Robert Bacher: I presented this [the discovery of the neutron] in the seminar and there were a good many questions. Some people were skeptical. I convinced Ed Condon almost immediately. In fact, within the week we had written a note together on the spin of the neutron because you could work it out. This part of it fit into the things of nuclear spins, hyperfine structure, nuclear moments, and so on. A good many other people came around to it. I think more than half the people were convinced at that time.
Owen Gingerich: This is an interview between Owen Gingerich and Robert Wilson. You use your middle initial. It’s Robert R.?
Robert Wilson: Yes, usually.
Gingerich: Robert R. Wilson, who is a builder of high energy accelerators and who was one of the physicists at Los Alamos. We are speaking today in Philadelphia, where we both happen to be for the American Philosophical Society. It’s April 22. No, it’s Shakespeare’s birthday. It’s April 23. That’s the documentation for the day.
Owen Gingerich: Professor Roy Glauber is a physicist, a physicist who had an early start in physics because when he was still an undergraduate at Harvard, it was during World War II. A mysterious caller knocked on his dormitory door, and asked him if he would want to participate in some unspecified kind of scientific war work. He ended up going to Los Alamos as one of the youngest scientists in that scientific community working to make the atomic bomb. Of course there in Los Alamos, Robert Oppenheimer was the director.
Martin Sherwin: Okay, this is the middle of an interview with Norris Bradbury.
Norris Bradbury: The fact that I wasn’t particularly involved in these discussions, of the type which the Federation of Atomic Scientists started—they started here, of course. I suppose I was committed to running a laboratory and trying to get people to stay here, while I was not uncommitted to international control of nuclear weapons, for heaven’s sakes. No one could be.
Louis Hempelmann: He [J. Robert Oppenheimer] just told me what the situation was. He did not ask me, which is the same thing when he got sick because I was in the radiology department here and I knew something about it. He would call me up, tell me what he had done, and then say “What do you think of it?” By that time, the only thing I could say was, “That was fine.”
Jean Bacher: Ruth Valentine said, “I shall take Ruth [Tolman]’s desk.” She always saved letters. She had marvelous long letters from Robert, you know, especially at the time of the hearings. I knew they were just terribly close and shared a great deal. On the drawer of the desk, she’d said, “Destroy these.”
Martin Sherwin: You saw it happen?
Bacher: I didn’t see her burn it, because at that time we still burned and they just threw them out in the burner in the back yard.
Martin Sherwin: You mentioned a point that others have mentioned that intrigue me: [J. Robert] Oppenheimer’s summer in Corsica. You said that Oppenheimer had once told you that reading [Marcel] Proust’s Memory of Things Past was one of the great experiences of his life.
Haakon Chevalier: Yes.
Sherwin: I have two questions about that. One, could you elaborate on that? Anything that you recall he said and why. The second has to do with whether you know anything else about that summer in Corsica.
Martin Sherwin: This is Martin Sherwin. Today is March 29, 1983. I am going to interview Professor Robert F. Bacher – B-a-c-h-e-r – in his office on the Caltech campus in Pasadena.
Martin Sherwin: The work must have been sort of very frustrating for a while, before that [Stanislaus] Ulam-[Edward] Teller breakthrough [on the hydrogen bomb].
Ed Hammel: Well, sure. There was—
Sherwin: What were you doing at that time?
Hammel: At that point, I continued with having this group in charge of properties of plutonium. But one of the things that we were very interested in was the low temperature properties, the specific heat specifically, of plutonium.
Martin Sherwin: Martin Sherwin, I am about to interview Dr. Hempelmann at Strong Memorial Hospital.
You know, simply from all of the Los Alamos records, but who told me you were at Strong? That was, I think, Dorothy McKibbin.
Louis Hempelmann: Oh yeah.
Sherwin: No, she confirmed it. She said you were coming out to Santa Fe.