University of Birmingham

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Michael Kosterlitz, Harrison E. Farnsworth Professor of Physics at Brown University. He recounts his family background in Germany and his upbringing in Aberdeen, Scotland, and he explains that opportunities that led to his undergraduate admission at Cambridge University where he developed his life-long passion for rock climbing. He describes his early interest in high-energy physics and his decision to pursue a graduate degree at Oxford where he worked on the Veneziano and dual resonance models under the direction of John Taylor. Kosterlitz discusses his postdoctoral work first in Torino and then at Birmingham where he met David Thouless and where he developed his initial interest in condensed matter and his subsequent expertise in phase transitions and superfluidity. He explains the revolutionary advances of Ken Wilson’s renormalization group and his decision to go Cornell where he enjoyed a foundational collaboration with David Nelson and Michael Fisher on crossover problems in critical phenomena. Kosterlitz discusses his decision to join the faculty at Brown, and he provides an overview in the advances in superfluidity in the 1970s and 1980s. He discusses the research that was eventually recognized by the Nobel prize committee and the experiments that bore out the theoretical predictions which were an essential prerequisite to the award. Kosterlitz describes the many benefits conferred as a result of winning the Nobel, and he provides perspective on how he has coped with his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis over the years. At the end of the interview, Kosterlitz explains his reluctance to prognosticate on future trends in the field because his experiences have proved to him that one can never know such things and that research breakthroughs are often unforeseen.

Interviewed by
Finn Aaserud
Interview date
Location
Princeton, New Jersey
Abstract

Early interest in physics. Education and career prior to joining JASON: two years in the Royal Air Force; switch from mathematics to physics after the war; enrollment at Cornell University in 1947; difference between American and British physics. Exposure to science policy (Federation of Atomic Scientists, Philip Morrison); U.S. citizen 1957. Motivation for joining JASON; JASON work vs. work in Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; work on active optics in JASON; technical tasks vs. policy advice; Oregon Trail; availability of JASON bibliography; public profile of JASON members; divisions within JASON; other science policy activities; reasons for leaving JASON. Also prominently mentioned are: Abraham S. Besicovich; Columbia University, General Atomic Company, Nike-X (Missile), United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and University of Birmingham.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Cambridge, England
Abstract

Family background; early interest in mathematics; physics at University of Manchester; Ernest Rutherford's influence; early research under Rutherford at Manchester; examination by Joseph J. Thomson for degree; recollections of associates at Manchester, including Niels Bohr; scholarship to Universität Berlin and work there with Hans Geiger; internment during World War I; scientific work at internment camp; return to Manchester; move with Rutherford to University of Cambridge; appointment as Assistant Director of Research at Cavendish Laboratory (ca. 1923); work with Rutherford on artificial disintegration; Rutherford's idea of the neutron; early experimental search for neutron; duties and experiences at the Cavendish Laboratory from 1919 to 1936; Rutherford's personality; Solvay conference of 1933; reasons for leaving Cambridge for University of Liverpool; initial plans, personnel and activities at Liverpool; cyclotron; award of Nobel Prize; encounter with Joliots, also in Stockholm for Prize in chemistry; influx of refugee theoreticians; work on the meson; changes effected by large machines; recollections of announcement of fission; World War II work; involvement with A-bomb project, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and General Leslie Groves; postwar considerations regarding international control of atomic energy; effect of Rutherford's death on Cavendish; return to Cambridge as Master of Gonville and Caius College; circumstances of resignation as Master; appraisal of personal satisfactions. Also prominently mentioned are: H. K. Anderson, John Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Niels Henrik David Bohr, Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, Albert Einstein, Charles D. Ellis, Walter M. Elsasser, Ralph Howard Fowler, Maurice Goldhaber, Otto Hahn, Walter Heitler, J. R. Holt, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Douglas Lea, Lise Meitner, Stefan Meyer, Henry N. Moseley, Walther Nernst, Giuseppe Occhialini, Mark Oliphant, Maurice H. L. Pryce, Stanley Rolands, Heinrich Rubens, Joseph John Thomson, Merle Antony Tuve, Walke, H. C. Webster, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson; Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of Great Britain, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Ministry of Aircraft Uranium Development Committee (Great Britain), Physikalische-Technische Reichsanstalt, Royal Society (Great Britain), University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge Cavendish Physical Society, and University of Liverpool.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Cambridge, England
Abstract

Family background; early interest in mathematics; physics at University of Manchester; Ernest Rutherford's influence; early research under Rutherford at Manchester; examination by Joseph J. Thomson for degree; recollections of associates at Manchester, including Niels Bohr; scholarship to Universität Berlin and work there with Hans Geiger; internment during World War I; scientific work at internment camp; return to Manchester; move with Rutherford to University of Cambridge; appointment as Assistant Director of Research at Cavendish Laboratory (ca. 1923); work with Rutherford on artificial disintegration; Rutherford's idea of the neutron; early experimental search for neutron; duties and experiences at the Cavendish Laboratory from 1919 to 1936; Rutherford's personality; Solvay conference of 1933; reasons for leaving Cambridge for University of Liverpool; initial plans, personnel and activities at Liverpool; cyclotron; award of Nobel Prize; encounter with Joliots, also in Stockholm for Prize in chemistry; influx of refugee theoreticians; work on the meson; changes effected by large machines; recollections of announcement of fission; World War II work; involvement with A-bomb project, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and General Leslie Groves; postwar considerations regarding international control of atomic energy; effect of Rutherford's death on Cavendish; return to Cambridge as Master of Gonville and Caius College; circumstances of resignation as Master; appraisal of personal satisfactions. Also prominently mentioned are: H. K. Anderson, John Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Niels Henrik David Bohr, Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, Albert Einstein, Charles D. Ellis, Walter M. Elsasser, Ralph Howard Fowler, Maurice Goldhaber, Otto Hahn, Walter Heitler, J. R. Holt, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Douglas Lea, Lise Meitner, Stefan Meyer, Henry N. Moseley, Walther Nernst, Giuseppe Occhialini, Mark Oliphant, Maurice H. L. Pryce, Stanley Rolands, Heinrich Rubens, Joseph John Thomson, Merle Antony Tuve, Walke, H. C. Webster, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson; Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of Great Britain, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Ministry of Aircraft Uranium Development Committee (Great Britain), Physikalische-Technische Reichsanstalt, Royal Society (Great Britain), University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge Cavendish Physical Society, and University of Liverpool.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Cambridge, England
Abstract

Family background; early interest in mathematics; physics at University of Manchester; Ernest Rutherford's influence; early research under Rutherford at Manchester; examination by Joseph J. Thomson for degree; recollections of associates at Manchester, including Niels Bohr; scholarship to Universität Berlin and work there with Hans Geiger; internment during World War I; scientific work at internment camp; return to Manchester; move with Rutherford to University of Cambridge; appointment as Assistant Director of Research at Cavendish Laboratory (ca. 1923); work with Rutherford on artificial disintegration; Rutherford's idea of the neutron; early experimental search for neutron; duties and experiences at the Cavendish Laboratory from 1919 to 1936; Rutherford's personality; Solvay conference of 1933; reasons for leaving Cambridge for University of Liverpool; initial plans, personnel and activities at Liverpool; cyclotron; award of Nobel Prize; encounter with Joliots, also in Stockholm for Prize in chemistry; influx of refugee theoreticians; work on the meson; changes effected by large machines; recollections of announcement of fission; World War II work; involvement with A-bomb project, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and General Leslie Groves; postwar considerations regarding international control of atomic energy; effect of Rutherford's death on Cavendish; return to Cambridge as Master of Gonville and Caius College; circumstances of resignation as Master; appraisal of personal satisfactions. Also prominently mentioned are: H. K. Anderson, John Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Niels Henrik David Bohr, Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, Albert Einstein, Charles D. Ellis, Walter M. Elsasser, Ralph Howard Fowler, Maurice Goldhaber, Otto Hahn, Walter Heitler, J. R. Holt, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Douglas Lea, Lise Meitner, Stefan Meyer, Henry N. Moseley, Walther Nernst, Giuseppe Occhialini, Mark Oliphant, Maurice H. L. Pryce, Stanley Rolands, Heinrich Rubens, Joseph John Thomson, Merle Antony Tuve, Walke, H. C. Webster, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson; Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of Great Britain, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Ministry of Aircraft Uranium Development Committee (Great Britain), Physikalische-Technische Reichsanstalt, Royal Society (Great Britain), University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge Cavendish Physical Society, and University of Liverpool.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Cambridge, England
Abstract

Family background; early interest in mathematics; physics at University of Manchester; Ernest Rutherford's influence; early research under Rutherford at Manchester; examination by Joseph J. Thomson for degree; recollections of associates at Manchester, including Niels Bohr; scholarship to Universität Berlin and work there with Hans Geiger; internment during World War I; scientific work at internment camp; return to Manchester; move with Rutherford to University of Cambridge; appointment as Assistant Director of Research at Cavendish Laboratory (ca. 1923); work with Rutherford on artificial disintegration; Rutherford's idea of the neutron; early experimental search for neutron; duties and experiences at the Cavendish Laboratory from 1919 to 1936; Rutherford's personality; Solvay conference of 1933; reasons for leaving Cambridge for University of Liverpool; initial plans, personnel and activities at Liverpool; cyclotron; award of Nobel Prize; encounter with Joliots, also in Stockholm for Prize in chemistry; influx of refugee theoreticians; work on the meson; changes effected by large machines; recollections of announcement of fission; World War II work; involvement with A-bomb project, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and General Leslie Groves; postwar considerations regarding international control of atomic energy; effect of Rutherford's death on Cavendish; return to Cambridge as Master of Gonville and Caius College; circumstances of resignation as Master; appraisal of personal satisfactions. Also prominently mentioned are: H. K. Anderson, John Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Niels Henrik David Bohr, Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, Albert Einstein, Charles D. Ellis, Walter M. Elsasser, Ralph Howard Fowler, Maurice Goldhaber, Otto Hahn, Walter Heitler, J. R. Holt, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Douglas Lea, Lise Meitner, Stefan Meyer, Henry N. Moseley, Walther Nernst, Giuseppe Occhialini, Mark Oliphant, Maurice H. L. Pryce, Stanley Rolands, Heinrich Rubens, Joseph John Thomson, Merle Antony Tuve, Walke, H. C. Webster, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson; Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of Great Britain, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Ministry of Aircraft Uranium Development Committee (Great Britain), Physikalische-Technische Reichsanstalt, Royal Society (Great Britain), University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge Cavendish Physical Society, and University of Liverpool.