Mount Holyoke College

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with David Griffiths, Professor Emeritus of Physics at Reed College. Griffiths discusses his current projects on Sidney Coleman’s lecture series and a completing a fifth edition of his textbook on electrodynamics. He surveys the current interplay between experiment in theory in today’s world of particle physics, and he reflects on his career rooted in small teaching colleges, as opposed to pursuing an alternate path at large research universities. Griffiths recounts his childhood in Berkeley and then in Madison in support of his father’s academic career, and he describes finishing out high school in Vermont before attending Harvard. He laments the poor physics education Harvard offered when he was an undergraduate, and he explains his decision to remain at Harvard for graduate school, where Sidney Coleman and Carl Bender advised his thesis work on massless field theory. Griffiths discusses his postdoctoral appoints at the University of Utah and then the University of Massachusetts, and he explains how the November revolution at SLAC resonated with him. After brief teaching appointments at Mount Holyoke and Trinity Colleges, Griffiths explains his decision to join the faculty at Reed and how he learned to strike the right balance between teaching and research. He describes the origins and his motivations in writing textbooks for physics students and how he has integrated pedagogy into his mentorship of students. Griffiths discusses the influence of Kuhn in his more recent survey of physics in the twentieth century, and at the end of the interview, he explains why including students in his own research is both personally and academically meaningful.

Interviewed by
Katherine Sopka
Interview date
Abstract

Mildred Allen was born in Massachusetts in 1894, the elder of two daughters of an MIT professor of civil engineering who had met her mother while working in New Mexico. She graduated from Vassar College in 1916 with training in mathematics and physics. Her Ph.D. in physics (1922) was granted by Clark University where she studied with A. G. Webster, but her thesis research was one at MIT. She taught at Mt. Holyoke, Wellesley and Oberlin Colleges during the 1920s and early 30s, as well as studying further at the University of Chicago and Yale. She did research at the Bartol Foundation, 1927-30, and at Harvard University, 1931-33. She then taught at Mt. Holyoke from 1933 until her retirement in 1959. Since then she has done additional research, most recently (paper published 1971) on the behavior of torsion pendulums especially during solar eclipses.