Oral Histories

Interview of Louis B. Slichter

UCLA professor of geophysics and director of the Institute of Geophysics.
“Mr. Geophysics”
UCLA and University of California History
Science, Medicine, and Technology
UCLA Faculty
Tugend, Thomas J.
Slichter, Louis B.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Childhood in Madison, Wisconsin; Max Mason, lifelong friend and colleague; father's sabbatical year in Munich; introduction to Deutsches Museum in Munich; growing interest in things mechanical; father becomes dean of the University of Wisconsin graduate school; entering the University of Wisconsin; becoming a student engineer at General Electric Company in Schenectady; majors in engineering; makes Tau Beta Pi and Phi Beta Kappa; World War I begins; Martha Buell; assignment at General Electric to antisubmarine experiments and research; tribute to Max Mason; becomes an ensign in the United States Navy; sent on troopship to France in charge of installation detection devices; Allies' victory celebrated in London; returns to New London, spring 1919; sightseeing in England; return to Madison and graduate school; beginning of geophysical experiments; thesis on the measurement of sound waves; renews old friendships; outstanding professors; Sumner Slichter's growing prominence in field of labor law and labor relations; relatives; employment with Submarine Signal Company; importance of communication in research organizations; Mason, Slichter, and Gauld firm organized; friendships; ore fieldwork in Canada, Mexico, and Peru; marriage and wedding trip; education at grass roots as solution to many world problems; attends California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for postdoctoral work; important character traits for a stable family life; patent on geophysical instruments; appointed associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); increasing importance of geophysics; danger that resources of the earth will be exhausted; breakup of AT&T; publication of research; World War II threatens in Europe; vacationing in Europe, summer of 1939; antisubmarine detection research and experimentation begin; returns to Submarine Signal Company while still faculty member at MIT; studies antisubmarine warfare; meets Sir Edward Bullard; development of radar; friendship with Vern O. Knudsen deepens; laboratory study of water entry of projectiles at Caltech; Slichter declines appointment to Pacific theater and incurs Karl Compton's displeasure; accepts position at University of Wisconsin after war service despite offers from UCLA; a Rockefeller Fellowship provides opportunity for a year at Cambridge University in England; discusses election to National Academy of Sciences; Institute of Geophysics launched at UCLA.