University of Wisconsin -- Madison

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Willy Haeberli, Professor of Physics Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. Haeberli recounts his childhood in Basel, Switzerland, and he describes his experiences as a student during World War II. He discusses his early interest in physics and his decision to pursue nuclear physics at the University of Basel under the direction of Paul Huber. Haeberli describes his graduate research on the ionization of gasses by alpha particles, and he describes the circumstances leading to his subsequent postdoctoral job at the University of Wisconsin, where he was attracted to work with Raymond Herb in accelerator physics. He explains some of the scientific and cultural adjustments in order to settle in at Madison, and he describes the central questions of the structure of atomic nuclei that propelled nuclear physics at that time. He describes his subsequent research at Duke University before returning to Madison to join the faculty, he describes his many research visits to ETH Zurich, the Max Planck Institute, Fermilab, Saclay, and at DESY in Hamburg, and he offers insight on some of the differences in approach between American and European accelerator labs. Haeberli reflects on his contributions to the study of polarized protons and deuterons and angular momentum assignments. He discusses his work developing gas targets of pure spin polarized hydrogen and deuteron atoms, and he describes the critical support of the DOE and the NSF for this research. Haeberli shares his feelings on being elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and he explains his preference teaching undergraduates to graduate students. At the end of the interview, Haeberli describes how the department of physics at Wisconsin has changes over his decades of service, and he explains how only with the benefit of historical hindsight can one distinguish the truly important advances in the field. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Robert Jennings, retired since 2018 from the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, where he was a research physicist. He recounts his childhood in Southern California and the formative influence of Sputnik on his physics education. Jennings discusses his undergraduate experience at Occidental and his master’s work at UCLA, and he describes his postgraduate work at the NASA Ames Research Center where he worked on optical detectors. He explains his decision to pursue a PhD at Dartmouth where he studied under John Merrill and worked on Tonks-Dattner resonances. Jennings describes the circumstances leading to his postdoctoral research in Brazil at the Institute of Atomic Energy, where he worked on medical radiation in the Division of Solid-State Physics. He discusses his subsequent research with John Cameron at the University of Wisconsin’s Medical Physics section to develop spectroscopy systems. Jennings explains that the expertise he developed in radiation and modeling in Wisconsin served as his entrée to the FDA ,which excited him as the place where the most impactful research was happening at the time. He surveys the major projects he was involved with over his career, including human visual signal detection, quality assessment of medical devices, improving mammography diagnostics, tomosynthesis, and CT scanners. At the end of the interview, Jennings surveys the fundamental developments that have advanced over the course of his forty-plus year career at FDA, his major contributions in tissue simulation science, and why he believes AI will become increasingly central to advances in medical imaging. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Daniel Z. Freedman, Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics and Physics at MIT and long-term visiting professor at Stanford. Freedman explains his understanding of the term’s mathematical physics and physical mathematics, and he bemoans the broad decoupling of experiment and theory in physics. He recounts his upbringing in West Hartford, Connecticut, and he describes his undergraduate education at Wesleyan. Freedman describes his early attachment to theory and his graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, where he worked under the direction of Ray Sawyer on Regge poles. He discusses his postdoctoral research as a NATO fellow in Europe at CERN and Imperial College London, and he conveys the sense of excitement at the time about the weak and strong interactions. Freedman describes his appointment at UC Berkeley before joining the Institute for Advanced Study, and he explains the opportunity that led to his faculty job at Stony Brook. He reflects on his interactions with Yang and he narrates the origins of supersymmetry, and shortly after, the origins of supergravity. Freedman explains what is “super” in supergravity, supersymmetry, and super-space, and he describes why the reality of supersymmetry must be true even if we lack the tools to see it. He explains his decision to move to MIT, and he connects the arc from the 1984 string revolution to the discovery of AdS/CFT in 1997. Freedman describes winning the Dirac medal and subsequently the Breakthrough Prize, which he understood as confirmation in the community about the importance of supergravity. At the end of the interview, Freedman connects his work to larger questions in cosmology and astrophysics, he expresses surprise by the increasing centrality of mathematics to physics, he explains his early work on neutrino scattering and why after 40 years, his original intuition has been vindicated.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
David Zierler
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Raymond Sawyer, professor of physics emeritus at the University of California at Santa Barbara.  Sawyer recounts his childhood growing up in many towns in the Midwest as a function of his father’s frequent job transfers. He discusses his undergraduate studies at Swarthmore College, where he developed his interest in physics, and he explains the atmosphere of wide career opportunity in the age of Sputnik. Sawyer describes his graduate research at Harvard, where he worked in Norman Ramsey’s molecular beam lab.  He explains how Julian Schwinger came to be his advisor and he describes his dissertation study on symmetries and the weak interactions of elementary particles. Sawyer discusses his postdoctoral research at CERN where he joined the theory group and where he studied the decay of a charged pion. He describes his second postdoctoral appointment at the University of Wisconsin and his work in quantum field theory at the Institute for Advanced Study which he did at the invitation of Robert Oppenheimer.  Sawyer explains the series of events leading to his decision to join the faculty at UC Santa Barbara, and he discusses his role in the formation of the Institute for Theoretical Physics. He explains his invention of charged pion condensation and he describes his work in university administration. At the end of the interview, Sawyer reflects on his contributions throughout his career, and he explains how he has kept active in the field during retirement.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

This is an interview with Roger Stuewer, Professor Emeritus, History of Science and Technology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Stuewer recounts his childhood in rural Wisconsin, and he discusses his undergraduate work in physics education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the formative course in optics taught by Ed Miller. He describes his service in the U.S. Army and his deployment to Germany in the mid-1950s, and the opportunities provided by the GI Bill to further his education. He discusses his brief career teaching high school math and physics before he was offered an instructor job in physics at Heidelberg College. Stuewer describes the circumstances leading to his return to Wisconsin to pursue a graduate degree in the history of science, where he was advised by Erwin Hiebert and where he was deeply influenced by Heinz Barschall. He describes his fascination with Arthur Holly Compton and the Compton Effect which was the subject of his dissertation, and he explains his decision to join the faculty at Minnesota. Stuewer recounts his efforts to build the history of science and technology program there, and the opportunities he was afforded with a joint appointment in the physics department. He describes some of the major methodological and historiographical debates in the field over the course of his career, including competing ideas of whether the history of physics should be pursued at the conceptual level or have as its focus social phenomena. Stuewer discusses the major impact of Thomas Kuhn and he explains his decision to take a faculty position at Boston University before returning to Minnesota for the rest of his career, where he subsequently focused on the history of nuclear physics. He describes his motivations for creating a symposium on this topic, where Han Bethe delivered introductory remarks, and he explains his longstanding interest in John Hasbrouck Van Vleck. Stuewer describes his advisory work for AIP’s history program, and how his work as an editor for the American Journal of Physics provided him a unique vantage point of the field. At the end of the interview, Stuewer reflects on what his scholarship has taught him about how humankind makes sense of the physical world.  

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Lee Pondrom, Professor of Physics Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, recounts his childhood in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston and describes his early interest in science. He explains his motivations to attend Southern Methodist University, where he pursued a degree in physics. Pondrom discusses his graduate work at the University of Chicago where the long-range influence of the Manhattan Project remained strong, even in the early and mid-1950s. He describes his summer research work at Los Alamos, and his thesis research on cyclotrons and pi mesons under the direction of Albert Crewe and Uli Kruse. Pondrom conveys the feeling of excitement at the discovery of parity violation while he was a graduate student, his postdoctoral work on the Nevis cyclotron while at Columbia, and he describes his Air Force service after he defended his dissertation. He describes the opportunities leading to his tenure at the University of Wisconsin and a research agenda that included long-term projects at the Chicago cyclotron, and at Fermilab and at Argonne. Pondrom discusses his contributions to CP violation, hyperon decay and how computers have been useful over the course of the career. He describes the origins of Fermilab and his experiences at Madison during the student unrest during the late 1960s, where bombers targeted science buildings. Pondrom discusses the significance of the E8 experiment as an extension of the Garwin-Lederman experiment and the origins of the Tevatron project. He explains the ups and downs of U.S. high energy physics during the SSC years and he surmises what would be known now in particle physics had the SSC been completed. At the end of the interview, Pondrom describes his extensive collaborations in Russia and his study of Soviet-era physics, including his work on Stalin’s nuclear diplomacy.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Remote Interview
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Samuel Aronson, Director Emeritus of Brookhaven National Laboratory. He discusses his more recent work as director of the RIKEN Institute and his involvement with the National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium. Aronson recounts his childhood on Long Island, and he describes the impact of Sputnik on him personally and on the country generally. He describes his undergraduate education at Columbia and the relationship he developed with Mel Schwartz, and he discusses Schwartz’s collaborations with Leon Lederman and Jack Steinberger. Aronson describes his decision to pursue his graduate degree at Princeton, and his interest in working at the Princeton-Pennsylvania Accelerator Center. He discusses his involvement in the study of the decay of neutral K mesons into a pion and an electron and a neutrino. Aronson recounts his work with Valentine Telegdi at the Fermi Institute, and he describes Telegdi’s research at the ZDS in Argonne in kaons. He discusses his faculty appointment at the University of Wisconsin and his research on neutral kaons, and he describes the fundamental and concurrent work going on at Brookhaven and SLAC. Aronson explains the origins of his collaboration with Ephraim Fischbach on the Fifth Force, and he describes his attraction in moving to Brookhaven where the ISABELLE proton-proton collider was in development. He describes the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and PHENIX program, and he explains his promotions and increasing responsibilities culminating in his being named director of Brookhaven. Aronson discusses the rise of cosmology from within the field of particle physics, and he describes the role of DOE in supporting basic science at the lab. At the end of the interview, Aronson shares his views on the future of particle physics and some major outstanding questions that will continue to animate the field. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Remote Interview
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Francis Halzen, professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin and principal investigator for the IceCube Project. Halzen describes his involvement in the origins of the project in 1990, and he recounts his childhood in Belgium and the ordeals his family experienced during World War II. He discusses his undergraduate and graduate education at Louvain University, and he describes his developing interests in group theory and quark theory. Halzen discusses his research on non-relativistic quarks bound in mesons under the direction of Frans Cerulus, and he describes his postdoctoral research at CERN on duality between resonances and particle exchanges. He discusses his subsequent work at Brookhaven and the initial goal of finding the W boson with the ISABELLE program, and he describes the events leading to his joining the faculty in Madison. Halzen describes the leading position Wisconsin enjoyed in high-energy physics, the transitional period he found himself in with the advent of QCD, and the importance of the research being conducted at Argonne, SLAC and Fermilab over the years. He describes the origins of the AMANDA project and he explains the relevance of building a kilometer cube detector for neutrino astronomy. Halzen discusses the complementary relationship between cosmic ray and particle physics, and he explains why the IceCube project needed to be as large as it is to detect the sources of cosmic rays. He explains why Antarctica is an ideal site to detect neutrinos and what it would take to create a standard neutrino model. Halzen describes the magnitude of the event if IceCube was able to detect a neutron start merger in neutrinos, gamma rays and gravitational waves, and at the end of the interview, he describes the future goals of IceCube and how it will continue to expand our understanding of the universe. 

Interviewed by
A. Jeffrey Giacomin
Interview date
Location
Devil's Lake, Wisconsin
Abstract

In this interview R. Byron Bird discusses topics such as: his work in rheology and the history of the Rheology Research Center at the University of Wisconsin; his educational background in chemical engineering; polymer rheology; Joe Hirschfelder; his work at DuPont; John Tordella; University of Wisconsin, Madison; John Ferry; going as a lecturer to Kyoto University and Nagoya University; Society of Rheology; Arthur Lodge; Japanese Society of Rheology; Harold R. Warner; D. C. Evans; Ole Hassager; Chuck Curtiss; John Schrag; the writing of his two volume set; how foreign languages have been a part of his life. 

Interviewed by
A. Jeffrey Giacomin
Interview date
Location
Bird's apartment, Madison, Wisconsin
Abstract

In this interview R. Byron Bird discusses topics such as: his work in rheology and the history of the Rheology Research Center at the University of Wisconsin; his educational background in chemical engineering; polymer rheology; Joe Hirschfelder; his work at DuPont; John Tordella; University of Wisconsin, Madison; John Ferry; going as a lecturer to Kyoto University and Nagoya University; Society of Rheology; Arthur Lodge; Japanese Society of Rheology; Harold R. Warner; D. C. Evans; Ole Hassager; Chuck Curtiss; John Schrag; the writing of his two volume set; how foreign languages have been a part of his life.