Interviewed by

David Zierler

Interview date

Location

Teleconference

Abstract

Interview with Joel L. Lebowitz, the George William Hill professor of mathematics and physics at Rutgers University and Director of the Center for Mathematical Sciences Research at Rutgers. The interview begins with a brief discussion of how Lebowitz defines mathematical physics, his current interest in statistical mechanics, and his involvement in the Committee of Concerned Scientists. Lebowitz then looks back at his childhood in former Czechoslovakia, now Ukraine, where Yiddish was his first language. He recounts his memories of state-imposed anti-Semitism and his deportation to Auschwitz. Upon being liberated from the camp, Lebowitz describes his journey to the US where he studied math and theoretical physics at Brooklyn College. He talks about his graduate studies at Syracuse University with Peter Bergmann, as well as his post-doctoral position at Yale University with Lars Onsager. Lebowitz recalls his work on topics such as Coulomb forces, the thermodynamic limit, Ising spins, stochastic dynamics and more. He discusses his affiliation with the New York Academy of Sciences, of which he eventually became President, as well as his involvement in human rights issues related to the Refusenik scientists. The interview concludes with Lebowitz’s reflections on the connections between science and morality.

Interviewed by

David Zierler

Interview date

Location

Video conference

Abstract

Interview with Dr. Elliot H. Lieb, professor of physics emeritus and professor of mathematical physics at Princeton University. Lieb opens the interview discussing the primary differences between physical mathematics and mathematical physics, and he outlines how modern mathematical ideas have been used in physics. The interview then looks to the past, to Lieb’s childhood and adolescence in New York City, where his passion for physics began. Lieb discusses his experience as a student at MIT, particularly his political involvement during the McCarthy Era. He also mentions his time working at Yeshiva University, and compares the political sentiment there to that at MIT and other universities around the United States. He talks about the work he was able to do abroad in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Sierra Leone, and about the lessons he learned from each of these experiences. Eventually, Lieb returned to Boston and joined the applied math group at MIT, while also working on the six-vertex ice model. In 1975, Lieb moved to Princeton, where he has collaborated with a number of scientists on a variety of topics and papers, including the 1987 AKLT Model (Affleck, Kennedy, Lieb, and Tasaki). The interview ends with Lieb looking to a future of continued experimentation and collaboration on the subjects that interest him most.

Interviewed by

David Zierler

Interview date

Location

Video conference

Abstract

Interview with Stephen Fulling, Professor of Mathematics and of Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University. Fulling explains the history of why his primary academic department is math and how the field of general relativity became more directly relevant to observational cosmology in the 1960s and 1970s. He recounts his middle-class upbringing in Indiana and his dual interests in math and physics which he developed during his undergraduate years at Harvard. Fulling discusses his graduate work at Princeton, where Arthur Wightman supervised his research. He explains the contemporary controversy over the Casimir effect and his interest in the Minkowski vacuum, and he discusses his postdoctoral appointment at UW-Milwaukee. Fulling describes his work on Riemannian spacetime and Robertson-Walker spacetime, and he explains the opportunity that led him to the University of London, where black holes was a focus of research. He describes meeting Paul Davies and Chris Isham and how the field started to take black holes seriously as observable entities in the 1980s. Fulling explains his longstanding interest in asymptotic expansion and he surveys more recent advances in the Casimir effect. He reflects on the Unruh effect as it approaches its 50th anniversary, and he addresses the disagreement on whether or not it has been observed and whether the Unruh effect implies Unruh radiation. At the end of the interview, Fulling discusses his current interests in the soft wall problem and acceleration radiation, and he explains his ongoing interest in seeing advances in research on Casimir energy.

Interviewed by

Charles Weiner

Interview date

Location

Altadena, California

Abstract

Interview covers the development of several branches of theoretical physics from the 1930s through the 1960s; the most extensive discussions deal with topics in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics as it relates to fission technology, meson field theory, superfluidity and other properties of liquid helium, beta decay and the Universal Fermi Interaction, with particular emphasis on Feynman's work in the reformulation of quantum electrodynamic field equations. Early life in Brooklyn, New York; high school; undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; learning the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics on his own. To Princeton University (John A. Wheeler), 1939; serious preoccupation with problem of self-energy of electron and other problems of quantum field theory; work on uranium isotope separation; Ph.D., 1942. Atomic bomb project, Los Alamos (Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi); test explosion at Alamagordo. After World War II teaches mathematical physics at Cornell University; fundamental ideas in quantum electrodynamics crystalize; publishes "A Space-Time View," 1948; Shelter Island Conference (Lamb shift); Poconos Conferences; relations with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichiro Tomonaga; nature and quality of scientific education in Latin America; industry and science policies. To California Institute of Technology, 1951; problems associated with the nature of superfluid helium; work on the Lamb shift (Bethe, Michel Baranger); work on the law of beta decay and violation of parity (Murray Gell-Mann); biological studies; philosophy of scientific discovery; Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy; masers (Robert Hellwarth, Frank Lee Vernon, Jr.), 1957; Solvay Conference, 1961. Appraisal of current state of quantum electrodynamics; opinion of the National Academy of Science; Nobel Prize, 1965.

Interviewed by

Katherine Sopka

Interview date

Location

Wellesley, Massachusetts

Abstract

Family background, education, and emergence of scientific orientation. Undergraduate years at Wellesley College (1912-1916); description of physics department. Assistant examiner in U.S. Patent Office during World War I. At MIT under E.B. Wilson as graduate student and laboratory assistant, then lab instructor (1920-24). Returned to MIT for doctoral work in 1928. Mathematical physics thesis under Norbert Wiener, while teaching at Wellesley. Depression years brought teaching position at Wilson College (1930-43), used Wellesley as model. Work on Zeeman Pattern earns her Guggenheim Fellowship (1949-50) at MIT and European labs. World War II years as head of OSRD British Report Section. Returned to Wilson (1945-56), worked part-time at National Science Foundation (1953-56). Retirement years including affiliation with U.S. Army and spectroscopic work at Harvard College Observatory. Comments on women in physics in U.S., her own opportunities, and teaching in general.

Interviewed by

Charles Weiner

Interview date

Location

Altadena, California

Abstract

Interview covers the development of several branches of theoretical physics from the 1930s through the 1960s; the most extensive discussions deal with topics in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics as it relates to fission technology, meson field theory, superfluidity and other properties of liquid helium, beta decay and the Universal Fermi Interaction, with particular emphasis on Feynman's work in the reformulation of quantum electrodynamic field equations. Early life in Brooklyn, New York; high school; undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; learning the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics on his own. To Princeton University (John A. Wheeler), 1939; serious preoccupation with problem of self-energy of electron and other problems of quantum field theory; work on uranium isotope separation; Ph.D., 1942. Atomic bomb project, Los Alamos (Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi); test explosion at Alamagordo. After World War II teaches mathematical physics at Cornell University; fundamental ideas in quantum electrodynamics crystalize; publishes "A Space-Time View," 1948; Shelter Island Conference (Lamb shift); Poconos Conferences; relations with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichiro Tomonaga; nature and quality of scientific education in Latin America; industry and science policies. To California Institute of Technology, 1951; problems associated with the nature of superfluid helium; work on the Lamb shift (Bethe, Michel Baranger); work on the law of beta decay and violation of parity (Murray Gell-Mann); biological studies; philosophy of scientific discovery; Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy; masers (Robert Hellwarth, Frank Lee Vernon, Jr.), 1957; Solvay Conference, 1961. Appraisal of current state of quantum electrodynamics; opinion of the National Academy of Science; Nobel Prize, 1965.

Interviewed by

Charles Weiner

Interview date

Location

Altadena, California

Abstract

Interview covers the development of several branches of theoretical physics from the 1930s through the 1960s; the most extensive discussions deal with topics in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics as it relates to fission technology, meson field theory, superfluidity and other properties of liquid helium, beta decay and the Universal Fermi Interaction, with particular emphasis on Feynman's work in the reformulation of quantum electrodynamic field equations. Early life in Brooklyn, New York; high school; undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; learning the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics on his own. To Princeton University (John A. Wheeler), 1939; serious preoccupation with problem of self-energy of electron and other problems of quantum field theory; work on uranium isotope separation; Ph.D., 1942. Atomic bomb project, Los Alamos (Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi); test explosion at Alamagordo. After World War II teaches mathematical physics at Cornell University; fundamental ideas in quantum electrodynamics crystalize; publishes "A Space-Time View," 1948; Shelter Island Conference (Lamb shift); Poconos Conferences; relations with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichiro Tomonaga; nature and quality of scientific education in Latin America; industry and science policies. To California Institute of Technology, 1951; problems associated with the nature of superfluid helium; work on the Lamb shift (Bethe, Michel Baranger); work on the law of beta decay and violation of parity (Murray Gell-Mann); biological studies; philosophy of scientific discovery; Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy; masers (Robert Hellwarth, Frank Lee Vernon, Jr.), 1957; Solvay Conference, 1961. Appraisal of current state of quantum electrodynamics; opinion of the National Academy of Science; Nobel Prize, 1965.

Interviewed by

Charles Weiner

Interview date

Location

Altadena, California

Abstract

Interviewed by

Charles Weiner

Interview date

Location

Altadena, California

Abstract

Interviewed by

David DeVorkin

Interview date

Location

Bondi's office, Thames House, London, England

Abstract

Interview focusses on early life in Vienna, family and religion; atmosphere in Vienna in early 1930s; growth of interest in mathematical physics; anti-Semitism in Vienna; influence of history teacher and rejection of religion; influence of reading Eddington and Jeans in the mid-1930s; further study in England and contact with Eddington; Trinity College, 1937-1940; study with Besicovitch; collapse of plebiscite and family in Vienna; internment during World WarII; graduate study with Harold Jeffreys; naval radar, 1942; associates during war and circle at Cambridge; development of radar research team with Gold and Hoyle; developing astronomical interests, 1943; early research on accretion and evolution; cosmology; general relativity; contact with Dyson, Lighthill and W.H. McCrae; work in theoretical stellar structure; the problem of red giants; Hoyle's theory of stellar evolution; Hoyle-Lyttleton red giant models; growing interests in cosmology and discussion of Tolman and Hubble; the Steady State Cosmology; reactions to Steady State theory; gravitational theory and relativity circa 1955.