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Interviewee Richard T Schneider

Interviewer John Noone

Date of Interview February 18, 1994


N This interview is [being] conducted on the fifteenth of February, 1994, in Alachua, [Florida,] with

Dr Richard T Schneider Could you please tell me your good name?

S My name is Richard T Schneider

N Where were you born?

S I was born in Munich, Germany in 1927

N Where did you [go to school]?

S In Stuttgart which is southwest Germany [I went to] the University of Stuttgart, and I got my

diplome physical (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING) and later my doctorate in physics from this


N After you graduated from Stuttgart, what occupation [did] you [choose]?

S I was a physicist, of course, at that time, and the university employed me but only for one month

Then I was (PLEASE IDENTIFY) by General Motors They had

(PLEASE IDENTIFY), visit the institutes and find out who was graduating I was, of course, well

known to him for that reason The reason General Motors in over there is that they own Obel

(PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING) which is a large car manufacturing plant in Germany Obel and

Ford produce more cars than VW [Volkswagen] The Ellison (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING)

division of General Motors builds turbine engines for aircraft, and they were recruiting doctorates

in Germany because there was an extreme shortage in American doctorates They wanted to

work for the famous laboratories of Ivy League schools, not for General Motors

They imported me At that time I was doctorate number thirty-five in the whole General Motors

complex of 600,000 employees That changed later, drastically, of course In 1961 there were

only two more doctorates other than me in that manufacturing plant in Indianapolis Now they felt

[they] needed a high-temperature specialist, which I was, because they expected the turbine

engine would be replaced by something of higher temperature, which did not happen This

replacement was called MHD Power Generation It was researched and it is still researched by

them It did not pan out as expected

N When did you move to America?

S It was in November 1961 to Indianapolis where Ellison division is located

N What actually made you move to America?

S First of all, the U S is a classic immigration country for Germans A large part of the population of

the U S has German origins, so it is not really a strange country On the other hand, when I was

a boy of four or five years, I knew an aunt whose mother immigrated to the U S The father [of

my aunt] was killed in the war After this, they went back home to Germany That is when I got to

know her By then, of course, she was an old woman in the 1930s It was one incentive It was

always a dream of mine to go to the U S

On the other hand, the German economy was destroyed in 1945 and was being rebuilt at a rapid

speed, as a matter of fact What counted was people who would do things They got paid

accordingly, while the scientist was not that important at that time The work of a physicist [was

not needed] right away It was needed ten years from [that time] That was the atmosphere

They needed to rebuild Germany right away A person who was paid to put tiles on the floor [was

paid] the same as a physicist [with a doctorate] I got kind of upset about it The Americans

wanted me badly They sent me telegrams and called [and said], "Make sure you come" I had

several offers, the National Bureau of Standards was one I felt I was needed over here and not

so needed back in Germany That was enough of a reason to come right away

N Can you please tell me some of your first impressions when you moved to the United States?

S GM paid the boat [fare] We wanted to come by ship, not by airplane, because you could take

2,000 pounds of stuff with you, [our] household goods And there was other

(PLEASE IDENTIFY) would come to the ship in New York and make sure baggage got unloaded

The office was at the airport, which was back then La Guardia [airport] He left We waited four

hours for the airplane to Indianapolis

Really, the first Americans we saw were, ironically, natives, American Indians, in full dress They

obviously were going to a show or something I felt it was fitting that we should see the real

Americans first Anyway, we flew, the four of us, my wife, two kids, and me, to Indianapolis and

arrived very late in the evening A representative of Ellison division, as a matter of fact, the

director of personnel department, was waiting there for us They took us to a motel and it was a

suite They wanted to make sure we felt well

The next day was the day before Thanksgiving They thought I did not want to start working the

day before and I said, "No I want to, and, besides, we do not have Thanksgiving Therefore, they

put me on the payroll that day and my future boss invited me to his house for Thanksgiving dinner

which I later found out is a family affair like Christmas is for the Germans You usually do not do

this, have strangers around But he wanted to do it, and he picked us up at the hotel We were

very impressed by the friendliness We got greeted when we came and it did not change We

never heard anything bad about Germans, and never had comments about like this Also, the war

was not over that long

N You certainly have come across new customs, new foods, new situations How did you get

through those new situations during your first years at Indlanapolis?

S Indianapolis was not all that different [from Germany] As a matter of fact, one woman told me her

grandfather was a stubborn old guy He never learned English, he spoke German all his life

Indianapolis, as a city, spoke German until World War I It was not actually all that different A

few things were different [For example,] shrimp is a popular dish in America, but not in Germany

Shrimp are little, tiny things They could not ship it, of course, back then Now they do, of course

I would not eat a whole animal, which a shrimp is Therefore, I refused for a long time to eat

shrimp It changed in about two years They had somebody going away at Ellison, [and] they

gave a going-away party, just a lunch All they served was fried shrimp, so I tried it and I liked it

That was one thing

Another funny thing was my wife That very Thanksgiving Day they offered tomato juice She

almost choked on it She wanted to be polite and drink The Germans do not drink tomato juice

They eat tomatoes, but they do not drink them That was something new Another thing, which

happened pretty soon after the new colleagues invited us to their houses, was corn on the cob

The Germans feed the corn to the horses They do not eat it Therefore, we were asked to eat

horse feed Of course, we were polite and did it, and again we liked it Now we eat it ourselves--a

lot To be truthful, it is kind of a different corn It is sweeter than the ones they grow in Germany

to feed horses They do not even feed it to cows, just to horses [Laughter] Here they feed it to

cows as well, and I think it is a slightly different kind of corn That is as far as food is concerned

It was not so long ago we did not have anything to eat in Germany There was a big change, and

we could eat very well It was all cheap Now it is no longer cheap

N Did you find your job in the United States in Indianapolis very profitable? How did you find

yourself among the group of American technicians, experts, and managers? How did you get

along with them? What are your experiences?

S It was a big difference [compared] to Germany, because, like I say, scientists were not considered

such a prime interest for the nation There were hundreds of people waiting at the university for

employment Everybody looks over their shoulder But at Ellison, everybody was glad I came I

was flabbergasted, and I was expecting a frosty reception, but everybody was trying to help It

was good It is actually the American character because [Americans] have so much land [and]

they do not have territory to defend In Germany wherever you turn around, there is another

person You have to understand this I might have known it, but it was amazing to see all of this

how wide the country is, how much room they have, and how friendly the mid-Westerners are

Midwesterners are extremely friendly Southerners are more reserved, different

N You had a very meaningful stay in Indianapolis at GM? How long were you [there]?

S It was four years There was really no good reason to change I liked it there, but I came from a

system where the university professor is two notches below the president of the republic in status

Now this University here in Gainesville offered me a position, just like that, and I did not

appreciate the differences between American universities [like] Harvard and University of Florida,

because in Germany there is no difference They are all state universities and the quality is the

same in all of them At the same time I had an offer from Northwestern University I should have

gone there, of course, but I liked the building and the climate better in Florida, so I came at

Florida Ironically, later on my daughter went to medical school at Northwestern and it turns out

that faculty [receive] free tuition there It saves a lot of money

N When did you move to Gainesville?

S In 1965

N You were hired by which department?

S The Department of Nuclear Engineering This new technology, MHD Power Generation, which I

worked on at Ellison division, was a potential application for nuclear energy Nuclear submarines

were supposed to use, instead of a steam generator, an MHD converter, which is noiseless and

has all kinds of advantages once it works Therefore, the nuclear engineering department saw the

possibility of another application for nuclear energy [They thought they] should have an expert in

this field who could teach students the state of that It made a lot of sense They all told me [that]

in a few years we will be a second California, which did not happen But at that time they did have

a brand new building, just finished, and a reactor, which Northwestern did not have It had old

buildings, just a status, but the facility was not nearly as [good] Well, I had two huge laboratories

and everything I could ask for at Florida There was no complaint [from me] We had, actually, a

good department When I left in 1988, it was the largest nuclear engineering department in the

world number-wise-- undergraduate and enrollment-wise--except for we are much better than the

University in rating, and nationwide as university researchers So there is nothing wrong with the

University of Florida for me

N You were one of the first professors? You actually have chaired the whole department?

S No, the department was started about two or three years earlier They already had the

department head, and they had one engineer who did not have a doctorate The others were all

scientists, not nuclear engineers We had two physicists and a bunch of chemists, and they were

glad to get physicists because nuclear engineering is the closest thing to physics American

physicists are not applied Applied physics is a bad word, therefore engineers stole our applied

physics Physicists--nuclear engineering--is one of them, of course Except I was just adding to a

growing department, and it turned out later on I had so much research that my research budget

was larger than the department budget One time I had twenty-two people on the payroll Later

on things changed That is when research money became scarce, but back then it was the

heyday of American science If you had a good idea, you could go to NASA or the navy and get

funded Now it is not that easy

N Can you please [give] some more information on your specialization since you have taken up a

teaching position in the University Certainly your specialties have been helpful to the student

community and to science Could you please explain [more about] Stuttgart and your background

as a physicist [and] how it helped in the building of the department?

S Stuttgart itself is a technical university It means we can study everything but medicine and law It

is only the physical sciences and engineering, and it is famous now for aerospace They do not

have the institute system The institute I grew up in actually was assembling a nuclear

engineering department They worked in fission [and] they also worked in fusion Maybe I should

mention that I always wanted to be an astronomer as a boy When the war ended in Germany, I

told myself that the Germans [would] never need an astronomer ever again You have to realize

that there was literally [nothing] left in some cities, and therefore I picked the next best thing which

was physics

Among physics, I picked astrophysics, the surface of the sun which would interest me in what

became later known as plasma physics It was exactly what I studied and it became of technical

importance, engineering importance, because of thermonuclear fusion as a new energy source

That fusion machine is full of plasma which is the same as the surface of the sun is now These

are very high temperatures, and in order to study high-temperature gases which are plasmas we

use spectroscopys Therefore I became a spectroscopist If you know about the history of

physics, spectroscopy was the first information gained about the atom [At] the turn of the century,

(PLEASE IDENTIFY) spectrum lights from the stars and could not explain them until

Niels Bohr came up with the Bohr atom model and then everything fell in place Whatever we

know about atomic physics was gained from spectroscopy

At this time [Werner Karl] Helsenberg was still alive and in charge of all German physics back

then He told my professor, 'You have got to have a spectroscopist to study the plasma,

otherwise we will not believe what you are saying They were looking for an innocent soul who

would do that, and I was stupid enough to get involved with it [Laughter] It is something for which

you need extreme patience and a lot of basic physics knowledge which you otherwise might not

need But on the other hand, it is a unique thing There are very few spectroscopists around the

world and they all know each other, therefore, that is why I was in demand at Ellison They

wanted to study also plasmas at high temperatures

Now, when I came to Florida, I could serve in a nuclear engineering department because I came

from an institute which also had astrophysics as well as fusion My main research was actually in

aerospace, and the aerospace department wanted me to change many times I did not do it and

they do not have an aerospace department anymore for other reasons I worked in plasma

physics and the applications are in space more than they are on earth Thermonuclear fusion will

still take a long time, if it ever becomes an energy source, but you know there are also

applications for plasma physics in iron engines, plasma propulsion, all kinds of things

That is what I worked on It gave another aspect and choice to our students It has turned out to

be beneficial for a lot of students, because they hide the fact that they are nuclear engineers

They say they are engineering It is always who did their dissertation with me They cannot say

they are engineering physicists and they do other things The nuclear reactor industry is gone in

this country It is disappearing fast, and there are no jobs for engineers with doctorates

Engineers with bachelor of science degrees, yes, they are still needed to run the nuclear power

plants which are still in existence, but there is certainly nobody doing a lot of nuclear physics

concerning nuclear reactors anymore

The nuclear physics which is done is high-energy physics now, and it is done in the physics

department It has no application for anything whatsoever, unless you are a person who knows

the superconducting collider There are a lot of people who, again, have a lot of knowledge which

is not in demand I can say [this] for my students they can go anywhere because they are not

specialized in nuclear reactors They are specialized in engineering physics, the application of

physics to engineering

N What are your experiences as a professor with the student community? Did you see the teaching

profession as a very interesting field after serving for some time at Ellison?

S Well, I expected it to be You know, [it is] the highest status there is, coming from Germany (The

same is true of England, by the way There are only 250 professors in all of England ) It is a very,

very high status, and here it is some kind of a joke to be a professor But I did not know that back

then But still, teaching is teaching Maybe the research you are doing will never amount to

anything Nobody might read your papers and nothing comes out of it That is probably true for

90 percent of all scientists But, what you instill in your students lives on, and I have gotten those

comments from students who come back They were grateful they learned what they learned

But basically, teaching is the most thankless profession there is You get a student who does not

know anything, and he leaves you and he thinks you are an old fool It has some thorns in it

The student population has changed drastically since 1965 At the beginning, you had a lot of

German students and they quit coming There is hardly any anymore Instead, other foreign

students came and are still coming, but now they are maybe Chinese, Japanese, Iranians It is

not outside our classical culture and why the Germans came here and felt at home That is not

true for your typical Chinese student Chinese do not drink milk, you know? Here everybody

drinks milk like rice It is called culture shock here It is not easy for a student, but it looks like

they are still coming from all over the world to study Change is one thing

In 1965 and the early 1970s, all graduate students were bachelors, not married Now they are all

married Not only are they married, they already are divorced [About] 50 percent of my students

in the 1980s got divorced, which is a major nightmare for the professor The student is literally

useless for six months at least because of all this trauma and what have you, and you still have to

pay him He has to live, you know, and it comes out of your research project You have to

produce some research for it which you better do yourself because he is not going to do it I had

this happen quite a few times, [but] it did not happen in the 1960s and 1970s You could come to

the department Sunday morning at three o'clock and you would find students working there Not

anymore They have to be home by the wife, otherwise she gets divorced if he does not spend

enough time with her It probably hurts science, as such

I lived fifty miles away from [Stuttgart], so I took the plane which took two hours I did not want to

come on Saturday, and not because there was nothing going on other than (PLEASE

IDENTIFY) Institute I could work a little bit longer everyday My professor said, "No, no, science

cannot do without Saturday You have to come on Saturday" And that is what it was It takes

dedication to become a scientist, there are no two ways about it It needs dedication, it needs

sixty hours a week or more, and you go home and do some reading

That does not happen anymore A student goes home at five and he comes at ten Because he

comes late, he goes home a little bit earlier At home, they do not leave them alone There are

kids at home, there is a wife at home He cannot study or do some work The level is dropping I

left in 1988, [but] I visit with all of the departments and with ours and see what the students do I

am amazed how things have deteriorated compared with the great time in the early 1970s, the

greatest time for American science That is before the bureaucrats took over the administration of


That is another funny thing, you know When I came, there were agencies and NASA who

distribute money That is all they do Of course, they supposedly directed research The people

with whom I deal went by character They picked out the scientist according to his character

They really did not understand what we were doing, but they had a hunch [which told them,] 'This

guy is good They picked him Besides, there was enough money around that it was not a big

deal Then our students took over, the ones who graduated Now they have doctorates

The first thing our students [did] was to go to the EPA to write impact statements

(PLEASE IDENTIFY) bureaucracy These students now know everything better and they

administer science now Now, it is a nightmare to get a research grant In the old time, I once

walked in the office of one of the agencies at the Department of Energy, told him my idea, and I

had a contract Now it takes nine months to get a contract and ten proposals It might be funny,

but it hurts the nation All of this unnecessary paperwork and bickering and politicking goes on in

science As long as it is going on, no science is done

That does not mean it is better in Germany The best opportunities are still in this country for any

scientist The Germans are way behind in science, though they are catching up now The last

war, of course, threw them back I had a better chance of success in this country, and that is true

for anybody else who came here They all had a better chance in this country than back home,

although that might not have been the motivation to immigrate, for some it might have been

N You have certainly seen the various changes that took place in the 1960s in the student

community, [and] society [in general] It was a very important time, the 1960s in American life

S Well, the Vietnam war, of course, had a lot to do with it, but it is over now for twenty years and still

things have changed, and not for the better That is the basic problem The attitudes of the

people--they want freedom and freedom and freedom, and no responsibility That is what it boils

down to

N What were your contributions to the building of the department at the University of Florida? Have

you contributed in a very special way by producing books?

S We pioneered the nuclear (PLEASE IDENTIFY) sciences, and NASA gave me a

medal It is the highest award they give to a civilian scientist, and I got this in 1975 as a result of

the work we did in collaboration with Los Alamos, which is a national laboratory But I did other

things too, which are not as well known I worked on the insect eye for a while which was to be

used by the Air Force for air-to-air missiles That is how I ended up doing the eye research I am

doing now I am doing eye research for the human eye, and we developed the bifocal implant,

which is successfully implanted now

N You retired in 19887

S Yes

N When you look back on the times, how do you feel [about] your stay in Gainesville, at the

University of Florida? What are the memories you cherish about UF and your position at the

University of Florida? Do you have any specific memories you can [share]?

S It was a pleasant life at the University of Florida until recently Everybody tells me, "You left at the

right time," because now it seems to be some bureaucratic nightmare which has taken over the

University I cannot judge it because I am no longer in it I hear all the complaints about it from

my colleagues The reason why I left--I was sixty-one years old in 1988, and if I wanted to start

my own laboratory, you cannot do it when you are seventy Obviously, it was high time to leave

In the German system, a professor stays for life even if he does nothing He is just hired for life

and that is it He can sit on his desk and do nothing for the rest of his life if he wants That has

advantages It is a German idea for (PLEASE IDENTIFY) But the young people felt

the old people should leave and make room for the younger ones, but they do not They stayed

They were senile and they still stayed, and we felt that was not right My wife told me, "You know,

now you are doing the same thing you were complaining about" Maybe she was right So, [I

thought] if a I left and started my own laboratory, I could do the research I really wanted to do

At the University, you have to have some regard for your students You have to do the type of

research [where] they can learn something they can use There has to be a job somewhere If

you do not do it, you are not responsible, and I always try to do this Obviously, if I could get

money from the federal government to do some research, I saw an application for it Therefore,

my students got jobs [There has] not been a single one yet who did not get a job

That does not necessarily mean I did what I really wanted to do If you are in the middle of a

contract or grant, you just cannot have an idea and say, "Oh, that is great idea Let us do it" No,

you have to ask permission and it takes a year before that is all squared away If I had my private

research laboratory for an idea, I would just go and pick up the phone and order the parts I need

At the University, it takes me four weeks to get the same parts, and at the private research lab, I

have it the next morning If I insist on it, I call at four and I have it at ten thirty the next morning I

do have the part That is a big thing if you want to compete, because there is always somebody

else who is trying to do the same thing, no matter what it is

At the University, you are not supposed to compete with industry, but now they try to do it,

unfortunately I heard one of the new vice-presidents for research say, "Now we have to do

research which is oriented to some application The University should do basic research, that is

what they are here for They should teach students the basics, but the basics should be those

which can be applied to something But the University should not develop all that, and that is what

is going on right now on a grand scale They are going to fall miserably because the University

does not know how to do it, and neither does the faculty The way we hire faculty, at least in

engineering, [we recruit] doctorates from big-name schools like Stanford or MIT and make them

assistant professors They never have seen a factory from the inside Therefore, they cannot

compete with industry, and they are not supposed to They are supposed to teach the basics

But now somehow we messed this up because we are not getting enough money, and we would

like to make money

N Do you think research and design at the university level should be put into in part theoretical

knowledge, basic knowledge, fundamental knowledge? How about the appreciation of science?

Is it not the [responsibility] the University [to do that]?

S I said you have to be careful You have to make sure you are teaching something for which there

is a job But you do not have to teach in the details, because you cannot predict what jobs the

student will take anyway You have to teach him the basics with a new, possible application

There was a funny case that happened We were doing research for the air force, Eglin Air Force

Base, on the insect eye which was supposed to guide the air-to-air missiles to enemy airplanes

Therefore, if you want to build an the eye of an insect, you better study insects [and] how they

see, which we did Therefore, I cooperated with the entomologist who knows all about insects I

know all about optics It was great The students had a lot of fun doing it

One of the cooperators of the entomologists wanted to make a name for himself He wrote a

paper on what happens with male flies The females hover in a swarm and the males fly by at high

speed, solo And the male has to do a Emmerman (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING) turn He was

a World War I fighter pilot He invented this turn to catch the female, and he took the high-speed

pictures and studied all this He wrote a paper and gave it to the air force, not going through the

chain of command It ended up on the desk of the general The general exploded because he

knew all about Senator Proxmeyer who gave these awards to scientists who studied outlandish

things with government money He said, "That is another one of those, it is the sex life of insects"

[Laughter] 'What does the sex life of insects have to do with the insects?" It turns out it has a lot

to do with [the air force]

The secret of the insect eye is it has only twenty thousand individual eyelets We have something

like a million detectors, therefore, for the missile you need something simple If you can build a

gadget which does with twenty thousand detectors as much as we can do with a million, there is

something to it Obviously, the insect sees very well It can see a thread As a matter of fact,

there is a fly in Texas who lays eggs in the hair of cow, at a angle, while the cow is running One

after the other, he finds that same hair again after the cow turns around It must be seeing well,

therefore, and that is a simple, tiny thing if you can put it under a missile and it sees an airplane It

does not have to read the number on the airplane, it just has to find out if it is an airplane, the sun,

or a stone in the desert

But, you know, the general did not understand it If the student would have reported to me, I was

the principal investigator, I would have taken it to my sponsor at the air force and we would have

had it all worked out, and the general would have been briefed properly But now he just read the

thing and [thought,] "Here is another one He wanted to fire my sponsor [Laughter] [My

sponsor] said, "Go right ahead, fire me I want to retire anyway" [Laughter] It is very difficult to

fire a civil servant He was a civilian But you know you are asking basics and application, you

have to some idea of what the application might be We were studying simple, basic optics how

to take an image with a limited number of receptors, and get a good image The insect eye is one

application There are numerous others

N Dr Schneider, as an important physicist, what are your remarks about the scientific growth of the

present? Science has great applicability to humans How do you look at the application of

science for the enrichment of humanity? Do you have some opinions or views to express about

the contribution of science for the development of human society?

S Well, usually, humans are conservative and do not want change They want the status quo

Remember that invented the mechanic loom? [Looms] were made in England and

Germany [had] a bloody uprising And so it goes on and on When they invented the train, a

physician said, "If you go faster than thirty miles an hour, you die And so forth The scientist

and the engineer has to do it despite [these tendencies] It is very difficult introducing new

technology, and yet, since the 1960s, 80 percent of what we are using today and selling did not

exist in the 1960s It all was developed in the U S Just name one big development which did not

come from here Well, I think you can take one example, the supersonic transport, the Concorde

But that is only because a politician cancelled ours We had one, too But everything else--VCR,

microelectronics--was done here The fact that the Japanese are making it now is a different

story, but they did not develop it It was done here

I would say there is a dire need for the development of technology because mankind is growing

fast You notice this in India [and China], how fast the Indians and Chinese try to curb [the

growing population] which is really not any kind of [solution] It should not be It is not right to tell

a person how many children they can have Therefore, it is good idea to find means to feed all

these people and house them and provide them with a decent life So you need the development

of technology There is no question about it The U S is the center of science despite all its

shortcomings People come here, they are not going to Germany to study Some of them do, but

not in big numbers Or England, for that matter Maybe the Indians go more to England But that

is fine

What the U S does not do is to have the middle class craftsman, people who can make

something They can educate, if they are smart enough to use this Rather than educating

everybody to be an engineer, educate half of them to be craftsmen because somebody has to

make stuff, not just develop it I think that is one reason why most of the things we develop in this

country now are manufactured overseas by skilled laborers They have a lot of skilled laborers,

cheaper We do not have skilled laborers We either have unskilled labor orwe have high-tech

engineering types, but nothing in between That middle ground is missing, and we better start

filling it out if we want to compete worldwide

N America, in that way, has to build manufacturing

S They are losing it right now and they should try to keep it, or at least specialize in some areas

The car industry seems to be turning around now, only because of high technology But then

again, we are not making one television set in this country or VCR--consumer electronics We do

not, and maybe we should At least a small fraction of the consumption should come from here,

not everything should be imported But that is not what the present government believes in,


N Because the trend is toward a more service-oriented economy

S Yes It is cheaper to buy something else Why make it yourself? That is fine if you have money

to buy it somewhere else, but not if you are on an enormous trade deficit Sooner or later,

something has to give

N Dr Schneider, what are your opinions for the future of scientific growth? What will affect the

scientific and technological pursuits the Americans now [are undertaking]?

S Well, we have organized science here in this country in a bureaucratic way, which spells, really,

the end of progress, because those bureaucrats, of course, know better and it will not do

anymore You might know that Congress commissioned a study [about] who made the

breakthroughs in the last fifty years, and the answer was universities and small businesses--real

small businesses, individuals and vendors Congress came out with the SBIR program, Small

Business Innovation Research, and would give grants to small businesses Congress had some

fuss, I hear Unfortunately, they did not fund it [anymore], and told the government agencies to

take 5 percent of their research money and do that Sure enough, those agencies got the tax

Congress wanted people to do money exactly what they would have done anyway That is no

innovation The I in SBIR is no longer there, there is no innovation Progress, the real

breakthroughs [from inventors], Polaroids and VCRs and all this stuff, computers, which came

from individuals or small businesses, still have to come without federal help

That is what I am doing in my spare time right now, talking to inventors and giving advice for free

I have talked to hundreds of inventors by now Some have good ideas and some are just plain

crazy, but you know it only takes a few to make some I think there is really no way anybody can

tell which idea is a good idea or not And naively, the government believes there is a committee

who can tell (PLEASE IDENTIFY) gives the right person the money, which is

completely ridiculous You know, if you take a best seller you will find out that this book was

turned down several times by other publishing houses before it became a best seller Those

people did not see a best seller when you showed them one, and that is their business, but how

can you expect a committee to pick out the right idea out of so many ideas? They always get ten

times as many proposals than they can fund Now they could make enough money available to

fund them all Then, at least, if they fund a lot of nonsense but the good guy who has a great idea

would be in it My feeling is, and I know (PLEASE IDENTIFY) does not make

it because he cannot talk

It is mandatory for the good of all mankind that technology is advanced Just imagine if we would

not have penicillin Now, penicillin was known to the people It grows in graveyards If somebody

would have come to the government and say, "Here I have the secret," they would have laughed

at him But, you know, [Sir Alexander] Fleming discovered it on his own and it was fortunate It

was only one person If he would not have been born, we would not have it Therefore, progress

has to come from maybe uneducated people It is not ours Usually new technologies are made

by outsiders The experts proclaim it as impossible because they feel if it were possible we would

have invented by now, because we are the experts

When I was studying physics, as an exercise they still showed us how to prove that you cannot fly

with a machine heavier than air There is a mathematical proof for it There was nothing wrong

with the math There was no calculation error We can prove that it is impossible All the forces

on the wing cancel out, if you do not know that the airplane leaves the vortex behind on the

airfield, which they could not possibly know Never mind the birds, they fly, too, and are heavier

than air [Laughter] They do not know any better The people who actually made powered flight

possible were the Wright brothers who were bicycle mechanics They were not aerodynamicists

They had a lot of sense because they built themselves some income, but they had the technology

for the lightest vehicle known to man, which was a bus

There was also an academic, Professor [Samuel Pierpont] Langley, who tried to develop the

airplane Everybody chided him A U S scientist should know better [Laughter] But usually, big

breakthroughs are made by outsiders because the experts declared it impossible Even if the

breakthrough is made, like when [Alexander] Graham Bell invented the telephone, there were

people who wrote expert opinions [which said] that no one will use the telephone because the

telegraph was so well established There was a telegraph office on every street corner People

would send telegrams instead of phoning The experts were convinced the telephone was just a

play thing, it will go away In other words, you cannot tell what is a good idea and what is not

You just have to give everything a chance to grow

N How science can be applied to the promotion of peace and tranquility of mankind? Science can

be applied in both ways An injection can settle in both ways [David] Livingstone said, 'With the

same injection one can bring back life and one can cost damage to it So, in this situation, as a

great physicist, what do you suggest to us?

S I could suggest things, but I have to be cynical [because of] what the facts The Germans have a

saying, "War is the father of all things," and unfortunately, that is true All big advancements in

technology were made for the military, and maybe nature invented war, it is certainly not mankind

Nature invented competitiveness, the survival of the fittest That is not a human invention by any

means Therefore, maybe wars have to be so that technology gets developed You do not know

that Scientists have developed things--especially mathematics--a hundred years ago and two

hundred years ago which only now have become applied But, basically, as far as technology

goes, the military is a driving force to develop new things

World War I made airplane development spring forward because the military wanted the airplane

You [can] pick almost any other field I heard a speech from somebody, he is a scientist but he is

a history amateur, and he wanted to find out one big development that was not done for the

military He thought he finally had found one and it was a huge motor GE developed in the 1920s

Then he found out that they really got the idea from the Germans which needed that huge motor

to turn the lathe which made Big Bertha for the first world war

If you look closer, you will find out that the military is a driving force Look at the Reagan years

and what it created It was all for the birds It turned out we did not need it Nuclear energy,

nuclear reactors for peaceful use would not have come into being if it had not been for been

nuclear submarines I just took that technology and put it on land I only get (PLEASE

IDENTIFY) on the technology, a hundred different reactor types And that is the worst one to pick,

because Admiral (PLEASE IDENTIFY) wanted a submarine which also functions when

it is upside down There is only one reactor you can turn upside down, which, of course, is the

one we are now using on land stations

Basically, it is very difficult to develop something for the civilian market, very difficult People have

tried it and suffered I only can think of one big development, and that is the cotton gin Maybe

they needed more military uniforms [Laughter] You might want to look into that, what the driving

force was, but it certainly helped the slaves in this country not to have to work that hard anymore

Maybe the government could find ways to advance technology without a military need for it

N I get the impression that to help peace, [we must have wars]

S Well, there is actually a book, To Convert Swords Into Plowshares It is a Bible citation Now

they wonder what they do with the raw material What use is a civilian product out of it? We

should have a program to find inventors who have great ideas and help them get his technology

developed The university sends out scouts to find a football player, and the high school sends

out scouts to find a basketball player, nobody sends out scouts to find an inventor who has a good

idea Nobody Only when things get desperate, when you are losing the war in Vietnam, then

there is, "Oh, there is this guy in the back corner of the lab He has this idea to guide the bomb

with a laser" Laser technology literally exploded because of it [The government] built smart

bombs, and that was the first time they could hit a bridge with an airplane It was not done in

World War II There was no bridge in existence destroyed by an airplane Now they could do it,

but Swords to Plowshares, once the war was over, they discovered all kinds of things for which

the laser could be used They never would have been developed if there would not have been a

military reason for it

N How you are spending your retirement? Could you please give some information about your


S Well, I kept choking and saying, "I could be sitting on my desk at the University and get paid for

doing nothing I do not want it I now have to work for a living I have to run my laboratory, and,

indeed, I work harder than I have worked in my life But it is fun I can do what I want to do If I

have an idea, I can start doing it tomorrow I do not have to ask anybody I do not believe in

retirement, myself What would I do all day long? Well, I would maybe read a book and study

quantum mechanics more and things I want to know and never had a chance to do But you

know, just studying, you learn something, but to know it That is okay maybe for a younger

person, but when you get older you find out life is almost over, [you ask yourself] what did I do that

was any good? And then you tell yourself precious little Now you want to do something which

you can still see being applied, technology is still being applied while you are still alive

I am doing things which are short range now, which do not take serious theory, like thermonuclear

fusion It is still thirty years out thirty years later It might never come about and I spent a big part

of my professional life working on thermonuclear fusion There are people who have been doing it

ever since I think there comes a time in the life of someone when you want to do something

which is good for mankind You want to do it now and you want to see it applied now These are

the projects I am looking for right now, something I could build in a year or two and see it applied

N I would now like to ask some questions regarding your family Would you please tell me the name

of your wife, and how many children you have

S The name of my wife name is Lore (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING) It is a German name

Americans usually pronounce it Laura, but it is Lor-ee in German We have two children, a son

and a daughter My daughter is the older one, she is a physician and is married to a physician

They have three boys My son is, by profession, a journalist, and he is a station manager of

Channel Five here in Gainesville He has two kids, a son and a daughter An amazing thing that

happens, we saw the development, which you do not see with your own children, from baby to

maybe number three Everything happens You learn to walk, you learn to talk, you learn

everything in the first three years We saw this five times happening in a very short distance We

could compare the different children as well

In our case, our children are eight years apart We had a baby and it grew up and eight years

later we had another one with whom we could not make any comparisons Maybe bigger families

[that] have more children can do that Well, fortunately, the son and the grandchildren are in

Gainesville The daughter is in South Carolina It takes us eight hours to drive there, but we do it

quite often And two of the three kids are twins The boys are identical twins, which is something

special, nice to watch I cannot tell them apart Well, they go their own way, of course We are

getting older and they are getting more mature, which is the way life goes, but you have good

relations I never had the father and son problem like many Americans In this country, for them

to stay home in the business of his father is unheard of In Germany it is the usual thing to do

Well, I did not do it I immigrated instead I am not your typical German anyway, I have noticed

this by now What else can I say? What else do you want to know?

N Do you have anything to add about your career or your family?

S I did wild things, too I was a pilot of my private airplane for eleven years I crashed the airplane

It was not my fault, it was the fault of the bureaucrats I had to make an emergency landing at

night Very few people walk away from a situation like that, but I did We sail We have a

sailboat, [and] we did things which were unusual

N Thank you Dr Schnelder for patiently sparing your time Thank you

S You are welcome

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