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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.
Work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation Laboratory. Significant contributions to solid state physics. The interview deals briefly with Purcell's early acquaintance with Karl Lark-Horovitz at Purdue, while Purcell was an undergraduate electrical engineering major there. The bulk of the interview concerns Purcell's work at the MIT Rad Lab during World War II: how he started working there in 1940, his work with the magnetron group, the problems with the transmit receive switch, theory vs. experiment at the Rad Lab, the Steering Committee, work with the propagation group, the 1.25 cm radar fiasco, design of permanent magnets, postwar applications of Rad Lab research, and relations with British engineers. Purcell then discusses the influence of the Rad Lab on his subsequent career, his work with R. V. Pound, and H. C. Torrey at Harvard on NMR and the 21 cm line of hydrogen, and postwar uses of microwaves for physics research.
Testing klystrons at Wright Field for blind landing, at request of Wilmer L. Burrow of Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sperry Gyroscope research contract with Stanford University, San Carlos and Garden City plants. Contact with solid state physics through use of old-fashion crystal detectors in the klystron. Bell Laboratories and other centers for research in microwaves; John Pierce and other scientists in semiconductor work. Cooperation among industrial labs and the military for war effort; doping of germanium; history of silicon detectors, Winfield Salisbury’s contribution, William P. Cook, Karl Lark-Horovitz. Sperry patent; first semiconductor amplifier designed by Woodyard but not claimed on patent; the Sperry-Texas Instruments patent suit. Work on the Manhattan Project, 1942. Joined Lark-Horovitz at Purdue University following war to continue research in electron linear accelerator. Move to Berkeley’s Radiation Laboratory; continued work on transistors. Also prominently mentioned are: William Webster Hansen, R. A. Heising, Vivian Annabelle Johnson, Jones, Guglielmo Marconi, Arthur Norbert, Russell S. Ohl, David Sloan, and Bill Wasson.