Oral Histories

Interview of Louis B. Slichter

UCLA professor of geophysics and director of the Institute of Geophysics.
Subtitle:
“Mr. Geophysics”
Topic:
UCLA and University of California History
Science, Medicine, and Technology
UCLA Faculty
Interviewer:
Tugend, Thomas J.
Interviewee:
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.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Abstract:
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.