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And there were about three experimental physicists in other specialties. So that was a good department that way. And had gone over to Europe for some training, and he was back there just before Goudsmit and Uhlenbeck came, I believe.
But at least there were four - in addition to Colby, who was a very fine theoretical physicist of the classical school — there were Goudsmit, Uhlenbeck and Dennison, as the three young shining lights, which renewed the department, you might say. And that was a great contribution. Dave Dennison was away on leave of absence most of the time I was there, so my real influence was from Goudsmit and Uhlenbeck, and they were my joint thesis advisors. I went to what I guess was the first one, or practically the first one, in my sophomore year, with Herzfeld.
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But after my first graduate year, and for the second and third, there were just constellations of stars from all over the world. And Fermi — perhaps the most important. It was a great assemblage. Oppenheimer, as a very young instructor from out in the West, and the young people who came to listen became quite a stellar lot too, some of them my life-long friends. Yes, who was important to you among those people during the Summer Seminars? Is there any particular person that stands out? When they were all stars? He was there once while I was a graduate student, but then again a few years later.
I found Oppenheimer very fascinating but hard to keep up with. What was the pattern of a graduate student doing his research under Goudsmit or Uhlenbeck? Well, they were very different.
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You can imagine, in those days, if you look back at the pictures of those days, we were all so young — all looked so young. They were just a couple of years out of graduate school themselves, but from a more advanced graduate school of Leyden; with the European custom of students taking a little longer to get their graduate degrees. Oh, he was there too, and he was a very sympathetic personality. I have some very fine memories of Ehrenfest.
We became quite close friends for a short time. But Goudsmit was a specialist in atomic spectra, and he was very enthusiastic and somewhat offhand about it all, and almost always with a bit of humor in everything he said. But that repartee session was one of essentially communicating enthusiasm for the subject, before getting down to brass tacks. It was the sense of enthusiasm that sort of stood out and led the whole thing, kept everything stirred up.
Uhlenbeck was the analyst. You heard the lecture anyhow. Well, when it came to doing, when I got far enough along so that it was appropriate to do some research work, I remember, I got started with Otto LaPorte who was the fourth member of this group of young people who had invigorated the department, coming from Sommerfeld. So we had both Ehrenfest and Sommerfeld students to work with, as well as Dennison. He was more influenced by the English school.
That was with Uhlenbeck too. And I should say that, coming to Michigan, I still was going to be an experimental physicist. That was clear. I liked experimental physics. And that was only a short interlude. So I worked out — doublet — separations in almost closed shells, with LaPorte, as I think my first endeavor in theoretical physics. And I was a little bit more than a computer in that.
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I was to LaPorte somewhat more than a desk computer is to the physicist today. We worked on it together. I began to learn how you assemble evidence, and figure out how things agree with theory that way. The theory was very simple. Well, that was somewhere along toward the end of my second year as a graduate student.
And from there I went on to various other things, before I finally got around to a thesis dissertation. One of those things was suggested by Uhlenbeck. But then when I got on the thesis it was suggested by Goudsmit, but it was something that he and Uhlenbeck were both very much interested in, so I talked almost equally with the two. Uhlenbeck sort of helped keep me going in the right analytical direction, and although I used simplification methods that had been developed by Goudsmit, it was very much between the two. I worked more with Goudsmit than Uhlenbeck but Uhlenbeck was very helpful.
They were both my sponsors. Oh yes. That was very fine. We were a dozen or more graduate students, but they found time to talk with one of us, part of one afternoon, and another an hour the next afternoon or something. I think of Goudsmit as being much more empirical, Uhlenbeck as much more concerned with formal theory.
Well, this was true then.