Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lewis W. Cochran, February 12, 1985

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:28 - University of Kentucky president Herman Donovan's philosophy of education

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Partial Transcript: It's been a bad winter. Uh, where'd we end up last week, um, according to your--

Segment Synopsis: Cochran talks about Donovan's building priorities for the campus. He says that Dr. Donovan encouraged the involvement of military training on campus. He also made speeches about the university's dedication to the military. Cochran says that Donovan did not have any idea what the university ought to be.

Keywords: Buildings; Dormitories; Dorms; Fieldhouses; Growth; Memorial Coliseum; Military training; Priorities; Pro-military; UK

Subjects: College administrators; College administrators--Rating of; College campuses.; College environment; College facilities.; College presidents; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky

00:04:45 - The types of research he pursed while getting his PhD

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Partial Transcript: I want to go, uh, uh--I want us to get in a little bit, uh, into--back into your personal--

Segment Synopsis: Nuclear accelerators were just beginning to be built on campuses around the country, so Cochran started studying how to build them.

Keywords: British; Cancer treatment; Electric-static accelerator; High voltage engineering; High voltage x-ray; Instruments; Nuclear accelerator; Nuclear power industry; Pressure tanks; Scarce materials; Scarcity; Tank builders; World War II

Subjects: Nuclear energy.; Nuclear industry.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Research; Universities and colleges.; World War, 1939-1945

00:08:47 - NEPA Project (Nuclear Energy for Aircraft Propulsion)

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Partial Transcript: Then there was, um, an exercise going on then, the, uh--called the NEPA Project.

Segment Synopsis: The NEPA Project was a serious attempt to develop a nuclear powered airplane. The University of Kentucky made a contract with other universities so they could work together, and combined each other's equipment.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Cincinnati (Ohio); Jet propulsion laboratory; Low voltage accelerators; Marshall Han Jr.; Nuclear Energy for Aircraft Propulsion (NEPA); Nuclear power; Nuclear powered airplanes; Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); Scientific prisoners; Space; Vacuum systems

Subjects: College facilities.; Nuclear energy.; Nuclear industry.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Research; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky

00:14:15 - The danger of the materials he was handling in laboratories

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Partial Transcript: At that point in time, experimenting in that field could have been dangerous.

Segment Synopsis: Cochran says that the materials they were using in the laboratory for x-rays contained large amounts of radiation, which was very dangerous and had a great risk of causing cancer.

Keywords: Crystals; Dangerous chemicals; Experimenting; Explosions; Fluorescence; Growing crystals; Laboratories; Laboratory studies; Light detectors; Major researchers; Radiation; Radiation burns; Radioactive materials; Radium; Uranium Salts; X-rays

Subjects: College facilities.; Nuclear energy.; Nuclear industry.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Research; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky

00:26:05 - The attention atomic energy was getting at this time

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Partial Transcript: Were you influenced, uh, by the, uh, attention that atomic energy was getting at this time?

Segment Synopsis: Atomic energy was really focused on at this time in the U.S. There were national meetings, and people were winning Nobel Prizes for doing research on atomic energy. Many people were also writing papers on it.

Keywords: Albert Einstein; Atomic energy studies; Excitement; Explosions; Inspirational; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); National conventions; National meetings; Nobel Prize; Potential danger; Radioactive materials; Safety requirements; University of California, Berkeley

Subjects: College facilities.; Nuclear energy.; Nuclear industry.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Research; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky

00:39:15 - The attitude of Cochran and his colleagues during this period on nuclear weapons

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Partial Transcript: What was the attitude of you and your colleagues, uh, during this period of fifties, uh, about, uh, uh, nuclear weapons?

Segment Synopsis: Cochran and his colleagues' attitudes about nuclear weapons were mixed. Many people were supportive of them. Many others were anti-nuclear during the war. Also, it was a matter of time of who developed them first: Germany or America.

Keywords: Aircraft carriers; Anti-nuclear; Big weapon machinery; Concerned; Country disputes; Irresponsible; Submarines; Weapons; World peace

Subjects: Nuclear energy.; Nuclear industry.; Nuclear weapons; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Research; Universities and colleges.

00:44:28 - Career options in the teaching field

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Partial Transcript: I wondered, uh, you received your PHD is 1952 and at that point you probably had some career options.

Segment Synopsis: During this time, there was a high demand for physics teaching. Cochran had many job offers, including teaching at Auburn and working at General Electric. He worked many jobs before he decided to go to the University of Kentucky to teach physics.

Keywords: Auburn University; Government; High demand; High voltage instruments; Job offers; Job opportunities; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Physics; Physics teachers; Research operation; Salary; Teaching; Teaching at universities

Subjects: College teachers.; College teaching.; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Research; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky. Department of Physics and Astronomy

00:50:12 - Becoming a member of the faculty at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Now, before we, uh, before we jump to the period when you became acting head of the department in '56, um, um, what was, um, what was it like during that period when you finally became, you know, a regular member of the faculty?

Segment Synopsis: Cochran talks about being a new professor and how he fit in. He says there was a good group of people he worked with. He worked very hard and made friendships with people in the engineering department.

Keywords: College of Engineering; Educational change; Foundations; Friendships; Graduate students; Research emphasis; Teaching; University of Kentucky College of Engineering

Subjects: College teachers--Social conditions; College teachers.; College teaching.; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Research; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky. College of Engineering; University of Kentucky. Department of Physics and Astronomy

00:53:15 - Career research

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Partial Transcript: Now fif--the summer of '52 after you got your degree you said you went to Oak Ridge.

Segment Synopsis: Cochran researched neutron activation during his studies. Participants would join a research group and get a monthly salary while they were performing their studies.

Keywords: Flat-Tops; Major neutron studies; Monthly wages; Neutron activation studies; Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); Plutonium; Zenon Experiment

Subjects: College facilities.; Nuclear energy.; Nuclear industry.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Research; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky

01:01:18 - Big chemical explosion

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Partial Transcript: But, um, you'd have little incidents along the way.

Segment Synopsis: Cochran explains a chemical explosion that happened at Oak Ridge that leaked gases into the canal. He explains how it was unplanned and how it was such a mess. Cochran also explains how dangerous it was and how it was a blessing that no one got hurt.

Keywords: Burial grounds; Chemical disasters; Chemicals; Electrons; Factories; Factory production; Neutron activation studies; Neutrons; Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); Production; Research; Teacher appreciation

Subjects: College facilities.; Nuclear energy.; Nuclear industry.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Research; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky

01:13:04 - Relationships with colleagues

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Partial Transcript: Um, now on campus, uh, again prior to the time you became, uh, chairman of the department, you were teaching, researching...

Segment Synopsis: Cochran talks about his friendships with colleagues in various departments of the university.

Keywords: Agriculture; Bill Ward; Biology; Board of Directors of the Research Foundation; College of Engineering; Committee meetings; Friendships; Philosophy; Relationships; Sciences

Subjects: College teachers--Social conditions; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky

01:14:28 - The Research Club

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Partial Transcript: What was The Research Club like?

Segment Synopsis: Cochran talks about The Research Club, an invitational club. They would try to identify people on campus who were doing the most exciting experiments or presentations. He also discusses a military reserve group that met monthly for discussions on military subjects.

Keywords: Interesting research; Library research; Military reserve organizations; Military reserves; Military studies; Officers; Seminars; Sigma Psi; World War 2; World War II

Subjects: College teachers--Social conditions; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky; World War, 1939-1945

01:17:29 - Becoming acting head of the Physics Department

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so in, in '56 you became acting head of the Physics Department.

Segment Synopsis: New projects were being started at this time and Cochran had dinner with someone in charge of some of these projects. He was impressed by Cochran so he offered him the position as acting head of the Physics Department.

Keywords: Chemistry Physics Building; Compromise selection; Musicians; Project Manager; Projects; Purdue; Wisconsin

Subjects: College administrators; College teachers--Social conditions; College teachers.; College teaching.; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Research; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky. Department of Physics and Astronomy

01:20:14 - The new Chemistry-Physics Building

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Partial Transcript: But, uh, what made that such an interesting time was that we'd finally gotten the go-ahead to build a new building.

Segment Synopsis: The department got permission to build a new chemistry building. Cochran was on the team for designing the chemistry building and he was given the opportunity to decide what got to be put in the building and all the supplies that were needed for the building.

Keywords: Chemistry; Chemistry-Physics Building; Compromise selections; Conflict of location; Head Department Chair; Indonesia project; Musicians; Physics; Project Manager of Physics Building; UK

Subjects: College buildings.; College facilities--Planning.; College facilities.; College teachers.; College teaching.; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Research; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky. Department of Physics and Astronomy