IN 1982, WILLIAM (WILLY) FOWLER, a Cal Tech physicist whose seminal work on elemental abundances would be recognized with a Nobel Prize a year later, called me to ask if I would use my sabbatical year to establish an office of public affairs in Washington for the American Physical Society. Physicists needed to be kept informed of developments in Washington that were having a profound effect on them and the things they value. Perhaps, he said, it would also be possible to communicate the concerns of the physics community, not just to the leaders of government but to the public.
It was to be an experiment. Through most of its existence, the American Physical Society, then headquartered in New York, had not felt the need for a Washington presence, but times were changing. Public support for science had begun unraveling during the Vietnam War. Scien