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Archives, History & Records Office

Hours: By appointment Monday-Friday during regular work hours.


Archives E-mail: slacarc[@]
RM E-mail: recordsmgt[@]
Phone: (650)926-3091
Post: SLAC Archives and History Office, M/S 82, 2575 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

Office Location: Bldg.50, Rm.122

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A story from From Benjamin Svetitsky:

I came to SLAC from Princeton as a graduate student in 1976. I thought Sid was especially nice to me because of his Princeton roots but of course he was that nice to everybody. Every time he met my wife Sara, a Princeton graduate, he would shake his head afterward and mutter, "I still can't believe they have women at Princeton."

The graduate students occupied desks scattered around a large open area at the end of the hall. Sid often told visitors that "the graduate students are the most important people here. That's why they have the biggest office."

As deputy director, Sid's office opened off the director's suite and thus was guarded by the secretaries of the director's office. I suppose they limited access severely but Sid had a back door that opened into the students' "office." This door was always open; I guess more senior people were welcome to use it as well as the students. It was only closed when Sid had to take a confidential phone call, and this wasn't too frequent. As Sid's student, I wandered in and out fairly freely. If Sid had things to do at his desk, it didn't bother him if students and collaborators just kept on arguing in his office.

When I arrived, the project that was recently wrapped up was the SLAC bag model of hadrons (Roscoe Giles did his PhD on this before I got there). Sid observed that every few years, he made the mistake of tangling with strong coupling physics. But from the SLAC bag he went to lattice gauge theory, a recent invention that was tailored for strong couplings. We worked on lattice theory during my four years at SLAC, collaborating with Marvin Weinstein and Helen Quinn. All the work was analytical, since Monte Carlo methods had not been introduced.

Sid set the tone for seminars. If things were too quiet he started asking naïve questions. The seminar exchanges generally stayed friendly. (When Sid went away for a few months the atmosphere was noticeably different.) Early in my career I asked Sid a question about the seminar that had just ended. He said, "Why don't you go find the speaker and ask him." Thus I learned to approach total strangers and start discussions. At SLAC, shyness was not regarded positively.

Then as now I enjoyed reading stories about the golden age of quantum mechanics, the adventures of Niels Bohr and his gang in Copenhagen (e.g., Gamow's books). I thought it would be great to be alive back then. But I realized that what we had at SLAC was just as extraordinary ‐ the excitement of physics in the 1970's as well as the close community of one of the great centers of theoretical physics in the world. One shouldn't discount the presence and contributions of many prominent and not-so-prominent people. Nonetheless, there was wide agreement that Sid was crucial for the success of the SLAC theory group.

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Last Updated: 02/28/2017