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Interview with Alvin V. Tollestrup

Tollestrup, Alvin V. (2001) Interview with Alvin V. Tollestrup. [Oral History]

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An interview in two sessions, September and December 1994, with Alvin V. Tollestrup, who joined the Caltech faculty as a research fellow in the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy in 1950. Dr. Tollestrup received a BS in engineering from the University of Utah (1944) and after a stint in the U.S. Navy became a physics graduate student at Caltech (PhD 1950), working with William A. Fowler and Charles C. Lauritsen in the Kellogg Radiation Laboratory. He became assistant professor of physics in 1953, associate professor in 1958, and full professor in 1962. In 1977, he joined the staff of Fermilab, where he had spent the preceding two years on sabbatical developing the superconducting magnets for the Energy Doubler/Saver machine that became the Tevatron. There he also played a key role in creating the CDF [Collider Detector at Fermilab], work leading to the 1995 discovery of the top quark. In this interview, he discusses his early interest in science, his wartime radar work, and his career at Caltech, where he helped develop the Caltech synchrotron and later conducted important and innovative experiments, including the photoproduction of pions. He recalls his 1957-58 sabbatical at CERN, helping to plan and execute the first experiment at its 600-MeV cyclotron, on pion decay. He discusses the history of particle accelerators, and particularly of Fermilab’s Tevatron, noting the contributions of laboratory director Robert R. Wilson and his successor, Leon Lederman; the competition with Brookhaven National Laboratory’s ISABELLE project, and the search for the top quark. He concludes by commenting on the future prospects for high-energy physics.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Physics, high-energy physics, accelerators
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Tollestrup_A
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Tollestrup, Alvin V. Interview by David A. Valone. Pasadena, California, September 30, 1994, and Fermilab, Batavia, Illinois, December 23, 1994. 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
ID Code:229
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:03 Feb 2014 20:13
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:24

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