Interview with Bruno Coppi, Professor of Physics Emeritus at MIT. Coppi recounts his childhood in Lombardi, Italy. He discusses his early interests in nuclear engineering and his graduate work in Milan on neutron transport theory. He explains the opportunities that led to his postgraduate appointment at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and his subsequent work at Stanford for his postdoctoral research in collision-less plasma. Coppi discusses his work at the Institute for Advanced Study where he interacted closely with Freeman Dyson, and he explains his decision to join the faculty at MIT where he could work with Bruno Rossi. He describes his collaborations in the Soviet Union with nuclear physicists, and he explains the sequencing of the Alcator program to the Ignitor program. Coppi describes the changes inherent in the AEC’s transformation into the DOE, and he explains the import of the Voyager 2 space mission. He describes his current interest in spontaneously rotating plasma and he reflects on why science is a humbling profession, even for geniuses. At the end of the interview, Coppi explains why the role of angular momentum remains profoundly mysterious, and why he is optimistic that he will continue to make contributions to the understanding of burning plasmas.
Childhood influences of father and teacher on career decision; childhood experiences as radio amateur. First studies in physics at Collegio Borromeo, Pavia; influences of Adolfo Campetti and Prof. Brunetti in radioactivity. Spectroscopy work with Campetti and later experimentation with Raman spectroscopy of calcite. Graduation, 1933; meeting future wife. Move to Switzerland during World War II; repatriation and resumption of lab work at Università di Pavia. Abortive work toward lamb shift in hydrogen spectrum. Postwar instrumentation and funding problems. Move to nuclear magnetic resonance; reproduction of Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell experiment; work on "negative temperature." Foreign influences brought by Fausto Fumi from Frederick Seitz, Nevill Mott; work with students in solid state. Views about the state of Italian physics, particularly on Edoardo Amaldi and the funding priority given to high energy physics.
Early education at Università di Pavia and Collegio Ghislieri; political involvement in the post-liberation years; experience in Holland (Utrecht and Leiden); postgraduate work with Fausto Fumi and Piero Caldirola's encouragement; evangelizing at Università di Genova and Università di Pisa and first experimental group in Milano; in 1965 Chair at Università di Parma and subsequent establishment there of a Consiglio nazionale delle richerche laboratory for the study of "materials for electronics;" attitude of Italian Communist Party leaders toward science and technology issues over the last decades, from the days of Stalinism to the autonomous stand of today; situation of a Communist physicist during the 1950s and post-1950s.
Starts with a brief overview of early schooling and physics studies at Università di Pavia in the 1940s, and a two-year visit to University of Illinois to work with Frederick Seitz. Building up and organizing solid state physics studies at Gruppo nazionale di struttura dela Materia; collaboration with Italian industry (Olivetti, Segesto); research funding difficulties. Comments on involvement with the Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste (J. Ziman and N. Marsh); comments on solid state physics in other European countries. Chiarotti's organizational work in Consiglio nazionale delle ricerche and the European Physical Society is mentioned. Views on the popularization of science in the Italian scientific community.
Born into influential family of wine producers. Develops interest in science in high school. Enters Università di Pavia as physics major, 1948; courses by Luigi Giulotto and Piero Caldirola; keeps strong interests in philosophy (courses by Gustavo Bontadini and Enzo Paci); thesis work (adviser Fausto Fumi) on defects in ionic crystals; Pavia, 1952. Moves to University of Illinois to work with Frederick Seitz on electronic structure of semiconductors after having spent two years in Milan. Moves to Argonne National Laboratory, 1959. Eventually returns home to Italy, Università di Palermo. Later moves to Rome and Pisa; comments on lack of contact with Italian industry.