Oral History Transcript — Dr. Jason Nassau
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Interview with Dr. Jason Nassau
Jason Nassau; July 12, 1963
ABSTRACT: Topics discussed include: his education at Syracuse University, Charles Brush, Case University, Royal Observatory in Great Britain, Professor Eddington and Professor Turner from Oxford, Western Reserve University, growth of the observatory at Case University, Dayton Miller and the Michelson Morley experiments, McCuskey, and the courses he taught throughout his career.
TranscriptSession I | Session II
Weiner:This is a new tape. The last tape we were discussing.
Nassau:We left. We are now at Syracuse after spending a year after I got my doctor's degree in Syracuse.
Weiner:We mentioned — some of the courses that you were teaching. One of the things I was interested in is the circumstances of coming to Case. How did you hear about it? I know you visited case. You might tell us something about that. What made you make the decision?
Nassau:I think I recall this very well. It was the summer of 1921 that Charles Howe the president of the college wrote me a letter asking me if I'm interested to consider a position at Case. And if so could he come and visit me and I wrote him back. At that time he was on his vacation I wrote him back and said I'd be very happy to see him and he came with Mrs. Howe and visited us; my wife and myself; didn't spend more than an hour perhaps or so with me. We talked things over and so on. And that's that. A few days later another letter from him asking me would I come to Case and talk with him again and Dr. Hoke who was the Dean of the Faculty at the time. And my expenses would be paid and of course when you're young you always take a trip when somebody else pays for the expenses. I had no idea really or real idea of coming till I visited Cleveland and I saw Howe and Hoke. They had me to lunch at the University Club and Dr. Howe brought me to the observatory which was absolutely new. It was not used at all at the time; very bright new place. It was inaugurated in 1920 you see and the Professor in charge Dr. Wilson was on leave pretty ill. I don't recall if I met Dr. Dayton Miller at that visit. But I knew of Dr. Dayton Miller and the fact that Dayton Miller was here which at hence the prestige of the college and the fact that they had a good observatory I said I will take the chance. The think thought was the school; a little people, my colleagues and friends. Are you going to a school instead of a university? The name then actually began to imply that it wasn't proper to have such a thing. So I came in 1921. That's the beginnings of the whole thing. I was loaded with the use of a number of courses as an assistant Professor. I came as an assistant Professor. I think I had 15 hours of duties to teach one of which was of course astronomy and astronomy was a secondary portion of my activities. Mostly we're in mathematics at Case. Indeed I was in charge from the beginning where they work with the freshman class. The mathematics freshman class was where there were three or four instructors in that particular group.
Weiner:The observatory wasnít central certainly to the schools work and not much was being done with it at the time you came. Were there any commitments made, any requests that you made in terms of work that you could do or were you expected to do something in connection with the observatory?
Nassau:I'll have to be very frank here. When I came I was timid. At my request to get four or five years perhaps later and my requests began to increase and increase and increase with the well you might say with the prestige that I have gained in a college and the daring I developed while here and this request went as far as Keith Glennan that is with all the presidents of the college make requests.
Weiner:You must say that they have increase explanation which you request.
Nassau:Well, no I don't know if I related to you this before but the thought of having an astronomy department in a purely engineering school was not there. You see the college in the beginning cut scientific aims. I think I have told you that; then we became poor after a fire. After the fire we became poor and then we settled down to just provide engineers for our community particularly at the Cleveland community. And that remained in the 20's very strongly so an engineering department and astronomy department at Case was a novelty.
Weiner:President Howe at one time had written an article opposing telescopes for engineering schools. Did you mean?
Nassau:I think I called your attention to that. I wonder if you looked into that. Did you see the article?
Weiner:I have the reference but I don't have the article.
Nassau:It's amusing a 10 inch telescope which Mr. Swasey was ready to give for the Case Institute. The Case Institute did not accept because it wasn't the function of the college. They needed and instruments like that to teach Geodesy to the engineering student.
Weiner:Do you know where the — telescope went?
Nassau:Certainly, it went to Western Reserve University and at the present time as you well know is at the Museum. That's right. And then after that which I think covers the period that you're interested I mean the back history Warner & Swasey offered to build an observatory for the Case Institute and put into it the telescopes that they had at their home you see and then the problem came where shall we put this telescope and there was talk that they would put the telescope on Murray Hill part time a nice sure place to put it but after a while they decided that it would interfere with the city lights there and so on and so they decided to come out in the country in this Cleveland and they bought this land here for lots for the observatory and at the time they built it there were very few houses in this Cleveland.
Weiner:When the observatory came to Case essentially because of the existence of the Warner & Swasey Company who sort of forced the issue.
Nassau:That Company was work as individuals, which are trustees.
Weiner:When did you first meet then either Warner or Swasey?
Nassau:I met both of them of course in the 20's. Circumstances of meeting them I don't really very well recall but I do know that in the 20's Mr. Warner moved to Tarrytown and he had along with him a 5 inch telescope and when he came to town he would call me on the telephone ask me about this and that and the other thing about astronomy so I would call back also I would like to put a parenthesis here (that the telescope now through my efforts went to Vassar College) the telescope that Mr. Warner had and also I would like to say the professor of astronomy at Vassar now is a Ph.D. from Case Institute.
Weiner:Who is that? Henry Abers. They have quite a tradition of professors in astronomy there going back to Marian Mitchell.
Nassau:Yes, thatís right.
Weiner:We mentioned about getting started here at case and the courses you taught. What was the first work that you did in the observatory or let's put it this way with?
Nassau:There was very little to do with astronomical research at the observatory. In the first — in the early 20's I had gone to work and published some papers in mathematics as research and later on the contact with Dayton Miller came along and we developed some of the mathematics that Dr. Miller needed for his work and this mathematics that Dr. Miller needed for his work and this mathematics provided a method of the determination of the motion of the sun amongst the stars and I would like to say that a paper in the Astrophysical Journal came out of that using harmonic analysis.
Nassau:That I was at the point of telling you was now Professor Morris which was a senior at the time at the Case Institute.
Nassau:Philip Morris, that's right and myself. And that was my first paper I put in the astrophysical journal.
Weiner:This was also in the 20ís also?
Nassau:That's right. In the late 20's we were very active both Case and Reserve in creating Cleveland College and I started showing a great deal of interest in the thing. Dr. Lloydner was made Director.
Weiner:I think we did discuss this and I think we have that part of it on tape which is a good tape about the lectures that you gave there on these exception lectures, many of the people who subsequently became supporters of astronomical activities here were alumni. In the well getting back to the observatory itself how did this begin to take shape as a teaching and research facility? It was there and then you came and were in charge of it. Perhaps unofficially of course and then how did this begin to get off the ground as a going?
Nassau:I think I can help there. First I would like to say that the only thing we could do in a serious way in research with a limit of equipment we had there was to get an attachment to the 10 inch telescope that we had here; a micrometer. And now I would like to say that's the first time I met Mr. Swasey to whom I went for that micrometer and that was the first gift that we received since I came to Case was a micrometer what was worth at the time perhaps $1000-$1500. This was used with the ten inch telescope.
Weiner:With this expanded equipment what did you do?
Nassau:Not very much. I think the load of classes this and that and the other thing I don't think I did very much.
Weiner:Was the telescope at that time used for students?
Nassau:Oh it was used continually. Of course when I first came we introduced the Public Knights.
Weiner:Was this prior to the astronomical society starting?
Nassau:Just about simultaneously with the astronomical society. And people used to come. I'd like to tell you they used to become public knights and they used to get where there are offices now. We used to put 40 people there and then there were people outside in the windows outside listening to the lectures.
Weiner:You mentioned at one time the first meeting of the society resulted from a notice that you had placed in the newspapers and that this was based on a similar organization that you had anticipated on in Syracuse.
Nassau:Right. That's right.
Weiner:Can you tell us just a little about it?
Nassau:Well Iím sorry I don't remember the details but there was a notice perhaps the clipping might be available. That's many years ago. My wife has kept the past clipping books. You might find it somewhere there.
Weiner:That would be a first of a long series from this initial announcement of a meeting.
Nassau:There were some people outside particularly that joined me and I would like to say that the very same year we organized and we got a charter. I don't know which you would call it which is now in the library it tells you the society was founded by three people — three or four people a society of this type. The charter was right where you were sitting (1922).
Weiner:The people in the society — who were they and where did they come from? I mean who were the most active participants?
Nassau:One of the most active persons was Mrs. Schrader who was in charge of the company on the West Side. I don't know the name of the company at the present time. A lawyer by the name of Carl Bueller; quite an attorney and lawyers and things like that — no scientific people.
Weiner:Mr. Townsend at the time?
Nassau:No. It was too early.
Nassau:He didnít graduate from college yet. He was in the middle of his 20ís or so.
Weiner:I see. He was at Case though; a student at Case?
Nassau:Yes, that's right. After he came back from Harvard where he went to Business School he took the evening course; he and his spouse and he was very interested.
Weiner:What about the professor of astronomy at Western Reserve; wasn't very active in the use of the equipment. Was he a member?
Nassau:Oh yes he was a member.
Weiner:Whatís his name? Iím trying to think of it.
Weiner:Longcastle. Was there someone you mentioned from Berea? Dustheim, was he a professor of astronomy there?
Nassau:Yes, oh yes.
Weiner:They had an observatory there too?
Nassau:Well the observatory they got later on and that's part of a story that goes back in the 40's.
Weiner:I see. Did they participate in lectures? Were they at lectures and things?
Nassau:Yes, they did. I don't recall that Longcastle has given any lectures but the others have done.
Weiner:Were the meetings devoted to a lecture discussion and observing?
Nassau:Not observing. Lectures mostly; separate institution.
Weiner:Just getting back for a minute — we only have a few minutes — to Dayton Miller during the period of the 20ís. He was very much involved in the Michelson Morley experiments. Did you have much occasion in this period to discuss this with him or to be involved?
Nassau:I was involved in a big way. I was involved in really very close with him on that helping out the thing continually in the 20ís to the extent that when he presented his paper during the year 1925 or 25 to the Tripoli S, he received the $1000 prize he gave part of the prize to me.
Weiner:I have the letter to show. He convinced himself the paper that there is such difficulty about a last week before preparation because of a mathematical scientist and you were instrumental in helping. I think thatís it now till next time. You mentioned today we just started talking about the Michelson Morley experiment and Professor Millerís interest in it. Later on you visited and studied with Eddington; you commented that you had some notes on Eddington — comments on his astronomy on these developments.
Nassau:It is very correct I think. I don't know where to find those notes but I'm quite sure I have given those notes to Professor Shankland. I'm sure of that.
Weiner:Well, I can discuss that with him. For next time perhaps we can start at that point about the Michelson Morley experiment and the work with Professor Miller.
Nassau:Iíd be happy to do that.
Weiner:As a highlight of that period.
Nassau:Change the noise to a visitude sharp visitude but usually when we had the bad combats it made a roaring noise.
Weiner:Did you regulate the amount of pressure by electric devices or how was that done?
Nassau:No we just operated; we had the young man operate the gasoline and the other one the oxygen fuel; merely observation of the exhaust end. Remember this was static test so you could see — remember if the thing didn't go up.
Weiner:Did you regulate it from the trench?
Nassau:From the trench we used a wire pulley. I wrote notices that the higher powders in the rockets that captured my imagination — it just can be done that propelled something which should be possible under proper development and scientific investigation to build actually an engine which may read the future — useful for exploration in the outer space because after that time there were no means other than the balloon to go up to the stratosphere. That was limited to the altitude and was limited to up to about 10 miles. I believe was about the highest a balloon could go and so gasoline cannot travel because it needs oxygen and the higher you go beyond the stratosphere the oxygen amount diminishes until outer space you have no oxygen whatsoever, therefore the rocket seemed to me the only engine which would properly operate or rarified air up to 30 miles.
Weiner:Did you read any books that gave you interest?
Nassau:Professor Shirosky and then from Professor Obert. I have the book here and then from Dr. Senget's book, oh no that was later. In fact, he makes liberal reference to Professor Shirosky to the Russian rocket spacemen who were outstanding men. Now here he mentions quite a bit here.
Weiner:Iíve seen this book here.
Nassau:He makes mention quite a bit back in your index; you can see that here there are several pages then on the prism rocket society. This is Dr. Orchard Senger, Rocket Aero Dynamics. Radical aspect of it was this was an [???] to do some experimental work along the line — along these ideas they would have to work out that way but then you know this fellow here.
Weiner:Did you know him personally?
Nassau:Willie Lye personally. I met him last time in New York. He mentions this somewhere. My daughter gave me that book; a Christmas present. He mentioned it in here.
Weiner:When did you first meet Willie Lye? Was it in Barslaw?
Nassau:No, it was not in Barslaw. He's not an engineer. He's a writer and author and writer. He wrote and then very early he already was extremely interested in rocketry. This is the autograph.
Weiner:When did you first meet Willie Lye? How was it?
Nassau:It was here in this country in New York. We worked here. There was another society; the American Rocket Society in New York and Iím not sure if he was active but anyway there was a banquet given to me. They invited me. (You were along with me were you not? No not to the banquet. You and Ted Hanna went. Ted Hanna.) They gave a banquet in New York and that is where I met Willie Lye and I met him severa1 times after that.
Weiner:Was that back in the 30ís?
Nassau:That was later because I would say was 1934 perhaps I would not want to pinpoint it down to the date because it is merely memory. I haven't seen him for a long time although he is here. As a matter of fact he was not very far from us here but I never got in touch with him. I should have got in touch with him. He probably doesn't know that I even live here.
Weiner:Which man did you say you got most of your design, your ideas from?
Nassau:Well itís both from Dr. Obert, Dr. Senger and Professor Shifkosky. Here, that book is that thick. I don't even know if they have it here in the library or not.
Weiner:I havenít seen it.
Nassau:He went very much in detail. He actually also wrote about space travelogues — space travel but of course Dr. Obertís pictures indicate to you that he was not planning to go up in the air. I do want to show you here however is really the orbiting of the earth how it would have to go and so on.
Weiner:Did you work with any of these men very personally?
Weiner:But you did work with Winkler.
Nassau:No, Winkler came let's see he's dead too. I merely heard when I saw a picture of Winkler when he sent his rocket up in Berlin. Not from the rocket airplane; sent it up from a lake near Berlin. I believe one of those lakes he sent it up. All those things were about five feet tall. Looked different than now days — had long legs, long height lines on the back.
Weiner:You worked with whom in Berlin: Nabel?
Nassau:Nabel and Smead is all I remember. Willie Lye was known at that time in Germany — already wrote a little booklet and I have it too. That was a very small book, extremely small book but after I left the bollloms booms considerably.
Weiner:How big a group was it; very small?
Nassau:Not more than a dozen I would say; then after, it blossomed out considerably. Several hundred of them but when Hitler came to power the whole thing was absorbed by the air ministry or air force ministry. Then of course government put real money in it and started building a rocket research center near the Baltic Sea but then I do not know anything of it other than what I heard after the war. It was during it that it was kept a secret not nothing about all those who did not associate with Hitler were not observed into that particular field; they still corresponded with me and that is how I received once in a while some information of the profits they were making 250,000 motor horsepower motor. They were making tiny little pictures in 1938 into Poland. After the war when I contacted German engineers who came that motor was then used on the B2.
Weiner:Which men did you keep corresponding with?
Nassau:So many letters I would have to get the other book which contains all the other letters. One fellow Dr. Erbenstein; I remember him Kaiser, friend of mine a fellow by the name of Kaiser. There were several I didn't care too much for their correspondence and we read about other work in German papers. No basic research no particular application mind you just a lucky act
Weiner:On the previous tape you have mentioned your experience with Professor Eddington and Professor Turner from Oxford. I understand that when turner was here in this country through him you made some contact to do post-doctoral work with Professor Eddington. You also indicated that we can, in a conversation off of the tape do better to discuss the friends of Eddington at some length later on after consulting notes. Can you just at this time give us a brief idea of the contacts with him for the period of time of involvement?
Nassau:Yes, there is just one little correction I would like to make with what you have just said. 1 had already committed myself to go to Cambridge to work with Eddington and when Professor Turner was visiting here I spoke to him about it and he was sort of fearful that I might not get along very well because he said Professor Eddington was a kind of an impossible man. Now, the latter part that you have said, I'm quite certain that I have some notes, not so much of my own contacts in research with him were published, but notes on current progress in Astronomy and his impressions of it with reference to the work of Hubbell particularly at a time he was talking about the expanding universe and I have some notes there I'm quite sure. And I also have notes with reference to the Mickelson Morley experiment which might be worthwhile to discuss with him when I get access to my notes.
Weiner:Then what year was this in, professor — 1927, 1928? This was on a sabbatical leave from Case?
Nassau:A sabbatical leave from Case. We went to — the whole family was of course in Europe, we spent some time in Switzerland. The family stayed in Switzerland part-time and I went to Germany, to Munich particularly, to visit the great Museum of Science that is there, perhaps one of the most important museums in the world. And then after that we moved to Paris and stayed there for a number of days, met friends there, then finally we got to Cambridge and lived there for I would say from the beginning of the first term, Cambridge has 3 terms, to the end of the summer.
Weiner:The first term begins in — October 1st and during this time you just studied with Professor Eddington?
Nassau:Well, I did some research under his supervision. As a matter of fact, the supervision was mostly the suggestion of the problem by him and then, as is the way with European professors, they see you when they feel like seeing you. But it was pleasant to make a point to see him, almost every week I took tea with him, I don't remember what day of the week, and I discussed this problem, discussed other problems. At that time I remember he had another student, supervising his work, and it was a fellow by the name of Redman who is now a professor, has the chair that Professor Eddington used to have. Redman and I were of course great friends and Professor Redman used to say, "I'm afraid that he might not pass me." But at the same time, "He is a Quaker and the Quakers are very kind people; he'll pass me in my examinations.Ē He was afraid of him.
Weiner:The research that you performed under Eddington's supervision; did this involve astronomical work or was it in mathematics, or —?
Nassau:I can tell you, it was astronomical work. In a field that he was interested in and I wrote two papers while I was there. I presented my first paper to the Royal Astronomical Society and the same afternoon Professor Redman presented his own paper; his first paper, so we had quite a celebration after that. Professor Redman was the President of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Weiner:You are a fellow?
Nassau:Oh yes, I am a Fellow of the Society. In fact, when I came back, I extended in a long paper the work that I have done and Dr. McCuskey was working with me and it was Professor McCuskey's first paper in Astronomy, joint paper with me, which was actually the outcome of the work which I was doing at Cambridge.
Weiner:I see. What was the — without going into all of the details of the work, what was the general area which you were concerned with on this paper?
Nassau:It was the determination of parallaxes, stars — you know, where we measure distance by measuring sparalax and the parallax often is small and sometimes turns out to be negative and we wanted to see in what way that we could assign sense to negative parallaxes that we were getting and I should like to tell you about the discussion after the presentation of my first paper was published and I would like to have you see it because I would like to see it myself. It was published in the Observatory. The final work of the large catalog of parallaxes in the introduction, the work that we have done here was used to create that large catalog.
Weiner:Well, this should go to our collection of documents then that we are gathering on this project.
Nassau:Yes, perhaps you might find it interesting. I remember the astronomer royal at the time, Professor Gyson, made some very nice remarks about our paper but to this day I can't tell you what there was in it. At that time I felt it was rather nice. What I will think of it now, I'm not sure.
Weiner:This was in 1927?
Nassau:1927, 1928 and we came back in August. After I came back to Cleveland, my interests in research was just this work I just told you and also I started writing a book and I wrote a book just as soon as I came back from England; this book on practical astronomy.
Weiner:Was this book used as a text in the courses at Case?
Nassau:Oh yes, it has been used until very recently, until I think the last year or two it has been used.
Weiner:And you came back at the end of the summer of 1928 and you wrote the book during the school year?
Nassau:Oh yes, I think so. I don't recall, but I think there is always plenty of times to do things like that during the school year. The fact that you have obligations, and I think at that time, I don't recall, but the Observatory was, I mean the Department of Astronomy was created as a separate department from Mathematics.
Weiner:My records say something about 1930 — just a year and a half.
Nassau:Yes, that's right, and after that, if I recall, the piece of research I had done came out of lectures that I was giving to other graduate students. I remember very clearly I was on the Board and I thought the idea what to do with it and this we have used. I wrote a paper on the use of major cluster with Louis Henye who is now the Head of the Department of Astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley and after that I wrote a second paper in this particular field.
Weiner:Where was he at the time? How did you write this paper with him?
Nassau:Oh, he was a student here.
Weiner:Oh, he was a student, I see.
Nassau:I would like to just tell you another thing that this reminds me, the first paper that Philip Morse, who is now a professor at MIT, while he was a student, he worked on the paper with me, that was his first scientific paper and the same with Louis Henye, his first scientific paper was with me.
Weiner:And they were undergraduates at Case?
Nassau:Philip Morse was an undergraduate; Henye was working for his Master's degree.
Nassau:No, the Master's degree in Astronomy.
Weiner:And at that time even though the department wasn't created?
Nassau:Oh no, the department was created.
Weiner:Oh, this happened after 1930?
Weiner:How did the formation of the department come about? For years the astronomy department was part of the physics department.
Weiner:Pardon me, it was the department of mathematics and astronomy and the professorship was in the combined field?
Nassau:It was not, I'm sorry to tell you. The Professor of Mathematics was Dr. Focke who was the Dean and was the Kerr Professor of Mathematics. I was in charge of all the Astronomy and also in charge of Freshman Mathematics. And when the Department of Astronomy was created I ceased to have anything to do with Freshman Mathematics, you see, and I started teaching advanced courses in Mathematics as well as the courses in Astronomy. If you look in the catalog I think you will see courses in modern geometry and things like that, of vector analysis and things like that, which I was teaching too to people working for the Masterís degree at Case Institute.
Weiner:I see, and these were people other than astronomy?
Nassau:That's right. I remember very vividly that I had 40 people taking vector analysis.
Weiner:That's pretty high for a graduate class.
Nassau:Yes, for a graduate class and particularly at that particular period.
Weiner:Yes, because this is the beginning of the 30ís.
Nassau:That's right. In the 30ís also we had that very interesting expedition in Maine. Perhaps I told you about that.
Weiner:We promised to talk about it; I don't think that we got into this. You have one publication on it, at least one, called elusive eclipses. It was an address, I think.
Nassau:It was an address supported by the Cleveland Engineering Society and was given in Severance Hall and I think they called it the Warner Lecture, but I'm not quite certain.
Weiner:Can you tell us something, before we get on this expedition, but just getting back to the establishment of the department of astronomy, how did this come about — why at this particular time did the department come into existence? Had there been much discussion and pressure for it beforehand? Had you been campaigning for this sort of declaration?
Nassau:Really, I donít recall any particular, you might say, disturbance or particular pressure. I really think it was a matter of evolution. The college felt that the Department of Astronomy could exist by itself, perhaps might advance in astronomical research, that they felt they could manage it that way. I know that a number of the Trustees, particularly Mr. Quail, who is the present one, and Mr. Austin, who is a member of the Board, and certainly and definitely Eckstein Case, who was one of my closest friends, was interested to see that we had a Department of Astronomy. But I don't believe there was any particular pressure applied to anybody. If it were, perhaps I would remember it.
Weiner:Well, from our previous discussions we know that you were teaching in the department and that Dr. McCuskey was doing work with you.
Nassau:Dr. McCuskey graduated from Case, I think, in 1929 in Civil Engineering. He was in — we talked things together very often. He decided to abandon Civil Engineering and go to Mathematics. He went to MIT, took a Master's degree in Mathematics. After he got a Master's degree, then was when I got the money from Dr. Mandley and I brought him back here as my assistant in Astronomy, you see, and you might say the department had myself in it, and Dr. McCuskey as an assistant. And that was the department.
Weiner:Entering the 30's then?
Weiner:Now we can go back to the expedition in Maine. Can you tell something of who sponsored it, why it was particularly important, what you expected it to accomplish and some of the things that were accomplished.
Nassau:Well, I'll start with the last thing first; what we accomplished; very little, nothing really for the obvious reason that it was cloudy and with a total eclipse of the sun. When it is cloudy, you just get zero results. But I would like to say that there was in spite of the cloudiness Dr. McCuskey was [???]. He set up a transmitter in a tent at the station and he was in contact with Professor Martin here and they were sending signals before, during, and after the eclipse, you see.
Weiner:Was the receiving equipment on the campus?
Nassau:Yes, it was in the Electrical Department. So of the results that they got, a small paper was written, and I think it was one of the first papers that pointed out the lifting of the ionized layer during the total eclipse which shows the results.
Weiner:In other words, they were able by transmitting during the eclipse — before, during and after, they were able to measure the differences in the results that they obtained.
Nassau:It was a complete fadeout if I remember correctly, at the time of the total eclipse. There was no layer to reflect.
Weiner:I think I have seen a copy, a reprint, of Dr. McCuskey's paper. I think it is in the files here.
Nassau:I would like to say that, if I recall, Mr. Swasey did some financing of the expedition. Warner-Swasey did some; we took a telescope there, we put another lens to it to increase the focal length of the telescope. Instead of being 12 feet it was something like 20 feet and that was our main instrument. We had an astrograph by the time and I was trying to think what year we acquired an astrograph, but it must have been in the 30ís and it must have been Dr. Mandley who helped me out in buying the astrograph.
Weiner:The same gentleman who made it possible for Dr. McCuskey to work.
Nassau:That's right. And then we had a motion picture camera to follow the progress of the eclipse. We have a motion picture of a partial phase, but of course we havenít got the total phase.
Weiner:Where is this motion picture; upstairs? Has it been viewed in recent years?
Nassau:Oh, I very much doubt it.
Weiner:Do you think it would be worth observing and reconditioning before it deteriorates?
Nassau:Oh, I don't think really scientifically it is very important, parts of the eclipse. I remember the number, I think there were 22 people connected with the expedition from the Observatory and some others took part in the expedition. Nobody was paid; we had no money to pay them, but they all came, you couldn't do a thing like that right now. We went and spent a month getting the equipment ready.
Weiner:Was this during the school year?
Nassau:No, that was in the summer.
Weiner:And did the Cleveland Astronomical Society play any part in it?
Nassau:Members of the Society were among the 22 members of the expedition. Then after we set up the site, the people at Perkins, that is the Ohio State — group joined our group, so that the group was perhaps as many as 40 or more people.
Weiner:Were other groups set up in different parts of the country for the same purpose or was this just an eclipse that could be favorably viewed in that one location?
Nassau:No, in the past there was any number of other observatories. The University of Michigan was a few miles away from us and fortunately they had clear weather and we had cloudy weather. And during the period before the eclipse each one of us visited the other group.
Weiner:Do you recall the names of some of the people on the trip?
Nassau:I would like to say that Mr. Swasey was there, Professor and Mrs. Miller (Dayton Miller) and Herbert Neal was there. And a fellow by the name of Dorn was there — Caseman, member of the Society. Herbert Neal was also a member of the Society. They took some marvelous, social, pictures of the people.
Weiner:Mrs. Nassau was there?
Nassau:Yes. Mr. & Mrs. Galson were there, again, members of the Cleveland Astronomical Society.
Weiner:I notice in a photograph that was included in a reprint of your address at Severance Hall the photograph showed Mr. Swasey sighting through a telescope and Mrs. Nassau in the background dictating to some sort of a dictating machine; in the files is a transcript of the recording that she made.
Nassau:Oh, did you see that?
Weiner:Yes, I saw the photograph.
Nassau:You didn't see the transcript did you?
Weiner:Yes, it is in the files here at the observatory.
Nassau:It is. I would like to see that.
Weiner:Iíll bring that out this afternoon then. I was wondering why the dictating machine was this part of the general apparatus.
Nassau:No, I would like to say, we wanted to see the general aspects of the area and what happens with annuals and the shadow bands that come in just before the total eclipse and what we see, we will see the shadow coming alone so that instead of attempting to take notes we simply used her to transmit into that what we were observing. I remember Professor Miller was assigned to photograph the shadow bands and we have a picture of that, perhaps it was in the book.
Weiner:Well, there was quite an assemblage and you say you spent a month in preparation then you disembarked immediately after the eclipse the next day?
Nassau:Oh yes. We didn't return because right after the meeting there was an international meeting of the International Astronomical Union which was meeting at Cambridge and I attended that meeting before coming back.
Weiner:I see. I think at one time you mentioned that the railroads were cooperative in this venture; in what way?
Nassau:They wanted the business. We were in a deep depression. Any kind of a business was welcome to them so the officials of the New York Central came to me and tried to get the business and they provided a separate freight car to put all our equipment in and promised to leave the freight car — it was quite a gathering. Nearly every evening we got together, many of the staff, and had discussions. It was a wonderful time to spend the evenings there. At the same time, we had for the rest of the staff, particularly the young people that were with me on the expedition, we had tents and they lived in tents. Now, I remember people like John Barrow who got his master's degree here and doctor's degree at Princeton was there. Clementshaw, who is now the Director of the Griffith Observatory and Planetarium, was there.
Weiner:Is Clementshaw any relation to the Mr. Clementshaw who was with the Western Reserve Academy?
Weiner:Russell Clementshaw of Western Reserve Academy did some historical work on —
Nassau:Just very briefly, thatís right. He was one of the people that we got into Astronomy. He got his degree at Cornell in liberal arts, he went to Harvard and got a law degree, then came here to practice law. He took an extension course I was giving in the evening on Astronomy, half a year after that he decided to abandon his career in law and start in Astronomy and now he has a doctor's degree and is now as I told you the Director of the Griffith Planetarium.
Weiner:And he was one of many people whom you have influenced in this way; can you think of some recent developments in Cleveland at the present Mueller Planetarium?
Nassau:That is amazing, how a chance changes the career of a person. I was very hesitant to really urge Clementshaw to do that. I told him that I would like to think about it for a month before I have a final answer because he had a beautiful education in law and he would have done very well but he was ready.
Weiner:Evidently it was a good decision. You mentioned about two things. One is the extension course in astronomy. I hadn't heard of that and I know there is nothing of this type at present. Can you tell us how this started and to whom it was offered?
Nassau:That I would like to do and I would like to do it by going back a bit. That is, going back before I went abroad. Around 1926 there was a great movement at Case and Reserve to join and at that time there was a movement to create an evening college and that was the Cleveland College and every time Dr., oh, I forget his name, he became the President of Western Reserve University, hurry up and tell me, will you?
Weiner:Millis at the present.
Nassau:Loytner — Dr. Loytner was made in charge and l was terrifically interested in trying to give evening education to the people in Cleveland, you see, so for a number of years I was a member of the faculty.
Weiner:Of Western Reserve?
Nassau:Of Cleveland College which was a joint venture of Case and Reserve. Then when ??? the two institutions separated and Case had withdrawn its relations with Cleveland College and I came back from Europe I started this evening course for students in the Cleveland College in Astronomy and I gave that course for nearly 20 years.
Weiner:Was this an evening course?
Nassau:An evening course for laymen. I should like to say, very many of the great supporters of the Observatory — the Cleveland Astronomical Society [???] of this particular course.
Weiner:This was at the time the only type of popular education in astronomy.
Nassau:That's right. I gave it Monday nights at 7:30 to 9:30 and I think that we had some awfully nice people in the group. I can name you any number of leaders in the city that really took the course. It was fun.
Weiner:Did they ever have the opportunity to use either the instrument at Western Reserve University or the observatory's facilities?
Nassau:Here — they used the facilities of this observatory.
Weiner:During this period, was the Western Reserve University telescope in use?
Nassau:As far as I know, it was used for students. Later on, it seems to me, after the war, they started to have Observatory open for public nights as we were doing, later in the Second World War.
Weiner:And you kept this course up for a number of years, that means you started it in about 1928 or 29 — you kept it up until 1950 or so?
Nassau:That's right, every Monday night. My wife took the course and any number of people took the course. It was a lot of fun.
Weiner:Do you remember what was covered in the course?
Weiner:Similar to the descriptive astronomy course but perhaps more on a maintenance level?
Nassau:Yes, more, much more than that. Making an effort for people to understand first the aspects that they could see; for example, the face of the moon, the rising and setting of the stars, the different seasons, and I was trying to make them get acquainted with what they see in the sky first. I put a lot of emphasis to that, which is not easy to do. Why we have winter stars and summer stars. Why the stars rise earlier every night and things of that sort, you see. Why the phases of the moon, why eclipses and things of that sort. In other words, I tried to encourage them to be able to give explanations of what they see in the sky, at least observe what they see in the sky in terms of the present concept of the universe.
Weiner:And the people in these classes were adults, then.
Nassau:No young people, adults. Some teachers, but most of them were lawyers, doctors. Here is another person that comes to my mind, Dr. Tyson, the physician and his wife took the course; very strong supporters of the Cleveland Astronomical Society ever since, and so on.
Weiner:It was quite interesting.
Nassau:I think and one point I would like to say is that this particular course really has helped much more than I thought it was going to help because it was a lot of fun. Also, I would like to add here that I never had a design, like a lot of people have, of shooting for that particular thing. I felt my way and did things that I liked to do more than anything else. I think that is interesting. At least to me, I just came to realize that, you see.
Weiner:You mean, looking back over some of your —
Nassau:For example, I never dreamed or thought of or considered that this particular course was going to put the Cleveland Astronomical Society on a sound basis and these very people were going to be so helpful for the development of Astronomy in Cleveland, you see. What I mean, it was a nice thing, I had friends that wanted to take the course, and we started rolling, so to speak.
Weiner:Getting back to one other point that was mentioned in your description of the eclipse expedition, you mentioned that the children were along and I think we've jumped a bit, we had you married in 1920 and we made no mention of the development of your family since then.
Nassau:I have two children. Both of them went to Case, both are engineers. One of them has worked ever since he graduated with Pratt-Whitney in research and for a number of years he has been working with [???]. The other is a partner in a firm of architects, builders of schools. You know Euclid High School?
Nassau:The Parma High School? Well, he is the engineer of that particular concern. He is a partner of that organization.
Weiner:I see, was his education in civil engineering?
Nassau:No, both mechanical.
Weiner:The civil engineer turned out to be an astronomer in the family and mechanical engineers —
Nassau:In a sense, both of them worked in mechanical engineering because my son who is with the architectural firm is doing air conditioning and heating and ventilating and things like that. It isn't structural engineering.
Weiner:For the period then, getting back to some of this early period, how old were the children at the time of this eclipse expedition, or better yet, what year were these boys born in, and date it from there.
December 1921 for the first and the second was born in February, 1923.
Session I | Session II