Triumphs and Tragedies (1954–1982):
Odor of Laurel and Cypress
Ehret die Frauen! Sie flechten und weben
Himmlische Rosen ins irdische Leben.
Honor to Woman! To her it is given
To garden the earth with the roses of heaven.
Schiller, "Würde der Frauen"
I had been invited more than once to lecture in Brazil, in part through G.C. Lattes, who had helped detect the first pions formed by the Berkeley synchrocyclotron. In 1954 the time seemed ripe for a visit to Rio de Janeiro. Our children were too young either to take along on such a trip or to leave alone, so I went to Brazil by myself that July while Elfriede stayed behind with them in Berkeley. When the Jenkinses heard of our predicament, however, they offered to take care of the children for a while, giving us yet another reason to be grateful to them, and Elfriede was able to join me in August.
Brazil fascinated me. I am hard put to describe, let alone explain, my feelings toward my exotic, but at the same time almost familiar, new surroundings. The novel tropical beauty, nostalgic reminders of
the colonial period, my affection for Dom Pedro and his well-ordered empire, and the behavior of the people formed a mix most agreeable to me. We also liked the food, the exotic fruits, and the many kinds of bananas. Furthermore, we found excellent company: Georg von Hevesy, with whom we often spent the morning walking on the Copacabana beach; G. P. Thomson, who was lecturing at the same institution as I was, and Lattes himself. Almirante Alvaro, chief of the Conselho de pesquisas físicas, entertained us at the Bosque Tijuca, where he planted a tree in my honor and recited poems by Camoëns.
Guido Beck, an Austrian physicist whom I knew from my time in Rome, helped immensely in guiding me in the new strange world of Latin America. Among other things, he found a way of getting us a visa for Peru, which we did not know we needed. When we asked for it, much to our surprise, Elfriede was refused and declared "peligrosa a la seguridad nacional del Peru." It was because she had been born at Ostrowo, which in the meantime had become part of Poland and thus was behind the Iron Curtain. Our friend ultimately succeeded in obtaining the visa through personal intervention, but not without a few comic scenes. A Peruvian professor helped me materially, and I ended up becoming an honorary professor of San Marcos University in Lima.
From Brazil we went to Uruguay, where we stayed with my dear cousin Riccardo Rimini, and then to Argentina, which was under the Perón dictatorship. The slogan "Perón cumple y Evita dignifica" (Perón delivers and Evita dignifies) was everywhere, evoking somewhat cynical comments, which we naturally kept to ourselves. In Argentina we visited several Italian émigrés, some physicists, some not, whom we had known before our own emigration.
The last leg of our trip took us to Peru, a country we found extremely attractive owing both to its peculiar natural beauty and to its Indian culture. We were wise enough to allot sufficient time for sightseeing to allow us to gain a real impression of this beautiful world, so different from anything we had seen before. We flew from Lima to Cuzco in an unpressurized airplane. We wore oxygen masks but I took mine off in opening a window to snap a picture of the Andes. I barely made it back to my seat, where I fainted briefly, while Elfriede put the mask
back on my face. We remained at Cuzco for a few days to acclimatize ourselves to the altitude and see the Inca monuments, then descended to Macchu Picchu, where we spent the night. Next day we climbed Vaina Picchu by the very steep stairway hewn from the rock by the Indians, under a tangle of orchids.
On October 8, 1954, shortly after our return, while I was resuming my regular routine, I had a telephone call from Chicago. The caller was Sam Allison, and from his tone of voice, I realized at once that he had very bad news. From his almost incoherent words, I gathered that Fermi had been operated on shortly before, and that the surgeon had found an incurable stomach cancer. I was stunned. When I had seen Fermi in February, I had noticed that he looked a little tired, but it did not cross my mind that there was anything to worry about. During the summer, Fermi had gone to Italy and we to South America; we had not been in touch. In Italy, he had begun to feel seriously ill, and as soon as he returned to Chicago, he went to Billings Hospital. The first doctor who saw him, an intern, did not make the correct diagnosis, but the chief surgeon shortly thereafter performed an exploratory operation and found a hopeless situation.
As soon as possible after hearing the news, I caught a plane to Chicago. I found Fermi at Billings Hospital, fed by a tube that ran directly into his stomach. The patient was measuring the flow of the fluid by counting the drops, using a stopwatch, as though performing a physiology experiment. He was perfectly aware of his condition and started talking about how many months or weeks he might survive, and what he would do in the short span still allotted him. He asked me to summon Edward Teller to see him, adding with a slightly ironical smile, "What nobler deed for a dying man than to try to save a soul?" Fermi thought that Teller's behavior in connection with the hydrogen bomb and in the Oppenheimer hearings had been reprehensible—among other things, it had split the scientific community into factions—and he wanted to make him realize this. "The best thing Teller can do now is to shut up and disappear from the public eye for a long time, in the hope that people may forget him," he added. Needless to say, as soon as I got back to Berkeley, I relayed the summons to Teller, who sub-
sequently went to visit Fermi. Teller has given his own report of this visit.
Fermi then spoke pessimistically about the world's future. Atomic bombs were making possible the destruction of civilization. All it would take for them to be used was for a madman to come to power in a great nation. Since this happened every few centuries, he reckoned that civilization might, with luck, last roughly that long. He said, too, that if he lived long enough and had the strength to do so, his last service to science would be to write down his lectures on nuclear physics, which were preserved only in the form of notes taken by students. This was, in fact, his last effort at scientific writing. In a lighter vein, he told me that he had been blessed by a Catholic priest, a Protestant pastor, and a rabbi. At different times the three had entered his room and demurely and politely asked permission to bless him. He had given it. "It pleased them and it did not harm me," he added.
We spent several hours talking about various subjects. Among other things, Fermi observed that since his wife, Laura, had just finished her book Atoms in the Family, his death would come at the right moment for promoting it, and that he hoped the literary success he anticipated for it might help her overcome the difficult times she faced.
At the end of the afternoon I left. When I got out of the hospital, I felt ill; the emotional upheaval produced in me by the visit was too much for my constitution. I could scarcely stand, and I remember going into the first bar I came across to fortify myself with a cognac, something exceedingly rare, perhaps even unique, in my life. I returned to Berkeley gravely upset, and as soon as possible I went back to Chicago. I found Fermi much worse and in a more somber mode. He spoke of his sufferings and of other subjects I will omit. We talked until late in the evening. During the night, I was awakened by a phone call announcing that Fermi had died. It was November 29, 1954.
I stayed in Chicago for the memorial service at the University of Chicago. Searching for an appropriate text, the university chaplain proposed several that did not seem right. Finally, he suggested St. Francis's "Cantico delle creature" ("The Song of Brother Sun and All His Creatures"). It seemed to fit the occasion, and he used it.
Fermi's unexpected and premature death shook me deeply. Even now Fermi often appears in my dreams. In their grief, his former pupils and friends sought an appropriate memorial. Ultimately, the idea of publishing his collected papers crystallized. The Accademia dei Lincei and the University of Chicago Press undertook to do so and appointed me chairman of the editorial committee.
In 1955 we moved from Berkeley to Lafayette, a suburban community about ten miles east of Berkeley, behind the coastal hills. Our new house was on a dead-end road on a hill; the address was 36 Crest Road. It had been part of a large estate, had a beautiful view, and was in a most attractive natural setting.
During my lifetime I came to love three homes in particular. The one in Tivoli, the Treves villa at Marignolle, and our house on Crest Road in Lafayette. Naturally, I remember the others—229 Corso Vittorio at Rome, my apartment in Palermo, 1617 Spruce Steet at Berkeley—but I do not have a special attachment to them, and I do not dream of them at night.
I loved the Tivoli house where I was born, because I spent my childhood there. Conflict with Marco separated me from it, but much more serious has been the deterioration of the surroundings. The Tivoli of my childhood does not exist anymore, and even if the walls of the house are still there, all the rest is gone: landscape, roads, gardens, neighborhood.
Marignolle was never my home except during summer visits. The place struggles to survive the changes in the Treves family. Those of my generation have almost become slaves of the villa, while those of the next will be hard put to maintain its spirit. Irresistible forces have transformed the agriculture, the society, and even the face of Tuscany.
Geology drove me from 36 Crest Road, the house I loved best in the United States. When I bought it, I did not realize the serious geological problems affecting the location, nor the importance of a lower lot, which was also for sale at the time, to its stability. I never thought that somebody might want to build on that lot, because it was manifestly foolhardy to do so. The surroundings of the place were also
different from what they are now. There was no Highway 24, and the area now occupied by a church was a beautiful meadow with a few old oak trees. The church in due course destroyed the beautiful setting to create parking lots and make money, which convinced me that it was an enemy of God and His works. Furthermore, in 1956 somebody bought the lot below my house mentioned above, and without my becoming aware of it, obtained a building permit. When I saw the new owner of the lot excavating the slope in an obviously dangerous way, I warned him and took photographs of the terrain, but I did not start a legal action, which I would possibly have lost. During the winter of 1958, heavy rains caused a slide on the excavated slope.
This neighbor, in 1960, sued us because the slide he had provoked had damaged his house! We countersued him, and he lost, but the damages awarded to us paid only part of the cost of a retaining wall we had to build to stabilize the slope; nor did they compensate for the depreciation of our property, not to mention the time lost and the anguish caused to us. In practice we never succeeded in repairing the damage satisfactorily. Ultimately, in 1978, we sold the house for much less than it would have fetched without its history.
I grasped too late the type of house I would like; furthermore, my ideal home has contradictory elements in it and hence may not exist. I like a country setting, but I never really enjoyed gardening; I like a well-finished house, but I am not a handyman. All told, Adalbert von Chamisso's poem "Schloss Boncourt," mourning the demolition of his childhood home, perhaps best reflects my feelings:
Ich traüm' als Kind mich zurücke
Und schüttle mein greises Haupt;
Wie sucht ihr mich heim, ihr Bilder,
Die lang ich vergessen geglaubt!
Hoch ragt aus schatt'gen Gehegen
Ein schimmerndes Schloß hervor;
Ich kenne die Türme, die Zinnen,
Die steinerne Brücke, das Tor.
Es schauen wom Wappenschilde
Die Löwen so traulich mich an,
Ich grüsse die alten Bekannten
Und eile den Burghof hinan.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
So stehst du, o Schloß meiner Väter,
Mir treu and fest in dem Sinn,
Und bist von der Erde verschwunden,
Der Pflug nun über dich führt.
Back to physics! The problem of the existence of antiparticles arose in 1928 with Dirac's relativistic theory of the electron. This theory gave solutions that corresponded to a then-unknown stable particle of the same mass and spin, but opposite charge and magnetic moment, in other words a positive electron. This particle was called the antiparticle of the electron, or positron. At the time of Dirac's prediction, the positron was unknown, and its absence was considered a serious flaw in Dirac's theory. Dirac, as a last resort, tried to identify the positive electron with the proton, but this proved untenable.
Things changed radically with C. D. Anderson's discovery of the positron in cosmic rays in 1932. (The prediction of the positron is one of the triumphs of Dirac's theory.) The notion of antiparticles was generalized into the postulate that every particle has its own antiparticle. In the case of neutral particles, particle and antiparticle may coincide.
The extension of Dirac's theory predicting antiprotons was very plausible, but not certain. Furthermore, most physicists were surprised when, around 1931, Otto Stern measured the magnetic moment of the proton and found it to be very different from the naive theoretical expectation based on a literal extrapolation of Dirac's theory. This result suggested caution in generalizing from Dirac's theory. Even in 1955 at least one distinguished physicist had bet money against the existence of antinucleons. For many years, experimental physicists had looked for antiprotons in cosmic rays, with inconclusive results. Among others, Bruno Rossi and his collaborators, using a cloud chamber, and Edoardo Amaldi and collaborators, using photographic emulsions, had observed particles in cosmic rays that may have been antiprotons. Their observations were not, however, sufficient to establish the particle.
In planning the bevatron, Lawrence and the Rad Lab physicists had consciously chosen as a goal an energy of 6 GeV, slightly above the threshold for the formation of nucleon-antinucleon pairs from a proton colliding with a nucleon at rest. In 1955 the bevatron reached this design energy and thus afforded the opportunity of proving the existence of the antiproton unequivocally, and we wanted to settle the question once and for all.
Several Berkeley groups started the hunt. My group had for some time studied the problem and prepared for it. I decided to attack the problem in two ways. One was based on the determination of the charge and mass of the particle. The other concentrated on the observation of the phenomena attendant on the annihilation of a stopping antiproton. The stopping antiproton and a proton of the target should mutually annihilate each other, and the rest mass of the two particles should transform itself in one of many possible ways into other particles such as pions. These would leave tracks in a photographic emulsion and the annihilation would thus become evident.
For the first attack, Chamberlain, Wiegand, Ypsilantis, and I designed and built a mass spectrograph with several technically new features. For the second attack, Getson Goldhaber, who was then in my group, exposed photographic emulsions in a beam enriched in antiprotons by our apparatus. Many other people were involved in the enterprise, and we had agreements on how to publish the results and give appropriate credit to everyone. The proper working of the bevatron under Edward Lofgren was of paramount importance. We were in competition with physicists of other groups trying to detect antiprotons at the same time, but this did not prevent frequent mutual help.
We started the run on August 25, 1955, and after a few days of tuning up, we began observing antiproton signals. We based the identification on measurement of the velocity, momentum, and charge of a particle. The signals for velocity were oscilloscope traces recording the passage of a particle through a velocity-selecting Cerenkov detector, corroborated by a measurement of the same particle's time of flight between two detectors. The trajectory followed by the particles gave their momentum and the sign of their charge. Velocity and momentum deter-
mined the mass of the particles and this, combined with the sign of their charge, identified them as antiprotons. We also checked, among other things, that protons below the threshold energy did not produce our signals.
We detected about one antiproton for every few hundred thousand other particles crossing our apparatus, and the good signals arrived with a frequency of a few per hour. Naturally there was considerable enthusiasm in the laboratory, and many people came to see our progress. So as to be able to work undisturbed, we wrote up a bulletin of our results on a blackboard. In the meantime, we had to think about writing a paper and there were also delicate questions of the order of names and formulation of the text to consider. We decided to write a letter to the Physical Review and an article for Nature , to which I had written every time I had something important to say, or at least something I thought was important. We listed the authors in alphabetical order, as we had done in most of our many common papers before. Some original pieces of the apparatus, such as the Cerenkov velocity selector, were later described in greater detail by Chamberlain and Wiegand.
I had no doubt that antiproton was the right name for the new particle. Lawrence preferred negative proton, but he did not insist. The massspectrograph experiment concluded on October 1, 1955, having proved the existence of the antiproton, and soon thereafter the emulsion work confirmed it.
At that time the physicist Oreste Piccioni wrote a scathing letter to Lawrence accusing us, and me in particular, of several misdeeds. Lawrence looked into Piccioni's accusations and dismissed them. Piccioni had made some good suggestions during the planning of the experiment, and these were duly and repeatedly acknowledged in publication. This was his pretext for starting a legal action against Chamberlain and me eighteen years later, in 1972, in which he maintained that we had stolen his ideas. The complaint went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, but all the courts, from the Alameda superior court to the Supreme Court, refused to hear the case, because the statute of limitations had run its course.
One day when I was complaining about the aggravation caused to
me by Piccioni, a famous physicist who was an old colleague of his kept exclaiming, "Poor Oreste! Poor Oreste!" I resented this and demanded, "Why poor Oreste and not poor Emilio?" To which he promptly answered: "No; poor Oreste and not poor Emilio, because Oreste is crazy, and you are not!"
At the time of the antiproton experiment, Amaldi and his wife Ginestra were at our home in Lafayette as our guests. He and I established a collaboration for the study of photographic emulsions exposed at Berkeley, taking advantage of the numerous well-trained scanners available in Rome. When Amaldi returned to Italy, some Italian newspapers wrote inappropriate comments and tried to ascribe to him a part he had not played. This misreporting could have had unpleasant consequences, but Amaldi set things straight and we kept calm. The experiment was widely acclaimed and soon we, and Lawrence, started receiving numerous compliments on it. Lawrence politely answered those addressed to him with a form letter saying that he had passed the congratulations to Chamberlain, Segrè, Wiegand, and Ypsilantis, the people directly involved. Shortly afterward, another group in the lab, including Piccioni, observed the antineutron, obtaining it by charge exchange from the antiproton.
Once we had discovered the antiproton, we obviously wanted to know the properties of our particle and build on our initial success. Some "battleship experiments," such as cross-section measurements, were possible, and we performed them, but our antiproton source was weak and it was soon surpassed by other accelerators that were coming on stream. With our means we could not do much more than what we had already achieved. However, in collaboration with Wilson Powell's group, which had a propane bubble chamber, we obtained some good pictures of antineutrons obtained from antiprotons by charge exchange, and using photographic emulsions we started developing statistical information on the annihilation process. In the meantime, Alvarez's group had developed the hydrogen bubble chamber, and I proposed a collaboration, but he felt we did not have an adequate contribution to offer and demurred. Soon the Alvarez group, using their hydrogen bubble chamber, started obtaining capital results. Bogdan
Maglic, a Yugoslavian postdoctoral fellow, pioneered in detecting the first resonance between annihilation pions, and this was the curtain raiser for a whole series of brilliant investigations. By now (1986) there are accelerators forming beams of antiprotons and using protonantiproton collisions in great storage rings. This is a measure of the pace of progress in particle physics.
Theoreticians had speculated on the rho and omega mesons, and members of my group tried to see them experimentally with a big new instrument, planned and developed chiefly by Ypsilantis and Wiegand, which we called the "fly eye" because it contained many scintillators that formed a sort of big compound eye. The technique was state of the art, and this work contributed, in a small way, to the discovery of the rho meson.
In 1955 the discovery of the antiproton reopened the possibility of my winning a Nobel Prize. After the war I had started thinking that my work on the new chemical elements and on radiochemistry might bring me that distinction. I saw Seaborg's efforts at getting it on similar grounds, but I did not know how to stake my claim. I hoped that the Nobel Committee would somehow split the award. A poll among members of the Chicago section of the American Chemical Society in 1947 had chosen me as one of the ten best radiochemists in the United States. Lawrence, too, as I found out many years later, considered me a good candidate. "Contrari ai voti poi furo i successi" (Events turned out contrary to hopes; Ariosto, Orlando furioso 1.9.5); while I was at a cocktail party at Donald Kerst's house in Urbana in October 1951, I heard that the Nobel Prize for chemistry had been given to McMillan and Seaborg "for their discoveries in the chemistry of transuranium elements." I was deeply disappointed.
During the summer of 1954, I met Hevesy in Brazil. We were friends and I could speak freely to him. Thanks to his Swedish connections, he knew many of the secrets of the Nobel Committee, and he told me that I had not been specifically nominated in the year 1951, which had automatically eliminated me. He advised me to try to interest Fermi. I
did not do so because I knew perfectly well that Fermi could not be influenced in matters such as competitions and awards.
However, a few years later, after Fermi's death, his widow, Laura, asked me to look at her husband's papers before she gave them to the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago. In so doing, I found out, to my surprise, that both Fermi and James Franck had proposed me repeatedly for the Nobel Prize in chemistry. I saw also that Fermi had proposed, in physics, Maria Mayer, Hans Jensen, and Wolfgang Panofsky. His spontaneous proposal deeply moved me, for the same reasons that had prevented me from asking for his support. Nomination by him was, for me, almost as important as getting the prize. Much later I had the opportunity to tell Mayer, Jensen, and Panofsky that they had been nominated by Fermi, and all three had the same reaction. Of them, Mayer and Jensen had had the prize. Panofsky had not.
The discovery of the antiproton had some unpleasant consequences for the structure of my group and for relations between its members. Owen and Clyde, who were charter members of the group, developed most of the electronic detectors and counters of different kinds. Getson Goldhaber, the group's expert on photographic emulsions, was recruited by me in the early 1950s at Columbia University, where he had studied with Gilberto Bernardini.
After the discovery of the antiproton and connected publicity, the moods of Owen and of Clyde separately darkened. Owen wanted to be more independent than he already was, which was hardly possible. He wanted to have his own group, but our group was so small that I felt further splitting would seriously impair its efficiency. Owen was then invited to go to Harvard, where he spent a period as a Loeb Professor; on his return, he started a small separate group. Clyde, too, wanted to go it alone, and above all to work independently of me and of Owen. Perhaps he wanted to show his personal prowess, although his ability was widely recognized, above all by me and by his other colleagues in the group. It is possible that even Ypsilantis had similar wishes, but being younger, at the beginning of his career, and of a sunny disposition, he was less affected.
In my opinion, the strength of our group came from the combination of different talents. Nobody could dominate by his obvious and disproportionate superiority, as had been the case with the various groups led by Fermi. As things were, I firmly believed that fragmentation or dissolution of our group would damage us all and impair our scientific output. No one else among us had Owen's critical mind, Clyde's technical ability, Tom's enthusiasm and optimism, and so on. Nor did I think that my contribution was as negligible as it perhaps then appeared to Owen and Clyde. One element of discomfort was the fact that both had been my students and co-workers for over fifteen years; the problems to some extent resembled those that arise between fathers and sons.
I thought that for me the best course was to give broad autonomy to the younger members of the team and try to aid their personal initiatives as much as possible. Some of these initiatives went well, some were less successful. Our group was too small to compete with the much larger groups then entering the field of particle physics, but to enlarge it greatly did not suit my modus operandi.
A few years after we received the Nobel Prize and Owen seceded from the group, he changed his mind and, to my great joy, rejoined us. I expected that, being fifteen years younger than I was, he would in time succeed me as head of the group, with Ypsilantis as second in command. This happened for Owen, but unfortunately Tom left Berkeley before he was offered the opportunity.
Of the experiments we did after the discovery of the antiproton, I have already mentioned the one on the rho meson. Others, such as the pion beta-decay experiment, were successful, but took much time, above all because the authors, in our tradition, properly insisted on measurements of superior quality. Much later Clyde Wiegand continued excellent experiments on mesic atoms on a small scale with a few students.
A few months after the antiproton work, in the spring of 1956, I unexpectedly received a telegram from the secretary of the Soviet Academy of Sciences inviting me to an international science conference
soon to be held at Moscow. A few hours later, a similar telegram reached Owen Chamberlain. Lawrence, whom I consulted, objected to our going, mainly for political reasons. I thought otherwise and decided to accept the invitation, but I had to maneuver a little to avoid a direct clash with Lawrence. Our invitation was perhaps the first to come from the Soviet Union, and it arrived at a time when scientists, especially those who had been at Los Alamos, were considered privy to "atomic secrets," and when very few Americans had visited the Soviet Union. After a few days, invitations also arrived for McMillan, Alvarez, Panofsky, and others, so that it became difficult for Lawrence to thwart so many people eager to go.
The trip to the Soviet Union lasted about six weeks, and besides Moscow and Leningrad, we also went to Armenia. It was some time after the famous Khrushchev speech revealing Stalin's crimes. The Russians did not know its text, but large excerpts of it had appeared in the Western press, and our hosts asked us about it. My impressions of Russia are too superficial to be of value. We were obviously favored guests—witness our advantages, such as tickets to superb ballet shows, our priority in visiting the Kremlin, and similar privileges. To everybody's surprise, including mine, I even succeeded in obtaining payment from the Bureau of Foreign Translations for the translation of the first volume of Experimental Nuclear Physics, which I had edited. When I asked for royalties or compensation, adding that I would appreciate payment in U.S. dollars, the Russian bureaucrats were nonplussed, and answered that they would ask their superiors, and that I should return in a couple of days. When I returned, the answer was that the superiors had to ask still higher authorities and that I should return in a couple of days. I doubted anything would come of it. However, after three days, when I returned to inquire, I was told that the request had been granted and that I would receive the money in New York. I could scarcely believe my ears.
On this trip I saw Bruno Pontecorvo again for the first time since his defection. He was so little Russified that at the conference the Russians present told him to speak English, because they had difficulties
in understanding his Russian. Some of his colleagues treated him as a "Party zealot."
The person that impressed me most among the scientists I met was Igor Tamm, who subsequently shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1958. I immediately liked this cultivated and refined gentleman's warm personality. He was also obviously a courageous person who, although he dearly loved his country, did not hesitate to help it by saying what he thought true and fair. L. D. Landau seemed to me very arrogant; he reminded me of Oppenheimer, although of greater ability as a physicist. I also saw Peter Kapitza, whom I had known at Cambridge in 1934, as well as his son, whom I had then seen in a cradle, but who now looked like his father twenty-two years earlier. Among other able physicists, I met the Alikanian brothers, Pavel Cherenkov, J. A. Smorodinsky, D. D. Ivanenko, I. P. Nikotin, Nikolai Bogoliubov, and Vladimir Veksler for the first time. The small fry were scared to mention even the most innocent subjects. When I asked a young chemist working on technetium what he was doing, he answered evasively and referred me to his superiors; when I pressed him to say what he had in a test tube he was holding, he said disconcertedly that he did not know! Furthermore, in the laboratories, I noted doors sealed with wax seals, as if there were great secrets behind them.
Later we flew to Armenia; during the flight we passed over the Turkish-Russian border, where one could see an abundance of military airfields. I asked for permission to take pictures, and the guide who accompanied us assented freely. I was surprised, but took the photos. Years later I came to think this may have been foolhardy on my part.
In Armenia we climbed to a high altitude observatory. A snowstorm trapped us inside the observatory, and the Armenians, feeling at home, started freely expressing thoughts that at sea level and among Russians would have been dangerous. I also saw ancient churches and monasteries, in one of which an old priest took me aside and bitterly complained to me in French about the negligence of the authorities, who did not provide the necessary funds for the preservation of the monuments of the past.
I returned twice to Russia, the last time for the centenary of Mendeleyev's table of the elements in 1969. In 1957, some of the Russian scientists we met returned our visit by coming to Berkeley, and I invited them to our home. On the way there, as luck would have it, we had a blowout, the only time this had happened to me in thirty years. The Russians were amused by this failure of American technology and chuckled freely, but fortunately a colleague of mine, the physicist Herbert Steiner, was in the car. As a student, he had worked in a gas station and he showed the Soviet visitors the speed with which one changed a tire in the United States. The guests were impressed. Unfortunately, the Russians permitted by their authorities to visit us were few, always the same, and often not those we were most eager to see.
In 1957 Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang proposed the nonconservation of parity in weak interactions. Very crudely, the nonconservation of parity means the following: if one performs an arbitrary experiment—for instance, if one observes the disturbance of a magnetic needle by an electric current—and one looks at the experiment or at its image in a perfect mirror, and there is no way of telling which is which, parity is conserved; on the other hand, if it is possible to tell apart object and image, parity is not conserved. In all experiments performed up to 1957, parity seemed to be conserved.
In the same year, the tau and theta meson decays (now they are both called K mesons) showed a peculiarity. The particles have the same lifetime and the same mass but decay in final states of different parity. Lee and Yang suggested that they were one particle with two different modes of decay. There are many examples of dual decay, but the difficulty in this specific case was that the decay to two states of different parity necessitates a parity change in the decay. This had never been seen in electromagnetic or strong decays but had not been ruled out experimentally in decays by weak interaction.
Lee and Yang pointed this out. Chien-Shiung Wu and her colleagues at the National Bureau of Standards showed, in a case of beta decay, that the Lee-Yang hypothesis was correct: parity was not conserved. Within a few days this surprising result was extended to muon decay
by Richard Garwin, Leon Lederman, and Gabriel Weinrich at Columbia University, and it turned out that Valentin Telegdi at the University of Chicago had previously had indications of the same phenomenon. The sensational discovery removed an old and firmly established prejudice and opened new horizons to the theory of weak interactions. Everybody rushed to work on the subject, with an eagerness reminding me of that following the discovery of fission in 1939, or of hightemperature superconductivity in recent years. Fermi may have had some thoughts on the subject; he had occasionally cryptically remarked to me that nobody had ever inverted space (like a glove), transforming a left hand into a right one, but he left no written document of what he had in mind. I was deeply interested in the discovery of parity nonconservation and tried to read and understand the new papers on the subject that flooded the literature. Less agreeably, from a narrow and selfish point of view, I realized at once that the new discovery postponed the possibility of my winning the Nobel Prize; I was sure Lee and Yang would have priority. Tough luck, but there was nothing I could do.
In October came the announcement of the awarding of the Nobel Prize in physics to Lee and Yang. Nobody was surprised; it was an almost perfect opportunity to follow literally the wishes of Alfred Nobel as expressed in his will. I was curious whether the sages of Stockholm would also include C. S. Wu, but they did not. Many years later I was pleased when she won the important Wolf Prize.
In July 1958 I went to Geneva for an international scientific conference at CERN. At the same time there was a disarmament conference between United States and the USSR. Lawrence and Panofsky were among the American experts; Igor Tamm, whom I had come to know in Moscow, among the Russians. I met Tamm on the street and, knowing that we both liked hiking, I suggested we hike Mount Saleve, in France. He answered that he could not because he did not have his passport. Foolishly thinking that he had simply left it at his hotel, I said, "Let us go and fetch it." Tamm then explained to me that he did not have his passport because on his arrival the Soviet consul had impounded it. I blushed at my lack of tact in asking, and I am still amazed at a country that would take away the passport of one of its important
delegates at an international conference, and that of a man of Tamm's stature.
I saw Lawrence only in passing. While he was in Geneva he had a serious recurrence of a colitis that had long afflicted him. He returned to Berkeley and went to Stanford University Hospital. I was worried by his condition and looked in a medical manual for information about his illness. I found that it is an insidious disease with acute periods alternating with remissions. The patient used to this cycle may delay an operation too long, until it becomes dangerous. I had read this when I heard the sad announcement of Lawrence's death on August 27, 1958, in circumstances similar to those described in the manual.
Lawrence was an intense, impulsive, optimistic, and very active individual, more a doer than a thinker, and a born leader of men. He was full of contradictions, which made him unpredictable. His personality was fundamentally generous and magnanimous, but he could occasionally be petty. His optimism and enthusiasm, basic ingredients to his success, led him sometimes beyond where he should have gone as a scientist. He enjoyed life to the full and drew great satisfaction from his scientific successes and those of his associates, but he also pursued childish ambitions of consorting with rich and powerful people. His political activity, the dark side of his life, is scarcely known to me. In his youth he started as a liberal in the midwestern tradition of Robert La Follette, as one might expect given his family origins; but he ended as a reactionary. I personally am grateful to him for the help and the opportunities he gave me.
At the beginning of 1957, Seaborg told me that he thought Lawrence's nomination would he indispensable for the awarding of the Nobel Prize to anyone working in the Rad Lab. I said that I would not speak to Lawrence on this subject, but that if he, Seaborg, would do it, I would be grateful. A few weeks later, Lawrence's secretary, without a word, showed me, on Lawrence's orders, a letter from Stockholm acknowledging receipt of my nomination by Lawrence. No word on the subject passed between us.
Also in 1958, I was given the Hofmann medal of the German Chemical Society. At first I was uncertain whether or not to accept it, given
recent German history, but I decided, I believe correctly, to do so. It was a high distinction, and I liked being recognized by chemists. I went to Wiesbaden at the end of September 1958 to receive the medal at the meeting of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte. It is a big affair, with scientists of all specialties and also philosophers. I spoke, in German, on a subject I was interested in—that is, on systems similar to atoms, but constituted of particles different from electrons and ordinary nuclei, something on the borderline between spectroscopy and chemistry. At Wiesbaden I found Otto Hahn, with whom I renewed an old friendship. We sat next to each other in the front row at a conference addressed by the philosopher Karl Jaspers, who had attracted a huge crowd. The speaker was rather theatrical and, I thought, tried to look like the old Goethe, but I did not have the impression he said much. Hahn had fallen asleep, but at a certain point Jaspers started attacking science and scientists. Exactly at that moment, Hahn woke up, turned to me, and said: "By scientists, he means you and me."
The death of Lawrence necessitated the appointment of a new director for the Radiation Laboratory. The obvious choice was Edwin McMillan. He belonged to Lawrence's old guard, he was an eminent physicist who had greatly contributed to the laboratory's success, he was a distinguished accelerator's expert, and he was well liked by most of the personnel. He lacked Lawrence's charisma, but that could hardly be duplicated.
Under McMillan, the laboratory changed its name, becoming the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL), while the laboratory in Livermore became the Livermore Lawrence Laboratory (LLL). The administration became less capricious than it had been under the creator of the lab, but also less enthusiastic and more bureaucratic. McMillan's assignment was tough. The unavoidable comparisons with his predecessor and the implacable personal hostility of Alvarez, who antagonized him constantly, added to the difficulties.
I spent a good part of 1958 in Rome as a Guggenheim Fellow. In applying for the fellowship, I gave Franco Rasetti as one of my references; a couple of weeks later, I received a letter from the Foundation asking me for a letter of recommendation for Rasetti, who had also
applied and had given my name as a reference. The accident was comic, but also embarrassing, and I wrote to the Foundation explaining our predicament and innocence of collusion in the matter. We both received fellowships, and later I served for many years as a consultant to the Foundation.
I devoted the time of my fellowship to the preparation of the two volumes of Fermi's collected papers. Since he had died at such an unfortunately early age, there still were many witnesses who were able to write valid historical introductions to individual papers. I took responsibility for the organization of this work. I felt an obligation, having been close to Fermi in Italy as well as in America, and I remembered, without wanting to make ridiculous comparisons, that Maxwell had edited Cavendish's collected papers and Marie Curie those of her husband. The job required considerable time and effort even with the help of other members of the editorial committee; Amaldi, Anderson, Persico, Rasetti, and Wattenberg carried a substantial part of the load, as did several outsiders. The biographical introduction I wrote for Fermi's collected papers served me as the basis for his biography, which I published ten years later.
On January 19, 1959, the University of Palermo gave me an honorary degree, which I highly appreciated. On the occasion I visited Palermo for the first time since the war. The city had greatly deteriorated and the elegant surroundings of our house at the beginning of Viale della Libertà had badly decayed. I saw again the Istituto fisico in Via Archirafi and several of my old Sicilian friends. After our stay in Palermo, we toured Sicily once more and visited Syracuse, which we did not yet know.
A little later, in February, I had to go to Scandinavia. I was invited to visit Bohr's Institute in Copenhagen, and to Stockholm and Oslo to lecture for Nordira, an association of Scandinavian universities. I was thus able to see Bohr again, as well as the two Siegbahns, father and son, Oskar Klein and other colleagues. I had a friendly reception everywhere, and I suspected that I had not been invited solely to show me the wintery attractions of Scandinavia.
On my way back I stopped at Hamburg, where I lectured on February
16, 1959, on the invitation of W. Jentschke, a physicist I had befriended in Urbana in 1952 and who later became director of CERN. I spoke at the old Stern Institute, where I had worked about thirty years earlier. In the audience were some professors who had been Stern's assistants; I knew they had become zealous Nazis under Hitler and avoided them.
By chance I had read a newspaper advertisement placed by a detective who specialized in locating people. Out of curiosity, I wrote to him a few days before my arrival in Hamburg, asking him to find my old girlfriend, "I." All I had to go by were her maiden name and her address in the 1930s, but for a very modest fee the detective supplied me with her married name, address, and telephone number, as well as a description of her husband, his profession, and their financial and family situation. Immediately after the detective left my Hamburg hotel, I called her number. She answered herself, and I did not have the impression she was excessively surprised. We made an appointment to see each other the next day, and when we met we spoke about some of the past and little of the present. She did not believe in the reality of the Nazi crimes, which, in an intelligent person, astounded me. The denial can be only explained by the terrible difficulty of facing the facts. She had two daughters, whom I did not see. A few years later they sent me a printed announcement of the death of their mother.
On my return to Italy, in March 1959, I attended an award ceremony for old employees of SCT, my father's paper mill, and I was asked to confer the medals. I deeply appreciated being chosen for this as the representative of the family.
When I returned to Berkeley, the date for the announcement of the Nobel prizes was approaching and some Swedish journalists called me from New York asking for biographical details. I was high in the balloting of the awarding committee, they said. That year, contrary to all precedents, the Nobel committee had leaked information to the press about a week before the final vote. Thus they kept me, and other hopefuls who had been named, on tenterhooks for a week. Finally, on October 26, I heard the announcement on the radio, and shortly thereafter I received an official telegram. Needless to say, before the announcement I did not know if and how a prize given for the antiproton
would be divided between Chamberlain, myself, Wiegand, and Ypsilantis, since the paper reporting the discovery had been signed by all four of us in alphabetical order. The Swedish Academy of Sciences decided to award the prize to Chamberlain and myself. Chamberlain was at Harvard at the time, and he telephoned me to plan the speeches we would give at Stockholm. I left the choice to him, and he asked to speak about the technique followed in revealing the antiproton, leaving to me the consequences of the discovery. I willingly agreed.
The trip to Stockholm was more or less the same as that of all other laureates, very interesting and satisfactory. The three children accompanied us. Amelia had caught poison oak a few days earlier, and her face was badly swollen. I told her that if she did not scratch herself, she would most likely recover before the time of the ceremonies. So it was. I always admired the willpower of the little lady.
Following tradition, I gave a short speech of thanks on behalf of all the laureates at the royal banquet that celebrated the awarding of the prizes. As I have observed elsewhere, I had borrowed my friend Ancona's tailcoat for the occasion. I had also obtained a white waistcoat that had been used by several Berkeley Nobel Prize winners from McMillan, who asked me to sign it. One of its wearers even told the king of Sweden the story, saying: "Sir, please look carefully at this waistcoat. You have seen it repeatedly." At the royal dinner I had a most interesting conversation with the king, who knew Italy very well indeed.
Later in the evening, at the students' dance, I had to give a second speech. Here is what I said:
Students, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Although we have a poet in our midst [Salvatore Quasimodo], who would be far more eloquent than I can be, I have been chosen to answer your gracious and heartfelt greeting, and I will do my best.
We Nobel laureates, although we work in widely diverse fields, share at least one thing in common: we spend a good part of our life teaching and working with students and young people like you, the new generation on which the future depends. Usually we are before you to discuss our special fields of interest. Tonight we may well speak to you in broader terms.
It has almost become a custom to tell animal fables on this occasion. Two years ago perhaps you heard a wise Oriental one from my friends Lee and Yang. I do not know the origin of the one I am going to tell you. Perhaps it is Swedish, and so you may already have heard it. The person who taught it to me was an old Quaker lady from Pennsylvania [Lorenzo Emo's grandmother].
Two frogs were leaping and frolicking in a meadow when they spied a strange object. Being curious, they decided to investigate it, and the way frogs investigate things is by jumping into them.
In this particular object they found themselves very much at home, because it was a pail full of milk. For a time they had a splendid time swimming about. Then they felt tired and began to seek solid ground, because, as you know, frogs cannot live indefinitely in a liquid.
Much to their consternation they found that there was no island in this pond of milk. Panic-stricken, they tried to jump out of the pail, but the walls were too high and too slick and they fell back. Again they jumped and fell back, and then again and again. The situation became more and more desperate.
At last one of the frogs gave up. The walls were far too high, the surfaces far too smooth to climb up, he reasoned. Clearly there was no hope. He fell back and drowned.
The other frog, perhaps a little less intelligent, but far more stubborn and persistent, continued jumping. Over and over he leaped up and fell back. He was at the point of complete exhaustion and nearly resigned to joining his fellow.
And then he felt something firm and hard under his legs. A little island of butter was forming. With a few more jumps, he churned an island that was big enough so that he could rest and then jump out of the pail, and so he was saved.
I leave the moral to you, but it must be a powerful one because I still remember the old Quaker lady of Pennsylvania telling me the story in 1940, during the darkest days of the war.
I always liked the story, which I fancied reminiscent of my own experience. On this occasion my audience bestowed on me the "Order of the always smiling and jumping little frog."
I had time to see Oskar Klein and Lise Meitner (by then rather aged) in Stockholm. I also went to Uppsala to Kai Siegbahn's institute to give a lecture, but I had to hurry to Rome for SCT business.
I have always regretted that neither my parents, my uncle Claudio,
Corbino, nor Fermi were able to see me getting the prize. My parents' satisfaction would very likely have exceeded my own. I can hardly imagine that of Uncle Claudio, who gave me a pair of gold cufflinks simply because I had received a superior grade in a mechanics exam. By now I had all the public recognition I could hope for; self-esteem is something else. I believe I never got a swollen head. That there is no honor that can affect my accomplishments is a hard fact I have always kept in mind.
The reason for the prestige of the Nobel Prize for physics is that, all told, it has been given well. This does not mean that there have not been some lucky mediocrities who have received it and some eminent deserving scientists who have been passed over. For the former, it was a stroke of luck; for the latter, apart from worldly disappointment, it is unimportant. Persons such as Einstein, Planck, Rutherford, and Bohr have given the award its prestige. If one or more of them had not received it, the loss would have been entirely to the prestige of the prize, not to them. Considering all the laureates, one can divide them into three groups: one group has given prestige to the prize, one has been exalted by it, and one has more or less broken even.
In the nominations for Nobel Prizes or other important awards, the decision is easy when there are truly extraordinary candidates, but even there, the diversity of the fields in physics may make some choices difficult, and I have found that there have been some glaring omissions, such as that of G. E. Uhlenbeck and S. A. Goudsmit, who discovered the electron spin.
The monetary value of the prize was initially very substantial, corresponding to about fifteen times the yearly salary of a distinguished professor. In 1959 it amounted to $21,184 for each of us, and my net annual salary at the time was about $13,000. Of course, the prize also provides many less tangible advantages: invitations, prestige among one's colleagues, the chance to be on various committees, numerous opportunities to serve as an ornamental plant, and even some minor monetary advantages. At Berkeley, in recent years, one is even given a private parking place on campus!
There are also drawbacks: one automatically becomes an oracle on
every topic, and one is subject to distractions from work and difficulties with jealous colleagues or collaborators. Above all, sensible persons, which Nobel Prize winners usually are, know that what counts is their work.
"Emilio, you could take all your work and exchange it for one paper of Dirac's and you would gain substantially in the trade," Fermi once said to me. I knew this to be true, of course, but I answered: "I agree, but you could likewise trade yours for one of Einstein's and come out ahead." After a short pause, Fermi assented. I know of scientists who cannot resign themselves to being inferior to contemporaries, with dire consequences for their personalities and happiness.
Finally, being a celebrity may give rise to amusing episodes. For example, at the time of the discovery of the antiproton, I happened to read an article in the New Yorker in which Salvador Dali said he had abandoned Freud, and that his "father" was now Heisenberg and his credo the uncertainty principle. In particular, he had painted or was about to paint an antiprotonic madonna. I then wrote to him and sent him some beautiful pictures of antiproton stars in photographic emulsions, saying that I was curious as to how he visualized antiprotons. He did not answer. Shortly after receiving the Nobel Prize, I was in New York at Robert Serber's house at a cocktail party with several physicist friends. During the party George Placzek and I modeled a mink cape I had bought for Elfriede, with everybody laughing merrily. In this joking mood I said I would look up Dali and see him before leaving New York. Everybody laughed at the idea, but the next day I found Dali's address and telephoned him at the hotel where he lived, explaining who I was and reminding him of the photos I had sent to him.
He was most friendly and invited me to come to see him at 8:30 that evening. Given the time, I thought this was after dinner, and I ate before going to the appointment. I called him from the lobby of his hotel, and he came down very shortly. I had started having doubts about what would happen next and thought that perhaps he might want to amaze me in some way or other. I therefore hid behind a column from where I would be able to see him immediately, but he would have to look for me for a few seconds at least. I counted on this interval to
prepare myself in case he had something up his sleeve. Indeed, he arrived with his moustache stiffly pointing upward, a thin cane, and strange attire that seemed a caricature. I looked at him from my hiding place for a fraction of a minute and then greeted him in the most natural way, without showing the slightest surprise. "What language shall we speak?" he asked. "Any," I replied, as if I knew them all. By now we were competing in one-upmanship. We settled on French, mixed with much English. It turned out that Dali, who was accompanied by his attractive and interesting wife Gala (whose history I did not know), intended to invite me to dinner. I did not say I had already eaten but ate once more, lightly. After a while, it must have been apparent that the competition in one-upmanship was a draw, and the game subsided.
Dali explained to me that he was truly interested in modern physics and that he had read several articles in the Scientific American , which was obvious from the way he spoke of quanta, the uncertainty principle, antimatter, and so on. All these ideas had, however, suffered a sea change in his mind that I could not grasp, but that was obviously sincere and interesting. His paintings of soft watches bending and dripping as if they were cheese had hidden physical and psychic meaning for him. He explained to me that the madonna he had painted was "antiprotonic" because only the annihilation of matter could give sufficient force to propel a woman to heaven. As he spoke I became convinced that he had a way of seeing the world different from that of a scientist, certainly more subjective, but also valid in its own terms. We then passed to artistic technique. He said he painted many hours a day, slowly and with extreme care. "If you look at my paintings with a magnifying glass, you will discover many things, because I often paint using a magnifying glass, and details are almost invisible without it." I hoped that he might give me a drawing in exchange for what I had sent him, but instead he sent me a book of reproductions of his work with a dedication. I regretted not having read the book before our meeting; it also contained the whole history of his wife Gala. She had listened to our lively conversation, speaking only rarely, mostly helping us when we searched for words, but I saw she was his constant model and obviously in many ways an inspiration.
In March 1960 I gave the Faculty Research Lecture at Berkeley, for which I had been selected before receiving the Nobel Prize. This lecture is a high local honor conferred on members of the Berkeley faculty by their colleagues. Following the lecture, I was on the selection committee for ten years or so, and there, contrary to what had happened on other Berkeley committees, I saw a certain spirit of partisanship based on disciplines. Ultimately, on Alvarez's suggestion, the Berkeley Academic Senate resolved to appoint two faculty research lecturers yearly, one for the humanities and one for science.
The year 1960 was saddened by several tragedies. On April 23, Cornelius Bakker perished in an airplane accident. We had been friends since 1930, when we collaborated in Zeeman's laboratory. After the war Bakker had visited me in Berkeley, and we had even conducted a small investigation together. He had later become the director general of CERN, and I had visited him at Geneva. Amaldi and Bernardini thought of nominating me as his successor at CERN. I was somewhat surprised, but I agreed to stand for the appointment. The CERN directorship would have given me a new activity that at my age and at that phase of my career appealed to me. However, the nomination was received coolly and a campaign for another person was immediately started; I then withdrew my candidature.
A few months later an unexpected blow struck us. Our dear friend Francis Jenkins, who had helped us so much in difficult times, and to whom we were very close, fell incurably ill and died. During the summer, Elfriede and the children had gone on a tour of New Mexico, revisiting Los Alamos. I did not leave Berkeley because I knew of Jenkins's condition and wanted to be on hand in case I could in any way be of help. I wrote a deeply felt obituary and spoke at his memorial service. In 1967 his wife, Henriette, also died, to our deep sorrow.
In the autumn of 1960, the Rockefeller Foundation invited me to go to Nigeria for that country's independence proclamation, scheduled for October 1. It was a unique opportunity, and Elfriede and I stayed there for about three weeks as guests of Ibadan University. It was my first trip to Africa, and I knew very little about it. I bought light clothes suited to the climate and a pith helmet of the kind once usual in Africa,
but I was told on arrival to suppress this headgear at once, as it was considered a symbol of colonialism. After our first official dinner, with everybody formally dressed in black tie, I was surprised when the ladies retired and the men went to urinate on the host's lawn.
One evening while touring the country, we visited the Oba of Benin, who lived in a big mud palace, together with his court, which included many wives and about fifty children. The anthropologist M. J. Herskovits, who was also in the party, asked the Oba many questions on justice and law in Benin, and how he reconciled them with British law and the religious commandments of the several prevailing faiths. The Oba had been educated in England, spoke the language well, wrote with a modern fountain pen, and had inscribed photographs of several members of the English Royal Family. He complained about his children, who all wanted to go to Eton, an expense he could not afford. As he spoke, some of these children showed up stark naked in the reception hall, only to be promptly dismissed.
After a while the Oba politely hinted that he had enough of the anthropologist's questions and turned to me, saying that he knew I was a physics professor and hoped I could help him to clear up the confusion he felt when they told him the earth was spherical, while old traditions said it was fiat and so it appeared to him. Furthermore, he could not understand how the sun disappeared every day from a certain part of the horizon and reappeared on the opposite side the next morning. I tried as best as I could to explain these mysteries to him, and he then passed to the moon. How far was it? Would the Americans or the Russians arrive there first? On the moon's distance I gave him some information, but I refused to predict who would arrive there first. On my return to Berkeley I bought an illustrated astronomy book for young people for the Oba. I did not want to offend him, however, so I sent it to him with a letter to the effect that I thought it might interest some of the children I had seen at his court.
At the proclamation of independence, the man slated to become the first prime minister of independent Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, made a speech that impressed me greatly for his realism, and
equilibrium. He pointed out grave problems facing the new nation and some of the necessary remedies. Within a few months he was murdered.
In my academic career, I long avoided administrative work. This was easy to do, but I nevertheless ended up shouldering many responsibilities in this field too, especially in later years. As a rule I have accepted assignments if asked to by the university, the government, or some other public institution, but I never strove to join boards, directorates, committees, and so on. Since there are always many people eager to serve in such offices, those who do not show a keen interest in the jobs do not get them.
However, at the University of California at Berkeley I have ended by serving on most of the committees of the Academic Senate. Some were a waste of time, but I remember the Budget Committee, on which I served from 1961 to 1965, as a superior school and as an occasion for really helping. This committee practically controls all academic promotions and appointments. It was then composed of five members indirectly elected by the whole faculty. I was impressed by the dedication and fairness displayed by its members in working on assignments that were often quite delicate. I did not see examples of partisanship or of sloppy procedures, and all the members labored assiduously at their job. It is justly said that this committee has been the source of the quality of the Berkeley campus.
I have occasionally been summoned to Washington by the National Science Foundation or the National Academy of Sciences, or invited to serve on panels of NASA and similar organizations, and I have been a trustee, advisor, member of visiting committees, and so on for several universities. I always conscientiously did my homework and said what I thought. I did not have the impression that I was particularly popular as a member of committees. Maybe I spoke too much and not diplomatically enough. In the Rad Lab, I had few administrative functions, except in the direction of my own group. Our views were too divergent and our personalities too different to make me useful to Lawrence in
the direction of the lab. Indirectly, I carried some weight, but not by reason of any official position.
I was influential in the physics department because the chairmen, on their own, consulted with and listened to me. I was insistently offered the chairmanship, but I did not accept it, because at the time I would have had to sacrifice too much of my scientific work. Later I served as chairman for two years, from 1965 to 1967.
I have also been on selection committees for fellowships. Generally there were excellent candidates, and as regards the first places there was only the predicament of choosing among them. The less worthy were also pretty obvious. The problems arose at the dividing line.
Letters of recommendation always play an important role. On the many occasions when I was asked to write them, I always tried to help the addressee by giving him as much information as I could, good and bad, and trying to put myself in his shoes. I believe one of the results was that my letters carried weight. I once recommended an excellent former student, Fred Noel Spiess, who had done his Ph.D. with me. Lawrence read my letter and reinforced it with one of his own, in which he added the comment: "As you know, Segrè is rather conservative in his statements about people, and his letter, I would say, is a strong recommendation" (which certainly was my intention).
The recipient of a letter of recommendation must know the author to understand the import of the letter. It is said that Einstein was so nice to everybody that his letters ended up being discounted. Fermi was stingy with praise, but precise in his statements. Once he wrote that Richard Garwin had been one of the very best of his students. "One says this of everybody," commented the personnel director of the Rad Lab, to whom the letter was addressed. "But if Fermi says it, it is most important," I replied.
In February 1962, Arthur H. Compton came to Berkeley as a visitor, together with his wife. Besides being a great physicist, Compton was also an appealing human being. He had acted courageously and nobly during the witch-hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, but he had been very cautious with respect to refugee scientists and foreigners in general, seeming worried above all that they would take
positions away from Americans. Now, after the great successes achieved with atomic energy, after his close acquaintance with Fermi, and so much water under the bridge, he was a changed man. We invited him to dinner, and I went to listen to his speeches, which were in the nature of sermons on science and religion. Unfortunately, while still at Berkeley, Compton fell ill and died, without being able to complete his announced series of lectures, although he had given most of them. The Regents refused to pay the honorarium agreed upon, because Compton had not fulfilled his contract. Somebody asked me to fill in and give one or two lectures so that the widow might be paid. I willingly complied.
In 1963 the Accademia dei Lincei asked me for suggestions for the Donegani Lectures, named for the founder of Montecatini, the largest Italian chemical company. I thought that it might be more worthwhile to establish a summer school rather than continue the series of formal, polished orations that the lectures had become. I wanted them to teach something new and practical for the benefit of young Italian chemists and technologists. I discussed this possibility with my friend Dr. Luigi Morandi, vice president of Montecatini.
I suggested that materials science, which was not much studied in Italy, but was flourishing in the United States, might be an appropriate field. The idea was to study the technological properties of materials scientifically, using all the tools of modern physics. Ceramics, modern metallic alloys, semiconductors, and plastics were suitable subjects. Much of the technology had been known for a long time, but in recent years it had been transformed, passing from an empirical to a scientific stage. The fruits of the marriage between science and technical practice are abundant and pervade modern industry.
I outlined a program for a summer school. Although I am not an expert on the subject, I knew to whom to turn for help and advice. When it came to the practical organization, Morandi leaned heavily on his right-hand man, Umberto Colombo, to whom he introduced me, and Colombo and I soon became good friends. Colombo's scientific training was mainly in geochemistry, which he taught at the University
of Genoa, but his interests extended very broadly to economics, applied science, futurology, and science policy. Eventually he became one of the foremost European science administrators. Indirectly I helped him to buy a large country estate near Florence by introducing him to a friend of Emo's who was a real estate broker. I admired the promptness with which Colombo closed the deal; he needed hardly more than a couple of hours.
After 1946 I often taught courses in nuclear physics, as well as in what was then known of particle physics. For this purpose I used Bethe's famous articles, a book by Rasetti based on Fermi's lectures, and Fermi's own remarkable notes. None of these was up to date and wholly suitable for the students, however, and in 1958 I decided to write my own textbook on nuclear and particle physics. The spirit and the aim of this project are given in the preface to Nuclei and Particles, which took five years of intermittent work for its completion. The result was a thick volume, which has been translated into several languages and required a second edition in 1978.
The history of science has always interested me. When I was a boy, my parents gave to me books on the subject by Gaston Tissandier, which were long my favorite reading. Later I read René Vallery-Radot's Vie de Pasteur , which was one of my mother's favorite books. As an active scientist, I also subsequently read books on the history of physics, chemistry, and mathematics. I knew that in our times physics was making colossal strides, and that we were probably living in an exceptional age. I had saved some documents on the subject, especially with regard to the work done in Rome. Unfortunately, the bulk of these papers were lost in a parcel I sent from Italy to Berkeley that went down with the ocean liner Andrea Doria . I never kept a diary, and I regret not having done so, at least during certain periods of my life.
I had professional contact with history of science for the first time in the early 1950s while serving on a committee charged with revitalizing the philosophy department at Berkeley. Among several alternatives, we proposed hiring Thomas S. Kuhn, who later became a noted historian of science and proved to be a happy choice. When the great project
of collecting the sources of quantum theory was started, I helped Kuhn in interviewing Georg von Hevesy and Otto Stern. It was not an easy assignment, and it revealed to me the problems of human memory and of oral history. My own interview in 1967 did not entirely satisfy me when I read the transcript. It seems that it is very difficult to convey one's deep thoughts and feelings in an interview.
Around 1960 I started giving occasional historical lectures. Thus I was Sarton Lecturer at the Tenth International Congress of History of Science at Ithaca, N.Y., where I spoke of the consequences of the discovery of the neutron. Later at Berkeley I prepared a set of lectures on twentieth-century physics, which I repeated many times in different formats. I called these lectures my accordion because I used them like a minstrel, reciting them at various places; moreover, I could extend or contract them according to need, like an accordion. This was the origin of my book From X-Rays to Quarks , which appeared in 1976 and has since been translated, to my knowledge, into Italian, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hebrew.
In 1962 we received a telegram from President John F. Kennedy inviting us to a White House dinner on April 29. He had invited all American Nobel Prize winners and some other notables, such as the poet Robert Frost and the science advisor George Kistiakowsky, whom I knew from Los Alamos. The president and the first lady arrived in an official procession with silver trumpets and alarums. Kennedy greeted everybody and made a nice little speech, saying among other things that there had not been such a concentration of intellects at the White House since the time when Jefferson dined there alone. He then made some appropriate remarks on science and politics, expressing his appreciation for science and intellectual prowess, and finally we had an excellent dinner. I was sitting next to Mrs. Kistiakowsky, as indicated by a card marking her place, and I tried to show off by saying that I remembered her from when she had got married at Los Alamos. (Kistiakowsky had divorced his first wife at Los Alamos and married his secretary.) "Your memory is at fault; that one was number two; I am number three," she answered coolly.
For a long time I had wanted to go around the globe, and in 1962 I
had enough leisure to do so. I contacted the State Department, which often sponsored trips by Nobel Prize winners, offering to give a series of lectures. This proposal was accepted. I was completely free to say whatever I wanted, without any strings attached, except to mention that the U.S. Information Service was sponsoring my speech. The government would buy my ticket, but not Elfriede's, and would pay me a per diem rate for the days on which I lectured. The government auditors were very strict. I still remember a Chinese accountant at a U.S. embassy seriously challenging the amount of a taxi fare from my hotel to a university because it was ten cents higher than the return trip! Our journey lasted from September 17, 1962, to January 27, 1963, but we spent the last month in Italy. We visited Japan, Formosa (now Taiwan), Cambodia, Thailand, India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Nepal, Pakistan, Iran, and Israel. The children were by then old enough to stay home by themselves and have a good time of it.
After having been a few days in Cambodia without reading newspapers, Elfriede and I returned to Bangkok for a lecture. An embassy official met our plane and took me directly to the lecture hall. On the way he told me that the news about Cuba was somewhat better. I did not have any inkling of the Cuban missile crisis, then raging; in the car the official gave me some of the news, and I was flabbergasted. I clearly remember the strange sensation of giving a lecture like an automaton, practically without knowing what I was saying, with my mind turned to what I had heard in the car and concern for the children in Lafayette.
We were also forced to cut short our planned stay in Ceylon because India had gone to war with China and was about to requisition all planes. We were told that if we did not leave at once we would be stuck in Ceylon indefinitely! In India I visited Homi Jehangir Bhabha and several other physicist friends.
I liked the little I saw of Nepal immensely—it reminded me of the Abruzzi in Italy on a much enlarged scale.
On our way to Italy we stopped in Israel. It was my first visit, and we were coming from Third World countries. The last we had visited was Iran, which, in spite of its impressive art and magnificent monu-
ments was still a Third World country. The contrast was striking and fostered my appreciation of Western civilization.
In many countries I had seen the misuse of funds given by the United States; in Israel one had the impression that the money had been well spent and that each dollar had been transformed into something useful.
I hoped to be able to spend some time with Giulio Racah, now president of Jerusalem University, but he had to leave suddenly and unexpectedly for the United States on university business. However, I met another theoretical physicist, Yuval Ne'eman, who tried to persuade me of the importance of the SU3 group in particle physics. I was skeptical, but on my return home I studied the subject and acknowledged my error. Ne'eman asked me to give a talk at Tel Aviv University, of which I subsequently became a "governor" and from which I received an honorary degree in 1972.
My scientific activity was diminishing, both because of my age and also because of the internal situation of my group, already described. In addition to giving my regular courses, I went to the laboratory every day and talked to students and co-workers, following their progress, offering criticism and suggestions, calculating results, or formulating some simple theory, but without personally executing the experiments. Several of them were concerned with mesic atoms of various kinds. The relevant publications were properly authored by Wiegand, who was the principal investigator. Chamberlain at that time was mainly concerned with polarized hydrogen targets and with developing a technique based on a method introduced by Carson D. Jeffries.
The scientific profession belongs to youth; any perusal of scientists' biographies bears testimony to this. It would be too long and out of place here to give the reasons for this fact, which in any case is not too mysterious. Experimentalists last a little longer than theoreticians, but even for them scientific productivity declines at a time when other abilities are still well preserved.
December 16, 1965, marked a fateful turning point for the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. On that day the U.S. government decided on the location of a powerful new accelerator that would serve the whole
nation, to the planning of which the Rad Lab had devoted years of study. Seaborg was by then chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, which should have helped the candidacy of Berkeley, but in all probability the final choice was made by President Lyndon Johnson on the basis of political considerations. The selection favored Illinois and originated the present Fermilab, in the vicinity of Chicago.
The choice was a severe blow to Berkeley, which thus lost a prime reason for its preeminence in physics. It was also a jump in the centralization of high-energy experimental physics, which was now concentrated at three national laboratories: Fermilab, SLAC at Stanford, and Brookhaven, Long Island. The universities formed users' groups that would prepare and analyze experiments carried on in the three major labs. This evolution was unavoidable because of the cost and complexity of the gigantic facilities required, but nonetheless it was traumatic and painful, especially to Berkeley.
From 1965 to 1968 I was one of the trustees of Fermilab (I do not know who suggested the name) and one of the proposers of R. R. Wilson as its first director. I attended its official inauguration in 1974 with Laura Fermi.
In 1966 Elfriede and I paid another visit to South America, which had unexpected long-range consequences, because at Montevideo, in Uruguay, we met Rosa Mines, a friend of the Riminis. She came to their home to meet us and to see whether she could get an affidavit from us to help her immigrate to the United States. I was somewhat reluctant to give it, but Elfriede was favorably impressed by her, and by the strong endorsement she got from Riccardo, and gave her her own personal affidavit of support. Perhaps Elfriede recalled the period when she had left Germany and her own first difficult steps in Italy. Thus, a few months later, Rosa arrived in California, and after a hard beginning, she found a satisfactory position in a bank. She continued to visit Elfriede, but not frequently.
I thus come to 1970, my sixty-fifth year, a year full of events, some happy, some tragic.
I have not written here about the life of my children. It belongs to
them and they are entitled to their privacy. I want however to make a comment. Some of their decisions left me perplexed, and although I am sure I followed my conscience and my best judgment, helped by my greater experience, and in their sole interest, I would prefer not to have influenced their decisions. I believe parents should educate their children in a broad sense, but afterwards it is better to leave them their independence. It is not always easy to follow this policy, and sometimes, as for instance in historical families, it is subject to exceptions. In our case, we followed it, for better or for worse.
In 1967, our son Claudio married Elizabeth Bregman, a student of French he had met through Amelia; they now have three children, Gino, Francesca, and Joel, and live in Austin, Texas, where Claudio teaches history at the university.
Early in 1970, Amelia told us that she planned to marry Joseph Terkel, an Israeli fellow student of animal behavior at Rutgers University. That January she and Joseph came to Lafayette, where they built a canopy of leaves with their own hands for a Jewish wedding, which took place in the presence of a few close friends. Joseph very rapidly endeared himself to Elfriede and me. The Terkels have two children, Amir and Vivian. He is professor of zoology at Tel Aviv University, and Amelia is the curator of Tel Aviv Safari Zoo.
I always greatly loved nature and the outdoors, from the mountains of my youth, to fishing and mushroom-hunting in my old age. One's way of enjoying nature obviously changes with age and physical strength. In the 1960s several raft trips on rivers such as the Rogue in Oregon and the Salmon in Montana introduced us to some aspects of the American wilderness of rare loveliness and romantic appeal.
At the beginning of July 1970, we went with Amelia and her husband and Fausta and her friends on a canoeing trip in the Trinity Alps. We first climbed through a long valley and arrived at a place called the "Stone House," where a colossal granite block created a delightful camping spot. During the expedition we had the usual minor adventures, crossing of a ford with high water, bears scrounging among the food, other nocturnal animals prowling the camp, and so on. We enjoyed the encampment, climbed lateral valleys, and visited high glacial
lakes with excellent fishing. We even used a small boat that Joseph had carried up there. All told we had an excellent time and hoped to be able to repeat the trip.
Later that year, Elfriede and I went to Italy, where I had promised to attend a Donegani school at Lake Como. Everything went well, and after the school session we went on to Florence, where we were considering settling on my retirement, due in a couple of years. Our plan was to visit the Teramo side of the Gran Sasso, the highest mountain in the Apennines, and then go on to Rome. On October 15, we visited the poet Leopardi's house at Recanati, and that evening we went to Teramo. During the night Elfriede died in her sleep.
I still shiver in writing these lines.
Four or five intimate friends came from Rome, and we buried Elfriede at Teramo in a peaceful cemetery in view of the Gran Sasso. I returned to Rome in a sad state. My son-in-law Joseph later told me: "You must remember you are like a man that has suffered a major amputation; a leg cut off at the groin, or some other terrible trauma." I cannot report the horrors of that tragic period.
When I returned to Lafayette all the children came home, and they were an incomparable solace. All in their grief turned inward to the family, and if Elfriede could have seen them she would have been proud of the fruits of her labors in raising them. A letter they wrote to friends answering messages of sympathy shows their feelings:
There are many ways in which we think of our mother, but most of all we seem to remember her working in the garden, rooting or transplanting, watering or trimming, or simply worrying over a faltering plant. All around the house we saw, season after season, the fruits of her gardening: the roses, the African violets, the philodendrons, the fuchsias, the little fig tree, the lavender, the tomato patch, and all the myriads of flowers and shrubs that flourished in every corner. At times we wondered how she could keep track of all her charges. We asked ourselves if even she knew how far her garden extended.
Now that she is gone we wonder even more. We children are scattered, yet when we are at home, we have to laugh a bit sometimes when we realize just how far her garden did extend. We have to laugh
when we realize how firmly Mamma rooted us in her ways: a way to set the table, a way to bake the panettone, a way to show hospitality. And when we scatter to our own homes again, we wonder at how much of Mamma's gardening we carry with us. We ask ourselves if we will ever see the full extent of her garden.
Claudio, Amelia, Fausta.
At the time, Amelia lived in Los Angeles, and Fausta at Santa Barbara, so that I could go to them for weekends. Claudio was in Texas, too far for short visits. My physician labored to bring me back to normal, both physically and mentally. When the children left, my old friend and colleague Carl Helmholz and his wife Betty, who lived near me in Lafayette, invited me to sleep at their house. They offered not only tactful and compassionate hospitality but also precious company. I want to remember these good deeds, which deserve my deepest gratitude.
I realized myself, and from talking to others who had had similar losses, that work was the best way to get out of the abyss into which I had fallen. But how and on what? I was not in a state to embark on original scientific endeavor. Both my Japanese gardener and one of my colleagues suggested that I go to some senior citizens' center to find company.
While I was trying to find something to bring me back to life, I received unexpected help. Ugo Fano phoned me from the University of Chicago inviting me on behalf of the university to give a series of Fermi lectures on a subject of my choice. At first I said, truthfully, that I did not feel up to such an enterprise, but both he and Laura Fermi insisted I accept. I decided to give a series of historical lectures on modern physics similar to those I had given at Berkeley in 1968. Laura Fermi put me up in Chicago, where I stayed for several weeks. I was given an office at the university, and I slowly started writing down my lectures, an activity that kept me busy and gave me a written text I could later use for a book.
Among the letters of sympathy I received on Elfriede's death was one from Rosa Mines. I have already told how we first met. I shall not tell here how, in a couple of years, we passed from the letter to marrying, which occurred on February 12, 1972.
The marriage of two people, one sixty-seven years old, one much younger, with very different life experiences, has aspects I shall not go into. The analysis of such a relationship would require more psychological insight than I can muster; this at least is Rosa's authoritative opinion. Suffice it to say that it is a little like mixing spring and autumn, with their storms and periods of good weather, until a new equilibrium is formed.
Four months after our wedding, in June 1972, I reached the compulsory retirement age at Berkeley. There was the usual ceremony, with a dinner and speeches. "Rosa has shown me that sometimes even a tree hit by lightning can resprout new life, in late fall as in spring," I said in concluding my thanks.
My direct experimental activity had ceased, but not my teaching. Now, however, I taught history of physics rather than physics itself. The University of California recalled me to service repeatedly, and I had the impression that my historical courses were popular and successful. The number and quality of students attending them, in spite of their not being required courses, were most encouraging.
However, I also wanted to go back to Italy with Rosa, and to leave Lafayette, where there were too many ties to the past. For years Italian friends and colleagues had been suggesting I reenter Italian academic life. I appreciated the offers, but declined them because the working facilities in Italy were not comparable to those in America. Furthermore, I could forget neither the treatment my family had suffered at the hands of the Fascist government nor my debt of gratitude to the United States, a country that had allowed me to rebuild my civil and scientific life. By now my family had become American, and Americans treated me as one of them and did not discriminate against me in any appreciable way.
This, of course, did not detract from the deep gratitude I felt toward all those who had helped my parents in the "time of iniquity" (to use an appropriate term coined by Ugo Amaldi, Edoardo's father) or my appreciation of the behavior of innumerable Italians that clearly set them apart from their despicable government.
I would have liked to teach in Italy again, and, especially in the first
postwar years, I tried to help the reconstruction of the country by fostering scientific relations, student exchanges, and outright collaborations. However, I would not assume either heavier responsibilities or employment as a professor, which might, I thought, jeopardize my U.S. citizenship. I discussed these problems with Edoardo Amaldi, with Francesco Giordani, president of the Accademia dei Lincei, with Giordani's successor, Beniamino Segre, and even with Giovanni Leone, then president of the Italian Republic. They proposed several alternative solutions, centering on appointments at the Accademia dei Lincei.
In November 1972, as a first step, I gave a course on the history of modern physics at the Lincei in Rome for six months. It was a time of student unrest, and being far from the university was an advantage. Whoever came to my lectures did so out of interest and not to make trouble. Besides the students, many old friends and acquaintances came to listen. I had an office and lectured in an old mansion near the Villa Farnesina, a jewel of Renaissance art famous for its Raphael frescoes. The buildings were surrounded by a formal Italian garden. Occasionally I dreamt of donning a cardinal's hat and walking in the gardens with some artist of the time of the Farnese. In the Lincei library I found several rarities I had never seen, such as Wilhelm Röntgen's original papers and the Transactions of the Connecticut Academy containing Josiah Gibbs's papers. Life in Trastevere, on the north bank of the Tiber, was pleasant, but access to the rest of the city was not easy because of Rome's notorious traffic; not even the common remedy of simply walking helped very much.
My stay also had another purpose. It was the first time Rosa had been to Europe, and I was eager to introduce her to Italy and to my friends there. We traveled in the vicinity of Rome, in Tuscany, and in the northern provinces. Everywhere old friends received us with great warmth, and Rosa was able to meet people I had often spoken of to her and to experience Italian behavior, so different from the North American and Latin American ways she knew.
Italian law had recently changed, and it had become possible to appoint foreign citizens to university chairs. There were no vacant physics chairs in Rome, and in the end Parliament passed a law creating
a chair for me ad hominem, which would be abolished on my retirement. Unfortunately, overcoming all these obstacles took time, and I was appointed only one year before reaching the Italian retirement age.
When I returned there in November 1974 to teach nuclear physics, the University of Rome was in bad shape, torn to pieces by unruly students and by politicized professors. In spite of my best efforts, I was unable to make any appreciable improvement even in the restricted field of the physics department. Most of my colleagues were interested in quite other things, which had little to do with what I thought were the purposes of a university, and I did not find any scientific project I could be of much help to. The best scientific work was being done at CERN in Geneva or at the Frascati Laboratory, and they certainly did not need my help. Among the Rome faculty there were several old friends, with whom I enjoyed consorting again, and my colleagues and students were always friendly and respectful to me, in contrast to their behavior toward excellent persons such as Edoardo Amaldi, Giorgio Salvini, and Giorgio Careri.
Rosa learned to speak Italian perfectly, and we both made several new close friends. One of them was Cesare Tumedei, one of the best civil lawyers of his time—a "prince of the forum," as we say in Italian. Tumedei represented Donegani, the founder of Montecatini, and was on the boards of numerous large companies. He was seventy-nine and in excellent physical and mental condition. Every Sunday, he organized excursions, by car and on foot, leaving at 8 A.M. from his villa on the Via Cassia. A small caravan of cars followed his. His chauffeur left us at the starting place of the hike and later picked us up at the other end. The walks usually lasted several hours and passed places of splendid natural and artistic beauty. The group changed from week to week, but there were usually about a dozen of us. Among others, all of them noteworthy people, and many of them quite old, I recall Prince Schwarzenberg and his wife; Signor Biamonti, a lawyer, the son of a friend of my father's; Dr. Bignami, the son of a famous researcher on malaria; and Monsignore Sticker, prefect of the Vatican Library, who became a cardinal in 1985. Most of them, notably Tumedei, were brilliant speakers and always had interesting stories to tell. The conversation was
always as stimulating as the places we visited. One Sunday we went to Campo Catino, where I had skied forty years earlier, when one could only reach it by a horse trail; now it was accessible by car. From there we descended to the Trisulti Abbey, following a steep, picturesque path through cool woods embellished with orchids and other magnificent wildflowers. Meeting shepherds and enjoying freshly made ricotta was another pleasure along the way on these excursions. The chauffeur's intuition was extraordinary, and even when we emerged at a different place, he was there waiting for us.
Every now and then I went to the sulfur baths near Tivoli. It became a kind of pilgrimage back in time. I would take the bus near the train station in Rome and ride along the length of the Via Tiburtina, changed by time beyond recognition, a road I had traveled by tram before World War I and by car before World War II. Now, jammed with traffic, it had lost a great part of its beauty, but here and there one could still recognize remnants of its ancient nobility. Arriving at the baths, I enjoyed using the card that identified me as a Tiburtino and qualified me for reduced admittance. Sometimes the cashier would recognize me and make some comment. The baths had not changed much since I used to visit them with my teacher, Signorina Maggini, almost three-quarters of a century before. After my swim, I would buy a sandwich roll with the same filling and smell they had always had. From the baths I could see Tivoli and distinguish our home and the cypresses of the Villa d'Este, as well as the roofs of the paper mill. I would soon be surrounded by friendly ghosts from my childhood and youth, and they often rejoiced in meeting and talking to me again. The strong hydrogen sulfide smell was disagreeable to many, but not to me; it was the scent of many memories.
When I reached the Italian retirement age, I returned to Lafayette. Rather than telling the plain (and uninteresting) truth, the Italian newspapers tried to see in my leaving a protest against the conditions I had found in Rome. I did not like this misrepresentation of my feelings, and I tried to correct it, but to little avail.
Nevertheless, while I am sure that it is possible to acquire a scientific education of the same quality as in any Western country in Italy, the
average level is low, and the degradation of Italian university degrees seems permanent. After two suicidal internecine wars, no part of Europe is what it used to be, but Italy's decay is especially vivid to me. As far as living conditions go, Italy is still a very pleasant country, but the United States seems livelier than Europe, although this is not to say that it shows much wisdom or greater civilization. I often think of myself (with all due respect) as Einstein did, who ended by feeling himself to be a "world citizen."
For many years I had wanted to tour Tuscany on foot, because I realized that, given the size of the towns, the many beautiful and interesting things to be seen there could not be properly appreciated from a car. In 1981, at the age of seventy-six, I finally fulfilled that wish in the company of my old friend Giuseppe Occhialini. He had a property in Tuscany, as original as its owner, where he planted different trees in honor of deceased friends. One of the nicest was in memory of Lorenzo Emo, so dear to both of us.
We had decided to use only the railway or public transportation on our trip, and above all our legs. On foot we would be able to follow narrow paths and even trails across the fields, thus avoiding the main roads, which actually destroy the local charm. We visited Montepulciano, Pienza and its surroundings, Siena, and fascinating, out-of-the-way places, always on pleasant hikes, talking of interesting subjects and staying at small, modest hotels with a homelike atmosphere and food. One day, we stopped and asked some old women who were sitting in the sun in front of their home, sewing, to show us the road to a castle. They gave us the information, adding on their own that the place was quite far and that it would be imprudent at our age to try to reach it. We told them not to worry and started walking, reaching the castle after about an hour. When we returned, we were hoping to be able to brag to the old women, but they were gone.
Talking to Occhialini was fascinating. His ideas were usually highly original and interesting. For example, he was against teaching so much
of Dante in the public schools because he inspired seditious and vindictive thoughts. In physics, he spoke of events in which he had participated. Certainly his life and his way of doing physics were very different from what I knew. In physics he stressed technique above all; life was romantic, full of adventures and women.
When writing From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves in 1979, I devoted a chapter to Faraday, and being in London I went to visit the Royal Institution, his home and laboratory. I was much impressed by how well preserved and tastefully displayed everything pertaining to Faraday was, as though in a still active and living laboratory. The personality of Faraday pervaded the place; one could see his desk and home furniture in the apartment where he lived, his lecture room and apparatus. One almost expected to find the owner of the house performing his experiments in some corner. In no other place is a scientific presence so vividly felt as there.
Early in my career, my Dutch mentor Pieter Zeeman had described the Royal Institution to me and told me in detail from his own experience of the ceremonies accompanying a lecture there. Until the time comes for him to speak, the lecturer is locked up in a little room to prevent him from taking flight in panic, as happened once in 1846 with Charles Wheatstone. The lecture starts at 8 p.m., only a few seconds' delay being tolerated, and lasts for an hour, give or take a minute. No notes are allowed, and one must perform at least one experiment. At the end of the lecture, the speaker is restored with a glass of whiskey.
In May of 1982, I myself came to lecture at the Royal Institution, repeating to the letter the ritual followed by Zeeman in 1906, when I was one year old.
The discovery of technetium 99 earned me a certain notoriety among specialists in nuclear medicine, and not unfairly, since that isotope is
their bread and butter. As a consequence, I had been invited on various occasions to speak at meetings on nuclear medicine, and I have become an honorary member of associations like the Society of Nuclear Medicine and the American College of Nuclear Physicians. The latter held a meeting at the end of January 1982 in Tucson, Arizona, and I had been invited to give a talk. I gladly accepted, and Rosa and I amused ourselves comparing the luxurious lifestyle of these doctors with our own.
Once the meeting had finished, we went to see Tucson, especially the Sonora Desert Museum, where I greatly admired wonderful scorpions and live tarantulas and the excellent reproduction of the desert's environment. After exploring a bit more of Arizona, I thought that this would be the opportunity to release myself from my old vow to see the Canyon de Chelly, so highly praised by Rasetti back in 1929, which I tried in vain to reach in 1936.
The weather was threatening, and in the deserts of northern Arizona there is always a chance of getting stuck in a heavy snowstorm, but we set off in our small rented car for Sedona, which reminded me of Cortina d'Ampezzo, although less delicately beautiful. After spending the night there, we moved north, in the direction of Highway 66, with which I had become familiar in 1936. We arrived in Flagstaff with great uncertainty, both in the weather and in my mind. Finally, I decided to head east, toward Holbrook. About halfway there, we found a long, straight road going north, toward Hopi territory, and much to Rosa's surprise, I turned onto it without hesitation; we were on our way to the Indian reservations.
The skies were gloomy, with dark clouds, and the desert had a strange glow, with magnificent and unusual views. We arrived at dusk at Second Mesa, where we found the pleasant surprise of a comfortable motel, run by the Hopis and with mainly Hopi clientele. The food was either Hopi or American, and we decided to try the Hopi. The next morning the skies were heavy with snow, and the roads started getting white, but I was determined to see the Canyon de Chelly. I took the wheel, as Rosa was afraid of skidding on the snow-covered road. (I remembered that when I had been there in 1936 there were no roads.) Along the way we picked up an Indian mother and daughter who were almost
frozen; we left them at Chinle, where they wanted to buy a birthday cake for the man in their family. We checked in at the local motel and then headed for Canyon de Chelly. We received some information, unwillingly given, and finally found the road on the south side of the canyon, the only one allowed to white people who are not accompanied by an Indian guide. We started descending the picturesque trail. Looking down, one could see some agricultural land at the bottom, several hogans, and a few goats. When we arrived there, in order to get closer to the magnificent Indian ruins visible from a distance, one had to cross a small but icy creek. I did not hesitate in removing my shoes and socks; I rolled up my pants and got into the water. Rosa, after some hesitation, followed my example. The ruins of most of the communal dwellings were, as usual, leaning on and protected by huge stone walls. At that time of the year, there were no visitors, and one could wander freely, admiring the petrographs. The place was made still more poetic by the sound of the creek and its black poplars, whose light wood is used for many Indian sculptures.
It was a wonderful way to celebrate my seventy-seventh birthday.