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Interview of Matthew Sands by Finn Aaserud on 1987 May 4 and 5, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/5052
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Childhood, family life, early influences; to Clark University in physics and mathematics; financial hardships; graduate work at Rice University (W. Heep, H. A. Wilson), M.A., 1941; chooses ferromagnetism over more popular nuclear physics. To Naval Ordnance Laboratory to work on magnetic mines, 1941; discovers electrical engineering (J. Kiethley). Leaves Navy of own accord for Los Alamos; reading "The Primer;" makes electronic instruments; the collaborative environment; making a temperature controller for the first chain reaction; life and work at Los Alamos (Richard Feynman, Niels Bohr, Bruno Rossi), Alamagordo test; Los Alamos Association of Concerned Scientists; "Los Alamos University." Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1946-1949; nature of his position and funding at MIT; cosmic ray research (Rossi); the Laboratory of Nuclear Science; fixing the synchrotron; consultant for Brookhaven National Laboratory; forced to leave MIT for personal reasons. California Institute of Technology (Robert Bacher), 1949-1963; making electronic instruments for new accelerator laboratory; Fulbright Fellowship year in Rome, 1952; conditions in Italy; discovers resonances in the strong focussing synchrotron (Bruno Touschek); lectures at Saclay. Teaching at Caltech; compares MIT and Caltech; lectures on arms control and disarmament, beginning 1953; proposal for super-proton synchrotron, 1959, later abandoned; reworking Caltech curricula. Joins President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) (Limited War Panel), 1961-1966, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). Reasons for joining JASON; work on anti-submarine warfare, surface ship speed; N. Christofilos; Wellesley-Santa Barbara Summer Study, 1966: getting good data, counter-insurgency, Barrier Study (Robert McNamara), 1966; reasons for leaving JASON, 1969; its influential members; secrecy; relation of JASON work to academic physics work. Pugwash Conferences, 1960-1963; Commission on College Physics; "Feynman Lectures on Physics" (Robert Leighton, Victor Neher, Bacher, Feynman), 1960-1966; decision to leave Caltech (Wolfgang Panofsky). To Stanford Linear Accelerator Center as professor and administrator, 1963; building the laboratory, 1963-1969; electron-positron storage ring (SPEAR); decision to leave SLAC. To University of California, Santa Cruz, as vice chancellor; the psychology of education.
We're going to talk about your career generally, with specific emphasis on your science advising, science policy, and even more particularly, your involvement in JASON. But before that, I want to ask you a question that I ask everybody whom I interview. Would you happen to have any papers pertaining to your own career, like correspondence, manuscripts, whatever, and also pertaining to my general interest?
Well, I've just been reviewing my files to see what I did have, also to help refresh my memory, and I do have files of correspondence dating from about 1940, particularly 1940 until 1969, which is when I came here. Those are not very illuminating. I have very little, almost none, on JASON. There was a little, and I'm not sure whether I threw it away or not. There were some handwritten notes, and they're not well organized. I mean, they weren't even by dates. I had a secretary when I was at Stanford, but since I went back to being a professor I don't have a secretary, and I'm afraid that many of the files like the JASON ones got left behind when I moved here....
So it's not a full file. It's just by chance what you have there.
Well, it would be interesting anyway because we at the Center for History of Physics are also involved in saving what can be saved of records and papers from the history of science after the Second World War. So if you want advice or help with what to do with them, or are unable to deposit them somewhere, you would receive help there. I'm talking about the Center and not myself because I'll be leaving there in one year. Warnow is the person you should talk to about that.
I understand. I brought home from my office these three folders containing letters of all sorts, mostly I think not very interesting—former students asking about why their grades were so low, but also other things, letters asking me to consult, or asking me to take a job some place and so on. Now, I am tempted just to throw them all out. I don't consider them very valuable. Do you as a historian think those things are very useful? Or if I gave them to the Institute, would they sort them and throw away the useless ones and keep the useful ones? How does that work?
Yes, that's the way it works. Usually we encourage people to deposit material with the institution with which they have been mostly involved, because we have very little space at the Center; we're not a repository as such. We advise how to deposit papers elsewhere. But in cases where a repository can't be found, we also do that. And of course we could help you find a repository too, if you don't want to be bothered with that.
Well, I'll think about whether it's worth it. I must say I have a hard time believing there's any value in it.
Well, if somebody could go through it, either with you or on his or her own, I think that would be helpful. Is that the full files you have of material?
Those are the correspondence. I have files of papers I've written and so on, reprints....
Yes. It's the unpublished material we're mostly interested in of course because that can't be found elsewhere.
While I was going through to check dates and remind myself of what had happened, I happened to go through that. I've been meaning to get at it and throw it away. I thought I would look at it.
So that was in preparation for your recent biographical notes that you prepared.
It is the result of some research in retrospect.
A little bit.
OK, good. So we'll follow that when I ask questions, mostly chronologically, about your career. First it says you were born on the 20th of October, 1919, in Oxford, Massachusetts, of Beatrice Goyette, bookkeeper, and Linzee Sands, bookkeeper. Maybe you could say something more about your parents and your circumstances when you grew up.
I don't know what you mean, "more." How tall they were? What the color of their hair was? I don't know quite what you want to know about it.
OK, the nature of their work....
I know very little about that. I don't even remember the names of the companies they worked for. I have vague remembrances as a child of going to the office and playing with the typewriter or something. The only part I remember is that it was a stormy relationship. They would live together for six months, then they would not live together, and I would be put in a foster home or put at my grandparents' or something. We were, I think, of modest means. It was always a problem for my mother when they separated to know what to do. Apparently he was not very useful in helping to support us, and so she had a hard time of working and trying to pay to have us taken care of.
So despite the fact that both were bookkeepers, it was she who worked?
They both worked. In fact, she had to work in order to support us, because often he didn't work, I gather, or when they were separated, didn't provide any support for the children. So she had to work in order to pay the foster homes that we would be put in the country.
What I'm asking you is, of course, looking forward to your career, were there any influences in the home that could lead to the wish or motivation for pursuing physics?
No. I was the first one in the family ever to contemplate going to college. The important early influences of the family, I think, were on my mother's side—various uncles. One worked for a bank and was trying to become a lawyer, going to night school, and so I thought, well, some day I'm going to be a lawyer, Justice of the Supreme Court or something. And the first influence which was in the direction of science was that at about age 12, I was a Boy Scout. I joined the local Boy Scout troop, and the Boy Scout master was a radio amateur. He had radio equipment that he built himself, and I became fascinated with that, and built a little laboratory of my own in the basement, where I would steal parts from old radios, and make—try to make—radios. I remember I made a short wave radio with which I could hear Big Ben in London. That was a great thrill. And so that was, I think, my first real interest in that direction. I began to learn electricity by studying the RADIO AMATEURS HANDBOOK.
You were encouraged to do that sort of thing once you had started?
I think the Scoutmaster was quite encouraging, and in general, the significant males in my growing up were people outside the family. I didn't get along very well with my family. Well, my father was here and there, gone, and not much of an influence, and always a disappointing one. In fact, there was a while he lived down the street from the foster home I was in, and he would never come and visit me. Once every year or two he would visit. I still find an emotional impact of that thought. And then, my step-father and I never got along very well. He was a builder, as I mentioned, and he was very much interested in making money. Yes, Bigelow. In fact he didn't want me to go to college, for example. He essentially forbade me to go to college. It was a waste of time, and any good young man with ambition would want to go and make money in the quickest way possible. So the people who were a big influence on my life were first the Scoutmaster, whom I became good friends with as well as relating through the Boy Scouts. I would spend a lot of time at his home, often staying overnight, things like that, and he was quite encouraging. And then later on, one or two—particularly one—high school teachers, again, encouraged me in the direction of mathematics and science.
I see you have a brother here who is roughly your own age. Did he have similar interests?
No, we were always said to be as different as night and day. I was tall. He was short. I was blonde. He was dark. I was very thin and he was chubby. I was interested in things of the mind. School was very important in my life, and he hated it and dropped out of high school before he finished. And he went eventually to become a carpenter which he learned both from my step-father and also in the Army. We of course fought regularly, not violently, when we were young, but by the time we became 16 or 18 we became good friends, stayed that way ever since.
You also have a sister seven years younger. Were you able to have some influence on her?
We never had much contact. When we were boarded in foster homes, my brother and I were always together, but my sister never was with us. Then when my mother remarried, and had the household with all the children, I don't remember an awful lot of interaction with my younger sister. We are reasonably good friends. We have good relations. We see each other every year or two perhaps.
Were there any early religious or political influences that had later importance?
Oh, had importance? Yes. My grandparents were Catholic, French Canadian.
That's on your mother's side.
Yes, my grandmother on my mother's side. And so when I lived with them, I would go regularly to the Catholic Church on Sunday morning, and they encouraged me to go through the various rituals of the First Communion. I became an altar boy and would serve Mass and so on. So I considered myself a Catholic, I guess, in those days. I had a bad, very bad experience with the Catholic Church at age—I suppose it was eight, nine, something like that. I was in a foster home and one day my parents came to visit, took me to visit my grandparents for the weekend. At that time I was going to a church in the city, on Sunday. The next Sunday the priest asked me, "Why weren't you here last Sunday?" I said, "Oh, my parents came and took me." And he hit me across the face and said, "You should not miss church." I never went back. I considered myself not to be a Catholic from then on. And then I came under Protestant influences in my early teens. At ten or twelve, I went to a Congregational Church, and considered myself a Christian until I was in college, half way through college at about age 18. I remember vividly going to an evening discussion sponsored by a local college Jewish organization. I forget what the name of it was. Anyway they had a joint Christian-Jewish discussion with a rabbi who spoke, and he was the first real religious liberal I think I had ever met. And so after his talk and the general discussion, I went up to him in private and I said, "Do you believe in God?" And he said, "Well..." And that was a great weight lifted from my shoulders. It was OK for me there-ever-after to be an atheist.
I also asked about political influences on you.
Well, the political influences, I think, as I say, were from the grandparents. My maternal grandparents were important in my life because I spent a lot of time living there and learned many things. My grandmother taught me to read. They were poor working folk. He worked in a box factory, and all my uncles worked in the same factory. And I don't have much sense of their politics, other than that they were sort of good people and liberal-minded, not aware of prejudices and so on. It was a little French Canadian community where the local language was French as much as English, in the grocery stores and so on. Then I went with my step-father, who was of much more definite political orientation, right wing, prejudiced, anti-Semitic. Another part of the development of hostility to my step-father was that I didn't share most of his political views.
So the direct influence was more on what you did not approve of, than what you approved of as such.
I remember something that was quite a shock to me. Well, this small town in rural New England tends to be highly Republican. That was expected. And the only Democrats were the poor people—even poorer people—across the other side of the tracks. The emigres and so on—the recent emigres. And so when I went to Texas to graduate school, there was an election, 1940. I went there in September and the election was coming up, and I would go to the faculty club, and was surprised to find that here these intelligent professors of history and so on were Democrats. That seemed astounding.
That was another revelation, yes. You said that there was a particular teacher in high school who was influential. It was more the teacher than the curriculum as such?
Yes. Well, it's interesting. In my second year of high school, the man who taught math, and therefore taught me geometry—Euclidean geometry—was a local boy who was only about four or five years older than I was. He'd gone to Brown University and had come back. He had started out to major in math, but found he couldn't do it and switched to history, so there he was back in the local high school teaching history and mathematics. Well, he realized his shortcomings in math, and so he encouraged me to do a lot of the teaching in the geometry class. He would ask me to explain things, or if he couldn't understand how a theorem would be done, he would ask me. So that was quite a boost. And his attitudes toward math I think had a big influence on me, because he did not insist on the rigorous Euclidean sequence that you have to prove this before you prove this, and that you have to remember that sequence when you make a proof. He was very much encouraging of the free approach. I mean, it had to be rigorous, but not according to a set pattern. And I think that had a big influence on the way I began to approach mathematics and science. His name was John Chafee. He was a member of the local family that owned a lot of factories, and it was a rather rich family, probably the biggest name in the town. But he was the black sheep of the family, the only one of several dozen cousins who ran the town who did not to want to go into commerce, but to go off and become an academic. I saw him just a few months ago, after many years. I hadn't seen him. I was back in the home town and looked him up, where he's retired. Then there was a science teacher who was there for only a year or two named Mansur who was also a big inspiration for me, on learning physics and thinking about physics, and then the Boy Scout master. Those were the three big male influences. And not only male, but in the direction of science. I think I had also some female teachers who encouraged me in mathematics. I remember quite well one of them, Helen Kennedy. So I think perhaps one of the biggest influences was that although when I was young, I denied any unhappiness in my situation because I had no stable family situation, I tied into the schools and the teachers. It became very important to me to have good relations with teachers, and by focusing on the schoolwork, I could ignore the unhappiness of the family situation. That, I suspect, was one of the big influences of heading me toward the life of the mind.
So once you had finished with high school, was it clear that you were going on to college?
I'll answer that in a moment. Let me just mention one other thing that just occurs to me. My grandfather, my maternal grandfather came from the woods, the backwoods of Canada. He was probably part or a large part Indian, but that was denied in the family because you weren't supposed to let anybody know about that.
Denied even by him?
Well, I never talked to him about it. I didn't find out about it till later when one of my aunts or uncles mentioned this. And he was brought to the US by the box company. He started working for a lumber company up there, and he was very good with machinery, could make machinery work, could repair it and so on. He had a very good knack at that. So he was brought to the US by the lumber company to be a foreman in Massachusetts, and he was quite famous for being adept at mechanical things. He was in some ways a big figure in my very young life, up to age eight or nine, when he died. I don't know whether it's genetic or just his way of approaching things may also have gotten me interested in mechanical things, which may have led to the science.
Yes. How much contact did you have with him?
Well, as I say, I lived in his house six or eight months at a time, four or five times, so from age one to eight or nine, it was a lot. I was born in his house. You know, I have vivid memories of him. I can remember doing things with him in the sheds and so on—doing something, I don't remember very vividly what. He also had one of the first radios in town, and the neighbors would come over to listen to the prize fights. So, I don't know whether that possibly might have influenced me. My paternal grandfather, my namesake Matthew, he was a very nice man, although an alcoholic, and he also was an important figure in my life. He was famous, I found out later, as being the man who understood the whole operation of the train network in Massachusetts, a man who worked as a dispatcher; he was the head dispatcher in the central office in Worcester, Massachusetts. So he certainly had an organized mind. I never considered him particularly scientific or mechanical.
No. Did he have a longer term influence? He didn't die as early as your maternal grandfather?
He died somewhat later. But after my mother remarried, was forbidden to see any family on my father's side, and so I never saw them after I was ten or so.
That was strictly and successfully enforced?
That was very interesting. In the first place, it wasn't a force. It was just that my mother let it be known that she would be very unhappy if I saw my father, and so I never saw him, although it's interesting to me in retrospect that when I went to college, he lived in the town the college was in, and it never occurred to me to go look him up. I mean, the taboo had taken, so to speak, so that I had blocked off that section of my mind. Although I never had much of an emotional rapport with him, so that may also have played a role. I did see my grandfather. I think there was not an interdiction. I did see my grandfather once or twice, visited him at his office. And he died not too long after my maternal grandfather. I think he was somewhat older. Now, you asked—what was the question I promised to answer?
The question was, when you finished high school, was it clear to you that you were going to go to college?
As I was approaching the end of high school, the thought of college didn't enter, because there didn't seem to be any financial possibility. First of all, I didn't know much about it. I had no concept of what was involved. As I say, no one in my family had ever done it, and relatively few in that small town high school contemplated going to college.
Your teachers, of course?
I don't recall whether the teachers pushed me in that direction. I suspect one or two must have suggested it. And the one who had the biggest influence, the math teacher, had already gone to another high school by the time I was going to graduate. I think he very likely would have or maybe did encourage me. But he wasn't present around that time. And it was one of my father's employees who had a son who was quite a disappointment to him. His son was in the year behind me in school, and was the school clown, but clearly not destined for a life of the mind. So this man took quite an interest in me, and surreptitiously, secretly, took me for one day to visit this university in a nearby city, which was quite famous as being a university for poor boys. More than half of the students were on tuition scholarships. You know, he talked to me, said, "Why don't you go to college? Why don't you go to college?" I said, "Well, I can't afford it." There must have been some talk about it because I think I knew my father wasn't in favor of it.
This was your real father?
My step-father. And so he said, "Well, let's go and talk. Let's go and visit." So he made an appointment, took me there. We visited the dean, who explained about the scholarships and he thought I could get one if I had good recommendations from my teachers, which this painter who worked for my father assured him I would. He took me to visit the physics professor, and the next thing I knew, I was essentially in. At 16 I just had to leave home, and my mother secretly slipped me a five dollar bill when nobody was looking before I left, and that was it. I went off and found a place to live and a job to support myself, and the tuition was covered by the scholarship. So it happened rather quickly, and somewhat surprisingly to me.
So it was more a matter of circumstance than a matter of real push from you, at that time.
Yes. And a similar thing happened when I was at the end of college. At the end of college, there were a few people who said, "Why don't you go to graduate school? Are you going to graduate school? You should go to graduate school,"—or something. And my concept had been, I'd probably go to some small town and teach high school physics and math. And then I guess it was my math teacher in college who said, "No, you should go to graduate school," and again I said, "I don't have money. It's expensive." "Well, you should write to a lot of schools and you might get a teaching assistantship or fellowship of some sort at one of them and that would do it." And so more or less at his insistence, I did write, and I did have some letters and correspondence—marvelous. Two of the places I have been professor at, I got letters of rejection from saying, "You're not the kind of person we're looking for."
You say here that you had no help from the family in that pursuit. How did you support yourself?
Oh, usually with six or eight different jobs at a time. It was a very good education, because I learned many different things. I lived for a while in a small animal hospital, where I got a free room in with the dogs and cats at night, just to be there in case something happened. And then I had to help out with operations on cats and dogs in the morning. I would drive a car for a man who delivered dresses to little small shops in the local countryside. I would tutor a young kid of a rich family whose parents wanted him to have some university type tutoring, you know, some presence—you know, in part child care and in part tutoring. I made maps for the geography department. Once I lived in the attic of a house with two old ladies, and kept the furnace going in the winter. In the later part of my college years, I would work in the physics laboratory shops making equipment for laboratory instruction, or making equipment for research in biology, things like that. I worked as a telephone operator for the school switchboard. And it was difficult getting enough money together to live on. In fact, at one point I thought I was finished. It was in my junior year. I got sick, got quite sick, partly I think from not eating enough.
Was that from poverty?
Well, I think it was. And so it was just at, you know, midterm exam time or something, and I was in bed for a couple of weeks with the flu and other complications, and then I went home, and my mother took care of me, so I did get that kind of help. And the physics professor came to visit me and assured me that the problem of the exams was not serious, that I had been doing well and there would be no problem of waiving the examinations, and that he was looking into the fact of getting me a free room at the university's small dormitory. They had a freshman dormitory. And they would get me a free room in the dormitory. That would help on the work situation. So that's what happened the last year and a half. I was sort of sponsored by the university with a free room.
So by that time you had some support, even from your family, for going there.
Well, I'm not sure about support. It's just that when I was sick, I could go home.
Were you a typical student in that respect, with respect to working for your existence?
Well, that was the Depression, and it was, as I said earlier, a poor boys' college. It started out as a poor boys' college, and it stayed that way, and there was a sizeable Jewish community in Worcester, Massachusetts, and this was the typical college where the poor Jewish families would try to get their sons to go. I think over half were nearly all poor guys who lived at home, had to work part time—not all but a large majority I think. It was quite typical. I think that economic situation was quite typical of that college at that time.
We're talking about Clark University. I don't know if I said that.
That's right, I don't think that we did say that to the tape.
And how did your scholastic interests develop as a college student?
Well, it turned out I was a mixed kind of student, I think. I did very well in math and physics, and science in general, whatever I took. I took some chemistry also, and did very well. But I did very poorly in some other subjects, such as history or—what were some of the others? Geography and English and so on. Mostly because I wasn't interested and just didn't do the required work. So I remember, I was the despair of the deans, because I got two A pluses one term out of four given in the college, and two D minuses, which was the bare minimum to pass the course. And in fact, I remember at the very end I was reluctantly invited to be a member of the Phi Beta Kappa equivalent. It was called something else at that time—the Scholastic Honor Society. I was invited to join at the last minute because of my very spotty academic record, brilliant in certain things, disastrous in others.
Did you major in physics?
Physics and math.
And math, right. How clear was that from the outset, or did that develop?
Well, you know, I think if I had known that electrical engineering existed, I probably would have thought of myself as an electrical engineer, because my interest started with radio, amateur radio things and radios and electrical circuits and things like that. Physics was the nearest thing to that, and I had known this one good physics teacher in high school, and so physics seemed to be a name which attracted me, and math had always been sort of very interesting to me, but clearly nobody ever got a job doing math, and it was easy to major in both. I studied them because I was interested, and there you didn't have to do anything special for a major except take a number of advanced courses, and I did that anyway, so it was automatic that I had a major in both. And I contemplated going to graduate school in both. I even applied to Brown University for graduate school in math, in part because I was told there might be a job available, working on a historical math project or something. But I think I was more interested in the physics, because I liked to do things, build things. In fact, I think the constantly recurring theme in my professional life is building things. I've always ended up in a situation where I was building something technically. And the fact that in college I had jobs; I was given jobs, sponsored by the National Youth Authority, which was one of the Roosevelt programs to help students, 35 cents an hour, I remember, working at that.
Did you find that the physics at Clark satisfied your technical inclinations? Or would you have had it differently, if you had more of a choice?
Well, in the jargon of Santa Cruz, it was a pretty laid- back atmosphere. I didn't have to work very hard. And I think that's in part that it came easily for me. I don't know, certainly the last two years I was in what would be called an honors program. There were only two or three physics majors in the whole school. There were two in my class and one or two others. And so there were not very many advanced courses, and I did independent study. I read atomic physics and I read variational principles and things like that. But I didn't have a very rigorous background. So I think in my professional career, that too suffered a little bit from not having had the discipline of some rigorous training. On the other hand, I often think that maybe some of my inventiveness and creativity comes from not having had quite so rigorous a background.
Again, were there any particularly influential teachers or courses?
I think the two people I mentioned in the vitae I gave you—well, there were three people, there was P. Roope and T. Jorgenson, the physics professors, and Melville, the mathematics professor. Their influences was perhaps as much from their personalities as from the academic part. I mean, when I was about to starve to death, they would ask me to come home and wash their windows or something to help out and pay me a little. But also, in the math classes I remember being asked to give the lectures by the math professor, putting a lot on me to learn things on my own. And similarly the physics professor gave me a lot of responsibility for building things in the shops. You know, I had to figure out how to work a drill press, and lathe, and to build some equipment.
It says here you were supported by the National Youth Authority. How extensive was that support?
Well, the university would get a certain amount of money, I guess, and so I would be given a few hours a week work at 35 cents an hour, five or ten hours a week at one time, I suppose, when the money was available.
You finished at Clark in four years which I guess was about the average.
Yes, it was completely standard.
And by then did you need another push to go to graduate school, or was it then clear in your mind what you wanted to do?
No, it wasn't clear at all, and I was given the push by the math professor, and it was rather discouraging. I was reading over the letters yesterday that I wrote. I was surprised; I hadn't thought I'd written to such a large number of schools, Berkeley, Caltech, MIT, Harvard, and then a bunch of others, University of Illinois and so on, a large number.
You had high ambitions anyway. Those were good places you wrote to.
Well, I think I wrote to nearly every place that had a PhD program, and the usual response was that I could probably get in, but that they never provided financial support for the first year students. You had to be there a year, and then you could get an assistantship. And so it was quite discouraging. With a few exceptions. MIT said, "You're not the kind of person we're looking for." And I had that letter framed and put on the wall when I was a faculty member there. I got two offers, and there seemed to be some indication that I was going to get a third. One offer from the University of Nebraska. A man who had been one of my teachers at Clark, Jorgenson, went to Nebraska, and he wanted me to come there. He knew me and wanted me so I sort of had an in. the second offer was from the Rice Institute. One offered $450 for the year, the other offered $500, so I took the $500. Also they said it was a shorter program because the teaching load apparently in Nebraska was much larger, and so I ended up going to Rice. Again, it was partly because of the influence I think of the mathematics professor, who wrote to a very good friend of his, a mathematician at Rice, and he put in a good word for me, I think.
That was your first time in a big city? That was in Houston, Texas.
First time living in a big city. Let's see, I had lived in Worcester, Massachusetts. But remember, this was 1940, and Houston I don't think was much bigger than Worcester. I think at that time Houston was not that big a city. It was my first time living in the Deep South and experiencing segregation. Big surprise. Astounding.
That was a bigger surprise than the size of it. Well, how did you find the school there, generally speaking? Did you have a clear conception of what you wanted to do when you went there?
Well, again, no. You have to remember that in those days my father was essentially right. My father said, "Why would a young man with any ambition want to become a physicist, go to university and become a physicist? The best you could hope for would be to become a professor of physics some place and make $5000 a year."—which even in those days wasn't a lot of money. And the chance of that happening was very small. I mean, what would you do when you got your degree in physics? Every PhD in physics couldn't become a university professor, and yet that was the only job. There were no other jobs essentially; at least, none that I'd ever heard of. So it was again not clear what would happen, I suppose. I liked school and here was a chance to be in a place a liked, and I would just do it as long as that seemed to work, and I had no clear conception at all as to what would happen later.
Well, of course, you were only there for a year.
But I went there with the idea of going on to finish my PhD, and I would have had a PhD in three years if I'd stayed. That was the norm there and I was doing very well. But my iconoclasm showed up immediately when I got to Rice. Everybody of course was studying nuclear physics, which was the hottest new thing. They had a Van de Graaff, and they were studying neutron physics. The neutron had only been discovered four years earlier, and they had developed a cloud chamber technique for detecting neutrons, and it was assumed that I would go to work with the big group of graduate students. But I said, "No, nuclear physics is not interesting. It's just studying more spectral lines just like spectroscopy and that's not interesting." So I got together with the man who was doing solid state physics, and he had no graduate students then. He steered me toward a research project, and left me alone. I just was essentially completely on my own.
There are two names here, H. A. Wilson and W. Heep.
Heep is that one. H. A. Wilson was a grand old Britisher who actually was the first one to do the Millikan oil drop experiment. But he didn't do it with single drops, he did it with a whole cloud of drops in the cloud chamber. Then he was head of the department. All my courses, I took from him. I took relativity and statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, and his way of thinking about physics I thought had a big influence on me. He was a theorist. And then Heep was this solid state physicist, who actually wasn't doing any work himself.
Were there other students that took your iconoclastic route?
You were alone with the ferromagnetic studies.
So to speak. OK. Were there any relationships that developed there, professionally, with students?
No. There was one anti-relationship. There was one self-avowed Nazi and Hitler lover among the graduate students, so we had to make a rule that this subject was forbidden. Otherwise the arguments got too heated. But I didn't establish any particular friendships that lasted. I did establish contact with my first wife there, at Rice. She was an undergraduate at Rice. That doesn't appear there in the record anywhere, I realize. She was a fresh arrival from Germany as an émigré.
A refugee. And she used to study in the physics library with another young woman, and I was quite attracted to the other young woman, so I got to know them both. But she was the one I eventually married.
Generally speaking, was there a large sense of approaching war at the university?
Well, I became rather politicized at college, in some ways. It was just after a group of students had gone to work in the Spanish Civil War. There was none of that going on when I arrived, but there was quite an awareness of the conflict between the Fascists and the non-Fascists in Europe, in Spain in particular, and so as I say, many students, some students, several students volunteered, and some lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War. But then there were a few foreign students. For example, in my last year in college, I had a roommate who was from Holland, and he was there when Holland was overrun by Hitler, and so I was made quite aware of what was going on in Europe. And as I say, H.A. Wilson was an Englishman, and so, in conversations, one was likely to be made aware of what was going on in England. As a result, he was the one who, one day, approached me and said that the U.S. Navy was looking for people to begin war work. That was in 1941, well before Pearl Harbor—in April of 1941, I guess. He said they were looking for people with experience in magnetism to work on the problems of magnetic mines which were a big problem in the Battle of the Atlantic, supplying Britain. Although we were not officially in the war, Roosevelt was heavily committed to keeping Britain going by transport across the Atlantic. I decided right then that this was something that I could do to help anti-Fascism.
That was an unexpected result of your iconoclasm.
That wasn't in any way a motivation for going into that field....
You stayed on for how long at Rice?
Less than a year, from September to May or something like that. I was given quickly a Master's degree before the normal time. I normally wouldn't have gotten a Master's. I would have stayed on, and in fact they said at the time, "Too bad you're leaving so quickly, you almost have a PhD thesis available from your research." I did a very good job of research in just one year.
But on the other hand, you were encouraged to leave by the faculty.
And then it was war work for a while.
And to stay with the chronology, we should continue with that. So where did you go immediately?
Immediately, to the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Washington.
It says 1942. That should be 1941, I think.
Oh, did I make a mistake there? 1941....
Yes. I guess there was a typo there. Then they put me to work helping to design degaussing equipment for ships, transport and military vessels. Page 7?
It's right on page 3.
Yes, 1941. And that sort of began the story of my ill- fated association with the Navy as a civilian laboratory. I was being made use of sort of as a technician, not making use of my physics background at all. I was just threading wires through model ships and so on. And after six or eight months of this, I was fed up and said, "Look, I'm just not going to continue doing this. You can get a high school student or seaman first class to do this work, why are you using physicists to do this?"
Were there more people with your education who had the same fate?
Yes, there were several people with reasonable education doing essentially menial tasks. Well, I have a theory. You see, what happened was that the Naval Ordnance Laboratory was started during the First World War to make mines and things like that. And all the good people left after the war and went back to university or industrial jobs and so on, and in my judgment, the people of very little competence stayed on, and became directors and administrators of the laboratory; I was not impressed with the administration of the old Navy laboratory, the Naval Ordnance Lab, NOL. And so I was then transferred to another group.
Was there an uprising in a sense? I mean, were there more people, or was it you individually?
No, it was me. My impatience, intolerance generally. I don't think it was an uprising at all. Then I was moved to another group, and I was assigned to work with a man named J. Kiethley who had a big influence on what I learned from there on. He was a recent graduate of MIT in electrical engineering, and at that time, MIT electrical engineers were almost as much physicists as they were anything. They had an excellent electrical engineering curriculum, in which the student had to take a lot of physics.
Was that the first time you learned about the electrical engineering program?
Or the result of an electrical engineering program?
Right. And so he was responsible for my learning a great deal about electronics, because he would assume I knew things, and I would rush home that night and read the book. I had a book which I could read and figure, "Oh, that's what a square law detector is."
You wanted him to stay believing that you knew things.
Yes. And it was a very fruitful collaboration. We did a number of very good things together, and we worked very well together and had a very good personal as well as professional relationship. First we were doing measurements of the influence fields of ships. Then we were designing mines based on those measurements, and we designed two very good mines. The Navy essentially had a set of rules about what the mine development should be—we want a mine that will do this and this and this, and won't be easily swept, and all this sort of thing. And we designed two mines which fit the criteria. But then the Navy gave them a very high classification and said, no, we can't make them, because they're too dangerous, because if the enemy found out that we had this kind of mine, I mean that such a mine existed, they would use them against us and we would be too vulnerable. They're too effective. Well, after that happened the second time, I gave up in disgust and quit. As it turned out, when they went in to the Normandy landing, they found out that the Germans had that kind of mine, of course, and they said, "Why don't we have one? Why don't we have one?" Then they went into a crash program of going into mass production on the devices that I had worked on.
So you were actually that close to the implementation, or to the possibility of implementation.
Oh yes. We had a working mine that we tested in the ocean underneath ships and so on. We had a working prototype. But then the program was stopped at that point.
But you collaborated with the Navy at a fairly high level, with proposing this thing.
Oh, I don't think it was a very high level. I'm not sure how high it got.
No, but you knew about the decision.
At least it was that high.
Oh yes. And it was a very interesting time, because I said, "I'm quitting," and they said, "No, you can't quit, because there are regulations." The so-called War Manpower Commission didn't allow people to change jobs without permission, and you had to give very good reasons. You had to first get the approval of your first employer to quit that employer, and the Navy would not give me permission to quit. And I said, "You can't—I quit. What do you mean, you won't give me permission to quit?" I did quit. "I may be drafted as a soldier, but you can't keep me working here under these circumstances." And I wrote back to Rice, my friend at Rice, H.A. Wilson and said, "Do you know of any other kind of war work where I'd be better used?" And he said, "Well, there's this funny project going on in New Mexico. Write them a letter and see if they want you. They need people."
You didn't know about what was going on there, of course.
Had no idea. Had no idea. But then Los Alamos wanted me to come, but the Navy forbade them to talk to me. But I went anyway. I went to New Mexico. In the end, without permission, went to New Mexico and I said, "I'm here, do you want me?" And at that moment they were desperate and they took me and they said, "We'll worry about the bureaucracy later."
Were there any further repercussions of that?
Never heard of any. Presumably General Groves took care of it.
So in effect, you went there in person and showed your credentials.
I had written letters, and they said, "We need a person like you, if we can get permission from the Civil Service Commission." By that time, it had gone from the Navy to the Civil Service Commission to try to decide, and the Civil Service Commission was saying, well, yes, maybe they would give me permission. But time was gone and nothing happened, and finally I just in desperation flew there on my own money and said, "Look"—I didn't know where to go. Where do you go? You go to Post Office Box 1663? That's all it was known as. But you get to Santa Fe and people say, "Oh, there's a lady in an office over there, you can talk to her.".
You never signed out of the Navy, so to speak?
Well, no, I had given them an official letter of resignation, two months before.
Yes, which hadn't been approved.
Which hadn't been accepted.
At the time that you were admitted to Los Alamos, what did you know about what was going on there?
I knew absolutely nothing, and was given a pass to go on the bus. As I say, the lady, Mrs. McKibben who ran the office in Santa Fe for years and years and years, called up and said, "You know, there's this fellow here, what shall I do with him?" And the personnel office had just received a desperate call for electronics people, and my résumé had said I had been doing electronics.
By that time you were an electronics person.
By that time I think I officially qualified as an electronics person. And they said, "Send him up and we'll worry about the bureaucracy later." I never heard any more about the bureaucracy. I took a little bus, went up, and I was met by, to my great surprise, Professor Jorgenson, who had been the young professor at Clark who'd gone to Nebraska, and he apparently heard that I was coming. Maybe his name had appeared on my curriculum or something as a recommender at some time, and he was there. So he took me into the lab. First, it was quite a pleasant surprise to see him. He's a very nice fellow. He took me to the library, and sat me down with what was called "The Primer." "The Primer" was what Los Alamos was about, everything, the atom bomb, the hydrogen bomb possibilities, what the lab's problem was, what the main issues were that had to be resolved, what the estimate were, and of course the fact that the motivation was to do it as quickly as possible because there was information that the Nazis were working on it too, and it would be a disaster if they got there before we did.
That was all in the Primer.
That was all in the Primer.
There was no compartmentalization.
It was quite striking. At the Navy, I wasn't allowed to know what was going on in the next room of the laboratory. You couldn't talk to each other and so on. Whereas at Los Alamos, Oppenheimer had insisted that everybody know what was going on, and every week there was a colloquium in which one person from a division would describe his work, his problems, his successes, his results. I think it made a tremendous difference, because listening to some of those, somebody would have an idea of how to attack a problem.
Was that the case all over? Did every engineer, say, know?
Well, there was a segregation among a few categories. There were the professionals, the scientists, but I think that included engineers, professional engineers. There was that color badge, I forget what it was, white badge or something. Then there were technicians who worked in the laboratory and were only allowed to know what they were working on. Then there were people, janitors and so on, secretaries or something, who were a still lower category. But if you were in the professional category, no matter what you were working on, you were open to these weekly colloquia and could talk to anybody about any subject.
Which of course was a big help too.
I think so.
So what were you thrust into? Did you start research immediately after having read the Primer, so to speak?
Well, I was immediately assigned to the small electronics group, and it was a magnificent job, because the electronics job was to make electronics instruments for the whole laboratory. So if anybody in the laboratory had a problem, he would come to the electronics group and say, "I need this instrument." So you got to know people from all over, all the different aspects, with some detailed knowledge of several different parts of the enterprise. And from the fact that you were working on one instrument and the person next to you was working on another, and you would talk about the problem, you essentially had, I think, probably a better global view of what was going on at Los Alamos than almost anybody else. And of course, you know, it meant I had the opportunity to meet and work with a wide variety of people, a large number of the professional people from all the different divisions. I worked on a large number of fascinating problems. One of my early problems was to make a temperature controller for the first chain reaction at Los Alamos. It was a so—called water—boiler reactor. You know, it was low level reactor, a research tool to measure neutrons per fission and all that kind of thing, and since everything was quite temperature sensitive, they wanted a room—a 9 foot cube or something—temperature controlled to a hundredth of a degree Centigrade, and I had to design the whole system and make it work. I remember giving a talk on the principles and how I was doing it to a research colloquium. Oppenheimer was there and made comments. I got to work with Bethe and Feynman for one reason or another, and with Wilson and Bacher and Rossi and Alvarez and Segrè, at one time or another each of them came to our group with instrumentation problems.
All of them gave you assignments?
They would come and we would discuss it, and you know, this was needed, and I would give my judgment as to what was possible and what wasn't possible, and then proceed to design apparatus for doing it. The most generalized apparatus of course was the nuclear measurement equipment, pulse counters and amplifiers and scalers, discriminators, things for making nuclear measurements which were very desperately needed.
So it was that kind of collaboration with the physicists there, rather than independent research, so to speak.
That's right, no independent research at all, other than the research on instrumentation which was a rather basic kind of research, in the sense that we had to develop techniques for doing things which had never been done before. Basic research may be putting it too strongly, although on occasion there was some of that. It was clearly developmental-focussed applied research.
But the specifications were always very, very detailed, of course.
Yes. Well, no. The specifications were developed in finding a compromise between desires and what was possible.
So that in the process, as you say, you learned about exactly what was going on in these other departments.
Occasionally I got famous by someone coming to me and wanting an electronic device and I would point out to them that the best way to do it was not with electronics, but a mechanical or optical solution.
How large was that group, the engineers' group?
We never thought of it as an engineering group. They were all physicists.
OK, the instrumentation group.
Instrumentation group. The electronics group, well, I remember, you know, something like half a dozen, six or eight, the responsible scientists. And then we had an equal number of technicians to help us assemble circuits and run measurements and so on. That's the size that I remember. It must have grown. [short break]
We're back after a brief break. We were talking about the size of the instrumentation group.
I mean, clearly it must have changed during the war, but the main people I can think of during the main part of the period must have been six or eight. Let me try to list them. W. Higinbotham. Darol Froman was the chairman or head of the group. Completely administration, I think, or almost completely. Then there was Higginbotham, who had a big influence on me, because he'd come at about the same time I did, or actually shortly after I did, from the Radiation Laboratory at MIT. So he had learned the radar type of electronics, the pulsed electronics, and so. I learned a great deal from him on that. I had been working on what today we would call analogue electronics. W. Elmore, Bob Watt, E. Titterton, Bill Haine and myself, those were the mainstays for quite some time.
B. MacDaniel and 0. R. Frisch are also mentioned.
Well, they were not in the electronics group. McDaniel was working in the cyclotron group, but he was also very good in electronics and designed some of his own, so I'd often discuss with him. And Otto Frisch was doing other work but he was also designing some of his own electronic instruments, so I would discuss things with him often. We have a patent together, Frisch, Elmore and I. [Also Bill Woodward taught me much, although he was not in our group.]
From that time?
Yes. From discussions we had one evening.
Yes, that's right, of a pulse amplifier. Any particular events or experiences that you remember from this time?
Oh, very many. It was an extraordinary time for a young man. Not only, as I said, was I able to know what was going on, but I also had personal contacts, social contacts (social evenings and so on) with the great names—Bohr and Fermi and Teller and Bethe and so on. And Rossi. First I had observed him in the public sessions, and liked the way he thought and talked. Then when we made an association, when I did some work for him—designed some circuits for him, and the problem he was working on—I essentially made the decision that here's the man I want to go and do my PhD work with after the war. You know, I also remember the tension, the tempo. It was essentially nothing but work, except for an occasional big party on a weekend or something. Somebody would have a big party in one of the dormitories and everybody would go. You know, I would come to work at 10 and work until 2 AM or something like that and be back the next morning at 10. Everybody was just working at top speed. Well, first, of course, there were two periods. The first period was to see whether it was possible. There were all sorts of basic measurements that had to be made. Is a nuclear explosion possible? That was an unknown. It depended on the number of fast neutrons per fission. From reactor work one had known the number of slow neutrons, or the total number of neutrons per fission, but the number of fast neutrons was crucial. And then the cross-section for the fast neutrons had to be measured, and would the chain reaction be sustaining with fast neutrons? And I remember discussions about, wouldn't it be great if we could show that that was not possible? Because then the project could close down and everybody could go home. But I remember, for instance, one of those big seminars when the group that was measuring the number of fast neutrons per fission was to present a crucial number—if the number was below a certain amount, there could be no fast multiplication. I remember the tension in the air when they were presenting their results. This now proved that this thing could work, in principle.
Was there a general sentiment that it would be preferable if it couldn't be done?
I really don't know how general that sentiment was. Certainly among a lot of my friends, I think there was that feeling that, wouldn't it be great if we could show it was not possible?
You mentioned that you had some discussions with Niels Bohr, for example, and he believed until rather late into the war that it wasn't possible, and he was rather shocked coming to England, learning about the project. That is the story, anyway. So he would be one who was inclined to prefer that alternative, I would think.
I would think so, but I don't remember specifically. I think we mostly talked about political goings—on in Europe at the time.
How would you distinguish between these two ways of working? I mean, first, working towards the possibility, and then working towards the actualization of the possibility, once the possibility was known.
Well, it seemed to be a rather smooth transition. I mean, a lot of the work at Los Alamos was going ahead on the assumption that it would be possible, certain things like say the metallurgy and also the implosion, studying the explosive lenses and things like that which were necessary to make an implosion device. A lot of those things were going on even before it was known that it was all going to work. And of course, in the beginning we made a lot of instruments for basic nuclear physics measurements, and then as time went on, shifted over to other measurements for studying the implosion process and then finally I was making telemetry apparatus which we would install in bombs as they were dropped to understand the aerodynamics and the triggering—did the triggering work properly at a proper altitude—and things like that. So it became more applied to weapons as time went on, toward the very end.
But the organizational structure remained pretty much constant.
The organizational structure of our electronic service group did. I mean, there were changes in formation and dissolution of groups that focused on various research projects, but we as a service, our electronics service group, our structure did not change.
Were you present when the final test was done?
Yes, the final phase was developing instruments for the Alamagordo test. I worked with a man, Robert Walker, who later became a colleague at Caltech, and who remained a good friend throughout life and a colleague through a large part of it. He and I worked together. He had the assignment of making a piezo—electric pressure measurement of the shock wave, the atmospheric shock wave, and I designed the amplifiers and recording equipment to go with that. So I was present at the first 100 ton mock test that was done a month or six weeks beforehand, to check out all the apparatus. Our apparatus was one of the few that really worked well, and we measured the explosive power of the 100 tons of TNT. And then I was present at the Almagordo test. I think we had two sets of apparatus on two different sides of the bomb, and Walker was in one control room and I was in the other, which was in the same one where Oppenheimer was, making the final decision to go ahead. And our apparatus didn't work worth a damn for the test. It was a complete disaster.
So many people have described their feelings, you know, at that moment. I haven't seen your comment to that effect, so I'm asking you that too.
My feelings at the moment?
Well, awe, I suppose. Awe, is that a feeling or is that a conclusion? Well, I guess it's a feeling. Let me tell you the amusing part. I can claim to be one of two people standing closest to the first nuclear explosion, because I was standing with another young man, a military technician, outside the bunker. You know, we had been carefully briefed on what we were supposed to do. We had these very thick welders' glasses, which I still have, to look at the explosion. Well, first we looked in the opposite direction. Then when we saw the flash, we were allowed to turn and look at the explosion. In the meantime, we were supposed to be counting to 40 and lie down when 40 came so the shock wave would go over us. Well, I was so awed by the display, the incredible sight, that I forgot to count completely, and so was standing up when the shock wave arrived. This other young man and I were still standing there watching. So everybody else who was sort of behind us had gone down, but since we were a little advanced, we didn't see them until it was too late. And the newspaper accounts had it that we were knocked down, but we were actually not. We were just jolted.
And neither of you had any effects?
No. You know, then we went back to the base camp, and there were people there like Fermi who had already made the measurement of the explosive power, dropping his little bits of paper, and there were people like Bush and Compton I think, Rabi, and I'm trying to remember what people talked about. I remember, there was a consternation, because some of the meteorologists had decided that the fallout was moving in one direction toward where there was a group of people, and so there was a lot of concern about getting people away from that other observation post. It turned out that it was a false alarm.
So it was a practical problem.
Yes, and you know, getting ready to go back. Everybody was going back to the lab and so on, since they didn't think there was any need for people to stay around. I guess we did have to get our apparatus and recover some of our apparatus. The reason our apparatus didn't work was that the night before, it started to rain. It never rains in that season, but there was a rain shower the night before, and apparently some sort of ground loops got set up, and our recorders started acting very peculiarly about an hour or two before the explosion. I was in a panic, even tried to get the thing postponed until we fixed our apparatus, and never knew quite what happened. At the moment of the explosion, all our recorders went offscale and never were seen again.
What effect did that failure have?
Well, they had built a great deal of redundancy into the measurement scheme, and in fact, it's interesting that people whose apparatus had not worked for the 100 tons for similar reasons had redesigned it, so that they would not have such problems, and their apparatus worked. We might have been better off if ours hadn't worked the first time. The thing that, in my mind, should be maybe worth talking about, was what I mentioned about how there was this incredible sense of urgency during the project, because the Germans might get there first. And yet I do not recall any change in that after the fall of Europe and after the fall of the German Army, their surrender. One might have expected such a change, since that was one of the big motivations. I think the whole mechanism of the process of getting this job done had become so embedded in our thinking, in my thinking at least, that we continued the same pace through to the final testing. And I think sort of the feeling, at least my sensation—and my memory is very vague on any details, it's a long time ago now, isn't it—was just thinking, well, we did a job and we did it well, sort of thing.
So it was a sense of jubilation anyway....
It was not jubilation in the sense of—you know, there was nobody throwing parties, jumping up and down with joy. There were very mixed emotions. But it was a sense of accomplishment. We had done what we were supposed to do, and we did it and did it well and it came out the way we said it was going to happen.
How was your contact with the military throughout the process? Were you looked over the shoulder or how did that work?
Well, the military were only an occasional minor annoyance, in the sense that if you wanted to change where you lived or if your plumbing didn't work, then you had to contact the military to get it fixed. Or if your mail was censored, it was the military that was doing it. On the other hand, in the latter part at least, since we had no other way of getting technician assistance, the young military soldiers were supplied to us as technical assistants. You know, there was that time when the military decided that it would make life easier if they just made us all officers.
You stayed on at Los Alamos for a while after the accomplishment had been made.
But that was a slightly different experience, wasn't it?
Yes. Well, as soon as the Alamagordo test was made, of course, there was a big change in the atmosphere, when I got back to the lab. And I'm aware of two things that dominate my memory for that period. One was the founding of the Federation, the Los Alamos Association of Atomic Scientists, and being active in that. I took responsibility for putting out a weekly newsletter getting it written and printed. We were in engaged in political consciousness raising.
Could you say something about the background of that, what motivated it, when it was first thought of, and your involvement in that?
Well, I think at that time I was still pretty naive politically. I didn't have a lot of political concerns other than just the general anti—Fascism, and my wife at that time had escaped from Germany because her father was a Jew, and as I say, my student colleague, my student associate who had been from Holland during the invasion, and my general Anglophile orientation and the concern for England had gotten me into the war work in the first place. But I was not sophisticated. I had no political sophistication, didn't understand anything about the political process. But there were people there who did, who had been politically active and had been concerned and I think I followed their lead, when they wanted to start an organization. Oppenheimer gave a very important speech, which undoubtedly you must know about, to this group—a politically—oriented speech after the war, after the bomb went off. There was a big feeling that this was going to end all wars. Now, we should get together with the Russians and say, let's share this information with the Russians, let's make an international accord. And it was to get all of that going and to make a political lobbying outfit that we formed the National Federation of Atomic Scientists—I mean, the Los Alamos Association—which then federated with the one at Oak Ridge and the one at Chicago and so on to make the Federation in Washington.
These were independent developments at those different places?
Yes, all the places. I don't know how independent. People had friends and I'm sure they would get on the phone.
Yes, but it wasn't centrally directed?
We soon knew about the others, and we would exchange newsletters. But they operated quite autonomously until we all decided to join forces and form the Federation. I think that Los Alamos took the lead, and my friend Higinbotham (whom I'd worked with in electronics) was very active. Philip Morrison, I remember, and some other people were also quite active.
You mention Frisch and Williams here.
Is that Otto Frisch again?
No, that's David. David Frisch. Now an MIT professor. And as I say, I ran the newsletter and helped raise money. Then there was another activity going on. Someone proposed—I think it was D. Froman that we really ought to publish our results. We had put in a lot of work and I thought had done a lot of good scientific work in developing a line of instruments, and it would be a pity to have people rushing off and let that thing just fall away. And so I decided that we should publish the important work that had been done, and I made a collection. I went through all those circuits that we had, and decided which ones were important, which weren't, and organized them, and essentially outlined a book, and that was the main reason I stayed on, to work on that book.
Yes, we were talking about....
...getting this book started. It was not possible to interest people very much in it. People were either leaving or they were not interested. I did interest Elmore, and so he and I started writing the book.
Was that a thing which you cleared with the proper officials from the outset?
Well, at the beginning I don't think I cleared it with anybody. But then, after I had got the thing sort of going, then we became aware that other things were going on some other places, and that the Manhattan Project was planning a series of volumes, and that this could be part of that series. I think there was only one other at Los Alamos, and that was the B. Rossi and H. Schtaub, one on ionization chambers. I don't know why there were not things on the unique work they did on plutonium, metallurgy, and various things like that. I don't know, I think we must have heard about the MIT Radiation Lab series. I had something in mind like that, that Los Alamos ought to do. But then Rossi left Los Alamos. He had planned to go back to Cornell. Rossi had been at Cornell, and he was going back to Cornell and so was Bethe and Feynman, with whom I'd become friends. He had accepted a job at Cornell, and then suddenly it was up in the air. Rossi was not going to Cornell, and Bethe was thinking of not going to Cornell, because they wouldn't promise to build a nuclear science lab. Then Rossi took a job at MIT. So I had to decide whether I would go to Cornell as planned—not planned, but as I had fantasied—or go to MIT with Rossi, since I had really made up my mind to go with him. And it turned out Zacharias, who was starting the Laboratory for Nuclear Science at MIT, talked to me and told me how much he would like me to come there, and Rossi wanted me. And they also had got some money from ONR to be able to offer a living wage to people who by that time were married. Also they were quite anxious to get started. Rossi was going to build a whole new laboratory for cosmic ray research at MIT. And I was getting anxious also to get started, I guess. I don't know what determined when I went, but I think it was as much external pressure as internal. So I essentially dropped the book, after having written a few chapters, and left Elmore behind to finish up the remainder.
Who was left at Los Alamos when you departed?
Well, Willie Higinbotham was then the first director of FAS in Washington, running the lobbying activity, and E. Titterton was I think the mainstay. I think he was running the group afterwards, after many had left.
At Los Alamos.
Yes. I don't have a clear picture. I happened to notice or be reminded that I had some correspondence with Titterton about trying to get things declassified and so on, so I guess he must have been running the group for a while at least after I left.
Was that also a factor, that there were fewer people there to communicate and work with?
The general atmosphere was, everybody was wanting to get back to his university work. And it was infectious. I think everybody was saying, "Well." In fact, it looked to me like the laboratory might just close. And I think it looked that way to a bunch of other people. And so there was a tremendous push on, by the authorities in Washington, to try to keep the laboratory going and get some people to stay, and I remember being somewhat surprised that someone of the quality of Bradbury, instead of going back to his professorship at Stanford, agreed to stay and be director.
To what extent was your outlook on physics changed as a result of the war experience? Your expertise obviously had shifted a bit since those years at Rice. And maybe your outlook more generally also.
Well, it's interesting that the expertise was not that much different than Rice. The crucial part of my research at Rice for my Master's degree had been in developing electronic instruments for measurements. So that theme just keeps growing. I had a hard time getting away from electronics. But I think, as I mentioned earlier, I was not a very strong analyst, because of my sort of haphazard background in physics through college. I did not have a rigorous training in boundary value problems and things like this. And I was made aware of some of that at Los Alamos—my weakness, and the possibilities. Elmore was a very good physicist and brought up in the classical tradition, and so he was a good analyst and I learned a lot from him. I learned mostly about the possibilities, but also developed an incredibly good intuition and competence of my own. But it's interesting, I was thinking just now, I never considered myself an electronics person, even then. I mean, everybody in the world was doing something for the war. For example, an academic chemist from Harvard was now an explosion expert, and somebody else was a bomb design expert, and so I was doing electronics in the war, but clearly after the war I was going to go back and do fundamental research. And Rossi was in cosmic rays, which also interested me because when I was an undergraduate I was fascinated with cosmic rays, and if there had been any cosmic rays going on at Rice I would have done that. In my second year or third in college I remember giving book reports on the conflict between Millikan and Compton on what cosmic rays were. Were they particles, were they photons? So I'd always been interested in cosmic rays, and I'd built a cosmic ray telescope for the physics laboratory when I was an undergraduate.
So even though you said you might have gone into electrical engineering had you known about it earlier, you developed a sense of being a physicist rather than an engineer.
From your education.
And there was no question in my mind, I was going back to be a physicist, with Rossi. And you know, OK, so I had competence in electronics and I would do electronics because that made research in physics possible, but not that I would accept the many offers, you know, at fabulous salaries to go and work on electronics for General Electric or somebody else.
After Los Alamos.
After Los Alamos. But I was not the least bit interested. Or, they would have liked me to stay at Los Alamos, I'm sure.
OK, let me phrase the question a little differently perhaps. How was the Naval and in particular the Los Alamos experience in terms of an education?
Well, let me speak to Los Alamos first, since that's more striking. I think that association with those brilliant minds was an education in itself. I mean, working with Fermi, Bethe, Feynman, Wilson, McDaniel and so on, Manley, Marshall and others, Alvarez, Segrè, exceedingly lively minds, discussions never dull. Ways of thinking about physics and the problems. So, although I often didn't learn that much specifically from them, the atmosphere and the discussions and how to think about things was I think very important. And then at the very end, in those last months, the "Los Alamos University" opened for the young people who were getting ready to go back to the universities were able to take time from their jobs and do attend courses. I remember taking a course in electromagnetism from Bethe, and a course in nuclear physics from Fermi.
Yes, so the Los Alamos experience increased rather than decreased your sense of being a physicist.
Even though you worked on applied practical problems.
I'm looking at my watch and noticing that it's 20 after 12. [Break]
We're back in Matthew Sands's home after a wonderful lunch by the sea, and we had finished with the war, more or less. You moved to MIT after having started a book at Los Alamos about the work there. Did that ever become anything more, that project?
Well, the book was finished by Elmore. I did the index at MIT. And it became a very significant book. It was THE book which taught at least two generations of nuclear physicists how to make instrumentation for nuclear physics. I'm still recognized in places like Europe and the USSR, "Are you the Sands of—?"
Right, so that was—?
ELECTRONICS: EXPERIMENTAL TECHNIQUES. With Elmore.
Yes, exactly, the first one here, published [by McGraw—Hill] in 1949.
Yes. It was very frustrating, the time it took to get it released for publication, because first the argument was, it had to be declassified, even though we were sure it had no relevant military secrets in it. But then they held it up for at least a year or two for patent clearance. They wanted to make sure there was nothing patentable that the Army hadn't patented.
Unrelated to the classification, the clearance?
So by the time that book had come out, you had already been at MIT for quite a while. How was the transition from military work to university work?
I wasn't aware of a transition, really. The biggest change, as I think about it now, was the fact that I was working making instruments for myself and not for other people. I was making instruments for my own research. I was doing cosmic ray research, with equipment to fly in an airplane, and it all required building specialized electronic equipment which I did. Also I was in demand for giving talks on this kind of electronics that I had learned during the war for the American Association of Electrical Engineers and various organizations like that. I had to write articles, appear at conferences. But mostly it was just that I was involved, again, in a new building project. I helped build a new laboratory at MIT, and set up a Geiger counter construction facility, and built, as I say, my own equipment and did experiments, did teaching. I wasn't aware of it as being that great a transition, although I suspect maybe when you're young and plastic, things don't seem to be a transition.
So the mode of work anyway wasn't all that different between Los Alamos and MIT, when you came back. Formally of course you were still a student when you came to MIT while at the same time you were working there.
Yes. They had invented, for the immediate postwar period, a kind of position which had many of the aspects of what today would be called a postdoctoral appointment, because we were all people who had had several years—four or five years—of wartime experience, but we didn't formally have the degree. And so they paid us rather like a postdoctoral appointment so that we could support our families and finish up our graduate work. So I was on that kind of an appointment for two years, and then I was switched over to an academic appointment.
Who paid for that kind of funding? Was it the university?
No, it was another invention, in the immediate postwar period. It was that the Office of Naval Research began supporting academic institutions, and supported a new laboratory for nuclear science that had been built up at MIT. So I believe our stipends were completely supported by ONR.
So you were employed in that sense.
There was no need for working on the outside to obtain your....
...food and drink....
...food and drink and education any more. Were you involved immediately in building up the cosmic ray laboratory?
Yes, immediately. MIT had a system that no graduate courses were required. You were encouraged, particularly at that period, just to begin research and study. They offered graduate courses, and some people took them, but all that was required was that at a certain point you take some formal examinations, and people often took the courses because that was a good preparation for the examinations.
And writing your dissertation, probably.
And then at the end, writing my dissertation and doing research.
And you worked with Bruno Rossi.
Both with the dissertation and with building up the laboratory.
How interconnected were those two enterprises?
Very, almost indistinguishable. I mean, we were a research group, Bruno Rossi and six or so formal students in the same category I was in—three or four from Los Alamos and one from MIT Radiation Laboratory, and then later on a postdoc. We were just a very cohesive research group, and we worked together doing research. That was part of our job but it was also part of getting our degrees. Then when I got my degree I continued doing the same thing, except I did have a little more formal teaching responsibilities afterwards.
OK, so you had more freedom before you took your PhD in that respect. Could you place the cosmic ray effort at MIT in a larger context, in a larger research context perhaps, of what was going on at the time in other places?
Well, in that immediate postwar period, cosmic rays were on the forefront of physics, in the sense of particle physics. It was the one avenue for really investigating some of the basic questions about the nature of matter. The low energy nuclear physics didn't seem to be getting anywhere, so far as trying to really understand the basic nuclear forces, but cosmic rays were something quite new, different, not understandable. The whole theory of high energy particles and the radiation theories of Heitler and others on the properties of high speed particles, what the quantum radiations are, had just been developed or were just being developed. Just before the war, the muon had been discovered, and the positron and so on, but what was going on with all these things was not known. So it was an exciting field, and there was important work going on at the major universities, Cornell, Columbia, California at Berkeley and so on.
Those were the major model institutions or competitors or whatever you called them.
Let's see, Caltech and Chicago had earlier been in the forefront of cosmic rays, with Millikan and Compton. Now there was a group at Caltech with C. Anderson, at Chicago with ? Schein. There was also work going on at Berkeley with Robert Brode and others, and then the Bartoll Institution in Washington with Swann, somebody at Columbia, somebody at Harvard, Currie Street, somebody at Princeton, George Reynolds, and someone else at Princeton, and I mentioned Cornell, which Rossi had left. A former student of Rossi, Dole Corson, was working there.
To what extent was cosmic rays a new field to you? To what extent did you have to re-educate yourself in any sense?
Oh, completely. As I say, I had had a boyhood curiosity and interest, but I hadn't worked in it, and so I had to learn from scratch.
You had some exposure to Rossi at Los Alamos, of course, but that was entirely different?
That was in a completely different context.
So that you weren't able to learn anything there.
Well, you know, I had learned about ion chambers a little bit and I had learned a little bit about ionizing matter and X- rays, but very little because that was not what I was doing. So I had to begin from scratch and learn about the properties of high energy particles and ionization loss and radiation loss and propagation and interaction in the atmosphere and all those things.
What size laboratory were you aiming at when you started?
Well, the whole laboratory, which is the Laboratory of Nuclear Science, had several parts, a nuclear physics part and so on and a few other parts, a plasma part, I think. No, that was in the Laboratory of Electronics. There was nuclear physics, the Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Well, there was a cyclotron laboratory with Lawrence's collaborator, Livingston, and a Van de Graaff laboratory with Van de Graaff and Trump, and then there was a nuclear reactor group I think which was connected with the laboratory. But the cosmic ray lab was intended to be Rossi and a few collaborators. And I think the agreement when he went was that he would begin the lab, but then he would be able to choose one or two or three young people to join him as junior faculty and associates. And I was one of the ones chosen for that.
Right. So it was a smaller part of a large development at MIT at the time.
Yes. MIT, with its experience of the Radiation Laboratory, the big radar effort, was very quick to seize the opportunity, saying, "Look, Big Physics," in the sense of physics with money. I mean, when I was working as a graduate student first, $20 was an impossibly large amount of money to get for a piece of apparatus. You had to just make everything yourself. And people had learned during the war how rapidly you could do things and how well you could do things if you had some money, and so that was the neat idea of convincing the Navy to set up the ONR, and people knew people in the Navy, and that was the contacts for that; and setting up a university organization to request that money, administer it and so on, by people with wartime experience. It was all part of a big important postwar development.
Yes, so there's more of a continuity again from the war and on, than the war effort being a discontinuity in itself. Your experience with the Navy was quite different at MIT than your first war experience with them.
I guess you didn't have any experience really at MIT. You were working on your own.
No, I was just working. The money was there. There was enough money for anything I wanted to do, in effect, and people like Zacharias, and I suppose Rossi to some extent, and a man named Hubbard who was the administrator for the big Laboratory for Nuclear Science, they worried about all the practical matters of raising the money.
How was the distinction between a theoretician or theorist and an experimentalist in your field, at the laboratory? I don't really know who "convinced" whom. Did the Navy convince the Universities, or vice versa?
At the time I was doing the research in cosmic rays, there was very little, in the sense that you did your own experiment and theory. Rossi had worked out the theory in detail of electromagnetic showers and had published important review articles in REVIEWS OF MODERN PHYSICS, but he was also primarily an experimentalist. So we did our own. In fact, a big part of my thesis was an analysis of the propagation of cosmic rays through the atmosphere, involving elaborate computations which were done on an abacus and a slide rule. Well, not quite. I even had a professional computer, a woman who sat all day long with one of these mechanical machines and looked up things in the logarithmic table and exponential table and punched them in on the machine, and she worked for six or nine months, I think, doing calculations for the theoretical aspects of my thesis.
That was before the age of the computer, so to speak.
Yes. I myself in the laboratory used an abacus and a slide rule. They were very good instruments. So you can imagine how pleased I was when Hewlett-Packard came out with the first hand-held calculator.
Did you have any contact with people who were doing theory for theory's sake?
Yes. We had good contacts because, well, at MIT, there was Weisskopf, who had been brought there also at the same time Rossi had been brought.
From Rochester, yes.
Yes, right but via Los Alamos. We had been good friends with Vicky at Los Alamos and we remained good friends. We would often talk to him about things. There was Francis Friedman. Murray Gell-Mann and I shared an office for a while. He came as a fresh graduate student to MIT. Or was he a postdoc? No, he must have been a graduate student. And then we always had a sequence of visitors, like Bethe and Oppenheimer and others who would come through for a day, to find out what the experimental results were and talk about the possible interpretations. And so there were people who dedicated themselves completely to theory, but very few that did completely experiments without their own interpretation, although today it tends to be more of a split than that, in particle physics anyway.
So in that sense too it was similar to the Los Alamos experience—I mean, that you broadened out from the experiment by necessity, so to speak in order to be able to do the experiments that there was a demand for.
What do you consider your main contributions during this period? I guess we're talking about 1946 to 1950 now when you were at MIT.
Well, 1946 to 1949 at least, when most of my effort was in cosmic rays. Well, I did a couple of things I think that were significant. One was just the whole exploration of the slow meson component in the cosmic radiation—where it came from—first by measuring where was its intensity as a function of altitude. We borrowed a B-29 aircraft from the Air Force and flew instruments up at 40,000 feet and different intermediate heights, and tried to understand where they were produced and what happened to them and so on. And I think that was very useful in making a complete picture of what the cosmic radiation was, since 90 percent of the cosmic rays are these muons. And then, I also did, with another collaborator under Rossi's wing, a measurement. We got worried about whether there could possibly be an effect of the sun's magnetic field. I mean, it was known that the sun had a magnetic field, and that could be a dipole that would influence the cosmic rays getting to the earth, and we looked for that. It should affect the intensity coming from different directions. And there was a null result, so it wasn't very profound in the end, but at least it showed that there was no significant solar magnetic global and dipole magnetic field.
Well, null results may be important too. I see I am going to have to change the tape.
Toward the end of your MIT stay, you were getting into accelerators.
Yes, I was. I had a reputation at Los Alamos—developed at Los Alamos—of someone who could make things work. When there was a crisis and things were simply not working, I was often asked to come and lend a hand. At MIT, the Laboratory for Nuclear Science had a group that wanted to build a high energy accelerator at that time—a new machine, the synchrotron newly developed that year. The group that wanted to do it was primarily an engineering group, but as you remember, the electrical engineers at MIT are very close to the physicists, and so they organized a group and built the machine, and then it didn't work. It was beginning to be an embarrassment to the laboratory, because the machine had been completed for over a year, and didn't work, whereas the one at Cornell which was started later was functioning, and there was one at Berkeley that was working and one at Johns Hopkins that was working. So Zacharias called me in and said, "Please go and lend a hand with the synchrotron." And so I did. And that got me started in the accelerator business.
So that was just a different setting. It was not a expansion of the cosmic ray research in any way. Maybe for you individually it was.
Well, it came at an interesting time, because it was becoming clear that cosmic ray research was getting more and more difficult. For instance, people had been looking for the anti- proton, and if there was an anti-proton it should have been there, but nobody could see it in the cosmic rays. And the pion had been discovered in cosmic rays. It had been discovered, but trying to study it more seemed to be very difficult, whereas the accelerator was offering possibilities in that direction. So I think several of us in cosmic radiation at the time were thinking, well, is it best to pursue more difficult things in cosmic rays or try to do something with accelerators? And I don't know which way I would have gone in the end, had I not left MIT suddenly, and the choice was made for me. The only job I got was with an accelerator lab.
It was the beginning of the development of getting the laboratories down to earth, so to speak.
Yes. Well, Rossi moved gradually over into plasma physics and solar wind and interstellar, interplanetary stuff—ultimately into X-ray astronomy, which is cosmic rays after all. But several of the people who worked with him did move on into accelerator business, even though they didn't have the initial push that I had in that direction.
It's an interesting divergence of fields, I think, in a sense, because the questions became different for Rossi and others who had worked on the same problems.
Well, many of the questions remained the same.
Yes, OK. That's a big question. Are there any particular collaborations or collaborators that you remember from the MIT days?
Well, in the MIT days we had, as I say, this small group, and we always talked about what we were doing, but we worked rather independently. I worked with my dear friend, Bob Hulsizer, only to the extent that he needed more hands and arms to launch his balloons at 5 o'clock in the morning, and so I would go out and help him launch his balloon experiments. But I was not responsible, didn't take any responsibility for his apparatus. And the two friends I had whom I have known longest and kept close contact with longest come from those days—Bob Hulsizer, who just retired as a professor at MIT, and Bob Williams, who also left MIT. Bob Williams and I were the two who were kept on as faculty members of the group, and he's now at Seattle, University of Washington. Bob Hulsizer went to the University of Illinois, but some years later came back to MIT. So those are personal friendships, which in one way or another have influenced my career in some ways, but have been an even bigger influence on the personal level. But it was Rossi and just the general atmosphere at MIT, which again was a very exciting one for a graduate student. (Although I would hate to have been an undergraduate there.)
Luckily you weren't that.
Of course—maybe you're just about to get there—the big event of those times was the turbulent marital life. My wife and I split up, after having had two kids.
Yes, two sons in 1946 and 1948, and you actually divorced in the same year that....
...yes, after the second was born.
Which was in 1948.
Then you remarried to Eunice Hawthorne who was from New York City.
Yes. Who had been a childhood sweetheart.
Oh, I see. From Oxford?
No, she was a sister—in—law of the math professor, the high school math teacher. I knew her from summers. She would come summers to this small town.
Anything else you'd like to say about the MIT days?
Well, that of course made a big impact, going through the turbulence of that. And the other important thing is my just being forced to leave MIT, right in the middle of starting essentially my autonomous career.
What forced you?
Well, my ex-wife had a father who had a fair amount of money, and they decided to make trouble for me, and were going to throw me in jail as a bigamist because they claimed my divorce was not legal and so on. So I'm famous around MIT as the person who had to leave in the middle of the night and not come back.
Was it actually the university that forced you?
No, just the courts. The lawyer said, "Look, all the judges in Massachusetts are Catholic, and if it comes to a question of whose side they're going to be sympathetic to, you'd better not come back to Massachusetts." There was a lot of question as to whether a Reno divorce was really legal, and it was best not to challenge that.
So MIT didn't enter into it.
MIT was very sympathetic, but there wasn't anything they could do.
So then you moved across the continent for the first time. How did you come to choose Caltech as the next place?
Well, when you're suddenly out of a job, you don't choose anybody. You hope to get chosen. I was out of a job and had no money, and phoned immediately to Brookhaven, where I had been a consultant. I'd helped them start the laboratory, and consulted and advised them on electronics when Brookhaven was getting started. I asked them if they would like a hired hand for a while, and they were pleased to have me come and work in their electronics department. While I was there I started immediately writing to all the various nice people who had wanted to offer me jobs a couple of years before, when I was going to stay at MIT, and one of them was my good friend from Los Alamos days, Bob Walker. I wrote him asking if he thought there was any possibility at Caltech. I knew he'd just gone there from Cornell and they were building a new laboratory, so I figured there was some chance. The director of the laboratory was Robert Bacher, who had been a division leader at Los Alamos and knew me and liked me and liked my work. He'd asked me to take on a couple of urgent jobs and I'd done well, and had a good reputation with him. So I think he was rather pleased to offer me a job, just a temporary research appointment, to help build the lab there.
Right, which of course came to more eventually.
What did the consultantship to Brookhaven amount to? That was in the two or three years before you left.
That's right. From the very start of Brookhaven, I was asked to go down and give advice to the electronics people particularly, on what they should be building, and who they should consider hiring and I would sometimes consult on some circuit design work. I think the best thing I ever did for them was to tell them to hire Willie Higinbotham when he resigned from the Federation of American Scientists.
Which was when?
That must have been 1949 or something around there-1948, 1949, something like that.
And then you were thrust into Caltech.
To what extent did you have to re-educate yourself or change direction there?
Well, it was a whole new ball game. It wasn't cosmic rays, and I had to sit down and learn about accelerator theory and understand, because I was in a relatively small group of four, five, six people who were going to build the highest energy synchrotron that existed, and I didn't know a thing. I'd just started to learn a little bit about synchrotrons at MIT, but I had to learn more seriously. But that wasn't my job. I was asked to build up the electronic shop and make electronic instruments. That was my assignment. But it was such a small group, it was clear that I would have to play a role with the accelerator, too. And also I had to design control systems for the synchrotron, and that meant understanding how it worked. I started to work on learning about synchrotrons, so I not only built the electronics up from scratch and got it going and built the complex of instruments we could use for the high energy particle physics, but also helped on getting the accelerator commissioned.
Well, you had done some of that at MIT too, hadn't you, in that that was also a synchrotron that you were building up there.
Yes. That's right. Or, they were building and I got in at the end just to make it work.
Right. So that was again quite unexpected, that small experience with the synchrotron would develop into your main concern, that quickly.
Yes. It just occurs to me that I should have thought to make you a copy of the autobiographical sketch that I gave to history of physics conference on the fifties. The title of the paper is, "The making of an accelerator physicist." And it will appear in a book about the "Physics of the Fifties".
That would be very interesting. Of course, I don't know how much of an overlap there is with what you're saying here.
There begins at this point to be an overlap.
Yes, of course, but it doesn't matter if there's some of that. So who were your main collaborators at Caltech?
Well, Robert Bacher was the director, and although he didn't give much scientific direction, he was certainly a good administrator. He knew how to organize things. And the main scientific collaborators were Robert Walker, John Teasdale, Alvin Tollestrup. I think Tollestrup and Walker and I were the powerful triumvirate, and there were a few others. There were Teasdale and V. Peterson and John Teem.
Yes, and B. Rule you also mention.
He was the chief engineer of the project, so I learned some things about engineering from him. He had an influence on me as an engineer. He had been the chief engineer in building the Palomar telescope. And then he took on the job of being chief engineer for the synchrotron. So he coordinated all the engineering aspects.
So Bacher was mainly an administrator by then.
Well, and fund raiser. He had been one of the first Atomic Energy Commissioners. And so he had a good "in" for getting money for it.
Yes, your work was supported by the AEC.
Was that different in any way from being funded by ONR? Did that affect the work in any way?
Well, in retrospect—not only in retrospect—at the time, and certainly later those years at MIT and Caltech were the golden years, in the sense that I didn't have to worry about where the money came from, how you'd get it, how you'd justify it and so on, in the sense that there were other people to do the worrying for me. And it was just a marvelous time. All I had to do was think about science and techniques for doing better physics.
So it was the same in that respect—you left those problems to Bacher.
Yes. But it has disadvantages, and we became aware of that later—the three of us, Walker, Tollestrup and I. We were the only ones that were kept on the faculty, and essentially ran the lab. Later we felt constrained by the fact that if we were thinking of some major project, we didn't know how much money there was. I guess we were feeling a little bit too long as children.
Those first two years you were a research fellow by title. What restrictions and what freedoms did that involve? It was not a permanent position?
It was not a permanent position, and that was some concern for me. That was why, it turns out, during the second year I applied for a Fulbright Fellowship, thinking, well, if I don't have a job I might as well go to Europe. I always wanted to go to Europe anyway. And it was only after I had received the Fulbright award, when I told Bacher, that he said, "Well, I hope you know we want you to stay, and we'll give you a faculty appointment". In fact, they were marvelous. I didn't have enough money to take my family with me on the Fulbright. The Fulbright only paid money for living over there in foreign currency. I tried every resolution—the Carnegie Foundation and so on—to get an extra grant to pay for the transportation of my family. In the end, it looked like it wasn't going to work, and Bacher arranged for Caltech to give me a sabbatical year—the first year of my appointment—so they could pay me part of the year and I could use the money to pay for my alimony or child support for my first wife as well as take my family with me.
So you were assistant professor at Caltech by the time you moved to Rome.
Was that your first experience of Europe?
How come you chose Rome?
Well, simple arguments. Everybody was applying to England because most Americans speak that language. The few who don't, do speak a little French, and so French was the next most popular. The little booklet you get from the Fulbright explains these things. And the other countries were the least spoken. So clearly it should not be France or England. Then, I had had good Italian experiences. Bruno Rossi, my PhD professor, was an Italian, and I had also had a very close friend who was my roommate in college who was a young Italo-American, with an Italian shoemaker father in Massachusetts. So things Italian seemed to interest me.
Had Rossi promoted the Italian scene in any way for you?
No, because I had not been in close contact with him for a year or two at that time. I just thought, oh well, an adventure, let's try Italy.
What did you know about research and the research environment there?
Well, I had known Fermi at Los Alamos and liked him a lot.
But he wasn't there, of course.
No, but that's the Italian atmosphere of things. I had known that some of his collaborators were still there. E. Amaldi, for example. I had also gotten to know Bernardini when he first came from Italy to the US and was at Columbia, and we were both working in cosmic rays. Then he switched to accelerators at Illinois, and we had been in contact as people do in the same field. Then I had admired a number of Italians, Rasetti and others. So I knew about the work they had done in cosmic rays. They had been very powerful. Rossi had started his cosmic ray work there. And so it seemed like a logical place to go, maybe. Well, it was a silly thing to do in some respects, because the synchrotron had just started to work, and it would have been a chance to look at a brand new energy region with a new machine—to do some fundamental work at Caltech. But since they hadn't offered me a job...I could have changed my mind at the last moment, but I thought, oh, the hell with it.
You basically went to Rome and started all over again.
How did you find the environment there compared to an American university?
Oh, it was postwar poverty. I mean, they had no money. They still had no money for research. They had managed to scrounge a few microscopes to work with emulsions. They would get surplus electronic radio gear from the army to steal parts from to make counting circuits for cosmic rays. There was no support for young people, to pay them. Everybody was either doing work on the side and most of the faculty had to do consulting for industry to live on, because faculty salaries were so low after the inflation. However, it seemed to be the breaking point, I mean the transition point. It was 1952, and this was the time when things were going to change. CERN was just getting organized. The government was proposing that it could find money to support research. So it was a period when Italy was clearly going to take off. In some aspects, it was quite an exciting time. They were very hungry for news about the wartime developments, and so I gave lectures in Italian on electronic circuits, and that was published in a little book by a couple of my students.
Yes, A. Alberigi and B. Rispoli, it says here.
And then I gave lectures on accelerator theory to a group that was thinking of building an accelerator. They had originally thought of making a linear accelerator, and they asked me to bring information on that from Stanford, but by the time I got there, they said, "Well, while you're here, let's think about a round accelerator." So, I don't know if that's the main reason they changed their mind. I think I tried to convince them that it was much more expensive to build a linear one than a round one.
Were you able to do any research on your own?
I started a cosmic ray experiment with an assistant, but it was very hard, and I spent the first two months learning the language. I had been told that physicists in Italy speak English. It wasn't true. The older gentlemen did speak English, but the young men didn't speak English at all—the younger men and women. (There were more women there than in the US in the field.) And they read English but don't understand it and don't speak it. So I decided I had to learn Italian. So I spent the first nearly two months doing nothing but learning Italian, practically.
So that you hadn't learned from Rossi and others. So you were only able to lecture in Italian....
...after two months....
...after a severe effort in Italy after you came there.
Have you kept that up, by the way?
Oh yes, I speak Italian very well. (Gives an example)
I think our transcriber will have difficulty with that one. Also you say here that you discovered independently the [integral] resonances in the [strong focusing] synchrotron.
And developed a theory and published with Bruno Touschek.
Maybe you could say something about the context of that.
Well, it was just before I left. In early 1952 the strong focusing principle had been discovered or rediscovered at Brookhaven, and everybody was saying, "What's this going to mean?" So I did a little thinking about it, and kept having these gnawing thoughts—these extreme gradients and so on that they were talking about. They can't be all that free. There may be some problems. And so I tried to think about the problems, and when I got over there I heard that CERN was thinking of adopting this new principle. CERN was just getting started, and people were saying, "Well, now they should maybe use this." I now started giving this more serious thought. And then one day I just suddenly had this image of what would happen if there was an integral resonance. I could show that there would be instabilities, but I didn't have the mathematical techniques for analyzing the strong focusing, since I'd never done that. And so I teamed up with Touschek who was a theoretician, and he showed how we could use the matrix algebra to solve the problem quantitatively in the more general case. So we published a note on this, which hurt a lot of people's feelings, it turned out, because some of the people working at CERN and Brookhaven had just done this, but they hadn't published it.
Oh, so you were the first actually to have it out.
Yes. They may indeed have discovered it before I did or we did. But I didn't know. No one had told me.
Well, you did achieve something. That was in Rome still?
That was in Rome. Yes, that was a significant piece of work in Rome, I think.
And then the summer, you went to Saclay.
Yes. The Fulbright administration used to like to exchange people, and so I was asked to come to Paris to the Sorbonne in the springtime, in April, and give lectures, so I went there. I accepted and went for a ten day visit, sponsored by the Fulbright, to give some lectures. I lectured on accelerators, on electronics, and on particle physics, and the people apparently liked my lectures on accelerators, and asked me if I would come back and collaborate with them, with a group that was just trying to get started on the first French accelerator.
You lectured in English, in France?
Yes. Although I did speak French because I had learned French in high school, but not well enough to lecture in it yet. I did speak a little French, I should say. I speak it much better now.
And Saclay too was a new place then.
Yes. Relatively new.
How did you find the environment there compared to Italy? Was it just as poverty—stricken?
Not at all, no, because Saclay was now a thriving laboratory. They had done reactor physics and I guess maybe even bombs, I think. That was the Commissariat a L'Energie Atomique, so it had lots of money and was quite well off. And I knew a little bit the head commissioner. That was Francis Perrin, who had been a cosmic ray physicist before, so I had known him. Also I was good friends with Leprince—Rimguet and I think he was also a commissioner at that time.
How had you developed this relationship before?
Through cosmic rays. He had come to MIT as a visitor and friend of Rossi. Also, one of his students, Bernard Gregory had worked for a while in Rossi's lab.
So the US was already a center in cosmic rays that quickly after the war.
And then it was back to your associate professorship at Caltech.
And that gave you teaching obligations for the first time there.
You taught electronic circuits and electromagnetism and electron theory and optics, it says. How large courses were they?
Oh, they were typically 20 to 40 students, graduate students.
How did you find teaching?
I liked it and considered myself a good teacher. In retrospect I'm not sure that's true, but anyway, I liked lecturing. I liked the challenge of learning new material. You know, Ira Bowen was the physicist who had designed the Palomar Telescope and most of the instruments to go with it, and he was a hot shot on optics. Well, when he retired, someone had to teach his optics course at graduate level. I had never even taken a course in optics, and I was assigned the job, "Would you be willing to teach a course on optics?" So that was hard work. And similarly, electromagnetism, electron theory. Up to then it had been a standard course by Smyth.
Of the report?
No, that's another Smyth. No, completely different family. But he did a classic book on electricity and magnetism which was all the ultimate in boundary value problems and exotic functions of orthogonal expansions and it was the terror of every graduate student at Caltech, that course that he gave. And I objected, because I claimed it wasn't physics, it was high—powered formal mathematics.
Was that a generational conflict?
I think, in part. But there was another course which interested me a lot which was electron theory. I mean, the electromagnetic theory of matter and so on, electromagnetism, from Maxwell through atomic theory and so on. And I developed a course following some German traditions on that which I liked a lot. Following the books by Abraham and Becker, by Somerfeld, and Born.
Yes, completely classical.
Completely classical, non-quantum, yes.
At Caltech at that time, there was even a larger synchrotron project.
Well, it had been part of the original project to do two stages. It was born of a misconception. Berkeley had been worried about building the bevatron, which was the big postwar machine—the 6 GEV bevatron. So they had built a quarter scale model to test that there weren't any problems with making the guide field work. In retrospect, that was a strange idea—anyway, conservatism. Then they were going to throw this away, apparently, and Bacher had the inspiration to get that model magnet and base a smaller machine on it. The idea was using the magnet as it was and the vacuum chamber as it was and we did achieve 500 MEV electrons, compared to the nearest neighbor which was 330 or something, and then by modifying the magnet to focus the flux into a narrow place, we could go up to 1.5 GEV-0.5 GEV to 1.5 GEV—and so it was a two stage project from the beginning.
So it was designed like that. It wasn't a new project in that sense. Right. But were you still concerned mostly with building when you came back or were there opportunities for your own research?
No, I was doing some of my own research, had my own graduate students, and I was teaching. It turned out, when I got back—because of my European experience both in teaching the Italians about accelerators and collaborating with the French and writing the paper on the integral questions and so on—I was suddenly considered the expert on accelerators. And so I was asked to review the design of the 1-1/2 GEV modification, the second stage—phase 2—of the machine. And I did review the design. I was asked, you know, "Should we make it strong focusing or stay with the weak focusing?" Well, as far as I could see, it was sort of Tweedledee and Tweedledum for that particular sized machine, and with the circumstances we had given to us. However, I did discover one thing which said the machine wouldn't work. But nobody would listen.
And you were right?
Well, I was right in the sense that if you followed the theory as it existed at that time, it predicted the machine wouldn't work. And I kept stewing about it for a whole year—let's see, 1954, 1955—over a year, before I finally found that the theory was wrong. Maybe what I consider my most creative contribution in physics was discovering the quantum effects in synchrotrons. If it hadn't been for that, the machine would not have worked.
So you were right but wrong. OK.
And it was because I stewed about it for a year and a half of trying to think, "How could we fix this thing so it would work?" And not realizing that nature had a little surprise in store for us.
the research on the photoproduction of pions—was that done with the new equipment?
Yes. Well, that was done with both the old and the new.
How did you find the relationship between theory and experiment at Caltech as compared to what you had experienced at MIT?
Well, for me it was less satisfactory, in the sense that cosmic ray theory, I was on top of, pretty much, but the new theory of strong interactions was almost non—existent, and stuff that was coming out was piecemeal and I was not able to comprehend most of it. And the theorists weren't able to do anything with the data we had very much either. And so it was rather unsatisfactory from my point of view. I suspect—I never thought about it before—but I suspect that may have been one of the reasons that I found myself shifting toward accelerator matters, spending more time thinking about accelerators, because there the theory was accessible to me, whereas it was not accessible to me on pion physics.
Yes, but that was more theory of experiment than theory of theory.
Well, accelerator theory is sophisticated. It's mostly classical physics, but of some sophistication, so it's application. But it's application of known theoretical ideas, instead of trying to fit together unknown theories to unknown applications.
But was this the difference between MIT and Caltech or was it just development in time?
No, just the subjects.
You wouldn't say that it was the estrangement of the experimenters from the theorists, or separation of experiment from theory?
I think it's in part my own limitations in following the most recent theoretical developments, and the meaning of them, and how to judge what was significant.
In 1953—also after you came back from Europe—you write here that you studied and gave public lectures on arms control and disarmament.
Was that your first interest in that field?
Well, no. Since I had been one of the founders of the Federation of Atomic Scientists, that was my first venture into that field. But while I was a graduate student and in the first years after—those early years after the war, up until I came back from Europe—I had been pretty much a workaholic young man pursuing his career, and so I didn't have much time. I didn't really get active in the MIT group. There was an MIT group formed after the war, but I didn't become active in that group. But I did get active at Caltech, and I don't remember now, what started it. I do remember a crucial point was when Stevenson proposed that there should be an international treaty on banning nuclear tests, and Eisenhower had said that was irresponsible. A number of scientists got together at Caltech and issued a statement that we did not think it was irresponsible, that it was an important thing to consider. And the trustees tried to get us fired. But that was sort of I think one of the things that got me started, and so I decided it was necessary to do some public education. It was very discouraging.
Was that connected with the Federation?
No, that was completely personal.
It was? OK. Didn't you have any peers in that?
Well, Linus Pauling was doing the same thing. And there were other people. Harrison Brown was also doing something similar. So there was a loose group of people who were sympathetic to each other and doing things. But I think I may have been the only physicist. Harrison Brown is a chemist, geochemist, and Pauling a chemist.
Did you coordinate the work in any way?
What kind of input did you have?
I mean influence, was it lectures to people?
Did you do any kind of advising? Did people come and ask you for advice?
No, this was public education. I'd give talks on television. I would be invited to doctors' groups, labor groups, political groups, fraternal organizations, religious groups—all kinds of groups who wanted to know about these things. The word got around that I might be available if they wanted to hear about this.
Was it mostly frustrating or was it satisfactory in some ways?
Well, it seemed important to me. When I was young I used to believe education was a good thing. I'm not so convinced any more. I had been a leftist, in the sense that I always considered myself a Socialist, and it was so disturbing to go to a labor union and give a talk on disarmament, and find them completely hostile to the idea, because they're afraid to lose their jobs.
A learning experience.
So did it feed into any particular movement after all? Was it completely independent?
Well, I think it ultimately fed into the fact that I was self—educated and available when Kennedy was elected, and the fact that I'd been working on it meant that at least I was knowledgeable about what the issues were. When the Disarmament Agency was first formed, I was one of the first consultants for the Disarmament Agency. And also when Wiesner became President's Science Advisor, he asked me—he remembered, I guess, I don't know—somehow he asked me to begin serving on some committees.
Yes, because Wiesner you knew from before.
Not well, but a little bit, from MIT. We had known each other.
At the same time, you involved yourself in party politics. Had you done that before?
I can't remember the exact timing on that, but they were closely connected, I think.
Were your views on arms control and Adlai Stevenson's coordinated in any way?
Yes, they were, and clearly, people who were close to Stevenson or people I knew in the Democratic Party, we felt that we were on the same track.
So in that respect, it fed into the politics of it and that was an input that you hoped to get there.
We mentioned what you considered your main contribution scientifically during your Caltech period, namely, the first discovery of a microscopic quantum effect in electron accelerators.
Yes. That was one of two things. The other one was the proposal for the super—proton synchrotron in 1959. In the late 1950s, the Brookhaven machine had just been built. It was considered a large machine—a 30 GEV proton synchrotron, using the new principle of the alternating gradient, focussing. At the same time, people in the Midwest (in the Midwest Universities Research Association) had been developing an idea of what's called the FFAG (Fixed Field Alternating Gradient). By using all the powerful methods of this new principle they proposed to make a very high intensity accelerator, but of moderate energy, maybe 10, 20 GEV, but with 10 to 100 times the intensity. There was a wide—spread feeling that that was the wave of the future and one should do this. One could do with high intensities lots of experiments that couldn't be done now. Somehow I felt—maybe iconoclasm again—that this was not the way to go, that the way to go was to try to get the highest possible energy—maybe cosmic rays were in the back of my mind. So it was that when I was invited to a two—week workshop at Madison, Wisconsin in the summer of 1969, I decided to take a hard look at this idea. Everybody was there to try to see how you could do the best job on building one of these high intensity machines. But I went off in a corner and said, "Well, now, suppose you didn't build a high intensity beam, what could you do?" And using the resources of the people present, who were expert on this and that and the other thing, I suddenly got the idea that the way to go was make a big jump of a factor of ten in energy, and showed how I thought that was possible. I think that was important. I think it changed the course of particle physics,
What was the year now, did you say?
That was 1959.
That was 1959.
And for the next few years, I worked on those ideas. But then it got very politicized, and Caltech was in conflict with Berkeley, and Berkeley considered itself the headquarters of particle accelerators and didn't want competition from another organization, and wanted to do one themselves, though not that big an energy. They thought I was crazy to propose something that high.
And it got embroiled in politics.
Embroiled in politics, and then I quit the whole business. Well, I had to quit, because when we asked for money to continue our studies and expand our studies, the AEC said No because they were afraid that if they supported too many study groups, they would get more than one proposal for a machine. And what would they do if they had two proposals?
Well, you say here, you organized the Western Accelerator Group. There was a connection with that effort, right?
It was, yes, four universities in Southern California, who got together to study one or another aspect of this. But when we applied for money, we didn't get money to support it, and Berkeley got the Regents of California to forbid the other campuses to work on it.
So that was pretty rough times. How easily did you decide to abandon it? Was it a hard choice?
Well, it was disappointing. I had never seen myself as running it, because I never saw myself as a great administrator—a big organizer like E.O. Lawrence or anything like that. And I don't remember what my feelings were at the time. Sort of, well, we're going to have to let this go. There was some disappointment, but I don't remember that it was a great disaster.
Were there other conflicts, maybe not as large? Was this a single event or did you have that kind of conflict over different or other matters, between the campuses?
No, I think that was the one political event. It was more complicated, too, than that. I think Bacher was not enthusiastic, and that may have made a big difference. You know, he had such influence in Washington and so on. But he never seemed that enthusiastic, although nominally he supported it, and he nominally signed the application for support. He was worried that Caltech would be getting into something too big for Caltech, and he didn't want it to distort the nature of the small university, kind of thing. And DuBridge, who was then president of Caltech, may have had some concerns like that.
But you don't know for a fact. It would be interesting to look up DuBridge's papers at any rate. They're free now, more or less, so maybe that could be investigated. What ambition did you have with that project? What did you foresee to achieve from it scientifically?
Oh, well, you know, particle physics was in a terrible state at that time. It was very confusing, when you only had a GEV energy, you had these resonances. What did they mean, these new particles and strange particles, and how did all this go together? And Gell—Mann had just come up with the idea of the eightfold way, and maybe the existence of quarks, and I made a very simple argument, to myself and to others, that, you know, if you had tried to do the Rutherford experiment with particles whose energy was comparable to the atomic energy levels, you never would have discovered the nucleus. You know, if you took ten electron volt alpha particles, nothing would have happened. You had to get an energy significantly above the binding energy in order to probe the interior of this complex object. Well, clearly the proton is complex, and if you want to see the interior of the proton, you've got to have an energy large compared to the proton's rest energy. You know, with the 300 GEV, you would still only have, what was it, 20 GEV in the center of mass, which is barely enough to be well above the mass of the proton. That seemed to me clearly a significant step. It would suddenly get one well above the proton mass, whereas because of the recoil loss, with the 30 GEV at 1 or 2 GEV in the center of mass, you're not going to tell what's inside the proton that way.
But it was not purely accelerator theory. You still kept track of the physics.
Well, what we were doing it for was important. And Gell—Mann supported me very strongly. He was one of the strongest supporters at Caltech. When I had come back and sort of said, "Well, you know, this is too big a thing to worry about," he kept saying, "No, go, this is the way to go." It was my colleagues at Caltech, Tollestrup and Walker and Gell—Mann, who pushed to make sure that I didn't just let the idea go as an idea. And Gell-Mann was very disappointed that Caltech didn't want to pursue that and push it vigorously.
What happened to the idea in time?
Well, in time, the Fermilab—Fermilab is almost the direct result of my design.
You involved yourself in the design of the Fermilab.
Not in detail. After this original idea of the cascade synchrotron, and the rough energy scale that one could hope to achieve and so on, I had a letter from Bob Wilson, when I was working on it, saying, "I think what you're doing is great and I think some day something will come of it." And he later on built Fermilab.
Maybe he had something in mind. OK, if we're done with that, we could change gears again. From 1959 to 1963, you write here, you organized, together with Professor D. Elliot, who was a social scientist, a campus and community—wide program on science and public affairs, with special emphasis on the arms race and arms control. Was that a continuation of that earlier effort we talked about?
Well, it was clearly an outgrowth of that. I forget how it actually came up, but there was a growing awareness on all campuses among the scientific community of the scientists' need to be more involved in public policy matters. And at Caltech, there was C. C. Lauritsen who was a great man in government advising and public policy, and Robert Bacher, and H.P. Robertson. I think in informal discussions with them, about shouldn't we be doing something, they organized to make this proposal to the Carnegie Corporation, I believe it was, to get a grant to invite lecturers to come to the campus and discuss informally some of these issues, give a public lecture to the campus, and give community public lectures to the town. And Elliot and I were given the responsibility for running the program. And so I met a lot of very interesting people through that. I got to know Kissinger before he was known, and Thomas Shelling, and Barbara Tuchman, and Sir Solly Zuckerman from England, and some of these people that we had come and give us lectures—and got to know their views of science and public policy.
So the trustees were positive this time around.
They seemed to be. Well, the reason the trustees weren't positive the other time was, one of the trustees was a personal friend of Eisenhower's and had been promised a cabinet post, so he didn't want anything rocking the boat. He became later head of the CIA.
He was in government by this time, perhaps. So he wasn't there to object. Yes, and then we're getting close to another move of yours. Maybe we should say something generally about Caltech, if you have something to say about that.
Well, before we go to the other move, don't forget, this is the period from 1959 to 1963. When I was looking over my vitae—it's incredible. How old was I then? 1959, I was 40 years old. I clearly must have had incredible energy, because not only was I involved then as deputy director of the synchrotron lab, and doing stuff there, and doing this public lecturing—doing this Caltech program on science and public affairs, doing the super—accelerator study and organization—I was also the spearhead of a revamping of the undergraduate curriculum and the program that ultimately led to the Feynman Lectures on Physics. So that was a pretty busy time.
Yes, that's something we should talk about.
Why don't I have that much energy these days?
Well, don't you? I guess Santa Cruz is too nice for you. Well, the origins of the Feynman Lectures and your involvement in that would be interesting to talk about.
Well, I mentioned earlier I had been an iconoclast, and I was always a bit of a small scale revolutionary. In a sense, you know, I was unhappy with the status quo. So when I was at Caltech I began working very soon after I was on the faculty on revising the graduate curriculum, because I felt it had got stuck in a rut. And so I worked on that and got the requirements modified and changed. The graduate student didn't even study quantum mechanics in the first year, because that hadn't been in the curriculum 20 years ago. So that was one of the things that had to be changed. And I was in general unhappy with Caltech's treatment of undergraduates. I think it was a bad arrangement. These are the cream of the high school students in the country, and they're all equal, and they bring them there, and then suddenly some of them start getting B's when they'd had A's all their lives. Now they're getting B's, so they get discouraged. It was psychologically very bad—such a homogeneous group and such a limited opportunity. I mean, I had young advisees who thought they were going to be physicists, and in their sophomore year in college, decided they weren't interested in science; they wanted to study psychology. "Well, why don't you go to Berkeley?" "Oh no, I couldn't leave Caltech because my family would be disappointed, and what would I say to my teachers? I would be a failure if I left Caltech." A number of students I had to convince to leave Caltech. Some of them are now famous psychiatrists. So it was not a good show, the undergraduate situation. I was trying to think of ways that one could at least make it better. I first proposed that we should get rid of it. Caltech shouldn't have an undergraduate school; it should do what it did well, the graduate school. But that didn't sell. So then Jerrold Zacharias, after Sputnik, began the PSSC program, the high school science curriculum program, and then he wanted to go on with the college program. He got me involved in that, and I was on this Commission on College Physics also during this time, and did a lot to try to stimulate changes in the general approach to teaching of college physics and development of new curriculum materials and so on. And so I decided, after I got involved in this, well, it looked like there wasn't a national program I wanted to get involved in, but Caltech should do a program of its own, and so I started to push for and plan a program at Caltech.
You said you weren't happy about the undergraduate program at MIT either.
But the Caltech one was....
And of course you were in more of a senior position to do something about things at Caltech, I suppose.
Yes. Well, the MIT program I wasn't so unhappy about that at the time as the general atmosphere. MIT was built like a factory in the middle of the factory district of Cambridge and so on, and it was not a very nice atmosphere in general for the students. I think it's improved much since.
Well, the archival system at MIT is a lot better than the one at Harvard. What we shouldn't forget, of course, is also other involvements that started with the Kennedy Administration, I suppose. You mentioned the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. You also joined the President's Science Advisory Committee at least as a consultant, as you did with the ACDA, and you also became a consultant or member of JASON at that time, which probably has less to do with Kennedy, but that's another matter. We should leave the JASON discussion to last—that's my suggestion anyway—but we should say something about your PSAC involvement and your ACDA involvement.
We should talk about the circumstances for your beginning consultantships on national security matters, I guess mostly, and arms control matters, to the President's Science Advisory Committee and to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. What were the circumstances for your joining the agencies, in chronological order of joining?
Well, my memory is very vague, so I cannot be sure. And they happened so quickly that I'm not sure of the sequence. I seem to remember, what happened was that someone I knew from the Federation of American Scientists on disarmament matters and so on had gone to work for the Institute for Defense Analyses, IDA, which had some contracts with ACDA to begin studies, when ACDA was the disarmament agency. When it was first formed, it had no staff, and so it contracted some analyses from IDA. And I do have some papers I wrote for them which are not in the bibliography.
Do you have a separate list of those?
No, I just happened to notice some when I was thumbing through my files a few days ago. So I think that was the beginning. And then I remember one time in Washington, someone suggested—or maybe I suggested—that I should go and say Hi to Jerry Wiesner, who had now been appointed President's Science Advisor. Since I was in Washington working on this, also I think I had in mind maybe to get his ideas about what might be interesting to do for ACDA or something. So I remember going by the White House Office of Science and Technology to talk to Wiesner, and I think that led to my being asked to be on a couple of panels or subcommittees of PSAC. How it happened that I got invited to join JASON, I don't know, but shortly after that, I think, I also was asked to work with JASON, and that seemed to be convenient, because it was a way to get a broader view of what some of the problems were, because they had annual briefings on what the major technical issues were, military and other matters.
More extensive briefings than even PSAC had? Well, you weren't a member of PSAC.
No, I was not a member of PSAC. See, I was doing rather relatively narrow things for PSAC, and also PSAC was not a working arrangement, really. You know, we would come there, we would have briefings, and we would ask for more briefings, and then we would write a report on what directions we thought things should go, or what was working and what wasn't working. But it wasn't an opportunity really to do detailed studies, whereas that was what JASON did offer, a way to pursue things, if you found something where you thought you could make a contribution.
How much time did you spend in the different capacities?
For instance, the PSAC panel I was on for the longest, which was called the Limited War Panel....
That was the one panel you worked on?
Well, I'm a little confused. There was Limited War, and then there was Limited War-Antisubmarine Warfare, which I think was an offshoot of the Limited War. Kennedy was quite worried about the Eisenhower Doctrine formulated by himself and his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. The policy was, you save money by putting all your reliance on deterrence, because then you don't have to maintain a conventional military presence. Apparently Kennedy and his advisors were worried about that, and thought one should have a more graduated response capability. So they set up a panel to see what science and technology could do. Were we doing all we could to use science and technology for developing our capacity for limited war, more conventional warfare, from tanks to anti-aircraft weapons to whatever? And I worked on that for a while. One of the big issues that came out was, anti-submarine warfare should be looked at carefully, and detection, counter-measures and so on, and I was on the Anti—submarine Warfare Panel for quite a while.
That was another connection with the Navy.
Yes, back to a connection with the Navy. And then I did some consulting for the panel on Education, R and D for Education.
This is all PSAC now.
Yes. Well, you were asking about time. I was talking about, I remember, during that period from 1962 or 1963 to 1966 or 1967. I can't remember the exact dates. You know, it was to Washington at least once a week for a couple of days and back, so it was three or four trips to Washington per month, or to Florida or to some field thing or something, to a JASON meeting in Santa Barbara or whatever.
There wasn't much in terms of home work.
Well, there was some home work conditions, but not a lot."
How did these activities fit into your previous arms control involvement?
Pretty well. I mean, they seemed to be fitting in. Presumably under Wiesner's influence as well as other people, Kennedy was quite sympathetic, and felt that it was really a worthwhile activity. Now somebody was listening, I had the impression. That was the main difference.
Was that the case with a lot of physicists joining these activities at that time? Did the change in administration play a big role for the physicists' involvement in these things?
I don't know. I mean, under Eisenhower of course the Science Advisory Committee was set up, and Rabi was the first one, and he was in general sympathetic to the need for disarmament and arms control in the age of nuclear weapons, although perhaps not quite as committed to it as Wiesner was. "The only time for serious "work" (that is, study and analysis) was at summer workshops several weeks long organized by JASON.
Well, Killian was the first one, and I guess Kistiakowsky succeeded him.
Well, Rabi was the informal advisory to Eisenhower, and then there was Killian and Kistiakowsky and then Wiesner.
Yes. And the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, that was a shorter period. PSAC was 1961 to 1966 continuously, I suppose.
Yes. Well, the ACDA was shorter I think for two reasons. One, in the beginning they had no staff or very little staff, and so they needed to rely on consultants, and second, I think as soon as Kennedy died, there wasn't the big push. There wasn't that much interest. Anyway, I don't remember why I stopped. It says there, I think I went to the negotiations and was part of the negotiating team in Geneva and so on, as they needed consultants, but I have no good remembrance of what happened, why it sort of tapered off.
Well, maybe we could talk about your Geneva experience a little bit.
What's to talk about? You know, it was ten days in Geneva. It was again one of those disillusionments, because here were these people acting like lawyers trying to convince a judge, as though they were talking to God. Instead of talking about the issues, they were trying to show how the American delegate was a schnook and had made a mistake in his English and his logic was faulty and so on. And the American delegate would do the same thing to the Polish delegate and so on. I became firmly convinced that you shouldn't leave negotiations to lawyers, because lawyers are not used to negotiating. They are used to showing up the other guy, instead of trying to find a common ground. So I lost complete faith in the possibility of the typical arms control negotiations. And clearly the way it happened in the end was that, you know, Kennedy decided there was going to be a limited test ban, and somebody went to Moscow and signed a piece of paper, and it didn't come about from the negotiations.
Or from the consultantship of physicists.
No, I think I and other physicists had a lot to do with Kennedy's decision. Oh no, we had impact through that route, but not through the formal negotiations. It was the analysis, showing what could and could not be done, and Kennedy had to make the decision about the comprehensive test ban. You know, I became an expert on seismology and showed what you could detect and what you couldn't detect, and how you could tell which were bombs—below 5 kilotons you couldn't distinguish between an earthquake and a bomb. I think Kennedy became convinced politically that he couldn't sell a comprehensive treaty to the Congress, but that the limited one—atmospheric and outer space and so on—he could sell, and he just said, "We're going to do that." And he sent Frank Long—did he got to Moscow, Frank Long? And somebody else, a few people, went to Moscow—the Secretary of State or something. They signed it.
Well, what did you do in Geneva?
Each day the Ambassador, Dean, had to prepare a speech, and I would go over the draft of the speech and make sure there were no technical mistakes. And then we would read the speech of the other side to see whether there were some technical interests or faults. So it was being staff to the Ambassador. I mean, he had people representing the legal side and this side and the expert on the Soviet Union was there and so on, as part of his team.
But it was mainly a frustrating experience. You didn't feel that you had much of a positive input there.
But in ACDA I felt I did. I mean, working with Long and Bethe and others who were working as consultants for the ACDA, I did feel we provided some good input for the agency.
More so than as a PSAC consultant?
Well, probably similar.
We didn't talk about your tasks in the ACDA. What were they?
Well, mostly in the ACDA I was trying to analyze how you would monitor the test ban. Particularly, I was the person who was working most on the seismic detection techniques and what were the limits. Teller was saying you shouldn't, because you can't see, because of this damping in a big hole and stuff like that. I was analyzing, and you know, ACDA was an infant organization and the big military establishment would always try to shoot down every proposal by bringing some technical argument. And then it was up to us to see whether they were sensible or not. And in fact, they had big elaborate seismic monitoring outfits, and they were misanalyzing some of their data some of the time. Parenthesis, before I forget: You are particularly interested in JASON, and before we leave Caltech, I remember the days at Caltech pre-JASON when there was concern among the senior people at Caltech like Bacher, Lauritsen, Robertson whom I've mentioned, and DuBridge, that all the government advising was happening with the same group that had been in the government during the war. They knew each other. They all had clearances. There were very little new people coming in. And I can remember vividly some evening discussions in which Bacher and Robertson and particularly some colonel—military, very enlightened man who had been in the military but was in some advisory role in the government—saying, "How do we break this down?" They were essentially creating a JASON-like organization, saying, "Well, what we should do is get some arrangement to get young people cleared and started working on these problems, so then we would have a pool to begin to draw advisors from."
Well, that was not the way it happened for you, of course. You were in a slightly older age range than they were talking about, perhaps.
Well, right in there.
Yes, that's right, you got your PhD after the war. I guess most of the first ones had your experience anyway, you know, starting their education, almost getting there, then being cut off by the war, then later getting the PhD, so you're right. Since we started on JASON, we can continue.
When did these discussions that you were talking about occur and how extensive were they?
Well, I just remember hearing one evening people talking about what could be done about this problem of the generation gap, you can call it that.
So it was not a meeting for that purpose.
Not a meeting for that. I think for this man who was a visitor, and whom the party was for, it may have been one of his reasons for coming, and I'm sorry I don't remember his name. And I was quite interested at the time—because I had begun as a young man feeling squeezed out—hearing my senior colleagues were always doing the government advising, and I wasn't sure they were doing a good job all the time. And why didn't anybody ever ask me?
So you were sympathetic to the concept.
And so I remember being struck by this concept, that this might indeed be a good idea. But I don't know anything more about what happened—whether it was those conversations. I think it was those. I remember the issue being raised, should it be within the government or outside the government, or university, or should it be in a new agency?
Do you remember when that was?
Well, it was well before I had anything to do with the government; I remember that. So that would have been, what? When did I start doing this government involvement?
1961, so it would have been 1958, 1959.
Could it even have had something to do with Sputnik? mean, Sputnik created a lot of that kind of thinking.
It could have been.
But this was unrelated to things going on at IDA?
Well, I think it may have had something to do with the formation of IDA. I'm not sure. Or it may have been one of the things that IDA wanted to do after it was formed. I can't remember. I think it was connected to that. Do you know when IDA was formed?
IDA was formed in 1956.
Oh well, then it was after that. I think it was a Colonel McCormack.
He was at MIT, wasn't he, a vice chancellor?
Later, I think.
IDA was under McCormack.
Oh, I see. I think it was one of the things he was thinking about, as one of the first directors or presidents of IDA.
Was he part of those Caltech discussions?
Yes. He was the guest of honor that evening, I think.
Oh, all right, so it was a formal connection.
Well, he had come to talk to people about other things, I think, and this was an informal discussion about—I think maybe—something that IDA might do or that somebody should do.
You'd done some consulting, of course, and we haven't talked much about that. I mean, just after the war you did some industrial consulting.
Yes. Some of it military in nature.
That's somewhat related to JASON work, at any rate.
Well, not directly related to JASON.
No, but it's the same kind of advising, in a sense.
Yes, it's a consultation, right, where you do analyses, but it has to fit in with what other people are doing.
Yes. Maybe we should start out saying a little bit about that consulting experience, and how useful you found that was.
Well, it was mostly useful in that I needed money. I was supporting two families. Salaries were not very high at that time, and I needed a little extra money, and so I did one day a week consulting. But I also found it interesting and challenging.
How different was it from your physics work?
Well, it was quite different, in the sense, as a consultant, you know, you get to try to see how you can work with other people on a short term basis, because they're working all the week long, and then you come in and try to see if there's some contribution you can make using your special knowledge and experience. I remember, on many occasions I would come in and people were working hard at something, and by taking a different perspective, I could show that they were heading down a blind alley, and that this was not going to lead anywhere, because they hadn't taken into account the quantum nature of light or the wave nature of light or something.
The first thing listed here is Stone and Smith Incorporated, Los Angeles.
Well, that was I think non—military—some little company that was wanting to get started making some electronics. The big ones were with Ramo—Wooldridge Corporation, and they had contracts with the Air Force to do electronic optical image processing, things like that.
But that started only the year before you joined JASON.
Is that right?
Yes, according to your list here-1960 to 1963, it says. Before then you had been a consultant for Hughes.
That was very briefly. I don't remember. I did something a little bit on circuits and so on, and I don't remember much what I did. And then there was a long time stint with IBM, two or three years, or a couple of years. Well, I guess the two or three years is the project. It was a project which moved from International Telemeter in Los Angeles to IBM. The total time was maybe two or three years. (It was mainly a very synergetic association with a Dr. Gilbert King, who moved from LA to IBM—Yorktown Heights.
Yes, 1958 to 1960, it says here. Was that classified?
No. Well, let's see. I really don't remember. The project was at one point supported by the Air Force. It was for translating Russian. Mostly. But I don't think it was classified.
But would you say that these consultancy experiences were....
...educational. They taught me how to work in that kind of a context. To do analyses of a general problem. It was quite different than sitting down and creating your own instrument, where you had to think about all the details, but it was trying to take a bigger view, and drawing on all I knew of physics.
Did it provide any motivation for going on, for example, to JASON, say? Was it an incentive for that?
No, it convinced me more and more that I didn't want to be in commercial work, and to accept the three times increase in salary. I was frequently offered to join one or another of those companies.
So in that negative sense they might have contributed. Did you participate in any summer studies?
No. I don't think so. Well, I did at the ACDA, that summer I went to Geneva. I first went to Washington and worked for several weeks or more in the summer.
Was that before JASON? That was the same year that you joined JASON.
It was before I did any serious work for JASON, I think.
Yes, but that was immediately before. Did you follow the events of the forming of JASON?
No. I don't think I was in that. I think I was a little surprised to be invited to be a member of JASON, because from the little I knew about JASON, it was people like Gell—Mann and Goldberger and so on, who I considered, you know, the cream. I considered myself more in the skim milk category.
Well, what were the circumstances of your being invited?
I can't remember whether it was the connection with ACDA and PSAC, or whether it was that I knew Murray Gell—Mann and he proposed my name. I really have no idea why I was invited to join JASON.
You don't remember a telephone call or letter or anything like that?
What were your thoughts? Were you immediately positive to the fact? Did you consider the questions for and against?
Well, this was at the time when Kennedy was in. I had not been an ardent supporter of Kennedy before the election. I mean, I hadn't been emotionally involved the way I was with Stevenson. But I had great hopes, and when I found that Wiesner was going to be his Science Advisor, my hopes went up that he was listening to people I had respect for and was trying to do something, particularly for what I considered the crucial problems, namely, nuclear weapons, disarmament. I was interested in being helpful, if I could be, in any way. So since JASON offered me an opportunity to work, first, to get the broad view, because of these biennial briefings, and second, to be able to go to the summer study and work on some of the problems that we had uncovered in the PSAC panels, it seemed like a good opportunity to be doing that. It was better than consulting for industry.
Was there an attraction in being....
...in with the elite?
I mean, here I am in with the big boys now, the elite of the community of government advisors. That heady atmosphere, where you have generals come and talk to you. It's the same thing with being on PSAC panels. You know, you travel to Washington on a White House travel voucher. Generals salute you. I'm speaking figuratively. So there are factors like that, which undoubtedly play some role. Certainly I'm sure they did for me and I'm sure they must for other people play some role in being interested in doing it.
In addition to the prestige in being involved with these people, did you hope for any physics to come out of this increasing contact with these people?
No physics. No, I didn't see any, because I had contact with all these people outside, because there was lots of communication and exchange. You know, Goldberger and people like that came and talked at Caltech. But I did hope that things would come out of national importance, disarmament, arms control, a more sensible military policy and so on.
Maybe we should talk about specific projects, and that might lead us to more general comments. It is better to start with the specifics, I think, and of course, the notorious involvement is the Vietnam thing. We'll wait for that and talk about the others first.
Well, that did come at the end.
Yes, exactly, so there's a chronological reason for doing that too. Well, the first project that you were involved in, what was that?
I hoped you would tell me.
I really don't know. My mind is very vague about the early things I worked on. Come to think of it, I now have a remembrance that JASON did come before PSAC—that ACDA came first, and IDA, and then JASON, because I seem to remember that the question came up, should JASON pay for my travel to PSAC meetings, or pay me a consulting fee for that, and there was some correspondence that, no, that wasn't a good idea. Anyway, since I was so busy on other things, I did not get involved in JASON very heavily at the beginning. I remember two summer studies only. One was one at Falmouth on Cape Cod, in which I worked with some other people on some problems of anti—submarine warfare primarily, of ultimate resolutions of sonar, signal detection, optimal signal processing, and things like that.
Do you remember the year?
Now, that I know I have some correspondence on, but I can't....
...1961, we're saying.
Yes, and I have a record of doing studies for IDA, for ACDA, on deterrence in 1962. I was a consultant for ACDA in 1962. That's when I went to the 18 nation disarmament committee in Geneva. And I was then doing things for JASON. In the first record I seem to have, there are bits—mostly some secretary of mine kept a record of all the travel requests for reimbursement and so on, so this all came from that. The first JASON summer study, other than that IDA one for ACDA, was Falmouth. 1965 I think was the first time I really went to a full fledged summer study, and that was Falmouth in 1965.
That was ASW.
Right. I think. I had been on the ASW panel. I'd been doing something on surface ships, sonar problems.
How did you choose a problem like that, or was it chosen for you? How did it happen that you came to work on anti- submarine warfare?
Well, I think in this particular case, it was an outgrowth of Kennedy or Wiesner wanting this Panel on Limited War—R and D for Limited War Developments—and out of that came, were we doing all we could on submarine warfare? And also if you wanted to talk about the invulnerability of the deterrence, you needed to understand more about how invulnerable was the nuclear submarine deterrence. So then when it came time to go to a JASON summer study, we were allowed pretty much to pick the problems we wanted to work on. And there were two or three of us, like Nierenberg and someone else, maybe Foley—Nierenberg at least was on the anti—submarine panel. He and I, I think, started to think about whether we might work together and do some analyses that might be useful.
You were essentially able to choose that area of interest yourself.
I think so, or at least propose it. It seems to me it was pretty much up to us, what we thought we could make a good contribution on.
That fed into an ongoing effort anyway.
And that panel did.
So were there conceivably any projects that you wouldn't have taken up? I guess that's a moot question since you're pretty free to choose anyway so you don't choose what you don't want to do. So you became part of that panel?
Which panel are you talking about?
The ASW panel that Nierenberg was the chairman of, suppose.
Yes. I can't remember whether he was chairman of the panel. He may have been.
So were you thrust into some ongoing work then on ASW, or were you pretty much able also to define your own interest within that?
Well, with respect to JASON work, I think that we just sort of took problems where we saw there was a question. I see it as the way science works. It isn't a question—well, there's a question we want to answer, but you have to marry the desire for an answer to the vision that there's a possible technique for getting the answer. And so I think we would just sit around and talk and say, "Well, now, there's this problem. Don't you think if we analyzed this we could get somewhere? We could solve this. We could make some contribution on solving these problems or understanding better."
So you would say that the process of doing work in JASON isn't all that different from the process of doing work in physics in such?
Do you remember any specifics about the problem?
Was this again something you worked with pretty much by yourself, or was it a truly collaborative effort?
No, I remember there were two or three people who worked on things together. I seem to remember some satisfaction of solving one problem. I remember working with somebody like Foley on something else", and I remember we had discussions with Nierenberg. I don't remember if Nierenberg and I actually worked on it. I think we prepared a joint report. There was a group of us that prepared some sort of report, but I haven't the slightest idea what was in it. It must exist somewhere.
So the nature of the work was that you worked pretty much on your own during a summer study, and prepared a report that was then presented to the Navy in this case?
Or the military or PSAC. It was made available to various government agencies. JASON was beholden not to the Army or the Navy or the Air Force but to an umbrella Department of Defense, often through ARPA, so I think the reports would go to ARPA and they would do with them what they wanted, squelch them or distribute them. I remember what many of us worked on was trying to show that various crazy ideas of Nick Christofilos wouldn't work. I mean, that was one of JASON's big jobs.
That was a separate matter. He was involved in anti—submarine warfare too, I suppose.
Yes. Oh, everything. And some of them were interesting ideas, but often very far—fetched.
To what extent did you draw on your experimental physics experience in doing this?
Well, you know, the idea of signal processing and optimum use of electronics for detection, and some of the matters I had worried about, were both from Los Alamos days of building instruments, and Caltech days of building instruments, and giving my course had raised such issues. So I had lots of experience and also analytical ability with questions about signal processing and detection and noise, things of that sort.
Which of course fed into the ASW.
That fed into those things.
So there were different kinds of projects. The ASW was an ongoing one. That was an inventive effort, in a sense, that was supposed to produce some results.
It was supposed to get a better understanding of what were the limits. What could one do better than one was doing now. Where were the techniques which could be used to improve sonar? I do remember one specific thing I worked on. I prepared a report on surface ships. There was some thought that one attack on the submarine problem, if you were going to think seriously about limited war, was being able to get ships back and forth without them being sunk by submarines. This is different from the nuclear submarine vulnerability problem. And the question had been raised, one way to do that is to make faster ships, because now with the fast nuclear submarines, the normal shipping is very vulnerable. And so they wanted somebody to look at the whole issue of what was conceivable as a way to go in making faster surface ships. And you know, it's pretty well known that ships go slowly, because of that damn bow wave that you get. So the question was, should you use submarines for shipping or some of these new surface effects, either the hovercraft idea, or there were half a dozen surface effect ideas of ships floating on the surface on cushions of air or something. And I remember writing a review paper looking at all of those, and seeing what the pros and cons might be, which might be possible, what the scaling laws might be for size and so on. So it was part operational analysis, as well as part invention and optimization of systems.
To what extent was that a new thing for you, operational analysis?
Well, in some of my consulting essentially I had got into the general ideas of doing, as a consultant for industry, what I would call an operational analysis of a system that was proposed, and see whether it was optimum or what one could say in general. I had gotten into that somewhat. But I think I developed it more during the governmental consultancies.
Particularly in JASON?
I think so, yes, in JASON and PSAC. Occasionally on those PSAC panels one would sort of work at home for a day or two to try to analyze the problem, cast doubt on some statement the military had made—you know, that such a thing was possible or not possible or whatever.
So there are three distinguishable things now we're talking about. We're talking about ASW. We've talked about the surface ships, which is distinguishable from that.
Well, it was part of the ASW. Either you can try to knock off the submarines, make yourself invulnerable to them, or go faster.
OK. And there was the Christofilos problem.
You've heard about that one before?
Oh yes, I've heard about his inventiveness, yes. Are there any particular instances of that we might talk about?
Oh, I don't remember. I just have this general picture that he would come up with this incredible scheme for solving some military problem, and it had so many aspects, and everything was three orders of magnitude beyond anybody's experience. You know, he was going to put up satellites with sails 500 miles in diameter, and they were going to reflect light from here, and they were going to do this as well as communication at one cycle per second, you know.
And you were involved in that?
Occasionally we'd sit down and try to analyze, you know were there any holes in the argument.
Did he himself participate?
Oh, yes, he welcomed that. He was a great discusser. His mind worked very fast and he was very bright.
The ASW and the surface ship thing both have been part of the 1965 Falmouth summer study then.
Did you participate in more than one other summer study?
As a regular participant, I don't think I had time to go to a full summer study, until 1966, when they had the Wellesley—Santa Barbara.
In Santa Barbara in 1966.
That's right, but it started in Wellesley. It was called JASON East. And that started the Vietnam business.
Yes, right, with an expanded JASON including the more senior people.
That's right, Zacharias, and from Caltech the Lauritsens and the....
That was in 1966, both in Wellesley and in Santa Barbara. Well, are there any other projects we should talk about before we turn to that?
I don't find any reference to anything. I was involved in the Commission on College Physics heavily, because by that time I guess I was chairman of the Commission, and so that took a lot of time. But I made time for the Wellesley thing, because I had been thinking, you know, wasn't there anything anybody could do about Vietnam? So when Zacharias and his friends decided to organize that Vietnam project, I was very enthusiastic about taking part and made time for it.
What do you mean by "doing something about the war in Vietnam"?
Well, I considered it was very unfortunate and mistaken and not going anywhere, and was frustrated that there seemed to be no logic in it. Or that I didn't understand the logic in it, I guess I should say.
What kinds of expectations did you have of such a JASON enterprise?
I didn't have much expectation that anything good would come of it.
It was more of a learning thing?
No, more of a desperate hope. I mean, if I can do anything, even if the probability is small, it's worth it.
So did you come to the meeting with any particular ideas?
No. I don't think so. I don't remember coming with any preconceived ideas.
JASON was essentially involved in two things about Vietnam. One was a broad effort of counter—insurgency, and the other was the Barrier Study, which was a specific instance of that. 1966 saw that was the inception of the Barrier Study, I suppose, although the Barrier hadn't been proposed yet.
Well, I think the Barrier study was an outgrowth of that particular thing, in my estimation. Well, in the beginning, my remembrance is that there were several foci for the JASON activity that happened as soon as that particular project was started—the expanded JASON, JASON East. One was what in today's language you should say, "How much do we trust the data base? How much do we really know about what's going on?" There was a great suspicion that in the body count reporting, various things were mythology. Was there any way of getting a handle on the data base, really, the information on what's going on? And who were these people that we were fighting? Were they North Vietnamese? Were they guerrillas from the South Vietnam population? And things like that. So there was the whole question of really understanding what's going on. And then there was the general question of, how do you deal with an insurgency? And then there was the question of the Barrier.
By the time you got involved, all these questions were discussed.
Well, since I was involved in the beginning, all these questions were discussed, and I had a personal orientation that I was very disturbed by the counter—insurgency problem in general, in the sense that my political view was that that was interfering in the internal affairs, more than I thought was right. However, I could accept that if it was mostly infiltration from North Vietnam, then technical help to hinder the infiltration from the North might be a good thing. So I became interested in the Barrier study. Also, I became somewhat disillusioned about the orientation that most of the study took, namely the very high technology tricks of dropping things over in Laos and so on. I was worried about the morality of that. I was worried about the political consequences of that. I was worried about the reality of it working and so on. And I got heavily involved with the two Lauritsens and one or two other people in the fixed ground Barrier idea, particularly across the Demilitarized Zone in the North, and felt that this was sensible politically. If the problem was really infiltration, if one could design a system where technology could assist the local population in defending themselves against infiltrators, that made sense politically. And I felt that the Barrier should be along the whole border, which would have been a major project. I felt also it would show the reality of the situation, as to whether it really was an infiltration from outside or whether it was an internal guerilla insurgency, and if it was not invasion from the outside, it would show that as a lie.
What was your contribution to the effort?
Well, I was one of the major designers of the ground Barrier. I studied the successful Algerian barrier, where the French had built a barrier to keep the Algerian insurgency down—between Algeria and Morocco, I guess it is—what's the neighboring state, I think it's Morocco. And that had been very successful, apparently, and that we took as a starting point. I studied that, wrote a paper on that, I remember. And then we worked out the details, looking in military doctrine, talking to people with field experience, thinking about how electronic capabilities and so on seemed feasible, and trying to analyze the pros and cons. There was a big psychological orientation against it, from both within JASON and from the military. It was considered to be a "Maginot Line" way of thinking and impractical. But anyway this subset within JASON pushed for that, and we worked hard on that and wrote some papers, and I was part of a small group that made a presentation to McNamara on the subject.
Yes. There's a report with your name on it, I think it's called "The Manned Barrier System, a Preliminary Study." That was a result of the Algerian study essentially?
Well, the Algerian study was one small part of the whole Manned Barrier System work the other JASON work was on "unmanned" techniques—dropping napalm and bombs and explosives, people would step on and would break their feet and all sorts of things. This was not manned, it was remote.
When was the meeting with McNamara?
Good thing some secretary kept my travel requests and reports for reimbursement. That's what a historian loves.
Exactly, yes. It is.
Well, I didn't write down the date. That's in 1966, but it must have been sort of Septemberish. September or possibly October but I think September.
How was the work divided up in groups, and how was the JASON work separated from the work of the Cambridge group, if it was?
Well, everybody came to Cambridge, and the whole thing sort of got started there, and focussed on what was going to be done and what were the things to study, and what were the things to go on, and who should be doing what. I don't know that any work continued in the East. The old JASONers, as distinct from the senior people who had joined on Vietnam, I'm not sure that they did any hard work on the problem, with a few exceptions like maybe Townes and Lauritsen. I remember working together with Charlie Lauritsen on the Barrier, on the Manned Barrier, and that was all done at Santa Barbara. And there were people in different rooms working on different aspects, and then there would be seminars and people would exchange ideas, and then we'd go back to our individual holes and work together. Then we would have a military advisor come and work with us for a day or two, to criticize what we had done and think about problems, and so on. So we worked in small groups, but with continual plenary meetings, so that everybody would interact and have an impact, might think of something, make some creative contribution or critical contribution to what everybody else was doing.
That was essentially a traditional JASON effort.
In Santa Barbara.
Yes. And then there were a few people like Gell-Mann who worked on what I call the data base problem.
A more general problem, yes. But the basic contribution was with the Barrier.
Was that what the whole summer meeting of 1966 was devoted to?
You keep wanting to demote the data base problem by calling it a more general problem. I think it was one of the essential things, because, you know, by that time, the rumor was, if you read the newspapers at least, that Johnson would carry around in his pocket a little piece of paper saying how many of the North Vietnamese had been killed this week, and there was a strong conviction, in what we could get from the intelligence community, that this was all imagination and these were false numbers being fed. And the question was, what could be done about that? Why put reliance on it? Or was it a sensible indicator? So there was a fair amount of people of the intelligence community who briefed JASON, and there were people I knew who, I'm pretty sure, must have written reports or at least talked to people about how this was all quite suspect.
Even though this was a traditional way of working for JASON during the summer, the level of input that you had was unusual. I mean, you didn't meet with McNamara on other projects, right?
Well, often at the end of a—I guess that's right. It was different in one respect. Particularly at the beginning and I think in general, the point of JASON was not to be involved in immediate issues. But sort of the excuse for getting JASON started was, here are these academic physicists, powerful and so on. They could be looking at the long range problems that none of us have time to look at on a day to day basis. Short-range issues were, should we have three battleships or two, or should we have more submarines or more airplanes or what kind of airplanes should they be, and what's wrong with this anti—tank weapon, and so on. And you know, when I was on the Limited War Panel, all the briefings we would have were on this anti—tank weapon or that anti—tank concept. JASON, however, would look at plasma physics. You know, what could we say about plasma physics, does it have anything to contribute to the future weapons? And so on. Whereas the Barrier was an immediate problem. Even the ASW one was sort of a long range problem. It wasn't, how is the Navy going to make a better sonar now, but should it be looking into ships for the future, different kinds of ships, should Navy supply ships be above or below surface?
Why did JASON suddenly take up such a different kind of problem?
Well, I think it was the JASON East philosophy of Zacharias and company, that this was an urgent national problem, that we should get as many people working on it as possible, because it was an urgent national problem.
As you just said before I turned the tape, the JASON study on Vietnam was different in at least two respects. Was it also different in respect to how you were able to follow the implementation of it?
I don't know what you mean. What's the question?
I mean, when you do a study in JASON, you give a report to some agency or something like that. Usually you don't try to follow up on what the agency does with it. Is that correct? Or do you do that?
Well, there may have been some people who do it, but I think in general, no, one tended to make recommendations and say, "Look, we have shown this is possible" or "This is not possible" or "This should be useful information, we make a recommendation that one go this way rather than that way." And some people would follow it. Garwin, for example, was involved always with the military and harping on them and so on. I'm sure that he and other people like him made use of JASON studies.
So what I'm asking is if there was more of a tendency, more of a desire in this case to follow up what was done with the recommendation.
Well, I'm not sure that's true. I don't know. I think the big difference was, it was a more immediate problem, and second, the group that had started it and was involved in it, as you say, was a higher level group. It was the senior guys in physics who had personal connections throughout the military, and could invite McNamara personally to come to Woods Hole to a private house and talk to six or eight scientists about this thing, because it was felt that the military would turn a deaf ear to it because it wasn't part of the standard gestalt of the military thinking. Maybe McNamara could be convinced that it was time to change direction. And because of personal contacts or something it was possible. So that was, I think, quite different, JASON trying to get input at that high a level, on that specific a thing.
What was your experience of McNamara's reactions to your recommendations?
Well, I had the impression that he was smart and on top of what was going on, and understood what we were saying, which was quite unusual, and basically was sympathetic to the recommendations. That was my impression, at that one short period we had together, a few hours.
That was the one time you met with him.
And then subsequently what happened to it?
Well, I think McNamara was so convinced that we were right that he resigned. I think he had made a public announcement of trying to begin a Barrier system. But my impression is, from that time on, he became more and more convinced that somehow he didn't like what he was doing in the job or something, ultimately. Do you remember when he resigned? I don't remember. Not long afterwards. Maybe a year later, he decided to get out.
Well, it was the ABM thing too of course. I don't remember exactly when he gave that famous speech against ABM, in which towards the end of the speech he decided to implement them.
Isn't that amazing?
I don't remember the exact date of that. I should have that on hand but I don't. That isn't on your travel schedule either, I'm sure. So it was a similar frustration within JASON, I suppose.
I suppose we're coming to the thing shortly after that—I quit JASON.
That's right. OK, let me put the question explicitly and ask you, what were the circumstances of that and how closely were those circumstances connected up with the Vietnam thing?
Oh, I think very closely connected, in many respects. You know, my enthusiasm for working for Kennedy had diminished a lot when Johnson came in, because I didn't feel that he had the same kind of sympathy toward world politics and disarmament in general and so on. I had also had some disillusion about JASON itself. Some of the work that was done on the Barrier, the Laos Barrier, bothered me a lot as a concept. It had some of the things in it that I felt were wrong with the general politics—much of the politics of disarmament. For instance, Eisenhower felt, well, there was only a technical fix, you just turn the problems over to the scientists. That's not true. The political aspects and national policy has to be based on a combination of technical possibilities and political realities, and I felt that JASON had got a bit carried away on the technical fix.
There was the meeting at the Eglin Air Force Base which was supposed to discuss the problems within JASON. That was in 1968 in April. Did you participate in that?
No. No, I didn't know there was such a meeting.
I think it was in connection with the spring meeting.
In 1968, yes.
By then I was out.
Yes, of course you were, yes.
Oh, I see. I didn't know that. I'd never known it. I think, anybody else saw problems within JASON.
No, you left in 1969 so you weren't out.
Well, that letter was in 1969?
But in April of 1968 I went to work for six months in Italy, so I didn't take part in JASON ever again after 1967, I believe.
I see. There was this meeting.
When was it? It was in 1968? When?
Yes, it was in 1968 in May.
OK, I was already out of the country.
And either just before that meeting or in connection with that meeting, Bjorken left JASON.
Oh, really. I don't think I was aware of that.
But you were not aware of that. That is the earliest resignation that I know about in connection with the Vietnam problem. Do you know of other instances, earlier resignations than your own?
No. I seem to have some remembrance of two other people, but I don't know the time. I know Francis Low pulled out.
He pulled out earlier.
I don't know what the reasons were.
He claimed it was rather frustration with the kind of work in JASON. He didn't feel that he'd fit in, more than any politics.
And then there was Salpeter. I think there may have been something similar.
Yes, that was in connection with Vietnam. Actually I have his letter here too if you're interested. That was in 1970.
Both of these guys are good friends of mine.
That was the year after. It has a slightly milder tone than your letter, but it's essentially the same thing.
Well, that's very nice. He's a good personal friend. It's interesting, we didn't talk about these things together, because we only used to see each other at JASON.
I should talk to him about that also. He resigned together with Furth.
The plasma guy at Princeton. I see.
And then Kristen O'Neil resigned two years later, and Schrieffer and Treiman shortly after that.
Treiman, I'm surprised. I always thought he was an establishment type.
Well, he re-joined, I think, and I don't know the circumstances. It may be that he became a PSAC member.
And may have had to resign.
So I don't know why that was and how that worked.
Well, may I speak a moment to the general background, which is related to my resignation? And that is, I was continuously worried, all the time I was in JASON, about some of the motivational factors that kept people involved. We've talked of some of them, but only by allusion. I mean, it was a prestigious organization. You had the chance to speak to people like General Maxwell Taylor, Dean Rusk as Secretary of State, McNamara—that was unusual, but certainly deputy Secretaries of Defense, we had come and brief us all the time. So it was what you can call a heady atmosphere. And there was the money. I mean, it was a profitable summer study for people to go to. They were paid well. They were always in very pleasant surroundings—Santa Barbara, Woods Hole, Falmouth or whatever. So all of these things, you know, have at least some potential for corrupting the motivations. I always was aware of them and concerned about them, and particularly worried about myself: To what extent was I doing this because I wanted to help the country, and to what extent was I doing it because I wanted these particular personal satisfactions?
Yes, so that was a continuous concern.
So that was always in the background for me. I don't know, that may have played some part also in my deciding to leave rather than face those things. Were those excuses for collaborating with Lyndon Johnson? Or was the real motivation, as York and Salpeter are saying, it's better to work from within than without? That's a perpetual dilemma.
Salpeter has written something on that. I mean, he found that it was best to work from within, up to a certain point of disagreement or disenchantment with the administration, and after that point you just cannot do it.
Well, my threshold was a little earlier. I had tried to work from within in the JASON summer study, and then....
OK, so it was JASON taking on its own life, in a way, like Los Alamos might have done, as you said before. It's the same kind of effect.
Were there discussions within JASON about that problem, or the Vietnam problem, as a reason for taking action?
I don't remember any such in particular, no. I have some remembrance of a disillusionment, not being able to be heard in JASON on certain things about that whole Vietnam discussion.
Within JASON. There was very little support for the Manned Barrier. I mean, I was the only JASON person, and then the two people were ad hoc for the Vietnam project—the two Lauritsens—and maybe one general. I think we were it. So I had a deviation from the general thrust, the mainstream of JASON, and I suppose there was some disillusionment about that.
Yes. I guess that happened more easily when there was a study that was not just going to be....
Right, was going to be actually implemented.
Yes. For instance, when Christofilos wanted to convert the state of Wisconsin into one large antenna, you know, that seemed a bit absurd to me, but it didn't seem to be a crucial matter.
Right. He seemed to thrive on that anyway. I mean, don't know if even he was serious about most of his projects. Maybe he was. I don't know.
Oh, I think he was always serious. You still have a thick stack of cards there.
Oh yes, but it's not as bad as it seems. They don't all pertain to this. So I was just going to ask you if, doing a history of JASON, it would make sense to pick up on one project or a set of projects as a typical case. And to the extent that you know about the activities of JASON at the time you were involved, what would you think would be a good case, both from the point of view of it being typical and also from the point of view of it being possible to do for an uncleared foreigner, so to speak, at this point?
Well, it seems to me the Vietnam thing is very important, but it's certainly not typical. As I said, my involvement in JASON was relatively minimal, and I think you should ask other people that question, some who were most involved. ASW was sort of typical, but it wasn't one of the bigger involvements, as I remember it. There were some projects which had more involvement and probably were more important in the long run. I don't know.
Yes, and I think the Navy is notoriously difficult when it comes to clearances and declassifications, so it might be hard in that respect too. And you were not a member of any committee within JASON, like the steering committee, the membership committee, or anything like that, so I should not ask you about that. Were there any JASON members when you were a member that you could point to in particular as having an especially important influence? We talked about Christofilos, as a certain special kind of influence.
Are there others?
Well, I thought Goldberger was a model, in terms of just general sensibleness and deep thinking, and I felt very comfortable with him as a leader. Gell-Mann was always brilliant and made people think, and was always a little bit unconventional in getting people to look at unconventional aspects. I felt much less comfortable when Lewis took over, because I did not feel quite as sympathetic with him as I did with Goldberger.
Personally or scientifically?
Personally, and I think his scientific judgment I didn't feel was as profound, although he's very competent as a working scientist. But his overall judgments as to what would be good for JASON, although that wasn't often important.
Did that have anything to do with your resigning?
I don't know. I doubt that had a lot to do with it. [Interruption]
We were on Hal Lewis.
Yes. So, it's also hard for me to distinguish the JASON aspects from some of the other PSAC stuff. For instance Alvarez. I think Alvarez was in JASON for a while, wasn't he? I think he was.
Yes, he was.
He was also on some of the panels I was on for PSAC. I thought his influence was always a good one, and Nierenberg was very experienced, and again he was on both, I think.
You worked with Nierenberg on the ASW.
You said before that you were a little surprised when you were invited to JASON, and you were also an experimental physicist, as the majority of JASONs were not. Did you have different tasks or a different status in JASON, as opposed to a theoretical physicist?
I was not aware of that. But I think there is such a caste system in physics. Theorists are considered the Brahmins, and the next caste down is the particle experimentalist and so on. So there was clearly a network of theorists who helped get JASON going. Being people of little experience in the military business, they could take on abstract problems like, you know, would particle beam weapons work? Or something. Or was the plasma effect going to ruin the particle beam weapons? And so on. But then, there were a number of experimentalists brought in, so I didn't feel isolated in that respect. Nierenberg was clearly an experimentalist.
There was Garwin.
And Garwin. And others. Alvarez."
Yes, and Al Peterson.
Peterson was an engineer. Right. And Bernd Matthias was also a buddy of mine in JASON.
OK. I haven't spoken to him.
You can't. He's dead.
Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know that.
Yes. He died suddenly and prematurely a short time ago, a year or two ago.
He was also an early leaver, I think.
Yes. I don't know the circumstances.
Yes, we always used to sit next to each other and commiserate at JASON meetings. Fitch was another experimentalist, very influential in the beginning.
Not on the steering committee. Or maybe he was eventually, I'm not sure. What about the demand for secrecy within JASON? Was that something that was hard to deal with? I mean, it was rather unusual for a physicist, wasn't it, or maybe you were used to it from the war? Did it play any role at all?
Well, in the beginning there was a notable inconvenience, because it wasn't possible to take papers home and work on them in between meetings and things like that, because we didn't have cleared facilities, didn't have cleared safes for storing documents or even getting reports from JASON. That was a problem, at first. When I got to Stanford, that all was cleared up, because Panofsky had been on PSAC I think already by then, and he was an advisor to the Defense Department, and so he had a "I had also good interactions and collaboration with W. Munk. Top Secret safe. So it was arranged that I could share that with him. Then I could have JASON documents, and that's probably where my JASON files are, in that file.
Yes, I've seen that, the outside of the safe.
So it was inconvenience. Oh, and there were other absurdities. When I was going to go to the USSR to an international meeting, I was visited by the CIA and told by somebody—I don't know who, some security officer—was told not to accept invitations to private homes because I would be drugged and compromised and so on, and then they would blackmail me to get secret information. Since I had Top Secret clearance I had to be particularly circumspect.
How many invitations did you get?
Unfortunately, none. Well, I mean, to be compromised. No, I laughed at them and said, "This is absurd. I am there. If I get an invitation I would love to go." And I did, I went to several private homes.
OK, and you never heard about that again?
But I was thinking also in terms of publication in the open literature, whether there was any conflict of that sort, whether there was any kind of work you did in JASON that conceivably could be classified and then prevent you from publishing.
Well, all the work in JASON was classified, and I never published it. Interesting question."
Right, but did you work on some experimental projects in JASON where parts of it would be considered as classified, that would also be parts of your academic work?
No. They were solely independent. There didn't seem to be any concern on that.
Right, and there was never any attempt at looking over your shoulder in your other publications?
Not that I know of. I never had any concern about that. There was very much compartmentalization. "The JASON work was mainly "developmental" and not "basic", so it did not seem so important to have an open publication.
What about your public role and your JASON involvement? For example, in PSAC or, I don't know if you did Congressional testimony, for example, where there were issues pertaining to your JASON work that you wanted to....
...speak publicly about?
Speak publicly about, yes.
Well, I think that was one of the parts of the bargain, that once you got into JASON, I felt that, you know, I had to give up talking publicly about certain things. It was a decision, rather than working politically outside the establishment, to work within the establishment.
So it was a decision for you when you joined JASON. That was something you were aware of.
Yes, I think it must have been.
Because there are JASONs who do speak out publicly and do get accused of using JASON information. Garwin is the most notorious example of that, you know. The SST debate, I guess, was an example of that. Was that something that was discussed within JASON, or was that just an understood thing?
I don't think it was anything understood sharply. I'm not even sure for me that I felt completely squelched publicly. It was in part that I was just very busy with other things, and so I think in large part that was one of the reasons I stopped making public speeches on the subjects.
Well, that lecturing activity at Caltech, didn't that overlap somewhat with that?
Well, I was just noticing here that pretty much, my public lectures decreased at the time I was doing JASON stuff.
So there is a correlation there, a negative correlation.
You may have better information there about that.
It was also, as I say, that when I moved to Stanford, you know, I was heavily involved in administration of a new, big and growing project, and so I had less time. And then with the Commission on College Physics and JASON and PSAC and ACDA I had no time for public speaking.
So it's a matter of time also, of course. I've asked you already about the relationship between JASON work and academic physics work, and you're saying that there wasn't much.
In my case, I was not aware of any significant overlap. Well, I certainly used my knowledge from my experiments, my experimental background and instrumentation background, and used a lot. But I'm not aware of any feedback the other way, any reaction back on things I learned in JASON that I would want to use in my normal academic pursuits. There was no conflict about that.
That's happened to some people, that probably are a minority. What about your original expectations of JASON, and your experience there—just a general statement of that? I mean, you said that you joined because of a perceived need for getting a new generation of physicists into national security questions. Did you feel that JASON fulfilled that the way that you hoped when you joined?
I felt at the time it did. There was an opportunity to train a group of young, active and presumably competent young physicists in what the issues were, the military political public issues, and by getting them involved and working, develop some competence and knowledge, as well as having a group of people already with security clearance, so that if there was an invitation to work on a panel, you didn't have to wait six months for clearance procedures. So I think it did fulfill that, and I think under the Kennedy Administration, I felt I was doing useful work. So for me, you know, the crucial part was the political context—was there a receptive ear up the line?
Well, also, you indicated that JASON might have taken on a life on its own, and that had happened by the time you quit.
You use that figure of speech. I don't remember. Did I say that?
I use that as a figure of speech. I think you said something that implied that to me. I may have misinterpreted.
It doesn't sound like my words, that JASON took on a life of its own. I don't remember having had that concept.
You said that you were worrying when you were a member of JASON....
Well, I kept worrying. I saw one potential danger in JASON—not at the end but in general. I don't think it's necessarily particularly JASON. It is the feeling in governmental advising of being important, the heady atmosphere of being up there in the high reaches of power, being influential. And JASON had in addition a financial motivation. You know, it was a way to get some good money for summer work. And to be with a group of friends—sympathetic, exciting, intellectual atmosphere. I don't mean that as a thing peculiar to JASON. I think that motivates cabinet members, ambassadors, in the high levels of government. It's the Machiavellian thing that power tends to corrupt, in some way, in a small way. I worried about that. I didn't say I saw that in JASON. I worried about it in my own motivation. I worried about it occasionally in other people's motivations. But I'm not willing to condemn any part of JASON for that.
No. So that's not a major consideration in that sense. How unique do you consider JASON, in the way it combined basic research and government advice the way it did, at the time you were a member of it?
What's the question, how unique is it? I have no idea, since I don't know what else existed. They were probably classified. There were Air Force advisory panels and Army advisory panels and Navy advisory committees, and there was this and that. So there must have been other people doing similar things, and I don't know exactly how they related to JASON—there was ARPA and so on.
OK. I would think that many of them were more directly application—oriented, and didn't consist of part time academics and an ongoing organization like JASON was. The panels were mostly ad hoc or mostly established for a particular purpose.
I guess. I don't know of anything else which is similar, so to that extent I suppose it's unique, as far as I can see. But I'm not very familiar with the whole system.
JASON was also supposed to work as a springboard for the younger generation to enter into national security matters on a more general level, a higher level.
And I think it seems to have been successful.
Well, in your case you entered the other activities....
...well it all happened pretty simultaneously.
So it's a little hard to say but it happened anyway. OK, let me end this session today—since we have kept at it for a long time—with a rather important question, from my point of view at any rate. How do you consider the impact of JASON?
On the country as a whole, do you mean, or on me?
Both. I was thinking of the country as a whole. I was thinking on the relationship between physics, physicists and the military. I was thinking on physics, if there is any such impact. On you, yes.
I think I have nothing useful to say on the impact of JASON on the military, on the government, on the country as a whole. I think you have to talk to people who are being impacted to see whether JASON had some impact on them. I don't have a good feeling for that.
Yes, that's what I'm trying to do now too. I'm trying to talk with ARPA directors and DDR & Es and those kinds of people, maybe even program directors within the agencies who had a hands—on connection with JASON.
You have to take with a grain of salt, what they say, because they may have personal motivations, biasing one way or another.
Yes, but hopefully if I ask enough people, that would help.
The impact on me is that it did introduce me to some details of how the military works, and the problems of the government. I think had history gone a different way, I could have ended up being more involved in high level government advising. But the whole Vietnam business poisoned the atmosphere. I became disaffected with the government and public reaction to this whole thing, and so essentially took the side of the protesting students in this thing, and so that cut me off. And then I had no great motivation since to get back, and probably would not have been invited back. So it had a significant impact on me. At the time.
Well, did it have impact on you in terms of subsequent activities?
Well, in terms of my perspective, the fact that I now understand why it's almost impossible for a President to do anything. You know, the Navy has a life of its own. As scientists, a panel would show that the arguments that the Navy gave for building three more cruisers were just wrong. So they would come back next week with another proposal for building, guess how many cruisers, three more cruisers, for a completely different set of reasons. And we would have to work for six months to show that those reasons were wrong, and they would come with another. Why? Because there were going to be three new captains, and when you get three admirals you need three cruisers to put a captain on each one. You know, there are some of the basic facts of life about the military that I understand now, but that I didn't understand before.
Yes, a negative educational experience, I would say.
But it's reality.
Did you have any contact with anybody in an agency or somebody outside JASON in connection with your activity there, that it might be useful to talk to in this respect, that you could recommend?
You mean, to recommend to you?
Yes, to me as interview subjects.
Well, you know about Garwin, and you will talk to him.
Yes, he was a JASON member too.
Yes, he was a JASON member too, an insider.
You talked about McNamara, of course.
Well, why don't you talk to McNamara? He's now a private citizen.
Yes, that's right.
I'd be very interested to know what were his experiences in general, as the Secretary of Defense.
Yes, but his experience was rather exclusively with the Vietnam study probably, or was it broader than that?
Well, he was Secretary of Defense. Did he come with Johnson or was he there before with Kennedy?
He was there with Kennedy, oh yes.
So he might have known although I think most of the things that JASON did didn't reach quite that high up. Unfortunately some of the people, like Maxwell Taylor and some of the others who knew about it and had to do with JASON are dead. There are a lot of people around and I just don't remember their names. I'm sure you can find them and you will find them in your research.
Yes, and I'm trying to find out.
I don't know. Well, Herb York is a very good example. He was in JASON but he was also out of JASON. He was in ARPA or DARPA or whatever.
Well, he was an administrator in JASON, wasn't he. He was technical staff assistant or something.
And Johnny Foster.
Well, he was an example. Was he in JASON? No, he was outside. He was on some panels with me before he was DDR & E. Limited War Panel, I think. I got to know him there. Well, I'm trying to think of people outside who would be good to talk to. Well, Wiesner is clearly one.
Yes, Jack Ruina too, perhaps at MIT.
Wasn't he in JASON at a later stage or something?
I spoke to him on the telephone, and he told me he was the shortest lasting JASON member ever, because he was asked to become a JASON member, accepted, and then a week later became director of IDA.
Maybe that's why I thought he was in JASON. He was IDA. Right.
We ended yesterday discussing your JASON involvement, and I don't think we got on the record the date of your departure. Your resignation letter that I have here dated the 2nd of April, 1969. I don't know if you remember any particulars about writing that letter—what was the immediate cause of it, or whether you had waited, or what caused the immediate response there. Dr.
No, I don't at the moment remember. I think I may have mentioned yesterday, that I was out of the country working in a laboratory in Italy from April 1968 until October 1968, and so I didn't have any involvement with JASON during that time. I had essentially withdrawn from JASON by the end of 1967, but didn't think to do anything formally about it. Since you say the date was April, that sounds as if it's about the time that the spring meeting was coming up, and it would have been the time to go to the annual spring meeting of JASON, and I probably decided at that time not to continue.
Yes, in order to make it entirely clear about your position before the spring meeting.
Let's see, when were the big student demonstrations? There were large student demonstrations at Stanford, and they may have had an influence on me, but I can't remember when they took place.
No, I don't have that either. Of course there were big problems particularly at Columbia, but that was essentially later. SESPA was at the peak in the early seventies, not the late sixties, as far as I remember. But you remember having problems with that before resigning from JASON?
No, I don't. I'm just questioning whether that could have had some influence, but as you say, that probably came later. I think it did come later.
I think so too, as a matter of fact. And there's also this letter from Herbert York here dated six days later, which, as you said, was the only response you received to your decision. What was York's position in JASON then? Was he a regular member?
I believe so. You'd better ask him. I remember that he was often present.
He wasn't the chairman or anything of the sort.
No. That was a personal response.
Yes, that comes out from the letter too. This isn't really an appeal to you to reconsider, but just another troubled man's views on the same subject essentially. So that was another question I was going to ask you—your experience with student demonstrations and that kind of thing. But you don't remember the timing of that or whether that played a role in your retirement.
Let me look for a moment at my chronology, because I do remember something. What I'm looking for is, I went to India in 1969 or 1970 as a member of—that's in here some place—an international joint India—US symposium on physics education and research. And I took part in it. I was I think one of ten American delegates to that conference, that symposium, and that was, I believe, in the summer of 1970. Yes, here I found it, the summer of 1970. It must have been July, 1970, and that was, I know, at the height of the student demonstrations around Stanford. I made a statement near the beginning of the symposium, that it was important that my participation not be seen as representing approval of the US government position in Southeast Asia, and that I was there as a private citizen, not as a governmental representative. The Indians appreciated that a lot, but the American AID representative who was giving financial support for this was very unhappy that I had made such a statement. So I know that in June of 1970 I had been quite influenced by the student demonstrations, for which I had a lot of sympathy. But when that began and whether that was also a factor in 1969, I don't know.
It's close, anyway. I think it was Roger Dashen who told me about having problems with students in India. I'm not sure whether that was the same trip. Of course you don't go to India all that often, but....
I don't think he was at this particular conference.
OK, I don't have that information here, so that's kind of useless to follow up. After our session yesterday, in our discussion up to or through the Caltech period, is there anything that you feel we have left out? I guess you had administrative responsibilities at Caltech that we didn't talk much about, for one thing.
Well, I didn't have much in the way of administrative responsibilities until the last few years, when there was a small palace revolt. The three of us, Walker, Tollestrup and I, who had become the senior people, dominant people in the synchrotron lab, felt that we should have more direct responsibility for the running and making long range decisions and negotiations with Washington on money and so on, so we would have some feeling of the possibilities. And so we decided that we should approach Bacher and say that he should give us more responsibility. It was decided among the three of us that I should make that approach, and also say that we had agreed that I would be the person to take on some administrative duties. And so, after a discussion with Bacher, he appreciated the problem, the situation, and proposed that either I be made the director of the laboratory, or an alternative would be that I would be the deputy director and he remain director, and that seemed acceptable. So I was deputy director for about three years, and took a role in making out budgets and deciding on what we were going to be doing in the future, and we made a program for making an upgrade of the accelerator and things like that.
That was the other side of the coin. You were happy until some point not having to involve yourself in administration, but it had its limitations, in the sense of what you could do.
Yes. Well, what we could foresee. I mean, when we began thinking about important big upgrades, we didn't have a way of thinking about it, because we didn't have a feeling about what the limitations on the resources might be. We never saw the budget. We never had any impression as to whether we were running close to the edge or not. And then when we wanted to think up a large expenditure, like buying a linear accelerator injector, we didn't have any feeling. Well, we were quite sure there wouldn't be that much money in the budget, but what were the possibilities of getting that? And not having been in on the negotiations, we felt that creativity in terms of the future was being compromised by not playing the role in that part of it.
Was that a big transition, or was it smooth?
No, it was a relatively smooth.
So you were able to concentrate essentially on the same things you had concentrated on before.
Well, it took a little more time. I had to work with the chief engineer, making the budgets and so on, and the accounting people.
Yes. And that was how late in your Caltech period?
I don't remember the exact date. It must have been in sort of like 1961, I would guess.
At about that time too, you did all these advisory things that we talked about in ACDA and IDA and JASON. Also, you took part in the Pugwash Conferences from 1960 to 1963, which is something we have not touched on. So maybe we could talk a little about that, in relation to the other advisory and national security kinds of problems you were involved in. First of all, what was it that motivated you to join that, and how did it come about that you participated?
I guess the way it came about was because of my long association with Harrison Brown of Caltech, who had been one of the prime movers in the Pugwash. He had been a friend of Leo Szilard and associate of Szilard's at Chicago before he came to Caltech, so he had been involved in the Pugwash Conferences from the very beginning. I suspect he must have been the person who proposed my name, and I was invited to a few of the conferences. I felt they were very important, as a way of establishing some sort of communication and helping people from the USSR to understand the American motivations for some of the positions on arms control, and also helping us to understand theirs. So I felt that these informal interactions were potentially very useful. And since they were not official governmental contacts—although occasionally government officials would take part—one could explore informally what might be certain acceptable positions on arms control. They were disturbing in some respects, because it was clear their delegations were not non—governmental. I mean, the distinction between governmental and non—governmental is quite different in the USSR, and they clearly had to be cleared by the government. And when they arrived they had prepared papers that presented the government's point of view, not their own, not individually. There was no spread in opinions expressed there. It was quite a monolithic approach. But occasionally, on the informal level, one was able to get some indication of what things might be flexible in the Soviet approach. And equally important, I think, was to get an impression of the emotional impact of various aspects, so one could see why they were taking this stand, whether it was arbitrary or whether it was from a deepseated fear. So I thought they were useful. In fact, I think one of them was very useful, in the sense that I was asked to go on a very rush basis to a very small group. It was not one of the regular conferences, but a very small group that met in London on the ground of the nuclear testing question. Frank Press, who was a seismologist, and I, from the US, and one or two others—I don't remember at the moment—and a couple of people from Great Britain and maybe three or four people from the USSR sat down and thrashed out sort of the scientific realities of what could and could not be done with seismic detection. I think we reached a pretty good understanding, and I think we also were able to impress on them that our feeling of the politics in the US was that the US would not be willing to agree to a comprehensive test ban because of the verification issue unless they would allow on site inspections, and that they should really understand that if there were to be no on site inspections to check on questionable low intensity events, then we did not see it as politically likely that the US would be willing to agree to the treaty. And it was not very long after that the treaty was signed that did not involve a ban on underground testing of low yields.
So this was a working session, essentially on technical problems?
Well, technical, and as I mentioned, political realities—technical in relation to political realities.
How did you sense that the Pugwash Conferences were used by the Soviet Union as a vehicle towards understanding the treaties? And by the United States, for that matter?
Well, I don't think I want to say anything about how the Soviet Union used it. I don't think I'm an expert on that. I believe that many, if not most of the American participants had the same view that I did, that it was important to try to keep informal channels of communication open, so that there could be understanding of the point of view of both sides, and the intensity of the commitment to various options.
Yes, but obviously you found that vehicle more useful than the conference....
...the 18 nation disarmament conference? Yes. It was a much better use of one's time and energy.
And you also saw that that had more input on the final decisions.
I suspect so. I suspect so.
How many conferences did you go to?
I think I went to two large ones and one small one. One at Stowe, Vermont was a large one. And I think I went to one other some place. And the one small one. And then, my participation decreased. I think I was not invited any more. had the impression that around that time, in 1963, there were more people at high levels in the government agreeing to go. I mean, before 1962, people who had any kind of position in the government were discouraged from going, I'm quite sure. But under the Kennedy Administration, many more people who were high level government appointees, such as Frank Long who was the chief scientist at the Disarmament Agency and so on, were willing to go and participate, and as a result the membership lists got changed, and I was pushed off the bottom, quite reasonably, I think, since the participation was limited and the funds were limited.
So the extent to which the American administration was able or willing to use the Pugwash Conference and take it seriously varied also.
And in a sense you were sacrificed in that respect.
I believe so. It may have been also felt that people didn't think I made that great a contribution to the conferences.
Well, what contributions did you make? Were there lectures?
Well, there were presentations of formal papers, then discussions, then attempts to write some sort of a consensus statement on all the various issues that had been discussed. And I was not usually asked to prepare in advance a statement, as a few people were. So I took part in the discussions, the working groups, the drafting of some position that the conference might take.
Was it the possibility of a test ban that provided the main context for these discussions during these years, or was it broader than that?
Oh, it was much broader. The test ban was one of the topics discussed. I mean, the general arms control, disarmament, as I remember at that time, the Soviets were pushing—their main thrust was always complete and universal disarmament. They were always saying, that was the main discussion. We had to discuss complete disarmament of all kinds of weapons, and so that always had to be on the agenda, but then in addition they were willing to discuss details.
Yes. You said that your lectures on arms control matters became fewer when you were a member of JASON. I think you indicated that.
I said, "during that period." I don't like your putting it "when I was a member of JASON" because I was doing many other things during that period also. It's an implication, an association, that I am not willing to make.
Fine. But what I'm getting at is that the Pugwash Conferences was not quite inside advice, it's a combination of sorts. Was there any conflict ever between what you were able to say at the Pugwash Conferences and the work you were doing in a more inside capacity?
I don't know quite what you're saying. Are you talking about security matters?
Yes, that's right. You had access to....
Had access to secret classified material.
Yes, to what extent was there a conflict there?
Well, whenever one is working with secret material, one is aware always or supposed to be aware that when you're talking to friends, colleagues, certain subjects are kept out of the conversation, and that's true whether they were colleagues in the US or the USSR. And so I'm sure I was aware that I was not supposed to say certain things. But I'm not aware that they were a great bar to talking in a sensible way about these things. In fact, I do remember now, a certain amount of annoyance. There was a tendency, particularly in the Eisenhower Administration, I remember, to say, "Well, you know, we can't agree to certain disarmament things and so on, and we can't discuss these things publicly because the important details are classified." And I thought that was a smokescreen kind of thing, more often than not, and that the essential things could be talked about in a non classified context.
And you were able to do it.
And I felt we were able to do it at Pugwash. I don't think there was any compromise of security.
So your experience with, I shouldn't say JASON, but inside advice, was beneficial rather than a hindrance to what you were able to do at Pugwash.
I believe so, yes. Yes, I now remember, that was one of the good things about being in that kind of work. Before, when I was making public talks, there was always a little nagging concern that maybe there were secret things I didn't know about which would have made a big change in what I was saying or in my opinion—although I didn't think so, but you never could tell. And then after I was on the inside, it was clear that there were none.
You never felt you had to say the opposite of what was really the case because of security regulations—that kind of thing. All right, maybe we should go back to your physics career again, and talk about the transition from Caltech to Stanford, unless there are other things at Caltech that you'd like to mention before we turn to that?
Let's see, I guess we did speak about the undergraduate physics curriculum business.
Yes, we did speak about it.
The project on the new physics course.
Yes, a little bit.
I think we just spoke briefly about that.
Yes, we didn't speak much about the book, the Feynman Lectures. That we didn't treat particularly. I don't know if you have anything to say about the origins and your work on that.
Well, I think we somehow got interrupted. It was my involvement with the Commission on College Physics which got me sort of to focus on the undergraduate situation at Caltech.
Which was from 1960 to 1966 that you were on that Commission, and chairman from 1964 to 1966.
So I started thinking, discussing and looking at the undergraduate curriculum at Caltech, and decided that we really should do something. They were still using the book that had been written by Millikan some 25 years before, I think, and we should look at the modernization of it. Of course, one of my big concerns had been that the Caltech focus was on graduate education, and that the undergraduates were so small in number. All the time I was there, I never gave an undergraduate course, was never asked to give an undergraduate course. So I started making some internal noises that, we should do something, and decided that what we should do was completely revise the first two years, introducing much more modern physics. It bothered me a great deal that students—these excited young high school students, 18 years old—would come to Caltech all fired up about learning about atoms and quanta and all that kind of thing, and not hear a word about atomic physics until the third year they were there. To spend two years not hearing anything about what was going on in physics in the last 60 years just seemed to me terrible. And no wonder they lost motivation, or had crises about what they were doing with their lives. So I thought it was very important to integrate the ideas of modern physics into the first two years, and so I started saying we should do this. Well, it was clear that if there was going to be time devoted to this sort of thing, there had to be some money found to support this activity, because Caltech couldn't superimpose it on top of the other thing without having the teaching load suffer. So Bacher went and inquired around and found a sympathetic ear at the Ford Foundation for getting some money to pay for released time for hiring visiting faculty to do some of the teaching load.
So he gave you an ear immediately?
Well, he couldn't very well say, "No, we shouldn't be improving our curriculum." Although it was interesting, the first reaction I got from the majority of people, both faculty and administrators at Caltech, was "What do you mean? We're famous for doing a good job of teaching and we're doing a good job of teaching." "Yes, I know we're doing a good job, but we could do better." And so they were convinced. I got some big help from Lauritsen, particularly the younger Lauritsen, Thomas, and a few others who felt, yes, it was important to do something, and so Bacher felt that he had to. I think he felt constrained that there was a strong enough sentiment among the faculty that he should try to find some way of making it happen, and he got money from the Ford Foundation for a two year program or three year program. The program I'd outlined was that we should spend a year preparing and then for two years do the program.
So he got this grant, on the order of a million dollars, as I remember. Oh, there was support for faculty preparing for a year in advance, faculty devoting their time to helping do the thing, you know, and providing secretarial help and so on. It was not the idea of a book at the time. It was just to re-do the two year program in introductory physics. It was a two year introductory physics course which had to be taken by every student at Caltech, engineers, chemists and so on. So we got the money, and I was a little upset when he decided to make Bob Leighton the director of the program. The reasons were obvious. He thought I was too radical, would not introduce as much conservatism as should be into this; he was worried about having a too far out program. So there were Leighton and I and Victor Neher, who was an old famous colleague of Millikan. Neher had been heavily involved in laboratory equipment and courses at Caltech and done a marvelous job. He loved to make experiments for students to work with, so he was given responsibility of re—doing a whole set of experiments for the undergraduate labs. He invented the air track, which is now ubiquitous. Everybody has air tracks. And other interesting things. And Leighton and I were to spend a year outlining the new course. Well, that was a disaster. I would come each week to the meeting, we had weekly meetings, and we'd work. I would come in and say, "Well, now, this is the way we can treat this subject, introduce the quantum effects and so on." And he would come in with essentially the same old thing, saying, "No, we shouldn't change it much because they wouldn't be able to understand that." And so on. So we were at loggerheads for six months, and I was beginning to despair that anything useful was going to come of this, until one morning, one night or whatever, I had a brilliant inspiration: Let's get Feynman to give the lectures. Then we can present alternatives to him, but he will be the final arbiter and make the selection as to what would be in. So then both Leighton's and my stuff would go, but Feynman would decide and do it. And we would discuss with Feynman about what we thought might go, that the students could accept, would be capable of doing, and so on, but let's make use of Feynman's genius. That was my inspiration. Leighton was very cold to the idea. He said, "He's never taught any undergraduate physics. He only lectures to graduate students. He hasn't had any contact with freshmen. Besides, he wouldn't be able to speak at their level." And so on. Bacher had the same idea. "We can't afford to have Feynman do that because he's too important for our graduate courses in quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics and particle physics and so on. That would be a waste of time."
Had you asked Feynman in advance?
Yes, I think the first thing I did was to not go to Leighton or Bacher, but to go to Feynman and say....
...to get his approval....
"Now, listen, Richard." I said, "You've spent 40 years of your life trying to understand nature, and now here's your chance to distill it down and make it available. And you know, no other great American physicist of the modern age has done like the Germans did—like Born and Sommerfeld and so on—really pull his knowledge together and make it accessible in a pedagogical way. This is your chance to make a big impact." And he seemed to catch on to that idea and was interested. He got interested. The next day he came back to me and said, "Yeah, well, maybe we could do this." So clearly he was getting fired up. But then I had the opposition. So then I went to my allies, like the Lauritsens, and they thought that would be great. They just thought that would be tremendous. Then I went to Neher, the experimentalist, a member of the triumvirate. He thought it would be tremendous, because they had heard Feynman lecture in departmental colloquia and so on, and he was always just crystal clear. So finally I was able to prevail and convince Feynman and convince the administration and convince Leighton that this was the way to go. And then of course, our original idea had been that as the lectures were being done, we would tape them, and make notes for the students. We had various people help us at first, but that wasn't working very well because everybody had a different approach. People would try to change it a lot and Feynman would be unhappy and people wouldn't understand what he was saying and modify it. And so, it ended up, towards the end of the first year, that Leighton and I were doing most of the writing, trying to convert the oral transcript into chapters of a book. Or chapters for the notes which we got to the students as quickly as possible, usually in a few weeks.
Were the lectures transcribed?
Yes. He wore a little radio microphone. We had tapes made and the secretary transcribed them. So as it approached the end of the first year—or over halfway through the first year—it was clear that this really was material for a book, that we really should try to put it out in a book, and so we spoke to various publishers. Various publishers had already approached us, had heard about the program, Caltech being famous, Feynman being famous, and had said, "Let us know whenever it's time for a book." So we said, OK, make a proposal. I think it was in April or May that we had a proposal from one company, that they would have copies available for our students the next fall if we went with them. That was crucial. That's why we chose that particular publisher, Addison Wesley, because they had photo type setting or something in the house, and then made a couple of creative suggestions which allowed the speed. For instance, the idea of having a big wide margin and putting all the figures in that. That was an original creation of Addison Wesley for that particular set, and now it's quite common. And at first, I had trouble, because when I sent them the material, the editor would come back with all kinds of changes which took out the spontaneous colloquialisms, the natural language which we had intentionally kept. So I had to make some very stern words to the Addison Wesley editor, and then they understood and things went smoothly. And then during the second year, when Feynman was giving the second year's lectures, Leighton took responsibility for doing the first year, giving lectures and running the course. And so I had complete responsibility for volumes 2 and 3, working with Feynman on what material was going to be included, writing the material from the transcriptions, working up and getting the whole thing published.
How was the result as compared to your original conception of it, when you discussed it before giving it to Feynman?
I was very pleased. I was very pleased with the results. I didn't think it would have much wide application, because the Caltech students are a special brand. I mean, they're not the average university student in the country, so I felt that what we were doing would not necessarily be widely applicable, but that it would have an influence. People would see what was happening at Caltech and try to adopt some of the things, so in that respect, I was very pleased. I was very pleased that it seemed to have much more impact than I'd thought. Of course, it still never got used in the United States to any large extent, except by graduate students preparing for their examinations, but it was widely used outside the United States, England and various Commonwealth countries. Now there have been translations into 14 different languages and there are still translations being made this 20 some years later.
Yes. I used it myself in Norway.
Now, the thing I was unhappy about, though, was, that when we did the lectures, when we decided to publish the lectures, this was clearly not a textbook which had been my original concept. It's a set of lectures and doesn't have all the things a textbook should have, such as emphasis, exercises, outlines or pointing to what's key or not, because students have a hard time understanding, is this little peripheral comment important or is this important?
Yes, it's difficult for self study.
Yes, so I had intended to adopt the technique which was used very successfully by Samuelson in his famous economics book, which is the lecture book and a second book approximately equal in size and importance which had worked out examples, outlines, emphasis, summaries and exercises, and I had intended to work on that after the book was finished. And that never got done, unfortunately.
Yes, it's still not done. Right. Could we turn to your decision to leave Caltech, and what was the background for that?
Well, let's see, there are several aspects. One is, I was asked to leave a year earlier and said no. Panof sky, when it looked as if his project was going, felt—apparently not only he but the Atomic Energy Commission felt—that it was important that he have a competent deputy, because what if he fell down in an airplane accident or something, who would give a continuity? They were a little thin at the top, because E. Ginton had left to go to Varian, because the Varian Brothers had got killed. And so Panofsky came to me. We had known each other and he had known about what I was doing. He'd visit Caltech and I would visit Stanford because we were both working on electron physics. So he felt that I was the logical person for the job, with experience both in particle physics and in accelerators and in instrumentation. So he asked me—I think I was his first choice for deputy. I thought it over carefully. There was some difficulty already in my marital relations and we were both in psychoanalysis and it was difficult contemplating interrupting that. And I'm not sure there was that strong a positive orientation, either. So I first said no. Then a year later, he came back. Well, by that time of course it was clear that the big accelerator business was dead as far as Caltech was concerned. I had no clear vision of what should happen to the synchrotron laboratory and the program in experimental particle physics. Clearly one couldn't go on forever. I mean, there were only a few more years left of physics one could do with the synchrotron. The main possibility that seemed to be opening was to become a member of a users' group and go to Brookhaven or some other place, Berkeley, and work on the bevatron or the AGS and so on. I did not like the concept of being part of a users' group that did remote physics. That just was not the way I wanted to live my life, I was sure. So the idea of going to a lab which was in the forefront seemed attractive. In retrospect, I may have made a mistake, because I remember spending a little time thinking that, one of the things one might do at Caltech was to use the Caltech synchrotron, which would have been ideal as an injector for an electron positron storage ring. I drew some pictures of where we could put it and how big it could be, and it would have been a good-sized ring, like Spear, and we might have done Spear six or seven years earlier, and found the psi ourselves at Caltech if we'd played our cards right.
But that's all by hindsight, though, nothing you considered at the time.
At the time we did consider an electron ring. Oh yes, as I say, I drew the ring.
You drew it at that time.
At the time I drew it and said, "Well, now, the one thing we could do is start to make an electron positron storage ring." And I don't know whether I saw too great difficulties in using I was also interested in getting away from the terrible Pasadena smog. I think I was also motivated in part by an interest in moving "upward" to positions of more "power". the thing as an injector, or whether I just didn't pursue it, because of all the other things that were on my mind at that time, to the extent that I should have. Anyway, I decided to accept Panofsky's overtures the second time, in part, again, because I had a lot of unhappiness about the Caltech undergraduate program, and felt that Stanford was a more sensible kind of academic environment for young people, and felt I could get involved in teaching there, which was a mistake.
A mistake in what sense?
Well, there was the big conflict between the Physics Department and the Linear Accelerator Center. Some of the people in the administration who had guaranteed me that was going to be improved, left shortly after I got there.
Was that something that was brewing when you came there?
Yes, there was a lot of conflict in the air. It was brewing. In fact, I was made a professor in the Linear Accelerator Center and not in the physics department, and Panofsky and Drell had moved over to the accelerator already.
OK, well, you moved there in 1963 in the fall?
Yes, late summer as I remember.
It wasn't an entirely new environment for you. You knew the people there.
Yes. But it was a completely different line of work now. I mean, it was administration, lots of meetings. Instead of individual work, it was bureaucratic stuff.
But you were involved in the technicalities of building the accelerator, weren't you?
Well, to some extent. I felt as an administrator I had to understand the technicalities enough to make sensible discussions and advice to Panofsky. I was not really a deputy in the sense that usually the word means, as it turned out, and that was fine with me. I was more of an insurance policy. Panofsky was involved in all of the essential decisions, I took part in the meetings, and he and I would have discussions, so I would influence his decisions. But I was not delegated a certain sub—part of a program to be responsible for, so I was in large part serving much more in a staff role than in an administrative role, and I was—except when he was gone, if he had to go to Washington, which was often—responsible for responding, taking his part, except to the extent possible, if there were key decisions to be made, they would be deferred until he was back and had a chance to take part.
So that was a substantial change in your career, in that sense.
Yes. And so I was not able to be deeply involved in any of the technical things, and sort of sit down and design electronic circuits, or design an experiment or design a piece of apparatus.
That was something you expected when you came. You knew that would happen.
Yes, I thought I knew that would happen.
Did you feel comfortable with it?
Oh, I felt reasonably comfortable, for a while. While it was building it was exciting. I did have certain things I had to do. I was involved in all these external things at that time also. I am very quick at understanding things, picking up things, so I could understand everything that was going on in the lab, and discuss with the physicists and the engineers and so on, so I think I served a useful function and felt good about it. Well, I mentioned earlier, I'm a builder. While it was building I was caught up in the excitement. After it was built, when it became a matter of just operating it, that is when I think I began to chafe and feel I was not being made very good use of. I think, to quote myself, I used to say to my friends, "Well, I'm really not very happy being nursemaid to a bunch of neurotic particle physicists."
Which you felt you were at the time.
And I had been disappointed in that there wasn't more relationship with the academic programs. I was unique in the sense I was often invited to teach courses by the physics department, because I had a reputation as a successful teacher, and so I occasionally would give an introductory physics course on the campus, and that was always satisfying. But I wanted to be more involved with the educational process.
Did that have some beneficial impact on the relationship between the university and SLAC?
I don't know. Not enough, from my point of view.
You didn't get involved in that, you just went to the university to teach?
No, I did get involved. I would discuss things and tried to mediate this relationship in the beginning, but the emotional factors were much too high. It was not possible.
I see you have a period here, 1963 to 1969, which is building up the laboratory, essentially, and doing some teaching. Then there's a period from 1965 also through 1969 where you seem to have gotten into more of the research of it.²¹
Yes. Well, I found a good colleagueship with Burton Richter. We got along very well on a personal level, and he was doing photoproduction work which was an extension of the kind of thing I'd done at Caltech. I was interested in that, so I joined his research group to the extent I could. But mostly I got involved in his excitement over making an electron—positron storage ring. So I took part in the design of the Spear ring, and was promoter of it and would go to Washington and make briefings to the Atomic Energy Commission and try to get money for it. I found in my correspondence a letter to a friend saying, "For the fifth year in a row, we've been turned down on Spear, the storage ring."
You were used to that.
Well, but it was very discouraging, because I was convinced that it was an exceedingly important line of research. In fact, I remember vividly coming back from Italy in 1968, and on the plane thinking, "What can we do?" and having this sudden inspiration that one of the problems was, we didn't have an emotional impact name for it. We always referred to it as the Stanford Electron Positron Colliding Beam Facility, and what Congressman can get excited about that? So I came back on the plane with a list of four different names. I thought "Spear" had enough phallic significance that any Congressman could get behind it. Then I had three or four like that, and I presented them to Richter, "We've got to choose one of these names, and then people can refer to it." And the next year I left and it was approved. , 
What's in a name, yes?
It does make a difference.
You said, on the plane back from Italy. You were a lot in Italy also during this period.
How was that divided up?
Well, we were interested in electron rings, and people kept raising questions—well, they won't work and so on—and they were and are tricky, and unknown. The one at Stanford—the first one which had been started at the High Energy Physics Lab at Stanford, the electron—electron ring—had lots of trouble getting going. There was a lot of interest in the Adone Ring which was started in Frascati, and in fact, in 1968 I went to be part of the turning on of that and learn what we could learn, since I knew Italian, knew the people. The essential job of building the lab was now finished, and my other part that I'd taken responsibility for was for setting up the decision process, for deciding on which experiments would be done—sort of a national laboratory aspect. It seemed like a good time for me to have a break, and so I proposed and it was accepted that I have a six months assignment in Rome.
Which was when, did you say?
1968, OK. Well, was that useful for you?
It was very useful. It was useful for me personally because I was able to do some important creative work, in resolving some of their problems. It was fun because I love Italy, and I re—established contact with old friends. And I came back with important information for the Stanford project.
So that by that time the Italian physics had been able to build up from what you had seen closer to the war.
Yes, very much so. They were now in the forefront. They were now the world leaders in this field.
You were there not to teach them but to be taught.
To work with them and learn.
What was the nature of it? Did you do any research while in Italy?
Well, I don't know what you mean by research. Yes, I worked with the group that was trying to make the machine work. It was that kind of research. It was accelerator physics research, certainly, and we tried experiments and I did measurements and we invented theories. It was very much research. And it was also, as a result of that, that I again came again to collaborate with Toushek, the man I had collaborated with the very first visit to Rome. He was also new in Rome at that time and had stayed on.
It was by coincidence.
Yes. When I first came in 1952, Toushek also first came, so our collaboration was the first work for either of us in Rome. Then he stayed on, and now he was the one who proposed the electron-positron storage ring idea.
His presence might have played a role in your deciding to go.
Perhaps. In some ways certainly. And so we did collaboration. We discussed things, and had a fruitful collaboration in part there. As a result of that, he asked me to help him design a summer school in 1969, and I agreed to take a key set of the lectures.
"Physics of and with Electron—Positron Colliding—Beams Storage Rings."
I gave the basic introductory lectures to the subject, and the notes became what is now known as The Bible. Or as I prefer, "The Gospel According to St. Matthew."24
You took part in organizing international conferences. How extensive was that?
Oh, that's just, you know, deciding on what the program's going to be, who's going to be the invited speakers, who will be on the American list of delegates and so on. A minor role.
There's also the monograph, which is separate from the Fermi school.
No, that's the notes, the written notes. That is the written lectures.
OK, it says, under SLAC, here, that's fine.
Yes, I wrote them up when I got back from the lectures.
That is the same project. OK, good. Well, is there anything else you would like to add on the Stanford experience?
Well, I think the main thing I guess I should say is that I left to come to Santa Cruz. My strongest colleagueships are still at Stanford, the friends and associates I made, Panofsky, Richter, Taylor, John Rees.
Not just compared to Santa Cruz but compared to anywhere.
I don't have much colleagueship with people at Santa Cruz.
Yes, but also as compared to Caltech and MIT?
Not compared to Caltech, no. No, I had very strong colleagueships at Caltech and MIT, and many of those have lasted also.
You went through a divorce a year after you came to Stanford.
Yes, the marriage didn't survive the transition. My wife wanted a divorce and went back to Pasadena.
What were the circumstances for your leaving Stanford?
Well, I was approached by Santa Cruz. Would I be interested in this vice chancellorship which would be responsible for building up all of the natural sciences at the university, which was just starting? And it seemed like an exciting possibility. My interest in education, my interest in building, my personal desire to do teaching, all seemed to fit quite well, and my administrative experience at Stanford seemed to be a reasonable preparation for this, so it seemed like a natural thing to do. I was a little worried about being too far from civilization, too far from San Francisco, and I promised myself I would go to San Francisco at least once a week.
Yes, which you soon didn't.
That's right. And as I say, the discouragement about the storage ring, and not enjoying the administrative problems of people coming and trying to influence decisions, whether their experiment should get run instead of somebody else's. So it seemed natural, and so I accepted to come here.
Did you know Santa Cruz at all before?
No. I'd never been here before.
Well, there wasn't much of a campus?
I think two or three colleges had been built. It was well on its way so it was clear what it was going to be like.
How free were you in developing the sciences here? What considerations were there?
Well, it was as things like that should be, it was in collaboration with the chancellor. I had to convince him of what my views were. And also working with each department, to try to mediate and make decisions and push in one direction, but not completely leave aside any one of the factions. And one of the things I took a strong interest in, and I think was quite successful at, and made a lot of enemies about, was, after a year or so of trying to get more ethnic minorities and women and so on, on the faculty, seeing that it wasn't working, I took very drastic steps, and the chancellor was a little unhappy with this and some of the department heads were exceedingly unhappy and tried to get me fired and so on. But we did in the end hire a larger number than had ever been done before—of ethnic and female faculty—and I think that was a good thing. I think it's made a lasting impact on the campus. Unfortunately, during the second year, suddenly we were told there was not going to be any more building. There would be no new faculty, because we were suddenly cut off in growth. Because the Vietnam War was over, students stopped applying to the university. Many of the students who were going to the university decided they didn't want to be in the university, and so the projections were that there was not going to be the need for that much more university for a while. So the growth was stopped. And then my job changed character. We had less money. How do you get people to make fewer xeroxes? Some of the departments were quite unhappy, because the programs had developed in a little bit disjointed fashion, and how do you get them smoothed out when there are no new resources or very minimum new resources? So although I had originally sort of committed myself to a five year job when I came here, you know, to be reviewed after five years, after three years the job had changed in character, and I was not having that much fun any more. decided to quit and go back to teaching.
What were the priorities that you came with, and to what extent were you able to fulfill them?
Well, I think I tried to build a good research and teaching faculty, in all of the basic sciences, and I particularly wanted to make sure that the interdisciplinary areas like microbiology and biochemistry and geophysics and so on were not neglected, which is a tendency when you start with a departmental structure. And a commitment to undergraduate teaching, I felt was important, so I wanted to make sure that we did pay attention to hiring faculty. That was an interesting and difficult job, because the hiring was not done by the division or the departments or the colleges, but jointly. There was a lot of negotiation between the colleges, who were pushing very hard for the teaching aspects, and the departments and division which was pushing for research competence, and to try to find that right balance.
Well, obviously you had built it up well enough for you to decide to stay, although you didn't want to be responsible for the building any more. Did you consider going to other places after the three years?
Not really, no. I had got to like it here. I like Santa Cruz. I also liked many of the things about the university, and by then I was also getting involved with this experimental education program based on humanistic psychology and psychology of education, Kresge College experiment.
Yes, we should talk a little bit about that. Was that your main concern after those three years?
Well, it was split. I was teaching a regular course load pretty much in physics. We were also trying to do a better job of undergraduate physics teaching, particularly the introductory courses.
Using Feynman's book?
No. Well, I did use it in part as a backup, for research, but I put most of my effort into developing a curriculum for the non—physics students, because I thought they were getting short—changed at the time. There was no special course for them. There was no course based on algebra instead of calculus, and I had the conviction then, which I have even stronger now, that the calculus is a bar to understanding physics. It gets in the way. And just the concept of quantitative reasoning with algebra was the key part, and I could do all of the essential part of physics that way. So I taught for several years the introductory physics course for biologists, economists, geologist, philosophers, historians.
That took quite a part of your time.
Yes, so that was about half of my emphasis. I didn't do any research at that time, so the other half was—well, I did research, but in education, I would prefer to call it research in education at Kresge College. Only in the summers I would go to Europe or SLAC and do consulting and full time research in physics.
What was Kresge College in the larger context? How does it fit in?
Well, it was the place where they were trying this experiment. They, we, wanted to try this experimental approach of putting a much bigger emphasis on being self—conscious about the nature of the psychological effects of situation, of setting, of interpersonal interactions on the educational program.
To what extent was that a result of your building up the place?
Not very much. It was Bob Edgar, the guy who designed and wanted to create the college—he came from Caltech, a biologist—who came with the idea, I was very sympathetic. In fact, I'd had a part to play in it, because I had first invited Carl Rogers to come to Caltech and talk about his theories of psychology of education. Do you know his name?
No, I don't.
He's one of the great American psychologists, and the psychology of education he had a lot to say about. He had influenced Edgar, and Edgar had gone on to concern himself in those matters. He came here with the idea of creating a college in which this is one of the central themes. And I was quite sympathetic to it, so I helped him recruit faculty in the sciences that I hoped would also be sympathetic, and then eventually was convinced to join it myself, and take part in it.
So that was essentially something that you got involved in here, that kind of interest.
Well, I had begun to be involved earlier. I had been influenced by Rogers. I had met him at some international conference on disarmament or something. I had read his books. had known about his work. I had been in psychoanalysis myself, and became aware of the emotional factors in learning, and learning together, people working together, and I had experimented with using Roger's ideas on self—motivated learning in seminars at Stanford and here at Santa Cruz when I first came, and quite successfully, I think.
So you knew about Rogers when you were helping design the undergraduate curriculum at Caltech also.
So it was an older interest in that sense. You also gave other courses than in physics—science and public affairs, man and environment, perspectives on ecology, communication in small groups. Well, a number of them.
But that came naturally.
Yes, as part of that kind of curriculum. Some of them came about because we were doing a joint course with several faculty members, like man and environment, or ecology, or cancer and the environment—I don't know if that's in there.
Yes, it is.
We did that with a biology faculty member. It's an example of trying to cut across disciplinary lines, also using the techniques of self—motivation and self—directed study for the students.
Yes, so to some extent you lost contact with physics or the center of physics research while here.
No. I was teaching physics. As I say, I think at least half of my effort was in teaching of physics, but I didn't do any research in physics during that time, and to some extent I lost some contact. Yes, in fact, I didn't go to Stanford for consulting or working collaboration for two or three years, when I was heavily involved in that program, because I took summer courses myself in psychology and group dynamics and things like that. So I remember that after things began to ease up, and I was able to go back to Stanford, I wondered whether, having been away for four or five years, I could still be useful.
Yes, in 1974 to 1985, you became more involved in physics again, it does say here, and you spent summers and sabbatical leaves.
And much to my surprise, even though I was getting old, was still able to be useful.
Good, so you were able to combine the two, in that sense. Well, are there any other aspects of the Santa Cruz experience that you would like to mention?
Well, just, you know, that there's a certain amount of sadness about the fact that, as most radical academic experiments, this experiment suffered the same fate and died because of lack of support in the academic community. The academic community in general, the American university system, is more conservative than any other social organization in our society, I believe, even more conservative than businesses or military or what have you. They (businesses) would not survive if they were not more innovative.
So would you go so far as saying that Santa Cruz has lost all its uniqueness that you set out for?
Not quite. There's a lot of the atmosphere that remains. Structurally it's been dismantled. Structurally, the collegiate system has been dismantled. The colleges no longer have any say in hiring of people or building their curriculum. So it's been moving more toward the traditional university structure.
Much more. Completely. It will be interesting to see whether the new chancellor can move back from that a little bit, or whether he can find a new direction. But despite the fact that the structure has changed back to the traditional, there's still a lot of concern among the faculty. Some of the atmosphere continues—concern for undergraduate teaching, concern for the welfare of the undergraduates, involvement on a personal level with undergraduate students, and even in some of the colleges, this concern for human needs, communication, human contact and so on.
So there's hope.
The Santa Cruz institution of the potluck supper still exists. The year before I retired, one of the students in my electricity and magnetism advanced undergraduate course came to me and said, "Could we have a potluck supper?" I said, "Sure, come to my house." And they came here and sat on the floor. Everybody brings something to eat and you have a social evening, which is a very typical Santa Cruz institution.
And now you're mainly occupied with your book, when you're not being interrupted by me, that is.
Well, it's sort of 50-50. 50 percent time on the book, and 50 percent time consulting at Stanford.
OK. You still have a strong relationship with Stanford.
Even more than with Santa Cruz at this time?
Yes. I go up to Santa Cruz for an hour a week. They kicked me out of my office, wouldn't give me an office when I retired, so that helped to decrease my contact, but a friend gave me a desk in the corner of his laboratory, and I have a mailbox where I collect mail from people who still address my mail to the university.
We did it!
Thank you, yes.
Deposited in OHI working files.
Added 5/7/90. That was a mine based on the "pressure" field of a ship, in combination with a magnetic sensor.
Every scientist (not technicians and laborers).
"Biographical Notes". Sands, 5/4/87, p. 29
Pions to Quarks: Particle Physics in the 1950s, Laurie M. Brown, Max Dresden, Lillian Hoddeson (eds.). (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 149-161.
I also consulted for a year or so for an oil company research lab (maybe Standard Oil?) on novel oil prospecting ideas. I was consulted on the electronic aspects.
W. Munk et al., "Report by JASON/Navy Visiting Group," June 1962, Confidential.
Munk et al.
by C. Lauritsen, M.L. Sands, T. Lauritsen, August 1966, Secret.
SLAC is part of the "University".
"Biographical Notes," p. 10.
Actually, it never was approved in its original concept as a "construction" project. But SLAC was allowed to go ahead with a scaled down version as an "operating" experiment.
"Biographical Notes," p. 11.