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Archives, History & Records Office

| Archives, History & Records Office |

Last Updated: 11/09/2020

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

Helmut Wiedemann Story

Helmut's impact on accelerator physics is immense, from the facilities he helped build to the books he wrote and the students he trained. I consider myself very fortunate to be among the latter. Perhaps it will be of interest to people if I recount some of my experiences as one of Helmut's students.
When I entered Stanford, accelerator physics was just about the last subject I would have considered. I started out in a group doing solid state physics, but found it more competitive than collegial. I spent the next period in Artie's group, which was very collegial, but somehow the subject didn't click for me. While sitting at the beamline one afternoon, one of the older students told me about a weird bunch of guys who messed around with the accelerator. Some time later, Artie suggested that I speak with Helmut because he thought Helmut's group was a good place for me. Before I knew it, I was one of those weird guys. (Thanks, Artie!)
Helmut quickly put me to work with Carl Cork and Wilson Ortiz programming magnetic measurement software for the new ring on Stanford campus. A while later, he got me involved in SLC North Arc commissioning, in the process introducing me to Gerry Fisher, Karl Brown, Lenny Rivkin, Andrew Hutton, and other notable people. For a graduate student to be at the controls of a state-of-the-art machine was unheard of, and I later learned that Helmut had fought with SLAC management to make it happen. I also witnessed, somewhat sadly, another student practically begging her supervisor to let her touch the controls instead of passively watching. To this day, I follow Helmut's example.
I also remember how Helmut took advantage of the SSRL injector project to train his students, for example my thesis designing and simulating the rf gun. He fought considerable resistance to make something new and unproven a part of such a project, but he felt very strongly that it was the right thing to do, both for the field and his students. Such examples of Helmut's intellectual confidence and courage have stayed with me to this day.
About a year before I finished at Stanford, Helmut got his senior students involved in commissioning a low-emittance lattice for PEP-II, which was then being considered as a possible synchrotron light source. This was, again, a fantastic experience for students, and we worked alongside experts like Martin Donald, John Galayda, Mike Zisman, and Jamie Paterson. Through Jamie Paterson I learned that Helmut's impact a SLAC was significant in ways I hadn't appreciated, e.g., having the idea to accelerate electrons and positrons in the same linac 180 degrees out of phase, thus making SLC feasible, and figuring out a sextupole configuration that made PEP work.
The connection I made with Zisman and Galayda would later help me start my career at APS. It was only after I got there that I really started to appreciate everything Helmut had done to prepare me for success. Unfortunately, I lost touch with Helmut and didn't see him until many years later, when we both served on the machine advisory committee for the new Taiwan Photon Source. Helmut didn't appear to have aged at all. He was very happy living in Thailand and traveling around the world to teach and help develop light sources.
On one of these occasions, my wife traveled with me and we sat with Helmut at lunch. He *had* to tell her his favorite story from my student days, about how I had made a mess of the office coffee maker by pouring water in the wrong place. He found it hilarious that I could program computers, but not make coffee. I didn't really mind the story, if it made him laugh.

Michael Borland