Oral History Transcript — Dr. Bambang Hidayat
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DeVorkin: This is an interview with Professor Bambang Hidayat [pronounced bum-bung hid-die'-it]. The auspices is the American Institute of Physics and the National Air and Space Museum, and we're conducting the interview at the Kyoto International Congress Hall during the International Astronomical Union meetings here in August, 1997. How should I address you?
DeVorkin: Bambang. Okay. Thank you. I know you were born in September 18, 1934 in Kudus [pronounced koo'-dus]. Is that pronounced correctly?
Hidayat: That's correct. Kudus is in central Java [pronounced Yah'-va]. We use the pronunciation Java. It all depends on the nationality and language.
DeVorkin: Could you pronounce your father's name?
Hidayat: Yes. My father's name is Soedingo Dhonomidjojo [pronounced Sue-dare'-go Doe-noe-mee-joe'-yo]. That is a long name, but it is written there.
DeVorkin: What was his occupation?
Hidayat: His last occupation was resident in the town Samarang. This is a provincial town and he held this job after he became regent in the so-called Regency of Dama. So it may be difficult to explain, but the structure, the governmental structure in Java, something like that, the lowest level is the village desa, and in several villages comes one unity and is called Vedana. So it comprises some 50 or 60 villages together. And then the Pupati, which is called Regency, comprises several Vedanas, four or five, so it would take into account each Vedana comprised 30 villages, then you multiply by that. And in the old days, I mean before 1942, Pupati was more or less the highest position that can be reached by native people. And more or less by selection. But formal schooling took a long time. After the elementary school they had to go through a so-called civil service school.
DeVorkin: What was it called school?
Hidayat: This is for my father. Civil service. Civil service school. And was very rigorous training in languages I mean, because they had to learn English, Dutch, and of course Japanese, in those days. As a matter of fact Indonesian, the language which we use now, came later in my father's life, and came later in his, in mainly of his generation. Because Dutch was the main or the primary language. And of course he had to climb up from the bottom. Not from the head of the village, but from the Vedana upward. And later, when he reached 50, he was appointed Resident in Office. This was, in those days, a very high position, and the members of the family are proud of that. And what I will say then, I came from a very large family. My grandfather had 12 children, all of them alive. My father had eight children. I'm the oldest in the family. I have five brothers and two sisters.
DeVorkin: Oh, okay. Five brothers, two sisters. Now your father's education in civil service, was this training for specific bureaucratic work, or was it other specialties?
Hidayat: Yes. In the Dutch time it was very specialized bureaucratic work, and actually not very many people could go there based on selection which all depends on first on the family relationship and second maybe on the academic test and third is the position of my grandfather which allows him to go to that school. Because this happened in the colonial times. For worse or for good I don't know. [laughs]
DeVorkin: What was your grandfather's name?
Hidayat: My grandfather's name is Dhonomidjojo.
DeVorkin: So your father takes the grandfather's name.
DeVorkin: And was he a civil servant as well?
Hidayat: He was head of a regional forestry area in central Java. He had a fairly large area. He was an expert in teak wood, and central Java is well known for the production of teak, teak wood, but he was in central Java.
DeVorkin: Was he something of a forester?
Hidayat: Yes, he was a forester but attained high position I think because of his ability to speak Dutch. Somehow he managed to study Dutch language, and because of that he was, he climb up very rapidly as compared to the other people. And from the history that I can read from my grandfather, he was very active promoting indigenous causes.
DeVorkin: Indigenous causes?
Hidayat: Yes. He did not always agree with what the Dutch said, but he was honest, and I think the Dutch saw in that person that he had capability to do creative work.
DeVorkin: This was your grandfather?
Hidayat: Yes, my grandfather. And so this made it possible for my father to go to a Dutch school in Indonesia.
DeVorkin: Is there anything else that you think we should know at this point about your father?
Hidayat: I think that is about all I can say at the moment.
DeVorkin: Did he have any particular interests aside from his job concerning his family? Did he have hobbies?
Hidayat: Yes. He had a hobby which maybe he inherited from his grandfather, because he liked to go hunting, and go to the forests and take the children to the forest, see the forest, and nature actually. Of course he had hobbies in reading history and politics in those days.
DeVorkin: Now, let me now ask about your mother. Could you pronounce your mother's name, please?
Hidayat: My mother's name is Ridjekun [pronounced reech-uh-koon'], and Roestami [roast-ah'-mee] is the name of her father, who was head of the elementary school. Now, I think I have a special relationship with my grandmother. She did not write Latin script. She only writes and reads Arabic. I had long discussion with her about education, and about choosing the school. When I graduated from high school I was accepted at the Dutch Oil Company, BPM. But she mentioned that, "If you go there, of course you will earn lots of money."
"You can earn a lot of money. You need money, everybody needs money, but do the things you can contribute something in that particular job except being employees." And then my father also gave me advice. When I told him that I had chosen astronomy, "If you choose, if you select the Dutch Oil Company as a way to help us, that is wrong. If you go into astronomy and you cannot earn much money, please don't forget that your brothers and sisters are my responsibility." [break taken here] It was in 1953. And so I decided firmly that I should go into astronomy. But I should like to mention that my father, being a civil servant, not always lived in a large city where there was a Dutch school, so I was sent to Salatiga to live with my uncle, who was a teacher at the — at that time it was called normal school, school for teaching teachers. Now this school had a very impressive intellectual atmosphere. It was very disciplined, and asked me to start ??? regular time. I was not allowed to go out until, to go out of my room until I tidy up my bed, for example. At first I thought it was, “gee, this is, this is not a good life,” because I have to follow this rigid regulation. I only found that this becomes very important in my student life, to control myself, to discipline myself. But going back to that school, I think what you like or don't like about the Dutch colonial system of education, but they provide very good facilities for those who were going to be teachers. For example, the teacher school in Salatiga, a small city in central Java, students are not more than 200 or something like that. But the small facility is very good. The library is very good. The cultural facilities, for example, piano, the Gamalan, the Japanese musical instrument, are all provided. I enjoyed these things, and also I was in the trade school and they are about six or seven years older than I am, but I could really see intellectual activities for the teachers-to-be. Later on I checked whether the same thing applied to many of the teacher’s schools. There were not many teacher’s schools in Java. There were only six or something like that teacher schools in Java. And there were only three civil service schools like where my father studied — one in central Java, one in east, and one in west Java. None on the other island.
DeVorkin: Now this was a Dutch school. It was a, in a way, a state supported school.
Hidayat: State supported.
DeVorkin: Okay. So there was no tuition for you to pay? Your father had to pay tuition at all?
Hidayat: Oh yes, yes.
DeVorkin: Oh, he did.
Hidayat: Yes. He must pay tuition. As a matter of fact it was rather expensive for a civil servant, but knowing that that school I went was good, so he didn't mind.
DeVorkin: Now, you graduated with a diploma of elementary education in 1947.
Hidayat: After two years in Dutch school and then the Japanese came.
DeVorkin: What year did you start in the Dutch school?
Hidayat: In 1941. In 1942 the school was closed, and completely converted into the Japanese system of education. But I managed to speak that language and to learn Dutch language. And then three years later the Japanese military power collapsed. Then we became the Indonesian school, which more or less followed the same Dutch pattern in those days.
DeVorkin: But what happened in the interim during the Japanese Occupation? Were you in school?
Hidayat: Yes. We were in school with very minimal academic exercise. Because most of the time we were trained. I was eight years old, but we were trained as military man, you know. Exercises, cleaning weapons and things like that. We, it was called kinrohosi. That is Japanese word. Kinrohosi means to work as a volunteer. Well, this means more or less voluntary work. All the school children, and as a matter of fact the population, had to go for kinrohosi — cleaning ditches, road, and things like that. And the emphasis during the Japanese period, as I told you before, was not an academic matter but more on sport, military training, history of Japan, and the process of Japanization. So, for example all of us schoolchildren had to cut our hair like all the Japanese military people. So we were trained extensively as small as we were in the military matter. But there is a positive perspective. At least I feel personally that for the first time in my nine years old I learned about nationalism between coat. Nationalism.
Hidayat: What I mean is this, for the first time I was aware that we had been under the Dutch Occupation, and the Japanese trained us every day that Western people should go away and we should build our own country. Only we people in Indonesia can build Indonesia, without realizing the additional sentences that that's what they're saying. Under the leadership of Japan. Sometimes we forgot about that, but only later my teacher told me that we think that independence from the West does not necessarily mean independence for the country if the leadership of Japan is still there. Of course for young people it doesn't matter much, because we enjoy life. I mean, food was scarce, but famine did not touch our family. We realized later on by 1944 that people were suffering. Behind our house there was a camp for women. A camp for females and children. And for the first time I saw why people suffer from skin disease. I could not stand it anymore. So I smuggled food for them, until my uncle found out that I did that, and he told me, he forbid it, not because of the humanitarian principle, but if the Japanese police knew it then the whole family can be wiped out. Okay, I stop it, and then I stopped doing it, knowing the danger that we had to face if I do it continuously. And but still, I learned a lot about how Japanese won the war in Russia in 1908. That was very important moment in my life, because small country as it was, as it is, could defeat a big country like Russia. So I was active, active in youth training, syoneindan [pronounced sho'-nin-dun], they called it syoneindan, like this, syoneindan.
This is more or less boy scout or boy scout plus, because the scouting was very little, but we were trained by the paramilitary. It was interesting for us, because we were trained how to attack the enemy, burst in and things like that, according to the doctrine that we were given in those days. And in 1945 I was 11 years old, I happened to be in my father's residence when the phone rang. We heard that Indonesia has just proclaimed its independence. It was on the 17th of August, Friday afternoon. I was perplexed, and asked my father, "What does independence mean?" And because it was an Indonesian word that I never heard before, “mrodega” was independence. Well, he explained that Indonesia has freed itself, from the Japanese as well as from the Dutch. How come? Japanese was our ally, our friend, and now we don't want to work together again. Well, that's not true. We have to have our own country. It was a little bit difficult for me to realize that until of course I learned more from him about the text of independence, which was circulated the next morning. So we learned about independence one day later. And we were in a small town which is called Mranggen. The situation became very hot and very uncertain a week afterward, but I notice one thing, then later I wrote in the journal of our institute the contribution of Pamong Pradja. Pamong Pradja means civil servant during the revolution.
DeVorkin: You are talking about your father now, as a civil servant.
Hidayat: Yes. And the role of Pamong Pradja in general means to lead the people. At the beginning of course there was distrust against this group being taught by the Dutch as if they were the Dutch agents, but I found out from many discussions with the older people, older than my father, that actually these people also have the nationalism spirit, and this appeared during the early days of our revolution. They led the young people to conduct not to do by themselves, but to conduct according to the humanitarian principle. Because in those days there was a feeling that they had to kill all the white man. And these people said no, that is not proper. We are against that system.
DeVorkin: Now these people, the Pamong Pradja?
Hidayat: Yes. The Pamong Pradja. We are against the Dutch colonialism, not the Dutch people. So they tried to avoid bloodshed. Of course there were many young people who didn't believe it. As a matter of fact there are many parts of the country which feel this — there is tension took place between the young people and this Pamong Pradja group because they think that they were trying to defend the old colonial system. But as a matter of fact they are trying — not, they are trying to avoid more bloodshed, unnecessary bloodshed.
DeVorkin: What was your father's role or influence in the new government?
Hidayat: In the republic he was continuing as Pamong Pradja.
DeVorkin: Oh, I see. Well, as a bureaucrat?
Hidayat: Yes, as a bureaucrat. Still at the same level. At the same level. No. That was later. That was later. That was 1960. So he was at the Vedana level. Yes. So we have covered the Japanese and the early revolutionary period. The school from 1945 on went well I think because the Indonesian leaders realized that schooling was necessary. Education was most important. Despite all the trouble they had to face, schools remained open. And later on when I look back at the situation, I am very glad that schools were intact in those difficult days. Because some of the teachers had to go to the front line but one week and then one week return to teaching. That was unavoidable.
DeVorkin: Hmm. Were these Japanese teachers?
Hidayat: No, Indonesian teachers. I forgot to mention that during the Japanese time they did the best to translate many of the Dutch textbooks into Indonesian. So they really did a good job in such a short time to provide Indonesians with Indonesian textbooks. And many of the Indonesians in those days did not know Indonesian, I will say. They knew Dutch better. And so to many of them, Indonesian was new in those days.
DeVorkin: I take it your Dutch teachers were all removed.
Hidayat: Yes, that was a long time ago in 1942 already. They were put in the internment camps.
DeVorkin: Did any of them escape back to Europe, or were they all captured?
Hidayat: Well, later on after '46 they did. Some of them remained in Indonesia in the 1950s or so. No, Dutch school doesn't mean that all the teachers were Dutch. I should mention that there were three types of schools in Indonesia until 1942. First is called Europese, that is European School, primarily for the Dutch people, Lagere, this is elementary school for European. This is purely Dutch, and maybe only one out of 50, one Indonesian out of 50 may be the son or the daughter of the king of Java went to that school, and not everybody could go there. And then the secondary school, I mean the second type of school, is Holland Inlandsche. This mean that Inlandsche —
DeVorkin: Oh, Island sort of?
Hidayat: Yes. Inlandsche School. And Hollands mean Endogenic school using Dutch. Now the teachers, there were only two Dutch teachers for language and I think history, and the rest were Indonesian. But the language used in that school was Dutch. And then the so-called Second Class. This literally means Second Class School. Second Class School means only for Indonesian, and Dutch was not given here.
DeVorkin: And you were in the —?
Hidayat: Here, in the Inlandsche School.
DeVorkin: So Sukarno's children would be in the European School, so to speak? The same as you?
Hidayat: Yes. When he went to the elementary school, it was here, in this category. This only reserved for, as I told you, for the king's family. The prince and princess could go there. That was the system. You like it or you don't like it, but it was the system, and yes, and then in the Japanese time these would merge. There was no distinction between one and another school. Of course only one or two person from here go to that.
DeVorkin: Right. So all the schools were pretty much merged.
Hidayat: Merged into one system.
Hidayat: Into one system. Of course, it created some difficulties at the beginning because people who went to this school didn't know Indonesian, and people here always feel, what you call it, feel inferior. Inferior. But luckily enough that the Japanese in that case were clever to make people feel that they are from one, you know, one nation actually.
DeVorkin: So they helped nationalize Indonesia.
Hidayat: Yes. Indeed. This is one aspect that I like, that I pointed out also in my writings, my articles, that the military training was given during the Japanese time that Indonesian were ready to take arms. Of course there was people who were trained in Holland to become officers, but many of them were from the blue blood family who did not want to, or many of them didn't want to rise against the Dutch. So, and as I told you, 1945 and on school when normal, and in 1947 I graduated from this school Salatiga. Sekolah Rakyat means folks or people, sekolah means school.
DeVorkin: Okay. That was the name of the school when you graduated?
DeVorkin: Okay. So you graduated, and clearly you were going to go on in school, but did you have any thoughts at the age of 13 now of what you were going to do with your life?
Hidayat: At that time I vaguely knew what I was going to do. I was active in boy scouting in 1946-1947, and one night the leader, the boy scout, took us outside of the city, outside of Salatiga, to show us different constellations and how to find south, how to find east, and things like that, and to estimate the age of the moon. And from that time on I became interested in more or less natural science; not necessarily astronomy. Because the place was so beautiful, lots of flowers, lots of vegetation, and he was very clever. He explained the botanical parts beautifully.
DeVorkin: Now, this was an Indonesian teacher?
Hidayat: Indonesian teacher. And he just died as a matter of fact two years ago. He lived a long time. So I did not have inclination to astronomy I think until about I graduated from the junior high school.
DeVorkin: That would be in 1950.
Hidayat: 1950. In 1949 or so I was circumcised, being a Muslim, and at the age of, rather late actually for nowadays, because in 1947 we have to go out of the country, because Salatiga was occupied by the Dutch, first military action. So we have to move from one place to another.
DeVorkin: So there were military actions after?
Hidayat: Military action to curb the republic.
DeVorkin: The Dutch were trying to take over again?
Hidayat: Exactly. Yes.
DeVorkin: Okay. So the independence that was declared was not recognized by the Dutch?
Hidayat: No, at that time. The Dutch said all the problems were internal, Sukarno is a rebel, rebellious spirit, and our republican movement will not last very long because Sukarno was alone. But that was actually stupid in those days, because they did not sense the change that the Japanese imprinted in the last three and a half years.
DeVorkin: I know that Sukarno was very much influenced by the Japanese Occupation. Yes. But this is very interesting from your perspective. So you had to move around. You were avoiding the conflicts.
DeVorkin: As schoolchildren.
Hidayat: Yes, schools were practically closed except in very small enclave where the schools could be continued. And I went there. And then September 1st, 1948, the communist party revolted against the Sukarno's government. Again school was closed, but luckily enough within two weeks, the revolt was crushed by Sukarno's military people, and of course nobody in Indonesia really believed in communism except few true believers. So in 1949, the situation was becoming better, and as I told you, I was circumcised. At this Indonesian community, that's very important. And why I mention this, because during the period that I was circumcised and could not go anywhere I read a Dutch translation of astronomical books written by the Dutch. It was written by Oudman. Now, he explained very beautifully about solar eclipses. Then I became very much interested. And then I entered senior high school. There I got a teacher who was very influential, very influential in teaching physics, and another teacher in teaching cosmography. At that time they did not call it astronomy, but cosmography.
DeVorkin: Cosmography. Yes.
Hidayat: This is following the Dutch system. Well, dealing primarily with coordinates and things like that. And then in 1953 I graduated from senior high school.
DeVorkin: So you had chosen astronomy by then?
Hidayat: Yes. From the very beginning.
DeVorkin: And the influence was Oudman's textbook and a teacher.
Hidayat: Yes, yes.
DeVorkin: What was the name of the teacher?
Hidayat: Teacher is Soesilo.
DeVorkin: And what was his background?
Hidayat: Well, you might be surprised that many of the teachers in those days, many of the high school teachers in those days, did not have university education. Simply there was no time. But they were dedicated people. In 1943 he was a student of physics at the technical high school in Bandung, but could not continue because of the situation. And then school was only for five days a week. On Saturday the teachers study themselves. It was under the training of some Dutch teachers, engineers and things like that. But the spirit that he implanted to the students was really very great. He had a spirit, he had a kind of teaching ability, and the way he taught physics for example consists of not only solving problems of course. Solving problems is important, but there were many theories you put in it. And of course we were trained to solve all high school examination given in Holland from 1918 until 1945 for example.
Hidayat: Yeah, we were trained to do that. But we didn't agree to do it. If you do it, I'll train you, I'm training you not as a scientist but as a technician, yeah. So he taught lots of theory, which is interesting, in Indonesian. And he had to learn Indonesian too of course, but that was very good.
DeVorkin: This was when, in 1953, you were at the University of Indonesia and you sought out the advice of your father. Apparently you had a job offer?
Hidayat: Not a job offer. I applied for a two year course at the Dutch Oil Company BPM — Bambang Petroleum Maatschappij Company. The reason is, of course that after graduating from high school, will you be able to finish your training at the university? If not then it is a waste of time. So I applied and I was accepted, but at the same time I went to subscribe to that institute. And of course in those days all the people who had the high school diploma could go into university, but usually after one year the number dropped very drastically.
DeVorkin: So anybody could apply and be admitted, but there was a high failure rate.
Hidayat: Yes, yes, failure. And I was thinking actually, knowing my father at that time there were only seven children. The youngest was not born yet. I felt I should bear the responsibility to help him for my younger brother, but my father forbid me to do that.
DeVorkin: How was the financial status of your family at that time?
Hidayat: Well, we managed to live because we have a house that was paid by the government, car partly paid by the government, but not necessity. We had to make the two ends meet, you know. My mother is very clever, was very clever to handle the situation.
DeVorkin: She did not work, I take it.
Hidayat: She did not work. In those days it was very uncommon for a woman to work. Remain in the house as housewife.
DeVorkin: Did she help teaching you and your sisters and brother at home? Was there organized reading? Did you have books at home?
Hidayat: Yes, there were books at home, but my mother's education did not go beyond the elementary school, so that's why she left formal teaching to my father and to us. But she gave many, she provided us many moral standards. That was very important actually, work hard, helping each other in the house. A wash machine didn't exist, so we had to help her cleaning the house and washing clothes and some things like that. That was part of our chores, part of our work, day-to-day work.
DeVorkin: Chores. Okay. Okay well, then your father gave you the advice that you mentioned.
Hidayat: My younger brother is two years younger, and so the difference between him and the younger brother, number three is two years, almost exactly two years and two years, except number seven and eight. They were four years different.
DeVorkin: Oh boy. So they're spread out over a long time.
Hidayat: A long time. And well, luckily enough that by the second year not only I worked at the observatory, and in 1954 I was student assistant and I could get some financial support and some financial support from the government. And at that time my younger brother went into another university in Jhakarta. He started social sciences. He also received support from the government. And he has just retired one month ago. His last position was vice-governor of east Java.
DeVorkin: Vice-governor of east Java? So he, just like you, had a very distinguished career.
Hidayat: Yes, but well, I don't know. [laughs] He is the only one who more or less followed my father's steps in the public, in the civil service. My third brother received some technical education and later worked at the Department of Interior. After high school he got some two more years training, and then he worked at the Ministry of Interior. He is also retired because he's more than 55. My fourth one got the degree in chemical engineering from University of Hachamada. They still use the Dutch word, so the title is engineer IR. Chemical engineering. And then my fifth brother is also an engineer from our institute in Bandun He is in sanitation engineering. So every boy had a University education.
DeVorkin: Was this unusual for such a large family, do you think?
Hidayat: Well, people do do that, but I think this push of my father was so strong that you have to go, move forward, forward, forward, and things like that. My sister, number six, no. In Indonesian society usually people would like to have daughter, and after five boys my father apparently was not satisfied, because all boys, he hasn't got any daughter. So the six is daughter, luckily enough. And she got a medical degree — she is an internist, a Medical doctor, and she works at a Navy Hospital in Jhakarta. Her husband is also a Navy man. My number six, and number seven is architect, also university degree, graduated from Bandun Institute. And the last one is an airline stewardess at the Indonesian Airlines. My mother is still alive, but my father passed away in 1982.
DeVorkin: That's quite an interesting family all around. Okay, well, you made the decision to go to the University of Indonesia as a student in the faculty of mathematics and science. And that was in 1953. You indicated that the first student assistantship you had was 1954 where you started measuring double star plates. But what I'd like to know first is, what was the style of training there? You said it was on the Dutch system?
DeVorkin: So how would you describe it? What kind of courses did you take in your first few years?
Hidayat: I must say first that from 1953 until 1958 universities in Indonesia followed the Dutch system, and then the first American came, Professor Dickenson — he is still alive in California now — who brought the American system of education to Indonesia. Here is more less free study. Free in the sense that when you are ready for examination you could see the teachers, the professor.
DeVorkin: This is under the Dutch system.
Hidayat: Yes. "I'm ready to take examination."
DeVorkin: So you would do independent study pretty much?
Hidayat: More or less, yes. And then what you got from him, if you pass, you receive a certificate. For example, you pass optics, and if your grade is good the letter that you have, you are valid for another five or six years. But if not they will give you valid only for three years. So in the three years you cannot obtain your Kandidats degree. Then this will fall off. So this was the period in those days, and you don't have to go to lectures, if you don't feel like, but if you feel like you can also take courses in the upper class and take examination if you like, if you can.
DeVorkin: What courses did you select to take straight away from the beginning?
Hidayat: Well, I followed the syllabus. I took Introduction to Physics Analysis I, Analysis II, and Introduction to Astronomy and Laboratory Astro-Physics. I followed regularly. I didn't make any chances.
DeVorkin: Were these all in Dutch?
Hidayat: No. That was 1953, university education became to be given in Indonesian, and some of the Dutch professors taught in English. So it was very difficult for both of us, and for him it was also difficult, for us is also difficult, but we managed. Of course, it was all supplied by Dutch books. There were practically no English textbooks in this time.
DeVorkin: What were some of the textbooks you had, in astronomy anyway, that you can remember?
Hidayat: Yes. Lehrbuch der Kosmography. This was one of the first. But of course by that time Russell Dugan and Stewart appeared in the market, in 1954, '53.
DeVorkin: In English.
Hidayat: In English. So Mrs. van Albada, who was also an astronomical assistant, used that textbook, and Baker was used, Introduction to Astronomy.
DeVorkin: So you had access to those standard texts.
Hidayat: Yes, via the British Council, because the book was not available at our university in those days. And later on, in 1955, we could buy that book. And there was a big book called Advanced Astronomy, Lehrbuch der Astronomy by Stromgren.
DeVorkin: Oh yes. Okay.
Hidayat: It was a difficult textbook anyway. [laughs] For physics, we used Kronig. Just now only in the eighties I think it is translated into English, Kronig Lehrbuch, called Lehrbuch der Physics. I think I found this Dutch textbook very difficult as compared to American textbook. Now when I first used Sears and Zemansky, I thought, "Gosh. Physics is so simple. Optic is so simple," you know. And the level is not necessarily different, but for us the way they present the text is different. In Dutch it is very, very rigorous and very formal, you know, lots of words and long sentences and things like that. But the American textbook is very, I found it was very, very easy. Because at the end of it you have problems to be solved, while in this textbook you don't find any problems.
DeVorkin: In which textbook there were no problems?
Hidayat: The Dutch book, like Kronig for example.
DeVorkin: So the problems at the end of the chapters of Sears and Zamansky or others, Russell, Dugan and Stewart, those were helpful.
Hidayat: Yes, yes.
DeVorkin: Ah. Okay. What about now your teachers who were most influential on you. Would you say the astronomy teachers were most influential, or the physics teachers?
Hidayat: I think astronomy teachers, in particular Professor G.B. van Albada. He was later professor at the University of Amsterdam.
Now why he was interesting, not only because we are close, but I did my practical work in the summer of 1954. It was June 1954. So I stayed at Lembang. While I was staying there as a first year student, I was asked to join party held by him in honor of the dean of the faculty, Professor Leeman. So they were all Dutch people except three Indonesians, Pik-Sin The [pronounced pik-sin-tay'], Pik-Sin The was still a student, I, and Mr. Santoso. So to me it was an eye opening experience to go into the so-called academic society and hear the way they talk, because they talk mostly in Dutch. As a first year student you always feel inferior, and you don't try to argue. But it was interesting, and to me I could feel that in this meeting there was no distance between professors and us assistants, unlike in the classroom. And, of course I didn't say much, because, well they lasted only for two hours but later on then I saw them in the office and would say, "Good morning," and like the Japanese "Ohio" in a very polite way. Professor Leeman became my very close friend when he passed away in Holland. His specialty was mathematics. Professor of mathematics. No, he struck me with his speech to the new students. He spoke in Indonesian, very good, and trying to convince us that Indonesian language is sufficiently to express many subtle items. At that time it was new to us. I thought, or many of us as a matter of fact — thought that Indonesian was not rich enough to express many philosophy to transfer philosophical ideas. But Leeman, a Dutchman, told us that and in the meeting we also had time to talk with him, he again expressed that.
DeVorkin: So certainly by then the idea of a culturally independent Indonesia based on its own language, was very strong among the Dutch who remained?
Hidayat: Yes. Who remained. Of course by 1958 all the Dutch professors left for Holland because of diplomatic relations. And then the American professors came in. Now, the way the American professor taught, also —
DeVorkin: This is Dickenson?
Hidayat: Dickenson and Richard Hanau from the University of Kentucky. He is still alive now. I like optics, and he taught optics very, very beautifully. And Louis Salter. He taught statistical mechanics. Also gave much influence to me. Because of the way he used the languages. They were teaching in English. He always used very beautiful English too, and he explained very clear on the blackboard the difficult thermodynamics and things like that.
DeVorkin: So it sounded like you had good teachers throughout physics and mathematics.
DeVorkin: But then the astronomy itself. Did you actually take courses from van Albada?
Hidayat: Yes, I took courses from Albada, until he left in 1958. I was not quite finished yet at that time, so when he went to Holland he sent his examination to Professor Dickenson and Professor Ong Pinghoa, professor of physics. The examination was sent to him and then the answers were sent back to Holland.
DeVorkin: Now, was Pik-Sin The a colleague of yours?
Hidayat: No, Pik-Sin The is my senior, and he was a very good example. For example, he went to the States in 1959, and returned in 1960 and got his Ph.D. in Cleveland only one year, little bit more than one year. He worked hard.
DeVorkin: So he went to Cleveland as well.
Hidayat: He went to Cleveland, yes. Actually he opened up my way, actually, because of his work, his good work there. When Victor Blanco came to Indonesia to install the Schmidt telescope, I got to know him and I helped him and some minor manual work for the Schmidt telescope.
DeVorkin: Would you be one of the first generation, Pik-Sin The would be one of the first generation. Is that accurate?
Hidayat: No, Pik-Sin The is earlier than that.
DeVorkin: But only a few years.
Hidayat: Well five or six years, and then Kusumanto, who also started at Case, but later he left astronomy to work in Holland.
DeVorkin: I'm trying to appreciate the development of indigenous Indonesian astronomy. We know that the Bosscha Observatory had long been an active observatory since the 1920s and thirties. Later on I'll be asking you questions about that. Mainly, were there Indonesian astronomers who were working there, or were they all Dutch?
Hidayat: Well, they were assistant observer in those days. They were not astronomers. Only Pik-Sin got this first degree.
DeVorkin: So he was the first?
Hidayat: He was, who got a Ph.D. in astronomy.
DeVorkin: The first Indonesian to have a Ph.D.
Hidayat: Yeah, first Indonesian.
DeVorkin: What is his background?
Hidayat: His background was he started in electrical engineering first and then he moved to astronomy and got a degree in astronomy, and then he started in Cleveland in astrophysics, got a degree in astronomy.
DeVorkin: Was his cultural or family background, his economic background similar to yours? Was he the son of a civil servant?
Hidayat: No. I don't want to be racialist, and that's not my intention at all, but he came from a Chinese background. And many of Chinese in Indonesia come for economic reasons. I think the rest of his family was active in trades but he was active in science.
DeVorkin: So they were businessmen.
DeVorkin: From China?
Hidayat: No, no, just many generation in Indonesia, but the ethnic background was Chinese.
DeVorkin: Is he still alive?
Hidayat: He is still in Amsterdam. Just retired. He worked in the Institute for Astronomy.
DeVorkin: The interesting thing there is that of course he trained but then left and spent the rest of his career in Amsterdam, whereas you trained at Case and then came back home.
Hidayat: Well, he came back to Indonesia in a most difficult year. From 1960 until 1968 it was very difficult in Indonesia. Money was scarce, the political situation was very uncertain. In 1965 there was communist coup d’etat, and it was very uncertain. But he helped to lay down the foundation of astronomy in Indonesia.
DeVorkin: So he did come back.
Hidayat: Yes, he did come back.
DeVorkin: So you must have worked together.
Hidayat: Yes, yes, yes we did work together, from 1965 when I returned to Indonesia until 1968. But earlier you asked me whether I knew that I will return to Indonesia. Yes. Because AID [?] was provided.
Hidayat: Yes. The fellowship to young university staff members, and they showed the government that I could go to the United States and was selected, by selection within the university and within the AID.
DeVorkin: This is the American agency for international development.
Hidayat: Yes. I think I did a very good job, because from our institute altogether there were 500 teaching staff sent to the United States over several years.
DeVorkin: Five hundred students?
Hidayat: Five hundred teaching staff were sent to America.
DeVorkin: Oh, teaching staff.
Hidayat: Yes, from 1959 until about 1970. Only three stayed in America.
DeVorkin: They all went back.
Hidayat: They all went back.
DeVorkin: Uh-huh. That sounds very successful to me.
Hidayat: Yes. And I think this is a lot of investment by AID.
DeVorkin: Let's go back and talk about your undergraduate period under van Albada. Did you also study under Pik-Sin The as well?
Hidayat: Later on I worked under Pik-Sin The, because when he returned from Indonesia, I had not quite finished my degree, my first degree, and he supervised my work.
DeVorkin: Okay. But primarily under van Albada you began as a student assistant measuring double star plates. Let me ask, were there other students of astronomy at this time, or were you the only one?
Hidayat: No, there were several students of astronomy. For example, well there were six or seven other students of astronomy. Two of them have died, but five of them are still in Indonesia. Not working in astronomy, of course.
DeVorkin: So they didn't continue.
Hidayat: They teach.
DeVorkin: So you are the only one who went on.
DeVorkin: Now how did you obtain the assistantship to measure double star plates, and what did you think of your first research?
Hidayat: Well, I told you that until 1954 I did practical work at the observatory, and then by September or something I was asked by van Albada if I would be available for measuring double stars if I like and he can put me on, he can install me as a research assistant measuring double stars and things like that. And of course I felt that by that time I could manage, I could divide my time between lectures and doing this, so I accepted this proposal. I thought it was an honor to work in the astronomy department, because I thought that I will never leave this, I would remain in astronomy, so it's good experience for me.
DeVorkin: Did you like the kind of astronomy that that represented?
DeVorkin: And was this your idea of what was interesting about astronomy?
Hidayat: Well, I was interested in observational astronomy, knowing my weakness in the theoretical aspect of science, you know. I am weak in mathematics, but I feel that I could do something in physics. So physical interpretation, astronomy, interpretation for astronomy in terms of physics I think I can do rather than in mathematics, and of course measuring double stars using a Gaertner instrument is more or less Gaertner precision.
It's rather boring between work.
DeVorkin: That's right. [laughs]
Hidayat: The interesting aspect is, of course, why the star is observed, and then I could get access to the library and talk and discuss with van Albada why is it important and things like that.
DeVorkin: Did the observatory have a library at that time that you could use?
Hidayat: Yes, the library was open to us in those days.
DeVorkin: And it had all the modern journals, astrophysical journals?
Hidayat: Yes, in those days already.
DeVorkin: And your English was good enough to read them?
Hidayat: Well, I don't know, maybe I could maybe read the Sky & Telescope. As a first year student I could not go to the Astrophysical Journal, but I remember my first colloquium in 1955 was about UBV Photometric System by Johnson. That was my first colloquium, and I still have a copy of it. I mean my written paper was on why UBV Photometric is important, and I became interested in that.
DeVorkin: You were appointed a permanent assistant in 1958 and you were observing visual double stars by then.
DeVorkin: This was still getting masses, double star orbits and that sort of thing?
Hidayat: Yes. Calculate the ephemesis.
DeVorkin: But you were interested also in UBV photometry?
Hidayat: Yes. Because at that time we were talking about photometry, and I thought this is great, with UBV photometry you measure the energy distribution of star and you could deduce the temperature and things like that, you know. And also at that time, in 1955, we are not so sure whether we would get the Schmidt telescope. Also the Schmidt telescope was already in the air, I mean they were discussing the new telescope. But I think there was an option about getting either a photometric telescope or Schmidt type telescope. But later on I learned that photometric telescope is not appropriate in view of the instability of the sky in Indonesia. So van Albada chose the Schmidt type telescope.
DeVorkin: Did you do mainly survey work?
Hidayat: In those days, yes.
DeVorkin: Yes. So it was a Schmidt telescope for wide field rather than doing precision photometry.
DeVorkin: Now, were you involved in the installation of the Schmidt telescope itself?
Hidayat: Well, as a helper, yes, from the very beginning when the trade came in from Jhakarta I was there. And when Blanco was there I participated in the alignment of the polar axis and things like that.
DeVorkin: How did he come there? Was he hired as a faculty member, or was this temporary?
Hidayat: He was hired by UNESCO. And, the Schmidt telescope is a gift from UNESCO, and at that time when the Schmidt telescope arrived, almost all the Dutch professor's terms were finished because of the dispute, the irian [?] dispute. And there was no single professor of astronomy yet. Pik-Sin The was still in America. So UNESCO asked van Albada in Holland, asked Pik-Sin The, asked several other people: who would be the best people from America to help install the telescope, and J.J. Nassau suggested Blanco. So UNESCO invited Blanco to come to Indonesia.
DeVorkin: Now Pik-Sin The was the first Indonesian student at Case.
DeVorkin: Do you know how he chose to go there? Was there a previous relationship between Case and Indonesia?
Hidayat: Well, I'll say it was through van Albada. After the war van Albada went as a post-doctorate or something, went to study practical astronomy under J.J. Nassau.
DeVorkin: That's the connection?
DeVorkin: That's an interesting connection. Because clearly Case was very strong in galactic structure research, and that is very much what the observatory in Indonesia is strong in as well.
Hidayat: And also the fact that the first Schmidt in America before the big Schmidt in California was at the Warner and Swasey.
DeVorkin: It seems like the style of research that became your tradition at the Bosscha Observatory at this time came first from the Dutch, but then it was very much continued in the Case tradition. But that was also the type of astronomy that the Dutch were doing.
Hidayat: In those days, yes.
DeVorkin: Would you say that your H-Alpha emission survey with the Schmidt telescope was very much in this line of work, because here you must have had specific plate filter combinations to isolate H-Alpha using the Schmidt. Is that how it worked?
Hidayat: Yes. And in my first paper on H-Alpha, a recent survey appeared in 1961, yes, before I actually finished it. But actually it was, I asked what the relationship between the T-Tauri type stars and the dark cloud was. Of course George Herbig at that time had already started, but there was no work that related CO2 and molecular species in the dark clouds with star forming regions. The term star forming regions came only later, but I was interested in the darkest clouds like some in Orion and Lupus and things like that.
DeVorkin: So you were getting interested in stellar evolution, stellar formation?
DeVorkin: Yes. That was my idea. But I have not answered your question.
Hidayat: Why did I go to Indonesia? There was an interesting coincidence. Right after my history exam, Victor Blanco asked me or suggested, "Bambang, you should go back to Indonesia." He said something like that. Your importance for astronomy depends on the papers you produce per year, but also depends on how you teach your students. And he said, "I will help you in any way I can scientifically." Now he did that. He did that. In those days Indonesia was not able to buy photographic plates.
DeVorkin: Not much money?
Hidayat: No, not much money. But Professor S. McCluskey sent plates to Indonesia. So I don't know why Blanco asked me like that. Since then I enjoyed teaching, but again, a question arises, when I reached 40 years of age my wife, well I asked my wife, "Shall we remain here or find another job?" "No, you have not finished your work." "Why?" "There is no other Ph.D. here yet."
DeVorkin: So you mean she said you should remain in Indonesia.
DeVorkin: So you were thinking of leaving at times?
Hidayat: Well, yes, because after so many years of teaching, you have practically no time for your own, and then you like to work to get up what is left. But my wife told me no, you have to remain because there has been no Ph.D.
DeVorkin: Well let's go back though to the decision to go to Case.
DeVorkin: This was an AID program. Do you know why you were selected to go?
Hidayat: Well, there were many applicants in the institute. Astronomy needs people. I don't know whether my grades showed a certain amount, beyond the passing grade. And also the correspondence between Case and the director of the institute took place and maybe because of that recommendation, I just don't know. But later I knew that one of the sponsors was van Albada who wrote from Holland that he would become my sponsor.
DeVorkin: So this would be a letter from van Albada probably to Jason Nassau or someone like that.
Hidayat: McCluskey by that time.
DeVorkin: This must have been quite a change for you, and also for your family, for you to go to the United States.
Hidayat: At that time I was alone. I was not married yet.
DeVorkin: This would have been a major change for you. Did you, how did you feel about it? Was it something very exciting, or were you apprehensive?
Hidayat: I was excited, and my father of course was proud, being parents who had a son to go to the United States. In particular at that time there were not very many people going abroad. Just ??? then there was an American professor in chemistry. His name was Swann. He is from Minnesota. He was part of the Kentucky contact team.
DeVorkin: Kentucky contract team?
Hidayat: Yes. The AID contracted with the Kentucky University in Lexington to run the business in Indonesia. So the team is called Kentucky Contract Team, and the Kentucky Contract Team was from the second filter I think. The first filter is our institute and then Kentucky Contract Team, and then of course AID in America. And then Professor Johnson, who taught English, additional English, to those who were selected to go to the United States. It was these two people I thought a lot about life in the United States, and at first of course my impression was, not my impression, my knowledge about United States. Like people of my generation, I think the choice of going to United States was the last choice. Many of us has fixed mind to go to Holland or Europe, Germany in those days. So new, exciting. Of course I appreciated all the help that I received. As in my English teacher, Professor Johnson from Kentucky. We met two times a week, he gave cultural background of the United States, life in the United States, students in the United States, and so on.
DeVorkin: Did you have any sense at that time of what the different national standings were in astronomy and how important the United States was?
Hidayat: Oh yes. By that time, by I think by 1960 I learned that astronomy in the United States is in the forefront, because I could read at that time the Astrophysical Journal, Astronomical Journal, Sky & Telescope, that gave me the impression of science in the United States. I had chosen actually two schools, one in Michigan and also Case. But later on I was advised to go to Case because of the topics that I am interested in.
DeVorkin: Michigan was a very good school as well.
Hidayat: Yes. They had a Schmidt as well. The Michigan Schmidt. It was moved later to Chile.
DeVorkin: So you went to Case, and I'd like to know what your impressions were becoming a student, coming in from Indonesia to Case.
Hidayat: Yes, well, my first reaction to American life was because I attended my first IAU general assembly in Berkeley.
DeVorkin: In 1961.
Hidayat: On my way to Case, I stopped in Berkeley. It was quite new for me, the way people talked, expressed their mind, with such degree of freedom, you know, as if all the information were here [points to his head].
DeVorkin: You mean it was a very free form of expression, people expressing exactly what was in their minds.
Hidayat: And the stories impressed me very much, and for the first time I saw Peter Van de Kamp kind, that is the kind of guy who work on double stars and Sarah Lee Lippencott, and Klaus Adriaan Blaauw, and the most happy moment was to meeting Professor Hertzsprung. Oh, here is the great man. Also Jan Oort.
DeVorkin: So that's where you met Oort and Hertzsprung.
Hidayat: Yes. The first thing Oort mentioned was, "Sorry that the relationship with your country and my country is not as good as we wish." [laughs] That was in Berkeley in 1961.
DeVorkin: Well now Limbang was an important observatory because it was right on the Equator, south of the Equator and of course a Southern Hemisphere site.
DeVorkin: Did the Dutch, did these people express disappointment that they had lost control or lost access to it?
Hidayat: No, not that I ever heard from astronomical circles.
Hidayat: But you asked me what was my impression. I took one undergraduate course, Statistics and Introduction to Astronomy. That was the only undergraduate course I had to take at Cleveland.
DeVorkin: Stellar Statistics?
Hidayat: No. Mathematical statistics from Professor Leone. And you know we were trained along the Dutch school more or less very ???. You have to start with known facts and then derive the formulas, and when you can derive it you are considered good. But here, in America, if a graduate student asks Peter Pesch, "Hey Peter, I don't believe that," you know, as an undergraduate, it was a cultural shock for one, because calling teacher by first name. But above all is the memory, the storage of knowledge here impressed me so much. Then they talk the order of magnitude, you know, distance from the sun to the earth for example, is order of magnitude. The masses of planets and other things.
DeVorkin: People just knew all these things.
Hidayat: Yes, knew all these things. While we were taught in different way. We have to more or less derive first and then we talk about it. So we were not ready to participate in the American style.
DeVorkin: Okay. You said that there was sort of a cultural shock because the way of learning was different?
Hidayat: Yes, and the readiness to discuss about what they get in the classroom.
DeVorkin: I see. Did you find this more creative, more stimulating?
Hidayat: I think this was more stimulating. As a matter of fact I try to bring it over to Indonesia as soon as I get back. I always have students. I give some unfinished questions and try to ask the questions, because of my experience in America.
DeVorkin: So you would ask your students to question you.
DeVorkin: And to get them to think in terms of asking questions rather than working through things that were already formulated for them.
Hidayat: Yes, yes.
DeVorkin: And you felt that was much more creative?
Hidayat: Yes, I believe so. Because sometimes I leave notes, you can derive a formula this, because there is a book, you look at it, and then you ask if you have any questions about that. So that was very interesting to me. My classmate, Mr. D. Philip, is here at the IAM. A.G. Davis Philips. The other one here is Mac Connell. He's a space scientist, space telescope scientist. Dick Herr pass away a year ago. He was from Connecticut. Dick Herr. Nancy Houck, Michigan. Wycoff, from Arizona. Yes, it's a pity that this is the first time we cannot have reunion meeting in the IAU. Usually we always have a reunion, and Dick and I come from Cleveland.
DeVorkin: Did you work with the other students? Did you find that the students worked together differently at Case than back in Indonesia? Were you project oriented? Did you participate in observing projects, that sort of thing?
Hidayat: Yes. For example the course in statistics, mathematical statistics required us to work together. As a matter of fact Leone would first ask you think what kind of astronomical work could be applied to this statistical math. Dan Pascu was quite a help. Pascu was then a student. He is now at the U.S. Naval Observatory, and of course Nicholas Sanduleak.
DeVorkin: There were quite a few students there at that time.
DeVorkin: That was quite a large class.
Hidayat: The largest I think in the history of Case. You asked me about other things in Cleveland.
DeVorkin: I'd be interested in the course work, how you worked with the other students, what observing type work you did, and how you eventually decided on a thesis. I think we could work it through that way.
Hidayat: Of course I did participate in observations at the station, Nassau Station, because their Schmidt telescope was not in the city but out in the country. And the first year, according to the contract that I signed, I was not allowed to drive a car in the States.
Hidayat: Yes. It was part of the ??? process. But later on, because I had to observe, the chairman, Professor McCluskey, asked permission to Washington that I be allowed to drive a car, and finally I received a permit to drive a car. Of course I drove a car in Indonesia. And then, I observed some time, I observed one or two. There was Sanwal from India was also observing with me. Later he work under Stevenson. Susan Wycoff, I worked with her observing, and the thesis was chosen. Well, I think it was at that time there were only a few astronomical windows, the so-called Palomar-Groningen Field, #1, 2, 3, 4. Palomar-Groningen Field from 1 to 3 are located in the direction of the galactic centers. Galactic center. The idea was to find the stellar distribution along that meridional segment.
DeVorkin: The galactic longitude.
Hidayat: Galactic longitude. And then Palomar-Groningen Field #4 is 90 degrees different from that, so if we find a distribution of stars in that direction and compares Palomar-Groningen Field #4 then you can have that estimate about the distribution in the center, in the direction of the center. And of course I talked to Professor Blanco, who had plates at that time, whether I would be allowed to work on this project, on stellar distribution here, and then I thought I would work in the direction of Norma, which can be following the direction, can be observed from Lembang. But he said, "Well, we have some plates in the direction of the galactic center, but the southern part has not been observed." Minus 11 degrees and longitude 359 degrees. This is good to be observed from Indonesia. But Cleveland has plus 11 degrees and plus 27 degrees in the direction 90 degrees.
Hidayat: I thought this would be good to study, because later on I could continue the work in Indonesia.
DeVorkin: So you chose a thesis that you could continue working on in Indonesia.
Hidayat: Yes, that was in my mind. Of course I discussed with Blanco about it, and then he agreed, well, more or less without Russians, you know. He suggested actually to start the stellar distribution, except a direction was not yet, was not yet determined yet where.
DeVorkin: So this was an exploratory study for your thesis, rather than a definitive study.
DeVorkin: The idea would be that you would do everything to get the observational program ready and then you would go back to Indonesia and actually do it.
DeVorkin: But you would have your degree at that time.
Hidayat: Yes. But finally we finished most of them in Cleveland, because I finished the three fields in Cleveland.
DeVorkin: You could observe them from Cleveland. They were low in the sky?
Hidayat: #3 cannot be observed. I finished #1, 2 and #4. I think it was more or less influenced by the Dutch school in galactic structure and distribution of stars in space and things like that, and also Plaut happened to be there to teach the galactic structure.
DeVorkin: So throughout all of this there is a very strong Dutch influence?
Hidayat: [laughs] Yes.
DeVorkin: The whole style of astronomy. Not only the galactic structure but the methodology.
Hidayat: Yes, stellar distribution work started a long time ago actually. But in those days we did not know the position of the sun in the spiral or the position of the sun in the galactic plane. Whether this involved below or right or was equal to zero is still questioned.
DeVorkin: If z was equal to zero? Z being the vertical coordinate.
Hidayat: Well, whether the sun is lying or sitting in the galactic plane or slightly above or below.
DeVorkin: So I take it you defended your thesis in a standard way?
Hidayat: Yes, in a standard American way.
DeVorkin: You must have not experienced winter like you experienced in Cleveland. Is this the first time you experienced winter?
Hidayat: In November 1961. Yes.
DeVorkin: How was it for you?
Hidayat: I was prepared, actually. The first time I heard the radio that there would be snowing on that day, I was ready, and I was expecting that ice. I was outside, wait for the snow, because we learned about white Christmas, you know, in the song, and things like that. And it was, in life, they change the tempo, one's tempo in life in the winter, in the summer, in the spring, and the fall was really not new to my mind, but to experience it is something else. And I was lucky that from the very beginning I asked Professor Blanco to find a house and an American family, I roomed in an American home. I didn't want to go in the dormitory. So in an American family, so that I can learn about the day-to-day life in American home. And because of that, I know what to expect in the winter and the fall. And above all, Cleveland was very active in those days. There was an organization called the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, directed by Mrs. Pang. One of their activities was to ask many students to come once a month to talk and to discuss the problems, and also assign a family, as foster parents. Even now we still maintain good relationship with my foster parents, even with my butcher in the neighborhood I still know and visit whenever possible.
DeVorkin: Oh, that's wonderful.
DeVorkin: Who was the person who ran this Cleveland Council?
Hidayat: Pang. She is an American. As a matter of fact, she served as assistant secretary of, one time she served as assistant secretary of World Fair or something like that in Washington.
DeVorkin: That's a very interesting program. There was a similar kind of a foster parent program for foreign students at Yale when I was there in the late 1960s, so this seems to be a program that is common in different places. But I take it it was very valuable?
Hidayat: It was valuable for me. I really value this highly, and not only now when I'm getting old and my children are married, and we send letters and things like that. So we stay in close contact with them.
DeVorkin: Your children are in Indonesia.
Hidayat: Are in Indonesia. But last year I took them to America for a visit.
DeVorkin: It looks like from the nature of your thesis and also from your feelings about your future, that you knew you were going to return to Indonesia. Now again, Blanco's advice that you should go back. And could you repeat a little bit or maybe expand on his advice for you going back, why it was important for you to go back to Indonesia?
Hidayat: I think he sensed the situation that Indonesia needed more astronomers, and I should teach to help create the school. What he said was a school of astronomy. To be honest I've not been able to create good schools in the sense you know school of thought. But I am glad that I have taught about 20 now.
DeVorkin: Now you said you were unable to establish a school of thought. What do you mean by that?
Hidayat: Well, a school of thought for example I'm not trying to be big but in Leiden, Oort and his disciples have a school. Everybody knows that their galactic structure work or galactic problem solving. For example Cleveland under McCluskey everybody worked in the galactic structure.
DeVorkin: And so did you have a particular type of school of thought in mind that you wanted to establish?
Hidayat: Yes, I want to address many big questions about the structure of galaxy. I would have liked people to work more on the distribution of mass of stars with high mass or with lower mass, with low mass, or start with high temperature or low temperature. But I've not been able to send out these people according to my wish. You know, there were many, many, many scholarships available, and when somebody went to another country, then the professor in that country has his own views.
DeVorkin: Which countries did they tend to go to?
Hidayat: Well, we have five graduates in Japan, in Tokyo there are two and in Kyoto there are five. So right now here in Kyoto at the IAU, one graduated from Holland, two now from Holland, and I think four from France.
DeVorkin: Any others from the United States?
Hidayat: There are two in the United States now. One is already finished. She works in Tokyo now. But of course I am happy that they obtained the opportunity to work in astronomy department and, I mean to obtain higher, advanced degree in foreign country, because by doing that I believe that we are not creating a closed system.
DeVorkin: Oh, inbred.
Hidayat: Yes. They are not inbred. Anyway I am glad, because that makes the futures more adaptable rather than having one school of thought and one type of work. But we have to have a trademark actually.
Hidayat: Trademark, yes, that this school, this observatory has a certain type of work that will become the banner of that observatory, of that school.
DeVorkin: Now, does your university and your program offer the Ph.D.?
Hidayat: Beginning this year.
DeVorkin: So this is the beginning, now.
DeVorkin: Do you have Ph.D. students?
Hidayat: We have got several Masters students. You know, the reason why we start Ph.D. program, as I told you, at first I believe that we start, we should make use or train them, train students to go and to train former students to obtain education from many different schools and then return. But this is too long.
DeVorkin: But is your hope that this someday will help develop a stronger program that out of that will become a trademark, some form of trademark?
Hidayat: I hope so, yes. I hope so.
DeVorkin: Yes. You think it would work better that way than training students only at home and only to do let's say what your vision would be.
DeVorkin: I see.
Hidayat: Indonesia is rather isolated. The nearest observatories are in Perth and in India and in Japan. Perth, Australia. And Tokyo, and then in Bangalor. So the opportunity for them to develop must be given, otherwise it will be too late.
DeVorkin: That's interesting. When you returned to the Bosscha Observatory in 1965, what were your primary tasks at that time? Because I know that within three years you were made director at age 34. You were quite young as a director of an observatory. But what kind of staff did you have, what state were your instruments in? You mentioned before that Indonesia at that time was not economically very stable. What sources of support did you have? If you could give me a description of all of that.
Hidayat: Yes, well Pik-Sin The and I started to map out a program. At that time we only knew about young stars, T-Tauri type stars by studying the spectrum. We were not aware actually that there are places where star formation was taking place, you know. This is what we were doing, and then, yes, I did observations, one in double stars, to continue the works that I believed that I would like to continue because of the merit of double stars. I also wanted to have that tradition in the observatory.
DeVorkin: You wanted to have —?
Hidayat: Tradition for the observatory. For double star work. And then there is a Schmidt telescope, so I work on the Schmidt. At first in 1966 I gave six hours teaching a week, together with Pik-Sin The. There were only two members of the observatory and one assistant in those days.
DeVorkin: So you and Pik-Sin The were the two staff members, and you had an assistant.
DeVorkin: Was the assistant a student?
Hidayat: No, he was senior of us actually. But he did not graduate, and so we usually, we didn't call him assistant but astronomer or something like that.
DeVorkin: I see. So he was more of a research astronomer who did observing.
DeVorkin: I understand that sort of structure. Many observatories have that. Now the observatory itself, in 1965 was it part of the university yet?
Hidayat: Yes, since 1951 actually. Since it transferred into university.
DeVorkin: And that's partly because of the growing independence of the nation?
Hidayat: Transferred from the Dutch into the university.
DeVorkin: Exactly. So by the time you were there, it was completely part of the university for the whole time.
DeVorkin: What sources of support did you have? Again, I know there wasn't much money, but were there particular ministries in Indonesia?
Hidayat: Yes, Ministry of Education and Culture provides support. To be honest, it was meager support to run the observatory. All the photographic materials, all the research material came from Cleveland still. Wainer and Swasey observatory was part of the cooperation, because we took plates for Dr. McCluskey to work on some fields, some southern fields, and the title was "Galactic Structure with Low Dispersion" or something like that. That was the contract between Dr. McCluskey and National Science Foundation.
DeVorkin: Now, did this kind of connection help you gain support from your own Ministry of Education and Culture? Was this sort of like a lever, like a hook?
Hidayat: In a way, yes, because then they know that we are competent and that we work. But, as I told you, this monetary situation, the financial and economic accommodation in those days was simply in the bottom, that the ministry cannot do more, except to finance the employees, the workers.
DeVorkin: What was your pay scale like? What was your pay equivalent to at that time? How would you compare your pay to that of some other type of professional in Indonesia?
Hidayat: Oh well, our pay scale is the same as all university staff members, but as compared to Americans it is very low
DeVorkin: Were you fairly well off, middle class or how would you describe it?
Hidayat: Yes, middle class, maybe lower middle class in those days. I even married in 1966. A year after I returned from the States. So we managed to live in a better place.
DeVorkin: This might be a good time to ask how you met your wife, what the conditions or arrangements were for marriage, and a little bit of her background.
Hidayat: Oh, I met her actually when I was a student still in Bandung. We were not engaged, and we were sent to America more or less in the same batch.
DeVorkin: Oh, she went with you?
Hidayat: No, no. She went to Oregon State. As I told you, AID selected people, and my wife was sent by our school, by the School of Botany, to America. And she did better than I did, because she finished her Ph.D. in three years and I finish in four years. [laughs]
DeVorkin: Did you remain in contact while you were in the United States?
Hidayat: No, we were not in contact, except on Christmas or New Year's.
DeVorkin: So it was casual. It was a casual —
Hidayat: It was casual. There was no personal relationship. We were just in the country. Only when we returned to Indonesia I think we really got serious.
DeVorkin: And did she return as a professor at the university?
Hidayat: Later on, yes, she became professor at the institute, Technologi Bandung. The name of our institute is ITB, Institute Technologi Bandung.
DeVorkin: You got married first?
Hidayat: Yes, and then she worked there. Of course we have to climb the ladder from assistant professor, to associate professor, things like that.
DeVorkin: What was her maiden name?
DeVorkin: Was it unusual for women to become professionals, or was this becoming more common?
Hidayat: Becoming more common already by the 1960s. So I heard that when she started in Oregon there were very few women in the department of biology. I think she was the only woman, because it was not common there. But in Indonesia, the biology department consisted of 50 percent women.
DeVorkin: There is a similarity with India as well I think. But they don't have senior positions, they usually have junior positions.
Hidayat: In India?
DeVorkin: In India. What about Indonesia?
Hidayat: I don't think there is any discrimination in Indonesia because there are many woman professors. We have now three women ministers, state ministers in the country, as well as our director general.
DeVorkin: That's important.
Hidayat: Yeah. The second level of government has many women.
DeVorkin: Now you were made director of the Bosscha Observatory in 1968. Was this because Pik-Sin The left?
Hidayat: That's right, because Pik-Sin The left.
DeVorkin: Now, can you tell me why he left?
Hidayat: I'm afraid I don't know the motivation. [laughs] I really cannot tell you. I don't know the motivation about that. Of course by 1965 there was some political turmoil in Indonesia and at that time Indonesians were angry with the Republic of China, because Indonesians thought the Republic of China was the sponsor of the uprising. It could have been that he felt insecure to live in the country like that. But in the university there were no feelings like that. He was appointed dean of the faculty of mathematics and science in 1966.
And he was the director when he left. In those days there were many ethnic scientists who left Indonesia I think because of the political situation that was not very favorable.
Hidayat: But not in the academic circle.
DeVorkin: But as director you certainly were not yet full professor, you were an assistant or associate professor?
Hidayat: I was still assistant professor at that time.
DeVorkin: Right. Did this make it more difficult for you to maintain the observatory? Did you have less political power than you would have liked to have had, such as Pik-Sin The obviously had much more power on campus than you did.
Hidayat: Well, I have never felt that way. I never observed that way, because the university system in Indonesia supported comradeship, rather than a structure like that. Whenever you are appointed to chairs, even if you are not a professor, you have the same voice.
DeVorkin: So it's not hierarchical.
DeVorkin: In the sense that full professors have chairs, and everybody else sort of works for them. That's the European system. You had much more the American system.
Hidayat: Yes, yes. At that time we were more or less converted into the American system.
DeVorkin: I would like to ask you about your goals were as the director of the observatory, and from there talk about how you developed collaborations, with first van der Hucht at Utrecht, and then with other astronomers, especially with Japanese astronomers, how you developed contacts. What were your general goals for building the observatory at that time? Was it through collaboration or through indigenous growth? Or both?
Hidayat: Well, in the beginning I felt that indigenous growth would be more important, because if you have no trump card to talk with, then you will not be able to develop cooperation, right, because the other party would like also to have a certain kind of gain from the collaboration. So my idea was to build. My ideal school at that time was to build a good school in binary stars and galactic structure. I appreciate very much the help of our colleagues in Cleveland that I could maintain this galactic structure. And for binary work, the help of Holland was also important. At that time Pik-Sin The and van Albada formed a pitch between Indonesia and The Netherlands.
DeVorkin: Pik-Sin The was in Amsterdam?
Hidayat: And he helped us in any way he could, and so did van Albada.
DeVorkin: So you remained personally in contact and close to van Albada, even though he had to leave?
DeVorkin: And with other Dutch, I take it.
DeVorkin: Well, what about van der Hucht?
Hidayat: He came later. He was an expert in galactic structure. He worked in Boulder, Colorado, working on Wolf-Rayet stars. We talked about their distribution in space, because some time ago Lindsay thought that there would be a relationship between Wolf-Rayet stars and galactic structure and Morton Roberts thought that way too. But a catalog used by Lindsay was limited in those days in the sixties.
DeVorkin: Roberts was stellar, optical astronomy at that time?
Hidayat: Optical. And Lindsay Smith told me that he was interested to come to Indonesia, and talk about collaborations on W-R stars and galactic structure. This became our interest. Smith had a special relationship with Indonesia, because his great grandfather started a tea plantation in Indonesia. So he came to Indonesia and he discussed about W-R stars.
DeVorkin: Interesting. And what was the relationship between you and he? How did the collaboration work?
Hidayat: Well, mainly through letters except when he taught in Indonesia.
DeVorkin: Oh, I see. And did you and he developed observational programs together?
Hidayat: We were developing, but noticed the direction of research on those various stars required telescopes in another wavelength than optical. I think the optical part of the spectrum of W-R stars is more or less over except, well, not quite over, but if there are changes in spectra, more information could be obtained from infrared and from UV rather than from optical.
DeVorkin: Right. At one point you wanted to develop a radio observatory. Was that in the sixties, or was it later?
Hidayat: That was in the late seventies.
DeVorkin: Okay. So it's too early to really get to that. When did you begin contacts with the Japanese and develop collaborations?
Hidayat: In 1978.
DeVorkin: Oh, so that's also much later.
Hidayat: Yes. Much later.
DeVorkin: Is there a reason why it was much later? Why you didn't do this earlier?
Hidayat: I think it has something to do with the Indonesian scheme of cooperation in those days. By 1976 we were given access through the so-called Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. So, in 1978 one of my younger colleagues, Dr. Wanatee Suntandio worked on X-ray binaries. He came to Kyoto under that scheme. I also proposed that our Schmidt telescope was good for observing infrared stars in the southern sky, and they were interested. Professor Ichikawa, who is here now, is one of the first who used it together with us, and Ishita also. So our aim was to study the southern milky way, including galactic center with cool stars.
DeVorkin: Now by infrared, how far into the red can you go with a Schmidt?
Hidayat: Oh, 8,800 angstroms.
DeVorkin: And that's pretty much limited by the photographic emulsions?
Hidayat: That's right, by the photographic emulsion.
DeVorkin: Now, you identified a number of funding sources. The Kerkhoven Bosscha Foundation?
Hidayat: Yes. I take it that there was an endowment? This foundation continued to exist in the 1960s and seventies?
Hidayat: Yes. The endowment was transferred to Holland I think after, immediately after the war I think. Thanks to our Dutch colleagues who think that they should help us, we appreciate their gesture of letting us use for scientific work, because we are still applying for it.
DeVorkin: I'm interested in the mechanics of it. You actually applied to this foundation yourself?
Hidayat: In the beginning, yes, we applied, but now there is an amount of money earmarked with a certain condition of course that we are still carrying astronomy work.
DeVorkin: You also acknowledge the Warner and Swasey Observatory. This was basically for the plates, the photographic emulsions. Then you acknowledge a foundation called Binagraha.
Hidayat: Binagraha is the office of the president of Indonesia actually. It was very interesting that one time the Rector Magnificus of IBT got a visit from President Suharto, and President Suharto asked him, "What can we do to have science in Indonesia at your institute? I think the other branches of sciences are more or less well established, I mean as far as money is concerned. But astronomy cannot make money. Can you help astronomy?"
DeVorkin: The other sciences were able to be self-supporting?
Hidayat: Yes, self-supporting, but astronomy, has nothing to sell to the public. And so we got an endowment for certain years to. Of course every year we have to apply. And to my surprise actually, when I was installed as the first member of the Indonesian Academy of Science in 1991, all of a sudden he asked me, "Did you use the support for Penagraha wisely?" Like that, you know. There was lots of people, you know, and I didn't expect that he remembered all those things, but he remembers. [laughs]
DeVorkin: An interesting question.
Hidayat: Interesting question. And then he continued, "Well, I hope you can use it to develop astronomy in Indonesia."
DeVorkin: What was your answer, by the way? Do you remember that?
Hidayat: Yes, "We can publish books and buy books with the help of Penagraha," and of course I think he mentioned specifically about the radio astronomy. Because in 1979, Swarup from India proposed an Equatorial Telescope in Indonesia.
DeVorkin: Who is that?
Hidayat: Swarup is the forefather of the giant meter telescopes in India. Swarup's proposal was very appealing, to have radio astronomy in Indonesia. Then I talked to the Minister of Research about this. He immediately talked to the president, President Suharto, and then I was summoned to see him to explain the importance of it. And then he wrote a letter that Indonesia would be willing to help, and the land was readily obtained for this telescope. Unfortunately UNESCO was not able to help. When I saw him a couple of times later on, he asked, "Are you still going to build that radio telescope?" He asked me like that, you know. Well, despite all the problem he has as politician, but sometime he expresses interest like that in science.
DeVorkin: The development of technology to be able to build and run a radio telescope does have many commercial and military applications, both for communications and in other applications, and I'm just wondering, was that something at all that Indonesia was interested in, and was this part of the interest in building the telescope?
Hidayat: No, in 1981 I think that the radio telescope was built in Indonesia. Ninety percent of the infrastructure can be built in Indonesia. We have got good civil engineers, electronics engineers, and of course antenna engineers. We have a communications satellite, the first in Indonesia and shows that we are not very far behind in such an enterprise. And civil engineering, of course, the Dutch school again, because the Dutch School of Engineering in Indonesia started early.
DeVorkin: So where does the radio astronomy observatory stand now? Does it exist, or not yet?
Hidayat: Not yet, because the project was assessed in term of technology of 1990, of technology of 2000. At that time, 1970 is just, well you are just speculations, you know? A two-kilometer long radio telescope. The plan was to have a two-kilometer long interferometer and 50-meter antennas under Equator. So it moved east and west. And that's still on the shelf, but it's a plan. Now I think we have to move fast, but in Indonesia with radio telescope, because the president is getting old, and who knows, the minister of research will not be interested anymore. So I feel bad about it, because he was so interested in the project.
DeVorkin: How do you promote these things? How do you get them moving through the government?
Hidayat: Well, at first I talked, I make a special request to Minister Habeebee the minister of research technologies, and like what you said, electronics can be a spinoff, in the country. And generating computer science also is useful.
DeVorkin: Especially with an interferometer.
Hidayat: Yes. And he is an aeronautical engineer. He has an interest in airplane factories. He is interested in those things. Suharto wrote a letter of support, and that was easy once Suharto wrote the letter all the ministers below him would support it.
DeVorkin: Yes. Do you find yourself as an emissary or do you find that this is political work that has to be done? Do you have to do politicking? Do you have to go to the government yourself?
Hidayat: Because it is also for the interest of science, I don't feel like I am being political, because in my point of view if you are political now and the government changes, then you will become somebody else. So if you promote science free from political attachment, then it will be better in the long run.
DeVorkin: Okay, I wanted to make sure I understood your philosophy.
DeVorkin: But even though you want to remain free of political attachment, it's still important to curry favor with ministers who would be sympathetic.
Hidayat: Oh yes. But that is a step you can do without, for example, by licking his feet. You can just present this as the scientific argument, and it will be nice if we can do this.
DeVorkin: Would this be a good time to talk more about the growth of your activities in the IAU, your international work fostering the collaborations? I'm interested mainly in how the IAU has helped you maintain international contacts, and has it been an important agent in meeting your goals.
Hidayat: Oh, this is difficult to answer, because I think what I have been doing so far, I have no personal interest whatsoever to be involved in international undertakings, international schemes, or the international scene. But what I'm doing is I think I'm just trying to do my best to facilitate the meeting of people's mind; that is, I remember the way de Jager from Holland and Edith Mueller from Switzerland work. I think they are trying to promote science not only by doing science themselves, but also by providing others to be able to have contact with other people. I think that is the main idea. And later, when I was asked whether I will be available to serve as the vice president of the Union, I thought it was a great, that's a great honor, but I really didn't know why. Because what I'd been trying is just to make contact and to provide a good relation, a good way of meeting each other.
DeVorkin: Well, without the IAU, how would you have done that? I mean, do you see the IAU as an important vehicle for making contacts?
Hidayat: Certainly yes. It is an important vehicle for astronomy, making contact in astronomy, and in 1979 at the Montreal meeting I was so happy that IAU accepted Indonesia to become its member as a country, because I remember already in 1967 a personal member, but as a country only in 1979 at the Montreal meeting.
DeVorkin: And that allowed you to produce or create a national committee and have representation?
Hidayat: Well, yes, a national committee. In Indonesia we have already started much earlier to form that, but the country was still, Indonesia as a country was not ready to join it simply because of financial reasons and then I have to have many talks and write and see the minister, telling him that it is important to join the Union because later generation of astronomers, which are many here in Indonesia, will be able to contribute, to participate actively in the international community.
DeVorkin: Certainly your role was very prominent in organizing international colloquia and symposia in the areas of your scientific research. You did this primarily through the IAU having symposia, as I understand.
Hidayat: Yes. Of course we requested the IAU to become the umbrella to organize it, and I think IAU is very neutral and very supportive in this case, very supportive. So, we are member of the IAU, so we organize it within the IAU, but also the UNESCO office in Indonesia has been very active in supporting the cause of astronomy.
DeVorkin: But do you find that the official status of being a member nation in the IAU has also helped you in Indonesia gain the support that you need? Has that been helpful?
Hidayat: I think not. But the fact that IAU provides the umbrella for this, for the meeting and things like that, the Indonesian government is ready to help, to support our cause.
DeVorkin: In 1976 the Indonesian astronomy association was founded. You founded that.
Hidayat: Yes. With Jorga Ibrahim.
DeVorkin: Ibrahim. Who was he, and what led you to found the association? And is this a professional society?
Hidayat: Yes. Dr. Jorga Ibrahim is a theoretical astronomer who studied cosmology in France under Professor Ligna Roberts, and he's now in Indonesia at the department of astronomy.
DeVorkin: Aha. Is he your first theoretician?
Hidayat: Yeah. He is a theoretician in astronomy.
DeVorkin: Does his theoretical work dovetail with your observational work?
Hidayat: No, he is in cosmology, mathematical cosmology, it's entirely different field. And I learned from him theoretical aspect of astronomy.
DeVorkin: How did he come to be hired, since he has a theoretical interest and also because it is a theoretical interest quite different than galactic structure?
Hidayat: Well, he was hired by the department of astronomy. So the department of astronomy, which is part of the university, employed him as the teaching staff.
DeVorkin: But you were the department. You were heading the department, were you not?
Hidayat: No. Well, I was head of the department at one time, but not now.
DeVorkin: Oh, so, because of the rotating chair.
Hidayat: Yes, and since 1986 the department of astronomy and the observatory are separate institutions under the IPP, separate institutions.
DeVorkin: What were the two separate institutions again? Just to be clear?
DeVorkin: Well, one is the department of astronomy. And then Bosscha Observatory. It's only a matter of administration actually, but under the same umbrella. Except that department is under the dean of mathematic and science, but the Bosscha Observatory directly under the president of the university.
DeVorkin: Has that caused any friction between the two?
Hidayat: No. Because some, like Swarja work in both departments. Actually we provide all the observing facilities not only for the department of astronomy, but for physics and other departments.
DeVorkin: Tell me about the Indonesian-Netherlands Astrophysics, or was it Indonesian-Netherlands Association, which formed in 1982.
DeVorkin: So it's called Indonesian-Netherland Astrophysics. How was this formed? I know it's known as the INA. We'll call it the INA. How was this formed and what was its purpose?
Hidayat: It proposes to promote the work of astronomy in The Netherlands and in Indonesia in three fields. One is galactic structure, second is binary stars, and third is theoretical astronomy. The advice of de Jager and Jorga Ibrahim.
DeVorkin: Is this cosmology?
Hidayat: Cosmology, yes. Of course there will be many more, because a former student who used to study in Texas, is now in Japan, also worked in physical cosmology, also theoretical astronomy. He is inclined more to the theoretical rather than observational binary stars. So this is actually a vehicle to provide means of Indonesians visiting The Netherlands and bringing astronomy to Indonesia.
DeVorkin: It's sort of cross-fertilization.
DeVorkin: Indonesian astronomers can visit and work in The Netherlands, Netherlands astronomers come and observe or work in Indonesia.
DeVorkin: Is there any endowment or money associated with this?
Hidayat: Before 1982, the department of education and culture in both countries support this. And second funding institution is the LK Pierre Rights Kerrhooven Posow Foundation. But in 1986, there was an incident between Indonesia and The Netherlands. The minister of foreign health, Mr. Pronk made the statement that all of that support to Indonesia should be related to human rights. In other words, if Indonesian government will not abide to the human rights regulation then the Dutch support will not be allowed to flow to Indonesia. Now President Suharto got angry at that, and then he said, "We don't want to receive any more Dutch support." So it's getting difficult for us, because the first ministry cannot provide official support for astronomy and for other sciences. But there are still organization, like OKPF that can help this kind of cooperation.
DeVorkin: So there's a lot of politics involved.
Hidayat: Yes, yes. Because of the human rights principle.
DeVorkin: This must be still a vestige of the sensitivities created by colonialism?
Hidayat: Yes, yes, I think so! [laughs]
DeVorkin: How do you feel about that?
Hidayat: Yes, you ask me personal feeling. I think it is this: when I look back to the Dutch, to the history I mean, even human rights in The Netherlands was not observed in 1946. For example, there was a man called Altman who was very pro-Indonesia. He was not allowed to speak, was not allowed to write anything about Indonesia in Holland. Why should they impose on us the same thing for example. Because this is related to a larger measure I think as part of the politics and the (???) of the fight between Portugal and Indonesia.
DeVorkin: Between Portugal?
Hidayat: Portugal, yes. Portugal has small colony in the eastern part of Indonesia. This is called Timor. And I think it has something to do with that.
DeVorkin: And somehow, among many other interests, astronomy gets caught in the middle. Right.
Hidayat: Right. [laughs]
DeVorkin: You've been active certainly in national associations in the Indonesian Academy of Sciences. You were a deputy chair or are deputy chair of the Indonesian National Institute of Space and Aeronautics?
Hidayat: I was for five years.
DeVorkin: What were your duties there as deputy chair? What is the activity, and what is the National Institute all about?
Hidayat: Well, the National Institute of Space and Aeronautics is the so-called Indonesian NASA. And its primary function is to study near space, to study Indonesian soil by remote sensing, and atmospheric sciences over Indonesia. And I was deputy chairman for scientific affairs for five years in that institution. Primarily I was trying to establish scientific infrastructure in that institute. That was my main activity. And the academic side is in what you call the National Academy of Sciences, NASA. Academic science consisted of chapters. The chapter members consisted of 27 persons and is an independent body, only the first time was officially installed by the president and the next, the membership for the next batch will be installed by the chairman of the Indonesian academic science, not by the president. But, yes, this is an independent body.
DeVorkin: Okay. I just wanted to clarify that. Do you have any actual duties there? Is that an advisory body to the government?
Hidayat: An advisory body to the government, whether you are asked or not, and you should. In the future I think we should be able to provide direction as to what most important research in science is. And that has been done by the group of economy and by the social scientists in the academy. But for natural science, our group has not been able to produce such an important document, but for other groups, yes, they already produced directives for social studies.
DeVorkin: Do you feel you will eventually be able to produce this document?
Hidayat: Yes. As a matter of fact, the first draft has already been prepared, and by the time I get home I should read it.
DeVorkin: Good. And so it sounds like progress is being made.
Hidayat: Yes, [laughs], I hope so.
DeVorkin: Let’s talk about the very interesting essay that you wrote on the Dutch and astronomy in the tropics. I understand you delivered this as a talk in Leiden?
Hidayat: Yes, I used the writings of Lewis Pyenson, of Tom Geinyn, and Roy McLeod. That's right. And I find this very, very interesting, because you describe the Indonesian-Dutch relationship in the 1920s as a paternalistic love-hate relationship, which I thought was very interesting.
DeVorkin: So you do agree with his view in your experience, or in your sense of the history of the relationship. Do you feel that there was any vestiges of this love-hate relationship as you were growing up that you sensed personally yourself that you could help validate his thesis?
Hidayat: Yes, I can see it in the field of biology, for example. My wife passed away two years ago, so, but then she was active. I think many times she talked about that, that people in Leiden always trying to teach their colleague how to do it and things like that. But sometimes the support was always attached to something else. So it is difficult for me to comprehend this kind of situation or to accept this kind of situation. But later on I also found an interesting parallel between Japan and Indonesia. For astronomy it doesn't matter very much, because astronomy has no national interest and national boundary, but the support for other field of sciences like biology is very sensitive in Indonesia. Apparently the support is not free from interest. I would like to give an example. It's rather away from what you asked, but there were cases that many of the specimen of flora were actually forbidden to be taken out were taken through this program to Japan, through this collaboration, and it was an embarrassment for the government that this happened actually. Apparently the scientist who went to Indonesia was not aware that he was being used by the pharmaceutical company and things like that.
DeVorkin: By the Japanese pharmaceuticals?
Hidayat: Yes. Of course for astronomy you cannot, you study stars from Indonesia, there will be no impact on national economy.
DeVorkin: I know that in the case of the Yale Southern Station in Argentina there was a time when Argentina wanted to impose a national resources tax on the photographic plates that were sent back to Yale that were photographed in Argentina because they were providing their southern skies. And this was a point of sensitivity between Yale and Argentina for awhile.
Hidayat: I see.
DeVorkin: So I don't know, were there ever any kind of political feelings there that somehow you're exporting a national resource?
Hidayat: Not in astronomy so far. That's because we can also use them, the plate material.
DeVorkin: You do the work for yourself, and that makes a big difference.
Hidayat: Yes. Another field, in geology, for example, it's very sensitive. Geology, biology and other fields.
DeVorkin: I can understand that.
Hidayat: But back to the Dutch-Indonesian relationship, I think I got involved with the lectures in Leiden because one time in 1994 I was asked by Mr. Van Rooiyen, who was the ambassador of the Netherlands in Indonesia. This is a well known name, because his father formed with Mr. Room Van Rooiyen-Room Agreement in 1949 that led to the transfer of sovereignty in Indonesia. But anyway, I was asked to give a lecture in the Dutch Erasmus House, the cultural center in Jhakarta, about Dutch-Indonesian relationships in science.
DeVorkin: So this was a lecture in Indonesia.
Hidayat: Well, no, that was in Leiden. Now, they asked me to review Dutch-Indonesian relationships in science. I quoted from the Pakoomar I think about what is important is not science in the imperial, but science as an imperial history.
DeVorkin: Science as imperial history.
Hidayat: Yes. And then I showed that how important it was meteorology; triangulation; geodesy; in Indonesia in the past century, because of the economic value of these studies. Apparently Blussy, a Dutch historian, was there. Half of the participants were Dutch and half were Indonesian. He got interested in furthering a connection with me, so I was asked to give a talk, more or less similar talk, in Istanbul on the history of European expansion in the Far East.
DeVorkin: And this was a talk in Istanbul?
Hidayat: After my Istanbul talk, unfortunately I have not been able to place this, the historical society of Leiden wrote asking whether I would be available for a talk at the 420th anniversary of the University of Leiden. I felt it a great honor and I took much time to prepare it, being an Indonesian. Someone remarked that my talk was rather linear in the presentation. I agree with it, because I did during that kind of talk I didn't want to, what you call it, make too many footnotes.
DeVorkin: Somebody who read it said it was too linear?
Hidayat: Yes, yes. [laughs]
DeVorkin: But I found that it was very, very interesting, and certainly should be worked up and published. It would be very nice if it could be published. But let me move on though, because I think you continue to provide hints of how you feel in some of your other essays, and in your essay on space science on page 5 you discuss a question that Tom Geiryn had asked, and his question goes something like this: "Does the adoption of western science and technology form a liberating force or create greater dependence?" is his question. You say it does both, and nations like Indonesia have to be prepared to adopt science and accept it as a destroyer of values. Now that's a very interesting idea, and I'd like you to expand on what you mean there, because it could relate I think, this sort of idea could be incorporated into your essay on the Dutch and astronomy in the tropics I think as a very interesting observation.
Hidayat: I find there are many, and particularly when I was in Japan at the National Institute of Space and Aeronautics, I observed more and more the Japanese scientists who went to Indonesia to observe, for example, magnetic properties of the west area. They gave us the instrumentation, asked the Indonesian people to watch, to record. I say, "No. No way. As long as you work with me, you have to know the theoretical background." It is a very sophisticated instrument. Even if you have sophisticated instrument, you have to know why is he measuring the activities. What for? The “why” is more important to me, you know.
DeVorkin: So you were not just the on-site observer to use their equipment; you were going to be a full participant?
Hidayat: Yes. You have to be. That is what I expected of my younger friends: you have to be full participants to know what is happening or what is he going to do with it. Even if you've got good instrumentation, if you don't know the mechanism of it and that's a black box for you, you don't get anything. And this is not the sole example. There are many examples of sophisticated instrumentation left in Indonesia and the Indonesian scientists group are asked to observe it, to report it. That is not the way to promote science. You have to be very active, and active participants in it.
DeVorkin: I certainly appreciate that. In fact Meghmad Saha would say the same thing. But that's why I found this an interesting statement. You say nations like Indonesia have to be prepared to adopt science, so you have to be able to accept it, but what does it mean to accept it as a destroyer of value? I'm quoting from your own essay.
Hidayat: Not as a destroyer. As a destroyer of value?
DeVorkin: Yes. Are you saying that somehow you have to accept the fact that your culture has to change? Your indigenous culture has to change in your acceptance of western science?
Hidayat: Yes. That's okay.
DeVorkin: Should we look at the essay?
Hidayat: Not as a destroyer of value I think. Because we cannot afford not to do science to move forward. It is the answer for increasing our welfare or activities. But there are also indigenous partitions of value that we have to observe. On page 5?
DeVorkin: Yeah. I have it here. Right here, the third paragraph. “Form a liberating force or greater dependence. The immediate answer to the question is certainly yes, new technology is and does those things.” I guess what you mean is it forms both a liberating force, and it creates greater dependence. It is a two-edged sword: a bearer and a destroyer of value.
Hidayat: Okay, a bearer. I give you an example, very simple one that happened to my student. Computers are so advanced nowadays. What I asked him to do is to make a least-square fit. Of course he punched it out, and then he got the value of the AMP constants. But the points are far away from the line, you know. And he doesn't think of what this means. He said that no, the data is not good, why it's not good because the line does not fit through the data. No, that is its value is wrong. That is what I meant.
DeVorkin: You mean he had to understand that the deviations were important.
Hidayat: He must understand what least-square method means.
DeVorkin: Yes. Exactly.
Hidayat: In the old days you check it one by one. And now the destroyer of value is, for example, nowadays more common there is debate about cloning. People are aware of its importance in biology: cloning has been done for many, many years. It started many years ago. Now when people talk about cloning of man, then that was a new way to think about it. But now if you support cloning without realizing that same has happened before in biology, so you think that cloning is a new thing.
As a destroyer of value, for example, I was going to give a specific example in culture. In culture, we have a certain value: respecting old people. A value about the dying old man. Medical science is so advanced these days, and what one has to do is to decide when you take off all the gadgets and let him die.
Hidayat: In the old days it was not possible to do that.
Hidayat: Now it depends, I don't know whether one would be allowed to die or one will be kept alive. [pause]
DeVorkin: We are talking about medical ethics, cloning, how modern science has changed values of not only it sounds like Indonesia, but all, everywhere.
Hidayat: Yes. This positive insight, positive and negative aspects of modern science should be weighted, should be balanced when you were taught science, but you cannot neglect science at all. Some people say, "Well, modern scientists create more problems." No, I don't think so. I don't think it is. Because now we can live harmoniously in hot Jhakarta, for example, because there is air conditioning. That is the product of modern science.
DeVorkin: Do you find that you have to defend science in Indonesia frequently?
Hidayat: Yes, frequently, yes. There are some, for example, in the case of beginning of Ramadan, beginning of the month of fasting. We can predict when the moon appears above the horizon after the sunset, but one faction of Moslems, believes that according to Koran you have to see it. So there I have to defend science. My scientific belief says that at that time the moon is not above the horizon, but the Ulama, the learned people, have so many followers that what is said may be regarded as truth by his followers. And that still happens in Indonesia.
DeVorkin: I see. So that is a point of tension.
DeVorkin: I was hoping you could expand a bit about Masai Meeyati's presence at the observatory in 1943-45 and how he saved the observatory during the Japanese Occupation from improper treatment. You gave me the essay that was written about him, written by someone else, but I was wondering how much more is known about his work. How did he save the observatory from improper treatment?
Hidayat: Well, I think Professor Kosai would know better Masai Meeyati. Kosai is the former resident. Because he was one of his students when he was director. And Nanobu Sato is also here at this meeting and translated that essay.
Hidayat: Well, now suppose there were no Japanese astronomer in place at the observatory. The observatory might have been used by military. And it could be easily destroyed, because people who were there do not know the importance of astronomy.
DeVorkin: Oh, they just could have used the building for other purposes?
Hidayat: Yes. For other purposes.
DeVorkin: I see what you're saying, yes.
Hidayat: And this happened during the transitional period from Japan to Indonesian control, there were British troops occupying the observatory and finally Professor Pinz found the eyepiece in the pond, and something like that. Only a short period of time, and people would have robbed it to sell as scrap iron or something.
The purpose I wrote that, when I gave it in Holland, because there is a group in Holland who thought that Voute [pronounced foe'-tah] was a Japanese collaborator. He was not well accepted. He was regarded as collaborator by the Dutch side. And I learned from the people who witnessed the situation and who talked to him. He worked at the observatory during the Japanese time simply because of his love for astronomy. He wanted to save it. And from the letter of Meeyati, I think — did I send you the translation of that letter?
DeVorkin: Yes, I think so.
Hidayat: Yes. He suffered a hard life, because he had to work 10 kilometers below the observatory. But Bok did not believe it. Be careful when you read Japanese account on the Occupation, because they try to hide the history.
DeVorkin: No, I can understand that. Who doesn't believe it?
Hidayat: Bart Bok. I gave him this article, asked him to look at this article. But you must be careful about it because nowadays the Japanese are trying to hide part of the history in the World War II.
DeVorkin: Yes. Well, I'm trying to keep it alive and keep it understood. Okay, we've gone just about three hours. It has been a very good interview. Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you feel you would like to talk about?
Hidayat: No, except that I appreciate the people who helped me to work in the IAU and to contribute what I can do, to contribute to, to help me to contribute what I have here. In my letter to Professor Boyarchuk when I was asked to be vice president, I said I still had to learn international diplomacy. I mean, I don't know much about it.
DeVorkin: Who were the people who were most influential in bringing you into the IAU in the vice-presidential role, in this important role?
Hidayat: I don't know who put up my name here. But first of all I received the invitation from Professor Yoshide Kosai. He asked me on the phone, "Did you receive a letter from Boyarchuk?" He was president then. And I said, "No, what kind of letter?" So. But I really do not know who.
Hidayat: No. I also learned from de Jager actually, and Blaauw. Blaauw is very subtle in settlings.
DeVorkin: You learned their form of diplomacy?
Hidayat: How to handle or to settle disputes I think. It's not necessarily diplomacy, but to settle disputes. I don't know whether diplomacy is the right and proper term in it.
DeVorkin: That's issues within the IAU.
Hidayat: Yes, that's right.
DeVorkin: Okay. Now finally then, for the future of astronomy in Indonesia, what do you feel are the most important challenges facing the future of astronomy in Indonesia at this time?
Hidayat: At this time is I think we need to narrow down the interests of individuals. We need to work together, and then solve the problem. Solve the problem. This does not mean that I don't value the independence of people, I value highly independence. But in order to achieve the goals I think more people should work on one topic, rather than leaving it to individuals. And second of course instrumentation. And then third is the recognition by the government that astronomy is part of culture and it has the right to survive in this technological age. Some people are thinking that there should be one-to-one correspondence between ideas and results, I mean results and research. But astronomy provide different kind of results. It is the intellectual and cultural thinking that is also important for our nation.
DeVorkin: This is the era of the space telescope and consortia that have 8-meter telescopes. What do you feel is the most important contribution of Indonesian astronomy, given what your resources could be in the future?
Hidayat: First, I think we can join the consortium, of course, but we have so many people to teach in Indonesia. If we embark on the project to build an 8-meter telescope, not too many people can make use of it. So we still have for the future, for the foreseeable future, to have many, many smaller scientific infrastructure, telescopes of 1 meter or 2 meter class would be very helpful to educate the people. And then they can join the larger group. Because without those steps or stages, I think it will be difficult for them to just go to the 8-meter class telescope or 10-meter class telescope.
DeVorkin: The leap from the student observatory to the 10-meter class is just too great.
Hidayat: Yes. It's just too great. And one aspect that I'm giving Monday I think, my talk about cooperation and language. We are faced with dilemma. Indonesian language is important. English language is also important. But where do we strike the boundary actually, because this is, for a large country like Indonesia this is important. In 2003, will be active, and we have to compete with people from outside. The Free Trade Association in Southeast Asia. And Indonesian scientists will have to compete with people from outside.
DeVorkin: It's three hours and a great interview. We’ll stop here.