Georgia Tech was founded in 1888 to teach Engineering through use of workshop practice and apprenticeships. From the Institution’s foundation Physics was taught at Tech but only as a part of the Engineering curriculum In 1938 Physics became a school and was permitted to develop its own degree programs. At around this time the Institution reorganized its teaching practices away from the “workshop” approach to a more “academic” type of program. By the mid 1960s the main focus of the Institution is moving heavily towards research programs and towards graduate degrees. This continues to the present day and we now see Tech as one of the leading Universities of the nation.
This present work sets out to tell the story of how Physics at Tech evolved from a purely instructional unit to a full academic School. The initial work on this narrative was started by David L Wyly, in about 1982. Subsequent work has been performed by various retired school “Directors” and “Chairs” [Prior to 1992 the person heading a degree granting school was given the title “Director”. In 1992 the title of a school head was changed to the more conventional “Chair”]. The work is now a serious of narrative “Chapters” representing various phases of the school’s history. Also provided are a series of Appendixes which give a chronological summary of events along with some personal reminiscences.
The first Chapter covers the period 1888 through 1938 when Physics was simply a department of instruction teaching the subject for Engineering majors. The second period starts with the creation of the degree granting School in 1938 and ends with the move to the “New” Physics building in 1967; this period encompasses the development of the three degree programs and of the original research capabilities. Both these chapters were written by myself and are based entirely on the chronological notes created by Dave Wiley. The third Chapter covers the period 1967 to 1982. During most of this period Jim Stevenson was “Director” and he is the writer. The school’s programs were becoming competitive on a national and international basis; the original research programs are being replaced as the pioneering faculty reach retirement. The fourth Chapter covers 1982 to 1991. During most of this period I was “Director” of the School and I am responsible for this Chapter. Chapter five by Henry Valk, covers the period when he was Chair (1991-1996).
Dave Wyly, who started this project, was first employed at Tech in 1938. At the time he contributed to this history (1982) he had a longer association with the School than anyone else surviving at the time. Using historical records, principally the Institution’s “Catalog”, Dave transcribed the list of “Physics” faculty for each year from the school’s foundation until we moved into the new building in 1967. He supplemented this material by vignettes about many of the faculty. Some of the material was based on his own experience of events. Material related to dates before 1938 was obtained from conversations with faculty who had arrived before Dave and who were still active when he arrived. Dave also added comments about the major events at the School and at the Institution. This transcription of records and Dave’s commentary have been included here, without change, as Appendix A (PDF).
Subsequently I set out to continue Dave Wyly’s chronological listing of events. I had arrived at Tech in 1964 and my own experience overlapped with Dave’s experience. I created two listings of faculty changes and major event in the school’s history. The first from 1967 until 1978 was a period from occupancy of the “New” Physics Building when Vernon Crawford was Director through the subsequent Directorship of Jim Stevenson. The major source of the information was again the Institutional “Catalog” supplemented by my own recollection of events and of personalities. The second chronological listing was from 1979 through 1991 and covered the period when I was Director of the School plus a few interim years when the Directorship went through some rather rapid changes. Again this listing drew first on the Institutional Catalog which lists all the faculty. For this period I also had access to the “Annual Reports” written by each School Director. (No annual reports dated prior to 1978 exist in the Dean’s Office or in the Schools records. Either they were not written or else they have not been retained). For part of that period I was the School’s Director and responsible for the reports! These two chronological listings include my personal comments about the individual faculty and their careers. These three chronological listings of events, the first by Dave Wyly and the second two by myself, are included here as three Appendixes.
The inclusion of anecdotal information through the Appendixes allows one to give some awareness of the richness of character that has been a feature of this School. Our Faculty have included a noted yachtsman who circumnavigated the globe, a critically acclaimed woodworker (who married one of the school’s secretaries and also had a hand in designing our present building). One of our faculty was, unfortunately, murdered on Fifth Street. Faculty of the school have progressed to become Presidents of other Institutions and even Provost of the University System of this State. Our graduates include a former CEO of Apple Computers and the founder of Scientific Atlanta (at one time the largest Technological company headquartered in this city). It is a rich and varied history which does not readily fit into a narrative of a school’s intellectual and academic development.
Each of the authors who have contributed to this material take responsibility for what they have written and apologize in advance if it causes any unhappiness. All of the authors worked independently of the others. We all hope that those who follow us will contribute to documenting the development of this remarkable school.
History: Chapter 1 (1888-1938)
Foundation of the Institution to the Foundation of the School of Physics
Written by Edward W. Thomas, 2009. Based on the notes of L. David Wyly, Regent's Professor, and on general historical documents of the Institution.
Institutions of Technology were first founded in the 1800s to provide educational support to the industries of the nation. Probably the first in the USA was Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute founded as the Rensselaer School in 1824. In 1861 there was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed in 1865 by the Worcester Free Institute of Industrial Sciences (now Worcester Polytechnic), both in Massachusetts. The California Institute of Technology was founded in 1891 (under the name “Throop Polytechnic Institute”). The Georgia School of Technology (now Georgia Institute of Technology) was founded in 1888, the only institution of this type to be created in the Southeastern USA. Initial discussions about the creation of the school started in 1882, and the legislature voted positively in 1885. Five places competed for the proposed school: Athens (location of the University of Georgia), Macon, Penfield, Milledgeville, and Atlanta. Ultimately Atlanta was chosen. In part the decision was based on the greater financial contribution offered by the city and by private donors. But one might conjecture that the existence of railroads, engineering works and factories in Atlanta also made an impact on the decisions. The school ultimately opened in 1888 with its first entering class .
In designing the curriculum the organizers visited a variety of Institutions including MIT and the Worcester Free Institute. MIT taught the academic basis of Engineering. Worcester’s programs were based on workshop practice and apprenticeships. The organizing committee chose to follow the pattern of Worcester, a fateful decision that took 50 years or so to change.
At inception, the school had only a single degree program—Mechanical Engineering. There were 97 entering students. To provide instruction, there were five faculty: one each to teach Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics; one to teach ME; and a fifth to supervise the workshops. The sciences were seen as the underpinning of Engineering and were taught as major components of the Engineering curriculum. This of course continues to the present day.
The first Instructor and Professor of Physics was Isaac Stiles Hopkins, Ph.D. and D.D. He was also the President of the Institution! Isaac Hopkins had studied literature at Emory, Medicine at the Medical College in Augusta, and then returned to Emory for a degree in Theology. He was self taught in the area of “Industrial Arts.” Besides teaching Physics, and presiding over the Institution, Hopkins was simultaneously pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Atlanta. A very busy man!
The Catalog for 1888 (when the school was operating on a Semester system) describes the Physics curriculum as follows:
The Apprentice Class during the first term, study the general properties of matter; during the second term, the laws of motion and machines.
The Junior Class study during the first term, hydrostatics and pneumatics. The second term is given to acoustics and magnetism.
The Middle Class are occupied the first term with electricity— statical and dynamical; during the second term they study the subjects of heat and light.
The Senior Class are engaged for the most part in the physics laboratory and in investigations under the direction of the Professor of Physics. They are taught by lectures and experiment the modes of making precise measurement, the construction, and adjustment and use of instruments of precision.
For the first fifty years of the Institution’s history the “Department” of Physics taught the necessary foundation courses for Engineering and gradually increased the numbers of its faculty. Hopkins resigned from Tech in 1895 to devote himself full time to his clerical duties. The Physics Professor was now R.W. Quick who had a B.S degree and was a local authority on X-rays. From 1896 Mr. Quick also did double duty as a Professor of Electrical Engineering.
In 1923 the Department of Physics acquired its own building the “Old Physics Building,” now known as D. M. Smith, which sits immediately south east of the main entrance to the library. To the right of the main door is a foundation stone indicating that the building was funded by a gift from the Carnegie Foundation. The catalog of 1923 includes the following description of the building:
The ground floor is arranged for general laboratory work, each room being equipped with electric lights, gas, water, compressed air, and storage battery circuits. The main lecture room of the department occupies the central portion of the first floor. It has a seating capacity of two hundred and eighty, the seats being raised so as to allow students a clear view of the lecture table.
Five recitation rooms, library, and offices are on the first floor. Two class rooms, and laboratory, and research rooms are on the second floor, the remaining space being occupied temporarily by the department of Civil Engineering. The third floor is occupied by the department of Architecture.
Physics did not recover the top floor from Architecture for 20 years! By the early 1960s in the basement there were a small machine shop tended by a machinist and a student shop. Physics occupied this building until 1967. The faculty who moved into the Physics building in 1923 consisted of seven people: Professor J.B. Edwards, Associate Professors J.R. Jenness and R.N. Thompson, Assistant Professors N.F. Beardsley, and A.F.Samuels, Instructors E.E. Bortell and G.B. Estabrook. Two of these had Masters Degrees, three held their degrees in Engineering subjects (there were no Ph.D.s).
Research arrived on the campus in 1934 with the formation of the “Engineering Experiment Station” or EES. This today is known as the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). EES was designed as a research facility and was expected to assist local Engineering companies. (In many ways it was supposed to parallel the functions of the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of Georgia.) EES provided an infra structure where research could be performed. It had its own non-academic faculty and technical staff. It was also possible for Faculty in academic units to have a joint appointment and carry a research program in EES. During World War II the EES undertook large amounts of research activities for the government in the general fields of communications and radar. This led to a great expansion in size. While much of the research in EES/GTRI has been “applied,” there always has been the opportunity for its faculty to engage in fundamental studies. Basically, if a faculty member could procure the support for his salary, he could do anything that pleased him. The importance of EES to Physics was that EES provided the initial hiring point for many people who later became prominent faculty.
In 1936, Dr. Joseph Howey joined the Department as its head. Howey had a Ph.D. in Physics from Yale. Three years later in 1939, Physics was made a “School” with the rights to grant BS and MS degrees. Howey oversaw the transformation into a “School,” the creation of the degree programs and, in the 1950s, the formation of a Ph.D. program and the research activities on which such a program is based.
During the 1920s and 1930s the School employed a number of people who were interesting characters. There was Roger Strout, Instructor in Physics hired in 1927, who built his own yacht in Savannah, and in 1934 took off with his wife to sail around the world. On his return, just before the outbreak of WWII, Strout made a living on the lecture circuit telling about his experiences. His boat, called the “Igdrasil,” is apparently an important design that continues to be discussed in yachting circles. Information about Strout and his boat can be found by Googling on his name. There was Earl Bortell who was hired in 1921 and was still active when Tech granted its first Physics Ph.D.s in 1957. Bortell was not only a Physics Professor, but also, ending in 1960, was the Tennis Coach at Tech winning 28 of his 30 of his seasons.
 The author has drawn much of this information from the book “Images and Memories, Georgia Tech 1885-1985" by B. Eugene Griessman, Sarah Evelyn Jackson, and Annible Jenkins. Published by Georgia Institute of Technology in 1985. The book was created for the Centennial of the Institution.
History: Chapter 2 (1939-1967)
World War II through to the Occupation of the "New" Physics Building
Written by Edward W. Thomas, 2009. Based on the notes of L. David Wyly, Regent's Professor, and on general historical documents of the Institution.
- 1941-1945: World War II requires many changes to curriculum and to the use of facilities. Degree programs were foreshortened.
- 1942-1943: Jimmy Carter, later President of the United States, was a student in the School of Physics. He subsequently transferred to the Naval Academy and from there he graduated. Interestingly, the School and the Institution have never been able to capitalize on this relationship.
- 1943: Award of the first three B.S. degrees in Physics; one was to Leroy Woodward who in later years became a faculty member.
- 1945: First “Annual Physics Department Picnic” given in the home of J.Q. Williams and his wife Ethel. (J.Q. was listed for the first time in the catalog in 1945. He had also just married Ethel Hembree, a librarian, and she masterminded the annual picnics. J.Q. obviously had a busy year.) The annual picnic continued up through the early 1980s.
- 1957: The first Ph.D. degrees in Physics were awarded. The first was to Vincent W. Shiel. In later life he became Chairman of the Board and main shareholder of “Sportsman’s Guide Inc.,” a $300,000,000/year mail order and internet company that sells sporting and outdoor equipment. The second graduate, one month later, was Eugene Patronis who stayed on at Tech, eventually became a full Professor, and probably is known best for his contributions to the science of acoustics and sound reproduction.
- 1965: Ground is broken for the “New” Physics building.
- 1967: The Howey Building is occupied.
The Hiring of Faculty and Development of Research Groups
There is no obvious “plan” behind the hiring patterns of this period. The notes provided by Dave Wyly, who was a faculty member throughout, give no hint of a “plan.” Rather we suspect the School hired whom it could find. Prior to 1939, the School’s sole function was to teach Physics to budding Engineers. So research and scholarly interests were pretty much irrelevant. Many of the Faculty of Physics prior to the late 1930s had degrees in Engineering subjects, almost all of them only at the B.S. or M.S. level. The Southeast United States was not a popular destination in this era. There was the problem of segregation with the tensions that it brought. Education, at all levels, was poor. Living conditions, prior to the universal adoption of air conditioning, could be pretty unpleasant for a number of months in the summer. A job teaching Physics at Tech, in Atlanta, was probably not really attractive. We suspect many of the faculty had personal reasons for wishing to work in the South; quite a number of them were from the South or had wives from the South. As we move to the 1960s we see faculty being hired from Europe; candidates from elsewhere in the USA were difficult to attract.
So, in the beginning, there is little obvious planning. With the advent of the Ph.D. degree, there was a need for research, and hiring required that faculty would bring a research activity to the school. As the first research groups become established they functioned as nuclei to attract other faculty with similar interests. From this has grown the School as we know it today.
The writer contends that the present mix of research subjects in the School was largely fixed by the interests of the first few research-related hirings. David Wyly brought us Nuclear Physics (which in 2009 has largely drifted away); J.Q. Williams, followed soon by Earl McDaniels, brought us Molecular and Atomic Physics, which remains a strong thrust of the School in 2009. Stevenson started the Solid State research program. Vernon Crawford and LeRoy Woodward were both heavily interested in the teaching of Optics and with the spectroscopy related research this perhaps was the nucleus for our developments in Optics. So how did it all evolve?
The situation in 1939
In 1939 the School’s faculty numbered eleven, including two at the rank of Instructor. The School had yet to award its first B.S. degree, research degrees were not yet authorized and there was no research activity within the School. Head of the School, with the title of “Director of Physics” was Professor Joseph Howey. He had a Ph.D. from Yale and had published a small monograph on instructional laboratory practices. Professor Boland Edwards had been with the School since 1910; he had a B.S. degree in Engineering. The third Professor was Newton Samuel Herod who held B.A. and Ph.D. degrees. At the Associate Professor level were Earl Bortell, James Boyd, and Gerry Rosselot. At the Assistant Professor level were Walter Ewalt and Larry Johnson. Instructors were Stuart Whitcomb and L. David Wyly.
An interesting feature of the 1939 faculty was that a number of them went on to make rather substantial contributions to other units of Tech and to the University System of the State of Georgia. Gerry Rosselot, on the faculty of the School from 1934, was Director of EES (now called GTRI) from 1942 to 1952. James Boyd (also a Ph.D. from Yale) was also Director of EES, from 1957 to 1961. He subsequently became President of West Georgia College (1961-1971), Vice Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, and for a brief time (May 1971 until April 1972) was acting President of Georgia Tech. Jim Boyd was also a prime mover in the formation of the company Scientific Atlanta (in 2007 taken over by Cisco Systems for 7 billion dollars). Larry Johnson (taught Physics from 1939 to 1943) was acting head of Georgia Tech’s School of Aeronautics from 1942 to 1947. He was heavily involved in the design of the Southern Technical Institute and from 1959 to 1970 was its Director; this Institution is now “The Southern Polytechnic Institute” located in Marietta. The 1939 Faculty included a future Vice Chancellor, three future University Presidents, two future directors of EES, and one future Director of an Engineering School at Tech. Quite a versatile group of people.
The 1939 Faculty included a triumvirate of teachers who were excellent classroom instructors and devoted themselves single-mindedly to the Introductory Physics courses taken by all Engineering students. These were Earl Bortell, Ed Prosser, and Walter Ewalt. Walter was still teaching when the School moved to the new building in 1967.
Dave Wyly was listed, in 1939, as an Instructor. He had a B.S. and M.A. degree from the Citadel in Charleston. Dr. Wyly was persuaded that his career would be enhanced if he acquired a Ph.D. So after two years at Tech he left and went to Yale (and also performed wartime Military Service) returning in 1945. Wyly subsequently created a research group in the School that graduated the first Ph.D.s and became a mainstay of the School’s research program for many decades. His research involved the studying the beta and gamma spectra of decaying radio-isotopes. The group always had a major interest in the development of instrumentation and was the first at Tech to incorporate small computers (PDP-8s) into research facilities. It became a large group and at one time involved six faculty. Wyly probably contributed more to the development of the School than any other of the faculty present in 1939. His career at Tech (1938 to 1985) spanned the introduction of all three degrees, the development of research programs, and the enormous growth of the School and of the Institution.
As the nation moved into World War II, there were significant changes to the curricula at Tech. The war increased hours of study and foreshortened degree programs. There was probably also a shortage of faculty. In the 1942 catalog we find that the School listed as a faculty member “Ed Moulthrop” whose degree is in Architecture!! Moulthrop had been a member of the School of Architecture for some years previously and was therefore housed on the top floor of the Physics Building. With wartime shortages he took teaching responsibilities in Physics, a few floors below. Moulthorp continued as a Physics Professor until 1945. Along the way he married the School’s secretary. In later life he joined an architectural practice that in the 1960s designed the “New” Physics building. Moulthorp was known internationally for turning very large wooden bowls.
The Situation in 1950
By now the School had expanded to sixteen faculty, of whom four were at the Instructor level. Five had Ph.D.s (three from Yale, one from Virginia, and one from Johns Hopkins). Joe Howey was the Director of the School.
In 1949 the School has hired its first “foreign” faculty member, Vernon Crawford. He was Canadian, with an American wife, and had received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Crawford had a most remarkable career with Tech and with the University system as a whole. In 1964 he became Director of the School, in 1968 Dean of the General College, 1969 Acting President, followed by the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs. Finally in 1980 he became Chancellor of the University System and served in that position until his retirement in 1985. Vernon was an extremely affable individual. Faculty and students always felt fairly treated. He and his wife were extremely hospitable to young junior faculty and graduate students.
Dave Wily returned from his graduate studies at Yale. He was joined in 1951 by Charlie Braden and together they set up the nuclear spectroscopy research facility. Braden had enormous influence on the development of the School’s programs. He provided a steady hand and a moderating voice. He was always greatly concerned about maintaining the quality of the instructional programs. Braden served for many years as Associate Director of the School and briefly as Acting Director. Hal Brewer was employed as an instructor in 1950. He who later acquired a Ph.D. under Wyly and Braden, and Brewer then joined their research group as a faculty member providing theoretical support for the project. Nuclear Physics research developed quite rapidly and provided the research facility for the School’s earliest Ph.D. students.
J.Q. Williams joined the faculty in 1945 as an Instructor while he simultaneously worked on his M.S. degree in the School. By 1950 Williams was on leave to undertake his Ph.D. at Duke University. In 1951 he returned to the position of Assistant Professor. Also hired in 1951 was Tom Weatherly, and together he and Weatherly develop a research activity in Microwave Spectroscopy. J.Q. was the experimentalist, and Tom provided the theoretical component. This research attracted quite a number of students wishing to carry out M.S. thesis projects. During the war EES had developed a considerable capability for Radar and Microwave Communications. A number of the Engineers working on these sponsored projects wished to increase their educational background. So they joined the group of Weatherly and Williams and brought with them the practical expertise that they had already learned in EES. Some of these students left Tech to set up the company known as “Scientific Atlanta.” Notable among these students was Glen Robinson, who became CEO of the company. (The company was bought by Cisco Systems in 2007.)
So by 1950 or ‘51 the School has two research activities: Microwave Spectroscopy under Williams and Weatherly; Nuclear Spectroscopy under Wyly and Braden, with the addition of Brewer. Wyly and Braden soon have a number of Ph.D. students. Weatherly and Williams are particularly known for their successful M.S. students. In 1951 the School has eighteen faculty including two Instructors. But of these eighteen only five engage in research within the School. A couple of the others are involved with applied research and development carried out in EES. Over half the Faculty are involved only with Instruction.
The Situation in 1957
1957 was a banner year for the School as it hired eight new faculty with Professorial titles. Of these five had Ph.D.s, and together they created two new research projects to add to the Nuclear and Microwave Spectroscopy efforts already under way.
The 1957 Catalog included nine persons in the category of “Instructor,” which was also a faculty position. In the early days of the research programs, we hired prospective Ph.D. students into the position of Instructor. They would teach part time and perform their research part time. In some cases, after gaining the Ph.D., they served at Tech as Assistant Professors and later rose in the professorial ranks. Of the nine instructors in 1957, four (Dulaney, Kendrick, Patronis, Stanford) later joined our Professorial ranks.
In 1957 the “Nuclear Physics” group had become seven strong. There were Wyly and Braden who founded the experimental spectroscopy group. In 1957 they were joined by Hal Brewer who was to provide a theoretical component to their work. (Hal had been an Instructor on the faculty but had left to get his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina.) Also with the experimental group were three persons at the rank of Instructor who eventually became Professorial titled faculty; these were Dulaney, Kendrick and Patronis. The three Instructors were all born in Georgia. Also joining the faculty in 1957 was R. Martin (Tino) Ahrens who was a theoretician able to devote much of his life to neutrino physics. He was known particularly for his work on neutrino mass. Ahrens was born in the USA to German parents. The family spent the war time years in Gemany. He later returned to the USA and received a Ph.D. at the University of St. Louis. He originally came to Atlanta to work at Lockheed when there was a program to design a nuclear powered military transport aircraft. Ahrens rapidly left that project and moved to Tech. His interest in neutrino Physics led him to become a prime mover in a project to detect nuclear explosions by their neutrino production. This project received enormous military funding that, for many years, was handled through a private off-campus company and only towards its end became a Georgia Tech project (in EES).
By 1957 there were four faculty active in Atomic and Molecular Physic. There are Williams and Weatherly whose projects in Microwave Spectroscopy of Molecules were well established. Earl McDaniel and David Martin arrived in 1957 and together set up a new project in the Physics of “Atomic Collisions.” McDaniel was a B.S. graduate of Tech and went to Michigan to get his Ph.D. There he met Dave Martin and eventually persuaded him to come to Tech. While at Michigan, they had both worked on Nuclear Physics projects. Arriving at Tech both were employed mainly through the Nuclear Sciences Division of EES and they held limited part time appointments in Physics. (McDaniel, at one point, became a part-time professor in the School of Electrical Engineering.) In EES they took over a 1 MeV Van de Graaff accelerator located in the Radio Isotopes Laboratory of EES (now known as the Emerson Building). This machine had been acquired to create neutrons (by D+D reactions) to “pump” a sub-critical reactor configuration. The neutron project never got any funding and the accelerator was available for anybody who could find the money to operate it. McDaniel and Martin devised a project to measure total ionization and charge transfer cross section of protons (and later some other ions) in various gases. The importance of the work was that the accelerator energy just spanned the region where theoretical predictions of the relevant cross sections should agree with experiment; the object was to check the correspondence. The project found ready support from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) who were interested in this data for the design of neutral beam injectors in Thermonuclear Power reactors. McDaniel and Martin also quickly created a second experimental set up to study “ion molecule reactions” at near thermal energies in a device known as a drift tube. A pulse of ions was created in a source and allowed to drift, under a very low electric field, through a gas. At the end of the drift space the ion arrival time spectrum and lateral spread were monitored. These two experimental measurements could be analyzed to acquire information on mobility and diffusion. The subject has a very long history and much of the published data was contradictory. McDaniel had become interest in the subject while using Geiger counters (which involve ions drifting through gases under electric fields) for his nuclear Physics Ph.D. The genius of the work done by McDaniel and Martin was that they added to the analytical system a mass spectrometer. In this way they could monitor the various parameters for each of the different ions emerging at the end of the drift tube. It became immediately apparent that most of the ions in their drift tube were in fact from contaminants such as air and vacuum pump oil; moreover that was probably the reason why previous studies of the subject were so contradictory. The first machine by McDaniel and Martin was a dismal failure. Basically it was too “dirty.” They subsequently junked their machine, and by 1964 had designed a completely new device that was built to the highest vacuum standards then being developed for Solid State Physics. The ion molecule experiments were strongly supported by the Air Force and Navy Research Offices that needed the data for understanding the phenomena occurring after atmospheric nuclear explosions.
In 1957 the School started its Solid State Physics program. The experimental capability was provided by Jim Stevenson who studied optical properties of solids. He measured dielectric constants, and his technology was chiefly ultra violet spectroscopy. Throughout his very long career at Tech, Jim was always striving to act as a leader of the School and of the Institution. He ultimately became Head of the School and finally Executive Assistant to the President. In his very early days at Tech, he realized that it was important to be associated with larger entities than the School of Physics. So he spent some summers working at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, and he also developed strong ties with the Solid State divisions at Oak Ridge. Also on hand in 1957, and often identified as being a Theoretical Solid State Physicist’ was Hal Gersch who arrived in 1953. Hal had enormous general knowledge of Theoretical Physics and could discuss competently most fields. He was seen as mostly published in the areas of Statistical Mechanics and Solid State. He attracted some of the best theoretical graduate students of the School. Hal had a fairly relaxed attitude towards life. He once said that he published only two papers per year, regular like clockwork. One was to showcase the work of his leading student and the student shared authorship. The second was Hal’s own personal research and he shared authorship with nobody. Also on the faculty, in the position of Instructor, was A.L. (Gus) Stanford who left for a few years and then returned to Tech in 1964 to accept a Professorial position. His early research activities were in experimental Solid State physics. He later studied the memory system of rats (!!) and wrote a considerable amount of educational literature.
The faculty discussed above represent those who in 1957 were present and contributed to the research activities of the School over an extended period; most remained active until about 1990. Their research represented the backbone upon which later developments were based. In many respects the three Physics subdivisions of Atomic and Molecular, Nuclear, and Solid State, represent the major divisions of the School for the next three decades. (The only exception perhaps was the introduction of Biophysics in the 1970s.) These three subjects were not chosen; they just happened. Faculty with research expertise were hired, and this is what they chose to do at Tech. Most of the faculty members mentioned above were either born in the South or were married to women who were from the South (the only obvious exceptions are Aherns, Braden, Martin, and Weatherly). Their reasons for coming to Tech were probably more personal than professional. It is almost unnecessary to note that all the faculty were male and Caucasian. At this time women and Black Americans were not admitted to Georgia Tech.
In addition to those faculty engaged in research within the School there were a considerable number of other faculty. Many of these (eight including some instructors) were hired solely as teachers and did not aspire to engage in research activities. A small number of faculty carried out Applied Research for groups in EES and were moved to EES full time.
During this decade there was one event that most people forget and which, at that time, brought great anguish to the School. For the year 1955-56 the School hired a new young faculty member, William K. Pursley, who had a Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan. Wyly described him as “very quiet and unassuming.” Pursley died from a night-time mugging incident on Third Street as he walked up toward West Peachtree. The local newspaper made some insinuations about Pursley’s character. The School of Physics debated endlessly as to how to respond and ended up by doing nothing. The murderer was never found. For some years afterwards the Senior Class made a “William K. Pursley Award” to the outstanding senior in honor of the murdered faculty member.
The Situation in 1967
Where were we in 1967, the year that the School moved into its “New” building? Reviewing the 1967-68 Catalog listing of the faculty we find 31 persons with Professorial titles; 18 full, 7 Associate, and 6 Assistant Professors. One of these was Emeritus and another (Wilkinson) was effectively an adjunct faculty member who rarely if ever visited the campus. That meant 29 active faculty—a respectable number. By the late 1990s the total number of faculty was no different. Of the 29, however, nine were hired solely to teach in the School, the last, Bill Woolf, in 1962. Except for Jim Tanner, a Tech Ph.D. graduate hired first in 1963 for one year and then after another appointment elsewhere again in 1969, the School did not hire any other full time teachers until the early 2000s. A couple of these nine teachers had engaged in applied research activities within EES, but none of them had a Ph.D. and none carried out research in Physics.
Out of the 20 faculty with active research interests, six (McDaniel, Martin, Thomas, Scheibner, Young, and Harmer) managed most of their research funds and activities through EES. McDaniel located all his research facilities in the School’s building. The facilities of Martin and Thomas were partially housed in the building (their offices were in the Radio Isotopes building – now called Emerson) and the other three did not actively carry out research on the School’s premises. In fact Scheibner, Young, and Harmer did not normally teach courses in the School at this point in their career. So, that leaves 14 out of 30 faculty actually engaging in research within the walls of the building.
The Catalog also listed three people with the title of “Instructor.” These three were in fact senior Ph.D. students who were undertaking full instructional duties. For some years the title of Instructor was given to Ph.D. students. Very soon after 1967 the practice of giving control of classes to Ph.D. students ceased, and the use of the title Instructor largely vanished.
A significant number of the faculty of 1967-68 had received part (or in a couple of cases—all) of their university education at Tech. Six faculty had their B.S. degrees in Physics from Tech and three of these also had their Ph.D.s from Tech (Stanford, Dulaney and Patronis). Many of the faculty were from the South or had married women from the South.
In 1967 the Catalog also listed the “Graduate Assistants” as part of the list of personnel. But these were a select group. Many of the Graduate Students in Physics, supported by Assistantships, were not listed in the Catalog. The writer surmises that the Catalog included only Graduate Assistants whose salary was paid through Physics. A student working on a project that was administered through EES received a stipend through EES and was therefore an EES employee. Thus the students working for McDaniel, Martin, Thomas, Young, and Scheibner were omitted from the catalog list.
The 1967-68 Catalog included two technical support personnel. The first was Kelly Springfield who had been hired that year for the move to the new building and who served the School for decades as Senior Machinist and as manager of the Machine Shop. He formerly had been a machinist at the Atlanta Journal Constitution Printing Works. The second person was Mr. Anderson who was shown with the title Machinist. Mr. Anderson worked for the School for many years doing routine maintenance and repairs of literally anything. Shortly after moving into the new building he retired. Also present were two secretaries. One, Anna Ruth Hale, served the School for forty years. She originally was hired as a typist (for the 1964-65 year). By the time she retired, she managed all of the School’s purchasing, all hourly payrolls, graduate recruitment file management, and served as the Chairperson’s personal secretary and doorkeeper. Throughout this time Anna Ruth steadfastly refused to accept modern office facilities. Her trusty Selectric typewriter and desk calculator were all she needed. When, in the late 1980s she was forced to keep some financial records on a computer she persisted in duplicating them in a written accounts ledger. She had a superb ability to organize her many responsibilities. For most of her service she was the Secretary to the Director or Chair of the School. The other Secretary, Ruby Mainor, was first listed for the 1960-61 year (under the name Ruby Palmer). In the mid 1960s she left the School to attend to her family but reappeared after a year as a Secretary in the Dean’s office. Sometime later she married Ray Borkman a faculty member in Chemistry.
At occupancy of the “New” building in 1967 there were three major research concentrations, all lasting for many years. A leading group was the nuclear spectroscopy research activity headed up by Wyly. By 1967 the experimental research activity had grown to include five faculty member. These were Wyly himself, Braden, Patronis, Dulaney, and Kendrick. Patronis, Dulaney and Kendrick had all joined Georgia Tech originally as students pursuing their Ph.D.s. They stayed on as faculty. Also there were Brewer and Gatland, both theorists, with interest in Nuclear Physics. Brewer provided theoretical support to the work of Wyly’s experimental group; Gatland had independent interests. The second group was in Atomic and Molecular Physics. Originally this was Weatherly and Williams with their Microwave Spectroscopy activities. Established later was the Atomic Collisions programs that involved McDaniel, Martin, and Thomas. These three faculty maintained three largely separate research programs although McDaniel was quite instrumental in getting each activity started. Thomas and Martin performed much of their work at the Van der Graaff facility in the Emerson building, and their research was managed through the EES. A third recognizable group was in Physics of the Solid State, although here the faculty all worked essentially independently. Stevenson was the earliest experimentalist with work on the optical properties of solids. Working in EES, but with a nominal attachment to Physics were Ed Scheibner an Auger spectroscopict and Ray Young an xray crystallographer. Scheibner and Young did not teach courses in the School but did take Ph.D. students for research dissertations. Included in this area we also listed Gersch and Ford as theoreticians and Stanford as an experimentalist. We suspect it was anticipated that all three would contribute to the Solid State reputation of the School. In practice Gersch’s interests ranged far beyond Solid State Physics, and Ford developed his great reputation in rather different fields. Stanford carried out a small amount of research on the dielectric properties of solids and then moved to biophysics and instructional activities.
As we moved into the new building, and shortly thereafter, there were two new small research programs. The first was a “Low Temperature Physics Program” for which we hired Don Forester. The notion of moving to “Low Temperature Physics” was a definite attempt to implement a planned change in direction. Unfortunately, it was a failure. The subject required equipment and infra-structure support that Tech, through the School, was unable to provide. Even acquisition of nitrogen and liquid helium was a daunting task; both had to be specifically shipped from a depot in Huntsville. Also it was very expensive and the School could not raise the grant money necessary to properly support the work. Ultimately the enterprise fell apart, and Forester moved on to the Naval Research Labs in Washington where he had an excellent scientific career.
The second “new” research interest was developed by Gus Stanford who was already on our faculty. He became interested in whether human (and animal) memory was basically electrostatic or magnetic in origin. He developed biological experiments to test this. One experiment was to put his own head between the poles of a large electromagnet and oscillate the field to see whether this scrambled his memory. A positive result would have demonstrated a magnetic origin to memory. Needless to say the experiment proved nothing. (Although Gus did claim to experience the sensation of flashes of light!) He subsequently designed experiments involving rats. The animals were trained to do something (e.g., turn left at a red light). Then they were sacrificed (i.e., killed) their brains extracted and mixed together in a kitchen blender. Some samples were then subjected to oscillating magnetic field to destroy magnetic memory, some were subject to oscillating electric fields to destroy electrostatic memory and some samples of blended brains were not further treated at all. The various brain samples were then injected into new rats, and the rats were tested to see whether they had acquired any of the “memory” of the original victims. Obviously the hope was that one kind of brain scrambling would destroy memory and thereby prove very clearly the nature of memory (at least in rats). Sadly none of the new rats seem to have any knowledge at all of what to do at red lights. The project elicited much outside interest and some significant early financial support. Everybody wanted to look at the rats and the whole premise of the project was so simple that “the man in the street,” and even our higher administration, could understand it. Many rats were sacrificed. Quite a number escaped and ran around the ground floor of the building at night. There were many malodorous situations. The experiments were however inconclusive. The only conclusion was that one cannot transfer memory by transferring brains.
The “New” Physics Building
The “New” physics building was constructed on the block bounded by 5th and 6th streets to the South and North, Atlantic and State Streets to the East and West. The whole area was residential, and over a period of years Georgia Tech acquired the properties for expansion purposes. Some of the campus expansion was facilitated by the (ill-named) “urban renewal” program of the Federal Government; although the writer is not sure that the properties on this particular block were acquired in this way. One of the writer’s own graduate students, Roger Fitzwilson, actually rented one of the houses on 6th Street across from the Institution. Roger liked to boast that he used to live next to the big oak tree in the Physics parking lot!
The Architect for the building was Edward (Ed) Moulthrop who, during the design, was working for the local practice known as “ Roberts and Co.” Strangely Moulthrop had been an Instructor in the School of Physics in the period 1942 to 1945. This was only a part-time position, and he was simultaneously a part-time Instructor in the Architecture Department, which occupied the top floor of the old Physics Building! Moulthrop’s position as Instructor may have been partly justified by the exigencies of the wartime period; his qualifications were in Architecture. While an Instructor in Physics, Ed Moulthorp married the School’s secretary! After retiring from his Architectural career, Moulthrop became well known as a turner of massive wooden bowls.
The base of the New Physics building is a long structure of three floors (basement, first and second) that was originally designed to house all the instructional activities and a small number of research laboratories. Then on the West end there was a three story “tower” that was supposed to house the bulk of the research activities. On the third and fourth floors of the tower are four large research labs, three faculty offices, and at each end of each floor one large room that was designed to be used as an office for multiple graduate students. Between the labs, on the West side of the building, there are small rooms, which were designed to be used as chemical “prep” rooms. The fifth floor was roughly the same except that the North East corner was occupied by a photographic dark room and small windowless work room. On the first and second floors the spaces below the tower were laid out the same as those above it. The State of Georgia appropriated only enough money to build the long three storey structure. In the early 1960s the National Science Foundation had programs to fund scientific building on university campuses. So the plan was that the School of Physics would write an NSF proposal to cover the cost of the “Research Tower.” Fortunately the proposal was funded! Ground breaking for the building was in 1965. The official picture of the occasion shows shovels being wielded by Vernon Crawford, then Director of the School of Physics, George L Simpson Chancellor of the Board of Regents (who provided part of the funding), and Howard Page of the NSF (who provided the money for the “tower”).
The building was occupied in 1967. Research activities were distributed as follows. In the basement there were a series of small rooms built around a larger work area that was designed specifically to house the X-ray diffraction research facilities of Prof. R.A. (Ray) Young whohad always been associated with the EES with a part-time relationship with Physics. Young moved some of his equipment into Physics but retained a presence in EES. Earl McDaniel’s Drift Tube Research facility was housed in first floor lab W104. The equipment was assembled and tested in the “Old” Physics building. The students (led by Dan Albritton) tore it down and rebuilt it in the new building. Room W105 was allocated to McDaniel and Martin for Atomic Collisions research. In practice this space was taken over by Ed Thomas who built a small accelerator. Weatherly and Williams occupied Rooms W109 and W110 with their Microwave Spectroscopy Research Labs. The four research labs on the second floor were all assigned to the Nuclear Research activities of Wyly, Braden, Patronis, Kendrick, and Dulaney. In practice one of these rooms was used largely as an electronics repair/development facility and became useful to the whole School. Jim Stevenson’s Solid State Labs occupied W301 and W303. Dr. Don Forester joined the School the year we moved to the new building. A pair of rooms on the fourth floor, W409 and W410, was assigned to him to set up a lab to study Low Temperature phenomena. The remaining research lab spaces were left vacant and were used to accommodate new faculty as the School expanded. The large rooms on the fifth floor for many years were used for the storage of surplus equipment and in fact never housed a laboratory research facility. The large rooms at the end of each western corridor were not all used for their intended purpose as offices for multiple graduate students. Some faculty appropriated them as large personal offices. The first perhaps was Hal Gersch who moved in to room W510 as soon as the building was opened. This trend continued for many years.
Early drawing for the design of the building (e.g., the figure reproduced on the cover of the 1969 graduate recruitment brochure) show that it was intended that Fifth Street continue to lie along the south wall and that this south side should be the main vehicular entrance. This is probably the reason for the imposing columnar structure along that side of the building. Fifth Street was in fact closed off, and that side of the building was never used for vehicular access. The early drawing also shows a sunshade structure on the research tower roof. Perhaps they had intended for there to be a roof garden.
A small number of research activities did NOT move into Physics. Ed Schiebner, who had only a minor relationship with Physics, continued to house his Auger research in EES. Ray Young divided his activities between the New Physics building and EES for many years not coming over entirely to Physics until about 1981. The Van der Graaff facility operated by Thomas and Martin was too large to consider moving; it remained in the Radio Isotope Lab of EES (a building now called the Emerson Building).
The building designed in the early 1960s accommodated the type of research then being performed by the faculty of the School. Then the research involved small equipment. For the Nuclear group and the Microwave Spectroscopy group an equipment rack was a “large” item. Stevenson had a couple of one meter long evacuable spectrometers. These were the largest items that needed to be accommodated above the first floor. The X-ray diffraction equipment of Young’s group was basically table top facilities. Only the high energy atomic Physics group with their Van der Graaff and extensive vacuum facilities involved any sort of “large” equipment; and they were not being moved. So, the School was designed for small research equipment. For that reason the elevator is small and quite inadequate for the movement of freight. The main doors to the four labs on each floor all open onto a restricted corridor and have little room for maneuver. There is no loading dock. Only the two rooms allocated to McDaniel, Martin, and Thomas had any heavy lifting facility (moveable pulley systems mounted on the ceiling). No provision was made for exhausting pump fumes. The various building deficiencies that became apparent over the next twenty years were due to its having been designed for research of a different era—for the past rather than the future. building As soon as we moved in, we discovered two obvious deficiencies of the. First, the lighting in the four large lecture rooms was quite inadequate, and second, the chalkboards were too low. The lighting got fixed; the boards remain too low today. Also, as the faculty moved into offices they found little metal boxes protruding from the middle of the floor that provided electrical outlets. These set unreasonable constraints on the placement of furniture and also tripped up many a person in those first years. Apparently somebody misread a blue print and put the outlets in the floor rather than in the walls.
The building design allowed some generous space for administrative activities and for expansion of the technical support activities. Room N109 was used originally by the Associate Director (The term “Director” was equivalent to our use of “Chair” today.) and the adjacent room C101A by the Director. The two rooms shared a private bathroom. After the first Associate Director (Howey) retired the subsequent Directors generally took over both rooms giving themselves a suite whose size was unrivaled on the campus. All other offices on the East and South side of the central patio were allocated to administrative support. There are a total of five such rooms and at the occupancy of the building there were only 3 administrative staff. (In 2006 these rooms were rebuilt, the central corridor taken in to the office space, and the whole configuration changed.)
In the basement a large number of rooms were allocated to workshop facilities, and the original building furnishing budget provided them with excellent machine tools. It was always the intention to expand the workshop to five or more personnel. In practice there were only two when the building was occupied, the number then never exceeded three, and by the early 2000s only one worked there. Along the south wall of the basement were a number of rooms that backed into the side of the hill and were without windows. The building plans listed these as for use as “glass workshops,” etc. In practice these technical services never arose and the rooms were initially devoted to storage. In the 1980s it was realized that the rooms had pretty good mechanical and thermal stability and made excellent locations for delicate electro-optical experiments; thus they became research space.
The very large room in the central part of the building was designed for laboratory based portion of the very large sophomore physics courses. The two rooms on the ground floor were for the first course in Classical Mechanics. The two rooms on the second floor for the second course in Electricity and Magnetism. On the third floor there was only a single room for the course on Optics and Modern Physics. It is not quite clear why the designers anticipated the student load would halve between the second and third quarters.
These comments on usage of the building’s space do of course refer to the configurations at the time of original occupancy. By 2009 considerable changes had been made to wall locations and to the usage of space.
Instructional Activities in 1967
A major role for the School has always been the instruction of the Engineers in the Introductory Physics courses that traditionally have been required of their curriculum. In 1967, under the quarter system, there were three courses. They were numbered 207, 208, and 209 and listed with the very bland title of “General Physics.” In the “old” physics building these courses had always been taught to about 30 students in a class. The class rooms were in fact too small for anything else. A typical “load” for a full time teacher was to teach three of these classes per quarter and that actually included supervising their 3 hour laboratory session. The high number of “teaching” staff of the School was in some measure justified by these large numbers of different class sections. With the move to the “new” Physics building, we made a major change. The building was designed with four very large class rooms seating 125 or 150 students. The intention was to teach these introductory classes to large classes and so reduce the number of class sections to be taught. Reduction in the number of classes that the faculty taught should give them more time for research and enhance the reputation of the School.
The School also offered an enhanced “Honors” introductory curriculum targeted at potential Physics majors. The number of students entering the Freshman year as Physics majors was not great and many of these moved off after a year to Engineering disciplines. So, there was a real need to “recruit” majors away from Engineering and into Physics. We encouraged good students with strong mathematical backgrounds to take these “Honors” courses and then to transfer to Physics. The honors course was taught to only a small class (typically 30) and by one of our better teachers who considered the task to be a bit of an honor. The procedure was fairly successful. Generally over half the eventual Physics graduates had entered Tech as Engineering majors. The Engineers did not notice the loss. Most of the transfers came out of EE, and they had ten times the student numbers of the Physics program.
A small number of the classes were taught on Saturday mornings. These were often “3 hour” credit classes given on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. The writer was, for a number of years, responsible for a “Modern Physics” course for Engineers which was given on this schedule. A 9 o’clock Saturday morning class was not very enjoyable for a single faculty member who enjoyed a Friday night out on the town. It was not enjoyed by the students either who likewise were late to bed Friday and late to rise Saturday. After a few more years the Saturday classes were abandoned.
The School was awarding the B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Physics. The undergraduate curriculum was designed for a student who was preparing for Graduate School in Physics. We realized, however, that if this was the only objective for the instructional program then we would not have many students to take it. Moreover quite a number of our better students really wanted to consider graduate school in a subject other than Physics. (EE was very popular.) So, to make the curriculum more palatable to students, we allowed for a fairly large fraction of the classes to be “electives.” A student planning to go to graduate school in Physics would of course devote these electives to advanced courses in preparation for graduate school. But a student interested in an Engineering discipline might choose to take those electives in that discipline.
Social Matters in 1967
Members of the Faculty whose offices were located within the School’s building had a very strong social interaction. They knew each other’s families and spent social time together. Faculty who were based outside the School’s walls were not fully accepted into this grouping. They in turn made their work related interactions with the location of their research. For Thomas and Martin, for example, that was the Nuclear Sciences Division of EES. For Scheibner and Young it was the Physical Sciences Division of EES. It often appeared that the faculty based in the School’s building made the decisions and charted the course of the School. The faculty based outside the School often were left out of the loop. That did not really create any great tensions. The faculty outside the School were involved heavily in large scale research programs and were not much interested in questions of courses and curricula.
Most of the faculty would gather together for lunchtime sandwiches. Within the new building they of course used the room denoted “Faculty Lounge.” On Thursdays most of the faculty would go out for a restaurant lunch choosing a different location each week. For a recently arrived young faculty member these Thursday luncheons were an excellent introduction to the culinary delights of Atlanta. It often appeared that important decisions for the School were made at these lunch time meetings. Faculty whose offices were outside the School did not generally attend these lunch time meetings.
Annually there was a “Faculty Picnic” held early in the Fall quarter. Originally these picnics were held in J.Q. Williams’ back yard. The main dish was lobster, cooked on site. Organization was generally in the hands of the wives of the faculty. This was a major social event enjoyed greatly by all who attended. Only faculty (including Post Docs and Research titled personnel), retired Faculty, and Staff were invited to these picnics. Faculty located outside the School made a point of attending these affairs. We also sent invitations to the Dean, and on some occasions, he would attend. In later years the event moved out of Williams’ back yard and to the park beside the Atlanta Waterworks Reservoirs. For a while Williams (or more accurately J.Q.’s wife Ethel) continued to organize the event and to manage the cooking. Eventually lobster declined in importance as the price increased and many people opted instead for shrimp and a few for chicken. Williams retired and gave up organizing the event. It proved difficult to find people to continue the traditions. The wives of faculty had increasingly become active in their own careers and had neither the enthusiasm nor the time to organize picnics for their husbands. The faculty themselves ceased to volunteer to manage the affair. So by the mid 1980s the annual picnic came to an end.
Some of the senior faculty were very generous in inviting new faculty into their homes and providing them with social interactions. Earl McDaniel and his wife Frances were particularly active and ran an excellent dinner party. A young faculty member would also be invited to a quiet dinner in the back yard of Vernon Crawford, the School’s Director, and his wife Helen.
In the mid 1960s Atlanta was a fairly compact city and people lived close to each other and close to Tech. Crawford and Gersch had adjacent houses about two miles north of the Campus. Lenox Square was an unroofed suburban shopping mall with a grocery store as well as branches of Rich’s and Davison’s (both now taken over by Macy’s) in free standing buildings. The center of city life was the downtown area. One could go to the theater, restaurant or bar and frequently run in to one’s colleagues. The writer remembers that the “International” restaurants in Atlanta in about 1964 consisted of one French, one Italian, one German, and one Chinese establishment. There were large numbers of other eating places, but they were dominantly “American” style restaurants with menus based on steaks and hamburgers. The city suffered from the residual problems of segregation. The writer had a number of scientific contacts with Morehouse College where there was a small group active in Experimental Atomic Physics. The members of the Morehouse group were quite happy to come visit Tech. But the African American members of the group steadfastly refused to join us all for lunch at a city restaurant. After some carefully inquiry we found out that they were concerned about being made to feel unwelcome and just did not want to face the hassle. The reader will note that the city has greatly changed since the 1960s.
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.
Written by Edward W. Thomas (Director/Chair 1981-1991), 2009.
This section covers the period from the end of the Directorship of Dr. James Stevenson through to the end of the Directorship of Dr. Edward Thomas. It includes a short period when the Director was Dr. David Finkelstein and short periods when Dr. Charles Braden was Acting Director.
The section is written by Dr. Edward Thomas who was Director of the School from early 1982 until the end of the 1990-91 year. He chose to follow the approach of Dr. David Wyly who had started the work on the School’s History. Dr. Thomas took each year in the period and wrote a synopsis of the events which took place. The faculty listings were transcribed from the Institutional Catalogues and the Catalogue also were used to give information on the changes to educational programs. Surprisingly it was found that the Dean’s office had kept copies of all annual reports prepared by Directors and Chairs starting in the year 1978-79. The Dean’s office also has some historical personnel files on people who were no longer at Tech (retired, deceased, resigned, etc.). Dr. Thomas used all of these resources, supplemented of course with his own recollections and the recollections of colleagues. This year-by-year listing of events and changes is attached to the History as an “Appendix” along with other similar documents covering other periods. All of those working on the History realized that the year-by-year reviews did not make interesting reading and were inadequate to capture events which developed over long periods. So, Dr. Thomas chose to write this narrative account of the period.
The period was marked by great change in the Institution as a whole and a certain degree of instability during some times. In 1978 the Institution was clearly the leading Engineering School in the South East. By the end of the period some of the more important Engineering programs were nationally ranked in the top three of their fields. At the start of the period, the President was Joseph Pettit, an Electrical Engineer who previously was Provost at Stanford University. Georgia Tech was recruiting the major leaders from top ranked Institutions. [Shortly before this piece was written in 2009, our own Provost (Jean-Lou Chameau) was hired away from Tech to be President of Caltech. Obviously Georgia Tech has become a recruiting ground for other major Institutions.]
In 1978 every permanent faculty member of the School was a Caucasian male. Most were Americans who obtained his Ph.D. degrees in the USA. A few are Europeans who obtained their Ph.D.s in Europe. The Ph.D. student population was increasingly students with BS degrees from overseas institutions. By 1978 about a quarter of our graduate students were from abroad, mostly from China or Taiwan. The domination of Ph.D. programs by foreign students is a nationwide phenomenon and occurs in all scientific and technical disciplines, although the early prominence was seen first in Physics. This change in the make up of the Ph.D. student population inevitably caused a change in the make up of the faculty we hired. It is no surprise that in 1982, we hired the first faculty member who was born and received his Bachelors education in a foreign country but whose graduate education was in the USA. This was Dr. Rajarshi Roy who later became Chair of the School. The School also eventually recruited two female members into the faculty. One was Dr. Mei-Yin Chou (Chou), who also eventually took the position of Chair of the School. The large numbers of foreign graduate students in Ph.D. programs was no longer a matter of comment, and many observers regarded this as the norm. In 1978 this caused of great national worry among Physics’ faculties.
The real concern was to understand why American born students did not see a future in seeking a Ph.D. in Physics, and what this might mean for the long term national support for the discipline. Part of the reason for the decrease in American Ph.D. student numbers was that the engineering disciplines increasingly developed programs in basic research areas and attracted students who in previous years would have studied a science. This was seen in the developments at Georgia Tech. For example, the School of Electrical Engineering performed most of the research on topics related to condensed matter. Mechanical Engineering handled plasma physics. In some years it appeared that half of the Physics’ B.S. graduates who had the potential for Ph.D. studies, in fact, applyed for places in engineering programs.
At the start of this period, the School was seeking a new Director (the position now called Chair) to lead the School after Dr. James Stevenson’s resignation. To understand the difficulties of filling that position one must understand what the job entailed at that time. Basically it was a management position. The Director was responsible for the School’s budgets, personnel matters, instructional programs, and research activities. The Director set up the payroll, hired non-tenured personnel, and dealt with any and all problems. The Director’s position had no fixed term and no guaranteed period of tenure. At the end of a year, if the administration was satisfied with the School’s activities, then the Director found himself reappointed. But if the senior administration was not satisfied, then the Director was not reappointed. The writer once was told by a senior Administrator never to ask for less than $5,000; such small sums should be found in the School’s budget. Moreover at the end of the fiscal year, it was highly desirable that the School’s budget (of some millions of dollars—including payroll of all faculty) show a surplus of less than a dollar. Negative balances were not encouraged. In the 1980-81 annual report Dr. Charlie Barden, Acting Director, wrote that “The administrative structure of the Institute makes the School unmanageable in my judgement.” The position of Director was not a position of academic leadership; it was a position of resource and personnel management.
After Dr. Stevenson’s resignation the Institution set up the conventional search committee to look for a replacement. The Institution saw a vacant Director (aka Chair) position as an opportunity to hire a well known external figure who would bring instant recognition to the School and assist in the objective of increasing national visibility. Thus searches really sought a person with a stellar research record in a nationally ranked institution. National laboratories and well know industrial laboratories were considered to be a particularly fertile ground for such recruitment. However, the capabilities of the candidates in areas of research and national recognition were rather different from the responsibilities of the position of management and decision. People were interviewed; offers were made and offers were rejected. Various excuses were made by candidates, but it is the writer’s opinion that the candidates recognized the great burdens of the position and how difficult it would be for a person to enter the position and also maintain his (or her) creative intellectual activities. We enter the Fall of 1978, without anybody appointed and Charlie Braden, Stevenson’s Associate Director, was handling the School as Acting Director. Later in the year, the School contacted Professor David Finkelstein at Yeshiva, about the position, offered it, and Dr. Finkelstein accepted to start work in January 1979. Dr. Braden continued as Associate Director and handled all day to day operations of the School. He even wrote the annual report at the end of the 1978-79 year.
David Finkelstein proposed some rather bold moves to improve the School’s external visibility. These involved the recruitment of a large group away from another university. This proposal did not meet with any real faculty approval. The group had no obvious interactions with any existing program at Tech. Moreover the sheer size of the group and the cost of moving it would have overwhelmed the School’s existing activities and substantially changed the School’s character. Faculty were upset. The move did not take place. Other practical decisions made by Dr. Finkelstein did not meet with approval. Generally the faculty were very unhappy with Dr. Finkelstein’s leadership of the School. He resigned as Director during the year 1979-80, but he continued at Tech as a well respected faculty member.
Charlie Braden, who had been Dr. Finkelstein’s Associate Director, once again took over as Acting Director. This move was absolutely fine with the majority of the faculty. Braden had been running the internal operations of the School for many years, and the faculty were very confident in his decisions. The Dean set up yet another search committee. Worthy individuals were interviewed and declined the position. The writer (Ed Thomas) also applied for consideration, and at the end of the whole search process, the Dean offered Dr. Thomas the position. This should have started with the beginning of the 1981-82 academic year. But Dr. Thomas had already made arrangements to work for six months at an Institution in Sweden. The Dean permitted him to honour the commitment. Once again Charlie Braden continued to run the School as Acting Director.
Dr. Edward Thomas took up the Director’s position in March 1982 and continued in the position until the 1990-91 Academic year. At that point, after nine year’s service under three Presidents and three Deans, the faculty generally felt that this was enough, and Dr. Thomas resigned to be replaced immediately by Henry Valk, a member of the faculty of the School. Dr. Valk had appointed Dr. Thomas as Director when in Dr. Valk’s former position as Dean. The subsequent Directors/Chairs will tell their own stories.
It is worth recounting the history of the senior administration for the Institute during this period. For some of the years this was turbulent and unpredictable. In 1978 President of the Institution was Joseph Pettit, an Electrical Engineer, formerly Provost at Stanford. He was a hard nosed individual who worked hard to improve the Institution, experimented with various managerial devices and drove the Institution forward in its quest for national prominence. Working closely with President Pettit was Dr. Thomas Stelson who had the position of Vice President for Research. Dr. Stelson was a Mechanical Engineer by training. His brother Paul Stelson, was a well known physicist and a manager at Oak Ridge. This family relationship was not to our advantage. Dr. Stelson would hear comments about Physics from his brother and made decisions based on this information. Dr. Stelson ran the research program like a business with attention to overheads and bottom lines. This did not endear him to the School of Physics. The third person of the senior administration was Henry Bourne with the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs. Another Electrical Engineer and former senior NSF manager, Dr. Bourne actually performed his Ph.D. research on the subject of ionization using a Van de Graaff accelerator and with the work being personally supervised by Robert Van de Graaff himself. Henry Bourne was very well regarded. Physics was located in the College of Arts and Sciences where Henry Valk was Dean. Dean Valk was a physicist who, after his arrival at Tech, made a point of teaching a class in the School and having tenure established in the School.
Shortly after Dr. Thomas effectively took the position of Director of Physics (March 1982), Henry Valk announced his wish to resign as Dean. This was effective with the start of the 1982-1983 academic year. Dr. Valk promptly took off on a one year sabbatical to recharge his batteries–so the School did not see much of him for a while. When he returned he joined the School’s activities as an honored faculty member making a considerable contribution to our teaching of “The Physics of Music” (Henry is an accomplished Violinist.) and the Quantum Mechanics courses. Dr. Valk was replaced as Dean by Les Karlovitz, formerly Director of the School of Mathematics at Tech. Dean Karlovitz believed in a minimal management structure and promptly eliminated most of the positions in the Dean’s office. This meant less practical support from the Dean’s office and more responsibilities for the Chairs of the Schools. The administrative line-up stayed constant for a while, and Tech continued its strides forward. The School of Physics managed to hire some new faculty members and to start moving into new research areas. Then President Pettit became ill and eventually died while still in office. He was replaced, on an acting basis, by Henry Bourne who had been Vice President for Academic Affairs. The few months of Bourne’s service were a delight to the lower administrative levels. Acting President Bourne made good clear decisions, and he easily transmitted what he wanted done.
The new permanent President was John Patrick Crecine who came to us from Carnegie Mellon and was best known for establishing programs in Public Policy. He had something as a reputation as a computer expert and was on the Board of Directors of the NEXT computer company (owned by Steve Jobs of Apple fame–and now out of business). [I will let other write about the reasons for Crecine’s selection.] Within a year of arrival, President Crecine proposed major changes to the structure of the Institution. The Sciences, then part of the College of Arts and Sciences (COSALS) would become a separate College of Science under the existing Dean (Karlovitz). Computing (then in COSALS) would become a separate college. The Arts, which were all non-degree granting Schools, would be required to develop degree programs in technology related areas, e.g., the departments of Modern Languages and English were to become a School of Communications with a degree in that area. The College of Management would lose its College status, be combined with the Arts, and become the “Ivan Allen College of Arts and Management”. (Crecine had just secured an endowment from the Ivan Allen family!!). These proposals were rammed through faculty governance with the use of some strange interpretations of the rules. Members of the (former) College of Management were incensed and mounted a campaign of opposition. The Arts were not very happy either. The Engineers stayed neutral and the Sciences generally opposed the whole thing. Other problems, which do not need to be listed here, developed with the management style of President Crecine. Generally this all led to a tumultuous and negative situation with most of the senior administrators opposing President Crecine in private and sometimes in public. Dr. Thomas Stelson, VP for Research, resigned (or was fired) and was replaced by Dr. Michael Thomas who took the title of Provost. The Dean of Sciences, Karlovitz, resigned to take up a position elsewhere (and died eight months later). He was replaced by Dr. Robert Pierotti from Chemistry. Physics became involved when some of its faculty vocally opposed President Crecine’s moves. Dr. Joseph Ford led the dissent. It was in Dr. Ford’s character to oppose authority, particularly when decisions by authority led to unhappiness. He was forever writing letters of protest to newspapers, Board of Regents’ Members, and so forth. His activities did not improve the relationship of the School with the administration. In the middle of this general mess, Dr. Thomas resigned from the Director’s position. It is interesting to note that after President Crecine was forced from the President’s position, the Ivan Allen College was separated into a College of Management and a College of the Arts (called the Ivan Allen College). This was the structure that most of Crecine’s opponents had proposed.
A note about the management structure of the School during this period: Dr. Braden had been Dr. Stevenson’s “Associate Director” and continued in that position until June 1982. Whenever the position of Director became vacant he also took the title of Acting Director. Dr. Braden was a very well regarded individual with many years experience running a smooth operation. He was not a great one for change, but certainly provided stability in times of difficulty. In reviewing the School’s operations, this writer was a bit surprised that there was nobody in the faculty (other than Braden) who had any management or administrative experience–and that included Dr. Thomas. To try and remedy this, and to get some new ideas into our programs, Dr. Thomas created two replacement positions. One was Assistant Director for Graduate Affairs. The other was Assistant Director for Undergraduate Affairs. The intent was that the incumbents would hold the positions for only two years and then other faculty would rotate into the positions. The objective was to build up experience without damaging people’s careers. Over the years the positions were occupied by Ron Fox, Jim Tanner, Roger Wartell, Helmut Biritz, Ian Gatland, and Don O’Shea. Two of these persons later became Chairs of their Schools (Fox of Physics and Wartell of Biology).
The support staff of the School consisted of an Administrative Assistant (a general office manager), two or three typist/receptionist secretaries, an electronics technician, and two (sometimes three) workshop personnel. It was a pretty slender complement of rather excellent people. One secretary, Anna Ruth Hale, acted as the Director’s receptionist and secretary, handled all purchases for the School, and supervised any major mailing campaigns such as graduate recruitment, faculty hirings, etc. Ms. Hale steadfastly refused to adopt any modern office equipment. All she needed was a calculator, her Selectric typewriter and a few notebooks. For most of the period John Barbour was the Administrative Assistant for the School, managing all office activities. He kept the main accounts for the School and for funded projects, provided the boiler plate material on grant proposals, dealt with payroll, space assignments, keys, leaks in the roof, etc. A man of many talents, John was a great believer in technology and taught himself how to use spreadsheets. He was so efficient that when there were administrative problems with the two small Schools of Modern Languages and English, he took on the management of their affairs in addition to that of Physics. In his spare time John operated a commercial plant nursery specialising in raising jonquils. Physics had its own machine shop, and Ronnie Bell was the manager for this whole period. There was also a student shop. To have access to this, a student had to prove to Ronnie that he would not damage himself or the machinery. All these personnel fell under the State budget of Physics. While some of these functions were of general use to all faculty (e.g., typists) there were other functions which benefited only a few. For example most of the electronics technician time and all the machine shop personnel benefited only experimental research projects. A number of attempts were made to arrange for faculty to “pay” for their shop time from grants and contracts. That proved impossible to organize. A related facility expense was computer time–a facility essential to some theoretical members of the School. The central computer cost money, and the institution was anxious that faculty using it for sponsored research should pay for the use. So at some point the institution provided an allowance of time to each faculty member based on their perceived need for time. The unit of time was called a “banana.” The banana budget was fixed at the start of the year. One could shift bananas between individual faculty but once one was out of bananas then one was out of computing time. This system did not work any better than having faculty pay for workshop time!! There is a real problem in equitably distributing institutional resources when the faculty who receive them have different types of needs. It is particularly difficult when the resources are inadequate, as was often the case at Tech. Attempting to develop an equitable distribution of resources took a large part of the Director’s time, and the result generally satisfied nobody.
Let us review the changes to the faculty during this period. The School has always striven to increase the size of its faculty, and the period 1978 through 1991 was no exception. Each year the Director planned to increase the faculty numbers and sought the assistance of the Dean and Senior Administration in providing the necessary positions. In practice, while there were changes in composition, the total numbers remained virtually unchanged. In the 1978-79 Academic Year Catalogue there were 33 persons listed with Professorial titles. In 81-82 the number was 32 and in 1990-1991 the number was 32!! Perhaps one should allow for persons listed under Physics who did not actually contribute to the routine programs of the School. Dr. Vernon Crawford was listed in 1978-1979 although at this point he was Vice President for Academic Affairs and had no relationship with the School. Dr. Henry Valk was Dean of the College and his contribution to Physics was to teach one course per year. Doctors Edwin Scheibner and R.A. Young were full time researchers in GTRI and did not teach courses in the School. So in 1978-1979 if we subtract the four members who contributed nothing (or very little) to the School, the count of effective members is 29. By 1990-1991 there were no persons in the faculty list who do not teach in the School. So perhaps there was a small increase from 29 in 1978-1979 to 32 in 1990-1991. In 1978-1979 we had three faculty who were full time teachers and who had no Ph.D. degree, Nesbitt Kendrick, Leroy Woodward, and William Woolf. By 1990-1991 we had no such faculty. In 1978-1979 four of the faculty gained their Ph.D.s at Tech (Eugene Patronis, Augustus Stanford, Harry Dulaney, James Tanner). By 1990-1991 three of these were still at Tech (Dulaney had retired), and we have not hired any more of our own graduates. In the early days of Tech’s Ph.D. programs, there were frequent hiring of Tech Ph.D.s into Tech faculty positions; this occurred in many Schools on the campus. By the 1970s there was a strong reluctance on behalf of the Institute’s leadership to hire our own graduates and the practice ended. In 1978-1979 the faculty was all male and all Caucasian. By 1990-1991 the faculty lists contain two women and three faculty are of Asian descent (Rajarshi Roy, Tai-Huang Huang, Mei-Yin Chou). Over the period there was a shift in the population of the various ranks. In 1978-1979, 21 of the 31 faculty were in the rank of Professor (including those who had the additional title of Regents’ Professor). There was only one untenured Assistant Professor. In 1990-1991 the number of Professors (including Regents’ Professors) had declined to 19 out of the total faculty complement of 32. In 2009 there were 10 untenured Assistant Professors. A continuing feature of the School was the large number of its faculty who have been awarded the title of “Regents’ Professor.” In 1978-1979 there were five and in 1990-1991 four. (This is a considerably higher fraction that in most Schools.) There is a story that an important person visiting the Institution once asked Henry Bourne, the VP for Academic Affairs, what were the requirements for becoming a “Regents Professor”? Dr. Bourne replied that he was not sure, but that if the visitor cared to go over to Physics he would find out, because the School was full of them!!
A subtle change to the hiring patterns of the School was the need to accommodate the professional interests of a potential faculty member’s spouse. The first time this occurred was in the 1984-85 recruitment period when we sought to hire Dr. Andrew Zangwill. His wife was a corporate attorney working in matters related to the New York Stock Exchange. That was not a career path that had any real parallel in Atlanta. To assist in the recruitment process, the School actually flew Sonia Fishkind to Atlanta separately from her husband and provided some connections to local law firms which resulted in job interviews. A couple of years later we were attempting to hire Dr. Kurt Wiesenfeld. His wife was a writer, and we assisted her make contact with the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” where she became a reporter for a while. As a further complication we began to see professional couples where both members would require an academic position in Atlanta – ideally both at Tech. This required some coordination with the other academic unit involved. It is interesting to reflect on what happened in 1945 when J. Q. Williams, a bachelor hired in Physics, wished to marry Ethel Hembry, a Georgia Tech librarian. It was State law at that time that two married people could not both work at Tech. In J. Q.’s case Ethel resigned from Tech!!
During the period there were some changes to the research emphasis of the School. In 1978-1979 there are clusters of faculty in the general areas of Atomic and Molecular Physics (the major figure being Dr. Earl McDaniel), Nuclear Physics (led by Doctors Charles Braden and David Wyly), Solid State Physics, and a developing activity in Biophysics. By 1990-1991 the Atomic and Molecular Physics remained strong, though with changes to the faculty. Nuclear physics had virtually disappeared. Both Solid State and Biophysics grew in strength and size. In addition by 1990-1991 the School had developed two new thrusts. One was the Optics program, started by Dr. Donald O’Shea but included independent work by Dr. Raj Roy and Dr. Brian Kennedy. The School had also developed an outstanding reputation for research into non-linear and chaotic phenomena. This came through a loosely knit group of people with diverse backgrounds. The most visible figure in the group, and “Guru” of Chaos, was Dr. Joseph Ford. Within the whole School only one of the research areas functioned as a “group” in the sense that there were leaders and followers, and all worked on basically the same project. This was the case for the Nuclear Physics group headed by Dr. Wyly and Dr. Braden which was in decline by 1978. In the other areas there were rather loose groupings of people who had their own research agendas but who co-operated from time to time when this was to their mutual advantage.
Financial support for newly hired faculty was rather poor. In 1982 the funding promised for the support of Raj Roy, an experimentalist, was less than Dr. Roy’s annual salary. Start up funds today run to many times the annual salary of the person receiving them. A further complication was that the start-up-funds were not part of the “State” budget and were not in hand at the start of the year. Rather the “Start-up-Funds” were to be drawn from the overhead that the Institution was to earn from its grants and contracts as the year progressed. So, the funds were never available at the start of the year and trickled in only month by month. Sometimes the funds did not show up at all in the year promised, and “payment” was delayed to the following year. So a typical experimentalist was provided with far less money than was necessary to crank up a highly functioning laboratory–and the money often did not show up until 12 months after the new faculty member had arrived at Tech. A number of our young hires attempted to duplicate the excellent facilities they had used in their Ph.D. and Postdoctoral positions where they had worked in well funded, long established, groups. Their attempts failed. With no functioning equipment there were no publication and no success in raising research grants and contracts. As a result, as faculty moved towards the tenure decision, a number of our experimentalists found that they had very little to show for the years they had spent at Tech. A positive tenure decision was unlikely in some cases. Anticipating the problem, a number of faculty resigned from Tech right before the final tenure decision and moved to some other employment. The School suffered a number of distressing loses during this period. Faculty with theoretical programs also suffered from poor support but generally there was something they could do with limited finances. There was no case of a “theoretical” faculty member failing to get tenure. Since 1991 the Institution has provided much greater financial support for new experimental projects and many of the new faculty had the experience of developing a new facility in previous position. The rate of retention to tenure is of course now much higher.
A notable feature of the 1978-91 period is the systematic increase in the external visibility of our faculty. Our faculty were always well regarded by the peer group of their research specialization. In some limited areas the work at Tech prior to 1978 dominated the field: the X-ray spectroscopy of Ray Young, the “Drift Tube” studies by Earl McDaniel, and the high energy ionization and excitation studies by David Martin and Edward Thomas. Some broader recognition came from the writing of books. Prior to 1978 there was a well received book by Ron Fox (entitled the Uroborus) plus a number of books by Earl McDaniel, one by Donald O’Shea, and one by Edward Thomas. The books by Doctors McDaniel and O’Shea were designed as class texts. Both were published in large numbers, re-published in a number of languages and received very wide circulations. Doctors Young and Finkelstein were Editors of national journals, and Dr. McDaniel edited a number of commercially published periodicals. Broader recognition of the faculty started to occur in the mid-1980s. The most notable of our faculty was Dr. Ford whose pioneering work on Non-Linear Dynamics and Chaos suddenly received enormous recognition. In 1983-84 he gave 25 invited lectures, was cited twice in the New York Times, and was interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Company. In 1986 Henry Valk was awarded the British decoration of “MBE” (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his service to the Marshall Scholarship program, which is funded by the British Government and provides scholarships to American students to study in Britain. That year Dr. O’Shea published a second text book that received wide use in other institutions. In the 1987-88 year there were two books published, one by Dr. Zangwill, the other by Dr. Fox. Within twelve months both were listed as “Main Selections” by the Library of Science Book Club. (The writer recalls being in Oxford, England, in 1989 and walking past the windows of “Blackwells,” the main book store for the University. There in the window was both the book by Dr. Zangwill and the most recent book by Dr. O’Shea. Inside on the shelves was Dr. Fox’s most recent book. It was a source of real pride to see the Georgia Tech by-line on the shelves of that important institution.) In 1989 Dr. Ford was honored by a 60th birthday edition of the journal “Physica D.” In 1989-90 Dr. Ford’s work was discussed in the pages of Nature, Dr. Uzi Landman’s work was highlighted by Science magazine, and Dr. Zangwill’s book is cited by the Encyclopedia Britannica as having made a “significant contribution to learning and understanding.” We should not focus too much on the successes of individuals. Good programs require large numbers of people contributing their time and effort to all aspects of the work ranging from the back-room operations to the highly visible actions that bring external recognition. The writer wishes only to leave the impression that by the early 1990s the School had considerable recognition outside its research areas and that recognition was vastly superior to its reputation a decade or more earlier.
During the period 1978–1991 there was a continuing change in the background of our graduate student population. Going back to the 1960s the recruitment of graduate students was almost entirely from white, Southern, males. Physics did give Ph.D.s to one Asian and one Venezuelan before say 1970; that was the extent of the foreign involvement. We then made a deliberate attempt to recruit Ph.D. students from Europe. The move failed. One Englishman came to Tech and left after two years saying he did not like Southern “girls.” We recruited an Asian from Germany who settled in to become the longest Ph.D. ever granted in Physics at Tech (16 years); he had no incentive to finish and leave Tech because his country disappeared after he had departed from Asia. In the 1970s we began to see many applications from students resident in Asia, mostly from China. This was a nationwide phenomenon. Initially there were attempts to stem the flow of foreign Ph.D. students. There was a limit placed that the overseas student enrolment in a School should not exceed 25% of the total number of students. There was considerable faculty concern about these trends. In essence students who graduated from American Physics B.Sc. programs were not interested in Physics Graduate School. On analysis it was apparent that the development of quality Ph.D. programs in Engineering Schools was drawing away many graduates of science programs. Graduation rates in Physics remained at historic levels; the fraction moving into professional Schools did not change. The problem was that the students were rejecting Physics! This situation was of course a nationwide phenomenon. Eventually the Engineering programs were also inundated with foreign applications. (These days we have given up worrying about it.)
Throughout the period 1978-1991 the complement of undergraduate majors remained basically unchanged. Physics has always attracted some of the most able of the freshman students. In many years the average SAT scores of the entering Physics Freshmen was higher than for any other School at Tech. There was always a large flow of students who change majors in the first two years. Physics suffers badly from this. The writer suspects that many students write down Physics as their major because it was their favorite high school subject. After students arrive at Tech and discover the wealth of opportunities in the Engineering Schools, they transfer out of Physics. Fortunately there are about equal number of students who transfer out of Engineering and into Physics. So generally the number of graduates in a year was about equal to the number of freshman four years earlier–but the people changed! During the period there was no perceptible change to the makeup of the undergraduate student cohort. They were mostly male, almost entirely Caucasian, and generally from the southern part of the USA. During this period there was a distinct Institutional policy (or perhaps Board of Regents Policy) that overseas students whose parents were not resident in the USA should not be admitted into the undergraduate program. Throughout this period there was concern by the Institution and by the Profession as a whole that both women and Afro-Americans were under-represented in the student cohort throughout the USA. Significant effort was expended in the recruitment of these students. The numbers of women students crept gradually upwards. The number of African American students remained very low.
The largest single program of the School in this period was its teaching of “Introductory Physics” to all freshman. This was a three quarter course sequence with a laboratory. The course was required by all Engineering and Science majors. In 1978 the course occupied 6 credit hours, five based on the lecture classes and one hour for the three hour lab. By 1991 one hour had been shaved off the lecture-based part of the course. An algebra-based version of the course, without a lab, was a requirement for students in the Architecture program; this had a rather small enrolment. These introductory courses covered approximately two thousand students per year. This is a major logistical exercise. It also represented a major source of income to the Institution as a whole. The writer worked out the value of this course to the coffers of the Institution by calculating the amount earned based on the cost per hour charged to an out-of-state student. It came to a figure of well over 4 million dollars. This greatly exceeded the amount of money and effort devoted to teaching the course and indeed exceeded the whole budget of the School. The students were divided into groups of 150 and a single faculty member taught each group the lecture part of the class. In good years the faculty member might get the assistance of a grader, in tight years maybe not. The laboratory part of the course was operated as an unconnected enterprise with one faculty member in charge of each of the three lab courses and the day-to-day supervision being performed by Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) or, too frequently, Undergraduate Teaching Assistants (UTAs). There was no real co-ordination between the faculty teaching the course. Faculty simply taught whatever part of the curriculum they felt they could manage and determined their own standards for awarding grades. This was an unsatisfactory situation. For one thing some faculty would teach only one half of the stated curriculum of the first course. So, students embarking on the second course of the sequence were ill-prepared and not all at the same level. There also were great concerns being expressed by the faculty of Engineering Schools who were sending us their students. Under the leadership of Jim Tanner, Physics took a grip on this unwieldy program in 1982.
Basically Dr. Tanner took over management of the program. Faculty continued to teach students in 150 person groups, and there continued to be the laboratory program. But Dr. Tanner wrote a detailed syllabus for everybody to follow. This included class room material and homeworks. He also prepared tests to be administered every couple of weeks, and he graded all the tests. The laboratory structure was changed to follow the new curriculum. The tests, inevitably perhaps, became multiple choice and were graded by a computer. Dr. Tanner wrote all the questions and developed a scheme for assessing the likely scores on a question; in this way he could write ten tests which all involved different questions but were almost certain to produce the same distribution of scores. The laboratory experience complemented the course and when, later, the course hours were reduced then some of the learning material was moved into the laboratory period. Dr. Tanner did not allow anybody to fall out of sequence, and soon all faculty were in lock step. He even assigned the letter grades at the end of the quarter. In the short term most of the faculty and students loved the new program. The faculty were particularly happy that they did not need to worry about any of the administrative parts of the program. Syllabi, homework, and testing were all handled by Dr. Tanner and a couple of assistants. The faculty were left with only the lecture period–something most of them rather enjoyed. However, over time there were complaints. Eventually any program will grow stale. Faculty complained that the multiple choice questions did not explore learning and knowledge, and the curriculum moved too fast. But when the faculty were invited to organize something different, the discussions tended to come to an end. During my period as Director I made it clear that any faculty member who wanted to handle things differently was at liberty to do so. The class was their responsibility. When the faculty person looked at the logistical problem of producing syllabi, tests, grading systems, etc., they found the problem daunting. Nobody actually proposed doing anything different, and the program continued long beyond 1991. Some faculty had honest and deep rooted objections to what we were doing. Persons such as Bill Woolf (the last non-Ph.D. teacher left in the School), a superb teacher, just felt that the sophomore classes did not treat the students in a professional manner. He could function in the system but hated it. Eventually he took an early retirement, and the School lost one of its best teachers. A major problem, over the years, with this program was that it was been impossible to persuade faculty to contribute their energy to upgrading the program. Inevitably the program became the responsibility of one faculty member (Jim Tanner) who gave up all other types of contribution to the School. The program suffered through having a limited range of input.
The School tried a number of variations on the teaching of the “Introductory Physics” sequence. For many years the School operated a “Self Paced” learning program. In this the student is given a curriculum and a text book and told to “learn it in their own speed.” In the academic quarter there are a total of about 13 tests, called “gates,” that the student must pass in sequence. Fail a test and you must repeat it, over and over again until you “got it.” The tests can be taken at any time and eventually on a given day of the quarter the supervisor may have students needing to take any one of the thirteen “gates.” This was another logistical nightmare. The program was originally designed by Jim Tanner and for much of its later life was operated by Harry Dulaney. When Dr. Dulaney retired, faculty were asked to take it over. Nobody wanted to do it, and the program stopped. A second variation was the so-called “Restart” program. There has always been a problem with the large numbers of students who fail these classes, often due to poor incoming preparation. Dr. Tanner devised a program where students with poor preparation were identified in the first few weeks of the quarter and then invited to pull out of the normal course and join “Restart.” Here they were “restarted” on the course as a whole and given some intensive remedial work on background. The student did not actually finish the course and receive a grade until the following quarter. Dr. Tanner found ways of overcoming the logistical problems that this delay in grades caused. The restart program was operated in small groups under GTA supervisions. Students loved it!! Class size was small, instructors were good, and grades went up. Students who had expected to fail managed to get rather good letter grades. Students developed vast enthusiasm for “restart” and clamoured to be allowed to join the program. One could envisage that all students would want to be “restarted” and that, of course, could not be. It was decided to restrict restart to the first class, Mechanics. Then after a couple of years Dr. Tanner decided that he had done enough, and if the program was worthwhile, then somebody else should take it over. There were no volunteers. Restart ended in 1978-1979.
After the Restart program ended, the School started again to offer an “Honors” version of the Introductory Physics curriculum. This had the same basic curriculum as the regular course but in greater depth and with an extra hour credit. The classes were small, and we chose well regarded teachers to handle the course. Physics and Electrical Engineering majors with good grades were invited to participate. The hope was that the course would help recruit students into the program. This objective was moderately successful.
Throughout its history the School has allowed its undergraduate students considerable freedom in choice of courses with a large number of “elective” hours. Students contemplating graduate school in Physics would mostly use the hours to take suitable preparatory courses. But many students did not use the freedom wisely. In 1982 the School attempted to bring some direction to the elective hours by defining a list of subject areas to which students could usefully devote their elective hours. And for each of the areas we provided a list of proposed courses– both in the School and in other units. The list of subject areas was
- Computational Physics
- Computer Based Instrumentation
- Solid State Physics
- Physics Graduate School Preparation
Biophysics was chosen because it represented a developing interdisciplinary area where students might consider graduate school. Georgia Tech already had a number of faculty with interests in this area (particularly Doctors Wartell, Fox, O’Shea, and Dusenberry). It was an area where undergraduate degrees were almost non-existent. Physics Graduate School Preparation was there because many of our better students fully intended to go to Graduate School. The other subjects were there because they represented areas where a student, with only a B.S. degree, might have excellent employment opportunities. The concept also matched well with our existing B.S. degree in Applied Physics. Obviously some of these tracks were Applied Physics, and a person taking these courses really should have undertaken the BSAP degree. In general it was possible for a student to accomplish two of these tracks during their degree program. The provision of designated “tracks” for use of the electives was a great success. Most of our students undertook one or two complete tracks. The Graduate School track was of course very successful and attracted the students who should take it. The Optics track was also hugely successful over the years. This owes much to the enthusiasm with which Dr. O’Shea and other faculty developed the Optics program in the following years. The design of the track also coincided with an explosive growth of employment opportunities in the optics industry. Employers were looking for our students in the Optics track. The field was also becoming an established academic subject area with degree programs in a small number of Institutions. We were able to compete with the leaders in the field without the trouble of setting up a degree program. Acoustics and Computer Based Instrumentation also received significant student interest. The other areas were not really successful in attracting students.
In 1983 the Institute introduced a qualification known as a “Certificate” in an area. This had no legal significance, was not specifically authorized by the Board of Regents, and could be given only in connection with a regular degree. A certificate was almost like a minor in a subject area. It differed in being easier to set up, and it sounded more important!! Dr. O’Shea seized upon the Certificate concept for the Optics program, and in 1985 started to offer the certificate as recognition of completing the “Optics” track. Employers in the optics industry recognized our Certificate as denoting a well trained individual who would make an excellent employee. A Certificate in “Computer Based Instruction” was also created but never received student interest.
The Ph.D. program tended to be the main educational focus of most faculty. A School could not have a Ph.D. program without graduate students. The recruitment and retention of such students was a major challenge for the School throughout this period. In his report for 1978-79, Dr. Charlie Braden (as Acting Director) wrote that the main problems facing the whole School were:
- Inadequate numbers of graduate students,
- Poor quality of graduate students actually recruited,
- Inadequate stipends for graduate students.
Dr. Braden repeated these same concerns for each of the three subsequent years when he was Acting Director. When this writer took over stewardship of the School, the two largest budget items over which the Director had any control at all were telephone bills and graduate student stipends. Both were excessive and annually exceeded the amounts budget. Taking out half the telephones from the building was an easy solution to one of the problems. But the graduate student situation proved more difficult.
Much effort was expended in recruiting Ph.D. students and bringing them to graduation. The student entered, spent a year or two taking basic courses, and then took the “Comprehensive Exam” that acted as a qualifying exam. If he or she passed the exam then the student was supposed to pick a research supervisor and perform the research that led to the writing of a thesis. The whole process was personal to each student. There were huge variations in the time taken by students at each stage. There was attrition at each stage so that typically fewer than half the students who entered the program finished with a Ph.D. Consequently the program was difficult to manage. The Faculty of the School expected that the School would provide financial support for the student in the years before the student passed the qualifying examination. This support could be either as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) with duties in the undergraduate teaching program or as a Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) where the student was required to devote themselves to one of the research activities of the School. After the qualifying exam some faculty were happy to take on students as GRAs funded by their grants and contracts. But a large number of faculty did not have grants which included student support or, in some cases, declined to use the available money for student support. As a result the School often found itself being asked to fund students as GTAs or GRAs for the whole of their Ph.D. program which might last five to seven years. When the writer became Director in early 1982, the School had funds to support about 20 students as GTAs. Some of the students had been on GTA stipends for five or more years (one had been on and off GTA funds for sixteen years!!!). The School had about 30 students supported on State funds. The difference of ten positions was made up by the Director running his School budget into a deficit; the Dean bailed him out with funds taken from other units in the College. The Institution was not at all happy with the deficit financing, and the Dean informed the Director that this could not continue. The obvious first step was to reduce the time that a student spent in the program. That way one could have more students on the same money. The faculty made a general rule that a student would undertake the qualifying examination at the start of their second year and choose a research advisor within a few months. In theory a student would not be financially supported by the School after the first year; but in practice the number of faculty providing GRA positions remained inadequate.
To break the impasse the administration of Tech proposed in 1983, to identify work positions in GTRI (then called the Engineering Experiment Station) and assign students to those positions. So the larger burden of supporting first year students was to be shifted to GTRI. The co-ordinator on the GTRI side was to be Jim Wiltse, a physicist. Generally students were placed in groups where the work was real “physics.” Some students found the experience excellent. The group leaders took a real interest in the students and devised interesting work duties. The students were engaged in real research rather than supervising undergraduate teaching labs. With the work of GTRI being so “mission oriented,” the students could see the importance of the project and its relevance to society. Very soon we were asked whether students could continue in GTRI after the qualifying examination and perform their Ph.D. research under the supervision of a GTRI employee. This was agreed. The GTRI employees were listed on our faculty rosters by their Research Scientist titles and considered to be Associated Faculty members. Quite a number of students worked with Chris Summers on microelectronic device materials problems; Dr. Summers is now a full Professor in Tech’s School of Material Science and Engineering. Students also worked with physical chemists R.V. Ravishankara and Paul Wine on problems related to atmospheric chemistry. Dr. Ravishankara is now a Laboratory Director at NOAA Boulder and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Wine is a Professor in our own School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Thus the Research Scientists who supervised Ph.D.s in GTRI all went on to illustrious academic careers. In addition to students who performed their Ph.D.s with GTRI personnel, there were others who stayed in GTRI for the whole of their Ph.D. careers but, under a Physics faculty member, performed research that was completely unrelated to their GTRI work. Interestingly, after graduation, their careers generally were based on their GTRI experience rather than their Ph.D. research. There was a particular need for the GTRI program in 1985. Dr. Henry Valk had been given the responsibility for increasing the size of the entering class and doubled it for the 1985 entering class!! Overall the GTRI program was a success, and it continued until 1992. Pressure on the School’s finances was reduced. The research opportunities available to students were broadened. We graduated more students than would have been possible under own resources. Some faculty were very unhappy about the scheme. They felt that students were in the School of Physics and should be managed in the School. The real difficulty was that Faculty in the School of Physics did not, collectively, provide the number of funded GRA positions that the size of the program required. It is worth noting that the idea of students performing research in GTRI was not new. In the 1960s faculty such as Doctors Martin, McDaniel, Thomas, Scheibner, and Young all worked primarily in GTRI (then called EES) and handled many graduate students within their GTRI projects. Indeed some of the most successful Ph.D. graduates of the 1960s (e.g., Albritton, Mosely, Ford, and Carl Lineberger whose degree was actually in EE) performed their research in this way.
The writer feels bound to make some kind of historical review of the research programs of the School and their development from 1978 to 1992. This he does with trepidation. Research at Tech is a very personal activity, and, it is the writer’s experience, Faculty do not like other people attempting to discuss their work. Nevertheless the writer would like to list the various areas of activity and point out where each faculty member fitted. In the writer’s experience from 1964 to the end of the period under review, 1991, Tech always encouraged individuals rather than groups or programs. A faculty member was awarded a position, a small (and inadequate) start up fund, then told to “get on with it,” and come back with a good resume when it was time for a decision on tenure and promotion. By the tenure decision a faculty member was supposed to be bringing in enough research grants to cover their own research expenditures. That included support of graduate students and of any required technical services. There was never any real attempt to create scientific groups or to encourage sharing of facilities. Co-operation between faculty occurred as needed. There were obvious “concentrations” of activity in certain areas but not working groups. The Tech system encouraged individuality and self-sufficiency. And through to the early 1990s that is what we got. Also many of our faculty were active in novel, cross-disciplinary, or emerging areas. Some faculty contributed to more than one area; in particular some of our theoreticians had very broad talents. So it is difficult to place some people into specific categories. The School’s mix of research subject areas was always unusual. In 1978 the School’s Research Areas (areas where there is more than one faculty member active) were broadly classified as
- Nuclear Physics
- Atomic Physics
- Solid State Physics
Of these, Biophysics was relatively new at that time and was somewhat unusual. The other three areas were of course quite conventional and were found in most Schools of Physics in the USA. By 1992 the School’s Research Areas were
- Atomic Physics
- Solid State Physics
- Non-Linear Systems
Optics and Non Linear Systems had developed in the period. Both these and Biophysics were unusual programs for Schools of Physics in 1992. In addition to these identifiable areas there were in 1992 (and to a lesser extent in 1978) a number of faculty whose research did not fall under these headings.
The Optics program was a very successful development spearheaded by Dr. Don O’Shea who initially came to us as a person interested in Biophysics and using optics as a research tool. Recognizing that Optics was a developing subject, Dr. O’Shea initiated instructional programs in the field and developed his own reputation as a specialist in the area. In 1982 Dr. Rajarshi Roy joined the School. Dr. Roy used lasers to study atomic physics processes. His focus was on how the noise and statistical fluctuations in laser beams influenced the measurement of a process. He was expected to contribute to the Atomic Physics area. In practice he developed his interests in laser noise, and his work added strength to the developing Optics program. In 1988 Dr. Kevin O’Donnell joined the School. Dr. O’Donnell developed a successful research program to study light scattering. In 1999 he resigned from Tech to take a position with a Mexican University. A major motivation for his leaving was that the Mexican university was on a Pacific Beach!! In 1990 we were joined by Dr. Brian Kennedy who developed a theoretical program. During the period, a number of faculty in area of atomic and molecular physics were using lasers as research tools and also contributed to the program.
The Non-Linear program owes much to the tenacity of Dr. Joe Ford. In the early 1980s he preached about the importance of non-linear phenomena to physics. He very effectively transmitted his enthusiasm to a broad audience. Other faculty, notably Doctors Fox and Roy, recognized the importance of non-linear phenomena in their own fields and contributed further to the visibility of Tech’s activity. In 1986 we hired Dr. Kurt Wiesenfeld specifically to contribute to this area. Externally the area was well regarded and often was seen as a focussed research effort. In 1991 the School had only Doctors Ford and Wiesenfeld making the field their primary focus. Other faculty recognized the importance of non-linear phenomena to their own subjects.
Atomic and Molecular Physics in 1978 had three components. The first was the long established collaboration of Doctors Weatherly and Williams in the area of microwave spectroscopy of molecules. The second was the study of atomic collisions with experimental programs being carried out by Doctors McDaniel, Martin, and Thomas with a theoretical program by Dr. Flannery. Third was a theoretical study of complex molecular systems by Professor Bill Harter. By 1982 the work of Doctors Williams and Weatherly had come to an end. In a sense all molecules capable of study by their techniques had “been done.” Dr. James Gole, a physical chemist, transferred from Chemistry to Physics in 1983. He provided an activity in complex molecules and their reactions. In part this was seen as a potential interaction with the theoretical work of Dr. Harter. Then, in 1986, Dr. Harter resigned from Tech. Thus the molecular part of the program faded away and by 1992 was based solely on the experimental work of Dr. Gole. The ion molecule interactions research of Dr. McDaniel was very active in 1978 and benefited from the active support of two other faculty, Drs. Gatland and Martin. By about 1982 all the reactions capable of study with the existing equipment “had been done,” and the program came to an end. In 1978 Dr. Thomas was active in the study of high-energy atom-atom and atom-surface collisions using three ion beam facilities. By 1992 this activity had contracted to a study of surface compositions using ion beam collisions. Over the years there were attempts to bring new faculty into the Atomic Collisions programs. When Dr. Roy joined the School in 1982 he was seen as a member of the “Atomic Collisions” program. But in practice his work rapidly moved towards the study of laser beams and their fluctuations. Dr. Peter Schultz joined the School in 1982 and provided an experimental study of reaction rates. But this program was not a success, and Dr. Schultz resigned in 1988. Dr. Margaret Graaff joined Physics in 1988 to perform work in high temperature ion molecule reactions. This program was also not very fruitful and she left. On the theoretical side Dr. Ray Flannery maintained a very active program in various aspects of atomic collisions. In 1984 he was joined by Dr. Turgay Uzer who remains with in Physics to this day. Thus in the period under review, the Atomic and Molecular Physics area of the School declined somewhat, particularly in the area of experimental studies. In the view of the writer (who contributed to this part of the School’s programs), this mirrored the general fate of the field. In many respects Atomic and Molecular Physics had come to a high degree of maturity in the 1970s and 1980s and was no longer a hotbed of study.
In 1978 the Solid State Physics program was based on experimental work of Doctors Stevenson, Schiebner, and Young, plus the theoretical program of Dr. Uzi Landman. Dr. Stevenson’s work was not very active since he devoted himself primarily to being School Director for many years. Work was continued for a while by two Research Scientists, Doctors Legg and Ribarsky, who were originally supported by Dr. Stevenson but who had, by 1978, developed their own independent research support. The activities of Dr. Schiebner on Auger Spectroscopy were entirely in EES and made little impact on the School; he retired in 1985. In 1978 Dr. Ray Young’s large X-Ray spectroscopy group were mostly located in EES. Over a period of years he shifted towards Physics and around 1982 the work was entirely in the basement of the Howey Building, and Dr. Young had become a full time member of the School. He retired in 1989. In 1978 Dr. Uzi Landman was the School’s only theoretician in this area and had a substantial reputation for his work using the technique of molecular dynamic simulations. The program was the largest user of computer time on the Campus. In 1991 the program was continuing at full strength and the computer facilities were provided remotely by the National Labs that sponsored his work. In the thirteen year period 1978-1991, the School hired a number of faculty into this area. Dr. David Grider joined us in 1983 to perform experimental work on the reactivity of surface defects. The work never reached its full potential, and Dr. Grider resigned in 1987. Dr. Ahmet Erbil joined us in 1985 and was best known for developing programs in low temperature materials. Dr. Phil First came in 1989 to set up experimental programs. Dr. Ed Conrad came in 1991 and brought us experimental activities at National Synchrotron facilities. We were also joined by two theoreticians: Andy Zangwill in 1985 and Mei Yin Chou in 1989. At the end of the period under review (1991) the area of Solid State Physics included as faculty Doctors Conrad, First, and Erbil as experimentalists and Doctors Landman, Zangwill, and Chou as theoreticians.
The only research activity to function as a significant “group” was the program in Nuclear Physics. This was headed by Doctors Wyly and Braden and involved gamma ray decay schemes of radioactive materials. In 1978 the group included also Doctors Patronis and Dulaney (both Ph.D. graduates of the group), Mr. Kendrick (who had intended to get a Ph.D. in the group but had not been successful), and Dr. Brewer (a theoretician). The group had been a major producer of Ph.D.s for the School and was its first well known research program. Eventually the activity fell into decline. A major problem was that the work was performed at Tech on radioactive materials. The isotope needed to have a sufficiently long half life that it could be transported from Oak Ridge to Tech before the activity became negligible. After all such isotopes had been studied there was nothing left to do! The group could have transferred activity to a distant facility such as Oak Ridge but there was no interest in a “commuting” research strategy. Around 1978 the group has no research funds and ceased to publish. All its members remained active in various capacities. Dr. Patronis was a renowned expert on acoustics and taught courses on the subject. Mr. Kendrick ran a very popular set of courses on electronics and interfacing computers; he took early retirement in 1979 to join a local computer company. Later in the period under review the School was joined by Dr. John Wood whose research involve the analysis of nuclear decay data obtained at large scale remote facilities, such as Oak Ridge. Dr. Wood worked as a Research Scientist for Professor Dick Fink in Chemistry. Dr. Wood had his own funding and asked to transfer to Physics. We agreed. After a couple of years he was asked to teach an undergraduate course on Nuclear Physics, and in 1985 he accepted a position as Associate Professor in the School. In 1992 Dr. Wood represented our sole activity in Nuclear Physics.
The Biophysics program in 1978 included Doctors Fox, Wartell, and Dusenberry. Professors Wartell and Dusenberry both had part time positions in Biology. Roger Wartell maintained his research facilities in Physics and was a very active member of the School. Dr. Dusenberry’s time was mostly assigned to Biology, and Physics benefited very little from his activities. Dr. Fox was a person with very broad interests, and Biophysics was only one of many areas to which he made a contribution over the years. The only significant change to this program over the years under review is that in 1986 we hired Tai-Huang Huang who brought with him a well established program in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance studies of biological systems. His aim was to perform NMR studies at the spatial resolution of the membrane of a living cell. The program was quite successful as a general NMR research study of materials, but the potential for the study of biological samples was not realized. Dr. Tai Huang resigned from Tech in 1993.
In addition to these major groupings of faculty there were a number of active individuals whose research activities were unique within the School and not readily classified within one of the major “areas.” Dr. Hal Gersch, a very senior faculty member, performed research related to solid state physics and statistical mechanics. He retired in 1987 but stayed on the faculty listing for a further two years while he undertook two visiting academic positions. Dr. David Finkelstein, who joined the School as Director in 1978, was very active and visible in the field of “grand unification theories” and other very fundamental studies. Dr. Martin Ahrens maintained a steady output of significant papers regarding neutrinos and their mass. Dr. Ahrens retired in 1992. Dr. Henry Valk, who moved from the Dean’s position to Physics in 1982, had general theoretical interests with some bias towards nuclear physics problems. Dr. Ron Fox was regarded as providing one of these unique individual activities; he made contributions to some of the major thrusts of the School and also had other broad ranging interests. One should also include Dr. Jim Tanner whose interests were in “Education” and the measurement of educational success. It is interesting to note that all of these people are theoreticians.
In 1991, the end of the period under review, the Institution as a whole was in a state of turmoil due to some of the actions of the President, Pat Crecine. Problems at the top tended to exacerbate problems lower down the structure. There was a feeling within the School that it was time for a change. In Spring 1991 the writer resigned from the position of Director, and Dr. Henry Valk seamlessly took over the stewardship of the School’s affairs.
Written by Henry S. Valk (Acting Director, 1991-1995), 2009.
Before giving a description of the activities and faculty changes occurring during my tenure, I would like to make some brief personal comments.
The first concerns the administrative situation alluded to in Dr. Edward Thomas’s contribution. At the time I was asked to become Acting Director, Tech’s President, Patrick Crecine, was generating increasing opposition from the faculty. Although many of his goals were laudable, such as those for increasing the role of the humanities and social sciences, increasing computer literacy, and improving the retention rate for incoming students, he sought to implement these objectives with a management style that seemed more suited to the business world than to an educational institution. As a newly elected member of the Executive Board in 1991 (a position from which I resigned shortly after I accepted the acting directorship in order to avoid as much as possible any conflict of interest), I was able to observe the faculty backlash first hand. This environment added to my reluctance to return to administrative duties.
A second comment concerns the excellent support that the director traditionally received from colleagues who had been delegated the responsibility through the committee structure for many of the essential activities within the School. This was particularly true of those in charge of the graduate and undergraduate programs, namely, the Associate Directors for Graduate and Undergraduate Programs. Observing the yeoman work that was being done in 1991 by Professors O’Shea and Gatland in those positions helped to weaken somewhat my reservations about again involving myself in administrative activity.
When I was asked by the Interim Dean, Robert (Bob) Pierotti, to become the Acting Director, effective with the start of the fiscal year in July 1991, it was with some trepidation that I accepted, having been assured that I would not likely have to serve more than a year or so. As it turned out, that ‘brief’ tour of duty extended over the five years covered in this memoir. I was fortunate, however, during this period of having the support of Dr. Don O’Shea and Dr. Helmut Biritz for the Graduate Program and Dr. Ian Gatland for the Undergraduate Program. To them and the others who gave of their time and effort I remain grateful.
At the time of my appointment, my predecessor, Dr. Edward Thomas, had just hired Dr. Edward Conrad from the University of Missouri as an Associate Professor. He joined the faculty during this first year. His addition strengthened our experimental research program in Condensed Matter and in particular surface physics.
Because of the age distribution of our senior faculty at this time, retirements continued. Just as the School had seen the departure of Dr. Charles Braden and Dr. James Tanner in the preceding year, in 1991-92 it faced the retirements of Doctors Rudolph (Tino) Ahrens and David Martin.
Dr. Ahrens’ major research was in the area of particle and nuclear theory. While in the School, he directed the dissertations of seven doctoral students. He was (and still is at the time of this writing) something of a raconteur. Within the past several years he has published a fascinating memoir about his youth in Germany. Although almost exclusively concerned with classroom teaching at the time of his retirement, Dr. Martin had published over 20 papers in atomic and molecular physics and had been instrumental in helping establish Georgia Tech as a center for atomic and molecular studies. He was also an individual with wide-ranging interests and a streak of non-conformism. Having taken up flying his own airplane in his mature years, he was only too happy to relate his experiences and try to persuade his less-daring colleagues to join him in this adventure.
1991-92 also saw the resignation of Assistant Professor Margaret Graff, an atomic and molecular experimentalist, who, in the four years that she had been with the School, had already graduated a doctoral student and established a reputation for her skill as an exceptional teacher. She was also instrumental in starting the School’s NSF-sponsored REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program. This program, designed to bring in bright undergraduates from around the country for research experience with our faculty, was quite successful. Under the subsequent leadership of Dr. James Gole, it went on to become the NSF’s longest continually sponsored REU program. The School, with the aid of the Dean’s office, tried to persuade Dr. Graff to stay on, but to no avail. She had become committed to a new career in financial planning and advising. She did, however, remain actively interested in activities on the campus such as the Techmasters program.
A recurring theme over the years has been the School’s desire to improve the quality and success rate in its sophomore sequence in the face of increasing enrollments, particularly in those sections of the course devoted to electricity and magnetism, which because of their more abstract character seemed to present greater difficulties for the students. The magnitude of the problem may be judged by the fact that 5284 students took these courses in 1992-93. Rather than follow the School’s efforts to address this challenge chronologically, I believe it is better to collect here some of the attempts that were made during the time covered in this chapter to improve the content and environment for learning in the 2121-22-23 sequence as it was labeled at that time (we were still on the quarter system during the period covered here). Treating this subject separately is especially appropriate since some of these efforts extended over several years and to different directors (or chairs as they later became).
- Recitations in the electromagnetism part of the sequence (2122) were reinstituted and Help Sessions were established for all students to increase personal contact with faculty. A moving force behind these help sessions was Dr. Don Harmer. He possessed the patience and ability to clarify problems for the students. Later, he was joined in this endeavor by Dr. Bob Hume and Mr. Ken Barker. Dr. Hume came to us from other administrative duties on campus, while Mr. Barker had retired from the Navy as a Captain, having commanded a nuclear submarine and been in charge of the NROTC at Tech. They spent many hours working with the throngs of students who would gather on the second floor of the Howey building in the afternoons at one o’clock seeking assistance. It should be noted that Mr. Barker is still with the School, still active in teaching the sophomore courses.
- Another approach spearheaded by Dr. Ed Thomas was that of “precision teaching” where he and colleagues from the School of Psychology sought to identify students at risk of having to repeat courses in the 2122, and by repetitive testing have their areas of deficiency identified and reduced.
- Among the efforts to improve content, two should be mentioned:
- In 1991, Georgia Tech was chosen for a trial run of the NSF-American Institute of Physics Introductory Undergraduate Physics Project (IUPP) in which the physical concepts were introduced in the context of some objective or theme. For example, electromagnetism was taught around the theme “space communication,” while mechanics had the objective “launching a space ship to Mars.” Dr. Ian Gatland supervised this project during the 1991-92, 1992-93 years. It was hoped that this perspective would enhance the learning process for the students. While some students found this to be true, many felt that it did not parallel sufficiently with the control sections and hence did not prepare them properly for their subsequent engineering courses.
- Another innovative approach to content was introduced by Dr. Ed Thomas. In 1995-96, he spent the Spring quarter in England studying the manner in which physics was taught at the Open University. He hoped that this new approach with its practical slant would again motivate the students. He obtained the course materials and with the help of faculty both here and abroad introduced the course the following year. Regrettably, it suffered the same fate as the IUPP.
As part of President Crecine’s planning for the Institute, Dean Pierotti asked each unit in the College in 1992 to develop a “strategic plan,” outlining that unit’s mission, objectives, and plan of action. Physics submitted its response in February of 1993. Among the goals outlined in that document were the further strengthening of the undergraduate instructional program, particularly in the sophomore sequence, and the achieving of a more appropriate balance between experimental and theoretical research within the School.
Some of the actions taken in the former area have been outlined above, but it would be remiss not to mention two other occurrences involving the School’s desire to improve its presentation of introductory physics.
The first concerns the addition in 1992-93 of Dr. Joseph Meyer, a former President of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Dr. Meyer had had long experience in teaching introductory physics and was exceptionally good at it. His name inevitably appeared on any short list by the students of their best instructors in physics. Joe remained with the School for a number of years before his eventual departure for North Georgia College. His availability had been brought to my attention originally by Dr. James Stevenson, our former director. That the School was able to recruit Joe as a visitor is due to Dr. Stevenson’s good offices.
The second relates to the last occasion that I had to work with Dean Bob Pierotti on seeking ways to bring new approaches to our ever-growing introductory courses. Bob had stepped down as Dean of Sciences in 1994 to become involved with the Center for Education Integrating Sciences, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC), a unit of Georgia Tech that he initiated in 1990.
It was in this new capacity that Dean Pierotti became informed of Jack Wilson’s experiment in teaching introductory science courses at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute called the “studio” method in which the lectures and laboratory were integrated and students worked collaboratively in a technologically enhanced setting. Dr. Pierotti was intrigued by the possibility of initiating such an approach at Tech, and with this objective he set up a visit to RPI accompanied by Aaron Bertrand from Chemistry and me in the Spring of 1995. Tragically, Dean Pierotti, a strong advocate for such innovation, died from a heart attack shortly after we arrived at RPI. This event combined with the substantial costs that the studio physics approach would have entailed precluded its implementation in the School.
In the latter area of faculty balance, the School was too heavily weighted toward theoretical physics. In 1992-93, the School had 16 theorists and 11 experimentalists. Since fewer graduate students are suited to theoretical studies, the preponderance of theory was a danger to our graduate program. This situation was about to become even more skewed in by the imminent departure of one of the experimentalists, Dr. Tai-Huang Huang. Dr. Huang had been recruited in 1986 from the University of Maine to establish a nuclear magnetic resonance facility that would tie in with Georgia Tech’s biotechnology program. Unfortunately, he did not find sufficient support to make his research viable and transferred his laboratory to the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the Academica Sinica, in Taiwan. In order to correct this situation, the School instituted an aggressive campaign to bring on board more experimental physicists.
As a result of these recruiting efforts, the School in 1993-94 was successful in bringing in two recognized researchers, Doctors William Ditto and Robert Whetten.
Dr. Ditto began his professional career as scientist with the Department of the Navy. There, and later at the College of Wooster, he became well known for showing that chaotic dynamics could be manipulated and even controlled. In the subsequent nine years, he and his group made Georgia Tech internationally recognized as a center for research into applications of chaos control to medical problems such as heart arrhythmia and epilepsy. He left Tech in 2002 to become the founding chair of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida. He has recently been named to a similar position at Arizona State University.
Dr. Whetten came to Tech from UCLA where he and colleagues had built up a laboratory to study molecular, carbon, and metal clusters in beams. This group was responsible for some of the significant early developments in the field. After some negotiation with UCLA, he was able to bring a good part of the laboratory equipment with him, cutting down on the delays normally associated with establishing a new laboratory. His research was thought to tie in well with Tech’s ongoing activity in chemistry and materials science area. As of this writing, he is still at Tech as Professor of Chemistry.
I have already noted the death of Dean Bob Pierotti in 1995, but that year also witnessed a grievous loss to the School with the passing of two pillars of our faculty: Regents’ Professor Emeritus Harold (Hal) Gersch and Regents’ Professor Joseph Ford.
Although Dr. Gersch had formally retired in the late 80’s, he remained a force and a resource in the School. He had the extraordinary knack of being able to explain the most complex phenomena in a way that they could be clearly understood. He could be relied upon to be our “house theorist.” Nor were his post-retirement contributions confined to his colleagues. He continued to teach introductory courses where his incisive lectures delivered in his native Brooklyn accent earned him the description by his students as being “Archie Bunker with a Ph.D.” Bunker was an opinionated character with a typical New York accent in a popular sitcom of the time.
Dr. Joe Ford was one of the first to call attention to the importance of non-linear dynamics and chaos in physical phenomena. His insights and contributions in this area brought him and the School international recognition. A charismatic lecturer, he often referred to himself as the “evangelist of chaos.” The School later set up an annual lecture series in his honor.
An ongoing intention of the School during these years was the achievement of greater diversity among our graduate students. The success of this effort is indicated by the fact that as of the Fall of 1994, the School counted among its doctoral students eleven under-represented minorities (9 African-Americans, 1 Hispanic, and 1 Native American), most of whom went on to complete their degrees. To further increase the School’s visibility in the African-American community, the School of Physics maintained close working relationships with the units of the Atlanta University complex and acted as a co-host of the 1995 Conference of Black Physicists, having already hosted the 8th Annual Conference of Black Physics Students in February of 1994. In addition, mentoring arrangements were introduced to assist those graduate students with deficiencies in their undergraduate education. Although these efforts have brought success for a time, the School has now experienced the same decline in minority enrollment in its graduate programs as in the rest of the United States.
The last year of my stewardship of the School, 1995-96, saw the retirement at the end of the academic year of two long-time faculty, Professors Don Harmer and Augustus (Gus) Stanford.
Dr. Harmer had joined Georgia Tech in 1959 after two years as a postdoctoral position at Brookhaven National Laboratories. Although primarily known in his later years for his contributions in computer-aided instruction and in supervising the Help Sessions for our introductory physics courses, he had carried out research in a number of areas of atomic and nuclear physics, the most notable being the neutrino detection experiments with Professor Ray Davis, for which Davis received the Nobel Prize. Dr. Harmer retained his role in the sophomore sequence even after retirement.
Dr. Stanford was associated with Georgia Tech for almost his entire academic career, having received his B.S. degree from Tech in 1952. He joined the faculty in 1964, specializing in solid state and biophysics and writing a text on the latter subject. His research in biophysics, however, must have created somewhat of a problem for the School at that time since it involved the setting up of a laboratory with live rodents with its related inconveniences. Gus, however, became best known to generations of Tech students as the face of sophomore physics. In their view, no one could help them find their way through the intricacies of introductory physics like Professor Stanford. He died in 2008, having remained actively involved in science education almost to the end.
These imminent vacancies made the recruitment of new faculty a matter of some urgency. The School was fortunate in that the Institute had begun to recognize the importance of supplying incoming faculty with substantial start-up packages. With these increased resources, the School was now able to bring in three outstanding faculty members for the next fiscal year:
- Walt de Heer as Professor from the University of Lausanne,
- Michael Schatz as Assistant Professor from the University of Texas, and
- Li You as Assistant Professor from Harvard.
All are still with the School and continuing to make significant contributions at the time of this writing.
Finally it should be noted that the administration was able to persuade Dr. Rajarshi Roy to succeed the author of this chapter as Director (Chair) of the School of Physics, effective July 1996.
Appendix A: Detailed History (1888-1967)
Appendix B: Detailed History (1967-1978)