Janice Button-Shafer

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ORAL HISTORIES
Interviewed by
Joanna Behrman
Interview dates
November 3 & 10, 2020, January 20 & February 9, 2021
Location
Video conference
Usage Information and Disclaimer
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Interview of Janice Button-Shafer by Joanna Behrman on November 3 & 10, 2020, January 20 & February 9, 2021,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/48158

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Abstract

Interview with Janice Button-Shafer, retired American physicist. Button-Shafer recounts her childhood in the Boston area, where her father worked as an engineer. She recalls the influence of her father on her interests in music, math and physics. Button-Shafer discusses her decision to study Engineering Physics at Cornell University, despite it being very uncommon for women to go into science. She discusses her summer jobs at MIT, Cornell Aeronautical Lab and Oak Ridge, as well as her experience writing for The Cornell Engineer magazine. Button-Shafer recounts her Fulbright Fellowship in Germany at the Max Planck Institute in Gottingen, focusing on neutron physics. She reflects on the political landscape during this time and how it affected science in Europe. Button-Shafer then recounts her decision to attend Berkeley for graduate school where she completed her thesis on parity violation while teaching courses such as quantum mechanics. She describes her research at the time at Lawrence Berkeley Lab and SLAC and discusses her work on thermonuclear energy and fusion reactors. She then turns to her move to University of Massachusetts Amherst and her eventual retirement and continuation of work at SLAC. Button-Shafer also talks about her marriage to mathematician John Shafer and the challenges of raising three children, one of whom battled cancer, during her demanding career as a scientist. Throughout the interview, Button-Shafer shares numerous anecdotes about the struggles of being a woman in a male-dominated field, including the discrimination and misogyny she endured throughout her career. She shares many stories of famous physicists she worked with over the years, including Owen Chamberlain, Emilio Segre, Luis Alvarez, Karl Heinz Beckhurts, and Edward Teller. Button-Shafer also shares her passion for the history of physics and relays many of her favorite historical tidbits involving scientists such as Lise Meitner, Marie Curie, Werner Heisenberg, and others. Her love of chamber music and classical music also comes up throughout the interview, as she reflects on her various musical accomplishments.

Transcript

Behrman:

Today is the 3rd of November, 2020. I am chatting over Zoom with Dr. Janice Button-Shafer. Janice, could you maybe start off by just telling me a little bit about your childhood? Where you were born, where you grew up, that sort of thing.

Button-Shafer:

Okay. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1931, to parents who came from California. I was the first-born of a set of fraternal twins; my twin sister Judy was the second-born by about ten minutes. We were fair-sized twins, although my mother was a relatively small person, only five-feet-three. By my pre-teenage years, I got to be five-feet-ten-inches tall. And I mention this because it’s a rather major aspect in many of my life experiences. My twin was quite a bit smaller and was very unhappy when she got to be about five-feet-six, as she wanted to be shorter! Judy was very different from me, more feminine [laugh] and mischievous, and really got interested in boys, at least by seventh grade. So I was the big-boned twin and the one who turned into a tomboy. My mother really characterized our personalities when we were just beginning to crawl. Being smaller, Judy could crawl sooner than I; and mother wrote in my baby book, “Janice doesn't cry much now when Judy comes over and pulls her hair and steals her toys.” [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

And that relationship persisted. Many years later, at age 38, almost three years after the birth of my daughter (now Caltech space physicist Christina M.S. Cohen), I gave birth to identical twins! (My husband and I were surprised to have identical twins, because fraternal twins tend to run in families, while identical twins do not. There had been three sets of fraternal twins among eleven children in my maternal grandfather’s family.) The birth order mattered for my identical twin sons, as it had for me and my fraternal twin sister. The first-born was bigger; the second one was smaller. And the second one, having had not very much room before birth, tended to be rather mischievous. So over the years, if I've run into identical twins, I have asked about birth order; and I think 65% of the time, roughly, I found that the first-born twin is the bigger one, and the more introspective one, the more serious one. As for my own younger twin, Judy has persisted in her mischievous behavior and her criticism of me all the way up through adulthood and beyond. Judy has become an artist, a very accomplished painter, with no interest in math or science – and little interest in classical music.

My father was an outstanding student. He and my mother had gotten acquainted during high-school years in southern California, but didn't marry for close to six years, because my dad went east to University of Cincinnati for a five-year cooperative engineering program. He was an outstanding electrical engineering student and was admitted into Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honorary society. My mother stayed in California and went to Pomona College. She was also an outstanding student, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Pomona with liberal arts training. Mother was very much a perfectionist, perhaps from her Swedish and German heritage. My father had English and Welsh heritage. After a recurrence of mental illness, first experienced in early years of marriage, my mother took her own life at age 54. This was after my twin had married and was during a period when I was far away in graduate school. (Gloria Steinem wrote an essay about her mother, who suffered a nervous breakdown and had hallucinations while Gloria was still a child. Later she reported that she had had letters from women all over the country, hundreds of women about the same age as Steinem, saying, “I too had a crazy mother.”)

I asked my parents at age four about doing something with music, perhaps taking piano lessons. My father had not only been outstanding in his University of Cincinnati engineering program, but he had also studied voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He had been the baritone soloist in Verdi operas at the Conservatory, and had studied Schumann and Schubert lieder, as well as arias of Handel and Bach. Dad had this very strong avocational interest in music, and sometimes sang to me and Judy when we were babies. I tended to emulate my father, even at an early age. Judy couldn't sit still very long, so my twin wasn’t ready for anything like piano lessons, not at age four. [laugh] I didn't get to start piano until maybe age seven, when Judy was willing to begin lessons Judy quit the piano lessons after a couple years, but I continued. I was asked by my father to play for him, to accompany his informal singing at home. I had not only a very good piano teacher who moved me ahead rapidly, but I had my father encouraging me to read through piano accompaniments for his voice practice sessions at home. (By this time our family was in the Boston area, as my father had been moved to the home office of the electric motors company (Holtzer Cabot Electric Motors Co.) whose Cincinnati office he had joined just after he finished his University of Cincinnati studies. Dad had an important position in a choir of a downtown Boston church, where a world-famous organist, E. Power Biggs, served as choir director and organist.)

I developed into quite a good sight-reader, and for years, even as a child, I loved to play for singers. But then I realized I was tired of the typical singer’s attitude, “You're the accompanist. You don’t really count.” And I learned that early on from my father: At about age eight or nine, only a year or so after my dad had me start playing for him, we were doing an aria of Handel, “Where’er you walk,” a short, well-loved piece that comes from one of Handel’s operas, Semele. (As they had spent many of their engagement years apart, my parents had some love songs that were special, and often sung for my mother by my dad. This Handel piece was one of them.) I came to love this song and have found others my age who have also loved it. Partway through, there is a four-measure interlude for piano only. My father came back in a measure too early. Exactly one measure too early. I stopped playing and said, “Daddy, you came in too early.” He said, “I don’t care. You're the accompanist, and you follow me.” So ever after, any time I played for a singer, if the singer ran out of breath, or came in too soon, or made other mistakes I would skip in the accompaniment to match the singer. I developed this facility of listening carefully and reacting quickly. (I discovered this capability was also valuable when it came to playing with instrumentalists. I came to prefer doing chamber music with instrumentalists to playing for singers.) Anyway, by my high school years, I was playing for all kinds of instrumentalists—violinists, cellists, and wind-instrument players --as well as singers.

The place where I grew up was in a Boston suburb, not in Cincinnati. My parents had originally settled in Cincinnati because my dad had been given a position as a sales engineer in a branch of an electric motors company. And in the mid-twenties, if you were an electrical engineer, you went into a career in either the power industry or electric motors. There really wasn’t any electronics industry to speak of. My father was in the motors business, primarily in sales, but also in some design work. His company, the Holtzer Cabot Electric Motors Company moved him from Cincinnati to the home office in Boston when Judy and I were about two years of age. And my parents had quite a struggle trying to clean out everything in their Cincinnati house and keeping us out of the way. What did Judy decide to do? Well, there was a large old upright grand piano that had been my mother’s. It was in a room that had been emptied. We were shut in that room while my parents were finishing the packing for our move to Boston. So Judy said, “Oh, let’s jump up on the keys.” We made a horrific racket, because we would hold from the top of the grand piano, and the two of us twins barely age two jumping up and down on the keys. [laugh] Judy did other things that were sometimes dangerous—pulling a tablecloth and dishes off the dining table or pushing my head through a window.

Behrman:

Oh my gosh.

Button-Shafer:

Being bigger, more serious, I sometimes tried to protect Judy when we were small children, and I would comfort her if my parents punished her or scolded her. Did she appreciate that? Well, not necessarily. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

But today we're really good friends. We have the same political views. [laugh] And then we correspond all the time through email or text message. We're both still alive at age 89. Judy’s on Cape Cod, MA, and I’m in Pasadena, CA. And she did go into art (painting with watercolors and oils), but not with intentions of establishing a career. She majored in art at Miami University in Ohio; and for a few years after graduation shared an apartment in New York City with a couple of other Miami alumnae. She worked for a greeting card company but quit when she married a young lawyer.

As far as my own education was concerned, I loved to learn things from my father, mostly about technical stuff, but also about vocal music. My mother, as already said, was a very gifted person, but she had looked forward to having children, and it was very tough for her not to have any real intellectual challenge – other than typing my father’s technical papers that he often wrote for engineering publications. I had a wonderful childhood. By age eight, I had a slide rule. This [shown in video] is a six-inch slide rule like the one that my father gave me as a child, long before I acquired a 12-inch slide rule as a student at Cornell. (This small slide-rule is actually a replacement Keuffel and Esser slide-rule that I bought around age 37 in Amherst, MA; my baby daughter apparently pulled the original one, the one given me by my dad almost thirty years earlier, out of my purse and buried it in some pile of dirt when husband John and I were looking at a new house being built for a colleague. When we couldn’t find my old 6-in. slide-rule, I was able to buy an identical replacement at a stationery store in Amherst. In those years, the late 1960s, you could still buy K&E slide rules.) Did you ever see a slide rule, when you were younger—?

Behrman:

Oh, yes. Yeah.

Button-Shafer:

I tried to talk with student music majors in the 1970s when teaching a class on “the Physics of Music” about how you could compare a piano keyboard with a slide-rule. With a slide-rule, if you want to multiply two times three, you add the corresponding distances, because the scale marked on the slide-rule is logarithmic. I tried to draw an analogy between displacements on a slide-rule with the variation of musical frequency with displacements on the piano keyboard. For example, if you displace a note by an octave on the piano keyboard, the frequency is increased by a factor of two. I said to the students that the frequency dependence on position for the piano is like the variation of the numbers marked on the slide-rule as the displacement is changed. I think one Amherst college student taking music courses at UMass knew what I was talking about, and maybe one or two others; but most of the UMass students had never seen a slide-rule! Not in the 1970s. They kind of disappeared with the development of hand calculators, as well as the desktop electro-mechanical calculators. I'm sure you know that.

But anyway, this little slide-rule is still a favorite of mine… though I of course had the typical 12-in. slide-rule when I studied engineering and physics as a young adult. (My dad even had a circular slide-rule that he could manipulate with one hand, while carrying on a business conversation. I also have a cylindrical cup – a pencil-holder – given to me by my husband; it has movable rings with markings like the scales on an ordinary linear slide-rule. It is more decorative than useful!)

To return to my father’s influence when I was a child: What was more fascinating, rather than playing with the slide-rule or with devices for sending Morse code, was that when we went on vacation trips, my dad would tell me things involving arithmetic and even physics. Judy and I would be in the back seat. Mother would be next to my dad, as he always did the driving. When I was about age eight or nine, my father would give me math problems to do in my head while we were on family trips. More importantly, he would tell me about physics! After telling me the speed of sound in air, he would ask me how long a sound would take to travel from one end of a Boston tunnel to the other. As the car went around a curve, he said to me “You feel that force thrusting you to the outside of the— the curve?” No seatbelts in those days, but you could feel a force throwing you against the car door, toward the outside of the curve. Dad explained that the force can be calculated, and it’s equal to your weight (your mass), times the speed squared divided by the radius of the curve. I thought that was fascinating! Force was equal to m times v-squared over r!

And then as the drive proceeded—we were going up to New Hampshire from Massachusetts at this point— Dad gestured toward the ocean and said, “You can use mathematics to describe the waves in the ocean.” I didn't think my father, an engineer, could really handle so complex a problem, and he didn't try to give me any mathematics for wave motion, but he explained other things relating to physics. He’d pull out a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica and read a brief article by Einstein on special relativity. I learned from Dad when I was a child that nothing travels faster than the speed of light. I learned what the speed of light was.

Dad also put together a code set for me, by mounting an electrical transformer, a doorbell buzzer, and a little key on a breadboard. With that apparatus, he taught me to send and receive Morse code. I, of course, went on to get a real code set, a Boy Scout code set by saving up my dollar-a-week allowance. (Judy instead often borrowed ahead on her allowance to buy records of popular songs done by “crooners,” much to our dad’s disgust.) My sister decided she really didn't like classical music. She had to be different from me – and our parents.

Button-Shafer:

What was my mother doing? Well, she was really a very devoted mother, and got acquainted with our outstanding kindergarten teacher, and other teachers in our small elementary school (in Needham, the Boston suburb where we lived when Judy and I were children) and followed our training. Mother never had a career, but she typed every one of my dad’s papers, technical papers written in his spare time for publication in engineering journals (usually one published by AIEE, the American Institute of Electric Engineers). Very recently, just for fun, with the internet, I decided to search for my engineer father, Charles T. Button. He had died way back in 1982 at the age of 80, but I discovered he had ten patents to his name – patents that dealt with improvements in electric motors! Dad’s relaxation came through music, and eventually he took up golf when he figured he needed a little exercise. I took up golf, too[laugh] everything he did, practically. With my allowance savings, I bought half a set of (full-size) golf clubs and a golf bag (all for $70) in my early teenage years.

During the war years, my dad decided to accept an administrative post in a medium-sized electric motors company in Dayton, Ohio, a position as head of a division dealing with aircraft and electrical controls. He left the Holtzer-Cabot Motors company near Boston, where he had advanced to the position of Sales Manager. Dad had gotten fed up with the government war-time control, especially from the Army Ordinance people, who were telling technical industries what they should do. And it was a little scary to live near Boston; because from the early forties on, if you lived close to the coasts, in New England or anywhere else on the East Coast, you had to be afraid there would be German U-boats offshore. And you had blackout every night. You had black—opaque curtains, plastic shades – that you pulled down over the windows. There were air raid wardens. We kids learned how to identify planes. I don’t think we really expected Japanese planes to make it to the East Coast [laugh] but we could identify American planes and maybe a few German-type planes.

To my sister’s and my distress, and our mother’s disappointment, the whole family moved to Dayton, Ohio in 1944. Judy and I were stunned, because we had already had one year of junior high school in Needham; we had just finished the seventh grade when our family moved to Ohio. school system in the Boston area—especially in Needham [inaudible]—we were living in Needham, not very far from Wellesley—but they were going to more progressive ways of teaching, that were really outstanding. Suddenly, we were thrown back to the last grade, eighth grade, of elementary school, and treated as if we were not very mature students. So that was a bit of a shock. But I think we were all distressed that Ohio was less interesting than the New England states, whether Massachusetts or New Hampshire. But anyway, the experiences I had in Dayton with music and mathematics were wonderful, as far as music was concerned was wonderful.

After we settled in Dayton in 1944 my mother contacted a well-regarded piano teacher (a graduate of New York’s Juilliard Conservatory) and a performer on piano and organ). The teacher, Mary Blue Morris, told my mother, “Bring your little girl over to see me in my home” (an hour’s bus-ride across the city). When we arrived, my future teacher was surprised that I towered over her… and had much bigger hands than she did! Although I had excellent coaching from her and played many Beethoven sonatas and other pieces in yearly recitals she held for her students, I persuaded her to let me study the second Hungarian Rhapsody by Franz Liszt – and a year after starting with her, she agreed that I could learn the Liszt E-flat piano concerto (that had been promised me as a future recital piece by my former teacher in Massachusetts). I entered an annual competition for Dayton high school students which offered a chance for instrumentalists to perform a concerto with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. I did not get to perform the Liszt concerto on my first try, but I was selected to perform the Grieg piano concerto the next year, at age 15. As my teacher knew the Cincinnati-based conductor Paul Katz, she arranged a consultation with him before the concert… and I was pleased later to see a very nice review of my performance in the Dayton newspaper. (I still preferred accompanying singers or instrumentalists or playing chamber music with ensembles. I had many opportunities to perform in Dayton high school musical productions and assisted with orchestral and even operatic productions.)

There were big, big high schools in Ohio, seven of them I think, and a very committed superintendent of schools, Norman S. Park. I was still tremendously interested in mathematics. When Judy and I entered Wilbur Wright High School, I found that ninth-grade algebra wasn’t so exciting, even though we had quite a good teacher, a tall man who also coached basketball (I remembered fondly my seventh-grade math teacher back in Needham, a woman named Miss Colson.). But my real love, besides the physics or engineering ideas I picked up as a child, turned out to be geometry, not algebra. I really benefitted from the teaching of a Mr. Stutz, who taught plane geometry during my sophomore year in Dayton’s Wilbur Wright high school. I also enjoyed my Latin class in my sophomore year. (I placed first in the state in finals for Geometry in the two-stage Ohio State Scholarship Tests, and also placed very high in the Latin preliminary exam.) (Wilbur Wright High School was a large high school in the southeast part of Dayton, not far from Wright Airfield).

My dad’s job was with the nearby electric motors company, Master Electric, where he was head of aircraft and electrical controls division, an important division for the war effort. I would learn some things from Dad about little, tiny servomechanisms up to big motor generators that these companies, first Holtzer-Cabot and then Master Electric, were producing. For example, for use in an airplane, there’s something called an “inverter” that would take DC voltage from a storage battery and chop it up, so that apparatus on a plane that required alternating current would be operable with an approximation to the usual AC sinusoidal voltage. My dad liked to develop ideas, and he became the president for a while of the Dayton Engineers Club. (Two decades later, when again living in Dayton, Dad got to present an award to Luis Alvarez from the Dayton Engineers Club for Alvarez’ GCA (Ground Controlled Approach for aircraft) radar development. Dad had gotten to know Luis at the time of my 1962 wedding in Berkeley).

What my dad really missed in Ohio, though, was the music that he had sung in a Boston church under the direction of organist E. Power Biggs. Biggs, originally from England, was the most outstanding organist in the Boston area, and in fact was known all over the U.S. and Europe for organ performances in many museums and concert halls. The guy who was the lead of the bass or baritone section, with a bigger voice, couldn't read music very well, had to learn it from rote memory and to depend somewhat on my dad. Biggs, on the other hand, had started a career in England as an electrical engineer and switched to music. My dad, with his engineering and music training, had very much enjoyed his relationship with Biggs… and was still remembered by Biggs when I chatted with him after he gave a UC Berkeley organ performance several decades later after Dad had sung in the choir Biggs had directed in Boston.

Happily, I have friends here, in my Pasadena retirement community, who really appreciate classical music; two of them, who happen to have Jewish heritage, sang when young in Christian choirs… in Boston or New York City. We have had some interesting residents in this retirement community. One chap, with presumably German Jewish heritage, said to me when we first got acquainted, “Why is it that Christians have a hard time talking about atheism? It’s not a problem for Jews.” [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

My closest friend, Elaine Frieden, comes from the Boston area, and came out to Pasadena to be near her daughter after her husband had died following many years as an MIT professor. Elaine educates/entertains me with various jokes, like the following: — Rabbi number one will disagree with rabbi number two, and then along comes the third rabbi; he says, “Oh, you guys are crazy” and he has a completely different interpretation of what’s in the Talmud. I have opportunities to compare Yiddish expressions with German words or phrases that I know.

Anyway, so it’s a fascinating environment here in Pasadena. I didn't see much diversity as a child. I grew up in a WASPish community, in the small town of Needham not far from Boston, a town that was mostly White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. We never saw a Black unless we travelled to communities closer to Boston. There were no Asian people and no Hispanics until long after WWII, and hardly any evidence of the Irish and Italian families that had settled in the Boston area. Beautiful little suburban town, Needham, about three miles from Wellesley. But in school, or even among acquaintances of my family, Judy and I learned little about other cultures.

My family was a fairly tight-knit quiet family. Mother did a lot of reading and sewing and made beautiful matching dresses for me and Judy from the time we were small children – until Judy, my twin, rebelled at being dressed like me around age twelve! Mother taught me to do embroidery at age four or five and taught both Judy and me some rudimentary things about art and sewing. I was making dresses for myself from Simplicity patterns by age seven or eight. But did I play with dolls? Didn't interest me very much. My sister played house or played with dolls; she got together with a rather mischievous girl across the street and would tell me about trying to break into the father’s liquor cabinet. [laugh] Or they’d hide away from me; I was too serious. [laugh] I’d stay in the house reading or perhaps practicing piano. And then I’d go out to play and find that Judy and her friend were hiding from me. Judy continued her mischievous ways at home and sometimes in school.

I was getting to be five feet ten inches tall by the time I was 12 or 13. (My twin Judy reached a height of five feet, six inches… a height she usually tried to disguise by not standing up straight.) And I was wearing a shoe size of 11. There was one shoe store in Boston where I could get shoes that were reasonable in style for a young girl and fit me. Only one place. [laugh] I have been wearing a size-12 shoe for most of my life (and have had to wear men’s sneakers, skates, or ski boots. When I was about age twelve, my mother took me into Boston to have an X-ray of my head, to see why I kept growing… and found out that I indeed had a large pituitary gland! I haven't shrunk too much with age. I'm down to about five-eight-and-a-half inches, maybe a little over that. But I was five-feet-ten for much of my life. Now there are many tall young women, but they don’t seem to wear big shoe sizes! I still have problems in finding casual shoes in size 12, even in California. My daughter Christina isn’t quite my height. I think she ended up at five-feet-eight-and-a-half inches. She hasn’t had the problem I have had with shoes. Even as a child I knew I was something of a freak. [laugh] And I knew I was happier playing with boys or with things that interested boys.

When I was about age ten, I saved my allowance to buy a Boy Scout code set, somewhat fancier than the simple set Dad had constructed for me two years earlier. An older boy down the street, son of a Needham dentist, had a similar code set – able to produce a buzz, a telegraphy signal, or a pulse of light. We contemplated sending coded messages through a wire we might string up on telephone poles… but decided that might not be allowed by the phone company. One of the women, Frieda Stahl, whom I mentioned earlier as a close friend in my senior living complex, was trained in atomic experimental physics; she studied at Hunter College near Columbia University, eventually did doctoral work at California’s Claremont College, and taught for many years at Cal State LA [California State University Los Angeles]. We discovered in swapping stories about our experiences that we had both wanted to have an “erector set” as a present during our childhood years… But as girls, we were never given such things. I think I might have played a little with a wooden Tinker Toy set, and maybe a rather uninteresting chemistry set. I recall I did make, with balsa wood and tissue paper, a few airplanes… planes that had a propeller driven by a wound-up rubber band.

[Note: For my daughter Christina I did a little better: in stopping at a Radio Shack store in Amherst, to buy a booklet that I thought would be useful in explaining semiconductor diodes for a UMass electronics lab, I discovered that the store had little projects meant for kids. I purchased for my pre-teen daughter Christina the necessary electronics component plus a diagram that would let her construct a “lie detector” circuit. I don’t recall that she did much with it!]

As to my pre-teenage years, I decided I wanted to know more about radio… so used money from my allowance, or from occasional music jobs, to buy a copy of Radio Amateurs Handbook. I started reading some of that when I was getting into my teens. My dad had learned about radio, to some extent, when he was a teenager. I knew Dad had built a simple crystal radio in his teens and even worked as an Electrician at March Field, a rather new airfield in southern California, a year before he went to college. I knew he had done all these things; so why shouldn't I? I had liked playing with boys, usually a few years older than I, because they were interested in the things I was interested in. I never was given an erector set as a child. It was even unusual for a girl to have a chemistry set. And what could you do with a chemistry set, other than make smelly things or perhaps set off a fire? I wasn’t interested in chemistry and I knew that. (I tried to convince my daughter Christina, when she got into high school years, in the early 1980s, to take the physics class in her junior year, before taking chemistry. I recalled that as a small child she was inclined towards picking up mechanical things, such as hand-drills or screwdrivers. In fact, I had predicted when she was age one and a half that she was going to grow up to be an engineer or a physicist. [laugh] When Christina was age 11 or 12, I could interest her in my description of certain experiments I taught students in physics laboratory courses at UMass. She’s the only one of my three kids who indeed went into physics. Her studies have led her into a very productive career in Space Physics, with research at Caltech that started with a postdoctoral appointment there in 1996. (The other two, her twin brothers, studied engineering and computer science.)

My mother was terribly bored in Dayton, because – though we moved into a very nice house not far from my father’s engineering company, almost none of our neighbors had gone to college, and most of their children appeared interest in studies beyond high school. The Wilbur Wright High School (with a total student body of about 1,000) that my sister and I attended had only about 15% of the kids going on to college. Yet discipline was very strong, stemming from a rather dogmatic principal. We had wonderful teachers, including a blind woman, with a seeing-eye dog, who taught history. Her hearing was very acute. She could tell if students were sharing papers or doing something they shouldn't be doing at the back of the class. But my favorite, of course, was the geometry teacher. Barely my height, I think— a Mr. Stutz. I also had a wonderful Latin teacher, Miss Spencer. The teachers encouraged their students, even though we were in this high school that was not known for producing kids that did wonderful things scholastically, at least not a very high percentage of them. And most of the parents, (and our neighbors, as I have indicated) were not college graduates, making it very lonely for my mother.

We did have some stimulation, though, from our teachers. And I went through preliminary exams in plane geometry for the whole state, like the New York Board of Regents, though I don’t know if they used it quite the same way. For the Ohio scholarship tests, we were given preliminaries and then the finals. I came out first in the state in plane geometry (but was allowed to take only the final in one subject). So my picture appeared in the paper. A classmate of mine was annoyed that he didn't win. He felt he was pretty good in plane geometry. (He complained about losing to me decades later, when he happened to visit my twin sister!) In other subjects, there were a couple of winners from other high schools in Dayton. And I also was way above the 99th percentile in the Latin preliminary exam, which I got a big kick out of. (Knowledge of Latin helped me, years later, when I was learning German!) I was a good student, as my parents had been.

What was my sister doing? She wanted to be popular, to be dating a football player if possible, or at least be friendly with the popular crowd. And I was too tall. (Back in New England, Judy had continued to make fun of me. Dancing school lessons were offered to all students in the seventh grade in our little town of Needham. Mothers sent their daughters and sons, dressed in formals dresses and suits, to dancing class. I thought I looked pretty good in a formal; but it would be the shortest boy in the class who would ask me to dance! That gave my sister lots of opportunities to make fun of me. She would say, “Your friend looked like a little tugboat trying to push the Queen Mary around,” or something like that. And a half century or more later I found that my dad thought I didn’t even know how to dance!)

I had a difficult experience when my dad lost his second wife, an old friend he had married following our mother’s suicide in the mid-1950s. Our first stepmother had died, down in Florida; and I convinced Judy we should go down to cheer up my dad. Dad and some friends were having their weekly party on a Saturday night in Florida, in a “boat-house” near Boynton Beach—and my dad was singing. He was head of the beach club. Though the members didn't go to the beach; they were too frail, in their seventies or eighties. So my sister was there along with me and Dad; she had brought her guitar. She had gone into playing ukulele, and then guitar during high school and college years, and loved popular music and folk songs. Judy had a very pleasant voice and continued casual singing for most of her life. And my dad still had a very good voice. So Judy and Dad did some singing at the party in Boyton Beach, Florida, that celebrated our stepmother’s recent death. Other people did some singing. I didn't try to join in. But then there was dancing. Judy and our dad had fun singing and dancing together. I said to my father, then about 75 years of age, “Dad, aren’t you going to dance with me?” Because he was my idol. I had grown up really admiring my father. My sister had, too, but more for his personality than his technical expertise and knowledge of music. Dad responded to me with “I didn't think you knew how to dance!” Now, men are not inclined to look back. My dad never looked in the past, anyway. He was always looking ahead to the future. He just never remembered he had ever seen me at a formal, I guess.

And I had boyfriends, eventually, in college. Yes, they were more serious than any of Judy’s friends. I dated from my freshman year on at Cornell: a fifth-year mechanical engineer, and then a German exchange student, and then a six-foot-five-inch Hungarian physics graduate student, and a few others. I didn't have many boyfriends through my university years (but Dad had met a few of them – briefly); but I had certainly done a lot of dancing with them and probably knew how to do the waltz and other European dances better than most Americans. But just my being tall and rather serious apparently caused my dad to consider me abnormal! He did dance with me at that Florida party, and said I was a very good dancer.

Jumping back in time… when Dad was a little over 40, when I was 12 or 13, we were on a family vacation—had gone from Needham, Massachusetts, up to a nice vacation place, in New England, a lake in New Hampshire. We were about to go swimming, or at least my dad was. I was reading something I had bought called Radio Amateur’s Handbook; I had heard of the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, and I thought, “Well, nobody has told me about this at school, but maybe I should get ready for it.” And I knew that my dad had fooled around with radio and learned enough electrical engineering he could even take a position for a year at a Southern California Air Force base, March Field, before he went off to college in Cincinnati. I knew he had done these sorts of things, and I assumed that he must know some things about radio, about radio theory, about oscillators. In reading the Handbook, I ran into the “quality factor” of a resonant circuit, an oscillatory circuit. And Dad had always been helpful in explaining things to me before, but here I was, 12 or 13, approaching five feet ten inches height. (My dad was just a little over six feet, but relatively small-boned otherwise. I took after my mother’s ancestors, I think [laugh], the Swedish and the German ancestors.) I was probably in a bathing suit or lying on the beach and reading in this Radio Amateur’s Handbook, and my sister was out seeing if she could find any interesting boyfriends, I guess. We were there for a couple of weeks. So I said to my dad, “I don’t think I understand this capital Q—quality factor of a circuit. Can you explain it?” He whirled on me—after all, he was about to go in swimming—and he said, “You're abnormal enough already. If you're still interested in this when you get to college, it’ll be soon enough.”

Well, I was already one or two years beyond the point where I had decided I wanted to be an engineer or scientist. I thought that music would be a terrible vocation, and that pianists were a dime a dozen, and you never really saw any women performers. There were very few—I was aware of just one British pianist who was a woman. You didn't see women in string quartets, not back in the thirties, [laugh] the forties, or the fifties. In any event, and besides, the main thing for me was that you don’t reach perfection as a performer. If you're a composer, there’s an intellectual challenge at least; but if you're a performer, you simply try to match what is expected.

I heard in a theater not so long ago, tenor Plácido Domingo in conversation with conductor James Levine during intermission of an opera broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Peter Gelb, the manager of the Metropolitan Opera, said to Domingo and to Levine—well, especially Domingo, the lead tenor in whatever opera they had done— “Well, do you ever reach perfection?” and also, “Were you happy with your performance?” [laugh] Domingo laughed, and Levine laughed, and they both agreed that you never reach perfection. Something always goes wrong. You forget a phrase, or you don’t come in on time or your voice doesn't quite perform as it should. So for singers especially, I think, it’s hard to reach perfection. Also, I think if you ask professional instrumentalists whether they're really happy with their careers, very few will say that they reach more than 95% or so of what they like.

But with physics, with mathematics, you could have—there may be several different ways of approaching a solution, but you know when you've solved a problem. You usually know when you've done the calculation properly, especially if you can compare with some experimental data. There’s a completeness, a perfectionism, that you can reach within the sciences, with calculations, and perhaps a reward. The only problem for me was, would I expect to go more into theory or experiment? And I already was headed towards engineering or experimental physics. Problem in our high schools, of course, was that women didn't used to be offered any kind of challenging practical courses. Administrators had young girls take home economics, where you'd learn how to wire a plug, make a spinach soufflé, or make a dress with use of an old sewing machine. (I could do more elaborate sewing at home, as my mother had a motor-driven Singer machine rather than the simple treadle-driven machines available at school. I found Home Economics very boring, and yet all girl students at about the seventh-grade level had to take the course. I never even thought of challenging the system to ask if I could take Industrial Arts, a subject taught only for boys.) In any event, by age 11 or 12 I knew I was going to be an engineer or a physicist.

I have found through the years that there have been rather few young women oriented towards engineering or physics. (I've hardly encountered any male scientist who really had wanted to be a physicist or an engineer at an early age; but at least a boy is more likely than a girl to be introduced to hardware when young.) I started being interested in women’s achievements in the sciences in my teenage years. I have collected many articles on women, especially in the physical sciences, but also in medicine, and even in the business world. I remember an article that was in the Sunday New York Times—probably long after my college years —that was written by the then-president of Radcliffe College, Matina Horner. And she wrote about “the negative incentive factor” that affected Radcliffe women when they began taking advanced classes with Harvard men. (She herself had gone into psychology, but I think she revealed in this article that she would have gone into chemistry or some area of science, had she not been a woman.) Horner described some Radcliffe undergraduate women who had been getting A’s or A+’s in their courses. They were outstanding students until they got into their junior, senior year, and had classes not with all women, but with men at Harvard. Their grades went down to B’s or C’s. Why? They didn't want to intimidate their male friends. And Horner dubbed that the “negative incentive factor.” I discovered recently that Horner wrote a book about this negative factor that affected women students when they shared classes with men. [Note: Horner is described as “pioneering the concept of fear of success.”]

Attitude towards women and their career aspirations had been changing rapidly by the time my daughter Christina came along and decided to study physics as a university undergraduate. (I think the impact of Title IX on women’s sports and the insistence that women and minorities be considered for open positions – in academia and industry – have helped women to advance in their careers.) Christina has been having a wonderful time in her space-physics studies and her research. She has sometimes cautioned me—if I start in retrospect warning her about the sorts of barriers women professional may encounter. She sometimes lets me know that things haven’t been so difficult for her. But you still find rather few women among faculty in the scientific or technical fields. And the women in engineering have gone from one in 500, the student ratio which I found at Cornell, and there are now many, many more women in engineering… with entering classes of engineering students having gotten almost to 17% women on average for the U.S., and with special recruiting, even to 35% women at Cornell by the early 1990s. (But I should let you ask questions, because I've gotten way off track and jumped [laugh] across several decades.)

Another article I found years ago, probably in The Atlantic, was written about women studying in different fields in the early seventies by sociologist Alice Rossi. (I came to know her later when she and her husband Peter Rossi joined the faculty at UMass-Amherst. During her career she became president of the American Sociological Association.) Alice Rossi’s article was a very comprehensive article on women aspiring to careers in various fields. She described one woman student at MIT who was studying aeronautical engineering; the mother of this woman told her, “Men won’t marry women who like to tinker with motors.” Rossi went over to the field of economics, at another university; she found a male professor would not grade papers submitted by women graduate students in economics, because he didn't believe that women should be in the field of economics. And I think it was at the same time I read a newspaper article, probably in The New York Times, about a Syracuse University professor of journalism who said, “My best student was a woman, and I thought she would have an outstanding career. But after getting her PhD, she settled down and got married and never did anything.” He was so disappointed in this one woman student he declared he would advise no more women graduate students. Alice Rossi also interviewed some women who were majoring in music. What were they being told to do? They were being turned into teachers. They weren’t being encouraged to be composers or to be performers. Some years later I had a chance to talk to Alice Rossi after she became a professor (as did her husband Peter Rossi) at UMass-Amherst. Incidentally, I found Peter Rossi somewhat less approachable than his wife, and was known to be rather a woman-chaser. [laugh]

I also discovered an anthropologist, Ashley Montagu (then at Rutgers University) from an article he wrote for the Ladies Home Journal (and also a book) about the “natural superiority of women.” He claimed that women survived childhood diseases better than men, and that they behaved more calmly under pressure. Montagu advocated that women be allowed to become astronauts.

Sorry. I've gotten off my chronological story. Back in my sophomore year in high school, I was first in the state of Ohio in the two-stage scholarship test for Plane Geometry – “geometry champion,” as described in a Dayton newspaper article. My Latin teacher that year was pleased that I placed above the 99th percentile in the Ohio preliminary scholarship test. And then I also won a contest the same year, at age fifteen, to play a piano concerto with the Dayton Symphony Orchestra. I performed the Grieg A minor piano concerto in an afternoon concert attended by many school children and was pleased to see a nice review of the performance in the Dayton newspaper.

Dayton was a city that provided many outstanding music events. Besides the Symphony programs, there were outstanding solo artists in a recital series – well-known performers like the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and pianist Artur Rubinstein. (Note: I remember from my teens that the old-time pianists, and most other instrumentalists, played beautifully but without all the affectations, without the swaying and the soulful facial expressions that are common among today’s performers.) Rubinstein was a favorite of mine – in recitals or recordings. I had especially liked a quote from Rubinstein, found in an issue of a music magazine (Etude, in early 1940s) given my mother by a Needham, MA, neighbor; Rubinstein said, “I get so tired of having these young pianists come to me and show off what they can do technically. They want to play Liszt’s ‘La Campanella.’” He referred to the Paganini/Liszt piano composition that is technically very difficult. “I’d much rather hear a simple Chopin nocturne.”

My twin Judy only recently (about age 89!) said that she remembers seeing me, at age 15, when I performed with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and “I looked really very nice.” (I wore a full-length formal aqua dress made by my mother.) I thought, that is one of the few compliments she has ever paid me! She had been inclined through our young years to treat me as being ugly and awkward. One summer, around age 20, Judy was trying to pick out on our piano the melody for the popular song “Stardust.” She seemed to have forgotten how to read piano music, after taking up clarinet and ukulele. I said, “Hey, Judy, I can play ‘Stardust’ for you.” She said, “I'm not going to listen to you play popular music. That’s like hearing an opera singer trying to sing popular songs.” Judy also had little interest in hearing the classical music pieces, the arias, that our dad asked me to play for him throughout my childhood. So I was surprised some 75 years later that Judy remembered coming to hear me play as soloist with the Dayton Philharmonic. I think there was definitely a newspaper review of my performance (saved by Mother in an old scrapbook),; I recall that it started out “Very lovely in appearance…” [laugh]

Much later, when I was doing chamber music out in the Berkeley area, there was a newspaper review of a 1959 Berkeley recital I did under sponsorship of the Amphion Foundation with a very outstanding young violinist, the one trained by Naoum Blinder as a possible successor to Isaac Stern. In complimenting me for very capable piano-playing, the reviewer wrote “Cute as a button…” to describe me. Handsome, maybe? But not cute, not at my height! (I guess the reviewer liked my maiden name, Janice Button.) The reviewer went on to say that, if I could do nuclear physics as well as I played the piano, the country was in good hands! (My bio included the fact that I had just gotten my Ph.D. in nuclear physics. I should have known better than to include that information for a music program.)

Regarding appearance, I have long complained that almost every newspaper music reviewer up until fairly recent years -of a woman performer tends to comment on her dress, on her appearance. It’s not just in politics that women have been criticized for dress, or hair-do; it happens in reviews of musicians, too. Men—well, men can wear whatever they want – and seldom receive any criticism or compliments. [laugh] My mother was sometimes worried that I was used by our high school to play for many events, even grabbed out of classes when a high-school freshman or sophomore in Dayton, to play for the seniors to practice commencement exercises I traveled to Columbus, Ohio, during the school-year(s) in Dayton to play for 21 or 22 different soloists for the state music contest that went on for two days. I was useful because I could sight-read easily. During the contest, I played the piano accompaniment for violinists and baritone horn players, cellists, singers, and even a tympanist, all from my Dayton high school. And that sort of music activity, playing for various soloists as well as playing for the high-school orchestra and chorus performances, was where I got my fun, my relaxation.

I have realized over the years, the reason I—without too much practicing [laugh] – have kept up my chamber music (and occasional piano solos) is the challenge as well as the fun of playing. You have to listen to other people. Egos better not show, or you don’t have a very good ensemble. Whether it’s a duo or a trio or a quartet. And the pianist has the advantage anyway, because the pianist usually is more familiar with the literature that involves a piano part. And often the pianist in some ensembles may have to hold the group together, especially if the members are not really professionals. But there’s a warmth and a reward that you get, as every performance will likely be different. And you can do it for fun, just for relaxation, or you can do it for performance – to please an audience. I'm very lucky in the Pasadena area, because there are many people here, professional musicians, who don’t have the jobs that they used to have. They don’t get all the gigs, especially with the pandemic of recent months. They used to be asked to play music for movies. But the movie business has dropped, because directors can send film to another city or perhaps overseas and get the music score recorded much more cheaply. Or they can use electronic music. So I've gotten to know some professional musicians here in the Pasasdena area, and it has been quite rewarding. My sister has continued playing her guitar and singing, even beyond age 80. [laugh] She has sung with small country-music groups on Cape Cod. Anyway, what do you want to know about—oh, going to Cornell.

Behrman:

Yes, I was just about to ask, since you brought up Cornell now, how did that happen for you?

Button-Shafer:

I was already so serious and wanting to be an engineer or a physicist, and I didn't know whether you could find a combination. I discovered you could. So probably around age 14 or so—14 going on 15—I began to look for science/technical programs at various universities. There was no internet in those days, of course, but you could go to the library.

Oh, and I neglected to say also, my sophomore year in Dayton, besides the mathematics, the geometry Ohio state test, and the performance with orchestra, I also gave a talk at our high school about the atomic bomb. After spending many hours in the Dayton Public Library, finding useful references through science abstracts, I ended up teaching nuclear physics for the Parent-Teacher Association. We students in our sophomore year (1946-47) were given an assignment to do some research and to prepare an outline for a talk in English class, if I remember correctly. I decided to learn about the atomic bomb. I must have spent hours and hours at the Dayton Public Library. You had what was called science abstracts in those days. I ended up with something like 54 references, articles and a few books. I wouldn't know this except that, believe it or not, my twin sister saved the folder I put together; for the cover, I painted a watercolor on some heavy-duty paper, showing one of the tests that were then going on of underwater fission bombs that produced nuclear explosions. These tests in the Pacific were called “Able, Baker, Charlie.” The tests were alarming and produced the typical mushroom cloud. Old ships, some with animals, were put on the surface to determine the effects of the underwater explosions. And some of the islands were really devastated by radioactive fallout as well as the blasts. (You may remember hearing about Bikini Atoll.) But I had many references – over fifty of them - that I found in the Dayton Public Library, as well as an extensive glossary of scientific terms. I had grown up hearing from both my parents about Ernest Orlando Lawrence, the physicist primarily responsible for the development of the “cyclotron” accelerator in Berkeley, CA.

Behrman:

Yeah!

Button-Shafer:

Ernest Lawrence had grown up in North Dakota, I think, but he was doing physics research at Yale in the early 1930s. And then he moved to the West Coast, to UC Berkeley. He was sitting in the library late one night and came across something that gave him the idea for the cyclotron. It was a linear accelerator by some Danish fellow named Widerøe. Anyway, Lawrence got the basic idea for the cyclotron, of using a magnetic field to cause particles such as protons to move in a circular path and have repeated accelerating forces from alternating voltage applied to fixed electrodes. I had heard of the cyclotron, as a child, from my dad. Knew something about what it was, how it functioned. both my parents knew of E.O. Lawrence as having gotten the Nobel Prize in the late thirties for the development of the cyclotron. And nuclear physics was really over-glorified, after the war years. (You've probably heard this from many people.) There was lots of funding—physicists suddenly became very popular and very important, and the government was really financing them. The big problem was arms control and whether the U.S. could have an Atomic Energy Commission and have things controlled by civilians as opposed to military. I got tremendously interested in arms control, subsequently.

To return to my talk that I prepared not only for a high-school class, but also for the “Atomic Age Institute” held at Wilbur Wright High School. It was mostly in outline form, but I quoted Philip Morrison (an outstanding nuclear theorist and veteran of Los Alamos, whom I came to know much later as a professor at Cornell) on the concluding page of my outline that I put together. Morrison was quoted in a newsmagazine (probably Time) as saying, “Atomic energy is here to stay, but are we?” I used as a preface for my Atomic Bomb talk a quote from Lise Meitner (the Austrian woman physicist who had to flee Naziism but contributed to fission studies pursued by Otto Hahn in Berlin), saying that it was unfortunate that fission was discovered during wartime, and that she hoped it would be useful in peace-time. [Note: Lise Meitner became my second woman physicist role model.]

Many scientists/historians have felt that she should have been included in the Nobel award around 1946 to chemist Otto Hahn because she was “the intellectual leader of the team.” I think Lise Meitner was asked if she wanted to come from England, where she had finally taken refuge, to—well, she was in Sweden during most of the war years. It was later that she went to England, where she could spend time with her favorite nephew, physicist Otto Frisch. She was given the U.S. Fermi award shortly before her death in England at age 90. You may know the story of Meitner. Came from an outstanding family in Vienna. Her father was a lawyer, I think. And she had loved music. But she went from getting a physics PhD under Ludwig Boltzmann in Vienna, to Berlin in the early 1900s. Max Planck was a leading physicist in Berlin, and Meitner wanted to learn about what Planck had developed, the quantization of radiation Meitner’s research became very important in studies of various unstable isotopes of heavy elements. Albert Einstein, who knew Meitner earlier and eventually came to Berlin for physics research, probably in the 1920s, as “our Madame Curie.” As she and Otto Hahn had become close friends, through their many years of research together in Berlin, Hahn did help her flee, gave her some jewels that had been his mother’s, and helped her escape from Germany, after the Anschluss, after Hitler went into Austria in 1938 and made it part of the German Reich. Meitner had an Austrian passport, which had protected her, until Austria was absorbed into the German Reich. So then she and many, many Jewish people in all fields were then in trouble. She had to flee, and she went out secretly to westward, and was received by some Dutch physicists. But she was really terrified that she was going to be taken off the train before she got over the border to Holland. Made her way to Stockholm and had a very dismal experience. Because she was not really that much of a hardware type. They were beginning to develop accelerators, the cyclotron. And she was more of a table-top experimenter. When I went over to Germany in fall, 1954, after my five-year Engineering Physics training at Cornell, with a Fulbright fellowship I learned more about Lise Meitner, but found she had not been given the recognition she deserved.

Behrman:

Janice, I think we've got an issue with the connection. Can you hear me?

Button-Shafer:

—And looking back, I'm amazed I had the energy in my sophomore year to pursue things like the Ohio State Scholarship Tests in Plane Geometry (and Latin) and to participate in the Dayton orchestra competition, to play as a soloist for and also, to get involved with arms control issues relating to the “atomic bomb.” That was exciting. I was surprised that my twin Judy saved and gave to me, maybe 20 or 30 years ago, the folder I had that showed the bibliography and had an extensive outline, glossary, and bibliography for my talk on the atomic bomb (for Wilbur Wright High School’s student-run “Atomic Age Institute.”). And that gave me some confidence, because I could then learn things for myself about nuclear physics. And my discovery of Lise Meitner was wonderful. She had written an article, maybe just after the war ended, that was called “The Nature of the Atom.” I've tried to find it here in the Pasadena Library. Because you see, almost everything is up north. I still own the house up in the Kensington area, and I brought just a very small proportion of my books down here. But a lot of my papers and mementos; almost everything is up there, including my high school report on the “atomic bomb. But what I really loved was this article from which I learned nuclear physics, as a sophomore. And it was by Lise Meitner, and she started with very elementary things. I got to know the word “isotope,” for example, and all kinds of other things. I learned a lot about binding energy in the nucleus and what happened during the fission process. I guess I was a member of the science club. And again, I got into the newspapers with my—[laugh] it shows me standing in a suit lecturing to parents and teachers during the Atomic Age Institute at our high school. My atomic bomb paper started in English class, where I gave a verbal presentation, turned in the paper and the outline, and then I was asked to present my paper by our high school science club, and my presentation was included in the Atomic Age Institute at Wilbur Wright High School. A Dayton newspaper presented a picture of me, age fifteen, explaining nuclear physics to the parents and students who attended the Institute.

A few months later, in the late summer of 1947, our family moved to East Lansing, Michigan. Dad had decided to accept an invitation to become a vice president of a nearby electric motors company. Judy and I found the East Lansing high school very different from the big Wilbur Wright High School in Dayton. Our new high school had fewer students and rather lax discipline.

It must have been when we were still in Dayton that I began looking through what science programs were offered at various universities. I discovered that there were only two universities in the entire country that taught Engineering Physics as a combined program, only Cornell and the University of Michigan (in Ann Arbor). I decided I’d go to Cornell. I guess by the time I had figured that out, we were in East Lansing, and I had been over for a visit to University of Michigan. But it was a summer visit, fertilizer all over the lawns [laugh]. I wasn’t impressed. It was too big a place, and too close to home in East Lansing. I thought of it as a state-sponsored school. Yes, it was supposed to be very good, but it was huge! I had played some music over there at U. of Michigan while still in E. Lansing High School, to assist with a summer chorale doing works that included some interesting Brahms, his “Liebeslieder Walzer”. Then I thought, “Well, no, that’s too close to home.” It was only 30-to-40 miles from East Lansing to Ann Arbor. And Cornell, well, we were going on a vacation trip during the summer of 1947. Our parents had decided to drive back from our East Lansing home to New Hampshire for a two-week vacation in the Squam Lake area, where we had spent pre-war vacations when our home was near Boston. We got onto the New York State Throughway. I knew that Cornell University was down at the south end of Lake Cayuga, one of the five Finger Lakes in the middle of New York state. I had asked my parents if we could visit Cornell.

My parents were willing to make a side trip to visit Cornell, and my sister didn't complain too much. The Cornell campus was impressive, located high on hills that overlooked the south end of Lake Cayuga. Probably just my dad went with me into the physics building, Rockefeller Hall, after we had found a parking place. And although it was summer, we discovered a Professor Grantham—G-R-A-N-T-H-A-M in his office. And he was a Vermont type I think, a New Englander. He was very familiar with what went on in physics instruction for engineers, because he always taught the freshman physics class (lectures, recitations, and labs) for engineers. Cornell had something like 2,000 total engineering students in five different areas of engineering, but Engineering Physics was new. Besides the traditional civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering programs, this new school of Engineering Physics had been started just two years before our visit. I later learned that the dean of engineering, Hollister, had joined with the chairman of the physics department, Lloyd P. Smith, to establish the new School of Engineering Physics. Lloyd Smith was really a theorist but did applied physics that included a lot of consulting for RCA. In those years, for Cornell and other universities, as an entering student, you were supposed to declare your major, decide on your school, before you got to the university. At Cornell, all of the engineering programs were five years in length. We found Professor Grantham was a sort of grandfatherly type figure by then, probably into his sixties, certainly his late fifties. And he, as I discovered when I entered Cornell, did a marvelous job, with lots of demonstrations for his lectures. He could tell us about the Engineering Physics program. So of course my dad and I wanted to know, “Will you accept an application for the EP program from a woman?” He said, “Oh yes, we just had a woman transfer from Electrical Engineering into Engineering Physics.” Prof. Grantham said she seemed to be doing quite well. (She went to MIT later for her PhD, and I think she then went to RCA. She went into industry; I believe I've lost track of her.) Grantham said yes, by all means I should apply. So that did it. That decided everything. And I applied only to Cornell, only to the School of Engineering Ehysics, and they did accept me. And I found myself in a class of 26 or 27 students, with one other woman—Donna Waetgen. She seemed very bright, but she didn't care to work that hard. And we had 18 hours, six mostly technical courses, every semester.

I should stress that my Engineering Physics classmates and I had a very dedicated class advisor, an experimentalist Paul Harman, a young professor in atomic physics who followed every one of the students in my E.P. class through all five years. He gave us very useful advice about courses, and he also kept track of us after Cornell as we developed careers in various fields of engineering, physics, etc. I always tried to visit with him in his office when back at Cornell for reunions, talks, and visits with my two sons (when they studied at Cornell from 1988 to 1992). Prof. Hartman was very cordial to our daughter Christina, at age 15, when I took her with me for a visit related to Cornell’s attempt to bring more young women in as students in Engineering. Hartman attended an awards ceremony for the class of Mechanical Engineers that included our son Charles in 1992. Not only had Hartman done a wonderful job of teaching my class a fairly advanced engineering-style treatment of advanced mechanics in our second year (1951); but he also guided some of us in an atomic physics spectroscopy experiment in Cornell’s “Advanced Laboratory” course designed for graduate students. I believe that Hartman knew a lot about the origins of the Physical Review journal; publishing began at Cornell University in 1893. He originated and edited periodic issues of a newsletter sent to EP (and AEP) graduates for several decades. I believe Hartman noted the 100th anniversary of the Physical Review in his newsletter to Cornell alumni in 1993.

As I already mentioned, Engineering Physics students ended up after five years at Cornell with 180 credit hours, almost all of which were math and physics and engineering. I think I had no more than maybe 36 hours—out of the 180 hours, after five years, maybe 36 hours or so of liberal courses, some of which were sort of required, because you had to take English, one psychology or sociology course, and I think history or government. Instead of history, I took a couple of government courses. And then German. German was considered very important, so we had a mandatory six-hour German course during our second year. But professors and instructors in the German Department didn't teach us any grammar. [laugh] We were taught to learn by rote memory, as had been done for soldiers during the war. The rationale for establishing Engineering Physics was the students would be trained to handle engineering problems but understand the underlying physics. Students would be provided with the equivalent of a master’s degree though the degree awarded would be only the Bachelor of Engineering Physics though that changed later: because of protests from aging (mechanical) engineering alumni 40 years later [laugh]; the Dean of Engineering gave us pseudo master’s degree diplomas in the early 1990s. [laugh] “If Janice Button had taken this course in recent decades, she would have gotten a master’s degree in 1954 instead of a bachelor’s degree.”

When I entered Cornell Engineering Physics program in 1949, I felt we were treated wonderfully. There was a sort of elitism that they gave up later on by the sixties. The EP students were kept together and were taught by very experienced faculty – and challenged more than other Engineering student. As I mentioned before, my Engineering Physics class had 26 or 27 students, including me and one other woman, Donna. There were two other women freshman engineers, one in electrical engineering, one in mechanical. And that was it. So there were four women, in the entering group of engineering students. In all of five Engineering disciplines, there were four women. The other three all quit at the end of the freshman year. The women who were in electrical and mechanical engineering tended to overwork. They just got fed up, so they switched to Arts and Sciences. That left just me as the only woman in the entire freshman Engineering class of about 500 students. But that was not unusual. If you looked at the higher-level classes, you would find zero or one woman per year in the College of Engineering, where the total of all Engineering students numbered over 2000 from the late 1940s into the 1950s. The one woman who was two years ahead of me in Engineering Physics did finish the five-year program. So Cornell’s College of Engineering had either one or zero women in each undergraduate year, fewer than five women total during the late forties into the fifties.

I became acquainted with my first Black engineering student, through Engineering Physics. He was in the EP class a year ahead of me, and he was an Olympic star! His name was Meredith Gourdine. He came to be called “Flash” because he could do the 100-yard dash in record time, and also was outstanding in the long jump. I believe he had gotten an Olympic medal in the long jump. I think he was quite a good student in Engineering Physics, though not the most outstanding. We had something in common: he was odd; I was odd. We were both loners. [laugh]

And you really were kept track of as an Engineering student. You had to come to the lectures. You were in a pre-assigned seat in the freshman physics lectures. There were two different lectures (both given by the Prof. Grantham I had met in my visit to Cornell in summer 1947) for the incoming engineering students, I think 250 per lecture, to take care of the four or five hundred freshman students. So that was for the Mechanics course. And I suddenly found out that high school physics had been really relatively dull. It turned out, in any event, that the Cornell physics for engineers was taught out of a book by a man named Sears. It was actually Sears-Zemanksy, watered down from the original Sears text to exclude calculus. The freshman physics in 1949 had to be done with no calculus, because calculus wasn’t taught in high school. Nobody had had any calculus. We were taking it our freshman year concurrently with physics. So that made it pretty dull to be doing things that didn't involve calculus. But still, it was an exciting course, and it was multidimensional instead of everything being linear the way it was in high school. For example we were learning to calculate what should be the banking angle for a railroad track if a train is supposed to stay on the track as it goes around a curve; you want a “normal” force that balances the weight of the train plus the centrifugal force (which I knew about from my dad at about age eight) to be perpendicular to the track bed. Today textbook authors often describe, instead of the centrifugal, center-fleeing force experienced in the rotating “body” system, the centripetal or center-seeking force, that the track must exert on the train as it goes around a curve. So anyway, by putting together the weight of the train and the centrifugal force, you could figure out - for a certain speed of the train and a certain amount of track curvature, i.e., the radius of the curve—what the track banking angle had to be, so that the resultant force would be normal to the train bed. I thought this was just great fun. We also considered the trajectory of a projectile, a two-dimensional problem: What angle should you use in aiming a gun or cannon in order to maximize the horizontal distance, the range? You could develop an expression for range that was a function of the angle at which a projectile was shot off from rest. You could develop all these relationships for real-life objects in two or three dimensions, whether the objects were at rest or in motion, simply by demanding for static situations that forces and torques be balanced, and for moving objects that Newton’s laws be obeyed. We hadn’t had any two- or three-dimensional problems in high school. Yes, we learned about acceleration due to gravity, but it was just a linear thing. So anyway, freshman physics and also math and engineering courses at Cornell were exciting.

For most courses all of us Engineering Physics students were assigned to the same classes. It was like having suddenly twenty-plus brothers [laugh] in the various EP classes. I got to take a drafting course, something never offered to girls in high schools. It was called “descriptive geometry.” Despite the elegant title, was taught by sort of a tradesperson, probably not a professor. But we learned some really tricky stuff in drafting, and that was a favorite course of mine. But I really, really loved the shop course that involved machine tools one that we didn't get until our second semester or maybe our sophomore year. And my two friends, the women who were electrical and mechanical engineering students, just for the first year, had already had the shop course; they warned me that -- although the instructors seemed sort of fatherly or grandfatherly -- they liked to see if they could embarrass any woman in the class by emphasizing “male and female parts” even though these were conventional terms in the use of machine tools. But they turned out to be great instructors. The only thing was, I often felt I was shown some favoritism as a woman in shop courses, not only in machine shop (where I was assigned a lathe that was a little easier to use than other lathes), but also in a “casting lab” course (where the rather slight instructor insisted on carrying a green-sand mold across the lab for me, but not for my fellow students). We worked on lathes that didn't have individual motors. They had overhead belt drives. And only one or two of the lathes were easily used for cutting a thread of a certain pitch, through synchronization with the lead screw of the lathe. Milling machines were a little more complicated; one project was to cut teeth on a gear. I found the machine shop class rewarding, even at our scheduled class time starting at 8 AM on Saturday mornings, because I had never seen any of this stuff before. My male classmates at least knew what wood lathes were like, from “industrial arts” classes in high school. Much more dangerous; they go faster, and you hold the tool in your hand [laugh]. But with metal-working machines you have everything sort of locked in place – both the piece being machined and the tool used for the operation.

In the casting lab mentioned earlier, we learned what the melting point of aluminum was. Each of us students would put a wood pattern into one half of a green sand mold, close the two halves, and then carry the assembled mold across the lab to have pressure applied. Then when the mold had become firm, you opened up the assembly, took out the pattern, and then closed it again. You then poured into the mold the molten aluminum or whatever it was that you wanted to cast. The shop instructor, though shorter and slighter than I, didn't want me to carry this green sand mold. I think I may have protested. Throughout most of my student and professional life, I insisted on doing things myself, because I felt I was strong enough. And this even persisted through many decades of my research career. A slight young physics professor from Yale didn't want me to lift a lead brick at Brookhaven National Laboratory when we were taking apart an extensive lead and copper beam collimator one Sunday afternoon in 1965. Later a Yale graduate student, who had no previous experience at an accelerator laboratory (and apparently no experience with a woman experimentalist!) didn't want me to step up on a stepladder when I needed to retrieve some polyethylene blocks often used to degrade beam energy from inside a focusing magnet upstream of a liquid hydrogen bubble chamber; rather than being concerned about the dangers of liquid hydrogen, he worried that I was stepping up on a ladder to reach the beamline. In my laboratory at my home university, UMass-Amherst, around the mid-1970s, a young graduate student who hadn’t had any background and experience with experiments wanted to help me late one afternoon or early evening. He said, “Oh, Professor Shafer, let me do that for you.” I was replacing oil in a mechanical Welch vacuum pump, a backing pump for a diffusion pump connected to a cryostat housing a spin-polarized target I had designed. I stood back and let the student start removing the dirty oil. He spilled the oil! All over the linoleum floor of the lab. [laugh] And it’s very hard to clean up oil from a pump. So—and this has been the story of my life, that a man often wants to take over a hardware job – even if I explain my training as an engineer. And even though I was usually bigger, or at least taller, than many male colleagues, not just graduate students but also faculty, until perhaps the 1980s sort of felt that they had to take mechanical things out of a woman’s hands. They didn't want her to get in trouble, to hurt herself. I could go on with lots of little stories about that.

But to go back to Cornell, I really loved the courses, and I especially liked the hardware courses. Cornell graded in percentages, not in letter grades. I got 100% in my freshman physics course, as rounded up from my actual average of over 99% from the recitation quizzes, prelim exams, the final exam, the lab grade, and the homework. For one physics quiz, early in the semester, I messed up on one component in resolving a force for a problem that involved just summing up force components and torques, for something that was in equilibrium, a weight hanging on a cable or something like that. I remember being annoyed with myself over that mistake in a quiz. I was a perfectionist. (I attribute that to my mother’s heritage [laugh], German and Swedish.) Anyway, I was used to getting top grades in pre-university math or science courses. And I don’t know that the Physics Department ever had had a student who got 100% before. Incidentally, if you're a student in the humanities, or the social sciences, no professor is going to give you 100%. You never fall below 75% or so if you do a halfway decent job. But you can fail in a physics or a math course or a science course. Because things can be graded fairly objectively. You can get as high as 100%, but you can also get a grade that’s way below 75%. So I kind of enjoyed the percentage grades given at Cornell till at least the mid-1950s. Cornell changed later to letter grades. But I think I had something between 93 and 94% for my grade average my first semester. I didn't get nearly such high grades in English or in freshman psychology [laugh]as I did in Physics or Math. But with physics, engineering, math, you had to keep up. You really had to do your homework on a regular basis and keep up with new concepts. And that was good.

My dad had been so methodical he was called “Eight-Hour Charlie” when he was a student at University of Cincinnati. And my parents, mother having had some mental breakdown after getting married but prior to having kids (me and Judy) tended to have insomnia problems, so was very insistent that Judy and I get our needed sleep. And my dad believed in going to bed by 10:30 at night. By the time Judy and I were high school kids, started going off to college, we had had ingrained in us, especially from my mother but also my dad, that it’s best to get eight hours sleep a night. And at Cornell, I found that was certainly worth doing if you wanted to do well on any preliminary exam or final exam in a technical course, or just keep up with the homework, at least for the first few years. [laugh]

But then I got into many activities. I was taken into a sorority. And I think when my dad heard it, he couldn't believe it. [laugh] And my sister and I happened to join the same sorority. She was in Kappa Kappa Gamma (KKG) at Miami University, in Ohio; and I was invited to join the KKG chapter at Cornell. Most of the Miami Kappas were activities types, from what my sister Judy described. That was her view, anyway; and Judy herself did not care for activities. Spring semester was when the sororities did their “rushing.” The male fraternities had already done their rushing in the fall semester. And I saw my classmates going through some rather unpleasant hazing, being left 40 miles outside of town and having to make their way back on foot [laugh] on a snowy winter night. My closest friend in my EP class had become a pledge of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. And he came into an early Monday morning physics recitation class after having practically no sleep overnight. I said, “Dave, what’s wrong?” He wasn’t so happy about the 8:00 a.m. surprise quiz that we had in our physics class on [laugh] that Monday morning. The sororities weren’t that bad as far as any kind of hazing was concerned. And I decided, what the heck? Why not see if any sorority will ask me to join?

I did become a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma; but fortunately I never lived in the house. The experience of sharing a suite in a nearby house with three Kappas during my second year was enough. I had to take a small room with just a desk and twin bed far from the living room to get much work done! I think the KKG sorority probably wanted me for my grade average. At least that was what I told myself. [laugh] Because I was too tall! And nowhere near as feminine or lively as my twin sister. So I think my being taken into a sorority surprised my parents.

My dad had been in a fraternity but found his fraternity brothers weren’t serious about their studies at the University of Cincinnati; so he got out of the fraternity. Well, Sigma Chi wanted him back, so he rejoined the fraternity. I think he really enjoyed some of the social life; but it must have been limited both by his studies, and by the fact that he was engaged to my mother, who was about two thousand miles away studying at Pomona College in California!

At Cornell, classmate Dave Rossin would invite me to parties that were held jointly by his fraternity Zeta Beta Tau (a Jewish fraternity) and Sigma Chi. There were 60 total fraternities on the Cornell campus. Many sponsored house-party weekends that occurred originally three times a year— Couples could just go to a lot of different fraternities and drink and dance throughout the entire weekend. That was really something, especially for the women. Because the men could live in dorms. They could live off campus. They could live in fraternities. Women? No. We had to live in dormitories and be supervised by an older woman with a junior-or senior-level student who was the dormitory president for the Women’s Student Government Association (WSGA). But there was always some older woman available. The women had to be into their dormitories, or sororities if they happened to live in the sorority house, by 10:30 at night. Curfew! Except on Fridays, 12:30. Saturdays, 1:00 a.m.

So anyway [laugh] it was very different for women, except when they had the fall weekend or the junior week between semesters, or the spring weekend. Then all the limits were off. Why? Because they had alumni and alumnae, usually married couples, who had been at Cornell, and they came to monitor, to supervise. But there was a lot of drinking that went on. Because you could start drinking in New York state by age 18 in those years, and nobody cared whether you were 17 or 18. Eventually it got pushed up to age 21. So Cornell social life was unlike that where my sister was, at Miami University; students there could drink only 3.2 beer—3.2% alcohol—and I think they couldn't get it on campus. [laugh] But anyway, we at Cornell, we could drink all kinds of stuff, —and, since drinking on campus was legal, you really learned how to drink in moderation at nice dinner parties. In my sophomore year I went to these house party weekends with a German exchange student, and we did a combination of, gosh, jitterbugging and the Charleston, I guess.

And then my junior year, where did I go? Well, one of the sixty fraternities was Telluride House, and that played a role in my career at Cornell. Because it was men only it was considered a fraternity—but members included graduate students and undergraduates and often hosted outstanding Cornell faculty members as well as scholars from other universities. Telluride had a large music room and library and could provide rooms for short- or long-term visitors – e.g., a British concert pianist, the historian Henry Steele Commager, aerodynamicist Theodore von Karman, and even the entire Hungarian String quartet. Steve Weinberg, the theoretical physicist and Nobel-prize winner, was an undergraduate member of Telluride for a while, until (I believe) he was found to have broken a rule, by taking his girlfriend/fiancée Louise to one of the upper floors of Telluride. (The true story may have been that Steve tired of the many activities and the intellectual stress of Telluride house. — The men students of Telluride ran their own affairs, with money that was provided by the benefactor L.L. Nun, who had owned tellurium mines, and used his money to establish at least two other Telluride university houses, as well as a Telluride junior college in California. They didn't have any watchdog. There was no mother hen, no elderly or middle-aged woman to keep track of the men. They ran their own affairs. I wanted to see a woman’s Telluride established at Cornell (and partly for that reason let myself be drawn into student government positions).

In my third year at Cornell, I frequently saw a Hungarian friend, Mike Moravcsik, a Telluride member who was a graduate student and studying theoretical physics with Hans Bethe. Mike had escaped Hungary in the late forties and had attended Harvard for his undergraduate studies. His father, a professor of Babylonian history, and other family members could not leave Budapest. It was under the Communist government after the war years. But he did at least have an uncle and a younger brother in the U.S.; I once met the brother, Julius Moravcsik, who studied philosophy at Harvard. Well, Mike was six feet five inches tall. I could wear my heels to Telluride parties or receptions [laugh] and be a little over six feet without feeling uncomfortable And I would go with Mike occasionally to house party weekends at Telluride, until he finally decided, well, he wanted to have a premarital affair, to put it bluntly, and I wasn’t interested. I used to say to myself and have even in recent years said it to other people—it’s hard for a woman who is reasonably attractive but is really focused on a career—hard to find a man who is attractive and interesting, and also supportive of a woman’s career. Mike was interesting. But I wasn’t ready to think about any long-term relationship. I think that wasn’t the only thing that kept me from serious dating. Besides being very busy with my studies, I had gotten into women’s student government; and I was doing a lot of music, as pianist for operettas like “H.M.S. Pinafore” and “Trial by Jury,” plus other stage productions, as well as some chamber music. I don’t know why it is, but scientists love Gilbert and Sullivan. Many physicists and mathematicians may not sing themselves, but they love to listen to Gilbert and Sullivan, it seems to me. Music and square dancing seemed to characterize the physicists’ extracurricular activities at Cornell, both faculty and graduate students.

So anyway, I dated Mike for quite a while and saw what Telluride House was like. The students had marvelous learning experiences; they had faculty coming to dinner frequently. Faculty guests included an outstanding historian, Mario Einaudi, or a math professor, Mark Kac, who was originally from Poland. Einaudi was the son of one of the former premiers of Italy, and he was the outstanding government professor. In fact, there’s a Mario Einaudi Center within the law school at Cornell. Professor Einaudi taught government and wrote books on Communism in Western Europe. I took an outstanding course from Einaudi, as one of very few electives allowed in the ten-semester (180 credit hours) curriculum of the School of Engineering Physics; that course took place the very semester that Stalin died, in 1953, and Einaudi lectured extensively on the probable future developments in the Soviet Union. Another frequent dinner guest at Telluride was nuclear physicist Philip Morrison; he had participated in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos and had gotten his Ph.D. in 1948 at Chicago, under Enrico Fermi before coming to Cornell. Besides getting to know him through a graduate course I took in electrodynamics, I admired him for his writings in Scientific American and for his efforts on arms control. I learned from my Telluride acquaintances that, no matter what the background was of the 30 or so members of Telluride House, they would often be put on the spot during the dinner meal with a visiting faculty member and expected to engage in discussion. It was sort of a pressure cooker, intellectually. Cornell’s Telluride House still survives. And guess what? It became co-ed! But that was what I wanted for Cornell women, because I got to visit for receptions and parties, and to enjoy discussions and music.

Well, they were entertaining and giving rooms to the Hungarian String Quartet, for example. Quartet members didn't all speak to each other, so they had to have separate rooms! But that was great for my Telluride friend Mike Moravcsik. I don’t know if he even managed to speak much Hungarian with them, but I’m sure he enjoyed their music. And then they had Henry Steele Commager coming out from Columbia University during the McCarthy period. This is when I was a student, the McCarthy era. I was an ex officio member of Cornell’s Student Council because I had become president of the Women’s Student Government Association; along with other Council members, I engaged in writing letters to attempt to save the careers of faculty (at various universities) who were being investigated by Senator McCarthy’s committee and/or the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC). And we really were concerned about McCarthyism. Cornell had a series of campus lectures on the dangers of McCarthyism delivered by Henry Steele Commager (with a reception at Telluride). And you're too young to have lived through that era, but heads of universities were speaking out. That included the president of Harvard. They were condemning McCarthy and telling him to stay away from their universities. Ruined the career of Robert Oppenheimer’s younger brother, Frank Oppenheimer. He and his wife—he was let go from the University of Colorado. But we were writing letters trying to support people we knew of at various other universities. Physics professor Philip Morrison was interrogated, not by McCarthy’s Senate committee, but by the House Unamerican Activities Committee. They came into Cornell, and they interviewed a few faculty who had been members or supporters of the Communist Party because of the original Marxist ideas. I don’t think Robert Oppenheimer ever joined the Communist Party, but he gave money to it. But his brother and his brother’s wife had, and of course Oppenheimer knew many people who were advocates of communism.

But to return to my experiences at Telluride House, and my friendship with my physicist friend Mike… Telluride had a marvelous library of records. I heard for the first time Poulenc’s double- piano concerto as well as various chamber-music ensembles. They had a resident for a whole year who was a professional pianist from England. Unfortunately he didn't play very often for the people in Telluride, but the House did have a wonderful piano. So I’d go to these house party weekends and often play the piano myself. On one occasion, I thought Mike was giving me a glass of wine. I decided to chug-a-lug it just because I was busy playing some baroque music with Mike’s Telluride friend Joel Cohen. And both Mike and he wrote musical reviews for the Cornell Daily Sun. They were both into that kind of writing. I think Joel was a student in Industrial Labor Relations, the ILR school. I didn't know him really well except when I was at Telluride, and we got to play music. So I chug-a-lugged what turned out to be scotch. It was either scotch or brandy. [laugh]

Behrman:

Oh, no. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

I'm a big person. It didn't faze me that much. But I thought I was a chug-a-lugging a glass of wine. I know I did sober down, because we went to a ball in a great big gym place, Barton Hall. Mike and I were able to dance _ and sober up – to the music of Ray Anthony and his popular band. What would they call it? Ragtime music in those days. I recall a sort of theme-song for that band was “When the Saints Come Marching In.”

Behrman:

Yeah, ragtime.

Button-Shafer:

But the funniest experience was not on a house-party weekend; it was when just some ordinary party was taking place at Telluride. I was dancing with Mike in a big, crowded room. There I was, a little over six feet tall with my two-and- a-half-inch high heels, dancing with my 6-ft-5-inch partner. Suddenly the recorded music switched from a slow dance to the polka, a lively European folk dance. Mike and I thought we knew a little bit about dancing. But there’s a 180-degree turn every few steps as you do the polka. Our heights made us rather conspicuous. We suddenly realized all the other people who were in this fairly large room were backing away to the walls, saying “Look out, here they come.” [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

So, you know, you can’t hide your height, if you're taller than most of your contemporaries. It probably paid off in the sense that I saw through the years that I was less likely to have other (male) students come and say, “Oh, can I help you with those problems?” or “How are you doing?” when I was working in the physics library, or was busy with an experiment. Steve Weinberg, who was rather a loner (often living off campus as a student), did call me up to discuss some math homework problems a couple of times overnight, when I was locked in my dorm; those were welcome interruptions! There were sophisticated problems assigned weekly by Professor Mark Kac for an advanced mathematical methods course taken by undergraduate and graduate students in Physics and Engineering. Kac encouraged students to work together on homework, and men students would often collaborate in overnight sessions in dormitories or fraternity houses… something not possible for an undergraduate woman. Weinberg was a year behind me as a physics major. He and I finished our programs (mine being the five-year Engineering Physics curriculum) the same year, 1954, but he started a year after I did, along with a bunch of other guys who came from the Bronx High School of Science. And Steve was a little different from some of his high-school contemporaries… less of a rebel, but rather a loner. I became acquainted with Steve not only from advanced physics and mathematics courses, but also because of interactions at Telluride House. I don’t know whether you had occasion to interview him or read any interviews with him. He’s now 88 years of age or so and has remained pretty active in physics. Besides doing particle theory (that won him, with Glashow and Salam, the Nobel Prize in Physics for electroweak unification in 1979), Steve went into gravity—wrote a big, thick tome on gravitation and cosmology, as well as a popular book The First Three Minutes. In the early fifties, Weinberg was already becoming fairly well known at Cornell, but he was a loner, and he tended to live off campus. When I got to know him, from classes and from Telluride House, he was already dating Louise Goldwasser, who was in creative writing at Cornell, and was a superb actress; Louise eventually became a lawyer.

But Steve called me up at 3:00 AM one morning, when we were both taking this very demanding math course. It was meant to be for graduate students, but it was also taken by undergraduate engineering physics students and most physics majors. But many, many graduate students, electrical engineers who were graduate students in radio astronomy, and people from aeronautical engineering. So it was a huge, huge class. I remember Steve’s calling me up at 3:00 a.m. one morning, to discuss mathematics problems assigned to a large class of Physics and Engineering students. I of course was locked in the dorm during my fourth year but everyone all over campus who was in this sophisticated two-semester mathematics course of Mark Kac tended to stay up all night long to do the weekly problem sets. (I would occasionally meet some of my Engineering Physics classmates for breakfast in the student union, Willard Straight Hall, to compare our problem solutions before going to Prof. Kac’ class. —K-A-C—there’s something called Kac algebra. And I thought he been given the Field prize, which is the mathematician’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize, except that you can’t be over 40 to have an award. No, I was misinformed. I looked up on the internet not very long ago and found he had some other prize. I don’t remember what it was called. It has a name associated with it, but not a famous name like Nobel. But it involved a lot of money. He got his prize—it was almost equivalent to a Nobel Prize—for differential equations, and he was an also an expert in probability theory. Mark Kac worked with Feynman at one point. In fact, there is some mathematics called Kac-Feynman theory. But he was one of the most outstanding, if not the most outstanding professor at Cornell.

And he—what was I going to say? Oh, I know. Steve called me up at my dorm room, at 3:00 a.m. one morning— “How are you doing on problem three?” [laugh] Of Kac’s assignment. Because he would give us this weekly problem set, and he would write it on the board. Apparently, they didn't have duplicating machines, even the old mimeograph type of thing, so he would write by hand with chalk, and maybe give us six or eight problems to do every week. He encouraged us to work in groups, because that’s what they did in Poland. Or if you were in Vienna, or you were in Paris, the mathematicians would gather for a bit of wine or lunch, and they’d have tablecloths they could write on. This was carried through in CERN, by the way, if you've heard much about the Center for European Research Nuclear. CERN was really just starting in the late fifties, early sixties. But it became well-known for its cafeteria. And you could drink wine with your meals at the CERN cafeteria. You could also write down your physics or your math problems, either on the tablecloth or perhaps on plastic tabletops. So anyway, to go back to Cornell’s Mark Kac, he encouraged cooperation, and that’s the way a lot of ideas were developed, especially in various European cafes or coffee houses. Years later, my husband, who studied “pure mathematics” rather than the “applied” math used by physicists, informed me there was a group of mathematicians who called themselves the Bourbaki (after the mathaematician who started the group). They gathered in Paris and worked individually and collectively on mathematics problems in the early-to-mid 1900s and published many papers under the name Bourbaki. — Have you heard of that? I found that remarkable, as most mathematicians I have known in the U.S. have tended to be introverts.

Behrman:

Mmhmm!

Button-Shafer:

And they published under that name, and it was a bunch of different set of mathematicians. I don’t remember whether it was supposedly in Paris that this was developed? Or maybe in Vienna.

Behrman:

Gosh, I can’t remember either.

Button-Shafer:

There may have been offshoots anyway. But it was a composite, a group of mathematicians who would, at different time periods, push the solutions of a problem just a little further, and eventually get to the point where they would publish, under the name of Bourbaki. I've never tried looking up any publications. But anyway, mathematicians do—even though they seem like loners [laugh], especially those who do what I call pure mathematics as opposed to applied mathematics—but they often work on each other’s problems. I even learned about what we call “Lagrangians” in the same advanced classical mechanics class where Steve learned them. I once knew as much about some of the mathematical structures underlying advances in theoretical physics as my one-time undergraduate contemporaries!

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

—as he did. We were learning Lagrangians at the same time. And the professor who taught it happened to be an experimentalist, a Professor Woodward. And he always seemed maybe a little tipsy; probably he was working long hours in research. He somehow put together a rather unfair preliminary examination, one of the two or three prelims, as we called them, or midterm exams, for the semester; he grabbed for problems that he had used previously, but he went ahead of where he had been in his lectures. Might have been the first midterm of the semester, when I was in my fourth year and Steve was probably in his third year. Prof. Woodward had not yet gotten to the point in his lectures where he wanted to describe Lagrangians or Hamiltonians. (The term Lagrangian comes from a French mathematician, Lagrange. And Hamilton was the name of an Irish mathematician.) And we hadn’t had any training in constructing Lagrangians or Hamiltonians for mechanical problems. We hadn’t had any homework. We hadn’t had any lecture, yet. And there were one or two problems on the prelim exam that involved Lagrangians. Steve and I were used to getting essentially perfect grades [laugh] and we were stumped, because neither of us had gone ahead with the more advanced textbook material. We protested to Woodward about the unfair examination. He apologized and said, “Oh, you're right. I hadn’t yet covered that in class. Well, why don’t you come up to my office in the nuclear physics lab, Newman Lab?” We both went to Woodward’s small office to take a makeup exam; Steve and I sat across the table from each other in the outer part of this Professor Woodward’s office. And I still remember one of the problems in particular: there was a circular piece of wire, and it had little beads, three beads, and they were connected by springs. They were identical beads, same mass. They could slide freely except for the springs connecting neighboring beads. You could set one or more of the beads in oscillation, and they would eventually get into what we call normal modes, and you could describe their motion with use of a Lagrangian! And I creamed that test. [laugh] By then, I had learned something about Lagrangians. It came a few weeks after the test that had been unfair. So I'm sure I got 100% on that, and I have no doubt that Steve did, too, but I've never gotten around to asking him.

We have been in touch for many years, in Berkeley, CA, and in Massachusetts. Steve and Louise were present at my 1962 wedding to John Shafer in Berkeley; and we often saw each other at UC Berkeley functions (although I could be only a Lecturer on the Physics faculty, as no woman was hired in those days). Steve and Louise moved to Cambridge in the late 1960s primarily so Louise could attend Harvard Law School. I heard presentations Steve gave on arms control issues in the late seventies, in Massachusetts. We exchanged Christmas cards. [laugh] I also asked him in the early 1990s if he would assist the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics in advising in an attempt by the American Physical Society to match experienced women physicist with open academic positions. The matching of lists, one of interested women physicists with a list of open university positions, had been attempted earlier through efforts of long-time APS administrator Joe Burton and perhaps others; but it was felt that this effort might be more successful if done by a subgroup of CSWP members who could contact established university scientists for assistance with individual cases. (I was asked to lead the subgroup by the CSWP chair, Barbara Wilson; our liaison person from the APS executive committee, Miriam Forman, probably also passed on encouragement and advice.) The two who were to assist me in the subgroup were Irene Engle, a theorist on the Physics faculty at Annapolis, and Shirley Jackson, a condensed-matter researcher then at Bell Labs. So I called up Steve Weinberg. I said, “Hey, Steve, we're doing something differently this time.” He immediately agreed to help with recommendations for anyone he knew and respected. I think he might even have served the first time this matching of women to academic positions had been attempted. But I called up and asked him—because I was urged to do so. A woman named Barbara Wilson, who was very active at Bell Labs in low-temperature condensed-matter experiments, was the chair of the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, where I served for a few years at Millie Dresselhaus’s recommendation. (I was well aware of Millie’s background in experimental work as graduate student in Chicago, postdoc at Cornell, researcher at MIT’s Lincoln Labs, and then engineering faculty member at MIT… and we related to each other not only through physics, but also chamber-music enthusiasts.) Also, I believe that the CSWP organization was established in the early 1970s in part because of the efforts of high-energy experimentalist Vera Kistiakowsky, who went from Brandeis faculty to MIT.) Partly because I was primarily acquainted with women experimentalists, I found somewhat disappoint that the members of the CSWP were mostly theorists. I had to convince them that contacting only well-established theoretical professors would not necessarily be useful in trying to locate positions for promising women experimentalists. (I could suggest contacting George Trilling at UC Berkeley or other prominent experimenters in my own field; but I had some misgivings over contacting experimentalists in other field when I knew them more from reputation than personal contact.) I had hoped for assistance from Shirley Jackson in locating an adviser that we could tap in solid state; but I found that she had too often been asked to help advise Bell Labs and other institutions on minority issues. During my period of service, the CSWP committee included more theorists than experimenters; they were all women, most younger than I, except for one sort of crusty fellow, Frank McDonald. An old-timer from NASA, he was the token male [laugh] I think, on CSWP in the early nineties.

Our CSWP chair Barbara Wilson said, “Well, Shirley is always called on in dealing with minority issues being Black and having gone through MIT and having a PhD”—actually in elementary particle physics -, and then she went more into condensed matter physics, at least at Bell Labs. So Barb said, “Well, we couldn't really—” Shirley would give lip service, but I couldn't seem to get other people to recommend experimentalists. So I did my best because I was chairing this subgroup, and I found I was [laugh] being expected—I think I asked George Trilling if he could serve, to look over resumes from women who were applying. And there was a woman, a particle-physics researcher who hoped for a faculty position at Stanford; she was at SLAC, and she thought she had been badly treated and moved off an experimental project because she dared to question the opinion of a senior physicist, one who happened to be friend of mine. And she did go to academia. I helped her by securing a good recommendation for her – not for Stanford, which has a small department, but at another institution. But, you know, I went through eye surgery, and then lung surgery at this time. But I did what I could in seeking letters of recommendation. And I don’t know how many women physicists were helped. Maybe you know something of the history. An example of someone quite senior who sought help from my committee was Esther Conwell. She had been at University of Rochester, as an adjunct professor, while still working at Xerox. She was outstanding, especially in semiconductor work, but really getting on in years. The problem was trying to find a woman of the right age, with the right background, that would be attractive to a university department. Barbara Wilson herself was interested. That may be the reason that she gave me the chairmanship of the subgroup. But she, who was chairing the whole CSWP—yeah, Committee on the Status of Women—she herself wanted to move from Bell Labs. I tried to help her as she sought a position in California. I think I contacted both Berkeley and also UCLA. But she ended up going to JPL, the Jet Propulsion Lab near Pasadena. It wasn’t easy to make a match. And this is before the internet was used very extensively. [laugh] And Irene Engle at one point had a list of applicants that disappeared. I was responsible for getting advisors or the older people that would make the recommendations. Irene was more responsible for assembling a list of the women who wanted to be helped by some recommendations from senior people and wanted to get into academia. At one point, she hit the wrong key, and the whole list disappeared. [laugh] We had to reconstruct the list from some printout.

Behrman:

Oh, gosh!

Button-Shafer:

She was a theorist after all. She wasn’t an experimentalist. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Anyway, there were some bumpy passages. And the young woman at SLAC really wanted to use our assistance to see if she could get a Nobel Prize. She actually gave a talk at an APS meeting, an invited talk, when she said, “Well, I should have been given a Nobel Prize.” [laugh] Because she had taken some theory developed at SLAC and had managed to find interesting evidence in some data of the high-energy electron interactions. But I felt—she didn't develop the theory. I had experiments that I did that were based on my own rather crude theory, but I delighted in trying to develop some theoretical ideas for publications that had either only my own name or just a few names. I have over 500 publications, but I'm happiest with the first dozen, shall we say? [laugh] Anyway, I should tell you a story, having to do with women in physics, about Barbara Wilson. Have you met her? Do you know the name at all? Barbara Wilson?

Behrman:

I've heard of her, but I haven't met her, though, no.

Button-Shafer:

Somewhat younger than I, and she told me two things. One was about Bell Labs, where some experimentalist, an acquaintance of hers, a fellow down the fall, came rushing in because he had a woman summer student and he wanted Barbara to show the summer student how to put a transfer line into a cryostat. I guess it was too close to being similar to a male organ [laugh] being used in intercourse; so he wanted Barbara, the only woman physicist he knew well, to explain the transfer line insertion. [laugh]

Behrman:

Oh, my gosh.

Button-Shafer:

But the thing that’s most applicable about Barbara is that she told me that she had a sister—I don’t remember whether it was an older or younger sister—who, when Barbara was about to be married, many decades ago, said to Barbara, “I can’t imagine why any man would want to marry a computer.” [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Anyway, Barbara did remarry, I think, and I discovered only recently, through the internet, she did work for JPL for quite a while, and I think had a very distinguished position. I asked my daughter (whom you interviewed about her research in Space Physics at Caltech) if she knew her, because she knows some people at JPL, but it’s a big place, and Barbara is a more hands-on experimental, condensed matter physicist engaged in some sort of micro-electronics. She has had a very distinguished career. And she lives not far from me, up in Altadena! I had seen her by chance, after many years had gone by. After I moved from Berkeley to Pasadena, in 2010, I ran into her at an APS fellows meeting over at UCLA. And she looked different. She had long blonde hair by then. But she seemed very happy at JPL. She and I were really—I was thrilled to get acquainted with her, because she was perhaps the only significant experimentalist woman on this Committee on the Status of Women in Physics. And by the way, I discovered, leafing through some things I had collected on women and some of the issues of the Gazette—that the committee is no longer dealing with problems affecting just women. Members are also representing Blacks.

Behrman:

Yes.

Button-Shafer:

In the 1990s, when I was a member of CSWP, we would occasionally try to have a joint meeting with the committee representing Black physicists, or somebody would report on what had been taking place at the committee that was separate. I don’t know when that union occurred, but we were hoping it would occur way back in the early nineties. But by now, I think Blacks are still way, way underrepresented. But a lot of the problems are similar.

Anyway, another thing that I got that’s characteristic of what siblings can do—it’s not just parents [laugh]—I asked my dad, toward the end of his life, if he remembered telling me when I was 12 or 13 that I was abnormal, thinking of my height but also my seriousness and my interest—that if I were still interested when I got to college, that would be soon enough. No, he didn't remember it. But he did remember my coming home from Cornell and asking why he wasn’t reading The New York Times [laugh] instead of the local paper. [laugh] It was the only serious newspaper, as far as I was concerned. [laugh] Anyway, parents remember different things.

But my friend—this is a woman named Frieda Stahl—S-T-A-H-L—and she had served not only as Physics Department chair but had also been a dean for a few years at Cal State L.A. and had gotten her PhD only after she was already teaching. So she did things relating to liquids and phase transitions for her PhD down at Claremont Colleges in California. But we had a ball discussing physics and physicists, especially some of the situations that often confront women in physics. After Frieda moved into my senior retirement community, a few years later than I, we discovered, “Hey, there’s another woman physicist, and she’s an experimentalist!” And of course my field’s quite different. I was introduced to physics and engineering ideas by my engineer dad by the time I was age eight, and that was in the late thirties. But anyway, Freida didn't discover—she was the one who started at Hunter College thinking she might go into journalism and then suddenly discovered physics. So she didn't really discover physics until early forties when she was there at Hunter College. Frieda told me what happened to her when she was still high school years or possibly early college years in interactions within her family; a sister of hers, who didn't go into any area of science, said to Freida, “I don’t know why you keep on saying things that make you so unpopular.” In other words, Frieda was very serious and probably very much interested in science. She also has a lot of interest in language—some Yiddish, she knows some German. And politics. She and I talk about music and—she loves music. Used to sing, a long time ago. Daughter is a clarinetist who’s into—what do I want to call it? Her daughter is in medical technology. Anyway, the daughter works closely with people who have liver disease and knows a lot about science in general. Then she has a son who is an aircraft pilot. So very precocious grown kids. And Frieda is not doing well as far as health goes—she’s 96 or so—but she and I have had various discussions about amusing and frustrating problems for women in academia. For example, she described being in her office at Cal State L.A. and having a male student, probably from a middle-East country, come to see her about a course she was to teach in the coming semester; he was so shocked to find a woman in the office and couldn't believe that a woman would be teaching physics. He dropped the class!

But in any event, Barbara Wilson (whom I knew from CSWP service in the early 1990s) and Frieda (who moved into my Pasadena retirement community a few years after me) are the only women physicists I have known in recent years, besides my daughter Christina Cohen; all three have been in fields very different from mine. Another woman I knew rather well, because of connections between Berkeley experimentalists and UCLA physicists, was Nina Byers; although we had been in touch off and on since 1960, I saw her only once after moving to Pasadena. She married rather late in life and seemed dismissive of any woman physicist who found time to raise children. I haven't run into that many women physicists! [laugh] It has been interesting to hear occasionally the put-downs they have had.

My dad, I think, was pleased when I was accepted at Cornell. But I couldn't come home and tell him about some nifty problems I had in a course that was called Dynamics. The text was a marvelous book that physicists normally don’t get exposed to. Maybe if you're in graduate level in solid state. It had about seven different editions. I was on the fourth edition, but I found it was still being used as a reference. Written by a Stanford professor of Russian origin, and it’s marvelous, and it really helped me learn calculus. It was on strength of materials. I discovered that a lot of the engineering courses supplemented or meshed with what I learned in physics, but in a different style. I was fortunate to have training from marvelous mathematicians like Kac, who would get problems from radio astronomy, from nuclear physics, and so on. He would feed physics problems into the assignments he would give. And Philip Morrison, the physicist, was somewhat the same way. He would gather problems from other fields. Anyway, I rather regret I didn't go into solid-state physics, because I think you can still do small-scale physics, table-top physics, in condensed-matter and atomic physics; you can design and construct your own apparatus, and that has not really been possible in accelerator-based particle physics in recent years. Looking back on my Cornell training, I was even aware of it while I was still at Cornell. But having gotten started on a pathway with Marie Curie being my role model at age 12 or so, when I first read Ève Curie, her younger daughter’s biography, Madame Curie. Oh, and then there was this movie with Greer Garson as Marie Curie.

Behrman:

Yes!

Button-Shafer:

And Walter Pidgeon as Pierre Curie. [laugh] That was such a wonderful, romantic movie! But anyway, I really took my cue from what was written about Marie Curie, not from the movie. I latched onto what I read about Marie Curie. Maybe not when I first read the book, but later; I really came to like the statement that she made to a journalist who was pestering her. You may know the story. Marie Curie was by herself, on vacation, with her two young daughters, Irène and Eve, maybe with her father-in-law. But Pierre Curie had had to go back to Paris to his lab or maybe his lectures. A journalist was intruding, and since Marie wanted to get rid of the journalist, she made the statement, “Scientists are interested in things, not people.” So that sort of became my mantra. But I discovered some years later that I had misremembered it. And Segrè quotes it in French, in the introduction of one of his books; what Marie Curie really said to the journalist was that scientists OUGHT to be interested in things, not people. I looked up quotations of Marie Curie on the internet just a few days ago and found eleven quotes of Marie Curie. My favorite is there, in English, as number five of the 11 posted quotes, with the heading "11 Marie Curie quotes that prove women belong in STEM fields.” [laugh] Are you intending to focus on women who have been overlooked or have never been interviewed for oral histories?

Behrman:

Yes. My specialty is women in the history of physics.

Button-Shafer:

Yeah, I thought that might be the case. Because I discovered that you had interviewed Margaret Kivelson, whom I met—I met her at UCLA when Christina was giving her first conference presentation as a graduate student. Although still a faculty member at UMass, I had applied for an NSF Visiting Professorship for Women for 1992-93 in order to do research at LBL and SLAC and to teach at UC Berkeley. Margaret Kivelson had organized a special space physics conference on the magnetospheres of the outer planets, and I decided to attend to see what I could learn about my daughter’s field. She was seated at the auditorium entrance when I arrived at the start of presentations and was very kind in welcoming me as a physicist AND the mother of a graduate student speaker And I literally had never heard of her name before, as our fields were very different. And I could just walk in, for free. You can’t do that in recent times. I tried to join my daughter and a granddaughter more recently for the AGU (American Geophysical Union) meetings in San Francisco in 2018. Christina’s younger girl, Maya, has been majoring in geophysics. And Maya very much wanted to join as a student the AGU—American Geophysical Union—which is what Christina belongs to, as you probably know. And I said, “Hey, if Maya is going to come from Washington University, St. Louis, and going to fly out”—I was asked could I help her out financially—and she said, “She’s going to fly out for the December meeting, their annual meeting, to San Francisco.” They just resumed meeting, as they always had before, annually, in San Francisco, until reconstruction of the convention center became necessary. It was the resumption of their San Francisco annual meeting. I was told, even though I've been an APS member for a long time, I would have to pay $500 to hear even one—to go into even one session. So [laugh] I didn't go to hear my daughter’s talk on the Parker Solar Probe. Christina (Cohen) also was responsible for a poster session. I came home from the AGU meeting with a very large poster presenting Solar Probe data. She has been president of aeronomy and space physics, or something, or the chair of that section, as you probably know. But it was fun – to join Christina and Maya for some of the general activities that drew amazing numbers of AGU geo- and helio-physics researchers (many of them young women) to the S.F. meeting. I've seen Kivelson only once since the UCLA conference of the early nineties. Much, much later, I heard her give a colloquium talk up in Berkeley, and it was mostly on women in science. She must be 92 years of age by now, and Christina tells me that Margie, as she calls her, is giving a talk this Friday. I guess it’s supposed to be by invitation. And it’s about women in science I was a little stunned to find that I think—that a number of women older than I, who are just now being discovered, are being interviewed for the AIP oral history project. So that’s great.

Behrman:

Yeah. It’s definitely an area I’d really like to expand in the collection.

Button-Shafer:

Because there have been so few women. And men have always been awkward as far as—if you run into an old friend that you've known when he was a graduate student and you were a postdoc, or maybe you were a contemporary—if you're a contemporary, it’s a little different, but men—I was more comfortable in Germany with the wonderful physicist whose thesis I helped with, and one of the best experimentalists I've ever known. But when I came back to this country, I found that you would be careful, as a woman. That men were maybe frightened, or—there were six or more bachelor types in Berkeley who were all four, five, six years ahead of me. And one or two who were out at Livermore. But you couldn’t [inaudible] just walk up and join them at the cafeteria, when I was unmarried, or just say something, or just sit down at a meeting next to one of the postdocs, even if he was only four or five years older, because they were awkward with women! They were suspicious that a woman was there because she was looking for a man, not because she was interested in physics conversation! [laugh] So anyway—or you'd run into somebody in a lab that you hadn’t seen for a long time. “Oh, gee.” I was [inaudible] a professor at Stony Brook. And you could chat, but it would take—I had a Black engineer whom I hired. He had been [sigh] an engineer—as an undergrad, being Black, wasn’t allowed to pursue graduate work. So he was in New York for a while, and worked at Brookhaven Lab, helped people from NYU, for example. Was promised he could get a PhD there. But then the professor retired, and it didn't happen. So he went to Yale. And the Yale people wanted to see—some colleague of mine who had come from Yale [inaudible] said, “Hey, could you perhaps hire Irving Winters as maybe a part-time engineer. He’s remarried. He’s got a wife who’s going to be a dean at Smith College.” I did hire him on a part-time basis. He told me I was a better engineer in some respects [laugh] than he was. But he got his PhD at the UMass, worked for me, and he also was brought into the SEBS [inaudible] program for colored students, under engineering, so he was part of the administration over in engineering. But he fulfilled some graduate course requirements, and he took his Graduate Record Exam approaching age 55, maybe 60. He was at the top. He got above 99th percentile or so, for the Graduate Record Exam, for engineering. And he got a PhD, through DEC [inaudible], the Digital Equipment. He was Black. He behaved better with me than male colleagues have. [laugh] If we went to Brookhaven Lab, and he was with me, and maybe I had one or two undergraduates, and I was trying to make arrangements for some hardware I designed, some low-temperature spin polarized target, he very kindly—he was well-known at Brookhaven Lab to the technicians, and he would say, “Well, you'll have to ask Janice. You'll have to ask Professor Shafer, because she did the original design work. I didn't.” I would have younger physicists—a colleague when I was out in Berkeley trying to see if I could put my low-temperature polarized proton target into a bubble chamber, and some guy who hadn’t been involved in the early design work but was solid state, and he had done his thesis work with the phenomenon that I was trying to make use of, having been encouraged to do so by his former thesis advisor at Berkeley. And up at the lab, the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, we talked to some engineers about putting my target [laugh] inside a bubble chamber; he just took over! And he was younger than I was! Or if I’d go to see him in his office, he would let a student ask him questions, and I’d have to wait and wait in the hallway.

I mean, I have had many experiences—some of them were nice experiences but were a little peculiar, because they didn't think I was husky enough to lift the lead brick, you know. Some of them are just funny. But other experiences were annoying, and a waste of time. Occasionally a graduate students (often not very experienced, and barely my height!) would try to take hardware out of my hands, because he didn't believe a woman should handle hardware, or such things as liquid nitrogen dewars. There were always things, and I would share them with Frieda. But I'm glad now that you're going after women scientists and seeking to have interviews of those who may have been overlooked. I'll have to send you a link to something I recently found on the internet: “11 Marie Curie Quotes That Prove That Women Belong in STEM Fields.” And the way my favorite quote translates into English is, “In science, we must be interested in things, not in persons.” But there are 11 things that she stated, remarks that I don’t recall finding elsewhere. There’s a picture of Marie Curie, of course, and attribution is given to a woman who put all this together.

In my Pasadena large senior residence there are a number of widows of Caltech professors, men who were in engineering or science; however, there are far fewer male residents who were themselves in science. But I have to watch my step! Because these women may have studied some science themselves but generally didn't. Or might have taught chemistry at the high school level. But very, very, very few women have any real science background. And you can be disliked, if you find [laugh] things that are in the sciences or in politics and you look at it. So Freida and I immediately latched on to each other.

Behrman:

Later on, I would certainly like to ask you for names of people that you think should be interviewed.

Button-Shafer:

I'm not sure I know many anymore. I mean, Millie Dresselhaus, I knew quite well, but she’s gone. And I'm sure you found her by yourself. Or you knew her; she was head of APS.

Behrman:

Very fortunately, she has been interviewed, I believe. And not by me, but by someone else. But I did want to turn back to college, though, because we didn't finish talking about—

Button-Shafer:

You ask the questions, because I'm giving you all these many digressions and answers that are too long. So go ahead.

Behrman:

It’s all valuable. It can all go into the transcript, and that’s fine.

Button-Shafer:

You can pick the pieces that you like. [laugh]

Behrman:

Don’t worry about it.

Button-Shafer:

My daughter did tell me, when I checked with her yesterday—I said I didn't really want to ask you—she told me that she really enjoyed the two hours of the interview she had with you, like the way the questions were phrased. But when I commented—I said, “Well, to jog my memory, I keep thinking of things like my slide rule.” And I was using a PowerPoint thing I put together, as a talk, when I first came down here, for people who were in a company. A young fellow and his wife were heading a company that they called Payoff, and it was down in Costa Mesa, very close to Newport Coast, my family had a time share with the Marriott Resorts.

I put together this PowerPoint thing, but it was for the women—the many, many women they had in their company, that was basically kind of a computer-oriented company. But they were fascinated that I was a physicist. It was really put together in sort of in layman’s—but it has my entire history. And my daughter pointed out to me, she said, “Well, it’s just an oral interview. It’s just going to be a transcript.” And I already sent you, anyway, when we first were getting acquainted by email after my daughter mentioned me, and I think I sent you what I did recently for an internet collection of informal memoirs written by members of my “Class of ’53.” (I entered Cornell with the Class of ’53, but with fellow engineering students graduated from the five-year program not in 1953, but in 1954.)

Behrman:

Class of ’53. Yeah.

Button-Shafer:

The brief informal memoir that I wrote for Cornell emphasized things about my life that didn't use any physics language, to speak of. Unfortunately not too many of my contemporaries who studied in various field of engineering managed to put their life history together. But a couple of my Cornell engineering acquaintances have spotted my online memoir Anyway, but that was again, for the layman. It was similar to the thing that I gave as a talk for this Payoff Company. I should tell you at some point just a little more about my music involvement, especially chamber music, if you're interested.

But what I haven't covered is something that you asked about earlier: the many years (starting at age eleven) of battling cancer that threatened the life of one of my twin sons, the one who went into mechanical engineering. All three of my kids would probably have gotten PhDs in technical fields, but the one who was a cancer survivor stopped with a master’s degree in Product Design from Stanford. My son Charles almost died, as a lung metastasis coming from a very large muscle tumor (“rhabdomyosarcoma”) convinced oncologists in Boston that he could not survive more than a few months – just as he turned age twelve. I put this book together pretty recently. Christina may have mentioned it. Most of the time, Charles was her favorite twin. She became known as the sister of the twins. [laugh] She didn't appreciate that when she was age five. One of my colleagues wives said “hello” to Christina at about age five, and said, “You’re the sister of the twins, aren’t you?” who herself was the granddaughter of a Russian who developed the autogiro [inaudible]. Anyway. She was interesting. Sikorsky, I think. She was the granddaughter, and she married my astronomy colleague, Joe Taylor. And you must have heard Joe Taylor, who got the Nobel award for the binary pulsar and ended up leaving UMass and going—he had had his education at Harvard, was in a group run by a guy who was outstanding in radio astronomy. And Joe and his wife lived not very far from us, and their son Jeffrey is the same age as Christina.

So anyway—what was I going to say? Oh, I got off the track. Christina had her own experiences where she didn't want, as a young—oh, I know what I was going to say. This was the son that developed cancer. Had a big tumor in his head. Almost—it was seven-to-eight centimeters. And it was the worst kind of muscle tumor, destroying bone, and destroyed this joint. So he was predicted—he was eight pounds, eight ounces at birth, and his younger—by 10, 11 minutes—twin brother was seven pounds, 11. [laugh] That was enormous. I took [inaudible] week for each of my two sets of kids. My daughter [inaudible] grandmother to help, and then my two sons. With Christina, she was born sort of at the end of classes in May, so it wasn’t such a big deal. But we did take our baby down—my husband and I took Christina down to Brookhaven Lab. But anyway, when the two boys were born, I wanted them to be born between semesters. They went a little bit later, and went full-term, and were born in late February.

But this son, Charles, he did survive. And he should have been well over six feet, six feet two inches, but he was—with radiation and chemo, and then they found it metastasized—so that messed up the whole family, really. And really—Christina was in ninth grade. So she might have mentioned that to you. And the sad thing about it is that Christina was upset, she was angry, because of Charles getting this terrible disease, but she also felt that—and Charles was the quieter one [laugh] and the one that she could boss around a little more easily. John was mischievous and would play tricks on Christina. [laugh] He doesn't remember playing tricks on her, but she does. [laugh] So anyway, the twin relationship was sort of similar—with the identical twins, that were my kids—similar to what my sister and I had.

But anyway, Charles went through some pretty bad time, but he managed to keep up. And he went from Cornell to Stanford and got a master’s there. Charles has been doing very well. But the radiation problems came back on him in the sense that radiation therapy appears to have destroyed his vocal cords and part of his esophagus – as diagnosed 34 years after the massive radiation treatment of head and neck that Charles had when he was eleven. The original tumor was a muscle tumor destroying bone by the time it was diagnosed. He can’t open his mouth very far. But then he had to have surgery that removed his vocal cords. And that was just a few years back.

When Charles was still a child, I became a major advocate, pestering people and trying to find some treatment after doctors. (Boston oncologists (at the Jimmy Fund clinic that was part of the Sidney Farber, now Dana-Farber, cancer center) said, “Take him home. He’ll be dead in three months.” And that was happening in 1982, early ’82. He was diagnosed in the fall of ’81. We did get him growth hormones eventually, and he’s taller than he might have been, as radiation and probably this chemo as well resulted in Charles’ height being reduced by about a foot – heading toward an adult height of 5 ft. 2 in. rather than the pre-cancer prediction of 6 ft. 2 in. Growth hormone over many years got Charles up to about 5 ft 8 in.; but no longer looks like his twin brother, as regards not just his height, but also facial structure. Charles had some pretty bad surgery in 2015-16, when UCSF surgeons operated for an AVM (arterior-vascular malformation), and then removed his vocal cords and four inches of esophagus. You can have very late manifestations of what was probably due to the radiation (of fall 1981) and not the original tumor. Charles had had a metastatic tumor in the lung; however, that was discovered in the early eighties, and had been removed surgically. But the radiation therapy (almost 6,000 rads to the head tumor and also to lymph nodes in the throat) was less well limited or controlled in the eighties than it is now, and the chemo not quite so well developed.

Charles’ overall growth decreased greatly, and the right side of his jaw did not develop normally. A lot of the radiation of late 1981 went through the pituitary gland and some of the brain. But he has been remarkable. Today he communicates with everybody with his gadgets, iPhone, iPad, and computer. (Charles breathes through an opening in his neck. Several techniques that might be used to produce speech have been tried; but muscle destruction and fibrosis prevent him from forming words. He cannot eat some foods, as the destruction of his TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint) by the original tumor prevents him from opening his jaw very wide. Many teeth have been replaced by implants.) So Charles’ survival became my most important experiment.

I was sort of taken with the description of Myriam Sarachik, whom you've probably interviewed. She got a medal from the APS not long ago, and I rediscovered that when I was looking at some of the old stuff on women physicists that I had accumulated. I've had decades and decades of things that I've put aside in my file “Women in Science.” So I've got a file and collection here, and I've got then an electronic collection on my computer. But I've got an awful lot that comes from decades back, still up north. Because I thought in my retirement years, I would not only learn how to play the cello [laugh] and learn more about astrophysics, but I would also put together some writings on women in the sciences. But my collections have covered such a long span of time. And what I did notice about Myriam Sarachik, whom I've never met, is that a daughter died, the younger of her two daughters. That she and her husband went through a real tragic time. With Charles, I sort of joked about it, and sometimes would say—but it was really true—that his life became my most important experiment. Because it really changed what I was doing. And I've always wished that I could have used more of my [laugh] Cornell training. I still go back to that. That I should have gone into condensed matter physics! But it’s really enlarged so much, as you probably found out. You said when you were an undergraduate—did you get some training in solid state physics or condensed matter physics?

Behrman:

A bit, yeah. I worked in a lab a couple summers. Various different labs, trying to find what was right for me.

Button-Shafer:

It’s messy, but [laugh]— I remember learning about the Hartree-Fock method for treating many-body systems in an atomic physics course at Cornell. I asked Luis Alvarez whether he might have chosen a different field, something other than particle physics at accelerators, when I bumped into him a few years after leaving his group in 1966. I left the Alvarez group in Berkeley of my own choosing to go to Massachusetts. There was no woman on the Physics faculty at Berkeley. I had taught only as a lecturer – at the invitation of the UC Berkeley Physics Department chair. And it was a very political thing for any of the high-energy or particle physics groups to try to sponsor somebody to go from employment as a researcher to become a professor. There were unfair things and very politically skewed things that happened to male colleagues of mine. But anyway, but Luis tried to discourage me from going east to UMass, Amherst, where they wanted me to be co-head of a new high-energy experimental research group. At first I refused and then agreed to go in the Fall of 1966.

But quite a number of years later, I ran into Luis at a physics meeting, and we chatted a bit. I asked Luis if he might have chosen to go into a field other than particle physics… perhaps solid-state. His response: I go down to Hewlett-Packard and hear presentations there on solid-state research; I find them rather boring! But when I mentioned that I found low-temperature physics, especially liquid helium (and superfluidity) to be interesting, he said, Yes, that was an interesting field. [Note: Luis was probably responsible more than anyone else for my getting tenure at UMass. He and his wife Jan remained very friendly even after I left LBL to join the UMass faculty.]

In 1972, the UMass Physics department head (a particle theorist who had succeeded the well-liked Bob Gluckstern as Head) stripped my resume of everything except my degree dates and publications, and told me I would not get tenure. This was a person who was contemporary with me at Berkeley. But he was not very well educated generally, and had really stopped doing research. He appeared to be jealous of my reputation. So the one who had developed our department at UMass Amherst was Bob Gluckstern; he was about seven years my senior and a wonderful sort of applied theorist who had come up from Yale to build up the Physics and Astronomy joint department. He had left our department and become Provost at UMass and he eventually went down to the University of Maryland at College Park, where he became Chancellor. And my daughter had a course from him, Bob Gluckstern. And he was wonderful. I didn't think I needed mentors, and he told me that he had been informed by Berkeley people I would have been on the faculty there in physics, had I not been a woman. And I was [laugh] stunned by that.

So I came in at a very good salary, but he finally, after I had been there a few years—my co-head was Japanese in origin, and got his PhD at Yale, and kept trying to smear me. To make sure people—secretaries were supposed to call me “Mrs.” Anyway, he did a lot of nasty things. But Gluckstern called me in and said that he had seen me yield to Steve Yamamoto in faculty meetings time and again. I tried to help Steve feel better about himself, but he kept saying untrue things about me, and would take ideas that were mine and call them his. He actually tried to get me kicked out, shortly after I got there. So I had gone through a pretty miserable time with Steve. He finally gave up trying to dislodge me, after two attempts. But unfortunately the fellow—the theorist who became the head—not the chairman, but head of the department—stripped my resume and tried to get me denied tenure. Told me in advance that I wouldn't get tenure. I was careful about the list of references I submitted that might be write letters of recommendation for me. I included not only Luis Alvarez at Berkeley but also Harold Ticho at UCLA. I skipped Segrè. Segrè was very much inclined to keep younger group members’ names off publications, whether graduate students or postdocs in the Chamberlain- Segrè group. He possibly didn’t know or remember their contributions to experiments. (A British physicist who was very good, worked as a postdoc with the Chamberlain-Segrè group for a few years, starting when I was a graduate student. When he was later a faculty member at the University of Chicago, he failed to get tenure. There was no paper trail. Segrè kept his name off papers, because Segrè wanted only a few names on any publication. He really did a lot of politicking to try to get the antiproton Nobel award. He didn't design any of the apparatus. He didn't show up at the accelerators very often. He was trained as a chemical engineer and then worked with Fermi. He had a fantastic memory, and I enjoyed working with him when he first put together his textbook, Nuclei and Particles. But I could not have asked him for a recommendation and expected that he would know anything about my involvement with hardware or even with theory, for that matter.

Unfortunately, one of the most important publications I ever produced was published the year after I got married, and I chose to use J.B. Shafer—S-H-A-F-E-R on the list of three authors. Nobody knew me by that name. I didn't try using Button-hyphen-Shafer until later. If I was scheduled to present a paper at APS or other meetings, physicist friends didn't know I was giving a talk. It can be very difficult if you just go suddenly from your maiden name to your married name. I already had seven publications or more, to my name, as graduate student and postdoc; and suddenly, after getting married, I just assumed people would know who J.B. Shafer was. And the one most significant thing, with only three authors on it, that I published in 1963 as a member of the Alvarez group—and it was a very pretty thing. Spin parity, the Y*1385 [inaudible], and I had done a lot of hardware in connection with that—separated beam and many other things and being in charge of shifts and what have you. I had one hardware person, one graduate student, and my own name on that. But I was the one who developed the analysis project, guided the student, and chose to include my hardware-oriented friend Joe Murray. We were trying to match various resonant states to Murray Gell-Mann’s “eightfold way” predictions. [laugh]So this was a resonance state, a combination of lambda and pi, that fitted into the Gell-Mann “decuplet” with spin of three halves and plus parity.

But you know, I have often wished that I had pursued a career in solid state or condensed-matter physics, because there, you could design your own apparatus. You could go in and do some of your own machining, talk to the guys in the shop, and not be treated the way Lise Meitner was treated when her laboratory work-bench was called Otto Hahn’s work bench “Arbeitstisch” in an ATOMSCHAU (a 1994-5 commemorative presentation about fission on display in Frankfurt, Germany. The display was changed much later when it went to the Deutsches Museum in Munich, and gave proper credit for the uranium-fission discovery not only to Lise Meitner, but also to her nephew Otto Frisch – who visited Lise in Stockholm and helped to interpret results reported from Berlin by Hahn. But it’s the physics, and it’s the arms control issues that were very big in my life, but then also the problems of women in science. And it was always wonderful to help younger women, as you may have heard. You try to give a helping hand or advice to a younger woman. And it was explained to me by Gail Hanson at SLAC—and she said, “I tried to help a young woman who was a graduate student.” And she had had her PhD for some years and felt she would become fairly well-known. But she said, “I was looked at—because I wasn’t on the Stanford faculty, younger women didn't want to pay any attention. Either I wasn’t smart enough, or I didn't work hard enough.” That has been the attitude of some of the younger women. And then later on in their career, they may find, well, decisions aren’t necessarily decided on an objective basis[laugh]—there are hurdles to be overcome, even today. And even in your field, you might even—

Behrman:

Oh, sure. [laugh] To be methodical, there were a couple things I wanted to touch on with regards to your time in college. In the CV you sent, or in the Cornell recollection you wrote, you mentioned you did spend some time doing research during your undergraduate—

Button-Shafer:

Oh, yes. I had summer jobs every summer after my sophomore year. And there was an Advanced Lab within Cornell that offered two semesters of research-oriented work for advanced undergraduates as well as graduate students in Physics and Engineering Physics. There were many experiments from which a student could choose, with one faculty member responsible for each. The course had originally been called the Greisen Lab, started years before I got there, and probably meant for graduate students in physics. But what it was originally intended as, by the physics department, was a lab where the students would even put together their own apparatus, and then make measurements, and they would maybe carry out five or six different experiments during a semester. I think faculty asked to look at our notebooks, but I think they also required a longer report put together for specific experiments. By the time I came along, it was Advanced Lab, Physics 210 [laugh] with each experiment supervised by a knowledgeable professor. Each student would receive a brief description of the experimental objectives and introduced to apparatus… and then left alone, to work at his own pace – often into evening or weekend hours. (Students tended to stay away from one X-ray experiment that a professor—rather stiff fellow, who did electron microscopy He was known for keeping a graduate student around for seven years gettinga PhD.)

I got a lot out of the Advanced Physics Lab, in that I became familiar with important atomic and nuclear experiments and learned various vacuum tubes and fast (milli-micro-second) electronicsl. But they had advanced enough that the equipment was laid out for you, but not necessarily put together. And so you got to use Geiger tubes and study cosmic rays, the distribution of cosmic rays and so on. You learned things about Poisson statistics, for example, that you didn't learn in most courses. Working with the apparatus – involved running voltages up on various detectors, looking at pulses on an oscilloscope, and recording counting rates for various settings. So that was all great fun. There was one that was called the Lecher wire experiment. To this day, I'm not quite sure why it was L-E-C-H-E-R. Probably some man had that name. And that was more like an engineering-type thing, even though it was supervised by somebody on the Engineering Physics faculty or even just plain physics. It was producing standing waves by connecting a high-frequency source to two parallel wires, inches apart, that had some termination that caused the electromagnetic waves to be reflected back toward the source. I think the experiment involved understanding very fancy article (lots of mathematics) in an advanced electrical engineering textbook written by a Stanford University professor. I carried out at least two “nuclear” experiments – one on the range in air for alpha particles (helium nuclei) coming from a Polonium radioactive source, and the other on the angular distribution of cosmic rays. To this day, I can tell you what little miniature vacuum tubes were called—6AK5 and 6SN7. They were my friends. They were little [laugh]—I think they were triodes. One of them might have been a pentode.

And I found that paid off when I went over to Germany on a Fulbright, and during my second semester was helping with a doctoral thesis project. (German experimenters were able to obtain U.S. vacuum tubes cheaply because electronics and other equipment had been left behind at the end of World War II, and the East Germans made copies.) Because they were using stuff that had been left behind in East Germany by Americans, and this guy was putting together his own deuteron accelerator and was trying to study—trying to produce neutrons, because he was doing neutron physics. And Germany couldn't have its own uranium, so he was producing neutrons through a DD [inaudible] or a DT [inaudible], [inaudible] reaction. And I had some hardware assignments for that. Learned how you could produce deuterium gas. I got to work with a guy, a Herr Geisman, who had been the machinist for Debye, Peter Debye, at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, I think. By 1954 this machinist was heading a shop for what had become the Max Planck Institute in Goettingen (the postwar location, in the British zone, for most of the nuclear theorists – like Heisenberg and von Weizsaecker - and also experimentalists – such as Otto Hahn and Karl Wirtz.) So I was able to work with guys in the shop and learn all kinds of things about apparatus. - e.g., to design and have built an “elektroloese Zelle” (an electrolytic cell) to separate deuterium from heavy water or D2O. I learned how a diffusion pump works through assisting KH Beckurts, the grad student who designed a 250-kV linear accelerator for his thesis project. That was in Germany, at the MPI. I also took part in a neutron physics seminar conducted by Prof. K. Wirtz… and was able, in German, to describe what I had helped with in Oak Ridge in the summer of 1953 – constructing a model for an aircraft nuclear reactor. Unfortunately, almost all the textbooks, and many research papers, that I consulted for physics courses or for research at the MPInstitut library were not in German, but rather in English – Blatt and Weisskopf’s Introduction to Nuclear Theory, Schiff’s Quantum Mechanics, or Glasstone and Edlund’s Reactor Physics – as German scientists had not managed through or after WWII to develop their own textbooks, and were often inclined to use English (American) terms for principles and for apparatus. (Cornell’s requirement that Engineering Physics students study German was rather unnecessary!)

But what had I learned at Cornell about research physics as an undergraduate? Well, I actually learned about alpha particles. For example, for one of the more interesting experiments, you could get a polonium source. Not coming up with the polonium—named, I think, for Poland—probably named by Marie Curie, or because of her—so it’s very close to radium. And it produced 5.3 MeV alpha particles. And I got to use an ionization chamber. And you could move the back plate in the ionization chamber and carry out the determination of a range-energy curve and determine actually, from the amount of gas that was in there—probably argon gas or something like that. So I got to work with an ionization chamber. Worked with a polonium source. And was getting measurements as to how the attenuation went. There’s sort of a peak, called a bright [inaudible] peak, and then it would taper off, very steep slope. And the middle of the slope was what you referred to as being the range. So I found the range was 3.8 cm in air. I guess it was air [inaudible] mostly in the ionization chamber, rather than argon. But anyway, to this day, I remember that alpha particles coming out of polonium are 5.3 MeV.

So this is all within Cornell. So we got practical things in engineering, mechanical engineering, strength of materials, deflection of beams, and all that. And even continuum mechanics. That was really a graduate level course, and not given to most physicists. All things that we could treat with rather sophisticated mathematics—diffusion of neutrons through material, radiation damage. Lots of things you could—or elasticity, how it depends on entropy in long-chain molecules. That was fascinating. We covered some of these topics also in an advanced “materials seminar.

But what did I get for practical things outside of Cornell? I worked my first summer right after my sophomore year, the first summer I had regular employment, was at MIT. Because we were still living—let’s see, my parents had moved from—[laugh] went out to Ohio, and then Michigan, and then went back to Boston about the time I was a sophomore at Cornell. The family was still in Michigan when I had my freshman year, but by my sophomore year, my dad had moved back to work for Holtzer-Cabot Electric Company. He was made Vice President in Charge of Sales. This time, what did he run into? He had problems with the son of the head of the company, which was controlled by some big commercial investment trust. But Holtzer-Cabot was still in the old building, I think. But my dad would hire wonderful young engineers who really knew some engineering. They weren’t just three-martini drinkers or golf players, but they were good engineers. Because he was very fussy about the people he hired in that way, and in the previous companies that he had been with, in Ohio. But, he ran into a situation where the then-president of the company, when he had gone back to Holtzer-Cabot, had his young son who had a Harvard MBA degree, and wanted to have all this paper stuff. He was sort of a nut about organization and wanted to put in different organizational plans. And as my dad would describe it, he got a black eye from his customers, whom he had known for decades and decades, especially from his earlier stay, six years before that, and the many years that preceded that, when he would work with a ball bearing company, or Sperry Gyroscope, many companies. Mostly in the northeastern part of the U.S., though not all of them. And he said he was being given a black eye because the paper processing system clogged everything. They were six months behind in delivery due to this young whippersnapper [laugh].

Behrman:

Whippersnapper?

Button-Shafer:

Yeah. He used to use that word. I haven't heard it in decades. [laugh] As you get older—I'll be turning—well, I just turned 89 in September, just a few months ago. And that’s young compared with many people here. We have a lot of centenarians, maybe six or eight of them, at any given time. But anyway, so I'm a little on the younger side. But it’s funny how things from your childhood come back every now and then, and these colloquialisms sometimes pop in. Whereas the newer ones, I have to have my kids explain to me what LOL means in an email—laughing out loud.

Behrman:

Yeah, whippersnapper. I know whippersnapper. [laugh] I don’t know the current slang, but I know whippersnapper.

Button-Shafer:

Ancient English word. [laugh] But anyway, yeah, so I really enjoyed going to MIT for my first summer job, just after my second year at Cornell. This was in 1951, as the Korean war was developing. Knowing about the work ethic of women scientists, how hard Marie Curie worked, and how hard Lise Meitner worked, I really threw myself into a special project involving weather prediction that was to be useful for the Korean War. MIT initially hired me to do calculations with desktop electromechanical computers as a member of a group of more than a dozen women who were all much older, all sitting in rows of tables in a large room at the Instrumentation (or Draper?) Lab. I was the only college student, just beyond my sophomore year. We were using either Monroe calculators or Friden Marchant calculators. Did you ever see those? There was a male supervisor, and I don’t think he was faculty. It was in an old building that might have been the Draper Lab— or just the Instrumentation Lab—on Massachusetts Avenue, just down the street from where the main part of MIT was. And it was a little dull, and they didn't really tell you when they would give you these sheets—it was the old data type paper, where you'd have—there would be a number of inputs along the vertical, of numbers, and then you'd have all the operations—add numbers one plus two, and then multiply by this, and divide by that, or take the sine of this angle, et cetera. But they didn't tell you what was the physics behind it, physics or engineering.

However, they found out I had already had calculus. I had had two semesters, in fact, and had already studied differential equations. And I had learned quite a bit of physics, of course, by then, with 18 credit hours in each of four semesters. And I was pulled out of that pool [laugh] of women who were typing lists of numbers into desktop electromechanical calculators. Instead, I got to work on the Reeves Electronic Analog Computer, or REAC. That analogue computer had been developed for the airplane industry and the US Air Force; and one REAC and associated equipment had been established at the M.I.T. Instrumentation Center (Draper Lab, I believe). And I had a ball, because it all had to do with differential equations, but these could be non-linear equations, with (time-dependent) variables multiplying each other. The time derivatives went up through second order. But you could have two coupled equations, and two dependent variables, x of t, and y of t. And this analog computer had high-gain amplifiers (“operational amplifiers”) with feedbacks that were either resistive or capacitive, for purposes of adding or integrating voltages representing the variables. All the electronics modules of course were built with vacuum tubes in those days; I found the REAC electronics interesting, as I had begun taking electrical engineering courses at Cornell, courses that covered DC and AC circuits, and were treating vacuum tubes. (For Physics and Electrical Engineering laboratory work at universities after WWII, students often consulted the “RADAR” volumes that scientists at M.I.T. – brought from many universities – developed on vacuum tubes during World War II.)

To initiate calculation with the REAC, the analog computer, you had to plug connecting wires into the patch boards that were mounted on the side of the analog computer. (Patch boards were still used in the early days of digital computers, but you were more apt to see them associated with a machine used to punch “IBM cards” used for program input or output. So to operate the analogue computer for solving differential equations, you had to connect the electronic components to represent terms in some differential equation. The components included not only the operational amplifiers (with appropriate input and feedback components) but also servo-mechanisms that would take an argument that you would give, in the form of something representing x or y, and you could treat it as an angle and require a sinusoidal function of that argument. These little servomechanisms were basically servos, little tiny motors, that would be fed a voltage that determined the angular position of a tap that picked off, from a nonlinear circular winding that would represent the sine or the cosine or the tangent of whatever angle you fed into it.

This was way back in, the summer of ’51. The Korean War was going on. And what was I doing with the REEVES analog computer? Well, I was taken to learn about weather prediction from a professor of meteorology by a young postdoc who was in charge of the analogue computer studies; (There was one older woman who knew how to run the analog computer. She had some mathematics training, and she was a regular continuing employee, but she was getting bored, and/or the workload was too great).

They were absolutely very happy to have me, even though I was only a summer student. With advice from the young postdoc, I learned about Norbert Wiener time-series and also was introduced to Chebyshev polynomials, polynomials in two-dimensional space Why? Well, because the postdoc, who already knew a lot of this mathematics, took me over to see a professor of meteorology, and he introduced me to the problem I was to study with the REEVES computer, which was to study weather prediction – needed for our forces involved with the Korean war. And how were they going to do that? I was to be provided with old data from the U.S.—maps of pressure, pressure grids measured over time—and I was to develop a program to fit the time dependence of this two-dimensional array of pressures. And it turns out that all you need to know is pressure values, and you can figure out winds from the pressure gradients. I was supposed to construct some fit to data that existed from old weather recordings, for the U.S. And they knew what the output was supposed to be, what the time development should be, but the input was just these pressure readings on a sort of square grid. (Once the program on the analog computer was shown to work for predicting pressures (and winds) for the U.S., it would be used to predict weather for our forces in South Korea.) Through use of the Norbert Weiner time-series I had some differential equations describing the time development of the pressure grid; and I would set up wire connections on the patch-board of the analog computer to model those equations. And within seconds of starting the computer, out would come the solutions! - for pressure as a function of time at each point of the grid.

I spent the summer doing that, and I was so enthused about it. I don’t think I saw the professor very often, but the postdoc paid close attention to what I was doing; he was a guy named Ken Fertig, F-E-R-T-I-G. Whether or not he went on to a position at MIT, I don’t know, but he was a very, very good instructor or guide for me. But I was left on my own a lot. In going to MIT, I would take the train in from Needham to Boston and then transfer to a different train to get to Kendall Square not very far from the Charles River and then walk to the Instrumentation Lab. When I returned to Needham in the evening, my dad would pick me up at the train station - often at 10:30 at night; I would stay all day long, and I’d be so interested in what I was doing I often stayed into the evening hours emulating Marie Curie or Lise Meitner [laugh], I suppose. They didn't have vending machines in those days, as far as I remember. But I would often not leave work until well into the evening hours. And in those days— you didn't worry about walking after dark to get to a subway station, or going on a subway or coming home by train. And my dad didn't really criticize. My mother might have been somewhat worried. We didn't have cell phones of course.

Regarding the analogue computer at MIT, I was jealous—or envious, a little bit—of the experienced woman regular employee, because she got to work on something that directly involved hardware. Because the nice thing about analog computers—eventually done with digital computers, but not so easily— was that they could be connected electrically to hardware, such as the automatic control system of an F-84 fighter plane. Somewhere in the recesses of the Instrumentation building, there was a fighter plane, or the hardware for the fighter plane’s automatic control system; and this experienced woman was working from the analog computer to modify the gunfire control hardware. I did some reading at the end of the summer, while recuperating from some surgery, and was able to learn more about analog computers (partly from a book called Giant Brains that I think was written by MIT’s Vannevar Bush); from my summer work plus reading I was able to write a fairly comprehensive article about analog computers for The Cornell Engineer magazine.

One year after my MIT work, I spent the summer at the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, in Buffalo, NY, where I was again employed for research with analog computers, but I didn't have a helpful postdoc supervisor as I had at MIT. I was told much less about the research. The Cornell Aero Lab job was a last-minute substitute; I was supposed to go down to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the summer after my third year at Cornell, and do some neutron experimental physics, but my clearance from the FBI didn't come through [laugh] in time! And an engineer acquaintance of mine, about two years ahead of me, had finished his Cornell studies, and become a staff member at the Cornell Aeronautical Lab. I had known him through my German boyfriend, who had been an exchange student guest at the engineer’s fraternity. I knew he was quite an outstanding mechanical engineer, so sought his help in getting my summer position at Cornell Aeronautical Lab as a substitute for Oak Ridge.

Incidentally, the Aero Lab in Buffalo had as its head, T.P. Wright, who was a descendant of the Wright Brothers, as well as a vice president of Cornell University. T.P. Wright also was a person I came to know later, when I was head of the Women’s Student Government, and he was a member of the Cornell Board of Trustees (and thus one of the administration I consulted about starting a women’s Telluride. Although I was laying out schematics for analog computer calculations, along with some permanent employees, I don’t recall learning any exciting physics or engineering ideas that summer at the Cornell Lab in Buffalo. I rented a room from a pleasant family; but found Buffalo rather dull – and hot. And yeah, I found out where you could go to practice golf. I may even have gone golfing with one or two of the guys. I had a boyfriend, a friend I knew from singing in Acapella Choir at Cornell; but he was far away! [laugh] He had Swedish background, loved music. He had been an engineering student, but switched to political science. Very bright. Claimed he had a malignancy and that he wasn’t going to live very long. He used it as an excuse. He appeared to end our dating relationship because I was too much involved with Cornell activities—student government, engineering, music.

One of the Cornell activities I enjoyed was writing for The Cornell Engineer magazine. Besides earlier writing, my article on the analog computer and an editorial encouraging women to study engineering, I wrote an article about elementary particles. I also wrote about nuclear reactors – probably after spending my summer of 1953 in Oak Ridge. (Also, the summer of 1954 saw me working again in Boston, with half of the summer spent back at MIT again with the analog computer I worked with in 1951, and the rest of the summer spent in some relaxing employment for a very find voice teacher in downtown Boston. That was shortly before I sailed to Germany to spend a Fulbright year in nuclear physics study and research.) For my rather extensive article on nuclear reactors that I wrote for The Cornell Engineer I got helpful information from GE, which had its main plant in nearby Schenectady. Knowledgeable physicists at Cornell, even Hans Bethe and his proteges, often consulted for the General Electric Company. I had gotten early information on fission, on reactors that GE and Westinghouse were developing. I wrote an article, predicting that in—another 25 years was what they expected; at least that was originally the story when I was an undergraduate—that it was going to take that long to develop useful atomic energy. Well, there was somebody in the submarine service, Admiral Rickover, that I learned about when I went to Oak Ridge in summer 1953, who had really pushed the development of nuclear-powered subs, and that had encouraged the whole reactor industry. And having that contact with GE just for pictures that I wanted to use for my article on nuclear reactors, and maybe just in general Cornell’s reputation with GE, resulted in my being interviewed for a job at General Electric Co, as I approached graduation from Cornell’s Engineering Physics program. They wanted me to come work at GE, and they told me, “Well, 15% of your time for doing pure research.” Whatever you wanted to do. I said, “No, thank you. I've had my heart set on going into nuclear physics.” And my fifth-year project had been involved in the Cornell new accelerator, et cetera. So I sort of turned down the offer from GE representatives (But then they came back after I got into graduate school—about my second year in graduate school, GE awarded me a fellowship, with no strings attached. So they gave me a “Coffin Fellowship” [laugh] and didn't ask me to do anything in return. The Coffin money covered one year of my later graduate studies at the Lawrence Radiation Lab (now LBL) in Berkeley.)

During my postdoc years, I ran into a Nobel Prize-winning physicist at Stanford who said, “Oh, I got a Coffin scholarship.” Whether he ever worked at GE or whether it was for free, who knows.) So anyway, I did do summer work at the Cornell Aero Lab, but didn’t find the work or the environment in Buffalo very interesting. The most exciting thing at the Cornell Lab was witnessing an attempt to fly a pilotless plane over the city.

Finally, after my fourth year at Cornell, in the summer of 1954, I did do research at Oak Ridge. I was assigned to the Critical Experiments Building (Y-12), and I helped to build a an experimental small reactor as a prototype for an aircraft reactor. [laugh] I had just finished my year’s term at Cornell as President of WSGA, that is, as the head of the executive and the judicial branch of the Women’s Student Government Association, which was so powerful. I later learned that Ruth Bader Ginsburg went up to the dormitory president level within the WSGA organization.—I didn't really know her; she was a year or so behind me. Janet Reno became the president of WSGA perhaps a decade later than I. We had a six-member executive group, and we had a lot of responsibility for Cornell women’s activities. If a woman student stayed out of the dorm all night or even came in two hours late or was accused of stealing something, I got called, not the Cornell Dean of Women. I could be called at 1:00 or 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. in the morning.

And then I was also the person who had to go and interview faculty about the status of any undergraduate woman who had violated rules. I had to argue with a very difficult new Dean of Women. One who had been very liberal and sympathetic went to Stanford just before the year I became head of WSGA. So I had an exhausting year of being the head of Women’s Student Government, taking this advanced math course of Mark Kac, and being called at 3:00 a.m. in the morning by Steve Weinberg. And that was a more interesting call, when he called. But Louise Goldwasser, who was to become Louise Weinberg eventually, didn't flout the rules intentionally, but she came into her dormitory a little late from a date with Steve. So we had to put her on trial before our Judiciary Committee, the six women on my WSGA Executive Committee. I’m sure we let Louise off with no or little penalty – She was a gifted student, and practically engaged to Steve by then. I not only had to find out the background for any violation that was reported, often by the head resident—the older woman—or else by the dormitory president, but any hour of the day or night, I could be called, and then I’d have to do the background work. And then I’d have to act not only as the person presiding over this six-member court of my executive committee that included me and a home economics student who was vice president, and then a secretary, and then a treasurer, and then an activities coordinator. My executive committee would meet and hear each judicial case; I would present the background, and then chair the judicial discussion for the case. And then I was the one who would have to explain our decision to the dean of women. She tried to get some woman expelled who was an outstanding student. There were mitigating factors. This undergraduate woman who was really a very fine student in the ILR school (Industrial Labor Relations)and she just needed to go over some of homework with a fellow student. She was found out to have been in a man’s apartment. You didn't do that at any hour of the day—fraternity or an apartment. So anyway, her parents came at the time of the hearing by a faculty committee. We got the serious case of this ILR student referred from my committee to the Faculty Committee on Student Conduct. That was the only committee existing for men. And if there were two people who got in trouble, or if they stayed out all night or whatever—a man and a woman—the woman would be tried by the women’s—the WSGA, the Women’s Student Government Association; but the man’s role was usually ignored.

The decision of my WSGA judiciary committee was to advise the woman student to appeal her case to the Faculty Committee on Student Conduct. So at 9:00 or 10:00 PM on a snowy winter night, in the midst of final exam period, I was supposed to come there to present the case to the Faculty Committee meeting in the main Cornell administration building. The young woman’s parents were there. And I think maybe the fellow had to be there, because they were going to look at his part in all this, in having invited the woman to come and work on their homework. And there hadn’t been any hanky-panky as far as we could find out. It was just that they were good friends, and And classmates. So I was asked to present the case. And the dean of women kept trying to interrupt, to say all kinds of nasty things. Her problem was that she had lost her husband early on in a marriage, and she had come from a church-sponsored school. And Cornell was changing its character anyway, as the new president of Cornell, was a business man who had run a pineapple company and then had been at Kansas State University where they had no drinking allowed. So he cut in—the house party weekends, they were cut down in length or number. Deane W. Malott. He was accused by the student editor of the Cornell daily paperof plagiarism for something in his inaugural address. Students threw tomatoes at his house. This was a period of unrest. (The unrest of students didn't start in the sixties at Berkeley, [laugh] ’63 or ’64; it was even going on at Cornell a decade earlier). President Malott often met with parents, with alumni, and tried to raise money for Cornell; we heard of his making fun of the students, especially criticizing the fellow that headed Cornell’s daily paper.

Anyway, students really had a lot of power, even in those days. What happened to the ILR woman student, who was in danger of expulsion for entering a man’s apartment? Her case was considered by dean of the Cornell Law School serving as head of the Faculty Committee on Student Conduct and many distinguished professors from different areas of Cornell’s faculty represented. There must have been a dozen there. And they were only too happy to jump verbally on this Dean of Women and to listen to me. They decided to pardon the woman student. Maybe with a warning, but there was no penalty. The Faculty Committee also felt it was their obligation, since there wasn’t any student-run judiciary for male students, to advise that there should be set up a “judiciary committee” for the men students who might violate rules. [laugh] But you know, it was a lopsided thing. If a fellow brought a young woman back after the curfew, he was not charged. Unless they thought that there was some—you know, it used to be said that maybe a third of my sorority sisters probably were no longer virgins. [laugh] I would hear this indirectly. But anyway, they tended to be party girls. They were bright women, and they cared about their average, but they were just not particularly geared towards student work. So anyway, in my sorority. So I never lived in the house.

Anyway, so I did have those experiences. The WSGA presidency required a final report that was to be submitted to the head of the Faculty Committee on Student Conduct, a distinguished professor in the Cornell Law School. Putting a summary of the previous year’s governmental activities too up many evenings of effort in very hot, humid housing at Oak Ridge! But I certainly learned a lot of nuclear physics anyway. The group I assisted at Oak Ridge was doing computer calculations, consulting with Pratt and Whitney visiting engineers, and constructing a model of the proposed reactor – especially to determine the variation of the neutron flux throughout the reactor as it went critical. We put together fuel tubes of 95% enriched uranium-235, interspersed in a matrix of beryllium metal as moderator to slow down fast neutrons produced in fission, and enhance the probability of subsequent fission events. We handled these things rather casually, as we pushed them into an aluminum supporting structure. I don’t know if we even wore gloves. They were maybe one inch square and a foot long. And we shoved them into an aluminum matrix, and there were two halves to this. I had the assignment of placing cadmium and indium-cadmium foils at various places in this uranium-beryllium structure and retrieving the foils afterward to determine with “proportional” gas counters how much radiation was induced in the foils, and hence how intense the neutron flux must have been at the foil locations.

I would have preferred to do pure research. One of my classmates went to X-10, at Oak Ridge, and got to do some experimental research with a cyclotron. My Engineering Physics class at Cornell had changed character. By the second or third year, half of the original students had left, Half of the men students as well as the one other woman student were gone; they shifted to arts and sciences, or more often into other engineering disciplines. But electrical engineers and even math majors came in my Engineering Physics class; these were students who wanted more challenging courses. Only half of the original group in Engineering Physics survived to the end of our five years But my fellow students went in different directions, to different professional fields; and almost all of them went on to graduate school. One went into genetics, but most of them went into aeronautics, or electrical or chemical engineering. One fellow ended up teaching math at Lehigh College. But anyway, a variety of things, but mostly they ended up going kind of towards things that combined experiment, in fields of engineering, and physics.

I suspect some of the Cornell EP faculty were disappointed, as the combination of Physics and Engineering was meant originally to prepare young people to go directly into industry – with knowledge of good engineering techniques but also an understanding of the underlying physics. But there were a few EP graduates who tended to go more towards theoretical research. In fact, a guy named Gordon Baym became well known in solid-state physics theory, and spent many productive years on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a Cornell undergraduate, Gordon had been a year or two behind me in Engineering Physics. He wrote an article with Hans Bethe on neutron stars. A fellow in the EP class ahead of me took so many courses that he finished with my class; after two years of fulfilling his ROTC commitment, he did graduate work in genetics at University of Wisconsin and ended up as a Zoology professor at UMass-Amherst. So you can go in many, many different directions from the kind of training we had in Cornell’s School of Engineering Physics.

The problem was, most of us had so much that we had learned, I often wished that we could have rearranged the order, and taken a math course over again after taking a more advanced physics course, or taken a more advanced physics course after additional training in mathematics. We needed recycling. It was almost as if we learned too much. Almost all of us went on to at least master’s degrees if not PhD degrees . But at Oak Ridge, I didn't get to do the pure research, but I did work with people who were from aeronautical companies. Pratt & Whitney had two engineers down there. And they were trying to develop—under Alvin Weinberg, who then headed research there (and later became director of Oak Ridge National Lab). But he wanted to have an aircraft reactor. So that was the purpose of the nuclear reactor research at Y-12 when I was a summer student there.

Besides assembling an actual reactor, there was design work being done with modest digital computers. Among the computer design experts there was a fellow named James Maribel who had a PhD I think in physics, but also perhaps had some engineering training. I was delighted to get to know this fellow Maribel because he was a cellist, and his wife was a violinist! She didn't do any technical work, but they befriended me, and we got to play piano trios—piano, violin, and cello. Through our informal chamber music sessions, especially in the home of my research library friend Helen Mason, I got to know Eugene Wigner, a frequent summer visitor at Oak Ridge, and I also became acquainted with the research director Alvin Weinberg and other scientists who were music lovers. Helen Mason, who was a widow of a physicist who had been a close associate of Eugene Wigner until his early death. Helen was head of the research library, I believe. She never had children, and delighted in befriending summer students. —I thought I was unique. No, I heard later from a Physics professor at Amherst College, an editor of the American Journal of Physics for a while. And he too had been at Oak Ridge at some point in his life, even though I think he was more oriented towards atomic than nuclear physics. And he too knew Helen Mason. I heard a lot of things about the work that her husband had done with Eugene Wigner, who came there as a visitor virtually every summer. Lectures by Wigner—isotopic spin, which he said should have been called isobaric spin. And they were very interesting lectures. I wasn’t far enough into nuclear physics even after my—oh gosh, after my fourth year—I hadn’t yet gotten into graduate school. I had just finished my fourth year in physics. And maybe I might have taken a graduate-level nuclear physics course by then from Prof. Dale Corson (later the Dean of the Engineering College and then President of Cornell. I certainly knew the book Halliday’s Nuclear Physics. But I still had a lot to learn. I enjoyed hearing these lecture at Oak Ridge.

An older woman, a research librarian named Helen Mason loved chamber music, and had had a lovely grand piano in her spacious Oak Ridge apartment. I would often be invited to Helen’s home for evenings of music, trios that I would perform with a cellist-violinist husband-wife couple, the Maribel. (The husband was a physicist I knew from my research workl) Helen usually invited guests to come and hear our trio play, as we read through works of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, and others. We always had a wonderful time, and I got exposed to a lot of new literature. When people play chamber music, generally the pianists whether professionals or amateurs haven't had as much practice in becoming good sight-readers as have the instrumentalists… There are many more notes for the pianist to read! (I discovered through the years, especially in attending Interlochen, MI, for some annual late-summer adult chamber music workshops, that many pianists were very poor readers.) Often pianists would ask for advance assignments, so they could practice ahead of the workshop! Anyway, I had a wonderful time at Oak Ridge, both with physics and with chamber music. My friend Helen Mason wanted me to come back and visit her a year later, after I had been in Germany for my Fulbright year doing physics in Göttingen. I agreed to spend just a few days with her in her Oak Ridge apartment on my way by train from my Massachusetts home to graduate school in Berkeley.

And looking back, when she—I was in my second year of graduate school doing research at the Bevatron—the early part of my doing research, from 1956 on—I arrived in [inaudible] Berkeley ’55—my sister Judy called me and said mother had died and killed herself. But prior to that—looking back, you wonder, “What should I have done?” Because I knew she—she was breaking down mentally and was in a hospital, a very fine one—Duke University Hospital, because my dad eventually, just before he retired, took a position that was partly mechanical, partly electrical. Mother [inaudible] always had agonized about the politics he ran into. And this time, it was sort of age discrimination. So, that didn't help. But my dad managed to keep my mother going. Tried everything he could. But he tried to keep pills away from her. And I wonder, in retrospect, should I have stayed longer? Because here my mother had invested her whole life in raising the two of us kids, and it was hard enough for her when we went away to college. But at least I was living at home for the summers, after my freshman, and my sophomore year. But not junior year and not senior year, when I spent summers working at the Cornell Aeronautical Lab in Buffalo, and then at Oak Ridge, Tenn.

And then after my fifth year, what did I do? I split my summer. While again living at home in Needham, I went back to MIT for half the summer, and I played piano for a wonderful voice coach in Boston. This voice coach turned out to be acquainted with very important people such as Roland Hayes, the Black tenor who had developed an outstanding reputation in Europe and developed a fine career in the U.S. Marian Anderson was the big figure among women Black singers. Sang—you know, Eleanor Roosevelt got her—when D.A.R. wouldn't allow her to sing in Constitution Hall, she got to sing in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Well, this Roland Hayes made his reputation as a German lieder singer, mostly in Germany. And then he came back to this country. And I don’t think he ever became—and he was a tenor. But his specialty, I think, was probably German lieder. And I got to meet him! Why was I interested in meeting him? This voice coach took me over to his home, and I even got to play for him a little bit. He was then well beyond retirement.

But I wanted to have a woman’s Telluride at Cornell; so I tried to make contacts with musicians who might come to Cornell to perform in a benefit concert at Cornell. I wasn’t going to ask Roland Hayes; he was a little too far along. But I was asking the voice teacher and other people. I also had felt that I could get faculty wives at Cornell interested. The dean of women, very stiff on this. She was willing to listen, and finally said, well, it had to be by merit. It had to be sort of scholarship students or students who were outstanding in academia, in their studies. But could we have any kind of money? And I got this T.P. Wright, who had headed Cornell Aero Lab and was a member always of the Board of Trustees, which I was the ex officio representative of the women of Cornell. So I got some interest from T.P. Wright.

But I remember my sister was visiting with me at Cornell and we went to see Hans Bethe’s wife, to see if she and perhaps other faculty wives might help me to establish a house like Telluride for women students at Cornell. She was German in origin. Her father, Paul Peter Ewald, had been an outstanding German physicist in solid state physics, in crystallography, but had to flee Naziism in the 1930s. Anyway, Hans Bethe himself had fled Germany, in the early thirties. So anyway, my sister went with me. Judy was still prone to clever responses, but not interested at all in science. So she went somewhat unwillingly, I think, for my appointment to see Hans Bethe’s wife. She and a few other faculty wives were interested in seeing a womens’ Telluride house developed. But all we could get was a small old house that was near the Home Ecomonics department, and near a very wonderful cafeteria that the students ran. It was up on a circle near—if you've ever been to Cornell, there’s a great big amphitheater, Bailey Hall. Close to the hall is s a ring of old houses that used to be either graduate students who were doing work in nutrition or what have you, or maybe even the sciences. But I think they were sort of scholarship cottages. And one was vacant, and we could have it. It could house only 12, 13 people. I named the organization Via—V-I-A—in Latin meaning the road or the way. And I wanted it to sort of emulate the men-only Telluride House. But we didn't have extra rooms where we could invite visitors, faculty members. It wasn’t that kind of house.

And I never got to live in it, because it didn't get put together until my fifth year. And by then, I was allowed to live off-campus and shared an apartment off-campus with a woman who was studying architecture and was doing graduate work in city planning. And she was the daughter of an eminent scientist Lloyd V. Berkner, who was an electrical engineer and physicist; and had visited Cornell (at least once as an important speaker for the EE department; and he also became the director of the Brookhaven National Laboratory for a while, and then started NRAO, the National Radio-Astronoomy Observatory in Virginia. Turns out Alvarez knew him! Not so long ago I reread an autobiography of Luis Alvarez (Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist) that I had had for many, many years. I thought I knew everything that was there, including many adventures that I had heard about personally from Luis. But it turns out that he and Lloyd Berkner served on many committees together. Berkner was often the head. And I heard Berkner give a talk in the College of Engineering around 1953-4 at Cornell. I also met him because he came to visit. During my fifth year in Engineering Physics I was allowed to live off campus, and living halfway down the hill, in an apartment shared with Lloyd Berkner’s daughter Pat Berkner. Pat was getting a master’s degree in City Planning after completing her B.A. in Architecture. I was already into my fifth year at Cornell by the time my women’s Telluride plans came to fruition, so did not live at the cottage we had selected. I went to a few of the VIA meetings, but somebody told me that eventually it turned into a Jewish sorority! Why? Because the Jewish students, especially those from the New York area I suspect, were usually more interested in intellectual pursuit than other Cornell coeds. They often came from refugee families, and their parents always wanted—I was told by Marty Perl’s wife, Teri Perl, who did a lot of music, and in education—was not trained in science—but Teri Perl was her name. She wrote a book, Math Equals, that’s fascinating, about women mathematicians. Had a lot of help from a woman mathematician at Mills College that was a good friend of hers.

Anyway, Carrie [inaudible]—what was I going to say about Pat? Oh, yes—she told me that both she and her husband, Marty Perl, had grown up in New York City, and to get an “A” was holy. [laugh] I said, “Gosh, I wish it had been that way in the non-Jewish high schools.” But it didn't matter whether you were a girl or a fellow; if you had parents who were Jewish, especially if they came from European countries, and the Chinese parents, or the parents from other countries—but especially at Berkeley, you may have heard—and I think it has happened at other universities throughout the country, that there’s even sort an inverse discrimination. They expected the Chinese, first-generation Americans who had Chinese parents, that were Chinese-American, that were applying to Berkeley were often held or required to have a higher test score than non-Oriental. Have you heard that?

Behrman:

Yeah. It has been in the news.

Button-Shafer:

Even though they—yeah—even though they tried to get rid of—and it has come back as a proposition here. But they tried to get rid of the extra considerations for kids—Blacks, Hispanics—who came from poor families, and this discrimination was very much criticized. And there was—remember the Board of Regents, who was very powerful, and they managed to get the University of California system to throw out this artificial—or this—what’s the—[inaudible]—anyway, the special consideration for kids who came from families where parents weren’t well-educated. But with the Asians, it was going the other direction. I think Harvard has been accused of some things in recent times. I don’t know if that went across the whole country, but it was evident to me. I was a guest professor under NSF sponsorship, visiting professorship for women in physics. They couldn't get enough women physicists so they had women from economics and computer science and chemical engineering to put together a cadre of maybe 25 of us back in early—nineties, was it?

Yeah. So anyway, I was at Berkeley but doing research not just at Berkeley but at SLAC, and teaching undergraduate courses. And there I found—I was teaching beginning physics, and they no longer required that—those who wanted to be physics majors didn't have to declare themselves right off the bat, so it was physics for some who were going to go into engineering, some who were going to go into regular physics majors, which would have taken them to more demanding curriculum. Amazing numbers of Oriental students, women especially. The men Oriental students appeared not nearly so dedicated as the young Oriental women. I recalled being asked, years before, to be helpful for a Chinese-American woman student who had come from Cornell to enter Berkeley’s graduate Physics program. She had to pass the preliminary exam that was based on undergraduate-level material and had to be taken sometime during the first two or three semesters of graduate school. Theorists always wanted to have it based partly on graduate level. But no, you had to pass it, in five different areas of physics. Had oral exams as well as written. And I first became aware of two types of problems. This young woman, who was a graduate student in physics, had gotten a master’s degree in theoretical physics at Cornell under Philip Morrison. But she came to Berkeley and didn't have a mentor. But her parents, whether they were academic types I'm not sure, but they were very ambitious for their five daughters.

So somebody in the physics department asked me, when I was just a postdoc, maybe in the early to mid-sixties or—it had to have been when I was actually teaching as a lecturer on campus—so would I give some advice to this woman who had finished at Cornell a year or so before, and was terrified by the exam? Why? Because every one of her four sisters had a PhD; and her parents expected her to get a PhD in physics. And she was the only one in physics. The others were all in the arts and sciences, or social sciences. But the parents were very ambitious for their five daughters. The young woman came to me sort of very much worried about the exam. I don’t know that she had tried taking it before. But she was too far beyond some of the undergraduate courses. I had the same problem, because I had had five years at Cornell, with all this engineering stuff, and gone into some graduate-level physics courses after about my third year. Sometimes I was the only one of, say, two undergraduates in a graduate-level course. And then I had been in Germany for a whole year; there I had taken advanced courses and had done research in neutron physics.

So I was into my seventh year when I came to Berkeley. And it was a bit of a shock to find I was going to be tested on undergraduate physics material. But even for mechanics, I had to go back and study some simpler techniques than what I had been using in more advanced courses. So it was a strain for me to review. I had a lot of fun, though, reviewing some stuff in thermodynamics and solid state. That was when I really recognized, as I arrived at Berkeley, “Maybe I'm doing the wrong thing” to think I wanted to go into nuclear physics rather than some area of atomic physics or solid state.

Years later, I asked Luis Alvarez on running onto him at an APS meeting, if he had it all to do over again, would he go into some area other than nuclear/particle physics? He was not trained in quantum physics. He did his work in sort of classical stuff, in optics under Arthur Holly Compton at Chicago in the early to mid-thirties. But anyway, Alverez of course by this time had been a Nobel Prize winner for some time. I had been in his group, just prior to his getting the Nobel award. A few years before was when I went to Massachusetts. And doing a little reminiscing, I said, “Luis, I've been having a lot of fun developing this low-temperature spin-polarized proton target, and I really have fun dealing with cryogenic engineering concepts and so forth. And would you, if you were to live your life over again, would you pick a different field to go into?” [laugh] And he says that very thing in his autobiography, that he would have picked a different field.

Also, other physicists whom I admired were saying similar things, that young people should start their graduate studies in small-scale field – and only later go on to high-energy physics. This opinion was given by an experimentalist who headed UCLA physics department, Harold Ticho in the 1960s (before he became Dean of Science at UC San Diego. Harold said, when he was working up at Berkeley (LBL) and I was associated closely with him in designing various separated beams “For anybody who wants to go into particle physics, that person should first do something in condensed matter physics, or solid state, atomic—but something small-scale, and really learn how to design things.” Because it was apparent that students were coming into bubble chamber physics, paying more attention to theory (and politics), doing mostly software, and not having any of the fun of designing apparatus. I heard that over and over again. What did Luis say to me many years later? I had long since left his group and was designing low-temperature apparatus (a polarized-spin proton target) to use either in a bubble chamber as at Berkeley or down at Brookhaven Lab, where I did eventually use it in a spectrometer. Anyway, Luis said to me—he practically said yes, but when I explained that I thought condensed matter physics would have been more fulfilling because you could do more hands-on stuff, smaller-scale experiments, fewer people involved, he at first protested and said, “Well, I get so bored when I go down to these Hewlett-Packard seminars.” Because it is messy [laugh] when you first get into solid state physics. Because it’s always approximations. Because beyond the two-body problem [laugh] you have to make approximations when you're dealing with things in a crystal lattice structure. And there are neat things that Wigner did, or Wigner and Seitz—I had learned about crystal lattices. In engineering, you have the Miller indices. In physics courses, you learn about reciprocal lattices.

By my third year, I was learning stuff from—either from just plain lectures, from somebody who had been once a postdoc of Wolfgang Pauli. He was from Belgium originally. Henry Sack, S-A-C-K. And he was the ranking theorist at Cornell, and the mainstay of engineering physics. Taught several of our courses, on the properties of materials. We had learned about reciprocal lattice (for calculations involving “Brillouin zones,” and I found reciprocal lattices very close to what engineers call Miller indices. I had gotten a big kick out of that, as I often did when I found concepts in physics that corresponded – perhaps with different names – to concept I learned in engineering courses. But when you got into atomic physics and you start trying to deal with potentials—so I understood what Luis was saying. It’s too messy. “I go down to hear HP seminars; and I get bored.” I said, “Well, I was thinking of things like liquid helium.” “Oh, that's different, Luis said. [laugh] Even Feynman did some work on liquid-helium vortices. I stumbled across an article—I got to teach solid state physics a couple of times at UMass, both as a lab course and as a regular lecture course, and I was very grateful that the department head (then a condensed-matter young physicist trained at Stanford) allowed me to do that.

By this time, I had learned many things from solid-state physicists and also cryogenics engineers. But I was a little disappointed—there’s Kittel’s Solid State Physics, and the early versions of it—you may have used it; it’s a textbook that didn’t exist when I was an undergraduate We had only the book of Seitz—Frederick Seitz— Quantum Theory of Solids. And it was meant to be a graduate-level book, but was used as one text for Cornell’s undergraduate course for Engineering Physics student. But anyway, I did use Kittel’s later book to teach from. And his early version—and I got asked when I was a lecturer at Berkeley and a postdoc if I would do some proofreading, because they had Berkeley physics series. And I don’t know whether his solid state book was part of that series. I think it may have been. Kittel originally included theory of “elasticity.” He had some stuff about stress and strain, coefficients of elasticity. It was a very nice chapter. And it tallied wonderfully with what I had been in physics and engineering courses taught by faculty at Cornell., Charles Kittel was a theorist; but he interacted a lot with the experimenters at Berkeley. But, sadly, the chapter on elasticity had vanished by the time I got to use Kittel’s book in my own teaching at UMass-Amherst. Edition five or six—no more theory of elasticity. [laugh]

In the early 1970s I had an opportunity for an informal conversation about teaching physics with Victor Weisskopf of MIT. There was a conference on teaching graduate-level Physics that was to be held at Boston University on the evening of my husband’s and my tenth wedding anniversary. — Two other experienced academic physicists (including theorist and textbook author Ken Ford) were to join Weisskopf in a panel discussion; and each would give some individual remarks concerning the teaching of graduate students. My mathematician husband and I went to the symposium after having our anniversary dinner at a Hungarian restaurant in Boston. (Our young children had been left with a sitter at home in Amherst.) was entitled “How to Teach Graduate Level Physics.” Weisskopf gave his talk on what he did in guiding graduate students at MIT. He said, “For many years I've given at MIT a seminar for graduate students entitled ‘How to Know When I Don’t Understand.’” So I take a graduate student who is heading toward solid-state physics, and I assign him something in particle or nuclear physics, or I take a guy who is going to be an experimentalist and ask him to look at a theoretical issue. I mix people up, so that they're in fields that they haven't delved into, that they're not necessarily going to go into. But I want to see if they can dig out the essence of it, and try to understand it. I approached Weisskopf after some general discussion that succeeded the panel discussion. I was especially interested in his views, as I had used for several years a well-known text (Introduction to Nuclear Theory). I told him, “I was assigned, when I first came to UMass in Amherst, to teach modern physics for a small class of senior physics majors. I chose a textbook that was very good on atomic and nuclear physics, Quantum Physics, by Eisberg and Resnick.

Button-Shafer:

I had gotten to teach quantum physics as a lecturer at UC Berkeley, as either a summer course, or maybe during the regular school year. I had been assigned quantum mechanics and had learned what it was like to try to teach quantum mechanics. But it was in the milieu where Berkeley had enough of an experimental character that even graduate courses in quantum mechanics were often taught by professors who were experimentalists. One young theorist, a postdoc at LBL, complained in the early 1960s that there were six experimenters for every theorist at the Lab. It wasn’t quite that unbalanced on campus. I had actually gotten to teach quantum mechanics on campus but it didn't hit me until I got to UMass and was teaching modern physics—as we came to the end of the fall semester—and I really would have liked to have taught classical mechanics first, because I felt it would have led into eigenfunctions and other concepts of quantum mechanics.

My husband, who was over seven years my senior but had started much later than I, had come to Berkeley as a graduate student thinking he’d do mathematical logic. He had a master’s degree in mathematics, and wanted to continue studies in “pure” mathematics. He had a somewhat jaundiced view of physicists. They were always making these approximations. Nothing is really exact [laugh]. When he was studying for the UB Berkeley doctoral qualifying examinations, I asked him if – for the “analysis” part of the exams – he might be reviewing material on Legendre polynomials, or perhaps Bessel functions; I had studies these in math courses and utilized them for problems in physics and engineering. His response was, “No, those were used only for approximations!” But anyway [laugh] I would try out on him various things I needed to explain to students for my Modern Physics class. The students, all seniors, approached me at the end of the first semester, and asked if I would please, for this next semester, use a book on quantum mechanics. Because they were sure they would get questions that related to quantum mechanics on the Graduate Record Exam that had to be taken in Physics if you were going to apply to graduate school. The Princeton Educational Testing Service that put out the yearly exam, as well as sending samples of previous examinations to many universities (and eventually posting them on the internet) tried for some years to make the examination more relevant for testing graduating seniors (at least in Physics).

So for the second semester of my modern physics course I chose to use an unusual text, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, by Dicke and Wittke. Robert Dicke, who was quite an extraordinary fellow, who not only produced outstanding research in physics and astronomy (especially at Princeton), but also did a lot of applied work (such as consulting at RCA). As I began to use the Dicke & Wittke text on quantum mechanics for my Modern Physics course, I discovered that there were assertions made that I had never had to consider carefully before as I had learned how to use quantum mechanics in my own studies. The text made such assertions as, “ In using quantum mechanics to treat problems of physics, one must employ Hermitian operators, because they have real eigenvalues.” [laugh] Every observable can be represented by an operator. And you must use Hermitian matrices to represent these operators. I tried some of these assertions on my mathematician husband John! Well, he had a math professor who told grad students at Berkeley, in a “measure theory” course that that dealt with linear algebra the following: “Oh, these physicists are crazy. They think they have to have self-adjoint or Hermitian operators. And because they want only real quantities to be on the diagonal, and all zeroes on the off-diagonal, so they can say the diagonal elements as the quantities (eigenvalues) that represent the energy, or some other observable.” But this mathematician, the Berkeley professor asserted “They don’t need to do that. All they have to do is triangularize the matrix, and get a bunch of non-zero off diagonal elements above the diagonalmaybe zeroes below the diagonal, and the diagonal elements will include real and imaginary parts. They'll be complex numbers in general. They just pick out the parts, as the real or the imaginary parts will correspond to observables. So my husband challenged me in my assertion, from the textbook as well as from my own education. You use Hermitian operators because they are self-adjoint m (meaning that the matrix representing the operator equals its “adjoint,” which is the conjugated transpose of the original matrix.

Behrman:

Right, right, right.

Button-Shafer:

I began wondering, after trying these things on my husband, if I could find convincing arguments that would further explain the usual postulates for quantum mechanics—I finally, out of desperation, got my hands on a pre-print of group theory stuff from Wolfgang Pauli, written around 1930, apparently written to enlighten mathematicians as well as theoretical physicists. It was very nicely put together. I thought, “This will explain it to my husband better than I could.” [laugh] He started to read it. After every other paragraph, he’d say, “Who says? I don’t buy this.” It just didn't mean that much to him as a mathematician. For some years I speculated as to what the minimal set of conditions would be to REQUIRE Hermitian matrices to represent observables in quantum mechanics. (I was pretty certain that requirements of real eigenvalues, orthogonality of wave functions, and completeness of the set of wave functions would be sufficient… but perhaps not NECESSARY conditions. I also, through a physics colloquium by a theorist in some area of solid-state physics, found that there IS an area of study – involving “coherent states”? – where wave functions need not be orthogonal and operators do NOT demand Hermitian matrices!)

Returning to my discussion with Viki (Victor) Weisskopf after the Boston University symposium in 1973, I decided it was wise to follow his advice for a beginning course on quantum mechanics: Weisskopf had said, “Oh, you don’t want to teach the postulates of quantum mechanics. It’ll just confuse people. Teach students the procedures for USING quantum mechanics, and let them discover that calculations can match experimental results.” My daughter Christina M.S. Cohen went through similar struggles with quantum mechanics when she was a university junior and taking a course from one of Werner Heisenberg’s sons, Jochen Heisenberg. Although he got his PhD in Hamburg, Germany, and pursued a career in the U.S. primarily as a theorist, Jochen did a lot of experimental work at nuclear physics labs; he was at MIT and then moved to the University of New Hampshire. And he taught a UNH course on wave theory that began with classical mechanics, but then it went over into quantum mechanics. And I told my daughter, “Well, you have to take some of quantum mechanics on faith, and say, ‘Well, I'm going to believe it.’ Use the concepts and see if they work.” I think maybe I convinced my husband that applied mathematics, even as used in quantum mechanics, could be interesting. I bought him Volume Three, on quantum mechanics, of Feynman’s undergraduate physics lectures at Caltech, because every time I’d try to compare what my husband knew of algebra with the physics I knew, I discovered that the overlap was most obvious for DISCRETE groups (of infinite dimension!). I tried to tell my husband about the J-M representation we physicists use for angular momentum, as in studies of the spins of elementary particles or resonant states. The Feynman book didn’t help!

But I did learn that John knew about anti-commuting operators, not because of the “Pauli matrices” for spin ½, but because of Hamilton’s quaternions! He knew that an Irish mathematician [William Rowan] Hamilton had developed relations for anti-commuting operators, or “quaternions.” Hamilton had even engraved the quaternion relationships on some bridge in Dublin. Anyway, Hamilton thought quaternions were going to solve all kinds of problems. And I discovered the Pauli matrices, which are two-by-two matrices, are representations of Hamilton’s quaternions, if each matrix is multiplied by a factor of the imaginary quantity i. You might wonder why physicists call them “Pauli matrices” rather than “Hamilton quaternions”! (Physicists use them to describe polarization states for spin onehalf particles, such as the electron or the proton.) I actually heard Pauli lecturing at Berkeley when he visited there not long before he died. I was a young postdoc and he was in his early-mid fifties. He didn't live long. He drank and ate too much. [laugh] But he spent a year, year and a half at Berkeley. Rather rotund fellow. And I heard lectures that he gave that were attended by quite a few postdocs and a few faculty, and a lot of graduate students. His memory was not too good—he couldn't remember the elements of his own “Pauli matrices.” But we young physicists could feel happy that WE knew the Pauli matrices.

But how many physicists ever hear of Hamilton’s (more general) quaternions?

Behrman:

Not very many. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Some of the old-timers know them. A senior physics colleague once told me quaternions had been used for following satellites. But they didn't solve all of the physics problems as Hamilton had hoped. I'm sorry. I wander off on these things. [laugh] I hope to cover later some more of the interactions I had with Viki Weisskopf, both at UMass-Amherst and at M.I.T. – on things such as teaching students about “elasticity theory”; the changing gravitational constant… as well as some experiences he had in his early years as a postdoctoral assistant to Wolfgang Pauli at the ETH in Zurich.

Behrman:

It’s okay.

Button-Shafer:

[inaudible] I've taken up how many hours of your time? I don’t believe it. Have we been talking that long? Of course we did have the down time, but that wasn’t so long.

Behrman:

It’s just fine.

Button-Shafer:

[inaudible] talking, and you can ask me for—to fill in some of the gaps.

Behrman:

Oh, it’s okay. I was going to propose that we schedule a second session to talk some more. Maybe start off with your time in—

Button-Shafer:

In a more methodical way? Yeah.

Behrman:

Well, I mean, but—

Button-Shafer:

My biggest excitement in music was with a young fellow eight years my junior, to whom I was introduced by people who were teaching chamber music at Berkeley, a British quartet. And they said, “Oh, you should meet this young violinist Austin Reller.” This was in the sixties. He was about 20 years of age—19, 20 when I met him—and I was in my late twenties. In my first years as a Physics graduate student in Berkeley, I had taken a couple chamber music courses where students were performing in small ensembles coached by members of the Griller string quartet, a British group associated with the UC Berkeley Music Department for many years. I occasionally performed piano trios or quartets (and even some piano solos) in campus programs. But the second violinist of the Griller Quartet Jack O’Brien, had befriended young Austin Reller, who was the son of a professor —in fact the head of the UC Berkeley School of Education, and husband of a very Austin’s mother, a graduate of Wellesley College, was very important in encouraging him toward a career as a concert violinist. And he was the youngest of their three kids, was considered a brilliant student, and was studying violin in San Francisco with Naoum Blinder. Blinder was the teacher of Isaac Stern. I got the opportunity of playing very frequently with this young fellow, who was one of the most fantastic violinists I've ever known. The problem was, he was probably interested in too many things. He eventually got a Stradivarius violin. But he really didn't want to be a concert violinist. I met him just when he had won a contest. And he played the Sibelius violin concerto with the San Francisco Orchestra because his teacher, Naoum Blinder, had been the violinist under Pierre Monteux. I got to meet Pierre Monteux.

So my life has been filled with—especially where music has been concerned—with opportunities. First of all, I think being a woman can be an advantage, especially if you're my height. And I think what I sent to you had the little thing about Edward Teller knowing me as a pianist, because he heard me perform violin-piano sonatas in a Berkeley home to raise money for the San Francisco Symphony. He had heard me in various elegant homes in Berkeley. And he played piano himself. Rather loudly, I think. [laugh] I never heard him. But it was known of Teller that he kept people awake at Los Alamos until the wee hours of the morning. Teller knew me primarily as a physicist because I had sat in on his graduate-level quantum mechanics course. It was an exciting course in many ways, but I hung out—I stayed at the back of the class. I was the only woman there, and found that Teller would pace rapidly with his peg leg, and sort of pounce on somebody in the first row that he could lecture to. [laugh] Though not in front, I was definitely not inconspicuous.

Also, my advisor, Owen Chamberlain, had advised that I might, for a thesis project, do something that was pretty sophisticated involving spin-polarized negative muons that were captured by protons in hydrogen, and produced a neutron and neutrino whose angular distribution yielded evidence of parity violation. And I had worked out with my slide rule and maybe desk calculator some pseudo-classical calculations but also quantum mechanical calculations to determine whether the muon would retain its spin as it cascaded down before capture, and whether the momentum of the outgoing neutron could be studied to see if it correlated with the original muon spin direction. Well, anyway, it was going to be a parity violation type of experiment, where the muon would be captured, a neutron would come out, and you could see some asymmetry that correlated with the muon’s polarization. So Owen said why didn't I go—he was all of 37, 38 years of age—Emilio Segrè was much older. Owen said why didn't I consult with Teller after I carried out some calculations. Quantum mechanical calculations were hard to do. Semi-classical were easier.

So I had my slide rule with me, when I went to see Teller. He whipped out his slide rule, I whipped out mine, and I got the answer before he did! I had already practiced. He may or may not have remembered that. But he certainly remembered seeing me at physics meetings. And I heard him say the following to Segrè at a well-attended UC Berkeley meeting (probably a regional APS meeting) when I was a postdoc where Teller gave an impressive talk about determining how galaxies formed. And he said they were doing extensive computer calculations at Livermore, to determine how matter and anti-matter galaxies could collide with each other and produce some of the observed phenomena in the universe. Segrè wanted to know, well, how did they perform the calculations—they must have had some initial conditions to have what Teller was describing. And Teller hadn’t described how you would have galaxies that were matter and anti-matter. So Segrè wanted to know, “Well, what did you do to start off your calculations? You had to make some assumptions. What were your initial conditions, if you like?” And Teller hovered over Segrè—he was right in the front row—and said, “Vell [pr], Emilio, do you vant [pr] me to tell you everything?” [inaudible] Teller on arms control, but he would have it out. He would get to some point and he’d say, “Well, I wish I could tell you everything, but I can’t.” But this was hilarious. It brought down the whole house, whole auditorium full of physicists, when Teller, leaning over Segrè, said, “Emilio, do you vant [ph] me to tell you everything?” He wasn’t going to tell how the universe started. That wasn’t part of their calculations. He was assuming anti-matter and matter were initially separate.

Behrman:

I'm afraid—

Button-Shafer:

Yeah, I’d better let you go. You've got other duties, and it’s already six o’ clock your time?

Behrman:

Yeah, I need to go start making dinner and all that other [inaudible].

Button-Shafer:

[laugh] I'm sorry experimentalists don’t know what time it is, either.

Behrman:

Oh, it’s okay! [laugh] Historians are usually lost in another decade, so—

Button-Shafer:

[laugh] By the way. I used to say mathematicians don’t live in real space or time, and I now apply that to computer scientists, like one of my sons.

Behrman:

Well, I'll stop the recording then now.

[End Button Shafer part 1]

[Begin Button Shafer part 2]

Behrman:

It is the 10th of November, 2020, and I'm talking over Zoom again with Dr. Janice Button-Shafer. This is part two of our interview that we started last week. So last week we sort of left off talking about your college years, and I was wondering if you could discuss, maybe to begin with, what you were thinking about in terms of what would happen after college.

Button-Shafer:

Well, as I indicated, I had been inspired by not just the biography, what I had learned about Marie Curie, Madame Curie, around age 12 or so, but also, later, learned about Lise Meitner, who had left Vienna and gone to Berlin. So anyway, I was hooked [laugh] on nuclear physics. And furthermore, after the Second World War, which ended when I was about to turn age 14, nuclear physics was really over-glorified, even though many individuals had trouble pronouncing “nuclear.” In fact, that had something to do with President Truman’s announcing “atomic bomb,” rather than saying “nuclear.” [laugh] But it looked to be a very exciting field. Was given too much publicity, probably. Research money was very much available. I was quite determined even when I was still in my teenage years that I would go on beyond engineering physics, the five-year program that I engaged in at Cornell. And then I went off to Germany with a Fulbright fellowship, and that was to do nuclear physics in Göttingen, neutron physics in particular. But I knew after that year that I would try to find a good graduate school. (Prof. Karl Wirtz, the head of the neutron physics experimental program at the Max Planck Institut (MPI) in Göttingen, a close associate of Werner Heisenberg during WWII, tried to persuade me to continue my graduate studies in Göttingen. Also, I had a very close relationship with the outstanding German doctoral student, Karl Heinz Beckurts, whom I assisted at the MPI. But I was determined to return to the U.S. for my doctoral studies in nuclear physics.)

I neglected to mention about my Cornell career that I was very much involved with extra activities within the Engineering College. Overlapping my student government work, in charge of this 2,000-woman student body as president of the Women’s Student Government Association. I became the Associate Editor and then the Editor-in-Chief of The Cornell Engineer monthly magazine. At that time, there were no women on the staff of the student-run magazine. Besides writing technical articles and occasional interviews of important Engineering faculty, I wrote an editorial entitled “Where Are the Women?” to present arguments urging that more women go into engineering and scientific fields. We had two Engineering professors as advisors. So that was an all-male organization. Hence I had this very strange experience of [laugh] often being essentially the only woman, not only in classes, but also in heading the Cornell Engineer staff. And I had a marvelous time at Cornell! I enjoyed doing these things. And I think I told you too much in detail about my rationalization for extracurricular activities—thinking, oh, there ought to be a Telluride House for women. “And if I accept this position or that position—” (You had to be elected to be the head of the Women’s Student Government Association. All you had to do for The Cornell Engineer was to contribute as a writer, and – if editor – to deal with the Ithaca-based publishing company. We published articles relating to engineering topics that might interest students, faculty, and alumni.) So I ended up running the organization, and moving from “associate editor” to “editor-in-chief” after the fellow holding the latter position had to resign because of pressures from his studies. And that tied in with my engineering training very well. I wrote articles about analog computers, developments in nuclear reactors, elementary particles, the history of the School of Engineering Physics, etc. And I think I told you I had General Electric Company approaching me, wanting to hire me as an engineering physicist after my graduation. But I told them no, I was planning eventually to do graduate study, presumably for a PhD, but first I was going off to Germany for a year with a Fulbright fellowship for physics study.

A year later, it was a bit of a struggle when I got to Berkeley to decide whether I wanted to head more into theory or experiment. I can tell you, probably from my undergraduate years on, that I discerned that theory wasn’t such a good thing if you wanted to combine marriage and career. [laugh] Yes, you could work by yourself, however you might go down so many dead-end paths that it would be too frustrating. While I enjoyed theory, I didn't think I was outstanding enough in mathematics or in physics theory. And it was overwhelming in those years. I would often go to the weekly “Journal Club” meetings in the Nuclear Physics building, with Hans Bethe, Philip Morrison, and other outstanding Cornell faculty participating and interacting with graduate students. Many results reported from various nuclear research institutions were discussed by Journal Club participants— as the theorists and the experimentalists tried to understand some of the mysteries in strong and weak interactions. For my fifth-year project, I did do hardware, so to speak, and had an interesting time doing research on accelerator design. I don’t think I mentioned that. Cornell was going from a 300 MeV electron synchrotron with what was called weak focusing, to a 1 GeV (that is, 1 Giga-eV or one Billion electron-Volt) synchrotron. They were just putting that together, and were employing “strong focusing” that had been developed at Brookhaven Lab, by Courant, Livingston, and Snyder – accelerator engineers. You may have heard of the AGS, which by now is a very, very old [laugh] accelerator— the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron. Some index n had been used to describe the radial variation of the magnetic field, by evaluating the logarithmic derivative of the field B (setting n equal to dlnB/dlnr) with respect to radius r). Keep index n less than a value of one gave a slight parabolic variation of the magnet pole-tips, and good stability of the beam that was to be circulated through magnet structure. However, it was found that better focusing could be achieved if n were made much larger than one – as long as the magnet design had alternating sections focusing and defocusing in one plane, and the opposite in the other plane.

Anyway, the Brookhaven National Lab (BNL) constructed the AGS, the first accelerator employing the “strong-focussing principle of having this field index, little n, be much greater than one. I believe the new 1 GeV Cornell synchrotron was supposed to be the first ELECTRON accelerator in the U.S. to employ “strong focusing.” (Physicists and engineer at BNL had built accelerators only for protons.) My job, for my fifth-year project, was to measure the spatial variations of a section of the new strong-focusing magnet, and to determine what small correction coils would be needed to eliminate unwanted effects at the section ends. What could be used to correct the fields so it would match more precisely the design specifications. So I got to work long hours—well, whenever I was free from my course work. I still had probably six courses. [laugh] Maybe just five. In technical fields. But I spent a lot of time on that fifth-year project and really enjoyed it.

And I got to visit Brookhaven Lab, or at least to interact with the people who had developed the principle, one of them being a fellow named Ernest Courant, who was one of two scientist sons of the mathematician Richard Courant, who established the Courant Institute at NYU, came originally from Germany, had to flee. Had been working with Hilbert, but being Jewish, he left in the late thirties, and established the Courant Institute. So when I was in Germany—and I might have touched on this—I got to hear Richard Courant. He was brought back to give a presentation to the Göttingen faculty and any students who cared to attend. And he later wrote a fascinating Scientific American article on pure and applied mathematics. A decade after I had been in Germany, I came across, around ’65, an article in which Richard Courant compared pure mathematics and applied mathematics, and pointed out that in pure mathematics, if something doesn't work, doesn't go all the way through, if you have some Ansatz, some theorem that you're trying to prove, some proposition that you're looking at, as a pure mathematician, you can start over. Go back and modify your starting hypothesis. If you're doing applied math, it’s really tough! Because you're trying to match the real world. You cannot change the conditions. So therefore, applied mathematicians have to know how to make some approximations.

And my husband John and I had an interesting discussion—I had been married with this fellow seven years my senior, who was doing his doctoral work, somewhat belatedly, in pure mathematics. So we had interesting discussions, since John had realized, by his junior year when exposed to mathematical approximations in an advanced mechanics (physics) course that he was uncomfortable with approximations . But in any event, it looked as if I should be an experimentalist, as I went through my training in engineering and physics at Cornell. That was reinforced in Göttingen. Now your question was what happened after Cornell? How did I decide that I wanted to go on or where I should go?

Behrman:

Right. How did you decide to apply for the Fulbright? How did you decide where to go? And what was it like in Germany?

Button-Shafer:

Okay, well, you had asked me in our earlier session about my research, and I had mentioned that I worked every summer after my sophomore year at Cornell. I spent the summer of my second year at MIT, with an analog computer. It was very interesting and a lot of fun. Following my third year at Cornell, I was supposed to go to Oak Ridge, but clearance lagged, [laugh] didn't come through in time. Went to Cornell Aeronautical Lab instead. But then after that, after my fourth year, which would have been 1953, that summer, I worked in neutron physics, hands-on research at Oak Ridge. We were handling enriched uranium, 95% U-235, the fissionable isotope. I suppose we must have worn gloves, but I don’t know. We were shoving these [laugh] foot-long pieces, 30-centimeter-long pieces, maybe an inch square, of enriched uranium fuel tubes [laugh]— and shoving them into an aluminum supporting matrix (a three-dimensional structure) that provided space for pieces of beryllium, a very light element, as the moderator, to slow down the neutrons. We would fill the two halves of the reactor support structure, and get out of the experimental hall.

Then a fellow they called the pile driver [laugh]—a big husky fellow doing graduate work in neutron physics, at University of Tennessee, I guess—he was there at Oak Ridge. Then there were wonderful—I think I mentioned there were wonderful physicists and even a couple of people from Pratt & Whitney, because they were designing a reactor for aircraft. And it had to be fairly compact. And my job was to put in various foils—cadmium, indium foils— that would be sensitive to thermal and epithermal neutrons. After the reactor had been caused to go critical, or to get close to that point, while we were all outside the experimental hall, looking through a tank of heavy water, we would separate the halves of our reactor, and retrieve these little foils; then I would study the induced radioactivity by putting each of the foils into a chamber attached to some sort of radiation detector (a proportional counter). And I had already had some training in not just atomic but in nuclear physics at Cornell, where I became familiar with a nuclear physics textbook by Halliday.

I had also learned quite a bit about nuclear physics, and especially neutron physics during my 1953 summer research at Oak Ridge, and I decided I should build on that for my Fulbright application. I was advised by some physicist visiting from Göttingen, Germany, ask what the possibilities were for me to do research in Göttingen. It was suggested that I write to Professor Dr. Karl Wirtz, who was directing research on nuclear reactors at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen. (For any area of Fulbright study abroad, you had to know what project you expected to work on, and preferably have established contacts with the university or institute that you were going to visit. So I was advised to contact Professor Dr. Karl Wirtz—W-I-R-T-Z. He had worked closely with Werner Heisenberg, who headed a group trying to develop a nuclear reactor during the war years; Wirtz, an experimentalist, probably had a role with Heisenberg similar to the one that Enrico Fermi played with Oppenheimer in the early years of the U.S. Manhattan Project. (Germany had three groups of scientists competing to develop nuclear fission. With resources lacking, no group succeeded. Following the war, most of the German nuclear scientists were interned in England, and then sent to Göttingen, in the British occupation zone – to do research and teaching at its famous university and at the Max Planck Institute (the previous Kaiser Wilhelm Institute). Heisenberg was in charge of theoretical seminar given at the Institute. Prof. Wirtz directed a neutron physics seminar for students mostly interested in neutron experimental research.

When I wrote to Wirtz from Cornell in late 1953, he was very helpful. He responded to my letter of inquiry, suggested I might confer with a young German from Göttingen, and said they'd be absolutely delighted to have me come over as a Fulbright scholar. So I kept on this path of nuclear physics, not really thinking I’d go into reactor physics. That was a little too applied. I really wanted to do pure nuclear physics, pure research. But the fortunate thing for me was, besides the courses being quite interesting—one other German postdoc I taught, who many years later said, “Oh, everybody knew the Americans were—that if you visited from Germany as a young scientist, you'd be verschuldt”—I think he made up the word, but I took the meaning to be You'd be “schooled”, that is, treated like a young student[laugh] You’d be treated as if you were not very self-assured. You'd be compelled to take exams and do many problem sets for homework. Well, in Germany, especially in Göttingen and some of the other outstanding universities, there were fewer students. There’s a smaller percentage of those who completed their secondary school training, usually at age 19, at a gymnasium. Rather a small, select group of German students went on to universities. And besides, this was 1954 when I was going over, so Germany still hadn’t really recovered from the war years, and there weren’t that many young men coming into universities. So they were all very dedicated students who were very well—well, reasonably self-confident, knew what they wanted to do. Most of them had no fathers living, and had lost members of the family.

So my second semester, it was suggested by Professor Wirtz that I work as an assistant to Karl Heinz Beckurts. And he and two friends in different areas of science—he was a nuclear physicist working on this doctoral program, and then he had a friend in metallurgy, really solid state physics, who was really outstanding as a graduate student. And then another chap came from a different part of Germany, from the eastern part of Germany. So besides this Heinz Peter Struve [inaudible], whom he called Hein [inaudible], there was also Gü, short for Günther. And he was a chemistry graduate student . So these three fellows worked very hard, but they also played. They really knew how to have a good time with very little money. I was rich. I had $4,000 or something like that from the Fulbright Commission, but that went a long way in Germany. Because one dollar got you 4.2 German marks, and you could live on a half-mark a day. The mark breaks down into 100 pfennigs, and these Germans would get their lunch at a cafeteria, or maybe bring it with them, and live in very modest, rented rooms, usually. There were no dormitories. And these chaps were all about one year older than I, and they were well on their way to their doctoral degrees.

So I got to assist this Karl Heinz Beckurts, whom American soldiers called Charlie or Charley. The young Germans were just so thrilled to have any Americans they could talk to, because they remembered that they had been forced into service as teenagers, or even pre-teenagers. And when Germany collapsed at the end of the Second World War, there were these American soldiers who would give them gum—you know, chewing gum, or candy, …and nicknames. Friends called Karl Heinz “Charlie.” [laugh] And to this day, if I write to a German friend, the widow of one of the two German contemporary students mentioned above—we refer to Charlie (or Charley), not Karl Heinz.

But anyway, Karl Heinz/Charlie was a marvelous experimentalist. He didn't get much supervision from Wirtz, who was his doctoral advisor. Wirtz was too busy teaching. He conducted a seminar and was the primary professor doing experimental research in reactor physics at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen. (In the late 1940s, after WWII and the death of Max Planck in 1947, the name Max Planck Institute had replaced the name Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. And in Göttingen, at the time of my Fulbright year, 1954-55, there were famous German scientists, Werner Heisenberg,Otto Hahn, and others. (Most of the German nuclear physicists or chemists were found after the end of the World War and were interned for a while, six or eight months, in England, and then they were sent to Göttingen. It was in the British zone. The U.S. had sent a US-British group called the ALSOS mission with scientists led by Dutch physicist Sam Goudsmit that went right behind the advancing soldiers moving from France into Germany toward the end of the war. (Supposedly the name ALSOS was chosen because it was Greek for “Groves,” the name of the general Leslie Groves who supervised the Manhattan Project to develop a nuclear bomb.) The western allies were worried that Germany had not only developed a reactor, but possibly had a bomb. Goebbels kept trying to make propaganda with the claim that Germany had this wonder weapon. Well, they didn't. They didn't even get a reactor going. But that’s another story.

After the end of the war the German nuclear scientists, the experimenters and theorists, 12 of them or so, were sent to Göttingen, Germany – after a half year of detainment in an English villa known as the Farm Hall Estate. Göttingen was already well-known, though, way back into the 1800s, perhaps earlier, as a wonderful place for science mathematics, and medicine. Carl Friedrich Gauss—the Gauss of Gaussian units, had been there, and he had tried to determine the curvature of the Earth. He had done a lot of surveying with his telescopes all over Germany. So you could find a Gauss Tower, called the “Gaussturm” not far from Göttingen. [laugh] He had been there in the 1800s, and then there was a wonderful mathematician. The University of Göttingen was certainly known for mathematics. And even to this day, we speak of David H-I-L-B-E-R-T, of Hilbert problems, up through 23; these were unsolved problems in various areas of mathematic, some of them presented at a conference in Paris, with additional problems added for publication in the year 1900. A woman mathematician, Julia Robinson, who was in the Berkeley area, probably a little older than I, who was doing research in mathematical logic, became famous for having given a proof for one of Hilbert’s problems (number 10) . (She was the first woman to become president of the American Mathematical Society; but UC Berkeley did not advance her from a lectureship position to a professorial position for many years, despite the best efforts of her mentor, Alfred Tarski.) David Hilbert and Richard Courant actually wrote a book on mathematical methods—in German of course— that covered many topics useful for physicists and engineers. During the 1920s era of the development of quantum mechanics, when the young Werner Heisenberg was working with Max Born in Göttingen, Hilbert was often a helpful consultant for Born. And you may have heard of it yourself, or have friends in physics who used to refer to “Hilbert space,” a vector space that is very important.

Behrman:

Oh, yes.

Button-Shafer:

Before Richard Courant left Göttingen to escape Naziism, he developed plans for a new mathematics building, and in honor of Hilbert, the entrance hall was called Hilbertsraum—R-A-U-M, which means “space,” but can also be translated as “room.” [laugh] So “Hilbert space” was the informal name for the entrance hall [laugh], big lobby, in this new building. Very strange-looking fellow, but he was really, really famous, and he was very attentive to women. On an occasion for celebration, of Hilbert’s birthday or retirement, members of his institute constructed a poem that named every woman secretary or woman they knew of that Hilbert used to present flowers to. “Now, what do we do with the letter K? Oh, that’s right—he’s got a wife, and his wife’s name is Käthe.” So anyway, we would hear about these things. And a woman who ended up on the Caltech mathematics faculty, I believe, had been a student or a research assistant of Hilbert in Göttingen. Olga Taussky-Todd put together a wonderful collection of Hilbert’s papers for his 60th birthday; supposedly Hilbert teased her for trying to correct some of his errors. Anyway, there have been many amusing things that were written or related about Hilbert even though he was born in 1862, and died in 1942.

But to go back to the woman up in Berkeley who became the first woman ever to head the Math Society, and she was very outstanding in mathematical logic. A Polish chap who had ended up in Berkeley, Alfred Tarski, and was probably the best-known person, certainly in mathematical logic in Berkeley, tried and tried to get this woman onto the math faculty. And she was brilliant. My husband had sat in on a course of hers. She died at age 65 of leukemia! And this has been a problem for women physicists. You probably know that, well, Millie Dresselhaus had cancer quite a long time back. A woman I was going to mention to you later on, Sula Goldhaber, died at age 40 of brain tumor, or a sudden stroke. Gerson Goldhaber’s wife. And she was outstanding, first as a chemist in her studies and then later in particle physics. She and I interacted quite a bit at Berkeley. I once contemplated maybe eight or ten women I knew of varying ages—maybe somebody should write about, or at least an article about what being a woman, a lonely woman, in a man’s field can do to you physically. [laugh] Because it does take a toll, as has been said. You can make illegal certain things that used to be done routinely—get rid of nepotism restrictions—but it’s the little slights from day to day—not being included or not having your work recognized. That can take something of a physical toll. And I don’t know if you've run across that with any of the women that you have interviewed to date, but—

Behrman:

Sure, sure.

Button-Shafer:

Yeah. And I had had cancer of two different types, but fortunately both of them quite treatable. An English woman physicist, a friend of mine in the Alvarez group, had tuberculosis of the spine. Had to wear a sort of corset. And there’s a story about Hilbert, his attempt to sponsor a woman mathematician for the Göttingen faculty. I may have mentioned that to you in the previous session, when I think I [laugh] was talking to you about women in science or mathematics. He tried to get Emmy Noether—N-O-E-T-H-E-R— a brilliant woman mathematician who was often referred to as having pointed out, in a language that most physicists would have had difficulty understanding, that a symmetry in the physics world, whether it’s a translational symmetry, rotational symmetry, or whatever, leads to conservation laws. So she made the connection between symmetries and conservation laws. Hence we have conversation of linear momentum, conservation of angular momentum. And I have frequently heard my theoretical friends or colleagues give a talk and say, “Oh, there’s N---‘s theorem—” And they don’t know how to pronounce “Noether.” It should be N-O-E-T-H-E-R with a sort of hard T-H, so it should be—and this sort of umlaut—so it should be something like Ner-Ter. How do my theorist friends pronounce her name? Neh-ther. [laugh] Have they ever read her original math papers? I'm not sure. [laugh] I tried to read her paper, but found it easier to understand a lengthy Physical Review paper by a theoretical physicist who did a careful job of interpreting Noether’s mathematical treatment.

But she was famous as a wonderful researcher. Not such a good lecturer. But Hilbert admired her work so much. And her father was Max Noether. He had been a mathematician. I don’t know where she came from, but she was in Göttingen. And I don’t know where she did her math PhD; I've forgotten now. But the story is that Hilbert tried repeatedly, probably back in the 1920s, to have Emmy Noether taken onto the Göttingen faculty as a regular professor, not just teaching or conducting research, for fees, for student fees, a professor extraordinarius or something like that. He wanted her as a regular professor. Finally in frustration, Hilbert said (auf deutsch), “But gentlemen, this is not a bathhouse.” [laugh] Emmy Noether eventually came to this country, and I think taught at Bryn Mawr.

Behrman:

Yeah. But also died very young., I think of tuberculosis.

Button-Shafer:

And she was overweight, very extraordinary mathematician. Hermann Weyl knew Emmy Noether. He was German in origin, presumably did a lot in group theory and a lot that really influenced developments in theoretical physics. Even to this day, Weyl is spoken of. And he wrote that Emmy Noether was a beautiful person, in a general sense, not in a physical sense. [laugh] So I don’t know what she died of. Do you know?

Behrman:

I think it was tuberculosis. It was very soon after she came to the United States.

Button-Shafer:

Oh, really!

Behrman:

Yeah. Very tragic.

Button-Shafer:

So anyway, there weren’t that many well-known theoretical physicists or mathematicians, for that matter, in Europe. So they all knew one another. [laugh] Hermann Weyl, an outstanding German mathematician spoke very warmly of Emmy Noether, I recall reading an obituary for Emmy Noether in the mathematical journal (of the AMS) that my husband subscribed to. Incidentally, I can recommend, if you or any of your acquaintances ever want to learn more about David Hilbert or Richard Courant, there’s a biography of each of those written by the non-mathematician sister of Julie Robinson. Her name is Constance Reid, R-E-I-D. And these books are so well-written. And she not only through her sister but through her brother-in-law, who was a well-established person who mostly did algebra, I think, at the University of Berkeley math department—but she would talk to her mathematician sister, Julia, and her brother in law, and get a lot of information. And she wrote in such a comprehensive way, wonderful biographies. One that’s of David Hilbert, and one is of Richard Courant. And she did some other writings as well. So the American Math Society, of which she was not a member, actually gave her an award! For all the writing on biographies and history of mathematics.

So yeah, we need to have more emphasis for math in our school systems, right? Young girls are still being told by their parents or their friends, “Oh, girls don’t have to do well in mathematics.” They need to have a mathematical mind. It’s not a God-given talent; you need to work at it! Just as you need to work at spelling. [laugh]

Anyway. So I'm off on one of my digressions. So from Göttingen, I was treated really very nicely, and I learned a lot of things about apparatus. This Karl Heinz, or Charley Beckurts, who eventually ended up in charge of research at Siemens, he was one-eighth Jewish, and as such I think kept out of the Hitler Youth as a young boy. But fortunately, no close relatives, as far as I know, had been badly treated by the Nazis. But I don’t know. His father was no longer living. His mother was a countess. [laugh] And again, I met her only once. But he and I became very good friends, because I loved doing a lot of the hardware, and I was able to design some apparatus that—what did they call it? It was an apparatus through electrolysis—Elektrische[inaudible] zelle [inaudible]. So it was a cell made out of glass, and produced for me by the top machinist in the Max Planck Institute, who had been the machinist in Berlin for Debye, Peter Debye, who was an extraordinary chemical scientist, chemical physicist. And he had come to Cornell. I knew the name of Peter Debye. And he had worked with Einstein on some specific heat calculations, what happens as you go close to absolute zero and so on. So Debye was famous. And this fellow had been the machinist for the Max Planck Institute or Kaiser Wilhelm Institute that Debye had headed in Berlin. I got the best of the machinists, who had come from Berlin to Goettingen. I could talk with him and ask him to design for me something that was called a palladium leak. And you could feed in, or put in the cell a D20, so heavy water. And then you could separate, putting—applying an electrical potential, you could cause the deuterium to separate from the oxygen and go to opposite electrodes in this little cell and produce the deuterium.

And we needed that. Why? Because my friend Charley Beckurts was designing—by consulting with industry and then consulting with engineering people at the Max Planck Institute, he was designing an accelerator. And what was it? It was a linear accelerator to accelerate deuterons. So stripping away the electrons. He had a 250 kilovolt linear accelerator in his lab. And he had jurisdiction, so to speak, over one entire hall of the Max Planck Institute. And his thesis advisor might pop in maybe once a week, or maybe he’d talk with Karl Heinz privately. But I saw a self-sufficient engineering-oriented nuclear physicist, who was within one year or so of getting his PhD. He did the whole thing, got all the apparatus together, to study neutron physics.

The problem in Göttingen, or anywhere in Germany, was that it still held that Germany had not regained its sovereignty, and they could not have any uranium or any radioactive material that might be fission. Without being allowed to have any uranium, they couldn't try to construct a reactor. But the whole emphasis was on reactor physics with the question being, what’s the neutron diffusion through graphite like? Or maybe other moderators, but he was studying graphite. Later wrote a textbook on neutron physics that was very well [inaudible], a lot of theory and experiment. Put his thesis advisor’s name on the textbook. But what he did during his doctoral work that I assisted with was to construct also sort of a Cockcroft-Walton type of thing, where he could get modest A/C current building up to a D/C voltage was I think 250 kilovolts. And this was applied to the deuterons, starting from rest, coming down vertically, and hitting a target. So my various tasks were simply to develop this electrolytic cell that would separate out the deuterium gas. And then he did a lot of research to find out, from Swedish work, how you could manage to pulse this high-voltage apparatus. And it could spark—you could suppress sparking with sulfur hexafluoride. So it had to have this big [laugh] plastic container around it. And if you went inside to try to adjust some of the high-voltage apparatus—you had capacitors, resistors, diodes, et cetera—you had to try to change A/C voltage into high-level D/C. And if you forgot you were not getting any air when you went into this cage, you could suffocate. Because it was filles with sulfur hexafluoride gas, used to suppress sparking! And I found such things were there in Berkeley, too! [laugh]

Karl Heinz not only designed all that apparatus and built it, he consulted with high-voltage experts in industry; and I got to go with him on a consulting trip to the equivalent of the General Electric Company. It was AEG, which I think is Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft. I had a lot of physics background, though not so much in the high-voltage technology—but it didn't scare me off and I learned a lot. Came home with things in German about [laugh] what this company was doing. It was a very important company in Germany. I think it still is. But he also would go and speak with an engineer-physicist at the Max Planck Institut (who turned out to have helped the German underground during the war years). He was an engineer who had been in Kiel during WWII, and I might have mentioned to you, he was the father of a very precocious young woman, a little younger than I. She finished her gymnasium training at age 17 instead of the usual age of 19, and was already partway through her training in physic and chemistry at the University of Göttingen, when I met her in 1955. And we’re in touch off and on, and she’s Maria Michel-Beyerle, called “Maibi” by her friends. That was her father’s name. And her mother tried to help people who were fleeing the Russians and coming through Germany and was seized by the Gestapo. The father, fortunately, was not found out that he had been helping the German underground. He headed an optics firm, optics and other engineering. Beyerle escaped being seized by the Gestapo, but the mother was interned for I think many—quite a few weeks, simply because she had used medical knowledge, nursing or whatever, to assist ill people who were coming in as refugees.

So I learned quite a bit about the history of what had gone on during the war. Not a great deal, but the father was replaying old wire recordings of Hitler’s speeches, and head in his hands. I would be invited over on a couple occasions for dinner. And he was trying to figure out what went wrong with Germany, and how did Hitler manage to—there have been books written about all of this, of course. (One of my favorite accounts is The Third Reich, written by William Shirer, a very fine journalist, not long after he had witnessed Hitler’s “Anschluss” – the Nazi takeover of Austria.)

Many physicists and historians I have known find it unfortunate that Werner Heisenberg, to this day, is often referred to as the physicist who tried to develop an atomic bomb for Hitler. And that’s a controversial area which we shouldn't get into. But I managed to meet, in Berkeley, and to hear, over in San Francisco, a play written by a British guy, Frayn—F-R-A-Y-N—Michael Frayn, I think it is? And the play Copenhagen takes on Heisenberg’s interaction with Niels Bohr. Frayn, having been trained I think in philosophy and writing, he’s not really a scientist—but did a lot of research regarding especially the interactions between Heisenberg and Niels Bohr. One of Werner Heisenberg’s sons, Jochen Heisenberg, who is a nuclear experimenter and has been in this country many years, was interviewed by Frayn at length. My daughter had Jochen as the professor for a Physics course she took at University of New Hampshire. He had come from Germany and was at MIT, and then ended up at UNH in New Hampshire. And he posted a lot of things on the web. Because he disagreed with the portrayal of his father. He said his father was a modest man. He would not have been as active in this debate. So the whole play, Copenhagen, if you've seen it, is sort of a debate and dissection of a lot of quantum mechanical ideas, while Niels Bohr’s wife, Margrethe, is also trying to keep the peace, as she becomes somewhat alarmed. But she’s participating.

And I ran into Berkeley people—we just had hundreds, literally, hearing a debate between or a discussion between Michael Frayn, the author of the play, that most people had seen when it was in San Francisco, and then they had this panel discussion. It was really one interviewer, a physicist, interviewing Michael Frayn. I think I had heard from Frayn that he was impressed with Jochen Heisenberg, but Jochen Heisenberg did criticize the play because it made his father look too aggressive. And he heard from a Berkeley physicist—a fellow named Bob Birge, who had been at Berkeley and was the son of a chairman of the Berkeley department himself, a physicist—Bob Birge said he knew Margrethe Bohr, and she wasn’t that type. She was more in the background. She wouldn't have participated. But anyway, that caused a furor in this country! It was first presented in London, and it leaves open the controversy as to whether Heisenberg did or didn't want to develop a bomb. Because Niels Bohr became very upset. And you probably know the story. So that Copenhagen interview is a very distressing one for both Bohr and Heisenberg. Bohr then practically almost like a father to Heisenberg, very much admired.

Anyway, I never discussed this with Heisenberg. I didn’t have a chance, I guess, to discuss it with his son Jochen. But he posted many things. I guess we did have some email exchange. Because it’s still a controversy. And Bohr became so alarmed that he just didn't listen. He didn't realize that Heisenberg was really trying—in a covered way, because he was followed by, or checked up on by, members of the Gestapo when [inaudible] over at the Danish—the German embassy in Copenhagen. But I heard that Bohr later was at Los Alamos, visited several times, and brought a sketch of what he remembered Heisenberg told him. Maybe it was a sketch by Heisenberg. But he thought it was the development of a bomb, Bohr did. He went to Los Alamos, and physicists there realized it was a sketch of a reactor. And they had such scarcity of uranium and thought [inaudible] heavy water [inaudible] included graphite [inaudible] was absorbing too many neutrons, unless it was very pure graphite.

So the Germans didn't have—they had three different outfits in Germany trying to pursue the construction of the reactor. So I'm still contacted, even up until just a few years ago, by somebody who I knew, as a student. He already had his PhD, but he was a sort of scientific assistant to Heisenberg. And while I was still a student at Cornell, I heard Heisenberg lecture, and he came and gave a talk. And there was this awkwardness. And again I heard Heisenberg lecture at Berkeley. American physicists had not known how to react with Heisenberg. It was partly due to Sam Goudsmit, who overreacted and thought that Heisenberg didn't do what he could have to save Goudsmit’s Dutch Jewish parents. He tried. And then later, they made up, I think.

But one interesting thing that you may not have heard about unless you—oh gosh, did I see this in Physics Today? I learned it through a woman heading history of science and technology who did a lot of research on what happened to Heisenberg and others after the war, but especially Heisenberg. She gave a talk at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab that I heard, back in the early 2000s, and we got to be good friends. And she really introduced me to this fellow who had been an associate—even though he was an experimenter, he had accompanied Heisenberg to the U.S. on various occasions. He was a sort of scientific envoy or assistant to Heisenberg. And it was found, through this friend of mine at Berkeley, Cathryn Carson, this historian, who had studied physics and had a PhD in History of Physics from Harvard. And she had visited in Göttingen and knew the fellow—Reichenbach, I think? I've never met him. But he was going through Heisenberg’s papers—nachlass, they call it—what he had left behind. And he found a letter that Heisenberg wrote on the second night in Copenhagen. First night having been when he was in Bohr’s home, and they had this very bad argument that was—where they couldn't communicate, because Bohr got quite upset, thought that Heisenberg was declaring that they were going after an atomic bomb in Germany, and thought that Heisenberg might be trying to enlist his assistance. No. What most of us believe is that Heisenberg was trying to say, can’t we have an understanding between the scientists in the United States, the British—and the French, but especially the British—with Germany that neither the Allies [laugh] our forces, neither the scientists in this country, or perhaps in Britain, nor the scientists in Germany, would develop—that neither side would develop such a terrible weapon. That was what he wanted to propose, and that’s what many of us believe.

But I have several books put out by David Cassidy, about Heisenberg, and one of the most recent ones, Beyond Uncertainty, and he’s a little more moderate than many. But we still have these scientists who repudiate Heisenberg as having been a Nazi. In fact, he wasn’t. He never joined the Party. And there are many writings—and as a matter of fact, Abraham Pais, whom I came to know fairly well— Bram Pais, Dutch and Jewish, and saved from the Nazis by a Christian woman friend of his, who knew from his thesis advisor that this was a very promising young physicist, and he later went—he managed—his family were mostly murdered, sent from Amsterdam off to Auschwitz or whatever. But Pais himself came to the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies. Close associate or befriended as a very young fellow by Oppenheimer. He asked for a moment of silence at an APS meeting in Washington D.C., I think, because we just heard that Heisenberg had died. Pais is not one of those—and I never talked with him about what the Germans were doing, but here he was, a Dutch Jewish person—and I've run into other people, theorists in particle physics or nuclear physics—a very well-known person from Chicago—and the theorists I've known have really admired Heisenberg, and are willing to forgive him, shall we say, for their trying to go after reactors. But the German government never gave them very much money, and Heisenberg’s reason—there was something that was—the political life of the non-political person—and it was Inner Exile, and that was a book that was written by his widow after Heisenberg had died. And that caused—Jeremy Bernstein is one of the very nasty guys, [laugh] theorists, and a I think very good one—but he and some others have been extraordinarily critical, even of the American—the English title Inner Exile. But the German title was about what happened after the war, written by his widow Elizabeth. And it had to do with the political things that happened where Heisenberg led many of the physicists, many of the scientists in Germany, in declaring they never wanted to develop nuclear weapons after the war.

So I've read a lot of these books, on both sides. [laugh] Cassidy’s kind of in the middle. And what’s fascinating to go [inaudible] the Copenhagen play is that Frayn told me that he had about a dozen or so people—Germans, and people in this country—historians, who had written commentaries on his play, Copenhagen. But the copyright was such, he thought, that it couldn't be included in the edition in this country. So I thereupon ordered the German edition of Copen-hah-gen [pr] [laugh] or Copen-hay-gen [pr]. The Danish wanted you to say Cu-ben-hound [pr]. They didn't like Copen-hah-gen [pr]. Either Copen-hay-gen [pr], or the Danish pronunciation. So anyway, Frayn said that you could get maybe 12 essays. And it runs the whole gamut. So I have that written in German and in English, but had to order the German version of the play. That took some doing. They sent me the wrong book, first. [laugh] It’s hard to get books sent to you from Germany. [laugh] I mean, you can order them. Amazon, in fact, even has a dot-d-e. Amazon has a German website. You can use your same sign-in. But the shipping is not so trivial to have anything sent from Europe, as you may know.

But anyway, I got off on that play, Copenhagen. And it goes on, this wrangling, though most of the participants, I think, are now gone. But Heisenberg himself wanted to stay in Germany. That’s what was held against him. That he could have come to this country and had a position at almost any university—Michigan or Cornell or wherever. But he felt it was his duty—consulted with Max Planck, quite a bit older than he and head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. During the war, he asked Planck what—sort of consulted with him as to what he should do. And his ties with Germany were too deep. He loved the country too much. But especially he wanted to save the young German scientists from becoming cannon fodder, being handled the way they were during the First World War, where some very outstanding young scientists were sent off to the Western Front or wherever. Or more likely, it was a long war that went on—trench warfare with the French. Heisenberg wanted to make sure that young scientists could work on something meaningful. But he never pressed the German government for the kind of money and supplies that he would have needed. So he didn't have to make that decision.

I talked with—didn't talk with Hans Bethe about it; I saw what he wrote about it. And I discussed it with Wolfgang Panofsky at SLAC. Because I had run into a young German physicist and I was showing him what had been represented from an interview with Hans Bethe, not so many years ago. It appeared in Cornell alumni magazine. And Bethe said that he was sympathetic towards Heisenberg’s position. He said that Heisenberg never had to make the moral decision. He tended to believe that Heisenberg did not want to see an atomic bomb developed and had no intention of assisting or leading that project. Of course what theorists will say was Heisenberg was a theorist. [laugh] Or I'm sorry, somebody from Caltech said that, well, being a theorist, he did the simple calculation and had things not constructed the way Fermi designed things—Fermi and Wigner—with cubes, or little balls of the uranium, natural uranium initially, embedded in graphite. Instead, they tried a layered approach of uranium and then a layer of heavy water. [laugh] One of my friends here, probably early nineties now, taught reactor physics, was trained at Harvard—Columbia University and Harvard, I think—and he taught applied physics at Caltech, semiretired. He laughed, he said, about Heisenberg. He didn't judge what Heisenberg’s intentions were. He said, “Well, of course, [inaudible] made a mistake. As a theorist, they would know it’s a lot easier to calculate something that’s in layers.” Rather than calculate in advance something that is going to have little clumps of the fissionable uranium. So he kind of dismissed it with a joke. [laugh] His hearing’s not very good, so I never can get into very deep [laugh] discussions.

But he knew Beckurts [inaudible]. And he knew that my friend Beckurts, from whom I learned so much about experimental physics, and who did come to this country—I visited over there. My husband and I both visited him in his home, when he was already a manager at Siemens, vice president for research. But he was assassinated. He was assassinated at age 56. Why? Because he had helped the German government sort of behind the scenes, and going into 35% [inaudible] nuclear reactors. But he had headed, right after his degree—after his PhD, he headed an institute at Karlsruhe, the nuclear research [inaudible]. He taught at Heidelberg for a while. And he headed some general European association for nuclear physics. He headed a research lab, Jülich, and I visited him and his family at Karlsruhe, visited in Jülich. They probably thought that I named our first son after Karl Heinz. I think in the past, in other countries at least, it’s been important for a baby to have godfathers or godmothers. But no, I named my first-born son after my father, and after Carl Friedrich Gauss. I might have considered the fact that Karl Heinz was called Charley, and asked that he serve as son Charles’ godfather. But my son scarcely got to know Karl Heinz Beckurts.

My outstanding scientist friend was only age 56, when German leftist terrorists went after him, thinking that he supported the Strategic Defense Initiative, and had earlier had advised the German government to develop nuclear reactors for energy. It was a terrorist group in Germany, the Red Army faction group (that followed the Baader-Meinoff terroritst group of the 1960s), that assassinated Beckurt as he was being driven from his very lovely home in Straßlach, south of Munich, to his office at Siemens. Headquarters in Munich. So he and his chauffer were—there was a tower of flame, and it was all over the U.S. television, and the cover of Time magazine, and of course feature articles in German magazines. And they went after him, and they blew up the car with some trip wire. They tried to kill Alexander Haig when he was head of NATO. I think they had tried this scheme before. But anyway, in Beckurts’ case, he died instantly. But, only age 56. And they blamed him for supporting Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. And I got in touch with his widow, second wife—had been married only 15 years—and we had some telegrams and letters back and forth right after his death. She was just stunned. And she got a letter of condolence from Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy, saying that Beckurts was a martyr to the cause of SDI.

As you may remember, [laugh] the SDI office was trying to—and the Reagan administration was trying—and Teller, Edward Teller, was seen shaking hands with the chancellor of Germany in Munich, at the very time that Teller was telling Luis Alvarez, as I heard later, that he didn't think SDI was going to work. And in fact, many, many physicists—you may be aware—there were committees set up, mostly theorists, but Richard Garwin was involved, and he’s really [inaudible] an experimentalist, but it was headed by Andrew Sessler, accelerator administrator—administrator at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab. This Andy Sessler, head of the committee. And he was more of an accelerator theorist. So he had a committee of maybe ten, 11 people that put out an enormous report. It took them years, several years to do it. But the APS had a special session. It was the announcement of the launching of SDI, and trying to put $10 billion into it in the next few years by Reagan was late March, March 23rd of 1983. And immediately after that, there was an April meeting of the APS, where they had invited talks, and people talking about—special session on the Strategic Defense Initiative, which came to be called Star Wars. And then I went to sessions that MIT and Harvard had in ’83, ’84. ’83, I guess. And then I went to sessions on arms control in D.C. A lot of emphasis. And physicists were—most of them, 98%, 99%, were saying, “It’s not going to work. You need orders of magnitude more power in these directed energy beams.” Whether you had something overhead—that was Teller’s idea; Excalibur, they called it—where they were going to have an H-bomb orbiting overhead, and have a whole lot of rods that would direct the gas. The energy x-rays from the H-bomb would be sent through these metal rods that could be oriented. So that’s a big scandal in itself. [laugh]

Eventually it was established Hans Bethe had something to do with it. So did other people, maybe Garwin as well. They never really established that they could do this lasing [inaudible] and they gave up. But Richard Garwin, I was consulting with him and consulting with Sid Drell, on a seminar on science technology in the arms race, attended by a few undergraduates, a woman grad student from Philosophy, and visiting young German graduate students. Richard Garwin supplied me with a lot of material for my teaching on arms control, as did Sid Drell of Stanford. And there was an excerpt send to me by Dick Garwin, from an autobiography by Simon Ramo—R-A-M-O—of Thompson Ramo Wooldridge. Ramo wrote of his having been invited by Reagan, as many scientists were, and people in industry. At the time, Edward Teller went to the White House so Reagan could have his evening announcement that he was launching the Strategic Defense Initiative. So on the way over, Ramo was in a car, a taxi, with George Schultz, the then-secretary of defense. Or secretary of state? My memory is a little [laugh] wobbly. But anyway, George Schultz of course was not a scientist. He said to Ramo, this engineer-type, about Teller’s plan, “It’s not a bomb, is it?” [laugh] But indeed it was! Teller wanted to have something—maybe not in a geosynchronous orbit, but something that was in an orbit, revolving not very far above the surface of the Earth. And then when you saw these thousands of incoming Russian warheads, they could set off the bomb and direct these lasing [inaudible] things and have them all properly directed.

He wrote a letter in 1985 to President Reagan that was sent to Doug McFarland [inaudible] and brought there, actually, by a young theorist, Lowell Woods [inaudible] at Livermore. And it was Teller’s letter promising President Reagan they were through the design stages and would soon be able to produce something the size of Reagan’s executive desk that would be this Excalibur, [laugh] this H-bomb, ready to go off. And it could bring down 5,000 incoming Soviet warheads. That they were very close to producing that. The size of the executive desk. They were nowhere near close to that. And the engineer who was in charge found out about this, and he protested with Teller. And it was a grievance case. So what happened to the engineer? Well, he was demoted by Teller. They kept him on at Livermore, but he was put in charge of a replication [inaudible].

So that I reread only recently, and I've forgotten where I saw it, but the case goes on. It’s there on the web. Where did I learn it? I learned it from Sacramento Bee. I was out doing research, I guess, or somehow got my hands—because we had email in those days—Garwin and people and two physicists at Cornell started—oh dear, what did they call it?—arms control emails. And then there was somebody connected with the APS. What’s New [sp]. Do you remember hearing of What’s New? Every Friday, it came out in email form. Wonderful fellow whom I never met, Bob Park—P-A-R-K. And they said Livermore used to have to do damage control because of the stuff that Bob Park was sending out to all these scientists who signed on. But it was Deborah [inaudible] somebody-or-other—I can’t remember her last name right now—who was a writer for The Sacramento Bee, and she found out about the grievance case. It was supposed to have been private, within Livermore. And you see the people at Berkeley, I'm sure, heard about it, because Livermore was being funded presumably by DOE—AEC then [inaudible] then DOE. And one of my contemporaries of theorists in graduate school for a while was responsible for the supervision of Livermore, Bill Frazer [inaudible], and he tried to make an excuse. But the grievance case became known, and those interested in arms control—and I knew several people working at Livermore, one of whom had been at Cornell, and was trained as a nuclear theorist Hugh DeWitt. He did a lot of writing about arms control.

Anyway, it was a bit of a scandal. But I never heard very many physicists discussing the fact that this grievance case had gone forward and became known. There was some joking that, yeah, the engineer in charge, Roy Woodruff, was moved to “Gorky West,” a windowless building where Woodruff was assigned to a less responsible position. (The nickname has to do with the Russian theorist Andre Sakharov’s being sent into exile in Gorky, Russia, in 1980. Sakharov was becoming too influential. It was only through Gorbachev that he was finally brought back to Moscow. Gorky East was where Sakharov was held for seven years, and force-fed when he refused to eat. This famous physicist, Andrei Sakharov, whose work is still talked of, to this day especially for his research in the early sixties for particle physics. As a young scientist, Sakharov had participated in atomic bomb development, and later he took a leading role in H-bomb development. But he became very well-known in this country, and managed to visit the U.S. on several occasions. Sakharov and Sid Drell (Stanford physicist, and arms-control expert) had a very close friendship. Letters between them on arms control have been published… but of course, both of these scientists are no longer alive. Like Richard Garwin, Sakharov spent a lot of his life in the last years of his life arguing against nuclear weapons. So had Richard Garwin. And so had Sid Drell. Stanford University has sponsored for some years an institution called CISAC (the Center for International Security and Arms Control). Sid Drell headed that center, and sent me several publications (on SDI, for example) put out by permanent and visiting scholars at the center.

I benefited a lot from people like Garwin and Drell who would send me things [laugh] I could use in my teaching and occasional talks on arms control. So I had this feeling even from my high school years that anybody who went into nuclear physics, no matter what age, had a duty to learn what went on during the war years, and to try to see that—because there was a big struggle for a while to keep the control of nuclear weapons out of the hands of the military. Especially Curtis LeMay, an Air Force general, wanted to use nuclear weapons on the coast of China Maybe some talk about it during the Korean War. Well, MacArthur was brought home because he wanted to do more than Truman felt should be done. I think that may have included nuclear weapons. But Douglas MacArthur had to be brought back.

Anyway, the notion I've always had is that any nuclear physicist should learn about not just the history of nuclear physics, but what happened during and after the war, and try if possible to educate the public. [laugh] So that has been a major concern of mine. I have lots of notes. But to try to teach it to young people—if you teach just physics of energy to young undergraduates—engineers, maybe a few physicists, as I did—sophomore, junior level, back at UMass Amherst—the books will eventually go from discussing reusable energy over to discussing nuclear reactors. And students get upset, or the general public will be distressed, because they think it goes right into bombs. And that’s really different—having reactors developed for energy, fission reactors. And it’s really sad because the whole nuclear—the fission reactors have just sort of died. Too many public protests. You probably know [laugh] as much about that as I do. Things have been stalled for years. In the state of Washington, they had a whoops. And they did build in New Hampshire, but it took years to get—because of the public protests. Because the general public do not—people in general don’t know the distinction between developing a reactor and developing a bomb.

So my friend here, who I referred to earlier, making a bit of a joke about the theorists and their design—this [inaudible]—retired from Caltech. And he told me a story that he had a public lecture, not so many years ago, open to all of Caltech people, students and faculty and open to the general public—one person showed up! I don’t know how many years ago it was, but there was no public interest in learning anything about reactors. Now I think it has gone—Germany declared after Fukushima—that has really damaged the possibility of reactors. It might be coming back a little bit, but it’s not going to solve our energy problems, right? It’s just too expensive, and the people who knew how to design them probably have died! Or they're [laugh] very elderly. There are not that many companies that any longer produce reactors. I think that’s too bad. Because you can control them, and it’s very safe, and I took students on trips to reactors a couple of times, in this Physics of Energy course. And it’s really amazing how well they have been controlled. Not always; there are some—Nuclear Regulatory Commission hasn’t always—they had to—after Three Mile Island, which really hardly—but especially after Chernobyl, there were a lot of visits and refinements made in the control. Three Mile Island had a valve that didn't show positively whether it was open or closed, anyway, and a valve was open that shouldn't have been. And Chernobyl, the Russians didn't take care of when they should have. They turned off a lot of their safety controls, and purposely ran a turbine up to [inaudible] speed. They wanted to challenge the system, and it got away from them. So anyway, one of my classmates was the assistant secretary of energy for nuclear energy [inaudible] safety systems. I had him visit UMass Amherst [inaudible].

Behrman:

Was this a classmate from Cornell?

Button-Shafer:

Yes, engineering physics. It was Dave Rossiin. He was my special friend. [laugh] He didn't get married until even later than I did. For a time he headed the American Nuclear Society, ANS. He was the Consolidated Edison “man of the year.” He worked at Argonne lab for a while, in reactor research. But when I was still unmarried and was a beginning postdoc—’60, ’61—he was out for a conference of nuclear reactor people. And he had gotten his PhD. After he had gone through Cornell’s engineering physics, then he got a master’s degree with MIT and Oak Ridge collaborating. So he got training in reactor physics. And then he worked at Argonne Lab, but went to Case Western Reserve for further graduate study. Later he worked for a while at an outfit called EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) near Stanford, that looked at nuclear safety. He became a consultant for DOE, and was nominated for the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for nuclear energy, right at the time that Chernobyl occurred. And then his lips were sealed! He couldn't give speeches or write articles, because he was in the process of being confirmed in his post as assistant secretary of energy.

But we had some private get-togethers, my husband and I, so I would pick his brains. I’d say, “Okay, Dave, tell me what actually happened at Chernobyl.” [laugh] And that was right at the time that my friend Charley Beckurts was assassinated. His close friend in solid state, in metallurgy, sent me an article that my friend Karl Heinz, or Charley, had written about Chernobyl. His death occurred just after Chernobyl, in July of 1986. And he had written a long article for one of the important German newspapers, maybe the FAZ, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Anyway, very thoughtful article, because he knew so much about reactor physics, and reactors that were used for energy. He had helped to advise the German government sort of behind the scene. And he wrote a very logical article—all in German, of course [laugh]; I could decipher some of it— after it was sent to me, with a very poignant note, that said, “They have killed our friend.”

And I'm sure they didn't have reactor. Nuclear reactors were used for energy in Germany through the late 1900s to a level of about 35% of all energy (rather similar to use in much of the U.S. But the French went up to 65%! As of the sixties, seventies, eighties, and beyond, I believe that French authorities haven’t worried a lot about depositing the spent fuel. They just had big bunkers, concrete bunkers established not far from their reactors. And 65% of the energy in France was being supplied by nuclear reactors! And I don’t know where that stands now. I've kind of lost track of it.

Anyway, sorry for the long digression, but you see, I got captured by nuclear physics. Wanted to go into pure research, but I had training and interest in applied physics and engineering. I have been interested in the work of Alvin Weinberg, who went from heading research and then the entire laboratory at Oak Ridge. I had met Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge in the summer of 1953 (through chamber music). After he became director of Oak Ridge Laboratory, and later retired to the New England area, he was still writing papers—I don’t know how much consulting he did for the government, but Alvin Weinberg was very well known to most applied physicists, and certainly known for reactors. He and other people came up with new designs, such as use of ceramic material to construct inherently safe reactors that had feedback that would not be a positive feedback, but negative feedback that would prevent a run-away chain reaction. I would occasionally read about safe reactor designs in magazines, but I don’t think that was ever really pursued; and there continued to be criticism from the general public over reactor safety, as well as the ongoing problem of storage for spend fuel. There continues to be hope for thermonuclear energy, —fusion reactors. And that’s still being pursued after many decades of effort [laugh]—Scientists at Livermore Laboratory have tried and tried (with multiple beams from very powerful lasers directed at small pellets of deuterium and lithium) without producing usable energy.

Behrman:

Yeah, that’s a little bit further in the future.

Button-Shafer:

A huge “tokamak” type of installation ITER—I-T-E-R—has been under construction in France through efforts of an international collaboration. And we in the U.S. have been part of that. I knew the fellow who became head of the Princeton Plasma Laboratory many decades ago. And that was his pet project. I invited Harold Furth—F-U-R-T-H—whom I had known just before he got his PhD, from Harvard, when he was already the head of a group at Livermore Lab. And in the late 1950s, he would come occasionally for dinner in the UC Berkeley campus cafeteria, and interact with Berkeley young fellows, about the same age as he, who already had their PhDs. He did a modest experiment at the Berkeley Lab Bevatron, with a superconducting magnet he brought from Livermore. But the physics was very pedestrian. He used emulsions to record tracks from a beam of charged K mesons (a type of “strange” particle).

Anyway, Harold Furth went east to head the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory around 1960. I ran into him at various Physics meetings, and I asked him to come up and give a talk on the possibility of developing controlled thermonuclear energy, on fusion reactors, at UMass, probably in the mid-1980s. But he was worried about funding. By then, scientists at Princeton had gone from the early magnetic bottle the “Stellarator” at Princeton to something that I believe had been developed by the Russians, the “tokamak” T-O-K-A-M-A-K. (A Russian graduate student informed me that Tokamak means “toroidal chamber with magnet.”) At UMass some of my Physics colleagues were interested in getting together for a little reception that we had for Harold in my home, after his colloquium presentation—but he was on the phone much of the time! Calling Washington! Making sure he could get the money! So that the U.S. could continue and Princeton and other labs could continue to be involved with the international ITER. And that has been written up in Physics Today as recently as the last couple years. But it has taken years, and nobody is sure that it’s ever going to work. I've been kind of curious.

The proponents of controlled-fusion plants don’t appear to have somebody like an Admiral Rickover, who succeeded in pushing for fission reactors for Navy submarines many years ago. I'm pretty sure that getting reactors for submarines pushed the field ahead. Because GE had been predicting that it was going to take a couple decades before they would have a usable reactor. It went much faster than that for the development of practical fission reactors – providing up to 35% of needed energy in many parts of the U.S. Thermonuclear fusion, as a controlled source of energy, has been studied for decades. Fusion of light elements yields less harmful products than the fission of heavy elements, but with plasma temperatures required being of order ten million degrees C, no successful controlled fusion has been achieved to date.[laugh] There’s no one person who’s leading the way, I guess, unless he’s French. [laugh]

Behrman:

Well, I’d like—

Button-Shafer:

Harold Furth, the long-time director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, died early, of a heart attack. The pressures can be really enormous, for physicists who become administrators. Luis Alverez died in the late 1980s—he was born in 1910, I think—so he died a little younger than he should have. He smoked too much, all during the WWII years and beyond.

Behrman:

That’s another thing.

Button-Shafer:

He had throat cancer, as I recall. [laugh]

Behrman:

But speaking of Luis Alvarez, actually, I wanted to ask you next about going to Berkeley. How did you decide on that?

Button-Shafer:

Well, I was accepted for graduate study by UC Berkeley while I was still in Göttingen, at the end of my Fulbright year. It was a little complicated to find out what the requirements were. I also did apply to Columbia University. I'm not sure whether I applied anywhere else. But I knew Columbia University would be great for studying nuclear physics. I thought music opportunities, to hear performances and to play chamber music, would be wonderful in New York City—but that was a very minor concern. My intent was mostly to go where the physics was. A fellow who developed the maser and the laser, Charles Townes, was still at Columbia. Chien-Shiung Wu, or Madame Wu, who was the first woman ever to head the Physical Society, was on the faculty at Columbia. And I possibly didn't know that at the time, but I later learned that she had gone through Berkeley’s doctoral program in Physics. She had had her undergraduate training in China, but she was in Berkeley as a graduate student. And Segrè took this wonderful picture that’s in his From X-rays to Quarks, showing Madame Wu, or Chien-Shiung Wu, probably still a graduate student or just about to get her PhD, and Wolfgang Pauli. And Madame Wu was very attractive as a young Chinese woman, but she was really a pioneer, shall we say.

And I didn't realize until quite a number of years later—maybe from his book, X-rays to Quarks— that Madame Wu had preceded me in her Berkeley doctoral training. Segrè was always talking about Fermi, and what Fermi had done, and how he had helped him. And he was writing books about Fermi and about many other physicists, so sort of historical books. He even put Fermi’s lectures on quantum mechanics together in a book. In any event, the only time I recall hearing Segrè speak about Madame Wu was when I had already gone through my training and research years at Berkeley, and then went to UMass as a professor (in 1966). At the annual APS January meeting down in New York City, my husband and I ran into Segrè and some others at a lunch table during a break in the APS meetings. He said, “I don’t see anybody here from Columbia. Is there anybody?” he asked me. I don’t know that he had kept in touch with Madame Wu, but he certainly had written about her outstanding experimental work at Columbia University, with a few low-temperature experts from the National Bureau of Standards, that established parity non-conservation. Unfortunately I never had a chance to ask Segrè if he thought that Wu should have been included with Lee and Yang, the theorists, in the Nobel award for parity violation.

Behrman:

Right, yeah.

Button-Shafer:

Wu was really rather unhappy, I think, because she did—how should I put it?—she had to get people from the National Bureau of Standards to do the design work. But she had the idea of establishing parity violation with the study of radioactive decay of a cobalt isotope. (Richard Garwin, and Val Telegdi did a parity-violation study, published a little later, with a different process, the decay of spin-polarized muons). But she was the one who had the idea of getting cobalt-60, which had significant spin, and managing to get it spin-polarized by going down to very low temperatures and using what the atomic physicists call adiabatic demagnetization. So she was going to start with a cobalt-60 spin-polarized nucleus and compare the direction of a decay electron with the cobalt spin direction; any anisotropy of the electron momenta relative to the parent cobalt spin would indicate parity violation in the weak decay process.

There’s this rule of thumb we discovered as Berkely students:—if you can find a non-zero expectation value, for a spin angular momentum vector dotted into a linear momentum vector, an axial vector dotted into a linear vector—this is parity-violating. The dot product averaged over all events has to be zero, if parity is conserved in the decay. The parity-violation evidence of asymmetry in cobalt-60 decay was published by Ambler, Wu, Hobbes, et al.—about five or six authors. My understanding was that Wu was the primary leader, even though she had to have help with the low-temperature apparatus used to polarize the parent spin. Segrè describes the Wu experiment in his book, Nuclei and Particles. But she was left out of the Nobel award for parity violation in weak decay went to theorists T.D. Lee and Frank Yang. And I think that’s rather a scandal.

Lee and Yang—as my thesis advisor, Owen Chamberlain, said— had been sitting on both sides of the fence as regarded the explanation for weak decays; as they sent out one preprint of an article that proposed parity conservation, with opposite-parity partners (particles yet to be discovered by experimentalists) on the one hand, and also sent another preprint that proposed parity violation involving only known particles. I was a graduate student during this time, and we students wonderful seminars down on the Berkeley campus involved the people interested in nuclear work, grad students and a few older auditors, with two faculty members in charge; so we students had opportunities to discuss papers on current nuclear physics research – with guidance from the two faculty (one theorist and one experimenter)– like the two contradictory parity papers of Lee and Yang. The majority of students were from the lab, from various experimental groups. To guide us, we had different pairs of faculty members for several semesters (e.g., theorist Geoffrey Chewand experimentalist Art Rosenfeld, for one semester; and Chew and Chamberlain for another). A particular paper was assigned to one or two students, who would present the material – after everyone in the seminar class had studied the paper. Nuclear physics was changing rapidly in the 1950s; and we learned a lot from the nuclear seminars. We could obtain copies of preprints of articles written for Annual Reviews of Nuclear Science, for example, where they might be published later.

One of the most useful articles was by Gian-Carlo Wick, a theorist from Italy (and friend of Enrico Fermi) based at Brookhaven National Laboratory; Wick showed how to do fancy quantum mechanical calculations, but also how to use sort of Fermi-type reasoning, some low-brow calculations, to understand what happened to the DIRAC equation under C—charge conjugation—or, charge conjugation and parity violation, called CP, or time reversal T. By the time I was a graduate student in Berkeley, so-called CPT theorem had been proved by two or three theorists, one of whom had taught an outstanding nuclear theory class in Göttingen; lectures nuclear physics had been given when I was in Göttingen in 1954-55 by a young theorist named Gerhart Lüders, who was a close associate, a sort of protégé, of Heisenberg. (Although he presented beautiful lectures in German, the textbook he used was in English, Theoretical Nuclear Physics, by Blatt and Weisskopf, a text I had already used in the U.S.) Lüders and other Europeans were responsible for developing the CPT theorem; it became known as the Pauli-Lueders theorem – very important for particle physics. And that’s usually invoked, by the way, to explain that the existence of the antiproton was anticipated, before it was discovered. (If my memory is correct, the significance of the CPT theorem had to be pointed out to Segrè, when he was writing about the antiproton discovery for an article in the Annual Review of Nuclear Physics. There had been a tendency to cite the Dirac equation as indicating a positive partner for the negatively charged electron; but that partner was expected to have the same mass as the electron, and the positron had already been discovered in 1932. and accepted as satisfying the Dirac equation.)

The CPT theorem rather than the Dirac equation had to be cited as the explanation for the negative partner of the proton. The mass was wrong for the antiproton to be explained by the Dirac equation. [laugh] It wouldn't work. Segrè did a lot of publicizing of the antiproton discovery, while Chamberlain, being younger, probably understood theoretical ideas better. The fact that Madame Wu was left out of the 1957 Nobel Prize award for parity-violation (given only to theorists Lee and Yang) was rather a scandal, and I think maybe it had a lot to do with her being elected the president of the American Physical Society, the first woman to hold that position. And she was very effective in that role. I heard her presentation as a member of an APS panel presentation in 1973 on women in Physics. I think it was organized and chaired by Fay Ajzenberg-Selove. Wu gave an interesting speech, one in which she did not complain about the fact that she was passed by for the Nobel award. (But that has happened with men, too. A notable oversight happened with the omission of Jocelyn Bell in radio astronomy, for the pulsar discovery. She has been made much of in recent years, and has a very productive career.)

In retrospect I think Segrè was really fond of Wu. Didn't make my pathway any easier. He tolerated me as a graduate student in some respects; but I did benefit from being asked to help with his Nuclei and Particles textbook, and later consulted with me about some of the spin-parity research I did as a postdoc. He kept younger researchers’ names off the author list when I was still a graduate student; but that happened to others in the group besides me. It was the postdocs who were difficult for me! Chamberlain was almost too nice – and was a very helpful teacher for all the students.

As I explained elsewhere, Segrè pulled me in by his apparent connections with Fermi and other European physicists – apparent from his discussions of quantum mechanics in his Berkeley course that I chose to audit my first semester in grad school. I found I had not had basic quantum mechanics. I had used quantum mechanics at Cornell from my third year on, in various solid state or materials courses they had that were somewhat engineering-oriented. We had as a major person in engineering physics, kind of a mainstay of engineering physics school, curriculum, a fellow who had been Wolfgang Pauli’s postdoc. This guy Henri—it was probably R-I—but everybody—people didn't call him Henri [ph]; they called him Henry [ph]. He was Belgian in origin. S-A-C-K. I don’t think he ever became that well-known in theory, but he was the dean of the solid-state theorists, and he taught at least three courses for us, and he was quite a taskmaster. We had oral exams. Can you imagine doing that as a junior [laugh] in physics? Or engineering physics?

Behrman:

Very intimidating.

Button-Shafer:

Shelly Glashow has never forgotten that. He has written that he couldn't stand solid state, and he didn't like oral exams. Shelley was in a class separated from mine – for Physics majors, rather than Engineering Physics students. But anyway, Prof Sack was a marvelous resource. And there just weren’t many books. So I had already had the use of quantum mechanics, for that course, some of that probably in a somewhat dull nuclear physics course taught by Dale Corson, out of Halliday and Resnick. Corson had spent his postdoc years and maybe graduate years—I'm not sure—in Berkeley. He was very knowledgeable, wrote a book on electromagnetism that came out much later.

Anyway, we were using a standard nuclear physics text. And I don’t remember whether we used a lot of quantum mechanics there. But in the math course, in the course taught by Mark Kac, who was this extraordinary mathematician originally from Poland—over on a Rockefeller scholarship, lost all his family to the Nazis during the Second World War, this rotund fellow. And I remember he would grab for physics problems, whether radio astronomy—so he could teach us the method of steepest descent when we got [inaudible] variables. But he also would give us other problems. And then I'm confusing, to some extent, teaching I had from Philip Morrison, electrodynamics course, that was mainly a graduate course. And that had very, very few of us undergraduate engineering physics students. There was just one other besides me; it was mostly graduate. But Kac already in maybe our fourth year, [inaudible] semesters, take-home problem sets, a take-home final exam. Well, problem sets once a week. And he would talk about somebody [inaudible] hand calculations using the Schrödinger equation—did we use the Schrödinger equation or the Dirac equation? Anyway, Kac would explain to us things that related to quantum mechanics and tell us that somebody found the energy Eigenvalues for the helium atom, with two electrons, of course. And that he pushed the energy levels out to maybe six or seven significant figures, spending eight years of his life to gain one or two more figures. So we would hear descriptions of—so I think Kac must have taught us the Schrödinger equation. He certainly taught us a lot of differential equations—many, many somewhat—how should I put it?—most physicists and mathematicians, in fact, don’t like differential equations too well. [laugh] Because it’s cut and dry. It’s trial and error. And you may have had that experience yourself.

Behrman:

Sure, yeah.

Button-Shafer:

It doesn't seem logical as what you learn from analytic geometry and calculus, or what you get with calculus applied either to physics or engineering problems. But differential equations is a heck of a lot of cut and dry, and sort of guess work. But then after a while, you learn certain methods. But he taught not just differential equations. He also taught integral equations and many things relating to probability theory. But he loved physics. He loved applied problems. Anyway, there are all kinds of stories. There’s a biography of Mark Kac, written by somebody—maybe it’s written by himself. I could be wrong on that. But there’s a whole series of biographies that—one on I.I. Rabi. I think maybe Kac’s is an autobiography. But anyway, that’s another fascinating book. My daughter has said to me, not so long ago, “Well mom”—when I offered her Mary L. Trump’s book on her uncle, Donald Trump—she said, “Well, mom, I know you like biographies.” [laugh] I said, “Yes.”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

All my life, I've read biographies of scientists, physicists mostly. Of musicians. Like Art Rubinstein’s autobiographies, whole volumes. And also politicians. So I have those three different areas, which are very clearly set out in rooms up in my house. But I didn't bring very many down here. But Christina wasn’t that interested in what Mary L. Trump had to say, a psychologist, about her uncle. So my kids have differing interests in politics.

My computer scientist son says he doesn't try to follow politics. I don’t think that’s true. Oh, and my mechanical engineer, who’s the first-born twin, and he’s my double. There are quite a few things about Charles, the first-born twin, that I think I explained to you, about me, compared with my sister. And it’s not as obvious, because they are virtually identical twins. But Charles is a more thoughtful person. He’s the one that’s more inclined to eventually answer emails, and make comments on politics. So I did send him the book [laugh] by Mary Trump. The other one, I—anyway—and it’s a problematic thing with my computer scientist son, because he’s married to a very lovely lady who came from China at age 22. And we've been with her parents on a couple of occasions. But even though she has been in this country for almost 30 years—she’s 51 years of age now—you don’t tend to talk politics with anybody who has come from a Communist country. That was evident even when I was in Germany. And you still—even if it’s a Chinese-American, who’s, say, first generation American, maybe then. But especially if you're in China, you don’t want to ask questions. [laugh] But even my daughter-in-law was—she’s more of a reader than my computer scientist son. But I suspect that my computer scientist son, it isn’t just that they, as I say, don’t live in real space or time; they don’t pay that much attention to the outside world. Maybe for hobbies, yes, whatever their hobby might be.

And by the way, I should mention—this is a digression—but Heisenberg managed not only to be quite a wonderful pianist himself, but he had a string quartet among his seven children! And I played with two of his—a violist player, when I was in Göttingen. We had a little informal chamber music group that would get together only when the flautist theorist who was on the staff would manage to get out of bed and come into work at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon. Sometimes he’d get there a little earlier, so we could sometimes play during the day. But I later played with Jochen Heisenberg. Because he’s a very, very good cellist. But Heisenberg himself, pretty good pianist. He had to sit through a chamber music thing in Göttingen, in the seminar room that was sort of his seminar room for physics theory. Then he came up afterwards—I’d played for a singer, and I’d played for different groupings—piano trio, piano quartet— he asked, “Would you go through that Mozart piano quartet again? I’d like to play that with you.” So after the seminar was over with, I had heard Heisenberg play. [laugh] And he has heard me play. [laugh] Didn't get to know him that well, but I did go to a few seminars.

Behrman:

Very, very cool.

Button-Shafer:

He did give lectures on neutron theory, by the way. Heisenberg was very eager to have a reactor developed, and he had a very good small book on neutron physics that somebody gave me. He had given it some years before; I didn't get to hear his lectures. And they were very well-developed. And he went back to Munich, where he should have been a [inaudible]—Arnold Sommerfeld, who was a marvelous, old-time theorist who wrote many, many books—differential equations, and electromagnetic fields in material, etc. And Sommerfeld was really fantastic.

And Heisenberg should have been a successor, but the Nazis—his career was very nearly ruined by two Nobel Prize-winning fellows. One was a theorist and one an experimenter—Johannes Stark and another chap who had done something with [inaudible] experimenter, and then a theorist. And they were ardent Nazis and characterized Heisenberg as being a white Nazi, or a white—a white Jew—a white Jew. He was not Jewish, but they characterized him as being Jewish, labeled him that. He was called by Himmler, Heinrich Himmler. Heisenberg very nearly could have been sent to a concentration camp. All that was going on when—and you know, so these people who criticized what Heisenberg did with trying to develop a nuclear reactor—really rather unfair.

And two German students who were visiting and took part in my arms control course gave me a book in German—they were just getting their master’s degrees—and the book was Kettenreaktion, a chain reaction, and it showed a picture of Oppenheimer. But it described a lot of what went on in Germany as well as in this country. Heisenberg was in a sense saved—and I can’t remember which book I read this in—but he was protected by Himmler’s mother. Because Heisenberg’s mother was so afraid after he had been interrogated at the headquarters for the Nazis at Berlin, Friedrichstraße or whatever—he had been summoned to appear before Heinrich Himmler. And his future looked very grim during the war. But it turned out his mother and his father both concerned themselves with Heisenberg’s career. Father was a scholar, I guess at University of Munich, but in a totally different area. The mother had been a schoolmate, maybe at gymnasium, of Heinrich Himmler’s mother, and she went to see Heinrich Himmler’s mother and said, “My son is not a traitor.” [laugh] She declared that—although I don’t think Heisenberg ever became a member of the Nazi Party, she declared that her son was—loved Germany. And she managed to convince Himmler’s mother, who managed to convince Himmler—“Hands off. Don’t try to seize Heisenberg. He’s too important.” [laugh]

So anyway, life is complicated. I went into physics in part because I thought it’s an objective science and you can prove things, with mathematics. But then I decided, well, I’d be better off in experimental work, if I wanted to do something reasonably meaningful. You could always find an experimental project that you could work on. Theory would be a little too demanding, too isolating. But I've found more and more that I've been quite interested in the history of physics, in particular. And we've just been through such a—well, it was the glory days of nuclear physics, I think, in the thirties, and the forties, and the fifties. And then that’s what happened with Alvarez.

So I got to Berkeley, and I thought, “Gosh, I gotta make up for the fact that I don’t remember or didn't take very seriously”—optics, for example. We had not had—had quite a bit of—of geometrical optics. We had it in early days our sophomore year when we were doing electricity and magnetism, and then optics. And then I had a fair amount of solid state physics. But I somehow had missed a pet area of the Berkeley people, namely they had a textbook, they had professors, Jenkins and White, whose field was optics. I had to pass the written and an oral exam that had several stages to it. You know, a couple hours at each of about three important areas. Maybe there were four all together. One of these areas was optics. Another area was of course quantum mechanics. I had not had a low-level quantum mechanics course where you were taught the postulates. I had had very sophisticated mechanics, classical mechanics, way up into fancy things—Hamilton-Jacobi theory, and Lagrangians, and Hamiltonians, and all that stuff. I had to go back and relearn some of the simpler sophomore or junior level mechanics, and I had to learn, almost from scratch, some of the optics ideas, using a textbook that was used a lot in Berkeley for undergraduate studies.

And I had a ball, actually on the solid state stuff, because I learned some things that I had not—I had seen very sophisticated things at Cornell, and almost always an inverse. You have thermoelectric effect, and if you have [inaudible]—we learned about the Fermi level. We were able to make calculations and use numbers, use the theory that really worked. But it was all quantum mechanical. I had to learn some of the more phenomenological theories. So I’d just sit by myself at the little carrel that was up in the upper floor of the library, and review all the stuff.

And I think I may have told you that some years later—I did quite well, but there was one thing—I think Millikan oil drop experiment using viscosity, of Stokes’ law. And I somehow had never done the Millikan oil drop experiment. It just wasn’t done at Cornell. Didn't happen to be part of their advanced lab. It wasn’t that advanced. It was [laugh] sort of old-fashioned. So I should have had it, but that was one question in the mechanics part that I didn't have the background for, and we were asked to calculate terminal velocity. I flubbed one thing, but everything else, I think I did quite well, whether it was written or oral. But I was asked long after I had finished my degree, or a few years after, when I was a postdoc—and I think I told you—a young woman who had gotten a master’s, and she was from a Chinese family, and four sisters had all gotten PhDs in non-scientific areas. And she couldn't get through her qualifying exam, because much to the distress of some of the Berkeley theorists who wanted to have the preliminary exam that you took your second or third semester as a graduate student, they wanted to put in some graduate-level questions. But the [inaudible] always voted them down. They felt that the students had to be capable of handling undergraduate physics. [laugh]

So anyway, I really had a good time. I did sit in—didn't take for credit, but I sat in on Segrè’s undergraduate quantum mechanics course. And one advantage of that—it seemed pretty pedestrian to me, and I did try doing problems, but I didn't take it for credit. But I got introduced to quantum mechanics. He had known through a friend [inaudible] and it used Heisenberg’s original matrix approach, rather than being taught with the Schrödinger equation. And Steve Weinberg has, in recent years—well, maybe just late eighties—he put out a book, Dreams of a Final Theory. And he tells of his [inaudible] at the University of Texas, where he had eventually gone after being from Cornell and Princeton training. He was at Columbia, and he then from Columbia was at Berkeley as a faculty member, until his wife wanted to get a law degree, they went back to Cambridge, MA.

Anyway, Steve eventually went to U. Texas, in Austin. So he writes in his book, Dreams of a Final Theory—fairly close to the beginning of it--, “I decided I wanted to read Heisenberg’s original papers. And I think I'm a pretty good theorist, but I couldn't understand them.” He said some theorists are just magicians. Like Einstein. I think he mentioned Einstein. He may have mentioned Feynman. I'm not sure. Perhaps not that. But Heisenberg was a magician. And Weinberg considers himself to be more of a type who will do more calculational stuff. And I heard that from somebody at Harvard—that Weinberg and [inaudible] friend of mine—Glashow was sort of the inspirational type, and would do some hand-waving, but Steve was a more methodical type, didn't consider himself to be quite in the league of Heisenberg. But he was frustrated. And he said, “I tried to understand his original papers, but he’s just too much of a magician.” Then he turns, a few pages later, to the question of quantum mechanics in general, and how you should teach it, in the following way—he relates the fact that he was waiting for an elevator at Texas, at his department, and he and a colleague, also a theorist presumably, were just chatting a bit before the elevator came. Steve said, “I asked my colleague, whatever happened to Joe somebody-or-other?” This very promising young graduate student. And his colleague said, “Oh, he made the mistake of trying to understand quantum mechanics.” [pause] [laugh]

So, two things. Heisenberg’s papers he really couldn't understand. [laugh] And even to this day—and with my daughter, I saw the same thing—it’s really a leap of faith. And I think I talked a little about that. Whether I referred to Steve’s book, I don’t know. But it’s a book I bring out every time somebody—like one of the fellows for whom I was a mentor, fairly well on in years, but he had studied meteorology. And he was ill with Parkinson’s, but we were very good friends. He wanted to learn all about quantum mechanics! He wanted to learn about the most advanced things in quantum mechanics. So I said, “Hey, I'm not a theorist. Will you tell me about chaos?” Anyway, he was a meteorologist, and very curious about quantum mechanics. I did my best. I tried to tell him about how the electron spin was determined. Well, the electron was determined to have spin. And we experimentalists learn of the Stern-Gerlach experiment. (I discovered that many scientists know of electron spin for the Nobel Prize that was awarded to Goudsmit and Uhlenbeck; the two theorists, working under Ehrenfest in Holland, made this leap of faith that this point mass, that the vanishing electron could actually have angular momentum). This was the Goudsmit-Uhlenberg interpretation of the Stern-Gerlach experiment. But anyway, I would try to explain quantum mechanics. It’s just very difficult. And I don’t know that you've ever tried or had the experience [laugh] of—and I meant to tell you about Weisskopf saying, “Don’t try to teach the postulates. Just show the students how they can use quantum mechanics.” So that’s what I tried to do.

Anyway, so the Berkeley experience was really revealing, though, in that they had experimentalists doing some of the teaching of what was normally, at most other universities, considered most appropriately taught by theorists. We did have a fellow at UC Berkeley who kind of droned on as if from memory in his course on classical mechanics. He knew the subject cold but I had already learned most of it at Cornell in a graduate-level course that used the same textbook. That was the frustrating thing—I found the students at Berkeley, beginning students at least, and even those who were in their second year, were getting much less advanced material than what I had already had at Cornell, especially in math. Because I had a very good teacher, but it was a pretty pedestrian course. It didn't cover nearly the range of equations—[inaudible] integral equations and much less fancy stuff [inaudible] complex variables. So I think I took that course for credit, but it didn't compare with what I already had had before at Cornell for two semesters.

But then, when it came to physics, my thesis advisor, Owen Chamberlain, just in his late thirties, didn't get his PhD before Los Alamos, and had worked with Segrè there—he got his PhD only later. And he had been at Harvard. And as happened with a number of other young people—Robert Wilson, and a number of others—they were snatched from doing graduate work to go to Los Alamos. And after that, then Segrè I think went for a while to Chicago, and Owen Chamberlain did his thesis work under Enrico Fermi. And there’s a famous group that graduated there in 1948. And Fermi, as you've probably heard, we still to this day think of as the last universal physicist, able to do experiment and theory in a very wonderful way.

So Owen got his degree under Fermi, and then ended up having an office adjacent to Segrè. So they were the two heading my group. And he taught graduate-level electricity and magnetism out of a book that had been written by Panofsky, an experimentalist, and Melba Phillips, a woman, who had been Oppenheimer’s student. And it was written when Panofsky was already heading—going from Berkeley to Stanford, to SLAC. [inaudible] caused him to leave Berkeley and go down to Stanford. And Melba Phillips, who had done her thesis with Oppenheimer years before and then had taught probably for almost no money [laugh] for some years—oh, I know; she went to Chicago. And she and—uh, the one who won the Nobel Prize—Maria Goeppert Mayer—they were both at Chicago, supposedly on the staff, but they were not made professors. And I don’t know whether they were given money as lecturers or what. But neither one of them was—being women, neither of these two theorists, Melba Phillips or Maria Goeppert Mayer—I was always calling her “Meyer” [ph] because she came from Germany, but the “Mayer” was her husband. [laugh] She was a better physicist.

They wrote a wonderful book—Mayer and Mayer—and she was the daughter of a Göttingen professor, I think, in physics or chemistry. Probably chemistry. But she and her husband were at Hopkins and then Chicago; she was offered a position at U.C. San Diego when it appeared that she would receive (part of) the Nobel Prize in Physics. I believe that it was after she got the Nobel award that she was given a professorial position at UC San Diego. You may know the whole story.

Behrman:

Yeah.

Button-Shafer:

By then, she had a brain tumor or something like that, for the last ten years of her life. She passed through Berkeley. I got to meet her when she was still fairly alert. But anyway, these two women were theorists, and I think Maria Mayer and her husband—I don’t know if they went to Hopkins, but she was outstanding, but not recognized until she got the Nobel award at the same time that Eugene Wigner did, and also a German fellow. And she was assisted in her—what won her the award—the spin structure of—model of the nucleus with spin orbit coupling—Enrico Fermi gave her a tip. She wasn’t making things quite fit with her theory, so it was a sort of—as opposed to the collective liquid drop model of the nucleus, they had a sort of orbiting nucleons—shell model, they called it. Shell model. So that was her development. And that was what she was given the Nobel award for.

But without Enrico Fermi, it would have taken a little longer. Because she had to put in something called spin orbit coupling. I don’t know where I heard that. There are all these stories that float around among physicists, as you've probably found out. But to go back to the book that was being used, the same text I’d had with Morrison at Cornell, maybe in mimeograph form, was written by Wolfgang Panofsky when he was already—had been for a long time—he got educated at Caltech, he was at Berkeley, and then headed SLAC. Around the mid-fifties, Melba Phillips had ended up at Columbia. And I don’t know, but what she had—a real position by then. I can’t remember. I don’t know whether—she probably did get an academic position, but she—I believe. Am I right in this? I think Melba Phillips was there, and may have played something of a role with the Physical Society, but I don’t know that part of it. I didn't know much of her, except stories about her interaction with Oppenheimer [inaudible]. He ditched his graduate student and young postdoc when they went out in his convertible, and they went off for a walk, he was deep in thought, and he jumped in his car and went back to Berkeley, leaving her stranded. That’s the story I know about Melba Phillips and Oppenheimer. [laugh]

Behrman:

Oh my gosh! [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

The Phillips-Oppenheimer process that atomic physicists know about, and may have had something to do with molecular physics. Anyway, I think I met her on just one occasion, introduced by Luis Alvarez at some APS meeting. I got to meet Melba Phillips. But I don’t know what she spent the last part of her life doing, but I believe it was in academic positions. And then Mayer, I might have told you that from a woman who’s here, a decade older than I, who had been at Hunter College as a student, eventually came—after master’s went to work for the government, working at Sperry [inaudible] but then working for the federal government, she and her husband. She ended up getting a PhD out here at Clermont College and teaching at Cal State. Frieda and I are good friends. She’s not doing well now, because she is 96, 97 years of age. Anyway, but when we could communicate and share stories, she told me yes, she remembered when Maria Mayer came out for her position on the faculty at San Diego, that—maybe the offer had already been there, but everybody was sort of expecting she would get the Nobel award. So Freida said she saw, in the San Diego newspaper, the headline, “San Diego Housewife Gets Nobel Prize in Physics.”

Behrman:

Ah, yes. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Have you heard of that? “San Diego Housewife Gets Nobel Prize”? I don’t know how well-known that is. I just learned it from my acquaintance Freida after I came down here. But anyway, so Owen Chamberlain taught electricity and magnetism, and he had this wonderful way of teaching things, and maybe some style that kind of might have come from Fermi, whom he no doubt had already known at Los Alamos, because Fermi headed the experimental area. But then Owen got his PhD under Enrico Fermi. And—so—he could puff on his pipe a few times, while—you could still smoke in the classrooms, then. People would either smoke cigarettes or might have puffed on a pipe. Owen would either at the accelerator, especially the Bevatron or the cyclotron or in class, he would tell us how to make approximate calculations, and he would teach special relativity, as usually was taught in E&M courses. So most of us had learned it already, to some extent. But he could tell us how we could take stepwise approximations of uniform velocity and then jump it up another notch, and try to treat [inaudible] twin paradox or the clock paradox, of the identical twins—one goes out in space, comes back, he finds that he’s younger than the twin that got left behind. And that’s not an easy calculation.

But anyway, we were getting into the era of—well, Sputnik didn't come until ’57, so we didn't yet have satellites. But we had rockets [laugh], in any event. And so Owen would try to tell us a little bit about how you could do a stepwise calculation going—send off a rocket going at a non-relativistic velocity, then have it go a little faster, little faster, little faster. And you could do an approximation that might lead you to some of the ideas, at least, of general relativity. Then he talked about turntable, rotating system, which of course then couldn't be treated with maybe a pebble that’s on a turntable. And it couldn't be treated with special relativity because it’s an accelerating system. But I finally asked him informally—not in class, but a little later on—“Owen, where did you get some of your ideas in relativity and how to make some carryover from special to general relativity, even if you weren’t teaching all of the mathematics of general relativity?” He said, “Oh, I like to think about these things.” [laugh] [inaudible] stumble on [inaudible] years before probably—a little article that Einstein wrote, in German, and it was called [inaudible] Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper.” It bothered me after I learned German better, having studied over in Germany, because I don’t know whether you took Latin or whether you have any liking for grammar, but “bewegter” is sort of a past participle. And bewegen [inaudible]—you can say zish bewegen [inaudible], but it means something is being moved. And to me, it was the electrodynamics of bodies that are being moved, are being accelerated—"bewegter Körper.” Do you know how it’s translated into English? “Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.” Well, electrodynamics of moving bodies—well, you know, bodies can be moving without any forces if you take away the electromagnetic [laugh] fields.

I once asked Edward Teller—I was brash enough—since he had fled Hungary to Germany, got his PhD I think with Heisenberg—he certainly got his PhD in Germany—and then he had to flee because of being Jewish. So he fled. He said he had been exiled three times in his life, first to Germany as a student, then to this country because of Nazis, and then because of the Oppenheimer affair, most physicists did not want to interact with Teller. But I was out [inaudible] NSF fellowship, early nineties, and a fellow I knew quite well who, again, was not faculty, but head of theory at the lab, and he did teach as a lecturer, Dave Judd. And he knew Teller very well. I think he had some contacts over at Livermore. And he was organizing faculty people to interview high school students—I think they were high school students, mostly, or maybe college students—who were interested in getting scholarships from Livermore, Hertz scholarships. And Teller was in charge of these. He and his wife had set up Hertz scholarships. And supposedly no strings attached. You weren’t going to be forced to work at Livermore. And I was asked by Dave Judd to go down to Stanford, to the Hoover Tower, and meet with some legendary people. Keller was in charge, this guy named Dick Post, who had been outstanding at Livermore, may have headed it for a while, and was well into retirement, and a number of others. And we were just chatting. And Teller had—oh yes, Hans Mark, who had a lot to do with the shuttle design, and he had taught Teller’s course. He was a graduate student in engineering, but Teller had studied under Hans Mark’s German—German Jewish—father, many, many years before. And so Teller had, as replacements for his teaching when he had to be out of town, Hans Mark. And then later, I met him in other circumstances. And he is considered—he went down to the big NASA site just south of San Francisco, and that’s where they built some of the shuttle parts.

So anyway, Hans Mark was there. I knew some of these people. But we were gabbing and chatting and exchanging old physics stories before we got into looking at all the applications. And Teller was quite interested—I think they got me there as the only woman because they had some applications from young women who wanted to study physics! And they were thinking that I would have more insight into the merits of these young women. So anyway, so I said to Teller—we somehow got off onto teaching stuff, and I said, “Can you tell me why”—as somebody who knew German much better than I, because he had studied in Germany, and he probably knew several languages, with Hungarian background—and I said, “Why is it translated for this nice little chatty thing that Einstein”—that’s where you find E=MC squared, this little paper that appeared in paper [inaudible], “The Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.” Why is it in English always called “moving bodies”? It should be moved bodies. That’s an awkward participle. You don’t hear it. You can say I was moved by the concert, meaning emotionally I was really inspired. My feelings were excited. I was moved. But in physical moving, you don’t very open speak of a moved object. That chair that I just moved over there. It’s always—not a passive; it’s transitive. I have moved it. [laugh] I have moved my pencil. But you don’t say, “That box was moved by me.” [laugh]

Behrman:

Right. That’s a bit too awkward.

Button-Shafer:

Too awkward. We don’t have any use for that sort of passive sense. But that’s what it is in German—the electrodynamics of “bewegter Körper.” They're moved bodies. Why are they moved? Well, because of forces. Because you have electricity and magnetism that can act on these charged particles. But it’s of interest to me, in that little paper—and I didn't go as far as to ask Teller whether he likes the relativistic math. And I think I bored you with that last time, saying that I was challenged on that, and saying that almost all experimenters I've known think that’s a terrible concept. You should [inaudible] gamma times m zero.

Behrman:

I remember you mentioned it. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Yeah. I go off on these tangents. Because I still have this latent desire to be a teacher and to find out whether the person I'm talking to has stumbled or come across or been taught the same things that I like to emphasize, when I have the chance.

Behrman:

Right, right.

Button-Shafer:

Anyway, so the Berkeley experience not only had Owen Chamberlain teaching rather unusual things. And with Morrison, while I did get stuff from him on symmetries, which I don’t think Owen tried to go into—because Morrison, way back in ’53 or so—’53, ’54—was talking about what happens—that you can have time reversal, and you do have time reversal invariance—in strong interactions [inaudible] treat that so much. But in especially mechanics and in E&M, but not in weak interactions. Their parity [inaudible] established to be violated. Or at least he suspected it. I was hearing this in ’53! I thought, “Why didn't Morrison do it? Why did it take Lee and Yang?” Because later—I think he used to write for Scientific American. And at some point, I stumbled upon an article he wrote about symmetries and about conservation laws. So he was way ahead of his time. No idea whether he knew of Emmy Noether’s theorem that took symmetries and said, okay, there’s an associated conservation law. I don’t think he mentioned Emmy Noether. But he did talk about symmetries. And it’s very vivid in my recollection, because he said, “You know, mechanics. Things are reversible.” He said, “You can treat—or try to imagine using Newtonian mechanics for a diver going off a diving board into a swimming pool, and all the water comes splashing up.” He said, “It’s not against Newton’s law that you could have the time reverse. You could reverse time. And all those droplets could be coming back into the swimming pool and pushing the diver back up out of the swimming—[laugh] to the diving board.” Then he went into some things with circuits. That circuits certainly can be—are time reversal invariant because Maxwell’s equations are invariant under time reversal. And you can show that. But he said the problem with the mechanical things, such as what he discussed of the swimmer diving into a pool, is that—did he speak of entropy? He said it’s very, very unlikely that all these drops would come back, would converge in such a way—even if you could somehow manufacture this assemblage of drops—that yes, it’s doable, it doesn't violate any physics laws, but it does violate entropy, I suppose, or particle [inaudible]. It’s never gonna happen! [laugh] Just because it never will happen doesn't mean that there’s any violation of physics laws. So that’s sort of curious. And I was getting that from Morrison.

Well, with Chamberlain, I was getting things that were a little closer to what you might want to use for experiments. And he could sit on a concrete block up at the lab and show us how to design the thickness of the soft iron or the low-carbon steel that you needed to put around a high-permeability mu-metal shield, we called it. Mu for permeability. Thin shield that you were able to buy. But maybe you'd have to tell a machinist to machine something for you to go outside, to try to take care of magnetic field that was going to destroy the functioning of your photomultiplier device, and has electrons hitting—first of all, light hitting a photocathode from a scintillator or a Cerenkov counter. And then after the photocathode, in those days we had 12 stages—dynodes, they called them—that had voltage that was steadily increasing. And if you allowed the magnetic field to penetrate these things that were in glass envelopes—a vacuum inside, but they were glass envelopes—the magnetic field would destroy the trajectories of these [inaudible] and ruin the pulse. Owen could sit on a concrete shielding block and do a few simplifications—that’s not an easy problem, to say, what do I do if I have five or ten [inaudible] incident on a cylindrical iron piece, and I know the permeability But how do I calculate what I need to reduce that to the level that the mu-metal shield can handle. It’s only maybe 100 gauss or so. And the Earth magnetic field, you don’t normally think of shielding [inaudible], but you learned all kinds of practical things from Owen. And he would always make these approximations. “Let’s take the iron shield and pretend that it’s infinite length” or something like that. Let’s do that. And he could on the back of an envelope or a small notepad, he could manage to derive something that would come pretty close.

And I tried to do this in teaching my own students. One thing I discovered though, and you may have experienced yourself—I think my daughter did, at various levels—is that Dave Jackson, J.D. Jackson, famous for graduate level E&M book, which is what my daughter [inaudible] fancy problems him. And you may have also seen those. But you learn how to make approximations, and this can be very, very valuable. But what I often find is the units are a mess. Because you may find a student who has had advisors—at least a few decades back—I would try even on postdocs, but certainly on graduate students, and even on senior physicists—one senior physicist left out a factor of c, when I was doing research. He was 80…[inaudible] I [inaudible] was in my [inaudible] late seventies, early eighties—he was five years older than I, and had been the head of physics. And he and a guy my age, another experimentalist, were trying to do some design work with—some very special gas electron multiplier device had been developed at CERN, and we were trying to make use of it for some developmental work that might go into a new detector and a new accelerator.

Anyway, so my good friend was a superb physicist, and was even writing sort of a history of the lab, I think. But he often would say that his group, of which he was a member, could have discovered or would have discovered the antiproton, if the head of the group hadn’t been generous enough to let Segrè and Chamberlain come in and [laugh] [inaudible] discoverers. Very, very nice and open guy. And he made a mistake in trying to develop a capacitance calculation. It was the units! And I cautiously or politely pointed out to him that he was missing [laugh] a factor of c. But the problem is that students never know for sure whether they try using Gaussian or MKS system. And that was just coming to the fore when I was a freshman at Cornell, because we were using Sears’ textbooks, the E&M, the second year. Made very sure that we were aware that we should be using these rationalized MKS units that were meters, kilograms, and seconds. And when you got over into magnetism, you were supposed to be using webers, webers per meter squared. And now it’s called tesla. They weren’t so sure they wanted to jump into the tesla unit, and this famous Italian guy from way back. But they called it webers per meter squared. And you had to learn that one weber per meter squared was ten to the—ten kilogauss. Ten thousand gauss. Ten to the fourth gauss. But it was the formulas.

And I had one favorite textbook that I had been introduced to my sophomore year, maybe my junior year, by Harnwell. And fortunately, it had all these various units at the back. How do you go from Gaussian to MKS? And there’s even something called absolute units, where you have not an ampere, but an abampere. And that was important when I was a graduate student, and became part of the Chamberlain-Segrè group, because I was working with a guy who should have been included in the Nobel award for the antiproton, Clyde Wiegand. He was never on the faculty, but he had designed wonderful—differential circuit, differential amplifier, at Los Alamos. And he was the wizard, the expert. Whether you had a ground loop problem with the accelerator, or he was designing an oscilloscope that had four beams to it, for one of the antiproton experiments. He and Owen Chamberlain were the main two who designed a very, very fancy Cerenkov counter that could limit—not just have a threshold, but also have an upper limit on velocity. It was fairly complicated and was absolutely essential to the discovery experiment of the antiproton. So Clyde Wiegand was sort of a country boy, and had his own [inaudible] when he was [inaudible] young, he ran a radio station, I think, for a while. But anyway, he was very essential to some of the experimental work at Los Alamos and then came to Berkeley. And he was the guy who worked a regular shift. We’d be there 24 hours a day at the Bevatron, and then we’d say, “Oh, we've got a problem. Something has blown out.” Or “There’s a ground loop. Clyde will know how to solve this.” We’d have to wait until he got in at 8:00 a.m., and he would really [inaudible].

I still hadn’t figured out that if I wanted to do engineering-type stuff, Chamberlain was so busy, and he was committed to turn arms into plowshares or something. He was very much interested in arms control. I never got that close to what he did, but I know he went over to San Francisco, and stood in protest lines relating to getting rid of nuclear weapons. I didn't learn that about him until much later. I didn't learn he had a sister who was a physicist! I didn't know that his sister had followed him through—I think she was younger.

Behrman:

Really!

Button-Shafer:

Eventually met Ann Chamberlain Birge. She has been gone for a long time. So she and Chamberlain had also been in physics. Owen never mentioned that to me! But we had some interesting interactions otherwise, and I eventually did meet her, and found that she had a double or a triple nepotism problem. Because Owen was on the faculty, so Berkeley couldn't take her onto the physics faculty, even though she had a Harvard PhD. And then she married Bob Birge. He couldn't be on the faculty because his father, Raymond T. Birge, was the chairman of the Berkeley department, through the thirties into the forties, I think. And was still alive, probably as emeritus professor. Bob had this nepotism problem from his father, but then Ann had not only her brother Owen, but her husband, Bob Birge, who for a while headed faculty and got to teach—headed physics at the lab. But he got to teach only as a lecturer. And [inaudible] who knows—she went to [inaudible] to the bio laboratory that was headed by the brother of Ernest Lawrence.

Behrman:

Interesting!

Button-Shafer:

So she was sort of headed off, or pushed off, or had to, because of the double nepotism, from her husband, from her brother. And she eventually ended up at Hayward State College teaching physics. But, she died of a heart attack, at probably age 55? Sixty?

Behrman:

Wow. Young.

Button-Shafer:

I never really got to know her. I just knew of her. Anyway, so Owen had this sister who could be an example, and he was interested in [inaudible]. At the drop of the hat, he would take time away from whatever he was doing, whether it was in his office or—his office was helter-skelter. [laugh] Segrè was more orderly. And they shared—they had offices next to each other, with a shared phone! A phone that was in this little peephole that connected one office to the other. And I don’t think Owen could talk to anybody without Segrè’s hearing a good part of it, or conversely. [laugh]

Anyway, Segrè was known to comment on Owen’s messy office. But he knew right where things were! If somebody visited that he hadn’t seen in a long time, like [inaudible] Wolfenstein—they even gave a tribute to Owen at some time at Berkeley, and it was [inaudible] after Owen had Parkinson’s and had been retired for some time. But there was a tribute to Owen, and Lincoln Wolfenstein, who had been at Carnegie Mellon for many years but had known Owen at Chicago, and Wolfenstein was one of the amazing group that got their PhDs in the late forties when Fermi was still around. But anyway, Lincoln said he could walk into Owen’s office, and he would mention a calculation that he had done for Owen or shown to Owen, and Owen would reach into one of his stacks of papers, pull out the bottom paper, and there it was. He knew where everything was. [laugh] Segrè has been known to say in his writing that orderliness of your workspace, your office, does not really dictate or manifest whether you're a good physicist or not, good experimentalist. Or maybe the theorists are more orderly. But it tied in what Segrè actually put in print—that orderliness doesn't correlate with productivity, with cleverness in physics. But it ties in with what I heard through my Hungarian friend, Mike Moravcsik, who not only was Hans Bethe’s student, but he also got to know Mark Kac very well. And I think he developed some notes on Freeman Dyson’s course at Cornell. But he also interacted with Kac at a numerical institute for analysis one summer, out at UCLA. Anyway, he loved music. Kac loved music.

They often—you know, it was Mutt and Jeff. Kac was this little rotund fellow, and Mike, this big guy. So what did Mike tell [inaudible] about Kac? He was trying to translate something from maybe German into English that related to some history. It might have been physics work that had been done. And he knew Kac would be able to help him. [inaudible] see Kac [inaudible] on other occasions. So it was completely across the quadrangle in this funny old background where the mathematicians, mathematics department was. So he walked into [inaudible]’s office—and I think I had been there at least once or twice to collect problem sets—and you had papers piled all over the place! So Kac was this—the ultimate in disorderliness. But he always dressed rather nicely. He spoke very well, lectured very well. But there were books, there were papers piled every which way! And in not a very large office. A little bit dark. Mike essentially walked into the office, and told me the following transpired. He said to Professor Kac, “How can you work in such a disorderly office?” Kac said to Moravcsik, looking up at him, “My dear young man, orderliness is a sign of mediocrity!” [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Mike was working for Hans Bethe, who was the most orderly person any of us has ever known about or heard about. And he developed his theoretical work well into his nineties. But he was known at Cornell for having a clean stack of paper, not yet written on. The finished calculations were over here, and he’d take a clean piece of paper, and write out his calculations, put it over there. I never had a course from Hans Bethe. I was asked by the Cornell United Religious Works—CURW—to contact Hans Bethe, because I was studying Physics, and because I had some connection with some CURW-sponsored activities (foreign student conferences, a “One World Club” discussion group). CURW personnel asked me would I see if Hans Bethe would talk about the hydrogen bomb for a campus-wide lecture. So [laugh] as an undergraduate in engineering physics, never having had a course from him, merely having seen him at Journal Club talks and having heard him give informal presentations.

But anyway, my junior year maybe, I was asked. So I had the audacity to go to Hans Bethe. And yes, he agreed, gave a very well-attended talk. My recollection is that he described being asked by Edward Teller to join in the early work of developing the hydrogen bomb. As Teller was an old friend, Bethe at first agreed, but then withdrew. I think he decided a thermonuclear bomb would be too destabilizing for international relations, especially with the Soviets. He knew Stanislaw Ulam quite well, the fellow who found the key to what Teller wanted to design. Because his first design wasn’t going to work, and Ulam—really a mathematician but often—Teller has often been criticized as not appropriately being called the father of the H-bomb. He should be called maybe the mother of the H-bomb. But it was Ulam who figured out the fact that you had to have a fission bomb going off and sending out all these x-rays, in order to trigger the hydrogen bomb.

There’s a wonderful biography—autobiography—Adventures of a Mathematician, which describes a lot of this stuff. And Segrè is mentioned as being an avid fisherman – at least during the Los Alamos years. I never knew this. According to Ulam’s book, Fermi approached Segrè as he was sitting, doing fishing one day, in Los Alamos, at the edge of some creek or pond. Fermi made some comment to Segrè about the fishing. And he says to Segrè, “A battle of wits, eh?” to Segrè. [laugh] I mentioned that I had just read the account by Ulam of Fermi’s teasing Segrè over his fishing to Ed McMillan, the head of the lab. He saw me reading in the library at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab. when I was probably a postdoc there. Ed laughed, and seemed familiar with the incident. Segrè would tell all kinds of stories about Fermi, always very admiring of Fermi. I often heard from older nuclear physicists, like Alvarez, that Fermi was the “last universal physicist,” talented in both theory and experiment. And I think my favorite thing in the biography of Fermi, written by Segrè, Enrico Fermi, Physicist, was that at the same time—and he was becoming very well-known for carrying out what we called isotopic spin relationships and telling us that pi minus a pi meson—pi minus [inaudible] a proton can give you two different final states, either pi minus p, or pi zero neutron. But you also have pi plus p, and would go only to pi plus proton. And these three—the three amplitudes could be all related by what was coming—essentially from Heisenberg. For nuclear physics, Heisenberg in 1930 developed the concept of isotopic spin. Wigner on one occasion wanted to call it isobaric spin when I heard him in a lecture given at Oak Ridge Lab during the 1953 summer. But the concept of isotopic spin worked very nicely for certain nuclei. And it’s hard to define for physicists working in fields other than nuclear or particle physics. (When I gave a Physics colloquium presentation at Cornell in the early 1960s about research that the Alvarez group was doing some of my former Engineering Physics professors there took me to lunch, and they said, “Whatever you do, please explain isotopic spin. If you have to mention it, please explain it so we can understand it.”)

But anyway, after isotopic spin, along came other internal quantum numbers like strangeness and baryon number. There is a Gell-Mann and Nishijima relation known already in the 1950s: The charge for any particle or resonance, must be equal to the z component of isotopic spin, plus the hypercharge, which was the baryon number plus strangeness, divided by two. Strangeness had been developed by Murray Gell-Mann at Caltech and Kazuhiko Nishijima at the University of Tokyo. It preceded Gell-Mann’s development around 1960 of the “eightfold way,” for strongly interacting particles and resonances, which preceded the introduction by Gell-Mann of “quarks,” and the quark model.

In Berkeley, when I was a postdoc at LBL and a lecturer on campus, I was asked to come down to campus and explain to people there, Professors Nierenberg, Jerries, Hahn and students, for their atomic physics and condensed-matter seminar, what we particle physicists meant by intrinsic parity and other quantum numbers of particles. What were we doing with these abstract concepts? Not just ordinary spin, but isotopic spin. And that’s quite a challenge, trying to talk about the concepts that involve internal quantum numbers of particle states. I realized that no physicist accustomed to measuring directly observable properties of atoms or nuclei, such as electric charge or magnetic moment, is going to like the kinds of studies done by particle nuclear or particle physicists to determine “internal quantum numbers.” Nierenberg was my atomic experimentalist favorite among the teachers of my Berkeley graduate courses, the professor who had taught a fascinating quantum mechanics course I had taken around 1957. Bill Nierenberg had worked with I. I. Rabi at Columbia for his own Ph.D. He would give us lectures on quantum mechanics using Schiff’s Quantum Mechanics but a lot of ideas of his own. And he would talk, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for an hour and three quarters each time, but with a ten-minute break - during which he would smoke a cigarette, hanging out of his mouth. - and tell us about the Brooklyn Dodgers. Everything was casual in those days! Professors still dressed up. They wore their jackets when they came into class. But experimenters or theorists alike, but especially experimenters, would usually have a cigarette in their hands. So I learned a lot from him. Because he had been oriented as an experimenter—he had been the scientific attaché for NATO, partly because he could speak French very well. I don’t know where that came from. He was an atomic or solid-state (condensedmatter) physicist, and talked as fast in French as in English, I think. But though an experimenter, he loved theory. (He had won the Putnam Prize in Mathematics, when he was an undergraduate at New York’s City College.)

Behrman:

Yeah, undergraduate level. Very prestigious.

Button-Shafer:

It’s very prestigious. He had been the winner of the Putnam Prize, I believe.

Behrman:

That’s amazing.

Button-Shafer:

Was very good at mathematics, but he eventually found his way into molecular beams. And that was his experimental area—atomic beams, not just molecular beams, which involved an RF coil, and two sets of magnets. Spins and magnetic moments were measured by Nierenberg’s group at UC Berkeley, even for some unstable nuclei. Anyway, I almost went into that research group, after some months of accelerator research at LBL I got fed up with some of the politics and the sharp elbows, not so much among the graduate students, not among faculty, but among postdocs! Experimenters would sometimes steal equipment from each other if they could. [laugh]

Behrman:

Would they! [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

The older experimenters in the Chamberlain- Segrè group painted Segrè’s name on an oscilloscope. Chamberlain’s name took too much space (and he was much younger, less to be feared than Segrè). The older experimenters, probably one of the postdocs, would write Segrè on equipment, even though he was not going to be down at the accelerator very often. No, he was writing too many different books., as well as dealing with administrative tasks, The beam pipe was 78 inches or so, above anybody’s height. You could walk underneath various vacuum pipes provided bythe external beams coming out of the Bevatron. So wooden platforms had to be constructed for support of various detectors that were to be positioned between sections of beam pipes. The center-line of equipment had to be at the level of the beam, so more than six-and-one-halffeet above the concrete floor. There was this nicely constructed wood platform, with stairs leading up to a large table for equipment to be used in a series of the antiproton and later antineutron experiments. It had been delivered to the appropriate place near the planned beam-line. At one point during the setup stage one of the graduate students said “Oh, that wood platform has been stolen. It must be—” Clyde Wiegand, our rather quiet hardware expert that had assisted Segrè and Chamberlain for some years, exchanged winks with one of the younger guys and said, “Oh, it’s the Alvarez group.” Clyde [laugh] wanted to mispronounce the name. “They’re always grabbing everything. They have all this money. They must have stolen our platform.” It turned out that the platform had NOT been stolen; it had just been moved out of the way, as accelerator riggers were bringing in some shielding blocks or other equipment. And our platform was there. It was completed. It was ready to go. But it just wasn’t visible. So immediately the older fellows in my research group thought that the platform had been stolen. And they were always worried about the oscilloscope.

In later years, I found the same thing at Brookhaven Lab. I had my own oscilloscope that was moved—they had such a clutter of apparatus in the Brookhaven Lab AGS (30-GeV) accelerator beam lines. My oscilloscope, bought with funds from DOE and brought down with my research group actually had been stolen by some other group! It probably had my name or UMass painted on it. Some other group working at Brookhaven needed a nice modern oscilloscope, so wheeled mine away to a different beamline. (My ‘scope was something like a Tektronix 484, with at least 500-MHz electronics and hence very rapid response for photomultiplier pulses.) Despite some magnetic shielding, the oscilloscope had to be kept at least ten feet away from the stray magnetic field of the very large Multiparticle Spectrometer magnet… and could not be observed very easily from the structures housing the fast electronics trailer or the control and data-acquisition room. (I was warned by technicians of BNL’s Lindenbaum-Ozaki group that maintained the big MPS (spectrometer) that physicists from outside universities would sometimes—whether it was City College or some other place, sometimes latch on to equipment that was there, and forget it wasn’t theirs, and take it home with them! It can be very difficult to keep track of portable equipment, whether ‘scopes or toolboxes, on the (usually) crowded floor of a particle accelerator.

On another matter relating to physics I learned at UC Berkeley as a graduate student and postdoc: I had found that Bill Nierenberg was very knowledgeable in group theory, the sort of theory useful for understanding advanced quantum mechanics or field theory. Such advanced material was not required for courses recommended to grad students who were going into experimental research. When I gave a seminar talk (for the campus seminar on nuclear and particle physics dubbed Physics 290e, the one supervised by two faculty members - one nuclear experimentalist and one theorist – I volunteered to present material from a nuclear review article by Gian-Carlo Wick (close friend of Fermi who was based at Brookhaven Lab); the article considered the behavior of the Dirac equations under the action of C, P, and T (charge conjugation, parity reversal, and time-reversal); Wick treated the material both formally and informally – with and without fancy algebra. For discussions of the article, another student and I took up at least three of the weekly seminar meetings! I needed to learn a little bit of four-vector language, to understand the Dirac equation (the one that predicted the positron as a companion to the electron, and involved up and down spins). Well, it was a step beyond the quantum mechanics that we were required to take, and it got into “field theory.” Nierenberg knew a lot of theory, and promptly loaned me some lecture notes he had written out. I wasn’t part of his group, but he had taught this wonderful quantum mechanics course that I had taken, but also had developed more advanced material.

Nierenberg loved music. Besides knowing him from campus interactions, I often saw him and his wife at social events thru a younger professor in his group, and that physicist’s zoologist wife. My husband and I ran into Nierenberg at a relatively new concert hall around 1965, and during intermission, I told him that we had bought a Mason & Hamlin grand piano; and got into this long discussion about pianos. Nierenberg told us what he thought of the design of the new Hertz Hall on campus; he thought it was wonderful, because they had for the walls a backing of absorbent material, and in front of that, there were hard wood railings that were vertically oriented. He had done some calculation which showed that the wood railings could reflect and send the sound waves to all of the audience, and that this was a very good way of dispersing the sound.

So I got to know Nierenberg first through the class, then through colleagues and his research group, but also because of music. Chamberlain wasn’t that much inclined towards music. During the years I knew him, and later, Owen spent a lot of time on arms control issues. As far as I could see, Segrè had no real interest in anything (outside of physics and physics history) other than Italian literature. His house was filled with books, and a lot of Italian poetry, especially writing of Dante. He also had a lot of Italian literature, not just Dante’s poems. Segrè said that Dante was a greater writer than Goethe, because he knew not to write too much!

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Segrè’s wife Elfrieda, originally from Breslau, of German heritage,, had a beautiful Steinway piano. And she loved to ask me to play the piano, either to bring a violinist out to the Segrès’ Lafayette home and play chamber music, or occasionally to play piano solos. A Romanian friend of mine, who was studying physics and doing his PhD research on the Berkeley campus, played violin very well. He knew six languages, and could even recite limericks in Latin, much to Emilio Segrè’s amusement. Guess what happened one time at one of the research group parties that Mrs. Segrè arranged at the Segrè home? After enjoying some food, I was asked to play the piano. I didn’t have any violinist or cellist to play with, but I knew a few things from memory. I played a very romantic thing called “Rhapsody” by Ernst von Dohnányi. And it modulates through many different keys, and has very melodic passages with a lot of octaves. And with big hands, I enjoyed playing the piece. I usually just [laugh] used music for relaxation, especially just sight reading or reading through chamber music. But I happened to know this Dohnanyi piece from memory, so played it after warming up with a little Bach. It was a beautiful piano, and my group members were all listening to me! Segrè came walking up to the piano after I finished. What did he say? He didn't compliment me on my playing, or say anything about the Dohnányi piece. He said, “Hmm, I wonder how much the temperature of the piano went up.”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

If I had been Enrico Fermi, I probably would have grabbed a piece of paper, and jotted down a few calculations. I didn't try to answer him, either. [laugh]

Behrman:

So you were pretty familiar with him, while you were working with Owen Chamberlain?

Button-Shafer:

I had more courage than my contemporary graduate students did. Also I was pleased to help Prof. Segrè with his lengthy book Nuclei and Particles. Most of the other graduate students tended to stay away from Segrè. The two postdocs, Ypsilantis and Steiner, appeared to vie with one another in trying to impress Segrè – through remarks about European history or through clever physics or mathematics ideas they had picked up. As for myself, I had already developed quite a bit of interest in European history, especially in the sciences. Segrè could speak German, but preferred not to. I was very fond of his wife, Elfriede; she loved music, and treated me as if I were a daughter. What I didn't know at the time, and should have realized, was that Emilio Segrè had lost both his parents. They were Jewish, and were killed in Italy, I believe, during the war years. I was completely unaware of that. I met his daughter, Amelia, who eventually went into zoology, I think, and pursued a career in academic research. (I became acquainted with all three of the Segrè children, Amelia, Claudio, and Fausta. Emilio Segrè usually spoke to them in Italian; although they understood Italian, they preferred to respond in English! I believe Claudio became a journalist. Gino Segrè, a nephew of Emilio, became known in the U.S. as a theoretical physicist and also a writer.) At the time I was in Berkeley, I didn't know that Segrè had guided Madame Wu in her graduate studies there. Didn't know there had ever been a woman in the group. I knew there was a rather thin woman down the hall from me (Marian Whitehead) who was a postdoc researcher, a very capable experimentalist. Marian left LBL for the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) in the early 1960s. She did not get the recognition she deserved at SLAC, and went to a teaching position at the State College in Hayward. If you know of Jack Sandweiss at Yale, Marian was in the LBL group that Jack worked with as a postdoc. Have you met him, Jack Sandweiss?

Behrman:

I haven't. Just heard of him.

Button-Shafer:

Yeah, well he was contemporary at Yale with Bob Gluckstern who built up our UMass physics department in the 1960s. They even shared the same faculty office at Yale. Jack was a superb experimentalist. And he has been very significant. But Marian deserved to be better known. Part of the problem was,I think, that she was fond of [laugh] a guy, barely her height, who was a very good experimentalist... and he left! He went to a faculty position at an east coast university. At LBL (originally LRL, for Lawrence Radiation Lab) Chamberlain was relatively low-key, but Segrè was known as being more persuasive, especially as regarded getting running time on the Bevatron or the 184-inch cyclotron. Incidentally, although Segrè occasionally spoke German with the elderly Otto Stern (who retired from Hamburg and settled near Berkeley) and also spoke some German when a sister-in-law visited the Segrè home) he seemed very upset if I tried to speak German with his wife. He found I was speaking German with her, at a group outing at Yosemite that Herb Steiner and Segrè had arranged. I got to meet his wife Elfriede for the first time, when we sitting around a campfire. We started chatting a little bit in German. I always seized every opportunity to see if I could maintain just ordinary conversation in German.

The problem with scientific terms is that even over in Germany- where lectures might be presented in rather formal German - if you got into lab work or talked much about experimental things, you would hear English words, like “solenoid,” or “transformer”—there were German words for these things, but often they were not used in laboratory research. An example: “Verstärker” is the German word for “amplifier”—to strengthen something. but Germans usually said “amplifier.” Also, when I was in Germany in 1954-55, all the courses were taught out of English texts—courses such as quantum mechanics, and introduction to nuclear physics, even though the lectures were given in German. Germany hadn’t yet recovered enough from WWII to have appropriate textbooks written in German. But fortunately, physics lectures usually don’t involve such long sentences as you might find in a German textbook. And heaven help you if you go over into “Geisteswissenschaften,” what our universities call the“humanities.” I tried that. [laugh] And every university student who was studying Geisteswissenschaften, such as history or literature, had been through a classical Gymnasium (secondary school lasting to age 19) and taken both Latin and Greek for many years. I found that German professors teaching non-scientific subjects not only used very sophisticated German, but often used expressions in Latin or Greek with no German translation. Fortunately, the German used in scientific lectures was fairly understandable for me, as mathematics symbols are pretty universal, and phrases used to introduce equations are generally simple. I even gave a seminar, in German, when I first arrived! Within a month of starting my Goettingen studies. And my German speech wasn’t that good, but on the blackboard, I could present diagrams, and could write equations. The only difference between German and English when you're writing symbols for vector quantities, like an electric or a magnetic field, is that the Germans use German script for a vector! There is no need to draw an extra line above the letter E or B (and no need for textbooks to use bold type) as is done with English text. That is, a vector quantity in an English textbook will usually be in bold type; and on a blackboard, a lecturer must put a squiggly line or at least a horizontal bar over or under the letter representing a vector. What do you do in German? You use German script. You don’t have to make it bold. You don’t have to put a bar. Everybody knows if the “H” is written in the old-fashioned German script -

Behrman:

Interesting!

Button-Shafer:

—then it signifies it’s a vector. When I gave my talk in German for a graduate student seminar, I don’t think I had learned about using special script for vectors, but I wasn’t doing much [laugh] involving any theory anyway. I just was showing a diagram of what I had done at Oak Ridge when we were trying to build the aircraft reactor. And I knew enough neutron physics. And it’s pretty easy. You say simple phrases like “You have this equation”—and from this equation you can derive such and such. You don’t need to know too many elaborate German sentences, and you can use algebra for equations and do calculations that are the same for most languages.

Behrman:

Right, right. But so—so why did—?

Button-Shafer:

What the German humanities courses have that science or technical courses tend not to have, is much, much longer sentences, more elaborate phrases. It’s not only the fact that professors in the humanities often write very little on the board. German professors (at least in the 1950s) used Greek and Latin!, I remembered some high school Latin, but from only two years of study. But I had never had any Greek. To return to my graduate life in Berkeley – I was just delighted to see that there were people – faculty and students - with European background .

I thought Segrè was quite fascinating. You were asking about interacting with Segrè. I heard his lectures on quantum mechanics. Yes, I was fascinated by some of the history he would give us. I was a little bored by his explanations of physics, because he had taught it before, and tended to read from his notes. But still, I figured that he had worked with Fermi and done many exciting things in his physics research. I wanted to do nuclear research. So I went up to Segrè after one of his lectures, and he made an appointment with me, to see me at the lab. I went at th appointed time; but he had forgotten! Owen Chamberlain was there! [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Immediate rapport [laugh]. And I knew Owen had been at Los Alamos, also. He had this crew haircut, you know. I used to say he reminded me of Aaron Copeland, the composer. Kind of a thin face, and very much younger, only in his late thirties. And he was so welcoming, and was so interested in students. And I think I was already at least sitting in on (if not actually taking for credit) his course in electromagnetism, using the same text I already had used at Cornell. I don’t know that I took the final exam, but I certainly did some of the problem sets. And he was teaching in a very different style– different from the teaching of Cornell’s theorist Philip Morrison. Chamberlain knew theory, but when you'd ask him, “Where did you learn these things?”—“Oh, I like to think these things through for myself.” But he also said most of what he knew about some of the theoretical ideas (regarding electricity and magnetism, and also relativity) came from one book, one book only, by somebody named Joos. It was either J-O-O-S or J-O-S-C. And it doesn't exist anymore. But he had it on his bookshelf, in his office. And in the old days, you didn't have many textbooks confronting you. Even at Cornell, Shockley’s Electrons and Holes hadn’t come out yet. There was one book used for EP students at Cornell that treated solid-state physics, something like The Quantum Theory of Solids, a graduate-level text written by Frederick Seitz. I think I mentioned that to you before.

But most of what we learned about solid state phenomena came from the lectures, not from books. Sometimes, for particular topics, we students would be referred to a book of Sommerfeld (an outstanding professor in Munich) or other outstanding book that could be found in the Cornell Physics Library. But in Berkeley, I found that there was a more casual approach, and a lot of what I learned, even from the experimenters, Chamberlain being the main one, and Nierenberg for quantum physics, came from just the lectures, not from what you could find in a textbook. So that was exciting. Over in Germany, even the engineering books that related to reactors—they had Glasstone and Edlund. In English! They didn’t have any German textbooks. They didn't even have any basic physics books. I think it was still nine, ten years after the war. They still had not revived enough. They had lost enough of the people of intermediate age, and they were scrambling to get back into experimental and theoretical work. So there wasn’t any time for textbook-writing in Germany. Besides, the U.S. had benefitted from the immigrants, the many scientists coming from European countries. War research at MIT, Oak Ridge, and Los Alamos did produce some specialized books. An example is the book mentioned earlier, on nuclear reactors, by Glasstone and Edlund. It was the bible of the field when I worked at Oak Ridge, and it was still a bible of the field when I was in Germany. Ran into some specialized books on scintillation material, in the Goettingen Max Planck Institut library, but those were most often available in English rather than German. As for research reports in physics or engineering journals available in Goettingen, they were usually in English, whether the authors were based in Sweden, Germany, France, or Italy.

Behrman:

So—

Button-Shafer:

Cornell faculty in physics and in engineering physics decided to require of student sophomores a six-hour German course. (I may have mentioned before that the German department did not include grammar for the requested course for physics students, but expected us to learn – as U.S. soldiers had – by rote memory.) The Physics faculty thought that we would surely have to know German for our later professional careers, because the Germans would recover from World War II and again put out scientific publications in German. As you probably know, publishing in international journals has gone very heavily over into English.

Behrman:

Oh yes, for sure.

Button-Shafer:

Not just among scientists, but among the people in all fields.

Behrman:

Yeah, academia in general. So a speculative question, then—you said that Emilio Segrè was not happy that you were speaking German with his wife. Do you know why that was?

Button-Shafer:

What’s that?

Behrman:

Why was that?

Button-Shafer:

Because he had Jewish parents. He spoke German very well. But his parents had been killed by the Nazis. And I don’t know under what circumstances, I didn't even know he was Jewish when I was a student. The name is S-E-G-R-E with an—

Behrman:

An accent.

Button-Shafer:

An “accent grave.” I don’t know where that comes from. You might suppose the name possibly could be French. Segrè’s wife was not Jewish as far as I know. He had two daughters and a son, and he insisted they speak Italian within the family. But the reason for the dislike of German, I think, was his having been Jewish and losing his parents. Now, he had worked in Hamburg, Germany. Fermi encouraged him to learn some techniques, that he should go up to Hamburg, and work with Otto Stern. I think this was when Segrè had already had training as a chemical engineer, but wanted to get into nuclear physics. And I think Fermi took the attitude that when he could, when there was a fellowship available, or when some host laboratory was offering to support them—Fermi was so well known he was able to send people in his group to different laboratories. So Segrè was in Hamburg for at least a year, maybe longer, and got to know Otto Stern. And Otto Stern eventually retired—was Jewish, of course; had to flee Germany. This was the Stern of the Stern-Gerlach experiment. And Stern eventually ended up in Berkeley. He was quite elderly. I caught a glimpse of him only once or twice. And Segrè was speaking German with him. But the scuttlebutt [laugh] what I heard on occasion was that Segrè was willing, on campus, to speak German, only with Otto Stern, who occasionally would attend physics colloquia. Even with one of the postdocs, eventually moving on to the faculty—his name was Herb Steiner—and he had come to this country from Germany in his early teens. Had a bit of a lisp, anyway, and his father had died, I think of natural causes. But Herb and his mother, and I guess also a brother, who was not a scientist, had come to this country when Herb was maybe 12, 13, 14 years of age. And it dawned on me finally that he had something of a German accent. And perhaps because of Segrè’s attitude—Segrè wasn’t present, I think, but I had been with the group for some period of months, maybe a year or so, as a graduate student, doing research at two different accelerators. And other graduate students were there, all American, who were all married, and probably shorter than I was. [laugh]

Anyway, Herb was a hiker, mountain climber, and he was kind of awkward. He couldn't say hello or smile. If a secretary said hello to him, he tended to blush and was just very awkward. (The other slightly older postdoc, Tom Ypsilantis, was very much the opposite of Herb.) On one occasion, when I had not been with the research group very long, I was having lunch at the LBL cafeteria. Herb and four or five other graduate students were there, and I was a few seats removed, on this bench that was part of a long picnic table, outside the cafeteria.And I suddenly addressedHerb in German. I don’t know what I said to him… probably the German equivalaent of “Did you come recently from Germany?” It was something rather innocuous, just as if I were saying, “Hello, how are you?” and “I guess you must be from Germany.” But anyway, he answered me reflexively in German, and then he turned to the others at the table and said, “Are you guys impressed?” [laugh] I was ready to—[laugh]—sink below the table at that point. He did not want to speak German. And I think he had been with the group long enough, that he knew it wasn’t appropriate to speak German around Segrè. And he was himself Jewish, you see. Occasionally I would be back out to Berkeley for research, and also I spent some months there teaching and doing research on an NSF fellowship. I met Herb’s wife, who was not Jewish—She was German-American, and had gotten acquainted with Herb on some hiking ventures. Her name was Emilie. We became acquainted, as both Herb and Emilie liked music and were kind enough to ask me to their home for dinner (after which I was invited to try playing their rather unusual upright grand piano, a massive Mason and Hamlin). They never had kids. They didn't get married until—well, there began to be pictures [inaudible], and Herb was being kidded—I heard this later—I think even when I was still a graduate student, he may finally have decided to get acquainted with Emilie. His mother, who was housekeeper for a fellow who was a conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, and maybe also his mistress—unclear—but his mother [laugh] was old fashioned. She was very distressed. Herb told me this, and I got to know his wife Emilie.

They loved music. They had a big piano—I think it was Mason & Hamlin—upright, but a very solid piano. And they actually invited me to their home for dinner, when I was out in Berkeley, in the early 1990s,—probably sponsored by an NSF Fellowship for Women Physicists. Herb and Emilie Steiner invited me to come to their home for dinner. Afterward they asked me to play their large Mason and Hamlin piano. I just read some music they had. But that was when I heard from Herb not only the fact that his wife’s name was being mispronounced—I was pronouncing it correctly, because I knew she was German [laugh]—but he also told me his mother would never speak German with Herb’s wife. Because his mother was Jewish. So it was the same thing, not wanting to hear the language, as with Segrè!

Behrman:

Interesting.

Button-Shafer:

Herb had met Emilie because of their hikes. They both loved to hike. And there were pictures Herb had taken of her before they got married, and students guessed that Herb was about to settle down.He once almost lost his life, because rocks gave way under him. Herb and a younger friend were climbing Half Dome, and Herb was belayed, supported by a rope attached to a harness he was wearing. The rope was secured from above by a much smaller fellow, one who had gotten to know Herb as a graduate student. Herb fell 100 feet or more, but was stopped by the rope that his friend had a wrapped around a bush on the face of Half Dome. Herb credited the younger fellow with saving his life!

Behrman:

Oh my gosh!

Button-Shafer:

Herb’s friend probably had stripped hands, from playing out the rope as Herb fell. I think Herb did, too. But his life was saved in that climb of Half Dome. Mountain-climbing, especially in the Sierras, was something that certain graduate students and postdocs liked to do.

You had to develop a hobby, especially if you were in Segrè’s group. But Ypsilantis mostly just read books, and spent occasional free hours chatting in coffee houses or in bars with young mathematics instructors from the Berkeley campus. Tom would being books to accelerator runs, books like Three Who Made a Revolution that described the early years of communism. He liked to impress Segrè, with math puzzles, with historical reading, and with efforts to learn ancient Greek. Segrè apparently—I learned much later—had not done well in studying Greek when he was in secondary schoolin Italy. But he became fascinated with ancient Greek. And you could really impress Segrè if you talked a little Greek with him,as our older postdoc Tom Ypsilantis could do. (Greek symbols of course are used by mathematicians and physicists. I tried studying the Greek language, but found it less appealing than Latin.) Ypsilantis was a night owl, even when we didn't have an experiment going on 24 hours a day. He and Herb didn't quite trust each other typically, neither one would want to leave when the other one was still there at the accelerator, especially at the large Bevatron. Chamberlain would pull off all these sorts of things with the postdocs, teasing or admonishing them – partly to encourage graduate students that might have felt intimidated.

One time, when I hadn’t been with the group very long, we were at the Bevatron, the 6,2 GeV proton synchrotron at LBL, and along with Tom Ypsilantis I was looking at some oscilloscope traces produced by antiprotons and other particles in an externao beam from the Bevatron. And [laugh] Owen suddenly came up from campus, and walked into the control room and counting area. Owen said to me, “Okay, Jan”— Jan being my nickname from the beginning of university studies - “Jan, let’s show Tom what he’s doing wrong!” Of course, Tom was really pretty disgusted. [laugh] He was postdoc number one, about to go on the Berkeley faculty. Or, on several occasions during accelerator runs, Owen would come in very early, maybe at 6:30 a.m., even when he had been there until 3:00 a.m. the previous night, stringing cables and checking detectors and electronics. (He often would get only a few hours’ sleep a night, because runs on the accelerator – in those years - lasted only a few weeks.) Owen might come to the Bevatron at 6:30 a.m., and then have to go teach a 9:00 a.m. class down on campus. He liked to check in to see what happened at the accelerator during the few hours he was gone. Well, if he saw both Herb and Tom there—I don’t think he did it as much if there were just one of them—he’d sit down and read the log book, and then he’d glance up at the two postdocs, Herb and Tom, and say, “You guys worry me.” And he’d puff on his pipe a few times, and look over the log book again, make a comment or two, and then probably turn things over to Clyde Wiegand, who [laugh] would appear. (He was the hardware-oriented senior physicist of our research group). And then Owen would go down to campus but of course would reappear at the accelerator within a few hours.

The two postdocs, Tom and Herb, competed with each other. They would get almost blue in the face from lack of sleep, but neither of them wanted to trust the other, and neither one really wanted to explain things to the students. I would see some new equipment that would be used to liquefy hydrogen gas, for the liquid hydrogen target that we were installing in the “physics cave,” a structure of concrete blocks at the end of our beamline. I would study the diagram, the schematic posted on the side of the apparatus; and I’d figure, “Well, gee, I don’t know a lot about vacuum systems, but after all, I've had six years of training!” Five years at Cornell, including many physics and engineering lab courses. And then I had assisted this wonderful experimental physicist in Göttingen, and and helped take apart a diffusion pump one Saturday morning. (I had never seen the insides of a diffusion pump before. A diffusion pump can produce a much better vacuum than just a plain old mechanical pump, such as a Kinney or a Welch pump; the mechanical pump is more common… and in fact must be used as the backing pump for the output of a diffusion pump. When I tried to look at hardware in Berkeley, at LBL, I would have no problems in asking questions if Owen were around. But as a professor he was often busy with his teaching, various committee duties, and other responsibilities on campus and at LBL. If I asked a question either of Herb or of Tom, he would likely shrug me off. Either the postdocs hadn’t studied the flow diagram themselves, or they didn't think I deserved to know. Tom did like to teach, to some extent. He was a little more inclined than Herb to talk to students about physics or apparatus. But didn't happen so often. They were too eager to establish their own credentials, their own careers.

And when we were out in the physics building, where we were all rather close together—four or five graduate students, maybe six, at desks that were adjacent all in one room [laugh]—and then Chamberlain and Segrè shared an office right across the hall. And Ypsilantis and Steiner had—I think maybe Ypsilantis had a desk, as well, where Chamberlain and Segrè were. He was a more senior postdoc, and was beginning to teach on campus. But he spent most of his time, along with Steiner—and Steiner was in this big open place where they had a drafting board and a lot of the apparatus, and a lot of equipment, the plastic that could be cut into scintillators. And then Clyde was across the hall with his own experimental area, where he did a lot of pretty state-of-the-art or at least very unusual electronics. The head of the instrumentation division, who was very good, would come to see Clyde every so often. He was the guru. He had designed some of his own stuff. But Segrè used Clyde because he’d get all these crackpot letters about antiparticles that he didn't want to have to answer. He’d turn these [laugh] weird letters over to Clyde Wiegand, and various other things. Or he’d come in, and Segrè would pick up a resister that was lying there, and he’d just—sort of nervous habit—he’d sort of twist or bend the leads of the resistor until they were ready to break off. I mean, Segrè was not oriented towards hardware. Owen was better. He would come in, and he and Clyde could have meaningful conversations, and even get into design stuff. And I was asked by Clyde to—I sort of held the wires while he did most of the soldering. But I learned some things from him about soldering with very small soldering irons. And I got to go in and interact with the machinists in a small shop just down the hall from the Chamberlain-Segrè group. There were professional machinists working on jobs submitted by various groups; but the shop was somewhat informal, and I was allowed by the shop supervisor to use apparatus not in continuous use, such as a band saw and a drill press. I was the one who did most of the machining on stainless steel framework for a new four-beam oscilloscope Clyde had designed for an antiproton Bevatron experiment. And machining stainless steel is not easy to do.

Behrman:

No, no.

Button-Shafer:

I didn't get to use the lathes very often, or the milling machines in the nearby small shop. During regular daytime hours when they were working on jobs that had been submitted, the professional machinists weren’t so happy to see anybody else come in, whether graduate students or more senior physicists. But they tolerated me, probably because they were aware that I knew how to use machines – and showed some respect. The supervisor of the machine shop was fairly young; but several machinists were old-timers; I learned that one or two of them had outer fingers that were partially cut off from woodworking at home, where they got careless and backed into a rotary saw. (Over the years, in different labs, I've known several machinists who have lost parts of their fingers. Not from machining metal parts, but from using very fast wood saws or perhaps lathes when doing carpentry jobs at home.)

I was quite welcome to come in and interact with the shop guys. In assisting Clyde Wiegand as he assembled state-of-the-art electronics, I found he was using a different set of electrical units from what I was used. And we would talk about things that I had learned in electrical engineering courses at Cornell. How do you calculate the output impedance of a cathode follower? A cathode follower was simply a vacuum tube that had an input coming into the grid, but the output came from the cathode rather than the anode, with the output voltage gotten from a external resistor connected from the cathode to ground. The typical cathode follower provided isolation, with a gain of one for output compared with input. Clyde and I both tried calculating the gain for the cathode follower, and for various electrical circuits. We agree on the results of our calculations; but I found that Clyde was using a very different system of electrical units. For example, was using something called “abamperes” for current rather than Amperes. He would not use Farads for capacitance or Henrys for inductance, but would use units related to length (centimeters or inverse centimeters). He could look at a coil, a solenoid, and tell you the inductance of the coil in his units. Anyway, you could get the same result if you used this strange system of units that practically nobody except Clyde knew. I found in an appendix of a then-standard text on Electricity and Magnetism by Harnwell an extensive table that compared several systems of units; Clyde’s system was there... and could be compared with MKS or cgs units. (Clyde himself probably learned his system not from a textbook, but from some radio amateurs’ handbook. From my physics and engineering training I was using the Farad for capacitance and Henry for inductance.

Years later, I found as a teacher, either as a lecturer or professor, or leader of a research group, it was a good idea to test students to see if they could consistently use some set of units. I’d say, if you have one ampere of current in a coil that measures two centimeters in diameter, what is the magnetic field at the center of the coil? First I’d ask the student or postdoc, can you derive the expression (in your favorite system of units) for the magnetic field B that you get at the center of a circular coil of particular radius r that carries current I? Then I would say, “Can you tell me what the strength of the field is, in the system of units you decided to use?” I would expect an answer in Gauss or in Webers per meter squared (often called Tesla). And usually I’d find the young physicist would break down partway through the calculation. First of all, student often didn't know which system of units to use. As in my case, I was being introduced to this MKS system my freshman year. But that was in sort of engineering-style mechanical physics. Well, it was really my sophomore year, electricity and magnetism, but it was MKS all the way.

Do you know what you use for F equals MA, and the—if you don’t use English system and have the—say it’s the weight, equal to M times G. And G is—you can have either an English or metric system. And we usually learned in high school that G was 32 feet per second per second. And my daughter learned that at one point. But then as you get into university level, they want you to say G is 9.8 meters per second, per second, right? And you round it up to ten. That makes a lot of calculations easy. My daughter happened upon that problem when she was an undergraduate. She got a whole bunch of problems in some mechanics course marked off because she—they were supposed to be doing it in one system, and she used the other system, and the numerical answer was looked at too fast, and she had the wrong numbers, and she messed it up between English and metric. When she went to the professor [laugh], she got full credit, essentially. She got marked off for just one mistake, instead of being marked off for several problems, where she [inaudible]. So it can happen even in [inaudible] courses on mechanics. But it’s especially the case, to this day, that people don’t remember these expressions. And the rationalized [inaudible] MKS in E&M, as you may have run into [laugh], is that you've got this one over 4 pi epsilon [inaudible] zero, right? So just Coulomb’s law. So the force, in metric system [inaudible] equal to Q, Q prime [inaudible] or Q1 Q2 divided by R squared. And you have to make up your mind—but in the Gaussian system, there’s nothing in front of it. Maybe there’s a “c”; I've forgotten. But in the MKS, you've got one over four pi epsilon zero. And it’s very treacherous. And I was going to say that we have this unit, the slug, if you're going to be in the English system. And everybody talks about mass of something in pounds, but it really should be slugs, if you're going to use the English system. Because pounds belongs on the left side of the equation. And then you've got this mass times acceleration, if you're in the English system. Now, have you ever heard the term “slug”? I don’t think I've used it since my freshman year.

Behrman:

No. [laugh] Been MKS all the way, for me.

Button-Shafer:

But you run into it in shop courses, or in interacting with shop people. Because they've got a milling machine or a big lathe—we had an old monster of a lathe that probably dated from the twenties, in the machine shop, back at UMass Amherst. And they were going to be talking about the pitch, but it’ll be in English units. [inaudible] And one speculation, when I got an Okuma lathe used for a new pocket [inaudible] shop [inaudible] course that I was responsible for setting up with advice from a rather grouchy machinist who ran the student shop. So this Rick fellow came over to help me, and then I got a guy who was responsible for, oh, general instrumentation, sort of a supply place, but he also did a lot of repair for electronics. And we all looked at this lathe, which suddenly didn't want to work, wasn’t feeding oil through. So what did they say? Well, yeah, we know it’s a used lathe, but it’s from Japan, and maybe they used the metric system. So maybe we won’t be able to take it apart and repair it and get the oil system. Oil was being fed the wrong way, away from the [laugh] spindle. From the drive. It was being fed—taken away instead of being—the pressure was being directed the wrong way. And I think it did turn out to have metric screws. But our industry has never made that change, right? They tried. About the time my kids were in high school, they tried putting distances in kilometers, in hours [inaudible]. You could see kilometers, so many kilometers to get to North Hampton, or so many miles. They had both posted. But everybody thought machine tools—and you can go into a hardware store today, and find that yeah, they have metric screws. They know that when you get stuff from overseas, chances are they may be metric size. So if you're not an experimentalist, you may not have—or a carpenter, or a machinist [laugh]—you might not have run into this. But it hasn’t taken hold.

But it’s even worse in E&M, because those units are very puzzling. We have this permittivity of free space, epsilon [inaudible] sigma [inaudible]. And the permittivity. And I heard very learned debates between—among people who were heading different research groups—Luis Alvarez. I’d be asked to substitute for Alvarez in the groups that did the [inaudible] at Berkeley, because I was in charge of all the beam lines that were ever built. Three or four different beam lines, for the 72-inch chamber. I was either the second or third person in command. But I was actually given complete command of maintaining—not only designing and setting up all the magnets, [inaudible] magnets to quadrupoles. But I was trusted enough by old-timers that if they had to be away, they would give me—or we would spell one another. So I got very much accustomed to having to deal with technicians who were really dealing with the English system. But to this day, I think most physicists, even fairly knowledgeable ones, and experimenters, are uncomfortable with the units for E&M.

And I have to say that by the time I got to my junior or senior year, we were using atomic physics textbooks or all Gaussian. Dave Jackson, when he put his course together—shall I use Gaussian and ratchet [inaudible] level [inaudible]—he finally elected to go with Gaussian units. And yet most people who know anything about engineering style of physics would use the MKS. Owen Chamberlain got even with Panofsky. Because Panofsky had written this book on E&M with Melba Phillips, the woman who had come from Chicago to back east and then Oppenheimer [inaudible].Panofsky and Phillips made the jump for a graduate textbook. After these students in physics or engineering physics had already gone through some atomic physics courses, old textbooks that used Gaussian units, suddenly we were back to the MKS, with the Panofsky and Phillips. So all the way through, they’re using webers per meter squared, or maybe tesla. What did Owen do? When Panofsky came up to see what had been going on in the many, many months that he had been spending down first at Stanford, with the 200 MeV accelerator, and then at SLAC with the 20 GeV (later 40 GeV) electron accelerator—Panofsky had always been very much a hardware type. (There is a famous picture of him as a graduate student at Caltech playing chess, while a milling machine in the background is on automatic drive.) His father was originally from Germany, and became a professor in art history (at Princeton, I believe). But Panofsky and his brother were both interested in science at an early age; he once told me at SLAC that his father referred to the two boys, who liked to build things, as “Klemperer” (plumbers).

When I was a young physicist in Berkeley, I used to hear of the “smart Panofsky” and the “dumb Panofsky” – and had the impression that the two were twins; but I find from an internet biography that one of the two was older than physicist Wolgang (or “Pief”) – and pursued an academic career as an atmospheric scientist, one who made “several advances in the study of meteorology.—I suppose that the physicist was considered the “smart one.” [laugh] “Pief” Panofsky came up to Berkeley to see what was going on at LBL.Panofsky had done research at LBL (or LRL) before the California “loyalty oath” caused him and other physicists to leave in the early 1950s. As already mentioned, Panofsky had been a leader in developing electron accelerators on the Stanford campus and then the two-mile electron accelerator at SLAC. I heard from Owen Chamberlain, my former thesis advisor— told me that he showed Panofsky around the Radiation Lab (later renamed the Lawrence Berkeley Lab) and described some of the apparatus used in external beams from Bevatron targets. Showed him some of the new magnets—C magnets, they called them, or H magnets -that would go up to fantastic fields and be used for various beamlines. And he would say, “Well, that one is such and such Tesla in its field strength.” “This is such and such Tesla.” (Or Owen may have used the equivalent unit: Webers-per-meter-squared.). Panofsky himself, in doing experiments, was much more familiar withkiloGauss. Panosky and Melba Philips had written a textbook covering advanced Electricity and Magnetism (the one I used both at Cornell in Morrison’s course, and also at UC Berkeley in Chamberlain’s course) that pushed the “rationalized MKS system” on everybody! (Beginning engineering texts of the early 1950s also had gone over to the MKS system – from either the cgs system or the English system of units.)

But I’m sure that Panofsky was startled to hear Chamberlain’s description of magnet field in W/m-squared rather than kilogauss when on the floor of the Bevatron around 1960. when he was dealing with technicians or other experimenters, it was always kilogauss. To this day, if somebody tells me, “Ah, that polarized target is made by Oxford Company, and gee, it can go up to 10 tesla, 20 tesla,” and I have to stop and think “Oh yeah, multiply by ten to the fourth. Ten tesla is actually 100 kiloGauss. Okay? Any experimenter is probably still bothered by the fact that there are these differences in the units, especially if he/she ever was involved with design of magnets, or considered the saturation value for iron used in electromagnets, or studied superconducting magnets. All the old engineering and solid-state references and text books provided information in cgs units rather than MKS. And anybody who is very fond of magnets or has done any magnet design or done correction coils for magnets, as we often did, 24 hours a day, seven days a week—we were putting shims into big bending magnets for some of the beamlines under Harold Ticho and others from UCLA. So we have all this stuff that relates to magnets. And I used to say, “Well, I like experimental physics around accelerators because you can climb [laugh]—not just up staircases, but you can climb on top of magnets!” You can do surveying work. In fact, as a young postdoc with the Alvarez group I was doing surveying for a planned Ticho-designed beamline, that we decided the surveying should start with “benchmarks” on the concrete floor in the interior of the Bevatron and work outward along the planned beamline – toward the Alvarez 72-inch bubble chamber. which had these 50-feet radius—the Bevatron, up at Berkeley.

And long after I finished my degree, I was—not long after; probably ’62—was the second beamline that I was involved with. And I was sort of second in command. I was the one in-house LBL physicist that Harold Ticho worked with most closely. And he liked to do everything, would hand-draw ray diagrams to try to see what would happen to the beam as it was directed through bending and focusing magnets. We had a five and a half percent momentum bite that was fantastic. We had to build in sextuple components into our bending magnets. And so he was there some of the time. And another faculty member, Don Stork, would come up occasionally and spell him. So we had technicians and graduate students doing weeks of testing with shimmed magnets. But I remember saying that I liked dealing with the apparatus. On one occasion I could have been electrocuted: Harold wanted to do the surveying work very precisely. We had something called a “level” as well as an ordinary surveyor’s transit. I was on my own for the planned survey, and had checked in with the Bevatron operators. The accelerator wasn’t running, but they had lots of voltage from what they call eddy currents, electrical currents that are induced in a conductor that carries a changing magnetic field. Any kind of accelerator had to have many slabs of material with sometimes quite different permeabilities. Had to make a mix of them. Cornell mixed up and lost their beamline for practically a year, because they didn't build the magnet right in their first high-energy synchrotron, the GeV synchrotron. It was one foot too long in one of its quadrants. Well the Berkeley bevatron was well-designed, and well-constructed, but there was an interlock that somehow was malfunctioning. And I had gone into the bevatron; no pulsing magnet. And as I say, we had these big, big slabs of iron. It was overdesigned so the vacuum chamber was actually two feet high and four feet across. Didn't need to be that big to accommodate some of the beam oscillations. But anyway, I decided, okay, I'll do what Harold would like to have, which is to pick up a reference point from inside at the center of the synchrotron—there were a number of benchmark places—and transfer them, with a transit, to outside benchmark places. Well, they started pulsing the magnet, and I was standing on it. You know, bringing up the beam, but I think they were about to. And I could barely—

Behrman:

Oh, no.

Button-Shafer:

—[inaudible]. It was this huge apparatus. And the guys in the control room were far enough away, yeah, there’s no way I could have yelled at them. But I realized, as they began putting current through the magnet, which shouldn't have happened, because there was a gate—it’s an interlock that would prevent anybody [inaudible] control room and say “the gate’s not locked right now, but it’s in its—there may be a person inside, so you shouldn't run up the beam current.” And so this gate was designed in such a way. And I had done the right thing, but apparently somebody else must have thrown the interlock off, not knowing that I had climbed up—from a stairway, climbed up to the top of the magnet. And even had a transit up there with me, I guess. Or was about to do that.

And so I had heard that you could develop potentials that were a couple thousand volts or more from these so-called Eddy currents. [laugh] So what I did was to jump from one section to another, trying not to step on the iron itself, but to step on some of the structural material. And I finally came to a “straight section,” a rectangular tank that would, under running conditions, be under vacuum. Probably the target section, rather than the rf-voltage section. But I decided I’d better NOT have one hand on the magnet, and the other hand on some structure that related to that straight section so that I wouldn’t have my body across be a huge potential difference. So I kind of [laugh] hopped from one to the other, not making two-handed contact. Not getting any potential across my chest. Where did I learn that? I learned it as a freshman at Cornell! Well, and then it was reinforced by my research, and some stuff that Alvarez wanted to send up to high altitude. I learned about lethal potential differences from an engineering friend at LBL. It’s not the voltage that kills you, actually; it turns out that it’s the current. And microamps could be lethal. We protected things at the bevatron. But if you had a 3,000-volt supply and it was capable of five to ten microamperes, you could kill somebody who touched both terminals! And for that reason, we used to protect our voltmeters used for measuring high D/C voltage. They were all taped at the terminals, and they were shoved into metal drawers to protect them, at the Bevatron.

So whether I had really witnessed that, by that time, I don’t know, but I had heard, as an undergraduate engineer, [inaudible] currents. And I knew that the Cornell synchrotron had to have very precise mixing of the different permeabilities. And turned out in Russia, they had that experience. It was legendary. They didn't keep the bookkeeping right, and their first attempt at a 70 GeV synchrotron at Dubna didn't work. They had to take it all apart and start over again, because they hadn’t measured the permeability. And they got it from different sources and from different suppliers. Typically, you'd have a plate a half inch thick. But it might be massive [inaudible] plate. And then these things would be put together. And you tried to stop the Eddy currents from flowing, but the magnetic fields would all contribute. So anyway, I didn't know any numbers as to what the bevatron was [inaudible], but I gingerly hopped off and went into the operating room, where they were. Hadn’t yet brought the beam up, but they were about to. I said, “Did you guys know I was standing on top of the magnet?” [laugh] Several of their faces, white as sheets. They didn't know I was in there! They would never, never, never have pulsed that magnet if they’d known I was standing on it. [laugh] So—and you know, I was a little more aware of magnets, because of my fifth-year project at Cornell, and I knew that their accelerator had been not able to function. They would lose the beam on the first turn, because—as one graduate student finally observed, standing on an observation point, away from the synchrotron at Cornell, which was modest—1 GeV [inaudible] electrons—and he said to Robert Wilson, who eventually headed Fermilab, and then eventually retired, went back to Cornell—but he had been at Los Alamos, and just a graduate student I think at Princeton when the Los Alamos conscription or hiring of people went on. So anyway, very good experimental—I think I may have told you this before—he announced at the 60th birthday of Hans Bethe some of the crazy things and bad things that can happen. He said it was an undergraduate that pointed out that they made a mistake in having very precisely constructed one of their quadrant—their magnets, two feet too long. So I was aware of magnets, and I had this fifth-year project and learned some of the theory for strong focusing. But I've always felt that I could get into almost any situation, and eventually—if I could keep track of units, anyway—but that I could talk to technicians or people who had some practical knowledge. And that paid off in the medical world. Because if you have confidence that you develop as an experimentalist—also, I would say the few women I've known of as young girls started to get into physics, into graduate studies, I discovered that shop people were happier having young women come in. Because they would ask questions, whether they had or hadn’t had machine shop, and all the technical things I had. Most of them hadn’t. Well, fellas have had something in high school, maybe. But unless they've gone through an engineering physics curriculum or have studied first as engineers and then gone into physics—fellows, on the average, will have a bravado, which leads them to think or say, “I don’t need to ask questions. Let’s just throw a switch and see what happens.” [laugh] Some old-time machinists have welcomed the influx of young women, as one after another, they have gradually come into machine shops. Because they respect the apparatus more, and they respect the machinists, and they're willing to ask questions.

Behrman:

I have a practical question, then, for you. You talked about at Cornell you had restrictions about what times you needed to be in your dorm, because you were a female student. Did you have restrictions on when you could access the cyclotron or use the facilities at Berkeley?

Button-Shafer:

Not—well, they worried about radiation. If a woman were pregnant, she was not supposed to work near an accelerator (as I found out when I was carrying my first baby and learned that DOE regulations prohibited me – or any young child – from spending time around an accelerator. In earlier years, at LBL, I learned that there was a very precocious young fellow who was only age 15 or so but was already starting his university studies at Harvard. His home was in the Berkeley area, and he was given summer employment at LBL. He was not allowed to go down near the Bevatron, because anybody below a certain age had to be kept away from radiation that was emitted by the accelerator. Because they for a long time didn't realize how much background radiation there was coming from the Bevatron. And we knew there was some radiation coming up the hill, toward the Physics building. There was an old-fashioned cloud chamber, I remember, just to excite people with tracks of particles, that was placed in the entrance lobby and was visible as you came in from the parking lot. If you've ever visited the Lawrence Radiation Lab, now the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, there used to be a cloud chamber that would show charged tracks – some of them from cosmic rays. There were also neutrons escaping from the Bevatron, and they could sometimes produce visible tracks from “knock-on protons.” We knew there was some radiation coming from the Bevatron. And as they went to a higher intensity, they restructured the bevatron around the early sixties, they found they used to have secretaries’ offices in the same building as the bevatron, only one floor higher, and some of the people had second offices, not just in the physics building, 50 [inaudible], that was up the hill a ways, and quite a few hundred yards away.

But some of the physicists were not only working on the floor long, long office hours, but they might have had administrative offices. But especially secretaries were there all day long. And they knew if they went up in intensity, they could not expose the secretaries to all this background radiation. We used to put boron bags—Borax bags, sacks—in front of the 72-inch bubble chamber. Because otherwise, coming from this fairly wide gap machine—it was four feet between the poles of the magnet and—went only to 15 kilogauss, considerably less than what it went to up at the 180 [inaudible] cyclotron, that went to even higher magnetic field. But anyway, at least it didn't have such high fluxes and high energy fluxes at the cyclotron. But down at the bevatron, you had to put on a special protective suit if you crawled inside the vacuum chamber. All this residual radiation. But we had to protect from neutron proton scatter. So the neutrons could come into the bubble chamber and give [inaudible] protons. They’d muddy up our pictures! So for everything that would get run, when the chamber was fairly close—it was in the same hall, or just poking into the hall, of the bevatron. Eventually, it got its own housing. But even there, with a special separate building, away from the main part of the bevatron experimental floor—we had to have these long beamlines anyway, 157 feet for one of the nicest designed beamlines. So we had to protect against getting a lot of background jump.

There were muons coming out as well, but mu minus don’t do some of that [inaudible] neutrons can interact through strong forces. And in a highly developed [inaudible] chamber, you get all these little—funny little knock-on [inaudible] protons. And usually you could recognize them, but we didn't want our pictures to be too muddied. So we had water, we had tanks of water, but we also had even some big bags of—goody bags, or whatever you want to call them, filled with soap, with Borax, which I think is sort of a cleaning-type thing. But boron is a wonderful neutron catcher. Boron and cadmium both do a very good job with grabbing neutrons, absorbing them, when they're at low energy. But I think to this day, I'm probably showing effects not just from medical—well, not just from radiation treatment for—more recently, it was breast cancer—but I think it goes back probably to radiation at the labs. We weren’t that careful. We’d have our radiation badges, but half the time, they’d sit in the protective shack where we physicists did our beam-monitoring. The shack was on the floor of the Bevatron and was built with one-foot-thick woodwalls. We called the structure the “beam shack.” We had electronics there to permit monitoring detectors along the beamline, and to process some of the signals – as well as to communicate with Bevatron operators and with engineers monitoring the 72-inch hydrogen bubble chamber.

Back in the early to mid-sixties, we’d be closer to the accelerator than the bubble chamber was, by far. And there’s enough water content in most wood that the neutrons, we would hope, would be grabbed by the protons. So the wood walls would stop most of the neutrons. And the muons just didn't interact that much. There were a lot of those produced as well, coming from pions, pions coming out of various—because the internal beam would hit the target, and then it’d produce this flux of all kinds of things, and swipe [inaudible] the particles we wanted. So, it was only at Brookhaven—at Berkeley, they let me [inaudible] do all kinds of things. The cyclotron, we even had a wall of lead bricks, until the head of the lab came through and warned us that if there were an earthquake, that wall could collapse. Because it was just self-supporting. Why did we have the bricks at the cyclotron? Well, we wanted to protect our detecting apparatus from anything that might flood out from the cyclotron. I crawled inside the vacuum tank in the cyclotron to make sure where the charges were located. I don’t know that—I don’t think I wore any special radiation—at the bevatron, we were suspicious that the target was not coming up at the right time, so Harold Ticho and I both crawled inside [laugh]. But we had protective gear. We knew there was some residual radiation. So I don’t really know for sure—it could also have been Oak Ridge. I don’t think we were protected. I saw the level that was tolerable, considered tolerable, that was monitored with these radiation badges wherever I worked, go down a factor of ten every few years. So at Oak Ridge in 1953, you could have one rad inside of a week of radiation, and then you'd be sent home. That was at Oak Ridge.

At Berkeley, when I first arrived, 300 millirads in a week, and then you'd be sent home. I think I'm right. These numbers went down factors of three, I guess. So went from 1,000 millirads down to—and a rad is just for radiation. More often they use rem, R-E-M, radiation equivalent. and we’d have Geiger counters that would measure so many R per hour. Capital R—that was Roentgen. But then eventually for the effect on people’s tissues, scientists started talking not just of rads; so many ergs—ergs per gram [inaudible] or whatever, over to the human tissue dangerous stuff. And the “radiation equivalent man” is what rem stands for. But anyway, we were mostly hearing about rads [laugh] for the film badges. And it went from 1,000 millirads down to 300 millirads that you could have on your film badge in a week, and then you'd be told to go home for a while, down to 100 millirads. All within the space of 1953 to 1960. People didn't know what was dangerous! And if you went to visit a reactor, you’d find that they were way below that, and if you looked at any book on radiation units, you'll find that, well, if you fly in a plane and go over Denver, you might get more radiation than you get in your dentist x-rays or anybody doing a lung x-ray. So they've kept medical x-rays down fairly low. But all bets are off if you have to be treated for cancer, and they go to fairly high doses. So I have on one side of my body—not so much due to general radiation from physics, I don’t think [laugh]—I guess mostly due to repeated x-rays after I had lung surgery. Because for many years, I was stupid enough to follow the advice of a very good lung surgeon, in the late 1980s at Mass General, and he said, “No, you don’t really need radiation therapy. You don’t need chemo. You can have them if you want.” But it was enough to do the surgery to take out one—little—tumor.

But anyway, he thought that they should keep monitoring me with radiation. And then I retired, I came back out west, and I kept doing it for a while, which was really stupid. And now I see the effects, cumulative, on my back. Right side of my back, I get this—[inaudible] ordinary age spots or something, keratoses or whatever. Left side of my back, it’s a mess. Because that’s where I had repeated x-rays. So we used to have arguments going on and on, not just about radioactive fallout, but also what is dangerous. And I have to ask one of the retirees, this fellow who taught reactor physics and did experiment before he went into theory, but he did his experimental thesis at Brookhaven Lab! And then he taught courses, over and over, on reactors in applied physics at Caltech. I'll have to ask him what he knows about radiation damage. [laugh] For a while, there were more people arguing with Brookhaven people, and you'd get these learned things, whether they’d appear in IEEE or—not often in physics publications. But you'd hear of things that went whistling back and forth between labs, even before the advent of email, as to who was right. [laugh] And can you be hurt by cumulative doses of low-level radiation.

There are probably some good textbooks out there. I don’t know. That has not been an area that I've cared to delve into. I’d much rather [laugh] read about the attempts to make reactors useful as sources of energy. Because they're much less threatening. It has been overblown. Three Mile Island really didn't kill anybody. They were fortunate. Because the radioactive elements that were dangerous tended to recombine into solids and dropped from the atmosphere without causing significant harm. As for Chernobyl, you can find a textbook written by a Swedish engineer and an American professor who studies environmental science that explains that there were more injuries from evacuation of Russians who lived close to Chernobyl than there were injuries from radiation – casualties primarily from those who were sent into the ruins of the reactors. A very knowledgeable English mathematician, with engineering experience, wrote a book, Sustainable Energy. He died, unfortunately at age 50 or thereabouts. He was even a minister for the British government. He wrote a fantastic book that pulled together all sources of energy, whether it was solar or wind or reactors. The author finds that nuclear reactors have significant advantages over other sources of energy; and he shows that most sustainable energy or recoverable energy sources are problematic. It varies with the amount of sun. Storage is a problem. Or he said if you were to ring all the British Isles with wind energy, with windmills, he said it’s one thing to have the windmills. People might object to the view, as they did in Massachusetts, near Cape Cod. [laugh] They may object to having the windmills sitting out there. But they're going to be some distance out from the coast, so they have to be—when the electric energy is generated at the windmill site, it has to be brought to land! And you've got to have corrosion effects. You have all these conductors underground, protected by some sort of coating, but they're going to have to be serviced, going to have to be replaced from time to time. Whereas with reactors, yeah, you've got to replace fuel tubes. That’s a soluble problem in principle, but that’s [laugh]—you may have heard it’s a big problem. Because [inaudible]—[laugh] they started it. But no, that’s a problem.

Anyway, I didn't fully answer what graduate experiences were like, but I have to tell you that with postdoc number two, this fellow Herb, who married this woman but never really wanted to speak any German—after I knew him well enough, he would be a little unnerved by the fact that Tom Ypsilantis, the other postdoc, when Chamberlain or Segrè—Segrè wasn’t usually around much—but he would have his hand on top of mine while we were talking. He would flirt, and get closer to me, than he needed to. Offer me a ride down the hill. But he never, never really harassed me. But we knew that he burned the candle at both ends, as we said, and that he was sleeping usually with married women. [laugh] Or a married woman, so he wouldn't get trapped into marriage. At least that was what one of his landladies told me when I happened to run into a very nice lady who was renting a place to Tom. So we knew he was a charmer, and very different from this fellow Herb. So what did Herb tell me one day? We were at the cyclotron. The counts were coming in rather slowly. No Segrè, no Chamberlain. Chamberlain was wonderful during most of our runs, but I think this was one that wasn’t very exciting. And we were in the control room for this 184-inch cyclotron, where I eventually was to do my thesis. I had been with the group for a year or so, maybe a little over that. Because the fellows who were there when I joined all were married chaps. We acquired a new graduate student directly from Harvard who seemed very good, and had been with us for a couple months, and a chap who had been maybe off in industry, but he came from Temple University originally, I think.

So these two very different new graduate students were standing behind Herb, and we were sitting across from each other at this lab bench, and watching the counts come in with the digital scalers. We had Dixie [inaudible] lights, if you know what those are. We had decade scalers and the little lights that circulate. And then they would send signals up to binary coded decimal, I guess it was, and finally you'd have a mechanical scaler. But we could read in binary form—we could read binary up to 256. So that was really how we kept the graduate students busy. [laugh] But the scalers weren’t getting signals [inaudible] very often, and that was where you broke in the new graduate students. They had to read these 256 scalers that were all binary coded decimal. Or no, just pure binary. But we could translate them into decimal. But we had to be able to look at a bunch of lights and immediately say, “That’s such and such” and then add to it whatever the mechanical scaler had. And we had a log book. So there were jobs we could do. It was going to run into the wee hours. What did the two postdocs do? They were both present! And these two relatively new graduate students—I'm not sure any of the more seasoned ones like me [inaudible]—but the two postdocs were so bored, seeing the counts come in slowly, for whatever process was going on, for our target at the cyclotron, they went across the street to Big High Bay [inaudible]. Same High Bay [inaudible] where I think Luis Alvarez years before had developed the linear accelerator. Well, it had turned into a big machine shop, and the cyclotron control room. And it had a ping-pong table! Why? Well, because people would bring lunches, and during the day, they would eat and play ping-pong, mainly. Nothing more exciting than that. They might have [inaudible]. I think most of the roads were pretty bumpy and hilly. They didn't have any place to play horseshoes, but they could play ping-pong. No badminton courts; just ping-pong.

What happened was the following: first, one postdoc would go over there and play one of the graduate students; then the other postdoc played a student; and then the students would come back. Then Ypsilantis would play Steiner! And they would really go at it, because each of the postdocs wanted to beat the other. So, I had loved ping-pong! I was really pretty good at ping-pong when I was in my teens. So I said to Herb—after Ypsilantis had gone back to the control room— “Well, could I play?” And he literally said to me, “Who wants to play with a woman? If you beat her, there’s no fun in it. And if she beats you, that’s terrible.” Okay? So no, I as a woman was not going to be allowed to play. I think I was a little taller than either Bill or Lenny , the two new grad students. And I was probably pretty close to Herb’s size. He was heftier than I was. But anyway, I had long arms, well suited to ping-pong. [laugh] And I didn't make these arguments. I just said, “Okay.” So I went back to the cyclotron counting area. You see, the postdocs had to make a match out of anything. Fermi was apparently the same way. Except for hiking, Fermi wasn’t known for any hobby. I read that he liked to play tennis… not because he was particularly good, but he was very aggressive.

Behrman:

Oh, yes. Very competitive.

Button-Shafer:

So most experimental physicists are very determined. Well, so, [laugh] but they don’t expect the women graduate students to be determined. To return to experiences at the LBL cyclotron: Nobody was playing ping-pong, I think. The only senior person there in the counting area was Herb, seated at the long table – across from me. Counts from the experiment were coming in rather slowly. The two new students, Bill from Harvard and Lenny from Temple University, were standing behind Herb. He was facing me. It was a quiet time, so he was sort of musing. He said, “I don’t know why any woman would want to go into physics.” Pause. [laugh] I was about to say something. Then Herb said, “A woman should be fulfilling her natural biological functions in society.” So what do you think I said? I looked him straight in the eye, from a distance of two and a half feet, and I said, “Herb, shouldn't a man be fulfilling his natural biological functions in society?” [laugh] Because he was the one who was [laugh] seemed afraid of women, in fact would tend to blush if any secretary said hello. And he went mountain-climbing; he used to be teased by Ypsilantis— about having dirt under his fingernails from all his climbing. Herb hadn’t gotten married yet, you see. He had not found a sweetheart. So as far as we knew, he had no interest in any women. His mother doted on him, and conversely, I think. He just thought everybody should be, I suppose, like his mother. So there wasn’t any answer from Herb to what I said -- except that his face blushed, he threw down his pencil, and he stomped off. And the two graduate students, new to all this, heard me very well. [laugh] They were doubled over, laughing, but trying to suppress their laughter. They thought response was pretty good.

More generally, if any students asked questions of Herb, I was usually the last one to get an answer. If Herb and Tom, late in the afternoon, hadn’t yet gone down to campus or gone to the cafeteria to eat, and I was the only one around—(because all my contemporary grad students, before the two new ones came along, had gone home to their wives and families)—and if I’d see that they were designing something, I would see if I might learn about their plans. On one such occasion I found that I had just given a seminar talk on the very process they were looking at—either deuteron “stripping,” having the neutron torn away from the proton or vice versa, or it was a “pickup” by a nucleon, where suddenly a proton turns into a deuteron by grabbing a neutron. So anyway, I had worked out some of the theory, given a seminar talk, probably reported on some experiments for deuteron stripping. They were going to design an experiment! One of them was at the drafting board, and they were talking to each other. I listened for a while, and then I offered a comment, from stuff that I had learned! And I was speaking not just as a nuclear physics student, who had had the advantage of some seminar talks and digging into the library resource material. But I had—an article by somebody named Huby, H-U-B-Y. It was in Progress in Nuclear Physics. And it was very nicely done. I knew something about that! So I asked a question. A question was enough for them to turn off. Tom looked at Herb, and Herb looked at Tom, across the drafting table. Then Tom says to Herb, or Herb says to Tom, “Hey, let’s go down and run around the track before we go to dinner.” They walked out. The minute I posed—a question is bad enough, but if you make a comment and you try to add to something that they're developing—eh-eh, no way. So that was always their out. They could go off to the track. You know, obviously a woman wasn’t going to go and run around the track with a bunch of men. [laugh] Or in this day and age, doing weight lifting. The two postdocs were not like Chamberlain, who was always eager to answer students’ questions!

And then up at the cyclotron, there was a guy heading another group—Ken Crowe. Crowe, a Physics professor, spent very long hours at the 184-inch cyclotron. Besides making modifications of the magnet to improve the ejection of an external beam (a technique developed by Tuck and Teng at U. of Chicago), Ken carried out experiments with the use of a lot of electronics set up at one end of the cyclotron counting area. He showed some interest in the early stages of my PhD thesis and made some interesting comments. (My thesis dealt with the complex spin polarization and alignment of deuterons in scattering off targets of carbon and beryllium.) He even offered me a postdoc position as I was finishing my thesis. And he would tell me things that I hadn’t learned from Tom or Herb. I might have learned them from Chamberlain, but I learned useful information about the electronics from Ken Crowe. We often had to replace vacuum tubes providing power for coincidence circuits that were originally developed at Los Alamos, called the Garwin circuit, after physicist Richard Garwin. Crowe looked at one of my range energy curves for the deuterons. “Oh, it must be stripping.” He would interpret some of the data that I was getting, and I was on my own for my thesis project. Because fortunately, for me, the guys had vanished to the bevatron, and for the final run of a couple-week duration for my thesis project of measuring deuteron spin polarization and alignment produced by scattering from carbon or beryllium targets. I was on my own for most of that, and had to get help in rotating heavy apparatus from the cyclotron operators, one of whom would come over from the control room. But if either Tom or Herb happened to come along and see this guy Ken talking to me about physics, or about the cabling that went on with the various circuits used for processing signals coming in from our detectors—they didn't like it. They didn't like that anybody else would—okay if Chamberlain did it; they would take a little bit of ribbing [laugh] or put-downs from Chamberlain. But if somebody outside the group—and that wasn’t very good behavior, they thought. They would either walk out, or they didn't like Ken too well, anyway.

Also, when several of us had been stacking lead bricks around detectors on the floor of the cyclotron, to protect our equipment from unwanted background radiation, the head of the lab, Ed McMillan, came along. —well, I happened to have seen McMillan on various occasions, in the lab or at a few parties. As a woman in a man’s world, you tend to be conspicuous! I had seen Ed McMillan. So Ed McMillan said hello to me at the cyclotron – after warning us that we might be in trouble if there were an earthquake. And that irritated the guys, the postdocs. Because a graduate student wasn’t supposed to be friendly with the upper echelons. Their thesis advisor, sure. So even later on, after I got married and I was still at Berkeley, I thought, “Oh, I'll be more nearly normal. If I can go to parties, I can mix with the wives, and not be looked on [laugh] as if I were peculiar.” Because most of the wives didn't have—they were home with the kiddies. They didn't have professions. And even after getting to Amherst and having children, as a professor, I was the only woman for another—16 years? Yeah, something like that. Almost—not quite two decades. But I would just find it natural, because that’s the way it had been at Berkeley—I would eventually—the head of the department, who had been told I would have been on the faculty in Berkeley had I not been a woman—but Bob Gluckstern, who had come from Yale, built up our physics department, played clarinet, loved music—anyway, brought me in at quite a substantial salary. And he was very friendly, and his wife. His kids were sometimes around.

But I eventually, almost inevitably, for any kind of reception, new person coming on to our faculty or whatever, or some visitor, in Bob’s home or anybody else’s home [laugh] where there was a physics party, I would run out of things to discuss with the women. I could go only so far. I wasn’t that much interested in shopping, buying a new pair of gloves, or this, that, or the other thing. I would eventually hear the men talking about something interesting, and I would inevitably wander over to the men’s side. And I don’t know whether you've heard that from other women physicists; it’s very hard to mix with married couples. At least in the old days. Now, so many women have careers, and my daughters have really, really different experiences. Because almost every wife in a small group that she’s part of under Ed Stone had a position. An administrative position. Even if it’s only part-time. And I must say one of my favorite experimentalists in condensed matter physics, who became head of the physics department at UMass, had a wife who was working part-time, was a nurse. And they, both of them, had been very friendly all along. But otherwise, were frustrated. Wanted to have a law career, but theorist husband just couldn't see it, wanted the wife to be home taking care of the kids. [laugh] I’d hear this at school, when my daughter was in sixth grade, and I’d find myself at a table—it was parents’ day or something like that. And here, they have Grandparents Day, or they used to, at the high schools. But this was I can remember sixth grade. And it was a Thanksgiving get-together and the parents were invited. Do you think any men would go over at noon time? Eh-eh. All the wives! And I would hear from the wife of this colleague or that colleague—one was the wife of a theoretical particle physicist. The other one was the wife of a theoretical but very practical condensed matter physicist. Both colleagues of mine, and younger than I. [inaudible] But the wives were often—envious, I think, would probably be an appropriate word—back in the fifties to sixties. So what did I do? I asked Fay Ajzenberg-Selove—I got to meet her, and I said, “What do you find it’s like to be—?” [inaudible] and to not have—she did have engineering training as an undergraduate at Michigan. But she was out in Berkeley, and I had gotten to know her husband at Brookhaven Lab. And I said to Fay, who had run nuclear physics experiments but mostly was a data analyzer, and very highly-regarded—so I said, “Fay, what do you do if you're with students or you're supporting some technicians, and they're off in an accelerator [inaudible]?” “Oh, I don’t want to be supervising younger people, because I want my Wally [inaudible] to have a good home life.” [laugh] Was she kidding or was she serious? [laugh] She never had children. As far as I know. [laugh] But she was interesting. And she did it because she could. She wanted to show her parents that she could make it through undergraduate engineering.

And she’s the one who organized a panel—oh, dear—this was on women in physics. Yes! It’s the one in 1973, where they managed to capture—they got Charles Townes, who by that time had moved to Berkeley. He was the one lone male, and was put on the defensive. And it was 300 people or more. I think I described that to you already. But Madame Wu was there. (I believe that 1973 APS meeting served to launch the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics. Vera Kistiakowsky played a major role, I believe, in the establishing that committee.) Val Tegdi showed up in the audience, at that special 1973 meeting on Women in Physics; in the discussion following the panel presentation, as if ridiculing efforts to support women in physics, he stated “If I had been Pierre Curie’s wife, I would have been Madame Curie.” And then he said, “But women scientists do just fine in Russia; there are many in medicine.” Vera Kistiakowsky, the physicist daughter of famed Russian-American chemist George Kistiakowsky knew Russia, and she retorted to Telegdi, “Yes, Val, Russia does have a lot of women in medicine. Do you realize medicine is a low, poorly paid profession in Russia?” And she described a trip she took to Russia, where she witnessed Russian women physicists’ being discouraged by male colleagues from attending presentations, including one given by Vera.

Among the panelists at that 1973 meeting, there was a woman unknown to me: Betsy Ancker-Johnson, who had gone from a physics PhD to an engineer-physicist position at Boeing Aircraft in Washington state. She told in her presentation for the APS 1973 symposium that she was told to go home and stay home, when she was pregnant. Boeing administrators did not want a pregnant woman to be seen! I'm talking about 1973! I taught while I was pregnant—right up to the time my kids were ready to be born, in 1967 and in 1970. It made the students a little nervous. It made the faculty a little nervous. Especially with twins, for the second birth. (When pregnant with my daughter, my first-born, I never felt so healthy. I had more problems, some fatigue and edema, in carrying twins full-term.) But I took out just one week from teaching just after each of the births for my two sets of kids. I was 35 at the time of Christina’s birth. Fortunately had my mother-in-law coming from California. I didn't ask for any maternity leave. There wasn’t such a thing! That wasn’t defined, or I hadn’t heard of it, in 1967. It could have been set up for me at UMass, but I was the only woman in physics! – and I probably worried about decisions that might made if I were absent more than a week. There was no woman full professor on the chemistry faculty; one woman was stuck at associate professor level. In the math department, I think there was one woman, an associate professor getting on in years. But I was so rare, I was asked to contribute to tenure considerations for a woman who had been teaching as an assistant professor in the math department. Why? Because I had sat in on a few of her classes to try and learn more of what my husband’s field was. And she was a superb teacher. But she wasn’t yet tenured. A thoughtful older math professor asked me if I could contribute a recommendation on tenure for the young woman. I didn't know many of the math faculty (nor much about teaching algebra to math students, but was able to pass on some positive impressions. But anyway, a woman was just an oddity in most university math and science departments.) To learn in 1973 that a woman in industry, Betsy Ancker-Johnson at Boeing, could be restricted from working during her pregnancy was shocking to me. She said, “I could steal in at night and get papers from my office, but I couldn't work at Boeing while pregnant.” At least they didn't do that to me at UMass! [laugh]

Behrman:

Speaking of being an oddity, that reminds me of another question I wanted to ask. Because I read that in 1958, you were one of the first women to give an invited paper at an APS meeting. Do you recall that? Were you aware of being—

Button-Shafer:

That wasn’t until 1960… that I gave an “invited talk” at an APS meeting, the annual one in New York City at the end of January. I didn't get my PhD until June of 1959. I was asked in early summer, when I was already working with the Alvarez group, if I would like to present my PhD thesis results at the first-ever APS meeting in Hawaii, to be held in August. My thesis advisor Owen Chamberlain popped into an Alvarez scanning room (where another young physicist and I were looking at events from the early “engineering” or test run with the new 72-in. hydrogen bubble chamber) and asked me if I wanted to give my thesis talk at the Hawaii meeting. That was to be a ten-minute paper in Hawaii. That was quite an experience. Sula Goldhaber and her husband Gerson were there, and I saw the interaction between the two of them, with Val Telegdi of University of Chicago (originally from Hungary) making a nuisance of himself. Anyway, I happened to be at dinner with a bunch of fellows, and people from Berkeley with—men I know, except for Telegdi. Had known of him, but hadn’t really interacted. Well, yes, I had interacted at one APS meeting. But he was quite a woman-chaser. Hungarian background. He happened to be sitting next to me at dinner in Hawaii, outside on the Waikiki beach. He said, “Whatever you do, don’t marry a physicist.” He said, “Look at Sula Goldhaber.” He said, “I would kill myself if I were Gerson Goldhaber, married to Sula.” [laugh] Because she was always conspicuous. She was a very attractive woman, and she was really treated poorly at Berkeley. She should have been on the faculty, or would have been, had she not been—if it had not been for nepotism, with her husband being on the faculty. But she taught as a Lecturer. She was about five years my senior. And I also taught as a Lecturer about the same time, at the invitation of the chair of the Physics Department on the Berkeley campus. Sula befriended me. Sula and her husband Gerson often had elegant parties, and she would—she and Telegdi would—have a good time interacting. She probably spoke several languages. I'm sure he did. He had a lovely Italian wife, but that didn't stop him from chasing after women.

So anyway, he made this crack of “Don’t marry a physicist” when chatting with me in Hawaii. (Somebody—one of the younger people at UMass, in my research group, a professor, said he had seen Sula and Gerson and Val Telegdi together at some later meeting, and Sula kept chatting with Val. She was very lively, very attractive—she’d grown up in Vienna, I think. Studied in Israel but then went to Wisconsin where she met Gerson. He had grown up in Germany. But anyway, they both were at Wisconsin as graduate students. But this younger fellow in my group, about five years my junior, said he heard Gerson say—he seemed mild-mannered, but he turned to Sula at one point—he was sitting between him and Telegdi—and he said, “Shut up!” to his wife. [laugh] But Gerson confided in me about Sula’s relationship with Berkeley. She performed sort of a catalyst role, helped to bring together George Trilling, who was a superb physicist. He was Polish, Jewish in background, and very young when he got his PhD at Caltech, and eventually became president of the American Physical Society. And Sula brought her husband and George Trilling together to form one of the very, very nice research groups. And she took it upon herself to write a farewell to one of the old-timers at the lab, who has headed his own group. And I would hear his secretary sniping about her, saying, “Why should Sula Goldhaber”— everybody called her Sula—“Why should she put her name on this? She’s not a group head.” It was supposed to be group heads saying farewell to some old-timer. Well, she brought about the joining of her husband with George Trilling, and had there not been nepotism, I think she very definitely would have been on the faculty. She didn't know that much about apparatus. Both she and her husband did a lot of emulsion [inaudible] work.

So she was with Segrè for a while but ultimately with the Laughlin [inaudible] group. But she was considered—at the time, she died so abruptly, off in India, when she was on a Guggenheim fellowship, I believe, and Gerson was with her. So she had died abruptly, and the tributes paid to her were remarkable. And McMillan, the head of the lab, called her “the first lady of physics” at least at Berkeley. She had been such a fixture. And everybody loved her parties. The problem was her outgoing personality didn't suit the American males. [laugh] And this one guy [inaudible] group—he headed a very outstanding group that did mostly—didn't do bubble chamber physics, but [inaudible] spark chamber, proportional chamber physics. They were a very, very good group, and wielded a lot of influence, because the head of their group was in charge of—where the sort of titular head, the oldest person, was running—or had the main say-so for the Berkeley bevatron. But anyway, this guy Kerst was essentially running the physics part of a fairly large group. He was sort of quiet, but I did hear from him a few comments on women in physics. First of all, he had known a woman who became a very outstanding theorist, Nina Byers. She had been an undergraduate at UC Berkeley when he was, and she would never share her problem solution. His comment on Sula Goldhaber was, “That woman can make me do anything she wants, and I just hate it!” He couldn't deal with Sula’s outgoing behavior, I think. well, you see, she’d stand up, or give contributions at research progress meetings once a week, and she often would say, “Well, I've just learned this from Brookhaven. I was talking with my brother-in-law, Maurice Goldhaber.” So she would get news that was on the East Coast, or might have come from Europe, before we would get it at Berkeley. Tended to do that.

She also was in charge of research progress meetings. And on one occasion, she came arm in arm, wearing a fuzzy sweater and appearing a little overweight, with Yuval Ne’eman from Israel, ideas of quarks about the same time as Murry Gell-Mann. I think she had spent some of her undergraduate years studying in Israel. But she had grown up in a family in Vienna at some point. She had all typical feminine Viennese charm. Didn't go over very well with my male friends. [laugh] And if she chose to make a comment on apparatus—or, she would wear shorts. She didn't do herself any good. She had a weight problem. Very pretty woman, very attractive. Gerson was not so handsome [laugh] and so on. Sula was—she was the one who had the personality and the coquettishness and so forth. She was almost coquettish. I just don’t quite know what to call it. But she was really interesting, and she would wear shorts! At the bevatron! I would never have done that! At least not if I were a little on the chubby side. I didn't have that many curves to show off anyway, but I was always dressed—I think early on, as a graduate student, having been conditioned by Cornell, where you did not wear slacks on campus—not unless there was a snowstorm, and then you wore ski pants. You did not wear shorts, if you're going to gym class, unless you covered yourself with a raincoat. And yes, you did have a curfew.And no, Cornell would not allow women students to have a track team. I tried to launch a Cornell women’s track team, and answer—when I was head of student government, or maybe just before—the answer came back from the administration—“Oh, we can’t have women playing—even in the non-contact sports, we can’t have a women’s track team. The women undergraduates will then want to play this and that. They'll want to play lacrosse. They'll get their heads bashed in, and the parents will sue us!” So it’s okay for the men to get their heads bashed in [laugh].

But women could not do things that related to men. You couldn't act like a tomboy at Cornell. Couldn't wear slacks. So I'm shocked when I look at a picture of me sitting with a French Swiss guy, [inaudible] who was a postdoc in the Alvarez group about the time I came into the group—another guy, Moishe Pripstein, who was then I guess still a graduate student, and another chap who was a postdoc, Joe. And it shows the four of us next to a separated beam, and I'm sitting on the steps of a step ladder or something like that, or sitting on a concrete block. And I have a skirt on! I don’t remember ever, ever, ever wearing a skirt! At the bevatron or elsewhere. And I think they wanted us to pose for a picture. Because the four of us were not there at the same time. We were all part of the Alvarez group at that point. Moishe [inaudible] was—or Morris Kripstein [inaudible]—he was a graduate student, and then Philippe [inaudible] was a visiting postdoc, and Joe Linudi [inaudible] was like me. We were already postdocs. But it was a little—Philippe [inaudible] and I worked very closely together. But why in the world did I happen to have a—? I know. I might have been teaching on campus. But even there, I would wear old, old suits.

So anyway, women were scarcely ever seen at the bevatron, and the only time I ever saw a picture of a woman was when there was an Italian woman who merely did analysis. She stayed on and became part of the Alvarez group, but initially she came into a smaller LBL research group and studied emulsions, never knew much about hardware. But was her picture put up? Oh, sure. American physicists, even the older ones, were willing to have visiting French women physicists visiting LBL. You could hear their voices, and their high heels click-clacking down the corridor. You could hear their French-tinged English in the libraries or in the corridors. And Americans were okay with that. Most of them worked with other research groups, perhaps with some LBL theorists (who were mostly in remote offices). There were a lot more of the European women visitors to the LBL physics building than there ever were of American women. I always wore slacks and casual clothes, unlike most women visitors. On campus, where I taught a freshman physics class as a lecturer, I put out a questionnaire, given to the students at the end of the semester. It was just beginning to be the case that university departments wanted to know how students evaluated teaching of various courses. It wasn’t mandatory for UC Berkeley teachers to ask for evaluation, but I found that the physics department did indeed have a questionnaire. And I read through what was said by students who were in one of the first courses I taught. And this was not a physics majors’ class, which I did get to teach later in Berkeley still as a lecturer. (I had five or six different courses that I was asked to teach in the early 1960s by the experimentalist who then chaired the department of physics.)

So anyway [laugh] I looked at this questionnaire after I finished grading the final exams. I had taught a fairly large lecture group, with some women as well as some men, but not very many women. As I looked over the answers on the departmental questionaires my students had filled out, I came to this question: “Was there anything about the class that disturbed you?” And what did this student, presumably a fellow, say? “Yes, the teacher wore sexy clothes.” I was rather shocked, since for teaching I usually wore suits that were threadbare—20, 30 years old. But I may possibly have worn a suit that had a matching jacket and a skirt – rather than a jacket and slacks. I don’t remember ever wearing anything except slacks, because I often worked with experimental apparatus at the lab, and would be climbing up and down on apparatus! Sula Goldhaber was also teaching occasionally as a lecturer on campus; but I don’t recall hearing from her any reactions from students; perhaps she didn’t try asking for evaluations.

I had a rather poignant interaction with her husband Gerson, just a year or so after her sudden death in 1967. I will describe later what I learned from Gerson (after a physics conference in Philadelphia) about the difficult atmosphere for his wife Sula at LBL, an atmosphere very different from what she experienced with European physicists at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland. I went down from UMass Amherst to a special meeting in Philadelphia for several days in 1968. It was an elementary particle physics meeting, mostly on meson resonances, at the University of Pennsylvania. Wally Selove was the chief organizer for the meeting. Murray Gell-Mann of Caltech would be speaking. The attendees included many theorists, as well as Art Rosenfeld and Gerson Goldhaber from LBL and other experimentalists. Several hundred people participated. I had my baby daughter with me. Christina had been born in ’67. So I had her with me when I travelled to Philadelphia for this summer 1968 meeting on meson resonances. During the meeting I interacted some with Gerson Goldhaber (from Berkeley), as he had done much research on meson resonances. I had been asked to chair a session with four well-known experimentalists scheduled for half-hour talks. In advance of the session, I had somebody (an MIT professor, Dave Frisch, I think) beg me to let him speak before Sam Lindenbaum…because Sam always spoke at great length and often would run over into other people’s presentations.

Also, one of my Berkeley previous acquaintances, Don Miller, said, “I don’t want to speak after Sam.” In those years, you had a little bell you could hit to signal that time was up; but you could also warn a speaker that his talk must end ink say, five minutes. And the UPenn physicists hosting the meeting had provided either an alarm clock, or one of these bells. But you certainly had a clock available, so you as chair could cut people off. And so I was in charge of the session where Sam Lindenbaum was going to be speaking. [laugh] So my good friend Don Miller who was a superb physicist, and had done both engineering and physics in the Alvarez Group (before moving to Northwestern University) Don approached me at this UPenn meeting during an intermission, and said to me, since I was to chair the session where he was scheduled to speak, “Jan, I'm not going to report on”—whatever this resonance was, and the analysis that Don and others had been doing at Berkeley. He said, “I don’t want to be coming in after Sam. I'm just going to check out. I'm going to leave.” But he hoped to persuade me to change the order of speakers. And of course, the same request was coming from some Harvard guy. Sam Lindenbaum had been at City College for a long time and headed this big group at Brookhaven Lab. And I had known him for a while. But he did have that reputation of tending to want to go on and on. So I managed to persuade Don not to give up on his invited talk. And I cut Sam off! [laugh] He actually saw me as chairman, and he may have gotten wind of the fact that a couple of other speakers had threatened to leave and not give their invited talks.

Anyway, one Berkeley guy and one Cambridge guy—Massachusetts—these were both about ready to quit and not give their talks if they had to come after Sam. So Sam might have gotten wind of it. But I gave him the five-minute warning. And he stopped! By the time he was supposed to! He obeyed. [laugh] He did what the chair of the session—namely what I had wanted him to do. So we won. During Art Rosenfeld’s presentation, there was a question about nomenclature, the symbols used for several new meson resonances. Art’s good friend Murray Gell-Mann was right there in the front row. I raised a hand and said, “Aren’t we supposed to be using …. nomenclature devised by Art and the LBL Particle Data Physics group?” Gell-Mann came back [laugh] with this comment: “I never listen to Art anyway.” [laugh] Art was responsible for bringing Gell-Mann up, over and over again, to LBL, to have informalconsultations with the Alvarez Group. We didn't see that much of Feynman. He tended to go up to SLAC to interact with experimentalists there. But the thing was that Gell-Mann had gotten his PhD at a very young age, under Viki Weisskopf at MIT. And he was at Princeton, and then he was at Chicago. So he was already on the faculty at Chicago when Art Rosenfeld was a graduate student. So they shared an apartment together in Chicago. Art spoke French pretty well, and that, I think, was Gell-Mann’s favorite second language.

Anyway, it’s a bit of a shock when you hear “Oh, I never listen to that guy.” [laugh] Even if that guy happens to be a really close friend. In front of a whole bunch of people. I heard about seminars in Russia after a theorist colleague returned from some conference in Moscow, and he said, “Everybody drank vodka like crazy!” Mostly theoretical conference. They were scribbling on the board, and all of them arguing loudly in Russian. [laugh] So I think we're a little better behaved in this country – perhaps because we don’t drink vodka at our seminars! To go back to my interactin with Goldhaber at that ’68 Philadelphia conference, Gerson knew I had a rent-a-car. Knew I was going to take my baby daughter from my sister’s place in a suburb of Philadelphia. She looked after Christina. And actually Christina had a broken tooth as a result of [laugh] my sister’s youngest putting her on a tricycle and aiming her down a hill when she was age three. [laugh] It wasn’t even three. This happened in ’68. She had to be only one year of age! So this mischievous—that’s right. I think—maybe he was—[inaudible] were about three years apart. And I think her middle child was perhaps six, and Dave was himself maybe only age three. But he was a mischief maker, and he put my baby daughter Christina on a tricycle, which she had never seen before. Her feet got caught in the tricycle, and she was going down a hill. And Judy’s daughter tried to get Dave to stop. Barbara said, “No, no, don’t do that, Dave.” So my sister said never again did she want to have responsibility looking after my lovely little daughter Christina. Because she went over the handlebars, and a tooth got cracked! [laugh]

Anyway! So you have all these wonderful family experiences. But I did have Christina with me, picked her up at my sister’s place. And Gerson said, “Can I go with you to Brookhaven Lab? I'm going to go stay at my brother’s home.” At Maurice Goldhaber’s home. Now Maurice—he had Sula as his wife, the West Coast Goldhabers. East Coast Goldhabers had Trudy Scharff, Gertrude Scharff Goldhaber. She kept her maiden name. And she had a nuclear physics group, whereas Maurice had been the head of Brookhaven Lab for a while. And contributed a lot to experimental physics. So anyway, Gerson wanted to ride with me. And I had been able to talk German a little bit, not so much directly with Gerson or Sula, but with Gerson’s father, who didn't speak English. At one of the many parties Sula had, I found myself at the edge of the party talking some German and learning what [inaudible]. Germans love to—they take apple juice and put carbonated water in it, or maybe some alcoholic juice, and they add some carbonated water. So there’s a special name for that. But I remember having wonderful conversations with I think Gerson’s father who was staying with them in Berkeley for a while. Well, Gerson and I drove up together, speaking English.

And the poignant thing was Sula had not been gone very long, and I sent Gerson a note after we heard—while on the West Coast for part of the summer, we heard of her death. And he told me about Sula’s experiences at Berkeley. She was even seeing maybe not a psychiatrist but at least a psychologist. She was so frustrated at Berkeley. She felt happy when they went overseas, because at CERN, they had a lot of European physicists. And as a woman physicist wanting to do some things that related to hardware but being more of an analysis-oriented person, she just felt she was welcomed in Geneva, and probably could speak German, or maybe she spoke French and Italian. I have no idea. There were certainly a lot of Italian—it was basically either English or French for the typical language at CERN. But I think CERN was never really fully participated in by the U.S. in terms of money. U.S. visitors were welcome, and one guy Jack Steinberger even left Columbia and stayed there permanently. But for the most part, it was a European organization, and the center for European research, and that was where the money was coming from, was European countries. But that’s where the majority—even Polish physicists. I met a Polish woman at a meeting who had been at CERN for some time. But anyway, Sula had been happy really at CERN, but she was really quite unhappy—it didn't show that much, but I just heard—she couldn't be a faculty member because her husband was. And then she was disliked by secretaries. And they can do a lot of damage! People don’t necessarily say hello in a friendly manner. It took only—it took somebody with European background, whether working in this country or working abroad, to understand some of Sula’s behavior. [laugh] She was unique! I never knew another woman like her.

Her sister-in-law, Gertrude (or Trude) Scharff Goldhaber was very—almost mannish. She was much quieter. Sula had this Viennese charm. And American physicists, they didn't even understand American women, much less [laugh] European women. They could admire the French and the Italian women from afar, but [laugh]—I think Geoff Chew—I know that he lost his first wife, but he did marry a French woman physicist. But there’s a difference. And a Romanian friend of mine who fled Romania late forties, just turned—well, he’s age 93 now; I went to his 90th birthday—and Mircea since he was a traitor—had fled Romania and left his family behind, older brother and sister-in-law, and his mother—he studied first at the Sorbonne. Would liked to have studied the Ecole Polytechnique, but you needed money for that. Anyway, had to have stipends from your home country. So he came from the Sorbonne to Berkeley. Played violin. His older brother I think also played violin very well, but was in the medical field. And Mircea did his PhD at Berkeley, but he told me one time—could speak six languages [laugh]. Besides French and German, Italian. There’s even a Swiss spoken version called Romansh, which is a little bit like Romanian. And he could speak Russian, which he chose not to. So he came from this communist dominated country. And he told me—he had spent so much time in Paris, knew—and there were a whole colony of Romanian refugees, including a wonderful composer, violinist, George Enescu, whom he got to know fairly well. And Mirche [inaudible] said that his observation in France, where he even to this day has many friends—his observation was that whether you were in physics or some other field, if you were a French woman, you could be admired by your male colleagues both as a scientist, let’s say, or a lawyer—you could be admired for your work as a professional and be liked as a woman. That the French were able to do that. Of course I think I may have told you, Carlo Rubbia is said to have explained the fact—they had a lot of women, Italian women physicists, by saying, “Well, we Italian women [inaudible] love [inaudible] women.” [laugh] But Mirche [inaudible] put it in different terms—that Italian men enjoy having a woman as a colleague. They're more—and I have a hunch it might come from maybe way, way back, when those who did science, especially among the few women who did, were from the aristocratic fields, whether in England or France or Italy. And people had soirees. They had sort of intellectual soirees. Have you ever heard of the Ada code language? Ada Byron Lovelace?

Behrman:

Oh, sure.

Button-Shafer:

Yeah. And she was from a fairly well-to-do family, I think. And invented the computer. Anyway. So with Sula, she was quite a good friend. We played ping-pong together. But she had to win! She played ping-pong ferociously at Segrè’s home. [laugh] Even with a dress on, possibly? But anyway—she had casual shoes, maybe, with heels. But she was a force. A really very determined woman. And she learned how to do the hula at the Hawaiian Physical Society meeting where I got to present my ten-minute presentation of my thesis on the last day of the meeting. Don Glaser took me for a ride in his rented car. But anyway, she was a very interesting person. And people got rather drunk. Even the American men were wearing the equivalent of a sarong, and trying to do the dancing that they did at the parties. [laugh]

It was the first time the APS had ever had a meeting in Hawaii. And even some of the male American physicists were making use of that. I think Jensen, a rather—Nobel Prize winner, eventually, but he was quite a skirt chaser. Don Glaser had known him when he came through Michigan at one point. He won for the shell model, I guess, for his contribution, along with some other people in Germany. But anyway, the Jensen, Wigner, and this Maria Goeppert Mayer all won the Nobel Prize. This was before that happened. It was in 1960. Maybe the summer of ’59. And he had gotten roaring drunk, and he was dancing with Sula. [laugh] It was a wild party! I stayed on the fringes and was talking to some astronomer. But being five feet ten, I wasn’t about to go out and make a fool of myself trying to do the dance with a grass skirt on or something.

You asked me about 1958 and an invited talk, and that has another story. That has one of my favorite stories, so if you can spend the time—I was going to look at my watch. But I was asked by Luis Alvarez to give the talk for the Alvarez group only six, seven months after I had gotten into his group. And it was going to be on the discovery of the anti-lambda. We had a very photogenic event that showed the lambda neutral particle decaying into a VE [inaudible] proton, and a pi minus. So it was a 1V [inaudible] antiproton came into the [inaudible] 72-inch chamber, and only a couple of centimeters beyond that were these two vertices. It was almost a symmetric picture. So the neutral lambda went off—1115 MeV, decaying in a proton and a pi minus. And then the anti-lambda found a hydrogen that it could annihilate with. There was this burst of pions—four charged pions—pi plus, pi plus, pi minus, pi minus. And it was a gorgeous event! And we eventually had only 11 or 12 anti-lambdas. We kept the [inaudible] running for many months. But anyway, since I had contributed to helping to run the separated beam, and I had gotten into computer programming and done part of the analysis, and I was the ranking member after the more senior people in the group who had gone off to European conferences.

So it was the APS meeting. Jack Steinberger—another woman-chaser—he was chasing after a graduate student woman, very beautiful, blonde, who he eventually married, at Columbia. But anyway—and I knew Steinberger. He came out—oh, gee, probably a little later on—but I knew of him. I guess I just knew of him because I had seen him on a few occasions. He had sort of electric blue eyes. Anyway, he was not comfortable, I think, having a woman, especially my height, dressed conservatively—a black suit—had blonde hair. I might have been wearing heels; I probably was. So in those days, that was an invited talk from me, and Alvarez came and asked me if I would give the talk on the anti-Lambda. And I had been spending all of my research time besides helping to run the antiproton beam at the bevatron, mostly with Philip Eberhart [inaudible], my French-Swiss friend. But then the old-timers had been busy with other things, Luis suggested that I give this invited talk. And I had it fairly well-prepared, with these old lantern slides, about yea big, glass-encased slides.

And two things happened. One was that after I was introduced—and I think I might have been the final talk—oh, and I had been taken out to dinner by one of my professors from Cornell, the head of the aeronautical school, Kantrowitz, who was one of our favorite professors. Big Russian in origin. He had developed the nose cone for the space rockets eventually. And he developed an artificial heart valve. And he thought [inaudible] wonderful thermodynamics, kinetic theory. I really loved [inaudible] mechanics. I had known him mostly from one semester, because he was off on a Guggenheim, and some young fellow took over his teaching. But anyway, all my classmates and I thought his teaching was spectacular. Well, he was there with some colleagues of his in the fusion business. Six or seven of them invited me, and I don’t know that I saw any other women physicists at this meeting, which had hundreds of people. It was the annual New York meeting. So anyway, the night before I was to give my invited talk, they said, “Why don’t you go to dinner with us?” Because I got introduced by Kantrowitz. Maybe Harold Firth was there, too. Some other people. There were at least six of them. They all tried to get me drunk, the night before my invited talk. And they took me to Lushall’s [inaudible], while knowing I could hold my liquor pretty well. After all, I was a Cornellian, and we had all these house party weekends. You could drink by age 18, and nobody cared if you were only 17 when you first got to college. So you could drink in New York State, in those days. They later changed it to 21. But we drank in a civilized way. Well, these guys took me to a German restaurant—all of these eminent physicists, aeronautical engineers, and so on. Somebody who was well-known as a Cornell trustee and was a very gifted engineer who made out with the wife of the president of a college where he had been. [redacted] I don’t mind giving Kantrowitz’ name. Long gone.

But anyway, these guys were all in the fusion business. Kantrowitz by this time had probably—he probably was still at Cornell, but he eventually went to Avco and then ended up at Dartmouth College. So he was a very hearty fellow. What did they do? They fed me with a whole lot of beer, and they called it biermitschuse. What it was, was a big glass stein of beer, with a shot—in German, schuss means shot. So we're in this German restaurant, a lot of German music, and parades [inaudible] going on. I had a couple of beers with a shot of either cognac or—I don’t think it was vodka; it was either cognac or brandy. And, you know, we had this German-style meal. Well, one of the guys from some institution out west—I don’t remember, and I'll try not to remember his name—he invited me to go to a sort of night club. So I was stupid enough to do that, for a few hours. And then I said, “Good night.” That was it. No hanky-panky, at least nothing that amounted to anything. He probably gave me a kiss good night, or tried to. But at 3 a.m. in the morning, there’s this knock on my hotel room door! This guy has somehow found out what my room number was! And of course I would not have given it to anybody!

Oh, and during the meal, by the way, Arthur Kantrowitz said—the reason I told you so much about having a very difficult case as head of this women’s student government was that he told me he and other faculty knew that I had saved the career of this young undergraduate woman at Cornell. That as head of WSGA, the Women’s Student Government Association, I saw to it, by challenging the dean of women, getting the male faculty on my side with the special Faculty Committee on Student Conduct—Kantrowitz knew about it! I thought, how in the world? He was even gone for one semester, or more, with the Guggenheim fellowship or whatever. So I didn't have him for what should have been two semesters. He was there at our farewell party in the basement of the fraternity house, after my fifth year. So he joined our party, if I remember correctly.

Anyway, he was an extraordinary figure. And because he knew of that case that I had handled, helping this woman to stay in industrial and labor relations, he starts talking to me about, well, how old was I. Well, by this time I had finished my PhD in ’59. I was going on age 28 in September of that year. Just a little after I finished my degree. I had gone to the Alvarez group while I was still, I guess, age 27. So what does he tell me? He is an authority on aerodynamics. Tells me, “Well, your sex life is practically over by the time you're in your mid-twenties. It’s all downhill after that.” [laugh] And he’s telling me—this as a slightly rotund Russian guy, of Russian origin, who’s in his mid-fifties, at least. Fifty, 55. And I'm the only woman! And all these guys in the fusion business are thinking—at least some of them were thinking maybe they could spirit me away to a night club. Anyway, I already had to shut him up on that score, when he told me that. And he figured out I was still a virgin, [laugh] and I had never had any sex. [laugh] People didn't have partners in those days. Well, maybe some of my sorority sisters had. But I hadn’t found the one. [laugh] So anyway. But I got a bit of a lecture. He was sitting to my left. And I don’t know that the rest of the guys in this German restaurant very much aware of what he was saying. But anyway, this relatively tall, younger guy did persuade me to go have another drink with him at a night club. That was stupid. But I thought I had my talk pretty well organized. It wasn’t until 10 a.m. the next morning. Then there was this knock on my door at 3:00 a.m. And the guy tried to push his way in! And I told him to get lost! And he was a fairly tall fellow. It wasn’t Kantrowitz; it was a much younger guy. I don’t remember his name. But, pushed him out the door. They thought I had a ten-minute talk to give the next day. I found out later that day that they probably wouldn't have tried to be quite so pushy, or certainly not [laugh] knocking on my hotel room door, if they had known I had a half-hour talk to give. They just—[inaudible] me, but some of the others were just beginning to find out my name. And nobody looked at the schedule for the next day.

Well, I managed to get dressed decently and was sort of shaken, and not sure I’d be awake enough. I did get to my 10 a.m. presentation only to find Jack Steinberger, electric blue eyes, and all thumbs more or less—in those days, we wrote on plastic paper that had to be wound up, with a grease pencil. So you didn't have slides in advance. You did if you had some pictures to show. But for most of what you were lecturing on, for a half-hour talk at least, you would write things out, and use this grease pencil. Well, the plastic ran out! It came to the end of the roll. And did the chairman, this Jack Steinberger, a marvelous experimentalist, did he know what to do? Did he know where there was some spare plastic? I'm not sure! Finally some hotel staff member had more plastic. That delayed the last five minutes of my talk somewhat. But then, I had a final slide, and it was the summary of everything that I had been talking about, with a beautiful photogenic bubble chamber. And the guy who was projecting the lantern slides from a little projector that was way down the central aisle in this huge, huge ballroom, with hundreds of physicists—and he had mislaid my last slide. And I knew I had them in order. So I had to—after having grappled with this plastic stuff that ran out and had to be replaced, and finally concluding my remarks, I said I wanted to show this last slide. And this rather sleepy-looking guy had put it to one side, didn't have it ready to go. So I had to walk down, and being a true experimenter, find the slide, hand it to him, tell him to put it in. Then I got back and I finished my talk. And I got very enthusiastic applause.

After all, I was grappling with the chair, who was a little unusual. Most people knew he was kind of a woman-chaser. And grappling with the plastic, and then with the slide. Who comes up to me? My good friend Don Glaser. Well, I don’t know how much you ever heard about Don Glaser, the inventor of the bubble chamber, who got the Nobel award—all by himself! Luis Alvarez had brought him to Berkeley. And it was generally whispered that Luis had helped that with Glaser being at Berkeley, and with Luis having done a lot about hydrogen bubble chambers, rather than having liquid—[inaudible] propane or whatever, that Luis would share in the Nobel award. Didn't happen. But Glaser had visited from Michigan. And turned out he played viola rather well. He had gotten his PhD at Caltech, but I think he was originally at Case Western Reserve. So an Ohio type. But he had been, after Caltech work—I think Herbert Henderson [inaudible]—he went to Michigan, and he had been on the faculty in Michigan when he was developing the bubble chamber. So he came to Berkeley as a visitor. He rented a house. He got to know me, because I played chamber music. And he played viola really quite well. So we played in my landlady’s home. She had a nice grand piano. I was renting a little cottage—an apartment or something, a garden cottage apartment, we called it. I had just a studio upright. But we had a nice grand piano. So there are pictures of me playing with this Don Glaser. He wasn’t that handsome a guy, but he was very, very clever guy, and he would spout off German phrases. Just knew handfuls of phrases, I think. But he had known enough interesting people—one of his close friends was Abraham, or Braham, Pais. And he had so many interesting experiences. And he had his own bubble chamber eventually, at Berkeley. I think even on this trip—oh, and George Trilling had gone from Caltech to work with Don Glaser, at Michigan. And there were several others who came from Michigan with Don Glaser and his chamber.

So he was a visitor. And he claimed he needed me sort of as a protect…he wanted to know—we could do wonderful chamber music together, in the house he was renting. And he had a piano there. [laugh] And he thought it would be good if he had a companion, because some woman was chasing him from Michigan. He was always afraid that somebody was going to trap him! [laugh] So anyway, he had all these amusing stories. He loved to drink beer. And we would go out and drink beer, and he got a ticket to Pablo Casals’ series of master classes at Berkeley. Casals, a wonderful cellist. Until Franco was gotten rid of, he was never going to go back to Spain, and he wasn’t going to play for paid concerts, but he did master classes at various places, with—Marta Casals, a very young cellist as assistant. Glaser offered me half the tickets. We didn't go together. He went to the complementary set of maybe six or seven performances. These are famous performances. They were photographed, with Casals at age 70-plus. He seemed very old. Seventy, 75 years of age, with his 30-year-old wife or assistant, soon [inaudible] who he either had married or was about to marry.

Anyway, so Glaser and I alternated. But he procured the tickets and he shared them with me. If we played chamber music, oh, or if we went to drink beer someplace, he might say, “Why don’t you meet me there?” So I think only once, while we were at the same party in a place not far off the radiation lab campus, just up the hill, he had an apartment, and I ran into him at a party that was thrown by somebody else, a guy named [inaudible], for a lot of physics friends. And the party broke up, and he invited me to his apartment. He didn't have a piano there, but we had a little more to drink. We sat a few feet apart. I was sort of waiting for him to make a pass at me. Well, he was the type to wait for women to chase him, and that wasn’t my style, or my inclination, or my puritanical background. After all, I spent a good part of my early life in New England. So anyway, nothing happened. [laugh] But he eventually did get the Nobel Prize. And by then, he had been dating this—and we saw this, my friend [inaudible], the Romanian violinist and I were frequently invited over to Glaser’s elegant, octagon-like apartment that he got later on. He was still living by himself. And he had started dating an undergraduate. He treated her the same way he treated me. She had to go get tickets for concerts. He would meet her there. He was still in the style of letting a woman chase after him. And unlike me, the woman that he eventually married had had boyfriends before, and she was more nearly normal-sized. Here I was, this intimidating five foot ten inches [laugh] and a tomboy to boot, and to boot an experimental physicist. He never showed me his bubble chamber, because he didn't want people in his group—when I pressed him on it, he didn't want people to know that he was goofing off and going out to have beer, or to attend a concert or something, with a woman. He kept my existence secret from his bubble chamber group. And of course I, getting to know him as a visitor, and [inaudible] bubble chamber—I wanted to learn about how the bubble chamber functioned. I never got that from him, at least not early on.

But anyway Mirche [inaudible] and I would—he had a nice piano, and Mirche [inaudible] would take his violin and we would go over and play trios! There were some trios where—viola, that was Glaser’s instrument. And we did some duos together, he and I, at various times. But also Mirche [inaudible] went over with me. And I couldn't believe it; the young woman that he had taken up an affair with would stretch out. And she was not a musician; she didn't play any instruments. She was a lot younger than I. And she had long, brown hair. And she would be there—obviously she was living with him, okay? Well, Nobel Prize came along. So what happened? Elsie McMillan told me—she was the wife of Ed McMillan, and she had known quite a few physicists. She was the sister of Ernest Lawrence’s wife. And she had come from Maryland. I think her father—Molly Lawrence’s [inaudible] father had been a physician and had known Luis Alvarez’s father, who was a physician. Anyway, it all sounds sort of [laugh]—what’s the word I want? All these people seem to know each other. At a certain level, you’d find everybody knew everybody else. [laugh]

Anyway. I’d hear all these stories! Well, Elsie had always been very friendly. She told me how she had to save the self-respect of young physicists’ wives, because she’d have to tell them that their husbands would eventually give up on this big idea of Ernest Lawrence out in Livermore, because Livermore existed as a lab in materials testing. Elsie’s husband being gone practically all week, and she’d tell the young wives, “Look, it isn’t that your husband doesn't love you. It’s just that he’s all caught up with this physics thing. [laugh] Eventually things will come back to normal.” So she was used to looking out for wives of physicists. And she also was quite friendly toward me. And she had passes made at her by the [inaudible] of the Hawaiian Physical Society at some big banquet they were having. So she had her own stories of having passes made at her. But she told me, probably quite a bit later—or no, it was in advance—that she and her husband Ed McMillan, heading the Berkeley lab, having worked with Lawrence and Alvarez, that they told Don Glaser he could not, as an American, go to Sweden to accept the prize, with a partner, with a mistress. We didn't use the word partner in those days. He couldn't take the young girl with him. It would be a scandal. It would be all over the newspapers, in Life magazine, et cetera, et cetera. And Elsie’s argument, and her husband’s argument to Don, supposedly—I was not there, but I was told about it later—was that Swedes could come here. Everybody knew that the Scandinavians—I mean, it gets cold over there. [laugh] The Scandinavians and the Dutch and everybody—they could have affairs. They could bring a mistress to this country; nobody would blink an eyelid! But you can’t go over there with a girlfriend as an American. Americans don’t do that. (Elsie had come from the East Coast, and I believe Ed had studied at Princeton. So the McMillans perhaps had more conventional views [laugh] or ethics than somebody who had grown up on the West Coast.) Elsie told Don, “Look, if you give me 12 hours’ notice, or half a day’s notice I will have a reception for you if you get married.” What did Glaser do? He waited until one week before the Nobel ceremony, maybe ten days. He called up Abraham (Bram) Pais at 7:00 a.m. in the morning, or 8:00 a.m. This is how this story goes. Maybe I heard it from Pais; maybe I heard it from Elsie McMillan. Glaser called up early on a Monday morning and said to Pais “Can we borrow your wife’s ring? Your wife’s wedding ring.”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

“Because I'm going to get married today!” [laugh]

Behrman:

Oh, wow.

Button-Shafer:

So Don borrowed the ring, and he and Bonnie did get married. And Luis Alvarez and various other people, including me, were invited to the McMillans’ evening reception. That Monday night, in place of the usual Alvarez group meeting on physics, some of us went to the wedding reception at the McMillans’ home. Besides that experience with Don Glaser, I also was aware that Luis Alvarez who involved me in a romantic triangle in trying to persuade Jan Landis to marry him. — He married Jan when she was 30; he was 48. And he pretended to be interested in me, and I decided “No, no, I'm going to become a physicist in my own right.” But we never discussed this. Just that I got invited to Thanksgiving dinner at Jan Landis’s home. And she said during the dinner, her father being an eminent mechanical engineer (who headed the company Ampex near San Francisco) and had gotten to know Luis. But Jan wasn’t sure she wanted to marry somebody Luis’ age, and wasn’t sure that Luis would want to have another set of children. And so I was kind of a confidant for Jan. But Jan said at Thanksgiving, when I was still a graduate student, I think, but just about to finish—and she said, with Luis sitting right there at the Thanksgiving table, that she was just a caretaker. She was just a friend of Luis’. And it was pretty clear—one engineer fellow close to Luis, a physicist who was part of Luis’ group, Hugh Bradner, told me, “Luis really handled that in a masterly fashion.” So both with Don Glaser and with Alvarez, I was the other woman. But not in an intimate sense, because I wanted to be my own person, to develop my own career. But Glaser whispered in my ear at Elsie’s McMillan’s reception, which a number of us Alvarez group physicists went to. We ducked out of the physics meeting. It was essentially canceled or however it went—Alvarez and his wife Jan—and we had many music things where I played in their home, so they knew me both as a musician and physics person. So anyway, I went over separately by myself.

I recall an amusing incident near the end of Elsie’s reception for Glaser concerning Segrè. He and his wife, Elfriede, whom I had gotten to know her very well, were about to leave the wedding reception for the Glasers. Elsie McMillan was so pleased with herself, at how well the reception had gone, that she gave Emilio a friendly kiss on the way out! And Emilio was shocked! [laugh] Elfriede Segrè thought that was very amusing. The reception had been very pleasant, with a few dozen physicists and their wives attending. After food and drink, we had dancing. Don danced with me, and he whispered in my ear that he thought he was making a big mistake.

Behrman:

Aww.

Button-Shafer:

And it was the aftermath that was rather sad. — With his Nobel money, Don Glaser bought a huge house, and he tried to turn his wife Bonnie into a flutist. But it wasn’t her thing. She never really became a musician. And they did split. I was told later, on running into a mutual physicist friend that Don was making out with the maid, a woman who took care of their two children, and was overheard on the house intercom system. I think they stayed pretty good friends, though. Don eventually married a woman who was a harpsichordist in the Bay Area. Years later after I had retired from my UMass position and come back to Berkeley, I ran into Don Glaser at a couple of sort of evening lectures on the Berkeley campus . And he was just as charming as ever. (He had changed from particle physics to microbiology shortly after his Nobel award for the invention of the bubble chamber; and for some years was doing research with UCSF collaborators on images perceived by the human brain. I believe I heard lectures on that work that he gave around the year 2000, at LBL and also on campus.) But the Alvarez situation,, where I was the “other woman” [laugh] —or could have been—was a very successful marriage. Jan (Landis) Alvarez were dubbed Jan A and Jan B. She was Jan Alvarez, married by 1960, and I was Jan Button. So, we were the two Jans.

And Jan Alvarez had a bridal shower for me when I got married In 1962. Luis had invited me and my fiancée over for a celebratory drink with him and Jan right after he found out about my engagement. John had brought me a Valentine’s card that asked me to marry him. He had been rather shy. And he was by this time 37 years of age. And to this day, I don’t know that he was a day early or a day late, but being a mathematician, he wasn’t sure what day was Valentine’s Day, and he showed up at my apartment. And we never agreed on what day that happened. But I think John was either a day early or a day late. But we always thought of February 14th our “mini-anniversary.” And then we were actually married on income tax day, April 15, two months after our engagement. I think I was wise to wait until I was age 30, because we married [laugh] for the right reasons. I mean, he was intellectually very interesting. Kind of shy, but he was very willing to support my career. And I supported his mathematics study, through his qualifying examinations and his PhD. research.

But we had a really very good marriage, and I think our kids grew up in a rather unusual environment, in the sense that John not only had his own—he did his share, probably, of changing diapers, but he certainly had a lot of responsibilities with my being an experimental physicist, and going off to labs. I would sometimes be gone 70% of my time. But it was only when the cancer problem with our first—well, he did—it was kind of cute. When we had been married for a while, and I was approaching age 35; he was approaching age 42—he said, “You know, if we don’t think about having children sometime, I'll be too old to appreciate them.” I said, “Oh! You want to have children? Sure! We can have a baby. I can stop taking this Enovid”—or whatever it was, this birth conception suppressant thing. The birth control pills, they called them in those days. I said, “I can stop taking birth control pills.”

And I thought it would be much nicer to have a small baby that’s fussy or unhappy or sick waking me up in the wee hours of the morning rather than getting woke up and taken back to the lab to work on inanimate objects. [laugh] My reasoning was that it would be much more welcoming or thrilling or heartwarming to have a baby waking you up at odd hours than to have, even if you're not working at the accelerator in the wee hours, as I often was—sometimes 60, 80, 100 hours a week—spillover from the war time years, and what the nuclear experimenters were used to doing. Accelerators running 24 hours a day. So I figured, well, you know, [laugh] you're having to wait for somebody to fix the ion source, or you're waiting for this power supply to be fixed; you may not be doing anything very interesting. You could sack out and lie out on the hard table that’s in the control room. Or Harold Ticho used to go find a cot that was in a small room near the bubble chamber, where the bubble chamber engineers would sack out, because they would have sort of regular shifts. So you could sack out and wait for the apparatus to be fixed, or you could try to fix some of it yourself. But whatever it was, you’d have to spend long, long hours, and not get any real—not get any human response. [laugh] Just hardware. Or programs. And as the days went on, you had these programs that didn't do what they were supposed to, so you'd have to grapple with those, at all sorts of crazy hours.

So anyway, so that was my reasoning. But there’s a difference; experiments come to an end! Even writing programs may reach some conclusion, right? But as far as the actual active work of carrying out an experiment is concerned, they don’t last for years and years and years. But you produce a child? Well, you're stuck! [laugh] But you're gonna have the child through all these interesting transformations. But as my twin sister once said, having already had three kids, or at least two by that time, said, “It’s a good thing babies are so cute, because otherwise nobody could stand them.”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

That was my sister’s assessment of being a mother. [laugh] Perhaps Judy did that in part because women’s lib had come along. But she just felt that it was the smart thing to do, to act as if you're not that much interested in your kids. And by the time my kids came along, hers were already ages three to nine. Judy hadn’t enjoyed being a housewife, especially with a husband very busy with his career as a young lawyer. She didn't realize that she really needed to have something to do besides raising kids and refurbishing the house in the Philadelphia area, every two years. Taking up belly dancing, playing the ukulele, playing the guitar, and so on. She had all these hobbies. Or sewing. It was out of frustration, because she really didn't want to be primarily a mommy. And she did pass on some of her talents to especially her daughter. But I have on various occasions thought, and even said to a few close friends, or maybe to my sister, that my kids grew up happier than my sister’s three kids, my two nephews and my niece. One of them married, but it wasn’t a good choice. Judy thinks he was autistic when he was small. He’s a computer scientist type eventually. But loved astronomy, was just too serious, and married a young woman who was not ready to be married and was much more outgoing. And that didn't last more than a few years.

But the other two have started to get married and never have, and they've all been depressed at various times. Because in part their two parents were not that close. My sister and the liar [inaudible] that she married, he was a [inaudible]—she said, “I married Hoyt [inaudible]. He was a nice guy and everyone liked him.” But you don’t marry for that reason. At least it’s better not to. [laugh] I shouldn't be saying [inaudible]. I think marriage can be difficult if husband and wife are in exactly the same field or very close fields. But if you're in complementary fields, and you sort of share things with one another, marriage is more likely to be rewarding. My husband John was never very athletic. Neither are my two sons. My daughter is. But we had a lot of pursuits that we enjoyed together. (He didn't play an instrument, but he loved music. We shared interests in historical developments in math and in science.) I waited until age 30 to marry, but it worked out. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Yeah, could you send me some questions you're thinking of? Women in physics I've known. And I've already touched on how I ended up in the Alvarez group of 22 PhD physicists, including only two other women researchers. One was an English physicist who was oriented towards hardware than theory. She developed a troublesome medical problem, tuberculosis of the spine. She married one of the bubble chamber technicians. She retired at a reasonable age, and I don’t think she has kept in touch with Berkeley. And then there was a second woman researcher in the Alvarez group, an Italian woman who was more interested in analysis than detectors; she has stayed on, doing research in an emerita position at LBL. And she really didn't know any of the hardware. There were no women besides me in the Alvarez group – later renamed “Group A” – that had U.S. training and had experience in both hardware development and theoretical ideas. —The English woman happened to have worked with a guy who designed his own bubble chamber. The Italian woman, never learned much about apparatus because she did analysis, originally, of emulsions, and spent her research time primarily in analysis. And then Fay Ajzenberg-Selove was more of an analysis type. Sula Goldhaber was perhaps the LBL woman physicist who came closest to being a well-rounded experimental physicist, though her forte really was analysis (with emulsions, and then bubble chambers). There were very few women physicists I knew in the Berkeley area who seemed well-rounded, and good role models for me. Marian Whitehead, and I think maybe Ann Chamberlain Birge. But Ann Birge, I hardly knew (because of nepotism constraints) and she died young. And Marian vanished. Went off to SLAC, and then to Hayward State College.

Button-Shafer:

In 1983, I did write to senior Yale physicists that they might look for an experienced woman physicist to replace a deceased faculty member. And that’s another whole story. I might have mentioned this at an earlier interview session—I sent, in response to the inquiry from Yale, a very careful letter in response to their request to many high-energy researchers for comments on and additions to their list (all male) of physicists who could be hired at a tenured level. (My additions were the names of six women in high-energy research, but none had started her physics training in the U.S.!) Perhaps I covered that earlier.

Behrman:

I don’t think so, but -

Button-Shafer:

The problem I'm having is that I talked to my daughter, one or two days after I talked with you, and I got started on reminiscing on things that I might have told you, but may not have. So I have to tell you about my marvelous letter, which I don’t have a copy of. It vanished into my files, and we didn't have email in those days. But in ’83, probably 1983, I cautiously advised the eminent people, two or three of whom I knew quite well, all in particle physics—they wanted to bring in a young man, or young physicist, to give him or her a tenured slot. They didn't say “her.” But they had nine people where they had done initial brainstorming. They were all fellows. And I could give them my assessment to the degree I knew anything about them. And there were only three that I knew anything substantive about, and maybe I had heard of the others. So I wrote this very careful letter saying, “Well, on the premise of women’s being active in their careers perhaps to a later age than men, I'm going to move your age limitation of 40”—plus or minus a year or two; I don’t think they gave any uncertainty that they wanted somebody about age 40—"I'm going to move that boundary up to age 50.” And so I suggested—I didn't suggest myself. I was 53 or 52 years of age. Nor did I suggest Vera Kistiakowsky who finally had landed at MIT after being treated badly at Brandeis. So I left out anybody much beyond late forties. I think—did I tell you that story? And then they did invite Anne Kernan, who eventually went to [inaudible].

Behrman:

No, you haven't told me the story, but tell me it to me next time.

Button-Shafer:

They told me years later that no, they weren’t insulted by my letter. They took it very seriously and they invited a couple women. One of them was too old. She was 47. And she became the chair of UC Irvine. She was up at Berkeley. She was still a researcher. But moved to UC Irvine. And then became chair of the department, and then she died early, I don’t know what of. I lost track of her. But she had been at Berkeley for quite some time. So she was one of my—another one was [inaudible]. She was about the right age, maybe just a little under, and they said, “We can’t support you in the manner in which you've become accustomed.” She was spending most of her time in Europe! But she was at Minnesota. And she would have liked to have gone to Yale. Ann probably would, too. But Ann was too old, and [inaudible] Wu [inaudible] was hardly doing any teaching at Minnesota. She was in Europe, working with Sam Ting. And then the other one that they wouldn't have considered probably might have got a significant position at SLAC, but Berkeley turned her down because of—she was blackballed. She was too young. They wouldn't have considered her because she was—Vera Lüth. And she was German. So anyway, I had this story about my cautious letter to Yale. And the aftermath, a decade later, when I was at APS special symposium on dual careers, and found myself with some eminent people, including Millie Dresselhaus—we were on a panel discussion. But there was the head of the Yale physics department, a young theorist. And so I got to ask him, “Did people find my letter many years back offensive?” “Oh no, we took it very seriously, and we did invite women.” And I heard indirectly just about Ann Kernan and this [inaudible] Wu [inaudible], Chinese American. But he said, “We found we didn't have the money.”

Behrman:

Okay. Interesting.

Button-Shafer:

So there’s that story. And then there’s the one about Berkeley. And this I told my daughter and didn't tell you. But Mary K. Gaillard was the first woman after they tried Vera Lüth, an experimenter, Dave Jackson as the chair of the department then decided to encourage the department to invite Mary K. Gaillard. And they created a new post up at the lab. Because they thought she was married to an experimentalist, a French fellow, [inaudible]. There had been a divorce, and they didn't know it. So then they had to scramble, and they closed that position down. They had already advertised it—“Welcoming women and minorities!” But they had that position created so they could bring in Mary K.—who was a theorist, very famous. They wanted to bring her husband with her. So they canceled that position because she had remarried an eminent person, Italian, who was one of the significant people in supersymmetry. So they gave him almost an honorary position as campus fellow in the graduate school. So they made room for Mary K’s theorist husband, but they had to close down the position that they thought they were going to offer to her former experimentalist husband. So, you know, a lot of these positions that seemed to be opened still are influenced, either in the university, or the old boys club.

Behrman:

Right, right.

Button-Shafer:

And Vera Lüth should have been the first women hired at Berkeley. But one very eminent physicist whom I knew well decided to write a very negative letter about her. You never know!

Behrman:

Well—

Button-Shafer:

And Berkeley shouldn't have—who knows whether it was a solicited letter. But so you hear these gossip things—and you've probably heard a few of them. And I don’t know whether you want that kind of thing to go into [laugh] my remarks or not. But it hasn’t been fair, but I think it has gotten much better. There has been an over-swaying of the pendulum, if you want, to the extent that some women who don’t feel they're ready yet are often put in a conspicuous position. The other thing I can mention is money, and the dean of engineering at Cornell made very good use of money that was available to universities. Do you know what happened at Berkeley? They turned down the money. I was asked by Buford Price, who met me prior to [inaudible] wonderful atomic experimenter, and he was chair of the department. Hadn’t met him until prior to my NSF stay in Berkeley. I came out for seven months and taught for a semester at Berkeley. And Buford Price wanted to meet me. And he had had one woman in his group of graduate students. He became famous suddenly for having thought he found a magnetic monopole in the mid-seventies. But Buford Price told me he would be very grateful if I could give him suggestions of women who might be brought on the Berkeley faculty. They still had no—gosh. This was the early nineties. Well, they did have Mary K. Gaillard. They were beginning to hire women experimenters. But they could get a slot for free because of this [inaudible] money. So he asked me in the early nineties. Well, I wasn’t about to nominate Millie Dresselhaus! She was very happy at MIT!

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

Anyway, I don’t know that she was yet the president of the Physical Society. I think that came just a little later. But the women I would know of, the few—very, very few I could think of—would be too far on in years, and well settled, most of them. So I couldn't be of any help. But he was really hoping to have some women he could nominate. [inaudible] women. He hoped—I probably did make a couple of suggestions. Why? Because he was going to create a slot, if he could compete with math and with chemistry. So the Clare Boothe Luce was offered for those three size departments, and they had to settle it within Berkeley as to which department grabbed the offering, the post. But do you know what happened? Berkeley faculty turned it down. They didn't want to use the Clare Boothe Luce money. It had been used to great advantage at Cornell. And I heard this only because of some scuttlebutt from a fellow younger than I who had been put on the Berkeley faculty. As a lecturer, I was invited by the then-chairman in the early sixties to attend faculty meetings. But I think things had gotten a little stricter. And essentially the argument that essentially was there at various universities was that if you offer a special post to a woman, special funding like the Clare Boothe Luce money, or other things happened—a provost may suddenly decide they've got too few women in the faculty in this field or that field—and they'll create new posts, with or without external money. But the problem is, if it’s a specially created post to find a woman or find a member of a minority group, the old-time faculty are going to say, “That’s an insult to the woman.” Or the woman herself is going to say, “That’s an insult.” You get it both ways. So I don’t know whether you run into that in some of the biographies you've done.

Behrman:

Yeah, sometimes.

Button-Shafer:

But it didn't used to go very well. A woman would be insulted if she had to have a special position. And/or the male faculty. And they tried this in engineering at Cornell. And bringing in only one doesn't usually work too well. You usually need more than one.

Behrman:

Right, right.

Button-Shafer:

So anyway, that was being learned at Cornell by a very enterprising dean. And he also went after students. He boosted the percentage of entering women engineering students, which was 17% cross-country. It was 0.2% or one in 500. Yeah, .02% when I was a student, of women students. And with the help of Society of Women Engineers, the dean at Cornell got it up to 35%, when it had grown [inaudible] Space Age, the computers helped a lot, to get women—environmental engineering replacing civil engineering and such. So a lot more women were coming in, but they were still at this low level where they couldn't get enough students. And there were poignant op-ed pieces written by deans of engineering. “Help, we need 50,000 more young students a year in engineering.” And that was true in the early seventies on. So every five years, there would be a whole flood of articles saying, “We've got to get more women in engineering. And we've got to help more of the minorities.” And so the dean at Cornell said, “Minorities don’t usually do so well in engineering. But 52% or whatever it is, of the country’s population are women! We've got a much bigger pool of women than we do of minority men. And the women usually do better anyway.” He pushed it up to 35%! For the entering fraction of women. Which is extraordinary. So he and I had some interactions, and he welcomed my whole family. I was put on the university—Cornell Council—let’s see, what do they call it?—Cornell—University Council of Cornell Women, or something like that. I think mostly they got women who were in the business world or lawyers. I was the only engineer they could find! [laugh]

So that was in the early nineties that I played a significant role, not just on the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, but almost the same time period, I was asked, because my two boys were both engineers at Cornell, and it was women who suggested me—two secretaries—because they knew I had to do special things for my son, who was still battling the cancer, but my boys were both in engineering. My daughter had chosen not to go to Cornell. So it takes women to help other women. The secretary suggested to the people setting up this special Cornell council—it was the President’s Council on Cornell Women. So it was PCCW. PCCW. So I for quite a number of years was on PCCW. They finally brought in a young woman chemical engineer! [laugh] But I was the only one either in the sciences, either in the physics—I don’t know that they even had a chemist. They were almost all business women. And my hunch was they were trying to raise money. But no, they actually wanted to get the women to propose replacements who were women who could take over a dean’s position or some professorship that was open. And whom would I know to nominate for the dean of the agriculture school or even dean of arts and sciences? Again I thought of Millie Dresselhaus. And I thought, “She’s not going to want to move from MIT to be dean of arts and sciences at Cornell!” And she wasn’t really trained in engineering, even though that’s where her position was at MIT [inaudible] until she became university professor. So I could have nominated Millie. But I don’t know. There haven't been that many women who came after me, and when it came to agriculture, what would I know about agriculture?

Behrman:

Sure, sure.

Button-Shafer:

Yeah, I have memoir that I might write someday. Because I jabber with my friend [inaudible] whose husband was a professor at MIT and she studied sociology. So she’s fascinated with women, and she knew many scientists at MIT. Her husband was a dean. And so we go on at length when we can get together. We can’t now. But I've found whether it’s politics or music or it’s academia. And so I get to talking and she says, “Janice, you should write a memoir.” And then somebody else who knows I've collected a lot of things—as I say, she’s a sociologist, but a faculty wife [inaudible], went as far as a PhD at Columbia in sociology. And another woman who came up here who was a writer and who was a professor at Champaign-Urbana. And her elderly mother had been at Caltech in charge of a chemistry department [inaudible] et cetera. She’s a writer. She has been after me—write about—women. Women in science. And she discovered I'm 89 years of age. And I said, “I don’t know. I've got all this collection.” Most of it up in Berkeley area in my house, but some of it that I've collected down here. And I said, “I think I'm getting too old to do that.” And when it comes to memoirs, my husband used to laugh when I’d say I'm going to do something about Helen Gurley Brown’s—what did she write? The one about women that was written by Helen Gurley Brown. Sex and the Single Woman. And I said, “I can write about sex and the single woman physicist.” My husband’s attitude was, “Who’s going to read it?” [laugh] So anyway. Those are the books I might think of writing. But the memoir is a little more likely.

Behrman:

Sounds good.

Button-Shafer:

So, my apologies. Because I've been sort of mulling over, every now and then, I think [inaudible]—going to be interested. And then I think, “Oh, there are all these little anecdotes that I could put into a book.” But would I dare? [laugh] That’s the problem.

Behrman:

Well, thank you so much.

[End Session 2]

[Begin Session 3]

Behrman:

We’re recording. The date is the 20th of January, 2021. And this is Joanna Behrman. I’m speaking once again with Dr. Janice Button-Shafer. And I wanted to return to some questions that we didn’t get a chance to do last time. Um. So, maybe we could start again with your graduate training. Could you tell me a little bit about how you were financially supported as a graduate student?

Button-Shafer:

Yes. I was accepted at Berkeley. I think I applied for graduate work while I was still in Germany on the Fulbright Fellowship doing research in Goettingen, Germany. And I knew I wanted to go on for a Ph.D. in nuclear physics for experimental work. And had some good summer experiences at various places in research work. So anyway, I applied I believe to Columbia University, but also to Berkeley. And I was accepted at Berkeley and given a teaching assistantship. That was somewhat difficult to obtain. Many years later I learned that two of the Berkeley Physics faculty making decisions on awarding teaching assistantships for the support of new graduate students was inclined to turn down my application —one of them being a rather stuffy fellow, was an expert in optics and somebody I didn’t get to know very well. But I came upon an interesting recommendation written by a Cornell professor back in 1955…This reversed the decision, and resulted in my being given a teaching assistantship for my first year in Berkeley when I was in the early 90s a visiting NSF head. The visiting professorships for women to try to send women preferably in physics, but they didn’t have enough women in physics. So even computer science and chemical engineering. So about 25 of us were given these grants. And I ended up being treated as a regular professor at Berkeley, something they hadn’t done when I was a graduate student. And I think I may have asked my husband, “Do you think it’s ethical I’m in this huge office with old, old, old records dating way back to the 40s and 50s. Think I should I take a look?” [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

You know what I found out? I found out that I was not going to be given a teaching assistantship until the committee that made that decision, the professors in the physics department were very much influenced by a Professor Grantham. And I think in one of our discussions I told you how it was that I convinced my parents as well as my fraternal twin on a vacation trip when I was aged 15 to go down to Cornell. We were travelling from at this point probably from Ohio back to New Hampshire for a summer vacation. And I found this Professor Guy Grantham. A Vermont type, a rather quiet fellow. And he was the wonderful professor for the freshman physics course. Mechanics but also some—he’d done other things that were discussed. But he was the professor that we ran into in the summer at Cornell. And we asked, “Do you accept women in your new program of engineering physics?” “Oh, yes, and we started a couple of years ago. We already have a woman who transferred in from electrical engineering. So, by all means.” Well, I thought his teaching when I actually did go to Cornell in engineering physics was wonderful and I loved the lab. It was mostly mechanics taught out of Sears & Zemansky’s textbook. No calculus was used cause we were just then starting calculus our freshman year. So, that was slightly disappointing. But it still was a very good book and his demonstrations, many of which he picked up in some studies in Germany years before. And his demonstrations were wonderful. So, my fifth year at Cornell in engineering physics was a program that had 180 credit hours for engineering physics students. Five year program. Anyway, my fifth year, I decided I should earn a little money. And I asked if I could be a TA at Cornell. So, I had that experience and what did he write to Berkeley? As I discovered decades and decades later when I gave him as a reference, I guess. When I was applying from Germany in 1953…no, it must’ve been 1955. Spring of ’55. I wanted to start in that fall after I came back from Germany. Well, he wrote a letter of recommendation for me as I discovered. He was probably long gone by the early 90s when I came across this letter in my file saying I was the best instructor they ever had for the physics course.

Behrman:

Aw!

Button-Shafer:

And indeed, that reminded me I’d gotten 100%. Cornell graded in percentages through the early 50s at least, and then later changed over to letter grades. But I may have been the only engineering student in there with mostly men. Five hundred men for every woman. There was only one woman in my engineering physics class, and she quit. [laugh] At the end of freshman year. But I ended up having my grade rounded including you know, the exams as well as the problem sets and the laboratory course. I ended up getting 100%. I never repeated that unfortunately. I got into a lot of activities, but I still was a top student and had a grade average that was well, about 93-94% for all of my courses. So, anyway, he gave me this spectacular recommendation that I was the best lab instructor and that’s what the TA was all about at Berkeley, you see? When we were TAs we weren’t being asked, I don’t know that we even graded any problem sets. It was definitely oriented toward lab instructorship. So, I think that helped to clinch the deal. Otherwise, they weren’t really used to having women graduate students. There was one other woman who started the year just before I did, but ended up eventually going into medicine. So, I was sort of a loner and I was helped by this experience I’d had at Cornell.

So, that’s how I got my TA. I had the impression skimming through notes and discussions whether they should award this woman who was applying from Germany, but had been trained at Cornell. And the Cornell experience certainly helped me. Then after that I had a Coffin Fellowship from GE. And General Electric Company had wanted to hire me right after my engineering physics studies possibly because I had been editor-in-chief of the Cornell engineer student run magazine. I was associate editor. Then the editor-in-chief couldn’t keep up his grades and he had to resign. Anyway, I had written many articles on [inaudible] particles, but also on nuclear reactors. And I had benefitted from GE engineers passing on to me some information of what they were trying to do as well as Westinghouse in developing reactors for a purpose of producing energy. So, it was fairly early on in reactor developments, but maybe that’s how the contact came. Cornell had close associations anyway with GE in Schenectady and Hans Bethe, the eminent theorist, and other people would actually get involved in some applied work and go and give occasional lectures or make visits. So, there were close connections with Cornell. And they liked the idea of my combination training in engineering and physics. Maybe they were trying to do something for women. I have no idea. That doesn’t come to mind. Years later, I ran into an eminent physicist at Stanford. Robert Hofstadter, a Nobel Prize winner. He said, “Oh!” He had happened to be at lunch or something. I was doing some research down at SLAC. So, this was probably when I was a postdoc, early 60s. 1960s. He was quite a bit older than I and a wonderful experimentalist. And he too had a Coffin Fellowship, but no strings attached. They promised that I would come and work for GE. So, they paid for my graduate studies.

And then my third year, I suppose I was not a TA but what they called an RA. Research assistantship with the Chamberlain-Segrè group that I started working with in the second year. I was in Berkeley in the fall of ’56. So, they got me for free in that research [inaudible]. I don’t mind. So, it went from the TA in the lab, the Coffin Fellowship of support, and then back to a research assistantship. We made the marvelous figure of $165 per month. And that just barely covered rent plus food. I had to be careful that checks didn’t bounce at the end of the month. It sounds like rather little money in these days, but I was earning money. And I think the only time I had made money prior I was paid at MIT doing work there with an electronic analog computer and then I was at the Cornell aeronautical lab for summer work after my third year. I was supposed to have gone to Oak Ridge but clearance from the FBI didn’t come through. So, Oak Ridge was where I went my fourth year. And what I remember from summer employment was $300 at Oak Ridge. Well, you didn’t get paid that well if you were being paid by an academic institution. I remember I had to keep a close eye on my check, my balance, and my bank account. But anyway, the research assistantship was a wonderful experience and in those days you really did learn a lot. You got your hands dirty. You learned from the older people. In case I never told you before that the structure of the group was interesting. And I wanted to get into nuclear experimental physics. It was moving close, getting more into high energy with accelerators. We had two accelerators at Berkeley. The Chamberlain-Segrè often referred to as Segrè-Chamberlain cause Segrè was the older one. About 50 years of age. And Chamberlain was just in his, about 37 years of age. Didn’t get his Ph.D. until after he’d worked at Los Alamos in the war years. So, I think he had gotten his degree at Chicago in 1948.

Anyway, so they had this group that they ran jointly. Well, I had never had a straight quantum mechanics course at Cornell, but I’d been using quantum mechanics from my third year on. And solid-state physics and in mathematics. We had a wonderful math professor at Cornell who knew a lot of physics. Prof. Kac talked to us about Schrodinger equation, and described how some one had used it to calculate energy levels for the helium atom to many decimal places… and spent eight years of his life doing so! Anyway, but I never learned the basic postulates of quantum mechanics; Cornell course in physics and math simply taught how to use quantum mechanics. So, I decided, having come from Europe in the late summer of ’55 and starting classes at Berkeley, I decided I would audit Segrè’s course, which was an undergraduate quantum mechanics course. He wasn’t really teaching Schrodinger equation. He was using a text by some Italian colleague of this name Persico[inaudible] which I think was largely imitating the way that Heisenberg developed quantum mechanics and you’d think I studied physics. You’re probably well aware that even to this day is a controversy as to the foundations of quantum mechanics. And Steve Weinberg had written in a book in the 1980s. I think I’m a pretty good physicist but I went back to Heisenberg’s original papers. I couldn’t understand them. And some theorists are just magicians. [laugh] Like Einstein. Like Heisenberg. Like Feynman, as a good example of somebody who would create these things and other people would have difficultly trying to see what his line of reasoning was. So, Weinberg said he couldn’t really follow Heisenberg. And I had some problems following the ways that Segrè developed things. He was not a wonderful lecturer. He taught the course before, but I liked the fact that he had associations with Fermi. Very close relationship with Fermi. That he was European, as I had been so much impressed by how devoted to physics the graduate students were that I knew [inaudible] in chemistry or metallurgical solid-state. I knew three fellows especially well. And I’d learned German to a certain degree. [laugh] And you know, really liked the fact that Segrè had come from the European experience. And he knew German. He had been sent by Fermi, got a fellowship I guess, and went to Hamburg. And worked with Otto Stern.

What I didn’t know at that point was that Segrè actually came from Jewish background and years later I learned he’d lost both his parents to the fascists in Italy. His wife was German. And she came from Breslau and it became part of Poland. And she had met Segrè in Italy. Anyway, Segrè was quite a character and he forgot after class I asked him if I could come see him about working in his research group. Now the group was already well known locally because they’d managed to prove the existence of the antiproton in 1955. And that’s a big controversy. So anyway, I know you have the Segrè visual archives. The Niels Bohr visual archives with Segrè’s name. And he documented a lot of pictures. Knew Madame Wu. Chien-Shiung Wu. I guess Lawrence was her official advisor, but Segrè advised her informally and she preceded me by quite a number of years. But there’s a wonderful picture in Segrè’s book about many physicists he had known or knew of, from x-rays to quarks. And there’s this charming picture of Chien-Shiung Wu with Wolfgang Pauli. Do you remember running across that? That’s a very famous picture that appears many different places and Chien-Shiung Wu was a predecessor of mine, but I never saw her until many years later cause she had gone on from studies in Berkeley probably in the late 40s, early 50s.

Anyway, to make a long story short, there was this group with Segrè made in the older [inaudible], 50 years of age or so with a European style of interacting with students. And then there was Chamberlain, much, much younger than Segrè. Then there was a fellow who was very hardware oriented, had contributed enormously at Los Alamos and should’ve been included in the antiproton Nobel award of the late 50s. In ’59, I think. That was Clyde Wiegand. And without Clyde they would’ve had many difficulties in the various experiments. So, he was the third fellow, but not teaching. And he was never asked to teach. He was working at the lab and interacting a lot with some of the developments in what today we might well, in high-speed electronics, I guess I should call it. So, Clyde was a very quiet fellow. And was sort of a country bumpkin type. He was modest, but he was genius at experiment. And he and Owen Chamberlain did the design work that made the antiproton experiment possible. Velocity-selecting Cherenkov counter, for example. And then there were these two postdocs that I may have mentioned. One, from a family originally from Greece, was Tom Ypsilantis. He was rather debonair and a few graduate students said he sort of burned the candles at both ends. He worked long, long hours. But he also partied and had affairs. At least that was the rumor. Whereas the other postdoc, Herb Steiner, was a little younger than Tom and was very different. Tom had participated in the antiproton discovery experiment at the Bevatron in 1955. The authors of the publication were Chamberlain, Segrè, Wiegand, and Ypsilantis. Ypsilantis was a graduate student at the time. Wiegand was an experienced hardware-oriented physicist, who did have a Ph.D. and should’ve been included in the Nobel Physics Prize of 1959 that went only to Segrè and Chamberlain.

I found the two postdocs Ypsilantis and Steiner were always competing—neither one would go home from the Bevatron accelerator until the other one did. They would work until they were ready to drop. And Herb didn’t think a woman belonged in physics at all. So, he would give me short shrift. He was very good at answering graduate students’ questions, but I didn’t count because he didn’t think a woman should be in physics. And he was very nervous if a secretary so much as said hello to him. So, I had these two totally different postdocs. Segrè almost never came to the accelerator. He was busy. He wasn’t a hardware type. He’d been trained in chemical engineering originally. Switched to physics and did research with Fermi, as you may know. And he was wonderful for stories about Fermi and other experimentalists in Europe. (Fermi got the Nobel physics award in 1938 for transuranic elements, but he and his group in Rome were really observing fission (of uranium) into lighter elements and didn’t realize it. He and his wife Laura fled to the U.S. after the Nobel ceremony to escape fascism in Italy.) But in any event, I found in Berkeley that Segrè was a complex person. He simply forgot to meet me at the lab (then LRL, Laawrence Radiation Lab) to show me around, to show me what the group was doing, and to see about my doing some research. As I say, I had a teaching assistantship on campus, so I didn’t need to have support right away. But Owen was there. I signed on with Owen to have him as my doctoral advisor.

I already knew him from the graduate-level Electricity and Magnetism course he was teaching in the Physics Department on campus. When I became active in research as a graduate student in the Chamberlain-Segrè group, I found Owen worked long hours and spent a lot of time at the LBL accelerators, especially the Bevatron. In those years, accelerator runs were only two or three weeks in length, but during a run he would get just a few hours of sleep a night. He’d be teaching classes and he would tease the postdocs. And, “Gee, you ffellows worry me,” he’d say, when he might’ve gone home at 3 a.m. in the morning after tending to the electronics, [inaudible] cables, worrying about ground loops, what have you. Owen would always love to teach the graduate students. And he wanted to put the postdocs in their place. So, one time he came in. As I say, he might work until 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning. He’d go home and get a few hours’ sleep. Come back, sit down, look at the log book that Herb and Tom, the two postdocs were continuing to record things in. And there’d be a few graduate students. Clyde worked just during the daytime. He was so valuable and had small kids and a wife who had a full time career, so we didn’t see Clyde overnight. But usually graduate students were there. What would Owen say? He would sit down, look at the log book, puff on his pipe a few times and say, “Gee. You guys worry me.” [laugh] Just to tease them. And then he’d go off to teach his class at 9 a.m. having the lab only after a few hours sleep. So, he was always around and he came in one time when I happened to be looking at some traces. We were trying to distinguish antiprotons from pions that were in the same beamline and had time of flight counters as well as the velocity-selecting Cerenkov counter that I had helped to refurbish at one point. But anyway, I was staring at these traces from our simulation counters and our time-of-flight systems on this oscilloscope. [inaudible] tetronics 517. And Tom was looking at them as well. Owen came in and he said, “OK, Jan.” My nickname was Jan. “Let’s show Tom what he’s doing wrong.” [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

He was always trying to support the graduate students because he knew that we were put down by both of the postdocs. They just didn’t think that anybody counted. And they were competing with each other, of course. That was the sort of local politics. If you had an oscilloscope that you were afraid might disappear, whose name went on it? Segrè’s. Not only that it was a shorter name than Chamberlain, but he was more, he was a more senior fellow and he was kind of gruff and just would be more frightening to anybody who might contemplate doing away with our scope. And there was tension between the Chamberlain-Segrè group and the Alvarez group. If something went missing, “Oh! The Alvarez group has stolen it!” In one case there was a support for a counter structure that had to, cause the beamline was something like 78 inches off the floor. The concrete floor outside the Bevatron. And suddenly they didn’t see this wood support structure for an antiproton run that was coming up. “Oh, the Alvarez group must’ve stolen it.” No, it just wasn’t quite ready yet and some technicians had put it out of the way where we couldn’t see it. So, there was this joking about the Alvarez group cause at this point when the Chamberlain-Segrè group had about five or six graduate students, counting me, I joined a group that had four or five already. Some of them more experienced than others. But anyway, it was Owen who saw me when I came up. I hadn’t yet had a class with him. But he showed me around and essentially made it possible for me to join the group. So, I really became his student rather than Segrè’s.

And I found out some few years later, he had a sister who had followed Owen when Owen was…let’s see. Yeah, he did his undergraduate work at Harvard. He finished his Ph.D. after the war years at Chicago. But, Ann Chamberlain who had married Bob Birge. Ann Chamberlain Birge was a physicist. And I didn’t meet her until I’d been with the group for a few years. And what was she doing? There was a multiple nepotism problem. Cause she married a fellow she’d met when she was at Harvard. And I think she did her graduate work there and ran into the son of Raymond T. Berg who was an old timer and very well known.

Behrman:

Yeah.

Button-Shafer:

He was the chairman of the Berkeley physics department for many, many, many years. The problem was that Bob Berg, whom Ann Chamberlain married, was the son of the fellow who was, had been on the faculty for years. So, nepotism prevented Bob Berg from teaching. He taught only as a lecturer. He did run a research group, ultimately became the head of physics at the lab. But Ann was the sister of Owen Chamberlain. And he was on the faculty. So, both because of her father-in-law and because of her brother, she couldn’t be on the faculty.

Behrman:

Oh, wow.

Button-Shafer:

So, what did she do? She worked at Donner Laboratory. And nepotism was a big problem in those years. They had these multiple connections and only Raymond T. Berg and Owen Chamberlain, much younger, could be on the faculty. They were unrelated. But Ann couldn’t be on the faculty, so she did some biophysics at Donner Lab. I think perhaps working under the leadership of John Lawrence who was a brother of Ernest Lawrence. And I think ran on the Donner Laboratory. I never found out much about what they, the research they did there except that it was well known that in the early years of the accelerator development, John Lawrence and Ernest Lawrence decided they should try to treat a tumor that their mother had. They started the medical physics. And that had a lot to do with John Lawrence’s being connected with biology and to a certain degree with medicine. And that became an important thing for the cyclotron when they had not only high energy protons, but also had deuterons and alphas. But I think the first attempt was with neutrons and people didn’t know much about neutron damage in those days. But they tried to treat their mother’s tumor and perhaps they were successful. I never heard much detail about that. Just that that was the start. In the mid to late 30s or so of some of the interest in treating cancers with the particles that came out of accelerators. I might’ve told you the story that they wanted to see what sort of damage was occurring with I think the sixteon. It’s either the thirteon or sixteon cyclotron that preceded the 184-inch which was there when I was a graduate student. Anyway, the earlier accelerator was being used, I think at one point accelerated deuterons and let the beam come out into the air. You’d see this streak of blue. You may have seen pictures of a beam coming out of one of the intermediate energy accelerators. And they decided perhaps pushed by John Lawrence. It was decided they should see whether the experimenters, the physicists were endangering their lives by being exposed to the radiation that came out from external beams. So, they took a mouse. Did I tell you the story? They put a mouse inside a pipe and had it capped off and they were able to pump out the accelerator, but this pipe had its own air supply for the mouse. So, they put the mouse inside the accelerator, ran it up to its full energy and ran it for I don’t know, some period of time. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes. They pulled out the pipe. The mouse was dead! Well, they never told the experimenters. The mouse didn’t die of radiation. The mouse died of asphyxiation because somebody forgot to open the valve to provide the air that the mouse needed to breathe! [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

So, the mouse died because he was asphyxiated inside the tank. But they let the experimenters know that you’d better be careful with this radiation. That was a famous story. Anyway, so the structure of the group was a really small one. And the Alvarez group was growing by the time I was invited to come into the group.

Behrman:

Yes. How did that happen that you were invited to join their group?

Button-Shafer:

Uh. I knew Alvarez through music as well as physics. We had this journal club once a week where all these eminent faculty members, Nobel Prize winners, Ernest Lawrence would always be there. And Ed McMillan and Owen Chamberlain and Bert Moyer. There were all these faculty. And many theorists attended as well. And a lot of the graduate students. Though I have to say we all fitted into a room that accommodated no more than probably 40 or 50 people. Lecture room down on campus. And they called it the journal club. And they had interesting visitors. Hans Bethe might show up. Or Frauenfelder from Illinois. But they also had faculty giving lectures. And Luis Alvarez talked about nuclear fusion where mu minus leptons could be captured in a liquid-hydrogen bubble chamber that had some deuterium as well as hydrogen, and would cause fusion events involving the nuclei of hydrogen and deuterium, i.e., fusion of a proton and a deuteron. (The muon was erroneously called a meson when first discovered.) It came from weak decay of a pi meson, or pion; the negative muon or mu-minus was like an electron – but 200 tines the mass of the electron.) Physicists in the Alvarez group at LBL were seeing these funny tracks. And it turned out that a negatively charged muon was being captured by a proton, and replacing an orbiting electron. And especially if they had some deuterium in the chamber, the muon tended to be attracted to both the proton and a deuteron, and by bringing them closer together could promote a fusion reaction that yielded a He-3 nucleus; the resultant excess binding energy caused the ejection of a low-energy muon. The mu-minus (much heavier than an electron, so orbiting at a small radius) would try to bind to the proton and a deuteron in the liquid of the bubble chamber. As a graduate student at one of the Physics Department journal club meetings, I heard Luis Alvarez describe how they finally figured out that the muon was causing nuclear fusion events in the 15-in. bubble chamber (containing liquid hydrogen with an admixture of deuterium at about 25 deg Kelvin. When the proton and deuteron combined to make helium-3, the muon was ejected a kinetic energy of the order of five MeV. The ejected muon had a range of a few centimeters in the liquid hydrogen and was visible because of its negative charge. The muon generally decayed (with a 2.2 microsecond lifetime) before it could “catalyze” any further p-d fusion event. (The fusion process came to be called “muon catalysis.”) Even though the muon interacted only electromagnetically, it could bring the proton and deuteron close enough that nuclear forces between the proton and deuteron would take over, and cause fusion. And by the way, this has been somewhat misrepresented by a Nobel Prize winner in physics, one who learned of these things as history, something that occurred before he became a physics graduate student; and he mistakenly calls it an “atomic” process in his book on microwave fluctuations found in radiation surviving from the Big Bang. But no, it was interpreted “nuclear fusio” – though catalyzed through an atomic process. Luis, when he gave his talk for the journal club while I was still a graduate student originally presented the observations as a mystery.

So, somebody I worked with later as a member of the Alvarez group, Harold Ticho from UCLA and later UC San Diego, did a lot of beam-design and analysis work up at LBL. He had a friend, a Berkeley astronomer (Jack Crawford) who I think was British in origin. Jack had read an obscure article by an Hungarian that speculated about the possibility of this p-d fusion reaction. Crawford provided the clue! The fusion conjecture went from Crawford to Ticho to Luis Alvarez. And this mystery of the nuclear fusion catalyzed by negative muons was resolved. (Over the years, a few experimentalists have tried to produce energy with a chain reaction involving the process – by going to high densities and seeing if the muons can survive long enough to produce a chain reaction of fusion events. I don’t believe anu usable energy has ever been produced through the catalyzed p-d fusion. In fact, it has frequently been said that particle physics (or high-energy physics) has never produced anything useful -- unless you want to cite the World-Wide Web that came along at CERN, through efforts of a British computer scientist, decades later. [laugh] I don’t know if you call that useful.

I got away from the basic question. How did I get asked to go into the Alvarez group? As a graduate student, I had witnessed some of the politics that was evident in academic research, even in small groups. I was aware of how group heads could compete with one another. I just I didn’t see any successful woman physicist who could serve as a role model for me. At LBL, there was only one American woman ahead of me. She left LBL, went to SLAC, and then ended up teaching at Hayward… cause the politics at research labs was so ferocious. I heard that she was not given credit for some very useful development she carried out in beam design at SLAC. I believe that she was never invited to teach at UC Berkeley or Stanford. I knew Sula Goldhaber at LBL; she taught on the UC Berkeley campus as “Lecturer” about the same time as I (early 1960s); she couldn’t be made a Physics faculty member, as her husband Gerson was a Physics professor. And they had both studied I think at Wisconsin. But she came originally from Vienna, had university training in Israel, and then did graduate work at Wisconsin as a nuclear chemist. But Gerson came from some part of Germany (Chiemsee), and ended up doing his graduate work in Physics at Wisconsin. Sula was mostly inclined towards analysis, rather than hardware. So was Gerson. They did mostly nuclear emulsion analysis with things that came out of the accelerator. The Bevatron. So, Sula worked at the lab and American physicists didn’t know how to treat her. She had Viennese charm and was often not treated well by American physicists. And years later after she died abruptly at age 40, presumably a brain tumor. She had a Guggenheim fellowship, and was lecturing in India when she died. I thought she had been well regarded. (Berkeley had the west coast Goldhabers, Gerson and Sula; and BNL had the east coast Goldhabers, Maurice and Trudy Scharff-Goldhaber.) Yet I recall that a rather quiet professor, leader of an LBL group, once said, “That Sula Goldhaber can make me do anything she wants and I just hate it!” [laugh] She was charming, but difficult for some American male physicists to understand.

Sula was in charge of LBL physics colloquia for a while, and before one meeting, she came in with Yuval Ne’eman whom she had known in Israel. She was wearing a fuzzy sweater, and looked a little overweight. Came in arm and arm. Well, women physicists didn’t do things like that. The few I knew of wanted to be as masculine in appearance or as uninteresting in their clothing as possible. Not Sula. She would wear shorts around the Bevatron. She was just very feminine. And some secretaries resented her. “Why should she sign this farewell document? She wasn’t a group head.” She made it possible for her husband Gerson to get together with a wonderful physicist named George Trilling, and to form a new experimental group at LBL. (Trilling later was president of the American Physical Society for a while. Polish in origin. He had gotten his PhD at Caltech at a young age. There got to be the Trilling-Goldhaber group. I understood that was facilitated by Sula.) She was becoming very well-known. She was called the “First Lady of Physics” by Ed McMillan, LBL head, after she died suddenly of a brain tumor at age 40. Ed McMillan and other LBL physicists loved Sula’s parties. Many of the (male) older physicists loved to chat with her. Except for those people who were really hardware types and very stuffy and were afraid of women. [laugh]

I heard from Gerson in the late 60s about the difficulties Sula had experienced in Berkeley. We were at the same conference at the University of Pennsylvania. By this time, I had been married for a while and had a baby daughter that I’d left with my fraternal twin sister in a suburb of Philadelphia. So, after the conference at U. Penn, I had a rental car and was planning to pick up my daughter, and then drive up to Brookhaven to do some experimental work. And Gerson said, “Oh! I’m going to Brookhaven too. I’m going to stay with my brother, Maurice, and his wife, Trudy.” (Gertrude Scharff Goldhaber, leader of a nuclear experimental group at BNL). Could I give him a ride? During the drive, I learned more about Sula’s life from Gerson. I’d written him a note of commiseration after hearing of her sudden death. I’d been to a memorial for Sula. But I did not know that Sula was really unhappy in Berkeley. Was even seeking some psychiatric help. Only in Europe where women were better treated. [laugh] He found that she could be much happier at CERN where they had a fair number of French and Italian, some women, physicists. And the European men, I heard this from a Romanian friend of mine who was a graduate student overlapping with me, thought he was a little older than I. Spoke six languages, he had fled Romania after the Second World War. [inaudible] studied in France and then ended up doing his Ph.D. work on campus in Berkeley. He played violin. Spoke six languages. And he told me that French men in whatever discipline - whether it was in physics and some area of science or medicine—but he said French men in general like having a wife who has a profession. They could admire a woman who was very good in her profession, but they enjoyed her company as a woman. You know, even if they were just casual friends. And he said that that was more the case in Europe and that was certainly supported by Gerson. His wife was always much happier when she was over in Europe. I think that’s probably changed to some extent.

But American physicists tended to be very awkward with women. And you may have run into some of that too. Faculty would not, I’ve heard of several cases whether engineering or physics. This happened to be, one was at Stanford and one was at UC Davis. Or maybe go back to Millie Dresselhaus’s experience as a graduate student at Chicago. Her thesis advisor was not actually Enrico Fermi, but he was friendly. They’d run into each other going to and from the university. Millie had to find her own thesis project cause her advisor would not give her a problem to work on. And she would consult some with Fermi. Not so long ago I happened to look at a biography of Millie. Enrico Fermi was listed as her advisor. That isn’t the way I remember hearing about it. I heard her advisor (someone other than Fermi) was not going to give her a problem. Didn’t think women belonged in physics. But I knew of a woman who couldn’t get a thesis project in mechanical engineering. I think that was at Stanford. And a fellow who married a woman physicist and was on the faculty at UC Davis, spoke of his wife Wendy. This is a guy named, well, no he was Wendell Potter. I’ve forgotten his wife’s name. And she had trouble getting a physics project. A thesis. And this has been well known, but I think it’s gotten a lot better. If anything, women have had not that many older women looking out for them. But many men have become much more interested in trying to support women in graduate school or in their careers. Sometimes men are better managers than women are, in trying to encourage women. [laugh] I know of a few cases where a woman tried to help, but the younger women say, “Well, why aren’t you a professor?” This was at SLAC, for example. A younger woman researcher might say, “you would’ve been better known and you would’ve been a professor - if you really were any good or if you worked harder.” Young women may look askance at women who are older than they, not realizing what problems there might’ve been.

Behrman:

Do you think the younger generation sort of took it for granted that they had an easier time?

Button-Shafer:

I think so. To some extent. Yeah. I had to watch my step with my daughter because if I might talk about something that happened years before thinking she might have encountered the same sort of thing, it would turn out no. She wasn’t that sensitive... or perhaps some barriers had changed. Part of it is that girls in high school were being, with that Title IX, getting into sports. And they were finding out this didn’t happen when I was going through school. I would love to have learned to play soccer. And loved to play basketball. But that wasn’t offered. Nor was industrial arts offered for girls when I went through school.

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

But, Christina, it was still sort of a club sport, but she was in volleyball in high school. Also, on the swimming team for a while. And then when she was an undergraduate it was still sort of a club sport, but I think they did have in high school, they had competitions with other schools. But they had a mixed team in the Amherst high school in Massachusetts because they didn’t have enough to make a women’s team as well as a men’s team. So, it was a combination. And some of the fellows, they’d be from Vietnam or Cambodia. We had a fair number of young people who came over to Amherst whether as orphans or at least had host families. Or maybe their own families. So, the Orientals were usually not tall enough to play basketball especially in high school years. So, and Christina had some really good friends who are minorities. I think one or two Black students, but especially from southeast Asia. And then they would go play a women’s team at some bigger high school in a neighboring community and be scoffed at because they had fellows on their team. They were a mixed team. But that was legal. Mixed teams, if you didn’t have enough students going out for volleyball could play the women’s team. I know they never played a men’s team. I didn’t hear about that. But anyway, but the young women got into sports and learned not to be afraid to be competitive. And certainly, that’s true of my granddaughters, especially the younger one. And I want to tell you a little bit about my granddaughter, Maya. I asked Christina recently whether you discussed the fact that her younger daughter, Maya, who just turned eighteen…2022. And she’s finishing her senior year in geophysics at Washington University. And she’s been accepted at MIT for her doctoral studies in geophysics.

Behrman:

Oh, wow!

Button-Shafer:

That happened very recently. She applied to four different graduate schools. So, anyway, to go back to what happened with young girls. I think it was the sports where they learned to be competitive. And then also I think teachers finally came around to giving young girls more support in the area of math. Math was something, and there’s an interesting book that a writer from The New York Times put together. The Smartest Kids in the World. Amanda Ripley is the author. And that came out maybe five, six years ago. And she studied exchange students aged 15, three different exchange students. And what happened when they went over to Poland or to Finland or to South Korea. And the kids in other countries were way ahead of our kids. I think one was a woman and the other two were men. But she found that they, students were being encouraged much more in math and especially where girls are concerned. She says over and over in her book that parents or contemporaries, fellow students, didn’t think it was necessary for girls to be interested in math. And didn’t realize, this woman who was writing this book was not herself trained in math, but she remarks about mathematics that the parents and teachers should have encouraged young girls years back to pay more attention to mathematics because it’s something you work on. It isn’t the magical talent that you either have or you don’t have. And that there was not enough attention paid in this country. So, do you know where the United States ranks as of four, five years ago? And I think we’re still very bad. If you look at the developed countries, 34 of them, there have been tests made every three years of the competency in math and in science. And out of 34 countries, the United States was ranked 27th! Close to the bottom. [laugh] In mathematics for our teenagers around the age of 15. [laugh] That’s called PISA. It’s an assessment. And the “A” stands for assessment. And it’s a program that was developed by a German graduate student influenced by an English educator and he developed in their own language these tests that were given that are more extensive, more revealing than say an SAT test. Or [inaudible] achievement test. And the United States is also very poor in science. We’re a little bit better in science. Maybe ranking our teenagers about 25th in science, but in math it was 27th. I think we’ve come up to the 26th country. Better but close to the bottom still.

Behrman:

Yeah.

Button-Shafer:

And sports takes too much time. That’s part of what she rails, what she argues against. For kids in high school, now young girls as well as fellows, for decades now the coaches of the high school teams want the young high school kids to do really well. And they push them. They have a lot of practice sessions. And that’s taking away from their study time. And the parents try to encourage their kids to study rather than going to all these practice sessions. But I saw it with my granddaughter, Maya, who’s going to be a geophysicist. She was in what do they call it? Tournament sports? In soccer. Tournament soccer. And they would have four games on weekends, right? After Thanksgiving they’d have ‘em.

Behrman:

Oh, wow!

Button-Shafer:

They were first in the state. She was at a private school and three, four years in a row, they came out first in the state in women’s…sorry. She went over from tournament soccer; it was cross country. That took her interest by the time she was a sophomore or so in a high school near JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab), actually. She put in a lot of effort and would get to school at 6:30 a.m. in the morning. Somebody would, her mother asked me if could take care of getting her from her summertime math class. She took plane geometry in a truncated course six weeks. Meeting every single day. But by the time she got to her geometry class, she’d already been there for cross country. Every single day. And she was still doing soccer. Soccer practice was at night. So cross country took over. And it was in that sport, cross country for women, that her school was first in the state. Now, should that take precedence? And I would, I didn’t know she was going for the cross country practice. It was some other parent was taking Maya over, so I didn’t hear about that. I just knew she would be through with her plane geometry that ran from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. And I should pick her up. Well, that was my favorite math area. I was first in the state in plane geometry when I was in high school and always loved it. And fortunately, my husband did too. That was his initial interest in mathematics as a high school student. But anyway, so I thought Maya must really be enjoying geometry, but why is she doing this summertime course? Of everything being crammed together. But she’d be practically falling asleep. I’d pick her up at noontime every day of the week for several weeks and say, “Well, Maya, what are you learning now in geometry? Or have you run across this theorem?” And I didn’t realize she was getting to school by 6:15 in the morning. Going for an hour of cross country practice every day. Then grabbing a bite to eat. Then going to four hours of plane geometry. And then I’d pick her up.

Behrman:

Wow.

Button-Shafer:

And then she’d have homework to do. And then every other night, she’d be going to soccer practice. Now that shouldn’t be. I asked her, I said to her mother sort of in jest, but I said, “Gee, Christina. Are you thinking Maya, when she’s an undergraduate at college is going to get some financial support? Is she gonna keep on with the soccer?” And she said, “Well, I hope she’ll get some financial support.” She didn’t think it was such a bad thing. But I’ve seen articles and you may have too. About not just girls, but fellas being too much involved in high school sports. It gets so competitive. And then they don’t do as good work as they could in their studies. Anyway, that’s a deviation. But—

Behrman:

The Alvarez group. Yeah.

Button-Shafer:

Yeah. He eventually got up to 22 postdoctoral physicists of whom about six, seven, eight were on the faculty already and senior to me. But he came down the hall one day. His group was sort of scattered throughout. He had all these postdocs. He didn’t take graduate students for a while cause he was too busy defining things [inaudible]. And also advising the government, interacting with military. Alvarez was frequently away. But he had heard me give a journal club talk as not only faculty, but even graduate students were occasionally asked to give talks. And I presented some work on something that might’ve been my thesis. It turned out it was going to be a difficult experiment, though. I did consult, not only my advisor suggested it was a parody violation experiment. Had to do with capturing [inaudible] minus and then eventually a decay where there’d be some correlation between spin of the muon if it remained polarized and outgoing decay particle. A neutron. Anyway, I gave a talk on that, but I think I also gave a talk later in my graduate career on my thesis project which was quite elaborate. Involved some fairly complicated mathematics with something that went beyond [inaudible]. Involved script defunctions[inaudible] from Wigner’s [inaudible]. That where are we? Elements of the rotation matrix and were lots of fun to play with. So, I learned a lot about relativistic spin transmissions and some fancy functions and was able to describe my experiment which was a scattering of deuterons done at the cyclotron. And it was essentially my experiment because Owen had to be away with the Guggenheim and then the SLOAN Fellowship or something like that. And Segrè didn’t get much involved and when I did my final thesis run over a couple of weeks, I was by myself cause there was an antiproton run that had most of the people, the postdocs and graduate students, down at the Bevatron. So, I ran my own thesis experiment. And I got to give a talk at the lab. A research progress meeting about my thesis. It was really very exciting and I got to use something called an impulse approximation where either the protons scattered off carbon. Well, you could use [inaudible] as a target, but pretended it was spin one. But anyway, carbon was the—

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

—the carbon target and there was some theory that Geoffrey Chew, the eminent theorist, had done close to the time of his doctoral work in the late 40s. Maybe just beyond that. About the impulse approximation where a deuteron scattering off a heavy nucleus could have that scattering mediated by only the proton interacting with the nucleus. And the neutron went along for the ride. Or it might be the neutron interacting with the nucleus and so either one of the two nucleons, proton or neutron, could be the one feeling the nuclear force and the other one was a spectator. But then you had to account for those cases. And I had a theorist acquaintance, five years my senior, who was very closely connected with the Chamberlain-Segrè folk. A guy named Henry Stapp who was an expert in relativistic transformations. And I consulted with him and he had some time dependent perturbation theory that treated the simultaneous scattering of proton and neutron. And I was able to use his theoretical results. But for the impulse approximation, I got hold of experimental data from a lower energy cyclotron and I could combine data from University of Rochester cyclotron and add together their, combine the amplitudes for proton mediated scattering and neutron mediated scattering. Combine those. And then do a little bit of fixing up for simultaneous scattering of both nucleons and explain the angular distribution. Not just left right as symmetry, but also it had a 90 degree, had to rotate the apparatus over through a 90 degree angle. And guess what I found when I went to use this very important apparatus that had been used for many, many scattering experiments at the cyclotron? Usually proton scattering. And I was given deuteron scattering as somebody had done it before but had some, didn’t follow through with the analysis. And didn’t have the availability I did of data and of the theory for this fixing up of simultaneous scattering. And I, being engineering oriented [laugh], I double checked the [inaudible] marks for the different displacements in its polar angle as the polarized deuterons were coming out of the cyclotron. Bouncing off and in. They were coming out. And I had to scatter them through different angles and the angles were wrong! By a few tenth of a degree.

Behrman:

Oh, no!

Button-Shafer:

Engineers or scientists often use something called “dykem” to darken metal surfaces so that a scribe can be used for markings that need to be preserved. It is a a paint, a purple shellac. Scribed markings were essential because we had a scattering arm loaded with scintillation detectors and copper absorbing plates that had to be moved across a stationary support arm to different positions that defined the polar angles of scattering from the target at the entrance end of our “physics cave.” And I found the angles which this scattering apparatus had been used. I helped with these earlier experiments. I’d seen two previous experiments since the cyclotron and I knew it’d been used for experiments prior to my coming on. Even thesis publication. [inaudible] for example. Scattering, p-p scattering. And I had to contact somebody in authority in my group, but Segrè was out of town. Chamberlain was, I think he was at a meeting. Chamberlain was away for the year or the semester. And I don’t know that I tried to reach Ypsilantis. He might’ve been in the midst of having an affair with somebody. Anyway, I called Herb Steiner. He was not my favorite person to consult, but he was reliable. He knew his physics. (Herb was the postdoc who had told me during a cyclotron run that he didn’t think women belonged in physics. As I put a lot of effort into six different experiments at the two accelerators during my three-and-a-half years of research with the Chamberlain-Segrè group, I may have caused him to change his opinion somewhat – and to treat me with more respect in later years!) I was starting my final run for my cyclotron thesis project. And I was all alone. I had to get help in rotating the detection apparatus, the scattering table, from the guys who ran the cyclotron. It was my experiment. But I had to redo those markings. And I had to get permission. So, Steiner came up to the lab in response to my telephone call. I don’t remember how he reacted at first, but he had to agree I was correct.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

So, there are times when you have to go up against authority. Well, to go back to how I got into the Alvarez group. So, I had this thesis that worked out very well. Owen had been away during some important months of my cyclotron run because of a Guggenheim Fellowship year in Italy. He looked very carefully through my thesis, but he didn’t feel he’d played a big enough role in my actual experimental work to be a co-author on my thesis publication. I’d learned many, many things from him. And had seen other polarization experiments and antiproton experiments at the Bevatron and the 184-inch synchrocyclotron. Six experiments during the three-plus years I was with that group. I started with the Chamberlain-Segrè group in the fall of 1956 and I was through with my Ph.D. thesis by June of ’59. That was possible because I’d had a lot of the graduate courses at Cornell before coming to UC Berkeley (after my year of physics in Goettingen, Germany). I already knew some of the material and was able to take some courses by exam. Others I just went through, for example, when Chamberlain taught at the graduate-level electricity and magnetism. Owen taught the E&M course very differently from the way Philip Morrison taught it at Cornell - using the same textbook (by Panofsky and Phillips). But Owen, as a teacher, was really wonderful. And a wonderful mentor. He loved to explain things, whether at the accelerator or in his office or after class. And I asked him how he got his ideas on general relativity. (He gave us students in the E&M class a smattering of that. Making approximations for acceleration of a rocket with a succession of constant-velocity steps. Also he described a rotating system on a phonograph record where you could use some ideas from general relativity without getting into all the complex mathematics. I asked him one time, “Owen, is there some book that explains these ideas?” Owens’s response: “Oh, I like to think these things through for myself.”

There’s a little book by Einstein on theory of special relativity that it’s fairly comprehensive, and does introduce E=mc2. As is true for most nuclear/particle experimentalists, I don’t like or use the concept of relativistic mass, where the total energy of rest mass plus kinetic energy is replaced by representing it simply as gamma times the rest mass. Also, Einstein’s book has a title when translated into English that isn’t quite right, The Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies. Well, in German, Einstein’s title used the words “bewegter Koeper” or “moved bodies.” The bodies are acted upon by electric and magnetic fields, and so are “moved” rather than simply “moving” under the action of electromagnetic fields. I asked Edward Teller one time before the start of a discussion of Livermore scholarships what he thought of the English version of Einstein’s title. Teller of course knew German very well from his studies in Leipzig. But he more or less shrugged his shoulders! But there’s a difference. I don’t know how much you care about grammar, but I liked Latin in high school and I had to relearn some ideas from Latin to try to understand German grammar when I went over as a student. And I’m fairly fussy about English grammar and it didn’t seem to bother Teller. But moving just implies the thing’s coasting along, whereas what the article is all about as explained in German was these bodies were being moved. They were being acted upon.

Anyway, sorry for my slight digression on grammar. Fortunately, I found that both Owen Chamberlain and Luis Alvarez, two very different personalities, with different approaches to physics were really quite fussy about grammar – even more so than the expert in LBL’s Information Division that edited (and finalized figures for) not only articles to be published, but also graduate student theses! Owen looked through my thesis quite carefully. He even suggested I might have evidence of violation of time reversal invariance in the nuclear process of deuteron scattering that was the basis for my PhD research. Owen thought there was a non-zero measurement that I had in my results for deuteron alignment and polarization quantities (“expectation values for irreducible spin tensors” that looked as if it should be zero. Otherwise it would be violating time-reversal variance. I worked through some mathematics for spin-tensor relationships, cranked through some group theory stuff, but Owen suggested I see a theorist on campus, Eyvind Wichmann, who was teaching graduate level courses and particle theory. And he was so interested in my problem that he did his own calculations on deuteron scattering. He started from scratch, and he came to the same conclusion that I reached by far simpler methods. Namely, that I didn’t have any time reversal violation evident in the term that I was measuring to be non-zero. It was OK, as both Wichmann and I agreed. (He liked my problem, the question from Chamberlain, so much that he later presented his treatment in his field theory graduate class. It was a bit too sophisticated for me to follow completely!)

Wichmann was one of the Berkeley physics faculty I ran into years later when I was in Berkeley as a visiting professor in the early 1990s; I think I recall that he not only remembered me from the late 1950s, but he also implied or said that I would have been put on the UC Berkeley faculty, had I not been a woman. A little different from Cornell. True Hans Bethe and others. A guy named Norman Austin did some applied work. Accelerator design just as they had during the war years. And they interacted with people from GE, but if you took a course in electric dynamics using a textbook by Panofsky and Phillips in its early version, you got a lot of theoretical, fancy problems that weren’t necessarily realistic physics problems. And Morrison in other words, was wonderful as a teacher. He would have people coming in on Saturdays cause it was mostly graduate students at his course. “Oh, I want to finish discussing the stuff that I’ve discussed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Can you come in Saturday afternoon?” And everybody did. But his approach, even though he knew a lot of applied stuff and would give us fancy problems from radio astronomy or nuclear physics. That was especially true of Mark Kac, the mathematician. He was very much involved with applied math and very, very interesting. Well, Morrison too. But he basically taught more as a theorist whereas in Berkeley, they had experimenters teaching graduate level courses. Owen Chamberlain was one and when I asked him what he used to understand some of the fancier things in special relativity, but particularly general relativity, what did he say? He stroked his beard a few times, said, “Well, I like to think these things through for myself.” [laugh] Then revealed there was one textbook from which he learned most of his theory by somebody named Joos.

Physics developed so rapidly from the late 1800s into the latter part of the 1900s. And especially lively from the mid 20s on and I was right there when the physics was still very, very problematic. So, we were using names for things that weren’t really good. Names like the mu meson was really a light particle [inaudible] and some of the things had to be straightened out over and over. But it was interesting that Chamberlain would say, “Oh, I like to think these through for myself.” And then we had a guy named Bill Nierenberg who taught quantum mechanics. He was an experimentalist. And he had worked under I.I. Rabi. That’s where he’d won the Putnam award in mathematics. And then he was a graduate student I believe with Rabi and got into molecular beams and then went over to atomic beams trying to analyze spins of short live radio. I set to apply, almost changed from the Chamberlain-Segrè group to Nierenberg’s group. Why? Cause he taught this fascinating course. He’d grown up near Brooklyn, I guess. So, he’d give an hour and half lecture, smoking a cigarette. Sometimes forgetting whether it was the chalk or the cigarette that he was holding.

Behrman:

Oh, no!

Button-Shafer:

But that was more the characteristic of a guy in mathematics that my husband would describe. I don’t think Bill Nierenberg ever tried to smoke the chalk, but I think Alfred Tarski might’ve made that mistake a few times. But anyway, he wouldn’t smoke while he was lecturing. But he would teach for 45 minutes, and then he’d take a five or ten minute break, pull out a cigarette and tell us about the Brooklyn Dodgers. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

And things were really casual! People didn’t dress up much. They dressed up more in those years. They might come in wearing a suit and a tie but they’d take off the jacket and maybe loosen their ties. Things got much, much, more casual at Berkeley after a while. But the smoking stopped. Signs all over the place: “No smoking.” I think that inhibited some of the professors. But we had these characters teaching graduate level courses. And I did miss though the mathematics at Cornell because the math was probably somebody from that department. It was a far simpler course. So, I was a little taken aback to find that Berkeley coursework was not really that demanding. But it gave me a new insight, especially in physics areas and quantum mechanics and we weren’t required, those of us going into experimental work, to take more than one or two semesters. Textbook was that of Leonard Schiff. And by the way, all these people loved music. To go back to how I got acquainted. I knew Alvarez reasonably well while I was still a graduate student because he and most of the members of his group loved music. Alvarez himself played piano, sort of Tom Lehrer style if you ever heard any of Tom Lehrer. [laugh]

Behrman:

Oh, yes!

Button-Shafer:

And he had a little pump organ that was in his house as well as, at least when he got married. But I got to know him partly through music. He liked to have young people as sort of mentors. And a contemporary graduate student of mine, a guy named Willard Tressel had studied at Julliard with someone named Gramian [inaudible]. Had considered a career in music. He wasn’t quite that gifted. He was good technically. But he didn’t really have a lot of feeling for music, nor did he have the sort of stage presence. He was you know, not too tall and sort of bespectacled. So, this Willard Tressel decided to stop at the master’s degree level, but in the meantime Alvarez must’ve had him in a course. I don’t think I had any course with Luis, but Willard had a fascination for unusual watches. He loved gadgets and Luis took a liking to him and loved to hear his music.

So, I had gotten to know Willard. We played music a few times and then my Romanian friend that was doing graduate work, a little older, also played violin. Alvarez would hear me playing not necessarily in his home. He was unmarried at that point and had gone through a divorce, etc. So, he was in his late forties. But I would be playing on a nice [inaudible] piano at the home of one of his more senior people where they loved music, but nobody, I think one of the, they had a daughter who played violin but just in her teenage years. But anyway, I was the go-to person for any kind of chamber music. And in fact, when some fellow from Switzerland, [inaudible], who had I think a Swiss-German father and an Indian mother, so this [inaudible] was coming from winning an international contest. He was a very outstanding cellist. I got asked would I play for him? Some Beethoven sonatas and some other things because I could sight-read. And that was my alternate career. That was my evocation. I have played with professional violinists. Singers initially, from the time I was a child. And I’ve played in my sophomore year with the Dayton Philharmonic as a soloist. But that isn’t what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted physics or engineering by the time I was 10 or 11. But I have this uncanny sight-reading ability, at least when my eyes are functioning reasonably. I kept being asked even as a graduate student in physics at Berkeley. I’d be asked to come over and play some compositions for the music department cause some of the fellows who were studying music quality couldn’t play piano very well. Or couldn’t read their own music too well. [inaudible] asked to play in people’s homes for Sound [inaudible] Symphony Foundation.

So, I’ve often been better known as a musician, especially in my later years here in Pasadena than as a physicist. But Luis knew me as both and he heard me play in the home of Lynn Stevenson where they had this beautiful piano. And most of the Alvarez group would show up and a number of them, one played clarinet. Luis played piano casually. And I’d gotten acquainted with Jan Landis whom he married. And she and I were the same age. I got to know her because she was a graduate student in International House at the same time I was a graduate student in physics. And one of the rather [inaudible]. Rather introverted and awkward graduate students in physics whose [inaudible] would lecture. I’d be sitting around Teller’s course and he would go into orbit with his peg leg and he would hammer his points on whoever was sitting in the front row. So, I never sat in the front row. I was the one woman and I was just auditing. He went into fascinating things. Teller would sometimes discuss molecular physics, rather than atomic nuclear physics. But this fellow named Waters, Paul Waters, he would sort of lean over him shaking his finger and trying to emphasize a point. And usually doing marvelous at lecturing, but scaring people. And Paul knew I liked music and he knew this Jan Landis who also loved music. And they were friends or acquaintances from I House. So, I got to know Jan and we would go to occasional music programs together. But she was studying child development. Nothing to do with science. I think she’d had some training maybe at MIT, but she was not setting out to become either a computer scientist. She was misrepresented at the time of the wedding as being an expert in the computer world. But she found out that she could get a part-time job at the lab. And so, I knew Jan before she got acquainted with Luis. And there was this trio where Luis played Jan off against me. He pretended to be interested in me, but he was really interested in Jan. But, we were sort of pals, Jan and I. Even before Luis got to know Jan Landis because she came up to the lab to work as a scanner. So, she was being educated to do some fairly routine scanning. We had a lot of scanners. We had 62 scanners and measurers for the Alvarez group.

Behrman:

[inaudible]

Button-Shafer:

Sixty-two full-time [inaudible]. There were ninety-some.

Behrman:

Oh, wow.

Button-Shafer:

There was plenty of work to do in scanning. Bubble chamber film, finding interesting events, making a sketch, and then it went to the measuring machines. Jan got pulled into some of that scanning. She was a little older and more mature and more sophisticated than the undergraduate students. She was herself a graduate student, but as I say was in child development. And her father ran Ampex. It was a big company. He was a mechanical engineer by training and her home was down near San Mateo, south of San Francisco. And so, anyway, I was asked frequently to go with Jan and she was called…well, eventually she married and became Jan A. and I was called Jan B. So, especially as she was getting acquainted with Luis, she was 30, he was 48 years of age. And I was often because of the violinists I knew, especially Willard Tressel, whom Luis befriended. He got him a job with Baryon cause Willard decided he wanted to go off into engineering and maybe do some computer science. He didn’t want to continue with physics. So, he quit after master’s. But Luis continued to admire Willard’s playing and would invite him to the Bohemian Club. He couldn’t invite me there because they didn’t allow women.

Behrman:

You’re kidding.

Button-Shafer:

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Bohemian Club, north of San Francisco. But many U.S. presidents were members; famous people like Henry Kissinger and Ernest Lawrence were members of the Bohemian Club. Big industrialists were members. Big politicians were members. But women were not allowed, except for the young women employees who served drinks. But Luis Alvarez did get me in with Willard, my violinist-physicist friend to an all-male prestigious club (Cosmopolitan Club?) in San Francisco. Men only. And he got me in because after having dinner together, Willard Tressel and I were to play a violin-piano recital for members of the club. I was the pianist and I was needed for Willard to be able to play his program. So, I’ve been in, not the Bohemian Club, but I’ve been in male-dominated facilities that were supposed to be for men only simply because I was needed as a musician. But then I got acquainted through a member of a British quartet with a very talented violinist named Austin Reller. He was the son, one of several children, of the head of Berkeley’s school of education, Theodore Reller. Austin was supposed to become the successor of Stern, as he was studying with Naoum Blinder (teacher of Stern) in San Francisco. And Austin was eight years my junior by the time I was put in touch with him through a violinist of a string quartet at Berkeley where I’d done a little studying just for fun. I had taken some courses in chamber music, getting some instruction. The Berkeley department taught musicology and liked things by Philip Glass and all kinds of weird composers. Lukas Foss. [laugh] They weren’t much interested in performing. If the head of the department wanted to perform Mozart he had to embed it in a lecture. They were very, very stuffy.

But I played for a number of music programs on campus with trios or quartets or even just duos that were arranged through this British quartet. And then Jack O’Brien, the second violinist said, “You should meet this young Austin Reller. He’s studying with Naoum Blinder over in San Francisco.” And Blinder was well known not only as concert master from the mid-30s on in of the San Francisco Orchestra, under conductor Pierre Monteux. He had fled Russia. Anyway, he had been the teacher of Isaac Stern. I was introduced to this young fellow who was expected to become the successor to Isaac Stern. So, we played. We played for all kinds of things and he wasn’t sure he wanted a concert career. But he had already, he was close, he’d won some contests. And his teacher, Blinder, was having him play the Sibelius Violin Concerto as soloist at age 20-21 with the San Francisco Orchestra. So, we learned sonatas together. Blinder had him learning many, many, many Beethoven and Brahms sonatas and other things, such as sonatas by Debussy and Cesar Franck. But he also coached him on the Sibelius Violin Concerto; Pierre Monteux was visiting, and heard Austin and me play that Sibelius (with my piano performing the transcription of the orchestra parts) – shortly before Austin played the Sibelius as soloist with the San Francisco Symphony. Later Austin gave me one day’s notice to sight-read the Alban Berg concerto for violin cause he was going in for an audition with conductor Josef Krips, then conducting the SF Symphony. By the time Austin was age 25 or so, he had learned thirty concerti as well as many violin-piano sonatas. So, I had this alternate career. It was my escape from physics!. And I became very well known as somebody who would read practically any music that was put in front of me. And I was virtually sight-reading this [inaudible] Concerto and I was [inaudible]. And fortunately, when it’s modern music, you can miss a few notes and nobody’s gonna know the difference [inaudible].

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

[inaudible] But it’s a little hard to sight-read something with accidental sharps and flats all over the place.

Behrman:

Yeah. So, what was Luis Alvarez like—

Button-Shafer:

So, that’s a part of Luis’s getting acquainted with me. He already had heard me play and had sponsored things where I was playing either with this Willard Tressel who vanished and went off to work for Baryon for awhile. And then set up his own consulting business. [inaudible] But Austin Reller was really fantastic and that’s a big, big factor much, much later when I was asked to go east. Cause Austin had moved to New York and was being handled by [inaudible] and I really missed playing with him. We would play three or four times a week. We’d play, his mother would want to sponsor a recital for him in their home. Or his teacher would have recitals for Austin and maybe some of his other students. Guy named David Abel[inaudible] was very outstanding and a little older than Austin. Anyway, and I played the Beethoven [inaudible] Concerto from memory when I was age 35 or so when I was in Berkeley. And that was the last thing I ever, ever mesmerized cause I much prefer chamber music. But I got to play on campus a number of times. So, Luis knew of me not only as a physicist, and I’m fairly tall. So, I kind of stick out for not really being a woman but being tall. A little taller than Jan Landis. But, Luis asked me and Willard Tressel to play for his wedding. And I had to kind of encourage Jan he wanted to marry her. And I was asked to go to Thanksgiving dinner a year or so before they were married. And Jan had invited Luis. And he had already met her parents, I think. He was invited for Thanksgiving dinner and I was invited. I was single. For Thanksgiving dinner. And during the course of the dinner, something was said and Jan just sort of looked at Luis and said, “Well, I’m just his caretaker. I’m just his friend.” It was clear he was pretending to make a play for me. And I thought to myself, “I’m not interested in becoming the wife of some physicist who’s decades older than I, and already is a Nobel Prize winner or is about to be.” I was going to do things on my own terms. I didn’t want to be known as someone’s wife. You know, I would love to have been in the situation Marie Curie was in where she married Pierre Curie. And I was assumed I would marry some wonderful scientist who was more experienced than I and older than I. But I didn’t want to go to that big a gap.

But anyway, so Luis knew me as a pianist and pretended and it was even commented by other people in this group. One engineer, who happened to have a harpsicord and loved music. He and his wife would invite me to come over and play their harpsicord. And he commented and he was consulting and doing a lot of electronics work for some [inaudible] that Luis was developing. But also, somebody who’d known Luis during the war years at Los Alamos and was very much of a coordinator of the engineering staff in Luis’s group and loved music and would have wonderful New Year’s parties. Hugh Bradner. So anyway, these guys noticed. They knew Luis was managing the situation where I was the other woman. [laugh] And Luis never would have made a pass at me. He’d be very friendly, but I knew him essentially through music and kind of socially, partly through Jan Landis. But it all tied in with music, which Luis loved and members of his group loved. And not so much the popular music but more classical stuff. He asked me to join his research group because he knew of my accomplishments in physics. Also, he liked to show that he was supportive of women. (He knew Jacqueline Cochran, who flew light planes and competed in races. (I believe Cochran became known also for her success in establishing a cosmetics company.) Luis admired Sula Goldhaber even though she was not a hardware type of physicist. I think Luis liked to believe that he was supporting women in the sciences, but there weren’t that many of them.

And when it came to teaching, oh, no! Luis asked me to substitute for him in his physics teaching on campus a few times; and I was always given maximum salary increases for my research when I was a postdoc in his group. But there was no woman hired by the Berkeley physics faculty until the 1980s. It was a very political thing. So, he came down the hall one day when I was finishing up my thesis in the Chamberlain-Segrè group. And mostly keeping to myself using, doing hand calculations. There were these old desk calculators and so on. Using computers while I had to do a chi-squared fitting job in a six-dimensional space and we didn’t have any fast line printers so I was often working until the wee hours up in the computing center, where my data had to be put out on punch cards. No fast line printers. And in the dead of night at 1 or 2 a.m. I might have to get a screw-driver and try to retrieve the cards that had gotten mangled in this card punch device. It would punch the cards and then they’d get stuck and not be fed out. So, I would show up rather late, if I had been invited by some theoretical physicist to some physicists’ party. I might arrive at a party at 1 or 2 a.m. in the morning because I was wrestling with a machine in the computing center. Or on occasional evenings, I’d decide I needed to learn to learn more about Feynman diagrams; I might on a Friday or Saturday night go up to the lab small library and sit there reading by myself. So, I was really a loner because there weren’t any close friends who had interests similar to mine. When a young postdoc, I would occasionally try to get together for a weekend restaurant dinner with the hardware-oriented English woman who became a member of the Alvarez group just before me. But she often wasn’t available. She would drop any dinner plans we might have if some guy came along. Didn’t happen to be necessarily a very interesting guy, but it was a guy! It was a fellow! He’d treat her to dinner. So, women were not very good as friends, I found. They would much prefer to go out with a man for dinner.

And so, I had a very lonely life. But the Alvarez group was sort of happy! It wasn’t improper to be interested in other things, like music. In that sense they were almost like Europeans. There were many European scientists, I learned, who were involved with music . Leonard Schiff played clarinet. Viki Weisskopf played piano. The Courant Institute was established by mathematician Richard Courant. He was a pianist. And in a biography of Courant, he’s described as writing back – after settling in New York City – to Hilbert, or some friend in Germany, and saying, “Oh, things are really big in this country. Instead of string quartets or piano quartets, they play octets.”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

And you didn’t have to be a really good pianist. Well, Einstein would play violin as I’m sure you know. And Ehrenfest was a pianist and they would frequently get together. And I think it was probably when he was playing with Ehrenfest one time that the pianist stopped and said to Einstein, “[inaudible], Albert. Can’t you count?” Messed up in his counting. Actually, I think Einstein was a fair violinist, but anyway. So, it was more of a European style because in many places in this country, it was considered not appropriate that you have any side interests. Whether as a student, graduate student, or as a postdoc, or a faculty member. And one of the other things I discovered in snooping when I was out in Berkeley as an NSF visiting professorship for women. And in this big empty room except for some old files was one of my favorite teachers who was there in engineering physics. He was sort of Norwegian in origin. Man named [inaudible]. And I thought I’d done a wonderful job in his course, 97-98% or so. In the strength of materials course that he taught. He didn’t quite get into the solid-state physics that another man did who taught not only solid-state but mechanics to the continuum and strength of materials [inaudible] this guy. Nonetheless, was very good using an engineering textbook on strength of materials. And I really loved it. It really reinforced my calculus understanding, doing all kinds of differential integral calculus to try to treat diffraction of beams and lots of other more complicated problems. So, what did this guy have to say? He wrote a recommendation that said he couldn’t imagine, this is for graduate school in Berkeley. And what I discovered was this [using high voice] very nice, sweet man, rather quiet said I was such a wonderful pianist. He couldn’t imagine why I would want to go into physics. And I had creamed his course! And I loved the lab courses in engineering physics. But that’s a danger. It can minimize you in the eyes of contemporaries, especially the older people. And being a woman was probably part of that. He probably thought it was more appropriate. But who the heck wants to be a woman pianist, you know? I discovered in age 10 or 11 there were virtually you know, how do you distinguish among various pianists? They all sound more or less alike. They’re all using the same instrument. If you have a wonderful voice or you have the intellectual capacity or interest to be a composer. But I knew of only one woman pianist. That was Dame Myra Hess. And I didn’t know if she ever did chamber music and that was my passion. Playing for singers or playing for instrumentalists.

But I was just on why should a fairly important professor in a department, which was a fairly, fairly small department. My class was 25-26. More than half of them having done, having quit. With others coming in from electrical engineering or mathematics or straight physics so the composition changed from freshman year into the later grades. But we were pretty well known within the physics department and engineering physics was sort of under the guidance of the physics department. I tried to start a Telluride House for women students, when I was the head of the women’s student government. Telluride, which had been established at Cornell for men students (at graduate and undergraduate level; the members enjoyed a a large house close to the center of the Cornell campus, with a wonderful piano, an extensive library of books and music recordings, and accommodations for visiting performers or lecturers. I decided, after being involved with many Cornell activities, to seek outstanding performers and to bring them for a benefit concert to Cornell, to earn money that might be used to establish a house for women similar to Telluride House. And it did end up that I had a benefit concert. I put it together myself, but mostly with people on campus. (I describe elsewhere in these interviews what happened to my plans, when dealing with a new Dean of Women and others to form an organization we called “Via.”) There were various times at Cornell when I got to play piano for chamber music ensembles, with instrumentalists or singers. I was the accompanist for several operas. I got into all kinds of music stuff. Apparently, within the Physics department, especially Engineering Physics, faculty knew of me as a pianist. And that’s a danger, as I mention elsewhere.

I think I told you the story of Edward Teller’s comments to me years and years later. Teller liked to play piano, and when I had been married a short time, he saw me in Alvarez’s home, at a farewell party for an engineer who had been working with Alvarez at LRL/LBL for many years. Teller came in belatedly and marched over to where I was, and asked, “Who’s this young man?” And his eyebrows bounced up and down. And when he found out my husband, though older than I, was doing graduate work in mathematics, he said in mock dismay to me, “What? You did not marry a physicist?” And I couldn’t resist. I said to him, I said, “Well physicists are too egotistical.” And then his eyebrows bounced a little more, and he said, “But you did not marry a musician?” And I said, “Well, musicians are too temperamental.” Both of those things are true, as a matter of fact. But anyway, I was saying it to get his goat a little bit since I knew he had quite a sense of humor. So, in mock dismay he swung around to his wife. “Well, I’ve just been doubly insulted, “and I need a drink!” But I have found that scientists with European background tend to be more tolerant of side interests.

Alvarez you know, was a very good gymnast. And in his autobiography, ALVAREZ, Adventures of a Physicist, he wrote that when he was an undergraduate, he was on the team of gymnasts. And he would demonstrate at group parties – even into his fifties – that that he could walk on his hands. Not do headstands. That was easy. But he could “walk” using only his hands; he could be upside down and could walk around a room and keep his balance.

Behrman:

Wow.

Button-Shafer:

Now how many physicists do you know who would’ve taken the trouble to get trained in something like gymnastics.… He also liked to play golf and even invited me to play nine holes of golf, with him and an administrative assistant, at a Berkeley golf course. So, he was quite a character. He says in his autobiography something like the following. He always liked to invent things, and if he’d been in there in the days of pirates, he would love to have been an explorer. But anyway, he loved to devise new ways of doing things. He said, “Looking back, I can’t understand why I never thought up my own exercise for gymnastics.” He added, “I always did the things that were already known that other people could do. But I worked at it and I was pretty good.” And he was. Even through age 50 and beyond, he could still walk on his hands. Did you ever hear that about him?

Behrman:

I did, I’ve not actually. It’s interesting.

Button-Shafer:

That’s in his biography. But anyway, so he knew of me and I think he knew that I worked very hard. I was essentially the, well like every graduate student initially were all married and they run home to their sick wives and kiddies, etc. And it was only the postdocs and Owen Chamberlain who stayed on overnight at the Bevatron or until 1 a.m. when the cyclotron closed down. 1 or 1:30. [inaudible] up early in the morning. But the Bevatron ran 24 hours a day and more senior people, well, Segrè and Chamberlain and anybody else around all the, lot of other experiments at Berkeley had been at Los Alamos or had worked at Berkeley when Ernest Lawrence started using the 184-inch synchrocyclotron as a spectrometer to separate U-235 from the much more dominant U-238 cause it was seven tenths of a percent composition. It was very hard to purify or to enrich uranium. There was a fellow named Roger Hildebrand who headed a physics research group at Argonne National Lab, and on the Physics faculty at the U. of Chicago.I ran into him there in early 1962. and I think he might’ve written a biography or been quoted. He had been an undergraduate major in chemistry in Berkeley. (His father was the outstanding chemist Joel Hildebrand at UC Berkeley.) Roger Hildebrand worked part-time as an undergraduate at LRL in the early 1940s, and he describes the war years when he worked, while still a student, at the 184-inch cyclotron. The big cyclotron was kept running 24 hours a day to separate the fissionable U-235 isotope from the dominant U-238. Ernest Lawrence monitored it so closely that he had the RF signal piped to his home. And if that signal stopped beeping in the middle of the night, he would wake up from a deep sleep and call the cyclotron crew at the lab. “What’s the matter? Why aren’t you guys continuing to work?”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Scientists had at Oak Ridge things that were like the cyclotron. They called them “calutrons.” The engineers had to use not copper for magnet windings, but silver – because copper was needed for war equipment. So silver conductors were used for a lot of those calutrons. Recently somebody pointed out to me there was published a book about the women who did a lot of the computing at Oak Ridge during WWII. And of course, women became famous after the war.

I believe Richard Feynman had a group of women punching the buttons on desk calculators at Los Alamos at the time that digital computers were just being developed. They were trying to develop thermonuclear weapons. I’ve been well aware that women were often used as calculators. I saw this myself at MIT in the summer of 1951. Also, the recent movie Hidden Figures shows the computing contributions made by Black women in the manned space flights of the early 1960s. The efforts of British women in cracking the German Enigma code during WWII have also been dramatized in film.

Behrman:

On that topic, I was wondering were many of the scanners women who worked at Berkeley?

Button-Shafer:

Oh, predominantly. Yeah. I think I said there were 90 of them. They did the scanning and the measuring and the typing of—the Alvarez group was just a really spoiled, even as graduate students. We’d write out the Fortran coding, or in my case I actually started with machine language and moved over to assembly language and then finally to Fortran. Fortran 2 we started out with. Went to Fortran 4. And then there’s Fortran 77. But basically, and these are all mainframe computers. But we didn’t have to type up the cards. They used both on campus and at the lab and even I think out at Livermore where they had more advanced computers. They tended to put the data in, not with magnetic [inaudible] or even paper [inaudible]. The measuring machines could produce punched paper tape but what had to be fed into the computer were “IBM cards” to control programs and provide input datak for example. That was better for a while than what we had at the lab. And you’d have to have punch cards. So, we had the key punch operators who were punching the cards going by what the graduate students or the postdocs or sometimes more senior people did to put together the coding. And then they would have these [inaudible] things. It’d be a combination of numbers and a few letters for the punching of these IBM cards, as we called them. We needed to have and they were mostly, yes. Most of the people, but not all of them. There were a lot of fellows that came up too because it was an easy way to make money and you could pop on the bus and come up from campus and work for a few hours and then go back down. They worked at regular hours. Not ‘til midnight. I had met Abraham Pais when he was out for a visit and he wandered in cause I was scanning, trying to find some anti-lambda vents or something in the first big [inaudible] chamber. He wandered in at 10 p.m. at night, discovered me, and asked a few questions. And I think invited me to go down to campus for coffee or something. I said no. I was busy.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

He was a bit of a womanizer.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

But charming. I later got to see the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies about six months after I had gotten my PhD degree, and joined the Alvarez Group. (Pais escorted me at the Institute, after lunch there, when I had presented a colloquium talk at Princeton University. That was in late January of 1960, following my presentation of research in my invited talk for the annual APS meeting in New York City.) Anyway. So, I got treated, they mostly had, I don’t know. If I were to guess, I would say women were probably two-thirds of the workforce and probably they were some of the more reliable ones. [laugh] I mean women were really quite good at a lot of computing jobs. Unfortunately, they’ve tended to for a while, I used to say that when I saw graduate students get involved in software stuff doing coding, if they were very good at it, they might get stuck at it. Both as graduate students or even at Brookhaven Lab. Fellow there who was sort of the guru in the big [inaudible] group. He mournfully said, “Well, the problem I have, the reason I got stuck with all the software of doing it”—almost to the elimination of much hardware activity, though he understood a lot of hardware. But he said, “The first program I ever wrote worked the first time. Had no bugs. And I got trapped.” And I saw this happen with one of the more versatile graduate students turned out to, he died eventually of AIDS, but this guy named Al [inaudible]. And I saw this over and over again happening with bubble chamber analysis. And it was rather sad because I felt that doing this coding and being spoiled and having these many, many people in the Alvarez group do the scanning and the measuring events. I used to argue for the more senior physicists to do the scanning so they’d understand more of the physics that was going on. But anyway, they were really spoiled and yet I think spent almost all their time doing the coding rather than dealing with a beam channel and monitoring what was happening in a bubble chamber. I said it rewards the wrong thing or least in the 60s. First of all, if you’re imaginative you must take much longer to write a given program. And I saw this in one of the graduate students. And if you aren’t imaginative, if you’re a plotter, if you’re just very meticulous, whether it male or female, but usually they were male graduate students. If you were very meticulous, you might get a program to accomplish a certain task. Finish before the guy who’s really inventive. So, it didn’t allow for much of any ingenuity if you were writing programs. It seemed to me deadly or [inaudible]. Secondly, you had errors found for you. You didn’t have to be very, very careful. It was good if you were and that you checked to make sure that you have parentheses that are closed, does [inaudible] make sense and all the rest of that. And women could often do that more carefully than men. But the computer would tell you if you had a mistake. And would often point out what the mistake was. And so, you know, it’s not like dealing with hardware. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Where you can try something that’s ingenious and if you have time on the accelerator it’s better to do tabletop physics. But anyway, the hardware you can see your mistake more readily than you can find a bug in a software program. It’s just more challenging. So, I was hearing this from Alvarez. I was hearing it from Harold Ticho, the guy who would come up from UCLA where he headed the department and he would drive up and do a lot of the beam design that the Alvarez group physicists didn’t want to spend their time on. So, he designed a number of the separated beams, as we called them, whether it was for K- mesons or I guess that was what it was K+ for the Goldhaber-Trilling group. So, he really, I think his thesis work was done with a lot of Geiger counters, etc. in the mid to late 40s at Chicago under somebody named Schein. But he was influenced also by Fermi. And Harold could’ve been the first one to have discovered muons. Cause they had this radiation when he was a graduate student and that built up a whole bunch of counters and I guess somebody came along, maybe Fermi, and suggested he dismantle the whole thing because they had some things they didn’t understand. So, he built it twice, I think. He was a very thorough going guy. And would do beam design stuff by hand and then ask a graduate student to go run a program to treat [inaudible] through some bending magnet or quadrupoles. He also though designed with a 5 ½ % momentum accepted the marvelous beam stuff. And I think he was never given adequate credit by the people in the Alvarez group. But he was a hardware type and he said that if anybody wanted to go into bubble chamber physics in early 1960. Early on. That they should first go into solid-state physics or condensed matter physics. They should go into atomic physics. Do things on a small scale so they learn how to design and how to troubleshoot and how to handle equipment. And Alvarez said much the same thing. That graduate students should not and he didn’t have any for a while, or nor did the people under him take many students until they had the big, big 72-inch bubble chamber and really needed students to do some of the funky work!

Behrman:

They needed the labor. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

They were monitoring the main line and also doing some of the scanning and guiding the people who were doing the routine jobs. The only problem is those graduate students turned into [inaudible] putters. They wanted to get their own pile of data after all the analysis was reconstructing tracks and doing the kinematic fitting. And then the students would be moved more by theory than experiments. Say, “Oh, so and so [inaudible] this.” And would you believe that Art Rosenfeld sort of taking major responsibility for the program and he got a friend of his to leave his leadership job at the Illinois Computing Lab. Guy named Snyder came out and helped to develop the Berkeley program. So, for a while we’re way advanced over all of the rest of the world including CERN. And Berkeley had marvelous programs that were developed under the guidance of Art Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld and this fellow Snyder who would even head kit school. That was a, we had paying for momentum and angle reconstruction and then we had a whole bunch of programs. Kinematic fitting that we called kit. And they’d have kit school for the new graduate students and postdocs and we’d learn how to write, how to use all their programming language. But it was not good training because the students wanted to emulate the more political people and especially Alvarez and they were when we got into hardware things that I was very much oriented towards. Some high-altitude experiment of Luis’s. I found that the young people whether be any postdocs or graduate students wanted to emulate Luis the politician rather than Luis the inventor, creator.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

They didn’t see that part of Luis. They would report at group get togethers that something had been done when it hadn’t been done. Or it hadn’t been done well. And so, Alvarez was aware that there were these problems that the students were getting too much involved in the theory. And most experimenters in those years coming out of Los Alamos and other activities, most experimenters looked askance at theory as I was developing. And so, Luis every now and then would come and collect a number of graduate students who would be scribbling on the board and talking about something relating to theory. Or else pawing through their printout and he’d say, “How long has it been since you fellows have been down at the accelerator?” And so, he would corral four or five of them, take them down, and show them the Bevatron, and say, “You see that sign there? It says keep out.” He said, “You want to ignore signs like that cause that’s where the interesting stuff might be.”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

But he would take the students down and tell ‘em all about building the accelerator. And I learned from Luis or maybe from Ed McMillan that you could use things. I learned as an engineering physics student that we learned in our sophomore year as virtual work. We learned in my graduate studies in physics as virtual displacement. And if you had, as we did, we had [inaudible] for separating out they called them mass spectrometers or velocity spectrometers. We’d have a few hundred [inaudible] magnetic field and then they’d have to have 400-500 kilovolts between two plates and if you wanted to know the force between the cathode and the anode in these sort of [inaudible] linear separators as we called them. They could be 20 feet long or 30 feet long. And they were very problematic. One of the more ingenious guys in the Alvarez group developed; he did glass cathodes rather than stainless steel. But if he wanted to calculate the force between these plates, you used virtual work. You imagined you had a virtual displacement and then you’d solve what the forces, how much work would be done. Well the old timers like Alvarez, McMillan used this to calculate the radio forces pushing outwards when they were winding the coils for their early accelerators. So, they pretended that they had a [inaudible], when as they really had two pancakes. But they wanted to know was the radio force trying to get a wave when this current is flowing? And they came out with the following statement, that the force was gonna [inaudible] field squared and if you had and they could calculate that 5 kilogauss magnetic field produced in some geometry. You didn’t have to specify the geometry. It would just be at a 5 kilogauss field. it was equivalent to an air pressure radially outwards of one atmosphere. And if they went to a 10 kilogauss field it would go four times instead of doubling the field would mean that you’d have 22. And so that you could prove with virtual work! And I was so delighted I was probably the only postdoc in the whole Alvarez group, maybe even the senior people, who ever used virtual work for that kind of thing. It’s only one problem when you do the thing it’s especially obvious if you have parallel plates. And if you look at any E&M textbook or you go to some fancy book that’s fairly advanced mechanics that gets into some electromagnetic forces, you find it depends on whether you keep the plates with constant charge isolated or you keep the voltage constant. And you get the wrong sign. You get the right magnitude but the wrong sign depending on whether it’s constant voltage or constant charge. So, there’s a pitfall. There’s a trick. But you know I tried that on somebody my age and all they did was mess around with units. He never heard of the virtual work principle. But Alvarez first told me that you have an explosive force outwards of one atmosphere if you go to 5 kilogauss field. It doesn’t matter how big it is as long as you have enough current in your coils that you can produce a uniform. They pretended the field was gonna be uniform, 5 kilogauss field. So, I picked that up from Luis and I tried it on McMillan one time. I said, “You know I told one of my contemporaries about this and he didn’t see the point.” I said, “That’s a beautiful application on virtual work.” So, if you imagine a radio expansion and you ask how much does the energy change in that field and then you say well then I can calculate the force cause the sequel to the energy change divided by the displacement. And I learned that as an engineering student my sophomore year as an undergraduate. The physicists if they see it at all they get it only at the graduate level. So over and over and over again I kept admiring the kinds of things that the old timers knew. And Luis came right out and said that students shouldn’t go directly into high energy physics. Or even nuclear physics at a high level. They should first go into something where they can design things and get their hands dirty. And that was the sad thing about bubble chamber physics. So, I was ready to leave. But anyway, Luis asked me to join his group for all the reasons I’ve enumerated that I was not only a very dedicated physicist, I was a woman and he liked to be seen as supporting women. And thirdly, music. Well, music was probably the second one so – physics and music and I was a woman. However, when I’d been with his group for quite a while and did a lot I was on every single beam that was ever devised and I told a guy who was an advanced graduate student but he’d been out in industry for five years. A fellow named George [inaudible]. There were big meetings going on in the late, well in the early 60s around ’59 is when I joined the Alvarez group after Luis came down the hall, would I like to join with his group? Join the club, cause they voted me in. And so, I thought about it and so as I told you, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be involved in a lot of analysis. But I did look for any hardware project; and so I got assigned the first shift I ever had on the antiproton beam that been set up with three stages of electromagnetic separation (perpendicular E and B fields) to select antiprotons and reject other negatively charged particles. There was one antiproton for every eight or ten pi-minus mesons. So, per Bevatron pulse, once every six seconds, we might expect one to three antiprotons; but we’d get eight or ten times as many pi-minus mesons. So, we really had to work very hard to separate out the antiprotons. We couldn’t keep all of the pi-minus mesons out of the bubble chamber. But anyway, the first shift I was given to monitor everything (beam steering, particle separators and detectors, and bubble-chamber pictures) was a shift from midnight Saturday until noontime Sunday, so a 12-hour shift. That was my first shift for monitoring the external “antiproton” beam from Bevatron to 72-inch bubble chamber (about 200 feet in length); and I believe I was left to handle that alone after just a brief introduction by an Alvarez Group physicist to the equipment. I was not yet married, however. (It was ’59. I didn’t get married until ’62.) But it was a little bit like a replay of my graduate years where I felt I had to prove myself. The antiproton run with the 72-inch bubble chamber lasted for many months. The senior Alvarez Group physicist who had set up the beamline was away at a European conference when I first took up beam-monitoring duties. For much of the run, one young physicist (Philippe Eberhard) who came from Switzerland and France to join the Alvarez Group worked closely with me; and we took up major responsibilities for monitoring beam performance. I was single and most other physicists, even graduate students and postdocs were married. So anyway, I was perfectly happy to have that shift. The only problem was food! They didn’t have vending machines in those days.

Behrman:

Oh, no! So, what did you do?

Button-Shafer:

You brought in a bag lunch. When Harold Ticho (of UCLA) was the major physicist responsible for later beamlines directed into the Alvarez 72-in. bubble chamber, he wanted to have espresso coffee; so he brought to the beam shack an expresso maker and a hotplate, and he’d make espresso. [laugh] My husband (who worked part-time at the lab) loved coffee but he didn’t like espresso. He didn’t want his coffee that dense, and besides the espresso would heat and heat and get denser and denser. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

It was a problem when I was a graduate student just to go to the bathroom. It was especially difficult at the cyclotron; because they would enter the little lavatory from the outside, the lady bus drivers would lock the inside door that led to the lavatory from the floor of 184-inch cyclotron. Men or women could use it. But the women bus drivers just figured all experimenters are probably men, and they didn’t want to have somebody come bursting through the inside door! The outside door into the little lavatory was normally unlocked, but the inside door would more often than not be locked when I hurried over to use it. I would dash away from the apparatus adjacent to the cyclotron; and if I was handling my experiment by myself, I’d be all alone. I’d be travelling more than 180 degrees around the cyclotron to get over to where the door was. And then I’d have to reverse because I’d find it was locked, and I’d have to go to a “highbay” door of the cyclotron large outer building. I would open the highbay door, go out into the rain or fog, and go back around the outside of the building to get to the outer door of the lavatory…

Behrman:

Oh dear.

Button-Shafer:

Often I didn’t even think about food. You just brought food with you. I tried asking Tom Ypsilantis to pick something up for me if there were other people around, and he decided to go down the hill for supper. He was frequently keeping sort of regular hours, and he would announce – if we had plenty of people at the cyclotron – that he was going to go down to some hamburger joint, and pick up something to eat. “Oh,” I said, “would you mind getting something for me? Just a hamburger and maybe coffee or a Coke or something?” Of course, he usually forgot. He’d find somebody interesting to talk to and he’d forget. He would come back up empty handed.

Behrman:

Oh no.

Button-Shafer:

So, I learned my lesson as a graduate student; and I always took a bag of snacks with me for the often unpredictable hours I worked – both at the LBL Bevatron and later at Brookhaven Lab. At Brookhaven, there were vending machines by the late 1960s; but it was too far to go to get to vending machines, so I continued to take a bag of food with me. Brookhaven National Lab (BNL) was even worse than LBL regarding restrooms. With the very large AGS (30-GeV) synchrotron, experimental areas were spread out, with beamline and detection apparatus leaving little space for lavatories – especially something that a woman might use. From around 1966, I’d go to a closet toilet in a high radiation area that had been abandoned; the area had cockroaches and spider webs as well as a lot of old apparatus. It was in a high radiation area. Or I could go up a whole bunch of steps and go over the top of the AGS, the proton synchrotron that went up to 30 billion electron volts. And I’d have to go over the top even if the accelerator was running. But if I had desperately had to get to a restroom, I would either go to the spider infested or cockroach infested place in the high radiation area or I’d have to take a lot of time out and go over this walkway that went above the entire accelerator to a lovely restroom that the secretaries from upstairs offices used. This was a big, big accelerator. BNL administrators finally did decide to put in a restroom in a trailer, just outside the AGS east experimental area. But during some setup activities of the early 1970s, for the Multiparticle Spectrometer designed by the Lindenbaum-Ozaki group, we didn’t have any restroom to go to (other than the high-radiation closet or later the distant fancy restroom described above) and the accelerator wasn’t running. We were putting a lot of apparatus together. An Indian young woman, who was getting her Ph.D. through City University of New York under Sam Lindenbaum, she couldn’t ride a bike, or drive a car. So she’d have to ask one of the technicians to drive her back to the administrative offices half a mile away to get to a restroom. And that was before I discovered that I could go up and over. [laugh] In fact, I don’t think the BNL authorities had put in the fancy ladies room until our first MPS run was about to start. For a while during setup work for the first MPS experiments, I used what the technicians used - which was meant to be men only. And it was a trailer with many toilet stalls positioned inside the east experimental building near the Lindenbaum-Ozaki multiparticle spectrometer as well as the fast electronics trailer, and monitoring room where physicists observed detector response and managed online data acquisition. BNL personnel had decided during setup stages, when experimenters were putting a lot of apparatus into and outside huge MPS magnet, there to be toilets provided for the technicians and the physicists. It was expected that the toilet trailer would be used only by men, because all the technicians and most of the physicists were men. So, I decided I would use this nearby trailer, and would simply put a sign on the door saying “Woman present. Keep out.” So, then I had something close by during those setup stages. And fortunately, there were booths inside because not all the technicians or physicists would read the sign! I would call out, “Hey! There’s a woman present!”

But later during our actual experimental run, we no longer had that toilet trailer there on the floor Near the MPS. But I discovered the little lavatory installed at the end of a small trailer that was just outside a door near the MPS. Well, I was there working at the MPS complex overnight one summer. By this time my daughter was age eight or nine and she had a friend who was a daughter of a German scientist I worked closely with about the same age. And they were wondering what was happening. They were out riding their bikes when I had to dash to first aid. Why? Because it was dark overnight, and around 6:30 a.m. I had sliced the top of my forehead by running into a loosely hanging piece of “dexion” structural metal inside the trailer with the lavatory. And then the sun was starting to come up and I dashed into this dark trailer, didn’t know where the light switch was. I used it only because they put in a tiny little lavatory. And so, I could go there and do my business but I did it maybe 6:30 in the morning and the trailer was still very dark inside. Didn’t have any windows I guess. And there was a dangling piece of “dexion,” structural stuff, a metal length formed with pre-drilled holes for easy assembly. Somebody hadn’t fastened this piece properly and one end was hanging down. So, I went bounding up four or five steps outside the trailer, flung open the door, and headed for the lavatory was just around the corner. But the corridor was dark! And there’s this dangling piece of metal that just gouged the top of my head.

Behrman:

Ooh.

Button-Shafer:

And I don’t know that you’ve had a scalp injury, but they bleed like crazy.

Behrman:

Yes, they do.

Button-Shafer:

So, I was very embarrassed. I was about to go off shift anyway, I think. I don’t think they needed me. There were enough people who were going to be coming on by 7 or 8. But anyway, I was one of the more senior people from outside universities. They had a lot of in-house people as well from what had been a counter group and a bubble chamber group that had sort of combined for this multiparticle spectrometer. So anyway, here is blood dripping down my face and so I said, “Sorry. I’m going to have to leave.” I jumped in my car and drove off towards the First Aid center, which was some distance away – more than a mile from the AGS beam area where the MPS was set up. And I think as I drove toward the center, I ran into my daughter and her German friend out for a bike ride. [laugh] And she’s wondering why her mom has blood streaming down her face. And when I got there to the First Aid place what did they want to do? Well, they weren’t simply going to stitch up my wound. Nurses did something to try to stanch the bleeding. But they wanted to shave my head. Maybe if I’d been a man I would’ve been willing, but I wasn’t about to let them just take the hair off the front of my scalp. Cause the bloody cut was right about here. [Gestures towards upper forehead]

Behrman:

Right here? [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

So, I convinced them they could just rim the hair a little bit and then put a bandage on. But my daughter was a little shocked when she saw me – before and after the bandaging. (There was a later time, also during setup for the MPS, when some apparatus (a trolley supporting detectors I had designed and brought from UMass) came down on top of my head and put a nasty gouge in the front of my forehead.) So, I did not have a reputation of being very careful when I was around apparatus. [laugh]

So, I did always want to be in the hardware area of things. Luis Alvarez appreciated that and I always got the maximum merit increase every year when I was in his research group. I got paid well. But I saw younger people (men) than I being asked if they wanted to be put on the Berkeley physics faculty. People who had far less extensive training in their undergraduate and graduate work. I think one chap might’ve had more experience than I realized and he’d been in the service for a couple years. And he was nice enough. But he was put in as an assistant professor and then I saw some politics going on where some guy that, there were three of us women at one point. One who was originally from England who was hardware and computer oriented. And the other one didn’t know much theory, and (I think) was never asked to teach on campus. And the other one was Italian. Lina stayed with the Alvarez Group after I left – but she did tell me (when I was visiting LBL some years later) that she was initially not to be granted tenure in her research position; she appealed the decision, was granted tenure, and for many years has been the only woman in what came to be called Group A. Eventually Lina even headed Group A, but she knew analysis better than experimental techniques. We three women (Margaret from England, and Lina from Italy) were very different in our backgrounds, and very different in what we chose to do within the Alvarez group because it was such a large group. And yet we all three agreed there was one guy we couldn’t stand! This was a fellow, slightly younger than we women, who was very political; he not only spent time playing up to older physicists in the group, but he was put in charge of the Alvarez Group’s scanners and measurers. And he helped himself to lots of extra time on the measuring machines (more than his share); but he also asked me – and perhaps others – to take shifts at the Bevatron during periods of running that he had requested. He seemed not interested in dealing with apparatus. Anyway, he made an impression on older people in the group, especially Luis, but also one or two of the other older people. So, his name was put forward to be considered for a faculty position. And we three women couldn’t stand him. He didn’t know physics that well. He didn’t know much about apparatus. But he was a political type. And rather affable. But he really controlled the time that was given over to the processing of the data. And when he had gotten the right to run a certain energy down at the Bevatron, he was supposed to take charge, but he’d never taken any shifts. He asked me to take charge. And I had been teaching summer school and running the experiment as one person, second in command. I’d already put in plenty of time on beam design and maintenance. But he just backed out and asked me if I’d take his shift. He was a little younger than I, much less well trained. And we women were furious with the way he moved hours around and the way he stole measuring time. And I heard from the wife of one of my good friends who was quieter. Trained at Cornell for graduate work. Did a lot of analysis, but he also knew hardware and was very straightforward and very helpful to everybody and really understood physics. But he was quiet. So, his wife who herself had a degree in bio-chemistry, I think, and then got into computing work, told me how her quiet husband had been treated regarding the possibility of being put forward for a faculty position. But anyway, his wife complained to me one time that her husband (the good Jerry not the bad Jerry), was told by Luis Alvarez, “Gee, Jerry, [the good Jerry] we’d really like to put you forward for a faculty post but we can get only one position this year, if we’re lucky. And we have to take this other Jerry.” The bad guy who helped himself to measuring time that he didn’t deserve and was unwilling to take Bevatron shifts. He probably thought he knew things about hardware that he didn’t know. So, but he was a good politician. So, what did the good Jerry get told by Alvarez? “Well, we can make a better case for this other chap.” The one that we women physicists couldn’t stand.

Behrman:

Gosh.

Button-Shafer:

“We can sell him better on campus. He makes a better first impression.” How would you like to be chosen to be a faculty member on the basis of making a good impression? Cause he was a politician! He read Physics Today and could spout all this stuff that he’d been reading. But people worked under him, couldn’t stand him. This one guy. And he eventually quit and took a faculty at Michigan State, I think, but he didn’t stay there. I think he went to Pennsylvania. But oh, he headed Argonne Lab for a while because he was considered good politically. But I think people there couldn’t stand him. And I haven’t heard much about him, just that some student of his or a student who happened to be associated with him, he got his Ph.D. through Alvarez, was a very good physicist and I ran into him at one or two meetings. And the graduate student didn’t have much regard for him either. But that’s the problem with high energy physics. And finally, my second year they wanted me to come in ’65 when UMass was building. I left in part because of the politics. I almost left the graduate group I was with, Chamberlain-Segrè, cause they didn’t have enough opportunity to design things. And I thought I’d be happier down on campus when I went to look at the Nierenberg group with these radioactive [inaudible]. They were hardly changing their apparatus. It stayed the same. The only thing that was fun was the preparation. And then the actual experiment. So, they weren’t building things to any extent really at all. I did work with or knew quite well a couple people that were in that Nierenberg group. But I decided yeah, it’s small scale physics. Yes, they have [inaudible] fun, but I really was hooked on nuclear physics. So, I remained in the Chamberlain-Segrè group but was increasingly disappointed that we didn’t get to do more actual design work. But I did design something to go into when I crawled inside the 184-inch cyclotron to make sure the target was where it should be. The vacuum tank was you know, big enough you could crawl inside if you were careful. And if there wasn’t too much radiation. But I also designed a special target for what they call the steering magnet just outside the cyclotron. So, interacted with experimenters whenever I could and with this Clyde Wiegand, I did a lot of the machining stainless steel for the first oscilloscope he built. A four beam oscilloscope that was needed for some of the antiproton experiments. So, I would go off and chat with Clyde and I’d compare what I knew of electronics of what he knew. He used different units. He would measure the inductance of coil, not in henrys or in millihenrys, but in centimeters. Or he’d measure the or maybe it was [inaudible] and then the capacitance and inductance in both cases he could use, I think it involved current that was abamperes. But if you look at some of the old E&M books, one by Hardwell, for example, they’d compare all these different units. MPS compared with CGS and there was a system that has inductance and capacitance in either length or inverse length and Clyde could look at an inductor or capacitor and he could tell you what its value was. But in his units. And then he knew how to do certain things through seat of the pants type experience and even design work. He designed a marvelous differential amplifier and helped with Owen devise really wonderful detectors like this velocity selecting strength off counter. I would compare with him what I learned from courses or from lab work as an undergraduate with what he knew about the output impedance of a “cathode follower.” We used vacuum tubes in those days, you see. Transistors hadn’t come along.

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

My training, my experience in summers was always with vacuum tubes. So anyway, the radar during the war years played into that because there’s MIT radar series. Anyway, Clyde and I could really talk about electronics and hardware; and I learned a lot from him. I could spend some time away from the crowded room occupied by the five other graduate students. They were friendly, but mostly from backgrounds that differed from mine. The one who was probably most active in hardware, and worked long hours during experiments, had trouble passing the exams on campus. There was one graduate student, not one of the most outstanding ones either in terms of hardware design or physics. He would say “he don’t” or “we was.” Berkeley was shocking to me, because the undergraduate standards were not up to what I knew at Cornell, and even at the graduate level you would find people who didn’t use terribly good grammar. But they worked hard.

And I finally came to realize that going into experimental physics meant that you put in long hours. Theoretical research attracted me, and in analysis work, I found that I enjoyed theory. But I just felt I wanted to combine physics research with marriage someday. I felt that if I were to continue with physics as a profession, as I certainly intended to do, I would find it a little harder being a theorist than being an experimenter, because as a theorist, you might go down too many dead ends. Have too many disappointments. And it would get too lonely. In those years at least, the theorists didn’t work very closely together and they tended to be individualistic – and perhaps rather introverted. That could be better for a marriage situation, but in experimental work you could usually expect to find something to do that would have a satisfying outcome. So how about you, did you think of going into experimental or theory? Either of those?

Behrman:

Oh. [sigh] I don’t think I was ever really quite sure. I didn’t figure it out very well.

Button-Shafer:

[laugh] Yeah, when you get an undergraduate degree you’re usually not sure of where to go next. It may be even harder if you’re a mathematician rather than a physicist or engineer. I have known very few math majors who have gotten an undergraduate math degree, who knew where they were going. They usually would have to go on and specialize. I really felt that I wanted to do nuclear physics research (and to work with hardware) from an early age. Perhaps that’s why Alvarez wanted to keep me at LBL! He tried to dissuade me from going east when I got the offer of a faculty position from UMass.

Behrman:

Yes! And I wanted to shift gears and ask you about that? How did you come to go to Amherst?

Button-Shafer:

Well, I wasn’t looking for a place to go and as a matter of fact had not expected the offer from Alvarez in ’59 because in ’58 as I began finishing my PhD thesis, I realized that I had always enjoyed teaching, and I admired Owen Chamberlain. And I thought as a woman there’s no chance of a significant research position. I wasn’t even thinking of applying to stay on at the lab. So, I thought well there’s San Francisco State. The State University we call it now, it was San Francisco State College in those years. And I figured that it was a pretty sizable institution. I hadn’t really looked into it, but I thought I’ll apply there first. But I was expecting to get a teaching job maybe with a little research on the side. I didn’t think of going back to GE. One of the attractions there way back when I was just finishing undergraduate work had been that they told me 15% of your salary at GE as you know, roughly the mid-50s, early 50s, 15% was yours to do with as you pleased. You could do any kind of research and they even had a cyclotron at General Electric Company. I don’t know that that’s so common in recent years, but who can tell what you’re doing if a lot of your work is being done within the computer? [laugh] Anyway, but that was supposed to be an enticement, but as I say I didn’t even think of that when I got my degree. I’d seen so many beautiful experiments. Six experiments. Three at the Thermatron[inaudible], three at the cyclotron. In those years, you know a page to a page and a half was sufficient for a proposal. Maybe there had to be some politicking. They let Segrè do most of the politicking to try to get things scheduled. And the runs were usually weeks long. But as I got in the Alvarez group, those runs turned into 23 months for one of the runs where I was second in command. An older person was the first in command.

So, the months I used to gauge everything in my private life or what happened in various instances by the runs I was on. By the experiments I was in as a graduate student, but more importantly in the Alvarez group the different runs we had which got names. So, there was a K72 experiment named for the 72-inch chamber with K-. And a few years later or maybe just a year or so later there was, and that had a change in energy partway through. Anyway, a couple years later, K63, that was in 1963. Again, it was a kaon experiment but much higher energies and much more sophisticated. And the beam channel design. But I soon realized the experiments were getting to be months long and then my kids’ lives were changing faster once I started having children. I could engage what happened in my life with my husband more by what my kids were, what grades they were in in school than I could by the experiments that didn’t change fast enough.

Behrman:

Oh, wow.

Button-Shafer:

Weren’t that many coming close together. They got more and more complex. But I did think when the offer came along, what happened was that Bob Gluckstern who was, he’d gotten his Ph.D. in ’48. He was the same age as my husband as a matter of fact. About seven years my senior. And he was a musician. He played clarinet in the Borst circuit. He grew up in New York City. He was Jewish. I knew his name. I didn’t know he was coming out to interview anybody. I just knew of him from a theoretical applied theory paper in Annual Review of Nuclear and Particle Science. By Gregory Wright, who was on the faculty at Yale. And Bob Gluckstern. Robert L. Gluckstern. Or [in German accent] Gluckstern. So, Bob had grown up in New York, went to City College. Apparently he studied electrical engineering, but then went to MIT and got his Ph.D. there in the same group of people that Dave Jackson was in. There were a number of people getting their Ph.D.’s in the late 40s. Bob, however, did not do anything in quantum mechanics. That wasn’t part of the graduate training. As his specialty, he got into accelerator design. And while at Yale, I think, although he knew what was going on in some areas of nuclear or particle physics. I don’t know how much you’ve ever heard about Gregory Breit. He was rather a taskmaster. I think he headed the APS or at least he was responsible for the elections. And Gluckstern had assisted him in that. But Breit was a rather gruff sort of fellow. Gluckstern quite the opposite. And he was asked to become head of the Physics & Astronomy department at UMass began to develop into a more research-oriented institution in the 1960s, to leave Yale University, where I think he did have tenure. It was probably at least at the associate professor level. Was offered maybe even full professor. But he was offered the headship of the physics and astronomy combined departments at UMass. So, he went up I think in 1964, as did many new heads of departments. Not chairs. They weren’t chair people. They weren’t chairmen. They were heads. And many were Jewish in background. One could see perhaps half a dozen of them gathered together for intermissions at chamber music programs. They jokingly spoke of themselves as the “Jewish mafia.”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

At many universities Jewish people were not really encouraged. They often were not given some of the higher-level positions. Then they had a guy also from Yale whose name was Phil Rosen. And he was a theorist and quite broad based and came up to UMass. Quite a loner. He would not have been a good administrator, but he was a very interesting physicist. But anyway, Bob was very outgoing and as I say, loved chamber music and you’d always see him and his buddy, Seymour Shapiro, was another one who came up to head the zoology department. And Seymour had done some studies at Brookhaven having to do with some [inaudible] plants and I don’t know about animals. Mostly plants that had been irradiated. So, he knew quite a bit about physics and he and Bob Gluckstern were very close friends. And then he even [inaudible] with department a number of other departments that had these [inaudible] who would not have been made chairman or heads of departments elsewhere at least not for a long time.

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

So, UMass was very open. Similarly, with nepotism, that didn’t come to the floor initially, but they had initially about 14% women. Unfortunately, it didn’t increase very much. But overall they were much more open to hiring women faculty. And that for example, made it possible for them to get a well-established mathematician professor from Indiana who had married a woman a lot younger than he. And she got her Ph.D. in music and was a fine pianist, harpsichordist. Where did she go? She went to Maryland. So, they had kids and they were separated. The husband and wife, father and mother. In Indiana and in Maryland. So, they were able especially since they were in different departments, they were brought to UMass at the same time. But in any event, I didn’t know all this when I was approached and what happened was that Bob decided he was going to emphasize high energy physics cause he knew accelerators. He knew people in the accelerators. He had had an office that he shared with a very fine experimentalist. Somewhat older than I named Jack Sandweiss who was on the Yale faculty. And Bob had known a number of experimenters, they were more senior ones, Vernon Hughes and so on. So, Bob when asked to head the UMass physics astronomy department decided that he would emphasize high energy physics and condensed matter physics. And so, he played a major role cause he already was acquainted with the AEC which became the Atomic Energy Commission. Went over into ERDA. Energy Research and Development and that went to DOE. So, I think it was still AEC in those days. So, Bob was looking for people and he wanted to bring one person, wanted to have coheads. Wanted one person from Brookhaven Lab and he happened to ask around and a Yale fellow, Bill Willis, had known quite well a younger guy, Steve Yamamoto who had come from Japan originally. He had gone to prep school and then Yale,and did tabletop physics but had ended up at Brookhaven which is where Bill Willis did his experimental work.

So, Steve Yamamoto was going to be joining the faculty. I’m not sure whether that had been agreed upon but it was going to develop shortly. So, Bob had his east coast person; he wanted west coast cause Berkeley was so, really the leader in bubble chamber physics. For example, Alvarez liked to talk about a six foot long shelf of records, some of which I contributed to in the design, the building of the 72-inch bubble chamber. With a background that was a black background with special kind of reflectors. And so forth. Anyway, all of the hardware stuff, all the design stuff in the chamber itself, and [inaudible] and so forth had optical glass. Was almost five inches thick. And I did a lot of work in trying to help engineers and technicians measure the magnetic field cause it went it 17.9 [inaudible] but had no top pull to descend this basic [inaudible] with I don’t know, 4600 amperes or so, producing almost 18 kilogauss. We [inaudible] a horrible gradient variation because there was no pull tip. That was where the cameras were. And so anyway, Alvarez had himself designed some of the optics. And so, all these memos and engineering design things and blueprints, they all got sent, six feet of them, to Brookhaven Lab. Why? Cause they wanted to build a bigger chamber! So, we had the 72-inch chamber which was 72 inches long and maybe 14 inches wide. Maybe a little more than that. Closer to 18 inches and about 12 inches deep. But with these coat hangers, we’d call them, a special optical reflection such that it was dark-field illumination as it was called. The lights that were illuminating the bubbles in the chamber were not bounced from the bottom back up. Some people used Scotchlite and preferred bright field illumination. This was dark-field. And so [inaudible] directive lens, that cylindrical lens that Alvarez himself helped to design. It was a first. It was the largest piece of optical glass ever cast. It was a special kind of stainless that [inaudible] stainless that was essentially nonmagnetic.

And I got to help in some of the measurements of the magnetic field. I got to help doing a lot of hand calculations, maybe by computers. Taking some engineering drawings and figuring out what parameters had to go into the fitting of these events in the field. So, I’d contributed to the engineering early on. I also though had been asked to do some scanning along with the woman who preceded me by a few months. Six months, maybe. From England, who was a hardware type. Much smaller than I. And we both got stuck in a windowless, airless room scanning the engineering stuff when they finally got just the engineering run to see that the chamber would even expand. It was a very unusual thing with not piston but a gas expansion system. So, a lot of interesting engineering aspects. But what we doing, we were being flunkies. We were sitting there scanning all this film of 3 GeV pions that were the tests, for the test run before the chamber parameters and all the programs got developed. So, Margaret Austin[inaudible] and I both did that scanning. But Luis continued from the very outset to treat me very nicely and six months, seven months after I joined his group, I was asked to represent the group for an invited talk at the important annual meeting of the APS. So here I was with heels on. I was a little over six feet tall and you know, had short hair in those days, but had the blonde hair and had a nice conservative suit on. Either dark blue or black. But the guy in charge was a very colorful character named Jack Steinberger who had been pushed out of the radiation lab, the Lawrence Lab, by Alvarez. Why? Steinberger had done some very notable work at Berkeley. Got his Ph.D. in the late 40s at Chicago, but he had ended up being an experimentalist at Berkeley and he was very outstanding.

But I don’t know that you’ve heard of the loyalty oath that caused Wolfgang Panofsky to leave Berkeley and go to Stanford. It caused theorists to go to Illinois. Geoffrey Chew and Steinberger refused to sign the loyalty oath as these others also had refused. It was something that [inaudible] within the state of California under pressure probably from McCarthy era and the Genervelde-Cuac [inaudible] House Un-American Activities Committee. California somehow was put, maybe because of having had Oppenheimer leading Los Alamos and Los Alamos was run by UC Berkeley. But Oppenheimer taught at Berkeley. He also taught at Caltech. But he was always considered somewhat suspicious. Remarkable but the [inaudible] could make him the head administrator for Los Alamos. But see, Luis was more conservative, probably tended most of the time to vote Republican. ‘Til Kennedy came along. And Luis was more of you know, identified with businessmen, with administration and so forth. And so especially during the Eisenhower era. And I don’t know about how he felt during the Truman period. But anyway, Eisenhower came in in ’52 of course. And so, by the time I got to Berkeley, I think the loyalty oath, McCarthy era was right about that time. And lasted until maybe ’53 or so. ’53, close to ’54. Until he tackled the U.S. Army and got kicked out of the Senate. [laugh] And died.

But anyway, I remember having to defend what went on in the United States or try to explain. I shouldn’t say defend. But defend to my young Germans who were just finding out what democracy was all about. And one of them was partly Jewish, actually. My closest friend. And I had to try to explain what went on in the U.S. with the McCarthy era. Well anyway, Luis didn’t have any particular liking. He and Segrè had some problems. Segrè, I didn’t know it at the time, but Segrè had Jewish background and I think that played a role. Luis was probably somewhat prejudice. But he just didn’t like Steinberger’s independence. And Steinberger wouldn’t sign the loyalty oath. Luis told him to clean out his desk and you know, be gone. So, Steinberger went to Columbia and he was in charge of this meeting where I was to give an invited talk on the first really exciting physics coming from the Alvarez 72-inch chamber. Twelve or maybe 13, Lambda-Antilambda events coming from proton as the target and antiproton beam. So, it was [inaudible] going to Antilambda, Lambda [inaudible] Lambda. Though he had some beautiful, beautiful events and I’d done some of the measuring of them and the analysis of them. And so other, older people in the group even though I was the brand new postdoc, other people had been off at European conferences.

So, Luis asked me if I would like to go and present what we had from the 72-inch bubble chamber. Steinberger who was quite a woman chaser and he [inaudible] electric blue eyes. He was rather dashing looking. And he was in charge and they had these old plastic reels. And you wrote with grease pencil. And yes, I had lantern slides. These big slides that preceded the 35-inch millimeter slides. So, I had some beautiful slides that I had brought. Maybe a dozen or so. But I also had stuff I wanted to write down. So, I had some notes and was writing this stuff with grease pencil and the plastic ran out. It just came to the end. [laugh] Steinberger was all thumbs. He was awkward from the time I got up there cause he wasn’t used to having a woman who was, I was probably at least his height and was dressed fairly nicely. I was invited to talk and there were all these [inaudible] in the audience. Well anyway, so Steinberger managed to find some plastic and it got installed but they delayed things a little bit. So, I resumed the last part of my presentation, but then the slide projector was you know, about 20-30 feet away from me down the central aisle. A little man sitting there and he couldn’t find my last slide. Well it was the most important slide of the whole collection. So, I had to walk down [laugh] to the center aisle, all men, I’m [inaudible]. Were there any women in the audience that I was aware of? There may have been one or two. But it was overflowing because it was the first report on the Alvarez chamber and there were some other very interesting talks as well. But I had to walk down and find the lantern slide, the last slide, and put it and give it to the guy who was projecting it and then walk back up and finish my talk.

So, I got a very enthusiastic round of applause. And one of the first people to come up to me to say that it was a nice talk, I don’t remember that Steinberger said anything. He sort of managed but one of the first people was Don Glaser. He was the inventor of the bubble chamber. And he had visited Berkeley first as a visitor with a heavy liquid chamber. He brought his [inaudible] chamber. He had gone only to heavy liquids. But everybody knew him as a fellow at Michigan. Caltech Ph.D. under Anderson, I guess. But he had at Michigan developed the bubble chamber. And eventually brought his whole group on a visit but Luis, the scuttlebutt was that Luis wanted to move the laser to Berkeley on the faculty there working at the lab so that it would look as if Luis, who developed with engineers this big, big hydrogen, smaller bubble chambers. Four-inch, ten-inch, fifteen-inch. Then the 72-inch. Luis wanted it to look as if he had done a major contribution and he had with the liquid hydrogen cause it’s a far simpler target. And the tracks didn’t get multiple scattered by this heavy liquid whether what was used at one time. Anyway, they’re hydrocarbons that were being used. And Glaser first tried ether I think then he went over to xenon. But before that there were various hydrocarbons that were propane. Propane was something that another chap at Berkeley eventually developed. But Luis made very strong arguments for having something as simple as [inaudible] both for the target and the bubble chamber but also through the detecting [inaudible]. They were small but scattering with only hydrogen. So, he had very good arguments for that, but who got the Nobel Prize after he had managed to get Glaser moved to Berkeley? And I don’t know how much this was common in and on around Berkeley that Alvarez had expected to share. I think people were sort of aware. He didn’t get it. He got it much, much later for bubble chamber development with emphasis on [inaudible] computer analysis. And Luis was not a computer type. [laugh]

But anyway, the general Nobel award around 1968 I think, after I’d left the group for the development of the hydrogen bubble chamber but especially for the computer analysis of very large amounts of data. Whereas Glaser won the Nobel Prize all by himself in ’59. I’m sorry. Maybe it was ’60 or so, but I think the antiproton award was ’59. Glaser got it after I was in the Alvarez group, so it was sometime beyond that, ’60 or ’61. That he’d gotten the prize. [inaudible] But I remember hearing Luis say or maybe he heard it from Clyde Wiegand. Before Luis eventually got his own award that was part of an award given for I think for liquefaction of helium or something like that to a [inaudible] fellow. Anyway, Luis commiserated when he didn’t get the Nobel award. He commiserated with Clyde Wiegand, the hardware type, because Clyde had been overlooked for the antiproton award. In any event, he was a complicated character. Very ambitious and he treated me very well both socially, as I say. I was present at the wedding, not only Thanksgiving that preceded it, and I had too, as a friend of Jan Alvarez when she was debating did she want to marry somebody who was 18 years older than she? She was just going on age 30 as I was. But she wasn’t sure that Luis would ever want to have children. He’d had two children by his first marriage. And I just acted as a sounding board, but I bumped into Luis coming out of the apartment house that Jan was living in and I had some reason for getting in touch with Jan on that same day. So, I knew that he was, before he was well known, how he came to admire Jan. He just loved being with younger people anyway and so he didn’t see, I don’t know they ever discussed whether they’d have children. Jan just assumed that he might not want to have another set of children since he was already 48 years of age. But they did get married and both of them continued to be friends of mine. And they would invite me to put on music things. Mrs. Segrè was unhappy cause she used to do that when I was a graduate student cause she had a lovely Steinway and loved music, whereas her husband didn’t. [laugh]

But anyway, I learned over time, probably heard it from Mrs. Segrè that these men who were such leaders never had friends. And the politics was so strong that I don’t remember that Luis had any one close friend that was commensurate with or had a similar background to his background. If he did they were some distance away and he would go and play golf occasionally with a fellow who was just an administrator in his group, came in after I’d already been with the group for a while. He lost his closest friend, a fellow who was an engineer type, who went off to head a company in solid-state and killed himself. A fellow who had helped Luis develop the linear accelerator and Don Gal [inaudible] loved music. His wife did too. And I knew both of them. And Gal [inaudible] had sort of run the engineering group. Luis had a very sizable number of engineers, maybe 30 or more. In developing these various bubble chambers and in running them. But he lost his close friend Don Gal [inaudible] and he was really, really sad. So anyway, it was Mrs. Segrè though, Elfriede Segrè, who said she felt like my mother and came to hear me perform on campus a couple times. Her husband had no interest in music. Instead he extolled the virtues of Dante’s writing. He loved Italian literature. He more or less forbade his wife to speak German with me. You know that was her native language. And I had a group meeting, an outing to [inaudible] foothills, I guess. I first got acquainted with Mrs. Segrè sitting around this sort of a campfire and Segrè heard me speaking fairly simplistic German with his wife and he essentially got rather angry. I did not know that he or she, that either one of them was Jewish. And only years later learned that Segrè’s parents had been killed in Italy by the Fascists. By the way, Fermi’s wife was Jewish; he and his wife Laura fled when Fermi got the Nobel award in 1938. I’ve realized only recently (from writing of Madeleine Albright) that the word “Fascism” comes from a symbol for the National Fascist Party created by Mussolini. But I guess when I was growing up we were hearing much more about Hitler than about the Italians. In any event, people did have to escape Italy and I had some experience there when I was on my Fulbright year in Germany (1954-55) and travelled down into Italy; I stayed for some days in Florence, and learned quite a bit about what life had been like during World War II in Italy.

Anyway, to go back to Luis, he would invite me to take over his class. And I figured it was partly because he didn’t want to cause any ripples, any resentments, any political storms among his more senior people. He could’ve picked a chap, Frank Solmitz, a quiet physicist who had come to Luis’ group about the same time as Art Rosenfeld from the University of Chicago; he was especially knowledgeable about statistics – and the “maximum likelihood” analysis technique (an alternative, often more suitable, to the chi-squared method of treating data. Frank had learned about the likelihood method from Fermi, I believe. Frank was not a professor at Berkeley, but often gave analysis advice to members of the Alvarez group. So, Luis would ask me occasionally to substitute in teaching his class on campus, even though I was a rather young postdoc. But he’d heard me give talks, and I suppose he didn’t want to have competition among the three or four more senior people who were professors or maybe a number of other group members who wanted to be professors.

Behrman:

And you weren’t threatening to them?

Button-Shafer:

Well, he didn’t want them competing, and, as I learned later, it was unlikely that any woman physicist would be nominated for a faculty position. Luis was already having some difficulties in interacting with Ed McMillan, the head of the lab. McMillan had taken over after Lawrence died suddenly on the operating table in the late 1950s when surgery was necessary for his bleeding ulcers. And something went wrong with the surgery. So, Ernest Lawrence was suddenly gone. Luis had been very close to Lawrence and worked – as did other LRL physicists on an unusual project, the Materials Testing Reactor being developed out near Livermore. Lawrence got a lot of money for that project and had involved Luis and many others. After I had been involved as a young postdoc with the first physics run with the Alvarez 72-inch bubble chamber, in monitoring the antiproton beam as well as doing a lot of hand and computer analysis of photographed events, I was one of two young Alvarez group physicists put in charge of the first K-minus beam for the 72-inch chamber, for a lengthy Bevatron run. Harold Ticho had designed and overseen installation of the beamline, with part-time assistance of another chap (a faculty member) from UCLA, as well as a few of us younger members of the Alvarez Group. Luis decided that whoever was in charge of the current beamline should attend important TIME meeting held once a week, a meeting for LBL research group heads to argue about scheduling of running time on the accelerators. So the two of us maintaining the K-minus beam at the Bevatron (George Kalbfleisch and I) got to see these big shots who headed all the LRL groups, even though I was a young postdoc and George was still a graduate student moving on to postdoc position. I was involved in at least four different runs (using the Bevatron 24 hours per day, seven days a week) for different sorts of physics.

And so, with Alvarez encouraging the leader of the current Bevatron run involving the 72-in. chamber, I got to see what it was like for the head of the lab, with all these brilliant people, mostly heads of the physics research groups, clamoring for accelerator time. Every now and then they’d get off on scholarly questions – for example, the difference between the B field and the H field of a magnet, and which was more fundamental. An H field measured in ampere-turns or the B field measured in webers per meter-squared or whatever. And so, they’d have some amusing physics arguments. But discussions could become rather acrimonious. For the first run with his 72-inch bubble chamber, the one that involved the antiproton beam for production of new anti-particles, I listened to Luis exaggerate at the TIME meeting, and say that all his group wanted to keep the beam on for additional month (to find more strange antiparticles); they didn’t want to see a scheduled shutdown occur in order to increase the current of the Bevatron. The shutdown should be delayed, Luis argued. Luis wanted to keep the 72-inch chamber to continue taking data because he wanted his group to find another predicted “strange” particle that was an anti-particle. And he wanted his bubble chamber to do that. And we’d found only the anti-lambda, but Luis wanted the run to keep going so we could find anti-sigma. Or an anti-xi particle. So, he wanted all these things with different values of Strangeness: -1, -2, or -3. He wanted the 72-inch bubble chamber to be the first! Not a chamber at Brookhaven Lab, but his bubble chamber at Berkeley. And so, he wanted the original seven months of run time at the Bevatron to be extended. So, he essentially played the role of a politically esteemed politician, and he said in front of everybody else, “You can’t go into this shutdown where you’re going to strengthen the Bevatron foundation to support increased concrete shielding in order to go to higher internal beam intensity.” You’re getting shut down for a better part of a year or whatever and I know you’ve done all this modeling as to what steps have to be taken. You’ve done all this time estimation and all this planning. But you shut down some beautiful physics and everyone in my group, I remind you, 20+ postdocs. Everyone in my group says it’s wrong to do the shut down!”

Well, I happened to be hearing all this and not saying much of anything, but later I quietly asked a few of the more senior people in the group whether they agreed with Luis that the bubble chamber should keep on running and that the Bevatron shouldn’t be shut down until months later. And I really didn’t find any support for Luis. So, I decided to be a little bit bold since I had known McMillan and again, it was kind of not acquainted so much through music. It was more physics. It was partly through Sula Goldhaber. And partly through just chatting with McMillan. He might come into the library. Or he’d come down and see how our run was going. In the second big run I was involved in the very intense physicist, my colleague and mentor Joe, originally from Caltech, designed and maintained the beam (of high-momentum K-minus). Joe developed many interesting ideas regarding separated beams. He said to me, “I see McMillan coming down to our run much more often than I see Alvarez. Luis’s hardly ever down here.” I knew McMillan was familiar with me from my being second person in charge of several Alvarez beamlines, and working long hours at the Bevatron. Well, he also came up at the cyclotron and he warned us when we had a wall of shielding wanting to keep some of our stray particles from the cyclotron from messing up our counters and some [inaudible] ambiguity thing where we had pions coming out of the cyclotron. So, secondary particles and some interactions were going on that were somewhat rare interactions. And McMillan saw that we’d stacked all these ordinary sized lead bricks maybe double thickness and they were going up to six foot height running maybe 10 or 12 feet. And they were in danger if would have an earthquake. Nothing was restraining them. And so, he warned us that there might be an earthquake so we might have the lead bricks coming down on top of our apparatus or even on top of some of us. So, he would warn us we’d better be a little more careful and rebuild it in a little more safety conscious way. So, he was just, well, and the problem was the postdocs if they were the only ones around and Chamberlain wasn’t around, they would resent the fact that I was known to anybody of the higher ups. And I don’t know that McMillan had heard me at any music programs or what, but certainly I’d seen him at Sula Goldhaber parties! Where he would drink a little too much and be a few sheets to the wind, as we used to say. But he loved parties and he really admired Sula Goldhaber even through McMillan was kind of part theorist, but definitely experimentalist who worked closely with Lawrence. And with Alvarez.

To return to the running-time controversy… I went in to see McMillan, and said, “Well, you know Ed, maybe I should modify what Luis said to you at the Time Meeting; I don’t think you’ll find everybody in his group agreeing completely with his opinion.” And he said in a rather kind way, “Oh, I know, Jan.” He was aware that Luis played political games. So, he was a sweet guy. He was really gentle. Luis never got to be director of the Berkeley Lab after Lawrence died. There developed significant tension between the two of them. Because Luis always wanted his way, and he could be very critical of others (including Elsie McMillan, Ed’s wife). Luis couldn’t get money from the lab, that is, for approval from McMillan, for his high-altitude experiment that he planned with some younger members of his group; so he went off to Washington and got a million dollars from NASA. So, anything Luis wanted to do that was hardware oriented and you know, I didn’t agree with some public statements but I was cautious. There were several factors that drove me into thinking about going to UMass, especially after Bob Gluckstern suggested I might defer for a year, till fall of 1966, coming to a faculty position there. Gluckstern had wanted to have somebody from Berkeley, to be paired with someone from Brookhaven Lab in heading high-energy research at UMass. He was originally interested in this Jerry Smith…

Behrman:

Was this the good Jerry or the bad Jerry?

Button-Shafer:

He was the bad Jerry. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

But Jerry Smith wasn’t interested in going to a startup place. And I don’t know whether they had a meaningful discussion, but it was clear that Jerry was not gonna be a candidate. And maybe Bob got wind of the fact that some of us were dubious about Jerry’s capabilities even though he saw himself as an administrator, he didn’t understand certain theories of physics and he was manipulative. So, of course, he [inaudible] with Art Rosenfeld and Art was the kind of fellow who looked after new postdocs and I astonished people at Cornell and I was asked Art’s old friend Jay Orear [inaudible] to represent, I think this was a later period rather than being my first trip to present the Alvarez findings in January of 1960 when I was presenting for the 72-inch chamber. And there was a later trip east and it had to have been around ’63. And somebody, Hans Bethe was in the audience and he asked a question and I think he wondered how they managed to keep all these physicists with all of these data. And I said, “Well, you know, Art Rosenfeld’s pretty good at organizing and he likes to interact with theorists, so he made a matrix of all the interesting predictions that had yet to be investigated and a matrix involving all of the young people. The postdocs especially and some of the older ones. So, we had this matrix of physicists and physics problems.” And I think that really unsettled people in the audience. Art was that way. I’d find a little note on my desk, “Can I see you?” And it would be “Cn” and then maybe a picture of an eye and then a little “c” and then a “u.” “Cn eye c u?” Art was just a wonderful organizer. He taught a class, a seminar on campus, along with Geoff Chew, a theorist, that was very well handled. Later he taught a course with a theorist friend of mine, Jeff[inaudible] Semac[inaudible]. But he didn’t do hardware and he’d worked at Chicago and he knew Fermi. But he was more of an organizer type.

So, when he found out I was gonna be married, two people jumped up in ’62. Art immediately asked me would I like to have the wedding at his home? His and Ros, his wife, who had been studying law. And I knew both of them very well cause they had looked after young postdocs. And Art pulled me into doing some calculations that had to do with something we call confidence level. He was very good at finding things for people to do, but it was almost always stuff at the analysis end of things. So, and he would go out to Livermore when their computers were better than Berkeley’s and he might go for 96 hours straight. He worked very, very hard but it was always oriented towards analysis. That was the kind of thing that Alvarez wasn’t much interested in. I wasn’t much interested in. I did my bit in analysis and I was better known outside LBL for a lot of the things that got published, resulting from analysis, than I was for hardware accomplishments. I was sort of the actual thesis advisor for two graduate students when I was a Lecturer, but not officially on the faculty. I guided some very nice spin-parity analysis that helped complete Murray Gell-Mann’s scheme of things for particles and resonances, the scheme that was originally called the “eightfold way” and later became SU(3). With one of my graduate students, as well as assistance from a bright undergraduate physics major, I determined the spin-parity of the Y*(1385); and with another graduate student found the spin-parity of the Xi*(1520); both studies involved understanding theoretical formalism developed by Nina Byers at UCLA. In addition, I was able to extend the formalism to more complex systems of strange resonances.

So anyway, I did my bit in analysis, but I was happier when I got my hands on some hardware. I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer all my life. Luis Alvarez came up with an interesting innovation for studying the shimming of magnets that were to be used in a future beamline. He came down to one of our beam setups. “Why are you using for this wire orbiting study to simulate a charge particle beam going through magnets and you’re trying to shim some quadrupole magnets as well as [inaudible] magnets early on?” And he saw [inaudible] and we would do it seven days a week, 24 hours a day with graduate students involved. And it was very tedious work. So, the floating wire doing the wire orbiting. Luis saw we were using to see what the angle was as the particles came through these focusing magnets down on one of the engineering buildings. As I say, we had these shifts. Harold Ticho got this started for his [inaudible] and did a similar thing with later beamwork where it went on and on. Then Luis came along, not for Harold’s beam, but for the later one in ’63 and said to me and this hardware guy Joey Burry[inaudible], an older senior person, “Oh! I think you could do much better if you just had some coils that could detect some high frequency signal.” So, Luis, the inventor, put something that was, oh gosh, megahertz. This floating wire didn’t respond very fast. It was a slow mechanical thing and we had a drive at one end that could position one tie point going in parallel to the optic access, but then going through the focusing magnet, we had to determine fairly accurately what the slope was due to the focusing and the vertical or horizontal plane. So, Luis said, “You’re using an optical, a microscope for that?” Well I can give you a much better position. So, he himself went to the shop, an evening or weekend, and he got some plastic and made something. He wanted some balancing going on so you could flip a switch. You could have two signals added. And these were signals that were being picked up by something that had closed the beam without having us get to [inaudible]. But I decided Luis’s was going to work in only one plane; and so I redid what Luis did and did the necessary machining of plastic (when there were no people around to complain about union rules).

So, in the night or the weekend, I redid what Luis had done, made a slight configuration and put a switch involved so we could have two things that were giving signals that added and two of it sort of compensated. Anyway, to make a long story short we ended up using my design; and Luis at one point said that maybe he and I should put together an article. Well, he never did. He didn’t have the time. But that was Luis the inventor. He decided a high frequency signal would not be detected at all by the magnet. The magnet would be acting on this wire, this very fine wire with current going through it. Would never see the high [inaudible] signal. The wire would respond only to the magnetic forces that were causing the focusing. So, and then we would look at the scope and see when we had things centered. So, this detection device was probably well, closer in order of 92 more sensitive than the optical device in order for us to get the slope of the beam. Whether it was a bending magnet where we were having to see how much bending there was or how much focusing there was. Luis invented this cute little detector that [inaudible] current. So, then he told me about some of the things he was involved in. And he had for example told people how to develop a tandem Van De Graaff. He didn’t patent it, I guess. But the high voltage engineering was advertising. He said, “Oh, that was my design.” And Yale had a tandem Van De Graaff whereby they could take ions and change the charge, flip the charge so that a potential was giving energy to these ions as the ions came out from a stripper, they would change their charge and the same potential would go back down to ground but would continue to accelerate the ions. It’s called a tandem Van De Graaff. And I’ve never heard a Van De Graaff described, but this was, it’s double the energy they could get to and Yale made good use of the tandem Van de Graaff under Hughes and other nuclear physicists. So, Luis had all these things that he developed and he didn’t always get credit for them. [laugh]

So anyway, he admired my interest in doing the hardware, not just analysis which he knew much less about. And he invited me to take over his class. And one of the nicest things that I saw because I figured if he was gonna be out of town and I was to take his classes for freshman physics which involved physics students and a lot of engineering students as well. He was a very good lecturer. And he loved doing that. I thought I should go hear what he was doing. And he had this thing that was able to give a simple way of predicting the period of a satellite. So, this was in ’62 or thereabouts. And there’d been suborbital flights but then there was the first orbital flight and we were getting, not only was the Sputnik of ’57 waking up Americans to the fact that you could have satellites that might be interesting and useful. But, John Glenn made his flight and then there was the Russians were putting a dog in their satellites and a woman astronaut. [laugh] We just had male astronauts. Anyway, and nothing that was beeping as far as I know. But you got used to hearing or seeing described in some illustration or [inaudible] the fact that satellites took about 90 minutes to make the orbit if they were fairly close to the earth’s surface. So, in the lecture that I heard Luis give just before I was to take over for a couple of weeks, or maybe a week or so, but several lectures. He was talking about things like simple harmonic motion. And he said, I don’t think he used the term [inaudible] but here’s a thought experiment. So, he told his class and they were absolutely fascinated. It was one of the big lecture halls. And he told this group of freshman that if he took a pebble and had it at one of the extremes that we were listing, the North Pole or something, and you had an imaginary tunnel through the center of the earth that you could drop the pebble from rest and it would undergo a solitary motion. And it would turn out that the motion was just the linear projection of the uniform circular motion of a satellite.

Now that has since gone into various textbooks, like Halliday and Resnick. But Luis dreamt it up. It was his. And for a long time, it only existed in his mind and anybody, any student who heard him. But you could with very few, you didn’t have to know the mass of the Earth or anything else. You had to be aware that whatever position this pebble was at in this freefall, you had to assume the Earth was uniform in density. Then from some fundamental description of gravitational forces, it turns out that if there’s a uniform sphere, if you have a particle of certain radius, the mass that effectively is acting on that particle acts as if it’s at a point and at the center of the sphere. Further, only the mass which is at, the radius or smaller radius than the pebble is going to act on it cause all the external parts of that spherical mass of the Earth [inaudible], their forces all get cancelled out. Somewhere in early discussions of gravitation, you learn about this idea that force falls off like 1/r2 and that if there’s something inside a uniform density sphere whatever radius the object is or clump of mass, it will feel a force only from the mass that’s at the smaller radius. And all you need to have is the value of little g, and what else? Nothing enters into it, not the mass of the pebble, not the mass of the Earth, but you can go through the memory calculations and come out with the fact that the period of this pebble that’s in freefall is the same as the period of the uniform circular motion of the satellite. And Luis did it! And it came out to 90 minutes. And I reproduced it just recently for some friend I wanted to show this to. But I had picked up that “Gedanken” or “thought” experiment from Luis’ early 1960s freshman physics lecture on “simple harmonic motion” of a pebble oscillating in a tunnel through the earth long before it got into any textbook; and I told it to my daughter when she was about age 12 or 13. But I thought it was so neat. And I don’t think I’d told it to many people. Well, Christina was old enough, born in ’67, and my telling her about the calculation probably happened in 1979 or 1980, when it appeared that she might choose to major in Physics. Christina was just getting into high school. I told her about this cute problem where you could find the period of a satellite by imagining a pebble oscillating along a diameter of the earth. Well, she remembered it. She remembered that physics much better than some of the math ideas that I encouraged my husband to tell her. John asked if she could show that there are infinitely many prime numbers. And she figured out how to do it. But a year or so later, she didn’t remember how you could prove it, though she was able to reconstruct a proof. She didn’t remember the theorem particularly. But she remembered this thing – calculation of the period of a satellite close to earth’s surface – of Luis Alvarez for so long, that when she got to graduate school at U. Maryland, she recognized the problem when presented in an advanced mechanics class. Maybe I told you about this in one of our earlier conversations.

Behrman:

Oh, yes.

Button-Shafer:

That story. And he starts to talk about this little problem of Luis’s and by this time it’d probably gotten into an exercise, a problem in Halliday and Resnick. But Christina hadn’t relearned it from that. She remembered it from hearing it from me, I think. Cause I don’t think it was that commonly known even after it got picked up for a textbook. So, anyway, she starts to smile. So, I think I told you this professor that was a little stuffy looked at her.

Behrman:

Yeah. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

“You know this problem?” “Oh, my mommy’s a physicist.” So, there are interesting things that have happened; and every now and then I ask Christina about something that she told me about – like her first exposure to solid-state physics, when she had a woman instructor at Maryland who didn’t speak English very clearly, and the problems were so hard they were almost impossible to do. She will concede that “yes, that did happen,” but she doesn’t remember these amusing experiences as clearly as I do. [laugh] (Unfortunately, when you get to be my age you remember all these things that happened long ago… Whereas young people are more interested in learning new things.)

Yeah, so Luis just acted as if he’d never heard of UMass. Never heard of Bob Gluckstern. There wouldn’t have been any particular reason for it, but he tried to discourage me from thinking that I was going to a nice situation. Alvarez was sometimes described as “Alvarezing” people, as he could quite angry or very intensely involved in an argument. So, at one time or another I heard that term; and I got it when I asked about a teaching position. I did ask.

Behrman:

Ah.

Button-Shafer:

I was bold enough to. Luis was out of town when I decided to make inquiries; I went to Art Rosenfeld, as he had always been interested in the younger people of the Alvarez group and been very supportive of my career. Anyway, I felt I knew Alvarez quite well. He and his wife had welcomed me and my fiancé to their home for a celebratory drink in early 1962 when they first found out I was going to get married. (John had been working part-time for the Alvarez group.) So, they had been very hospitable. Jan Alvarez even had a bridal shower for me shortly before John’s and my wedding in the Rosenfeld home.) And I had been present – mostly to provide music with a violinist friend – at their wedding two years earlier. So, I felt comfortable just asking Art because he was sort of a mentor for me when I first got in the group even though our styles of doing physics were somewhat different. (Art spent most of his time on software development.) Art wouldn’t give me an opinion. I had seen several younger people put forward for faculty posts, and I had not only served as Lecturer on campus, but also audited graduate classes occasionally. I’m not sure he was aware of my substituting for Luis, in teaching his undergraduate physics class when he was away. On the other hand Art was aware that I had been guiding the PhD research of two graduate students, as well supervising many students for accelerator runs. But when I asked Art whether I might be considered for a faculty position, he just said, “Well, ask around.” He didn’t say wait until Alvarez comes back. He said to ask some of the other people who were already on the faculty. I got no clear reading from these more senior people. And so, when Alvarez came back, I didn’t have to approach him. I think he heard it, perhaps from Art or one or two other senior physicists. A fellow I thought was a good friend of mine named Bob Tripp. Anyway, he had been in the Chamberlain-Segrè group ahead of me. And so, I just thought it was a reasonably quiet inquiry on my part. It wasn’t that I was planning to move at that point.

On his return, though, Alvarez caught me in the hallway, and I got a load of what he thought about my inquiry. He said, “They don’t like women on campus.” He felt my inquiry was like a request to be admitted to an exclusive club. That was the main message. He also stated that there often was only one faculty post competed for by the many different groups at the lab . But his wife Jan much later said to me something like, “Oh, the men on campus are just as bad as a bunch of gossipy women.” I don’t remember her exact words but she indicated that the male faculty just weren’t used to having a woman as a colleague in physics. It took the faculty until the 1980s to consider a woman physicist for a faculty position. But the first woman approached by the Berkeley Physics Department, a well-qualified experimentalist at SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator Canter) named Vera Lüth, was not acceptable to a senior physicist and faculty member in the Alvarez group. (Vera had excellent training in Heidelberg, and was respected enough that she was asked to direct research at SLAC’s new colliding beam facility.) A few years later, probably in the late 1980s, Dave Jackson, as chair of the Berkeley Physics Department, encouraged offering a faculty position to a woman theorist, Mary K. Gaillard. She was the first woman taken onto the Physics faculty – comprised mostly of experimentalists. (She accepted only after a position was created for her second husband, an eminent Italian theorist.) But what really drove me away from LBL in 1966, besides my wanting to be near my violinist friend who had settled in New York City (this was Austin Reller, who’d been coached in San Francisco by Naoum Blinder, former teacher of Isaac Stern, and was headed towards a concert career) was I had worried about the inadequate training of Berkeley graduate students in particle physics during the bubble-chamber era, but was particularly disappointed in the behavior of one of Alvarez’ closest associates, a guy (Lynn S.)who had asked to have Alvarez as thesis advisor, along with another chap, (Frank C). They’d been Panofsky’s thesis students in Berkeley, until Panofsky left for Stanford in the early 1950s. Luis said, “OK. I’ll take you on as graduate students… as long as you teach me some quantum mechanics.” But I worked on various projects with the Alvarez group, I found Lynn to be very harsh with many younger group members, but especially with the three of us women researchers. This may have come from his Mormon background, and possibly from brain problems that eventually were diagnosed as Lewy body disease. He said really harsh things to his wife, a good friend of mine. (And yet he was respected as an outstanding teacher by students in the Physics department.) No matter how polite I might be, Lynn clearly disliked my comments during casual group meetings that showed I knew some things that he did not… told me once that he disliked my “showing off.” He stole some important data, results of event measurements that I had made personally and then stored in an easily accessible LBL computer! I had data stolen! By a senior member of the group. [With help from another young researcher, Lynn not only had goten my data, but he analyzed the events, claimed that a new resonance had been found… and put together an article for publication! My closest contemporaries in the group were shocked by Lynn’s behavior… But the article was abandoned, fortunately, when Alvarez pointed out that the statistical error was too great (not a three-standard-deviation result), so no resonance discovery could be claimed.]

Behrman:

Really!

Button-Shafer:

As another example of politics: I had to smuggle bubble chamber film, a number of rolls, out of LBL to UCLA to get some promised 72-in. bubble chamber events to our collaborator, Harold Ticho. Because the Alvarez group senior people were not keeping to an agreement made on which group should take charge of filmed events coming from certain beam momentum settings.

Luis Alvarez would back me in some controversies, especially when related to hardware development. Yes, he’d give me a good salary increase. Yes, he would give me young people, Physics undergraduates, to work with. But I never told him about, never told anybody, except my husband, about the potential of having these film data retained by the Alvarez group rather than being sent as promised to UCLA. Campus politics also affected the lab. Around 1964 the “Free Speech Movement” started on the Berkeley campus. Many discussions took place about the student demonstrations, and about faculty and administration responses. A theorist friend of mine, a Physics professor, took refuge at a desk in a storage room for film in order to get some work done. There were endless discussions in the lab corridors, and even presentations from several chairs of campus departments on negotiations they had with the rebellious student leaders (Mario Savio and others). Yet it was apparent that women were not supposed to be chatting in the lab hallways; since we women were not faculty, it wasn’t our privilege to talk about the uproar on campus. How they overturned police cars and they occupied the administration building. The whole campus was in turmoil.

Behrman:

Yeah! Big! It was really big.

Button-Shafer:

In 1964 there continued to be meetings of the physicists in the Alvarez group every Monday night at Luis’ and Jan’s home. One of the meetings was turned over to the chairman of the Berkeley Physics Department. Burt Moyer, LBL experimentalist and a very nice chap, came over to the Alvarez Monday eve meeting to talk about how he and chairman of several other campus departments had engaged with Mario Savio. They had tried to get him and his followers to compromise because they were in danger of being expelled from the university. And Moyer indicated they had some admiration for these people being purists. (I sat there thinking – Not wanting to compromise? But what’s democracy all about? So, anyway, Alvarez was certainly interested. But it was the privilege you see of the people on the faculty to discuss things on campus and also to discuss them with the lab. Cause the questions spilled over to the lab. We had all these undergraduates working part-time whether they were in physics or not. And then we had all these people going through their graduate studies and so on. But if a woman were to discuss it then you could get chewed out by this fellow (Lynn, the same guy who had stolen data from me). He also felt that he should’ve been given credit for something where the British woman had her name first on some paper that got published. And Lynn didn’t play a big role but they were trying to put some automatic measuring devices online directly with computer. And Margaret Alston played quite a major role, but Lynn felt he’d been involved so he was making a lot of trouble. And it seemed as if not only did he harangue his wife and tell her she was stupid! He would say that in the presence of other people! “Lois, why are you saying that? You’re just stupid!” Or, “That’s a stupid question!” And she loved music and she got her daughter interested in playing with me and so on. And Lois was very sweet. And she played violin herself. Though I never heard her, but she had a career. She was a clinical attendant at one of the big hospitals on a part-time basis.

I finally decided that Lynn was just manipulative. And I asked him finally about the data that he stole from me that Luis wouldn’t allow to be published. He didn’t quite apologize, but just explained that he was often depressed. (His wife told me that Lynn had never felt very confident as a physicist, as his fellow student Frank C. was very clever, and of course, his mentor Alvarez was outstanding. Incidentally, I learned much later that Lynn was very helpful in writing recommendations to the Nobel committee in Stockholm that Luis Alvarez should be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.) up to a different energy. Hence the film that the LBL people had originally agreed to send our UCLA collaborators, the particular range of beam momentum promised, was expected to be something they wanted to retain for analysis by the Alvarez group. And would you believe this? I found that the physicist who preceded me in managing a shift at the Bevatron was entering false information in the logbook?

My husband happened to be on beam duty at that time, heard some of the earlier discussion about falsifying records, and I saw in the logbook that the previous shift leader had mis-recorded intentionally the momentum range of the particular runs that had ended as I came in. I literally grabbed the bubble chamber film, got it boxed up, and got it sent to UCLA so that the Alvarez group couldn’t hang onto it. And I contemplated going to Luis and telling him this gentlemen’s agreement with Harold Ticho is being violated. I decided I’d better not do that, because I didn’t know where the impetus came from. Just that the theorists had changed their minds as to what effective mass a predicted resonance might have. Or somebody had gotten an inkling of the original prediction was wrong and to find a new resonant state, the Alvarez group needed have filmed events gotten with different beam momentum settings from those originally upon. So, there were things like that going on. It wasn’t just Lynn’s taking my data, but it was just the general politics. Later, I got asked as a faculty member at UMass (in a call from Burt Moyer, the Physics department chair) if I would consider recommending to UMass as a faculty member somebody who was a wonderful physicist. Contemporary graduate student with me, and very productive as a graduate student in Moyer’s group. Might’ve been Jewish. I don’t know. His name was Sherwood Parker. But he and I dominated a campus seminar on some particular paper (one by Gian-Carol Wick on the Dirac equation), and I always admired him. But he was just a little too methodical, a little too serious; his personality didn’t suit Luis. Luis had blackballed him, I think, when Sherwood was proposed for the Berkeley faculty. I heard that in a very roundabout way. But Sherwood, my friend, Sherwood who spent a lot of time at International House, knew Jan Landis and Alvarez very well. Sherwood later did a lot in radiation physics, on diagnosing cancer. And Burt Moyer when he was chairman of the department, called and asked me if there might be a position for Sherwood, because he was allowed to teach only as a lecturer, but he was blackballed for faculty. And it was personality! Get that. He was picked up by University of Hawaii and he did manage to do some teaching, but mostly continued as a visiting experimentalist at Berkeley. So, you get all these things that aren’t based on objective fact, you know? Politics. Well, it was said long ago by Henry Kissinger, after serving as a dean at Harvard, that politics can be worse in academia than it is in the business world. [laugh] … because the stakes are so little. [laugh] Anyway, when would you like to resume?

Behrman:

Let’s say—no worries. Let me stop the recording then for now.

Button-Shafer:

Yeah.

[End session 3]

[Begin session 4]

Behrman:

I’ve now started the recording. So, the date is February 9th, 2021. This is Joanna Behrman talking again with Dr. Janice Button-Shafer. So, last time we talked we left off as you were making the transition from the Alvarez group to working at UMass. So, what were some of your priorities when you were going to start at UMass Amherst?

Button-Shafer:

Definitely it was research but I also loved teaching. I had done teaching for five semesters in Berkeley. Two in the summer and there, I think, in the regular school year. Teaching undergraduates even up to the junior level. And everything from freshman mechanics up through mechanics of the junior year. Analytical mechanics and then modern physics. So, I’d had a fair amount of experience. So, I knew I enjoyed teaching, but I knew I would never be, at least not for many years to come as a woman, given the opportunity to teach as a regular professor on campus. So, it appealed to me to go to UMass. And you wanted to know what my goals were. I enjoyed being an administrator and had a lot of experience as an undergraduate at heading various groups whether being the editor-in-chief of the Cornell engineer magazine, but also heading the women’s student government. Hoping to gain some rights for women, more freedom for women on campus. Urged to do that. I was tall; I was conspicuous. I was taking this weird undergraduate course, but I’d always, or maybe my perceived seriousness, I had always been in charge of various groups. So, I felt I could function as an administrator. But that wasn’t quite what drew me to UMass. Bob Gluckstern, who was sort of an applied theorist, had come up from Yale in 1964 where he’d been a professor for some years. And he was hoping we would get a science development grant which amounted to many millions of dollars. The problem was the physics department had to compete with I think two other departments and put in a lengthy proposal. So, that was sort of part of the come on that we could get a whole lot of money for the flagship campus which was Amherst, Massachusetts.

You may recall hearing of the UMass undergraduate school that was near the Kennedy…what’s it called? The Kennedy campus? Anyway, it existed near Boston, eventually. And there was a medical school. And also, an undergraduate institution and Dartmouth, Mass. So, we were the flagship campus and Gluckstern thought that with co-heads of a high energy group, we would be able to make a very good case for a science development grant. He also offered me a very nice salary. And since I went a year later than the fellow, Steven Yamamoto, who I’ve mentioned. Steve Sukeyasu Yamamoto. [laugh] And he had been educated in this country both high schools years, but also had gone through Yale as an undergraduate. Went to prep school at Yale as an undergraduate and then graduate school. His English was very, very good. And he loved to try to embarrass me. He perceived early on that not only was I a little taller than he was, but I also I think I mentioned that I was five feet ten inches tall. I’ve diminished a little, but I’ve almost always been at least the…I like to believe I was as strong, but I was often a little taller than some of my male colleagues at various, various levels. Both as undergraduate, graduate student and also then at UMass. Steve Yamamoto and I (with assistance from the department head Bob Gluckstern, had hired two assistant professors; that is,I had helped to hire them through consultations from LBL in 1965-66. The assistant professors, Dick and Stan, had also arrived a year earlier than I. Steve and I were talking with Dick and Stan about possibilities for use of money from an NSF Science Development Grant. I suggested what we might do with some semiautomatic measuring machines, and related that I had consulted with people at the Digital Equipment Corporation, DEC, in the Boston area. I knew engineering people at DEC who had helped develop measuring machines earlier in Berkeley; and so I had some ideas. And I’d probably been back to Berkeley and consulted about automatic measuring machines and I thought well, why don’t we get our own computer? We were given a lot of free time on the campus computer, a CDC large machine. Treated very well by the fellow running the computer who was a professor of computer science heading that department. But for our automatic, semiautomatic measuring machine, we could very well make use of one of the PDP mini-computers manufactured by DEC, in their plant near Boston. I had in mind a PDP-10. (I believe this was DEC’s precursor of the VAX.

So, what happened was that Steve and the two younger guys and I were all standing in the hallway in discussion outside our offices, and along came Bob Gluckstern, our department head – and also the primary person responsible for building up our high-energy research group. And he was quite interested. He stopped and listened a little bit and heard about possibilities I was suggesting of having a measuring machine for analyzing bubble chamber film. This would be film we would bring back from accelerator labs. As Bob left us, Steve said, “Gee, I’m glad I had that idea” in a voice loud enough for Bob to hear. Steve did that quite frequently. He would take something that I would say and then represent it as his own idea. And I think you asked, well how did we keep up on things? Well, Steve and I would run the group, and have a postdoc whom I hired. I didn’t get the one I had my eye on from Berkeley; he went to Columbia University. But I had a postdoc hired through our contract money. So, we had a sizable group – four faculty, one postdoc, and five graduate students. Also, with research money through our AEC contract, we employed a number of individuals (mostly students) as part-time helpers for scanning and measuring bubble-chamber film. For analysis work, we employed a part-time experienced person as programmer. And we would have research group meetings at least once a week. Steve and I would discuss various ongoing or anticipated projects with the younger members of our research group. On occasion, the meeting could be awkward: Steve once developed a proof of a known relationship for a particular research project, and did not show it to me in advance. He distributed copies of his calculations to the members of our research group during our meeting. Suddenly he asked, “What do you think, Janice?” And I scanned through the calculation and saw that he came out with the right answer. He was trying to prove a certain known relation, but he made a rather foolish mistake in transforming from one independent variable to another, going from something as a function of x to the appropriate function of x-squared (where x stood for “effective mass” of two particles). And I would see that he didn’t include the derivative that’s necessary for a change in the independent variable. But he fixed it up later on, with another error, and he didn’t seem to know he’d made the two errors in his “proof.”

There were other awkward times when he wouldn’t know how to explain something, but thought he did. He decided he would learn from me about relativistic spin transformations. (I had experience in nuclear and particle physics analysis in Berkeley, both as a graduate student and as a postdoc, where I learned – and taught students – how to deal with relativistic momentum and spin transformations. Steve’s thesis work at Yale and later research at Brookhaven Lab did not include such relativistic transformations.) However, he looked at some memoes I had written at LBL, and of course he generated his own memo, one that didn’t appear helpful. Steve often would think he knew something or understood it when he didn’t. And he also had never taught before he came to UMass. And so, it was quite clear that he was somewhat uncomfortable with teaching. (His English was excellent, so not a problem. But teaching a senior-level undergraduate physics class appeared to be tiring for him.) But he knew every important physicist in the world, at least to hear him tell it. So, he was very sure of himself, when it came to having influence not only with physicists at Yale, but physicists at other institutions. As a postdoc Steve had spent a few years at Brookhaven Lab, and done research under a superb physicist, an outstanding Yale professor named Bill Willis. So, Steve had connections. [laugh]

After I arrived at UMass-Amherst in the fall of 1966, as Associate Professor and co-head of the largest physics research group, I found I was being called “Mrs.” by several secretaries (presumably through Steve’s influence). Steve was called “professor,” and even the postdoc I hired from LBL was sometimes called professor when he did a little teaching. So, I was kind of on the defensive – except that I had a good friendship with the assistant professors, especially the one who had been at Johns Hopkins and studied some engineering, and took care of the hardware for event measurements, along with a hired technician. I never was quite so close to software types. The other assistant professor was more of an expert in software. But anyway, Steve would, we faculty would be chatting on some occasion. Maybe in the hallway, maybe in one of our faculty offices. And suddenly Steve would say, “Oh shit!” or “Oh damn!” And then he’d whirl around and say, “Oh excuse me, Janice!” As if I’d never heard the word shit before. He did everything he could to make me feel out of place. [laugh]

Behrman:

Oh. That’s silly.

Button-Shafer:

And if anybody was visiting and we had a reception at the faculty club, Steve would behave in an unusually gracious way. For example, the head of physics at Brookhaven Lab (Ronnis Rau) came up to visit, as we were interested in getting him to succeed Bob Gluckstern as our department head, when it became clear that Gluckstern was moving on to be UMass provost and then eventually to be chancellor at the University of Maryland. Well, I was teaching an afternoon lab and came over a little bit late to the faculty club; other professors, probably those in high-energy physics and nuclear physics, plus Bob Gluckstern were all there having a drink before dinner. So, I came in and found no seat available. Well, I was in the habit of showing I was just as strong and just as resilient as any man around, so I was usually the last one to take a seat when few were available. Immediately after I entered, Steve jumped up, and said, “Oh, let me give you my seat, Janice!” As if I expected to be catered to. That was not the way he behaved in private, but it was the way he behaved in public. So, he was always trying to embarrass me, but I was stunned to find after I’d been there for some months that Steve had said that he couldn’t work with me. And that I should be let go. (Neither of us had tenure yet, though we were both associate professors.) I was never given a chance to talk to the older professors, and did not know of Steve’s demand at that time. I learned later that Bob Gluckstern called together a number of older faculty to talk with Steve; they wanted to know what’s wrong, and Steve couldn’t tell ‘em. I think a year later he tried again to get me dislodged.

Behrman:

This was only about a year after you had arrived?

Button-Shafer:

A year after I arrived, but it was a secret discussion; so it could have happened even earlier. (Incidentally, I happened to run into an AEC administrator some years later, and was told that the UMass high-energy contract was awarded to our group primarily because of MY reputation, not Steve’s. though I hadn’t yet left LBL for UMass. Gluckstern had sought my help both in getting the high-energy contract and in hiring the assistant professors during the 1965-66 year while I was still in Berkeley.)

In May of 1967, just as classes were ending, I gave birth to daughter Christina. I took one week off from teaching for each of my two sets of kids, with my twin boys arriving in late February of 1970. During my pregnancy with Christina, through the first academic year spent at UMass, I felt quite healthy, though I was 35 years of age, and the difficult delivery process lasted a long time in the hospital before she was born. Twenty-hours or more. Bob Gluckstern rushed over to the hospital early on a Monday morning because he heard I had gone into the hospital Sunday evening and thought Christina would’ve been born by then. He was so concerned about me. Not only was he open-minded about having a woman as co-head of a group, which was extraordinary in those times, but he also cared about people. He would have parties for Physics & Astronomy faculty in his home; and he and I played music together. He played clarinet and he loved chamber music. And he had brought me onto the UMass faculty at a salary considerably higher than Steve’s salary. I had argued early on that Steve’s salary should be brought up to meet mine. It was a lot of money for just nine months (with another 2/9 of my academic salary expected for summer research). Much more than I’d been getting at Berkeley as a postdoc. So, Bob was very, very supportive. But you see, I didn’t think I needed a mentor. I thought I was getting away from some of the political maneuverings at Berkeley and from some very competitive physicists.

Let me interject the following: I heard, I think, first from Mrs. Segrè, but I think I also understood from Luis Alvarez’s wife, that their husbands had no friends. The experimental physicists on faculties in various universities were often so competitive, particularly in Berkeley, that they didn’t seem to have close friends.Some of them were nice guys and could get along, but not the most ambitious physicists, the foremost achievers. The ones who wanted Nobel Prizes. With Bob Gluckstern’s friendly manner and his skill in attracting very accomplished physicists and astronomers to the UMass faculty, I had thought – especially after starting a family – that I would fit in more easily at UMass than at LBL. I was rather naïve.

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

But anyway, I definitely decided to leave Berkeley maybe permanently to go to Massachusetts. I already had spent some years in the state. I’d grown up near Boston, but I didn’t know the Amherst area and found it very appealing. Gluckstern did a lot of planning and talking to people and he knew a lot about accelerators. That was his field of expertise, accelerator design. And got grants for that even when he was still was provost. He was still doing research and going to Brookhaven and to SLAC to Stanford area. So, he told me right after I arrived. I think it was before he found out that I was three months pregnant. [laugh] And that did shake him up a bit. But he would invite me to go along to lunch at the faculty club along with him and a couple of others and he would tell me privately right after I arrived at UMass that he heard from Art Rosenfeld, one of the more significant people in the Alvarez group, that I would have been in the Berkeley faculty had I not been a woman. So, I got told that point blank. And I heard it again and again many decades later. I think the Berkeley faculty were really, the ones that I knew were really rather embarrassed. But they didn’t even consider hiring a woman for another couple of decades after I left. Then they took Vera Lüth. You mentioned to me in your questions. Did I know Vera Lüth and I did come to know her eventually. She was considered before anybody else, but her offer was essentially ruined by (I think) the same fellow whom I found difficult in the Alvarez group, Lynn S. At UMass I told Gluckstern that I sensed early on that Steve Yamamoto was uncomfortable in working with me. I said, “Bring his salary up to at least what mine is. He's been here a year longer.” Also I suggested Steve’s name be put forward for a big biennial conference, the “Rochester conference” that was going to take place in 1968 in Vienna. And I speak some German. I would have loved to go to the conference, but I said Steve was here a year before me. Let him go to the conference. Apparently in faculty meetings I would not necessarily speak up if I knew the answer to something, but I’d sort of wait for Steve to express his opinion. But I found he was spreading libel. He was spreading untruths about me about how I stole a graduate student from another group, etc. Anyway, it was becoming very difficult. So, what happened was that Steve wanted to be advanced from associate professor, the position which we both had, though we didn’t have tenure. By 1970 the people who made these decisions, the members of the Executive Personnel Committee within the UMass physics department decided that if Steve and I could get along, we would both be advanced to Full Professor, though still without tenure. (I was not part of the discussion, but heard of it informally.) Steve would again try to get me dislodged – fired – in the late 60s. The older faculty said, “Look. If you want to be advanced to full professor, we have to advance you and Janice at the same time. If you can get along we will advance you to your full professorship, but we’re not giving you tenure. Not until we see how it works out.” [laugh] So, I didn’t get tenure until 1972 or 1973. And by then, Steven had given up trying to dislodge me. In fact, he decided to return with his family to Japan (Tokyo University).

Behrman:

What was the feeling in the department? Did you feel like people were taking sides with you and Steve? Or did you feel like you were supported?

Button-Shafer:

I didn’t know a lot of what was going on, but after maybe the second try when they had sort of agreed right on the spot with Steve, “Well, yes, we know that some of your contemporaries are already full professors at other universities and we would consider it. But you and Janice are running this high energy group.” So, I wasn’t included in that conversation. It got done and then reported to me. By whom? By Steve. He took me out after the meeting and bought me a martini and said, “Let’s have a drink.” And then he told me that he had been asked, “Why can’t you and Janice get along?” And he couldn’t come up with any valid reason. In my opinion, the problems stemmed from his insecurity. The worst thing you can get into if you’re an experimental physicist or maybe even as a theorist, but I think you don’t get the personalities so much in conflict in an obvious way in the theoretical world. But as you do an experiment where time is often limited, you have to make decisions to go ahead on things. I found that at Brookhaven Lab, when my UMass group was running an experiment (that Steven had proposed but was not involved in) that directed antiprotons into a 30-inch bubble chamber, that the postdoc I had hired somewhat reluctantly from decided he wouldn’t put notes in the general logbook. He’d put notes in his own logbook. He felt he should take charge, although he had never set up a beamline with the bending magnets, focusing magnets and detectors. But he prided himself in his ability to talk to graduate students. I was quite aware that Jerry had spent very little time at the accelerator in Berkeley before coming to UMass. Was not one of the most accomplished or knowledgeable students and he had no business as the junior person of our group going down to Brookhaven and putting notes in his own logbook. Also, I couldn’t persuade the assistant professors that we needed to retune the beam. We had not designed the beam with the various bending magnets, focusing magnets, detectors. But it was used by quite a number of groups from other situations. And was maintained by people in house. And somebody who was responsible for seeing that the beamline was being properly maintained and that we were getting good data in the bubble chamber, found we were doing things that were a waste of time. When I wasn’t there they would, the assistant professors also felt that they, especially the guy who was knowledgeable in software, that they should be in charge and I tried to dissuade them from spending in varying magnet current settings that didn’t make any difference for the beam. The result was that the in-house physicist that monitored beam usage reported to Brookhaven administrators that we were wasting time, in spending hours of beam time on useless tuning activities. And that was a big embarrassment to me because I had worked with some of the best beam designers in the world. Not just in the U.S., but in the world – with LBL and UCLA experts. (I had found at Brookhaven Lab that there were engineer types who knew a lot about beam design and detectors, and they were much impressed by the unusual beam-design accomplishments of the LBL expert, my colleague and friend Joe Murray. (As a hardware type, you often don’t have time to put out publications or they’re not noticed.)

When it came time for me to be considered for tenure, I believe Steve had left UMass and gone back to Japan probably by ’72 or so; and so he was not there to be awarded tenure. But I had to provide recommendations, and decided to ask Luis Alvarez to write a recommendation for me, based on my work at LBL.

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

And various other people, such as Harold Ticho from UCLA. I had superb recommendations, but my resume was stripped by a fellow my age, a theorist who had succeeded Bob Gluckstern as UMass physics head. He decided I was to be denied tenure. Gluckstern was out of the picture, you see. So, a theorist who considered himself very important, but had not done much research in recent years, decided to get rid of me.

Behrman:

When you say stripped—

Button-Shafer:

And he didn’t succeed. I got tenure anyway. And I got a congratulatory letter from Luis. The doorbell just rang. Can you turn off the recorder for just a minute?

Behrman:

Oh, yes. I will pause.

Button-Shafer:

[Perhaps I could interject here some description of my continuing interest in music. I had an unusual opportunity during my sabbatical semester in the fall of 1973, a semester spent with my husband and our three young children in California, in our Kensington house, a short distance from Berkeley. We had decided to keep the house and, during our years in Amherst, MA, to rent it – modestly furnished –to faculty visiting UC Berkeley from other institutions. Our daughter and two sons had all been born in Amherst, but loved to visit our modest Kensington house for short periods in certain summers when there were no renters; they got to see their grandma, John’s mother, at her home in Fresno or in our Kensington house, and they became acquainted with San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area. In 1973 Christina attended first grade, and got to know a classmate who became a lifelong friend; the boys, at less than three years of age, enjoyed attending a nursery school in a neighboring community. Although I spent much time at LBL interacting with former physics colleagues, I was also in touch with experimental activities developing at the Brookhaven Multiparticle Spectrometer – where I planned eventually to use my “spin refrigerator,” the spin-polarized target I was developing at UMass. (The MPS looked like a better system for installation of my target than a Berkeley LBL bubble chamber; and the AGS accelerator offered much higher beam energies than available at the LBL Bevatron.)

During that sabbatical semester I had opportunities to work with a professional singer, a mezzo soprano who was a leading soloist with the New York City Opera, but had her home in Berkeley. I learned of her from my old friend, LBL theorist Henry (“Hank”) Stapp, when I ran into him at an Argonne Lab conference (near Chicago) in mid-1972, and found that – despite his rather reclusive nature – he had suddenly fallen in love with a very successful opera singer, and had married her. During my fall 1973 sabbatical in Berkeley, I came to know Olivia (Brewer) Stapp, and spent many delightful hours in the Stapps’ home as a rehearsal pianist for operatic roles that Olivia was studying. (She had a powerful voice, and in 1973 had been asked to perform as the lead soprano for a restaging of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Consul at the New York City Opera.) As Olivia sang the soprano lead role in many operas staged in New York, I often managed in later years to hear her perform in operas such as Bizet’s Carmen, Mascagni’s Cavalieria rusticana, and Richard Strauss’ Salome. In passing through New York City on my way from UMass in Amherst to Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island, or in periods spent in residence at Brookhaven, I had opportunities to hear Olivia. My husband or a few physicist friends from Brookhaven accompanied me to a few of Olivia’s performances… and she would arrange to provide me with tickets (and even invite me to an occasional cast party after an operatic performance). In her later years, after being taken onto the roster of the New York Metropolitan Opera, I heard Olivia sing at the Met opposite baritone Sherrill Milnes in a performance of Verdi’s Macbeth. Olivia had a powerful voice and was a superb dramatic actress. She had studied in New York City and also in Paris. After marrying Hank Stapp around 1970, she lived in Berkeley except for some weeks in the fall and in the spring months when she was performing in NY City. She also sang in Europe, at La Scala in Milan and at Covent Garden in England. When her husband Hank was to spend a year working with Wolfgang Pauli in Zurich, he had to change plans because of Pauli’s death; so the Stapps went to Munich for a year, where Hank worked with Heisenberg – and Olivia sang in German opera houses. After getting acquainted in the fall of 1973, Olivia and I kept in touch, and often saw each other for some music when I made research trips to Berkeley or SLAC. At one point, we planned to present a recital of the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss in Berkeley. As she got into her sixties, Olivia did less singing and turned more to teaching, and to becoming the artistic director of the Festival Opera Company in Walnut Creek, and ultimately to writing reviews of opera performances in the San Francisco area. In the late 1990s, when I returned with husband John to our Kensington (Berkeley) house, Olivia suggested I join her in playing piano for young singers in auditions that she held out California for the Walnut Creek Festival Opera. She offered to pay me for helping with the auditions… but I was not interested in accompanying singers, and preferred to spend my “retirement” years in physics activities AND in playing chamber music informally with instrumentalists. I do have to admit that I had found Olivia in the 1970s and later to be one of the most talented sopranos I have known… but I would rather be a partner in playing chamber music than to be an accompanist for singers, as I discovered in many decades ago.]

Behrman:

OK. I have restarted the recording now. So, you were talking about the tenure process when we left off. And I was wondering if you could define the term “stripped” when you said that this person stripped your resume?

Button-Shafer:

I was told by the main Physics secretary that the new hear had eliminated everything from my CV except degree dates and bibliography, when he sent out the CV with a request for a recommendation regarding tenure for me. Nellie B., the secretary, had been with the department well before I arrived and really admired Bob Gluckstern as head. And she was very unhappy with his successor. I found that various awards, including fellowship in the APS, woman’s badge in Tau Beta Pi (the Engineering honorary), and the Fulbright fellowship for my year in Germany, had all been deleted. In addition, descriptions of my research activities were taken out. (The department head, prior to departmental consideration of tenure for me, told me he thought I wouldn’t get tenure. He mentioned that Luis Alvarez, whom I included as a reference, was not well-liked on the east coast; and that I did not have enough suitable references.) As I mentioned before, I was awarded tenure despite the head’s efforts. I was also pleased to receive congratulations from Luis Alvarez!

This chap who headed our department was contemporary with me at Berkeley. I believe he had done undergraduate work at UC Berkeley, as well as his doctoral thesis. His background was weak – in that he misused English grammar, pronounced wrongly well-known names in music – and he also seemed not to have pursued physics research after coming to UMass. Our former department head Bob Gluckstern had attended New York City College and then did his doctoral work at M.I.T. (Ph.D. in 1948); Bob came to UMass from Yale. He had never used quantum mechanics. Instead his research was in accelerator design, involving electric and magnetic fields. So, Bob had a sort of understanding with the theorists in the department that they would call the shots. In fact, they went so far as to try to get Gluckstern as head reprimanded by a faculty vote against giving a graduate student a thesis project that didn’t involve quantum mechanics. These younger people in the department, roughly my age or younger, who were calling the shots as far as teaching was concerned in modern physics and quantum mechanics. And so, Bob kind of let them steer things. But we experimentalists overturned and gave Gluckstern the vote to support him in having a graduate student do a PhD thesis on research that didn’t involve quantum mechanics.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

So Bob Gluckstern was gone. I didn’t realize that I you know, probably still needed a mentor being the only woman in the department, combined department of physics and astronomy which had at least 65 faculty. And many of them hired, it became a real research department under Gluckstern’s guidance and he was superb at bringing people up to be faculty members from Yale, even from Princeton and Berkeley and so on. So, Bob had favored high energy physics and condensed matter physics. Those are the areas he’d built up, but the theorists felt they were running the place. Let me put in another interjection, interpolation. I suggested to Bob that I’d learned a lot of nuclear physics and particle physics by going from the lab down on campus and attending a seminar for students. And they had Berkeley faculty. They had an eminent theorist and an eminent experimentalist who well established the head of the theory group, for example. Geoffrey Chew. And then one of Alvarez’s most active physicists, one who had come to us from Chicago. To Berkeley from Chicago in the early 50s. Had known Enrico Fermi and so on. So, anyway, I told Bob that I learned so much from looking at these and giving talks on the preprints that were available that were hot off the press. They weren’t yet published. (An example of interesting papers treated in the Berkeley seminar: In trying to understand parity in weak decays of two K mesons that had similar mass but showed opposite parities in their weak decays,Lee and Yang had put out one paper parity is conserved in in weak decays, but there may be parity doublets. Lee and Yang’s other paper suggested that parity might be violated in weak decays. I think I mentioned to you Madame Wu did the experiment, but Lee and Yang got the Nobel Award for their theoretical work on parity violation.)

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

Chamberlain had remarked privately that Lee and Yang were sitting on both sides of the fence. They could’ve won either way! Whether parity was conserved or it was violated. But anyway, we had a good time in the UC Berkeley seminar in looking at not only their work, but other papers that were in preprint form, or newly published. I especially enjoyed studying a paper of Gian-Carlo Wick that had to do with lots of things relating to elementary particles by considering the Dirac equation under various actions of C or P or T. And so, it was a wonderful learning experience and I along with another graduate student got to talk quite a few times cause we were tearing a paper apart and understanding it, the one that was a long review article by Gian-Carlo Wick. So, anyway, I told Gluckstern that I had learned many things about particle physics from the Berkeley student seminars, which were held almost every semester, and directed byone faculty theorist and one experimenter. So, could we try it at UMass? Oh sure, said Bob. And I don’t know that I touched on this before, but it was my suggestion. Bob adopted it. We scheduled it. Well, he scheduled two theorists somehow, rather than just one – to run the seminar along with me. And maybe the theorists couldn’t make up their mind which one of them wanted to be involved. And there was a new book out on weak interactions that was considered quite a good one. And so, they announced, these two theorists announced to me when the first meeting took place they didn’t need me. It was gonna be their seminar. They just took over! That was the atmosphere at UMass and I at one point looked around the whole country put out by the APS course [inaudible] but there was a faculty directory that would tell you who the people are on the faculty at all the institutions in the whole country. I don’t think that the AIP or the APS put that out, but it was a directory that was available at least to members of the APS. And I looked through the directories and of the people I knew and I knew quite a number of theorists.

Behrman:

Sure.

Button-Shafer:

I concluded that as the new people came up into the faculties at various universities, the theorists became almost equal in numbers to experimenters and then they soon surpassed. Whereas back in the early 1960s, at Berkeley and LBL, one young theorist (who was associated for a time with the Alvarez group experimentalists), remarked, “Why, there are six times as many experimenters here as there are theorists!” It was true. But physics departments were changing. Theorists were staying home more than experimentalists did, and they didn’t need a lot of money at universities. All they needed was a place to work and a pencil and paper.

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

And eventually maybe a computer. But they didn’t have a lot of needs the way experimenters did who had to have labs and had to have funding from outside sources so they could go off to do their experiments if they had to do them in accelerators. So anyway, theorists were becoming far, far greater in numbers. And they did come to dominate the UMass department to the point where I was hardly even…you know, and these were people younger than I. Two theorists, one of them was a chap at Cornell who came along. I’d been at Cornell as an undergraduate. This guy, don’t know where he did his undergraduate work, but he ended up doing his studies at Cornell and wrote to me when I was at Berkeley asking for my data. I wasn’t sure he understood the expectation values of spin parameters (of irreducible tensors) that I had published, so I sent him my data also simpler forms. But I was very accommodating. And he wrote his thesis using some experimental data that I had analyzed from the bubble chamber at Berkeley;but he went a step further with some more eloquent theory. And lo and behold he ended up at UMass. And my daughter got to know this chap’s son who went into physics as well. Into condensed matter physics. But anyway, this chap Gene was one of the two people who decided they didn’t need me to be able to explain weak interaction to the graduate students. And it got to the point where one of our most outstanding graduate students was very good in theory as well as experiment. And he bemoaned the fact that he’d get teased by his friends who were in graduate schools at UMass because he was doing experimental work. And his rejoinder, his response usually to his theory friends who were going to get their Ph.D.’s in some area of theoretical physics, probably particle physics. One of the most outstanding graduate students who got tenure at Tufts later on with unanimous vote. He was so good. He had various positions as a postdoc. But he was a sweet guy and very productive and extremely knowledgeable and as good in theory as most of his friends. So, he would say to his theory student friends, “Oh, you guys, you think experimenters are a lower form of life or something.” He says, “But what do you get in theory? You go and you sit in a classroom and the professor splatters algebra all over the board. No sketches.”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

I’ve seen a few fellows trained in condensed matter physics who could hardly be identified as theorists or experimenter; theorists would be very good at talking about experiments, and vice versa. But in the high energy world, the particle-physics world, theory was diverging from experiments by the mid-to-late 1960s. Getting to the point where experimenters were having trouble trying to understand new developments in theory.

Behrman:

I see.

Button-Shafer:

Both in particle physics and in nuclear physics. The theorists were tending to poison the minds. Well, that’s too strong a term. But they were tending to put a lot of algebra on the board and not do much that was helpful in the way of making sketches. So, I think I may have told you that, with my husband being in mathematics, we heard a world famous Polish-American logician, Alfred Tarski, give an undergrad talk mostly meant for undergraduate math majors. But it started out as a talk and many faculty or postdocs came to hear his talk as well. The lecture hall was overflowing one afternoon in Berkeley in the early 60s, about ’63. So, this Alfred Tarski started his talk by saying, “My first love was geometry!” And he proceeded to give a really cute problem. A topological problem. How many cuts does it take to cut a rug up in to a certain number of pieces, etc.? Anyway, but then he went on to say, “All mathematicians may be classified as algebraists or geometrists. [inaudible] I turned to my husband, “Which are you?” Even though he eventually ended up doing his thesis work in algebra, but also had interest in logic. And made sketches for himself, by the way. But he was studying pure mathematics. My husband was. Yet, his first love was geometry. So, he immediately said, “Oh, my love was geometry.” And then he said to me, “What about you?” And I said, “Oh. I’m a geometrist.” Much more [inaudible].

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

And theorists when they, if you ask them that question as I did in the late 60s to an MIT faculty member at a conference where we were having a little social get together afterwards. I asked a chap named Francis Low who was a very eminent theorist at MIT. Just to make conversation. “And by the way, do you consider yourself more an algebraist or a geometrist?” He wasn’t sure. I think probably he was one of those people who was superb with algebra but also liked geometry. But most mathematicians, well, most theorists tend to be oriented more towards algebra. Whereas experimenters are much more likely to think through things geometrically, which can oftentimes get you to an answer a little sooner.

Behrman:

Right, right.

Button-Shafer:

But that’s a problem that will never be settled. But anyway.

Behrman:

Speaking of your husband. He followed you to the east coast, correct?

Button-Shafer:

Yes, he did. (He urged me in 1965 to do whatever would be best for my career. If that meant my moving to UMass-Amherst in the fall or 1966, that would be OK. He thought he would finish his doctoral studies in a couple of years, and could spend a few months with me in Amherst every half year while continuing with thesis work in California – and then would look for a position at or near UMass.) I should explain that John, although seven years my senior, he didn’t start his undergraduate studies until age 31. He’d been a conscientious objector toward the end of the Second World War. And anyway, afterwards he had a foster father. His mother was very close to him. Only child. And he didn’t realize that he wanted to go to college and to study mathematics and that was because his foster father, somebody of German origin, maybe medical training, had a house in LA in part of Los Angeles. Very elegant house. And he had taken in orphans or boys. Young boys who were being raised by single parents.

So, my husband’s mother, my mother-in-law to be had thought he could benefit from a male influence when he was about age 12 or so. And the problem was that this man, Pop Shafer, changed my husband’s name from Howard Johnson to John Shafer. That was his last name, but he didn’t adopt him. But he changed his name and there were maybe a dozen or more boys sort of intermediate school or high school level. And they had chores to do. This Pop Shafer was quite a disciplinarian. And he was very fond of my husband to be, of his mother. But he was not well physically. He moved the group of boys from the LA area up to the Fresno area. Got interested in raising Holstein—my husband said “hole-steen”—Holstein cows and had sort of a farm. But then the war years came along and the fellows were either drafted or went into conscientious objector camp. So, my husband felt responsible for him and he’d been indoctrinated with the fact that the orphans or the boys who had the split parents were to stop calling their parents “mother” or “father.” This was a disciplinarian German style who insisted that the boys do chores and insisted that they stop [inaudible] closely to their parents. So, John’s mother did help Pop Shafer, even worked for him. She’d had a career all her life in the business world. But mostly working for an architecture firm. But during the war years she did not and she and my husband to be sort of looked after Pop Shafer after the war. And he died of, I think of diabetes and other problems in the 50s. I never met him. But he was quite a disciplinarian, but a very, very interesting man with a rather mysterious background. But he seemed to know people in Hollywood. But he was a misogynist and he had his boys not only refraining from using the term “mom” or “dad,” but even not being much interested in getting married. So, my husband and I didn’t get married until he was age 37. He’d never had a girlfriend as far as I know. And this was in part the influence of Pop Shafer, but eventually John managed to strike out on his own and his mother was thrilled when he decided—Pop Shafer had died—he decided, John did, that he would go to Fresno State College. Cause he had loved math in high school and he had a very outstanding woman teacher who gave John and a few other problems that were Caltech entrance problems. She really challenged them in math. John was always a loner and so were the few serious students that he knew. He didn’t keep track of them. But got to know a graduate student at Berkeley. He was also a loner like so many of the graduate students. It was a tough slog. So, John went through Fresno in three years. Got his bachelor’s; one year more he got his master’s degree. Came up to Berkeley expecting to do mathematical logic, but Berkeley was a burial ground of a lot of good young mathematicians. Somebody from the faculty at I think at University of Illinois, or maybe Illinois Tech came out and taught geometry and had John as a teaching assistant. My husband. And John really loved that. And this faculty member from the Chicago area said, “Well, Berkeley is a burial ground because out of 400 graduate students in math, they were producing up to 10 Ph.D.’s per year. Physics was producing close to 50 Ph.D.’s per year.”

Behrman:

Wow.

Button-Shafer:

They’d grown from what I experienced in the mid to late 50s, there were 200 graduate students I think in Berkeley. But 150 maybe. Only a few of whom were women. [laugh] Very few. But by the time John and I were married in 1962, both the physics department and the math department had 400-450 graduate students. But Berkeley physics department was turning out ten times as many Ph.D.’s as math. Why? Because the math department had this horrible oral exam. And I don’t know how many mathematicians you’ve known. Computer scientists might be [laugh] in some respects even more, tended to be [inaudible], to work weird hours. Or neuroscientists. I keep thinking of you as having a partner in computer science.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

I don’t know about neuroscientists. No judgment on that. But computer scientists don’t live in real space or time. Something I used to apply to mathematicians. So, anyway, John was older than most of the graduate students and you had to be in the underground and work with other mathematicians to know the kinds of problems that might be asked. Many of the professors at Berkeley didn’t necessarily follow a syllabus. Or they would use a text that was written in Polish. One professor said, “Well,”—it was of course a measure theory that John was taking. Somebody asked, “Well, we’re not sure what you’re following in the syllabus or why are you using a textbook.” “Oh yes, it’s written in Polish, but that’s easy if you know Russian.” So anyway, and then you had to go before three different committees if you wanted to pass the qualifying exam. Each one of them lasted maybe two or three hours. It was oral questioning and one young fellow was having a girlfriend from the humanities help him memorize. They would memorize the theorems, and the young guys that might memorize theorems might do better than those who tried to think things through logically. My husband used to joke that in Berkeley the students just memorized the steps to prove a certain theorem. But he said in UMass, some of the students didn’t even know what a proof was. But anyway, there’s a lot of memorizing that went on in advance of these qualifiers. The Berkeley mathematics qualifying examinations, all oral, became notorious and even appeared in a little play that was written for a mathematics journal by some guy who didn’t pass his exams. The play represented what happened if you went in one of the lengthy examinations as a very nervous graduate student. And the faculty could be very, very tough on the students. And John and others who were being advised at one point were told, “Well, you’ve got to take your qualifying exam in this term otherwise I won’t sign your study list. You can’t put it off again.” The Berkeley grad students would first sign up to audit a particular graduate course from one professor. Then they’d sign up for the same course as taught by another math professor; and finally they would audit it again – to figure out what each of the professors might expect on the PhD qualifying exam in that area. This man who became for a while the chair of the Berkeley math department insisted that the graduate students had to take the qualifiers a little before they were ready. But then he would add, “But you won’t pass anyway.” And he made it his business to fail the students he was advising. The math professors were really weeding out students through this qualifying exam.

Behrman:

Wow.

Button-Shafer:

And even if you passed the qualifying exam you might now get a doctoral thesis. And one of the big problems was not only that it was all oral, no written part to it, but also they would invite visiting professors or young people, well probably a visiting faculty member who would love to have stayed on at Berkeley cause it did have quite a reputation of course. As did most of the Berkeley math or science departments.

Behrman:

Sure.

Button-Shafer:

So, anyway, the visitors would be invited to sit in on these exams and even pose questions. Well, what were the visitors doing, the faculty level visitors? Well, they were trying to impress the well-established faculty, so they would ask tough questions! So, anyway, that’s my little story about the Berkeley math department. It was really [inaudible]. So much so that I would be asked by people in the Alvarez group, “What’s going on?” Cause they knew my husband was in math and that he was a graduate student. They said, “We hear terrible things about the math department. They’re turning out only five to ten Ph.D.’s per year.” But anyway, John was a good sport. He went along with me to some of the parties and when Murray Gell-Mann was up from Caltech as frequently happened, cause he knew people in the Alvarez group especially Art Rosenfeld, we would go over to a nice restaurant in San Francisco and there might be another math professor. A young guy. But mostly theorists. And I had very good friends. One fellow, Chuck Zemach, who has remained active in theoretical physics even ‘til recent years. And he’s considered practically a god by some of the theoretical physicists at Caltech. He recently sent to me, a lowly experimentalist as well as a bunch of theory friends, and even to his kids, he sent some cute problems: “ten cute problems that I’ve run across over my life” and invited his friends to comment and perhaps respond with their own favorite problems. This was all done by email. So, he’s still trying to be active at age 90, but with a wife who studied biochem, who’s now failing. But anyway, they couldn’t believe these few guys, who have moved into my retirement community Villa Gardens, of Pasadena. One from sort of applied physics but a Harvard Ph.D. who originally did some experiment and then went into theory. Sort of plasma physics, reactor physics. And then he was joining another chap who’s done radio astronomy though he started in electrical engineering. These guys are older than I, 90 years of age and for the more recent arrival. And he came back from before the coronavirus hit. This is over a year ago. Came back from Caltech where they would go to continue doing research or see their colleagues for lunch. And he came back saying, “Oh, I’ve just gotten these problems that Chuck Zemach sent to some of my friends, my colleagues at UMass.” He hadn’t received them directly. And he said, “I see you’ve gotten the problems. You know Zemach?” [laugh] This keeps happening to me over and over again… that older scientists find out my background from Cornell or Berkeley, and are surprised (I guess) that a woman has had all the experiences I have had. Both of these two chaps I mentioned on the faculty at Caltech, one in Applied Physics and the other one in Radio Astronomy. The latter went from Ohio State in engineering to Cornell, and then went to Caltech as faculty member in radio astronomy. And they both couldn’t believe that I went through engineering physics. The minute they heard that I had loved my studies at Cornell, my 180 credit hours of engineering physics,they both expressed surprise. The fellow who’d been at Harvard as a graduate student and did experimental and later theoretical physics, said, “Gee, that was a tough course.” [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

But at least they don’t dispute that I went through it! [laugh]

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

And I have that experience of saying something at an APS meeting. Oh, maybe in the 80s. It was a special invited prof session on how to teach physics. Mostly they were emphasizing graduate physics but also some undergraduate physics. And I had been at Cornell not long before that. I was on occasion invited by a particular talk about physics or even a talk about women in physics. [laugh] Invited by a woman in astronomy I think at Cornell. But anyway, I’ve been at Cornell frequently and used to drive my family to reunions every five years when we were living in the east in Massachusetts. So, a big portly guy heard me make some comments after one particular talk as we were invited to do. And they wanted questions from the audience. So, there being rather few women, I was probably somewhat conspicuous but I stood up and made comments about Cornell’s Engineering Physics program and what a wonderful curriculum it had been when Cornell started it in the late 40s. (They call it Applied and Engineering Physics today.) But I said unfortunately by the mid-60s, Cornell had stopped asking young people, mostly men, to apply for specific areas of engineering, and instead established a basic engineering program for the first two years. They also reduced their five-year requirement to four years for a bachelor’s degree. On occasional visits to Cornell I often saw a few Engineering Physics faculty members whom I would chat with and reminisce with, especially the man who was advisor to my engineering physics class all the way through. He was a superb experimentalist. Atomic physicist experimenter. So at this APS special session on training physics students, I described what I had heard from Cornell faculty: “They’re bemoaning the fact that they consider the Engineering Physics to be treated like the bastard of the engineering college. The Chemical Engineering faculty can get their students who are still taking basic college during their first two years to take a few prerequisites for the junior and senior year, but we can’t get that for our engineering physics students. We get to advise on only about 12 or 13 courses that are taken in Engineering Physics during the junior and senior years.” I knew that they’d stripped a lot of the practical courses like machine shop and casting out of the Engineering Physics program. We learned about transformers. We learned about, we used blowtorches. We did all kinds of things taught by people who were knowledgeable in engineering practices; and the applied work related to our physics courses on such things as elasticity theory. I learned all kinds of things in these practical courses that had been stripped from the Cornell engineering curricula. So, this guy, this portly fellow I chatted with after the APS meeting on education, regarding changes at Cornell, turned out to be a vice president of the Xerox corporation.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Came up to me. The session had broken up and he wanted either to agree with me or maybe dispute one or two things I said. But it didn’t seem that he wanted to believe I knew anything about Cornell and doubted that I could possibly have gone through the five-year Engineering Physics program!

Behrman:

Ugh.

Button-Shafer:

It was written all over his face. It was there the way he said it. I just thought well, that’s the way it is. [laugh] I wondered frankly what his training had been. He looked a little overweight to be a very good experimenter. But that was a guy who was pretty high up in the Xerox Corporation. I was finding that APS meetings could be interesting because, as you’re probably aware, it’s become more common to have people very active in APS who come from industry rather than academia.

Behrman:

Yeah, that’s certainly grown.

Button-Shafer:

But, also good ties with other countries. Anyway, I wanted to go back to your questions. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

I didn’t belong to many committees in the APS and it’s partly because I didn’t have time, but also the ones who did have time tended to be the teachers. Tended not to be so many experimenters. And early on at least there were very few women. That changed.

Behrman:

This actually leads very naturally into one of my questions which is about the different kinds of calculating devices and machinery that you saw change over the course of your career. Cause in the first [inaudible] year you talk about—

Button-Shafer:

I knew you were sort of fascinated with my mentioning the slide rule that I got at age eight.

Behrman:

I thought that was really cool. [laugh] So it’s slide rules and eventually there’s computers.

Button-Shafer:

[laugh] So, I don’t know how long it took me to associate what I could do with a slide rule with what my dad taught me in logarithms. I didn’t mean to give overemphasis to slide rules, but it was fun and it did have scales that involved trigonometric functions. So, I probably asked my dad a little bit about those; but of course you don’t usually get trig and mathematics until high school years at least. But the logarithms we used to get by sixth grade. Logarithms base 10. Not the natural logarithms. The logarithms base 10. And I remember learning about those from my dad a couple years before we got them in sixth grade, but what I can’t recall is whether I compared the use of logarithms with what I did on the slide rule, where adding distances was equivalent to multiplying numbers.

Behrman:

Mm-hmm.

Button-Shafer:

I don’t know that you ever had a slide rule. Most young people have never even seen one. [laugh]

Behrman:

I’ve seen one, but I’m not good at it. It doesn’t…

Button-Shafer:

Yeah, but it’s very quick to take the square root of a number or to take a logarithm. When you went to the university there’s a log log duplex vector. Log duplex vector or log log decitrig. And electrical engineers and engineering physics people all got the one that was a duplex vector. I think it’s because it had hyperbolic sines and cosines. Sin and cos. I don’t know if you ever had to learn about hyperbolic cosine but they can be very useful.

Behrman:

Oh, yeah.

Button-Shafer:

In certain areas of physics. But whether I associated adding the distances on the slide rule, but then reading off numbers that represented the products of 2 x 3 or 3 x 4.5 or whatever and you’d get the answer just by adding displacements. Whether I related that directly to the logarithms where you take the log of some number a plus the logarithm of some number b and get them and then use sum of those two as logarithm c, but then you’d have to get the antilog to find out what c actually was. So, adding logs was equivalent to multiplying the numbers that they represented so I asked my dad why? Why do logarithms work that way? I probably had his log table that he’d use in college and later. And he was very fond of logarithms base 10. He finally said that they were exponents. And if you take the exponent of 100, which is 2 of course, base 10. So, you take the exponent of 100 and you want to multiply 100 by 1000, then you’ve got 3. And you add 2+3, you get 5. And then the inverse of that, the antilog is 100,000. My dad said, “Oh, well, the logarithms are basically exponents even though you could get them you know, into [inaudible] decimal places.” So, you weren’t dealing just with integers. But he explained they were exponents. I said, “Well why didn’t you tell me that to begin with?” [laugh] I remember his answer. He said, “I did but you weren’t listening.” [laugh] But he then conceded that he would not have made a very good teacher because he didn’t have much patience. He would throw things out. But I loved the problems he would give me to do. So, I think I may have told you that I did use the slide rule, a 12-inch one, to try to explain to students of my physics of music class. And that was way back in the 1970s. And only one student who came over from Amherst College had ever seen a slide rule. It didn’t mean anything to them for me to say the frequencies change would go an octave or two octaves or many just the fifth of whatever. The frequencies change multiplicatively. Whereas the displacement is just a linear thing. And I said, “It’s like a slide rule. It’s like the numbers, the frequencies are like the numbers you read off a slide rule if you add distances.” But anyway, it didn’t make much of an impression on many of the music majors. [laugh] And they hadn’t seen a slide rule. But I should’ve emphasized more that my dad’s giving me a feeling for physics cause I think I may have told you that he liked to read things from Encyclopedia Britannica. He was a sales engineer. Electrical engineer, but he’d been a superb student in a five year electrical engineering co-op course in Cincinnati. But when he was sales manager in the Boston area for this [inaudible] cabin electric motors company, first assistant to the manager and then he became the sales manager. And he always made sure he hired good young people to work under him. He wanted them to be not good social people who could drink lots of martinis and play a good game of golf. He wanted young fellows who were good engineers. Since we didn’t have any boys in the family, just my sister and I, just the two of us and Judy was interested in art and not at all interested in science or math. So, my dad made of me sort of a, I guess you could call me a surrogate son. And he would explain things in physics to the extent he understood them. He would explain to me that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light even if you had something coming toward you, travelling at high velocity and emitting light, that it couldn’t reach your eyes any faster than the speed of light. And he tried to understand that from a fairly brief article written by Einstein that appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica. But I think I’ve told you this before. He insisted nobody could understand general relativity except for maybe seven or eight people in the whole world. And that’s changed a lot. [laugh] You’ve probably heard that for the GPS system to work, scientists/engineers had to make some corrections that come out of general relativity.

Behrman:

Oh, yes.

Button-Shafer:

But in any event, but more down to earth things like a car going around curve and I think I may have mentioned to you he explained centrifugal force to me. The force pushing [inaudible] against the outside of the car as the car went around a curve. And gave me the formula for it. Force is equal to mp2/r and I found that very useful even when you get into atomic physics or you talk about charge particles moving in a magnetic field in an accelerator. And in any event, I just thought it was very appealing that he was no Enrico Fermi. [laugh] He didn’t think about physics all the time. Fermi was why everybody’s [inaudible] at least going back to the middle of the 1900s, but even to this day I think many physicists say that Enrico Fermi was the last universal physicist. That he could do experiment and both.

Behrman:

Yes. I’ve heard that.

Button-Shafer:

So, we often heard stories about Fermi and about Pauli. Pauli is a less appealing person than Fermi, but you’ve probably heard a few Pauli stories.

Behrman:

Yes. That he was not a very pleasant man to work with or—

Button-Shafer:

No. And Don Glaser with whom I had an interesting relationship. A little bit like that with Luis Alvarez and his wife to be, Jan Landis, who became Jan Alvarez. But Glaser, the inventor of the bubble chamber eventually got the Nobel award.

Behrman:

Right. Yeah.

Button-Shafer:

[inaudible] 50s, I guess. But he came out well before that and I think I mentioned that Luis thought that since he was developing larger and larger liquid hydrogen bubble chambers that maybe Alvarez thought he might be included along with Glaser. But in any event, Don loved to have women chasing after him and claimed that he had somebody following him from Michigan and therefore I should come and protect him and play music with him. Play beautiful music together cause he played viola. And I played piano and he was renting a house when he first came to Berkeley. And we shared the ticket to the Pablo Casals master class. Pablo Casals did not play publicly, not until Franco could be gotten rid of in Spain. He had fled to France. And you know, studied all these recordings of Casals and cello. But he would play at universities whether in New York City or out in Berkeley and he gave a master class with his wife to be, Marta Casals, accompanying him. So, when he was about age 70 or something like that, Don offered me tickets. He would go one time and then I would go the next time. So, we split the batch of tickets that he had. And we’d go out for a beer occasionally. But would he show me around his bubble chamber? His xenon chamber? Uh-uh. He didn’t want his group headed by George Trilling in essence. [laugh] Trilling was probably, they were from Michigan. And I suspect Trilling who had gone from Caltech Ph.D. at a [inaudible] young age to Michigan. And he was really running the Glaser group, running their bubble chamber. Though I learned that really much, much later. But when we were out for a beer or whatever or maybe a music program I asked Glaser to tell me about the bubble chamber development cause I was aware of the Alvarez group, who had been hiding two bubble chambers. But Glaser had started with hydrocarbons and he went from I don’t know if it was pentane or what it was that he first used. Propane perhaps. But he found that what he really wanted was a high-Z material [inaudible] so he had liquid xenon. He may have had the world’s supply of liquid xenon. He wanted a very heavy thing. He was less interested, but Louis Alvarez always pushed which was that you want a simple target. A single proton. And the advantage is not only that the target of a liquid hydrogen bubble chamber is a single nucleon, but also that the charge being what it is just a [inaudible] that there’d be far less multiple scattering in the liquid hydrogen chamber. You had two advantages. But Glaser had it in his head that he wanted to convert photons. And the radiation [inaudible], the conversion was not very good in hydrogen. So, you didn’t get pair production very often. So anyway, what Glaser wanted was heavy liquid chambers and he first tried out I think at the cyclotron and then the Bevatron. So, he had a fair amount of measuring time, but he never took me to see the chamber. And after the fact I realized he doesn’t want the guys in the group to know that he’s not working. He’s goofing off!

Behrman:

Ah.

Button-Shafer:

Don eventually married a young woman who was an undergraduate math major (and a part-time scanner for the Alvarez group at LBL). A physicist-violinist friend of mine, a Romanian chap (one I may have described earlier) named Mircea Fotino, who was doing his graduate work in Berkeley, had become a very good friend of mine. I introduced Don Glaser to to my friend Mircea, and we were invited to Glaser’s home for chamber music (with Don planning to join us with his viola). When Mircea and I arrived, it was clear that Don had an affair going on. It wasn’t clear how intimate it was, but he was sharing his home with an attractive young woman, an undergraduate math major. Don could be very attractive to women. With glasses, he looked a bit like a nerd I would say. But he had a charming personality and he could spout stories about Wolfgang Pauli.

An example from Don: Pauli was annoyed with some student who dared ask a question of him during a lecture he gave at the ETH, the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich. Pauli turned on the student and said, “Well, das ist nicht ganz einfach!” It’s not completely simple! [laugh] But the most notorious story about Pauli, one rather well-known, was that Victor Weisskopf was a postdoc of Pauli for quite a few years and he needed to have a recommendation from Pauli so he could get a position elsewhere. Pauli just wrote out, “Victor Weisskopf has worked for me for three years.” Or something like that.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

[laugh]Weisskopf was grateful. He went out and then he read Pauli’s letter! He thought, “That’s not much of a recommendation.” So, he went back in a second time. “Professor Pauli, could you please elaborate? Say a little bit more about my working for you?” And Pauli more or less refused. Weisskopf may have retreated, but then he asked once more. And finally, Pauli wrote, “And he has never irritated me ‘till now.”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Pauli sounds very German. [laugh] He could be very, very difficult, but my favorite story on the other hand is really that of Pauli—and this I probably heard from Glaser—so he was full of all these stories. He could spout phrases in different languages. He sorta liked the German language. I don’t think he was really converse in it, but he knew these stories. And there’s a story about Pauli interacting with Dirac, Paul Maurice Dirac (known especially for the relativistic Dirac equation). Dirac was known to be a mathematician type or a theoretical physicist (British) who hardly ever spoke, whereas Pauli loved to party. He loved to go off to parties and drink too much. Pauli and Dirac, the story goes, were riding on a train through the Swiss countryside and they saw some sheep on one side of the train. And Pauli, just to make conversation with Dirac, said, “Oh, look! Those sheep have just been freshly shorn.” Dirac’s response was, “Well, yes. At least on this side.”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

[laugh] Can you imagine a sheep has his wool shorn and clipped off on only one side? But Dirac wasn’t willing to be convinced. “At least on this side.” Anyway, you can’t imagine a more unlikely duo. [laugh] There’s a picture, a wonderful picture, that shows Dirac and Richard Feynman talking informally in front of some academic building from years back that I occasionally come across or see reproduced. The picture shows Feynman – and you know how gregarious Feynman was and how charming he was with his Brooklyn (Long Island?) accent. Feynman is waving his hands and saying something; Dirac is sort of standing there. You’d love to know what the conversation was like, but I’ve never heard any representation of that.

Behrman:

Oh, my.

Button-Shafer:

What physicists often do at meetings when the slide projector breaks down is to tell Pauli stories. What musicians do at meetings when a violin or viola string is being replaced is to tell viola stories. My favorite story I heard at one music workshop when somebody’s string had broken and was being replaced. That held up the performance of the professionals who were in charge of the music workshop. I heard several stories during the pause, but remember best the viola story that almost every musician seems to know: “The violin and the viola are really the same size; it’s just that the violinist’s head is larger.”

Behrman:

Oh! [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Kind of a stupid story but…[laugh] Not as interesting as the Pauli stories.

Behrman:

Well, on the list of questions you did mention that you wanted to talk about 1989 and how that changed your work when your son Charles got the tumor.

Button-Shafer:

That was ’81.

Behrman:

Oh, ’81. Sorry. Yes.

Button-Shafer:

I had just turned age 50 when Charles was diagnosed in the fall of 1981. The previous year, I had finally been scheduled to have my polarized-spin target installed in the Brookhaven Multiparticle Spectrometer (MPS) and carry out studies of strange resonances produced by K-minus incident on spin-polarized protons. The AGS schedule had slipped from summer into late fall months in 1980; and I found I was setting up my low-temperature target system in the Brookhaven MPS while teaching a junior/senior electricity and magnetism course required for physics majors at UMass. I had designed the target starting in the late 1960s with some advice from Carson Jeffries, the preeminent experimentalist in condensed matter physics at Berkeley. He and a French fellow had both come up with an idea of polarizing the spin of protons that was less costly in terms of time or in terms of expertise than the microwave type. I had sort of followed Owen Chamberlain to a certain extent because he and others in the Chamberlain-Segrè group (including me as a grad student) had worked a lot on Berkeley cyclotron experiments involving spin polarization. Later, in the early 1960s, Owen had gone off on his own to develop a polarized target. But he had the expertise of the electronics people at Berkeley behind him and chose to use a technique involving microwaves for polarized-target experiments first at the LBL 184-in. cyclotron and later t at SLAC. So, I remember visiting and seeing his target. But I also knew a Berkeley graduate student who had helped Owen to develop that target and ended up coming east, first to Columbia and then to UMass.

I had decided I would take a somewhat easier route and use a technique of rotating very fast, making use of the anisotropic g-factor of some messy crystal, yttrium-ethyl-sulfate. It had many “free” protons in the ethyl group and in “waters of hydration.” And I had not only designed that, I wanted to put it into a liquid hydrogen bubble chamber. And had a test run of a mockup of my polarized target. The same sort of crystals but it had not had the spins polarized. And it was just to see whether I could analyze in a bubble chamber and I was a little dismayed to find that Owen wasn’t at all sure that I would be able to do bubble chamber film analysis and see events that were being generated from the polarized protons rather than complex nuclei. Kinematic fitting of measurements – whether in a bubble chamber or in a detector complex (like Brookhaven’s MPS) might not pick out the proton-target events. We particle physicists had been having great difficulty in trying to figure out what was going on with some of the resonances produced by K- p interactions. The resonances often lacked some of the spin polarizations or alignments. I thought well, what I need is a spin polarized target. So, I had tried to convince people in my research group at UMass that this was great fun to go to design an apparatus that would go down to one degree Kelvin. One degree above absolute zero. To learn cryogenics engineering. To go into a shop and tell people what you wanted. And I got advice not just from Carson Jeffries at Berkeley. There was a big conference in 1966 where I saw Jeffries. I saw Dave Jackson, the guy who wrote the many editions of the electricity and magnetism graduate level textbook. But he was very much interested in spins.

And it took place in Paris and then at Saclay where they had been developing microwave induced polarized targets for a long time. So, a guy who headed the French laboratory Saclay, Abragam, was sponsoring a conference and the most knowledgeable people, both theorists and experimenters, and Jackson was one of those people on polarization and how you could use them for nuclear and particle physics experiments. They were all at this special conference on polarized targets and ion sources. And but I had already consulted with Jeffries by this time. I was at UMass, had been there for a matter of months. I was pregnant with Christina. And it was December. So, I went over to this conference in Paris and there was a lot of excitement about spin polarizations. But the development that I wanted to do also needed some input from cryogenics engineers and I got some very good advice from somebody at Argonne Lab who had developed polarized targets for use at Argonne near Chicago by somebody, Yokosawa I guess. And Yokosawa the physicist didn’t develop the targets. No, all the targets are being developed either by condensed matter physicists and they weren’t calling them targets, they were just studying the spins. And making maybe one cc and one cubic centimeter sized targets. I wanted something that was maybe three cubic inches. Three inches long and an inch in diameter. So, I went through a much bigger sized crystal. I had to grow these crystals and so on. I had to learn quite a bit. But I got very good cryogenics advice from an engineer named Neiman who did the design for the polarized targets used at Argonne Lab. Maybe they also might’ve been used later on at Fermi Lab but I think it was mostly Argonne. And they had had some very good physics that they were turning on, but the polarized targets were the engineers’ creation. Well, I was being rather bold being a faculty member and you know, having done a lot of design of detectors but I’d never done low-temperature work.

So, I got some advice in the cryogenics engineering on designing the cryostat from an engineer at Argonne Lab with my baby daughter. My husband stayed home but I took Christina, still a baby. [laugh] I don’t think [inaudible]. And took her along with me when I went to Argonne lab. And then I went down to Illinois right after that and taking my baby along with me. A secretary was nice enough to look after Christina while I consulted with an engineer. Talked about his polarized targets. And he had written up some of what he did; it wasn’t very helpful. Then I went down to Illinois because one of Carson Jeffries outstanding graduate students [inaudible] Stapleton had taken a faculty position there. And then I think I imposed on his wife to look after my baby daughter cause I wanted to talk to Stapleton and he had a graduate student who was finishing his thesis in polarization studies. And that graduate student taught me quite a bit about the chemistry and the type of target that could work just by rotating 400 revolutions per second or something like that. I then visited Illinois and eventually went out to Berkeley. I think not on that trip but on a later trip. Spent part of the summer at Berkeley. And I was initially planning to put my target into a hydrogen bubble chamber, I was consulting with Berkeley people. And I did do a test run, but not with the target. That took years to develop. But none of the people, either faculty or graduates, well, I didn’t really propose it to the graduate students. But postdoc, by this time I had a different postdoc but one was used to still only analysis and didn’t want to take any kind of leading or advice from a woman head of the group. He kept bucking me and trying to tell me things about confidence levels and using some Berkeley program that could do some analysis. He was difficult. [laugh] Slightly different one from the first postdoc. But I’ve had more problems with people postdoc age. The problem is after a young fellow or [inaudible] women but haven’t been enough to make any judgment I guess. But once you get your Ph.D. no matter what field you’re in, I think you figure you know more about your thesis topic than even your advisor usually.

Behrman:

Mm-hmm.

Button-Shafer:

If you’re a really good physicist you probably have learned more in detail than your advisor has. And you never know as much or think you know as much as later on in life as you do when you get your Ph.D. So, it’s very tricky.

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

People who had just gotten Ph.D.’s cause they want to be in charge. [laugh] They want to tell graduate students what they should do. But if they buck you, so this is the second postdoc I had in my group and by this time Yamamoto was back in Japan. Except for nasty…he would try to get me to send bubble chamber film to him. But he would also send a card to one of the old timers in the department, “Gee, I’m sure glad I don’t have to work with that Mrs. Shafer anymore.”

Behrman:

Ugh. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

He was working from afar, damning me. Continuing to say nasty things about me at the same time he was asking for my help! To send him some film from a Brookhaven Lab [inaudible]. But anyway, that was Steve. So, anyway, the business with my target was that I ended up developing it myself and I did have a woman as a postdoc at the behest of Martin Deutsch. Old timer who was known for positronium analysis. And he was at MIT, a faculty member. And he had given a lot of help to this young woman, Dawn Jacobs. And the problem was that she didn’t have [inaudible] self-confidence and he treated her almost as a father would. And she really adored him and got to meet his mother who was almost as famous for a while as Freud. Or Jung in psychology. Martin Deutsch’s mother was rather an eminent psychologist. But anyway, he thought highly of her, but she would burst into tears if he said, “She keeps me honest.” So, he called and verbally bent my arm to try to get me to hire his newly minted postdoctoral student, Dawn. So, I kicked around I didn’t need a new person. She had tried Amherst College and she tended to develop a rash and she could easily burst into tears if she couldn’t get her opinion across. And she was quite bright, but she didn’t have self-confidence and she had this nervous problem of just not being very stable. So, Deutsch warned me about it to some degree, but he hoped I would take her on. I did. And she was kind of fascinated and did help me with the polarized target. But she expected physics to be a nine to five job. She hadn’t been married very long and her husband, a chemical engineer, she didn’t have kids. I had three kids. [laugh] But anyway, behind my back she and a technician who was kind of a cutup, he was very knowledgeable and very helpful. But I found they were calling me Wonder Woman behind my back. But she would lose things or she’d forget to place an order or she wouldn’t tell me that an order had come in. And we went down to Brookhaven Lab. I took her with me. And let’s see this time [inaudible] as a postdoc, but she just didn’t like the fact that I was working long, long hours. And she had never been at Brookhaven before. Oh, and my advisor from University of Illinois, having settled at UC Davis continued to give me advice on the polarized target. And he was visiting, so she found it very nice that he was there. So, I took the young fellow, Wendell[inaudible], whose wife was in physics by the way and was never given a thesis project and just fizzled out. He saw his wife having to leave physics as a career. I don’t know. Maybe they split. But Wendell[inaudible] was good for advising on certain kinds of things relating to growing the crystals and putting in the paramagnetic impurity that had this anisotropic g-factor that resulted in polarizing protons. First electrons and then [inaudible] and then the protons. So anyway, Dawn went with me and we went, not only did she kind of fight me at UMass by saying critical things behind my back and not telling me when she either hadn’t ordered something or it had come in and she’d misplaced it. When we got to Brookhaven Lab and somebody said to me, one of my friend who was sort of hardware oriented said, “Have you gotten cold yet?” Meaning had we taken the polarized target down to close to absolute zero? And she said, “Oh, yes. I have a terrible cold.” And she was sneezing.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Everything revolved around her. And I tried to recommend her for a position at MIT, but I got accused by her to her thesis advisor who threw that in my face one time. He used to occasionally be down at Brookhaven Lab. I can’t remember. I think he was more likely to conference. I’d had a pleasant conversation with him. I didn’t know him. He was east coast nuclear physics and atomic physics and known for positronium spin studies. And he would come down to Brookhaven and he’d stay in the dorm that was for men. Women weren’t allowed to stay there in the old days. They had a guest house and you could if you were lucky get a room all to yourself if you wanted to pay the extra money out of your contract. Thirty-five dollars a night or whatever. But otherwise, you were forced if you were a visitor, you could not mingle with the graduate students or the faculty, the postdocs. They were all in the men’s dorm and that was off limits. [laugh] I was in the women’s dorm that was originally empty. But anyway, I did run into Deutsch at one point down at Brookhaven Lab and also had meetings. We had nice conversations. He got poisoned against me by this Dawn Jacobs who made fun of me and thought I was working too hard. And what was it? I was trying to encourage her most of the time. I left her in charge of some things when I had to go out to Berkeley for a good part of the summer or at least for a manner of some weeks and was trying to arrange for putting a mockup into the bubble chamber where we got some test film. But anyway, so I had done the design work to put it into a hydrogen bubble chamber, but then I think what happened was that the engineers and I agreed that we could not have a reentrant window. It wasn’t going to work out very well for the bubble chamber even though we analyzed some test film. Then I turned to Brookhaven Lab, and I was planning to put the target into a multiparticle spectrometer system that the Lindenbaum-Ozaki group had developed. Sam Lindenbaum from City College headed a big group there and the fellow who did a lot of the engineering or administrative work was Satoshi Ozaki who was just my age. Close to my age. Very different type of Japanese fellow. Very supportive in terms of what I wanted to do. The problem was I wasn’t getting help from my people at home. They didn’t want to spend time away from home. I had a husband who had a full-time career. They didn’t have spouses that had careers. I had children that were younger than their children. But would they go to Brookhaven for part of the summer? They might go down for a week or two, but they really did not want to get involved with any long-term experiments. Also they were not much interested in designing apparatus.

Behrman:

I see.

Button-Shafer:

They were just spoiled by the bubble-chamber analysis, which usually involved simply going to an accelerator for a few-week run with a beamline someone else had set up, and then taking the film home. (Later there were collections developed by various institutions, with “world data summary tapes” that merged bubble-chamber film or measured events from many different experimental runs. I gather such collections have been made in recent years for data from different radio-astronomy telescope runs.) And the younger physicists in my group couldn’t even agree on certain conventions (such as the naming of event types) to be used in some of our UMass data analysis. one of the two younger professors and a new professor that I had hired who had a wife in mathematics hired from Berkeley, so we now had a group of me and two slightly younger professors who’d been there the year before I came. And they were by now full professors. And then there was a new one that I’d hired, associate professor level. And none of these five or four people wanted to come down to Brookhaven with me. I say four, we had, well, we had a postdoc plus three faculty. And at this point I was told by my contract monitor [inaudible] Hildebrand, who knew some German. He used to kind of swap interesting stories with me in German sayings. But anyway, he had admired my work from early on both in sort of lowbrow theory when I’d publish some theoretical stuff on spins and also done a lot of experiments. And he told me I was doing 95% of the work. I said, “I know, I know. But these guys aren’t interested in apparatus.”

Behrman:

Hmm.

Button-Shafer:

They didn’t want to get into hardware. I ended up and then also at Brookhaven being let down by the Lindenbaum-Ozaki group. It wasn’t really totally their fault. The discovery of the charm quark (as a c-anti-c resonance) came along in 1974, with discoveries at SLAC and at Brookhaven Lab. I don’t know how much you heard about charm, but it was called the “revolution of physics.” The Nobel Prize in Physics went to group heads Burt Richter and Sam Ting. And I even in a polarized target test run that I did down at Brookhaven Lab with a mockup of the target just to see if I could separate out the proton interactions occurring on free protons. And I used one of the bending magnets that had been used by Sam Ting in the charm discovery experiment at Brookhaven. So, Sam Ting called his east-coast (mostly based at MIT) group’s discovery of the 3.2-GeV bound state of c and c-bar the J because Ting in Chinese apparently sounds like or looks like J. [laugh] Burt Richter at SLAC called the same state of c and c-bar the Psi on the west coast. I can’t remember what time of year it was, but you know it was a fall revolution. And that was just at the time that we were supposed to be doing an MPS run that wasn’t with my polarized target but it was a conventional multiparticle experiment with wire chambers filling the four-foot gap of a large C-shaped magnet that could go up to 15 kilogauss for the central field. The magnet was 15 feet long, with a 6-foot-wide bottom pole-tip. I had designed and constructed at UMass both the time of flight scintillation counter and also a water Cherenkov counter to go on the open side of the magnet to detect recoil protons coming from multiparticle interactions with the liquid hydrogen target at the upstream end of the spectrometer magnet. And had done most of the engineering stuff myself and got the machining done at UMass shop. And I had a postdoc by the time who had done his work at Brookhaven. Gotten his Ph.D. at Syracuse and he joined me. He hated hardware! He wasn’t much interested either. [laugh]

Behrman:

That’s too bad.

Button-Shafer:

I’d hired him because he had worked on online data-processing and offline analysis with a very effective Syracuse University group that helped to develop the Brookhaven MPS. He knew a lot about the programming. But for my polarized target run in 1980 with the MPS, we had to transport what was called a large Roots pump to help my target system get down close to absolute zero. The pump could pull out 1300 CFM, cubic feet per minute out of helium gas. It had been loaned to me by Brookhaven Lab to use with my target both at UMass and at Brookhaven. With a hardware-oriented postdoc I had hired through the University of Illinois, I had gotten up to 65% and later to 75% for polarization of the protons; and that was considered exceptionally high, especially since my crystalline target had a volume of more than three cubic inches (cylinder almost one inch in diameter by three inches in length, much more than a typical Berkeley polarized sample of a few cubic centimeters). I had a faculty colleague at UMass who done his doctoral work under Carson Jeffries. He was a nice guy, a good friend of mine. But if I had a question to put to him, I would have to cool my heels outside his office at 6 o’clock at night because he’d be busy with a student. He would put students ahead of me.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

I’d finally get to put a question to him. And he popped up at at LBL when I was out from UMass to see if I could use the polarized target I was developing in the Alvarez 72-inch bubble chamber. In some of his earlier graduate years, while pursuing his degree with Prof. Jeffries on campus, Ken had been a part-time assistant with the engineers and technicians managing the bubble chambers for the Alvarez group. What did he do? He tried to tell the engineering people and technical people about some of the things relating to my target that he didn’t know. He had not designed the cryostat. He hadn’t looked at all the papers, or consulted with engineers or physicists who had developed (conventional microwave) polarized targets at any of several accelerator labs, as I had done. He hadn’t talked with his one-time thesis advisor (Jeffries at Berkeley about a big polarized target. He didn’t know anything about how I was planning to put my target inside the 72-inch hydrogen bubble chamber. So, and he was basically a nice guy. And he was shorter than I was, by the way. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

But he couldn’t resist. And I have to say I’m jumping ahead, but years and years later I found it very different to have an experienced Black engineer assisting me in conversations with technical people at Brookhaven Lab. Following a request from a nuclear experimental colleague of mine, one who had been at Yale for some years before coming to UMass, I had hired a Black engineer. Irving Winters was his name. He was coming up to the UMass-Amherst area because of his marriage to a Black woman who had accepted a position as dean of students at Smith College. Irving had just a bachelor’s degree in engineering, but had always wanted to get a Ph.D.- and been turned away in Virginia and in New York because of being Black. I didn’t know that at the time. But anyway, I found from his part-time engineering work with me that this Black fellow was more cooperative than most physicists. He told me at times I was a better engineer than he was, despite him many years of assisting physicists at Yale and at Brookhaven Lab. He left me his whole catalog shelf full of records when he retired, but he got his Ph.D. through UMass and I encouraged him. He worked for me part-time and he helped to guide Black or minority graduate students from the college of engineering. He had a part-time job with them. But he was superb to work with and I have to say I’ve always found Black and the few white physicists I’ve known be a lot more open to women physicists than the typical male. Especially when it comes to hardware cause out in Brookhaven Lab—

Behrman:

Interesting.

Button-Shafer:

—when I took my target down there the guys were, I think I may have told you this. We drove down and my postdoc I’d hired knew more about software and did not like to be involved with hardware, but I didn’t know that. Almost fell asleep driving the truck so I did 80% of the driving getting stuff into Brookhaven Lab. But I have to say when we were first consulting about my target (specifically a special “Helmholtz coil” to provide additional magnetic field around the target end of my cryostat). The engineering technicians in house at Brookhaven had known Irving Winters when he’d been connected with Yale. Had known him for some years. So, they turned to him. He was the engineer. And he said, “Well, you’ll have to ask Janice. She’s the one who designed this.” He had helped to finalize my design, and had arranged fabrication because he knew what companies to approach. So anyway, based on very low statistics, I can tell you that engineers are my friends in general -- more than most experimental physicists. They’re more willing to listen. And I was able to talk in some engineering language to the guys out at Berkeley. They knew me anyway from my having been in charge of some of the beamlines there, having done a lot of the developmental work. So, I’ve always preferred to work with hardware-oriented people. They don’t get as much of the credit. At least they didn’t used to in the bubble chamber era.

Behrman:

Right, right.

Button-Shafer:

And now the experiments are such that, with computers, you can do modeling for months if not years. And as long as you do it properly, well, OK. Then you may be able to decide certain issues. But it takes up a heck of a lot of time and then after the experiment is run there’s still I think they still are putting out papers from the work I got into at SLAC many, many years later. The B-Factory. Well anyway, so where were we?

Behrman:

Well, I did want to go back to something that you’ve mentioned a little bit in passing which is you know, as you were working you were also raising three children. And I’m curious what you did for childcare when you had to go to a conference or you needed to teach in the lab?

Button-Shafer:

Yeah. Well, initially when it was just our daughter Christina, I found it convenient to take her along—as I did, when I was nursing her during some summer-time run in 1967 at Brookhaven Lab just after she was born. My husband was able to come to Brookhaven and to look after Chris in an on-site apartment when I was at the accelerator, and could call me to come feed baby Chris when she was hungry. When my twin sons were born in February of 1970, it was more difficult. I had to go out for a test run at Berkeley’s LBL right in the midst of nursing them. The run had already been postponed until after their birth, and they had gone to at least full term. I was nursing them, but also supplementing with bottle-feeding. I can’t remember whether I expressed milk in advance but I don’t think so. I was delighted that I could resume nursing them after about a week of the LBL test run. As for child-care through the years, I could drop Christina off at a care-giver’s home when she was our only baby. But after we had the twins, I found it better to have a young woman, usually married but with no children of her own, come and spend daytime hours at our house. Fortunately my husband John could step in rapidly for any emergency – when he was teaching at UMass, but spending more hours at home than I was and also when he left UMass for a start-up company with offices not far from our home. But my husband who had helped raise calves, Holstein or Hol-steens that you call them. Cow. Did you know that a cow has a gestation period that’s the same as a human woman?

Behrman:

[laugh] I did not. Wow.

Button-Shafer:

Nine months. He knew a lot about helping mother cows and cows that give birth to a baby calf. It’s kind of rather brutal the way they did it. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh] Ooh.

Button-Shafer:

So, it didn’t bother him to have to take care of a baby even if the baby had been used to nursing. So, she was born in May. I was still nursing her when I went out; I suppose it must’ve been late summer. But I got out for I guess it was a mockup of my polarized target. And a friend of mine from the Trilling group, was Goldhaber-Trilling group, was in charge of the bubble chamber. And I knew a lot about beams so I asked him a question or two. So here I was, I’d given birth to a baby some months before. But I was in the nursing stage having to get rid of some of the excess milk you know, while I was out in Berkeley. And I went along on only one or two hours sleep a night and asked one question too many of my friend who was my age and had been a close friend of Sula Goldhaber. Admired her though she was not hardware oriented at all. [laugh] But this fellow, John, Caltech product though originally Williams College, but we had sort of identified. And he had been interested in some of the spin polarization techniques. Relativistic spin transformations. And we chatted about my polarized target. So, he was very definitely interested and he had done a lot of work on the chamber itself. I think a lot of the hardware work they had…well, anyway he was involved in putting into the bubble chamber the mockup. They’d had some fixtures inside the chamber and so it was possible for them to get cold with my mechanical mockup of my polarized target, though it was not the real thing and the protons were not polarized. But it had similar composition, with crystals very similar to those of Yttrium ethyl sulfate, the material that was to provide free protons that could be polarized. But during the run my LBL friend who managed the beamline and also the small bubble chamber wanted to be the person in charge and he didn’t want to answer one of my questions. So anyway, I was running the whole thing and I had one graduate student who hadn’t been with me very long. I think just for the summer. Ended up going off to Argonne Lab eventually. And he used the intercom to talk to the main control room and said, “Mrs. Shafer would like to have such and such done.” Well, yeah. I was a mother but you don’t want to use “Mrs.” He didn’t even use “Ms.” And besides that I was known to everybody as “Jan.” Or “Jan Button.” [laugh]

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

Anyway, to use “Mrs.” when you’re calling from an experimental setup and they’re virtually no women in physics who do anything with apparatus and I was out testing some hardware stuff. And this graduate student. I didn’t take issue with it but I was just a little annoyed with my friend, John. The fellow who knew a lot about engineering. Because he thought I was challenging his knowledge of the beam when I asked him one question too many. I was tired you know? I had two babies, my twin sons to look after when I returned home to Amherst. And so, I was going along on about one hour’s sleep a night for that week at LBL. But we got the film I wanted and I took it back home for analysis to see whether we could discern which events were produced from target protons that were not inside some big nucleus. Some messy nucleus. But I’d already had experience prior to that of having this colleague of mine try to take over and talk about what I wanted to do with my polarized target in a bubble chamber. But the whole thing became moot. I think they became worried about safety say, if they should have a hydrogen explosion. Or they were not sure they could maintain the vacuum if I had this spin polarized system with a cryostat poking into the bubble chamber. I think modifying the chamber wasn’t going to be an easy job. So, then I decided it was easier to do the work at Brookhaven Lab and I had people convinced but as I started to say earlier, nobody in my group wanted to work on it. And then with charm being discovered the whole enterprise at Brookhaven where I’d already committed myself to designing the systems both Cherenkov water and Cherenkov counter [inaudible] system that was gonna cover 90 inches from one pole. Stainless steel pedestal that was a c magnet. Very large. And from one pole to the middle pole, the whole pole tip was 15 feet long, but it was 90 inches. A little over seven feet to go from my time of flight system made up of many elements. And I had also my water Cherenkov counter. And I designed the support structure for that. I think I had told you I got my head creased with a hoist falling down on top of my head because my good friends from the shop who installed my I-beams when I wasn’t there and they had some standoffs. It was a give out gap that I wasn’t aware of. It was hidden under an overhang of this magnet and I was standing up on the sides of the c shaped magnet pulling on the chain hoist. It was a Saturday and only my crew that I’d brought down from UMass were there and they were about ready to go home. A postdoc and graduate students. And all the sudden this whole thing props on top of my forehead. So anyway, I loved it! I loved the hardware and things did what I wanted them to do. I could show that I could lift this thousand pound counter system with the chain hoist. Which I’d bought myself. Brought down from UMass. But the little carriage had to be supported by this trolley. The trolley was Brookhaven’s trolley. And they should’ve known better than to put a trolley on the flange of the I-beam that had wheels that were small enough to drop through the gaps that they left. [laugh] The machine the machine shop guys had installed when I was up at UMass wasn’t yet down there. They’d installed the system and I just thought nobody in their right mind would do anything other than butt those I-beams right up against the side of what was left of the open magnet. But no, they for some reason had left a hole. And the I-beam ended before they got quite and then so there were standoff screws or something that supported the I-beam. So, anyway there was a hole. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

It was downward when I pulled on the chain hoist chain to try to release from my counter system that I had just pulled up on to the side platform. I wanted to undo the hooks that were in the eye bolts that were at the top of my counter system, both time of flight and [inaudible] pickup counter. And I had to have some slack. So, I was giving some slack and didn’t realize there was a slight horizontal [inaudible] and or maybe it was because the I-beams weren’t completely level. Which have should’ve been level. So, it shouldn’t have [inaudible]. But either my pull on the chain hoist got transmitted to that trolley and or there was a slope to the I-beam and it just went freewheeling and I wasn’t seeing it. Standing down below looking up at me were my crew! [laugh] Whether they saw the trolley coasting along there I don’t know. But there wouldn’t have been time for them to say, “Watch out.” [laugh] I just saw only a splatter of blood. So, you can have accidents and we did have things that occasionally happened that didn’t have any direct connection with me. But there was a fire one time not very far from the liquid hydrogen target because water cooling gave out or something like that. Somebody from a parallel beamline at Brookhaven called over to the MPS physicists and technicians and said, “Do you know you’ve got a fire at the rear end of your spectrometer?” “Oh really?” [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Fortunately, the liquid hydrogen target was at the front end and the fire was at the rear end.

Behrman:

Oh, my goodness! What a thing to say! “Did you know…” [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Anyway, you take your chances. It’s like a machine shop. Nobody should be in a machine shop alone without having somebody else there in case you get into trouble. [laugh]

Behrman:

Right. Of course. Of course.

Button-Shafer:

Doing apparatus. And I used to say, “Well, you get exercise that way.” [laugh]

Behrman:

Mm-hmm.

Button-Shafer:

Who wants to sit at a desk and do analysis all day long?

Behrman:

Well, not you. That’s for sure. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Uh-uh. But in my daughter’s case you can’t be out with a spaceshot. You can’t be twiddling the knobs on whatever you send into space. So.

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

She is stuck doing a lot of analysis. And I guess she’s very good at it. I just hope that my daughter and also my computer scientist son and even my mechanical engineer son, I hope they get up occasionally. Take breaks from sitting in front of the computer. How about you?

Behrman:

I try. I try to take a walk around midday at least. So I get up and get to do something.

Button-Shafer:

Yeah.

Behrman:

Um. When did um, you mentioned SLAC earlier. I was wondering when you decided to uh, when and why you decided to retire? And then why go work at SLAC?

Button-Shafer:

Oh. Well, something else happened that I didn’t tell you about. And that is that before I actually officially retired I spent a year in Germany in Freiburg as the leader of a student exchange program. For years I’d been a member of a committee to make the decision as to various things relating to what was originally a bilateral exchange. The Germans called it bee-lateral. [laugh] Between University of Freiburg. Universität Freiburg in Freiburg, Germany. Just in the Black Forest region. Schwarzwald. And UMass. And they had a very good German department at University of Massachusetts. And they had had professors of German or a professor of history or of art on one occasion go over as the leader. But it had grown to a Baden-Württemberg program. An exchange between UMass and Baden-Württemberg. Baden-Württemberg had about nine universities. Included Heidelberg and Stuttgart and Tübingen and even Konstanz which is a fairly young university. But they were very eager to have somebody go over who was not from the humanities. Maybe they had run out of options cause one or two of the professors had been there a couple of times for the whole year. And you would go over in charge of maybe 25 people who had gotten fellowships, in essence, for a whole year of study at Freiburg or one of the other universities in southwest Germany. In Baden-Württemberg. And we had a very active woman who was a foreign student advisor at UMass. American woman. And she knew people pretty well over in Europe. Had set up this whole program. And we drew upon applicants, students, undergraduates from Mount Holyoke, for example. Or Smith College if they were interested. We had people from Cornell. So, it wasn’t restricted as far as American students were concerned to just UMass students. The problem they were seeing and I was aware, but being I think one of the few scientists who served on this committee to make decisions about the commitment to this bilateral, or what was originally bilateral. This two way exchange program. We had German students coming to the United States and coming to UMass and they loved to come from the sciences. They looked upon, even as had been the case back in the 50s when my three closest friends, graduate students and [inaudible] of science when I was over for my Fulbright year, all looked to the U.S. as being a wonderful place to go after they got their degrees. They wanted to come here for at least a year and one of them stayed even much longer than that. So, and often for a German tour, so an academic track so to speak, if they had the Ph.D. they could do work in this country. Even more senior people would come. I saw this when I was in Berkeley later on. People I had known in Frittlingen who were more senior came and did their habilitación. They have a second doctoral degree and you’re gonna be a university professor than you need to have more than just a simple Ph.D. If you’re called “Professor Doctor” that implies that you’ve done two thesis projects. And often that could be done in the U.S. for the second, kind of like a second doctoral degree. So anyway, I had enjoyed so much in my Fulbright year of study and kept in touch with people there and with my husband we made occasional trips to Germany. But they were hoping to have a woman because they still at UMass, still didn’t have very many women. They had a lot more in the humanities than we did in the sciences. I was asked a couple of times and I decided well why don’t I have a repeat of my Fulbright year, only this time [inaudible] leader of the group. But that gave me a lot of responsibilities and I enjoyed it enormously. So, my official retirement was in December of 1998. Or ’97, I guess. Yeah, it must’ve been ’97. December of ’97 or early 1998. But I took the year in ’97-’98 going over there in August. And stayed until the following summer. So ‘til August. And they wanted me especially because number one, they needed to see more scientist students in this country going over. And they weren’t going. And general physics majors didn’t care much about language. [laugh] The requirements of having an undergraduate language I think had sort lapsed. The graduate students used to have to have two languages. A reading ability in two languages.

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

That had sort of softened and got down to only one language and if somebody tried to substitute a computer language like FORTRAN or something else, not [inaudible] but anyway. The various languages. And one chap in our faculty put that in as satisfying a language. I’m not sure it really did. But anyway, it ceased to require the German and French, or even Russian was allowed. And I fought for retaining the two language reading exam. My nuclear friend that headed the nuclear experimental group also, he and I were appalled because both of us had done work overseas. He had had Dutch colleagues I think that had worked in accelerators over there. And we felt it was part of the cultural experience even if you were a graduate student. You shouldn’t ignore the possibility of learning another language. But with undergraduates, yes, we had students taking one or two years of a language, but not very willingly. And very few were willing to spend a year of their time as an undergraduate or a graduate student for that matter over in Europe. They just didn’t feel that it was, they wanted to get on with their careers and they weren’t good at languages. And German is not an easy language to handle. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Even for one young fellow who came from a prep school it was, had one foot at university but he was basically finishing up junior or senior year of prep school. Considered very bright. What did he want to major in eventually? Philosophy. And he thought he could go over to Freiburg and study philosophy in German. Well, that is terribly challenging in any foreign language and his German wasn’t very good. And he got fed up. Maybe he had a, I think he had an unhappy situation. Maybe he wanted to earn a little money and couldn’t or something. But he just couldn’t make it in philosophy. He had an advisor who was pushing very strongly for him to go over to Germany. And Freiburg was no, Heidegger and various other, Hegel, I think Germany had been known for its philosophers way, way back. But that’s not a field I would choose if I had just a [inaudible] of a language I would certainly and I had a choice, science is where you want to go because things are put on the board in mathematical form and the language, spoken language is so hard. Written language and if you get into philosophy you know, it’s very long sentences. It’s very difficult. But anyway, mostly we had students who were undergraduate including I think the son of the condensed matter experimentalist trained in graduate work at Stanford. Though he originally came from Massachusetts. From UMass. Then Stanford. And then came back. Superb experimentalist. I don’t know how this fellow Bob was, my colleague, in terms of language. But his son was a physics major. I think went over into economics eventually. And he went over and missed his girlfriend! And his German wasn’t very good. He quit after a semester. There had been a very poor experience, though this is before I became the person in charge for a year. But I did do that. And it was a meaningful experience and I did keep up with physics. And managed to talk to some German experimentalists. I was asked if I’d like to teach cause you could earn a little extra money. They paid you a modest amount for taking this role on of being the head. And you also had an apartment that you could rent that they were in the habit of renting at a modest amount of money just south from Freiburg. So, things were set up pretty nicely. But the problem I found was that I was hoping maybe to be able to teach the history of particle physics. [inaudible] And I was gonna volunteer to give it either in German or in English. I was disappointed when only three students showed up because this was an optional course. The German students also were eager to get ahead. And I would love to have taught an experimental course where at least there would’ve been a textbook available but in the history of physics there was only one text that had been turned out by Berkeley. Cahn and Goldhaber, I think. They were the authors. But it was published by Oxford University Press. It was out of print. I didn’t know that. It was gonna be the text that I would use. It covered a lot of things that I already knew. It covered some things I wasn’t much interested in but I was gonna be selective and at least it was well written by one guy who was a theorist but sort of an applied theorist, had headed physics. Bob Cahn. Friend of mine. Gerson, quite a bit older. And experimentalist. And they both had done a very nice job. But that book was available in the Freiburg physics library. But it couldn’t be bought. I tried to negotiate. Tried to get them to put out another edition. So, the students didn’t have a text to use it was going to be mostly based on my lectures and any sort of handouts I could give them. So, and then the students weren’t, the course got a little bit of advertising in advance. Didn’t say whether it was gonna, the title of the course was in German. But the advertisement put on a special display board for the department didn’t say whether it would be taught in English or in German. So, I gave the students the option. And they elected English. They wanted to improve their English, I guess. I had been hoping to improve my German. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

But it was touch and go and it kind of conflicted in a way with a course given by some experimenters that I came to know. Somebody named Andreas Bongerger[inaudible] or something like that. And anyway, the faculty were very nice, but in Europe I don’t know how much experience you have or any of your acquaintances have had but there still is sort of [inaudible] professor idea. The professors are behind closed doors. You don’t get even if you’re a visiting faculty member as I was being treated and they were gonna give me some money for teaching this class. It was going to be, was it going to be originally for two semesters? [pause] Well, I think it petered out after a while because the students were too busy with the courses that were not exactly required, but they were expected and of course taught by one of the experimentalist that became a good friend of mine. Who would speak partly informally at a coffee you know, before a presentation, before a seminar, or a colloquium. We would chat in partly in German, partly in English. And I’d had correspondence with him in advance. He was teaching a second term of the basic course on particle physics. Nuclear into particle physics. And a very well written book written in German by some young people at Heidelberg, I think. I sat in on a couple of his lectures and he said to me at one point that I probably should’ve been teaching that course or maybe a subsequent course. But I enjoyed that and the interaction though he made a mistake on the board. He forgot to square something in something called Fermi’s golden rule. [laugh] He neglected to square the matrix element and was a phase space factor [inaudible] floating around. So, I of course didn’t speak up. I always sat at the back of the class and tried to be unobtrusive because they were beginning to have some women but not very many women in these classes. But it was a big class and I think it might’ve been the second semester of a course that he had started the previous term.

But anyway, I mentioned to him later very casually. He was a nice guy. And I mentioned to him very casually that he should’ve squared the matrix element and he said, “Oh my gosh!” [laugh] He was, quite honestly, he was a little bit embarrassed. It was just a slip. There’s a picture with Enrico Fermi with something very important, coupling constant turned upside down, e2/hbar c and it’s hbar c/e2 and he was tired that day when he was lecturing. That’s a favorite of a lot of physics people. Constants can get mangled, or squares can get left off when they should be on. But anyway, I would chat with him and the head of the foreign student office, big fellow, Bernhard Shroeder took a special interest in all of these foreign student arrangements cause they had them with the Canadian Institution where some guy Herr Schutz was teaching German literature. I think he might’ve been German-Jewish. And he was delighted to find that I had located a video of Goethe’s Faust. I loaned that to him, and then had a very nice Sunday morning viewing the video in his and his wife’s apartment – where I had the benefit of his scholarly interpretation of some of the difficult German. And the problem was to find U.S. students who could really benefit from a year of study in Germany. We attracted students from Massachusetts or even New York State, in the northeastern part of the country, but we couldn’t get science majors interested. There were three students, all women, from Mount Holyoke and one was studying architecture. I’m not sure what the others were studying. And they were originally from Bulgaria. Three Bulgarian students whose English was pretty good. I don’t know about their German. But they I think were more diligent students than some of the others but there was only one science student fellow who was studying biology. And they came from a number of universities, not just from UMass.

The problem was that they were being guided in part by a woman who could no longer carry out full duties. A German woman. Frau Grimm[inaudible] was her name. And she had developed multiple sclerosis and was semi-retired. So, she gave advice, but I was essentially head of the UMass office and head of an area that was rented. This whole floor of an apartment right across from what had been the Gestapo headquarters. On Gürtel Straße. I got [inaudible] for crossing over this yellow central line one time with a little car that I had [inaudible]. And they take pictures. It was sort of an entrapment thing early on in my stay. I had to report to the police headquarters. The police headquarters had taken over from what I was told had been the original Gestapo headquarters. Right across from where we had the UMass office. It was an interesting experience, but it was sad that in our office I had assistants, but they were kind of hired on a part-time basis and they were very bright and very good. But I was really in charge of all the money and all of the arrangements in the office. And I was a little taken aback to find that not only were the university aides young assistants. Two of them who were available to me early on. One of them brought the other one in, they could help me in the office when I had to be out either going to a meeting or going up to teach my class. But this woman who had been very much running the office and everybody at home in UMass had really depended on her. If anybody who went over depended on this Frau Grimm. But she was practically bedridden. At least not able to move very easily. And she did come occasionally, or I went out to visit her. She would give advice, but she had all the students using “du” and I don’t know that you’ve ever studied German but if you’re a student you do not address a professor as “du.”

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

You don’t even talk to people that you’re just beginning to get to know with anything on the— “du” students, yes. Students use “du” with one another. And Freiburg was beginning to get a few women on the faculty. Our younger people who wanted to be friendly to the students. And they would use, it’s OK for an older person to use “du” with a younger person, but the converse is not supposed to happen. Where a student would use “du” with a professor.

Behrman:

Right. Right.

Button-Shafer:

But this Frauchen Grimm instead of trying to train the students she interacted with to use “Sie,” was using “du” and encouraging the students to do that. And that was one of the problems that this very cocky fellow from this prep school ran into. I think he wanted to use “du” and Frau Grimm was using “du” and my assistants in the UMass office were using “du” and I thought, “Oh my gosh. What do they do if they go to talk to a faculty member?” It turned out some of the faculty members were modernizing or Americanizing and they were beginning to use “du” with the students. I came to the conclusion that when German is taught, often the teachers in recent years at least in the 90s had gone over to teaching “du.” When I went through German studies as an undergraduate, we hardly even used “du.” If you’re reading a story, OK. But you didn’t use “du” in the class. You were supposed to learn how to put the verbs together with the formal pronouns. With Sie. So, that was a problem for quite a few of the American students. I think when the German students came over to this country, they were pretty good in English. One of the saddest things though was I had to interview those who wanted to travel from German university over with a fellowship to study at UMass. And usually which were the German one or two people from the Ausländ [inaudible], from the foreign student office. So, I was in Heidelberg, and I had an interesting experience but later I think it must have been a constant. Two fellows came in at the same time who wanted to get fellowships and come among the 25 or so that we would accept to come study at UMass. And they were both physics majors. No more than 19, well maybe 21 or 22 years of age. So, one of the German women asked this chap, one of the two student applicants, “Why do you want to go to the United States to study?” And I expected him to say, “Oh! Because I’ve heard that students are nicely treated and that the physics is really exciting. A lot of very interesting things can be learned by spending a year doing physics in the states.” But no. He didn’t say that. He said well he wanted to go the United States because every American he had every known—this was 1998, spring of ’98—liked being an American. Everyone was happy being an American. And this was still in the Clinton era of course. [laugh]

Behrman:

Mm-hmm.

Button-Shafer:

He said every American whether a student or not was happy being an American. But know this is a 21-year-old speaking. No German today and in that time period in 1998, was happy to be a German. You could be proud of coming from Cologne or proud of coming from Munich or Dusseldorf or whatever. But the war years, the shame, and the discomfort, the guilt that they felt was still lingering on. I heard that from a woman near my apartment when I remarked that I was amazed to go into a few museums on weekends and find whether it was [inaudible] on the Rhine and just west from Freiburg on the Rhine or it was down at Basel. You could go into museums and see that all of the Catholic kinds of things, all of the religious up tiling and the things that you saw in many, many pictures of Madonna and child had largely been displaced by Jewish icons. They had big, big sections of having to do with Jewish history. And in Basel you could see what happened in Basel which is sort of at the joining of Germany; it’s where the Rhine turns and it’s got a French name, spelling for its name. It could be considered Swiss or French or German. But it’s basically sort of a German kind of city, I think. And in its museum that I went to visit there was a history. In the 1500s the Jewish people were welcome. They had a very thriving community and then they were driven out 50 years later and then they were welcome back and then they were driven out. So, I commented to Frau Ross[inaudible] who had an apartment with her husband above me. German. And she was a midwife. Hebamme. [laugh] And her husband had had something to do with the city government. They loved my kids. My family all came over to visit and they were enthralled with my baby daughter. I had only Christina at that point. Is that right? This was 19…sorry. My granddaughter! Christina and her husband came over and it was my first granddaughter. It was Jade. And she was a small baby. And they fell in love with her and gave her a little present. But when I remarked to this Frau Ross[inaudible] that I’d seen these things about Jewish history that had existed there when I was over in the 50s, a decade after the war. I don’t remember that. And she said, “Well, Frau Dr. Shafer, Frau Shafer,” she said in German the equivalent of, “I have to say that we Germans have a guilty conscience.” She just said that flat out.

Behrman:

Hmm.

Button-Shafer:

[inaudible] This is in 1998. And I had not seen the displays that I came to see later in various places. Jewish icons that they couldn’t identify. The original owner might show up in some museum if you were on the Danube taking a cruise and go out for excursions. But this was close to the area where I was. And I used to be a little afraid when I was a student in ’54-’55. People who were sort of um…what did we used to call them? They call it post-traumatic stress syndrome now. PTSD. It used to be called shell shocked when I was in high school years. My mother would warn us when my family were living in the East Lansing area and there were many, many people attending Michigan State when my sister and I were in high school. You used to hear about problems with shell shock there. But you could see in Germany in the mid-50s it was a little frightening and you kind of had the feeling from stories you heard or from observations that the elite, those who were well trained who were officers in the military were not the worst. It was the ones who were from Bavaria or maybe from the Rhineland who hadn’t had very extensive education. And they could be the most same as in any other country. I think America is somewhat the same way, but it was true of Germans and true of Russians. So, I never knew quite what to expect but I was in the British area when I was a student, but now as the head of the student exchange program it was very almost a shock to me to see that the Germans were taking care of their cripples. You’d see them out in the street much more commonly than you would in this country. So, Germany was trying to make up in general. The Germans were paying a lot of attention to people who were disabled. And would take them out for rides in the sun. Freiburg was a very lovely place anyway. It never got very cold in the winter. But I was really quite amazed to hear, said very directly to me, “Oh, we have a guilty conscience.” And [inaudible]. The German students and even postdocs. I’ve seen it in this country. I’ve seen it up at SLAC where some fellow, a postdoc, who was very well trained and was over from Germany scolded me for reading a book about what went on in Germany. [laugh] They came to hate what their fathers or their grandfathers did. So, that was part of my experience being in Freiburg. You asked me why did I go to Berkeley? Well, I—

Behrman:

Yes. To SLAC.

Button-Shafer:

I had all these friends in the Berkeley area whom I would see when my husband and I would go back every few years to try to make sure our house was still standing.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

I didn’t anticipate that I would stay for 32 years in Amherst. But my husband had a better opportunity once he got his Ph.D. He was traveling back and forth every three months. He was still a graduate student on the west coast when I took my faculty job. So, I was by myself with my baby daughter even after she was born. It took him a couple years to get through and then he was able to take up residence. And he had better opportunities of employment. He applied before he finished his degree to UMass cause he saw at University of California and he’d switched from Berkeley to Davis. UC Davis had a posting wanted for UMass Amherst. Somebody for an instructor and you didn’t have to have a Ph.D. So, he applied without mentioning that he was married to a woman professor. [laugh] He decided he had better job opportunities in Massachusetts. And we had both come to like Amherst. It was very different from the Boston area. But we liked the vacation area of New Hampshire, but especially he found he had more chance in an academic career. But he didn’t say he was married and it helped once they found out through the head of physics who was consulted by the dean to whose desk the appointment came, John Shafer, for instructor. So, Bob Gluckstern got a call from his friend Shapiro, so [inaudible] “Is this John Shafer related to Janice Shafer?” And I think I told you that story before.

Behrman:

Oh, yes.

Button-Shafer:

Did I tell you that? And the math department called up. We happened to be out in our Berkeley home for part of the summer at that point. I guess Christina was just a small baby. It was right after she was born. Anyway, so, the head of the math department called and said, “Well, I gather, I hear that you have a wife who’s on the faculty in the physics department and want to assure you that as soon as you get your Ph.D. we of course will make you an assistant professor.” My husband never quite remembered the conversation that way but, I remember.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

He was assured that they would not turn him away after the instructorship. But that’s the way he started. It took a while for him to finish his thesis. But anyway. So, he was welcome on the faculty but then he soon realized UMass was almost as bad as the Berkeley math department. Not so much in terms of what they did to the students and many people remarked that Berkeley was a burial ground for a lot of good, young mathematicians. Well, in this case it was the faculty, the young faculty at UMass. And they were a big, big department because math department faculty do a lot of service work. And they were being, not given tenure. It was very difficult. The young people coming in at assistant professor level were overloaded with teaching and with committee assignments. They didn’t have as much time as they might’ve liked for research. But for a faculty member in any department, but in especially in sciences, I think, and in mathematics, you’re based on your research, how much money you bring into the university perhaps. [laugh] But you’re based on how good your research is.

Behrman:

Sure, sure. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Judged on whether your research is productive. You’re judged on your teaching, whether your teaching is well done. And you’re judged on your committee assignments. And at UMass the young people tended to be overloaded with committee assignments. And one by one you’d see some of the bright young fellows being denied tenure. They might go off to teach mathematics for a while at Smith College or they might go off and go into a different field. Go into law or something like that. Or economics. But it was really rather sad and my husband saw a chap who was not older than he, quite a bit younger, but he was more advanced in his career and had done his thesis work that was brilliant apparently on algebraic semigroups which is a field [inaudible] doing his thesis in. It was not a well-liked field. So, and they didn’t have any mathematical logic which John, my husband, had some interest in. That was being handled by Hampshire College, a rather new, young coed school that liked to supplement the kind of things UMass did. If UMass had mathematical logic, it was taught in the philosophy department. And they didn’t have really more than just a few people doing algebraic semigroups. And then it tended to be semigroups that lacking a property like the inverse of a group. They tended to have topological semigroups rather than algebraic semigroups which was my husband’s field. So, he saw this fellow who was accomplished, had done wonderful thesis work, but was very insecure. I guess overwhelmed by a very brilliant brother that he had that was elsewhere. So anyway, my husband saw this guy go off to a company that was just forming. So, at the time that my husband should’ve come up for tenure, he had been an assistant professor for some time. He had said, well, unlike the Berkeley students in math who didn’t seem to have to memorize proofs to prove some theorem, he said he found that UMass students, many of the undergraduates, didn’t even know what a proof was. [laugh]

Behrman:

Right. You mentioned.

Button-Shafer:

I think my husband did a good job, actually, teaching. And he enjoyed it and I learned some things from him that were quite fascinating. So, I think that John enjoyed the teaching. The only problem was for us with small kids, John had always said certainly about his thesis work, that he did his best work after midnight. He got his best ideas after midnight. They weren’t always correct ideas.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

They sometimes came while he was asleep. He’d wake up and realize, oh, there’s a flaw there. But he used to say that his subconscious would do some of the problem solving. He not only had some of his best ideas when he was awake after midnight. But if he did go to bed, he might find in the morning either that he might’ve made a slip up on the theorem that he’d produced at midnight or 1 a.m. Or he might discover that he now knew the solution because the subconscious had worked on it while he was asleep, provided he’d spent enough time on it. So, this is what I used to say when I said that mathematicians didn’t live in real space or time. [laugh] He could be flipping through a magazine looking at advertisements for women’s lingerie, but not really thinking about it because the subconscious would be working on the math. So, I would ask him, “Well, can’t you tell me a little bit about what you’re studying for your qualifying exams?” When we were still in Berkeley. The problem was that even more the case when he was doing research. His research involved infinite number of dimensions. But they were discreet members. These were discreet groups. Algebraic groups. They weren’t continuous groups and he wasn’t interested in what we call the algebra that I tried to learn a little bit about on continuous groups. Almost anything he would think of in physics is continuous whether it’s an angle, angular distribution of particles that are scattered or its energy or its momentum. So, we don’t deal with discreet groups except when it comes to spins. Planarization. OK. So, what did I buy him for Christmas one time? I bought him Feynman, volume three on quantum mechanics. He never quite accepted quantum mechanics. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

But I did learn things from him about history of mathematics and various mathematicians and all kinds of stories. But, for example, G.H. Hardy, English, who—

Behrman:

Oh, yeah.

Button-Shafer:

—helped Ramanujan come from India. Have you heard of G.H. Hardy?

Behrman:

Oh, yes. Yeah.

Button-Shafer:

He said not long before he died or maybe sometime during his life the thing he was proudest of was never had he done anything that was useful. Well, I stumbled on something that was from Hardy and maybe through Ramanujan that related to something physicists called [inaudible] theory. It was in some review article. Reviews of Modern Physics. And there was at least Ramanujan’s name. Maybe even Hardy’s name. I think Hardy probably was turning in his grave. But mathematicians, those who studied pure math, really didn’t care about whether it was useful. They were puzzle solvers. And I would get my husband to try to reduce the end dimensions down to two or three dimensions so he could make a sketch on the board. And at least it was reassuring that for his thesis work or various other things, John would make, even though he was dealing with algebra, he would make little diagrams, little geometric sketches that would sometimes help him see his way through to establishing a [inaudible]. So, I think he was very productive in what he did, but very, very modest. And he decided well, if his friend Burt Story [inaudible] just didn’t think he had any chance to get tenure. Cause Burt had decided during his postdoc career, his faculty career, decided he’d never produce anything as great as what he’d done for this thesis. [laugh] So, he just got out and went to a consulting company. He persuaded my husband to do the same, not to wait around for tenure. So, John didn’t apply for tenure. He was never considered for tenure. Instead he went to a group that was a consulting group. And I thought he’d be bored, but it was founded by a professor in the business school who wanted to make good use of computers and give financial advice to hospitals. So, that’s why I can afford to be living where I am is because my husband went out into the real world and this Amherst Associates with Burt Story, my husband’s very much admired younger friend who had done pure algebra. Burt became head of research, wasn’t really cut out for it, but anyway. The young people who joined in whether they had any money or simply borrowed which was what they were encouraged to do. They could borrow money and take out stock in the group and then it was joined with a [inaudible] group in Waltham and it was smaller but then with a bigger group that was based in Atlanta and did not use the same sort of computer system. But they were more formal. Used IBM programs and they had meetings from time to time and some of the Amherst people moved. But most of them preferred to stay on in Amherst. And John was sometimes teased about having a Ph.D. in mathematics, but he was able to do some things that he felt made good use of his math background. But the problem is that he’d write fancy programs, trying to make financial projections for hospitals. Given data that would be supplied by the 400+ hospitals that they advised nationwide. And they would sell these programs, eventually sold microcomputers with the programs and would tune up the programs for each of these hospitals. But John said that sometimes something would happen. They’d say, “Well, John, what do you think of modifying this program? Or how about this program that was written a while back? You wrote it.” [laugh] And he would say, “I did?” [laugh] He liked to write the programs, but he didn’t really like to document them. He would do it. He’d do it in a very concise way. We’d follow the same sort of thing when our son was going to his medical places. My husband would take very or [inaudible] filling out income tax forms. Always, he might even write things out in ink when he was taking exams. But he would write in a very compact way. So, he was very modest about what he did. And very willing to help. It’s just that he didn’t always notice when he might’ve taken some dishes off the table or whatever you…I think that’s the way it is with most. I’ll warn you in advance. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Even to this day my daughter tells me that she feels sorry for the young women with all [inaudible] and colleagues of hers wherever they’re located. Because it’s, the young women in these dual career couples, it’s the mothers who get the heavy load staying home.

Behrman:

Yeah.

Button-Shafer:

I said, “Well, you’re lucky. At least your kids were already college years when the pandemic, when the coronavirus started.”

Behrman:

That’s true. [laugh] That’s true. I wanted to ask you a question a little bit more out of left field now which is about your work on nuclear arms control. When did you become interested in that?

Button-Shafer:

Oh, yes. Well, I was interested. If I had been a little older and if I’d been a man I might’ve, well. Even as a woman, I envied those who went into the WAAC we used to call them. I’ve been told by people the name changed. They became WASP. But anyway, the Women’s, I don’t know if they were Army Force or Women’s Auxiliary Force. There were the WAACs and the WAVES, the women who went into the Army service or into the Navy during the war. And I was quite patriotic, you know? And I thought it’d be great fun to learn how to fly a plane. You know? [laugh] We lived in Dayton, Ohio for a while and went to Wilbur Wright High School, my sister and I. We would see these experimental planes. Triangular shaped planes. One was called an X1 or something like that flying overhead. We were not very far from the Wright Air Force Base. But I remember thinking that if I had been a little older, in fact I said if I had had five lives I would’ve wanted to be a woman physicist, as I turned out to be. Physicist or an engineer. Secondly, I would want to be a, oh, try being a concert pianist though I’ve never really wanted to be a soloist. I wanted to play chamber music. Thirdly, I would want to be a model cause I was so much taller, a half a head taller than my sister and taller than almost all of my contemporaries. And Judy and I were asked when we were in the Midwest by some big department store. They asked young high school kids, boys and girls, to come model some of their new clothes that appeared in the paper. But anyway, I was pretty slim. I didn’t have a wonderful figure. My sister was better in that score, but anyway I just thought I was so tall surely I could be a model. And it might be kind of fun. Fourthly, I thought I would be an Air Force, an airline pilot. I would want to fly planes or at least be in the WAACS. [laugh] Fifthly, we didn’t have women pilots I guess in those days. But women were in the commercial airlines after the war. I don’t think we heard much about women being head pilot or even copilot. But it does happen in recent decades. Fifth thing was to be in a women’s baseball team. I loved softball and during the war years, all this was influenced by the war you see. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Cause there were women’s teams during the war years. The men baseball players went off to war and there were women’s leagues. I don’t know that they ever played hardball. Regular baseball. Or whether it was mostly softball, but that was the way my sister, even my sister was not very athletic. She loved ice skating, but she wasn’t much interested in other things. But there were boys living down the street from us when we were in seventh grade and they were in ninth grade and we would play softball after dinner. In the street. We lived on a road that was kind of a dead end road. And we wouldn’t necessarily have enough people for there to be a pitcher, but sometimes there was. And we’d have only one base. We’d run to the one base and back again. [laugh] But we all loved playing softball. And the boys tolerated us. I used to consider myself to be pretty good. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh] So, you were…

Button-Shafer:

So, I loved sports. I liked sports, but I did a lot of sewing when I was a kid. But not a lot, but I started at age four and I was making dresses by age seven or eight. But not very often. I found it too repetitive.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

If I was gonna sit still very long I’d sit still on piano bench, but I was fairly efficient with that. I never practiced more than an hour a day. Except for one summer when I was 12. I was learning the Liszt D-flat piano concerto. Then I practiced a little more. But I really loved chamber music. So, that’s been a big part of my career.

Behrman:

Oh, yes. Did the nuclear bombs have a big impact—

Button-Shafer:

Oh, but back to arms control. So, that inspired my interest in nuclear physics and I learned so much on my own for the Atomic Age Institute at the Wilbur Wright High School. So, I ended up, that was the same year that I got to play as a soloist with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. [laugh] Just for a special concert when they wanted young people to play as soloists so I was a pianist and they had another chap who played baritone horn or something like that. But anyway, so and it was even a reviewed concert, but that same semester it was while we were still in Dayton and for English class in 1947. Spring of ’47. And we were finishing high school, our senior year in ’49. By then we were up in East Lansing. But it was my last semester in Dayton. And there’d been enough concern that the end of the Second World War as to whether we could…could we control things? And could there be civilian control of atomic energy? And I was following things pretty closely, but I had 50+ references that I’d looked at including a wonderful article, by Lise Meitner, that I think I might’ve mentioned. So, I gave this talk. There was a science club. I don’t remember much about the club, but I remember that we put on this Atomic Age Institute for parents and other students. The PTA sort of sponsored it. And I was the main speaker about nuclear physics cause by then by the time I put together this talk and I had preserved an outline and also the introduction and well, and my bibliography, my glossary of technical terms, etc. and an index. So, I had 50+ papers and my twin sister saved this. This is the only reason I remember much about my first venture into nuclear physics, except for a newspaper picture put in a scrapbook my mother maintained for me and my sister, I remember my giving this talk and dressed in a nice suit and probably towering over the boys. Boys don’t get their height until usually late teens, so I was definitely fairly conspicuous. And pointing to a big diagram of the atom.

But what I knew about nuclear physics was some stuff I’d learned from my father. I knew what a cyclotron was. I knew what an isotrope was. I’d learned quite a bit about nuclear force from the nature of the atom article by Lise Meitner that was a very lengthy one in Fortune magazine. I was hooked. I was hooked on nuclear physics. I was very curious. And you could read a lot in Time Magazine or didn’t have to go…there were some scientific papers. There’s one book by H.G. Wells that I found out about through The Nation publication which had an article in August 18th of 1945. H.G. Wells in 1914 predicts 1945. So, H.G. Wells had written about the atomic bomb in 1945. I may have told you that. So, and he didn’t use the term atomic bomb. Well, anyway, I was definitely interested in nuclear physics and it was overblown after the second war. Over glorified and labs did very well whether they were research labs per se, or they were connected with the universities. There was a lot of money that was being given to do more research in nuclear physics. And President Truman at one point asked J. Robert Oppenheimer when will the Soviets have…we didn’t yet have the thermonuclear bomb. The hydrogen bomb. But it’d been proposed by Teller early on. But anyway, so there was this story to the effect that when Oppenheimer was asked by Truman when will I have you know, the original kind of bomb. The fission bomb. And Oppenheimer said, “Well,” he hesitated a little bit. And as it turned out the Soviets had it by ’48, at least by ’49. And Truman was asking this maybe in 1947. And what did Truman say? He said, “Well, I know.” He said, “Never!” That he was convinced that the Russians were not as good scientists as the United States. Or they wouldn’t be able to put as much money into it. Well, of course Truman was wrong. He didn’t know what he was talking about. And we had good reasons to worry about the Russians developing a fission bomb. Sakharov, I think it was somebody in [inaudible] who was in charge, but Sakharov helped to develop the hydrogen bomb and regretted it for most of his life. Andrei Sakharov who was a superb theoretical physicist, but physicists were treated very well in Russia and they did eventually, they may have had a thermonuclear device before we did, but it wasn’t droppable. We were ahead of the Russians.

That was sort of controversial for quite a while, but I already knew…well, in this talk I gave in the spring of 1947 first for English class and then for maybe a science club and then for the PTA, for the big Atomic Age Institute, which hit the newspapers. I had in my outline that tests were going on in Bikini Atoll. Able Baker Charlie tests they called them. They were under water. So, they were with atomic devices. Fission bombs underneath the water and they had old ships that they didn’t care about anymore. They brought ships even with some animals in them, close to these Atolls off in the Bikini area. And the water spout, I did a watercolor painting representing a picture I had. And that was the cover from my atomic bomb paper. I called it the atomic bomb. So anyway, it wasn’t until much, much later that it was realized radioactive fallout that Linus Pauling was concerned about it. It wasn’t until the early 60s that there were limits that were very specific limited Test Ban Treaty. And we got the Russians to agree and there were other countries that developed fission bombs. The British, the French. But the limits, they said no more atmospheric testing, no more underwater testing, only underground. And then Hans Bethe got involved. Many people got involved in doing calculations and trying to figure out whether you could differentiate between an earthquake or an underground explosion. So, there were limits put in. No more than 150 kilotons equivalent energy. And that was lower than it needed to be, but that was the figure that came from Hans Bethe and various other physicists. Theoreticians were still doing applied work after the war. Bethe was helping to design accelerators because they had had this marvelous experience at Los Alamos, but many of them were bitter or just angry, you know? Just were sick when they heard that the bomb was used in Hiroshima. So, there are some physicists like Philip Morrison who said they would never work for the U.S. government again; they would never do anything having to do with weapons.

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

So, well, it was very controversial. But, nuclear physics per se was considered an exciting field. And those who stayed in it were doing it for pure research, really. Except for people like Edward Teller. And those who stayed at Los Alamos were those who went to Livermore. So, I became you know, completely captured by the idea of becoming a nuclear physicist. Well, I think I also emphasized that Madame Curie having been in nuclear physics, you could call it. Radioactive and [inaudible] radiation.

Behrman:

[inaudible]

Button-Shafer:

But she was a role model to me. And then there was Lise Meitner. Although she never really got, I think she was miserable in Stockholm because they were developing small accelerators and that wasn’t her forte. Her expertise lay in sort of partly, in sort of chemical physics, understanding the processes. So, she had done tabletop physics and I think she just continued to be as Strassmann the assistant to Otto Hahn called it, he said she was the intellectual leader of our group and she gave some of the interpretation cause Hahn managed to get letters to her. And they did meet once briefly in Copenhagen. But, she never wanted to help in the Los Alamos endeavor, whereas Niels Bohr did. But anyway, so she too was a nuclear physicist and she carried in her head the binding energy. She was able with her nephew Otto—some of this I’ve told you before. Otto Frisch, who had come from Vienna who was Jewish, the son of one of her favorite sisters, I think. Anyway, Otto Frisch, physicist, had had to flee Austria. And he was in England. I don’t know whether…yeah, he probably stayed there through the war years, I suppose. He visited his aunt up in Stockholm and she as I told you I think once before was able to figure out after she told him that she was convinced that the uranium was flitting. What Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann had been looking at. And while he was on skis and she was walking in the snow, she sketched in the snow what she thought the process would be. That the nuclear, this heavy nucleus would become unstable and eventually would spit out neutrons. One or more neutrons. And I don’t know that they envisioned a chain reaction at that point, but she was able to figure out that 200 MeV was the binding energy. I already knew that by the time I was a sophomore in high school. So, let’s see, was that made known in any papers? Well, I read her article and I’m not sure how much she told of her own experience and later on began to see a biography or articles about her. That was much, much later. So, I don’t know. I was just sort of aware that she knew a lot and she and her nephew told Niels Bohr. And he had championed and been, had sort of led the way for the liquid drop model of the nucleus that preceded what came to become the shell model. And it was more like an atomic model. But anyway, the liquid drop model nucleus was a favorite of Niels Bohr. And I think—I don’t know how to pronounce it—it’s Aage, his son Aage Bohr, I think may have gotten a Nobel award for a collective model of the nucleus. They worked on that. But it was his father Niels Bohr who knew a lot about the collective model, or the liquid drop model of the nucleus. And he was thunderstruck when Meitner and her nephew Otto first told him about their idea of fission which was a term that Otto Frisch knew from biology where cells could suddenly split and it was called fission in biology. Supposedly that’s where the term came from. They described their notion to Niels Bohr and said then that it looked as if 200 MeV which Lisa Meitner was able to calculate from her knowledge of binding energy. So, two products usually and not always barium.

There was a graph of the products observed from fission of uranium presented in lectures of Fermi from around 1950, University of Chicago lectures that were transcribed and published (as Fermi’s Nuclear Physics by graduate students Rosenfeld, Orear, and Schluter. A graph of the probability of uranium fission products versus atomic number showed two peaks. The lower peak was centered around krypton and the higher one around barium. It was barium (atomic number 56) that Hahn and Strassmann concluded they had seen after bombarding uranium with low-energy neutrons (though initially thinking it was some new element more massive than uranium. Krypton was presumably the companion fission product (atomic number 36), but as a gas it would not have been observable. Wasn’t that the name used in the old Superman comics? Krypton? Didn’t Superman come from the fictious planet Krypton?

Behrman:

Yeah. I think so.

Button-Shafer:

[laugh] I don’t know when Superman comics got started, but maybe that derives from the physics. As Strassman later said, Otto Hahn the chemist really had guidance from the physicist Lise Meitner; she stayed in touch with Hahn even after being forced to flee from Germany to Sweden. Strassman said Meitner was the intellectual leader of the Berlin group. Meitner had been much admired as a nuclear physicist. So, what else should I do? The only two women I knew of in physics were in nuclear physics.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

And then there was all this post-war excitement over nuclear physics.

Behrman:

How much did you follow the politics though of nuclear—

Button-Shafer:

And then my parents knew about the cyclotron. My dad knew about the…my mother knew of it. Knew of Ernest Lawrence, but my father knew how the cyclotron worked. What were you going to say?

Behrman:

Oh. The politics of nuclear arms control.

Button-Shafer:

Well, I began reading quite a bit about that and I think this Atomic Age Institute in Dayton in 1947 must have brought in some of that, but it was mostly at Cornell where I entered in 1949 that I became more aware of arms control issues. And I saw all these nuclear physicists doing research there, and learned about particle accelerators. I had been paying attention not only to the Cornell Daily Sun, the student-run campus newspaper. But many of my acquaintances there were accustomed to seeing The New York Times. (I think I have discussed earlier many opportunities to hear lectures and to engage in conversations about politics, especially as the “McCarthy era” became very threatening to academics and others.) It wasn’t until I was about to finish my five-year Engineering Physics program in early ’54 that Bethe gave his impassioned special talk about J. Robert Oppenheimer just after the NY Times and other newspapers reported that Oppenheimer’s security clearance had been cancelled, and he was no longer going to be advising the U.S. government on “atomic energy” issues. Bethe’s presentation defending Oppenheimer was open to anybody in the department, his faculty colleagues, of students, and even faculty wives. So, the Oppenheimer affair suddenly burst wide open and was very much paid attention to by people at Cornell. But you see Bethe had been really the head theorist under J. Robert Oppenheimer. Philip Morrison, Robert Wilson and other Cornell faculty had also worked at Los Alamos during WWII, but I don’t recall if others also defended Oppenheimer following his security hearing. At Cornell I became interested in the United Nations. Followed that. Took two courses in government rather than history. I didn’t have many electives but one of them was taught about the United Nations by an experienced Prof. Briggs, an expert on international law. The other government course dealt with “communism in western Europe,” taught by a brilliant scholar, Professor Einaudi. For both of the government courses, I did a lot of extra reading. I became a member of a Saturday lunch discussion group that was called One World Club; it happened to be sponsored by the Cornell United Religious Work (CURW) and attracted graduate and undergraduate students from different disciplines. I also took part in foreign student conferences arranged by CURW. Cornell was a very lively place, and there were many opportunities to hear about political affairs, domestic and international. We had Henry Steele Commager for a series of lectures on McCarthyism in the early 50s coming from Columbia University. I believe he was known as a professor of literature, but also as an historian. One of Commager’s lectures was called “Guilt by Association: Denouncing McCarthyism.” We were very lively and I was getting into student government urged on by a woman a year younger than I who was the managing editor of the Cornell Sun, and was from New York City, probably from an immigrant family. And it was like a whole new world to me! I was learning about what many people did and refugee families who were Democrats. My parents had voted Republican cause my dad was in the business world. And I’d been very dubious about justification to vote for Dewey in ’48 because he had this marvelous advisor, John Foster Dulles. Well, I didn’t think so much of John Foster Dulles later on in the years of McCarthyism and arms control and so forth. Anyway, the influence from Cornell, well they had a theorist debating a humanist. I may have told you that. And the humanist won hands down. They had an ethical culture society of New York. I was learning about all these things that I’d never been exposed to before. I came from a “waspish” little community. Grew up in Needham, Massachusetts, 12,000 people. And lived in Dayton, Ohio (population about 300,000). That was eye-opening or more revealing. And then East Lansing, Michigan. East Lansing had a small high school, and most of my contemporary students were sons or daughters of university professors or maybe Oldsmobile executives. My engineer father always felt that medium sized or small sized businesses were being squeezed between the government regulations on one hand and the labor unions on the other hand. And so, my mother probably decided she would vote whatever my dad did. But mother was very distressed when Roosevelt died. He still had a big impact. I think I may have mentioned that to you. But anyway, I was tending more and more toward the ideas of Democrats or Independents. I didn’t pay much attention to party politics. But was a little alarmed while still an undergraduate when Eisenhower became president. He didn’t seem to be able to speak very well. He did some good things. And was behind some international negotiations, such as the early 1950s UN conference on the peaceful use of atomic energy in Geneva. Toward the end of his second term, Eisenhower warned against “the military-industrial complex.”

Regarding experiences at Cornell: I’m not sure I told you about my first experience at Cornell of being told I was crazy for going into Engineering Physics. That happened at the one week orientation program held prior to classes for entering women students at a small lake not far from the Cornell campus. But the orientation counselors, upper-class women students had all kinds of advice about Cornell parties and also taught us many songs relating to Cornell and other universities. And then we had little gatherings, with small groups of students – sitting outside on the lawn – meeting with one Cornell professor to discuss matters concerning our anticipated studies. I might’ve told you this before; for my group of six, there was a Prof. Harrop Freeman who had volunteered to meet with us. Very wonderful law professor, much admired. And he would write occasionally for the Cornell Daily Sun. Professor Freeman decided to ask each of us what she was going to study at Cornell. The other young women responded: home ec, English or Victorian literature, history, etc. So, it was all humanities or home ec. And the question came to me, and I said Engineering Physics. And Professor Freeman looked at me, and said, “Oh, you won’t go through that.” He added, “I know. My wife studied Biochemistry, and she’s never done a thing with it.” [laugh] Can you imagine? (I searched on Wikipedia not long ago to see if I remembered this professor’s name. To my surprise I found that there exists a Cornell fellowship or some kind of award that’s in his AND his wife’s name. It appears that she wasn’t just a stay-at-home wife. I think he misrepresented her. Maybe it was early on in their marriage that Prof. Freeman though his wife did not want a career in science. [laugh] So, I got told these things, you know? Women don’t do things like that. You’re not supposed to study that. [laugh] Fortunately, most of the freshman women were all in one dorm and I think my corridor friends were pretty tolerant of my behavior. They would tend, most of them, to gather together in groups of two or three or more in one room near the end of our corridor and chat for a while after dinner. My corridor neighbors were all either in home economics or in the humanities. But I would have to do my problem sets in the evening, and I was somewhat influenced by what I had heard about my dad when he studied Engineering. He was sometimes called “eight-hour Charlie” by fellow students. Supposedly he did his best on a homework problem set, and even if he hadn’t finished that set, he’d go on to the next one. So, he got to bed by 10:30 every night. Also, he would get up fairly early and would practice vocal exercises or assigned music every morning. He did belong to a fraternity, but he was engaged to my mother, and she was far away in California, at Pomona College. My dad was in Cincinnati. So, he kept regular hours and excelled in his studies.

My mother had been a brilliant student herself. But never wanted a career. Since she suffered from occasional depression and insomnia, she always worried that my sister and I wouldn’t get enough sleep. Judy and I were usually sharing a bedroom, but if we were still talking beyond 10:30 at night, Mother would scold us. All the way through high school. And it really stood me in good stead at Cornell! I think I tried to stick to getting eight hours’ sleep per night. Except if there was a freshman psychology course. Or something in literature, even a course taught by Vladimir Nabokov. I found I could cram before an exam, for non-science courses. I would feel really guilty if I stayed up until 1:30 or 2 in the morning cramming for an exam. But I never did that for physics. For physics or math or engineering courses, I knew I had to have a reasonable amount of sleep… and keep abreast of the assigned material. [laugh] Until I got to my fourth or fifth year at Cornell. And by then I’d shed some of my regular sleep habits, you know?

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

You can’t keep regular hours as you get into advanced courses or into research. [laugh] Not if you go into science and you’re really serious about it. Then you realize well, mathematicians keep goofy hours, but physicists do, too.

Behrman:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Button-Shafer:

And maybe neuroscientists do as well. [laugh]

Behrman:

Well, you know that sometimes is the case as well. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

[laugh] What else would you like to know? So, the arms control really fascinated me. And I got very quickly acquainted in the Alvarez group with what was going on in particle research. I found that Edward Teller was still admired but also much criticized for behavior toward Oppenheimer. I should put it this way. Luis Alvarez tended to admire Teller for his being quite a clever fellow. Not always right, but often clever. Art Rosenfeld did a lot in arms control. He knew various people involved with arms control (including the head of the Federation of American Scientists, Jeremy Stone). I interacted a lot with Art Rosenfeld, on physics and on arms control issues. Art had come to Berkeley around 1954 from University of Chicago, where he had worked with Enrico Fermi. Fermi died, as you may know, around age 53 or 54. In the early 1950s.

Behrman:

Yeah. Fairly young.

Button-Shafer:

Yeah. Very young. I think he’s probably born around 1900, 1901. And he was gone by 1954. There’s one story about Fermi’s trying to make an honest man of Edward Teller. Well, Fermi was on his deathbed when Teller came to see him one last time. Fermi wanted to get Teller to concede that he wasn’t the “father of the H bomb.” He wanted Teller to acknowledge that he hadn’t done it all alone. [laugh] While Fermi himself was dying. But anyway, I don’t know that they had a lot of discussions on this when Art Rosenfeld was at Chicago. He’d got his Ph.D. probably around 1954 at Chicago. But arms control was very much in the news and Art continued to be interested – especially as the Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed around 1962. Federation of American Scientists was a sort of think tank that I recall discussing with Art. FAS. Does that ring a bell?

Behrman:

Yes.

Button-Shafer:

I think Art knew a lot about the limited arms treaty of 1962. I joined the Alvarez group in the early summer of ’59. And we had quite a few discussions on arms control. Even young research group members knew that Alvarez did a lot of consulting. Well, he was a member of what can be called JASON. And we knew that he was going to Washington frequently. Did you know that he developed a golf-trainer, that he presented a model of that to President Eisenhower? Where inside a room you could have some sensors capable of registering the speed and direction of a struck golf ball. Luis was quite inventive. Anyway, he was frequently advising for the military and was well known to people in DARPA. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the government. And Jack Ruina, an electrical engineer professor at MIT, who did a lot in arms control, told me he knew Alvarez; Ruina had headed DARPA when Alvarez was a member and took part in investigations of possible nuclear explosions detected off the coast of South Africa. So, it was just there in the air. We knew the history of Berkeley that people had worked just as hard at Berkeley as they did at Los Alamos especially trying to separate U-235 from the U-238. And Ernest Lawrence I’m sure had a lot to do with military at one time and then setting up the whole Manhattan Project. In any event, so we talked about arms control issues and I remember that Art actually defended Teller at one point when Norman Cousins I think it was, who was the editor of the Saturday Review, criticized Teller. Cause there had been something about comparing the amount of radiation in the air that you might ingest with the radiation coming from your wristwatch. And Cousins made the wrong comparison. [laugh] He was trying to criticize Teller, and Art Rosenfeld took exception. So, physicists were enough concerned about arms control that they would even go so far as to say, well, Teller’s right in this instance. I’m not sure I have that quite right in recounting what I heard from Art Rosenfeld, but it was something similar to “I’m sure that Edward Teller knows that the radiation from your wristwatch is not getting into the body whereas the radiation in the air is likely to be ingested.” [laugh]

Behrman:

Oh, yes. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Well, there is a famous story about the radium women (at three U.S. watch factories) who put the luminous markings on faces of wristwatches, and developed cancer.

Behrman:

Oh, yes! Yes.

Button-Shafer:

When they used a fine paintbrush and they would lick it to form a point. The paint used had some amount of radium in it; and it wasn’t known that radium could produce cancer.

Behrman:

Oh, yeah. Quite often.

Button-Shafer:

Very sad story. Whereas you had General Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project, testifying before Congress, and saying radiation may even be good for you.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

There were crazy things happening in those days, but every place I’ve been I’ve heard a lot about arms control issues and been very much concerned. And I came to know Sid Drell very well. He played a very big role even as a fairly young guy. And he, Drell and others were trying to get the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty passed. They were often not given a heads up, any alert to the fact that Congress was going to be considering the issue even up into the 90s. Late 90s, I think. Drell still, and others, and Richard Garwin, many, many others, scientists were volunteering, wanting to be in Washington. Wanting to testify before Congress and often not given a chance to do so. So, I’ve been, I taught courses on arms control because of what they had at Harvard and MIT. And that was in 1983. Charles was being treated for cancer. We had changed in ’82 to go to take him down to, headed up at Johns Hopkins. We went from [pause] how’d that happen? Oh, we went from Amherst, Massachusetts to Philadelphia for some treatment there. But they were not using immunotherapy as we had heard. We stayed there for a while but it looked as if they were going to do something that seemed very, very unwise. We switched from Philadelphia for Charles over to Hopkins. So, I was going to, we’d just come back from 1982. Charles was diagnosed in October. The cancer found to be this huge tumor. And then there was a metastasis in the lung, so they had given up on him in Boston. Said he’d be dead in three months. But we had found our way first to Philadelphia through a colleague of mine who suggested I check with some woman running a foundation for immunotherapy.

Anyway, and then Philadelphia looked as if it was gonna go out of control. People were dying right and left and mostly were treating adults. Very few children. We switched to Hopkins and we were going to take Charles down there for an introductory visit. But at some point as far as arms control was concerned, this was ’83. The summer of ’83. Just before he was supposed to start treatment, different chemo, a more common chemo than what he’d had up in Boston which was, included some very aggressive [inaudible]. But in Hopkins, they agreed to disagree with the Boston people. They were willing to treat him. Well, I planned a summer trip. We were gonna go out west and go by train. Grand Circle trip. The last minute arms control came into the picture. Why? Well, because in the late spring we were gonna take off in June probably. Either before May I happened to be at some sort of reception where I ran into the dean of faculty who had received from Harvard and MIT an invitation for any faculty member to come up to study arms control cause they were trying both through the efforts of not the physicists. Morrison who by then was at MIT, he wasn’t really involved. It was George Rathjens of MIT who was a chemist who had worked for the defense department and there was Jack Ruina who was an electrical engineer who’d headed DARPA at one point. So, they were the spokespersons and the organizers from MIT. And then Harvard was very much involved with an elderly fellow, a more senior fellow, named Paul Doty. He was a chemistry professor and had done arms control since the early 50s, I think.

But Harvard, the JFK school of government, which Harvard ran, had people there. A young fellow who today has headed the Berkeley school of public policy. And anyway, originally trained in engineering but he had got into political science and had done a lot of arms control negotiating. So, they had a fascinating group of characters. Harvard joining, and JFK school of government joining MIT. This invitation came through and they were going to have maybe 50 people and they wanted faculty from all over the country. But not necessarily scientists. They weren’t restricting it, but they wanted to educate people over a two -week period. A week and a half or two weeks. So, they could take material that would be sent in advance, but also hand it out and lectured on. And send the faculty home to teach courses in arms control. So, I told my husband, “Well, can you take Charles with his…” He was still on a stomach feeding tube, a gastrostomy tube [inaudible] feeding. “And can you take care of Charles and his twin brother and Christina and you hop on the train? I’ve made all of the arrangements, of course.” Then I may have seen them off in Albany, New York on a train. We were you know, still living in Amherst, Massachusetts, of course. Which is in the middle of Massachusetts. Massachusetts isn’t a very big state. So, Albany wasn’t far way, just over the border. So, I probably saw them off on the train with all of the things they needed and I said, “Goodbye.” And I went off to Cambridge.

So, I went to an arms control meeting instead of taking my son with cancer and my other two kids and my husband. [laugh] And I sent them off to Denver, Colorado because that was where I planned to catch up with them. So, I said, “You can you know, see the sights along the way. Take your time and visit these friends.” I had two sets of friends. One was a Cornell daughter training as an architect, daughter of Lloyd Berkner who was a fantastic electrical engineer physicist who once ran Brookhaven Lab. Started the NRAO, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. He was long gone. But his daughter and her husband, also Cornell, and they were living in Denver. And had three kids. But then my Romanian friend from Berkeley had married a mathematician who was also Romanian. Quite a bit younger. They had two young kids and they were in Boulder. So, I said, “Well, you can go visit these people and I will catch up with you in Denver.” And I don’t remember whether they set off before I went to Cambridge or anyway, I remember seeing them off. And I remember hoping that they had everything they needed. But my husband was very capable. I did this to him on other occasions when I had to do with accelerator runs. I suddenly had to be available. But I did it for arms control reasons and it was invaluable. It was a wonderful, wonderful program.

The only sad thing was I was the only physicist except for one chap getting on in years from Harvey Mudd College. Who did teaching but not research. And I don’t know what his history was. I don’t remember that well. He was a quiet fellow. And then there were maybe one chemist and a couple of biologists. Everybody else was from the humanities including a philosopher from Bates College, Maine or, I think it was. And the people who are not from the sciences were aghast that they should have to learn anything that involved numbers. They thought it was evil to hear about the number of missiles that the Russians had of this type or that type and the numbers of nuclear devices, weapons that we had in this country. And the fellow who introduced it was a lively, rather young guy from JFK school of government (Michael Nacht) who’s now been at Berkeley for some time. I’m just trying to think, he had his Ph.D. in something having to do with applied sciences. He had some engineering training but he’d gone into political science and had a lot of experience in diplomacy. So, he wanted to tell us even though we’d had a lot of readings sent to us from the Harvard nuclear study group, general things of history and general information about nuclear weapons. The atomic bomb. Quoting Churchill, quoting Truman, and then telling us a lot of things about the dangers about things that could be taken through sabotage. How uncontrolled things could be in Ukraine and Russia and so on. It was a very interesting lecture and he chose at the very first get acquainted lecture after we had just had some coffee or juice or whatever, and later on in the afternoon, 4 o’clock or so, and there was this rather lovely looking middle-aged woman whose field I guess was biology. And what happened was that this chap wanted to explain the concept of deterrence by telling us what it would be like if he wanted to dissuade his teenage son from watching some TV program he disapproved of. So, he could use deterrence. He could threaten his son, tell him he was going to break his arm. And that would serve as a deterrent. But he said a deterrent doesn’t work, and this was to be taken then to the international scene between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, unless the person is being threatened, deterred from some action that you disapprove of realizes that you have the strength to do what you’re talking about. You have the capability to do what you’re talking about and that you’re serious.

And there’s a third factor, that it would have very meaningful consequences. So, there were three elements of deterrence that he wanted to make clear, but he used the example of his threatening to break his son’s arm if he watched for the nth time some TV program that was really pretty stupid. That caused almost an eruption because this motherly looking woman who was, I don’t know if she was researcher or whether she was in academia. And she had to have been from academia. We did have a few others from the U.S. Army War College, a fellow who was there. And there was one from a security group and a woman political scientist in Washington, D.C. So, we had a few others sitting in this thing on this two week workshop, week and a half, whatever it was. But it really stunned everybody or at least any scientist who was there I think. [laugh] When this woman protested. We’d heard the lecture earlier on what the deterrence was all about. So, this was a sort of hashing it over just to get acquainted thing. This woman spoke up. And she said, “I was stunned when Dr. Nacht gave as an example that he would threaten to break his teenage son’s arm.” And she had taken it seriously and thought he really meant that he was going to break his son’s arm and she was so appalled. But she was just as appalled and others were by having to listen to high school level talks about kinematics. Not just numbers of weapons, but also how weapons work. There was a bazooka that can lodge a sub kiloton device and a Davy Crockett weapon that could be held on your shoulder and you send off a very small nuclear device if you wanted to use it for tactical warfare. He had a dial a yield weapon and you could turn the dial and increase the yield from your fission device. I’d never read about these things. This is him talking about 1983. [laugh] And I was hearing also that there were mines all over a good part of Europe between conventional forces for western Europe and we helped of course with a lot of that. And then what the Soviets had and the Soviets were so overwhelming in their conventional forces and so much closer to the middle of Europe where they might decide to invade Ukraine. [laugh] Or even Germany, eastern Germany, and go into western Germany. So, there were supposedly many mines, but they’d lost track of the inventory. [inaudible] things like that.

But anyway, most of the distress signals or the discomfort that we could see among the participants, these 54 people who showed up from various colleges. Most of the distress had to do with the facts that they thought physics was evil. They didn’t want to hear numbers; they didn’t want to hear anything about kinematics. They didn’t want to hear much about history. So, I don’t know why they even bothered to come. And the really painful thing was that at the end of the workshop they asked us if we could write, either sign some general commentary or put together our own evaluation. It was a majority report that we agreed on and a minority report that came from the philosophy professor and I think the woman biologist got out of the whole thing anyway. But there was a minority that protested because they felt even to try to discuss much about arms control was very, very distressing. And they didn’t seem to think that learning a little bit of physics or dealing with numbers was anything they could possibly tolerate, but the whole object was to have us educated, brought up to speed, so we could go back and give courses on science technology in the arms race. And I was perfectly suited for that and did have some very interesting students I taught as a seminar for maybe three semesters. Even brought in ROTC representatives so we could hear the other side of things. And they turned out to be very well educated and to be just as distressed about why Caspar Weinberger, the Secretary of Defense, about what he was saying and what Reagan was saying. So anyway, this was as I say in ’83 and I taught the course several times. I had a couple of German master’s degree students who were studying nuclear physics and they came in the course and so did a woman who was a philosophy student and a number of others.

So, I learned a lot through what I got from, they even had the Los Alamos, written the Los Alamos Primer, however you announce it. That was what was put together on the basis of lectures at Los Alamos for the people who arrived fairly early on, around ’42 or ’43. And Bob Serber [inaudible] close associated with Oppenheimer gave lectures. And E.U. Condon, who headed National Bureau of Standards until McCarthy era pushed him out. Then he took the notes and I had never seen those notes before and I got a copy of that from Jack Ruina. But it was so painful to the organizers to have the criticism coming from these people who were scared by any kind of physics, even high school level physics. Or scared by numbers. The fellow who was the figurehead for the conference, and a very senior professor experienced in arms control issues, was a chemistry professor whom we met early on Prof. Doty was supposed to have a reception at this home in Cambridge area. So, Paul Doty was going to receive all of us at a reception. It got cancelled supposedly because he wasn’t feeling well, but I think there were hard feelings really. Or painful feelings coming from the organizers who felt they had done a very good job. We had a lot of articles from newspapers written by the way. Do you know the name of Elizabeth Drew? She used to be a columnist who was well-regarded and she was on a Sunday morning, Agronsky & Co. and moved to Sunday mornings and they had Inside Washington with some fellow whose name I don’t remember. But they had some very outstanding people commenting both from the liberal side and from the more conservative side. Krauthammer. Do you remember the name Krauthammer? Charles Krauthammer who was a somewhat conservative guy. He was the [inaudible] than Elizabeth Drew. So, I had heard some of the people like Elizabeth Drew I knew of, not so much from her writing but from having seen her on some of these shows that discussed political and international affairs. They had writings of hers that they handed out. They had very broad-based coverage of arms control.

And so, that was the most recent thing except that I also went to Washington and did some lobbying in Congress. This came about later on and quite a bit, well, the Strategic Defense Initiative had prompted what happened at Harvard and MIT. And that was from Reagan, March 23rd of 1983. And most physicists thought that it was very, very unlikely that anything that could be developed with directed energy weapons would be far too weak no matter how you did. Whether you had a ground-based laser system that bounced off something that was in a geo-stable orbit. (a geosynchronous orbit). Or you had something off in space. (Edward Teller wanted to develop “Excalibur” – a nuclear-pumped x-ray laser system – and so on. We paid a lot of attention to that. By the way, there was a weekly one-page email notice called “What’s New” that was sent out on Fridays by Bob Park, under the sponsorship of the APS, I think; but there always was printed at the bottom, “Opinions expressed are those of the author, not those of APS.” And that email newsletter had Livermore in turmoil. I had a friend I’d known from Cornell, and he studied under Bethe or Morrison. But he got his Ph.D. in nuclear theory and then happily or unhappily ended up at Livermore, and he challenged Edward Teller. And so, this fellow I knew, Hugh DeWitt, who was very much concerned about arms control, went up against Teller – the original head of Livermore Lab. Hugh told me they used to have damage control sessions at Livermore over Bob Park’s writing, because he would have usually four items, always with at least one reporting on SDI, and he’d tell us what was going on with the Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI. So, and my friend that I worked with in Germany who was a superb scientist ended up, he had a Jewish relative way, way back and he was 1/8th Jewish. But anyway, he was 14, 15 when the war ended and very liberal in his thinking compared with his contemporaries, but the students were really wonderful to interact with in Germany. And this Karl Heinz Beckurts dubbed Charlie by our forces at the end of the Second World War. Charlie Beckurts eventually not only headed nuclear enterprises, headed laboratories, was in Karlsruhe for a time and taught at Heidelberg, but he was also near Bonn. Had a lab there. And finally became the vice president for research of Siemens and he was killed because of arms control. I shouldn’t say because of arms control but because of the nuts, [inaudible].

There was a German terrorist group, the Rote Armee Fraktion. The far-left group. And they had tried to kill Alexander Hague when he was involved with NATO and hadn’t learned their technique well enough. But they killed 30-35 people in war. Well, I’m mixing two things. There was the original Baader Meinhof Group and they had killed quite a number of people. Heads of, [inaudible], a head of industry and government officials and just policemen. But there was a successor to that that was called the Red Army Faction that emerged in Germany around the 80s, whereas the original terror group I think was active—you may have read history and maybe know more than I—active in the 60s. Mid to late 60s. But then they’d been jailed. The leaders of the group. One committed suicide. But there was this resurgent group. I think a movie was made about the whole business and I ran into things when I was over in the late 90s in charge of the student program. There was a magazine that had a whole coverage of what had gone on and what would happen would be that at least terrorists that were essentially far left would blow a car up as they did with my friend Beckurts. He was only age 56, but they considered him to be supporting Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI, cause Teller and the head of SDI had gone over to Europe. Tried to get the Germans to join in. They thought the Germans would benefit from the technological spell. There was a picture of Edward Teller shaking hands with Chancellor Kohl in Munich. So, we were aware in this country that even though it didn’t look very feasible, and most scientists were shying away. They were even refusing money. And the federal government, Reagan wanted to put in billions of dollars for the first five years of this strategic message. And still exists to this day.

But anyway, when Beckurts who had given, was with Siemens, had been with them and called him a manager. He was a superb experimentalist, spend a lot of time at Brookhaven Lab. Could’ve had a professorship here. But he ended up being in Germany, was into his second marriage, married only 15 years, only age 56. And he was driving or being driven by a chauffeur from a very lovely place south of Munich where my husband and I and our kids had all visited. We’d been there only 5-6 years before in their home. And Beckurts was being driven to his workplace in Munich. And his car was blown up. It was all over the news. Front page of Time Magazine and of course German magazines. Anyway, the Siemens people were very distressed over that. And I think I told you about that before. Ronald Reagan considered Beckurts a martyr for a [inaudible]. So, there were arms control issues that kept emerging. [laugh] You might not call ‘em arms control issues, but SDI certainly has been one because it’s distracted, Teller thought he would have something that could be in outer space, that could have single passed lasing going on and promised Reagan in writing sent with one younger fellow from Livermore to Reagan. A promise as of 1985 probably, that there would soon be something the size of Reagan’s executive desk which when detonated in space would kill 5,000, would explode 5,000 incoming Soviet warheads. And that did not pan out. He didn’t get, I don’t know that he got any more money, but he could not convince other scientists that they had valid measurements. So, he stopped pushing that after a while.

But anyway, I’m sort of out of date. The SDI was sort of the last time I was really very much interested, but I did go with other people from the universities including an aeronautics professor from Cornell. And it was organized not through the “What’s New?” thing of Bob Park. He finally ceased to put that out. I think maybe a few years ago. I’m not sure. He may have just retired. He was connected with the University of Maryland, I believe. But there was another outfit, arms control. And they called themselves Arms Net. Then changed over to Security Net. And that had Richard Garwin initially as sort of a figurehead. I don’t think he produced much of what they did. But it was a professor at Cornell with some graduate students of his. A woman and a man who’d gone on to the Union of the Concerned Scientists. And it was…oh, gosh. A guy with a sort of German sounding name. A theorist at Cornell who was the main organizer for this email that went out to many people, maybe through the APS. I’m not quite sure. But they called it Arms Net and eventually called it Security Net. And they were organizing, trying to get information out on SDI, on other things relating to arms control. And they invited these people to come to Washington, D.C. to lobby the congressmen and women. Or senators. I decided to go, and they educated over a weekend. The one flaw in the training though, they had some very good people doing the educating. They figured we should arrive Friday or Saturday and then sit in, take part in various discussions where we would be lectured by people who knew a lot about Washington and were in contact with the offices of the congress people. So, they suggested how we should approach this. It was even put on television. [inaudible] I don’t know how many of us showed up, 40 or so. It was the first time they tried it and they tried it later, in later periods too, I think. But we were all organized through the internet and brought to Washington and taught certain things. But I felt I was very much out of date. It was long past the SDI and long past my experience of teaching graduate level seminars in arms control. This had to have been, well my boys were already at Cornell by then. So, this was 1990. It seemed, well, SDI was sort of in the background by then. It might’ve been the early…yeah, somewhere between 1990 and 1992. So, the only problem was they made a mistake in thinking that we could get educated, those who had agreed to be invited to Washington to lobby congress people about arms control issues. They scheduled us to have meetings on Monday. That we should sort of go to the various offices that they suggested to us. Maybe two or three different ones for each of us. And Mondays are not good times in Washington because the congress people have gone home over the weekend to make money or really to talk to their constituents. They’re not there! They may leave on a Friday or Saturday if they’re lucky. [laugh] But they don’t get back usually to hold office hours until Tuesdays. They suddenly realized, oh my gosh, Monday’s a dead day. You won’t find any of the senators or congress people, at least not some of the ones that would really be important to talk to. However, they have the younger people. It’s what they, I think APS, maybe AIP has been involved as well, the congressional science fellows. They’re the ones who really know things. I had the experience of going in and talking to the real experts and generally they would know more about arms control issues than most of us physicists would. Or engineers or whatever. Anybody who responded to this Arms Net. And it lasted for quite a while. As I say, Richard Garwin was very much interested.

Behrman:

Oh, yes.

Button-Shafer:

I have gotten involved in some other things that related to that. But anyway. So, I was very much interested in SDI, and I had tried to follow it. And I’ve seen it [inaudible] through the, I don’t know how much you yourself know about arms control or how much AIP has done, but I belong to the Forum on Physics and Society of the APS. And I followed that, and I’ve had people that I met through trips to Washington and I was also there oh, subsequent to the Cambridge thing in ’83. The next year I went down to a committee in national security headed by Ann Thong[inaudible] who was very much a political scientist and had quite a few women, one of whom I roomed with when I was at this arms control in Cambridge. Jo Husbands had a Ph.D. in political science. They had arms control meetings for a week, and it really unsettled the Defense Department. And they invited women. They invited women who came from, they were women leaders. Not scientists, particularly, but women from all over the country. And this CNS, Committee on National Security. [inaudible] and I remember I called up Senator Kennedy’s office and I happened to have a science fellow named Aviva Brecher and she answered the phone. She had a Ph.D. sort of in theoretical aspects of laser physics from UC San Diego. And she gone into arms control and for a while she headed the APS forum on science and society, and I invited her to come out. Her home was in the Cambridge area and her husband was in radio astronomy I believe. And she eventually, she was working in academia for a while connected with Northeastern University then eventually went to Arthur D. Little. She went away from pure science and became more of an administrator, but she knew a lot about arms control, and she had been working in a senator’s office where that senator, I’ve forgotten what state he came from, but it was a Democratic senator and he was concerned about Space Force. About nuclear arms getting out into space under you remember our recent president, Trump, claimed to have started a fifth arm. [laugh] Space Army or whatever he was calling it. Space something or other.

Behrman:

Space Force.

Button-Shafer:

Space Force. Thank you. [laugh] I recall hearing Philip Morrison when we managed to get [inaudible] Amherst College and got Morrison to come out and give some talks about arms control essentially. Or at least informally that was what we heard about. And I think [inaudible] had known him very well when he was doing astronomy work. Doing a lot of computer work at MIT. And he knew Morrison much more recently than I had known him. And I had a course from him at Cornell. It was a graduate level course on electronic dynamic [inaudible]. But I had also heard him lecture before. He was not part of the group that organized things at Cambridge, but we did get him to come out to UMass and he gave some presentations and one of the things he worried about was that with any sort of very powerful lasers, the sort that SDI was trying to develop, that you could have people in outer space with very good detection techniques, they could just pick off one or two individuals. Well, we’ve got that now. We’ve got drones. We’ve got the drones able; they’ve got such good equipment they can pick off somebody. I don’t know what they use, whether they use actual explosives or they use powerful laser beams, but they can kill one or two people. And this was exactly what Morrison expressed concern about. He was afraid that they would go in that direction eventually with powerful beams. So, [inaudible] has always been part of my life because I think early on I said to myself, I was still in high school years, well anybody whether they were part of Los Alamos, up in the Manhattan Project, or supporting the Manhattan Project, anybody who goes into nuclear physics from the time of the Second World War on should really pay attention to arms control. Because they were very, very worried that people like the head of the Air Force whose name escapes me. Vandenberg or something like that. Remember MacArthur wanted to use nuclear weapons on China?

Behrman:

Yeah.

Button-Shafer:

And so did the head of the Air Force. Was it LeMay? Curtis LeMay?

Behrman:

I don’t remember.

Button-Shafer:

There have been various military who have been really gung-ho for using a nuclear weapon.

Behrman:

Mm-hmm.

Button-Shafer:

You still hear it. [laugh] So anyway, Congress did manage to pass the McCarran Act or something like that, to have civilians in charge. (In fact, the Biden administration has just been through this business of needing a special dispensation for the Secretary of Defense to be a military guy.

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

Went through that twice now. [laugh] And that stemmed from the great concern right after the war years, but I’ve always felt that should be kind of a, not a hobby, but a concern. A major concern of anybody who is doing research for pure research. And we’re often attacked, I was when I was at a college staying down in Connecticut. Wesley College. And I got attacked by a woman psychologist faculty member. I was hardly even introduced, and I was supposed to talk on particle physics. Well, I had come early for a colloquium on particle physics, had an interesting time with questions that were, “What do you think of relativistic mass?” The faculty were very much interested in that and then I met a couple of women. So, this was Wesley, was basically undergraduate, but they had some research going on and I’d been invited by a former UMass graduate student who was a faculty member in condensed matter. And he wanted me to meet a few women postdocs for their supper. But then I was supposed to give a talk afterwards and I think it was supposed to be on arms control. It was probably very negative on SDI. But they lacked the equipment. I had slides to show, and they didn’t even have a blackboard I could write on as far as I remember. They expected it to be just a talk and I had tried to urge through the person making the arrangements that they should have a projector so I could show some slides. And maybe a blackboard. But it was going to end up with my describing things and before I could hardly get started with this talk, some woman faculty member, I think psychologist, wanted to characterize me as being like Edward Teller. She decided all physicists were doing bad things with nuclear weapons. And I got asked that by some woman who had lost her way near SLAC, and I was getting gas. I was out for quite a period of time doing research. And this woman who was not a scientist at all wanted to see the reactor. She was asking the gas station attendant. I heard her ask twice and he didn’t know what she was talking about. I said, “Do you mean the Stanford Linear Accelerator? SLAC?” “Yes!” She was calling it a reactor. And she assumed they were producing nuclear material whether for energy or maybe for weapons. [laugh] But the general public have had a hard time distinguishing between reactors to produce energy, civilian reactors, and things that have to do with producing nuclear fuel for bombs. It’s really quite a mess and it’s partly a mess because of the way DOE has been organized too, I think. But anyway. So, you wanted to know how I got into research or what I did after I retired? I wasn’t ready to retire. [laugh]

Behrman:

I…please.

Button-Shafer:

Cause my husband was seven years my senior and I thought it was about time he stopped going to work every morning. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

He was losing his eyesight anyway. So, he didn’t retire until age 75 and I was 68. But my retirement then, that year in [inaudible] overlapped my actual retirement. But I was already working at SLAC. I found as soon as my son Charles stabilized, I went back, and I couldn’t do that much with nuclear. I tried. I joined in with a nuclear group. You saw my contract money which finally I told DOE I could no longer continue heading a group because of the fact that my son had cancer and it was you know, had to worry about helping him survive. And this was very well understood by a tall Black fellow, Coleman, who was my contract monitor. And he assured me that whenever I found I could come back to doing particle physics at accelerators that were far away that they would certainly support me. And in fact, he gave me and understood they would support me in whatever field I wished to be in because my condensed matter friends at UMass were having such a good time and I almost switched entirely to that. Was thinking during Charles’s illness of switching to medical imaging. Did a fair amount of poking around in that field. But soon realized that physicists aren’t necessarily listened to when they can improve [inaudible] imaging, the doctors may not use those improvements. I read a story, a [inaudible] story about some woman trained in physics who tried to do things in imaging and found that physicists’ advice wasn’t always accepted. But I would consult with Siemens representatives about not just CAT scans, but also MRIs and try to learn things about imaging. But anyway, I turned away from that, but they weren’t sure at UMass. There was speculation as I got back into physics, I did do a fifth force experiment with one guy from atomic physics, experimental theory and experiment both. He’d been trained at Princeton. And another chap at UMass who had trained at Johns Hopkins and was into astrophysics work. But the three of us collaborated. We didn’t find any fifth force, but that was something we’d do at home with modest equipment. Some of it being mine. But I really expected, [inaudible] be in the nuclear, but that was sticky because the guy who was in charge was just my age and graduate students could rebel against having a woman. They’d never had a woman faculty member. They’d had a woman postdoc from, was she from Morocco? Trained in France. Latifa Elouadrhiri. And we became quite good friends. She was there for a time until she went to a big lab. Jefferson Lab. But they’d never had a woman faculty member. And I found some kind of rambunctious, rebellious graduate student was trying to have an affair, though married. He was having an affair with an undergraduate, I think. You have to watch these men. Sometimes the reason that they’re standoffish may be not so much that they resent having a woman around, but they resent having an older woman around when they’re trying to have a fling with a young woman. Like a student. [laugh] You never know. It happened within my own group where I had a woman who was assisting me and going, as a graduate student, went down to Brookhaven and oh boy. And she was married. Didn’t prevent her from having a fling with a postdoc from another university. Or at least he wanted to have a fling. I don’t know how far it went. You try to ignore these things or cope you know. Anyway. So, part of the problem with older women being on the faculty and being unusual, being the only woman faculty member any fellow has ever seen is that they may not be too comfortable.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

So, anyway. But I did go to Bates Linear Accelerator until they had a tritium spill. And then it took them two years of shutdown to try to clean up the tritium. It’s not terribly dangerous cause it scarcely gets under your skin. Tritium, it’s H3, and it does have a fairly low level of activity but it’s enough if it gets inside your body it can harmful. Because of tritium spill coming from an accident at the Bates Linear Accelerator (a lab run by MIT), the accelerator essentially got shut down - just about the time I was beginning to do more and more with the nuclear group at UMass that carried out experiments at Bates on structure functions for complex nuclei. But it wasn’t really where I wanted to go. So, I probably would’ve ended up either in well, one of the guys whom I had hired originally for particle physics had gone over partly, in a very strong way actually, to medical physics. So, they apparently, both my friends in nuclear physics and in condensed matter physics where they used to see me at seminars occasionally when I had the time, they were not sure which way I would go as I came back into physics. Nor was I. So, I started at a fairly low level, but what did I discover? Well, DOE had changed. My mentor friend, a Black fellow, had died of pneumonia. He had wanted to have a fellowship and go to the JFK school for government. He had been trained in theory, but also had done experiment. Ernest Coleman. He was marvelous. And went in and took issue with the faculty who were about to deny me something I think in terms of a hire for my group when I still had control of funding. Yeah. He was still my contract monitor. And the rest of the faculty were being a little big or I needed to expand my research base or whatever. I put together a machine shop right next to some of my lab space.

But anyway, there were political machinations going on and this Black fellow not only treated me like a human being and was concerned for my son’s recovery if that were to come about, but he even went in after I had already spoken and made my own case for another faculty post. I had people lying you know, people heading different groups who came in later than I did but wanted to grab the money and wanted to grab a new faculty post. And they would lie and say I won’t get funding for the next year if I don’t get this faculty post. My contract’s coming up for renewal, some NSF contract, but it was also high energy physics. His contract had already been renewed. And the department head knew that, and he knew that. But he lied! And I had reason and money to go ahead and make a hire and this fellow, this Black fellow, volunteered to come in on my behalf and explain what my research was all about and try to convince my colleagues on the faculty. Cause it takes only one or two people to slay a whole faculty vote. You know, it can be difficult. So, he was my supporter, my friend in more ways than one. And he came up to review my contract when I was on sabbatical in the late 70s at Harvard. And he was just very supportive. So, I was sorry to see him go. And when I decided yes, Charles had stabilized. Yes, we know where he’s going from here. Yes, he was at Cornell, though still on…[sigh]. Still on his gastrostomy tube feeding. I think the chemo had ended but he still had to have some medication. And in any event, that he was functioning fairly well. Just you know, he still had to have feeding and he still had to be seen periodically by doctors, but he went through Cornell. Was considered the best mechanical engineering student.

Um. Anyway, so I thought things were stabilized and I went then, Bates having been shut down, oh! I went to Newport News where they set up electron colliding beams, setup kind of a racetrack accelerator. I got in on the accelerator design and I got in on the detector design. A toroidal magnet. So, I did a lot of design work for that. I put papers together, gave a talk or two. And this was all in connection with the nuclear guys. And one of the graduate students I think wanted to know more about my polarized target, but they weren’t at that stage yet where they were really that interested. And I’d gotten away from low temperature physics by then. But I did try to learn things about what was going on. That’s where I heard about [inaudible]. I ran into her husband, and he was furious that she’d been first invited to perhaps become a member of the Berkeley faculty and then turned away. But and it looked like it wasn’t that good an option. I hadn’t been doing electron physics except for relatively low energy few hundred MeV with my nuclear friends at the Bates Accelerator. Whereas at SLAC they had nuclear guys, some from Livermore, some from Stanford, which is a very small, fairly small physics department. And some from elsewhere joining in with high energy people from Virginia of all places. Nuclear and some high energy. And they were using polarized targets and planning to get a polarized electron beam. [inaudible] more polarization stuff. That’ll be fun. I joined in on several experiments. One was to try to find an axion. So, I had already been involved with experiments out at Stanford. Stanford in the [inaudible] center. Mostly in the end station, “A” as they called it. Which had so much radiation during the actual running of the beam you had to be far away from it. [inaudible] protectors in the control that was way up above. See with proton accelerators the machines I’d worked around, you could be close to because the protons, you could be at fairly high energies, but they weren’t moving that fast. They weren’t giving off that radiation and electrons could always produce showers. They could hit something and produce a bunch of gammas and the gammas could give an e+e- pair. So, radiation from electrons but they had a [inaudible] the Cambridge electron accelerator way back that had a bubble chamber explode a long time ago. Harvard and MIT ran the accelerator jointly. They couldn’t go much above 6 or 6 ½ billion electron volts, or GeV, because there was too much radiation. And the amount of energy that they had to feed in was dissipated to a fair percentage by the radiation electrons. Whereas you could be around the Bevatron which was 6 billion electron volts, and you could be fairly close when they had the beam on. Or certainly you could be close to the secondary beam, so that wasn’t the case at SLAC.

So, they had this electronics control room and being an engineer type, I was a little appalled that they didn’t have good diagrams. At one point I asked if anyone knew where the diagrams of the original spectrometer hardware were stored. Physicists and technical workers didn’t go near the hardware except for downtimes; and then I tended to interact mostly with the the accelerator technicians (called “acc-techs” in Berkeley). There was a guy who was sort of in charge of a crew of acc-techs at Stanford and a University of Rochester fellow who’d done very, very well on his qualifying exams. And I think he was probably either Chinese or Japanese but had grown up in this country. But he was brilliant supposedly. Rather small fellow. And he came along and wanted to, said, “Oh, let me take, let me do that for you, Professor Shafer!” And I said, “Well, have you ever run a bandsaw before?” Cause I was busy cutting some shims of material. Thin material. If you have metal material whether it’s aluminum or copper, the bandsaw may even grab the copper especially if it’s very thick. But you have to be careful with thin things and I was cutting up some shims for an axion search experiment we were setting up. And other physicists weren’t close by, but I was using a bandsaw. But I had some clamps for the you know, securing the thing to the bed of the bandsaw. And I guess it wasn’t…or it could’ve been a drill press in this instance. Yes, I think it was more likely a drill press. And the bad thing there is that unless you secure to the bed for this drill press your thin piece of metal, the drill will catch on the thin piece of metal, and you may lose a finger. [laugh] So, you don’t want to have some fellow or woman who’s never been around on any kind of hardware before. This is a guy from [inaudible]—

Behrman:

Oh, goodness now.

Button-Shafer:

—University of Rochester. His thesis advisor was a guy name Arie Bodek. Was a very fine physicist and knew a lot of theory, but I’m sure he knew a fair amount of hardware. But this chap, I was pretty clear, it was very evident that he’d never been around much machinery. So, I said, “Oh, I’ve just a few more to do. You don’t want to do this right now.” But he finally insisted. And I knew there was a first aid kid not far away. But I warned him. I tried to tell him if you have thin pieces of metal and maybe plastic could even be a little dangerous. But especially metal. And you don’t anchor it properly, you don’t hold it carefully while you’re bringing the handle down to lower the drill, the drill’s gonna catch your thing. Well, and guess what? Five minutes after he absolutely insisted that he could manage to, instead of cutting the sides of the metal [inaudible] drilling the holes in that [inaudible]. And that’s really, really dangerous. So, he came to me, finger dripping blood. [laugh]

Behrman:

Oh, no!

Button-Shafer:

So, I took him over to the first aid kit. [laugh] But at least he was willing to come and show me what he’d done. I think he was really [inaudible]. So, after that, he let me finish doing the machining job. [laugh]

Behrman:

Yeah! [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

I was doing something in the UMass shop. Known as the student shop and it was perfectly OK for graduate students. Once they’d been educated and for faculty if they could get permission. They were really supposed to ask, but they had sort of a gruff guy in charge of the student shop. But I had been very much used to being around equipment. I think it was early on in my polarized target development and I had something especially made for me by the head of the shop. And I was going to use it on a lathe where there was a truck holding this form that had been made out of pieces of wood all epoxied together. Maybe four pieces of wood, machined into a conical shape. And I had for the upper part of my cryostat, I was gonna have some copper tubing wrapped around sort of a heat shield. And it had to be from the design that had been developed at Argonne Lab that I was sort of imitating. And it was a fairly standard cryostat design. But I had to take the soft copper, OFHC, oxygen free something or other copper. Anyway, so this very soft copper had to be rolled into a conical shape. Well, what happened was as I was using the lathe, an undergraduate fellow whom I’d hired part-time to do some machining and he was very knowledgeable in what he was doing. And the head of the shop may or may not have been there. And there was maybe one other person, but I was using the lathe and I was well aware of some of the precautions you should take. But this was the first time I’d ever tried rolling metal on top of some wood form. And a piece of the wood flew off and went zooming past my ear. [laugh] My part-time technician, an undergraduate young chap, said, “Gee! We almost lost our leader.” I was momentarily startled but you know, I’d heard of far worse things happening with a lathe, where somebody’s ring or bracelet or a necklace or a tie, is caught by a rotating chuck or other piece of machinery. you don’t want to wear a tie; you don’t want to wear any jewelry if you’re going to go near any apparatus. But at least metal lathes are safer than wood lathes. Lower rotational speeds are used, and for metal lathes you have something holding your tool for you. But this was a new experience. And it whistled by my ear and so anyway, my employee part-time said to me later, sort of kidding me, “Gee, I thought we’d lost our leader!” [laugh] Thought I was going to be smacked in the head by this wood chip. So, you have to be aware if you’re going to go into experimental work and really do hardware. They’re going to be some…[sigh] some times that are a little bit—

Behrman:

Oh, gosh. Yes. That sounds like quite the near miss. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

[laugh] Yeah. Anyway, so I of course wanted to get back to doing research and I’d already been doing these end station “A” experiments with you know, various people. Um. I was annoyed at one of them. That was the axion search experiment that a chap who’d done a lot of writing was, he had got some award, maybe from the APS. I can’t think of his name right now. But he would have become known as a writer, and he wrote a book The Hunting of the Quark. And he got that from me because I told him, I gave him a coffee. I knew he was spending some of this time at SLAC. I don’t know whether he was really, I don’t think he was representing Stanford. But he was sort of part experimenter and part writer. I think he was hired or occasionally taken on at SLAC to contribute. He must’ve been considered a SLAC employee because he was a spokesperson for this search we were doing. Same experiment I was just describing where we needed some shims. We had various targets we were using. One was a hydrogen target and then some metal targets. We were trying to see a very low-mass object called an “axion,” which had been predicted by Weinberg and Wilczek. And people in Germany thought they’d seen it, but at a much, much higher mass level. So, we were looking for it in radiation that would come from a high-energy electron beam hitting a target, either liquid or metal Mike Riordan was the young physicist (and writer). I knew he was putting together something about search for electrons and he’d been in on some very exciting electron searches early on. And then quark searches. So, he was a pretty good writer. And I was just being friendly one time. I said, “Hey, look what Shelly Glashow has written for the New York Times Magazine.” And Glashow had entitled his article “The Hunting of the Quark,” and used a clever illustration showing physicists with pith helmets and jungle clothes crawling through jungle grass searching for the “naked Bottom quark” (the b quark – sometimes called “beauty” or “bottom). The title clearly was imitative of Lewis Carroll’s “Hunting of ….”

Behrman:

The Snark.

Button-Shafer:

Huh?

Behrman:

The Snark, right? To The Hunting of the Snark.

Button-Shafer:

Yes, it was The Hunting of the Snark. Would have been part of the Alice in Wonderland stories that were so popular years ago. I’d heard of the Snark. And I thought Glashow was pretty clever. Why? Not only did the title have The Hunting of the Snark, but it showed underneath it an illustration of people, of physicists presumably. [inaudible] physicists with pith helmets on going through the underground grass as if they were on a safari or something hunting for the snark. And had magnifying glasses in hand crawling through underbrush as if they were on safari. Hunting for the snark. And the article of course was all about hunting for the quark. That Glashow was writing, but he had these hunters. And so, that title apparently took hold with my friend, Mike Riordan. He produced a book with that same title, the one that Glashow had invented so to speak, The Hunting of the Quark. And gave no credit to Glashow.

Behrman:

Ugh.

Button-Shafer:

I don’t think I ever challenged him on it. But that’s the trivial type of thing that happens. Would Mike have come up with the title The Hunting of the Quark? His book title reminded me of Glashow’s article. I thought he might’ve at least mentioned it in a footnote someplace.

Behrman:

Right, right.

Button-Shafer:

But anyway, Mike and I were pretty good friends, and he did come up to Berkeley on a few occasions for a history thing I’d got interested in through a young woman professor who headed UC Berkeley’s department History of Science and Technology. She was researching the postwar activities of Werner Heisenberg. She had been in touch with a German fellow, an older physicist I had known, both in Goettingen and in Berkeley. Besides arms control, I’ve always been interested in history. And that’s the other forum that I belong to. And I’ve been the go- between for a man named Klaus Gottstein, who was a scientific assistant or attache for Werner Heisenberg (one who worked in the Munich Max Planck Institute where Heisenberg eventually went, and also had accompanied Heisenberg on trips to the U.S.). And he was in Goettingen when I was there back in the mid-1950s. He already had his Ph.D. then from working on cosmic rays. He was not Jewish despite the last name Gottstein. At least not to my knowledge, but I had seen him in Berkeley. He came to work with the Chamberlain-Segrè group while I was a graduate student. Chamberlain-Segrè group. Just switched to the Alvarez group, where he did research for his “Habilitation.” I’d gotten to know both him and his family and he did a lot of criticism of books or articles that he found unfair regarding Heisenberg and his war-time activities. Whether it was from David Cassidy, who was a well-known science historian at Stonybrook, I believe. Most recent book was Beyond Uncertainty. And Gottstein has been very unhappy about misleading sections of the book I thought Cassidy was sort of middle of the road, but you probably heard of the play Copenhagen by Michael Frayn? [inaudible] and there were 12, something like that. Ten or twelve essays written about the play, about the whole controversy of Heisenberg, whether he did or didn’t want to develop the atomic bomb.

And the woman heading this small history of science and technology I came to know up in Berkeley. Met her through a German discussion group that I would attend. They allowed people to come to summer courses for a very modest amount of money and I ran into this very interesting woman, and she was studying Heisenberg. And mostly his activities after the Second World War. In any event, she came to know my friend Klaus Gottstein and put me back in touch with him. He has asked me to look at writings because he has tried to send things to the APS for the Forum on Science and Society…I’m trying to think. I have two different forums. He’s tried to defend Heisenberg this many years after Heisenberg died. He died probably in the 1980s. And I remember I was at an APS meeting and Braham Pais was in charge and he is Dutch-Jewish. Barely escaped from the Gestapo in Amsterdam. But Pais had gone to the Institute of Advanced Study. I’d known him in Berkeley. And I was very moved because Pais asked everybody to have a moment or two moments of silence to honor Heisenberg when he died. So, there’d been Europeans who were far more generous towards Heisenberg and much more willing to believe that Heisenberg who could’ve come to a university position. Many universities would have been happy to have him. So, he could’ve escaped Nazism. But he felt he could not leave Germany. He wanted to help the young fellows; young physicists survive the war years. Not just become cannon fodder. But he loved Germany too much and he finally [inaudible] [phone ringing]. So, Heisenberg consulted with Max Planck who was still alive. Died in 1947. And Planck chose to remain in Germany. He was well on in years.

But Heisenberg, I think I might’ve told you at one point. His wife, Elisabeth, wrote after Heisenberg’s death in the political life of an unpolitical man. You know how it got translated? Much to be argued against or anyway, railed against I guess is the word I want, by Jeremy Bernstein. And he was really an anti-Heisenberg person for a long time. You have the whole spectrum. Anyway, it was entitled Inner Exile by whoever it was who did the translation of the German [inaudible] into English. And it’s true. Heisenberg would speak of inner exile. He’s not the only one. But Bernstein has never believed that. He’s never believed I’ve had discussions with other theorists who are on the other end of the line. Very competent theoretical physicists. So, it’s a sad story, but it’s the whole essence of what happened with that play Copenhagen. And it’s difficult. And my daughter had a course at University of New Hampshire taught by one of Heisenberg’s sons, Jochen Heisenberg. And I had had a discussion with Michael Frayn about his writing. But anyway, the Copenhagen play is controversial. Heisenberg’s controversial. And we should leave it at that. [laugh] But it is rather strange that I have several books from this David Cassidy and one of the things that I’ve done in retirement is to respond to this fellow Gottstein because it was the Berkeley young woman who studied physics in Chicago and then was with an eminent historian of science at Harvard for her Ph.D. and she’s done some really remarkable work. And I got to know her through Berkeley after I’d retired because she gave a talk about Heisenberg’s post war activities up at the lab. And then we became close friends.

So, it’s been an interesting retirement period, but for quite a while I did not want to leave active physics and I was already involved first with these end station A experiments. And I forgot to finish my story. The lack of any description especially if you’re in the midst of an experiment and even if the beam is down there’s still a lot of radiation. You don’t want to go near the apparatus too soon after the beam is cut off. So, I asked, “Well, we need to know better where these spark chambers or large chambers are located that the French people developed and are very knowledgeable about.” And we were a little suspicious because we couldn’t time some of the detectors properly that were the fast-responding detectors. And we weren’t sure where these required chambers were located. And they were hidden by concrete. [laugh] The problem was that they’re in this spectrometer that had bending magnets. Bending with a field in the horizontal, bending the things going way, way, way up high. Very high! And they had the 20 GeV line. They had the 12 GeV or 6 GeV and maybe a few GeV. It was referred to as Panofsky’s monument early on. This whole end station was just blocks and blocks and blocks of concrete and terribly high. It looked like some mausoleum, so we called it Panofsky’s monument. But they had these spectrometers that mostly bent in the vertical plane and these spark chambers that we wanted to get at were hidden by all the shielding that was around the particular beam. So, the beamline, the secondary line. We needed to know, so what did I have to go by? I finally found there was one graduate student who was around sort of as a postdoc who in his thesis had a very small drawing of a spectrometer that had been used about five, six years earlier. [laugh] Then I knew where some of the hardware was. I think it was only three or four years earlier. By looking at this drawing of this monster apparatus that you know, many, many, many, many, many meters and yards in extent. And this portrayed just a profile view or a cross sectional view in this little diagram that appeared in the page of a thesis. Then I found out later what had happened. All of the really good drawings, and SLAC did a wonderful job on any of their experiments, because the drawings would be done on, they used to be blueprints in the old days, but they turned into [inaudible] black on a white background instead of white lines on blue. But anyway, they kept all these prints that could be made. Some of them very big. And had a really good file system. There was a central place at SLAC, but you had to know what to ask for. You had to know the number of the drawing, when it was made, or who did the drawing, etc., etc., in order to call it up. And in the old days you could get it in print form. They’d make you a print if you asked for it. But gradually it would be displayed maybe on a screen. It would be in electronic form. But of the original drawings, however, it did exist. And where were they? Well, one of the technicians, the head guy told me, “Oh. Well, we were afraid they’d get too dirty with all the grease and the dirt and everything else around.” So, they were hidden behind some of the shielding. He knew exactly what little niche to go to find these rather dirty, rumpled original drawings. But the experiment was over by then. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

The numbers we knew that I needed I had to get from some student’s scale drawing for his thesis. And then I found up in the beam stack, I went out to a hardware store and bought a whole lot of polyethylene plastic. Why? Well, because there would be units that would quit working of our [inaudible] electronics. Then they’d have, they’d been pushed into what we called NIMNIMs Nuclear Instrumentation Module. Or maybe they came along later. And they would have sharp edges and if they would fail, you could call up the help part of SLAC and say, “Hey! We’ve got two or three modules of such and such a type discriminator of [inaudible] circuit or whatever. And they’re not functioning properly. Can you possible give us some substitutes or repair them?” And they would sit for a while. And the years when they did have some drawings, they weren’t drawings of the hardware, of the stuff down on the floor in the end station. No, no, no. They were electronic diagrams. And if you ever walked into an accelerator and in a fast electronics trailer, they have these little, teeny connectors. They went from big ones when I was a graduate student to smaller ones and smaller and finally went to these [inaudible] connectors. And RG174 whatever it was. But anyway, they went a little over an eighth of an inch outside diameter and then connected some cells that were really, really kind of small. And got pushed in instead of being locked in place. So, it was very dangerous to mess around with any of these wirings that were going all over the place because they were really like a rat’s nest. There had to be some diagrams. The diagrams of electronics, logic diagrams if you want to call them that, stretched out over you know, picnic table size. It had two, maybe three picnic tables, end to end, covered totally with the logic. Electronic logic diagrams. Well, these modules that were misbehaving would be set on top of the drawings and somebody would grab it and there’d be a gouge or a rip in the paper. Well, if somebody had a cup of coffee that might possibly get spilled on top of the diagrams. I finally got so frustrated; I went out. I was just a user. [laugh] From UMass. I went out and got a whole lot of polyethylene and put a very tough, thick polyethylene, put it on top of the electronic diagrams. So at least we could try to preserve those diagrams even though we didn’t know where the mechanical drawings went to. [laugh] Well, anyway. You want to sort of wrap up? Or [inaudible]—

Behrman:

Yeah. I think we should wrap up.

Button-Shafer:

I could go on endlessly with all the difficulties. [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Both tests of the Cherenkov, gaseous Cherenkov counter and nobody did the proper test. And the same guy who helped himself to that title The Hunting of the Quark and he was supposed to be in charge of a gaseous Cherenkov counter. And nobody had tested whether the face of it was gonna hold if they pumped it out. If they evacuated it. I interrogated a graduate student from some other university and they’d cut corners. And you know, had somebody grabbed, if you tried to evacuate and the window suddenly gives way, I’m talking about great big counters! You could have a graduate student sucked in or at the very least maybe a wrist gets broken.

Behrman:

[laugh] Yeah. On behalf of graduate students, I don’t think any of them want to get sucked in. [laugh]

Button-Shafer:

[laugh] No. Or a graduate student decided that somebody like me shouldn’t be holding the flask of liquid nitrogen that we needed to cool down some of the stuff for our…we had to oh, for the polarized stuff at SLAC. Yeah, that’s right. I even visited University of Virginia to help get some impurities that you could have only if you went into a low energy electron beam or did some fancy chemical analysis. So, anyway, I would frequently discover that some graduate student who was pretty cocky and was destined to have a pretty good academic career not only was having a fling, but when he shouldn’t have been. His thesis advisor was sort of aware of that and a little disappointed with him. But he also didn’t think a woman belonged holding any kind of door or apparatus. He would sort of take things out of my hand.

Behrman:

Oh, dear.

Button-Shafer:

He was a hell of a lot less experienced than I was. [laugh] Anyway, so there are endless stories and then I’ve gone way overtime as usual. I do have to find one final thing about Segrè. Do you know that he kept people’s names off papers? And I heard this—

Behrman:

No.

Button-Shafer:

—even long after he had died. I ran into Bob Birge who had been director of physics and cohead of an experimental group, but he was the fellow who married my thesis advisor’s sister who was also a physicist. They had met at Harvard. So, Bob Birge was the son of Raymond T. Birge. The old-time head of Berkeley physics lab. But nepotism kept him ever from being any more than a lecturer on campus. But he was certainly knowledgeable and been working at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab. The radiation lab for many, many years. And then there was some sort of lab celebration well after my retirement, I think, when I was doing work at the lab. At the Berkeley Lab but also down at SLAC. Mostly on the B-Factory. So anyway, I’d bumped into Birge and also to Don Glaser, my onetime sort of boyfriend who ended up marrying the other woman.

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

And then divorcing her. Tried to get her to learn flute. And she wasn’t cut out for that. But Glaser was a bit of a womanizer. But at least you could tell that early on. But as far as Segrè was concerned, yes, we knew he was gruff. We knew he could be abrupt. We knew he was sort of oriented and knew a lot about history of physics and a lot of chemistry as well. But he was kind of a stuffed shirt. You could tell that. His wife would tease him because he was so happy that a dentist’s secretary recognized his name. Anyway, and the story that Ulam had about Segrè doing fishing in the Los Alamos years. Trout fishing. And he also has a story about Teller. Apparently, Fermi was a great teaser and so he would tease Teller, “Why haven’t you Hungarians developed anything of your own?” Or something like that. But in the same part of Ulam’s autobiography Adventures of a Mathematician he describes how Segrè prided himself on his knowledge of trout fishing. So, when they were at Los Alamos, Fermi came upon Segrè one day sitting on the banks of a little stream. And he was extolling the virtues of trout fishing to some other person who was there. This is in the Ulam’s autobiography Adventures of a Mathematician. And so what Ulam says right after he says, “Well, Fermi was really a tease and he would do this with Edward Teller much to Teller’s irritation.” Fermi was, as I say, a tease; so when he heard Segrè elaborating on the virtues or the intricacies of trout fishing, Fermi remarked, “Ah! A battle of wits, eh?” [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Oh, and then he got teased at a wedding reception for Don Glaser. Don had not really planned on marrying before he travelled to Stockholm for his Nobel award in 1960. And it was all a big spread in Life magazine eventually. He decided to take his girlfriend Bonnie with him. Elsie McMillan, the wife of Ed McMillan (E.O. Lawrence’s successor as head of the LRL lab) told Don, “You can’t go to Sweden with a young woman with whom you’re having an affair, and not be married to her. Swedish people can do that! They can come here as an unmarried couple. But you can’t as an American go over with a young woman for the Nobel ceremony and not be married to her!” Elsie McMillan promised Don Glaser that, if he would give her twelve hours’ notice, or maybe even less than that, she would have a reception for him if he went ahead and got married. He decided barely a week ahead of his trip to Sweden that he would get married. He called up his theory friend Abraham (“Bram”) Pais (who happened to be spending some months in Berkeley) at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday morning, and asked, “Can I borrow your wife’s wedding ring?” He didn’t have a ring!

Behrman:

[laugh]

Button-Shafer:

Ha! So, with Pais’s wife’s wedding ring, he went ahead and arranged the wedding ceremony. And then instead of our usual Monday night Alvarez group meeting, some of the group’s members (including Luis and Jan Alvarez and me) went to the McMillan home for the reception in honor of Don and his new bride. And he danced with various people. We all had something to drink and toasted the lovely couple. And he danced with me, and he whispered in my ear, “I think I’m making a mistake.” [laugh] (I said recently to my daughter Christina, “You know, I’m probably going to have to leave out of any memoir some things that have to do with intimate relationships, or things that could be taken as gossip or criticism.” She said, “Don’t worry, Mom. Their families probably know it already.” [laugh]

Behrman:

[laugh] And probably.

Button-Shafer:

Here is what happened as Emilio Segrè and his wife left the reception. Elsie McMillan was laughing quite a bit as I left finally. Apparently Elsie was feeling so great that she had managed to convince Glaser to get married and had to have this wonderful reception in her home. And so, she bent over and kissed Segrè on the forehead. [laugh] And I guess Segrè didn’t know what to say! He was normally rather reserved, or formal. Both Elsie McMillan and Elfrieda Segrè found his reaction amusing. [laugh] They were still laughing about that when I came along. If you ever want to get into the details of Nobel Physics Prizes, Life magazine had quite a spread with many pictures of Don Glaser and his bride covering their trip to Stockholm in 1960. Glaser got the Nobel award for the invention of the bubble chamber.

Behrman:

Something like that.

Button-Shafer:

And had ridden off with this lovely undergraduate math major. She was finishing her senior year. They did have two kids. Lived in a huge house. But Don was cheating on her. And so, the marriage broke up. Cheating with a housemaid. [laugh] He used his Nobel Prize money to buy a lovely house. But Bonnie was doing fairly well, and I ran into her after I’d gone back to Berkeley. Some sort of reception. I ran into Glaser at oh, some political affairs discussion at International House. Something that was quite interesting and related to science. But anyway, he was as delightful to talk with as ever. I think he no longer played viola, but he did remarry; his second wife was a woman who played harpsicord. I learned from Bonnie that she had gone on to study psychology. I don’t know what she did with it, but I think she looked elegant. She looked very well established and spoke of her son. And so, I think that the son stayed fairly close to the father, but I don’t know that he went into any kind of physics. I’m always fascinated when I run into numbers of families of physicists and I’m always curious did a son or a daughter of a well-known physicist go into physics? Segrè’s son went into journalism. [laugh] I think that may be changing. It used to be that, especially in academia, the sons and perhaps the daughters were sort of turned off by seeing the fathers always working long hours at their physics or some area of science. So, do you know of many in your family? Or your fiancé’s family? Offspring who’ve gone into the same field?

Behrman:

Yes, to a certain extent. But I should probably wrap up the recording.

Button-Shafer:

I’m going to let you go. [laugh] [inaudible] Besides doing things for the record. I did want to get that in about Segrè. Cause it mattered. He kept people’s names off things, and I started to say Bob Birge I ran into at a celebration. And he was reminiscing. It may have been the 50th anniversary of the antiproton discovery. But he said to me sort of privately as we went up to get a drink or something at this celebration. Same place I think where I ran into Don Glaser. But he started on Segrè. He said Segrè went all over the country advertising to some degree in advance, but certainly afterwards. Giving talks about the antiproton with just his own name. He said it was very political. And Segrè kept names of graduate students, my name was kept off a number of experiments where I contributed a lot and worked very hard. And it really mattered not so much for me, but for a young postdoc who had been trained, he was either Canadian trained in England or vice versa. But he ended up a professor at Oxford. He however had gone from the Berkeley postdoc appointment with the Chamberlain-Segrè group to Chicago. There was no paper trail. His name was not put on papers. Segrè did this to the younger people. He kept their names off papers. The reason being that if there were as few names as possible, he would be more prominent.

Behrman:

Hmm.

Button-Shafer:

The main thing that most people don’t know of is that they should’ve had a third person. A man named Clyde Wiegand who had helped to design the apparatus but was not a professor. But Segrè explained to me one time or claimed that he got the award for a lot of other things not just for the antiproton. And that I can believe. So, it was he was a very productive fellow, but he was political. And I think he didn’t care too much for either for Lawrence or for Alvarez. [laugh] And that was evident in many ways, but I won’t go into that. But you wanted to know what Segrè was like. I managed to relate pretty well to him. He even paid me for the time I spent editing a textbook he was writing. Through Segrè, I learned a lot in searching out old photographs and fixing up his equations. [laugh]

Behrman:

Right.

Button-Shafer:

And then his [inaudible] club music. So, it was a mix. But Owen was really a wonderful inspiration. He was so good and so clever. [laugh]

Behrman:

Yeah.

Button-Shafer:

And then he developed Parkinson’s. That was so sad.

Behrman:

Yeah. It’s very…

Button-Shafer:

And Owen was not the political type. So. [laugh] If you wanted experiment time at an accelerator you knew Segrè was the one who could…

Behrman:

Who could make it happen.

Button-Shafer:

Work at the politics. You knew he was more skilled politically.

Behrman:

Well, thank you so much for talking with me. I will stop the recording then here.

[End]

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