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.
Please contact [email protected] with any feedback.
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 Aaron Galonsky by Philip Kao on 2010 September 22,Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,College Park, MD USA,www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/43131
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
In this interview, Dr. Aaron Galonsky, Professor of Physics Emeritus, describes his early days working with the Midwestern Universities Research Association (MURA) and experimental nuclear physics. He describes the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) during the 1960s and gives details regarding the K-500 and K-1200 cyclotrons.
Okay. Today’s date is September 22nd. This is Phillip Kao and I am talking with Professor Aaron Galonsky about the history of the cyclotron and about some of Professor Galonsky’s work. First of all, thank you for participating in this interview. I guess I should start by just asking you how you came about to come to the cyclotron at the Michigan State University?
Well, I had been working at a research institute in Madison, Wisconsin called Midwestern Universities Research Association or they went by the acronym, MURA. MURA had designed a giant accelerator and proposed to build it for about 150 million dollars. But, their proposal was turned down at the end of 19 — beginning of 1964. And it was interesting. The system the government used came to the right conclusion. MURA was a consortium of 15 Midwestern Universities, all of the big ten plus five others. And in 1959 or 58, they had a summer institute where high energy physicists were in residence in Madison. The consensus of the opinion of those people was that what high energy physics needed was a high intensity accelerator, not a higher energy one but one with more intensity.
So MURA went off to design and build a very high intensity accelerator. In the meantime, there were two other laboratories: one in Brookhaven and one at CERN and Geneva. Building a cyclotron, very similar one had a top energy of 25 GeV, the other 30 GeV. And in 1959 and 1960, these things came on board and worked beautifully and it turned out that although a synchrotron only fills a narrow tube with beam. The tube has a large diameter, maybe a couple hundred meters. That tube is so long that if you inject into it until it’s full, it has a high intensity. See now, it operates in pulses. You fill the synchrotron space with protons, accelerate them to full energy, 25 or 30 GeV in these cases and then you eject, somehow use the beam and then inject another bunch of particles. But the repetition rate is — do I remember correctly? I think its a few seconds.
So, the result is that you end up with both high intensity and high energy and the more complicated accelerator that MURA was designing, it was called a Fixed-Field Alternating Gradient synchrotron FFAG. Complicated thing, fixed magnetic field but complicated. And a huge amount of iron, also in principle capable of accelerating particles in each direction, clockwise and counter-clockwise with intersecting regions were colliding beam experiments. Colliding beams, where the collisions of the two beams would occur. In practice, we don’t know what would have happen. But MURA built electron models of these machines, so an electron model can get relativistic at a fairly low energy. And MURA built an FFAG machine accelerating electrons to 40 MeV. At 40 MeV, electrons are going at 99.99% of the speed of the light, very fast, rest mass being only half a MeV, 40 MeV is 80 times the rest mass.
But, even they found out that in this model, it got too complicated to go for colliding beams and they did successfully accelerate beams in one direction up to the full energy. But in the light of the great success of the proton cyclotrons at CERN and Brookhaven, the decision of the President’s Advisory Committee, was surely the correct one. I was on the team that went to Washington, it was kind of exciting. I was a pretty young fellow then, I can say I was not yet 35 years old. That’s not so young.
Anyhow, the meeting was held in the old executive office building in Washington. I think Norman Ramsey was the chairman of the committee and they heard everything we had to say and how we would with the intensity is really. By the way, the energy was going to be 15 GeV and the intensity perhaps pretty high, higher than the synchrotrons were then actually producing and maybe higher than they ever did, but of course as we all know the synchrotron principle was easily extended to higher energies. So, from 30 GeV they go to 300 GeV and now they’ve been operating in the TeV, Trillions of Electron Volt range.
It was the right way to go and I won’t go into more details, but it meant that I’d be looking for another job because I came there, not so much with an interest in accelerators. My natural bent was more in what could be done with such accelerators, that is with high energy physics and then the five years I was there from ‘59 to ‘64, I was kind of an interface between the designers of the accelerators and the uses that could be made. What one thing I must mention, you can strike this out if you think it.
In 1956, one of the century’s famous discoveries was made by two Chinese-American physicists named Lee and Yang. They realized that priority conservation invaded the case had simply been assumed and there was no one of the thousands [survived?] the experiments had demonstrated whether priority was or was not conserved. And so, people began doing experiments that would demonstrate that. When I was at Oak Ridge at that time and I actually participated in one of these experiments.
But anyhow, Lee and Yang were really famous people. Lee had ideas on what energy it would take to create the W boson on. And I spoke to him over the phone, he assured me that it would be somewhere around 1 to 1.4 GeV. This was important to MURA because if he had said quite a few GeV, the 15 GeV proton energy would have been insufficient to produce the W boson. As we know, it turned out that the W boson has a massive, about 80 GeV. So, famous Mr. Lee was wrong. I’m sure, he probably doesn’t remember this but if he does, he doesn’t have to apologize [laughter].
No. You came then to Michigan State when they were operating the 50 MeV?
No, it was actually before that. Anyhow, I looked for a job and this was one of the places I interviewed. I liked what I saw here. I came in the fall of 1964. The cyclotron had not yet operated and one thing they needed badly was shielding. There was no shielding in place. That was my first assignment. Is it okay if I talk about that?
Of course. I think that’s important.
So, at MURA I’ve learned about radiation damage and shielding. That was something that no one there had worked on and with a very high intensity, radiation damage was an important thing. The components of the accelerator might die after one year of operation. So someone have to work on that and I enjoyed that. One of the things I’ve realized was that, there was a lot to be learned about radiation shielding. But at any rate, with whatever was learned, I came up with the plan for the shielding. The main idea was to use ordinary solid blocks of concrete. Not scientific blocks, but things that you use in a normal construction industry.
If you’re going to put the word scientific on it, the price goes up by an order of magnitude and we didn’t have that much money. But concrete blocks were pretty cheap. I actually got the idea by having visited Indiana University. They had a cyclotron and a small pile of concrete blocks was used for shielding and I realized that we could just use a whole bunch of that. So, I came back here. We bought 100,000 blocks and built walls without any mortar. And because that’s a very good idea, a number of times over the years we’ve changed the arrangement. So we unstack blocks and restack them in a different way in a different place.
And it was also very interesting. I learned that if you just stack up some of these blocks, they don’t stack straight up, they lean, because there’s a difference between the bottom of the block and the top of the block. By the way, the blocks are normally four by eight by 16. But you have to get the actual dimensions, you have to take off three-eighths of an inch from each of these. Because in the construction industry, if they’re building a house, maybe a basement they do use mortar. And there’s about one centimeter or three-eighths of an inch. When you end up with the mortar, its four by eight by 16, but these are minus three-eighths.
Anyhow, in order to get the concrete, I went to the factory in a local place in Lansing where they make the blocks. And when they come out of the oven, they extract more easily. If they’re actually [inaudible] with the top a little wider than the bottom. And you can tell the top from the bottom also because it has a rougher surface, it’s been vibrated and the bottom has been vibrated down onto a smooth surface. So, the system we used was to — a unit became two blocks. One facing with the top facing one way and the other rotated the other way. That way you could stack them up indefinitely. You get a vertical line. Anyhow, we built our blocks.
Harold Hilbert, a young engineer at the time. He passed away a few months ago, he supervised it. Students were hired at $1.25 an hour. So, this was in late 1964, early 1965. Different vaults were set up. Of course, the reason for having different vaults is so that the beam can be in use in one vault and behind the wall of a vault another group could be setting up for the next experiment and still be radiation-wise safe. That’s of course used in all laboratories, that idea.
But we still use these concrete blocks and then there were roof beams. You might think that it’s only the radiation that goes out through the blocks to somebody on the other side that could hurt them. Well, it’s not true. Some of the radiation goes up. Radiation goes out in all directions and we have air rather than vacuum. So the circle sky shine could come over the wall and if a person is sitting at a desk 40 hours a week he could get a dose. So, one has to prevent, reduced the amount of the radiation that goes up. And for that, totally different solution was necessary.
We used a variation of a highway bridge beams. Bridge beams are used for strength, not for radiation shielding and so they are pretty much hollow. They have a steel — Anyhow, for our purposes, it’s not the strength we want the material that actually intercept the radiation. So at the laboratory there were a number of companies that bid for the use. But the company that got the bid was a Dutch company called Precast/Shokbetan, I guess. I don’t think you’ll find that name anymore. But I have it in the notebook somewhere, they call it shielding. That was interesting. They would have a form, the normal form that they use for the other concrete, for the highway blocks.
But for our case, they would string — put a braided steel cables across the bottom, maybe seven or eight or I could go out and count them on one of the blocks. And at each end, they were pulled. So, these cables were under stress. While they were under stress, the blocks were filled with concrete, poured concrete. And I don’t know, the next day or whenever, when the concrete had set they could cut the cables and lift the block. Otherwise, if you check such a block that it might be 30 feet long and supported on its end [???] cables of the bottom. The concrete of the bottom is so heavy, it would crack. Concrete has no tensile strength, lots of compressive strength but no tensile strength. So, the tensile strength was given by these cables. Anyhow, that was my first job. I have no, not too much of equations. It wasn't something you think a physicist would be interested in, but I found all aspects of it interesting.
But you came in as you wanted to be an experimenter and you came in as an experimenter.
Yes, that’s right. I had history in Oak Ridge of being an experimenter on nuclear physics and as a graduate student and I wanted to continue with that. Well, the first research I wanted to do was to — it came out of this shielding experience. In designing the shielding you have to know how thick to make the shielding. The data that you would need to calculate that would be, how many neutrons are produced by the beam or the beams that were going to be used that produced by the cyclotron. And that would depend on the energy of the beam and what material the beam struck. It might strike a piece of a carbon or a piece of lead. And also, the angular distribution of the neutrons. So, one of the first thesis experiments a student did with me was to measure the energy and angular distribution of neutrons produced by protons of several energies that our cyclotron produced.
And what kind of detectors were existent at that time?
Well, the best way to measure the energy of a neutron is rather different from the way the energy of charged particles is measured. Charged particles make ionization and the ionization is more or less proportional to the energy. The higher the energy, the further a charged particle travels through material and therefore the more ions it produces. If the ions are produced in a gas, for example, an ionization chamber, the size of the electrical pulse is proportional to the energy.
But the neutrons are neutral, that’s how they got their name. So, a better way to measure the energy of a neutron is by a scheme of so called time of flight, TOF. If you know when the neutron was produced and you detect it some distance away, you measure when it was detected a distance away. Well, if you know the distance between the production spot and the detection spot and the time it was produced and the time it was detected, you can measure the velocity. The velocity is distance divided by that time interval.
So, we use the time of flight method to measure the energy of the neutrons. Since the cyclotron produces pulses of protons, it’s a natural thing to know when a pulse arrives at the target where the neutrons are made. So, you do have a timing signal on when the neutrons were produced and then the detector was an accelerating material attached to a photomultiplier. It’s the same kind of photo tube that closes elevator doors and things like that. Photomultiplier has a very fast response time, less than 1 nanosecond. One can measure the time of light with an error of about one nanosecond. And it’s the flight passes.
Well, depending on the energy, if the energy has several millions of electron volts, MeV. It’s good to have a few meters of flight path, but if the energy is whole up to one MeV, you can do it with less than a meter and do it accurately enough. My first — he wasn’t my first graduate student, but the first one who worked on this project, a fellow named Tom Amos wrote a very nice thesis on that topic.
I could tell you about Tom. He had a very unusually good characteristic, he could write English. I’ve had graduate students who clearly have never had to write anything of any length until they wrote a PhD thesis. But Tom was truly a good writer. And when he finished his thesis, he took a job writing learning text for oil field workers. The home company was one that became famous when we invaded Iraq. It wasn’t Halliburton, it was a big company in Texas. I can’t come up with the name right now. Somehow, they had a branch in Okemos, Michigan. Okemos is a suburb of East Lansing which is a suburb of Lansing.
Tom became a technical writer. He was actually my second graduate student to finish the thesis. I enjoyed Tom very much, he was a nice guy and he had another unusual characteristic, this was the neither favorable nor unfavorable. His two feet were not the same size. He had to buy two pairs of shoes or have them custom made. I know about it because we used to play four wall hand ball together. He had those sneakers and I could see how his feet were not exactly the same size. He was a little younger than I was, but we were a good match. We enjoyed it. When he got married, my wife and I went to his wedding.
He had a couple of weaknesses. Although, I was 35 years old when I came to MSU, it was my first professor job. I had worked at two research labs before, each for five years. I didn’t realize that when a student writes a thesis you expect them to also publish something. If you get your thesis all approved, before he writes at least the first draft of that paper, you don’t have any handle on him. Well, that’s what I did with Tom. He wrote the thesis, it was beautiful. He took a job and I talked to him over on the phone and I guess he simply lied to me. He said he was working on it. When he told me a few years ago that he was leaving because the home company had decided to close down the Okemos branch, he was going to move down to Texas to keep his job. And he felt that was the time to fess up and tell me he had done nothing [laughter]. That was 1971 or something.
But in 1975, I went to Julich in Germany for a year and I took all the figures I would need to write his paper, because it had never gotten written up for those years when I think of it. I took those figures with me over to Germany thinking I had no specific plan for what to do, I'd surely be able to write that paper. But somehow, I got involved very quickly and I came back home a year later with the figures. They sat around until I went into partial retirement. And then, I went to work again. This time, I actually finished the paper. His thesis having been so well written was a wonderful guide for me to write the paper on it. But of course, I had the draft and I wanted to present this paper by Tom Amos, Bob Doering. There were five co-authors, he of course was the first author. I had stopped telephoning him. I used to call him once in a while when he lived in Texas and this time, there was no such person.
So, I was a little concerned, but I called his undergraduate school and they told me that they’re glad I called because just recently they had put something about him in their newspaper because his daughter-in-law had called to notify them that he had died. And perhaps he died from the alcohol. He was in his, by that time, maybe mid to late 50s and the daughter-in-law, the daughter-in-law not the son, but the daughter-in-law really loved him. So anyhow, they gave me her phone number and one evening I — I now no longer have Tom to proofread the paper for me, but I wanted to tell her about it and be able to send her reprints. So, I telephoned her and of course she — I had to talk a little fast so she wouldn't just hang up on some strange man telephoning her. She was married to his son of course and when she found out that I was legitimate and was calling about her beloved father-in-law, she cried a little bit. But it was a real pleasure to be able to send her a bunch of reprints.
So it got published?
It got published. It got published in Nuclear Science and Engineering. That’s the journal of the American Association of Nuclear Engineering or whatever they’re called. Another two or three said the paper was just beautiful. I thought it was. We had some wonderful figures. And then some years later I got an angry e-mail message from another one of Tom Amos's sons. Somehow, he had come upon this paper and he wanted to know what right I had to write a paper with his father’s name on it.
I sent him some reprints also. One of the other, one of the five authors was an undergraduate woman who had helped out on the project. On her way to graduate school at the University of Arizona, she was in a fatal automobile accident. I found out from the Michigan State University office that went down in the basement to the archives and found out where she had come from. It was in Kansas. It’s not such a common name, so I went to the computer and I telephoned one of those names and indeed, it was her parents. This was 30 years after she died. So, the pain was less than it had been and they were very pleased to receive reprints also. So, two of the five authors had died. It’s pretty sad. I tried these searcher teams, paid money for some of them. Tom Amos is a very common name. Anyhow, that was the shielding.
The shielding was for the 50 MeV?
That’s right, the 50 MeV cyclotron.
And then once that got going, you were conducting experiments.
Well, even before that I had met a student, the first winter that I was — before I met Tom Amos. A student who had — I came here from Madison, Wisconsin where MURA was located, the Headquarter. This student was a native of Milwaukee and he had come from Milwaukee. MURA was very nice to me when they knew I was going to come here on my first teaching job and they really hadn’t. By that summer, they’d already gone out of business as an accelerator laboratory.
I should tell you that MURA was the organization that came up with lots of really great accelerator ideas. Any professional in the accelerator physics side of business knows about that. I had nothing to do with any of those ideas, but I knew the people. Keith Symon was one of them. He was also known as a physicist because he was the author of a book on mechanics and I don’t mean automobile mechanics, the motion of particles, Newton's Laws. Keith Symon.
Do you, maybe to move the history forward a bit, do you remember the transition from the 50 MeV to the K500, K1200 and the proposal for the coupling and with — Can you —
Yes. I should also say in case you don’t already have this from somebody else that in February of 1965 the 50 MeV cyclotron accelerated beam out to the final diameter that was the first time. So, all the magnets and the magnetic field and the radio frequency accelerator system worked perfectly. And there was no way at the time to extract the beam. But the internal beam worked perfectly. There were experimenters that’s waiting to use it, but there was no extraction system on hand.
The system was changed a little bit to produce negatively charged hydrogen ions. That’s not as strong, you can’t make a stronger beam with that as with protons, positively charged hydrogen ions. But it was strong enough and then if you allow the accelerated H minus beam to strike a thin foil when it reaches the extraction radius, the polarity instantly changes from plus to minus and the magnetic field that was keeping the protons inside has an opposite force on the negative ion and it kicks the beam out.
So, we started doing it in the summer of 1965 experiments will began and carry it on for a year or two at least a year using initially negative hydrogen ions for the beam. So, our first thing [inaudible] move on with the negative hydrogen ions. But then, an extraction system. It had been done and it was installed.
A couple years later, Henry went on a sabbatical to CERN. I think it was while he was away that it was first used. Of course, it’s not as easy to make negative Helium ions. So, there was no — we had only a high — we can have deuterons too. But with the real extraction system, the beam intensity went up and the cyclotron ran very nicely.
So, starting in 1965 until 1979 we had a very good program. I remember that when I came here in 1964 I heard that 60 miles away at the University of Michigan, there was a modern isochronous cyclotron in operation that was interested in meeting those people, I went down. Bill Parkinson was the head of the project and I had a nice visit there. They had a nice system.
But somehow as the years went by, it had a limited focus with a small faculty. Whereas, Henry Blosser, a very hard-driving person was determined to do the most that he could and that included hiring a full staff of users. The several times offered to resign unless the dean would approve another position for another professor in the nuclear physics group. So, he did have a diverse strong group. And in 1976, the University of Michigan program was closed down. They couldn’t support two programs 60 miles apart.
Anyhow, Henry wanted to use superconductivity to make a cyclotron. The path to that was not so smooth because other places wanted the money and nuclear physics was really booming. He first, I don’t know if you already have this in your notes but the first grant he got was to build the super injecting cyclotron magnet here. Not the cyclotron, just the magnet. He was developing all the expertise in superconductivity and he knew a lot about magnets and he had with Mort Gordon and Felix Marti was probably in the group. He had helpers, computer. He knew how to deal with things. He had a small team of designers. So, he got a grant to build a magnet here. It was kind of a foot in the door and it worked. Because other people, like University of Rochester wanted to have the actual cyclotron there. The next step was to get the whole cyclotron approved.
When they were building the magnet, who did they thought it was going to be given to? Who did they? Who did Dr. Blosser think that, you know, he —? The cyclotron would be given to?
Yeah. Well, he was building the magnet. Well, that’s all he could get at that time. See, there was, political opposition or financial opposition. I’m not sure, but —
But then you built it successfully.
The magnet worked. That’s right and then you might say, well, the natural place to build the cyclotron is where the magnet is. And that’s how it worked. And then came the K-500.
So, then he started building the K-500 and Henry was very energetic and very optimistic. He was really a great leader. So, the K-500 was scheduled to begin operation by the end of 1979 and so we, in order to — that required a movement of some of these concrete blocks, the wall. The whole beam layout would be different with different beams, heavy ion beams require a stronger magnets to deflect them. So, the whole beam experimental area will have to be laid out differently. The decision was made to turn of the K-500 at the end of August and to have the — When I say K-500 I meant to say that, to turn off the 50 MeV cyclotron. The summer of 1979 and be ready for beam from the first superconducting heavy iron cyclotron, which was called the K-500.
And there are no extraction issues with the K-500?
Well, the extraction system was designed along with the rest of it and — So, everything was working in good order.
The thing is with the laid. We did shut down the 50 MeV cyclotron in the summer of 1979. And we did rearrange magnets to use the beam from the K-500 cyclotron and I got in to Japanese physics because on the first of September a post-doc from Japan arrived. I met him, got acquainted with him and he was here for two and a half years. But he never used the K-500 because it was never ready during that period. It was more than two and a half years late.
But the facility got the funding to build the magnet and then —
And then the money to build the whole cyclotron.
Right, the 500. But this was still not a funding to build the coupled cyclotron. It was — No, that’s two steps later.
Okay. So, the original proposal was just for the 500.
The 500. Yeah, that’s right. And the 500 had some design flaws. I might have known what they were long ago but you should talk to one of the builders. Anyhow, the plan was also to build a bigger one which are called the 1200. These numbers by the way, 500 means that the strength of the magnetic field is enough keep a proton, a 500 MeV in orbit. You could not accelerate a beam of 500 MeV particles because the focus, the particles have to be kept in a tight bundle as they’re making their 500 turns in the cyclotron. They travel a long path and you just cannot keep them in a narrow bundle without focusing, so that those that stray from the path go too high or too low get deflected back down. And then the low and the high they keep oscillating up and down, never going far from the original path.
The focusing, its magnetic focusing and it would not be adequate to keep a 500 MeV proton. But a more heavily charged ion, let say a fully stripped carbon ion, so we’ll have six times the charge of a proton and therefore, the focusing force it would be six times as strong. So, you could accelerate a carbon ion. Well, not the 500 MeV, after 500 MeV, but we stopped talking about MeV for nucleon when we get to heavier ions. But you’re interested in what happened. The 500 did begin to run perhaps in 1983, 2 or 3. It was a several years late.
All the users at the lab like myself had to become users elsewhere, it wasn’t so bad. I worked at Berkeley, I worked at Notre Dame, I worked at Saclay Laboratory in the South of Paris. That was interesting. But eventually, the K-1200 was authorized and the same people who designed the 500, designed the 1200. The 1200 worked like a charm and when it did work, it replaced the 500 and the 500 was modified to correct the defects it had. And then the plan was now they’ve got two good cyclotrons. Let’s couple them together so that we can go to a higher energy and higher intensity.
For the beam?
For the beam, yeah. Early on, even with the K-500 program, this was an interesting thing. Somebody decided, someone in the Office of Management and Budget decided that —
The MSU? The MSU or —
The Office of Management and Budget in Washington.
Okay, the OMB.
Yeah, the OMB. That would be a good project to fund. He was a physicist I believe, if I could remember his name. I think I knew it. But it was also decided that the project was too big for the National Science Foundation to manage. They would have to be the Department of Energy. It’s through the Chicago office, so they funded it.
The K-500 and the K-1200. It must have been both of them because I know they hired an old friend of mine to manage relations with the DOE. And that relationship is still in existence today with the [crosstalk].
Yes, of course, now we’re really into a big project of $50,000,000 a year. When I came here in 1964, I believe our operating budget was about $400,000 a year and now it’s going to be about $50,000,000 a year. There’s been some growth here.
And there were no issues. I remember talking with someone, they said there were also some extraction issues with the K-1200 or at least things didn’t go as smoothly with some of the calculations from going from the K-500 and the K-1200. They must not have been that significant.
The K-1200 worked much better. It was a pain. I think I might have done the last. I’ve been on with Hungarian and Japanese collaboratives on the last of the experiments with the K-500 alone before it got improved. It lasted for a couple of months because we've got beam and something would go wrong. We’d have to be particularly hard on visitors that come from another country or even from this country. They come to do an experiment and maybe they have one week of beam time. But if it stretches out to a month, it’s definitely weak. The faculty members have to go back and teach. But the K-1200, perhaps, it did have some initial problems. But they must have been brief enough that I don’t have any memory of that. And they kept working on reliability and she is now since it produces beam more than 90% of the scheduled time.
Throughout this period, you’ve always maintained yourself as an experimenter.
Maybe I can ask you, we’re getting near at our interview, maybe —
Why do you asked me about what I would maintain, whether I’ve been an experimenter?
I’ve noticed that people say whether they’re theoreticians or experimenters or physicist or engineers that there’s a division of a —
There normally is. That’s right.
Right. But you came as an experimenter and through this whole time you’ve been interested in what the cyclotron with the beam can do. Okay. One time, my name got on a theory paper with one other person. And another time I was a first name on a theory paper with two other people.
This is a good change to ask you as we’re getting the end of our interview. I want to leave sometime at the end for your comments and something that I might have left off. Just for this brief interview here. Innovations or discoveries that you witnessed, that you helped facilitate. I know that your name has been attached to this Gamow-Teller resonance. Can you talk about that or even some others which you would consider successful experiments or innovations or discoveries? If there’s some experiments using the K-500, K-1200 that you are a part of. I'm sure there’s probably a couple more than that. But what do you think, what is this something you like to share at this time.
I had very good graduate students. I’m not sure why I was so blessed with. Working and getting to know these graduate students, I guess, was the most pleasant part of my career. One of them, his name is Bob Doering, he’s on one of these prints, maybe not. Bob Doering, for his thesis, he was measuring the spectrum of neutrons produced by protons to look at what were called isobaric analog states. This field had been opened up by a group at Livermore National Laboratory in California and isobaric analog states were very popular. It was his thesis project.
In his data, aside from bumps in the spectra that were identified as the isobaric analogs states. The spectra also had bumps that were not as sharp, but they clearly, they look like something special. And in the field of charge with charge particles, there had been experiments done on electric quadruple giant resonances for example. So, that term giant resonance came in and I had the feeling that perhaps these bumps that were in our neutron spectra were giant resonance.
We had in our laboratory a nuclear theory group and a guy named George Bertsch was the chief theorist. He knew a lot of things. We talked to him and he rather quickly said, this must be the giant Gamow-Teller resonance. I don’t know if we discovered the Giant Gamow-Teller resonance or he discovered it in our data. Bob Doering, Aaron Galonsky, Don Patterson our post doc and George Bertsch wrote a paper that was published in Physics Review Letters on the first observation of the Giant Gamow-Teller Resonance. And I was proud of that.
And also there’s an organization in Japan that selects papers. I don’t know if they do it for every year but special paper that they put together. They get permission to reprint them and this was one of the papers they showed us to reprint. That was a good work. Bob went to work at the University of Virginia as a system professor from here and there were some unsatisfactory things, so he left there after just a few years and went to Texas Instruments where he became a researcher on solar state physics and semiconductors.
Well, I think we covered. Of course, with these interviews, history seems like we’re always just brushing up against wave tops. But, we are getting the end and of this time today. But, is there is something that you like, maybe future scholars or something that sort to know about the history as we transition here [inaudible] and we’re looking at the field of nuclear physics in the 21st century or anything that —
Certainly, having theory and experiment people in close contact has always been good idea. I gave you one example. But other experiments would have their own examples. Having working with theorist was useful. Another thing we’ve done in this laboratory, when it was small it was an extremely sociable group. The group was the professors, the graduate students, the machine shop, the electronic technicians. All together might have numbered 30. One graduate student’s wife was the receptionist, another was the secretary. We all knew each other.
The young engineer who I said died a few months ago, he was a great organizer. He organized our first Christmas party. It was a real homemade kind of thing. He lived out, he knew a place out in the country where a guy had a house, a party house. And a sleigh ride was with it, it was hilly land and we brought sleds. And of course, it was all potluck for the food. I don’t know if we’ve had a Christmas party every year since then, but that’s possible.
And now, we have lab picnics throughout the summer months before the atrium existed, it was formed as a result of a sequence of building additions which bent around and finally there was a path coming in to that grassy area where the university people could cut the grass. And when we shut down the 50 MeV cyclotron in the summer of 1979, it had operated for 14 years and we voluntarily shut it down and decided to have a ceremony. We invited all the ex-graduate students, an alumni to come back and lots of them did. We had a chicken barbecue in there. It was a good thing. And maybe that was the beginning of these picnics right here. Physics Department has often had picnics. I don’t know if they still do that. So, we still have them, we still have the Christmas parties. Although the lab now is enormous.
Yes, it is.
The leadership. So, Henry, as I said was a really dynamic, maybe to some people obnoxious leader [laughter]. And ones you had to deal with him on the other side. But he built up the — he’s the father of this laboratory. The university doesn’t name things after donors or famous people who are still alive. I was going to say if he ever dies, I guess he will. I hope that they will name this laboratory after him. And Conrad, the director for some years now, he’s also been special. I remember the way we got going on the FRIB program. The Department of Energy takes care of its laboratories, the national laboratories. It’s just a piece of the Department of Energy, but they offer it at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Oregon National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore and Berkeley and Los Alamos. Lots of national laboratories and each of these laboratories has groups within it. Good groups want to expand, good laboratories want a good groups to expand. The Department of Energy tries to make that happen by getting a chunk of money for them. I think that’s what they wanted to do for Argonne National Laboratory to build RIA at Argonne.
The Rare Isotope Accelerator, is that it?
Yeah, the RIA meant the Rare Isotope Accelerator. And of course, some people in our group were very much into that field and I knew what was going on at Argonne. They felt we could do it, at least this go to the job. So one night, Conrad had the cyclotron faculty meet at his house to discuss whether we should waste our time trying to get this program here. Well, I guess, the majority thought that it was worthwhile and the idea was expressed that even if we fail by trying to get it, we would show what a strong group we were and we would benefit. We went ahead and tried and we got it. I found out that we got it by an e-mail message I received from Michael Thoennessen one day and the subject was, we’ve got it. I was trying to think, did I lend him a book or something? What is this about? It was exciting to open that mail message and see what he meant. And I’m sure we’re going to do a good job. We’ve got the right people. It used to be called RIA, Rare Isotope Accelerator.
And that proposal actually grew into the —
And it was supposed to be thrice the energy. One GeV per neutron instead of half a GeV and a billion dollars instead of half a billion dollars. And out in the country, instead of right here. As I say, every group needs something to run the cyclotron. It’s been a very good machine, good program, but it has to be replaced also.
Yes, just like the 50 MeV and to evolve.
Yeah, that’s right. You know that going from 50 to the superconductivity. Henry Blosser is interested in building a superconducting cyclotron because he’s an accelerator for this. He’s not a user. Although, he was on an experiment. But, I don’t think any of us that were here at the time had any background in using heavy ions instead of protons and deuterons and alpha particles. But he saw that the laboratory needed something new and it was good.
I’ve been very privileged. When I applied for this job, I also applied to and received similar offers from three other universities and somehow, I really picked the right one.
Well, thank you so much for sharing a little bit on some of the reflections on the NSCL and things are just looking like we’re going to make new history now as well. Well, thank you for your time, professor.