The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Al Parr Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

June 18, 2014


“Of Physics and Rare Books”  June 18, 2014  Location: Parr residence, Gresham, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Parr discusses his upbringing in Roseburg, Oregon, his earliest interests in science, and his decision to attend Oregon State College. In recalling his Oregon State years, Parr notes his involvement in the NROTC program, his participation in the university's honors program, his academic progression and social life, and his sense of campus culture in the early 1960s.

From there, Parr moves on to his years as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, where he remarks on the school's vibrant academic environment and details his research as a master's student and as a doctoral candidate. He also describes the circumstances of his first encounter with his future wife Ruth, his memories of starting a family while a student, and his experience of Chicago during a tumultuous period in the city's history.

Parr next recalls his move to the University of Alabama, his impressions of life in the American South, and his first association with the National Bureau of Standards, where he worked while on sabbatical from Alabama. His decision to move to NBS full-time, a detailed discussion of his research agenda and career advancement, and his reflections on family life in the Washington, D.C.-area are the major themes of this portion of the interview.

The session concludes with a discussion of Parr's love for books and his keen interest in book collecting. He concludes by recounting the process by which he decided to donate his collection to the OSU Libraries and by expressing his enthusiasm for the work currently being done there.