Wit Busza

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Image of Wit Busza

Credit: MIT

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Video conference
Usage Information and Disclaimer
Disclaimer text

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.

Preferred citation

In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:

Interview of Wit Busza by David Zierler on October 26, 2020,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,

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


Interview with Wit Busza, Francis L. Friedman Professor of Physics Emeritus at MIT. He recounts his birth in Romania as his family was escaping Poland at the start of World War II, and his family's subsequent moves to Cyprus and then to British Palestine, where he lived until he was seven, until the family moved to England. He describes the charitable circumstances that allowed him to go to Catholic boarding school, his early interests in science, and the opportunities that led to his undergraduate education in physics at University College in London, where he stayed on for his PhD while doing experiments at CERN working with Franz Heymann. Busza describes the development of spark chambers following the advances allowed by bubble chambers, and his thesis research using the Chew-Low extrapolation to calculate the probability that the proton is a proton plus a pi-zero. He describes meeting Martin Perl and the opportunities that led to his postdoctoral position at SLAC, which he describes in the late 1960s as being full of brilliant people doing the most exciting physics and where he focused on rho proton cross-sections. Busza describes meeting Sam Ting at SLAC which led to Busza's faculty appointment at MIT, where he discovered his talent for teaching. He discusses the complications associated with the discovery of the J/psi and his developing interest in relativistic heavy ion physics, the E178 project at Fermilab to examine what happens when high energy hadrons collide, and the E665 experiment to study quark propagation through nuclear matter. Busza describes the import of the RHIC and PHOBOS collaborations, and he discusses his return to SLAC to focus on WIC and SLD. He describes the global impact of the LHC and CERN, and his satisfaction at being a part of what the DOE called the best nuclear physics group in the country. In the last part of the interview, Busza reflects on the modern advances in atomic and condensed matter physics, which were inconceivable for him to imagine at the beginning of his career, he describes the considerations leading to his retirement, and why, if could re-live his career, he would think harder about being a theorist.


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