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LBNL Oral History Interviews

LBNL oral history interviews were conducted by the Oral History Center at The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. Click on any of the Title names below to access the interview transcript.

Interviewee:  Birge, Raymond Thayer
Title:  Raymond Thayer Birge, Physicist
Description:  Ancestors and family; University of Wisconsin; the physics department, UC Berkeley: pre-1918-30, chairmanship, 1932, academic and administrative demands, the Bohr atom and the Lewis-Langmuir atom, seclusiveness of research activity, medical physics, the Radiation Laboratory; Birge research; University committee work; comments on teaching, learned societies, family. Appended list of published articles.

Interviewee:  Born, James
Title:   
Physician and Administrator at Donner Laboratory
Description:  Midwestern family background; law school education, graduated 1940; influences in career change to medicine, medical school at University of Wisconsin; marriage to Jean Louise Chapman and move to California; University of California at Berkeley; early experimental work in radioactive medicine at the Donner laboratory, radioactive techniques developed for specific diseases; funding; omnitron, bevelac, other tools; recollections of William Goodricke Donald, John H. Lawrence; medical program at UC Berkeley; collaborations, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories, Donner Laboratory, Radiation Laboratory; directorship of Donner Laboratory.

Interviewee:  Calvin Lab, The
Title:  
Bio-Organic Chemistry Group at UC Berkeley, 1945-1963 Volume I
Description:  Graduate students, postdocs, staff and observers of the Melvin Calvin bio-organic chemistry group at UC Berkeley from 1945-1963 are interviewed on the methods, management, community and culture of the Calvin lab; the Donner Laboratory-based group’s work on organic reaction mechanisms and radioactive synthesis; work on photosynthesis in the Old Radiation Laboratory (ORL); years after 1959 in the Life Sciences Building, and the move to the Round House (Melvin Calvin Laboratory; recollections of Sam Ruben, Martin Kamen, UC Radiation Laboratory, E.O. and John Lawrence.

Interviewee:  Calvin Lab, The
Title:  Bio-Organic Chemistry Group at Berkeley 1945-1963, Volume II
Description:  Graduate students, postdocs, staff and observers of the Melvin Calvin bio-organic chemistry group at UC Berkeley from 1945-1963 are interviewed on the methods, management, community and culture of the Calvin lab; the Donner Laboratory-based group’s work on organic reaction mechanisms and radioactive synthesis; work on photosynthesis in the Old Radiation Laboratory (ORL); years after 1959 in the Life Sciences Building, and the move to the Round House (Melvin Calvin Laboratory; recollections of Sam Ruben, Martin Kamen, UC Radiation Laboratory, E.O. and John Lawrence.

Interviewee:  Cerny, Joseph
Title:  
Joseph Cerny: A Career in Nuclear Chemistry and University Administration
Description:  Joseph Cerny is a nuclear chemist who spent his career at UC Berkeley. A graduate of Berkeley chemistry, Cerny went on to an illustrious career in both science and university administration. Along with his colleagues, he is the discoverer of direct two-proton emission, the fourth type of radioactive decay after the known alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. As Associate Director of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL) and head of the Nuclear Science Division, he helped facilitate the opening of that institution to a wider range of research beyond physics and chemistry, including the life sciences and materials science. Beginning with his time as chair of the chemistry department, Cerny developed an interest in the needs and professional outcomes of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that would become the fulcrum of his administrative career at UC Berkeley. From 1985 until 2000, Cerny was the Dean of the Graduate Division and Vice Chancellor of Research at UC Berkeley, where he oversaw the consolidation of research units and helped the university retain a high standard of research in a time of budgetary challenges. Most importantly, he spearheaded long-run data-gathering and analysis of the career outcomes of students and postdoctoral researchers that have been emulated around the world. During the latter part of his time in these positions, Cerny and his team at LBL developed a fruitful method of joining the beams from two particle accelerators to produce new research in the light elements. In 1999, BEARS (Berkeley Experiments in Accelerated Radioactive Species) inaugurated its first experiments. In addition to numerous awards in science, honorary degrees, and membership in elite academies of science, Cerny received the Berkeley Citation in 2013 for his contributions to the university.

Interviewee:  Chamberlain, Owen
Title:  
Physicist at Los Alamos, Berkeley, Professor, 1950-1989, Nobel Laureate
Description:  Childhood in San Francisco and Philadelphia; undergraduate education at Dartmouth, graduate work in physics at UC Berkeley; professors at Berkeley: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Emilio Segrè, Ernest Lawrence; work on the atomic bomb at Los Alamos during World War II; physicists at Los Alamos: Enrico Fermi, Clyde Wiegand, Edward Teller; postwar graduate work at the University of Chicago; UC Berkeley Radiation Lab, and colleagues Bob Thornton, Ed Lofgren, Carl Helmholz, Raymond Birge, Luis Alvarez; Nobel Prize in physics, 1959, with Segrè for work on antiproton; involvement with anti-nuclear activism, late research in physics.

Interviewee:  Chaney, Ralph Works
Title:  Ralph Works Chaney, Ph.D., Paleobotanist, Conservationist
Description:  Early field and school environment; University of Chicago; teaching and graduate work: WWI and University of Iowa; establishing paleobotany in the West; paleobotany in Asia and Latin America; ecological and geological approaches to botany; comments on education, developing curriculum in paleobotany, the Radiation Laboratory, the loyalty oath, student relations; conservation activities: Save the Redwoods League, National Park Advisory Board; Berkeley Municipal League; porcelain collecting. Appended bibliography.

Audio clip.

Interviewee:  Dettner, Anne DeGruchy
Title:  
A Woman’s Place in Science and Public Affairs 1938-1991
Description:  San Francisco family and 19th century forebears; cultural life, friends, summers in Tiburon; education at UC Berkeley, over the years 1922-1960; pursuing a scientific career: experiences at Stanford Hospital (San Francisco), Donner Laboratory, Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, UC Medical School, early radioisotope research, treatment, bioassay programs, publications (1940-1971); public service: San Francisco League of Women Voters presidency (1932-1934), California director, National Youth Administration (1934-1939), United Crusade Settlement House Reorganization Committee chairman (1958) and Aging Committee chairman (1964).

Interviewee:  Durbin-Heavey, Patricia W.
Title:  
Radionuclide Research at Crocker Laboratory & the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
Description:  Childhood in northern California; B.S. in chemistry, UC Berkeley, 1948; lab assistant at Crocker Radiation Laboratory, WWII/Cold War research on fission products; human and animal radionuclide experiments (plutonium, strontium, astatine, and others), cyclotron operations, including radioisotope production; Ph.D. in biophysics, UCB, 1953; Bikini Island bomb tests; radiation safety standards; heavy ion research; Radioactivity Research Center, UCSF; thoughts on the woman scientist, and comments on Joseph Hamilton, John Lawrence, Kenneth Scott, others. Appendix includes text of “Reminiscences of Crocker Lab.” a speech given before the Health Physics Society in San Francisco, June 1976. Phonotapes: Two tapes (Phonotape 3371) are partial recordings of the original interviews. The third tape (Phonotape 3280) is a recording of Durbin’s 1976 “Reminiscences of Crocker Lab.”

Interviewee:  Glaser, Donald
Title:  
The Bubble Chamber, Bioengineering, Business Consulting, and Neurobiology
Description:  Discusses family background and education, work on the bubble chamber, career shift to biology, and his present research in neurobiology. His role as founder of and scientific advisor to Cetus Corporation and other companies is also documented.

Interviewee:  Gofman, John
Title:  
John Gofman: Medical Research and Radiation Politics

Interviewee:  Grendon, Alexander
Title:  
Alexander Grendon: Research with Hardin Jones at Donner Laboratory, 1957-1978

Interviewee:  Hayes, Thomas L.
Title:  
Lipoprotein Research & Electron Microscopy at Donner Laboratory
Description:  Childhood in northern California; undergraduate education at Whitman College and B.A. in physics, UC Berkeley, 1949; Ph. D., biophysics, UCB, 1955; staff biophysicist, Donner Laboratory, Berkeley: John Gofman and lipoprotein research, diet table at Cowell Hospital, electron microscopy, John Lawrence, director; faculty member, 1955-1991, Division of Medical Physics and Biophysics: teaching, multidisciplinary approach; Interdepartmental Graduate Group in Biophysics and Medical Physics; heavy ion radiography; fly ash; the biophysics student.

Interviewee:  Helmholz, Carl A.
Title:  
Faculty Governance and Physics at UCB, 1937-1990
Description:  Family and youth in Rochester, MN; education, Harvard and Cambridge, 1930s; graduate studies and research work in high energy physics at the Radiation Laboratory, UC Berkeley, 1937-1950s: recalls Ernest Lawrence, Burton Moyer, Harvey White, Emilio Segrè, Edward Teller, Manhattan Project; Department of Physics: chairmanship, 1955-1962, undergraduate and graduate curriculum, loyalty oath controversy, faculty hiring and retention; service on first governing board of faculty retirement system, 1950s; faculty social relationships: Faculty Club, Section Club, Kosmos Club; issues surrounding UC oversight of Livermore and Los Alamos Laboratories; Academic Senate service: committees on University Welfare, Academic Freedom, Educational Policy committees; faculty response to Free Speech Movement and ethnic studies controversies; emeriti affairs. Appended brief biography of Elizabeth L. Helmholz.

Interviewee:  Kamen, Martin D.
Title:  Physics, politics and photosynthesis, 1979 [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number
BANC MSS 80/109 c]
Description:  Covers his background and education; career in radiochemistryarcd biochemistry at the University of California Radiation Laboratory and the University of Washington, St. Louis; his co-discovery of carbon-14 and pioneering use of radioactive tracers in biochemical and medical research, especially photosynthesis; and political activities.

Interviewee:  Lawrence, John H.
Title:  
Nuclear Medicine Pioneer & Director of Donner Laboratory
Description:  NorwegianIMidwestern family background; brother, E.O. Lawrence; undergraduate education at the University of South Dakota, medical training at Harvard; research with Harvey Cushing; nuclear medicine at UC Berkeley, Crocker Laboratory; financing research, the Macy Foundation and the Markle Foundation; tools of nuclear medicine, cyclotron, omnitron, bevelac, artificial radioisotopes, neutron radiation, radiophosphorus; treating acromegaly, Cushing’s disease, Nelson’s syndrome, lymph cancer; creation and purpose of Donner Laboratory and UC Berkeley’s Division of Medical Physics and Biophysics; Atomic Energy Commission, Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission; work relationships with James Born, Hardin Jones, John Gofman, Melvin Calvin, Hal Anger, John Northrop, Cornelius Tobias; founding the Alpha Omega Foundation.

Interviewee:  Livingood, John J.
Title:  Big machine physics at Berkeley, Harvard and Argonne : oral history transcript [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (
bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number BANC MSS 84/8 c]
Description:  One of a series of interviews documenting aspects of research and development at the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, including accelerator design, funding, institutional relations with the University and the Physics Department, new discoveries in physics and wartime research at Berkeley, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and elsewhere.

Interviewee:  Lofgren, Edward J.
Title:  Edward Joseph Lofgren interview, 1975 [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (
bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number BANC CU-600.003]
Description:  Includes discussion of Lofgren’s early life, his student experiences at the University of California, Berkeley, his nuclear weapons research at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, Los Alamos Laboratory, and Oak Ridge Laboratory, and his role in the development of the Bevatron particle accelerator that was located in Berkeley, California.
Edward Joseph Lofgren received his Ph. D. from Department of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1946. He was very active in the development of the Bevatron particle accelerator at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory during that time, and served as group leader of the Bevatron beginning in 1952. Lofgren also served as Associate Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from 1973-1979.

Interviewee:  Mel, Howard C.
Title:  Biophysics at Berkeley and Development of the Staflo Apparatus [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number BANC MSS 2002/344 c]]
Description:  Childhood in northern California; graduation from Berkeley High School; naval training in radar and gunnery, and service with naval intelligence during WWII; undergraduate education at the University of California, Berkeley (B.S., physical chemistry, 1948); studies at University of Geneva and the Conservatory of Music, and the University of Brussels; affiliation with Donner Radiation Laboratory, and the graduate and undergraduate programs in Biophysics and Medical Physics, University of California, Berkeley; graduate student in College of Chemistry, Berkeley, Ph.D. 1953; research in cell/membrane biophysics, hematology and thermodynamics; comments on the creation of the Biophysical Society and the International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB), and on Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong, Aharon Katchalsky, Wendell Latimer, Linus Pauling, Charles Tobias, Hardin Jones, Cornelius Tobias, among others.

Interviewee:  Moore, Norman H. and Roy E. Woenne
Title:  Vacuum tube and magnetron development. [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number
BANC MSS 84/17 c]
Description:  One of a series of interviews documenting aspects of research and development at the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, including accelerator design, funding, institutional relations with the University and the Physics Department, new discoveries in physics and wartime research at Berkeley, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and elsewhere.

Interviewee:  Myers, William
Title:  
William G. Myers: Early History of Nuclear Medicine

Interviewee:  Nichols, Alexander V.
Title:  Professor of Biophysics and Lipids Researcher at Berkeley, 1950-1975 [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (
bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number BANC MSS 2001/130 c]
Description:  San Francisco Russian family background; UC Berkeley physics undergraduate education; biophysics graduate education, Ph.D. 1956; lipoprotein research with John Gofman and Frank Lindgren, Donner Laboratory; teaching, research, and administration in Division/Department of Biophysics and Medical Physics; foundation of National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; recollections of Gofman, John Lawrence, Melvin Calvin, Hardin Jones.

Interviewee:  Reynolds, Wallace B.
Title:  
Laboratory Management at Berkeley and Livermore. [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number BANC MSS 84/9 c]
Description:  One of a series of interviews documenting aspects of research and development at the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, including accelerator design, funding, institutional relations with the University and the Physics Department, new discoveries in physics and wartime research at Berkeley, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and elsewhere.

Interviewee:  Scott, Kenneth
Title:  Radioisotope Research in Medicine [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (
bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number BANC MSS 87/162 c]

Interviewee:  Seaborg Glenn T
Title:  Nuclear research and national science policy [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number
BANC MSS 87/7 c

Interviewee:  Sessler, Andrew M
Title:  Oral History Transcript, 1975 [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number
BANC MSS 2007/203]
Description:  Discusses career at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

Interviewee:  Sinclair, Donald B.
Title:  Radio Engineering and Research, 1926-1974 [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number
BANC MSS 84/19 c]
Description:  One of a series of interviews documenting aspects of research and development at the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, including accelerator design, funding, institutional relations with the University and the Physics Department, new discoveries in physics and wartime research at Berkeley, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and elsewhere.

Interviewee:  Siri, William E.
Title:  
Reflections on the Sierra Club, the Environment, and Mountaineering, 1950s-1970s

Interviewee:  Tobias, Cornelius
Title:  Cornelius Tobias [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (
bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number BANC MSS 2002/59 c]
Description:  Transcript: typescript transcript of interviews conducted by Sally Smith Hughes, 1979-1980, with her editorial marks. The transcript was never fully reviewed by the interviewee. Tobias discusses his career as a biophysics professor at UC Berkeley and medical physic researcher for Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Tobias specialized in radiation biology and is considered the father of heavy ion radiography as a cancer treatment.
Supplementary material: interview history prepared by the interviewer, a 38 page transcription of sections of the original interviews prepared by Tobias, biographical information, obituaries, and a copy of a U.S. Dept. of Energy oral history done with Tobias in 1995.

Interviewee:  Woodyard, John R.
Title:  Cyclotron and Klystron development. .  [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number
BANC MSS 84/18 c]
Description:  One of a series of interviews documenting aspects of research and development at the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, including accelerator design, funding, institutional relations with the University and the Physics Department, new discoveries in physics and wartime research at Berkeley, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and elsewhere.

Interviewee:  York, Herbet F.
Title:  Interview.  [Offline, contact Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (bancref@library.berkeley.edu) Call Number
BANC MSS 75/50 z:19]
Description:  Interview with the physicist and former director of the University of California’s Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Conducted by Joan Bromberg. Covers his research at Livermore in the 1950’s on controlled thermonuclear reactions, especially for Project Sherwood.