Oral-History:Moises Levy

About Moises Levy

Moises Levy was born on April 8, 1930 in the Republic of Panama. He graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Chemistry and an M.S. in Chemical Engineering, and the University of California, Los Angeles with a Ph.D. in Physics. In 1971, Levy joined the Physics Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he became a professor and elected chair. Levy has been primarily involved the interaction of ultrasonics and superconductivity, serving as General Chairman of the IEEE Ultrasonics Symposia and most recently the Representative of UFFC-S on the IEEE Council of Superconductivity.

In this interview, Moises Levy outlines his early interest and academic experiences surrounding superconductivity and ultrasonics. This develops into a discussion of Levy's first involvement with the UFFC, his participation in the Applied Superconductivity Conference (ASC), particularly concerning its relationship with the IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity, and his participation in the the IEEE Committee on Superconductivity and his role in the transition of this committee into the IEEE Council on Superconductivity.

About the Interview

MOISES LEVY: An Interview Conducted by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, 12 August 2014

Interview # 654 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

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Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Samuel C. Williams Library, 3rd Floor, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken NJ 07030 USA or ieee-history@ieee.org. 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:

Moises Levy, an oral history conducted in 2014 by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Moises Levy
INTERVIEWER: Sheldon Hochheiser
DATE: 12 August 2014
LOCATION: Charlotte, North Carolina

Background and Education

Levy:

Hello.

Hochheiser:

Hello. This is Sheldon Hochheiser of the IEEE History Center. It is Tuesday the 12th of August 2014 and I'm here at the ASC Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina with Dr. Moises Levy [pronouncing “Leavy”]. Good morning.

Levy:

Good morning, sir. It's Levy. [pronouncing “Lev-ee”]

Hochheiser:

Levy?

Levy:

Levy. I come from Panama.

Hochheiser:

You're probably used to people giving the American pronunciation.

Levy:

Oh, yes, and I've been correcting people for the last sixty years or more.

Hochheiser:

Same thing with my name.

Levy:

Yeah, Sheldon Hochheiser.

Hochheiser:

Well, you got it right. The first person ever to get it right was my college German professor.

Levy:

Of course.

Hochheiser:

Okay. So let's start. So you were born in Panama?

Levy:

I was born in Panama.

Hochheiser:

What brought your parents to Panama?

Levy:

Well, they came from Jerusalem, which is now Israel, of course.

Hochheiser:

Of course.

Levy:

Our rabbi, the former rabbi at the Temple Shalom in Naples, Florida, said no Jew ever is the first one to go someplace. It is usually a cousin, a friend, an uncle, or some such thing. My father, it's hard to tell how old he was. And the reason for that is because they didn't know their ages. I think I have pretty good assurance of how old my mother was. My mother was born in 1911. My father, according to his passport, was born in 1905 in Urfa, Turkey, which is on the border between Syria and Lebanon, but in Turkey. Since you're asking me, I might as well tell you. Actually, he left home at the age of 14 maybe, 12 to 14, something like that, and he left his home because his father had sold his favorite white horse, probably in a gambling debt. So he walked to Jerusalem. This was a trip that a lot of people were making at that time, back and forth. When he came to Jerusalem, he worked as a plasterer for his cousin. His cousin didn't pay him anything but gave him room and board. After he learned to be a plasterer, my father went to work for another contractor. After a while, he found out that water was a very hard commodity to get on time. Sometimes they wouldn't be able to do any plastering because there wasn't any water. So Father decided that he was going to provide water. He went to find out where the water supply was and told his supervisor that he could bring him all of the water they needed. So by himself he carried heavy pails of water at night, to provide them work during the day. After a while, he got enough money so that he could buy a donkey. And then he went for business for himself. By the time he left Jerusalem he had, I think, six donkeys and a fellow that was working with him. Okay, sorry, he met my mother and they got married. And it turned out that my mother was a distant cousin of his, third, or fourth cousin. And they went to Panama because times were hard in 1930, in Jerusalem. They figured that the streets were paved with gold in all of the Americas. They couldn't make it to the US, so they made it to Panama because my mother had a brother and an uncle there. And, I was born just slightly after they arrived.

Hochheiser:

When were you born?

Levy:

I was born April 8th, 1930, in Concepcion, Chiriqui, and that’s the province of Chiriqui, which is in Western Panama. Panama goes horizontally. And the Panama Canal goes northwest to southeast. So the Pacific is in the south and the Atlantic is in the north. So my family was in Concepcion, Chiriqui. And not too far away from Boquete, which is up in between 3,000 and 5,000 feet in elevation, which is where one of the three best coffees in the world is produced. My father started by being a traveling salesman. Slowly, he opened up a store and so on. We lived in Boquete for a while. Eventually we left Panama, in the 1930’s – I don't know the date exactly, maybe '34 or '35. My mother went with me and my uncle, by ship back to Jerusalem because my father had ideas of what he could go back there and live there. But it turned out that he really couldn't, so about a year or so later, we came back to Panama on another ship.

Hochheiser:

So you were raised in Panama then?

Levy:

I was raised in Panama. I spent I think about a year in Jerusalem. It could have been a little longer or a little less, but it was enough time that I was able to go to school and learn Hebrew, which I forgot on the ship back. I'm so annoyed about that. And I haven't learned it yet. Okay, now you go ahead.

Hochheiser:

Were you interested in scientific and technical things growing up?

Levy:

Hard to tell. I was interested in kind of mechanical things, but I didn't build a radio or do any of those things. It was more of an intellectual interest. I was interested in knowing how things would work. How things work. My father had a store. I helped in the store. But at some point he decided that I was not a good salesman. So he gave me money and told me go get an education. I actually went to Balboa High School in Panama. That was the American school there. I ended up being valedictorian of that class. By that point I had decided I wanted to be some kind of a scientist. I was reading Doc Savage. And he had a chemist, there were a chemist, an electrical engineer and he was a doctor. Doc Savage was a doctor. I had sympathy with Monk, the chemist, so I decided I wanted to be a chemist, so there.

Hochheiser:

And what led you to Caltech for your education?

Levy:

Well, two things. My uncle Elisha moved his family to California around 1936. So obviously I was going to go to California. I was going to go to California anyway because one of my math professors came from Caltech, so he was telling me how nice Caltech was so, I applied. I applied to Caltech. However, I applied too late. So they didn't take me. So, I came to the States. I had also applied to USC, UCLA, Stanford, and Berkeley. All of them accepted me. Being valedictorian of the class must have helped. But I ended up at USC because that's where my uncle was. I liked Caltech of course, so I applied again. So I ended up, one year at USC and then I transferred to Caltech as a sophomore.

Hochheiser:

So you – but by this time, you were planning on –

Levy:

Being a chemist. Well, actually, no, I was planning to be a chemical engineer. That's what I wanted to do, be a chemical engineer. So I got my degree. But in the process of becoming a chemist, I realized that I wasn't that good at organic chemistry. I was good at physical chemistry, but not organic chemistry, but it didn't matter. So, after I graduated with a master's degree in chemical engineering from Caltech, I thought I'd have an easy time getting a job. I didn't. It was very hard for me to get a job. So finally one of my professors got me a job with a company that was a plastics company, Specialty Resins Company. It ended up that it really was a paint producing company, producing alkyds. So I became a chemist, a bench chemist for a company where there were like four or five of us in the company Lab and they were making some of us work from morning to 6:00 or 7:00 PM, five-and-a-half days a week. And, I wasn't given any responsibility. The chief chemist would tell me what to do and I would, then prepare those, cook those, compounds and make sure to finish them the same day. I even one time got to make an epoxy resin, which I really appreciated because the chief chemist told me that these are the things that, airplane manufacturers like to use.

Fortunately for me, I got drafted before the first year was up. I was so happy to get drafted.

Hochheiser:

Now had you become an American citizen?

Levy:

No, not yet.

Hochheiser:

Not yet.

Levy:

I just had my green card.

Hochheiser:

All right, so you got drafted?

Levy:

Yes, I got drafted. I spent my time, let's see, where? The first place they sent me to was to school in Monterey. And they had basic training there. So I passed basic training. And from there, I got sent to Fort McClellan, Alabama. When I got there, they asked us to fill out our qualifications and what we knew. Because I had a master's degree as a chemical engineer, they figured they wouldn't send me to chemistry school; they made me work at the office because they weren't going to teach me anything. I thought I was going to attend advanced classes. Later, I figured well, maybe they'll send me to Panama. On my next job, I worked at the office and obviously I was working very hard. You work; you do the best you can at what you're doing. So from there, they sent me to Dugway Proving Grounds where they were working on nerve gas. They had sent me to classes to learn about nerve gases and the dispersion of gases and so on. Then at some point they realized that I was not a citizen. And this was secret work. Confidential clearance was required. The staff sergeant and the captain in charge of our unit didn't know what to do with me, so they made me company clerk. So, I was company clerk. I wasn't a very good typist, but I really could organize stuff. The staff sergeant didn't like arranging the optimization table for assigning KP duty, so I got to do that for him. And then after 21 months of being in the office, I found out that I could get out early if I applied for summer school somewhere, which I did. And they let me off early. I went to UCLA. And by then I had decided I didn't want to be a chemist. I wanted to be a physicist.

Hochheiser:

So you went to UCLA for graduate work in physics.

Working on Ultrasonics at UCLA

Levy:

I got a Hughes Aircraft two-year fellowship. I worked in the semiconductor lab and went to UCLA for two years to get a master's degree in physics, but since I already had a master's degree in chemistry, I figured I didn't need a master's degree in physics and I took the exam for a master's degree in physics and I managed to pass at the PhD level, so figured why not? So I worked with Professor Rudnick in ultrasonics.

Hochheiser:

What was he like?

Levy:

A very nice person. I looked at several people. I actually wanted to be a solid state theorist, but the one solid state theorist wouldn't accept me. So he said why don't you be an experimentalist? I said fine. So I went to work with Professor Rudnick, who was just starting to work on ultrasonics in superconductivity and I inherited a lab from John L. Brewster, who was his first student doing ultrasonics in superconductivity. Before that, Rudnick had had two students working on sound attenuation in metals at liquid helium temperatures. After that, Rudnick began working in ultrasonics and in liquid helium. So there were three of us working in his labs. I was working on superconductivity; Kenneth Shapiro was working on the discovery of fourth sound in superfluid liquid helium; and Richard Stern was doing sound transmission in sodium thick wires at low temperatures. I helped with some of the experiments on liquid helium so I got thanked for it. They were going to make me a co-author, but I figured no, this is my co-students' stuff, so they said thank you – so that was it.

Hochheiser:

Okay, so you began working on applying ultrasonics to superconductivity while you were a graduate student?

Levy:

Yes, I did ultrasonic measurements on vanadium, tantalum, and niobium.

Hochheiser:

And that was the subject of your dissertation?

Levy:

Yes, that was my dissertation topic.

Hochheiser:

And when was this?

Levy:

I got my degree and actually I finished everything in 1962. I don't know when, what the date, the official date is, that may have been in 1963. But the work was finished in 1962. I got a NATO post-doctoral fellowship, so Professor Rudnick sent me to a low-temperature conference in London and my first wife and I took a month before we went back to visit England. We went everywhere. And then we went to Zurich for a year.

Hochheiser:

And so that was that post-doc?

Levy:

Yes, I was a NATO post-doctoral at ETH, the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, the Swiss federal Institute. With Prof. Jan Olsen I worked on applying high pressure on aluminum pellets. Jan had been working on high-pressure work. He had a lot of very fine graduate students.

Hochheiser:

Olsen is who you worked with at ETH?

Levy:

Yes. So Jan Olson was a very fine person. And he also was teaching a course on low temperature physics, which I enjoyed taking because I had taken courses on solid-state physics. I mean, I had learned low temperature physics on the job, but this course was very, very nice. So then I had done high-pressure work on aluminum. I designed the little pellet, the little pressure bomb to apply 18,000 atmospheres of pressure on aluminum managed to get its superconducting transition temperature down by about half a degree from 1.1K to 0.5 K using a helium-3 refrigerator that they had. And then I designed another one, which I didn't get to try because my time was over, so I left. They tried it, but I had made the vacuum pipe in too large a diameter, so they decreased the diameter and made it work. Then I got a job. I was an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania. But I really wanted to go back to UCLA.

Hochheiser:

I was going to ask, so you, so you were at Pennsylvania for a relatively short period.

Levy:

For one year, and then Rudnick managed to get them to appoint me as assistant professor at, UCLA. But I made several errors. I should not have gone to UCLA as an assistant professor.

Hochheiser:

Oh? Why?

Levy:

Well, because, you don't go back to your own institution unless… I should've gone somewhere else or stayed at Penn until I managed to get to the position where I could get tenure and then… so UCLA didn't work. I antagonized a couple of people and I didn't get tenure.

Hochheiser:

So in the meantime then how did your work progress while you were at UCLA?

Levy:

I had three PhD students. I got a grant from the Air Force, from Max Swerdlow. I was waiting to publish the perfect paper, but when I realized that I'd better start publishing, I published several papers. So it wasn't that my work wasn't —

Hochheiser:

And these were all still in ultrasonics

Levy:

I was an ultrasonic person through and through. I was using ultrasonics to study superconductivity. But I figured that I should expand a little bit. So I used ultrasonics to study the rare earth metals the magnetic transitions on that. I think my thesis really was how to make an epoxy bond between a quartz transducer and a metal because otherwise it was hit and run. You try it many times to be able to make it work. So I managed to use epoxy, with a friend of ours, Dr. Clifford Jones. What happened was that one of the visitors came to tell me how they were making low-temperature — no, superconducting magnets or a magnet that could go into — how do I say this? You wind the magnet. And it wasn't superconducting necessarily, but you wind the magnet and then you want to cool it in order to be able to get more current through it. And what they were doing is impregnating it with epoxy. So I figured hey, they can do that with that and it seems to work. Why don't I try it on my transducers? So we did that and they worked so I wrote a paper about that. I came to Bell Labs once to visit them. And they said they were using epoxy also apparently, but they hadn't published because it was a secret. And then there was this graduate student that published that about the epoxy. I was that graduate student.

Early Years at UW Milwaukee

Hochheiser:

Okay. Then as you described, you failed to get tenure at UCLA.

Levy:

My professor was pretty annoyed.

Hochheiser:

Professor Rudnick?

Levy:

Yes. Pretty annoyed that I didn't get it because I was supposed to inherit the lab, the acoustics lab, the whole thing that they were doing, but it didn't work. So I had also had a great friend on the faculty at Penn though I was there a year and they were not very happy with me for having left after a year. Eli Burstein came to visit me at UCLA. When I was looking for a job, I asked him because I still wanted to stay at a university. So he suggested that I apply to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. I didn't know where Milwaukee was. So I called Minnesota. They don't know. We think it's in Wisconsin. So I called and went for an interview. I went for several interviews. But I wasn't going to move without tenure. So, a couple of places offered me positions, but without tenure. And I said but why would I? Sure, you’ll get tenure in two years. I said no, no cigar. I don't want to go through that again. So they gave me tenure and they gave me a couple of post-docs to work or money for post-docs and equipment. They gave me equipment and a raise in salary, so.

Hochheiser:

And tenure.

Levy:

And tenure.

Hochheiser:

Good.

Levy:

And then two years later I became a [full] professor. I think I was promoted to professor in a couple of years.

Hochheiser:

What was the physics department at UW Milwaukee like when you got there?

Levy:

Well, they were building. The reality was that they had funding from a large grant on surface studies. And they had a group under Umezawa that was doing astrophysics, but he was an-excellent, excellent, theorist, an outstanding theorist. I mean, he was in the company of Einstein, all of those people. He didn't get a Nobel Prize, but he went to the same conferences. He also had a group of two or three people with him. And he wanted to be able to support these people and the granting officers were telling him well, if it's just you alone, we can support you. If you want to support these other people, no. And he was loyal to them. But he was the distinguished professor. So he was a very important man. The physics department had the surface studies group, which did have funding. And, I was called in to be a solid-state physicist. So, I started a solid-state group. I only got two more people to work with me, but that's life. We had like 20 faculty members. But essentially the dean of Letters & Science said that some schools, some departments, were hiring people that were carbon copies of themselves. And some departments were hiring the best they could get their hands on. And chemistry and physics were doing that. Engineering was not, unfortunately. Chemistry and physics were fine; there were some that were very fine scientists or physicists. And there were some that were concentrating on teaching and writing textbooks. They have retired.

Hochheiser:

And were replaced by more people who were serious about doing research.

Levy:

Yes

Hochheiser:

Did moving to Milwaukee affect your research program at all?

Levy:

I don't think so. I really don't because I managed to get grants from Max Swerdlow who was in Air Force Office of Research.

Hochheiser:

So this, this allowed you to support graduate students working with you?

Levy:

Yes. You know, I graduated 20 PhD students, three of them from UCLA. Actually I'm claiming the one from Brazil, but he did the lab work in my lab. But I had to go to Brazil to defend his thesis. But I still claim him. I mean, so that's otherwise it'd be nineteen-and-a-half or whatever, but I think it, I think it's twenty.

Hochheiser:

So you continued to mine the area of ultrasonics.

Levy:

Oh, I did ultrasonics. One of my students had done ultrasonics in rhenium with the helium-3 refrigerator that we had built. Two of my students came with me to be post-docs. The third student went to JPL. So we built up the lab and continued work on ultrasonics and superconductors. We did, type-I, type-II superconductors, heavy fermion superconductors. But I also started to work on surface acoustic waves on thin nickel/iron films. We discovered some nice effects there.

Hochheiser:

Is this a superconductor?

Levy:

No, no. These are magnetic films. I did work on magnetic films.

Hochheiser:

Magnetic films?

Levy:

I even tried to get a patent on it, but I wasn't able to. So, then with superconductors we found this similar effect. And I tried to get a patent on that, but the Japanese had — having read my first paper on it — I had done it also and they got a patent and I didn't. That's the way it went. So I'm unhappy that I never got a patent for anything.

Joining the UFFC

Hochheiser:

To change direction just a little bit, when and in what ways did you become active in the UFFC and its predecessor?

Levy:

I realized that I had a responsibility to my students. I needed to be able to interact with industry so I could find people and so they could get positions. I could have easily gone to the Acoustical Society of America meetings because my professor was there and he would have made life easy for me. But in the Acoustical Society of America, my professor, Rudnick had been the president of the society and he was a big guy and I was a little guy. And I figured well, maybe if I went to the Ultrasonics Symposia, I could make my own way and meet more people that way. So I did. It started because Lew Claiborne. Do you know who Lew Claiborne is? No.

Hochheiser:

No.

Levy:

He works at TI. He, invited me to attend some of the meetings because he said that (at the time, it was called the Sonics and Ultrasonics Group) – it was becoming too technical and not enough academicians were in it. He and I had worked on similar ultrasonics measurements in superconductors. So he invited me to participate and I joined the Sonics and Ultrasonic Society. I went to some of symposia and my group gave a paper at the 1972 Symposium. Eventually another of my friends (Dr. Clifford Jones) was the conference chair. So he convinced me to chair the 1974 Ultrasonic Symposium in Milwaukee.

Hochheiser:

What did that involve, being the chair of the conference?

Levy:

It cost me and my students six months. All of my students were volunteers and worked there. By doing that they got to meet everybody in the conference. My program chair, Larry Kessler, said let's publish a proceedings. I said okay, fine, let's publish a proceedings. Well, it turns out that that was a non-trivial endeavor, because we needed to have a secretary. I talked to my university dean and he gave me $2,000 to contribute to the conference. I got the wife of Harry Salvo who was my treasurer and my graduate student to type the abstracts. That was a lot of work. She did that in my office. I mean, obviously she had a typewriter because we didn't have modern things.

Hochheiser:

Oh, I remember those days.

Levy:

So she typed the abstracts and we got it done.

The First ASC Conference

Hochheiser:

Do you recall when you first attended one of these ASC conferences?

Levy:

Well, Max Swerdlow, my granting officer, said I'm really a nursemaid for you guys. Yes, that was a fine fellow. He suggested I attend one of these Applied Superconductivity Conferences. Before that, I was attending only the APS conferences, at the March meeting, and other solid-state conferences. I would also attend the Acoustical Society meetings. So when I got into our group, Sonics and Ultrasonics, I had my students give talks there so they could, get acquainted with — I was still giving papers at the March meeting for the longest time. And we also gave papers at the Low Temperature Conferences. I went to Russia for one of those meetings and there was one in Denver (1981), I attended quite a few of those. I think that the very first ASC Conference was held in 1966.

Hochheiser:

And do you have any recollections of what the earlier, ASC conferences that you attended were like? In what ways were they similar and different from the other conferences you attended?

Levy:

Well, it's applied superconductivity, so there was very little or no ultrasonics in it, no sonics, no sound. We were almost the only people, talking about sound and superconductors. Later, the Group on Sonics and Ultrasonics, became Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control Society. My idea of the reason for that is that these other two conferences that I'm talking about, the Frequency Control and the Ferroelectric conferences were supported by the government. They were government supported agencies. But at some point, the government decided that they weren't going to support them anymore. And so they had to have a home. So they joined the Ultrasonics Group and became what they are now. Well, the same thing happened with the Applied Superconductivity Conference. They were being supported by the government. They were really generously supported by the government, so when you went to those conferences, you could get lunch tickets. I think the lunches were supported slightly and they had huge lunches which they can't afford now.

Hochheiser:

These were coming out of federal budgets?

Levy:

Yes, indirectly. But not anymore. The federal budget is still what supports this conference, but it does it because the federal budget is what pays the travel expenses for a lot of the people that come here, but very little of that money goes to the conference directly. The conference if it begs might get a couple of thousand, ten thousand from some agency, but that's about the most they can get. So, the funding source is different. Obviously the emphasis has changed from what it used to be, I mean, you wouldn't have qubits and so on among the things they were talking about, so things improve.

Hochheiser:

So, you came here and you and your students started giving papers on the application of ultrasonics to understanding superconductivity.

Levy:

Absolutely.

Hochheiser:

And how were those papers received by people who were at the conference and heard them?

Levy:

They were acceptable, but the audiences were moderate. Most of my students got jobs in the ultrasonics area. But my granting officer wanted me to come to these, and therefore I came to these.

Hochheiser:

What led to your work on using ultrasonics to the discovery real and virtual phase transitions in the rare earth metals

Levy:

Yes, transitions in the rare earth metals. I was fortunate to have a couple of theorists work with me. I had Kazumi Maki working on the superconducting part, then Masashi Tachiki was doing magnetism and also superconductivity. They're theorists from Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan. They spent one or two years with me. And I also had Mike Revzen come and spend time with me. Then I went over to visit him in his lab.

Hochheiser:

Where was he?

Levy:

A theorist at the Technion University.

Hochheiser:

In Israel.

Levy:

When we were getting our data on ultrasonic attenuation of longitudinal waves as a function of temperature in Holmium. Essentially, when we plotted the analyzed data as a function of temperature, we ended up with data going to zero at a negative temperature. Well, you can't get a negative temperature, so we decided well, that makes it a virtual phase transition. So that's why we called it, a virtual phase transition. (Actually, after seeing our raw data, Professor Masashi Tachiki had developed a theory that suggested that inverse of the change in attenuation of longitudinal waves divided by the square of the applied magnetic field as a function of the cube of the temperature difference with a transition temperature. It turned out that the transition temperature was negative. That is why we had plotted our data in that particular way and were gratified that it followed his theory so well.) In addition to that, some of our measurements were of shear waves as a function of temperature. We showed that the attenuation reached a peak as a function of temperature; and, that peak ended up being due to the fact that the wavelength of our sound was commensurate with the angle of the spins in the spin spiral state of this magnetic material. So that was something nice to see. This time Tachiki again provided the insight about looking for the coincidence between the helical period and the sound wavelength. Again, existing data showed that we were on the right track. We also saw a couple of phase transitions ultrasonically, in the heavy fermion UPt3 and also performed surface acoustic wave proximity experiments on quasi 2-dimensional films exhibiting the Quantum Hall Effect.

Discovery of High Temperature Superconductivity

Hochheiser:

How and when did the discovery of high temperature - -

Levy:

That was 1987. Well, the YBCO at 92 K. It’s actually ‘86 when Bednorz and Mueller discovered the first high superconducting transition temperature in the lanthanum barium copper oxide compound at 36 K.

Hochheiser:

Right, right. And when did you begin investigating?

Levy:

As soon as I could get a sample.

Hochheiser:

And what was your reaction to the discovery?

Levy:

I didn't believe it at first, but then we had a fellow come from Bell Labs to give us a talk and when we are having dinner, he said well, we have this green stuff that becomes superconducting above 90 degrees.

Hochheiser:

So as soon as you could get your hands on it, you started —

Levy:

Doing measurements on it, trying to do them. Well, we did the best we could because our samples weren't pure and weren't that good, so we did what we could with them. By then I had a colleague, Bimal Sarma and Bimal didn't want to work on high TC superconductors. He went to Argonne Labs and made us a very fine, good UPt3 sample, which we worked on. And those results we can stand by. Unfortunately I had a Chinese post-doc that manufactured data. I mean, he manufactured it, but I don't think it was real.

Hochheiser:

Meaning he faked it?

Levy:

He faked it. I was so embarrassed by that, but how was I to know. I was so excited by the data that he faked that I made a theory for it and I had a paper on it. It was somewhat embarrassing. Well, essentially we didn't know that until one of my graduate students started to reproduce the data and found out that it couldn't be reproduced and then he started looking at his notes and realized that he was just faking it. You know, your reputation is all you've got. You know, this fellow is — I don't know.

Hochheiser:

And so did you actually publish a paper that you had that you had to then retract?

Levy:

I just told all my friends and audience at a later international conference that the data were not real. I should have been suspicious when he wouldn't let anybody else work with him. But I figured well, what you know, some people are peculiar.

Hochheiser:

But there's a difference between peculiar and dishonest.

Levy:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

About when was this?

Levy:

Around 1991.

Hochheiser:

So by this point you are, you are active in the ultrasonics conference, the UFFC,

Levy:

Yeah, I'd chaired three Ultrasonics Symposia by then. I mean, I did the one in Milwaukee, another one in Atlanta, and co-chaired a third one in Hawaii.

Hochheiser:

And meanwhile you were also regularly attending the Applied Superconductivity Conference?

Levy:

I was attending the Applied Superconductivity Conference semi-regularly. But by 1988, I was attending it regularly.

Relations between the ASC and IEEE

Hochheiser:

I gather you joined what was then the Superconductivity Committee as the representative from UFFC?

Levy:

Exactly. I and Brage Golding

Hochheiser:

—and who?

Levy:

Brage Golding. There were two of us. But Brage stayed for a while and then said no more. But I stuck it out because I figured this is 1990. I knew I was going to be retiring soon, I mean, not 1990, but 1997 or somewhere around there. So I figured well, I might as well stay with this, see what happens. And so I was a member of the committee. Each of our societies put $5,000 into that committee. So that committee had $50,000 to start with. And I was a member of that.

Hochheiser:

Okay. And what did the committee do in in this period, in the nineties?

Levy:

Well, the — you may or may not want to publish this, but let me —

Hochheiser:

Well, tell me. And if you —

Levy:

I'll tell you and leave it to your discretion. The point is that the Applied Superconductivity Conference had its fully refereed papers published in the IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, managed by the IEEE Magnetics Society. At some point, and I'm not sure who made this decision, either the Magnetics Society had decided that they didn't want to publish it any more or that the IEEE had suggested that the Magnetics Society not publish the applied superconductivity papers because they wanted to start an applied superconductivity journal, Transactions on Applied Superconductivity. However, the IEEE executive officer or what would you call him?

Hochheiser:

Well, the president would be a volunteer. The executive director would be the head of the staff. So I don't know which person you're talking about.

Levy:

I'm talking about the head of the staff.

Hochheiser:

Okay, so that would've been the executive director.

Levy:

The executive director sent two staff people to represent him to the Applied Superconductivity Conference board, I mean, this is an independent organization. The Applied Superconductivity Conference is not an IEEE conference. It's very separate. This is a very, very, sensitive point with them. IEEE decided that they wanted to take over the Applied Superconductivity Conference, since they were publishing their papers. Why not just take it over? So they came over and had a meeting with the board that I didn't attend, but I'm told antagonized the whole board.

Hochheiser:

The whole board of the conference?

Levy:

Yes, the board of the conference because they said we're going to take you over. Then they said no, you're not. Essentially no, you're not taking us over, period, because they liked their independence, and I kind of agree with them. I’ll go through that slowly. But they still wanted to publish with us, but reluctantly because some of the people were saying well, let's go somewhere else. Let's publish with someone else. And then fortunately for us, for the Council, they felt that they were better served if the publication was held so that the students and whoever came to look at it, could see it in the library, and know exactly what to look for, et cetera, et cetera. So, Ted Van Duzer was chosen as the first editor [of the IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity]

Hochheiser:

Right. I'm interviewing him this afternoon.

Levy:

I know you're interviewing him. So Ted Van Duzer was the first chair of the committee and the first editor of the IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity. He's a very straightforward person and he's protective of the applied superconductivity community and this conference, so he didn't want to charge any more for the transactions than was absolutely necessary. So the IEEE gave him an estimate of what it was going to cost. And he charged what they said. When the final bill came, it was $20,000 over it. Now we had $50,000 to start with, so that was $20,000 that they took away because, they had forgotten to say that the index pages had to be included. This was terrible. At that point I had had a lot of experience with the IEEE. I was the nominations chair for the Group of Sonics and Ultrasonics. I had been a distinguished lecturer for UFFC-S, so I had gone to a meeting at TAB, so I kind of knew and I had seen — I had heard people talk, so I knew more about the IEEE than any other person in that Superconductivity committee. I just happened to know more. So I said well, may I be your treasurer and Ted accepted. Then I told the ASC Board that we've got to charge you more because there's no other way. We can't exist otherwise. And they agreed, because they liked the idea of continuity. We've been working that way since then.

Hochheiser:

So the Superconductivity Committee began publishing the Transactions on Applied Superconductivity

Levy:

Exactly.

Hochheiser:

Which to a large degree consisted of the papers published at the Applied Superconductivity Conference, which was not and still is not an IEEE conference?

Levy:

Exactly.

Hochheiser:

Good. Now I understand. That's one thing I wanted to ask you because this is not quite straightforward.

Transitioning from Committee to Council

Levy:

No, it is not straightforward. Well, Ted Van Duzer was the first chair, and he had someone else be a treasurer. And, later I became the treasurer. Well, Ted Van Duzer didn't like the fact that he was both chair and transactions editor. So, he gave up the chairmanship to somebody else. Well, that somebody didn't last very long because he found some other interests. Then he gave the chairmanship to Al Clark, who stayed chair for a couple of years. And then he didn't want to be chair anymore. And I don't know if he became editor or not, but he may have been the editor, so at that point, he decided that maybe I should become the chair of the committee. I wasn't too happy about that, but I said well, why not but let me be chair; I’m not sure what the dates were. I think I was chair from for about six years, but I'm not sure that's five or six years. What I do know is that while I was doing that, I realized what the committee was doing. And I figured that it would behoove us to become a council.

Hochheiser:

Okay. And we need to break for a minute because it's time to change the tape.

[End tape one, begin tape two.]

Hochheiser:

Okay, when we broke, you were about to talk about the transition from being a committee to being a council.

Levy:

Well, I got Jan Brown, from the Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control Society — at some point she was society president and she was also a director [of the IEEE] et cetera. I asked her to come to explain to us at an Executive Committee meeting that I held in Milwaukee at my home. They all came. And I asked her, what is expected of a council and what we were doing and was it time for us to be a council? We talked to her and she said yes. So I tried to convince my colleagues, the board of the committee, that this was the right thing to do to become a council. Well, okay, you make the decision. Then you have to convince everybody. So I spent the next two years convincing people of that. In the meantime I retired in '97. It took me a couple more years to convince all of the societies that we should be a council.

Hochheiser:

What were the advantages of being a council? I mean, presumably when you went to the various societies that were members of the committee, you had a presentation of some sorts that said here's why we should be a council.

Levy:

The reasons we wanted to be a council or the advantages were, first of all, I wasn't attending any of the TAB meetings because I didn't have a vote. So why should I attend? I attended it as an observer, but as a council, I have a vote, so I'm going to go to them, all three meetings a year, and find out what's going on. That was one thing. The other thing was that as a council you can give awards. Now the applied superconductivity community is very jealous of itself. There were lots of people that should have gotten awards and nobody was giving them any awards because there weren’t any awards in applied superconductivity. And if you are a council, you can give awards. This is very important because they have to have recognition. If you are a council, you can also start supporting students and travel and all of these other services. You can start doing standards and so on. The community needs standards, but it's taking it forever to get standards. So finally we got them all to approve. We got the approval done. I talked to the IEEE about all of that and the staff was extremely helpful because I didn't know what I was doing. They told me what the steps were and prepared the slides for me so I could present it at the TAB meeting. And we tried it. And I got pretty much approval except one person said well it’s OK if you become a council, but you should say that you will never try to be a society. And somebody, my friend John Vig, said no, that you can't tie their hands behind their back. They can be a society. So that phrase isn't there.

But back a little bit while, while we’re still a committee, we were going into, electronic publishing at about that time in the late eighties, early nineties

Hochheiser:

Yeah, there's a gradual transition

Levy:

However that was going to increase our costs by a substantial amount. I mean - Electronic, you think that’s going to lower the price. No, it's going to increase it. So we had made commitments by then to both the Magnetic Technology Conference and the Applied Superconductivity Conference, that this is what we were going to charge them. What am I going to go tell them, we're going to charge you more now because of this change? I didn't think that was reasonable. So I was not a happy camper about that. I figured well, if you give us time, then the next conference can be told that we're going to have to charge you more. But I can't do it now. So I threatened them with going outside. I mean, what the heck, let's see if I can get it done cheaper, which is what the Ultrasonics Symposium does. They do it, they publish outside. They didn't get enough cooperation and they thought they could do it for less. So I went to San Diego and talked to a person about how less expensive they could make it, et cetera. Well, in the meantime, Fran Zapulla and Mary Ward-Callan, I think, got together and decided to talk to the publication board who said okay, we'll let you have a couple of years to fulfill these commitments. And they let us do moderate editing instead of full editing, so that also saved us some funds.

Hochheiser:

And so you were able, then, to make the transition to electronic publishing, while staying with IEEE publications.

Levy:

Yes. Which I wanted to do because we couldn't afford to antagonize our two sets of conference boards, ASC and MT. Now we were publishing, let me see. The applied superconductivity papers have 1,500 people on it. There's like 1,000 papers that are submitted. And about 800 papers are published, anywhere from 800 to 1,000. So essentially we publish about 3,500 pages out of the Applied Superconductivity Conference on the odd years because the conference is held on even years and the odd years you get the big spike. And then on the even years, we publish just the regular articles, which are like a few hundred pages. Well, another story, the magnet technology people were also publishing in the Magnetics Society, because they're mostly large-scale magnets, mostly superconducting, but at least some, conventional conducting magnets. What the editor told us is that I think that's a better fit for you guys because then you can even out the dips. And I thought that was nice of them to do that. Later on I think that the really was that they got burned by China. Let me tell you what happened. At the time just before they transferred to us, China had gotten the Magnetic Technology Conference to go to China. And therefore, the Magnetics, Society has to tell the IEEE how many papers they're going to publish, right? The income that you get from the IEEE is an S curve. It goes something like this (increases slowly), then it comes up (increases quite rapidly), and then it goes like that (gradually saturates), right? Well, the bend is at about 2,000 pages to 2,500 pages. So anything you publish over that doesn't give you much more. They publish over 2,500 pages anyway. So the other thing was they did it because they weren't going to get any more income. They charged them, et cetera, so it's okay. However, if the Chinese decide they're not going to publish, and so you were talking about let's say 1,200 pages you don't go back on this S curve on your income. You go back on a straight line to zero. So you lose a lot of money in the process because of the formula that the IEEE used at the time. So, I'm sure that they lost a lot of money on that, on the fact that they were not publishing in the magnetics transactions

Hochheiser:

So the magnetic transactions moved from the society to the council?

Levy:

No. No, they moved the magnetic technology papers from the magnetics transactions to the Transactions in Applied Superconductivity.

Hochheiser:

Oh, they said it was in this area, we're not going to publish anymore. You publish.

Levy:

Because it's good for you. And it is good for us. But a couple of years ago the MT board decided to publish in China again. I was not a very happy about that. I didn't know why they would do that. So I finally talked to Prof. Yan [the chair of that conference], and I asked are you going to really publish with us or are you going to, publish elsewhere? He said well, the young people did not like the fact that it was published in China because nobody saw their papers. And at least our publication has credibility. So they did publish with us, but it was difficult to get their payments because their institution’s red tape was as exasperating for them as it was for us.

Hochheiser:

Okay, so wrapping up a few things about transition to a council. So you managed to convince each of the societies that were contributing to the committee that a council was a good idea.

Levy:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Then it'd have to go and –

Levy:

to the board,

Hochheiser:

then it would have to go to the overall board of IEEE.

Levy:

Yes. But the staff really helped a lot. And they smoothed the way so that it wasn't bad. It wasn't a challenge, except for the one objection. I wrote the constitution actually. I'm saying I wrote it because I did because I mean, -who was I going to ask to do that? And obviously the staff helped and then they gave me examples of what to write, so I took this from that and added other things.

Hochheiser:

So then did you make a presentation to the board?

Levy:

Yeah, I had to make a presentation to TAB, the IEEE Technical Activities Board, but the slides were prepared by the staff. So it was a piece of cake. The hard work was convincing the individual societies. The hard work was convincing the board of my committee that they wanted to do that. Some of the societies were convinced by their own representatives who talked about it at their board meetings.

Hochheiser:

Did becoming a council achieve the things that you were hoping to accomplish by doing that?

Levy:

Yes, of course. One of the things I wanted to do is to be able to give awards to those people that deserve them before they died. So I went to the board of the Applied Superconductivity Conference and I told them I would like to give awards and I would like to be able to present them at the Applied Superconductivity Conference if you allow me. If you don't, I'll still give the awards and I'll find somewhere else to give them. But if you will let me do it, I'll be appreciative because it will be better for the community to be able to get that recognition in this conference, et cetera. But if you don't want to do it. Let's understand why I was trying to be so forceful. People didn't want to give awards. The reason they didn't want to give awards is because the conference is divided into three parts, electronics, large scale, and materials. And they wanted to make sure that this area didn't get recognition unless their area got it. So I told them I don't care, so long as we do it. I don't care what you guys do insofar as giving awards. So the chair of the committee said well, we have to appoint somebody to do it. Well, I chose the one who objected the most about the awards because he didn't know what the rules were going to be, Marty Nisenoff. So I said to him you be the awards chair so you’ll make the rules and you'll be happy. Then the chair of the conference said well, yeah, but he's a physicist and we need an engineer. So he appointed Bob Fagaly who was really a physicist. It didn't matter. The work was done by Marty Nisenoff. And Marty shepherded it through the IEEE, got the permissions through the IEEE awards committee, made the rules a little bit too strong for my taste. They wanted to have at least 20 years of participation in the field of applied superconductivity before you would qualify for being a candidate for the award and it had to be in the field of applied superconductivity. I finally was told why they chose 20 years. It's because they didn't want to give any awards to those people that had just gotten onto the bandwagon of the high TC superconductors. There were papers coming out a mile a minute. I mean, there were thousands of papers; most of them may have been just like my one paper that I'm not happy about. They're still holding to that twenty-year limit and I'm hoping to change it, but not as president anymore.…

Hochheiser:

Then, I guess and you continued as president till about 2006.

Levy:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Did things evolve with the council in any way during the period while you remained president?

Levy:

We got the awards established and recognized. We gave a lot of them at the very beginning and then they were starting to be just one in each area every year; on the even years at ASC and on the odd ones at MT. At about that same time, we started publishing those papers for MT. We started supporting ISEC which is the International, Superconducting Electronics Conference when it comes to the United States. Actually, the very first time it was held here, we gave Ted Van Duzer $10,000 to help him make sure that he didn't feel like he was going to lose his house Because of the transition, ISEC had to be self-supporting and I don't think he knew that he could get insurance, so we provided him with $10,000. After that, we provided $10,000 for all of the ISECs that were held in the United States, which is once every six years. And the MT Conference, the Magnetic Technology Conference, when it's held in the United States is also a council conference every six years. Last year both the ISEC conference and the MT Conference were held in Boston. We're doing the best we can with what we have. In the IEEE, the rules are less strict than the university rules are. When I was with the Ultrasonics Group at one point, we lost a fair chunk of money, and it ended up being because nobody was watching the store. We had a treasurer, but we didn't have a finance chair that would look at what was going on. So I created a finance chair for our council, which happens to be me. But there are other folk now. I mean, I think Elie Track could do it now. He is our current president and future treasurer. Eventually, I will try to pass the buck to him.

Hochheiser:

So you have remained active in the council since stepping down as president then?

Levy:

Oh yes. I'm the finance chair.

Hochheiser:

Yeah.

Levy:

So I look at the budget and I look at whatever needs to be looked at; and, I'm the fellow who is supposed to pay attention. I was talking about the student support. See, when we first started the council, I figured at some point that we had to start putting money back into the Applied Superconductivity Conference. I said well, you put $20,000 into student support we'll match it with $20,000 of our support. You could use it whichever way you want to. Well, the very first chair said I can use that to lower the registration of the students. I really thought that they should do that on their own. Most conferences lower registration for students on their own. This chair used CSC funds to do it because he wanted to have a higher surplus. I was not happy about this development. But finally, when CSC supported a conference in France, a few years ago, the chair said well, if you give us these matching funds, we won't be able to use them. So why don't you use it for something else? I said how wonderful. Why don't I use it to cover travel expenses for students, which is what I really wanted to do in the first place? You decide how you want to distribute the travel expenses and we'll give it out of our IEEE funds and, that should work. And it worked. So now I've got everybody convinced that they want the Council to cover travel expenses for students as opposed to lowering the registration fee.

Hochheiser:

It makes sense because the students can't afford to come here. It doesn't matter what the registration fee is.

Evolution of the ASC

Hochheiser:

In what ways has the ASC evolved over your many years of attending?

Levy:

One of the things we tried to do is give the president of the ASC or the ASC board, a vote on the CSC board. It took them a long time to reciprocate officially. Well, what CSC did with the help of my colleagues was to get as many ASC people into the council as CSC could possibly do. The treasurer, Bruce Strauss, is the treasurer of ASC. So there's no way that the ASC Board are going to feel that nothing is hunky dory. They know everything that's going on here. I mean the treasurer knows everything that's going on here and going on there. The previous president, John Spargo, was in electronics for the Applied Superconductivity Conference. Elie Track is the current president of ASC. He is also the chair of the ASC 2014 conference. His term as CSC President ends in 2014. The next two people: Kathleen Amm is a committee chair in CSC and will be the ASC Chair for the 2016 Conference; Matt Jewell will be ASC Chair for the 2018 Conference. He is developing the CSC Web site. So the reality is that most of us are ASC people. Now the ASC Board has approved a memorandum of understanding and CSC is going to have a vote on the ASC Board. We have had votes there anyway because a few of the CSC board members are on the ASC Board, but I wanted an official vote for the CSC President. So our relationship with them has improved considerably. So in that way, yes, we have that evolution. Another thing is that I was always hot for us first of all to become a society and for ASC to become an IEEE Conference — I personally didn't care if the ASC Board members took over the council or if CSC became a society and ASC Board members ran it. [But, perhaps, now there are many people who have invested a lot of time and effort into the Council and they might not want to have their projects totally taken over by ASC.] Regardless, there are things going in the IEEE that it's better if ASC remains independent. I am somewhat disappointed with the new leadership of the staff, since it appears to me that they are intent on considering societies and councils as businesses meant to produce profits at all costs. Also, the rules change at IEEE. At some point they changed in such a way that the CSC surplus was very good. This is because the formula was changed so that we got 55% of our income from the number of hits we get on Xplore. CSC also gets 35% for the number of articles that it publishes. And, CSC has lots of articles. For intellectual content we get 10% for just having a Transactions journal. The part that was with the S formula represents a very small fraction of the total income. We just have to estimate as close as possible how many pages we will publish just to give the IEEE publication department advance notice. We tried to make it as close as we can. But we still misjudge, of course, because you never know if the authors are going to submit their manuscript and you never know what's going to happen with the reviewers. But we do our best. I was very happy with that change. Now there's a new change that happened just recently where instead of indirect overhead, indirect overhead was charged like 22% of your expenses, now it's 32% of your Publication income. So it's an income tax as opposed to an expense tax. And it's 32% of your IEL income. If you run a lot of conferences, it doesn't cost you very much. But if you only have one source of funding, it costs you a lot. So the council is going to be losing by the time this becomes fully effective $100,000 a year. Therefore, I don't believe that ASC should become an IEEE conference. The other issue is that they have a substantial reserve. We can't use our reserve. But they can. Well, we can use a little bit of it at a time with the grace of the board. We can use 3% of our reserves if they approve it, but it usually is more like 1% or 2%. And we can use 50% of our previous year’s surplus. They are tying our hands. What I would like to do is transfer funds to the IEEE Foundation to support the CSC awards. I am very happy to have those awards, to be able to give them, be able to recognize everybody the CSC Awards Committee wants to recognize. So the very first time we did it, they let CSC transfer $300,000, but not anymore. They won't let us do that. We managed to transfer another $100K because we got the Jimmy Wong award. And they gave $100K, so we could match it. That was big, a big hassle to get IEEE to match. They took it out of our operating funds. They didn't take it out of the reserves. I mean that is not a way to run a shop. I mean, it's a way to run a profit-making organization, but that's not what we are. This is a nonprofit one. I'm sure that they're doing something for the rest of humanity, et cetera, because that's what they're espousing and I know that they're doing some stuff that I'm proud to see. They are helping with water purification in Africa and they're getting ovens in Africa and getting them cheaply made and so on. I'm happy to see all of that. But I'm not happy to see them tying not just the council's hand, but everybody else's hands. So that is my complaint.

Hochheiser:

Of course, one of the things that funds is the IEEE History Center, which is how I'm being paid to be here and talk to you.

Levy:

I'm happy to do that. All right is the overhead. This is direct overhead. This is fine, or the indirect overhead, this is fine. It's an income tax and not an expense tax. But even an income tax is okay if they let us use our reserves for stuff that we need to do. But they won't. Within reason. .

Recent Awards

Hochheiser:

I know in recent years you've received multiple awards, two from the UFFC and —

Levy:

One, the Max Swerdlow award from CSC. I'm glad to have them.

Hochheiser:

Nice to get that recognition.

Levy:

Well, and I also was the distinguished lecturer for the Ultrasonics Society and I gave about 40 talks all over the world. I wasn't in New Zealand or the Antarctic. But I was in Asia, in Israel, in Latin America. I even gave it in Panama. India, Japan, Korea, China, so that was nice.

Hochheiser:

Yes. Overall how would you characterize your professional career over your many decades of active research?

Levy:

I liked it. I got some satisfaction from having 20 PhD students. And we had something like a couple of hundred papers with a nice number of Phys. Rev. Letters. Some of the stuff we did was I think important. But someone else has to judge that.

Hochheiser:

Before we finish, is there anything else you'd like to add that we've neglected to talk about?

Levy:

Oh, ah, I think I filled in all of the gaps with you because I talked about MT; I talked about the other things. We were very careful in selecting our presidents, and each of them has strengths in different ways. So there's John Spargo who is a very sensible fellow. Elie Track is equally sensible, but Elie Track also is much more able to deal with the IEEE TAB. I was not nearly as effective as he is there. I'm hoping that he'll stay involved. I'm hoping that he'll be a director and maybe one of these days the president of the IEEE. I would be very pleased with that. I'm happy that we are getting some young people into the council. We're bringing them up slowly, but we have Sasha is our secretary. Matt Jewell is there. Justin Schwartz was the editor. He gave that up so we have a new editor, Britton Plourde, who is a young guy. We've got at least a couple of women [actually four] in our council, which I'm very pleased about. And the new president is from Italy. So that's wonderful. So, yes, I'm happy with how the council is progressing. Thank you.

Hochheiser:

Well.

Levy:

It was a pleasure.

Hochheiser:

Well, thank you very much. I've enjoyed listening to you and learning about both your career and the history of —

Levy:

This council.

Hochheiser:

I guess we're finished. Thank you.

Levy:

Excellent. Thank you.