Synchrotrons

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Maury Tigner, Hans A. Bethe Professor of Physics Emeritus at Cornell. He discusses the origins of the "Handbook of Accelerator Physics and Engineering," and he provides perspective on the prospects of China's contributions for the future of high energy physics. Tigner recounts his childhood as the son of parents in the clergy, and he discusses his undergraduate education in physics at RPI and his interest in working on the betatron. He explains the opportunities that led to his acceptance to the graduate program in physics at Cornell to work under the direction of Bob Wilson and Boyce McDaniel. Tigner explains his decision to remain at Cornell for his postdoctoral research to assume responsibility of the 2.2 GeV Synchrotron, and he describes his initial research at DESY in Germany. He describes his work developing superconducting radiofrequency technology, and the NSF role in supporting this effort. Tigner discusses his work on the design team for the SSC and the impact of the cancellation of ISABELLE, and he narrates Panofsky's decision to replace him with Roy Schwitters. He describes his return to Cornell, and he conveys that despite the structural challenges, there is much to remain optimistic about in high energy physics.

Interviewed by
Joanna Behrman
Interview dates
November 3 & 10, 2020, January 20 & February 9, 2021
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Janice Button-Shafer, retired American physicist. Button-Shafer recounts her childhood in the Boston area, where her father worked as an engineer. She recalls the influence of her father on her interests in music, math and physics. Button-Shafer discusses her decision to study Engineering Physics at Cornell University, despite it being very uncommon for women to go into science. She discusses her summer jobs at MIT, Cornell Aeronautical Lab and Oak Ridge, as well as her experience writing for The Cornell Engineer magazine. Button-Shafer recounts her Fulbright Fellowship in Germany at the Max Planck Institute in Gottingen, focusing on neutron physics. She reflects on the political landscape during this time and how it affected science in Europe. Button-Shafer then recounts her decision to attend Berkeley for graduate school where she completed her thesis on parity violation while teaching courses such as quantum mechanics. She describes her research at the time at Lawrence Berkeley Lab and SLAC and discusses her work on thermonuclear energy and fusion reactors. She then turns to her move to University of Massachusetts Amherst and her eventual retirement and continuation of work at SLAC. Button-Shafer also talks about her marriage to mathematician John Shafer and the challenges of raising three children, one of whom battled cancer, during her demanding career as a scientist. Throughout the interview, Button-Shafer shares numerous anecdotes about the struggles of being a woman in a male-dominated field, including the discrimination and misogyny she endured throughout her career. She shares many stories of famous physicists she worked with over the years, including Owen Chamberlain, Emilio Segre, Luis Alvarez, Karl Heinz Beckhurts, and Edward Teller. Button-Shafer also shares her passion for the history of physics and relays many of her favorite historical tidbits involving scientists such as Lise Meitner, Marie Curie, Werner Heisenberg, and others. Her love of chamber music and classical music also comes up throughout the interview, as she reflects on her various musical accomplishments.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Sunil Sinha, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics at the University of California, San Diego. Sinha describes how he has been able to keep up his research during the COVID pandemic, and he recounts his childhood in Calcutta where he attended Catholic schools and developed his interests in math and science. He describes his undergraduate education at Cambridge where he became interested is quantum mechanics, and he explains his decision to remain there for graduate work to conduct research on neutron scattering under the direction of Gordon Squires. Sinha explains the centrality of neutron scattering to the development of condensed matter physics, and he describes the opportunities leading to his postdoctoral research at Iowa State. He discusses his work at Ames Lab and Argonne Lab, where he continued to pursue fundamental research on neutron scattering and rare earth materials. Sinha describes his research at Exxon Lab, and the start of the revolution in soft matter physics, and he explains his decision to return to Argonne at the beginning of the Advanced Photon Source project. He discusses his subsequent move to San Diego where he enjoyed a joint appointment with Los Alamos Lab and when he was able to concentrate more fully on teaching after a career spent mostly in laboratory environments. At the end of the interview, Sinha describes his current interest in spin glasses, exchange biases, and jamming theoretical computer simulations, and he explains the reason for the enduring mystery of the mechanism for high-temperature superconductivity. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Allen Odian, Permanent Staff Physicist Emeritus at SLAC. Odian discusses his current work on the EXO 200 double beta decay search for xenon, and he recounts his Armenian heritage, his upbringing in Boston, and his early realization that he wanted to be a physicist. He describes his undergraduate work at MIT, and he explains his decision to remain there for graduate school to work at the synchrotron laboratory run by Louis Osborne. Odian discusses his thesis research on proton pairs under the direction of Al Wattenberg, and he describes his postdoctoral work in pulsed electronics at the University of Illinois. He explains his decision to pursue a Fulbright scholarship to work on the 1 GeV accelerator at Frascati, Italy, before returning to take a job at SLAC just as the lab was coming together. Odian conveys the frenetic pace of building and research during SLAC’s early years, and he describes Shelly Glashow’s direction to look for charmed mesons. He discusses his work on the streamer chamber, and he describes the interplay of theory and experiment for SPEAR. Odian describes his work for the SLC positron source and his advocacy for a streamer chamber at the SSC. He explains the significance of the Askaryen effect, his involvement in the development of the Fermi telescope and his research on the inverted polarized electron gun. Odian discusses the SLC’s value for millicharged particle research, he explains the origins of EXO 200 and his work on the heavy photon search at JLAB. At the end of the interview, Odian reflects on how his experimental work has provided guidance to theorists, he conveys the centrality of Panofsky’s vision and leadership at the center of SLAC’s success, and he explains his ongoing curiosity about the possible existence of Majorana neutrinos.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Nicholas Samios, Director Emeritus of Brookhaven National Laboratory.  He describes his family’s Greek heritage and he recounts his childhood in Manhattan and the value of the education he received at Stuyvesant High School. He describes his decision to attend Columbia as an undergraduate, where he studied under Jack Steinberger, Polycarp Kusch, and I.I. Rabi. Samios explains his decision to remain at Columbia for graduate school, and he explains some of the exciting things that were happening in particle physics then, including the use of cloud chambers to discover the “strange particles” called lambdas and thetas. He describes his dissertation research studying these particles using bubble chambers and searching for parity violation, and he explains his interest in the research at the Nevis Cyclotron in Westchester. Samios discusses his postdoctoral research at Columbia before accepting a position at Brookhaven, which was in the middle of building the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron, and he describes the difference between this work on pions and what Panofsky was doing with electrons at Stanford. He describes his subsequent work designing neutrino beams and his contribution to the discovery of the baryon charm, and he describes his tenure as chair of Brookhaven’s physics department and his efforts to produce complementary and not redundant work with the other National Labs. Samios recounts his time as Director at Brookhaven, and he describes in detail the ISABELLE project and why it was cancelled by the Reagan administration. He connects the fall of ISABELLE with the origins and ultimate failure of the SSC and the inevitable loss of leadership the U.S. experienced in high energy physics.  Samios discusses why the RHIC endeavor delayed his retirement and the significance of RHIC’s discovery of the quark-gluon plasma.  At the end of the interview, Samios surveys the fundamental discoveries that occurred over his career on the Standard Model and parity conservation, the ongoing mystery of dark matter, and he outlines the many ways that particle physics has positively influenced technology and human well-being.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Abstract

Family background and early education; early science interests (telegraph and radio transmission), wins American Chemistry Society Contest in high school. Caltech for both undergraduate and graduate studies, 1926-1934, comments on courses, teachers (Richard C. Tolman, Paul Epstein) and fellow students (Chet Carlson, the inventor of Xerox). Joins Charles Lauritsen's group as graduate student (nuclear physics), gets involved in research projects. J. Robert Oppenheimer's interest in their work, Ernest Lawrence's interest and objections to Lauritsen/Crane work on the radiative captive process (Enrico Fermi), Merle Tuve's involvement. Involvement in building machines for the Kellogg Laboratory (Seeley W. Mudd); Ph.D 1934 (The capture of protons by Carbon-12). Accepts offer from University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; planning and building of a high voltage accelerator. Department involvement in applied work (GE, Ford), strong interest in biology; rising biophysics interest in the department. Wartime work. Recruited for MIT's Radiation Laboratory, later involved in Tuve's proximity fuse project; Manhattan District interest. Establishment of Biophysics Lab within Physics Department in Ann Arbor. The Racetrack Synchrotron. Also prominently mentioned are: Carl David Anderson, Ted Berlin, Sir John Cockcroft, John, Sir, Walter Francis Colby, James M. Cork, Leo Delsasso, David Mathias Dennison, William Alfred Fowler, Samuel Abraham Goudsmit, Halpern, Fred Hodges, Lampe, Otto Laporte, Gilbert Newton Lewis, Edwin Mattison McMillan, Harrison McAllister Randall, William Ralph Smythe, Robert Thornton, George Eugène Uhlenbeck, A. E. White, Robley Williams, Ralph Walter Graystone Wyckoff; and Randall Laboratory of University of Michigan.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Abstract

Family background and early education; early science interests (telegraph and radio transmission), wins American Chemistry Society Contest in high school. Caltech for both undergraduate and graduate studies, 1926-1934, comments on courses, teachers (Richard C. Tolman, Paul Epstein) and fellow students (Chet Carlson, the inventor of Xerox). Joins Charles Lauritsen's group as graduate student (nuclear physics), gets involved in research projects. J. Robert Oppenheimer's interest in their work, Ernest Lawrence's interest and objections to Lauritsen/Crane work on the radiative captive process (Enrico Fermi), Merle Tuve's involvement. Involvement in building machines for the Kellogg Laboratory (Seeley W. Mudd); Ph.D 1934 (The capture of protons by Carbon-12). Accepts offer from University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; planning and building of a high voltage accelerator. Department involvement in applied work (GE, Ford), strong interest in biology; rising biophysics interest in the department. Wartime work. Recruited for MIT's Radiation Laboratory, later involved in Tuve's proximity fuse project; Manhattan District interest. Establishment of Biophysics Lab within Physics Department in Ann Arbor. The Racetrack Synchrotron. Also prominently mentioned are: Carl David Anderson, Ted Berlin, Sir John Cockcroft, John, Sir, Walter Francis Colby, James M. Cork, Leo Delsasso, David Mathias Dennison, William Alfred Fowler, Samuel Abraham Goudsmit, Halpern, Fred Hodges, Lampe, Otto Laporte, Gilbert Newton Lewis, Edwin Mattison McMillan, Harrison McAllister Randall, William Ralph Smythe, Robert Thornton, George Eugène Uhlenbeck, A. E. White, Robley Williams, Ralph Walter Graystone Wyckoff; and Randall Laboratory of University of Michigan.

Interviewed by
Arthur Guenther
Interview date
Abstract

Beginning of studies in molecular spectroscopy at Moscow Institute of Physics (MIFI) (1948). Invitation to Lebedev Institute (FIAN) by Mikhail Aleksandrovic Leontovich, head of the lab and MIFI theoretical physics department. Early radio spectroscopy work there with Aleksandr Mikhailovich Prokhorov using synchrotron. Inadequacy of low sensitivity equipment leading to development of maser-laser technology. Use of CsF molecule to solve problem of increasing the resolution of microwave frequency region. First indications of success reported at Conference on Radiospectroscopy, USSR Academy of Sciences, 1952 and first publication in field of quantum electronics with Prokhorov. Laboratory of Oscillations study of self excitation in a beam resonator system. Work atmosphere at FIAN. Basov’s work during World War II, 1941—1945. 1946, student at Moscow Institute of Physics. In 1948 joined Lebedev Physical Institute. Comments on relationship of Soviet politics and physics work. Comparison of American and Soviet science. Meeting with American scientists working in same area; comparison of their work with his. Colleagues working on semi conductor laser problems. Funding of laser programs. Scientific developments parallel with Maiman’s ruby laser. Development of three-level maser. Diversification of laser technology in USA and Russia. Current laser research; history of laser development at Lebedev; prize winners in laser technology. Work atmosphere in newly developed Laboratory of Quantum Radiophysics. Applications of laser; research using modern spectroscopic methods; investigations on the properties of coherent radiation.