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Credit: David Jennings
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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of David Coward by David Zierler on May 6, 2020,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
In this interview, David Coward reflects on his time at Stanford University and the formation of SLAC. Coward discusses his time as an undergraduate student at Cornell University. He describes how his desire to study under Pief Panofsky influenced his decision to attend Stanford University for graduate school and how Panofsky later encouraged him to work for SLAC. Additionally, he continually reflects upon the role of Panofsky throughout his life and his leadership in the formation of SLAC. Coward details how his engineering background helped him construct a spectrometer facility at SLAC. He details his various sabbaticals at CERN and reflects upon the different work cultures that existed at different labs. He discusses his contributions to a study on quarks that later earned a Nobel Prize in 1990. Coward Reflects on the development of the Spectrometer Facilities Group and his role in putting the team together. He discusses a paper the group published in 1975 on polarized electron-electron scattering at GeV energies that proved the quark model of the proton. Lastly, Coward discusses his experience living in Palo Alto and the progress made in the area during his time there, such as the installation of bike paths and the undergrounding of power lines.
Okay. This is David Zierler, oral historian for the American Institute of Physics. It is May 6th, 2020. I'm delighted to be here with Dr. David Coward. David, thank you so much for being with me today.
Okay. So, to start, tell me your most recent title and institutional affiliation.
I am Physicist, Emeritus, at Stanford, and I became Emeritus at the end of 1999. So that's twenty years ago, which is ridiculous. But anyway, that's the way it is. Well, that answers your question, so I'll let you ask the next one.
There you go. So, for now, we'll take it right back to the beginning. Tell me about your birthplace and your family background in your early childhood.
Oh, you did say this was going to be general.
There you go.
I was born on November 16, 1934, in Buffalo, New York. And my father was a chemist, born in 1905. And my mother, believe it or not, also born in 1905, actually graduated from Syracuse University. Therefore, she had a bachelor's degree, which was somewhat uncommon for women in those days. My father had a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. I have a younger brother, James, born on October 13, 1938. He is a retired Professor of Chemistry and Pharmacy at the University of Michigan.
What was her degree in?
English. Then, in 1940, my dad took a new job for reasons which I never quite understood, and, coming out of the Depression, we moved from Buffalo to Glen Rock, New Jersey, which is about fifteen miles from the George Washington Bridge going into New York City.
I was going to say, you don't have a Buffalo accent.
Is there a Buffalo accent?
No, there is not.
Then I don't have one (laughter).
I certainly hear more New Jersey than I do Buffalo.
(Laughter) Well, it's not as bad as Brooklyn. Listen to Antonio Fauci talking, you see that. Anyway, we moved to Glen Rock, New Jersey, and my dad was working for a chemical company in New York City. A few years later, he went into business for himself with another gentleman. They made dyestuffs for women's clothes. There plant was down in the southern part of Newark. And so, I went through all the Glen Rock schools up till the end of ninth grade. Glen Rock, which I think at that time probably had a population of about seven thousand—
Now, did your father bring you in on scientific matters? Did you talk shop with him at all?
Oh, yeah, yeah. I had the usual chemistry set as a kid. And took bicycles apart, and Schwinn derailleur freewheels apart, and all that sort of stuff. No, he was very interested in science from the beginning, and he got Chemical Abstracts delivered at home, and he had Science Magazine delivered. So, he kept up on what was going on. Glen Rock did not have a high school at that time. And so, Ridgewood, which was right next door, and Glen Rock were two communities who were very, very close with each other. Ridgewood had a high school which had been established in 1892. So, I went to Ridgewood High School for three years, and took all the science and math courses I could take.
Were you a standout student in math and science in high school?
You might say that, but it was one of these things that was never discussed. I was thinking before I came onto the phone call, I believe I remember knowing that I, and presumably some others, were third in our class in graduation. We had 333 students in our graduating class, if I remember correctly. And I got all “As” in everything but English. And I had a fabulous English teacher, especially the last two—well, I had two fabulous English teachers, one sophomore year (Mr. Stratton), and then one for junior and senior years. And try as I might—I mean, I worked hard—and he, my second teacher, Mr. Darby, never gave me an “A” (laughter). But he taught me how to write. That's the relevant point, that I learned how to write and I learned -- I'm not a good writer of novels, but I know how the English language is constructed. Which, of course, helps in writing physics papers.
And, in fact, I will go back, and I will read some—we'll get to the CERN's stuff later. But I go back and read articles from twenty years before, published in either Physics Letters, or Physical Review Letters, or PRL, or Physical Review, for that matter. Go back and read that, and you'd say, "What did they do here?" Or, "This is confusing. I don't understand exactly what was. . ." And these are written by native Americans, native English speakers. Other nationalities in Europe, you can tell who they are by just reading the sentence structure. So anyway, the English class was good. But I never thought about things. I just took the classes and got “As” in them and such was life. (Note added in proof: At my 60th high school reunion in October 2012, I was honored to be named a Distinguished Alumni of Ridgewood High School, at the time the twelfth in school history.)
Now, what kind of schools—I know you went to Cornell. Did you focus pretty much all on the Ivy League schools for what you applied to?
No, I applied to three schools for undergraduate work: Cornell and MIT and Princeton. And MIT, at that time, our school was such that if the school principal said to MIT, "You should admit this person," he or she would be admitted.
Remember, I graduated high school in 1952. So, we're back, coming out of the Second World War. I went up to Cornell. They had an engineering physics program. Cornell's engineering, at that time, was interesting because all their engineering departments had five-year engineering programs. And they had a number of people in the physics department who went west to Los Alamos for the World War II Manhattan Project and from that experience, came back and said, "We really need something," which they decided to call engineering physics. Today, you would probably call that applied physics. And, in fact, the school is now called engineering and applied physics.
So, what were they doing in Los Alamos that compelled them to come up with this engineering physics concept?
Because they went there to build a bomb. And they realized what the training they had—they had either people who were physicists, who had no sense of how to build anything or worry about real world dimensionality or anything like that. And they had very good engineers who had no concepts about the physics. And --for example—well, let me finish the story of the schools. So anyway, they had this engineering physics program that looked interesting because it gave me flexibility. It kept the science going, but if I wanted to do something, I learned more things about my hands in the engineering side of the curriculum. So, we drove up there to talk to people and see them. And we came up in the first weekend, I think it was the first weekend in November. And number one, they had had an early snow. Cornell looks beautiful when the snow is there. Because you're up on the hill, and you're looking down to Ithaca and Lake Cayuga and so on. And then it turned out to be, they still had Fall Weekends. It turned out to be the weekend of Fall Weekend, which had, Fall and Spring Weekends, big parades with floats and all that sort of stuff. And I guess, because of the way the visit transpired, after having talked to somebody, whoever it was in that department, I sort of fell in love with the place. But, of course, there was no guarantee I would get in when I applied. And so, I had MIT as a backup. And Princeton—one of my dad's very close friends, they worked in Scouts together, was a graduate of Princeton. And he headed a committee that interviewed students in northern New Jersey to give Princeton’s admissions office an alumni perspective. And so, I went and talked to him, and, of course, I was careful. I hadn't made up my mind about schools or anything like that. I was looking at everything. And it turned out I didn't get in. And, about six months later, Mr. Van Gytenbeek asked my dad, "Where did Dave decide to go to school?" And my dad said, "Cornell." Because I did get into Cornell, it turns out. And he said, "Cornell." And Mr. Van said, "Well, that's good because my recommendation to Princeton was not to admit him, because if he got admitted, he wouldn't go there” (laughter).
Oh, wow, perceptive.
Well, in some sense, from the university's point of view, that's what they're supposed to do. They're supposed to make sure that when they recommend a person for admission, that he most likely will go there.
Now, was the attraction at Cornell specifically the engineering physics angle, or you developed that once you got there?
Well, it's interesting to look at my career. Because basically I came out of high school, really, in those days especially, not really with a focus of what I wanted to do. Other than I wanted—well, number one, you went to college. I mean, you were told you were going to college.
Particularly if you have a mom who's a college graduate in those days.
Yeah. And in fact, she spent the rest of her life, among other things, working for the Ridgewood/Glen Rock College Club, whose job was to raise money for scholarships for women to go to college.
Wow. Very cool.
And so, yes, thou shalt go trudge up the hill at Cornell, thank you very much.
There you go. But so, in high school, I mean, were you good with your hands? Did you have an idea that you were going to. . .?
Yes. Well, for example, there was—oh, I know what it was. In my junior year, I had an extra major opening because of the language situation. I took three years of Latin. I mean, I can tell you "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres," but that's as far as it goes. But I had an extra class because if you wanted to take a second language, you had to take two years of it for college credit. And I couldn't have done that because of where American history fit in and so on. So, I took a course in mechanical drafting, which turned out to be extremely useful.
We're talking slide rulers and wet ink and all of that?
Well, slide rule and drafting and drawing and designing stuff. I mean, I breezed through it. But the point was, I learned a lot about, sort of in some sense, pre-engineering, if you want to call it that way. So, I learned how to read drawings, I knew how to design things, and the project I took on at the very end, which turned out to have a negative conclusion: The track that had been built around the football field was such that it was not a quarter mile track. And people wanted very much, this is a geography problem, people wanted very much to get a quarter mile track so that if there were any track records set, they would qualify, with state records, because it's the standard thing. If you've got a fifth of a mile track, which is more or less what it was, you had to do an extra half a lap or something like that to get the quarter mile in. And therefore, because they had different turns and it's not built to standards and such, any foot race that you had would not qualify, say, for a state record or a conference record or whatever. And we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to re-orient the football field and get a track in. And that was sort of my last six weeks of the course; -- something like that, was spent working around, trying to get that to work. It didn't. And, as far as I know, they're still on the same site. So, I don't know what they do. That's just something you just had to live with. But it turned out to be very useful when I went off to Cornell because it gave me a real break on the engineering classes. Which meant that they were easy, which meant I could concentrate on physics and chemistry, which were harder. But anyhow, I went up there. And what I did not know until I got there, it turns out that Engineering Physics was the hardest program on the university campus. And it's still that way now. It was just, it was hard!!
You mean in terms of the concepts, or just the amount of work you had to put in, or both?
The level. The level of the classes. They were just hard classes. And you had a lot of them. I mean, you were taking eighteen hours or nineteen hours every semester. Well, then the other thing about what I did was I went up there—I mean, this is an interesting thing. I went up there, and I had a lot of interests. I played two sports (soccer and lacrosse). I sang in the glee club. I sang in a small mixed group that sang around the campus for parties and such. But you could see, it was sort of like a pyramid. As I moved further up in school, I shrunk, in the sense of where I was putting my effort. And I worked on—I was an engineer at the campus radio station. And I ended up doing some fun things because we broadcast the Cornell men's basketball games, and we broadcast them both home and away. And so, I was in various places. I was at Dartmouth. And I actually had the honor of broadcasting from the old Madison Square Garden. I was the engineer for a game because one of our players played in the East-West All-Star Game as a college senior. And so, I had a chance to go down and do that. But it was interesting just to watch that the further I got in school, the more I put into learning my physics classes. But it was an interesting thing. I think, first of all, a number of people, a number of our students, graduated, but did not graduate within the five-year program. They took one semester or one extra year to finish everything up for having dropped a class because it was too much. I think that about half of our EP class graduated on time after five years. Quite a few went on to graduate school.
Now, the five-year program was oriented towards industry. I mean, you graduated from that and you went—
Absolutely. I mean, the mechanical engineers, the chemical engineers, and so on, were all five years at the time. But, about let me say 1970, maybe, the university changed and went to a four-year program. And so, I got a letter saying and I got a certificate saying, that I had done a five-year program at Cornell. And what the letter said was, had I been. . . How did they phrase it? I can't remember, but maybe I could have even applied to get a master's degree in engineering because of the extra fifth year. Well, by then I had my PhD, I wasn't in engineering, I was in physics and, sort of, who cares? (Laughter) But it was a really, really good set of courses. And we did all sorts of stuff. We had to do advanced lab, and some of those things were the labs that were set up for the graduate students. But you were using material, using stuff which had been built, say, twenty years before. And remember, I'm talking about 1950 or 1952. So, twenty years before was in the 1930s. So, you can think about how things were constructed. I mean, very well done. And they had a good shop. And it was actually interesting. My younger son (third child) went back and took that same program redesigned for four years when he went to Cornell. And it turns out he was the first son of an EP graduate to go through the program, as I learned during a visit there (when I talked with Professor Paul Hartman). Not the first child. There was a young woman who had earlier gone through from some other alumnus/a, but Andrew was the first son. (Cornell Class of 1988). For completeness, I should add that my middle child, and older son, Peter, graduated from Stanford, Class of 1986).
So, at the end of the day, for your undergraduate education, how much of it was spent in a standard physics environment?
Oh, probably …. . .
Most of it?
Let me say science. Let me say physics and chemistry. I mean, I had to take. . . We took chemistry, both inorganic and organic, as well as a physical chemistry course. And so probably two years of chemistry and then physics all the way up the line. And a lot of math. And, of course, at that time, my question was, I will do the minimum required on electives for the liberal arts stuff. But when I got to my fifth year, I had broadened out a little bit in that because I took a course in Masters of European Fiction by Vladimir Nabokov. And he had just become famous because he had written Lolita. And here's a Russian émigré. And it was a fabulous course. Anyway, I would say probably forty percent, fifty percent of the classes were in... Maybe even more. And we had engineering classes at the beginning, and we took a materials class where we broke stuff just to see what happens, how cylinders break, and how beams break, and so on. So that turned out to be just. . . And my high school mechanical drawing class turned out to have helped that because I knew all the concepts, that if you walked into the engineering classes, you'd have to learn that stuff as well. And I had picked all that up in high school. It was a very good high school, I should say.
Now, among all of the heavyweights in the physics department, were there any professors that you got close with, or that you recognized who they were at the time?
I didn't know them, but when I went back there later after Andrew had been accepted, the fellow I talked with, Paul Hartman, he was the guy that basically ran all of the lab classes and such, especially the advanced labs. (And I add, as I edit this, several of the Advanced Lab experiments used equipment designed and built in the 1930s to do experiments that then were very current – to then very current front-line research. Looking back on it, that was really pretty neat.) And I had a class in electricity and magnetism. Basically, the sophomore-junior level class from—he turned out to end up being president of Cornell--Dale Corson. And he had an interesting class because he gave you two grades. He wrote exams, and you were never expected to finish them. And he gave you two grades, one for quality and one for quantity. Quality was a little bit better than quantity. And, for example, he might ask you a question about a particular subject in, say, solid-state physics. It was a concept. And so, he wanted you to talk about that concept. And so, you had to write enough to say what it was and what it was doing and why it was important. But he didn't expect you to spend fifty minutes writing a lecture on that, just an answer on that, not a thesis discussion. You were expected to do other questions as well. So, it was an interesting—it's the only person who's ever, I've ever seen that stuff done.
I've never heard that before.
And it was the engineering—now, these people taking it were the engineering physics people. They were not standard physics majors. I suppose they could have been. But it was basically a course designed for the engineering physics curriculum. I should add that at that time, the EP Department offices and the Physics Department offices were in the same building on campus, and the members of the two departments had their offices in the same building. There were most likely several faculty appointments that were joint between the two departments. Remember that the war ended in 1945 and I was admitted in the spring of 1952, so the EP Department was still pretty much “wet behind the ears”. This means that even though we took a number of engineering courses, the science part of the EP curriculum was still dominated by the physics. And then I had an interesting exercise. And this will become important because I know you're going to ask me how I got to Stanford. I mean, why not? Especially since I've spent my whole career there. So, at Christmas time in my junior year, I drove out to Brookhaven (my parents lived in northern New Jersey, so it was an easy drive), and I talked to Sam Goudsmit. That's where he was working. And, of course, he was also heavily involved in Physical Review and the editorial board of all the APS journals. And I went out to talk to him. I had the idea that I'd be able to work the summer between my junior and senior year at Brookhaven. And so, I went out to talk to him about that. Turned out I didn't get a job there. But anyway, we talked awhile. And he said, "You know, the thing for you to do. Go back to Cornell and go talk to Bob Wilson," who was the director of the Cornell Nuclear Physics Lab. "Go talk to Bob Wilson and ask him if you can volunteer somewhere doing something." And so, I followed that up. And Bob told me to go talk to Ken Greisen, who was a cosmic ray physicist on the Cornell faculty. And those two guys were both very good, too. Wilson ended up being director of Fermilab, building Fermilab. And Ken Greisen, you can see his name all over air showers questions in cosmic rays. So, I went to talk to Ken Greisen. And this was when the new Cornell machine, what eventually was called the 1.3 GeV synchrotron, was being commissioned. And so, he took me down to meet two graduate students, Jerry Pine and Dick Davisson, Davisson being the son of Clinton Davisson (1937 Nobel Prize) of the Davisson-Germer experiment. I spent probably a year and a half with them; basically, the job I was given was to keep their experiments’ electronics running and calibrated. And so, I'd come in twice a week and do this or that. But of course, being curious, I started asking questions about what was going on. And that turned out to be very fruitful, as you will see in a minute. Then I had to do an honors project, which was very simple. But for me, it was good because I chose to look at range-energy relations of charged particles in nuclear emulsions, since one of the other graduate students was doing an emulsion experiment using the new synchrotron noted earlier, and gave me some emulsions to examine, and which — yes, I could measure the proton mass and so on.
It was doable.
It was a doable thing. But the point was it used all of the things that—you write error analyses and look for funny things and such. I didn't discover any funny things, but I did analyze one reaction. It was nothing great. But it got my hands dirty. I mean, that's the whole thing. It forced me to talk to people and learn how to go to the library and research, look things up in the library and keep a logbook. The things that you really want people to know and people to be able to do. And the other thing—I will lead into the graduate school situation soon. If you have any more questions about Cornell, otherwise I'm going to talk about the class I took with Phil Morrison.
Yeah. I mean, my only remaining question with Cornell is, was it during Cornell that you were looking to sort of shed the engineering part of the equation and know that you were going to focus more exclusively on physics for graduate school? Or did that only happen in graduate school?
Oh yeah, when I went out to talk to Goudsmit, I was looking at the Cornell Nuclear Lab and nuclear physics and trying to figure out what to do there. And because, of course, at the time we didn't know anything about how the nucleus was held together. I mean, the pion had just been discovered. So, I was clearly focusing in that direction. But I had the techniques on the engineering side, which, when I got to SLAC, turned out to be immensely useful.
Now, how were you with theory at this point? I mean, were you interested in it, or was that never in your radar?
Theory was never in my radar. I mean, I am not a great theorist. Now, part of it, of course, is that when you're an undergraduate, theory is probably not on your radar anyway.
Oh, interesting. Now that's because those kinds of courses were not available to you? Or the theory professors were not interacting with undergraduates? What does that mean?
Well, I guess the answer would be if. . .if I had read—Feynman's books weren't out yet, okay, but if I had read Feynman's books in high school, you could say, well, maybe he's got the math ability. But, in retrospect I probably didn’t have the math ability to do the stuff. I mean, I remember in the last year of high school—you started off and you had a course in algebra. And then you had a course in trigonometry. And then you may have had, quote, advanced algebra unquote, whatever that meant. But I remember—
The Feynman diagrams were not on the curriculum in high school, I guess (laughter).
No. But in high school, there was always a tradition toward the end of May that the students taught a class for a day. So, I had a math teacher, which was—don't ask me why I didn't teach a course in physics, but it may be that he was already spoken for. But anyhow, Mr. Benedict, I went and taught his class in math. And basically, what I did was talk about the x and y, and how movements in x and movements in y give you what we call the derivative. This is the end of high school math, and I'm teaching the very basic concept of what you mean about a derivative. If you were in high school now, you'd do that in your sophomore or junior year. So, we didn't—I mean, that's one of the reasons why I was able to do other stuff in high school, because the math was trivial. For me, not for everybody else. But I didn't have to work a lot at it. And so that's what I ended up teaching, was basically introducing the students to what we'd call a derivative. Now, I didn't carry it far enough to talk about integrals or anything like that, but we just talked about derivatives. But I did take an advanced math class my freshman year at Cornell, which was basically a higher-level math class teaching the same concepts that the regular math class did but with more interesting problems and such. One of the interesting problems which stunned me until I sat down and thought about it for a while was, as I remember from so long ago, the following. At some time, it starts snowing. At noon, the snowplow goes out and starts to plow. Assuming that the snow falls at a constant rate, he plows twice as much distance in his first hour as he does in the second hour. What time did it start snowing? That stunned me. Because I'm used to solving problems where the car goes down the street at three miles an hour, or seven miles an hour, or whatever. And also, what's the centrifugal force when you go around the turn and so on. I was used to those guys. But this was a word problem. It basically had no numbers in it, really. It did, I mean but—and it comes out and says, he started plowing at noon. When did it start snowing? What? That's a solvable problem? I mean, it was that kind of thing. And those are the things which basically challenge people. It's challenging in a way that it teaches you ways of how to think of a problem. And these things are offbeat, in that sense. But in answer to your question, I think it was about the time when I went to talk to Goudsmit that I was really—see, the thing which the engineering program had, engineering physics had, Cornell at that time ran the Cornell Aero Lab in Buffalo, New York. So, had I wanted to do that, there was a place where a master's degree at the Aero lab in aeronautical engineering would have come about. And then we had electronics. And this, by chance, although when I went off to school, this hadn't happened yet. But it was, I think, my junior year when the transistor was invented. So, all of a sudden, solid-state electronics becomes very interesting.
Did you think about Bell Labs at all? Was that on your radar?
It would have been, had I decided to go that way. But I guess I just realized that I was more interested in what holds the nucleus together. But you're right. Bell Labs was something that we knew about. In fact, that's where they did the transistor work. So that came in about my junior year. But I guess it would really be the math stuff was really the thing that I think probably kept me from thinking about theory. I mean, I'm a hands-on person. I like measuring things. I like that better than the theory. Having said that, in my fifth year I sat in on a graduate physics course on quantum mechanics which was taught by Hans Bethe! Who wouldn’t sit in on a year’s course in quantum mechanics taught by such a great, iconic, theoretical physicist! It was a joy to listen to him teach. So, in my fifth year, 1956/57, I took two courses with Phil Morrison, who was a fabulous theorist. He had had polio when he was a kid, so he had a slumped shoulder and he walked around with a cane. He was a brilliant theorist who'd been at Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project, then came to Cornell, and then he eventually went to MIT. So, he taught us. We did a graduate student course in classical mechanics from Goldstein in the fall semester. And the spring semester was another graduate student course: classical electricity and magnetism. The big thing which I remember, and I wrote to him about this shortly after the 1990 Nobel Prize ceremony, and we discussed this in person in late October of 1999 at a celebration of the life of my colleague Henry Kendall at MIT, is this: He walked into the initial class in February,1957, the beginning of February, and put a book down on the table and said, "This is a class in classical electricity and magnetism." And then he said, either pointed to or held up the book, I don't remember which, but he said, "And the book we're using has the title of the same name, and it's written by Panofsky and Phillips." And then he said, "Panofsky is considered by many to be the experimenter's experimentalist."
That did it for you?
And I heard that, and I said to myself, "Oh, I'm going to go to Stanford to study under Panofsky." So, I quickly wrote—this was before you took graduate record exams. So, I quickly wrote a note to Stanford asking for an application and got a letter back from Felix Bloch. I didn't know anything about him. But he developed NMR. And by chance, Jerry Pine, I mentioned earlier, because he was one of the guys that I worked with at Cornell, he had gone the year before to Stanford as an instructor. So, I already had somebody who could write a letter of recommendation for me. Talk about luck. So, I did all this, and I got in. It was a late admission, I guess. Felix Bloch wrote me another letter back and said, "You're welcome to come here. We can't offer you a scholarship." And it may be because I was late. I don't know. Or maybe because I wasn't good enough to get a scholarship. I don't know that either.
Now where was Panofsky at that point?
Well, Panofsky had been at Berkeley. But he came to Stanford and the Physics Department in July 1951. He had been at U.C. Berkeley and had reluctantly signed a loyalty oath, when it became mandatory, although he thoroughly disapproved! But the loyalty oath controversy eventually caused the university climate to deteriorate to an intolerable level. After much thought, Pief [Panofsky] and his family left Berkeley and moved to Stanford.
But when you say you want to study with him, you're saying not as a member of the faculty of the department of physics? You're talking about study with him—
He's my thesis advisor. He would be my thesis advisor. Point. Not anybody else.
But within the context of SLAC, not the physics department?
No, no, no SLAC wasn't started yet. We're way ahead of SLAC. Patience. It turns out that they were beginning, in the department—again, I wouldn't have known this. I wouldn’t have known what it meant. They were beginning in the department to talk about building something big, which was which was called the Monster. But initially I knew nothing about this.
Right. Right. But I mean, that's what I'm asking. SLAC or its predecessor, the Monster, that was definitely on the horizon. And it would have affected Panofsky's ability or appetite to take on graduate students.
Probably not yet. I went to Stanford in the fall of 1957 and President Eisenhower made public the government’s support for the SLAC accelerator in 1959 as I remember. Congress authorized SLAC in 1961. And my understanding is that Pief was to become head of research or something like that, and not the Laboratory Director. That job was to have gone to Ed Ginzton. But then both of the Varian brothers died, one in 1959 and the other in 1961 and Ginzton left Stanford to head up Varian Associates. That moved Pief into the SLAC Director position. Pief had other graduate students besides me in his group. And remember, as we all knew, Panofsky could do in a microsecond what it took me two days to do. He just—I never met Fermi, but Panofsky was the smartest man I have ever known. Bar none. I'd probably take him over Feynman. Which is—well, I mean, they worked in two “different” fields. But then, Feynman came back with the O-ring thing on the Challenger disaster. So, he pulled himself back into the experimenter's quarters well. But when you mention Panofsky and Feynman and others all in the same sentence that tells you where they all are. But anyhow, I didn't know anything about Berkeley at all. The Berkeley thing. This was in the McCarthy era, when the people were all saying you have to swear -- that honor code. That's not what they called it. Where you swear loyalty—the loyalty oath. That's what it's called. The loyalty oath. And Pief — remember, Pief's family escaped the Nazis in the mid-1930s. Pief's father was a distinguished art historian. He came to Princeton at the Institute for Advanced Study. And he brought his kids, Pief being fifteen at that time. Pief had an older brother, and they both went to Princeton. The rumor was that Pief was known as the dumb Panofsky because he got a B in a course in which his brother got an A. If I remember correctly, Pief’s brother became a Professor of Meteorology at Penn State.
Meanwhile, you'll take him over Feynman. So that's good context.
Well, it's. . . But I knew nothing of that at the time I was at Cornell. I just knew that Morrison had said what Panofsky was, and I used that. And therefore, I said, "Oh, I should go to Stanford and study with Panofsky if he's that good." Obviously, he knew electricity and magnetism cold because his book was so good. I figured that he would be doing interesting things. So, you just do it.
So, you had no conception at this point of the Monster or anything relating to SLAC? This was just going to work with Panofsky because that's where he was.
That's where he was. I mean, it sounds stupid.
That sounds naive, not stupid.
Well, maybe naive. But I mean, the thought process—well, you have to pick an institution. If I had gone to Princeton, which I also thought about, I didn't know anybody on the faculty at Princeton.
And what about staying at Cornell? Was that under consideration?
Oh, you don't do that. You go away. I mean, I violated the laws when I did not leave Stanford after I got my PhD. But you should go elsewhere and learn somewhere else. And meet other people and get other perspectives on science and life. The thought never crossed my mind.
So, when do you get to Stanford? This would have been what, the fall of 1952?
This would have been the fall of 1952. No, sorry. The fall of 1957. In 1952, I graduated from high school. In 1957 I graduated from Cornell. And so, this would have been the fall of 1957. So, I got in. I drove out west, spent the summer of 1957 at Los Alamos, and then went onto Stanford for the beginning of the Fall Quarter of 1957. I had a summer job at Los Alamos, which was fabulous. And I ended up going back there in the summer of 1958 because I didn't start my appointment with Pief until September of 1958. Because, I spent the year 1957-58 taking graduate classes and passing my qualifying exam. Which was ten hours of exams. And, Bob Griffiths got a ninety-eight, and the rest of us all were down in the sixties. And Griffiths is at Carnegie Mellon. He did solid-state theory. You asked me about theory. For me to compare myself to Bob Griffiths, who ended up doing that? That's why I say he got a ninety-eight in the—ten problems. Ninety-eight. So, you know there were a bunch of tens. And the rest of us got—all I cared about was I passed. I don’t even remember my total grade, but I was nowhere near Bob Griffiths.
So, you really didn't have much contact with Panofsky while you were taking your qualifying exams.
No. What happened was, I went over—but I knew he was there. And I met Jerry Pine. And, of course, that was a nice intro to things. And I took really good classes Also, the students did a lot together. I think it was in May of my second year when we started the graduate student versus faculty softball game, which is continuing even now after being moved up to SLAC some twenty years ago. We would play the softball game with the faculty on one of Stanford’s softball fields and then have a beer party in Sid Drell's backyard. Sid lived on the campus, so it was easy. The day after that first game, I got stopped by the Campus Police because I was putting a beer keg in the back of my car at Sid’s house. But of course, I was over twenty-one. Then there was always a Christmas party with the students and the faculty. In my second year, my roommate, Les Blatt, and I were responsible for a large part of the program. So, we wrote a sketch. We parodied My Fair Lady. And the idea was to teach whomever walked in the door, that knocked—I was a faculty member in my office. Whomever walked in my office that was a student, we would teach that student how to do the hula hoop. Because the hula hoop was very popular in the late 1950s. And so, we wrote parodies to probably eight of the songs in My Fair Lady. I had a tape recorder which had the music on it and such. So, there was a good rapport between the faculty and the students. The advantage is—if you're a student at an undergraduate school, they give you a grade, and they don't care what happens to you. I mean, if you're a physics major, and you don't make it, so what. At the graduate program, remember, they have admitted you because they believe that you have the qualities to be able to—
To be able to contribute. And it's a black mark if you don't make it, really. They're not going to lower their standards. But it's a black mark if you don't make it. And so, there's a whole different rapport, or at least there was at the time I was going through this. There's a whole different rapport between the interaction of the student and the faculty as an undergraduate and the student and faculty as a graduate student. And the other thing which turned out to be interesting was they always assigned you to a member of the faculty as an advisor for your first year.
That's a very Oxford way of doing things. Assigning a tutor like that.
Okay, so who should be my tutor? Sid Drell.
Oh, wow. Lucky you.
(Laughter) Yeah. And so, I remember going and talking to him when I was getting close to finishing and saying, "Pief offered me a job at SLAC". And Sid looked at me and said, "I'm going up there next year." I didn't know that before. He went up as head of the theory department. But, let’s go back to the end of my first year of courses at Stanford. Pief's secretary was Laurose Becker, who eventually became Laurose Richter, Burt Richter's wife. All that inbreeding. So, I went over to see her in her office at Stanford’s High Energy Physics Lab (HEPL) to make an appointment with Pief to introduce myself and say that I would like to join his group and have him be my thesis advisor.
And this would have been what year now, like 1959?
No, no. This was May of 1958. So, in other words, I had finished my quals. I had taken the courses that I was required to take. But I would take another course in 1958/59. I took advanced quantum mechanics because Sid Drell was teaching it and Jim Bjorken, BJ, who was a graduate student with us, was also helping! Here's another reason why I would have never done theory. Because you have BJ sitting in there (laughter). This course became the foundation for Sid and BJ’s future book on Advanced Quantum Mechanics. Our class became the test audience for the book. I sat in on that course again in 1959/60 as Sid and BJ were polishing it up for book publication and gave them feedback from someone in the audience.
I talked to BJ. We had a great time. What a character.
Oh, you talked to him like this?
Oh, yeah. And he and I have gone mountain climbing all over the place.
Yes. Because he was in the Stanford Alpine Club, as was I. Yosemite was a couple hours away.
It's all about mountains for BJ. Everything is about mountains.
Yes, right. Well, look at resonances, there are mountains, right? No, BJ has been a very good friend of mine. And in fact, at the end of my second year at Los Alamos, which would have been the summer of 1958, he and Tom Creese, a friend of his from Berkeley who was a mathematician, and I spent a week in southwest Colorado. Climbing for a week, doing all sorts of interesting peaks and having a great time. He must have told you something about his climbing interests and such.
It's a big deal for him. So anyway, May of 1958. I went over to Pief’s office in HEPL and talked to Laurose and set up an appointment and went in to see Pief. I'd never met him before. I'd seen him. I knew who he was, but I'd never met him. And so, we talked for some period of time. And then he said—
Did he speak with an accent?
Oh, yeah, he always had an accent. It was a German accent that never went away. It was never as dramatic as somebody living in Europe who's German and speaks English part-time because, of course, after Pief came here, he was speaking English all the time. But yeah, he had a good accent. So anyhow, we talked for, say, half an hour. Then he said, "Come back and see me in two weeks. I want to spy on you." And those were his words.
I want to spy on you?
I want to spy on you.
Meaning that he was going to have eyes on you in the intervening two weeks?
Oh, yeah. He was going to look at my record and talk to people, do whatever he did. I don't know what he did, okay. But do whatever he did.
So, who would he have talked to? Would he have talked to Sid Drell? I mean, who was there to talk to?
Oh, first of all, he'd want to look at my quals. I'm sure he looked at my exams. And I don't know what he did. He obviously spent some time thinking about what I could do as a thesis, too. Of course, if he takes me on, he's got to have an idea for a thesis.
And was your sense that in his decision to take you on that, if he would take you on, you would really be in his inner circle, you'd be part of the team?
Yeah. And he had a group—the Hansen Lab's high energy physics program had three Stanford professors. They had Bob Hofstadter, who did electron scattering, and he won the Nobel Prize in 1961 for electron scattering, determining the size of the proton. The form factor fell off as one over q to the eighth, or thereabouts. So, he did that. And then there was Panofsky. And then there was Bob Mozley. One of Mozley’s responsibilities was overseeing the crew that ran the linear accelerator. Because you have to remember, they started with this facility —there was a lot of accelerator physics in all of this. Because they started with Bill Hansen's idea of disc-loaded waveguides for accelerating electrons. It's the same thing that was done at SLAC eventually. There was a small 70 MeV linear accelerator (linac) that was called the Mark II. And then there was the Mark III, which was originally supposed to go to about 500 MeV. And then they rebuilt it, roughly doubling the length and adding more klystrons, and building a beam-switchyard and new experimental area at the end of the upgraded accelerator. This construction was being completed as I arrived at Stanford. Eventually the energy of the MARKIII did reach around one GeV, which at the time was a record for an electron linac. So, there was a whole lot of accelerator physics going into that to make it work. It was not running well when I first showed up at HEPL in September 1958. And Mozley was in charge to make it work, and there was about forty percent of running time to each of the three groups. And they had an understanding that that's about what each group would get. And they ran only at night and on the weekends.
Because the daytime was— you couldn't, you didn't want people in the offices and shops that were alongside the accelerator. Radiation levels and radiation safety-controlled running conditions. And they also wanted to be able to do the work. I mean, you had to go in and do work in the end station as well as work on the klystrons. So, there was always a frantic effort to get things done during the day so that you could then. . . Some people would run at night. And they switched back and forth by the week. And we helped the operators, but the operators operated it. But, for example, if you had to have an extra person or two people for searching before lockup, graduate students would help out.
So, did Panofsky circle back in those two weeks, like he said?
Well, at two weeks when I went back, and he said he'd take me on. So, I joined his group. Let's see, Jerry Pine was in Pief’s group. Lou Hand, was a grad student a year ahead of me also in Pief's group. I can't remember who else was in there. I'd have to think about it, and we won't take the time. But there were a couple other older graduate students, and there was me. And I don't remember who else. I mean, I remember the people I knew well. Darrell Drickey worked for Mozley. Arjun Saxena was there. There were a number of them. Ernie Alton. But Ernie Alton was ahead of me, too. And Ray Alverez as well as Maurice Bazin. Names keep coming back when you get your memory bank going,
Now, what was Pief's style in terms of directing you? Did he give you your course of action, and you just went with that? Or you had to come up with your own ideas and report back to him?
No. Well, one of the things he had wanted to do, and he tried it once and it didn't work. Or he'd at least thought pretty hard about it. At the time, we didn't understand the mu meson. We now know it's a heavy electron, but at the time we didn't. And so, the question was, could you photoproduce mu meson pairs? Gamma off a probe with a proton to take up the extra momentum. Gamma goes to mu plus mu minus. I mean, it's like electron pair production, but with muons. But the problem is, it's hard. Because, number one, there are muons all over the place from pi decay. Number two, these things scale as at least the mass squared. I can't remember exactly, maybe even more. But if it's the mass squared: the muon is basically one hundred times the electron mass. And so, if you scale as the mass squared relative to photoproduction of electron-positron pairs, that's a factor of ten to the fourth that the rate goes down. If you're going to do it at an electron machine, you can't be much above the photoproduction threshold. Or you get pions floating around, which decay into muons. And pions are, that's a strong interaction process. So, they're all over the place. Because you're producing with a proton there. So, Pief had built something called the meson-beam-magnet (a double-focusing, zero-dispersion magnetic spectrometer). And it consisted of two identical magnets bending particles 110 degrees each in the same direction. And he had machined quadrupole focusing into the magnet iron to give him the required optics. He had point-to-point focusing in both planes with a crossover between the two magnets in the radial plane. And it gave him a way for doing photoproduction experiments, which he wanted to do. So, we were going to use that to measure a muon coming out at whatever angle it was. And if you were below pion threshold, it could only come from mu pairs. Because the thought was if you kinematically could not make a pi meson, then you knew the muon had to come from mu pairs. That cross-section was very small. So, the real question was, could you beat back the backgrounds? And so, we built a very fancy—remember, you're eventually looking for particles with rest masses below that of the pion (140 MeV) and the muon’s rest mass is 105 MeV. The energy's not high, especially to today’s (2020) standards. So, you could build something which was a foot or so long, which had several scintillation counters interspersed between several sheets of lead absorber and placed at the focal point of the meson-beam-magnet located inside a shielded cave. The detector we built was small and compact. And the big thing was learning how to beat the backgrounds. So, we worked hard at this.
And this directly fed into your dissertation, this work?
Patience, patience. In principle, yes. But I'm coming to that. And so, in the meantime, at some point in time in all of this, I'd gotten married -- June of 1960. I was now the father of a baby girl (Catherine), born in April of 1962, who graduated from the University of Colorado in 1984 and who this year (2020) had her fifty-eighth birthday! So, time has gone by. And she has a son who's now in college. So, in July, this is now July of 1962, we came to the realization that we could not beat the backgrounds. Then life became interesting. I took the family to the Tetons and put my wife and daughter on a plane to go back east and see their grandparents. And I went climbing for two weeks to clear my brain. So, you say, it's like BJ. Everything revolves around the mountains. And I came back to Stanford and found that Dave Ritson from MIT had just joined the Stanford Physics faculty. He had been at MIT, an associate professor, I'm sure, and came to Stanford, and he joined Pief's group. He had just arrived, so he was trying to figure out his hierarchy in the department and everything. And so, after some thought, we (Pief, Dave, and I) realized that we could use the apparatus that I had just built but modify the kinematics slightly and go out and look at the end of the range-energy relationship for pions and mu mesons and see whether there was a charged particle that had a mass between the electron and the mu meson. That thing worked swimmingly. We started understanding what we were doing in early September. We took the data in October, analyzed them in November and December, and I had a thesis done by the first of February of 1963. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons. And the interesting thing about it was that there were conferences that had been held at Cambridge called the CEA conferences. They lasted for, I don't know, ten or fifteen years, something like that. And Ritson went back to the 1963 conference at the end of January. Feynman was there, and there was this particular talk that was given. At the end of it, when the chairperson called for comments, Feynman raised his hand and he said something like, "Dumb question, but could there possibly be particles with a rest mass somewhere between the electron and the mu meson?" At which point Ritson quickly raised his hand and said, "Yeah, Dave Coward and I just measured it, and the answer is no” (laughter).
Was Feynman satisfied with that response?
Oh, yeah. Dave did not stand up and give any numbers. Other than maybe to say it's a factor of ten to the minus two or more, something like that. So anyway, my thesis was done. And my thesis defense and all that was finished by like the sixth of February of 1963. And then the other thing that happened, which was interesting, in, let me say, November of 1962. I got a letter from a headhunter saying that his agency was representing a company, and that he knew I was about to finish my degree. He obviously got my name from the graduate department of the university itself, that I was about to finish up. He said they've got a company that might be interested in someone with my talents. And I hadn't even thought about what I was—since we pulled all this off in less than six months, I hadn't even thought about what I was going to do in the future yet. That would come, and I would, worry about it then. So, I said, "okay, I'll fill this out." And they wanted to know the name of a reference, and I will never put anybody's name down without asking first. I came into my office and called up Laurose and told her I had gotten this application and would Pief mind if I put his name down as a reference. And half-an-hour, forty-five minutes later, the phone rings and I picked it up, and it's Pief calling me back. And he says, "Of course you can use my name for a reference." But he said, "Don't do anything rash. I want to offer you a job at SLAC." And I fell off my chair.
So, when you say, I mean, this idea that you broke the law by staying on, right?
I broke the law by what?
You broke the law by staying on at Stanford. You're not supposed to do that, right? You made that comment earlier.
Because what happens are that—
I mean, Panofsky offers you. That's the law, right?
Of course. But Pief was a special case! So, what I did was I made sure I got everything together. And then I said, "I'm going to go test the waters and see." Because I thought it was important to have gone through the exercise of going elsewhere and giving a talk. So, I applied for a job at Northwestern, and I applied for a job at Penn. And I went to Northwestern and gave a talk. I don't remember what happened with Penn, but I went to Northwestern, where Martin Block was at the time, and gave this talk. And so, it made me go through the whole routine of getting on a plane, going to a hotel, going to a department, talking to all the people in the department, giving a talk, and so on. And that was an important thing to do. But it was very clear that unless something spectacular turned up, I was going to stay at SLAC. The reason why it's hard, and I think it affected my future at some level, is that the people who knew you as a graduate student always think of you as a graduate student.
So, what was your game plan? How were you going to escape that if you stayed on? Or you never did? (laughter)
I don't know. I never had a game plan. I mean, basically, the opportunity was so good that you say okay. And I'll tell you a little more about SLAC in a minute. You'll see what I mean. The opportunity was there. And if Pief saw something in me, that he wanted me there to help out, then there was—once I realized that there was, I found out what the assistant professor's chances of staying at another university were and all that. And it made no sense.
So, you recognized when Pief asked you to stay on, this was a very, what's the word, intentional kind of request? Meaning, he knew who you were as a person, and he specifically saw in you what he needed you to do.
That's right. And I will tell you about the beginnings of SLAC, where this became very evident. And I also think that one of the reasons for doing that thesis topic, which was not earthshaking, although, it actually went in the back of the Particle Data Book for several years. It was there with a picture of the curve that we had which showed why there were no particles with rest mass between that of the muon and the electron. That it actually got in the Particle Data Book for several years…. So, it was noticed. Let's put it that way. But I even think that Pief had in the back of his mind that he wanted to get me out of graduate school so I could go to work for him. As the expression goes, he ain't that stupid (laughter). He knew what he was doing. And, I should add, that Dave Ritson’s involvement in the experiment and as a second signer of my thesis was good for Ritson’s long-term career at Stanford, as he remained at Stanford until his death in October 2019.
And that extended- I mean, but his management style. You know, I get the impression that he sort-of like, he would be involved in hiring the janitors, too. You know, I mean he really cared about everybody and saw, you know, potential in everybody.
Oh, boy did he ever. He had a heart of gold, but he knew what he wanted to do. I told you before he was the smartest guy I ever knew. And he was not originally going to be the director of SLAC. That's the other thing. Ed Ginzton was going to be the director of SLAC, and Pief was going to be head of the physics division, the research division. And then Ed Ginzton had to leave Stanford to become CEO of Varian Associates after the two Varian brothers both died suddenly (1959 and 1961)
So, meaning that Panofsky was going to be number two from the beginning.
Pief would have basically been number two, but he would have been involved with the physics. He would have been running the physics program. Which is what he was doing at the High Energy Lab, too. Even though Hofstadter was there, and Hofstadter didn't report to Pief. But Pief ran the lab because Pief was responsible for the money that was spent under the contract that Pief signed with the Office of Naval Research. But when Ginzton had to leave Stanford to run Varian Associates after the deaths of the Varian brothers, somebody had to step up, and so Pief stepped up to be the director. He had to spend so much of his time later on worrying about budgets and land use, all of this other stuff that you had to have done to have a productive lab. But he was building the lab’s foundation. He was not involved in—I mean, the closest he came to “doing” physics was when we, the first experiment we did in End Station A was the elastic electron scattering. We took Hofstadter's results and extended them to a Q-squared of twenty-five GeV/c squared. And he took shifts on that. And he's on the paper. But then he backed off. He was like, "I don't have the time." Which is a shame because, he should have been on the deep inelastic, but he wasn't. That's a factual statement. He didn't take shifts or anything. So, he made that decision because he had to keep the lab running. At least he had the opportunity to present the first deep-inelastic electron scattering results at the 1968 Vienna conference – the first real experimental results from SLAC that put SLAC on the map as an important laboratory. And if you remember, one of the things about SLAC was that the power of particle physics, at that time, was on the East Coast involving primarily all proton machines. And we were doing stuff with a linear electron machine, which had a completely different and much shorter duty cycle, completely different conditions under which we worked. And it was very hard to get people. It was very hard to make it a national lab and get other university people to come to SLAC to work on it because there was always the belief—probably true, actually—that the Stanford people had the heads-up in doing everything.
Yeah, but coming there, wouldn't you have gotten in on that insider knowledge?
It would be tough. Because, basically, you had to fly out and fly back home again, and you had teaching responsibilities. It was much more comfortable for people to go to Brookhaven, for example, or to go to Fermilab. Because they were using beams that the experimenters knew. They were using protons. They knew all about protons. And the distances were short. Even though it took how many months to take the g-2 experimental apparatus from Brookhaven to Fermilab. Like fifteen months, or something like that, whatever it was. Because, as I understand, it went via New Orleans and up the Mississippi River by boat. It was not trucked directly over the mountains.
So where are you fitting in in all of this?
Okay. So come early May of 1963, I report to the building on the campus because they were just starting to build the site. They broke ground in 1962 for building the accelerator and associated campus buildings. I show up to the building on the campus where we work and report for duty. And first of all, my officemate turned out to be Franco Bonaudi, who was spending a year from CERN. And he and Monique became very good friends of ours and had a lot to do with later on when I started going back over to CERN partially because of him. But he was a superb mechanical engineer—and/or electrical engineer, —who learned very quickly how to do experiments at CERN. And he knew all about building research yards. For example, later he became the head of the support group at CERN’s ISR (Intersecting Storage Rings), and even later he became Director of Accelerators (I think that was the title). He became very important at CERN! But back in 1963, he came over for a year to help us design the Research Yard and End Stations. He had gotten there three or four months before I had, and we shared an office together. And the idea, at the time, was that—there was a conceptual design for what the beam switchyard should look like, very conceptual, and basically no design, other than the fact that we were going to have two experimental halls, no design for the research yard. And, that made sense. Because basically the accelerator itself was a hard enough thing and had enough problems of how you put the whole accelerator together, with all the utilities and everything else, to get that started first. And then you worry about the beam switchyard, where the beam is transported out to various experiments located in the research yard. And at the time the 1990 Nobel Prize for our deep inelastic scattering experiments was announced, we brought back everybody that we could think of that had worked on the spectrometer facility and such, and we had an all-day symposium on, from beginning to end, attempting to put the prize in perspective and saying “thank you” to all who had participated – physicists, engineers, technicians, etc. After all, this was the experiment that, when it was done, put SLAC on the physics map. I gave one of the half-an-hour talks specifically on the research yard and buildings and on the design, construction, and checkout of the spectrometer facility. And I realized then that in retrospect, when you get a chance to think about things, you see things differently. When you're in the middle of it, you don't— you're just doing your job. And some of the subtleties don't occur to you right at that time. But, first of all, there were basically four of us who were responsible for the scoping of that whole thing. There was Dick Taylor, who was in charge of the switchyard. Were you able to talk to him before he died in 2018?
That's a pity. He was a fabulous guy. Heart of gold and very bombastic. But anyway, I became his deputy group leader after a while. And then there was Ed Garwin. He knew all about solid-state physics, surface physics, etc. He was the guy who made sure we could build slits and collimators that could take the beam and clean it up coming down the beam line, so you had a good clean beam of electrons when you're in End Station A or in End Station B. This was a non-trivial problem. The power of the beam from the linac was such that an uncooled copper block would melt when hit by a single high-intensity pulse. There is a movie around somewhere in the SLAC archives that shows this happening. Unfortunately, Ed died in November 2008. And there was Hobey DeStaebler, a great guy who died in June 2008. His main responsibility was calculating and understanding radiation levels within the SLAC site and, for the general public, levels at the site boundary, as the designs of the beam switchyard and research area moved forward. Then there was me. I had the responsibility for overseeing the scoping of the entire “research yard”, including the two large concrete experimental “end stations”, one of which (End Station A) was where we would build the spectrometer facility used for our electron scattering experiments. Dick, Hobey and I became the senior SLAC members of the SLAC-MIT Collaboration that would later discover quarks Remember, that at the time we were talking about all this, the other three guys were in their early thirties and I was in my upper twenties. Unfortunately, I am the only one of the four of us left to talk about all of this.
And you're also the graduate student who's still there.
In a sense, yes. And Pief basically left us alone. Number one, he walked around the site all the time. I mean, at night before he'd go home, he'd go to one place or he'd go to someplace else. And he was so smart, as I said earlier, that in five microseconds he could realize what was going on. And we held weekly meetings or whenever. We all interacted well, one with another. It was all very collegial, but we were also good friends. Pief knew the four of us well, even though Garwin had never been at Stanford before he came to SLAC, but Pief knew the four of us well enough that he knew we'd come and talk to him if we had problems. It was this time when I begin to realize that I was something more than just a graduate student doing a thesis and getting out. I had a lot of responsibility. That's for sure. And here's where my engineering came in.
Aha! I was waiting for this.
Because, you see, we’re building everything we will need for the lab’s future experimental program from a “green field”. And we needed to build in flexibility to allow for experiments that would be based on future physics developments. Franco was a great help in all of this. Franco Bonaudi, whom I mentioned earlier. We had to scope out water distribution, electrical distribution, what do we need, where are magnets going to be. We also were building, in End Station A, we were building a photon source for doing photoproduction experiments. So, after the electrons went through a thin radiator, you bent them down into a beam dump in the ground, located just in front of the foundations for the upstream wall of End Station A. Then you had to worry, and here's where Hobey came in, you then had to worry about what were the radiation backgrounds in End Station A coming from nuclear interactions in the beam dump. Particles coming upward and giving you background in all your counters. Big problem. And all of this had to tie into the beam switchyard. In addition, the end station buildings had to be designed and constructed in such a way that the radiation levels would not exceed general population limits in the immediate neighborhoods when we were running with high intensity and high energy beams. The decisions we would make would affect SLAC’s experimental program for decades to come.
Why is that a big problem, exactly?
Because, basically, remember, we're running on a very short duty cycle machine. So, if you dump the beam—remember, the beam is a couple of microseconds long—and you dump the beam down into the beam-dump, you're going to get junk particles from the beam-dump, which end up going through your counters at the same time the particles that you want to detect are going through the counters—
So, it kills the whole experiment?
It kills the whole experiment. You got it. So, we ended up, thanks to, I think, Leroy Schwartz who scoured military surplus lists; we ended up building the dump down in the ground with additional shielding of bullet stock from the navy or the army. It was surplus. We used the bullet stock because it's iron, it’s dense, and it can absorb lots of particles coming from the dump. So, we surrounded the dump with bullet stock, something like half-inch diameter bullet stock rods that were three meters long or whatever, positioned around strategically between the dump and the upstream wall of End Station A to take care of the backgrounds. In the meantime, SLAC began to think seriously about what would be the initial experimental program and what equipment would be needed to pursue that program. Without going into the details right now, it was decided that SLAC would construct a spectrometer facility consisting of what we called the 20 GeV spectrometer, the 8 GeV spectrometer, and the 1.6 GeV spectrometer. All three of these spectrometers rotated on circular rails about a common pivot. The thing that formed the pivot around which our spectrometers rotated was an 18-inch naval gun barrel accrued from the surplus list. It was about thirty-five feet long, shoved down into the ground and performed as expected. This was one of the places where my Cornell engineering experience was useful.
And so, you were the guy? I mean, for the engineering stuff, you were the guy?
No. Let's be clear. Minus the experimental equipment, the Accelerator, the Beam Switchyard and the End Station/Research Yard main construction and all the other laboratory buildings, utilities, etc., that was all done by Aetron-Blume-Atkinson, which was a “joint venture” engineering firm.
Which was what? They were a contractor to SLAC?
They were the main contractor for SLAC. Yes. To design the accelerator, campus and lab buildings, etc., we had John Bloom and Associates. I talked to Blume once in a while, but Roland Sharpe was the guy who was John Blume's deputy. He was the main Project Engineer who was always on site. Blume worried about everything from an earthquake perspective because, of course, everybody said you've got real problems with earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault. Atkinson took care of the actual construction of the accelerator housing, the Klystron Gallery, and all the remaining buildings. And Aetron took care of all the utilities design. I think that's the way the tasks were split. It was called ABA, Aetron-Bloom-Atkinson. And I dealt with Roland a fair bit. And a good number of years later on he became a consultant to SLAC on earthquake mitigation, and I dealt with him somewhat because I had kept my fingers in the earthquake safety at Pief's and later Burt Richter’s request. Pief had established an Earthquake Safety Committee as soon as SLAC people started designing experimental equipment for the End Stations (A and B) and/or the research yard, and for many years I was the physicist on the Committee to help keep the other committee members, primarily engineers, honest. That is, we wanted to ensure that earthquake safety was considered in the experimental equipment design via a “risk/benefit” analysis, following good engineering practices. But anyhow, and then when it came to modifying End Station A and putting in the rails that we used for or spectrometers to roll on around the central target, that was all done by ABA, but that was done on a separate contract. It made sense. They were there. I mean, it's a heavy machinery type of thing. But they had a contract, which had specific goals and end results. And then we modified, in the research yard, we modified items where appropriate. When we installed the spectrometers and related items in End Station A, we had a separate contract with a smaller engineering and installation company whose personnel worked very closely with us. A lot of this installation was done using people not part of SLAC itself. There was always this question of the Davis-Bacon Act, which had to do with pay scales on federal projects and who could do specific types of work. The AEC was happy with how we split the work between outside contractors and SLAC staff. But that's why I say that's where my engineering background from Cornell turned out to come in very handy. I never actually made the necessary detailed engineering calculations, but I was perfectly comfortable making “back-of-the-envelope” estimates. You learn very quickly that the item in question that you are designing better “smell” right. If it doesn't “smell” right, you're probably in trouble. There's a reason why the Acropolis building in Greece still stands. Fortunately, we were able to keep the engineers focused on giving us good designs and yet keeping those designs with enough flexibility to cover experimental ideas that would come in the future.
Now when you say you're in trouble, you mean scientifically and administratively?
All of the above. When you think about the stuff we did --- I show up in early May of 1963. And they're just building the accelerator. Remember, it's a tunnel with thirty feet of dirt over it and then the klystron gallery on the top. So, the accelerator itself is buried in the tunnel, you can walk in the tunnel if there's no beam. That's easy. But you have a ten-foot-by- ten-foot cross-sectional area tunnel, or whatever it was, and the accelerator going down one side of it and penetrations which go up through thirty feet of dirt. And you've got a klystron gallery up on the top, which houses all the klystrons and the circuitry to run the klystrons and all that. And the laser alignment system to keep it aligned. So, there was a lot of really hard structural engineering involved in that, which I didn't have anything to do with. I would interact with Dick a lot on the switchyard. Between Hobey, Dick, Ed Garwin, and me, we had a lot to do with the switchyard, and then we had a lot to do with the End Stations and Research Yard and how everything interfaced and became in reality one package. But as I said, we were a bunch of youngsters. And if you think about what happened after the review processes for the SSC became the norm…... The only review process we had was we talked to Pief, and Pief talked to the AEC local office. It was a completely different time. This is well-documented in one of the hearings in Washington, when Pief was going to testify at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, or whatever it was, that oversaw us. It may not have even a hearing about SLAC but may have been about arms control work that Pief also did. In any event, he went back there to give his testimony in front of Chet Holifield and Craig Hosmer. They were both representatives from California. And Pief walked into the hearing room while the hearing was going on. They stopped the hearing, came down from their table—you know the way Congress does hearings, where, the person who's talking is low down and he's talking uphill to the congressmen or senators that are around the table. They stopped this hearing and came down to shake hands with Dr. Panofsky and wish him well and so on. And then they went back and continued the hearing (laughter). And it sounds trite, but when Rickover got involved with the AEC (or ERDA or DOE) and became— he was a submarine guy and changed the whole tenor of how oversight process worked. And how much of that was Rickover himself and how much of that was because the SSC was badly managed, I have no idea. But when we were doing this, we'd meet in Pief's office and talk a little bit. And there were no PowerPoint slides or anything like that. There was a blackboard and a whiteboard. And we talked on that.
And what was his style when you would be updating him? I mean, how in the weeds would he get? What did he want to know from you?
It varied. I mean, yes, he went in the weeds. He wanted to know—but the point is you could say something, and he would understand what you were saying right away.
Because he had a global view of everything that was going on.
He had a global—I mean, he was just smart. He had a global view of everything. And he made sure that he kept connected, that he kept connected in a great way. The other thing—this was really important for the physics types. He had this house in Los Altos Hills, which, if I'm not mistaken, had no fireplaces in it because it was built years before by a guy who was a sea captain, and who was afraid of fires. It was a big, big house up on the top of a hill. And Pief had five kids, so, he needed something like that. And the story was it was the only place he could afford when he came from Berkeley in 1951. And he lived in there for the remainder of his life. The last time I talked to Adele, his wife, she was still living there by herself because Pief died of a heart attack in September 2007. But every Monday evening, if he were in town, we would have physics seminars at his house. I knew all their kids, his kids, not because they came around the lab but because we came to them. They were there when we'd come out. And we'd have coffee and cookies before whatever talk was on the agenda. He had an upright piano, and we'd bring a blackboard, a big blackboard, down the stairs from his office and prop it on the piano. The piano was closed, but there was a little bar across the edge of the keyboard cover of the piano. And we'd prop this blackboard on there and have an hour talk. And it was the social event of the week. Once I joined Pief’s group, I went as a graduate student. These seminars continued well into the days when Pief was SLAC’s Director. He became Director Emeritus in 1984.
And when you say social event, are we talking physics here? Or are we talking ball games and movies?
I mean physics, of course, because the lectures were all about physics. Unless somebody was a visitor who had something else interesting to say about biology or chemistry or something. But, of course, talking with a cup of coffee and a cookie beforehand, who knows what you talked about. You talked about all sorts of things. It was a big enough place that he could have dinner parties in there. So that was the style that those of us who had been graduate students at Stanford knew—Taylor had been a graduate student as well. He was about four or five years ahead of me. So, I didn't know him until I met him at SLAC. He had gone to France as a postdoc and then returned to SLAC slightly before I started. Therefore, he was there. Hobey was there as a postdoc. Henry Kendall and Jerry Friedman, who became part of us in the SLAC-MIT collaboration, they were assistant professors at Stanford. Garwin clearly fit in very fast, even though he hadn't been at Stanford before. And all the graduate students came. Not so many from Hofstadter's side, but anybody having anything to do with Pief, that's where you came on Monday night. So, it was large enough that you had a good critical mass and small enough that it wasn't overwhelming, if you see what I'm saying.
Right. So, what's that number? The Goldilocks formula.
How many people? Twenty-five. A number like that. And so, all of us knew Adele. All of us knew their kids. So, for those of us in the research division, that spirit transferred over as SLAC went under construction. It had already been established. And, the major players—there were a lot of new people that came into the research division, but the major players had already been here. And it was a modus operandi that was already established.
So, what next? Then what?
I guess the other comment I say is that when we started thinking about what to do -- okay, you've built a machine. Now what? What to do? The fact that Jerry Pine—oh, Jerry Pine had been in Pief's group but had moved to Caltech. Henry Kendall and Jerry Friedman had been in Hofstadter's group, but both had moved to MIT. And we all got along so well. So, we put together what became the Caltech-MIT-SLAC Collaboration. And we designed and built what would become known as the SLAC Spectrometer Facility.
And what was your sense of why those institutions?
Because, number one, we had all done physics on an electron machine before. Henry and Jerry were heavily involved in electron scattering off the deuteron and possibly even helium-3. Hofstadter was interested in scattering of electrons off whatever nuclei he could get his hands on. SLAC presented a new area that was unexplored by a factor of twenty in energy compared to the MARK III linac on the Stanford campus, and usually what happens when you do something—not always, but usually what happens when you do something in a new area—is that you find something interesting. And it was clear to MIT that CEA wasn't going anywhere. And Jerry and Henry wanted to explore this new energy region at SLAC. So, they were interested in that. And Jerry Pine had been at Cornell and then he was at Stanford. Then he ended up at Caltech. And eventually, he went into biophysics. But he was interested in electron scattering, and specifically his interest was in the positron-electron difference. Do positrons scatter the same as electrons? The answer is yes, but we didn't know. One would probably say, yes, they probably did, but let's measure it. So, we form this collaboration, which turned out to become Group A. SLAC eventually had Groups A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.
Now, did these just go in sequence, in the order that they were formed, or was Group A like the A group?
No. What happened was that at some point—oh, I should mention one other thing, if I'm tooting my own horn. Because it's related to what Pief was thinking. At some point, before we moved up to the new campus at the accelerator site, while we were still down at Stanford's campus. Because SLAC's campus is two miles or three miles away from the main campus. And we were down on the main campus. Close to a year later after I started, the nebulous SLAC faculty—and that's another interesting discussion. You may have gotten something out of BJ on that.
But the nebulous SLAC faculty decided that it was time to organize the research division. And the SLAC faculty, at that time, I think was Pief, and Joe Ballam, who was head of the Research Division. And Bob Mozley, who would have his own group at SLAC. And at least two others, namely Burt Richter and Martin Perl —oh, Sid Drell, of course, because Sid was the head of the Theory Division. So, they decided that they would organize the physicists in the Research Division. When the dust settled, there were five initial experimental groups: Group A – Pief, Group B-Joe Ballam, Group C- Burt Richter, Group D-, Bob Mozley and Group E, Martin Perl. Later on, two Stanford physics professors, Dave Ritson would have Group F, and Melvin Schwartz would have Group G.
So, what did that mean, the research division? I mean, it's all research. What does that mean, the research division?
Well, the point is that we were being judged as particle physicists or as physicists, not somebody who has experience in electronics or something like that. It was what you would say are people who would, say, be in line to be a professor of physics at SLAC or be professor at some other institution in physics. Because remember, we hired—well, I didn't say this before, but as the spectrometer group started to build, we hired a few mechanical engineers. We hired Ed Taylor, who had been at Caltech. He came up because we had Caltech people, and that's how we got to know him. He came up to be our chief engineer on the spectrometer design. And he was a mechanical engineer, but the first thing he started to work on when he got up here was how to design the poles for a quadrupole magnet that would give you a good quadrupole field out a long way away from the axis and the center. And that was electronic modeling he was doing. He was the type of guy who had many interests and knew a lot. And he was chief engineer for the spectrometer facility design and installation. So he's not counted. I'm talking about people who would come here to do physics on the machine. If somebody comes to the department at, say, Penn or Northwestern or Harvard or somewhere, you come in either as an assistant professor without tenure or a research associate who may be appointed as an assistant professor. But until you become associate professor, you don't have tenure at all. And you even could be an associate professor without tenure. So, it's in that sense I'm talking about. Because there had been no limits put on—I mean, my contract, such as it was, it wasn't a contract. I just walked in and signed papers saying I would regard Stanford with honor and not do nasty things. And I would get paid this amount of money. And papers that said what I was expected to do. But anyhow, this nascent faculty met. And for the particle physics types, there were two categories: you would either be permanent staff or what they called “beam plus three years”. “Beam plus 3” meant add three years from when the first useable beams arrived in the Research Yard. My letter, dated 15 February 1964, upgraded me to a permanent staff position! To my knowledge, the only people that got permanent staff were Dick Taylor, Hobey DeStaebler, and me. Permanent staff meant that we had permanent positions in the lab co-terminus with funding (AEC and subsequent federal agencies). I turned thirty later that year! Also, I’m pretty sure that Ed Garwin got a permanent staff position even though he would not have been classified as a particle physicist. He remained at SLAC for many years until he retired. Unfortunately, he also is no longer with us. I think that probably it is not a coincidence that the three of us, Dick, Hobey, and me) who became permanent staff also joined Group A under Pief. This group structure already had been established when we formed the Caltech-MIT-SLAC Collaboration. Many things were happening in parallel around this time.
So, would this have been the equivalent of like an associate professor kind of level? How did you understand that?
Well, it meant that if I kept—through the life of the laboratory, because the laboratory funding was not guaranteed. It came first from AEC, which then turned into ERDA, which then turned into DOE. The funding was not guaranteed. So, my support did not come from the university, in that sense. It came from outside sources. “Co-terminus with funding” is the expression usually quoted.
Did you ever think about funding? I mean, was that ever an issue like the way that professors are writing grants? Did you ever consider funding?
No, I didn't have to worry about that. That's what Pief did. He had a grant for the laboratory. And he had people that worked on that with him, of course.
Right. But I'm saying, that's different, like, to the extent that Pief would be a department chair and you would be an associate professor. In an academic setting, associate professors are definitely applying for grants.
That's right. My brother is four years younger than I am. He's retired from—he was twenty-two years at Michigan, his last post, where he was professor of organic chemistry and professor of pharmacy, and he studied drug chemistry. He clearly had to apply for his own grants for him and his group. Several other SLAC physicists eventually became permanent staff, besides the three that I just mentioned. But when those decisions were first made, as far as I know, there were just three of us that became permanent staff: Dick Taylor, Hobey DeStaebler, and me. And Dick and Hobey eventually became part of the faculty at SLAC. I did not, probably for a variety of reasons. And whether what I said before, being always the graduate student, was there, I have no idea. And you also need to remember that when I came out to Stanford in the Fall of 1957, I think it's fair to say that at that time Stanford was a very good regional university. It did not have the reputation it has today. Because it started small, and then it went through the depression, and, as you may know, the University was land rich and money poor. One of the guys I knew at Los Alamos during my two summers there had been a math instructor at Stanford in the late 1930s. And he got a pittance for doing it (I don’t remember the exact number), and he was there for two or three years. I don't remember where he went after that, but he eventually ended up at Los Alamos. And that's when I suddenly realized that the University back in the thirties really was land rich and cash poor.
And living in the shadow of Berkeley, to some extent also.
Yes. But the trustees brought in Wallace Sterling in 1949 as president. He was a librarian from Huntington Library in Los Angeles and previously at Caltech. He had earned his PhD in History at Stanford in 1938. And for Provost, he had Fred Terman, a Stanford electrical engineering professor, and those two people worked absolutely remarkably together. They had completely different talents. Wally Sterling was a historian. And he knew what a university ought to be, in the sense of a liberal education. And he had Fred Terman, who was a phenomenal electrical engineer, who knew how to support people. How to teach, number one, and how to support people like William Hewlett and David Packard. And they, Sterling and Terman, realized that the Stanford farm, land of which could never be sold due the university’s founding documents, could be used to make an industrial park where companies could lease land, build buildings, and support people. And the rest is history! Then there is the interesting thing about the klystron. It was invented at Stanford in the thirties by Bill Hansen and collaborators. The klystron patents are tight, very tight, so that Stanford gets a lot of money from klystrons. Sterling and Terman really built Stanford into what it is today. Or they started it on its trajectory. Let me put it that way.
Yeah. And you think that their vision, that was baked in from the beginning where they wanted to take it?
You mean Stanford? Yeah. I think Terman was trying to figure out ways to get money so that they could begin to do things with it. And the two of them, I'm sure, were trying to—I mean, they were trying to make a great university, no question about that. And so, when SLAC came along, it got support from the university’s upper management. However, there were real questions about trying to make sure that it did not overwhelm the rest of the university.
What would the concern have been there? What do you mean overwhelm? In terms of notoriety, publicity?
No. For example, just take the question. You've got a purchasing office, which purchases for, say, the sociology department. How many professors of sociology do you have? Pick your number. Five, ten? Something like that? Okay. Small. What are the grants that the sociology department has? They support two postdocs, three graduate students, and a professor. How much equipment do they buy? Basically zero.
So, the Monster could have referred not just to the accelerator but to, you know, administratively.
(Laughter) Yeah. And so, what the Stanford Administration did was they said, okay, we will have the director of SLAC come into the university hierarchy at the vice-presidential level. Not called a vice president, but at that level. So, you would have the provost in there, who manages the academic side of the University. And then you have vice president for investment, and vice president for something else, that's part of the infrastructure that the university has to have just to support all the people in the various departments it has. You have to have HR. You have to have somebody who buys supplies. You've got all of that infrastructure that keeps the place running, OK? And then you've got the director from SLAC. So, we had, at SLAC, our own HR department, our own purchasing department. All of the stuff which was separated from the rest of the university. Thus, no question of one purchasing department, say, having to worry about a five-hundred-dollar purchase order from sociology and, at the same time, a five-million- dollar order from SLAC. The same people didn't deal with each of them. The other thing, and BJ probably told you about this, was there was real animosity between the physics department, the applied physics department, and SLAC. For example, Felix Bloch, a professor in the Physics Department, did not think of lasers as pure physics
What would they have been if not?
Applied physics. And so, Bloch didn't want laser research in the physics department. Because it wasn't pure. Remember, he grew up in Switzerland and did his graduate studies in Germany.
That's helpful (laughter). That's helpful to remember. Right.
And to remember what the Swiss and German departments were like at the time he was young. When I show up at Stanford, he's in his early fifties. His Nobel Prize came in 1952, for his NMR research. But laser stuff, microwave stuff, were not pure physics. So those guys got pushed out. And they formed the applied physics department. And so, you had the animosity between physics and applied physics. And then SLAC comes along. Number one, it took a couple of people from the physics department and that didn't go over well. I imagine there was a lot of mumbling when Sid Drell left. But we were not applied physics, and we were big and would get a lot of publicity and all that. So, one of the things that's happened, and it's taken forty years to resolve, but apparently now the relations between physics, applied physics, and SLAC are a lot better than they used to be.
You have a rough idea of when that transition happened? I mean, obviously, it's very slow, but any pivotal moments stand out?
Probably after I—as I said, I've been retired for twenty years. And probably after I started spending some blocks of time at CERN. I moved to Boulder, Colorado, in 1992 and commuted to SLAC (not daily, obviously) until I retired at the end of 1999, so it's been twenty years.
You've been out of a loop for a little while.
Even though my affinity is still at Stanford -- that's another thing that's interesting. Even though I had a great time at Cornell, I have been at Stanford for so long that I'm now part of Stanford. And I was not even an undergraduate there, but such is life. It's been interesting to see the development of Stanford since I’ve been associated there. From a good, regional, institution to an institution near the top of the list.
So, you put SLAC—I mean, the overall narrative of Stanford's rise in the universe, right? Where do you put SLAC in that overall, you know, calculation? Is it really front and center, is it really right part of it? Or it's one of many rising tides, I guess.
Well, I guess the answer I would ask is, let's see what rising tides we do have. And electrical engineering is certainly a biggie. I mean, the amount of work done—and it's not just Stanford, it's just the way the whole field progressed. Computer science is a biggie as well. But, we've gotten ourselves to places where Silicon Valley was able to do a lot of stuff because you had the electronics to do it. Whether it was in chips, whether it was in storage units. And it's very clear that Silicon Valley is an offshoot of Stanford to the outside world. They've gotten some very, very good people at Stanford, and they can pay them well. And it's got a -- ignoring the recent downdraft in the financial markets, Stanford's endowment is pretty big. Still, I don’t think that it’s like Harvard, but I don’t really know.
So, it sounds like what you're saying in answer to that question is that SLAC's a major part of the equation, but it's not the only one.
That's right. But these things all feed on each other. The fact that you get something from here, somebody else comes in and says, "Ooh, I want to go where we have that ambiance."
And because SLAC was really at the beginning of this transformation, it's probably fair to say that it's a propellant for this, you know, mutually reinforcing idea.
In the academic sense, yes. In what got on the general news at night, only when Nobel Prizes were announced. That's where all the big stuff came in. And part of that is. . . How do I phrase it? Think back to the Hubble and what's come out of things like the space program. In the science sense, not in the rah-rah way, America is great, okay? And I'm one who stayed up late or got up early and watched all the launches from Palo Alto. Four o'clock in the morning, I was up watching every one of them, going all the way back to the beginning of the Apollo program If you realize, Hubble was put up there, and there was a screwup. And the screwup really had to do with metric versus English, I believe, in that the mirrors were not done right. And, Hubble goes up there, and it's fine. It gets into orbit. Everything is fine. And then they start to use it and realize that the mirrors are garbage. They have no resolution. The pictures are fuzzy. NASA was ready to shut it down. And it was feedback from many standard Americans—or standard people, put it this way, but primarily Americans—who said, "Fix it. Don't bring it down." Because NASA didn't want to spend the money to fix it. And that's because the astronomers, many years ago, had realized that they needed to have the general public understand what they were doing. And so, you have these pictures—I mean, I've never asked an astronomer who's done it, but they have to be color corrected. But you have these pictures up there of the Magellanic Cloud, just to name one, which are just gorgeous shots. And the ones of the nebulae that they have. These gorgeous pictures of what you see out there. And out there has always fascinated humankind because the question is, what's our place? Are we, like the Catholic Church was in Galileo's time, the center of the world? Or are we just something spinning here with other black holes and so on out there someplace? And it's been something that's always fascinated human beings because they'd look up at night and see all these dots up there, and they didn't understand what they were. So, the astronomers, a long time ago, were able to show the general public what was going on. And physicists, especially particle physicists, didn't do that. But the demise of the SSC made the physics community change. Because people suddenly said, "Hey, we've got to talk to our citizens about what we're doing." And that was—I mean, obviously, SLAC came in before the SSC went to pot. But that was— all of this is built in, so there's a lot of that effect in there.
So, let's see. What years does this bring us up to? We're sort of all over the place now.
Right. And when did the SSC go down the drain?
Let's see. It could have been. Yes, it was in 1993.
What's so significant about this, in terms of its impact to SLAC?
Oh, the SSC brought into the fray much more oversight from Washington. It about corresponded to the when Rickover was coming in and bringing—he had a specific way he ran the submarine corps. And that was, "Yes, sir, Mr. Rickover, Admiral Rickover. Yes, sir. No problem, sir. We do it, sir." And see, Pief was in that position too, in a sense. I mean, Pief could have been like Rickover, but he wasn't. That's part of the difference. The other thing I will say that that --- we talked about—at the end of the elastic scattering, and I'm not sure what actually drove it. But after we finished taking the elastic scattering data, Pief made the decision to withdraw from Group A and let us continue without him. He was an author on the elastic electron-scattering paper that was published in Physical Review Letters in February 1968 as the first electron-scattering paper from SLAC, but that is where it stopped. And in August 1968, the positron elastic-scattering paper came out. Caltech decided, after the positron scattering data had been taken, to leave the collaboration and leave the inelastic scattering program to MIT and SLAC.
And what year would this have been? Roughly?
We published our first two deep inelastic papers in the 20 October 1969 issue of Physical Review Letters. So, this would have been probably in 1967. I can't remember exactly —
Oh, that's early. I didn't realize it was that early.
Well, I'd have to go look up the record.
But it's in the early era, you're saying?
Well, we published the elastic paper in 1968. And they were on the elastic paper. And of course, you're doing several things at once. You're doing analysis. Jerry Mar, a Caltech graduate student, worked on the positron-electron comparison paper for his thesis and John Litt, a SLAC postdoc, pushed the elastic scattering analysis. At the same time, after we got the elastic running out of the way, we had started running on the inelastic to see what was there, and other people were looking at that. So, these things balanced each other. But 1969 was when we came out with the deep inelastic result, the first two papers. So, I'm going to say that it was shortly after the elastic running that the Caltech people said, "We don't want to continue with the inelastic program. We'll leave that to SLAC and MIT.
No bad blood there? That was just—
No, no bad blood at all. That's where I first got to know Barry Barish. The Caltech people just decided that they wanted to do other things. This past early February of 2020, there was a symposium at SLAC celebrating the SLAC retirement of Marty Breidenbach, who was the MIT graduate student that did most of the work on the initial MIT analysis of the deep inelastic scattering data. And I went back to SLAC to celebrate the occasion and see many of my old friends. I hadn't seen Barry for years. That evening we had to go down to the Faculty Club for dinner on the campus. Since he was by himself and I had a car, I offered him a ride. Thus, I had a chance going down and coming back to talk to Barry. And this is, after Barry received the Nobel Prize for LIGO and the first observation of gravitational waves. We had a chance to chat a little bit, which was really pretty sweet. Because, of course, I'm here in Colorado, and he's traveling all over the place from Caltech. And, he's in a different crowd of people than I am now. The other main player from Caltech, Jerry Pine, after leaving the SLAC-MIT-Caltech Collaboration, first joined a Caltech group doing physics at Fermilab and then decided to move his research into biophysics/neurobiology. He was also very interested in science education. He died in November 2017 at the age of 89. He was a great colleague and helped me get started in graduate school and therefore in my scientific career. Unfortunately, I did not know about his death and about the Caltech memorial service for him until working on this oral interview. So, no, I don't think there was any bad blood. It was what people wanted to do. And the thing about the SLAC and MIT people was, as BJ has undoubtedly told you— everybody did a lot together outside the lab. That's the point. I climbed with Henry. I climbed with BJ. I climbed with Hobey. I talked a lot with, interacted a lot with Jerry Friedman. And Jerry and Henry interacted with Dick a lot. It was all, you know, sort of a potpourri of. . . It was just a great collaboration because of the interactions we had elsewhere.
I want to ask you about your many, I don't know, leaves? Sabbaticals? Whatever you would call them in your position. When you went to CERN. At least, I think, it's four times, right?
Your question is why?
Not so much. The bigger question is, sort of, what did you bring back with you to SLAC as a result? I mean, the why is embedded in there. But that's the question I'm really curious about.
Well, okay. The first one 1976/77. I went with my family, my three kids and my wife. And that was basically a chance to see how another lab ran itself and to just do something different. Because I had been tied up with building SLAC and papers and all the committees and so on.
So, as an exploratory mission, did SLAC see CERN as a peer? How did it regard CERN?
At the time, basically, there was a huge interchange of people going back and forth between SLAC and CERN. I mentioned Bonaudi, for example, who was my office mate when we were first starting SLAC. He was the head of the ISR (Intersecting Storage Rings) physics support group when we made the arrangement for the sabbatical. I would go and work as a physicist in his group. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out quite that way. Before we got to CERN, he was appointed director of accelerators the year I would be there. I would have been in his group at the ISR, the Intersecting Storage Rings. I would have been in his group, but he went from there up to being director of accelerators, so I didn't see him as much. Which was a shame. So, I was in the ISR division. It was a support division for the experimental groups that did experiments on the ISR and it was a very different group of people. And attitudes were different. Because, if you remember, I said when we started the research division at SLAC, we were basically all particle physicists. We did all sorts of things to develop the whole lab. CERN is much more—at least it was at the time, and I think it still is—much more partitioned. In other words, the people in the ISR support group did their job supporting experiments installed in the interaction regions of the ISR, but that's where it stopped. I get over there, and, by chance, I happen to be involved in installing a magnet in one of the ISR interaction regions and making sure it and the experimental detectors all ran for a group containing Sam Ting and Carlo Rubbia, both future Nobel Prize winners. Well, I was curious about what they were doing. They realized that, and they said, "Come to our group meetings, our analysis meetings and listen." So, I went to those meetings and I would listen. As I was not part of their Collaboration, I didn't say anything, I would just listen. The meetings were larger and much more intense than those of the SLAC-MIT Collaboration. But something came out of this. At the time, some of the European physicists were thinking about building something called CHEEP, which was the “Colliding Beam Experiment Electrons on Protons”, to be built in the SPS tunnel. I said to one of my colleagues in the ISR division—he was a good physicist, but that's where he ended up. And of course, CERN is very picky on who gets permanent positions, if you haven't talked to anybody over there.
Well, that's just very European in general, I think, also.
Absolutely. So anyway, I said to Hans, “How in the world are they going to be able to build detectors?” “And operate them in the SPS tunnel?”. I said, “How are they going to be able to build a storage ring without getting swamped by background?” Because I said, “We've got this proton beam running around there. There's all sorts of crap there.” And so, we pulled a non-CERNian thing. Hans Hoffmann said, "Ah, I have a friend in the SPS." We had a big calorimeter, big calorimeter then being like two feet by one foot by one foot. We realized that it would fit in right next to the beam pipe in an unused SPS interaction region. And there was the interaction region, it was in place five, I think. And so, Hans talked with Klaus Batzner who worked in the SPS organization, and we figured out how to surreptitiously put this detector in place, get some cables to it and such. And there was a service building up above, on the ground, and we had a place where we could actually look at signals from the calorimeter, and so on. This never went through a committee or anything. We just did it (laughter). Clearly not the normal CERN way of doing things! And Hans eventually showed the results to Carlo, and that's what showed Carlo Rubbia that he could go ahead and build an electron-proton storage ring, which they eventually did at DESY, as well as build something like the LHC. This result showed that you could keep the backgrounds under control. And there's actually a paper, but never got published in anything other than the CERN report. But there's actually a CERN report (“Background measurements in LSS 5: SPS Commissioning Report 59”, by Batzner, Coward, and Hoffmann) on what we did, and it was all done sub rosa. It was done at the very end of my CERN year, in fact, I was almost on a plane to return to SLAC when data were finished being taken. I didn't have anything to do with the analysis of it. I wasn't there. But I knew when I left CERN that the results looked good. I went back to SLAC. At that time, because there were so many people going back and forth and because the CERN salary protocol for their employee was complicated, the arrangement at that time was that each lab would pay their employee’s salary. In other words, if a CERN person came to SLAC, CERN would pay the salary because it turned out to be more dollars than what the similar SLAC employee would be making. And CERN would pay an additional supplement for a SLAC employee going to CERN, which is what they did for me. So, that was in 1976/77. Thus, my year at CERN actually paid off in the reverse way. By my going over there, CERN suddenly realized, because of experimental data that we took at the SPS, they could actually build something like the LHC and be able to operate detectors in a reasonable way. That was something that CERN got from the exchange. And then what happened was that in 1986-87, I went back to CERN because my wife left me, and I went back for a year to recover from the shock. I went back as a CERN Scientific Associate for a year. And I got involved in doing K-experiments. We did this experiment where we were looking to measure epsilon-prime over epsilon, which is a number that, if positive, is a measurement of direct CP-violation of kaon decays. And there was a huge problem experimentally at that time as to the value of that number. Bruce Winstein and collaborators were trying to measure it at Fermilab (E731), and they got one answer. And I went over and joined the CERN group in NA31 because I had never done anything like that before. A fixed target experiment, kaons, etc., so I mean, why not? The timing was such that by the time I joined the collaboration, I was able to take one shift. We brought the experiment back on in the spring of 1988, and there was a frantic plea for me to come back for three months and get the liquid argon calorimeter working again. And that was a real plea, so I went back and did that. And CERN actually paid me for that. And then things began to get interesting because of where we ended up. I cobbled up some money from European sources that allowed me to return to CERN June 1989 through June 1990, which also allowed me to see up close a tremendous year of upheaval in the European political world!! Physics-wise, we ended up showing that Bruce Winstein was wrong. We got the better answer. Our number disagreed with his outside of experimental errors. And it was a question of whether it was near zero, which he got, or whether it was positive and finite, which is what we got. There were a lot of hard feelings about this. That was very sad. And Bruce is not around to defend himself anymore. That left a bad taste in my mouth because things got pretty heated. This turned out to be regional stuff. The US versus CERN and Fermilab versus CERN. I was very sad to see that happen. I mean, it's nice to be on the winning side. But----
But at what cost are you on the winning side?
I don't think it affected me, particularly, because Bruce and I talked about lots of things. When he was on the Scientific Policy Committee at SLAC, I would talk to him about kaon physics in general. So, there was nothing bad for me. But that's why—the 2005 European Physics Society High Energy and Particle Physics Prize was awarded to Heinrich Wahl, our Spokesman, as well as to me and all my colleagues who participated as members of the NA31 Collaboration, which is why you see that listed on my CV, at the top along with the Nobel Prize information. I am pleased to have been part of this physics program, since 1986 – thirty-five years and counting. Just for the record, both collaborations then ran improved versions of their earlier experiments, Fermilab (KTEV), and CERN (NA48), and we both measured within experimental errors that the value of epsilon-prime/epsilon was finite and positive. One other note: In late 1992 or early 1993, Konrad Kleinknecht, one of our CERN collaborators from Mainz, Germany, nominated me for a Von Humboldt Fellowship and asked me to come to Mainz University for what amounted to eighteen months (from March 1993 through August 1994) to work with the Mainz group at CERN working on NA48 and NA48/2 experiments, a continuation of the program that started with the NA31 experiment and continues today in a different form and a different goal as NA62. Unfortunately, I did not receive a Von Humboldt as Konrad told me that that year’s awards all went to physicists in East Germany to help with their reunification into West Germany science and society. But just being nominated was an honor in itself.
Yeah. So maybe now's the time to talk about the Nobel Prize.
Ah, okay. We're going to run out of time. I think. I think we’ve got another session coming because I've got a couple things that I want to talk to you about. But they come later.
Let's do another half hour. How's that sound?
That'll work. I put on the schedule 2:30 to 5:30, so Diane would know what was going on.
Anyhow, the Nobel Prize was—I mean, that was good fun.
That was a family victory, a family celebration. Is that fair to say?
That's fair to say. What happened was that Cecilia Jarlskog was a theorist at one of the Swedish institutions. She basically said to herself that it was a bit odd that Burt Richter and Sam Ting got Nobel Prizes in 1976 for discovering the fourth quark when the whole concept of quarks had never been honored at all (laughter).
There's logic to that. You know, there's logic to that.
What would Burt's response to that have been?
Oh, I think he was happy that we got recognized. Look, what happened—let me go back a little bit. What happened was that we had to give a talk at the 1968 meeting in Vienna (Fourteenth International Conference on High Energy Physics). And there was real discussion within the collaboration about what deep inelastic results to present. So, the collaboration decided—while Jerry Friedman and I were on the opposite side of everybody else on this. The collaboration decided that Jerry Friedman would not say anything in his Vienna talk about "seeds in the raspberry jam," as Sid Drell used to call it, But Pief did. Pief gave an invited talk as the head of the laboratory, basically on the lab itself and on the first substantive physics results being presented from the new laboratory. But Pief can talk about whatever he wants to talk about. And so that let the cat out of the bag. And it's a shame that Jerry Friedman didn't get a chance to talk about that in his talk. Well, the good thing about our results was that our two analyses had been done independently at SLAC and MIT. The MIT analysis was pushed by Martin Breidenbach, the results of which became his MIT PhD thesis. Time flies: Marty recently retired as Professor of Physics at Stanford/SLAC. There were never questions about whether or not the experiment was done properly, and the fact that there were two independent analyses of the data made it hard to find fault in the result.
How independent? Like no communication?
Basically, no communication. The point was that the analyses were done in two different ways. So that the coding of the computer programs was different at the two institutions. It had to do with the way you treat the radiative corrections and the radiative corrections were huge. They're not ninety-five percent except if you go on the tails’ way out, or something like that. But they're big. And so, the fact that two different analyses with two different computer programs written by different people got the same answer meant that it was awfully hard to say that the experiment and the analyses were wrong. But the problem was, why can I not give you a quark—Why I cannot put one your hand. You hold your hand out to me. I can put a proton there, and you can see it. I could put an electron there and a positron there and you could see both of them. I cannot put a quark in your hand. And the question was why. And part of the problem was that the quarks had to be fractionally charged.
They had to be based on what? What's the theory underlying that?
The way you put them together to make things go with strangeness, with the kaons and so on. Look at Murray Gell-Mann's Physics Letters paper in 1964, in which he states explicitly that quarks are, in effect, part of a mathematical construct, that quarks have nothing to do with real life. And then, of course, he tried very hard to back off from that after we discovered quarks. [laughter] It's one of the fun things. Touché, Mr. Gell-Mann. But the point was, they had to be fractionally charged, because that's the only way you can make the charge of a proton and a neutron come out right with three quarks in each. You go back and look at the Millikan oil drop experiment and even though, at a later time when people did this—Professor Millikan massaged his data a little bit, but he was right. I mean, he had some events which were funny. And he brushed them off and put them in the wastebasket and said that the charge in somebody's units could never be less than one. And we have lived with that for a hundred years. No, sixty years at the time. But it became….it was gospel, and nobody wanted to give it up. They didn't want to give it up, but we were telling them they had to. And so, the real question had to do trying to understand why I can't put a quark in your hand. Because everybody's thinking about this. I can give you a proton, I can give you an electron. Why can't I give you a quark? The answer is no. And the reason is: If I go look into the vacuum, and I find a quark-antiquark pair, I’ll want to pull them apart to give you one. That's the simplistic way of looking at it. We'll pull one pair apart to give you one. However, when I overcome the binding energy between the two at some distance and it goes “twang”, what happens is that I have made another quark-antiquark pair pulled out of the vacuum. And so, the four (two quarks and two antiquarks) instantly recombine, giving you back two quark-antiquark pairs and no free quarks! And that's all consistent with the mathematics, although it took a while to be understood. That’s part of quantum chromodynamics (QCD), when you do all the work. So, what happened was that the theorists kept throwing out reasons why they didn't like the fact that quarks existed. And they gave us other things to look at in the experiment. How do certain other parameters change with x or q-squared? And we went and did all those experiments, or we were able to reanalyze the data we had. And we proved all of those suggestions wrong. And so, in some sense, after ten years, everybody gave up and said, well, the quark model has got to be right. because we can't prove our results wrong. Well, by this time it's—we published our last paper on the MIT-SLAC collaboration in 1979. We published the other papers beginning in 1968. So, sort of as I say, it took ten years. And there were a variety of papers in there, the scaling and all that. Did the sigma-n over sigma-p ratio come down and hit at 0.25, which you'd expect it to be? Or did it not? And if it didn't, were there corrections that you have to make to the analysis to say 0.30 instead of 0.25, or something like that? It just took a long time of beating people down and finally everybody says, ok, we give up. The quark model was good. And we have to take the one-third and two-thirds charge as in there for some reason.
For some reason? Unresolved?
Well, no, it is now.
No, I'm saying at the time.
At the time it was resolved, QCD came along, and you suddenly realize that that allows you to have stuff come out of the vacuum. Which means that you never can have free quarks floating around. That's the crucial thing. Do you have free quarks? And the answer is no. Because they always exist in pairs in the vacuum.
And when does the answer, when does this happen?
I'd have to go look at the—
No, but this was after 1979. This is sometime in the 1980s, you're saying?
It starts coming in in the mid-seventies, I think. Burt Richter discovered what became the charm quark in 1974. So, you had these models coming out --- that was the thing, that was the other coup de grâce. Because, all of a sudden, he's got a resonance, a charm-anticharm pair. All of a sudden, we've now got the charm quark, which was not in Murray's original design. So suddenly you went from Murray to whomever it was which had four. And then they eventually said there's got to be a top and bottom too. When the top and bottom came out, you had a nice symmetric thing with six quarks in three doublets of two, and similarly for the anti-quarks. But so anyway, Cecilia, in 1989, became part of the advisory committee, or however they do things. The physics advisory committee that works with. . . I don't know how the prizes are determined—there's a Nobel committee, obviously. The group that controls everything. And, of course, I don't know all the details. And her comment was—this is my understanding because I've not talked to her about this—"I've got to change this." Because the idea we've given a Nobel Prize for the (fourth) charm quark, and we haven't even thought about the first three. That only makes any sense when you have the whole thing, which was started with SLAC and MIT. So that's what happened. And it was a great thing, and I happened to hear about it on the news at seven o'clock the morning of the October,1990, announcement
Now, what about the story about how your name, you were referenced. And, you know, you were right there.
Well, what happened was that Dick and Henry and Jerry decided to take the physicists that had been on the first two papers over to Stockholm. ….to take the particle physicists over there. It was very generous of them. But, yeah, it was a super week. The only requirement for a Nobel Prize winner is that he or she gives a public lecture in Stockholm about why the prize was awarded. Dick, Henry, and Jerry each gave a talk in sequence, “The early years”, “Experiments on the proton and the observation of scaling”, and “Comparisons with the quark model”. The three talks were then all published together in the July 1991, issue of Review of Modern Physics. The third sentence in the Acknowledgments section reads: “D. Coward and H. DeStaebler were with the experiments from the beginning and made indispensable contributions throughout their course.”
Now, how did you feel about this? Was it more than just being part of the SLAC family for you because you were closer to the research? In terms of your own reflections on this achievement.
Oh, I mean, I was—I told you the way I started out, but then I was on many shifts. And I was involved with all the discussions and such that was going on. I was not running the computer programs that did the analysis, that did some of the stuff. But I was in all the discussions of what we were trying to do and what the results meant and so on. And I took many shifts while the data were coming in. And then the other thing. I was Dick's deputy group leader, so I was doing some work related to that, too.
And how the prize change both SLAC and you for your last, you know, through the 1990s?
Oh, it changed SLAC a lot. Affected SLAC a lot. It affected Stanford even more. Because there were a group of, I think, four years in a row where Stanford people got the Nobel Prize in physics. There were other people that got it as well. But there were, as I said, I think it's four years in a row where the physics prize went either jointly with somebody else or completely 100 percent at Stanford.
And you're saying not coincidentally.
There were different fields. It's, again, part of the thing that we were talking about. The rise of the university. The public really thinks hard about Nobel Prizes. And I think it did SLAC a lot of good, I think. Fortunately, Pief was still alive, so we took him over. He went with Taylor, Friedman, and Kendall to the dinner with the king, for example. I did not. I don't know whether the prize affected me or not. People know about it. I originally didn't talk a lot about it outside, you know, my circle of friends. Just because I tend not to toot my own horn in public. Even though my wife says, "You're crazy." I have opened up more. And I'm sure it affected things at CERN. They know what's happening. But, in retrospect, it’s really sweet to realize that what we discovered in an experiment has affected all of physics in a very profound way!! I also should add that Gloria Lubkin wrote a very nice article entitled “Friedman, Kendall and Taylor Win Nobel Prize for First Quark Evidence” that was published in the January 1991 issue of Physics Today. She actually tracked me down on the telephone while I was still in Stockholm and we discussed in depth a lot of material that became background information for her article.
Well, David, for our remaining time together, I think for my last question, really broad question, you know, with your remarkable vantage point and ongoing interest and staying connected at SLAC. Obviously, after you left, the decade after you left, SLAC went through some major changes where leadership had to make some really, really difficult decisions.
We should talk more about this at a later time but go ahead.
Yeah, okay. So, I guess my question is, you know, from your vantage point. A lot of those really hard decisions that were made, you know, 2009, 2010, in that era right there.
Even earlier. Right. So, what's your perspective on how those decisions have played out? And in light of that, the bigger question is, what are SLAC's greatest challenges? The biggest difficulties that it's facing right now? And how can it play on its tremendous institutional, historical advantages to overcome those challenges?
I almost hate to put this down in recording because I'm going to give you surmises, okay. And whether I'm right or wrong on those surmises, I have no idea. Having said that, there is a woman in DOE whose name I can't remember. Danmar? It sounded something like that. I think originally her perspective was, we've got to shut SLAC down.
This probably was ten years ago. And I'm not quite sure of what bee got into her bonnet? And I'm not quite sure if it's actually gone away. First of all, Pief used to say, how long will SLAC exist? And his answer would be effectively, with a clock starting right then, ten years unless somebody has a good idea.
Renewable upon the good idea?
Well, anytime you asked him that question….. SLAC was still running while he was alive. So, any time you asked him that question, what's your view? How long does SLAC last—
Meaning that meaning that SLAC could run on fumes for nine years. And that tenth year [unclear].
The reason being, because you're cleaning up what you've been working on. In other words, they don't shut you off right now because you're already doing something that's useful. Because you're still there. And he's been able to negotiate a contract and all that. So that was his view. Well, SLAC is not something that is here in perpetuity. But, by gum, if somebody has a good idea, we're going to do it. And he had things which started—he went through, and I got involved in some of this. He, at one point in time, wanted to double the energy of the accelerator to fifty GeV by building a recirculating linear accelerator starting at the end of the accelerator at sector thirty. Take the first beam at twenty-five GeV. Take it, run it back up in another pipe and stick it into the front end of the accelerator again. Accelerate it a second time so can you get a forty to fifty GeV beam. And he called that RLA, recirculating linear accelerator. So, Pief set up a small group of about five of us, accelerator physicists, controls experts, etc., and he asked me to be a part of that full-time study group. And, unless you have a very good excuse to say “no”, when Pief asks you to do something, you say, "Of course”. When you're a permanent staff member that's what you do. Because somebody has to run the store. And so, I ended up in that group of about five of us. I was in charge of all the End Station facility questions. What do you do, you know, both from physics, but also from. . .The switch yard was built for twenty-five GeV and if we've got a fifty GeV beam, what are we going to do with it when you come out of the accelerator? If you've going to bend a fifty GeV beam, we have to build a new switch yard, with the magnets and everything, because it's sized for twenty-five or twenty. So, you've got to redo that. And the answer was we were pretty sure it would never happen, but it was a proposal that could have been justified. And if it had saved the laboratory another ten years or fifteen years, so be it. I was not there to see how some of the directors did things after I retired. I can look and see what happened at various time intervals, but I was not there for the day-to-day stuff.
You're generally aware of what's going on, though?
Oh, I'm very much aware of what's going on. And the thing is that right now …. When we put the lab together there was real joie de vivre, if you want to call it that, of what we were doing. And it started right from the top. And even Burt was able to keep it going after Pief retired. And we've lost it. And I think part of the reason was that—I mean, first of all, I should say right off the bat that the physics that they're doing now is fabulous physics. Don't get me wrong. It’s just not the physics about which I would be passionate. When you think you can take—and this is what the LCLS is doing—two pulses, which are separated by pick-your-number femtoseconds, and you can move the second pulse in time, relative to the first, you can trigger a chemical reaction with the first pulse and tickle the system at some arbitrary time afterwards and see how that reaction has developed real time. That's pretty darn impressive. It does not happen to be physics that I'm interested in, but my brother would have eaten it up. So, I'm very sad to see that, from my perspective from the outside, a drastic reorganization was basically forced on the lab to keep it a viable project, or a viable laboratory.
Which of course is, this is a bigger story than SLAC, obviously. I mean, this is like—you look at what happened in Bell Labs in the 1980s and the 1990s.
That was done by a judge, basically.
Right, but I'm talking about the idea that financial pressures and corporatization actually have an impact on basic science research.
Oh, yeah, yeah.
In a way that, you know, in the heyday of the 1960s and the 1970s—
We could do no wrong.
But, for example, one of the things that made me—you asked about all the leaves at CERN and such. It was written in the SLAC charter, or at least the SLAC rules, not the charter with the AEC but the rules, that basically anybody could propose an experiment, inside or outside the lab. By inside or outside, I'm referring to where it would be done. And when I came back from my second year at CERN, the one where I did the kaon stuff, we were proposing a new program. And I had a group of people who interested in getting into it besides me. And I tried to get it presented in a formal way. However, the physicist who was the head of the research division at that time, said, " I will not allow it." That's one of the reasons which sort of—it's good physics. And it's one of the reasons why I started doing more overseas than at SLAC. Because it was the situation where I was welcome. I thought it was good physics, and I thought it was good for me because it was different stuff than I had ever done before. Now, handle this stuff with discretion because I know you've got it written on a storage drive somewhere.
You're going to get the transcript of this, and we'll deal with it then.
I understand. I mean, I'm just telling you, some of these things—well, I mentioned names and so on. It's done with a feeling of—
Oral history best practices. It's you and me.
(Laughter) So, you know, I think it was Detmer? I guess is that woman's name, now that I think about it. I think that was her last name. One that was in the DOE. Anyhow, I think what the lab has become is it's now a service lab, and it sort of behaves that way. When you look at the Web home page and you see what's going on. And I think the present director has a very hard job. I'm not convinced he's the right guy to be director, and I'm not quite sure how he got appointed, but that's all right. There are protocols for hiring new directors of laboratories. I've got to say, if they get this LCLS working well, it's going to be a tour de force at SLAC. But it means that basically, because these things are all relatively short bursts of energy over a few days or something like that, at least that's the way it seems that things go, SLAC really has become a service lab.
Service to whom or to what?
Well, I don't see the physics groups at the lab going forward. That's not quite true. There are people that are working on the. . . There are things that are going on in astrophysics which are really nice and such, but I think if you're really honest about it, this is a photon science laboratory. We provide a beam. I don't see the science driven the way it was when there were the groups there that we had.
But again, the question is in terms of the larger story, right? SLAC's got to adapt to larger societal structural changes, right? That's a fair point?
That's a fair point. And I don't know whether that could have been done more gradually. It seemed to suddenly change very fast.
So maybe that's it. The heart of what you're saying is maybe this is a process to be managed a little more gradually than it has been managed.
But it may have been, that may have been the only way to save it. Because I think her name is Detmer? But she's had it for SLAC, and I don't know why. Whether it's a question of trying to take the SLAC money and put it into Fermilab, or not? I point out the following comment. You should think a little bit about the SSC. Because, first of all, the SSC was designed by a group of people under Maury Tigner. Oh, there go the planes. F-16s flying up in formation.
Oh, you got them now. We had them
They're going up north and they're coming back. That's the first run I've heard. So, you know, that's where they are. The SSC was designed by Maury Tigner. And others. He was the head of the design group, and it was stationed at Berkeley. And then the AEC made a decision because the right place for that to have gone would have been Fermilab. Because you would not have started with a greenfield. But the Fermilab physicists and other staff personnel did a very poor job in talking with their neighbors in Illinois. And they did not get the neighborhood on board, which was a mistake. Because the neighborhood squawked and said we don't want it. And yet, apparently, Fermilab itself had existed with the neighbors pretty well. That was the first thing. The second thing was that Dave Ritson got involved with ray tracing through the magnet lattice and showed that the diameter of the beam pipe was too small. It had to go up to something, and I don't remember what the numbers were. But if you think about a beam pipe, if you took a beam pipe, which is a half inch in diameter, and you suddenly say it's got to go to five-eighths or maybe three-quarters, that's a little change there. But it has a huge impact on the size of the superconducting magnets going around the pipe and the amount of steel you have to use in bending, the return yoke of the magnets and such. So, he said, "You're not conservative enough in design." And he was right. Ritson was always right. He's unfortunately just died. But he was right. And so that ran the cost up. And the cost was already pretty high. I don't remember what it was, and this was in 1992 dollars, or something like that. And then a number of the physics community, driven by a guy from Penn State whose name I can't remember, really started attacking it at the congressional level because they wanted to get that money into their fields of physics.
So, it's a zero-sum game? It was either going to that or it was going to this. That's how this was playing out?
That's what they were looking at. But the problem was it did neither. It went elsewhere. Physics never got it at all. But back to SLAC and its change in direction. I read the SLAC web pages…. The joie de vivre seems not to be there now, the way it was when we put that lab together…. Service lab, keep your head down and just do your job… Now, I was a Young Turk at that time. I'm not a Young Turk now. I'm looking for, where's the. . .
What are you asking for? Where's the Panofsky of 2020? Is that what this is about?
I do not know that much about our present director. I don't know how much the organization of SLAC is being driven by Washington.
Or how much that simply might not be in his control?
I think he's got a lot of control. But I don't know. I honestly don't know. But as I say, I have no problem with the physics. I think it's interesting. It's just not interesting for me, but for other people in other fields and so on like that, in biology, in chemistry, materials science, it's got to be very interesting. But they've basically closed down all of the real particle physics stuff. Particle physics and astrophysics are now part of the same thing. So, I look at it from having been there before.
Well, the physics is good. something good is happening. Well, David, this has been—
I would like to put another hour in sometime.
Yeah, that's good. I think this here is a really good stopping point because I think it's self-contained. And, you know, there's definitely more to talk about. But as an interview, I think, you know, from beginning to end, we have covered a lot of ground. That's great.
Think about your schedule.
Okay, good. So, let me cut, I'll cut the interview here. [End of First Recording] [Beginning of Second Recording]
David, the question about deep inelastic papers that were done in the late 1960s reminds me. One other thing that we really need to talk about is the development of the Spectrometer Facilities Group or the SFG. What were the origins of that? Where did that come from, and what were some of the big questions during those early discussions?
I believe that the Scientific Policy Committee (SPC) had had long discussions with Pief in the early days about putting together an experimental program for the lab and how to incorporate people from, shall we say, the outside. By ‘outside’, I’m referring to not Stanford as well as not SLAC. The way things were done in the East Coast at the proton machines with a long duty cycle, at least as I understand them because I never did experiments there, but, basically, an external beam would be produced of protons or antiprotons or kaons or pions, or what have you, and an experiment would be set up to use a beam with a long duty cycle, and people would set up counters and do experiments. And that was the way things started in the days of the fifties or the sixties, even including the machines at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. There were people on the SPC who were terribly concerned about how someone could come to SLAC and use an electron beam at a linear accelerator where the duty cycle is much, much shorter than you had at a proton machine. So, what SLAC ended up doing was that we built secondary beams in End Station B, and we brought down the 72-inch bubble chamber from LBL, which was modified to be an 82-inch bubble chamber, as I remember, and these types of experiments were much more like what people had done on the East Coast. In addition, we set up a support group in the Technical Division to support experimental groups using these SLAC facilities.
And, Dave, who’s the ‘we’? Who are the key players involved in this?
Anybody who [phone rings]—hold it a minute. Sorry about that phone ringing. Who were the main players? Anyone who had done experiments at Brookhaven, for example, the people at Princeton or Penn of from any of the institutions which had worked at the machines at Brookhaven or at other circular accelerators would’ve—might’ve come out to SLAC. But they wouldn’t have because they would have worried about understanding how you did physics at a short-duty-cycle machine. The challenges were certainly different! If you look at the amount of money that was put in, the amount of money that went into building the End Station A spectrometer facility was certainly much greater than what went to building secondary beams in End Station B and the rest of the research yard. And so, there was the question: how does—how do I, as somebody from the East Coast who is teaching—that’s the other thing, of course—
—who is teaching, and has to fly out, and it’s a heck of a lot shorter to fly from Chicago to Brookhaven than it is to fly from Brookhaven or MIT or Princeton to SLAC? It was just much harder to go back and teach a class and turn around and come back to SLAC again. And at the time there was no Guest House at SLAC where experimenters could stay, as there is now.
Whereas, you know, if you can drive from Princeton to Brookhaven, that’s easy, maybe it’s two hours or something like that. Remember, this was in 1960. The traffic wasn’t like it is now. So, there was a lot of pressure on Pief to try and come up with a way that other user groups from outside of SLAC and Stanford and even from, say, outside of California, would be able to use the End Station A facilities here because, of course, we advertised SLAC as a national facility, and so therefore it ought to be available. I don’t know how the discussions were started because I wasn’t in the Scientific Policy Committee meetings, even though I was in a number of others but not in those. But, eventually, Pief decided to set up a support group which would be able to help people come in from the outside, and use the facilities, and use them in a way where, for the bookkeepers, it didn’t count as SLAC group use; it counted for outside user use. The AEC or DOE or whatever government agency that supported SLAC at that time, they really liked these kinds of statistics so they could show, yes, SLAC is a national facility, and we’re doing everything right. So, Pief approached me or, better said, I was called to his office, but he approached me to set up what we called the Spectrometer Facilities Group (SFG) to help that transition, and make people happy, that at least we could advertise, “Come join us, and we will help you do this.” Now, the lab already had a group called the Experimental Facilities Department (EFD) in the Tech Division, that supported the work with secondary beams in the research yard or in End Station B, and they employed the power supply techs, crane operators, riggers, and so on. We would not be displacing them but, basically, what we would be doing was—their boundary ended at the walls of End Station A, and ours would start on the inside, inside that boundary, and so there would be no competition or anything like that between SFG and EFD. And, as these discussions started, I was Dick Taylor’s deputy group leader, so, from Pief’s point of view, I guess you’d say, it was a fairly logical request for him to make. And so, in talking with him, I said, “Look, my two criteria that I need are, number one, as far as our support for End Station A users is concerned, this is a half-time job for me because I keep the other half-time to do my physics. And, secondly, it’s going to cost you,” I said, “it’s going to cost you ‘pi’ physicists, which we rounded down to three.” “It’s going to cost you three physicists who are in the same category as I am, namely they work on SFG items half-time, and they do what drives them intellectually for the other half.” And after some discussion, Pief said, “That sounds like a good idea.” And, as I say on my CV, I started setting up SFG in January 1969. What I did was to take most of the support people that were in Group A and were instrumental when we built the facilities. We needed help from programmers, electrical/electronic engineers, and some mechanical and electronic techs. And, of course, we brought Ed Taylor, our chief engineer for the design and installation of the spectrometer facility, with us. That left Dick Taylor running Group A as a research group, which is where I had been. So, I started out. The first thing I did was to interview and hire three physicists, but that was not all done in five minutes of course! I hired Charlie Sinclair, Dave Sherden and Bill Ash. Charlie at the time was an assistant professor at Tufts, if I remember correctly. Dave came from Chicago, and Bill Ash came from Cornell. I think he must’ve been a little bit behind Charlie when both were Cornell grad students. And those three guys were absolutely fantastic. Dave Sherden was a computer guru, and he was the only guy I knew who lived on a 30-hour clock. If you saw him during the day, you didn’t know whether he was about to go home, whether he’d been working for eight hours, or whether he was just starting the day. How he had a wife and two kids and lived very happily, I have no idea. But, he (laughter) had that—that was just the way his body ran. So, the three of those guys joined me, and we basically—we were able to do what was asked for. The pool of outside physics groups was small, and you could’ve probably guessed that anyway, knowing the general physics community. But the two things that were—the two places where this arrangement stands out: the first was that, by chance and by physics, the MIT/Group A Collaboration was bifurcating. It was clear that the directions that the two groups wanted to go did not or were beginning not to overlap.
And, Dave, this was more administrative or scientific, this divergence?
It was mainly scientific -- basically, we had done the initial quark experiment. We had presented that, yes, there are seeds in the raspberry jam, as Sid Drell liked to say. We found quarks, they were there, and the evidence was in the two papers that we published in October 1969. And then the question was—the theorists then began—because they didn’t like quarks. Nobody liked quarks because they had fractional charge, among other things, and nobody liked that. In the early part of the twentieth century Millikan, through his Oil Drop experiment, said you can’t have anything with a charge less than one (in somebody’s units). Yet, the fractional charges are one-third and two-thirds of the electron charge in the Gell-Mann/Zweig scheme. And so, nobody liked them, but that’s because the theory didn’t understand them. That, of course, has changed.
I mean, we were well ahead of the theory, and now the theory has caught up.
So, the question is, okay, you’ve discovered something. Now what? We’re convinced that quarks exist, but now what are the real details of --- how does the scattering off the proton compare to the scattering off the neutron, because, of course, the charge distributions in the proton and neutron are different. The data for the 1969 papers were taken with the 20 GeV Spectrometer at laboratory angles of six and ten degrees. Next, Group A and MIT took proton-scattering data at larger angles (18, 26, and 34 degrees) with the 8 GeV Spectrometer, publishing these results in a 17-page paper in Physical Review D in February 1972. Those results were part of Guthrie Miller’s Stanford PhD thesis. Group A and MIT continued together to take both electron-proton and, for the first time, electron-deuteron scattering data, again with the 20 GeV Spectrometer at six and ten degrees. These results became Scott Poucher’s MIT thesis. Results from these data were published in Physical Review Letters in January 1974. But remember, there is usually a long time between submitting a proposal to the Program Advisory Committee for running time, building and testing any new experimental apparatus needed for the run, taking and analyzing data, and finally submitting a paper for publication! MIT had wanted to continue the obvious program, go to large angles, and really do hard scattering, with a large Q-squared and large energy loss, using both hydrogen and deuterium targets, and collecting high-statistics datasets. Meanwhile, Group A decided to go to a small angle, four degrees, with the 20-GeV spectrometer and take data using both hydrogen and deuterium targets. Preliminary results from that experiment were reported at the Electron-Photon Symposium in August 1971 and the final results were published in a 38-page paper in Physical Review D in October 1975. I was not an author on that Physical Review D paper as I was no longer a member of Group A. So, the discussions centering around the friendly dissolution of the Collaboration were already underway even while the data were being taken that would lead to the results published in the 1972, 1974 and 1975 papers noted above. Somewhat later, the Group A physicists were pushed towards a more difficult experiment by Charles Prescott, who had become a Group A staff member, coming to SLAC from Caltech and UC Santa Cruz shortly after I started setting up SFG. He wanted—he was thinking about parity non-conservation in the weak interactions, and what you can measure when the incident electrons can be longitudinally polarized. The fact that SFG came along when it did, with me running SFG, and the group having three other particle-physicists who were willing to get involved, made it easier for a natural bifurcation where the SLAC-MIT collaboration went from SLAC Group A/MIT to SLAC SFG/MIT. And as we will see, that turned out to be very good move. Now, you could say that MIT probably would have been able to do things by themselves. However, it certainly helped with their personnel not to need as many full-time MIT people at SLAC, knowing that they had a good working relation with SFG and that we would be able to deal effectively with the SLAC administration and support groups.
We have noted that following the last experimental run by Group A and MIT, that being the small angle (six and ten degrees) proton and deuteron target data, Group A continued alone at an even smaller angle, four degrees, again with the 20 GeV spectrometer. MIT, in collaboration with SFG, continued with the 8 GeV spectrometer, using both hydrogen and deuterium targets, and recording statistically large data samples at 18, 19, 26, and 34 degrees. Somewhere during this time, two MIT graduate students, Ari Bodek and Michael Riordan, wrote their PhD theses, accepted by MIT in 1973 and 1974, respectively. We ended up publishing four short papers, two in Physical Review Letters in 1973 and 1974, and two in Physics Letters in 1974. Where appropriate, we included the small angle data set from Scott Poucher’s MIT thesis, results from which were published by MIT and Group A in Physical Review Letters in 1974. And, as we progressed, we basically answered all the theorists’ concerns, questions, etc. “Have you analyzed the data this way? Have you taken data with the right parameters?” We, MIT and SLAC-SFG, put it all together and published an 82-page paper in Physical Review in October 1979, summarizing results from all the inelastic electron-scattering data taken at SLAC, with the exception of the four-degree data taken by Group A. The quark discovery put the nascent SLAC Laboratory “on the physics map”!
Dave, when did you start to realize the impact that this had on the SLAC-MIT collaboration?
It was sort of just a gradual drift away, that, —it was like Caltech leaving the original collaboration. As far as I know, there were no hard feelings at all. And in the big 1979 paper, we used the final six- and 10-degree data with complete acknowledgement to the people who were involved with SLAC Group A/MIT. So, it was all very — I don’t like to necessarily say ‘pleasant’ because you don’t know private feelings in detail — but I don’t believe there were really hard feelings about this.
But in terms of the drift, what can be divined more generally about the nature of the drift in terms of what was important at both SLAC and MIT, and how that determination really changed over time?
I think that—I guess I would say that if you look at a thesis experiment, a student doing a thesis experiment basically would have come from MIT in the MIT-SLAC Collaboration because, at the time, the— We talked briefly about this earlier—but at the time, the relations between SLAC, the applied physics department at Stanford, and the physics department at Stanford were, shall we say, not pleasant. And remember, in the spirit of public disclosure, even though I am giving my opinions about the Stanford and SLAC departments, I was never a faculty member at SLAC. When I became Emeritus at Stanford, I became Emeritus as a Stanford staff member, not as a faculty member. I may well have been the first Emeritus staff member from SLAC, but I was not from the faculty. The SLAC faculty has really exploded from the early SLAC days, but the mission of SLAC has changed dramatically, too.
In the years since, the relations between Stanford’s applied physics and physics departments, and the SLAC faculty, have become much more “positive”. That has come around over the recent past years, so it’s much more—it’s much more like a professional relationship between three people. There were professors at SLAC that were designated years ago—I guess, probably to get Martin Perl when he came to SLAC from Michigan at the very beginning. But, Pief and Sid Drell were professors in the Stanford Physics Department long before SLAC even existed. What did it mean to be a professor at SLAC? Certainly, at the beginning of SLAC, no one at SLAC had access to Stanford’s graduate students in the Physics Department – that just didn’t happen.
— Eventually it did. Guthrie Miller came and—from the physics department, and he did his thesis in 1970. And he was supposedly Pief’s last graduate student, displacing me from being Pief’s last graduate student. But that was unusual. And so, in order to get students to get a degree, and do thesis work at SLAC, ----which MIT did very well, I mean, they had three or four really very, very good students --- they had to come from a degree-granting body, and SLAC did not have that then. I don’t even know now. If you’re—if you get a degree in some field at SLAC, it’s still part of the university, still, it’s a Stanford thing. But that whole breakdown between what SLAC was and what physics was, that whole thing was broken down and is now much more well done, let me put it that way. So that’s why it was important for—from MIT’s perspective to continue and really push the physics from what we had done. They attracted several excellent graduate students that were very happy to come work for MIT but at SLAC after completing their coursework; Arie Bodek and Michael Riordan being two very important ones. Arie went on to University of Rochester to have—and I think he’s probably retired by now—but to have a very distinguished career there. And Michael Riordan (or Ed Riordan, as I first knew him) became well respected as a history-of-science author. So, in that sense, SFG was a promoter of people from the outside even though that collaboration had gotten started earlier.
Dave, to broaden out the question a little bit, because one of the themes with SLAC always is the development of new experimental groups, the significance of SFG is, I mean, there’s no doubt about it, but the question there, in some ways, it’s a counterfactual question, it’s the what if that you can’t truly know. But I wonder if you could just take a stab at it. Had SFG never come into existence, right, would the people who did come to Stanford that were so key, would they have come absent SFG, or do you really see the Spectrometers Facilities Group is really part and parcel for the decision to come for all these people?
So, let me go to the next illustration—
—okay. The one that I just mentioned was, of course, was sort of a standard flow problem. I mean, the two rivers bifurcated and ---- it’s the road less traveled. You take the road to the right or the road to the left. But the place where it really made a difference was with Vernon Hughes at Yale. Vernon was always one who was interested in polarization effects, the Lamb shift and other manifestations. I think that others would have categorized him as someone working in atomic physics. Nevertheless, he approached us with the idea that we should do polarized-electron polarized-proton scattering. He had never been out to SLAC before, as far as I know, had never worked on a short-duty-cycle machine, but he was certainly a well-respected experimentalist with a very strong understanding of theory. And so, he had built a—designed and actually built a reasonable—it’s more than a prototype and it worked in his lab, but it wasn’t a final constructed polarized-proton target that could actually be used with SLAC’s new polarized electron beam. It would have to come out to SLAC and be modified and integrated into the spectrometer facility at the proper target location. Then you then have to ask yourself, “How do I build the actual target itself that the beam will hit, and not depolarize the target from a single beam burst?” So, we had to get—we had to build scanning magnets to move the beam around from one burst to the next so that the target would not suffer radiation damage, which, if it happened could kill the whole experiment. This integration required a lot of work, a tremendous effort managed by Bill Ash. We needed to be very efficient utilizing the SLAC beam on our target, as beam was a precious commodity. Vernon also brought to SLAC a prototype version of a polarized electron gun for the accelerator, which became known as PEGGY (Polarized Electron Gun). SLAC took his prototype idea, and in concert with the Yale group, figured out how to actually build a gun that would generate polarized electrons of sufficient intensity whose polarization could be flipped or changed to some other direction on a pulse-to-pulse basis. Roger Miller, Ed Garwin, and Charlie Sinclair plaid major roles in this effort! That would never have happened at all without SFG being in existence. We could help Vernon and support the experiment. And because we were there, then SLAC was willing to put real money into building a polarized gun matched to the experiment. That would never have happened without SFG, guaranteed.
So, it sounds like SFG, in a way, encouraged other support that came back in the end to help SFG itself.
Oh, yeah, of course. That’s certainly true. And, I mean, we were able—because we were there, we could go to Pief and go to the technical division, Dick Neal’s technical division, and say, “Look, these guys have this.” The lab was then willing because they had looked at the options, and so they were willing to put money into supporting the development of PEGGY, the polarized electron source. And they developed, I mean, they developed the facility in the sense that it could give out polarized electrons, a big effect. It produced high currents, and the polarization was understood, the errors were understood. You could accelerate the electrons down the machine, which was not obvious to begin with, whether or not you got depolarization in the process. And so, all of that came together, and, from SLAC’s point of view, the fact that we were there making sure that the experiment would be able to use that beam at high energy with Vernon, that was a big deal. A lot of time and money went into that, and Bill Ash spent enormous amounts of time getting the polarized target set up and working properly where he understood how you steered the beam through the target when you—you had to make sure you didn’t induce depolarization in the target— that is, energy loss/radiation from the polarized beam destroying the target. The targets were little nodules of protons, and you had to make sure that they didn’t get blasted to smithereens and would recover, but somewhere between the first pulse and the next one. So, it was a real tour de force to do that, and that’s where, in a sense, that’s where SFG earned its medal. It was—the MIT stuff could’ve happened independent of us. But there’s no way Vernon could’ve brought a group out to SLAC and made that whole system work. He was teaching his students. His postdocs were doing whatever, some teaching, some not. But to have learned that themselves and to have learned how the spectrometer worked, and what were the errors—what you had to control and what you didn’t have to control, to make the data reasonable. Vernon was a great guy, and very smart, but that would’ve, I think, been, putting him in a position he would not have liked. Having said all this, the results of the collaboration were very positive. We published our first Physical Review Letters paper on polarized electron-electron scattering at GeV energies in June 1975, which showed that we could produce polarized electrons from PEGGY and accelerate them to usable energies, intensities and polarizations in End Station A. Then, in November 1976, we published back-to-back papers in PRL on the elastic and deep-inelastic scattering of polarized electrons by polarized protons. Our conclusions showed that the quark model of the proton was alive and well.
To close out the overall discussion on SFG, you know, with the benefit of history, where you really have a total view from origins to legacy, when you look at the sum total of what SFG contributed to the overall mission of SLAC, how well did that conform to the original conception to have SFG in the first place?
Interesting question. I think there were other things—well, let me back up. I think the answer to that was it did exactly as it was advertised. And I should add that in October 1972, I had to step down from SFG because Pief asked me to join a small five-person group to study the RLA, the Recirculating Linear Accelerator. The idea of the RLA was to take a 20 GeV beam from the end of the accelerator, bend it by 180 degrees, take it back up to the beginning of the accelerator, bend it again by 180 degrees, reinject the beam back into the accelerator and accelerate it a second time to higher energies. This would turn the accelerator into an “energy doubler” and give us electrons in the 20-45 GeV range for future physics experiments. Unfortunately, this never produced a viable proposal. I suspected that this would probably be the case. But when Pief asks you to do something that may influence the future physics program of the lab, you pitch in and try to do the best work you can. And so, sometime after when the RLA study was completed, I took my family and went to CERN for my first time in August 1976. SFG continued on under the direction of Charlie Sinclair, although Charlie himself spent much of his time with a small group working to improve the polarized electron source for the linac. But, experiments in End Station A continued. For example, Charlie, Dave Sherden, and Bob Siemann joined three physicists from Tufts University in the mid to late 1970s to study photoproduction from hydrogen and deuterium using a high-energy linearly polarized photon beam. Then, Ray Arnold from American University brought a group to SLAC starting in the early 1980s to remeasure elastic electron-proton scattering at large momentum scattering. Spurred on by a discovery by the European Muon Collaboration, the group expanded its program to include measurements of the A-dependence of deep-inelastic electron scattering from nuclei. This collaboration, publishing between 1983 and 1993, also included Arie Bodek’s small group at Rochester University, and Dave Sherden from SFG. At some point, I need to come back and talk to you about the European Muon Collaboration and the interaction between their results at CERN and our results at SLAC. But, back to your earlier question. I think that SFG really did what it was supposed to do. And the big difference between what we did and what the Experimental Facilities Department did in the rest of the research yard is that the physicists in SFG were involved (their choice) with the experiments as participating physicists, experimental physicists in the experimental collaborations. In other words, the engineers and the technicians that we had were, in a sense, doing a service job. They would set up and make sure the experiment was operational, and if the physicists had questions and came to them, they would answer them. But the physicists themselves were still very heavily involved not only in just setting up and making sure the experiment ran properly but taking shifts and actually worrying about what the online experimental data meant. And that’s—and that was a big difference. And that’s why we were in the Research Division, and EFD was in the Technical Division. And this sometimes got to be a sore point between some people, especially if you’re—especially if you think you’re on the outside.
Dave, as you mentioned, and it’s a great place to ask now, the Muon Collaboration, what’s the connection there?
Okay, this was actually very interesting, and this came about late in the game Remember I told you the last paper we (MIT and SFG) published was 1979—
—and the data that we looked at then were taken in the mid to late sixties and early seventies, (E4B, E49B, and E87). E4B was the first run that showed deep-inelastic scattering looked interesting, while E49B looked at scattering from hydrogen and deuterium, both experiments with SLAC/ Group A and MIT. E87 was a SLAC/SFG and MIT joint effort. So now let’s jump ahead to the summer of ’82. Arie Bodek was at a conference, most likely in Europe. I don’t remember which one. And what had happened was that the EMC collaboration, the European Muon Collaboration (EMC) at CERN, had presented scattering results from hydrogen, deuterium, and iron targets using muons rather than electrons. The muons had much higher momenta (up to 280 GeV/c) than the SLAC electrons (up to 20 GeV/c). EMC, running at the CERN SPS, which is a long duty cycle machine, means that their experiment is designed in a completely different way than those at SLAC. For example, their hydrogen/deuterium target was six meters long, whereas at SLAC we talk about targets that are 3, or 6, or 14 cm long!! EMC had analyzed their data to present the ratio of structure functions for deep-inelastic muon-scattering from iron nuclei divided by the same structure functions for deep-inelastic muon-scattering from deuterium. Analyzing their data in this way presented indications of differences between deep-inelastic muon scattering and deep-inelastic electron scattering. This became known as the “EMC Effect”. These results can be seen on page 362 of the November 1982 issue of the CERN Courier. What Arie remembered when he heard this talk was that our hydrogen and deuterium targets in E87 were made with stainless steel walls, rather than with aluminum walls in the E49B targets. And so Arie came roaring back from the conference, and we talked on the phone. And what had happened in E87, which was the last big experimental between—that SLAC—that SFG and MIT did, we turned out to have modified our target with—it was cylindrical and we had increased its diameter, and we happened to have used stainless steel windows, rather than aluminum as in E49B. When you do experiments with liquid material as the scattering material, you have to hold that material (liquid hydrogen or liquid deuterium in our case) in a container with windows seen by the incoming beam and scattered particles, respectively, and you have to have also an empty target so you can subtract the electrons that would have scattered into your detector, not from the hydrogen and deuterium but from the stainless steel—or, in earlier cases, it was aluminum—but from the stainless steel windows. We had built and hung on the bottom of our target assembly, we had hung a replica of the target with nothing in it because it was evacuated, and with windows—they were actually thicker for technical reasons—but with windows so that we could measure the scattering off of the windows, and subtract that amount of scattering from what we got when we had deuterium in the target with the windows, and get rid of the effect of the windows. So, IF after some ten years, we could find the old E87 targets and measure carefully the properties of the target walls, and also find the old E87 data-tapes and also find tape drives that could read the data on the tapes, then we would be able to reanalyze the empty target (containing neither hydrogen nor deuterium) data and present results in a form that could be compared with the EMC results. And we found the old data-tapes, but we realized that SLAC no longer had tape readers that could read those tapes. But much to everyone’s surprise, Argonne still did, and they still ran the software that allowed the data to be recovered from the old data-tapes. The tapes were shipped off to Argonne so we could get the data off the tapes. But then the question was, what happened to the target windows? Were they still around? And the answer was, yes, they had been cut out and put in an old experimental E87 logbook which we were able to locate. Fine, okay. So, all of a sudden, we had the target, which were the two stainless steel windows, and the software to do the analysis, and we could analyze electron scattering off the stainless-steel windows in just the same way we had analyzed electron scattering off of deuterium. And, surprising or not, what we did was we replicated the EMC effect, albeit with different kinematic conditions. Now the theorists understand what was going on. But, at the time, they didn’t understand anything at all, and there was always the question about whether the CERN analysis was correct, or not. Although the publication of this work in Physical Review Letters 50, 1431 (1983), is pretty dry, while showing our agreement with the EMC results, an article entitled “Physics archaeology “, published on pages 90/92 in the April 1983 issue of the CERN Courier, gives an informal, “magazine-like” description of what we had to do to recover and reanalyze the data. All of what I have told you here is written in detail there. Then we then went back and re-analyzed the data from E49B, which were taken three or four years earlier, and we were able to find those aluminum windows as well, and get that data off their tapes, and the analysis showed a similar EMC effect, in the ratio of Aluminum/Deuterium as compared to the ratio of Iron/Deuterium. Again, we got another nice short article on pages 261/262 in the September 1983 issue of the CERN Courier on our physics archaeology, this time covering the analysis of our old aluminum data. We also published these new results in Physical Review Letters, 51, 534 (1983).
When we were getting close to sending our first EMC paper to PRL to be published, I had a meeting with Pief about bureaucratic stuff. And as I remember, this was probably in December or January of ’82 or ’83. And I probably—it was probably a half an hour. And I went up to see him, and we talked about the bureaucracy stuff that had to be done, and I was basically done in 25 minutes, if I remember correctly. And then I said, “Pief, you got a minute? I want to show you some physics.” And so, I described what we had—what had happened and what we had done. And I showed him this graph, and he was like a kid in a candy store, because Pief basically had to do work, as we’ve talked before, had to do work on budgets and—
— all the usual things that you have to do to make a lab run right. And he—
This was his happy place?
This was his happy place, and so he says, “I’ve got a meeting next week, a physics discussion next week. Can I say anything about this?” And I said, “Well, I have to go back and talk to my collaborators.” I mean, I knew they would say yes but, you know—
—you respect that. And so, he was very happy because he had a chance to talk about another little bit of physics that came out of SLAC and came out of—I mean, again, this is where the support group came in because Group A was off doing something else. They were not interested in any of this. And it’s interesting, in the 1979 paper that I discussed, there’s the whole MIT collaboration of nine authors. And there’s two from SLAC: myself and Dave Sherden. So, the Group A physicists were not even on this big 82-page paper. Group A was acknowledged and thanked in great detail about what we were allowed to use from the old six- and 10-degree data. But it was basically SFG and MIT. So, it was worth all the effort, I think, and there were never any really hard feelings between the many participants, not at all.
Well, Dave, I’m glad we covered that aspect of SFG because that’s really an important part of the overall story.
Yeah, that’s what I think. And, you know, it’s not something that happened in the first three years of the lab, but it’s related because, in a national facility, it’s supposed to be—at least look like it’s doing—it has the set-up to support people from wherever.
It’s kind of a best of both worlds in the sense that it comes along at a period where SLAC is achieving something of a maturity, but it’s still early enough where there’s a frontier spirit to what can be accomplished.
Absolutely, and it was the same—I mean, I talk about the joie de vivre that we had when we were first coming on, in the first four or five years, and this was the same thing. And then after I left SFG, and the RLA thing had died, and I went overseas for my first visit to CERN, this nuclear physics that came out of the EMC and what SLAC had done, and so on, led to a proposal called NPAS (Nuclear Physics at SLAC) which is described in the December 1983 issue of the CERN Courier. A new lower-energy injector was built leading to a number of experiments by people who were more interested in nuclear physics. Spearheaded by physicists from American University, they came out to SLAC and did stuff at SLAC. And a couple—and there were a couple of people who basically ended up living at SLAC for, I don’t know, 10 years. Ray Arnold was one of them.
And so, yeah, that was the follow-on, but it was at what I would say a much lower level.
But, you know, good papers came out of what they did.
Right, okay, moving on. [End of Second Recording] [Beginning of Third Recording]
This is David Zierler, oral historian for the American Institute of Physics. It's June 2nd, 2020. It's my great pleasure to be back with Dr. David Coward for part two of our talk. In this talk, we are going to expand our discussion on some aspects of David's career and legacy, relating not just to his tenure at SLAC but to the fact that he was a longtime citizen of Palo Alto. And we're going to talk about some of the issues relating to the, quote unquote, town-gown relations between Stanford and its surrounding municipality. So, David, it's a great pleasure to be back with you. Thanks so much for spending the time with me.
It's my pleasure. We had a good time a month or six weeks ago, whenever it was. And here we go again.
Here we go again.
Sorry for the cough.
No, that's fine. So, let's just get a bit of an overview because you raise a very important point about considering the larger context in which people live and work, not just in the environment of the world of physics, but that these are people who live in the communities that may or may not have aligning interests with the given physics institution. So just, you know, thinking back in terms of your long time as a resident of Palo Alto and as a longtime employee and a scholar at SLAC, give me a sort of broad-brush overview of the so-called town-gown relations between Stanford/SLAC and its surrounding communities in the Palo Alto area.
I will modify one thing you said. I was a Palo Alto resident while I was in graduate school at Stanford. And then for the first, say, ten years when I started at SLAC, I was a resident there. And for reasons which I won't go into—it's complicated—we ended up selling our house in Palo Alto and moving on campus in 1971 for the last roughly two-thirds of my kids' growing up to graduate from high school.
So, is that to say that if you live on campus, you're not living in Palo Alto?
That's an important point.
You're right. The campus is controlled by the Santa Clara County Board of County Commissioners. I guess that's what they call themselves. And you're a resident of Santa Clara County. You pay Santa Clara County taxes, but you are not a resident of Palo Alto.
What is your mailing address?
Stanford. Stanford has its own post office and postal zip-code, interestingly enough. Stanford, California 94305
Does it have a mayor?
No. Well, it does. The president of the university.
(Laughter) The president of the university is the mayor. Very good.
Because we're on—remember, the Stanford will stated that the Stanford Farm land would be given in perpetuity to the university. And, technically, the board of trustees cannot sell any of that land. Now, you can have governmental agencies come in and condemn it for certain reasons. For example, I-280, the interstate, goes on what was Stanford land past the western side of the campus and right over the—there's a bridge which goes right over the accelerator. And so, it goes right through there. And that's not controlled by Stanford. It's controlled by whomever controls the Interstate Highway System. Thus, if you live on the campus, you don't own your land. You have a lease. In my case, it was a ninety-nine-year lease. I think they're now down to forty-nine. But anyway, you have a lease for the land. And you build a house, you own the house, fee simple, but you don't own the land. And so, the mayor of the town, if you want to call it that, is the president of the university.
I mean, it almost sounds like—the analogue that I think of most closely is sort of like an embassy compound in a foreign country, right?
Probably (laughter). Years ago I visited the one in Moscow. And outside the embassy building, and it's a big building, but outside the embassy building at the time I was there, in 1984, were Soviet police or military or whomever. And you went past that checkpoint and there was a U.S. MP standing guard at the door. So, you had to show your identity to both. And you're right. It's similar to an embassy in a foreign country.
So that's a really important point to consider. Because it does take the concept, the binary of a town-gown issue, really to a new level where we're not just talking about cultural differences, we're actually talking about municipal differences, literally.
Oh, absolutely. And so, as I implied earlier, the university seems to go on a program of getting a twenty-year agreement from the County Board of Supervisors, that this is what they are doing related to location of buildings, location of density. Because the university has to have a long-range planning ability. And so, they'll get a twenty-year program agreement with the Board of Supervisors and then every ten years it will be modified. So that they have time to, while they're going through the next twenty-year program, continue what they were planning on doing with the already-agreed-upon program. This is a huge problem with Palo Alto because Palo Alto is worried about traffic, just to name one item. And now to compound the problem, the Palo Alto Unified School District does have schools on the Stanford campus. The School District is a taxing organization, and you pay taxes to that. But that's separate from the city of Palo Alto. So, it gets a bit murky because there're these overlapping governmental jurisdictions. So, anyhow, at the time I started at SLAC right after I got my PhD, one of the big issues for the residents of Portola Valley, which is just on the south side of the accelerator complex and west or northwest of Palo Alto…. The residents of Portola Valley were very concerned about how and where a 220-kilovolt power line would be constructed, coming from one of PG&E's, Pacific Gas and Electric's, big substations somewhere and going directly to SLAC to deliver power to run the accelerator. Because, at the time, we were running on, I don't know exactly, a 25-kilovolt line or something like that, which was handleable easily down city streets. Whereas a 220-kV line is a big one with big towers holding up the power lines. And so, the residents were complaining because they were worried about the environmental impact. And, of course, somebody living up in the hills, who's paid top dollar for a nice view, doesn't want to have a big tower holding power cables right next to him or her.
And David, what year are we in now?
This is 1963.
And where did this issue first come from? Who was the first person or entity that said, "We need these lines"?
It was well known by SLAC and AEC people that SLAC would require that much power. If you sat and said, how much power do I need to generate a large number of 20-GeV electrons down a linac? How much power do you need just to do that, and how much power are you going to need for some hypothetical set of experimental equipment, and how much are you going to need for overhead just to run the campus on SLAC?
So, forgive me for asking perhaps an insane and ignorant question, but—
No questions are ignorant.
(Laughter) These are some of the smartest physicists in the world, right? Are there alternative power sources that they can come up with?
At that time, no, and I think that statement is still true.
There's just no way they can get around an external power line.
That's not happening.
Well, yeah, you could build a reactor on-site, of course.
I mean, I didn't want to say it out loud, but you did. I'm thinking like, right? It's only totally outlandish if we were not talking about the founding fathers of SLAC, right? Why not? Why not build a reactor? (laughter)
Well, but then that brings a different—well, at the time it was AEC. It then went to ERDA and now it's the DOE. But that brings another part of the AEC into it at that point. So, let's just assume for the sake of discussion that you have to have a power line.
Right. Okay, good.
And it would come up along the hills and skyline behind SLAC and then come down through Portola Valley. There was no other way to really do it.
And going underground is not viable either? It's got to be overhead wires.
I mean, underground at low voltage is, where low is twenty kilovolts or something like that, that's all possible. Two-hundred-twenty KV, especially in 1963, no. They didn't have the technology to do it, and I'm not even sure they do now, but I don't know. So anyway, the other thing that people were concerned about was that, if you look at most big power line distributions, there's a whole amount of brush that's cleared out. They go down to dirt, and you can drive a truck up and down between the various pylons and so on, the various towers. So, the agreement that actually came about quite easily was that they did all this installation by helicopter. And so, the results of that power line thing, unless you happen to have a piece of property there right under a tower, you don't see it very much. And I believe, if I'm not mistaken, that the attorney for the residents was an ex-Marine named Pete McCloskey, whom I met and talked with several times, and he eventually became a member of the Congressional House of Representatives for that district. He beat Shirley Temple Black (the former child movie star) in a special-election Republican primary in 1967, and subsequently winning election to Congress. So anyway, I start at SLAC when this is going on. Oh, the other important thing about Palo Alto is that Palo Alto owns its own utility company. It doesn't get power from PG&E. It owns its own utility company. So, I said, "I wonder how much it would cost to underground the powerline going into my house." Very inefficient thing to do for one house, but there's an ugly pole outside with some wires on it.
You just sort of had this intuition on your own that you could play a productive role in this?
Not really but let me show you how it develops. My answer was, if I'm going to complain about putting power lines in certain places and sort of be on the side—I mean, I had to be careful— but be on the side of the Portola Valley people a little bit, rather than just saying, anything SLAC wants it gets. I mean, I've got to put my money where my mouth is. So, then if I want to go out and talk about undergrounding power lines, I can do it from having done it, rather than have it be a hypothetical thing. And I did not know in detail what the problems were going to be. I mean, my engineering physics degree from Cornell told me how to do this in general terms. But I had not—the details matter in all of this. And the other thing going for me is that my family and I were living in a subdivision known as Green Acres Two. The subdivision had been built about ten years prior to when we moved there. It was in the county at that time, so it had a homeowners' association, and everything related to it. Thus, it was very easy to talk to neighbors and do neighborhood things. Then, Green Acres Two was incorporated into the city as the city expanded, but it kept its homeowners' association. It became part of the City of Palo Alto and no longer just the county. So, I went to City Hall in 1965 and arranged a conversation with one of the electrical engineers in the Palo Alto Utilities Department., and we kicked things around for a while. And they went away to think about it. And they came back to me and said, "Look, the only thing that makes sense is to do it for your subdivision. Would they buy it?" And I said, "I haven't the foggiest idea.” But I had just gotten a seat on the board of the homeowners' association. Let's find out. As a result, the Homeowners Association Board, which represented 135 homes, was able to take the lead in interfacing between the association residents and the City of Palo Alto. Thus, we were able to organize this project for the whole subdivision so that the city could have a project of reasonable size, so that they could get some competent bidding from power companies to have people come in and do all the construction, and yet small enough that it could be a good pilot program. And the engineers did something really very nice because the streetlights that they proposed, instead of being those overhead things from tall power poles, were very nice looking colonial-type fixtures that sat on relatively short metal poles, and the fixtures that contained the actual lights were what you would have thought were colonial style. And almost everybody wanted in. I think we may have had a dozen people that weren't happy. When the engineers came before the Council for approval of our little project, the Council established an advisory committee to tell the Council whether or not to proceed with a city-wide undergrounding of utilities program and, if so, how such a large program should be organized. After a year of deliberations, the committee’s recommendation was to go for it, recognizing that it might take two or three decades to complete. The Council followed its committee’s recommendations and decided to use our Green Acres Two project as a demonstration project. The Council decided to use city funds for about three-quarters of the total project cost and the homeowners paid about one quarter in aggregate. As I remember, it cost me around 430 dollars (in 1967/68 dollars). And one other forward-looking thing that the city did in the design. They had the contractor install a one inch, more or less, diameter plastic tube between the junction box in the street and each house “just because”. Although there was no reason for it at that time, the engineers though it might be useful in the future and the cost was minimal. So, when the internet revolution arrived some twenty years later, the conduits already existed for internet cables to the individual houses!!! Also, it was interesting that the Palo Alto City Manager in March 1969 submitted a report to the Palo Alto City Council on treating Community Antenna Television service as a municipal utility. So maybe installing a one-inch conduit was not so “just because” after all. The Council then laid out a program for undergrounding systematically all the power lines throughout the whole city, starting with subdivisions first and then later getting to the main feeder lines that went through the center of town and, at the same time, including all of the big buildings. So, it became an interesting change for Palo Alto. We really made the place look better because now you don't have lines going all over the place. In addition, the reliability of the entire utility system is much better because the power lines are now underground and out of the weather. I think everybody, even before the property values started to rise the way they have, I think everybody got their money out, if they sold their homes, because people were willing to pay for the new looks. And then the city got something out because basically they cleaned up the rest of the city over the course of years. Now, at Stanford, they already were doing that. All the homes that had been built on the Stanford campus, with the exception of the very first ones in the late 1930s, all of those lines were underground. Now you don't even think about it. But in the early- to mid-sixties, it was a brand-new thing. My first contact with the city’s engineers was in 1965, and the entire underground project was essentially completed in December 1968 – a remarkably short period of time! (The old wooden power poles were removed in January and February 1969.) One added observation: we had a lot of young sidewalk superintendents that watched every move, especially during the summer of 1968. As far as we know, there were no complaints from the construction companies!
David, I'm curious in terms of your motivation. Was this essentially a fifty-fifty split in terms of being a good citizen and also being a good member of the SLAC team and recognizing that they needed this?
I don't know. I grew up with my parents. My parents, I think the way you would call them, were fiscally conservative and socially liberal. And when my dad died, he died young in his fifties due to stomach cancer. But afterwards, I discovered things that he and my mother had done, all anonymously, but very nice. When I was growing up, my dad did a lot of work in Scouts. Also, the whole idea of education, they did a lot on education, actively supporting a bond issue every year that had to be voted on for the school board and the school system. It was just sort of built into you that you paid attention to what was going on. And yet they were not on the lunatic fringe of politics by any stretch of the imagination because they were fiscally conservative and said you deal with what you have, but then you make choices which are good choices related to that. And I’ve always been an ardent conservationist. So, I don't know. The underground utilities were basically because I wanted to be able to put my money where my mouth was. And I did not think we would lose money on it. I thought it would be a good investment. But it was, at that time, on the lunatic fringe because nobody was thinking about it for existing subdivisions. But I believe that if you're in Portola Valley and you're complaining about putting a powerline to SLAC through or near to your town, then I will believe that you're serious about it if I see that you can tell me that you have put your own lines underground. It's that philosophy.
And what personal cost or disruption to your life did this commitment entail?
A few meetings.
But that's it. You didn't have to sacrifice your house or anything like that?
No, no. The one advantage from—well, and you know this only too well. The one advantage of being in the academic side of things is that you don't punch a time clock. And I sure as heck worked more than forty hours a week.
I know. It's like, you don't put a time clock, but then you work, you know. Right. Of course.
But you have the ability to move time slots around.
And if you've got a meeting tomorrow in City Hall, you work an extra hour tonight and make up for it. I mean, it works that way. So, these things affect your quality of life. And, I was really concerned because at this time, smog was getting bad in L.A. And the automobile manufacturers were saying, "It's not on my watch!" And the scientists said, "Ah." Eventually we're able to say, "Oh yes, it is, because we've done these tests, these tests, these tests." And, they fought with the auto industry until catalytic converters came out. Now, at some time in the future, you're going to wonder what happened to the rare earths in the catalytic converters. Have you got enough of them back, and such? But can you imagine L.A. without catalytic converters now?
I know. Seriously.
It's even bad now, sometimes. But if you hadn't done that, it would have been more of a mess. So, where you live, what you do. I mean, the director of SLAC, for example. He raised his five kids. The kids are not in academia as far as I know, but the kids are smart. But the kids are not doing things with the same sphere of influence, as far as I know, that Pief did. But everybody lives on the world, on the earth.
So, on that point, David, let me ask you a little bit about your understanding of how Pief saw his own role in these. Both as the, you know, not the mayor of Stanford, the way the president is the mayor of Stanford, but really, I mean, this is his own little empire at SLAC. And he's the one that's, you know, making this case. So, what are his views on the relationship, not just with Stanford, but SLAC's relationship with the broader community?
I think Pief cared a lot about that. He obviously wanted to build a lab to do certain things because he had a vision, as did Hofstadter and others, about where particle physics was going, or whatever it was called at the time, and where you could get information. And he used to get asked how long is, at a particular time somebody would say, "How long will SLAC still be viable?" And his comment was always, "Ten years, unless somebody has a good idea." And I heard him say that many times. So, what he did was he tried to get people that he thought were good people in the lab and put them in a big pot and stir and hope that a lot of good things came out, a good taste. Because obviously he couldn't do everything. But he was willing to sacrifice himself as director of the lab to do the garbage that had to get done—i.e., human relations policy, budget policies, and all that sort of stuff—in order to have a facility which had good people around, so that the sum of what they were doing turned out to be good science. And there was a time when budgets were bad, and he had to deliver the pain on salary. And I remember that he, I think I've got this right. The people making the smallest salaries and so on I think had their pay frozen but didn't lose anything. And some people in somewhat a higher pecking order had a reduction for three months of their salary, something like that, and the rest of us at the technical level, up higher, had six months lost. Not no salary, but, diminished. And his argument was that that was the fair way to do it. So, he really thought hard about people. But don't try to pull the wool over his eyes. Because as I've said, when we built the beam switchyard and research area of the nascent lab, we had four of us to do the conceptual design and put everything together and we'd come around to see him, and he understood everything in a microsecond. But he let the rest of us mortals go out and work full time and then some to put it all together. He was unpretentious and I think cared deeply about the world, too. In some sense he had to because he and his family were driven out of Germany. And his father was smart enough to see it coming in the early thirties. And so, they got out and got to the U.S. before the world fell apart! But he had a sense of that because he was there. He went through it all to the age of fifteen and then came to the U.S. And also, I think, because of this background, he felt (maybe even an obligation) to help advise our government on scientific matters, where appropriate. Over the course of time, I believe that he was a member of PSAC (Presidential Scientific Advisory Committee), as well as JASON and many other committees. An absolutely fabulous man. I'm just so honored to have had the chance to work with him. And, he had an open door. I mean, unless he was in a talk that was confidential, a directors meeting or something like that. The door to his secretary's little office was always open. He had an office where he and Sid Drell, who was the deputy director in the latter part of the directorship, with Matt Sands before Sid. You walked in there and there were three people. Pief had an office, and the deputy director, depending on who it was, had an office, and the head of the research division had an office. And, of course, each of the three had his secretary. With a central alcove and somebody sitting there, answering the phones, making phone calls etc. When somebody came in, say, "Can I help you?" and so on. And Pief's door was always open unless he was going to be on a long phone call and he just didn't want to have the noise out there. That's the way he ran the place. And it was just a delight. I would be remiss in not adding that Pief published a book centered on his work entitled “Panofsky on Physics, Politics and Peace: Pief Remembers”. This wonderful book was published shortly before his death on September 24, 2007.
David, can you talk about the issue of commuting at Stanford? The way that perhaps originally people thought that biking was a good solution and some of the controversies that resulted from some increased biking and some alternatives to driving to work.
When I was a graduate student, for the first year I lived in a dorm on campus and then I moved to a room in a house in downtown Palo Alto. Then, after I got married in 1960, my wife and I had a place in College Terrace, also in Palo Alto but right next to the campus. And I was riding an old three-speed bike all that time. The distance that I would drive to get onto campus was a couple of miles, something like that. And when I finished my degree and started at SLAC, we bought a house that was on the south side of Palo Alto but a very easy six-mile commute to the lab. And we bought there because if we moved further south—you didn't go north because north goes into Menlo Park and then Atherton and you're talking big bucks. But if we went further south, we could have purchased a less-expensive house, but then we would have had to buy a second car so I could then commute by car. At the time we had only one car. It seemed to us a good idea to stick with one car, especially since I liked to ride bikes. And so, number one, I upgraded my bike to a good bike, a good racing bike, and then started more serious riding. This was the time when towns were beginning to grapple with bike routes and such. There's been a huge change in attitude in the sixty years since then. Towns now build bike paths; they build walking paths and so on to get people out. But Palo Alto hadn't done this yet. And I was perfectly happy riding my bike because I could ride fairly quickly, and I wasn't worried about cars because I kept track of where they were. And I made sure that, if need be, I’d put myself in a situation where the driver of a car coming up behind me clearly could see me and not hit me from behind because he/she was—well, if asleep, yes—but not hit me from behind. Normally I would be out of the way enough on the right side of the road. I tried to be a responsible rider and share the road properly with drivers. So, I was sitting at home one night reading the Palo Times newspaper and I noticed that a committee of the Palo Alto City Council was having a meeting on bike paths. I don’t remember exactly when this was, but it must have been sometime in the mid-1960s, sometime after I had started working at SLAC. At that time, Palo Alto had a very rudimentary system of bike paths, primarily just lanes, a bike lane on the very side of the street next to the curb that was probably three feet wide. Anyway, the city staff wanted to get rid of that. That's what the staff was recommending. And I said, "Oh, I ought to go down and talk about bike paths with these guys." Fortunately, during the preceding few years, I had thought a lot while riding about how to make streets safer for both bikes and cars. As I remember, I was the only person that was not a City Council Committee member, nor a member of the City Staff present at the meeting. When it came time for public comment, which was after staff presentation and some committee discussion, I talked. The staff were saying that on streets on which they had put in a bike path, the number of accidents in the year before the path had been two and the number of accidents after the installation of the path had been four. And so therefore, bike paths were inherently dangerous because the accident rate went up.
So, can I just ask the obvious question now? Might it have something to do with the fact that bike paths just got more people on bikes?
Well, I told them they were comparing streets and intersections where there had been no bike path and then there was a bike path. And I said, "Look, if you put a sign there saying, ‘Bike Path’, you're going to attract more people to that area." So, therefore, the number of accidents during the same period should go up. And I said in my field, two was equal to four. I mean, they're statistically not distinguishable. So, you can't make a decision like that.” And one of the members of the committee, Philip Flint, asked me, something like "Well, if you were in our shoes, what would you do?" Indeed, I had thought about that. And so, I told him a number of things that they ought to think about. And that conversation turned the city around. They decided let's really look at this carefully. And they did! They created a bike path system throughout the city, which turned out to be very good., and which was announced in the City of Palo Alto News Notes of October-November 1967: “Marked Bicycle Route Begins Operation”. And the net result is that, now you look and there are bikes all over the place. But this wasn't the case in the late-60s. There were bikes on campus, but there were not bikes through the town the way there are now. And you had to learn, if you were riding, especially doing a variety of things—and I went all over town on a bike—you had to learn to ride defensively. But the net result of my seeing that one item in the Palo Alto paper, they proceeded to design and build a good bike system. And it only took one meeting! And that helps—remember, that helps Stanford as well. All of this helps Stanford. Because Stanford had places for their students to live, both graduate and undergraduate. They had places where students with families or fellows coming back from some work experience and being at Stanford for a year and therefore bringing their families, they had places for children. There were two schools, two elementary schools on campus. One of them was built in an area where these graduate student families live and their kids could go to their school, K through six. The other was in an area of faculty and staff housing. But then you also had many Stanford people that lived in town or lived in Los Altos or Los Altos Hills or wherever. So, there's a huge number of people that come and go from the university in cars or bikes. And the weather is nice. You don't get that much rain so that families could get along with one car. We did that for the whole length of time our kids were growing up, that is, until they got old enough to take driver's education as juniors in high school. Sophomores, juniors, whenever it was. And we bought a second car because now the number of drivers had gone from two to three to four, or even to five, at one time. And you had a density problem with cars if you weren't careful. But that whole area is—I mean, it's flattish, and this small world runs on bicycles.
As a result of the bike paths, though.
As a result of the bike paths. If you build the infrastructure, then people will use it. This is what highway engineers do. And their problem is to try to stay out ahead of it so that they aren't always playing catch up. And usually, you're playing catch up in that business. And the other thing that's happened is that, first of all, there's a bus transportation. I don't know who runs it now, Caltrans or I don't know. But there are regular buses that go up and down the peninsula. And they interact between Palo Alto and the campus. But then the campus has its own shuttle service called Marguerite. And, when they first started it, they didn't include SLAC in its destinations (because SLAC is a few miles from the center of the campus proper), but that got fixed. And so, if you're at SLAC and you want to go to a meeting down on campus, there's a pretty convenient bus schedule that goes back and forth between SLAC and the campus. Remember, the two campuses are separated by some four miles. And so, the whole world has awakened to the benefits of a good public transportation system.
Has it expanded since you were initially involved?
The bike stuff? Or the regular transportation?
The bike stuff.
It's expanded, and other towns picked it up too. For the most part, a lot of it is on the streets, but if they can expand into a parking lane or even a separated bike lane buffered by a grass partition, they will do that. If there are places where you've got a traffic light, they will change the curbing so that you can go up onto a sidewalk, what you would normally have called a sidewalk, and you've got push buttons on traffic signals and such to indicate you can go across. All that's been done. And it's these minor things that get done to keep you from getting hit. Because, you're not going to fare well if a car hits you, especially if the driver is not paying attention.
Yeah, no doubt. No doubt.
And the other thing, parking on the Stanford campus is awful. But, as I said before, if you're at SLAC and you want to go down to a meeting or you want to be involved in a project with a research group on the campus, take the bus down and back because you can park at your office at SLAC and go down for a meeting and come back when it's all over. And that all works very well.
And you were a beneficiary of all of these bike paths.
Yeah. The other thing is, since I lived on the west side of Palo Alto, I was coming in along a couple of main thoroughfares, which did have bike paths on them, absolutely. And it was still on Stanford's land. So that was, the city was—originally, I was in Palo Alto. Then when we moved to the campus in the summer of 1971, I still considered myself as, sort of, a de facto Palo Alto resident. I was still interested in what they were doing. But I didn't go down and talk before the city council often because I didn't have standing. I wasn't paying Palo Alto taxes. I was an outside beneficiary of their largesse, as they would think.
Right. David, the other item I wanted to ask you about was, in no small part due to your efforts, the design of some of the major transportation arteries in Palo Alto are a lot more elegant now than they otherwise would have been and would look a lot more like the suburban sprawl that has overtaken so many other college towns. So, can you talk a little bit about the 280 and how all of that played out?
Yeah. If you look at some of the very first pictures of SLAC, you will see the bridge to nowhere, which went over the Klystron Gallery and the accelerator housing, and which was built around 1964/65. The reason for that was that SLAC management wanted to have the heavy construction of building a bridge and its abutments and footings and so on, finished and out of the way before the accelerator was finished because then we would eliminate potential vibrations due to the digging and hauling from the close-by highway construction. So, you see this old picture with a bridge there, connected out far enough away from the accelerator that you could join a highway onto it with no problem. And it's sitting there. Interstate 280 was a highway that came down from San Francisco to San Jose. And it was to the west of all of the big towns. So, it was nestled right up against the mountains that went up and then down into the Pacific Ocean. Interstate 280 was built slowly coming down from San Francisco, went across SLAC, and then continued down toward San Jose. And about the time we were living in Palo Alto, it was coming down on the west side of Portola Valley, and toward the west side of Palo Alto. And it was planned to cross a major local thoroughfare, Page Mill Road. Page Mill Road went from east to west from Bayshore Freeway just east of Palo Alto to where it would intersect I-280, and then continue west as a smaller road up into the foothills to Skyline Boulevard. An ad-hoc influential group of people from Palo Alto and its environs formed the Page Mill Road Coordinating Committee in April 1965. The Committee’s purpose was to study the entire length of Page Mill Road and provide a positive program to (1) satisfactorily meet the increasing traffic needs of the area, (2) preserve and enhance the scenic and recreational aspects of Page Mill Road, and (3) Integrate the development of Page Mill Road into the general concept of preserving open areas for a regional park and scenic route system, even though this concept extends well beyond the immediate area of concern. It is worth remembering that the foothills that run south from San Francisco to San Jose form a backdrop that is prized by all the local inhabitants of the Peninsula. I was asked to join this group, although I cannot now remember the reason why. So, I became a member of this committee, which was a group of twenty people with all sorts of skills: architects and planners, members of conservation organizations, and me as a SLAC physicist. Interestingly, the Committee was sponsored by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce. And Page Mill Road was a road that was, if my memory is correct, the only road out of Palo Alto that went up through the foothills and up to Skyline Boulevard at the top of the mountains. The state highway department figured that there would be a lot of future development in the foothills and that the intersection of I-280 and Page Mill Road would therefore need to be a major interchange. And so, they would need to build an interchange, which would have four cloverleafs, sort of what I would have seen as I was growing up in northern New Jersey. The design of this interchange was in the very beginning design phase when the Committee started its work. As the Committee continued its work, it realized that it would propose a trail and park system that would run the entire length of Page Mill Road. Thus, it became very important, if this vision were to be successful, that the interchange design allow for easy and safe crossing pedestrians, cyclists, and horseback riders. Such nonvehicular traffic was an important part of Peninsula living. This trail and park system recommendation was the basis of the Committee’s final report issued in December 1965. An inter-jurisdictional Joint Study Committee was formed in December 1965 under the sponsorship of the Palo Alto City Council to investigate and make recommendations regarding a separated nonvehicular access through interchange. This Committee consisted of representatives from six local jurisdictions, along with a representative of the State Division of Highways, plus me and another member of the Page Mill Road Coordinating Committee, a member of another volunteer Committee for Safe Bike and Foot Traffic, and a planner from Stanford University. This Committee held several meetings during the winter of 1966, and on March 24th we passed the following resolution unanimously: “It is the sense of this Committee that we go on record as being in favor of a separate pedestrian-bicycle-equestrian under-crossing at the Page Mill Road-Junipero Serra Interchange utilizing grade separations at the ramps.” (Junipero Serra Freeway was the local name for I-280.) The six local jurisdictions (two counties, three town/city councils, and one school district), all passed their approval by the end of April and our report was sent on to the State Highway Commission for their consideration. In the meantime, the State Highway Department had redesigned the interchange to include only two cloverleafs and the requested separated pedestrian-bicycle-equestrian under-crossing. For example, the southbound exit on I-280 coming from San Francisco went from a cloverleaf to a “T” intersection at Page Mill Road with a controlled left-turn or right-turn traffic signal. The stunning thing for me was that with a few meetings to get facts correct, a small group of citizens was able to investigate a problem, come up with an “alternate solution” and actually get a big governmental organization, that is, the California State Division of Highways, to modify its design of a major freeway interchange! Citizen democracy does work, or at least it did back in the 1960s! Looking back, I think that the reason that I was appointed to the Joint Study Committee was because of my use of the engineering part of my Engineering Physics background from Cornell.
So, given that city planners, you know, that cloverleafs, for a time in American history and probably continuing to this day, are the answer for everything, I'm curious. What was the winning argument that convinced them otherwise?
Traffic density. Palo Alto really didn’t want to have large amounts of traffic going up in the hills. Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, which are next to Palo Alto on the south and west, they had very low densities of housing, especially Los Altos Hills, at that time. It started out probably as one house per five acres or something like that. I’m guessing that it's smaller than that now. And this is right in the area of the San Andreas Fault, so protection from earthquakes becomes a big deal. And I guess it was reasoning with the California Division of Highways that you can always go back and upgrade to a cloverleaf if you need it. At the same time, of course, this redesign provided a safe crossing of the intersection for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians, another important point for quality-of-life for the local inhabitants of the area. I was back at SLAC in February 2020 for a retirement celebration for one of my long-time collaborators. I drove through this intersection and up into the hills to his house off of Page Mill Road the next morning and noticed that the only thing that had changed from what I remembered from years ago was that the lead-in line of pavement had started farther back up the freeway to allow one to stack more cars there without them backing onto the freeway itself. But the rest of the interchange was what it was fifty years ago. And that, of course, is one of the problems when you're doing land use. And it's part of why Stanford wants to do planning with the county in twenty-year increments. So that they can actually think about what they might need and what they project and say, "We'll be back in ten years to relook at the next ten years and the ten years subsequently further out to see how we're doing," because it's very hard to project twenty years in the future.
So, David, from your vantage point, obviously, you're in a unique position to appreciate how SLAC and the broader community can work together to, sort of, achieve these solutions. But from your vantage point as a citizen, to what degree do you think these efforts were appreciated by the community in terms of the kinds of things SLAC was trying to do to show that it was being a good citizen also?
As I remember, Pief knew about the underground utilities project. I'm pretty sure I would have told him that because that was driven—I mean, that idea came into my head because of what SLAC had done. If you're really honest about it, I think that these kinds of issues require participation by people. Probably nobody other than my family knows about these three examples. And this is why, in some sense, people who are on city councils and committees --- it's a thankless job. I take my hat off to anybody who wants to do it. Because, you clearly make a contribution. And in the overall way things go, the sum of all these contributions makes where you're living better. And the question is, do you want to just let the staff—I mean, the staff gets paid to look at these things, but depending on where you happen to live, the staff may or may not see things like you do. But the staff has to live somewhere, too. And they might live in Palo Alto—at one time, I don't think everybody that worked for the city had to live in the city, but certainly the upper-level management people did. Because we lost a house to somebody who was in that position and worked for the city. And for that first house on which we put a bid, in 1963, it became very clear that I just should back off and let the guy have it and not bid him up because I was going to lose. He had more money than we did and was very motivated. (In retrospect, because of this we then bought a house in Green Acres II, which led to the undergrounding of power lines.) However, so many people don't live where they work, if they work in governmental work. And so, they may not see things from the vantage point of somebody who lives in that town and works wherever. If you're going to do volunteer work, you sort of have to go into it with this in mind. I'm doing this because it's the right thing for me to do and it's something I'm interested in and I might actually make a contribution. But I don't expect to be invited to the White House because of it (laughter).
Well, the stories are now down for posterity. So, you might not get the White House invitation, but the recognition will be there in the archives.
The utility business was a clear indication that SLAC was trying to do something. Now, see, all of SLAC is in San Mateo County. It's not in Santa Clara County. And so, it wasn't even—I mean, Palo Alto's in Santa Clara County. There's the creek that runs through, which is the dividing, from the hills out to the San Francisco Bay, and that's dividing between Santa Clara and San Mateo County. So even on that, it didn't have anything to do with Palo Alto, except that the Palo Alto–Stanford town and gown thing is, or at least it was, touchy. Because the townspeople want to use the Stanford open space for running and all that sort of stuff. And there's something called the Dish on the campus. There are running trails in there, and Stanford closes them periodically. And there would be a huge fight if Stanford wanted to close them full time because so many people from Palo Alto run. And so, they'll drive up and park on the streets, which is a traffic hazard. Or they're parking in a residential area and not a main street, and that's got to be controlled, but they don't want to be controlled. They want somebody else to be controlled, not them. So, the town-gown thing gets interesting.
David, I'll ask, you know, for the capstones of this conversation. It's interesting, and I'm curious from your vantage point. Given the fact that in so many ways, SLAC was its own world, even separate from Stanford, and in light of our conversation today, where despite SLAC's best intentions and in many cases successes, with particular regard to your contributions in terms of being a good citizen of Palo Alto and Stanford, I wonder if at any point during those early years, you know, the Monster years when SLAC was still a concept and it wasn't an institute or an institution. Did anybody think, like, maybe they know what they're doing at a place like Los Alamos, right? If we're not going to be so connected to Stanford proper, we're not going to have such a strong connection to even the physics department, what do we need to give ourselves this headache of trying to do what we're doing? You know, sandwiched in this high density, very rapidly growing metropolitan city, you know, university city kind of area. Why don't we go out somewhere in the desert and just be totally unencumbered and do whatever it is that we want to do? Do you recall at any point if that was a part of the conversation in those early days as a way of thinking ahead about some of the problems that might come as a result? That we discussed today?
The only thing that I remember was—first of all, let me correct one thing I said. I said SLAC is in San Mateo County. The Stanford campus is actually in Santa Clara County, just as is Palo Alto. So just on the record. So, people don't misinterpret what I'm saying.
But it only furthers the point that there's that internal distinction between SLAC and Stanford, also. So, it just raises the question, why even be in the same—we can't say county because you already corrected that. But why are we in the same physical proximity, even?
Well, there was one—as I remember, and you'd have to go back and read the hearings at the AEC—big push from presumably Washington state, Washington congresspeople. There was apparently a big tunnel, railroad tunnel, abandoned that people raised the question, why couldn't you use that tunnel and build your accelerator in there? And the thing which was driving that at the time was, I think, the fact that we were building this precise accelerator housing and accelerator structure over the San Andreas Fault. And some people said that doesn't sound smart. And we said there are ways of coping with that. But that was pushed, I think, fairly hard. And I don't remember how it was pushed back. Remember that people who want to build something, you want the best and brightest people to go someplace. And the people who were pushing the design and who had the technical expertise of the klystron design and the waveguides and the accelerator structure design, those people all lived at Stanford. They had Stanford positions, the top guys. They were tenured faculty at the university. So, they had no interest in uprooting their families and going, for example, to the State of Washington, and building something in a greenfield. And the example that you can see on that is, look at the SSC. The SSC comes along as a proposal, and we won't get into a discussion about the design criteria, but the SSC comes along as a proposal. And the AEC, in its infinite wisdom—or maybe it was DOE by that time. Anyhow, DOE, in its infinite wisdom, decided to open up the proposal to build this lab to all over the country. And they got a large number of demonstrations of interest and such. And Fermilab, at the same time, had not done a good job in collaborating with its neighbors who lived nearby. So, people that lived nearby basically said, "We don't want it here," even though Fermilab and they had existed peacefully in the past. And so, they ended up siting this thing in Waxahachie, Texas, in a greenfield. Therefore, you had to rebuild all of the Fermilab infrastructure down there, at least from the accelerator point of view, to get protons to the energy where they could be injected into the superconducting supercollider. And then, for other reasons, the whole thing fell on its face. But you'd have the same problem, in some sense, sort of uprooting Stanford people and saying, "We need you to help, to really work on this, but you've got to go to the State of Washington to do it." And, of course, then it's not tied in with the university. And Pief felt very strongly that this should not be a Los Alamos Lab type of thing where it was a government lab. He wanted it to be related, because of the teaching and so on, he wanted it connected to a university.
And to be related to a university means, obviously, it needs to be close to a university.
Close to a university, and you're part of the university. And so—this is way outside my pay grade—a large amount of the agreement that they have in all this weaves Stanford into it and Stanford policies. Because we are employees of Stanford. We are not employees of some Los Alamos type of thing. So, our pay, our benefits, and so on, are all tied to Stanford's pay and benefits. Now obviously for pay, there's plenty of room for maneuvering top salaries and all that sort of stuff. But the point is, we are Stanford employees. We are not employed by “linear-accelerator-company.org”. And that was one of the things that Pief insisted on. He wanted us to be university employees—because he recognized the value of open research and such, and he wanted to make sure that that was still kept. Now, to be sure, there were huge schisms between Physics and Applied Physics and then SLAC. Because the people who set up SLAC left the physics department, and Felix Bloch and Leonard Schiff were still in the physics department. And they were very strong, two strong people that ran the physics department. Microwave engineering or microwave physics, klystron physics, laser physics - as far as the physics department was concerned, were not pure physics. That's where applied physics came from. They were driven into the applied physics department. So, there was no love lost there. And then SLAC comes along, and SLAC takes two of the top people from the Stanford Physics Department, namely Sid Drell and Pief, up to form the new lab. That didn't go over well, either.
Because they interpreted it as, it's as if they were poached from a separate institution altogether? They didn't look at it—
Oh --Do people come to SLAC? I mean, you've already got two professors. So, there was an agreement that you could have a professoriate of some size. Do they have graduate students? Because that's what the university rules allow. I mean, if you're a full professor, you're allowed to have graduate students. You're allowed to have contracts, for that matter. Although we only had one, and that was the one that Pief had with the AEC or the DOE or whatever. So, it's taken a lot of work over the last twenty years to resolve that. And part of it is because people have left and died. And you get rid of the old memory because new people come in, and they saw none of this and, you know, say, "What's the big deal?" And the university has been pretty good in some of the things it's done. But going back to answer your question, as I mentioned earlier, there was this idea about using the tunnel in Washington, but it got squashed after a while. And I will tell you another story, which is important, about the San Andreas Fault. There are thirty sectors in the accelerator. A sector is 300 feet. Thirty (sectors) times 300 is 9,000 feet. And that's an approximate way of looking at the 10,000 feet of the accelerator housing. And our seismic engineers said that in order to stabilize the ground, we should place a temporary load of a big mound of dirt that goes from, for the sake of discussion, sector seven to sector twenty-four. Mound of dirt, like this, and it sits there for a year to make sure that the ground is well stabilized and such. And Larry Moore, who was the on-site AEC representative to make sure that all the contracts were right and to oversee what's going on. The AEC had a person here—they had persons, they had several, but he was the head of it. He was a civil engineer, if I remember correctly, and I even think that I heard once that he was a Cornell grad. And the story is that he said, "I understand what you're doing, but you can only spend the dirt-stabilization-money on," what did I say? I said, say, sector seven to sector twenty-four. "You can only make your pile run from sector eight to sector twenty-three." In other words, you can't have it as long as the engineers wanted it. And so, you either do that or you do nothing. So, they did that. The only places where there were significant displacements after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake were in those two sectors that got left out by Larry Moore. So, the guys who were doing the design knew what they were doing. Roland Sharpe was a mechanical, civil, whatever engineer. He was a seismic engineer from the Blume side of things of Aetron Blume and Atkinson. That was the group that was set up to actually design and build all the buildings on site including the accelerator housing and klystron gallery. Roland Sharpe: He was a great guy, died about a year ago, two years ago. These guys knew what to do with earthquake engineering. So, the fact that we were going across the San Andreas Fault became a nonissue. You didn't know that going in. But, if that's the only problem you have with the San Andreas Fault when you have that 1989 earthquake, that's a pretty good record.
Well, David, it's been pretty amazing how the main thrust of this conversation was about, you know, bike paths and lines and roads and things like that. And then, inevitably, we come back to how this all connects with Pief Panofsky and his grand vision and how it all worked out.
He was such an outstanding guy. And having an open door, I was in and out of his office a lot. And I will retell you my earlier story, to point out again how great he was as Director. I had something, a brand-new bit of physics that our SLAC group and MIT were ready to publish. He asked me to come up because we had to talk about something which lasted for twenty-five minutes of a half an hour meeting. When the meeting was clearly over, I said, "Have you got five minutes?" And he said, "Yeah." I said, "Let me show you something." And I showed him what we had done. And this was something that corroborated some very nice work that had been done recently at CERN. And he looked at that and he was like a kid in a candy store. I mean, he spends all of his time on what I call garbage, but it's absolutely necessary garbage to have a laboratory that can function; human relations, budgets, dealing with Stanford trustees, etc. So, he basically took all the stuff that nobody else wanted to deal with but was absolutely essential and took care of that himself so that everybody else that he hired, those that would have the good ideas and so on, so that they could work unencumbered by this bureaucracy. So, Pief was like a kid in a candy store. And I showed him what we had done. And, of course, he understood everything in five microseconds. And he said, "I've got a talk to give next week or the week after. Can I say anything about it?" And I said, "Well, I have to go back and check with my collaborators." And, of course, the collaborators said, "No problem," which I knew they would say, but I still had to do that. But, that's the kind of guy that set up the laboratory. He had vision and he had the hutzpah to know how to deal with people. And yet he was firm. He knew what he had to do at the lab. And there were rules and there were things that had to get done. He was not a pushover, not a bit. And I had the good luck to have just been there and show up at the right time.
Well, David, it's been terrific that you've been able to share these stories with me. And particularly, I'm so glad that we reconnected for this second discussion. Because, you know, like I said from the beginning, these are the kinds of things that add the human element to a story that is, you know, if you're only looking at it casually, it's only about accelerators and colliders. And it's about people. It's about people and where they live and their vision. And, you know, your comments and insights, it's a tremendous addition to the collection and what we're trying to achieve. So, I really want to thank you again for spending all this time with me. I really appreciate it.
This was fun. Sort of saying it again, but we were just trying to build something that would do good physics. We had no idea what we were going to find. But we had double good fortune. Number one, the lab was a great place. It's not the same now. The lab was a great place. And, we discovered something profound. To realize there are quarks out there, that's a pretty good day's work. And it was a wonderful week at Stockholm (laughter).
Serendipity is the word that comes to mind. It just seems that there's serendipity all over the place in this bigger story.
Yeah. I just—somebody up there likes me. I don't know what it is. Because all of these things, as you know from your studies—and I would tell my students, I said, "Keep your antennae open. Listen. File stuff away. Just pay attention and listen because at some point in time in your life, something's going to happen, someone’s going to say something important. And if you've been paying attention, you will profit from it." And you talk about what you do and the fun you've had. And students have to realize that, and they don't. And I am certain that I didn't either, except that I kept my antennae open. Or another way of saying it is that I found myself in the right place at the right time.
Well, David, it's been great. Thank you so much. And again, I'm so glad we got to spend this time together. And the folks at SLAC are going to be so happy to have this as part of the collection.
That's good. Well, all I can say is, I thank the people who told you to come talk to me because I figured people have died off and new people are in it. Nobody knows who I am anymore.
Oh, people do. That's how we got connected (laughter). So, that's it. [End of Recording]