A story from Les Cottrell
I came to SLAC in 1967 fresh out of getting a PhD in Nuclear Physics at Manchester University England.
At Manchester the relationship with the head of the physics department was very arms-length, and I do not
believe I ever talked to him. At SLAC within 2 weeks I was invited to a meeting at Pief's home (at that
time, he had regular evening meetings on High Energy Physics that he hosted at his home) and I met him
face-to-face. It was not just a brief formal handshake, but we had a conversation where he asked me about
my recent experiences and I remember being so impressed I blurted out the pleasant comparison to my previous
experience at Manchester. I also recall soon after arrival my wife and I were coming back from a trip to the
Sierras and decided to stop off at the Delta and see the birds, etc. Whom should we see there but Pief and
Adele. I waved "Hi" and was wonderfully surprised when he replied and without hesitation knew my name.
I was part of the End Station A Inelastic Scattering experiments that later were rewarded with the Nobel
Prize. We were running shifts and I recall in the evenings, long after normal work hours, Pief would come
by and chat at length with the physicists on shift concerning progress and results so far. More recently,
in 1990, Pief had invited Chinese physicists from IHEP in Beijing to discuss building a storage ring like
SPEAR and a detector to go with it. I was asked to talk with them about computing and networking requirements.
At the meeting they invited me to visit to help set things up. Unsure whether this was just a polite gesture
or whether I would be able to help (bear in mind this was less than a year after the Tiananmen Square
massacre) I went to talk to Pief to ask advice. Pief stepped away from his desk to a couch in his office
and sat me down in an armchair opposite. He then went on to say he wanted this collaboration not to be just
in name for prestige, but to be very effective in producing excellent physics. As such he encouraged me to go
and made sure the wheels were put in place. I mentioned that they did not even have a phone with automatic
international dialing (all calls having to be made through a a human operator). He called Nobel prize
winner T. D. Lee, who had a lot of influence in China, and when I arrived in China two weeks later, lo and
behold there were two just-installed phone lines with automatic International access. The trip was an enormous
success: we managed to get dial-up computer access to SLAC, and out of that, a couple years later extended it
to the first permanent Internet access to mainland China.
- Les Cottrell