History: Chapter 3 (1968-1978)
Written by James R. Stevenson, 2010
In 1968, Vernon Crawford, Director of the School of Physics, accepted the position as Dean of the General College. The selection process for his replacement as Director of the School of Physics is unknown to me. I would guess that Vernon and Joe Howey selected a few candidates and then got the sense of key faculty. I was offered and accepted the position.
Dave Wyly has written an excellent history of the Georgia Tech Department of Physics from 1888-1967 (Appendix A). His Foreword contains the following statements. “Thus, in order to have some insight into the character and philosophies of the individual faculty members, I further assume that this history will be of interest only to members of the Physics Faculty. I must rely on my perception of these people. It is therefore hoped that others who have additional information will make additions and/or corrections to this history." Initially I started to relate events on a year by year basis. This proved unsatisfactory as most actions take more than a year to implement and evaluate.
This account beginning in 1968 is written from my point of view and will obviously have some personal bias. Others may differ with my statements and should feel free to express these differences. I start this history with some personal perceptions which guided a lot of my actions during this ten year period. To state that I had a 10 year plan and followed it could not be further from the truth. As Dr. Howey told me, “Your most important task is to listen to the faculty.” Opportunities must be seized when they are available. Serendipity can be a very valuable ally.
My personal impression of the School of Physics in 1968 was as follows. The undergraduate program was as strong as any in the nation. Georgia Tec had a significant number of students majoring in physics compared to other institutions in the Nation. Several factors contributed to the number of majors. The revised curriculum under the chairmanship of Charles Braden allowed freedom in elective courses. A total of 198 quarter hours were required for graduation. The electives included 20 quarter hours of physics electives, 9 quarter hours of social science electives, and 43 quarter hours of free electives. Another factor in the number of students majoring in physics was the effort of some of the older faculty such as Walter Ewalt, Ed Prosser, Earl Bortell, Oscar Wike and Bill Wolf. Faculty members were required to be in the laboratory with their students. The faculty mentioned carried a heavy load in the introductory physics courses and they stayed in the laboratories and made an effort to get to know the personal background of the students. In the process they recruited a number of the best students into physics. Although the faculty was a mixture of research oriented faculty and those primarily concerned with introductory level instruction, the faculty was congenial and respectful of the talents of each other. On a parenthetical note, Dave Wyly writes ”Dr. Howey would not hire anyone he felt would not be compatible and congenial with the other members of the faculty; he insisted on cooperation. At times he failed to hire very technically competent and promising employees for the above reason.”
At the graduate level the PhD program had been operating for a little over ten years. The faculty was very concerned over the quality of the program and achieving a positive reputation from its graduates. The comprehensive examination including an oral examination was difficult. The primary source of students enrolled in the PhD program was from our undergraduates. We also were fortunate to have some outstanding students come to Georgia Tech from the World Student Fund Exchange program. The program was between Georgia Tech and some German and Swiss Universities. The students could usually complete an MS degree but were encouraged to stay for the PhD. The program was started and run by the Georgia Tech YMCA.
The graduate research program was growing in strength and diversity. The faculty had success in attracting support from the National Science Foundation and other agencies. Georgia Tech Funds in support of research were almost non-existent. This fact made it very difficult for young experimentalists to get started. Although the National Science Foundation and other government agencies would support research equipment purchases, the funding was usually restricted to adding on accessories to existing equipment. Earl McDaniel used a different approach and received support to build an experimental apparatus that he designed and was not available commercially. I was fortunate in being able to get on loan equipment from the Naval Research Laboratory. The funding environment changed dramatically when George L. Simpson, Jr. became chancellor of The University System of Georgia and Joseph Pettit became President of Georgia Tech.
The graduate faculty members were well qualified in their research fields. David Wyly and Charles Braden had a well respected research effort in experimental nuclear physics. Tom Weatherly and J. Q. Williams had an excellent program in experimental molecular spectroscopy, Earl McDaniel was beginning to be recognized for his experimental program in atomic collisions, Ray Young had a solid reputation in X-ray crystallography. Eugene Patronis was excellent in the field of acoustics. On the theoretical side Harold Gersch and Joe Ford had solid recognition on the national level in statistical mechanics, Harold Gersch was also quite active in condensed matter physics and worked extensively with the neutron scattering group at Oak Ridge. Tino Ahrens was a brilliant high energy theorist with good connections on an international basis. Hal Brewer and Ian Gatland provided good support for the nuclear physics program. Raymond Flannery was well respected in the area of atomic collisions and would later become internationally recognized for his contributions.
During my term as Director of the School of Physics a number of areas of concern became apparent including the following.
- The tenure system was weak in terms of faculty participation. Most decisions were made by the Director and guidelines for achieving tenure and promotion were missing.
- The recruiting of new faculty was frequently done without an active search. It had been quite successful in the past by attracting a number of faculty members receiving their undergraduate degrees at Georgia Tech and then returning to Georgia Tech after receiving a PhD at another institution. With the introduction of the graduate program a number of our faculty were graduates of our PhD program. These faculty members had excellent backgrounds and training but deprived Georgia Tech of input from other programs and led to less diversification in research. Networking is important in academia and creates a necessity to employ faculty from diverse but prominent institutions.
- Our faculty were extremely good physicists and within their research specialties they were highly regarded on a national basis. They were all used as reviewers for the publication of research papers submitted to scientific journals. For the most part they did not blow their own horns or that of Georgia Tech loud enough to be noticed in the national and international community of physics.. Exceptions included Earl McDaniel, R.A. Young, Ed Scheibner and Joe Ford.
- The faculty did not actively recruit national meetings to Atlanta. A large part of this was due to past segregation issues in Atlanta and at Georgia Tech.
- The faculty was white, male, and predominantly protestant. At that time the white, male characteristics were understandable in light of the character of Georgia Tech and the issues facing the State of Georgia and the supply of available faculty. In view of the substantial contributions by people of Jewish background to the discipline of physics I had some concern for the reason we had none in physics at Georgia Tech.
- We had no members of the National Academy of Science and our faculty members were not being considered for national prizes and awards.
Right or Wrong those were my primary concerns of the School of Physics.
FACULTY ADVANCEMENT AND RECOGNITION
A faculty group was appointed to make recommendations concerning promotions and tenure. During my tenure as Director of the School of Physics we denied tenure to four faculty members. Two were on the basis of poor teaching and two were on the basis of insufficient research. One member we denied tenure for teaching went on to win a prestigious national award for his research. In general I was in agreement with the recommendations of the committee on promotion and tenure. One of the four denied tenure on the basis of his research was very difficult for me to reach a satisfactory rationale but I realized we were in a transition period and we needed to be very selective. During one of my last years as Director, I did have a serious disagreement over the recommendation of the committee to deny tenure and promotion on the basis of non-collegiality. After numerous attempts at a compromise a decision was finally reached to grant promotion without tenure. Tenure was granted the following year. It was the only serious disagreement between myself and the faculty.
Another related initiative was the promotion of distinguished faculty to Regent’s Professor. This title is bestowed by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. At the time of my appointment as Director, L. David Wyly was our only Regent’s Professor. I identified three other faculty members I thought deserved consideration. In a meeting with the Dean, Vernon Crawford, I asked how many I could propose in one year. He did not know the policy at that time but later told me to only submit one per year. My list included Charles Braden, Harold Gersch, and Earl McDaniel. I had a meeting with each of them and told them my plan and to bear with me until we got all three of them approved. They were approved in the next three years. Seeking recognition for faculty was important and I made this a high priority. We had several faculty recognized as “Teacher of the Year.” An area in which I was not successful was with the National Academy of Science. I felt that Earl McDaniel was deserving of recognition but I was not in a very good position to push the nomination forward. While Lew Branscomb visited for a seminar, I was able to get him aside and ask for advice. Lew told me what I had recognized. It is much easier with an IBM or Bell Labs behind you. The network for gaining this type of recognition was difficult to penetrate.
DIRECTIONS FOR GROWTH
Over the years the School of Physics had acquired a number of excellent faculty but the specific areas of research had been somewhat dependent on the people applying for a position without much planning as to specific growth areas.
We had strength in statistical mechanics, low energy nuclear physics, microwave spectroscopy, and atomic collisions was emerging. In an engineering environment we needed to add strength in solid state or condensed matter physics. A number of other areas were frequently advanced.
- High energy particle physics. We had good theory in the area. An experimental effort in the field was opposed by a number of faculty members as it would demand the absence of these faculty from the campus for extended periods. The cost was high and the future of graduates of the program was not exceptional. Several opportunities became available during my tenure. These were established groups wishing to relocate to Georgia Tech and bring their funding with them. When I checked more closely with outside experts I was cautioned against acting to bring them to Georgia Tech.
- Astronomy. Astronomy classes were popular with the students and although we had competent instruction in the lower level courses we did not have faculty to teach upper level courses. A research effort using radio telescopes could have interfaced well with our microwave spectroscopy group as well as the antenna research in EE and the Engineering Experiment Station. However Georgia State University and the University of Georgia had established astronomy research activities and our entry into the field would not have been in the interests of the University System of Georgia. Again graduates of astronomy programs had limited professional opportunities.
- Reactor Physics and Neutron Diffraction. Although the nuclear reactor at Georgia Tech was a fine facility we saw little interest on the part of the administration to provide adequate funding for building a viable research effort. Both MIT and the University of Missouri were successful in this area. The efforts of Ray Young in neutron diffraction was a good start but we did not see the resources being targeted to compete. The presence of Oak Ridge National Laboratory was in close proximity and provided opportunities for graduate students and faculty. The future of the Georgia Tech reactor seemed better suited to Health Physics and as a training ground for operators of nuclear reactors for utilities. The School of Physics did help the School of Nuclear Engineering develop an undergraduate Health Physics major.
The areas with the most support were condensed matter physics as Georgia Tech was quite weak and this area important to engineering and science. A second area was optics. The advent of the laser was opening major avenues of research in communications. Physics departments around the country had not placed much emphasis on optics. Engineering had never given optics a real home. Yet optics was a very important part of the economy. The third and final area that was of real interest to a number of faculty members was biophysics. The publication of the “Double Helix” by Watson and Crick had generated an enormous amount of discussion and interest.
The next decision was how to manage the need of active research groups to grow without the use of tenured faculty positions. The answer was provided by Thomas Stelson the recently appointed vice president for research at Georgia Tech. The Engineering Experiment Station at Georgia Tech used non- tenured faculty to conduct their research programs. Aerospace Engineering had an outstanding research program with limited tenured faculty positions and had adopted the use of research engineers and scientists to increase the number of professionals they could employ. These professionals could write proposals and be principal investigators. They were employed on soft money but they could be paid at a faculty level and had promotional guidelines to rise in rank comparable to the tenured faculty. We decided to adopt this route although the physics faculty did not wish to commit to the principal investigator role or allow them to be thesis advisors for students. The model was adopted and has continued with considerable success. One of the first research scientists hired is now a chaired professor at a North Carolina University.
More importantly active research groups could expand at a professional level without distorting the need for a broad base of teaching faculty. The use of postdoctoral students resulted in a rapid turnover and was not desirable from the point of view of stability of growth. A number of PhD graduates were interested in the research positions as it enabled them to make a name for themselves in research without the threat of having to achieve tenure.
We certainly did not wish to ignore our established research programs and when faculty of outstanding potential were available in some of our established research areas we certainly made an effort to recruit them. An early example was Ron Fox. Ron was in the field of statistical mechanics with a PhD and postdoctoral experience at Rockefeller University in New York City. In addition to his connections in the physics community his father was an internationally known biochemist. Ron was well read in the area of biophysics. He made an outstanding addition to our faculty and later in his career became chairman of the Department of Physics.
In the late 70’s we were able to attract Bill Harter in molecular spectroscopy. Bill did some very nice research and was an excellent teacher, However, he chose to leave Georgia Tech and take a position with the University of Arkansas.
The search for the right kind of person to fill a faculty position in the School of Physics and initiate a research program in biophysics was a challenge. At that time in meetings of the American Physical Society a session on biophysics would usually be dominated by the effects of neutron radiation on rats. We were not at all interested in that type of faculty member. We wanted someone with a strong background in physics and was working in the DNA area. Don O’Shea was aware of a postdoctoral student at Harvard by the name of Alan Oseroff. We invited him to visit and we most impressed and felt he would take the program in the right direction. Although we were able to get him to spend part of a year with us he decided he wanted to get an MD degree.
Our biology department at Georgia Tech did not give a PhD. The School of Chemistry had an effort in biochemistry and had made an outstanding effort to attract excellent faculty. The School of Biology had an interest in granting a PhD. After discussions with our faculty and our Dean, Biology and Physics decided to put two positions together in the area of biophysics. One position would be 2/3 in biology and 1/3 in physics while the other would be 1/3 biology and 2/3 physics Of the few people we brought to campus we invited the comments of the biochemists as well as the faculty members in physics and biology. We selected Roger Wartell to be 2/3 physics and 1/3 Biology. Roger had his PhD in physics from the University of Rochester and then did postdoctoral work with a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin. David Dusenberry was selected for an appointment of 2/3 Biology and 1/3 Physics. David had his PhD in physics from the University of Chicago with postdoctoral work at California Institute of Technology. Roger was doing research on RNA and DNA while David was working on the nervous system of nematodes. Both faculty members made excellent contributions to Georgia Tech with Roger Wartell eventually becoming chairman of the Biology Department.
As Biology did not have a PhD program we agreed that doctoral students would receive their PhD’s in Physics. We were going to have a real problem with this scenario as our comprehensive examinations were geared exclusively to traditional physics with a reluctance to make any changes. Luckily Biology soon received authority to start a PhD program. This effort on the part of the School of Physics to strengthen Biology and hasten their PhD program was a very important contribution to the emergence of Georgia Tech as a major player in biochemistry, biophysics, and bioengineering.
At this point serendipity played another role. I had spent a number of summers at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. Many of the physicists at NRL migrated to the National Science Foundation and other funding agencies in the Washington area. I found that going to Washington and having lunch with them did not hurt our ability to receive funding. The peer review process to review grant proposals is good, but the person at the funding agency decides on which reviewers to send the grant proposal. The decision on the choice of reviewers can be the difference in the score the proposal receives. The addition of biophysics in the School of Physics at Georgia Tech also required some attention from the National Science Foundation. The discipline did not have a recognized home at NSF and we needed guidance as to where proposals should be directed. Face to face conversations helped.
The School of Physics also played an important role in another area of developing Georgia Tech’s reputation and programs in Nuclear Engineering and Health Physics. With the advent of the nuclear reactor at Georgia Tech a graduate program in Nuclear Engineering and Health Physics was approved and students were accepted in 1962. A shortage of faculty required that the School of Physics teach a number of the courses Charles Braden, Don Harmer, Hal Brewer, and Earl McDaniel, and Bill Simpson were among the physics faculty teaching these courses. This activity was not a major effort on the School of Physics and Nuclear Engineering and Health Physics soon developed a competent faculty capable of handling their instructional load. In 1970 we were approached by C.J. Roberts, Director of the School of Nuclear Engineering. Dr. Roberts was interested in starting an undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering and health physics. He was interested in using the degree program in physics to provide an avenue to having an undergraduate program in health physics. Charles Braden chaired a committee in the School of Physics to develop a health physics option in our applied physics program. We started offering the option in the 1971-72 year. It was 1979 before the undergraduate program in health physics was approved in the School of Nuclear Engineering.
Our initiatives on new faculty resulted in making a number of decisions. Successful faculty research groups felt that new faculty should be added to allow them to grow in stature. Although not opposed to the concept, my personal feeling that the students would profit most from more diversified research areas. Vernon Crawford had been the mainstay in optics instruction and with his leaving we needed to fill that vacancy. We were fortunate in finding Don O’Shea a PhD in optics from Johns Hopkins and postdoctoral work in Raman Spectroscopy at Harvard.
Don became interested in creating new laboratories in undergraduate optics. He found an auction type sale of a Boston Company going out of business and approached me about the possibility of buying laboratory equipment. Obviously we could not use State of Georgia money as it would violate all sorts of purchasing regulations. We were able to approach the Georgia Tech Foundation and receive a grant of non-state funds to cover our needs. We were delighted with the results. Don then approached about his desire to write a textbook on laser physics. Although this would hurt his research I encouraged the effort, and he and two colleagues from electrical engineering wrote a book that was used for a number of years in a course that was jointly listed between physics and electrical engineering at Georgia Tech. The text was also adopted by a number of other universities. Stanley Ballard a well known figure in the field of optics had approached me on doing some writing and editorial work and I was able to get O’Shea and Ballard together in a good relationship. Don was an excellent PR person and was able to take advantage of these situations to enhance the visibility of optics at Georgia Tech. Among his other accomplishments he played an important role in the international optics community.
Another activity I give credit to Professor O’Shea is our effort to meet faculty in other disciplines. Many of the faculty shared Don’s concern that Georgia Tech did not have a faculty club or a faculty dining area and it was difficult to meet other faculty. Our family had recently moved into a quite large house not too far from the campus which was ideal for entertaining large groups. We decided that the physics faculty would host other disciplines at a wine and cheese affair. The faculty brought wine and I furnished the cheese as well as some soft drinks. Civil Engineering was our next door neighbor and we started with them. We continued to host other disciplines at the rate of about one per quarter. The events were quite successful and I guess we did about six to eight. Paul Mayer, Regent’s Professor of Civil Engineering, was able to persuade the administration that the Wilby Room in the library be used as a lunch room for faculty. The faculty wes able to buy soup and sandwiches and it did provide an opportunity to interact with faculty in other disciplines.
The School of Physics had a strong reputation in undergraduate education. Professor Joe Ford was not a great admirer of the lecture system to educate students. However our State of Georgia funding depended almost entirely on our handling the large load of engineering students as well as other disciplines. Joe found the papers by Keller on Self-Paced Instruction most interesting and Jim Tanner approached me about trying an experimental section. Jim got the pilot program off to a good start. Harry Dulaney joined with him to expand the program to cover the three quarter introductory engineering sequence. After a couple of years the enrollment in the Self-Paced Instruction was handling about a third of the students. The effort brought national recognition to Georgia Tech via the American Association of Physics Teachers.
Another aspect of undergraduate education was the effort of a number of faculty members to engage our physics undergraduates in research. This effort had a major impact on our graduate program as we were able to encourage our best undergraduates to remain with us for their graduate training. At MIT where a thesis was required for an undergraduate degree, the advisor would frequently encourage the best students to remain for their PhD. The early success of our graduate program in physics at Georgia Tech was the quality of our undergraduate students remaining for their PhD.
Two faculty in particular should be mentioned as being very successful in attracting undergraduates and keeping them through their PhD. Earl McDaniel in the early design stages of his drift tube apparatus recruited a mechanical engineering major, Dan Albritton, to assist with the design and the drawings necessary to give to the machine shop. Dan was the first PhD to use the apparatus for his thesis. Dan later became internationally recognized for his continuing work in atomic collisions. Dan was followed by a notable list of experimentalists in atomic collisions making use of the unique apparatus under the supervision of Prf. McDaniel. Another gifted experimentalist was Prof. Edwin Scheibner. Ed had received his BS in physics from Georgia Tech prior to receiving his PhD from Illinois Institute of Technology. He joined Bell Labs. Jim Boyd was instrumental in bringing Ed back to Georgia Tech where he held joint appointments in the Engineering Experiment Station and in the School of Physics. Some of his first undergraduate recruits were Gil Amelio and John Copeland. Both went to Bell Labs after completing their PhD’s at Georgia Tech. Although John completed his PhD with Prof. Gersch, he continued to work with Prof. Scheibner during his time as a graduate student. John had a very successful industrial casreer before returning to Georgia Tech where he is now a chaired professor. Gil also had a distinguished industrial career and for a time was president of Apple Corporation.
We also made an attempt to introduce laboratory experiments based on our current research into our undergraduate curriculum. The experiments piqued the interest of the students as well as making the transition into research laboratories easier. The faculty was successful in obtaining NSF funding to support these approaches. I have mentioned the laser physics text written by Professor O’Shea and two colleagues in electrical engineering. Noteworthy also was his undergraduate laboratories in the field of optics. When holograms first appeared on the scene Professor O’Shea immediately introduced an undergraduate laboratory experiment with students creating holograms. Experiments were also introduced using vacuum deposition to create interference filters and other optical components. Although the educational values of repeating classical experiments such as the Millikan Oil Drop experiment are important, the introduction of experiments representative of current experimental techniques provide motivation to enter research.
Joseph Howey as Director of the School of Physics believed strongly in lecture demonstrations in the introductory physics courses. As the older faculty retired and were replaced by research oriented faculty, the use of lecture demonstrations began to lessen. At this stage we employed Vincent Mallette. Vincent had a master’s degree in physics. He was also a gifted writer, a photographer, and a showman.
Vincent made slides for faculty presentations of their research, he compiled undergraduate and graduate brochures and did the photographic illustrations, and he set up lecture demonstrations for faculty as well as delivering some of the lecture demonstrations.
Networking is important in most aspects of society and it is certainly true in physics. To gain national recognition you must toot your own horn but you also need other people saying good things. As Walter Bloom,M.D. and former Associate Vice president for Academic Affairs at Georgia Tech, kept reminding us, serendipity plays a major role in the outcome of many things. On becoming Director of the School of Physics, Joseph Howey encouraged me to join the ASEE(American Society of Engineering Education). My first introduction to the organization was at the Naval Academy. At this meeting, Reuben Alley a professor of electrical engineering at the Naval Academy and a PhD in physics from Princeton, was also chair of the Physics Division of ASEE. Reuben was also treasurer of the American Association of Physics Teachers, AAPT. The Physics Division was a relatively small group with the military acadamies, Rensselaer, and a few other universities. Reuben informed me that the Naval Academy had a very strong history of lecture demonstrations. I took the opportunity to advise him of our interest. Walter Eppenstein of Rensselear also commented on their lecture demonstrations under the leadership of Professor Harry Meiners. A year or two later we were visited by Bob Resnick, co-author of the most widely used introductory physics text for engineering students, and Harry Meiners, a designer of undergraduate laboratory equipment and lecture demonstration equipment. Resnick and Meiners said that they were impressed by our undergraduate program and wanted to see first hand what was going on at Georgia Tech with the hope they could take some ideas back to Rensselaer with them. The word was getting around!
Meanwhile we were hearing at Georgia Tech and through contacts at AAPT and ASEE that engineering was making some noise about taking over the teaching of introductory physics courses. At Georgia Tech the effort resulted in a presentation by the School of Physics and the School of Engineering Science and Mechanice before the faculty of the College of Engineering. The faculty of Engineering voted overwhelmingly to keep the instruction in the School of Physics. On the national scene The AAPT conducted a survey with the results published in an article by Reuben Alley.
We had several exchanges of seminars on lecture demonstrations with the Naval Academy and Rensselaer. Vincent Mallette was invited to participate in a summer workshop at the Naval Academy.
Professor Stanford was involved as a consultant to the Fernbank Science Center in DeKalb County and as a result was brought in contact with both high school students as well as high school teachers. With our strong effort in lecture demonstrations we made an effort to create An Evening with Science and invite the public and especially high school students and teachers. The program was quite successful and attracted a good audience for a number of years. These efforts seem to have a lifetime of their own.
We had limited success in finding qualified women physicists interested in coming to Georgia Tech as a faculty member. We were fortunate when Western Electric decided to build a large fiber optics manufacturing plant in the Atlanta area. A small research group from Bell Laboratories came with the facility. Barbara Levy, PhD in physics from Stanford, was married to one of the Bell Labs people and got in touch with me concerning a part time position with Georgia Tech. We jumped at the opportunity. Barbara was an excellent teacher, She was well connected in the physics community and served as an assistant editor for Physics Today, a monthly magazine devoted to communicating recent advances in physics. Although not a candidate for a tenure-track position, she did demonstrate that the Georgia Tech Physics Department was a place where women faculty were welcome. In several years her husband was transferred back to Bell Labs in New Jersey, Barbara remained active with Physics Today and remained a good friend of Georgia Tech.
The degrees Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics as well as The Master of Science in Applied Physics were approved by the Institute as well as the Board of Regents. We felt that in an engineering environment students could major in physics and take elective courses to focus on a specialty. The engineering profession had been far more successful in developing a terminal masters degree than the discipline of physics. The M.S. in physics was usually looked upon as a consolation prize for not earning a PhD. Both at the B.S. and M.S. level the most popular area of concentration was optics. Students were quite competitive in the industrial job market. Acoustics was another popular are of concentration.
I involved myself rather heavily in national organizations with the hope of getting more national visibility for the School of Physics. I had never attended any business meetings of Divisions of the American Physical Society. I attended a business meeting of the condensed matter division of the American Physical Society and to my surprise the meeting did not have more than twenty or thirty. I made an invitation to have them hold a future meeting in Atlanta. The invitation was accepted and The March meeting of The American Physical Society(the largest of any of their annual meetings) was held in Atlanta in 1976. Fools step in where Angels fear to tred! Worth Seagondollar, chairman of the physics department at North Carolina State University was the contact person for meetings of the American Physical Society in the Southeast. He was somewhat overwhelmed with a meeting of this size but everything worked out fine. We got on the list as a good location for national meetings.
Another bit of serendipity arose when we invited a lecturer sponsored by the American Physical Society to visit Georgia Tech and deliver a seminar on industrial physics. Sidney Millman had a distinguished career at Bell Labs and he gave a interesting lecture well received by the students. After the seminar I invited him to dinner and had the opportunity to tell him about our applied physics program. Sidney had frequent interactions with APS headquarters in New York and he lost no time in beginning to spread the word about Georgia Tech. I was really pleasantly surprised at the favorable reception we were receiving.
After serving a term as president of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society, I became their advisor to the Council of the American Physical Society. This had a number of benefits. Joe Burton and Bill Havens became good friends. Bill was the secretary of the American Physical Society and Joe was the treasurer. They frequently appointed me to committees of the Society which provided another avenue to tell the physics community about Georgia Tech.
A major policy issue developed in the late 1970’s when a constitutional amendment was being debated by state legislatures with regard to equal rights. The southeastern states were all opposed to the amendment. A number of organizations were refusing to hold meetings in states that were opposed. When the motion came before the Council of the American Physical Society I found myself in a very difficult position. Although I was very much in favor of the amendment, the boycotting of meetings in the southeastern states would have a detrimental impact on graduate students wishing to participate in meetings. Although I received some sympathy the battle was lost. The Council of the American Physical Society refused to schedule meetings in States not approving the amendment. Luckily the boycott did not last long.
On several committees I was in a position to recommend individuals as invited speakers at national meetings. In meetings we succeeded in bringing to Atlanta, we were able to have Georgia Tech faculty organize and lead a topical conference as part of the meeting. Inviting speakers to these topical conferences at a major meeting brought additional recognition to our faculty.
The School of Physics was also gaining visibility and international recognition from its faculty and PhD graduates. Joe Ford was a gifted lecturer and he had made quite a reputation in the field of chaos. He was one of the first to publish papers in the field and he also served as an international archive for research on chaos. When he was invited to give a paper at a meeting the room was always crowded. His technical presentation was always accompanied with some witty remarks to bring laughter from the audience. Joe was invited to a number of international conferences on chaos. He succeeded in bringing several outstanding theorists to visit Georgia Tech for a year and to work with him. Both USSR and Italy were countries he particularly cultivated scientific exchange.
Mentioning the USSR gives me an opportunity to divert a little from the history of the School of Physics to another activity. In 1975 I was appointed the Georgia Tech representative to IREX, an organization based in New York City which fostered research exchange between scholars of Eastern Europe and the USSR with American Universities. I was usually able to get at least one physics scholar among the two or three we were assigned. On one occasion we had two physics scholars and as I was presenting a paper at a meeting at Virginia Tech, I invited them to go with me. On our way we detoured by Oak Ridge and let them visit the museum. The old graphite reactor had also been opened to the public as a museum. We made the rest of the trip without incident. The day after we returned I was visited by The Georgia Tech security officer, the FBI and the CIA. It seems that the exchange scholar from Bulgaria had gotten in touch with the Bulgarian Trade Mission in New York and had described all the “secret” information he had gained by seeing the graphite reactor at Oak Ridge. The Trade Mission gave him enough money to buy a used car. On another occasion I was visited at home on a Saturday morning by Al Becker, the Georgia Tech head of security. He had the pleasant news to tell me that one of the scholars from the USSR had been arrested for shoplifting at K-mart the night before. Monday morning was busy with visits from the USSR Embassy in Washington as well as the FBI. After some difficult negotiations the matter was resolved and the scholar was sent back to the USSR.
Earl McDaniel was well known in Atomic Collisions. In addition to his research program at Georgia Tech, Earl had written several books covering the field and these were widely acclaimed. Earl had spent a Fulbright in England and had made numerous international connections. He had an outgoing personality and attracted some of the best graduate students. Several of his students became prize winners with very successful careers in physics and moved on to administrative leadership positions in universities and national laboratories. Earl was responsible for enticing two other faculty members to come to Georgia Tech. Edward Thomas and Raymond Flannery worked in closely related fields and made names for their selves. Ed Thomas was a graduate of the University of London while Raymond was a graduate of the University of Belfast. Ed Thomas became Director of the School in the 1980s.
We continued to look to strengthen our faculty in condensed matter theory. We found a candidate from IBM and after a visit we made an offer but he chose the University of Virginia. Shortly after that Uzi Landman came to our attention. Uzi was born and educated in Israel but had spent some time at the University of California-Santa Barbara, University of Illinois, Xerox and the University of Rochester. We invited him for an interview and I told him on the phone that I would meet him at the Atlanta airport. I asked how I would recognize him and he quickly replied, “just look for Kojack!” I had no problem in recognizing him. Uzi made a very good impression and he accepted our offer. Prof. Landman soon received funding for his research and began making a name for himself in computer modeling of surface structures, Charles Cleveland received his PhD under Prof. Gersch and remained at Georgia Tech as a research scientist was employed by Prof. Landman and made significant contributions to the research. Prof. Landman has extensive international collaborators in his research and has received a number of awards both nationally and internationally. During my time as Director of the School of Physics we had two unusual research programs in the sense that they were one of a kind and would not normally be found at Georgia Tech.
Professor A L Stanford was a quite unusual intellect. In addition to research in condensed matter physics, Professor Stanford had a real interest in the biological sciences. While a Professor in physics he audited most of the courses taught in the School of Biology. Based on his reading he initiated a research project involving RNA. Research had shown that tagged RNA injected into the intestine of mice ended in the brain. Professor Stanford set up a simple maze for mice to learn. After they had mastered the maze, Professor Stanford and his colleague Professor Min from Biology decapitated the mice and put their brains in a blender and then injected untrained mice with the RNA from the trained mice. They then checked to see if the untrained mice could master the maze. A slight positive correlation seemed to result but it was not sufficient to warrant continued research effort. The research attracted a lot of interest on the campus. Lectures by Professor Stanford to students, faculty and alumni were very popular. Physics faculty members were relieved when the research ended and the odor was eliminated from our heating and air conditioning system.
The second unusual research activity was initiated by Professor Ahrens. As mentioned previously Prof. Ahrens is a theoretical particle physicist with excellent contacts. The research activity he proposed was experimental in nature. If the research yielded positive results it had the distinct possibility of resulting in a Nobel Prize for the Principal investigators. The research also demonstrated the value and necessity of networking in the academic community. Professor Ahrens had frequent personal contacts with Professor Richard King at Purdue University and the two of them got together on a project to detect neutral currents. The presence of the nuclear reactor at Georgia Tech was of prime importance to the research.
An initial proposal was sent to NSF and received a positive response but the funding necessary to successfully initiate the project was in question. Ken Morgenstern a former graduate student with Ahrens and King at Washington University was brought into the picture. Morgenstern had good contacts with the Navy and was able to get a sizeable contract. Although the work would be done at Georgia Tech, the Navy insisted that the work be classified and conducted under a private organization. Prof. Ahrens felt the opportunity with the Navy was sufficient to choose the Navy over NSF. The possible application to national defense played a role in the decision. Ahrens had a definite idea about the strength of the coupling of the neutral currents in weak interactions based on a symmetry with charged currents, beta decay. King deemed the strength of the coupling to be a wide open question. The Navy was interested in seeing a stronger coupling. Prof. Ahrens agreed that an unlikely possibility existed.
An off-campus location was rented to satisfy the Navy’s concern for the classification of the research. The design of the experiment was challenging and especially the building of an appropriate detector. T. P. Lang an employee of the Engineering Experiment Station at Georgia Tech was primarily responsible for the design and building of the detector. Toward the end of the research, Joe Hamilton chairman of the Department of Physics at Vanderbilt contacted me concerning T. P. Lang. T.P. had completed all of his work at Vanderbilt for a PhD except his thesis. Joe Hamilton asked for my endorsement of T. P. Lang for his PhD based on his research at Georgia Tech. T.P. Lang received his PhD from Vanderbilt.
The experiment required the detection of a specific reaction initiated by the anti neutrinos resulting from fission-product decays in the reactor core. The experiment required massive and complex shielding to guard against interference by neutrons and gamma rays from the reactor, cosmic rays, and by radioactivity from the ground and surrounding materials. Prior to coming to Georgia Tech, Prof Ahrens had worked in the area of nuclear propulsion for aircraft at Lockheed. He was familiar with many of these issues.
The detector module had an inner cylinder containing 40 liters of 96% deuterated n-octane with optimized admixtures of napthalene, PPO, and bis- MSB, surrounded by He3 tubes at 10 atmospheres. Antineutrinos from the reactor would break the deuterons into neutrons and protons due to the "neutral current interaction," the (short range) protons ionizing the scintillating medium, the resulting photons to be detected by photomultipliers. The neutrons would be slowed down and eventually captured by the He3, leading to tritium, protons ,and gammas. The gammas would also be detected by phototubes, obviously delayed relative to the original proton instigated pulses because of the considerable neutron-slowing-down time. "Pulse-Shape-Discrimination" would be a further discriminant against possibly interfering events. The shielding mentioned before includes a cosmic ray umbrella. The expected event rate was 1.8/hour, with an expected count rate of about half of that.
A few years into the program, members of the team interpreted related data of an experiment of Reines and coworkers to imply an upper limit of the strength too small to warrant continuation of the Navy contract. The Navy people graciously extended the contract to permit winding down the work. Soon thereafter high energy experimentalists near Geneva found the neutral- current- interaction, which other high energy groups had missed for years. King did not live to see that day. Several Nobel prizes resulted from this work, among them those awarded to Salam and Weinberg, who had connected the weak to the electromagnetic interaction, including weak-neutral-currents. Extrapolating from the high energy experiments, the low energy (reactor) experiment suggested and prepared by Ahrens, King, and coworkers would have resulted in a strength of the axial-vector-coupling as predicted by Ahrens. The theory of Weinberg and Salam in addition resulted in the correct vector coupling strength. Ahrens much earlier work did not encompass the electromagnetic interaction. At this point the NSF took over funding of the work. The concern was with an exact determination of the Axial-Vector-Coupling-Constant and the trying out of the ingenious detection scheme, mostly developed under the auspices of the Navy, at the Savannah River nuclear site. Unfortunately, after some experimental mishaps, funding dried up.
Although I am certain I have missed a number of important issues and events, other faculty are most welcome to express their views.