Oral History Transcript — Dr. Laurence W. Fredrick
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Okay, this is an Oral History Interview with Dr. Laurence Fredrick, spelled F-r-e-d-r-i-c-k. The interviewer is David DeVorkin, the date is 24th of September, auspices AIP and the Air and Space Museum, and we're in Dr. Fredrick's office in the University of Virginia campus, Charlottesville. Right?
Right. Yes, and the first name is spelled with a "u" instead of a "w," so —
DeVorkin:What I'll be doing is taking notes for the transcriber, not anything other than that. So what I'd like to start out with is to build upon Robert Smith's interview that he took with you a number of years ago. This was for the space telescope. And you talk about your early life, but you don't identify who your father and mother were, and you mention poignantly that you were put in an orphanage when you were nine, and I'd like to know a little bit more about that part of your life, how that happened, and how that may have affected you in life.
Fredrick:Alright. Interestingly enough, I just was named to the President's Council it's called, the chief operating officer of this orphanage is now called a president, and he has a group of I think it's nine alumni that he gets together twice a year to help him with our points of view and so on, and I just spent last weekend up there all day Friday in a meeting at the school.
DeVorkin:What is the name of the school?
Fredrick:It's now called the Milton Hershey School.
Fredrick:And when I went there it was called the Hershey Industrial School. And it was so successful that the State of Pennsylvania used the term "industrial school" in the title of their reformatories, and so the school had to change its name because they didn't want to be considered a reformatory.
Although we would have claimed it was when we were there, it really wasn't. It was a marvelous school. The circumstances that put me there was my father died in the Depression, he got blood poisoning, and the laboratory, ironically the laboratory that had the serum developed for preventing that malady was located about 10 miles away but could not apply the serum because it had not been fully tested yet for general use. So anyhow, he passed away. My mother was quite young, as were the children, and it was in the Depression, so she had to make plans somehow to take care of us, and she heard of several orphanages — Gerard College in Philadelphia, the Hershey Industrial School, and I think there was also a Mennonite school. My mother and father's religion was that of a Mennonite brethren, and so she favored the Mennonite school, but — I forget where it was located. I really don't have that information in my head. But she heard about the Hershey School, and it was located in Hershey on farms, small units of children and so on, and so she decided that was the place for us to go. And it wasn't really a traumatic experience going there, but it was, in a way frightening at first when you suddenly realize that your uncle and aunt drove off with your mother and you were there alone. But the school was a marvelous school, it fed you, clothed you. When you turned 12, they put you on farm units, 25 kids to a farm unit, where you milked cows, you worked the field, and there it was discipline. They developed a work ethic by making you work, and I think the real design behind all that work was to get you so darn tired you wanted to go to bed and not get in trouble. So really, we didn't have to go to bed until 10 o'clock. Study period during school semesters ended at 9:00, and practically all of us, as soon as study period was over, would go to bed. Because you got up at 5 o'clock, 5:30 you had to be out there milking the cows, clean up, do all the work around the barn, clean up, eat breakfast, and go to school. So you did go to bed when you could, that was for sure.
DeVorkin:I can see that. What are father's full name and your mother's full name?
Fredrick:Theodore Fredrick. And let's see, my mother's name was, maiden name was Grace Irene Slider.
DeVorkin:And spelling of the last name?
DeVorkin:Okay. And you are of Mennonite background then?
Fredrick:Yes. I don't practice it anymore. I admire them and all of that, but it's very basic religion, and in fact the group that we belonged to was, I think they were referred to as River Brethren. And so they were really very, very excellent people. I still run into some of my in-laws who have retired and in general in those days the way you did it was through your church. And so they have large facilities in Pennsylvania for retiring and retirement people and so on. [phone rings]
DeVorkin:Go ahead. [tape turned off, then back on...] Okay. We're recording again after that phone call. Was there religious training at this school?
Fredrick:No. Well, there was a religious service, there was a Sunday service. I forget the times, but I believe it was maybe ten to 11:00 every Sunday morning they would take us to what's really the theater, the town theater, and we would have, there would be singing and some minister would — It was nondenominational, although Mr. Hershey himself was Amish. All the kids had to go to this. There was no exception. Nowadays they do allow them, after going to the nondenominational one, to go to a church of their choice if they wish. But in those days it wasn't. And in fact there's this very interesting story where the — I don't know if I'm allowed to use direct names and all this, but the —
Fredrick: — Catholic Diocese in Harrisburg, the whatever his name was or rank, priest came down and insisted with Mr. Hershey that he allow Catholic children to go to Catholic church for their religious training. And Mr. Hershey terminated the discussion by saying, "Do I tell your Pope how to run your church?" And that ended it, and he continued it along his way. He gave his entire fortune to this school.
Fredrick:And the endowment now is about $8 billion.
Fredrick:Eight billion dollars. The Penn State Medical School was put in Hershey because Hershey built it.
That's incredible. Let's move on. You mentioned also that you had a flair for mathematics, but you didn't describe or expand on where that came from. Did it happen while you were in the [???]
Fredrick:David, I have no idea where I picked this up. I know I enjoyed math because you could get an answer, and if your answer was different from somebody else's, one was correct and the other wasn't, or both were incorrect. It was that simple. I remember I believe I was in 10th grade we did trigonometry, and this favorite question that the math teacher gave us consisted of a series of triangles across the page, and you were supposed to start with the angle on the first triangle and calculate these angles across these triangles to the last triangle and come up with what that angle was. Well, the sum of the angles of a triangle are well known, and I saw immediately what the answer was and put it down, and I walked up and gave them my paper and said, "I'm done. May I go to the bathroom?" and he was furious. He was absolutely furious. He threw me out of class, and I had to go to the headmaster and had all kinds of discussions, and I should go and apologize to the teacher and all this. And eventually, I don't know how we smoothed it over, but eventually we became very good friends, and he was quite interested in my progress through life. We lost touch after about ten or twelve years after I left the school, but still, he was really a very thoughtful person. I think what happened was it just irritated him that somebody would get his pet question finished so quickly.
DeVorkin:Does this mean that you went through all of grade school at Hershey Industrial?
Fredrick:That's correct, yes, and when I finished with the Navy I had no other options really, so I went back there and talked with the headmaster, and he arranged to put me into the junior college. Hershey had a junior college which has since been taken over by the Penn State Junior College System, or whatever it is called, and I went a semester there, and the math teacher there who later went to Franklin & Marshall [?] and became very well known as a teacher, the math teacher at this junior college. His name was Haig, I remember.
Fredrick:And he took me aside one time and he said to the effect, he said, "Laurence, you are wasting your time here at junior college. You really should go to a college where you will learn something" and so forth, and so he recommended that I go down and talk to the people at Swarthmore College, and I did. I admired him; he was young and struck me as being direct. So I went down and I took the SAT at Swarthmore. I had no inkling what was in store. I simply made an arrangement to go and interview, and they put me off in a room and gave me an SAT and I took this test which lasted — this was an abbreviated test — but it lasted about three hours. And based on that, they called me up maybe a week later and said that I could start the second semester there.
DeVorkin:Were you on scholarship?
Fredrick:No. Now they do that, that school does that. They will pay, if you maintain a C average they will pay your room, board, tuition and fees at any school in the country. So —
DeVorkin:Hershey will? I mean the Hershey —?
Fredrick:Yeah. The Milton Hershey School.
DeVorkin:Milton Hershey School. Yeah.
Fredrick:But no, I had the G.I. Bill.
DeVorkin:The G.I. Bill. Let's go back and find out a little more about what you did in the Navy. Did you enlist?
Fredrick:Yes, I enlisted, and I should make it well known that we weren't stupid, and in those days the war in Europe was just about over, and but everybody who was going to Europe was in the infantry and they were getting ready to invade Japan, and again everybody who was drafted would go into the Army into the infantry. And I didn't think that was too wise a deal for me, so I decided that I would enlist, voluntarily enlist in the Navy, and even then I found that things were a little dicey because most of the kids they were taking in then they were after boot camp training them to be ship's pilots of landing ships. And I really didn't have too much of a desire to con [?] a landing ship. So. They gave some tests. Interestingly enough, they still gave their tests, and I apparently showed them a flair for radio techniques, code and so forth. So they sent me to radioman's school, and they still needed radio operators I guess, and I went to radio school and about halfway through that you learned to repair radios and take messages and all this stuff, they called me out and said that they felt I had progressed rapidly enough that maybe I would be willing to volunteer for a really secret part of the Navy, and if I was willing to volunteer they would tell me what it was all about. And I had learned in the orphanage not to volunteer, and in fact one of the best things that school taught me was to notice when the housefather was coming for volunteers and to make myself scarce. And so in the Navy I was never on a cleanup detail in boot camp, because I could see those guys coming from a long way away. A big advantage, let me tell you, for a young person in a military atmosphere. But in any case, I said — Essentially the war with Japan was over, they had dropped the bomb, and the emperor had announced that they were going to surrender and all this stuff, so the fighting did stop, and I thought well, it can't be anything dangerous and all that. So then they explained to me that they wanted me to go into decoding and encryption schools. And so I did.
DeVorkin:So you did volunteer.
Fredrick:So I did volunteer, because they didn't tell me where all these stations were, but they told me that they had stations in Hawaii and San Francisco and places like that, and that sounded pretty good to me. They didn't tell me they had stations in Adak, Alaska and Winter Harbor, Maine and places like that. But —
DeVorkin:Winter Harbor, yeah.
Fredrick:Which is a nice location, by the way. It's in the Arcadia National Forest, and I spent 13 months up there, which was really very nice. I spent 14 months up on Adak, and that was an education, that was young, not having seen very much of the world it was really worthwhile. I still have vivid pictures of Adak in my mind, and airplanes would come into the airfield, flying at an air speed of about 100 knots, but they were moving maybe 20 miles an hour with respect to me. The wind was going 80 miles an hour against them. And so, but a lot of things like that. And then I had a good time up there, so I don't begrudge it, and it did build up time, having volunteered I got three full years — well, your first 90 days I believe it was or your first 60 days gave you a year on the G.I. Bill. Maybe 90 days. And then every day after that counted as a day on the G.I. Bill. So I had effectively four years, and since you only go to school nine months out of the year, each year in school I built up three months so to speak. So graduate study, I did, I think I got about a year and a half out of the G.I. Bill on my graduate study. But even so, the G.I. Bill didn't pay Swarthmore's tuition completely, and I had to earn that working in the summertime. And actually what I did the first year was I borrowed the money from whatever the fund was, and then I had to pay it back with the summer, which meant the following September I had to borrow again and so on, but I was very fortunate and I got a job with an insurance company in the actuarial department, and that was the best paying department of the insurance company, unknown to me at the time, but that was the case, and in the three months at the summer work I would essentially make enough to pay back my loan and start over even — Steven the next September. So that's how we got through. My wife worked a little bit, for about I think it was about three years, and then we had our first child and we had already made an agreement when we got married, we had decided that if and when we had children one of us had to be at home anytime the children were at home. And so we didn't want our children coming home from school to an empty apartment or house or whatever, and so while I was studying, actually doing my Ph.D., she stayed home and raised the children. It was a tough time financially, but we got through, and I think the kids were much the better for it.
DeVorkin:I got the impression from Robert's interview with you that after you graduated Swarthmore you did work as an actuary for a while and then went back for your Masters work.
Fredrick:Yes. About a year.
DeVorkin:Was that mainly to pay off the bills?
Fredrick:Well, and I thought I might want to be an actuary.
Fredrick:And what happened was they gave me a job, a task making up an experience table for some problem, I forget what it was, and this one particular day I was almost finished with it, I was actually printing the table out on this old IBM computer with this big, smashing printer which would go kuhlank-kuhlank-kuhlank, and it was 4:30 and they shut the machine down. I mean the power cut off, and I was so ticked I went up to the president and I told him I quit.
DeVorkin:Oh, because they were just working 8:00 to 5:00 and it didn't matter what you were doing?
Fredrick:8:00 to 4:30. Actually it was 9:00 to 4:30. And it didn't matter; you had to be out of there. It was part of a downtown agreement in Philadelphia that certain companies, businesses would let out at 4 o'clock, certain other businesses at 4:15, 4:30, and so forth to spread the load out. And so I could understand it, but you couldn't put in any overtime, and I was really, well, I was a little brash. That was not a smart thing to do at the time, but I was headstrong and I went home that night, I remember I told my wife, "I quit." She said, "You what?" And so anyhow, I went back to school.
DeVorkin:Yeah. But let's go back actually and talk a little bit more about your undergraduate years. When did you enter Swarthmore, when did you graduate, and what was your major?
Fredrick:Let's see. I entered Swarthmore in I believe it was '48, and I graduated in '51, I think, and I was a math major.
DeVorkin:A math major, okay.
DeVorkin:You didn't think of using any of your Navy experience?
Fredrick:Yes, I did actually. I toyed around with the idea of going to the engineering school. Swarthmore had this tiny little engineering school in their setup, but I forget why I dropped that. My first seminar at Swarthmore was, besides the math seminar, was optics, and I enjoyed that tremendously, and I think when I was looking at engineering I was in that seminar and that convinced me that that type of physics was more interesting than engineering, and so, and I stayed pretty much with the mathematics. It was —
DeVorkin:I know you took an astronomy course under Pittman. Van de Kamp was on sabbatical that year or something?
Fredrick:I guess that's what it was.
DeVorkin:Do you know anything about Pittman or recall anything about the course?
Oh, he was a wonderful man. He was the Burgermeister or — they didn't call him a mayor, but he was the chief official of the town of Swarthmore, he was a very open person, he was a Democrat and Swarthmore was almost 100 percent Republican, so you know he was a very trustworthy and good man. And he had taken all of the, he missed fame by a hair. He had taken all of the observations of the Pleiades, photometric observations from photographic sources, from the new photoelectric techniques of those days, and so on, and he had this big chart of the Pleiades where he would enter data when it was good enough up on his wall, and he would put it there, and I remember his commenting that the observations of the brighter stars were contaminated because they didn't stay on the line; they moved away from the line. I don't think that was ever published, but I do remember I believe it was 1951 when there was, somebody published the Pleiades with this as evidence of evolution of the hotter, more massive early [???]
DeVorkin:So it deviated from the Zero Age Main Sequence.
Fredrick:Right. And I think they hardly even called it Zero Age Main Sequence at that time, but he should have published it, even if he didn't know what it was. But, and he was a straightforward, good worker. He assigned homework which you had to turn in, and Van de Kamp was a very popular teacher, so he had for Swarthmore big classes, 35 students, and we took it I guess on anticipation that Van de Kamp would teach it and he didn't show up, and this little, quaint man did, but he would take these problem sets and correct them and turn them back the next class with great regularity. I really admired him.
DeVorkin:Was there any photo —? It sounds like there was photoelectric equipment at Swarthmore and he used it.
Fredrick:No, no. The —
DeVorkin:Oh, so he used the observations of others?
Fredrick:Right. He would get the observations from the literature. The big photoelectric people at the time were of course Stebbins and Whitford, and this young guy Johnson, and there was one other, I forget.
Fredrick:That's it. Kron. Right. And but he had been doing this for years and years.
DeVorkin:I see. So he got it all from the literature.
DeVorkin:But he was on the staff. He was a faculty member.
Fredrick:Oh yes. Oh yes. He was a professor of astronomy, and was well respected.
DeVorkin:Okay. Did you do any observing or any lab work in astronomy during your undergraduate work at Swarthmore?
Fredrick:Let's see. I began; I believe I began to observe in 1950. They had, they were short on observers and the fellow that they relied on, I forget where he was, Wallingford or some small town nearby, became ill for a period. So I don't know how it happened, but they put up a sign asking if there were volunteers for observing, and that they paid to observe. So I asked about it, and really with the idea that it was a source of income.
Fredrick:For during the school year would give us a little extra. So I think it was, I believe 1950, yeah it would be the fall of 1950 when I was trained. And I enjoyed the observing.
DeVorkin:Was that trained by Van de Kamp?
Fredrick:Let's see. There was a postdoc there at the time, Hans Roth, R-o-t-h. Hans Roth. He went to UCLA from there and I've lost track of him, but he taught the observing. It was really not very difficult. The main problem was of course the wintertime when it got bitter cold and you had to be out there in the dome with no heat and work the telescope. So.
DeVorkin:Did you know what the goals were of the observing program?
Fredrick:Yes. Lippencott, after I became an observer, Lippencott, Sara Lippencott, took me — it's very vague now, but it seems to me we had a week vacation or something from school, or it may have been over the Christmas holiday or whatever, and she went through the whole thing with me. Why they observe certain stars, and how they picked out what they were going to observe, and all this sort of thing, which I think — well, I'm very vague on that. But I'm quite sure she was the one who explained in detail what they were doing.
DeVorkin:Looking for astrometric binaries, possibly planetary masses, that sort of thing?
Fredrick:Right. They were interested in lower end of the Main Sequence, as everybody is who gets deeply involved in astrometry, and I came back to that when I came here to Virginia. But originally I had other ideas in mind.
DeVorkin:Yeah, I'd like to get to those. Well, you graduated in mathematics, you worked for about a year as an actuary, but then you decided, when you quit being an actuary, to go back to school. You said your wife was quite surprised when you came home and said you'd quit. Was this a total surprise for her? Was this something that you had discussed with her, about your going back to school? And I'd like to know, in this discussion, how you decided to go back to school in astronomy, assuming you did.
Fredrick:I may have discussed, we may have discussed this. I remember I wasn't too enthusiastic about putting coat and tie on every morning and going into Philadelphia on a train, which you always had to take one train earlier than you really had to, just in case something went wrong somewhere and all that. And that was a bother. So when I — I'm sure I could have gone back to the insurance company and they would have taken me back, but I went to the math professor Arnold Dresden, whom I had, he was my advisor at Swarthmore. Although the man who had taught me the most mathematics was a fellow by the name of Brinkman.
Fredrick:Brinkman, yeah. He was really very, very good, and he had a flair for teaching. He could bring you up to a point where you had to apply your insight to get the answer, and boy, when that happened, it was just like going to a higher level. A very interesting teacher and a good technique for getting you to think originally and so on.
DeVorkin:What was his first name?
Fredrick:Heinrich. Heinrich Brinkman. Anyhow, I went to Dresden, and told him I wanted to go back to school and could I come back to Swarthmore, because I knew the ropes there and all that. And he said, "Well, if you're not too happy in the insurance business, there isn't much else in mathematics. There is very limited opportunities except colleges and teaching again," and since I liked my physics seminars and all that stuff, maybe I should look at something else. And he said, "Was there any other course that you took at Swarthmore that you enjoyed or turned you on?" And I told him, "Yes, I enjoyed the astronomy course, even though the first semester was taught by Mr. Pittman, but I did enjoy that," and I had done some observing and so on, and he said, "Well, why don't you go talk with Mr. Van de Kamp?" And so I did, and he thought they could arrange to get a Master’s degree at Swarthmore and get immersed in astronomy, and they did have a fellowship, and I forget the name of it now, but they did have one, which I could apply for and probably would get. So I did, and did my Master’s degree, and then I transferred to Penn for the Ph.D. because, why did I do that, well because we had our daughter and a year later we had our son, the first son, I'm sorry, the first daughter.
DeVorkin:Yeah, let's talk about your marriage. When did you meet your wife? When did you get married?
Fredrick:I met my wife when I was in the orphanage, probably about 1942 or 1943, and I —
DeVorkin:That made you about how old?
Fredrick:Oh, I believe I was 16 at the time. And we dated once or twice, and then when I left we stayed in touch by writing and so on, and when I came back from the Navy, since I went to Hershey to see what the opportunities were and they said yes, you should go junior college and, or could go to junior college for a year, and so on, so we took up dating regularly then, and we got married in 1949, and our first child was born in, now this is terrible, but I think it was 1954. And in 1955 — it may have been '53 and '54 or '54 and '55 — the boy was born, and then 12 years later we had the second girl. So but —
DeVorkin:What is your wife's maiden name?
DeVorkin:Is that with an I-s?
Fredrick:Frances Irene Schwenk. S-c-h-w-e-n-k.
DeVorkin:So she was at the orphanage as well?
Fredrick:No, she was a town girl.
DeVorkin:She was a town girl.
Fredrick:Yeah. The orphanage in those days was for boys only, and even more restrictive, it was white boys. That of course has all changed, and in fact you pre-empted it, they now have girls also, so it's roughly half and half, and all ethnic groups and everything. It's really — She was trained as a secretary, and worked for, actually for an insurance company. Not the same one I went to, but it was automobile insurance and things like that. The company I worked for was Fidelity Mutual, which was a life insurance, strictly life insurance company.
Let me turn the tape over, because this is just —
DeVorkin:Okay. This is Tape 2, sorry, Tape 1, Side 2, and recording. You were talking about just, at the end of the last tape side, you had worked for Fidelity Mutual and your wife worked for an automotive insurance company. Okay, but you stayed in contact, you dated, and then you finally got married.
Fredrick:Well, we were married then. We got married after I came back out of the Navy and went to Junior College, and it was clear I was going to go to Swarthmore, and we just decided we'd better get married and we'd face the world together. And we did. The only funny thing there or interesting thing I believe was when we went on our honeymoon. I had a car from my Navy days, a 1941 Chevrolet. And it was a good car, and we went off on our honeymoon. I don't know how much money we had, but we went up to the Poconos for a week. And the second to last day there, we became concerned that we might not have enough money to get back to Hershey. And so we wired her father for $20. And sure enough, the next day we went down to the telegraph station and they had the $20, and we went back home the following day. And when we got home I still had that twenty dollar bill, so I gave it to her father. And he asked me, he said, "How much money do you have?" and I said, "I have 50¢." And he later told me, many, many years later, he told me this, he said, "Laurence, when you said you had 50¢ and you were proud of it, I knew right then you were going to succeed."
Fredrick:So anyhow, really, when we got home from the honeymoon we had that car, our clothing, and 50¢.
DeVorkin:Boy. But you had jobs.
Fredrick:Yes, she had a job, and I was at the junior college. And I don't remember, but I believe the G.I. Bill paid maybe $50 a month, some small sum, but in those days $50 wasn't bad. If you earned $50 a week, you were in pretty good shape in those says.
DeVorkin:Yeah. Certainly. Okay, let's move then to, well, first I'd like to know a little bit more about your Masters work. It was in astrometry. You worked directly for Van de Kamp?
Fredrick:Yes. He was my mentor for that. Let's see. I did the Open Association at Omicron Persei, and to do that they had some plates at Swarthmore. I was looking at the expansion of this association, and Swarthmore had some plates and McCormick had some early plates. So I came down here to McCormick, it was in August and September, I don't remember the year, and took some plates, and took those plates back with me, and the early plates, and measured them at Swarthmore. And the time interval was such that the proper motions that I got were most precise, because you measure proper motion in second of arc [?] per year, and since I had say a 50-year interval, the motions were extremely small errors on the yearly motion. And that held for a long, long time. People in those days, long focus plates weren't general plates, they were very specific, targeted on a given star, and it was very lucky that whoever, Miller, who preceded Van de Kamp, put this star on the Parallax [?] program early on, and when he realized that it was a loser they stopped. But those early plates, when the idea of associations came along, proved very valuable.
DeVorkin:Yeah, yeah. so the association itself took over several fields, or was it visible in one field?
Fredrick:Well, this was the nucleus cluster of the Omicron Persei's association.
DeVorkin:Oh, I see. And that's the one you worked on the nucleus of it.
DeVorkin:Okay. So you didn't have to go matching fields.
Fredrick:No, no, fortunately.
DeVorkin:Well, how did you feel about astrometry as you were nearing your Master's thesis, or completing your thesis? Was it something that you felt was the area you wanted to work in, or were you looking at other parts of astronomy?
Fredrick:No, it was interesting in a way, but I thought there were much more interesting and challenging areas. At that time photoelectric photometry for example was, it was in the birth stages, and I thought at Pennsylvania, where they had developed — I forget whether it was ENIAC or UNIAC or whatever —
DeVorkin:Mm-hmm [affirmative], the ENIAC.
But they got, they wanted to get rid of a lot of circuitry, and Penn had collected this stuff and wanted to use it for pulse counting. This was long before the idea became feasible. In any case, Bill Blitzstein was the fella who pushed that circuitry along, and I thought that that was the way really to do photometry — count photons, one by one. In fact I think Bill Blitzstein wrote a very nice paper called "Counting Photons One By One." And so I thought that would be challenging, and indeed, while at Penn there was some talk about applying night vision tubes to astronomy and so on. And that was very exciting to me, and I told Brad Wood that, that maybe we could get into it, we could somehow swipe a night vision tube from the military and see what could be done with it, and he said that there was a group that was looking into this, and —
DeVorkin:About what year was this?
Fredrick:This must have been around 1957. And he said, "As soon as I finish my degree." I took a long time to get my Ph.D., I forget why it drug on and on, but well, yes, I was doing VV Cephei, which was a long period eclipsing binary, and the eclipse wasn't going to be over until 1958. So when the eclipse was over I ran the paper through and got out in 1959.
So you did photoelectric observations at —?
DeVorkin:At Penn. The Flower & Cook Observatory?
Fredrick:At the Flower & Cook Observatory, and I used the siderostat, and it had a two photo multiplier system so I could be observing the reference star at the same time I was observing VV. And this removed a lot of the nitty gritty corrections that you had to do in astronomy — uh, in photometry.
DeVorkin:This was like a two-channel system.
Fredrick:Two-channel system, right. And they were movable, so when you had to do your check star you could easily adjust it to do that and so on.
DeVorkin:Blitzstein was there through this time?
DeVorkin:I know that he had been interested in working, he had worked with Newton Lacy Pierce [?]. This was before you were there. Pierce was a Princeton, this was about 1950. Pierce then died.
DeVorkin:You knew nothing of this; Blitzstein never spoke about this collaboration?
Fredrick:Not that I remember, no.
DeVorkin:Okay. It was an early attempt to do pulse counting, very early attempt, but it didn't get it, huh [?].
Fredrick:That didn't pan out, but when he got this ENIAC stuff, he was really very good, and I remember while I was going through my studies Bill Protheroe came there from Ohio State. And Bill was also into photoelectric photometry, but he was also interested in instruments and telescopes and stuff, so when I complained about the poor tracking of the sidereostat he decided that we ought to do something about it, maybe it wasn't aligned properly. And in the three nights that we aligned this sidereostat, I found him very, very helpful. He understood the mounting, and we had a great time. We would attach a, essentially a meridian transit to the various components and measure clock stars as they went across the meridian, and we could compare each other's personal equation and all this, and that was really very — a lot of fun.
DeVorkin:You definitely liked observing, it sounds like.
Fredrick:Oh yes. Oh yes.
DeVorkin:What about building instruments? I mean, you had training in radio, you indicated an interest in using night vision tubes. Were you interested in building instruments?
Fredrick:Yes, to a certain degree. And I believe that pushed where I went and so on. When I mention this night vision tube stuff, Brad Wood said that he knew a group that was into that, and when I finished, or when I was about to finish my Ph.D., he would see if they had any opportunities. He was actually talking about Merle Tuve at the —
DeVorkin:Merle Tuve at the —?
Fredrick:And I remember Merle came up and interviewed me in early spring.
DeVorkin:He came up himself?
Fredrick:Yes. Mm-hmm [affirmative]. And I don't know, he seemed to like what I was saying and so on. So he wanted me to go to Flagstaff to do the observing with these things, and I told him I didn't know if I wanted to go to Flagstaff or not; I should probably go out there and look at it first. And he said okay, so they flew me out to Lowell Observatory, and I met with John Hall and I forget who else at the time, but it was a nice setup. And Kent Ford was the sort of leader of the observational group. And they had all kinds of contacts. They had French people who would being image tubes over and test them, and English people —
DeVorkin:So there's a wide range of tubes that they were trying.
DeVorkin:The French, was that Lallemond and people like that?
Fredrick:Lallemond's group, yes, and the English group, now let me see — McGee.
His group and also we looked at using vidicons. They were commercial vidicons that were brought to us by — I forget the man's name right now, I can't bring it up. He was president of the television and radio stations in Nashville, Tennessee and he owned the Grand Old Opry. DeWitt. DeWitt was his name. D-e-capital-W-i-t-t. A fine, fine man.
DeVorkin:He was not an astronomer.
Fredrick:No, he was not, but he was so interested and fascinated he took his time from his work and his business. He would fly out there with batch of orthocons, and he, I'm sure the money came from him, and he would mount them up and we would test them and all this stuff.
DeVorkin:What was your responsibility? What did you end up doing?
Mainly observing to see when the background of the tube — uh, I would do a series of calibrated exposures, starting with a few seconds to minutes to as long as an hour. That was what we started with. And then Kent Ford built a very massive spectrograph to, that would hold these tubes steady, so I began to apply them to spectroscopy. And then we got some infrared tubes, and so I was exploring the infrared region of the spectrum — and when I say infrared region, sort of 1.0 to 1.2 microns in that region.
DeVorkin:Were these lead sulfide type cells, or these were image tubes?
Fredrick:These were image tubes. And I forget, the cathodes were S1 cathodes.
DeVorkin:S1 cathodes. Okay. These were still pretty well restricted by military interests at the time?
Fredrick:Well, we got away from the military tubes by having RCA build a completely different tube, a magnetically focused tube.
DeVorkin:Oh, I see. RCA was acting as a contractor for you?
Right, yes. And I really didn't have anything to do with that. Kent Ford and I forget maybe two of himself [?] dealt with RCA, but they would send us, they would make a batch of tubes, and they would send us the best one, and we would call them up and tell them that it's no good, and they said, "Well, that's the darkest tube we've ever produced on our assembly line. It can't be that bad as you say." Well, the fella who made these tubes finally came out, in charge of the lab, finally came out with, uh, to see why this tube wasn't any good, and so we darkened the lab. At the telescope we had a little lab there. We darkened the lab and sat down — we told him to sit down because it was going to be dark — and so we sat down and darkened the lab, and we just sat there. And he said, "Well, what are you doing? Why don't you turn the tube on?" We said, "Well, we're dark adapting." He said, "Well, why do you do that?" "Well, so we can see if there is any —" And we turned the tube on and it glowed like a neon bulb, and he couldn't believe it. But they would just turn the light out, put the voltage on, "Oh, that's dark," and pack it up and ship it.
DeVorkin:Oh. You were talking orders of magnitude beyond what was —
Fredrick:Oh my, yes. And then he understood what the problem was, and we started getting very, very good tubes from them.
DeVorkin:Was RCA interested in having these sort of, as we would call it today, beta tested by astronomers, because astronomers were so attuned to low-level light conditions?
Fredrick:Yes. Actually what we were doing, I don't know what RCA saw in the long run for those, except that they were being pushed in the cathode technology, and in the detection end of the tube, the phosphors and so forth, which they could apply to other things I'm sure.
DeVorkin:Right. Now there was such a thing as the Carnegie Image Tube.
DeVorkin:Now, was that a whole family of tubes?
Fredrick:Well, the one I think that people refer to as the Carnegie Image Tube was a tube about I would say 4 inches in diameter, maybe 3½ inches thick, and the cathode was maybe 2½ inches round on glass, and the back end of the tube was a slot about 4 millimeters wide and maybe 2 inches long, made of — I forget what it was with the phosphor, very fine phosphor on the front, on the vacuum end of it. It had accelerating grids, and it was focused by a large magnet, permanent magnet, so we didn't have to fool with currents passing through.
DeVorkin:Yeah. While you were observing with the different tubes and testing them, were you trying to do publishable astronomical research with them, or was this something quite apart from the goals of the group?
No, that was the goal. And what we would do was — well, let me see. I took spectra of a bunch of red stars. That was published. And at the same time that I was doing that, they had a few visible tubes that I did some binary star studies with and so forth. In general the main effort after a bit was the spectroscopy, and comparing which tube did best and so on. They thought that eventually these types of tubes could be applied to getting spectra of very, very faint galaxies, primarily red shifts, and indeed Kent Ford would occasionally take a good tube over to Palomar, and he and Bill Baum would have time on the 200-inch, apply it mainly to our galaxies.
DeVorkin:As you saw it, what were the main technical hurdles to making these tubes operational?
Fredrick:Well, the resolution was not terribly good, but that definitely got better. Each year you could see that they were doing better. And uniform cathodes was in those days was a problem. I think you don't see that anymore.
DeVorkin:If you were to have a priority at this point in your career, was it to continue observing, doing astronomy, or developing instrumentation?
Fredrick:That's a good question. I don't think I looked at too much as a either or. I did enjoy taking a completely new tube and seeing what it could do. And I enjoyed, well, I remember when I got a good infrared tube I pushed that thing into the daylight, just to see how long it would still have a decent signal before the background would come up. And I was observing Venus, taking spectra of Venus with the sun shining in the dome, so.
DeVorkin:At 1.2 microns?
DeVorkin:Yeah. Now, what were the years that you worked on the Carnegie Tube Project at Lowell? Was it up to about 1960?
Fredrick:It was 1959 'til 1963.
DeVorkin:Oh, okay, later than I thought. Okay. Did Tuve come out a lot?
Fredrick:He came out at least, yes, twice a year or more. He was actually as much interested or more interested in seismology, and he would come out and do seismic studies all around the place. I remember one of the frightening things, I don't recall whether he had a heart attack when he was out there or whether it occurred in Washington and then he came out there, but I remember they got an oxygen bottle and mounted it in the jeep, the Carnegie jeep, because if he got off on a reservation somewhere at high altitude, it's 7000 feet out there, he might need this oxygen. He was a very dynamic individual. Very. I remember we were trying to focus one of the image tubes. And now I'm going to tell a story on Bill Baum. He's a good friend of mine, but I'll tell it anyhow. And he was, we were having trouble getting the thing focused up, and when we got a focus, there was an S-curve in the image. The image had a little twist in it across the back end output of the tube, and he got so concerned about this that he started calculating what he had to do to the magnet to get rid of this curve. And Merle was sitting there, and he tolerated that for maybe 10 minutes, and he finally said, "Damn it, Bill," he says, "Put that paper and pencil away and start trimming those magnets." He says, "Move them around until you see what they do." [laughs] And Bill was, he was not flabbergasted, I think he expected that from Merle, and indeed he did push and shove and mounted magnets this way and that way, and finally found out what it was. And then, in typical Baum fashion, the next day he spent hours in his office calculating why that arrangement worked at getting rid of this distortion. Because he really wanted to understand it. And Tuve was the other way around; he wanted results, he wanted to get the thing on the road.
DeVorkin:That's interesting. What about Kent Ford? What was his style like?
Fredrick:Very, very quiet, very relaxed. He went at things with — he would make haste slowly. He was very deliberate, and he enjoyed fiddling with instruments. When I was there they got a telescope from a fellow by the name of Morgan, oil man from Texas gave him a 24-inch reflector for use on this project, and they had to transport it up there, so they had to build a building. They wanted to be able to whip it around the sky very quickly, so it was an unusual construction, and Ford enjoyed putting that all together and designing of the building and all this. He was a very, very talented individual.
DeVorkin:Would you characterize him more like Tuve's style or like Bill Baum's style of experimentation?
Fredrick:I think he was a little more like Tuve. He wasn't as flamboyant as Tuve, but he liked to fiddle with equipment and get it done.
DeVorkin:When a tube was received from RCA, how did he treat it? Or a sample of tubes. Did he have the staff, you and others, take the tube apart completely, check every part, reconstruct it?
Fredrick:No, the tube came sealed. It's just like a photo multiplier, except you're focusing the cathode on the back end.
DeVorkin:But you could move the magnets around.
Fredrick:Oh yes. Well, we had the magnets there. The tube would come, and you insert it inside the sleeve that would go into the magnets, so there was, and then you, the relay optics and all this, you get that all adjusted, and you would look at the tube and see how, if it was dark. And they might send three tubes, and you would take the darkest one, and after testing it they selected the darkest one and put that on the telescope and then start, worked with that.
DeVorkin:Did the support come completely from Carnegie as far as you know?
Fredrick:It was an NSF grant to Carnegie. Lowell's contribution was providing access and the space. We had a laboratory in the basement of the main building there until the Morgan telescope was built, and then the lab was up at the Morgan telescope. Bill Sinton, who was doing spectroscopy at the time, actually fourier analysis type spectroscopy and so on. When he wanted to do some infrared spectra of gases, various methane and all this stuff, both Ford and Tuve encouraged me strongly to help him by mounting up the image tube, and we got a big long pipe I remember, it was the length of the attic, and put sealed windows on both ends, evacuated the tube, filled it with this pipe, evacuated it, filled it with a gas that he was interested in, and shine a light down the pipe and put it on the spectrograph, and that was fun, that was — Bill was also one of these very, very talented people. He wasn't with the Carnegie program, but he was doing his own work, he was the staff astronomer there.
DeVorkin:Yeah. A lot of this was planetary related, I imagine.
Fredrick:His main interests, yes, were planetary.
DeVorkin:Yeah. What about RCA? Did you meet engineers from RCA other than, you know, you had this interesting story about the fellow coming out and becoming dark adapted, but did the engineers interact more than that?
Fredrick:I think an engineer came along with a set of tubes one time. I never went to Fort Worth. Kent Ford I think would go to the laboratories at Fort Worth and deal with the people in the main.
DeVorkin:In your recollection was it, from your perspective, a pretty smoothly run project? Were there crises, blow-ups, problems with funding?
Fredrick:I did not detect any of that. There was — And the meetings, now I'm sure they discussed funding, but whenever Tuve would come out there, there would be maybe a 20-minute meeting between myself and John Hall, who was the director at Lowell Observatory, and Merle, and when Ford was there Kent would be there, and occasionally the instrument maker, who was Bob Blecka was the man who did most of the instrument work.
DeVorkin:And he was a Carnegie employee?
Fredrick:No, he was a Lowell employee, but I think his time was factored into some sort of payment, and they would discuss time and a schedule and all this stuff, and I'm sure when we left Merle and John Hall would go over the budget and stuff, but I was not involved in that.
DeVorkin:Okay. To finish up this tape and this discussion of the tubes, as you say you left in 1963. Did the project continue beyond that?
Fredrick:Oh yes, oh yes.
DeVorkin:How long did the project continue?
Fredrick:Ah, now, I believe the Image Tube Project went deep into the seventies, and only when it was clear that the direction of imaging was going to go in the way of channel plate equipment and eventually it was, must have been almost the eighties when the CCD's single line arrays — I forget what they were called then, but —
Fredrick:Reticons, yeah. When it became clear that that was the way it was going to go, then they wound the project down.
Fredrick:Do you want to go to lunch, by the way?
DeVorkin:It's a good time to break.
DeVorkin:Yeah. But I just want to — we're just at the end of the tape.
DeVorkin:I want to get a sense of the nature of the project. It is one of the projects I've been interested in, and was this for you an unusual project to get involved in? Did other astronomers, how did they regard it? Was it something astronomers were interested in, or was it, seem to be out of the mainstream of astronomical activity?
Fredrick:No, I think all of the deep sky people were keenly interested in what was going on. Some of them occasionally would say that progress isn't very rapid and so on, but I think they understood that this was one of the avenues you had to explore until something would eventually open up.
DeVorkin:Okay. What about space people, people interested in building space satellites? Any contact with them during your time?
Fredrick:Not at Lowell. There were some space related things that were going on. The Air Force mapping group was out there mapping the moon and —
DeVorkin:I'm thinking of using the tube. Did people who were interested in building spacecraft that could have imaging optics on them with imaging detectors that were electronic and they could be transmitted to the ground instead of photographs. Did they ever come out? Was there contact, to your knowledge?
Fredrick:No. No, and all of their direction was in the area of vidicons and image orthocons and so on, such as the Princeton group at that time was doing Strateoscope and they used, I believe it was image orthocon in their work.
DeVorkin:Right. Any crossover between the two groups?
Fredrick:Oh, there were some discussions occasionally, and Donaldson at Princeton, when I would show up at the meeting, would always corner me and ask me how we were doing and so on. And I would see him with Kent Ford often. There was a lot of good interplay I thought. The Princeton people were especially interested in the S1 cathodes.
DeVorkin:Okay. I think we've gone a pretty good distance with this, and so I think we can stop for now, stop for lunch.
DeVorkin:Okay. This is the end of Tape 1, Side 2.
DeVorkin:Okay. This is Tape 2, Side 1, of the interview with Dr. Laurence Fredrick. The date is 24th of September, and we're continuing now after a very nice lunch. Let's talk about how you came to the University of Virginia. Well, let's put you back at Lowell working on the Carnegie Image Tube project, and did you come directly here from there, and what was the process?
Yes, I came directly after a year. In spring of 1962 I received a letter from the dean of the faculty here saying that my name had been given to him by contacts and they were looking for someone to re-establish the astronomy department here, and would I be interested in a job. And I called him up and he gave me a number and reversed the charges and all that stuff, and I called him up and told him that I had really just joined the image tube project and I was very enthusiastic about it, and I didn't think it would behoove me to switch jobs so quickly. And he called back then a few days later I remember, and he said he understood everything I said and all this, but wouldn't I please come in and look at the job, and if nothing else advise them what they should do or could do. Now there's a hidden little thing in here, and that is that they had just had Harlan Smith down here. Harlan was the editor of the AJ [Astronomical Journal], and had just been denied tenure at Yale.
Fredrick:And so they had been informed of this, and they brought Harlan down here, and Harlan had turned them down. Now I didn't know this at the time. Harlan told me this many years later. And it's interesting why he turned them down — because his wife didn't want to live in the boondocks. But in any case, I came in and I looked at the situation, which was pretty grim. The telescope wasn't working, and there was just —
Fredrick:The 26-inch refractor wasn't working, the measuring machines, which were very old Gaertner machines, weren't working properly, they hadn't been cared for, and so on. So I went back to Lowell and wrote a long letter — it must still exist in the dean's files.
DeVorkin:What's the dean's name?
Fredrick:Oh goodness, I forget what his name was. Duren, D-u-r-e-n.
Fredrick:Yes. That was his name. Anyhow, I wrote him a long letter telling him that although I was flattered by being challenged, I didn't think I should take the job, and that was the end of it. And then the next — I forget whether it was December or January, I got a call from Frank Edmondson, and Frank told me that I would soon receive a letter from the University of Virginia and the McCormick Observatory, and he urged me very strongly to reconsider my previous decision. So —
DeVorkin:And you knew Frank Edmondson?
To a certain degree. And I received this letter, I forget, a week later or something, and then I also got a phone call from Peter Van de Kamp, who said for the good of astronomy I should take the Virginia position. Now he may have said astrometry, but in any case, I spent a lot of time worrying about that. It caused, naturally, a bit of disorientation in a sense. I really didn't want to leave the project. It was a challenge and so forth, and to come here was really — there were a lot of unknowns. But I finally decided on the basis of those telephone calls that, well, maybe that's what I should do. So —
You had not done any teaching up to now.
Fredrick:I had not — Well, I had taught some classes at Drexel when I was in graduate studies at Penn and so forth, but there was nothing said about teaching. It was, there's naturally going to be some teaching and I knew that, but it was to rebuild the astronomy department, which had a really great name in the thirties when Van de Kamp and Mitchell and Dirk Reuyl and Uyssotsky and all these people up at Yale — Oh, what's his name now? Darn, can't think of his name. Solar astronomer, theoretician. Anyhow —
DeVorkin:He's at Yale now?
Fredrick:Yeah, or maybe retired now. Very pleasant gentleman. Always has a coat and tie on, hair combed straight back.
Fredrick:Wildt. Rupert Wildt.
DeVorkin:That's right. He came here after Princeton.
Fredrick:Right. He was here working with Mitchell. And anyhow, they had a great department, and a very well-known department at that time. And the president was determined to make an effort to reestablish it, and apparently — I won't say I was the last gasp, but I was told by Edmondson that they intended to close the observatory if they didn't get someone in 1963. So when I came in here, the dean took me to the president, I had a long talk with President Shannon —
Fredrick:S-h-a-n-n-o-n. A great scholar. Tennyson Scholar. And he was interested in having a strong science component here at the university, and part of that was his goal of having a good astronomy department, reestablishing its contacts with the rest of astronomy. So, and to do that he promised that if we got things running, he would see that there was money available for a new observatory. Because I had complained in my letter, previous letter of a year ago, that the sky was getting bad in Charlottesville and so on, and they really should think about moving the observatory out into the country somewhere. At the same time we discussed that there was no point in putting big telescopes in this area that we should depend on using other telescopes. There was even a brief discussion about joining forces, would it be feasible to join forces with some other observatory and put a telescope somewhere else. But they were very hypothetical type discussions. I think Shannon wanted to feel me out and make sure that he and I understood each other, and I think we did. I held him in very, very high esteem, and when he resigned from the presidency I was on leave in Austria, and I picked up the Herald Tribune, and walking back to the observatory I happened to notice on the front page "News in Brief," and there at the top of the News in Brief was "Edgar Shannon resigns as President of the University of Virginia." And that really shocked me, because he was a great man, and he was determined to make the university a first class university, and I think he felt that he had taken it as far as he could and now it was time for somebody else to pick up the mantle, and —
But you were in Germany. Was this your 1980 —?
Fredrick:No, this was 1973.
DeVorkin:Oh, much earlier.
Fredrick:Yeah. I was in Austria.
DeVorkin:Okay. Austria. I'm sorry.
Fredrick:In Vienna, Austria. Francie [?] and I, after the kids left, the second child left for college, we had just the little girl who was then six years old, so we went off on leave. And I was actually secretary of the AAS at the time, so I had to make arrangements for temporary secretary and so on.
Fredrick:But in any case, from that time on, as the university grew, the department grew, we gradually got together I think a very distinguished group of astronomers, and I believe now the department is much better than when I left it, or when I ceased being chairman. It's a very collegial department.
DeVorkin:You obtained NSF and ONR funding to refurbish the observatory, as I understand from Robert Smith's interview, after you started in 1963. Was this institutional funding to the university, or is this stuff that you proposed specifically for specific projects to build up a staff, that sort of thing?
Fredrick:Yes, that was for building the, refurbishing the telescope, and that was the ONR part, and the NSF was to fix up the instrumentation and also to look at the feasibility of a new observatory. We then, we found a site which we thought was a good site, and then I wrote a proposal for half of the funding to build the Fan Mountain Observatory.
DeVorkin:Fan Mountain, right. But you have the National Radio Astronomy Observatory right in your backyard here really.
DeVorkin:Was there any consideration for teaming up with them, or would that not have been possible?
Fredrick:They weren't here when I came. They moved here in 1965 or 1966.
DeVorkin:But the telescopes were at Green Bank [?].
Fredrick:Yes. And their headquarters was over there, but they had a director. Now let me see, I can't think of his name now.
DeVorkin:Struve would have been —
Fredrick:No, between Struve, right after Struve came, uh, I forget his name now, but anyhow he became ill —
Fredrick:No, the one in between. I believe he was Australian.
Fredrick:And he became ill.
Fredrick:So he had to resign, and Heeschen was named director, and I remember that very well. He called me up and said he's going to be in Charlottesville, and would I be around that he could stop by and see me. And I always, I knew Dave very vaguely. I had met him on a couple of occasions. But anyhow, he came into the observatory and sat down, and he closed the door and he said, uh, now he wanted to discuss his plans with me, and if anything he said didn't sit well, I should say so. And then he told me that he felt the situation at Green Bank, while very, very nice and rural and all that stuff, was not academically stimulating, and he would like to bring the headquarters and their scientific staff to the University of Virginia, and would I have any objections. And I assured him that I had no objections, that he would have to discuss this with the president, who was Edgar Shannon, and I would be more than happy if he tells me when he wants an appointment to get an appointment with Edgar Shannon. And so right then and there he set up the schedule, I believe a couple weeks later. I introduced him to Edgar Shannon, and it was all history from then on. It was a good move I think on his part, and it certainly has not hurt the University of Virginia. My feeling is that the university has not availed itself of all that they could gain — not financially or anything like that, but by incorporating NRAO a little bit more into their decision processes and so on they could gain much more, and I think they do that now a little bit, but not enough. They still are a little parochial in that sense. But they did come here, I forget what year. Maybe '68 or '69, or somewhere around there. But, and it's been very useful for us. We've had students, very successful students, who would do their dissertations with some of their astronomers, and then go on out into the field. Frank Bash for example studied — I forget who his dissertation was with, but we've had a number of them, and they're very good.
DeVorkin:Okay. So now we have established your being here at the University of Virginia and your building up staff. Just one question, who else was here when you came, on the staff? Was there anyone left?
Fredrick:Yes. Valfried Osvalds, who had a position —
V-a-l-f-r-i-e-d Osvalds, O-s-v-a-l-d-s. He was a displaced Latvian, and came here back in the early fifties and got onto the staff, got a position, actually a faculty position. And the other person here was Scott Birney, who —
DeVorkin:Oh yes. He wrote textbooks, he was a teacher, yeah.
Fredrick:Right, right. And I'm not quite sure what his position was, because we discussed it getting him a tenure line position, so he may have been some sort of a temporary assignment or something. He was a good worker and a fine teacher. I believe, if I remember right, let's see he went up to Wellesley and was very successful as a teacher up there. So I think he, well, he told me, and I think I'm quoting him right, is that he saw that the university was going to demand more research, demonstration of research capability and ability, and so he thought he better go somewhere where his teaching talents would be more useful.
DeVorkin:Did you agree with that?
Fredrick:Not necessarily, but I didn't want to see somebody unhappy. If all of a sudden we did succeed in getting some hotshots in here, which we did, and you really don't want to see a person who feels inferior or something to that, so —
DeVorkin:There is this pecking order.
Fredrick:Yes, there is.
DeVorkin:Teachers feel second class.
Fredrick:Pure teachers, yes. It shouldn't be, but that's the way it is, and you don't escape that. Well, anyhow he went off and became very successful, and I had a few hires and so on here, and then the university started to expand and so it was clear they wanted, they were expecting things, and I remember doing some soul searching on the first few hires that I made, and I decided that from that moment on I wasn't going to hire somebody unless they were better than I was. And I stuck to that, and I think the results speak for themselves.
DeVorkin:That's a very interesting position to take, at least a way to describe it. A very strong position.
Fredrick:Well, I was very open about that.
DeVorkin:Yeah. Quite good. Did you come here with tenure?
Fredrick:No, no. And I'd just as soon do away with tenure. I have always felt my whole life, before I was even in astronomy, that if you can't hold your own on your own, then you shouldn't have any privilege. That's — And a lot of people hide behind tenure. I won't give you the gory details of a case or two, but it happens.
DeVorkin:I know we did talk about one case. I take it you don't want to talk about that on tape.
Fredrick:No, I don't think I should open that up to discussion.
DeVorkin:Okay. But I would be interested in who your first hire was and what kind of person you were looking for. Beyond the criterion of he should be better than you, which I take very liberally, very generally, were you looking for a theoretician, were you looking for an observationalist? What kind of balance between research and theory? Entry level, advanced level? What were you trying to balance?
Fredrick:Well, at first I was interested in having people who could use the observatory. But then I realized that the only people who were really available at that time were rather young people. And —
DeVorkin:This is '63-'64.
Fredrick:Right, right. And up through about '67, this was really quite true. Sputnik had just occurred ten years earlier and so forth, and I think the breakthrough came when I was at a AAS meeting and chatted with Nelson Limber. And I don't know how this, how it got started or whatever, but I felt, I detected that he would be interested in coming to Charlottesville, and somewhere in the back of my mind I think he was a Virginian to begin with. I'm not sure, but in any case I chatted with him, and in fact I went in to the dean and made a case for offering Nelson a position. And this would have had to have been a tenured position, I think associate professor to start — or maybe full professor. Yeah, full professor. He came as a full professor. And in any case, he did come here, and I believe that step opened up other avenues. He was highly respected by astronomers everywhere, particularly bright, young astronomers, and in that way not only could we get young astronomers, but we could get the bright ones, which we did.
DeVorkin:Was he your first major hire then, would you say?
DeVorkin:Well, let's then move to a broader plane beyond the campus and talk about the American Astronomical Society, or about your activities beyond campus. Did you become active in astronomy, the discipline itself, beyond research, beyond campus work, through any vehicle other than the American Astronomical Society?
Fredrick:No. Let me see if I can give you a quick picture. I joined the American Astronomical Society I believe it was 1954. The meeting that year was in Yerkes [?], at Yerkes, but I couldn't go. Now I'm not sure why I couldn't go, or I can maybe give you a reason why I couldn't go.
DeVorkin:Yeah, there wasn't any meeting at Yerkes. June '54 was Ann Arbor.
Fredrick:Okay. Ann Arbor. That would be it.
Fredrick:So Adriaan Blaauw was visiting the United States and was going to that meeting, so he took my paper and agreed to read the paper at the meeting. And he grilled me on the paper, because he wanted to be able to answer questions. And Adriaan, in his own way, is a very, very remarkable person, and I have cherished his close friendship for the rest of my life. That's the first time I ever met him, and we've been very good friends ever since. But then my next AAS meeting was in 1959 at New York City in the Hotel Roosevelt. Or was it 1960?
DeVorkin:New York would be December 1960.
Fredrick:Okay. That was in the Hotel Roosevelt. And in those days we had one session, and if you wanted to breathe clean air you had to go outside. Now it's just the opposite now. If you want to smoke, you have to go outside. But anyhow —
DeVorkin:But that was your first meeting that you actually went to, was 1960.
Fredrick:Yes. Yes. I went to a few neighborhood meetings and so on, starting as early as 1951.
DeVorkin:Who was running the neighborhood meetings?
DeVorkin:In those days, I think it was Clemence and Brouwer.
DeVorkin:Clemence and Brouwer. Okay.
Fredrick:And they would hold them at the — the farthest south they got was the Naval Observatory, but they'd be there or Pennsylvania, Princeton, or New Haven. And I went to a number of those, and they were good.
DeVorkin:At the time you went to them — Well, tell me a little bit about them, because they're a fascinating sort of a ghost entity in astronomy.
DeVorkin:There was also a Midwest group, I understand.
But it's very hard to find solid, coherent documentation about the neighbors meetings. I mean, in Schlessinger's [?] papers, you see his organizing them and that sort of a thing, but it's a very informal group. How was it organized when you went? Were there formal papers and —?
Fredrick:Yes. There usually were two. There was a paper in the morning and a paper in the afternoon by one of the big wheels, and then there were 10-minute discussions of the sort of thing, "Fredrick, will you tell us what you're doing on your Master's thesis?" or something, and so you get up and talk. You didn't have overhead projectors in those days, so you had to use chalk and a blackboard. Then there would be a dinner that night. I'm trying to think, I believe they were always in a big cafeteria type place, and the overnight accommodations were at the astronomers' homes. There would be maybe 35 out-of-towners, and they would be spread around among the various astronomers and/or mathematicians, and it was a way to keep the astronomers together and knowing what was going on at various places. I always felt that it gave Clemence and Brouwer and Shapley and those people a chance to see the young people that they might be interested in later on, and so on. So it was a good thing.
DeVorkin:At lunch I asked you about why you didn't go — or you mentioned that you didn't go to the AAS meetings when you were at Sproul with Van de Kamp.
Fredrick:Yeah, well —
DeVorkin:Now, would you mind repeating?
Fredrick:Because, no, because Peter would go to the meetings, and somebody had to tend the store, and that was me. So. I didn't mind. I got to do some of the what I would call "program planning" while Peter was off doing things, and so it was — and generally he would bring some memento back from these meetings, which was useful, being a poor graduate student through most of that time. He would bring a plate or something that was useful in the house usually.
DeVorkin:Oh, oh, a household item.
DeVorkin:So did other people from Sproul go to AAS meetings as well as Van de Kamp? Or did he tend to represent the observatory?
Fredrick:No, when they had a postdoc there, Arne Wyller was the —
Fredrick:A-r-n-e W-y-l-l-e-r. He would go to the meetings because it was good for him, and occasionally Sara Lippencott would go to meetings, and but in any case, I kept up with things in those days.
DeVorkin:You read the ApJ, the AJ?
Fredrick:Oh yeah, yeah. It was possible to read the ApJ then.
DeVorkin:[laughs] And by that you mean —
Fredrick:Well, it was, first of all it didn't take two weeks to read an issue, and secondly a lot of it was intelligible and interesting. And sorry to say I'm getting old, so some of this stuff doesn't interest me anymore. I must say I might read one or two papers per issue. I read more in the Letters than in the ApJ itself.
DeVorkin:That's interesting. The Letters tend to be shorter announcements of observations or —?
DeVorkin:Yeah. That's right. Well let's concentrate then on your contact with the AAS for a while. You said your first meeting was 1960. Well, your really first meeting was when Blaauw read something for you in absentia.
DeVorkin:But that didn't give you the sense of the meeting.
Fredrick:No, of course.
DeVorkin:Your first meeting was in New York, and you've already given me a sense that at that time the smokers were inside, and there was only single sessions.
DeVorkin:Beyond that, what was your impression of the Society itself? Who did you meet, who did you feel were the ringleaders, what did it make you feel about being an astronomer?
Fredrick:Yeah. Well, okay, I'm glad you asked that question. I think Clemence and Brouwer were the real movers. And then there was Henry Norris Russell, who would make very incisive and sometimes almost cutting remarks on papers. But after I thought about it, I could understand what he was doing.
DeVorkin:This must be the neighborhood meetings you're talking about.
Fredrick:No, no, this is a AAS meeting. They were not —
DeVorkin:He died in '57.
Fredrick:Oh. Who was it then? Well anyhow. Mmmm.
DeVorkin:I hate to derail you.
Fredrick:No. I have to think back.
You might have seen Russell at a neighbor's meeting. In '54 he was very much [???].
Fredrick:Well, I'm sure I saw him at neighborhood meetings, particularly the one at Princeton. But, well, maybe I have that mixed up. But anyhow, the meetings were single session, but they were — I'm trying to think — three or four days long. I know they still covered a few days.
And my first day at the meeting, my paper was to be given toward the end of the meeting, and that first night I was sitting in the lobby at the Hotel Roosevelt wondering where I would go to dinner, because Merle had me on an allowance. So you couldn't go to any terribly fancy place. And I was sitting there with no friends in New York City, and down the center of the lobby came Allan Sandage chatting with Guido Münch and another astronomer. Now I'll think of his name I think. In any case, I had just met Sandage. He had maybe two or three years before that he came to Swarthmore to — he gave a talk and chatted with Van de Kamp. But I knew him, well, just enough that when he came by he said, "Hi, Larry," he says, "What are you up to?" And I, "Nothing," or something like that, and he says, "What are you going to do for lunch or dinner?" I said, "Well, I hadn't any plans." Naturally I would — So, he invited me to go along with the three of them, and I think I indicated to him I really couldn't go to a fancy place or something, and they weren't going to a fancy place either. I forget where it was, but it was a very delightful, roughly hour and a half, dinner. And I got to know Guido that way, and this other fellow whose — he'll shoot me when he hears that I didn't remember his name. But anyhow, that's how you got to know people. And astronomy was small enough in those days that I would wager there were maybe just maybe 50 people at that meeting. And so you got to talk to every one of them, and that was good. Even Frank Edmondson, I think Stebbins [?] may have been the president at the time, I don't remember. Whoever it was. Or was it [???]
DeVorkin:Clemence was until 1960 and then Spitzer took over in '60.
Fredrick:Okay, Clemence. So no wonder I gave, I listed him as a mover and shaker, because he was in fact, yeah. So then I went to meetings fairly regularly after that, because I had some research underway that should be discussed, and in those days every paper was an oral paper, and even if you didn't get questions while you were up there, people would come around and chat with you afterwards, and it was very helpful that way. Let's see. The Society began to grow I would say around 1965, let me see, '64 was the IAU in Hamburg. And I remember chatting with Frank Edmondson at the IAU, and he was saying how many new members the AAS was getting and how this was unbalancing the IAU and all this stuff, because we all wanted to be members of the IAU as well, because that gave you a chance to take a trip to wherever the IAU was being held. So, but and then there was a meeting in Charlottesville. Now the reason we invited the AAS to Charlottesville was that McVittie at some point said to me that, "Wouldn't you like to have a meeting in Charlottesville?" And at the time I had no idea how you got the Society to come and hold a meeting wherever it held its meetings. And that's obviously the way it was done. The Secretary would ask somebody if they want to hold a meeting.
DeVorkin:And McVittie was Secretary at that time.
Fredrick:Right. And I immediately, when I got back from wherever I met him, I went to the dean and told the dean I was going to go up and see the president to get a meeting here, and Edgar Shannon was delighted to hear that we had made enough progress that the Astronomical Society wanted to hold a meeting here. At least that's what I told him. And I took McVittie at his word that the Society would in fact like to meet here. So we did. We had a very good meeting. I'm trying to remember if we had one session or two. But —
DeVorkin:By then there were some that were multiple sessions, but they would vary from year to year or meeting to meeting, depending on if it was a big meeting or a little meeting.
Fredrick:Right. I think we had two sessions here. And only later did Frank Edmondson let the cat out of the bag that they were interested in having a meeting here, because it was an established place and they were interested in seeing how things went. But also McVittie was getting ready to retire, and so they were looking for a secretary. And I didn't think too much of that discussion at the moment, but a few weeks or months later —
DeVorkin:After the Charlottesville meeting, that was April of '68.
Fredrick:Yes. It was right after the Charlottesville meeting that this occurred, and the question was very quick, would I be interested in being Acting Secretary for the AAS for the last year of McVittie's term so he could go on leave and thence retire.
DeVorkin:Let me turn the tape over.
Okay. This is Tape 2, Side 2. You answered my next question. McVittie was retiring from his position at Indiana or —
DeVorkin:Illinois. And going back to England? Is that what was going on?
Fredrick:He would eventually go back to England, right.
DeVorkin:So he wanted to retire the secretariship for that reason.
Fredrick:Right. In those days, he ran the Society. He set up the sessions, well, he made the arrangements for the meeting, he set up the sessions. I believe you're right, that there were, uh, by that time there were two sessions some of the time if not all of the time, and the secretary was sort of the focal point of things that flowed to the Society and away from the Society and so on, so it was a position that incorporated not just the secretary's position but what we now call the executive director or executive officer.
DeVorkin:Before we get to your years as secretary, though, give me a little more insight into how you planned the Charlottesville meeting in April '68. How did you interact and work with McVittie? Did you act as the local organizing committee? Did people help you? Where did you get money for various things? Did you have any special plans for tours or anything? Did NRAO people help?
Fredrick:Let's see. Now if I can — No, NRAO was in the process of moving here, or maybe had not quite moved here at that time. I'm a little vague on that. I had gotten Charlie Tolbert here maybe a year or two before that, and so he and I between us did most of the work. We did get a very small budget from the university, I believe maybe $500, something like that. And so we had to do all the preliminary stuff. We had the facilities, we had Newcomb Hall at the time. I know we had two sessions, because he had one session in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom and we had another session in what they called the South Meeting Room. And so by that time it was mostly maybe a two-session meeting. I remember we had President Shannon to give the dinner talk where he reviewed the history of astronomy at UVA, and his vision of astronomy at UVA. It was very good, very well thought out and carefully researched discussion.
DeVorkin:Did you help him with the talk at all?
Fredrick:Very little. Very little. I think they called up for a few pieces of information, but he was clearly well versed from his trying to reestablish the department.
DeVorkin:Yeah. The point of having the meeting here again, I'd like to explore that, the importance of having a AAS meeting here. You mentioned that part of it was the recognition that your department was getting somewhere, that there was astronomy here, astronomy was alive. How strong was that as a motivation for Shannon, for you, for having the meeting here?
Fredrick:Well, I think when I went to Shannon it was clear he took that as an opportunity to present to the astronomical community the goals that he had for astronomy at the University of Virginia. And he had also brought the university into the news in a science, into the national news, as a university that does have some science. I think even today UVA is looked at as mainly being a humanities university, but anyhow, he saw this as a chance to put us into a national audience that was hard to come by by other techniques. And so he encouraged it and was very, very helpful in making sure that — Now I don't know how far that $500 went, but I do remember thinking that that was a lot of money, so it must have been enough to do whatever we were supposed to do.
DeVorkin:Did McVittie say to you that there is a certain minimum that the university or the host has to provide in order for the AAS to come, or were there any agreements, anything contractual?
Fredrick:No. We had to make arrangements with the hotels in the vicinity, but in those days you didn't have to sign an agreement or anything; you just had to get x number of rooms and all this, and they would hold them, well, much as they do now. Even when you sign an agreement with them, it doesn't hold any water because you lose the rooms two weeks before the deadline or whatever anyhow, so — But we had to do that, we had to get together a list of places to eat, transportation schedules, and all this sort of logistic stuff and —
DeVorkin:Did you organize any tours?
Fredrick:We did. The natural here was Monticello, and I think most of the astronomers of the day did get to visit Monticello. We had a big meeting. It was of the order of 300 to 250 or 300.
Fredrick:Yeah. And I believe everybody at that meeting got to go to Monticello. They of course visited the lawn over here, which is really quite a colonial exhibit. And what else did we do? We had one other tour. No, we had two other tours — one to Steele's Tavern, which is where the McCormick reaper was invented, and the other was to Luray Caverns, for those who wanted to see limestone caverns. I believe that was, I think that's —
Yeah. Now, on the part of the AAS, you mentioned that their motivation for meeting here was — what was that again?
Fredrick:Well, it struck me that they wanted to see how I organized things. Because it was only shortly after that they asked me if I wanted to be Acting Secretary. They wanted a very quick answer. I know I only had, I think I only had a week in which to go and see Edgar Shannon. Now this was something like early September, but they wanted an answer back by the 20th of September or something, and so I had to go see Edgar, and he thought it was a great idea. I must say that I was a bit concerned, because we certainly hadn't gotten to where I wanted to get the department and —
DeVorkin:You were still building the department.
Fredrick:We were still building. But I had a very reliable helper in Charlie Tolbert, so that I knew that if there had to be a time allocation, that he would step in and make sure that I didn't stretch myself too thin by taking some of the load. Which he did, very well at that.
DeVorkin:Let me ask, you mentioned that it was Frank Edmondson who later clued you in that this was one of their motivations for having the meeting here, for checking out how you organize things and things like that. Did you have any similar frank discussions with — and that wasn't meant as a pun — George McVittie, or with, I guess Whitford was the president of the Society at that time —
DeVorkin:— or any of the vice presidents? McCusky [?], Schwarzschild, Morgan?
Fredrick:No, I knew them all, but — Once I agreed to be the Acting Secretary, and there was the tacit agreement that if I didn't want to be Secretary, they would understand and have to scramble. But as soon as I agreed, then they wanted me to go out to Illinois to help McVittie put together the winter meeting. And by that, about three weeks before the meeting or something like that, he would sit down and sort the papers out and put them into sessions and so on. And so he showed me how you do these things, and the printing, how you get the printing stuff together and all that. I spent a week out there.
DeVorkin: In Illinois.
DeVorkin:That was for the December meeting?
DeVorkin:Yeah, because there were three meetings that year.
DeVorkin:There was April '68, then August '68 —
DeVorkin:— which is Victoria, British Columbia, and then Austin, Texas, December '68. So it was for the December meeting.
Fredrick:This was for the Austin meeting, right.
Fredrick:And then, let's see, the next spring was us I believe. No.
DeVorkin:No, that was Honolulu.
Fredrick:That was Honolulu. Yes, I have a story about that.
Fredrick:Because, well, McVittie didn't want to go to Honolulu. I don't know why not, but I think he was going on leave, and so as Acting Secretary I got stuck with the Honolulu meeting. Heh! Got stuck. Now you won't believe that, but it was a good meeting, and we enjoyed that. I did get faced with a decision which was unusual. In those days once the meeting was set, the papers were set, and once the late paper session was printed up, the meeting could not be changed. That was a rule. And about a day before I left for Honolulu, I got a call from — now I can't think of the name, but the formaldehyde people. And they had just found formaldehyde, and they wanted to give this paper. Ben Zuckerman was one of them, and they wanted to give this paper at the Hawaii meeting, and how do they do this. And I said, I remember telling them, "You can't do this, but let me think," and I called, um, Whitford was ill, I couldn't get a hold of Al, and Martin had already left for Hawaii. McVittie was in Europe. I don't know why I couldn't get Edmondson. Or maybe I did get Frank. I may have gotten Frank, and he probably said, "It's your ball." And so I decided on my own, and I decided I would take the guff if it came to tell them that they could give that paper in the late paper session.
DeVorkin:Yeah, you did have late paper sessions. That's right.
Fredrick:Yeah. And so that was a violation of a rule, and I think I violated that rule once or twice again, otherwise I rigorously enforced it. And by the way, that was, I think that was a very wise decision, because that was exciting, that was the first big, complex organic molecule and all this stuff, and so it was a great success.
DeVorkin:Yeah. But this is a period, I mean not only exciting scientifically, but also it seemed to be a transition period in the Society.
DeVorkin:The divisions, or what would become divisions, were all campaigning for identity, for their existence. There was continuing pressure either more sessions or more meetings per year. You had three meetings per year that year, or parallel sessions, or in one case Martin Schwarzschild earlier on suggested even limiting the numbers of papers that could be given. And papers were getting shorter and shorter. I mean, there were all these pressures of growth on the Society. Were you aware of these pressures, and were you ready to deal with them as a secretary coming in to a Society that obviously was growing and its demands on the secretary would be greater? And how were you balancing that in your mind between your duties here in building the astronomy department at Charlottesville and your service to the discipline at large.
Now that's a good question, but yes, I was aware the Society was growing, because all the applications came through the secretary, and they sometimes were several a day, and —
DeVorkin:Several a day?
Fredrick:Oh yes. The Society, I think when I took over the Society was about 700 members, and when I left I believe it was 3,000. So they did come pouring through. Let me see. Now, about the sessions. As soon as we went to three parallel sessions, I proposed that we go to four or more parallel sessions and drop down to two meetings a year. The reason for this was several fold, but the main reason was that people wanted to go to these meetings, but three a year was demanding on the travel budgets, and so they seemed to go better for two a year. Also logistically for the secretary's office, you wrapped up a meeting, then you had a couple of months when there was very little activity other than membership, and you could do you other things such as you were talking about, running a department and working on that and so on. So, and also the meetings by agreement would occur in roughly June, a summer meeting, and December/January, a winter meeting, and I opted and made a strong case to the council that the winter meeting should always be down South, Deep South. In fact on a cruise ship if possible. And they never went for that. In fact Bob Fleischer nixed that before I even mentioned it.
DeVorkin:He was at NSF.
Fredrick:He was the NSF chief. He didn't nix it before I mentioned it, but he certainly frowned on it when he when heard about it.
DeVorkin:Was that because it would be on NSF money?
Fredrick:Most of us would be there on NSF money, and but my argument, and I was getting a lot of flak that we meet, and it's very hard, since we have to stay in hotels here and there and the other place, we were getting big enough that you couldn't corner somebody and talk to them because they had to go to their hotel whatever, and I thought well, a cruise ship, you got your hotel there, and there's no place they can go unless they want to swim. So, but that didn't work out. One of the successful meetings was the meeting — and I'll go back to the AAS meeting in Hawaii — but the meeting in Puerto Rico, that was the, I think we had 700 people attend that meeting, and I thought highly successful.
Fredrick:Highly successful meeting. Frank Drake was my contact, and he did a good job, very good job. The only thing that went bad was the hotel went into receivership while we were there. But that's not unusual, because we met a little later in Gainesville and the same thing happened there. So we were going around shutting hotels down is what we were doing. But let me go back to the Hawaii meeting. Al Whitford couldn't be at that meeting because he was ill, and so Martin Schwarzschild had to run it as president, and a lady, a young student at the University of Hawaii was going to play an instrument whose name I can't pronounce, but some Hawaiian instrument. It's like a lute, but it's much bigger, and anyhow she got up there on the stage and she was tuning this thing, and it wouldn't tune. And she was about to burst into tears. And Martin, in his very, very pleasant way, told her, "Oh, now, don't you get upset. Don't you get excited. You've got a bunch of astronomers here, and they know how instruments don't perform when they're supposed to." And the place went bananas. And she, that gave her enough, a moment, enough to laugh at herself, and by God the instrument tuned up and she gave a very nice concert, and finished to a standing ovation, which was really, I was very proud of astronomers that night. So that was a nice meeting. I arranged the, uh, the next Hawaii meeting I was not in charge of it because my tour was up, but I was riding on a ferryboat to the banquet at the Seattle meeting and sat across from, what's, Jeffers?
Fredrick:A fellow Hawaii. I'm trying to think of his —
Fredrick:John! Yeah. And he said to me, "Isn't it time we met in Hawaii again?" and I said, "You're darn right. Let's go." And so Arlo and the group after me took that meeting up, and that was very successful too.
DeVorkin:What about the issue over divisions? How did you feel about the Society splitting into divisions?
Fredrick:Well, that didn't bother me at all, and I saw in my own studies I saw a need for that, because you get down and you talk very technical stuff. Dynamical [?] astronomy, for example. It's very hard to sit there and listen to these guys argue some point about a 4th order equation or something that has a technical bearing but isn't what you came to hear when you were told that they were going to show how two galaxies interact at one time and all this. So I thought that was a good idea. I don't think there was anybody who really opposed it, but there were people who saw problems in it, and these had to be addressed and argued and thrashed out.
DeVorkin:And as secretary, did you play a role in articulating the problems and finding solutions, or was that the role of the president?
Fredrick:Let me see how most of that occurred. It must have come in the council, and there would be objections raised, and the person who made the presentation would then go back to their organizing committee and decide how to respond. And I think in every case it's been pretty successful I think. I can't think of any — there was an effort at one time to — there was some talk about the visions by techniques, and I think that was strongly opposed by most astronomers; by that I mean the councilors and things like that. It would be terrible to have an infrared astronomy division. Because what you really want is by the science what they are — So dynamical astronomy is a perfect example. Or historical division. That's a good —
DeVorkin:It cuts across all types of astronomy.
DeVorkin:And whereas you do have divisions that are high-energy astrophysics —
Fredrick:Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Solar.
DeVorkin:Solar. Now that high energy pretty much is defined by a wavelength band, just as infrared would be.
DeVorkin:So has that created a balkanization or any kinds of lack of communication with the rest of the Society?
Fredrick:I'm trying to — That may have come afterwards. I know solar was an obvious division.
DeVorkin:Yeah. The first was DPS. Planetary was the first.
Fredrick:Right, yeah. And you could see that coming too.
DeVorkin:Yeah. They felt that they weren't getting their due attention in the Society, not enough time for meetings. I mean, there were more and more planetary astronomers because I guess of NASA and that sort of thing, and there was also danger that they might either form their own society or link up with the geophysicists, because there were so many people from geophysics ??? ???
Fredrick:That did come up, and I think that was part of the motivation for forming the division, allowing the division, because you don't want those good astronomers leaving the fold so to speak. You still need that type of interaction at a meeting. But yet a lot of their stuff was very, very technical and detailed. And so that sort of thing is best handled in a very, very topical division setting. It's just like what we call symposia.
DeVorkin:Symposia for the IAU or something. Yeah, right. Now another issue of course is the growth of the society itself. And toward the end of your tenure as secretary, I would imagine you were involved in deliberations over creating the position of executive office and the executive officer, because one was created just at the end of your secretaryship. Could you walk me through the milestones as you remember them for deliberating over whether the society should have a full time or a paid employee as an executive officer?
Fredrick:Oh yes. Well, there were —
DeVorkin:How big was the job getting anyway?
Fredrick:It was getting very time-consuming. There's no question about it. I would say that I was probably putting in maybe a month and a half per meeting strictly on Society business for that meeting, and then in addition the secretary at that time had various appointments in panels and stuff representing the AAS, the AIP and so on. And let me see, I'm trying to think. The AIP met at least twice a year, and I believe I was on the, one of the straws that broke the camel's back was I was put on the executive committee of the AIP. It was astronomy's turn, and I was it, and they met every month. And I was fortunate that at that time we had jet flights. I believe it left Charlottesville at 7:30 in the morning, got up to La Guardia at 8:30, and I was downtown by 9 o'clock. And then at night there was a 9 o'clock flight that got back down here at 10:00, so I could do it in one day. But, so there was a lot of discussion of this. Let me see who the president was at the time. I think Ivan King.
DeVorkin:Well, let's see. Toward the late seventies Margaret Burbage [?] and Ivan King. Ivan King was '78 to '80, that's right.
Yeah. And that's about when the talk got very serious, and Ivan, by the way, he was a remarkable president. He handled a very, very difficult situation where one part of the Society felt that the Society shouldn't meet in states that had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, and he had to soothe feathers all the way around. Some of us — I'm going to put this on the record — but some of us took that as a valuable option, because that meant they couldn't meet in Charlottesville anymore, and therefore I didn't have to worry about organizing a meeting after I left the Society. [laughs]
DeVorkin:[laughs] That's an interesting motivation.
Fredrick:Yeah. But Ivan had to handle that, and he did a very, very good job. Now the president that I thought handled the presidency best was Bob Kraft. He seemed to have an inherent ability to recognize beforehand where he could have an effect or where he would just be spinning his wheels, where the Society could have an effect. And when he saw that that was going to be an exercise in futility, he just avoided it. He was very, very good at that.
DeVorkin:He was '74 to '76.
Fredrick:Yeah, yeah. He was very good.
DeVorkin:But the issue became very sensitive years after that under King.
Fredrick:That's correct. That was '78. But what I'm saying about Bob Kraft is, if somebody said that he should go and talk to the President of the United States about the state of astronomy, he would just, he would tell them to go fly a kite, because he knew he wouldn't get an audience with the President of the United States, and there's no point even wasting his energy trying to get one. And he was able to see that in every issue. He was really very, very good. Margaret in her own way was a good president. She handled a couple of touchy situations in gallant fashion. I worked very little with Whitford, because he became ill. Schwarzschild I worked with very closely, and he was good. He would take a briefing before the Council meeting and would never forget a thing. He was really tuned in. I'm trying to think if there were any other presidents.
DeVorkin:Bart Bok during your time?
Fredrick:Oh yeah, Bart. Well, he left the hard work to other people, and but he was I think sincerely concerned about young astronomers. He worried about things like how they get grants early on and all this sort of stuff. He had a very broad knowledge.
DeVorkin:When Bok was a vice president, he was president in '72 to '74 and he was a vice president '70 to '71. There was what came to be known as the "Bok Committee." I guess it was a committee on manpower. I am wondering if that happened during your tenure. I don't have the years, but the question of should astronomy departments continue to turn out as many graduate students as they possibly could, or should they cut back and train only as many as the job market could handle. Were you involved in any way in that issue, and where did you come down on the issue?
Fredrick:No, well, we discussed it. I was not on that committee, and I believe there were several people. I'm not sure if Harlan Smith was on that committee or not, but Harlan's position was that it's not his job to deter anyone from being an astronomer if they want. Once they get trained they have to compete, and if they don't compete then they have to be something else.
DeVorkin:Of course he was at Texas, which had one of the largest programs.
Fredrick:Yeah. Let's see. My feeling, I'm trying to reconstruct that. I know this was discussed in the council off and on, and I felt that there would be an oscillation I guess. If you tried to fine tune it that you only produced as many people as were necessary, you would overshoot and undershoot and you would never really — Ah yes, yes now I remember. My concern was that we would discourage the very brightest. And I think that's what we're seeing now.
DeVorkin:Oh. Expand on that. That's very interesting.
Fredrick:Well, bright people, very bright people — and I think we're all reasonably bright, but the people who will be outstanding can see that there is a problem there, and why not go where there's not a problem. There are a number of people who would have gone into astronomy actually go and get MBAs and work on Wall Street and wherever else they do these things. In fact we have several astronomers who are in finance now.
DeVorkin:They are not in astronomy.
DeVorkin:Your graduates moved into other areas.
DeVorkin:Because there's no jobs, or because of the competition, or what you said?
Fredrick:I think part of it might be the competition. I don't think it's necessarily the compensation, although they do make more money, but it's a higher pressure living that they take on. But it's very creative, and so they feel they're doing a useful job without the competition for tenure and so on.
DeVorkin:But as secretary of the Society, going back to the report of the manpower committee, even though you weren't on the committee, did the council have the responsibility or deliberate over whether it would endorse that general report by Bok?
Fredrick:Yes. Yes. And I forget how the report came out, but the council felt, if I remember right the council felt the Society should make the situation well known to all of the departments that produce graduate students and let them do their soul searching and not bless any one program or other. I'm trying to think how we handled it here at UVA. I believe we upped our standards a little, but if somebody came and insisted that they were going to be the world's greatest astronomer we would give them a shot.
DeVorkin:I'm finished with this tape. Let me just put it on pause and change tapes.
DeVorkin:Okay, this is Tape 3, Side 1 of our interview with Laurence Fredrick. So locally, at home, you decided to let people in who had a very strong urge still and who knew what the difficulties were, I take it.
Fredrick:Yes. I think we'd tell them, or told them, even then, what the situation was. Of course there was the promise that many astronomers were going to be retiring, and so it wasn't all bleak at the time. Let me go to another meeting. It just crossed my mind.
Fredrick:There was a marvelous meeting. I think it was the 153rd in Mexico City.
DeVorkin:Oh yes, yes, yes.
Fredrick:And that meeting took probably more work than any other meeting.
DeVorkin:That's right. 153 Mexico City, January 1979.
Fredrick:And I had spent a lot of time on that meeting, and Haro [?] and his colleague, who were the focal point that I worked with. Now, I'm trying to think of the other fellow's name. They told me what —
Maybe this is [???] Haro at Mexico.
Fredrick:Right. They told me what to expect, and various and sundry things that might happen, everything from flu, tourist flu, to the lights might go out in the middle of the meeting or whatever. But one of them was sending things into Mexico that we had to be very careful and they advised me strongly if I wanted to have the programs printed here, which I did, and the abstract booklet — some of it I could do it at the last minute — that I should bring those as personal baggage. And they told me even then I might have trouble. So I did. My son and his family lived in San Diego, so my wife and I flew to San Diego to spend Christmas and New Year's there and then went down to Mexico City from there. And so in addition to my baggage for extended holiday and then the meeting in Mexico City, I had I believe it was five boxes of about 800 abstract booklets and programs. And I carried those as personal luggage. And I went in, and I got on the Western Airlines, and they taped all these things "personal luggage" and all this, and flew into Mexico City and got out and went to, through Immigration, and then went down to get my baggage to go through Customs and the two suitcases came and one box of abstracts and programs came, but the other four were nowhere to be seen.
Fredrick:And so my colleague, Haro's right hand man, saw me come through with this one box, and I hurried up to him and I told him that there has to be four more boxes of these somewhere. He says, "Oh, alright. Didn't we tell you?" I said, "Well, I brought them as personal luggage." He says, "Alright. I'll be back." So he goes running off. Now this was a little desperate, because we had about two and a half hours, and Francie and I were going to take the tour down to the Yucatan to see the Mayan ruins and everything. And so finally he came back about an hour later and he said, "Do you have $50?" I said, "Sure, I've got $50." He says, "Alright, the boxes will be out front in 10 minutes." And so he disappears and in 10 minutes they appear out there. Well, you know, I thought these things were horror stories, but in fact it happened, and there were a couple other little things like that which the Mexicans really warned me about and prepared me for, but I just didn't take it too serious. So, but that was, it was a good meeting. Not only we went down to Yucatan, but in Mexico City itself there were all these old Teo Tiuachano [?] ruins and Aztec and so on, which was really very interesting and informative. We had an earthquake in that meeting. The chandeliers all started swinging. But they were used to that down there.
DeVorkin:Of course there had been a good number of meetings in Canada, several meetings in Canada. So this was not the first international meeting, but this was the first meeting in Mexico?
Yes. Yes. That was a point that I made with Schwarzschild when he was acting for Whitford. I forget what he said at the Hawaii meeting, but he started it off as — I forget how he said it, but I remember pushing him when he sat down and telling him that he should call it the North American Society, although it's the American Astronomical Society, it is the society for astronomy in North America. And I made a point of that my whole tenure of being careful when I wrote something, that it didn't say United States and talk about foreigners where Canada and Mexico were included. They were included. You can go back and look through anything I wrote at that time, and you will find I was very consistent in that. I didn't, I had no objections to the Canadian Astronomical, was it Association or —?
DeVorkin:That's one of them, yeah.
Fredrick:Or are they called societies?
[???] Astronomical Society in Canada.
Fredrick:Or the ASP or any of that, we cooperated whenever we were asked to or whenever we could, but I was very careful to indicate in everything that offshore meant Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, but not Mexico and Canada.
DeVorkin:What were the relations with the ASP during your secretary years?
Fredrick:They were good. I'm trying to think who was the executive officer. We had —
DeVorkin:Salanave [?] Leon Salanave?
DeVorkin:Of the ASP.
Fredrick:Yeah. No, I'm trying to think who the executive officer was. The presidents didn't interact much, but their executive officer ran the society and we did touch base on meetings. I would call them up and where in the heck were they? Golden Gate Park or something out there. Whenever we were looking at the Seattle meeting for example I called them up and said, "We're thinking of holding a meeting in Seattle at such and such time," I forget when it was, but would that interfere with any of their plans. And they were more than helpful on many occasions.
DeVorkin:Yeah. That was April '72. Seattle.
DeVorkin:Yeah. When though the AAS was thinking of an executive office, did you look at how the executive office was organized at the ASP and see things that they were doing right or doing wrong?
Fredrick:It's hard to say what they did wrong, but what they were doing wrong, I think they've been a very successful organization. Yes, that was looked at, and some of the things that they do the AAS would not be involved in. They have a large amateur component. And at that time they were much more into education than we were.
Where there not reasons for the AAS to get more into these areas? Or were there people who wanted to, or were there people [???] or —?
Fredrick:Yes, there were people who wanted to, well, there have always been people who wanted to do more in education. I'll try to pursue that, but the amateur side there have been a few who felt we should embrace amateur astronomers into the society and so on, but I think that was a very, very small minority. All of the people that, well, I won't say all, because there were a few of the other type. Even I think myself, I wanted to keep a society for professional astronomers. And in that definition would be teachers at the college level.
DeVorkin:So in creating the executive officer and the executive office, was it really to continue on the bulk of the work the secretary had been doing and not so much to expand the purview of the society into other areas?
Fredrick:Right. Well, there were two deeply discussed matters. One was to take the mechanical load off of the secretary's office, which was a volunteer office. They did pay my secretary. I had an AAS secretary besides — I had a university secretary too, and the two would help each other and all this stuff, but to take all of that program building, etc. load off of the secretary, and the second one was to have a presence in Washington. And it was thought that having an officer in Washington who could be at the beck and call of NSF and NASA and the Congress and so on would be advantageous to the Society. Now there was a group who opposed that view. They didn't want it in Washington; they felt that would detract from the office and from the Society itself. And I must say, there are merits to both sides. Let's see. I have one little component in myself, now I'm not talking about astronomy, but when I receive a solicitation for donation to the decisive cancer research fund of North America and it's a post office box in Washington, D.C., it goes in a trash can, because it's clearly just soliciting to a post box. You don't know where it goes after that. I want to see the home office address on there. And I suspect there are a lot of people who had that sort of attitude, that if you're in Washington it's political or something, I don't know.
So if it said 2000 Florida Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. —?
Fredrick:I would have more, I would be much more likely to open it up and read it.
DeVorkin:I see. Or some Bethesda, Maryland address which indicated it was right next to the NIH or something. So it's association that was important.
Fredrick:Well yes, and but if it's just a post box number, you don't know that it's not bundled and shipped somewhere else.
DeVorkin:Yeah, right. Were you involved at all in the choice of the first executive officer?
DeVorkin:And how was Harold Gurin chosen? What was his background?
Fredrick:Oh, oh, no, he was —
DeVorkin:I mean Paul Routly, I'm sorry. It was Paul Routly.
Fredrick:Paul Routly was first, and he was already there, or about there. I'm trying to think —
DeVorkin:He was at Pomona [?].
DeVorkin:He was at Pomona College.
Fredrick:Yeah, and that was 19, what, '68 or something?
DeVorkin:Oh, I'm sorry. I see. You were — I guess I'm off by ten years here. You were a secretary when Paul Routly was secretary.
Fredrick:He was already executive officer and had moved to Princeton.
Fredrick:I think around 1967 or '68 or something.
DeVorkin:I have the dates. Because Routly was '62 to '69.
Fredrick:Now his function when I became secretary, his function, Routly's function, was mainly — Let's see, what did he do? He did some educational things, he, um —
DeVorkin:He did not organize meetings.
DeVorkin:He did, um, I think there were some NSF grants to the society to do films, there were other funds to manage, and then there was membership. Did he handle membership or did you handle membership?
Fredrick:No, I handled the membership, but I think it all went to him eventually.
DeVorkin:Yeah. But it went through you.
DeVorkin:So then you were involved in the decision to move to Washington.
Fredrick:Well, he was replaced by Gurin, because he got an offer to go to the Naval Observatory, which he couldn't refuse, and so Gurin took over, and it was some dissatisfaction with Hank, who was a good man, but the complaints were that he wasn't an astronomer. And so he, when he was faced with a decision he would say he would get back to you and then he would discuss it with Schwarzschild or Don Morton [?] or somebody, and I think there was some feeling it ought to be an astronomer. And that feeling mounted throughout my secretaryship.
DeVorkin:You and he pretty much were in parallel.
DeVorkin:Yeah. You both. He became executive officer in '69, you became secretary, acting secretary anyway, in '69 as well.
DeVorkin:Okay. Well how did your two offices work together?
Fredrick:Well, he still managed these movies and the grants, the education grant went somewhere else. Because for the very reason he was not an astronomer, so I don't see why you had to be an astronomer to run that grant, but assigning astronomers to give lectures and so on —
DeVorkin:The visiting lecturer program.
Fredrick:People felt that it's better to have an astronomer do that. And I forget who did it, but that was one program by the way that we should be very proud of. That program started way back in the fifties, late fifties, and the societies who applied for that were told that after ten years the funding would start to decline. And after maybe 20 years or something of that order, there would be no NSF funding any longer. So if it proved to be successful you would have to do something to continue it yourself. The Astronomical Society took that serious, and started very early on to build a fund. It was called the Visiting Professor Fund, and this was pushed and solicited and so on, and the short story is that after the 20 years the funding did stop. And the APS and all these people, the Chemical Society, stopped their Visiting Professor program because they didn't have a handout. But the AAS continued, because we did have some income — not a huge amount, but some — and so the program continued. And so our program is still, how do you say, is continuous from when it started until now, because we took that dictum serious. The APS started their program again about five years ago when they saw how successful the AAS program was. They felt they had better get back into public education. And it took them quite an effort to get their thing cranked up again. So the Society should take a little pat on the back for keeping that going and I think doing it right. It's a good program. Now, you were — there was a point there.
DeVorkin:Well, your relationship as Society secretary with the executive office, and how the different responsibilities were split up. Were there any differences of opinion on how the Society should operate? Issues that you felt should be better addressed by the executive or by the secretary?
Fredrick:Let's see. I remember mainly, well all of my interaction really was with Hank Gurin, although I was on the committee who helped select Hank's successor.
DeVorkin:Right. And I wanted to ask you about that next.
Fredrick:I don't think there was any serious disagreement. I can't think of any big facet of the Society where we disagreed. There were a few things that would come up where he didn't know the astronomers involved, or he would get a call, the caller wanted to talk to let's say a solar physicist, and Hank would not offhand know a solar physicist.
DeVorkin:Oh, I see. As a public information source he —
Fredrick:And this occasionally would backfire on the Society, because they would, uh, they needed it right then. Not tomorrow or whenever.
DeVorkin:Right. A news service or something.
Fredrick:Yeah. In fact mostly that type of thing.
DeVorkin:Yeah. What about moving to Washington? I've heard that he didn't want to move to Washington.
Fredrick:Yes. He had a nice home in Princeton, and he had a nice retirement from RCA or something like that, I don't know.
DeVorkin:Oh, he was an RCA executive?
Fredrick:I don't think he was an executive. I think he ran a labor something there.
DeVorkin:Oh, I see. I see.
Fredrick:I think one of these electronic, I believe, companies up there. And why should he go to Washington? That would be a real major move sort of late in life. That's like moving me out of Charlottesville now. That would be impossible. But, and in fact things worked out. We had again the pressure to go to Washington involved a presence in Washington, and that was one of the strong points made for being in Washington, that you have a presence there, and at that time I think it was Udall was retiring from —I forget whether he was the House or the Senate —
Fredrick:Whichever one. And so Boyce [?] was after a job, needed a job, so it fell naturally to that he would apply. In fact I think, I'm not sure that he was encouraged to apply, but I think it was expected that he would apply and —
DeVorkin:He was a Congressional Fellow or a staffer?
Fredrick:Yes. But then I think he was a staffer. I think he was a Fellow for a couple years and then a year or two as the staff, and Udall announced he was going to not run for reelection at the end of that term, which was a year or two removed, so that gave Peter plenty of time to look around.
DeVorkin:Had you known Peter before this time?
Fredrick:Oh yes. He was at — now I'm trying to think what his connection at Lowell Observatory was.
DeVorkin:Correct. Yeah, he was a Lowell.
Fredrick:But I think he was a staff astronomer. I believe so.
DeVorkin:Yeah, that's right.
Fredrick:So I knew him, and he was a good man. He was a very good astronomer. I was surprised that he actually left research astronomy essentially completely, which considering his deep involvement before he took this congressional fellowship sort of surprised me. But other things happen.
DeVorkin:He's writing his chapter for the book too.
Fredrick:Yeah, well, that's —
DeVorkin:So he may tell us there.
Fredrick:Yeah, right. But we interviewed, I think we looked at only about 12 dossiers, and interviewed two of the 12.
DeVorkin:Are any of the other names publishable, or do you recall any of the other candidates?
Fredrick:Yes, I do. I don't know if they want to be mentioned or not.
Okay. Well, it could be for the interview but not for the chapter. The interview is treated as archival, submit to your [???].
Fredrick:Well, one that I, yes, there's one that I thought was really, the other one that we interviewed was very, very good. Now, I don't remember his first name, although he and I have been friends for years. Williamson at St. John's.
DeVorkin:Ray Williamson. Yeah, he ended up working for Congressional Research Service or OTA, one of those, yeah.
Fredrick:I don't know, but I thought either one of them would have made very good executive officer.
DeVorkin:That's interesting. Okay. Well, I should correct my former statement to you or question to you, which was that you were the last secretary to be in office when the executive office was still in Princeton and a relatively small affair. I take it the idea was that with the move to Washington the executive office was to also expand and take over even more of the responsibilities of the secretary. Is that correct?
Fredrick:Mm-hmm [affirmative]. The setting up of meetings would be done there, and so forth. I must say that I'm sometimes amazed at how big that thing has grown.
DeVorkin:The office? Uh-huh.
But if there's no one riding [???] on it, it expands to fill any vacuum that exists. We have that in academics too. So.
DeVorkin:Well, what is the relationship now of the council to the office? Is there not oversight?
Fredrick:I don't know. In those days it was very easy, because it was just Peter and about two people or something.
Fredrick:But, oh I'm sure there's some form of a committee that looks at it, I don't know.
DeVorkin:Okay. Well, in the time left here, I want to let you know that if there is anything else you want to put on record regarding your association with the Society, with astronomy, your work here, I'd be delighted to record it. Such questions as you know what is the most memorable or most significant portion of your tenure as secretary that you would like to have recorded or maybe you would like to talk about in your essay. But what do you think is the most significant thing that happened to the Society or also something you may have played a role in?
Well, we went to poster sessions. That was a while in the making, and there was some resistance to that, but — and in fact I wasn't too enthusiastic about it, but I went to a meeting up in Washington of the American Acoustical Society, and they had poster papers, and I saw this and talked with, let's see, I think the fellow's name was Jarris Quinn, or somebody like that. Their executive officer arranged for me to visit the meeting and have free run of things without paying entry fees and all this stuff, and I talked with the people who had posters at that meeting, and they had been doing it for a number of years, and these people felt that they interacted with the people they most wanted to interact with. Because the person interested would come up and talk with them, and if nobody would come up, then they'd realize what they're doing isn't worth diddly. And so —
DeVorkin:That's a tough one.
Fredrick:We started to put the late paper into posters on the last day. And that did in fact turn out to be successful, and some people in fact would insist that their paper be a late paper, even though they submitted it on time. And so that was a hint that things were going to go that way. I believe that was, that may have been two years before I finished up, but we had made a start at it, and I had completely changed my view on poster sessions. So I think that was a good change in the meetings that went on. I think we stayed a very professional society during my time. I don't know.
DeVorkin:Okay. But how do you see the fate of the Society and the discipline in the future as we approach the millennium? Do you think the Society will continue to be — or what should it do to continue to be a positive force in astronomy? Do you think it's still fulfilling that function, and what does it have to do to continue to fulfill that function?
Fredrick:Yeah. Well, the main role of the Society is to hold meetings for presentation of research results and publish journals. Now you could always say well you can give the publication of journals to somebody else or so on, but before Chandra Zakar [?] handed over the ApJ to the Society, it was published somewhere else. The Society had some responsibility, but not a great deal. So their responsibility prior to that was when the editor wanted to stop they had to find a new editor. And it was run lock, stock and barrel by Chicago Press. Now the Society owns it, they are responsible, and so on. I think it's a fine balance of what Society should feel responsible for. Professionalism is one thing. They maybe should make a little bit of discussion of ethics in science and things like that, which we don't do very much of, and when we read about what goes on in the life sciences I think what astronomers don't realize is that the average person reading that associates astronomers with that as well. That's just science to them. And we have to be aware of some of these things. I think public education is something that maybe the Society should take another hard look at. You're in the business yourself to a certain extent, so you know, but when the Mars lander got onto Mars there were 20 million hits on the NASA computers over the weekend, first weekend. The largest up until then was the Big Blue-Kasparov match, which was about 4 million hits over five days. So this tells you that the — Now, that 20 million hits, there were a lot of multiple hits in there of course.
But still, that's a lot, and I think it's our job — I wrote a letter about this to my three Congressmen, two senators and a representative, not saying how they should do something for astronomy or anything, but I'm a professional astronomer and I think you should be aware that there were these 20 million hits on just this one obscure, not so obscure, but one little experiment, that is very vital to our understanding of the great order of things. And it's interesting the letter you get back from your Congressmen. Sometimes it's dictated, sometimes it's a form letter, but and they have other priorities and so on, but you can sometimes maybe have a little effect. Now I don't think we should go beg 'em for money. NSF, well, I don't want to vent all my peeves, but NSF was formed to — and you can read the original charter — to assure that the United States would not be without technically trained people in the case of another national emergency. We were caught totally flatfooted as far as physical science was concerned with the Second World War. We scraped every — Once you got the Manhattan Project underway, anything else that you wanted to do, you had to hunt. And when they were de-gaussing ships, the only people they could find that understood anything about it was astronomers. And so they drafted astronomers into the task.
DeVorkin:Yeah. I interviewed Atkinson and others who were involved in de-gaussing. That's right.
Fredrick:Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Art Hoag.
DeVorkin:Hoag as well?
I'll be darned. So you feel the Society has a responsibility to make the value of astronomy, of an astronomical training, of a technical training, known to society at large or to Washington specifically or —?
Fredrick:Well, to society at large is important, because many people, many — you know this yourself. You're in the business. Many people think of astronomers as people who sit on a mountain and look through a telescope. Now how you'll ever change that, I don't know, but only by having a Carl Sagan out there talking dramatically, doing things like that, does the public realize that hey, astronomers are bright people. And only in that way will you convince Congress that astronomers are a resource in the whole [?], that if we need, all of a sudden need technical manpower, there is a pool of it that is available and valuable. There were very few astronomers at the start of the Second World War, and most of them did in fact have to go into military — Well, Martin Schwarzschild, bombs, I forget, I can —
DeVorkin:He was at Aberdeen [?].
Fredrick:Dirk Royal [?]. In fact Dirk Royal stayed there.
DeVorkin:That's right. Dorit [?] Hoffleit was there, Edwin Hubble [?] was there, and all sorts of people.
Fredrick:Yeah. All of these people.
DeVorkin:Okay. Well, we've covered a lot of ground, and it's, how should I say it, it can be a grueling experience being interviewed like this, but I still would like to ask you if there is anything else you would like to add, be happy to put it down.
Fredrick:Well, I don't know if there's anything of any great import, but I've, first of all I've found almost all astronomers to be a friend. Now not everyone, but I must say that my general impression is that there is a fair amount of camaraderie among astronomers. And it doesn't matter what kind of astronomer you are or what kind I am, if I notice somebody carrying an IAU bag through Heathrow I go running over there, and I don't recognize them from Adam, I say, "You're an astronomer. You were at the Baltimore meeting. I'm Larry Fredrick." And he'll say, "I'm," whoever, and we'll sit down and chat for a little while. And I think that's pretty general. You see that everywhere.
DeVorkin:You feel that's still the case?
Fredrick:I think so.
DeVorkin:Let me turn the tape over, just briefly.
DeVorkin:Okay. This is Tape 3, Side 2. The idea about astronomy being a family, a fraternity, that sort of a thing, many people have said that when they joined the Society, if they joined in the fifties or sixties, it was small and you knew everybody, you could know everybody, and in a meeting you could talk to everyone. But, you know, as you said, in your own tenure as secretary when the Society went from 700 to over 3000 people, it's become much more difficult to do that or to feel that way. Yet you feel that astronomy is still somehow a family, a fraternity of sorts.
DeVorkin:What role has the Society taken in helping to keep this sort of a feeling going? Or have the meetings become too large? Has the administration become too impersonal? How do you feel about that?
Fredrick:Well, let's see. I have a little interaction occasionally with the executive office, but not very much. I do occasionally receive calls from Landolt or whoever is treasurer of the moment, but usually that's, "Do you remember if the Society did this or that?" and so on, that type of question. I have not had too much need for the Society. I mean, I'm established and —
DeVorkin:But I'm thinking, let's say if you were a young astronomer just starting out, does the society fulfill the needs of training, of nurturing, of keeping people, good people, in the discipline?
Fredrick:Ah. Now, I don't know if the Society really is making an effort about keeping bright young people in the discipline. Someone else has to speak to that. I did mention one area. I think the Society could take a hand in discussing things such as ethics in science and so on.
DeVorkin:You feel that is important, something that should be faced.
Fredrick:Oh, yeah, yeah. About cribbing somebody else's notes. [laughs]
DeVorkin:What about the environmental issues, like building on these protected sites, or otherwise protected sites on mountains in the Southwest or Monakaya [?], that sort of thing. Should the Society be more involved, or has it been adequately involved, in educating the public or working with Congress and local governments to affect a reasonable use of that land?
I don't know how much the Society is involved, but we had a meeting in Tucson not so long ago where this issue came up on the streets. Not in the meeting itself, but what was it, the Indian tribes and so on. Now, the Indian tribes had their own agenda, and it was not necessarily to save the squirrels up there, but —
Oh, this is Mt. Graham.
Yeah. The Mt. Graham issue. But I think yes, that is something that the Society could put together some sort of information pamphlet that would be easily readable by the layperson or by local politicians or whatever. Most local politicians have other jobs, so they're not professional politicians per se, and so they need something they can read and look at. Here Phil Ianna had to put a lighting thing together, working with Crawford and everybody else. I believe the Society has been reasonably active -—I don't know for a fact, so don't quote me — in the radio allocation and protection business, but they should also have this easily readable pamphlet on lighting; an easily readable pamphlet on why astronomers are user friendly with nature, and so on. I mean astronomers don't build observatories because they want to kill red squirrels or whatever, and they don't even mind having red squirrels around. So there should be some way. Maybe the Society should look at some of this stuff. And I'll show you something that I have. I hope I can find it, but the National Academy of Sciences put together a booklet. I probably won't be able to find it, but it was on what is a scientist, and this had to do mostly with life science. I don't find it, but [???] excellent booklet, and it explains the role of the scientist, the way he operates, how he must pay attention to ethical issues, and so on. So, but I don't, I can't find it right now. I think [???] from the Academy.
DeVorkin:From the Academy of Sciences.
DeVorkin:Okay. That's a good guide. Okay, well thank you very much. You have spent a good bit of time, and I hope that the material that we have covered here will help you in writing your essay. I'd like some sense from you though, do you feel that we have covered the areas that you would be writing on for your essay?
Fredrick:Do you want me to write an essay? [laughs]
Well, yes, very much so. And the question is, mechanically how do we condense let's say the astronomy, the Astronomical Society portion of this interview, into say a 10- or 15-page essay.
Fredrick:Fifteen pages double-spaced.
DeVorkin:Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Or ten pages, something of that order. Because the number of things you said certainly are very, very poignant, very interesting, and I think would be good in the essay. What would your suggestion be for how we proceed?
Fredrick:Well, I'm a little bit lost. What I would say is, if you would sketch what you think ought to be in the essay. You don't have to write it, just this, this point. Let me see —
DeVorkin:Well, I can — I'll finish the interview now, and we can talk about it, okay?
DeVorkin:Okay. So I want to thank you very much and —
Fredrick:Oh, it's my pleasure.
Okay. You'll be getting a transcript of the essay — of the interview — in a number of months. It will take a while to transcribe it. And that, we hope, will be edited. We'll ask you to comment on it, there will be a use restriction form from the AIP that you would sign depending upon once you have read it you would decide how you want it to be restricted, if you want it restricted at all, and then it would be deposited at the AIP. Is that okay?
DeVorkin:Just like Robert's.
Fredrick:Oh, that's fine. That's fine.
DeVorkin:Okay, great. So thank you.