Benjamin Lax: Interviews on a Life in Physics at MIT, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Benjamin Lax

Interviews on a Life in Physics at MIT, 1st Edition

Edited by Donald Stevenson, Marion Reine, Roshan L. Aggarwal

CRC Press

264 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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This book covers the life and 60-year career of Prof. Benjamin Lax (1915-2015), a preeminent physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who played major roles in the development and applications of solid state and plasma physics.

In an extensive series of autobiographical interviews, Lax describes the challenges he overcame, the opportunities he embraced, and the many outstanding research physicists he recruited, mentored, and interacted with. He includes both personal and professional reminiscences.

Lax begins with his earliest memories of his childhood in Hungary. He recalls the immigration of his family to America and his education in New York City. He describes his Army service as a Radar Officer at the MIT Radiation Laboratory during World War II. He covers his graduate education in physics at MIT, and his building up the semiconductor and ferrite research groups at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in the 1950s. He describes the origins and accomplishments of the MIT Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory, of which he was the founding Director, and recalls his tenure as professor in the MIT physics department.


  • Provides a valuable insight into a 60-year career in physics at one of the world’s major research universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Explores the organization, funding, and conduct of solid state physics research in the second half of the twentieth century
  • Includes a complete bibliography of Lax’s publications in an on-line supplement

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Early Years in Miskolc, Hungary, 1915-1926

Chapter 2: School Days in Brooklyn, 1926-1936

Chapter 3: College Days at Brooklyn College and Cooper Union 1936-1942

Chapter 4: Army Days at Officer Candidate School and the MIT Radiation Laboratory, 1942-1945

Chapter 5: Graduate School in Physics at MIT, 1945-1951

Chapter 6: MIT Lincoln Laboratory, 1951-1958

Chapter 7: MIT Frances Bitter National Magnet Laboratory, 1958-198

Chapter 8: Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory, 1958-1981

Chapter 9: Professor of Physics at MIT, 1965-1981

Chapter 10: Emeritus Years and Consulting, 1981-2006

About the Editors

Dr. Donald T. Stevenson (Interviewer) was a close colleague and friend of Ben’s throughout their long careers at MIT. Don received his PhD in physics at MIT in 1950. He joined MIT Lincoln Laboratory in 1951, the same year as Ben. He assisted Ben in the planning, construction and operation of the MIT National Magnet Laboratory. He retired from MIT in 1989 as Assistant Director of the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory.

Dr. Marion B. Reine (Editor) is a former MIT PhD physics graduate student of Ben’s. After a 40-year career as an industrial physicist, advancing the physics and technology of semiconductor quantum infrared detectors, he retired in 2010 and is now a consultant on infrared detectors to industry, government and academia. He has over 160 publications and reports, and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Dr. Roshan L. Aggarwal (Editor) joined MIT National Magnet Laboratory in 1965, where he worked closely with Ben on the optical properties of semiconductors for nearly thirty years. He was associate director of the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory during 1977-1984. He retired from Lincoln Laboratory in 2016 after 51 years of research and teaching at MIT. He has since published two books: Introduction to Optical Components, coauthored with K. Alavi (CRC Press, 2018), and Physical Properties of Diamond and Sapphire, coauthored with his PhD Thesis Advisor at Purdue, Prof. A. K. Ramdas. A third book, Simple Experiments in Optics, coauthored with K. Alavi, will be published in 2019 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / General
SCIENCE / Research & Methodology
SCIENCE / Physics
SCIENCE / Radiation