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Alexander Thomas Bell 1

1735 Ireland

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A Life in Physics : Bell Telephone Laboratories and World War II, Columbia University and the Laser, MIT and Government Service, California and Research in Astrophysics : Oral History Transcript / 1994 - Page 136


82 Riess: Townes: Riess: Townes: out a group that would want to get together and stimulate each other and think about fundamental physics. Now that was very broad-minded of Bell Labs. Nevertheless, there was clearly the possibility of applications. For electron emission from surfaces, for example, that had to do with electron tubes. But I was working on the fundamental side to try to understand it. I would say that solid state physics is something Mervin Kelly, the head of Bell Labs, recognized was going to be important somehow because Bell Labs dealt with a lot of solids. He started building up a group of solid state physicists as soon as solid state physics became a very good, active field in physics, and better understood. He started building up the group hoping that they would eventually contribute, but I think with nothing very specific in mind excepting that Bell Labs did a lot with resistors and wires and surface contacts and a lot of solid- state work. Understanding it clearly ought to be useful. The microwave group was already working on communications with microwaves. It was quite fundamental work in microwaves, trying to understand microwave generation, propagation, and so on, but they clearly had communications in mind and were working hard on that. So there were applications in view in most cases. Nonetheless, …

Optics and Laser Spectroscopy, Bell Telephone Laboratories, 1951-1961, and Stanford University Since 1961: Oral History Transcript / 1998 - Page 150


119 Riess: Schawlow: Riess: Schawlow: Riess: Schawlow: Is one elected by the entire Academy? Eventually, yes, but it's a very elaborate procedure, where the individual sections, like physics, they even have subgroups that try and pick out nominees and the section votes on it. The top ones in that go on to the class committee which includes geology and astronomy, and mathematics I think. I'm sure they must have a lot of fighting in those committees because they have to rank order them, and then when they get on the ballot, you have to vote for a certain number in every class. People in other classes don't really know anything about the candidates say in the physics class, people in biology or something like that. So they tend to vote for the ones that are picked out by that class as being the top candidates. When you can get through these several filters, you may get elected. Would you say Stan Morgan particularly brought you along as a group? Or is it just happenstance that all these splendid people were together? We were hired by various people. Bell Labs had a very extensive recruiting system then. They would have a contact at each of the major universities who would know the professors and would go there every year and ask, "Who are the good people coming out this year?" Millman was from Columbia, he went to Columbia, and I guess Townes, …

A Life in Physics : Bell Telephone Laboratories and World War II, Columbia University and the Laser, MIT and Government Service, California and Research in Astrophysics : Oral History Transcript / 1994 - Page 131


77 Riess: Townes : Riess: Townes: VI BELL TELEPHONE LABORATORIES, 1939-1947 Job Market. 1939 When you graduated from Caltech in 1939 there were a lot of new physicists. My book said it was a "buyer's market." Which book was that? The Physicists, by Kevles. "Between '33 and '39 [the number of] physics Ph.D.'s had reached twice that before the Depression. The academic world was a buyer's market. One in four Ph.D.'s joined industry." Also, "...Jews took Ph.D.'s in greater frequency than their weight in the population. ... in physics, where achievement was usually clear-cut, talent and brilliance could make their way despite anti-semitism." [Kevles, pp. 275, 279] ## Physics certainly was growing and becoming better-known. Nuclear physics had arrived in the early thirties. Quantum mechanics had been imported from Europe and was becoming more popular here. So physics was beginning to make a name for itself. Undoubtedly, some more people were drawn into physics. It was still a very small group of people, however, and basically you just had to be kind of crazy to go into physics. There weren't jobs. My friends at Caltech, a large fraction of them--well, I remember a number of them taking jobs in the oil field doing seismology because there weren't any other jobs. And teaching in junior colleges. They taught in Pasadena Junior College and Pomona College. They could get jobs locally in some of these smaller colleges, but jobs were …

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About Alexander Thomas Bell

Alexander Thomas Bell is a member of the Bell Family.

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