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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Dr. Julia Phillips, executive emeritus of Sandia National Laboratory. Phillips recounts her childhood in rural Illinois, her early interests in science, and the influence of her father, who was a general surgeon, and her mother, who kept the books for her father’s practice. She describes her undergraduate experience at the College of William and Mary, where she solidified her interest in experimental physics, and her decision to pursue a graduate degree at Yale, where she studied low-energy electron impact excitation in helium and krypton and the threshold for the excitation of the first few excited states. Phillips discusses her work at Bell Labs, where one of the major projects during her time was in extending Moore’s Law. She describes her decision to join Sandia, provides a historical overview of the lab, and explains her work in nuclear verification issues. Phillips discusses her various promotions in leadership at Sandia, and how its role in national security issues have evolved over the years. In the final portion of the interview, Phillips discusses her recent work in professional service, and provides some general advice for young scientists.
Belle Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, New Jersey
Grisdale's years at Bell Laboratories from 1930. Graduation as a chemistry major (with strong quantum theory interests) from Harvard University, 1930. Comments on the effect of the Depression and the work environment for researchers at Bell Labs (compared to university research laboratories); nonlinear resistor work, heat treatment (varistor, thermistor), synthetic microphone carbon; involvements in various departments after the war (Electronics Apparatus Department investigating selenium rectifiers) . Concepts of industrial research; the fifth circuit (papers by B. D. H. Tellegen at Phillips Laboratories); Clarence Lester Hogan. Also prominently mentioned are: William Baker, Joseph A. Becker, C. J. Christensen, Goucher, Green, Eloise Koonce, Sidney Millman, Stanley Owen Morgan, Gerald Leondus Pearson, Merle Rigterink, John Clarke Slater, Gordon K. Teal, Addison Hughson White, R. R. Williams, J. Wilson; Bell Telephone Laboratories Electronic Apparatus Department, and General Electric Company.
Family background and early education; University of Oklahoma; graduate work and electrical engineering at California Institute of Technology. Bell Laboratories, 1936-1946; colloquium and other social structures; early solid state physics work; Fletcher’s group with Foster Nix and William Shockley; war years, work on radar bomb sights; postwar years. Move to Hughes Aircraft Company, 1946-1953; formation and accomplishments of Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge after 1953; current interests. Also prominently mentioned are: Joseph A. Becker, R. S. Bowen, Walter Houser Brattain, Oliver E. Buckley, Joseph Ashby Burton, Karl Kelchner Darrow, Clinton Joseph Davisson, Paul Sophus Epstein, Conyers Herring, C. N. Hickman, Howard Hughes, J. B. Johnson, Edward Karrouse, Mervin J. Kelly, G. A. Kelsall, J. W. McRae, Robert Andrews Millikan, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Gerald Leondus Pearson, Don Quarles, Simon Ramo, Rhine, Duane Roller, Hellvar Skaade, William Ralph Smythe, Leopold Stokowski, Richard Chase Tolman, Charles Hard Townes, Howell J. Williams, Jewel Wurtzbaugh, Fritz Zwicky; American Physical Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States Air Force, and Western Electric Company.
Narrative account of discovery of the visible red HeNe laser in the Bell Laboratories Exploratory Development Group under Signal Corps contract, contributions of coworkers and supervisors, White's work on the arc lamp for cw pumping, collaboration with Dane Rigden (1962), knowledge of Javan-Bennett-Herriott infrared laser work and work of Spectra-Physics group, equipment and funding, atmosphere in the laboratory following the discovery.