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Social differences between England and the US

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But mostly I was just sitting with the graduate students learning from them. There was a very good group of graduate students. Besides Scalettar there was Ed Lennox who became a biologist and did actually very well; and there was...

[Q] Brown, Laurie Brown, was he there already?

I don't know whether he was there at that point, but Leonard Egis was, who was actually also a very close friend, and Paul Hough who became an experimenter; and Walter McAfee who was my first introduction to the black world. He was a black American and from an entirely different world, but I loved him dearly. He died a few years ago. But he'd had a hard time getting established, but it was lucky he to go to Cornell because of the GI Bill. He'd worked for the Army during the war in the Signals Corps, I think, but he was much older than the rest of us, and he already had a wife and couple of kids, so he lived in town, not in the dorms.

[Q] And this was an introduction to the world of discrimination in the United States?

Well it wasn't so much discrimination, because he was not discriminated against.

[Q] No, not at the University, but in town?

I don't think so. I think he was treated pretty well. I mean my impression of him was that he was in no way complaining. I mean he was very happy with his life and he wasn't full of anger in any way, he was just a different kind of person. I mean he was fanatically interested in baseball. He was much more of a sort of a real American than most of the others. And he had made it, I mean he was obviously on his way up and afterwards he went went back to the Army and worked in the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth.

Born in England in 1923, Freeman Dyson moved to Cornell University after graduating from Cambridge University with a BA in Mathematics. He subsequently became a professor and worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics and biology. He has published several books and, among other honours, has been awarded the Heineman Prize and the Royal Society's Hughes Medal.

Listeners: Sam Schweber

Silvan Sam Schweber is the Koret Professor of the History of Ideas and Professor of Physics at Brandeis University, and a Faculty Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of a history of the development of quantum electro mechanics, "QED and the men who made it", and has recently completed a biography of Hans Bethe and the history of nuclear weapons development, "In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist" (Princeton University Press, 2000).

Tags: Cornell University, GI Bill, US Army, Signal Corps, Fort Monmouth, Richard Scalettar, Edwin Lennox, Laurie Brown, Paul Hough, Walter McAfee

Duration: 2 minutes, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008