Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Maury Tigner, Hans A. Bethe Professor of Physics Emeritus at Cornell. He discusses the origins of the "Handbook of Accelerator Physics and Engineering," and he provides perspective on the prospects of China's contributions for the future of high energy physics. Tigner recounts his childhood as the son of parents in the clergy, and he discusses his undergraduate education in physics at RPI and his interest in working on the betatron. He explains the opportunities that led to his acceptance to the graduate program in physics at Cornell to work under the direction of Bob Wilson and Boyce McDaniel. Tigner explains his decision to remain at Cornell for his postdoctoral research to assume responsibility of the 2.2 GeV Synchrotron, and he describes his initial research at DESY in Germany. He describes his work developing superconducting radiofrequency technology, and the NSF role in supporting this effort. Tigner discusses his work on the design team for the SSC and the impact of the cancellation of ISABELLE, and he narrates Panofsky's decision to replace him with Roy Schwitters. He describes his return to Cornell, and he conveys that despite the structural challenges, there is much to remain optimistic about in high energy physics.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
July 17 and July 22, 2020
Location
video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Jackson recounts her family heritage and describes her upbringing in Washington DC and her early experiences attending segregated schools and visiting the Smithsonian museums. She considers some of the opportunities that came with being high school valedictorian, and she describes the circumstances leading to her undergraduate admission at MIT. Jackson discusses the discrimination she encountered during college and describes her experience amid campus protests against the Vietnam War. She describes her undergraduate thesis on tunneling density states in superconducting niobium-titanium alloys, and she explains why the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. was central to her decision to remain at MIT for graduate school. Jackson describes her thesis research officially under the direction of Jim Young but in reality more with Roman Jackiw. She discusses her experience as a postdoctoral researcher Fermilab, where she continued her thesis research on one-particle inclusive reactions, and then CERN, where she worked as a fellow of the Ford Foundation, and from which she used as a home base to travel in Europe. Jackson describes her subsequent work at Bell Labs where she focused on the electronic and optical properties of layered materials. She explains her decision to join the faculty at Rutgers University and she describes the moment not long after when President Clinton asked her to become the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Jackson recounts the history and structure of the NRC and she shares her views on the role of nuclear power as an energy sources and as part of the solution for climate change. She describes the interplay between regulation and private industry from her vantage point of leading the NRC and the responsibility of ensuring safety in the civilian nuclear energy industry. Jackson discusses her work as a board member of the New York Stock Exchange, and she explains the circumstances that led to her being named President of RPI. She describes the process for establishing a mandate and a vision for the university as she assumed leadership. Jackson discusses her work in the Obama administration as a member of PCAST and the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, and she explains why as president of a university it is important not to get caught up in the political controversies of any particular day. She shares her views on the importance of diversity and inclusivity in higher education and she describes how RPI has dealt with broader issues of racial justice in 2020. Jackson discusses her work on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus task force, and what she has learned from the pandemic. She describes why being awarded the National Medal of Science is so important to her personally and she reflects on her contributions in physics, and particularly on the properties of unique two-dimensional systems. At the end of the interview, Jackson describes her central focus on guiding RPI through the pandemic and championing environmental issues.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Dave Phillip's home, Schenectady, New York
Abstract

Dealing with early life in Southern California; training at Pomona College and University of California at Los Angeles; research at Lick Observatory on absolute calibration standards; Albert E. Whitford and Gerald Kron and photoelectric astronomy; position at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the contemporary job market. Also prominently mentioned are: J. Mayo Greenberg, Richard Grosch, James Jeans, George Low, Paul Routly; Arizona State University, and National Science Foundation (U.S.).

Interviewed by
Tom Lassman
Interview date
Location
Stamford, Connecticut
Abstract

Topics dicussed include: family background; early education; undergraduate studies at Brooklyn College; work at Frankford Arsenal Research Laboratory; gradute work at University of Pennsylvania; research on internal friction of metals with Tom Read; American Machine Foundry; Fred Seitz; Morehead Patterson; Rodney Gott; Carter Burgess; Walter Bedell Smith; Kennecott; Center for Science and Technology Policy at New York University and later moved to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; university and industry relations; Fusfeld Group.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin and Joseph Tatarewicz
Interview date
Location
DeVorkin's office, National Air and Space Museum
Abstract

After describing his upbringing and undergraduate education in physics at Renesselaer, Bleach (b. June 7, 1944) reviews his subsequent enrollment in the PhD program in physics at the University of Maryland. He then discusses his work at Goddard while in the PhD program, including initially developing solid state detectors for cosmic ray experiments; moving to an X-ray astronomy group headed by Dr. Elihu Boldt; developing and testing proportional counters in balloons, rockets, and satellites; use of mechanical and modulation collimators in the counters; and interaction with other research groups. Bleach next describes his thesis on Cygnus X-1 and work at NRL after completing his PhD program, including initially building and conducting experiments with detectors for the gamma ray group under HERO, and subsequent move to the laboratory diagnostics area in which he still is involved.

Interviewed by
Orville Butler
Interview date
Location
Johnson School of Business, Cornell University
Abstract

In this interview David BenDaniel discusses topics such as: family background and his education; attending the University of Pennsylvania; going into the United States Navy; doing graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Herb Callen; Will Allis; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI); electrical engineering; General Electric Company research laboratories; Henry Hurwitz; Stephen Crandall; Chauncey Guy Suits; Art Bueche; Henry Ehrenreich; hydro-magnetic stability; thermonuclear containment; solid-state physics; becoming a manager; being a fellow at Harvard University Business School; Howard Kurt; Exxon Enterprises; venture capital; Harold Craighead; Cornell University School of Management.