Interview with Berndt Müller, James B. Duke Professor of Physics at Duke University. The interview begins with Müller discussing his current work on quark-gluon plasma physics and the connections between nuclear physics and cosmology. Müller then recounts his family history in Germany during and after WWII, as well as his childhood in West Germany. He recalls his undergraduate studies at Goethe University Frankfurt, where it was the inspiring lectures that catalyzed his enthusiasm for physics. Müller explains the heavy ion research he was involved in at the time, as well as his master’s thesis on the Dirac equation. He recounts his first visit to Berkeley Lab in 1972 and his subsequent acceptance of a postdoc at University of Washington and a fellowship at Yale. Müller then returned to Frankfurt as an associate professor and explains how he got involved in quark-gluon plasma research. Müller talks about the creation of the RHIC and how that led him to pursue his next job in the US, landing at Duke. He discusses his involvement with the Institute of Nuclear Theory at the University of Washington, as well as his work at Brookhaven over the years. Müller recalls the pros and cons of the administrative side of academia, which he experienced as the Chair of the Faculty of Physics and then Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Duke. The interview concludes with Müller’s reflections on winning the Feshbach Prize and his predictions for the future of theoretical nuclear physics.
Early education; studies biophysics at Universität Frankfurt and Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut (Friedrich Dessauer, Rievsky); physics training (Erwin Madelung, Meissner); Dessauer's political troubles. Fellowship to Institut Radium (Marie Curie), 1933; building geiger counters (Frédéric Joliot-Curie); life and staff at Institut (Irene Joliot-Curie, Jean Perrin, Hans von Halban, Peter Preiswerk, Lew Kowarski, Rosenblum); Institut's role in development of nuclear physics (P.M.S. Blackett, Giuseppe Occhialini); first nuclear physics conference in Zurich (Paul Scherrer), 1933; London Conference of 1934 (Max Born, Maurice Goldhaber); F. Joliot-Curie thinking about accelerators and about building a cyclotron (Pierre Weiss); Gentner continues gamma ray work (Lise Meitner). Gentner leaves Institut after Curie's death; fellowship at Institute for Medical Research, Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut, Heidelberg (Walther Bothe), 1935-1938; also lectures at Frankfurt on radioactivity, gamma rays, x-rays, and cosmic rays; builds the first Van der Graaf machine in Germany, 1936; first to use gamma rays to look for nuclear photo effect (Fowler, Lauritsen). Travels to United States to study cyclotrons (James Fisk), 1938; spends several months at University of California, Berkeley (E. O. Lawrence, Donald Cooksey); the fission story (Niels Bohr, J. R. Oppenheimer); calibrating ionization chamber and experimental work in fission; life and pre-war politics at Berkeley and Stanford University (Felix Bloch); visits California Institute of Technology (Fowler, Lauritsen, Max Delbrück); travels to Washington, DC (George Gamow, Edward Teller, Fleming, Merle Tuve); and ends tour in New York City (John R. Dunning, Lawrence, Bohr). Returns to Europe; visits John Cockcroft at University of Cambridge. Returns with wife to Germany in April, 1938; plans for Siemens to build cyclotron in Heidelberg canceled. Sent to Paris to interview F. Joliot-Curie on whereabouts of heavy water, July 1940; private meeting afterwards; works in Paris with F. Joliot-Curie on cyclotron, 1940-1942; returns to Heidelberg to build own cyclotron, 1942-1944. Difficulties of re-establishing nuclear physics in Germany after World War II (Cockcroft, Konrad Adenauer); building up new laboratories; CERN, DESY.
Research in solid state physics from period of Sommerfeld's institutes; thesis, work in Frankfurt and Stuttgart; writing of Sommerfeld-Bethe Handbuch article. Also prominently metioned are: Patrick Maynard, Stuart Blackett, Felix Bloch, Clinton Joseph Davisson, Lester Halbert Germer, Werner Heisenberg, Irwin Madelung, Herman Francis mark, Sir Rudolf Ernst Peierls, Robert Wichard Pohl, Erwin Schrödinger, and Arnold Sommerfeld.