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Interview with Robert Lee Walker

Walker, Robert Lee (2000) Interview with Robert Lee Walker. [Oral History] (Unpublished)

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An interview in two sessions, March 1997 and January 1998, with Robert Lee Walker, professor of physics, emeritus, in the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy. Dr. Walker matriculated at Harvard in 1937, transferring a year later to the University of Chicago (BS 1941). After a short period there as a graduate student, he joined the Manhattan Project. After the war, he continued his graduate work at Cornell (PhD 1948). He joined the Caltech faculty in 1949 as assistant professor, becoming associate professor in 1953, full professor in 1959, and emeritus professor in 1981. He recalls his upbringing in Winnetka, Illinois; his interest in science at New Trier High School; his college years; and his work on the Manhattan Project, first under Enrico Fermi on the atomic pile and later at Los Alamos, where he calibrated neutron sources. Discusses his Cornell graduate work and postdoctoral year helping to build the 300-MeV electron synchrotron with Robert Wilson, John DeWire, and Dale Corson; working with Boyce McDaniel on a gamma-ray spectrometer. Robert F. Bacher’s recruitment of him to Caltech; his work on Caltech’s electron synchrotron with Alvin Tollestrup, R. V. (Joe) Langmuir, and Matthew L. Sands; teaching duties. The postwar burgeoning of high-energy physics in U.S. and at CERN. Recalls his participation in the “Caltech Ten” advertisement in the Los Angeles Times, 1956, calling for a nuclear test ban, and the disapproval of Caltech’s trustees and President Lee A. Dubridge. He concludes with brief recollections of Caltech presidents he served under and discusses the reasons for his 1981 retirement and move to New Mexico.

Item Type:Oral History
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Walker_R
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Walker, Robert Lee. Interview by Shirley K. Cohen. Pasadena, California, March 14, 1997 and January 16, 1998. 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:All Records
Subjects > Physics
ID Code:267
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:06 Dec 2017 20:53
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:24

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