Oral History Transcript — Dr. Kaj Strand
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Kaj Strand; January 3, 1984
ABSTRACT: Recounts Strandís (b. February 27, 1907) career in astronomy which began with graduate work at the University of Copenhagen (PhD, 1938, astronomy) and included positions at the Geodetic Institute in Copenhagen (1931-3); at the University of Leiden (1933-8) ; at Swarthmore College (1938-46) ; at the University of Chicago (1946-67); at Northwestern as Director of the Dearborn Observatory (1947-58) ; and at the US Naval Observatory as Director of Astrometry and Astrophysics (1958-63) and as Science Director (1963-77). The interview concentrates on Strandís astronomical research at the Naval Observatory on photographic observation of double stars, stellar parallaxes, and orbital motions in double and multiple systems, as well as his administrative activities there. He also recounts his early family life and education in Denmark, and his experiences in the American Army in WWII.
Session I | Session II
Dick:This is Steve Dick interviewing Dr. Kaj Strand at his home — January 3, 1984.
Strand:We left off last December 8 with your years at Northwestern. I think weíd gotten up to about 1953, at which time the Evanston Conference on Astrometry took place.
Strand:Yes, thatís right.
Dick:You were approached by Gerald Clemence and Dirk Brouwer to arrange that conference. Exactly what was your involvement in it and what was the role of the conference?
Strand:Well, the role of the conference was to get the most active astrometrists together to see if we could somehow get astrometry revived. It had been in the doldrums, and there were various people who had been urging that we ought to get together and have such a conference. I acted as host, and the grant for the meeting was to Northwestern University, and we had quite a number of prominent people there. We had Otto Heckmann for instance from Germany. We had Danjon from France, and Sir Harold Spencer Jones from Great Britain and Stoy from South Africa, just to mention those that were most remote. Incidentally, this was the first international conference sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
Dick:On any subject?
Strand:On any subject, as far as I could ascertain, at least in astronomy. And the outcome of the meeting, I think, brought about the plans for the AFG3R, which was very important, of course. And another subject was the question of the Brouwer astrograph in Argentina. These were two of the major accomplishments, of the meeting. In addition, of course, we pointed out where there were deficiencies, like in parallax work, in double star work and so on.
Dick:What would you say were the deficiencies in parallax work and double star work at that time?
Strand:Well, in parallax work, there was of course the problem that we did not have a telescope that could observe the faint stars that were being discovered or had been discovered by various proper motion programs, and for instance, we did not have enough parallaxes of white dwarfs or red dwarfs. In other words, we did not have enough parallaxes of stars which were at the low end of the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram. And of course, we had very few active observers in the double star field, in visual double star work.
Dick:Just to back up for a moment, this conference was supported by the NSF. Was it difficult to get the money from them to do this?
Strand:No, it wasnít, not at that time. We had no difficulties whatever. They were very sympathetic and very interested, and they also had representatives of the National Science Foundation present at the meeting.
Dick:This was right about the time when they were beginning to talk about a new National Observatory at Kitt Peak?
Strand:Thatís right. I became a member of the advisory panel at that same time, and one of the first things that we discussed in the Fall meeting in Washington was the National Observatory.
Dick:At the astrometry conference?
Strand:No, afterwards, in the fall at the NSF panel meeting.
Dick:How about double star work? What deficiencies were there in double star work? Was it in the visual side?
Strand:Well, simply that we did not have enough people active in that field, and it was very hard to get people involved in this, because first of all, there were more exciting fields that took preference.
Dick:Letís go on now to your final years at Northwestern. You said in you autobiographical notes that there were two main projects that took up most of your time during your final years there. One was the planning for a computer center?
Strand:Thatís right. This was another program that NSF initiated, namely, that they would support computing centers at various universities. Of course I immediately looked into whether we could get a center at Northwestern University, because it was on very favorable terms, namely, that IBM supported this arrangement, because they would provide their computer, the IBM 650, at a 60 percent discount. So what we needed was funding for setting up the center, and the place for it, and then also to provide the remaining cost for the 40 percent rental after the initial funding by NSF. When I approached the vice president about this, he was somewhat reluctant, but he told me to write a proposal and then present it to the deans of the university and he wanted that I should do this myself, but at the last moment he decided he was going to present my report to the deans himself, and the deans turned it down flat, which I was quite upset about. This was in the Spring of 1956, and I wrote a rather strong letter about this.
Dick:You wrote the letter to whom?
Strand:To the vice president of Northwestern, and told him in no uncertain terms my feelings about this. Then the same fall, he came back unexpectedly and told me that the trustees of the university had decided that the university ought to have a computing center, would I take it up again and see if I could get the funding from the National Science Foundation, which we did. We converted the transit circle room that we had at the observatory for the computer center.
Dick:How long had the transit circle room not functioned as a transit circle room?
Strand:Oh, it hadnít functioned since, I believe 1935.
Dick:What were the specific applications that you had in mind in getting this IBM 650 for Northwestern?
Strand:Well, I got together an advisory group informally of faculty members from various departments: political science, economics, geology, geography, biology, and mathematics, and got their consensus, whether if they had such a center how they would make use of it, and they were all enthusiastic about it, including also members from the business and engineering schools. And so I knew that it would be used.
Dick:How about in astronomy in particular? Were you planning on using it for data reduction?
Strand:Yes, we would use it for our data reduction, for our photographic double star programs and some of the other programs we were doing on clusters.
Dick:How was the data reduction being done before the 650?
Strand:Well, before the 650, it was done by ordinary computers, desk calculators.
Strand:Mechanical, yes, electromechanical. So it would be a great advantage to have it. When it was approved, I also wanted to have a person to head up the technical part of the center, and I got Dr. Daniel Harris from Yerkes Observatory, who had been one of my students and was an assistant professor, to come to Northwestern. He was brought in as an associate professor, and he and I went to IBM school, he for a longer period, I for a short period, just to get acquainted with what it was all about. And so we started the computing center in 1957.
Dick:How many other universities had the 650 by that time?
Strand:I donít know exactly how many, but there were quite a few. I donít know exactly whether we were at the tail end, but at least I felt the time was ripe that we should have such a center.
Dick:Now your second main project during this time was the astrometric reflector?
Strand:Yes. I have already mentioned that we had the need for a telescope that could observe parallaxes of faint stars, fainter than was practical with the existing refractors, and I had looked into the matter of whether a reflector could actually do the work. I think I was the first one to really go in depth investigating the parallaxes that van Maanen had done at Mt. Wilson Observatory. I found out that his parallaxes with the 60-inch were comparable to those that had been obtained with the refractor. There were not very many overlapping stars, because van Maanen had gone to fainter stars, so the material was slim but it showed that the 60-inch was suitable for it.
Dick:About when was van Maanen doing that work?
Strand:Well, van Maanen did that way back, I would say around 1915 or so, I donít know exactly. I know he was in the United States by 1915, and I think he started up right away on parallaxes.
Dick:Why did it take so long for someone to pick up where his work left off?
Strand:Well, it was so heavily criticized, you know.
Dick:What was the criticism?
Strand:The criticism was that the reflector did not have the same stability as a refractor had. And of course all the big names in parallax research were doing parallaxes with refractors, starting with Schlesinger, first at Yerkes, then at Allegheny, and then when he moved to Yale, he established an observatory in South Africa, with a refractor for observing parallaxes. Then of course you had McCormick Observatory and you had the Sproul Observatory, and with a smaller telescope at van Vleck, and the story was the same overseas where they were using refractors for parallax work. But when I examined the work van Maanen did with the 100-inch, it showed that he got some extremely poor results, and the reason for it was that he had unfortunately used a field where you had comas of the comparison stars. Now, if he had taken faint stars with comparison stars about the same magnitude, without using an occulting disk, then he would have been all right, and he was all right in those cases, but where he used the occulting disk, the only star that was not affected by coma was the parallax star itself, while the comparison stars all had coma and thatís why the results were poor.
Dick:How did you use this experience of van Maanen?
Strand:I realized that perhaps — if one made the telescope real stable and used a coma free field — one could actually do astrometric work, and as time showed, with new developments, it really worked out that way. Of course I recommended this at the Cosmic Distance Scale Conference at the University of Virginia, which was in the Spring of 1956.
Dick:You recommended a large astrometric reflector?
Strand:Yes, by that time.
Dick:Did you specify a 60-inch by that time?
Strand:I specified something of the order of a 60-inch.
Dick:And why about that size?
Strand:Well, because I found that that would be a reasonable size telescope, considering the long focal length that you needed for it, and of course the question was, how could you achieve an optically stable system? The main problem there is that with a conventional reflector where you have magnification on the secondary mirror, you have two optical axes that have to meet precisely, whatever direction the telescope points. And so, I got the idea that perhaps the best thing would be to have a telescope with a flat secondary, because then the only requirement really would be to have the optical axis of the primary, perpendicular to the secondary, which was a flat. And it didnít exactly have to hit at the center of the secondary. And the size came about because in order to get sufficient scale, we had to have a very long focal length. And in order to have say an F:10, that meant then that you had to have a considerably longer telescope than you ordinarily had. As you know, all modem telescopes have been built as a Ritchey-Chretien where you have a compact optical system. So the cost would be higher in my case, and a practical size would be about 60 inches with focal lengths of 600 inches and the dome of course would correspond to that.
Dick:What steps did you take then at Northwestern to realize this design?
Strand:Well, I wrote a memo to the dean with a copy to the vice president. I looked around and realized that building near the lake would not be a good place, because then you view the southern sky right over the city of Chicago, so I suggested a place out in western Illinois, if we should stay within the state, and that was the small city of Galena.
Dick:How far was that from Northwestern?
Strand:About 120 miles.
Dick:What happened to the memo to the vice president?
Strand:Well, I got a letter back from the dean, who said that he felt that there were more urgent things that the university had to do than build a large telescope.
Dick:This was in Ď56?
Strand:No, the final realization that we would not go through with it came in Ď57.
Strand:Yes, I guess so. Yes.
Dick:Weíll talk much more about the design and concept of the 60-inch and the work on what turned out to be the 61-inch, when we get to the Naval Observatory. But we are up to 1957, and 1957 for you and many astronomers was a very important year.
Strand:Yes, thatís when Sputnik went up. The day following that I gave a talk to a large engineering group in Chicago, in one of the big hotels. The talk had been planned about six months before, and of course Sputnik going up immediately created much more interest in what I would talk about. So I ended up with an interview by, I donít know how many people from the press, and of course most of the time at my talk was on the problem of satellites.
Dick:What was the talk supposed to be, do you remember?
Strand:Yes, I was going to talk about new trends in astronomy.
Dick:It was certainly a new trend!
Strand:Yes, it was a new trend. I was going to talk about the establishment of the National Science Foundationís support programs for astronomy, the problem that always faced astronomers, namely, computing, and therefore the electronic computers would be a great improvement, and a new tool for astronomers.
Dick:Did Sputnik affect astronomy at Northwestern at all? Were there second thoughts for example about your telescope?
Strand:No, it didnít affect it that way. They felt since Iíd got the computing center, Iíd had one toy and that should be enough, and of course we went ahead with the computing center and it worked very well. We also got quite a lot of response from the businesses in town who were interested in getting in on using computers.
Dick:It was also in 1957, in April I believe, that Clemence and John Hall first approached you about the possibility of a position at the Naval Observatory.
Strand:Yes, thatís right.
Dick:What was your feeling at that time?
Strand:Well, at that time I felt that it would be rather difficult for me to leave Northwestern and accept a position at the Naval Observatory. I did not realize what the potentials would be at the (U.S. Naval) Observatory, but then with Sputnik going up and a great deal of interest by the Office of Naval Research in support of astronomy, that gradually led me to feel perhaps I should take the chance, although I realized that I was going to go from a tenured position to a civil service job.
Dick:I believe it was in April of Ď58 that you actually came to visit the Naval Observatory?
Strand:I came and talked to Captain Christie, the Superintendent, and he was very accommodating, and they were really eager to have me come. So I decided then that Iíd make the switch at the end of the school year.
Dick:John Hall had not yet gone to Lowell?
Strand:No, he was still at the Observatory. He was going to leave around the 1St of August. And I came there on the 1st of August and the Observatory supported my travels to Russia.
Dick:Before we go on then to the Naval Observatory years, is there anything else youíd like to say about the Northwestern years to characterize them in general?
Strand:Yes. I would say that they were very interesting. I think that we accomplished quite a bit with fairly modest support. We were, most of the time, only two faculty members, but I did have support from the university for a technical assistant, and I did have initially funding from Research Corporation, and later from both ONR (Office of Naval Research) and National Science Foundation.
Dick:This is all at Northwestern?
Strand:While I was still at Northwestern University. Of course I did get involved quite a bit with Washington, in that I was on both the advisory panel of the National Science Foundation and also on the ONR committee that was headed by Jean Streeter. No, we did not have many graduate students. In fact I had only one that got his degree, and later went on to Yale. Two other ones later got degrees elsewhere. I had quite a following. I taught an introductory course and gradually built that up to several hundred students, which I gave one time a year, one quarter.
Dick:Letís move on then to August of 1958. You mentioned already that the Naval Observatory would send you to Moscow. This was the IAU meeting in August of Ď58?
Dick:Now, this was less than a year after Sputnik had gone up. Can you tell me what the atmosphere was at the IAU meeting in Moscow among both astronomers in general and Russian astronomers in particular?
Strand:Well, I think the attitude was very good. The Russians were extremely generous. All our expenses while we were at the meeting were supported by the Russian Academy of Sciences, both hotel and all meals, and we had the excursions, which of course we paid for ourselves.
Dick:How much did the Sputnik achievement and the dawning of the space age in general dominate things at that meeting?
Strand:Well, I would say that some time was spent on it, but not a great deal. It was actually a very constructive meeting as far as astronomy was concerned. We had one big symposium there on the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, which a lot of people attended. I was also chairman of the Commission 24 on stellar parallaxes, and of course, I managed to get a recommendation in support of the astrometric reflector accepted.
Dick:How useful was that later?
Strand:Very useful. I went to Crimea and saw the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory, also the radio observatory they had there. After I came back to Moscow, I was invited to Leningrad by Dr. Mikhailov, who was director of the Pulkovo Observatory. I had met him previously in 1947. He came with a group of Russian astronomers to visit Yerkes Observatory.
Dick:What was the state of Russian astronomy at this time? Would you say it was coming out of the doldrums? What was your impression?
Strand:Well, in Crimea, the biggest telescope was the 50-inch telescope which previously had been in Babelsberg, and that the Germans had used for observation off the coast of England, and the Russians got it for the observatory in Crimea, and they did have at that time the building ready for a 100-inch telescope. At Pulkovo, they had the 26-inch refractor, that Zeiss had built on an order from Hitler as a gift to Mussolini. Thatís still operating there. Itís a nice telescope. Of course it replaced the one that was destroyed during the war, although the Russians had kept in a safe place the optics of that telescope, but I donít think they ever used them again.
Dick:Letís move on then to the Naval Observatory years. You came back from Moscow. Letís set the stage first for the atmosphere at the Naval Observatory compared to what it had been at Northwestern and Yerkes. How would you compare a large government observatory to a university surrounding like Northwestern or a privately endowed observatory like Yerkes?
Strand:Well, the comparison was very hard to make because the emphasis and work was entirely different.
Strand:In the sense that for instance celestial mechanics was very dominant at the Naval Observatory, whereas shall we say at Yerkes Observatory, Chandrasekharís work on stellar models and other projects that he worked on in astrophysics was dominant. So all the planetary motion work that was done at the Naval Observatory was entirely different. As far as telescopes are concerned, there was the 26-inch telescope, but in my estimate it was in very poor shape. I donít think much had been done to it since its installation back in 1893. So that was the first thing that I went after after I got there.
Dick:Before we go on and talk about the specifics of that, how about the administrative structure at the Naval Observatory compared to working at a university?
Strand:In some ways you had a somewhat similar structure. You had your individual departments at the university, and when you were chairman of a department and when you wanted money or anything then you went to the dean or to the vice president. And at the Naval Observatory, if you did not go directly to the Superintendent, you discussed it with Clemence or you brought it up in the Astronomical Council.
Dick:Clemence was the scientific director at that time?
Strand:Clemence had been appointed just before I arrived as scientific director. This was really the first time that there was a clear establishment of somebody higher than the division director, although he was, all things considered, a senior one.
Dick:Do you know what the reason was that this system was established in 1958?
Strand:Well, I donít know, maybe it was because I came from the outside.
Dick:How do you mean?
Strand:Well, after all, the people at the observatory at that time were all people who had been there from their junior appointments, and here I came as a professor and chairman and director of an observatory, and, so, maybe there was a feeling that there ought to be a position established at a somewhat higher level. But Clemenceís position was more in the sense of being an advisor to the Superintendent. The Superintendent, at that time Captain Christie, was a very active person and was very interested in what was going on.
Dick:So we had a Superintendent, a scientific director, and we had five divisions at that time?
Strand:Yes, we had Nautical Almanac Office, Time Service, two Transit Circle Divisions, the Astrometry and Astrophysics Division.
Dick:So you came in as the head of the Astrometry and Astrophysics Division.
Dick:Weíll talk more about the Astrometry and Astrophysics Division in a moment. Another comparison though that I wanted to make to set the stage was the funding structure at the Naval Observatory, as opposed to Northwestern. Youíve already touched on that a bit. Where did most of the funding come from for the Naval Observatory? Can you break it down more specifically than just coming from the Navy?
Strand:Well, it came from the major claimant, the Vice Chief of Naval Operation. Thatís where practically all the money came from. I knew that there were small grants, for instance, to Watts from ONR while I was at the advisory board of the Office of Naval Research, but practically all the money came from the major claimant, and really the funding had been very modest over the years. But now with the advent of the space age, there were more opportunities to get money.
Dick:So you think the dawning of the space age did have a good effect on the Naval Observatory as far as funding goes?
Strand:Oh yes, thereís no question about it, that if you knew your way around in the Navy to ask for money, you could get it.
Dick:By that do you mean ONR (Office of Naval Research) or others also?
Strand:Well, there were various channels. Of course I knew the people in ONR best. Iíd had dealings with the Chiefs of Naval Research there while I was on the committee, and also afterwards in connection with a position that we had at Northwestern for Dr. Otto Franz which was supported by Office of Naval Research, and on that I had to go to the Chief of Naval Research. In fact we had a problem because he came over on a visitorís visa and the question was whether he should go back, and ONR helped us on the business of keeping him.
Dick:ONR was under the Chief of Naval Research?
Strand:Yes. The Chief of Naval Research is the chief of ONR.
Dick:There is also something called OPN money. What is that?
Strand:That came later on.
Dick:There was no such thing as that when you first came?
Strand:No, when I first came, there was no OPN funding.
Strand:Other Procurements Navy. That came in later after I became Scientific Director, and when we first got OPN funding it came from ONR, but later we got it through our major claimant, The Office of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations. And I had to monitor it all the time. In fact, that office also had me justify to DOD and to Congress on some of the OPN funding projects.
Dick:This was later?
Strand:Later, yes. But now, coming back from Russia in 1958 I gave a travel report to Captain Christie, and in that I mentioned the recommendation by the IAU.
Dick:The recommendation to support a 61-inch telescope?
Strand:Yes, and so I suggested in the report that initially an engineering study be done by the Naval Observatory.
Dick:Iíd like to follow up on the details of that at the various levels, first the Naval Observatory, then higher Navy, then on to Congress. Can we start with the Naval Observatory? Continue from where you were going. Exactly what steps were taken?
Strand:I recommended it to Captain Christie and we discussed it and he said, ďWell, OK, letís see what we can do. Put some things together.Ē Then I came up with the recommendation to the Astronomical Council in the beginning of 1959. And the Astronomical Council approved of this.
Dick:Who did the Astronomical Council consist of at this time?
Strand:The five division directors, the scientific director, the deputy superintendent, and the superintendent.
Dick:You say the Astronomical Council approved that in Ď59?
Dick:Were there any problems with that or was it fairly simple?
Strand:No. Clemence, the scientific director, had already told me before I came that he would certainly support any efforts that were being made to get the telescope. Of course heís a very cautious and diplomatic person. He wouldnít say outright that he would see that I got the telescope.
Dick:How about the Superintendent himself, what role did he play?
Strand:Well, he was very good at that, when he saw that this was really something that I wanted. Later on, Clemence told my wife that they were all for supporting it, because they wanted to keep me at the observatory. They were afraid I might take another job somewhere else. And so, he was very supportive of this, and the papers went in on it.
Dick:Which papers are these? Are we going beyond the Naval Observatory now?
Strand:Yes. The proposal had to go in to the major claimant, again, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, and also from there it was passed on to the Chief of Navy Development.
Dick:What was the reaction once that it got beyond the Observatory and the CNOís office?
Strand:Well, they were very good about it. In fact, they came back and requested that we provide certain papers and make certain studies, and present them in the proper form, and that took quite a bit of time including the sketch of what the telescope would look like, and what the facilities would be for housing it and its location. And so later on in Ď59, it was included in the military construction project, already then. We had expected that it would not be included until perhaps in Ď61. But it had smooth sailing, up to a certain point, and I remember that I went with Captain Christie when there was talk about whether it really should be included in the military construction funding. We went to Admiral Hayward, and Capt. Christie started arguing with him and shouting, and Hayward said, ďWell, OK, Iíll support it as long as you get out of my office.Ē
Dick:Who was Hayward?
Strand:He was the Chief of Navy Development.
Dick:What was the argument?
Strand:Hayward wanted to know why the Naval Observatory should have such a telescope.
Dick:So he was not convinced on the basis of valid arguments?
Strand:Well, he was, but he didnít want to have a very long discussion of it. I think he did it more as a gesture.
Dick:Where did the proposal go from the Navy? It went through the CNO, thenÖ
Strand:Then it got included in the military construction for 1960. It became part of the military construction bill for the Navy for 1960.
Dick:What was the fate of that bill once it got into Congress?
Strand:There again you have debates going back and forth. They always massage such a project, and there are always questions raised, where money can be saved. But here we had support from Senator Hayden who was a very senior Senator from Arizona.
Dick:How did he become involved?
Strand:In that it was in his state that the telescope was going to be, and also Henry Giclas at the Lowell Observatory wrote quite a strong letter to Senator Hayden about the needed support for astronomy in the United states if we were going to compete with the Russians.
Dick:I was just going to ask, how important do you think that was, the post-Sputnik atmosphere?
Dick:Do you think this would have gotten through in the pre-Sputnik years? This kind of project?
Strand:No, I donít think so.
Dick:For one thing you can point to Giclasís letter which did raise that as an issue?
Strand:Yes, it was raised as an issue, and I think that was very helpful, and the fact that Senator Hayden got involved in it — perhaps not himself so much as his chief assistant, because Hayden was very elderly at that time. He was in his eighties, you know.
Dick:Do you know the name of the assistant?
Strand:No, I canít think of it right now. In speculating on it, I looked through my plans and I canít find it. Some of my papers went to Flagstaff and it could be there.
Dick:Some of your papers went to Flagstaff?
Strand:Yes. Papers in connection with the telescope.
Strand:I thought they belonged there.
Dick:Now, there was another issue that you mentioned in your notes, that there had been a problem with another radio telescope funded by the Navy. How did this impinge on the 61-inch?
Strand:Well, the Navy had started on a moon bounce project, which was going to be used for communication.
Dick:This was a radio telescope?
Strand:Yes, a radio telescope.
Dick:Was this Sugar Grove?
Strand:Yes, the Sugar Grove project —
Dick:Which ran into great difficulties?
Strand:Great difficulties, and at one time the Navy said it could complete the project if it had an additional seven million dollars, and part of these seven million dollars, two million were those in the military construction bill for the Naval Observatory. However, Admiral Hayward was very strong about not allowing those funds to be used for Sugar Grove.
Dick:So the two were very closely tied together? Youíre saying that they were in the same MILCON bill?
Strand:Well, Sugar Grove was an additional MILCON request.
Dick:— which did not pass the Congress but the two million for the Naval Observatory did?
Strand:Well, they cut it to 1.9 million.
Dick:But it still did the job?
Strand:Oh yes, it still did the job, because there was money there that I thought should have been paid out of that bill that was not paid out of that bill.
Dick:What do you mean?
Strand:Well, first of all the preliminary architectural and engineering drawings, that didnít come out of the 1.9 million. And later, the final Architectural Engineering contract was not included in the 1.9 either.
Dick:Where did that money come from?
Strand:That came from funds that were available from Naval Facilities Engineering Command. They had those monies from overheads on projects, and thatís why they could start up already in Ď59 before the military construction bill had been passed. The military construction bill was passed in June of 1960, but we already started the negotiations for a preliminary A and E contract in September of Ď59.
Dick:Letís talk then about the instrumentation and the actual construction of the 61-inch. How did you go about coordinating all this? There were a lot of things to worry about, the glass itself, the figuring of the glass, the building, and the telescope structure. How did you set your priorities as you got the money?
Strand:Well, first we had as I mentioned the preliminary A and E contract, and that took us to early 1960. Then in March of Ď60 we had looked over the preliminary A and E by Jones, the contractor, and when I say ďweĒ this was the group at Navy Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest Division in San Diego, with Commander Grubb, later Captain, as head of the negotiating team. On that team were also several of their engineers, and one of the engineers had previously been involved in bringing the 40-inch telescope to Flagstaff, and the construction of the facility there, so he was familiar with what was involved. I worked very closely with that group. They didnít move on anything unless I was there to approve of what was being done, and at that time there was Rear Admiral Davis there as chief of that command, and he was very accommodating to me about all of this. We knew that one of the difficult problems would be the optics. This is always a difficult problem. But I had been together at a meeting at New Haven with Martin Schwarzschild, and he said to me, ďWhy donít you try to see if Coming can make the 60-inch mirror for you?Ē This was in the spring of Ď60. So I let the people know on the West Coast and they said, ďWell, why donít you come out and bring out somebody from Coming and see what they say about it?Ē I had already called them and talked to the people, and a Mr. Mann, who was chief engineer for their silica production came out, and said that he had looked into the matter and said that he could make the mirror of the required diameter but he couldnít make the thickness. He thought that one might make several disks and then grind the surfaces roughly smooth, and then melt them together on a second melt. This was in May, and we were trying to see at that time if we could somehow get funding to start that contract, but it appeared it was not feasible. The money was not there.
Dick:This was the month before the MILCON bill?
Strand:Yes, the month before the MILCON bill passed, so the MILCON was passed in June, and in August we had Mr. Mann back to sign for making the mirror.
Dick:And then thereís the problem of figuring the mirror?
Strand:That came I think in October or November, and there again we invited various people in. We couldnít do it on a sole source contract, so we had people to come and advise us what they were able to do. That is when Don Davidson came in with Don Hendrix from Mt. Wilson, and the two of them, I guess you read in my report, were reluctant in telling how good they were and what they could do. I had great difficulty afterwards in convincing the Board that these were the best people.
Dick:But you did convince them?
Strand:I convinced them, yes, that they were the best people. And I have no doubt that they were the best to make this, because Davidson was just an outstanding man, not an easy man to work with, but very outstanding.
Dick:What mirrors had he figured before?
Strand:Well, he had been involved in quite a few different projects, and of course one of the things that had happened was that Don Hendrix, who had been involved with the 200-inch, was a close friend of his, and theyíd been working together in Davidsonís shop, so I had no compunction knowing that Hendrix would be involved with it somehow. Unfortunately, Hendrix suddenly died and so we didnít have him during the period that the mirror was figured.
Dick:But the results of the figuring met all of your expectations?
Strand:Thatís right. Absolutely.
Dick:Then there was the matter of the building itself and also the telescope structure?
Strand:Yes. That had been prepared by a separate architectural firm under Jonesí advice. In some ways I can joke about it. I gave the dimensions for the dome, and what the dome should contain, and then put, so to speak, a shoe box on one side for the offices and so on. But following advice that Baade had given me at the Virginia Conference, when he said, ďIf you ever build this telescope, be sure that you build a very large dome for it, so that you donít have problems with air turbulence near the opening of the slit —.Ē
Dick:That was based on his experience, I take it?
Strand:On his experience, yes. He told about how he had to air out the dome and so on before he started observing, and another thing he also told me was, ďOnce you have the telescope built, donít allow anybody in there to work with a screwdriver in their back pocket.Ē
Dick:It might fall out?
Strand:No, not fall out, not be used to tinker with the instrumentation. The building contract was not let until May of 1961. And there again it was a question of getting the right people to build it, and it turned out fortunately that the lowest bidder was the one that I already wanted to build it. He had built the Kitt Peak 84-inch telescope building. So I guess he knew better his costs than the other ones, and therefore came out as low bidder.
Dick:Who was this?
Strand:Murray Shiff and Company. And he had been doing a lot of work for the Navy. He was working out at Tucson, and he turned out to be a very good contractor. He had the same problems as many contractors have. They want to cut corners when they can. One thing, a minor detail, that probably cost him quite a bit of money, was that on the second floor of the dome building, the concrete floors had to be a very smooth surface, and he claimed that that was not in the specs, so he came to San Diego and cried about how much more it was going to cost him to put that in, and I remember that Grubb, who was then a captain, sort of sat there and laughed. ďWell, he said, ďif you look at the specs — Strand wants a smooth floor because he doesnít want any dust in the building. Youíd better put it there.Ē So you see, we all had this very close relationship. It worked. In fact, I have exchanged Christmas cards every year since with Grubb. Heís a contractor in Idaho now, retired from the Navy.
Dick:What about the telescope structure itself?
Strand:We had the groundbreaking at Flagstaff in May, and at that time, Captain Gurnette was the Superintendent, so he and I went out for the officiating, and we had the mayor of Flagstaff present and also Admiral Davis was there, so it was a nice little affair. Then the telescope construction came late that fall, in October. We had all these steps, and each time I had to be present, first for the preliminaries, what we were going to do, what we planned, and how we planned to present it to contractors and so on. We had several contractors, who wanted to build the telescope, and I donít have names of them all any more except that I remember that the West Coast division of General Electric was anxious to be one of the bidders and so was Warner and Swasey, but again, we got the joint effort contract with L and F Machine Company to build the big parts, and Boller and Chivens to do the smaller parts, and also do the telescope assembly. They, Boiler and Chivens, also got a separate contract for $135,000 for the various instrumentation that was going to go on the telescope, like an automatic camera which was my design, and a spectrograph of which Sharpless put the specs together, and the photometer of Hoag and Meinell for the special reducing camera. So we all joined efforts, you see.
Dick:Then there was the problem of the measuring machine.
Strand:Yes. Well, that came later. We had only projected $40,000 out of the MILCON for that, but then Commander Wilson, the Deputy Superintendent told me, ďWe have just received a grant of $100,000 from ONR,Ē and before he spread the news around, would I have any interest in getting that? And of course I said yes, by all means, ďI think this could help us build a much better machine than we could for the $40,000.Ē Just about the same time we were approached by the Army Engineers about writing specs for a measuring machine that they needed for a specific purpose which later turned out to be for the CIA, for measuring images on photographic plates that had been taken by the U-2. So we helped them along with this, and in the process of this got in contact with Nuclear Research Instruments in Berkeley, and they had some very clever engineers there, very good people, and they made a really good team. I could really explain to them what we needed.
Dick:How did this machine, which was eventually called SAMM, differ from previous machines? How was it an improvement?
Strand:Well, it was an improvement in many ways. First of all, it ran on air bearings, which meant that you would have no problems of having ways that would gradually be worn and change shape — one of the problems they have at the present time with the Yale POS machine. But you could have very smooth surfaces on granite, and you could move the elements by means of air between them, therefore you didnít have any wear. This was one feature. Then another was automation in such a way that the image was measured automatically, and of course an improvement over the bisection method. Then also having the various commands of moving from image to image. In other words, having a memory, that after one plate is measured, then it knows how to measure all the other plates in a series, just by the operator pushing buttons. There was one thing: I didnít want the machine, to be fully automatic. I wanted the person who was at the console to look at the image, and decide if the image was of a quality that could and should be measured. In other words, I did not want to go as far, as has been done with some machines, to make the machine, so to speak, the deciding factor by making it automatic. We could very well have done this — to go from image to image, measure it and go on to the next one and so on, in a faster way measure the images. But I didnít want to do that.
Dick:You think the person is still a very important element in all of this?
Strand:I thought the person was a very important element and I still think it is as far as parallaxes are concerned. It has really worked well enough so that we now know what the images are like that are being measured and we also donít have any backlog. Up until the present time, there is no backlog of plates from Flagstaff, whereas at any other observatory where parallax work has been done, there are ten thousands of plates or more that havenít been measured as yet.
Dick:Now, Samm didnít arrive until about 1966?
Strand:Thatís right, it arrived in Ď66.
Dick:Now letís go back a little bit — it was, what, 1964 when the actual program of research began. Was it 1964 when the program of research began or was that when the parallax program began?
Strand:The parallax program began in Ď64, because the telescope was not completely assembled, and the first look through the telescope was the night that Kennedy was assassinated, which was November 22, 1963, and at that time, the primary mirror was still not aluminized. It was not aluminized until next January, or February, because we did not have the aluminizing chamber yet, but the secondary had been aluminized at Mt. Wilson Observatory.
Dick:Before we go on to talk about the research program, what would you say, looking back on the construction period, was the biggest technical innovation or biggest obstacle that had to be overcome in the construction of the telescope? Was there anything that you were particularly worried about that was pushing at the frontiers of technology at that time?
Strand:Well, no, I firmly believed then that these people were competent to do the right kind of work, and at the same time I also did see to it that we built into the equipment safeguards, monitoring systems which allowed us to see how well it performed. For instance, one of the things that was in the contract with the optics was to monitor where the optical axis would fall on the primary mirror, and this was done by a device which Davidson put together, of a light that reflects back and forth between the two mirrors, and ends up as a spot on the opposite side of the field. And if you have two such spots, and the telescope is in optical alignment, these two separations should bisect each other, and where they bisect, thereís the optical axis. And this, incidentally, is on every parallax plate.
Dick:Letís go on to talk about the research program. This was the parallax program and you stated before that it was mainly aimed at faint stars?
Dick:Fainter than the 13th magnitude?
Strand:Yes, fainter than 12 1/2. And fortunately we had already programs available with faint stars. We had for instance the Lowell program which at that time had been in operation since Ď58, and the Lowell program had the advantage that we had a field for each star that they had observed and we also had colors for the stars. So we knew pretty well which stars we were anxious to observe, namely, those that were very red and those that were very blue. By the way, there I also have been very fortunate in the sense that I had spent some time at Lowell Observatory. I had done a proper motion study from the Lowell plates of the Orion Nebula region, and in publishing these data, I had for each star published a field from the Palomar Survey. So when Giclas started his program, I told him that he should do the same thing, because then it would be so much easier to identify his stars and make use of his observations. With Luyten the situation was different. He didnít have any maps. And you had to simply ask him to give you a map, or you had to rely upon his coordinates and then take second epoch plates, and at a later date find out which star in that particular field was the proper motion star, because you couldnít do it by just taking one plate.
Dick:Letís turn from the 61-inch to some of the other instruments at the Observatory. Can you give me the background to the 7-inch transit circle program in the Southern Hemisphere?
Strand:In November of Ď65, Captain McDowell and I went to Argentina. This was before Jim Hughes went down. We went to explain to authorities the intention of our transit circle program, and to arrange all formalities between the naval attachť of the U.S. embassy and the Argentinean authorities.
Dick:Were those very friendly type exchanges?
Strand:Extremely friendly, yes.
Dick:They were receptive?
Strand:Oh yes, absolutely. Those were very fruitful meetings.
Dick:How was that project funded? Were there any extraneous funds for this program?
Strand:Yes, we had to get money for that. In the meantime there had been established, on account of the Second Astrometric Conference, a joint program between National Science Foundation and NASA, chaired by Clemence, and supporting a Southern Hemisphere program. It was primarily thought of providing funds for the Southern observatories to do their share of the program. When it came to distributing the funds I saw to it that we got a share, because we didnít have enough money in OMN to support such a program.
Dick:OMN? What is that?
Strand:Thatís the regular budget of the Naval Observatory, which is the Operations and Maintenance budget.
Dick:When did the 7-inch transit circle itself go to Argentina?
Strand:The 7-inch transit circle went there in December of Ď66.
Dick:And came back about late Ď73 or Ď74?
Strand:The program ran for eight years; Robinson was the last one. Each astronomer went for two years. It started with Hughes, and then Clayton Smith, then Branham, and then Robinson. He was the last one. So it was eight years. Then it took some time afterwards to get the telescope back, because the decree that had been established for allowing the observatory to import and export from Argentina had not lapsed, but simply cancelled, and so bringing the telescope back took quite a while. I think until July Ď74.
Dick:And thatís the telescope that now is about to be sent to New Zealand.
Strand:Yes. The approval to return it to Washington had to have signatures of various departments in Argentina including President Peron, who at that time was deathly sick.
Dick:But he did sign?
Strand:He finally signed it, I believe on his death bed. So this is the telescope thatís going to go now to New Zealand. Now, while we are talking about instrumentation, it was my idea that not only the 61-inch and the Flagstaff station should be refurbished, but that gradually all the telescopes and all the facilities at the observatory, as far as observing was concerned, should be upgraded, and we did that. We upgraded for instance the 15-inch telescope in the same way we had upgraded the 26-inch.
Dick:What time period are we talking about there? In the sixties?
Strand:Thatís in the late sixties. Later on we acquired a Boller and Chivens 24-inch telescope, and replaced the dome on the building. In February of Ď67 I proposed the Southern Star Photographic Program to make use of the SRS as reference stars.
Dick:And this would be with the 8-inch twin astrograph?
Strand:Yes, I proposed then that the instrument be procured. But before that weíd started already in 1965 in February plans for a new transit circle. We had the office of Naval Research Advisory Committee meeting at Flagstaff, where the Chief of Naval Research (CNR) promised us $300,000 towards a new transit circle. I had at that meeting Mr. F. Scott to present what was needed in transit circle work at the Naval Observatory to upgrade the work, and on the basis of that CNR came up with the $300,000 towards that program. And of course eventually that led to procurement of the automatic transit circle, from the Farrand Optical Company to the tune of about a million dollars.
Dick:That was in early 1966?
Strand:Yes, so you see, we started first with the astrometry division arid then we went to the transit circle, and I had great hope for that instrument. Unfortunately it didnít turn out as well as it should have. I think we were ahead of our time on that. But I had great confidence in Farrand Optical because it had done some outstanding work for me while I was in the Air Force during the war, so I knew of the company, and one of their people had been on the staff temporarily at the Sproul Observatory.
Dick:We have talked about the 7-inch telescope transit circle that went to Argentina. Weíve discussed briefly the automatic transit circle, the 8-inch which went to Flagstaff. By the way, why was Flagstaff chosen?
Strand:Well, we thought that it would be worthwhile having an instrument there because if it was going to go for faint stars, there might be trouble with the city lights here, so thatís why we thought that Flagstaff would be a good place for it.
Dick:While weíre speaking about transit circles, the 6-inch transit circle has been the real workhorse as far as fundamental astronomy at the Naval Observatory. One of the big improvements to that instrument was in 1969, when there was a loan from the University of Copenhagen of a photoelectric scanner for the circle reading.
Strand:Yes. Thatís right.
Dick:Now, of course, you had very close ties with the University of Copenhagen. Was it you who initiated that?
Strand:Oh yes. I went to a meeting in Nice, where Eric Hog was present, and he and I discussed this read-out system that he had developed and I thought it would be great for the Naval Observatory to have a similar system. Now, they had already the Inductosyn, which had been part of the money that we got from Admiral Leydon, who was the Chief of Naval Research at the time of the meeting in Flagstaff in 1965.
Dick:The Inductosyn is an electromagnetic readout system.
Strand:An electromagnetic read-out system. Youíre still using it, I understand from Bennie Klock?
Dick:Yes, we do.
Strand:But you are not using it for precise read-out?
Dick:No, we only use it to see if the telescope is moving.
Strand:To see if the telescope is moving while youíre observing?
Strand:And also to set the telescope?
Strand:So itís a very useful instrumentation, but the electronic circle read-out, certainly has been a tremendous improvement?
Dick:The previous technology was a photographic read-out, so we went from photographic to photoelectric.
Strand:Yes, and that had been Dr. Wattís system?
Dick:Thatís right, and of course the photoelectric system is what weíre still using now.
Strand:Yes. And also you remember that you got an IBM 1800. In fact you can see that we managed to get quite a bit of money in OPN to do all of these things, and I must say that I had a very good working connection with the divisions. You know, the division directors met once a week with me, and discussed the problems we had, and I laid out for them each year what we had in OPN and asked for their suggestions, what they needed and so on, and I think we divided up pretty evenly — although sometimes Winkler thought he didnít get quite his share, but you know how he is.
Dick:What weíre basically talking about now is the programs and events in the sixties, and Iíd like to pursue that. Weíve talked about the programs in the transit circle division and you were just mentioning in a general way the other divisions. What would you say were the major developments in some of the other divisions such as the Time Service Division during the sixties?
Strand:In the Time Service Division during the sixties it was getting the cesium oscillators.
Dick:The atomic clocks?
Strand:The atomic clocks. And also the improvements that were made in the way that they did PZT work. Now, a lot of credit in the way of automation for the PZT should go to Mr. Monger at the Richmond Station, because he was very clever in this kind of work. He was the one who developed how they could leave a telescope to be unattended and close itself in if it started to rain and things like this.
Dick:In October of Ď65, the Naval Observatory began a precise time synchronization service?
Dick:Of course the Observatory had been disseminating time for a long time. What was being synchronized and was this a major advance?
Strand:Well, this came about to put the time on the various navigation signals, like Omega and Loran and so on. And that was started when Markowitz was still there, and at the same time, several PZTs were built, you know, one went to South America, to Argentina.
Dick:And there was also money to build a large PZT in Washington?
Strand:Yes, that came in the seventies. That was not MILCON, but that was out of OPN. That instrument came to something like, I would say about $800,000.
Dick:Now, you mentioned in your notes that there was a discussion in the Council of DOD instruction in 1966 on PTTI management, and that there was a lot of discussion about whether this conflicted with the mission of the Observatory.
Dick:Do you remember what that was all about?
Strand:Winkler wanted to set up a lab in which they would not only send out all the people that carry the portable atomic clocks for synchronizations, but also that they should repair the clocks, and the staff was concerned that this would take away from our mission, bring us back to what has been done in the past at the Naval Observatory in the way of fixing clocks.
Dick:Apparently there was also some controversy between the Time Service Division of Naval Observatory and the National Bureau of Standards. In fact, you mentioned that Winkler proposed at one meeting that the NBS be told to cooperate?
Strand:Yes. Well, thereís been a jealousy between the two, going back in time, because of the NBS having WWV. They feel that they are entitled to do time for the nation, and actually, this is part of the mission of the Naval Observatory. And so thereís been a question of encroachment here. But I think that the relation has been a lot better in the later years, after Markowitz left, than it was before. As you see in my notes, we had one meeting in Oslo where my main purpose was to keep those two fellows from fighting with each other, one from NBS and our Naval Observatory man, Markowitz.
Dick:Thereís more cooperation now?
Strand:Thereís cooperation. And of course NBS has the basic standards, you see.
Dick:Letís move on from Time Service then to Nautical Almanac Office. During the years that you were here, Dr. Duncombe was for a long time the head of that division?
Dick:Can you single out any particular advances that were made in that division during your time?
Strand:Yes. They did quite a bit of work on the planets beyond Mars. This was quite involved and took quite a number of people.
Dick:The Nautical Almanac Office also is in charge of the computer facilities?
Dick:How did that develop during your years here?
Strand:From the IBM 650, we went to an IBM 1410 in about Ď62-Ď63 and the IBM 360 in 1970. The IBM 4341 came right after I retired, so we had two new machines during my tenure. Of course we had several IBM 1800s, in the Time Service and the Transit Circle Divisions.
Dick:How about the divisions you were head of, the Astrometry and Astrophysics Division?
Strand:I was only the head of it till September Ď63.
Dick:Thatís right. When you came to that division, it was called Astrometry and Astrophysics?
Dick:Do you know why the name was changed from Equatorial Division to the Astrometry and Astrophysics Division?
Strand:Well, I think Dr. Hall did that in order to make it more palatable to me. He proposed it.
Dick:How would that be more palatable to you?
Strand:Well, in the sense that it described more clearly what the division was supposed to do. He wrote me a letter and told me that they had changed the name with the Councilís approval, and he hoped that I would be happy about this change.
Dick:So this was during the time that you were considering the job that the change was made?
Strand:Yes, thatís right.
Dick:When you came into the Astrometry and Astrophysics Division, what were your initial goals within the division? I know you very quickly became busy with the 61-inch which weíve discussed. What other things within that division were you concerned with?
Strand:Well, I wanted to continue the photographic double star work from Northwestern, and this was the reason why I wanted to renovate the 26-inch. I brought initially the automatic camera we used for observations from Northwestern. It had been built with the support of the Research Corporation. And I also brought one person with me, namely, Dr. Otto Franz, whom I had met at the Dublin meeting in Ď55 and brought to Northwestern University.
Dick:He was a native of Austria?
Dick:What kind of work did he do when he came here?
Strand:Well, he got primarily involved in the double star work, since he had been involved in it before.
Dick:What would you say were the major changes that were made in the renovation of the 26-inch?
Strand:The major changes? Well, I would say almost everything, because it was manually operated before. In other words, you read off the circles to set the telescope.
Dick:There was no console at all?
Strand:No console. In fact, in order to set the telescope, you had two big wheels, one for the right ascension and one for declination. Each wheel was sitting up high, and you had, not ropes, but rubber tubes to move the wheels, and of course in the process of doing this the oil spilled on them, you had completely black hands and black face before you got through the night. So we completely renovated that telescope.
Dick:Where did the money come from for that?
Strand:The initial seed money came from ONR, money that I had been allowed to transfer from Northwestern University.
Dick:You also started in the early sixties a visual double star program?
Dick:And this was to study closer binaries than the photographic method would allow?
Strand:Yes. Thatís why we hired Charles Worley. Visual programs had been a tradition at the Observatory, although the only one who had been really active in recent years had been Dr. Markowitz. The people previously there had done very little.
Dick:So there was no visual program to speak of?
Strand:No, there was no visual program when I came.
Dick:On the 26-inch?
Strand:Not until Worley arrived in 1961.
Dick:Another person who was in your division was Sharpless?
Dick:And he was doing photoelectric work on stars and H II regions?
Strand:Yes, and also spectroscopy. And he did this at Flagstaff?
Dick:This would be one of the things, I suppose, that would come under astrophysics?
Strand:Yes. Thatís right. Of course Dr. Hall himself had done astrophysics.
Strand:Polarization work, yes.
Dick:Iím interested to know to what extent the staff picked their own research projects. How did somebody like Sharpless end up doing a project like that? To what extent were there constraints applied by the mission of the Naval Observatory?
Strand:Well, of course, I canít speak of it before I arrived, but after I arrived, I felt that in order to have a viable observatory, whether itís Navy or anybody else, it as to carry out programs so there can be communication with other astronomers. And if you exclusively do all your observational work with transit circles and with PZTs, you donít have those connections.
Dick:Or very few connections.
Strand:You donít have any real connections, unless you later urge other people to follow up. For instance, on the Blaauw Star Catalogue, I urged both Helmut Abt at Kitt Peak and also Harry Guetter to do the spectroscopic work and photometric work to go with those stars.
Dick:And there was no opposition from the Navy? How much did the Navy have to say about whether or not those programs would be done?
Dick:The kind of programs that might not be directly related to the mission. Did you find any resistance from the Navy itself?
Strand:No. You had to justify them.
Dick:But how did you justify them? Not in terms of the mission?
Strand:Sure I did.
Dick:In terms of the mission?
Strand:Yes, of course I did.
Dick:Well, the photoelectric work for example?
Strand:Well, the photoelectric work had to do with the star selection for certain programs, such as testing of sensors, and for the PZT.
Dick:Now, another person who was in your division was Lindenblad, who was doing the solar work?
Dick:And that program ended in the early seventies?
Dick:Why was that program ended?
Strand:Simply because of shortage of staff. And also the fact that there were very few, really no customers any more for that program.
Dick:This had been a long term program that began at the start of the century?
Strand:Yes, but interest had gone other ways. There were other ways to get the information that they wanted to have. There are better ways to find out problems with communications than just looking at sunspot areas, which is a very ineffective way, but it was the only way that they had, before the solar flare programs.
Dick:That was the original reason for the solar program?
Dick:To determine the effect on communications?
Strand:We were talking about the justification for these esoteric programs. Well, you simply had to explain that this was part of the way that you could keep the Observatory going, that you could not isolate the Observatory, it had to be in the middle of things that were going on.
Dick:How difficult was it to convince the Navy of that?
Strand:Not too difficult.
Dick:Did it vary with superintendents?
Strand:No, I have already mentioned to you that my military background really made me more in line with their thinking, and therefore I could explain to them more what the situation was.
Dick:What do you mean when you say, more in line with their thinking? In what way?
Strand:In convincing them what I thought the Observatory should do, what the mission was, and what was supported by CNR and CND. And donít forget that after I left as director of the A and A division, I became scientific director. I also became supervisor of the divisions, which hadnít happened before.
Dick:Clemence was not a supervisor?
Strand:No, he was not the line supervisor.
Dick:How did this happen?
Strand:That happened because I felt that this was the way that the position of scientific director should be. In other words, the programs are long range, and there should be a continuity in the programs, and the only way you could have the continuity is that somebody has the supervision, in the sense that he sort of determines, with the consensus of his division directors, the programs. In this way we donít get into a situation where, for instance, one division director goes to a superintendent who has just arrived and tells him, ďWell, Iím really the big cheese here at the Observatory, but I have not been treated like that, and therefore it is my turn to have more emphasis done on my work.Ē And I think that the superintendents were more comfortable, having me from day to day to discuss all the problems of the observatory. And also the fact that I was the one who could negotiate with various people about what the Observatory had to do, even with the major claimantís staff, because there too, they had a major claimant who was there for only three years, but there was a staff underneath that brought the continuity to the programs. And I worked with those people, and I could point back to how much money we had had previous for this and this and what we needed for the future and so on. I think that the superintendents felt more comfortable about it, except there were one or two exceptions where they felt that they should take over and they didnít succeed, because my job as supervisor of the divisions responsible to the superintendent for the programs was approved by the Secretary of the Navy.
Dick:You say there were one or two cases where the superintendents felt they should take over?
Strand:Well, yes. And we had our rows about it.
Dick:This is part of the problem I guess, which I also want to discuss, of the dual head of the Observatory. How clearly are the lines of responsibility drawn between the scientific director and the superintendent?
Strand:At the present time?
Dick:At the time you were there.
Strand:I think they were drawn very clearly.
Dick:How were they drawn?
Strand:They were drawn in the sense that whatever the divisions needed, that was my responsibility. His responsibility was to see that the plant, so to speak, of the Observatory, the public works of the administration of the Observatory, was done in the right way.
Dick:He had no input then on scientific matters?
Strand:No. How do you expect him to do that? Maybe heís doing it now, but if he does it, I donít think he should do it.
Dick:Because heís not an astronomer, basically?
Strand:Because he is not an astronomer. I think that after I left, the superintendant, Joe Smith, changed the position of the scientific director, to make him a consultant to the superintendent, but with the superintendent as the supervisor of the divisions. Are you aware of that?
Dick:This is not the way it was when you were there?
Strand:Certainly not! In fact, there was one superintendent who wanted to force that through, that my position be changed.
Dick:So that he would be the supervisor of the divisions?
Strand:Yes. That didnít go through. It was opposed by the Secretary of the Navy.
Dick:So this kind of argument has gotten up to the Secretary of the Navy level?
Strand:Absolutely. I feel the Observatory operates better that way than to have a person come in for three years who knows nothing about astronomy, to suddenly make his decisions on how to run the Observatory. Now, when we had the reorganization in 1976, of course, since the reorganization in combining two divisions, that had to have his concurrence.
Dick:An administrative matter?
Strand:Yes, in administrative matters. And also, we had to obey the manning tables, how many GSís we could have, in the various grades, which came from the major claimantís office. Now, in the early period when I was there, we did not have that. In fact, we did our own classification.
Dick:At the Observatory?
Strand:At the Observatory.
Dick:One of the reasons Iíve always been surprised that a scientific director was re-appointed in Ď58 with Clemence is because it does make for this potential dual head. But Clemence was appointed as scientific director?
Strand:Clemence had traditionally really been sort of a senior division director. He was the one who had to testify before Congress on the projects and so on.
Dick:So he would sort of advise by default the superintendent on certain matters?
Dick:So it was not that big a step to go to an actual scientific director position?
Dick:From an advisor to a scientific director who acted as an advisor but not as a supervisor of the divisions?
Dick:You were under Clemence? No, you were not under him because he was not a supervisor of your division then?
Strand:He was not a supervisor of the division but we had a very close relationship, he and I. We worked closely together. I never went to the superintendent with anything without his knowledge of it. So in that respect, I always honored his position.
Dick:What was his style as a scientific director?
Strand:Well, what he really wanted was to do his own work.
Dick:In celestial mechanics?
Strand:Yes, in celestial mechanics. And of course, with all the increased activities after Sputnik, that brought along all these other things. I donít think we could have gone through the expansion that we did at the observatory, and later on some of the contractions that we carried out, without having a supervising scientific director — but thatís my feeling about it.
Dick:Letís talk about a few of the other programs. Now, there was one program which I suppose you might say turned out to be abortive. Iím thinking now of the 23-inch Princeton refractor.
Dick:On which there was a MILCON bill passed for money to install it, but it was later withdrawn. What is the story on that?
Strand:No. It was included in two MILCON bills. But then because of the restrictions on personnel that came about during the Vietnamese War, it appeared that it was not really feasible to do it, so we requested it to be cancelled. But all the engineering studies had been done. All the architectural plans are there for the building.
Dick:But the lens has now been given away, as you know.
Strand:The whole telescope has been given away.
Strand:Well, it was never our money anyhow. It was ONR money, that we got back around Ď60.
Dick:What was the program that you had in mind for that?
Strand:To do some of the observations we did with the other telescope at Flagstaff, but primarily visual observations of binary stars. Which would have been an ideal telescope for it. It has very good optics. And so, it was the property of ONR, you see.
Dick:Now, there are some other questions Iíd like to ask you, based on your notes. During the sixties, you say particularly in 1966, there was a study about relocating the Observatory. What brought this about?
Strand:Well, because every so often, the Navy has plans of the location of its various activities, and in one of these plans, there was a ten year plan in which the Naval Observatory would disappear.
Strand:Yes. The Naval Observatory would disappear from the Washington area. In other words, it wasnít included as a future part of the Navy installations.
Dick:What was the reason for that?
Strand:There would be other demands for it. We had an early demand, quite an active one, when Eisenhower was President.
Dick:What was that?
Strand:Eisenhower wanted to have part of the land of the Naval Observatory donated to the Presbyterian National Church, and he and whatís his name, the former editor or owner of TIME MAGAZINE.
Strand:Yes, Luce. The two of them got together and decided that part of the Naval Observatory should be given to the National Presbyterian Church.
Dick:What happened to that proposal?
Strand:It fell through. Congress wouldnít approve it. The Church was built at Friendship Heights. And then of course, there was the question of building a house for the Vice President on the grounds. So these, and the various other plans that came through, made it necessary that we had to look into the matter of moving.
Dick:What happened to the Ď66 proposal? You looked into relocation of the Observatory but obviously it didnít happen.
Strand:No, because it turned out that the cost would be prohibitive. It turned out that it couldnít be done for less than something on the order of about 80 million dollars.
Dick:Do you think there are any scientific reasons for moving the Observatory from Washington? As far as seeing goes?
Strand:Well, there certainly are better places. But you see, one advantage of being in Washington, being that close in, is that you are near the Pentagon, so that if you have any fire, you can get over there in a hurry and see what you can do about it. Or if the fire comes from Congress, youíre nearby too.
Dick:Another thing that you mentioned in 1966 was the double star camera that went to the Pulkovo Observatory?
Dick:To what extent did the Naval Observatory act as an exporter of technology such as double star cameras? Was this a unique event?
Strand:Well, no, this was a gesture of friendship, with a simple instrumentation that anybody could make, but we felt, that in connection with its 125th anniversary celebration, we would give them this simple little instrument. There was no new technology in that.
Dick:This was basically the same double star camera that came from Northwestern?
Strand:No. It has been improved and simplified since then.
Dick:Another thing that happened in the sixties was the formation of a union at the Observatory?
Strand:That was in Ď67, right. Well, there were some members of the Observatory staff that felt that the blue collar workers were not treated right, that they didnít have a fair chance.
Dick:So this was not the scientific staff that was complaining then?
Strand:This was during the period of Martin Luther King, that they felt that something ought to be done for the blue collar workers. I donít know what they wanted to do for them — perhaps try to make astronomers out of them? But they felt that they were not being treated right, and perhaps they were not, I donít know how the supervisors in public works treated them. Iím sure they were not always as courteous as they should be, but with people of that kind, non-academic people I mean, the language is not always very refined. So they started that, and then of course it later turned into a white collar union, which I donít approve of.
Dick:To what extent did you have to deal later with the union as a white collar organization?
Strand:Well, it came really late on my watch. It really didnít come up until in the spring of Ď76.
Dick:What was the reason for it then?
Strand:Well, people like Van Flandern started agitating. And then of course, when it was decided to combine the two transit circle divisions, they thought that the union should get involved. And then also because we had to go through some downgrading, that all this should be handled with the union taking care of this, which it didnít, of course.
Dick:Letís talk about the combining of divisions. What was the philosophy behind that? Because all the way back to 1969 apparently it was sort of an issue, because you say that in Ď69 the Council agreed to a continuation of two divisions, so there was discussion as far back as then. Whatís the history behind that?
Strand:The logical thing in Ď69 would have been to combine the two divisions under Dr. Scott, but Scott felt that he was too much involved with his catalogue work on the AGK3R and SRS, that he couldnít handle it, and his health wasnít too good either. So we decided to continue the way it was, more out of courtesy to him, but my philosophy was that you run into a problem having two divisions working on the same programs but having a different view of how to handle the data, which I felt is wrong.
Dick:Some people might argue that itís beneficial to have two different approaches and hope you come up with the same answer. After all, around the world you would not have the same data reduction procedures.
Strand:Well, if you have the idea that there are two different ways of doing things, you can do that within one division also, rather than have two divisions that really donít talk to each other. And also donít forget that another problem we ran into was that both divisions got decimated by the cut in personnel.
Dick:Letís talk about that. There was certainly an expansion in the early years when you first came into the Observatory, up through when would you say?
Strand:Up through the later years of the Vietnamese War. When money got absorbed by other programs.
Dick:The cause of the retrenchment, you can directly lay it to the Vietnamese War, then?
Dick:Money that went for personnel normally was put into other things?
Strand:Absolutely. In other words, it certainly was not anything internally that created this. These were external orders to cut staff, that came from the major claimant.
Dick:Did the same thing happen in other agencies like the Naval Research Lab?
Strand:Absolutely. Absolutely. They ran into the same problem, that their staffs were cut. When people left, their positions were not filled. Or you froze positions. They said that you just couldnít hire. Then another problem came up. Congress was very animate about the large military and civilian staff within Washington. It should be cut. And thatís why we got a little relief by sending three people to Flagstaff.
Dick:They just thought on general principles that there were too many people, military and civilians, in Washington?
Dick:So it came down, trickled down?
Strand:It trickled down to the Naval Observatory, which is a small organization, and so it shrunk its staff from 215 I think down to whatever it is today. Maybe itís increased a little bit since but not a great deal.
Dick:During the 1970s there were some new programs that you suggested. One of them was the joint program with NRL on the celestial coordinate system?
Strand:Yes. That was combining radio and optical observations, to observe the radio sources.
Dick:So the radio sources would be the basis for an inertial system?
Dick:And you would tie the optical to the radio?
Strand:Thatís right. We held a conference on that, too.
Dick:Was that conference at the Naval Observatory?
Strand:Yes. That, incidentally, came up in a report from the union, that I had been there too long to realize the importance of radio astronomy.
Dick:Was that before or after you did this?
Strand:That was after I did this. But apparently they didnít know about it.
Dick:Another event of the early seventies was that Starscan was delivered. How does Starscan differ from SAMM?
Strand:Well, Starscan is supposed to be more sophisticated and more accurate than SAMM, and it took a long time to bring it to that point.
Dick:And it still incorporates the human being philosophy that you mentioned earlier. There is still a person there who does push a button when he sees the image?
Strand:Yes. Yes, thatís true. But it does it faster.
Dick:And more accurately.
Strand:And more accurately, yes. Have you used it?
Dick:Iíve not used it myself, no.
Strand:Have you seen it operating?
Strand:Have you used SAMM?
Dick:No, Iíve never used SAMM. I was supposed to start on Starscan but since weíre leaving for New Zealand, I ran out of time. You also mentioned in your notes that in July of Ď72 you were on the Johnny Carson Show. Did that have to do with astronomy or was that something else?
Strand:That had to do with astronomy. That was in connection with the introduction of the extra second. The leap second.
Dick:Johnny Carson is interested in that?
Strand:He was interested in it at that time.
Dick:There are a number of other things in the seventies that Iíll just throw out and get your reaction to. One program was that in 1973, the Naval Observatory was invited by NASA to participate in the Space Telescope project.
Dick:How did that come about, and what was the Naval Observatoryís participation to be?
Strand:Well, it was very slight. We really didnít feel that we had the resources to get heavily involved in it at that early stage. But at a later stage, there would be more interest, when it came closer to looking at observational techniques.
Dick:Thereís another item in 1976. You say that you wrote a memo to a certain Commander Albers about whether or not missile accuracy would be improved by star position improvement?
Dick:How much was this a general concern within the Navy? Again it comes back, I suppose, to the mission of the Observatory. These improvements in star positions, are we really improving missile accuracy and navigation? Was that a question that constantly came from the Navy?
Strand:Yes. It came from ONR, and it came in connection with a meeting that we had had at the Charles Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, which is a contract laboratory of the Navy. I went there with Dr. Larimore from ONR, and we had a heavy discussion there of future accuracies in star positions, and there was a feeling that well, we have star precisions now that perhaps are pretty good, and so theyíll stay that way. They didnít understand the problem of epoch and proper motion.
Dick:You apparently convinced them of that?
Strand:Well, I think I did, yes.
Dick:We have already mentioned the reorganization as far as combining the transit circle divisions. Also around that same time, the A and A division was divided into Flagstaff and the Exploratory Development Staff.
Strand:Yes, it was part of the same reorganization.
Dick:What was the philosophy behind that? And what was the reason for that?
Strand:Because there would be fewer people in the A and A division. There were people taken out of A and A division, so it was not a complete division any more, and also there were some personnel problems between Flagstaff and Washington, so that it was felt by Captain Sleeper and I, that we should keep the two apart.
Dick:Of course since then the EDS has been combined with the transit circle so we now have one Astrometry Division.
Strand:Yes, because in the meantime they lost nearly all the members of their staff. Which is very unfortunate., in a sense.
Dick:In 1976 — weíre getting very close now to the end of your tenure as scientific director — one of the things you did that year, you attended two conferences on extra-solar planetary detection.
Dick:Whatís your general feeling about that subject?
Strand:Well, Iíve always been interested in that, from way back, as you know. We talked about 61-Cygni. We had two workshops, both headed by Greenstein, and they were very fruitful. Interestingly enough, one of the suggestions that came from this was to do these infra-red studies in nearby stars, which you just hear about from the Infra-red Space Telescope. But what to me was interesting was that we had such diverse people getting together and discussing not only instrumentation, but also ideas about whatís out there. And itís being pursued now; there is a Commission in IAU on this subject.
Dick:Part of the reason itís being pursued is because a lot of people are interested in it for its bearing on the question of extraterrestrial life. You have to have planets before you can have life.
Dick:Do you have any strong opinions about that, whether or not they might exist?
Strand:Iím convinced there exist other solar systems, thereís no question about that. Thereís a lot of junk out there.
Dick:Thatís quite different, planets, from there being intelligent life.
Dick:Do you support that?
Strand:No, no, no. Let me say, Iím going back to Hertzsprung.
Dick:Thatís what Hertzsprung felt?
Strand:Donít speculate too far about things that you canít observe.
Dick:So I take it that you would not be sympathetic to a program such as was initiated by your successor at Northwestern, J.A. Hynek, a study of UFOís?
Dick:You donít think theyíre worth studying?
Strand:No. Absolutely not. Well, there are some things you havenít mentioned, we havenít talked about, that Iím quite proud of. We did mention the Hertzsprung symposium, that was published in VISTAS ASTRONOMY. We also had the Copernicus Symposium.
Dick:Thatís right, I wanted to ask you how you became involved in the Copernicus volume. Why was it published in VISTAS?
Strand:Thatís the only way we could get it published. The whole volume was done at the Naval Observatory.
Dick:The camera-ready copy was done?
Strand:No, not the printing, but we assembled all the illustrations, and edited the contributions. It came about in this manner, that the Naval Observatory was considered the logical place to have the conference. We had a joint cooperation between the AAAS and the Washington University School of Graduate Study.
Dick:So how did you become involved?
Strand:Well, they asked me if I would chair it. They first thought of Father Hayden, but Father Hayden had left for Hawaii, so they asked if I would take it over, which I did, and it took quite a bit of work.
Dick:Very nice volume, though.
Strand:And also what I finished at the Naval Observatory was the Compendium volume, Basic Astronomical Data. Which turned out to be a best seller!
Dick:Is that right?
Strand:Yes. It sold more copies than any of the other volumes in the series. Because a lot of graduate students used it.
Dick:There were some general questions that I wanted to ask. And these are really general. One of them involves the Naval Observatoryís role among other American observatories. At the time you were coming in, in the late fifties, I was wondering how the Observatory was perceived among other American observatories, because for a long time it had been the only national observatory, and now you had Kitt Peak and other places starting up. How did this affect the Naval Observatory?
Strand:I donít think it affected the Naval Observatory. After all, to call Kitt Peak a national observatory is just a name that was given. I understand by a national observatory an observatory which provides astronomical data for the nation, like time, navigational almanacs, any type of astronomical handbooks as needed, the basic almanac, so to speak, assess the dates for the holidays and so on. Kitt Peak is certainly not doing that.
Dick:So that sort of tells you itís role internationally too, I guess. Itís analogous exactly to Greenwich, Paris and other national observatories?
Strand:Thatís right. And Iíve always emphasized that. In fact, the Naval Observatory was not that well known for what it did. I really discovered that after I became one of the visiting professors for the National Science Foundation to go on these lecture tours and describe the role of the Naval Observatory. And people had very little knowledge of what the Naval Observatory did. They didnít even know the Naval Observatory was responsible for time. In fact, many naval officers donít even know it to this day, because they think that if they get a time signal from WWV thatís it. I think the Observatory has become far more involved internationally than it had been in the past.
Dick:In what way?
Strand:By participating in many more international conferences. Of course, there are more of those now than there used to be, but take for instance as an example, in 1935 the IAU in Paris — the first one I attended — who represented the Naval Observatory? Captain Hellweg.
Dick:Who didnít know much about astronomy.
Strand:Oh, he claimed he did.
Dick:Some of these points that I have listed here weíve discussed already, about the conflict between mission versus pure astronomy, I think weíve touched on that already.
Dick:Weíve talked about funding. Were there any shifts in the major funding structure during the time that you were at the Observatory? I know you said in the beginning, for example, there was no OPN funding.
Strand:And there was also very little money in what we call research and development funds, 6.1 and 6.2 funding. That was almost non-existent.
Dick:That came from the Navy?
Strand:That came from the Navy. The programs were monitored by the Chief of Naval Research and Chief of Naval Development. So I had to make presentations to them about the programs that we carried out, and it became quite important, because for a long time that was close to three-quarters of a million dollars out of a total funding of close to three million for the Naval Observatory.
Dick:This is the conclusion of the interview with Dr. Strand. O.K., we were talking about the shifts in funding.
Dick:When did the 6.1 and 6.2 funds, as you describe them, begin to become important?
Strand:I would say in late Ď63.
Dick:And why? What happened at that time to make that kind of money available?
Strand:Well, it was a question of scouting around and finding out where money was available. One of the things that was helpful was that there was the Navy Laboratory Directorís Council, of which I was a member. It met twice a year at various laboratories, and discussed personnel, programs, and funding.
Dick:But strictly speaking the Naval Observatory is not a naval observatory?
Dick:Why did that come about, do you know? Why is the Naval Observatory not a naval observatory?
Strand:Well, I think itís because of the attitude of some of the superintendents, that they donít want the observatory to be considered a laboratory. Moreover, the Observatory is under Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) while the Naval Laboratories are under the Chief of Naval Material (CNM), except NRL which is under the CNR, or was.
Dick:Well, a laboratory would still have a head, even if he werenít called a superintendent?
Strand:Well, thatís true. Each laboratory has a director, who is a military and a civilian technical director. So I participated in those meetings, and thatís the way I found out where the money was and where the people were, with whom to deal, in getting the funding.
Dick:How about cooperation with other agencies such as NASA? Was there an increase of that during your tenure as scientific director?
Strand:Only during the period of the program in the Southern Hemisphere, where some of the funding came from NASA. In fact, some money was left over from the program at the end and turned over to the Naval Observatory for the refurbishing of the 7-inch.
Dick:After the advent of Sputnik, the Naval Observatory never really became that much involved in anything to do with the space program, isnít that true?
Strand:No, thatís not quite correct, because for a while both Dr. Clemence and Dr. Herget did. Especially Herget, who at one time had been at the Naval Observatory during the War. But both were involved in the early celestial mechanics work connected with the space program.
Dick:Of course now they make use of navigational satellites. To that extent they became involved in using the benefits of the space program.
Strand:Oh yes, for NavSat, for timing purposes. But after all, again you have to remember that the Observatory is a small organization, and it has a mission which it has to follow, and it cannot spread out in all kinds of projects. And if you set up a special agency for space like NASA, well, this is the logical place to do it, and assist in any way you can. For instance, on one of the Apollo flights, they had a star map that the Nautical Almanac office made up.
Dick:Of course places like Naval Research Lab have gone in a much bigger way into space program type things.
Dick:They too have a mission, but they seem to interpret their mission much more broadly.
Strand:Well, they have a different organization than we have, in the sense that, they are in the true sense a laboratory, which the Naval Observatory is not. This is something I should have said earlier, that the Navy laboratories have contracts with other organizations to do certain kinds of work that the contractors feel they Navy laboratories can perform better than they can do themselves. NASA has programs with NRL where they feel NRL has the expertise that they might not have.
Dick:Looking back at your scientific papers, is there any one or two that you would pick out as the most important paper.
Strand:Well — I donít know. Itís hard to say.
Dick:Many of them in the later years had to do with parallax?
Strand:Had to do with parallaxes, yes, to explain what could be achieved in that field.
Dick:Are there any particular controversies that, looking back, stand out in your mind, that you would like to discuss?
Strand:Controversies in which way?
Dick:In any way, at the Naval Observatory, things that stand out that maybe they didnít go the way that you wished they would have.
Strand:No. No. Aside from a superintendent who wanted to change the organization and my job. When he was unsuccessful, he persuaded his successor to try, but without luck. But those are only minor things.
Dick:Is there anything more youíd like to say about the years at the Observatory?
Strand:Yes, I thought they were very fruitful years, very interesting, very busy years. I enjoyed working with the people we had there. I think we had some very fine people that I liked to work with, and Iím especially proud of having discovered Dr. Winkler. I very much appreciated the support and cooperation of the entire staff, including Public Works.
Dick:Thatís right, Dr. Winkler came in Ď66 during the time you were scientific director?
Strand:Yes, and I think there have been other people that I have hired that have been good, and then there have been some not so good, but leave them unnamed. Actually, when Dr. Markowitz told us he was going to retire, I believe, he thought that the whole Time Service was going to collapse. He didnít realize I had a man in the background that I had been watching for several years. I think Dr. Winkler turned out to be a real asset to the Observatory in all respects. Even if he is perhaps sometimes too eager to grab people from other divisions within the Observatory.
Thank you very much.
Session I | Session II