Forum Sessions at the March Meeting

By George Zimmerman

The APS March 2008 meeting in New Orleans featured two invited sessions sponsored by the Forum. The first, celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of Physical Review Letters, chaired by Reinhardt Schuhmann (Managing Editor, PRL), and organized by the PRL editors, was held on Tuesday, March 11. The second, held on Thursday, March 13, focused on Industrial Physics History. This session was chaired by Gloria Lubkin. Both of these well-attended sessions included five speakers, whose topics ranged from a historical overview to a personal reminiscence.

At the PRL session, Saad Hebboul of PRL, whose talk was entitled “PRL at 50: A History of Moving Physics Forward,” recounted its early history from its beginnings as a section in Physical Review to a full-fledged journal in its own right fifty years ago, and since then, to its current significance. The next three talks concerned major topics typically discussed at March meetings: Eugene Stanley (Boston University) discussed “Phase Transitions and Critical Phenomena.” Marvin Cohen (University of California, Berkeley) spoke about “Condensed Matter Theory: From Models to First Principles.” Charles Slichter (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) then delivered a talk entitled “NMR and the BCS Theory,” in which he recounted the experimental as well as theoretical implications of work in the 1950s. He emphasized the measurement of the spin-lattice relaxation time and the isotope effect in superconductors, which formed the experimental foundations for the BCS theory. In the final talk, titled “The Future of Scientific Publishing,” Jack Sandweiss (Yale University and PRL) discussed various possible scenarios for future developments in both print and electronic publications.

The speakers at the Industrial Physics History session all have held or still hold leadership positions in industrial-research labs. Paul Horn (recently retired as Director of Research at IBM and now at New York University) gave a talk titled “Industrial Research at IBM” in which he described the lab’s many research achievements, ranging from microchip development to the self-assembly of microcircuits to modeling of geological water cycles. He was followed by James Hollenhorst (Vice President and Director of Molecular Technology at Agilent Labs), with a talk titled “Reflections on Three Corporate Research Labs: Bell Labs, HP Labs, Agilent.” He recounted the cultures of—and the relationships and clashes between—the research and industrial departments of these three corporations.

The John Bardeen Lecture was delivered by Robert Frosch (currently at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard), whose positions have included NASA Administrator (1977-1981) during the Carter Administration, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development, and Vice President for Research at General Motors Research Laboratories. His talk, which was titled “Application Oriented R&D: Aphorisms & Anecdotes,” centered on his long experience in trying to develop and manage systems that have relevant and useful applications for solving the problems and reaching goals of the pertinent (client) organizations.

David Bishop (former head of the Micromechanics Research Department, Bell Labs), in a talk titled “The History of Science and Technology at Bell Labs,” described the many accomplishments of Bell Labs since its establishment in 1925. The final speaker was Robert Doering (now Senior Fellow in Silicon Technology Development at Texas Instruments). In a talk titled “50 Years of ‘Scaling’ Jack Kilby’s Invention,” Doering discussed the development of integrated circuits and the prospects for future developments once miniaturization encounters the limits of fundamental physics.

The well-attended contributed paper session on March 12 featured several speakers and the presentation of Forum Student Travel Awards. All the Forum sessions were audiotaped; these tapes will be combined with the visual presentations on a DVD given to the AIP Center for History of Physics.