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Interview of Wallace Waterfall by R. Bruce Lindsay on 1964 April 17, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4938
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Waterfall’s involvement with the Acoustical Society, the American Institute of Physics, and the Acoustical Materials Association (AMA); the management of the Acoustical Society, the formation of the American Institute of Physics and its relations with the member societies, the formation and reason for the AMA. Influential presidents and members, such as Arthur Compton, Paul Klopsteg, Frederick Seitz. Some comments on his war work with Copitz while on leave from Celotex.
A question that I wanted to raise in this connection was, did you find among the engineering or technological members of the acoustical society in those early days, a feeling that they didn’t want to go into the American Institute of Physics because they didn’t want to be associated or to be considered as physicists if they were engineers or at any rate, architects or so forth. You didn’t detect that. There was still enough interest in physics in the membership of the society to carry the society along in the institute. Or what was the nature of the debate, if there was a debate, at the time. You say you were a holdout, but weren’t there others who also were suspicious because they felt that they weren’t primarily physicists — they might be interested in acoustics, but acoustics was more engineering anyway and so forth.
I don’t recall that there was any strong opposition. I was regarded as being the holdout, maybe it’s because I was in the strategic spot to be more effective in my holding out, but the engineering people that I knew, their attitude was, well, it didn’t make any difference — they weren’t either for it particularly or against it. The one thing they did not want to lose was the economy of the society.
They probably were interested in the possible gain in efficiency or lowering of cost of publication.
Yes, whatever we could do that would be as a community effort, why, they were for it, as long as the society did not lose its economy. If anybody had come along then with the idea of setting up divisions of the Physical Society and having the Acoustical Society become one of those divisions, why, that wouldn’t have gone over at all. The division business came up later. But the Acoustical Society was strongly engineering-oriented, and it was really the architectural acoustics group that got the acoustical society started. If it hadn’t been for that, it wouldn’t have been started at least at the time it was.
Well it’s very interesting to see how it has gone, that is to say in a sense the Acoustical Society helped to develop the Acoustical society by its very attitude.
By ignoring the field of acoustics.
That’s right, and encouraging those physicists who were interested in acoustics to find a natural home in the society. And that, in turn, kept the society from becoming you might say, merely an industrial –-
— research organization that kept it — kept it having an academic atmosphere and kept its physical character — or character as a group of physicists, I think, preserved over the years and has, therefore, lent a flavor to the society that it — that it wouldn’t have had if it had gone, say the way the I.R.E. went.
Well, you can thank Harvey Fletcher for this largely, because when we first started about talking — when we first started talking about a society, it was to be a society of architectural acoustical engineers — that’s really what we had in mind and after my first conversation with Harvey Fletcher, after Watson and Knudsen and I had met on the west coast, he was the one that said, why don’t you expand, why don’t you increase the scope, of course, Harvey’s main interest was speech and hearing, and he said that if you increased the scope, I think you will benefit your architectural acoustical engineers too because they are much interested in speech and hearing, that has to be a part of it, and you broaden the scope, you’ll get in a wider circle of people and without diluting the thing — so Harvey was the first one to bring in the notion of expanding the scope and, of course, we’re very glad for that.
Yes, I think it has set the tone of the acoustical society, in the very same way.
It would have been an engineering society without that, there’s no doubt.
It’s very curious that this comment could come from a man in industrial research.
Well, of course, Harvey Fletcher had been trained as a physicist — he never really —
— didn’t get over his feeling that he was a physicist. I think he still has it today.
He became president of my physical society afterward.
He certainly did.
Yes, that’s right.
Well, we all agreed that there was, we recognized even the engineers in the forming group, that these academic men who had become associated with us, that their participation in the society was highly desirable and they seemed to favor this broader field. We all went for it.
I wonder, Wallace, whether we could explore just a little bit, your personal relations with some of these rather distinguished early members of the society. Of course, we talked about Fletcher and Watson, but there were others, for example, like Saunders and Wenti and some of the other people at the — at the Bell Labs. Was your association with them largely confined to meeting them at, in connection with the society at meetings, or did you have — did you develop personal relations, for example, there is Paul Sabine –-
— I presume you became very intimate friends of his.
That partly in connection with your own business. But, how about Saunders? Did you ever get to know him very well?
I didn’t know Saunders too well. He was president, or I might never — until he became president of the society. Why, I got very well acquainted with him during the years he was president and he was president for two years and he was a delightful fellow. But I didn’t know other — I didn’t know anything about him, about him in particular, beyond my association with him in connection with the society. The same was true of, well, some of these other early men. Paul Sabine I did know well. He was — the fellows who were oriented in the direction of architectural acoustics, I got better acquainted with than the others because I had many contacts with them outside of society meetings. That was true of Watson that was true of Knudsen, it was true of Sabine, and it was somewhat true of Dayton Miller.
When did you get acquainted first with Floyd Firestone?
Oh, Floyd — I got acquainted with Floyd a little bit when he was — I didn’t know much about Floyd until just, I believe, it was just after the war. Floyd was pursuing his development of what’s his gadget — the —
The echo reflector scope.
The ultrasonic reflector scope during the war, and I didn’t know much about Floyd until after this.
But, he’d been in the society though, long before.
I know he had been, but I had very little contact with him.
He had apparently attracted the attention of Floyd Watson in connection with his willingness to spend time on this section on contemporary papers, which has been such a continuing activity of the society. I had forgotten that Floyd was the one who really started that.
I knew of him as a society member and a worker in the society, but I didn’t get —
He was at that time a professor at Michigan still —
— and teaching physics and acoustics there and —
Well, Floyd was kind of out of the mainstream during the war — you know, there was a bunch of us that got into this submarine underwater sound.
This was the Second World War.
Second World War — yeah. And, Floyd was kind of out of that mainstream. A lot of other people got into acoustics during the Second World War too, —
— by getting into underwater sound. Franz Kurie, who had been a nuclear physicist, was one of those. Jack Tait got into acoustics.
No, Elmer Hutchinson.
Elmer Hutchinson got into acoustics.
Yeah, Hutch and I got associated in the Second World War.
Let’s explore that a little bit; this question of your moving here to New York to Columbia and so on. How did this come about; did there — was there one of these N.D.R.C. Committees simply looking around and said well, here’s Wallace Waterfall, he had ought to be in on this, and –-
What happened? How did it take place that you got brought in here to this particular group, Wallace?
Well, it goes back a little further than that. See, I was with Celotex and I’d been on some of this dam work, I’m not using, I’m using dam meaning the kind of dams that they dam up rivers with, and then the company decided that it should get into some kind of war work. So –-
This was actually before we went into the war? Or —
Yes, this was before we went into the war.
1939 and 1940?
Yes, it started in ‘30 — in about 1939, so I got called into the Board of Directors and said we want to get into war work and what should we do? So that was a nice question, and I — they said that we’ve heard about the— this idea of pooling manufacturing facilities and getting the Attorney General’s blessing, in spite of the fact that it may be something of an anti-trust violation, and so, why don’t you look into this, and go to Washington and see the Attorney General, find out what you have to do, and then set up a machine to pool someplace, and see if we can get something we can make. So I went to Washington and I got all the dope on it through the Attorney General’s Office. I went down to New Orleans, where our principal plant was and decided that we would see if we could rig up, line up a bunch of manufacturers, foundries, machine shops, assembly places and I got about thirty of them, all to agree to pool in on something until I could get a big contract. I had an engineer working with me — a good mechanical engineer — and we — we itemized all the facilities these guys had, what they could make, then the proposition was to get it to contract. So by working back and forth with the Army, I finally got an order. We found we could make a 35mm gun mount. We had all the facilities to do that. Also, we leased a big assembly plant down in New Orleans to do this. And then we finally got the order, there was a — it started off with about, oh, it was close to two million dollars worth of these gun mounts. Well, we had all set up to do it, we had all the facilities we needed, we’d planned our assembly and everything, and I took it back then to get the Board of Directors at Celotex to accept the contract. By that time, they had gotten cold feet, and they said no, we’re scared of this, you’ve put in this year-or-so of work doing this, so we’re not going into it. Well, I got so mad that I told the Board and the president at that time, that to hell with this, if you’re not going to war, I am.
So the next thing I did was to go down to the Bureau of Personnel, the Navy Bureau of Personnel in Washington, and announced that I’m down here to go to war. Well, they said to me that they would start me off with a Lieutenant’s commission and assigned me to something. And then I no sooner got back, they said, if I want to — they said at your age with your background, you’d do really better off to get into some civilian work. So, I went back to Chicago, and I no sooner got back to Chicago when apparently this word got around and I got a call first from Phil Morse, who had this ultra-secret project going on down in the Navy Building and he called me to come down and join him. Well, then Hutch came through the next day and said don’t pay any attention to Phil Morse, but you should come and join my group here. Well, then next I got a call from Jack Tait who was Hutch’s administrative assistant at Copitz, and Jack was head of the whole division, and Jack said don’t pay attention to any of them, you come down and start work, and this was along in the latter part of, I think, it was in December, 1942. So I asked Jack, alright, where do I come and when. And he said show up on January 1 at 8:30. On the morning of January 1, 1943, I walked into his office down on Fulton Street, kind of surprised him. But I said what are you going to do with me. Well, he said that we haven’t got any place to — I can’t put you on any government payroll. You go up and see George Pegram and we’ll put you on Columbia University’s payroll. Well, I went up and talked it over with Pegram and Pegram said yes, we’ll put you on our payroll, but you go down and be a right-hand man to Copitz, and I didn’t know whose payroll I was on yet until a year later in the bar at the Valencia Hotel out in La Jolla, I met Bill Houston and Bill Houston says, I’m so glad to meet you, you’ve been on my payroll for a year and I haven’t met you yet.
For Heaven’s sakes.
So I was on the special projects group or something like that that Bill Houston headed.
You must have got some salary checks.
Oh yes, I kept being paid, but administratively, all I was told, I didn’t know whose group I was stuck with.
But you were told your salary came through Columbia?
Came through Columbia and I was — I was told that I was working with Pop Copitz. Well, Pop was -– I was the right-hand man to Copitz. I couldn’t be. I wasn’t on (????) the Hutch with Pop. He was a technical aid to Pop and I never had any title. Well, Pop was an old industry man, too. You know, he was a retired vice-president of Bell Laboratories and he and I got along like a million dollars and so though Hutch and I were both working for Pop, we hardly ever saw each other. I was always going in one direction when Hutch was going in the other.
But you did work on this underwater sound business? I suppose —
Yes, I was in the — my job was to be a — I would go around to the different laboratories, about a half a dozen laboratories at New London, one out on Point Loma, Woods hole and work on up at General Electric, down at Orlando and I would go around, find out what they’re doing, how far they’d progressed with it, what their problems were and try to work as an coordinator and then when we got something that was ready to be introduced to the Navy, I would be — I was down to Washington about every week talking with somebody down in the Navy about it. I’d go out on ships with them to demonstrate how good it was, or how bad it was, one of the two, and this was my — this was my war work. This went on until we — until we got into, toward the end of it. First –- the first was anti-submarine work, you know, and then it got into pro-submarine work. And then when it came close to the end, and I was supposed to go back to Celotex.
Were you on leave at the time?
I was on leave, yeah, I was on leave for three years, but about every so often, Delberg, he’d come down to New York and he’d call me up and toward the end, why he said, isn’t it about time you quit and came back. And, I promised I would before long and then when I got into this summary reports group cause their job was — the, the, N.D.R.C. had decided that they were going to preserve all of this by summarizing all the work done, microfilming a lot of stuff, and it was in 14 — I just dug this out this morning –-
Yeah, we did that.
This summary reports group started in 19 —
What happened to the one that you —
— you gave me, I don’t know. Maybe that’s the one, mmmm?
Yeah, it started in —
That’s the one, oh no, here it is.
Well, it started in 19 —
45, Yeah. It started about the middle of 45. It started here in August. No, it started about March of 45. Yeah, in March, 45. Well anyway, I was called in one day and asked, how would I like to continue and handle this summary reports of all the divisions except medicine. Well, I was told that If I was the least bit interested, go down to Washington and see Van Bush, which I went down to Washington. I saw Van Bush and I saw that it was going to last two or three years. So then I came back and Betty Goodfriend was my secretary then cause I’d picked her out of a bunch in early ‘43 and I told Betty what this was and I said that if we take this on, you’re going to have to do most of it because I’m going to have to go back at least part-time on Celotex she said, why not, so we did take it on and we set up, well, as this report indicates, we set up quite a crowd there. I was back part-time on Celotex, part-time down here, and Betty really deserved a tremendous amount of credit for having run this game until it finally finished up. Then Betty, when she could go right on there, we moved her up to the Institute of Physics because I had been elected secretary of the Institute at that time. I was elected secretary of the Institute in ‘45, I think it was.
Was this before you really officially left Celotex?
Oh yes, before I joined the staff. This was — I was elected secretary, I believe, of the Institute when Pegram resigned.
Would that be in l949?
‘45 isn’t it?
No, I joined the Institute in ‘49. I joined; I became a secretary of the Institute in 1945, between 1945 and 1946. 1945, March 1945.
I became secretary of the Institute. Pegram was still treasurer.
Who had been, had there been a secretary, a —
Yeah, Pegram was both secretary and treasurer.
And then he decided he wanted to give that up in 1945 and so I became secretary when I was still back full-time at Celotex.
This was secretary of the board?
Uh, uh. Secretary of the board.
Yeah. And this came largely through Pegram, I presume, your, through your association with him.
Yes, yes. But I was on, I was on the executive, I was on the governing board —
Oh, I see.
— and the executive committee. I was at the Institute for, I think the last time I looked it up; I was on there 10 years or so before a long time back. And then I became, I left the board in 1949, when I joined the staff.
Yeah. This was as representative of the acoustical society, wasn’t it?
Yes, yeah. And it would, the, well, the rest of it is history about how I first was, how I got here. I had first, after the war it became obvious that the Institute needed some, needed some management help, business management help and so I was appointed chairman of a committee to find somebody to come in as business manager of the institute to help Harry. The man I picked and got to come was Cleveland Norcross who had been the ambitious administrative assistant during the last R.D. days and Van joined the staff as institute, business manager, general manager, I forget what it was and he died within about a year after he came here. He was out to lunch with Betty one day and fell off his chair, brain hemorrhage, I guess it was. Well, then it was, I was, the guys chided me on the executive committee and said don’t take it, you didn’t do so good with your committee last time because you got a good man, but he didn’t last long, so go find another. And it was in the process of looking for another man that Betty suggested why didn’t I combine some of my jobs and take the job myself, which, I suggested that and that’s how I got here.
How about Celotex? Didn’t they put up a little opposition to this?
Yeah, I had quite a little trouble with that. There was, I had — Goldberg had left Celotex at that time. He had retired and Otis Matsel, a very close friend of mine that I’d known for many years, would have become president. And, when I first talked about coming down here in the spring of 1949, I told Otis that I thought I was going to do this, and Otis pooh-poohed the idea, thought it was just a passing fancy, until along in October, I kept telling him how I thought I was. Along in October, I had come down, I rented an apartment. I went back and told Otis I’d rented an apartment. He then realized I was serious, and he wanted to know why I didn’t want to stay with Celotex, and what they could do, and he offered me anything I wanted, practically, and he said, “If you want a vice-presidency, you can have that tomorrow. What else do you want?” But, as I told him, no, it was — it wasn’t a smart thing for me financially, to leave Celotex. But there were some other things about the company that I wasn’t so enthusiastic about. And as I saw in the future, and I thought this would be a lot of fun. Besides, I’d had - I had to give up something. I was — at that time I was director of research of Celotex. I was secretary of the Institute. I was secretary and treasurer of the Acoustical Materials Association and secretary of the Acoustical Society. And all these things were growing. And I had to give up something. So I decided I’d give up my main job.
Were you at that time still forced to do quite a lot of traveling for Celotex?
I was traveling a great deal. I was traveling out to — well, I had just finished up this - I had just finished up this summer reports group thing, which I was director of that at the same time I was doing all the rest of these things. So I was — I was — I was tired of traveling, and I was just tired.
I think you might have been.
So I quit Celotex, and had a very amicable parting there, but I knew the top group very well, and told them there wasn’t — it wasn’t money I was changing for. It wasn’t anything else. I just thought I would like to do this.
If you’d stayed there, I presume you really would have been forced to give up your association with the Institute and others. That is, the — you’d have to give up something.
I had to give up something. It quite probable that - well, they would have not — the Company would not have objected to my continuing certain of these things, but I would have given up — I — I’m — I might have continued for a while as a kind of an honorary position of secretary of the Institute — what it was — but I was being “drug in” all the time more actively in the Institute. Harry Barton would call me about all kinds of things in Chicago, and — and Cleveland Norcross, Bud Norcross, hadn’t got his feet wet enough here yet but what he was asking me a lot of questions. So I was down here at least once a month on that. I would have had to give up probably — I know I would have given up my trade association and business, and I would have probably had to give up the Acoustical Society. And I would have –-
That would have been —
I’m diffi — I never liked to give up things. I’ve saved papers, and even at home I’ve saved things.
Well, we’re very glad you saved the Acoustical Society.
No, the Acoustical Society was a good, vigorous organization. It would have saved itself.
Well, as to the years of the Depression, in the early thirties, what were some of the main problems that the Acoustical Society had to meet? Were there any big crises?
Well, we reached what appeared to be a crisis. I can’t pinpoint the year, but it was probably about - when were the technical committees of the Acoustical Society formed? They were about ten years ago, I judge.
That’s fairly recent, relatively recent. Yeah, that was a crisis all right.
Uh-huh. But a few years before that — well, that was about the time I came to the Institute, or soon after I came with the Institute. There was a feeling — a kind of a grassroots feeling that the management of the Acoustical Society was not sufficiently responsive to the wishes of members. I guess maybe that’s a good way to put it. There was a stirring among the younger element. And this reached pretty high level. We had a number of sessions. You remember them.
Oh, yes. Yes.
Because you were in on them. We had a number of sessions. And then the technical committees were formed, and later on the technical council was formed. It kind of gave us a House of Representatives with a large committee representation which could influence the direction in which the Society went. It could not only in — not only administrative affairs but the conduct of meetings and the Journal and so forth. I feel that this kind of a — of a grassroots representation has been very healthy.
It certainly saved the Society from being broken up into actual sections like the I.R.E. –-
And this, I think, was felt to be a good —
It did. And it — it prevented the establishment of divisions, such as the Physica1 Society now has, too.
Well, this, of course, is as you say the last ten years. I think Jim has in mind any earlier crises, say, in the days before the war when the Society was growing, but — hadn’t reached, of course, the stage it reached right after the war, when there was so much interest in wartime applications. This resulted, of course, in a burgeoning of the Society, but it was a pretty comfortable organization back in the thirties —
Before the war, it was a very comfortable organization. It — it continued to grow, slowly, as the chart of membership growth shows in our — we published this, wherever it is in here — that shows we had a — There was a time, though, when we had — when we dropped off a little bit. Where is that chart? ... Here it is. There was a chart — you see where we — we started with here with — in the Charter Members. And time we got - we had about close to 500 Charter Members. And then we went up to about 800 membership, and then we dropped back down to in the 600’s in 1937-1938, and we never got — even in 1941, ‘42, ‘43, got up, never had as many as 900 members.
And then when we got into the war business, then when we started this growth here. But it was — it was a —
On this depression period, really —
The depression period.
Thirty-four to ‘37 or —
Nobody was traveling to anything, and nobody was paying any more dues than they had to pay, so that we had small meetings at that time.
Who were the important members of the organization during the postwar period? That is, in the sense that, who were the men who really made the decisions and provided continuity for the organization? Because you could Of course, you provided much of that.
But who were some of the other men who did that?
Well, Bruce was one.
Well, I came along because -–
(and other voices)
You had people like Ted Hunt, obviously, who —
Yeah, Ted Hunt -–
— tower of strength in the Society —
Ted Hunt has been —
Dick Vaux —
Dick Vaux, Larry Batchelder, Leo Beranek — these were all — this was the — these were all — you look over the list of officers, you find who are some. But Ted Hunt has been a — as you say, “a tower of strength” to the Society for many, many years. This list of officers here that we had in these immediate postwar years: Bob Young!
Bob Young. Hugh Knowles. Hallowell Davis. All of these — a number of them in the immediate — in the immediate postwar years.
Yeah. Harry Olson.
Harry Hilson. Hal Olson –-
I’ve often wondered why -–
— was in this group.
— why my old mentor, C. W. Stewart, didn’t seem to have more active interest in the affairs of the Society in this period. I know he — he came in and was a member of the Council in the early days. He’s one of the few — you see, he’s one of the early members of the Council. He was ‘30 to ‘33 -–
— apparently took quite a lot of interest in acoustics. He was one of the — as B. C. Miller points out — one of the regular members of the N.R.C. Committee on Acoustics, and so on, and yet he was never president of the Society. He seems somehow to have — to have passed out of the picture by mid-thirties. Now, this interests me. Of course, I realize that G. W. Stewart, in a certain sense, changed his principal research activity from acoustics over into X-ray diffraction of liquids, where he built up quite a school. In fact, he invented a name, “Cymotaxis” which didn’t last. But interest for a while, it made quite a splash.
I don’t know, I’ve sometimes wondered, you know, Wallace, whether perhaps I may not be a little responsible for what happened there because (chuckle) of the book that he and I wrote together in which he kept after me to produce a revision of, in the late thirties, and I st — I simply refused to do it. And the reason was, from my angle that — that I wanted freedom to go and do it my own way. And he wanted to devise more or less his way. He was very generous. In fact, I — I have to say in — due to confess this, in honor of his memory, that — that he was willing to give me the complete royalties (chuckling) on the second edition if I would go ahead and do it. But all the same, I knew that G. W. well enough to know that he wanted it done his way. And I never really wholly liked the organization of the book, though the people that used this said they did — and it may well be. It was his organization, though I contributed the writing and a certain amount of the details, development. It was G. W.’s idea. And I have a sort of feeling that gradually he got to feel that I wasn’t playing the game well with him and we drifted apart. And whether that was also the part of his drifting away from the Society I never did find out. Because I — my association with him almost evaporated toward the very end, and of course, then, not only did he get interested in this other line of research, but he went into — pretty heavily into trying to stimulate college teaching of physics with those summer seminars that he held at the University of Iowa, which became quite famous. I never was invited (chuckling) to go to one, and I often wondered, perhaps, if — if this feeling about that book may have had something to do with — and if so, I’m very sorry, because I admired him very much, and I think that he could have played a more vital role later on in the Society, because he was a — he was a very shrewd man — very shrewd indeed, and a good physicist right up to the end ... It’s too bad, but I never quite understood what happened.
I never detected anything there at all. I used to meet him. He attended meetings of the Physical Society in Washington. That would be one meeting he would come to. Up until about his death.
Yes, that’s right.
And I’d forgotten when he did die, but it must have been six or seven years ago now?
No, it’s longer than that. It’s in the mid-fifties, yeah.
Mid-fifties? Yeah. Eight-ten years ago. Well, I used to see him in Washington, and I’d run into him sitting in the hall down there, at either the Shoreham or the - the Sheraton Park, and we’d sit on and chat a while. Always very cordial, but I think that - I think his interests were away from acoustics.
And he had — I think he just wanted to get together for some of these old Physical Society friends, because he was getting well up in years when he became active in the Acoustical Society.
Oh, yes. Yes, he’d already made a big mark for himself. His main work in acoustics was really over by the early twenties — almost by 1920, he was in the — by 1925, he had gone into this X-ray diffraction business, because, see, when we were writing the book together, and I went out to the University of Iowa in the summer of 1928, most of the research going on in his laboratory was X-ray research. He wasn’t doing any more acoustics research. He was still interested in getting the book out, because he’d still — he was still giving lectures to these military people, naval and army people, on acoustics for practical applications. This is how I got so –-
This was what year was this? Twent —?
Twenty-eight, I went out there when we were writing a book together, and he - he had been at Yale — ‘24, ‘25 — along in there — to give these lectures. That’s how I got acquainted with him. But that was a sort of hangover. He was giving the lectures, but he wasn’t doing any — really any more real research. Oh, he had a few students. Harry Olson, of course, was a student of -–
Yeah, he was a — he was a student —
— got his degree on this Scoba business, related to acoustic colors, but this was just a kind of hangover for Stewart. And come 1930, about all that was left was the elementary course he gave out there to students of speech and music for Seashore, who was a psychologist -–
Seashore! I got acquainted with Seashore before I did Stewart.
Yeah. My acquaintance with Stewart didn’t come until — until — oh, must have been after — just about 1930. But I got acquainted with Seashore before that, for some reason or other.
He’d been very active in this whole business of psychology of music and, to a certain extent, speech. I don’t think he ever went into it — (Confusion of voices)
That was more closely identified with architectural acoustics than was the work that Stewart was doing.
Sure. That’s right. Stewart’s work was — was more of the physical acoustics with his filters, and so on, and this is true.
Now Seashore — Seashore I got acquainted with and I didn’t meet Stewart, I’m sure, until one of our early meetings in — in Iowa City. I remember yet this collection of Grant Wood paintings that Stewart had in his home.
He became pretty well-to-do, as you know, he went into real estate in Iowa City, owned a big apartment house. Of course, Mrs. Stewart was a — an M. D. and practiced medicine up to the time of her death. She pre-deceased him by quite a few years. She was a very well-known doctor in that area, and practiced both in — in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids on allergies. She was a great hay fever specialist. She tried to — she wanted to cure my hay fever, but the trouble was that when I was out there that summer (chuckling) I’d get over it, and I didn’t care to experiment that far.
Not very accommodating.
No, I wasn’t very accommodating. They were a very happy couple, and it was a shame, because they had no children of their own. I think they adopted a boy, and I don’t think he turned out terribly well, actually. Though he inherited the money, I don’t think — as I understood that G.W. ever gave any of it to the University of Iowa, though he had quite a lot when he died.
I see that Dayton Miller was our second president. I wasn’t sure whether he was the second or the third. He was the second president of the Society.
Did Miller play much of an active role in the Society?
Miller did. Yes. Yes. He was very active, while - while he was — well, he was very active, I would say, for a — a four- or five-year period. Our early presidents all served for two years, and — Miller was active for four or five years in there.
Did he ever bring along to the Society meeting his collection of flutes? Did you ever hear much about those —
Oh, yes! He gave a talk on those at one of our Society meetings, and we had a — He showed us the — at his home — he had a — He had apartment not too far from Case, and the counsel — I remember several dinners that the counsel had over in his home. And he had this flute collection. Another thing — his hobby — was — was cutting by hand player piano records. And he had - got these long rolls of paper, and he had a terrific library. He would take sheet music, and he would poke the holes in these things by hand. He’d developed a technique for doing it, and then he had a player piano there that he would play these on. He’d take old classical pieces and make records out of them. He was going to — he was showing us how he did this and — then his wife had a unique collection, too. They’d traveled all over the world. She had a collection of little porcelain statues — anything that had a flute in it. He had this big collection of those, and also, she was the first one I knew that had a collection of individual salt-shakers. Oh, yes! She was quite a collector. This - to go in a home and see these flutes, see all these little statuettes in which there was a flute of any kind — she had all these and also these salt shakers.
She was very generous. She gave - I think - ultimately gave the flute collection to the Library of Congress.
Yes. The gold flute and —
... went on exhibition.
Well, Miller used to make — used to give talks on that flute collection, and particularly his talk about how he got the gold flute.
Yeah. He made one of platinum, too, I think.
Did he finally make one of platinum?
He was a fascinating man — fascinating man. He had — you know Herb Berth — Herb has one of his Phonodites -–
— that he treasures greatly.
Herb actually had him as a teacher —
Yes. Herb had him as a teacher.
I always admired him very much, especially admired him for his courage in continuing to keep at that experiment of his in spite of all the arguments against it, you know, he — I don’t think he really ever gave up the feeling that there was something there that the ordinary theory of relativity didn’t take account of.
His persistence in this, I think, discredited him in later —
Well, yes, many people felt he — it had become a sort of obsession and almost put him in a class with Ehrenhaft –- you know, these cranks –- which was unfair, because I think Miller was a really good physicist, an outstanding physicist. He had made very careful attempts to do this experiment, and –- and I really think -– well, actually it did finally get people like Schwann and Page to make a few calculations, you see, to –- based on Miller’s results, so I think he had the satisfaction of feeling that his work was not entirely discredited. When Margenau and I wrote our Foundations of Physics –- put in some reference, we I think paid careful attention to Miller and pointed out that –- though it’s commonly stated that the Michelson-Morley-Miller experiment leads to a null effect — that this is not really the case, if you take into account all the factors. Now, there’s still of course these Germans — Jost, for example, did the experiment again in a closed vacuum and got pretty close to zero, and it’s generally assumed in Germany that this is the final result. But I think that Miller had something. He used to go around, also, in giving lec — giving lectures, he’d carry his (????????????) around with him, you know (laughter), and give a table demonstration. We had him come to brown. He gave a beautiful talk there, on this - on this whole problem, and made fringes with the Michelson interferometer right there on the table -–
Fascinating topic —
Fascinating lecture. He was very, very good —
His lecture which became this anecdotal history of the science of sound, it’s my understanding that that was first given at an Acoustical Society meeting — and then which it was expanded and became that particular volume.
Yes, he mentions that in the Preface: the eighth meeting, November, 1932; Anecdotal History of the Science of Sound, with Some Personal Reminiscences. Then he developed that. That’s right.
He knew, of course, Helmholtz, Koenig, Rayleigh and — and Tyndall, and of course knew Webster very well, and so on. Yes, that’s rather fascinating.
Now’s things with fells hunting.
I think now — (Several voices indistinguishable) ... play golf now... have some lunch ... pick up Betty — Seitz and Sawyer. See, I was on the board with all of these other guys at the time along the line.
Why don’t you — could you say a few words about how they impressed you with respect to — their interest in building up this Institute to serve certain purposes, and what kind of impression or impact do you think they made on the policies of the Institute, or was this almost entirely in the hands of Harry Barton and yourself during those days? What — could you make any comment on that? In other words, of course I know that Compton was so very influential —
— in getting the Institute started. I — there’s a good deal of evidence about that and there’s much has been written about it, —
— but I don’t have much, if any, impression of, say, Tate’s position, or Klopsteg, or even Harrison. I know a little more, of course, about Seitz and Sawyer, because I’ve been on the board myself with them.
Well, as you say, Compton was a great statesman at the time that he formed the Institute, that time he had the greatness to form the Institute. He was — Jack Tate came in after that. Jack Tate was a very — of course, he was interested principally in publications, had been all along. He was a very stable guy. Everybody liked him very much. I don’t believe — I don’t recall that there were any new programs or new slants added to the Institute’s activities during Tate’s tenure —
Do you remember what his time was?
— I don’t remember when —
His dates — I’ve got them in this thing here that I refer to every now and then. Jack Tate was chairman of the board for four years from 1936 to 1940. It was about — let’s see then — you can’t think of Jack Tate’s influence on the Institute without thinking of Madeline Mitchell, who —
Did she become Mrs. Tate?
She became Mrs. Tate.
Is she still alive?
No, no. She died, — oh, three or four years ago. She had just visited Fran and me in New York and bought some luggage and was going home and -–
She didn’t remarry, did she?
No, she didn’t. She was going to take a trip to Europe, and she died before she went.
When did her husband die?
Well, Jack died … oh … he must have died along around 1945, I would judge —
Just at the end of the war?
No, it lasted — a couple of years after that. It must have been forty — no it was after that — must have been closer to ‘50. And then Madeline died two or three years after that. Madeline has been dead eight or ten years now. When Paul Klopsteg came in, it was from 1940 to 1947. That was seven years there. Paul -–
He — he -–
Paul was from the Cenco firm at that time - or did he just give up?
No, no. No. I don’t know when Paul left Cenco. I think he was still with Cenco at that time. He was just — of course these board chairman jobs have always been more or less — some kind of — yeah, they only come in a few times a — six, seven times, eight times a year or something like that. Paul was a very strong — was a very strong board chairman. In fact, it was Paul Klopsteg that had a great deal to do with getting me to attend the Institute on the staff here. I always thought a great deal of Paul — and — after I’d talked with Buddy and Harry Barton about coming down here, I went and talked with Paul because Paul had told me several times about how refreshing it was to — for him to 1eave industry and get back into some other kind of work. And he did it at a fairly –- well along in his career too. So I went out to Northwestern and had a talk with Paul before I made up my mind to come down here. Paul was a very strong board chairman. He was - he strengthened the business aspects of the Institute, too, because he had a strong business background. Then came along George Harrison, and he was one of the guys that I was — I was extremely fond of. He was for seven years, too. George — one crucial situation arose during George’s chairmanship, and that was the resignation of the Optical Society from the Institute. They formally resigned.
Very ironical, since he was a big -–
Yes, and brought in. He had been a former president of the Optical Society, and I saw George get run out. Of course, Arthur Hardy had an awful lot to do with the difficulties that arose between the Institute and the Optical Society. I sweat through a lot of those myself, and finally then this resignation came up on the board of the — come up on the — came on the floor of the governing board meeting. George, — the only time I ever saw him get real mad in my life — he got white. And he, in spite of his past association with the Optical Society — he laid them out cold at that particular meeting, and there were a bunch of the Optical people around. And he just shamed them into withdrawing their resignation and making some changes in their own house.
Why did they want to resign?
Well, it had — there were a chain of circumstances, in which Arthur, because of his peculiar way of operating, had built up on the board of the Optical Society -–
Was he secretary of that —?
He was secretary. — a feeling on that board that the Institute was doing everything wrong so far as the optical Society was concerned, and till, finally — I forgot the details — it had something to do with this overlapping — with our having members of all member societies being members of the Institute. Well, finally, after George had given them the business at this — it was rather an expanded — meeting of the governing board, the question came up as to what can be done to resolve the differences here, and I was sitting beside Stan Ballard, and I stuck my neck out at the time, and said that I felt that — that the problem could be resolved if — they wanted some changes in the Institute’s Bye-Laws — the problem could be resolved if a small committee were appointed to re-write the Bye-Laws. So I immediately got myself appointed as the guy to do this, and Stan Ballard and I undertook if Stanley would. I said I’d take it on if Stan would work with me, representing the Optical Society. So we rewrote these Bye-Laws at that time, and cut out the — of course, there was a lot of other things in that got involved here — there were some — later on then, there was another — the Bye-Laws being rewritten a — a third time.
Was there this occasion when there was some difficulty with the Physical Society over the possibility that new member society might be added, and they feared -–
That came along later. That came along later. But there were a couple of re-writings of the Bye-Laws here in both of which — well, one I did entirely myself, and the other Stan Ballard helped me do. But it was during George Harrison’s tenure that this difficulty with the Optical Society came up and was resolved, and George was a good strong — George, Paul Klopsteg, were both very good, strong board chairmen. They were men of stature when they came into the job. Fred Seitz was quite different. Fred Seitz came in - everybody liked Fred — always have — but he came in with relatively little administrative background. So he came in here in 1954, which is before Fred had any of this other substantial administrative experience. And those of us who watched Fred — it was amazing to watch him develop administratively over a very few years. It was a — I’ve never seen — I’ve never had the pleasure or privilege of seeing a guy with tremendous intelligence that Fred has — see it develop in a field that he hadn’t been in — administration. It was just remarkable to watch that guy develop in the way of handling meetings and resolving difficult problems. Until Fred — by the time Fred left us here, I can’t help but feel that he perhaps was one of the strongest of all the board chairmen we’ve had.
Well, then he came during this time we had the difficulty over — up to this time from the time of Compton. — after that. Over the Physical –-
— Society. So he was — of the men that have - that have figured most strongly in the major changes that have taken part in the Institute — of course you put Compton first, and I would put Fred next after that. Because Fred is — he’s a wonderful guy, a very able man in many ways.
Well, there’s no question one of the ablest physicists working in the country. I don’t see how he managed to get to do all he does —
Now we have Ralph with us. Ralph is different from all the rest of them. Each one is — has/had his own characteristics. Ralph has had the problems — the difficult times that the Institute has gone through so far as our circulation problems are concerned — Ralph has had to cope with those. He’s had to apologize for the Institute and one of the things — I realize it’s being recorded — I have felt that the manner in which Ralph and Hutch dealt with our internal problems in subscription handling tended to magnify those problems rather than minimize them. No corporation would ever do that if they had a bad product. They wouldn’t go about it the way that these two guys did. It was — It was not — it — it — it magnified the situation more than it should have. I trust that this record will not repeat that very soon, but this — they know I feel that way about it.
Well, that’s an extremely interesting review, and I — I think it’s — it’s rather important to get your reactions to these various men — all of whom have –-
Well, you can see I’ve –-
— (unintelligible word) integrities in the field of physics –-
You can see I’m very fond of the bunch of them or I wouldn’t have chosen — to put them on my wall here
That’s right. Well, now is it possible to turn these considerations around and look at it — look at this development in terms of the problems that the Institute has to face. You have discussed the Institute in terms of some of these personalities. Is it possible to discuss the institute in terms of some of the major problems, say, in the past two decades, since the postwar years?
Well, the major problem which follows all through the recent history of the Institute has been the difficulty which the Institute has had in trying to conduct itself so that it will not be competing with the member societies. There has always been — and perhaps always will be — a feeling on the part of the member societies that here is the big Institute, that’s financially sound, it’s got people that administer it, it’s got fulltime help doing this, and it’s got staff. They can do things that societies can’t do. The societies naturally envy this kind of a compact, tight, well-organized thing that the Institute is. They also have resented the fact that the image of the societies perhaps has diminished some as the image of the Institute has grown. There are physicists in the country who will say frankly, that, “Oh, yes, we’re a member of the Institute of Physics.” Well, they aren’t, because we don’t have any individual members. And they will forget sometimes, or add, “I’m not sure what society I’m a member of, but I know I’m a member of the Institute of Physics.” Now this has bothered some of the societies very much, and they have done — in fact, when the Optical Society — or I guess it was the teachers when they set up their office under Dave Buchta — some of their officers admitted frankly, that we’re not doing this because we expect to save any money, but because we expect we want the society to be known to its members in a way that it isn’t now. The Optical Society felt the same way. They wanted to build up the image. They wanted to keep their contact with their members. They didn’t like the idea of having the Institute billing their members for dues, for one thing. They lose their — (interruption)
This can create a major problem in terms of the Institute itself.
Because the Institute itself is concerned with providing some of these services for these smaller organizations.
We have not — and this is another of my arguments that — which are pretty well known — I feel — and have all along — that the institute should have, as Roosevelt used to say, a greater passion for anonymity than it has had. I feel that we should attempt to be a service organization. We should serve the societies in their names insofar as possible, and this way we will not be competing with them. We will be providing a service which they need, and which they can’t really provide for themselves without considerable inefficiency and great expense.
Isn’t this, to some extent, though, Wallace, a little incompatible with the actual purposes of the Institute as set forth in the constitution, in which the Institute is supposed to represent the image of physics throughout the country in a certain sense by undertaking larger duties with respect to education, public relations and so on. Those are all actually spelled out in the charter of the organization, and –- this is question now — to what extent the Institute can do this really as a man like Hutchisson tried to do it, and still satisfy the member societies. It may be some kind of contradiction.
There is contradiction. There is contradiction. And there has been ever since it was formed. Since a few of the broadminded gentlemen who formed the Institute got together and wrote these Bye-Laws, I doubt whether any of the officers of member societies really down in their hearts have taken it very seriously since. You’ve got to write some big broad wonderful purposes for an organization. That’s required by law, even, if you want to be a camp set up and be a laundry and be a non-profit organization in the interest of education - you’ve got to write in for -– we’re exempt as an educational institution. So we’ve got to write these high purposes into our Bye-Laws. We’d be silly, legally, if we didn’t. But I doubt whether the boards of the member societies over the years have really subscribed in principle — have really subscribed honestly and earnestly — to the Institute’s Byelaws’ stated purposes. Now -–
It looked for a while as if the Physical Society was very much worried lest the Institute should do precisely this, and in terms of a much more widely distributed representation (chuckling), when these various other societies thought they would like to join, and therefore have a say in what the Institute should do — then apparently the American Physical Society - Karl Darrow and the rest of you — took it very seriously, and as you know, actually arranged a kind of constitutional limitation — while it wasn’t in terms of the constitution, it was more just a decision that you would not add these new societies as — what do you call them? — associated? affiliated and (unintelligible) have a voice and so on. This was a kind of respect for the power that might be inherent in this organization.
The last revision of the Institute Bye-Laws, and one that I wrote myself was made in 19 –- was adopted –- what was it: in 1955 or ‘56, some place along in
Along in there when this thing …
The Henry Smythe Report. You know Henry Smythe at Princeton. Well, now, he is a very big broad-gauge man that you could place along with Compton and some of the others, and yet –- one of –- the very underserved bases of his objection to –- stated in his report -– to what the institute was doing –- was because it was following these Bye-Law purposes. So I don’t think that deep down in their hearts any of our major society officers since have subscribed to — too sincerely — to this purpose as stated in our Bye-Laws. Now we can always justify anything we’re doing in the Institute by saying “Our purposes are stated so.” But we’ll incur resentment if we do some of these things.
Well, it may be that Ralph Sawyer’s suggestion that the time is ripe for a constitutional convention may have some sense to it — but you know our committee took the stand that we didn’t think there’d be very much good. Of course, my personal feeling is that you’d just get a lot of talk and nothing –
I’d agree with your — I agree with your committee. I think it’s much better to leave our purposes stated as they are, even though a lot of people don’t very sincerely believe them, than to try to change them. After all, there’re a lot of things that we say and set up as principles that we have our tongue in our cheek about later on.
Because as I understand it, one of the problems is that this is a loose confederation…
… and you have the question of whether this confederation will develop a hierarchy, and if so, which organization will actually be the hierarchy. Concepts would be up to part of the hierarchy.
Well, on the whole, in this respect, my own — my own observation, in the time I’ve been on the governing board, is that we’ve had, except for that one difficulty over the publication circulation business, no real expression of a determination on the part of any member society to rule the roost.
I haven’t seen it in the Physical Society where you’d normally expect it in terms of the numbers of people, members they have and so on. To me this has been a very encouraging sign — that somehow those people getting around a table could – on the whole, after thrashing things out, expressing themselves often quite plainly — could still reach what I thought was an on the whole a pretty calm and judicious appraisal of the situation.
The Physical Society, by and large, has performed in an exemplary manner, as far as the Institute’s concerned. By sheer number, by volume of business, by volume of the Institute’s business that is for the Physical Society, they should be in a position to command more than they do. They’d have every reason to want to, and yet they haven’t. They’ve gone along with — they’ve been a fine bunch of people around the Physical Society. They’ve co-operated in a remarkably fine manner. We’ve had most of our troubles with the little societies.
Yeah, that’s about my feeling… That’s a partial — I would say — partial answer to the question: a fairly broad- minded attitude on the part of these people — like Bill Havens, Sam Goudsmit and –-
Shirley Quimby -–
Shirley Quimby –-
— Karl, all the rest of them –-
I respect them very highly.
Well, could we come back — I don’t know whether you want to pursue this further, did you, Jim? — the matter of the Institute. That’s a very large subject and –-
That’s large subject and a current subject to which there is no end — I mean (chuckling) except the end of the people concerned!
I find this a little sensitive. As far as I’m concerned —
Yeah, sure, well, you can’t help it.
I think perhaps that — if we could come back just for a minute or two, Wallace, to the — to your other associations, in particular, the Acoustical Materials Association is rather interesting, because you do devote a fair amount of attention to it –-
Besides it pays me some money (chuckling).
— and you — Yeah, you get some of your livelihood out of it. Ah, when was that formed and just what does it do? I understand it’s called a trade association, but I’m not really familiar with what that means.
Well, it is a group of manufacturers of sound-absorbing material that have combined to form an association for their mutual benefit. That’s what it is — it — it’s not an educational organization, so its incorporation is under different laws than the Institute, the Acoustical Society, any of those. It’s not as tax-exempt in the same way, although it doesn’t pay tax on income. Now, the Acoustical Materials Association, and the Acoustical Society, you see, started pretty close to the same time. The Acoustical Materials Association followed a little after the Acoustical Society, by about two years. And some of the reasons for the formation of the Acoustical Society carried off — carried over into the formation of AMA. Ah, specifically the reason for the formation of AMA was this: each of the manufacturers of acoustical materials was having his products tested at one of the half a dozen available laboratories. There was no co-ordination between the laboratories. The methods of testing were different. You could — one of the very few papers I ever wrote for JADDO was a little paper on the variation of sound — of sound absorption tests at the different laboratories. What it amounted to in the field was that Celotex was having its products tested at Watson’s Laboratory. Somebody else was having its products tested at Riverbank. Somebody else was having their products — what you did, we’d all have our products tested around at all of them, and we’d find that there was some particular laboratory that, in general, seemed to give us the highest values. So we would adopt that laboratory. Somebody else would adopt another laboratory. Then what did the boys do in the field? The salesmen, out in the field, would go out and they would say, “Well, our product has so much sound absorption.” By whose authority?” “By F.R. Watson.” Johns-Manville people would come along. They’d say, “Our product has so much absorption, better than Celotex.” “By whose authority?” “Blair Standard.” (Bureau of Standards?) All right. Then, occurred - then our salesmen would write in, “Well, we’re fighting about the laboratories. Tell us then something about this guy O’Crissler. Tell us sum’p’n about this guy Watson. We’ve got to prove that our man’s better than their man.” See? So instead of talking about the virtues of the product, they got to talking about the virtues of the testing laboratories. Well, that’s a hell of a way to sell materials. They — it’s a backwards way of doing it. So — we, we concluded that the proper thing to do — it was — it became silly on the part of all the manufacturers — realized this was an untenable situation. So we decided we don’t care what laboratory tests right. We don’t care whether the yardstick by which you measure these products is 33” long or 39” long. Let’s quit arguin’ about laboratories. Let’s all have our products tested some place and quit arguin’ about the values. Let’s — we’ll each agree that the values you got are all right, the values that I got are all right. Well, this meant that we had to have some kind of an association. Then we wanted to publish this. So we got together Knudsen, Crisler, Watson, everybody else in a — an advisory committee. And they said, “Now, here’s the situation. Any o’ you guys test alike? You never will be able to test alike, we’re sure. But, please, we’ve got to have someone bunch of values we stick by. Now, how should the material be tested, and who do you think should do the testing, ‘cause we’re just gonna have ‘em tested at one place?” Well, they told us they’d work out some tests maybe; they were very co-operative in this, and we decided we’d take Riverbank Laboratory — which we did. Then we had to publish the data. We published — developed a great prestige for this bulletin that we’ve put out. It’s been out for over 30 years now. It keeps winning prizes and American Institute of Architects every year that we bring it out, and it’s been a very effective bulletin. It — it compares the data of all of our products. One of the earlier problems we had with this was the Bureau of Standards was still putting out a bulletin. Stuff submitted for government use was tested at the Bureau of Standards. And they put out annually a bulletin of all the stuff which they had tested. But they never had any policing of this. There’d be products listed in there year after year, that weren’t even made any more. And they had no means of keeping in touch with the manufacturer. So this was confusing to the architects. Here we’re putting out a bulletin. The Bureau of Standards putting out entirely different data. The architects didn’t understand who was what. So I got delegated to go down and talk to Briggs — Lyman Briggs — ah — which I did, and recall my experience with him very much. I laid the whole problem out before him, and said, “What we’d like to have the Bureau of Standards do is discontinue putting out this bulletin.” Well, he was — this bulletin was quite a pet of his, apparently. He smoked one of these old calabash pipes, got up, walked across the room to the mantel of the fireplace that was in this office, and he turned around and looked at me and brought his fist down on that mantel, says, “You mean to tell me, young man, that your industry can get along without the National Bureau of Standards?” And I say, “Yes sir, Dr. Briggs, that’s just what I’m trying to tell you.” (Laughing) Thought he was gonna blow up. He calmed down then, and he said, “Well, let me give this some thought, and — ah — I’ll write you.” I got a nice letter from him later on that they would discontinue publication of the bulletin. And that was what we wanted because it was doing nothing then but confusing our — wasn’t anything wrong with their data, except it was old stuff, they had no manner of policing their industry… Well, this was a small –- of course you get into a lot of other things. Our first thing — first problem was to — get comparable data that we could publish and all stand by. Which we did, and we’ve done that now for 30 years. We’ve undertaken a lot of other experimental work and test development projects of one kind and another. We’ve done some co-operative advertising and -– It’s a small group of companies, and only fourteen members at the present time.
Each one, I suppose, makes a certain contribution -–
Yeah, but they’re big ones. Armstrong Cork, Celotex, — Hauserman Company, Johns-Manville, Kaiser-Gibson, National Gypsum, Fiberglas, United States Gypsum, Wood Conversion — all big names. Now they all contribute to the Association’s management and the Association’s expenditures in proportion to the total amount of business they do. They had a tax on the total amount of business they do, and this has put us in good shape. We’re in good shape financially and have stayed in good shape financially.
Is one of your duties as Executive Secretary to see that this material is published at periodic intervals, or do they have a regular editorial board?
Up until Bob Booth came with me about three years ago, I accumulated this data every year. In fact the only way I would get it out, I’d take this with me on my vacation and I’d work steadily on putting this all together. I’d had a deadline. They -– the boys would send it in to me. And then we’d –- I’d put it out. Now since Bob -– the first thing when I had Bob Booth there –- Bob took this over as technical secretary -– took over the bulletin. We do a lot of work on building codes, too. We have to keep in touch with the code-writing authorities. It’s been a –- it’s a nice group of companies, and we have nice meetings. We have two meetings a year. We — I was out to Palm Springs for one here just a month or so ago. And they’re very — it’s a nice group of guys -–
What would you discuss at one of these meetings? What sort of problems?
Well, we have a group of committees. We have a technical committee, which usually meets one full day of the meeting in parallel session — one full day — and it will talk about problems that our official testing laboratory — changes that they want to make in testing procedures, the procedures that we set up for sampling materials; we have to have a set procedure for sampling the materials for test. They will talk about — we’ve been interested in sound transmission tests, recently — we’ve carried on a research program at Geiger & Hamy Laboratories - Dick Hamy’s laboratory. Ah –-
You have a contract with the laboratory who do this work, or how is that –-
Some of it, yes, and a kind of –-
Do you have a contract with Riverbank?
Oh, there is never — we — we — the individual member companies pay for their test data, —
— but we have an agreement with - with Riverbank, covering the cost to each member, and then we carry on some individual research work. Some of — some Association research work. If we want to investigate the effect of different kinds of mounting of materials, the Association will pay for that. It had the various properties — there’re light reflection, sound absorption, combustibility, and a number of properties that have to be tested. And we have different laboratories for testing these different things. Very frequently, there is no acceptable test method for some of these properties, and so we set up a program some place to — to develop a test for it. It’s been a — it’s been an entertaining — and then with the other things: we have code committees. We have — we have a code committee that is concerned with the acceptability of all different kinds of materials under different building codes. They’re all always changing around — they futzed a long time recently about the — so many acoustical ceilings now, you getting so many of this lighting, this fluorescent lighting. There has to be ballast on these fluorescent lighting, you know. All right. There was a big argument with some of the underwriters’ people about how that ballast should be mounted with respect to the acoustical tile, so that there’d be no hazard of any kind. And little details like that can — can — lot of arguing to be done. And we have a publicity committee and a lot of little committees. Usually meet for about three days. It’s a nice continuing group that’s small enough that everybody knows everybody else -–
You meet, of course, in this, a good many members of the Society who are employed by these firms?
Yes, they bring along their people to their technical — Then, of course, there’s another activity in which we’re interested in: A.S.T.M. about twelve years ago — 12-13 years ago — wanted to get into the — thought they should get into the acoustical materials business. They asked me to organize an A.S.T.M. Committee to handle acoustical materials. Well, I got that organized. Now that’s going great guns too, on test methods. I’ve pulled out of that one altogether now. Acoustical materials have been more my background — and I find it very interesting to carry on —
It’s very attractive that you can keep that up. Now, let me ask this rather general question: why do you think that the National Bureau of Standards wasn’t able to cope with the situation?
They had no means to police. That was their basic — basic argument that I give. We, as an association, with these manufacturers as our members, we can police. We had more intimate contact with — we can have regulations that will determine how they must select samples — test them. We — they must present proof to us that they still are making them — they will keep us informed as to what they’re making. They have to give us an affidavit that any changes — they will make no changes in the specifications of the product from the time it’s tested — unless they advise us and therefore re-test. Well, now the Bureau of Standards has no means of policing a trade association at all. Some little guy from Podunk will submit a product to them one year. They don’t know whether it’s being made next year or not. They’ll list it — it may not be that product at all that’s being made. Might even be — the company may not be in existence.
They test and give the result of the test.
That’s right, and they keep on publishing it until somebody calls their attention to the fact that that guy died ten years ago.
It came up again under “ASTM”. ‘Cause I know that I got drawn into some discussion about this as a member of one of their panels. This was back about five years or so ago. I don’t remember the details now, but you got - you were also drawn into that —
— they asked your advice —
— they followed it.
Yes. ASTM was — see, ‘r’s political pressure on ASTM a great deal from many sources. So some guy that wasn’t a member of our association –- this is the way we put it together -– we think we know who it was -– through his Congressman and so forth, made a di -– made a kick about the fact that here the Bureau of Standards is no longer putting out data on my product, and they ought to continue again — lot of pressure stirred up. Well, ASTM got in touch with me: he was on our board at the time, I knew him pretty well — got in touch with me, and we talked about what should be done, so we decided to set up a committee in which he listed some architects and some builders, prominent men on the committee, and it was a good committee. And then, I was to meet with that committee, which I did. It was some place in Philadelphia, or — I think it was in Philadelphia I met with the committee. And I was to meet with the committee and present my case for why the Bureau of Standards should not reinstate this annual bulletin. I did meet with the committee. I talked with them an hour or so, presented my case, and they gave the unanimous recommendation to ASTM that he should not resume publication of this bulletin. That closed that door. It’s the same thing you’re up to in business every day. You’ve got to be justifying your position and blowing down competition. You never get them licked … Well, this trade association is the one, the one thing that when I talked to Ted Hunt — Ted Hunt, incidentally, is the man that persuaded me to continue indefinitely as Acoustical Society secretary, — and when I talked with Ted, I told him that there were the two things that when I get too tired to do anything else, I’ll continue with AMA and the Acoustical Society. The boys in AMA want me to continue there indefinitely; makes a nice little retirement job.
Well, you can do most of this at home, of course.
Travel is not very extensive.
Yeah. Not — couple of times a year get to go to some nice place like Palm Springs, you don’t mind it a bit.
Holiday … almost … yeah, that’s right. Well, let’s suggest possibly one wind-up consideration: what you think is the proper place of avocations or hobbies in the life of a busy technical person like yourself, who has a great many professional irons in the fire, but probably likes to — relax now and then? What sort of — of course, we know some of this, but it hasn’t been put in the record - kind of relaxation have you developed and why did you develop these particular trends?
Well … I don’t know whether there’s any really good way of explaining why anyone develops any hobby. You — of course, I’ve — very simply, I like the outdoors.
You’ve always liked the outdoors.
I’ve always liked the outdoors.
Even when you were very young?
Yes. Yes. We were — when the time when we were — when we lived in Oklahoma, it got too hot there for my mother, so my brother and mother and I went out to Colorado every summer, and we had a little camp with a little cabin way up on the side of the mountain. Well, my brother and I did — spent a great deal of time — climbing mountain’s and being outdoors, and doing everything else. And then, since we were kids, we always had this place on the lake — up in the lakes of northern Indiana. We just liked to — we camped a lot with my parents — with our parents. We’d go out on automobile trips in the days when there weren’t any paved roads even, and we’d camp along, we’d camp. So we’re active outdoors. Well, this gets you interested in photography — can’t help them — my dad had the first camera in Whitley County, Indiana. (chuckle) I’ve got some of these old glass plates, pictures of me taken when — we kids taken back when we were babies. Well, he got me started in photography. And so that’s been one of my hobbies and it goes beautiful with the outdoors. Then — and also, I’d to fish a lot with my uncle. They’re all farm people, and small town people in the northern Indiana-Michigan area — went rock-fishing with them. Then I got into this — the hunting and fishing business on a bigger scale about twenty years ago when I started going up to Canada. And that was — I got interested in deer-hunting — deer and bear hunting — up on Tobic River in northern New Brunswick, and go and we’d go in there in the days when we’d have to go in as far as we could and then canoe down the river to get to our — the place that we wanted to go. And I discovered I was a pretty good shot — and I loved to hunt deer and bear. I’ve brought some 25 or so good size deer out of Canada, — got the two biggest ones that was gotten in the province there one winter — and I’ve shot and skinned bears — and I’ve got a couple of bear rugs at home now that — Shooting and skinning a bear in the cold rain in the mud is quite a (chuckling) — is quite an experience! But it’s — then they do a lot of duck hunting up there until the ducks got very much and there ain’t much — I like guns. I like guns and —
Is this, again, something, that goes back to your early days — or did you just pick it up more recently?
No, the —
On a farm, small town, on a farm you have to have a rifle —
Yeah, Yeah. I would — I guess I learned to use a rifle when I was — oh, gosh - must have been — sometime — 12 years old, something like that I first got to use one. And it’s — it comes kind of from my frontier bringing up -–
Hoosier kid and Hoosier State.
Yeah. Yeah. I like to get out in the — I have no hesitation to get out in the woods and get lost — doesn’t bother me much — did get lost — I lo — I got — the only time I think I’ve ever been really afraid was about four years ago. I was in a duck blind up at Portobello River — upper part of our camp. And a great big bull moose came across a kind of a swamp there and chased me up a tree and a –-
Will these - will these animals caress you?
Bu — the big bull moose is the nasty — him –- I’m twice’s afraid of a bull moose as I am of any bear.
Yeah. A bear’s — Bears won’t — unless you corner ‘em — som’n — I’ve had bears dunn’ the night run right through my — under my hammock hangin’ in the woods, and it doesn’t bother ya — but they — they’re afraid of ya, if they, when they get yer scent, why, they’re off in a minute. But a bull moose’ll stand and look at ya with those evil eyes, ‘n’ ya can’t be sure whether he’s comm’ at ye or whether he’s not. And they’re so big — that with a duck gun, you don’t do any damage to a bull moose. And besides they’re illegal, except very restricted seasons of the year. Yeah. … I went up a tree.
Well, how long’d you stay there?
I didn’t stay there very long. He looked me over a over a little bit, and then walked away, and I came down again.
I‘ve heard them ryening a caht
Yeah, yeah. They’re a nasty animal. They are completely unpredictable — predictable animal. So I like the woods, I like the camp, and Fran does to a certain extent. We — we — we want to take some long camping trips. Yeah. She went up with me — up — we took the jeep and went about 20 miles and then got a pow’rboat, and put the powerboat in the water, went some 12 miles further up and into very isolated country. Little place we call “Oak Knoll”. It’s up in a bend in the river. And she slept out with me up there overnight. Summay they have a tent — she doesn’t go for the jungle hammock — the jungle hammocks I like — you hang between a couple of trees and -– We enjoy it.
You think you can keep this up for some time?
I can’t walk as much as I used to. That’s why I’m moving from hunting into fishing more, because to do a good job of hunting, like I like to do it up there, is where you go out and hunt for the game. You go out and walk all day — go out and walk ten-twelve miles a day, and it’s through too rough ground and a lot of brush. That’s a lot of walking. You got ridges to walk up around so that — I won’t do much of that any longer. With that you can get pretty tired.
Let’s try to — Let’s change for the one last thing to — less rugged and athletic recreation, and consider intellectual recreation. Have you ever done a lot of reading of general character?
I haven’t for a long –-
What kind of reading would you do?
Unfortunately, I haven’t, for a long time. And this is one of the complaints that my wife makes — I’m — I’m a — I must admit frankly that I take home with me about four nights a week the kind of accumulation that you see on my desk, and just read correspondence or other things of that kind, and what little time —
You spend as much as two hours in an evening or three hours? Or something like that?
It averages about three hours.
Usually my time is usually about eight to eleven.
And you sleep all right after that?
Yeah. If I don’t get too much excited about what I read. This night work — this is — this night work is one thing I gotta cut out. I’m not complaining — it’s my own fault, but — the -– I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like to.
You’ve never taken up the habit of reading things like detective stories, just to -–
Frankly, I haven’t.
You’ve never felt the need of that, apparently. You get your relaxation in other ways.
Yeah. If I got time, I like to go down — I got a darkroom in my basement — I like to go down and play with that, or I like to read my copies of Field and Stream, or if I — if I — in serious books, which I don’t read nearly as much as I should, I like the historical material, and I’m a great devotee of maps. I think I’ve got every map that the National Geographic has published for the last twenty years.
You must be collecting the series they send out every other month —
Oh, yeah. I got that, and I’ve also got the ones they did before that, they had books that you put ‘em in. I’ve collected those. I like those… I do like music. That’s one thing that —
Do you listen a good deal to recorded music?
Not too much to recorded music. We listen — I listen to what they — what they give on QXR — I enjoy that, and this winter, we took in the Philharmonic series — Philharmonic Hall — I like that very much. And then I like to play bridge too. …We play bridge sometimes once a week, sometimes every other week, depending on how much time I got.
You have a regular club?
We have four of us that play bridge. We have a — two tournaments a year — the other couple. One ends on Easter and the other ends on Columbus Day, and we play whenever we can, and whoever — whichever couple has the lowest score has to take the other to a dinner at (chuckling) of their choice. Wilgus Fren and I won the one that ended at Easter –
They told me about that chicken dinner last Saturday night —
— last Saturday night. Yeah.
Well, Wallace, you know I marvel very much that you can get to all the things you’ve done and still maintain such a good humor about it all — such a benignant attitude toward people — many of whom are forever getting in your hair? This is an achievement in itself, I think.
I like people, Bruce. I like people as a whole. Though some of them are very peculiar, but (laughter) I like people. I always have. That’s one reason I’m kinda — I kinda like the personnel aspects of the work here. It’s what makes people tick - that’s always fascinating. Some of the things they do.
Yeah, that’s what it all ultimately comes down to when you stop to think about it is people. That we can’t help being more interested in people than anything else — even when we’re physicists and otherwise.
You see, that’s pretty much my business now — meeting at these various organizations, meeting and pretty much dealing with people, and I give the impression, sometimes, I’m sure, that I don’t like people, but one of the reasons I like to get away in the woods is to get away from everybody that walks - and go out and sit and sit on a log and not talk to anyone. If I don’t see anyone for three or four days, I’m happy. But I get tired of that pretty soon too, and I want to get back to people.
Well, we’ve covered many things this afternoon — (laughter) (several voices speaking at once) — everything covered?
No, I think I’ve covered more than I know.
Okay, well, thank you.
Thank you very much, Wallace. It’s been a very enjoyable —