Click for next page ( 91


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 90
J. ~. fed :~:~:~:~:~ ?-:~:~: :::

OCR for page 90
JAMES BROWN FISK August 30, 1910-August 10, 1981 BY WILLIAM H. DOHERTY EARLY IN IS7G, the hundredth year after the signing of the Declaration of Inclepenclence, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in Boston. He exhibited; it a few months afterward at the Centennial Exposition in Philadel- phia. Ninety years later James Fisk, president of Bell Labora- tories, looking ahead to the telephone's hundredth anniver- sary, suggested to me, a longtime associate, that a historical volume ought to be planned as a record of the clevelopment of telephone science over that period. Several colleagues and I, going through the "Boston Files" of the earliest years, made an interesting discovery. The first trained scientist Direct by the infant Bell company (late in BASS), Hammond V. Hayes, reminded us in many ways of our own Fisk. Hayes and Fisk came from oIcl New England families. Both hac! studied at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both had earnect doctorates in phys- ics. But the resemblance ran much creeper, into their inner- most personalities, their attitudes, their approaches, anct their ways of operating: kindred spirits, aristocratic gentIe- men both, born two generations apart. 91

OCR for page 90
92 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS The thousand-page volume produced in late 1975,1 the eve of the telephone's centennial, covered the first fifty years (up to 1925, the year Bell Laboratories was incorporated). Fisk does not appear in that volume. He was not with us until 1939. But this memoir is about him, and its preparation has repeatedly recalled the approaches taken by Hammond Hayes in facing up to critical problems human as well as technical as the telephone art progressed from its primitive forms. Hayes had quickly seen that the scientific roots of te- lephony must extend into deeper soil than could be culti- vated with the primitive tools of the early electricians and telegraph wiremen, scorned by Lord Rayleigh as "so-called practical men whose minds do not rise easily above ohms and volts." The invention of the telephone had stirred up an intel- iectual ferment in the world of engineering and physics con- cerning electric waves and oscillations. Hayes, while facing a host of practical and "earthy" problems, sensed the need for a cadre of keen, academically trained minds. His first discov- ery was John Stone Stone, recruited from Johns Hopkins in IS90 through the recommendations of the renowned phys- icist Rowland, then on the Hopkins faculty. Following Stone came Campbell from MIT (with additional training at Har- vard, Paris, Vienna, and Gottingen); Colpitts from Harvard; Pickard from Harvard and MIT; and Tewett from Chicago, brought over from the MIT faculty. These were the bright lights of the earliest days; their contributions, inspired by Hayes, demonstrated convincingly the importance of fun- damental knowledge. Thus the pattern was established long before there was a corporate Bell Laboratories with Frank B. Hewett as its president (19251. And to Tewett's successors, of ~ A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System: The Early Years (1875 - 1925) (Murray Hill, N.~.: Bell Telephone Laboratories, 1975). Six additional volumes have completed the series.

OCR for page 90
JAMES BROWN FISK 02 JO whom Tames Fisk was the third, there has been no higher priority than to engage and stimulate the best intellects. There tract been no scientists in the immediate Fisk family. James, his sister Rebekah (Becky), and younger brother George were born in West Warwick, Rhocle Island, to the southwest of Providence. Their parents, Henry lames ancT Bertha (Brown) Fisk, natives of Providence, had been charmed by the Far West during a wedding trip. They sub- sequently took the children to Tacoma, ant! later to Long Beach, for their primary schooling. The elder Fisk was a sales manager in the canning industry; and when the mother-a beautiful lady and talentect violinist ctied as the children were nearing high school age, he contemplatecl going to Alaska for better business opportunities. At this point the maternal grandparents, the George Tilclen Browns of Prov- iclence, urged that the children be placed in their care for their high school years. lucid Brown had retired as presiding justice of the Superior Court of Rhocle Island. Becky writes that his whole life thereafter was devoted to his three grand- children and their education. "They spoiled us and at the same time were very strict.... He would quiz us in the eve- nings after study time.... Gramp's greatest delight was seeing good grades on our report cards. limes were always the best and required the least effort." The boys were sent far across town to Providence Technical High School in prefer- ence to nearby public or private schools. James entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1927, when he was barely seventeen years old. It was in January of that year that telephone service had been estab- lished across the Atlantic. For the first time it was possible to place a telephone call to London or Paris. It was not (lone by cable; the cable was nearly thirty years in the future. The medium was high-power, long-wave ractio, the wave being transmitted from tall towers at Rocky Point, Long IslancI.

OCR for page 90
94 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS Two of the key people involved, Mervin J. Kelly and Ralph Bown Kelly in the fabrication of powerful radio tubes, Bown in the painstaking study of wave propagation over the great circle route would one day be Fisk's mentors at Bell Laboratories. They were physicist-engineers, and he would succeed both of them. But even more glamorous, in May of that year, was an- other conquest of the Atlantic, the solo flight of Charles Lind- bergh from New York to Paris. On his return the young avia- tor was acclaimed in many parades. One of these-which ~ witnessed, and Fisk was probably there-was from Boston through Cambridge along Massachusetts Avenue, passing MIT, which already had a vigorous program in aeronautical engineering, boasting an advanced design of wind tunnel. This was the field that appealed most to Fisk, and he pursued it enthusiastically, graduating with high marks in 1931. The senior album of the MIT class of 1931 depicts Fisk as very active in extracurricular affairs, from smokers, proms, and field days through ROTC and varsity athletics (track and cross-country). A member of Kappa Sigma fraternity (as his brother George was to be, following him by three years), Fisk made Tau Beta Pi and was secretary of his class for five years following graduation. "Jim had a quiet dignity," writes a cIass- mate, "that brought him many assignments, always dis- charged in a friendly manner and displaying uncommon ability." As an aeronautical engineering student, Fisk came to know and work with Charles Stark Draper, a Stanford and MIT alumnus, a graduate student and faculty member spe- cializing in aircraft instrumentation. In their work in the en- gine laboratory Draper became impressed with Fisk's astute- ness and depth and urged him to become more involved in pure physics; in a postgraduate year as a research assistant in aeronautics Fisk did develop a strong interest in atomic

OCR for page 90
JAMES BROWN FISK 95 physics, which lect to a RecIfielct Proctor Travelling Fellowship for stucly in EnglancI. Rectfielct Proctor, MIT '02, former gov- ernor of Vermont, anc! long-time member of the MIT Cor- poration, had establishecI these fellowships in the interest of promoting international student exchange. Fisk's grant was for the year 1932-33 at Cambridge, with residence at Trinity College. This was a time of great excite- ment in British physics. It was in 1932 that Chadwick cliscov- erec! the elusive neutron. Ant! with the reputation of the Cav- endish Laboratory for Experimental Physics-where Sir I. I. Thomson in ~ 897 and "cliscovered" the electron (that is, mea- surect the charge-to-mass ratio e/m) and of its director, Sir Ernest Rutherford, hailecI as "the greatest experimentalist since Faraday," who had in 1910-~1 established the minute- ness of the atomic nucleus there could not have been a more felicitous assignment for a lively anc! personable young American. Fisk appears to have relishes! it. He requested, and was granted, an extension of the fellowship into a second year. Among the friends made in Englanct during that pe- riocI, besicles Rutherforc! (who diect in 1937), I remember John Cockroft, who was lecturing in physics. Sir John re- mainect in close touch with Fisk for many years. After completing his seconct year (1934), (luring which he published two Royal Society papers (one with a coauthor) relating to the conversion coefficients of gamma rays, Fisk returned to the States to work at MIT for his Ph.D., which he received in 1935. The subject of his dissertation was "The Scattering of Electrons from Molecules," a topic suggesters by Professor Philip Morse, who took a constant interest in the study. . Quantum theory had already accounted for most of the phenomena observed in experimental studies of the "colli- s~on cross-section" of atomic gases when bombardec! by beams of electrons. In Fisk's thesis the theory was extenclect

OCR for page 90
96 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS to the case of diatomic molecules, and the results compared with experimental observations on H2, N2, and O2. The re- sults were in reasonable accord, considering the rough as- sumptions that had to be made concerning the molecular potential fields; the most noticeable departures were attrib- utable to inelastic collisions clue to the low energy of excita- tion in H2. Following an acictitional year at MIT as a teaching fellow in physics, Fisk received an appointment as a junior fellow at Harvard. The Society of Fellows had been established through a gift from President Lowell. It inclucled a small group of young men and women of exceptional ability, orig- inality, and resourcefulness who were given residence, plus a stipend, with no specific requirements as to what they shouIc! study or teach. It was a happy and challenging situation for Fisk. Only twenty-six years oIcl, he enjoyed living in Lowell House, one of the first three "colleges" newly built uncler Harvarct's House Plan, clown by the river, with the acIded privilege of dining informally once a week with the senior fellows. To acid to the enjoyment of his first year, 1936 was the tricentennial year of Harvarcl's foundling, a colorful year climaxed by ceremonies in September attencled by many noted scholars and Nobel prize winners (including Edding- ton) from foreign countries. The University of Cambridge (the mother of Harvard) sent representatives from Fisk's Trinity College, from Kings, and from Emmanuel (John Harvard had been an Emmanuel man). A hundred years before, at the bicentennial, Emerson had written: . . . Cambridge at any time is full of ghosts; but on that day the anointed eye saw the crowd of spirits that mingled with the procession in the vacant spaces, year by year, as the classes proceeded; and then the far longer train of ghosts that followed the company, of the men that wore before us the

OCR for page 90
~ A M E S B RO W N F I S K 97 college honors and the laurels of the State- the long, winding train reach- ing back into eternity. Thus Fisk became, in spirit, a Harvard man as well as an MIT man ancT a University of Cambridge man. As we came to know him a few years later, he was all of these-quietly, unostentatiously, but always generously. A friend from MIT days, Ivan A. Getting, had become a Harvard junior fellow a year earlier. As an MIT freshman, Getting hac! had Fisk as his ROTC platoon commander. When Fisk, as a graduate student, had switched his interest to theoretical physics, which was Getting's fielct, the two hac! worked out problems together. Getting had then, after grad- uation, been awarder! a Rhodes scholarship and stuctiecI physics at Oxford, receiving his Dr. Phil. in 1935. Fisk brought with him to Harvard some of the designs for Van de Graaff electrostatic generators as evolved at MIT, ant! he and Getting proceeded to built! an improver! ant! compact machine for accelerating protons and deuterons up to 500,000 volts. The generator was not entirely completed when Fisk left the Society of Fellows two years later, anti Get- ting continued its construction with the sect of a graduate student. There were two Physical Review papers coauthored by Fisk on features of the generator and its use in the physical laboratory. Fisk's departure in June 193X coinciclec! with the termi- nation of his celibate life. Shortly after his return from En- glancI in 1934 he had met Cynthia Hoar, a Concord (Massa- chusetts) girl whose family, like his, had a long New England background. They hack met at Saint-Sauveur, P.Q., on a week enct of skiing, a sport relished by both; ant! their mutual interests, to be shared for nearly forty-seven years, inclucled music. Cynthia was a pianist, and after Concorc! Academy

OCR for page 90
98 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS she had attendect the New England Conservatory and had studied for a year in Germany. dim, Cynthia tells me, was a clarinetist (since high school days), and a good one. In later years at Bell Laboratories, characteristically, he never allowed! us to suspect this endowment. Hammond Hayes had been like that: self-effacing, not seeking the limelight; a scholar talented in more ways than anyone knew. Following a June wedding and a trip to Europe, Fisk anti his bride moved to Chapel Hill, where he had accepted an associate professorship in physics at the University of North Carolina. He ha(1 presenters a paper there at a National Acacl- emy of Sciences meeting in May on disintegration of nuclei by high-energy radiation a topic of much piquancy, coming on the eve of disclosures from Europe on nuclear fission and the possibility of chain reactions. But after one academic year, the long arm of Mervin J. Kelly, director of research at Bell Laboratories, reached out and brought Fisk into the depart- ment Kelly had recently hea(le(l, now run by J. R. "Ray" Wil- son, director of electronics research. Kelly, urgently seeking to build up the staff in modern physics, ha(1 heard about Fisk from William Shockley, who had joined Bell Laboratories after collaborating with Fisk at MIT in 1935-36. Wilson, an alumnus of Reed College, Cal Tech, and Co- lumbia, was a superb administrator. For all the shabbiness of their headquarters-a former biscuit factory in downtown New York his and Kelly's men had produced some remark- able electron tubes. Their crevices ranged from the worId's tiniest (for the first electronic hearing aicis) to a 250-kilowatt water-cooled monster-the worict's largest triode, seven feet high-for super-power broadcasting. They had also fur- nished high-power tubes to I. R. Dunning at Columbia Uni- versity for his first cyclotron. Fisk's first supervisor was physicist }. B. Johnson, soft- spoken and gentlemanly, developer of the first practical

OCR for page 90
JAMES BROWN FISK 99 cathode-ray oscilloscope tube, and famous for his analysis of electron noise in vacuum tubes and his identification of the Warmee~ekt in electrical conductors, which became known as Johnson noise. But the emphasis in Wilson's laboratory in the mid-thirties had been shifting toward the high radio frequencies, partly in support of new communications ideas and partly as our awareness of Churchill's "gathering storm" in Europe sug r a . ~. ~ ~ ~r A . gested new uses ot radio that could be ot military Importance. One of these, the detection and tracking of ships and air- planes by means of pulsed radio beams-not yet called ra- dar was already being pushed in Army and Navy labora- tories in the United States and Britain. In 193X a program sponsored by AT&T, but at government request, was begun in secret in the radio laboratory of Bell Labs at Whippany, New jersey. William C. Tinus and I were put in charge of this work, and we immediately jumped to the 600 - 700 megahertz range, three to four times the frequency employed anywhere else, in order to achieve narrower radio beams for better an- gular precision and resolving power. We were encouraged by the work of Witson's very clever physicist-engineers on high- frequency tubes and by the expertise in microwaves being developed for forward-Iooking Bell purposes by radio re- search engineers at our Holmde! laboratory under HaraId T. Friis. This is where Fisk came in. There was a crucial need for more transmitted power to increase range. At 700 MHz we could not get more than a kilowatt from any existing tube, even on a "pulsed" basis. We were being pressed by the Navy to go to even higher frequencies for still narrower beams, and by the Signal Corps to undertake a project called "bomb- ing through overcast" that would require scanning the ter- rain or ocean from the air with the narrowest possible beam.

OCR for page 90
100 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS On October 6, 1940, Wilson and Fisk, accompanied by Kelly, were at our Whippany laboratory to witness tests on a new invention brought over in secrecy from England, the multi- cavity magnetron.2 We tract been alerted, anct my colleague Russell Newhouse, coinventor of the first radio altimeter, was prepares! with a test setup that incluclect a powerful electro- magnet. He tract built this to test an experimental 3,000-MHz (10-cm) oscillator (levise(1 by another of Wilson's ingenious tube men, A. L. Samuel. . The results with the British magnetron were astonishing. An outwardly simple crevice, it delivered bursts of 10-cm power roughly estimated at 10 kilowatts. The radar picture changed overnight, ant! Fisk was com- m~ssioned immediately by Wilson and Kelly to set up a group to hand-produce 10-cm magnetrons as quickly as possible for use in planning new radars; to find out how to "scale" the magnetron to the 40-cm range so that it conic! be used im- mediately to beef up the radars aIreacly clesignect and being built in Western Electric factories for use on battleships, cruisers, and destroyers; and to solve the many fabrication problems associated with a crevice so radically new anct not yet completely unclerstood. Within two months of the demonstration, but with Pear} Harbor still a year away, sample magnetrons had been made. As the months passed, under great pressure from the radar 2 The body of the magnetron was a copper block the anode having a central hole with a cylindrical (indirectly heated) cathode located axially, plus six or eight surrounding holes connected to the central hole by narrow slots. The holes (plus slots) being essentially quarter-wave resonators, the iterative structure would sup- port a wave traveling circumferentially, provided it could be reinforced by a circum- ferential movement of electrons at the right speed. This was accomplished by em- ploying a strong transverse magnetic field so that the electrons emitted from the cylindrical cathode, instead of moving radially toward the anode, would be forced to follow a spiral path. The circumferential component of this motion (modified by its interaction with the fields at the successive slots) was then the source of microwave power.

OCR for page 90
JAMES BROWN FISK 107 In the equally important area of telephone switching, it hac! seemed to Kelly that the ultimate wouIc! be attainer! when the hundrects of millions of electromechanical contacts of the newest switching system, known as crossbar, coulc! give way to electronic crosspoints. This, Kelly thought, would be a crowning achievement of solic] state physics. It was not to come out that way. From over another horizon came the con- cept of "storer! program control" the idea of employing vast memories, with instant access thereto, whereby a great variety of new optional services, changeable on clemancl, could be proviclec! to the telephone subscriber with no need for physical changes in the central office. This was the huge development program known as ESS (electronic switching systems); it was implemented in the 1960s and 1970s in thou- sancis of central offices, using crosspoints that were still elec- tromechanical, though miniaturized ant! highly refined. The ideal solicI-state crosspoint, because of very severe requ~re- ments, die! not appear until the 19SOs. In a mission-orientecI laboratory of thousands of trained scientists ant! engineers, many of them with clecacles of ex- perience, the prime requirement of a top executive is not inventiveness but leadership, a leaclership that will bring out the best through inspiration ant! encouragement. It was for this job that Kelly wanted Fisk, and it provect to be Fisk's special genius. A problem he tackler! early and "head-on" (his favorite adverb-was to cIevelop a much-neecled uncIer- stancting amongst professional personnel of the company's policy on merit and rewards. At Kelly's behest Fisk and Frank Leamer, seasoned director of personnel uncler two aciminis- trations, formulated a statement of salary policy, inclucling a graphic merit scale, that was available to any technical staff member for discussion with his superiors. The document was so clear, straightforward, and unequivocal that it evoked wicle commendation in the personnel management world and was . . . . copies . In many organizations.

OCR for page 90
108 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS Fisk was also strong on environment, the need for an at- mosphere that encourages each scientist and engineer to use his talents to the utmost. "It takes an environment of stimu- lating associates, some of them patient, some impatient, some who sparkle brilliantly and some quietly persistent; inclivid- uals painstakingly selected over the years to insure mutual respect and establish a balance in their integrated skills." This statement was made in a 1966 address at the Southern Re- search Institute in Birmingham. And on a clifferent point, moments later: Scientific advance comes, in large part, from interchange of knowledge with the world outside, with the academic world and with scientists and engineers of attainment and stature who are hammering at problems re- lated to one's own. It is impossible to retain gifted men unless they are given freedom to discuss their work with others of renown in the scientific community, and the pass-key to that community is one's own prestige, attained through publication of results. Accordingly, it is short-sighted pol- icy to delay or restrict publication beyond the very minimum required for patent applications, or discourage in other ways the driving urge of good scientists to be known and respected in their professional circles. No predecessor or contemporary in Bell Laboratories- or perhaps anywhere held these views more strongly than James Fisk, or was more unswerving in their implementation. They were the views Hammond Hayes held sixty years be- fore: that the research support for a science-based industry must have the best people obtainable, must have its goals (in broad terms) clearly understoocI, and must provide an envi- ronment that will motivate anct inspire toward their achieve- ment. A part of this last was the recognition that there are some scientists who will do their best work when not con- strained by rigid rules. A part of it was the deliberate briclg- ing of departmental barriers, to promote collaboration be- tween the disciplines (example: the solar battery, invented! by a physicist, a chemist, and an engineer). Fisk was eloquent on this: "To achieve this necessary interaction it is not enough

OCR for page 90
JAMES BROWN FISK 109 to rely on thermal diffusion, so to speak, across the interfaces. It must be worked at; it must be cultivatect." This concern was evident in his almost daily appearances in one department or another ant! his genuine friencIliness toward people down the line, which continucct after he as- sumec! the presidency, succeeding Kelly, in 1959. In 1964, as plans were being made to acid new "branch laboratories" lo- catec! at Western Electric manufacturing plants several of these having been highly successful-Fisk was gravely con- cernec! lest this "decentralization" might be carried too far. He enjoined his colleagues to preserve at all costs, as he ex- pressed it at our annual executive conference at Seaview that autumn, "the blessings of unity and compactness and close personal contact that have macle it so easy for us to pull to- gether and act as one Bell Laboratories." Unsparing of himself in the interest of his government, in micI-1958 Fisk accepted an appointment by President Ei- senhower to heacI a delegation of scientists to go to Geneva to lay the technical groundwork for a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets. It was something new in international ne- gotiations for scientists to finct themselves in such a role, knowing that the final decisions wouIct be in the hands of the diplomats. Fisk earned high praise for the rare combination of skill, firmness, and tact with which he dealt with the Rus- sians anc! their Moscow-dictated intransigence. The principal issue was the problem of verification, wherein it was neces- sary to agree on an adequate number of test stations to mon- itor noncompliance. In a second conference in late 1959, where Fisk and his partners presented indisputable evidence that far more test stations would be required than the Soviets would agree to, the clelegates came virtually to a dead anti. "It is quite impossible," wrote Frank Press,6 then a professor 6 Frank Press, "Scientific Aspects of the Nuclear Test Ban," Engineering and Science (December 1960):26-36.

OCR for page 90
110 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS at Cal Tech ant] a member of the delegation, "to fee! secure with a treaty that allows too few inspections." During the fourteen years of his presidency, while he con- tinucct to serve the government in many ways, as well as the To cause of higher education, Fisk guided the Laboratories through some major developments. Perhaps most spectacu- lar among these was the satellite program, beginning with the passive reflecting balloon Echo launched in August 1960 in collaboration with NASA and its Jet Propulsion Labora- tory. And in the closing minutes of 1961, even as the big balloon made its 6,232nd orbit arounc! the earth and sailect on into 1962, an advanced type of electronically equipped satellite, Telstar, complete with receiver, transmitter, anc! solar batteries, was receiving ground tests at Bell Laboratories for testing in space. It was still too early in the space vehicle art for geo-stationary orbits at 22,300 miles; and there were some worries about such an orbit, including the concern about the time delay (a half-seconct on each round trip), which could cause two fast talkers to become entrapped in their own rudeness. "If we cannot in the near future increase the velocity of light," quipped Fisk, "can we with some subtle attachment, not seen by the impatient user, soothe his im- petuosity for those few minutes till he finishes his call.... so that communication by satellite may be smooth and uninter- rupted not only for the chivalrous and gently brecl, but for the rest of us as well?" Intercontinental telephony by satellite, as is well known, passed from the hands of the Bell System to the Communi- cations Satellite Corporation, organized by the government, and overseas telephone traffic has been sharer! between Com- sat's facilities and AT&T's deep-sea telephone cables. The first of these (with thirty-six voice channels) had gone into service in 1956, using oceanbottom amplifiers ("repeaters" in telephone engineeringjargon) every forty miles. Under Fisk's

OCR for page 90
JA M E S B RO W N F I S K 111 leadership the capacity of these systems, using transistors, increased to 800 channels, with a new 4,000-channe! system envisages! before he retired. The Fisk home in those years was a rambling farmhouse in New Vernon, New Jersey, with five acres for inclulgence in a hobby Jim called "farming in miniature." One could drop by on a Saturday and find him riding jauntily over the fur- rows or adjusting a newly sharpened sickle bar on his tractor, but ready for a plunge with a guest in the Fisk pool, followecl with a round of cigars. The Fisks loved the countryside, and Cynthia, having taught piano, conducted children's concerts for eleven years in nearby Morristown. One of the delights for the Bell Labs executive group known as the "cabinet" was a social hour and buffet at sunset time, after which some two dozen of us, plus wives, having participated in the Fisk lar- gesse, couIct sometimes prevail upon Cynthia for a brief mu- sicale. Many engineers are music lovers; ~ think telephone engineers especially, perhaps because through the science of sounds we know what music is "made of." Fisk chose to retire from the presidency in 1973 at age sixty-two, remaining as boarc! chairman for another year. His successor as president, Princetonian William O. Baker, a re- nowned physical chemist, PriestIey mecialist, and Perkin medalist, had joiner! Bell Laboratories in 1939, the same year as Fisk. Baker's contributions to the sciences of physical ma- terials assured that the intricate bandings of atoms and mol- ecules being eluci~latecl by physicists in collaboration with chemists and metallurgists wouIc! bring into practical use new materials of scarcely hopecl-for properties of benefit to com- munications ant! to industry at large. In ~ 975 a signal honor and lasting tribute was paid to Fisk by the establishment of the Tames B. Fisk Merit Scholarship. Presented annually to outstanding boys and girls who are children of employees, the scholarship recognizes academic

OCR for page 90
112 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS excellence, high character, and leaclership, qualities Fisk re- spected anct encouraged. Fisk's retirement years saw continued advances under Baker and his successor, Ian M. Ross, English-born, from the University of Cambridge. Most dramatic were the micro- miniaturizing of complex circuitry (the new era of "chips") and the breakthroughs in optical fibers, which with lasers and other crevices in the new art of"photonics" are providing a new long-distance communication medium of extraordinary capacity. Less spectacular, but likewise affording Fisk much satis- faction, was the continued emphasis by Baker anct Ross on a program Fisk tract initiated, the application of computer- basec! systems to the complex operating problems of the tele- phone companies, with huge savings in manpower and ex- pense. Before the recently enacted clivestiture, Harvard Dean Harvey Brooks wrote that "The Bell System represents the best example of a highly integrated technical structure in a high-technology industry and is widely regardecl as the most successful anc! innovative technical organization in the worIct."7 Although the System is now broken up, Ross is cle- termined that the scientific quality anct the innovativeness that his predecessors sponsored - as recognized in two more Nobel awards under the Baker and Ross regimes- shall re- main uncliminished. The Fisks, while retaining their New Jersey home after retirement, were able to spend more time at Keene Valley in their beloved Aclironciacks. To them the Adirondacks were what New Hampshire was to poet Robert Frost: not a place on the map but a region of the mind. Anti each year there was a trip to Europe to see friends, visit the universities, and 7 Harvey Brooks, "Knowledge and Action: The Dilemma of Science in the 70's," Daedalus (Spring 1973): 125-43.

OCR for page 90
JAMES BROWN FISK 113 talk with representatives of companies on whose boards Jim served. ~ last saw Jim Fisk in New York at the Harvarc! Club to both of us, at our age, a place of refuge in a perilous city. We had {unchecI with some Japanese guests who hac! been gra- cious to us in Tokyo. In parting we talkect about another get- together to discuss some speculations of Harvard's late Percy Bricigman on the Second Law. But this was not to happen. After visiting Spain in the spring of 1981, Jim and Cynthia were vacationing in August in the AcTironciacks when he suf- ferect, unexpectecIly, an aneurysm in the abclominal aorta that he was not able to survive. His death on August 10, in neighboring Elizabethtown, came three weeks before his sev enty-first birthday. Faithful colleague Frank Leamer, hurrying over to Keene Valley from Saranac Lake for the services at the Congrega- tional church, paid a warm tribute shared by all Bell people. Speaking of Jim Fisk as not only a distinguishes! scientist but a great humanitarian in his quiet, unassuming, and moclest way, he recalled that Tim was also "a great nature lover and outdoor man. We often sharer! experiences in the wilderness and seldom-trod areas. He used to bushwhack to the moun- tain tops instead of following the beaten path." A resolution of the Corporation of MIT, of which Fisk had been a member for twenty-two years ant! hac! become a life member, spoke of him as "a princely human being of uncommon modesty," who was "as much at home in the uni- versity as he was in the corporate boardroom, laboratory and the high offices of government." The resolution also laucled his personal generosity and strong support in major capital drives ant! his leadership in the selection of three successive Institute presidents. Following the passing of her husband, Cynthia Fisk moved from New {ersey to Boxborough, Massachusetts, a

OCR for page 90
114 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS few miles from her native Concord, purchasing a vilIa-type house on a hilltop with gardens and play-space for grancl- children. She continues with her piano in a local chamber music group. Living in this area she is able to see two of her sons often-Samuel, out of Brown and the Columbia Busi- ness School, with overseas experience in the Peace Corps, and now in psychological counseling, with an office in Cambridge; and Charles, a graduate of Harvard and of the Yale School of Music, a concert pianist and teacher of piano, music theory, and the history of music at Wellesley. Son Zachary, from Harvard and the University of California, is farther away, a distinguished young physicist at Los Alamos. All of the Fisk family know that to tim's associates he was not only a leader but a warm friend, a blithe spirit moving amongst us, giving addled life to a dynamic profession; per- sonifying the spirit of noblesse oblige; one of the noblemen ~ . at our time. THIS MEMOIR, written from a retirement haunt in the deep South, has benefited from notes graciously furnished by Cynthia Fisk, up in New England; by Dr. Fisk's sister Becky, Mrs. William Wilkinson, in Laguna Hills, California; and from the aid of an indefatigable lady at Bell Laboratories, Ruth Stumm, faithful researcher and transcriber.

OCR for page 90
JAMES BROWN FISK SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 1934 115 The calculation of internal conversion coefficients of gamma-rays. Proc. R. Soc. London A, 143:674-78. With H. M. Taylor. The internal conversion of gamma-rays. Proc. R. Soc. London A, 146:178-81. 1936 Theory of the scattering of slow electrons by diatomic molecules. Phys. Rev., 49: 167-73. With L. I. Schiff and W. Shockley. On the binding of neutrons and protons (letter to the editor). Phys. Rev., 50~11~: 1090. With P. M. Morse and F. I. Schiff. Collision of neutron and proton. Phys. Rev., 50:748-54. 1937 On the cross sections of Cl2 and N2 for slow electrons. Phys. Rev., 51~1~:25-28. With P. M. Morse. The elastic scattering of neutrons by protons (letter to the editor). Phys. Rev., 51~1~:54-55. With P. M. Morse and L. I. Schiff. Collision of neutron and proton. II. Phys. Rev., 51:706 - 10. 1938 Disintegration of atomic nuclei by high-energy radiation (paper presented at National Academy of Sciences meeting, Chapel Hill, N.C., May 6-71. Science, 88~2289~:439(A). With I. A. Getting. A compact 750 kv Van de Graaff generator for high currents (paper presented at American Physical Society meeting, Washington, D.C.5 April 28-30~. 1939 With I. A. Getting and H. G. Vogt. Some features of an electrostatic generator and ion source for high voltage research. Phys. Rev., 56~11~: 1098-1104. With A. G. Hill, W. W. Bucchner, and }. S. Clark. The emission of secondary electrons under high energy positive ion bombard- ment. Phys. Rev., 55:463-70.

OCR for page 90
116 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS With W. Maurer. Transformation of B by slow neutrons by emission of alpha-particles and protons. Z. Phys., 112~7-8~:436. 1946 With H. D. Hagstrum and P. L. Hartman. The magnetron as a generator of centimeter waves. Bell Syst. Tech. }, 25: 167-348. 1963 Strategy in industrial research. Res. Manage., 6:325-33. 1965 Synthesis and applications of scientific knowledge for human use. Sci. Endeavor:293-302. Bell Telephone Laboratories. In: The Organisation of Research Estab- lishments, ed. i. Cockroft, pp. 197-214. Cambridge, U.K.: Cam- bridge University Press.

OCR for page 90