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Oral History Interview with Peter Palffy by Matthew Crawford
October 11, 2022
Liquid Crystal Oral History Project
Transcript produced by Sharp Copy Transcription
MATTHEW CRAWFORD: My name is Matthew Crawford. I'm a Historian of Science in the Department of History at Kent State University. I am interviewing Dr. Peter Palffy-Muhoray, Professor of Mathematical Sciences and Materials Science at Kent State University. Today is October 11th, 2022. We are conducting this interview in my office on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Dr. Palffy, thanks for agreeing to speak with me today.
We basically escaped Hungary in 1956. There was the October Revolution then, but we were undecided about leaving because we loved Hungary, but the situation was very difficult. We escaped to Austria in December of 1956 and we were accepted as refugees by Canada. We went to Canada, Halifax, went by train to Vancouver. My parents eventually got employment in a little town called Kitimat on the West Coast. My sister and I were in boarding school during these years of 1957 and 1958. By that time, my parents established sort of a home in this little Kitimat, and we went there, and I finished high school there. I was thoroughly miserable in the Vancouver boarding school, which was Vancouver College, run by Irish Catholic brothers who used to carry straps on their habits, specially constructed for the beating of children. It’s an amazing thing. Anyway, but of course it wasn’t that bad; we survived.
Liquid Crystal Oral History: Palffy-Muhoray, Peter
Crawford, Matthew James
An oral history interview with Peter Palffy-Muhoray, Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences (2019-present) at Kent State University. This interview is part of the Liquid Crystal Oral History Project. Palffy recounts the development of his educational and professional careers. Palffy was born in 1944 and raised in Hungary. In 1956 his family fled Hungary and escaped to Austria, and from there, his family made their way to Canada and settled in a town called Kitimat. At the age of 16, Palffy-Muhoray matriculated at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and would later graduate with a B.A.Sc (1966) and a M.A.Sc.(1969) in electrical engineering. Palffy-Muhoray had his start in liquid crystals research as a physics PhD student at the University of British Columbia where he completed his dissertation in 1977 on the refractive indices of liquid crystals. Upon obtaining his PhD, Palffy-Muhoray began to work as an instructor (1977-1987) at Capilano College and also as an assistant professor (1983-1987) at the University of British Columbia. In 1987, Palffy-Muhoray joined the Liquid Crystal Institute (LCI) as a Senior Research Fellow (1987-1994) after receiving an invitation from Director J. William Doane. Palffy-Muhoray gives insight into his early work at the LCI such as his work into the pattern formation of liquid crystals. He then talks about his time as an Associate Director (1990-2018) of the LCI, and his role in establishing the Chemical Physics program at Kent State University. Palffy-Muhoray also explains his part in establishing the company AlphaMicron and reflects on how the LCI has changed since his arrival in the late 1980s.
NOTE: In this oral history interview, the narrator makes specific reference to one or more documents relevant to a topic or topics mentioned. The narrator has provided a physical copy of these documents to be included in the file with their interview materials. Anyone interested in this interview is advised to review the physical document in the Liquid Crystal Oral History Project records at Kent State University Special Collections and University Archives.
Sponsors: The Liquid Crystal Oral History Project is funded in part by the Ohio History Fund, a grant program of the Ohio History Connection. Your donations to the Ohio History Fund make this program possible.
Institutes and Centers
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audio digital file
Special Collections and Archives
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Kent State University
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LCI Associate Director
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