Chauncey's Page

Chauncey Starr
1912 - 2007

In Memoriam
This page is dedicated to the memory of Chauncey Starr, my late-life mentor, inspiration, collaborator, and virtual grandfather, but most importantly, a  patriotic American,
a member of our Nation's Greatest Generation.
(Under continuous expansion and focus)

"Chauncey Starr (1912-2007), Physicist, engineer and leader in the development of nuclear power," P. M. Grant, Nature 447, 789 (2007).  [When I retired from IBM to join EPRI, I was already in my late 50s.  Little did I know I was about to encounter a mentor two decades older!  Chauncey took me under his wing and taught me the realities of the electric utility industry.  He passed on in April, 2007, and I had the melancholy honor and privilege to write this and the following two obituaries.  Please take a moment to read all...each one relates different aspects of this remarkable man.]
"Chauncey Starr," P. M. Grant, Physics Today, June 2007, p79.  [Chauncey and I were both "alumni" (separated by one generation!) of the Harvard high pressure physics group founded by Percy Bridgman in the early decades of the 20th century. Read how Chauncey saved Bridgman from possible embarrassment over a measurement of the latter which seemed to violate the Wiedemann-Franz Law. Chauncey's office mate at Harvard in the mid-1930s was none other than John Bardeen.  Chauncey once told me the story of why Bardeen didn't get tenure at Harvard which I'll relate at the appropriate time and place.]
"Chauncey Starr: A Personal Memoir," P. M. Grant, Power Magazine 151, 20 (2007).  [Focus here is more on Chauncey's role in the Manhattan District Project, jumpstarting the nuclear power industry and the founding of EPRI.  It turned out one of the young engineers who worked under Chauncey on the Calutron at Oak Ridge was my cousin and godfather, Richard Whalen, later to become a regional vice-president of IBM. This piece relates the rather amusing circumstances under which Chauncey and Wally Zinn agreed to combine efforts and midwife the birth of nuclear power.]
"Chauncey Starr: A Biographical Outline," R. Schainker, EPRI Archives (2007).  [An excellent biographical guide to Chauncey's life and professional career.  Stay tuned for updates.]


The Physics Years (1936 - 1943)

Birth of the Nuclear Age (1944 - 1965)
UCLA & Risk Analysis (1966 - 1971)
The EPRI Years (1972 - 2007)

Videos & Visuals


The Physics Years (1936 - 1943)
From RPI to Harvard to MIT

"The Copper Oxide Rectifier," Chauncey Starr, Physics 7, 15 (1936). [I was barely two months old when this paper was accepted by "Physics" (today Physical Review B).  It is summarizes he PhD thesis at RPI. If Chauncey had dunked his samples in liquid hydrogen, he likely would have discovered high temperature superconductivity...think about how such would have changed the history of physics and our world.]

"An Improved Method for the Determination of Thermal Diffusivities," Chauncey Starr, Rev. Sci. Inst. 8, 61 (1937). [If you've ever attempted measurement of thermal conductivity, you know it's likely the most difficult of condensed matter physics measurements.  The problem is to differentiate "addenda" data, e.g., thermal conductance from contacts, etc., using an ac differential technique...which I and countless others have employed ever since.]

"The Pressure Coefficient of Thermal Conductivity of Metals," Chauncey Starr, Phys. Rev. 54, 210 (1938). [About this time, pressure measurements of the thermal conductivity of several common metals by Percy Bridgman (Chauncey's Harvard boss), suggested that the Weidemann-Franz law, a cornerstone of condensed matter physics, had been violated.  Chauncey, using his ac technique disclosed in RSI, showed that his boss's results were an experimental artifact.  It is likely that Chauncey thus saved the subsequent 1946 Nobel Prize for Bridgman.]

"Thermal Conductance of Metallic Contacts," R. B. Jacobs and C. Starr, Rev. Sci. Inst. 10, 140  (1939). ["The problem of a good make-and-break heat contact between different parts of (a) cryogenic apparatus, is a common one."  How true!  This RSI paper reveals essential apparatus details underlying the data behind "An Improved Method..." discussed above.]
"The Magnetic Properties of Metallic Cerium," C. Starr and A. R. Kaufmann, Phys. Rev. 58, 657  (1940). [This paper is one of the first to reveal the polarization of a "more or less ideal" free electron gas/liquid (cerium) by a paramagnetic impurity (iron). This phenomenon was later explained by the Ruderman-Kittel-Kasuya-Yoshida interaction, and today exploited by every hard drive read head on the planet.]
"The Magnetic Properties of the Iron Group Anhydrous Chlorides at Low Temperatures I. Experimental," C. Starr, F. Bitter and A. R. Kaufmann, Phys. Rev. 58, 977 (1940). [To put it briefly, this paper is one of the premier disclosures of what became known as the family of highly correlated transition metal oxide insulators, eventually winning a Nobel Prize for Phil Anderson in 1977, and formed the bulk of my later research at IBM.  Incidentally, Francis Bitter pioneered the field pattern of permanent magnets by employing iron particles.]
"The Magnetic Properties of the Iron Group Anhydrous Chlorides at Low Temperatures II. Theoretical," C. Starr, Phys. Rev. 58, 984 (1940). [Read carefully the Summary of this paper.  Could Chauncey and his colleagues glimpsed evidence of "high temperature superconductivity" in the R vs. T data of their CuCl2 and FeCl2-3.  An exercise for an upcoming PhD thesis?]
"Magnetic Studies of Solid Solutions II. The Properties of Quenched Copper-Iron Alloys," F. Bitter, A. R. Kaufman, C. Starr and S. T. Pan, Phys. Rev. 60, 134 (1941). [Really needs review wrt hints of superconductivity, especially Fig. 5 amd Table I. Are they any there?]
"Paramagnetic Dispersion Measurements at 77.3 K," C. Starr, Phys. Rev. 60, 241 (1941). [Chauncey is the sole author. The abstract contains the phrase, "...the thermal coupling between the magnetic spin system and the lattice vibrations."  Such is exactly the central question addressing various models of high temperature superconductivity.  Did Chauncey find the answer?  Examine the equation for "Ɵ" on page 242...and let's discuss.]
"The Design of Hydrogen Liquifiers," Chauncey Starr, Rev. Sci. Inst. 12, 193 (1941). [Historically ironic, given the vision Chauncey and I developed which embodied the SuperCable/SuperGrid vision of the co-delivery of chemical and electrical power via a liquid hydrogen/high temperature superconconducting cable (click here).  Maybe Chauncey's LH2 cryostat will aid its realization.]
"Magnetic Properties of Solid Solutions III. The Paramagnetic Alloys of Copper and Nickel," A. R. Kaufman and C. Starr, Phys. Rev. 63, 445 (1942). [This is Chauncey's last paper addressing a "pure physics" topic. It reports on the magnetic field response of various compositional alloys of copper and nickel as a function of temperature, highlighting anomalies not accounted for by a conventional Curie-Weiss framework. These measurements exposed a conundrum still not resolved today, despite efforts by "greats" such as Anderson, Hubbard and Feynman, and many others, and perhaps contains the kernel of high temperature superconductivity.]
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Birth of the Nuclear Age (1944 - 1965)
From Bombs for War to Atoms for Peace

Patents: The first two of the following patents pertain to Chauncey's work on the Calutron project at ORNL in WWII, and almost certainly were classified at the time of submission, a common practice at the time (and now as well) regarding protection of intellectual property created during a need for national security.  The next two comprise the IP foundation of the soon-to-emerge nuclear power industry.
"Calutron Structure," C. Starr (US 2,714,166, Filed 1947, Issued 1955). [Filed 10/27/47.  An improvement on the governing patent of E.O. Lawrence on the basic calutron concept filed 10/09/44]
"Apparatus for Producing Ions of Vaporizable Materials," C. Starr (US 2,813,979, Filed 1944, Issued 1957). [An amazing document. Describes the vaporization chamber that produced the U-235 isotopes that were injected into the Calutron to accumulate within therein to yield the material for the Hiroshima warhead.  This disclosure points to an amazing refernce, a paper published in Physicalische Zeitshrift 43, 91-95, submitted 24 January 1942 by Manfred von Ardenne, only 48 days after Pearl Harbor and 46 days following the declaration of war by Germany on the United States.  Apparently Germany felt its victory was inevitable and no effort was made to protect this extraordinarily important development that proved vital to the American victory in the Pacific theater.  Click here to see the published paper (in German).
"Process of Impregnating Graphite with a Uranium Compound," M.C. Sanz, R.R. Randolph, and C. Starr (US 2,946,699, Filed 1947 Issued 1960). [The main thrust of this patent was to promote the use of a graphite moderator to also house the uranium oxide fuel as well and to slow the neutron flux therefrom without absorbing them...the so-called slow neutron reactor. Interestingly, this design was also under consideration to power rockets!]
"Nuclear Reactor," C. Starr (US 3,072,553, Filed 1948, Issued 1963). [This patent was filed when Chauncey headed Atomics International and was assigned to the Atomic Energy Commission.  It deals with the formulation of coatings to protect fuel and coolant rods from chemical erosion due to reactive gases such as air or hydrogen.  Interestingly, the material composition of the "coating" is not clearly disclosed.]
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UCLA & Risk Analysis (1966 - 1971)

"Social Benefit versus Technological Risk," Chauncey Starr, Science 165, 1232 (1969). [A truly brilliant analysis of the relatively minor risks derived from living in a modern industrial society compared to an "environmentally friendly Luddite agrarian culture."  For additional perspective, please go to my Physics World review, "Keeping the Lights on after 2100."  Many thanks for locating Chauncey's 1969 article go to Ric Rudman, Chauncey's collaborator at UCLA in the early 1970s, and later EPRI's first COO.]
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The EPRI Years (1972 - 2007)
Reaping the Grapes of Wisdom and (Sometimes) Wrath

"The Green Book," Report of the R&D Goals Task Force to the Electric Research Council, June, 1971. [Organized in 1965 by a small group of utilities, 8 from investor-owned utilities and 5 from government-run entities, in order to support R&D efforts in the public and private sectors on behalf of the industry as a whole, the Electric Research Council in 1971 proposed a greatly expanded agenda which became the "Magna Carta" for EPRI.  Much in the report was motivated by the spectacular Eastern States power outages of the late 1960s, which resulted in the introduction of congressional legislation to nationalize all such efforts under Federal authority.]
"Applying for the Job," Chauncey Starr to Jack Horton, 12 May 1972. [One afternoon, while packing up for one of EPRI's periodic "space rearrangements," Chauncey called over to me, "Paul, come take a look at this.  I thought I had lost it."  It was essentially Chauncey's application letter for the job of EPRI's founder, written to J. K. Horton, then board chairman of Southern California Edison Company, and also a member of the ERC. Note Chauncey also copied Shearon Harris, CEO of Carolina Power and Light, who Chauncey confided to me that he credited as the original inspiration for what became EPRI.
"Powerful Reactions," Chauncey Starr, Nature 406, 679 (2000). [Nuclear power has taken a meandering route, but it is here to stay.]
"National Energy Planning for the Century: The Continental SuperGrid," Chauncey Starr, Nuclear News 45, 31 (2002). [Chauncey Starr's call to construct, over the next five decades, a combined national energy generation, transmission and distribution system based on nuclear, hydrogen and superconducting technologies.]
"A Power Grid for the Hydrogen Economy," P. M. Grant, C. Starr and T. J. Overbye, Scientific American, July 2006, p.76.  [Explores the vision of cryogenic, superconducting conduits connected into a SuperGrid that would simultaneously deliver electrical power and hydrogen fuel.]
"Chauncey Starr, 1912-2007," EPRI Journal, Summer, 2007, p. 4. [EPRI Obituary.  Contains factual error in associating Chauncey with the Los Alamos project under Robert Oppenheimer.  Chauncey's Calutron effort was carried out at Oak Ridge.]
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Videos & Visuals
Caution: Some of these files are real big, like > 100 MB.  Be sure you have a streaming client...I recommend Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer.

"I Did It My Way," Celebrating the 90th Birthday of Chauncey Starr, EPRI, Spring 2002.  [24 minute documentary on the founding of EPRI and the role Chauncey played at the beginning and throughout its formative years.]
"Welcome to SuperGrid II," Chauncey Starr, Interview by Paul Grant, Fall 2004.  [11 minute introduction to the UIUC-hosted SuperGrid II Workshop, 25-27 October 2004.  Lots of humorous anecdotes.]
"Diego Grant With Chauncey Starr," Diego Grant's 8th Grade History Project, Spring 2005. [36 minute interview of Chauncey (93) by Diego (14) on the development of the first atomic bomb and its consequences. Note Chauncey's answer to the question regarding Truman's decision.]
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