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Interview with Valentine L. Telegdi

Telegdi, Valentine L. (2008) Interview with Valentine L. Telegdi. [Oral History]

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Valentine Louis Telegdi was born in Budapest in 1922 and grew up in Bulgaria. He took his Master of Science degree in chemical engineering at Lausanne University in 1946 and received his PhD in 1950 from the ETH (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Victor Weisskopf and Gregor Wentzel were instrumental in his appointment as an instructor at the University of Chicago in 1951, where he worked with Murray Gell-Mann. In 1954, after Enrico Fermi's death, Telegdi became the head of Fermi's Nuclear Emulsion Group there. In 1956, he went to the Institute for Advanced Study for three months. Later that year, back in Chicago, he and Jerome I. Friedman found parity violation in muon decay, in parallel with the work of Chien-Shiung Wu at Columbia and her collaborators at the National Bureau of Standards, and that of Richard L. Garwin, Leon M. Lederman, and Marcel Weinrich at Columbia. In 1959-1960, on leave from Chicago, Telegdi worked with Garwin at CERN on the anomalous magnetic moment of the muon. In 1966, again on leave from Chicago, he had a visiting lectureship at Harvard. In 1968, Telegdi was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and in 1972 he became the Enrico Fermi Distinguished Service Professor of Physics at Chicago. He left the university four years later--discouraged at what he called the "decay" of the Enrico Fermi Institute since Fermi's death and the increasingly cumbersome grants process--and returned to Switzerland, where he headed a group at the ETH doing atomic physics; he also took up a joint appointment at CERN, heading a particle physics group. In 1981, he began coming regularly as a visiting professor to Caltech, where he worked with (among others) Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, and Felix Boehm. In 1991 he was awarded (along with Maurice Goldhaber) the Wolf Prize for his work on the weak interactions and in 1995 the American Physics Society's Julius Lilienfeld Prize. In 2003, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Society. He died in Pasadena, California, on April 8, 2006, at the age of eighty-four.

Item Type:Oral History
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Telegdi_V
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Telegdi, Valentine L. Interview by Sara Lippincott. Pasadena, California, March 4 and 9, 2002. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
Subjects:Subjects > Physics
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ID Code:146
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:28 Apr 2008
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:23

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