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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Edgar Kausel

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Interview with Dr. Edgar Kausel
By Tanya Levin
In Santiago, Chile
September 5, 1997

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Edgar Kausel; September 5, 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.

Transcript

Session I | Session II

Levin:

This is the fifth of September, 1997, and this is the second interview with Edgar Kausel. And I know last time we were talking about how you had just first come to Lamont, and a little bit about how you felt when you first got there. I was wondering, did you participate — did you have a chance to attend the seminars that were at Lamont every week?

Kausel:

Oh yes. Yes, from the very beginning. The seminars were held in the Lamont building. This was a place where the seminars were given and, of course, Wednesday afternoons. I donít know that itís still on Wednesday, is it? Wednesdays?

Levin:

Fridays, I think.

Kausel:

At that time it was on Wednesday, Wednesday afternoon. And of course the director of the Lamont Geological Observatory was every time there, Maurice Ewing was sitting there for every one of those Wednesdays with the papers that were given there.

Levin:

Would he make comments after —?

Kausel:

Of course. Of course. I was — the other day I was talking with somebody else that studied there, and we were not together, different fields, but I asked him if Maurice Ewing made the same questions as during the time that I was there because it was very interesting. The first question — [pause for helicopter to pass over].

Levin:

Helicopter.

Kausel:

When the period of questions started, after the presentation of the talk, the first question was always the question by Maurice Ewing. And, of course, it was always a difficult question. It was not easy to answer. And this went on during the three years that I was there, of course. No, very interesting. This is something that permits you to know what other people are doing and so on. And also you start having more, feeling more — itís easier for you to give your own talks. Because then you start to learn how to do all this; the difficult things; how to prepare the slides and so and so. Itís an interesting experience.

Levin:

Did you or any of the other students present?

Kausel:

Yes. Yes.

Levin:

You did?

Kausel:

Yes. I did. Yes.

Levin:

What did you present?

Kausel:

Well, I donít remember now because I think I had to give two, in two occasions. I had the impression that the first time that the talk was related with what I was doing with the gravity information of the Pacific Ocean. At that time, the only information that existed was information, of course, taken on ships. But at that time also gravity information from satellites, satellite orbits, began to be, I mean, put together with the other information. Of course, this was much more general. But it was very interesting because you started seeing some very broad anomalies that were related, of course, with the mid oceanic ridges and things like this. So it was very interesting to start looking at those anomalies.

Levin:

Was this about the same time that [Walter] [C.] Pitman was working on the Eltanin [research vessel] data in the [?]

Kausel:

Yes. Yes. And also that Manik Talwani was putting together the information of all the oceans of course.

Levin:

And you were working with Talwani?

Kausel:

Yes, exactly. I did not have the opportunity to be on board of the research vessels.

Levin:

You didnít.

Kausel:

At that time, the oldest one was the Vema. Vema and then the Robert D. Conrad. And but I was, I had no opportunity to be on board of either the Verna or the Conrad.

Levin:

Did you want to go?

Kausel:

Yes. Well, it would have been an interesting thing. But I was entitled to, but I was taking courses and so on so it was more difficult. Because the trips like that took a month of being on board.

Levin:

Did Manik Talwani go on the boats?

Kausel:

Oh yes, many times.

Levin:

Many times.

Kausel:

Many times. Yes. Yes.

Levin:

Itís interesting that while you were giving these presentations, for instance, about gravity in the Pacific, I know that wasnít Doc Ewingís field. But when he asked you these difficult questions, did you have the feeling that he was grasping what you were saying? Was he — how much do you think he really understood of each field?

Kausel:

No. He understood, of course. I mean, there was no doubt that he understood exactly what was going on in many of the fields. So, he didnít, I had the impression that he did not need to hear the presentations. He knew already whatís going on, and he had probably in his mind already what he was going to ask when you finished. So, no, no, he was a very, very important geophysicist. No doubt about that.

Levin:

Do you remember ever seeing Ewing present a paper?

Kausel:

No. No. I did not have that opportunity. No.

Levin:

Do you remember any scientists that came from outside of Lamont?

Kausel:

Yes. As I mentioned to you the other day, one of the scientists was [Harold] Jeffries. And as I said, well, he gave some very interesting talks on problems of isostatic equilibrium at, in general. And, I mean, as a general aspect of the earth and also some places where the isostatic equilibrium was not operating and there was no equilibrium in some places of the earth. So that the — this was one of the talks that I had the opportunity to be when Jeffries was there.

Levin:

Interesting. These weekly seminars, did you have anything that was similar here when you were studying in Chile?

Kausel:

Well, at that time when I was studying civil engineering, mining engineering here at the university, we did not have talks. No. No, because at that time this university was — how would you say this — they were only very few scientists that worked full time at the university. In general, the class or the courses were given by people that were working in companies outside of the university, and they were part-time teachers or professors. And only the basic laboratories in physics, or electricity, and engines and things like this, were the ones that you could see at the university. The rest was only the presentation of — I mean, classes. The teachers came from outside the university.

Levin:

From more industry or from —?

Kausel:

Industry. I would say especially from industries. Yes.

Levin:

From industry. Is that the way it is now or has it changed?

Kausel:

No. No. No. It changed. At the time I was studying, it started changing completely in the sense that the university started hiring people, scientists, young people that wanted to work in science at the university. Of course, they were hired because they were good students and so on. And then many of them went abroad in order to get a Ph.D. degree and so on. So this started in our faculty probably in the late fifties.

Levin:

What do you think caused the change?

Kausel:

What caused the change? I think that the people that were in charge of the university were probably realized that the university could not operate only with people that were working part time. And we needed a group of people that finally are professionals of science, not amateurs. And so, as I say, this started in the late fifties, and already in the late sixties, there was already a larger group, young scientists of course, that were coming back from the United States, from Germany, from Europe in general. Coming back to their — to the departments, that at the beginning were practically — there was somebody that was in charge of the things that were inside the buildings, see, but there was not much science before that. So the — now the picture is completely different. Now the university has good groups in many fields.

Levin:

So in Lamont, what kind of social life did you encounter there? Were there things to do? Did you have sports or did you go to peopleís homes to visit professors or friends? Like Bruce [C.] Heezen or the [John and Sally] Nafes?

Kausel:

Well, you see the situation was that I was part of the time in New York and part of the time at Lamont. And I did not — I was not living in Lamont. I lived in New York. And I had to travel every day to Lamont from New York. So that there were of course some that lived in Lamont. Not only inside, I mean, the —

Levin:

Within.

Kausel:

— within Lamont itself. There were some, for instance, John Ewing. I mean Maurice Ewing lived there and John [E.] Nafe also lived there. He had a house, within the Lamont Geological Observatory. But the rest lived around, around the —

Levin:

[New York].

Kausel:

In the vicinity. But I was not there. I lived in New York so the [telephone interruption] activities that I had when I was not working inside the university was to visit, of course, museums and visit — to go to the theater or to the movies, things like this. This was because there were so many things to see that I didnít have enough time. I cannot say that in the three years that I was there, I cannot say that I became somebody that knew very well New York, because there were too many things, and there was not enough money in order to go to all the places that I would like to go.

Levin:

Thatís true. Did you get to know, or did you meet Nestor Granelli or any of the other Argentines that were

Kausel:

Yes, exactly. Yes. And we, well, you know, when you are studying, the time is not very, you donít have too much time to do too many things that are related with the social activities and so on. And, of course, within, at Lamont itself, and, of course, Nestor also had to go to New York on some occasions. So we had good amount of conversations. With many people, with Dennis [E.] Hayes, with Lynn Sykes. We got together with all the people. Lamont was not so large as now. So that one could say that in some, in one or another occasion, you had the ability to talk with practically all of the people that were there. But this is so very — thirty-five years ago. Well, you see, even with the — during the time that I was in New York, I also met Ines, my wife. She came, she was there. She came from Argentina. And in those days and you had some possibility of getting together with groups from South America. From Argentina, from Chile, from Brazil and so on. Well, I met Ines there, and this was probably 1962, something like that. And just before I went back to Santiago, we got married in New York and came together to Chile.

Levin:

Oh interesting. So were these groups of South American, the South American group, was it like a club?

Kausel:

Yes. It was, in New York itself, in New York, I mean at the university. There was a group of students that studied many different things. I mean, not only geophysics but there were other people were studying economics and things like this so that there was a kind of group that organized talks. Experience of what the students from South America or Latin America had during their stay in Columbia University. And we invited some important people that came from different countries to New York, and then invited those to give a talk to us in places within Columbia University, in New York. For instance, I remember several — when we were there, there were some important persons that came, for instance, I remember that Rafael Caldera — he became president of Venezuela later, I would say, five, six years later after — he was visiting New York and we invited him to give us a talk about things. Also, [Eduardo] Frei that became president of Chile in 1964. He was also visiting New York, and we invited him to give us a talk about things that happened in Chile, or whatís going on in general. So that we had the opportunity to have a kind of informal group and talks once a month.

Levin:

Thatís interesting. So Frei came to talk.

Kausel:

Yes. [crosstalk] The present president of Chile, Frei, he is the son of that Frei that was also president in 1964. He became president in 1964, and now the present president of Chile is the son of that Frei that was in New York giving us a talk.

Levin:

Thatís interesting. So, that is interesting that you had the chance to hear from these people.

Kausel:

Yes. Yes. And there were many others. Many others that we tried to ask to talk to the students that were from so many different countries that it was interesting to hear somebody from Venezuela talking to the students, young people, from the rest of the countries saying whatís going on, what they expect the countries could, how they could improve and so on. Itís very interesting from the political and the social point of view.

Levin:

Do you think Frei gave you a good estimate of what was actually occurring in Chile? Because he took over very soon after.

Kausel:

Yes. Yes.

Levin:

And he had —

Kausel:

Yes. Well, Frei was a very special man because he not only understood what was going on in Chile, but he had a good idea of what the other countries in South America were trying to do. I mean, what was the possibility of, for instance, having some common things that all the countries could do together. Of course, even now there are still things that would be good if you had a kind of, how would you say, a kind of League of Nations in South America or in Latin America in general. It is difficult to make this happen at the end. Of course, there are many people that knew whatís going on in different, in different countries of course. And this was the interesting thing because then the questions that were asked from people from different countries to somebody from Colombia or from Chile who was giving a talk. It was interesting how the questions had to be answered.

Levin:

And during that time Chile was pretty stable.

Kausel:

Yes. Yes.

Levin:

And I think Argentina [interruption). So Chile was pretty stable. Were there other people from other nations that were concerned about the situation in their countries that would talk about being afraid to go back?

Kausel:

No. I donít think that there was a situation like that. But what in general the different countries considered, the students at least were there — was that there were not enough leaders in the different countries that could move the countries faster into a more developed situation. And this development of leadership was somehow, in some way related with the problems that many of the countries had with dictatorships and things like that, because there were not enough leaders that could move the thing into — in a democratic line.

Levin:

So individual leaders —?

Kausel:

Individual leaders.

Levin:

In the government or in the different fields?

Kausel:

I would say they were talking more from the point of view of general political leaders, in general, in general, not for specific fields but in general, the leaders of enough vision, general vision of the country so as to be able to give ideas of what to do in order to have a faster development of the countries and so on. And, of course, the lack of leaders overall and general leaders is, of course, related with also the lack of leaders in different fields because the ones that are in different fields finally become probably the leaders for — some of those become the leaders for the general situation of the country.

Levin:

So, say a leader in geophysics, becoming a political figure.

Kausel:

Yes, well, not geophysics, thatís probably not a good example because — I mean, but leaders in economy, for instance, leaders in history, probably, the good lawyers, leaders from the legal thing and so on.

Levin:

So, for instance, how did you view the situation in Chile? Did you view it as similar?

Kausel:

Well, you see, at that time, Chile had a very, very stable government. The governments were stable for many, many years. So that we — the situation probably was here in Chile a little bit different from other countries. Probably another country that was similar to this one was Uruguay. They have a stable situation. But this was not true in the rest of the countries. And the idea, the opinion, was that this was the reason that was because of the lack of leaders.

Levin:

Thatís interesting. Do you think in Chile there has ever been a time when scientists have been on top, rather than on tap?

Kausel:

I donít think that this has been [telephone interruption] in Chile. I mean, I donít know [what] country here in South America. I donít think that the science was considered important. [telephone interruption] Only very recently, in the very recent [interruption to answer phone] — Only recently the public opinion in Chile has changed in the sense that science, in general, not only science but science and arts and things like this, is important for the country. That in this, those are related with these fields are the ones that are going to teach the rest in order to improve the level of, in general, of the people that live in the country. And this is something that is very important, of course. I mean, this is the base for the country to be able to develop. But this is something that only recently became very important. And the governments now, the last governments of Chile and other countries are putting more and more and more money into education.

Levin:

Interesting. When you think back on your time at Lamont and what you saw happening while you were there, do you have a sense of how Lamont developed and how it worked, why it was achieving certain successes in science?

Kausel:

I couldnít get that. I mean, it was something that was far from what I was doing at Lamont and in New York at the university. So that it was not clear to me, for instance, how the, at that time, of course, how the financing of all the —

Levin:

Well, not so much the funding, but rather how Lamont was progressing, making scientific breakthroughs and why. Do you have a sense of what made Lamont work?

Kausel:

Well, I think that, I had the impression that Lamont was Lamont because — First of all, you had some, Lamont had some very important scientists. And in first term, and in first place, of course, Maurice Ewing was the person that I had the impression that he moved, he decided, he knew what he wanted with Lamont and I had the impression that this was the reason why Lamont was in such a high level compared to other. Even within Columbia University, Lamont was something that was clearly very high, very high level.

Levin:

Really?

Kausel:

Yes. I had this impression.

Levin:

So even talking to people outside of your field, within Columbia, they knew about Lamont?

Kausel:

Oh yes, yes.

Levin:

Did they realize what they were doing at Lamont?

Kausel:

I donít think that they knew exactly what they were doing, but for instance, they knew that it was important because Lamont was a kind of institute, for instance, in some way that belonged to the geology department. But Lamont was more important and moved more people and had more research and things like this than the rest of the department. I mean, Lamont was a piece of the department, but was larger than the department itself. So — and this is clearly a result of some key people. You didnít have that just because of the boss alone. I mean, this never happens like that. You have to have key people that produce this large institution like Lamont.

Levin:

And so there was Ewing.

Kausel:

Yes. I think so, yes. This was my impression at that time. And, of course, when I left, it continued evolving in the right direction. But the beginning. Of course, I — Lamont was there already when I arrived. But I had the impression that all of it was the work of Maurice Ewing, and some others probably.

Levin:

Who would you say were the others, the key people?

Kausel:

Well, my impression was that important people at that time were, for instance, Jack [John] Nafe. I had the feeling that Jack Nafe was important, not from the administrative point of view, but he had a very high level of thinking in geophysics and physics. I think he was important. Joe [J. Lamar] Worzel was also very important. Bruce Heezen and Manik Talwani. And probably some others that were related more in the oceanographic point of view, but I was not too much involved in that.

Levin:

You mentioned that you were one of Manik Talwaniís students. What was he like as a professor or adviser?

Kausel:

What was he like? Well, he, at that time, he was in charge of all the activity related with gravity, gravity research. And he was somebody that worked all day. You could see him; he was there all the time. He was not living at Lamont, but he was always there. I mean, all of Lamont itself, or on a boat. And he must have — I mean all the gravity lines that existed at that time, somehow were obtained because Manik was there. I mean, this is similar in each one of the fields. Of course, there were people that were very, very energetic in their work, and also they knew they were the specialists in the United States in the field. I mean, so one could see that each time the decision was made to have a — to make a survey somewhere, it was because there was an important idea that could be solved by making those, that field work. So there was always a scientific idea behind [them]. You just — itís not just measuring, measuring without having a clear idea of what you want when you are measuring. And this was an important, how would you call this, this characteristic, of Manik Talwani, and all the work that was made in gravity?

Levin:

What was his style as a mentor, as a teacher, adviser?

Kausel:

Well, the, apart from the teaching in classrooms, I mean, I would say that the most important teaching was done during the field trips and during the work in the laboratory to interpret the information. When you were working with him in order to be able to interpret the profiles, the gravity profiles, or gravity surface in general, this was the moment in which you could get more out of Manik Talwani. Because each data that you needed, everything that you discussed with him, and the group, of course, this was the most fruitful moment of the work.

Levin:

Interesting. Now when you left Lamont, you hadnít graduated yet.

Kausel:

No.

Levin:

You were invited back.

Kausel:

Exactly.

Levin:

By — was it a professor here, the head of the department here in Chile?

Kausel:

Yes. Well, it was the dean of the faculty. This, the faculty here is the faculty of physical and mathematical sciences. And within the faculty, there is a department of geophysics, a department of geology, department of mining engineering, department of civil engineering, department of chemistry, department of physics, and so on. There are fifteen departments. Each one of those departments has a director. And the faculty has a dean. The dean was the person that went to the United States, for some other reason, but when he went, he was in New York, he asked me to come back. Without finishing, in order to be able to continue what Cinna Lomnitz, the director, was doing [telephone interruption], but he was leaving to [University of California] Berkeley. He was not going to stay here anymore. And as I said in the end of the fifties, beginning of the sixties, this was the time when people were hired full time at the university. So this was just the beginning. Nobody could, that we didnít have any other experienced geophysicists to get in charge of what Cinna Lomnitz was leaving you see. So he considered that one way would be for me to come to Chile and try to do something with all the little information that I had as a geophysicist. But this was the beginning. It was the way things started.

Levin:

Oh, that must have been a difficult decision to stop.

Kausel:

Exactly. Exactly. Yes. Yes, because, well, as I said, Manik Talwani told me donít go because if you go back to Chile, you will never finish your thesis because you are going to have so many things to do there. It was the opportunity of really working something for a year in a very specific manner; you are not going to be able to do this. If you are alone, you are not going to have any other people work with you. You are not going to be able to discuss things at the beginning. That group is forming, and so on. So that you forget, forget the possibility of getting a Ph.D. And this was true. Because only eight years or seven years after that, I could go back in order to have full time — all my time to work on something that would become a thesis.

Levin:

What was that seven years like when you came back? How would you compare the science that was being done here, with the science and the work that you were doing at Lamont?

Kausel:

Well, I would say that apart from what the director of the department, Cinna Lomnitz, did, in a similar way of my case, he got a degree of civil engineering in Chile. And he went to Cal Tech [California Institute of Technology], and there he got his Ph.D. in seismology. And some years later, maybe three years after he got his Ph.D., he came back to Chile because he was hired by the university to work full time. He was the first full time scientist in geophysics. There were other geophysicists before, but in, people that, well, were more, as I said, more kind of amateur in geophysics, than being somebody that had formal studies and formal discipline of how science has to be done. So when he came back, he stayed here for three, four years. I worked with him for my thesis in engineering. When I finished I went to study and then I had to come back because he was leaving. So we started again practically with zero people at the department. This was the difficult. So the — I mean, the dean of the faculty didnít know who to get in charge of this. Something that Cinna Lomnitz was trying to develop.

Levin:

But you wanted to make sure that the work that Cinna was pioneering continued?

Kausel:

Continued. Exactly. And he said the only person I know, he said, is you. So you have to go back.

Kausel:

This is the way it is. This was, as I said, this was the period in which in physics, geophysics, maybe chemistry, was the beginning of real science in those fields. And at the end of the fifties, the beginning of the sixties. Not, itís not the same thing as in biology because biology started much earlier. The faculty, in the faculty of medicine, there was no faculty of science at the time, but there was a faculty of medicine, where a good group of biologists worked from probably, starting around middle — end of the twenties, and beginning of the thirties. But they were doing — at that time we started in physics and geophysics and chemistry in the sixties, or end of the fifties, so there was a lag of about twenty years from biologists to other scientific fields.

Levin:

So you basically had the chance to start from scratch, basically.

Kausel:

Yes.

Levin:

So how did you know, what were your plans? How did you decide to build this?

Kausel:

Well, you see, from the beginning. Well, when I arrived back here in Santiago, there were three groups that at least in the — I mean, administratively, there was, oh, how would you call this, the department had the idea of having a group in seismology, a group in prospecting geophysics, geophysical prospecting, and a group in meteorology. These were the three groups that Cinna Lomnitz wanted to develop. So at the time, at the time that I went to Columbia University, there was another engineer that also went to study abroad. He left one year before I left to Columbia. He went to Cal Tech [California Institute of Technology]. The name of the person is Armando Cisternos. And well he went to study seismology too. And I brought, I, my idea, original idea, was to study prospecting geophysics or geophysical prospecting, but I studied seismology. But I came back first, before Armando Cisternos came back. So that when I arrived here, well, Cinna Lomnitzís idea was to develop a group in seismology. So there were two that went abroad in order to study seismology. Then a group of prospecting geophysics — I mean, really my idea, original idea, was to get into that group when that group would evolve. And meteorology, we didnít have anybody, but Cinna considered it important to have somebody to work in that field and he hired two engineers, two electrical engineers that had to learn by themselves. They did not go immediately abroad. So this was all that we had. So when I came back, I was not going to change those three fields. The thing that I could do was to ask the dean to give me the resources in order to send more people abroad. You know, to have later, three, four, five years later, people that were coming back in these fields. And this was a way this department evolved.

Levin:

Thatís an interesting way of doing it.

Kausel:

So at this moment, there are many that many, in general scientists that work in the department of geophysics that left Chile to study in meteorology, or seismology, or geophysical prospecting, and so on, in the late sixties, mid-sixties, late sixties. But, of course, from then on many others have gone and are working as young seismologists, young meteorologists that are coming back in this moment. So the system is already operating now.

Levin:

So were you — so, of course, you were able to get the funds to send people, other people abroad. Did that mean that you were able to start working then in seismology?

Kausel:

Yes. You see the thing was during those years the important thing was to find the way to get the right people, scientists or engineers, in that moment to go to study. There were some aspects of the teaching that because the department, we did not have a kind of masterís degree at that time, there was nothing. The only thing that you could teach here was engineering. So that meant well many courses and many students that studied some courses in geophysics that we had to give. And, well, to be involved in that and to be involved in the administration of a department was evolving at this moment from practically zero, this took practically all time. And, of course, we hoped in specific aspects of seismology or prospecting geophysics and so on that without the help of more [telephone interruption] experienced geophysicists, we could not know exactly if what we were doing was something that was very important or not. But the time that you had a good time with that. And it goes very slowly if you donít have people that with whom you can talk to and say well, Iím doing this, what do you think, and so on. This is a difficult situation. So we were doing lots of things, but probably not things that were very efficient things. Not very. You didnít come to very important results because there was a lack of people to talk to, discuss things and so on.

Levin:

That makes sense. You have, of course, within your institute, you were basically alone until you started building, bringing the people back in. I was wondering when in 1970 [Salvador] Allende came to power, and I know during that time thereís a lot of collaboration with like the Soviets and Pulkova [Observatory] and outside the U.S. How about in your field? You didnít have people to talk to within the university, but what about outside?

Kausel:

Yes. At that time, at that time, in the beginning at the end of the sixties, five years after we started with sending people abroad, and so on, we had already a group. And it was a group with — I would say that there were very bright people at that moment that they already worked in the department. In Ď69 I think we had, letís see, something like five Ph.D. theses in seismology; three Ph.Ds. in meteorology and one in prospecting geophysics. So that the group in seismology was, if you want, you can say that it was, at that moment, strong from our prospective. It was a strong group. At that time, we had also invited already some important seismologists from the United States for instance, Leon Knopoff. Leon Knopoff was, I went in 1971, 1971 or Ď72, Ď71, I went to California to UCLA [University of California Los Angeles] because he was in charge of the department of geophysics there. The seismology group really of UCLA. But we invited him to Chile in just at the beginning, letís see, yes, probably at the time of Allende. And it was, of course, very interesting for Leon Knopoff here in Chile. Interesting experience. But he said at that time, he said he thought that the group of five, the group of five good seismologists was something that was not very common in many other places in the world. To have five good seismologists working in the same department. And this was the — he had to give a, how do you call, an informe in Spanish, itís a report. Report of his visit to this university and also to the OAS [Organization of American States] because we got the money for him to come to Chile from the OAS, Organization of American States. So he could stay here for six months. And the report that he gave to the OAS was that the group was an important group, that not many countries have groups in a university with five or more seismologists. That he felt that the group was working, each one, in different things, and were not working as a group. This was the report of Leon Knopoff at the time.

Levin:

What did you think of that?

Kausel:

And I think that he was right. The problem was that we had one person that studied in CalTech. And, of course, he, the thesis he was, when that person came back to Chile, he worked in the line of his thesis. We had somebody that came back from Moscow and he had the school, the Russian school, and he worked in a line that was different from the one from CalTech. We had one from Columbia University, myself, who was working on another thing. And so on. So each one of us were working in different things. And not only that, in aspects of seismology that was not Chilean seismology. He said you have earthquakes here in Chile. What you should do is to work in about your earthquakes and not the earthquake in California or the earthquake in Russia or the earthquake — And he was right. He was right. Now, the problem was that at that time during the Allende regime, there were people during Ailendeís regime and after Allendeís regime that left because they didnít like Allendeís regime, or they left after Allendeís regime because they liked Ailendeís regime, but immediately after they couldnít stay, because they didnít like the military regime. So the group dispersed completely.

Levin:

So that when Allende lost power, did the person who studied in Moscow have a problem being seen as a Communist?

Kausel:

Yes, exactly. So they had to leave the country. And only, only recently, they started coming back. But before that, there were others that decided to leave because they didnít like Allende. And now also, theyíre now coming back too. So, but in between there, we sent other people to study. So now the young people are the ones that are important, not the ones that were, that were studied say, in the sixties. All that, how do you call this?

Levin:

The old regime.

Kausel:

No. I mean the age of the seismologists who studied in the late sixties, that is a different generation. So the young generation is the important one now. So things change. But there were some difficulties from that point of view. We had a very good group, and the group, I mean, dispersed, and we had to start again sending new people.

Levin:

Was it, those five that you mentioned one that studied in Moscow, one at Cal Tech, and of course you went to Columbia.

Kausel:

Yes. There was another from MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology].

Levin:

Of course, MIT, you all had different things that you were working on. But what about — did you find that your way of working, the type that you learned in Columbia University at Lamont, was different than the style of science that the person that studied in Moscow did?

Kausel:

Well, if you look at the basic, basic seismology, itís not really different. But the aspects that you choose for research at the end, itís a little bit different. Some were more interested in working with the problems of the source of the earthquake, source problems. Others were more interested in problems of propagation of waves within the earth. Others were more interested in structural, that you can get the structural interior of the earth, from seismic waves. So you have five, and each one has a different field. Each one works independently. And this is not very efficient when you donít have too many people. See, five, six, seven, itís a group that one would expect them to have, say, two lines of research. And this was not the case. So that I think that Leon Knopoff at that time was right in saying that we should try to consider some important problems that we can solve in Chile and use the information that we can get in Chile that is, that is different from the information that we can get from other countries. And there is an advantage in the sense that you have your own information, you can determine the characteristics of your earthquakes. You are very close to them so you know more than any other people. This is what Knopoff said. Try to study something from, I donít know, from the Antarctica or earthquakes in California, when you have your own earthquakes that are as or more interesting than the ones that you are studying from a distance.

Levin:

At that time, were you still trying to work on what you had been doing at Lamont?

Kausel:

Yes. But as I said, since that evolved. This, at that time, my thesis was really written on gravity more than seismology. But here in Chile, I had to see things in seismology more than gravity because this was more important. And we had a network of stations that one had to keep running. One had to interpret the seismograms daily and think of this — I was touching the problem of my thesis very, once every month a little bit. And this means that each time the thesis itself was getting less, less, was old. It became old. Each time with the data that I was using was data that I was using four years before, five years before. And this was not interesting any more. See. So when I went back to the States, I said well, I have now one and a half years to work in something. I had to rearrange the thing and talk to Manik Talwani in order to decide how to put something that I could do in one and a half years, and was interesting, I mean, at that moment.

Levin:

So, you started really working on the seismology, the station. What about the others? Were they still working? You said, you were still working on the fields, but did they retain the connections between the organizations?

Kausel:

Yes.

Levin:

So that the person who worked in Moscow had kept that collaboration.

Kausel:

Exactly. Exactly.

Levin:

Interesting.

Kausel:

And there were, for instance, suppose that that person that went to certain university abroad was interested in working on the core of the earth with seismic waves. When he came back to Chile, he continued that. Keep studying the core of the earth and not studying the big earthquake, the large earthquake of Santiago or something like this. You see. And you can stay in a — and those became specialists in what their thesis was. You work one, two years in a thesis and then you become a specialist in that field, in that aspect of seismology. When you — so the next two, three, four or five years, you keep working in that line. See. So it is good to have people from different parts that have studied in different places because then you have more, a better vision of whatís going on. But if you stay working on the same thing for two, three, four, five years and each one does the same, then thereís no connection between what you are doing and what your neighbor is doing. And this was the critique that Leon Knopoff wrote down in his report of his stay of six months in Chile.

Levin:

Interesting. Do you think that he was listened to? That they —?

Kausel:

Yes. Yes. I think that after that, well, it was not immediate because as I said, I mean, there was Allendeís regime and then the military regime. And those difficulties, especially after 1973, when you start looking whatís going in 1973, 1974, then you didnít have any people. We didnít have the seismologists practically here in Chile. So it was practically a new start of what to do, where to send people, to choose the right person to go to study. This takes time. I mean, again, ten years until you have, begin to have people coming back. Itís a difficult thing.

Levin:

And so you went, in 1971, you went to UCLA?

Kausel:

UCLA.

Levin:

And you worked for a year and a half. And during that time, of course, you were in collaboration with Manik Talwani.

Kausel:

Yes, exactly.

Levin:

And in 1972, you went back to Lamont for the first time in all those years —

Kausel:

Exactly.

Levin:

— for your defense.

Kausel:

Exactly.

Levin:

How did you, did you notice a change in Lamont when you returned?

Kausel:

Well. Of course, there was a, I mean, it grew. I mean tenfold, very, it was very large. And I couldnít imagine that it could evolve so fast. I mean, it was really much more buildings. I mean there was a big change, really big change. At Lamont, there was a big change. Not so much in New York, at Columbia University, because Columbia, I mean, in New York itself it is more, at least from the point of view of geophysics, it is more the teaching part. So you donít see too much change. You see the same classrooms. Of course, some professors change. But the system of how a department of teaching operates does not change too much in the ten years. But Lamont itself really grew very fast. And the difference, I saw a difference in New York in relation to what the university in California is compared to Columbia. This was a very large change. Because in UCLA, UCLA is more, how would you call it, more, ah, thereís a word. When you had to have a —?

Levin:

Forming.

Kausel:

No, Columbia University is much more formal than UCLA.

Levin:

Columbia is more formal.

Kausel:

Yes. Columbia is more formal. And this was a — I had forgotten that it was so formal. When I stayed for one and a half years at UCLA, and went to New York, I could see it. I could see the students were different from what the students were at UCLA. I donít know, that I donít say that itís better or worse, but it was this difference was very large. I mean, you could feel this.

Levin:

What about from Lamont to Columbia? Lamont was more informal.

Kausel:

Lamont was more informal. More informal, yes. Yes, of course, because it was practically a laboratory. People went into the ship, back to the laboratories, and so on. It was more informal. Yes. Itís, both types of things are interesting to see. I mean, itís. And when, since I when I left Columbia in 1964, came to Chile, and went in 1971 back to the states to UCLA, well I thought that the difference was because, well, six years, seven years were. But it was not that. It was because you see I was at this probably even in this moment different than Columbia University. Itís a difference. The ambiance. And so that I could see the difference very clearly when I took the plane from UCLA and went to New York. And then you could see because this was instantaneous. There was no time elapsed. And there was —

Levin:

But as for Lamont, the main difference was just the size.

Kausel:

Well, yes, the size. I mean the new buildings. Much more people working. More research vessels because Verna was at that time, didnít — was just a, I think, a museum. And so it was different. It was completely different, another size, another order of magnitude different.

Levin:

Okay. And so you defended and so you finished the degree at that time.

Kausel:

I finished the degree.

Levin:

And returned to Chile.

Kausel:

And returned to Chile. So then, and this was in just at the time in, this was Ď72, this must have been, I think it was October, Ď72, something like that. So the, it was, that say, September to October, about a year before it was Allendeís regime. And then September, September Ď73, yes. So at that time, I mean, there was lots of activity in the university. I mean, it was very interesting, but all what was going on in the university. I mean, many people came from abroad in order to see what was the experience in Chile.

Levin:

What was happening?

Kausel:

Well, because the — it was the first time in thirty-five years in any place in the world, that a Marxist could became president by election. So that experience, many people from abroad came to Chile in order to see how it was going on, what was going on in Chile?

Levin:

Particularly from different regions?

Kausel:

From, not only from South America, but people from Europe, people from the United States. And sociologists and historians and politicians and so on wanted to see how this was evolving in Chile, and it was very interesting.

Levin:

Did you have more collaboration with Russia and Cuba and the Soviet bloc?

Kausel:

Yes. There were lots of possibilities at that time to have collaboration. We had at that time, apart from Leon Knopoff, we had two Russian seismologists come to Chile and, well, we did not have Cuban scientists. At least in geophysics we did not. But the — of course, for instance, important people from Cuba were in Chile. Since [Fidel] Castro was specially invited to Chile during Allendeís regime. And this was also an interesting opportunity for people from other countries to see whatís going on. So there are many people from the scientific fields, from the political point of view, from the point of view of all the strikes. I mean, because it was such a different government from the ones that we had before, of course, this makes a clash. And the clash was inside the university, outside the university, and each one of those aspects was of interest for people to see how the politics evolve. How the problems, I mean, sociological problems, historical problems and things like that. So it was a very active period. I mean, maybe not very, very productive from the point of view of science. Because there were many other things that people were, were involved. Elections within the university.

Levin:

So was science, would you say that science was more disturbed by politics or science became political?

Kausel:

I would say probably it somehow disturbed, but not because the regime would like to force science in a direction. This was not the case. But I would say that all the political activity was so important that even forced the scientists to get involved in political activities, and elections and new deans, and new rectors.

Levin:

So they were getting sidetracked.

Kausel:

Yes, exactly.

Levin:

So when, of course, the coup took place in Ď73, you had sixteen years of military rule. A lot of people left.

Kausel:

Yes, lots of people left.

Levin:

Were you ever concerned about your position? What happened to science during that time?

Kausel:

Well, if you think that at that time. Well, science was not, not important for the regime, for the [Augusta] Pinochetís military regime. There was somehow the idea that, for instance, this university is the largest university in Chile. I think itís still the largest university. But from the point of view of the government, it was a very dangerous university. Because itís large, too many people think — So I think it was a kind of a problem for government, the existence of a university that was so strong. In general, within the University of Chile, all the political things of political activity or ideas or things like this that, all those political ideas, started at the university first and then what happened within the university, then happens outside. So one could say, well, if this is happening in the University of Chile, the same thing is going to happen outside. This was something that is historically, not only during Allendeís regime or the military regime, but before and after. Always, somehow the university [telephone interruption] was a step forward. So this is something that is not a [?]. Well as I said, the things that happen in the country happen first in the university. So the military regime, of course, didnít like too much to have a — at least one university, it was so strong and give [telephone interruption] they decided that the University of Chile should be only at Santiago because the University of Chile was a national university. And like UCLA, for instance, is a university that has campuses all over California. The University of Chile had campuses all over Chile from Arica [Chile] to the south. So that a decision was that the University of Chile should be university, thereís a campus only in Santiago and the rest of the campuses would have to be, from that moment on, independent universities in order to divide a little a university thatís so — now that the university to be not so strong as it was. And while this was a — I would say not a difficult political problem. Because we had, at that time — I asked that the department of geophysics should be national in the sense that the seismological stations that were all installed all over the country should be owned by this department, and not by the local university that would constitute now a new university independent from this. I said, no, the network should be centralized at the department, kept centralized. And so from that point of view, we didnít suffer. But, of course, we had a big problem from the point of view being able to hire people. To hire people, and say well, I would like you to work here, but we hire you, you go to study somewhere, and then you come back. For instance, Jaime Campos did that. He, Jaime Campos, letís see, he got his masterís degree in nineteen eighty something, eighty-eight maybe, 1988. And then he went to France in order to get the Ph.D. and he came back in nineteen ninety-two, something like that. Heís now three years back. He started — he left Chile during the military regime in order to get the Ph.D. and came back after the regime was over.

Levin:

So people are being sent out, even during this period of time?

Kausel:

Yes.

Levin:

That wasnít considered a danger?

Kausel:

No. No. No. This wasnít considered a danger.

Levin:

But it was hard because you were hiring people, but sending them out.

Kausel:

The difficulty was to hire people. Because they said, no, the university is now going to have half of the budget, for instance. And then with half of the budget, the only thing that you can do is to keep those that are that have been hired before and this is all what you can do. You cannot hire new people. And so it is very difficult.

Levin:

Because you didnít have the budget to do so.

Kausel:

Yes. Yes. It was difficult.

Levin:

The budget was just cut in half.

Kausel:

Well, not in halfí, but it was really —

Levin:

It was reduced substantially.

Kausel:

It was reduced. And you know that, say something like seventy percent of the total budget of a university is salaries. Something like that. Because you can have departments without any equipment, but they think only — But you have to pay them for them to live. I mean, so you can have a department of mathematics. For instance, you donít need, well; you need computers and things like this. But you can have them sitting in the department of mathematics, working in the fields of mathematics and the cost of that is paying the salaries, more than any other thing. So itís —

Levin:

But what about in geophysics?

Kausel:

In geophysics itís different.

Levin:

How did you arrange your funding?

Kausel:

Well, the way that we arranged that was that in general the equipment that we needed we got that equipment from some organization from abroad, by how do you call this when you give something, a —

Levin:

A donation.

Kausel:

A donation. Since, for instance, in seismology, it is so important, not only for Chile, but for many countries to learn about earthquakes, then seismologists in the States or in Europe are interested that a certain minimum of instruments, seismological instruments, should be operated in Chile. So we got donations. We said we need a station there, we need a station here, and thatís always been possibilities to get donations in seismology. The same thing for the group of geology. It was more difficult in geophysical prospecting to have equipment to go to the field or to make status of copper mines or something like this. I mean that the equipment that you need to go to the field. So only now we are starting again to get some equipment in prospecting geophysics. But we didnít have too much problems in seismology. Before it was easier, of course. For instance, during the Ailende regime, the Russians sent us equipment, what we needed. Before that, in general, the equipment that we got, we got in seismology was from the United States, especially from the United States. But we had received also equipment from Germany, from France, and this moment, I would say that the, in number, not necessarily in price, but in number we have here now twenty seismological stations donated by France, in the northern part of Chile.

Kausel:

Itís interesting that in seismology, even so, even if you work in seismology in aspects that it did locally of interest, fortunately those local problems are also of interest internationally. So in seismology, the connection of scientists from different countries is of prime importance. I mean, we cannot work isolated. And, of course, we have very good friends, seismologists and geologists and so on in the United States at different universities, and also in Europe. It is — otherwise, you cannot do anything if you are not related with other people that work in the same field in other parts.

Levin:

The type of funding though was, I imagine, very different from what it was at Lamont. There werenít grants to write; for instance, industry. You didnít have that option to go to industry or government source.

Kausel:

You mean here in Chile?

Levin:

Yes.

Kausel:

Well, in general industry, if you think about seismology, I would say the industries in Chile would not put in any money. The industry is Chile is still —

Levin:

Except for the prospecting.

Kausel:

For prospecting, yes. For prospecting, itís easier from the mining industries, yes. But in general what they ask is if one can make a geophysical prospecting. They are not going to tell you, well, Iím going to give you the instruments. They say, well, how much would you charge for a certain work. And then they say, well, put it in the budget, put the money necessary to buy the instruments, but they are not going to buy the instruments for you. And so that this is one way that you can do it. But the problem with that is, you have to work actively in science that is sometimes too close to something that is not science any more. Itís too close to results that are more related to things are already known. But they need an interpretation of a certain region and so on. And we sometimes say, well, that this is not in the interest of the university. There are other companies, geophysical prospecting companies that can do that work. And so we should not get into that. Because if we go too much into that, then you donít, you forget science again. So it is very difficult to —

Levin:

To draw that parallel. Thatís interesting. Well, do you think thereís anything about your time at Columbia and at Lamont that you feel that we havenít covered?

Kausel:

Letís see. Well, I wouldnít say that we hadnít covered, but I would say that the experience of being for a long time at Columbia University, three years, and the contacts that you keep, even after that, even if you donít physically go to Columbia University, has been, I mean, such an interesting and important experience for me. I mean the stay at Columbia University probably made the way I have done things later. And so this for me it is something that is, I mean, very important.

Levin:

About how much of your time was spent at Columbia and how much at Lamont?

Kausel:

Well, during the three years that I was there, I would say that, say in the first two years, the first year I was practically all the time in New York. Because I took so many courses and so on, that I didnít have time to do other things the first year. But, of course, I would say that probably the first year it was maybe seventy percent in New York, thirty percent in Lamont. And the second year it was something like forty percent in New York and sixty percent in Lamont; in the third year, practically all the time. But I lived in New York; I still lived in New York. So that I went to Lamont in the morning and came back late in the afternoon. So from the point of working time, I was probably say ninety percent of the time at Lamont.

Levin:

But you feel like Columbia has marked you more?

Kausel:

No, when I say Columbia, I say Columbia and Lamont because Lamont is part of Columbia University.

Levin:

How has it affected your later career? How has it —?

Kausel:

I mean, very much. I mean I cannot, I would not have been able to do anything in geophysics or in seismology without my studies at Columbia University. And Columbia University is and was one of the best universities in the United States in that, in this field at least. So it was very important. I mean, I cannot imagine a different combination. Because those three years. Well, of course, I studied in Chile for six years at this university before going three years to Columbia. But the three years in Columbia were the years where I got the influence of geophysics more than engineering. So, no, for me, I mean, itís without any doubt absolutely fundamental for me.

Levin:

Wonderful. Well, I thank you for this interview.

Session I | Session II