Oral-History:Jacques Vanier

About Jacques Vanier

Jacques Vanier completed his undergraduate studies in physics at the University of Montreal before moving to McGill University to undertake his graduate studies. During his career he has worked in industry (Varian, Hewlett-Packard), taught physics, carried out research at Laval University, Québec, National Research Council, Ottawa, University of Paris, Orsay, France, and the Instituto Elettrotecnico Nazionale Galileo Ferraris, Torino Italy. His research work was oriented towards the understanding and the application of quantum electronics phenomena. He has been a consultant for several companies engaged in the development of atomic clocks. Jacques has also been very active on the academic circuit, giving lectures and conferences at numerous Universities, National Institutes and Summer Schools around the world. He has written more than 120 publications and is the author of review articles and books on masers, lasers and atomic clocks. His two-volume-book, The Quantum Physics of Atomic Frequency Standards (1989), written with C. Audoin, is recognized as a main reference in the field. Recently he has written, with Cipriana Tomescu a third volume of that book, with the subtitle; “Recent developments” (2016). He is also the author of "The Universe, a challenge to the mind" published by Imperial College Press/World Scientific (2010). Jacques is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the American Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He has been the fortunate recipient of several awards for his contributions to the field of measurement science: IEEE Rabi award (1994), Distinguished Precision and Time and Time Interval (PTTI) award (1998), IEEE Instrumentation and Measurements Society award (1999), Queen Elisabeth Jubilee medal 2012, Médaille de l’Assemblée Nationale du Québec (2018). He is currently Adjunct Professor in the Physics Department, University of Montreal.

About the Interview

JACQUES VANIER: An Interview Conducted by Marina Gertsvolf, IEEE Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics & Frequency Control Society, Montreal Canada, 9 October 2018.

Interview #822 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, 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:

Jacques Vanier, an oral history conducted in 2018 by Marina Gertsvolf, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Jacques Vanier

INTERVIEWER: Marina Gertsvolf

DATE: 9 October 2018

PLACE: Montreal, Canada

Marina:

Hello, Jacques. Today is October 9th, 2018. This is Marina Gertsvolf from National Research Council, and I am with Jacques Vanier at his home in Montreal. Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview, and thank you for your time. We are starting the recording now, so I will start with the first question and you're welcome to elaborate.

Jacques:

Thank you for the invitation and for coming here.

Marina:

We'll start with the family and the early life. Can you please state your full name, the date and place of birth?

Jacques:

My name is Jacques Vanier, and I was born not far from here, in Dorion, Quebec, about 10 kilometers from here. And then, my family moved to Rigaud. I was about three or four years old, and I lived there until I was 21 years old.

Jacques:

I was privileged in a sense, because this was a locality, a little town, which had a lot of institutions. They were run by congregations and priests, and religion was a very important part of our life in that little town.

But, especially we had a college, College Bourget, and it had about 400 to 500 students. I was not living there, I was extern, living at home in Rigaud and going only to the courses. I went through what they called a Classic Course. I was really privileged at that early part of my life to be educated in that little town. It had a very high level of education, because of the institutions that were there.

Marina:

You didn't say what year you were born.

Jacques:

I was born, okay, a long time ago. I was born in January, 1934.

Marina:

That's many years ago. And did you have siblings?

Jacques:

Siblings?

Marina:

Brothers and sisters?

Jacques:

Oh, yes, I am sorry. And yes, we were eight in the family.

Jacques:

My sisters were going to school there, too. They were run by the Soeurs de Sainte-Anne. And my brothers, well, they were educated in various places in the province, too.

Marina:

Were you in the middle? Were you the youngest? The oldest?

Jacques:

I was the youngest one. I was the little spoiled child.

Marina:

Do you think it influenced your personality? The fact that you were the youngest child?

Jacques:

I was spoiled. By my sisters especially. My mother died when I was very young. I was nine years old. And I didn't realize very well what was happening. But she had made a testament, saying that I should attend college to attend a Classic Course. I didn't know about that.

And when I registered in college, I registered at the other course that was given there, which was called "Commercial“ I believe. They called me at college and said that I could not do that. That I had to go to the Classic Course because my mother wanted that. It was an eight years long course. So I said, "Okay, I'll go”. It's interesting that I remember that (laughs)...

Marina:

Was this when you were still eight or nine years old?

Jacques:

Well, when I went to college I was about 12, I believe.

Marina:

Okay. Did your mother recognize early on that you had special talents and future in science?

Jacques:

I don't know. Really, I don't know. I never thought, when I was a kid, that there was anything special. But I was curious. That's for sure, very curious. I was just trying to understand.

Marina:

Did your other siblings also go to college?

Jacques:

Uh, one of them, but did not go further than college. And the others did not. No. They did not.

Marina:

The college, what grade did it run to?

Jacques:

This was called, before the so-called CEGEP in the Province of Quebec, the Classical Course. The classes had names like "Element Latin", "Syntaxe, Versification" and so on, It lasted eight years in all. The two last years were called "Philosophy", I and II. We were learning about philosophy but all through we were learning science, mathematics, history, literature and subjects like that. It was a fairly intense course in those days.

Marina:

And by the end of this course was it equivalent to what is today CEGEP?

Jacques:

After the Classic course, you entered directly in university. In science we jumped over the first year. So I went directly into second year of the course in science, Bachelor of Science, which lasted then only three years. It was four years but we jumped over the first year.

Marina:

A few more questions about your family. What were your parents’ professions?

Jacques:

My father was electrician. Actually, he wanted to be in the police. He was a giant, a man of great stature and he wanted to be a policeman. But I understand my mother didn't want. And so he worked for ... in those days it was not Hydro Quebec…it was Gatineau Power. And he went to work for them all his life. Except at his retirement, he entered into the police. He became a policeman ... He was in charge of the City of Rigaud (laughs) ... A little town.

Marina:

That's nice. Do you remember how life was? Was your family poor? Well off?

Jacques:

My family was not rich. They were living well. Fairly well, but they were not rich. And I think they were calculating well. I suppose. This is about what I can say about it. And they were extremely well respected in the city where they live. Everyone in the family.

My sisters went to courses in the Convent. They're all dead now ... I remember one was, playing piano very well. And the others were fairly well versed in literature.

Marina:

That's important when the family supports kids’ education.

Jacques:

Yes, of course. And especially one of my sisters supported me very well. All through my life. She was versed well in literature. She went into religion. She went into the "Franciscan community". It was in a cloister in Quebec. She came out of that cloister after three years. And she went to follow a course to become a nurse. After that, she went into the army. The military. She became captain, and went over the world, Germany in particular and several provinces in Canada.

And she helped me in doing my studies. At university. Financially. Because I had to go and live in Montreal, this was quite expensive then.

Marina:

Was she one of the older kids in the family?

Jacques:

Yes.

Marina:

She felt responsible since your mother died.

Marina:

You said you went to college, to the Classical College. Did you have favorite studies right away? Favorite subjects?

Jacques:

Yes. Of course. Science. I liked painting also very much. I went to painting courses in college, courses given by Monsieur Savignac who was an artist. He had a studio and he taught me painting.

And at one point, I was not decided what I would do in life. Either painting or science. And I was torn. I decided to go to science. And keep painting as a hobby. As you can see these are my paintings...

Marina:

Is that your work? We'll take photographs after the interview.

Jacques:

And this one is Rigaud, we can see the College, just the steeples...

Marina:

Is this the house where you lived?

Jacques:

No. We can see the College, the Convent at left for the girls and then the College, a little to the right. And this is the little river where I was playing on my free times.

Marina:

Do you think your interest in science appeared because your father was an electrician?

Jacques:

No, I don't think so.

Marina:

Did you ever go with him to work?

Jacques:

Yes. I went with him, often. I saw what he was doing. But that was about it. It is in college, when the priests started to teach me mathematics that I became interested. Trying to demonstrate things and theorize.

Marina:

So you are more of a theorist rather than an experimental physicist?

Jacques:

Hmm, not quite. I was doing experiments also, when I was a kid, like building little electric motors. I guess, as you asked me before, that my father influenced me somewhat on that matter.

Marina:

Did you start painting that early on? Did you paint as a child?

Jacques:

I was 12 years old when I entered in college. Right away I went into classes on painting. I had been interested in drawing when I was younger, a little kid. I wanted to learn more. So right away in college I went to those classes in painting. Learning the technique and...

Marina:

Was it because you also had special teachers that influenced your hobbies?

Jacques:

No. I just discovered that I could draw and I liked it.

Marina:

Music?

Jacques:

A little, but not much.

Marina:

Do you play?

Jacques:

Not really. My parents tried that, sending me to private piano lessons. And I learned piano but then, I guess, the teacher thought I was more interested in building gadgets and going fishing or going (laughs) hunting. She then recommended to my parents that I don't follow that path.

Marina:

So, fishing was it a regular activity, after school, the big thing?

Jacques:

Yes.

Marina:

Were you good? At fishing?

Jacques:

Yes. I was, oh yes. I was fine. And that little river that I made a painting of, that was paradise. Especially in spring. We were a group, little kids, we were going fishing also in the Lake of Two Mountains. I had a lot of fun, there.

Marina:

Did you have many friends where you lived?

Jacques:

Yes. It was surprising, you know, having a college in Rigaud like this. When I graduated from elementary school, let's see, in ninth grade, we were not that many in the class. We were about 10 maybe, in my grade. And they didn't go, all, to college. Only a few of us went to college. I've always been asking myself, "Why was that so?" It's interesting. It was not in everyone’s taste, I suppose, to go to college.

In total, for Rigaud, even if they had this college possibility, there were only about 15 to 20 people going to college. And this is why I keep saying that I was privileged to be able to go to college, and privileged by my family that sent me there.

Not all of my friends were going there. I thought about it and did not know why. Personal culture, may be. People were going to work early in their life.

Marina:

Was it for financial reasons, that they couldn't afford college?

Jacques:

It was not very expensive. My family, as I said, was not very rich.

Jacques:

It was not an expensive course. I don't remember exactly, $10, $15 dollars a month, something like that for being an extern. Those going into College with full pension, they were paying a lot more. And the College had bout 400 to 450 students. But they were coming from Montreal and other regions of the province.

Marina:

So, at the time before you went to college, you liked painting, art, and you liked science. But did you want to be a pilot or a policeman? Who did you want to be when you were a child?

Jacques:

Never a pilot or a policeman. Never. No interest at all. Never. Why? I know kids, often they say: “I want to be a fireman”. No. That was it.

Marina:

Was your life affected by the Second World War? What was the hardship in the country? Did it affect your family?

Jacques:

Not really. The only thing I remember of that period ... I was young, you see. Very young, as a matter of a fact, in 1943 when my mother died, I was nine years old. And my brother, the older brother, was a military. He was in aviation. That's all I remember, really.

And he never went to another country. He stayed in Canada. I think he learned piloting but I'm not sure. We were seeing him once in a while. He would come home and that's it. I was impressed to see him, in his suit. It was an aviator...

Marina:

Was that college run by church?

Jacques:

It was run by a community called “Clercs Saint Viateur. They were brothers and priests. And there was a large number then. Maybe ... I don't know, maybe 100 in 1950. Some of them were fairly well advanced in science and in mathematics. They had been going to university, getting a Master's degree. And I was friendly with many of them.

And one especially, Father Robitaille, if I remember his name well. He was an engineer in chemistry. But he knew a lot of science and he taught me. I was going to see him in in his room, and he taught me photography. How to use the camera. I had been given a little camera by my brother. I still have it, a Retina 1A. It's a nice little 35 mm. And we were experimenting with it. He taught me exactly what the lenses were doing, focussing and all of that. It was most interesting in college then.

Marina:

And could you develop the pictures too?

Jacques:

Yeah. I started developing a little later on. It was black and white in those days.

Marina:

Were the rules very strict at school? I can imagine when it's run by priests.

Jacques:

It was strict. Very strict. Oh yes ... We had to go there the whole week, seven days. Even Sundays and Saturdays. Very high discipline.

Marina:

Do you think it helped you in the future, in your further studies and career? This discipline?

Jacques:

I think so, discipline, yes. I have inherited that... all my life.

Marina:

During your high school years, the last years of college, did you work, apart from school, did you have to work?

Jacques:

In college, you mean?

Marina:

Well, before you went to university

Jacques:

Yes, yes, I did work.

Marina:

What did you do?

Jacques:

The early years, I was… it’s interesting, I was delivering the orders that were made at the store. Groceries, I was delivering that on a bicycle. In the later years, I was hired by a small printing shop. It was a family business. They were printing a local newspaper. I would write things in it with photographs, on what was happening around. They hired me to help them. This was during college.

Marina:

That's exciting.

Jacques:

That's interesting, using a hobby to make money.

Marina:

Well, that's the best situation. When you (laughs) ... do exactly what you love.

Jacques:

When you love it yes.

Marina:

Was the school for boys only?

Jacques:

Yes. Oh yes, absolutely.

Marina:

And was it different when you went to university? When you went to university was it co-ed?

Jacques:

Yeah. University was co-ed.

Marina:

Were there entrance exams? How did you get into the university? Did you just have to show your marks?

Jacques:

You're given a diploma after Classic Course in college. They call it a Bachelor of Arts.

Marina:

Oh, the college gave you Bachelor's degree.

Jacques:

Because they were essentially a part of the university. They were depending on the University for their Program. And so, this is why when we entered into university, we could jump over one year and be accepted directly. So we were accepted directly without exam.

Marina:

But the university also gave a Bachelor degree?

Jacques:

Bachelor, but not in Arts. In Science. We had exams in college that were dictated by the university. But they were in the college. Not going to university to pass the exam. They were relying on the teachers to do it properly.

Marina:

Were they hard?

Jacques:

Yes, yes. Especially those in French. Yes, they were hard.

Marina:

Do you think they were much harder than the exams, the students currently take in high school?

Jacques:

I don't know. I don't know about that. I had my son, Pierre, who went to high school in Ottawa. We lived in Ottawa for some time and my daughter went to high school in Quebec. I didn't find the exam that difficult, but I cannot put a judgment on it.

Marina:

So when you went to university, and you decided to choose science over art, did you have to choose a specific field in science right away, or was it general science?

Jacques:

They called it science, the second year was science. And we were about 90 people in the room, in the class. And they could go after that into chemistry, mathematics or physics. The three courses were common at that level. It's only in third year, and fourth year that they were specialized. So, I went to physics.

Marina:

Was that the University of Montreal?

Jacques:

University of Montreal.

Marina:

Did you have to move to Montreal to live nearby?

Jacques:

Yes. Yes, I had to move, very close by and rent a room, in a basement, on the principal road which was Maplewood in those days. Maplewood Street. I only had to climb up the hill to go to university. I stayed there like a good kid. Very disciplined and learned, learned.

Marina:

How old were you, when you moved there?

Jacques:

21. Because we had eight years in college.

Marina:

Were you happy to start living on your own? Move away from home?

Jacques:

Not really. I don't remember exactly. I was at home, I liked it and I remember well that I was going every weekend to my home, to Rigaud. There was always my father and one of my sisters was there. And I, I loved that little place, Rigaud.

Marina:

It's not far? It's not far from Montreal?

Jacques:

No. I could take the train to go home. Or I had friends that had a car and they took me to Rigaud.

Marina:

After the first year, did you have to pick a specialization?

Jacques:

Yes.

Marina:

What did you pick?

Jacques:

Physics.

Marina:

Why physics?

Jacques:

Oh I, I loved it. And I had read a lot of books before. I was especially interested in atomic physics. I don't remember exactly what books they were. They were, of course, popularization books. I was questioning nature all the time, what was that and that? What was this world? What were the rules?

I had a good friend with me, he lives now in Quebec. He was one year ahead of me, and he had gone into pharmacy. I asked him why he did that. And he said he had worked in a drugstore in the summer. So, he liked it. But when I told him I was going in physics, he joined me. And we both studied at University of Montreal, three years in physics. After that, we both stayed in physics. He went into meteorology and I went into graduate studies in physics again.

Marina:

He went into meteorology, you went into metrology…

Jacques:

Yes, yes... Very different, yeah. But that was later on. In the early days it was simply physics, general physics that interested me.

Marina:

Did you have any professors in the university that you remember? That made a big impact on your studies?

Jacques:

Yes, yes, Pierre Demers, that's interesting. Pierre Demers was a very eccentric person, but he knew what he was doing, and he impressed me. He taught courses, thermodynamics and nuclear physics. He was very, very good.

I remember some others, like, Professor Belair. He was teaching optics. Very interesting. I was impressed and I learned. So those are the ones that I remember most.

Marina:

Did you know at university that you will continue to graduate school, or were you thinking maybe you would go and start working?

Jacques:

During my years at university in the summer, I went to work in, let's see ... Oh yes. I remember. I went to work on an asphalt plant where they fabricate asphalt for roads, and I was called a chemist. This was a summer job.

I had to analyze the asphalt, that is the size of the stones in the material that was used, through special filters. That was during two summers. But then when I graduated, I went into research in an institution near Quebec, in Valcartier, which was a defense establishment. It was called in those days, th Canadian Research and Development and Establishment.

And I worked on a small research project. It was very interesting, it was physics. And it triggered me to keep going. I could do research, measuring the lifetime of electrons and holes in semiconductors”

That was the summer after graduation. After that I went to graduate studies at McGill. To get a Master’s degree.

Marina:

So this was similar to co-op programs?

Jacques:

Not really. They were offering summer jobs for students getting into graduate studies. That's all. And we were applying for such a job. Various research groups were hiring students, across Canada. It was very, very interesting.

I made friends from all over Canada at that place, because they were hired from across Canada. Well, I have not kept contact with them but, we were good friends in those days.

Marina:

Were these government sponsored programs, to hire students?

Jacques:

Well, it was. Government allocated within the establishment a certain amount of money to hire students. In the summer. And of course, at the same time, you're making a little money, and with these economies we could go back to university.

Marina:

So when you started at University of Montreal, did you have students mostly from Quebec area, from Montreal area, or were the students coming from other parts of Canada?

Jacques:

Mostly Montreal ... Yes. It's interesting. I never thought much about it.

Marina:

Was it different living in a big city like Montreal coming from Rigaud?

Jacques:

No, because I had been often earlier in Montreal. It's not far from Rigaud. So, I was familiar with the city.

Marina:

But the temper of life is different.

Jacques:

I can tell you that I was locked in my room, and working. I can pass a message here: If you want to do something in life, you have to be disciplined and you have to work.

And love your work. That's all. I didn't go out. I was in Montreal. I was alone.

Marina:

Interesting. How did you pick which specific, professor to do your Master's degree with? Or which specific specialization area to do your Master's in?

Jacques:

It was somewhat of a difficult situation after my Bachelor’s degree. The reason is that I wanted to go in graduate studies, and I knew McGill was very highly regarded in the world. McGill has essentially put Montreal on the map.

So, before I went to work at CARDE in Valcartier I had decided I would go to McGill, because I said I'm going to learn English when I'll be Valcartier in the summer. It was English over there, at the research center. I would then go to McGill after that.

And I went to see the director of the department. His name was Gar Woonton. He was a great person with a lot of charisma. So I made application and he accepted me. But I was also inclined to go to University of Montreal because I could see there was a possibility there too. And I applied there too. They accepted me also. But then finally, when I visited both again, I decided to go to McGill. That was a personal decision, a question of taste.

I was a little afraid because I was not that fluent in English in those days but I learned after that. It was a good decision, however, because the field I went into was just challenging.

I went into magnetic resonance. It was in 1958. This-magnetic resonance field had just been discovered. It was getting well established in the institution as a research project. I was privileged to enter that field.

Marina:

Did you go into this field by chance, or did you know what you wanted to study.

Jacques:

No, it was by chance. As a matter of fact, I went to McGill because I thought I was going into solid states physics, but in any case I was going into solid states physics by means of nuclear magnetic resonance.

But I studied solid state physics there too. I was attached to the Eaton Electronics Laboratory, that was its name, and we studied solid state physics quite deeply. But my subject was in the magnetic resonance field that I learned there, and it interested me very much.

Marina:

Who was your supervisor?

Jacques:

Gar Woonton. The Director of the department of Physics. He was the Director of the laboratory. He was a charming person.

I stayed friend with him all my life. He died some time ago. I remember we were meeting often. He was in Europe one time and I was there too. We met in France and travelled together in Switzerland. We were very good friends.

Actually, when he retired from McGill, we hired him at Laval University, to be the Director of the so-called Research centre on atoms and molecules. He came. This was for me a good decision, to work with my former director.

Marina:

For how long did you do your Master's work?

Jacques:

Two years. PhD, three years.

Marina:

Did you just continue to PhD directly-

Jacques:

Continue, just continue. My research in physics at the time in the Eaton Lab, for a Master's degree, was on what is called nuclear quadrupole resonance. And it was, I remember very well, in a crystal called potassium chlorate. It was in order to make a thermometer. Someone at MIT or Harvard had developed the idea of using-the temperature dependence of the frequency of resonance of a nucleus in potassium chlorate to make a reproducible thermometer.

And we developed it. And It worked down to about 15 Kelvin. It was going to be used as a standard. But it was complex, of course, even to be used as a standard.

They thought that they could replace the platinum resistance thermometer by that device. It never happened but it was very good. One could measure temperature, down to liquid nitrogen temperature to a precision of about a millidegree. Very reproducible.

So that was a very interesting project.

Marina:

Was the group big? Were there many graduate students, and post doctorates?

Jacques:

At the Eaton Electronics Lab, 10, 15. Everyone had his own project, of course. We had just started magnetic resonance when I arrived. And the nuclear resonance thermometer was my project.

And then, after that went into what we call electron spin resonance, into a solid, again solid state physics. And it was to study the behavior of those resonances in solids.

It started really as a material for making masers. Masers were starting. So, we were trying to understand how to invert populations in those solids but we had to study quite deeply the resonance frequency and the relaxation processes. The work was really on relaxation behaviour: lattice relaxation and spin relaxation.

Marina:

Was the atmosphere in the lab and the university that convinced you that that you enjoyed academic life? That you wanted to be a scientist?

Jacques:

Of course. I was so impressed by the professor. Oh, I said, "If I can teach one day, I'll try to do like him." You know? He taught me that you have to work to succeed. I keep repeating that but this is it. He was coming in the laboratory at around 7: 00 in the morning, 6:30, 7:00. And I tried to imitate him.

Marina:

You knew that he was coming that early because you were there too.

Jacques:

Yes. And then we were studying together.

Marina:

Was he young? At that time?

Jacques:

At that time, maybe he was 50. Yeah. I was 25. He was 45-50.

Marina:

Was the funding good?

Jacques:

I was helped, as I said, by my sister, who was in the army. I could make money during the summer by working. And I had grants from the National Research Council. Now it is NSERC.

Marina:

Yes. But the funding of the laboratory for the equipment?

Jacques:

It was in the hands of Professor Woonton. He had contracts with the National Defense. And also... I don't remember exactly but I think it's from NRC.

Marina:

That helps.

Jacques:

When I was student, you know, at the Master's level, he couldn't pay us, no. There, I was living on, my grants and my bursaries. And it is only in the end, at the last years of the PhD studies that he asked me to do some teaching, for undergraduates. So I did a bit of a course for undergraduates, in general physics. That was fortunate: I was not living rich. Like most students.

Marina:

You mentioned your professor, that you stayed friends with for many years. The other graduate students that you studied with, did you stay in touch with them over the years?

Jacques:

Not really. No, not really. They-they went their ways. Maybe one of them I met when I worked near Boston. I met him there. He was working in Lincoln Lab., I believe. We exchanged ideas but that's about it. He was working also in solid state physics. The graduate students? They went their ways. And I didn't hear much about them later.

Marina:

Where there women in the faculty? Were there women professors, or were there women students?

Jacques:

In doing my Master's research, I had only one woman colleague. She was Helene Lortie. She did a Master’s but then she went off. She didn't stay for a PhD. We didn't have any other women in the laboratory. No.

Marina:

Did you, did you join at that time any organizations like IEEE? Was it a thing, to be a member of?

Jacques:

Yes, that's interesting. We were physicists. So we joined the Canadian Association of Physicists. CAP. And that's it.

We, we didn't join the American physical societies. I mean, in those days. Well, we didn't want to spend the money on those things. And in our situation... we were limited.

Marina:

Right. During your PhD, did you get to go to international conferences?

Jacques:

No. Let's see, when was that? Oh yes, during my Master, I was, I think, I was already member of the CAP, and I went to give a paper, right away, at a conference on what I had done on the realization of that nuclear quadrupole resonance thermometer.

It was a great challenge to present that. However, I was used, in a sense, to present things because at the University of Montreal, the professor who was the director of the department, was teaching electromagnetism. And he was writing a book on electromagnetism. But he would give us his notes, for us to read. He would say, "You go and present that on the board, tomorrow". So, we had to learn what he had written and present it. So, I learned that way, somewhat, how to present elements of mathematics or physics concepts.

Marina:

You only fully understand the subject if you have to teach it to somebody.

Jacques:

Well, of course, yes. I remember, we were not fully in control.

Marina:

So, after you finished your PhD, let me ask you about the defense. Did you have to defend your PhD thesis?

Jacques:

Yes.

Marina:

What was the procedure?

Jacques:

Oh, you first submit your thesis to the director, Gar Woonton. He then sent it to external reviewers, some internal, some external. Yes, I remember he sent mine it to a professor in England. And then, after that, you had to present it in front of a jury and everybody was invited.

I remember well. I presented it and, of course, I was very nervous. Yes, but it-it worked.

Marina:

Did you know what you were doing after your PhD? Did you know where you were going?

Jacques:

Yes. As I said, I was privileged. I feel I was privileged. I had three offers of employment. But not in Canada. I could have stayed in Canada, at University of Montreal to teach. They offered me. But there was three other offers. One from Bell Lab, in Holmdel, one from a company called Transonic on Route 128, north of Boston. And the other one was from Varian Associates, the Bomac division in Route 128 again in the north of Boston.

I went to visit them. The three of them, they offered me a job. I was very lucky. Today it's not the same at all. You know. And I accepted the one from Bomac. From Varian Associates. Why? I knew about Varian Associates. This was a solid company. Transonic wanted to develop the nuclear quadrupole resonance thermometer. I had done it several, several years ago. I was modest. I said to them that I knew the physics of it. But they wanted to develop a device, a system, and I'm not an expert in solid state electronics. I was not educated in that field

And they said, it did not matter. But I decided not to-to go there. I thought also about the other one, Bell Lab. I thought this was quite a-a place, but I was scared by it.

It was so large and I was not at ease to go there. And, maybe because I was somewhat shy. I told myself, I was not at the proper level, or things like that.

I went to Varian Associates because, there were people consulting and helping the company, and they were at Harvard. They were Dan Kleppner and Norman Ramsey.

Marina:

Oh! Impressive.

Jacques:

Impressive. They were coming to our place, and we were going to Harvard. Well, this was like a university. I decide to go there. I worked with Robert (Bob) Vessot and we became good friends.

By the way, Bob died several months ago. There, you know, I could use the knowledge that I had acquired in physics with Professor Woonton. We were doing magnetic resonance. Right away I could jump into the subject

Marina:

Are you happy now, looking back, are you happy with your choice of going to Varian rather than Bell Labs?

Jacques:

Oh absolutely. Absolutely. One of my friend at McGill, with whom I didn't keep much contact, was Peter Smith. He went to Bell Lab. And he did well. But I was somewhat afraid of it.

Marina:

Would you recommend to somebody who is only starting their career not to be afraid? Or to be afraid.

Jacques:

Not to be afraid. Yes. I think we- you have to believe in yourself. But you know, there are other circumstances like working with people at Harvard and people at Bomac. They were very friendly. They had a lot of charisma and I thought I was going at the place where I would be happiest, so I went there for four years. I stayed there four years.

Marina:

Why so little? Why so short? (Laughs) ...

Jacques:

My wife wanted to come back to Quebec City. That's in Quebec... And also, there was another serious reason too. I could see what was happening over there. Our division was sold entirely to Hewlett-Packard. They invited me to the west coast, to Palo Alto. And I went and visited the place. I didn't like it. It was an industry. Really. No. I want to stay in the east. And then, I thought that they would close the place. The Bomac division would be closed, because they were transferring everything to the west coast. My colleague Bob Vessot stayed in the east. He went to Harvard College, at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

And that's where he developed the masers, the hydrogen masers. So, I didn't want to stay there longer- the future was so uncertain. And my wife wanted to to go to Quebec. So, I accepted an offer from Laval University to go and teach physics in electrical engineering. And start a laboratory if I wanted to.

Marina:

Okay. Did they give you some seed money, a fund, a grant funding?

Jacques:

No. I looked for the money. Varian gave me some money, to start a laboratory over there. That's interesting. They gave me a little grant.

Marina:

Even though you were leaving them, they gave you a grant?

Jacques:

Yes. NASA gave us also some money via a contract. Then I applied to the National Research Council for a research grant. We could survive. And right away, I had graduate students coming in.

I was in a situation a little strange. I was doing physics in an electrical engineering department. And solid state physics was starting. Digital circuits were becoming very popular. So I was in a somewhat strange situation but it worked, it worked well. I stayed there for about 15 years. 1967 to 1983.

Marina:

Your lab when you were starting it, what was the specific focus of research you were going to pursue?

Jacques:

Oh, we just started atomic frequency standards. Because Varian gave me some money, and Bob Vessot and the group gave me one Hydrogen maser. I built another one right away to study it because we still were at the beginning of this type of research.

It was only several years later that we have made an industrial product out of it. I was mostly interested in the physics of the hydrogen masers.... and of course other frequency standards such as the Rubidium clock. Passive optically pumped clock.

Marina:

Did you like it, to lead your group? To be responsible for the graduate students?

Jacques:

Yes. Of course, I had very good graduate students as a matter of fact. Some were from electrical engineering and some were from physics. And I had some from rom France, for example.

They succeeded fairly well, yes. This was amazing because everything we did in those days, in the atomic frequency standard field, was new. It is rather interesting to be at the beginning of the development of a series of devices like those. It never stopped. As you can see, we're still talking about that nowadays. I spent my life in the field. Learning physics in a general way, but really trying to develop these devices.

Marina:

One of your graduate students, Jean Simon Boulanger went to work at NRC, frequency and time.

Jacques:

Yes. He was a very talented person. I remember when he came to me. He was a physicist, from the physics department. I talked to him and we discussed. I realized he was a talented person. He entered directly into PhD studies.

He didn't do a Master’s degree. I asked him, to do some research on Rubidium interactions with wall coatings. And it was very well done. He did very well. After that, he went to NRC to do some research.

Marina:

You said that your wife wanted to move back to Quebec. Did you start your family, did you marry during your PhD, during your graduate school?

Jacques:

Yes. In Montreal. And we had a child in Montreal, Lyne, a daughter. She was one year old when we moved to Boston, yes.

Marina:

Was it difficult to-to have a family and the beginning of a career at the same time?

Jacques:

All my life, I've been working evenings, early mornings and I must say that I had a wife that was very tolerant.

Marina:

That's important.

Jacques:

Very tolerant. She could live in some isolation like this.

Marina:

Did you like living in Quebec City?

Jacques:

Yes. It's a beautiful city. And I love teaching. What was I teaching? I was teaching solid state physics. Semi-conductors. And I was teaching electromagnetism. Another course I was giving is thermodynamics. But these were all adapted to engineers. A lot of physics but with some aspects applied to electrical engineering. Graduate courses, of course. I love that. It was very interesting.

Marina:

Were your classes popular?

Jacques:

They were obliged to come. They were compulsory courses, so, they had to come. But I remember there- some of the students became, graduate students. And they said the lectures were great. It was okay and that was encouraging. That was encouraging because they make up a new generation of scientists.

Marina:

That's very important to have some feedback.

Jacques:

Oh yes. I liked to try to get them to appreciate what science was about.

Marina:

But you stayed for 15 years, you said, at Laval University. And then you went to NRC?

Jacques:

Yes. At Laval I felt, I was getting to a point, the digital world was getting some importance. I was not an expert in this, and the field I was in, was not fitting well in the department, although, we were using all kinds of technologies that were electrical engineering.

I felt that I could help NRC at that time. And in those days, C. Costain was the director, or the chief of the time section. He told me he was going to retire. He offered me to go to NRC to take charge of the time and electrical standards section. I could go for a while and go back to university if I wanted to after that. It was a point of transition. I decided to go.

And I had been teaching for 15 years, essentially, the same courses. It is a lot of work to prepare courses, full courses. And, I told myself that maybe I could spend more time on doing research at NRC. But I was driven right away into management

Marina:

There is no research in management.

Jacques:

Unbelievable. You have to do what you like in life. I was doing management. I would say, that it is okay, you deal with people. It is fine. But if you're cartesian, too rigid, then it doesn't work that well. It's difficult.

I woke up and decided to complete the book I had started at Laval. At least I would stay in the field. And so, I wrote this book. The Quantum Physics of Atomic Frequency Standard with my colleague Claude Audoin in France. We were friends and we made an arrangement. I had started partly at Laval University with personal notes.

After I moved to NRC, I continued working on it. This is work. But this is what keep you in touch with people, you read, you calculate, you write, you work ... For six years.

Marina:

Both volumes in six years?

Jacques:

The two volumes. Six years. It started essentially in 1981. I moved to NRC in '1983. In 1981 we had made plans of what we wish to do, but then we ended in 1987. It was published in 1989.

And believe me, weekends, evenings, every free time you have, you work. In management, you have to make a plan for the next year. You also have to make a five-year plan, then update that five-year plan every year. And so on, and then check, if you've manage well, that you have accomplished what you said you would do in your five-year and one-year plans.

And it is just like that, bureaucratic, what you're doing. But I could find a day or two per week to write the book. This is how I wrote it. It was one of the most interesting time, because I would learn what the others were doing and stay up to date in the field.

After you've read, calculated and written, you feel that you can go to a conference and can understand what the person in front is talking about, which is not the case when you work on a very specific project.

Even in the frequency standards field, if you work in a very specific project, it's not always clear what the other person is talking about.

Marina:

But in parallel to books, when you were working at NRC, can you say that you were shaping the National Measurement Standards Institute? Because you were at the very beginning?

Jacques:

The Institute for National Measurement Standard was founded, was created by Pierre Perron, the president in 1990. He asked me to take charge of it. This constituted in regrouping various sections.

In the past, it used to be the Division of Physics with several sections. In the 80’s, it became, the division of physics with two laboratories: standards and solid-state physics. They asked me to take care of the laboratory of standards. It was called Laboratory for Basic Standards.

And then after that, it was decided to make an institute of it. The president asked me to take care of it. This was even more bureaucratic...

Marina:

But, can you speak to some important things that you think you have accomplished, even as a bureaucrat, during these years?

Jacques:

Difficult, eh? What you have to do is manage money, manage people, hire people and it takes all your time. And I could only say, "Okay, we'll invest in that direction," and I was not doing research work. I was just directing and the scientists were doing the work, that's it.

Marina:

It's clearly not your passion.

Jacques:

Not really. No. Because you feel that you have done nothing in a year. Okay, the lab is running, the Institute is running, but what have you done in it? Well…

Marina:

You selected the right directions. You brought masers, the design of the masers, with you to NRC. These were the first well working ones.

Jacques:

There were two masers at NRC, but they were very old. They were built really in the beginning of the development of our knowledge on hydrogen masers.

I had designed two, at Laval University with my colleagues. At Laval, they wanted to keep them. They wanted to continue research on masers, because it was still, even in '82, '83, interesting to study the properties of those devices.

At NRC, we had these two old masers and we wanted to go into other directions like starting the optical clocks. People had a lot of ideas for having more stable devices than the Cesium clocks that had been there for some time. The fountain had not be implemented yet.

I asked Derek Morris if he would be willing to build two masers. I had the design, schematics. We designed it at Laval and we spent a lot of money in this. We had designed and built them completely with the help of a mechanical engineer. And he accepted to do it.

It was very kind of him because this was just building devices for time keeping at NRC. It was not really research, it was just development.

Marina:

They've been excellent workhorses for many, many years.

Jacques:

Yes, they have been there at NRC for many years. They did very well. Derek did very well in re-designing and building those masers, yes.

Marina:

Yes. Just recently we stopped using them because there were some problems with electronics that had to be rebuilt.

Jacques:

Yes. Nowadays, if you build a hydrogen maser, the electronics around them is just amazing. A company in the United States build H masers. It follows a development from an organization managed by Harry Peters. It is just fantastic. Yes ... In those days, we didn't know. We were not able to do that.

Marina:

But they performed excellent.

Jacques:

Yes.

Marina:

So, you stayed at NRC for how many years?

Jacques:

'83 to '94. I retired in '94- is it '94 or '95?

Marina:

Okay. But at retirement, you didn't want to stay longer, in post-retirement, because you didn't want to do managing job anymore?

Jacques:

Something else happened, I got sick, in 1992. I was not well for some time. I had a back problem. I was having a bed in my office. And lying down, dictating letters from the bed. So, it was not a life. And I decided to get surgery. It didn't work well. I had to get another surgery. It was worse. So I was two years essentially at home.

Almost paralyzed, I stayed there. And then they decided at the General Hospital … I thank them for that, to try something on me. They injected cortisone in the spine. Great quantity. I got better. And I could manage after that. But I was not going to go back to NRC after that time. I discussed with the president and I retired. But then I could still work. So I went to Italy for a year. And stayed there with my wife. I worked at the Institute for standards.

Marina:

INRIM?

Jacques:

Yes, INRIM. And I started a new project there. Which I had in mind for a long time. It was a special optical pumping approach, called "coherent population trapping". I started them on that. And it went very well. I was there for maybe, not quite a year. And they have done very well. We worked very well together.

Marina:

With Rubidium or with Cesium?

Jacques:

Rubidium. In the beginning it was Cesium. If I remember well. It was Cesium but we switched to Rubidium. And then, at that time, a friend of mine in the north of Boston, Bob Kern, had a small company, Kernco, and he was doing Cesium beam standards development. He had difficulties with them. Because they were supposed to go in the GPS satellites, there were difficulties with them. It is difficult and a lot of work to get a Cesium Clock constructed such as to survive launching and go into orbit.

I propose to develop this new approach of coherent population trapping. And he jumped in it. And I was consultant to them. for many, many years. I consulted in early days, to …What was it called? Yes! EG&G.

EG&G was invited, because of the problems on the Cesium clocks, to develop a Rubidium standard that would go into the GPS satellites. They had never worked in that field.

They asked me to help them, to consult for them, with another person, Herb Stratemeyer, who had been working at General Radio Company and developed a Rubidium standard at that company, a long time ago. We accepted at the condition that they hire someone competent in the field, a person that we knew. They did, they hired Bill Rilly.

He accepted their offer and he went to work with them. He developed the Rubidium standard. An outstanding person. He did the full development at that place. And now, I understand these are the standards that are used in the GPS satellites. There are three of them I think in each satellite.

Cesium was a- too delicate. Well, Europeans are making a system, Galileo, and they are using other types of clocks. But I don't know how they are doing these days. They are trying to use Rubidium? Passive Rubidium and hydrogen masers?

Marina:

Yes.

Jacques:

Rubidium, I don't know.

Marina:

They have Rubidium clocks. And masers, yes, hydrogen masers. But they had several failures recently.

Jacques:

They had?

Marina:

It was in the media.

Jacques:

My opinion is that a hydrogen maser, even a passive one, is extremely delicate. I know the person who's in charge over there, who builds those things, Pascal Rochat. He is a person of great knowhow. It is difficult to do this kind of devices to go in space and have a lifetime maybe of six or seven years. It is difficult.

Marina:

Do you think next generation will be optical frequency standards that will be as robust and as portable?

Jacques:

When I look at the optical table that is necessary to make these optical standards work...

Marina:

Well, they miniaturize everything now.

Jacques:

They miniaturize now?

Marina:

Now everything is on a chip.

Jacques:

On a chip, eh?

Marina:

Yes.

Jacques:

It is difficult, and if you can put it on a chip, fine. Is that your field?

Marina:

Not really. No. I do a lot of administration now.

Jacques:

I thought that with the coherent population trapping we would do very well, you know. We did. Some people miniaturized it quite a lot by making little cells. These are little one-millimeter, two-millimeter cells, inside a silicone crystal.

But, you know, there is a difficulty here. If you make a cell very small, the resonance line width gets too large. So there is a difficulty.

In the beginning, what I was doing was about one-centimeter cells, with a good buffer gas. Then you do about what we do with the larger Rubidium optically pumped clocks. But you have an advantage with CPT. You don't have a cavity and you use one laser that you modulate. That's all.

Marina:

But you can maybe cool the atoms down to narrow the line width.

Jacques:

Maybe! You essentially stop the atoms somehow. Yes.

Marina:

What moments stand out as critical moments in your career? Things that made the biggest scientific impact or the things that changed your career? What are the big moments?

Jacques:

It was deciding to go to McGill University. Study spin resonance, I mean, magnetic resonance. This was a great decision. If I had not gone there, I don't know what I would have done.

Marina:

And going to Varian? Selecting Varian?

Jacques:

Yes, going to Varian, yes. This is a follow up, upon choosing that field, quantum electronics, magnetic resonance. There are a lot of people in this field, and many have been working in it all their life. People may think that we must be bored to work in that field. Well no. It is a field that started from microwave and went to optical. It is a field that is really challenging in instrumentation, in application, and in doing its physics. What I did most is the physics of it.

I remember going in an airplane and talking to my director when I was young at Varian. I was very young. The director was Arthur McCoubrey. He was a very good scientist. And he was a good director too.

I was in the plane, sitting with him, and I was calculating. He was curious of what I was doing. I explained it and replied that I looked forward to be at home because I wanted to finish that calculation. And he told me that he had not felt that way for a long time. But this is the life I love. I am just trying to understand more deeply what this whole thing is about what this whole world is about.

And going to the details like that, it helps you. You don't understand everything. You just understand the surface of it, but you get satisfaction out of it. There's nothing as satisfying as either observing something and explaining it mathematically or predicting it.

Marina:

What impact do you think for the field metrology the publication of this two-volume book had?

Jacques:

I have to be modest ... It's difficult. I understand it is well known and has been helpful, very helpful to people to understand the physics and operation of atomic clocks.

People I talk to, say that it helped them in understanding what this whole subject is about. Yes. The physics of it. And let's see ... I guess they, the editors, hadn't printed that many. It was so expensive.

You know how it was written? It was written with one of those word processing machine of those days, SAE, I think. I have forgotten the name. It was rare. The editor did not have such a word processing machine or software. They retyped the book completely. And we had to re-check all the equations and everything.

This is why it was so expensive. I don't know how many copies they printed but they sold them all. Almost immediately in a- in a few years.

Marina:

Somebody told me that all the Nobel Prizes related to frequency metrology happened only after the publication of these textbooks.

Jacques:

Repeat this!

Marina:

That, the Nobel Prizes related to frequency metrology only were awarded after the publication of this book. That they actually made measurement science recognized by the rest of the world of physics, as a true problem in physics.

Jacques:

I'm very happy to hear that. I never heard about it. It is most interesting because ... Well, there have been anyway a lot of Nobel Prizes that have been given in the field of frequency standards.

Marina:

Right.

Jacques:

It's amazing. I'm very surprised, you know. But those people, they deserved it. Persons like Ramsey, Cohen -Tannoudji, Dehmelt, Chu, Phillips…Truly, I'm really amazed by that. It is quite a field!

Marina:

It is quite a field. Yes. It still continues, I think. The latest one in laser amplification. It is directly related to what is done now with frequency combs.

Jacques:

It is amazing…You know, in LIGO, they use the techniques that we developed in frequency standards to stabilize lasers, with large cavities.

It's amazing, that spread. This is in answer to the question why people stick to this field for 50 years. This is what I did, it is a most interesting field with a lot of applications and a lot of physics involved.

Marina:

About the IEEE, when did you become a member of the society?

Jacques:

I became a member in the society I think around 1975. A long time ago… Yes.

Marina:

Did it help you to, to interact easier with your colleagues in the field at all?

Jacques:

Yes, in a sense, yes. I decided to help out IEEE, sitting on the AdCom, Instrumentation and Measurements. I met a lot of people. I got encouraged to start conferences, like the Frquency Standards and Metrology Symposium, to take care of the IEEE CPEM. Yes, it is quite a nice, large organization. Sometime people think it is somewhat bureaucratic, but, it is helping a lot communication between people.

Marina:

Do you recommend your students to join?

Jacques:

I did when I was at Laval University. I don't have the opportunity now. When I was professor at Laval, I recommended them to join.

Marina:

Maybe a few questions because you were a professor at university most of your career. Do you have- do you see any trends in the ... some changes in the, in the what technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM field is towed to where it's moving as in the educ- in the university domain?

Jacques:

It's amazing. I was involved in Laval University in electrical engineering. I saw a big change during the period I was there, yes. How can I say that? It was less oriented towards understanding the physics involved and what was basic electrical engineering.

There was a big change towards digital electronics. It is important. It is important but, at the end of my career at Laval, I felt that people were no longer interested in understanding, but rather in doing things with digital electronics.

Power engineering was disappearing from the department. It is unfortunate. There was a professor who was an expert and well known in power engineering, but he was essentially alone.

So this is a change I have seen. My son went to electrical engineering in University of Ottawa. I saw that what he was doing was mostly computing and computer engineering, but not building those computers. More software than anything else. He did very well. He is in Ottawa now. And he still does very well. He's an expert in that field. This is thus what I observe, probably because I was concerned more with electrical engineering. I was not involved with a physics departments. I believe that physics departments did well.

Marina:

What will be the result, the consequences in the longer term? When the training in basic principles is lacking?

Jacques:

I don't know, I suppose that electrical engineering will depend more and more on physics departments. I'm not an expert in that. I suppose that physics is going to keep its importance on supplying the basis for development of other technologies like electrical engineering.

Marina:

Some questions, I will read through. How do you define success in life, in general?

Jacques:

I see. Very interesting question. Success, I suppose, is to do what you love. That is my case. And live out of it. I keep saying that I was privileged in having the possibility of choosing physics, choosing science. I loved it and I was paid for it. So, I suppose this is success. I kept saying to my daughter, my son, "You have to love what you do. If you don't love what you do, change job."

Marina:

Is there a thing you would have changed if you-if you were to go back, looking back, would have done differently?

Jacques:

Yes, I ... I will be modest on that. I could have listened a little more to others. Not being too disciplined, not being too isolated. You need to be disciplined of course but not isolating yourself. I tried in the past. I tried a lot but when you love to do something, you go at it and do it. It is a very difficult question.

I'm happy I've not chosen painting, for a career because I would not be here with you, a very pleasant moment. But it is good that I kept it as a hobby.

I keep saying the following: -I'm happy that I have chosen that hobby because I can decorate the walls of my home very cheaply, yes.

And secondly, I believe I have the greatest collection of Vaniers in the world....

Marina:

That's funny. What are you most proud of in your career, or in your life?

Jacques:

In my career, in my life ... I'm proud of my children, my life. My daughter is a psychiatrist. And she writes books. She has written about 30 books now. It is amazing. She writes for children and teenagers. And some of them may be interesting for adults. One in particular, called, "Les Anges Cassés", which describes a teenager drama in a city.

I think they could make a film out of it. She is really successful. My son is doing very well in Ottawa. He works for the National Defense. As a matter of fact, he is not employed by the National Defense but he works as a consultant for them, to develop software for their activities.

So, this is very important in my life. Well, I feel I have done well in the field of frequency standards, although I did not discover new devices. Mostly, I helped in the understanding the way they work. This is something I'm happy about, yes.

Marina:

You're a very modest person.

Jacques:

Well, no! When you think of people, like Ramsey, what you know and have done is so little. He invented the Cesium clock, and then the hydrogen maser. It is amazing. So you have to be modest. You have to be realistic about your accomplishment and, as I said, I tried to help and did the physics around those standards.

Marina:

So if I return to the point that you mentioned, you're proud of your kids, do you think your attitude towards your work made an impact on their career?

Jacques:

I heard them about that. They said they had the example of “working”. This is why I say, "Well, maybe I should have listened more," and I cannot do anything about that now.

Marina:

You stayed active. You recently published, a new book with Cipriana.

Jacques:

We have another one.

Marina:

Are you working on another one?

Jacques:

It's done. It is amazing. It's on a subject that has fascinated me all my life. It has nothing to do with standards. When I read books by Cohen-Tannoudji on quantum mechanics or other books on the forces in natures, the weak, the strong, gravity, and electromagnetic forces, you find that the concept Lagrangian and Lagrange equations are introduced. Then, the principle of least action.

It has always puzzled me. When I read it in books, I understand some of it. But really, what are these concepts? So, I decided to go deeply into it, and ask Cipriana Tomescu to help me on writing something on it, to explain it. Because I assume that students in their first years, studying classical physics have the same problem of understanding. I have a problem. And I was asking myself: What is that concept, what does it really mean?

So I decided to derive the whole thing, to look at it deeply and ask the question, what it was about... ? I wrote a little book on it. It is a few hundred pages, typewritten and it is being printed by Taylor and Francis. They are the ones who published our last book.

Well, I had written notes, just to explain myself what that whole thing was about. In books, they talk about “the standard Lagrangian" for example. And then, they keep working with it without explanation on the origin. Taylor and Francis wrote to me one day, asking me if I did not have another book to publish. They arrived at the right time. I sent them my set of notes invited them to look at those notes and tell me If they were interested.

They were interested. They sent it to five or six reviewers and they proposed modifications and more explanations. So, I did it and they are going to publish it.

It just tries to explain where these things come from? What is the meaning of the Lagrangian, Lagrange equations, how to use it, what to do with it, and what does it mean? When I studied that, I was impressed by the facility that people show in using it, but without, without really, saying what it was about. The subject is dispersed in books. Usually, if you look at classical mechanic books, they introduce an element of this subject at the beginning. Then they go back to it at the end. To understand, you then have to reorganize it and make it coherent. This is what I did.

It should be helpful for students who start in the field because I keep saying to myself, that if I don't understand something, I' may not be the only one. And that book should help them.

Marina:

Excellent. I have run out of questions. Are there any subjects you want to discuss that we didn't cover?

Jacques:

No. I just want to repeat what I said. If you want to do something in life, you have to love what you're doing. And be disciplined. And work. And it is work that counts. So that's it. Thank you very much.

Marina:

Thank you very much, Jacques. It was excellent. Thank you very much.