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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Philip Hauge Abelson

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Interview with Dr. Philip Hauge Abelson
By Amy Crumpton
At Washington, D.C.
July 3, 2002

Oral history interviewee photo
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Philip Abelson; July 3, 2002

ABSTRACT: Education in chemistry and physics at Washington State University in early 1930s; graduate studies and work on cyclotron under E. O. Lawrence at University of California, Berkeley from 1935-1939; investigations into products of neutron irradiation of uranium; identification of transuranic element 93 with Edwin McMillan; scientific activities at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at Carnegie Institution of Washington; work on enrichment of uranium for nuclear submarine project at the Naval Research Laboratory; describes information channels between scientists and government officials during World War II and his perspective on the use of the atomic bomb; continued work at Carnegie by investigating biosynthesis of E. coli using radioactive tracers; as director of Carnegieís Geophysical Laboratory conducted organic geochemical investigations of amino acid decay in Mercenaria mercenaria; co-editor of the Journal of Geophysical Research; reflections of his editorship of Science.

Transcript

Session I | Session II | Session III

Crumpton:

This is Amy Crumpton speaking with Dr. Phil Abelson and it is our third session, July 3, 2002, and we are still at the AAAS headquarters at 1200 New York Avenue in Washington, DC. Dr. Abelson, last week we discussed your work at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, your scientific work in terms of uncovering some of the properties of uranium and the properties of neptunium. This week, Iíd like for us to delve a bit more into your work as editor of Science magazine, which you held for quite some time. But, first, I think you have precursors to your editorship of Science and why donít you tell us a little bit about that?

Abelson:

Following the end of World War II in 1946, I had to make a decision whether to go back to Berkeley or to rejoin Merle Tuve at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. I chose to go back with Merle Tuve because he had a very broad picture of what physicists could do and how they could interact with other areas of science. He also realized that there was a big future in radioactive tracers and that the biologists, for instance, who might use it and the biochemists who might use it didnít know anything about measuring radioactivity. This was a topic they knew nothing about. So, here was an area in which the physicist had a special advantage. And we had a cyclotron there that operated so we could make radioactive tracers. I was fortunate in that one thing that Merle Tuve did was to make me chair of a small group of biophysicists. I was chairman of the Biophysics Section in 1946.

Crumpton:

At Carnegie?

Abelson:

At Carnegie, at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of all places.

Crumpton:

Okay. How small was this group?

Abelson:

Well, in the end it was four or five.

Crumpton:

Okay.

Abelson:

I didnít originate the work on microorganisms, but another physicist, Richard Roberts, did. He showed that interesting things could be done and so I took my business to the microorganism and I had a great time studying the various pathways of biosynthesis. We did some beautiful biochemistry with the radioactive tracers, because you could tag a given compound with carbon-14. One thing that I did was that I noted that there were some canna leaves growing by a gasoline station, so one morning I harvested some of those leaves.

Crumpton:

Fieldwork.

Abelson:

Fieldwork. And took them to the lab and exposed them to the radioactive carbon dioxide and, of course, the leaves got busy and made sugars and other things. So, we had the necessary reagents, radioactive reagents, to test extensive biochemical pathways.

Crumpton:

Now is this where youíre using E. coli? Or is that the next step?

Abelson:

We were using it. Turns out that the E. coli will grow in a medium with a few mineral salts, a nitrogen source of ammonium compound. If you put in a little bit of sugar, oh, they are so happy and they grow wildly. They will double in less than an hour in that medium. It further turned out that as chemists theyíre pretty smart. If you put into the medium a compound that they will need, for instance if you put in an amino acid in the medium, then they wonít make that from the sugar. Theyíre lazy chemists, they will take whatever is already made and use it rather than...

Crumpton:

Break something else down?

Abelson:

...making something brand new. It was so much fun. We, also, were fortunate that there was recently developed paper chromatography. You could isolate the proteins, for instance, from the E. coli and hydrolyze them and then get the migration of the amino acids and they would separate according to their different properties. You could use a photographic film that when exposed to the radioactivity would darken. You could easily identify which amino acids were radioactive and which were not in those E. coli. Well, it was such great fun then because you could also, if you wished, take these chromatographs down to the Geiger counter and then count the number of beta emitting particles. I still have a vivid memory of it because you were there and almost each day you sound out something new and additional. It was great fun to know that you were doing something that had not been done before.

Crumpton:

Right.

Abelson:

In the end, our work covered not only the synthesis of the proteins but the synthesis of the nucleic acids, the DNA and so on. We pretty well knew the capabilities of Escherichia coli and how Escherichia coli made a living.

Crumpton:

Right. And you produced this knowledge in a volume, right, a textbook.

Abelson:

In the end we had a book.

Crumpton:

Now did you along the way did you also publish any of this work?

Abelson:

Yes, there were some things published. Not only did I do E. coli, but I did a couple of other things. I had one little adventure into yeast, for instance, just to see and I found, aha!, yeast does its business in a somewhat different way. Many of the things are identical to E. coli, but there are some interesting differences.

Crumpton:

So did you begin, Iím sorry, did you begin to broaden your network of different kinds of scientists in this work? Were you starting to really meet more biologists perhaps or other chemists?

Abelson:

We were doing sufficiently interesting work that on several occasions we invited some people from NIH to come and we told them what we were doing.

Crumpton:

Okay.

Abelson:

Well, while I was busy doing that, it turned out also that Alfred Neir of the University of Minnesota, who was a distinguished physicist there, had done some of the early work on radioactivity of rocks and had started to determine some of the ages of rocks. Tuve brought one of his students to the lab and saw to it that he had a mass spectrometer so that he could determine the ages of rocks. I got interested in this and it so happened that I knew something about ionic exchange columns and I knew how to separate the various elements cleanly and this was helpful to the people doing the radioactive rock study. This lead on because it turned out that the directorship of the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution became open. And, Vannevar Bush, who was president of the institution at that time, sought several different people and they took their business elsewhere. He also then learned that I knew something about the dating of rocks and our program had been pretty successful with the microbes. So, one day he took me to lunch at the Cosmos Club.

Crumpton:

And made you an offer that you couldnít refuse, basically?

Abelson:

And made me an offer.

Crumpton:

Great.

Abelson:

And so, in due course, the following September, I was director of the Geophysical Laboratory.

Crumpton:

How large was that laboratory at the time?

Abelson:

It had about ten or twelve staff members. But, they also had done some beautiful work earlier. They had pioneered in the use of physical chemistry in geology. The geologists mainly had moved around using hammers and knocking specimens off the outcrop and then examining what they saw with a microscope. So, that doing geochemistry was a new, in the end, it changed geology. I came to be in on that and the laboratory had an excellent reputation. But, I decided that the kind of geochemistry that they were doing was too far advanced and that what I ought to do was to work on some other aspect. They hadnít worked on the organic geochemistry which I had knowledge about, of course from my tracer work. I had knowledge about how you could study for instance amino acids. One of the first things that I did was to go down to an outcrop on the Chesapeake Bay and I had associated with me some honest-to-god geologists. I collected some of the Mercenaria mercenaria, which is a clam that exists today but it also existed thirty million years ago. So, I studied to see how does that clam put its shell together. I found that the modem clam has thin layers of protein and layers of calcium carbonate that make up the bulk of the shell. But these thin layers of organic matter are protected, theyíre sealed under the layer of calcium carbonate. When I looked at some of these thirty million year old clams, I found that there still were some of the amino acids in it. But, it turned out that some of the amino acids had decayed and others were more stable. This led me in to looking at what are the influences of time and temperature that determine what kind of organic matter is preserved in the formations. This led then to seeing how things change with time, led to a kind of a time scale for some of the more recent things, but it also then led to studies of how petroleum is formed. Because, you find out that the algae die and they sink and get covered in the mud and then ultimately with time and temperature their fatty materials are converted into oil. So, thatís what I did at the Geophysical Laboratory. It also turned out that being director of the Geophysical Laboratory automatically made me someone to be consulted.

Crumpton:

Okay.

Abelson:

Thatís how it is in this world.

Crumpton:

Right. You had the title.

Abelson:

You have the title. Youíre a director of something. It certifies you. Well, it turned out that Merle Tuve had been editor of a geophysical journal and it had been costly to maintain, took money out of the Carnegie money, you canít print a journal without spending money for paper. He had another interesting thing that he wanted to do so he wanted to stop being editor of the Journal for Geophysical Research. So, he noised it about that he might stop publishing this journal. This was in the late 1950s and the Russians had done Sputnik and so there was concern that the Russians were getting ahead of us on some of the geophysical things. So two of the distinguished geophysicists whose basic area of expertise was in physics, Morris Ewing was a distinguished physicist and Lloyd Berkner was distinguished physicist, organized a meeting. By reason of my distinction as a director I was invited to be there. There was about five of us at the meeting and Ewing had a relative, Dr. Peeples, who he thought might be a possible editor. I sat and listened to what they were saying and I realized that the matter of money was important, so in the course of the discussion I suggested that, among other things, when papers were published in the journal there ought to be a page chart. If you set a page chart that was at the right level, no matter how many pages you published, youíd still break even, because you were covering your costs per page. Well, that kind of chit-chat appealed to these people and though I didnít make the suggestions for any reason, by the time that particular session was over I was baptized as a co-editor of a Journal of Geophysical Research.

Crumpton:

So, this was 1958?

Abelson:

Yes. In the course of two or three years, our publication went from about 700 or so pages a year up to about 6,000.

Crumpton:

Wow. How big a circulation did it have, do you recall?

Abelson:

We did a good job. We saw to it that it was published rapidly and pretty soon we were publishing most of the geophysics that was happening in the United States and some that was happening elsewhere. It turned out that after a few years, the editor of Science got himself into a little trouble and so, he was asked to take himself elsewhere. I was invited again to the Cosmos Club by Dael Wolfle.

Crumpton:

Youíd have been suspicious by then, donít you think, that going to the Cosmos Club would invite more work to you? So, yes, Graham DuShane was asked to resign and you met with Wolfle at the Cosmos Club and he offered you the editorship of Science?

Abelson:

I initially said that I couldnít be expected to write any editorials. And Dael Wolfle didnít like that very much because it meant he would have to do all the editorial writing.

Crumpton:

Well, how was your time management? Did you have to cut back a lot of your work in the lab when you started becoming editor of the geophysical research journal? Or, how did you manage your time, I guess is what my question is?

Abelson:

Well, I was pretty good at getting other people to do the work. But, with the exception of the fact that there is something in my DNA that I love to learn and I love to learn about new things. And this led me to identify who were the key people, who were the experts in the field. At that time it was feasible to get them on the phone and to get them to enthuse about what was new and important. You know, sadly enough, itís not like it was, because today if you try to get somebody important on the phone, you get some secretary who doesnít know anything and you may or may not ultimately get in touch with the person that counts. But, in those days, before the internet and so on and email and all these things, the telephone was the way that scientists communicated and they responded to a telephone call. So, by identifying the important people and the important groups and getting in touch with them, I found that people actually liked to be consulted. They like to have somebody call them and ask them for their wisdom.

Crumpton:

Right, right.

Abelson:

And you donít have to spend an awful lot of time on that, because youíre getting the cream of the cream.

Crumpton:

Yeah, yeah. So, the size of your staff when you started at the Journal of Geophysical Research, did you have a staff?

Abelson:

Well, it turned out that part of the reason that I could operate was that we had, at the Carnegie, some editors to take care of the quality of the manuscript. Now, I mean, as you know there are two components. One is the importance of the content and the other question is is the thing written in a way that makes sense? You know?

Crumpton:

Right. Now, when you moved from the Journal of Geophysical Research to Science, you were moving from, I guess geophysical research is an interdisciplinary field so you were trying to reach some different scientists in different fields who were coming together to do this kind of work. But, Science was trying to touch lots of fields, far broader. Did you have any special challenges moving to a journal that was, not necessarily trying to be all things to all people, but definitely had a larger base of membership and therefore wanted to try to touch on lots of areas of science?

Abelson:

One of the reasons Dael Wolfle wanted me was, of course, in part he knew about the success of the Journal of Geophysical Research, but he also knew that here was a fellow that had done work in biochemistry, he had done work in physics, heíd done some work in chemistry. So, here was one of the few people who had a background in the sweep of sciences that would be in the journal and it certainly makes a difference to have somebody like that rather than a fellow who just specializes in a narrow area. So, it was relatively easy for me then to, again, develop these relationships with key people in the key areas of science.

Crumpton:

When you came onto Science, I understand that you brought with you or invoked a lot of changes in the way that the journalistic and editing process was done to help speed it.

Abelson:

Well, we speeded...

Crumpton:

Speeded things up.

Abelson:

...speeded things up. And I was fortunate that it was possible to double the circulation and that made a difference in the advertising and a lot of things. But again, in this case, there was some pretty good staff at the magazine and my function was to be the person that investigated what is new, what is exciting that is happening. And this enabled Science then to be a leader in publishing some new things, including we were very early in realizing the impact that computers were going to have on the scientific enterprise. And one of our fun things was that we also got the space exploration, there was some exciting things when they first sent those space craft out to the various planets, and we got it all.

Crumpton:

You got it quickly and into the pages within a week or something, I think it was, it was very quick turnaround of getting the information from NASA.

Abelson:

And then, ultimately, there was the return of the moon sample.

Crumpton:

Thatís the one Iím thinking of.

Abelson:

That was the one that was really important, because all of a sudden the various scientists around the world had got samples from the moon and they had looked at them. There was a big meeting down in Houston and key members of our staff, we all went down to Houston, and we got much of the evaluations, who had done the best work, all done in a few days. Because the key people were there and we tapped them. The result was that we were able to have a big thick moon issue. Thereís probably a copy here somewhere.

Crumpton:

There is. Yes, in the archives definitely.

Abelson:

In the archives, showing what was done in that very short time. Well, you know, in this world you just have to do something conspicuous now and then.

Crumpton:

That would be it, I think. Thatís quick. Your early years at Science were also, in my impression, early years for science journalism, as well. What kinds of changes or impressions did you have about the quality of science journalism at that time? As an editor, did you invoke any particular kinds of guidelines or changes on your journalists as they were writing for you? Particularly when you started doing things with the science news and information?

Abelson:

Well, one of the things that was done was we had a readership, more than half of whom had the PhD degree, a very critical readership. By the simple strategy of saying to the reporters that if you make a boo boo and if someone of our readers writes a letter to the editor weíre going to publish that letter. When that happened a few times it changed the nature.

Crumpton:

They got more careful about checking their facts and things?

Abelson:

Yes.

Crumpton:

Well, where were these people coming from who were the early reporters for Science? Did they have backgrounds in Science?

Abelson:

Well, we were fortunate. One of our initial reporters was Dan Greenberg and he still does some reporting and is a very competent fellow. And then there was Walsh, Tom Walsh, who had been on Capitol Hill in a congressional office. Well, those kind of people, they know, they have friends, they have entre. And in fact, if you look at who are the key people that are writing science for The New York Times today, youíll find that the bulk of them...

Crumpton:

Right, started in Science, thatís right.

Abelson:

...started in Science.

Crumpton:

As young reporters. Thatís true. Yes, itís been quite the breeding ground for most of the top journalists in science writing.

Abelson:

Well, I remember that one of the fun times involved Gina Kolata. One day she came in and she wanted a job on the magazine. We didnít have any reason to know what she might do and so we gave her some kind of a job of doing some copy editing or whatever. After sheíd been there about two or three weeks, one day she came in with a story that sheíd written up. She showed it first, I think, to Bob Ormes and in turn it was shown to me. This looked to me as good as anything else that we were taking. So we published it. This led on and on and pretty soon, you know, she was on staff as a reporter.

Crumpton:

Right. Right. Yes. Yes. Thatís also, I think, very distinctive, too, that there were a number of women reporters who worked through Science as well, which has been refreshing to see.

Abelson:

Yeah, that was one thing I always took a friendly view of. Among other things I had a very intelligent wife and so, I had examples that it was possible for women to be very intelligent.

Crumpton:

Right. And someone to remind you.

Abelson:

And not only that, but often times their insight into things is different than the males.

Crumpton:

Did you think so? Interesting. Thatís interesting. So, how did you resolve your original not wanting to write the editorís column for Science?

Abelson:

Actually, this resolution came only about four or six months after I became editor. It just happened that, as a chemist, I knew that the Noble gases, like xenon, didnít react with anything. This was the established fact. They were called the Noble gases because they didnít react. And all of a sudden hereís somebody who causes a reaction, xenon plus fluorine. I learned about it and, of course, immediately, you know, the minute you have one example then other people are jumping.

Crumpton:

Who was the original person who?

Abelson:

It was somebody up in Canada. I probably named him in the article. This was such a gee whiz thing that I had to comment on it, so I wrote an editorial. Well, that, you know, broke the ice.

Crumpton:

Right. Now, were you still performing editing duties for the Journal of Geophysical Research at the same time as you started Science?

Abelson:

I was for a year or two, but then I had plenty of other irons in the fire.

Crumpton:

Right. Right. How was your ability to stay and to work in the lab?

Abelson:

I made it a condition, so I stayed working in the lab until about 1971 at which time I became president of the Carnegie Institution.

Crumpton:

Was that another lunch at the Cosmos Club?

Abelson:

There was a year in my life when I was editor of Science, I was president of the Carnegie Institution, I was president of the International Union of Geological Sciences, I was president of the American Geophysical Union, and I was president of the Cosmos Club.

Crumpton:

And this is about 1971 or so?

Abelson:

1971 or 72.

Crumpton:

And you were probably also on a number of other kinds boards and committees?

Abelson:

Well, I was on some other committees, yes.

Crumpton:

And that, you had mentioned before, that was about the time, I think you said, that Neva came to DC?

Abelson:

Yes.

Crumpton:

Okay. Okay. Because I would say that it would have been really difficult to be traveling much with that many other responsibilities at one time.

Abelson:

Yes. Yes. No, when I became president she came down.

Crumpton:

She came down. Where did she, did she work at NIH or someplace like that?

Abelson:

No, actually she chose to do something sheíd wanted to do which was some genealogical research and, also, she wrote up some of her experiments that sheíd been doing at the University of Pennsylvania. Then she chose to spend a fair amount of her time managing me.

Crumpton:

That would have been a full time job, in and of itself, I would think.

Abelson:

Well, as I say, as it turns out, most men donít realize the advantages of associating with a very intelligent woman.

Crumpton:

Who can tell you what to do and when to do it?

Abelson:

Well, it so would happen often a situation would come up and she would react in one way and I would react in another and we would discuss the matter and find a better third solution.

Crumpton:

Right. Thatís wonderful, thatís really wonderful. Many marriages could benefit from that kind of communication, I think. Now you also had a daughter.

Abelson:

Yes.

Crumpton:

When was she born?

Abelson:

Well, she was born in, I guess about 1946.

Crumpton:

Okay. Ellen, I think is her name is that right?

Abelson:

Ellen.

Crumpton:

Alright. So, you have become editor of Science and youíre working extremely long hours, Iím assuming, because of your multiple duties at Carnegie and at Science. Now, did you physically keep an office at Carnegie for your Science editorship or did you shuttle between the AAAS offices?

Abelson:

When I started I had an office and I had a lab at the Geophysical Laboratory and an office at Science and then I had an office at the Carnegie Institution headquarters and an office at Science. I found that if you tried to do too many different things at once then you wonít do anything well. Then the thing to do was to spend a couple of days a week or even a week at the Geophysical Laboratory and then I would spend two or three days or a week at Science in one lump to get total immersion.

Crumpton:

Right. Right. And to work with staff and give them the chance to interact with you.

Abelson:

Yes. Yes.

Crumpton:

But, did you find that sometimes your duties would spill into each other. I mean, were you getting phone calls at Carnegie about stuff at Science because there was some issue that needed to be resolved quickly or things like that?

Abelson:

Very rarely. Very rarely.

Crumpton:

Thatís nice. It seems nowadays that people, theyíre constantly connected and often youíre getting phone calls all the time or emails all the time about stuff and you canít separate, you know, that this is your time to do x here and youíre going to go do y later. Sometimes that just doesnít seem to happen anymore.

Abelson:

Itís a loss when you try to manage that way. You need to give absolutely concentrated full thought to the matter at hand.

Crumpton:

Now you wrote in your editorials for Science, you covered lots of different subjects.

Abelson:

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Crumpton:

Many, many, many. But one of them that, I think, you probably covered more than any was the subject of energy. That was something that seemed to recur many times and, I guess, part of that was obviously in the 1970s, well itís always been an issue, having or not having national energy regulations and policies. I was just wondering if you might comment on the subjects that you touched on over the years and, you know, if any of them, like energy, had a special significance to you as a subject that you feel very strongly about.

Abelson:

Well, I took the view, and I still take the view, that without adequate energy you donít have civilization. Thatís a key component. Just as you donít have food, you donít have living people. So, there are certain topics that are just absolutely essential to the survival of civilized society. And, then there get to be modifications. I mentioned the computer. It was clear here was something that was going to change the way the shape, the way things were organized. And, so, we had a special computer issue.

Crumpton:

Right. Do you think that, or were you consciously, when you were editor of Science, were you striving to make Science a magazine that would be read beyond the scientific community?

Abelson:

Well, I felt that, well, obviously we would like to have that, but first of all we wanted to serve the people that were members of AAAS. And realizing that these were key people in the future of technology and the future of the country.

Crumpton:

Right, so you wanted to make sure that they were getting the information that they wanted first.

Abelson:

We wanted to see that they were getting what they needed to improve their judgment of things to do and where the action was.

Crumpton:

Now, the issue of rivalry with Nature. I wanted to ask your reflections on that, because thatís something that we all take for granted working at AAAS, that Nature has always been our rival. As the editor of Science for some many years, what did you think of that rivalry, what was its character?

Abelson:

Well, naturally I kept a beady eye on what was...

Crumpton:

What they were up to?

Abelson:

...what they were up to. And, I felt that, knowing what I knew about what was happening in the world, that their judgment was not always tops and that from time to time they actually published something that...

Crumpton:

That wasnít correct?

Abelson:

...that wasnít right or they gave emphasis to a topic that didnít deserve that emphasis. So, I didnít look upon them as really a true rival.

Crumpton:

Really? Okay. Thatís interesting. Did we have true rivals, did Science have true rivals during the time that you were working?

Abelson:

Not really.

Crumpton:

Okay. Thatís interesting. Peer review, the peer review process for science. I wondered if you would comment on the changes that you helped institute with that particular procedure and what are your reflections on peer review?

Abelson:

Well, one has to always remember that one is dealing with humans and with humans that have various axes to grind. Some are, when weíre dealing with humans, some are more objective than others. What you would do then is that youíd look at what a reviewer said about a manuscript and from time to time you might stop using that fellow as a reviewer.

Crumpton:

Now, were these judgments usually made by yourself or with other staff about who to use and who not to use?

Abelson:

Well, when these questions came up, in some instances, the staff. Well, in some instances it was just obvious and then in some other instances a question might arise and then I might be consulted. But, after awhile, as I say, your key staff people.

Crumpton:

They knew who would be good as well.

Abelson:

Yeah.

Crumpton:

Did you all feel as though that you were really contributing to the building of the peer review system during the years that you were with Science? Because it really is something that is sort of a primarily World War II phenomenon with the increasing number of institutions and programs and so forth and the need for, you know, good reviewers to hand out grant monies or to decide what the best science is and so forth.

Abelson:

I donít think I ever gave much thought to whether we were doing a laudable thing or not. My aim was to do it right. You know.

Crumpton:

So, that meant getting the best people that you could get.

Abelson:

Yeah.

Crumpton:

Right. Did you ever have any problems with the peer review system that caused you to make significant changes to it?

Abelson:

Not really. Any changes would be gradual and specific. We had a few instances in which, just very rare instances, in which there was a suspicion that a reviewer was going to try to claim or had tried to claim credit for having done something first. You know.

Crumpton:

Right.

Abelson:

You know, there are rascals in this world.

Crumpton:

Right. Right. Yes, and so, Science you would obviously just print a retraction if there was some mistake or that kind of thing. Right.

Abelson:

Yeah. You have to live with it.

Crumpton:

Right. And what about just sort of being then one who is working then in the publishing world. Did you make contact with other editors that were doing different kinds of journals and sort of widen your understanding of the publishing industry in general?

Abelson:

Well, one of the developments that occurred was that there was proliferation, you know what with the government supporting scientists and so on, grants money and so on, there was a proliferation of disciplines, subdisciplines and the rest. When you had the proliferation of a subdiscipline, that meant that somebody would get a notion shouldnít we get a journal of this or that to handle the special needs of people in this narrow area. Then what would happen was, in part, that some of the commercial publishing companies would jump in. There were a whole variety of ways in which new journals were supported and edited and guided. Well, this is a changing world and you gotta live in it.

Crumpton:

So, did you find yourself being asked for advice on whether or not certain journals should go forward or how to put one together or similar topics?

Abelson:

No, I donít recall that I was asked for advice.

Crumpton:

No? They figured you were the competition I suppose.

Abelson:

No, I just donít recall.

Crumpton:

Okay. Now, you certainly, though, were called on many times as editor of Science to come give talks all over the place?

Abelson:

I was invited on a great many occasions to give a talk.

Crumpton:

Right. Right. Right. And you went pretty much all over the United States, it seems, to give talks. And also places in Europe and Asia, as well?

Abelson:

Well, mainly in the United States, but I also did give talks in some other countries.

Crumpton:

Is this about the time, the early 70ís, that you took up your jogging activities?

Abelson:

Yes, one of the brags that I can make is that Iíve run in something like thirty-two different countries.

Crumpton:

Thatís amazing. So, you took jogging up sort of later in life or were you also sort of a physical fitness buff earlier?

Abelson:

No, no.

Crumpton:

No?

Abelson:

My exercising really, well, when I was young I was doing it and then there was a period in which I was not. When I was about of the order of 50, I started again. I would still be running, but a year or two ago I got in an automobile accident and got kind of cracked up a bit, so I only do my four miles a day in fast walk.

Crumpton:

That seems sufficient, I would think! Thatís really laudable to take up jogging like that and run in all these places. And you were very consistent it sounds like. Did you try to run every day...

Abelson:

Oh, yeah.

Crumpton:

...or several times a week? Did you have goals for yourself in terms of how far you would try to run?

Abelson:

I wanted to go about four miles. I was never a marathoner. I would figure out when I was in Istanbul, or wherever, I would figure out where best to go and, of course, I had also to think of it in terms of safety of the individual and so on.

Crumpton:

Did you always run alone or did you have running partners ever?

Abelson:

Very rarely did I have anybody with me. Mostly I did it alone.

Crumpton:

Right. Thatís very interesting. So, now, weíve come to the end of an hour pretty much and weíve covered pretty much most of the questions I think I had about your editorship of Science, although Iím sure Iíll think of a couple of more. Should we end for today and maybe have a shorter session at another time, maybe another half hour or so?

Abelson:

Well, I think that weíve covered it pretty well.

Crumpton:

Okay. The only other topics I would like to talk more about would be your other kinds of professional service and then just ask you some more sort of open questions about the changes, your reflections on the changes youíve seen, you know, over your career. Theyíre much more open ended kinds of things, but I donít think it would take more than half an hour or twenty minutes.

Abelson:

Well, I donít know whether I would have any wisdom to impart.

Crumpton:

You never know. The other thing we could do, too, is that I could provide you the transcripts and you could read over them and we could have another session.

Abelson:

That might be the best thing.

Crumpton:

Then that way we could pick up any things that you felt were left out and I could ask some open ended things then. In maybe a few weeks we could do that?

Abelson:

Yep. Okay.

Crumpton:

Alright. Well, thank you again. Weíll end this session.

Session I | Session II | Session III