Bell Telephone Laboratories

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Remote Interview
Abstract

This is an interview with Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy, Engineering and Applied Sciences Emeritus at Harvard. He recounts his childhood in India and he explains the origins of his nickname “Venky” by which everyone knows him, and he explains his transition from a career primarily rooted in lab work to his more current interests in science and national public policy. He describes the imperial British influence that pervaded his upbringing, and he discusses his education at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. He explains the opportunities that lead to his graduate work at Cornell to study solid state physics with a focus on defects in crystals under the direction of Robert Pohl. Narayanamurti describes his brief return to India before he was recruited to work at Bell Labs where he ultimately rose to serve as Director of Solid-state Electronics and as head of the Semiconductor Electronics Research Department. He contextualizes his decision to join the faculty at UC Santa Barbara after working at Sandia National Lab against the backdrop of the impending breakup of Bell. He discusses his work at Dean building up the computer science, electrical engineering, and chemical engineering programs before he decided to come to Harvard where he was the founding Dean of the Engineering and Applied Sciences. He explains his interest in joining the Kennedy School as he became more interested in public policy. At the end of the interview, Narayanamurti conveys optimism that higher education in the United States will be equipped to study and offer key solutions to some of the key scientific and technological challenges of the future. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Louis J. Lanzerotti, Distinguished Research Professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Center for Solar Terrestrial Research in the Department of Physics. Lanzerotti describes the origins of the Center, and he recounts his Italian heritage and his upbringing in southern Illinois. Lanzerotti discusses his undergraduate experience at the University of Illinois and his initial interest in civil engineering. He explains why he transitioned to physics, the formative influence of Charlie Slichter and the opportunities that led to his graduate admission to Harvard, where he developed fiber optics research under the direction of Frank Pipkin. He explains his decision to accept a postdoctoral offer at Bell Labs, and he explains how Bell Labs became involved in space research. Lanzerotti discusses his initial work on the Applications Technology Satellite 1 and the earliest incarnations of space weather as a discrete field. He describes his work on communications and geophysical collaboration and his involvement it the beginning of the Voyager, Ulysses, and then the Cassini missions. Lanzerotti describes the breakup of Bell Labs and the considerations that led to him joining the faculty at NJIT. He explains his ongoing research focus analyzing data from the Ulysses mission at the Van Allen probes, and he describes his service on the National Science Board. Lanzerotti describes his long association with the AGU, and his work on Director of the Board for AIP. At the end of the interview, Lanzerotti reflects on the opportunities in his career that intersected with the zenith of American scientific power and influence, and he prognosticates on both future prospects for foundational discovery and the societal commitments required to achieve them.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Remote Interview
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Dan Neumann, Group Leader for Neutron Condensed Matter Science at the NIST Center for Neutron Research. Neumann recounts his childhood growing up on a farm in Nebraska and later on in Arizona. He discusses his undergraduate experience at Arizona State and his developing interest in condensed matter physics. Neumann describes his graduate work at the University of Illinois, and he describes his lab work, his AT&T fellowship and research at Bell Labs, and his dissertation work under the direction of Hartmut Zabel. He explains the circumstances leading to his appointment at NIST, and he describes the value of neutron scattering as a means of understanding materials at atomic, nanoscale levels. Neumann describes how neutron scattering fits within the overall mission of NIST, and he explains NIST's support for basic science and why its laboratories have attracted a wide array of researchers. He explains how neutron scattering is the key to developing new materials for both research and commercial applications. Neumann describes some of the key interagency partnership that have advanced neutron scattering research, and he explains some recent projects he has been involved in, including hydrogen fuel cell research, dynamic work on proteins, and pharmaceutical work. At the end of the interview, Neumann describes how closely his work at NIST has been integrated within the broader physics community.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Remote Interview
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Douglas Scalapino, Research Professor at UC Santa Barbara. Scalapino recounts his childhood in San Francisco and then Scarsdale, New York, he discusses the circumstances leading to his admission to Yale, and he describes how he settled on physics as an undergraduate after getting to know Professor Larry Biedenharn. Scalapino discusses his graduate research at Stanford, where he worked under the direction of Mitch Weissbluth conducting radiation chemistry using a small linear accelerator to see free radicals created by the electron beam. He describes his burgeoning interests in electronic spin resonance and magnetic resonance. Scalapino explains the circumstances leading to his decision to finish his thesis work with Ed Jaynes at Washington University while working for Kane Engineering. He discusses his postdoctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania with Bob Schrieffer and Henry Primakoff. He discusses his work at Bell Labs, where he worked with Phil Anderson, and he describes his first faculty position at Penn. Scalapino describes how UCSB recruited him, and he explains how his hire was part of a broader effort to raise the stature of the physics department. He recounts the virtues of working in a small department, where opportunities were available to collaborate with Bob Sugar and Ray Sawyer on high-energy physics, and Jim Hartle on astrophysics and general relativity. Scalapino describes the origins of the Institute of Theoretical Physics and how the National Science Foundation came to support UCSB’s proposal. He reflects on how the ITP has benefited the department of physics over the years, and he provides an overview of his research agenda at UCSB, which includes his contributions to the quantum Monte Carlo project and high-Tc and unconventional superconductors. At the end of the interview, Scalapino discusses his current interests in the numerical simulation of quantum many body systems.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Teleconference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews William T. Silfvast, Professor Emeritus of Optics at the University of Central Florida. Silfvast recounts his childhood in Salt Lake City and he discusses his education at the University of Utah and a formative internship he spent at NASA Ames Laboratory. He describes his growing interests in lasers during graduate school at Utah working under the direction of Grant Fowles. Silfvast discusses his postdoctoral research as a NATO fellow at Oxford before he joined the Electronics Research Lab at Bell. He describes his major research work at Bell discovering new types of lasers, using optical detectors and photomultipliers for this research, and he explains his motivations in both basic research and the practical applications he saw for lasers in healthcare and in industry. Silfvast explains his decision to join the University of Central Florida where CREOL, the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers was getting started. He recounts the enormous growth and success of the Center over the past thirty years, and he explains his motivations for writing Fundamentals of Lasers which is considered a standard text in the field. At the end of the interview, Silfvast reflects on his contributions to laser science, he provides an overview of all the ways lasers have become central to modern existence, and he explains how modern computing has revolutionized laser science and applications.     

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Teleconference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Nadya Mason, Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Mason recounts her family background and her childhood growing up in New York City, then Washington DC, and then Houston. She discusses her dedication to gymnastics between ages 8-16 and her rise to national stature in that field. Mason describes her developing interests in math and science, including a formative internships at Rice University and the Exxon Production Research Center where she discovered her love for lab work. She describes her undergraduate experience at Harvard, the supportive mentor she found in Howard Georgi, and her work in the condensed matter physics lab at Bell Labs where she developed her interest in liquid crystals. Mason explains her focus on condensed matter physics for graduate school, and she describes her graduate work at Stanford, where her initial intent was to work with Doug Osheroff before she became interested in working with Aharon Kapitulnik on superconductivity. She explains some of the main questions that drove her dissertation research, including the behaviors that are possible in a low-dimensional superconductor. Mason discusses her postdoctoral work back at Harvard where she pursued research on carbon nanotubes quantum dots. She describes her decision to join the faculty at Illinois and what it was like to set up a major lab and the strong support she enjoyed from the university. Mason describes her research agenda over the course of her career, she discusses her current interests in mesoscopic low dimensional materials with correlated materials, and she describes the opportunities and challenges teaching at a large public university. She shares her thoughts on where physics can go as a community to enhance diversity and inclusivity in the field, and she emphasizes the importance of individual responsibility as a means to achieve those goals. At the end of the interview, Mason describes some of the exciting avenues of research in the future, including work on combining topological and magnetic materials, and she considers the importance of machine learning for the future of condensed matter physics. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Bertrand Halperin, Hollis Professor of Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy, Emeritus, at Harvard. Halerpin recounts his upbringing and education in Brooklyn, and his decision to study at Harvard as an undergraduate. He describes some of the leading physicists of the department during that time, and his developing interest and talent for theory. Halperin describes a formative summer internship at New York Life Insurance Company and his work at the dawn of the computer age, and another summer internship at Los Alamos, where he worked on a project on neutron scattering from aluminum. He explains his decision to move to Berkeley and then Princeton for graduate school where he developed his interest in solid state physics. Halperin describes his post-doctoral work in France and his subsequent job at Bell Labs, where he worked on dynamic critical phenomena. He describes being recruited back to Harvard by Paul Martin and his subsequent work on quantum Hall effects and one-dimensional systems research. In the last exchange of the interview, Halperin describes his current interests in experimental puzzles and the behavior of quantum systems.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Raymond Orbach, professor of physics emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. Orbach recounts his childhood in Los Angeles, his early interests in chemistry, and his undergraduate experience at Caltech. He discusses his graduate work at Berkeley on integral equations and his research at Bell Labs and at Oxford where he worked on resonance relaxation. Orbach explains his research agenda at UCLA, including his work on magnetic resonance and the antiferromagnetic ground state. He discusses his work as chancellor of UC Riverside and his ability to keep up research while working in administration. Orbach recounts the circumstances leading to him becoming director of science at DOE and his “dual-hatted” work as Undersecretary of Science for DOE. He provides an overview of the state of high energy physics in the early 2000s and the long-term affect of the SSC cancellation. In the final part of the interview, Orbach talks about his research on energy issues at superconducting quantum interference devices at UT. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler interviews Robert Birgeneau, Silverman Professor of Physics, Materials Science and Engineering, and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Birgeneau recounts his working class childhood in Toronto and the unlikely circumstances leading to his enrollment at the University of Toronto. He explains his interest in physics from a mathematical perspective as an undergraduate, and he describes his graduate work at Yale, where he studied electron spin resonance spectroscopy. Birgeneau describes his involvement in the civil rights movement, and his postdoctoral work at Oxford and at Bell Labs, which sent him to conduct research at Brookhaven. He explains his move to MIT, and his work as both department chair and Dean of Science. Birgeneau describes his tenure as president of the University of Toronto, and the recruitment process leading to his tenure as chancellor at Berkeley. At the end of the interview, Birgeneau explains how important it was to retain a physics research agenda even while running major universities, and he describes the pleasures of returning to teaching physics after spending much of his career in academic administration.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Josef Eisinger, professor emeritus at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Eisinger recounts his childhood in Vienna and his experiences in England as a refugee from the Nazis during World War II. He talks about his transfer to Canada as an “enemy alien,” his experience transitioning to civilian life, and his matriculation at the University of Toronto, where he completed his undergraduate and Masters work in physics before transferring to MIT for his Ph.D. Eisinger discusses his work with Jerrold Zacharias and Viki Weisskopf. Eisinger discusses his tenure at Bell Labs, where he pursued a variety of interests in spectroscopy and electron-nuclear double resonance. He explains his developing interest in molecular biology and the Guggenheim Fellowships that allowed him to advance in this new field. He discusses his work on lead poisoning and his transition to Mount Sinai. Toward the end of the interview, Eisinger discusses his involvement with translating the letters of Brahms.