Royal Society (Great Britain)

Interviewed by
Michael Duncan
Interview date
Location
Great Bealings, Suffolk, England
Abstract

Interview with John Midwinter OBE, British electrical engineer and professor. The interview begins with reflections from Midwinter’s childhood in England and his early knack for building things. He describes his initial plans to attend agricultural college, but first had to complete two years of military service. He served in the Royal Air Force where he was introduced to radar, leading him to pursue physics and electronics in university. Midwinter describes his time at King’s College London and his decision to join the Scientific Civil Service upon graduation, wherein he was placed at the Royal Radar Establishment in Malvern. There, Midwinter recalls focusing on nonlinear optics and completing his PhD while there. He discusses the offer he accepted from Perkin Elmer and his subsequent move to the US, where he met and worked with Frits Zernike. Midwinter then spent a short time at Allied Chemical in New Jersey, helping to build up their new Materials Research Center. He discusses moving back to England to work at British Telecom Research Labs, where he shifted into working on optical fiber communications. He describes the differences between research companies in the US and the UK, and the importance of conferences he attended during this time, such as the Optical Fiber Conference and European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC). Midwinter then recalls his new position at University College London, his transition away from fiber, and his interest in optical computing. He reflects on the administrative roles he found himself in within academia, as well as the pride he felt being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and being awarded OBE. The interview concludes with Midwinter’s recollections of the two successful books he wrote and his experience as a longtime member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE). 

Interviewed by
Thomas S. Kuhn
Interview date
Location
Palmer Physical Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey
Abstract

Family background, early schooling; physics studies at University of Petrograd, Dmitri Rozhdestwensky. Introduction to Niels Bohr's atomic theories; Russian physical sciences tradition; Russian degree system. Stipend at the Optical Institute in Petrograd. Reactions to Werner Heisenberg-Erwin Schrödinger work, 1925-1926; to Göttingen University 1927 and 1928 (Paul Ehrenfest, Paul A.M. Dirac); life in Göttingen. Relationship with Bohr, Bohr's visit to Leningrad, 1934; visit to Copenhagen, 1957; philosophical aspects of physics in Leningrad. Also prominently mentioned are: Maurice de Broglie, Friedman, Goud, Samuel Abraham Goudsmit, Krutkow, Krylow, Liapunov, Hermann Weyl; Kazan V. I. Lenin State University, Leningradskii gosudarstvennyi universitet imeni A. A. Zhdanova, Moscow M. V. Lomonosov State University, Petrozavodsk O. V. Kuusinen State University, Proceedings of the Royal Society, and Universität Göttingen.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
University of Leeds, Leeds, England
Abstract

Early life in London during World War I; developing interests in mathematics; training at University of Oxford under John Nicholson, I. O. Griffith and Edward A. Milne; contact with Sydney Chapman and research on solar magnetic field and stellar structure; position at Imperial College with Chapman; comments on stellar structure studies of James Jeans, Edward Milne, and Arthur Eddington; work on Kinetic Theory of Gases and Magnetohydrodynamics and continued work in stellar structure; work during World War II and later contact with Hannes Alfvén; later positions and move to University of Leeds; growth and progress of astronomy in Britain. Also prominently mentioned are: Victor Amazaspovich Ambartsumian, Ludwig Franz Benedikt Biermann, Walter M. Elsasser, Bertil Lindblad, Alla Genrikhova Massevitch, H. S. Ruse, Erwin Schrödinger, Andréi Borísovich Sevérnyi, H. H. Turner; Baptist Church, Royal Astronomical Society, Royal Society (Great Britain), University College of North Wales, University College of Swansea, and University of Oxford.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Cambridge, England
Abstract

Family background; early interest in mathematics; physics at University of Manchester; Ernest Rutherford's influence; early research under Rutherford at Manchester; examination by Joseph J. Thomson for degree; recollections of associates at Manchester, including Niels Bohr; scholarship to Universität Berlin and work there with Hans Geiger; internment during World War I; scientific work at internment camp; return to Manchester; move with Rutherford to University of Cambridge; appointment as Assistant Director of Research at Cavendish Laboratory (ca. 1923); work with Rutherford on artificial disintegration; Rutherford's idea of the neutron; early experimental search for neutron; duties and experiences at the Cavendish Laboratory from 1919 to 1936; Rutherford's personality; Solvay conference of 1933; reasons for leaving Cambridge for University of Liverpool; initial plans, personnel and activities at Liverpool; cyclotron; award of Nobel Prize; encounter with Joliots, also in Stockholm for Prize in chemistry; influx of refugee theoreticians; work on the meson; changes effected by large machines; recollections of announcement of fission; World War II work; involvement with A-bomb project, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and General Leslie Groves; postwar considerations regarding international control of atomic energy; effect of Rutherford's death on Cavendish; return to Cambridge as Master of Gonville and Caius College; circumstances of resignation as Master; appraisal of personal satisfactions. Also prominently mentioned are: H. K. Anderson, John Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Niels Henrik David Bohr, Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, Albert Einstein, Charles D. Ellis, Walter M. Elsasser, Ralph Howard Fowler, Maurice Goldhaber, Otto Hahn, Walter Heitler, J. R. Holt, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Douglas Lea, Lise Meitner, Stefan Meyer, Henry N. Moseley, Walther Nernst, Giuseppe Occhialini, Mark Oliphant, Maurice H. L. Pryce, Stanley Rolands, Heinrich Rubens, Joseph John Thomson, Merle Antony Tuve, Walke, H. C. Webster, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson; Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of Great Britain, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Ministry of Aircraft Uranium Development Committee (Great Britain), Physikalische-Technische Reichsanstalt, Royal Society (Great Britain), University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge Cavendish Physical Society, and University of Liverpool.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Cambridge, England
Abstract

Family background; early interest in mathematics; physics at University of Manchester; Ernest Rutherford's influence; early research under Rutherford at Manchester; examination by Joseph J. Thomson for degree; recollections of associates at Manchester, including Niels Bohr; scholarship to Universität Berlin and work there with Hans Geiger; internment during World War I; scientific work at internment camp; return to Manchester; move with Rutherford to University of Cambridge; appointment as Assistant Director of Research at Cavendish Laboratory (ca. 1923); work with Rutherford on artificial disintegration; Rutherford's idea of the neutron; early experimental search for neutron; duties and experiences at the Cavendish Laboratory from 1919 to 1936; Rutherford's personality; Solvay conference of 1933; reasons for leaving Cambridge for University of Liverpool; initial plans, personnel and activities at Liverpool; cyclotron; award of Nobel Prize; encounter with Joliots, also in Stockholm for Prize in chemistry; influx of refugee theoreticians; work on the meson; changes effected by large machines; recollections of announcement of fission; World War II work; involvement with A-bomb project, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and General Leslie Groves; postwar considerations regarding international control of atomic energy; effect of Rutherford's death on Cavendish; return to Cambridge as Master of Gonville and Caius College; circumstances of resignation as Master; appraisal of personal satisfactions. Also prominently mentioned are: H. K. Anderson, John Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Niels Henrik David Bohr, Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, Albert Einstein, Charles D. Ellis, Walter M. Elsasser, Ralph Howard Fowler, Maurice Goldhaber, Otto Hahn, Walter Heitler, J. R. Holt, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Douglas Lea, Lise Meitner, Stefan Meyer, Henry N. Moseley, Walther Nernst, Giuseppe Occhialini, Mark Oliphant, Maurice H. L. Pryce, Stanley Rolands, Heinrich Rubens, Joseph John Thomson, Merle Antony Tuve, Walke, H. C. Webster, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson; Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of Great Britain, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Ministry of Aircraft Uranium Development Committee (Great Britain), Physikalische-Technische Reichsanstalt, Royal Society (Great Britain), University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge Cavendish Physical Society, and University of Liverpool.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Cambridge, England
Abstract

Family background; early interest in mathematics; physics at University of Manchester; Ernest Rutherford's influence; early research under Rutherford at Manchester; examination by Joseph J. Thomson for degree; recollections of associates at Manchester, including Niels Bohr; scholarship to Universität Berlin and work there with Hans Geiger; internment during World War I; scientific work at internment camp; return to Manchester; move with Rutherford to University of Cambridge; appointment as Assistant Director of Research at Cavendish Laboratory (ca. 1923); work with Rutherford on artificial disintegration; Rutherford's idea of the neutron; early experimental search for neutron; duties and experiences at the Cavendish Laboratory from 1919 to 1936; Rutherford's personality; Solvay conference of 1933; reasons for leaving Cambridge for University of Liverpool; initial plans, personnel and activities at Liverpool; cyclotron; award of Nobel Prize; encounter with Joliots, also in Stockholm for Prize in chemistry; influx of refugee theoreticians; work on the meson; changes effected by large machines; recollections of announcement of fission; World War II work; involvement with A-bomb project, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and General Leslie Groves; postwar considerations regarding international control of atomic energy; effect of Rutherford's death on Cavendish; return to Cambridge as Master of Gonville and Caius College; circumstances of resignation as Master; appraisal of personal satisfactions. Also prominently mentioned are: H. K. Anderson, John Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Niels Henrik David Bohr, Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, Albert Einstein, Charles D. Ellis, Walter M. Elsasser, Ralph Howard Fowler, Maurice Goldhaber, Otto Hahn, Walter Heitler, J. R. Holt, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Douglas Lea, Lise Meitner, Stefan Meyer, Henry N. Moseley, Walther Nernst, Giuseppe Occhialini, Mark Oliphant, Maurice H. L. Pryce, Stanley Rolands, Heinrich Rubens, Joseph John Thomson, Merle Antony Tuve, Walke, H. C. Webster, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson; Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of Great Britain, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Ministry of Aircraft Uranium Development Committee (Great Britain), Physikalische-Technische Reichsanstalt, Royal Society (Great Britain), University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge Cavendish Physical Society, and University of Liverpool.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Cambridge, England
Abstract

Family background; early interest in mathematics; physics at University of Manchester; Ernest Rutherford's influence; early research under Rutherford at Manchester; examination by Joseph J. Thomson for degree; recollections of associates at Manchester, including Niels Bohr; scholarship to Universität Berlin and work there with Hans Geiger; internment during World War I; scientific work at internment camp; return to Manchester; move with Rutherford to University of Cambridge; appointment as Assistant Director of Research at Cavendish Laboratory (ca. 1923); work with Rutherford on artificial disintegration; Rutherford's idea of the neutron; early experimental search for neutron; duties and experiences at the Cavendish Laboratory from 1919 to 1936; Rutherford's personality; Solvay conference of 1933; reasons for leaving Cambridge for University of Liverpool; initial plans, personnel and activities at Liverpool; cyclotron; award of Nobel Prize; encounter with Joliots, also in Stockholm for Prize in chemistry; influx of refugee theoreticians; work on the meson; changes effected by large machines; recollections of announcement of fission; World War II work; involvement with A-bomb project, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and General Leslie Groves; postwar considerations regarding international control of atomic energy; effect of Rutherford's death on Cavendish; return to Cambridge as Master of Gonville and Caius College; circumstances of resignation as Master; appraisal of personal satisfactions. Also prominently mentioned are: H. K. Anderson, John Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Niels Henrik David Bohr, Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, Albert Einstein, Charles D. Ellis, Walter M. Elsasser, Ralph Howard Fowler, Maurice Goldhaber, Otto Hahn, Walter Heitler, J. R. Holt, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Douglas Lea, Lise Meitner, Stefan Meyer, Henry N. Moseley, Walther Nernst, Giuseppe Occhialini, Mark Oliphant, Maurice H. L. Pryce, Stanley Rolands, Heinrich Rubens, Joseph John Thomson, Merle Antony Tuve, Walke, H. C. Webster, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson; Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of Great Britain, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Ministry of Aircraft Uranium Development Committee (Great Britain), Physikalische-Technische Reichsanstalt, Royal Society (Great Britain), University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge Cavendish Physical Society, and University of Liverpool.

Interviewed by
Spencer Weart
Interview date
Abstract

In this interview, Geoffrey Burbidge discusses the history of physics over the course of his career.  Topics discussed include: Astronomical Society of the Pacific; E. Margaret Burbridge; American Astronomical Society; Hale Observatory; Lick Observatory; radio astronomy; Naval Research Laboratory; x-ray astronomy; Bruno Rossi; optical astronomy; Kitt Peak National Observatory; air and light pollution; Allan Sandage; Harvard University; Princeton University; Lord Kelvin; S. Chandrasekhar; Henry Norris Russell; Paul Merrill; Leo Goldberg; Edwin Hubble; Royal Society; Milton Humason; theory of relativity; Fred Hoyle; big bang cosmology; steady state cosmology; Joe Weber; John Wheeler; Willy Fowler.