CARL ANDERSON (1905-1991) INTERVIEWED BY HARRIETT LYLE January 9-February 8, 1979
ARCHIVES CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY Pasadena, California
Subject area Physics
Abstract This wide-ranging 1979 interview in eight sessions with Carl D. Anderson, Board of Trustees Professor of Physics, emeritus and Nobel laureate, begins with his recollections of his undergraduate years at Caltech (1923-1927), and the influence of Arthur Amos Noyes and Ira Sprague Bowen. He recalls courses with Earnest Watson, Morgan Ward, Richard Chace Tolman, J. R. Oppenheimer. He offers his early and ongoing impressions of Robert A. Millikan as chairman of physics division and head of Caltech, and of Millikan’s work on cosmic rays. He recalls his own postdoctoral work at Caltech on cosmic rays, and his discovery of the positron in 1932 and the mu-meson, or muon, in 1936, and on contemporary developments in nuclear physics. He comments on his Nobel Prize (1936). He discusses his contacts with Enrico Fermi’s group at Chicago in the early 1940s and Caltech’s rocket projects during World War II at China Lake and Goldstone, including the contributions of Charles Lauritsen, I. S. Bowen, and Seth Neddermeyer. He offers recollections of postwar Caltech, the increase in research funds and undergraduate enrollment, the rise of particle physics and the advent of the large accelerator era. He discusses his stint as chairman of the Division of the Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy (1962-1970) and concludes by commenting on the current state of physics research.
Administrative information Access The interview is unrestricted. Copyright Copyright has been assigned to the California Institute of Technology © 1981, 2004. All requests for permission to publish or quote from the transcript must be submitted in writing to the University Archivist. Preferred citation Anderson, Carl. Interview by Harriett Lyle. Pasadena, California, January 9February 8, 1979. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web: http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechOH:OH_Anderson_C Contact information Archives, California Institute of Technology Mail Code 015A-74 Pasadena, CA 91125 Phone: (626) 395-2704 Fax: (626) 793-8756 Email: [email protected]
Graphics and content © 2004 California Institute of Technology.
Carl Anderson with the magnet cloud chamber with which he discovered the positive electron, or positron. For this work he won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1936. Caltech Archives.
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEW WITH CARL ANDERSON BY HARRIETT LYLE
Caltech Archives, 1981 Copyright © 1981, 2004 by the California Institute of Technology
TABLE OF CONTENTS INTERVIEW WITH CARL ANDERSON
Family background; Junior Travel Prize trip to Europe; Arthur A. Noyes; meeting Lorentz and Kamerlingh Onnes; early interest in electrical engineering; being introduced to physics by Ike Bowen; family’s move from New York to Los Angeles just before high school; L.A. Polytechnic High School; encouragement from physics teacher to go to Caltech; friendship with Louis Gazin (high school and Caltech). Living at home, supporting mother, while going to Caltech; Section A (advanced students) physics; Earnest Watson; Morgan Ward; Richard Tolman’s class on relativity; Millikan’s graduate course. Millikan as administrator and public figure; his reputation; his contact with undergraduates; his role in attracting visiting physicists to Caltech; Oppenheimer as a teacher; Oppenheimer’s attempt to explain Dirac’s the