Oral History Transcript — Dr. Edgar Kausel
This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.
This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.
Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript is available.
See the catalog record for this interview and search for other interviews in our collection
Interview with Dr. Edgar Kausel
Edgar Kausel; September 2, 1997
ABSTRACT: Born June 22, 1934 in Santiago de Chile; discusses German grammar school and science coursework in secondary school. Describes his early interest in Chilean geology and the influence of his fatherís career in mining engineering; recalls undergraduate education at University of Chile. Describes the impact of the IGY in 1957; discusses Chileís Antarctic base for geophysics research. Graduates from U. of Chile in 1959; discusses gravity research with Lomnitz and his decision to attend Columbia for graduate school. Describes the social environment at Lamont and in New York City more generally; discusses Manik Talwaniís style as an adviser. Describes building a geophysics program at U. of Chile; recalls finishing his PhD and dissertation defense at Lamont in 1972. Describes Leon Knopoffís critique of Chilean geophysics program; discusses his impressions of Lamontís successes. Describes the changing effects of the Allende regime and the subsequent military coup on Chilean science at the University of Chile; discusses the importance of international funding support to Chilean science.
TranscriptSession I | Session II
Levin:Okay, so todayís date is the third of September, 1997 and this is an interview with Edgar Kausel. And I know you were born June 22, 1934 in Santiago de Chile. But I donít know anything about your parents. Who were they?
Kausel:Well, my father and my mother were also born in Chile. My fatherís name is Ernesto Kausel. And my mother Etruri — ETRURI — Vecchiola — VECCHIOLA. VECCHIOLA. Vecchiola. Kausel is, of course, my father — well my grandfather came from Germany — from the side of my father. And my grandparents on the side of my mother came from Italy. And they were born, my father and mother, were born in Chile.
Levin:Why were your grandparents coming to Chile?
Kausel:Well, both my parents, my —
Kausel:Grandparents, yes. Well, my grandfather, he came to Chile in order to work at the University of Chile. He had the contract with the university in order to teach mathematics and physics. He had this, in this faculty, faculty of mathematical scientists of the University of Chile. And my grandparents from the side of my mother they came because they did not want to live in the Euro Prague [?] any more so they were looking for something different. So they arrived around eighteen hundred and seventy, something like that.
Levin:And your father, what field did he work in?
Kausel:Well, my father studied at this university. And my grandfather was one of the professors of my father, of course. And he started civil engineering and civil engineering with special emphasis in mining. He was a mining engineer really. Well, and he was later also, he worked for the University at the department of mining engineering at the university. The same University of Chile. But before that, well, he had to go to work in mines in the northern part of Chile. You know, itís a very dry, dry desert. And mining is very important in Chile. So he worked in the large mines in the northern part of Chile the beginning of this century. But he also had to go to Bolivia in order to work in other mines in different places. In Bolivia, in Aruba, in other regions of mining districts in Bolivia too. So during that time, well, my mother and father married and the family started at that point, 19— I think they married 1930 or something like that.
Levin:So, did you grow up then in Chile, or were you born in the north?
Kausel:No, I was born in Santiago.
Kausel:I was born in Santiago. And it started in Santiago, first in the German school. The twelve years, this is six years of grammar school, six years of secondary school. And after that, I entered at the University of Chile and I studied mining engineering. Mining engineering because, well, because my father started that, I thought it would be interesting to continue in the same field.
Levin:And you went to a German school because your grandfather was German?
Levin:Was there a strong influence in Chile of German influence?
Kausel:Yes. There is still a strong influence, especially in the southern part of Chile. Many people that came from Germany and developed really a large region of southern Chile starting eighteen hundred and forty or something, that is eighteen hundred and fifty. The government of Chile considered it important to have people coming from abroad to colonize regions that they were completely, I mean, there was nobody living there at the time. So and that — this has continued to the present.
Levin:Interesting. And in this school did you speak just German? Was it German?
Kausel:No. We had to, well, practically all the courses were in German, but, of course, we had to speak in Spanish. In some, you see, the exams, in order to be official exams here in Chile, the members of the commissions for the exams came from Spanish schools. In order to, somehow to officialize the studies. So that they had, of course, the exams were in Spanish. It was a mixture of studying in German, but taking the exams in Spanish.
Levin:And did they teach you, when you were in the first, in the younger grades, the first six grades, did you have science classes and a full range of studies?
Kausel:Yes. Well, I think that this is — must be very similar to other, other schools. Well, you have to study of course elementary mathematics and biology and physics and so on. And we of course had also Spanish courses, with Spanish language and German language courses and history. I think this is not very different from other parts of the world. And the — here the first eight years you have to go to school. I mean, nobody can stay without going to school for the first eight years. And the last four is not, is not enforced. But of course a large —
Levin:A large amount.
Kausel:— amount of people go to school till the last in order to have six family in six secondary years.
Levin:And this was even — it was typical for a person to do all twelve even when you were in school?
Kausel:Well. I donít know if everybody did that; probably not. Probably maybe say, fifty percent.
Levin:How was the German school, how was it compared to other schools in Santiago? Did you have friends that were in other schools?
Kausel:Yes, well, you see the system is that schools that are governmental schools and theyíre free. You can pay in those schools. And also schools that are private schools, like the German school, two or three English schools, French schools, Italian schools and so on. These are private schools. But there is lots of activity in which students from one school go to another school in sports or in many, many common activities so that of course one has friends from different places, not only from the German school.
Levin:But did you notice any — the teaching styles were different, of what you had and what people in the public, in the government schools had?
Kausel:Yes. Well, of course, they in general, the private schools were considered better schools because they had better teachers and so on. But there are some schools — how do you call it if they are not private, they are —
Kausel:— public schools that are very good. And some of them even better than the German school. They have some very good schools that are governmental schools or something like that that are considered even better schools than some of the private schools.
Levin:As you were growing up, I know that you said. that your dad was working up in the north of Chile, then in Bolivia, and then later on he got a job in the University of Chile, but did you as a child, did you sometimes — did you have a chance to go with your dad?
Kausel:Oh yes. Yes because in — especially when the first years, I mean, until I was six years old, I lived in mines.
Kausel:Yes. Yes. So only when I was five years or six years old, then my father decided to get a job in Santiago in order to be able to send us to school, and not to stay in mines. So that he came to Santiago. He worked in mining companies in Santiago without going to the mine itself, and he had a part time contract also with the university in order to teach mining courses. But very — when he retired from private companies, he still worked at the university, and at that time at the last years of his life, he worked full-time at the university in the department of — mining engineering department.
Levin:Do you remember talking to him about science and about engineering and mining?
Kausel:Yes. Well, you see the — at the beginning when we lived in the mine, of course, everything was centered around the activities, mining activities. Because there are not too many things that you can see at the very beginning when you are somewhat isolated, far from cities, living in a small population of people that work in the mine. So that everything was around that. But since he had to, he was apparently a good student. Well, probably it is common to say that the father was a good student, but I think itís true that he was a good student. And when I was, for instance, studying at the university, the first three, four years, the things you have to study are basic physics, basic mathematics and so on, and I could see that he was really very well, I mean, he was — he could sort many of the things that I had to sort when I was studying. So that this was a good contact with somebody that was professional, but also he had a very good basic, I mean, good, good in basic math and physics. So we had lots of conversations from the academic point of view too.
Levin:Interesting. And how many brothers and sisters do you have?
Kausel:I have two brothers, no sisters.
Levin:Are they younger or older?
Kausel:One is, I am just in the middle.
Levin:And did either of them go into science or engineering?
Kausel:Yes. My older brother also studied mining engineering in the same university. And he went to Germany in order to get a doctorís, Ph.D. degree, in mining engineering. Not in sciences, in science as I did.
Levin:But specifically in mining.
Kausel:In mining, in mining, yes.
Kausel:And my other brother, younger brother, he did not study at the university. He decided to start working from the very beginning.
Levin:And what kind of a house did you grow up in? Was it a house or an apartment?
Kausel:Well, we lived in a house.
Levin:This was when you were in the mines, it was a house?
Kausel:Yes. It was a house. Yes. And when my father returned to Santiago, we lived in the borders of the city, very far from downtown so that we had a large ground and a big house. It was a really — but it was far from downtown. And we could — there was no traffic at all at that place, so that we could not only play in the grounds of the house, I mean, but also you could go and walk in the street. There were no cars and so on. It was very, very nice to live away from downtown.
Levin:And did your house have a library?
Kausel:Yes. There was a large room that we called the large room, this was the name of the room. The large room. And that room, well it, that room was really large. It was, well eight meters by eight meters. It was a big, big room. And practically all the walls were full of books that started being the books of my grandfather. Because when he came from Europe, he brought all the books that he had accumulated. And then my father added other books and so we really had a personal library of such that was large. I mean, there were lots of things that you could study and read.
Levin:And did you go in there to read quite a bit as a child?
Levin:What did you like to pull out?
Kausel:Well, very, very, I mean, I donít know if it was a special case, but my preference was always to study things that were related to science or read things that were related to science. And my grandfather had some old books that showed how he — how the math for instance was studied say a hundred years ago. So you could see how the things evolved and this is, itís interesting, because then you can understand better whatís going on than just starting from things that have evolved and you know why and what different roads you take in order to come to what you know in this moment.
Levin:Thatís interesting. So you had that early inclination towards science?
Levin:And what kind of science classes were you offered in the upper grades?
Kausel:Well, in the upper grades, the — You mean still at school?
Levin:Yes. In the first twelve years.
Kausel:Twelve years. Yes, well. In the second half of that, not primary school but —
Levin:The secondary school.
Kausel:— secondary school. The courses had very general names. I mean, for instance, we had hours and hours per week of mathematics for instance. It was not divided or the name was not even a specialist name.
Levin:Like algebra or geometry.
Kausel:Of course — of course. But the name itself was mathematics. And then in some years you had algebra or others geometry and things like that.
Levin:How far did you get up to in math?
Kausel:Well, in high school we came to study, for instance, derivatives for instance. Up to that point.
Levin:So simple calculus.
Kausel:Simple, yes. Algebra and calculus, simple calculus. Yes. And the rest was really at the first years of university. This has changed. I mean, not only, for instance, when my father was in high school, he said that part of what we studied at the university, he had to study in secondary school. And so things change from decades to decades.
Levin:Thatís interesting. And your science classes that you had in secondary school; did they have any field work or any experiments?
Kausel:Yes. Yes, but not too much. Not too much. I would say that, for instance, in biology we had more field work than in other disciplines. We had to go, well Santiago was smaller, so that one could go and see things in the field. Chile is a country that is interesting from that point of view in geology and things like that because it is a chemically active region. And from that point of view you know what an earthquake is, for instance, when you are a kid. And well, you can see formations and so and so that we had to go to the valleys into the Andes in order to see whatís going on, how these things were formed, because itís a question. Itís a question, how can you have such large mountains and so close to the sea. I mean itís very narrow. Chileís a very narrow country. So these are things that you start from the very beginning to have those questions.
Levin:And how did they answer these questions, your teachers?
Kausel:Well, it depends. I mean from where you went. You go to the Andes and you see a valley, for instance. You say, well, how can this valley form? And then they tell you how your ocean, with a river that comes down and forms a valley and so on. And things like this. So it depends on what you are seeing in that moment. Sometimes you see formations that are, I mean, deformed, I mean, not flat deposit, but deformed by the tectonic forces. And while they can tell you a little bit about these things, itís not very profound.
Levin:Were they talking about tectonic forces at that time?
Kausel:No. No. Not in, not saying tectonic forces of course, but forces that are — that exist inside the earth and things like this. Of course, the modern theories, we did not study that. Just very superficial ideas of whatís going on.
Levin:Was there anyone you remember talking about continental drift?
Kausel:No. No, no. No, no. This was not known. I mean, continental drift was known before, say, at the very beginning of the century. But very soon it was rejected as a theory because the forces were not very clear how you would move the continents in the way it was presented by the people at that time. So only when I was studying at Columbia University, only at that time the idea of plate tectonics and things like this was more, I mean, presented in a more logic way.
Levin:Was that the first time you had heard the theory? Or had you heard of it before even you went to Columbia?
Kausel:Well, the continental drift, of course, I heard this before. I had even a small book in German that talked about the continental drift.
Levin:Do you remember the book?
Kausel:I donít remember the name of the book. But it was a small one. But the ideas of the old ideas of a continent floating across the marine, say crust, and opening this way, that idea existed. Of course, and we — you would read that at the time. But as I say, this was a theory that was rejected around, say 19—, around 1920 or something like that. And it was not talked about that anymore until the fifties, early fifties, it came back.
Levin:And so as you were finishing up your secondary school, did you always know that you would go to the University of Chile, or was there any thoughts of going somewhere else?
Kausel:No. I think that, well, at the time that I went to the university, there were say two good universities in Santiago. The classical University of Chile, the one that Iím working at now here and we are in this University of Chile. That university was founded in 1842. So this university is the oldest university in Chile. But there was also another university that was founded in 1890, which was the Catholic University. And these were the two universities where you were expected to go. I mean other small universities existed or technical universities. I mean, a large amount of students considered that you had to go to the University of Chile or to the Catholic University. And since my father studied at the University of Chile, we didnít have any doubt that we would study in this same university.
Levin:Okay. And of course you started in mining engineering because, of course, of your dadís field as well?
Kausel:Yes. Yes, exactly.
Levin:And you said you had more classes in physics and mathematics.
Levin:What kind of classes do you remember taking and teachers who were really important to you later on?
Kausel:Well, as I say, before when you enter this faculty, the first three years are related only with basic mathematical and physical science. I mean, if you want to study mining engineering or electrical engineering or economical engineering or industrial engineering or things like this, everybody has to start studying basic, basic things. Basic courses. In physics, math, in statistics, and so on. So that while we had — for instance, we started with a one semester of higher algebra, for instance. And then you took decimal calculus. And you had to go through all a series of courses in mathematics, a series of courses in physics, and only starting at the fourth year probably, you start going into what is called courses that are basic in engineering. Like courses in hydrology, for instance, or courses in theory of elasticity and things like that. And then at the very end, you of course, have the courses that ask for the special engineering that you are studying. So this evolves during the six years. And at the end, at the end you had a good background that this was the background that I could use in order to go finally to Columbia University in order to get a Ph.D. in geophysics. I did not need to go through again many of the courses. However, I took, I said, well Iím going to take, to have some courses that probably I have an interest because of the teacher that was in that moment in a certain course or so on. That the basic things that I needed at Columbia, of course, I got it here in Chile. [Interruption to take phone call]
Levin:So before, well, about when you were about twenty-three years old, of course, there was the International Geophysical Year.
Levin:And that was in 1957. Do you remember any of that? The university taking part or anyone?
Kausel:Yes. Well, at that time I was studying at the university. I was in — Because I finished the, my engineering, mining engineering studies in 1959. So that in 1957 when the International Year started it was, I was, I mean just working towards the engineering degree. But immediately after that, we had some, I mean in 1959, 1960, there was lots of activity, specially related with the Antarctic research because somehow the research in the Antarctic was started because of the International Geophysical Year. So this is why I remember especially this thing, International Geophysical Year. Because probably I was not, not my relations. I mean I was a student at that time. So that I donít know how this all evolved in this moment. But I know that because the Chile had to get involved in the geophysical aspects, the universities and probably, I mean, the government decided that one thing that could be done was to start looking for studies in geophysics in the Antarctic. So this is what I remember.
Levin:Was it more that the studies were important for themselves, or was it important to have some kind of a claim to use Antarctic territory?
Kausel:Probably it was a combination. It was a combination. Because since around those years there was also what is called the Antarctic Treaty started — Iím not sure exactly at what year, but it was around the same time — and the Antarctic Treaty, one of the things that the, one of the important points of that treaty is that the Antarctica should be used for scientific purposes only. And so probably the combination of the International Geophysical Year, the Antarctic Treaty, and also the idea of doing, from the point of view of Chile, something in the Antarctica, I think that it was, all, everything was in somehow mixed. And I remember that for instance, the University of Chile opened a small base there. I mean, how do you call this. Antarctic base or something this. Only for scientific purposes. Because before that, there were some military bases from different countries in Antarctica.
Levin:So this was the first one Chile had opened that was civilian?
Kausel:A civilian. [crosstalk] scientific. I mean, how would you call, base? Base? Yes. Something like that.
Kausel:And this department that was, at that time, just somehow evolving practically from zero, was in charge of the scientific work in the Antarctica.
Kausel:So the — some students that decided to stay at the university were interested in working in aspects, Antarctic aspects.
Levin:How did they decide — this was of course the universityís department of geophysics.
Levin:How did the department of geophysics decide what kind of a program they wanted to do in Antarctica? Were they looking at what other nations were doing? Or how did they decide the program?
Kausel:Well, you see there were some aspects that were immediately of interest. For instance, there is a base for volcanic activity in Antarctic. And many geologists considered it of interest to go to Antarctica. It was not easy at that time to go. Now itís very easy because you just take a plane and in three hours you can land in the Antarctica from Chile. We are very close to the Antarctica. But at that time you could only go during the summer by ship. You had to cross the Drake Sea, or I donít a channel. No. How do you call this? Canal. No. I donít know.
Levin:The Drake Seaway.
Kausel:The Drake Seaway. And it was not an easy thing to do. So normally all the work was done during the summer. But now you can go in winter, even itís easier to go in winter than in summer because thereís not — not so windy and so on in some ways. So the things related with volcanic eruptions, things related with penguins, for instance. There were some very natural things that you would like to study in Antarctica. And so the [?], for instance, had a seismic station there in order to start recording earthquakes that were related with the Antarctic Peninsula. This is the part of the Antarctica that is closest to Chile. Itís a kind of continuation of the Andes across the Drake pass to the Antarctica. So this was interesting to see what the seismic activity was and so on. So there were some very natural aspects of science that the first years of size and manage from the Chilean point of view.
Levin:Interesting. Do you remember any equipment that arrived as a result of the International Geophysical Year or any visiting scientists that came, expeditions, different countries? Because, of course, Chile is so close to the Antarctic, that perhaps, did you have Russians or Americans coming down? Using it as a port to get down?
Kausel:Yes, especially now that you can fly. In general people fly from Punta Arenas [Chile]. And so many countries have now a base, a scientific base, in the Antarctic Peninsula close to the major, say airport, in the Antarctica. Chilean airports. So there are bases. Thereís a Russian base, a base from Poland, from Argentina, from Chile. Those are very close, sometimes as close as around the place where the air field is. You can land there.
Levin:In Punta Arenas?
Kausel:No. In Punta Arenas and in the Antarctica.
Levin:The both sites?
Kausel:Both sites. So there are now lots of connections between Chilean scientists and scientists from other countries.
Levin:Was it like that in —?
Kausel:At that time it was not. Not, it was not at that time. Because as I say, you had to go to Punta Arenas in order to take the ship and to cross to the Antarctica. This took say, several weeks probably, I donít remember how many. And then if you wanted to stay there longer, you had to stay over, I mean, you had to stay the winter there. And you could not come back by ship. So you had to stay one year in the Antarctica. And we had people from this department that had to stay at the Antarctica in order to keep the instruments running. Especially the — for instance, we had the seismic station there. Then we installed other seismic stations. And that place is in the peninsula, the Antarctic Peninsula. And biologists had also the work in knowing how birds live in winter and what, all the, things like this. From what I remember the most important scientific equipment was a, our seismic stations, and also some magnetic stations.
Levin:But you donít remember boats coming through, going down to Punta Arenas? For instance, maybe about the Soviets?
Kausel:No. I donít remember. Well, I remember the names of the boats that came. I couldnít say but the activity, at the very beginning when there was no possibility of going by plane, at that time the different countries had their bases in different places. Very far scattered away one from the other. And then when there was a possibility of going by plane and you could fly in three hours, and at any time of the year, then many countries decided to put new bases that were close to the airport so that you could go over there, land there, and go to your base in a hour or something like this.
Levin:Interesting. Also I was wondering, Of course, you were just growing up when World War II broke out, just young. But do you remember any scientists coming either right before the war or right after the war from Europe?
Kausel:You mean in Chile, not to the Antarctica. Well, in, of course there were many, many scientists came before. Long lists of important scientists that came to Chile and to other countries. For instance, well I can, I would say one of the most important probably was Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin came around 1835, something like this. And well he stayed here for a long time. I mean, itís incredible what he could do at that time because there are many places that he visited. He visited Patagonia, Argentine Patagonia, and the Chilean Patagonia. He was present during one of the large earthquakes, Chilean, in 1835 was a large earthquake. He felt he was in Chile when the earthquake occurred. So there are many things that he observed at the time and it is still interesting to read what he said. Also, [Alexander von?] Humboldt was here. And many other scientists. From the point of view of my field.
Kausel:Had a very large earthquake; the earthquake of Valparaiso [Chile], 1906. And because of the occurrence of that earthquake, the Chilean government decided to have a kind of seismological service. And it was created in 1908. The seismological service, the Chilean Seismological Service was created in 1908. And the first director of that service was [Fernand] Montessus de Ballore. He is a French scientist that was the first director of the Seismological Service from 1908 to 1928, about twenty years. And he wrote very important books in seismology that I — especially observational seismology. History of earthquakes of the past and things like this. And thereís an important catalogue of Chilean earthquakes. It was prepared by Montessus de Ballore.
Levin:For instance, I know in Argentina, they were receiving visits from people like [Enrico] Fermi and [Albert] Einstein. Did they come to yours as well?
Kausel:Not Einstein. He never was here, was in Chile. Only recently we had the — a couple of weeks ago, [Stephen J.] Hawking.
Kausel:But of course, I donít remember names, but probably there were important scientists that came to Chile. But I couldnít tell, for instance, I know that specifically Albert Einstein was not — he never came to Chile.
Levin:Okay. Okay. So.
Kausel:Itís interesting. Think from this seismological service, as I said, it was founded in 1908. And the first number, the first issue of the balloting of the Seismological Society of America, the SSA, in how you call, this page, the first.
Kausel:The cover. And the cover there was a map of the net, seismological network that was being installed at that time by Montessus de Ballore. So itís interesting to have that. I mean, that the first cover of the balloting of the Seismological Society of America was the map of the Chilean network in seismology.
Levin:Interesting. And so in 1959 was it that you graduated from the university?
Kausel:I graduated in 1959. Yes. Yes.
Levin:And what did you start doing at that time?
Kausel:Well, in order to graduate as in mining engineering, I wrote a thesis on, it was in geophysics. I studied the interpretation of the Santiago basin from the gravimeter. So this is —
Levin:How did you get interested in that?
Kausel:Well, I got interested in that because in the last years of mining engineering, I had some courses in geophysical prospecting. One of those courses was given by Cinna Lomnitz who was the Director of the department of geophysics and was my, how do you call this, the —
Levin:Your thesis adviser.
Kausel:Adviser, my thesis adviser, yes. And at that time a gravimeter arrived in Chile.
Levin:Where did it come from?
Kausel:It was a Warden Gravimeter. And Senor Lomnitz felt that it would be interesting to start working with that instrument. It arrived I think in 1957 or something like this. And he felt that it would be interesting of making a gravity map of the Santiago region by using leveling of the, very dense leveling that were made in this basin, in the Santiago basin, because in order to interpret gravity data you need to know what the elevation is. Otherwise, you cannot make a good corrections to the values of gravity if you donít know what the elevation from the sea level is. And since this was done for many of our purposes in Santiago, we had good maps, precise leveling information of Santiago. And this was why we decided to make the maps in Santiago and not in other places. And so this was my first contact with geophysics.
Levin:Interesting. Where was this gravimeter? Where was it brought in from? Did it come from Europe or the States?
Kausel:Well, it was — it came from the United States. Yes. Yes.
Levin:And so you went out with the equipment.
Levin:And with Lomnitz as well?
Kausel:Yes. Well, I had to measure with that instrument, I took something like two thousand points, two thousand gravity points. In order to make a map and then make an interpretation of how is the structure of the basin, what are the depths of the basin, what is the mean density and so on of the material that is on top of the ground rock, of the basement rock. And later this was used, of course, as a basic map in order to look for underground water for Santiago. So it was not only started one could say something scientific study, but it was also used for practical purposes later.
Levin:Interesting. So because it did have practical purposes, was the government or anybody helping to fund this research?
Kausel:Well, it was, we started this just as a work by the university, and since it was close to the headquarters of the university, it was not very expensive to make the measurements. I used my fatherís car, for instance, at that time, in order to go to all the places that we knew that were, had the leveling information and so. And so it was not, it was not an expensive field study.
Levin:And so that took about a year?
Kausel:It took a year.
Levin:To do it and write it up.
Levin:And as you were doing this, were you thinking ahead to studying further or?
Kausel:Yes. When I finished my thesis, and Senor Lomnitz said to me, well, would you be interested in working with me here at the department and so on. And I said, okay. I started to work in, well, of course, in gravity. Measuring other places in Chile in order to make not only a map of the Santiago basin, but start putting more and more information on gravity for Chile. Later we made a Chilean map, gravity map of Chile. And that was in somehow put, I mean, this was a gravity map of this points of the continent. Not at sea because the measuring gravity at sea is a little bit different. This was — Si, si, adelante [spoken to a person at the door]. The gravity measurements at sea are more difficult because the ship is moving. And one has to have special equipment in order to do that. Denny [Dennis E.] Hayes was in charge, later when to make a gravity map off shore of Chile. So it was that map, Dennis Hayes map, with our map we could have a good coverage of the first part of the sea and of course the continental part of the gravity map. But together with that, we had to maintain the seismic network that was started by Montessus de Ballore in 1908. We had to keep interpreting all the information and so and so. I learned how to interpret gravity, I mean, seismograms, not only for local earthquakes, but also for earthquakes that occurred at long distances from Chile. And at that time, the first order seismic stations started to be installed in Chile. And one station, the best station that we had at that time, was a station that was installed in a small hi fi in close here to the department of geophysics, the Santa Lucia Hi fi, was a station that was donated by Columbia University, when it was installed.
Levin:Interesting. That was in 1961, about?
Kausel:This was 19—, I think Ď59, maybe Ď58. I was making my map, my gravity map, when the station arrived. So it probably was 1958, something like that; Fifty-nine.
Levin:And this was in the Cerro [hill] of —
Kausel:Cerro of Santa Lucia.
Levin:Which is now, itís a park isnít it?
Kausel:It is a park and this in the middle of Santiago. So it is now very noisy for a seismic station.
Levin:But they still have it there?
Levin:They still have the seismic station there anyway or have they stopped using it?
Kausel:No. We stopped to use that site as a seismic station because of the noise. But that station was a long period, this was a six-component seismic station with the long period instruments that were just being developed by [W. Maurice] Ewing and [Frank] Press. Ewing and Press made a long-period instrument and one of the stations they constructed, they built, was sent to Chile.
Kausel:Itís interesting to interpret the information because it was a station that was very sensitive, sensible, so you could read information on those records from very distant earthquakes, and not necessarily very large earthquakes. But even small earthquakes could be detected with those instruments at that time. So these were three short-period and three long-period instruments. And this was our best seismological station at the time.
Levin:And you were using that.
Kausel:Yes. I had to work on those seismograms. So that when I went to Columbia, I, of course — Columbia University had at the principal building —
Levin:The Lamont building?
Kausel:— the Lamont building, yes, was the library, the library of seismograms there. And so I could see that there were — I mean, many of the records that we had here were, of course, archived there. Because we sent those, that information once a year or something like this when we had already interpreted the instrument, they were sent to Columbia. So this type of details, I mean, that I was involved in, somehow gave me the idea of further studying geophysics. But not geophysics, at the end geophysics that I studied was not geophysics — was prospecting of mining, mining purposes, but more for scientific purposes at the end.
Levin:But you started out thinking maybe more for mining and it just —
Levin:— came out that way.
Kausel:When I, we were discussing with Senor Lomnitz at that time where to go, and finally we selected Columbia University to study and there was at that time — the U.S. government had scholarships in order to go to study at the United States. They were called Point Four, Point Four Scholarships. And, well, I got one of those and the decision, of course, was to go to Columbia University. And at the beginning, as you say, at the beginning I taught to study geophysics for prospecting purposes. But the main — I mean, Columbia University geophysics was strong in marine geophysics, things like that. So, of course, very, very soon I Kausel was attracted by the idea of doing science more than engineering.
Levin:Itís interesting. When you were talking to Senor Lomnitz about Columbia, did you know that they were so interested in marine geophysics?
Kausel:No. I was not. I was not. While I read the book of Columbia University, [crosstalk] I didnít know exactly what. I mean, I knew that the University, of course, was a famous university, but I did not know exactly what. As I say, I thought I would study geophysics related with mining.
Levin:And what attracted you to Columbia over, say, somewhere else — A different university that had —?
Kausel:Well, I wrote to, I think, four or five universities and by discussing with Cinna, he said, well, he said, I asked for information from Cal Tech [California Institute of Technology]. Senor Lomnitz studied at Cal Tech. So we said, donít get to, Cinna told me donít go to Cal Tech. Go to another university so that we have people from different places. This was one of the things. So I decided not to go to Cal Tech for that. Si, adelante [spoken to a person at the door].
Levin:So basically you didnít want to go to Cal Tech because you thought and your professor thought it would be best to have someone from somewhere else.
Kausel:Exactly. So then there were other, two or three additional universities, we discussed the idea of different ones. Finally, we decided Columbia University. I think that apart from the — I mean, Columbia University is known as one of the best universities, or the best university. The other interesting thing was that while possibility of staying a certain time also in New York, a city that is interesting of course. So these two reasons. Of course, first choice because of the quality of the university. And the addition thing that the university was in New York, I decided finally to go there, and Senor Lomnitz was agreed. He said, perfect. Itís a good choice. So this was the final decision.
Levin:So you applied, at that point, to the university.
Kausel:Yes. Then, of course, I had to send all the applications in order to get, to be accepted to the university. And since I did not need to ask for financial support because I had already this Point Four Scholarship or something like that. I donít remember exactly. But, I mean, this scholarship was from the government. It was a U.S. Government scholarship.
Levin:Was it particularly for people in certain fields of science or was it for particular regions, such as South America, Chile?
Kausel:Yes. It was for particular fields in science. And this particular Point Four Scholarship was for geological sciences. Specifically for that.
Levin:So when you first came to Columbia University, you were living in New York, in Manhattan?
Kausel:Yes. Yes. I lived in an apartment building on 110th Street and Broadway. [Laughter]
Levin:How was it accustoming yourself to —?
Kausel:Well, when I had to go first to Washington, D.C. Because this scholarship was a governmental scholarship, I had to go there. I had to; I stayed there about a month in order to, well, to get acquainted with the language. Of course, I studied English here in Chile first; just English that you can get at the high school or in secondary school. I went a couple of months to the — how do you call this —? [telephone interruption]. Itís a center in order to study, from the, that is related with the. [telephone interruption]
Levin:So, okay. It was a special language training center.
Kausel:Yes. There was a — yes, there was a special language training here in Chile, but then also I stayed, I had to go in. Well, I arrived there in about a month before, I mean, started at Columbia University [telephone interruption]. So I stayed in Washington for one month and went to Georgetown University for formal English study. It was very good to do that because, I mean, when I could train my ear in order to understand English more than just reading. So this was a good experience from that point of view.
Kausel:And, well, fortunately the studies in science. It is not too much dependent on how good or bad you speak English. So there was no problem from that point of view.
Levin:Okay. And so by the time you started at Columbia, you could understand, you wereÖ
Kausel:Yes. Well, I didnít have many problems with the understanding. I mean the things that the professors, I mean, talk. I mean, this was not difficult from that point of view. Maybe you donít understand, always the words at the beginning, but the fundamental things, I mean, the words that are related with science are very similar in English and Spanish and so at the end you can understand what people are talking about. More difficult is if you go to a restaurant or take a taxi or something. But from the point of view of studying, I didnít have any problem in English. I still have problems going to, I mean, to express myself in English, but —
Levin:Well, youíre doing very well right now. But when you first, okay, so the language wasnít so much of a barrier — were there differences in customs that you noticed that sort of clashed teaching styles in the classroom or in science?
Kausel:No. I didnít think that there were too many differences from that point of view. I mean, the important difference was that they were high quality courses that I had the opportunity to take there. But I mean, the system itself is similar. I did not have any — there was not too much different from that point of view, Of course, much better libraries, much better places to — laboratories, of course. And this was really different.
Levin:In the United States?
Kausel:Yes, in the United States. Much better. I mean laboratories in physics and so on. I mean maybe one thing was especially different was the use of, or the need to read papers from journals instead of books. There and here, while I was studying, of course, engineering, so itís not science. Everything was studied through books more than reading last, very new things that in engineering. And this was a big difference. That every time that you were working in a certain thing, the person that was in charge of the course, said, well, you can read this in this and this paper and not in this and this book. So it was more a last, I mean, in the frontier of whatís going on. And this was probably the most different, apart from libraries and good laboratories, good professors, of course, the difference probably was from that point of view, the point of view of reading things that were evolving, were being studied at that instant of time, and not very old stuff.
Levin:How about — I know for the Argentine, Argentine people going. Something they had to get accustomed to that they werenít used to was working with their hands. Because in Argentina of course they have the custom which is a little more European that if you are a top scientist or youíre an engineer, you donít work with your hands. Thatís for people that work with you. Is that true in Chile, as well, or not so much?
Kausel:The thing is that — Well, you go on to say that among the studies here in Chile probably were more, not practical, I mean, the fact the practice was less here probably in Chile from the point of view that everything was studied more from a theoretical in a sense that you donít, you never, experience the practical part. Maybe this is what you want to —
Levin:Not so much as, for instance, the scientists going over from Argentina working at Lamont, being asked to maybe work with some sort of equipment, making it or assembling it, just working with it with his hands, might think, well, thatís beneath me.
Kausel:No. No. No. I donít think that this was. For instance, when I was studying engineering, once every semester we had to go to do a practical, practical work in engineering. So for instance, the first time, this was not at the first years, but the last, at least the last three years, we had to go a month to a mine, for instance. Since I was studying mining engineering, I had to go for one month in the winter vacation and summer vacations, to stay one month in the mine. And we had to do, I mean, simple work there. For instance, I mean, using a driller, a drilling machine inside the mine in order to work there for the month. [telephone interruption] That together with the work — I went also for two months to an oil company in Punta Arenas, and I had to go to the field in order to make geological maps, for instance, for certain regions. So we had to go to the field [telephone interruption] and do things with our hands. It was very different.
Levin:So weíll stop right here now, and when we come back weíll continue talking about how things were a little bit different.
Kausel:Yes. In order to write down here the names that I — Senor Lomnitz.
Thank you. Thatís great.
Session I | Session II