AVS Historical Persons | Richard W. Hoffman - 1993

Richard W. Hoffman - 1993

Oral History Interview with Richard W. (Dick) Hoffman

Interviewed by Yvette Hoffman, November 17, 1993
Y. HOFFMAN: May I introduce myself? I am Yvette N. Hoffman, and I am here to interview my husband, Richard W. Hoffman. Dick, also known as Bob to our five granddaughters, attended and graduated with a BS degree in physics from Case School of Applied Science in 1947. He then went on to graduate school and completed first his master's and then a Ph.D. in 1952. At that time, he was hired as an instructor for the physics faculty of Case Institute of Technology. Subsequently, he was promoted to assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor, and then in 1981 he was given the endowed chair as Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics at Case Western Reserve University. We were married in 1950, and his three children have followed him in the scientific field with Joe in biology and geology, Karen in geology, and Rick in materials science. Presently, since his retirement as of January 1, 1993, Dick is Ambrose Swasey Professor Emeritus of Physics. Dick, can you give us a description of your early work in the physics department and what led to your present interest in AVS?

hofman.jpgR. HOFFMAN: I can answer both of those. My early involvement in physics was with my thesis advisor, Dr. E. C. Crittendon1 who later moved to a US postgraduate school in Monterey. I've seen him a couple times since then. Our early work was involved with the deposition of thin magnetic films, and so our earliest efforts were in learning about anisotropy and deposited thin films on various substrates, notably glass. Later on, this led to the question of could we develop single-crystal anisotropies and polycrystalline materials, and that led to the long-term interest that we've had in understanding stresses and vacuum-deposited films, and that's where the interest started. My first involvement with AVS, as I understand, was probably prior to the present formation of the Thin Film Division and the AVS as we know it today, and involved going to Chicago and giving lectures on nucleation and growth. That happened a long time ago, probably in the '50s.

Y. HOFFMAN: Good. You did attend Gordon Conferences in New Hampshire. Can you tell us about those and the people you met there?

R. HOFFMAN: Well, the early Gordon Conferences were very friendly places. We went to Lake Webster in the afternoon. I was the first elected chairman of the Gordon Research Conference, but not the first conference. Klaus Behrndt organized and had the first conference, at which they elected a leader for the following one. This was probably, I would guess, middle '60s, do you think?

Y. HOFFMAN: I would think so, yes.

R. HOFFMAN: And at that time, there were lots of people involved, notably Maurice Francombe. And Dorothy Hoffman I met for the first time there. She's had a long interaction in thin film deposition, as you're well aware.

Y. HOFFMAN: She's the other Mrs. Hoffman. Is that right?

R. HOFFMAN: Right, and we remember many times. She preceded me as President of the Society. Last night, of course, at the awards banquet, she corrected Jim Murday because when we rose as Past Presidents, we weren't all gentlemen. There was one lady present.

Y. HOFFMAN: Good for her. When do you think you approximately gave your first paper at an AVS meeting?

R. HOFFMAN: The first paper in an AVS meeting and my involvement with AVS probably grew out of my association with Klaus Behrndt and Dorothy Hoffman and a person in graduate school by the name of Ed Layer2, who was a member of the AVS Board probably back in the '50s, I would think, because I can remember him saying that he had to wear a tuxedo to the banquet at that time, and I think that's certainly not a practice of today.

Y. HOFFMAN: What offices have you held in the Society?

RHOFFMAN: A number of offices, actually. A number of papers going way back. And as far as offices in the Society was concerned, I was active in the Thin Film Division later on and active in the Applied Surface Science Division after being elected to President in 1977.

Y. HOFFMAN: How has the Society affected you professionally?

RHOFFMAN: Well, professionally, it's done a great deal for me. Not only has it kept me up to date technologically, but it's been very good for me at the university. I've been interacting a long time. I was concerned in my presidential year that the Society was shrinking in size, and I'm happy to tell you that it turned around that year, not for reasons that I was involved, but I think probably funding reasons as much as anything. And since then, it's grown considerably in its stature and its size.

Y. HOFFMAN: I know there was one time when Lew Hull did not come through with what he had promised us. Do you want to recall that?

RHOFFMAN: That's a personal thing, of course, and it happens because we're a canoeing family. We talked with Lew Hull3, and he was going to condense the volume of wine for us so we could transport it up to Quetico easily and reconstitute it with lake water. But that particular experiment, while you could freeze-dry beer and freeze-dry other things, you could not freeze-dry wine successfully!

YHOFFMAN: So we just continued carrying the boxes of wine.

RHOFFMAN: I'm afraid we did.

YHOFFMAN: Now, you've had many, many students over the 40 years of your connection with Case. Would you like to tell us about them and how they followed you in the Society?

RHOFFMAN: Some of them have, and it was very pleasing when you put together, after the Toronto meeting, sort of a program for me and did that, and I appreciate all of those things. At that program, Akira Kinbara4 who is well known for his contributions in IUVSTA, was an early post-doc of mine. He came for a year probably, again, in the '50s. And following that, Frank Jansen was one of the few students I had who proposed his own Ph.D. thesis and carried it through. He has since been active in the Thin Film Division, rising to chairman, and is presently active in AVS as well. Charles Anderson is another student who was active in the Applied Science workshops, which he ran this year. There have been lots of other students, notably the Ohio Chapter, or at least what I would call the Northern Ohio Chapter, which is based around NASA Lewis people, and around the applied surface science program twice now. I'm happy to say that among those people are former students Jeff Eldridge, Phil Abel, Doug Jayne, and our son Rick.

YHOFFMAN: The San Diego meetings5 take place in the springtime, and they have some connection with AVS. Is that right?

RHOFFMAN: Now they have a more formal connection. I think they're a topical conference of the AVS. We enjoy going out to San Diego, as you're well aware. This year, I'm on the Program Committee for one of the sessions.

YHOFFMAN: And there, too, at one time, Bob Springer, one of your former students, was quite involved.

RHOFFMAN: Yes, he was.

YHOFFMAN: He went to the meetings there.

RHOFFMAN: He and I ran the program for mechanical properties sessions. He and I did it jointly for a year, and he did it for the following year.

YHOFFMAN: Are there any other anecdotes that you can recall that have added a lighter touch to your association with AVS? I know I do, but I know you have some.

RHOFFMAN: I'm sure you do. Most of the anecdotes, of which I have one about each person; one of them descends back to the Hoffman family so-called, which first started in 1974, I believe, when we all went to Japan6. Dorothy Hoffman was President that year. And Dave Hoffman, I don't know where he was, but he certainly hadn't received the presidency, as he did later; he was honored last night. But I'm referring back to the JAL people. When we went to check into the airplane, the Japan Airlines person behind the counter said, “I'm very happy I put the Hoffman family together.” You were next to the window, Dorothy was in the center, and I was on the aisle! And he was so pleased that he did the association. So, there are lots of anecdotes like that in the Society, as well.

YHOFFMAN: Particularly, I can remember the San Diego meeting back in…let me see, was that in '87? When Rick was presenting a paper, and you were chairing the session.

RHOFFMAN: I was chairing a session, and Rick presented the last paper. It was a Friday afternoon, and I introduced him and, of course, mentioned that he was our son. And he said, “Thanks, Dad,” and brought down the house.

YHOFFMAN: But our association with AVS has brought many friendships through the years also, haven't they?

RHOFFMAN: Lots of friendships, and I've learned a great deal. Some of the people that I've learned from are Dorothy Hoffman and Bill Lange and Jack Singleton and Maurice Francombe at Westinghouse, and later, Dick Hoffman at Westinghouse. That brings up the question of initials and names. It is not at all true in the AVS that all Hoffmans come from the same family. In fact, we're completely unrelated, and I think it's just a coincidence that there are so many Hoffmans that have risen to be President in there.

YHOFFMAN: That's right. In particular, when I tried to contact you in Reno, I reached Dick Hoffman, but it was not the right Dick Hoffman!

RHOFFMAN: Right. And my only thought on that one is that he didn't buy the water pump for us when ours failed.

YHOFFMAN: Right. That was quite an experience then, too. But over the years, you've known Maurice and Lida Francombe.


YHOFFMAN: She was our contact in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. And Mary and Len Beavis.

RHOFFMAN: That's certainly correct. And Rey and Gini Whetten both. All of those people I've learned a great deal from. I'd like to mention Dan Bills as well, who is helpful, and Jim Lafferty, and Eleanor, and so on. So, all of those people. I know the contributions that the gentlemen have made, and you know their wives very well, and between the two of us, it's a lovely Society to be associated with.

YHOFFMAN: Are there any other comments that you have, Dick? You mentioned earlier about the growth in size. You've seen it change over the years.

RHOFFMAN: I'm pleased that the Society has grown since the time in the '70s, when I was involved. I'm pleased at the volunteerism. It is certainly true that as time goes on, the Society will have growing concerns as to how all the divisions and all the long-range planning can go, and how things can be funded as we enter into the next decade.

YHOFFMAN: And the stature of the Society?

RHOFFMAN: The stature of the Society has grown. They are well represented in AIP and well associated with AIP in terms of the exhibits and things of that sort. And as we learned last night, the founding members were highly related to the manufacturers' contributions. I think now if you look at the program, it's highly related to both manufacturing as well as the contributions of people in the academic world, and I think you'll find that both of those will be increasing, and I think you'll find that there'll be a shift towards manufacturing, as well.

YHOFFMAN: Well, I've enjoyed interviewing you. That concludes our interview, then.

1. Dr. E. C. Crittenden moved to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Case Western named a machine shop in his honor 
2. Edwin H Layer was an AVS Director 1963-4
3. Lew Hull was a founder of the Hull Corporation which manufactured freeze-drying equipment, and also served as AVS President.
4. He was a Chair of the Thin Film Division of IUVSTA
5. The International Conference on Metallurgical Coatings and Thin Films, (ICMCTF)
6. The AVS organized a charter flight from New York for attendees at the International Vacuum Congress in Kyoto.

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