Then we went on to special relativity, and we went through that in a week or so. Next he announced, "We're going to work on general relativity now, but you need to know tensor analysis; I assume you all know tensor analysis." We said no. He replied, "Well, that's a problem. We'll have to do tensor analysis today and Thursday, and then on Saturday we'll take up general relativity." That's the way it went — it was actually just that easy, including the discussion of quantum mechanics. And besides there were also interesting remarks of a philosophical nature — brief, but very instructive.

With a few exceptions most of the physics teaching at Yale wasn't very good. One of those exceptions was Henry Margenau's Physics 32b.

While I was at Yale I didn't participate much in social life until my last year. I wasn't elected to any senior society, but I was very interested those secret organizations. In fact, I organized one of the break-ins into the Skull and Bones "tomb." I didn't actually carry out the operation, but I made all the necessary arrangements for two other students to do it. By the time they came to get me it was already daylight and nearly time for the janitor to arrive, so I didn't personally inspect the interior. But we learned what was in there, including all the items carefully marked "stolen from" Of course now all that is public information, for example in the comic strip Doonesbury and in a recent book about Skull and Bones. A marker from the grave of Elihu Yale is described as stolen from Wrexham, England." (Actually, Wrexham is in Wales.) Another stolen item is labeled as the skull of the Apache leader Geronimo. It is generally supposed that the Bones man who stole it was Prescott Bush, the father of George H.W. Bush and the grandfather of George W.

In June, 1948, I graduated from Yale and prepared to enter graduate school in physics in the fall. The results of my applications were very disappointing. Harvard admitted me but offered no financial aid. Princeton turned me down flat. At Yale, I was admitted to graduate school in mathematics, but not in physics. The one encouraging reply from a physics department came from MIT. I was admitted and offered the job of assistant to a theoretical physics professor named Victor Weisskopf, of whom I had never heard. When I inquired about him, I was told he was a wonderful man and an excellent physicist and that everyone called him by his nickname, Viki. He wrote me a very nice letter saying he hoped I would come to MIT and work with him.

I was still discouraged, though, about having to go to MIT, which seemed so grubby compared with the Ivy League. I thought of killing myself (at the age of 18) but soon decided that I could always try MIT and then kill myself later if it was that bad but that I couldn't commit suicide and then try MIT afterwards. The two operations, suicide and going to MIT, didn't commute, as we say in math and physics jargon.

When I got to MIT in the fall, I discovered it was actually a very pleasant place, with most agreeable fellow students (including many from the Ivy League), a number of excellent professors, and even the possibility of taking courses at Harvard. Viki was especially congenial and I enjoyed interacting with the group around him as well. He was a remarkable human being. Viki lived to be ninety-four, and I just recently attended the memorial symposium in his honor at MIT — it was an outpouring of love.

At that symposium I chatted with Lászlo Tisza — also known mostly by his nickname, Laci — who is even older than Viki was. He's nearly 100 now. He taught thermodynamics and statistical mechanics in a very elegant fashion.

I should have gotten my Ph.D. at MIT in a year and a half, but I unfortunately dragged out the writing of my dissertation. I spent a lot of time reading things like Evans-Wentz's translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I finished in January of 1951 — about seven months late.


I was supposed to start a postdoctoral year at the Institute for Advanced Study in September 1950, but because of the delay my year at the Institute began in January 1951. I was 21 at that time, and I lived in a rooming house just across the street from Princeton University. Francis Low was at the Institute then, and he and I became good friends and worked together, which was a very pleasant experience for me. Our work was quite useful, but it had a somewhat formal character. In any case it was much appreciated by theorists like Robert Oppenheimer, the Director, who liked formalism.

Einstein was there, and he came to work regularly. I could have spoken with him, but at that time I didn't like the kind of people who approached great figures, introduced themselves, got into conversation with them, and reported the experience to others, saying 'I know Einstein,' and so on. So I didn't approach him. Today, I would almost certainly behave differently, asking the old man about his thoughts years ago when he was carrying out the greatest physics research since Newton's. It would have been exciting. Instead, in 1951 I said "Good morning" occasionally and Einstein would answer with "Guten morning" or something of the kind, but that was it. At the time, Einstein was working on his attempt to construct a unified field theory. The general idea of seeking such a theory was of course an excellent one, but the way he was going about the work clearly doomed it to failure. He didn't believe in quantum mechanics, and so his theory was purely classical. He didn't introduce elementary particles like the electron, hoping that they would somehow emerge from his equations. Also, he included only the electromagnetic and gravitational fields, omitting all the other forces of nature, such as the strong and weak interactions.

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