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Interview of Stanley Morgan by Lillian Hoddeson on 1975 July 3, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4785
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Union College majoring in chemistry, 1918; attended special lectures at General Electric by Irving Langmuir, Saul Dushman and Albert W. Hull; joined Western Electric Company in engineering department after graduation. First work on microphone carbon. To Princeton University on Homer Lowry's advice, studying dielectrics with Harry Smythe. During Bell Laboratories expansion in 1930, rejoined old group, now working on dielectrics; became department head, 1931; Addison White. By 1932 group concentrated on dielectrics; work included varistors and ceramics (Joe Becker, Gerald Pearson, Walter Brattain), after 1938. Start of piezoelectric crystals interest; new ideas in quantum physics pursued by Allan Holden and others; Foster Nix and William Shockley's unifying influence in physics department. Mervin Kelly and James Fisk's work on vacuum tubes. Michigan summer schools; stimulating journal and discussion groups started by Andy Liehr for chemists. Solid state group started by Kelly and Fisk; Morgan co-headed with Shockley, from 1945; sub-groups within the group: Richard Bozorth on magnetism, Frederick S. Goucher on carbon and varistors, Warren P. Mason on filters and acoustic properties of crystals. Zone refining idea by William G. Pfann. By 1954 solid state group had been scattered. Organizing recruiting teams for Ph.D. Also prominently mentioned are: John Bardeen, Richard Orvis Grisdale, E. J. Murphy; and General Electric Company.
This is an interview with Stanley O. Morgan. It's July 3, 1975, and we're at his home at 11 Colony Court, in Summit, New Jersey. We're going to focus our discussion on the beginnings of solid state physics at Bell. Before we begin, I'd like to ask you just a few questions relating to the earlier period. Let's begin in 1900 when you were born, in Granville, New York.
Right, Granville, New York.
Were you educated in local schools?
I finished high school in Schenectady. We moved from Granville to Schenectady by the time I was a senior in high school. So I finished high school in Schenectady, and the following year I entered Union College with the class of 1922, in the course, B.S. in chemistry.
When did you first decide to go into the sciences? Were there any family circumstances that shaped you decision?
In my last year in high school, in Schenectady I found chemistry and physics very interesting, exciting. Furthermore, you must remember that Schenectady is the home of the General Electric Co. And I had a chance to work in the engineering laboratory of the General Electric Co., during the period between when I graduated and when I enrolled in college. I left high school in January, and enrolled in college for the fall term, so I had several months that I worked in the General Engineering Laboratory in Schenectady, which had to do primarily with calibrating the instruments that the engineers used in their work in the testing laboratories.
That's in the physical sciences.
But you decided that in fact you wanted to study chemistry at that time?
Well, I liked the course that was offered at Union College, the B.S. in chemistry course, the best of the offerings, from my point of view.
I see. So then you were at General Electric, roughly, 1918 or so?
1919. Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute — I entered Union College in the fall of 1918, didn't I? So I worked at General Electric from January, 1918 till September, 1918.
Was anybody there I might have heard of?
Well, Irving Langmuir, Saul Dushman — Hull. What was his first name? I forget. Those were three principal figures at the General Electric Research Laboratory, which was in the same building as the General Electric Engineering Laboratory.
Did you have any interaction with these men?
Not at that time. Later, I did. When I was a student, in the junior and senior years, we had a course offered for the B.S. in chemistry people, at which those people would lecture, so we went down to the General Electric Co. for special lectures by these people, by Langmuir, Dushman and Hull.
That must have been a very exciting time. Was this a special course?
Oh, it was a special feature of the B.S. in chemistry course. In fact, it was suggested by the General Electric people that we study a book. So we picked a physical chemistry book and went through it, each of us taking turns in discussing a chapter of it. There were five; there were six members of the B.S. in chemistry.
Oh, a very small group.
Very small group. Union College was a very small college.
What was the book?
It was Principles or Physical Chemistry, and I can't remember the name now, I probably have it.
Was the book selected by General Electric?
Selected by the people at General Electric as being one of the best things to give a good picture of modern physical chemistry.
You say you have it somewhere?
Oh, I've probably given it away or thrown it away by now.
And what happened to the other five students? Did they go on to do big things in physics?
They all went different paths. One of them was a salesman selling instruments for chemical analysis. One of them is still working with a chemical Stoneware Co. The others, I don't really know.
Well, that started you off in a very interesting way. Did you decide to major in chemistry immediately upon entering Union College?
Yes. We started out that year, there were 12 in the classes but six of them fell by the way. The course was really tough. Six of them — when I say fell by the way, I mean they changed to other courses that weren't quite as tough as the B.S. in chemistry course. This course required four years of physics and mathematics besides the chemistry.
And so you were able to get right to the forefront of research in chemistry and physics through your interaction with G.E.?
Oh yes. Yes. I was very fortunate to be able to go down, a mile away, and talk to these people in their own laboratories, in their own offices.
Do you know if G.E. had other similar programs at that time?
I don't know. Now, I presume they do special things with Union College, but I don't know about them anymore. This was of course a long time ago.
I'm very interested in the interactions between industry and universities.
General Electric Co. was always very helpful, as far as the scientific courses at Union College. They'd do anything they could to help out Union.
Then at graduation you joined the engineering department at Western Electric.
It was then at 463 West St., New York.
That's right. My first job.
How did that come about?
Well, a Bell Systems man, Donald Quarles, went to Union College recruiting, and he actually offered two of us a job. And I think we both accepted. The other fellow, however, was not offered for the New York Engineering Laboratory, but he was offered for the W.E. plant at Hawthorne in Chicago. He took that and didn’t like it and only stayed a year or two. I was very fortunate in my assignment; I was assigned to a young man named Homer Lowry.
Yes, I notice you wrote some papers with him when you were a young student, before you got your Ph.D. In fact, the first two papers on my list here are Morgan and Lowry —
— in ‘24, before I went to Princeton.
Yes. They're both in ‘24.
Yes. These others were all after my career at Princeton. He was young, only a few years older than I, but he was very good, and encouraged me very much. In fact, he is the one who encouraged me to go to Princeton. He was a Princeton Ph.D. I recall him saying, “If you're going to stay in the research business, you must go on and get a doctorate.”
So then you applied to Princeton. Were there any other jobs offered you at that time?
I don't recall any other offers. I didn't go looking for any others, because I liked the idea of that one.
I notice you were working in the early years under Lowry with E. J. Murphy.
Oh yes. Ned Murphy. He's still in New York —
Warren is dead. Murphy is still in New York. I saw him just a month or two ago.
What is he doing now? He is retired from Bell Labs.
He goes around to Columbia and sits in on courses and works with people a little bit. He's been writing papers on ice. He's gotten interested in ice in the past few years, and he’s still following up some aspects of it.
What were you working on for the most part in those years?
The first work was on carbon: Microphone carbon. Lowry was very much interested in carbon, particularly why was it as effective as a microphone material? He studied the absorption of gases on carbon. We had elaborate apparatus set up for absorption of gases on carbon. I can remember his big glass tubes, and mercury traps where you run the mercury up and down. So I did that for the first two years. Most of that I think was on carbon, one aspect or another of carbon.
At that time, H. D. Arnold was the director of research.
How close was the interaction between Arnold and the other people on this 1927 organization chart?
Well, I'm sure that Arnold interacted very closely with this top line. I'm just as sure he interacted practically not at all with the rest; that is at my level. See, the first line was R. R. Williams. Robert R. Williams was head of the whole chemistry, and Herbert Ives in optics and R. V. L. Hartley — those were all famous names, and Harvey Fletcher.
It would help me if you'd tell me a little bit about some of them.
Herbert Ives was an optical man, very very good. R. V. L. Hartley was a radio electrical man, a physicist, and Harvey Fletcher of course was an acoustics man. Harvey Fletcher's still alive. He's out in Utah. He’s a Mormon and living out in Utah now. He must be — what 90, now? W. Wilson. He was a physicist British born and educated. I can't tell you very much about him. O. E. Buckley later became director of research and president of the Laboratories. J. B. Johnson was concerned with vacuum tubes, studies of the sort of thing that goes on in a vacuum tube, and Gilbert with cable. Bozorth was magnetics. Goucher, he worked on carbon too. Elmen was a magnetics man too. Legg was magnetics. Kelsall was magnetics. So you see, a great part of this was magnetics. But Johnson was gas tubes, vacuum tubes, and Gilbert I know was cables. In fact, he had a lot to do with laying the first Atlantic cable and this (pointing to Research Services under R. H. Wilsop) is service.
So the group under R. H. Wilson was Laboratory service.
Brother of W. Wilson. This is all services. Kohman is still around. He called me just an hour before you came, wanted to do something this afternoon. I said, “I have a date.” Walker is still around. He lives in Short Hills. Harris is dead. He was a metallurgist. White is dead. Shumacher's dead. Reeve is dead. These people now would come in a group that's called materials. W. P. Slichter is executive, department head for this sort of thing now and it's all called materials.
Oh yes, Halsey Frederick. Well, he had to do with the more engineering aspects of carbon: Design of instruments and transmitters, all that aspect of it, not the research end of it, but the engineering end of making a working telephone out of it.
I see. I get the general picture now. It was quite a large group there in ‘27.
Oh yes. We also had services of some well-known people as consultants. John Johnston, head of chemistry at Yale visited about monthly. L. W. McKean, physicist from Yale, also was a consultant in the early days. Later P. P. Debye used to come from Cornell to consult with the chemists and also the physicists.
Well then you went on to get a Ph.D., and you chose Princeton because Lowry suggested it —
Yes, that's right. That was his school, of course.
With whom did you study at Princeton?
A man named Charles P. Smythe. You've heard of Harry Smythe; the nuclear physics man?
Now, whose book did I use when I studied electricity?
Probably Harry Smythe’s. Charles Smythe was a chemist. Educated at Harvard; he was a chemist strictly. But they were brothers. Harry and Charles were brothers. Charles was the younger brother, and their father was head of the geology department at Princeton.
So you studied with Smythe —
— on dielectrics. You see my next interest after carbon which developed at the Laboratories about that time, was insulating materials, or dielectrics. And Smythe — he was only out of Harvard three or four years — had just picked that field as his own field of research. So I did my thesis with him. All my later papers are on dielectrics.
What was your thesis on?
Do you remember?
You must remember, this was 50 years ago! You just don’t know what 50 years is.
You were studying at Princeton in the period ‘24 to ’28 —
‘27 actually. My degree was granted in ‘28, but I left there in ‘27. I finished up my work in ‘27 and went back to the Bell Laboratories. I was actually working summer vacations at Bell Labs too — so I didn't spend all my time at Princeton, because the Laboratories would take me back for a summer job —
In the same group?
Same group. To earn a little money to get along on I went back every summer. And when I finished, which was in the fall before the end of 1927, I went back there permanently. But the thesis was completed and the examination completed, and degree granted in ‘28.
That period was an exciting time in the development of physics. I was wondering whether the new ideas were being discussed at that time at Princeton while you were a graduate student.
Yes. I'm sure they were.
I know that their physics department hadn't yet started to build up until a little bit later.
Karl Compton was head of the physics department. You know the name, Karl Compton? Arthur was at Chicago or somewhere else. He wasn't there. They're brothers. Karl Compton was active in building up the physics department there.
Do you remember any eminent visitors to Princeton in that period? This was a time when the whole world was changing in physics after all — quantum mechanics —
I'm pretty sure that Bohr visited at that time, and I'm sure if he did I went to hear him, but I can't remember it. I wasn't really intimate with any of the physics graduate students. We had a group of chemistry graduate students; we all worked together and did things together, and I didn't do very much with — I wasn't really close friends with any of the physics students.
Who were some of the chemistry graduate students at that time?
Randolph Major, who was at Merck. Randall Dunning who was also at Merck and William Henry Jones, who was professor at Emery. He's retired now; he's retirement age. John Bates, who went with Sun Oil Co. He's dead now. Tom Halstead, who was with the asbestos company. John Manville, he's retired now. Who were the others? Elmer Fleck, who's with one of the government bureaus in organic chemistry. I have a picture somewhere, looked at it a while ago, and I remembered all the names. I can't pick them out but if I see the picture, I remember them. None of them really made a great big mark across the sky. Charlie Brasefield was there. He graduated Rutgers but he ended up his career at Southern Illinois, teaching physics at Southern Illinois. He used to live here in Summit. We were good friends of theirs.
Well, then you went back to the Bell System
It was now Bell Telephone Laboratories.
Yes. Was there any formal re-hiring procedure?
Oh, every time you had to sign some papers. It was understood I was their man; I was just away for a while.
You went right back into the same group?
But now you were working on dielectrics.
Yes. Then in 1930, Lowry left. He didn't get along with Williams is the way I heard it.
What did they disagree about?
Policy. They couldn't agree on the way the department was run. Williams was about 15 years, 20 years older. He said he was going to run the department so Lowry went to the Coal Research Laboratory in Pittsburgh.
That was 1930, then. Let’s see, I still have Lowry here in ‘30 — but in ‘31, he’s gone, I guess and now you are —
— yes, I took his place — in part. His group was divided. Also, there’s an expansion in the department, between ‘30 and ‘31, is that right? It was always growing at that stage.
Here in ‘30, you're already a department head.
Sub-department head, I see. Now in ‘31 you're a department head. All the people who were in your sub-department —
You see, there's E. J. Murphy. These four fellows, Augustine Allen, Richard Grisdale, Keith Storks and Addison White, all joined the Laboratories in 1930, straight from bachelor graduation. I don't know where Allen came from. Grisdale came from Harvard. Storks came from Iowa and White from California.
They didn't have degrees?
They were all bachelors. Yager came from Union College at about the same time with a bachelor's degree. Murphy's the only one who had any advanced study. He had a master's degree from Harvard. He's a Canadian, Murphy is.
How was the group run? Were you all working together, or independently? Were they working under your supervision, or were you doing your own work while they did their own work?
I was supposed to be supervisor, and have the responsibility for assigning these people some useful, worthwhile job to do. And Yager and White I know were working on dielectrics. Storks worked on carbon for a while, and then he left the department to go and work with Lester Germer. You've heard the name Germer, Lester Germer?
Well, he left and went to work with Germer, where he learned about X-rays. And he later came back to the chemical laboratory, as an expert on the use of X-rays in chemical analysis and all that sort of thing. Quell was a T.A. Fisher was a T.A. who worked on carbon.
What about White, Addison White? He's in Paris now.
Addison White — he's in Paris — he was the smartest one in the whole gang. He got to be executive director, of course, at the Laboratories, and he retired somewhat early and went to Paris. I met him in Summit just a month ago. He was back for a little vacation.
Do you think he'll be back again in the near future?
I don’t think so. I think they come back once a year. They have a son teaching out in Michigan somewhere. So they come back once a year and they go to California. Addison was from California. They go out to California. I understand the family still has a grape ranch out there where they grow grapes, and they very much enjoy spending a few weeks out there in the sun. I don't think they get too much sun in Paris. Not as much as in California, I’m sure. Well, now, these others were working on various other things that I had nothing to do with, except I was vaguely aware of what's going on. All this work, of course, I was aware of what’s going on, but I had no responsibility for any of it.
Were there any organized ways of communicating between groups at that time?
He (pointing to Williams on 1931 organization chart) would call meetings of some of these people from time to time, where you'd tell about what you were doing for the sake of ideas and criticism from all the others. That was the principal source of communication, all through all the time I was there. That was one of the main principal ways of communicating with other people.
How often were these meetings held?
I'd say something on the order of once a month; maybe not so frequently in some cases. This was all metallurgy.
Harris and later under Schumacher.
Were there colloquiums in those days, and seminars?
Oh yes. You know, K. K. Darrow of course, who’s still alive in New York.
Yes. Yes, I'm going to speak with him.
He did a lot of talking and a lot of writing, and organized a formal colloquium. I never had any responsibility for it. Usually it was the physicists who arranged the scheduled meetings and things. The colloquium met every week, I think, at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, right after work, for an hour's talk by somebody in the group who had something interesting to say. Sometimes somebody from outside was brought in.
Were the speakers more frequently from the outside, do you remember or half and half?
I'd say, about half and half. I know a lot of them were from the inside. I recall very definitely, Shockley speaking several times to the colloquium. He liked to talk anyway, as you probably know.
This was in the thirties.
Yes, he came later. He came in ‘36, I think.
That's right. Let’s see, one question about the official incorporation of Bell Laboratories. Did you notice any changes in the organization of research when you got back to the Laboratories?
Not as far as I was concerned. It was just more of the same thing. Except, as I say, Lowry left about that time, so I had more individual responsibilities thrust upon me.
Did you notice any change in policy?
Not that I was aware of. Possibly some greater division of interest: some more on research and some more on development.
More freedom, less freedom?
I heard people talk about freedom to do research every once in a while but I thought it was always: “Go ahead and do what you want to do, if you've got a good idea, follow it up.”
As early as ‘27?
Yes. Well, usually the boss thought he had a better idea. That’s all.
So it was often just a question of convincing your boss to let you do it?
Yes. You just convinced him that you had something really hot that you wanted to follow up until he'd say “Ok, go ahead, follow it up.”
Was it like this even before the Bell Telephone Labs were organized?
Yes, because the Western Electric Engineering Laboratory was really the research branch of the Western Electric Co. (looking at charts). Well, this is interesting. I haven’t seen one of these things for ages. A lot of old names come back to me.
Let’s look a little bit further. Now we’re looking at ‘31. Let's consider some of the changes that took place. In ‘32, your group got a little bit smaller.
See, Storks had left, for one thing. He went to Germer right at this time. And some of the carbon work went somewhere. Where did it go? Well, the carbon work dropped out. We stopped the carbon work, right about that time. Around ‘33, ‘34.
I see, and then the focus went to dielectrics?
Yes. The emphasis was there — Murphy, White and Yager and myself were all very much concerned with dielectrics.
Now, I’m looking at the chart for ‘35, and by now, Murphy has gone somewhere else. He's down under —
— Walker — McLean, oh yes. Working on dielectrics, but more applied work in dielectrics, cotton textiles and paper.
And here we have a man, is that —?
Edgerton under Kohman. He lives here in Summit. He’s the man I told you called me up an hour ago.
Oh yes, yes, yes. Under Kohman we have Edgerton and Alan Holden.
Yes. Oh, you've met Alan Holden, you said?
I've met Alan Holden.
He's a very interesting chap.
Yes. Did you know him in those days?
Oh, sure. Sure. I didn't know him as well as I knew him later.
Let's see, ‘37. ‘37 —
Ok, the ‘38 chart, yes. ‘38. Well, now we have some new names. You’re now working on varistors, ceramic and dielectric research; they're calling it that, anyway.
Yes. Well, Rigterink was a new man came in ‘37, ‘38, working on ceramics, and Grisdale, who had been working on carbon, got directed in the direction of all kinds of varistors, which are variable resistors, and some of them are carbon, some of them are semiconductors, some of them were silicon carbide. And White, Yager and myself were still mainly concerned with dielectrics.
Where are we now?
‘39, we're down here. The group is divided officially into two sections, dielectrics and varistors and ceramics.
Yes. This is really the beginning of the work on silicon carbide and silicon.
Yes. Grisdale was working on silicon carbide, not so much on silicon, silicon carbide. Varistor — means a variable resistor. Grisdale and at the same time, Becker, Pearson and Brattain and others in the physics area were working on those things and rectifiers too. You know Brattain, of course, know who he is. Of course, Becker, you probably haven't come across. He's dead now.
I've come across his name a great deal.
Where’d White go? Oh, he went to Germer. After Storks came back, White took his place, working with Germer to learn about X-rays.
And now Holden and Hermann and you are all working together.
In dielectrics, general dielectrics. Holden never had the same interest in dielectrics that I had or that Yager had, but his interest was in crystals, dielectric crystals, particularly piezoelectric crystals, which started right about that time. Our interest in piezoelectric crystals started about that time. They began to look at Rochelle salt a little more closely than they ever had in the past, and Holden began to think up other materials which would be piezoelectric.
How did that begin, do you remember? That change in emphasis?
There was a man named Nicholson, an old Scotsman named Nicholson, who worked on Rochelle salt, and he never told anyone else what he did.
Where did he work?
In physics, I think, some part of physics. But there was the beginning of an interest in piezo-electric crystals for electrical usage. They were beginning to be useful; people were beginning to think of them as useful for wave filters and things like that. So Holden started thinking real hard about how do you grow good crystals of these things? And what are the other materials that have the possibility of being piezoelectric, and can he make them?
Then he spent many years on that.
Many years. In fact that was his principal occupation for many many years. He did a very good job on it.
Did the varistor people in chemistry interact with the work being done by Becker and Brattain?
Oh yes, very much, very much. Of course, Grisdale always got in Becker's hair, but — that's the sort of thing you always have some of.
Was there competition between the chemists and the physicists in this area —?
— somewhat. Not so much right there as in other areas. You mentioned Nix. I'd completely forgotten Foster Nix.
Did you work with him at all?
Well, he was always in physics. He worked with Ives in physics, for quite a while. But Foster was one of the guys who, some people can't get along with.
Very independent. I always got along with him, but then, I never rubbed him the wrong way. If you tried to compete with him, or disagree with him, you might find a different situation. See, they say about Congress, “If you want to get along, you go along.” That's true of the Bell Laboratories, to some extent.
Let’s see — by now, we’re in the mid-‘30’s. H. D. Arnold is gone, isn't he?
Yes. He died fairly early, fairly young.
During this time, we're now in mid to late thirties, when some of the people in physics, Shockley and Nix, Ad White, who was then in physics —
He'd worked for Germer, you see, over in physics, and Davisson.
Yes, and Holden and some of the other people were making a conscious effort to learn some of the new ideas in quantum physics.
I think they probably picked a book to study. I don't remember. I wasn't a part of that study I don’t think. But they probably picked a book to go through.
They went through several books.
I have a vague recollection that they were doing that, but I don't think I was doing it. I had too many other irons in the fire.
Were studies like that going on in chemistry too?
Not as much. It was that group in physics that you mentioned that were the principal leaders of that sort of thing and I don't think there was very much of it going on in chemistry. No, we were too busy with other things.
Were the physicists somewhat more unified in the kinds of projects that they were working on?
Well, there were some unifying influences among them. Shockley and Nix were unifying influences. See, they wanted to pull things together, so they just went about it and did it. Nobody upstairs told them “You have to do this.” They decided it was a good thing to do, so they did it.
By “pulling things together,” you're referring to the study group?
Also some focusing of the research?
Beginning to get a better picture of the quantum mechanics, and what it means to physics and to the whole Bell Laboratories.
But nobody upstairs said “We want you to do this.” They just decided among themselves, “Well, this is the way we're going to get somewhere and understand these things.” And nobody certainly would interfere with them doing it. Everybody would say, “If you want to do it, fine, go right ahead.”
Were you aware of the activity?
I was aware that it was going on. I was not a part of it, but I was aware of it. I don't think I was a part of it. If I was, I was sort of a spectator, because I still don't know any quantum mechanics.
Was Mervin Kelly an important influence in these activities?
Not at that stage. He was in the vacuum tube department, working on special kinds of vacuum tubes. There was a war heading up and I think they needed special tubes and transmission facilities, and he was over there at that time. But very soon after that, he got into it. Jim Fisk was over there at the same time too. That was where he started, in tubes.
Do you recall any particular important visitors who played a role in helping to focus the research in those days?
I'm sure some of them did, but I can't recall right now.
Were there interactions with other laboratories, GE, for example?
We visited other laboratories a lot and they visited us a lot.
How were the visits arranged? Would a group of you go over?
Usually three or four people would go. We might go to Corning, for example. Corning might have something interesting in Pyrex glasses, the new low gloss glasses — well, three or four of us would go up to Corning and find out what’s going on, and Corning might want to come down, “Well, how are you people going to use these glasses?” So they’d send somebody down and find out what they could learn about what the market might be and what they could learn from the whole thing and how they might change their glass to better meet our needs.
Were these visits encouraged by the administration?
Oh yes. Oh yes. That's the sort of thing that my boss might say. I might not say, “Well, I want to go to Berkeley to talk to so and so” He would rather say, “Well, you ought to go to Berkeley to talk to so and so who's doing something out there” because I was too timid to say “I want to go to Berkeley” all by myself.
Did you go to any summer schools? (Morgan shakes his head to say no). No? I've learned about the Michigan summer school that Walter Brattain —
Some of the people went. I think Walter Brattain probably took part. There again, the physicists probably did more of that. I don't think the chemists did anywhere near as much of that.
Were you aware of some of the summer schools?
Vaguely, definitely of the Colby, NH Summer Conference.
Did you sometimes go to colloquia at other institutions, Princeton, or Columbia, or other places like that?
Occasionally. Not very frequently. The physicists probably went up to Columbia a lot, but the chemists very little. It wasn't discouraged but you had to supply your own initiative. I know the physicists did a lot of that sort of thing. But the chemists were too busy with practical matters.
Were the chemists more focused on application than the physicists were?
Yes, much more so.
Were there any journal clubs in those days that you remember?
Yes. I can't recall any specifics at the moment, but there were such things; mostly in physics, again. I'm trying to think whether anybody in chemistry would have started some of those things. Well, somewhere in the picture, Phil Anderson joined the Laboratories, in probably the late thirties or early forties. And he was very active in doing that sort of thing. He was new, fresh young Ph.D. you know, and — he still is, wants to know everything that's going on. And Andy Liehr joined the Laboratory. Andy Liehr was a theoretical chemist, and Andy was interested in that sort of thing, and I think Andy was responsible for probably stimulating some of it in the chemistry department. Andrew Liehr, who was a theoretical chemist, came from Berkeley I think, and he did stimulate journal groups and discussion groups among the chemists. But they were not nearly as active as the physicists were in that sort of thing.
By now, the theoretical arm of physics was beginning to get quite strong.
Yes, with Conyers Herring and Phil Anderson.
And Bardeen. Yes, in the mid-forties. I suppose it never got as strong in chemistry as in physics.
Yes. I don't think we had more than one theoretical chemist, and that was Andy Liehr.
Did the word “solid state” start cropping up in the late ‘30’s?
Yes, I think it did, but I don't have any strong impressions of it having hit me very hard.
Do you know if some of the people who were around at that time considered themselves solid state physicists or chemists? I'll have to ask them personally, of course. I was just wondering what your impressions are or were.
I think you will find, when you get the story out of Brattain, and Gerald Pearson and Bill Shockley — and John Bardeen — that they probably did consider themselves solid state physicists, and began to think that way, in the early 1940's probably. Have you seen Gerald Pearson? Are you going to talk to Gerald Pearson? He's out in Palo Alto. But he's from Oregon himself, originally. When he retired, he had a chance to teach at Stanford. So he went out there. Charlie Townes is a prince of a fellow, and one of the best people that Bell Laboratories ever hired.
I should speak with him soon.
Yes — And Pearson, particularly about the origins of the idea of solid state. He worked with Becker and Brattain before he joined the solid state group under Shockley. And he worked on varistors and silicon carbide and semiconductors very early in the game, with Brattain and Becker and others.
How did the idea of organizing a group focused on solid state originate?
As far as I'm concerned, it came out of Mr. Kelly. Where he got it, I don't know. I suspect he may have had it brought into him by some others. I would credit Jim Fisk with having had something to do with getting it started, too. But Mr. Kelly was the first one who specifically mentioned it to me.
Before, off the tape, you told me the little story about how Kelly invited you into the group. Could you tell me again on the tape?
Well, I was working in chemistry, with R. R. Williams heading this group, primarily concerned with dielectrics and varistors and ceramics.
Do you remember when this was? Was this in the late thirties?
As late as ‘45? I know the group was formed in ‘45, but then of course there were the war years, and I had the idea that perhaps something was going on before the war, but maybe not.
I think the thing probably had been generating in Mr. Kelly’s and somebody else’s mind, before that time, but it came right up to the surface in 1945. I know that's when he came over to see me. I remember him coming, taking me into a little office, and saying he wanted to set up this group. And he wanted me to be a part of it, co-head with Shockley. So there would be some chemistry introduced into the thing, along with the physics. And I know that was in 1945, because the chart will show that I left the chemistry department somewhere in 1945, and showed up in physics reporting to Harvey Fletcher.
We have this, chart for ‘45, this is unfortunately not very clear, but here we have the beginnings of the group that was set up in ‘45.
July, 1945, yes. Well, it was early in 1945 some time when Mr. Kelly decided to make it official. You see, Harvey Fletcher was director of physical research and Jim Fisk was assistant director of physical research. Fletcher was within a year or two of retirement at that time. And here's the group (referring to July 2, 1945 chart). This is the magnetics part of the group: Bozorth — this was the carbon and varistor part of the group
Under Goucher. He was an older man than the rest of us. He’s dead, two years ago, now and Mason’s group, on all kinds of filters; the acoustic properties of crystals. And I had only Holden and Murphy, both working on dielectrics of crystals.
Now, where is Brattain? He came into the group later —
He came towards the end of that year.
I guess he's not here yet, but he will be soon.
Haynes — Haynes left Goucher and came directly under Shockley, working on the semiconductors.
I’m afraid I don’t have the next chart that follows that one. How were the individual members of the group chosen? Did Kelly choose them all?
I think he chose the heads, and he probably had something to do with suggesting whom he thought ought to be included. I think he wanted to be sure that magnetics was included, and if magnetics was, Bozorth was the logical man to head it. And then Goucher was the logical man to head some of the varistor work, and Mason of course was the expert on the acoustic properties of crystals and filters and all that sort of thing. Now, you need the next chart, really.
I know. Unfortunately, I don't have it here today.
I think it took a little time for Pearson, Haynes and Teal and all those to get directly involved under Shockley, in trying to understand how this semiconductor business worked, and how you could make an amplifier out of it and that sort of thing.
The case authorization for that group in 1945 indicated that the group was to focus on the general properties of solids.
I was wondering when the clear focus came on developing a better amplifier, a solid state amplifier —
I think that appeared very soon, to Shockley and some of the others. “Look that's the thing that is going to be important to us; that's the thing that we're going to learn something new and startling in.”
And did the whole group then focus on that rather —
No. Bozorth went on with magnetics just as before. Mason went on with acoustic properties of crystals and wave filters just as before, and Holden and Murphy went on with dielectrics just as before. But this part of the group directly under Shockley —
And those were Shockley, Brattain —
Shockley, Brattain — Brattain joined the group a little later than some of the others, but he joined it — and Pearson and Bardeen came in pretty soon then as a theorist, and Haynes transferred from Goucher to work on crystals. It soon developed that silicon was the most interesting material, and of course, all this time, Pfann over in chemistry, in metallurgy, was learning how to purify silicon. That is, his band pass method — what do you call it?
Zone refining. That’s it, yes. A way of removing a zone of impurities by heating right out of the crystal, see. You cut off the impure stuff and start over again, till you get — that was Pfann’s idea. He was working on it at the time. And Scaff over there was working and trying to grow crystals, after you get this stuff pure, grow crystals out of it big enough that you could put contact points on and get the semiconducting properties, get the rectifying properties of it. And Ohl down at Holmdel, Russell Ohl, was very much interested in these things from the standpoint of using them in radio.
Were all these individuals you just mentioned in close communication with each other?
Oh yes. I think Ohl and Scaff worked very closely together, and Pfann of course reported to Scaff. And I think Shockley and his group kept in very close touch with what Scaff was developing in the way of better crystals that he could make out of silicon, or silicon carbide. Have you talked to Scaff? Are you going to talk to Scaff?
No, should I?
Oh, yes. Oh, by all means. He had a lot to do with developing the silicon. After Pfann learned how to purify it, he had to make single crystals out of it. He had a lot to do with that, very much to with it; and Gordon Teal. Gordon Teal’s down in Texas. Get a hold of him. Of course, to hear Gordon tell it, he had everything to do with it. That isn't quite true. He had a lot to do with it, though.
How closely did you and Shockley work together?
Not very closely, not very closely. It was a formal arrangement. It didn't work very — I would look over their shoulders. I worked much more closely with Mason, because you see, the things Holden was doing and the things that Mason was doing were very close together. Was Walter Bond in that group: Yes, Walter Bond? Was Betty Wood in there? She joined the group later, I guess. Well, I worked more with these people, you see; divided interests. Shockley was more with magnetics, but I worked more with Goucher, Mason and Holden and that part of the solid state studies.
Now, am I correct in deducing that in fact the group was divided into approximately four different sectors, that related, but not very closely to each other.
They all knew what was going on in the other parts of the group, but they had their own specific interests which they were very bent on following up.
1945 is the first year in which the organization charts for the physical research department show specific names for the research groups. Earlier all were just called research physicists. Now they have names like “physical electronics,” “electron dynamics,” “solid state physics” or “contact physics.” I was wondering whether these new groups, with their own names, interacted very much. For example, look under Wooldridge the physical electronics people and —
These people were all doing this sort of work, but it was pulled together in a little different organization. Wooldridge had these people making vacuum tubes and special gadgets for him. Weinhart was really the head technician that rode herd on all these people to keep them making the things that Wooldridge and his people needed to work with.
Now, the electron dynamics people under Fisk —
Nordsieck, John Pierce, Best and Boone were really technical aides. John Pierce, of course, you should see, he's something. Nordsieck I've lost track of entirely, I don't know what happened to him.
What were the electron dynamics people working on at that time?
Oh, what’s going on inside of a vacuum tube?
So these were both really tube groups, both the electron dynamics and the physical electronics.
Yes, yes — this is what's going on inside of a solid state that produced some of the same results.
Was the focus more fundamental in the solid state group?
Yes. John Bardeen doesn’t show up here, but he came into the group very soon, as a theorist, and I don't know when Charlie Townes came in. I think he came in a little later. Townes and Pearson were in the military research group under McNair in early 1945. They transferred later to Solid State.
So then just one sector of the solid state group began working on the transistor.
Yes, this one group that really doesn't show here.
How did the work on the transistor affect the research in the other parts of the group?
Well, they pulled everybody you could pull off from other parts to work on the transistor. But some of them just wouldn’t go. Bozorth wouldn't do anything except magnetics. They didn't pull anybody out of this magnetics group. As I say, they did pull Haynes and Rider off into the semiconductor part of it, and possibly some of these other people. I know Walter Bond probably had something to do with it, because he was a crystal man, orientation of crystals. Here’s Betty Wood, she was Miss Armstrong then of course. Some of these people were pulled over to work directly with these other people.
Was there a lot of excitement at the time?
Oh yes. Very exciting.
Many visitors from the outside?
Well, I don’t recall that because if there were visitors, they were physicists and I didn't have too much to — well, I know there were visitors, sure. In fact, I kept an appointment book diary part of the time, later than this, and I noticed that half of the items were “So and so was visiting” or “I was visiting so and so” all the time.
Do you have the diary still?
My diary is just a note that I have a date at 3 o’clock with so and so from General Electric or so and so from Phillips.
That would be very interesting to see, if you would —
— it’s later. I don’t have these years. I don’t know if I kept one these years or not. I don’t have it. It starts with 1958.
I was looking through your laboratory notebooks, just glancing through a few here and there, and I noticed for example in June, 1945 GE people from Pittsfield came to visit.
Yes. This was dielectrics, yes, GE people from — Pittsfield — Pittsfield was where their capacitor work was. But there’s no reference to the semiconductor work in here at all, I don’t suppose. It's all dielectrics. See, I was very much interested in, very much tied up in the rotation of molecules in solid states. You’d expect a molecule could rotate as a liquid, but then as soon as it freezes, then it's fixed, you can't move it. But we found that some molecules did move.
Even when frozen?
Even when frozen. That excited me a little bit, so that’s what I was working on.
Then you were doing active research throughout the whole period that you were director.
Well, not very active.
In the early years, you were, as your laboratory notebooks show. Or is that not true?
Oh, earlier years, earlier years, I was actually —
— in the forties —
Yes, I was actually doing work and publishing it, in some of these fields, especially with Murphy.
Let’s see, later publications, we have some that ‘38, ‘39 — early forties — ‘45.
The later publications were all on dielectrics, mostly on rotating molecules and things like that. The only thing that I ever did worth mentioning in research was to stimulate other people to follow up their good ideas.
I'm sure you are being too modest. In 1954, you were named chemical director.
That's right. ‘54, or ‘55? ‘54, I guess it was, yes. See, R. M. Burns retired then. He was chemical director during all this time that I was over in the solid state physics group, and he retired in ‘54, ‘55, and I was chose to replace him.
By then the solid state group had all but dispersed.
Yes, scattered around. There was still a solid state group working on some of the things, but they were scattered around. The whole thing had spread out and gotten more diffuse, I think.
How did your role in the laboratory change then, in the ‘50’s? Is there a simple way of expressing that?
I never did any more research work of course when I was in charge of the chemistry department, with 150 chemists. Then my responsibility was to see that they were finding useful things to do. And that’s what my diary — it isn't a diary just a date book, listing all the dates -– shows what I had to do. I had to meet with so and so for a review of his work.
And then you became Assistant Vice President of university relations.
I was in charge of organizing the recruiting teams for recruiting Ph.D.s. We had recruiting teams that went to Berkeley, Harvard and Princeton, all the major colleges. A team of two, three or four people, some of whom at least were alumni of that school, graduates of that school themselves, maybe one or two others going along, and at the right time we'd call up and make a date with Professor so and so, “Do you have some students that we ought to see?” “Yes, come on out, we’ve got several you ought to talk to.” The team would go out, and I went with some of them. The only occasion I ever had to go to Berkeley and to La Jolla was on recruiting trips of that sort. But I was responsible for organizing the teams, getting the right people, picking the right people to go out and do this job. And making the dates with the university people, keeping a good contact with the university people, so they’d let us know when they had somebody. They knew the kind of people we were looking for, and most of them would be very happy to send their best people to Bell Laboratories, because they knew they were given challenging things to do and treated well, so there was no problem to get their cooperation in interviewing their good people.
Looking back over your long Bell Labs period; is there any one episode that you feel in retrospect was most personally rewarding? Carbon?
Not working on carbon, although that was exciting, because I was new to the idea of doing research work, of course, and I was doing research work under a man who knew how it should be done, and could tell you, give you some ideas, and you go ahead, and he’d tell you if you'd done the best you could and point out where you might have done better. That was exciting, of course. When I really got acquainted with dielectrics, working with Smythe. To know what it was all about. It was exciting to come back and follow up some of my own ideas, of course, particularly to try to understand why these molecules rotated in the solid state, which I knew at that time happened, but I didn't know why.
This has been very, very helpful. Thank you.
 Liehr joined the Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1956.
 She was Elizabeth Armstrong before she married Ira Wood in 1947.