was — there was a company called Zia. I don't know whether it still exists, but it was like the administration of housing and taking care of the yards, and if something went wrong, you would call Zia to come and fix it.
How do you spell Zia?
Z-I-A. It's an Indian name. The Laboratory would tell Zia how many houses they would need for the coming summer, and as houses emptied out for whatever reason, they kept them empty. They didn't rent them. Nobody owned houses in Los Alamos in those days. It was just all owned by the Laboratory, and everybody rented from the Laboratory. But these houses — there was a warehouse full of furniture for this consultant housing. It was all the same. You went from house to house, and the same thing: They provide pots and pans, and utensils. It was just minimal, but you managed. I gave lots of dinner parties in La Jolla[sic] in consulting housing. La Jolla, I'm sorry. Los Alamos. And Norris Bradbury was the director of Los Alamos for most of the time that we came in the beginning, before Harold. Before Harold, yeah. Before Harold Agnew.
Every year, within the first couple of weeks of the summer — the Bradburys had a beautiful home different from all the other homes. It was built specifically for the director. They would invite all the consultants and their wives to this huge party, and you would see everybody. That's why it reminds me of JASON. I think, if I'm not mistaken… I can't remember whether you would get a list of housing, a list of people with their telephone numbers and their addresses the way JASON does it now. Anyway, at this party you would see the people whom you knew and exchange telephone numbers, and it's what established the social life for the rest of the time that you were there.
As far as the debate about the hydrogen bomb, did Dick express any opinion on this to you?
I really just don't remember. You know, it took a few more — in the early years… In the early years, he — I think he felt the need to do whatever needed to be done to make sure that we — 'we' as the government, our government — had what it needed. It wasn't until a few years after that that he started feeling strongly about the — whether it was good to have these weapons, and how many of them we needed. You'll have to question him about that. What was the turning point? I really don't know what the turning point was. I don't know the date of his earliest involvement in non-proliferation and arms control. I just have no memory at all of the date at which he changed from wanting to develop the best weapons possible to thinking that maybe we didn't need any more, and in fact needed less — fewer than what we have. So that's a question you'll have to…
When did you find out that he had been working on the hydrogen bomb?
Not until very recently.
Recently by — meaning...?
Again, it happened very peculiarly in Erice. There was a meeting at which Teller — to which Teller was invited. He was there, and there was a big discussion — by then Dick was adamant about getting rid of nuclear weapons to — anyway, down to 1,000 I think is his number, and signing — having people sign the non-proliferation treaties and that sort of thing. Edward and a group of people who were invited, who felt the way Edward did — they invited people from all — of all points of view to have a good discussion — were still gung-ho. That was the meeting at which Edward said, "Well, if there's a third world war, you'll be responsible," to Dick. It was also at that meeting that he divulged that Dick had had a seminal — made a seminal contribution to the development — now, I don't know… I was so thunderstruck by his saying that in public that I really don't remember why he said it. It may have been, in the back of my mind I thought that maybe it was because he — these people were really ganging up on Dick, and he felt he needed to say something good about him. Or, whether he was trying to discredit Dick by saying, here's a guy who developed or made a very important contribution to the development of the hydrogen bomb, and now he wants to get rid of it? You know what I'm saying? Either of those things might be possible.
This would've been 10 years ago? 5 years ago?
Dick keeps these meetings in mind better than I do. He's remarkable sometimes on remembering — I don't know whether you've noticed this — in remembering dates. He can say in May of 19-whatever…
He's almost as good as my mother. She could remember the dates for everything, because she always said, oh, that was the summer after cousin so-and-so had [laughter].
Anyway, I think that was the beginning, but very few people heard that. It's not a lot of people. Evidently it didn't make much of an impact, because when that Bill Broad article appeared, that was when people really knew. And people who knew Dick very, very well, and had known him for a very long time, expressed real surprise. How come we didn't know that about you? How come it didn't come up in conversation? Why didn't you ever tell us? So the big revelation was that Bill Broad article.
Back to what Teller was saying — "If there's a third world war, you'll be responsible" — what did he mean by that?
Dick was going to get rid of the weapons, and then Russia was going to feel stronger, OK?
OK, he was criticizing Dick's position on arms limitation?
Yeah, right. Exactly. Exactly. Or at least that's the way I… The morning after that meeting, in which he said those nice things about Dick — Teller — I saw him at breakfast, at Erice everybody has breakfast in the breakfast room. So he was there by himself at a table. Dick had been with me but had walked out before I finished, so I - on my way out, I went up to him, and I said, Edward, that was really very nice of you to say those good things about Dick. It wasn't then that he said about the third world war; it was at another time. And he looked at me, and he said, well, I don't really know what has happened to your husband. Or maybe he said 'Dick.' He said, but he's become a warmonger. So I don't know how [laughs]. But you see, that's the way he saw it, is that Dick was promoting war by [opposing Star Wars defense]..
I read of course the Broad article, and it was a surprise to me. I knew Dick had some involvement with nuclear weapons, but not at that level —
Early stage, yeah.
— at that early stage. I've read that the so-called testament that Teller —
— dictated, but he was a very crafty fellow —
Yes he was.
— and had all sorts of feuds going, and why he said what he said —
And if you can find out why Jay Keyworth chose to send back those pages to Bill Broad at that particular time, it would be very interesting. Dick, who has a lot to — you know, who talks to Bill Broad — you know, they're not bosom buddies or anything, but Bill Broad calls Dick whenever he has a question which he feels Dick can help him with. After the article appeared, Dick emailed Bill Broad asking him if he knew what caused Jay Keyworth to send those pages to him. Bill Broad answered in email very cryptically. He said, I guess he wanted to help a nosy reporter, or something like that. Just the most non-committal, uninformative, non-informative message which you could ever want to see or hear or look at. It just — I just — after all those years…
It was totally strange to have this testament, which was supposedly dictated in '79 — it was transcribed in 1987 —
And then show up in 2000 —
2001, right. Yeah, it's bizarre. It really is bizarre. So I don't know —
Was Teller still alive then?
Yes. Sure, because he just died only a few months ago, I think. Six months ago, something like that. The point is, I can't believe that Jay Keyworth did it on his own, so maybe — my scenario in my mind — you know, you always make up scenarios — is that it was in a box or a cupboard or a closet someplace in Jay Keyworth's house or office, and he was cleaning out. He found it, and he contacted Edward and said, look, I have these pages. You remember? Do you think we should make it public now? And Edward said sure, go ahead. And he sent it to Bill Broad. But you could call Jay Keyworth.
Yes, I will. I will. It's quite…
Dick just felt it didn't behoove him to call. Dick knows Jay very well, but…
I never got the impression… Keyworth was Reagan's science adviser?
I never got the impression that he was much of a —
He wasn't anything.
— powerhouse at all.
No. He got to know — I can tell you the story of how he became close to — at least how I was told he became close to Edward. That is, it had to do — I think it was Los Alamos, but I'm not absolutely sure. Edward had come to Los Alamos, or some other place, and he needed a driver. Keyworth was around, so Keyworth was designated —
OK, we are back on line. You were talking about how Keyworth met Teller.
Oh, right. So anyway, he was assigned. Keyworth — I don't know that he met him then; he may have known him — but where they had opportunity to talk at length was during this period when Keyworth became Edward's chauffeur. That's when they bonded, so to speak, or developed a very close relationship. Now, I don't know this firsthand. I was told this, and I don't even remember anymore who told it to me.
It's easy enough for me to ask Keyworth how did he meet Teller.
Right, as I say, they probably didn't meet then, but that's when they had an opportunity to really spend time together, which they hadn't had up until then. They called a — had a close friendship from then on, because it was Keyworth that Teller called, when he was in the hospital with this very serious heart-attack, to do this taping to get it down… So Teller did want… [off-topic technical chatter] Teller said, I want you to come and put on tape what I have to say. That's the providence of those 18 pages, or whatever. Edward didn't call, for instance, that guy at Livermore, whose name — I — a much younger man who was his — Edward was his mentor. He won one of those Hertz Fellowships. Edward for many years was on the advisory board, and also on the committee that chose Hertz Science Fellows. Have you ever heard of that?
No, I've never heard of that award.
Yeah, it's for graduate students, or something, to give money for research. I didn't know it either, but a neighbor of ours met me on a playground, and she said, I understand you know Edward Teller. I said yeah, I know him quite well. How do you know him? Well, her husband, who was a lawyer or a businessman — anyway — of some kind — rather wealthy man — said that he served on the advisory committee for the fellowship. They met with Edward — the committee met several times a year, so he knew Edward quite well. Anyway, the world is just too small. The fellow at — you should ask Dick who it is, because Edward and he were very close for many, many years. He was — the young man was Dick's nemesis, because he wanted to do all the things that Dick thought were terrible. I can't remember any more. But he's at Livermore. He's still there. He's a man probably not yet 60, I would think. [Lowell Wood]
Is this one of the people who worked on Star Wars?
Broad is a funny character.
I don't know him at all.
Part of the problem of writing for a paper like the New Yorker — are you —
New York Times.
New York Times — is that you have to be in fav— you have to be nice enough to the government —
Yes, to get information.
— because if you're covering the Pentagon, and you say unfriendly things about the Pentagon, well they'll just happen to forget you when they're handing out information. The New York Times cannot be forgotten. The thing is, Broad wrote all sorts of articles about Star Wars and whatever, and it — I'm just saying this off the top of my head; I haven't gone back and re-read them — it just seemed like he was part of the PR department for Livermore or something. But then he wrote a book that was critical of Star Wars, but the thing is, it was sort of — the book was annoying, at least to me, because he was building it all up and up and up and said all those wonderful things that — but then [???], oh yes, it doesn't work. Funny style. This Erice...?
Erice. E-R-I-C-E. It's run by Antonino. A-N-T-O-N-I-N-O. And the last name is Zichichi. Z-I-C-H-I-C-H-I. Zeh-kee-kee.
What does it do? It's a conference every August or something?
It's a conference center for — mainly for NATO. NATO has one workshop after the other all year long now. When it started, 30 or 40 years ago — I think that many — Nino's idea was to have summer studies there, and he took this old village — a village full of monasteries, convents, and churches — it was a sort of sacred destination for pilgrims from — I don't know where. Italy, Sicily. He grew up in Trapani, which is at the bottom of the hill. Erice is up on a cliff. He did a wonderful job, because he took over these buildings and made them into modern housing. He took a church and made into a state-of-the-art, beautiful auditorium for having the conferences, everything there. Just wonderful. As I say, it started out for summer workshops, and everybody likes it so much, and there's so much need for a place like that, that it goes all-year round.
But Nino's pet thing, personally, is this August conference. Now he calls it, for about the last three or four years, five years maybe — he calls it the Conference on Planetary Emergencies. He thinks very big, that man. He's not a big man; he's a little man [laughs], but he thinks big. Before he did that, then he had a few meetings in which the main subject was arms control. Dick and he have known each other since 1959, '60, when Dick was at Cern and Nino was a very young man. Dick's — Nino's much younger than Dick. He was on the team that Dick led to do the g-2 experiment at Cern.
Are these conferences open to the public? Are they JASON, or…?
It's not like JASON at all. People come from all over the world. They get invited from all over the world. When I say all over the world, I mean Middle East, Africa, Asia, as well as Europe and sometimes South America also, depending on the subjects that are being discussed. The press is invited, but I don't know whether they have some closed sessions to which the press isn't invited.
I was just interested because I would like to go to one of the conferences that Dick goes to, but to be able to see him in the conference, his interactions.
Dick might be able to arrange it with Nino, to have you come.
I knew JASON, I could not.
No, no, that's impossible.
That's impossible, but…
I don't know. Maybe one of the academy conferences that he goes to…
He told me that this summer there's a big meeting about terrorism and stuff like that. That sounded like it would be —
The trouble is that, in a sense, you're not going to see Dick very much in action at that kind of conference, because there are too many people. It would seem to me that a smaller conference — it's too bad you weren't — when Dick was at the Council [CFR], he arranged any number of seminars or workshops or whatever on — what was his pet subject there? Landmines. He had one on landmines. What was the other one he did? Oh, nonlethal — no, land — no, I'm sorry, maybe not landmines, but nonlethal weapons. Those conferences are maybe a panel with an audience of 30, 40 people. If Dick is a member of the panel, he's really very active. So you might ask Dick if there's going to be some — there’s not going to be anything with the Council — but maybe coming up on his calendar.
He's given me a couple that I should ask him more about.
This last time, I've done all the touring in the Erice area that I care to do. I've done everything three times already, so this last time I was there, I just attended all the meetings instead of going on any of the trips. Really, if I heard Dick say something six or seven times in that many days —
That would be a lot. As far as the — as far as Dick himself, how would you describe his personality?
He can be very… Let's put it this way: He never really understood personal dynamics, group dynamics — not group dynamics — people's — he had a hard time anticipating people's reactions to what he says. If he thinks of it, he thinks that there's no room for — it's gospel. That's the way it is. If he thinks of it, he's sure that it's right and it's worth saying. He doesn't consider that maybe somebody wouldn't look at it the same way and that it might not be a good thing to say. He really doesn't… But he's gotten much, much better on that score. Years ago he was really a holy terror, I thought. But people excused him, because number one, he's helpful. There's just absolutely nothing that he — if he hears of somebody who needs something or wants something, he's Johnny-on-the-spot. Why do we give the — have so much to do with these 4th of July parties? It's because it needed to be done, and nobody else was there to do it. So we do it. And people are eternally grateful. They will look away or not take issue with something he does that they might not accept from somebody else, because they know — at the base, at the foundation, is somebody who's really generous with his time and effort. So people excuse him in lots of ways, I think, that they wouldn't excuse other people.
He has changed a lot over the years. He really has. He is much more diplomatic. I think he thinks a lot about… He understands now that he has things that he wants to accomplish, and he can't do it alone. He has to have the cooperation of other people, so I think that he thinks a lot more about his modus operandi, so to speak, to accomplish what he needs to accomplish. He would never accept — he could have risen in IBM to be vice president of research, I think, without any difficulty at all. They were grooming him for that job, but he just wasn't willing to take — because he knows how difficult it is for him to manage people. He just didn't want that responsibility of managing hordes of people. He's an idea man. He considered it a waste of his time, I think. I never heard him use that expression, but he could spend his time better. He could accomplish more by not accepting these online jobs.
Even when he was Director of Applied Research, I guess, at IBM — he had one position of that kind — he would only do it for a year, because he would really… And he said that in the beginning. He said, I'll do it, but only for a year. Then there was another job he had at IBM, a corporate-management committee. He did that I think only for a year or two, because he considered — you know, that's not where he shines. Listening to people go on and on about things, and if he puts forth an idea, well, they don't see the value of it right away because they don't have the background that he has.
He never — in those years when I was the guiding… In fact I know one specific way in which he has changed. In the early years and up through the time that the children were still at home, so up until I was 55, 60, something like that — we entertained more than once a month. Sometimes twice, sometimes three times a month. It was always at my instigation. I would say, can we have a dinner party? Is it OK to invite — or can you make a suggestion as to who would go well with this group, that group, the other group. Then I just got a little tired, and I wasn't doing it so much anymore. I really wasn't. It just takes me much, much longer. I could put a dinner party together for 10, 12 people by shopping one day and cooking one day, and that would be — it would be done. I never had any help. All of a sudden I realized that, if I was going to do that, I had to start — if I was having it on Saturday, I had to start on Wednesday in order to get every — and I didn't have any kids at home. When I did it, I was bathing three children and taking them to their piano lessons, you know? And I did it. But somehow or other you run out of steam after a while.
Lo and behold, the point I want to make is that Dick started bothering me. When are we going to have a dinner party? When are we going to have a dinner party? We haven't seen so-and-so for such a long time. We really have to have a dinner party. That told me that he had changed a great deal. A really great deal. Because all of a sudden — not all of a sudden, but as opposed 25 years before that, when he sort of didn't seem to care less — couldn't care less and maybe considered it an encroachment on his time or whatever. Anyway, now he would be just so happy if we would entertain more often. But we see our friends at restaurants and whatnot. There's a little bit more money, so you can do that with ease without thinking twice.
On the money things, he's never been particularly focused on making money?
No, absolutely not. In fact, he went to IBM at one point, and he said if they would guarantee college education for his children and someone to mow his lawn — it was so foolish — he said they didn't have to pay him anything [laughter]. They didn't take him up on it. No, he doesn't — in fact, I manage our money. He doesn't.
Henry Kendall told me at one point — this was, I don't know, 25 years or something like that — that he had been talking to Dick, and Dick was saying IBM wasn't paying him enough.
Dick said IBM wasn't paying him enough, or Henry said —
No, Dick said IBM wasn't paying him enough. Somehow or another, at some point it seemed to dawn on him that he should be paid more money.
Yeah, I guess maybe because some salaries had been — but he never really, to my knowledge — I don't know that he did anything about it. He never made very much money from IBM. Not on the level of $300,000 dollar-salaries that people make these days. He just never made that kind of money, but they were good to him. They let him do — when he went to work for them — maybe he told you — a third of his time, he said, he wanted to spend working for the government, and they could not tell him what he could do and what he couldn't do. On the other hand, Dick turned every single check he made over to IBM. He just endorsed those checks that came in for his — not for his expenses, but if there were any honorarium or salary of any kind, it went directly to IBM. He never kept a cent of it. When he worked for JASON, he kept the money that would be made on vacation, but he never took any other vacation. He was absolutely above reproach, but IBM let him do everything he wanted to do, and it made — IBM was very proud of him and proud of the fact that he could do so much for the government. I always gave IBM credit for that.
Did he have much interaction with the Watsons?
Not old Mr. Watson, but Watson Jr., who also was very proud of what Dick did. In fact, he was so thrilled with what Dick was doing at one point — and I don't really remember the subject matter. Watson Jr. was a very liberal man. Very liberal. He found out that Dick and our family skied, so he let us have his ski apartment in Vail. He gave it to us for a week. It wasn't anything special. It was beautifully decorated, in that…
[phone rings; audio breaks]
You went skiing in Vail.
Yes, and the main thing was that the children's room were bunk beds that were encased in like a frame that was very Scan— and the decoration was Scandinavian. But to go through all that trouble for a ski — and it wasn't big. It only had, I don't know, maybe three bedrooms and a bath. It really wasn't glamorous. It was nicely located, though, very close to the lifts. Was a long, long time ago, when Vail was just getting started.
Mr. Watson used to call him up, call Dick up and ask him for information or his advice on what to do on various things having to do with policy matters. Not for the company; for the public. How should he react to thus and so. What should he do about something else that had come to his attention. I'm sure people were soliciting his help or information from him all the time on certain subjects where he thought Dick was…
[off-topic technical chatter]
You said Watson Jr. was a very liberal — politically?
Where is Dick politically?
Oh, I guess you have to say he's liberal. Very liberal. He's a registered Republican, because when we moved to Scarsdale, it was so Republican. It isn't anymore, and it hasn't been for a long time, but when we moved there 48 years ago — or is it — now did he tell me it was 49 years ago? I guess it is. It was so Republican it was peculiar. We decided that, if you were going to learn about what was going on in town, then you should have some line of access to the Republicans. So we tossed a coin, and I became the Democrat and he became the Republican. But you know, it stood him in good stead. When he was nominated — or I don't know, chosen; whatever you do for the President’s Science Advisory Committee during the Nixon administration.
They said he was Republican.
They said he was a registered Republican, and indeed he got a letter from the Westchester County Republican Organization saying how proud they were that a member of their organization [laughs] — of course he'd never gone to any meetings or anything, but they were proud of him. So you know it didn't hurt. They probably wouldn't have put him on if he hadn't been Republican, I don't know.
You have three children?
What do they — I know about Laura, but your sons…
Our older son is — has an MD Ph.D. from Yale and went into biotech research out of — after he got his degree. But it didn't suit him very well, for whatever reason, and he left that and went to pharmaceuticals. He worked for McNeil [Consumer] Products and in fact has a patent on an improvement for Imodium. McNeil Products makes Imodium. But the man who hired him, who wanted him to do a certain class of work, left. When he left, the people who took over from him didn't have the same idea about what Jeffrey should do, so — I don't know if they fired him or Jeffrey left — anyway, so then he was disabused about pharmaceuticals and he didn't do — he did a lot of different things. I won't go into it. But now he's back with a very small pharmaceutical company that works on migraine headache products. So that's what he's doing now. But I have the feeling, from what he tells us about what he does, that he's actually not a hands-on scientist there, but more on the business and advising sort of tact. One of the jobs he held in the interim, he had a great deal to do with the FDA.
So he's licensed —
He knows a lot about how the FDA works. So that's — and also he went back to school while he was working in Cambridge for Biogen. He went back to school and got essentially a certificate — it's not a degree, but it's a certificate for people who have a degree and want to learn — know about business.
Oh yeah, like advanced management —
Exactly, at Harvard Business School. So he did that too. He has all these — I think if he could've done it, he probably would have wanted to go into venture capitalism advising companies. Somehow or other he just could not get any kind of an inroad into it, because he had — I don't know why. He's very smart and very likable. He gets along with people very, very well.
Where does he live?
He lives in North Carolina in Chapel Hill. And the company he works for is in — it's either in Durham or Chapel Hill, because those two cities are right next to each other, and their boundaries seem to sort of meld into each other.
And your other son? Is he…?
Thomas. Yeah, Tom, people call him. Anyway, he works for SAIC.
That's in Albuquerque?
No, in Washington. It's here, really. La Jolla is their headquarters. It's Science Applications International Corporation. But he spent most of his — up until the Clinton — up until the middle of Clinton's second term — is that when the Congress changed hands?
Right. Up until that time, Tom worked for the government. He was with the Office of Science and Technology, the congressional office. He worked for — oh, he's had just lots of jobs. [off-topic chatter] Anyway, his last job was — he worked with Les Aspin. When Les Aspin went to Congress and was on the House Armed Services Committee, he became — he worked as staff for the House Armed Services Committee. So he has a lot of background and does many of the same things that Dick does. Even though he — when he was in high school, early high school, he was very — he was gifted scientifically, but he said he wasn't going to foll — he didn't say it out loud, but we knew he wasn't going to follow in his father's footsteps, so he became enamored of history. He was mentored by a particular high-school professor — not professor, high-school teacher, history teacher, who had graduated from Harvard. I really think that he was instrumental in getting Tom into Harvard. He was a history major at Harvard, and then he was — and then he got a master's in public policy from the Kennedy School at Harvard. So he had left science behind, but technically he's very talented. So even though he doesn't have a Ph.D. in science, he's very useful to whomever he works for with his scientific input, I'm sure. So he's worked for SAIC all this time now.
What were Dick's relations like with the kids?
He always told them more than they wanted to know [laughs]. They would ask him a question when they were studying for an exam or writing a paper, and they would say, dad, I only have 15 minutes. Don't talk to me for more than 15 minutes. But he took them skiing. We took them on many, many trips that we went on. We took them to Los — as they grew up, they went to Los Alamos with us. I think — I don't know. I think his relationship with his kids is good. They certainly admire him. I'm sure they love him.
But he's not… You know, it's not a lot of kissing and hugging. But there wasn't a lot of kissing and hugging — even though his parents were very — there wasn't anything they wouldn't have done for us or done for Dick. His mother was a wonderful mother, but it wasn't a very demonst — that's the word I was looking for: not very demonstrative. And consequently, I think we're not very demonstrative. We've become more demonstrative as we've aged. I think we were the kind of parents who wanted to be sure that everything was done just right. Not so much that the children did everything just right, but that we did everything just right for the children. When you concentrate on that, I think that takes up a lot of your effort that might — and away from your sense maybe of relaxation or that sort of thing. I don't know. You're the kind of — people are the kind of parents they have to be.
There are just so many different cultural styles. I read something once just about the distance that people stand when they talk to somebody else.
Right. Face to face, nose to nose.
And others wouldn't come within a yard of people. I remember my mother was very strict. My father's quite relaxed. So we knew who to go to when we wanted something. My mother said no, and my father would just say, wait a little bit [laughter].
That's nice. Anyway, we have a pretty good relationship with our grandchildren.
How many grandchildren?
We have five now, because Jeffrey divorced about three, four years ago. He remarried a younger woman who just had a baby in May, the end of May. And it's the first boy. He has two girls, and she has five girls. So they have this boy who's the eighth child between them and the only boy. Can you imagine? He has seven step-sisters.
And they're all bigger than he is.
Much, much. The youngest of the girls is 13.
Anyway, the grandchildren have often come out here without their parents and stayed with us, or they'll come visit us in Scarsdale without their parents also. I think we have a nice relationship with our grandchildren.
You knew so many of the scientists that he worked with. Are there other interesting encounters that you can remember with some of these people?
Well, we have one very good friend in — who's very unusual. I don't know if you've ever heard — probably not — the name Valentine Telegdi?
No. I saw it on the list that Dick gave me recently.
He's Hungarian by birth, although he lived many years in Italy — I mean, as a child even, he lived in Italy. Then he had his education in Switzerland, and he married an Italian lady. We met them at the University of Chicago. He was an instructor there. He's a very talented physicist and a wonderful humorist, almost a comedian. We used to tease him and tell him that if he ever found himself without a job in physics that he could get a job as a stand-up comedian. He has a million and one stories. He's… We see him very often. Well, not very often. They come to Caltech — they have gone back to Switzerland to live now. They live in Geneva. They spend the winter quarter at Caltech. We're usually here for two weeks in January, so we're in this part of the world at the same time, so we see each other. If they come through New York, they call us. Anyway, he's very fond of Dick, and he's somebody who has very high standards. He doesn't — professionally, in physics — I think there are many physicists whom — that he doesn't have as high a respect for — good physicists, well-known physicists — as he does for Dick. He really — he thinks a great deal of Dick. But I can't think of any funny stories or anything where he's…
Dick was very friendly with the man who was head of NASA [Jim Fletcher]. Came from Utah. In fact he was a Mormon. He — when we would go skiing in — what's the famous place in Utah? Not Park City, the other one. Alta, Utah. He sometimes would invite — he had lots of children, as most Mormons do. He would invite us out to dinner or something in Salt Lake City. Dick had a very good relationship with him, but you should ask Dick, because he… Dick gave him a lot of advice about NASA in the early stages that — I'm trying to remember. I think he mostly didn't take the advice, and it's sad, because Dick told them essentially how to do it. If they had listened — I think it had to do with manned space, because Dick is very much against manned space. He thinks it's a waste of time and money. You do everything to such a degree — it costs so much because you have to insure that nobody gets killed. That just uses up things that could…
[off-topic technical chatter]
One of the things about Telegdi saying that he has very high standards… I had an old girlfriend who was a psychiatrist. We were talking once about the problem of people who have very high standards, and that they sometimes have lots of problems with other people — very judgmental — but one of the worst aspects of having very high standards is that those people are more judgmental on themselves. She gave me a copy of a paper from some psychiatric journal, and it was called the "Nobel Prize Syndrome."
[Abrupt end of recorded material]