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Interview with Ronald W. P. Drever

Drever, Ronald W. P. (2018) Interview with Ronald W. P. Drever. [Oral History]

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An interview in five sessions, January through June, 1997, with Ronald W. P. Drever, professor of physics (now emeritus) in the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy. Dr. Drever graduated with first honors from the University of Glasgow in 1953 and received his PhD there in 1958. He moved from Glasgow to Caltech in 1977 to help establish the gravitational-wave project later known as LIGO (Laser Interferometry Gravitational-Wave Observatory)—first as a visiting associate, then a half-time professor (1979-1984), becoming full-time in 1984. He discusses his postdoctoral work at Glasgow on the anisotropy of inertia; a fellowship at Harvard with R. V. Pound measuring gravitational redshift; and collaboration with John Jelley of Harwell looking for radio and light pulses from supernovae and the Crab pulsar. Recalls his interest in Joseph Weber’s experiments to detect gravitational waves and his own bar-detector work at Glasgow; his switch to interferometers; his “friendly rivalry” with the gravitational-wave group at the Max Planck Institute in Munich; his adaptation of Fabry-Perot cavities vs. the delay-line technique of MIT’s Rainer Weiss. Recalls his collaboration with John Hall, of JILA, in Boulder, CO. Discusses his recruitment to Caltech by Kip S. Thorne; designing Caltech’s 40-meter prototype interferometer; his various innovations; his disagreements with Weiss, Thorne, and particularly Robbie [Rochus E.] Vogt, LIGO director 1987-1994; his July 1992 dismissal from LIGO; his grievance hearing before Caltech’s Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee, and its eventual outcome. The interview concludes with comments on his current research and on the prospects for LIGO and allied gravity-wave projects.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Physics, LIGO
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Drever_R
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Drever, Ronald W. P. Interview by Shirley K. Cohen. Pasadena, California, January through June 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
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Subjects > Physics
ID Code:272
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:19 Sep 2018 20:11
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:24

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