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David Chaumette

Lawyer David A. Chaumette was born in London, England in 1968, and grew up in Sugar Land, Texas. He received his B.S.E. degree, cum laude, from Princeton University, his M.S. degree in aeronautics/astronautics from Stanford University, and his J.D. degree from the University of Chicago Law School.

In 1994, Chaumette was hired as an associate at the law firm of Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton. From 1998 to 2002, he worked for the Houston, Texas law firm of Porter & Hedges LLP. From 2002 until 2011, Chaumette served as a partner at the law firms of Shook Hardy & Bacon, Baker & McKenzie, and De la Rosa & Chaumette. In December of 2011, he founded the Sugar Land based law firm, Chaumette PLLC, which specializes in business litigation. In 2013, Chaumette was named the first African American president of the Houston Bar Association (HBA).

Chaumette was president of the Houston Young Lawyers Association from 2003 to 2004, and has served on the boards of directors and executive committees for the Houston Bar Association and Neighborhood Centers, Inc. He has also been the president or chair of several other organizations, including Leadership Houston, the Houston Lawyers Foundation, and First Colony Little League. His professional memberships include the National Bar Association, the Houston Lawyer Association, the College of the State Bar of Texas and the Pro Bono College of the State Bar of Texas. In addition, Chaumette is a fellow of the American Law Institute and the Litigation Counsel of America, and has written numerous articles that have been published in magazines and scholarly journals.

In 2004, Chaumette was named as one of the Five Outstanding Young Houstonians by the Houston Junior Chamber of Commerce and one of the Five Outstanding Young Texans by the Texas Junior Chamber of Commerce. He was named to the Visitors Committee of the South Texas College of Law in Houston in 2005, and was named one of the 500 New Stars by Lawdragon.com in 2006. In 2009, Chaumette was recognized as an Extraordinary Minority in Texas Law by Texas Lawyer Magazine. In 2011, he received the Standing Ovation award from the Texas Bar for his service to TexasBarCLE. Chaumette has also been named “Texas Rising Star” and a "Super Lawyer" by Law & Politics Magazine for several consecutive years.

Chaumette lives in Sugar Land, and has two sons, Raphael and Alexandre.

David Chaumette was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 3, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.067

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/3/2014

Last Name

Chaumette

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Anthony

Occupation
Schools

Clements High School

Torrance High School

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Chicago

First Name

David

Birth City, State, Country

London

HM ID

CHA12

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

4/9/1968

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Houston

Country

England

Short Description

Litigator David Chaumette (1968 - ) , founder and partner of the law firm Chaumette PLLC, was named the first African American president of the Houston Bar Association in 2013.

Employment

Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton

Porter & Hedges LLP

Shook Hardy & Bacon

Baker & McKenzie

De la Rosa & Chaumette

Chaumette PLLC

Herbert Winful

Electrical Engineer Herbert Winful was born on December 12, 1952 in London, England and raised in Cape Coast, Ghana in West Africa. His father Herbert Francis was an engineer, and his mother Margaret Ferguson Graves was a teacher. As a child Winful was mesmerized by lasers and often dreamed of developing his own. As a sophomore attending MIT Winful was mentored by Dr. Hermann A. Haus – National Medal of Science honoree and pioneer in the field optical communications. Winful received his B.S. degree in electrical engineering in the 1975 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1981, he graduated from the University of Southern California earning his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering. Dr. Joh Marburger – former science advisor to President George H.W. Bush – guided Winful’s groundbreaking work on non-periodic structures.

From 1980 to 1986, Winful worked at GTE Laboratories (now Verizon Laboratories) in Waltham, Massachusetts. The Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) department at University of Michigan hired Winful as an associate professor in 1987. Through research and teaching he made fundamental contributions to multiple sub-disciplines in hid field: nonlinear fiber optics, nonlinear optics in periodic structures and nonlinear dynamics of laser arrays, propagation of single-cycle pulses. was promoted to full professor in 1992, and one year later the University of Michigan promoted him to an endowed professorship – Thurnau Professor. Throughout his career Winful studied problems involving the relationship between laser arrangement and production of power. Winfield most significant scholarly achievement was solving the scientific paradox of quantum tunneling time.

Winful’s contributions have been recognized by professional and academic organizations. He was named a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and the American Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. The University of Michigan recognized Winful with the Amoco/University Teaching Award, the State of Michigan Teaching Award and the EECS Professor of the Year Award.

Herbert Winful was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on 10/23/2012.

Accession Number

A2012.181

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/23/2012

Last Name

Winful

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Occupation
Schools

Catholic Jubilee School

St. Augustine's College

Lehigh University

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

University of Southern California

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Herbert

Birth City, State, Country

London

HM ID

WIN08

Favorite Season

Fall

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

12/3/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Ann Arbor

Country

England

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Electrical engineer Herbert Winful (1952 - ) , former director and professor of materials research at Howard University, is professor emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan.

Employment

GTE Laboratories

University of Michigan

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Herbert Winful's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Herbert Winful lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Herbert Winful describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Herbert Winful talks about his maternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Herbert Winful talks about schools in Ghana during his grandparent's time

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Herbert Winful talks about his mother growing up in Gold Coast, Ghana

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Herbert Winful describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Herbert Winful talks about Ghana's matrilineal society

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Herbert Winful describes the Fantes

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Herbert Winful talks about the history of slave trade in Ghana

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Herbert Winful describes Fante names

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Herbert Winful talks about having to navigate the cultures of Ghana and Great Britain

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Herbert Winful describes his father's education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Herbert Winful talks about his parents' courtship

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Herbert Winful describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Herbert Winful talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Herbert Winful talks about his memories of Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Herbert Winful describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Herbert Winful describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Herbert Winful describes the duality of growing up both as a Catholic and as a Fante

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Herbert Winful describes being educated under the British system of education

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Herbert Winful describes his interest in math and engineering

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Herbert Winful talks about the interest in Ghanian culture in salvaging parts of things

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Herbert Winful describes learning about science

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Herbert Winful talks about the Volta Region

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Herbert Winful describes meeting the Russian female astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to go into space

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Herbert Winful describes his high school, St. Augustine's College

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Herbert Winful talks about his memories of the coup of Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Herbert Winful talks about taking calculus in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Herbert Winful compares the American and British educational systems

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Herbert Winful describes his graduation from St. Augustine's High School

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Herbert Winful talks about why he chose Lehigh University for his first year of college

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Herbert Winful describes his interest, idols and involvement in music while in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Herbert Winful describes his arrival in the United States to attend Lehigh University

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Herbert Winful describes his experience at Lehigh University

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Herbert Winful talks about his mentors at Lehigh University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Herbert Winful describes his transfer from Lehigh University to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he worked on lasers

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Herbert Winful describes Massachusetts Institute of Technology's African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Herbert Winful describes his decision to attend the University of Southern California for graduate school

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Herbert Winful describes his doctoral dissertation on nonlinear optics pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Herbert Winful describes his doctoral dissertation on nonlinear optics pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Herbert Winful talks about his research at GTE Labs

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Herbert Winful describes his decision to teach at the University of Michigan

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Herbert Winful talks about leaders in non-linear optics pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Herbert Winful talks about the leaders in nonlinear optics pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Herbert Winful talks about optical phase conjugation

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Herbert Winful describes his research and teaching at the University of Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Herbert Winful describes his research on laser arrays and coupling fiber lasers

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Herbert Winful discusses the applications of his research

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Herbert Winful describes the future of lasers

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Herbert Winful talks about his work with STEM education

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Herbert Winful suggests a question for young scientists

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Herbert Winful talks about his current research on coupling fiber lasers

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Herbert Winful describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Herbert Winful describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Herbert Winful reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Herbert Winful reflects on his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Herbert Winful talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Herbert Winful describes his relationship with the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Herbert Winful describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Herbert Winful talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Herbert Winful describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

5$5

DATitle
Herbert Winful describes learning about science
Herbert Winful describes his doctoral dissertation on nonlinear optics pt. 2
Transcript
I was, I was actually a very good student. From the earliest times I can remember from the first grade onwards, I seemed to be always like at the top of the class. I did well in math, in English, in pretty much every--every subject. I thought--I thought it was just, you know, normal, you know, people who, you know, who studied and you did well. So I didn't know whether it was hereditary or what. Now, my mother [Margaret Ferguson Graves] also encouraged, you know, learning, and as a school teacher, she would come home in the evenings and after dinner, we'd all sit around the table, after she cleared off the plates and she would get to work, like, you know, grading her students' papers, and we would sit there doing our homework. So we all sat there and worked. And that was just a habit, you know, getting things done, reading and studying, doing your homework.$$Now, was it a, was it a--you were fully aware that your father was an engineer?$$Yes, yeah--$$Did this give you--encourage you to--because very few people can point to that, you know.$$Yes, and in fact, my father, I think, once or twice, took me to the worksite of the Volta River Project during the construction. So I saw the dam while it was being built, I saw the huge man-made lake formed after they had dammed the Volta River. He actually took me--we walked down one of these huge pan stalks that, you know, bring the water down to turn the other turbines, the generator. It was the most amazing thing. I said, "Wow, so this is what engineers do," you know, and I think that also really fed into my--my early interest in engineering and in science, oh yeah, and also an important influence. And then I had an uncle, too. We called him Uncle Principal, a brother of my mother. He was a principal of teacher's training school. And I remember he gave me once a book called '101 Experiments You Can Do At Home.' I think I was about maybe 10 years old or so, and that book became my favorite book, you know, I proceeded to do all these experiments in the kitchen, making things that might, you know, explode. Those were the fun parts, the things that blew up. But yeah, it was really so much fun.$$So, you had like two, you know, sort of role models, two men you knew were into science, and some of the women. You had your father being an engineer of this huge project.$$Yeah.$You know, a periodic structure, you know, this is something that repeats itself. And so you can imagine stacking up layers of say glass and glass plates, and let's say one glass plate has a certain refracted index; refracted index tells you how light bends or how light gets slowed down in the medium; let's say you have one medium, one glass plate with a set of refracted index "A", another one with a refracted index "B", so you stack them alternately, AB, AB, AB, so you have, you know, a periodic stack. It turns out that such a periodic structure has interest in properties in the sense that it acts as a filter so that certain--only certain wave lengths will pass through, only certain colors will go through, and the rest will get reflected. So, it has, what we would call "a stop band," it stops, let's say, a red light from going through, but other colors can go through. Now, when you see butterflies in lovely iridescent colors, those--those colorations arise from tiny periodic structures that are organized in the wings and they reflect different colors. So, the idea I had was, what if light--you send in light that's intense enough to change the refracted index of those periodic structure. Well, then, if the light is strong enough, it can tune the stop band, it can tune the colors that can pass through and those that can reject it. So, if I had low intensity, if I had lower intensity light, that red light would get through, as I increase the intensity, it gets to a point where that red light can no longer get through; it all gets reflected. So, it would have an intensity dependent refracted index, and that can lead to various interesting applications like all optical switching and use as a digital optical computant element, so that was the start of the field of study, and that's something I did while I was a graduate student. Now, the other one that you mentioned, having to do with the speed of light, that relates to a phenomenon called tunneling, tunneling through a barrier, and that's work that I did more recently, yeah, in Michigan.$$Okay. Well, we can maybe wait until we get to that.$$Okay.$$With your dissertation, you finished in 19--$$1981, yeah, uh-huh.$$--'81 [1981], okay.

Clifford Johnson

Physicist and physics professor Clifford Johnson was born in 1968 in London, England. Growing up, Johnson spent ten years on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, where his father worked as a telephone engineer. As a child, Johnson began to teach himself electronics by secretly reading his father's books. In lieu of watching television, Johnson read electronics books and magazines, fixed appliances, and designed devices and machines such as radios and remote-controlled submarines. He also enjoyed gardening and making intricate patterned designs using needlework techniques such as crochet and macramé. Due to his interest in how things worked, Johnson decided at an early age he wanted to become a scientist. He went on to receive his B.S. degree in physics from the Imperial College at London University in 1989 and his Ph.D. degree in physics from Southampton University in 1992.

After graduating, Johnson began working as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and in 1994, he moved to Princeton University as an instructor and post doctoral fellow. The following year, he became a postdoctoral fellow at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, California. Johnson taught as an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky between 1997 and 1999 before joining the faculty at the University of Durham, England. Since 2003, Johnson has been a professor at the University of Southern California’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. In 2004, Johnson founded the African Summer Theory Institute, which held its inaugural workshop meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.

Johnson received the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Career Award in 1997, and in 2005, he was awarded the Institute of Physics’ Maxwell Medal and Prize for his work on string theory and quantum gravity. He has also been listed in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education as the most highly cited black professor of mathematics or a related field at an American university or college. In addition to his research and teaching, Johnson communicates and explains science to the general public. He blogs, has made short films on science, written articles for magazines, has co-authored a play, authored a book, and is currently writing and drawing a graphic novel featuring science. He appears on the History Channel’s The Universe series and other series on channels such as Discovery, Science, National Geographic, Spike, and Comedy Central. He has been a science consultant for film, TV, radio, and theater.

Johnson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 26, 2011.

Accession Number

A2011.034

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/26/2011

Last Name

Johnson

Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

V

Organizations
Schools

Imperial College, University of London

University of Southampton

St. Augustine Primary School

Montserrat Secondary School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Depends on Schedule

First Name

Clifford

Birth City, State, Country

London

HM ID

JOH37

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

N/A

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

That's a sword that cuts both ways.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

3/5/1968

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

England

Favorite Food

Italian Food, Caribbean Food

Short Description

Physics professor and physicist Clifford Johnson (1968 - ) was identified as the most cited black mathematician in 2005. His research at the University of Southern California has focused on D-branes, quantum gravity, gauge theory, and M-theory.

Employment

Institute for Advanced Study

Kavli Institute

University of Kentucky

University of Durham, England

University of Southern California

University of California, Santa Barbara

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Blue, Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Clifford Johnson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Clifford Johnson shares his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Clifford Johnson talks about his mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Clifford Johnson shares stories about his mother's upbringing and move to Britain

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Clifford Johnson talks about his father's involvement in the Windrush Movement

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Clifford Johnson talks about his parents' schooling and how they met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Clifford Johnson talks about his family's move back to the Caribbean from England

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Clifford Johnson explains which of his parents he takes after most

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Clifford Johnson describes his early childhood memories of living in England

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Clifford Johnson recalls his family's move back to the Caribbean island of Montserrat

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Clifford Johnson describes his neighborhood on the Caribbean island of Montserrat

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Clifford Johnson describes transportation on the Caribbean island of Montserrat

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Clifford Johnson talks about the volcanic activity on the Caribbean island of Montserrat

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Clifford Johnson talks about his childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Clifford Johnson talks about his early interest in electronics

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Clifford Johnson talks about his siblings

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Clifford Johnson talks about his desire to become a scientist

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Clifford Johnson talks about racial and ethnic differences in the Caribbean

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Clifford Johnson talks about his American friend in secondary school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Clifford Johnson recalls his father leaving the family

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Clifford Johnson talks about his family reuniting in England

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Clifford Johnson discusses the black population in England

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Clifford Johnson remembers high school in Preston, England

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Clifford Johnson talks about his school experience on the Caribbean island of Montserrat

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Clifford Johnson talks about his interest in comic books

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Clifford Johnson discusses the influence of science in comic books

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Clifford Johnson talks about his high school experience in England

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Clifford Johnson talks about string theory background

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Clifford Johnson explains string theory

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Clifford Johnson compares high school in England and in America

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Clifford Johnson explains the influence of social class in British life

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Clifford Johnson discusses his musical interests

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Clifford Johnson describes the process of building a guitar

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Clifford Johnson talks about his social life in high school

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Clifford Johnson explains his decision to attend Imperial College London

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Clifford Johnson talks about life in London and his introduction to jazz music

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Clifford Johnson talks about his experience at Imperial College London

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Clifford Johnson explains his decision to pursue graduate studies at Southampton University

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Clifford Johnson describes his string theory research at Southampton University

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Clifford Johnson explains how string theory is measured

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Clifford Johnson talks about the tools of string theory

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Clifford Johnson talks about his Ph.D. dissertation and the difference between open and closed strings

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Clifford Johnson talks about receiving post doctoral fellowships

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Clifford Johnson describes his relationship with Edward Witten at the Institute for Advanced Studies

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Clifford Johnson shares a story about working with Edward Witten at the Institute for Advanced Study, part 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Clifford Johnson shares a story about working with Edward Witten at the Institute for Advanced Study, part 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Clifford Johnson talks about leaving the Institute for Advanced Study

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Clifford Johnson explains his decision to pursue post doctoral studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Clifford Johnson talks about his work with Joe Polchinski on D-branes at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Clifford Johnson talks about the importance of his D-branes publication

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Clifford Johnson describes a day in the life of a physicist

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Clifford Johnson discusses the importance of both mathematics and experimentation in physics

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Clifford Johnson talks about his move to the University of Kentucky

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Clifford Johnson talks about his research grant and teaching at the University of Kentucky

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Clifford Johnson describes his 1999 publications at the University of Kentucky

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Clifford Johnson talks about the value of string theory tools

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Clifford Johnson talks about his family and his move to the University of Durham in 2000

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Clifford Johnson talks about his experience at the University of Durham

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Clifford Johnson talks about his association with Cambridge University

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Clifford Johnson responds to a question about a popular culture film

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Clifford Johnson talks about his experience at the University of Southern California and the publication of his book on D-branes

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Clifford Johnson talks about the role of physics in the development of the World Wide Web

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Clifford Johnson talks about electronic archives and their influence on physics research

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Clifford Johnson talks about the 2004 African Summer Theory Institute

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Clifford Johnson talks about the Maxwell Medal and explains lattice theory

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Clifford Johnson discusses the role of science in society

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Clifford Johnson talks about his involvement in the production of a play

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Clifford Johnson discusses his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Clifford Johnson talks about his public outreach efforts

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Clifford Johnson reflects on his life's accomplishments

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Clifford Johnson discusses the future of string theory research

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Clifford Johnson talks about his family and how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$8

DAStory

7$1

DATitle
Clifford Johnson talks about his early interest in electronics
Clifford Johnson describes a day in the life of a physicist
Transcript
But I did get a lot into electronics. And so very on I taught myself, well, sort of electrical circuits and things initially, but then got more and more into electronics in detail. And there was a RadioShack in town. So what I would do, whatever little bits of pocket money or wherever I got; loose change or what have you from, I would buy components and then would actually begin to build things from that. And--but one interesting thing which I never--I never got to tell my father [Victor Reginald Johnson]. He actually left when I was fairly young, and I can tell you more about that. But--so by the time I began to really become into my own as a sort of my own internal world, this sort of getting strong, he'd already gone. But I never talked, so I was never able to tell him that I began to learn electronics because I used to rummage around in old boxes and things upstairs, and I actually found some books which must have been the books he used when he was doing whatever course he needed to do for his work back in the U.K. [United Kingdom].$$That's when he was a telephone installer?$$The telephone stuff. So a lot of the stuff I learned about, resistors and things like that; basic electrical stuff, came from that.$$I read that you didn't have a lot of distractions in terms of--was there television on the island?$$There was but we didn't have a television. This was connected to lots of things. I think partly, as I had mentioned, at some point my father left and disappeared--$$How old were you?$$So this would have been--I guess I would have been eight. Something like that.$$You were, like, starting to do your experiments (unclear)--$$That's when I was beginning to sort of switch on from that time onwards, eight or so; seven or eight. I guess maybe he disappeared in '77 [1977], something like that. Yeah, that makes sense. So one of the interesting things was that I had--you know, there was a good library. It was a really good library that was really key. And I would begin to discover things. So I began to try and find things in lib--there weren't so many great, you know, books. There were a few basics of how-to books, and what have you; those were great. But at some point I began to use up the library because the kind of things I was interested in it didn't have. But then somebody, and I have no idea who it was, used to give their old electronics magazines to the library, just donate them once they finished with them. And I used to read, I used to consume those. And learned a lot from those. And then I started--I think I ordered some books. There was this orange, red and black series of books. I can't remember what--it was something--it was either 'Made Simple' or something like. But that was when I began to then teach myself electronics proper. So then I began to learn about things like transistors and things like that, which is, you know, it's sort of different from, you know--there's electrical and then there's electronics, and these are sort of distinct things although people tend to mix them up. And so, when you're just dealing with resistors and capacitors, and things in simple telephones and transmission lines. That's mostly sort of electrical stuff. Then when you start shaping and controlling signals and things like that and using transistors and--in the old days valves. That's more electronic, you know, sort of you're not just pushing electricity around; you're using it as a- The control circuitry like microphones and things in telephones, that's electronics; but the wires are sort of more electric. I don't know if that makes any sense that distinction.$$Yes, it makes sense.$$So I began to learn about those sorts of things. And then I would go to RadioShack and buy my components and put them together and start making radios and things like that. It all began back when I used to take stuff apart. You know, someone would have some thing that they were throwing away; a camera, a radio, because it was broken, and I would go, "I'm sure I can fix it." So I would take it apart and figure out how it works, and then figure out what was wrong, and then I'd fix it. And then I'd go "Okay. Here it is." And, of course, people wanted new stuff. So I would end up with that thing because although I'd fixed it, they didn't want it, so. My first camera was a camera I had because someone didn't want--I'd fixed it but they didn't want it back, so "Fine, I'll have it," and things like that. So it's a lot of just dabbling, getting my fingers into making things and building things. And then some of those wild and crazy projects really weren't just flights of imagination. I knew what I was doing and I was able to build some of those things. And so, later on once I went back to the U.K. [United Kingdom] and had more, you know, access to more resources, more knowledge, more components, soldering iron, things like that. I was building all kinds of things. I eventually built a computer.$$$$$Okay. Alright. Now, what--I have to ask this again after we just talked about this. What did--would be--can you summarize kind of like what is a day like for a physicist? I mean, what do you do? (unclear) people, you know, whether these are (unclear). What are they doing?$$Well, a research day or a day that is primarily research is--is of the following form. So you either have--so one of the first things to mention, especially if you're a theorist, but it's true in general, is that you never really fully switch it off. You know, you kind of to some extent live and breathe the physics in the sense that you're--there's just a quest to know--to know why or to figure this thing out. And so, you kind of wake up, and once you've dealt with the basics you're back on--you're back on duty, as it were. You've got your boots on (laughter). And so, especially as a theorist such as I am, I don't have to go to this place where I do an experiment. It means I'm already at work in my head. Sometimes if it's a problem I'm currently working on that's really bugging me, it can be from the moment I wake up or I've been dreaming about it perhaps sometimes in the extremes. Anyway, you wake up and you start thinking about the problem. So often it really is that business of you come up with a good idea. Wherever it comes from, you don't care as long as you have an idea. And I should say ideas are cheap in the sense that what really stands the test is when you take the idea and you wrangle it and twist it and see what all the consequences are, and is it still holding up as an idea. Then it's an idea. But having a good idea in terms of some crazy thing you thought of; or some really super smart thing that you thought of. Those are cheap actually, because no matter or how crazy or super smart they are, if they don't work, they're no good to you. So you're constantly dreaming up ideas of one form or another, and then you have to test those ideas. So typically what you're doing is you're testing those ideas against what is already known, what is already established. So you have an idea and you go, "Well, does this mean I can now connect this thing and this thing, these two things that I've been trying to connect or explain this in terms of that." And so, that idea goes, "Okay. Yeah, maybe I can put these things together in that way, using that idea." Then you go, "Well, what are the consequences of that? Does it violate some principle I already know is true because it's been experimentally tested or what have you? Does it imply something that I know is already wrong because I've already put together some other piece of the puzzle, something like that." So it is very much like--I use the word puzzle--it's very much like solving a jigsaw puzzle. You're putting pieces together. There may be some clusters over here that you've got right, and then you're trying to put together some cluster over here. Now putting something over--putting in this piece over here might contradict something you did out there, so that's a weak test already that you shouldn't do that. And then so eventually you then piece these pieces together and maybe you can then join them together and what have you. So that's sort of the logistics in your head of what you do. But then how do you do those tests? Some of those questions I just asked like, does putting this together in this way contradict this other thing? Sometimes that could be months or even years to check whether the answer to that question is. And that, as a theorist, means you're writing equations, you're working out the mathematical consequences of that thing because the language of physics is mathematics. The language of nature as far as we understand it, how the blueprint is written, if you'd like, the DNA is written in mathematics. Nobody knows why that is the case, but it is the case as far as we can see. So you use mathematical consistency as the first test of anything. It's a mathematical process of extracting the consequences of a physics principle that you've presented. So often that just means sitting around calculating, and from the outside that means you're sitting at your desk or in my case I like sit outside in the cafe--you know, in a cafe or, you know, even at the beach, or at home, or in my office, or on campus somewhere, and I'm calculating, or I'm staring into space; it looks like I daydreaming, and to some extent I am daydreaming. And you're trying to see how it all fits together. You're reaching for the ideas or you're trying to remember how that calculation went or that paper I wrote back in so and so and so; how did I do that? I guess I'm going to go and look it up. But sometimes you don't want to go look it up. You want to refigure it out because the exercise of figuring it out is sometimes a very useful thing. So there's a lot of the dreaming apparently, I mean, it seems. But it's very useful mental exercises. As an experimenter, you're doing kind of the same thing but a lot of that sort of working out the mathematical consequences of idea "X," instead as an experimenter, you're working out the experimental consequences. You're going to look for it or you're going to see what the limits are on that signal that you predicted might existed, and you need to design an experiment and build it in order to test out that idea, that sort of thing. So, yeah.