Next | ToC | Prev

"Jack, all we want is the truth."

GOFMAN: "So," he said, "you think fallout [is] important?" I said, "Yes, it's important." He said, "How would you like to come out here and build this biomedical lab?" And I said, "No way, no way." I said, "I don't trust the Atomic Energy Commission. Look at what they did to Linus Pauling, look at [the] criticism they leveled at Alice Stewart."
GOURLEY: Even then?
GOFMAN: Yes, even then. I said, "I don't trust them." Foster said, "Do you trust me?" I said, "I've known you now for quite a while, Johnny."

He said, "I'm never going to Washington like Harold Brown did." He said, "I'm going to stay here at this Lab because I think that's where the most action is." So he says, "I can tell you one thing: if you came out here, you'd have my absolute backing." I said, "That's nice to have."

He said, "Do you trust the regents in the University of California?" I said, "Johnny, I have very good relations with the regents in the University of California. I have very staunch friends, I do trust them."

He said, "Do you know Clark Kerr?" I said, "Of course I know Clark; he's the president of the University." I said, "I have a lot of respect for Clark."

He said, "Supposing I could get you a letter from the regents and from Clark Kerr that if you came out to head this thing and if you were ever unhappy about it, you can go back full-time to your professorship, no questions asked." [I said,] "Well, I certainly wouldn't give up [my] professorship, but I could cut my time down, but I don't think it's for me. I'm happy at Berkeley; I've just gotten through the years of having 50 or 60 people working with me. I'm back in the Lab working myself, physically working. Not administering a group of 60. Why would I want to do that?"

He said, "Well, fallout's important. How would you like to work on problems like that? Build your own staff: all the people you want to get, bring in. You'll have the best facilities in the world." -Livermore does indeed have the best facilities. "They'll build you a building," [Foster said,] and indeed they did. He said, "You don't have to worry about your budget. The money is just about automatic." (Maybe not so now.)

I said, "I don't think so, Johnny." But I did bring a few guys who had gotten their Ph.D.'s with me, to talk with him.

He said, "Will you do me a favor? Would you write up a protocol of what it would be like, if it were going to be done, even though you don't want to commit yourself [or] have anything to do with it?" So I did that. I thought about [it] and there were some really attractive features. A three-and-a-half-million-dollar budget each year, [a] new building, and not having to worry about grant applications over and over. So, what [can] I say, somewhere along the line, I had a lapse of cerebration. I said, "I will do it."

We had to then go into Washington to sign the papers. Now at that point, Glenn Seaborg, my former mentor for my Ph.D., was chairman of the [Atomic Energy] Commission [and] had been there since [President John] (Jack) Kennedy was inaugurated. Theos Thompson was a commissioner; I've forgotten the names of two others. Jim Ramey was a commissioner; he was not there that day.

Wally Reynolds and John Foster and I went in. Seaborg had Chuck Dunham, by then the head of Biology and Medicine, having replaced Shields Warren, who had retired, and some others in the room. We were supposed to draw up the papers and sign the papers to establish that I was to become head of this new Biomedical Division and an associate director of the Livermore Lab. There are 10 associate directors.

I said, "I would like to make a statement." I hadn't talked to Johnny about it at all. Glenn Seaborg said, "Go ahead." [I said,] "I would like to say I don't really give a damn about the Atomic Energy Commission's programs. I care about the public health. And so, what I want you know is, you're asking me to set up a division to consider the health effects of atomic bomb tests, uses in nuclear war, nuclear power, peaceful uses of explosives. We'll investigate these problems, but you're not going to get me to be silent and use the secrecy stamp to keep something from surfacing that I think the public ought to know."

So I said, "having said that, I think you should think twice about whether I'm the right person to head this program." I made [it] very clear exactly how I feel about it.

Glenn Seaborg said in memorable words, "Jack, all we want is the truth." If I'd ever seen the opposite of reality, this was it.

So we signed the papers; everything was hunky-dory. We got the budget; I brought out about 35 senior people from around the country. They had either gotten their degrees with me or I knew [them]. We built a division with 125 to 150 people in the whole division-lots of engineers who were working on fallout and the weapons testing. I made an agreement with John Foster that I would only have to be the head of the department for two years because then I wanted to get back in[to] the lab. That [agreement] was honored. I was head of the department for two years but I remained as an associate director of the whole Livermore Lab after that. Everything went fine.

Next | ToC | Prev
back to CNR | radiation | rat haus | Index | Search | tree