Oral History Transcript — Dr. Margaret Burbidge
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Interview with Dr. Margaret Burbidge
Margaret Burbidge; July 13, 1978
ABSTRACT: Discusses her childhood and education; her developing interest in astronomy; studying with C. C. L. Gregory at the University of London Observatory and University College; her thesis work on the variations in Gamma Cassiopeia; meeting and marrying Geoffrey Burbidge; discrimination against women in the Carnegie Followships; the conflict between her work and having a family; the decision to go to the U.S. and Yerkes; use of the 82-inch telescope at McDonald; recollections of Shapley; disagreements between Kuiper and Urey; development of interest in abundance of elements; Baade's inspiration; offers for Geoffrey Burbidge from Manchester and Cambridge and move to Cambridge University; Geoffrey's differences with M. Ryle involving source of radio emission; meeting Willie Fowler; decision to return to the U. S. and Caltech; observing time at Mt Wilson; reactions of the old guard to women observers; collaborations with Baade on supernovae synthesis (1956); work on barium II stars; the search for permanent positions; advantage of position at Chicago/Yerkes/McDonald; move to Chicago and work on galaxies (1957-1962); observations of Centaurus A at 82-inch McDonald telescope; leaving Yerkes to go to La Jolla with Revelle; continued research on quasars and general research; cosmological implications of quasars; summer in Pasadena with Hoyle; development of Hoyle's Institute; challenges of Burbidge, Fowler, Hoyle concept of nucleosynthesis; Unsold's arguments; Arp's work; lack of satisfactory gravitational red shift models; university's relationship with Lick; infra-red work future of Greenwich and changes in the power structure in the British Astronomical establishment; offer of position as head of the Science Research Council; decision to take a leave of absence from La Jolla and accept; difficulties of the position and the decision as to where to locate the Northern Hemisphere Observatory; decision to return to the U. S.; American Astronomical Society presidency (1976-1978); AAS and the Equal Rights Amendment; her most satisfying work in nucleosynthesis, B2FH. Among those prominently mentioned: Arp, Baade, Bowen, Chandrasekhar, Greenstein, Hoyle, Kuiper, P. Merrill, H. Minkowski, R. Revelle, M. Ryle, Sandage, Shapley, Stromgren, Unsold, Urey.
DeVorkin:I know that you were born in 1919 in Davenport, England.
DeVorkin:I would like to know something about your family background and your early home life.
Burbidge:Yes. My father was a lecturer in chemistry in the Manchester School of Technology and my mother had been a student there. I think she was one of only two women students there in chemistry. I was born there. Then my father gave up that work and turned to industrial chemistry. He was chiefly interested in organic chemistry and rubber chemistry, and he had a patent that he sold for quite a lot of money. From this, he decided to go into industrial chemistry.
DeVorkin:While he was a lecturer at Manchester?
DeVorkin:Was he able to capitalize on it?
DeVorkin:Or did it revert to Manchester?
Burbidge:No, he was able to capitalize. Actually I'm not quite sure. It could have been after we moved to London. We moved to London I think when I was about two or just under two. So I have no recollection of living in Manchester, although we used to go visit the family that was still there, all through my childhood. So then, we were settled in London, and my mother, with a scientific background, had always expected both her daughters (I had a sister) to have a career of some sort, and she didn't know what.
DeVorkin:Is this an older or younger sister?
Burbidge:Younger. She expected us certainly to earn our own living and not to be just housewives. I learned to read very early, because it gave you some power, I think, to be able to read. You weren't dependent on people reading stories to you.
DeVorkin:Did you have that feeling at that time?
Burbidge:That I wanted to be independent yes. If I wanted to hear a story, I didn't want to have to ask somebody, or cajole them to read to me if they didn't want to.
DeVorkin:What kind of stories did you read to yourself?
Burbidge:Well, I know that before I went to school I went to school when I was six I could read TREASURE ISLAND. I was reading TREASURE ISLAND before then, and I was really terrified, deliciously terrified, by Blind Pugh and the Black Spot and things like that.
DeVorkin:Yes. Was it all literature that you were reading at that time? Early literature?
DeVorkin:Your mother was interested in having her daughters pursue scientific interests?
Burbidge:She never pushed us. And my sister never went in that direction at all. She wasn't at all interested, and I was never steered in that direction. But I was interested myself and also in numbers. I had an early interest in numbers. I was a very shy child. It was something of a torment to go to school at first.
DeVorkin:Really? Because of the shyness?
DeVorkin:What kind of school did you go to?
Burbidge:It was a school that took children only up to age nine. What one would have called kindergarten, except it overlapped with what you call in this country grade school. It did take people younger than six.
DeVorkin:Was it privately funded school?
Burbidge:Yes, it was.
DeVorkin:What school was it?
Burbidge:It was called Heysham. It was in a large old house in Hempstead. We lived in Hempstead. It was somewhat nerve wracking going there. But again I felt that I had something to withdraw to in that I could read different books from what the other kids were reading.
Burbidge:Yes. Well, they were starting to learn to read. And I already could read and read pretty well anything I wanted.
DeVorkin:How did your interests develop once you started going to school?
Burbidge:Well, then, one of the early things in those days was to learn the multiplication tables. You learned them by rote, you know, at an age when it's very easy to memorize things. So I guess that started my interest in numbers, and I began to be interested in large numbers. By that time, my mother was trying to get me used to being with other children. So I was taken to a dancing class. It was one of these eurhythmic free motion experiences it wasn't regular dancing but it was moving to music.
Burbidge:Yes, and doing other things, acting out things to music, getting a feeling for different moods in music. But it meant doing something in front of people, and therefore I didn't like it at all. But I remember when she used to walk me to this place in Hempstead, as a kind of consolation to myself, I used to ask her what certain numbers were. I started with, "Oh, what is a thousand times a thousand, that was a million." Then I went on to larger and larger numbers. I allowed myself to ask one question each time we went to this wretched dancing class.
DeVorkin:Was this sort of an inducement on her part to get you to go?
Burbidge:Well, yes. Then, when we got up to octillion and when I asked what the next one was, she said, "There isn't any larger number," because I guess she couldn't think of the next word up.
DeVorkin:You were just really at that time playing with words?
Burbidge:Yes, but I was writing out the numbers, the number of zeroes. And it used to give me enormous fascination to get a piece of paper and to write 1 followed by 32 or 64 zeroes or 120 or whatever number of zeroes, and just contemplate that large number.
DeVorkin:Interesting. Did you ever wonder how long it would take to count that number?
Burbidge:Yes. I did. And I used to count the steps walking to school. And when we had our equivalent of "show and tell," I remember saying, "it took so many steps," I counted the steps to school. Then I remember some wretched little boy said, "Oh, that's nothing, it took me a million steps to get to school." I remember being absolutely outraged, because I knew darned well it wasn't.
DeVorkin:At that time if you were equating numbers with steps, you were equating numbers with distance.
DeVorkin:And, if it took you "x" number of steps to get to school, how far it would be to take a million steps, or octillion?
Burbidge:Yes. I used to think about that. Yes. And then, when my mother said, "There's no number larger than octillion," I remember being desolated. I thought, there's got to be a number larger than that. I said, "There has to be. It's not possible. Because you can always add one, just going on adding one, and you're going to get to the next larger number eventually."
DeVorkin:Did you ever feel that she was just frustrated?
Burbidge:Yes, I did. Yes.
DeVorkin:In using it as distance, did this get you interested in the distance to the moon, the distance to the sun?
Burbidge:Yes, only I didn't know anything about that, at that stage. There was a series of books called the WORLD BOOK OF SCIENCE. These were children's books, with pictures. It was a series, and I guess there was something about the moon, and that indeed, that was fascinating. But the idea of distances to start hadn't yet dawned on me.
DeVorkin:I have from my father's collection a children's series on science, and in one of them, there is an artist's plate of railroad trains moving off to the different planets and to the sun, and it was indicated, if the train was moving at a certain rate, how long it would take to get to the sun, to the planets, to the stars. Was this one of the plates?
Burbidge:I don't believe so. I don't remember that. That doesn't stick in my memory. I know that railroad tracks also had a link in my mind with distance. So it might have.
DeVorkin:Well, let's follow both your home life and your early school life.
DeVorkin:And find out when was your first contact directly with science, the idea of science and what people did in science.
Burbidge:Well, let me backtrack a little bit in age, because there is another landmark that I remember, which I've told other people, and now they seem to ask me quite often about it. It's the first time I really noticed the stars. A small child brought up in London doesn't get to see much of the sky, because it's so often cloudy in the winter when it's dark enough, early enough in the evening, to be looking at the sky. So you don't. It's not like living out here and just seeing the stars. The first time I consciously remember really noticing the stars was the summer that I was four, and we were going on a night crossing to France, for summer vacation. And we were taking the long crossing. I began to feel seasick during the night, and so to take my mind off that, I was lifted up to look out of the port hole on the upper bunk to see the stars. You know how they are at sea, on a clear night. These twinkling lights and then became another fascination to me, tracking down any kind of twinkling light and enjoying twinkling lights. So then around that time or shortly after that, within the next year or so again, before I went to school I used to be taken out on walks by my father, and sometimes this was particularly in summer vacation we'd see something gleaming in the distance. And I'd say "Let's go and find out what that is." It would often be some discarded tin can or piece of broken glass. And it would perhaps disappear, the gleam, before we got to it. It became something of a game tracking down these gleaming lights in the distance.
DeVorkin:I see a very strong parallel. That's marvelous. How far did you live from the Heath?
Burbidge:Very close to Hempstead Heath.
DeVorkin:Did you see the stars at all from the Heath? Or were you ever out at night there?
Burbidge:I think we didn't go out at night there.
DeVorkin:There is a little observatory there.
Burbidge:Yes, there is, and I never went to that. I was never taken to that.
DeVorkin:That's too bad.
Burbidge:Yes, I know. But the Heath was a playground. We lived very close to it.
DeVorkin:So, this was your first glimpse of the stars.
DeVorkin:Did your parents talk to you about what the stars were?
Burbidge:Yes, a little bit. Not very much. Except that for both my 12th and 13th birthdays, my grandfather my mother's father knew that I was interested in the stars, and knew also that Sir James Jeans was some kind of distant relative on my mother's side so he gave me birthday presents on two successive years he gave me James Jean's books.
DeVorkin:This was a little later.
Burbidge:Yes. I was 12 and 13. What happened between about age six and about then, I don't remember, in connection with astronomy.
DeVorkin:There was nothing in your early schooling that got you interested?
Burbidge:No. But there was a continuing interest in mathematics which was developing. I used to think quite a lot about mathematics. One time later on, I thought that was what I would study. Shortly before I went to university, I thought that was possibly going to be my field.
DeVorkin:Your father during this period of time remained in industrial chemistry?
Burbidge:Yes, he did, except he began to be ill. He had a lot of bad health. He was quite a bit older than my mother, and he ended up bedridden.
DeVorkin:How old were you at that time?
Burbidge:Well, he died when I was 17.
DeVorkin:When you were 12 and 13, was he still working?
Burbidge:No. Not really.
DeVorkin:What form of income did your family have at that time?
Burbidge:We were living off his patents.
DeVorkin:That maintained the family?
DeVorkin:Those must have been rather good patents. What was it?
Burbidge:Well, there were several. There was one on vulcanizing rubber. The hardening process of rubber.
DeVorkin:He invented that?
Burbidge:Well, he invented the fast way of doing that. It used to take a very long time. Then he invented the kind of coating which you put over medicine bottles, it used to be called "Duroprene."
DeVorkin:Well, I can see they were very useful. OK, moving on to the point where you read the books by James Jeans, was one THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE?
Burbidge:Yes. And then the distance business fell into place. Then I realized the stars were at these kinds of distances, these numbers that I'd been fascinated with. And at that time, I thought the most wonderful thing would be to be able to actually measure the distances to the stars. And I didn't so much think about finding out what they were made of or what was going on in them, it was just their geometry, where they were. How big was the universe.
DeVorkin:At that point you were going to what kind of a school?
Burbidge:Again, I went to a private school in Hempstead, which closed down when I was about 13, I think. Around about that time. The old lady who was in charge of it was just too old and it closed down. Then I went to a regular high school except that it was a private school. It was called the Francis Holland Church of England School. It was in London near Regents Park.
DeVorkin:That's quite far downtown.
Burbidge:Yes, so I would have to walk down, and take a bus. Actually to start with the first few years, there was a school car that went around and picked up kids. It wasn't a bus but it would take about a dozen kids.
DeVorkin:Did you have science at this school?
Burbidge:Not very much. We had general science to start with, physics and chemistry, at a very elementary state. Then when we were getting ready for university entrance, the thing to take was botany. That was what one had to study in detail. It was the only science they presented there.
DeVorkin:Was everyone expected to go on to university at this school?
Burbidge:Yes. I think so. Yes. Or to have a career of some sort.
DeVorkin:They were very career oriented.
Burbidge:Yes. But it was mostly oriented toward the humanities, arts or languages. People used to go to Oxford from there quite a lot. I think their major goal was to get people into Oxford.
DeVorkin:I imagine your family was surviving reasonably well, with the patents and all?
DeVorkin:Was there any question whether you'd be able to go to college or not?
Burbidge:No, there wasn't. No. In those days, we had a fairly comfortable life financially it was a fairly comfortable life. We had a house in Hempstead with two maids. When my sister and I were young, we had a nanny. Real old "between-the-wars" kind of style.
DeVorkin:Oh yes. Did your sister go to the university also?
Burbidge:No. She didn't.
DeVorkin:That was a conscious choice of hers.
Burbidge:It was a conscious choice, but it was also the coming of World War II. She went into the Women's Royal Naval Service, the WRENS. She never did have an interest in science. She was not particularly good at mathematics. She was much better on the side of writing, and she used to write. She did very well in English composition and those kinds of things in school, which I did not do so well in.
DeVorkin:So your strength definitely is in mathematics?
DeVorkin:Did you find yourself interested in physics at this time?
Burbidge:Oh yes. I had passed university entrance when I was 15.
DeVorkin:Is that early?
Burbidge:It was early. Yes. In that kind of a school, you just went at the pace that you were at. There wasn't the rigid business of trying to keep you in the same age group. And so I had some time at the end of school, when my mother felt that it wouldn't be suitable for me to go to university yet that it would be too much. I'd be plunged into a life that I wasn't really old enough for. So therefore I would stay on at school and do what I wanted to, more or less.
DeVorkin:I see. But you could have gone when you were 16.
Burbidge:Yes. But I went actually when I was 17, just after my 17th birthday. But in staying on in school, we had a succession of good mathematics teachers. There was a good teacher, and so I went on doing math.
DeVorkin:What was the teacher's name?
Burbidge:I don't remember. Her name is gone. But I do remember the science teacher, that was Miss Barter. Mary Pearson Barter. I remember her very well.
DeVorkin:Is there some reason why you remember her?
Burbidge:Yes. She was a very strict teacher, and when I'd been younger in school, she had a rather piercing, grating voice, and the younger children were somewhat terrified of her. And if you did anything naughty, you know, she was the one that you feared most catching you. I can remember being sent out of class once, for actually doing my math homework in an English class being caught doing it and not listening.
DeVorkin:She was the science teacher?
Burbidge:Yes. So I was sent out of class, and I remember kind of hovering around in the corridor. It was the first time I'd been sent out of class and I was a little nervous. And then I heard Miss Barter's voice coming down the corridor around the corner. So I began scurrying away so she wouldn't catch me. But later, toward the end of my school period there, I had quite a different view of her and admired her very much.
DeVorkin:Did she teach laboratory science?
Burbidge:Yes, she did. And although they had no physics teaching there, she made available to me a set of physics books. First of all, she showed me what books to get in physics. She helped me get some textbooks so I could study by myself. She gave me the run of the laboratory, including some equipment they had for simple experiments in electricity and magnetism, and some lenses and prisms and things where one could set up a little light path experiment and lay out the things that were in the book. And so she was very understanding in that sense.
DeVorkin:There was no astronomy though or anything like that.
Burbidge:No, there wasn't.
DeVorkin:Was this a girls' school?
DeVorkin:Those two questions didn't go together necessarily. I just had the afterthought.
Burbidge:Yes. I should have said that it was.
DeVorkin:You went to a school that did send graduates on to university. There was no question that a woman would go to university? You grew up in an environment where there was no question?
Burbidge:That's right. And I think there was much less prejudice against women, in England, going into science. I mean, the things one hears of here, girls being actively discouraged from pursuing physics, was not so. Certainly it was not so in that school. And I think it was not the general prevailing atmosphere among the people that we had contact with outside of school.
DeVorkin:What kinds of contacts did your family have? You mentioned that James Jeans was a distant relative.
DeVorkin:Was there any contact with him?
Burbidge:I never met him. No. But it was known that he was.
DeVorkin:What kind of people did your mother socialize with? What kind of friends did you have in the area where you grew up?
Burbidge:There was my set of school friends, and my particularly close school friends. Then there were neighbors.
DeVorkin:Were there any influences that would have helped your interest in math and science? Were any of your friends interested in science?
Burbidge:No, actually there weren't, no.
DeVorkin:So it was really an internal feeling that had developed with you?
DeVorkin:But through prep school at least, if we can call it that, you were interested in mathematics.
DeVorkin:Now, let's talk about the time when you came to choose a university. How did that process develop?
Burbidge:That came about because my mother still wanted me to live at home. She didn't want me to go to either Oxford or Cambridge. And so, she decided that I should go to University of London. Now, there were a number of choices there, and just how she picked upon University College, I don't remember.
DeVorkin:Was it entirely her choice? Did you discuss the matter with her?
Burbidge:She discussed it. I don't know who she would have discussed it with.
DeVorkin:None of the teachers at your school?
Burbidge:Probably she did. She probably discussed it with Miss Barter. Yes.
DeVorkin:Not with you.
Burbidge:She discussed it with me, but I didn't have any input. I mean, I didn't know anything about what the different colleges in London had to offer.
DeVorkin:Had you overcome any of your shyness at that time?
Burbidge:Yes, quite a lot, with children, but not in new environments. A new environment was always a nerve wracking thing. In fact, my mother went with me, this would be the summer at the end of my 16th year, shortly before my birthday, and she took me to University College to see the people there.
DeVorkin:This is after you'd had the year on your own at prep school.
DeVorkin:Devoted primarily to mathematics, I assume?
Burbidge:Yes, doing mathematics and Latin. I liked Latin. That was one of my subjects that I really did enjoy.
DeVorkin:So the choice of university was pretty much decided. And you don't really know how your mother finally decided on University College?
Burbidge:No. I do remember though that it had two little domes out in the courtyard.
DeVorkin:University College did?
Burbidge:Yes. And it turned out to be the one place that you could really study astronomy. You could actually take a course in it.
DeVorkin:Do you think this was something in her mind, that maybe you should study some astronomy?
Burbidge:Yes, I think perhaps so.
DeVorkin:Was she the one way back on the boat crossing that showed you the stars?
DeVorkin:That was your mother. Did your father take any interest in your training?
Burbidge:Yes, but I don't have so much recollection of him. And I think the fact of his bad health, his being an invalid, reduced his impact that he might have had.
DeVorkin:It sounds like you're very different from your sister.
DeVorkin:But did you play a lot as children?
Burbidge:Yes, we played a lot. We also fought a lot.
DeVorkin:But would you say that your childhood was relatively solitary, other than that?
Burbidge:No, I had close friends. Usually, a succession of close friends that always meant a lot to me.
DeVorkin:Let's move on to University College now.
DeVorkin:What was the structure? I'm still learning about University College and University of London. It seems to be a university spread all around London with different colleges and each college was relatively autonomous.
Burbidge:Yes, but the examinations are uniform. It's the same set of examinations for all the different subjects.
DeVorkin:You entered in 1935?
DeVorkin:At that time did you enter directly in mathematics?
Burbidge:You had to take four subjects to start with, and I took pure and applied mathematics and physics and chemistry.
DeVorkin:How did your freshman or first year begin?
Burbidge:Well, it was a very different environment, because I'd been at a girls' school, and here for the first time I was in a coeducational establishment, and fell prey to all the usual things.
DeVorkin:What kind of things? Social?
Burbidge:Social, yes, and having a pretty unhappy love affair with a student there.
DeVorkin:Was it anything that we should talk about for the development of your interests?
Burbidge:No, I don't think so. He was in geology. He was some three or four years older than I was. It led to my getting to know a bit of geology, because I used to help him with some of his work.
DeVorkin:Did it affect your studies at all?
Burbidge:At one point it did. I wasn't working very hard. And again, there was one lecturer there who took a particular interest in me, Constance Rigby, she's still around. She became a Fellow of University College, a couple or so years after I did. This is a sort of honorary thing that they do for people who were there either as students or on the faculty. She taught pure mathematics. One time, I was coming home from college at the end of the day, and I used to go on the tube from Hempstead Station to Warren St., which is very near the University College. And I was coming back, coming up on the elevator I think at Hempstead Station, and she was there also. I don't know what she was doing there. I don't think she lived in Hempstead. But she said, "Hello, Margaret. I've been meaning to try to catch you alone and have a word with you." I thought, "What's coming?" And then she gave me a lecture about the fact that I wasn't working. She said, "Things come easily to you. But you've still got to work." I did take that to heart. I remember shortly after that, we had one set of exams coming up, and it was going to be right after Whitson.
DeVorkin:I'm not acquainted with that.
Burbidge:It's a holiday. It's the next public holiday after Easter, and we were going to spend the long weekend in the country, in Lewis, actually, where we would go to Klinburne to the opera. I took my work to study for the exams. I spent a fair amount of time during that weekend studying, and so everything came out all right at the exam.
DeVorkin:What year was this again?
Burbidge:That must have been 1938, I think.
DeVorkin:The first courses you took two math, one chemistry, one physics.
DeVorkin:Was there anything in particular in there that helped jell your interests as you moved along, or were they simply courses to take, cover, finish and go on?
Burbidge:Well, by then I was wondering what I would then major in. And I was still undecided between mathematics and chemistry, I was thinking. I wasn't thinking so much of physics at that time. But during that year, I guess, I discovered the astronomy courses, and discovered that these little observatories, these little domes out in front in the courtyard, were actually doing something. People were there in the evenings and classes were going on there.
DeVorkin:Do you recall what fascinated you about it? Or was it your longstanding interest?
Burbidge:It was my longstanding interest. And then I made inquiries, and I found out that after this first year, when I had to pick whatever I was going to major in, I could then pick astronomy, and I did. Astronomy with an applied mathematics minor.
DeVorkin:At that point you'd been reading or had been exposed to the Jeans books?
DeVorkin:What other books had you been reading in astronomy?
Burbidge:Yes. I'd been reading other things, again on a popular level, Eddington's popular books. And general descriptive books in astronomy also.
DeVorkin:I see. Had you read Russell, Dugan and Stewart?
Burbidge:No, I hadn't.
DeVorkin:OK. Well, that's certainly not popular. That's getting into serious work.
DeVorkin:But with the Eddington and Jeans books, of course, we have them working very, very strongly on the meaning of the New Cosmology.
Burbidge:Yes. Oh, there was another thing that I was very interested in, and that was quantum mechanics, and that side of physics.
DeVorkin:You got this through Eddington's books primarily?
Burbidge:No, Max Born.
DeVorkin:Which book of his?
Burbidge:THE RESTLESS UNIVERSE.
DeVorkin:What was it about that that fascinated you?
Burbidge:The new look at physics, that was different from what I'd been doing on my own at school and had been doing the first year in college, which was more classical physics.
DeVorkin:You were not exposed at that time to quantum theory?
DeVorkin:But you knew of its existence?
DeVorkin:You still decided for astronomy.
DeVorkin:Did you see the application of physics to astronomy?
Burbidge:Yes. Now I began to see that the stars were not just something which were describing the geometry of the universe, but were individual things that one wanted to understand the physics of, find out what they're made of and what's going on in them.
DeVorkin:To your recollection, who did you discuss these ideas in astronomy with?
Burbidge:Well, I suppose with the man who was running the astronomy program there. That was C. C. L. Gregory.
DeVorkin:Was he accessible to you when you were an undergraduate?
Burbidge:Yes. He as a very accessible teacher. He was a good teacher, and a person who took great interest in his students. He was good on both the mathematical side and the practical side. But I suppose I would put his ability on the practical side ahead of theoretical qualities, and so it was he who first taught me things like how to make accurate measurements in astronomy.
DeVorkin:By the early forties you were working on parallax work. Was this his basic research?
Burbidge:Yes. It was he who encouraged me to do this. Right after I'd got my bachelor's degree, then the thing was to look into a job. And the first thing I thought of and the first application I made for a job, was to somebody to whom quite a number of Gregory's students went, and that was Comrie, the man who made the mathematical tables. And this being before computers, he employed a lot of people who would do all the hand calculations for tables and so on. This was something of a time of turmoil, the beginning of the early part of the European World War II, and so, I applied for this job and I got it. Comrie was a strange person. On the very first day he took me out to lunch. I thought this was kind of a social thing, making a new employee welcome. But something nasty came through some side that I decided I didn't want to have anything more to do with, and so I quit after that one day.
DeVorkin:Was it a personal thing?
Burbidge:Personal thing. I thought he had designs on me. That he was, in other words, a dirty old man. (Laughs)
Burbidge:So anyway, I quit.
DeVorkin:He really did a service for astronomy. (Laughter)
Burbidge:So then I found that I could enroll as a graduate student and be working also at University of London Observatory.
DeVorkin:Was there a need to work at that time? Did you feel you had to support yourself?
Burbidge:Yes. There was still not a financial need, but yes, the expectation was there. My mother still expected me to be independent and therefore I should be supporting myself, now that I'd got the degree.
DeVorkin:Is there anything else about your undergraduate years that we should cover, in your training, the types of courses, development of your interests? That sort of thing? Did you go to any Royal Astronomical Society Meetings by that time?
Burbidge:No. The first one I went to, I think, was after I'd got my degree, after I'd got my bachelor's.
DeVorkin:So then University College can be thought of as just taking courses, becoming aware of astronomy.
Burbidge:Yes. And getting to use those little telescopes.
DeVorkin:What sort of telescopes were they?
Burbidge:They were a 6-inch and a 4-inch. The 4-inch was a transit circle. So you just learned to take transit stars and learned the whole procedure: errors of the instrument, alignment, making accurate settings. We did a lot of spherical astronomy. And W. H. Smart was in fact the external examiner for the degree.
DeVorkin:He was at Cambridge at that time?
Burbidge:I think he was. Yes.
DeVorkin:So other than that one external examiner, you had no contact with other astronomers, other than Gregory.
Burbidge:I think that's right. Gregory felt that they didn't have much going in the way of spectroscopy at University College, so he would send his students to Imperial College.
DeVorkin:With Alfred Fowler?
Burbidge:No, it was H. Dingle and R. H. Pearse of molecular spectroscopy.
DeVorkin:So you had no contact with Fowler?
Burbidge:No. I didn't. But Gregory had had a lot of contact, and I guess that's why he sent his students there. I think he himself had been a student of Alfred Fowler.
DeVorkin:I'm interested in Alfred Fowler myself. He was an associate of Lockyer's.
DeVorkin:He was the one that really broke away from Lockyer. BURBIDGE. Yes. And I guess that is right, and he had a big influence on Gregory, and Gregory had been a student of his.
DeVorkin:I see. Yet there was no spectroscopy at University College?
DeVorkin:Is there a reason for that? Funding?
Burbidge:I think it was funding, and the small number of staff they had in astronomy, and Gregory's feeling that it was better done at Imperial College, and it was easy enough for students to just go on the tube to South Kensington.
DeVorkin:So you took a course from Dingle.
DeVorkin:How did you react to him? Because he was very fascinated with cosmology.
Burbidge:Yes, but he wasn't talking about that at all. It was pure spectroscopy. And so was Pearse's. And it was both theoretical and practical. There was a lab where we would do experiments with spectrographs and spectral lines and so on.
DeVorkin:On the theoretical end, though, you were exposed to quantum mechanics at this time?
DeVorkin:How did your interest there develop? Did you find spectroscopy a very powerful and interesting area?
Burbidge:Yes, I did.
DeVorkin:You took that job with Comrie, which has nothing to do with spectroscopy or anything else.
DeVorkin:Was this purely a vehicle or did you see it as actually the beginning of your career?
Burbidge:No, I saw it as a vehicle, the thing that I ought to do. I ought to start earning money. I ought to have some kind of a job. The world was seeming to turn upside down, with the war coming.
DeVorkin:Was there anything interesting about Dingle? Did you have any special contacts with him, in your interest?
Burbidge:No. He was rather aloof from his students. He gave the impression of being a very precise and rather cold person, not at all like Gregory. I mean, Gregory could get angry about something or angry with a piece of equipment that went wrong, and was a very human person.
DeVorkin:Let's move on to the point where you quit working with Comrie. What did you do then?
Burbidge:Well, then I went back to Gregory. And I found out that, I could get a paid studentship, and work for a Ph.D., working at University of London Observatory.
DeVorkin:Did he think it peculiar that you only worked a day for Comrie?
Burbidge:He understood, actually. I told him enough so that he understood. I think he knew he perhaps knew Comrie. (Laughs)
DeVorkin:So you went back to school, basically.
DeVorkin:What was your job at that time?
Burbidge:It was to look after the instruments at University of London Observatory, which had a 24-inch refractor and an 18-inch refractor on the same mounting. That was the telescope that was used for parallax work.
DeVorkin:24-inch refractor? A long-focus refractor?
Burbidge:Yes. It was the old Radcliffe refractor. And it had been moved from Oxford. It had never operated very satisfactorily in Oxford, and it turned out that there was one bearing that was not quite circular. Gregory discovered this and got it put right and it worked very, very well. He got it for essentially no money because they didn't want it. They were moving the Radcliffe Observatory to South Africa anyway.
DeVorkin:Yes. This was a Grubb Parsons telescope?
Burbidge:Yes. And then there was also a 24-inch reflector called the Wilson Reflector, which again Gregory had acquired from a man in Ireland. He'd gone and personally charmed this man into giving this telescope to University of London, and he'd himself pretty well set it up.
DeVorkin:He was a real entrepreneur.
Burbidge:Yes. I regard him as the founder of that small observatory.
DeVorkin:At Mill Hill?
DeVorkin:So this was your first contact with serious professional astronomy?
DeVorkin:He put you in charge of it?
Burbidge:Well, he started me working with it. He said, "There are three things you can do. You can do astrometry. You can do spectroscopy. Or you can do photometry. We have the setup to do any of those things at this observatory." I chose spectroscopy, although, you see, the astrometry had interested me, in the way of getting distances. But I was now more interested in finding out the properties of the stars. So I started then doing spectroscopy, and working on Be stars.
DeVorkin:How did you choose Be stars in particular? That's an interesting choice. There were some bright ones?
Burbidge:Yes, there were some bright ones. And there was one particular bright one that was undergoing one of its outbursts, gamma Cassiopeia.
DeVorkin:Which is the star you did published work on. 
Burbidge:Yes. Anyway, another thing was that the lenses of both refractors, the 18-inch and the 24-inch were valuable enough that one didn't want to leave them up in the telescope. So we took them out of the tube and put them down in the base of the pier. There was a hollow inside of the pier, that was separated from the outer part, and they seemed to be fairly safe there from bomb damage. And it was thought that the mirror of the Wilson Telescope was not that precious, and one could continue to operate that.
DeVorkin:So during the war, parallax work ceased.
DeVorkin:Had there been a program?
Burbidge:Yes, there had. Yes.
DeVorkin:Gregory was running that?
Burbidge:Yes. And a man called Pring. Now, Pring had gone in the Army, and the long time technician there, who had been trained by Gregory from when he was a 14 year old boy had gone in the Air Force, and he was kind of an engineer technician working on planes in the Air Force. So it was my job to keep things in order at the observatory, keep the instruments going, and at night time, to do my own observations. Then we started some war work there. Gregory went in the Admiralty. He was one of the scientific people working on sort of classified things in the Admiralty.
DeVorkin:Do you know what he did?
Burbidge:Oh, he had to do with navigation, the business of navigating near the Pole. In those days, there were some disastrous mistakes made, I think. Well, before the kind of navigational schemes that one has nowadays, when it was still mostly done by star settings, as you get toward the Pole things can go very badly wrong.
DeVorkin:That's for sure.
Burbidge:There were other things to do with weapons that he was working on, but it was classified work so he didn't talk about it.
DeVorkin:And you never found out what he did. But he worked for the Admiralty.
DeVorkin:What did Pring do, do you recall?
Burbidge:Pring was just a regular Army officer. In the infantry.
DeVorkin:Did he survive the war?
Burbidge:Yes, he did.
DeVorkin:What was the war work that was done at Mill Hill?
Burbidge:Well, there had been an instrument firm that Gregory had always dealt with called Cassella, for example, spectrum measuring machines were made by Cassella and so, he'd had a long contact with them, and they were doing work for the Ministry of Supply, a variety of instrumental work. They had some things that they wanted to subcontract, fairly small things, a bit tedious for them to do. And so they subcontracted these to Gregory to do, or to have me do at the University of London Observatory.
DeVorkin:What were they?
Burbidge:One was a set of range finders, of a somewhat new design. There were two prisms in a head that rotated. You would see two images of a plane, and you'd line them up. At the other end of the tube was a little graticle, at the front end of the tube there was a prism and the two lenses a pair of rotating prisms and two lenses. And the back end was a little scale with a needle pointer. They'd been given a set of lenses by the Ministry of Supply to make some few hundreds of these. They were easily held in the hand. They were quickly rotated. You could very quickly get a reading on a plane, and see, by making the wing tips of the two images made by the prisms touch, and looking at the pointer, you could get a setting.
DeVorkin:You assembled pre-made parts?
Burbidge:The parts were pre-made, but the lenses were not uniform focal length. So every one of these brass tubes had to be turned down on a lathe individually. First of all, you had to solder the pointer on the scale, and then you had to get that in focus by turning down the end of the tube, and you'd have the lenses in the head, and you had to get the tube the right length to get this thing in focus. So each one had to be done individually on the lathe. And there were all these other steps, like the insides of the tubes had to be blacked, and low temperature solder had to be used, because the prisms were held in already with normal solder, they were already in place.
DeVorkin:So you basically did the final fabrication of these rangefinders?
DeVorkin:Giving each one a personal touch.
Burbidge:Yes. And then the other thing was, some rectangles of fairly thick plate glass, with two little etched holes, one slightly larger than the other, which had to be filled with black. These were used in the stereoscopic arrangements for serial reconnaissance photographs. And these little holes had to be of certain size. They had already been etched but they had to be filled with some kind of black enamel and baked, so they could rub over paper and be handled and this wouldn't come out. And we had to do experiments. Cassella had not found a suitable kind of black enamel to put in these, so we did some experiments and found that a particular kind of oil, actually, a lavender oil and a powdered black enamel would work. If you made a mixture and under a microscope filled these little dots, these little holes, and then they were transported carefully to the firing ovens that Cassella had for baking, the lavender oil didn't sputter as badly as the other kind of oil. Sometimes we got them back and there would be little sputterings out that had to be touched up again under a microscope.
DeVorkin:Did you work with other people on these?
Burbidge:No. I was doing that all by myself.
DeVorkin:How did you arrive at the lavender oil? Was this some kind of empirical technique?
Burbidge:Yes, well, I think Cassella had suggested a number of different kinds of oils, and we just ordered these and tried them out.
DeVorkin:That's interesting. Did you do anything else on this order during the war?
Burbidge:No. I didn't do any mathematical work. And I didn't go in the service. This was the time my sister was in the WRENS. I considered doing that, but I would rather do some individual thing that seemed to be useful, that I could do.
DeVorkin:So you were doing war work.
DeVorkin:You were also maintaining the observatory, at a time when it wouldn't have been maintained. Were you doing some spectroscopic research?
DeVorkin:That's a pretty busy schedule.
Burbidge:Yes. At that time, my mother was an air raid warden in Hempstead. My father had died. I had moved out from Hempstead. My mother didn't particularly want me to live there. It was more heavily bombed. And I was living in the Gregory household. His wife was working then, she was working for some war relief thing in London, I forget just what it was. Later on she was working for the Lord Mayor, doing secretarial work. And he had two children. His son was in the Air Force. His daughter was a land girl, working in farming somewhere in the country. And they had a large house in Mill Hill. He had a number of people there. It was a bit safer there than closer in to London.
DeVorkin:Mill Hill was not in town, it was well out of town.
DeVorkin:He commuted in?
Burbidge:He used to cycle in to the Admiralty every day.
DeVorkin:So it wasn't that far. Where is Mill Hill?
Burbidge:Well, it's seven miles further out than Hempstead. I used to cycle to visit my mother in Hempstead and I knew precisely how far it was. So I suppose it was about 13 to 15 miles out of London.
DeVorkin:During this period, you had worked on Be stars. Your graduate work was pure research? There were no further courses or anything to take? Beyond the Bachelor's degree?
Burbidge:No, that's right. There weren't any available. I would have taken them had they been available. And those were what I took right after the war, things that I'd missed out on.
DeVorkin:I was going to ask you about that. There was a hiatus between '43 and '46, when you got your Ph.D. and when you first published. During that time you'd taken some courses?
Burbidge:No, '43, that was still the war. And I was carrying on with stellar spectroscopy.
DeVorkin:How did you actually decide to do the spectroscopy at that time, particularly to pick out Be stars?
Burbidge:Well, I decided to do spectroscopy, when I was given the choice of things. Astrometry was out anyway because the lenses were out. But also I had begun to be more interested in the nature of the stars, and to do that, you had to do spectroscopy. Spectroscopy seemed the most powerful tool.
DeVorkin:By photometry being available, do you mean that there was actually a photometer?
Burbidge:There was photometry with a Photometer.
DeVorkin:A photo-sensitive cell?
DeVorkin:Who built that?
Burbidge:I guess Gregory had.
DeVorkin:He was interested in that very early period too.
DeVorkin:Did you consider what would be more useful?
Burbidge:Well, it seemed to me spectroscopy is a much more powerful thing to use.
DeVorkin:The Be stars?
Burbidge:I don't quite know, why that particular sort of star. I suppose there I was reading the literature, and I guess I was puzzled as to how you would have the emission lines present at the same time as the photospheric absorption lines, what kind of structure was needed.
DeVorkin:What were you reading then? What do you recall as being important?
Burbidge:ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL. That's where most of those things were published. There wasn't much in the MONTHLY NOTICES. But of course MONTHLY NOTICES was what one had to read.
DeVorkin:There were ongoing B star programs at Mt. Wilson?
Burbidge:Yes, and there was D. B. McLoughlin. I read a lot of his work.
Burbidge:Yes, and Otto Struve. Struve had made a big impression I'd been interested in Struve's work.
DeVorkin:Through the war, working on these different Be stars, did you do a spectroscopic thesis?
DeVorkin:What was your thesis?
Burbidge:It was on the variations in Gamma Cassiopeia, it periodically undergoes an outburst, and it was going through one then, and following the changes of the emission lines, which appear to come from a ring, or appeared then to come from a ring.
DeVorkin:That was your first paper, "Changes in the Spectrum of Gamma Cassiopeia." 
Burbidge:Yes, it was a small part of my thesis. My thesis actually was never published. I mean, the long study. It was a time when you didn't publish thesis studies. There was a big cut down on publications.
DeVorkin:Yes, sure. What about the Royal Astronomical Society. Did you have contact with them?
Burbidge:Yes, I did. By then I did go to meetings. And I can remember one meeting. When was it Eddington died?
Burbidge:Yes. I remember a meeting in '41, and I remember people that had been names to me, like Eddington. I was very disappointed in Eddington, because he'd been such a figure of enormous stature to me through his writings, and when he appeared on the platform to read a paper, he fixed his gaze on some far corner of the room, and gave a very uninteresting talk, and seemed a crabby little man. That's how he struck me.
DeVorkin:That's interesting. Who impressed you otherwise?
Burbidge:I think I remember being somewhat disappointed in all the well known astronomers.
DeVorkin:Milne and R. H. Fowler?
Burbidge:Yes, Milne impressed me.
DeVorkin:Did you give any papers?
Burbidge:Yes, I have two papers, one on Gamma Cass, and one on a nova, a recurrent nova T Corona Borealis that had an outburst.
DeVorkin:There was a paper on that you published in 1946.
DeVorkin:And you did that paper with Gregory?
DeVorkin:Now, you noticed in 1942 that you used Gamma Cass observations taken after the closing of the observatory in '39.
DeVorkin:The observatory closed officially in August '39 because of the war?
DeVorkin:The lenses were taken out. And so during that whole period then, as you were working for Gregory, that was during the war, the lenses were out. When did the lenses get put back in and the situation become normal?
Burbidge:Of course the reflector was still working all that time. The lenses were put back in I guess in 1946.
DeVorkin:And at that point, did you start doing astrometric work?
Burbidge:Yes, I did.
DeVorkin:Was this on your own initiative?
Burbidge:No. Pring came back from the Army, and he was the first assistant there. That was his title, first assistant. And I was the second assistant. And it was just part of the observatory work. You did parallax plates morning and evening, and proper motion plates in the middle of the night. And Pring was in charge of measuring these.
DeVorkin:And you were the observer?
DeVorkin:That's interesting. Looking at the Harvard tradition, the women were the measurers, the men were the observers.
DeVorkin:That seemed to be a very strong bias.
DeVorkin:But that bias didn't exist at all.
Burbidge:I guess he did some observations. He must have taken plates as well. There was a roster, a schedule.
DeVorkin:Were there other observers?
Burbidge:No, there weren't.
DeVorkin:After the war, were there any students that came in?
Burbidge:Yes. And one interesting student was Arthur C. Clarke.
DeVorkin:Oh, tell me about that.
Burbidge:Well, there were a number of students who came part-time, or what we used to call external students, who came to take a course, or do some work. For example, there was an Air Force wing commander who came to learn some astronomy. And Arthur C. Clarke came. I was running the practical class then, which was using the smaller telescope, the 8-inch telescope, and using theodolites for navigation, those kinds of things. And the beginning students were coming back to University College, and were coming out also. Arthur C. Clarke came in a group of those. Geoff and I became friends with one of these other students who came from University College, a man called Stuart Reid. He told us afterwards that one night when I was conducting this class on the flat roof of the observatory, there was a bit of a commotion. I never knew quite what had happened. Arthur C. Clarke was very anxious to always get to the theodolite first and make the settings first, very eager, and he'd nearly knocked this little fellow off the roof.
DeVorkin:He was already publishing by that time?
Burbidge:Well, that I'm not sure. I think he may have been but he was certainly not well known. But he was very interested in the British Interplanetary Society. He wanted to know celestial mechanics, that was the thing he wanted to learn then.
DeVorkin:Anything else of his interests that you recall? Did he come up to you, ask you questions?
Burbidge:Yes. Everything to do with the planets and interplanetary travel. Nature of the stars, not so much. I don't remember him being particularly interested. Mostly solar system.
DeVorkin:And you had contact with him only through this one class.
DeVorkin:Did you maintain any social contact?
Burbidge:No, I didn't. I didn't see him again until years after when we were at some function at Berkeley.
DeVorkin:You'd already met your husband by that time.
Burbidge:Yes, I met him (Geoffrey BURBIDGE) in the fall of 1947, when classes were starting properly again in University College. I was going to make up some of these courses I'd missed, that I should have taken on the way to the Ph.D. And so I was going to classes that David R. Bates was giving, D. R. Bates.
DeVorkin:'47, that means that you taught Clarke in '48 or later in '47. You already knew your husband at that time?
Burbidge:It could have been '47 that Clarke was coming out.
DeVorkin:How did you actually meet Geoffrey BURBIDGE?
Burbidge:Well, he'd been an undergraduate at Bristol, and he'd taken his degree in physics, and then he'd had to do his year of war work, '46 to '47, and he'd gone to what's called Road Research. I guess he must have told you all about that?
DeVorkin:Yes, he did.
Burbidge:So then he was back and enrolled for a Ph.D., and so he was going to the same classes that I was going to, and that's how I met him, in Bates's class.
DeVorkin:How did you actually get together?
Burbidge:Well, we just got to talking.
DeVorkin:How did you recognize him first?
Burbidge:As an interesting person. Apart from astronomy, he started talking about tennis. Now, I'm not any good at sports and never was any good at tennis.
DeVorkin:But he was very keen on it himself?
Burbidge:Yes. And then we used to go to the opera. There were some very good things that were easy to get into and inexpensive in London in those days. So we used to go do that. Then we went to an extra class, an evening class that E. P. George was giving.
DeVorkin:Where was that?
Burbidge:London School of Economics. It was on radiation, quantum mechanics of radiation, Heitler and all that sort of stuff.
DeVorkin:Then when you started talking to Geoffrey BURBIDGE about astronomy, how did the interest develop?
Burbidge:Well, he was working in physics, you see, and Massey was his advisor. So the contact in Bates's class was really the one that started it. Not the quantum mechanics class that Bates was giving, we were going to that, but we also went to one on upper atmosphere physics that Bates was doing. It wasn't actual astronomy, but at least it was the physics of what was going on in the air glow, the night glow, of emission lines and so on. And then, well, then I guess I invited Geoff out to the observatory.
DeVorkin:Had he expressed any interest in the observatory by then?
Burbidge:Well, he began to get interested.
DeVorkin:Or was he interested in you?
Burbidge:I don't know, but anyway, he started coming out to the observatory. And then, he had one of those DSIR Fellowships. But the he got a job at the observatory. That must have been in '50 or so, after we were married.
DeVorkin:When did you finally realize you were going to get married to this fellow?
Burbidge:Well, only about January, 1947 '48? He was visiting out at Mill Hill and we were going for a walk.
DeVorkin:You'd known him for how long at that time?
Burbidge:Since the start of October.
DeVorkin:You were collaborating at that time. There were a few parallax papers that have both your names. 
Burbidge:Yes. Yes, around about that time maybe a bit earlier an old man who was interested in astronomy and had made a lot of money called Perren had come out to the observatory to visit. He endowed the Perren Chair of Astronomy. Anyway, he wanted to give some money to astronomy, and it was at a time when Gregory and I were the only people that could be around the observatory, and we showed him things through the eight-inch telescope, and we talked a lot to him, and he really liked the place and decided to leave his money to that place. Well, then he died and his family contested the will. There was a long protracted business with the university. In the end the university decided not to spend it on telescopes or anything like that, but to set up a chair of astronomy, and they did not name Gregory to that first chair, which was, I think pretty disastrous something that nowadays I would have fought. But in those days, there was no way I could get my say, that I thought he deserved it. He'd actually done most of the work to get the money. Anyway, he had an all out row with the university, and he resigned, ahead of his retiring age.
DeVorkin:Did this affect him seriously economically? How did he survive that?
Burbidge:Oh, he had some private money. I think financially he was quite well off. He was OK, but certainly it was very unfortunate.
DeVorkin:When did this happen? You were still working there.
Burbidge:That must have happened in 1950, because it was at the time that I became acting director of the place, and that was because he'd quit. And around that time, Pring had left to take a job in Africa, some kind of a government job, that was an advance over what he had, a financial advance.
DeVorkin:Did he have a Ph.D. in astronomy?
Burbidge:Yes, he did.
DeVorkin:You were at the observatory through 1951, approximately.
DeVorkin:But during that time, you and your husband took a summer's leave, possibly a month or so, at Haute Provence. What encouraged you to do that?
Burbidge:Well, we were still interested in these kinds of stars, and to get fainter ones and to really get good weather, we realized it wasn't much good carrying on in London. A 24-inch telescope versus the 26-inch we could use in Haute Provence was important. The weather, and the fact that the London lights were back on, and the road up there past Mill Hill was beginning to be a busy road. There had been very little traffic on it during the war, because of gasoline rationing. So we wanted to go to a good observatory where we could actually do something.
DeVorkin:How did you come to choose that one in particular?
Burbidge:I can't remember if this was before or after I was married, I'd applied for a Carnegie Fellowship. I'd already started thinking about the US as the place to go to do observational astronomy, and I didn't know that they were restricted to men only. I saw the advertisement in the OBSERVATORY magazine.
DeVorkin:Was that true then?
Burbidge:Sure it was true.
DeVorkin:Is it true now?
Burbidge:No, it's not true now, but it was very much true then.
DeVorkin:I didn't know that.
Burbidge:Well, people say "Is there an discrimination against women?" People don't realize how much there used to be.
DeVorkin:I certainly didn't realize that.
Burbidge:Well, anyway, I got a very nasty letter back from I. S. Bowen, who was the director.
DeVorkin:Do you have that letter?
Burbidge:I wish I knew. I started thinking about that the other day when somebody was asking me. And I'm not sure. I have a bunch of old papers that came when Geoff's mother died, which had been stored in her house in Chipping Norton, and I've never gone through these, but that letter could be there somewhere. I don't know. I might have just thrown it out in disgust. I hope I can find it. But I don't know.
DeVorkin:One doesn't think of the Carnegie Fellowship, as exclusively for men.
Burbidge:Yes, being made to think that: "You should have known better, you should have known that this was not open to women."
DeVorkin:That was what he said?
Burbidge:Yes. Well, that was what came through.
DeVorkin:It was a personal letter from him.
DeVorkin:That's quite a surprise.
Burbidge:Well, you know that Geoff had a Carnegie Fellowship later on.
DeVorkin:Yes. We'll get to that.
Burbidge:It was still not open to women then.
DeVorkin:That's how you pretty much gained access to the telescope.
DeVorkin:Well, we'll certainly go to that soon. At Haute Provence then you observed for a little while.
Burbidge:We must have had about six weeks there, something like that. I know we had to pay our own way there. Did he tell you that?
DeVorkin:No, I didn't know that.
Burbidge:We applied for a grant to the Royal Society to pay our travels. And it was turned down because they thought you ought not to want to go out of the country to work.
DeVorkin:I think he (Geoff) did mention that. Yes, it sounds familiar.
Burbidge:I remember it cost us about 80 or 90 pounds, which was a lot of money to us in those days.
DeVorkin:Yes. Let me ask this question, too, a more direct question, about your relationship with your husband as far as professional work is concerned. It was understood from the beginning that you were both going to pursue research?
DeVorkin:There was no question about it?
DeVorkin:No adjustment or anything at that time.
DeVorkin:Were you worried about this, as far as the possibility of getting married and leading what everybody would consider to be the normal life for a woman you know, raising a family, that sort of thing? Was there a conflict in your mind, let's say, before you were married, that you'd have to do one or the other?
Burbidge:No. There was never any doubt. Later on, there was a conflict over a family, because I guess I would have liked to have had more than just one child.
DeVorkin:When was Sarah born?
Burbidge:She was born in 1956. It had been delayed and delayed because we had no stable place to be at. And we were always traveling around or living in some dorm.
DeVorkin:Well, you were on various fellowships.
DeVorkin:If there was going to be that conflict between marriage career you would have taken the career? Is this how it was going to be?
Burbidge:Yes. But I don't think I ever thought of it in those terms. It didn't seem to me it was that conflict, not between marriage and a career. And Geoff felt no hurry about having a family.
DeVorkin:But there are plenty of men around who don't want their wives to have a career.
Burbidge:Yes. But he never had the least feeling of that sort. In fact, he was always very supportive, and rather encouraging.
DeVorkin:So then, you had gone through University of London Observatory to 1951. What induced you at that time to leave?
Burbidge:Well, we'd had this experience in Haute Provence, and we'd realized that there wasn't a future, in what we wanted to do, in England.
DeVorkin:Well, who replaced Gregory? Were you upset enough to want to leave because of that?
Burbidge:No. It was C. W. Allen. But there was an intervening period when I was acting director, when we got some construction done at the observatory and an expansion, and my husband had very great faith in Massey and so did I. We went to him for help since he knew all about how to manage the university, and so we would go to him for advice on getting the building. That was at the time that part of the new buildings were put up. And then C. W. Allen was coming. But we'd already decided we were going to leave.
DeVorkin:You'd already decided?
Burbidge:That we were going to leave, and it was a question of where, what opportunities there would be. And then he applied for an Agassiz Fellowship and he got that. And I applied to Otto Struve. He was then, I guess, President of the International Astronomical Union. Anyway, around 1950, he was a big international figure, and I wanted to work in what he was interested in and Yerkes was a place I wanted to go to.
DeVorkin:But he'd left Yerkes?
Burbidge:He hadn't at first.
DeVorkin:Just into '50, then.
Burbidge:Yes. That was when I started seeing what I could do, what kinds of possibilities there were for me. He said he thought I could get a grant from the International Astronomical Union. He encouraged me to apply, and I did. So I got that. With that and Geoff's Agassiz Fellowship, we could just live, you know, on what students wouldn't consider livable now.
DeVorkin:Yes, I'm continually surprised. I talked to your husband about how you actually split up your time and all, but I'm still not quite clear about it. You were to go to Yerkes?
Burbidge:Yes, I was to go to Yerkes, because that was what actually the IAU grant had been for. It was to do the work there. Now, certainly Struve had by then gone to Berkeley. But at one RAS meeting, S. Chandrasekhar was there, and I'd gathered up courage to introduce myself to him, and he was again very encouraging and supportive, "Come to Yerkes, that would be a great thing to do." And we knew that Geoff had to go to Harvard. So it seemed that we had to split up to start with, when we first came, and I was living in the boarding house that van Biesbroeck ran at Yerkes. They were kind people who looked after all those students and post-docs who were living in their boarding house.
DeVorkin:Who else was there?
Burbidge:D. Osterbrock was there. Harold Johnson, Nancy Roman, Dan Harris he died a while back. Later on, Larry Helfer. Yensen from Norway.
DeVorkin:So there were quite a few people?
DeVorkin:How did you feel about being separated? That couldn't have been very happy.
Burbidge:No, it was lonely. Also everything was very strange. It was much stranger than any place in Europe, going from England to France or anything. To go into the Midwest was something completely strange.
DeVorkin:How did you get there, by train?
Burbidge:Yes, by train from new York. We went on the Queen Mary. We had a Fulbright Grant to travel on.
DeVorkin:Did you apply for it together?
Burbidge:Yes. Oh, and other people who helped us at that time were the Woods, Brad Wood and Bede Wood Frank Bradshaw Wood we'd met them at our first I AU in 1948 in Switzerland, in Zurich.
DeVorkin:And you met them there?
Burbidge:We met them there and became very friendly with them.
DeVorkin:They helped you personally, with funds?
Burbidge:No, they invited us to stay with them. That was when they were in Philadelphia. And they met us, when the boat came in. They met us at the pier and helped us through Customs and Immigration. That was a very long business because that was the McCarthy Era and we had to get our visas which was not all that easy.
DeVorkin:What were your first impressions of the United States? How long was it before you actually got to Yerkes?
Burbidge:I think, a few weeks. We stayed with the Woods for a while. And then Geoff went off to Harvard, and he was living with a family of psychologists. They were both psychologists. Again, Shapley was director there, and made everybody welcome, and Menzel and Whipple and all those people were very nice to people from overseas.
DeVorkin:You didn't go up to Harvard at that time?
Burbidge:No, I didn't at that time.
DeVorkin:You were to Yerkes.
Burbidge:Yes. And I was at Yerkes, and then I wanted to have some observing time at McDonald. That would be the biggest telescope I'd ever used that's the 82-inch.
DeVorkin:You knew that, of course, before going.
Burbidge:Yes. That was Struve's big telescope, that he'd built. I guess I started working for both Morgan and Hiltner. And Hiltner said, "You can come on to McDonald, the time has all been scheduled but I'm going down for a run in photometry, and there will be many non- photometric nights, and you can do spectroscopy on them."
DeVorkin:The changeover wasn't that difficult?
Burbidge:No, it was easy. You just put the spectrograph on in the afternoon. It was very easy. Working at the Cassegrain of the 82-inch.
DeVorkin:Yes, not like it is today.
Burbidge:No. So that was going to be in December, and so, then I arranged that Geoff could come too and we could work there together. I know I had to give him some instructions how to get to McDonald what train to take and so on, what tickets to buy, and I gave him the wrong instructions.
DeVorkin:Where did he go?
Burbidge:Well, it turned out all right, but things were still very strange to me, names of things, and I had learned certain acronyms like Grand Old Party, GOP. There was quite a division of opinion about McCarthy. I think some people like McCarthy. A lot of people probably in the Midwest.
DeVorkin:Yes. Well, he came from that area.
DeVorkin:Williams Bay would have been very pro-McCarthy.
Burbidge:Yes. Well, it was strange. But the railroad he had to go on was the Gulf-Mobile- and-Ohio, part of the journey you have to take to get to Texas. And again, then, people were not funded to go. You got a certain amount of money but you went the cheapest way you possibly could because you didn't get enough money to cover the trip, and so, this was called the G M and O Railroad, and I confused it with the GOP. (Laughter) And one of the things that you did in the fall there was gather up leaves. Chandra used to have leaf raking parties. You gathered up nuts. There were various pecan trees around Yerkes, and pecans were nuts that I had never encountered before. We didn't have them in England. The town that one had to get to by train eventually was called Pecos, and so my first instructions to Geoff were: that he had to get the GOP Railroad to Pecan! And he actually went and asked for that.
DeVorkin:How did that get straightened out?
Burbidge:I'm not quite sure.
DeVorkin:That's marvelous. Did he forgive you?
Burbidge:Yes, he did.
DeVorkin:That's great. Were there living facilities for women at McDonald?
Burbidge:There were cottages. Yes, there were a number of lettered cottages. There was House A that was the director's and House B that was, I think, Kuiper's. And then there were a number of lesser ones. House H was the next biggest and Hiltner always had that. Then there were smaller ones, E and F. I suppose they probably still exist. I haven't been there for years. Anyway, we got one of those cottages, and there was no dormitory and no diner. You had to buy your own food in Fort Davis and cook it.
DeVorkin:Wasn't Fort Davis quite far away?
DeVorkin:That wasn't too far.
Burbidge:And there was a vehicle that went down every afternoon to pick up the children from school. You could phone in an order for groceries and have it picked up. It was pretty well run. There was no discrimination against women working on that telescope. Nor was there ever any that I encountered at Yerkes. The only thing in the University of Chicago was the nepotism rules husband and wife were not allowed (both) to be on the faculty.
DeVorkin:Not just in the same department, I suppose.
DeVorkin:That would affect you later on, then.
Burbidge:Yes, later on. But there was nothing but encouragement, particularly from Chandra. We became very good friends with Chandra.
DeVorkin:In some of your work at Yerkes you acknowledge Stromgren. Was this just a formal thing, because he was director later on?
Burbidge:No, he was also very helpful.
DeVorkin:How did you research interests develop while you were there? You were still working on Gamma Cass.
Burbidge:Well, no, I wasn't working on Gamma Cass, but on a bigger program of Be start. Objects in the galactic plane anyway. After that first run at McDonald, where again it was galactic plant time, so we were working on Be stars, I then went to Harvard.
DeVorkin:The second year?
Burbidge:Yes, in the beginning of '52, about February of '52, we went there, and we got an apartment there. And then we had a lot of McDonald spectra to measure. I don't know if Geoff told you about when George VI died, and Queen Elizabeth became Queen?
DeVorkin:No. Tell me the story.
Burbidge:Well, Shapley was always interested in people and he already had had Geoff in to talk to him several times. He had this fascinating revolving desk that he had, with all these things in it, and of course he had us in together as soon as I got there. As soon as we got there, I wanted to have a measuring machine to measure the spectra, and they didn't have one. Didn't have a spectral measuring machine or plate measuring machine.
DeVorkin:This was for accurate wavelengths?
Burbidge:Yes, accurate wavelength.
DeVorkin:Not radial velocity measures?
Burbidge:Well, partly variations of radial velocity in these variable stars. Harlan Smith was a student there at that time, and he was also interested in getting a plate measuring machine. He was trying to get spectra with the Agassiz telescope of short period Cepheld variables. So Shapley was willing to buy a spectral measuring machine, but money was not all that plentiful even then and he had to look into it.
DeVorkin:Shapley in this period was having difficulties with McCarthy.
Burbidge:Yes, he was.
DeVorkin:I know that it affected the observatory.
Burbidge:Yes, it did. Yes.
DeVorkin:You were aware of it at that time?
Burbidge:Yes, I was. It was one of my reasons for disliking McCarthy so much. But anyway, he was going to get this machine, but he wanted to look into all possibilities; to get an inexpensive a one as he could. He wanted a lot of details anyway, and convincing that he should get it. Then he called us in some time early in '52, and I thought it was going to be about this machine. He told this story, Shapley himself reminded me in later years of this story. He said, he called us in to tell us that King George VI had just died in England and Elizabeth was the new Queen.
DeVorkin:Had you heard that?
Burbidge:No, we hadn't heard it. He broke the news to us. And as he re-told me the story afterwards, he gave us this news and said, "You've got a new Queen now." We sat in sort of stunned silence for a few seconds, and than I said, "Oh now, about that measuring machine " (Laughter)
DeVorkin:Was he taken aback at that?
Burbidge:Apparently it stuck in his mind, because he recalled it to me some several years later.
DeVorkin:How did you feel about Elizabeth anyway?
Burbidge:Neutral. It wasn't particularly interesting to me. It was obvious that she was going to be Queen some day. I don't think I had expected that George VI would die as young as he did.
DeVorkin:Well, anyway, did you get your measuring machine?
Burbidge:Yes. Then at the end of that year, Geoff's Agassiz Fellowship came to an end, and so then we both applied for research assistantships at Yerkes.
DeVorkin:You were pretty happy with the working conditions there?
DeVorkin:Certainly with the 82-inch telescope.
Burbidge:Yes. So we got those research assistantships, and we were working for Morgan then. I guess I was still working partly for Hiltner. But our task was to use the 40-inch telescope. Morgan was busy on his long program of classification of B stars for galactic structure, mapping galactic structure.
DeVorkin:This is why I'm interested in why you started with B stars.
Burbidge:Yes, it was independent. It was a coincidence. He was interested in them from the classification point of view. So we used to do that. And the other research assistants there were doing parallax plates, but we were not taking any of the parallax plates. We were taking the spectra.
DeVorkin:Who was in charge of that, van Biesbroeck?
Burbidge:No, Strand used to come there for the parallax work. He used to come in about once a week. He was the person actually in charge of that.
DeVorkin:How did you like the 40-inch?
Burbidge:Oh, I liked that.
DeVorkin:Did you use it alone?
DeVorkin:Did you find any problems moving that thing around?
Burbidge:Well, it's a heavy thing to move, and the dome is a heavy thing to heave around. It's a nice telescope.
DeVorkin:Yes. I used it myself, before they changed it.
Burbidge:Oh yes. It was cold in the winter. I remember, one was somewhat relieved when the temperature got down to 5 below, because that was when we used to have to stop observing because the oil got thick.
DeVorkin:During that period, '51 - '53, you had general papers on spectroscopy. You worked on Chi Ophiuchi. These were Hiltner's observations, I take it?
Burbidge:No, they were our observations. We used the Coude at McDonald. And we took infra-red plates. We measured some Paschen lines. We were always also going to whatever lectures were being given, and in particular to Chandra's course on radiative transfer, and that's why we were concerned with the Balmer Decrement, the transfer of radiation in the Balmer lines, and the strengthening of the higher members of the series in the strict planetary nebulae decrements.
DeVorkin:Now, your husband was moving very strongly in the line of physics.
DeVorkin:And between the two of you, how did you look for research projects at this time? You were working on the B star problem with Morgan.
DeVorkin:But what was your interest? At that time there was no interest you had in galactic structure.
Burbidge:No, I was not interested. I wasn't working in galactic structure. I was still on the physics of the stars.
DeVorkin:How did you go about choosing problems?
Burbidge:Choosing problems? Well, going through the literature, and picking out items of interest. There were all those Mt. Wilson Catalogue (MWC) stars, a huge fund of stars there. And then picking out ones that were interesting. We got interested in stellar rotation too and the line profiles.
DeVorkin:What I'm trying to get at actually is that by 1953, you were interested in rotation, stellar rotation, but you had published a paper on the abundance of the elements with your husband.
Burbidge:Well, by then, yes. You see '53 was a transition time. And I can tell you how that came about.
DeVorkin:You had these finite research fellowships at Yerkes.
DeVorkin:You knew they were going to end. Were you looking for something more permanent? BURBIDGE. No, it came about because we applied for time at McDonald, galactic plane time, to continue the work on B stars Be stars and looking into rotation in connection with the gas ring around fast rotating stars. In those days, all the pressure was not on the galactic pole but on the galactic plane time. We asked for time in December and January, but we didn't get it. We got it in April which was galactic pole time. That was in '53. And in those times, you went for about a month at a time to McDonald, travel not being as easy as it is now. You had one batch of time a year. But there was a transition around about that time, in '52 or '53, before Kuiper and Urey had their great disagreement and became enemies.
Burbidge:Harold Urey was on the campus.
DeVorkin:I knew Kuiper had differences with other people, but I wasn't aware of this.
Burbidge:Well, you ought to get a chance to talk to Harold Urey, while there's still a chance, because he's not well now and he's well into his eighties. Have you ever talked to Urey?
DeVorkin:No. He's a distance from our central line of interest.
Burbidge:You should. Yes.
DeVorkin:I wonder if he's been talked to by other people?
Burbidge:Perhaps he has from the physics side and the chemistry side, yes.
DeVorkin:I'll ask the Center to see if they're interested. Meanwhile, could you give me some idea of what the differences between Kuiper and Urey were?
Burbidge:Yes. Well, he was on the campus at Chicago, of course, then, and he was working on the abundances in meteorites and the whole solar system plus looking at the moon, and he felt that Kuiper, I think, plagiarized a lot of his work on the origin of the solar system. Anyhow they had massive disagreements. But this was before, and they jointly spoke at a conference that was held out at Yerkes on the abundances of the elements. I still had connections with the OBSERVATORY MAGAZINE in England, and I said, "Well, all right, I'll take notes and I'll write an account of the proceedings of this conference, to go in the OBSERVATORY MAGAZINE."  So I attended this conference. Geoff and I were both attending it and I was taking very full notes. Then, that opened up a whole new field something that I hadn't really thought about: what is the origin of the elements? Of course, in those days, there was Gamow and Ulam. Gamow was there, and Maria Mayer was there it was the cold polyneutron model and practically nothing on the origin of elements in the stars. Hoyle's paper of '46 was discussed a little bit. But most of the emphasis was on the Big Bang origin or some kind of an early origin of the elements.
DeVorkin:The triple alpha process was just being suggested at that time by Salpeter and others.
DeVorkin:Were you aware of it at that time?
Burbidge:Not then. Not immediately then.
DeVorkin:Not at the conference?
Burbidge:Not at the conference.
DeVorkin:OK. It was proton-proton, the CNO cycle, and that was it.
Burbidge:Yes. And a lot about abundances in meteorites, and so called universal abundances although the first papers on stars with different compositions were beginning to appear. The Schwarzschild paper, for example, had appeared. Things with low metal content.
DeVorkin:They were still trying to explain populations at that time.
Burbidge:Yes. Well, anyway, this conference, and the effort I put into it was considerable. I used to go in to Chicago once or twice per week. It must have been the transition between '52 and '53. But I used to check out my notes and my account with Maria Mayer and Harold Urey. And then I wrote this thing up. Then we'd applied for our time and we'd got April instead of December at McDonald and so we said, "Well, this is not Be star time. How about we look at some stars with strange abundances?" That started the magnetic stars, the Ap star work. People were trying to explain those then not in terms actual composition differences in the surface layers, but some kind of excitation differences. And so we made the list of Can Ven and the other bright magnetic stars that would be around in April, and that's how we started working on those. And we collected a large number of Coude spectra, with the idea that, come the summer of '53, we'd have to go back to England. Our two years as exchange visitors would be up.
DeVorkin:As exchange visitors that means that you still had a position back in England?
Burbidge:No. No position. But only a visa that was only good for two years. And a Fulbright, which meant that you were supposed to go back to where you came from and spread the word back home of what your experiences had been. But in the summer, we applied to go to the Michigan Summer School in 1953, at which again Gamow was lecturing, and Baade was lecturing. Again, it was a major landmark to me, and to Geoff I think.
DeVorkin:Who else was there that you recall? Fowler wasn't there?
Burbidge:No. Fowler was not there. The particular people I remember were Baade and Gamow. I think Bachelor was there, lecturing on turbulence. But Baade was wonderful at those things. He had funds of stories. And then again, nobody ever got down his material before he died.
DeVorkin:I know. That's why we're trying to collect it now.
DeVorkin:At that time of course Baade was still working very actively on revising distance scales.
Burbidge:Yes. And the first modern Color-Magnitude diagrams, and an understanding of them, were coming in.
DeVorkin:Sandage's work partly.
Burbidge:Yes. He was talking about that, and the whole revision of the age; the disappearance of this anomaly between the radioactive age of the solar system and the inverse Hubble time.
DeVorkin:With his recalibration.
DeVorkin:That must have been very exciting.
DeVorkin:Did that encourage you actually to go more into the abundance work?
Burbidge:Yes, it did. Yes.
DeVorkin:What was your immediate interest at that point? Understanding the populations?
Burbidge:Understanding the populations, and stellar evolution, and the origin of the elements.
DeVorkin:Even stellar evolution during that period was very much up in the air.
Burbidge:Yes, it was. Yes. Because it wasn't until Hoyle and Schwarzschild got out the color Magnitude Diagram of a globular cluster that there was an understanding of what was happening in red giants, that was beginning to come through; that they had reached the point where the inhomogeneity would carry them over into the right hand part of the Hertzprung- Russell Diagram.
DeVorkin:Would you say that this growth of your interest in abundances, in your first paper with your husband,  was a mutual interest?
Burbidge:Yes, it was.
DeVorkin:Which one of you came to it first as a field? You did?
Burbidge:I don't really know. I think it was a thing we did together. Because we were both at Wisconsin, at this Kuiper-Urey Conference.
DeVorkin:Yes. Now, when did you start making plans to return?
Burbidge:Well, during that spring, of course. We'd been applying and looking into what the jobs would be back in England. And Geoff had two offers. One was to go to Manchester.
Burbidge:As a lecturer or assistant lecturer. And one was to go to Cambridge on a DSIR job, working in the Cavendish. He talked this over with Chandra. And I had no prospects, either place.
DeVorkin:Did you make your own applications?
Burbidge:Yes, but there didn't seem to be any openings.
DeVorkin:I see. Where did you apply?
Burbidge:I can't remember now. Probably to the same places.
DeVorkin:You certainly wanted to be together?
Burbidge:Yes. But we realized that we could live on one salary then, and that we'd got all these Coude spectra that needed to be analyzed. Firstly, I think Chandra did not think very highly of Kopal. In fact that's putting it mildly. And Kopal was the person who was trying to persuade us to come to Manchester. Oh yes, Kopal was over here in the US. That summer when we were in Michigan, we had an apartment that somebody had vacated during the summer, and one evening, one very hot evening during the summer school, the Michigan Summer School, who should come knocking on the door but Kopal, and he came in with a hard sell as to why we should go to Manchester and not Cambridge. When he went out of the room, we looked at each other and we said, "Well, that settles it."
DeVorkin:I see. I think your husband mentioned that, but I'm glad I have it from your side.
Burbidge:OK, so it was Cambridge. But I had no job there but we could live on the one salary.
DeVorkin:How did you feel about that though?
Burbidge:Well, I didn't mind that so much. What I bitterly resented was having to pay what Redman called "bench fees" to use the spectral measuring equipment. He charged me. I think it was only 5 pounds a term. But he charged me!
DeVorkin:Would he have charged anyone?
DeVorkin:Or was it discrimination again?
Burbidge:No, he would have charged anybody, I think, that didn't have a job.
DeVorkin:You didn't have the money, so you were charged.
DeVorkin:You were a volunteer research associate. That was your official title while you were there.
DeVorkin:And your husband was working with Martin Ryle, is that correct?
DeVorkin:But you had your own mutual research interests. How did you proceed? How did you pursue them at that time?
Burbidge:Yes. Well, he used to go into the Cavendish, and he'd be working there in the days. I used to walk along Madingley Road, out to the observatory. We were living in a tiny apartment on Botolph Lane, over a tailor's shop. You had to go through a little yard and up some back stairs, and there was no room to keep bicycles there, so we couldn't have bicycles. I mean, you couldn't have carried them up. It was a little spiral staircase that got to our floor. And the only place under shelter in the back yard was occupied by the ground floor people. So anyway we used to walk to get everywhere. So I used to walk. Oh, we did have microphotometer tracings of all these spectra before leaving Yerkes.
DeVorkin:You took them while you were at Yerkes?
Burbidge:Yes. We'd stayed up night and day to get those done before we left for the Michigan Summer School. Michigan was on the way back to the East Coast, to then get the ship back to England.
DeVorkin:So you had those tracings to work on.
Burbidge:Yes. They were for measuring equivalent widths.
DeVorkin:Did you do these at home?
Burbidge:We did those at home. And the measuring for the wave lengths for the line identifications of these thousands of lines in these rare earth spectra was done at Cambridge Observatory. I used to write to Charlotte Sitterly to try and get whatever was available on rare earth spectra, and she used to tell me, "Nobody's interested these days in the Zeeman analysis. It's hard to get anybody to work in those at the National Bureau of Standards." She would send me whatever she could. And it's funny, this stuff is still coming in now, now that I no longer need it. But at the time there was practically nothing done on the second ionization spectra.
DeVorkin:That's right. I talked to her, about her general work, that sort of thing.
DeVorkin:She seemed to have a feeling that some of the directions at the National Bureau of Standards weren't the only ones that she really wanted. I don't know if you thought that. Was that your only contact with her?
Burbidge:No. Again, she'd been a person that we'd met at that IAU meeting back in 1948, along with the Woods, and she said she'd have us when we first came over to stay with them in Washington. So she and Banney (Bancroft) were good friends of ours, in that sense, that they helped the transition to another country. I should say to backtrack a little, that strangeness of the Midwest did not exist in the Cambridge, Mass area. Cambridge, Mass seemed very English to me. Well, it still does, the layout of streets, the awful traffic pattern, the old buildings.
DeVorkin:Emerson said that the streets were laid out by cows.
Burbidge:Well, after all, that's how they were laid out in England.
DeVorkin:Right. Your impressions are interesting. Were they maintained? Did you see differences in Texas?
DeVorkin:Did you still feel that the United States was the place to be?
DeVorkin:So you weren't alienated.
Burbidge:No. And the strangeness gradually wore off. I suppose it wore off least of all in the Midwest. That still seemed to me the strangest.
DeVorkin:Yes, me too. I certainly had that feeling when I went to Wisconsin. It was very different from California.
Burbidge:The second time we were at Yerkes, in the '57 to '62 period, was when Kevin Prendergast was there. And of course he was an ardent New Yorker. He didn't think much of the West Coast, but he could put up with it. But he hated the Midwest. He used to say that the country should have been settled from the West and from the East and they should never have met in the middle.
DeVorkin:In a way, it was. The Spanish settled the West. Was he a student of yours?
Burbidge:No. He was a contemporary.
DeVorkin:I wasn't sure. In your Cambridge days, I know from the interview with your husband that things didn't go too smoothly with him in Ryle's group.
Burbidge:Yes. At that time, it was beginning to be realized that synchrotron emission was the source. But Ryle was still favoring plasma oscillation, despite the fact that you had to get the energy out in the high harmonics. And Geoff used to have long arguments with him. Did he tell you about one argument, after which Ryle took to his bed for some days?
Burbidge:Well, I think it was about synchrotron versus plasma oscillation. Ryle was getting very heated, and Geoff loves a good argument. But all of Ryle's people we used to call them "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the little group of people that worked around Ryle, Shakeschaft and all those people protected him. They were enormously protective of him. And they knew the things that upset him, and they could hear this argument going on behind closed doors, and I remember Peter Sheuwer and Shakeschaft and Baldwin came up to me and said, "Can't you go in and stop it? Do something? This will make Ryle ill." I didn't want to stop it. I thought, well Ryle is arguing a silly line, let him get an earful. So the argument ended, and Ryle did indeed run a fever and took to his bed for about a week. And all his people had to go around there to work with him.
DeVorkin:He has a serious psychological problem, then?
DeVorkin:I didn't know it was like that, but I know his reputation, to be protected, and I've seen him in a controversial position, which he didn't take to very well.
Burbidge:Yes. Well, we learned how they managed this at conferences, afterwards. If they thought it was going to be something controversial coming up, they used to have a plan of action planted questions and they used to sit scattered through the room, in different strategic places. And the Seven Dwarfs would come up with questions at the right time, when Martin was being challenged on anything.
DeVorkin:I see. Sort of a united front.
DeVorkin:Your husband did say something about that part. But you had your own particular interests, apart from what he was working on with Ryle. The Ryle business of course did bring up synchrotron radiation. And your husband did work at that.
Burbidge:Yes. He was one of the early people working out the energetics of synchrotron radiation.
DeVorkin:You didn't participate in that.
Burbidge:No, I didn't. No.
DeVorkin:You stayed with abundance work?
DeVorkin:And during this period you met William Fowler.
Burbidge:Yes. Now, Geoff met him. I think Willie Fowler was giving one of those _____talks.
DeVorkin:What were those talks?
Burbidge:Oh, it's a long Cambridge tradition. It must have dated back to Dirac probably or pre-Dirac. It's kind of an evening informal seminar with a speaker. And Geoff went to a talk that Fowler was giving. I didn't go. So he got a meeting with Fowler. We had begun to realize, from the analysis of the spectra, that the abundances are anomalous there are real over- abundances. And we thought, they're probably located on the surface, but they seemed to be involving neutrons. Now, you know, there is still a controversy going on about how much the Ap stars are pure element segregation, and how much nuclear processing there might be, but there seemed to be neutron effects coming in We realized we didn't know much nuclear physics. We knew a lot of spectroscopy and atomic physics, but we were not well up on nuclear physics, in particular things to do with neutron capture. And here Geoff met this nuclear physicist, you see, on sabbatical. Willie Fowler was partly encouraging us. He said, "Come around to my office." He had an office in a different part of the Cavendish. So we went around and got talking about all this.
DeVorkin:Both of you went?
DeVorkin:When your husband came home after that lecture, did he talk about Fowler?
Burbidge:Yes, I think so.
DeVorkin:Was he excited?
Burbidge:Yes. He was.
DeVorkin:So then you both went to meet Fowler.
Burbidge:Yes. Geoff may have had several meetings with him before I went along. I can't remember that, but perhaps his recollections, as to how he did that, are better.
DeVorkin:I'm interested in your impression, of meeting him and then starting to think about collaborative work.
Burbidge:Well, the first thing was that Willie Fowler told Geoff, "Well, these are the heavy elements. I don't know anything about heavy elements. I work only on the light elements. But Hoyle was there, and Fowler was very interested in Hoyle's equilibrium process, and the intermediate weight elements.
DeVorkin:This was getting up to the iron peak.
Burbidge:Yes. And then, it was not hard to see, again with the triple alpha process, that you could have a source of neutrons by simply passing the alpha process, carbon 12 though a hydrogen burning region, getting C 13, and then C 13 alpha N. And we suddenly said, "Well, let alone these heavy elements in these stars, but how about the lighter elements?" Then we started plotting up, with whatever cross sections we could get, neutron capture for the lighter elements, and seeing that you did get a smooth curve abundance times capture cross section looking as though all things you couldn't account for through the CNO reactions and all the triple alpha processes, could have been made by a modification of those things by neutron capture.
DeVorkin:These ideas pretty much developed then? Did you develop them?
Burbidge:They developed all though that year, then. We began working concentrated in the year '54 to '55.
DeVorkin:Did you approach Hoyle? Or did he approach you?
Burbidge:I think Fowler knew him already. He'd been out at Cal Tech. So it was Fowler who made the contact there. Then the four of us used to work during the day in the Cavendish, and then at night round in Fowler's house.
DeVorkin:That must have been very exciting.
Burbidge:It was very exciting. At that time the Can Ven work was drawing to an end, and we realized that we wanted to work on a different sort of heavy element problem the barium II stars and S type stars. Those were going to be more connected with the heavy element neutron capture.
DeVorkin:This is what you were really looking at, neutron capture? Certainly during that period of time?
Burbidge:Yes. We wrote the long paper on the analysis of Can Ven  ; Geoff and I did. Then we wrote the paper with Fowler on the neutron processes that might be going on.  But we obviously wanted to get back to the States, to carry on this work.
DeVorkin:You did. You talked to Fowler about it?
Burbidge:Yes. And he said, "You have to come back. You come back as immigrants this time, not on any exchange visitor's visas." So we had to set about to get immigrants' visas. Then there was a question of jobs. And still of course I could not apply for a Carnegie Fellowship. But he said, "Well, Geoff apply." So he applied and he got one. Fowler said, "Well, I can find a research associateship in Cal Tech, in Kellogg." 8 2/BURBIDGE & Fowler ApJ 122 (1955) p.271; ApJ Supp. 2 (1955), p.167.
DeVorkin:You worked at Kellogg?
Burbidge:So that's what I did. And it was nominally part time, but of course as all the women astronomers have done who have ever been on "part time" positions we worked full time and were paid part time.
DeVorkin:How did you feel about that?
Burbidge:Then, it seemed all right. I didn't resent it. But others who have been in financial situations where they did have to resent it certainly may have. It happened to Vera Rubin for a long time.
DeVorkin:Let me ask you one question that takes us back a year or two, and then I want to talk about your work at Cal Tech and Mt. Wilson. You wrote a paper on Freundlich's proposed red shift law. 
DeVorkin:How did that come about? Was it something that interested you and your husband momentarily?
Burbidge:Yes. Momentarily. Yes.
DeVorkin:Anything to discuss about it?
Burbidge:Well, we thought it didn't make sense; mainly because of binary stars, and all the other things. It was one of those things that seemed worthwhile to knock down.
DeVorkin:Who had noticed it first, your husband?
Burbidge:I think so, yes. I think he noticed it.
DeVorkin:It seemed like something that he would get into.
Burbidge:Yes, I think so.
DeVorkin:We've talked a bit about it. Let's go to Cal Tech, 1955-57. You were a research fellow there. Did you actually work in Kellogg? Did you have any responsibilities that weren't directly in line with your research?
Burbidge:No. It was pure research.
DeVorkin:How did it all work out there for you?
Burbidge:Now finally we had enough money to live on. Because Geoff's Carnegie Fellowship was reasonably well paying and so was my half-time money. So we rented an apartment in Pasadena. Now our sponsors were the Fowlers. You know, we stayed there first of all when we arrived in Pasadena, and then found an apartment. We got there I suppose the end of September, and we had bought a car. I guess Geoff probably told you about our first car, that we bought the second year at Yerkes, 1952, that we drove to McDonald, a 1939 Ford that we bought for $100 and drove all the way to McDonald. We couldn't go above 35 miles per hour. You had to put in one quart of oil per 80 miles. We used to carry a drum of oil.
DeVorkin:Did you buy the car from another astronomer?
Burbidge:No, we bought it from a Williams Bay person.
DeVorkin:But it got you there.
Burbidge:Yes, it got us there. It died on the mountain. Martin Crebs repaired it enough so that it got us back to Yerkes. Anyway, we'd again stopped off in the East, and I think we'd stayed that time with the Sitterleys. And then we'd gone to Yerkes on the way there and we'd bought a car in Yerkes. Then we'd driven to California from Yerkes in a much more reasonable car. And we'd arrived I suppose at the end of September at Cal Tech.
DeVorkin:This is 1955.
Burbidge:Yes. Then I got pregnant in November. And we'd got this arrangement that Geoff would apply for observing time on Mt. Wilson, and we were working on two things. One was the question of abundances, as a function of age of stars, looking at metal-poor stars, and one was looking at the barium II stars we picked one particular barium II star. We would have liked to work on Zeta Cap, but Jesse Greenstein had got that in his drawers, and so it was hands off for anybody else.
DeVorkin:Was that a friendly sort of thing?
Burbidge:It was moderately friendly. But the spikes were out, very much. Jesse's always had that. Nobody could poach on his preserves.
DeVorkin:I didn't know that about him. That's interesting. Is there anything interesting there?
Burbidge:Yes, he resented our working on the metal-poor A type Stars. Yes.
DeVorkin:I never realized that at all. Did he resent your being there?
Burbidge:No, I don't think he resented our being there. And if we had worked with him, it would have been one thing. But to work independently of him, you had not to poach on his preserves. So we picked the second brightest barium II star that we could find.
DeVorkin:Your husband had applied for the observing time. But everybody knew that you were going to be doing the observing?
Burbidge:Yes. Everybody knew. Bowen knew, of course, but as long as you didn't rub his nose in it, he didn't mind. And we went at it fairly cautiously. Of course we stayed in that Kapteyn Cottage and not in the Monastery.
DeVorkin:There are no facilities for women there?
Burbidge:No. Well, they always said that the bathrooms were not laid out so that you could have women there. The men would be embarrassed and so on.
DeVorkin:Is that true?
Burbidge:I've never been in the Monastery so I haven't the least idea.
DeVorkin:OK, I'll have to ask somebody else.
Burbidge:Yes. Then they said there was only one rest room in the dome.
DeVorkin:How do you manage that?
Burbidge:Well, you use the one rest room like you do in a house.
DeVorkin:And they were giving these as reasons. Was Bowen the only one, or do you think there were others on the staff?
Burbidge:Oh, I think Paul Merrill also. All the old guard, what I would call the old guard. Not Baade, of course. Baade thought it was all nonsense and so did Minkowski.
DeVorkin:What kind of contact did you have with Baade and Minkowski at that time?
Burbidge:Well, Baade was living on the next street over. After I got pregnant, we sort of concealed it as long as we could, because of the things about going up the mountain, we'd been told, was that the lab assistants wouldn't like to take orders from a woman. And so we'd gone at this very cautiously. For example, we'd brought our own night lunch stuff until the night assistant said, "Why are you spurning our night lunch arrangements?" We said, "We thought you wouldn't want to prepare night lunch for us because we're not living in the Monastery." They just laughed at that, ridiculed. But still one went fairly cautiously. We knew all those night assistants very well. Arnie Ratzlaff and the one who just tragically shot himself, Gene Hancock.
Burbidge:Just a year ago or something. And the third one, I've forgotten his name, Al, I've forgotten his last name. But anyway we got to know them all quite well. But for example, with the 60-inch, Arnie Ratzlaff used to like to sleep during the night, and he'd got a sort of couch laid out, and Geoff and I managed the telescope perfectly well the setting and the moving of this big observing ladder around. And I thought, "Well, if they know I'm pregnant, they're going to start getting all up tight and fussy." So observing clothes will hide a multitude of sins. So "We won't let them know." And word somehow never got up from Pasadena, up the mountain.
DeVorkin:That you were pregnant.
Burbidge:Yes. We went on working there. But when I was about six months pregnant, there was one cloudy run when we were invited around to Arnie Ratzlaff's house, and it was hot in his house, but I wouldn't take my observing coat off. I was sitting there sweltering in that. And I thought, "Well, this is probably it, and it's also getting a bit awkward getting up that observing ladder. So we have enough data now, we will quit observing." Then it turned out that all the wives of those night assistants were very put out that they hadn't known.
Burbidge:Oh they thought personally it would have been interesting, whether or not it would have upset their husbands, they themselves would have liked to have known.
DeVorkin:Were they very supportive of your presence there doing research?
Burbidge:Yes. They were. As far as I know, they were.
DeVorkin:But the husbands?
Burbidge:Yes, they were too; it was they who said, "Why don't you eat night lunch the way everybody else does?"
DeVorkin:The husbands said that.
DeVorkin:Not the wives.
DeVorkin:You had no real contact with the wives?
Burbidge:Well, we used to on cloudy nights. We used to do that, go round to their houses and so on.
DeVorkin:Did you work during the cloudy periods of the runs? Did you have data up there you could work on?
Burbidge:Yes. We did.
DeVorkin:Were there any restrictions at Cal Tech, on your husband, being a Carnegie Fellow from the Hale Observatories?
Burbidge:We had two offices. We had one down in Kellogg that was mine, and one up on Santa Barbara Street that was his, but we used to alternate between the two.
DeVorkin:So there was no problem with you working on Santa Barbara St.
Burbidge:No. But around that time was when we were turned out of our apartment, because they didn't take children in our apartment, and the landlady said, "You'll have to find another place to live." So we started looking around, and we rented a house very close to Cal Tech, in the area on Chester that's now part of the parking lot ground. It was all Cal Tech-owned property, and we rented this little house that was very nice and very convenient. And one street over was Baade. Already we used to see a lot of Baade and Minkowski, up at Santa Barbara St., but we began to see Baade socially a lot, and became very good friends with him.
DeVorkin:Do you have some sort of recollection of Baade?
Burbidge:The first recollection goes back to the Michigan Summer School. He had a wonderful way with young people, of talking to them about his experiences. You know that book that Gaposchkin made, out of his lectures that he gave at Harvard, after he'd retired? 
DeVorkin:Mrs. Gaposchkin? Yes.
Burbidge:Yes. There's an actual manuscript version of that that has all the homely stories in it of his experiences. I may have a copy of that.
DeVorkin:We'd love a copy.
Burbidge:Yes, I think I could dig that out. He was so intensely human. And he was a wonderful teacher of observing techniques. He would give you little clues, as to what to do to be a good observer, like, "Late in the night, never do anything very quickly. When you're going to make some change of setting or whatever, just do it slowly and think about it, because you might be tired." Little things like that. And experiences of what it's like being in the prime focus cage, or the Newtonian platform all night long.
DeVorkin:So he was talking about the 200-inch as well as the 100-inch?
Burbidge:Yes. Well, we used to talk to him of course he got involved in the nuclear synthesis.
Burbidge:We used his supernovae light curves, during the Californium days. And his name is one of those papers, one of those early papers, on the decay of supernovae. 
DeVorkin:Well, the paper on Californium 254 in supernovae that was with your husband, with Hoyle, with Christy and Fowler in 1956. 
Burbidge:There's one with Baade on it too.
DeVorkin:There probably were several papers, that's right. But as your husband recollected it, he had noticed the similarity in the decay 2 curve and the light curve.
Burbidge:It was Geoff who spotted that. Yes.
DeVorkin:That was a very exciting time.
Burbidge:It was. Yes. And he was looking then in the just declassified material on the hydrogen bomb explosion, and seeing this decay, seeing how Californium was built, and that it had this particularly long half life, and he noticed the similarity.
DeVorkin:Yes. Were you the first one told, to your knowledge?
Burbidge:Yes, I think so. Yes.
DeVorkin:I wasn't too sure how he made this discovery, but that was an interesting thing. It must have been a boon for neutron capture.
Burbidge:Yes, it was. Yes, because you see, they had been missing this, there were these peaks. We were sorting out the slow neutron capture peaks, but there was still the old Gamow 2 peak, the displaced peak, that had fitted with Gamow's neutron rich early Yiem, Big Bang model, etc. and a very neutron rich environment, and that could now be the supernova environment where the captures take place and there's not time for the beta decay. So you build the unstable things that then later decay and form that second peak, the R Peak.
DeVorkin:Yes. So at that time you were certainly going full guns on the abundance studies.
DeVorkin:Had you done population studies too? In that sense?
Burbidge:Yes. We had.
DeVorkin:Baade's influence, to a certain extent?
Burbidge:Yes, it was. And it linked up with the picture of a steady enrichment by stellar nuclei 2 synthesis over the age of the galaxy.
DeVorkin:Those must have been very exciting times for you.
Burbidge:There was a time when Fowler and Geoff were getting better neutron capture cross sections for the heavier elements, and I was working on the analysis of a barium II star, and I didn't want to know what these capture cross sections were, because I wanted to be independent in getting out the abundances. Then we could afterwards look and see if it was the S process things that were being enriched.
DeVorkin:And it was. It was a good fit.
DeVorkin:That's an interesting thing. You did work independently on purpose to be the independent check?
DeVorkin:During that time also you worked with Sandage on globular cluster diagrams.
Burbidge:Yes. That was part of the stellar evolution problem.
DeVorkin:Yes, you were getting more and more into that evolution, nucleosynthesis, all that.
DeVorkin:And this culminated, at least the first period of it culminated in your large paper, 1957. 
DeVorkin:If I'm not mistaken, were you the principal author of that paper?
Burbidge:Yes, but it was alphabetical. Fowler said, when you have several authors, he said the only thing to do is to make it alphabetical. And E came before G and B came before F and H.
DeVorkin:So it worked that way. But what was your responsibility on that paper, as far as creating it? I know that it wasn't always intended to be as large as it was.
Burbidge:No, it grew, because we began to embrace all the sides of the thing. The slow neutron capture, which started in Cambridge, and then we picked up again on an improvement of the Hoyle equilibrium process, with the new energy levels, the mass tables. We still did not take that all in, this was again pre-computer, and Geoff was doing those E process calculations. In the office, we used a Marchant calculator in those days, and we had an old Brunsviga that Geoff had had from his days as a graduate student in London. We still own that. You crank a handle to do the multiplications. And Willie Fowler used it laugh at that. He said, "That looks like an old Babbit machine." We used to keep that at home.
DeVorkin:Do you still use it?
Burbidge:No. But we still have it.
DeVorkin:So all of this work was related to your abundance interests?
DeVorkin:Did you have at that time any contacts with Minkowski and Baade, did they begin to get interested in nucleosysthesis, or you in extragalactic work?
Burbidge:No, I think, contacts with Minkowski were mainly social, not so much on galaxies. Oh, but there's one whole thing I forgot. Yes. When we were in Cambridge in 1954, Martin Ryle used to run a Journal Club. And one of the papers that either Geoff or I or both reviewed was an early paper by Martin Schwarzschild on the masses of galaxies. There was virtually nothing known about masses. Of course there was our galaxy, dating back to Oort. Babcock and Aller did a little.
DeVorkin:They'd done some work on that?
Burbidge:On the rotation of M 31. And a little bit on M 33. And Schwarzschild had picked up the whole question of masses, and looked at the mass of M 32; if it was distorting M 31, you could make an estimate of the mass of M 32. He raised the concept of mass to light ratios, and large mass to light ratios. We reviewed that paper, and that's when we first started to think about galaxies. And in fact, Geoff in the observing program that he'd written on his Carnegie application, said that we wanted to get Coude spectra we wanted to work on abundances in stars and he'd also said we'd like to work on rotations of galaxies. And the answer had come back: "Yes, you will get a Carnegie Fellowship. Yes, you can work on stars. But no, you can't work on galaxies because you will only have access to the Mt. Wilson telescopes, and the lights are too bad to work on galaxies at Mt. Wilson."
DeVorkin:Is that right?
Burbidge:Yes. Pretty well. So, that was the first, that was back in '54. Then that had sort of been left aside, because all the nucleosynthesis and stellar evolution had occupied us full time.
DeVorkin:But you had that continuing interest.
Burbidge:We had that continuing interest. In the back of one's mind. And we didn't even capitalize on it much, by talking very much to Baade and Minkowski. We talked much more to Baade about stellar evolution and populations, and the history of our galaxy.
DeVorkin:You didn't start working on internal motions, rotation, that sort of thing, before 1958?
DeVorkin:Let's not jump to that just yet. Let me ask you more about support and funding. Much of your work was supported by ONR and AEC.
Burbidge:That was all on Willie Fowler's contracts, and I guess that's what I was paid out of.
DeVorkin:That answers the question right off. I was interested in that since you had those papers on Californium.
DeVorkin:And then you had an AEC grant. I was wondering if there was any connection.
Burbidge:No, I did not have any grant.
DeVorkin:No specific title support for any projects, this is all under Fowler.
DeVorkin:Is there anything else about your Carnegie years or your husband's Carnegie two years at Cal Tech we should discuss? Had you tried to renew that? Did you want to stay out there?
Burbidge:We renewed it for one year. Yes.
DeVorkin:Yes, that makes the two years.
Burbidge:I guess then we started taking advice. We were then seeing more of Baade, because the Baades had no children and they were very interested in the baby. And they used to ask us over in the evening and say, "Bring the baby, and we'll put her in the middle of this large bed and she will sleep there." We used to go to parties at the Baades'.
DeVorkin:Di you have a baby sitter during the day?
Burbidge:Yes, we had the wife of a graduate student, a Norwegian couple. They had a small girl and they had a struggle to live on what they had. So they used to come around. The wife and her very small girl used to come around to our house, during the daytime.
DeVorkin:That worked out well.
Burbidge:Yes. They lived just up the street from us, in another Cal Tech owned house, and they used to keep her when we went up on the mountain. You were asking about looking for jobs now, as '57 came to an end. So then, again, Fowler said, "It would be so nice if you could stay in California." And the La Jolla campus was just getting started under Roger Revelle. We went down, again Fowler and Geoff and I, to give a talk down there on nucleosynthesis, and Roger Revelle offered us both jobs there.
Burbidge:But at the same time, we'd applied to Yerkes, to Chicago. He'd applied. There was an opening there for an assistant professorship. And Hiltner had asked me to go back there on a fellowship. There was a fellowship that I could be an applicant for, called the Shirley Farrar Fellowship. So we had again a choice to make. The money would have added up to more if we'd taken the La Jolla job.
DeVorkin:You would have both had positions.
Burbidge:Yes. And we would have stayed close to Fowler. But we would still have been limited to the Mt. Wilson telescopes, we thought. Roger Revelle said maybe he could get me time on Palomar. But I didn't like to push my luck there. Also, now we began to think again about galaxies, and I knew McDonald, we knew we could get time there. And still the situation for women was not yet broken down in the Mt. Wilson-Palomar complex. It didn't break down till a few years later.
DeVorkin:What about Lick? Lick was building the 120-inch at that time.
Burbidge:Yes, it was building that, and that was one of the things that Roger Revelle tried to tempt us with. But there was something well, a bird in the hand. McDonald was in existence, in a dark sky site. We didn't know what sort of equipment we could use, but we did know that it had a prime focus, which van Biesbroeck was the only person who had used it, the price focus for the 82-inch. It didn't have a cage. It's not a large enough telescope to have a cage. So he used to take direct plates. You know, he used to work on comets and such like things. You had to work off a bridge that went up the inside of the dome, and there were two pulpits that you cranked out at either end.
DeVorkin:That was for the Newtonian focus?
Burbidge:No, it was prime focus. The instrument sat in the middle of the tube. Then there was a reflection that brought the beam out, off these slit jaws for example, or the image of the guiding star, if you were taking direct photographs, brought it out to a guiding eye piece that ran on a rim around the top end of the telescope. And your task was simply to time your observations such that that eyepiece on this movable thing was reachable from one of the pulpits.
DeVorkin:That sounds more difficult than the Crossley.
Burbidge:It was difficult, yes. But anyway, we decided to go to Yerkes.
DeVorkin:So, you traded a lovely area, potentially a good situation for Yerkes, a better instrument already in existence.
Burbidge:Yes. And less money.
DeVorkin:Less money. So your priorities were quite clear: to get to the dark observing site, doing galaxies.
DeVorkin:Hiltner offered you the job?
Burbidge:Yes, the Shirley Farrar Fellowship, and I guess Chandra had a part too to play in that.
DeVorkin:Was there any point there where you or your husband were stating explicitly that you wanted to do research on external galaxies? Was this an element of bringing you there?
Burbidge:I can't remember that. But I remember that as soon as we got there, or perhaps I guess before we went there, we knew of the existence of a certain spectrograph called the B Spectrograph. Babcock had designed it and Thornton Page had used it. It was Babcock's original design. And it sat at the prime focus. And we knew that Thornton Page had done some work on galaxies, on the velocity differences in double galaxies, from which he'd been getting mass to light ratios. And Thornton Page had been at Yerkes but he'd by then left. We knew that spectrograph existed somewhere, although it hadn't been used for some years. We had quite a job to track it down. We thought it was at McDonald. It wasn't there. It turned out, it was up in an attic up in that thing they call the Battleship at Yerkes. It was up there in one of those lumber rooms. And it was in a terrible state of repair. But we asked to use it at the prime focus, and we got a run, and we went down well ahead of time, and Marlin Krebs helped us put it into shape. For example, we couldn't focus it to start with. We discovered that the collimator had just come unscrewed, and it was seated incorrectly. Do you know the prime focus spectrograph that is not much used any longer, but was used for years by me and other people, on the 120-inch?
DeVorkin:No. I'm sorry, I don't. Well, there was a small one?
Burbidge:Fairly small, yes. It was designed by Mayall, and one run, during the period that we were at Yerkes, during those five years, Mayall came down and shared a run with us. And he got introduced to that B Spectrograph, and he designed a better version of it, to go at the prime focus of the 120-inch.
DeVorkin:I see. That's an interesting story that I didn't know. I mean, the origin of Mayall's interest.
Burbidge:Yes. Well, he'd already had the interest, long since. He had build the spectrograph for the Crossley.
DeVorkin:The nebular spectrograph.
Burbidge:Yes, and he'd done all that work: Humanson, Mayall and Sandage, and a lot more besides.
DeVorkin:But this is the spectrograph design that he used for the 120?
Burbidge:Yes. It had a fast camera. It was a really nice design, and very rugged, once it was repaired. Marlin Krebs was the superintendent at McDonald in those days, and he was an excellent superintendent, good all around and very helpful. He became a good friend of ours. So we got that thing working.
DeVorkin:That got you into the galaxy business.
Burbidge:Yes. And then Keven Prendergast was there, and we began collaborating with him on the detailed study of masses.
DeVorkin:One of the first objects that you discussed was Centaurus A, NGC 5128.
DeVorkin:At that time, you weren't sure whether it was an object that was a collision object or what the characteristic was of it. But I'm interested in why you picked that particular object. It's such a peculiar object.
Burbidge:Well, it goes back to Geoff's interest in the energetics of radio galaxies, and it was obviously one of the very energetic ones. There's a paper in MONTHLY NOTICES some years earlier than we worked on it, which even suggested that its nature was not understood. It was even though it might be some weird kind of planetary nebula in our galaxy.
DeVorkin:Who suggested that?
Burbidge:I'm trying to remember.
DeVorkin:Did you reference it in that paper?
Burbidge:No, I don't think we did. I could probably dig back.
DeVorkin:But it's in the MONTHLY NOTICES.
Burbidge:Yes. But it's one of the really strong radio sources. You see, Geoff had worked on M 87, the energetics of M 87. And one knew all about the jet. But there was not much, you couldn't get emission lines in the jet. Well, there never have been emission lines detected, in the jet. It's a pure blue continuum.
DeVorkin:I thought that somebody had done polarization studies of it.
Burbidge:Oh yes. But it was of the continuum polarization. Both Baade did the optical continuum, and the radio people, the Russians first, have done the radio continuum polarization. So Centaurus A was a very energetic and comparatively nearby galaxy. And it was also despite it's being at -43 degrees, just reachable from McDonald.
DeVorkin:Yes, just for a few hours a night, I think you mentioned.
DeVorkin:So you must have had a reasonable amount of flexibility in your observing schedules.
Burbidge:Yes. We had about six weeks, in the first run we had down there; two dark and one light run. We not only worked at the prime focus, we also worked a bit at the Cassegrain, and I think the first observations we tried to make of Centaurus A were at the Cassegrain. That was when I fell off the platform.
DeVorkin:You fell off the platform?
Burbidge:Well, Centaurus A has that dark dust lane, so it's not the best object to view at the Cassegrain. And if you've got any lights on, you can't see it very well. We were trying to take some spectra in the central region, and we had Johnny Curasco who's now at Palomar, as a night assistant. He was the night assistant there. He's now called Juan Curasco. But in those days everybody called him Johnny. He was a very good night assistant, extremely willing. We had to have the Cassegrain platform way up, to reach this object at such a southerly declination. The 82-inch platform comes up in two halves, and there's a chain around the outside. And then there's the hole in the middle to accommodate the telescope when it's pointing high. There was a chain around these two halves. But normally people used to take down that central chain because it was inconvenient. So we had that down. And we had the platform way up. And there were stairs so that you could reach that platform, but it was way up above the top of the stairs, about up to the limit of its height. It was dark, and I guess I was rushing back and forth between there and the finder, to try and get this thing set. And I stepped down the hole in the middle. And I was carrying the paddle. It was cold weather though and I had lots of clothes on. But they couldn't get to the lights, because I had the paddle. I was not knocked out but I was winded, so that I couldn't draw a breath to say anything. I couldn't even say "I'm all right." I guess, you know, a knock somehow here, it's like a blow in the solar plexus and you can't draw a breath. I could hear them. I could hear them trying to get to the top step of these steps that were below the platform, without any lights, and thinking that I was, perhaps, you know, mutilated down on the steel floor, and then they got down. Then I drew a breath and I said, "I'm OK." I kind of sat up gingerly and felt every bone that I could, and nothing seemed to be broken and indeed nothing was broken, but I was black and blue all over. And I thought my back was hurt. We tried to get a doctor up the next day, but the doctor was gone. He was the only doctor in Alpine I think and was going through a divorce. His personal life was disrupted, and he wasn't going to take on any more patients. Particularly he wouldn't come up the mountain.
DeVorkin:Alpine was a small town?
Burbidge:Yes, about 40 miles, bigger than Fort Davis, and there's a little rudimentary hospital there.
DeVorkin:That's an unnerving story.
Burbidge:Yes. Well, I stayed in bed a couple of days.
DeVorkin:Then it was OK?
DeVorkin:We've finished talking about the potentially serious injuries that you had while observing up there. This is in part in association with your work on Centaurus A?
Burbidge:Yes. And then describing observing from the prime focus?
DeVorkin:That was the Cassegra in focus.
Burbidge:That happened at the Cassegrain focus.
DeVorkin:Right, you haven't talked about the prime focus yet.
Burbidge:Well, during that run it was at the time when we were making sure that the prime focus spectrograph worked, and we were using that also. It turned out, it was a lot easier to work on Centaurus A from the prime focus, because one could then have the bridge right down, and actually work off the roof of the Coude room. You could lie down on the roof of the Coude room and you could reach the eyepiece. And it would work all right.
DeVorkin:The Coude room would be south of the polar axis.
DeVorkin:I see. So the rest of your observations were done that way?
Burbidge:Well, on Centaurus A, yes. But then we were also starting to work on a number of other galaxies at the prime focus in more normal positions of the telescope, and learning the business of which side of the telescope to use; how to time the exposures. If you were going to take a four hour exposure, you had to work it out so that you could reach the eyepiece at the beginning of the exposure, and would also be able to reach it at the end of the exposure.
DeVorkin:Yes. Was that the portal to portal problem you'd had?
Burbidge:Well, the image was reflected off the spectrograph slit, was sent out to an eyepiece that was on a post. The post ran by a motor around the rim of the top end of the telescope. And you had a choice of working at either one of these pulpits, so called, that you craned out and up. There were several degrees of freedom to the movement of those things.
DeVorkin:If you miscalculated, would you be able to move the dome? I assume the pulpits hung on the side of the slit.
Burbidge:Well, the thing you had to watch out for was the dome running into anything. And the telescope running into anything on the bridge and the pulpit. And of course the telescope was pointing out through the aperture. The bridge was fixed inside the aperture. The dome slit. Well, Hiltner remembers two or three stories that he got, I think from Johnny Curasco. There's one where I was involved. If you were working on an object fairly far North, that was where it could get very awkward. You'd have to have the slit set in a certain position angle, if you were doing rotation measures. So that was set. And it was all right to start with, and then it was getting over and it was getting worse and worse. And Geoff had been working down below. He wasn't dark adapted, and he came up, and I said, "It's getting to a position where I don't think I can carry on much longer." He said, "Well, there's about three-quarters of an hour more exposure that you ought to take. So carry on." There was a little chair in the pulpit, so I stood up on this chair. Then it got more and more difficult. And that was a place where you would not want to fall off. You know.
DeVorkin:Yes, because you're quite high up.
Burbidge:But on the other hand, there was a big cable that suspended that end of the pulpit, and so I got up on the rim of the pulpit, and I held onto this cable, so I could lean out and out and out. And presently Geoff came up again and I said, "Well, I've got to end this now, I can't go on anymore." He said, "Well, it's just about 15 minutes more. Carry on." I said, "I can't. Come and see where I am." So he came out in the pulpit. He came to where he expected me to be, and I wasn't there, and he said, "Where are you? Where are you.?" I said, "I'm up here. Feel my ankles very carefully, because I have my feet on the rim of the pulpit." He said, "OK, get down.!"
DeVorkin:Yes. My gosh. That's pretty rough. Well, we do know that there have been some horrible stories of astronomers falling off platforms. We can add yours to the list. I know that even while I was at Lick there were a number of injuries. Was this the time, on this particular observing run that you had done quite a few spectra of external galaxies, and had a short blitz of papers, with your husband? 
DeVorkin:There were about seven or eight papers on rotation.
Burbidge:Yes, working with Prendergast, who'd devised that way of analyzing masses. Yes, we used to go about twice a year, we used to apply for time. From '58, that was four years essentially, and we had several observing runs down there, in which we were taking notations, and a number of selected spiral galaxies. Then we had another program on gas in galaxies, that was both spiral and elliptical, a kind of survey program. Then we had small groups of galaxies. We were working on the virial theorem and velocity dispersons in small groups. It was during that work that the red shift of the thing that doesn't fit in Stephan's quintet showed up.
DeVorkin:Yes. That's pretty important. Who noticed that first? You did?
DeVorkin:No, I meant, within your group?
Burbidge:Geoff and I. We got the spectrum.
DeVorkin:How did you feel about that, as far as explanation is concerned?
Burbidge:Well, we were startled. Because it didn't occur to us the thing looked like a group. It never occurred to us really that they might be at different distances. They looked so much like a group. And of course, Arp believes still that they are a group. So we thought that, it was either violently unstable, or else it was a kind of a stray, coming in at a totally different velocity, and just passing through. But we were very much startled. Another program we'd done then was the velocities, again a virial study, of the Hercules cluster.
DeVorkin:Yes. I see a number of papers here that were interesting and important to remark on. During this whole period, I think the majority of your work, in fact about all of it looks like it was on dynamics of galaxies.
DeVorkin:And it pretty much ended with the La Plata Conference in 1962, at least your period there, before you went back to La Jolla.
DeVorkin:There are a number of questions associated with this. Going back to the 1959 paper, you mentioned at least that Centaurus A might be due to the collision of a bright elliptical and a small spiral, and you also mentioned at that time that it was poorly known what the source was.
Burbidge:Yes. And pretty soon we thought that it wasn't a collision at all, that it was one system, because we got the rotation; the gas was mixed up in the dust in that very broad dust lane across the whole thing, and the rotation curve clearly gave a large mass of some 10 solar masses, for that part of the elliptical that was interior to where we'd measured. So it looked to us like one system. And whatever event had certainly stirred up the dust and maybe produced the dust had happened in the center of the galaxy. And it was around that time that we wrote that paper  with Sandage in the REVIEWS OF MODERN PHYSICS, on violent activity in the nuclei of galaxies.
DeVorkin:Right. You were getting more and more interested in galactic nuclei.
DeVorkin:You started looking at Seyfert galaxies at that time.
Burbidge:Yes. We'd done that with Prendergast too.
DeVorkin:By 1959, again, with Prendergast, you concluded for 1068, that there must be a considerable amount of gas being ejected from the galactic center.
Burbidge:Yes. We saw these velocity dispersions, amounting 4000 kilometers a second or so, from the line profiles. But the mass that you could put in the interior was not sufficient to bind the gas going at that speed. So, it meant that it must be a continuing or renewing phenomenon.
DeVorkin:This idea of large scale mass ejection from a galaxy, how was it met by the other astronomers that you talked to about it? That certainly is an idea that Ambertsumian had brought up, but hadn't been generally accepted.
Burbidge:Yes. Well, there was a period around 1963 when we wondered if it could be linked with Hoyle's still existing theory on continuous creation whether there were young galaxies. And some of the things we looked at certainly seemed young.
DeVorkin:Young from colors?
Burbidge:Yes. From the presence of plenty of OB stars and lots of gas. Some of those we got from Vorontsov-Velyaminov in an early version of his catalogue, and worked on one of those things, and they were those kinds of objects. But we realized that there could be an underlying stratum of old stars in any of these galaxies, which you wouldn't detect. And the Magellanic Clouds was always a warning in that respect, because lots of very young stars were there, probably at an earlier stage of chemical evolution than our galaxy, and recent bursts of star formation. And yet, there are RR Lyraes permeating through it. So it's certainly an old substrate of stars. So I think we only wrote one paper with Hoyle that suggested some of these things were young, and we never were all that convinced about it.
DeVorkin:I see. You weren't convinced.
DeVorkin:But at least, it looked like a lot of elements in your research were beginning to come together, in a large scheme. You were now working on extragalactic nebulae. You'd got into dynamics. And you were also getting into evolution of galaxies.
DeVorkin:Using nuclear physics as your tool.
DeVorkin:How conscious was all this? It was beautifully orchestrated.
Burbidge:I don't know. I think it just came about. There was one thing we missed, and that came particularly out of the survey of spectra partly it came from any spectrum we'd taken of a spiral galaxy through the nucleus where we began to notice that there was a different intensity ratio of the emission lines in the nucleus. Then we had this poor seeing program.
Burbidge:Well, for bad weather conditions, thin cloud or poor seeing, when you wouldn't want to do rotation curves of galaxies, because of the lack of resolution. So we did a survey on emission lines, in the nuclear regions of galaxies. And it began to be clear that those galaxies that had well defined nuclei, with obviously a big concentration of stars, had nitrogen II lines considerably stronger than the H alpha lines, in the red part of the spectrum. Normally in H II regions in the outer parts of spiral galaxies, the stronger of the two N II lines would be about one- third the strength of H alpha, and that fitted well with normal abundances and normal excitation conditions and so on. So, we began to think, well, could this be an abundance effect? Could it really be that the nitrogen is over-abundant in the central regions? And we thought that this would make sense from the stellar evolution point of view, because there was a big concentration of stars there, they'd been "CNO-ing" and producing nitrogen and in the giant sate ejecting gas from the surfaces. We tried this out on Oort, and Oort said, "Oh, no, there's enough circulation in a galaxy that you never would get an abundance gradient setup." So we started trying to explain it in terms of excitation conditions. A hotter gas would do that, if it was heated by stellar winds off the red giants.
DeVorkin:He didn't believe in the existence of a radial abundance gradient?
Burbidge:No. Oort didn't, at that time.
DeVorkin:I see. Because one has been observed in our galaxy.
Burbidge:Yes. Well, very soon after that Manual Pembiert looked into nuclei of galaxies, and he got not only those lines in the red spectral region, but also the Oxygen III and the Oxygen II, so he could pin down the temperature and the degree of ionization. And he showed that it just had to be an abundance effect. But we had been a little leery of that, firstly because of what Oort said about galactic circulation, and secondly, because we thought it was sort of wish fulfillment. We were looking for events, the products of nucleosynthesis on a galactic scale.
DeVorkin:So Pembiert then scooped you, in a way.
DeVorkin:He was a Berkeley student, wasn't he?
DeVorkin:You must have had some contact with him while he was on his thesis. I know he did his thesis while you were at La Jolla.
DeVorkin:I'm getting ahead again, but that seemed to be a perfectly reasonable thing.
Burbidge:Oh yes. It was a very nice piece of work. Yes.
DeVorkin:Through all this period, your daughter was growing up in Williams Bay, is that correct?
Burbidge:Yes. And we left there, she was five when we left there. She'd just started going to kindergarten there.
DeVorkin:When you left Williams Bay?
Burbidge:Yes, '62. In the spring of "62 we left. During that period, we used to still go out to California, to carry on working with Fowler, and also, to use the two dimensional measuring machine that they had there, which had been Minkowski's. I needed a two dimensional machine, because I had to measure not only the wavelength along the X axis, but the position in the galaxy along the extended long slit spectrum. And that was when we started showing some of our galaxy spectra to both Minkowski and to Baade. And we got very encouraged by then.
DeVorkin:What kind of discussions did you have with them?
Burbidge:I can remember showing them some direct plates we'd taken, some of these little groups, and that odd thing that everybody knows about now, the thing with the two tails, that Vorontsov-Velyaminov was the first to show he called it "mice," because it had these long tails. It's in the outskirts of the coma cluster.
DeVorkin:Right. Do you feel that they were interacting galaxies?
DeVorkin:I brought up the question of the Centaurus A source, as colliding, to ask you whether at that time you had considered in looking at the dynamics of galaxies the possibility of galaxy accretion, and how this might mess up any kind of observations of nucleosynthesis effects in the integrated light of galaxies?
Burbidge:Well, I think we thought galaxy accretion would be a very small process. The Hubble Constant having gone down so much, there was much less likelihood of any sort of collision of galaxies even in clusters. Although people still like the idea of the SOS as being stripped spirals, as a result of encounters in clusters. It was realized that perhaps it was pushing the time scale to have a long enough time scale to have enough encounters. And so, it would be a rare thing, to have an encounter.
DeVorkin:Yes, so you weren't too worried about that.
Burbidge:No. And in particular, I still believe that most of the small groups are actual groups. They're not chance encounters, they're groups that were formed that way, Ambartsumian-wise.
DeVorkin:That certainly is an important idea to get down at this point. Did you have anything to do with organizing the La Plata Conference? On stellar evolution and the observation of galaxies, that sort of thing?
Burbidge:Well, something. I can't remember how much. But I remember giving a long paper there on stellar evolution leading into galactic evolution.1
DeVorkin:That's right, stellar evolution, observation of galaxies and the relationship to Galactic Evolution. 
DeVorkin:At that time, of course, there was still the classical way of doing cosmology, from the deep space studies, that sort of thing.
DeVorkin:But Baade had always represented the philosophy of doing cosmology from the local standpoint. Looking at galaxies, looking at their past histories.
DeVorkin:Were you becoming aware of the fact that you were entering into this kind of realm? Were you interested in cosmology?
Burbidge:Yes. Very much so. From the local point of view. Trying to understand the evolution of individual galaxies or groups of galaxies. And at that time, we weren't interested in cosmology from the mapping point of view that's to say, we weren't trying to get big red shifts of galaxies.
DeVorkin:Right. Yet you were still dependent, as you mentioned, on the value of the Hubble Constant at the time, for many things.
Burbidge:Yes. Because it came directly into the mass, and the mass to light ratio.
DeVorkin:You mentioned that you still visited California quite a bit.
DeVorkin:During this time, the collaboration of Fowler and Hoyle continued, to some degree?
DeVorkin:Were they involved at all or interested at all in galaxies?
Burbidge:Not very much, although they got interested in the energetics, the problem that Geoff was so much involved in, the energetics of radio galaxies. And Geoff was beginning to think of a multiple supernovae event in the nucleus of a galaxy. I think it was 1962 that they started thinking: rather than having a number of supernovae, have one massive lump collect and make one massive event in the nucleus.
DeVorkin:This was almost prophetic, as far as looking for mechanisms of super-luminous objects.
DeVorkin:It was pre-quasars?
Burbidge:Yes, it was.
DeVorkin:It seems like all of your work was just primed to enter into studying quasars, once somebody identified them.
Burbidge:Yes, because they had actually been observed, you see, already, without people knowing what they were. In 1960 the first spectra were taken.
DeVorkin:Was that Minkowski again, who'd done that?
Burbidge:I guess Sandage had taken the very first spectrum, of 3 C 48.
DeVorkin:Sandage did. But no one knew what they were?
Burbidge:No. And Greenstein thought they were some kind of a hot star. At the time the NASA Institute on Riverside Drive in New York (when Jastrow was running that and it was pretty active) had a conference on radio sources in general, I think. It may have been on several different topics. But Jesse Greenstein gave a paper there, where he interpreted the spectrum of, I think, 3 C 48, and he'd made identifications of the lines with Oxygen VI and various other things, in the visible spectral region, and he presented this paper. And it was only a month or so before 3 C 273 was identified by Hazard and the position was given sort of privately to Maarten Schmidt to observe the first spectrum of that.
DeVorkin:Was given privately?
Burbidge:Yes. It wasn't published. He sent it just individually to Maarten Schmidt, and Schmidt got the first spectrum of it. So, before these conference proceedings came out, Jesse realized that his paper didn't make sense, and he withdrew it. But I've got some very full notes on what he said. I decided to keep those.
DeVorkin:Sure. What would you do without that incredible interpretation of the red shift?
DeVorkin:When did you first hear of Schmidt's interpretation?
Burbidge:It's funny. Right after an observing run that we had at McDonald, we still carried on working there, even after we'd gone to Lick. But we had one where, that being a 13th magnitude thing, one could get a spectrum of it, and we didn't try to get a decent Cassegrain spectrum because we didn't have the Cassegrain. It was all set up for prime focus. So we took a prime focus spectrum. No, I'm wrong, it wasn't even 3 C 273. It was 3 C 48 we took. And it's got the Oxygen III lines, the characteristic lines in H Beta, in the red, about 6800 Angstroms. And we saw an emission line there, and we were trying to make sense of it.
DeVorkin:You weren't sure. It just didn't make any sense to you.
Burbidge:No. We were sure it was a real feature. We couldn't see the structure. We needed the resolution to see the actual Oxygen III pair of lines and H Beta separate.
DeVorkin:You would have recognized it?
Burbidge:I think it would have been recognizable.
DeVorkin:Yes. How long after that was Schmidt's announcement?
Burbidge:Very shortly after. It was December of 1963.
DeVorkin:How did you hear about it? Was it by word of mouth?
Burbidge:I think so.
DeVorkin:Do you remember who told you?
Burbidge:No, I don't.
DeVorkin:I'd like to know what your reaction was. Upon knowing it was a red shift.
Burbidge:Oh well, it was very exciting.
DeVorkin:What was your first feeling, as to the cause of it?
Burbidge:That it was an extremely distant thing. And nothing was known about the variability of them, then. And it was when the first Denton-Haddock observations of variability came in that Geoff and Fred Hoyle started to say, "Well, let's look at all possibilities. Let's look at the possibility either that they're enormously luminous, in which case we have to find the energy source, and we have to look at the problem of getting out that much energy from a small volume, if they're at that distance, and they're variable on the time scale that was coming up." And it wasn't then the very short time scales, but it was short enough to already make a problem, with 3 C 273.
DeVorkin:They couldn't be galaxies, in other words.
DeVorkin:Or anything of galactic dimensions.
DeVorkin:So that was the first direction that you people would be working on? As far as quasars were concerned?
Burbidge:Yes. Now, looking at things chronologically, as to where we were when this all happened in 1960, I think it was, we had this shared run with Mayall that I mentioned earlier, which started him designing that spectrograph. And it was Morgan and Mayall, you know, who had worked together a lot on scanner spectral classification, the form classification of galaxies that Morgan and Mayall had a lot of work in. Well, Morgan couldn't go. I can't remember why. He was sick or something. And so Mayall went alone, and we were there, and the arrangement, we were told, was that we'd alternate nights. We'd be using the same spectrograph. We showed Mayall the spectrograph. We did that, and it was a very pleasant run. We got to know the Mayall's. Mrs. Mayall was there too, Kay Mayall. And as a result of that, we were invited to go out and visit Lick. I'm trying to remember when it was. Well, we were invited to spend a quarter there. It was the spring quarter of 1961. And around this time was when things were in a pretty bad state of upheaval at Yerkes, which I expect Geoff has told you about.
DeVorkin:To a certain extent.
Burbidge:The Kuiper affair, as the McDonald Observatory being taken over by Texas.
DeVorkin:I wanted to ask you about that, the fact that the astronomy department was growing in Texas, and that Texas wanted more control over the observatory.
Burbidge:Yes. The whole thing was really started by Kuiper. He wanted to have an infra-red facility. He was one of the far-sighted people who saw the future of infra-red. And he wanted to develop that at McDonald, and he wanted to do it independent from Yerkes.
DeVorkin:Why was that?
Burbidge:I don't really know. Because he wanted it connected very much with the solar system, planetary observations and so on, and there was nobody that much interested in planetary observations at Yerkes. So he wanted an independent setup, and so he started doing this thing without full consultation, without any consultation. And he got the junior faculty plus Hiltner, who was intermediate type faculty, all completely upset, and a rebellion took place, a palace revolt. We went to the dean. Oh, and people's names were getting put on grants without their knowing. I mean, grants were being written in their name.
DeVorkin:I didn't know that.
Burbidge:This happened to Prendergast.
DeVorkin:Oh no. I can see how that would be very difficult to take.
DeVorkin:Was your name written in, too, and your husband's?
Burbidge:No. I don't think we had that. But I think both Hiltner and Prendergast got that done to them. Anyway, we all went to the dean. It was a very uncomfortable time, because there were tensions, and one was having to say things about people, about the director, that were not pleasant to say. And the first thing that the dean Dean Zachariason of Chicago did was, he went to Chandra and said, "What are the credentials of these young people who are coming complaining?" And Chandra was a good friend of Kuiper's, so he said, "Well, their credentials are good. I don't know what they're complaining about. But you have to listen to them, and make your own judgment." Well, about that time, Kuiper was making negotiations to actually transfer himself to Texas and to take over the McDonald Observatory and sever relations with Chicago. And suddenly that became known, and that changed Chandra's view altogether. He regarded that as a very disloyal thing to do to Chicago.
DeVorkin:But he did go.
Burbidge:He went. Yes. And that was the beginning of the real break between the running of McDonald by Chicago, which had been run that way ever since Struve actually got the money and built the place.
DeVorkin:Meanwhile, Texas had built up.
Burbidge:Yes. Well, it was just starting. Kuiper was largely instrumental in the building up of Texas. He got the dean there, Dean Whalley, interested in building an astronomy department. They'd had just a very small group of astronomers there, who had been users of McDonald Observatory, but hadn't had any impact on the instrumentation or anything like that. So anyway it was a disturbed time at Yerkes.
DeVorkin:You saw that you might have less access in the future to McDonald.
Burbidge:Yes. Yes. And this coincided with Mayall, I guess it was, inviting us to go out to Lick and spend the spring quarter of 1961 there.
DeVorkin:The 120-inch telescope was just barely finished at that time, wasn't it.
Burbidge:Yes. It was just finished. There was no spectrograph on it. All you could do was take direct plates. And we took some plates of 3 C radio sources, that were provided by Ryle.
DeVorkin:Mayall was very soon to leave himself, for Kitt Peak?
Burbidge:Yes. He was.
DeVorkin:Well, that's nothing we want to talk about in detail, unless you know some reason why he left.
Burbidge:Well, I think it was, Shane wanted him to be director there. Shane had a lot to do with the early history of Kitt Peak, I think.
DeVorkin:Shane wanted him there?
Burbidge:Yes. Shane saw him as a good person to start the place out.
DeVorkin:I was always wondering, and I've talked to Mayall and talked to others, but I thought Mayall would have been the perfect person to succeed Shane.
Burbidge:Yes. In hindsight, yes, he would have.
DeVorkin:But it didn't happen that way.
Burbidge:No. And I don't know, just where the impetus came.
DeVorkin:OK, in other words, Mayall never discussed directly anything on this.
Burbidge:Not with us.
DeVorkin:OK, fine. So you were out there for a quarter.
DeVorkin:What was your experience out there?
Burbidge:Very pleasant. We liked it very much. Our daughter was there with us of course, and we had a nice family that did the same kind of baby sitting work for us.
DeVorkin:This is up on the mountain?
Burbidge:Yes. And we used the telescope, and it was so immensely comfortable prime focus work, compared to McDonald's prime focus work. You just sit in that cage. People don't regard it as comfortable now, but compared to working at McDonald, it was. And one thing that Mayall had complained about, on the B Spectrograph, was that there was no offset guiding arrangement, and he said, "Why don't you fix this up?" Well, we had a desultory look at fixing it up, but we never actually got around to doing it. And he had built in a very nice offset guider, into this Lick prime focus spectrograph.
DeVorkin:Oh sure. Especially when you're doing faint diffuse galaxies, you need a star to guide on, something like that.
DeVorkin:I'm surprised that there wasn't something like that. Then again probably Page was working on brighter galaxies. At that time.
Burbidge:Yes. And we always used to work on something that either had a nucleus or some bright knot in it, that you could use.
DeVorkin:The primary F ratio of the 120 is a little slower than McDonald.
Burbidge:Yes, it is F 5 and McDonald is F 4.
DeVorkin:But that shouldn't have made that much difference in the brightness.
Burbidge:No, and you had the extra size mirror. Oh, it was beautiful as was the spectrograph.
DeVorkin:Was that the first time you ever rode in a cage?
DeVorkin:I've heard that the first time an observer rides in the cage, there's some sort of inauguration ceremony or something. They try to get the observer sick or something? Is that true?
Burbidge:I don't know.
DeVorkin:That didn't happen to you?
Burbidge:It didn't happen to me. One early experience, though, was that there was an earthquake while I was up there.
DeVorkin:In the cage?
Burbidge:Yes. And down on the ground they didn't feel it much. It wasn't a big earthquake. But it made the telescope shudder and I was taking a direct photograph, and my first reaction was to close the dark slide, and my second was to think: good heavens, something's gone wrong with the bearing, the whole telescope is going to topple over! You know, I didn't realize. But something terrible was wrong, this shuddering. Then in the intercom, Geoff and I and the night assistant, Gene Harlan, said, "It's an earthquake."
DeVorkin:Your husband was usually with you?
Burbidge:Yes. To start with. But then he found that whereas at McDonald you needed two people up on the bridge, it was different at Lick because only one person could sit in the prime focus cage. It was convenient. You could get your plates developed during the course of the work.
DeVorkin:He did the developing?
Burbidge:Yes. He's always done a lot of the photographic work, including the plate cutting because, I don't know if he told you but his father was a builder, and as a small boy he learned to cut glass in the carpenter shop.
DeVorkin:No, I didn't know that.
Burbidge:Didn't he tell you that?
DeVorkin:No. I knew what his father had done but I didn't know that he was the glass cutter.
Burbidge:Well, his father ran the business, and there was a glass cutting shop obviously in this builders' yard, and Geoff learnt to cut glass. So he used to, in the days before one had Bill Miller's machines for cutting plates, you just had to do it with a diamond and a piece of wood. And Geoff always did that because he had the touch for doing it very well.
DeVorkin:Some of your spectrum plates were awfully small.
Burbidge:Yes. The ones that were on film, the ones we took at the prime focus and the B spectrograph were film. That used to be stamped out of a big sheet of film. That was one big controversy we had with the Mt. Wilson people. They said that film wasn't stable enough to measure velocities off, that the emulsion crept on film. And we didn't agree, because we used to check on the might sky lines, we never found any sign of creep.
DeVorkin:Was this the double thick Estar based film, or any special type of celluloid base?
Burbidge:We tried that as well, but we found that the ordinary emulsion worked too. I think mostly we used that thicker film. But at any rate, you had to stamp out those pieces. They were half inch square, and film is not as easy as glass to tell which (side) the emulsion is on, particularly on the small pieces. And Geoff was the only person who had an absolutely sure touch, just by touching the corner, to know which was the emulsion side of a small square of film.
DeVorkin:Touch it, to tell with his fingers?
DeVorkin:That's quite a talent, very useful, saves a lot to time. Did he ever do any actual direct observing with you?
Burbidge:Yes. Yes, all through the McDonald time, I guess I would do more of it. But at Lick, he never did. I don't think he ever did do any of the prime focus work. And of course there wasn't of course Cassegra in those days, and we never used the Coude there. So that was when, about, he stopped coming on observing runs, because he said it seemed a waste of time.
DeVorkin:I know he was still coming up with you every so often but I guess not regularly.
DeVorkin:Then what was your quarter there like? Did it help you to decide about the future?
Burbidge:Well, we didn't have a job offer then. But then we first of all got a sounding out from Berkeley from L. Henyey. And Henyey said he thought he had two positions but he wasn't sure. But he got us to be almost committed to go there. And then at the last minute he said he hadn't been able to get these positions after all. And then Roger Revelle invited us again to La Jolla. And by then, you see, we knew Lick, having been there for a quarter, and knew what the 120-inch could do, and that it was a going concern, and Roger Revelle had negotiated an arrangement so that other campuses all had access to Lick. It wasn't just for the Lick observers.
DeVorkin:It was Revelle made this kind of a move at Lick?
Burbidge:He'd started that campus, you see, out of the Institute of Oceanography. He'd been the driving force to get that into a campus of the university. It began as a pure science campus. The first departments, apart from those connected with oceanography and marine biology and so on, were physics and chemistry. They built up early, and they were trying to get the best possible people that they could. They got Harold Urey there, and of course the Mayers and Roger Revelle knew then that we'd have to have an incentive, a telescope incentive, if we were going to go there. And so he carried enough weight within the whole university to get that negotiated. I understand, I've never heard it first hand, but I believe there was some opposition from up north.
DeVorkin:That's what I thought. Certainly there was opposition at Lick.
DeVorkin:But I'd be interested to know how Berkeley figures too.
Burbidge:I don't really know.
DeVorkin:Because Berkeley had always traditionally had access to a certain degree, although there were still jealousies, but the other campuses didn't.
DeVorkin:And UCLA was just building up at that point. That was almost the same year that Aller moved to LA.
Burbidge:Yes. And they had mostly relied on Mt. Wilson.
DeVorkin:I didn't know that. UCLA did, because of the proximity?
DeVorkin:Well, there was really no one there before Aller, other than Dan Popper and George Abell.
Burbidge:That's right. But I think they'd always used Mt. Wilson.
DeVorkin:Possibly Abell's connections. Abell had been on the staff there.
DeVorkin:So then you got the position offered from Revelle and you took it.
DeVorkin:What sort of department did he want you people to build up? What kinds of positions were you given?
Burbidge:We were given positions in department of physics.
DeVorkin:Both of you together? There were no nepotism problems?
Burbidge:Well, there were nepotism problems. In Chicago, I had never been able to be on the faculty. Neither had Maria Mayer. She'd been employed actually by Argonne. But at University of California, the nepotism rule was not as severe. Two people could both be employed, but they couldn't be in the same department. So the chemists had me in the department of chemistry, to start with. Harold Urey I guess organized that and probably Joe Mayer, and it was just done and there was no difficulty. I remember Harold saying, "Now, we're glad to welcome you to all seminars and so on and we hope to keep continuing contact. We don't expect you to come to faculty meetings in chemistry, but the physicists will surely expect you to go to faculty meetings in physics." It was made clear that it was a purely bureaucratic way of getting around the regulations.
DeVorkin:So that was all right.
DeVorkin:They didn't really expect you to
Burbidge:to be a chemist. No.
DeVorkin:Did they feel as if they were losing a major position in chemistry because of this?
Burbidge:Well, that was in the days when positions were easy to come by. Everything was expanding in the early sixties.
DeVorkin:Yes. So what were your hopes for the future of the La Jolla campus? What did you want to build up there?
Burbidge:Well, I would rather have liked to have a department of astronomy. And we used to talk about that. But one of the first people we got there was Bob Gould, who was very definitely a physicist. He came to work with Geoff. And he didn't want to be part of a department of astronomy, and various people that we thought of getting, like Pierre Demarqus he came out for a visit but his wife was in classics and the library situation was such that she wouldn't have been able to carry on her work there. So they decided to go to Yale.
DeVorkin:But that was already 1966, '67.
Burbidge:Yes. We were still thinking about a department of astronomy then. But Geoff was never all that keen, because he'd always had strong ties with physics and really felt himself to be much more a physicist. He's always said, he's not a mountaintop astronomer.
DeVorkin:Were you aware it's a little early but I'm sure it was in the works at the time that you came to La Jolla, that the staff at Mt. Hamilton was going to be moved or something was going to happen at Lick?
Burbidge:They began to talk about it. That was when Geoff was still coming up to Lick. And Whitford used to call us in, every time we were up there, to have a talk about the future of University of California in general. Many of the times we were up there, I seem to remember, we used to go in. Yes, it was in the wind, definitely, that the astronomers were going to be taken from their ivory tower, and put onto a campus. The first thought was that it would have to be Berkeley. Then I guess with the emergence of this place (Santa Cruz) as a beginning campus, although purely undergraduate, they saw that they would prefer that to going to Berkeley.
DeVorkin:But I know that there were strong interests on the various campus, including La Jolla, in fact there was a large meeting eventually at La Jolla of all the campus astronomy departments, to try to decide what to do at Lick.
Burbidge:When was that?
DeVorkin:I don't know, '63, '64? Revelle was involved, I know. Your husband was certainly. Weaver was there. Quite a few people, almost everybody. I think every astronomer in the system was invited.
Burbidge:Was it one of the state wide meetings that we had? Yes.
DeVorkin:Yes. Do you have any recollections of that?
Burbidge:No, I don't. I don't have any recollections of whatever politics were going on.
DeVorkin:I'm just trying to find out what did go on. I talked to your husband about it. I know he was very much involved.
DeVorkin:As you started observing, working with the 120-inch and simultaneously you were building up a department at La Jolla, quasars became discovered very quickly.
DeVorkin:Also at that time, at least in the very early sixties, the steady state of work started taking something of a slight nose dive.
DeVorkin:What was your general plan of attack? What were you working on, and what were your plans for the future?
Burbidge:Well, I can remember Maarten Schmidt telephoning me to give me the news, because I'd been doing a little bit of work on quasars though mostly still on galaxies.
DeVorkin:He telephoned you?
Burbidge:He telephoned me with the news of the first set of five red shifts, going up to 2 3C9 with its red shift greater than 2. This very exciting paper, where it tells like a detective story of how, starting with 3 C 273, seeing a strong line, right down in the ultraviolet, realizing, because it's just coincidence, that Osterbrock's group in Wisconsin had been calculating the transition probabilities at the center of the nebular lines in the ultraviolet, expecting that the first OAO, which failed of course, was going to get spectra of planetary nebulae in the ultraviolet. And so, all this group of students in Wisconsin had been calculating this, and came out with a publication of the strongest lines, and Schmidt had this to work with. Step by step, you see, going though it he worked and among the first five objects, or was it nine objects, there was this one with the red shift of 2. I can remember, I thought this was so exciting that I gave a special seminar, because I thought this put an absolute nail in the coffin of a steady state, because I said, "This is so bright, that if you plot it on a Hubble Diagram, it's got to be way away from any q = -1 possibility. It's got to be a very steep curve," which, of course has persisted very much.
DeVorkin:But you'd not yet started in your concern for examining quasars that were close, as opposed to cosmological distance?
DeVorkin:When did that start?
Burbidge:That started with the variations, the variability. That was one summer when we exchanged houses with the Sandages, and they came down to La Jolla and we lived in their house, and Fred Hoyle was out and he was staying in the house with us. And then I think was when he and Geoff started really worrying about the Compton process, and the paradox of that energy density radiation coming out of a small volume.
DeVorkin:The Compton process?
Burbidge:Yes. The fact that the electrons were due to react with the photons that they themselves are producing, rather than with the magnetic field. So they're going to lose energy by inverse Compton, whatever you want to call it, instead of by synchrotron radiation.
DeVorkin:Then they developed these ideas, this criticism, while you were living together.
DeVorkin:What was it like? It must have been a three ring circus.
Burbidge:Yes, like the old days in Cambridge, working in Fowler's house.
DeVorkin:This certainly must have been a very vital way to do science.
DeVorkin:Did you ever have the feeling you wanted to get away from it?
DeVorkin:Were the discussions very intense?
Burbidge:Yes. I don't remember really wanting to get away. In the summer then, since we were now in California there wasn't the incentive to go out to California in the summer. And we used to go to Europe. In the early 1960's, we used to go to Leiden and work on rotation of galaxies, and talks with Oort. And it was during one of those sessions when the idea that you couldn't build up chemical composition gradients came through very strongly.
DeVorkin:So you were in Leiden when you talked to him on that.
Burbidge:I guess so. Yes. And then we used to go to Cambridge also.
DeVorkin:This is so Hoyle could meet you?
Burbidge:Yes. And we were given space in the observatory, and for some years, we went out there every summer. And of course Hoyle began to think about getting an institute. He worked about two years or more, I think, raising the money for that institute.
DeVorkin:He had a falling out with Ryle also.
Burbidge:Yes. Well, you see, he was very badly treated by Cambridge. He'd never got along with Ryle, and he'd never got along with the Cambridge establishment, and the way of running things. Also Bachelor and DAMPT, you know, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, DAMPT. They call it DAMPT but it's Theoretical Physics and Applied Mathematics. Anyway, Bachelor was there. But Hoyle definitely wanted something that he could control, where he could have jobs for people like Narlikar, and where he could get he really good students to come and work with him, and where he could have a computer. He didn't want any of those old British computers. He wanted a regular IBM computer. He was very much into stellar evolution still, and wanted part of his group to be working on problems of stellar evolution, some on stellar dynamics, people like Arseth and so on that are still doing that work there, and continuing nuclear astrophysics. And he wanted to be able to bring in the observers. He felt this lack, in Britain, of any contact with forefront observational astronomy. He felt that there was good material there and good theoreticians, but they were cut off from the observations. So he wanted it to be an institute that could bring people all from major observatories, bring them over in the summer, to interact with the theoreticians.
DeVorkin:Did you come over on that?
Burbidge:Yes, we did. Yes, and we were in while he was raising the money still.
DeVorkin:How did he go about raising the money?
Burbidge:Oh, he went to foundations. He went all over. He went to the States. Then he had to get it accepted by Cambridge University, and that was harder than raising the money, because they saw this as something that would be autonomous or might have a degree of autonomy and therefore not be under their control.
DeVorkin:Would they have funded it otherwise?
Burbidge:No, they wouldn't have funded it. No, Cambridge wouldn't have. He seriously considered putting it some place else. Manchester was interested in having it. But Hoyle felt he had strong family ties to Cambridge. He'd been there since he was a student and his wife had strong roots there and his children and his mother-in-law who lived with them had a lot of roots. Anyway, he didn't want to go anywhere but Cambridge, which in retrospect I think was perhaps a mistake. Fowler, also with his connections with Cambridge, that original sabbatical and his feeling for the Cavendish Laboratory and the Rutherford tradition and so on, he said, "Well, Cambridge really means something to people in the States and it would be much more of an attraction to people to go there." So one way and another, it was settled on that it would be in Cambridge. Then I remember the building of that institute. I remember when the foundations were laid out one summer, and we were there. We were still then being housed in the observatory.
DeVorkin:What building then was it that he was interested in modeling after at La Jolla?
Burbidge:To start with, the department of physics was in the building that's now Marine Biology, right down on the waterfront, by the old Scripps Building. Now, the new building on the main campus, construction started a little bit later than they had expected. Physics was overflowing its bounds down there. Walter Munch the geophysicist, had the opportunity to start a branch of the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics, the headquarters is at UCLA. He raised the money to put up a building, again right on the coast, in a beautiful location, and put it up very inexpensively. His wife is an architect. It's a redwood building. And it was an interesting design, with a long corridor and the labs leading off on one side, the offices off from the other side, and a beautiful colloquim room at the other end, the ocean end of the thing. Then on the floors below were the shops. Anyway, Hoyle liked this building very much, and so his IOTA (Institute of Theoretical Astronomy) in Cambridge was patterned very much after that IGPP building.
DeVorkin:Their building is made out of steel, though.
Burbidge:Yes. I mean, there were modifications that you would have to do for climatic reasons.
DeVorkin:Yes, couldn't have it out of redwood in Cambridge.
Burbidge:No. But the long corridor and the rooms leading off the side, and the conference room or colloquim room down at one end, that's all the same.
DeVorkin:That's a very nice building, it certainly is.
DeVorkin:To get back to your research, in 1963 through April '64, a series of papers by Stanley Bashkin, University of Arizona, argued for abundance variations in galaxies, due to the locale of the particular stars in the galaxy. He saw chemical composition differences being due to some primordial inhomogeneities, rather than nucleosynthesis.
DeVorkin:Where the Halo, Pop II, were in the heart of hydrogen rich, metal poor areas.
DeVorkin:And you argued against this.
DeVorkin:Was this the only challenge of the nucleosynthesis interpretation of abundance gradients?
Burbidge:Well, Unsold has always had a similar challenge.
DeVorkin:I didn't know that.
Burbidge:Yes. Unsold believed that the metal poor stars were formed from breakup material. That what had gone on in the center of a galaxy was rather a breakup of primordial heavy elements into component protons, rather than a synthesis.
DeVorkin:But that's not so much the primordial abundance differences.
Burbidge:Well, he believed that the elements were built primordially. Not in successive generations of stars. I'm not sure whether he still believes that.
DeVorkin:But the general community doesn't follow that?
DeVorkin:As you worked on stellar populations and abundance differences, what was your opinion of the reality of the different populations, Pop I and Pop II? Did you see the necessity for them becoming better defined?
Burbidge:Well, I saw what we all called Schwarzschild's delineation of five population groups, where he had quite a controversy with Baade. Baade always maintained there were just two population groups. But there were various things. For example, the spectra of the giant ellipticals just did not look metal poor. Baade was saying these are Population II stars because they have similar type red giants. It was at one of the Vatican Conferences, possibly around 1958 that Schwarzschild suggested five. And people attribute it now to Schwarzschild, the five population types.
DeVorkin:But how did you feel about them?
Burbidge:Well, I think it's sensible. Yes.
DeVorkin:You sided pretty much with Schwarzschild's interpretation.
DeVorkin:Did you discuss this with Baade, your feelings about it?
Burbidge:I don't remember having any arguments with Baade about it. No, I don't remember arguments. Baade died in 1960. He had already retired. Minkowski was still there, and I think it was one of the times when we were still coming out to Pasadena. Anyway, I know we were in the Santa Barbara St. offices when Minkowski came into our office with tears running down his cheeks, and he said, "Baade's dead." Baade had gone to Australia. He'd gone to Harvard and given these lectures, of which, as I said, there exists a verbatim account more personal than the edited version that Cecelia Gaposchkin put together. Then he'd gone to Australia. And his wife said he didn't take care of himself in Australia. He didn't eat the right kinds of things, didn't eat enough vitamins.
DeVorkin:He just got very run down?
DeVorkin:I see. But up to that point, all of your contact with him had been cordial?
Burbidge:Yes. I don't remember any arguments. I don't remember how that population thing was treated. I don't have any strong recollections about that being an issue. But I do remember plainly accepting Schwarzschild's five divisions, with obviously a gradation between the five.
DeVorkin:With that extended population system, how did you see the Seyferts fitting in? Did you continue to see that there was something peculiar about them and the N galaxies?
Burbidge:Yes, definitely, in the nuclei.
DeVorkin:They just didn't fit into any schemes.
Burbidge:No. What the stars might be doing is one thing, but the morphology of those, and what was going on in the nucleus, was something else.
DeVorkin:Did you have a very quick feeling, at the time that quasars came out, that there had to be a similarity, some sort of a morphological similarity, between the quasars and Seyfert type galaxies.
Burbidge:Yes. It was always very clear from the spectroscopic point of view that if you've got a comparatively low red shift quasar, its spectrum will be very similar to (that of) a Seyfert nucleus. Except that perhaps the wings of the lines might not. It's not even clear now. I think the wings of the lines are somewhat broader in Seyferts than most of the quasars.
DeVorkin:Have you found anything you'd consider to be a transition type between quasars and Seyferts?
Burbidge:It depends. Again, one keeps coming back to this question: is there any additional component of red shift? Well, other than expansion of the universe? In other words, is there a non-cosmological component to red shift? If there is not, and if the red shifts truly always delineate distance, then there are transition types, because there are the bright Seyferts. There are things like 3C 120, which are brighter than normal with luminosities brighter than normal Seyfert nuclei. And if you imagine them being stripped of their outer parts, they would look like a quasar. Very much like a quasar.
DeVorkin:What's its red shift? Up in the quasar range?
Burbidge:Well, yes. It overlaps with the low end of the quasar range.
DeVorkin:In looking for non-cosmological red shifts, how have you been pursuing it?
Burbidge:I've been trying to keep an open mind always. In the early days of Arp's work, Arp was talking about spiral arms and explosions, what he called exploding arms, with everything always emanating from the center of a galaxy. This is an idea that you can track back to Jeans, actually. There's a sentence somewhere, a quote that Geoff has, I think, from Jeans, about looking at a galaxy and seeing this the idea being inescapable that perhaps all the material had emanated from the center. It's probably somewhere. I don't remember where, Geoff would perhaps be able to remember where the quotation comes from.
DeVorkin:I'd like to know that. Certainly you look at a spiral, and you can't help but think that it's something in rotation with material thrown off by the nucleus.
Burbidge:Yes. And that, you see, is where we've disagreed with Arp, because he used to ignore angular momentum considerations. And if you had it coming from the center, you have to explain the origin of angular momentum.
DeVorkin:What did he do, just ignore it?
Burbidge:I don't know why. He works in a sense like an artist, in the way that Morgan always did. Morgan's classification of stellar spectra was done with an artistic eye as well as a scientific eye. And Arp's direct photographs I don't think anybody takes better or more beautiful direct photographs, than Arp does.
DeVorkin:His material is used quite a bit. But his cautionary remarks about the associations between quasars and galaxies are not followed.
Burbidge:Yes, well, that's it, you see. So we used to ignore any kind of physical arguments of Arp's, but we used to look at his associations. We had also to ignore his statistical arguments, because they were usually not foolproof. I think now he's learned the pitfalls of statistics. He doesn't fall into those same traps. But I mean, what to you do? You get any object that you see that looks like a coincidence of things that seem to be at different distances, you can treat that as a unique object, and you can never look for something that's just like that, unless you have some very stereotyped object or you say, "I will look for things at a certain distance from certain pre- specified class of galaxies." I think that's what Arp is trying to do now. And he's come up with a number of them. He's always coming up with more of these associations. Yes, you never know how far you can put coincidence, how far you might so I try to keep an open mind on that. What bothers me always is that there have been no satisfactory gravitational red shift models. And some things that I've looked at are certainly suspect I've studied the fuzz about 3C 48.
Burbidge:A few photos have some faint luminosity around them. 3C 48 is one of the early ones known to have that. And at Lick, we had some good weather and we managed to observe the fuzz without getting scattered light from the much brighter object dominating the spectrum. And we recognized that it was hot gas in the fuzz, with a similar red shift, a bit greater actually than the quasar, different line intensity ratios, different line profiles, narrower lines, but nevertheless about the same red shift. So that could not be a gravitational red shift there. Hoyle and Narlikar looked for alternative red shift explanations, without coming up with anything that convinces people.
DeVorkin:Do you feel that if more work were done on gravitational red shift, more progress would be made? Or do you think that it's really not the direction to go right now?
Burbidge:I'm still tempted, in the higher red shift quasars, because if ever the problem really raises its head, as to what the red shifts are telling us, it's in the very high red shift things, and particularly the objects with the multiple absorption line red shifts. Are they telling us something strange about quasars that we haven't understood? Or are they probes of the intergalactic medium at a very early epoch? And either way, it's fascinating.
DeVorkin:Yes, right. To jump ahead just a little bit, talking about keeping an open mind, you wrote an article,  I guess while you were still the director at Greenwich, and this was in NATURE. You asked the majority of astronomers, who felt that the cosmological interpretation of the radial velocities was valid, that you hoped that they would keep an open mind.
DeVorkin:At that particular point, within that next year, you had a discussion again in NATURE. 
Burbidge:These two papers that Geoff and I wrote on the non-cosmological interpretation of radial velocities, based upon Arp's study of adjacent objects.
DeVorkin:You indicate that bias exists on the parts of those that attack the statistical arguments that Arp was using, of non-cosmological radial velocities, saying that they were saying they can't trust the statistics in these cases, yet they would use those same forms of statistics for other problems.
Burbidge:Yes. Bahcall fell into that trap, yes. It's called "a posteriori statistics," if you use the first thing that you started out with as your kind of measure to look for other things. And when we came up with a result that surprised us very much, the apparent association of 3C quasars with bright galaxies, a well defined sample, well, people always attacked that. And they said, "You have the first one, you found one that did that, and then you looked for others." Well, it wasn't actually that way at all. We found several. But you can never prove that.
DeVorkin:Yes, that's right.
Burbidge:But if you then ever in the future look for an association between anything and anything else, you have to set your ground rules from some first object, and then, ignore that. You mustn't count that in the statistics, or else it's a posteriori statistics.
DeVorkin:Arp used that first object?
Burbidge:Well, Arp had done that, yes.
DeVorkin:But then you said that Bahcall had done it too?
Burbidge:Yes, he did it. He did it himself in talking about, I think, associations of objects with clusters of galaxies. And he used exactly that same technique he fell into the same pitfall. How, everybody's had their fingers burned and they don't do it.
DeVorkin:They don't criticize at least.
Burbidge:Or they don't fall into the trap.
DeVorkin:Did this actually stop Arp from using those arguments?
Burbidge:Well, yes. What he now says: he's defined his class of galaxies, a certain kind of what he calls "a disturbed small spiral in the vicinity of a larger spiral," and he looks for things near that. He came down and gave a colloquim a while back, in La Jolla. He had a lot of new cases that I suppose he's writing up nowadays.
DeVorkin:He's constantly finding new and exciting associations.
DeVorkin:It certainly does look quite peculiar.
DeVorkin:Would you say that people are starting to believe him a little more, just on the weight of the evidence that he's generated? Or is it still a stand-off?
Burbidge:I really don't know. I think there's some people who cannot fact the notion. For example, Sandage says that this will upset the Hubble relationship, because if you allow the existence of non-cosmological red shifts, then how come you get a really nice Hubble line?
DeVorkin:But you're allowing them for quasars, and not necessarily for normal galaxies.
Burbidge:Yes. That's where Arp and some of Arp's discrepant red shifts of galaxies come in they're not normal galaxies but they are at least galaxies they are usually compact things where you only see gas, but at least they're extended objects.
DeVorkin:Oh, I see. And that would play havoc, because a lot of those do enter in.
Burbidge:Yes. They are certainly not the things that Sandage uses for a Hubble Diagram. But he says, if they could exist in any sort of a galaxy, then, they could give trouble in the ones you use for a Hubble Diagram.
DeVorkin:I see. So it just lowers the confidence.
DeVorkin:Because your basis for Hubble Diagrams would be a selection.
DeVorkin:Rather than any object.
DeVorkin:I can see how that's important. So the quasars themselves are not that important for choosing a particular model or particular form of the diagram, but it just eats into the use of any kind of cosmological object?
Burbidge:Yes. And Peeble's attempt now to isolate something, or some property of quasars that you can use to indicate luminosity, so that you could put a set of objects at different red shifts, which you could say have more or less the same luminosity, and try and construct a Hubble Diagram from those.
DeVorkin:Some people try to use periodicity, or the rate of periodicity, almost like a period- luminosity relationship?
Burbidge:No. Any attempts to find periodicity in the very variable quasars has failed. Phil Morrison was interested in that for quite a while, because he wanted to link them with pulsars. And therefore he wanted an object he called a spinar at the center of the quasar, which would be a rotating object.
DeVorkin:How much publication did this actually see, his work?
Burbidge:Not very much, I think. The Russians picked up on it.
DeVorkin:A spinar? They seem to be sort of at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Burbidge:Yes. Except that you know that you have a very compact and very strong gravitational field. You certainly know that. See, that's one of the other things about the quasars. You know that you've got to account for this luminosity. You've got to have a certain amount of mass there. It has to be in a small volume. Therefore, you know that there's a strong gravitational field, whether or not it can have any effect on a red shift.
DeVorkin:How could they be rotating so fast?
Burbidge:Well, people talk about rotating black holes. That's the fashionable thing now.
DeVorkin:True. But their gravitational red shifts are understood.
Burbidge:Yes. You don't see their gravitational red shifts.
DeVorkin:They're that great. Right. But with a quasar, it's a very different thing. You're getting an incredible amount of energy out of these things. They must not be very close to their gravitational radius. And so, rotation would seem to make a pretty tremendous instability, especially when that amount of mass is involved. Or can you even get any idea of what kind of mass there is in a quasar?
Burbidge:Well, only energetically.
DeVorkin:Yes. But there you have to have a source of energy don't you?
Burbidge:Yes. But if you say it is actually a release of gravitational energy, that provides you with a bigger source then any kind of nucleosynthetic reactions. Because you get at most, what is it, .006 C2 for a given gram, out of hydrogen to helium, which is what gets you the biggest energy release. But you might run up as high as an efficiency of even 10 percent, perhaps, if it was gravitational release.
DeVorkin:How many people are working on this kind of source at this time, trying to better understand this as a source of energy for quasars? Is this something that's being adequately looked at?
Burbidge:Yes. It's one of the things that, this week, there will be several theoretical talks here on black hole models, accretion onto an accretion disc around a black hole. 
DeVorkin:Putting a black hole in the middle like that you see this as a somewhat arbitrary kind of a model, I mean, using this incredible source without knowing that something like that exists?
Burbidge:Well, arbitrary to an extent, because gravitation is after all the thing we can never link up with laboratory work. In every other kind of physics you're unhappy until you've got things verified somehow or other, even the most esoteric kinds of high energy physics with extremely short lived particles and so on. You want something in the lab that would indicate your theory is along the right lines. But in strong gravitational fields, you just don't have it.
DeVorkin:Let's go back to the chronology. In La Jolla, you were building up a department, which is already by the mid to late sixties, funds started getting a little short. The California government was not too friendly. What were your experiences?
Burbidge:Well, it was clear that we could not have a new department of astronomy there. We were stuck with being in the department of physics. Nevertheless the astrophysics group was growing, because the space physics was increasing, and the group of people headed by Carl Macelwain did that kind of astrophysics. He was a student of James Van Allen. Therefore he came at it from the magnetospheric and Van Allen Belt kind of direction. Then there were the X-ray people, Peterson. They have a big group of X-ray astronomers. Experimental. And our theoreticians were a link, less on the space physics side, but there's quite a strong link between the optical work and the high energy people and X-ray people.
DeVorkin:At this time, around '68, you started writing the YEARLY REPORTS for UC San Diego. I don't know if you started in '68 but it was about that time. And I thought it a bit peculiar. I thought maybe this was a slightly strange thing to do, because here you were in the department of chemistry?
Burbidge:No, I wasn't any longer. No, that stopped in 1964.
DeVorkin:Oh, that was only for a very few years?
DeVorkin:What happened then?
Burbidge:Well, I was elected to the Royal Society. And somehow mysteriously, very shortly after that, I was notified that I was no longer in chemistry, I was in physics. In other words, somehow or other, the administration had regularized the situation.
DeVorkin:You know, that wasn't generally known.
DeVorkin:In 1968 I remember specifically people saying that you were still in chemistry.
Burbidge:No. I wasn't.
DeVorkin:We straightened that out. So there was no problem with your writing the ANNUAL REPORTS. Did this mean that you had a position as chairman at that time?
Burbidge:No. We didn't have a chairman for the astrophysics group. And Geoff was always the main leader there. Was that at the time that Robert Kraft was acting director at Lick?
Burbidge:Yes, I believe it was. He said he wanted to expand the Reports, and I had always been asked to send in a report on work done on the Lick telescopes during the year, and that was included in the LICK ANNUAL REPORT. Now, he said he wanted to expand this, and make it a full accounting of all kinds of astronomy going on at any one of the component campuses. So it fell to me to put this together because I was the observer. There was a big change when Kraft came in as acting director, because although there were four independent campuses and Santa Cruz was one of them, there was still a feeling that the Lick astronomers somehow had special treatment. And there was some resentment on the part of some people about that.
DeVorkin:Who was that?
Burbidge:Oh, I think the UCLA people, maybe the Berkeley people. It was shown in very little things. For example, it used to irritate some of them that in the deep freeze cabinet, there were shelves. There was a shelf labeled for Herbig and there was a shelf labeled you know, other people. Then there was a shelf labeled "For Visitors." It was Kraft who broke down that separation. He initiated two committees: one, the time assignment. The time assignment had always been done by Whitford up till then, I don't know what input he ever got from the Lick staff, but you just sent in your application to him and there was no discussion of it.
DeVorkin:But Kraft changed that?
Burbidge:Yes. Kraft started a time assignment committee, with a representative from each of the campuses, Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, Santa Cruz, and himself as chairman. It wasn't a committee that was set up state-wide. It was advisory to the director. It wasn't set up by the president of the university. There were two other committees. One was a state-wide advisory committee that Geoff was our representative on, which was set up to be advisory to the president, to discuss astronomy as a whole with the university. Then, another committee called the Optical Astronomy Council which again was advisor to the director. And each of these committees had representatives from all the four campuses.
DeVorkin:That's an interesting setup. How did that work?
Burbidge:It worked very well, because it brought about democracy. And all these resentments, once you could air things and discuss them, were lessened. I mean, people used to say, "Well, I go up for a run at Lick and I find that the equipment I want to use has been taken away." Like the slit. Yes.
DeVorkin:It's been taken away?
Burbidge:Has been removed down off the mountain for work being done to it, modification.
DeVorkin:Because usually these observing runs are planned far ahead of time?
Burbidge:Well, yes. It could be. I mean, it was an intense source of irritation. It didn't happen very often but when it happened, it was really bad. And so, the optical council would discuss all future changes in instrumentation. Also, if there had been a change made and you were not fully notified, that could be disastrous, too. A change in the equipment some small change, it might be, but it could have a big effect.
DeVorkin:A design change or something?
Burbidge:Yes. Well, now, you see, there's a log book kept on the IDS scanner, the Image Dissector Scanner, the Wampler Robinson Scanner. And nothing is done without it being fully documented, so an observer knows. They know what faults have been found by the previous observers, what's been corrected, what changes have been made. And this really all started, before we had the scanner, and it started with Kraft. Kraft's very strong feeling for unity in the university, and that astronomy is better if we are all pulling together, and we have cooperation, and we get rid of all these niggling little pinpricks.
DeVorkin:Has Osterbrock continued this?
Burbidge:Yes, he has.
DeVorkin:I know that Kraft didn't want to stay as director.
Burbidge:No. He never wanted to. He took it on several times, but he never wanted to actually have it permanently. He likes doing research best. He likes teaching too. But he doesn't enjoy any of the battles, the negotiations that have to go on with University Hall. I remember, he was awfully worried about the budget, because when he took over as acting director, bad budget cuts were coming about because of (Governor) Reagan.
DeVorkin:That was the height of the Reagan situation, yes. That was really rough. How did those budget cuts affect La Jolla? That kept the astronomy department from developing?
DeVorkin:That was the first thing. What other kinds of cutbacks?
Burbidge:Well, I suppose it slowed the general expansion of the campus. It had been expected that it would grow.
DeVorkin:La Jolla really is the only campus that doesn't have a personal small observatory, local, for the students.
DeVorkin:Was this a conscious decision not to have one? On your part?
Burbidge:Again, it's finances. We decided that the best thing we could do was join with the University of Minnestoa and put up the 60-inch.
DeVorkin:When was that done?
Burbidge:Oh, that was done in '67, '68. We raised the money from NSF, and it was one of these inexpensive 60-inches.
DeVorkin:The infra-red type?
Burbidge:Yes, and we got a cooperation going, it was the beginning of our cooperation with Wayne Stein. It came about really because Geoff and I were good friends with Ed Nye, and we'd been friends with him ever since we'd gone to Yerkes in 1957, and Bob Gould had started making some predictions about infra-red transitions, the fine structure for example, the ionized neon transition that people are now measuring in the interstellar medium, at 12.8 microns. He pointed out that there were a lot of interesting transitions that would occur in the low density gas in the galaxy, which could be looked for if you had an infra-red setup. And Ed Nye was visiting. In fact, he was on a fairly long extended visit. I can't remember if it was a quarter or what, in La Jolla. He got fascinated by this, and of course he is a superb experimentalist. And he said, "Well, this is the field to go. Let's develop infra-red astronomy." So he started the Minnesota group going. Then we started planning to get a telescope. You have to worry about where to put it, how much money would we have and where to put it, and I guess Geoff and Ed were doing all the dealings with the university, and Wayne Stein and Fred Gillette were starting the plan for the telescope and we were all looking at sites. It was when the Mauna Kea 80-inch telescope was under construction, and we went up there to see if that would be a good site. We decided we didn't have the money to run a distant station like that. It would cost more from construction on. So we'd better go closer to home. And we picked on Mount Lemmon. The University of Arizona made available a site for us to put a 60- inch. So ours is one of the 60-inchers up there.
Burbidge:And the students used that a lot. One of them here will be giving a talk, I guess he's giving it today.
DeVorkin:I didn't realize that was a cooperative venture with La Jolla, out in Arizona. Was there any question with the NSF about University of California campus getting in on something like this?
Burbidge:No. I mean, it's half and half, Minnesota and UCSD. It's not even state-wide, although it's trying now to convert it. We've always made time available to people from any of the campuses. But now we want to put an optical instrument on it. We've already upgraded the mirror, from a metal mirror to a Cer-Vit mirror. But we want to now put a scanner on it and use it for optical work.
DeVorkin:So the mounting would take the mirror? The only reduction in cost at that time was just the aluminum mirror that you have instead of a glass mirror?
Burbidge:Yes. It's a think Cer-Vit mirror.
DeVorkin:That's quite interesting. I wasn't aware of that at all. So your students would go either there or up to Lick for observing.
DeVorkin:Do you have students yourself?
Burbidge:Yes. One of them's here, one of my students. He comes with me to Lick.
DeVorkin:So your graduate program still is very viable, active, since you built it up.
DeVorkin:You haven't had cutbacks, let's say, that would cause the graduate program itself to come into question?
Burbidge:No. The infra-red has been difficult, because Wayne Stein wanted to divide his time. He had strong ties to Minnesota, and he wanted to divide his time between Minnesota and UCSD. Well, he had a two-thirds FTE, which is what was very popular in those days when it was easy to get grants. He had that at UCSD. And there came a time when Minnesota was offering him a full FTE, and we could not raise it. I think if we'd worked on it for about a year or maybe six months, we could have got the vice chancellor and the chancellor to agree to converting this to a full FTE. But he was impatient. He said, "Well, I think I'll go back to Minnesota." That caused something of a hitch in our infra-red program. We have much younger people now. And we're dependent on grants. At the moment we have no FTE in infra-red astronomy.
DeVorkin:So you certainly would like to get other people in.
DeVorkin:In 1972, you left for the Royal Greenwich Observatory as the director.
DeVorkin:How did this position come about?
Burbidge:I guess it started in 1968 or '69, when the British Science Research Council agreed to share with Australia and build an Anglo-Australian Telescope, which was a telescope the University of California at one time was interested in cooperating in with Australia, when the British had dropped all possibility of being interested in it. Well, then they picked it up again. So the Australians said, "All right, we'd rather work with Britain really than with California." So, that was definitely going to be built and the plans were being made. They were also interested in having a Northern Hemisphere Observatory, so a planning committee was set up on which Hoyle was a member and Wal Sargent and Geoff. The plan was really to begin to erode the power of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, and build up a Northern Hemisphere Observatory which should be a third center, an independent center, separate from the two Royal Observatories, and be devoted much less to all of the things that have traditionally gone on in Greenwich be devoted really to astronomy and astrophysics, and to go after probably a 90-inch telescope, on a good site in the Northern Hemisphere, which would probably mean Spanish territory but conceivably could have meant French territory. But one thing to do was to change the power structure in the British astronomical establishment, which had been vested always in the two Astronomers Royal. The Astronomer Royal for Scotland, and the regular Astronomer Royal, the Greenwich Astronomer Royal. This was fairly shortly after the Science Research Council had taken over the running of Herstmonceaux, which used to be under the Navy, and they'd taken that over. And anyway this Planning Committee worked for a couple of years, I should think, and then it was clear that R.v.d.r. Woolley was coming up for retirement, and we used to talk about who was going to be his successor, and that would be a time to really downgrade Herstmonceaux, to get the good astronomers out of that, to let it be a nautical almanac time service place, to get the good astronomers out and set up this third center, which would be the Northern Hemisphere Observatory.
DeVorkin:Now, a large part of Herstmonceaux at that time was taken over by astrometric work?
DeVorkin:Did you mean to leave that there?
Burbidge:To leave that there, too. To move only the astrophysics and the construction of a large telescope in a good climate.
DeVorkin:So your intention was to model it almost after the Naval Observatory that we have now?
DeVorkin:Which is a very decent astrometric observatory and keeps the time service.
Burbidge:That's right, yes.
DeVorkin:But has never done any great major work in astrophysics. By design.
Burbidge:Yes, that's right, exactly by design. Now, came the question, who was going to preside over this? Hoyle himself said, "Maybe I should take it over, because I wouldn't mind doing that."
DeVorkin:I imagine he wouldn't mind.
Burbidge:Well, whoever took it over was going to preside over their own demise, in a certain sense, you see.
DeVorkin:But it was an extremely important thing to do.
DeVorkin:I mean, speaking even simply from an, a hopefully unbiased standpoint, I can see that it's a momentous period in the history of the observatory.
Burbidge:Yes. Well, the British establishment obviously set up a search committee and began thinking about successors, and they decided to ask Maartin Schmidt.
DeVorkin:He's not British.
Burbidge:He's not British but he's at least European. I think they probably had a lot of guidance from Oort, who had strongly recommended him.
DeVorkin:Oort would, yes. Schmidt was Oort's student.
Burbidge:Yes, he was, and so he was offered the job. After a fairly short time he turned it down. Then in the summer of 1971 we were as usual at Cambridge at Hoyle's Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, and I had a phone call from Sir Brian Flowers, who was then head of the Science Research Council. He said, "Can I come out and talk to you about something?" So I said, "Sure." We were in the middle of one of the conferences that we used to have. I don't remember what it was on. He said, "Well, I want to talk privately. Is there a place where we can talk privately?" I said, "Well OK. We have an apartment in Churchill College, so we can meet there." There he came.
DeVorkin:That's the new college?
Burbidge:Yes. There's where we'd always been. Our contact with that started because Cockroft was the master of that and Willie Fowler knew him very well, so that was the place we usually used to stay. So anyway, out he came, and he said: was I interested? The search committee had come up with me as a candidate for this. Well, it startled me completely, because I did not see myself as a candidate for this kind of job at all.
DeVorkin:Who was on the search committee?
Burbidge:I don't know. I have no idea who was on the search committee You never know.
DeVorkin:So this was not something that was sort of conspiratorial on the part of Fred Hoyle and friends.
Burbidge:No, it wasn't No. And I said, it would make a lot more sense to ask Fred Hoyle. I could see that a lot of political work had to be done to achieve this Northern Hemisphere Observatory, and also, by then the Anglo Australians had started construction, and Hoyle was on the board of that, and he was running up against Woolley and all kinds of things. I mean, you think of Hoyle as a theoretician, but he's got an enormous amount of common sense. He actually knows instruments very well. You won't think that he does because he doesn't use them, but he's an extremely good physicist as well as a mathematician, cosmologist, everything else.
DeVorkin:I had this sort of feeling from his science fiction magnum opus, THE BLACK CLOUD, where he chided the observers.
Burbidge:He chided them, yes, the observers many of whom he sees as doing stupid things, making stupid decisions. But anyway, all his ideas, and actually all the engineering points, the danger points that he foresaw in the Anglo-Australian Telescope construction were averted because of some of his early work on the board.
DeVorkin:That's great. I didn't know anything about that. I'm happy that's on the record.
Burbidge:So anyway, I said I wasn't the right person, that Geoff was the right person. If they wanted to get an expatriate Britain for this job, and if they wanted a BURBIDGE, then, it would be far better to be Geoff, because he was much more of the caliber of a director, who could do the hard politicking and so on.
DeVorkin:Well, could there be something about your old shyness creeping in there, not wanting to assert yourself in a position like that?
Burbidge:Well, I don't like battles. I really don't like fights. And one could see right then that there were fights coming up. But Brian Flowers said, "Well, the search committee has decided they want an observer." I said, "Well, Geoff is an observer." But you see, they've never really seen this. This is part of the cut between observational astronomy and the British astronomers, their lack of contact with what really goes on in observational astronomy. They saw him trained as a theoretician and as a physicist. They didn't know just how much contact he'd had with telescopes and with observational programs and with using telescopes and all that. I mean all the work at McDonald and so on. So they said they wanted an observer, and in their eyes, I was an observer par excellence who wouldn't clutter it up with theory. But I said, "Well, I will have to think long and hard about this. What will be the situation with Geoff?" They said, "Oh well, we'll give him a professorship, and SRC Professorship, so he'll be free to do his own research." I said, "But we have always worked very closely together, and particularly in running anything, I would want to depend very heavily on him. I would want him not to be located in London or somewhere but at Herstmonceaux and we would continue to work together." I made all that very clear to Brian Flowers, and then I said, this was August I suppose, "I'll have to go away and think about this." Something about what he had said rang some warning bells in my head.
DeVorkin:You mean Flowers?
Burbidge:Yes. And I thought: "Well, this will not work out just as easily as I think it might, in that I could get a lot of support in the political fights from Geoff." So I wasn't very enthusiastic. But Fred Hoyle was fairly enthusiastic, and he said, "Well, then we can really get the Northern Hemisphere Observatory going, and we can do it out of Herstmonceaux."
DeVorkin:Did you see yourself being set up, a little too much?
Burbidge:Yes. So I went away and I thought, and one morning I'd woke up thinking one way, and I began to talk it over with the UC administration, the chancellor, and it was obvious, if I did it I would go on a leave of absence. Then I still hadn't made up my mind. I still wanted a bit more time to think. When a phone call came. In looking back on this, I look back on Brian Flowers as a real Machiavelli. He has a rather ponderous manner, and he has that British gift for saying not quite what you mean, saying it in words that cannot be picked upon afterwards as being misleading the real politician. What the statesmen do.
DeVorkin:Right. A good lawyer.
DeVorkin:So, he managed to convince you?
Burbidge:No, he had written me a letter, a formal letter, and I had written him back a letter full of my questions and my misgivings. I said I wanted an answer to them. His answer was to telephone me in La Jolla on a terrible line where I could hardly hear what he was saying. This was in October, and he said, "There's going to be a press leak. They've got word that you're a candidate for the director. It's going to be leaked to the press. You're going to be bombarded with all kinds of people, and we've got to get it straight, whether you're saying yes or no to this."
DeVorkin:There is going to be a press leak?
Burbidge:Yes, the way I put it is bad, isn't it? I think he probably said, "There has been a leak," which he was managing to keep under wraps, because again in Britain they can keep these things under wraps, unless the NEWS OF THE WORLD gets hold of it. But if the TIMES gets hold of it, it can be suppressed as much as they want.
DeVorkin:Yes, the LONDON TIMES is very cooperative.
Burbidge:Yes. So anyway he said, "You have to really give me an answer." He was putting me on the spot. And I always know that if I'm asked to do something on the telephone I try now always to avoid being asked to do something, to never give an answer because I tend to say yes, when I really might not say yes. So anyway, I said, "All right, I will say yes." And I asked him about the answers to these questions. He went over them one by one on the telephone, and he gave me positive answers to all my worries. But it was not in writing. But I trusted him. Despite my gut feeling that I shouldn't have, I did. Well, then in November, we had to go over and start, and have the press interviews and so on. I took Sarah with me.
DeVorkin:What did she think?
Burbidge:Well, she wasn't very enthusiastic, because she was at a stage of high school where to go into the British school system would have been somewhat traumatic.
DeVorkin:Did she come with you?
Burbidge:She came with us to start with, but then when Geoff went back, she went back with him.
DeVorkin:OK, that's getting ahead of the game.
Burbidge:Yes. But anyway, we had to set out and find a school for her. That was one job to do, and to discuss places to live, which was another thing to do, and decided that for the time being, we would live where the Woolleys had lived, in that apartment it's actually in the Castle. Little triviata like painting of that thing had to be seen to. I mean, one had to give instructions as to what had to be done. Anyway, then I came back, and we went over in the summer, and almost immediately disaster set in.
DeVorkin:What was the first disaster?
Burbidge:Well, I'd been over I think also earlier in the year, in May, and I'd been talking to the astronomers, those who actually do astronomy there people like Bernard Pagel, and they'd all come to me and they'd said, "How soon can you get the Isaac Newton Telescope moved?" I said, "I don't know, this will be obviously something we have to try and do because it's doing no good where it is."
DeVorkin:There must have been some opposition to moving it?
Burbidge:Oh yes. And that was what emerged very soon after I got there, and part of the opposition came from Lord Hailsham himself.
DeVorkin:What was his position?
Burbidge:Well, he used to be the Minister for Science, Quintin Hogg. He was a Member of Parliament. Then he'd become Lord Hailsham. And Hailsham is the local town near to Herstmonceaux. If you look at the address of Herstmonceaux, it's near Hailsham. So that was his whole area, his bailiwick, and it turned out, as Minister for Science he'd had a large part in the location of that telescope there. And he was not about to see it go anywhere else. I heard this actually from Teddy Bullard you know him, Sir Edward Bullard? Bullard had been on one of the early committees for deciding on the location of that telescope, and he'd actually sat in on the meeting where they were proving that there were more clear sky days and more clear sky in the Eastborne area than there was in California! When he told me this story, Bullard said, "Well, when I heard that said, I decided it was time for myself to get off that committee, so I resigned."
DeVorkin:That is certainly a clear spot in the British Isles, but not very.
Burbidge:It's clear. It's southeast of London and the prevailing wind is from the northwest. It's an area called the Pevensy Marshes. The Battle of Hastings and all that is very near that area. Pevensy Castle is an old Norman castle. It's a flat low lying area, where mist rises in the evening from the ground and kind of blows around. It's 300 feet above sea level. It's got none of the earmarks of a place you'd want to put a telescope.
DeVorkin:But for England, it was relatively clear?
Burbidge:Well, the other side of London, in the Cotswolds, would have been better.
DeVorkin:You say Lyttleton knows a bit of this story too?
Burbidge:Yes, and he sent me a lot of newspaper clippings. Letters he'd written to the TIMES, responses, and so on. He hoped I would take this up again, which I was attempting to do, but was running into opposition from the Science Research Council, first of all. They didn't want it moved.
DeVorkin:Just to set the story straight, though, the idea that Herstmonceaux was a clear site in Britain was basically incorrect?
Burbidge:Yes. They got a lot of their figures from the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce. It's a "sunny seaside resort," Eastbourne is.
DeVorkin:I see. You don't have to tell me any more. (Laughter) So there was opposition even among the British astronomers, to placing Herstmonceaux where it was?
DeVorkin:And then obviously this politician, Lord Hailsham, had a lot to do with it.
DeVorkin:Putting it in his district.
Burbidge:Yes. And then also, the previous Astronomer Royal, H. Spencer Jones was involved.
Burbidge:Before Woolley. His wife very much liked the idea of living in a castle. So the acquiring of that castle as the place to move the old Greenwich Observatory to had some snobbish sides to it.
DeVorkin:That's quite interesting. Well, I talked to Atkinson about this.
DeVorkin:And I didn't get exactly that feeling, although Atkinson was very unhappy with the whole situation.
Burbidge:Oh, I didn't know that. That's interesting. Does that have to do with his leaving England and coming here?
DeVorkin:Yes. I think he saw no future.
Burbidge:Yes, well, he's one of the better astronomers that they've ever had through there.
DeVorkin:Yes. It was pure loyalty that he went there.
DeVorkin:But that was a very unfortunate and strange episode. I didn't quite understand what role Spencer Jones had in the whole thing.
Burbidge:Well, it's my understanding that Lady Spencer Jones was a social minded person who liked the idea of living in the Castle. That's the story I heard.
DeVorkin:OK. I can't think of any other reason for the Castle. Well, you were faced with this rather ticklish problem of moving the Isaac Newton Telescope.
DeVorkin:And there was all of this opposition.
Burbidge:Yes. And I found that, for example, I had to actually create, in order to be chairman of the thing called the LTUP, The Large Telescope Users' Panel, which was the time assignment panel, for both the Isaac Newton Telescope and the Pretoria Observatory. And the Astronomer Royal for Scotland was the chairman of that. This brings into question, why was I not made Astronomer Royal? I think this was partly that the SRC wanted to curtail the power of Herstmonceaux. They didn't want the director of Herstmonceaux to also be the Astronomer Royal, because the Astronomer Royal gets called on for other things, for being a spokesman for astronomy. And now, as they put it to me, they said, "Well, if you'd like to be Astronomer Royal, we'll propose that you be." And I said, "Well, I don't. I feel it's an anachronism. But if it makes things easier to work, then yes, you might as well propose me." Now, they had to propose this to the Queen. They could of course make whatever proposition they wanted, regardless of what they told me. And I think they proposed Ryle. So what happened was, I was not made Astronomer Royal. This gave one less leverage in any political battle. Ryle was named Astronomer Royal.
DeVorkin:Do you feel that there was anything else involved in that?
Burbidge:You mean, it would have been the first woman Royal Astronomer?
DeVorkin:Yes. Certainly from a distance of 6000 miles, we sat there and said, "Eh, this is either a lousy coincidence or discrimination again."
Burbidge:Yes. I've no means of knowing. I've never set out to find out, to really dig into what happened.
DeVorkin:It really does make sense, from what you're saying, that if they were going to set you up as a hatchet man
DeVorkin:then they didn't want you also having to represent astronomy, it's politically very touchy.
Burbidge:Yes. So, early on, we started to do two things. One was to document how bad the observing site was. Geoff and I went through the observing books, the record books, for the three years the Isaac Newton Telescope had been working to count up the hours on which the dome had even been opened, let alone actually taking data, and on the three years, it ranged from 500 and some to 800 and some hours, per year. You compare that with 2200 to 2600 for California. And there were pathetic things, like somebody trying to get their observations in, said: "Opened the dome and watched the guide star disappear into the murk but hoped it might clear later . . ." Anyway, with that ammunition, we thought we could really get the Northern Hemisphere thing going. And the first thing I wanted to do was also to get Geoff properly into the workings of Herstmonceaux. He was an SRC professor, he was there, established in the place and working. He wasn't actually technically on the staff though, through the union. There's a strong union that's there, a civil service union.
DeVorkin:I didn't know that aspect.
Burbidge:So I invited him to come into the first staff meeting, where we would be discussing instrumentation and all kinds of things. But then, I received a delegation from what they call the staff side, with a strong protest about this. They warned that they would take this up at the high union levels if this sort of thing was done. It was so unpleasant.
DeVorkin:Did they have a regular shop steward or something?
Burbidge:Yes, they did.
DeVorkin:Was he an astronomer?
Burbidge:Yes, a sort of astronomer. Well, there was one man and one woman. Miss Penney was the woman.
DeVorkin:I don't know her.
Burbidge:No. You wouldn't.
Burbidge:I've forgotten his name.
DeVorkin:Was he a well known person?
DeVorkin:OK. How did people like Murray and others react?
Burbidge:Oh, well you see they were the people that I could work with, like Bernard Pagel. Particularly Bernard Pagel, and others of the younger set, Paul Murden and Mike Penston, the people who are actually doing astronomy now in Australia. But I think they had hoped that if Geoff had come into the situation, he would have cut through this, but, it just was one of those battles that I found I didn't know quite how to cope with.
DeVorkin:So what finally happened?
Burbidge:He got thoroughly angry. He said, "Well, it doesn't look as though there's much use staying here." He'd taken a sabbatical to come there. He said, "I think I'll cancel the sabbatical and go back . . ." And our daughter was of course picking up all these vibes, as well as being somewhat unhappy with the school. And so we decided that they would go back. We had made an arrangement to rent our house there. We canceled that, and they moved back.
DeVorkin:How quick was it?
Burbidge:They moved back in early October, I think. We'd been there from July. I moved back the second following November, and so was there less than 18 months.
DeVorkin:So very quickly it became evident that this was ridiculous for you?
Burbidge:Yes. Well, then the next thing was that the Northern Hemisphere Planning Committee that had taken over from this early planning committee that Geoff and Walt Sargent and Fred Hoyle had been on was reconstituted by the Science Research Council, which had the absolute right to reconstitute any committees it wanted. And I was not made chairman of that. Stibbs was made chairman of that.
DeVorkin:Why? I don't understand that.
Burbidge:It's a good question. Because he was the most dismal choice.
DeVorkin:That's the same Stibbs who wrote the book with Woolley on stellar atmospheres?
DeVorkin:All I can see is that he was somebody they could put in there.
Burbidge:That's right. Yes. And somebody who could have things go their way, and not my way. And the other thing was that the Scottish people had got a site survey team. They enjoy going site surveying. And I started to get help from this country, from Merle Walker, for example, on site selection for a Northern Hemisphere Observatory. Meanwhile, we were carrying on with the Anglo-Australian Project and things were going poorly it was a battle even there, because we were fighting Olin Eggen there.
Burbidge:Because Eggen wanted to be the director of that place, and he wanted to run it. He wanted to eventually take it over for Australia. And whatever my feelings about these people at Herstmonseaux and the Science Research Council, I had what I felt were very strong commitments to the good people the Paul Murdens, the Mike Penstons, the Bernard Pagels and so on to see that they got a setup that they could work with in Australia, and a director who would give them a fair shake on observing time and so on.
DeVorkin:Eggen was already running Stromio and Siding Springs.
Burbidge:Yes, but he wanted to have that 150-inch telescope. And you know, he's quit Australia now.
DeVorkin:No, I didn't know that. Where's he going now?
Burbidge:Well, he is now in Chile. He's got a senior staff position at Cerro Tololo.
DeVorkin:Well, he has his 150-inch. I didn't know that.
Burbidge:So, anyway, there were things I started to do, toward planning a Northern Hemisphere Observatory. One was to get somebody, to start looking into all sites, world wide, because I was being told that there were political problems with getting anything from Spain, even on one of the Canary Islands, or mainland Spain. One of the early things Geoff and I did, before he had severed his connection with Herstmonceaux, was to arrange a meeting with the Max Planck people, particularly Rymar Lust, about cooperation with Germany, so that we could share in their telescope and their observatory in the south of Spain.
DeVorkin:Which they're building?
Burbidge:Yes, and they had got Guido Munch. They had got it written into the contract with Spain that a third country could come in. So we had a very pleasant meeting in Brussels Airport with the Science Research Council and Geoff and I, and Stibbs came, and the Astronomer Royal for Scotland.
Burbidge:One of the people I dislike, a German astronomer. But the meeting was very friendly. And it was obvious we could cooperate, until we got to actually broaching it at the level of the governments, with Spain. Then they said "no," because there was a lot of unhappiness about Gibraltar at that time. And of course, all my crew, my little gang at Herstmonceaux, they said, "We'd gladly trade Gibraltar for the island of La Palma," which was turning out to be the best site.
DeVorkin:There are some British installations going up?
Burbidge:Well, there's a small one, on Teneriffe. But that was done at the university level. It wasn't a national observatory, and so, you didn't have to get into the same kind of negotiations, as you do for a national observatory. But apart from the site, there was the question of the telescope. What kind of complement of telescopes would you have? And I arranged a loan from Victor Blanco and Leo Goldberg of Malcolm Smith, who's now in Australia, but he was then at Cerro Tololo, and I knew he was very knowledgeable about remote sites, also Spanish. He had learned Spanish and spoke it very well. I got him to come in, to be engaged as a consultant, and he came with his family, and one of the tasks was to go around to all the British astronomers and find out just what they wanted in the way of telescopes. The sensible thing was to have something like a 150-inch, and a smaller thing, a 90-inch say, and a 1 meter, 40-inch kind of size, a set of three telescopes like that would be ideal. But the Scottish people wanted to put up a six meter telescope. Yes! An altazinouth six meter, you know, which might take 20 years or more. They said, "What's the use of putting up just another 150-inch? There are those all over the place, and we want something that will be the biggest." So there was that battle to fight. And then, again, a piece of my political naïveté, I knew that one of the early people that had suggested a Northern Hemisphere Observatory, a group of them actually, was Hoyle and Ryle. Hoyle and Ryle did talk from time to time, and especially on neutral astronomical topics. Hoyle, Ryle and Redman had realized that there should be a Northern Hemisphere Observatory on a good site, and they were looking for a 90-inch telescope. They were talking of perhaps moving the Isaac Newton Telescope, but anyway, that kind of size telescope. So I thought, well, the person to get in, who wants a Northern Hemisphere telescope, to work on his northern radio sources, is Martin Ryle. I will invite him, get him invited to one of these meetings, of which I am not chairman but I will nevertheless get him invited to come and give some advice on the kind of telescope we want, to try to lay to rest this 240-inch nightmare.
DeVorkin:Two inches larger than the Russian telescope.
Burbidge:Yes. (Laughter) And I got him invited and what did he do but give me a real stab in the back. He said, "Well, you don't want either of this. What you really want is something innovative, an array. You want about eleven 60-inch telescopes to operate as an array. The radio telescopes do this. It's high time the optical people were dragged into the current century and did the same kind of thing."
DeVorkin:An optical interferometer?
Burbidge:But this gave some of the committee members an out: "Oh, what a lovely exciting instrumental idea to look into. We have a couple of 36-inches, we can just see how they would work. Let us therefore delay getting anything going. Well, around this time, Geoff wrote his famous letter to the TIMES.
DeVorkin:I don't have a copy of that.
Burbidge:It was to NATURE, wasn't it? In which he spoke about "third rate British astronomy" and the need to move the telescope.
Burbidge:And that caused one unholy (hell). It was just before he'd left England and gone back. Kind of his explosion, that he went out with a bang.
DeVorkin:Oh boy. Is that why he's known as the scourge of British astronomy? (Laughter)
Burbidge:Yes. Ed Nye gave me a copy of that. I've got it.
DeVorkin:That is hilarious.
Burbidge:Geoff never laid his hands on it, but Ed Nye xeroxed it and give it to us. It's in a British journal, NEW SCIENTIST, May I think.
DeVorkin:Amazing. All these incredible shenanigans were going on. When were you sure that you were coming back? Or you were always sure that you were coming back?
Burbidge:Well, toward the end of September, I was getting pretty sure, that I was just not going to last. I'd been on the various committees, and I could see how the SRC runs their committees. They set up a lot of interlocking committees which have some common membership, because then they can get one committee to reach one decision and another committee to reach a different decision, and then they can go their own way. The way they want to go.
DeVorkin:This was 1973, September?
Burbidge:Yes. I was struggling hard during that whole year. And I was working hard on the Anglo-Australian thing, and that was coming out right.
DeVorkin:Your husband and your daughter had already gone.
Burbidge:They'd gone back. I was coming over here still to do observing, and be on various committees, so I was doing an awful lot of commuting between England and California.
DeVorkin:Yes. Looks like it was an impossible situation.
Burbidge:Yes. But I did want to see though the Anglo-Australian Project. And it was during that time that I got Malcolm Smith to come over, and I got an array of possible sites we could have, if we couldn't have a Spanish nearby site. We were welcomed on the Kitt Peak Spur. I got information from Helmut Abt about the early site survey work, and Leo Goldberg said we would be welcome there, and another possibility was on Mona Keia, where of course they were putting an infra-red telescope.
DeVorkin:Yes, right. So what's the final result now?
Burbidge:Well, the Canary Island site. And things are looking a bit better with Spain. But, at one time, that bunch of Scottish site testers went off to examine the Portuguese Islands, and it took but one look at the weather maps to know that those were not any good. Madeira is too far north, and the Azores have quite a lot of cloud cover, and the southern ones, I've forgotten the name of them, get the Sahara dusts and they get a kind of whitish sky for a large number of months per year. So all those were out. But nevertheless they wasted money and the spent time in site surveying those.
DeVorkin:Looking for a place for their six meter telescope. That is amazing. I knew nothing of that. You always knew of course that you had a place to come back to.
DeVorkin:I'd like to cover in the last part of your year as an AAS president.
Burbidge:Well, let me say one other thing, a source that you can look at, because Timothy Green came to interview me in 1973, when I was starting to try and get my resignation in, and the SRC was saying "Hold off just a little bit longer," and he came to talk about the Northern Hemisphere Observatory. He was to write an article for the SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE.
DeVorkin:This is why you mentioned the Smithsonian before?
Burbidge:Yes. He carried out a long interview, and in the end I thought, well, I can trust him, and I said, "When are you planning to write this article?" He said, "Toward the end of the year." And I said, "Well, I think I ought to tell you then." Then I told him the true story, and I gave him quite a different account of the whole thing than what I'd been talking about, I'd been talking about the Northern Hemisphere Observatory as a coming thing.
DeVorkin:You gave him a different account?
Burbidge:I told him the troubles that I was running into. I gave him the inside story. And I said, "Don't publish this until I've got my resignation in," and he promised that he wouldn't and he didn't. It appeared in January 1974.
DeVorkin:In the SMITHSONIAN?
Burbidge:Yes. And it's a very fair account.
DeVorkin:Did he tape record this, the interview?
Burbidge:I don't remember.
DeVorkin:That's very good to know, and I certainly will try to get a copy of the original interview.
Burbidge:So, all right lets turn to the AAS and my two years. I was vice president earlier on, while Bok was president, and then I was off for a year. Then I was elected president, and was president-elect for a statuary year and then two years as president.
DeVorkin:As you came in as president, or during the year as president-elect, what were the various policies that you wanted to develop? What directions did you seen the AAS going in?
Burbidge:Well, in the year that I was president-elect, Bob Kraft was president, and we knew that Hank Gurin's time was coming to an end. Actually he'd only just been, so to speak, saved from the gun earlier on under Bart Bok, because Bok wanted to terminate his period as executive officer.
Burbidge:He and Bob did not get along.
DeVorkin:Do you know the reason?
Burbidge:No, except they just never saw eye to eye on anything. The rubbed each other the wrong way, somehow. Well, Bob Kraft wasn't very enthusiastic about it, and Gurin's renewed appointment that had been narrowly voted in under Bok ran, I think, till '78. But he would have been a year short of the ordinary retiring age then. So I renewed him for the extra year so his retiring time is '79. But we could see that there was going to be need for a new executive officer, and Bob Kraft set up a study committee called the long range study committee, which B. Lynds was chairman of and I was on that, and Gart Westerhout and George Field and Harlan Smith, I think. We were looking at the long range future of the Society and the executive office. We considered various models in which you could carry on the function of executive officer under a number of volunteers. That was the so-called university model. George Field made an extensive study of that. Gart Westerhout made it too. We realized that Washington was where one should go to, but might be too expensive. Gart Westerhout made a study of that. Then we looked at the individual university model, perhaps continuing in Princeton, or perhaps Maryland, some place that was close to Washington. We came out in favor of the Washington model. We did some preliminary costing, and turned in the report. The committee dissolved itself. And then, when I took over from Bob Kraft, in the summer of 1976, that was when we thanked the committee and adopted the report and said, "Now we get down to the real had work of planning this. First we have to cost it out better." And we did, and it's going to involve a small dues increase. Therefore the case had to be put to the membership in general. So we had a mail ballot. The committee had also recommended the establishment of an education officer. An elected position, where the person would take over a lot of the things that Hank does, like running the visiting professor program.
Burbidge:So, we had a mail ballot. Before this went out, I had made a statement at the annual general meeting giving the reasons for all this. I'd planned this talk pretty carefully, because we'd voted in council that this was the way we wanted to go. It was still a controversial thing, though, and many of the members I thought might disagree, and there was some opposition of course, as there always is with things like that, during the annual business meeting. For example, Frank Edmondson was very strongly opposed to it.
DeVorkin:To moving to Washington?
DeVorkin:Was he opposed to the education officer too?
Burbidge:I don't know about that. But moving to Washington, yes.
DeVorkin:What were his arguments?
Burbidge:Well, he thought it worked very well where it was, and we didn't want to get involved in politics. No matter that Bob Kraft had made a big point in his retiring presidential address, of the things that were happening, that were descending on one, decisions in Washington that were made without any input from astronomy. But Frank Edmondson thought that it would be expensive, it wasn't the way the AAS had always run, therefore it was bad. So there was a certain amount of discussion like that. But we took a vote, on the floor, and actually, it was a very small number of people who voted against it on the floor. But we said that we'd send out the mail ballot and you can respond to that. Well, the mail ballot came in quite heavily 6 to 1, in favor of the move, despite the dues increase. And the dues increase was voted and was OK'd at the annual business meeting. So we then had to carry on the work and carry on the planning, and actually start looking for places, and try and raise money from the corporate members, which I'd been trying to do. Well, there it is. One thing that descended on us, it was hoped that an executive officer of the sort we want would foresee the affair of the Postmaster General when the Postmaster General decided that certain journals, AIP journals in particular, National Academy PROCEEDINGS, and the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL SUPPLEMENT, of all odd things, should be labeled "advertising materials," and should not be allowed to use the inexpensive postal rate. And every published page must bear the statement "This is an advertisement" on the bottom.
DeVorkin:I didn't know anything about this.
Burbidge:You didn't know anything about that?
DeVorkin:When did this happen?
Burbidge:It was one of the first miseries that I was faced with.
DeVorkin:Incredible! Who started that?
Burbidge:The Postmaster General. This man Bailer. Some eager beaver in his office said, "Look, these scientific journals are getting away with things. They ought to pay more for their mailing rights." If you look at the letter of the law, actually the law is badly written. It was one of those things that came in about 1916 and underwent various little bits of additions and modifications to the language. Scientific and religious and educational material had some kind of exclusion. But the issue hinged, I think, on the payment of page charges. If a valuable consideration was paid to publish something, then it had to count as advertising. And of course the National Academy is still fighting this. They've said, they're going ahead, they're printing this, just to make it look ridiculous. They want the law changed. Well, we wanted to get a short term solution, and this really hit me at a time when I had to do something, because the APJ and the University of Chicago Press could not put out its mailing. It had to be delayed. And I couldn't get a hold of the treasurer, Bill Howard. I couldn't get hold of Hank Gurin, who was on his vacation, and Larry Fredrick was away, and I had to go to Bill Koch of AIP and he helped me. He named a lawyer who is handling the National Academy affairs. He said, "If you can stand $2,000 and it if runs over that, we will help you." Now, I don't see why this shouldn't be in the record, because it's all in our record. So they subsidized us to that extent. And I had to go out on my own, because I couldn't get hold of any of the officers of the executive committee, and retain that lawyer. But he was very good, and he got the whole thing smoothed down for us, and he did it within the $2,000. But it would probably come up again, and eventually the law should be changed. But those are the sort of things why you need an executive officer, who can have his or her ear to the ground, and alert one to these kinds of disasters.
DeVorkin:Should Gurin have been aware of this? Was it his business to be?
Burbidge:He's never concerned himself with those kinds of things. Off in Princeton, he wouldn't get to hear of it.
DeVorkin:Right. Well, there had been executive officers before him?
Burbidge:Yes, there was Paul Routley. But he was also in Princeton.
DeVorkin:So things are really going to be changing now. And you're looking for a person?
Burbidge:Yes, a person who will have the right contacts, and know if a thing like that is going on. I mean, in some places, including the AIP, there's worry over the tax exempt status of societies.
DeVorkin:Yes, we're aware of that. In fact it's quite a concern. Now, the types of people you're looking for, can you talk about that for the record?
Burbidge:We started thinking about a fairly young person, because we thought a really senior person with those abilities would be too expensive for the money we could raise to start with. And maybe we'll get more help from the corporate members than they've given so far. A few of them have given us financial help, including AURA, and AUI has given us a Washington location.
DeVorkin:That's in the AUI offices?
DeVorkin:What was this thing that you mentioned at lunch, about the NSF people warning you that they would steal the person if he turned out to be good?
DeVorkin:Who told you that?
Burbidge:Somebody told Larry Fredrick. He told me.
DeVorkin:Is this the sort of thing NSF does?
Burbidge:Oh well, it's fair game, isn't it? If you see a good person.
DeVorkin:Yes. This is certainly going to be the type of position that's going to be a headache.
DeVorkin:You're definitely interested in someone with astronomical training?
Burbidge:Yes. It could be in physics. But definitely a scientist, in the physical sciences.
DeVorkin:Would you say you have good candidates at this stage?
Burbidge:Oh, that I don't know, because I've not seen the applications. I asked Ivan King to hold off everything until I'm really back and we can get that search committee going.
DeVorkin:That will be in the Fall some time.
DeVorkin:What kind of salary were you thinking of?
Burbidge:Well, we were thinking of $35,000. As a kind of ceiling. Preferably it would be lower than that. But secretaries cost a lot in Washington.
DeVorkin:In a position like that, secretaries are even more important. To get the right staff.
DeVorkin:Anyway, let me continue on with this. You had another large issue in the AAS that we talked about at lunch, and that was the ERA.
Burbidge:Yes. This was raised in a way that I never thought would create such a furor as it did. Because I knew that many societies were going on record as not meeting, and some had actually cancelled meetings in states that hadn't ratified the ERA. Of course, we are a small society and it would be purely moral support, rather than a financial impact on a convention city. But, well, the letters started coming in I told you what the count was on the letters, very similar to the council vote.
DeVorkin:That was 6 to 5?
Burbidge:Yes, 6 to 5, and about 65 to 55 or so in the letters. Obviously, only a small proportion of the 3500 members had written. So we have to do more to sound out what they feel.
It's obviously a very split thing. People feel strongly one way and many of the young women feel strongly. Well, I don't know if I want to go deeply into the record, but one of the ones staying here, Margaret Geller, is at Harvard. She is the one person that they call "junior faculty" that doesn't have a faculty position. Harvard is one of the places where affirmative action ought to be in force.
Burbidge:So there are many young women who feel this. And Vera Rubin feels it very strongly.
DeVorkin:I know that. She had trouble after you, at Hale Observatories, in observing.
Burbidge:Yes. She was the first person, I think, to get to actually use Palomar, in her own right. The first woman. I didn't. No.
DeVorkin:You certainly had trouble yourself. Did you have trouble with Lick, by the way?
Burbidge:No. Never. Nothing at all. Neither Lick nor McDonald.
DeVorkin:I know there was quite a bit of opposition among the council members to ERA. Could you say what kind of opposition it was?
Burbidge:Yes. People felt that this was a political action, this is not really an astronomical action or issue. It doesn't matter to the future of astronomy whether ERA is passed or not. Now, the woman would say: "Yes, it does matter." And various thoughtful men will say: "It matters very strongly." You can take the extreme, you can look at what can happen suppose there grew up an anti-Semitic prejudice? We now look down upon those German professional scientists and people in universities and academies who did not battle the anti-Semitic issue in Nazi Germany. We say, "Oh, they should have stood up." For example, incoming vice president Leonard Searle put this very strongly this is going in his letter the things that you may see as purely political issues do impact science in the larger sense, and any kind of discrimination impacts astronomy. Those people who felt that it was purely a political issue don't feel that. They feel that women are doing OK and that it ought to be battled on a different front, perhaps doing more to encourage women in the sciences. But they say the ERA is too broad a front.
DeVorkin:Too broad a front?
DeVorkin:These are people on the council?
Burbidge:Council and general members who have written. So we could have rescinded this vote at this last council meeting. But everybody had had a chance to read the letters because I've been circulating these, xeroxing and circulating them. And they began to see. You know, each side saw some of the other. And Art Code, who had not been present at the previous council meeting, Vice President Code he was snowed in in Madison at the time of the Austin meeting wrote a very thoughtful letter, and J. Ostriker, who was quite strongly in favor of the ERA vote, felt that there should be a committee set up to take a further look at this, and look into legal issues too. I mean some people have said, "Well, if you get involved in this, it's going to be lobbying and you'll lose the tax-exempt status." Well, it turns out, you don't. But we'd better look into this properly.
DeVorkin:I know that that wouldn't happen.
Burbidge:No, it wouldn't because the treasurer has looked into that. So anyway, we didn't rescind it. What we did was set up this further committee to consult again, and to hear all sides of the membership. We set up another committee to look into the status of women again. It's five years since that previous committee did its work. And we set up another one to see what could we do to improve the pitiful representation of minorities in astronomy. John Slaughter, you know, is the new man in NSF, is a black.
DeVorkin:I'm not familiar with him.
Burbidge:He's the new head of the AOAEO Atmospheric, Oceanographic, Aeronomy and Astronomy. I had to go and talk to him about another issue, about a grant for the AAS, a small instrumental aid to beginning astronomers, and he asked me just that question: "How many black astronomers are there?" And I could think of only three that I know. How many do you know?
DeVorkin:Ben Peery, Carruthers
Burbidge:Yes. And there's Walker.
DeVorkin:Walker I don't know.
Burbidge:Walker at Stanford, and chaired the Sac Peak fact finding committee.
DeVorkin:There's another one. He was a graduate student at Yale and he's in celestial mechanics. I don't know where he is, I don't recall his name, I think Johnson or something like that.
Burbidge:Yes. But it's all too few. So there were immediate volunteers for all of these committees. And some of these people who are teaching in Southern states Bill Straka said they felt very strongly that they wanted to be on a minorities committee.
DeVorkin:He's teaching at Jackson State.
DeVorkin:How about Ben Peery? He certainly should be on it.
Burbidge:Well, yes, I know, but Ben Peery is chairman of the committee on manpower and employment. And he's been so overloaded with his work at Howard, he's had no time to do anything on that. So we thought, we'd better not overload him with yet another committee.
DeVorkin:He's building up an astrophysics program.
Burbidge:Yes. And it's taking up an awful lot of his time. I don't know that he's had much time for his own research since he went there.
DeVorkin:No. I talked to him last November, and it looks like he's running into the usual bureaucratic problems.
DeVorkin:Ben Peery must be a very valuable person, being in Washington in his position.
Burbidge:Yes. Oh, we will. Indeed we will.
DeVorkin:I guess it's good to have the office at AUI, but might it be associated with Howard?
Burbidge:Oh, yes, we seriously thought about that, and he said he thought some space could be made available there. In the end we decided it wasn't quite central enough. Maryland offered space too. And we decided Howard was preferable to Maryland, from the point of view of accessibility to NASA, NSF and Capitol Hill.
DeVorkin:But it really wasn't downtown as you wanted.
DeVorkin:I see. Well, we've covered quite a lot of material. So I thank you very much for this session. I've enjoyed it.
Burbidge:It's interesting, to think it all through.
DeVorkin:If you could think of, let's say, a piece of research work that you've done or are involved in, just as a final comment, in your career as its gone thus far, that has given you more satisfaction than anything else does any one thing come to mind?
Burbidge:Oh yes. It would be the nucleosynthesis, B2FH.
DeVorkin:OK. That's fine. Just so we have that on tape. Thank you very much.
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