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Interview of Wolfgang Panofsky by Charles Weiner on 1974 March 6, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4994-2
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Family background and childhood in Germany, 1919-1934; emigration to U.S. and undergraduate study and life at Princeton University, 1934-1938. Graduate work at California Institute of Technology, 1938-1942; work with Jesse W. M. DuMond, course load, and importance of his thesis. War work at California Institute of Technology; problems because of enemy alien status; work on firing error indicators. War work at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory: atomic bomb explosion, feelings concerning implications. Research at University of California at Berkeley, 1945-1951: construction of linear accelerator under Luis Alvarez (training, funding, working relationships, work schedules, relationship with other research groups), work on synchrotron, bevatron, Material Testing Accelerator project, neutal meson work and pion work; campus life, teaching responsibilities, textbook writing with Melba Phillips; security measures at Berkeley, 1945-1951: Berkeley's loyalty oath leads to move to Stanford University, 1951. The "Screw Driver" report (with Robert Hofstadter) for the Atomic Energy Commission. Korean War-related work (Felix Bloch, Edward L. Ginzton, Robert Kyhl); rigid politics of physics department; Washington involvement; consultant to the Air Force Science Advisory Board; Hans Bethe, Edward Teller; Bethe's Conference of Experts, 1958; Geneva negotiations, 1959; George Kistiakowski and Isidor I. Rabi; appointment to President's Science Advisory Committee, 1960; Dwight D. Eisenhower. Government support of science; Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC); Joint Committee on Atomic Energy hearings (Ginzton, Varian Associates); avoiding the "Berkeley image" at SLAC. Also prominently mentioned are: Sue Gray Norton Alsalan, Carl David Anderson, Raymond Thayer Birge, Hugh Bradner, Henry Eyring, Don Gow, Alex E. S. Green, William Webster Hansen, Joel Henry Hildebrand, Giulo Lattes, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Edwin Mattison McMillan, John Francis Neylan, Hans Arnold Panofsky, Ryokishi Sagane, Robert Gordon Sproul, Raymond L. Steinberger, Charles Hard Townes, Watters, Gian Carlo Wick, John Robert Woodyard, Dean E. Wooldridge, Fritz Zwicky; Federation of American Scientists, and Lawrence Radiation.
We agreed that we’d pick up where we left off, and you had explained last time that because of your work with Alvarez on your various trips to the Los Alamos facility, you became acquainted with him and with his work, and he with you, and that he wanted you then to come to the Radiation Lab at Berkeley. According to Birge’s account, you received the invitation to come in the fall of 1945. That’s when it was sent to you. From this I gather you had returned to Cal Tech. Had you returned to specific duties and position there?
Well, I was never gone from Cal Tech. I was only on a running back and forth basis, to Los Alamos anyway. What I did actually is as follows: I wrote a letter of application addressed to Lawrence, which is in the papers that I’m giving you, and then I received an answer, first by George Everson, the personnel manager, asking me to fill out certain papers, and then I received an offer. In the meantime, I had explored other employment, but because of the fact that Alvarez really got me enthusiastic about the Radiation Laboratory, I decided to accept their offer and went up to Berkeley. But I never did directly correspond with Alvarez again.
The decision to go the Rad Lab actually was on the basis of a formal correspondence from their scientific personnel man, George Everson. One of the reasons I was enthusiastic, among others, was that Alvarez had shown me, in Los Alamos, a copy of a paper in which he had analyzed the potential of the surplus radar sets which he knew about—these are 200 megacycle radars—for building a linear accelerator. He showed me the basic calculations by which one would estimate the shunt impedances of cavities and so forth, from which you could conclude how much energy you could get, with a given amount of power. And so my idea in going to Berkeley was very specifically to assist Alvarez in translating that proposal into a working accelerator. So I went up there.
When was this? The phone call that they were supposed to have made to you after they made a decision that they wanted you was in the fall; they called Pasadena, and on your vita it’s listed that you were at Cal Tech until ‘46, so we’re assuming that you went up there in the spring of ‘46.
I think if you want to stop the recording, I can probably dig it out of the papers. Here are some letters 1945, to Lawrence, and also to other people whom I asked for jobs, and at the same time to Alvarez and to Bradner and then September 15, 1945 I got an answer from the personnel man, George Everson, I really don’t know exactly when I accepted.
When did you go?
Yes, when I actually went—I think it was rather soon thereafter. [Late September 1945.]
The reason I raised the question, Birge himself has doubts—there’s one point he does make, in June of ‘46, he’s putting you up for assistant professor, talking about the few months that you have been there, the preceding months.
It must have been Just about at the end of the year. I simply don’t know. Ely wife would know.
You were recommended for an appointment on June 7, 1946. You were already working in the Rad Lab. OK. Alvarez wrote a letter at the same time—we can check it out later.
But if you wish, I can—my wife is restoring a prehistoric animal here at SLAC so I can phone her up, if she’s back. She probably knows that. She has a much better memory than I.
We’ll do it later. It’s not really important.
All right. OK.
OK, so you got there. . Your recollection is that it wasn’t as late as the spring. You think it was early in ‘46 or late ‘45.
What were your expectations about the duration of the position?
Oh, again, like in other instances, I really didn’t pay any attention to it. The war was over. I wanted a Job, and I Just flitted from one thing to the next. Again. I was not very deliberate about this. I had certainly no expectation in the discussion about permanency or continuing opportunities and all that kind of thing. And so we simply moved up there. Housing was very difficult. We lived quite far away from Berkeley. We lived in Concord—in a small subdivision place—and we had two kids, and it was rather complicated from the point of view of just the mechanics of life.
About 20 miles from Berkeley?
About 20 miles from Berkeley, and I had to get in very early and so forth.
The position was offered as a research assistant?
Yes, that’s right. It was just a research assistant. It was just a job specifically to help Alvarez on the linear accelerator, on just a job basis, without any particular assurances of permanency or guarantees or what have you.
You were given a salary of $4,500 for twelve months.
What was your impression the first time you went into the laboratory there?
It was very exciting. Alvarez gave me a tour of many of the large pieces of equipment which I had not seen. I had seen the 60-inch cyclotron before, but I had never seen the 184-Inch. I had never seen some of the large separators, some of which were still there. I had never seen the ion source development work. I was interested also in that time .in some of the nuclear chemistry, counting of paCticles and the electronics which went with it, and so forth. I was given sort of a tour. I spent a few weeks, I remember, just simply finding out what was going on, and then I got to work on doing specific model work, and RF circuitry and so forth with.Alvarez.. But specifically I had not been in the radar business, so I did reading and studying on basic concepts on cavities and wave-guides and that kind of thing, and then accepted responsibility for coupling the surplus radar transmitters into big cavities to get high voltage.
They were already on hand by that time?
By that time, when I came, there were already—some of that surplus gear was already around. And at that time I also became acquainted with Frank Oppenheimer. Frank Oppenheimer was doing scaled down microwave model work. He was doing model work of various cavity structures, at a microwave frequency of 3000 megahertz, while I was doing full scale 200 megahertz work, because that’s where the frequency was of these radar sets, to actually get high voltage in cavities. I got at that work quite fast. I did that pretty much by myself.
What books did you read in order to fill in this background? The wartime reports were beginning to come out. Were they available yet? Was it the OSRD series?
Some of them were available, and also I had clearances and so forth. There was a file of the classified reports from the military work. They were around. I sometimes got hold of some of them. But there was Stratton’s book. There was a book which was essentially a collection of papers from the MIT people, which was gotten out in lithographed form, I forgot who the prime author was, [Brainerd] I have it in my library back home, which was a good summary of cavity things. I have some notes that Bill Hansen, I believe, had prepared to indoctrinate people at the Rad Lab, actually the MIT Rad Lab. Anyway, it’s fairly straightforward basic electromagnetic theory, and I learned something about that, and a lot of it one could understand simply by analogy with lumped circuits rather than distributed circuits. So...
You probably learned it very well, because Alvarez commented about you at the time, he was sort of amazed, let me quote what he said: “He had no contact with microwave radio during the war, but he’s now giving a lecture course on the theoretical and practical aspects of that field, and I’m with him a good part of each day and I haven’t the slightest idea where he finds the time to…”
I see. There were some lectures there, and I studied a lot. I gave some talks for instance on stagger-tuned amplifiers and pole theory which goes with that, and I don’t remember where I got it all but...
...these are some of courses that...
That’s right. That’s right. One textbook which was useful was a book by Brainerd and associates which was generated at MIT during the war. That’s the one which I mentioned, which was lithographed. But then also I read a fair amount of just published literature, a lot of which were—a whole stack of MIT wartime reports, which were declassified but not edited, but there were big piles of them around, and I had to do a certain amount of digging.
Who were these lectures for, people working on the same project?
Not necessarily. The Rad Lab organized a good lecture series by people who were willing to talk, for people who were willing to listen, without any particular structure. Later they organized also a course which I also did some teaching In called “Nuclear Physics for Engineers,” which was specifically targeted at the engineers. But here, people just listened to learn—because they wanted to learn about iñicrowave-electronlcs and things of that kind.
Thiswas Rad Lab personnel.
Rad Lab personnel.
People right on the campus who were there?
They were involved in the Rad Lab. At that time, in fact, this was a situation that took a real effort to correct. An overwhelming majority of those members of the physics department who were active in research were also working at the Rad Lab. In fact, one of the problems at Berkeley was that the policy of the physics department was in fact in many respects subordinate to that of the Rad Lab. I did some statistics on it. I think something like 70 percent of all the tenured faculty who were not just plain teaching were on the staff of the Rad Lab at that time. And that balance was only redressed much later in the department, with a large amount of expansion.
Well, the thing is echoed in Birge’s letters to the Berkeley administration about the need for people to teach in the department, where they would really get into departmental positions.
...From the university budget—people were much more supported by outside funds, even in the thirties.
How soon did a specific group working with Alvarez come into being? Was there one when you got there?
Yes. I remember Frank Oppenheimer was already working there. Then there were two people who actually came directly from military service as senior technicians, by the name of Don Gow and Walter Selstedt, who knew the witchcraft of microwave plumbing, well, from military experience, and were extremely useful. Don Gow became a very senior member of the Rad Lab afterwards, and he died tragically several years ago. Selstedt is now a big time engineer here on the Peninsula in one of the firms. But they were just radar technicians coming right out of the service. Then Hugh Bradner was there, and I forgot exactly what he was doing in the beginning, and then there were several others, technical, not so much microwave but RS people around.
What was the total size of that group?
Oh, I would say probably about twenty. I had an interesting discussion afterwards with W.B. Reynolds, on how all that started. W. B. Reynolds was the business manager, and he said, “Well, you know, in those days, one didn’t really authorize projects or write proposals. All I used to do is talk to Alvarez,and when he proposed to do something he would estimate the cost, and I would multiply it by three and put it in the budget.” He showed me the written description of the whole linear accelerator project which was, the documentation for initiation a page and a half that Alvarez had written. But the whole question of authorizing new activities was, to put it mildly, an informal process by current standards.
I saw the same page for the synchrotron too, about a page and a half.
Yes. It was a very informal process, and there never was any estimate, any attempt made to really assess the total estimated cost, total effort, total manpower, total size of the group, to tie it to your question.
Well, there was, when one went out for a grant, but once the grant was there, then the subdividing of it could be done in this informal way, because when Lawrence wanted the money for the 184-inch he had to submit a very detailed budget to the Rockefeller Foundation, pre-war.
Yes, but this was all now covered by the blanket contract which was first through the Manhattan District, then the AEC, even under the same contract number, and evidently—-I’m not familiar with the details at the time, but we had a great deal of discretion, to what extent he would use it for research support vis-avis new construction.
So it wasn’t that each new project had to be justified with a new grant, but that it was an internal shifting of funds.
Well, essentially just a total level of activity, support.
Well, someone had to make some decisions, because someone had to think of the total budget that was available. What you’re saying is...
...it was clearly flexible. I mean, there clearly was enough allocated money around, that this kind of decision would not have to be made by displacing something else that was already entrenched.
Well, what about the other project that was developing simultaneously, that is, the synchrotron project. Was there competition for resources or for personnel?
I don’t believe so. At least nothing that I ever felt. But again, I was a junior fellow helping on the thing. I would do a certain amount of spying on the synchrotron, and then there were progress meetings on both projects, to which I would go. There were research progress meetings Lawrence used to organize, where everybody would get up and give ten or fifteen minute progress statements, and I used to often talk at some of these, and listen to the progress on the synchrotron.
How about the members of the group, did they tend to move freely back and forth?
Not very many; that was actually quite stable.
The number of physicists in the group were approximately 20 that you recall. How many besides Alvarez and yourself?
I really don’t remember because I’m not too sure about the time periods, but there was Bradner, Larry Johnson, and myself, and later some graduate students, and we got the research part of things, and Frank Oppenheimer, and I think they were the only physicists I recall that were Involved with this. John Woodyard who was at Stanford then came over, and of course he was extremely valuable—I don’t know whether you know who he is?
John Woodyard was an engineer who is now retired. He was an extremely experienced microwave man. He worked with Bill Hansen here at Stanford, and he had worked at the Sperry Gyroscope with Bill Hansen and also the Radiation Lab, and he was probably the most knowledgeable person in the whole group, about the microwave achievements during the war. And then there was C. N. Turner, who worked on the Van de Graaff Injector Into the linear accelerator. But that was all, and Woodyard was not a physicist.
Well, the names on a basic thick paper describing the design and history are the names of all the people we mentioned, but I was curious about your recollections about how you interacted with them at the time. One other point about the two groups, the synchrotron group and the proton linear accelerator group, in one of the publications which came out in the early fifties, which is the basic paper describing the whole process referred to, there’s a paragraph-Berkeley Proton Linear Accelerator-” that was published in 1955. Your name appears on it, with other people. There’s a statement there about the machine being presently used for research physics, and that it had a considerable number of advantages over the synchrotron. It seems to me that was a competitive statement. I wonder about the response-whether that reflected the fact that, at least at that stage, in terms of which instrument would be more effective for the kinds of physics that needed to be done...
I don’t recall that at all, I don’t recall any competitive situation there. I think it was recognized at the time that the synchrotron, the electron synchrotron was limited by radiation losses, that the question about where one went next with protons was not joined till considerably later than that. In fact, there was a big design study which don’t believe was ever mentioned in the literature, about building one 0EV proton linear accelerator on the hillside, in Berkeley, and that went actually fairly far before it was killed. What happened was, that after the proton linear accelerator was completed, there was no competitiveness. Then Alvarez and myself got involved in making a design study of a very much larger proton linear accelerator. At the same time, Brobeck made the design study for a bevatron, and then it was clear that the beva- tron was a better way to go. I don’t think that was a controversial decision at all. And then Korean War started, and the work was interrupted, with the socalled MTA project which we can talk about later.
Meanwhile of course the Stanford one was setting up. Were you aware of what they were doing?
Yes. Hansen came down occasionally, and we sometimes visited. I gave a few seminars at Stanford at that time. There were visits, cross visits, but not very frequently, once every few months. We knew what was going on. One thing which is true, that Alvarez in particular was very skeptical about the Stanford work, because he was convinced that an accelerator should have basic stability. The proton linear accelerator theoretically is phase stable, and Serber did the basic paper of stability of accelerator, and I did a fair amount of theoretical work, on the orbit— dynamics and regions of stability and all that kind of business, while the electron linear accelerator, of course, since the particle goes at the velocity of light, is essentially neutrally stable. That means that the phases have to be right by dead reckoning, not by an automatic adjustment of the electrons against the phase. And Hansen who was a superb analyst came to the conclusion that even in the face of that, the tolerances could be met. And Alvarez was always extremely skeptical about any accelerator which would not be inherently stable. So this was an argument which I witnessed for a while and participated in a little bit at various times.
Did it come up in discussions, you mean?
Yes, colloquia or simply when the Stanford people were visiting. n general, Alvarez was a great admirer of Hansen, as far as his microwave contributions were concerned, but he was very skeptical about the success of the electron accelerator. Alvarez was fully convinced of the correctness of the synchrotron ideas and the synchrocyclotron ideas and so forth. He recognized quite early that as far as protons are concerned, that sooner or later, the—he agreed that the bevatron was a more economical way to meet the high energy proton situation.
Let me ask another question about your perception of your role. Alvarez refers to you as a superb physicist, as does Birge; for example, in his letter recommending you for a physics department appointment as assistant professor, on June 7, 1946, he refers to you as the most promising young physicist in the country. This is in his recommendation. And Alvarez in his supporting letter makes the same general comment and also refers to you, your contribution, as “one of the best practical radio engineers I know.” Now, how did you perceive this business of being a radio engineer and a physicist? Was there any conflict?
I don’t have the slightest idea. I mean, during that time, the work which I was principally doing was straight radio engineering-I mean I was fundamentally making these things run, and trying to design pulse forming networks to power the oscillators and get the oscillators coupled into the cavities and get high voltage set up and measured, and all the orbit theory in this, as far as stability was concerned—I did actually do zero work in planning for an experimental program, at that time. So I think the appraisal about physics must refer mainly to understanding of basic classical theory and things of that kind, because I certainly did not in any way interact with any of the more, at that time, advanced ideas of elementary particle physics. I took courses passively and I listened, Serber gave a famous year of lectures at the time called “Serber Says,” and I participated in some discussions and so forth, but I certainly didn’t write anything or do anything in terms of experimental planning for the accelerator.
Did you have any doubts that you were doing physics, from the fact that you were doing this...?
Oh no, I had no doubt that I was doing physics. I mean, I called It physics. That’s to some extent, In my view, part of the teaching of Dullond, that physics is not using apparatus which somebody else built—I mean, physics is the whole thing, which hopefully incorporates as much understanding as one can of the Instruments which one uses, because—in fact, one of the things I’ve been trying to teach the graduate students is that Just using the beam of an accelerator, If that’s all you do, you deny yourself a lot of flexibility In Ideas, because sometimes you can do a better job if you change operating characteristics of the machine. I remember at Berkeley, a sort of amusing experience when the cyclotron was going, I found several of the students working In the external beam who had never seen the cyclotron! Because the cyclotron was inside a concrete wall and they had never taken the trouble even to look at the animal when the doors were open: So I remember twice taking some graduate students by the scruff of the neck and giving them a tour of the cyclotron, after they had been graduate students doing experimental work on the external beam.
The black box?
Like a black box, essentially which squirts out a beam.
Well, certainly when you’re mon the ground floor, there’s no way of avoiding-
That’s right. But I looked at it as physics, but fundamentally somehow I did not particularly distinguish between particle physics and what I guess Alvarez and Birge called electrical engineering.
Well, they were recommending you In both senses. In the same letter, Alvarez said, “I have said many times that he is the most promising young physicist I have met in my five years of war research in three of the largest laboratories devoted to such work.” And then without any contradiction he says, “He is one of the best practical radio engineers I know.”
Well, of course Alvarez again is also of that school. I mean, he likes instruments and classical theory pertaining to instruments, but I don’t think that Alvarez would necessarily differentiate them either. Anyway, the fact is, I didn’t do any physics in that time. The only physics I did, when the 184-inch got going, I did a bit of what now would be called nuclear chemistry. I mean, I did some studies of some nuclear reactions activated by neutrons, and then counting down isotopes and doing a bit of chemistry and separating them and so forth. I did a little bit of that, Just to learn a little bit about it, but certainly not in terms of building any actual apparatus, detectors.
Well, later on you did some of the meson work.
Oh yes. Oh yes.
Let’s talk a little bit about Alvarez and the working relationships within the group. Was there a clear division of labor?
No, but I sort of look on myself as being Alvarez’ executive officer. The man who would keep things going on a day to day basis. Alvarez would get interested in a very selective way in specific aspects of things, for the accelerator, but he would not really worry about keeping everything sort of abreast, which was needed to get the thing built. In fact, Alvarez would get very much interested and give certain directions or decisions in a given area, and then sort of vanish, and then come back again, and this was sometimes a bit frustrating to people working for him, because since he is so good, as good as he is, he would very often criticize people’s work which they had been working on for one or two or three weeks, and then tell them they’d been doing it wrong, and generally he was right about that, but it was frustrating at that time because the investment in effort was very large. My work was primarily, in addition to the things I was doing myself, to sort of maintain coordination and schedules, so that the various activities would more or less converge. So was sort of the executive officer for Luis, and including worrying about things getting done right in the shops and fabricated and what have you.
You had this division of labor in mind.
There wasn’t any organized division of labor. I mean, there was sort of a general understanding that I was the coordinating deputy or something, and that I personally worked on these high power RF problems, that Woodyard was working on microwave circuitry, that Turner would be working on the Van de Graaff. That was quite separate. The injector by and large was separate. And then after the orbit dynamics problems were understood, Bradner worked quite selectively on the fabrication of the focussing foils and things of that kind for the drift tubes and some of the regular engineering support people then were pulled in on the engineering of the pulse networks and things of that kind. But it was never—there was certainly no organization chart ever or job descriptions or function assignments, or the trappings of organized life.
How about regular meetings?
Oh yes, there were meetings of the group. There were meetings of the group. There were also these laboratory-wide progress meetings. But meetings—everybody worked pretty much together in one building. Meetings would sort of coalesce rather than be scheduled, most of the time. It was not a very structured situation.
How often would the group get together?
I haven’t the slightest idea.
I mean, once a week, or...
...oh, I think more often. I think more often.
Did you have a schedule? Well, two kinds of schedules, one, did you have some overall time to plan as to when certain parts should be done, what dates you should
Yes, yes, I would in fact do most of that. We had sort of an idea that this could be done in something like three years, and at the same time, when the work started, we didn’t even have a clear idea about the basic radio frequency structure. In fact, Alvarez had the original idea of simply having separate cavities, and I believe that the credit for the basic single cavity, what’s known as the Alvarez Structure, I believe the basic credit for that idea, I believe is Mr. Woodyard’s. I think he originally noted that if you took the re-entrant cavity which originated from klystron work during the war, and that if you put those end to end, that then the walls could be left out, and transform it into a single cavity. I believe that the germ of that idea, if not the elaboration, came from Woodyard. And then Alvarez recognized the general validity of that, and that design is known as Alvarez Structure, and I did the theory about the mode spectrum and tolerances and all that kind of business which goes into it.
Did that change the time scale considerably, that idea?
No. I mean, some other people simply started out with the expectation that sooner or later we would figure out the right radio frequency configuration. It was simply born from the basic energetics of the situation, how much power would give how much energy, which made us feel that somehow or other this should work out, and sooner or later we would find a particular geometrical structure which would be the most practical one. And that turned out to be true. Now, in retrospect, we were darned lucky. But this key idea, I believe was Woodyard’s, the key idea of the basic structure, and the focussing, the orbit dynamics, fundamentally was Serber and myself, and then the actual design of the focussing gadgetry was Bradner.
Was Serber the only 100 percetit theorist in the group?
He was not in the group, I don’t believe. I mean, he was sort of the chief house theoretician—fundamentally who took sort of the responsibility to revitalize, the spirit of the laboratory, in terms of thinking about basic things rather than engineering. I think Serber—as exemplified by his lectures and discussions and seminars and so forth— was really the main agent to make people think about research programs with the machines and all that. I remember in the very beginning of the proton linear accelerators, we had some discussions in which I participated, but in retrospect certainly didn’t know what I was doing, about physics research programs with the accelerator. There were discussions about how important this proton-proton scattering was, at 32 million volts, and things of that kind. And in retrospect, with some very highly naive ideas. But Serber was the prime mover in all of these things. The same thing is true in the synchrotron. I think Serber was the main mover in making people
think about possible problems worth investigating with the synchrotron.
have talked with him about those things.
Yes, yes. think he was almost unique at that time, I dont believe-”there was really very little other theoretical input at least that we plumbers had any knowledge of.
He was right there, a great advantage, on the scene. Talking about individuals, we haven’t mentioned Ernest Lawrence. During that period of your design work on the accelerator, was he involved in any way? Did he stick his nose in at all?
Hardly. He sometimes sort of appeared and said, What are you doingV To me, he was a somewhat remote person at the time. He had of course his idiosyncrasy of really being the boss, I mean, I’m sure you’ve heard all the stories about the big red chair in the meeting room for Lawrence, and the coffee cup which he only could use, and all the other trappings of being the Boss. And he would do peculiar things. He once fired one of my graduate students without telling me, It was a good thing, it turned out in retrospect, because he wasn’t very good.
On what grounds?
Because he wasn’t doing anything—he was loafing. I mean, he was not visibly doing anything. Lawrence needed some assistance in some work he was interested in, on the cyclotron, and said, Can you help me? and the fellow said, And he wasn’t doing anything. So Lawrence said, You’re fired. And when I came back, I found out that my graduate student had been fired. And that, it struck me, would not be current practice in any establishment I know of. I discussed with him at various times some of my theoretical work about orbit stability and all that but, by and large, he was not terribly interested, at that. time, in getting the 184-Inch going as a circular accelerator. It’s very interesting, in view of the MTA story, that he completely reversed himself, In then giving a large amount of Interest to linear accelerators. But he was interesting. He had great respect for Alvarez, and it was essentially Alvarez’s baby.
You mean he gave him a free hand.
That’s right. No, there was certainly no direction by Lawrence of the whole activity In any way.
Alvarez also shared the attitude that Lawrence was the Boss, there was no...
...yes, very much so. In fact, he kept reiterating that. At the same time, Alvarez of course was quite close to Lawrence at the time, and none of the rest of us really were.
How about McMillan at that time? That was a parallel group, I’m assuming.
Yes, It was parallel.
What about the relationship between Alvarez and McMillan?
It was quite good at that time. It was quite good at the time, and McMillan, I used to talk with McMillan again off and on, because he was interested in much more detail in orbit theory, and since he lectured and gave papers on synchron orbit theory, and I was interested in orbit theory for the linear accelerator, we often talked about how the two related. Obviously there were many common things.
I notice in a number of papers, there are references to discussions with McMillan, I don’t know specifically, but you did have contact...
...oh yes, had contact with him, I feel McMillan intellectually is an absolutely enormous individual, both in terms of the things which you know him for, also for his knowledge of other fields, medicine, biology, chemistry. I mean, he was really a much more universal scientist, probably the most universal scientist had contact with at that time, at the Rad Lab.
You talked about how you were lucky in one phase of the design. What about areas where you did come up with major problems? What impasses and bottlenecks were there?
Oh, there were...
There’s some reference, you know, in one of these letters of Birge or Alvarez about considering the difficulties you ran into on the project, that you were certainly in control of the situation and calm, the implication was that there were quite a few difficulties as I imagine there would be.
Oh yes. There were lots of headaches. There were headaches: For instance, the so called focussing foils, which were required by orbit dynamics, which Bradner had designed, all blew up at the first trial. They simply didn’t take the mechanical force of the—the radio frequency force. We had to start all over again, with replacing foils by grids, and I worked on the grid theory a little bit whether they would spark or not and how field would concentrate on them and other things. And then when the accelerator was being started, the voltage wouldn’t build up, because of the phenomenon of what’s now known as multipactoring, which wasn’t known at the time, but which was simply discovered by bad luck there.
Electrons can go back and forth between surfaces, because they have just the right phase relationship of being emitted, and then, emit secondary electrons, and this was solved by putting on DC bias on the drift tubes. That had to be retro-fitted into the whole machine. Then there was one very bad thing. Through accident, the whole cavity structure was dropped from a crane once during the construction period. I was directly involved. In fact I ran the crane at times, and what happened was that the engineering department had made the gadget for slow motion of the crane, which Jammed the “On” button on, so when I lifted the whole accelerator up on a crane, and then wanted to stop the crane by pushing the “Off” button, it didn’t do anything, and the crane Just ket going, and Just pulled the whole thing up to the deillng and then dropped it.
You were watching this with no controls?
I yanked the thing that was suppqsed to control it, but it didn’t work, because it was disabled by this faulty gadget which the engineers had stuck into the crane. And so, it smashed one end of the accelerator, so we had to go hack saw it down to half of its length and use it for a test section.
So no one was hurt, when the crane...
No, that was actually lucky—one of the techhicians actually dashed under the thing, just before it fell, in order to get to the master switch, but he didn’t make it. It was very interesting. Alvarez was extremely nervous. He told me several times afterwards that he had been having second thoughts about the success of the whole venture, several days before this happened. He somehow felt he had a premonition of horrible things going to happen. He was very nervous for that whole preceding week, for some odd reason, and then afterwards of course there were major repercussions about the whole business, and it was really sort of a tense period.
How far along in the project was that?
Oh, this was the final cavity for the accelerator. So it was essentially—yes,‘48, ‘49, ‘48 probably. So it had to be all rebuilt, and very happily, it was possible to do that, because the dies under which the cavity were being made were at Douglas Aircraft Company, and they were still available.
These were routine problems that you would expect on something like this. Was there any...
...well, no, I think this whole question of multipactoebws was not routine. There was a rather fundamental obstacle, as a matter of fact, because the thing just wouldn’t hold voltage. And also another thing was the so-called, what is called mode flattening, namely, having a systematic procedure for getting this very long cavity really to oscillate in the particular mode it was supposed to. I did some theoretical work which developed a systematic iterative procedure for correcting error in a self-converging way, which may be what Alvarez. was referring to, which worked pretty well.
No, this was too early for that, I think, this letter, ‘46.
With this kind of problem, when you had to set out to solve It, was there an engineering solution or a physics solution?
Well, that was—-it’s a matter of definition, of course. That I would call physics. These were physics problems. On the other hand, there were lots of engineering solutions on actual mechanical execution and fabrication of the tank and so on. This was even for those times a huge vacuum system, for instance, and it was a question of designing it properly. Those were engineering problems. There were also engineering problems which had to do with using the surplus radar gear. I mean, it turned out that the whole evolution of engineering on that project consisted of slowly throwing away all the surplus radar gear which was the original basis of the idea, and substituting properly designed components for them. When we actually were through with the project, there were essentially zero survivors of the original surplus radar gear. Everything was pretty much designed from scratch.
But the radar gear maybe provided the confidence factor.
That’s right. It was essentially a catalyst. I mean, it participated In the reactions but then was eliminated—excepting for some things like filament transformers and some of the vacuum tubes, the original radar disappeared.
In all of this, there’s no mention of any financial obstacles.
That’s right. I never knew a thing about money. I mean, there may have been, for all I know. I would not know whether at any time throughout this project there were discussions involving Reynolds, the business manager, Lawrence and Alvarez, as to whether really the investment was getting too big for the job or not. I simply have no idea, since I was never cognizant of any initial estimates against which such expenses would be measured.
You were never asked to do a redesign on the basis of cutting the budget such as the NAL people had to do?
No. I was never even remotely exposed to that.
I sort of asked earlier two questions on schedule, one on long range, and the other was, what was the daily routine like? Did you work nights, weekends?
Pretty much. I certainly would work many evenings and many weekends, and certainly a regular working day. The family being in Concord made life complicated, and we then moved in closer later on, after I became assistant professor we moved in closer and we kept having babies.
How many did you have during this period—by 1951?
I’d have to figure it.out. I think four.
Well, that would have been early then because the appointment was September of ‘46 to assistant professor.
So you were talking about, until then.
That’s right. And beyond that. Beyond that. I remember very well, after I began to teach, I was still commuting from Concord quite often. It was very amusing, when Birge offered me the Job as assistant professor, he called me into his office, and he didn’t say, “I would like to offer you a job as assistant professor,” but what he did say was, “Panofsky, do you have time Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 o’clock?” Because that was the necessary condition, before he would even go forward. It was a very unpopular hour to teach.
I gather there was a course in advanced electricity and magnetism, for graduate students, graduate level. Getting back to the schedule on the linear accelerator, was there any time when you did your work on a crash schedule?
No. There was never any target, in the sense of time or money, against which we felt we were being measured. The atmosphere was very different. It was simply a situation that we wanted to get it done and get it to work, and start doing some physics and so forth, but there was never any sort of critical, time or critical dollar value, where you would feel, if you didn’t do that you were in trouble. And at least, in the atmosphere. It was extremely different from now. it was dramatically different. I mean, it was in a certain way relaxed and in a certain way very hard-driving, .but the drive came very much more from within oneself, or from the general atmosphere in the laboratory, which was certainly a driving atmosphere, but it was a driving atmosphere in terms more of achievement, rather than, even competition with other groups, or management targets.
in this case you specifically said there wasn’t competition with other groups.
Not known to me. I was certainly in no way sensitive to competition to the synchrotron group, the 184-inch.
What about groups elsewhere?
There was nothing like it going on.
The Stanford group?
The Stanford group, not at all. I mean, certainly the general outlook on the Stanford group was sort of generally friendly and—-but somewhat benevolent. Certainly, when one went over to give seminars, things were much more primitive here and so forth, and...
“The Tribe Across the Bay.”
“The Tribe Across the Bay”—right.
You mentioned one time when Alvarez had qualms, misgivings, fears. Was there any time when it looked as if the whole project might not work?
Not really. I mean, there were certainly times when we were really sort of batting our head against the wall, particularly on this multipactering problem, because the voltage would just not build up and things of that kind. Another point was that in this day and age, when you build an accelerator, you are very critical about intensity, not only the voltage but also intensity, but somehow we never really had a very clearcut picture as to how an intensive beam could actually be gotten from this machine. In fact, McMillan used to believe that the intensity of a linear accelerator would be very small, relative to the circular machines, while of course In retrospect the opposite turned out to be true. But I remember a joke that McMillan made, when the scintillation counter was discovered. He made the joke, “Oh, now we can measure the beam intensity of the linear accelerator.” But at the same time, we did not relate, we did not have a firm target for the intensity for the accelerator, that below this It would fall and above this It would be a success.
The actual first physics done on It was reported in the February of ‘50, proton-proton scattering paper. Was that really the first physics done on It?
They were in Parallel. This was somewhat competitive. I had a graduate student name of Fillmore and Luis Alvarez had two graduate students, Larry Johnson and Bruce Cork. Bruce Cork became later the associate director of high energy physics at Argonne, you may remember that.
Isn’t he at Michigan or somewhere?
No, he’s back In Berkeley now. Larry Johnson was in Minnesota. Anyway, at that time Alvarez designed a very elaborate device for proton-proton scattering, under the assumption that the Intensity would be very low, so he wanted to capture all there was in the way of solid angle. At that time the photographic emulsion as a detector, for proton-proton scattering, to measure the recoil. And the device which I designed turned out to be much more expedient to build, so we got results much earlier than Alvarez’s group did, and since proton-proton scattering was considered to be one of the main things that one wanted to do at first with the accelerator, it was considered a good thing actually to have two methods. We were somewhat competitive, and this high precision gadget which I built for very precisely positioning photographic plates In the vacuum and so forth got results much sooner than Johnson and Cork’s and Alvarez’s machine.
That’s interesting. In the design and the building of the linear accelerator, there was one group, Alvarez and you were part of it and so forth. Now you are referring to groups as physics experimental groups. When did the change take place?
They weren’t organized groups. Alvarez always had the principle, which he said was the policy of the laboratory, that as a reward for having built machines, any physicist should have opportunity to do experiments. The concept of an experimental group as it now prevails simply wasnt in existence. So we were simply physicists, and I was an assistant professor, and there were graduate students, and the graduate students then, as they do now, had to sign up and work for somebody, so Mr. Fillmore worked for me, and the other two gentlemen worked for Luis. We were professors doing certain experiments. It wasnt really organized experimental groups. They were simply the professor and the students. So there was no organizational division within the Alvarez group. Alvarez has always announced it to be the policy of himself and the Radiation Laboratory, any physicist should get first crack at doing physics on any major engineering undertaking to which he had dedicated a large part of his life.
So by the time you were doing the proton-proton scattering experiment, the machine was operating.
The machine was operating.
There was some work to be done on it.
Oh yes, there was some work to be done on it, quite a few things. In fact, I was sort of in charge of bossing the operators. For instance, I got into the proton—proton business while a fellow by the name of Bob Watt who is now quite well known, was accelerator operations chief. He works now at SLAC. He’s the head of a bubble chamber group. He was the chief man who built the Alvarez bubble chanter, after he worked on the linear accelerator. So I was quite involved still, but more or less in a supervisory or whatever you call it capacity. I had to get the operators to run the thing, but on the other hand I still knew myself how to run the machine and push the buttons and fix things when they were broken down and all that—I worked with engineers for building second generation power supplies or what have you.
By that time there was a real transition. The major design was done, so you were-Panofsky —that’s right.
You were doing more physics.
It was a real transition. Actually, what happened at that time, I remember this very distinctly, was that, I was doing physics on the machine, and at the same time, McMillan roped me into helping a little bit during the turn-on phase of the synchrotron, and then I got two graduate students and did a first experiment with the Synchrotron, Kenney and Blocker—that was almost in parallel, on shower development from electrons and photons. And also I did some other minor experiments on the linear accelerator, on carbon-II, activation curves and stuff like that.
This was around 1950…
Yes, that’s right.
But earlier than that—-let’s talk a little more about the transition period.
I did do a bit of engineering. I did do a little bit of accerator engineering on the synchrotron for a while. That was never published. There was some trouble on funny ground loop phenomena and various other problems on the synchrotron.
Just to speculate for a minute, shortly after that you left. What do you think you would have done at Berkeley had you stayed, if the basic design was done on the synchrotron, it was working, the proton linear accelerator was working. Would you have become involved in some other design project?
Oh yes, well, I did. I also got very heavily involved—and did a lot of reports that I have around—-in the design of the bevatron. In fact, I did I think the basic calculation of setting the energy for th bevatron. At that time, the relativistic calculations weren’t very conmion. The threshholds were set, so one could find anti-protons. I got involved In that. I did the main calculations on how you can get a large frequency swing, and frequency modulated cavities on the bevatron, and did some work on the aperture requirements of the bevatron, and had a lot of fun of that kind. Then of course there was a period when I worked on the MTA Project for something like a year and.a half, and I did all the RF design on that.
I know very little about the dates on that project; .
Well, I have some stuff around on that actUally, documentary. The situation there—-this is actually from the point of view of human history quite interesting-—Lawrence became persuaded that the United States was really in trouble, from the point of view of being cut off from sources of fissionable materials. Now, he never told me the basis of these fears-— there was always only a very small group in whom he would confide about this, or, I don’t even know how the security classification systems were in those days. I mean, I had the security clearances but I never made use of them. And so, he and Alvarez, who were very close about this, came to the conclusion that the country was facing a real crisis, that if the Korean War would expand to another world war, that this country would be cut off from the Congo and other sources of materials. So, for a while they studied, in a separately organized activity which had extra guards and what have you, the possibility of building a high flux reactor in Berkeley. I never have known very much about reactors. I read reports which were circulated, but I had nothing very much to do with it.
That project was killed, for many reasons, safety being one of them, and then, Alvarez and Lawrence talked about the possibility of breeding fissionable material by an accelerator—namely, to build an accelerator of such intensity that you could take depleted uranium and by capturing neutrons on depleted uranium, making the depleted uranium-238, directly, into plutonium—239, without going through the reactor which needed-235, which was the fissionable isotope, as raw material. Something which I like to call a “negative control rod,” namely, having what amounts to a reactor lattice which would not sustain a chain reaction, but making it multiply by putting neutrons into it externally. So the problem was, how do you design a really high intensity accelerator, which would put out neutrons in the ? That means, by orders of magnitude, higher intensity than anything which accelerators did in those days, so that you could use It as a production tool. And interestingly enough, it was Lawrence and not Alvarez who suggested that a linear accelerator would be the most powerful tool for getting, for designing such a thing. And in fact, Lawrence suggested the idea to me, when Alvarez happened to be out of town, and I did some calculations for Lawrence about how big it would have to be, and apertures and lengths and power and all that, just to get the general feasibility studies.
Then Alvarez came back, and then it was decided to go forward with building first a model of such a thing, with the view of then going and building a production reactor, using this machine. Now, at that time, nobody knew in Berkeley ever discussed the question of desirability of this, which in retrospect would have been a multHhundredmi1lion dollar activity. Namely, the whole, the economics of fissionable materials versus the military needs, and the availability of natural uranium and all that, at that time were very classified things and just weren’t discussed. So in retrospect many people, particularly Rabi, were extremely negative about the whole project. This is written up for instance in the Oppenheimer-Lawrence book, and that part of it is essentially right. Not everything in that book is right. That part of it, excepting for details, is pretty much right. Lawrence managed in Washington to maintain support for the project, but I was only involved essentially as linear accelerator expert in residence, and agreed to design the cavity structure, so a team was set up with Lofgren in charge of the injector, Harold Brown, who is now president of Cal Tech, in charge of the target, and was more or less in charge of what goes in between, and Alvarez in charge of the whole thing.
During that period, I wrote a whole raft of reports and so forth, and we finally built what was known under the code name MTA-Materials Testing Accelerator, which was put at Livermore. At that time Lawrence, I was not involved in that, initiated a site search, for it was clear it couldn’t be built on the hill at Berkeley or at Livermore, and then detailed plans were drawn up to build an actual production linear accelerator at Weldon Springs, Kansas, and the site for that was chosen and surveyed and all that. That would have been around a billion dollar accelerator installation, for producing fissionable materials from depleted uranium. Then, I worked on that for about a year and a half. That was essentially most of 1950 or late ‘49. I spent I would say 60 or 70 percent of my time on that—maybe even 70—and I have a whole raft of design notes which you can look at. They’re somewhere. They got since declassified. The project has now been declassified: Well, so then, I did the experiment on the synchrotron, with Steinberger at that same time and with York on the cyclotron, but that was all done during the time I was actually mainly working on this classified project.
I would not have known that from all this surface stuff.. Now, let me go back for a minute to your earlier experimental work. It seems in ‘48 you got involved in the 184-Inch, on the neutral meson work.
With Phillips and Martinelli. Were they graduate students?
By now you were an associate professor.
Right. Yes, they were graduate students. Phillips and Martinelli. I did all sorts of things—with Phillips and Martinelli as graduate students, then I did work with Vincent Peterson now at Hawaii, he was a graduate student, on production by protons on proton and on meson induced fission.
Let me ask a number of questions about—well, first of all, some of the work you did with the cyclotron was again design, in other words, the idea of magnetic shields, deflection, and bringing—
—the mesons out and so forth. It was a way of latching onto something, it was a very hot topic in experimental physics, through design.
Yes, that’s right. That’s right. That’s correct.
How much were you in touch with the beginning of the whole meson interest?
Oh, very, much. Very much. In fact, I was extremely interested in it. I would go and learn, scan some plates, with Gardner and Lattes, just for fun, just to see what they looked like and what a meson looked like—I was lousy at it. But I did scan photographic plates. I had this graduate student, Sue Gray Norton, leading to an amusing experience. She was a Southern girl who married an Iraquian, and she then became Sue Gray Norton Alsalan and I put her to work on looking at ?-capture on uranium-loaded plates, which was quite an interesting experiment, actually, but it used similar techniques as the ones of Gardner, Lattes and company. I. set up a fancy scanning—set up what was In retrospect probably the first automatic, semi-automatic film scanning machine, where you take a microscope and hook up Its motions to a bunch of counters. An automatic photographic contraption which ordinarily was used for photographing checks at banks at the tlme1recorded the counter settings. So that rather than what used to be the custom at the time—when you find a meson track, you go and stop everything and write everything down, record all the data—you push a button, and the data would automatically register for later analysis, so that one source of error was eliminated.
In other words, you’re abstracting from the mass of stuff the significant data, for further examination later.
No, you then measured the angle—you actually made the measurement right there on the stage, and you recorded that too. You recorded all the fundamental kinematic information, on a bunch of counters which you photographed, so that you didn’t have to go and sketch every event and all that.
This was around ‘48.
By this time, there were some production line techniques developed anyway, right?
This is what I’m trying to pin down, because what Occhialini had developed with Powell was a production line, In the sense of having a bunch of people—a bunch of microscopes—
Yes, oh yes, but they were quite unautomated. That’s right, the production line consisted of having a lot of slaves, right.
An efficient transfer of materials.;.
But not automated. Panafslcy: Not automated, and this was of course a first attempt toward slightly automating, I mean horrendously primitive by modern standards.
I hadn’t realized that you’d done that. Did you get into any of the work on nuclear emulsions, or was that Just simply something presented to you, that here was a new...
I didn’t do anything on development of emulsion, other than working with Mrs. Alsalam on soaking nuclear emulsions in uranium, various uranium—carrying chemicals, without wrecking the emulsion. It turned out to be a fairly tricky problem.
What was the amusing thing you mentioned?
Oh, the amusing thing involved Birge. When I took her on as a graduate student, Birge warned me very much against taking any women graduate students anyway, because it was a bad idea, because they couldn’t stay in physics, and in addition to that, that she was pregnant and therefore would have to leave before nine months. It turns out that the lady in question did indeed produce a child, but it was 19 months after Birge’s prediction. So she finished her thesis all right, and at the same time, I remember she gave a paper which had the romantically sounding title of “Meson-Induced Fission” at a time when she was about 8 1/2 months pregnant, and somehow the combination “Meson-Induced Fission” by a very pregnant lady was quite a spectacular phenomenon, and caused a certain amount of publicity among several reporters who were attending the Physical Society meetings. But anyway, at that time female physicists were very rare. Certainly. And Birge was very upset about the fact.
About the fact that she existed at all?
About the fact that she really seriously could contemplate becoming a professional physicist.
What happened to her?
She went with her husband, it’s a relatively sad story. She went to Beirut and became a professor at the university and taught, an elementary physics teacher, and she wrote me some fairly sad letters. Under the codes there, nobody was allowed to do anything. I mean, even with a lecture table, men had to move her apparatus from one end of the table to the other because no woman was permitted to show that much physical labor. But she continued teaching physics. I don’t know, I’ve lost touch with her.
Curious about the life histories of people who were premature in their field. About the meson work, were you aware of any of the things that were coming out of some of the conferences, like the Shelter Island conference where the two meson idea was, developed?
Remember how this news reached you?
Yes, there were seminars. I mean, I was aware of the muon paradox and the experiment, the main experiment at that time of Conversi, Piccioni and Pancini and I followed the literature, the muon scattering literature, and the two meson paradox and so forth, yes.
Did that influence—obviously it influenced the work you did on the 184th. Did that give a sense of excitement in the laboratory?
I think the sense of excitement was very strong anyway, even with or without that. I mean, the general pressure was excitement, really because mesons could be made at Berkeley, and we wanted to find out all their properties, and in general, I mean, that was enough. I think the mu-pi paradox, the two meson theory and so forth, had relatively little to contribute to that. By and large, mean, with the exception of Serber, there are always a relatively minor theoretical input to the experimental end of the laboratory at that time, and was quite aware of that.
And then I was interested in several things. After Moyers group worked on looking at gamma rays from bombarded targets, which may or may not be related to the neutral Pi-meson, I thought of the idea of using that general technique of detecting gamma rays by studying pi-minus capture in hydrogen. And the reason is a relatively simple idea, not very theoretical. I had studied pi-minus capture in emulsions, in atoms other than hydrogen, which was essentially the original basis of the Lattes-Gardner discoveries, and then had studied Pi-minus capture in uranium, another business, But that mechanism of pi-minus capture by which nucleons get emitted can’t work in hydrogen because of conservation of energy and momentum, and so knew that that wouldn’t work but something had to happen, so I designed this experiment, and got a graduate student, and got Herb York to work with me who at that time had been working with Moyer, and then I did this work with Hadley and York, Aamodt Hadley and York, 1951, on pi-minus capture in hydrogen and deuterium.
You did it with Phillips?
Phillips was on the second generation experiment. And that turned out to—that was a very exciting discovery, because it established not only the pi zero existence, but it established the fact that pi zero was pseudo-scalar and it established the fact of the p1 minus-pi zero mass difference, and was a very major advance in understanding theoretically what was happening in that whole pion picture. And that was very successful and caused a great deal of excitement around the Rad Lab, and then I joined Steinberger from that.
Was Steinberger there visiting?
Steinberger, no, he was a member of the staff, He wasn’t there very long, but he worked on the synchrotron, and he did first the production experiments on Pi-plus’s by gamma rays, and then I worked with him on the pi-zero experiment, because I was working on the Pi-zero part of the synchrotron, so we sort of combined those two things. Steinberger was an extremely dedicated guy at that time. He would hardly ever sleep, and live on candy bars, and—but it was possible at that time to lead quite a few lives at once. I mean, these things are not that complicated. All the time believe worked at least half time on the MTA.
How did you come together with people like Steinberger or York? Was it your group that they were part of?
It wasn’t a group. It’s very individual. There was never any group. There were no identified groups. I have no idea, for instance, I don’t have the slightest idea how the payroll works, whether there was a budget for a subgroup or something. I don’t know any of that. Haven’t the foggiest notion. But just my students and myself, and we would sometimes collaborate and sometimes not.
What about cosmic ray work at Berkeley? Was any of that going on?
Yes, Fretter and Brode were doing their cosmic ray work, and occasionally seminars were given on results.
How much interaction during this period with the meson work? You were the only machine, first of all, producing artificial mesons...
The rest of them were coming from cosmic rays.
That implies a pretty close interaction if one wanted to...
...there wasn’t. There wasn’t. I mean, the interaction was very minor; it was essentially with individual visitors like Lattes who was after all—is a cosmic ray man. You know Lattes?
Lattes who worked with Occhialini and Powell.
Yes. It’s an interesting situation as to what happened to him afterwards. It’s a very tragic situation, actually...
I’m not sure I know.
Are you interested in that?
He, after being the co-discoverer of the meson with Lattes, Occhialini and Powell, he became...
…of the pi-on...
...of the pi-on—he went to Berkeley and collaborated with Gardner on the emulsion technique, to Eugene Gardner, Gardner had beryllium poisoning during the war and died, afterwards. Lattes then went off to Brazil, where he was sort of received as a national hero, and was promised support to build a cyclotron similar to the Berkeley cyclotron, and so he attracted several Americans to work with him on this, to help on the engineering. And the project failed fundamentally because of the total corruption of the government. Twice the business manager, who was admiral of the Brazilian Navy, ran away with the entire payroll and bet it on the horses. And he had to hire the mistress of the mayor of Sao Paulo as his secretary as a condition for going forward with his project, and there were all sorts of interesting sidelines of that kind. It’s a rather sordid story. And it failed, and Lattes became extremely despondent and really never recovered, either as a scientist or as an individual. (He was really a great man) from that absolutely defeating experience. It went on for quite a few years.
Is he still In Brazil?
Yes, but he’s been in and out of psychiatric problems. I think he’s still alive, as far as I know.
Occhialini brought him with him from Brazil back to England.
Yes. And he was really a fun guy, was married to a very beautiful gal, and at Berkeley—and really deserved a big share of the credit for having gotten the whole meson business going in Berkeley and having demonstrated that masons could be made In Berkeley, then—and the rest of the history is really very sad.
Are there indications that within the Berkeley context he didn’t get enough credit?
Oh no, I don’t think so.
It was just that this was the wrong kind of reward.
But he decided to go back and set up this kind of large activity, but he never had any appreciation of the total complexity of actually doing this kind of thing. Probably he was one of the early people in what is now the “user tradition” in physics. He had no interest whatever in the cyclotron, In what made it go, In what is needed to really run it, how you have to use the talents of engineers and technicians and so forth to make things go. I mean, he was really extraordinarily naive. He Just used the pions coming out of the target. It was that naiveté which really defeated him ultimately,because while all these horrible things were going on—for instance, he was doing cosmic rays in the Andes. I mean, he was nominally the director of the thing, he would only spend about half his time there, so that the lesser individuals could simply build that for him. I mean, he had this idea, which is very prevalent today, which is more workable today than it was then, that you could essentially simply delegate the purely mechanical, the purely engineering operations to others. But the others simply didn’t exist.
Yes. There was a larger “other” there, which was the social system, which was difficult.
What about conferences away from Berkeley, either at Brookhaven or at Rochester, did you go to them?
Oh yes, I participated in the Rochester conference.
The first one in 1950?
I’m confused, whether it was the first one or not. I think the answer is yes. I rementher, I caused quite a ferment of excitement at that one or the next one, I’m not quite sure, because of pi—minus absorption in hydrogen were very spectacular things at that time, and yesj in fact I gave, I was invited there to give some lectures a couple of days before the actual conference, on the details of these experiments.
We have the full records of the Rochester conference, all the proceedings.
Yes, the proceedings I’ve got.
...and the various drafts and so forth. And also Brookhaven, did you have much contact?
No, very little contact with Brookhaven. I visited there a few times, and for instance my student Phillips went there to work on the design of the cosmotron, but relatively minor contact. (I have to quit at 4:30).
It seems to me that this whole period involves a lot of things, and we haven’t even talked about teaching, completing one design study, assisting on some others, including the whole new project, the MTA, doing some work on the bevatron and the synchrotron—
Yes, but you did mention—
Oh yes, I did design work on the bevatron, yes.
Doing experimental work, physics experimental work on a very hot field of physics on the synchrotron...
And meanwhile teaching. How much of the teaching, how much did that cut into the actual time?
Well, I taught at first—you probably can get this from the record-—I taught first a three unit course in electrodynamics, and what I did actually, I didn’t quite know how to go about this. The textbook which I liked was Abraham and Becker—but the second volume was only in German, and so the question was, what to do about that. I didn’t like Stratton or Smythe, because of the much too problem-oriented approach without any real theoretical understanding. So I decided to write-— that I think I may have mentioned to you last time, I forgot—-then I thought I would simply translate that, and that didn’t work, and then I started writing it, and the first edition of the writing of the textbook was simply done by dictation. I had a very good secretary, who died last year, and I simply dictated the whole darn thing in the first edition, leaving gaps for equations: it was really a rush production, of course... [off tape]
how long did it take?
I don’t remember. And then I became acquainted with Melba Phillips, and we then collaborated, cleaning it up, and she added a great deal. Melba Phillips at that time had her difficulties with the House Un-American Activities Committee and couldn’t get a job, and somebody in Berkeley, I don’t recall who, recommended that I get in touch with her, because she had no job, and was very expert in electrodynamics. She was a former student of Oppenheimer’s, and I’ve forgotten now exactly how that worked. I’d never met her before, but somebody, it may have been McMillan, it may have been Brode, I’m not sure, sugggested that I get together with her, because I had the mimeographed thing there, and I recognized that between a mimeographed textbook and a real professional textbook, there’s a big leap, and I didn’t have possibly at the time the time to do that. And so I got together with Melba. I think we met in New York first, and we decided to collaborate in cleaning it up, and at that time publishers were knocking at the door all the time because publishing textbooks at that time was a very competitive business. So I agreed to do that. I think during the entire collaboration with Melba, I don’t think we met more than three or four times for the collaboration; it was by correspondence almost entirely.
She was based in New York?
She was based in New York at the time. We had some editorial sessions together, but by and large agreed—she added certain sections which were not covered at all, in the original book, which were entirely her contribution, and then we collaborated on all the problems and all the other things, and my wife made the index and we got the book out.
When did it come out?
I don’t remember that.
You mentioned Melba Phillips’ difficulties prior to that time, what were the circumstances under which Frank Oppenheimer left?
I am very obscure on that. He left to become a professor at Minnesota, and that was a peaceful occurrence. I mean, there were simply no more academic appointments, so I think under recommendation of Alvarez, he and also Larry Johnson became faculty members of the University of Minnesota, and the entire difficultiçs Frank Oppenheimer had with the Un-American Activities Committee dated from his Minnesota days. So I’m not aware, I was never aware of the fact that there were any problems. But he left—fairly soon—I think Oppenheimer and I only overlapped, you can check on that, for only about two years.
Yes, I have done some interviews with him and I can recall the exact...
Yes. We were very friendly. He had a big house which was on the road from Concord to Berkeley, in another part of Berkeley, and the wives were very friendly, and we sometimes, when we had problems having to go to town, we used to dunp the kids off on them and so forth.
A halfway house.
A three—quarter way house. So we were quite friendly, although there wasn’t much time for any social life on anybody’s part, because I was busy and with the young children and so forth-—those weren’t very social days.
Yes, it seemed to get busier and busier then.
Well, you were appointed associate professor in ‘48.
And then Birge mentions various offers you were receiving from Columbia and from Harvard.
About 1949, 1950...
That meant that you were achieving some prominence. What elements of your work do you think contributed most to the total picture?
I think it was primarily on the basis of the pion work. At that time, the pi-minus absorption work on hydrogen was sort of a key experiment, and the collaboration with Steinberger on the neutral pion work was very well known, and proton-proton scattering was very well known also, so I think those three experiments were the primary reason for that, rather than the accelerator, rather than the more engineering like activities.
So it wasn’t that they wanted you for some accelerator project...
No, definitely not.
That’s right. That’s right. And the teaching, and the textbook was even used in mimeographed form by other places. Others borrowed it. I’ve forgotten now the details on that.
Oh yes, oh yes, with permission, but I don’t remember the mechanics. People said, “Can we use this?” But I don’t remember the details.
Why didn’t you accept some of these offers? They were apparently very lucrative and prestigious.
Yes. Because—yes, I was being wooed also by Princeton. Very extensively. Shenstone took a special trip and...
...that was even in 1946, when you were being considered for appointment as assistant professor, you mentioned that you received an offer from Princeton.
Yes, but then later I was offered a full professorship. I forgot now exactly the sequence of it. The main reason was, I simply liked the opportunities at Berkeley, and I do like the mixture of engineering design, as you call it, or instrumentation or whatever, and doing particle physics with it. I’m fundamentally, I always have been worried, I think correctly, I’m not a very good nuclear physicist or particle physicist in the theoretical sense. I mean, the fact that I never really learned, that I did not grow up with nuclear physics and particle physics from the beginning, always made me feel that I’m somewhat non—competitive in Just pure nuclear physics, pure particle physics. I always was very interested in the more instrumental part of things. I always felt very strongly that a lot of progress is made from an instrumental impetus, and anyway, so the opportunities were there. In addition to that, I had the standard inertia about moving, and till the loyalty oath business became really very active, I did not consider any one of these offers particularly persuasive, in spite of all the possibility of increased financial or prestigeous things. In general, I’ve never been particularly deliberate career-wise, about any of these things. They’re Just sort of growing from A to B.
One wonders, what next.
In a relaxed sort of way. And so I never paid any attention to it, until I really got very upset about this loyalty oath buisness. And I think it is correct that the loyalty oath business—my moving here was not a matter of attraction, to Stanford, but a repulsion due to the loyalty oath situation.
What I’d like to do, before we get into that, is fill in a few points. You mentioned about the disadvantage that you felt, not having grown up in nuclear and particle physics. Now, there was a question I wanted to ask earlier. When you got to Berkeley, you set about not only teaching yourself microwave physics but also nuclear physics.
Some, yes. But I mean, not in the depth which some of the more professional colleagues did. As an example, when I was collaborating with Steinberger, I mean, Steinberger knows a great deal more, has a great deal more insight into basic nuclear structure physics and particle physics than I have, and it was obvious to me at the time, and I’m sure also to Mr. Steinberger. He got his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago with Goldberger and had a very different background. He never built any machines and so forth, so he had a different kind of a background.
How did you teach yourself?
Well, by going to - by listening to Serber give lectures in “Serber Says” and studying textbooks and going to seminars.
The same as the other, microwaves...
Were there more reports available, more...
Oh yes, but one of the problems in Berkeley was, they had a circulation system where AEC reports would be circulated to people on the staff, without very much selection, and the problem was, that I had a clearance-—a lot of it was classified at the time, in fact the whole lab was a classified place for a long while—but the main problem was, there was too much rather than too little, so you didn’t know what to read. I mean it was very unselective, enormous piles of reactor design reports and so forth would go across one’s desk, and you just would throw them out again. So actually very few of these wartime reports which would circulate would have any basic information in them, so they were to some extent fairly useless. It was a rather badly organized report mill.
You mentioned about the lab being a closed lab for a while anyway. Something just occurred to me, that the Japanese resumed their visits to the laboratory after a time, maybe it was ‘48, and I think one of the first visitors again was Sagane, a man we didn’t mention last time, but shouldthe recipient of that letter dropped over Japan.
Do you recall anything about that first re-entry of Japanese?
Not the first. I know Sagane quite well, but only in the pro fessional sense, that he worked on the muon decay spectrum and got the wrong answer, and other problems at Berkeley, but no, don’t remember any other than professional contacts. I don’t remember the human ele ments of that. Since I didn’t know him before hand, he was just a Japanese visitor with whom talked shop.
The way the laboratory operated, until I left, was that there were selective security areas, and you had to have badges for different parts of it.
But there were some parts that were completely open.
No. I mean, you could get—just to get in, you had to have some kind of identification to get into the lab, I mean the whole lab was not open. So you could get a badge which admitted you to the non- classified areas, but you still had to have that. And the rules, if I remember, that even for that you needed some kind of, they called it a P-clearance, which was essentially a file check, that you were not an active spy.
This would apply to foreign visitors like Cockroft for instance who had difficulty, getting in...
And Chadwick and so forth. They had to go through the same thing.
Yes. You could not Just plain drop in.
There’s a lot of correspondence in the Lawrence papers about this and about the resentment that people had about it.
it was a closed laboratory, but you did not have to have specifically weapons clearance or anything of that kind in order to get in.
I see. An unrelated question before we get into the long story, when you did the teaching, this was in the period of large increases at Berkeley of enrollment, large numbers of postwar students resuming their education. Did you sense any special attitudes on their part, any special atmosphere on the campus itself, or were you able to think about that?
Not very much. I mean, I did not have really contact. I did not participate very much in what you’d call campus life at all, to speak of. I didn’t know anybody from the other departments. I’d do my teaching. I’d meet with my students. I’d have my office hours, and do all these things, but I would not participate in any university comittees, with one exception, and so I really didn’t know anything about campus atmosphere, as you might call it.
Did you really have much of a life in the physics department itself?
Not very much. Just seminars and some faculty meetings. Not very much.
It appears from what you said before that the focus of interest, excitement and research was the Radiation Lab rather than the department.
That’s right. That’s right, and you see, I left at the time when the department started expanding into non-Radiation Laboratory areas, so I just became casually acquainted with some of the newer people. But at that time the department made a conscientious effort to essentially regain control of its own affairs, by making a very major expansion of appointments In other fields, In molecular beams and nuclear magnetism and so forth and so forth.
I talked with Charles Kittel the other day.
Yes, Charlie came at that time. We became acquainted but I certainly never had any professional interaction with him of any kind.
Now, I do want to ask you about this letter of Steinberger, but before that, we have mentioned about some public talks you’d given on civilian control of atomic energy. What form did that take?
Oh, an organization—that was an Interesting episode. An organization was formed right after the war which was called the Northern California Association of Scientists, which was a branch of the Federation of American Scientists which developed in Los Alamos after the war. And I didn’t actually know much about this organization, but it operated a speakers’ bureau, and I understood quite a bit about the basic weapons concepts, so It used to advertise the fact that they had a speakers’ bureau and people would be willing to give talks, so I used to give talks at various times, about the significance of atomic weapons and changing the nature of warfare, and the fact that a small atomic bomb was difficult to build, and that it was not something to be scaled up and down, and discussing the attempts at that time under Baruch to bring international control. I was very naive. I didn’t understand the Soviet outlook at all. And talked to interesting groups, ranging from the League of Women Voters to various Plumbers Unions in San Francisco who said, remember an instance where somebody said, “What are you, some kind of a Commie?” I remember that as the reaction to one of the Plumbers Union talks. So it was an interesting thing. In retrospect, it was a very naive approach to this very complex problem.
People were being called upon to give factual information.
That’s right. I gave them factual information, what it was all about, about the history of the Manhattan Project, about what made the difference between nuclear energy and other forms of energy, so it was fundamentally that, but also the motivation being to get public sentiment for some kind of control on an international scale. On the other hand, I was certainly extremely naive in any understanding of international affairs.
You weren’t involved in any of those efforts which went beyond the local educational, in terms...
...in terms of the national affairs of the Federation?
No. Not at all, I was not a member, not at all.
You weren’t an officer of any of the groups, but you knew people in your own field who were...
… I like Wilson and Marshak, people like that.
That’s right. That’s right.
Before we get on to the events leading to your leaving there, the letter that you wrote to Steinberger, which they gave me a copy of yesterday in Berkeley, was written June 29, 1951, and you say, “I am writing this during my last three hours at UCRL.” Let’s talk about the scientific content of the letter, then the transition to your leaving. This is the letter that you wrote on June 29, 1951, to Steinberger. He was back at Columbia. Had he been appointed to a position at Columbia?
Oh yes, he became a full professor at Columbia.
So maybe you can give some of the background of—there are a couple of remarks in the letter. One is your concern with theoretical speculations or uncertainties at the end of the paper.
Let’s try to expand on that, and what...what was worrying you in particular. This is the paper on the neutral pion.
Yes, I know,I know, that’s Steinberger, Panofsky and Steller. Yes, I know, Well,the problem was that at that time, the theory was in some confusion, but there was a striking contrast between the way in which the pi-zero spectra looked and the way the pi-plus spectra looked, and I was pretty well acquainted with the theory, so was Steinberger, presumably better, but I felt the theory was very speculative, and in general I feel that for an experimentalist to write bad theory is fundamentally a bum idea. Unless you really have something new to contribute, to sort of re-hash second hand at the end of an experimental paper some of the then- emerging theoretical ideas which may be quite incomplete, it’s usually not terribly useful. That is better left alone, because it’s intellectually often second hand, and usually much more half-baked than the experimental content of the paper. So I did not want to procrastinate the publication of the data so that a larger community of theorists could get a crack at it, rather than holding it up so some of the more half-baked interpretations could be used. That I think was the general idea.
You asked him, “For God’s sake, let us know what the right answer is about the absolute meson cross section.”
Yes, well, that has to do with the fact, that’s a detail, that has to do with that y2 = 1/8 (y= efficiency) business. The way you measure the gamma rays, is to have the gamma rays becoming electrons and positrons in a piece of lead, and so you have to make a calculation, and then you make electrons and positrons and you have to make a good calculat!on of the efficiency of the conversion process, and there was discrepancy between the theoretical calculation of that which he had done, and which we’d done back here, and so, and since we used a two armed instrument this entered quadratically, so the answer was fairly sensitive to doing that right. So I wanted to give priority to getting the numbers right on the experiment, rather than over, be over the theoretical interpretation. That’s what all that’s about.
The letter was June 29th and the paper was received December 14th. That’s quite a while, for something you wanted to get out.
Well, the thing was—I’m not sure that’s the same paper. Now, there may have been- forgot now, did that appear in a bulletin?
This was a large paper in Physical Review, the one I’m referring to.
Yes, I know, but I’m not 100 percent sure whether we had a preliminary publication in some letter form. It may have been a letter to the editor.
Well, actually this is “Further Results,” so you had to have a preliminary one.
Photo Production with Steller only, that was an abstract.
Let me look at it.
That’s 28 on your list, This one wel1 talk about, number 32 on your list.
I don’t know if this is complete. I frankly don’t know.
You refer here, in this paper No. 32, refer to Steinberger, Panofsky and Steller, Phys Rev,Vol. 78, 802, 1950. Is that on the list?
Yes, here it is, Evidence for the Production of Neutral Mesons by Protons. That’s before.
Right, so were looking for something in between this June letter and this December publication, and we don’t find it. That’s the point.
No. I don’t... Also, at that time, the Rad Lab had a lot of red tape. What you had to do when you wrote a paper, you had to write UCRL report, and then the patent types had to clear out, and things of that kind. There were some publication delays between the final draftmanship and when it went to the Physical Review.
I see, you had patent clearance as well as security clearance.
Yes. Yes. Now, I don’t remember, I’m vague, it may have been very quick. I know you had to have them cleared. In fact, there used to be some hassles. We used to have troubles in getting papers cleared for Physical Society meetings. But I don’t know whether that answers you. I frankly don’t know.
Yes. Well, maybe can check it out.
It’s a sort of fun letter, by the way.
Well, that’s the importance of letters. It really gives you the flavor of what was happening. Let’s, in the remaining time talk about the activities leading up to your leaving. I do want to know how you first heard of the loyalty oath business, what your response was, what your interactions were with other people, what you did, you know, it’s a long story but i’d like to hear it in full detail.
Well, don’t as usual remember it too well. I certainly can’t tell you when I heard about it first, You know the history. I mean, the history was that a lobbyist, a man Corley, for the university, sensed that the legislature felt that an affirmation of the non—Communist creed of the faculty was needed, in order to avoid worse suppression by the legislature. Mr. Corley persuaded Sproul, the president of the University, to propose the loyalty oath. Mr. Sproul, for reasons obscure, put it into effect without any substantial consultation with the faculty. Then there were lots of protests. I certainly became aware of the protests, because there were other faculty members there and many people were very unhappy about It, mainly on the basis of non-consultation rather than substance.
The Rad Lab by and large was not what you might call the hotbed of protest, because most of the Rad Lab people had security clearance and so forth and were sort of to some extent inured to, not non—Communist affirmations, as a kind of Inquisition into their activities. The man who was most upset and finally left Was Gian Carlo Wick, who became a very close friend of mine. We knew the family well, knew his wife well and so forth; he was very much interested in my physics. And In fact, you know, most opposition came from people, from recent immigrants from Europe, who were much more sensitive to the use of the loyalty oath as an Instrument of tyranny than most Americans, who tended to identify It more with bureaucracy rather than with tyranny. And then I went to several meetings in Wheeler Hall, which was the largest auditorium, and was also very naive about what went on.
There was a great deal of oratory, and there were pleas by the more conservative members of the faculty to accept this, and I remember a detail, for instance, when Joel Hildebrand pled to accept this, that all the—that the rights of nonsigners would be respected, and that all the Regents really wanted was an acceptance of the oath and no further repressive actions would be Involved. Well, forget now the detailed sequence of events, and this has been well documented, but during the summer, Hildebrand got acceptance of the more conciliatory position, but then was disowned by the faculty afterwards, and things really went on a collision course, because the Regents at that point felt that the Issue was not only loyalty oath or not loyalty oath, but also irresponsibility on the part of the faculty of living up to their obligations.
Well, I signed the oath, but with a strong conviction that the rights of those whose scale of values was different from mine should be respected, and one reason why signed it was partially because I had gone through many generations of security questionnaires and so forth and so forth, and therefore was to some extent insensitive to the issues, But I was very much concerned about the civil liberties issues involved—people whose scale of values on political questions differed very substantially should have comparable rights. So then when it finally came to the point that several of non—signers were in fact dismissed, decided that this was intolerable, and had to leave.
Had you expressed your opposition?
How had you expressed it?
I expressed it, I had many arguments with Alvarez, who took the position at that time, “If you are not a Communist, why do you object to signing?” That argument. I told Lawrence about it, who didn’t say anything. Not much response about that. And I talked to Moyer and I talked to—- it was a subject of discussion.
What about McMillan?
McMillan was very unhappy about it. He didn’t like the oath. He differed with Lawrence about it. Lawrence felt that it was under the circumstances a good thing, but I’ll talk to you about that episode in a moment. So I made a decision to leave, but I hadn’t decided yet where to leave, and then got a number of offers at the time, including a full professorship at Columbia and... Anyway, I decided to leave, and I was very upset. I had an insinctive feeling, which later I referred to, that my parents would feel extremely strongly about this issue, and that was confirmed later, in some letters from home that were really scathing, that this was a total violation and negation of all that is true about academic freedom and tradition in the European sense, and they pointed out that Italian Fascism started with loyalty oaths in universities, which I didn’t know, and other such things. Anyway I decided to leave.
Then Lawrence called me up and tried to dissuade me and said, “Do you know the other side of the story, on the part of the Regents?” and confessed I did not, so he said, “Are you willing to talk with John Francis Neylan?” who was the head of the Regents. I said I would be happy to do that. I certainly wanted to hear the other side of the story. So Lawrence made an arrangement, and he drove me directly out here to Hillsborough to Neylan’s estate behind Redwood City. That I think was the longest time ever spent together with Lawrence. It took about two hours to drive there. Neylan had invited us both for lunch. Neylan by that time was 79 or thereabouts. He said, “Well Professor Lawrence says you’re unhappy about the oath. What’s bothering you?”
I said—it was a very elegant setting, we had lunch and so forth—and I said that I had signed it but I felt that the right of non-signers, essentially what I told you, that I thought they should be respected who felt this was an invasion of privacy and a disrespect of their scale of values. Neylan said, “Now, look here, young man, hear my side of the story, and I never opened my mouth again, and Neylan talked for two hours and a half, and we went back. Neylan’s main emphasis was, Look, I’m really a good guy, that there was some flap earlier in the history of the University of California where some young assistant professors were accused rightfully of having used University stationery in writing letters on behalf of the Communist Party; that he, Neylan, was very much in favor of not having them dismissed because they were young and thought they could change and all that, but the issue here is not that, the issue here is one of responsibility of the faculty. Once the faculty agrees to something, they should be held to their word, and that was really the issue.
It was not an issue of keeping the University out of Communist hands. So he lectured along these directions, and never could open my mouth. He just went on and on. And he said good-bye and I drove home with Lawrence, and didn’t change my mind, and I’m sure Neylan didn’t change his. So then another episode happened, which again was representative of the state of the University at the time... was at home, and suddenly at 10 p.m. I got a phone call, in a deep booming voice, “This is Robert Gordon Sproul speaking. I hear you’re going to leave. Would you like to have lunch with me tomorrow at the Faculty Club?” So evidently Lawrence, possibly Lawrence or Birge, I’m not sure who had gotten Sproul worried about my leaving, and Sproul wanted to talk to me. Sproul evidently was incredibly overworked at the time, it turns out did a lot of his business at night, and hadn’t gotten around to this, so I had lunch with Sproul and discussed the matter, but again felt that this was an intolerable situation. Sproul tried to make me understand that his heart was really on my side, but his power was limited, he couldn’t do anything about—-which is probably true, by that time. I mean, I’m sure he recognized he’d made very many mistakes. But I really felt very deeply that this just couldn’t go, that you just cannot have essentially a paper test, where the results would be that people of deeper conscience would be dismissed where people of lesser sensitivity would stay. I mean, that’s simply not a selection criterion for running a university, and it was really very deeply wrong. I spent some very unhappy evenings trying to set my general mind in order on this question.
Before you came to the decision.
Before I came to the decision to go. And then I was seriously thinking of accepting the Columbia offer, and then Schiff and Felix Bloch visited and tried to twist my arm to go to Stanford. I didn’t really know very much what was going on here, other than that the Hansen machine was beginning to work, but I did not know for instance at all that there was essentially very little preparation for ever using it for physics, and that really there was a great deal of naiveté here, in that respect. Well, I decided to leave at that point. I wasn’t mad at anybody personally. I was not mad at Lawrence. I was not mad at Alvarez. I mean, our, relations stayed very good all through this period, although we had different values. But I simply decided in a rather abstract way that this was impossible. So after having made the decision, even after having made the decision to go to Stanford, I stayed at the Rad Lab I think for three or four months after.
Your letter of resignation, according to Birge, was January 2, 1951.
And then the letter I just read to Steinberger was June 29, 1951— it took you quite a while to leave.
Right. stayed quite a while; so you have that, OK, so that’s six months, that’s about right. Certainly, and during that time people called me over to Stanford sometimes for meetings, and at that time, many decisions had to be made here. For instance, there were some very deep problems here, what Stanford should do to avoid repeating the history that Stanford went through through World War I , namely, in World War I I Stanford lost essentially all its faculty going to various places, the Rad Lab at MT or Los Alamos or what have you.
So there were many debates here in the years of the Korean War, whether Stanford should or should not take on any military commitments, which involved Bloch, Schiff, Terman particularly, here. stayed on to finish a lot of work, so it was not in any way in a spirit of being mad at people who had lesser sensitivity—-I mean, it was fundamentally—the problem was, there was a continuous spectrum of sensitivity which went all the way to Lawrence, who basically felt that the Regents were right, then to people like Alvarez who felt they were probably right but it was really a big fuss about not too much, to people like McMillan who felt that the Regents were wrong and felt that this was a very sad occasion for the university, but who didn’t go, to people like myself who felt the Regents were terribly wrong and that the situation was too intolerable to continue, to people like Gian Carlo Wick who wouldn’t sign the oath to start with. So there was no sharp break between the pros and the cons at all. I mean, there was fundamentally a very continuous distribution of views and attitudes and sensitiveness and scales of values, And my main reactions were—was not so much against the act of the loyalty oath in itself, but the intolerance that was going with it, I mean what I was really revolting against was intolerance rather than the oath, and for this same reason on the other hand I felt positively relaxed and friendly with Alvarez and Lawrence, who didn’t agree with me. So—but there were very tense times.
Lawrence for instance banned Wick from the Radiation Laboratory, essentially took his pass away. At that time you still needed passes to get in. And acts of that kind, which in retrospect are really inexcusable in an academic situation. Lawrence fundamentally felt always very strongly that the Radiation Laboratory was in the service of the federal government. He felt that he had the right when in Washington to commit the Radiation Lab to work, and then without the consent of those committed, even if they were faculty members. He felt that security was not a bad thing, that it had never been shown in any way that security was counterproductive to creativity. He expressed it in many often quoted remarks. So in general, he had a very different concept of a laboratory than was prevalent in the academic community.
it seems there was no one to challenge him on that.
No. And there was a continuous spectrum of agreement with that. There were some people in the Berkeley organization, on the administrative side, who were very right wing. The scientific personnel director Everson was an extreme right winger who had some real run-ins with people—I mean who would essentially look at security files even for jobs which had nothing to do with security, and use that against people and so forth. There were some rather unpleasant occasions of that kind. At the same time, Alvarez was always very torn. He had a much more complicated relationship, I believe, with that whole spectrum. Anyway, so I decided to leave.
Was there anyone whom you discussed it with who gave you support for your position? You said you maintained good relationships with people who differed along the spectrum—did you feel, did you really discuss this with one person more than with another? For example, other people who resigned were Serber and...
Yes, well, I discussed it with Serber. No, I discussed it in some depth with Moyer. I discussed it with Birge in some depth, who was just sad. I mean he was just very depressed and he wished it would go away, but he felt sort of powerless, sort of ground between all these emerging conflicts.
He took a position, according to documents that he presented in the history, against it.
Yes. I’m sure he did. I’m sure he did. No, I mean there was no question that he was against it. In fact, here’s part of the tragedy. I think really—-I don’t think anybody, with the possible exception of Lawrence, was for it. That wasn’t the context. The context was not, are you for it or are you against it? I mean, the context was, Mr. Sproul committed us to it, what do we do now? Which is a very different situation. I think everybody felt, they wished it would go away, because clearly the net results would in no way be positive for anybody—I mean, for the stature of the university, for anti-Communism, for Communism, for-— So it was never for it, but it was a question simply of the more detailed nature. Given the history of the events as they had unfolded, how hard should you protest? What should your own personal reaction be? For instance, I contributed to a fund which cost a lot of money actually, for financial support of those who had quit, and as you probably know,finally in a rather complicated way—I don’t, I forgot what happened to the money, but since the final court rulings of course were reinstatement and back pay...
Exclusive of money that they earned during this period.
if they came back. If they decided to come back.
If a guy didn’t come back, he didn’t get it.
That’s right. I forgot exactly how it worked but anyway, so we contributed quite a large share.
Did Serber leave before you or after?
don’t remember. Pretty much at the same time. I believe he signed. i’m not sure whether he signed or didn’t sign. I don’t remember that.
I think he did, according to Birge, I think he did, yes. What happened—Birge talked about putting you in for professor in the spring of 1950, talking about the offers you had received by that time from Columbia and Harvard, and that your electing to stay on at Berkeley was a demonstration of your feelings about the university——but that this might be changed depending upon the outcome of the loyalty oath controversy that summer.
I don’t remember that at all.
An interesting letter on your behalf.
I don’t remember that.
Did you get a promotion then? Were you promoted to professor?
I don’t think so. No. I don’t think I was promoted at — f rankly I don’t remember. Frankly I also don’t remember that I ever had tenure, whether the associate professorship was with or without tenure.
That’s something we can look up. Let’s just talk for the few minutes we have about the Stanford situation. You told of the offers you had to Columbia and Harvard, you’d had them from Princeton too, and then you mentioned the Stanford offer. Now, why Stanford above those other places?
Well, firstly, we loved California. Secondly, I really didn’t want to go—it’s probably psychological, that. I really didn’t want to go away, so I didn’t have to go very far, and in fact, one could sort of go gradually—-I had a large family, very small children, it was sort of traumatic to consider moving that whole cabal, while this way I could stay here and during that six months, we would go house hunting and all that. So—but also, I like the Stanford people very much. Then I did go and look at the Mark III accelerator. My main discussions with Bloch, by the way, and Schiff were not so much whether I was going to be a full professor or even, I think we didn’t discuss salary or anything, but was the question whether they would be in a position to support any ongoing physics program around the accelerator.
By that time it was a Mark III accelerator which was supposed to be the one BEV accelerator, was supposedly almost ready to work. I mean, I found out when I came here that it was in pretty bad shape. But the whole question was, whether I could be doing physics there, and so the main discussions centered around that. But Hofstadter was already here, had been for a year, and but had not done a great deal for the general health of the lab. So that’s what our discussion was about. But then I came back and decided it was very challenging to really make that thing go. Alvarez particularly tried to discourage me very hard. In fact, I remember one session with Alvarez where he said explicitly that one can only do high energy physics at Berkeley, and that it was the greatest. lab in the world, and that the scars of the loyalty oath would have been forgotten many years from now, which I’m sure is true, given enough time, and that going to Stanford would completely blight my future contribution to physics. He felt very strong about that. He felt nothing could be done here.
And I was very shaken by that, at least worried. I decided that, what the devil, physics is physics, and one can essentially do it anywhere, so I was going to try it, and since I was not making a very dramatic move, in terms of physical dislocation if it really failed, I could pick up some of the other things at some future time. So—but fundamentally the reason I chose Stanford, relative to Columbia, which would have been an opportunity to work at Brookhaven and so forth, was the fact that we loved California, that it was not as discontinuous a break with the past, and that I liked the people here. But I certainly had no confidence either that much physics could be done here. I was not very impressed by the evolving setup here.
Now we’re getting into a whole new story.
Yes, good time to stop.
Let’s pick it up here next time. There are a lot of different kinds of preparations.
Letter from Alvarez, .quoted In Birge, Raymond T., History of the Physics Department, Vol. V, Chap. XVIII, p. 30. University of California, Berkeley
Panofsky to Steinberger, June 29, l951.(Carbon copy in Bancroft Library, Berkeley.)