Geoffrey Taylor

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Interviewed by
Thomas S. Kuhn
Interview date
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This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.

This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.

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Preferred citation

In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:

Interview of Geoffrey Taylor by Thomas S. Kuhn on 1963 May 9, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA,

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


This interview was conducted as part of the Archives for the History of Quantum Physics project, which includes tapes and transcripts of oral history interviews conducted with ca. 100 atomic and quantum physicists. Subjects discuss their family backgrounds, how they became interested in physics, their educations, people who influenced them, their careers including social influences on the conditions of research, and the state of atomic, nuclear, and quantum physics during the period in which they worked. Discussions of scientific matters relate to work that was done between approximately 1900 and 1930, with an emphasis on the discovery and interpretations of quantum mechanics in the 1920s. Also prominently mentioned is: Albert Einstein.


On 9 May, 1963, P.S. Kuhn dined with Professor Dirac at St. John’s College. Later in the evening Kuhn was introduced to Professor Sir G. I. Taylor, the man who first performed the experiment on photon interference. Sir Geoffry said that the experiment had been performed in 1909 and that he had actually set up the apparatus and done the work in his own “playroom” in London. Asked where the idea for the experiment came from, he said that he had just completed his work at Cambridge, and had asked J. J. Thomson for a suggestion for a piece of research. J. J. had a remarkably large number of ideas, and this was, one of them. Sir Geoffry was quite clear that J.J. Thomson was interested in the work because of his concern with Einstein — that Einstein’s name had figured markedly in the discussion. Also, he remembered that J. J. Thomson repeatedly mentioned Einstein in lectures at Cambridge, perhaps as early as 1907 or before. Sir Geoffry was not clear that these remarks in lecture would have had anything to do with relativity, but they certainly did treat of the photon.