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Wagoner, Robert V.
Oral history interview with Robert Wagoner, 1988 October 14.
Interview discusses Robert Wagoner's family background; early interest in mathematics; early hobbies; early reading; influence of grandmother; education at Cornell; influence of Paul Olum; interest in philosophy at Cornell; influence of Fred Hoyle's Messenger lectures at Cornell; education at Stanford; engineering versus physics; influence of fellow graduate students at Stanford; thesis work with Leonard Schiff on the gravitational collapse of rotating massive objects; first Texas Symposium in Dallas in 1963 and announcement of Kerr solution; interest in cosmology in graduate school; interest in Mach's principle; discouraging encounter with John Bahcall at California Institute of Technology (Caltech); switch to nuclear astrophysics at Caltech; motivating influence of William Fowler; history of big bang nucleosynthesis calculations and the work of Alpher, Herman, Gamow, Fermi, Turkevich, Follin; reasons why big bang nucleosynthesis work wasn't done earlier and the initial motivation to make all the elements in the big bang; role of Fred Hoyle in big bang nucleosynthesis calculations; scientific philosophy of George Gamow; motivation of Fowler by Hoyle; interest of Hoyle in making all the elements in massive stars within the context of the steady state theory; Hoyle's suggestion of population III stars; Hoyle's explanation for the origin of the cosmic background radiation; early work of Taylor and Hoyle in 1964 on big bang nucleosynthesis and the cosmological restriction of the number of neutrino types; work of James Peebles on big bang nucleosynthesis; first announcement of results of Wagoner, Fowler, and Hoyle calculations and reception by the community; supporting evidence for the big bang model from the interstellar deuterium abundance and the calculations of Reeves, Audoze and others on production of lithium, beryllium, and boron; Wagoner's continuing worry about whether the big bang model is correct; introduction to and attitude toward the horizon problem; initial reception of the inflationary universe model; attitude toward the inflationary universe model; desire of Wagoner to probe the universe with physics that we know, and his concern over the uncertainties with the inflationary universe model; attitude toward the flatness problem; Wagoner's interest in letting observation, not theory, tell us the value of omega; prevalence of personal prejudice as a motivator amount scientists and the danger of this prejudice; reaction to de Lapparent, Geller, and Huchra's work on large-scale inhomogeneities; worry over reconciliation of observed inhomogeneities of galaxies with the homogeneity of the cosmic background radiation; worry over validity of the cosmological principle; more discussion of Wagoner's preference for doing cosmology with well understood physical probes; outstanding problems in cosmology; dark matter, value of omega, nature of central engine of quasars, evolution of structure; ideal design of the universe and importance of extraterrestrial life; question of whether the universe has a point.
(1938- ): BME in engineering from Cornell University (1961); Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University (1965); postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology; faculty member at Cornell University (1968-1973); professor of physics at Stanford University (1973-present); scientific interests have been focused mainly in two theoretical areas: theories of gravitation and their application to astrophysical objects and probes of the universe, such as element production in the early universe and the use of supernovae to determine the cosmological distance scale.
Alpher, Ralph
Bahcall, John N.
Fermi, Enrico, 1901-1954
Follin, James.
Fowler, William A.
Gamow, George, 1904-1968
Geller, Margaret J.
Herman, Robert, 1914-
Hoyle, Fred, Sir
Huchra, John P.
Olum, Paul
Peebles, P. J. E. (Phillip James Edwin)
Schiff, Leonard I. (Leonard Isaac), 1915-
Taylor, Joseph H. (Joseph Hooton)
Turkevich, John, 1907-
Wagoner, Robert V.
California Institute of Technology
Cornell University
Stanford University.
Big bang theory
Cosmic background radiation
Dark matter (Astronomy)
Inflationary universe.
Life on other planets.
Mach's principle.
Nuclear astrophysics.
Omega particles (Physics)
Philosophy and science.
Steady state cosmology.
Interviews. aat
Oral histories. aat
Transcripts. aat
Lightman, Alan P., 1948-, interviewer.
American Institute of Physics. Niels Bohr Library & Archives. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA