United States. High Energy Physics Advisory Panel

Interviewed by
Michael Riordan
Interview date
Abstract

This interview with physicist Robert Diebold is part of a series conducted during research for the book Tunnel Visions, a history of the Superconducting Super Collider. In it, Diebold recalls his introduction to the SSC project at the 1982 Snowmass workshop and his subsequent move to the Department of Energy, as well as his perspective on the site-selection process for the SSC. He states that Texas was the standout site and that there was not a clear-cut second-place site, and he further notes that, while Texas had political advantages, the technical advantages of the site drove the high evaluation of it. Diebold also discusses differences in DOE oversight structures around the SSC under Energy Secretary John Herrington and Energy Secretary James Watkins, and the long effort to implement a cost-and-schedule-control system on the project. He reflects on how leadership of the SSC was structured and the people selected for key roles. The interview concludes with a discussion of factors driving cost increases on the project and their impact on relations between DOE and project leaders. Diebold posits that SSC Laboratory Director Roy Schwitters’s management style led to a deterioration in those relations.

Interviewed by
Michael Riordan
Interview dates
March 22, 1997 & March 31, 1998
Location
University of Texas at Austin
Abstract

This pair of interviews was conducted as part of the research for the book Tunnel Visions, a history of the Superconducting Super Collider. The first interview begins by examining Schwitters’s perspective as leader of the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) while the initial design phases of the SSC project were unfolding, including his preparation of briefing materials on the project and service on its Board of Overseers. Schwitters also discusses early SSC cost estimates, his service on the National Academies site-evaluation committee, and his selection as director of the SSC Laboratory. He addresses the disappointment of some that Maury Tigner was not chosen, negotiations for Tigner to be deputy director or project manager, and Tigner’s departure from the project. Schwitters reflects on considerations in the development of the management & operations contract proposal, personnel-recruiting difficulties, and the tension between industrial and scientific styles of project management, including Tom Bush’s management of the SSC magnet program. The first interview concludes with a detailed account of difficulties in working with the Department of Energy, and particularly Office of Energy Research Director Robert Hunter, in assembling the lab’s senior management in early 1989.

The second interview begins with Schwitters recalling the selection of Texas as the SSC site, the disappointment of some that Fermilab was not chosen, and his own willingness to relocate to any of the final candidate sites. Schwitters also discusses the recruitment of Helen Edwards to lead the SSC accelerator program and Tigner’s preferred choices for various key roles at the lab. Schwitters reflects on difficulties surrounding magnet development, Bush’s poor relationship with Edwards, and his own desire to avoid design risk and a protracted accelerator commissioning. He discusses in detail the decision to redesign the magnets with a wider aperture, including his conviction on the basis of simulations that it was necessary, and the factors driving the growth of cost estimates around the redesign. Schwitters also addresses considerations involving proposals to descope the SSC to reduce costs, difficulties in assembling a strong management team, and the shortcomings of Sverdrup as a construction subcontractor. He also reflects on his relationship with the Department of Energy, Energy Secretary Watkins’s reaction to cost increases, and Ed Siskin’s performance as DOE’s general manager. Near the conclusion of the second interview, Schwitters reflects on his goal of creating a new scientific community around the laboratory.

Interviewed by
Steve Weiss
Interview date
Abstract

Interview with Alvin Trivelpiece, American physicist who served as Director of the Office of Energy Research in the United States Department of Energy from 1981-1987. Trivelpiece provides an overview of his graduate studies at Caltech and his background in plasma physics. He discusses in detail his involvement in the beginnings of the SSC (Superconducting Super Collider), including cost estimations, funding requests, site selection, and attempts to secure international collaboration. Trivelpiece shares stories involving many key players who were supporters of the SSC, as well as some who were opposed. He also touches on the creation of other DOE projects such as Fermilab and CEBAF (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility).

Interviewed by
Finn Aaserud
Interview date
Abstract

Education and early professional experience; undergraduate studies at Princeton University; graduate studies at University of Illinois; Ph.D., 1949. Teaching at Stanford University and MIT during the 1950s. Involvement with JASON (Charles Townes) from 1960; JASON-PSAC relations; member of PSAC in 1966. Leaves Stanford for SLAC in 1963. Discussions of selection of members, projects in JASON; collaboration within, political views. Clearance levels and comparison of JASON research and academic physics. Impact of JASON on ABM and his role in ABM policy decisions; JASON's role in public policy making and its unique contributions. Describes the evolution of his career from JASON physicist to activist against SDI and Reagan's Star Wars initiative. Chairman of HEPAP; relationship with Andrei Sakharov. Research from 1960 to present.