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Interview with Rainer Weiss

Weiss, Rainer (2002) Interview with Rainer Weiss. [Oral History]

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Interview, May 10, 2000, with Rainer Weiss, professor of physics at MIT. Family background, Germany, Czechoslovakia; arrives U.S. 1939. Attends Columbia Grammar School. Interest in engineering. Flunks out of MIT; returns as technician with Jerrold Zacharias; cesium clock. Resumes undergraduate career at MIT; graduate student there. Princeton postdoc with Robert Dicke. Builds experiment to find scalar gravitational waves based on work by Frank Press and Hugo Benioff, Caltech. 1964 Alaskan earthquake; effects on his machine. 1965, returns to MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics at Zacharias' behest. Military joint services support. Looks for scalar changes in Newtonian constant; work on photon redshift. Teaches relativity course. Works on spectrum of cosmic microwave background; interest in gravity waves. LIGO's origins. RLE support for interferometric detector. 1971 funding for 1.5-meter prototype. Changes at RLE. Interest of Max Planck Inst. for Grav. Physics. Gravity-wave work in early 1970s: Kip Thorne and William Press at Caltech. Chairs NASA committee on space applications of gravitational work; meets Thorne in Washington; discusses MIT/Caltech collaboration; recommends Ronald Drever. Meets Thorne and Drever, Perugia; misgivings about Drever. 1983, joint LIGO presentation to NSF. Drever wants his own LIGO project, threatens to undercut MIT-Caltech project. Difficulties with MIT administration. Troika (Weiss, Drever, Thorne) unworkable. Comments on Caltech project mgr. Frank Schutz. Site-selection process. Drever's troubles building 40-meter prototype. Richard Garwin, IBM, pressures NSF to conduct LIGO study; Weiss organizes it in Cambridge, 1986, chaired by Andrew Sessler. Thorne and Weiss want director to replace troika. Selection of Rochus (Robbie) Vogt, 1987. Vogt's management style. Attempt to site LIGO at NRAO in Green Bank, W. Va.; selection of Livingston, La., and Hanford, Wash. Livingston's drawbacks. Misgivings about Vogt's directorship. Vogt's conflicts with Drever; Drever removed from project. Caltech faculty critics of Drever removal. NSF dismisses Vogt.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Physics, LIGO
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Weiss_R
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Weiss, Rainer. Interview by Shirley K. Cohen. Pasadena, California, May 10, 2000. 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 > LIGO
Subjects > Physics
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ID Code:183
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:24 May 2011
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:23

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