In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews William T. Silfvast, Professor Emeritus of Optics at the University of Central Florida. Silfvast recounts his childhood in Salt Lake City and he discusses his education at the University of Utah and a formative internship he spent at NASA Ames Laboratory. He describes his growing interests in lasers during graduate school at Utah working under the direction of Grant Fowles. Silfvast discusses his postdoctoral research as a NATO fellow at Oxford before he joined the Electronics Research Lab at Bell. He describes his major research work at Bell discovering new types of lasers, using optical detectors and photomultipliers for this research, and he explains his motivations in both basic research and the practical applications he saw for lasers in healthcare and in industry. Silfvast explains his decision to join the University of Central Florida where CREOL, the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers was getting started. He recounts the enormous growth and success of the Center over the past thirty years, and he explains his motivations for writing Fundamentals of Lasers which is considered a standard text in the field. At the end of the interview, Silfvast reflects on his contributions to laser science, he provides an overview of all the ways lasers have become central to modern existence, and he explains how modern computing has revolutionized laser science and applications.
Mount Wilson-Palomar Observatories, Pasadena, California
In this interview, Horace Babcock discusses how the field of astrophysics has changed over the course of his career. Topics discussed include: research administration; Mount Wilson Observatory; Ira S. Bowen; National Science Foundation; California Institute of Technology; stellar evolution; photomultiplier tubes; Joel Stebbins; Albert E. Whitford; Gerald Kron; Allan Sandage; Martin Schwarzschild; spectrographs; radio astronomy; x-ray astronomy; galactic evolution; stellar material; Robert McMath; societies; American Astronomical Society; International Astronomical Union; Jan Oort; Theodore Dunham Jr.; Alexander Pogo.