00:00:00GRAYSON: This is 27 April 1996 and my name is Mike Grayson. I'm sitting here
with Dr. Rick Honig, and we're going to do an oral history about Rick's
contributions to mass spectrometry. And traditionally, we start an interview of
this type with digging into a little bit about the how you got involved in the
technical or scientific area at an early age, high school, your early education.
Was there any particular point in time, when you saw science, a technical career
as being interesting, challenging, rewarding?
HONIG: Yes. The interest was greatly furthered when I was in the last two years
00:01:00of high school. Of all places in Istanbul, Turkey at the German high school. And
we had excellent teachers in math, chemistry, and physics.
GRAYSON: Could we back up a minute and find out why you were in Istanbul,
Turkey, in a German high school?
HONIG: Certainly. I was born in Göttingen, Germany, in 1917 at the worst
possible time. We lived there until 1933, when my good father, who was a
professor of law at Göttingen University, was kicked out [of the university] by
the Nazis on the very first shift. He was not only [very well known to] the Nazi
world, [. . .but] he also had a bad heritage as far as the Nazis were concerned.
GRAYSON: When you say "the very first shift?"
00:02:00HONIG: There was the very first [group] of six professors on the 27 April 1933
[who] were dismissed. And my father was one of them, along with [Richard]
Courant, later on [Max] Born. . .James Franck was one who retired on his own
volition. So, that was the beginning of the end for the scope and fame of
Göttingen University. We went then, in the fall of 1933, that is my family and
I--two younger brothers, parents, myself--to Istanbul, Turkey, where my father
00:03:00had been engaged to help in making education in Turkey change into a European
style education, as opposed to the Islamic. That's why we were in Turkey. That's
why it was, I spent my last two years of high school in Turkey at the German
school. I then went to Robert College [of] Istanbul--the American
college--existing then, no longer exists as such.
GRAYSON: Was this a small school, Robert College?
HONIG: It was a smaller school. It was not by any means first rate. Since
physics was not available as such, I took the electrical engineering course, and
00:04:00graduated after three years with a BSEE. in 1938. Then, I went together with my
father at that time, to the United States, and I enrolled at MIT [Massachusetts
Institute of Technology] for graduate work.
GRAYSON: At MIT at that time, was it. . .I mean, it's always been a prestigious
institution. Was it difficult for you to enroll? Because as you indicated, your
undergraduate training was perhaps, not as good as it could have been?
HONIG: It was not difficult, because I happened to be pretty much at the top of
our class at Robert College. But I found many, many open areas that needed to be
00:05:00patched over. So, that's where I got interested in electronics, physical
electronics, and a course in nuclear physics. It was that course of nuclear
physics then that got me very interested in such things as atoms, molecules, and
particularly, isotopes. I learned whatever there was to be learned about mass
spectrometry at the time.
GRAYSON: The interest in mass spectrometry, was that because you had an
analytical interest in. . .
HONIG: That analytical interest was due to a part-time job that I had with what
00:06:00was known as the. . .let me think, the origin of petroleum. And that research
project was based on the assumption that maybe lower, smaller molecules of
carbon, hydrogen combinations could be polymerized due to natural radioactivity.
00:07:00So, we carried out some projects taking methane and subjecting it to deuterium
radiation [and] subjecting it to alpha rays. Therefore, I decided to try to see
what came out of it. It seemed that mass spectrometry was the way to go.
GRAYSON: Who was the sponsor of this activity?
HONIG: It was sponsored jointly by the physics department and by people in. .
.I'm trying to think.
GRAYSON: That's quite okay, no rush.
HONIG: That's why my gaps come in. We had a Professor [Walter L.] Whitehead in a
00:08:00different department, who was a geologist. . .was really in the geology
department. So, at the time, I was completely ignorant about how to build a mass
spectrometer and I had practically no guidance at all. In fact, we tried to
approach Al [Alfred O. C.] Nier at the time, but Al Nier was not available,
because he was working on the ultra secret project which of course, we couldn't know.
GRAYSON: So, this would have been, what year? 19. . .
HONIG: That was 1942.
GRAYSON: 1942, okay. So, let's see. You had graduated from Robert College in
1938, and enrolled at MIT. Did you enroll immediately the following fall?
HONIG: Right away.
00:09:00GRAYSON: Okay. So, you would have been doing graduate work for about three years
or so by then.
HONIG: Well, actually, there was a gap of one year, when funds ran out for me,
and I taught physics and mathematics at a very small college in Ohio--Bluffton,
Ohio--Bluffton College [now Bluffton University].
GRAYSON: So, you actually departed from the Boston area?
HONIG: Departed from the Boston area for one year. Came back in. . .now, I was
away 1940, 1941, and I came back in 1941. [. . .So] in about 1942, I was ready
to do something about mass spectrometry.
GRAYSON: And as you say, by then, Nier was pretty much involved [in other business].
HONIG: Was involved and not available for consultation at all. So, I was
00:10:00completely on my own. There was nobody at MIT who knew anything about mass
spectrometry. In fact, the professor who taught nuclear physics tried to
dissuade me. He said, "There had been people in California who had been working
for many, many years on this, and it's a very difficult area." So, I proceeded
to build a mass spectrometer. And let me say at the outset, in retrospect, I'm
far from being proud about it, but it did work. It had the fabulous resolving
power of one [part] in a hundred. [laughter]
GRAYSON: Wow, you know that's better than many first attempts. Then did you work
primarily from the literature?
00:11:00HONIG: I worked from the literature. I read all the literature. Eventually, I
had a chance to visit one or two laboratories. . .three laboratories, I guess.
One was [John A.] Hipple's laboratory in. . .
GRAYSON: Was he at Westinghouse?
HONIG: At Westinghouse [Research Laboratories, then in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania].
GRAYSON: At that time.
HONIG: Yes, at Westinghouse. Another laboratory, here in the neighborhood was a
commercial laboratory that had bought a commercial spectrometer from what was
known subsequently as CEC [(originally Consolidated Engineering Corporation,
which was changed later to Consolidated Electrodynamics Corporation)]. At that
00:12:00laboratory, I noticed how they were introducing gases, but they wouldn't tell me
what the trick was. They were not allowed to. So, I inspected the gas inlet
system and drew my own conclusions.
And in fact, wrote my first paper which was a pretty good paper on gas flow in
the mass spectrometer. I realized that the gas flow
had to be a molecular flow in order to give you true results. So, eventually,
the mass spectrometer worked, and I was able to get some fairly preliminary
00:13:00results. In 1943, I was able to base my thesis on this and get my PhD.
GRAYSON: What was the design?
HONIG: It was a Nier type, 60° deflection [. . .], based on the fact that I
wanted to get the biggest possible radius for the best possible resolving power.
And everything that I had at that time of course, was inherited--borrowed--from
what was available at the labs at MIT, because our funds were exceedingly
00:14:00limited, and during [the] war time you couldn't get it anyhow.
GRAYSON: Okay. So, you were, kind of, at the opposite situation that Nier was
in, where basically, he had everything at his disposal in terms of the equipment
and the latest in tubes and electronic devices. Whereas, you [. . .] didn't have
anything of the latest and greatest and had to kind of patch it together.
HONIG: It was, yes, the bootstrap operation. And to record the ions, I used the
elephantine FP-54 tube and an old style galvanometer.
GRAYSON: So, was that one of these measurements that you had to increase. . .
00:15:00HONIG: Point-by-point. . .
HONIG: Point-by-point, I had to manually obtain the spectrum.
GRAYSON: Were you varying the magnetic field or the [accelerating potential]?
HONIG: I was varying at that time with that instrument the accelerating
potential [rather than] the magnetic field.
GRAYSON: What was the accelerating potential in the instrument? I mean what was
its highest [capability]?
HONIG: Well, there I can't give you a hard [number], but it probably was no more
than 2,000 volts, down to maybe 400. So, it had to be done in stages, and I had
00:16:00to vary the magnetic field. The magnet was actually fed by a system, a DC supply
in the basement of MIT that had on it a huge switching arrangement with mercury
contacts--mercury pools--very healthy.
GRAYSON: Yes. And so, this was like a 'house' [supply of direct current electricity]?
HONIG: A house supply and it was clearly not feasible to change the magnetic
field very readily. But I could change it.
GRAYSON: And then, this was used to look at organic materials?
HONIG: This was used to look at the organic materials that were generated by
00:17:00taking methane, ethane gases and irradiating them in a cyclotron or [with]
deuteron radiation or [with] alpha rays from the radioactive source.
GRAYSON: And what was the result of these experiments?
HONIG: The result of these experiments was that, yes, these gases will
polymerize into heavier hydrocarbons. But, whether that really answered the
question that was the original purpose, isn't clear to me yet, because these
hydrocarbons were very complex. They were far from being straightforward.
00:18:00GRAYSON: How did you deal with the issue of fragmentation in organic compounds?
Did you use a low ionization potential for the ion source ?
HONIG: That problem I tackled much later, when I spent. . .not much later, while
I was for four years working at what was known then, as Socony-Vacuum
Laboratories in Paulsboro, New Jersey, now [Exxon]Mobil. At the time, [the]
laboratory was known in the neighborhood as "the vacuum." And there I was from
00:19:001946 to 1950. [. . .I also] stayed on for two [of those] years at MIT, [. .
.where] half of my time was spent teaching. Of course, these were basic courses,
first year and second year physics.
GRAYSON: What was the class size that you had to deal with at that time?
HONIG: The class size, I would say about thirty or so.
GRAYSON: So, before we move forward, I just would like to maybe back up, and was
there a particular teacher back in your high school days? Or, you indicated that
it was in the latter two years of your high school education, I think that. . .
GRAYSON: You started to get an interest. . .
00:20:00HONIG: Two teachers. One teacher's name was Günde [. . .], a very bright, very
capable man who taught us physics and some math. The other teacher, who was
equally capable, and very nice, was a Dr. Julius Stern, S-t-e-r-n. At that time,
he was the only left over Jewish teacher at the German high school, and then,
00:21:00had to leave. Those two teachers were able to further my interest in math.
I might say that my education in Germany had been strictly the classical
education that started with Latin, some rudimentary English, a lot of Greek. So,
for seven years I learnt more about classical languages and next to nothing
GRAYSON: What did Dr. Stern teach?
00:22:00HONIG: He taught chemistry and some of our math courses. And in fact, I still,
through a classmate of mine, only about two years ago, had contact with this Dr.
Stern before he died. He was still in Istanbul.
GRAYSON: So, the move from Germany probably changed the whole progression of
your life in many more ways than just physical relocation.
HONIG: Yes. Yes, although, I note looking back, I realize that I began to be
interested in mathematics say at age thirteen or so. And there again, that
00:23:00school in Germany did not teach you much math, and less physics and less
chemistry, at all.
GRAYSON: So, if you had stayed in Germany your education would have been very
classical and you would have perhaps not even become involved in science.
HONIG: Well, I think I would have, but it would have taken a little longer, yes.
Because I was not interested in following my father's career, who had taught
law, as I mentioned earlier.
GRAYSON: Okay. Then to move forward now, you graduated from MIT in 1940. . .?
GRAYSON: 1943. And you were able to find. . .
HONIG: Excuse me, correction. It was 1944.
HONIG: It was 1944.
GRAYSON: And you were able to find employment readily.
00:24:00HONIG: Then, I stayed at MIT for two years, from 1944 to 1946, continuing
teaching, continuing on that project.
GRAYSON: Who was your, essentially, thesis advisor or. . .
HONIG: The thesis advisor, his name was [Clark] Goodman. But he was essentially,
more interested in geology and knew next to nothing about the specific physics,
except he knew quite a bit about nuclear physics. But nobody at MIT at that time
had been even remotely aware of mass spectrometry.
00:25:00GRAYSON: Do you have any idea of what happened to the mass spectrometer after
you left MIT?
HONIG: Yes, I do. I do. A successor to my job on that project was later on
attempting to run the mass spectrometer. But unfortunately, [he] connected the
magnet in such a way that he could only see negative ions. And I was called in
in 1946 on a consulting basis to find out what the trouble was. And checking on
00:26:00the magnetic field, I straightened him out very quickly. So, I won't tell you
who it was, because he became quite well known in the field of making mass
spectrometers later on. [laughter]
GRAYSON: Well, but it would be nice to know.
HONIG: No, I better not.
GRAYSON: Well, this mistake is somewhat common. It's a simple mistake.
HONIG: It's a simple mistake, yes.
GRAYSON: And easy to make, I. . .
HONIG: But you see the mass spectrometer was running when I left. And later on
for some reason or other, had been disconnected, and had been reconnected, but
unfortunately, the wrong way.
GRAYSON: Well, he was just doing negative ion work ahead of his time. [laughter]
00:27:00HONIG: So then, jumping forward from 1946 to 1950, being at Socony-Vacuum, who
had the idea of establishing a research laboratory after the war, and called in
some very capable people. In fact, one of my colleagues was Gregory [H.]
Wannier. I'll spell Wannier, W-a-n-n-i-e-r, originally Swiss, a high-powered
mathematician who in fact, very kindly worked with me on one project. And one
00:28:00paper that I'm proud of, of that period was "A way of Measuring Ionization
Potentials in Hydrocarbon Gases," which at that time, up to that point had been
pretty much hit or miss.
But I found out very soon that that laboratory was not really going anywhere.
And after four years, I decided it was high time to leave, which I did and went
to RCA Laboratories, where some of my former MIT colleagues were.
GRAYSON: Before you start in the RCA experience, I was curious, why was vacuum
part of the name of the Socony-Vacuum enterprise?
00:29:00HONIG: They made gasoline. And why they called it Vacuum, I honestly don't know.
And eventually, they apparently decided that there was a better way and they
called it Mobil--the flying horse. That was after my time.
GRAYSON: Yeah. But, okay, so I don't know. Maybe it was just something in the
war that they had perhaps tried to disguise the operation, because I know they
[made] fuel, and the technology of fuel was a very hot topic during the war.
HONIG: But of course. But, whether there was any vacuum involved, I seriously
GRAYSON: And also, I'd like to--without revealing the name of anyone. I was
00:30:00curious. . .we know that Professor [Klaus] Biemann made quite a name for mass
spectrometry at MIT in recent years. I was just wondering if there was any
connection between the mass spectrometry that you left at MIT and Professor Biemann's.
HONIG: Not to my knowledge. I think Klaus Biemann came to MIT much later. In
fact, the first time I met him was at an international mass spectrometry meeting
in Oxford. And it may have been in 1961, perhaps. I may be off a year. [. . .]
[END OF AUDIO, FILE 1.1]
00:31:00GRAYSON: Here we are recording on the second side. It's a half hour to a side.
HONIG: Half hour to a side, I see [. . .].
GRAYSON: So, are there any other connections or items of interest during this
period before you started your, essentially, real mass [spectrometry career] or
really got into the many other things that you wanted [to do]? How did the war.
. .was the war an issue in anything that you were doing at the time?
HONIG: Well, for quite a while it couldn't be an issue because it was only in
00:32:001943. . .or was it 1944? Probably 1943, that I became a citizen. Until then, I
had been classified as an enemy alien.
GRAYSON: So, you took citizenship sometime after you came to the United States.
HONIG: I applied for it of course, immediately after I came to the United
States. But at that time, the lag period was typically four years, except during
the war it turned out to be longer.
HONIG: And it was at times disheartening to be classified as an enemy alien,
00:33:00when I was as much of an enemy of the Nazis, as this country was.
GRAYSON: Yeah, if not more so.
HONIG: Yes. In fact, while I was at MIT, I was limited in how far I could move
without permission from whoever was in charge. And it took a dispensation for me
to go from Cambridge to north [New] Jersey, when I got married in 1943.
GRAYSON: So, the war did. . .
HONIG: The war did affect me in an indirect way. I wasn't allowed to use my
00:34:00camera. I turned it in to my supervisor, Professor Clark Goodman, who kept it
for me, very kindly, until I was permitted to use it again as a citizen. Those
are some of the highlights of that period.
GRAYSON: So, then you started at RCA Laboratories after you determined that the
Socony-Vacuum operation wasn't really going to be what you wanted.
HONIG: [Yes]. Although, I did learn a lot about mass spectrometry [at
Socony-Vacuum]. Because at that time, they had bought, at my insistence, at the
00:35:00beginning, a CEC instrument, 180° deflection instrument.
GRAYSON: Would that be the -100 Series?
HONIG: Yes. It was a 101, I think.
GRAYSON: And what did you do with that instrument?
HONIG: Well, with that instrument, I did a number of things, including the low
primary energy electron studies to obtain ionization potentials and applied that
as an analytical tool too, by being able to eliminate certain components [that]
had higher ionization potentials.
GRAYSON: Did this also, eliminate fragmentation in the spectrum. . .
HONIG: [It facilitated] fragmentation studies [. . .]. Then, I got interested in
deuterated materials, which was quite new.
00:36:00GRAYSON: Were they easy to come by?
HONIG: We were able to get, at that time, which was after the war. . .yes, I was
able to get deuterated water, which was reasonably pure. And then, we could make
GRAYSON: What was the interest in the deuterium work at the industrial [setting].
HONIG: Well, I guess it was the fragmentation studies. And perhaps there was no
direct connection or excuse for doing that. But initially, they were quite
00:37:00willing to go into studies that might be long-term studies for the first two
years, and then that stopped.
GRAYSON: Was this directive from on high, a management change in position?
HONIG: There was a management change and eventually, they were trying in fact,
to channel me into something else, and I refused.
GRAYSON: Into what other area, did they want you to. . .
HONIG: Well, they thought they were going to take on solid state physics. I
realized that I was not really prepared to do solid state physics at that time.
00:38:00. .[hadn't] the necessary background. So, after a while, I decided that this
wasn't going to get any better, and rather worse, and I left on my own. They
tried to keep me, but I said, "No, thank you." But I only left after I evaluated
various possibilities to work with Hipple at Westinghouse [or] to go to Oak
Ridge, Tennessee. I had an offer, but then, RCA came through, and [it] turned
out to be a very good choice.
00:39:00GRAYSON: So, you were contemplating going to work with Hipple then, at that time.
HONIG: Yes. Yes, I would have liked to very much. He was a very nice man, and
very positive. But, I also realized that Westinghouse was not a particularly
good company. [laughter]
GRAYSON: And Oak Ridge. . .what kind of work did you anticipate there, if you'd
HONIG: I would have done some mass spectrometry. But at this point, I must
confess, I'm a little hazy. And at the time, when we visited Oak Ridge, my first
00:40:00wife said, "Well, I guess this would be all right for a couple of years." And
that was not my intent.
GRAYSON: Well, Oak Ridge was at that time, pretty elementary place to live, I guess.
HONIG: Yes. But, it would have been a perfectly, a highly interesting place
[scientifically]. And some of my former colleagues from MIT were there, too.
GRAYSON: So, you then effectively, decided to go to work at RCA Laboratories, is
that located here in the Jersey area?
HONIG: Princeton, [New Jersey].
HONIG: Princeton, the Princeton Laboratories, which [. . .] were very different
from many of the other RCA locations. It was indeed a remarkable research
laboratory with a very good spirit, and some top-notch people there.
00:41:00GRAYSON: When you started, how large was the facility in terms of people?
HONIG: As I recall, as far as scientists and. . .they called all of us
"engineers" from early on, but let's say scientists and some engineers, about
two hundred. So, it was quite small compared to what it then turned out to be in
later years. But I joined the physics research group, which was a very nice
00:42:00group with a man in charge at that time, by the name of Don North. Don was an
abbreviation for his first and middle names. A very fine man with whom, I had
immediate contact and understanding. And the problem that they were thinking
about was to study electron emission from cathodes.
GRAYSON: And what, obviously, I guess RCA was in the [business of vacuum] tube production.
HONIG: Very much in the tube business, tube developments, new tubes,
understanding the physical processes that occurred during electron emission from
00:43:00oxide coated cathodes. And that's where the idea was presented or was discussed
rather, that one could determine the surface layer of these oxide coated
cathodes by positive ion bombardment.
GRAYSON: So, this would be a way of sampling the surface for mass spec analysis.
HONIG: Exactly. The pre-runner to what you now call SIMS [secondary ion mass
00:44:00spectrometry]. And that problem appealed to me immediately as something very
worthwhile to look into because it was something entirely new, as far as I knew.
Nobody had ever done anything like that before. Although, later on I found that
there had been a very short note by [Richard F. K.] Herzog in Vienna [Austria],
right after the war, who used his. . .he had a mass
spectrometer. The Herzog of the Mattauch-Herzog
combination. Some very, very rudimentary work had been done which, however,
00:45:00nobody was aware of, including myself, until mid 1950s, I found out. So, that's
when it all started.
And I then just proceeded to design an instrument. First of all, I had big ideas
that it would be possible to use a double-stage instrument. The first
instrument, that first mass spectrometer to produce the primary ions and select
them, and selectively bombard the surface sitting in the second mass
spectrometer. I soon found out that there were problems in sensitivity. At that
00:46:00time, there were many things not yet available that we have today.
GRAYSON: So, let me clarify this. You would use a mass spectrometer to select
the ionic species with which to bombard the surface from which other species
would be emitted. . .
GRAYSON: . . .and analyzed in the second mass spectrometer.
GRAYSON: So, the first mass spectrometer was almost like an ion source of sorts?
00:47:00HONIG: Yes. And these were now 180° deflection instruments. [. . .] So, I had
in fact, and I still have somewhere, the original plans for a double instrument
that went in sequence like that, but soon realized that, I had to start less
ambitiously with an ion source, which I then decided to put right into the
so-called "second sector."
GRAYSON: So, this would be a design that you would have had built or you built.
It wasn't a commercial instrument that you would buy. . .
HONIG: I had no. . .No. There was no way of [purchasing such an instrument.
00:48:00This] was all to be constructed right at RCA. Great RCA Corporation.
GRAYSON: They had facilities for doing. . .
HONIG: They had excellent facilities. They had an excellent, what they called. .
.they called it a "model shop." It was really a group of people who could
produce almost anything mechanical. So the first working instrument then,
probably dates from 1951 [or] 1952. It took me about two years. And then there
were various different things too. I needed a magnetic supply, power supply,
00:49:00magnetic power supply that would be highly stabilized. So, I was able to use a
stabilization scheme that they had developed at RCA for their aboriginal computers.
HONIG: Quite. Well, nearly aboriginal. These were very early. . .in the 1950s.
1950 at that time, they had a computer that was housed in a huge building. And
so, I had a stabilization of roughly one part per million that I could achieve
for the magnetic field stabilization.
00:50:00GRAYSON: So, you used the same basic design. . .
HONIG: It was a beautiful design. It involved forty 2A3 [vacuum] tubes. 2A3 was
the name of the tubes that were running in parallel, and produced a fantastic
amount of heat, which was. . .now, in fact, I have some of this I have written
up in the paper which I think I brought along for you, the early days of mass
Where it turned out that in summertime, the system just couldn't be operated,
00:51:00because there was no air conditioning. The RCA people were not quite sure that
air-conditioning would really work. And so, it was only installed after quite a
few years that I'd been there. And it was installed just as an experiment for
the administrative wing, but for nobody else. And it turned out that my
particular laboratory was one of the last that got air-conditioning. And I might
also mention--I have this written up that--I called in at one time the man in
charge of the buildings and grounds and power and showed him that it was
00:52:00impossible to work with high voltage under these conditions of high temperature,
high humidity, because I had spark over. Well, he said, "The way to handle this
is to reduce the relative humidity. And to do that, all you need to do is
install some heaters."
GRAYSON: Make it worse? [laughter]
HONIG: That was true, believe it or not.
GRAYSON: Well, that changes the relative humidity, but.
HONIG: The relative humidity [. . .].
GRAYSON: So you had support in this activity from, other than not getting
air-conditioning, but you had financial support and interest. . .
HONIG: Financial support. Although they didn't [know] initially how much it
00:53:00would cost, either. I had no help, no assistants, or anything. I did everything
single-handedly with my two left hands. But I had very good support all along
and interest. So, then at one time, I was ready to do the experiment. . .just
before I did, it turned out that there was a problem with germanium impurity.
So, I was asked to see if I couldn't use my equipment to study germanium
00:54:00impurities, which I did. It was an approach that was slow, but it did work, and
I was able to point out what impurities were in the germanium samples. It was
not by any means as fast or, eventually, as sensitive as the spark [ionization
source] source mass spectrometer that was being developed at the same time at
Bell Labs, in fact.
GRAYSON: This would help you, I guess, with the management being able to address
an issue [of how funds were spent].
HONIG: Well, it helped management and it didn't help me, because it set us back
on our original plans. But eventually, I was able to do--finally in around
00:55:001953--secondary ion mass spectrometry. But, in the process too, there were some
sidetracks which were very interesting. When I was studying germanium, I found
to my great surprise that germanium vaporizes not just as an atomic form, but
also molecular form. And nobody had ever seen such a thing before, certainly not
for germanium or the other Group IV elements. When I presented this at a science
section, a science meeting, internal science meeting, there were some people who
00:56:00pooh-poohed and said, "Oh, this can't be right." And that then, led me to
enlarge this and not just look at germanium, but also silicon, and carbon.
Particularly, because at that time, the energy needed to vaporize carbon was not
well known. There were, in fact, three different potential values that had been
established by mass spectroscopy. And I was able to show that the carbon value
00:57:00was 170 [. . .] calories per mole.
HONIG: 170. Not 120, not 90. It was independently, and I didn't know about that
either, also determined by Mark [G.] Inghram at the University of Chicago at the
same time. When I heard about it, I acknowledged his work, and sent him mine. He
00:58:00never acknowledged mine. So, after these issues that were not secondary ion mass
spectrometry, as we know it now, I finally got around to making the first real
experiments with a special primary ion producing source right in the mass
spectrometer--basic mass spectrometer source--and studied a dirty piece of
silver and found the most amazing things on the silver surface.
GRAYSON: Why did you select the piece of silver?
00:59:00HONIG: [laughter] Because it was there. And then, on to more sophisticated,
GRAYSON: So, this was the beginning of using the particle desorption technique
or, ionized particle desorption where you hit the surface and dislodge ions and
material [characteristic of the surface].
HONIG: Producing primary ions in a primary source, hitting the target and
looking at the secondary ions.
GRAYSON: What was the primary ion? Was it argon?
HONIG: I used all the rare gases eventually, but I started, I think, with argon.
01:00:00Argon, krypton, xenon. I think, I also tried helium.
GRAYSON: This was just exploratory to find which would work best, if any?
HONIG: It was exploratory to [determine] which would be most efficient.
GRAYSON: And the silver surface yielded information about. . .?
HONIG: Many impurities that happened to be on that particular silver. And that
silver surface had not been degassed. . .was just put in raw, the way it was.
And from then on, we went to many other surfaces.
GRAYSON: So, this was to follow up on the emission. . .sort of, essentially,
materials for emission for tubes.
01:01:00GRAYSON: But, by this time, [were vacuum tubes still of interest]?
HONIG: By this time, [the] problem [with vacuum tube cathodes] had been pretty
well resolved and was no longer of interest. So, the SIMS work began to be free-floating.
GRAYSON: And then, you went ahead and started to look at other materials. What
was the rationale then?
HONIG: I have to refresh my memory [. . .].
[END OF AUDIO, FILE 1.2]
01:02:00GRAYSON: Okay, we're kind of picking up from after having completed the study of
[cathode] emission for vacuum tubes, and getting into doing other materials.
HONIG: And there's this article that I'm giving you that I called
tongue-in-cheek, "Stone-Age of Mass Spectrometry, The Beginning of
SIMS." And there you will find the schemes that were
initially planned, a two-stage spectrometer, which in fact, I built, but I found
there was not enough sensitivity. So then, I put the primary ion source right in
01:03:00here. And these are all Nier type, and then, 180° mass spectrometers.
But you asked about what materials we used. I used and obtained for example,
thin layers of ethyl--ethyl radical--on a clean germanium surface. I could
detect those things. . .those monolayers of C2H5· on clean germanium. Then
later on, I got interested in carbon, in general, in the multi molecular
character of carbon as it was produced by primary ions.
01:04:00GRAYSON: So, this would be like carbon cluster formation. . .
HONIG: Carbon cluster formation. Yes. Where you see all these clusters up to, in
the case of --about C12 I could see. And I even tried semiconducting diamond,
that I got a piece of from South Africa. And negative ion patterns and positive
ion patterns. This was a very flexible instrument that could be run. That work
then, unfortunately got interrupted. . .in a way unfortunately, but also,
01:05:00fortunate. I took a year's leave of absence from RCA, and went to the University
of Brussels to set them up in mass spectrometry.
GRAYSON: And what year was this?
HONIG: That was 1955, 1956.
GRAYSON: Why did they want to do this?
HONIG: Well, it was. . .it came as a connection. It was still the carbon work.
And at the University of Brussels, they had a man who was interested in the
carbon [vaporization] value. He'd done a lot of work on it, and he was swearing
by the lower value of 121 and didn't believe my 170 value.
GRAYSON: What method had he used to determine. . .?
01:06:00HONIG: Well, that is the point. There were all sorts of indirect methods, but no
mass spectrometry. And I thought maybe, it could be done with their equipment
and a mass spectrometer. So, we came to terms and he invited me to come for a
year. And I had a very interesting time there. But as it turned out, we couldn't
really attach a mass spectrometer to their carbon equipment. And so, instead we
did something else. A young, at that time, young man by the name of Jean
Drowart, I'll spell it, Jean, J-e-a-n, as in Jean, Drowart, D-r-o-w-a-r-t. Who
01:07:00later on became a very, well-known mass spectrometrist, in his own right. He
worked with me on this project and we put out a number of papers on the bond
energy of diatomic molecules.
GRAYSON: You were not able then, to do anything at that time to resolve the
carbon issue between the 120. . . the difference. . .?
HONIG: Oh, that had already been resolved as far as I [was] concerned. [laughter]
HONIG: Had been definitely resolved. I could not prove to him what was wrong
with his equipment. They did not realize the character of the carbon
01:08:00evaporation, which in part is molecular. And so, they were getting some value
that included C-1, C-2, and so on, so forth--an average value which then misled them.
GRAYSON: So, this was [exactly the same] attitude that your friends had when you
explained that germanium had a molecular component in its evaporation.
HONIG: Yes. It hadn't been seen before, so.
GRAYSON: It's amazing how when we do research, we don't accept things that don't
fit our idea of what it's supposed to be.
01:09:00HONIG: There's a German saying, which I'll translate what the. . .sometimes my
German gets in my way. "The person who does agriculture, what he doesn't know,
he won't eat." Except it is in German, it's more descriptive because it used the
"eat" form that is used for animals. Was der Bauer nicht kennt, das frisst er
nicht. So, it was a very interesting interlude, interesting for my family, and
01:10:00for myself, living in Brussels, and we had a very interesting time.
GRAYSON: Was this clearly sanctioned by the laboratory, RCA Laboratory? Right.
HONIG: The RCA Laboratory was willing to let me go. They were not very happy
that I did, but they acquiesced and say, "Okay, go ahead." But in the meantime,
my instrument was not really being used properly at all. And, so some of my
publications actually, were delayed because I was away for little over a year.
GRAYSON: How did you find that part of the country [Belgium]? It had been, what,
about ten years after the war? Was this part of Europe touched much by the war?
HONIG: Well, Belgium had been touched in the war, because it had been overrun by
01:11:00the Germans. And there had been many, many people who had died--Belgians--as a
result of it. And they have even the concentration camp there [Breendonk]. But
on the whole, they had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and it was
doing exceptionally well, considering that this was only ten years after the war
[or] eleven years after the war.
It also gave us a chance to travel through Europe to see Germany, to look for
[residual] Nazi [sentiment]. But you couldn't find any [. . .]. At that time, I
01:12:00found exactly one German who claimed that [Nazism] was a good thing, [that]
"Hitler was a great man." But the Germans were reconstructing like mad and very,
very efficient. And their country was in far better shape at that time, than for
example, England, [which] I also visited. It also gave me a chance to see
various laboratories in Germany, and at a different time, in England. In fact,
we stopped in Bonn, [Germany] and I saw the first prototype mass spectrometer,
01:13:00well, quadrupole with four long wires strung in, from the first down to
this--from the second floor down to the first floor.
GRAYSON: Oh, my, what a large instrument.
HONIG: It was a large instrument. It was a large instrument.
GRAYSON: This was being done by. . .I mean, was [Wolfgang] Paul, was Paul there?
HONIG: Yes. Paul was there. Yes. That's where he built it.
GRAYSON: Did he have any particular reason for the scale of the instrument?
HONIG: Well, I guess he wanted [resolving power. . .]. I [. . .] remember the
tremendous length of it. [But] the quadrupoles were not the right shape, because
01:14:00they were just wires.
GRAYSON: Did you get back to Istanbul at all, at that time?
HONIG: No. But I got back to Istanbul ten years later, in 1964, once, to see my
old alma mater, which was in bad shape at that point. And that's another
interesting story about how the foreign schools and universities in Turkey were
being pushed out by the Turks. So, a few years afterwards, Robert College was
simply written over to the Turkish government, became a Turkish university
GRAYSON: So, your father had been there to try and Europeanize the schools and
01:15:00in fact, they resisted that in the end.
HONIG: Well, yes and no. I mean, they did accept. . .many people at the time
that we came in 1933. There were probably forty, fifty families of mainly
Germans, but also, Austrians and some Swiss, some French, who were there. But
there was always a sentiment of course, and strong feeling against them, because
this was pushing out the old style religious professors who were there. And so
there was a great deal of problems. So, eventually, my family. . .I didn't say
01:16:00that earlier, moved to this country in 1939, just before the war. And as far as,
having help was concerned, they would accept it, but they were not happy with
it. So, Robert College which was certainly several cuts above any Turkish
university, initially, was taken over by the Turks. And the American influence
GRAYSON: So, let's see. We were back in the 1955, 1956 period when you were at
Brussels. Was there any other work that you did there?
HONIG: Yes. Well, no. You see we had to build up a mass spectrometer from the
bottom up. And we got it running very quickly. And did a number of studies, but
01:17:00mainly on diatomic gold, diatomic silver, diatomic copper was one
publication. It's in the publication list. And so,
together with this very capable young man, who later became a well-known mass
spectrometrist [. . .].
GRAYSON: So, you were successful in establishing mass spectrometry there.
GRAYSON: And basically, that was the whole idea.
01:18:00HONIG: That was the basic purpose. And they had some very capable people there.
And this Jean Drowart later on came for a year or two to the University of
Chicago to work with Mark Inghram, for example [. . .].
GRAYSON: Then completing the Brussels, almost like sabbatical, you returned to RCA.
HONIG: Returned to RCA, and picked up again, where I left off, and did a few
more studies that you see in that little write-up there. And eventually. . .oh,
01:19:00yes. What we did at the labs was in 1960 we got a spark source mass
spectrometer. In fact, the first one in this country from what was then known as
Metropolitan-Vickers [MetroVic] in Manchester [United Kingdom]. . .because there
was much call for--study of--germanium impurities, except then it was silicon.
And we had various contracts in fact, with the [U.S.] Air Force to study
impurities in other elements.
GRAYSON: So you were funded actually. . .part of the work was funded by an
HONIG: Later, yes. As time went on, we were encouraged to get outside funding.
Things did change at RCA. The old spirit slowly disappeared and we had different
people at the top, not all of them very successful, I would say. But there was
still a fair amount of work we could do.
And I think the next stepping stone that I see there was that, in 1963, I got
01:21:00interested in the possibility of using a laser to desorb surface materials. And
I think ours was the first attempt to couple a laser into a mass spectrometer,
which we did using the spark source instrument, which was all very rudimentary.
But it worked.
GRAYSON: What kind of a laser did you use?
HONIG: There was a red laser--a ruby laser. In those days, there was still a
great deal of magic and lack of knowledge in how to handle them. [laughter]
GRAYSON: Did you operate at a continuous mode, or pulse, or CW [continuous wave]
01:22:00mode. . .how?
HONIG: No, there was a pulse laser, clearly. So, we borrowed a laser. We
borrowed equipment from other people. We got cussed out for it by the owner. [laughter]
GRAYSON: So, did you borrow it or did you take it?
HONIG: No, no. We borrowed it, with the help of the assistant, who was very
helpful and said, "Here. Why don't you take this?" We said, "Fine." So, we
borrowed the laser. And then, the owner found out. But those are the first two
little papers about using a laser.
GRAYSON: Did you couple it with. . .I mean, was that through a window of any
01:23:00HONIG: It went through a window. Oh, yes, of course. It went through a window.
GRAYSON: I'd like to back up a second on the Air Force contracting.
GRAYSON: What laboratory was. . .
HONIG: There was an Air Force [laboratory. . .] in the Boston [Massachusetts]
area, [AFCRL], Air Force [Cambridge] Research [. . .] Lab at Hanscom [Field]. I
remember going to the Boston area, [Bedford in fact. . .]. But, they actually
01:24:00came to us, as I recall. We had not approached them, but they came to us.
GRAYSON: Probably through literature reference or an individual reference.
HONIG: I couldn't really tell you. But, it was they, who came to us. Mr. [J.
Paul] Cali, [. . .] and we had a good working relationship for quite a few years.
GRAYSON: And I suppose they just had a fundamental interest [in materials].
HONIG: They had a fundamental interest, and [if] I'm hard pressed to give you a
hard and fast answer, I guess, at that time funds were floating around very freely.
01:25:00GRAYSON: And the funding level, were you able to keep yourself busy or a couple
of people or. . .
HONIG: It was something that kept probably one and a half people full-time,
which was fine as far as, RCA was concerned at that moment.
GRAYSON: So, that really, probably helped, given the fact that the management
attitude was becoming a little less conducive to doing pure research.
HONIG: Yes, of course.
GRAYSON: Because you were at least bringing in some kind of funding.
HONIG: We brought in some kind of funding at that point.
GRAYSON: And they got to at least take overhead out of it, I suppose.
HONIG: Oh, yes. There was a very healthy overhead, I recall, very healthy.
GRAYSON: So, after you got back and started doing the laser work, was that just
01:26:00purely experimental, or exploratory. . .
HONIG: That was purely exploratory, and we didn't carry it much further than
that. We didn't really have, I guess, the support.
GRAYSON: And the gentleman wanted his laser back.
HONIG: And the gentleman wanted the laser back. Well, what happened next? Then,
eventually, a couple years later in 1966, I was approached; and I wasn't quite
sure I was particularly interested, and whether I would take over a small group
01:27:00in what they called "characterization." And well, I agreed to do it on a year's
trial basis, and then, decided well, this did give me something new to do too.
So, I built up a very sizable group of people doing materials characterization
of various types. And that included now, additional mass spectrometry. It
01:28:00included trying. . .let me refresh my memory for a moment. Embarrassing, but I
have to. [papers shuffling] Oh, yes, somewhere along the line, I might mention
this. Doing the mass spectrometry, I got interested in finding out, just what
the vapor pressures were, for the various materials that we were working with at
the temperatures involved.
That led to a very complete review of the literature on vapor pressures
01:29:00available at the time. And I first did that in 1957 on the side, because at that
time, there was nothing at all, no collection at all. So, I published what is
now, which was then became known as vapor pressure [curves] of the common
elements. And that I did twice again, once in 1962,
and once in 1969.
GRAYSON: You scoured the literature as well as made your own measurements for
HONIG: Own measurements involved, yes. But I also tried to evaluate, of course,
01:30:00the literature. And that was the major purpose. And I always [say] that I wished
I'd got a dollar for each reprint that was demanded of us over the years,
thousands of them. And you'll find those curves in many laboratories still, I guess.
GRAYSON: Now, when you make this measurement, that's not an easy measurement to
GRAYSON: How do you go about doing this basically?
HONIG: Well, one is, of course, you have to get a good temperature measurement.
And you have to worry about whether the surface temperature is typical or not.
You have to have somewhere a point of reference. Then you can develop a curve,
01:31:00which may have to be shifted up and down depending on that point of reference.
So, I did that for germanium. And I did it for silicon. And then, you have to
worry about the diatomic and monatomic molecules that are vaporized at the same
time. But the great majority of the elements I evaluated from what was found in
literature and there was a great deal of literature by that time, 1962, [and] in
particular [when] 1969 rolled around. And I have a feeling that things are still
pretty well, pretty accurate.
GRAYSON: Was the literature of pretty uniform quality or did you find that there
was. . .
01:32:00HONIG: No, of course not. I had to evaluate. I had to throw away quite a bit.
And sometimes, fly by the seat of my pants.
GRAYSON: So, you had a basis for discarding literature. I mean, just the
description of the experiment was not going to be able to get the information
correctly. I suppose that measuring temperature was probably a serious problem.
HONIG: Measuring temperature is a serious problem unless you can measure it
inside a cavity. . .
[END OF AUDIO, FILE 1.3]
HONIG: That's a very good type of tape incidentally.
GRAYSON: Yeah. Well, I recommend using a sixty-minute tape, because that works
out. . .
01:33:00HONIG: Oh, that breaks. . .yes. It makes it an hour.
GRAYSON: But I have some ninety-minute tapes, we're going to, if we use this one
up. But, I don't know if you want to take a break at this point? We can always
take a break and walk around and stretch our legs, and get a drink or do
HONIG: Well, we can. And I also, I'd like to call my wife who will join us for
lunch at. . .
GRAYSON: Why don't we go ahead and take a break.
GRAYSON: So, we just finished discussing this issue with regard to the vapor
pressures. And actually, the fact that, much of the work that was in literature.
It just was a matter of evaluating it.
HONIG: Yes. And to use eventually a computer to help us draw the curves, which
was quite an enterprise. And it's amusing that in the first version of it, I had
01:34:00approached the administration asking for computer help. And I checked it out and
found that it would cost. . .I think it was seven hundred dollars. Well, the big
boss we had at that time, said, "No, that is too much." [laughter] So, I drew
everything by hand [. . .] we had a very good drafting department [and they
cleaned it up. . .]. .
I also got interested in between in something else, and that was to develop an
01:35:00ultra-high vacuum system, which I did using liquid helium which was at that time
still quite novel and very cumbersome. So, I spent quite a bit of time on
designing an ultra-high vacuum system with a small mass spectrometer built in.
GRAYSON: Why do you want to have such a system?
HONIG: Well, there was a great deal of call for ultra-high vacuum. And there was
an interesting exercise to see how far you could push it and see what was left
01:36:00in such a system with a mass spectrometer. So, this was using mass spectrometry
for ultra-high vacuum [studies].
GRAYSON: In what year was this?
HONIG: 1962, I see here.
GRAYSON: Because residual gas analyzers were available by then, I assume.
HONIG: Yes, but not to that level. [. . .] And we were going down to 10-10 or
10-12, something of that order.
GRAYSON: So you actually were able to obtain, in terms of vacuum, something that
was 10-12 atmospheres, torr, millimeters of mercury?
GRAYSON: And what's left?
01:37:00HONIG: And [what']s left [is] hydrogen, as I recall. That's what was left.
GRAYSON: Did the helium. . .was in a cryogenic [reservoir]?
HONIG: Was in a cryogenic system, yes, very cumbersome at the time too, filling
it, keeping it full.
GRAYSON: Didn't this represent gasketing problems, I mean, in terms of getting
effective seals and so on.
HONIG: Well, this was gold sealed. Sure, it was an all metal system with gold seals.
GRAYSON: Bakeable, I assume.
HONIG: Highly bakeable, oh, gosh. We baked the hell of them. [laughter] Pardon
GRAYSON: That being 100°, 200°, 300° C to. . .
01:38:00HONIG: Oh, 400° C, easily, 450°, 300° was mild. But that was definitely a
little side project that I did.
GRAYSON: So, in the materials' characterization area, you moved on to the
semiconductor materials at this point.
HONIG: Well, yes. That's what was of interest. And then, as I said already. . .
GRAYSON: Of course, you had a group working for you by this time.
HONIG: Well, yes. As I prefer to say, they were working with me, not for me.
GRAYSON: Who were the people then. . .who were the first people that you
collaborated with in some of these things?
01:39:00HONIG: Well, I was able to bring in a number of people, Bill [William L.]
Harrington. You may know his name, and later on, Charlie [Charles W.] Magee.
GRAYSON: Where did Harrington come from?
HONIG: He came from [Cornell University].
GRAYSON: Had he been working with Bendix, along the way [. . .]?
01:40:00HONIG: No, no. He was at Cornell [. . .with George Morrison. Bill] was the first
one that I was able to bring in. And then, later on, [P.] Jane Gale, but this
was now in 1977, 1978, and Bryan [L.] Bentz still later, 1980s.
GRAYSON: Did Harrington. . .was he mostly a physicist [. . .]?
01:41:00HONIG: [No, he was an analytical chemist]. But he had some experience in mass spectrometry.
GRAYSON: Okay. And that [mass spectrometry] was the primary application?
HONIG: Well, there was a fair size mass spectrometry group. And in addition, we
did ultraviolet, infrared [spectroscopy]. We then, went into a variety of other
things--[ISS (Ion Scattering Spectroscopy) Auger, ESCA (X-ray Photoelectron
Spectroscopy), and RBS (Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry)].
GRAYSON: Did you do anything like emissions spectrograph?
HONIG: Well, there was an emission spectrograph that we'd had for a long time.
It was used still quite extensively, yes.
GRAYSON: So, it had a general analytical flavor.
HONIG: It was a general analytical group. . .
GRAYSON: With a focus on semiconductors?
HONIG: Focus on semiconductors, yes.
GRAYSON: Was this type of a laboratory unique at that time?
01:42:00HONIG: I would say we could be quite, at that time, we [were] quite proud of
ourselves. We had about a total of twenty. As many as twenty-four people, some
of them of course, assistants, and senior assistants. And a few other areas at
this point, I'm searching, searching so it might come back to me. So, this then,
became pretty much a full-time job with a group that size. You had to keep
things going. And it was very well received at the laboratories.
GRAYSON: So, you were somewhat in a middle management position at that time.
01:43:00HONIG: That's right. I was called a Group Head.
GRAYSON: Yeah. But it was not difficult for you to get funding from your management.
HONIG: No. I was quite successful and I had some intelligent people in the next
layer that were very helpful. [During] the last phases, were able to get
multimillion dollar funding for up-to-date equipment.
GRAYSON: Did you replace the Metropolitan-Vickers machine at some time?
HONIG: We still used it. Yes, we replaced it by a more modern one at one time.
01:44:00[laughter] The aboriginal 1960 model, we sold off for thirty thousand bucks to
somebody in Denver, [Colorado] and got another secondhand one that was more
modern. And that was used a great deal, a great deal of the time. And then,
Charles Magee built some very fine SIMS equipment that could be rastered. He was
a very capable man. It was a fine group. It was, I would say a happy group.
GRAYSON: So, when would you characterize the period when this group of people
was like in its heyday.
HONIG: The peak?
01:45:00GRAYSON: When it started to come into its own.
HONIG: It would be. . .well, I retired from that job in 1982. It was still, at
that time, at the peak of its effectiveness.
GRAYSON: And you would say it was making good contributions?
HONIG: It made excellent contributions to the laboratories. It was well received.
GRAYSON: Was it in the late 1960s when it started to come into its own? Or early 1970s?
HONIG: No. Well, I only took it over. . .there was a very rudimentary small
group in 1966, when I took over. I would say it was in the mid 1970s that it
01:46:00began to flourish, because the buildup was very, very gradual, on purpose and by necessity.
GRAYSON: So, what did you look for in these people, mass spec experience, or
physicists, or materials background?
HONIG: Well, some were interested in mass spectrometry and were interested in
knowledge going beyond just the bread and butter stuff. So, that particularly,
always emphasizing that they could and should have a project of their own for
01:47:00part-time--say somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of their time.
GRAYSON: Sounds idyllic.
HONIG: Kept them productive.
GRAYSON: Yes, sounds very nice. So, the emphasis at this point was an overall
characterization of these materials not only by mass spectrometry, but any other
analytical technique that would provide information that would be necessary in
the construction of new devices, and so on.
GRAYSON: Does RCA. . . how large of a player were they in the semiconductor
business at that time? Do you have any feeling?
01:48:00HONIG: They were still quite successful, I would think. The overall laboratories
had been built up to, at one time was at least four hundred technical,
technically trained people, plus maybe another. . .oh, more than that. We were
probably total population of thirteen [or] fourteen hundred people.
GRAYSON: So, the work continued then in mass spectrometry? What other large
projects were attempted then in this phase, when you had the full fledged group working?
HONIG: Well, the last one was with Bryan Bentz that I actively worked with him
01:49:00on it. After I handed over [management of] the group to Bill Harrington. . .in
fact, was to use a. . .and it's the last publication that we put
out. What we call an "organic SIMS instrument" with
separate triple stage quadrupoles.
GRAYSON: So, there was a reasonable amount of instrument design that went on
during [this later period].
HONIG: Oh, yes. We had some fun, indeed. We designed the instrument from the
bottom up; completely bakeable. . .I have an ultra-high vacuum system. And I
01:50:00think it's still being used by Bryan Bentz at this point, who's one of the few
people who's still there.
GRAYSON: To build a piece of equipment up from that stage would require quite a
bit of time, I would assume.
HONIG: Oh, yes. Well, I was able to devote essentially full-time to it. And
Bryan Bentz at the time, probably three-quarter time, half-time, three-quarter time.
GRAYSON: And you had enough experience from your previous work to be able to
avoid a lot of the pitfalls.
HONIG: Well, yes. And of course, In terms of equipment, there'd been tremendous
01:51:00progress with ultra-high vacuum pumps. And, so we were able to draw on
experience we had built up over the years, if not decades.
GRAYSON: I noticed that this [last] instrument [used quadrupoles as an]
analyzer. There was some consideration for doing it that way? I mean, you
abandoned essentially, magnetic sector type approach?
HONIG: Yes. Well, for that purpose, we used quadrupoles. And of course, they
01:52:00were actually commercial quadrupole [instruments], but they were incorporated.
GRAYSON: So, you bought that technology off the shelf.
HONIG: We bought that technology off the shelf, and then modified it to suit our
purposes. Yes. And of course, things took longer than expected, as usual.
GRAYSON: So, for this triple machine, could you just walk through from. . .you
know, the machine from the beginning. If you start out on the first quadrupole,
and what are you doing in these various sectors?
01:53:00HONIG: I'd be better served, if I looked at that diagram, at this point.
[laughter] Well, we also did quite a bit of design of the ion paths [. . .]
using computers, which was a major project to get the ion [optics] properly
01:54:00designed so things will focus at the right place onto the right surface.
GRAYSON: You indicated that this equipment may even be presently in use by Bryan
Bentz, but that the laboratory is considerably reduced in size today.
HONIG: Well, if you want to go into that sad story, I'll outline it for you
quickly. In 1985, to everybody's surprise, the top man of GE [General Electric],
Jack Welch, and our top dog at the time, whose name I have mercifully forgotten,
got together without anybody else knowing about it. And RCA was sold to GE for
01:55:00many billions of dollars. GE wasn't slow in demolishing the company. They really
wanted NBC. That's all they wanted probably, and that's another story. RCA had
never been willing to sell that, so they were bought, [lock, stock], and barrel.
So, then the question was, what do we do with the laboratory? After all, GE had
a fine laboratory in Schenectady, [New York]. No point in having two
laboratories. So, they went searching around. They were willing to close it up
at one time. But they were prevented actually, by the Governor of New Jersey
01:56:00[Thomas Kean] at the time. So, eventually, the laboratory was handed over for
free to the west coast research organization [. . .], Stanford Research
Institute [SRI International].
GRAYSON: Oh, okay.
HONIG: Stanford Research Institute, which is not really connected with Stanford
01:57:00anymore, took it over. And now the laboratory became what you might call a job
shop. People, in order to be there, had to bring in some very substantial
programs. And as a result, the laboratory that existed before 1985 doesn't exist
anymore. There have been projects and most of the people who were there had
left. Other people have come in. I have not kept track of it. Initially, I did.
But, it's a rather painful experience. And the man who was selling us down the
01:58:00river took his twelve million dollars, bought himself a personal security man.
The sad story is that a year later [. . .] he died. Such is life.
GRAYSON: Well, corporate buyouts are part of the modern [business scene].
HONIG: And this is really one of the first--one of the early takeovers of that
type. By now everything's like that. Right here in this area. . .the paper
company's gone down the drain, everywhere. So, it's the end of an era, all I can say.
01:59:00GRAYSON: I think you're right. When you first started working, did you feel that
the management was interested in pursuing good science, as well as doing work
that was relevant to the company?
HONIG: They were, because they were well provided for through the resources. The
patents that were still active at that time [. . .] paid very good royalties.
And the laboratory, when I came in 1950, was fully funded by the royalties. Then
of course, those royalties gradually dried up, and that's sometime around 1960
02:00:00or so, when we were beginning to strike out and bring in projects or projects
were brought to our attention.
GRAYSON: Such as the Air Force?
HONIG: Such as the Air Force.
GRAYSON: Did you do any more of these type of things in your materials'
characterization? Were there other big customers that either, came to you or you
solicited business, besides the Air Force?
HONIG: There might have been some minor ones. Surely, there were, but the Air
Force contract was, in my area, the big item.
GRAYSON: Well, why don't we take a different tack here for a while, and back and
02:01:00up look at a different aspect of your career? You've been involved in mass
spectrometry for a quite a number of years. And of course, as you're well aware,
there's been a lot of mass spectrometry developed in the organic petroleum end
of things. When did you go to your first, at that time, ASTM E-14 meeting? [This
would have been a CEC Users Meeting. The ASTM E-14 meetings didn't start up
until 1953.] Do you recall the occasion of that?
HONIG: That was in 1946.
GRAYSON: Which would have been one of the first meetings.
HONIG: Yes. Went to the meeting in. . .which was being sponsored by CEC, as I
remember. Yes, there were yearly meetings.
GRAYSON: Was that the one that was held in association with the Pittsburgh
Conference at that time, or was. . .?
HONIG: There were also Pittsburgh Conference meetings, but I think that was separate.
02:02:00HONIG: I went to Pittsburgh a number of times.
GRAYSON: And you, to a certain degree, even though you're doing mass
spectrometry, you were sort of outside of the norm for that group. ASTM E-14 was
really a petroleum standards [operation].
GRAYSON: And you had done some work in [organics].
HONIG: But there were different committees, and I took over one of the
committees early on, before we became an organization which was in 1969, I
think. That's when ASMS [American Society for Mass Spectrometry] was first founded.
02:03:00GRAYSON: But you found, even though most of the people that would have attended
an early ASTM meeting were probably petroleum chemists, you found that they were
willing to accept you into their fold as a mass spectrometrist.
HONIG: [There] were more [interests represented]. . .there were quite a few
people who did basic work. There were people at the National Bureau of
Standards, for example, Vernon [H.] Dibeler who worked very early on deuterium compounds.
[END OF AUDIO, FILE 1.4]
GRAYSON: Okay, we were talking about your [attendance at the] early [. . .] ASTM
meetings. Did you attend [ASTM meetings] regularly then, from the beginning?
02:04:00HONIG: Well, yes, quite. [I first started] when I was at Socony-Vacuum. And then
I still went to meetings when I first was at RCA. We went to most of the
meetings every year.
GRAYSON: I guess, there was a fundamentals committee. . .
HONIG: There was a committee on fundamentals, and [. . .] that was the one that
I was involved in for several years, before 1969, 1968, whenever. [When] we
turned it [the organization into] our own society.
02:05:00GRAYSON: What was the impetus behind that? Do you recall why that was done?
HONIG: You ask a good question. I don't think I have a reasonable answer for it.
HONIG: But, I think really, that group went well beyond the description, being
an ASTM sponsored committee. And of course, it became more and more clear as
time went on, so this then led to the thought that we should be a separate, but
equal society, who with ASTM was in parallel.
02:06:00GRAYSON: And was it you. . .weren't you one of the first people involved as President?
HONIG: I was the second President, yes.
GRAYSON: You were the second President of ASMS [after Joe L. Franklin].
GRAYSON: Okay. And that would have been whenever, well in the late 1960s, early
02:07:00HONIG: [. . .] I was [. . .] ASMS Vice President for Programs, 1968 to 1970. [.
. .Then I was] President 1970 to 1972, Past President 1972 to 1974.
GRAYSON: So, that was a pretty important period in the society as [it had] just
started [to be independent of] ASTM.
HONIG: It was a very important period, because we didn't know whether we were
going to fly. And I suspect we didn't have more than sixty or eighty people. And
by now, seven thousand.
GRAYSON: Oh, yes. Yes.
HONIG: What is the present count?
GRAYSON: In terms of members, I'm thinking somewhere around, between two and
three thousand. . .maybe twenty-four hundred or five hundred, something like that.
HONIG: Yes. In the meetings, we. . .
02:08:00GRAYSON: Just continued to get bigger.
HONIG: Bigger and bigger.
GRAYSON: I, myself, am curious how long that will last, given the fact that so
many companies are doing what RCA did, in reducing their investment in science.
But, evidently, the meeting size continues to get larger. So, I guess people are
finding other ways than working for companies to do science.
GRAYSON: Were there any particular issues that you had to deal with other than,
this starting up kind of thing in your particular tenure as President or in
those six years when you were involved? Was there any topic that was of concern
02:09:00or that we don't know about?
HONIG: Well, I guess the topic really was, let it fly.
GRAYSON: I mean, did the group actively do things to promote it flying or [did]
they just, kind of, say, we're going to this and see if it works?
HONIG: Well, one of the issues that comes back to me now, is how do we divide up
whatever financial support that existed between ASMS and ASTM E-14? And I guess
it was divided evenly. Even though the number of people going into ASMS were far
02:10:00in excess of the people who stayed in this one group. But, what were the issues?
Well, you had of course, personality problems. I'm sure. [laughter] But it was
an active group, and we grew up together, mostly.
GRAYSON: Yeah. Well, obviously, it did fly. We got a very active group still,
and I'm sure it's in no small part to the contributions that were made by those
people who were having to deal with it, when it split off from the ASTM. And
02:11:00that was pretty successful. So, I think we all owe you a debt of gratitude for
making sure that it worked. . .
HONIG: No. Well, one of the things we were trying to do was to get financial
support from the companies, for example. So, we had a group of maybe, some
twenty supporters initially, as I recall. Everything was on a small scale.
GRAYSON: Did ASTM provide any funds?
HONIG: Well, as we split, there were funds of ASTM and those funds were split,
as I remember, one to one, even though ASTM E-14 had by far the smaller group of
people staying there. It was quite a small. . .and initially we were agreeing
02:12:00they were coming to our meetings as part of it. So, there was essentially a
group. . .partially independent group within. Well, not probably. . .not part of
GRAYSON: Well, as I guess you're aware, ASTM eventually was dissolved, I guess.
HONIG: I don't know what happened.
GRAYSON: Well, I was involved in a little bit of that, [R.] Graham Cooks, when
he was President, floated an issue to decouple the ASTM E-14 with ASMS, and make
them more independent; without whatever connections had been put in place.
HONIG: What year was that?
GRAYSON: Whenever he was president, which would have been probably about ten or
02:13:00twelve years ago. I'm guessing. But I guess what had happened was the ASTM-[E14]
continued to be a smaller and smaller group, but it had equal weight with ASMS
in board decisions and so on. And he felt that that was an inequity that should
be rectified. So, basically at that time, there was a formal disconnection of
the two societies of ASTM E-14 and ASMS.
And I don't even know if there is an E-14 group in existence anymore, because
the original charter was to establish standards. [As] part of ASTM, [Committee
E14] was to establish standards, and the mass spec meeting has obviously
becoming a very critical part of science, but it had very little to do with
02:14:00establishing standards later on. Originally, it did have that type of a flavor.
But [later on] it seemed to be that the annual conference was the primary
function that ASTM actually discharged.
HONIG: And of course, those meetings initially, I recall, five days, possibly
one or two sessions at most. And the talks were fairly long. They might have
been, certainly twenty minutes at least. [As the meetings] got bigger and
bigger, and time [for talks] got shorter and shorter. [laughter] And the number
02:15:00of concurrent sessions grew like Topsy.
GRAYSON: And when you were the Vice President for Programs, [. . .] maybe this
wasn't too serious a problem; where you didn't have to balance too many
HONIG: No. There were at most two concurrent sessions. Yes.
GRAYSON: Well, posters have become a big part of our conference.
HONIG: Absolutely, that's the only way to handle it.
GRAYSON: Are there any. . .this is, kind of, a big overview question. But, as
we're becoming more and more aware; you [practically] lived through a period,
technologically speaking, that is, almost like going from the Dark Ages. . .
HONIG: Stone Age, yes.
02:16:00GRAYSON: Stone Ages. What do you see as being a major development in that period
that--or one or two things--that maybe were driving forces for the blossoming of
technology in the period of your lifetime? Clearly, there are a large number of
developments. Have you reflected on any way on how maybe one particular or two
particular technological developments have impacted things?
HONIG: I would guess the solid state devices, probably would be one of the
outstanding ones. The death of the vacuum tube. [laughter]
02:17:00GRAYSON: That probably was a good thing.
GRAYSON: It was a necessary technology until we got a better way of doing it.
HONIG: Yes. Well into the mid-1950s. As I mentioned earlier, I grew up with
FP-54s that were about this big, that existed already in 1938.
GRAYSON: Was this like a triode?
HONIG: A pentode.
GRAYSON: A pentode?
HONIG: Yes. It was a pentode. And galvanometers. It was really the Stone Age. It
02:18:00was fun. There was a lot of excitement there, challenge.
GRAYSON: Did you ever feel discouraged because you didn't have the technical
tools to perform a particular task? In development of equipment, you're always
pushing technology, and it'd be nice if you had a better amplifier, or a better
vacuum, or better gate valve.
HONIG: Well, not discouraged, but we were pleased to see the natural
02:19:00developments that occurred, whether it's in vacuum technology. After all, when I
took the course in electronics at MIT, I was told a vacuum of 10-8 [torr]is
about the best one you're ever to achieve. Of course, the reason was that you
couldn't measure any better than that.
GRAYSON: What degrees did you take at MIT, were they engineering or physics?
HONIG: Physics. I guess, initially, I enrolled in engineering because I had my
engineering degree. And then, took all physics courses, and so I ended up in physics.
GRAYSON: They had a PhD program in electrical engineering at that time?
HONIG: Oh, yes, they did. Yes. But, it was clearly not the area that I was
02:20:00GRAYSON: Were you able to keep abreast of developments in electronics, in your
instrument design at work? Were you up to speed on the latest in tubes and. . .
HONIG: Well, I would say yes. The development was slow in coming at the time.
But, everything's, like, just making a magnetic field measurement, for example.
GRAYSON: Or measuring temperature.
HONIG: Well, measuring temperature. . .
02:21:00GRAYSON: I meant to ask, did you like use [Knudsen] cells or for these gas, the
vapor pressure of the elements [. . .]?
HONIG: No, I did not. The equipment that I built wasn't big enough to
accommodate those cells. So, I had to rely on some [device] that had to work in
[a small space] when I read the temperatures.
GRAYSON: And so, you just simply heated the element in a small crucible?
02:22:00HONIG: Small, yes, small crucibles. And there were problems like interaction,
for example with silicon. What do you put silicon into so it doesn't interact?
GRAYSON: Did you have problems with species condensing out in places you didn't
want them, in the instrument?
HONIG: Well, only when some well meaning person turned off, at one time, the
fore pumps, and let the mercury vapor pumps keep on pumping. [laughter]
GRAYSON: Not a very smart thing to do.
HONIG: No. That happened at RCA.
GRAYSON: And why would [someone do that]?
02:23:00HONIG: There was a [power] shutdown, which I wasn't aware of. When I came in the
next morning, it left on the. . .of course, in those days we used mercury vapor
pumps. And there was mercury vapor all over the place. Not good!
GRAYSON: [laughter] Must have taken some time to clean up that.
HONIG: I forget what I had to do, but it was from the bottom on up. Yes.
GRAYSON: Well, I don't know if there's any other comments, items that you feel
that you'd like to cover. . .
HONIG: Well, there might be some that I can think of as we go along. I came
poorly prepared, I'm afraid.
HONIG: In the sense that, I should have refreshed my memory and that begins to
be a more, and more important thing to do.
02:24:00GRAYSON: Well, why don't we take a break and. . .
HONIG: So, why don't we take a break, and chat for a moment [. . .].
HONIG: So, here's a brief biography.
HONIG: Here's a publications list.
HONIG: And that goes up to 1982. Then, here was something that Jane Gale and
Bryan Bentz did in 1989, I think. There is an [Honour Biography] issue [of the
International Journal of Mass Spectrometry and Ion Processes, 103 (1990)]. . .
GRAYSON: I think I've got a copy.
HONIG: You have that?
GRAYSON: Jane sent a copy of this.
HONIG: Jane sent a copy. Okay, very good. So, you have that whole thing. You
02:25:00don't need this.
GRAYSON: The "Stone-Age" paper looks good.
HONIG: The "Stone-Age" paper, I did in , which tells you quite a bit of
background everywhere. May be a little better too, than what I did today. And
that then, was a part of this [copy of the International Journal of Mass
Spectrometry and Ion Processes issue containing the article]. I just brought
this along to show [. . .]. Let's see. Bryan Bentz put together this issue. And
you have that at home.
02:26:00HONIG: You have a complete set of publications, of course. [. . .]
GRAYSON: So, this was International Journal [of Mass Spectrometry and Ion Processes]?
HONIG: Volume 143, 1995, 1 to 288. That's where the "Stone-Age" paper came out.
I did some other things at various times. Now, let me see.
GRAYSON: Did you ever meet Al Nier in your meetings?
HONIG: Yes, I did. I did several times. I met him at meetings. I once came over
02:27:00to their house. . .1970 or 1972. I met him at this [ASMS conference in San Antonio].
GRAYSON: Oh, the San Antonio. . .
HONIG: San Antonio Conference in 1984, where I put together [an invited
GRAYSON: And that was in 1984, San Antonio.
HONIG: [There] was a special [issue of the International Journal of Mass
Spectrometry and Ion Processes].
GRAYSON: Let's see if that's the same thing as this, maybe.
HONIG: It's Volume 66, 1985.
02:28:00GRAYSON: Did you ever get to interact with Nier on any projects?
HONIG: No, not directly, because he then went into the space projects that he
had and I did not. So, there was Harry Svec. Yes, that's of Nier.
GRAYSON: Oh, okay. Those were papers that came out of the ASMS meeting, I guess.
HONIG: Yes. They were. . .
GRAYSON: Published. . .
HONIG: . . .published. So, I put together pretty much a history of SIMS there.
02:29:00GRAYSON: Okay, I've got the reference for that.
HONIG: You have the reference for that. Now, let's see what else, I brought along.
GRAYSON: Oh, do you have any of those early ASMS proceedings or ASTM E-14
HONIG: [laughter] No, I don't have those anymore. I left those behind at RCA.
Yes. I had pretty much the complete set. There's one person who might still have
02:30:00them and that is [J.] Rogers Woolston, who went to most of the early meetings.
GRAYSON: Where is he now?
HONIG: Well, he left RCA labs already, fairly early. Didn't have much of a
future there. He's a very interesting guy. He worked with me in fact, in 1957,
he came, and very clever, very good instrumentalist. Far better than, I ever
was. And so, he contributed quite a lot in fact, to my early instruments, like
automatic controls for current controls. And he religiously went to all the
02:31:00meetings. So, he should still have them, and since he still lives in Princeton,
he would be likely to have that information. He then went into computers early
on. I would say he went into computers already in the 1970s. But he has a strong
feeling of history. And I have his address at home, if that helps.
HONIG: I have to dig it out and I'll be glad to dig that one out. [papers
shuffling] No, that's nothing. Nothing else. I had made two parallel copies.
02:32:00Okay. So, that's probably what I have in hand here.
GRAYSON: Well, this is good documentary material that will go with the interview.
HONIG: I still have my copies of my publication that's about all that I took along.
GRAYSON: When you left RCA, was it. . .I mean, you wanted to quit then, at that
time? Or were you asked to leave?
02:33:00HONIG: No, I wasn't asked to leave. I had [planned to leave in June of 1987 when
I turned seventy. . .. But] the Laboratory [(RCA Labs)] pretty much folded in
March of 1987, [so] by my retiring a few months early, I was able to [let]
somebody else to stay [avoid being laid off]. So, I took [retirement] a few
months earlier and left 31 March 1987.
02:34:00GRAYSON: So, you left the laboratory more or less, when you wanted to.
HONIG: Yes, yes. But, I still worked with Bryan Bentz until [my wife and I] left
[Princeton] in 1989. So, I still came in and worked with him [during] that time [(1987-1989)].
GRAYSON: But it was kind of pushed along a little bit, because of the management.
HONIG: It was -- I didn't have to, but I certainly felt if I could help somebody
else to stay, it'd be great. And so it was a matter of a few months. I would
[have retired] in June, my birth date, birth month [. . .].
GRAYSON: Okay. When you went to one of the mass spec meetings in Oxford, [United
Kingdom], you indicated to me that you had met Al Nier at that time. Was that
the first time that you had met Al, personally or on one-to-one, face-to-face ?
02:35:00HONIG: Probably, yes. In 1961. . .
GRAYSON: And was it [Josef] Mattauch or [Richard F.K.] Herzog was there. . .
HONIG: Mattauch. . .
HONIG: Yes. And they were obviously, old acquaintances. And found each other, so
to speak, and decided that they wanted to commit this meeting to his camera,
movie camera. So, they asked me to take the picture. And pretty soon, so I was
shooting the picture straight ahead. Pretty soon, one appeared from the left,
and the other one appeared from the right, and came to the middle, greeted each
other by doffing their hats, bowing deeply, and departing in the opposite
02:36:00direction. That was all.
GRAYSON: Was that camera Al Nier's camera or was that. . .
HONIG: No. That was Mattauch's.
GRAYSON: Mattauch's camera. So, probably that film exists somewhere.
HONIG: It might, but. . .
GRAYSON: Getting hold of it would be difficult, but it's an interesting thing
that someone might want to pursue. Were there any other acquaintances? You met
Al at a couple of other meetings, occasions, as I recall.
HONIG: I met him then a number of times. One of them was at invited conference
in 1984 in Texas, I guess. This is it.
02:37:00GRAYSON: Well, was that the San Antonio [meeting]?
HONIG: Yes, San Antonio meeting.
GRAYSON: [. . .] Right. Did you have any technical interactions or were you just
primarily [meeting as] friends and. . .
HONIG: Well, we met, had dinner together. But, there was no specific technical
interaction. He talked about his fine mass spectrometers, as I remember. But he
was always a very gracious, very warm, open person who was always willing to
share his knowledge with other people.
GRAYSON: Are there any other prominent mass spectroscopists that you can recall
02:38:00off of the top that you might have met on the caliber of Nier, say Mattauch [. . .]?
HONIG: [. . .] Oh, yes, there was a German by the name of Hintenberger, who was
very capable. A Dutchman. [. . .]
02:39:00GRAYSON: Okay. Well, unless you have some other comments, or. . .
GRAYSON: Recollections you want to share with us, and I think we've got a pretty
good. . .
GRAYSON: Recording here for references. And. . .
HONIG: Well, if there are any afterthoughts, I can always get in touch with you.
[END OF AUDIO, FILE 1.5]
[END OF INTERVIEW]