Synchrotron radiation

Interviewed by
Jon Phillips
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, AIP Oral Historian Jon Phillips interviews Dr. Sean Brennan, emeritus physicist at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory. Brennan describes his early life in an academic family, undergraduate education at Catholic University, and graduate education under Arthur Bienenstock at Stanford University, where he began work with synchrotron radiation. He discusses his early work at SLAC with Jo Stohr on X-Ray absorption experiments, and his post-doc at Exxon. Brennan goes on to discuss the development of the facilities and research at SLAC over the course of his tenure there, as well as his work on the NASA Stardust project analyzing asteroid and comet samples. The interview concludes with a discussion of Brennan’s activities after retirement, including programming apps and serving as a ski patrol rescue worker.

Interviewed by
Jon Phillips
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Joachim Stöhr, Professor Emeritus of the Photon Science Department at Stanford and former Associate Laboratory Director at SLAC. Stöhr begins the interview recounting his childhood in Germany, his interest in sports, and his introduction to physics in high school. He discusses his undergraduate studies at Bonn University and his Fulbright scholarship to Washington State University where he studied optical spectroscopy. Stöhr then describes his doctoral studies with Rudolf Mossbauer in Munich, and his subsequent postdoctoral position at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He recounts his time as a staff scientist at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) before transitioning into a position at Exxon and then IBM. Stöhr describes his return to Stanford and SSRL, working as Deputy Director and then Director. He then talks about accepting the opportunity to become the first director of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) and the challenges that came with building up a new program. The interview concludes with Stöhr’s reflections on his return to the science after his directorship and his work on a forthcoming book.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Piero Pianetta, Research Professor in the Photon Science Department, joint with Electrical Engineering, at Stanford. He recounts his family’s Italian heritage, and his upbringing in Italy and then in California. He explains his interest in pursuing physics as an undergraduate at Santa Clara University, and his graduate work at Stanford where he worked on monochromator experiments and contributed to the SPEAR collaboration at SLAC. Pianetta discusses his scientific interests converging on surface science and the influence of Seb Doniach on his research. He describes his postgraduate work at HP where he focused on laser annealing and subsequently SSRL to conduct research on device technology and photoemission techniques. Pianetta explains how SSRL became integrated in SLAC and how he became administratively housed in the Photon Science department, and how this development is illustrative of the way SLAC has diversified its research and redefined its relationship with the Department of Energy. He describes his most recent responsibilities as chair of the photon science group at SLAC and his current work chairing the laboratory promotions committee. At the end of the interview, Pianetta reflects on the long-term impact of remote work for SLAC generally and he conveys optimism on improving SSRL’s long-term capabilities.

Interviewed by
Arthur Guenther
Interview date
Location
General Physics Institute, Moscow, Russia
Abstract

Work at Lebedev Physics Institute; study of radio-wave propagation interrupted by World War II; returns to Institute after being wounded, begins study of nonlinear radiophysics; synchrotron radiation in microwave region; starts accelerator group (Nicolai Basov)i switches to microwave spectroscopy (Charles Townes, Walter Gordy), 1950; ruby crystals (Dr. Manenkov); Prokhorov proposes use of interferometer; gas-dynamic CO2 laser, 1966. Commercial application of lasers in USSR future laser applications.

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.