Robert Byron Bird - Session I

Notice: We are in the process of migrating Oral History Interview metadata to this new version of our website.

During this migration, the following fields associated with interviews may be incomplete: Institutions, Additional Persons, and Subjects. Our Browse Subjects feature is also affected by this migration.

We encourage researchers to utilize the full-text search on this page to navigate our oral histories or to use our catalog to locate oral history interviews by keyword.

Please contact [email protected] with any feedback.

ORAL HISTORIES
Image not available
Interviewed by
A. Jeffrey Giacomin
Interview date
Location
Bird's apartment, Madison, Wisconsin
Disclaimer text

This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.

This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.

Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript is available.

In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:

Interview of Robert Byron Bird by A. Jeffrey Giacomin on 2016 May 22,Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,College Park, MD USA,www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/42771-1

For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.

In this interview R. Byron Bird discusses topics such as: his work in rheology and the history of the Rheology Research Center at the University of Wisconsin; his educational background in chemical engineering; polymer rheology; Joe Hirschfelder; his work at DuPont; John Tordella; University of Wisconsin, Madison; John Ferry; going as a lecturer to Kyoto University and Nagoya University; Society of Rheology; Arthur Lodge; Japanese Society of Rheology; Harold R. Warner; D. C. Evans; Ole Hassager; Chuck Curtiss; John Schrag; the writing of his two volume set; how foreign languages have been a part of his life. 

Transcript

Giacomin:

My name is Alan Jeffrey Giacomin, and I am a former President of The Society of Rheology, and I am chairing the History Committee for The Society of Rheology. That makes me a member of the History Committee of the American Institute of Physics, and I am conducting this oral history of Robert Byron Bird. We’re conducting the interview in Bob’s apartment in Madison, Wisconsin, and it’s Sunday, May 22 in the year 2016 at 11:19 in the morning. Bob, can you state your full name?

Bird:

Robert Byron Bird, but people usually just call me Bob.

Giacomin:

Bob, I know you were born in the 1920s. What is your birthdate?

Bird:

February 5, 1924.

Giacomin:

And where were you born?

Bird:

Bryan, Texas.

Giacomin:

As you know, I used to live in Bryan, Texas. Now you’ve had your… You have participated in at least two oral histories before, haven't you?

Bird:

That’s correct.

Giacomin:

I know one was conducted by the University of Wisconsin and is on record at the library of the University of Wisconsin, but I understand there was also a second oral history taken.

Bird:

Yes, by the AIChE.

Giacomin:

So I should explain for the record that the purpose of this oral history is to cover the details of the rheology activities, yours and the rheology activities that you know about, at the University of Wisconsin — specifically, though not exclusively, the history of the Rheology Research Center at the University of Wisconsin. Bob, how did you get involved in rheology?

Bird:

Well, that’s somewhat of a long story. First of all, I have to explain that I did my graduate work here at the University of Wisconsin in the Chemistry Department after getting my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Illinois. After that, I went to University of Amsterdam in 1950, 1951. [1] After that, I came back to Madison for a year, and then I went to Cornell, where I taught for one year in the Chemistry Department. Then in the summer of 1953, I was at DuPont in Wilmington, and that was where I had my first contact with the field of polymer rheology. Then in September of 1953, I came back to the University of Wisconsin in the Department of Chemical Engineering. I think it’s important to indicate where I was at the various times because at each of these places, I had contacts with some aspect of polymers or rheology or the people involved. For example, when I was in graduate school, Professor John D. Ferry, a very famous polymer chemist, was just starting up his studies at the University of Wisconsin in the Chemistry Department. At that time, I got to know several people, several of his students — mainly Bob Marvin and Thor Smith and Bob Landel, all of whom had illustrious careers in the field of polymer rheology. Let’s see.

Giacomin:

Well, if I can interrupt you there. So when you were a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in chemistry, your project was not about rheology, was it?

Bird:

No, not at all. I was working for Joe Hirschfelder in the general area of kinetic theory of gases.

Giacomin:

But there was a lot of research activity around in that department on rheology, I suppose.

Bird:

That’s right. They were in a different building — or I should say we were in a different building. Joe Hirschfelder had a separate little building which was called the White Palace. [Laughs] That’s where I was installed. But then Chuck Curtiss, who will come up later in the discussion, was my officemate. Where was I?

Oh, my first contact with polymer rheology was at DuPont. When I reported there for duty, my boss was Henry Linton, whom I had known during the War. [2] The first thing Henry said to me was, “We’re going to make a rheologist out of you,” and he could probably tell from the expression on my face that I hadn’t a clue as to what this was. So he explained to me that I was going to be working on a problem in polymer flow, and specifically on the flow of polymers in circular tubes with heat generation by viscous dissipation. So not only did I get involved with the field of rheology, but I got involved in the field of dissipation of heat by viscous action. At that time, there was relatively little known about this, although the viscous dissipation term occurred in the equation of energy, with which I was already familiar from my work with Joe Hirschfelder.

So, I spent the summer on this particular project, and during that period, I had some contact with one of the famous founders of the field of rheology, namely Wladimir Phillippoff, who had written a famous book on rheology in German with which very few people were familiar. At that time, the other big name in rheology was Markus Reiner, who ended up in the state of Israel. So these were two of my first, you might say, teachers of rheology, were through their books. Both Phillippoff’s book and Reiner’s book were pretty famous.

Giacomin:

Now Bob, at that point, obviously you could read German. Is that correct?

Bird:

Oh, certainly. I had been in Germany during the War.

Giacomin:

Where did you learn your German? In Germany?

Bird:

No. [Chuckles] That’s an interesting point. I learned it mainly by self-instruction.

Giacomin:

As a child or…

Bird:

As a high school student, I had a long bus ride to get from home into the high school. I had to commute every day for about an hour, and I had to have something to do, so I started studying German.

Giacomin:

So that came in pretty handy for your introduction to rheology.

Bird:

It certainly did!

Giacomin:

Sorry to interrupt. Carry on. You were on a thread.

Bird:

Where were we? [Laughs]

Giacomin:

Well, you had just mentioned that your introduction to rheology was the books of Reiner and Phillippoff.

Bird:

That’s right, and my working at DuPont. My officemate there was John Tordella, who was pretty famous in the field of polymer rheology, although he did not himself do anything in the way of the theory behind the subject.

Well, then I came to… Well, I published one paper on the work that I did at DuPont in…

Then I published one paper on the work that I did in DuPont on viscous heating in polymers using a simple power-law model. That was about all that was known about modeling polymers at that time. At least all I knew was to use that simple power-law.

Then I came back to the University of Wisconsin, and I should explain who was active at that time in the field of rheology. In the Mechanics Department, there was Millard Johnson, who came shortly after I did, and Millard had gotten his PhD at MIT under the direction of Professor Eric Reissner. He had an office almost adjacent to mine because at that time, the chemical engineering building was not yet completed, and so the newcomers in chemical engineering were assigned office space in other departments. I had an office in the Mechanics department, and Millard was just two doors down from me. Well, we became very good friends very quickly because Millard was a very outgoing person. Soon we were beginning to talk about rheology problems together.

Also on the campus was John Ferry. I’ve already mentioned him, and by that time, he had a pretty big group going. Then there was Ron Daggett over in mechanical engineering, although he did not do any rheology that I know of, but he was interested in polymers. I had very little contact with John Ferry during my first years in Madison, although later we were both chairmen of our respective departments, and we had a lot of contact with each other because of that. We were chairmen at the time of the Vietnam War and all the disruptions at the University at that time. Both of our buildings were targeted by the disruptors because of our activities in chemistry. Particularly, the Dow Company supported some of our research, which was, of course, making napalm, and the rioters were dead set against Dow. So anytime the Dow interviewers came to campus, so the disruptors took advantage of that and rioted in our building and they rioted in the chemistry building, creating dangerous situations, as you can well imagine.

Well, about that time, or shortly after my arrival, I began to get interested in The Society of Rheology, and so I went to a couple of meetings. I think the first meeting of the Society of Rheology that I went to was the one where Bruno Zimm got the Bingham Medal. Back in those days, the society was quite small, and I remember the presentation of the Bingham Medal. There was no banquet. The presentation was just held in a small room, and there was very little in the way of speeches. They handed him the medal and he said, “Thank you,” and that was pretty much it. [Laughs]

In the next couple of years, I went to these meetings again, and I began to present some of my own work. I remember going to a meeting at the Carnegie Mellon Institute where I heard Steve Prager of the University of Minnesota give a paper on the kinetic theory of rigid dumbbells, and at that time I thought, “What a lot of nonsense. Why would anybody be interested in rigid dumbbells?” (A point of view that I have changed very much since.)

Well, shortly after that, Millard and I were beginning to do research together, and particularly when we heard about the Rouse and Zimm theories from John Ferry or some of his students, we began to try to figure out what the heck these theories were and why did the Zimm paper start out with one point of view, and the Rouse paper started out with a completely different point of view, and yet they had certain elements in common. Of course, Zimm had the question of hydrodynamic interaction in his work in addition. But Millard and I took those two papers very seriously, and every week we’d chisel away at them, trying to learn a little bit more until we finally had mastered both of the papers. Then we wrote the results up ourselves just for our own use so we could understand what was going on.

In 1962-1963, [3] I went to Japan for lecturing for a year at both Kyoto University and Nagoya University. In Kyoto University, the Chemical Engineering Department and the Polymer Chemistry Department were in the same building, and who should I meet there in the polymer part but Bob Marvin, whom I had already known from the University of Wisconsin. However, I did not have any particular contact with the polymer chemistry people because at that time, I really did not know that much about the subject.

Well, when I came back to Madison, in about 1964, I think it was, the book came out by Arthur Lodge called Elastic Liquids, and I was asked to review this book for some journal. I was quite impressed with this book because it was the first book I had seen that gave a good idea of the structure of the subject of rheology. As far as I’m concerned, a book that does not explain to the reader the structure of the subject is not a good book, but Arthur’s book was excellent because he started out and showed how a structural theory, which was his idea of an elastic liquid, how that could lead to a constitutive equation, and then how you could use the constitutive equation to solve various types of problems: shear flow, elongational flow, [4] and whether you could do stress relaxation, stress growth, recoil. He showed how to apply his constitutive equation to all these cases.

Giacomin:

If I could interrupt you there, in 1961, the University of Wisconsin hosted The Society of Rheology meeting.

Bird:

Yes.

Giacomin:

Were you there?

Bird:

Yes, I think… I only was able to attend part of the meeting because right after that, I had to give a paper in Tokyo for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Japan Society of Chemical Engineers. That had nothing to do with rheology, however.

Giacomin:

Thank you.

Bird:

You’re welcome. [Chuckles] Well, I was extremely impressed with Arthur’s book, as I’ve already mentioned. At that time, I was serving as chairman of my department, and I decided, “By golly, I’m going to invite that guy over to be a guest of our department.” So I did that and he responded very favorably and said he would enjoy doing that.

Giacomin:

Now was that invitation extended by letter or by telephone?

Bird:

Oh, by letter. I don’t think at that time I would have wanted to spend the money that that would have cost for a phone call. However, in the fall of ‘63, [5] I was in London for a meeting. [6] I’ve forgotten what meeting it was, but anyway, I called up Arthur from London and told him I would come up to Manchester and visit him and see if there was anything I could do to help him plan for his trip to Madison and explain anything that he wanted to know. He told me he would meet me at the airport, and I asked him, “How will I recognize you?” and he said, “There will be no problem.” I said, “Well, what do you mean? How will I recognize you?” He said, “There will be no problem.” I said, “All right.” [Laughs] So when I got to the airport and got off the plane and was going to the end of the terminal building, here was Arthur Lodge standing with a copy of Bird, Stewart, and Lightfoot’s Transport Phenomena, and he was grinning from ear to ear. So I ran up to him right away and I said, “You must be Arthur Lodge.” He said, “That’s correct.” [Laughing] So that was my first meeting with Arthur, and I realized he had a fantastic sense of humor. So I stayed overnight at his place, and we had a very, very pleasant meeting. I explained a lot of the things that he might need to know when he came to Madison.

So in the fall of 1964, he arrived and spent a year with us in the department. He gave a course, one semester, on elastic liquids, and it was a very great pleasure to hear him lecture because he was an extremely careful and clear lecturer, as well as a very good book writer. The big thing was that he provided a definite link between the chemistry group, which by that time consisted of John Ferry and his post-doc John Schrag. So we had the Chemistry Department, and then in engineering we had Millard Johnson and myself. So Arthur could relate to both groups because his book discussed the work that both groups did. So that was a very important development at the University of Wisconsin.

We enjoyed very much also the personal visit. We had many gatherings of the families of all these people, and we particularly enjoyed the children that Arthur had brought along. There was Allison, the girl, and then there were two sons, Keith and Timothy. Timothy told us a story that in school one day, the teacher gave them a list of pairs of words, and they were supposed to indicate whether these words rhymed or not. When Timothy got his graded paper back, he was shocked because she had marked that fossil and docile rhymed, and Timothy said that was ridiculous to say that fossil rhymes with dō-cīle [with British pronunciation; laughter]. I’ve recounted that story many times since because I think it’s so charming.

Giacomin:

Now I think Timothy himself became a rheologist.

Bird:

That’s correct. He is a rheologist of some note at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. His brother Keith does not do rheology, but he’s in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. Allison chose to stay in England. She didn’t feel that she would be comfortable trying to adapt to the American accent. [Laughs]

Well, after this wonderful experience, we decided that it would be very nice to invite Arthur back as a permanent faculty member, but he had to promise to stay in the University of Manchester for an additional two years. But in, I think it was the fall of 1967, we began making plans to get him invited over, and we felt that he would fit in best in the Mechanics Department because his work was more closely related to Millard’s point of view than anybody else’s. We negotiated a joint appointment for him between the Mechanics Department and the Math Research Center because we knew that he would also have interests in applied math.

I think I managed to visit him again in England before he came over for the second time… because I remember that we met Treloar on one of these visits. We also went over to Liverpool and met Oldroyd. So that was quite a nice trip, and I believe it was before he came over the second time. I don’t remember what the occasion was for my being in England.

Well, when Arthur came over and got settled in, we got together and Arthur suggested we ought to form a rheology research center. Of course, he wanted to spell it “centre” but he got outvoted. [Laughs] Before that time, my group and Millard’s group had called ourselves the Randall Street Rheological Society since Randall Street ran north and south right next to the engineering building. We referred to the Ferry and Schrag group as the Johnson Street Jiggling Society, JSJS, since the chemistry building was right next to the East-West street called Johnson Street. So that marked the beginning of the Rheology Research Center, which I believe was the only university center of that type in the United States. You can correct me on that if you feel it’s necessary, but I think it was the only university which had combined the chemistry and engineering aspects of rheology. We had Rheology Research Center seminars every Friday without fail, and these were held usually in the engineering building, as I remember.

Giacomin:

So did Arthur get the idea to form the center during his first visit or when he returned?

Bird:

When he returned, yes. The rest of us were very enthusiastic about that.

Giacomin:

When he visited the first time, did he do any teaching?

Bird:

Yes, I mentioned that, that he gave a course out of his Elastic Liquids book the first time.

Giacomin:

Yes, I knew he had lectured, but I didn’t know if that was a formal course.

Bird:

Well, I think it was given as a special topics course or something of that sort.

Giacomin:

Yes. I see. You said that he had a joint appointment in mathematics. Did he ever teach any courses in mathematics?

Bird:

No. The Math Research Center was a separate outfit. It was located over in the WARF Building, far away from the Math Department.

Giacomin:

I see.

Bird:

Yes. Incidentally, I should have mentioned earlier that before Arthur arrived, there were already a number of courses dealing with polymers and rheology. John Ferry gave a course called Polymer Chemistry, and much of that covered the small amplitude oscillatory experiment and things of that sort, as well as the material and polymer structure. Anyway, that was the topic that he covered. Millard Johnson gave several courses in the Mechanics Department called Continuum Mechanics. I think he had an undergraduate course in continuum mechanics and a graduate course. I was teaching a course called… I think it was called Macromolecular Hydrodynamics, and it was ChE 525. Then later, after I got involved in kinetic theory, I started up an advanced course, which was the molecular theory of polymer rheology. That was ChE 725.

Giacomin:

Now I think that ChE 525 course became the basis of a book. Is that correct?

Bird:

525? Well, no, that’s not quite right. The book idea came later. Let’s see. We have to talk about what happened around 1961 to 1963.

Giacomin:

Well, perhaps we can come to the book story later then.

Bird:

No, I’ll bring it in right now. From 1971 to 1973, I had Bob Armstrong and Ole Hassager as graduate students. Both of them were extremely good, very good independent workers, and they worked well together. I enjoyed having them. I just had two students then because I had just given up the chairmanship in 1968, and then I went to Japan again for a meeting of the Japanese Society of Rheology. That was my first experience of really getting acquainted with some of the Japanese rheology people.

Giacomin:

Who were your collaborators in Japan?

Bird:

I didn’t have any collaborators in polymer chemistry at that time.

Giacomin:

But when you talk about getting to know the work of the Japanese rheologists, who?

Bird:

It was through this meeting.

Giacomin:

I see.

Bird:

Later I went back again, but that comes later. But anyway, I went over for this meeting, and while I was there, I met lots of Japanese rheologists. I particularly paid attention to those who were doing the molecular side of rheology. So I collected reprints from all these people, and then I had already brought with me the papers by Rouse and Zimm and Prager, everything I could collect. Then on my way back from Japan, I spent a month in Hawaii. That was one of the most productive months I’ve ever had because I just took a room in a hotel on Waikiki Beach and swam every day in the ocean and then sat out on the balcony of my hotel overlooking the ocean and read reprints. [Laughs] A lot of people would say that was time wasted in Hawaii, but for me, it represented a complete turnaround from dabbling in the solution of flow problems to getting at the molecular end of things.[7]

Well, then when I finally got back to Madison, I had no graduate students anymore because during my chairmanship, my research program had just gone downhill. So when I got back to Madison, I didn’t have any graduate students. My first two that came in after I got back were Bob Armstrong and Ole Hassager, so I gave both of them problems involving molecular theory. I also had Hal Warner, Harold R. Warner. He came just before Bob Armstrong and Ole Hassager. Hal Warner and I and a post-doc from Oldroyd’s group named D. C. Evans… The C stood for Colin. The three of us wrote a very lengthy paper on the kinetic theory of dumbbells, but mainly rigid dumbbells. In that one, we scraped together everything we could find in the literature on that subject and tried to unify it and put it in one standard form. So that was my first foray into the subject of molecular theory of polymers.[8] I think you’re familiar with that paper.

Giacomin:

That’s correct. Bird, Warner, Evans.

Bird:

That’s right. So then Bob Armstrong and then Ole came along, and they pitched in in the same area.

Giacomin:

Now they came… I think the Rheology Research Center was founded in 1968. Is that correct?

Bird:

Yes.

Giacomin:

And they came after that.

Bird:

That’s right.

Giacomin:

But another one of your students, Pierre Carreau, defended his Ph.D. thesis in 1968. Is that correct?

Bird:

Did he finish in ‘68?

Giacomin:

I think so, yes.

Bird:

Could be.

Giacomin:

So he was still around at the time the center was founded.

Bird:

I’m not sure of that. I’d have to examine the record. I think, though, that you’re right because Arthur and Pierre Carreau knew one another pretty well, and they visited each other in various places. So I think you’re right. They probably overlapped.

Giacomin:

And now I’m a little confused here, but it sounds like the founding of the center overlapped with your department chairmanship. Is that correct?

Bird:

That’s probably true. Probably the very end of my chairmanship. Yes, I was exhausted after that experience because of the Dow riots and all the disturbances on the campus. I had spent so much of my time just keeping the building safe and the department safe. There were safety questions all over, and I spent an enormous amount of time on that. Everything else just took the backseat.

Giacomin:

Well, you say that, but near as I can tell, you also facilitated the founding of the Rheology Research Center during that period.

Bird:

Yes. I guess so.

Giacomin:

Now this founding of the center must have required some agreement and support by the dean of the College of Engineering at the time.

Bird:

I don’t think we had any financial support for the Rheology Research Center.

Giacomin:

How about encouragement?

Bird:

I don’t think there was any encouragement specifically.

Giacomin:

I see.

Bird:

This was just something we generated ourselves. We did it ourselves and we planted our feet on the ground and started to work.

Giacomin:

I think that’s an important part of the story here because today, research centers are founded when the government approves a proposal to found a center, whereas here you seem to be talking about a center that was long-standing, very successful, and yet it was done by the faculty.

Bird:

That’s correct. There was no external funding at that time. Now to get back to Ole and Bob Armstrong, they both were very, very capable students, and they published a number of very good papers either with me or by themselves. About the time they were finishing up their theses, one day they came into my office. They both had big grins on their faces, and I wondered, “What in the world are these guys up to now?” They said, “We would like to write a book with you.” I said, “Really? That’s unheard of, for students to want to write a book with their major professor.”

Well, I had prepared a set of notes dealing with the continuum mechanics of rheology and then with the beginning ideas of the molecular theory, and they thought that was such a nice set of notes that they would like to help me to expand it. I said, “Do you realize how much work it is to write a book?” They had no idea. They thought that would just be nothing. [Chuckles] So I sat them down, and I explained all the things you have to do to write a book. I made it sound really rough, but they still wanted to do it. They insisted they wanted to write this book, so finally I gave in. I said, “All right. We’ll do it.” [Laughs] But can you imagine that? That’s an amazing way… amazing story of how a book got written.

Giacomin:

Now Ole Hassager became a professor himself, didn’t he?

Bird:

That’s right. So did Bob Armstrong. Bob Armstrong became a professor of chemical engineering at MIT and then served as the department chairman for a number of years, quite a few — probably eight or ten years. Ole Hassager has become very famous in Denmark as a professor at the Technical University of Denmark.

Giacomin:

And he is also the associate editor of Physics of Fluids.

Bird:

Oh, yes. Mm-hmm [yes]. And Bob Armstrong, of course, ended up serving as president of The Society of Rheology, and he’s also had other functions in the society.

Giacomin:

Now getting back to this book, the book was titled Dynamics of Polymeric Liquids, but the book was published in two volumes. Was that the original conception?

Bird:

No, that was not the original idea. The original idea was to make it one volume. But somebody who reviewed the book — I believe it was Joe Goddard — had suggested that probably the book should be divided into two parts, an elementary part and an advanced part. But he didn’t specify exactly how it should be split up. We talked about this among ourselves, and then we decided no, it would be better to have a continuum part and then a molecular theory part, and then we would take in Chuck Curtiss, whom I’ve mentioned already. Chuck Curtiss we would take in as a coauthor on the second volume because he was beginning to take an interest in this subject.

Giacomin:

Now Chuck Curtiss and you had both had the same Ph.D. advisor, as I understand it.

Bird:

That’s correct, and we had been joint authors of Molecular Theory of Gases and Liquids with Joe Hirschfelder as the senior author.

Giacomin:

But neither of you had any exposure to rheology during your graduate work.

Bird:

No.

Giacomin:

How did Chuck Curtiss become interested in rheology?

Bird:

I think because I… Well, I think it happened because at some point I began to have problems understanding the structure of the kinetic theory. I think Millard Johnson and I went over to see him several times about this, and he straightened us out. Then I think Chuck and I published maybe several papers together on molecular theory. I’d have to go back and check on that.

Giacomin:

I think if we can just focus on some lists for a moment. The Rheology Center was awarded with many Bingham Medals over the years.

Bird:

Yes.

Giacomin:

I think John Ferry won a Bingham Medal.

Bird:

Oh, certainly.

Giacomin:

Who else won?

Bird:

Chuck Curtiss. I guess I did. I think that’s it.

Giacomin:

I think Arthur Lodge…

Bird:

Arthur did, yes.

Giacomin:

I think Arthur had already won the Gold Medal of the British Society.

Bird:

I presume so.

Giacomin:

Which I think makes him the only person who has won both of those medals, although I’m not sure. Maybe others have. But certainly amongst the members of the Rheology Center, he was the only one that had won both.

Bird:

That’s right.

Giacomin:

And John Ferry became president of The Society of Rheology.

Bird:

Yes, that’s right.

Giacomin:

Anyone else that you can think of among the founding members?

Bird:

No, no.

Giacomin:

And then I know in 1961, John Ferry was the host of The Society of Rheology meeting. I said before it was held in 1961, but specifically I think he chaired the local arrangements committee. Yes.

Bird:

Yes. That’s the one where I went to the meeting here for the first couple of days. Then I took off for Japan.

Giacomin:

I know by the time I became a graduate student in rheology (1983), it was pretty clear that the University of Wisconsin was the world center for rheology. This was the impression that I got from the literature and from my initial involvement in rheology. Many famous people visited the center over the years on sabbatical leaves.

Bird:

That’s true. Meissner, Janeschitz-Kriegl. Who else?

Giacomin:

Well, of course the one I remember best is when my own Ph.D. advisor, John Dealy, at McGill University, announced that he was taking his sabbatical leave at Wisconsin.

Bird:

That’s right.

Giacomin:

When I asked him why he chose Wisconsin, he said, “Where else in the world can you go to a rheology seminar once a week?”

Bird:

[Laughs]

Giacomin:

So tell me who the founding members of the Rheology Research Center were. I think there were five.

Bird:

That’s right. There was John Ferry, Millard Johnson, myself, John Schrag, who was only a post-doc at that time, and then Arthur. So those were the five founding members.

Giacomin:

So that’s a pretty important historical detail because some people will look at the history and see that John Schrag became a professor two years after the center was founded, and they may come to the wrong conclusion that he was not a founding member.

Bird:

No, he was a founding member.

Giacomin:

In fact, he was the youngest founding member.

Bird:

Yes, that’s right. But he was working with John Ferry, and I’m sure John was very pleased to have him.

Giacomin:

Now in a modern context, I can tell you that it’s not uncommon that faculty members skip weekly seminars.

Bird:

What?

Giacomin:

It’s not uncommon today in modern departments that faculty members will skip a seminar. They don’t attend. Their performance is poor. Very often that’s the norm nowadays. But did these guys really attend the seminars?

Bird:

Quite regularly, yes.

Giacomin:

That was certainly the report that I heard from John Dealy. Of course I didn’t come to Wisconsin till 1994, but I was amazed that even in the 1990s and beyond, these guys were all coming to the Friday seminars.

Bird:

Well, I think certainly back in the ’70s and ’80s, people didn't travel as much as they do now. Nowadays they flit off here and there, and there are too many meetings, too many conferences. They used to say publish and perish, but nowadays they say travel and triumph. [Laughs]

Giacomin:

Now we’ve talked about the 1961 meeting of The Society of Rheology in Madison. Do you have anything to add there? Do you have any recollections of the 1961 meeting that you haven’t already said?

Bird:

Not particularly. I think I remember spending a fair amount of time talking to Elliot Kearsley, but I don’t remember why.

Giacomin:

Now how about the 1999 meeting?

Bird:

1999.

Giacomin:

Madison hosted another meeting.

Bird:

I think there was another one before that, wasn’t there?

Giacomin:

I think there were just three: ‘61, ‘99, and then 2009.

Bird:

Really. Hmm. Well, I would have been retired by ‘99. Also, that was the year I had my stroke.

Giacomin:

Well, I’m glad you brought that up because Arthur Lodge played a special role in your life at the time of your stroke. I think that might be a good story to tell us.

Bird:

Well, yes. It was on New Year’s Eve I began to feel rather funny. In fact, I was at a New Year’s Eve party at Jim Davis’s house. When I was there, somebody asked me a question and I understood the question, but I couldn’t bring out an answer. So I just mumbled some kind of response, and I was very vague about it. I felt very stupid, but I drove home that night and I felt fairly good. Then the next morning was New Year’s Day and my brother called me up and I answered the phone. He said right away, “What’s wrong with you?” I said, “Nothing is wrong with me. I’m leaving for Japan tomorrow,” because I was. [Chuckles] I had tickets and everything. He said, “No, there’s something wrong with you.” I said, “No, there’s not.” He said, “Yes, there is.” [Laughs] So finally he said, “I’m going to call Arthur Lodge and tell him to go over and pick you up and take you to the hospital.” Apparently my speech was so slurred that it didn’t sound right. So Arthur came over and picked me up, took me to the hospital, and right away they took me to the stroke ward where I got first class attention.

Giacomin:

Of course I was already on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin at the time. I remember visiting you after that. But I think it would be fair to say that if it were not for Arthur’s action that day, we would not be doing this oral history today.

Bird:

That’s probably the case. I probably would not have survived.

Giacomin:

Now I have checked the facts, and you were right and I was wrong. The Rheology Research Center hosted four meetings. Or the University of Wisconsin hosted four meetings of The Society of Rheology. One was in 1961. We’ve already discussed that. One was in 1977, which happens to correspond… Let’s see. That’s the year that your book was published, the year that Dynamics of Polymeric Liquids, the first edition, was published.

Bird:

Yes.

Giacomin:

By the way, were the two volumes published together?

Bird:

Yes.

Giacomin:

When the 1977 meeting happened, had the book already issued?

Bird:

I think so.

Giacomin:

Do you remember anything about the 1977 meeting?

Bird:

I think that was the meeting where Art Metzner got the Bingham Medal, wasn't it?

Giacomin:

I don’t know. I, of course, was not there. But do you remember which member of the Rheology Center hosted the meeting?

Bird:

I think all of us did.

Giacomin:

Did Wiley market the book? Did they have a booth at the meeting? Did the publisher…?

Bird:

I don’t remember that.

Giacomin:

I see.

Bird:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Wiley advertising books at a Society of Rheology meeting. I don’t know.

Giacomin:

Let me go back to my list. By the way, you’re doing fine? You don’t need a break?

Bird:

Not particularly.

Giacomin:

Neither do I. I’m having a ball! I wanted to ask you about some of the seminars. What seminars stand out in your mind? Are there any stories about the rheology seminars that you want to tell us?

Bird:

Yes. I would like to tell you about one series of seminars that we had. Well, back in the beginning of the RRC, most of our seminars were homegrown. They were either graduate students talking about their research or they were faculty members discussing some topic of interest. Maybe it was a recently published article by somebody else or something that they’d learned about at a meeting. Anyway, we never invited anybody from outside. Then we had a faculty lunch. The five of us got together afterwards for lunch over at Union South.

One thing was after the Doi-Edwards papers came out… There was a series of papers by Masao Doi and Sir S.F. Edwards — on the tube theories of polymer melt rheology. We decided to have a series of seminars, and I think I was elected to go through the papers and then present them as well as I could to the group. This was a horrible task because I found it difficult to understand the papers, but I just plugged away at it. Each week, I would tell what I had learned as well as I could. Finally, I got through all the papers where I had left a lot of question marks. I just simply couldn't figure it out.

But then finally toward the very end, Chuck Curtiss said, “You know, I think I know how to formulate and solve this problem.” So Chuck and I started to work on that, and this resulted in a series of papers that we put out where we showed how we could derive a somewhat more general theory, and it would contain the Doi-Edwards theory as a special case. This involved our introduction of an additional parameter called epsilon, and epsilon came into the theory because we said that the beads in the spring in a bead-spring model would have to undergo a tensorial force rather than a scalar force, and this epsilon gave the tensorial aspect of the drag coefficient. So we published two papers, and then we published three more with Hassan Saab as a coauthor. Well, he was a graduate student of mine. Our theory was completely devoid of references to tubes and slip-links, which made no sense to us.

Then after that, we published one more with Fan Xijun, who was a Chinese scholar that we got from Zhejiang University. Then after that, there was one more paper by Jay Schieber (now a Professor at Illinois Institute of Technology) on the Curtiss-Bird theory to mixtures, in which it was shown that the Curtiss-Bird theory gave much, much better result than anything the Doi-Edwards papers could do. We also showed that the Doi-Edwards papers could not give the proper normal stresses and had a number of other defects, whereas our model, with a proper value of epsilon, would give the proper behavior. So that was one example of a seminar or a series of seminars that led to a complete series of publications from several members of the RRC.

Giacomin:

If we look down the list of past presidents of The Society of Rheology, we see a pattern. I think you have mentioned Bob Marvin and Bob Landel and Thor Smith. You mentioned these earlier.

Bird:

Yes.

Giacomin:

Now these were all students of John Ferry, correct?

Bird:

Yes, they were John Ferry’s students.

Giacomin:

And they all became presidents of The Society of Rheology, I can tell you, as did John Ferry, of course.

Bird:

Yes.

Giacomin:

But I see another pattern, and that is that Bob Armstrong and Bob Prud’homme also became presidents of The Society of Rheology.

Bird:

That’s right. And while we are talking about Rheology Research Members who later served The Society of Rheology, we should certainly make note of Albert Co’s long period of excellent service at the secretary of the organization.

Giacomin:

So first of all, how did you become a member of The Society of Rheology?

Bird:

Well, I think I just joined up because I had gotten acquainted with rheology at DuPont.

Giacomin:

When did you attend your first meeting of the society?

Bird:

I think it was the one where Bruno Zimm got the Bingham Medal.

Giacomin:

Were you already a member of the society?

Bird:

I don’t remember. I probably joined at that time. My memory on that is extremely vague.

Giacomin:

Do you remember when the first time you heard the word “rheology” was?

Bird:

Yes, when I went to DuPont.

Giacomin:

As you said before, when he said he was going to turn you into a rheologist.

Bird:

That’s right.

Giacomin:

Wow!

Bird:

I had no idea. I’d never heard the word before.

Giacomin:

Do you remember the first time you saw the Journal of Rheology?

Bird:

No.

Giacomin:

Hmm. I ask that question because I do remember the first time I saw the Journal of Rheology, but this is your oral history, not mine. [Laughs] Here’s the thing. When you had graduate students, did you encourage them to join The Society of Rheology?

Bird:

Not particularly, no.

Giacomin:

I don’t think that was done in those days, right? Students didn’t…

Bird:

No, no, because it cost money.

Giacomin:

And students did not join the society in those days, right? Yes. I think that’s a big difference. Nowadays it costs money, but it’s not very much money. It’s only $25, so we do have a lot of student members. Now at some point, the Rheology Research Center decided it should hire some more rheologists, so it expanded beyond the five founding members. Who was the first addition?

Bird:

Well, let’s see. I’ve made a list here of the people who were later participants in one way or another. One was Sang Kim, although he was not really a rheologist. He did publish one paper on the convergence of the rigid dumbbell distribution function.

Giacomin:

But he was a formal member of the Rheology Research Center, right?

Bird:

Yes, I think so. And Chuck Curtiss became interested. When we had a lot of seminars, he would come over just out of curiosity, and then pretty soon he was more and more heavily involved. Then there was Stu Cooper. Stu Cooper was mainly interested in polymers, but had no background or particular interest in the rheology problems. Then there was Tim Osswald from mechanical engineering, and then there was Hyuk Yu in Chemistry.

Giacomin:

Right. I joined in 1994.

Bird:

1994, okay. I’m sure you were made welcome.

Giacomin:

I sure was, but that’s a very special moment in your life when you give your first RRC seminar. With so many leaders in the field in the room, it’s probably the most intimidating moment, certainly for a young scholar. Yes.

Bird:

Then there was Rod Lakes. I don’t really know what he did in rheology, but he used to come fairly regularly. Maybe you know better than I do what his contributions were.

Giacomin:

Sure. I mean, his advances are in the areas of the viscoelasticity of solids.

Bird:

Whereas most of us were involved with liquids.

Giacomin:

That’s right. Well, I think it’s a good time to break. I think it’s a good time to stop.

Bird:

All right.

Giacomin:

So I’m going to end this session right now. The time of day is about 11:36.

[1]For the academic year 1950-1951.

[2]At Officer Candidate School.

[3]In the academic year 1962-1963.

[4]Extensional flow.

[5]In August of 1964.

[6]A chemical engineering meeting.

[7]Aspects of rheological phenomena.

[8]Published in “Advances in Polymer Physics.”