On how World War II affected solid state physics: 
"It came out of the closet.  Obviously aspects of solids had been long of interest at the engineering level -- materials, copper oxide, but the basic science was regarded as abstruse, interesting but a sideline. The thing that happened is it became a major part of physics.  It would have happened anyway -- but not as fast." --Fred Seitz

On the importance of the transistor: 
"One of the last times I saw John, I said, 'John did you see all of this ahead?'  He said, 'No.'  He said 'I thought it would be perhaps 50-50 replacement for the vacuum tube . . ..  but I didn't see this.'"--Fred Seitz, interview for "Transistorized!"  



Frederick Seitz 

An eminent physicist since he earned his Ph.D. in 1934, Seitz has had the chance to watch and participate in the development of solid state physics for over 50 years. His 1940 textbook, Modern Theory of Solids helped a generation of students get into the field.  He also helped turn the University of Illinois's solid state research program into the impressive department it's become, partly by helping to get his grad school friend John Bardeen a job there. 

Seitz was born in San Francisco on Independence Day, 1911.  He earned his undergraduate degree from Stanford, though he spent part of his college days at Caltech, where he met Bill Shockley.  The two men drove across the country together before graduate school: Seitz to Princeton, Shockley to MIT.  At one point, they pulled off the road and Shockley shot a pistol into the air when he heard some coyotes.  Later when they stopped at a gas station, they were asked, "Have you seen anything of those bandits who were around last night?"  They laughed to themselves, but didn't confess they were the ferocious bandits. 

At Princeton, Seitz became friends with John Bardeen, a friendship that would last for their lifetimes. Seitz says that Bardeen was already fairly mature when they met, and that Bardeen didn't talk much. "But when he said something, you listened," Seitz says. 

Seitz began teaching at the University of Illinois, Urbana in 1949 and by the time he left in 1965, he had become Dean of the Graduate college.  He went on to be the first full time president of the National Academy of Sciences and from 1968-1978 he was the president of Rockefeller University. Meanwhile, he served on countless committees, giving physics advice to industry, the military, and the President of the United States. He lives in New York.

-- Interview with Frederick Seitz by Lillian Hoddeson, January 20, 1981 
-- Frederick Seitz, interview for "Transistorized!"
-- Interview with Frederick Seitz by N. Henriksen 
-- Crystal Fire by Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson 
-- Who's Who in American Science


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