On how World War II affected solid state physics:
On the importance of the transistor:
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.
Copyright 1999, ScienCentral, Inc, and The American Institute of Physics. No portion of this web site may be reproduced without written permission. All Rights Reserved.