The Caltech Institute Archives

Interview with Charles W. Peck

Peck, Charles W. (2016) Interview with Charles W. Peck. [Oral History]

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Interview in five sessions, October-November 2003, with Charles W. Peck, professor of physics (now emeritus) in the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy. He recalls his early life in South Texas and his interest in radio; first year of college at Texas Arts & Industries; three more years at New Mexico College of Agriculture & Mechanical Arts. Recalls graduate studies at Caltech with Murray Gell-Mann, H. P. Robertson, Robert Walker, Richard A. Dean, W. R. Smythe. Works on increasing intensity and stability of the Caltech synchrotron, with Walker, Matt Sands, and Alvin Tollestrup; 1964 thesis on K-lambda photoproduction. Joins the faculty as an assistant professor in 1965. Discusses his various teaching assignments, including an embarrassing moment when Richard Feynman attended one of his freshman physics lectures. Discusses his research at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and Lawrence Radiation Laboratory’s Bevatron. Collaboration with UC Berkeley and SLAC on “crystal ball” detector for SLAC’s SPEAR storage ring. Taking the crystal ball to DESY, in Hamburg. Works with Barry Barish at Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy, on MACRO; search for magnetic monopoles. He also discusses his administration work at Caltech, as executive officer for physics (1983-1986) and as PMA division chair from 1993 to 1998, when he immediately had to deal with the troubles plaguing LIGO [Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory]. Detailed discussion of the LIGO contretemps and how it was settled, and of turning Big Bear Solar Observatory over to the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Advent of David Baltimore as Caltech president; attempt to recruit Ed Witten.

Item Type:Oral History
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Peck_C
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Peck, Charles W. Interview by Shirley K. Cohen. Pasadena, California, October 1, 8, 15, 30, and November 12, 2003. 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 > Administration
Subjects > LIGO
All Records
Subjects > Physics
ID Code:237
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:22 Aug 2016 20:34
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:24

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