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In this interview, Edward Uhler Condon discusses topics such as: his family background; early education; influence of high school physics teacher, William Howell Williams, 1914-1918, and later teacher at University of California, Berkeley; interval as boy reporter. Undergraduate years at Berkeley, beginning in 1921 in chemistry department; Ph.D. in physics, 1926; association with Fred Weinberg. Discovery of Erwin Schrödinger's wave mechanics papers; International Education Board fellowship to study quantum mechanics at Göttingen, 1926. Work on Bell Systems technical journal for six months before accepting lectureship at Columbia University; teaching post at Princeton University; Condon and Philip Morse's Quantum Mechanics, result of Columbia and Princeton courses. Relations with University of California; role in persuading Ernest Lawrence to go to Berkeley from Yale University. Recollections of Michigan summer school. Work at Westinghouse on applications of nuclear physics to industry, including completion of Van de Graaff machine, 1937-1940; setting up Westinghouse research fellowships, 1938; Massachusetts Institute of Technology conference on applications of nuclear physics, October 1940; war work on microwave radar. J. Robert Oppenheimer asks Condon to come to Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory; tour of Los Alamos with Leslie Groves; reasons for leaving Los Alamos after a few weeks. Work as head of theoretical section of Lawrence's laboratory, August 1943-1945; British scientists. Evaluation of Westinghouse's four million-volt machine. Description of Nimitron, a physical computer, designed for 1939 World's Fair. Discussion of 1928 radioactivity. Reminiscences of Ronald Gurney's later career and his trouble with security. Discussion of postwar events, such as the Quebec Conference, McMahon Act, Moran's book about Winston Churchill. Peacetime development of atomic energy; establishment of the Senate's Special Committee on atomic energy. Directorship of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), 1945-1951. Work on superconductivity; W. Emmanuel Maxwell and John Pelham. Accomplishments at NBS. Hearings in 1948 and 1952 before the Department of Commerce under Truman's loyalty program; Averell Harriman. Director of Research at Corning, 1951. House Un-American Activities Committee hearing, 1954; J. R. Oppenheimer and Bernard Peters; reopening of clearances, loss of Corning position; becomes Corning consultant. Head of Washington University physics department, 1956-1963; Oberlin College, 1962; interest in modernizing teaching; Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA), from 1963; editor of Reviews of Modern Physics, 1957-1968; establishment of the National Accelerator Laboratory (Chicago); the UFO story. Comments on his most satisfying and his least satisfying work. Also prominently mentioned are: Raymond T. Birge and Henry Wallace.
Early family life and early education in Toronto during the Depression. Interest in radio engineering; math-physics scholarship to University of Toronto 1937. During World War II (from 1941) teaching Army, Air Force, Navy students in basic physics. Masters degree with Arnold Pitt during that period. Work with G. Byers on microwave guide antennas. Poor graduate education at Toronto. Interest in nuclear physics; constructs atomic beam light source; 'his definition of a diatomic molecule. Receives Carbide and Carbon Chemicals Corporation post-doc fellowship (Rabi); work with C. Townes at Columbia University on application of microwave spectroscopy to organic chemistry; comments on faculty and co-workers at Columbia. To Bell Labs to work on superconductivity in Stan Morgan's group in early 1950's. Work with Lewis and Matthias on the intermediate state nuclear quadrupole resonance. The Clad Rob Laser; work atmosphere at Bell Labs; decision to leave Bell for Stanford. Works with graduate students; Emmett, Holzrichter on flashlamps; solid state spectroscopy. Role in Optical Society of America and American Physical Society.
Early education, Real-gymnasium; Universität Berlin, 1930; early interest in physics; courses, books studied, method of noting original ideas; University of Cambridge, 1933; first formal paper on nuclear physics; reaction in Berlin to discovery of neutron, colloquium of Lise Meitner; beta decay and the neutrino hypothesis; working habits at Cavendish Laboratory; collaboration with James Chadwick; photodisintegration of the deuteron; work with slow neutrons; circumstances of move to U.S., 1938; consequences of death of Ernest Rutherford on research at Cavendish Laboratory; use of proportional counters, oscilloscopes, nuclear emulsions in mid-1930s; important centers of research, publications; early failures to recognize fission; ways of determining nuclear spin; comparison of available equipment, technology in England and U.S.; comparison of motivations for doing experiments in 1930s and at present; nuclear models, conditions for acceptance, usefulness; distinctions between nuclear structure and nuclear forces as areas of study; money as a determinant of possible experiments; World War II as a determinant of work in nuclear physics; postwar work in nuclear physics; improvements in detectors and techniques ca. 1950; origin of high-energy physics; mobility of physicists among fields of study; postwar conferences, Shelter Island, Rochester; separation of belief from established results in pedagogy; current capabilities of theory in nuclear physics. Also includes an 8-page bibliography. Also prominently mentioned are: Niels Henrik David Bohr, Chang, John Cockcroft, Critchfield, Sydney Michael Dancoff, P. I. Dee, P. A. M. Dirac, Enrico Fermi, George Gamow, Gertrude Goldhaber, Gordy, Frédéric Joliot-Curie, I. V. Kurchatov, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Douglas Lea, Alfred Loomis, Lothar Nordheim, Nutt, Wolfgang Pauli, Rudolf Ernst Peierls, Isidor Isaac Rabi, Rosenblum, Robert Green Sachs, Max Schiffer, Erwin Schrödinger, Emilio Gino Segrè, David Shoenberg, Esther Simpson, Leo Szilard; American Physical Society, Columbia University, Magdalen College (University of Oxford), Manhattan Project, Trinity College (University of Cambridge), University of Illinois, and University of Rochester.