Oral History Interviews

Interviews that offer unique insights into the lives, works, and personalities of modern scientists

Wolfgang Panofsky on gaining approval for Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC).

Oral history audio excerpt

Wolfgang Panofsky on gaining approval for Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC).

Panofsky:

Then, the project finally got authorized in 1961 — but again after a rather amusing set of coincidences. At that time the Stanford project was sort of known as the Republican project because Eisenhower had proposed it to a Democratic Congress. At that time there was a project that the Democrats wanted in Congress which the Republican administration did not want. This was for the Hanford Reactor to generate power into the electrical net, because it was considered to be socialized electricity by the Republicans, to have power generated by a production reactor. There was also good economic and technical reasons against such a project. It’s a very inefficient reactor, for power generation because of the low temperature at which the Hanford reactor operates. Anyway, the Democrats wanted it and the Republicans didn't.

On the other hand, the Stanford linear accelerator was considered to be a Republican proposal, opposed by the Democrats. So after a while the Republicans and Democrats in the Joint Committee essentially said, "If you approve Hanford, then we approve Stanford." So it ended up with both of them getting approved, and it was this entirely political infighting in the Congress which resulted in that last hurdle being passed. However in 1960, we already had very good confidence that it would go, because the three million dollars was fundamentally a signal to us that Congress really meant it but that they wanted to slap Mr. Eisenhower’s wrist for non-consultation.