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Bob Nye Oral History Interview, May 16, 2019

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Chris Petersen: Today is May 16, 2019 and we are with Bob Nye, emeritus professor of the History of Science at OSU, and we are at his home in Corvallis and we are going to talk about his entire career with particular emphasis on his OSU years. But, we'll begin at the beginning and I'll ask you where were you born?

Bob Nye: I was born in Concord, California, but that was just because my mother was visiting her parents there. I spent the first four years of my life in Berkeley where my dad had a job at the time. I was born a fifth-generation Californian. So, I am a native son of the golden west. Both my parents' families came in the last 3 or 4 decades of the 19th century to California, and lived in the bay area and they met at some point in the bay area and got married. My dad's family was German, and when I was born my name was Bob Kruschke. My dad in 1946 changed my name, the family name, my brothers and my names, to Nye, just because it was short and didn't sound like a German name. After all, we had been fighting Germany for the last 5 years in Europe. He never actually acknowledged that that is the reason that he changed the name, but it was pretty clear that's what it was. My dad's family was interested in higher education. His 2 sisters, he was one of 3, his two sisters at least went for a couple of years to UC Berkeley. My mother's family had little or no interest in education whatsoever. My grandmother and grandfather on my mother's side had 8th grade educations. My mother and father had high school educations and as it turns out both my brother and my sister and I ended up with advanced degrees. My brother's a vet. My sister has, and I'll explain more about this later, my sister has a Ph.D. in soil science from OSU. And, of course, I've got a Ph.D. Obviously something happened between the generations that made this possible, about which I'll speak a little bit more later.

CP: Your father's line of work?

BN: My dad sold anything and everything. He sold shoes. He sold fire equipment. He sold pharmaceuticals. He was a salesman. He was a good talker. Everybody liked my dad, but he was interested in what I was doing when I started going to school and learning things, but he was not learned enough to really appreciate, I think, most of the significance of it. My mother was also a working person. She was a secretary and then an administrator in a AAA office in the area we lived. When I was about 4 we moved to the east bay, first to Martinez and then to Walnut Creek, which was just a little country town at that point.

CP: That's where you grew up?

BN: That's where I grew up. It was a town of about 6,000, maybe 7,000 in those years. Walnut groves and the orchards around. Very fortunate, however, to have a very good school system. The elementary school education I got was first rate, so far as I can remember. The high school education I had was terrific. I was deeply inspired by some of my teachers. Even though there weren't many books in my house, we had a very good public library in Walnut Creek, which I visited on a regular basis, because we only lived about 3 blocks away, at least for a while. My teachers at the high school were quite wonderful. I took four years of Latin with one of the most inspirational teachers I ever had at any level. I had excellent history teachers. I had very good social studies teachers. Very, very good literature teachers and very good science teachers with excellent laboratory facilities.

It was a public education that I think that you cannot take for granted any longer. I got a first-rate education. I was surrounded by fellow students who were smart and committed. I had teachers take me under their wing and help me. I suppose the only thing that was a bit of a drawback on the academic side was that I was also an athlete and played basketball, like I said, played basketball for 4 years in high school and it took a great deal of my time and energy and vanity, it should be said [laughs].

CP: So, these are the primary interests for you at this point? Your classical liberal arts education at a high school and basketball?

BN: That was about it. I had summer jobs from the time I was about 14 doing everything imaginable. By the time I got my driver's license I was delivering pharmaceuticals for the local pharmacy. Painting houses, mowing grass, picking walnuts, whatever it took, because I was paying for my car, paying for my car insurance, buying my clothes. My dad made it perfectly clear to me from the beginning we didn't have much money. We had a house, but houses weren't expensive then. He said, "You want it, you buy it." My brother had the same advice, we all grew up on that sort of philosophy. I've essentially had a job of one kind or another from when I was 14 until I retired from OSU.

CP: Was history something you were gravitating towards at this point? Or did that show up a little later?

BN: I think probably the turning point for me was when I was a senior I took a class in world history taught by a remarkably articulate and competent man. For some reason or another there was some kind of exam that was taken, a comprehensive examination, on how much history you knew and whether you could write an essay and it was administered in our school and everyone in our class took it, and everyone I think all the seniors took this test as well. It was a general exam, but also it showed you what you could do in a particular area and basically, I chose history as the special subject I was hoping to do well in, because I enjoyed it so much and he was such a good teacher. He came to class one day with the results of this exam and said, "Well, I think most of you did pretty well, but the person who did the best was Bob Nye here." I thought, oh my goodness. Not only do I love it, but I'm good at it! It's just that kind of thing. That kind of push you get that gives you the confidence to do something. I loved reading history. I loved history. I suppose I was inclined to history even though I loved literature and English and I loved my Latin class and I loved thinking about the structure of language and all that, but I think that really pushed me in the direction of history for sure.

CP: It sounds like there was an emphasis on education from at least one side of your family that was pushing you towards college, too?

BN: Yes. Well, there was no question that I was going to go to college. This was said from the beginning. It was possible for my parents to say that because it wouldn't cost them a dime. It was obvious, as my dad had told me, I was going to be paying for it. Now, here's the good thing: the good thing was the system was geared for people like me to go to college whose families had never gone to college. This was the time of the enormous expansion of higher education in the United States. Not every state, but many of the bigger, most populous states, like California, and New York, and Michigan, and Wisconsin, and Ohio invested in colleges scattered around the state, including a big flagship college in the middle. They made it essentially free. It cost me, when I went to school at San Jose State College, it cost me $75 a semester in tuition. My books were paperback books for the most part, cheap paperback books that cost me no more than $20 a semester for books.

The library was also a good library. It was cheap. It was affordable, and that was the point. On the other hand, I was also interested in playing basketball in college. I got scholarship offers from San Jose State and I got a scholarship offer from the University of San Francisco. I looked at both places and I decided there were better-looking girls at San Jose. Plus, the fact that it was a Jesuit school and I had had very little familiarity with religion at all, and so it kind of creeped me out a little bit to see all these teachers running around in cassocks. And I didn't like living near the city, so, that was that. Even though USF had a terrific basketball program and San Jose was not so spectacular. I took a full scholarship which consisted of not much because they didn't have to pay tuition. It was room and board essentially for as long as I was playing. I played my freshman year on the freshman team, because they divided them up in those days. I played my sophomore year and played the varsity-I got a lot of time playing and I enjoyed it, but I found it was cutting into my time for school. The thing that really made me realize that this was not what I wanted to do was when we took a team bus ride up to San Francisco to play, probably to play USF, and on the bus I was reading. I was doing homework, I was reading a text I had to read, and the coach encouraged the other players to ridicule me. Not only me, but the other guy on the team who was also a serious student. So, we got ridiculed for reading books on the bus, which you're supposed to be part of the, this was not "school spirit," this was not "team spirit," this was not "solidarity," this was a guy doing his own thing. I thought, this is not right. This is not correct. So, I got a job as a dorm resident administrator running one of the wings on the men's dorms and that's what I did my last 2 years to pay for my room and board. I got free room and board as a consequence of that. I also worked every summer. I had jobs at Shell Oil and Shell Chemical over in Martinez. I worked for Berkeley Parks and Recreation. I worked for the Oakland Tribune for the summer. Jobs that family and friends had gotten for me. That paid for my car, that paid for my incidentals. Got me through.

CP: What was the Tribune job?

BN: The what?

CP: What was the Oakland Tribune job?

BN: Oh, God, that was an amazing job, actually. I was the go-for. I did this and I did that. I ran into some guy's office and he said, "Go get me this. Go get me that." You had to learn how a newspaper operated pretty fast. I only learned in later years that it was a right-wing conservative, Goldwater newspaper in the days after I left it. I had no idea. What did I know in those days. It took awhile for politics to become an important part of my life. The other thing that happened at San Jose that was important was for reasons that are still not clear to me, and I'll have to try to do some research on it, they had an absolutely first-rate faculty. There were people who were scholars, known scholars, in their various fields. In those days, you had to take a really extensive required curriculum. There weren't that many choices for you to make on your own. It was a broad education: social sciences, history, literature, philosophy, economics. I took classes from first-rate people in all those areas, used some of their textbooks in those classes. It had a very, very good European history faculty. I had two professors in particular, one who was a Russianist, a woman named Irma Eichhorn, she was just wonderful. Then a very distinguished German scholar, probably the leading American German military historian. His name was Charles Burdick. He had written at least 5 or 6 books by that point and took me under his wing and essentially shepherded me through the whole process of graduate applications and the rest of it and told me this is what I wanted to do.

When I first went to San Jose I wanted to be a high school teacher because I so admired my high school history teachers and when I got to college I saw what was happening in the college classroom. It was so stimulating it nearly popped the top of my head off. I wanted to do that. I just so admired my teachers. Admired them. I thought they were so remarkable. We had small classes. I would say no more than 25 to 30 to 40 students. I don't think I had a history class any larger than that at any point. So, the classes could get down and talk about texts, could have discussions, could have questions. It wasn't just rote lecture. It was a very, very good experience for me. Quite wonderful. The other thing that happened at San Jose is I got my first taste of politics. My first taste of politics was people were organizing to go down south and sign up black voters. I didn't do that because I had to work every summer, something was going to happen in summertime and I had to work, so I couldn't do that. But, one of the guys, the other guy on the bus that got ridiculed by the coach, one of the guys on the freshman and varsity basketball team who played all four years at San Jose was Harry Edwards. I don't know you if you ever heard of Harry Edwards.

CP: I have.

BN: Harry Edwards was the mentor and organizer of the 1968 Olympic boycott and protest. Harry was the, shall we say, the mentor for John Carlos and Tommie Smith who raised their right hands in salute, black protest salute, with gloves on them, after they came in 1st and 3rd respectively in the 200-meter final, gold and bronze metals. At some point in my junior year I think I was a dorm assistant, I tutored Tommie Smith in his history, American history class. He didn't know much. He was a rural guy from Stockton, California. Didn't know much but God could he run. He could really run. Harry was the guy who was politically conscious from day one. Harry helped get me involved and interested in politics and racial issues and he went to Cornell and organized a protest at the president's office after that. Got his Ph.D. in sociology and ended up teaching at Berkeley his entire career. When he came, it was during the '68 Olympics of course some years later that he coached and mentored John Carlos and Tommie Smith. I've been in touch with Harry ever since.

CP: Wow.

BN: I haven't seen him in a number of years. He wrote me a note about 5 years ago and said people are shooting at him in the streets. He lives in Fremont, which is down the peninsula from Berkeley because he's an agitator to this day, he's an agitator and an organizer and a quite remarkable man.

CP: Had you been fairly apolitical up until this point?

BN: I would say so. I would say so. One black person in my high school, maybe 2 or 3 Asians. We went to play McClymonds High School in Oakland, an all-black high school. Segregation was... my dad used to remark, resentfully, that the blacks had taken over Berkeley High School where he had gone to high school and it was mostly black by the time, I think, I was in high school. I would say I was pretty apolitical until all this started happening. Things were starting to happen in the '60s in a big way and of course racial issues were extremely important, right on top of the agenda.

CP: How did you specifically get connected to Edwards? What was the...?

BN: We were on the team together.

CP: Okay.

BN: We used to hang out together and we were the ones who got ridiculed for reading books on the bus.

CP: So, he was the other one [laughs].

BN: He was the other one [laughs]. He was a serious man. We both interviewed for a couple of fellowships together. At one point, I was a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship. It was the interview that took place at Caltech, so I had to go to southern California to do this. I was a junior in college. I just wasn't quite ready for it, but it gave me a lot of confidence and made me feel I could do something, That was very important. Harry got a couple of fellowships to go to graduate school I think when he was a senior.

CP: During this time did you feel yourself gravitating towards a particular area academically? I mean, within history or did that come later?

BN: No. That's a very good question. I knew I wanted to do European history, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to do early modern Europe, for which I had taken 4 years of Latin, which would have been something I would've used as an early modernist. I continued taking Latin I liked it so much in college. But I also had prepared French and I could read French and I felt comfortable in French. I was wavering but I think I was inclining more and more towards a modern perspective and modern history. I knew it wasn't going to be American. I knew it was going to be European because I really wanted to use my foreign language experience and I wanted very much to be able to read the text in the original, which is what I ended up being able to do.

CP: Had you been to Europe at this point?

BN: No. I hadn't been out of California at this point. So, it was a big deal. Just going to graduate school in Wisconsin was a very big move for me. Nobody in my family had been to Europe.

CP: You mentioned that you had a professor who was mentoring you through the graduate application process. Wisconsin, well-known as being a hub for graduate study in history. Tell me about that transition.

BN: Well, I got some good advice. I didn't take it all and I was lucky in a certain sense. I was told that Wisconsin was a good place, that Princeton was a good place. I wanted to go away. I didn't want to stay in California, so I didn't apply to Berkeley, even though everyone knew it was a good school. UCLA was also very, very good during that period of time. I applied to Princeton and Wisconsin. Stupid. You don't do that. You apply to at least 3 or 4 places. Give yourself a little choice or fallback position, something, you know? I was just lucky that I got a fellowship from Wisconsin. Princeton admitted me with no help, no money, so I couldn't go there. Wisconsin gave me a fellowship. It turns out those are very rare, so it gave me my first year, essentially income, at Wisconsin, so I took it. Did some research on what I wanted to do when I got there and I thought probably what I wanted to do was take intellectual history, cultural history. The term intellectual history was still being predominantly used, but as it turns out the so-called intellectual historian there, George Mosse, had introduced the term cultural history, and he was using it increasingly in his classes. I applied-you had to apply to go into his seminar. I applied to go into Mosse's seminar. But I had to have a backup. I thought, well, I know French. I'll do the French history seminar if that doesn't work out. It didn't. I'll tell you why it didn't work out, because they placed people in seminars as the applications came in and I must have waited too long, or something. Mosse's seminar filled out, and I got my backup choice. There were probably 250 graduate students in the history program at Wisconsin in 1964 when I arrived. It was one of the degree mills that was churning out Ph.D.s in huge numbers: Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana was doing it, Cal Berkeley, UCLA, some of the New York schools and why was this happening, because higher education was expanding everywhere and they needed faculty. We're starting new campuses, branch campuses, all over the Midwest and the east, and maybe not so much in the south, but certainly in western part of western states as well. They needed Ph.D.s. They needed people to teach. All these graduate programs geared up from about 1958-59 on and the graduate programs had gotten quite large.

Wisconsin's was probably one of the very largest. They had a very distinguished faculty, but professors were run off their feet because they had 25 graduate students in their seminars and that's close to being an unmanageable size. So, they devised a scheme. Even though they let all these people in they couldn't manage them all so they had to get rid of some of them. Here's what they did: they required you to write a master's thesis in a year so that by the time midway through the summer at the end of your first year you had to defend your master's thesis. If you didn't, you were out. Then you had your preliminary examination in the 15th month, which is about 3 months later; 15th month, sometime in the late fall of your second year. Preliminary examination was an all-day examination, you sat for it. You got the questions. You were able to choose the fields you wanted to be examined in, but then they would throw you some ringer questions, as well. Many people flunked out or they got a-you had to get a B or an A on it. They graded it that way. If you got a C you're out. In this way, they got rid of lots of students. The real problem, one of the additional problems we had, and the pressure on you to succeed was such that if you failed graduate school you got drafted. This was the Vietnam War. This was when everyone was going. As it turns out, this was my good luck that I was able to write my master's degree in 12 months and finish my comprehensive examination and pass them and I was safe, I thought, for a while, but my draft board sent me a notice and said another couple of months you're going to get a draft notice. So, I had to make a decision about what to do. It was because of the particular nature of my draft board and the demography of my area was that they needed more people and the result was I was going to get called. I had two choices, no three choices: to appeal, to go into traction so that I could be 6'7" when I arrived in my medical exam, which is an inch over the maximum height, or go to Canada. So, I appealed first. I was going to do the traction thing. I had got with a friend of mine who had station wagon and I was going to lie in the back on my back until we got to Milwaukee where the thing was going to be. Anyway, they granted me an extension, a deferment. So, I didn't have to go to Canada or anything else. But that was what it was like. The pressure was enormous. Somebody asked me recently, well, did you have good relations with your fellow graduate students? I said, you couldn't invest in a person because you didn't know they were going to be there next semester. It was very hard to form friendships, unless they were political alliances, which was another matter entirely, but it was very hard to do that. It was an enormous amount of pressure, an enormous about of rivalry and competition. That's just the way it was. The idea of a professor mentoring you was inconceivable. They didn't have the time.

CP: Did you find that you flourished in this environment or was it a matter of basic survival?

BN: Well, I was kind of used to this in a way because I had basically supported myself through college up to that point by working and that sort of thing, and I knew that I was on my own. It might have helped me a little bit. It became naturalized. You just took it for granted that's the way it was. Occasionally I would hear stories from people about what it was like at Ivy League schools where everybody had a full-ride and it was no problem and you got to know your professor and went over to his house for lunch and that sort of thing that never happened. The other thing was that the French historian there at the time was actually full-time dean of international studies. He was so busy with his deanship and he had to teach this 25-person seminar he was very resentful of it. He was never in his office hours.

He supervised my master's thesis up to a point and I did something in military history because I had been studying military history with my German prof, my German historian professor at San Jose State, so I wrote a quick, dirty thesis on the French Revolutionary armies. I found all the stuff I needed in the library. It worked out very well. Then I didn't see my major professor again, even though I was writing my thesis in French history, an intellectual subject, I didn't see him again until about 2 weeks before the Ph.D. defense. I didn't talk to him. I had nothing to do with him at all. He just took for granted the fact that I was, he liked the fact that I seemed independent and I was on my own. That was fine with him. He didn't read it. He didn't ask any questions at the oral exam. You're on your own buddy. Not all but very many of my colleagues were in the same situation. if you couldn't do it on your own, if you couldn't organize yourself if you couldn't get the help you needed from colleagues, from other graduate students, from books you read, or from the occasional conversation with a professor, you wouldn't make it. You're off to Vietnam or worse. Anyway, that was essentially my graduate school experience. Of course, in the meanwhile you wanted to ask a question about skill set.

CP: I've got lots of questions for this time period, but-

BN: Go ahead. Go ahead.

CP: I'm very interested in the development of the toolkit, the historian's toolkit. It sounds like you're doing this on your own. You're doing it in a different language.

BN: That's right. That's exactly right. I was always interested in theory. I wanted to study ideas. I took anthropology courses and learned a lot about linguistics on my own. I took some literature courses that were also very much geared towards ideas. But the thing that all of us experienced, which is inconceivable now, in the same way that is, was that this was a time of great political agitation. Wisconsin-Madison was the very center of student movements and student protests, student organizations, student marches against the war, peace protesting and so on and so forth. There was a terrible thing that happened in 1967. Dow Chemical was holding interviews on campus for future chemists and there were huge protests. Cops came in and some National Guard came in and beat up a bunch of students. Injured some of them very, very badly. Concussions and brain injuries and that sort of thing, eyes being poked out. There was a big protest after that mounted. I was a teaching assistant then and we had a teach-in, so we taught essentially about what happened. That was a common way of dealing with these kinds of issues if you didn't want to go in the streets and march. It was a time of great agitation. The campus was essentially occupied between '66 and '67 by armed national guardsmen because of all the agitation and the trouble. Some bombings and some other things that some of the students had done agitated the political situation. it was a time of great strife and the important part is this, and that is that as we were bathing in contemporary politics and worrying about what was going on in the United States, what was going on in Vietnam, but what was going on in the rest of the world as well. We were a remarkably well-informed generation. We were reading Marxism. We were reading not just Karl Marx but Marxis early writings came out I think about 2 or 3 years before I got to graduate school, so everybody read the writings of the young Marx. He was basically Hegelian then, so we also read the Neo-Hegelians. We read Georg Lukacs and we read Herbert Marcuse and what they were all concerned about was what we would call the relationship between theory and practice. The relationship between analysis of historical traditions and the practice of revolution. The idea of thinking about ideas as praxis, the idea of a class consciousness of oppression and the need for reform changed. Theoretical ideas were being constantly mixed together in our actual graduate student experience with the practical politics of what we're living through right now with the historical politics of what we were studying.

It was enormously stimulating. Everybody I knew benefited from it, even if they were violently anti-Marxist, they really still profited from thinking about the dialectical relationship between material conditions and ideas. We were all just on edge thinking about it. We read Marx in almost all our classes. We read the Neo-Hegelian thinkers of the generation before ours and talked about them. When I said there was no graduate student relationships, we talked endlessly about this. This was in our private time. It was extremely important. I also tried to get some other philosophical and theoretical sources, particularly from anthropological theory in order to give myself a theoretical perspective that I would find useful in the future.

CP: Tell me about meeting Mary Jo.

BN: Okay. That was very important. We just had our 50th this last year. We lived in the same apartment building, in a small apartment building, so we ran into each other all the time. She was an undergraduate chem major. I looked at her interview... before it [smiles]. Just recently I know pretty much what she said. Undergraduate chem major taking her last year of chemistry essentially and wasn't sure what she was going to do. Got to know me, heard about all the history stuff I was doing and books I was reading and people, exciting classes I was taking. She explained when she interviewed she had just run into this history of science professor. She had taken this one history of science course. She ran into him. He just happened to have a fellowship in the history of science, which she wanted. That decided her.

At that point, I was smitten, completely smitten. I just wanted to spend as much time with her as I could, and so I minored in history of science. Fortunately for me, they had just hired a young guy named Victor Hilts who taught a 2-course series on the history of the social sciences. Very, very new field. Not much had been written in it at all. There had been some biographies of Durkheim and Weber, of the big figureheads in sociology, but very, very little about a broad interdisciplinary approach to the history of the social sciences. He had just gotten his Harvard Ph.D. He knew what he was talking about, had some good stuff to read. I was enthralled. I said, this is really interesting. It's like intellectual history but it's got institutions and social history involved in it too. It's like what Mary Jo was doing but, shall we say, with the ignoble sciences rather than the noble sciences. She took those two classes with me. I might have talked her into that. We took a couple of other classes together. I think I had to take 4 classes. I profited enormously from it and I was able to spend time with her.

I chose as my dissertation project somebody who had written a very important social science book on crowd psychology that I had been introduced to in my intellectual history class, my cultural history class, because George Mosse, who is the teacher of the class, thought that Gustave LeBon was an incredibly important guy so I should read that. I read the book and decided that's what I was going to work on. I felt competent to maneuver in the social sciences at this point. I realized that social science was not science like Mary Jo was working on but that it made claims to scientificity and it was trying to hone its methods in order to do something that was more like natural science. We got married in February of '68.

CP: There were research trips during this time, is that correct? Did you get to Europe?

BN: Yes. As soon as we got married in February we set off for France in May. As Mary Jo explained in her lecture, she could've gone either way. She could have done German or French as a dissertation topic, and she chose to do a French topic so she could come to France with me, which I thought at the time was a big sacrifice. It turned out not to be such a big sacrifice after all, but very fortuitous, I think. We both found, we were both very lucky to find families, the family papers when we got there. The library was shut down for 3 weeks when we first got there because of May '68 but that was another opportunity to see how politics works and the relationship between theory and practice because the student movement threw up all these thinkers, all these people who were using Marxist or pseudo-Marxist or semi-Marxist ideas in order to explain what was happening and what the relationship of the students should be to the working class and all that. So, we got all this practical political experience. Learned French, spoken French, very, very fast as a consequence. It was very good.

CP: Next came Oklahoma, is that correct?

BN: Yes. I wrote a dissertation. Mary Jo didn't finish her writing and defend until the next year. In '69. This is another bit of historical background for you and for anybody who's watching this. I mentioned earlier about the degree mills that had geared up to teach the Ph.D.'s that would teach in the classrooms of all the new university campuses. Guess what? When I came out in '69 they were full. They were all filled up. 1969, a little bit '68, but certainly '69, was the first year when there was a dramatic decline in available jobs. I had essentially 2 options, 2 invitations to campus. One was the University of Utah the other one was Oklahoma. I went to Utah to visit first. Showed up. Gave my presentation. Then I got some questions from these guys, all men of course. More on that later. They said, "What do you think of everything that's going on on the Wisconsin campus?" I said, "Well, I'm part of it." End of interview. So, I ended up going to Oklahoma. They offered me a job. I was very happy to have a job. Mary Jo had an NSF post doc that year, so we went away together, got a U-Haul, moved from Wisconsin down to Oklahoma.

CP: What was the environment like there?

BN: Well, I wasn't prepared for the heat. She wasn't either. We never did get over that. It's really hot there and getting hotter, I might add. We lived in an apartment the first year, a faculty apartment for people without families. Then we started looking for a house. Didn't have any money, not a penny, but I had a job and the local banker thought that was enough. We got a mortgage on the basis of that and my brother loaned me $1,500 as the down payment. We bought a house, a 3-bedroom house, right in the nice part of town with big elm trees: $21,000. Yes. Those were the days. I was very happy with my department. The main reason was that Oklahoma, had been filling up with recent graduates. Old people had been retired. There were a few old people left in the department, but they were all pretty competent people, but the young group, there must have been 7 or 8 of them, all men, recent Ph.D.s from good programs and all athletes. When I came in, they thought he can play on the history basketball team and history football team and history baseball team. There was this faculty league that played in the late afternoons on Friday afternoon. So, they thought, this guy, he's our cleanup man. He's our center. Simple as that. That probably had something to do with my being hired. They were a great cohort. We all became friends.

In 1972, we hired our first woman and then our second one the year later and started having women in the department when there had been none historically in the history department, and it was just a wonderful time, a great experience. Good friendships. Exciting time for students, for politics as well. The political situation was ongoing and so extraordinarily exciting and possible to talk about politics and ideas interchangeably.

CP: You mentioned the origins of crowd psychology, this investigation of Gustave LeBon. That book was published in '75. Was this an extension of your dissertation?

BN: Yeah it was my dissertation with a great deal more research. It came out in '75 and it was essentially, LeBon himself was a medical doctor who imagined himself to be a man of science and who imagined that he could give a scientific stamp to the study of collective behavior. He was also very politically conservative and he saw crowds as dangerous and as a threat to the established order, as a threat to elites and so from his point of view crowds were dangerous and problematic things. The interesting thing about this is I was interested in the historical origins of the theory but what I found was, as I have in almost all my work, is that people were becoming interested in LeBon again in the late '60s and early '70s. Why? Because we had urban riots. We had race riots. We had cities half burning down. We had Newark. We had all this happening in this country and LeBon came back as an explanation for this wild, crazy, hysterical, violent behavior in the streets. Something that is associated with urban phenomena and clusters of people, and with kind of a hysterical mindset. So, LeBon was back in the news being read and taken seriously by people like Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Here I was working on the historical origins of this at a time in French history that was in many ways remarkably similar to what, maybe not quite as violent, but certainly there was a great deal of left-wing labor movements and syndicalist activity and that sort of thing which in fact LeBon was writing about as one of the terrible pathologies of modern times in terms of collective phenomena. I was studying in the past what in fact I was experiencing in the present. LeBon was all of a sudden important again. Weird. Fortuitous, but it was useful in a way because it just gave me inspiration to try to find out as much as I could about the phenomena.

CP: At some point, I think roughly around this time, you had a daughter. Is that correct?

BN: That's right. 1971.

CP: And Mary Jo's career is moving along as well. So, there's a household to navigate.

BN: That's right. Well, here's the thing. Mary Jo did not get a full-time job. She was teaching part-time in the history department which broke off I think '72 or '73 into a separate history of science department. I think they had 4 people at that point. She was not being given a proper hearing. She was not being taken seriously. I was told by the head of the department, a long-time head of the department, the man's name was Duane H.D. Roller, who told me that, "Well, you know Mary Jo will never be hired in this department." I said, "Why?" He said, "Well, nepotism you know." Nepotism laws were often used against female spouses even if they were as distinguished as Mary Jo. Mary Jo had already published a book at that point, her dissertation by that point, '73 I think she published it. It was extremely problematic. Because we thought we have no future here. She wants a job. On the other hand, we were determined, absolutely determined, not to split up and have to commute and do the kind of marriage that was becoming increasingly common then because of something like anti-nepotism laws by some other name existed in lots of places. It was basically anti-female prejudice. The result was that in '75 she finally convinced the department that she could get a tenure-track job.

Lesley was 4 years old by that point. What we did was to adjust our schedules, teaching schedules. So, I was Monday, Wednesday, Friday and she was Tuesday, Thursday or vice versa. Early enough in the day so that one of us was always home when she came back from school. She started going to school in '76. Her grammar school was about 3 or 4 blocks away. Those were the days. She would walk home by herself. Mom or dad or both of us would be there when she got back and it was a good arrangement. It worked well. We shared household duties. I was very keen on cooking from the first time we went to France. After that we shared cooking duties and other kinds of household duties, so we shared everything essentially. It worked out remarkably well for us. Of course, we went away for summer research. It was a little more complicated with a child but we had Mary Jo's mother took care of her for a month at a time for 2 summers. Otherwise, we took her with us. We would adjust. One of us would go to the library one day and the other one would go to the playground or vice versa. We basically handed her off. She benefited very much from this experience, I should say. She went to high school. Her first year of high school she went into a-we were there for a year and she went to a bilingual high school and learned French, not in class, but on the swim team and made fast friends and was speaking colloquial French by the end of the year. Quite wonderful.

CP: The first book as an extension of the dissertation but then the other one comes out 2 years later. This is The Anti-Democratic Origins of Elite Theory.

BN: Right. This followed naturally form the first one because these were rough contemporaries: Vilfredo Pareto and Robert Michels, and Gaetano Mosca. This elite theory is essentially the notion that whatever else you call it every society is run by elites. You can call it democracy, you can call it oligarchy, you can call it a monarchy, a constitutional monarchy, but they're always run by elites. These elites are either aristocratic, identified because of kinship and blood. Or they are educated elites or landed elites or bourgeois elites. In any case, they're the ones who always run societies. Democracy's essentially a myth. In fact, it's dangerous because if you actually yield to the notion that elites can't or don't govern societies then you have the possibility of chaos. We need order above anything else. These theorists were essentially theorizing this. This is a tradition of elite theory of one kind or another that was perpetuated well into the 20th century, maybe into the 3rd or 4th decade of 20th century, several American thinkers who picked up these ideas as well. It was essentially a way of arguing against full democracy. It was a way of saying there should be constraints against democracy. Voting constraints. Registration constraints. Indirect ways of voting. Double-voting, voting for elites who then vote for other elites. European nations worked out a whole series of variations on this and so did the United States in a way. Do this from the very beginning. Direct democracy was something deeply problematic. The Electoral College is after all a foil against direct democracy. It was easy for me to write that book after having just done the LeBon project because essentially LeBon was pointing out the same things about the problems of democracy. All of these thinkers were influenced by LeBon and by crowd theory, collective theory. By that time, I could read German and Italian so I could do the original research in those languages. It's not a big book but I had a lot of fun doing it. It was a real kick. Enjoyed it.

CP: There's a paper that came out a couple years later that you won an award for, a criminology article? "Hereditary or Milieu?"

BN: Right. What I had begun doing was looking for all the ways in which the social sciences had been influenced by evolutionary theory, had been influenced by biology and biological theories, by shall we say non-social theory as an outside influence on social theory, which were often concealed in the social theory as assumptions, so that for instance it might be possible to talk about some notion of the nature of society and not talk about the fact that there were organic connections. Herbert Spencer, for instance, posed an organic model of society that things fit together in a way that wasn't fluid, that wasn't atomistic, but had a natural [organic]structure to it. Almost all of early sociology followed some biological model or other. Durkheim for instance was enormously influenced by the psychology and the neurology of his day in talking about why some people committed suicide and some people did not. Almost all early sociological thinkers used biological models.

I found this out early on and started writing about it and essentially the work on criminology and the influence of biology and evolutionary theory on what was called degeneration theory at the end of the 19th century and particularly important in psychiatry, the history of psychiatry and medicine, was something that made every bit of sense given the fact that the debate in criminology at the outset was between the Lombrosians and the environmentalists. Cesare Lombroso was an Italian thinker who argued that people were born criminal and people are born honest and it's just a matter of time before the born criminal becomes a criminal. There are all kinds of criminogenic things in the society that cause them to become that way but mostly it's hereditary and has to do with alcoholism or some other kind of personal abuse and that was the explanation for why people were criminals. You studied these people. Measured their skulls. Did all this stuff. Took photographs of their faces. Again, there was the sociological explanation for crime as a consequence of poverty and need and neglect and lack of education and all those things, and they clashed. So, I wrote the history of this debate and it turned out to be very interesting and something which took the form of a debate. Essentially this was the first chapter of the debate. There are three or four or five chapters going well into the 20th century that perpetuate this debate in different terms but it was one of the very first articles ISIS published in the history of the social sciences. I think they were just kind of amazed at how you could actually do the history of science with social science materials. I guess that's why they gave me the prize. Anyway, it was the core foundation around the book on science, madness and politics in the third republic.

CP: It feels to me like there's a bridge here between the first couple stages of your work.

BN: Yeah.

CP: Your first stage seems to be more focused on the history of sociology and then you shift a bit into the history of medicine?

BN: That's right. That's exactly right. The more I studied the medicine, evolutionary theory, and biology the more I realized how enormously influential it was. Then I started studying it in its own right and did a lot of stuff on the history of psychology during this period of time. The interface between the history of the asylum and asylum law and the history of psychiatry. A great deal of criminology and history of crime influenced politics. In other words, people in politics took sides in these various debates. Conservatives liked the biological explanations and the liberals liked the environmental/historical explanations. It's a divide very similar to the one we still have today and, again, it's the same, I think I've said already in other areas, it's the same sort of confluence of contemporary and historical issues. I was reading all these contemporary debates in criminology about nature/nurture. I found the structure of the same debates in an earlier period of time. I wrote several pieces that were really geared toward critiques of contemporary theory based on my historical findings and indicating that these people hadn't really learned much from the mistakes of the past. That's been a constant theme of my work, I would say.

CP: Yeah. Along with nature/nurture, I have a feeling. We have the book in 1984: Crime, Madness, and Politics in Modern France: the Medical Concept of National Decline. Perhaps that's an apex of what you've been talking about here.

BN: It's really kind of a culmination point, because the French had a particular problem. I should say first that every nation, every European country had a similar kind of problem, real or imagined. The French problem was more real than imagined, although they imagined all kinds of phobic things associated with it. I'm talking about something I just read in the paper this morning that the American birth rate is the lowest it's been in about 40 years. The French birth rate didn't even come close to reproducing the population in the period from about 1830 until after WWII. During that entire stretch of time the French were producing 1.1 children per couple. Also struggling to keep immigrants out, some connection there, so that the French race would not be weakened or watered down in any way. The result was there was a concern that there was something wrong with the French that was different from the Germans who were reproducing at a much higher rate or the British, also at a much higher rate. Virtually every other European country. What's wrong with us? That's the question. Well, this is where the medical diagnosis comes in. It's got to be... It's not going to be social, it's not going to be economic; it's probably going to be physical. Biological models were all the rage from the mid-part of the 19th century on through WWI. Still powerful. Still important. Still influential. But they were extraordinarily important then. Biological scientists and doctors were men who had high scientific credentials and when they weighed in on one of these issues, it was extremely important. The problem was: what was wrong with France's population? The population drank too much alcohol, and there was too much immigration and race mixing. There was too much urbanization, too many concentrations of urban areas where poverty and immorality and other kinds of things happened on a regular basis. Too much marriage between people who aren't fit for each other. Kind of a pre-eugenic notion about fitness, in terms of marital fitness and procreative fitness.

So, there was great concern for that, and too many bachelors. Got to do something about that. The result was that they tried to legislate bigger families by pioneering what they called puericulture which was to care for babies and have good baby hygiene and prenatal exams and all this stuff that was in fact new in Europe and the French pioneered that because they were so worried about the problem. It became a political issue of extremely great importance. What were the implications of that? The implications were women have to have children and they've got to spend all their time doing it and then raising them properly. It refortified the anti-feminist movement, the people who didn't want to give French women the right to vote. French women didn't get the right to vote until 1944. They were one of the very last countries in Europe to have made any in-roads with respect to voting rights. What it did was to enhance social and political conservativism because of the fears thatmodernization and modernity were in fact undercutting the whole health and fitness of the French race. All this was seen in racial and biological terms. Everything I had been doing up until this point really fit into this. I can tell you something: I haven't met many French scholars who really are keen about embracing this argument. ] In other words, there's been extraordinary resistance to accepting the notion that this was the kind of phobic reaction to an otherwise very normal decline in the birth rate. A whole series of hysterical explanations for why this was the case appeared and it just so happened to have played into the hands of the political right. When Vichy happened, they collaborated with the Germans, the Vichy government did everything it could to increase the birthrate and to ban homosexuality and give people encouragement and incentives to marry and to have children and so on and so forth. It was an exaggerated legislative impulse following 75 years of preparation for that. They're still not over it. The French.

CP: The publications on the history of sexuality start to appear around this time, too.

BN: That's right. That's right.

CP: It's interesting to hear you talk about the past work and thinking about how that ties together.

BN: Yeah.

CP: Was that a fairly natural evolution for you? Or did something happen that made you switch?

BN: Well, after the book Crime, Madness and Politics came out, one of my colleagues said to me, "There's nothing about sex in here." I thought, sex? Can you study that even? Does that have a history? To this day, ever since I've been teaching the history of sexuality, not to this day, but until I stopped teaching. I always started the class by saying, "Does sex have a history? Does it really have a history? Hasn't it always been the same?" Of course, it hasn't. It just was a jolt. I had good preparation. I had been studying the history of psychology for a very long time, and 19th century psychology developed this huge classification scheme for normal and abnormal sexuality for pathologies of all kinds, the whole range of sexual pathologies was laid out by the time I was studying this history of sexuality from the 1860s on through to WWII, and this is when this range of pathologies began to be developed. I got interested in other European thinkers who also contributed to this. I realized this was a good way of starting the study of the history of sexuality by studying the ways in which the norm was defined and then the various alternatives to the norm that turned out to be called pathologies of one kind or another, or perversions.

Then I realized that, this happened to me in the late '80s, I realized that I had to start doing the social history of sexuality, too. I had to learn about gay communities and I had to learn about lesbians and I had to learn about transsexuals and I had to learn about other social experiences of other people who had aberrant or non-mainstream sexualities, not forgetting how important heterosexual sexuality was and its norms, and the Rutgers Center experience in 1989 is extremely important in that respect, very much informed my book. Set me on a path that was based partly on the history of science and history of biology and history of psychiatry but also on the social history of sexuality that I began integrating into my work to an increasing extent from that point on. I started teaching it in Oklahoma, I think the first time was 1983. This is an interesting story. The first time I taught it there were no books. I put together a reader: Xerox copies of things and made the students copy it off. That was the book for class, and maybe 15 or 20, 25 articles that I had gotten from journals. Primary texts as well. That was the handbook for class. That lasted for 5 or 6 years until some texts began to appear and paperbacks were available in the subject. When I first started that class, I always taught a small class, it was all about discussion-maybe 15 students, 2 or 3 women.

The women kept their mouths shut. Then the men talked and men held forth and the men dominated and over time from '83 on I taught at Harvard. I taught at Harvard with more of an evenly-gendered class but it was still predominantly male. Over time this has shifted to even numbers in the '90s and the turn of the century and I kept teaching the history of sexuality in the honors program at OSU until I think 2010 or '11, maybe '12. By the end the class was all women. It was all women. What does this tell you? Something very interesting, I think. Oh, in the last class there was one guy and the women plead with him to stay. They wanted him to stay. "Please stay. We need a man," they said. But he looked around and he said, "This is not for me." This is the thing about the history of sexuality. The history of sexuality is essentially a history of men oppressing women, of men not taking women seriously of men treating women as sexual objects, of men exploiting women, of men passing laws that restrain women in every single possible imaginable way, of men demeaning women, beating them. That's the history of sexuality. Up until very recent times and even now, and you know what? It used to be men could handle that stuff. You know? They were still privileged. They didn't feel threatened. There weren't that many women in top executive positions and corporations. There weren't that many women in medical school. There weren't that many women in graduate school yet. These guys still felt that they owned the world, but they don't feel that way or they stopped feeling that in the same way in the '80s or '90s. This class was a painful experience for men, even men who felt emancipated and had leftwing views about these things. Of all the cultural and political crossroads in the history of sexuality class, of which there were many, meant that the only men who really felt comfortable in this class, my last 3 or 4 times teaching it were gay men or transgender men. The heterosexual men nowhere to be seen. That should tell you something.

CP: How did this all go over at Oklahoma?

BN: Yes. That's a very good question. I had more trouble with my colleagues and school administrators than I did the students. The students loved it. It was always over-subscribed. I had no trouble getting students to take the course. They all felt somehow bold or brave taking a course on this subject. But there was some point at which some state legislator learned, in fact, they were teaching the history of sexuality down in Norman, and this person was not happy about it at all. I remember having some contact with this person, maybe my chair found out about it and my chair came to me and said, "Don't worry about it. Teach what you have to teach. You have academic freedom after all. Do what you want to do." Of course, I started publishing in the field, then. It was pretty clear that it was going to become a very serious historical subfield and of course gender history was also extraordinarily important by this time. it was possible to link this idea that my masculinity, male codes of honor book, to link sexuality and gender in ways that made every bit of sense in the historical context.

CP: The book in '93 - Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France - I want to touch on male codes of honor because I'm fascinated by the fact that you've written publications on the history of duels.

BN: Yes, that's right. I saw a cartoon. I'll send it to you when the interview is done. Duels were extremely common in Europe, from Spain to Russia with no exceptions. The British made it more difficult to duel by the mid part of the 19th century. Americans were dueling well up to WWI in the south, not so much in the north, but there were a few duels, but mostly in the south. But in Europe there were maybe three or four thousand duels a year in France or Germany or Russia or other countries in central Europe and it was something that had been an aristocratic ritual, engaged in by men who wore swords and then of course firearms came along and everybody could have a firearm and all of a sudden anybody who knew how to use a firearm could use that, choose that as their weapon if they felt offended in some kind of difference of opinion with some other man. It was the middle class men who expanded the practice. This is part of what we call social percolation up. If you want to join the upper classes you have to behave and comport yourself like somebody who would be in the upper classes and the upper class men knew the rules of the duel and they knew what constituted an offense between one man and another, a difference in opinion, something that could lead to a duel, and they knew how to choose seconds. They knew the etiquette of it. So, middle class men learned how to do it. I just want to say that there were a couple of handbooks on the duels that had taken place that were published in the late 19th century but for the most part what one had to do was read the papers, because the duels were reported in the papers. As it turns out, occasionally a photographer snuck in and took a picture, but you couldn't have a print journalist there to witness it. The account of the duel was given by the 2 seconds of the two men, or 4 seconds altogether, so each man got 2 seconds. They would give an account of the duel to the journalist and the journalist would immediately go and everybody wanted to read about this: who was wounded, who comported himself well and who comported himself badly. Who dropped his sword. Who shot in the air. All that stuff. All these possible variations. But it was a very big deal.

It was a very big deal because it was a moment in which more than any other your manhood was on display. It was the greatest single test of courage, and manhood in civilian life, and he had to comport himself properly. It wasn't just a matter of shooting the other guy or not being shot it was a matter of behaving correctly, with restraint and with a kind of apparent inner calm, even though they weren't very calm as men later shared. But it was an extraordinary thing because it was the apex, as I point out in lots of things I've written since, the duel was the apex of a system of hierarchy of male sociability that regulated the affairs between men in professions; in military and in corporate life generally an honor code was essentially a code of honesty and straightforwardness and frankness. Duplicity, gossip, talking behind somebody else's back were regarded as not good behavior for men. Men had to be open and out front about everything. Essentially medical doctors and lawyers and government bureaucrats and many, many other professions were organized as corporations along these lines. They all permitted dueling as a last resort of a man to defend himself if another man offended him in any kind of professional situation. A doctor who said, for instance, about another doctor that he was a bad doctor or that he had hurt one of his patients or something of this sort would immediately be accused of slander and challenged to a duel. That was a last resort, but eventually all professions developed in ways that tried to arbitrate differences between men and these were called honor courts [laughs]. They for the most part prevented the worst kinds of bloodshed but that's how they governed themselves, essentially, and that was true even after some women joined these so-called corporations when they became doctors, orwhen they became lawyers in the late 19th century.

CP: Well, I want to move on to OSU.

BN: Yes.

CP: So, we've been in Oklahoma for 25 years and then you make a big decision to go somewhere completely different. Tell me about that.

BN: We had some connections in Corvallis. I grew up in western California. Mary Jo and I had a little shack on the Russian river in Guerneville from 1983. We made the drive out I-40 almost every year for a certain part of the summer. We used the library at Berkeley. We did a lot of work there, it was a place to work but it was also a place to let down and get the hell out of Oklahoma for a while because it was a lot cooler 15 miles from the coast there in Guerneville than it was in Oklahoma in the summertime. We spent precisely one half of one summer in 25 years in Oklahoma. The rest of the time we spent in Europe or we spent in California. I've always loved the west coast and Mary Jo came to love it. My sister and brother-in-law were graduate students in the Soil Science department at OSU and in 1982 or '83, I guess it was, they were living just south of town here. I came to a conference in Eugene, the French Historical Society, I think it was and rented a car and drove up to see them. I thought, wow, what a beautiful place! There are mountains and it's green. In those days before global warming had set in, it was a beautiful, wonderful summer temperature. Maybe it was early, late spring when I did this. My sister and brother-in-law had good things to say about it and I liked it a lot.

So, Mary Jo and I drove up here. We had some friends in Seattle. We drove up here I think the next summer from the Bay Area and spent some more time with them and looked around. We thought, this is nice. This is for us. We had been trying to get out of Oklahoma for a while, but the problem that we had of course was that if there was a job for one of us someplace there wasn't one for the other. This happened to us 3 or 4 times at very good institutions, but if they were keen on one of us either there wasn't a position-it happened at Wisconsin. George Mosse wanted me to replace him and the department contacted me, but the history of science department didn't have a place for Mary Jo and the budget situation was such that they couldn't hire her. They regret that I'm sure to this day. That's what happened. These kinds of things happened. We were always on the market, although I wouldn't say we were looking strenuously. We were happy. We had good colleagues. Mary Jo had a particularly good history of science collection there. We were able to get funding from our own university and lots of support. We both became research professors before we left. It was a good environment. It was nice, but it was the butt-ugliest place in America and hotter than hell and a long way from where we wanted to be.

So, when this came up, thanks to Paul Farber and Fred Horne and Bill Wilkins, who was the CLA dean at that time, they said, we think there's enough money for two of you, when it was just advertised as one chair. And Mary Jo, said, well, you know, I'm not going to leave my husband. So, they needed two chairs and paid each of us probably less than the one chair might have been paid but so what? We were very happy to come here. Really happy to come here. The department seemed to like us. The history of science program was just being shaped up, and the graduate program had taken shaped at this point. It was clear that Paul and Mary Jo and I and then Ron Doel who was the first person to be hired after we got there could constitute a proper department.

CP: Tell me about that department.

BN: Well, when we first arrived. I don't mean this in a bad way, but when we first arrived there was a little bit of dead wood in the department, by which I mean these were people who I think were earnest teachers, classroom teachers, but hadn't published anything in 35 years. It's all good and well to chat in the hallway about the weather and that sort of thing but I wanted to talk about books and I wanted to talk about ideas and I wanted to talk about teaching itself and I wanted to talk about how to do this and how to do that and so did Mary Jo, and we wanted to have colleagues who would stimulate us. These guys retired. They were guys. They retired I think 3 or 4 of them pretty quickly within 2 or 3 years and we hired the best, smart young people we could. We had a very good core of people: Paul Kopperman and Gary Ferngren and Lisa Sarasohn of course and we were very happy. We had Paul Farber, of course, who was just not only the best possible chair imaginable but an extremely serious scholar, cooperative to a fault, and helped us in everything we did. Extraordinary. We were so lucky. If we had a chair who would put up obstacles or make things difficult or wasn't sympathetic with the history of science or something like that it would've been a very different ball game. As it turned out it worked out very well.

Then we hired the smartest young people out there. Within 4 years we had a department that was better than the U of O department by some degree, because these young people were go-getters, they were serious scholars, they were utterly devoted to teaching. We had just a spectacular run of five, six, seven, eight new hires in the course of 5 or 6 years. A couple of years we actually hired two people at a time because of retirements. We really needed more people in the department anyway and things were pretty buoyant from the point of view of funding in those years and it was one of the best departments, well, it was the best academic experience I've ever had, including teaching at Harvard, because we were friends and we talked about in the hallways about serious things and we talked about teaching. And of course, Mary Jo and I were running this big program. We'd have seminars. There'd be a seminar every other week or a colloquium or something or a conference and they all showed up and participated and learned and contributed. They were just the greatest colleagues.

I just saw this last week at a Ph.D. exam, Maureen Healy, who was the Germanist, the Austrian historian, and I was the head of the search committee when she was hired. Her husband got a job at Lewis & Clark and she went up eventually to Lewis & Clark after about 6 or 7 years to join him and she said it was the hardest thing she'd ever done. She said OSU's was the greatest department. She said Lewis & Clark is a nice little school but it was nothing like the department when I was there. I just saw her at this Ph.D. exam and she was just very nostalgic. It was a good time, really a good time. Good time for the university too, I think.

CP: How so?

BN: Well, Risser, I just read an article about Risser in OSU Today, he was okay. He was a serious biologist and a serious scholar. He did some things that were pretty silly but on the whole he supported the Horning program and we were given pretty much a free hand to do what we wanted. It hadn't gotten to be the way it is now. The enrollments kept increasing, but they weren't increasing the way they are now, so there wasn't that sort of press for space and the pressure to decide how are we going to teach these students more efficiently? Oh, I know, Ecampus. Everything was done in the old-fashioned way and and everything was face-to-face. In other words, when we had a seminar or a colloquium in the Horning program or lecture series or a lecture people showed up and then we had social events afterwards and people would meet the speakers and there would be talk, talk, talk, face-to-face talk, real talk and it was the most stimulating imaginable environment and it persisted almost up to the time we retired. But then it changed.

CP: The chair - publicly there was a lot of public programming. There's lots of seminars, there's conferences as you mentioned. Was there a division of labor between you and Mary Jo in making that happen, or...?

BN: Yes. Yes and no. We each took responsibility for planning, with discussions between us, discussions that had to do what the theme would be for the following year. Of course, in the middle of every year we started talking about the following year. We had to get going on it. We had to start inviting people in advance. We had to decide who we're going to ask to do it. So, we'd have a lecture series that had a theme. There'd be maybe 6 or 7 lecturers and I'd be responsible for one year and she'd be responsible for the next year. So, the person who was responsible for the lecture series would organize finding the right people, getting their topics, setting dates. We had absolutely wonderful administrative staff to help us. Christie Van Laningham, I don't know if you remember Christie. Do you remember her?

CP: Mm-hmm [yes].

BN: She was wonderful. She was enormously competent. Anyway, the other person would set up a couple of other events: either a conference or a colloquium series or a Horning guest lecturer or something else to complete the program. So, there would be at least 6 lecturers and then one small conference or colloquium series, sometimes all together or stretched out over different subjects and then several other speakers. So, we would have as many as 20 speakers every year on campus. This meant meeting them at the Hilton, or picking them up at the station or going up to get them, for God's sake, at the airport, arranging social events for them and dinners. It was crazy busy, crazy busy. But everything was divided, everything was split up. We did everything together. We disagreed from time to time about what the emphasis should be but not very much at all. Because we both had contacts, me in history of course and Mary Jo in the history of science, and of course me too as well, we had lots of people we could draw upon. It just worked wonderfully well.

One of the things that I really wish would happen is Mary Jo's compilation of these folders. I should say she did this part of the job, compiled these folders of all the advertisements and announcements for each year and each one of them is this thick [shows about an 1" with hand] all the things the Program did and things that happened and the stories about them and everything else . They're all in there. There was so much going on. There was always some Horning event and we were running around and doing this and doing that, and I'm really surprised we had any time left to do our own work, but we still were almost as productive as we had been when we were research professors at Oklahoma. We still managed to get a lot of work done. It was just a very stimulating time. It would be nice if somebody did a little piece, maybe some recorded piece, talking about all the events we had. I've got list of things here about the different lecture series: themes were, you participated of course in the one The Scientist as Educator, the one on Public Services, and on... also the next one was the Cultural Politics of Evolution; Marriage, Reproduction, and Sexuality had seven important first-rate speakers; Scientific Revolutions Old and New; Writing about Science: Genre of Fact and Fiction, we got lots of people from the creative writing program in here to participate in that; we did a program on The Human Genome, the whole thing on the human genome; Medicine and Health in Colonial North America, and on and on and on. it was an extraordinary time. We see people of our generation now on campus and they say, "Boy, we really miss the Horning Lectures and the Horning Programs. It just hasn't been as active in the last 10 years or so." ...for a number of reasons, having to do with money and the endowment, but it was Paul Farber who did the management, he was a tight-wad. He was a tight-wad. He watched the budget like a hawk. We got as much out of him for honoraria for speakers as we possibly could do and not a penny more and he really looked after our interests, looked after the Horning budget with great scrupulousness and that was not the case, sadly, after he retired.

CP: You mentioned maintaining your research program amidst all this administrative work and you edited a book in 1999 that made a splash.

BN: Right. Right. I think it was the first big reader in the history of sexuality. There had been some readers before on human sexuality told from a scientific point of view, a couple of readers on human sexuality but nothing on the history of sexuality. I tried to convince Oxford when they got ahold of me to do this, tried to convince them to call it "History of Sexuality." They said no, because all these readers just have one word in the title. Whatever it happens to be: physics or whatever. So, it could only be Sexuality. Well, it was structured essentially from ancient Sumer to the present and I wanted to have everything in there. By 1999 when it was published, certainly when I started working on it in '96, I think the first time I went to Cambridge, I was using the Cambridge library to try to start doing the original research on how I'm going to get together printed sources for this: primary sources, secondary materials, and it was... I loved doing it. It was great fun. I learned an enormous amount in the process. There was enough literature out there by that time to really be able to make a good and effective presentation and you asked somewhere in here about resistance to this. The press resisted it a bit. They didn't think, well, you know history, does sexuality really have a history? I think I finally convinced them, but then there were some readers who looked at the way I put it together, 3 or 4 readers, at least 2 of them wanted me to make special pleas on behalf of sexual minorities of one kind or another. I said, no, I'm not going to do that. If you wanted to do a homosexuality reader. Go do it. But I'm trying to cover the whole spectrum here.

I think it ended up being the first reader. There were some that came out in the early 2000s, but I think it was the first one. It was a big event, I think. It sold, it went through several printings. Oxford made a lot of money on it and I unfortunately made the mistake of taking a cash lump sum payment at the beginning, as some presses are smart about that. A lump sum in the beginning and then a much lower rate of income per year after that. The honoraria didn't amount to much. It was a great success. I used it in my class. I know a lot of people who have used it in their classes. I get letters all the time from people who use it as a primary text in a history of sexuality class. For a period of time for the first 10 years after it was published, it sold a great many copies and formed the backbone of many history of sexuality classes.

The history of sexuality was a growing field. It has tapered off in the last, I'd say, 10 years. It was really doing great guns for a while, because it was, again, like everything else I seemed to have done, we're talking honestly about sex and about sexual minorities and about sexual oppression at a time when all of this was politicized and these political movements were reaching a fever point just about the time the book was published, so there was an enormous amount of interest in it for that reason. It was a way of thinking about the contemporary political situation from a historical standpoint. It had a way of calming the conversations about contemporary politics and putting them into historical perspective, which is basically what I've always tried to do and it's been my aim in all the scholarship I've done over all these years.

CP: Another topic from this time period is medicalization.

BN: Yes. In a certain sense, I really started there, the idea being that you have to be careful what you describe as a medical problem, because it may not be a medical problem. It may be some other kind of problem, a social problem, or a problem of differences in taste, or a problem of misunderstanding, or a problem of language. All kinds of other possibilities. It may not be a pathology. It may not be something that can be cured. Anyway, since we've already talked about it, the French essentially adopted a medical model to try to explain why it was France was sick in the 19th century and that turned out rather badly because they didn't have a clue about how to cure it because the cure actually wasn't physical and it wasn't medical and doctors couldn't do anything about it. So, there was a lesson there and so I wrote this piece that got a prize I think, the piece on medicalization, trying to update it and trying to show how a crude, ham-fisted notion of doctors being in some kind of conspiracy with right-wing politicians to try to name all the pathologists in society and find a cure for them: mental illnesses, sexual pathologies, whatever they might happen to be. And you get the police involved, essentially. This ham-handed sort of way of dealing with the situation was critiqued in the '70s by people like Michel Foucault, for instance, who introduced this notion of governmentality and what he said was, look, it's all well and good to talk about a kind of medical conception of illness in society run by the government or by the state in the interest of the conservative traditions. He said, okay, I don't like conservatives any more than the next guy. But the thing is that modern societies have found a way to individualize the business of medical illness. That is to say to make it the patient's responsibility to talk about illness and disease, mental illness, that sort of thing, in terms of risk analysis and you talk about it in terms of, for instance, the kinds of things in society that can make you sick and what your responsibility is to avoid them. In a certain way, what Foucault's critique did was to deconstruct the notion of the medical concept of illness and to make it a social matter of responsibly, education, enlightenment, and prevention. Almost all the people who have written on medicalization have emphasized this particular aspect of it and have deemphasized the notion of the state using medical ideas to punish minorities.

Now, it's not over yet. That's still going on. If it's not the state that's doing it, it might be a medical society, and doctors themselves make mistakes and they make judgments that over-emphasize their knowledge or understanding of a situation without maybe understanding it completely, realizing it completely. The dangers are still there. But the notion that somehow or another this is a society which is completely controlled by a medical philosophy or ideology is simply wrong first of all. In the second place when that critique was at its height in the '70s, think of Thomas Szasz who wrote an anti-psychiatry book in which he talked about the foolishness and idiocy of psychiatry and how mental illness itself was a construct that doctors had invented in order to find ways to justify curing the people who were different. This is a wild exaggeration of course, but it was the sort of thing that was going on in the '70s at a time when there was a huge reaction against Freudian psychoanalysis and very fundamental critiques were emerging of psychoanalysis. And One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was also from this era and the big state asylum that incarcerated people where doctors specialized in trying to root out aberrant and strange people in the population. That reversal began then.

It's wise to understand that we have come to a far saner position with respect to the medical regulation of people who don't live up to behavioral norms than we did back in the '60s and '70s when it was still a very, very powerful way of looking at difference. So, my argument was to try to find a way to understand there are still dangers of this possibility happening: making something into a medical problem that is not, but that we are better equipped now and more skeptical of it than we used to be and much more skeptical of doctors generally and much more able to get medical information via the web than we were in the 1960s and '70s which didn't exist yet. You had to go to Dr. Spock or you had to find some other published source to try to find anything out about medical conditions or sickness or illness or whatever constituted pathologies.

That has changed everything because it means that every person, for good or for ill, is their own doctor so they have the responsibility for looking up their own medical situation, looking up symptoms and typing it in, and trying to figure it out. They come up with the wrong idea very often. They have to talk to doctors but doctors no longer completely monopolize and run the diagnostic picture like they used to. It's a great temptation. It was a great temptation, a dangerous temptation for doctors to be all-knowing and all-trusted. That was the case for hundreds of years, certainly starting with the professionalization of medicine in the mid-19th century. From that point on the doctors' prestige went up and up and up until the last 30 years or so.

CP: You spoke of how energizing it was to talk to your colleagues in the hallway about teaching. I'm interested in knowing more about your own practices as a teacher and how that evolved over time.

BN: Thank you for asking, because that's a very important subject for me because I got into teaching at the university because I wanted to be a teacher. I didn't start out wanting to be a scholar. I wanted to be a teacher. I felt I related pretty well to kids and to students and it was a calling. a kind of calling if you can say that. This is not a word that's used very often, but that's how I've always felt about it. I've never really liked teaching big classes even though the best two teachers I had as a graduate student were charismatic teachers who spoke to audiences whose classes were 350-400 students at a time: Harvey Goldberg and George Mosse. Brilliant, brilliant lecturers. I loved the lectures. They were wonderfully entertaining. I learned a lot from them, but I learned more from my seminars and the lesson I took home from that was that I wanted to teach small courses. I wanted to teach courses with a lot of texts that we could discuss. I wanted to get to know my students. I learned their first names. I learned their whole names. I eventually started calling them by their first names before our first class. When they announced themselves then I would go back around the room. I don't care, sometimes I dealt with 40 students and went back to their names. It took me sometimes 2 classes to get it straight. But when I got it straight, I was their friend. They really trusted me, then. That really made a big difference.

I used to use, when I was still teaching at Oklahoma, I would use as many as 12 to 13 books in class, paperbacks. They would be required to read them all. They knew what the reading list looked like when they entered, and I said if you don't think you can read these books and be ready to discuss them on the day don't take this class. Don't stay home that day. Don't take this class [laughs]. I was pretty serious about it and I think being stern and then also being friendly was the style that I have always used in the classroom. Always welcomed students in my office and got to know them. Of course I couldn't use as many books when I got into the quarter system. It threw me off for a long time. I had to figure out how could I teach 19th century European intellectual history with only 8 books? I had to tough it out. It was tough for me to figure out how to do that but I did eventually.

And I still got students who were willing to do the reading, and the other thing I did, I think it was a little unusual I suppose, is I essentially rewrote their essays if their essays were not up to par, either grammatically, structurally, or argumentatively or in terms of evidence. I rewrote them with red ink. I was told to never, ever to do that, but you can't read the other color ink very well so you've got to do the red ink, and then ask them if they want to write it over again from scratch and I'll have a look at it. I won't change the grade, but believe me it will impress the hell out of me. I had that happen once in a while. Not all that often but every once in a while. I cultivated the skill very early on for being a good line-by-line editor and to this day the thing of which I'm most proud as a colleague is that many of my colleagues have given me their manuscripts to read because they know I'll do it and they know that I'll do a good job and I'll correct their grammar and their spelling and their syntax and question their evidence, question their arguments. They know I'll do that.

That's why I think one of the reasons why I've been asked to do so much editorial work and be on so many editorial boards and so many presses have asked me to read manuscripts is because I'm good at doing that and I care about it. I want to help somebody else the argument right. It's kind of an extension of teaching in a certain sense. It started off with working with students and eventually when I got a reputation as a scholar in the various fields that I've worked in people would send me their stuff and I like it. I actually like doing it. Now we've got this tracking business. What is that? The tracking thing has even made it more fun and gives you more options of how to do critiques and that sort of thing. I care about good writing. I care about... I'm very old-fashioned in that respect. I care about good grammar and clarity and I've tried to use that in my teaching and certainly in my collegial relations and in my editorial work. It's been very important to me.

CP: You were honored with a festschrift in 2007.

BN: Yes.

CP: Tell me about that experience.

BN: Well, it was incredibly flattering. I'll show you the book afterward, it's right up there. Two of the young people I had mentored, younger people than me, whom I had mentored whose manuscripts I have read in the way I described to you decided that I had enough of an influence over the French history written on he period between 1850 to 1940 or so that they would organize a couple of sessions at a French Historical Society Meeting people working on subjects in those fields who had been influenced by my work in some way, many of whom were my former students, either undergraduate students or graduate students at someplace or another. It was held in Houston, I think. I was just bowled over. It was quite wonderful. I sat there in the front row of these two sessions that were packed with people and four of my friends and colleagues and students sat up there and gave these wonderful papers and then two of these people put these papers together in festschrift volume and it was very moving and I should say as far as being a teacher goes I got close to two or three of my undergraduate teachers, very close, stayed in touch with them for years, and years, and years afterwards. I was close to at least 2 of my graduate school professors. I told you earlier how hard it was to be alone with them because they were so pressed for time, George Mosse in particular. I met him in France and in England and in New York and other places for meals and getting together and chatting.

I regarded him as a friend and Mary Jo and I both from the beginning have made an effort to mentor and support students whom we thought were really promising. Not just because they might become academics someday but because they were just smart and engaged and caring and wanted to get to the truth of the matter. We both did that with students and our best friends to this day are old colleagues, present colleagues too, and former students. We see them, we entertain them, they come out here. We go to see them. We were just in Madison and we saw 2 or 3 former students and colleagues while we were there, and we'll probably entertain 2 or 3 different sets this summer on the coast hunting for mussels and digging clams. On our European trip that we took on our 50th anniversary we saw 3 or 4 former students and at least one colleague, no, one colleague from OSU and other colleagues in France.

It's been wonderful because we were told by older scholars from time to time don't get too close to students. It's not a good thing. They'll accuse you of something or they'll turn out badly. Don't invest. Well, we did not take that advice. We invested. To this day have never regretted a single moment of it. Our email correspondence, 3 or 4 every day, Mary Jo the same. We see them. We're family to them and vice versa. It's quite wonderful and there are still, the ideas and still the stimulation, we see them and the ideas that we've shared with them, it's the most perfect kind of intellectual sociability that looks like kinship that you could possibly imagine. Nothing like it. It's the greatest thing I think about this business and about the profession that we're in and we have profited from it enormously. Really, really quite wonderful. Anyway, that's my shtick on teaching.

CP: A couple of concluding questions.

BN: Sure.

CP: The first I'd ask you if you can reflect on your life in Corvallis.

BN: It was the right thing to do to come here. I've not always been happy about what's going on in the university. A couple of times things that have gone on in town have pissed me off a bit. But if I think about the beauty of the place, the livability of this town, the progressive politics of this town, which suits me just fine, the way it's laid out, the physical arrangement, everything that I need is here. Most especially, the farmer's market. When we first came here there was no farmer's market. And the restaurant scene wasn't good. Now this was before your time. Or maybe it wasn't. Maybe... you started undergraduate in...?

CP: The same year that you arrived-'94.

BN: Okay, there you are. It wasn't before your time, but you probably weren't doing much restaurant dining in those days.

CP: No. Dining hall.

BN: Yeah, right. not much going on and then sometime in the mid-90s, maybe slightly later than that, a little farmers market started to appear with 3 or 4 people started selling their vegetables and it got bigger and bigger and bigger. I'm not sure if you've been on Saturdays this year yet but there are literally 100s and 100s of people there and 40, 50 vendors. When I got to the farmer's market, we never miss, we go Wednesday, the little market and then we go to the winter market when it first opens on the fairgrounds and then we go to the Saturday market I feel like I'm on a high when I'm there. Everybody's friendly. Everybody's there to get fresh, organic vegetables that are produced within 50 miles or less of Corvallis.

We've gotten to know the vendors and become friends with many of them. We'd go home with much more food than we can possibly eat, but I don't care. I'm so happy. We both love to cook. We learned how to cook in a serious way in France initially, of course, and then we've taken up Indian cooking in a big way and we do canning and freezing and all that stuff. It's really a thrill. We're in the middle of a beautiful part of one of the most fertile parts of the western United States. There's anything you want here. There's fish and there's fowl and there's meat. My freezer up there is full of lambs that we buy down in the market every year from the same person we've been getting them for years and years and years. It's part of the idea of living in a small town. If you want to go something urban go up to Portland. If you want something cosmopolitan, fly to Paris or go someplace else. But if you want to have a nice, calm, lovely life in a university town where the university has a great deal of status and is a central part of much of the social activity, most of the intellectual activity, a lot of the aesthetic activity: you've got the OSU theater, you've got the music and lunchtime music, you've got all kinds of other concert performances. This is the kind of place you want to live. It couldn't have turned out better for us in that respect. We're very happy with this house. Lucky that we out-bid the people who also wanted it.

CP: My last question: as somebody who thinks deeply about OSU and cares about it-your thoughts on where OSU is right now and where it's heading.

BN: They have tried to balance the budget by admitting more students than they should have. They've tried to balance the budget by going along with tuition increases and bringing in students, and of course now that the campus is covered with cranes they're building new buildings, for new places to put students. New parking lots. There'll be more congestion. Classes will be bigger. There will be more classes online. There'll be less student-teacher interaction than there was back in the day, even up to the time we retired. This reorganization that was brought about between 2007 and 2008, just about the time we retired, of putting all the departments in CLA into these groups, to save money ostensibly. It cost more money, no question about it. I've seen the figures. My colleagues have shown me. Big mistake. Online learning is a nice thing to do but the idea of giving students the choice to do online learning or learning in the classroom and saying well, okay, go ahead and do the online thing. What the hell difference does it make? Mistake. They're missing out on one of the most important kinds of experiences that they could possibly have by taking a class, listening to other people's opinions, engaging discussion, engaging in criticism, doing what you have to do. This is where learning takes place. This is what counts. I'm very sad about that aspect of what's happened at OSU. What was the name of the provost?

CP: Sabah?

BN: Sabah. Sabah's the primary villain here, although Ed Ray went along with it all. But Sabah was the one that came up with the idea of choosing the Arizona State model, which friends of mine at Arizona State have been telling me for years was a disaster. It just hasn't worked all that well. I don't like the stories I hear just very recently about what's going on in the library for that matter, it seems to me the library is the center of the university, the central institution in the university. If that is not getting adequate support or is being fragmented or occupied by other people it's not going to go well. I could go on and on about digital stuff, too, but I won't because my colleagues, my young colleagues in the history department, the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion tell me it's hard to teach students anymore.

It's hard to teach them the way they were taught in the past because it's hard to get their attention and they have shorter attention spans and they would prefer to do their work online if they possibly could rather than do anything in class. I hear other stories of that sort too. But I'm just an old codger who preferred the hands-on approach and the face-to-face approach of doing things in the university the way they were done all throughout my experience. I'm hoping, I know in fact that's true, that there are still institutions, little arts colleges, where this kind of thing, this old-fashioned approach to education is still going on. I'm hoping they survive and maybe even proliferate. I don't know. Maybe people will get tired of them eventually. I'm sure. Not yet. Anyway, I wish OSU the best. I think it's grown too large. The same thing is going on at U of O and I've been talking to colleagues down there and they're complaining bitterly, they're turning to the same kinds of devices of educating an ever-larger amount of students.

Oregon is a strange place. It's so progressive in so many ways and yet they won't support education in the way they should. They won't support grammar school education and secondary education the way they should. They won't support college education in the way they would. Their heart's on the left and their pocketbook's on the right [laughs]. This is the problem with Oregon and I feel badly about it. I think administrators have done almost the best job they possibly could under the circumstances but letting in more students to pay the bills is not the way to do it because it has watered down and diminished higher education, in my considerate opinion.

CP: Well, I appreciate it. Thank you very much for sharing; this has been terrific.

BN: Thank you, Chris.