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Pol Duwez Oral History Interview with Harriett Lyle

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Abstract: An interview in seven sessions, April 1979, with Pol Duwez, professor emeritus of applied physics in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. Recollections of his childhood in Mons, Belgium, during the German occupation in World War I. Educated at the School of Mines in Mons and the University of Brussels, where Auguste Piccard was one of his professors. Comes to Caltech in 1933 as a research fellow, working with Theodore von Kármán and Fritz Zwicky on the plasticity of metallic crystals. Comments on interest of R. A. Millikan and Piccard on cosmic rays. Returns to Belgium, 1935, to become director of its National Laboratory for Silicates; efforts to improve quality of Belgian ceramics. Birth of his daughter; he and his family escape wartime Europe, 1940. Back to Caltech; experiments on high-speed deformation of solids for National Defense Research Council. Discusses war work, German V-2 rocket, GALCIT’s rocket research, beginnings of JPL, director Frank Malina. To England in 1945 to investigate materials for use in rocket propulsion. Discusses his work on various postwar advisory boards; his interest in “new” metals (titanium, molybdenum) and their alloys and properties. Recalls Air Force summer study groups on Cape Cod and changes in wake of Sputnik. His X-ray diffraction laboratory. Work on rare-earth oxides. Comments on Von Kármán. Explains the evolution of the applied-physics option at Caltech. He describes the technique of “quenching” from the liquid state; extreme cooling with new alloys leads to new field of metallic glasses. Magnetism and superconductivity. Recalls attempts to make nuclear-powered airplanes and ramjets. He concludes with remarks on his style of teaching, the evolution of materials science, and the responsibilities and rewards of consulting for government, the armed services, and corporations.


ID: 1982-00007
Duwez, Pol

Creation Apr. 20, 1979 through Apr. 30, 1979

72 pages

Topics: Physics

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