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This short interview touches briefly on Erwin Hahn's education at Juniata College, Purdue University, and the University of Illinois; initial interest in nuclear magnetic resonance; his postdoctoral years with Felix Bloch's group at Stanford University; and his three years as a research scientist with IBM. Hahn also comments briefly on his consultantship with Hughes' maser group; his work on self-induced transparency; and his collaboration with Richard Brewer at IBM. Also prominently mentioned are: Sam Bass, Jesse Wakefield Beams, Felix Bloch, Nicolaas Bloembergen, Richard Brewer, John Clarke, Gene Commins, Harry Daghalian, Robert Henry Dicke, Gordon Gould, Donald W. Kerst, Theodore Maiman, Sam McCall, Mitsunaga, Arthur Leonard Schawlow, Norman Shiren, Charles Slichter, Dick Slusher, Russell Harrison Varian; Bell Telephone Laboratories, Columbia University, IBM Watson Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Science Foundation (U.S.), United States Navy, and University of Virginia.
Born in Oregon 1912, entered Purdue University, 1932, studying solid state physics, teaching assistant work with Lothar Nordheim on crystal structure, 1937; Ph.D. thesis, 1937 (published 1940); physics department under Karl Lark-Horovitz grows in the 1930s, visiting lecturers (refugees from Germany and Europe: Lothar Nordheim, Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner). First cyclotron (homemade), 1935. War work: basic research in germanium, rectification of crystals (Bethe), close connections with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania; Lark-Horovitz chose solid state physics as less sensitive field with respect to clearance; showed silicon-germanium intrinsic semiconductors, 1942; General Electric’s germanium interest; success interpreting resistivity and thermoelectric behavior in germanium, 1944. American Physical Society meeting intense interest in Purdue presentations, January 1946; the transistor, 1948 (William Shockley, Ralph Bray); how to grow germanium crystals, 1949; Esther Conwell’s thesis (Victor Weisskopf). Also prominently mentioned are: John Backus, Seymour Benzer, Hubert Maxwell James, A. A. Knowlton, K. W. Meissner, E. P. Miller, Ronald Smith, Herbert J. Yearian; and Purdue University Department of Physics.
Founding of the school of physics, Università di Roma, role of Orso Mario Corbino and others in recruiting young physicists; the decision to work on nuclear physics; financial support for and public knowledge of work at the university; contacts with other laboratories in Europe and the U.S.; available technology in Rome, ca. 1930; journal literature; visitors to Rome; circumstances of move to Università di Palermo, 1936; work and facilities in Palermo; early failures of physicists to recognize fission; early uses of cyclotron; mathematics and nuclear physics in 1930s; models of the nucleus and experimental work; circumstances of move to University of California at Berkeley, 1938; experiment and theory in nuclear physics at Berkeley; work on radiochemistry; alteration of half-lives of beta-radioactive substances; detection equipment; effect of work at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory on nuclear physics; significance of nucleon-nucleon scattering experiments; entry into nuclear physics of students trained in technology during World War II; beginnings of high-energy physics; experimental physics and particle accelerators; fashions in physics; discovery of the antiproton; work considered personally satisfying. Also prominently mentioned are: Edoardo Amaldi, Felix Bloch, Niels Henrik David Bohr, Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, Michael Faraday, Otto Robert Frisch, Guglielmo, Georg von Hevesy, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Tullio Levi-Cività, Lo Surdo, Ettore Majorana, Lise Meitner, Ida Noddack, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Carlo Perrier, Franco D. Rasetti, Ernest Rutherford, Glenn Seaborg, Elfriede Segrè, V. Volterra, Chien-Shiung Wu, Hideki Yukawa; Columbia University, and Purdue University.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Ephraim Fischbach, professor of physics at Purdue University. Fischbach recounts his childhood in Brooklyn and the role of Judaism in his upbringing. He discusses his undergraduate work at Columbia, and he describes a number of humorous adventures in the lab that convinced him to switch to physics from chemistry. Fischbach describes his graduate work under the direction of Henry Primakoff in theoretical particle physics at the University of Pennsylvania, and his first job after Penn at SUNY-Stony Brook. He discusses his work on the strength of gravitational interactions, weak interactions, algebraic computing, and he describes his time at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. Fischbach describes the circumstances leading to his hire at Purdue and he discusses his collaboration with Sam Aronson and the fundamental work on the “Fifth Force,” and the popular interest this work engendered. Fischbach explains the underlying mysteries of the “Fifth Force” and its ongoing influence in both cosmology and particle physics. He describes his ongoing interests in complex calculations, radioactive decay, and neutrinos, among many projects, and in the last part of the interview, Fischbach explains his goal to protect electrical grids from solar storms, which he sees as one of the greatest threats facing modern society.