Forced to Choose
Institute for Advanced Studies astrophysicist and one of the
world's foremost authorities on neutrinos
Two books have been most important in my scientific career. The
first is well known; the second is not. After my first year of
graduate study at Harvard, I spent much of the summer reading
carefully P. A. M. Dirac's book on The Principles of Quantum
Mechanics. It made thinking about quantum mechanical problems
simple and natural for me, which was not always the reaction among
students more than 40 years ago. In 1961, I was a postdoctoral
fellow at Indiana University, and E. J. (Emil) Konopinski was giving
a wonderful lecture course that became the basis of The Theory
of Beta Radioactivity. I sat in on the course. I taught
myself the subject by working out problems I made up. Several of
these problems I published, and they are among my first research
papers (for example, one on the experimental implications of the
muon neutrino having a mass is quoted in Emil's book). Emil gave me
copies of his lecture notes to comment on and make suggestions about
for the book version. Willy Fowler was the referee for one of the
papers I wrote on problems that I made up while learning this
subject (beta-decay under the extreme conditions that occur in
stars) and as a result invited me to Caltech to work as an
astrophysicist. It changed my career.
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