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Oral-History:Oswald Garrison Villard

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== About Oswald Garrison Villard  ==
 
== About Oswald Garrison Villard  ==
  
Oswald Villard's lifelong fascination with electrical engineering began early, with childhood experiments in amateur radio and college radio club activities. After graduating from Yale University with a bachelor's degree in English, Villard pursued graduate study in electrical engineering at Stanford University and obtained the Ph.D. in 1949. Villard's work with the Stanford Radio Research Lab contributed to United States defense efforts during and after the second world war. Villard helped implement jammers for the Air Force and in 1960 became Director of the Radio Science Laboratory. He served as a technical advisor on several military advisory committees, including the Naval Research Advisory Committee, and contributed to the field of military electronic systems.  
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Oswald Villard's lifelong fascination with electrical engineering began early, with childhood experiments in [[Amateur Radio|amateur radio]] and college radio club activities. After graduating from Yale University with a bachelor's degree in English, Villard pursued graduate study in electrical engineering at Stanford University and obtained the Ph.D. in 1949. Villard's work with the Stanford Radio Research Lab contributed to United States defense efforts during and after the second world war. Villard helped implement jammers for the Air Force and in 1960 became Director of the Radio Science Laboratory. He served as a technical advisor on several military advisory committees, including the Naval Research Advisory Committee, and contributed to the field of military electronic systems.  
  
 
The interview describes Villard's enduring love of experimenting and many of his reminiscences about friends and colleagues at Stanford University. Villard discusses developments in the Radio Research Lab, the Stanford Electronics Labs, and the Microwave Lab, as well as his impressions of innovations in the post-war high energy physics field.  
 
The interview describes Villard's enduring love of experimenting and many of his reminiscences about friends and colleagues at Stanford University. Villard discusses developments in the Radio Research Lab, the Stanford Electronics Labs, and the Microwave Lab, as well as his impressions of innovations in the post-war high energy physics field.  
 
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== About the Interview  ==
 
== About the Interview  ==
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OSWALD GARRISON VILLARD: An Interview Conducted by A. Michal McMahon, IEEE History Center, November 23, 1984  
 
OSWALD GARRISON VILLARD: An Interview Conducted by A. Michal McMahon, IEEE History Center, November 23, 1984  
  
Interview # 043 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
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Interview # 043 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.  
 
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== Copyright Statement  ==
 
== Copyright Statement  ==
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This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.  
 
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.  
  
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.  
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Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.  
  
 
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:  
 
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:  
  
Oswald Garrison Villard, an oral history conducted in 1984 by A. Michal McMahon, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.  
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Oswald Garrison Villard, an oral history conducted in 1984 by A. Michal McMahon, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.  
  
<br>
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== Interview  ==
  
== Interview ==
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Interview: Oswald Garrison Villard
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Interviewer: A. Michal Mcmahon
  
Interview: Oswald Garrison Villard Interviewer: A. Michal Mcmahon Date: November 23, 1984  
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Date: November 23, 1984  
  
 
=== Education and Early Radio Experience  ===
 
=== Education and Early Radio Experience  ===
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'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
  
It was the equivalent of my first year at Hotchkiss. I'm the product of a very conventional education. I attended the Buckley School in New York City, then Hotchkiss [from] '30 to 1934, and Yale from 1934 to 1938. I would say that Alexander Cameron gave me that radio probably around 1928, and always after that I was fascinated by radio. Dad was very good to me. I said that I really wanted to learn something technical about radio, and could he arrange to have me take some tutoring lessons? He said, "Sure, I'd be glad to," and he arranged with the physics department at Columbia University for an instructor there to tutor me, and that instructor turned out to be a man who later became a dean at Columbia and who played quite a role in the atom bomb!! I can't think of his name at the moment — isn't that awful? But he couldn't have been nicer to me, and I used to go up there two or three afternoons a week and spend an hour or so learning about radios and how to put them together.  
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It was the equivalent of my first year at Hotchkiss. I'm the product of a very conventional education. I attended the Buckley School in New York City, then Hotchkiss [from] '30 to 1934, and Yale from 1934 to 1938. I would say that Alexander Cameron gave me that radio probably around 1928, and always after that I was fascinated by radio. Dad was very good to me. I said that I really wanted to learn something technical about radio, and could he arrange to have me take some tutoring lessons? He said, "Sure, I'd be glad to," and he arranged with the physics department at Columbia University for an instructor there to tutor me, and that instructor turned out to be a man who later became a dean at Columbia and who played quite a role in the [[Nuclear Bombs|atom bomb]]!! I can't think of his name at the moment — isn't that awful? But he couldn't have been nicer to me, and I used to go up there two or three afternoons a week and spend an hour or so learning about radios and how to put them together.  
  
 
As part of that I was shown one of the early Geiger counters, and that was really quite a heroic effort. Today we take them for granted. They’re now little bitty things, but this affair occupied a room that was probably thirty feet in length, and there was a series of tables abutting one another. Underneath the tables you had wires leading down to storage batteries and dry cell B batteries, and at one there was the device where the electrical impulses appeared. The whole thing amplified up through different power levels and finally drove an old-fashioned loudspeaker, trumpet-style, at the end. He would take a watch, or something with a little bit of radioactive material, and hold it near the input end of the thing and you'd hear these "Bonk — bonkbonk — bonk" sounds coming out. That was very exciting. I was quite well impressed with that.  
 
As part of that I was shown one of the early Geiger counters, and that was really quite a heroic effort. Today we take them for granted. They’re now little bitty things, but this affair occupied a room that was probably thirty feet in length, and there was a series of tables abutting one another. Underneath the tables you had wires leading down to storage batteries and dry cell B batteries, and at one there was the device where the electrical impulses appeared. The whole thing amplified up through different power levels and finally drove an old-fashioned loudspeaker, trumpet-style, at the end. He would take a watch, or something with a little bit of radioactive material, and hold it near the input end of the thing and you'd hear these "Bonk — bonkbonk — bonk" sounds coming out. That was very exciting. I was quite well impressed with that.  
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'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
  
Terman's would have been out at that time! It came out in 1932.  
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[[Frederick Terman|Terman's]] would have been out at that time! It came out in 1932.  
  
 
'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
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What kind of research went on there?  
 
What kind of research went on there?  
  
'''Villard:'''<br>
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'''Villard:'''  
  
 
This was research in radio engineering of one kind or another. We had under Lester Field a vacuum tube research lab, and that was very far out and advanced. I think it was the second year after I got to Stanford that Carl Spangenberg joined the faculty, and his special field was tubes, and he worked with Lester Field —  
 
This was research in radio engineering of one kind or another. We had under Lester Field a vacuum tube research lab, and that was very far out and advanced. I think it was the second year after I got to Stanford that Carl Spangenberg joined the faculty, and his special field was tubes, and he worked with Lester Field —  
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'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
  
That could be. I see. Somehow I have a feeling that he wasn't there when I originally arrived. He may have been appointed but originally couldn't come that first year because he hadn't finished his dissertation under Everitt.  
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That could be. I see. Somehow I have a feeling that he wasn't there when I originally arrived. He may have been appointed but originally couldn't come that first year because he hadn't finished his dissertation under [[William Everitt|Everitt]].  
  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
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He was a great guy. I was very fond of Carl, and he and his wife Ruth used to have us out to their house at various entertainments, just as the Termans did. It was sort of fun to have Carl there, because he was the second professor specifically in the radio field, and there was a kind of a "we-they” attitude. You know, there were all the power engineers on one end and the radio types in the other. Radio was generally disreputable; it was sort of thought of as an apostate division of electrical engineering. If you did radio it wasn't clear that you really were an electrical engineer, because the world sort of revolved around big machines and their design, and power systems, and so forth. We were located upstairs over the Main Machinery Lab, where there were endless test apparatuses set up that we all worked on, as we went through. In those days, smoking was a no-no, because if you connected up these big machines in the wrong way, something would smoke, and that spelled bad trouble and lots of money. They always adjured us not to smoke, and very few of us actually did. But some did, and that was so you'd have maximum sensitivity to any bad smells! As a matter of fact Terman had been doing radio work for a number of years, of course, prior to my arrival there. There had even been research in the ionosphere going on, which I became interested in and gravitated into.  
 
He was a great guy. I was very fond of Carl, and he and his wife Ruth used to have us out to their house at various entertainments, just as the Termans did. It was sort of fun to have Carl there, because he was the second professor specifically in the radio field, and there was a kind of a "we-they” attitude. You know, there were all the power engineers on one end and the radio types in the other. Radio was generally disreputable; it was sort of thought of as an apostate division of electrical engineering. If you did radio it wasn't clear that you really were an electrical engineer, because the world sort of revolved around big machines and their design, and power systems, and so forth. We were located upstairs over the Main Machinery Lab, where there were endless test apparatuses set up that we all worked on, as we went through. In those days, smoking was a no-no, because if you connected up these big machines in the wrong way, something would smoke, and that spelled bad trouble and lots of money. They always adjured us not to smoke, and very few of us actually did. But some did, and that was so you'd have maximum sensitivity to any bad smells! As a matter of fact Terman had been doing radio work for a number of years, of course, prior to my arrival there. There had even been research in the ionosphere going on, which I became interested in and gravitated into.  
  
'''McMahon:'''<br>
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'''McMahon:'''  
  
 
You said Spangenberg was the second radio man. You mean second after Terman?  
 
You said Spangenberg was the second radio man. You mean second after Terman?  
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'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
  
Yes, Terman, Spangenberg and Skilling. Some of the graduate students participating in the machinery field were W.J. Hoover, and Joseph Carroll, and some of the graduate students who were student assistants were Ed Ginzton, under whom I studied, and Matthew Labenbaum, who was recently retired from the Airborne Instruments Lab. And I knew Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.  
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Yes, Terman, Spangenberg and Skilling. Some of the graduate students participating in the machinery field were W.J. Hoover, and Joseph Carroll, and some of the graduate students who were student assistants were [[Edward L. Ginzton|Ed Ginzton]], under whom I studied, and Matthew Labenbaum, who was recently retired from the Airborne Instruments Lab. And I knew [[William R. Hewlett|Bill Hewlett]] and [[David Packard|Dave Packard]].  
  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
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'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
  
No. I think Hewlett either got his master's degree in 1938 or 1939. When I got there in the fall of 1938, he could have been finishing up his master's degree; He and Dave Packard were already thinking about their first product, which was a so-called resistance-tuned oscillator. Hewlett and Packard had been in touch, and Fred Terman had egged this on, and Packard had come back from General Electric, where he'd put in a year and a half. I remember well when he got back; he came around to the lab and showed us the very handsome inscribed memento that they'd given him as a consequence of his service there. It was something brass, with the names of all his colleagues at GE. He'd obviously been extremely popular at GE, and he was coming back, as I understand it, basically to go into business with Dave Packard.  
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No. I think Hewlett either got his master's degree in 1938 or 1939. When I got there in the fall of 1938, he could have been finishing up his master's degree; He and Dave Packard were already thinking about their first product, which was a so-called resistance-tuned oscillator. Hewlett and Packard had been in touch, and Fred Terman had egged this on, and Packard had come back from [[General Electric (GE)|General Electric]], where he'd put in a year and a half. I remember well when he got back; he came around to the lab and showed us the very handsome inscribed memento that they'd given him as a consequence of his service there. It was something brass, with the names of all his colleagues at GE. He'd obviously been extremely popular at GE, and he was coming back, as I understand it, basically to go into business with Dave Packard.  
  
 
Their first product was the resistance-tuned oscillator, and I don't know where the idea of the resistance-tuned oscillator originated, but it was part of the applications of negative feedback. Negative feedback as a concept had burst on the scene — it probably originated at Bell Labs — about that time. The oscillator involved a combination of both positive and negative feedback, which was a new thought. The biggest technical problem of making something that worked was that if you varied the tuning, and the tolerance of the resistors or the capacitors, or whatever you used for tuning was bad, then the gain would change and the output of the oscillator would change by an unacceptable amount. So, you had to do something to regulate it, and it was Bill Hewlett's inspiration to put in a small electric light bulb. He took advantage basically of a nonlinear relationship between current through the bulb and the resistance across it, and he made it part of a bridge. The bridge automatically balanced itself and thus maintained the amplitude of the output of the oscillator, amazingly constant, as a function of frequency. We were tuning over a phenomenally wide range, ten to one in frequency, which was really quite unheard of. The previous standard source of sinusoidal oscillations for test purposes was the beat frequency oscillator, and the company that had the lock on the market for those was General Radio. Then Hewlett-Packard came along with a thing that cost something on the order of a tenth of the General Radio oscillator cost and yet did more!! It was really easier to use, it didn't require a warm-up period, and calibrating it was better. The beat oscillator was so expensive because the fixed oscillator and the beat oscillator both had to be extremely stable or that would alter the frequency of the beat! The Hewlett-Packard oscillator was so simple by comparison. They also hit on a nice thing: instead of resistance tuning it they capacitance tuned it, and that was because multiple gain capacitors were available on an inexpensive production basis. They were designed for the radios of the day, but in oscillator application they gave you a particularly nice linear frequency versus dial rotation calibration, and so on.  
 
Their first product was the resistance-tuned oscillator, and I don't know where the idea of the resistance-tuned oscillator originated, but it was part of the applications of negative feedback. Negative feedback as a concept had burst on the scene — it probably originated at Bell Labs — about that time. The oscillator involved a combination of both positive and negative feedback, which was a new thought. The biggest technical problem of making something that worked was that if you varied the tuning, and the tolerance of the resistors or the capacitors, or whatever you used for tuning was bad, then the gain would change and the output of the oscillator would change by an unacceptable amount. So, you had to do something to regulate it, and it was Bill Hewlett's inspiration to put in a small electric light bulb. He took advantage basically of a nonlinear relationship between current through the bulb and the resistance across it, and he made it part of a bridge. The bridge automatically balanced itself and thus maintained the amplitude of the output of the oscillator, amazingly constant, as a function of frequency. We were tuning over a phenomenally wide range, ten to one in frequency, which was really quite unheard of. The previous standard source of sinusoidal oscillations for test purposes was the beat frequency oscillator, and the company that had the lock on the market for those was General Radio. Then Hewlett-Packard came along with a thing that cost something on the order of a tenth of the General Radio oscillator cost and yet did more!! It was really easier to use, it didn't require a warm-up period, and calibrating it was better. The beat oscillator was so expensive because the fixed oscillator and the beat oscillator both had to be extremely stable or that would alter the frequency of the beat! The Hewlett-Packard oscillator was so simple by comparison. They also hit on a nice thing: instead of resistance tuning it they capacitance tuned it, and that was because multiple gain capacitors were available on an inexpensive production basis. They were designed for the radios of the day, but in oscillator application they gave you a particularly nice linear frequency versus dial rotation calibration, and so on.  
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'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
  
Yes, it evolved in the Radio Lab. As a matter of fact, I bought their production prototype, which was the first oscillator built as they would produce a production unit. I was able to buy it; I don't remember what I paid for it now, but I've since given it back to them for their museum. But that was, you might say, their first product sold for money prior to the order that really got them started from the Disney people. Disney was doing the movie ''Fantasia'' and they needed oscillators for tuning up the multiple channel soundtracks that were used in that movie.  
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Yes, it evolved in the Radio Lab. As a matter of fact, I bought their production prototype, which was the first oscillator built as they would produce a production unit. I was able to buy it; I don't remember what I paid for it now, but I've since given it back to them for their museum. But that was, you might say, their first product sold for money prior to the order that really got them started from the Disney people. Disney was doing the movie ''[[Fantasound|Fantasia]]'' and they needed oscillators for tuning up the multiple channel soundtracks that were used in that movie.  
  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
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Well, there was always a great spirit of entrepreneurship here in California. My father gave the commencement address at Reed College in Oregon, I believe in 1936. Anyhow, he took some of his family with him, and we went on an Alaska cruise after his talk, and coming back I recall visiting the Itel-McCullough company, which I'd learned about through my ham radio activity. I was one of the early purchasers of their tubes, and I shall never forget my visit to San Bruno, which was the old original IMAC factory. These guys were really cogent. The front part of the store had a ham radio station in it, and the back part was the factory. Those of us who had our ham tickets could go in and operate their station, and it was operated with such an overload on the tubes that every time you pressed the key to transmit a dot or a dash the anode to the tube would visibly light up! Going from red to white, if you will, or red from yellow to white! I'd never seen tubes operated in that manner before, but I was really impressed. It was clear that they were having a wonderfully good time doing this, and I just had never seen anything like it anywhere in my contacts on the east coast.  
 
Well, there was always a great spirit of entrepreneurship here in California. My father gave the commencement address at Reed College in Oregon, I believe in 1936. Anyhow, he took some of his family with him, and we went on an Alaska cruise after his talk, and coming back I recall visiting the Itel-McCullough company, which I'd learned about through my ham radio activity. I was one of the early purchasers of their tubes, and I shall never forget my visit to San Bruno, which was the old original IMAC factory. These guys were really cogent. The front part of the store had a ham radio station in it, and the back part was the factory. Those of us who had our ham tickets could go in and operate their station, and it was operated with such an overload on the tubes that every time you pressed the key to transmit a dot or a dash the anode to the tube would visibly light up! Going from red to white, if you will, or red from yellow to white! I'd never seen tubes operated in that manner before, but I was really impressed. It was clear that they were having a wonderfully good time doing this, and I just had never seen anything like it anywhere in my contacts on the east coast.  
  
'''McMahon:'''<br>
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'''McMahon:'''  
  
 
That's part of the story that Arthur Norberg was getting into, about Itel-McCullough. Evidently their main product was tubes for amateurs. Terman says that RCA wasn't into that, and you got into whatever RCA wasn't into. He distinguishes the companies in southern California as going into production in the same lines as the old companies, so they weren't as avant-garde as these entrepreneurial firms. That's interesting.  
 
That's part of the story that Arthur Norberg was getting into, about Itel-McCullough. Evidently their main product was tubes for amateurs. Terman says that RCA wasn't into that, and you got into whatever RCA wasn't into. He distinguishes the companies in southern California as going into production in the same lines as the old companies, so they weren't as avant-garde as these entrepreneurial firms. That's interesting.  
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'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
  
The difference? Oh, yes. Well, it really dates back to 1936, because that was the year of the San Diego World's Fair. I remember we went on from San Bruno further south... It was also obvious from amateur radio. West coast hams were always the first on the air with the latest gadgets. They also had a reputation for exceeding the legal power limits.  
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The difference? Oh, yes. Well, it really dates back to 1936, because that was the year of the San Diego World's Fair. I remember we went on from San Bruno further south... It was also obvious from [[Amateur Radio|amateur radio]]. West coast hams were always the first on the air with the latest gadgets. They also had a reputation for exceeding the legal power limits.  
  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
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Let me ask you about your dissertation again, and that transition to the Radio Research Laboratory. I have something in mind there, that they're connected, but I think that maybe you were just at the RRL.  
 
Let me ask you about your dissertation again, and that transition to the Radio Research Laboratory. I have something in mind there, that they're connected, but I think that maybe you were just at the RRL.  
  
'''McMahon:'''<br>  
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'''McMahon:'''  
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<p><flashmp3>043 - villard - clip 1.mp3</flashmp3></p>
  
 
Yes, how I got there might be of interest, because it turned out that I was lucky. Another great inspiration to me, in addition to Terman and the group at the Radio Lab on the campus, was the group under Hanson et al. in the Physics Lab. I don't exactly understand how it was that I got to know them, but they used to go down to a restaurant called the Little Restaurant on Florence Street in Palo Alto where you could get an excellent lunch for something like fifty cents. I somehow fell in with them and used to go to these lunches there, and I hardly can think of a more exciting experience. Hansen and Russ Varian and I didn't see much of Sig Varian and William Webster from physics used to go to these lunches. So did John Woodier, who I think spent some time working with Terman and then went to the University of California. Anyhow, they were sitting around and Russ Varian was marvelous as an idea man. He kept thinking of all these intriguing ideas, and some of them were obviously wrong. Even I could follow that. Bill Hansen was wonderfully patient with Russ, and Bill would say, "You know, that probably isn't going to work because of thus and so, but this aspect of your idea is good and I'm going to go away and think about this." The next day he'd come and report on what he'd thought about it. He'd done some back-of-the-envelope calculations, and it was obvious that they were doing exciting new things with radio technology in what became the microwave field.  
 
Yes, how I got there might be of interest, because it turned out that I was lucky. Another great inspiration to me, in addition to Terman and the group at the Radio Lab on the campus, was the group under Hanson et al. in the Physics Lab. I don't exactly understand how it was that I got to know them, but they used to go down to a restaurant called the Little Restaurant on Florence Street in Palo Alto where you could get an excellent lunch for something like fifty cents. I somehow fell in with them and used to go to these lunches there, and I hardly can think of a more exciting experience. Hansen and Russ Varian and I didn't see much of Sig Varian and William Webster from physics used to go to these lunches. So did John Woodier, who I think spent some time working with Terman and then went to the University of California. Anyhow, they were sitting around and Russ Varian was marvelous as an idea man. He kept thinking of all these intriguing ideas, and some of them were obviously wrong. Even I could follow that. Bill Hansen was wonderfully patient with Russ, and Bill would say, "You know, that probably isn't going to work because of thus and so, but this aspect of your idea is good and I'm going to go away and think about this." The next day he'd come and report on what he'd thought about it. He'd done some back-of-the-envelope calculations, and it was obvious that they were doing exciting new things with radio technology in what became the microwave field.  
  
When the war came, they did me the honor of asking me whether I would join Bill Hansen and the group who were going back to work with Sperry, and then Fred invited me to join him at the Radio Research Lab, and it was a toss-up. I came very close to deciding to go with Hansen and Company, just because it was novel and exciting. But I felt that I owed a great deal to Fred Terman, and I felt that what he was going to do was pretty exciting too, and so I decided to do that and of course never regretted it. I got my engineer's degree, which I had essentially completed the work for before leaving Stanford in 1942. Bobbi and I were married in that year, and I immediately went to work for the Radio Research Lab. After the war I sort of flirted with going to work for Bell Labs or some organization similar to that and did some interviewing, but then it seemed pretty clear that what I wanted to do was go back and get the Ph.D. at Stanford. My doctoral dissertation work had to do with the radio detection of meteor trails, and it happened that during the war I had been frustrated as a radio ham. I had a good short-wave receiver in our little house in Cambridge, and when I listened to the Voice of America broadcasts on the short-wave, and I was immediately struck by these curious whistling sounds followed by a big increase in the signal level. Just from the sound of it, it seemed to me that this might qualify meteors coming into the earth's atmosphere. We had Fred Quipple at our lab, who was a very well-known meteor astronomer. When I described all of this to him, he said, "It sounds like meteors, all right, and what you need to do is look up an article by a couple of Indians, Kamahd Lall and Val Catamara, who were for All India Radio, and they published in this obscure Indian Radio engineering journal well prior to the war. I think it was 1937, their observation of the same thing." So that triggered me off.  
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When the war came, they did me the honor of asking me whether I would join Bill Hansen and the group who were going back to work with [[Elmer A. Sperry|Sperry]], and then Fred invited me to join him at the Radio Research Lab, and it was a toss-up. I came very close to deciding to go with Hansen and Company, just because it was novel and exciting. But I felt that I owed a great deal to Fred Terman, and I felt that what he was going to do was pretty exciting too, and so I decided to do that and of course never regretted it. I got my engineer's degree, which I had essentially completed the work for before leaving Stanford in 1942. Bobbi and I were married in that year, and I immediately went to work for the Radio Research Lab. After the war I sort of flirted with going to work for Bell Labs or some organization similar to that and did some interviewing, but then it seemed pretty clear that what I wanted to do was go back and get the Ph.D. at Stanford. My doctoral dissertation work had to do with the radio detection of meteor trails, and it happened that during the war I had been frustrated as a radio ham. I had a good short-wave receiver in our little house in Cambridge, and when I listened to the Voice of America broadcasts on the short-wave, and I was immediately struck by these curious whistling sounds followed by a big increase in the signal level. Just from the sound of it, it seemed to me that this might qualify meteors coming into the earth's atmosphere. We had Fred Quipple at our lab, who was a very well-known meteor astronomer. When I described all of this to him, he said, "It sounds like meteors, all right, and what you need to do is look up an article by a couple of Indians, Kamahd Lall and Val Catamara, who were for All India Radio, and they published in this obscure Indian Radio engineering journal well prior to the war. I think it was 1937, their observation of the same thing." So that triggered me off.  
  
 
When I got back to Stanford I resolved to try to follow it up, and we were in luck because the Jacobini-Zinner meteor shower came along in 1946, and so we got these Stanford Amateur Radio Club transmitter on the air and received the signal on the other side of the campus. We had a [unintelligible] of the antenna for bucking out the groundwave, and sure enough, here was the sky just full of these brilliant meteors. Bang, bang, bang, bang we got all of these lovely whistles and signal bursts. The connection between the two was obvious, to us at least, at that point, but we hadn't reported this in the scientific literature. It was at least two or three years before we persuaded our scientific colleagues that this effect was real, because it seemed so improbable. But, that was how I came to do the dissertation thing. I remember that in the oral exam, Fred Terman asked me, "How can you be sure that what you were hearing weren't harmonics of local oscillators and neighbors tuning their receivers back and forth?" That question sort of stumped me: it was a hard one to answer. I hadn't thought that anybody could possibly confuse the two, but I could see that he had a point. There's a world of difference, actually.  
 
When I got back to Stanford I resolved to try to follow it up, and we were in luck because the Jacobini-Zinner meteor shower came along in 1946, and so we got these Stanford Amateur Radio Club transmitter on the air and received the signal on the other side of the campus. We had a [unintelligible] of the antenna for bucking out the groundwave, and sure enough, here was the sky just full of these brilliant meteors. Bang, bang, bang, bang we got all of these lovely whistles and signal bursts. The connection between the two was obvious, to us at least, at that point, but we hadn't reported this in the scientific literature. It was at least two or three years before we persuaded our scientific colleagues that this effect was real, because it seemed so improbable. But, that was how I came to do the dissertation thing. I remember that in the oral exam, Fred Terman asked me, "How can you be sure that what you were hearing weren't harmonics of local oscillators and neighbors tuning their receivers back and forth?" That question sort of stumped me: it was a hard one to answer. I hadn't thought that anybody could possibly confuse the two, but I could see that he had a point. There's a world of difference, actually.  
Line 353: Line 353:
 
He was playing devil's advocate.  
 
He was playing devil's advocate.  
  
'''McMahon:'''<br>
+
'''McMahon:'''  
  
 
Got you thinking on your feet. So you got your doctorate at what time?  
 
Got you thinking on your feet. So you got your doctorate at what time?  
Line 395: Line 395:
 
He said that? Oh, that's interesting! Well, that could be. I'm not sure that I was at many of them myself, because I was pretty low level, but very often when Terman himself would come to Washington, they would have what they'd call "smoke-filled sessions." That would be Terman and Cullun and the service chiefs, and they would go around with hammer and tongs and really decide the essential issues. I was in on one of the more heavily attended meetings, during which the technical details were discussed, and that kind of thing.  
 
He said that? Oh, that's interesting! Well, that could be. I'm not sure that I was at many of them myself, because I was pretty low level, but very often when Terman himself would come to Washington, they would have what they'd call "smoke-filled sessions." That would be Terman and Cullun and the service chiefs, and they would go around with hammer and tongs and really decide the essential issues. I was in on one of the more heavily attended meetings, during which the technical details were discussed, and that kind of thing.  
  
'''McMahon:'''<br>
+
'''McMahon:'''  
  
 
So that doesn't sound like the meeting that Suits was talking about?  
 
So that doesn't sound like the meeting that Suits was talking about?  
Line 433: Line 433:
 
Yes, we took an extended holiday after the war. We bought a trailer because we understood housing was so short on the west coast, and went to Mexico. I guess we got out here in the spring of 1946.  
 
Yes, we took an extended holiday after the war. We bought a trailer because we understood housing was so short on the west coast, and went to Mexico. I guess we got out here in the spring of 1946.  
  
'''McMahon:'''<br>
+
'''McMahon:'''  
  
 
Then you started your faculty duties the next year?  
 
Then you started your faculty duties the next year?  
Line 449: Line 449:
 
Oh, yes, sure! You see, the difference between the Ph.D. and the engineer's degree is only about a year of academic work.  
 
Oh, yes, sure! You see, the difference between the Ph.D. and the engineer's degree is only about a year of academic work.  
  
'''McMahon:'''<br>
+
'''McMahon:'''  
  
 
And so you did it.  
 
And so you did it.  
Line 489: Line 489:
 
'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
  
That's my understanding. Bill Rambo is the guy that you ought to talk to, because he became Director of the Labs.  
+
That's my understanding. [[Oral-History:William Rambo|Bill Rambo]] is the guy that you ought to talk to, because he became Director of the Labs.  
  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
Line 517: Line 517:
 
'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
  
Ginzton was also the head of some Lab? I guess I need to sort them out.  
+
[[Edward L. Ginzton|Ginzton]] was also the head of some Lab? I guess I need to sort them out.  
  
 
'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
  
It seemed to me that what happened after the war was that there was recognition of the fact that general physics world split up into two parts, the high energy physics and all the rest. High energy physics was very well established at Stanford, and part of that Hansen had figured in. The ramatron and then the klystrons, involved these cavity resonators, and Hansen had been interested from the outset in trying to do something in the high energy physics line that would compete with the University of California. The University of California, you see, had these very successful cyclotrons, or circular accelerators. I believe it was Hansen's concept that one could do the same with a linear device, and that led to everything up to SLAC today. The linear accelerator was going to work because you'd have these cavities and you'd accelerate the electrons down a tube, and then you'd' feed radio frequency energy into them. So you needed radio frequency sources, and that was another application of the cavities that led of course to the klystron, which was so successful during the war. One of the remarkable postwar accomplishments was the scaling of the klystrons upwards in size. They went from the wartime size level, which was in the fraction of a watt category. Then they were used primarily as local oscillators in radars and were the most successful signal source for that purpose at that time. In the Microwave Lab for accelerator use they wanted to get up into the twenty to fifty kilowatt power level, and they did that successfully in one jump. I think there was a laboratory half- way between physics and engineering which was called the Microwave Laboratory and was headed by Ginzton. I guess when Bill Hansen died they then named the whole complex after him, the Hansen Labs, which I think includes Microwave. The people in the microwave arena have joint appointments in physics and electrical engineering. Then there came along applied physics, which was sort of an extension of the Microwave Lab concept, and that included other activities such as plasma physics. They're all part of as I understand it the Hansen Labs. I'm sorry to be so dim on all this —  
+
It seemed to me that what happened after the war was that there was recognition of the fact that general physics world split up into two parts, the high energy physics and all the rest. High energy physics was very well established at Stanford, and part of that Hansen had figured in. The ramatron and then the [[Klystron|klystrons]], involved these cavity resonators, and Hansen had been interested from the outset in trying to do something in the high energy physics line that would compete with the University of California. The University of California, you see, had these very successful cyclotrons, or circular accelerators. I believe it was Hansen's concept that one could do the same with a linear device, and that led to everything up to SLAC today. The linear accelerator was going to work because you'd have these cavities and you'd accelerate the electrons down a tube, and then you'd' feed radio frequency energy into them. So you needed radio frequency sources, and that was another application of the cavities that led of course to the klystron, which was so successful during the war. One of the remarkable postwar accomplishments was the scaling of the klystrons upwards in size. They went from the wartime size level, which was in the fraction of a watt category. Then they were used primarily as local oscillators in radars and were the most successful signal source for that purpose at that time. In the Microwave Lab for accelerator use they wanted to get up into the twenty to fifty kilowatt power level, and they did that successfully in one jump. I think there was a laboratory half- way between physics and engineering which was called the Microwave Laboratory and was headed by Ginzton. I guess when Bill Hansen died they then named the whole complex after him, the Hansen Labs, which I think includes Microwave. The people in the microwave arena have joint appointments in physics and electrical engineering. Then there came along applied physics, which was sort of an extension of the Microwave Lab concept, and that included other activities such as plasma physics. They're all part of as I understand it the Hansen Labs. I'm sorry to be so dim on all this —  
  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
Line 635: Line 635:
 
'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
  
— and not physics and electrical engineering.<br>
+
— and not physics and electrical engineering.  
  
 
'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
Line 643: Line 643:
 
'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
  
Who was in physics then — Hansen and Webster — did Webster come back after the war? Chodorow was here then.  
+
Who was in physics then — Hansen and Webster — did Webster come back after the war? [[Oral-History:Marvin Chodorow|Chodorow]] was here then.  
  
 
'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
Line 669: Line 669:
 
But then he came back afterwards too.  
 
But then he came back afterwards too.  
  
'''Villard:'''<br>
+
'''Villard:'''  
  
Yes indeed, and then he went into the Nuclear Resonance thing, for which he shared the Nobel Prize.  
+
Yes indeed, and then he went into the Nuclear Resonance thing, for which he shared the [[Nobel Prize|Nobel Prize]].  
  
'''McMahon:'''<br>
+
'''McMahon:'''  
  
 
During that period?  
 
During that period?  
Line 685: Line 685:
 
And you don't remember him being connected with Terman?  
 
And you don't remember him being connected with Terman?  
  
'''Villard:'''<br>
+
'''Villard:'''  
  
 
No. They all considered themselves to be pretty pure physicists, and engineers were definitely lower on the ladder of esteem. There's a pecking order around universities, and it holds that mathematicians are the top of the heap, and then come the physicists, and then come electrical engineers, and then you sort of go on down from there.  
 
No. They all considered themselves to be pretty pure physicists, and engineers were definitely lower on the ladder of esteem. There's a pecking order around universities, and it holds that mathematicians are the top of the heap, and then come the physicists, and then come electrical engineers, and then you sort of go on down from there.  
  
'''McMahon:'''<br>
+
'''McMahon:'''  
  
 
But the electrical engineer is at the top of engineering in that pecking order, in that sense. That's because of the currency of their knowledge, or their closeness to physics?  
 
But the electrical engineer is at the top of engineering in that pecking order, in that sense. That's because of the currency of their knowledge, or their closeness to physics?  
Line 707: Line 707:
 
'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
  
I've certainly felt that from some of the engineers that I've spoken to Jack Ryder was a person that I talked to, and he had been, I guess a colleague of Terman's after the war. He had studied under Everitt, and he felt that real strongly. He and Terman worked together in the fifties, promoting this idea of engineering science.  
+
I've certainly felt that from some of the engineers that [[Oral-History:John Douglass Ryder|I've spoken to Jack Ryder]] was a person that I talked to, and he had been, I guess a colleague of Terman's after the war. He had studied under Everitt, and he felt that real strongly. He and Terman worked together in the fifties, promoting this idea of engineering science.  
  
 
'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
Line 765: Line 765:
 
Well, Terman had this idea of Steeples of Excellence. By that he meant, instead of trying to cover the whole field one should just concentrate on the things that one can do well. For example, Stanford never had any astronomy, because it was felt that the lead established by the University of California across the Bay was something that we could never catch up to. You try to find the areas where you have initial strength, and then build on that. Well, my field was really the ionosphere, and radio propagation, and Terman encouraged me to build up that field. I was lucky to have assembled a group of colleagues like Bob Helliwell, Larry Manning, Don Eschelman, Alan Peterson, and people like that, and we sort of became one of the leading groups in the United States working in what came to be called radio science. Unfortunately, there were not many industries traditionally who had to do with radio science, so we were never involved in the Stanford affiliates effort, and that's only happened quite recently... but we were aware that that was going on.  
 
Well, Terman had this idea of Steeples of Excellence. By that he meant, instead of trying to cover the whole field one should just concentrate on the things that one can do well. For example, Stanford never had any astronomy, because it was felt that the lead established by the University of California across the Bay was something that we could never catch up to. You try to find the areas where you have initial strength, and then build on that. Well, my field was really the ionosphere, and radio propagation, and Terman encouraged me to build up that field. I was lucky to have assembled a group of colleagues like Bob Helliwell, Larry Manning, Don Eschelman, Alan Peterson, and people like that, and we sort of became one of the leading groups in the United States working in what came to be called radio science. Unfortunately, there were not many industries traditionally who had to do with radio science, so we were never involved in the Stanford affiliates effort, and that's only happened quite recently... but we were aware that that was going on.  
  
One other valuable basic philosophy Terman had was that, if you were a university, what you wanted to do was to specialize in the subjects that were going to result in new projects years down the road, when your graduates finally graduated and got themselves established in industry. He felt we should concentrate on the things that made it all possible. In the days of vacuum tubes, he concentrated on vacuum tubes. As soon as it went to transistors, he made sure that Bill Shockley was brought to the area, you see, and that we developed an integrated circuit training and research program at the university, and he would be very pleased by the integrated systems work that's going on at present. He felt that you had to be very careful in something like ionospheric work, because it wasn't in the mainstream, as far as engineering graduates were concerned. In fact, I have always wondered a little why he countenanced me at all on the ionospheric activity at Stanford, because it wasn't real honest-to-God engineering. It was more science than engineering, actually; as we did radio science at Stanford we found that the organizations against which we were competing were in the physics departments of other universities around the country and around the world.  
+
One other valuable basic philosophy Terman had was that, if you were a university, what you wanted to do was to specialize in the subjects that were going to result in new projects years down the road, when your graduates finally graduated and got themselves established in industry. He felt we should concentrate on the things that made it all possible. In the days of [[Electron (or Vacuum) Tubes|vacuum tubes]], he concentrated on vacuum tubes. As soon as it went to [[Transistors|transistors]], he made sure that [[William Shockley|Bill Shockley]] was brought to the area, you see, and that we developed an [[Integrated Circuits|integrated circuit]] training and research program at the university, and he would be very pleased by the integrated systems work that's going on at present. He felt that you had to be very careful in something like ionospheric work, because it wasn't in the mainstream, as far as engineering graduates were concerned. In fact, I have always wondered a little why he countenanced me at all on the ionospheric activity at Stanford, because it wasn't real honest-to-God engineering. It was more science than engineering, actually; as we did radio science at Stanford we found that the organizations against which we were competing were in the physics departments of other universities around the country and around the world.  
  
 
=== Research Projects and Funding  ===
 
=== Research Projects and Funding  ===
Line 771: Line 771:
 
'''Villard:'''  
 
'''Villard:'''  
  
Very few engineering schools, you see, were doing research in the fundamentals of radio propagation. I guess that was why Terman countenanced it: some of the things we researched became the basis for later application in industry. For example, the meteor detection work I began during the war has led to three or four companies now building meteor burst communication systems and selling them. A subsidiary of Western Union has a set up that collects hydrological information from various western states in a place north of Salt Lake City. That's very nicely adapted to this meteor burst communication, because it's a low data rate system. It's cheap to collect the data and it's easier to do this from the sensors along streams where they measure water flow and hydrologic data and transmit it back by VHF, by means of meteor burst. This is in contrast to putting up microwave relays on mountain tops that are terribly inaccessible and very difficult to service. One would also require a very large number of them, as contrasted with the burst communication system. That's an example of the type of thing that leads to later application, and Terman was all for that.  
+
Very few engineering schools, you see, were doing research in the fundamentals of radio propagation. I guess that was why Terman countenanced it: some of the things we researched became the basis for later application in industry. For example, the meteor detection work I began during the war has led to three or four companies now building meteor burst communication systems and selling them. A subsidiary of [[Western Union|Western Union]] has a set up that collects hydrological information from various western states in a place north of Salt Lake City. That's very nicely adapted to this meteor burst communication, because it's a low data rate system. It's cheap to collect the data and it's easier to do this from the sensors along streams where they measure water flow and hydrologic data and transmit it back by VHF, by means of meteor burst. This is in contrast to putting up microwave relays on mountain tops that are terribly inaccessible and very difficult to service. One would also require a very large number of them, as contrasted with the burst communication system. That's an example of the type of thing that leads to later application, and Terman was all for that.  
  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
 
'''McMahon:'''  
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Well, I wouldn't want to say that. You'd have to look at the individual circumstances.  
 
Well, I wouldn't want to say that. You'd have to look at the individual circumstances.  
  
[[Category:People_and_organizations]] [[Category:Engineers]] [[Category:Inventors]] [[Category:Universities]] [[Category:Components,_circuits,_devices_&_systems|Category:Components,_circuits,_devices_&amp;_systems]] [[Category:Solid_state_circuits]] [[Category:Transistors]] [[Category:Electronic_components]]
+
[[Category:People and organizations|Villard]] [[Category:Engineers|Villard]] [[Category:Inventors|Villard]] [[Category:Universities|Villard]] [[Category:Components, circuits, devices & systems|Villard]] [[Category:Solid state circuits|Villard]] [[Category:Transistors|Villard]] [[Category:Electronic components|Villard]] [[Category:Communications|Villard]] [[Category:Radio communication|Villard]] [[Category:Communication equipment|Villard]] [[Category:Radio communication equipment|Villard]] [[Category:Power, energy & industry application|Villard]] [[Category:Power systems|Villard]] [[Category:Oscillators|Villard]] [[Category:Fields, waves & electromagnetics|Villard]] [[Category:Environment, geoscience & remote sensing|Villard]] [[Category:Radar|Villard]] [[Category:Microwave technology|Villard]] [[Category:News|Villard]]

Revision as of 18:56, 29 March 2012

Contents

About Oswald Garrison Villard

Oswald Villard's lifelong fascination with electrical engineering began early, with childhood experiments in amateur radio and college radio club activities. After graduating from Yale University with a bachelor's degree in English, Villard pursued graduate study in electrical engineering at Stanford University and obtained the Ph.D. in 1949. Villard's work with the Stanford Radio Research Lab contributed to United States defense efforts during and after the second world war. Villard helped implement jammers for the Air Force and in 1960 became Director of the Radio Science Laboratory. He served as a technical advisor on several military advisory committees, including the Naval Research Advisory Committee, and contributed to the field of military electronic systems.

The interview describes Villard's enduring love of experimenting and many of his reminiscences about friends and colleagues at Stanford University. Villard discusses developments in the Radio Research Lab, the Stanford Electronics Labs, and the Microwave Lab, as well as his impressions of innovations in the post-war high energy physics field.

About the Interview

OSWALD GARRISON VILLARD: An Interview Conducted by A. Michal McMahon, IEEE History Center, November 23, 1984

Interview # 043 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Oswald Garrison Villard, an oral history conducted in 1984 by A. Michal McMahon, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

Interview: Oswald Garrison Villard

Interviewer: A. Michal Mcmahon

Date: November 23, 1984

Education and Early Radio Experience

This is an interview with Dr. Oswald Garrison Villard, Jr., retired professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University, and currently Senior Science Advisor at the Stanford Research Institute. After obtaining a bachelor's degree in literature at Yale University in 1938, Villard began graduate studies at Stanford. Between 1942 and 1946 he worked at the Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard. Returning to Stanford, he resumed his graduate studies, earning a doctorate in 1949 while serving as an acting assistant professor. By 1955 Villard rose to a professorship in electrical engineering, and in 1960 [he] became Director of the Radio Science Laboratory, holding that post until 1973. During these years, he served as technical advisor on several military advisory committees, including the Naval Research Advisory Committee between 1969 and 1975. His fields have included ionospheric radio propagation and military electronic systems.

McMahon:

I'd like for you to tell me about your education.

Villard:

I got interested in radio at a fairly early age, and it came about this way. Somebody gave me a book, which I have on the bookshelf there, called, Harper's Electricity Book for Boys. I started doing simple experiments with batteries, electric lights, electromagnets, and things of that sort. We had a family chauffeur and general factotum by the name of Alexander Cameron — a wonderful man — who one day gave me a radio which he'd put together out of a kit, following the plans that had been published in the newspapers. This was the heyday of building radios from kits.

McMahon:

When was this?

Villard:

Oh, golly, here I go again — I'm just terrible with exact dates — it was prior to 1930, but probably not by much. I'd say probably around 1928 or 1929 because I was in school in Germany between 1930 and 1931 and I was already at that time building radios of my own. I had a lot of fun buying the German parts and assembling them.

McMahon:

[Are] you talking about high school in Germany?

Villard:

It was the equivalent of my first year at Hotchkiss. I'm the product of a very conventional education. I attended the Buckley School in New York City, then Hotchkiss [from] '30 to 1934, and Yale from 1934 to 1938. I would say that Alexander Cameron gave me that radio probably around 1928, and always after that I was fascinated by radio. Dad was very good to me. I said that I really wanted to learn something technical about radio, and could he arrange to have me take some tutoring lessons? He said, "Sure, I'd be glad to," and he arranged with the physics department at Columbia University for an instructor there to tutor me, and that instructor turned out to be a man who later became a dean at Columbia and who played quite a role in the atom bomb!! I can't think of his name at the moment — isn't that awful? But he couldn't have been nicer to me, and I used to go up there two or three afternoons a week and spend an hour or so learning about radios and how to put them together.

As part of that I was shown one of the early Geiger counters, and that was really quite a heroic effort. Today we take them for granted. They’re now little bitty things, but this affair occupied a room that was probably thirty feet in length, and there was a series of tables abutting one another. Underneath the tables you had wires leading down to storage batteries and dry cell B batteries, and at one there was the device where the electrical impulses appeared. The whole thing amplified up through different power levels and finally drove an old-fashioned loudspeaker, trumpet-style, at the end. He would take a watch, or something with a little bit of radioactive material, and hold it near the input end of the thing and you'd hear these "Bonk — bonkbonk — bonk" sounds coming out. That was very exciting. I was quite well impressed with that.

As I say, that must've been prior to 1930, because my first year at Hotchkiss was spent in Germany, and then I came back and spent the remaining three years at Hotchkiss and then went on to Yale. I was already into amateur radio, as the jargon of the day had it. As a matter of fact, the professor at Columbia was teaching me what I needed to know in order to pass the amateur radio license exam, and so I got my first license in the summer of 1930. That was the summer before I went to Germany, although I didn't ever really operate very much. When I got back from Germany at 1931 to 1932, I did get my license, and I even have a photograph in the archives somewhere of me taking the license exam. A reporter from Popular Mechanics came by and took a shot of people taking the amateur license exam in those times. After that I had great fun. I built a radio station at the Hotchkiss School. We were able to communicate with South America, and that excited people tremendously.

Yale

McMahon:

That must've been great fun. How did you then find yourself studying literature at Yale?

Villard:

In our first year, there was no commitment as to what we should do, and I drew as a roommate the guy who gave me the nickname "Mike." He was planning to major in English literature and introduced me to a lot of his friends. I was also aware of others who went into engineering — I won't mention their names, [because] they were classmates of mine at Hotchkiss — and although I thought they were fine fellows and the salt of the earth, I really found the English types tremendously interesting and flexible in mental viewpoint, clever — and it just seemed more challenging. Then, of course, although Dad was willing to have me go into engineering if that was my desire at Yale, was sort of eager to have one member of his family who followed in the family writing tradition, and he was very pleased when I decided to major in English literature. But by the time I got to be a senior — I've always enjoyed building things, doing things with my own hands, and it seemed clear to me that I really didn't want to spend my life just doing nothing but writing. I would much prefer to build. So, that's how it came about.

McMahon:

Do you remember that being on your mind, in some sense? When did you start generating an idea for graduate school in engineering?

Villard:

Well, I won an English prize. I was able to do reasonably well with my family background in English studies at Yale. I made Phi Beta Kappa, and I was elected to the Elizabethan Club. As I say, I won this prize — I think it was in my sophomore year, and it involved a stipend of something like $50. I took that out and bought engineering textbooks, much to the bafflement of my English —

McMahon:

Terman's would have been out at that time! It came out in 1932.

Villard:

Yes, that's correct. I bought Marcroft and Terman, and I've forgotten the others now.

McMahon:

With that money? Do you remember that?

Villard:

Yes.

McMahon:

Oh, that's wonderful.

Stanford

Terman and the Radio Lab

Villard:

As I say, I sort of baffled them at the University but I had my own radio club by that time at Yale, and it was clear that if I was not to do writing all my life I'd like to become an engineer — and a radio engineer — and learn more about it. Terman was recommended to me by one of the electrical engineering professors at New Haven whom I got to know because I was partially active in the Yale Radio Club. The Yale Radio Club operated under horrendous restrictions in the engineering building — you couldn't get in after 5:00, for example, which is the only time I wanted to do ham radio. So I formed my own radio club. But this Professor McNamara — wonderful guy — I talked to him a little bit about my career interests, and he said, "Well, why don't you look into Fred Terman?" That rang a bell with me because I already had his textbook, and I went back and reread it carefully. It was such an outstandingly written book that I decided beyond any question that this was the man I wanted to study under.

This was upsetting to my father, who didn't like the idea of my coming west, understandably. Also, being a good liberal, he said, "What? Palo Alto? That hotbed of conservatism?" He said, "The trouble with you engineers is that you always become conservative. You're inevitably co-opted by big business," and that's bad. Gee, Dad was unfortunately terribly right in that: however, his feeling that I would be totally isolated on the west coast, of course, was broken down by the airplane. Today it takes me less time to get to the east coast — say Washington D.C. — than it took my father to go from New York City to Washington D.C. by train! It takes almost the exact same time, four and a half hours. So, he was eventually reconciled to my becoming an engineer. He was so initially upset though that he arranged for Fred Terman to come and visit us at our country place in Connecticut, Rock Ridge Farm, on a weekend. Terman did, and charmed Dad and Mom and they were very happy to see —

McMahon:

Was he on the east coast for some other reason?

Villard:

Yes, I think he was on the east coast in connection with one of his business trips. Dad took a very active interest in what his youngsters were up to, and I think when he learned I was interested in going to Stanford and studying under Terman he wrote Terman and said, "I understand my son is interested. Come and see us." He did, and it was a very successful visit.

McMahon:

Isn't that nice? So then shortly you come out here in what year?

Villard:

Right. In the fall of 1938. I was graduated in June of 1938, and that fall I drove out to Stanford and became one of the very few graduate students that Fred Terman had. In fact, I may have been unique in I could pay my own way, thanks to the family background. Fred had had to spend an unconscionable amount of time in those days trying to find financial support for his graduate students. He tried to find them assistantships and jobs and he was always traveling around the country scrounging radio equipment to help run the Radio Lab. He went to Western Electric and Bell Labs and they gave him surplus equipment, and he went to the tube manufacturers and they gave him surplus tubes —

McMahon:

When you say Radio Lab, what was it like? As a laboratory, physically?

Villard:

Well, it was upstairs in the main machinery laboratory on the Stanford campus. The building wasn't originally intended to have an upstairs, but they put in offices — among them, Hugh Skilling's office — in the downstairs area, and then put some decking over that, which then gave you a second floor. The quarters up there were kind of crude, they were mostly homemade. It was necessary to keep careful tabs on the equipment because there was such a shortage of it. There were these — as I recall it — wire mesh walls between the different compartments, an elementary lab, and then an advanced lab, and so on. All of these were carefully kept locked, all the meters, for example, had fuses, and it was incredible. We had a multimeter, that today we wouldn't even bother to fuse, because if you blow them you can throw them away; they only cost ten or fifteen dollars at your friendly Radio Shack. Well, in those days that very vital piece of equipment represented an investment that was appalling: it would be the equivalent of a hundred dollars for the meter movement itself. So to protect students from inadvertently damaging them, Terman had an elaborate system of fuses that was a great idea and saved the meters. The only trouble was that we were always blowing the silly fuses. I guess we took less care once we knew that we weren't likely to damage the meter. The problem was finding the right replacement fuse, and since they were all different sizes, that was a bore. But that was the kind of atmosphere in which we lived...

Carl Spangenberg

McMahon:

What kind of research went on there?

Villard:

This was research in radio engineering of one kind or another. We had under Lester Field a vacuum tube research lab, and that was very far out and advanced. I think it was the second year after I got to Stanford that Carl Spangenberg joined the faculty, and his special field was tubes, and he worked with Lester Field —

McMahon:

I think he might have already been there. I've just run across the date that he came in 1937, but I have —

Villard:

That could be. I see. Somehow I have a feeling that he wasn't there when I originally arrived. He may have been appointed but originally couldn't come that first year because he hadn't finished his dissertation under Everitt.

McMahon:

What do you remember about him on the faculty?

Villard:

He was a great guy. I was very fond of Carl, and he and his wife Ruth used to have us out to their house at various entertainments, just as the Termans did. It was sort of fun to have Carl there, because he was the second professor specifically in the radio field, and there was a kind of a "we-they” attitude. You know, there were all the power engineers on one end and the radio types in the other. Radio was generally disreputable; it was sort of thought of as an apostate division of electrical engineering. If you did radio it wasn't clear that you really were an electrical engineer, because the world sort of revolved around big machines and their design, and power systems, and so forth. We were located upstairs over the Main Machinery Lab, where there were endless test apparatuses set up that we all worked on, as we went through. In those days, smoking was a no-no, because if you connected up these big machines in the wrong way, something would smoke, and that spelled bad trouble and lots of money. They always adjured us not to smoke, and very few of us actually did. But some did, and that was so you'd have maximum sensitivity to any bad smells! As a matter of fact Terman had been doing radio work for a number of years, of course, prior to my arrival there. There had even been research in the ionosphere going on, which I became interested in and gravitated into.

McMahon:

You said Spangenberg was the second radio man. You mean second after Terman?

Villard:

That's correct.

Hugh Skilling

McMahon:

What was Skilling's field?

Villard:

He was power systems. Yes, he wrote a number of excellent textbooks on various subjects related to power systems. One of his best-known textbooks produced not too far ahead of the war had to do with electromagnetics, interestingly enough, although he hadn't specialized in electromagnetics. His book elucidated concepts like curl, and vector quantities of that sort in a very nice way, and people to this day come up to him at cocktail parties and say, "Oh, Professor Skilling, I know your books and they helped me so much in understanding this particular topic." He was a great writer as well as a wonderful human being. I'm very fond of him and have been to this day. In fact, I feel terribly happy that at one point, due to a windfall from my service on the board of a local electronics corporation that made it big I was able to give the university, along with three or four other colleagues, a building on the Stanford campus which we named the Hugh H. Skilling building. Of course, there are other things that memorialize Terman, but we were very pleased to be able to do that for Hugh while he is still alive.

First Year at Stanford

McMahon:

Did you study under him at all? Did you take any power courses?

Villard:

Oh, yes, he was the head of the electrical engineering department. I took my first — let's see, how did that work? I got my A.B. at Yale. They admitted me to Stanford to study directly for a graduate degree, and that was a little unusual because of my undergraduate degree in English literature. You see, it was unheard of to have somebody switching to engineering. So I spent that first year at Stanford basically taking courses like Machine Shop and Drafting and Foundry and Elementary Electrical Engineering and so on. I hadn't even had very much mathematics at Yale, which I might've, but I took a pretty solid English literature program, majoring in the Age of Shakespeare and the far reaches of English literature.

McMahon:

So you studied with Terman and Spangenberg?

Villard:

Yes, Terman, Spangenberg and Skilling. Some of the graduate students participating in the machinery field were W.J. Hoover, and Joseph Carroll, and some of the graduate students who were student assistants were Ed Ginzton, under whom I studied, and Matthew Labenbaum, who was recently retired from the Airborne Instruments Lab. And I knew Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.

McMahon:

Were they all graduate students there at the same time?

Villard:

They were graduate students, some of whom did lab assisting at the same time.

McMahon:

Yes, all right, because my sense is that not all of them were working for degrees. I mean, neither Hewlett nor Packard, went for the doctorate, did they?

Villard:

No, I think that Hewlett may just have been doing — well, I'm really not clear. Do you know when he got his master's degree? It might have been —

Hewlett-Packard

Beginnings

McMahon:

I'm thinking 1938 or 1939, and they were around there because of the Sperry money, perhaps?

Villard:

No. I think Hewlett either got his master's degree in 1938 or 1939. When I got there in the fall of 1938, he could have been finishing up his master's degree; He and Dave Packard were already thinking about their first product, which was a so-called resistance-tuned oscillator. Hewlett and Packard had been in touch, and Fred Terman had egged this on, and Packard had come back from General Electric, where he'd put in a year and a half. I remember well when he got back; he came around to the lab and showed us the very handsome inscribed memento that they'd given him as a consequence of his service there. It was something brass, with the names of all his colleagues at GE. He'd obviously been extremely popular at GE, and he was coming back, as I understand it, basically to go into business with Dave Packard.

Their first product was the resistance-tuned oscillator, and I don't know where the idea of the resistance-tuned oscillator originated, but it was part of the applications of negative feedback. Negative feedback as a concept had burst on the scene — it probably originated at Bell Labs — about that time. The oscillator involved a combination of both positive and negative feedback, which was a new thought. The biggest technical problem of making something that worked was that if you varied the tuning, and the tolerance of the resistors or the capacitors, or whatever you used for tuning was bad, then the gain would change and the output of the oscillator would change by an unacceptable amount. So, you had to do something to regulate it, and it was Bill Hewlett's inspiration to put in a small electric light bulb. He took advantage basically of a nonlinear relationship between current through the bulb and the resistance across it, and he made it part of a bridge. The bridge automatically balanced itself and thus maintained the amplitude of the output of the oscillator, amazingly constant, as a function of frequency. We were tuning over a phenomenally wide range, ten to one in frequency, which was really quite unheard of. The previous standard source of sinusoidal oscillations for test purposes was the beat frequency oscillator, and the company that had the lock on the market for those was General Radio. Then Hewlett-Packard came along with a thing that cost something on the order of a tenth of the General Radio oscillator cost and yet did more!! It was really easier to use, it didn't require a warm-up period, and calibrating it was better. The beat oscillator was so expensive because the fixed oscillator and the beat oscillator both had to be extremely stable or that would alter the frequency of the beat! The Hewlett-Packard oscillator was so simple by comparison. They also hit on a nice thing: instead of resistance tuning it they capacitance tuned it, and that was because multiple gain capacitors were available on an inexpensive production basis. They were designed for the radios of the day, but in oscillator application they gave you a particularly nice linear frequency versus dial rotation calibration, and so on.

Wall Climbing with Bill Hewlett

McMahon:

Let me ask you about your doctoral studies and getting your dissertation. That ties up somehow with the Radio Research Laboratory, as I understand. Didn't you finally finish that work?

Villard:

Well, not quite. I want to tell you one more thing about Hewlett that delighted my soul. Bill Hewlett has always been very athletically inclined, and in the fall of 1938, when I first got to know him, he and Dave were very kind to me. They sort of took me under their wing as a green as grass student just entering engineering, and they helped me on innumerable occasions. Bill had mastered the art of climbing the walls on the outside of the old Radio Lab at Stanford — you know those sandstone walls. There are enough projections there so that if you are really skillful, you could make your way up the wall. If we forgot the key to the lab, the window was always invariably open on the second floor. Bill could climb in the window and then open the door for the rest of us!

McMahon:

Is that building still there?

Villard:

I think so.

McMahon:

I wonder if anybody still climbs up the side of that.

Villard:

The morale at that lab was marvelous. Everybody was terribly excited by what we were doing, and there were lights burning at all hours of the day and night. People practically lived there, and Terman was quite pleased with the spirit —

Hewlett's Oscillator

McMahon:

So did Hewlett do that work on the oscillator there in the Radio Lab?

Villard:

Yes, it evolved in the Radio Lab. As a matter of fact, I bought their production prototype, which was the first oscillator built as they would produce a production unit. I was able to buy it; I don't remember what I paid for it now, but I've since given it back to them for their museum. But that was, you might say, their first product sold for money prior to the order that really got them started from the Disney people. Disney was doing the movie Fantasia and they needed oscillators for tuning up the multiple channel soundtracks that were used in that movie.

McMahon:

They couldn't have planned that better, to have that as a first project.

Philosophy and Entrepreneurship

Villard:

Yes, so true. But I recall Hewlett and Packard, along with Terman — discussing the philosophy of getting their company started. One of the things that propelled them into instrumentation was the sense of the importance of the Depression that we were all still involved in 1938. They felt that the nice thing about electronic instruments was that if anybody was going to do anything in the electronics field they had to have instruments. So they said, “Let's go into the field of making instruments. They worked this out in conjunction with Terman, as I recall it, and they decided to take on General Radio Company, which dominated that field of precision radio instruments. Of course it wasn't very long before they completely outstripped General Radio, much to their amusement.

McMahon:

General Radio must not have had the talent, the young talent.

Villard:

Well, there's a long story there. General Radio was one of those old line conservative New England firms that bore the imprint of the founder. The founder was a guy named Melville Easton, who was a very good engineer, an outstanding guy, but just not entrepreneurially inclined. For example, when the war came and there was an enormous demand for all sorts of test equipment, he refused to expand the company to meet the wartime demands, saying, “Well, look, it's all gonna go away when the war's over and that'll be a terrible thing, and then why did we do it?” Actually, they did in the end license some other firms, I think Canadian firms, for example, to build some of their smaller signal generators that were very widely used in connection with wartime radio work.

McMahon:

So a young new firm like Hewlett-Packard would be rewarded almost by being young, ready to grow.

Villard:

Well, there was always a great spirit of entrepreneurship here in California. My father gave the commencement address at Reed College in Oregon, I believe in 1936. Anyhow, he took some of his family with him, and we went on an Alaska cruise after his talk, and coming back I recall visiting the Itel-McCullough company, which I'd learned about through my ham radio activity. I was one of the early purchasers of their tubes, and I shall never forget my visit to San Bruno, which was the old original IMAC factory. These guys were really cogent. The front part of the store had a ham radio station in it, and the back part was the factory. Those of us who had our ham tickets could go in and operate their station, and it was operated with such an overload on the tubes that every time you pressed the key to transmit a dot or a dash the anode to the tube would visibly light up! Going from red to white, if you will, or red from yellow to white! I'd never seen tubes operated in that manner before, but I was really impressed. It was clear that they were having a wonderfully good time doing this, and I just had never seen anything like it anywhere in my contacts on the east coast.

McMahon:

That's part of the story that Arthur Norberg was getting into, about Itel-McCullough. Evidently their main product was tubes for amateurs. Terman says that RCA wasn't into that, and you got into whatever RCA wasn't into. He distinguishes the companies in southern California as going into production in the same lines as the old companies, so they weren't as avant-garde as these entrepreneurial firms. That's interesting.

Villard:

Yes, so that was one of the reasons that I was very happy to come to California, because I love the climate out here and I love the spirit, and also I really enjoyed the contact with Stanford University. At Yale, having been interested in electronics, I wanted to do something for my college, and we had some common rooms where we would gather for sherry after dinner and that sort of thing or [to] hear lectures. One of the things it was fun to do was to begin to put a record player in one of the closets built into the wall. I proposed to do this, and even to pay for the parts, and I got all kinds of static! It was just something they had never thought of before, and Yale didn't know what to make of it, and finally they acceded and let me do it. As an interesting contrast, at Stanford, when you made a proposal to, say, build a shack somewhere for amateur radio operations, they said, "FINE! Go do it! Doesn't look to us like that'll do any harm, so go do it!" In the east, the attitude always seems to be, "Well, Grandfather didn't do it, so why should we get into this?"

McMahon:

Were you aware of that then? Did you sense that openness out here?

Villard:

The difference? Oh, yes. Well, it really dates back to 1936, because that was the year of the San Diego World's Fair. I remember we went on from San Bruno further south... It was also obvious from amateur radio. West coast hams were always the first on the air with the latest gadgets. They also had a reputation for exceeding the legal power limits.

McMahon:

The wild and wooly west!

Villard:

Yes! Not that there weren't outstanding amateurs in the east, I can name several, but nonetheless there were more entrepreneurial west coast radio hams than in any other section of the country.

McMahon:

By "entrepreneurial west coast hams," you mean hams that also want to enter business in some way.

Villard:

Yes! For example, there was a publication on the west coast in those days called Radio. I am a little confused on the exact sequence of events, but there was something called RNI, and then that turned into Radio, and Radio produced a Radio Handbook, and that was the only other publication that competed with the old line QST, the publication of the American Radio Relay League. I remember reading those issues of Radio, and they were FULL of innovative articles and all kinds of exciting things and people who were obviously just turned on writing them, and that was inspiring to me too.

Radio Research Laboratory

Connection to Dissertation

Villard:

Let me ask you about your dissertation again, and that transition to the Radio Research Laboratory. I have something in mind there, that they're connected, but I think that maybe you were just at the RRL.

McMahon:

Yes, how I got there might be of interest, because it turned out that I was lucky. Another great inspiration to me, in addition to Terman and the group at the Radio Lab on the campus, was the group under Hanson et al. in the Physics Lab. I don't exactly understand how it was that I got to know them, but they used to go down to a restaurant called the Little Restaurant on Florence Street in Palo Alto where you could get an excellent lunch for something like fifty cents. I somehow fell in with them and used to go to these lunches there, and I hardly can think of a more exciting experience. Hansen and Russ Varian and I didn't see much of Sig Varian and William Webster from physics used to go to these lunches. So did John Woodier, who I think spent some time working with Terman and then went to the University of California. Anyhow, they were sitting around and Russ Varian was marvelous as an idea man. He kept thinking of all these intriguing ideas, and some of them were obviously wrong. Even I could follow that. Bill Hansen was wonderfully patient with Russ, and Bill would say, "You know, that probably isn't going to work because of thus and so, but this aspect of your idea is good and I'm going to go away and think about this." The next day he'd come and report on what he'd thought about it. He'd done some back-of-the-envelope calculations, and it was obvious that they were doing exciting new things with radio technology in what became the microwave field.

When the war came, they did me the honor of asking me whether I would join Bill Hansen and the group who were going back to work with Sperry, and then Fred invited me to join him at the Radio Research Lab, and it was a toss-up. I came very close to deciding to go with Hansen and Company, just because it was novel and exciting. But I felt that I owed a great deal to Fred Terman, and I felt that what he was going to do was pretty exciting too, and so I decided to do that and of course never regretted it. I got my engineer's degree, which I had essentially completed the work for before leaving Stanford in 1942. Bobbi and I were married in that year, and I immediately went to work for the Radio Research Lab. After the war I sort of flirted with going to work for Bell Labs or some organization similar to that and did some interviewing, but then it seemed pretty clear that what I wanted to do was go back and get the Ph.D. at Stanford. My doctoral dissertation work had to do with the radio detection of meteor trails, and it happened that during the war I had been frustrated as a radio ham. I had a good short-wave receiver in our little house in Cambridge, and when I listened to the Voice of America broadcasts on the short-wave, and I was immediately struck by these curious whistling sounds followed by a big increase in the signal level. Just from the sound of it, it seemed to me that this might qualify meteors coming into the earth's atmosphere. We had Fred Quipple at our lab, who was a very well-known meteor astronomer. When I described all of this to him, he said, "It sounds like meteors, all right, and what you need to do is look up an article by a couple of Indians, Kamahd Lall and Val Catamara, who were for All India Radio, and they published in this obscure Indian Radio engineering journal well prior to the war. I think it was 1937, their observation of the same thing." So that triggered me off.

When I got back to Stanford I resolved to try to follow it up, and we were in luck because the Jacobini-Zinner meteor shower came along in 1946, and so we got these Stanford Amateur Radio Club transmitter on the air and received the signal on the other side of the campus. We had a [unintelligible] of the antenna for bucking out the groundwave, and sure enough, here was the sky just full of these brilliant meteors. Bang, bang, bang, bang we got all of these lovely whistles and signal bursts. The connection between the two was obvious, to us at least, at that point, but we hadn't reported this in the scientific literature. It was at least two or three years before we persuaded our scientific colleagues that this effect was real, because it seemed so improbable. But, that was how I came to do the dissertation thing. I remember that in the oral exam, Fred Terman asked me, "How can you be sure that what you were hearing weren't harmonics of local oscillators and neighbors tuning their receivers back and forth?" That question sort of stumped me: it was a hard one to answer. I hadn't thought that anybody could possibly confuse the two, but I could see that he had a point. There's a world of difference, actually.

McMahon:

You mean by ear, you can't confuse them?

Villard:

By ear, there was a possibility for superficially confusing them, but anybody who'd worked with meteor whistles for any length of time began to understand their special characteristics.

McMahon:

Did Terman, or was he playing devil's advocate?

Villard:

He was playing devil's advocate.

McMahon:

Got you thinking on your feet. So you got your doctorate at what time?

Villard:

1949. I joined the faculty I think part-time in 1946. I was acting assistant professor and things like that, but the degree actually came in 1949.

McMahon:

And you only spent a couple of years at the Radio Research Laboratory?

Villard:

No, I was there from 1942 to 1946, to whenever we disbanded, late 1945 or early 1946.

McMahon:

So did you basically put off your doctoral work at that time?

Villard:

Oh yes. I completed the write-up of my engineering thesis in Cambridge during the war, which was sort of a trick, having to do that at night. But, thanks to Hugh Skilling, I was able to get that through... that was a great help. I was under some handicap during the war because of not really having had a formal degree in engineering! I was competing with awfully bright people who had assembled from all over the country.

Carpet Jammers

McMahon:

What do you remember doing at the RRL?

Villard:

I started out working with this group that was concerned with carpet jamming, under Clarke Cato, and somehow or other I got involved with Earl Cullum on this transition and liaison office. I wasn't much help on the transition side of it, that was more straightforward; it was making sure that blueprints that were prepared at RRL were understandable to the people who were having to produce the things that the Lab had developed. The liaison business involved a lot of travel to Washington, and keeping in touch with the various sponsorial offices, so I had a good opportunity to see the interplay between the NDRC represented by RRL and the sponsors in Washington.

McMahon:

Guy Suits told me about meetings in Washington between Terman and people from the RRL. Were you a part of those? He said sometimes it seemed like a graduate seminar with Terman and his students, but —

Villard:

He said that? Oh, that's interesting! Well, that could be. I'm not sure that I was at many of them myself, because I was pretty low level, but very often when Terman himself would come to Washington, they would have what they'd call "smoke-filled sessions." That would be Terman and Cullun and the service chiefs, and they would go around with hammer and tongs and really decide the essential issues. I was in on one of the more heavily attended meetings, during which the technical details were discussed, and that kind of thing.

McMahon:

So that doesn't sound like the meeting that Suits was talking about?

Villard:

Well, no, I don't think so. Fred has always been, or always was, a pretty direct man, you know; he'd come right out and tell you how he felt about the situation. Earl Cullum, on the other hand, was extremely tactful, and flexible, and persuasive as a speaker. Fred was very happy to turn over responsibility for these outside relations to Earl. Not that Fred wasn't effective — he was always extremely good, and when Fred said something you could believe it! He obviously reflected thought, and so on, but there was an awful lot of politics involved, in trying to do the wartime job, because all the services already had labs. For example, the Air Force, who were a major customer for the noise jammers, the so-called carpet jammers that the lab developed, also had their labs at Wright Field, and they had to be persuaded that the RRL design of the jammer was better than the Wright Field equivalent. Actually, that didn't go down terribly well, and you just can't believe how many ways there were for things to go astray.

I'll tell you about my principal contribution to the war effort, which is sort of an odd lesson. These things had been developed by RRL, they'd been turned over to the manufacturer, we managed to persuade the manufacturer that he could and should manufacture them, and we persuaded the armed services to order them. Sure enough, the orders had been placed, the units had been produced, and they got into the warehouses and were on their way to be shipped to England. When they went to England they got lost. I was sent over to England to find out where in heck these badly-needed jammers were! Thanks to the system of IBM cards, they knew where they had landed in England, but then the problem was where had they gone. As you might imagine, they had gone to some giant depot in the heart of England, and I was greatly assisted in this by an Air Force Second Lieutenant, William Hagenbaugh, who worked with me and requisitioned all the transportation. We finally found these piles of these lovely carpet jammers sitting in this warehouse, and we went up to the sergeant in charge and said, "Hey, how come these things are just sitting here? People want them!" And he said, "Really? Look, there's no number in the Signal Corps catalog that corresponds to those boxes! Now, what am I supposed to do with them?" We got that information by classified teleprinter circuit back to the Pentagon, and things really flew!

McMahon:

That was your contribution!

Villard:

My contribution was to work with Bill Hagenbaugh and find those jammers!

Completion of Ph.D.

McMahon:

One of my big interests in this work on Terman is obviously the academic community and that engineering community. I thought that you joined the faculty in '46, but —

Villard:

I'd actually been an acting something or other back in 1941, 1942. It turned out that Fred Terman got one of the early NBRC wartime research grants for Stanford, and what it consisted of was to record the field strength of certain radio stations in order to aid the then rather crude techniques for predicting what radio frequencies to use for long distance communication. It was a very important wartime effort, and this was just a small facet of it, but Stanford's location was such that people were interested in having this done. Terman put me in charge of that contract, and it turned out that the contract monitor was Lloyd "Bib" Bruckner! That was my first introduction to Bruckner, and I really enjoyed my contacts with him.

After the field strength recording thing was off and running, we then got a contract to build a vertical Lipsman ionospheric sounder. That was the subject for my thesis, and the thing that made it practical was a suggestion of Fred Terman's, which was that you could build a variable contour cam to control all these tube circuits that had to track one another as this thing swept through the frequency spectrum. Fred put me in touch with Harold Elliot, who was the man credited with making practical the multiple tune capacitors for tuning broadcast band receivers. Harold was a wonderful guy, and he helped me. Lowell Hollingsworth, who was a physics Professor at San Francisco State and served for many years as one of the senior guys at the Air Force Cambridge research labs, also helped me. Anyway, we got this vertical sounder going, and I saw Bruckner in connection with that, too. He was a great help to me, and told me a lot of things that were commonplace in the pulse arc but were not widely known at the time! That made all the difference.

McMahon:

You got back when, in 1946? January? I have a sense of things close up there in the end of 1945. My sense is that Terman was planning to be there in June but finally did get away. That is, he planned to be back at Stanford in June.

Villard:

Yes, we took an extended holiday after the war. We bought a trailer because we understood housing was so short on the west coast, and went to Mexico. I guess we got out here in the spring of 1946.

McMahon:

Then you started your faculty duties the next year?

Villard:

I don't recall. I do know that my permanent appointment as assistant professor was contingent on completing the Ph.D., and that I did in '49. But I think I had some type of temporary appointment earlier than that, involving the teaching area right away.

McMahon:

You don't remember taking courses after the war?

Villard:

Oh, yes, sure! You see, the difference between the Ph.D. and the engineer's degree is only about a year of academic work.

McMahon:

And so you did it.

Villard:

So I went back to school, and —

McMahon:

Who did you study under then? Spangenberg was there.

Villard:

Terman was my thesis advisor, and I took general courses in my field as required for the degree. I don't recall then too vividly, except I took one course in microwaves from Ed Ginzton! I don't recall the others terribly well — I think I took some advanced physics courses and that sort of thing. I think you've got enough detail on me here to sink a ship. Probably I can be of most value to you by giving you my own personal insights into some of the really great figures of the time!

McMahon:

Well, that's what I want from you. What I was leading to was what was different about the department after the war? Spangenberg and Terman were still there, and Ginzton you had studied under.

Villard:

Oh, I see. I was a student and didn't pay that much attention... Somewhere in there the Hansen Labs were established, but that was I guess after Bill Hansen's death. I remember how tragic it was to see Bill Hansen wearing the oxygen flask that he had to wear towards the end, walking around the campus.

Stanford Electronics Lab

McMahon:

When you came back in 1946, the Radio Laboratory was probably by then called the Microwave Laboratory.

Villard:

No, not quite. The next step was the establishment of the Stanford Electronics Labs, which is a place where research was done, and I had one of the early post-war contracts, again as a result of a suggestion of Terman's. This was a contract from the Watson Laboratories, the predecessor of the Rome Air Development Center, and it was for a new method of modulation. It was sort of a phased amplitude modulation system that has since been adopted and used, not as a result of anything I did. We did get an R&D contract to do that, and that was sort of the center of what became the Stanford Electronics Labs. See, Terman with his contacts knew when these outfits were getting going and had money and could potentially sponsor research in the universities, so I guess that was one of the first ones. The Stanford Electronics Labs got started in several buildings down from the old Radio Lab, and I guess that the old Radio Lab then sort of phased out. The SEL building became the center. You saw a lot of Terman in those days — he would drop in and we would have meetings to discuss how to handle this relatively new business of doing research at universities. That involved a change in one's appointment; one had less teaching to do in exchange for the supervision of research.

McMahon:

So Stanford Electronics Laboratories started right after the war?

Villard:

That's my understanding. Bill Rambo is the guy that you ought to talk to, because he became Director of the Labs.

McMahon:

All right. I certainly plan to.

Villard:

He's right down here on the campus, a wonderful guy.

McMahon:

He was the director of the SEL?

Villard:

Yes, and I think he was Director of it fairly early on. Let's see, when did Spangenberg die? It was right in that interval... Carl was the first official — or maybe it was Joe Petit who was Director. Anyhow, Rambo became Director and was Director during the glory days, you might say, of SEL.

McMahon:

Which would be when?

Villard:

Well, that would be from say 1948, 1949 on up to the time when things split up, when so many of us left and he also left the Lab because he was doing classified research.

McMahon:

Ginzton was also the head of some Lab? I guess I need to sort them out.

Villard:

It seemed to me that what happened after the war was that there was recognition of the fact that general physics world split up into two parts, the high energy physics and all the rest. High energy physics was very well established at Stanford, and part of that Hansen had figured in. The ramatron and then the klystrons, involved these cavity resonators, and Hansen had been interested from the outset in trying to do something in the high energy physics line that would compete with the University of California. The University of California, you see, had these very successful cyclotrons, or circular accelerators. I believe it was Hansen's concept that one could do the same with a linear device, and that led to everything up to SLAC today. The linear accelerator was going to work because you'd have these cavities and you'd accelerate the electrons down a tube, and then you'd' feed radio frequency energy into them. So you needed radio frequency sources, and that was another application of the cavities that led of course to the klystron, which was so successful during the war. One of the remarkable postwar accomplishments was the scaling of the klystrons upwards in size. They went from the wartime size level, which was in the fraction of a watt category. Then they were used primarily as local oscillators in radars and were the most successful signal source for that purpose at that time. In the Microwave Lab for accelerator use they wanted to get up into the twenty to fifty kilowatt power level, and they did that successfully in one jump. I think there was a laboratory half- way between physics and engineering which was called the Microwave Laboratory and was headed by Ginzton. I guess when Bill Hansen died they then named the whole complex after him, the Hansen Labs, which I think includes Microwave. The people in the microwave arena have joint appointments in physics and electrical engineering. Then there came along applied physics, which was sort of an extension of the Microwave Lab concept, and that included other activities such as plasma physics. They're all part of as I understand it the Hansen Labs. I'm sorry to be so dim on all this —

McMahon:

Oh, that's all right. I'm asking you for help! Ginzton's appointment in fact I guess was as a professor of applied physics, so that really fits.

Villard:

He was a professor of applied physics in 1942.

McMahon:

So he would've been a good choice for that, I guess. Who were these greats that you want to talk about?

Villard:

I'm thinking of Hewlett, and Packard, and Ginzton, and people like that.

McMahon:

What they were doing after the war.

Villard:

Right. I'm not sure that I can contribute any very new and startling insights, but I do have some general awareness of who they were and what they were doing, and I'd be glad to respond to any particular points concerning that.

McMahon:

Well, when Terman came back from the Radio Research Laboratory in Harvard, he wanted to build this new order. That begins in '46, it seems to me, and the Microwave Lab is part of that, and also I guess the Electronics Labs. Are they operating mainly on industrial money, or on —

Villard:

I think pretty much on government money. I don't know much about the microwave funding, but the Office of Naval Research was basically interested in funding good research in the universities of a fundamental character, whether it be in engineering, or applied physics, or maybe especially in applied physics. I suppose the support for the high energy physics work per se came from the AEC. There was a general feeling, and Terman shared in it, that the war years had been essentially application years in which fundamental knowledge had been busily applied, and you had probably gone about as far as it was reasonable to go. What was needed after the war was to replenish the supplies of fundamental research, and that was what led to the formation of the Office of Naval Research, and the National Science Foundation.

McMahon:

Yes. The Office of Naval Research started in something like 1947, and the NSF was in the 1950s. The NSF, as you can read in [Bush's] book, The Endless Frontier, was called the National Research Foundation, I think. That's the only difference.

Villard:

Interesting.

McMahon:

Were you just teaching during these years? You were not connected with any of the research laboratories?

Villard:

No, I was teaching and doing research in SEL, and had been for that time. I started out, as I say, with this earliest research project having to do with modulation techniques, and then I got interested in single side band, because during the war I'd brooded about the fact that the spectrum was limited and we needed to increase the usage of it. The radio spectrum and single side band was the way to go, so I thought of a different way to do that, and the other reason I mention it is that the work attracted some interest. It was funded by the Signal Corps, initially at the university and then transferred over to SRI, and according to Luke Gibson's history of SRI it was the number two project in engineering at SRI. That would have been around 1947 or 1948.

Terman's Postwar Efforts

McMahon:

So what's happening inside the department in these years? Does everything just seem normal? People coming back from the war, joining new faculty members. Terman's concerned at this time [with] building up the faculty. He had that idea mentioned earlier I think. Did you have a feeling of that taking place?

Villard:

Very much so. Terman characterized in sort of an obituary speech by Donald Kennedy as being capable of sustained thought about future trends far above what people are ordinarily able to do. He was always planning for the future and thinking ahead; he did want to build the department up, and he felt that the business of part-time research and part-time teaching was a viable and workable balance. It was a totally new concept, of course; everybody prior to that had in the university typically taught one hundred percent of the time, and had had very little time for research. Terman used to discuss this frequently with us. He said there was just no way you could keep really up to speed unless you were participating in research that was on the leading edge of some particular research field! You were just bound to go to seed as a teacher unless you did that. He felt that doing research was terribly important from the standpoint of excellence in teaching.

McMahon:

What is he doing in relation to the university at this time? We were talking earlier about some of the conflicts. He must be bringing all this money into engineering, and physics also must be getting some of that money. You said that some of the people out of the humanities and the social sciences had other ideas. Is that beginning at this time or do they really wait until much later?

Villard:

They didn't really become particularly vocal at that time, because, after all, engineering hadn't grown a great deal. But it embarked upon a period of steady growth, under this policy of Terman's. It not only helped his electrical engineers find government research support or research support of whatever nature, but also, when he became Dean of Engineering, he became very interested in all the other departments — mechanical, civil, and so forth. He would approach a subject like what to do about the civil engineering department in a very thoughtful, sensible, logical way. He would ask himself, what were the very important issues in these areas, and after he identified some he would say, "Well, now who in the country is really prominent in this particular field?" For instance, you might have had sanitary engineering. He would look around, and brought to Stanford a professor whose name escapes me at the moment, who came from MIT, who had a top-flight reputation. It was then that Terman embarked on this staples of excellence concept. He felt that there were certain areas that you wanted to push, and you wanted to become preeminent in them, even if you de-emphasized other areas.

For example, when he became Provost, he spent a lot of time agonizing over what to do with the Stanford Museum. He felt that museums were not very good things because they were static, and they were dead, and therefore he didn't want to spend a lot of energy in that. He also decided to get rid of the department of geography at Stanford, and persuaded them ultimately to do that, because he didn't feel that, for the future it was a very viable sort of activity. Now, with some of those judgments, in my personal opinion, he was right in some respects and maybe not in others. It turns out that you can make a museum into an outstanding thing, like the Exploratorium in San Francisco. I don't know about departments of geography, but if they diversify out of the traditional the map-making sort of function, they can be viable.

McMahon:

I think they have done that, too. That was a future that would have been hard to see, for him, anyway.

Villard:

But he spent a great deal of time and energy thinking about these things, and talking about them with anybody who would possibly have an opinion that would contribute to that.

Hierarchy of Physics and Engineering

McMahon:

Some of that money coming into engineering and science must also have been going to the humanities in the sense of loosening up money in the university itself.

Villard:

In the university you always had this competition between the different departments for funds. I don't think that there was any feeling on anyone's part that there was any particular imbalance prior to the war, because the electrical engineering [department] squeaked along on its normal appropriations, and the other departments got theirs. Of course Stanford was very strong in English more or less prior to the time I got there. A number of very well-known English faculty — well, it still has a wonderful English faculty, like Wally Stegner and so on.

McMahon:

He must've been there then.

Villard:

Yes, he was. So there was a strong tradition along those lines. But then in the post-war years, engineering began a steady growth, and that ultimately got to the point that people's noses got out of joint in other departments. Fred was sometimes a little brusque in turning down requests for funds — this was when he got to be Provost — from other departments. He was so thorough and careful in doing his homework on any given issue that often people from other departments would come in and present some gregarious plan and Fred would shoot it down in two or three well-thought out sentences and they would go away mumbling...

McMahon:

How did physics feel about this? They would've been the closest... were they getting as much as engineering?

Villard:

By way of funds and support? Oh, yes, I would say so.

McMahon:

They felt happy?

Villard:

Yeah, and I think the "we-they" attitude was between the humanities —

McMahon:

— and not physics and electrical engineering.

Villard:

Yes. Physics and electrical engineering are sort of lumped together in the minds of people outside those departments.

McMahon:

Who was in physics then — Hansen and Webster — did Webster come back after the war? Chodorow was here then.

Villard:

Yes, he [Webster] did. Terman brought Chodorow to Stanford, and he came in the early days of SEL, I believe, but you can get that from him.

McMahon:

And Bloch?

Villard:

Felix brought Bloch along. That was one of the great spectacles in the years before the war. We used to go to the physics seminars — they had a [Merrill] Club seminar once a week. Hans Staub and Felix Bloch were both of Germanic extraction. You see, Staub was Swiss and Bloch is German. Well, when they got to arguing about something, which they did regularly, they would often forget about everyone else in the room and start talking in German! To us irreverent students that was one of the great experiences!

McMahon:

What was Bloch doing during the war?

Villard:

I think he had to do with the atom bomb or some aspects of it. I'm not sure —

McMahon:

But then he came back afterwards too.

Villard:

Yes indeed, and then he went into the Nuclear Resonance thing, for which he shared the Nobel Prize.

McMahon:

During that period?

Villard:

Well, that was in the post-war period, 1948 or 1949.

McMahon:

And you don't remember him being connected with Terman?

Villard:

No. They all considered themselves to be pretty pure physicists, and engineers were definitely lower on the ladder of esteem. There's a pecking order around universities, and it holds that mathematicians are the top of the heap, and then come the physicists, and then come electrical engineers, and then you sort of go on down from there.

McMahon:

But the electrical engineer is at the top of engineering in that pecking order, in that sense. That's because of the currency of their knowledge, or their closeness to physics?

Villard:

I think it's the closeness to physics. Of all the specialties around the university, it's quite clear that higher mathematics is the most baffling to the ordinary individual. Mathematicians of course are experts at that, and physicists use much more math than the engineers, and the electrical engineers use much more math than the others, and I wouldn't be surprised if the order had something to do with that.

McMahon:

The electrical engineers then pick up that same sense of hierarchy. They must, in terms of looking to the other engineering disciplines.

Villard:

Yes, I guess you could say that.

McMahon:

I've certainly felt that from some of the engineers that I've spoken to Jack Ryder was a person that I talked to, and he had been, I guess a colleague of Terman's after the war. He had studied under Everitt, and he felt that real strongly. He and Terman worked together in the fifties, promoting this idea of engineering science.

Villard:

I was an anomaly in all of this, because I've never been good at higher math and I've always sort of been able to manipulate in mind concepts more than mathematical equations. I have observed that there is this tremendous respect that people in the so-called "hard sciences" get from people in the soft sciences, and in some respects that is really unwarranted, but that's the way it is.

McMahon:

How did that serve you as an engineer? That way of dealing with concepts and related concepts.

Terman's Textbook

Villard:

Engineering is clearly my field; I've never been good at pure mathematics or pure physics, because much of physics is highly mathematical. But in engineering, especially as it's taught by Terman — I mean, Terman was invaluable to me! People have criticized the Terman textbooks, which I believe are real beauties of clear exposition, but they're surprisingly free of mathematics. I had a good friend (I won't mention his name) who became the president of an instrumentation firm in Boonton, New Jersey, and he used to look down his nose at the Terman text because he would say, "Ugh, they weren't mathematical enough." When you contrasted the MIT texts, with Terman's text, in say the radio field, you found that the MIT text had lots more mathematics, but when you boiled down what they were analyzing, you found that as likely as not the things that were analyzed were really inconsequential things. They were beaten into the ground with pages of mathematics which gave you incredibly precise answers to issues that weren't all that important. Terman by contrast had wide acquaintanceship in the radio profession, and he would go around to the chief engineers of Motorola, and RCA, and ask them, "Well, what are the subjects that are really important to you? What are the concepts that are important to you?" Those answers found their way into Terman's textbooks. He had a marvelous overall grasp of the field, so those books always seemed to hit it on the head. If you needed something, you knew you could find it in Terman in a short time, whereas the other texts proved to be much more difficult to find your way around and they were really less useful as a result of being ostensibly more rigorous and more mathematical.

McMahon:

Less useful for engineering?

Villard:

Yes, certainly less useful for the run-of-the-mill engineer. In academia, you have lots of time to work out glorious equations and derivations and so forth. But the practicing engineer has much less time and often doesn't have the opportunity to do this kind of detailed analysis. Often the rough and ready answer quickly attained is far more significant and important to him — well, this is obvious, it needn't even be dwelt on.

McMahon:

I remember Terman being really proud of I think some of the things he wrote, as opposed to your writing about the RRLs that were able to come to answers really quickly under pressure. He must have felt that could be applied to the industrial world too, the need for an engineer to be...

Villard:

Fred had a conscious philosophy of what he called keeping his eye on the ball. Which is, to sort of dig through all the daily distractions and focus on what is really important to do. For instance, he recognized early that the things RRL had done that would really make a difference in the war were the carpet jammers and the window, the tinfoil strips. So, above all other things, he focused on them, making sure that they really worked and that whatever was necessary to make those play was done. He would take the initiative when the armed services, who had every reason for manufacturing these things and getting them out in the field, would drag their feet. He thought nothing of picking up the ball and sending people like me out to places like Wright Field to find out why the heck the orders weren't coming out of the factory: "My gosh, they were promised for two months ago, and here they haven't appeared." There would always be some trivial, irrelevant circumstance that had led to this foul-up. Some piece of paper hadn't come back from the Pentagon. We as civilians were able to play a wonderful role. Because we could cross the lines of military authority, in finding out where these problems were, and then we'd call them to the attention of the commanding general in charge, and he would raise Cain, and then the Gordian knot would be cut, and progress would occur. But that was one of the big differences between the war effort in the United States and the war effort in Germany, because the Germans [were] terribly rank-conscious, and they didn't have civilians who could cut across lines, and shoot trouble, and get at things easily.

Steeples of Excellence

McMahon:

You rose to assistant professor in 1949, and then you rose through the ranks during the 1950s. When did you retire? When did you leave being a faculty member? I'm trying to get a sense of your —

Villard:

Well, I had to take my program out of Stanford and move it over to SRI, in 1970 — that was when I no longer participated in the teaching program at Stanford. But they have been good enough to let me keep my name on the masthead, and I will probably this coming year become Emeritus. Finally.

McMahon:

When they were building up this department after the war, expanding contacts with industry and also bringing in government contracts, were you part of that at all? That is, were the younger faculty part of that, were there committees that you sit on? How did other people get involved, or are just Sterling and Terman doing that work? Did you know it was going on?

Villard:

Oh, yes, we were very well aware of what was going on. I don't think that Sterling had too much to do with it. He was, after all, the head of the university, and he was a marvelous fund-raiser. He and Terman made a wonderful couple, as everybody always says. Terman had all the facts and figures and really knew what was going on around the university, and more often would take the initiative in some new promotion. Wally Sterling was very skilled in dealing with the alumni and talking money out of potential sponsors. He used to tell us that these major gifts to the university never happened spontaneously; they were always the result of a very carefully thought-out campaign, and I believe that.

McMahon:

Yes. How would you be involved in Terman's activities to create this larger [work] for Stanford?

Villard:

Well, Terman had this idea of Steeples of Excellence. By that he meant, instead of trying to cover the whole field one should just concentrate on the things that one can do well. For example, Stanford never had any astronomy, because it was felt that the lead established by the University of California across the Bay was something that we could never catch up to. You try to find the areas where you have initial strength, and then build on that. Well, my field was really the ionosphere, and radio propagation, and Terman encouraged me to build up that field. I was lucky to have assembled a group of colleagues like Bob Helliwell, Larry Manning, Don Eschelman, Alan Peterson, and people like that, and we sort of became one of the leading groups in the United States working in what came to be called radio science. Unfortunately, there were not many industries traditionally who had to do with radio science, so we were never involved in the Stanford affiliates effort, and that's only happened quite recently... but we were aware that that was going on.

One other valuable basic philosophy Terman had was that, if you were a university, what you wanted to do was to specialize in the subjects that were going to result in new projects years down the road, when your graduates finally graduated and got themselves established in industry. He felt we should concentrate on the things that made it all possible. In the days of vacuum tubes, he concentrated on vacuum tubes. As soon as it went to transistors, he made sure that Bill Shockley was brought to the area, you see, and that we developed an integrated circuit training and research program at the university, and he would be very pleased by the integrated systems work that's going on at present. He felt that you had to be very careful in something like ionospheric work, because it wasn't in the mainstream, as far as engineering graduates were concerned. In fact, I have always wondered a little why he countenanced me at all on the ionospheric activity at Stanford, because it wasn't real honest-to-God engineering. It was more science than engineering, actually; as we did radio science at Stanford we found that the organizations against which we were competing were in the physics departments of other universities around the country and around the world.

Research Projects and Funding

Villard:

Very few engineering schools, you see, were doing research in the fundamentals of radio propagation. I guess that was why Terman countenanced it: some of the things we researched became the basis for later application in industry. For example, the meteor detection work I began during the war has led to three or four companies now building meteor burst communication systems and selling them. A subsidiary of Western Union has a set up that collects hydrological information from various western states in a place north of Salt Lake City. That's very nicely adapted to this meteor burst communication, because it's a low data rate system. It's cheap to collect the data and it's easier to do this from the sensors along streams where they measure water flow and hydrologic data and transmit it back by VHF, by means of meteor burst. This is in contrast to putting up microwave relays on mountain tops that are terribly inaccessible and very difficult to service. One would also require a very large number of them, as contrasted with the burst communication system. That's an example of the type of thing that leads to later application, and Terman was all for that.

McMahon:

So he had a sense of your work leading to that?

Villard:

I think so. We also did some back scanner sounding; that was Alan Peterson's dissertation topic, which led to a great many applications of a defense nature. Nuclear explosions disturb the ionosphere and you can observe this at great distances by making back scanner sounding observations; you can even tell when rockets are launched by using the ionosphere as a remote transducer if you will. A microphone converts the acoustic energy or thermal energy of the rocket launch into a radio signal which you can receive at a great distance.

So, those were some applications that arose out of the fundamental work on the campus. I was always very happy to be with SRI, because we had a clear progression there: we did the basic work on meteor burst communication on the Stanford campus, and the development work was done by SRI. They put together the first working meteor burst communication system done in the United States, between Palo Alto and Bozeman, Montana. That in turn clearly led to later embodiments, such as Western Union and other companies doing that today.

McMahon:

That must have made you feel even more like you were doing scientific work, since it was somebody else taking up and doing the developmental work, which is what engineers usually do.

Villard:

Yes. Lots of times at a university, you can have a great insight and you publish a paper on it and it just lies around for years until somebody reinvents it and then gets all the credit for it. Terman was of the opinion that you didn't want to do that, you wanted to be able to influence the final outcome. Thus, it was inappropriate to do things like development work at the university; you really should be doing more basic research at the university.

McMahon:

Yet it seems to me that engineering departments have long existed insofar as they did research on developmental activities for industry. You think that's not so?

Villard:

Well, it depends on the institution. You see, Terman was a little bit different from most, I guess, and the thing that is so nice about Stanford is that you're dealing from a position of strength. At Stanford you could pretty much say what you were going to do and find somebody to fund it. If you just said to yourself, "I'm going to accept only basic research contracts," well, so it was! You'd have all the basic research contracts you needed. Other institutions would have to take more applied research, and that can be a very bad thing, because there is an awful lot of R&D money spent on the United States on research that really is pretty low-grade development, incremental improvements, that kind of thing. Terman was always eager for us to work on the really fundamental issues that represented digging out new science. I guess that's why he liked things like these fundamental methods of ionospheric propagation, or what have you.

McMahon:

My sense is, what I understand from NSF constantly monitoring this, that most of the money going into R&D now is developmental money. Do you have a sense of that?

Villard:

I really don't have that close a contact with it, I guess. Of course, NSF started out by funding so-called science and then moved into funding engineering.

McMahon:

I meant their studies of where R&D expenditures come from, really, not what they do themselves.

Villard:

Yes, well, that's a terrible tendency. Somebody did a survey of the defense laboratory institutions in Europe about seven years ago, and they discovered that a very large fraction of the work that was done in the European R&D labs was basically fighting World War II all over again. There were marvelous improvements on weapons that had been in common use, in World War II. People are still studying the propagation of sonar waves in the sea and justifying an awful lot of research on that! In the ionospheric field, people have done endless recordings of ionospherically propagated signals, studying this aspect, and that aspect, and it's so easy to lose sight of the real objective. One man who Terman had a lot of respect for, and vice-versa, and who thought so many ways like Terman, was Henry G. Booker, who is now with the University of California at San Diego. Booker was asked to serve on a committee that looked over the programs of the National Bureau of Standards. This was about ten or fifteen years ago — and was the group at Boulder, Colorado particularly. At that time, they had been engaged fairly heavily in research on that was related to ionospheric radio. Booker sat down and said, "Let's add up just how much the dollar investment of the United States in microwave or line of sight radio is as contrasted with the investment in ionospheric radio," and the disparity was incredible! It turned out that the microwave radio was in a very rapid build-up phase, and HF radio, which had to do with the ionosphere, was in a build-down phase. Booker made these recommendations which disestablished some activities in Boulder that had previously been concerned with ionospheric radio. That created a certain amount of unhappiness, but boy, was it on the right track and really needed!

McMahon:

So Terman would be a little unhappy with some of the directions that research funds these days? It might not fit his plan so well.

Villard:

Well, I wouldn't want to say that. You'd have to look at the individual circumstances.