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Interview with Stanley E. Whitcomb on LIGO

Whitcomb, Stanley E. (1997) Interview with Stanley E. Whitcomb on LIGO. [Oral History]

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Interview in two sessions in March 1997 with Stanley Whitcomb, then deputy director of LIGO. Whitcomb talks about his upbringing and education in Denver, Colorado, his undergraduate studies in physics at Caltech, and his PhD work at the University of Chicago. He recalls being recruited onto the LIGO project as its first dedicated faculty member by his undergraduate advisor R. Vogt in 1980. He describes the politics and personnel, and technical and administrative challenges of LIGO’s start-up phase in the early 1980s, including the involvement of K. Thorne, the recruitment of R. Drever from Glasgow, and competing gravitational-wave initiatives headed by R. Weiss at MIT, and at Max Planck in Garching, Germany. He discusses the factors that prompted him to leave the project for private industry in 1985, his return as LIGO’s deputy director in 1991, and the NSF’s role in brokering an initially fraught LIGO partnership between Caltech and MIT under Vogt’s leadership. There is extensive discussion of Caltech and MIT’s divergent R&D approaches to gravitational-wave instrumentation and engineering in the 1980s and early ’90s, their respective merits and drawbacks, the challenges faced in resolving these differences, the technical advances of the 1990s, and prospects for future success.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Physics, LIGO
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Whitcomb_S
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Whitcomb, Stanley. Interview by Shirley K. Cohen. Pasadena, California, March 7 and 14, 1997. 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
All Records
Subjects > Physics
ID Code:240
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:11 Apr 2017 20:19
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:24

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