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AEC Responds With Sanctions to Gofman's Public Dissent (1972)

GOURLEY: Tell us in your own words.
GOFMAN: Well, actually, in 1970, during most of these TV battles and battles in public meetings and [by] 1972, they had already taken away Tamplin's 13 people. When they were asked by the press, they said he didn't want them anymore. A total fabrication, total fabrication.

In 1972, Roger Batzel came to see me. He said, "Jack, I have something I [have] to tell you." "What's that, Roger?" "Last year in '71, the Atomic Energy Commission came to us and said we should take away your research funds." [The] $250,000 a year [that] I was spending.
GOURLEY: This was on the chromosome work?
GOFMAN: Right. He said, "We told him that we disagree with your position on nuclear power and hazards calculations, what you're doing in that. We think your chromosome work is very good and we were not going to take away your money." He said, "They went away and they've come back now and said, "Take away John Gofman's $250,000 or if you don't do that we will just delete $250,000 from the Lab budget and you can lose 13 other people." So I said, "Roger, that won't fly."

I made a mistake: I should have taken it up at the academic senate. I should have made it a hell of a big issue with the University. I didn't. I don't know why I didn't, because I think we could have really blown the thing wide open at that point.

[Instead,] I said, "Look, nobody's going to lose their job because of me. I [will] see if I can get the money from somewhere else. If I get the money from, say, the National Cancer Institute, can I take all the equipment?" (I had an awful lot of gear that I was using, high-powered gear.) "Can I take that into Berkeley with me, when I go back to my full-time professorship?" He said, "Sure, that's no problem."

So I went into Washington and got to see Frank Rauscher, who [was] the head of the National Cancer Institute at that time. One of my former students, who was an Associate [Director] of the National Cancer Institute, arranged the meeting. I asked Rauscher, "You know about my conflict with the AEC?" He said, "Yes." I described the [chromosome] program and he said, "That's exactly the kind of program we need. We have some work going on at Yale on breast cancer, but this would fit in very well, if you want to do the chromosome part of it." I said, "I'd love to." He said, "What would it cost us?" "About $250,000 a year is what I need to do the work." He said, "I'm very optimistic but I have to just let you know in a few weeks." I left and saw Roger Batzel. [I told Roger], Rauscher was pretty optimistic and he said, "Fine; let's see what happens."

Four or six weeks passed and I heard nothing. I just wrote a very brief note to Rauscher saying there's no hurry and nothing desperate that needs to be done, but I [would] like to know how things are coming on that possibility. He didn't answer.

I got a letter from a third-[echelon] deputy, saying "Thank you very much for your inquiry. The work you're suggesting is not in the mainline interest of the National Cancer Institute, but if you ever have any other ideas, please let us know." What obviously happened was Rauscher must have talked to some people about this possible grant and I think they probably said, "Hey, this guy is giving the Atomic Energy Commission fits, what do we need him for?" So I never got the grant.

When I got that letter from that deputy, I told Roger Batzel and dissolved my program. We did [it] that day. People were reassigned to other things.

They didn't want to fire me from the Lab; [it was] just something they didn't want to get caught doing. So Roger said, "Well, you know you're welcome to stay." I said, "That's very nice, but there's not much reason for me to stay without my research program." I'd come all the way out here to Livermore-for what?

I said, "I need about six months to clear things up and then I'll go back to Berkeley full-time." In fact, they found me some nice rooms in Building 90 on the hill: "You don't even need to stay the full six months; we'll set you up in Berkeley for that period." Then I moved down to Donner after that.

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