Hall, John L. on 2020 May 19

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Abstract/Description: In this interview, John L. Hall, Senior Fellow Emeritus with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, discusses his life and career. Hall recounts: his childhood in Denver and his early interests in radios and electronics; his undergraduate education at Carnegie Tech where he went with a Westinghouse scholarship; his decision to stay at Carnegie for graduate school, and the impact of the National Carbon Company fellowship for his studies; the value of applied physics; his research under the direction of Robert Schumacher looking for occupied vacancies in crystal calcium fluoride; happenstance circumstances leading to his work at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in Washington DC; the influence of Peter Bender, who was working on optical pumping; his entrée into lasers with Gabe Luther; the Cold War security considerations that let to the set-up of the NBS in Boulder, Colorado and how the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) grew out of this; the overlaps and distinctions between his work for NBS (which would become the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)) and JILA; his research programs making precision measurements with continuous wave lasers; the impact of computers on his research, and the ways in which his work has had relevance in advancing national security; his formative collaboration with Theodor Hänsch on hydrogen atomic transitions; his understanding between the beginning of his research and the time that elapsed before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2005; his views on how the Nobel Prize affords a platform to discuss issues beyond the science for which he was recognized; considerations of how his research should be shared globally, or reserved for U.S. interests; his current interests in metrology, and how NIST and JILA have provided unique research environments that have made work possible over the years. At the end of the interview, Hall re-emphasizes that having fun has always been the driving force of his work, and he explains his ongoing fascination with some of the major unanswered questions in physics, including dark matter. As a parting comment, Hall emphasizes that none of his accomplishments would have been possible without the support and partnership of his wife Lindy.
Subject(s): Bender, P. L. (Peter Leopold), 1930-
Hall, J. L. (John L.), 1934-
Hänsch, T. W. (Theo W.), 1941-
Luther, Gabriel G
Schumacher, Robert T. (Robert Thornton), 1930-
Carnegie Institute of Technology
Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics
National Carbon Company, Inc.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (U.S.)
United States. National Bureau of Standards
Cold War (1945-1989)
National security
Nobel Prizes
Nobel Prize winners