Interview with H. Eugene Stanley,
11 February 2002
recorded at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.
conducted and recorded by PoS collaborators: Babak
Ashrafi, Karl Hall, and Silvan S. Schweber.
by Alberto A. Martínez and Silvan S. Schweber.
The historical problem that we are trying to
understand is not only what transpired in the formulation of the theory of
phase transitions and critical phenomena, but also to understand the
relationships between communities of physicists, mainly those in high energy
physics and condensed matter physics.
I know a little of that. Actually, I went to
almost all the important meetings. I
was a graduate student from 1963 to 1967 at Harvard and a postdoc after that.
Tell us a little bit about your background even
starting where you were born...
I grew up all over the place. My father actually worked for DuPont during
World War II on the A-bomb project, the Manhattan project, as a lowly chemist
without anything more than a Bachelor's degree. I had seventeen addresses by
the age of ten. When I got my own security clearance, all seventeen had to
be listed, and it took a long time to get security clearance. That fact,
reason I mention it, is that it colored very much my father's life because
he was told that this was to stop [Adolph] Hitler who he wanted to stop very
much. And when the bomb was dropped he was completely devastated because they
told him that the bomb would only be a defensive weapon against Hitler, not
an offensive weapon against Japan and certainly not dropped on people when
could have been dropped on an island or used in some other demonstration
purpose. So, this basically changed his life in the sense that he didn't
cooperate any more with the atomic weapons development. He didn't work on the
H-bomb as he was asked to do etc. and that was it. So, I was raised
politically in this somewhat strange atmosphere of distrust of authority, you
might say, and not believing... And I
went to Wesleyan as an undergraduate and Harvard as a graduate student in
Where did you go to high school?
A public high school near Philadelphia called West
Chester. Not especially good or bad, but relevant only in the sense of a
school that drew from the entire region and therefore had a big fraction of
every conceivable group of type of person from farmers far away to blacks and
hispanics in the city of West Chester itself, pretty broad... not in a very
isolated way, not in the ivory tower way. But, I was interested in physics as
many people are because it's what we do well, you know, bind math interests
and the desire to understand what matters in the world if you have a big
curiosity as many people do.
So you come to Wesleyan actually knowing you want to
be a physics major?
More or less, yes. I chose Wesleyan for physics
mostly because I had a National Merit Scholarship. I could go anywhere I
wanted. I almost went to Princeton and at the last minute feared that at
Princeton I wouldn't get much attention from the big professors and I was
very afraid of that... At that time when I graduated high school '58 there
had just been published a book on antisemitism at Princeton and at their
eating clubs. The whole snobbism of Princeton. I actually signed up to go to Princeton, paid my deposit and I
What made you choose Wesleyan?
Wesleyan because it had very good physics teaching
facilities at that time in '58 and they have the undergraduate thesis
requirement. They had very small classes and so forth, I would interact, at
least wouldn't be drowning. And Westchester High School was sufficiently poor
that there was no question that I
would enter Princeton in, shall we say, in the lower half if not the lower
quarter of class in terms of preparation. And which sent me to Wesleyan, but
at least in Wesleyan the classes are small so I got a C in English the first
semester because I didn't know what it meant to write an essay. I had to do
that. I had to know what symbols were. My high school never taught any of
that. Physics went better because it's easier but it was still hard, and
Edwin Taylor, my physics professor, told me I should get out of physics, for
sure get out of theoretical physics and maybe do some kind of experiment,
just based on my performance in his honors class and maybe I should have, but
I didn't, but it sticks in your mind many years later, 45 years later. I also
was into some biology. So, the next big event was that I wanted to go to graduate
school in biophysics and everyone in physics knew at that time knew one very
successful person, [Max] Delbrueck, so I wrote to Delbrueck a letter at
Caltech saying I want to come to Cal Tech and be in graduate school to study with him. And he wrote back:
'I will be on a sabbatical in Germany, but you're welcome to come to
Germany as my only students, so you will get lots of attention." So, I
applied for a Fulbright, got it and went to Germany for a year with the
intention of continuing with him. However, this year in Germany was the solidifying event in my scientific career
because I had a role model that I could more or less copy, although perhaps
not all the time. I didn't always like what I saw at that time, but, as you
know, over the years you realize that he did it right, and I was too
So, you didn't apply to graduate school when you
were a senior?
I think I applied only to the Fulbright. I must have
applied to graduate school , because you don't find about a Fulbright until
later. If I applied to graduate school I don't remember. The bottom line is
after a year in Germany of doing biophysics I could have continued in
biophysics research but Delbrueck himself said this is a dumb degree to get
for interesting reasons, namely that that you learn a lot about several fields, like biology, chemistry,
physics, but you don't learn enough about any one field to develop
self-confidence and credentials. If you said "Particle physics" at Stonybrook , wow, this person knows particle
physics, but if you said you did biological chemical physics at Stonybrook, I
might wonder what you really know, but this was roughly his point. And so I applied to pure places that did
In what way was he a role model for doing physics?
First of all immense honesty. An emphasis on clarity
of what you know, what you don't know. And an emphasis on, this sounds awful
but it's true, and I copied them, emphasis on not reading but "doing" if you
will. For example, when I arrived in Germany looking for physics background I
said what can I read and he said: 'No, you shouldn't read, you
work', and I said 'Well, can I read at night?' He wouldn't
tell me, but of course you finally find some things to read. But if he would
catch me during the day reading the book, he would scold me and say you
should be working, you should be doing things, not reading.
This is roughly the time when he wrote his famous
essay on being a physicist doing biology?
That was later than that, this was 1962. He was 58
at the time. But a very young 58. With a new baby and so on. Also, he's a
very impatient person for, shall we say, clarity. I haven't done this yet,
but he's quite known for just opening up a paper during a colloquium when it
became unclear. After a few attempts to make it clear, you ask: 'Professor what do you mean,
what do you mean,' instead of just giving up. Yes we all do often, we
just give up at a colloquium. Most of us daydream, or pull out our agenda and
write a list of things that we have to do. But he would just open the
Coming back to Delbrueck. What did you do? What did
you do that year?
Not as much as I should have, but I did a lot of
experiments, and I learned that I didn't really enjoy experiments that much.
It was a little tedious. I really would rather read basically, despite being
told not to, and understand what I was doing, so then I came to Harvard, I
came there when Delbrueck told me to work for Wally Gilbert. I knocked on his
door and I arrived in September '63 and said who I was and he said 'Yeah
I know you are coming into this work, but I don't think you want to do
biology or biophysics and I said 'Why not?' Before he could answer,
the phone rang and he talks a little to somebody about arithmetic, you know,
how to do percentages and stuff like that and he hung up and he said 'Do
you like math?' and I said 'Yeah, of course.' He said, then
you're really not going to like biology because that was my technician and I
spend every day, certain number of hours, just explaining how to do percentages and do these things, you know,
but he's gotta do it right or else the experiment is wrong and there is no
math in biology and it's all experiment. So it sort of scared me away. And
as I needed money for the first
summer, I took a job at Lincoln Lab
which at that time was a very, very vibrant place in what is now called
condensed matter physics. It had Milly Dresselhaus, Gene Dresselhaus, Irwin
Shapiro, and some of the names you probably know, and I was again the only
student there so I got a huge amount of attention and I realized that I liked
physics more that biology, so I just did a PhD in physics. Nominally with
[John] Van Vleck but in practice, basically at Lincoln Lab. We had huge
amounts of attention there, lots of mentoring.
Could you tell us a little bit more about what
courses you took when you came to Harvard? What do you remember?
I made a lot of mistakes when I came because I lost
a year on the Fulbright. I thought I could place out of some courses and
Harvard is a little bit relaxed on how they do things. They don't force you
to do much, and therefore I did not take a course in say quantum mechanics,
because I went to take the [Julian] Schwinger's lecture on field theory and [Sidney] Coleman taught
it also, and the bottom line is that I created holes in my physics education
which I then was never able to fill
because I never had the time to sort of go back and learn a lot of these
things. So, it's made me a good teacher, because I tell students not to do
this. It leaves you insecure, but I did do well in graduate school, well
enough to get a Mellon Fellowship at Berkeley, assistant professorship at
MIT, but not by virtue of will and head, but by virtue of the good luck of
research, in fact. Critical phenomena was just opening up, and it was
possible for new kids on the block like me to stumble onto nice discoveries
and that's what made my career.
What steered you in that direction? What courses,
Nothing, nothing special, it was just an exciting
You took courses with Paul Martin?
Yeah. Did I take it for credit or for audit is a
Martin just at that time was, for sure, the worst
teacher imaginable, because he couldn't finish a sentence. He would start but
never finish so everyone knew he was brilliant and you had to understand it,
but it was almost impossible to understand it. I think I only audited that
course. It was an advanced course, really advanced. [Roy] Glauber taught me
the stuff, that I know. Glauber was the opposite so clear that he made it
sound trivial which of couse it's not. Statistical physics is still for me
the most difficult physics of all of physics to understand. And when I have to teach it I go crazy.
But you say it was Lincoln Labs that drew your
attention in that direction.
Perhaps, yeah, although to be honest, at Lincoln
Labs I was not doing this so much. I could show you exactly what I did and then it was
called many body theory, and Green's functions.
No, with Tom Kaplan ... I gave, I remember, several
lectures on Green's functions, but the trouble for me with that is that it
had ... already hit its peak, ... The
obvious things were done and I didn't have any very good ideas of what to do.
These are presumably the temperature dependent
... and from where did you learn those?
Did you know of Dzyaloshinskii yet?
Personally, I don't. Of course, I know his work.
Well, the textbook of Alexei Abrikosov, Lev P.
Gorkov and Igor Dzyaloshinskii had been translated into English in 1963.
Then I would've noted its publication, but I don't
remember reading it.
But it's primarily Gordon Baym and Leo Kadanoff that
taught you these methods... Were they
at Harvard with you?
Kadanoff was a whiz kid, he went out of school very,
If I'm not mistaken Kadanoff
finished about 1960.
So in the summer of 1964 you actually go to Lincoln
And what did you tell them?
I told them what I couldn't figure out about Green's
function, but it was clear to me that it was a dead end for me. I have always felt somewhat unsatisfied... perhaps
because I'm partly insecure about my own abilities. I felt that the only way
I'm ever gonna make it is to do something in some new field that nobody has done much in. There are either plums to be plucked or not. There
are always plums to be plucked but
usually there are more likely to be
plums that I can reach on the tree in a new field than on those in mature fields. I didn't much like Green's
But I mean, how did you pick your thesis topic?
Well, it's all sort of coming back. It's amazing how
your memory can distort past events so easily... How I picked a
thesis topic is a good question. ...
There were a zillion conferences and things on critical phenomena in that
period and all kinds of interesting ideas were being floated around and it
was very alive and energetic. It was a nice mix of experiments, -- this is
very important for your history -- and in my opinion the field developed for
a lot of reasons, but one that's often overlooked is that there was a very
strong mix of theory and experiment
Did you have much interaction with George Benedek at the time?
I guess, I met him only in conferences...
and I didn't go to his lab. I didn't have interaction with anybody, except the
Lincoln Lab staff, especially Tom Kaplan.
Who were your friends among the graduate students at
that time? Who do you remember most?
To be very blunt most of them have dropped out. I'm
not saying it to brag, I am saying that partly in order to criticize Harvard,
although it's a natural interpretation of the fact that graduate students got
no offices, you saw all the professors by appointment .... The case is often more than that. So, the people at
Harvard that I can remember knowing was Barry McCoy, he was in the same class
. McCoy was and has been very
successful... and that's about it.
Did you ever have any interaction with T. T. Wu?
Only because he was McCoy's advisor.
Before we leave Lincoln Labs can you tell us about
Tom Kaplan ?
Sure yeah in fact you can interview him, he is very
alive and vibrant. He can give you very good stories and more accurate than
mine. Kaplan was a student of Herb
Callen at Penn who in turn was a student of Lazlo Tisza who in turn was a
student of Edward Teller, who was
friend of Leo Szilard who was student of Einstein, who in turn knew [Ludwig]
Boltzmann. Kaplan after his PhD at Penn went to work at Lincoln lab because it was an exciting place. And his main claim to fame was the
discovery of a spiral ordering as the actual ordered state, not a spin order.
Just as there is ferromagnetism and there is antiferromagnetism there is also
a set of compounds, not too huge, for which the ordering is not one of what I
said, but it's actually a spiraling law. Spiraling means that if I'm a spin I
point to, say, the North Star, and you point 10 degrees to the left of the
North Star, and you 20 degrees and so forth so 36 spins down the line we've
come around the full circle again. And he made this discovery independent of
two other people. Jacques Villain a very big name. But, he was a very
powerful influence because he is also very clear. It's the tendency of
physicists , as you know, is to sort of say the most obvious when they don't understand. They
don't want to talk about it so it must be obvious, or it's just that it must
be obvious. He was very good to work with, as a student because he never sort
of put you down. Most students thought that most professors put them down a
big fraction of the time.
Where was your introduction to things like
Heisenberg models, Ising models etc.?
At Lincoln Lab. John van Vleck taught a very nice course in
magnetism, which I took. And taught it in a way which is also valuable to historians. His way of
teaching is a way that I've never been able to quite teach but I've always
wanted to. He would come in as if he were totally unprepared, you know and
everyone would wonder whether he was or not, and he would say 'Today we're supposed to talk about paramagnetism and does
anybody know about paramagnetism?' And we would say, 'yeah the
spins don't interact.' And he would say 'When there is nothing you
can say, I guess' or something, and then he would sort of say
'Well, you ought to be able to calculate how even if they don't interact
they must respond to magnetic fields so I guess the one interesting thing
would be how the magnetization responds to the magnetic field.' And we
would say 'Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up', and he would go very,
very slowly but he would , sort of, teach us how he approached science in
that way. And at the end of the lecture you wouldn't have much in your
notebook, but... he would have just explained perfectly... He taught a lot.
No he then
... he didn't teach graduate courses. And he was regarded as a man who had
fallen afoul of the [Joseph] McCarthy people...
This is now almost ten years later.
Yeah, and there was a lot of pity for him on a
And didn't you take anything with Sidney Coleman?
Yeah, yeah I did take Coleman's course and that's why I got out of field theory, I
think that when I entered Harvard I wanted to be a Schwinger student.... In
Germany I dreamed of Schwinger: he was a big monstrous guy but when I met him he was a short guy. So I
took a reading course like so many students did the first semester, and had
the exactly the same experience that everyone had of meeting him: once in the
fall you saw him to sign a card and at which time he told me to come back in
January at the end of the semester with the term paper. Which I did. ... So
that didn't help me make a decision, but Coleman's course did, because Coleman's
course was very hard.
Field theory, from a thick set of notes of his. A
very difficult a very, very nice
book, a very thick book and a lot more details, but Coleman, was a very tough
person. In particular, he gave a take home exam which was so tough that no
one in the entire class could do it and you had 4-5 days. Except, the day before
it was due Jeff Mandula said
'I can solve it,' and everyone didn't know if he was bluffing but
he could, so Jeff got an A, the rest of us got B's and, basically, the
message from Coleman was you shouldn't think of field theory if you couldn't
get an A. Jeff Mandula could think of it if he wanted to and most of us
really should not and I took that lesson to heart. I also sat in on Schwinger's
course, I don't think I took it for a grade, but I was there the day he got
the Nobel Prize. And I was the person who ran out to the liquor store and
bought the champagne. So, he came in his characteristic way, four to five
minutes late. There was the bottle of champagne sitting on the table and, of
course, the class wanted to know what he would do about it, would he actually
smile and to signify that life had changed suddenly that morning. He stopped
talking, very clearly looked at the class and said 'Thank you.' So,
he at least acknowledged that it was there, but he didn't start to tell
stories about his childhood or how he made the things for which he had just
been given the Nobel Prize which most of us didn't really know because it was
the beginning of the semester, October...
Can we come back to Kaplan?
Was it unusual to actually pick someone at the
Moderately unusual, yes, but Harvard has a policy...
they were delighted if you did your thesis elsewhere. Most schools
reluctantly agree to it.
So he was officially your thesis advisor?
Officially it was van Vleck.
He didn't even sign. He was at least invited to
the thesis due to the fact that he had signified that the work was good. Van
Vleck also had to make his own evaluation... They paid me at Lincoln Lab,
actually a supplement to my NSF fellowship. But the main reason to be at Lincoln Lab was
just to have this wonderful ambience. There weren't parties every weekend,
but it was almost that. And if was definitely the feeling the doors were
always open, you could benefit from anybody. And it was a strongly
interactive group and that has influenced my professional career. I have had
a lot of PhD students, roughly 80, and I worked with roughly 100
postdocs, almost forcing them to be
creative ... hopefully not all of them think of being forced, but it
required interacting strongly. And often it's very painful... to
get along so well after a certain period of time.
Can you tell us a little about what you did with
I certainly can tell you. The Heisenberg model as
you said was a model that was studied a lot at that time because it
described magnetic materials, but it
also had a critical point that could be probed experimentally. By computation or theory you could determine
its properties near the critical point. There was a theoretical method which
at that time was called 'high temperature expansions' which almost took you
close to the critical point.... People liked to joke about it as a brute
force method. I called it something slightly different. I called it the
method of exact enumeration where one would actually enumerate all the paths
of a given length by which two spins can be correlated, and length at the
time was limited to sort of 8 intervening spins, not very many, but the
important thing is that if you enumerated every path then the progression of
how properties changed as you went from paths of length two to three, three
to four, four to five, was a rapidly convergent sequence and it displayed a trend that could be extrapolated to infinity and give
highly accurate numbers for critical exponents. Exponents were the thing at
that time because it was what experimentalists measured. So I became, because
what I did at that time were the best
calculations on that model, I became an "expert"... You know, I could go at
the meetings and people cared about what I did and I would talk to
experimentalists and they'd care, and it was all within the range of my abilities because this is, as
I said, a brute force method, more or
less. I had to use a computer and the use of computers was in '63, '64, '65
not very prevalent sufficient so I knew what many people didn't know how to
do, how to work with a computer, and Lincoln Lab had a computer that I could
use on nights and weekends.
And that was in fact the place where you picked up
Correct, correct, I had the whole Lincoln Lab
Punch cards or anything like that.
Punch cards and sometimes paper tapes, but I
literally had the whole computer for myself. It was slow of course, but it
did the bookkeeping. And the ideas were simple, so the bookkeeping was more
or less straightforward and so I excelled not by virtue of some genius on my
part, but just being lucky at the right place. And willing to do a problem
that probably some graduate students wouldn't, because they'd rather do
something more esoteric sounding. But, the Heisenberg model work was successful
particularly because of the fact that one day I thought of looking in two
dimensions , as opposed to three dimensions where the experiments were, and
no one, almost no one... looked at two
dimensions. And when I found the evidence on this method which was the
accepted method, the method of high temperature expansions which was as
convincing in two dimensions for a transition as in three, this was a very
exciting piece of work, so exciting that I wanted to publish it immediately
myself without my advisor, without telling him that. But I will always
remember when he took me aside a week
later and said 'You know, it's true, it's your idea, but we worked
together all this time, you wouldn't be where you were, and so on and so
on,' and he said 'You're not gonna get this written up an published
without some help, and I would like to collaborate with you,' And so I
was full of shame instead, of course, of course, of course. And now as an
advisor I've been in that position. I've been in that position more than once in my life and I know how
delicate intellectual property like that can be. But, I was very excited
about that piece of work, that began a part of my life which was very, very
important for the field and for myself, because there were two problems. The theorists
didn't want to accept this because there were some arguments from the
spin-wave theory that two dimensional magnets should not exhibit critical phenomena. With Kaplan's help we were able to show that those arguments only meant you
could not have a spontaneous magnetization, that means that the net number of
up spins when you turned off the field, didn't go to zero as it does above
the critical point. So, that old argument only applied to that, and
furthermore that old argument wasn't even rigorous. [David] Mermin, [Herbert]
Wagner and [Pierre] Hohenberg supplied the rigor shortly thereafter, but it
was still ruling out a magnetization. But the transition that we uncovered
was a transition with a divergent susceptibility which has not to do with the
magnetization, but the fluctuations of the magnetization and what a quantity
does or what its fluctuations do have almost nothing to do with each other.
So, we argued that the fluctuations should diverge, the susceptibility should
diverge, the magnetization should always remain zero and that was a very hard
thing to swallow by theorists. My
paper was rejected. Vociferously
rejected, but then it was accepted by [Freeman] Dyson who I had met at
Brandeis summer school.
When Dyson talked about the stability of
That's what he talked about, but I was asked to give
a talk on my proposal of a phase transition in 2 dimensions. I gave a good
seminar. And afterwards we started to talk and he actually looked at my work
and what I had done and he supported
that the divergence in the susceptibility was really there ... At summer
school you have all the time you want with these people. And I spent a lot of
time with him. I sat with him in the lecture room and there's lots of little
things I could tell you about Dyson, but, the upshot is that he became the
champion of this work and Fisher the opponent... So, the polarity was
everywhere in the field. Dyson thought I was right and Fisher thought I was
wrong, and people had to basically choose because you know how it is in
physics. Most people are insecure of their own abilities or they just don't
have enough time to form their own opinions. So there was a big, big, big,
big, big controversy on this subject and the paper did get published, it's
now a science citation classic and in fact it became known as the
Stanley-Kaplan transition for a number of years before [J. M] Kosterlitz and
[David J.] Thouless came out with their far, far better work. Their work was
actually a theory of what's going on. Ours was not, ours was just a
statement. If you applied a trustworthy method you got striking evidence for phase transitions. The work of Kosterlitz and Thouless is a very
relevant thing to bring up because what Kosterlitz and Thouless' work
demonstrated is that in the Heisenberg model of our work there in fact is no
phase transition at all. In short, our paper was quote 'wrong', and
more than quote wrong, it's simply wrong. However, it led to a second paper,
which I wrote myself later on, saying that the same evidence was even more
convincing for the x-y model and it was the x-y model that Kosterlitz and
Thouless convincingly demonstrated had a transition. So, it led to that, but
it led more importantly to something that you need [Robert] Birgenau to speak on, to corroborate, it lead to
experimentalists taking seriously two dimensional physics, which until that
time, until '67, -- people won't believe me when I say this, they never
believe me-- but there was not one experimentalist at all that thought there was
anything interesting in two dimensions. First of all, there weren't any two
dimensional systems, you can't make two dimensional magnets, it breaks up
into little islands of varying thickness, and second of all, what could they
be good for? So I, for example, remember my Bell Labs interview of just
people saying, you know, 'If you come to Bell Labs you're gonna work on
something more interesting than two dimensional physics,' ha, ha, ha,
and even challenging me to sort of say there could be any materials that
exhibited two dimensional behavior, so this forced me to run around Lincoln
Lab, talk to all the experimentalists, try to figure out if you could ever
make such a material. And Birgeneau, when he was at Bell Labs, actually found
the class of such materials, and that's what's on the cover of my reprint
volume Cooperative Phenomena near Phase
Transitions (MIT Press, 1973). K2N1F4 is
an example of magnets which are not two dimensional, they are three
dimensional, but the interaction is five orders of magnitude stronger in
these squared, in these planes which are square lattices, than it is between
the planes, and therefore they're what perhaps we could call quasi two
dimensional. In practice this is pretty close to two dimensional and, as you
know, the whole high Tc phenomena takes place in such lattices. So this whole focus on
two dimensions. This work has its main value: that it stimulated
experimentalists to think about two dimensions.
An aside, when did you first plow through or really
come to terms with Lars Onsager's model?
Never. When I wrote the book I had to learn enough
about the two dimensional Ising model to decide whether to give a solution or
not, and there's an appendix which gives an interesting Russian graphical
solution that at least has some physics to it. I was never a fan of monster
formalism, and I've become even less of a fan now, so I often tell my
students... [Lars] Onsager and [Bruria] Kaufmann's famous paper, of course, is very important in the
history of physics, no question, but in terms of what a student learns by
spending a week or two weeks or something , going through it and learning how
to do it all is probably a less good use of time than something else, because
at the end of the day you finish the solution you don't sort of understand
it. I never became, I was never a fan of doing really heavy, you know, sledge
Another aside, since we didn't pick it up when you
were at Wesleyan... the work that you did there it was again purely
At Wesleyan I did a thesis in atomic physics.
capture with Thomas Green? And it's theoretical?
100% theory and... I think I ultimately published
the paper with his name, deservedly, first because I was an undergraduate, he
was more or less telling me what to do when I did it.
Do you remember why it was that you came to the
Heisenberg problem with Kaplan , what was at issue?
Good question, no I don't remember exactly.
Maybe, he'll remember, but roughly what I guess is that there wasn't any
defining event. If you're in a research group of solid state physicists, the
Heisenberg model is sort of the number one model, and the critical point is
the number one puzzle that young people were interested in. And I was young
and I could read all the papers and learn all the facts. I became a local
expert in the sense that I knew the
newest paper the way my students now know what came out last week and I don't
because I am behind.
So, in terms of critical issues, you knew the
work of T. D. Lee and C. N. Yang and all of the current interest in
thermodynamic limits? For what potentials and what statistics it exists
Yeah, again heavy formalism. Yeah, of course I
knew of their work, in fact I even own Yang's University of Washington
dittoed lectures that Frank Black made, do you know about them? Most people
don't know they exist. Michael Fisher is waiting for me to find my copy and
share it with him.
Oh, well he can come to our website and look at
Oh this very nice. Very very nice, ...
Would you happen to have your notes on Van Vleck's course on magnetism?
I have lecture notes only, yes, sure, of course.
I have all my lecture notes. I am really a terrible
pack rat. As I told you when you
That's great, that's wonderful.
You went to Brandeis summer school and earlier on
you said that one of your main ways of learning about this topic were these
conferences and summer schools.
Mainly, I said that I enjoy just narrowly being
in the thick of things. In the thick
of things, you know, me being able to be at some of the talks about great
ideas; to be able occasionally to talk to these people. I like that, I like
that excitement, so for example, Brandeis summer school was an ideal thing
because I knew Kadanoff and Dyson there very well and also Robert Brout. He came to my house for
dinner, so obviously I must have wanted to meet them more or I wouldn't have
invited them for dinner. And I guess that was exciting, I mean, the hillbilly from Oklahoma meets the great, you
know, Freeman Dyson or something it was a big high, you know a big high, like
a kid who meets a rock star or something. I knew there was some element of
that, 'cause I always was in awe of these very special physicists...
... and Kadanoff, I met him... And I have kept
relationships with all these people and I speak with them now.
And eventually that was part of the idea when you
were at MIT: to run a summer school in the '70s?
Partly, but the main reason was money. MIT
refused to give you the third month of salary no matter how many grants you
had, but if you taught in the summer school, if you could create one of those
courses you could then get it. And I had a very lousy salary. 12,500 dollars
for nine months. And it also had a
budget to bring people, and this was very nice, Summer schools were nice, ...
nice for the people who came together.
Let's go back to 1965, you were aware at that
stage of the NBS conference.
Nope, but I own 4 or 5 copies of the proceedings
'cause they were free, you just write to NBS, and I used to get them for my
friends just by writing for more. And particularly, maybe you know, they have
all the discussion at the end of every talk...
Did you really study that?
Yeah, especially the discussion...
And who had told you about the conference?
Everybody knew. . . . Big excitement... I'm
guessing it was 1964, not 1965.