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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Victor Vacquier

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Interview with Dr. Victor Vacquier
By Homer E. Le Grand
In La Jolla, California
January 24, 1989

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Victor Vacquier; January 24, 1989

ABSTRACT: In this interview Victor Vacquier discusses subjects such as: Scripps Institution of Oceanography; S. W. Carey; paleomagnetism and geomagnetism; University of Wisconsin; Charles Mendenhall; Gulf Oil Company; Columbia University Airborne Instruments Laboratory; Sperry Gyroscope Inc.; magnetometer; Seiya Uyeda; Louis Neel; Carnegie Institution Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM); gyroscopes; geophysics; E. J. Workman; Merle Tuve; Walter Munk; Charles Slichter; Roger Revelle; United States Navy; Harry Hess; J. R. Heirtzler; American Geophysical Union (AGU); United States Geological Survey (USGS); Nelson Steenland; W. Maurice Ewing; gyrocompasses; New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; John Tuzo Wilson; George Backus; S. K. Runcorn; Manik Talwani; winning Fleming Award from AGU.

Transcript

Session I | Session II

Le Grand:

As I understand it your interest in geomagnetism and magnetic anomalies really dates from your work at the Gulf Research Labs.

Vacquier:

That's right.

Le Grand:

And in fact you had written a paper with [J.] Affleck that was published in 1941 doing some computations.[1]

Vacquier:

And they're good — I mean the result was confirmed by rather recent work.

Le Grand:

Yes and in fact Chris Harrison in some commentary on your career said that he had referred very often to that 1941 paper in his own work, so it's obviously stood up well over time. I take it that was your first interest in geomagnetism per se, when it came at Gulf.

Vacquier:

No, the first interest was the short time magnetic fluctuations of local character which was the precursor of the electromagnetic work on local anomalies.

Le Grand:

I see. Was this tied in with your proposed experiment for measuring variation over time with respect to a large anomaly?

Vacquier:

Those were the local variations. I mean the fact that the variations of the magnetic field were geographically local.

Le Grand:

Oh, I see. I see.

Vacquier:

To a certain extent, and of course later on it was shown — I didn't explain them properly — later on it was shown that it was just the variations of the conductivity of the near subsurface that caused these variations, mostly in the vertical intensity and that was really the seminal paper that started this magnetic depth sounding.

Le Grand:

I see. And of course you did some experimental work yourself later in that regard I believe. Is that correct?

Vacquier:

Well I have people here working on it off and on. There was a fellow White — Anthony White — who is now at Flinders [University in South Australia?]

Le Grand:

At Flinders did you say?

Vacquier:

Yeah.

Le Grand:

I should have a chat with him then.

Vacquier:

Anthony White. He was — I got some — some of these portable observatories from Japan over here and in New Mexico in conjunction with our survey at sea. I have some ocean bottom magnetic recorders on which Greenhouse, a Canadian, made use for his Doctor's dissertation.

Le Grand:

Was that about 1964 or `65 — somewhere.

Vacquier:

Yeah — Le Grand: Oh well let me see. I'd like to pick up again. And then you left Gulf for the Airborne Instruments Laboratory where you worked on the magnetic airborne detector.

Vacquier:

That's right.

Le Grand:

And I presume again that Greg[ory Good] covered that in some detail.

Vacquier:

That's right.

Le Grand:

All right. Can I ask you — while you were at the Airborne Lab, you were also associated I think with Ewing's Department at Columbia. Is that correct?

Vacquier:

Not then —

Le Grand:

Not then —

Vacquier:

But after I moved to Sperry.

Le Grand:

After you moved to Sperry —

Vacquier:

I became associated not right away, but maybe a couple of years later.

Le Grand:

And did you have much interaction with that group at Columbia [Lamont-Doherty] or with Ewing at that time?

Vacquier:

I had a graduate student there — his name was Nelson Steenland.

Le Grand:

Ah yes.

Vacquier:

And who was one of the authors of the memoir 47 — the GSA Memoir 47.[2]

Le Grand:

Right, I see. So that's — he was your graduate student and then Henderson and Zeitz were with the Survey.

Vacquier:

Yeah. Oh, they provided the data.

Le Grand:

I see.

Vacquier:

Because we didn't have any magnetic surveys.

Le Grand:

Right. And was that Steenland's thesis project?

Vacquier:

That was Steenland's thesis project, yes.

Le Grand:

And that resulted in that GSA memoir No. 47.

Vacquier:

That's right.

Le Grand:

Which was — I think it's been described as sort of the standard handbook and 'How to do it' manual.

Vacquier:

That's what I heard. I never used it.

Le Grand:

So you were writing from a — working from a theoretical perspective on it then or rather than a practical one obviously.

Vacquier:

I just wanted to keep my finger in geophysics because I was working on gyroscopic equipment at Sperry.

Le Grand:

And did you have contact with James Balsley in the course of that work?

Vacquier:

Yes, yes.

Le Grand:

I just wondered, because he was I think one of the first airborne magneticians in the Survey.

Vacquier:

Yes, yes. Le Grand: Could you describe — could you elaborate a little bit on your interactions with Balsley or —

Vacquier:

Frankly, I don't really remember.

Le Grand:

All right.

Vacquier:

I don't remember.

Le Grand:

He would have been a fairly young —

Vacquier:

Yes. He was a rather [inaudible] rather energetic —

Le Grand:

And he was running airborne surveys I think in Michigan and in the Adirondacks.

Vacquier:

That was later I think. Le Grand: Oh a little bit later. All right. So he was just starting out.

Vacquier:

Because I think that if we had that available when we were writing the memoir we would have used the Balsley data, but I think the Balsley data came later.

Le Grand:

Yes, I think his map was published about maybe 1953 or thereabouts. There were some very nice definitions of anomaly patterns there. And — all right — and then you worked at Sperry developing the Mark 19, Mark 23 gyrocompasses which are still in use and —

Vacquier:

Other equipment too - there was submarine depth control and some hydraulic stable bases — radar —

Le Grand:

A lot of this would have been I suppose classified work for the Department of Defence, or Department of the Navy.

Vacquier:

Yes, it was mostly for the Bureau of Ships. It was mildly classified - there was some infrared detection equipment also I worked on.

Le Grand:

I'm not clear on this — did you continue working at all on MAD in these years, or —

Vacquier:

No.

Le Grand:

That was put behind. Well, then I'd like to start going into a little more detail at this stage. Why did you decide to leave Sperry and go for a University position?

Vacquier:

Well, see that was in 1953 — why did I do it?

Le Grand:

Yes.

Vacquier:

I wanted to get back to geophysics and I just got through with the Mark 19 and we were about to start on some inertial navigation and I decided that maybe I should get back to science rather than work for the instruments for the next war.

Le Grand:

So this was mostly development work that you were doing rather than offering an opportunity for research, would you say?

Vacquier:

Well I used the rotation of the earth — that's a geophysical effect. I also have some interest in astronomy — that's related more or less.

Le Grand:

Did you — I'm trying to — I believe you were involved in the development of some navigational equipment that worked through a periscope, inertial —

Vacquier:

No, that was a detector — it was an infrared detector.

Le Grand:

Oh I see, I see.

Le Grand:

Well in 1953, I believe it was, you joined the New Mexico Institute for Mining and Technology.

Vacquier:

That's right.

Le Grand:

How did you decide to go there? You must have been considering a number of different places.

Vacquier:

Well I took a trip West — let's see — first thing I wanted to see if we could use geophysics in mining again in the same way as it was done in the oil business and I tried to interest the president of AIL — the Airborne Instruments Laboratory in this business in connection with my activity at Columbia. But that didn't work out too well. Then I visited some mining companies. I visited the fellow who invented the induced polarisation method of prospecting. He was a rather famous geophysicist — he was a Canadian working for NEWMONT [acronym for New Mexico Institute for Mining and Technology?]. You don't —

Le Grand:

No, the name escapes me — I will have to check it out.

Vacquier:

Uh. Oh, Grant — Arthur Grant. I went to visit Arthur Grant in Jerome — ha! ha! ha! — I think it was the last day that they were blowing air into the old mine. His research laboratory was in the administration building of the mine - in this complete desert surrounding and isolation from everything. I don't know how he managed to maintain his staff there. But they seemed to be all very much interested in the work.

Le Grand:

What were they prospecting for — it wasn't fresh water I take it at that stage.

Vacquier:

I prospected for fresh water.

Le Grand:

Right. So what were they using the technique for? Mineral deposits or —

Vacquier:

Oh, yes. This was a mineral deposit technique — I used a much longer time effect than they did.

Le Grand:

And you took up that research fairly soon after going to the New Mexico Institute?

Vacquier:

Yes. Yes.

Le Grand:

And was there any particular reason why you decided to use that technique for fresh water?

Vacquier:

Well it was new. I mean I was the one who initiated it. And it seemed to work all right. Except of course it was not economic in the States on account of the cost of labour of stringing out wires and huts on the ground, it was just expensive.

Le Grand:

Oh I see. So there would only be special circumstances in which it might be economic to use the technique?

Vacquier:

A man with a small drill on the back end of a pickup truck you see doesn't have the labour costs that we did. We tried to introduce the method in Egypt, but we got bombed out by the British because the Desert Institute in Cairo is at the end of the main runway and they bombed the runway of course [Suez Canal Crisis] and there was my student that I had there who was — oh, he was a post-doc then — he got scared and came home.

Le Grand:

Oh dear. So that was during the Suez crisis obviously. Literally bombed out.

Vacquier:

He was bombed out, yes by the — and during the Suez excitement.

Le Grand:

Now it seems to me from looking at the files in the Scripps archives[3] that there was a continuing interest in this method of exploration. That is to say during the course of your service at Scripps you seemed to get a number of requests or inquiries concerning the technique.

Vacquier:

I completely forgot about that. Of course at the time I had left Socorro (NM). When I was looking for a job elsewhere I thought that Socorro was a rather isolated place to end one's life. So I decided — a very good place for a young man — I don't know how it is now that Workman isn't there, but they had a pretty good president after Workman, namely Colgate — a very interesting fellow. You know he had a telescope mounted on a gun mount which was completely radio controlled from the main lab — automatically programmed to survey I don't know how many galaxies for novae — automatically — I'm not sure that system worked out in the end but maybe I think he got a nervous breakdown or something I heard. Tried to do too many things at once. Because I haven't heard that system being used later —

Le Grand:

No, I haven't either. So basically you decided leave Sorocco because it was the isolation from other workers or just the physical isolation?

Vacquier:

Yes, well it was an isolated spot.

Le Grand:

And I believe in 1957 you were the Society of Exploration Geophysicists lecturer and you were giving sort of a lecture tour on this method of — on the polarisation method of finding fresh water.

Vacquier:

That was not 1967.

Le Grand:

No, `57. 1957.

Vacquier:

Yes.

Le Grand:

And I understand that you gave a talk at Scripps on this and there initiated enquiries —

Vacquier:

Yes that's right. I tried to interest UCLA in this method of prospecting when I was looking for a job. That was Slichter.

Le Grand:

Yes, they weren't particularly interested?

Vacquier:

Well you know how it is with the University of California — it's a very long and drawn-out process.

Le Grand:

To get a position you mean.

Vacquier:

To get a position, yes. And Slichter was trying for an academic position which means it was a full professorship and it had to be in connection with the School of Engineering and so I had lunch at the Faculty Club with the Engineering Dean — he's dead now — and it all didn't work out too well. But, uh —

Le Grand:

They couldn't offer you a research position I take it?

Vacquier:

Well, I…

Le Grand:

Or were you looking for an academic position?

Vacquier:

I didn't know exactly what the difference was at the time.

Le Grand:

Oh, I see.

Vacquier:

Anyway, Walter Munk came to Socorro to deliver a Commencement Address and that's how I got connected with Scripps.

Le Grand:

Was he describing the sort of activity at Scripps, do you remember?

Vacquier:

I don't remember what he his talk was about. But he described the activity at Scripps to me of course. [microphone dislodged, random noise]

Le Grand:

And how did you decide to join up with Scripps? Was there anything in particular that attracted you to the operation here or the people here or the projects that were going on?

Vacquier:

Oh — it was of course the Mason-Raff survey which [Roger] Revelle showed me on a visit I made to Scripps in connection with some meeting — I forget exactly what the occasion was, but see Revelle being an extremely smart person, he realised that there was something very important in the Mason-Raff survey. He didn't quite know exactly what it was but he felt that it was an important piece of work. So he showed it to me and I was fascinated by it.

Le Grand:

Well I suppose that goes back to your long-standing interest in geomagnetism and —

Vacquier:

Sure. And I could see the displacement right away and the magnetic pattern —

Le Grand:

Ah, I see.

Vacquier:

So as I was — he had two copies of the map [of magnetic anomalies] there and I was shifting them one against the other using the window as a light table — he wanted to get back to the meeting and was saying to me "I have to get back now, I have to get back". So that's how I came to Scripps.

Le Grand:

And could I ask you — when you saw those maps of the magnetic lineations what about them in particular aroused your interest? What they might —

Vacquier:

The fact that they were shifted.

Le Grand:

Right, so that said something about earth processes —

Vacquier:

The Murray Fault, yeah. They also were rather unusual in appearance. You don't see lineations like that around very often.

Le Grand:

Right - in that they were fairly clearly marked or I guess the ones on land tend to be blurred by overprinting and all sort of problems —

Vacquier:

They are not just not that continuous — very few of them are that continuous — that lined up —

Le Grand:

Yes. Well Chris Harrison made a comment that I thought was really quite interesting and revealing. He said this at that meeting in 1984 — the symposium at Scripps to mark the — to mark yours and 80th birthday.

Vacquier:

Oh, that one, yes. You have a copy of that?

Le Grand:

Yes, I do. He said "Victor Vacquier trained me to think deeply about data. He was never satisfied with the pure description of a phenomenon, a method of operation common in a newly developing field such as marine geophysics, but always wished to know the meaning of the observation." And that's something that struck me about your interest in the magnetism. You always seemed to be asking "What's causing these patterns or what's causing the offset" rather than being content with merely mapping them out. Would that — is that — would that be an accurate comment?

Vacquier:

Well yes, I suppose so. I mean after all I had my training in prospecting. So I had to know the cause of things to know why the way they are.

Le Grand:

So you joined Scripps, I believe it was in August 1957 and you took over the magnetic group at the Marine Physical Laboratory.

Vacquier:

That's right. The group consisted of one man — it was really a very small operation compared to what I was used to because even at New Mexico I had a sizable group. Yeah. But let's see — my first job was to replace Raff on the Pioneer. The Pioneer was operating from Honolulu at the time and Raff was sort of living on it continuously and was getting rather tired. So I went there to relieve him — that was my first job at Scripps.

Le Grand:

So you were put directly into the field and was this your first shipboard experience? I suppose it probably was.

Vacquier:

Well — I had a trip on the carrier during the war — on an escort carrier.

Le Grand:

Sorry, I meant in terms of a geophysical exploration ship.

Vacquier:

And what else did I have? I took a trip on a submarine. Small trips with gyrocompasses.

Le Grand:

And let me think? What would you say was your initial aim for the group? Does that question make sense to you? What did you see as the priorities?

Vacquier:

Well I didn't have any grand scheme at all. The first aim was to get something to work that was practical as far as instrumentation was concerned. That's the first thing to do.

Le Grand:

So that's always been one of your great strengths it seems to me to — that is to, instrumentation development and design.

Vacquier:

So, the instrument that we used on the Pioneer which was a modification of a fluxgate that Bell Labs built — a modification by Mason. It was a huge thing. It took 10 sailors to launch the thing. Oh yes — the thing was about 10 feet long or something like that, maybe 8 feet. 8 feet long.

Le Grand:

So basically was it just a fairly standard fluxgate with a waterproof casing — something like that.

Vacquier:

That's right. That was the thing — it was a rather elementary regular fluxgate stabilized on the magnetic horizon, one of about 200 fluxgates built by the Bell Labs in competition with AIL.

Le Grand:

But the basic design would have been very similar to the one that you had patented I guess back in the mid-40s.

Vacquier:

No. It was different. Bell Telephone doesn't do things the way other people do them.

Le Grand:

Was it — could you elaborate on that a little bit? What were some of the significant differences?

Vacquier:

Well the difference was of course that they use the single element instead of using a twin element and removing — instead of removing the fundamental by means of a symmetrical element of the fluxgate they used a filter because — just filtered the second harmonic out as a signal. I mean they filtered out the fundamental and so the second harmonic was the signal. So they used the second harmonic pretty much as a sine wave signal. We used it as a deep voltmeter. This second harmonic signal was not a sine wave, it was a very peaked thing that was extremely water sensitive but it contained very little energy of course —

Le Grand:

I was going to say, but you were not completely happy with the results you were getting from the instrument — you thought that there were —

Vacquier:

No it was just clumsy.

Le Grand:

So that was the basic problem — the one of size and drag on the ship and so forth.

Vacquier:

Oh sure, and drift. So we worked on a regular — by that time of course the nuclear hydrogen proton magnetometer — proton magnetometer came in — I got one from the Navy and simplified it.

Le Grand:

I see. And that was the basic instrument that you used thereafter then.

Vacquier:

We made it ourselves for, oh, about four or five years we used that one. We made three or four of them. And then of course Varians — Varian and Associates followed my lead.

Le Grand:

Did you collaborate with Varian on that design?

Vacquier:

Yes. Not to begin with.

Le Grand:

Oh I see. No, I meant when Varian became interested in commercial production.

Vacquier:

Oh, Raff did in the very early days before I came to Scripps. They were towing a bottle. They put so much energy into the magnetizing current that the bottle boiled.

Le Grand:

A few design problems to overcome.

Vacquier:

And when I got this instrument from the Navy it had something like 18 conductors in the cable and some relays were switching in condensers and the resonant circuits and pre-amplifiers and all that was in the fish and the fish was again very big and so looking at that I just got some non-microphonic cable. You see we — I had an introduction to non-microphonic cables from the AIL work on towed ‘birds' — we had to have a non-microphonic cable and I think the only excuse for having all this claptrap in the fish was the fact that the Navy were not aware of this microphonic cable — the existence of it — because if you used it and lost only about half of the signal [crosstalk] the cable long enough so you could just have the bottle in the top [of the fish].

Le Grand:

And so that gave you much less drift and I suppose easier to launch and —

Vacquier:

There was no drift unaccounted for —

Le Grand:

Oh yes.

Vacquier:

And then instead of measuring the period we multiplied the frequency four times so that the smallest count was of about 5 gammas which was adequate.

Le Grand:

So you could get very nice profiles with that.

Vacquier:

Yeah. We just had a [inaudible] backup printer which printed —

Le Grand:

So you had a continuous recording. And you then used that on several cruises.

Vacquier:

Oh yes. The most important work was done with these instruments. Later on when we bought them from Varian and the ship maintenance people maintained them just like they are accomplices on the echosound so we didn't do any more work on the instruments after we bought them from Varians.

Le Grand:

I'd like to talk a little bit about some of the interpretations of the results you were getting then. I found a letter to Ronald Mason dated December 1957 in which you raised the possibility of some sort of a preliminary paper with him on the results that were coming in. The Pioneer results. And I noticed there you wrote this: "The presence of north/south anomalies in this region does not necessarily imply that the ocean floor everywhere gets periodically flooded by lava flows since parts of the ocean floor are magnetically featureless. I am inclined to regard the area of north/south magnetic lineation as an anomalous one associated with the nearness of the continent."

Vacquier:

Ha, ha, ha, ha — that's silly.

Le Grand:

Well your views changed quite a bit over a fairly short time, but I am trying to if I can chart them out. What did you have in mind as far as the nearness of the continent?

Vacquier:

Well, you are informing me now. I don't remember.

Le Grand:

So there was no possibility of convection currents coming out from underneath the cont[inent] — nothing like that? All right. We'll leave that bit alone then. And then in 1957 also you wrote up a proposal which I found quite interesting: to determine if the magnetic anomalies that you were finding were due to an induced field or were due to remanent magnetism and I think there you made reference to this notion of having a couple of observing stations across an anomaly and in measuring that over time to see if there were any connection, I suppose, with secular variations and so forth or any effect over time.

Vacquier:

I don't know.

Le Grand:

You don't recall that one? Let me see — I'm not sure what the next step was. You were continuing to make field measurements I guess with — and probably an important was a set of measurements with Raff and Bob [R. E.] Warren —

Vacquier:

That's right.

Le Grand:

And this was all in the — was this in the Murray Fracture Zone or —

Vacquier:

Well now the next important paper was a letter to Nature[4] wherein the displacement of the anomaly pattern across the Pioneer Fault was described.

Le Grand:

Let's see, that was I'm trying to remember the figure — about 138 nautical miles — something like that was it?

Vacquier:

It's not very many — yes, that sounds about right.

Le Grand:

And then you continued that work. There are a couple of what appear to be sort of offshoots of this work. Can I ask you about those? In 1959 you put forward a proposal which was funded by the Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society, to study the magnetism of marine sediments and I think this was when John Belshe became involved in some of the work —

Vacquier:

Oh, yeah, yeah. He brought an astatic magnetometer from Cambridge which was actually Cambridge property.

Le Grand:

He just packed it in his bag. Vacquier: And I had trouble with that. I was called into York's office — that he had a letter from Edward Bullard about this equipment that belonged to him!

Le Grand:

Oh, belonged to Teddy? To Bullard.

Vacquier:

That's right. So Belshe has been a problem.

Le Grand:

And from the proposal I infer that what you were planning to do was to take cores from the sediments and then really study the changes in the magnetic — in the earth's magnetic field over a period of perhaps up to several million years.

Vacquier:

Oh, they did it at Lamont.

Le Grand:

Oh I see, they were working at Lamont as well.

Vacquier:

Oh I don't know when — I'm sure they didn't work — I don't think they worked upon it at that time.

Le Grand:

Oh I see. You were referring to that later work that - oh, what was his name, was it Opdyke was involved in.

Vacquier:

Yes. It was by Opdyke.

Le Grand:

Oh yes. That was in the 60s. It struck me that you were anticipating very nicely some later work again that was done elsewhere. What did you hope to determine from that study of marine sediments? Did you see any connection between that work and the magnetic lineations?

Vacquier:

Well, you know more about that because you have read the thing! I've no idea now.

Le Grand:

All right. Yes, so you can't remember at the time then if it was related to the —

Vacquier:

All these ideas were more or less beating around the bush a bit.

Le Grand:

But would you say your central problem was still the explanation of these magnetic lineations in these years, in the '50s?

Vacquier:

Well the central problem was "How come they got displaced?"

Le Grand:

All right.

Vacquier:

That was really the central problem and it was [J. T.] Wilson who later provided the answer. And I missed that.

Le Grand:

Well let's see, then —

Vacquier:

And I missed that because I didn't — I was not aware of Wilson's transform faults. He didn't send me one of those little models of his —

Le Grand:

The paper cut-outs — you were cut out!

Vacquier:

Yeah. He missed me! Doggone him.

Le Grand:

Of course that was really I suppose almost 6 or 7 years after you had been working on this problem. Well it seemed to me that there was a fairly important theoretical turning point for yourself about 1960 and if I could just give you a couple of quotes perhaps and then ask you to comment on them. This was from a letter to Runcorn in January of 1960 and you had accepted an invitation to write a chapter for that book on, that book called Continental Drift which later appeared in 1962, and you agreed to write the chapter on "Ocean Floor Displacements" but then you added, "The displacements we claim to have measured in the ocean floor are only distantly related to the hypothesis of continental drift."

Vacquier:

Ha, ha, ha.

Le Grand:

But it goes on a bit — and then it seems to me two important things happened. First of all you did some — you had prepared a short note to appear in the GSA on displacements — the Pioneer displacements and then in a letter in May of 1960 to [Henry] Aldrich at the GSA you said basically "Stop — hold up a minute — we've got some new results on the Mendocino Fault which show a slip there of 600 nautical miles and if you add that to the Pioneer slippage you had a total displacement of 740 miles." So now the magnitude of that slippage or that fault is increased dramatically. And then, secondly, about the same time you wrote a letter to Sam — to S. Warren Carey in June of 1960 and you say "I've just read your article in the Symposium Volume — the Tasmanian Symposium — the remarkable reconstructions in the 2000 metre isobath have made me a drifter even though I cannot subscribe to your hypothesis of an expanding earth." So it seems —

Vacquier:

Oh I wrote that to Warren?

Le Grand:

Yes.

Vacquier:

Carey?

Le Grand:

Yes, you did. So it seems to me two things happened. First of all you got this much larger displacement than you had for Pioneer and then secondly you had read about Carey's reconstructions and you at that stage put those two things together and saw now what you had not seen when you wrote to Runcorn. You saw that there was some sort of a connection between these very large scale - I call them slippages — that was your word at the time — slippage — and continental drift. Could you comment on that a little bit?

Vacquier:

Well now let's see. I'm not sure that I can. I met Carey in Tasmania in 1960 [subsequent to the letter just mentioned by H.] Visited his place — climbed up the tree on his rope ladder —

Le Grand:

Yes, I think that was probably subsequent to your reading of the, of that Symposium volume. Can you recall if that was something of a trigger —

Vacquier:

The symposium volume?

Le Grand:

Yes, you know — which was called Continental Drift — it was a symposium held in Tasmania in 1956 and it was published in '58.

Vacquier:

Oh, it was already in existence before I went there. I think that symposium must have been in the late '50s.

Le Grand:

Uh, it was in '56 but not published until 1958. So you might have seen it in say 1959 or thereabouts or early 1960.

Vacquier:

I did see it, it seems to me, but I can't remember.

Le Grand:

Do you recall if it made an impression on you?

Vacquier:

Yes. I rather was impressed by Carey's reconstructions and I got wind of them through the Geological Survey from — what was that Chilean — there was a fellow there who looked like a Chilean Indian — [inaudible].

Le Grand:

Not [R.] Maack - he was an Argentine I think. A geophysicist or…

Vacquier:

Yes, he was a geological surveyor for years and years - he worked on gravity for a while. I got the idea from him of calculating the magnetization of [inaudible] magnetized [inaudible].

Le Grand:

Oh right.

Vacquier:

What was his name?

Le Grand:

Oh well, perhaps it will come back to you.

Vacquier:

I have an acknowledgement for him in the Benedum [Earth Magnetism] Symposium paper.

Le Grand:

All right, I'll look for that then. I'll check that. Yes, actually I think I can pin it down even more. There was an AAPG Forum on continental drift held in Los Angeles in June of 1960.

Vacquier:

I don't think I went there, did I?

Le Grand:

I think you gave just a brief talk — your letter to the organizer in May reads as follows: "I've just returned from a cruise during which we measured lateral displacement of about 600 nautical miles along the Mendocino Fault. It is not obvious that this has anything to do with drifting continents, but it should create some interesting speculations in geological minds." And I think you gave just a very short presentation with slides — you didn't actually have a formal paper and then there was a summary of your talk and of the — a forum that was published in the July issue of the newsletter of the Pacific section of the AAPG.

Le Grand:

So it seems that you must have read the Carey volume sometime between — well in that sort of third week of June 1960 because your correspondence suggests that up to that point you had found these displacements very interesting but you weren't quite clear of the overall significance and then after looking at Carey's reconstructions you thought "Well, alright, if the continents indeed are moving and they must because the fit is so good according to Carey's reconstructions then these represent a rebuttal of the view that the ocean floor is highly rigid and immobile." So that seemed to bring things very nicely together. Could I ask you — this may be a detour — I'm not sure — but you after sending in your contribution for the Runcorn volume in which you connected these large scale displacements with drift, you added a couple of final paragraphs and one of those paragraphs mentioned convection currents. And what I am wondering is, was this sort of a trigger or in what way was it connected to your initiation of heat flow studies.

Vacquier:

No, it's not connected.

Le Grand:

Not connected.

Vacquier:

The way heat flow studies were initiated was because Dick Von Herzen got a job with UNESCO in Paris and somebody had to take over his work. So that's the way I got into it.

Le Grand:

And what did you see as the interest or the purpose of these heatflow studies? Vacquier: Well, the only thing that I could see was [obliterated by chiming of clock] Let me see, uh — Heat is the primary source of energy, energy for geo — [remarks about clock]

Le Grand:

Sorry, you were talking about heat as the source of —

Vacquier:

Well - heat is the sort of main — geodynamic phenomena require — are driven by energy from the earth's heat —

Le Grand:

Yes, yes.

Vacquier:

So I should think it would be very important to know what is happening to it and I can know —

Le Grand:

But you didn't see an immediate connection between this work and the work that you had been doing on the seafloor with magnetic lineations and with the crustal displacements?

Vacquier:

Well there a geographic connection in that it was already known when I came into the field that the ridges were hot and the basins cold so that had some connection.

Le Grand:

And was that connection strengthened to some extent when you became familiar — I'm not sure whether it was through Bob Dietz or through Harry Hess — when you became familiar with the notion of seafloor spreading?

Vacquier:

Well, that seafloor spreading business — you see there was a meeting in San Francisco wasn't there?

Le Grand:

Ah, yes, yes, I think, was it 1960 again?

Vacquier:

It was — I'd just got off the ship from the Mendocino displacement and I didn't even have a figure, a slide to show, I just had to show a sketch I made on the floor of the bedroom — I unravelled it and people had to hold it. It was all — I think I was — the day before I came back from the cruise.

Le Grand:

Well that would have probably been in 1960.

Vacquier:

I saw Hess at that meeting.

Le Grand:

Yes. And did he talk about his —

Vacquier:

Hess told me to get hold of Vine, but I never did. I don't remember now why. How I missed him. Hess at that time was away as — was already acquainted with Vine's ideas.

Le Grand:

Ah, perhaps that was a second cruise then, because that must have been about 1963.

Vacquier:

Was it that late?

Le Grand:

I think so. Yes. Hess at first had contact with Vine in 1962, but by that time of course he had already worked out his notion on seafloor spreading — not the magnetic lineations, just the idea of the upwelling at the ridges. And I was wondering if there was a connection there because of the high heatflow that might be associated with that sort of activity.

Vacquier:

At that time I was not interested. Maybe I — well, I was not working on it.

Le Grand:

You prepared in 1961 an abstract for the National Academy of Sciences meeting of that year in which you connected seafloor spreading — or at least what is very much a description of seafloor spreading — with heatflow measurements on the continents. And what particularly struck me about that paper — this is sort of a synopsis — you mentioned that at the ridges there is upwelling hot mantle material and that this spreads laterally causing displacement of the crust and this generates a rise with high heatflow on the crest and in the upper mantle and the crest are moved westward by the additions of strips of sima to the ocean floor several hundred miles long which show up as north/south magnetic anomalies.

Vacquier:

Oh, I had it all, didn't I?

Le Grand:

Yes. I was absolutely thunderstruck when I saw that abstract — it's just an abstract — you know, it's very analysing — it's only about one page, but it seemed very…

Vacquier:

I had it all, un-uh.

Le Grand:

So I assume that you must have heard by that stage of Hess's notion of seafloor spreading, but you put that together with the notion of these additional strips of mantle material — cooled mantle material — could explain the lineations.

Vacquier:

Yeah, and I had the same idea in the last paragraph of my chapter in Runcorn's book.

Le Grand:

Yes, it's not quite as explicit there.

Vacquier:

Oh, this is more explicit. This came first.

Le Grand:

Well, no — it came first in terms of publication because Runcorn's book didn't actually come out until 1962 but you had already put in your chapter before that. And that's why I thought, since you were discussing the heatflow that there might again be some connection.

Vacquier:

No, but at that time already it was general knowledge —

Le Grand:

Well, alright —

Vacquier:

that the ridges were hot —

Le Grand:

And I — OK, a great deal of heat — alright. What about the notion that these strips of ocean floor that were being added might explain the magnetic lineations? Was that just — not to denigrate it — was that just sort of a throwaway idea — an idea that you had and put down and didn't pursue?

Vacquier:

I can't remember.

Le Grand:

Oh, too bad. Because it sounds great.

Vacquier:

I obviously did not realise its significance, otherwise I would have pursued it more.

Le Grand:

Because it is so tantalizingly close to the Vine-Matthews paper.

Vacquier:

It is. Sure.

Le Grand:

You suggested in that abstract that as an experimental check one could measure the geothermal heatflow west of the Rio Grande Valley and that you could also measure the magnetic time variation with several stations on the ocean floor.

Vacquier:

Yes, well we did that.

Le Grand:

You pursued both of those.

Vacquier:

By Warren Schmucker and I — was Schmucker — no, Schmucker was not in on it. Schmucker already did the measurements — he already finished.

Le Grand:

Right.

Vacquier:

But the paper I think was by Warren [?] Sclater and myself and Roy [?] — wasn't it?

Le Grand:

Well there was certainly by - including Sclater as one of the authors — that was on heat flow.

Vacquier:

That's right.

Le Grand:

And you had corresponded — was Schmucker working under your direction on that earlier work?

Vacquier:

Yes. I don't know that I directed him much — he didn't need much direction.

Le Grand:

That was his thesis project I think — is that right?

Vacquier:

I got him from —

Le Grand:

Was that a thesis project or was he a post-doc?

Vacquier:

He was a post-doc. I got him from Julius Bartles. Julius Bartles was impressed by my paper on short time magnetic fluctuations and so he sent Schmucker over here.

Le Grand:

And in fact you had — you were associated with quite a few students from elsewhere — I think it must have been about the same time that you and Belshe examined a thesis by Fuller on magnetic anisotropy of rocks Do you remember that one?

Vacquier:

Oh, oh — that was — what's his name, he came —

Le Grand:

Mike Fuller is it?

Vacquier:

Oh Mike Fuller, yes. Well Mike Fuller of course is at Santa Barbara now. Mike Fuller is undoubtedly one of the outstanding paleomagnetists we have — he's not just a geologist applying paleomagnetism [inaudible] magnetism minerals in the rocks.

Le Grand:

Yes, it just seems to me that you had — well, I'm not trying to flatter you, but you had a real talent for picking the research projects in areas that really were to become quite critical. The heatflow, the study of the ridges —

Vacquier:

Yeah, I'm a much better starter than I am as a finisher — I start things but I don't finish them too well.

Le Grand:

I don't suppose you want to comment further on that, do you? [laughter] Is it — I mean was that because you — another project —

Vacquier:

I don't know, no, it's my general; it's my real characteristic because Eckhardt of Gulf told me that. He said "You're a good starter but not a good finisher".

Le Grand:

You certainly seemed to push the instrumentation through to the end every time.

Vacquier:

Well I was always fascinated with gad — I always played with gadgets since I was ten.

Le Grand:

And then it seems about, oh, it must have been again in the early 60s, probably around '62 or '63 you got an NSF grant for further pursuing this — the geothermal heatflow between San Diego and the Rio Grande Valley.

Vacquier:

Yes, well that's the one that we confirmed the Rio Grande from — let's see, what is it, oh, we just confirmed the fact that the basin-range country was — had high heatflow.

Le Grand:

Right. And of course that's later tied in I suppose only in the past ten years or so with the basin-range studies.

Vacquier:

Yes. It was all correct. We didn't make bad measurements, except the Titicaca measurements were not good.

Le Grand:

Oh, what was the problem with them? What was the problem with those?

Vacquier:

They came out low compared to all the later work around there which was done by a fellow in Michigan, what's his name, [inaudible]. It'll come to me later maybe.

Le Grand:

All right. We can always —

Vacquier:

Anyway in Titicaca the measurements came out low and actually that area over there is mildly high.

Le Grand:

Yes, in light of your earlier suggestion in '61 about the possible cause of the magnetic lineations I was struck by a letter that you had written to [George] Backus in, toward the end of 1963. Apparently he had asked you what your reaction was to the Vine-Matthews paper.

Vacquier:

George Backus?

Le Grand:

Yes.

Vacquier:

Yeah, what did I say?

Le Grand:

Well, I don't have a copy of the letter with me — it's being copied now. But basically you said "It really seems to answer lots of questions" but something to the effect that only at the expense of sort of calling upon angels to explain the data. I read that as saying "Look, you know, it's not too bad but it all sounds very ad hoc."

Vacquier:

The Vine-Matthews hypothesis?

Le Grand:

Yes. And that you were, you seemed a bit cool on it at the time and you wanted much more data —

Vacquier:

I sure was cool at the [Royal Society] symposium in London. I —

Le Grand:

But it's interesting since you had a very similar idea yourself earlier — why were you, why did you have reservations?

Vacquier:

Well, mostly probably because I missed the symmetry business.

Le Grand:

Well, so did they originally.

Vacquier:

You see there was no symmetry in our anomaly out west here except at Juan de Fuca Ridge and that was sort of a minor thing up in the Northeast —

Le Grand:

So there was the symmetry and of course I suppose the spreading rate - that sort of global calculation had not been done at the time either. That was only later that one could work out some sort of correlation with paleomagnetic dating.

Vacquier:

Well anyway, I missed the boat.

Le Grand:

Well — [laughter] just about everyone did. When I talked with — in fact when I talked with Drum Matthews he said that he himself really didn't have a great deal of confidence in the paper when they put it out in 1963.

Vacquier:

Of course nobody did. As a matter of fact he was a very courageous man because Teddy Bullard wouldn't do it.

Le Grand:

That's right. Vine had asked him to be the — I think — an author and he had turned him down.

Vacquier:

That's right. Nobody mentioned it in London except me.

Le Grand:

Oh, in that '64 symposium, yes, that's right. Your paper was the only one that made any reference to it at all.

Vacquier:

That's right. So nobody considered it.

Le Grand:

I guess it really did seem very ad hoc. What changed your mind about it?

Vacquier:

The transform fault, of course.

Le Grand:

So Wilson's paper —

Vacquier:

Wilson really was the one who had the key.

Le Grand:

Then with that you could go back and look at your own data.

Vacquier:

Why sure —

Le Grand:

And see how it could operate and cause a displacement or account for the displacement.

Vacquier:

He should have sent me one of those [?] fool papers [?].

Le Grand:

Now, I'm not clear on one point. At what stage did you leave Scripps or about when did you leave Scripps?

Vacquier:

I never left Scripps.

Le Grand:

I'm sorry — that you officially retired from Scripps?

Vacquier:

Oh, let me see — I guess I was 67 then, so that's 15 years ago — 67 was the retirement age then — now it's 70 and you can be left on by special dispensation to be renewed every year.

Le Grand:

It seems to me that much of your work for the remainder of your time at Scripps was again on heatflow.

Vacquier:

That's right. And it didn't turn out too well.

Le Grand:

Can I ask you, what were you really looking for then? It may seem like a silly question, but what were you hoping to find? Some sort of regular pattern of heatflow, or —

Vacquier:

Well, there were various problems connected with it. The data comes mostly from oil fields so most of — when I started out most of the heatflow values on land were in igneous areas, rather than in basins. And the oil fields provided the missing link, so to speak. I mean they provided coverage where there wasn't any before.

Le Grand:

What about problems — wouldn't ground water, say, be a bit of a problem in terms of throwing off measurements?

Vacquier:

Well as circulation of the flow is, yes. It's definitely a problem.

Le Grand:

And how did you avoid that?

Vacquier:

I did not avoid it, I averaged it out.

Le Grand:

Oh I see, O.K. I suppose that's simplest.

Vacquier:

You have a lot of data there and it's very messy and very much, very noisy. They are noisy data but very many. The first thing you do is to select the obvious - throw out the obvious bad readings — you average, you get a value for one oil field or something like that. The problem also has an economic connection for the production of oil.

Le Grand:

Could you elaborate on that a bit for me?

Vacquier:

Well I — there is a hydraulic theory of oil accumulation in which you, which says, the theory says that oil is accumulated by water which seeps through aquitards [?] which are the shales and so accumulates underneath them. The water leaves by capillary flow and oil is left behind. And then there is the other effect that where the oil field waters are connected to the ground water — this is the case, say, in the mid-conti[nent] — in the Rocky Mountain area where you have, say, the Dakota sandstone starting out some place in Colorado. As it goes over the structures you see, the oil accumulates over the anticlines but it, the water is warmer because it is rising as it goes from the base of the anticline to the top, so there is a positive temperature over the oil field and in those cases you find quite a few in the Rocky Mountains — there are papers on it in the AAPG Bulletin.

Le Grand:

So you were hoping to find some sort of correlation then between oil presence and elevated temperatures?

Vacquier:

There is — there is but not in every case because if by some geologic — well if there is a movement of the formation [inaudible] so as to cut off the oil waters from the groundwater then there is no such effect.

Le Grand:

So your work depends also on having some sort of reasonable knowledge of the underlying structure?

Vacquier:

That's right.

Le Grand:

And so that's another potential source of knowledge I suppose. If you don't have —

Vacquier:

Yes. But usually if you take a whole oil field and not use just the temperatures on top of the structure but also on the surrounding areas then you get an average.

Le Grand:

Could I ask you this — it seems to me that after the early — [telephone interruption] I was about to say, certainly it seems after the early 1960's you moved away from the magnetism almost altogether. Was there any particular reason for that?

Vacquier:

No. Well, there is maybe a reason to this extent that there was really not much more to find out about geomagnetism as applied to marine geology except just details here and there. So I lost interest.

Le Grand:

Yes, I wondered if that might be part of the rationale. So you had pretty much done what you wished to do in that area by that stage.

Vacquier:

Oh there were just more anomalies and there were some Mesozoic anomalies and more surveys were done on the Atlantic —

Le Grand:

Could I ask you — just a bit before we leave that altogether. I suppose one of your last bits of work in the magnetism was the development of that — I gather it was a computer program - for working out — you take into account the topography in the magnetic field of the seamounts —

Vacquier:

Oh yeah. Well actually we used [M.] Talwani's program after the original one which was —

Le Grand:

So you developed your own, but then used Talwani's as a —

Vacquier:

Oh yes. We didn't use this a very long while. I mean as soon as we got hold of Talwani's program we used it.

Le Grand:

But you had developed that I think, and published it in about 1962 — is that right?

Vacquier:

Yes, that was in the Benedum Symposium. Actually it was done on a [inaudible]lith some place in Mount H[inaudible].

Le Grand:

Oh — I just assumed that it was marine —

Vacquier:

It was not marine.

Le Grand:

Oh interesting. And the reason I asked is because those sorts of programs or computations were quite important later on and very soon thereafter in Vine and Matthews work.

Vacquier:

Oh well I didn't know that until a few years ago.

Le Grand:

Ah. But I think they must — they collected a variety of programs from different sources.

Vacquier:

Yes, that's all right. I mean, I have no objection to that.

Le Grand:

Oh, no. Your program was one of the ones that they collected.

Vacquier:

Yes, I just don't know what they did with it. It was not, I don't think it was a particularly good program. But anyway, we measured a lot of seamounts and established the motion of the Pacific plates with them. That was interesting. I think it did some good. I mean, the paleomagnetic work using seamounts is good when you don't have any other measurements. It has been considerably improved by Parker because he didn't use the ordinary statistics.

Le Grand:

How did that bear on the work of — I believe it was Jerry Voorhis —

Vacquier:

Oh, Voorhis. Yes, Voorhis worked on it for a while. He was here a very short time.

Le Grand:

He was connected with you in some way I believe.

Vacquier:

He became chief geophysicist of Kennicott Copper Company — a meteoric rise for such a — He was a very interesting young man.

Le Grand:

He was working on the, was it some of the seamounts near Hawaii, in the Hawaii chain and was he using your program at that time or —

Vacquier:

Well yes, he was with our group here - very many people worked on that. [M. L.] Richards worked on it, and [C. G. A.] Harrison and [G. D. Van] Voorhis and who else? Anyway, it became very nice when we got satellite navigation. The big difficulty with these surveys was to locate the ship.

Le Grand:

What methods were being used, say, in the late '50's — was it.

Vacquier:

Oh, we put a buoy with a lot of rope.

Le Grand:

Oh good heavens.

Vacquier:

We put a buoy on it and a radar buoy and used the ship's radar.

Le Grand:

What about LORAN — when did you use that or was that accurate enough?

Vacquier:

I don't think we ever used it.

Le Grand:

So it was basically from sonar buoys up to —

Vacquier:

No it was not a sonar buoy it was — first of all the anchor went down and then miles and miles of this half-inch nylon line and then this buoy.

Le Grand:

Oh, it was a surface buoy for radar.

Vacquier:

It's a surface buoy with a radar reflector on it.

Le Grand:

And hopefully there was not too much in the way of currents to —

Vacquier:

Well, it marked the top of the seamount but of course the top was very approximate also.

Le Grand:

I see.

Vacquier:

But seamount was surveyed by a radiating pattern from the buoy and the buoy was someplace near the top. Yeah, it would drift a little, I suppose.

Le Grand:

Could you tell me a little bit about how well you feel that your research was supported at Scripps? I'd like to get some sense of that.

Vacquier:

Well I didn't have much trouble — a few of my proposals were rejected by NSF but not many. That was mostly in the later days when money got tight.

Le Grand:

So you had pretty good access to workshops, to shiptime, all those sorts of things —

Vacquier:

Oh at Scripps there was never any difficulty. Getting money out of NSF was sometimes not easy but mostly I was able to finance most of the work alright.

Le Grand:

And you seem to have a wide circle of correspondents as well in the field?

Vacquier:

Do I?

Le Grand:

A wide circle of correspondents?

Vacquier:

Well, I don't know — you can tell better because you have been looking up the files. I haven't written too many letters when you consider it.

Le Grand:

Well could I ask you this — just I mean these are just a few general questions, sort of tying things up. Who were the individuals in the field, say in the late 1950s and the 1960s when you were at Scripps that you would collaborate with most closely or feel free to exchange ideas with? Was there anybody in particular —

Vacquier:

Well we always exchanged ideas — there was never any difficulty there.

Le Grand:

Does anybody stand out in your recollections as someone to offer constructive criticism —

Vacquier:

Bob Parker several times — we collaborated on shipboard of course when we were out at sea. I had a nice relationship with Bill Menard and Speiss — they have been always very supportive.

Le Grand:

I mean — maybe I should turn the tape recorder off — [brief private conversation about personalities which Vacquier reluctant to record] It seems to me that you were pretty much left free to choose your own research interests and to pursue those as you saw fit.

Vacquier:

Yes, there would be much less freedom [at Lamont under Ewing] I imagine until now — I don't know how it is now. I knew Ewing from away back from the '30s — we always had a good relationship.

Le Grand:

What was Ewing's — this is just a question for which I haven't prepared - but did Ewing ever give you any reaction or response to your papers on the large-scale displacements? [Vacquier shakes his head in the negative]. No. He was silent on that.

Vacquier:

You see he was against continental drift.

Le Grand:

That's why I asked. So he didn't try to explain them in some other way — he just ignored them basically.

Vacquier:

Yes, I always wondered about that.

Le Grand:

Yes, if I were going to speculate I would think that it's probably the influence at Columbia with Bucherer and some of the other geologists at Columbia who seemed to be dead set against drift. In some ways they were his seniors in matters geological.

Vacquier:

Well I'm not sure that Maurice paid much attention to his colleagues. I think he was pretty [inaudible]. A very interesting man.

Le Grand:

Did you ever have occasion to work with him, or —

Vacquier:

Not to work, but we knew about each other. He came to get the Gulf pendulums way back. He and Vine [?] arrived in a station wagon from Lehigh [?] — that's the original Ford station wagon [inaudible]

Le Grand:

Oh that reminds me - there was one other question I meant to ask you. Belshe, going back to Belshe - you mentioned that he brought an astatic with him from Cambridge - at about that same time it seems that you went up to Menlo Park to visit Allan Cox and Dick Doell. Now you were getting details of a spinner magnetometer from them - is that right?

Vacquier:

That's right. [interruption: Mrs. Vacquier served tea] I had it with me — you see I had a group — a sort of an engineering group. It was — they were not very good engineers, but they were electronicers and by that time I lost track of the electronic arts pretty much because you know they moved very fast and if you are not in it you get behind.

Le Grand:

Yes. I was just — I wondered why you had gone there to find out about spinners since you had I suppose been one of the originators of the spinner yourself in your work back in the '30s. But this is just several generations later.

Vacquier:

They already had one that was working.

Le Grand:

I see.

Vacquier:

We tried to duplicate it, but we didn't do a good job.

Le Grand:

Were you planning to use that for this sediment work?

Vacquier:

A few small — I don't remember what the plan was — the plan was to have something to measure magnetism of rocks and sediments. I think it was a low-speed one. Yes, a low-speed one. [social chit-chat] Where are you — in Sydney?

Le Grand:

No, in Melbourne.

Vacquier:

Melbourne, oh.

Le Grand:

I'm from the States originally, but I've lived out in Australia for about [more social chit-chat, recorder on pause] [A question] the AIP is interested in: What would you consider to be your most significant contributions to the field? You —

Vacquier:

Well there are several contributions, several tiers of contribution. Well, the basic contribution was the magnetometer — the fluxgate magnetometer.

Le Grand:

That's the one for which you received the Fessenden award I believe. Is that correct?

Vacquier:

I suppose so. And also the Franklin medal.

Le Grand:

Oh, the Franklin as well.

Vacquier:

What is it — it's not Franklin, it's some other name.

Le Grand:

I've got it written down somewhere.

Vacquier:

The Wetherall.

Le Grand:

The Wetherall award from the Franklin Institute, yes.

Vacquier:

I was trying to find out who Wetherall was and I asked Harold Urey [inaudible] if he knew, if he knew the geochemist Wetherall.

Le Grand:

I mean that's certainly an instrument that — well I don't think it's putting it too mildly to say it revolutionized the geophysical study of the oceans.

Vacquier:

Yes. That was — that was the basic thing. And it had applications everywhere and still has applications in space because of its low power consumption.

Le Grand:

And then you also received the Fleming Medal from the AGU —

Vacquier:

Well that was mostly for these magnetic anomalies that were displaced.

Le Grand:

Right. The geomagnetic and work in displacement. I don't suppose you would want to comment on the Fleming Medal. There's a letter I think when you were asked to contribute in which you made some fairly unflattering comments about "yet another medal."

Vacquier:

You dug it up?

Le Grand:

Yes, yes.

Vacquier:

I thought they ought to spend the money on encouraging young people and give it to some deserving youngster instead of to people with one foot in the grave. I tried to do it but I suppose Fleming in his will probably specified exactly, knowing him.

Le Grand:

Oh I see.

Vacquier:

What he wanted it for. So I first went to Ewing and Ewing agreed with me. He said "We have one medal."

Le Grand:

The Bowie Medal, I guess it was.

Vacquier:

Well the thing is that I didn't see there being enough deserving people in the whole world to give one every year.

Le Grand:

This was specifically in geomagnetism.

Vacquier:

It was very specific, you see —

Le Grand:

And of course that was a fairly small field.

Vacquier:

Once I was in Washington and I mentioned it to Tuve and Tuve said... [tape ended in middle of sentence] Well they say their Memoir 47 was a pretty good useful piece of work.

Le Grand:

Yes. Yes. I wanted to [ask how useful for prospecting (?) (crosstalk)].

Vacquier:

I don't really know how useful because I was not connected with the prospecting industry after that and but I understand that it was sort of a Bible before [inaudible] came out.

Le Grand:

Well it was certainly referred to very widely in the literature. I have picked up a lot of references to it.

Vacquier:

They, ah, it ran out of print so they made another printing.

Le Grand:

Could I ask you this? I'm still trying to work out in my own mind how the fluxgate was adapted or the process by which it was adapted from airborne work to towed marine work.

Vacquier:

Oh. The first thing that happened was that Mason and Raff took the Bell Telephone Instrument which never was used by the Navy and put it into this `fish' and did the Pioneer survey with it.

Le Grand:

All right. So it was —

Vacquier:

And I had a trip from Hawaii on the Pioneer with it and that was the last of the fluxgate that's used at sea.

Le Grand:

Yes. I was trying to sort it out, because there was, I think, a Miller — I don't have the full name — from Lamont who supposedly fitted a fluxgate to the Spencer F. Berry for the 1952 Capricorn Expedition and I just wondered if he was visiting from Lamont and they were already using it or if it was first tried —

Vacquier:

I don't know.

Le Grand:

You don't know?

Vacquier:

I don't know.

Le Grand:

I mean that was before of course your time at Scripps so —

Vacquier:

That's the first time I heard of it.

Le Grand:

Yes, well I asked Raff about it and he was, he couldn't recollect the exact sequence.

Vacquier:

I never knew. I don't know exactly when Lamont got their first proton precession magnetometer.

Le Grand:

Well I think Scripps was probably a bit ahead there.

Vacquier:

Was it?

Le Grand:

I think so. They may have been using a somewhat earlier version -

Vacquier:

They made one.

Le Grand:

Yes.

Vacquier:

They made one. Le Grand: But was it —

Vacquier:

They made one that measured periods.

Le Grand:

I think not quite as sophisticated as the one that was used at Scripps. Can I pour you another cup of tea?

Vacquier:

No thanks, I think I've had enough.

Le Grand:

Alright. Well, I think that really covers the points that I wanted to ask you. Is there anything that you feel should be added, or that you would like to add.

Vacquier:

No. I was just curious about the purpose of all this. What is it now, you are writing a paper, or are you —

Le Grand:

Well, I'll talk about — there are really two reasons that I am doing this. One reason is in connection with the project that the AGU is co-operating with, along with the American Institute of Physics and their purpose is simply to build a bank of oral history materials on modern geophysics for the purpose of later historians. And so it is not aim specific — it is just a general — it is almost a data bank if you like, but an oral history data bank. That's one reason. The major reason why I'm doing it is because I'm very much interested in a specific question and that is how the choice of research topics and specialization of geophysicists and geologists affected or influenced their attitudes towards various theories of the earth in the period after the Second World War. And I'm looking particularly at paleomagnetism and the development of marine geophysics because both of those occurred in the post-war era. The usual view in my discipline, History and Philosophy of Science, is that scientists - this sounds a bit silly I suspect to you - but the general view is that scientists sort of sit back and add up and evaluate all the evidence in the field and then choose or judge theories on the basis of that whole totality of evidence. My own view is that scientists don't operate that way. I'm a chemist, not a geologist, but even so I think it applies to geology. That, rather, scientists are interested in solving particular problems or working on particular phenomenon and trying to sort those out and their choice of theories or judgment of theories is very much on the basis of whether or not those various theories are of any use in solving those particular problems.

Vacquier:

Oh, I think that's right, yes.

Le Grand:

So it's not the whole body of evidence but rather what they are working on at the time that affects their decisions.

Vacquier:

Oh yeah, yeah, sure, sure.

Le Grand:

And as I say I think that's something that every scientist that I have talked to says "Well of course — that's the way we work."

Vacquier:

Yeah, of course, yes.

Le Grand:

But it's really a matter of trying to educate people in my field — History and Philosophy of Science rather than scientists — about that.

Vacquier:

You know the other interesting thing is what determines the recognition of an important discovery.

Le Grand:

Oh yes, yes.

Vacquier:

How do you recognize a good discovery? How could you do it quickly? You know it always worried me that it is a very slow process.

Le Grand:

Yes.

Vacquier:

It took Newton what is it several years to apply gravity to Kepler's Laws.

Le Grand:

And maybe almost 50 years before his treatment was generally accepted.

Vacquier:

Yes. But how do you recognize an important invention or discovery?

Le Grand:

Well if you are asking me for an opinion — [The formal interview terminated at this point, as I talked briefly to the question of recognition of discovery and Vacquier listened without expressing further his own views.]

[1] V. Vacquier and J. Affleck. (1941). A Computation of the Average Depth to the bottom of the Earth's Magnetic Crust, Based on a Statistical Study of Local Magnetic Anomalies. Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 22: 446-50.

[2] V. Vacquier, N.C. Steenland, R.G. Henderson and I. Zietz. (1951) Interpretation of Aeromagnetic Maps. Geological Society of America Memoir 47.

[3] Among others, see SIO Archives, AC-5, SIO Biographical Files, "Vacquier, Victor". My references to correspondence, grant proposals and similar documentation throughout the interview are based on SIO Archives holdings.

[4] V. Vacquier. (1959). Measurement of Horizontal Displacement along Faults in the Ocean Floor. Nature, 183: 452-53.

Session I | Session II