Oral History Transcript — Dr. Leo Goldberg
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Interview with Dr. Leo Goldberg
Leo Goldberg; August 9, 1983Appraises Goldberg's (b. January 26, 1913) career at Harvard where he was Higgins professor of astronomy (1960-73) and Chairman of the Astronomy Department and Director of the Harvard College Observatory (1966-71). Goldberg relates his decision to come to Harvard from Michigan, then discusses his scientific work while at Harvard, as well as internal politics and conflicts. A brief account is given of his decision to go to Kitt Peak, where he served as Director (1971-77).
Session I | Session II
Gingerich:I'd like to show you this picture which Martha Liller has received from the Indians; (see appendix) and I believe this is the summer school in 1936.
Gingerich:This is the group photograph of the people there. And the question is, are you on this picture? Is that you?
Goldberg:Yes, No. 41.
Gingerich:There are a few people unidentified.
Goldberg:That's at the entrance to the Shapley residence; is it not?
Gingerich:I believe so.
Goldberg:I think so. Yes, I had a big head of hair then. Who is unidentified?
Gingerich:In the front row between Jenka Mohr and Sergei Gaposchkin.
Goldberg:Oh, that's Paul Merrill.
Gingerich:That's interesting, because I thought he looked very familiar. Now, you said in your other interview he was the one person from Mt. Wilson that you had met before you had actually gone out there on a fellowship.
Goldberg:Well, yes, Paul Merrill and Olin Wilson. Olin Wilson used to come, or at least he came once, anyway, and taught in the Harvard summer school, and spent the summer here during this period, before 1940.
Gingerich:Okay, this is 1936. Were you here for the summer school in 1935 as well?
Goldberg:I certainly was.
Gingerich:Which was the first summer school.
Goldberg:That's right. Do I see Wilson here?
Gingerich:No. Between Florence Bibber and James Cuffey, who is this person?
Goldberg:Isn't that Leah Allen? Does that name ring a bell?
Gingerich:That could be.
Goldberg:Leah Allen, I think. That's what immediately springs out. You might check her out.
Goldberg:She hasn't been identified elsewhere on the picture.
Goldberg:You know him, I guess.
Gingerich:That's Loring Andrews.
Gingerich:Let's see, who else is unidentified, Nos. 30 and 31.
Goldberg:Is that John Merrill right there? It looks like it.
Gingerich:Which one would that be?
Goldberg:There, in back of Elizabeth Baker, No. 32; that would be No. 33.
Gingerich:Right behind is marked as being Barbara Cherry.
Goldberg:Barbara Cherry. Well, it certainly doesn't look it. (laughs). It doesn't even look like a woman to me, but it could be.
Gingerich:Yes, I think it could pass.
Goldberg:You think it could pass for Barbara?
Gingerich:Yes, I haven't done the identification. I haven't even looked at them. Who is it that is right in front of you?
Goldberg:I don't know.
Gingerich:A very serious fellow, to be in that black coat on a day like that.
Goldberg:That's right, with a big forehead. No, I don't know.
Gingerich:All right. Anyway, Martha Liller was keen to have your opinion about these things.
Goldberg:Anybody else unidentified?
Gingerich:That is it, apparently.
Goldberg:I see you have James G. Baker and Carl Seyfert with question marks; but that definitely is who they are.
Gingerich:Martin Schwarzschild and Sid McCuskey also have question marks.
Goldberg:Sid I noticed. He's okay. That is this one. I didn't see Martin. Where is Martin supposed to be?
Gingerich:No. 47, two over.
Goldberg:That? Isn't that Bancroft Sitterly? That certainly is not Martin Schwarzschild. That looks like Bancroft Sitterly, although I don't know what he would be doing there. Isn't that funny. I don't think Martin arrived until 1937.
Gingerich:But his future wife would still be there?
Goldberg:She graduated from Radcliffe in 1935, and presumably she entered graduate school. I just say, presumably, because she never got a degree. But Barbara could have been there. How in the world is that (to himself)?
Gingerich:Maybe we should just run through them, and you should make some remarks about what their role was at the Observatory, or at the summer school. Let's start with Loring Andrews.
Goldberg:Loring, Andrews had his degree, of course, early on. He had the title of secretary of the Harvard Observatory, and was an instructor and taught navigation, a very personable, nice man. He didn't teach any advanced courses in astronomy. Then of course there is Menzel and Whipple, and Knut Lundmark, who was a good friend of Shapley's.
Gingerich:He was one of the prize lecturers for the summer school, I assume.
Goldberg:Yes, he was one of the lecturers, and he came on more than one occasion, as I recall. And then Leon Campbell.
Gingerich:How was Campbell perceived here at that time?
Goldberg:He was the recorder of the AAS, and a very nice man, and I think well respected for the work that he did. He was not a professor, and didn't take part in teaching in any way.
Gingerich:Did he interact with the graduate students at all?
Goldberg:Yes, certainly. As a matter of fact, as I recall, his office was on the corner of the Building A on this location, and you practically had to go past his office in order to go upstairs to the library. So he was always very visible and very pleasant, and would chat with you as you went by.
Gingerich:All right. There are Shapley and Saha. Did you hear Saha give the lectures then?
Goldberg:Yes, I did, and I heard him give the colloquium on the stratosphere of Solar Observatory which was very stimulating, to say the least. It was published in the Harvard Bulletin.
Gingerich:Yes, and then Shapley put it into his 20th century source book.
Goldberg:Yes. And Ted Sterne. Ted was a very bright man. It was generally understood that he and Whipple were openly competing for one tenure position that might eventually be made available. Ted seemed to be a pretty good theorist, and yet at the same time, strangely enough, he teamed up with Richard Emberson, who came as a Ph.D. in physics from Missouri, to build infrared radiometers. I believe they carried out some experiments on the 60-inch telescope in that time period.
Gingerich:Did it eventually work out that Fred Whipple got the spot and Ted Sterne left? Or had Ted Sterne already gone off to Operations Research and that kind of thing beforehand?
Goldberg:What happened was that Ted left here in January of 1941. In fact, he was called up. He was a Reserve Officer, and he was called out and sent to Aberdeen. Of course, I remember that very well, because I was called upon to finish the second half of his undergraduate course in astronomy, in which Dick Thomas was a student. I believe that right after the war Ted chose to remain at Aberdeen. I don't believe he came back. He had a good position there as a civilian.
Gingerich:He was here, however, briefly in the late 1950s.
Goldberg:He came after the Smithsonian came to Harvard. Fred Whipple brought him here as a Smithsonian scientist; and he left, I would say, in 1960. I remember walking into Donald's office in what would have been the spring of 1960, and encountering Ted who had come in to say goodbye to Donald. Let's just say that he was rather bitter about the Smithsonian, and was leaving to go back to Aberdeen.
Gingerich:I knew he had come here for a short time, and that somehow it didn't take. He and Dick Thomas were among the participants when Bondi gave his series of lectures here one semester; and they frequently are recorded as making comments in the transcript.
Goldberg:Yes. Well, it would have had to have been sometime after 1955, because that's when Smithsonian arrived.
Gingerich:I was away those years, so I'm not sure exactly when it was he came; but I saw him when he was here in 1958-59. Now Rupert Wildt had not yet come upon the H minus opacity?
Goldberg:No, that came in 1938. I may be getting ahead of myself. At some point Rupert was hired to analyze S.A. Mitchell's eclipse spectra. I don't know whether he was hired to do it or whether he wanted to do it and got access to the plates but that was one of his major efforts for awhile. As I recall, he didn't publish that until after the war in about 1946, and he published new evidence that the line widths in the chromosphere were excessive, and had to be interpreted as either broadened by turbulence or by a relatively high temperature. But he was working on the eclipse spectra, as I recall. Now, in 1936 he had just come over from Germany, or not much earlier, perhaps a year or two, and I don't know where he was, come to think of it.
Gingerich:Was he here at Harvard longer than just for the summer school?
Goldberg:I think so, yes. The thing that I'm a little bit fuzzy on is that, as I recall, about that time Gerard Mulders was here using the microphotometer, and I thought he was working on Mitchell's eclipse spectra, too. I know that Wildt's results were published in the APJ, about 1946, so if it were of interest, you could find the story there.
Gingerich:But was he one of the summer school lecturers also?
Goldberg:I believe so. My memory of that is rather vague after all.
Gingerich:Tell me about Jenka Mohr. She was one of Shapley's harem, so to say.
Goldberg:Yes, but she was his principal administrative assistant. Most of the harem worked on variable stars and galaxies, etc. She was more of an executive assistant type, and seemed very sharp and personable. I don't know what her education was. She probably had a master's degree.
Gingerich:I'm told she's still alive, living some place in Connecticut, I guess.
Goldberg:She was kind of his Girl Friday, you know, a lady Friday, or whatever. So she was very familiar to everybody in the Observatory.
Gingerich:Paul Merrill, I take it, was just out for the summer and spoke about spectroscopy I expect.
Goldberg:Yes, he had worked at Harvard briefly around 1916. Again, that is just sheer memory, doing some laboratory spectroscopy, or maybe stellar spectroscopy, before going out to Mt. Wilson. But he gave a series of lectures on variable stars.
Gingerich:Are you going to skip Sergei Gaposchkin?
Goldberg:Oh, Sergei Gaposchken.
Gingerich:Looking like a very lively figure there.
Goldberg:You know Sergei as well as I do. There isn't much more that one can add about Sergei. He came, I believe, around 1934 when he and Cecilia were married, and well, just started doing what he did for the rest of his career here, including quite a bit of personal enhancement, bragging and complaining that he wasn't being properly recognized and all that sort of thing. This little guy here is Arthur Sayer. He was a contemporary graduate student who worked with Donald Menzel on a problem that had to do with gaseous nebulae in astrophysics.
Gingerich:Did he finish his degree?
Goldberg:I think he did, eventually. I think he started out as a kind of special student. He was one of those who got a degree of Associate in Arts and then went on to graduate work. I think that for awhile he was employed at Brooklyn College. But his career rather petered out, and I don't recall hearing any more from him.
Gingerich:Yes, so that's why I asked if he had in fact got a degree.
Goldberg:I'm quite sure he got a degree. In fact, the department here has a list.
Gingerich:Oh yes, I have it right here. Why don't we go back to the other end where I guess that is Henrietta Swope.
Goldberg:Is that Henrietta?
Gingerich:That's how it's identified here.
Goldberg:It could be, yes. She looks a little rounder, but then that's because of the photography; but Henrietta was certainly there. Henrietta was one of the harem, you might say. She had a master's degree, and worked on variable stars, a lovely person, of course.
Gingerich:And next to her?
Goldberg:That is Carol. She became Carol Rieke. Carol Anger, I think, her maiden name was, and she married Foster Rieke, who was a graduate student in physics, who later got a position at the University of Chicago and died at a relatively young age. She is still alive. In fact, she recently visited Tucson, and I talked to her on the telephone. She is the mother of George Rieke, the infrared astronomer at the University of Arizona.
Gingerich:I didn't know that.
Goldberg:Yes, well, Carol worked on variable stars. Is this Edith Jones?
Gingerich:It's marked here as Florence Campbell Bibber.
Goldberg:Oh. I don't know. Edith Jones, later Edith Jones Woodward, was a graduate student. I think she got her degree.
Gingerich:Oh yes, she did, because she was teaching at Wellesley when I went there. But I don't think it looks like her.
Goldberg:You don't think it looks like her?
Goldberg:Okay, Florence Bibber is a very familiar name, but I can't visualize her. Edith may have come a little later; I just don't know. And that, I think, as I say is Leah Allen. Was she working here, or was she at one of these women's colleges. Anyway, she was a member of the AAS, and worked on double stars, or variable stars. And that of course is Helen Dodson, who I think was at Wellesley at that time teaching. That is Jim Cuffey and Carl Seyfert. I don't know whether you knew Carl; Carl was very outgoing and enthusiastic.
Gingerich:I think I met him once or twice.
Goldberg:When I was a senior he was a first-year graduate student, and I used to see a lot of Carl right up until the time he died.
Gingerich:And Jimmy Baker must be somewhere in there.
Goldberg:Yes, he's in back.
Gingerich:Yes. He was a graduate student who was in your class?
Goldberg:Yes, he arrived in 1934, having been "discovered" in Louisville by a friend of Harlow Shapley's, named Bullitt, of the famous Bullitt family. You know, there was a William Christian Bullitt who was ambassador to the USSR. Then there was a William Marshall Bullitt, a brother, who was Shapley's friend, both of them men of means. I don't recall the exact details, but the impression I got was that Jim had graduated from the University of Louisville, and was working in a bank, because he didn't have the money to do graduate work. Somehow he was "discovered" by what means I don't know, and came here with some help, presumably from Bullitt. Jim has never talked about that. It would be interesting to ask him. He arrived in the fall of 1934, and very clearly marked himself as an unusual thinker; put it that way. You always can tell these guys who are highly original. They just don't think about problems the way the rest of us do (chuckles). He immediately began — well, I don't remember which came first. I think Donald involved him in the planetary nebula series, but that was a year or two later. At first, you will find a joint paper by Menzel, Baker and Goldberg, in the APJ, on "The Excitation Temperature of the Solar Reversing Layer." Then Jim had the idea that he wanted to derive chemical abundances for stars along the main Sequence, a very ambitious project in those days when the whole subject was new. There weren't very many f-values. He looked at the spectrograph that was then available on the 61-inch telescope, and saw that it was unsuitable. It was a very badly designed spectrograph, as a matter of fact, which was, I'm afraid the heritage of the one year that H.H. Plaskett spent here before Don Menzel arrived. It suffered from the traditional mistake that people made of having collimators with short focal lengths, requiring very narrow slits, and particularly when it was in a place where the seeing was bad, this meant that you threw most of the light away. Anyway, Jim set out to design his own spectrograph and began to do research on optics, and that led him into the work that later became his prof- ession. He did design the spectrograph. I think it was built. For one reason or another nothing much came of that particular project, one of the reasons being that Jim just went on into optics. That captured his fancy and imagination.
Gingerich:That's interesting that you tell it that way, because I've heard an innuendo or suggestion that he was in some ways driven out of doing direct astrophysics by some rivalry with Donald Menzel.
Goldberg:I never heard of that, because while all this was going on he was collaborating with Donald and Lawrence Aller in some of the early papers on statistical equilibrium in gaseous nebulae, hydrogen gaseous nebulae. You see those papers in the series.
Gingerich:I knew that he's in the series.
Goldberg:Now, it could very well be that there was something about his working relationship with Donald that drove him out, but I don't believe that's true. He maintained very warm relations with Donald. His relations with Shapley turned sour, but that was after the war. But I thought that, gee, what was the occasion — did I mention that at my birthday dinner? I may have mentioned the same story in his presence and he's never denied it.
Goldberg:The story of how he got into optical research by designing a new spectrograph for his doctoral thesis, and as I say it didn't materialize. Then Jim got into the Society of Fellows and I don't know what he submitted finally as his doctoral thesis, probably some of the papers on gaseous nebulae. But by that time also, I think around 1938, he Had already designed this flat field Schmidt. But what really affected his career was that during the war he set up a laboratory to build optics for military purposes.
Gingerich:You say that after the war Jim Baker had already been given tenure as an associate professor?
Goldberg:I think you will find that is correct, yes. It didn't last very long, because Shapley thought it was inappropriate for an associate professor or professor of astronomy to run an optics laboratory. He forced them to move that laboratory to Boston University where for a number of years it was run by Duncan MacDonald. Duncan had also been a student here. I'm not sure whether Duncan ever got his degree, but it was run at BU for a number of years, and may still be going on for all I know, but probably not. Anyway, as a result, Jim resigned his professorship, and went into consulting at various places. And it was a pity in a way, yes.
Gingerich:I didn't realize that. I know that when I first came here in the late 1940's he certainly had an office here at the observatory.
Goldberg:Well, he's always had an office. After he resigned he was given an office, and ever since I've known him he's had that small office in Building B in the basement. Now just how soon after the war he resigned, I don't recall, but I'm sure it is in the observatory reports.
Gingerich:Now, who all was in the same entering graduate class with you?
Gingerich:Yes, he's there.
Goldberg:Who was older than the rest of us, and took three years to finish; Jim Baker; Jack Evans, who is there: nd I think this fellow, Daniel Norman — I don't know where he came from, but he was a contemporary graduate student. Dorrit Hoffleit got her degree the same year I did in 1938, but I think she had been around quite awhile also before deciding to resume her graduate work. And Edmondson.
Gingerich:It seems like a bumper crop of entering graduate students.
Goldberg:Yes, well, it was a pretty good group. Aller came a couple of years later. Harold Lane had already been there two years or so. Greenstein graduated as an undergraduate five years before I did and was out in the business world.
Gingerich:Between Carl Seyfert and Harold Lane is Alice Farnsworth. She must have been the director of an observatory somewhere, and just here for the summer?
Goldberg:Yes, I think she taught for many years, I would say, at Mt. Holyoke.
Gingerich:I think that sounds right.
Goldberg:Yes, she used to come up frequently.
Gingerich:And Helen Thomas is next.
Goldberg:Yes, I think she worked for Leon Campbell in the variable star field.
Gingerich:And directly behind her?
Goldberg:You mean the lady?
Gingerich:No, the man.
Goldberg:The man? I was just about to ask you that.
Goldberg:Oh, no, I don't know.
Gingerich:I guess I'll put it to Jimmy Baker. Maybe we'll get some more. Lois Slocum.
Goldberg:Lois Slocum, let's see, was she at Wheaton College? She was the niece or something of Frederick Slocum of Wesleyan College in Middletown, Connecticut? I think of Mt. Holyoke and I think of Wheaton, and I think of Alice Farnsworth and I think of Lois Slocum and I don't know which was which.
Gingerich:I'm sure that Farnsworth was at Mt. Holyoke, as you say.
Goldberg:Yes, I think Lois was perhaps at Wheaton.
Gingerich:Okay. Then there is Frances Wright, who seems to have been here forever.
Goldberg:Yes, as far as I know, she was doing then what she is doing now, but hadn't gotten into navigation. That didn't come until the war. And this girl was Rita Paraboschi. She was an undergraduate at Radcliffe and got a bachelors degree and she married Jim Cuffey.
Gingerich:Okay, so now there's Dimitroff back there.
Goldberg:Yes, back there, back of Greenstein, yes, George Z. Dimitroff.
Gingerich:I gather that he and Bok just never hit it off, and that at some point Bok said, either he goes or I go.
Goldberg:Oh, I don't recall that; but Dimitroff could be quite obnoxious, and in many ways he was sort of a bag of wind. He talked a lot. He was an older man, and came as a graduate student after having been out teaching for quite a while. He was likeable all right, but better not to be in a position where he had authority over you.
Gingerich:(chuckles) I see.
Goldberg:And now, probably, if he clashed with Bart, it would have been after Dimitroff got his degree in a typical, you know, Shapley move. I mean, Shapley was just so uncoordinated when it came to instrumentation. In fact, he was spastic. (chuckles). He appointed Dimitroff to take charge of the shop and the engineering after Willard P. Garrish retired, who was an engineer.
Gingerich:Did you know him? Was he here?
Goldberg:Yes. He retired, as I say, and Dimitroff succeeded him. Now, whether there was a hiatus of a year, I don't know; but Willard was around at that time, 1936, still, a very distinguished gentleman of the old school, a walrus mustache and a portly figure. Dimitroff was put in charge, and he was in charge of designing and building the Schmidt telescope.
Gingerich:Oh, the Jewett Schmidt.
Goldberg:Yes, such a fiasco.
Gingerich:(laughs). I have just met, at a party on Sunday, Jewitt's grandniece or somebody like that, and she said she wanted to come up here and see the telescope. And I just laughed. I said, why don't you come up to the plate stacks and ask to see some of the plates taken with it?
Goldberg:Yes, I don't know who would be the best person to recite the sad story of the Jewett telescope, Jim Baker probably, because he was one of the many people who was involved in trying to make it work, and going out there night after heart-breaking night. When the telescope was pointed to the zenith, the shutter blocked its view of the sky.
Gingerich:This is what I remarked. I said it had many bizarre properties, one of which was the huge star at the top of the dome that kept it from seeing the zenith.
Goldberg:So anyway, that was Dimitroff. He was a real disaster in that position. Later he became a teacher at Dartmouth, and I guess he was quite good at undergraduate teaching. He was something of a personality. But I tangled with him. I practically rewrote his thesis for him, by the way. I just helped him as a brotherly graduate student act in around, I think 1937, when he got his degree. And later when he was in charge at Oak Ridge when Shapley asked me to get that ill-fated aluminizing tank working, it was a terrible struggle. We had no money, and I would try to get small sums of money, even $25 from Dimitroff, without any success. And yet, I remember one day he came in, and we had been working about 80 hours a week on that bloody thing, trying to find the leaks. Rod Scott and I were working on it together. I was a heavy smoker in those days, and you know, there was a concrete floor out there in the 60-inch; that's where the tank was. And there were cigarette butts that I dropped on the floor, and he came in and gave me a lecture about the cigarette butts one day and I really blew my top (laugh). I'll never forget the day that McMath came out in the spring of 1941. He took him out to Oak Ridge, and George very proudly showed him around. At that time the 61-inch didn't have a protective housing over the worm wheel. And you could see it. It was covered with dust and crud, and McMath in his typical sort of poker-face manner said, well, George, I've never seen a worm wheel lapped with dust before. George didn't know how to take it quite. A couple of months later I went around saying my goodbyes, because I was going to work for McMath — I went out to Agassiz — and George patted me on the back, and told me how lucky I was to go work for a man like McMath. Because George really was impressed with authority, and McMath was a very authoritative-looking guy. And then he allowed as how maybe someday, you know, if I worked hard and got a reputation, maybe I might even be able to come back to Harvard. (laugh).
Gingerich:Well, you succeeded where he didn't. I got out the list of graduate students just to see. Arthur Saver had just got his degree.
Goldberg:Oh, that early.
Gingerich:And Sid McCuskey must have had it then by the time of the summer school.
Gingerich:And Loring Andrews had his in 1933 and Carol Anger in 1932.
Gingerich:And so these are the people who were there with you: Seyfert, Dimitrof, Edmondson, Greenstein, Hoffleit, Cuffey, Evans, you.
Goldberg:Watson, yes, Fletcher Watson.
Gingerich:But Fletcher Watson isn't on the picture, so he must not have been.
Goldberg:I don't know what happened.
Gingerich:Daniel Norman is there.
Goldberg:(Florence) Shirley Patterson.
Gingerich:You said, somebody Jones. And I was confused, because I was thinking.
Goldberg:Yes, Shirley's name was Jones. I'm sorry, she married Jones.
Gingerich:She married, yes, that's right. It's the right person, Florence Patterson Jones.
Goldberg:I see, and Edith Woodward is 41, so that probably isn't she. She came a little later. Look at the women, four in a row.
Gingerich:Yes, and then Baker.
Goldberg:Well, he was delayed only because of being in the Society of Fellows, and so was Aller.
Gingerich:It's interesting. I saw you mentioned in your other interview something about Leland Cunningham being the telephone operator, and having great difficulty deciding whether to enter graduate school. I see that in 1946 he then takes a degree.
Goldberg:Yes. One of the things, I think, that decided him was Comet Cunningham, 1940. He did his thesis on that. It was a very courageous thing to do in those days. Jobs were still very scarce. And for a man of his age to finally take the plunge, give up his job and to enroll in graduate school, took courage.
Gingerich:Let's go down the list a little. Elizabeth Baker, were they married already at that time?
Goldberg:Yes, they came to Harvard together. She was a Louisville girl, too.
Gingerich:Was she actually working at the Observatory?
Goldberg:I don't think so. It's possible, though, that she might have. She was a mathematician like Jim.
Gingerich:So here she is, I guess.
Goldberg:Yes, that's Liz. Who is that? Next to her?
Gingerich:Let's see. Now, you're asking who's next to Elizabeth Baker?
Goldberg:Yes. That's 35.
Goldberg:Oh, good heavens! It doesn't look like her.
Gingerich:I don't know who's made the identification.
Goldberg:I don't think that's right. In fact, I see her right in front of me right now. I knew Dorothy.
Gingerich:Okay. She would be right next to Bill Calder.
Goldberg:She was next to Bill Calder, but she was not an astronomer, and they lived out at Agassiz Station; as far as I know, she never came in and attended lectures.
Gingerich:Okay. Well, I'll put a question mark there.
Goldberg:Yes, I definitely question that.
Gingerich:Okay, so John Evans is in there, and Daniel Norman, apparently flanking her.
Goldberg:Yes, that's right.
Gingerich:And Bill Calder was working on photoelectric photometry, I suppose.
Goldberg:That's right. In fact, my first assistantship was working for him. I started out in the spring of my senior year, 1934.
Gingerich:But it must have taken him forever to get his degree.
Goldberg:No, didn't he already have his degree?
Gingerich:He already had it?
Goldberg:Calder. He got his degree in 1933, I would have said.
Gingerich:Oh yes, you are absolutely right. I'm mixing him up with somebody else. Okay, so he had his degree at that time. Now, Frank Edmondson, you said, came in in the same class with you, or had he already been here?
Goldberg:I think he came in the same class with me in 1934.
Gingerich:Because he got his degree right away in the same year with Jesse.
Goldberg:In three years, yes, but he wasn't fresh from a Bachelor's degree. He had at least a Master's degree when he came to Harvard. In other words, his undergraduate class was perhaps 1933 instead of 1934. Frank was one of those people who was pretty well organized at the time, and knew what he wanted to do, and not fumbling around like some of the rest of us. We weren't sure what kind of astronomy we wanted to do. In fact, I hadn't been an astronomer for very long. But Frank had had contact with astronomy for a long time, and he was already married to Margaret Russell Edmondson.
Gingerich:Richard Emberson you just mentioned. He was a fellow graduate student who never got a degree?
Goldberg:No. Dick got his Ph.D. from Missouri in physics, and he came to Harvard as a postdoc to work on radiometers. I think he actually used to make thermocouples up in what eventually became Bok's office. You know what I mean, in Building C.
Goldberg:He used to sit there and peer at these tiny bits of metal. And afterwards, I guess during the war he went to Washington and worked, I think, in the Naval Ordnance Laboratory. Sometime after the war when Lloyd Berkner — it must have been in the early 1950s — became president of AUI, he hired Dick as his strong right arm, his legman. Dick was very much involved in the building of NRAO.
Gingerich:Yes. That's interesting.
Goldberg:Oh yes, he was right on the firing line in those very difficult days when the 140 foot was first designed and found to be of faulty design, and had to be scrapped after it was half completed. Those were turbulent times, and I got to know Dick very well in those days, because I was on the board of AUI, and I liked him very much. He was one of these people that wanted to do something for science and for the world. He was not self-serving at all, not personally ambitious. He went out West somewhere, and I haven't heard from him for many years. When I first came in contact with John Wolbach, early in 1937, I got Dick to tutor John in detail in mathematics particularly, maybe physics as well, by the hour. I didn't feel I had time to do it myself, and so Dick had that early contact with John, as well.
Gingerich:There is Dorrit Hoffleit.
Goldberg:Yes, and Rebecca Jones.
Gingerich:What did Rebecca Jones do?
Goldberg:Becky worked in the Nebular Department, and she may even have been the first one to set eyes on those two members of the local group.
Gingerich:Oh, Fornax and Sculptor. I thought those were discovered by one of the Lindsays.
Goldberg:Well, or maybe it was a large new planetary nebula. Yes, you may be right about that. She may have discovered a large new planetary nebula. These things used to appear in the Harvard Bulletin. Becky used to work at the Lick Observatory where the Menzels knew her, and it was through Donald that she came back here about that time and worked for several years in what we called the Nebular DeDartment. I don't know whether she moved to Aberdeen to work during the war. Most of those girls evacuated Harvard Observatory during the war and went to MIT and other places, and never came back. And Rebecca married an astronomer named Boris Karpov, I think his name was, and they lived in Connecticut for a number of years, until she died some years ago, a very good-natured person, nice person, Becky was. You could always count on her giggling at your jokes.
Gingerich:I gather Bart Bok was very much involved in running the summer schools. Or at least, Jimmy Baker says he was involved in running the first one, because Shapley was abroad in the first few weeks when it started.
Goldberg:That's a detail that I don't remember. But Bart was certainly much more of an operator. There was never any doubt in his mind about what was the right thing to do, and so it could have been. And he was certainly close to Shapley. Donald, on the other hand, particularly in those days, was very dreamy-eyed and off with his thoughts in left field, a typical absent-minded professor. At least, that was the image he gave.
Gingerich:Sidney McCuskey had just finished.
Gingerich:And so you knew him as a fellow graduate student.
Goldberg:I did. His wife, Jeannette, worked as a secretary in Shapley's office to help him through.
Gingerich:Yes, she's still living. The reason I know this, I'll come back to it in a moment. But let's finish off this list. Samuel Thorndike.
Goldberg:Yes, Sammy Thorndike, gee whizz. He taught at BU — no, there was another fellow Lewis Brigham that taught at BU. Sammy taught at some small place in this area. I keep thinking of Wellesley. Everybody teaches at Wellesley at some time or another. Maybe it was BU, along with Brigham, or Brigham had retired. But he used to be at the Observatory frequently, carrying on some research. He was not a major figure.
Gingerich:Now, do you think that is Bancroft Sitterly?
Goldberg:Yes, it looks just like him.
Gingerich:It certainly doesn't look like Martin Schwarzschild at all.
Gingerich:There's no way, I think, that can be Martin.
Goldberg:No, he's not in the picture.
Gingerich:Sitterly had the possibility of being around at that time.
Goldberg:Yes. I don't remember his being there. I used to see a lot of him later, but that was only because I am more accustomed to thinking of him together with Charlotte Moore Sitterly. And I believe he taught at American University in Washington.
Goldberg:But he could very well have been there that summer.
Gingerich:And Arthur Sayer, we said had already got his thesis finished just about that time.
Goldberg:Yes. In fact, I found some memos in my file in which I had thought I found a mistake in his thesis before it was submitted. In fact, I read it for him.
Gingerich:Now, it's not possible for me to tell from this list and picture if this represents the summer school, or represents the staff; but since it's got all the summer school lecturers sitting there, my assumption is that it more or less represents the summer school.
Goldberg:Yes, but, not all of them. As I recall, there was one particular course, if you want to call it that, to which people came for a week at a time, and I think it was that course that Merrill was teaching, or could have been teaching at that particular moment. Because also in the summer of 1936, I remember that Swings was here, and Dean McLaughlin, probably. I don't know whether Shapley wrote about those people in his annual reports or not.
Gingerich:I'll have to look there. He certainly didn't mention them at all in the memoirs, and this is partly because the questioners who originally did the interview with him didn't know enough about them to ask. But it looks as if here are primarily the local students, graduate students, and just a few people, teachers from other colleges. Did these summer sessions draw graduate students from any other place?
Goldberg:This summer was probably a more extensive summer school; Pannekoek was the regular lecturer, and I have the impression that Struve was there for awhile, and maybe even Minnaert. Pannekoek was there in the summer of 1936, also, because he came to the tercentenary celebration; but whether he stayed there, I don't remember.
Gingerich:This one is from 1935, and I think that's Struve.
Goldberg:Yes, that's right. It looks like him. There's Peter Millman, and yes, that's Lois. That is listed as Lick Observatory. Maybe at that point she was still at Lick, but she was soon to make a transition to one of the local places.
Gingerich:These are informal pictures that Jimmy Baker has from that time. How much did Shapley interact with the graduate students?
Goldberg:Quite a lot in a personal way, but he didn't teach. But here's one marked Dr. Struve on the other side, August 1935, Dr. Struve and group. This is in front of the Agassiz cottage. And dormitories along the Charles River. Shapley interacted in other ways; for example, the Hollow Squares were very memorable occasions, and students always liked to go to those. He used to have parties at his house, very impressive parties, and they were relatively frequent. He used to come down every Saturday afternoon and play volleyball in the basement of Building D. You know, as you come in the grade door in Building D and turn right, there used to be, I guess there are offices there now, a large room that was labeled laboratory in the drawings, and it had metal pro¬tectors over the lights. He designed it right from the start as a volleyball room.
Gingerich:Volleyball. Is it high enough for that?
Goldberg:Well, it was high enough to play volleyball in it. And they were pretty strenuous games because I remember that famous Saturday afternoon when I had been struggling with this concept of fractional parentage as a means of calculating multiplet intensities, a bee that Donald Menzel had put in my bonnet and then had gone away and left it — I didn't have the foggiest idea of what the hell he was talking about. I don't think he did, either. He just had some intuition that if we could use these new concepts of fractional parentage we could learn something about line intensities. And I remember coming up after one of those games just dripping wet, sit¬ting at my desk relaxed, and suddenly getting the inspiration, and rushing over to Menzel's house. We sat up all night writing a paper for the PHYSICAL REVIEW letters, which will be found in PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS in early 1935, I think, something like that.
Gingerich:Did Menzel come and play volleyball?
Goldberg:No. It was just Shapley and the students.
Gingerich:I know, Shapley at one time said that the way he could decide who ought to be a Westinghouse Science Talent winner was to engage them in a game of pingpong and a game of bridge. Was there lots of bridge playing going on, too?
Goldberg:Yes, lots of bridge. And Menzel played bridge a lot, and Leland Cunningham; they were very good, those two. Cunningham used to invite Menzel to play with him at the Boston Edison, duplicate tournaments once a week — after awhile I got invited over there, too. It was not uncommon to win the turkey. I remember once we had a 22-pound turkey by pooling our winnings, and Florence Menzel cooked it for Thanksgiving. They used to play at the Menzels quite a lot, and I got to play. And often Shapley would need some relaxation, and he would call up Florence, and if Donald was busy, I'd go over there with her, and we would play bridge with the Shapleys in the evening. Yes, there was a lot of that.
Gingerich:At the Shapley parties, would they include bridge over in a corner for some people or not?
Goldberg:Sometimes, yes, for those who didn't like to dance. There was lots of dancing. Some of it was organized. Shapley liked to conduct Virginia Reels.
Gingerich:Yes, I know that was certainly a f eature of the later parties.
Goldberg:Most of the parties were at his residence; but even once there was a party at the Agassiz cottage. In fact, I remember Lyman Spitzer and Shapley playing partners in the Virginia Reel once. He used to put on all kinds of other stunts at these parties, and encourage people to put on, you know, creative stunts, and little plays, and singing solos. They were very enjoyable. In those days nobody had any money, and you just didn't go out to the theater or to night clubs. And for a graduate student it was a great experience.
Gingerich:Did you ever have a chance to sit down and talk science with Shapley? Or did you hear about those things mostly through the Hollow Squares?
Goldberg:Oh yes, I talked with him frequently. He had a sign on his door: "11 to 12 a.m. or p.m., Please". And that meant particularly 11 to 12 p.m. If you wanted to talk to him, knock on the door and he would never turn you away. And I did that ca a number of occasions. He was always over there. He was dictating. You could hear him through the door, in Building D. So it's quite a different environment from what it is today, it was much more informal.
Gingerich:Well, different in the scale and everything.
Goldberg:Yes. So Shapley was much more accessible than, let's say, George Field got to be when he was in the job. No comparison.
Gingerich:Of course, but it's a different kind of a ball game. Let me turn the clock up to the time when you came back to Harvard as a professor. I don't want to keep you too long.
Goldberg:But, excuse me, you know, to me one of the most exciting aspects of being a graduate student in the 30's was that that was the time when Donald Menzel was leading the way in applying atomic physics to astronomy in a big way. And I think that's become more apparent now than it was at the time, because of the impact that we now see that atomic physics made. For example, after starting me out as an undergraduate, on some Mira spectra that he had taken at Lick Observatory, he very soon switched me over to calculating theoretical line intensities. Menzel clearly had the vision to see that it was going to be very important to derive chemical compositions of stars; at that point, it had only been done in a rather crude way for the sun by Henry Norris Russell. We knew almost nothing about chemical compositions. You could look at apectra and speculate that, as Cecelia did, chemical composition was uniform, throughout the universe, because you could account for the major changes in the spectra as due to temperature and secondary pressure. But there was no regular quantitative determination of chemical abundances. So I worked on those, and later switched to helium, absolute strengths in helium, calculated wave functions in helium. I calculated a selfconsistent field for neutral iron with a physicist at MIT, named Millard Manning. One summer he would come up to my office here in the evenings and we would grind away. I had an extensive correspondence with him after he moved to Toledo. He died tragically quite young; but Menzel promoted those contacts with the MIT people. He introduced me to George Shortley when I was still an undergraduate as a senior, just starting the work on the multiplet strengths. Then Shortley taught me how to make those calculations. I continued the association with Shortley until he left science a number of years later, 15 years later, or more. I got to know Philip Morse, who tutored me on the variational method of calculating wave functions for helium. I used to go to his house in Belmont and ask him questions.
Gingerich:This was one of the centers for that; and it seems that the other person doing the most on the outer parts of stars was perhaps Unsold who was very much working alone during this time. Did you hear about him, or I suppose you must have been aware of his book when it came out.
Goldberg:Oh yes, I was aware of it, and heard of it. And he was in fact in this country. He spent a period of time at Yerkes in 1937-38; and I'm afraid that my impression of Unsold was affected by his political views. He was quite a strong supporter of the Nazi movement in those days before the war, so much so that after the war Chandra refused to allow him to be invited to Yerkes when he came back on a tour in this country. I'm sure Unsold's ideas had changed by then, but he was quite an outspoken Nazi.
Gingerich:He was never a party member, but he may have been very sympathetic.
Gingerich:He said, and of course, these views are colored by speaking to me, say five years ago, that he was the last person to get a professorship in astronomy or astrophysics in Germany without being a party member; and that it was then impossible for him to move or have any advancement because he hadn't joined the party.
Goldberg:Well, I remember the Stockholm IAU meeting in 1938, walking behind him and Menzel, and he was really laying it on to Donald about the glories of what was happening in Germany, and anyway!
Goldberg:No, but Unsold was a very good physicist and astrophysicist. But he wasn't into atomic physics, which is really pretty fundamental. I think Donald had been under the influence of people like Oppenheimer and others when he was out in California, so he learned. He tried to learn atomic physics. And anyway, he did that classic paper with Pekeris in 1935 on hydrogen line intensities. And it infected all the rest of us.
Gingerich:Well, that is still a standard paper in this area.
Goldberg:Yes. So you know, when I see now you've got a distinguished professor at Harvard of astronomy who does atomic physics, molecular physics, we have come a long way since then. But I think Menzel was very farsighted, and probably — I can't really be sure just to what extent he visualized that these abundances were impor¬tant for stellar evolution.
Gingerich:That was the other question I was going to ask. It was related to this. And that is: There wasn't any work being done on interiors,, or questions of stellar evolution, really. That seemed to be the bailiwick of the English astronomers or Stromgren.
Goldberg:Yes, that's right. Yes, and not much on evolution, either, because in those days stars were believed to have evolved down the Main Sequence, cooling as they evolved. But the ideas on evolution were completely random. I mean, nobody really knew.
Gingerich:Well, why was it that you went to work on the helium? I mean, was that seen as being a key abundance problem, or simply something whose lines were very conspicious in early type stars and in nebulae?
Goldberg:I think mostly the latter. There were some problems that Struve had identified, something he called the helium anomaly, the intensity ratio of the singlets to triplets. Helium had strong lines in the sun. Also after hydrogen, helium was the easiest to calculate on an absolute basis. And the only wave function that had been calculated for helium at that point was the wave function of Hylleraas, the ground state of helium, but none of the excited states. So it was a combination of those things. It's easy for me to maintain that I did it because I foresaw the importance of helium and the Big Bang theory. That wasn't really the case. (laughs).
Gingerich:I wouldn't believe you, if you told me.
Goldberg:Yeah, you were looking around for interesting problems to work on, and you liked doing atomic physics, which I did, and it seemed to me that helium was the next step. We had already had a crack at iron and that was just too tough with the machines that were available, the hand calculators that were available at that point.
Gingerich:But people like Shapley figured you were not quite really an astronomer doing these things?
Goldberg:That's right. Yes, I think I may have told you that at the end of my first year as a graduate student, he sent me one of those little notes on yellow paper, suggesting that in view of my research interests, it might be better if I transferred to the physics department or MIT. And that may have been conditioned partly by my poor performance on my undergraduate honors orals, because I had only transferred to astronomy in my senior year, and I immediately became intrigued with these atomic physics calculations. Frankly, I wasn't turned on much by planetary and Milky Way astronomy.
Gingerich:You probably didn't know the right ascension and declination of the Magellanic Clouds.
Goldberg:That's right. So anyway, we got over that hurdle.
Gingerich:Did you seriously think about transferring to physics maybe?
Gingerich:Because of course you wanted to work with Menzel so.
Goldberg:No, what really turned me on were the books by Eddington in which he talked about the behavior of atoms in stars. At that time I was a junior and taking my course in atomic physics from Otto Oldenburg.
Gingerich:STARS AND ATOMS, is that the book? That was a very popular book of Eddington's.
Goldberg:No, there were several books. I was beginning to read INTERNAL CONSTITUTION and I'm trying to remember; there were a couple of others, that Bok recommended to me.
Gingerich:The others were on relativity or things like THE NATURE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD?
Goldberg:The NATURE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD. Not relativity. So I went on and got my degree, and in those days, too, when you took your orals, you were quizzed on what was in Russell, Dugan and Stewart, rather than on your thesis. And these fellows had a field day with me, again, because I had been so singleminded and so specialized.
Goldberg:This is for your Ph.D. orals?
Goldberg:That's right. And what was so amusing in retrospect is that I represented the wave of the future more than they did, because more and more, as time went on, the students began to specialize, as students, and to broaden out afterwards, instead of getting the breadth first, getting the broad coverage first and then specializ¬ing. In fact, certainly in my case, my students looked upon me as a person of great breadth and range. (chuckles). It always amused me, considering my beginning. But when I finished, Shapley and Bok were very worried about where I was going to find a job. They advised me very strongly as a postdoc to go out and begin making observations of variable stars, just to prove that I was an astronomer. And I did. I made two-color observations, let's see, with the 12 inch MA, and there was another blue sensitive telescope, an 8-inch, I think, that was strapped to it.
Gingerich:It was the IR which was an 8-inch, but IA don't think) when I knew it, it was separately mounted.
Goldberg:Well, the 12-inch, the MA had just been moved out to Agassiz and I know I went out there. I used to go out there on those cold winter nights and take plates on various regions, variable stars, two colors.
Gingerich:Did you publish these?
Goldberg:No, I didn't publish them, because while I was in the process of working on them, the call came to go to Michigan, thank god. I turned them all over to Father Hayden, and he eventually used them in his thesis, I think. But that was the prevailing view, that I just couldn't get a job on what I knew at the time. I had to prove to people that I could use a telescope, even though I had been using them for years.
Gingerich:Did that have any effect whatsoever on the job you got in Michigan?
Goldberg:No, I don't think so. Oh no. I had had a lot of observing experience, all for pay, not for my own work. I had used any number of telescopes, beginning with the 60-inch, and I was on the Selected Areas program here in the yard in Cambridge one year, night after night. As I said, I used the MA and so forth. McMath claimed many years later that I had been represented to him as an experimentalist by Harvard. I can never be sure how serious he was, or whether he was trying to pull my leg.
Gingerich:Was he just putting you on, or was he disappointed?
Goldberg:No, he wasn't disappointed.
Gingerich:How much interaction did you have with Bok while you were a graduate student? You were obviously working with Menzel, but he must have kept good track of all the graduate students.
Goldberg:Oh yes, I had a lot of interaction. I took his course in stallar statistics, and his course in celestial mechanics. He was always around. As I say, it was a small, happy family, and you saw the professors frequently there. They were never out of touch much, except for an occasional AAS meeting, so you socialized with them.
Gingerich:Were there a different set of people running the astronomical lab down on Jarvis Street?
Goldberg:Not by the time I arrived. There used to be, up until the time of a fellow named Harlan T. Stetson. I think he was the last one that had his headquarters there and practically never came up here.
Gingerich:Well, what made me think of it was the fact that there was a book sale from our library last week. I don't remember if it was Andrea or somebody else. I think Andrea got this copy of Harlan Stetson's book on sunspots, and there was a note in it from Bart to Don saying, thanks for lending me this. It sure is a lousy book, or something like that.
Goldberg:Yes, SUNSPOTS IN ACTION, I think, was the book. Yes, I knew Stetson.
Gingerich:I gather from that note that neither of them took much stock in Stetson's astronomy.
Goldberg:Stetson was already here when they came, and I guess he was on the way out. I think eventually he went out to Ohio Wesleyan. He had two beautiful daughters, one of whom married a friend of mine at Michigan, so I used to see her out there. By the time I came the elementary labs were being held down there, and as well as maybe some public courses, and Bok would be down there quite a lot. During the war it was the headquarters of a WPA project that Menzel had for the reduction of his 1936 — not during the war, just before the war — Eclipse Expedition to Siberia.
Gingerich:Who did he hire for that sort of project?
Goldberg:Daniel Norman was in charge. It was around the summer of 1940 particularly. I probably ought to remember one or two of them, but I don't, people who had been trained to have some scientific training. But Norman had a Ph.D., and well, that's another story. (Tape begins with Gingerich speaking) ............. factor and so on, because there are a lot of interesting Goldbereg—27 things, and I want to think about that more as to exactly what questions to ask.
Goldberg:All right. Maybe we can structure it a little better. I feel as though I have just been rambling on.
Gingerich:No, I think that I want to get something about the feeling for the place and the color of it. And this is what I've been getting from you, and I think it's been quite useful. Also, there has been almost no overlap in what you said now and what you had said to Spencer Weart.
Gingerich:These two things have to dovetail together in terms of having the maximum usefulness. Maybe Weart's interview was in some ways a little more structured.
Goldberg:Yes, he came with a set of questions.
And he had your papers from exactly that time, so he knew what to ask.
Session I | Session II