As I create this website, Spring 2021 has arrived and we are at last seeing some light at the end of the long dark tunnel of 2020. The world is still far from perfect but vaccines against the Covid-19 pandemic are becoming increasingly available and the political nightmare that enveloped the U.S.A. and affected the whole world is beginning to fade away. Only the future will tell how definitive the recovery and healing will be.
My main motivation behind this website is to share some highlights of my rich professional life. I do this by gathering in one place relevant documents, power point presentations and interviews I have produced over the years that honor many of my wonderful colleagues at SLAC and in the world.
I was born in Vienna, raised in Paris and Buenos Aires, and have lived in California since I was 22. As I look back to my childhood and adolescence, I must thank my parents Georges and Elisabet Loew who offered unique opportunities and experiences to me and my siblings Monique Loew (born in Paris in 1934 and deceased there in 2020) and Sebastian Loew, born in Paris in 1939 and currently an urban designer, living in London. Foremost, if it hadn’t been for my father’s political savvy and courageous decision to leave France in December 1939, I probably wouldn’t be around to tell this story.
I have benefitted from an excellent education, first in Paris and then at the French High School in Buenos Aires. I received my Licence-ès-Sciences (undergraduate degree) in Physics and Chemistry at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1952, my M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering at Caltech in 1954, and my Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University in 1958.
From 1958 to 2008 I had a fascinating scientific career at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. I worked there and at Stanford in various research, academic and managerial capacities, and between 2001 and 2005 ended up being Deputy Director of SLAC.
I married Gilda Thaw Harris in Atherton, California in 1969. Gilda was a remarkable woman because of her intelligence, strong convictions and determination. Professionally, she was a PhD quantum chemist and she did seminal work on the structure of hemoglobin and computer drug design. During our marriage she successively became an adjunct professor at the Stanford Medical School, an adjunct professor at large at Rockefeller University, and the founder and leader of the not-for-profit Molecular Research Institute in Palo Alto. We lived together for over 30 years but she died prematurely in 2001. Proceeds from her corporation were used to fund a Fellowship in her name for young science graduate women at Stanford. My descendant family now consists of three stepchildren, two children and eight grandchildren from their marriages. For pleasure and for work I travelled all over the world, met many people and made numerous close friends.
Aside from science, I have always had a great interest in classical music and politics. At Stanford, I created a seminar on the “Causes of War” which I taught to freshmen and sophomores for over ten years. After I retired, my experiences at SLAC and at Stanford gave me the inspiration and motivation to write and publish a book in 2019 on “The Human Condition, Reality, Science and History,” subjects over which I pondered for a long time. Among many other topics, the book outlines the contributions of famous women scientists such as Emy Noether, Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Margaret Mead and Jennifer Doudna. Quite aside from this book, I am working separately on chronicling my family history, genealogy, friendships and travels.
My professional career of fifty years
A full description of my career can be found in a sequence of three interviews totaling six hours by Ms. Jean Deken, SLAC archivist. Read the full interview.
In 1957, a year before I got my Ph.D. and joined what was then called Project M (for Monster), a group of Stanford professors all working at the two W. W. Hansen labs had submitted a proposal shown below to the U.S. government to build a two-mile long electron linear accelerator.
When I was hired, the project staff consisted of only about 8 people led by Richard B. Neal who would turn out to be my wonderful mentor and supervisor for the next 24 years.
I will now describe some of the highlights of my career. Many details can be found in the interviews conducted by Jean Deken, SLAC Historian.
For the first three years I was put in charge of designing the copper microwave structures in which the electrons (or positrons) would be accelerated. Each section would be ten feet long, consist of 86 different cavities brazed together as shown below and sized so as to support a constant-gradient electric field. The full accelerator was going to consist of 960 such ten-foot sections.
After a number of hurdles, our project was finally approved by the U.S. Congress for $114 Million in the fall of 1961 and received the name of SLAC. It gave our growing staff much increased job security. Our first funding agency was the Atomic Energy Commission, followed by the Energy Research and Development Administration (1975-1977) followed then by the Department of Energy.
Construction started in 1962. Shown below is the first stretch of the accelerator housing in1963..
By then I had finished the design of the accelerator structure and I was put in charge of the design and construction of a number of other systems.
In September 1963 the bi-annual international accelerator conference was held in Dubna, USSR for the first time and about six of us from SLAC were invited to attend. It was an unforgettable experience, from both the scientific and human/political points of view and coincided with the signing of the US-USSR Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in the atmosphere which was a huge relief in the Cold War.
Pief Panofsky (in white shirt) at Dubna Conference delivering the talk about SLAC, translated by Sergei Kapitsa, standing next to him.
From left to right: Unknown, me, Pierre Lapostolle (Saclay), Brian Montague (CERN), and Igor Semenyushkin (Dubna).
Performance of "Swan Lake"at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.
By the spring of 1966, construction of the linear accelerator was essentially complete.
The entire accelerator with its support system was installed in the housing, and klystron tubes were attached to their respective waveguides in the upper gallery.
On April 21st, 1966 I had the honor of being put in charge with my colleague Vic Waithman of the turn-on of the first 20 sectors of the machine. Shown (doctored up as the Beatles by photographer Walter Zawojsky) in the foreground from left to right are Pief Panofsky, Matt Sands, myself, Richard Neal, Dieter Walz, Ed Seppi, and Ken Crook. It was a glorious day in our careers.
By 1970, the discovery of the first three quarks was well on its way in the huge spectrometers in End Station A shown below.
Around this time, the first foreign Head of State, President Georges Pompidou of France, visited our site on February 27th. I organized his visit and was his interpreter because I spoke French fluently.
From that period on, I was involved in all the accelerator improvements of the two-mile accelerator and, except for the storage rings SPEAR (1970-1972) and PEP I (1976-1980), in all the new major accelerator projects, RF superconductivity, RLA, SLED, the Stanford Linear Collider (SLC) and the B-Factory. Burt Richter and his group discovered the charm quark at SPEAR in 1974 and Martin Perl discovered the Tau lepton there in 1976. The machine where synchrotron radiation was also first exploited is shown below.
And a picture of SLED, the SLAC Energy Development project is shown with its three co-inventors Perry Wilson, (me as a by-stander), Harry Hoag and David Farkas.
As I describe in Jean Deken’s interview mentioned earlier, the SLC had about a ten-year run at SLAC until 1998, and the B-Factory (PEP II) that followed it, ran successfully for another ten years until 2008. The SLAC campus began to look much more complicated in those years, as shown below, including the SLD detector in the Collider Hall.
Starting in 1979 I began to participate in many international conferences and collaborations with labs in China (right after the end of the Cultural Revolution), Japan, CERN, Russia, South Korea and Latin America. After Burt Richter got the idea of building a first linear collider at SLAC to measure the Z-boson, I became very involved in the design of a much larger linear collider capable of discovering the Higgs particle.
On June 23rd, 1994, SLAC was honored by the visit of the Emperor and Empress of Japan which I organized with the help of my Administrative Assistant Eleanor Mitchell. They are shown below with Burt Richter in the Collider Hall.
and the Emperor shaking hands with my outstanding colleague Roger Miller.
Shown below is Jonathan Dorfan, Director of SLAC,1999-2007. Jonathan also was the initiator and leader of the B-factory and he helped bring together the 10-nation BaBar collaboration,
In 2001, Jonathan Dorfan as Director, selected me as his Deputy Director, which gave me great pleasure and intellectual satisfaction. During this period, I was also put in charge of directing the International Linear Collider Technical Review Committee. This job made me travel all over the world with a group of 30 international colleagues to visit all the competing projects. In 2004, another committee under Barry Barish finally decided that the TESLA project proposed by DESY in Hamburg should be chosen as the preferred machine, then designated as the ILC. As of today, this electron-positron linear collider has still not been approved by its main sponsor, the Japanese government.
I want to end this story on an optimistic note. Indeed, if you look at the history of SLAC for the first thirty years, it was very exclusively a men's world. However, starting around the1990's, this began to change and many outstanding women began to appear. I will list just a few here: Helen Quinn (particle theorist), Vera Luth (experimentalist), JoAnn Hewett (particle theorist), Nan Phinney (linear collider specialist), Persis Drell (Director of SLAC, 2007-2012)), Risa Wechsler (astrophysicist), Natalia Toro (particle theorist), and Melinda Lee (head of Communications Department).
Also I want to mention our wonderful Congresswoman Anna Eshoo who was always most supportive of our laboratory. Her picture appears below:
I retired officially from SLAC in June 2008, exactly fifty years after starting my career there. I do however continue to go to SLAC frequently for Faculty meetings, lectures and discussions, except of course during the Covid-19 pandemic when everything happens via Zoom.
Visit my Talks, Lectures, and Presentations page to view documents related to my career.