Edward W. Burke Jr.
Prof. of Physics and Astronomy Emeritus
King College
Bristol, TN 37620

I received a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship in Physics to the University of Chile for the school year 1959.

My wife and I and two children, ages two and four set off Santiago in January of 1959. The trip down through Cuba was somewhat harrowing, as Castro forces had taken over just at that time. That story is somewhat amusing, but not what was requested.

We spent some time getting settled in to a house, and Fulbright provided some orientation for about five us newly arrived Fulbrighters.

I was assigned to the Engineering School of the University of Chile in Santiago. My contact there was with Carlos Martinoya, who was the Director of the Physics program for Engineering.

The University had recently acquired a Cockroft-Walton Particle Accelerator from the Phillips Co. of Holland to do nuclear research from the Phillips Co. of Holland. Some sort of grant funded it. Good stories about the problems and difficulty in getting it delivered were most amusing, and I assume are known. If not, I could give you what I heard second hand.

Coincidentally, Jan Van Loef, a physicist from the Netherlands, had been contracted by the Phillips Co. to go to Santiago and serve as Director of the Accelerator Laboratory at the University. He and I had been fellow graduate students at the University of Wisconsin some six years earlier, where we had both received our Ph. Ds. Having a friend there was most appreciated and comforting.

I got with Martinoya and we decided that it would be good if I had a look at the Physics program being offered to engineers. As the school year started I attended classes for the three years of engineering physics being taught, to get a feel for what was being presented and how it was being presented. No Professor was using a textbook. Each told me that there was no good one for his course. That meant of course, that each had to present all of his course material in lecture in the classroom. A class was often scheduled for two hours or more. The student then could study only his class notes. Three years of physics for an engineer did not seem so different from what engineers received in the U.S. In the U.S. some of the physics studied in an engineering curriculum would be listed as Engineering 1002 or whatever.

I also had a look at what was being presented in the accompanying Laboratories. I did not like what I saw there and made some suggestions, so Martinoya suggested that I reorganize a lab and help run it, which I did.

I found the content of the Physics program to be very old classical physics. There was no modern physics, atomic, or nuclear physics being presented. I presented a special course for whoever was interested in Spectroscopy and Atomic Physics. At that time the only physics being taught at the University besides in Engineering was at the Pedagogical School.

I made suggestions for reforming the content of physics for engineers and found the faculty members, many of them older professors who held the chairs, very resistant to changes Martinoya and some of the younger members of the Nuclear Lab. were involved. Jacobo Rapaport was there and very supportive. Debate was rather hot in a meeting set up by the Rector of the University including the Dean of engineering ands some professors of Physics. I was told that the Chilean educational system was patterned after the French system, which I probably did not understand.

Since it seemed that our efforts were not very productive, we recommended that a Physics Curriculum, and program be considered. A number of the younger physics interested people, mostly from the Accelerator Lab. , worked on the idea of a Physics Degree at the University. It was pointed out to us that few if any existed in Latin America and there was a real concern about what sort of jobs would be available for graduates. We observed that many young men were going to the US or Europe to get Physics graduate degrees without reasonable preparation.

I understand that a degree in Physics is now available at the University of Chile, so I take some comfort as I remember the controversies, which once existed there.

I regretted that when I spent three days in Santiago in February of 2003 as I was preparing for a cruise around the southern tip of South America, I could locate none of the people with whom I had worked in 1959. The ones still around were away from Santiago for that hot month. I visited a lot of old familiar places, but none of my old friends.

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