University College, London

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Hiranya Peiris, Professor of Astrophysics at University College London and Director of the Oscar Klein Centre and Professor of Cosmo-Particle Physics at Stockholm University. Peiris describes her dual affiliation, she discusses diversity in STEM over the past year, and she surveys the current interplay between theory and observation in her field. She recounts her childhood and family heritage in Sri Lanka and the circumstances that led her family to relocate to the United Kingdom. Peiris describes her interests in math and science the opportunities that led to her enrollment at Cambridge as an undergraduate and a formative experience at JPL in California. She explains her decision to pursue a PhD at Princeton, where she worked with David Spergel on WMAP. Peiris discusses her postdoctoral appointment as a Hubble fellow at the University of Chicago to continue to work on WMAP, and her subsequent work as a Halliday fellow at Cambridge. Peiris discusses her work on the Lyman-alpha forest and her faculty appointment at UCL where cosmology was just coming into maturity. She conveys the excitement as WMAP results were becoming available and her contributions to the search for dark matter. Peiris explains why the LSST project is so significant, what it was like to win the Breakthrough Prize, and the gratitude she feels by having eminent physicists as mentors. At the end of the interview, Peiris emphasizes the importance of following inquiry into the most fundamental questions surrounding gravity and space time, and why Stephen Hawking remains an intellectual inspiration to her.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Marius Clore, NIH Distinguished Investigator, Chief of Section of Protein NMR, Lab of Chemical Physics at the NIH. Clore recounts his childhood in London and his early interests in science, and he explains in detail the British education system that leads to specialization early in one’s undergraduate career. Clore discusses his experience at University College London, where he obtained a medical degree by age 24, and his residency at St. Charles Hospital. He describes his early interests in low temperature kinetic methods and NMR spectroscopy at Mill Hill. He describes his decision to pursue NMR as a career path, which he recognized was in its early stages at that point and which he felt was ripe for development. Clore explains how he taught himself General Relativity from Dirac’s book, and his decision to study at the Planck Institute. He describes the arc of his career at the NIH and his contributions to advancing NMR research and the intellectual atmosphere that allowed him to pursue interesting projects, including HIV research and the XPLOR program. Near the end of the discussion, Clore explains the difference between biophysics and classical physics, and why the NIH has been the ideal place to pursue his research.

Interviewed by
Melanie Matthies
Interview date
Location
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Abstract

Born in Toronto, Canada in 1924; University-based high school offered an excellent education in math. Attended University of Toronto for an undergraduate degree in Engineering Physics in 1945 and completed a Master’s thesis on servomechanisms in 1948. Employed as an Instructor for the Canadian Version of the GI Bill, came to MIT in 1948. Worked with L. Beranek in Acoustics lab and completed doctorate in 1952 with a dissertation about the perception of sounds shaped by resonant circuits. A research staff member of MIT from 1952-1954, he accepted a faculty position at MIT in 1955. Promoted to Associate Professor in 1957. Worked with G. Fant while on sabbatical in Sweden in 1962 and brought back x-ray films that formed the basis for early work with J. Perkell. Promoted to professor in 1963. Collaborated with D. Klatt on pioneering speech synthesis project, Klattalk, that formed the basis for DECtalk and many of speech synthesizers in use today. Traveled to England as visiting professor at University College, London 1969-1970. Served as President of the Acoustical Society of America 1976-1977. Awarded Clarence J. LeBel professorship in the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT in 1977. Received Gold medal from the Acoustical Society of America in 1995. Published an acclaimed book, Acoustic Phonetics, in 1998 that uses techniques of circuit analysis and signal processing to elucidate how a discrete linguistic representation is translated into articulatory movements so that their acoustic effects produce speech communication.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
CFA offices, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Abstract

Biographical profile of the theoretical astrophysicist and aeronomist Alexander Dalgarno, centering on his professional life at the Center for Astrophysics. Early life and training in London. Schooling and entrance to University College, London. Recollections of wartime life in London and Aberdeen. College years and experiences as a student. Development of interest in mathematics. Friends, colleagues and teachers at college. Graduation in 1948 and contact with Harrie Massey which led him into physics. Research under Richard Buckingham on applications of quantum theory to problems in physics. Exposure to experimental physics and problems in geophysics. Contact with David Bates, Massey and Sydney Chapman. Move to Belfast to work with Bates on problems of aeronomy. Development of research themes at Belfast and conferences on upper atmospheric physics and how it changed from remote sensing to in situ observations. Continued discussion of the development of his research interests. Non-LTE studies. Summer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 1954 and contact with Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory (AFCRL) upper atmosphere researchers. Appointment to Harvard-Smithsonian 1967. Students, postdocs and colleagues: Donald Menzel, Leo Goldberg. Refelections on relationship between Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and Harvard College Observatory (HCO) in the late 1960s. United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) SAO audit, 1971 and the Greenstein Visiting Committee. Goldberg's resignation and Whipple's retirement from the SAO directorship. Restructuring the observatory. The issue of shared teaching loads between staffs of SAO and HCO. Dalgarno becomes acting director of the reorganized observatory, to be called the Center for Astrophysics, recollections of how and why he was chosen. His views on the controversy and the changing profile of astronomy at Harvard in the early 1970s. Searching for and naming the new director. Finding George Field and the creation of the Center for Astrophysics. Models considered for the new organization. Combining directorships and keeping the Chair of the department distinct. Relations with the National Science Foundation (NSF). Views on the reorganization and its divisions and assumption of the associate directorship of the theoretical astrophysics division. The Field years, 1970-1980. Festschrifts for Dalgarno.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
American Institute of Physics, New York City, New York
Abstract

In this interview, Geoffrey Burbidge discusses his life and career.  Topics discussed include: his family and childhood; Bristol University; Nevill Mott; University College, London; Harrie Massey; David Robert Bates; theoretical physics seminars at Cambridge University; Richard Feymnan; Freeman Dyson; Dick Dalitz; Abdus Salam; Nicholas Kemmer; becoming interested in astronomy and astrophysics via Margaret Burbidge; Royal Astronomical Society; Clive Gregory; research into stellar parallax, stellar atmospheres; Herbert Dingle; Auger effect; Otto Struve; Harvard University; Bart Bok; Donald Menzel; Harlow Shapley; Yerkes Observatory; development of radio astronomy; I. I. Rabi and big bang skepticism; Chandrasekhar; Gerard Kuiper; Enrico Fermi; Cavendish Laboratory, Martin Ryle; nucleosynthesis; Kapitza Club; Willie Fowler; Fred Hoyle; stellar evolution; steady state cosmology; red shift; Erwin Finlay-Freundlich; Max Born; Mount Wilson Observatory; Allan Sandage; Milt Humason; Ira Bowen; status at women at Hale observatories and at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech); Edwin Hubble; Walter Baade; synchrotron radiation; Rudolph Minkowski; Californium and supernovae; Halton Arp; Hans Suess; Vera Rubin's work on anisotropy; quasars; galaxy formation.

Interviewed by
Paul Wright
Interview date
Abstract

Early life in the Cotswolds, England; Bristol University, 1943, and physics program during WWII; teachers include Nevill Mott and Edward Tyndall; effect of WWII; work with Harrie Massey on meson capture; University College, London; meets wife and growing contacts in astronomy, late 1940s; thesis, 1952; work in stellar atmosphere; visit to U.S. at Howard and Terkes, 1951-1953; Cavendish group under Martin Ryle, house theoretician; contact with William Fowler and growing interest in nucleosynthesis, 1954; fellowship at Pasadena, 1955; opinions on operation of major observatories, philosophy of cosmological research, reaction to steady state; problem of high energy sources, synchrotron radiation; belief structure in cosmology; Halton Arp’s work; Nuclear Processes in Astrophysics - B2FH; Yerkes Observatory, 1957; physics of galaxies, 1959. Also prominently mentioned are: Wilhelm Heinrich Walter Baade, Margaret Burbidge, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Paul A. M. Dirac, Enrico Fermi, William Alfred Fowler, James Edward Gunn, Fred Hoyle, Martin Ryle, Allan Sandage, Maarten Schmidt, and Arthur Wolfe.