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Oral History Transcript — Frank K. Edmondson

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Interview with Dr. Frank K. Edmondson
By Dr. David DeVorkin
In Edmondson’s Office, Swain Hall, Indiana University
February 2, 1978

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Frank Edmondson; February 2, 1978

ABSTRACT: Early home life in Indiana, and early schooling. Origins of his interest in astronomy and the influence of both family and teachers. College years at Indiana University and contacts with members of the astronomy department there (E.C. and Vesto M. Slipher). Discussion of history of Indiana University Astronomy Department, and its contact with the Lowell Observatory. Graduate school at Harvard University, Peter van de Kamp's influence, work in stellar kinematics, impressions of atmosphere at Harvard. Faculty position at Indiana University, 1937 to present. Origins of Goethe Link Observatory, and the growth of the department. Organizational work in the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Work at National Science Foundation (NSF) as scientific officer for astronomy, 1956, and development of National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO); NSF and AUI; NRAO directors; Sputnik; Kitt Peak Observatory site survey, NSF and Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA); Aden Meinel; John B. Irwin's proposal for a photoelectric observatory; Flagstaff Conference; Robert McMath Panel; structure of Kitt Peak staff; Chilean observatory and development of Cerro Tololo; Gerard Kuiper's role in southern observatory; European Southern Observatory (ESO), Carnegie Southern Observatory (CARSO) and AURA joint Paris meeting; Russian interests in southern observatory; CARSO application to Ford Foundation; agreements between AURA and CARSO; building telescopes at Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololot?he WISCO dispute; policy problems; AURA Board meetings; demise of Space Division at Kitt Peak; Whitford Panel; White Sands rocket project; astronomy and teaching at Indiana. Also prominently mentioned are: Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez, Lawrence Hugh Aller, Bart Jan Bok, William A. Cogshall, James Cuffey, H. T. Davis, Arthur Foley, Paul Herget, Helen Sawyer Hogg, Virgil Hunt, Geoffrey Keller, C. O. Lampland, Robert Reynolds McMath, Edward Arthur Milne, Samuel A. Mitchell, William Wilson Morgan, Jason John Nassau, Henry Norris Russell, Frederico Rutllant, Charles Donald Shane, Harlow Shapley, Jurgen Stock, Otto Struve, Merle Antony Tuve, Herman B. Wells, K. P. Williams, Marshall Wrubel; Associated Universities, Inc., Ford Foundation, Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System, Lick Observatory, McDonald Observatory, and Yerkes Observatory.

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Transcript

Session I | Session II

DeVorkin:

We ended up last April beginning with your year as NSF officer and the development of NRAO. I would like very much to continue at that point, talk about your year and your experiences, and especially the development of NRAO.

Edmondson:

Well, the way I remember the early part of that year is that I arrived in Washington on the 1st of June, I came in June instead of September because Helen Hogg had wanted to leave early, and it was entirely convenient for me to arrive that early (Helen Hogg and I overlapped most of June, which helped me). When I arrived in June, I was told that I would have two very difficult tasks ahead of me, that one related to AURA and the other, a perfectly fantastic meeting on radioastronomy that was in the works. Because what had happened before I arrived in Washington was that AUI, through the strong leadership of Lloyd Berkner, had been given a contract by NSF to run a site survey for a National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and they're the ones who discovered the site at Greenbank.

DeVorkin:

How was it chosen? Were you in on that?

Edmondson:

No, I was not in on the actual site survey. It was chosen by sending people out into the field with instruments to measure radio interference. And basically what it boils down to is, the Green Bank Valley was chosen because TV reception was so lousy there. I mean, they were looking for a radio quiet place. And also, in terms of airways, the airways sort of boxed it in, but it was reasonably free from airways communication interference, as well as television and all that kind of stuff.

DeVorkin:

There were no political problems.

Edmondson:

This was not a political decision. It was entirely based on finding a radio quiet region. I do remember that the Governor of West Virginia, at the time the site was chosen, said his state had been chosen because he had been trying to come up with some way to help them economically, and he had not found any solutions. So therefore, he thought the Radio Astronomy Observatory might be a good thing economically for the area. But this was a statement after the choice had been made. There was not any pressure to choose it.

At any rate, when I arrived in Washington, I was told that there was some hostility to AUI, led by Merle Tuve. And of course this actually went back to the personal rivalry and hostility between Berkner and Tuve. I think they were fellow graduate students, or at least, this was rivalry of long standing. That was just part of the picture. It wasn't so much anti-AUI as it was anti-Lloyd Berkner. At east, as I saw it then, and I think as I still see it.

So what had been done, before I arrived, was to schedule a meeting, a confrontation, between AUI and anti-AUI forces.

DeVorkin:

You were aware of this.

Edmondson:

Well, not only was I aware of it -- when I arrived, I was given the job of completing the arrangements for the meeting.

DeVorkin:

Who briefed you?

Edmondson:

Helen Hogg. Helen had done the spade work, and part of the transfer of duties from Helen to me was to say, "OK, you finish it up". Well, they had had the place of the meeting scheduled. I don't remember where actually it was held, but this is a trivial matter really. They had the place scheduled and a date chosen and a few things like that, but I had an awful lot of detail work to do before the meeting was finally organized, including helping to plan the agenda and all the rest of that.

Well, the meeting was held. And it was a wild and woolly affair. So much so that one experienced NSF staff member, with long years in Washington, said to me after it was all over: "Well, I've been in Washington many years, and I've never seen anything to equal this before."

DeVorkin:

What were the proceedings like?

Edmondson:

Well, the question was, who was going to get the contract to build and run the observatory? AUI had the contract for the site survey, and this was really relating to the choice of a contractor to build and operate. AUI had put in a bid to be the contractor, and this bid was opposed by Merle Tuve and others. All kinds of groups were being encouraged by Merle Tuve to put in counter-proposals, including the Oak Ridge group. I mean, that's how far afield they went.

So AUI made their pitch, why they thought they should get the contract, and others spoke up in opposition.

DeVorkin:

Where would the records of this meeting be?

Edmondson:

With the National Science Foundation. And furthermore, they had a court reporter there.

DeVorkin:

A court reporter?

Edmondson:

Yes, they had a court reporter with his little machine; and the transcript of the meeting, which I read long ago, after it was all over, as part of my responsibility was just simply what he had gotten from his little machine.

DeVorkin:

And that's at NSF?

Edmondson:

It should be. But this was an NSF meeting, and the court reporter was paid by NSF to produce a transcript.[1]

DeVorkin:

Very good, OK, thanks.

Edmondson:

So this would be something I hope still accessible in the NSF files.

DeVorkin:

Will you be looking for this yourself?

Edmondson:

This is not part of my goal. AURA and Kitt Peak are my goals. My year in Washington, only insofar as it relates to AURA and Kitt Peak.

There are lots of things about that meeting that have sort of faded away, but I have one very vivid memory of that, (and this is a direct quote and I think almost exact) Merle Tuve got up and referred to AUI and Lloyd Berkner as "self approved and self approving people".

This was followed by Ted Reynolds, the administrative vice president of Harvard, standing up, and Reynolds was an impressive looking man. And Reynolds stood up looking like one of the classical statues of Jove, and he hurled his thunderbolts. Very dramatically he said, "If you don't want us, we don't want the job".

DeVorkin:

This is AUI?

Edmondson:

This is AUI, Ted Reynolds representing AUI. The job that paid him a salary was administrative vice president of Harvard. He was on the AUI board, and so after Merle Tuve had referred to "self approved and self approving people," Reynolds got up and said, "If you don't want us, we don't want the job."

Oh, it was a dramatic moment. Then after the dust all settled, NSF went ahead and made the contract with AUI.

DeVorkin:

That's right. And what was your responsibility after the contract was written?

Edmondson:

Well, there was some responsibility while the contract was being drawn up, of course. After the decision was made to make a contract with AUI, then they had to prepare such a contract, and that was one of the Transcript, NSF Conference on Radio Astronomy Facility, July 11, 1956. Copy of Minutes at AIP things that happened at NSF in those days that would not happen now. I don't think there's anybody in the astronomy program today would have the opportunities that I had back then for participation in purely administrative and legal things. Because I literally attended every meeting that the lawyers of NSF held while they were drawing up that contract. I was there by invitation. That was supposed to be part of my job then, to be with the lawyers, and there were lots of details in the contract, of course, that were just purely legalistic.

There was one thing the lawyers wanted to put in which I resisted, and my resistance was successful -- the lawyers feeling that NSF was a government agency and therefore Greenbank would be government property, felt that when a visiting scientist went to Greenbank to make observations with the radio telescopes, that his notebook should be considered government property, and he would have to leave it at Greenbank. Couldn't take it home with him. Well, I screamed to high heaven on that one. Well, I was more logical than just screaming really. I was successful in persuading the lawyers that that kind of provision should not go in the contract.

DeVorkin:

These were NSF lawyers?

Edmondson:

These were NSF lawyers.

DeVorkin:

And they were working on this supposition, that everything should be the property of the government. The question is: what were the arguments that you used?

Edmondson:

I really don't remember now.

DeVorkin:

The reason why I bring it up is because you -- and I don't want to jump ahead right now -- found the same problem 10 or 8 years later when you were president of AURA. This issue came up again regarding the Kitt Peak materials.

Edmondson:

Oh. No. In the first place, Kitt Peak wasn't ten years later. The Kitt Peak contract was drawn up roughly a year or two after Greenbank.

DeVorkin:

This was something that came along in '64, '65: a question as to whether all the materials generated at Kitt Peak were not the property of the government. Well, we can get back to that.

Edmondson:

We can get to that later on. But on this, you did raise questions about NSF lawyers and were surprised they had them. Well, they had a full legal staff. A head lawyer and I think two others. I think there was a total of three lawyers full time with NSF by that time. The head lawyer was William J. Hoff, and we still exchange Christmas cards with the -- Hoffs, by the way.

DeVorkin:

You're on good terms.

Edmondson:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

Ok. Beyond the contract, then what was your association?

Edmondson:

The next step had to do with the acquisition of land. This was all privately owned land which had to be acquired. NSF made the decision that they would like to have the Army Engineers buy the land for them. NSF had no experience in land buying, and the Army Engineers do it all the time. And so what happened was, a three man delegation from NSF -- Will Harwood, at that time the chief administrator of the foundation, Frank Callander, the grants administrator, and I -- travelled across Washington to visit the Army Engineers, and solicit their services. So I was in on that operation.

DeVorkin:

How was it dealing with the Army Engineers?

Edmondson:

Well, they were agreeable to doing the job. And that's really the last we ever saw of them. They did the job. But the point is, I was physically participating in the opening negotiations with the Army Engineers to get this done. And the way the Foundation is organized now, I don't think any astronomer there would be involved in this kind of an activity.

DeVorkin:

This would be done all by NSF internally.

Edmondson:

-- Yes.

DeVorkin:

Why do you think NSF changed, there?

Edmondson:

Well, it's so big now. That's part of it. After all, the total budget of NSF the year I was there was $40 million. And astronomy had $5 million out of the $40 million. We had one-eighth of the total budget of the Foundation. Out of the $5 million was $4 million for Greenbank, to get Greenbank started, and $400,000 for the McMath-Panel operation, and the other $600,000 was for university grants.

DeVorkin:

That was nothing, at that time.

Edmondson:

So it was a totally different kind of operation, back then. Well, and so then the next step after the Army Engineers was a problem of land management, you see. After all, we had to buy a lot of land to protect the observatory. Most of it would be left as forest land, with the mountains around the valley. So Frank Callander and I drove over to Elkins, West Virginia, to talk to the people in the Forest Service there. This was to talk about the problems of land management, and also to try to get Forest Service cooperation, which we got. But the point is, Frank Callander, the grants administrator, and I made that trip together by car, and then from Elkins on down to Greenbank, which was the-first time I ever saw the place. The ground was covered with snow. I've got Kodachromes from that trip.

DeVorkin:

Oh, that's interesting, because I know that NSF started a policy of keeping full film records of the development of all NSF sponsored institutions. They certainly had 16 mm film of Cerro Tololo and all that sort of thing. Did they do the same thing with NRAO? Or was it before they had that policy?

Edmondson:

I don't recall any official NSF photography. If it was done, it was done by people who went down when I wasn't along. These are personal Kodachromes that I took. I have them at home.

DeVorkin:

That would be lovely to know about. Was there any difficulty in the land acquisition that you know about, any environmental problems?

Edmondson:

Not really. There was only one holdup. They had to use condemnation procedures in only one case.

DeVorkin:

This is private property?

Edmondson:

It was all private property. And one of the interesting problems was, there was a cemetery out in the middle of the area that we wanted to buy, and what should we do about that cemetery?

Well, I think I endeared myself to Paul Klopsteg, who at that time was associate director of the Foundation. I think I endeared myself to Paul Klopsteg by commenting that I did not think we needed to acquire the cemetery as part of the observatory land, because I was sure that the observatory would not be working in that spectral range! groan

The last time I ever saw Klopsteg, several years later, he quoted that back to me.

So you see, life in the Foundation could be fun.

DeVorkin:

That's pretty good. During your year there, did they actually start bidding for the instrumentation, or the design of NRAO?

Edmondson:

They were drawing up specs at that time.

DeVorkin:

Who was involved, the astronomers involved in this?

Edmondson:

Well, as I recall, Dave Heeschen was the first employee, the first astronomical employee at AUI. Dave was involved. And I don't recall any other astronomers from that side at that time.

DeVorkin:

How was he chosen?

Edmondson:

How did AUI hire him?

DeVorkin:

Yes.

Edmondson:

Well, Bart Bok sold them his best graduate student. Yes.

DeVorkin:

Bok was still at Harvard at that time?

Edmondson:

Yes. Well, that's another part of the story. You know, Bok wanted to be the director of Greenbank. Oh yes. Oh, he wanted that so badly. And I'm not quite sure why they didn't seem to want him, or at least why they dragged their feet, because he had the offer from Mt. Stromlo, and he held off and he held off giving Mt. Stromlo an answer, just as long as he could, hoping he was going to get the Greenbank directorship.

DeVorkin:

Why?

Edmondson:

I have no idea at all.[2] But I do know, from being told by Bok, he held off to the last possible moment, the moment when he HAD to give Mt. Stromlo an answer. And he actually went to AUI and said, "Are you going to ask me or aren't you"?

Well, they weren't in a position -- so they told him -- for whatever the reason was. So he finally accepted Mt. Stromlo. But if he'd been offered Greenbank, that's where he would have gone. That's what he wanted. That's one of the sad stories, really.

DeVorkin:

Of course Dave Heeschen is still there, is he not?

Edmondson:

Yes. But Dave Heeschen is leaving the directorship. Dave feels that with getting the VLA on the road, he has done what he set out to do. He's asked to be relieved of his administrative duties. There is a search committee. Jerry Tape wrote to me a couple of months ago, asking me if I had any suggestions to make. He's the president of AUI. He's a physicist. He used to be with AEC. Well, anyway, Jerry Tape is the president of AUI, and so he wrote saying they have a search committee and please give him some input. Well, I made two or three suggestions. So he, Heeschen, will be on the staff but no longer director, as of July 1st I guess or something like that.

In addition to Heeschen, the astronomer, there was also Lou Burchill the comptroller of AUI, on the financial side, and I'm trying go remember who the third person was.[3] There were two AUI administrator types -- Heeschen and Burchill and one other person, those were the three who always showed up at NSF to talk business. And since the appropriation for the Observatory was four million dollars, and since it began to look as if the 140-foot would eat up most of that money, the Foundation was very reluctant to approve spending money on anything else.

DeVorkin:

At NRAO.

Edmondson:

At NRAO, yes. And in particular, Heeschen and company came to town saying they'd like to get an 84-foot. On that order. Anyhow, Blaw-Knox were selling these things off the shelf at about that time. I think, for $250,000. I mean, the price was not huge at all. But NSF was so jittery about going over budget, and again, this was one of the things I aided. This isn't a bit modest, to claim credit for things like this, but in addition to the thing I did about the notebooks and the contract, the other big thing I think I did for Greenbank was that on the Foundation side, I made the arguments why we should go ahead and approve the $250,000 for that smaller telescope. Donald Menzel was chairman of the search committee.

Heeschen and company came to town with their pitch for it, and got a rather cool reception on the NSF side in the meeting. Well, then, after they left and we started talking about it in house, I was the one who put forward the strong arguments that it ought to be done.

The argument simply was this. I said, "Look, we're trying to build a scientific institution. And if we're going to build a scientific institution, this means that we're going to have to start doing science as quickly as possible." I said, "If we spend this money, we'll have a radio telescope down there and we'll be publishing research from Greenbank while the other one is still on the drawing boards."

This argument prevailed and so the Foundation put up the money, and they got their 84-foot, quick. So again, just in terms of whether I was conducting my life wisely by going to the Foundation for a year, I think the answer is yes, because these two things alone, I think, make me feel very happy about going to Washington. The fact I was able to do two constructive things to help Greenbank along. It's immodest to say these things, but I suppose for the purpose of this kind of history, it's all right to be immodest.

DeVorkin:

It's very important to say them. Was this primarily the association you had then with NRAO? Were there other elements of the development of NRAO during that period?

Edmondson:

Well, of course the contract was actually signed in December of '56. My initials are on the grant and contract record, the paper work. Didn't I show you that?

DeVorkin:

Yes.

Edmondson:

I have a copy hanging on my wall.

DeVorkin:

What were the other major grant requests at that time? It seems there was very little money left for optical astronomy. But did you have input from optical astronomy? Were there a lot of requests at that time?

Edmondson:

Back at that time, money bought more than it does now. No, in fact, this was one of the things that other programs of the Foundation used to try to get money -- they said they were turning down a larger fraction of their proposals than astronomy was, and therefore astronomy had too much money!

But Alan Waterman's position, not only on this but also on grants, was that physics and other disciplines had lots of other governmental agencies they could go to, and that NSF was almost the sole source for astronomy.

And so it was Waterman's policy that astronomy should be supported in dollars out of proportion to the number of astronomers. NASA didn't even exist then, you see. But that was Waterman's policy, to support astronomy because astronomers had nowhere else to go.

One thing I think I did do that year. Most grants up to that time had been on a year to year basis, and I think during that year, I succeeded in getting a little bit more in the way of two year grants going.

DeVorkin:

That's good.

Edmondson:

I had an advisory panel, and I tried to do the things the panel wanted to have done, although I admit there were a few cases where I had to sort of take the bull by the horns and do them the way I thought they ought to be done.

This isn't optical astronomy. It's one of the radio astronomy things that was kind of interesting. We got a proposal from Alex G. Smith of the University of Florida, for a program to monitor Jupiter, which involved having a setup in Florida and another one in South America, in Chile as it turned out to be. And so, at that time, there was an optical astronomy panel and radio panel and a radio astronomy panel, with chairman Merle Tuve. And there was one optical astronomer on the radio panel, and that was Rudolph Minkowski.

Well, so Alex Smith's proposal came in, and I sent it out to the radio astronomy panel for review. The radio astronomers on the panel sent in reviews which in effect said, "This guy is not a member of the club".

That's the way I read all of these reviews. Minkowski, who was not a radio astronomer, sent in a thoughtful review and said he thought the program should be funded. Before I went to Ray Seeger, my boss, proposing to support this proposal, I solicited a few additional reviews just to add to what the panel had put in. One of the reviews was from the man who'd supervised Alex Smith's PhD thesis at Duke, Gordy, I think was his name. I'm pretty sure that's right. At any rate he was Alex Smith's PhD thesis supervisor. And before I went to Ray, I did one other thing. This was the important thing. Yes, I read these reviews as I described them to you. Then I thought, well, I'd better go take a look at this myself. So I went down to Gainesville. I went down to Gainesville just to find out what kind of a guy Alex Smith was, and to try to evaluate his competence to do the job.

Well, I wasn't really a very competent guy to make this kind of an evaluation. But I was the only one there was at the time. So I actually went down to Gainesville and talked to Alex and to other people in the department and so on. And I became persuaded that Alex had the competence to do the job.

So then that's when I went to Ray Seeger. I went to him with the reviews from the radio astronomy panel, and the few additional reviews I had solicited, and with my own personal impressions gained by an on-site visit. And I said, "I think we ought to support this."

Well, Seeger took one look at what the radio astronomy panel said, and he said, "We can't support something like this".

Well, then we had a little war of nerves. It was getting near the end of the fiscal year, and Ray wanted to be sure all the money allocated to the division got spent. So I just sat on the thing.

Well, finally the day the decision had to be made, Ray came to me and said, "Well, we've got enough money left unspent to support half of that proposal. You can have it.” So that's how Smith got started in business.

This again I guess would be a third thing I did at NSF that I can feel proud of.

Well, Smith got a very good reputation with radio astronomers afterwards. But if I hadn't fought with my boss, that proposal would have been declined.

DeVorkin:

At the time, in another vein, I know that there were growing interests in NSF supporting automation attempts in astronomy, mainly in astrometry and that sort of thing, automatic measuring engines, automatic telescopes, guiders. Did these requests come across your desk?

Edmondson:

I was involved in that, in this way. Now that you mention it. It's the sort of thing that's not right at the top of my memory, but now that you bring the subject up, this is what I recall about them:

We had a proposal from Lick Observatory which involved an automatic measuring machine, and something else. Now, possibly the Southern Hemisphere astrograph. That Yale later set up, you see.

DeVorkin:

Oh, the Yale-Columbia station?

Edmondson:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Let me turn the tape over.

Edmondson:

It was for the measuring machine, the automatic measuring machine. And I believe -- and it was also for a telescope, I believe, the Southern Hemisphere Astrograph, although whether that's really what the telescope was, I wouldn't want to stake my reputation on that.

It was a big proposal with two major components. And after assessing the situation, I advised the people at Lick to divide the proposal in two, and to make the automatic measuring machine a separate item, which they did, and it ultimately got funded. I think the funding came after I had left the foundation. But the strategy was something that I advised them on, because it was clear to me in the foundation that the total proposal would not be funded, but that there might be some hope of doing the automatic measuring machine as a separate item.

DeVorkin:

Because it was too much money? or skepticism?

Edmondson:

I'm not sure. The money might have been a large part of it.

DeVorkin:

Yes. I'm interested in the reception of the astronomical community to automation. I'd be very interested in what had gone on, pro and con automation.

Edmondson:

Well, my only contact with automation was just this thing, where I advised the Lick people, "Send me a new proposal in which you make the measuring machine an item all by itself, a separate proposal".

Then other things came after I'd left.

DeVorkin:

Yes, OK. It wasn't funded until quite a bit later.

Edmondson:

Yes, that's right.

DeVorkin:

OK, would you say that the development of NRAO then through your NSF year was the most significant part of your NSF year?

Edmondson:

Yes, because I spent an awful lot of time on NRAO and radio astronomy too, such as the Alex Smith thing. But yes, because the selection of AUI, the writing of the contract, the purchase of the land -- those are all things that happened during my year in Washington. And I was not an onlooker. I was a participant.

DeVorkin:

Yes. So were there any other significant events during that year or difficult situations that you think should be recorded at this time?

Edmondson:

Well, this I wouldn't call a difficult situation, but I'd call it important. I can report that we at NSF were very unhappy with the slowness with which AUI chose a director for Greenbank. And finally, after Ray Seeger was replaced by Dr. Eckhardt, a retired geologist from Gulf Oil who took over our division, I talked to Eckhardt about this, and Eckhardt, being new on the job and all this, had a confrontation with Lloyd Berkner. He said, "We want you to choose a director".

Berkner very calmly replied, "I'm the director of Greenbank".

But we kept needling them. And of course, there was the great tragedy after they picked Joe Pawsey.

DeVorkin:

I don't know about this.

Edmondson:

Well, Pawsey was a wonderful person. He was an Australian radio astronomer, and he agreed to be the director of Greenbank, and then he died of terminal cancer. I think he was actually in the United States when the cancer was discovered. And he went home to Australia to die. But they had picked Pawsey to be the director of Greenbank.

DeVorkin:

This was after Bok was already at Mt. Stromlo?

Edmondson:

Yes. But Struve was first director of Greenbank. Struve was the first director of Greenbank, and then Pawsey was chosen to replace him. Of course Struve was director of Greenbank. Struve was there during all the hassle over the cost of the 140-foot. The cancellation of one contract, and lots of things I know only by hearsay, I don't know first hand. Yes, that's right. Struve, then Pawsey, who arrived in the United States, terminal cancer was discovered and he went back to Australia to die, so then Heeschen was chosen.

DeVorkin:

OK. We have that straight.

Edmondson:

This is all a matter of record. You can check up for the accuracy of facts on this. Or ask the AUI people. There are ways to confirm the dates of all these things.

DeVorkin:

Certainly. I'm aware of that. I'm interested in the direct things that we can't confirm by written records.

Edmondson:

Yes, I'm trying to remember. I think they tried to get Al Whitford to be director of Greenbank, and then he turned them down.

DeVorkin:

That would have been the same time that he was being asked to be director at Lick.

Edmondson:

That's right. That's right, yes. It fits nicely. In fact, now that I think about it, isn't that why C.D. Shane retired a year early? It seems to me that they got wind of Greenbank going to make an offer to Whitford, and so in order to be sure that they got Whitford, something was done.

DeVorkin:

There's a question possibly that Shane was retiring along with Gordon Sproul retiring.

Edmondson:

Well, this might have been part of what they said. But I do believe that Lick acted early to forestall Greenbank from getting Whitford. Greenbank and Lick were thinking independently of Whitford. And I'm not sure how the news got to Lick. The grapevine does wonderful things.

You know, the interesting thing about this conversation today the way things I haven't thought about for years, all of a sudden begin to surface again.

DeVorkin:

Oh, wonderful.

Edmondson:

Even if I am getting things a little bit out of order occasionally. Although I'm pretty sure now about the order, Struve was first director of Greenbank, after Lloyd Berkner, of course. And then Pawsey accepted and was not able to serve. Then Heeschen.

DeVorkin:

So you knew you were going back to Bloomington, certainly.

Edmondson:

Yes, I went back to Bloomington on the 6th of September in 1957. I served with the Foundation for 15 months and six days. The reason it was 15 instead of 12 was because Helen Hogg wanted to leave three months early. And the reason for the six days was because the National Science Board was meeting on September 6th, and Geoff Keller was coming aboard, but I was the guy who still knew all the answers. And so I stayed the extra six days, first to have some overlap with Geoff, who arrived on the 1st, so that week was a week of me helping Geoff get established. Also, I was in town on the 6th in case questions came up. At that time of course it would be about the Kitt Peak project.

DeVorkin:

Which you were already involved in partly through your membership on the board of AURA, is that correct?

Edmondson:

Oh, AURA didn't even exist at that time.

DeVorkin:

I have you down as the vice president, member of the board, '57 to ‘61.

Edmondson:

Yes, but see I left the Foundation September 6th. AURA was incorporated the end of October.

DeVorkin:

Well, this is a perfect transition.

Edmondson:

That's right.

DeVorkin:

Did you know when you were program director at NSF that AURA was something that was on the horizon at least, something to be born out of AUI?

Edmondson:

Well, you see, the letter of intent was all involved in that. McMath.

DeVorkin:

Let's start with the letter then.

Edmondson:

Let's see, let's stop the tape for just a second.

DeVorkin:

OK, after a short break, we will talk now just for a few moments on the choice of your successor.

Edmondson:

Yes. I don't think we did this last spring. At any rate, right after I arrived at NSF, Ray Seeger told me that one of my first responsibilities would be to find my successor because I had agreed to come for a year, and I was supposed to find somebody who might agree to come for a year. And so after Seeger and I had talked about possible candidates, we both agreed that Geoffrey Keller, then director of the Perkins Observatory, would be a very good man for the job. And so Seeger told me to call Geoff and talk to him.

Well, I called Geoff and got a very negative reaction. He just wasn't interested in coming to Washington at all. So I reported this to Seeger, and Seeger said, "Well, look, call him again, and tell him if he turns us down and we have to pick some second echelon person to run the program, that I will really run it, and the other guy will just be a clerk".

So I called Geoff, and this scared him so much that he said yes, he would come.

DeVorkin:

And be a voice for astronomy?

Edmondson:

Well, the thing is, you have to know Ray Seeger to appreciate this, too. Geoff just didn't want Ray Seeger to be running the astronomy program.

DeVorkin:

And Ray Seeger knew that?

Edmondson:

No, I'm not sure that Ray did. Maybe. So then Geoff agreed to come. Then as I said, I overlapped with him for six days in order to help him get started and so on.

Geoff was sort of rationalizing the whole thing. And Geoff agreed to come just for the year. Then at the end of the year he was asked to stay on, and he did. So he was the first astronomer to become a full-time permanent NSF employee. He resigned from Ohio State and then stayed with NSF. And so he explained that decision.

You see -- meanwhile Sputnik had gone up and things had changed, the NSF had had a supplementary appropriation to its budget and all the rest of that. And so Keller said, by the middle of that year, he just couldn't look forward with any pleasure to going back to Ohio State to fight with the dean about peanuts, when there were such big challenges in Washington. So Geoff headed the astronomy program. Then he moved up to become the director of the division, at which time Gerald Mulders moved in to head the astronomy program. Then Keller moved up one more notch in the Foundation, before he went back to Ohio State to become a dean there.

DeVorkin:

I see. Now he fights with the faculty members.

Edmondson:

Well, he's now out of that deanship. In fact, I'm not quite sure what he is doing these days. He's not retired yet but he's not dean any more. But the whole idea was that the reason he decided to resign from Ohio State and stay with the Foundation was because he just couldn't stomach going back to Ohio State to fight with the dean about peanuts. Washington had changed with Sputnik, you see, NSF and everybody. Lots of money for science.

DeVorkin:

Space was no longer a dirty word?

Edmondson:

That's right.

DeVorkin:

Did you have those feelings when you were NSF program director, that any interests in space were not to be supported?

Edmondson:

No. Well, I was so busy and the Foundation was so busy with both radio astronomy and the two big observatories, site survey projects and all -- no, space just didn't come into my purview at all. NASA didn't exist. We had project Vanguard, which was plodding along with an inadequate budget and all the rest of that, you know. So I mean, I knew about Project Vanguard. But Sputnik I made an enormous change. Incidentally, this is sort of a side issue, but Gerald Clemence and Armin Deutsch and I were three members of a committee of the US committee of the International Astronomical Union to choose the new US members for the IAU that year, just to be elected at the Moscow meeting in '58.

And so it was Sputnik Day in October of '57, Armin Deutsch and Clemence and I were in Clemence's office all day at the Naval Observatory in Washington, trying to choose the members and having an awfully hard time. At the end of the day we made an arbitrary rule, to get out of the hole we were in. We said, "A person must have had his PhD for at least three years before we will consider him".

There were lots of brand new PhD's being proposed, bright guys and all that, but the trouble was, the list was too big, and we tried to think of all criteria we could to make a selection. We ended up simply by using this cutoff, three years after the PhD is the first we'll consider anybody. Then we got it down to a manageable size.

So at the end of that hard day's work, Clemence said, "Well, I'll take you back to the airport to catch your plane."

So driving over to the airport, he pulled an envelope out of his pocket and had me look at the contents. An invitation to a cocktail party at the Russian embassy. And poor Clemence, he said, "I'm so tired after this day's work, I don't think I'll go ".

And that's the cocktail party where Sputnik launching was announced.

DeVorkin:

Oh no!

Edmondson:

So Clemence missed being present at that historical cocktail party, because he was so worn out after a hard day's work.

Meanwhile I boarded my flight to Indianapolis, good old prop driven Constellation, and I hadn't heard about it. I was met at the airport by my daughter who told me about it as I got off the plane. So I remember Sputnik Day very well because of this other activity I was engaged in. Well, that's just a side issue.

DeVorkin:

Interesting issue, because it brings us up to October '57 when AURA began.

Edmondson:

This is the name I was trying to remember a while ago -- Paul Gross. I'll say it now in case I forget it when I start talking about it, then chairman of the National Science Foundation Board.

Well, I do want to backtrack a bit to talk about what things I did at NSF in connection with the Kitt Peak survey, which was going on. I mean, the panel was established before I got to Washington. They were doing their own work, and I didn't have too much administrative responsibility for what they were doing.

DeVorkin:

But there were many different choices for the possible site of a National Observatory.

Edmondson:

Yes, but those choices weren't made until after AURA was incorporated. The site survey was going on. A.B. Meinel had his test equipment up on several different mountains and so on. I guess my biggest headache in those days was trying to keep the NSF public information office happy, because Meinel was always talking to the press and making press releases and predicting grandiose things that had not been approved by Congress.

Oh, the NSF public information people were just furious with Meinel at times, because they figured, if some Congressman read in the paper, "Meinel says the government is going to fund such and such," when Congress hadn't even been given the budget for this thing yet. So I was trying to keep Meinel tamed and trying to keep the public information people happy. That was one of the things.

Then, on the more serious side, as the site survey progressed, of course there were periodic reports to the National Science Board, and I was invited to sit in on the board meetings during all discussions of both Greenbank and Kitt Peak.

As things were moving along, there came the question of the incorporation of AURA McMath wanted to form a corporation. He did not want to form a corporation unless he was sure NSF would deal with the corporation. Why go to all the trouble of incorporating and then be given the brush-off?

So McMath wanted a letter of intent from Alan Waterman, saying the Foundation would be willing to talk to AURA if AURA was incorporated.

DeVorkin:

That's the letter, now.

Edmondson:

That's the letter, I was warned by Helen Hogg when I arrived in Washington in June, that one of my difficult jobs would be to get that past NSF lawyers. So I started out from scratch. I didn't use anything from her files. I drafted a brand new letter of intent. It got stuck with the lawyers, and some revisions still didn't get it past the lawyers, and I was desperate.

One day I was talking to Paul Klopsteg in the hallway. Klopsteg at that time was the assistant director for research. He's the same one I mentioned earlier who liked my pun about the cemetery. I was chatting with Klopsteg in the hall one day, told him about my frustration on this letter of intent.

Well, Klopsteg had a lot more clout than I did, and with his help, we got the letter of intent past the lawyers. And Waterman signed it and sent it.

Well, of course by the time it went out, lots of people had modified my original draft. So the file carbon of this is a beautiful piece of paper, with "FKE" and a lot of other initials strung out at the bottom of the page. The copy McMath got didn't have any initials on it, you see.

DeVorkin:

It's important to see as many of the drafts as possible, especially to see how each different person changed it.

Edmondson:

I just wonder. I took some papers home with me from Washington, which are stuck off in a file drawer in Bloomington. I might have some of those, you know. One of the things I'm going to do during my sabbatical next year is to dig into all this kind of stuff, to see what I've got squirreled away. But anyway, the final thing which I hope would be found in Washington will have all the initials on one final draft that went out.

So McMath called me up one Friday after noon, some question about site survey. At the end of this conversation McMath says, "Oh, by the way Frank, I just received a very fine letter of intent from Alan Waterman. Have you seen it yet"?

Well, my reaction was a knee jerk reaction. I almost shouted on the telephone, "Hell, I wrote the God damn thing!"

DeVorkin:

What did you say?

Edmondson:

That's what I said. That's a direct quote, "Hell, I wrote the God damned thing”, almost shouted into the telephone, just as a knee jerk reaction, to McMath's "Have you seen it yet"?

DeVorkin:

What was his reaction?

Edmondson:

Well, he sort of laughed. So then that was the letter of intent, and with the letter they began starting formal plans, and a meeting was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with representatives from universities who were being invited to join in present.

Now, I attended that meeting with my NSF hat on.

DeVorkin:

Who decided which Universities would be invited?

Edmondson:

Oh, there was some general consultation. McMath. Leo Goldberg was involved in this, Leo Goldberg, McMath, who at that time were friendly and working together. Goldberg was McMath's leg man on a lot of these things at that time.

DeVorkin:

They were both at Michigan, of course.

Edmondson:

Yes, that's right. But the way it was finally done, the criteria for the charter members of AURA -- they should have a full-time faculty of astronomy of at least four astronomers, etc.

The world's changed, you see. All right. But that was criteria No.1, and then second, they should have a growing graduate program, which had produced some respectable PhD's and thirdly, they should have a telescope of their own, so they know something about operating telecopes. Those were the three criteria.

And as of the date of incorporation of AURA , this included every astronomy department in the country meeting the criteria except Cal Tech. Cal Tech had four or more astronomers, but their feeling, and I think you'll find this in the Shane interviews also, at that time the Cal Tech people felt that they had been subjected to so much criticism from people saying that they were dominating American astronomy, that they didn't want to increase this criticism by getting into AURA at all. They offered full cooperation, and Ike Bowen to the end of his life served as an AURA consultant without pay. He refused to accept a penny of consulting fee. All he wanted was travel or subsistence reimbursement. And Bowen was an enormously valuable contributor.

DeVorkin:

Who at Cal Tech thought it would not be good to join?

Edmondson:

I think this was Bowen's idea. No, I think Bowen was the one who felt Cal Tech should not be a member of AURA.

DeVorkin:

But still he wanted to support it.

Edmondson:

Oh, he wanted to support it. He was not hostile in any way. The reason he did not want Cal Tech in AURA was because Cal Tech was accused of trying to dominate the National Observatory too.

DeVorkin:

Was there any problem with the Carnegie funding, getting tied up with government?

Edmondson:

No. Because after all, that would be one step removed. So, no, that was not the problem. The problem was simply one that because of the criticism there had been of their trying to dominate American astronomy through their control of the largest telescopes in the country, that they didn't want to get more of the same by appearing to be dominating the National Observatory. This is all changed now. Cal Tech is a member now.

So we had seven charter members of AURA. There should have been an eighth, namely Cal Tech. But the seven charter members were Harvard from the East, California from the West, and then five in the Middle West, Wisconsin, Chicago, Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana.

DeVorkin:

I see. Yale was not a charter member?

Edmondson:

Not a charter member. Yale and Princeton came in later, so there were seven charter members, and the selection was based on the size of the astronomy department, the going graduate program which had already produced PhD's, and running a telescope. That's how the selection was made. Well, now, they had this meeting at Ann Arbor. People from these schools were invited to come to Ann Arbor to talk, to see if they were interested. I went to that meeting wearing my NSF hat, and then Joe Franklin, the business vice president from Indiana, came up representing Indiana University, and so on.

DeVorkin:

Are there records of this meeting? Do you have records?

Edmondson:

If there are records, I presume they're at Ann Arbor. Well, of course, when I went back to Washington, I wrote what they call a diary note on the subject to the NSF files, so that record should be in Washington. I don't think I brought a copy home with me, but I might have one in the files in Bloomington. No, when I got back to Washington, I wrote up a diary note to report to the Foundation what had gone on at the meeting. And as far as official minutes are concerned, if those were taken, they would be in the McMath files at Ann Arbor, I presume.

DeVorkin:

OK, very good.

Edmondson:

So that would be the kind of record. Meanwhile, what was happening in Washington, whenever the National Science Board was going to discuss either the progress of the site survey or the plans for incorporating AURA towards the end, I was invited to sit in and listen.

And one day, at one of these meetings I thought I was an observer, when they got to the AURA question I guess this was right after I'd gone to this meeting in Ann Arbor Alan Waterman turned to me, "Dr. Edmondson, will you please make the presentation to the board"?

Oh! Well, since I was full of my subject, I was able to stand up and give a report ad lib. But I didn't even have one second of warning. You see, when Waterman got to that item on the agenda, he announced the item. It wasn't until after the item was announced, he then turned to me and said, "Would you please make the presentation"?

DeVorkin:

Who did you think was there to make the presentation?

Edmondson:

I just thought Waterman was going to report, because most of the previous times, they had talked about the site survey, occasionally asking me a question. I was there to answer questions. But not to stand up and make a presentation.

DeVorkin:

The site survey had been going on for quite some time?

Edmondson:

A couple of years, I think.

DeVorkin:

How was that initiated?

Edmondson:

Well, if you really want the early history, John B. Irwin, then on my faculty, had this famous article in SCIENCE which proposed photoelectric observatory. John's vision was, an observatory with half a dozen 36-inch telescopes, located near Yuma, Arizona, where you had the clearest skies in the country.

DeVorkin:

Yes, he already knew about the Arizona climate.

Edmondson:

And he had looked up weather records and so on, cloud records, and decided on the basis of cloud records that something in the neighborhood of Yuma, Arizona, would get more clear skies. He didn't care about the seeing, only about the clear sky. So that's where you get your maximum clear sky, and you put a half a dozen 36-inch telescopes there and open them up to US astronomers in the cloud-bound Midwest, that was his idea. This was an article in SCIENCE.[4]

Well, as a follow-up to this, there was a conference on Photoelectric Photometry, an NSF-sponsored conference, with scientific papers and other presentations, in Flagstaff, Arizona. This Flagstaff conference took place, at which time Irwin was the secretary of the conference, and since the conference didn't end up with results to his liking, he was awfully slow to get out the report and publish the proceedings.

Edmondson:

I was talking about John Irwin, and John did sort of drag his feet, since the results of that conference were not exactly to his liking, and I was the one who got all the static. People would ask me, "Why don't you do something about getting John Irwin to publish the Proceedings"?

They finally came out about two years late. This was a little blue book. This was the Proceedings of the Flagstaff Photoelectric Conference, of which Irwin was the secretary. The article in SCIENCE was Irwin's first. Irwin first presented this idea verbally at one of our Midwest neighborhood meetings. We used to get together, back in the days when the departments were still small, and we'd have these meetings several times each winter in place of having a colloquium at home. We weren't staffed to have a good colloquium series at home, but if we got together, we could do something.

DeVorkin:

Do you recall the date of that first presentation?

Edmondson:

This is something I'd have to look up.

DeVorkin:

Fine, we'll leave it in the tape so when you edit it after, I'll give you a chance to look at it.

Edmondson:

All right, fine.

Well, the thing is, I want to dig up a copy of Irwin's paper in SCIENCE myself, for my own projects. What I really want are the page references and everything.

So the Irwin article in SCIENCE, and the neighborhood meeting was just a short time earlier. In fact, what happened was, John prepared and gave his paper for the neighborhood meeting. Geoffrey Keller suggested that John should publish it, and John did publish it.

But actually what came after that, if we're really dredging up history, Ed Carpenter at the University of Arizona was wanting to move their 36-inch out of Tucson, and he was having troubles because supermarkets were running spotlights and all that, and Ed at one time asked the university administration to give him money in his budget to hire these spotlights so he could turn them off!

He didn't get the money, unfortunately.

At any rate, shortly after the publication of the Irwin article, a proposal by them went to NSF from Arizona, Indiana and Ohio State which was going to involve moving the Steward Telescope. This was not John's Yuma thing at all but at least it was a step.

DeVorkin:

Ohio State had not yet moved their 72-inch?

Edmondson:

Oh no, that negotiation came while I was in Washington. I can tell you about that. It's a separate item. So at any rate, so this proposal went into NSF when their offices were still out on the north side of Washington in a converted private home, before they got down to the Dolly Madison House, the old Cosmos Club, where they were when I was in Washington. Ray Seeger was running all the physical science programs himself. They didn't have separate science program directors at that time.

So that I guess was the very first time I ever met Ray, when the delegation went to Washington about this proposal, which was declined. The amount of money was small -- $21 thousand dollars. But Joel Stebbins who was on the panel said this was a ridiculously expensive proposal.

DeVorkin:

Why did he do that?

Edmondson:

I don't know. Well, people were funny back in those days.

DeVorkin:

He was the number 1 photoelectric man.

Edmondson:

But he didn't like our budget.

DeVorkin:

$70 thousand for a photoelectric telescope?

Edmondson:

No, this was to move the Steward telescope. There could have been some site searching. We didn't know Kitt Peak then. This was the search for a site to move the Steward telescope to. This was a proposal to search for a site, and then the Steward telescope would be moved to it, at that point shared by Arizona, Indiana, Ohio State.

So Stebbins thought the budget for the site survey was way out of line, much too expensive. The foundation did turn it down. However, this proposal did then lead to step no. 2, the foundation -- and I'm not sure who actually made the proposal -- did support a photoelectric conference, there in Flagstaff, Arizona.

DeVorkin:

To look into the problem?

Edmondson:

To look into the problem. And as I said earlier on the other tape, John Irwin was the secretary for that conference, and was slow to publish the proceedings afterwards, because he didn't get his forest of 36-inch telescopes near Yuma.

DeVorkin:

Not necessarily near Yuma?

Edmondson:

Right.

DeVorkin:

Was there a decision on the site at Flagstaff?

Edmondson:

Oh no. It was quite general, that NSF should consider supporting a truly national observatory, with major equipment. Irwin was unhappy that they were thinking of making everything over 36-inches. See, a half a dozen 36-inchers will take care of a half a dozen people simultaneously. A single larger telescope for the same price only takes care of one person. And he was really after a photoelectric observatory.

So the end of this meeting was a resolution, urging NSF to take steps, to a feasibility study and a site survey for a national optical observatory.

Now, this led then to Michigan making a proposal to NSF -- Michigan was simply the intermediary -- to do a site survey, to do the job that had been recommended by the photoelectric conference.

DeVorkin:

Was this mainly through McMath making this proposal?

Edmondson:

Yes. And so McMath was the chairman of the Michigan panel. He had people on it like Otto Struve, and Shane was a consultant, and others. Shane is the only surviving participant in that panel, by the way, except for the employee, Aden Meinel, who was hired to do the site survey, and then Helmut Abt I think who joined as a colleague in the site survey.

So this was something like a two year affair, as I recall, and so they did the site survey. Well, see, I arrived in Washington. My year was sort of in the middle and toward the end of the site survey.

DeVorkin:

They surveyed a number of places, as I recall.

Edmondson:

Yes. The two final spots were one near Kingman, Arizona, and Kitt Peak. In terms of sky conditions, they were about equally good. In terms of the nearness of a major university and a few other things like that, Kitt Peak won out.

DeVorkin:

California was also in the running for a while.

Edmondson:

Well, the early philosophy was, California was out because they wanted to be in a different weather cycle. However, so as not to rule out a very good site, they did have Leon Salanave do a site survey of Junipero Serra.

DeVorkin:

That's right.

Edmondson:

But that was sort of a side issue, and that was kind of done maybe to quiet any criticism, ignoring California altogether. But the basic philosophy of that McMath panel actually, and of the Flagstaff Conference, and of John Irwin's original paper, was to stay out of California. In other words, to be in a different weather cycle.

So I was sitting in on these NSF national science board meetings, there were reports to be made, and I remember then the one day when I was called on to make the presentation. Well, there was an issue that came up at that time, and that was whether AURA should be an open ended corporation. McMath said, absolutely no. He said, "We pick qualified members, and we incorporate, and then we can add on members by our own procedure, but we shouldn't be open ended".

Paul Gross, a chemist, chairman of the National Science Board at that time, wanted an open ended corporation. And it was a battle going on, not face to face confrontation. I remember one time I think at this meeting where I made the presentation, I was given instructions after to call McMath and let him know that Paul Gross wanted an open ended corporation. And I called McMath and told him. McMath said, "Absolutely nothing doing. We won't do it".

I reported back to Paul Gross, not in quite such strong language as I've used here, but I told him McMath was not receptive to the idea.

And I had a meeting in an anteroom with Paul Gross before another meeting of the National Science Board, where he in his kindly grandfatherly way sort of patted me, the little boy, on the head, and said, "Well, I don't care what McMath says, this is the way it's going to be. It's going to be an open ended corporation."

Well, McMath won. I guess Waterman had the final authority but Paul Gross pushed hard for an open corporation, and it didn't work out that way.

DeVorkin:

Was this your primary contact in the pre-AURA days then?

Edmondson:

Well I had contacts with McMath, of course, on matters related to the site survey. And of course, the meeting at Ann Arbor, while I was still at NSF, was to discuss the interests of the universities in forming such a corporation.

DeVorkin:

Right. Were there wide differences of opinion?

Edmondson:

Oh no.

DeVorkin:

Not any differences of opinion as to how it was going to be structured?

Edmondson:

Oh, I don't think so. I don't recall any. Now, there is one other thing. Early in that year, in January of '57 as a matter of fact, I got a phone call from Roger Lowell Putnam, the trustee of the Lowell Observatory. He said he’d like to come to Washington and take Margaret and me to dinner. When he took us to dinner, he offered me the directorship of the Lowell Observatory. This was in the NSF year, the time table at least. So then I went out to Bloomington, the weekend Eisenhower was inaugurated, to talk to people there, and one of the points I made in my negotiations -- I had only one "non-negotiable demand" -- and that was to add a fifth faculty Member to our department. That was Bob Kraft, when we got him. Bob was there filling in for me while I was in Washington. My non-negotiable demand was to keep him after I came home.

And one of the other things I talked about in this negotiation was, I wanted Indiana University to be willing to be a member of AURA when it was incorporated.

DeVorkin:

Was it reluctant to be?

Edmondson:

Oh, not at all. But they didn’t know about it. How would they know about it if I didn't tell them, you see? So I simply said, "Among other things, here's something that's come up. I want to be sure that Indiana University would be willing to do this." Although I had no problem with this. I simply informed them. And so when the Ann Arbor meeting was scheduled, the president said, "Oh, this is what Frank wants," and so he sent our business vice president out to represent us.

DeVorkin:

Was that the primary commitment? What types of commitments did the university see that they had to take on to be initial members of AURA? They had to provide part of your time?

Edmondson:

And also there was a financial commitment. Each university put $2,500 in a fund. That fund has been kept intact. But at the very beginning, before we had any management fee income, that fund was used to pay expenses to get going. Then it was replenished out of our first management fee.

So there was a $2,500 expenditure, which was not exactly negligible back in those days. So there was a little bit of money involved, and the realization that two people would be on the board and they would be spending some time, namely me and as it turned out, Joe Franklin, the administrative representative.

DeVorkin:

Right. There was no problem with released time for you?

Edmondson:

Oh no.

DeVorkin:

This is more justification for increasing the department.

Edmondson:

I guess so. Yes. Well, so, at any rate, the Ann Arbor meeting was held, and then I went home, and AURA was incorporated, after Sputnik I went up.

DeVorkin:

At the Ann Arbor meeting, this was just about the time of Sputnik, was it not?

Edmondson:

Oh no, the Ann Arbor meeting was August. That was August, and I left NSF September 6th.

DeVorkin:

That’s right, you went there as part of NSF. I’m interested in the initial development of Kitt Peak and it's various sections. In other words, there was a stellar division, a space division.

Edmondson:

We'll get to that. So then as far as the incorporation was concerned, the site was actually finally chosen after AURA was incorporated. We knew it was going to be in Arizona, but we knew enough to know that AURA should be an Arizona corporation, that's the point. After all, Kingman or Tucson. AURA had to incorporate in the state of Arizona. So steps were taken to do this, and this was a complicated procedure. In Arizona, a group of universitities could not form a corporation. Corporations had to be formed by individual people, and there was a minimum of three.

So the incorporation papers -- I made a detour to Ann Arbor on a trip to Washington, I guess it was on my trip to go to this IAU membership meeting. At any rate, I went by Ann Arbor, and Leo Goldberg, and Gil (Gilbert) Lee, at that time an assistant vice president of the University of Michigan, and their first administrative representative on the board, (he'll come into the thing later on, too) were the three people who signed the incorporation papers.

Then, following this, the three of us convened a meeting in Ann Arbor, at which time we invited seven universities to join our corporation as members. And representatives of those universities were present, and they agreed to do so and signed whatever they had to sign. And just as soon as the universities were members, and we had informed the lawyer in Tucson about this, Leo, Gil and I resigned from the corporation. We resigned our membership in the corporation.

DeVorkin:

Your individual membership.

Edmondson:

Yes. So this is what created AURA as a corporation of universities. But it took this legal rigamarole to do it.

DeVorkin:

Were you responsible for anything that financially you couldn't handle by doing that? Were you laying yourself open?

Edmondson:

I don't know. I don't know how I was endangering myself. I just did it. It was the thing to do, to get going.

So then we had this meeting in Ann Arbor, where we got ourselves incorporated. Then when we finally got set up with a slate of officers and so on, McMath and Gil Lee were the two representatives from Michigan, and McMath was elected president of AURA. That was the precise title, president of AURA, and I was the vice president of AURA at that time.

And then James M. Miller, who was an assistant vice president at the University of California, Berkeley. He came to Tucson later, but in his original membership on the board, he was California's administrative representative. And so, he was elected secretary of the corporation. All these jobs were unpaid, you see, so we had McMath president, Edmondson vice president, and Jim Miller, secretary, all board members. Al Whitford at that time was the Wisconsin scientific representative, and Shane was the California scientific representative. Then when Shane retired and Whitford went to California, then Whitford became the California scientific representative, and Code became the Wisconsin.

So all these things changed. At any rate, we got started in Ann Arbor, by this legal process I've just described to you, and with the slate of officers who were elected at that time.

Well, then, the things we had to do at that time were: the site survey had to be finished up, and the site had to be chosen. If my memory is correct on this, we were meeting in the Green Hotel in Pasadena at the time the site was chosen.

DeVorkin:

This was at this particular meeting that the site was chosen?

Edmondson:

I'll have to consult the records to be sure. Both about the date and the place. But my memory tells me that the Green Hotel was the place. We did have two meetings in the Green Hotel in Pasadena, and I think it was at one of those meetings that we selected the site.

DeVorkin:

Any pros and cons about Kingman? This was after it was reduced to either Kingman or Kitt Peak? You had a few difficulties with the Papago Indians?

Edmondson:

No real difficulties.

DeVorkin:

I read an article talking about the sensitive situation, with the fact that Kitt Peak was a holy ground for them?

Edmondson:

Well, this was all worked out. Any hesitation the Indians had was completely taken care of when Ed Carpenter invited the whole tribal council to come into Tucson and look at the moon through the 36-inch telescope, of the Steward Observatory. They were so impressed with what they saw that they went right back out and held a meeting, and that's when they agreed to let the, (and this is a direct quote) "The Men With Long Eyes" --

That goes back to the site testing. Yes. You see, there had to be permission to do the site testing. That goes back to that, which is before my time, with the National Science Foundation even. Then after the site was selected, then it was a simple matter to negotiate a lease with the Papago (Indians) and this lease required approval by Congress. Whatever the session of Congress was at that time, it took a special act of Congress to make it legal for AURA to make this lease with the Papagos. And that was all done.

DeVorkin:

Well, Kingman is in Northern Arizona?

Edmondson:

Yes, that's right.

DeVorkin:

It would have been not that far from Flagstaff.

Edmondson:

It's a fair distance from Flagstaff. Oh Yes, several hours. Incidentally, what we did during the final stages, the scientists on the board -- I'm not sure whether the administrators went along or not, but all the scientists did. We had a field office in Phoenix at that time, you see, and our meetings were normally held in Phoenix. And on one of these occasions, we visited both Kingman and Kitt Peak. We flew in a chartered airplane from Phoenix up to Kingman, met the people from the local Chamber of Commerce. I got to ride in the Chief of Police's car. At the head of the convoy. And he let me operate the siren! Oh, the fun I've had.

DeVorkin:

What was the observatory site outside of Kingman?

Edmondson:

It was a mountain, about as high as Kitt Peak. More rugged. It would have been a more difficult site to develop, a more rugged terrain, and more snowfall. There would have been snow problems in the winter up there. It would be a more rugged terrain. There was a road, a major part of the distance up, since it was a recreation area. So we had a nice lunch as guests of the Chamber of Commerce, with a ride up the mountain as far as the road would take us, and all the rest of that, and then we flew down to Tucson, and were taken up to Kitt Peak.

DeVorkin:

There was no way that you could evaluate the seeing or anything at that time, of course?

Edmondson:

We had to use Aden Meinel’s work for it.

DeVorkin:

But you wanted to see it, to get the feeling?

Edmondson:

That's right.

DeVorkin:

Just the ambience of it.

Edmondson:

Yes, that's right. I'm not sure which members of the board said they wanted to do this, but somebody brought this up, and so we did it.

DeVorkin:

Was there any worry that Kingman might expand a lot, after Kitt Peak was built, and there'd be light pollution problems?

Edmondson:

I don't recall a discussion of this. I think that Kingman was not visible from the top of the mountain, where we would have been.

DeVorkin:

But Tucson is visible?

Edmondson:

Tucson is visible. It's a lot farther away.

DeVorkin:

Oh, I see.

Edmondson:

This mountain was not at all far from Kingman.

DeVorkin:

I see. That could be a definite problem.

Edmondson:

But there was some shielding. I don't recall major discussions at that time on this particular problem. Nobody made a big thing out of it, in other words.

DeVorkin:

I'm interested as to why the meeting was held in Pasadena, Cal Tech's home ground, so to speak.

Edmondson:

McMath was spending the winter there. He wintered in Pasadena, and a short time in Tucson.

DeVorkin:

We have the site selected now.

Edmondson:

OK.

DeVorkin:

The next step is to discuss the structure of the staff.

Edmondson:

Well, in the first place, we started out with Aden Meinel as director of Kitt Peak.

DeVorkin:

Was this before, after or during, he was making all of these statements about what's going to be there?

Edmondson:

No, these statements that bothered our public relations people were back during the site survey.

DeVorkin:

OK. Still he was made director.

Edmondson:

Yes. Well, after all, the Foundation didn't appoint him, AURA did. He was made director on the basis that he had done a good job running the site survey. And this was not a very good reason to choose a director, as we discovered, first in Aden's case and secondly in Jurgen Stock's case in Chile. A man who does superb field work is not necessarily the executive to run a going operation. This is not to his discredit at all. Far from it. Talent is talent, and sometimes it's narrowly specialized, and I can't think of a better guy than Aden to have done the site survey. But he was made director of the observatory, initially. Then they hired a young fellow named Ralph Patey. He was the business manager. That was his title in those days. Well, Aden being a very forceful character was trying to get Patey to do some administrative things that Patey thought shouldn't be done. Patey was worried by some of the short cuts that Aden was taking and so on.

DeVorkin:

Administratively?

Edmondson:

Yes. You have an enthusiastic guy who wants to get the job done, "don't bother me with rules" you see, "let's do the job". So it was that kind of a situation.

DeVorkin:

He would appropriate things without approval?

Edmondson:

He would use something for different purpose than it was originally planned for, that kind of thing.

DeVorkin:

Major things, anything major?

Edmondson:

Well it depends on what you mean by "major". But this was a source of constant irritation, also worry about what would happen when federal auditors came in to look things over.

DeVorkin:

Was this a use of buildings, use of money for construction, for instrumentation? Telescopes?

Edmondson:

I'm trying to remember. It seems to me that a heliastat on top of the headquarters building in Tucson was something that used money that was supposed to be used for something else. I mean, that kind of thing.

DeVorkin:

I didn't realize there were any observing facilities downtown.

Edmondson:

I'm not sure what the beam was used for now. It would bring sunlight into the building.

DeVorkin:

For testing?

Edmondson:

I suppose so. At any rate, two things happened about this period. At the end of the first year of AURA, McMath's health was such that he couldn't bear that burden.

DeVorkin:

This is late ‘58?

Edmondson:

Yes, this would be in '58 or early '59, I don't remember quite when we were having our annual meeting. The date of the annual meeting has been a moveable feast.

DeVorkin:

Yes, I'm aware of that.

Edmondson:

So McMath was given the title of chairman of the board, and Shane was made president. There's some material on this in the Shane stuff that I read yesterday,[5] and it's adequately taken care of there, really.

DeVorkin:

We were talking about that organization when I stopped you. You mentioned you'd seen the Shane material.

Edmondson:

That's right. I was looking specifically on the Shane material for his participation in the work of the McMath Panel during the site survey. It's mentioned in passing, but not in any detail. However, Shane does give me credit for inventing the name AURA in his interview.

DeVorkin:

Is that due credit?

Edmondson:

I think it is.[6] It's one of the things I've sort of forgotten, you know, but Shane gives me credit for the name. And if he says so, I'm willing to accept it.

Then he also recounts in there how McMath's health failed enough after one year that McMath was given the title, chairman of the board, and Shane became president, all the rest of that. He describes some of that early period. He also describes the thing I was about to tell you, about Jim Miller. After Ralph Patey essentially came to the door and said, "Look, I'm not a strong enough person to work with Aden Meinel --"

So at that point we decided we had to have somebody essentially on an equal level, somebody who could kind of ride herd on him, and this was Jim Miller. Jim Miller resigned his position at the University of California, and became, I think the title was called "associate director for administration" of Kitt Peak. And he moved to Tucson. Ralph Patey stayed in his office then as an underling.

DeVorkin:

Did Miller maintain the secretaryship of the board?

Edmondson:

Well, that's the other thing. This is in the Shane interview, too. Miller did retain it. And that was responsible now for some of our problems about the files, because while Miller was wearing two hats, he sort of commingled observatory and corporate files, and I think after he left the observatory, an attempt was made to separate them, and what I fear is that some of them may have been destroyed even. While I was president, I saved every piece of paper that ever came in, and I still have it. If I were really to go through my files, I could probably throw away two-thirds of what I've saved, but I've been warned not to. They say, "Bring it to Tucson, see if we need it to fill in the gaps in our files". So that's what I'm going to do.

DeVorkin:

Absolutely, good.

Edmondson:

So Miller served simultaneously as secretary of the corporation and associate director for administration of the observatory.

Well, now, the observatory administration that was set up right at the beginning, in the Meinel years, was a divisional setup, because on the mountain, they were to be serving stellar astronomers and solar astronomers.

Edmondson:

They were to be serving both stellar and solar astronomers and so the observatory was set up with two divisions: stellar and solar.

DeVorkin:

There were only two in the beginning?

Edmondson:

That's right, because those were the two functions of the observatory.

DeVorkin:

But a space division came in later.

Edmondson:

Well, then what happened was that Aden got interested in space astronomy. You see, once the site survey was over, he was looking for something new and challenging, and so he got interested in a big space telescope, and actually did some preliminary design work and all the rest of that. Conceptual design, it was.

DeVorkin:

Right after Sputnik, in ‘58.

Edmondson:

No. This came after they had started construction on Kitt Peak, and when Aden was director of the observatory, after he'd become director, so this had to be in '59, I think. I'd have to go to the records to check dates. I don't remember these dates at all. I remember sequence but without remembering years.

DeVorkin:

That's all right because we have plenty of time to put the dates in. This is well before OAO?

Edmondson:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

It was a very early idea.

Edmondson:

That's right.

DeVorkin:

Fine, let's go back to that year.

Edmondson:

So at any rate, Aden was making noises about leaving. He was going to take a job with NASA and work with them, entirely on space telescopes. And if we wanted to keep him in Tucson, AURA would have to go into space.V

Well, now meanwhile two things had happened. Yale had already come in as a member, and Princeton said they would join if, and only if, we took an interest in space.

So Princeton came in along about this time, you see.

DeVorkin:

This is Spitzer and Schwarzschild then making this statement?

Edmondson:

That's right. And Spitzer for a short time was their scientific representative on the board. And Ray Woodrow was their business representative, after they came in. Then Bob Danielson took Spitzer's place, and served until he died, and now they have Wilkinson from Princeton as their scientific representative. Spitzer was their first scientific representative from Princeton.

So in order to keep Aden happy, AURA had to go into apace. So that's how the space division was set up. Then, after Aden resigned from the directorship of the observatory, he was the associate director for the space division, until he finally moved across the street to the University of Arizona.

DeVorkin:

Well, let's talk a little more about his decision to resign and your involvement in that, and also your involvement in the growth of Kitt Peak.

Edmondson:

Well, in the first place, it was a forced resignation. Forced by McMath and by Shane. I was sitting on the sidelines. I was present while Shane and McMath were discussing these matters, but essentially, as vice president, I was there. But I was not an active participant in this.

DeVorkin:

What precipitated the decision?

Edmondson:

Just some of the general problems, with Meinel wanting to do things and "to hell with the rules".

DeVorkin:

Was it making trouble with NSF?

Edmondson:

I'm not sure that it was making trouble with NSF. There were potential troubles. I don't think any troubles had developed.

DeVorkin:

This was not direct?

Edmondson:

This was not a result of any problems with NSF. It was the result of McMath's and Shane's dissatisfaction with Meinel's behavior as director of the observatory. So it was a forced resignation. But then he was continued on. Incidentally, on the space division setup, he was both director and head of the space division, you see. And so then when he left the directorship, he continued as head of the space division.

DeVorkin:

So he still stayed within the organization?

Edmondson:

That's right. That's right.

DeVorkin:

(crosstalk) There was ill will?

Edmondson:

Well, it's hard to say. I think there was. I don't see why there shouldn't have been.

DeVorkin:

I'm very interested in this period of time, because this is the year Whitford came, Shane retired, and Mayall left, after working a whole decade on the 120 inch. Was there any interest in Mayall's direction, to your knowledge, or in Shane's direction for bringing Mayall out to Kitt Peak?

Edmondson:

Shane was the one who pushed Mayall with AURA, and I think twisted Mayall's arm at the other end of the line. I mean, Mayall was Shane's choice, clearly.

DeVorkin:

Was there any interest in Mayall before Meinel was told to step down?

Edmondson:

I have a sort of a vague memory that the answer to that is yes. But I can't pinpoint it in terms of anything specific.

DeVorkin:

This might be something you could ask Shane?

Edmondson:

I don't think I want to. This is too delicate a question, really. In this sense, the idea is that if Meinel isn't director, do we have candidates, "oh yes, Nick Mayall". It's that kind of a thing.

DeVorkin:

I see.

Edmondson:

Yes, that kind of thing. I did not mean to imply that the reason they wanted to get rid of Meinel was to make a place for Mayall. Not at all. No, I didn't mean it that way. If it sounded that way.

DeVorkin:

No, actually it didn't, but I'm glad you made the clarification. OK, so we have this structure. When was the general reporting structure of Kitt Peak worked out? Was it worked out by the board? Who would the director report to? Who would the associate directors report to? How were the plans to be developed? What kinds of committees would be developed to look for instrumentation?

Edmondson:

Well, at the time we set up business in Arizona, the Board was divided into two groups -- the scientific committee and the administrative committee. The administrative committee was charged with setting up the administrative arrangements, including banking, and this is something to put in the record -- especially since-when I read that section of the Shane interview yesterday, I discovered that Shane apparently was not aware of the complete facts of the situation. Let me put it in this record now.

The way the banking arrangement was set up was very interesting. The president of the Valley National Bank, the biggest bank in the state, with branches all over the state, was James E. Patrick. Jim Patrick had been director of the Union Building at Indiana University back in my student days, and I guess still when I was a young faculty member. The Patricks were very close personal friends of the Franklins, Joe Franklin being our administrative representative on the board. Jim Patrick left Indiana to go to Arizona for his wife's health -- she had serious lung problems and she wasn't expected to live very long. Jim Patrick died about two years ago, and his wife is still going strong. Which tells you something about the climate of Arizona, I guess

DeVorkin:

Right.

Edmondson:

At any rate, when the administrative committee got going, they had to choose auditors, you know, all the details of a business organization, and Joe Franklin said, "Leave the banking arrangements up to me".

So he got in touch with his friend Jim Patrick, and set up arrangements which had been very advantageous, because Valley National Bank has given AURA banking services at no charge, doing this as a public service. Whether they would have been quite so willing to do it as a public service if the president of the bank had not been a close personal friend of an AURA board member is hard to say, though. But at least the Valley National Bank, for example, gave us free of charge the services of one of their vice presidents, to serve as the treasurer of AURA. His name was Minton Moore. His name is in the Shane interview.

So when Minton Moore left the Valley National Bank to go into private business, then we picked a new treasurer, Interestingly enough, for a couple of years, I think it was, Jim Patrick himself served as AURA treasurer.

Then when he bowed out of that, Clarence Black, a vice president of the Valley National Bank, actually located in Tucson, became the AURA treasurer, and served up until just a few months ago, when he retired from the bank. But the point is, we've had all these treasurers from the bank who spent quite a bit of time on AURA business, at no cost to us for that. And they provided this as a public service, which was just great.

So the administrative committee, after it set up the administrative arrangements, said, "OK, we've done our job, we want to disband," and they did.

The scientific committee said, "No, we are interested in having some contact with and participation on the work of the observatory. We'd like to continue."

So there was a period then, during the rest of the Shane presidency, when we had the scientific committee, it would hold meetings a couple of times a year. We'd hear reports from the scientific members of the staff and and things like that.

DeVorkin:

At that time you were aware, the committee was certainly aware of the fact that some big telescope was to be placed there. But when did specific plans begin to be drawn up? How did instrumentation get to the mountain?

Edmondson:

Well, I think we're just a little bit premature on this one.

DeVorkin:

You weren't talking about instrumentation yet?

Edmondson:

Well, you see, the instrumentation that was already planned and funded included: we had a 36-inch, and in the federal budget was the 80-inch. Actually, that was an 84 -- an oversized blank and all that. Also, for a long time the people at NSF said, "You've got to call it an 80-inch because that's the way it is in the federal budget. If some Congressman sees 84, he's going to say ‘Who authorized this?’”.

DeVorkin:

Here's a question while we're talking about that. I remember that they knew that they were going to get a 84-inch blank, but they thought that they would have to stop it down to 80-inches because the F ratio was so fast. But then the optical division was able to make use of the full aperture.

Edmondson:

Yes, that's right.

DeVorkin:

That's in the official record. But unofficially, did they always know that they could use the full 84 inches, or were they sincerely skeptical of the possibility.

Edmondson:

I really don't know the answer to that one. Shane says that Meinel wanted it to be larger than McDonald. I don't know. But the point, what I was saying was, the federal budget had a number which was sacrosanct, you see.

DeVorkin:

Right.

Edmondson:

Regardless of what was really out there.

DeVorkin:

OK.

Edmondson:

The federal budget had a number, and you had to say --"Well, that's fine" -- it's been taken care of now and everybody calls it the 84-inch now.

But those were the telescopes we had -- the "X inch telescope" as it was called back in those days, was still a gleam in their eye, and nobody thought there was much prospect for one.

So that comes up a little bit later in the game. Then that's quite a story in itself, when we get to it. I was just trying to think about the scientific committee again, because I want to talk about changes there.

During the Shane Presidency, the scientific committee always met as a full group.

DeVorkin:

How many people were on the scientific committee?

Edmondson:

Every scientist who was on the board. These are not only the scientists from the universities but the directors-at-large also. This would all be in the records. But the committee always just met as a committee.

One of the problems that was brought to my attention before and when I became president was how unwieldy this operation was. And so what I did, I reorganized the scientific committee, after I became president, dividing it up into subcommittees. We had a subcommittee for the stellar division, and a subcommittee for the solar division, a subcommittee for the space division. At least the intent of this was that the members of the subcommittees could really be overseers, and go deeper into the operations of these divisions. Then when we would have a single meeting of the whole committee once a year, the subcommittees could bring in their reports and so on.

DeVorkin:

This is already '62.

Edmondson:

Yes. The point about this is that when the whole scientific committee was involved in each division of the observatory, this took an awful lot of time. So people were beginning to complain about how much time this took. And so part of my reason for making this change was that any given individual would be spending less time.

DeVorkin:

Who was coordinating the interests of all the divisions?

Edmondson:

Of the observatory? The observatory director. You see, AURA's legal responsibility is to administer the contract that we had with the Foundation, and we meet that responsibility by hiring an observatory director and a staff and then saying, "Go to it, boys".

The AURA board does not try to run the observatory in any way, does not try to participate in the day to day operations. We make policy. Then the observatory is supposed to be run in accord with the policy set by the board. For example, the 6/4 division of observing time. That's a board policy, which the observatory staff then impliments by assigning observatory time that way.

DeVorkin:

This is a ratio between staff and visitors?

Edmondson:

Yes. That's right.

DeVorkin:

That was set by the boand?

Edmondson:

That was set by the board.

DeVorkin:

OK, that's important.

Edmondson:

I'm pretty sure that number came in possibly as a recommendation from the observatory, you see.

But in terms of the authority, the observatory didn't have authority to set policy. The observatory brought a recommendation to the board, the board said, "OK, this is the policy". After which, they run the observatory in accordance with that policy.

DeVorkin:

Up to 1962 then at least, what were the primary directions in the development of Kitt Peak?

Edmondson:

It was a construction project almost entirely.

DeVorkin:

You were still interested though in bringing staff in? Hiring staff?

Edmondson:

Oh yes. That's right.

DeVorkin:

I do know that through '65 you were still hiring an awful lot of staff.

Edmondson:

That's right.

DeVorkin:

So I'd be very interested to know how one decided what kind of staff was needed, and whether these were suggestions from the director to the board?

Edmondson:

Oh yes. I recall times when Nick Mayall would come in to the board and sort of think out loud, just tell us what his ideas were, try to get some reading, know how we would respond to suggestions that might be made. But the initiation of staff recommendations was from the observatory, brought to the board for approval. The board was not recruiting staff.

DeVorkin:

OK.

Edmondson:

Of course when we get to the observatory director, that's different. The board does set up a search committee, to get a director.

DeVorkin:

Right.

Edmondson:

But certainly for staff, that all originates in the observatory.

DeVorkin:

OK. What was the general feeling then for the future of funding? All your funding was from NSF?

Edmondson:

That's right.

DeVorkin:

But after a while, I begin to see the evidence of a corporate fund too. These were funds of the AURA board itself. What was the source of that?

Edmondson:

Oh, the corporate money comes from our management fee. The management fee is supposed to pay the costs of running the corporation.

DeVorkin:

And this is the $2500 fee. Is that per year?

Edmondson:

No, the universities put in $2500 to start with. We only made one contribution.

DeVorkin:

That was seed money.

Edmondson:

Yes, that was seed money. The management fee is equivalent to what overhead would be on an ordinary research grant. It costs money to run the corporation. We have to pay people to travel to Tucson and put them up there, and other expenses, running the corporate office and all that kind of thing. And the early philosophy of the Foundation was that we should build up a corporate reserve. If there was some disaster, we should have enough money to carry us something like a year, as I recall, a year or maybe even two years. So the corporate account, the money we have in the bank on that is the accumulation of the management fee.

DeVorkin:

How is that account governed? Are you subject to audit on that account?

Edmondson:

Oh yes. Yes.

DeVorkin:

By the GAO?

Edmondson:

Not by the GAO.

DeVorkin:

Because the GAO does audit --

Edmondson:

-- audits the observatory. I think the GAO had tried to audit it and we haven't let them. But the thing is, we've used Price-Waterhouse and various other firms to do our auditing. There is an audit. But I'm not 100 percent sure but I'm reasonably sure we've not yet been forced by the GAO to look at our corporate bonds.

DeVorkin:

Well, I don't want to get too far ahead, but I've seen records where various parcels of land in Tucson were purchased with corporate funds.

Edmondson:

Oh, well, all right, now that's my doing.[7] At the end of my first year as president, I handed in a one page president's report. I told them how many days I'd been away from home on AURA business that year, how many miles I'd flown, and all the rest of that. I don't remember the figure for the year, but the grand total for three years was, away from home, 346 days on AURA business.

DeVorkin:

Oh boy.

Edmondson:

And I flew about a quarter of a million miles on AURA business, roughly 80,000 airmiles per year on AURA business. But along with this report, at the end, I said, "Just looking around, I’m becoming concerned about the staff's parking problem for the observatory". Sounding like a college president on this, that's one of my main concerns -- parking.

DeVorkin:

It should be.

Edmondson:

But the point is, when we bought that city block and began to develop it, there wasn't much around. Well, the Newman Club had just bought the lot across the street and put a building in there.

DeVorkin:

This is a Newman Club associated with the University of Arizona?

Edmondson:

That's right. And the University of Arizona was getting ready to build a physical education complex for women to the east of us. I saw that we were going to be just surrounded by the university, and not enough parking. They'd already expanded on the city block -- less and less parking there, and street parking was hopeless. And so I said, "Let's use some of the corporate money". This was in my report: "Let's use some of the corporate money to start buying land where we can get it, catercorner across the street," and that city block catercorner across the street, I said, "It's an investment really. Land prices are going up in Tucson. If someday we decide we don't want the land, we can sell it for more than we paid for it".

I said, "Let's start buying the land". Moore, the Valley National Bank man, had enough real estate savvy and contacts and he was the one who spearheaded the real estate buying drive. It was very successful after it got started. But the first thing I had to do since I couldn't order that this be done, so I had to express my "fears" in my president's report. Then set up a board committee chaired by Gordon Carson, the administrative representative of Ohio State University at that time, and that committee didn't move quite as fast as I wanted, so at the end of my second year as president, I sort of needled them a little bit. Then they got going. They began to realize I was right a year earlier. And Moore was authorized to start buying land, and so that is how we acquired that land.

DeVorkin:

There was no difficulty with using the corporate funds?

Edmondson:

Well, what ultimately happened, this ultimately was questioned by NSF. And so the title to the land was turned back over to the government so the government now owns that land. As long as we can use it, who cares?

DeVorkin:

That's right.

Edmondson:

But the important thing is, we got the land. And we're sure glad we have it now.

Our sort of gentlemen's agreement earlier was, let's suppose some day AURA should stop being the contractor for Kitt Peak. If that had ever come we were going to turn over to turn the land over to the government anyway. And in the course of winding down the affairs of AURA were this ever done, that would be taken care of.

Also, we own land in Chile, you see. AURA owns Cerro Tolelo because the US government did not want to own land in Chile. But again, there's this agreement that if AURA ever stops running Cerro Tololo, we will transfer the ownership of that land to some other entity.

DeVorkin:

Talking from a chronological basis, while you were still vice president of AURA, the whole issue of having a Southern Observatory came up.

Edmondson:

That's right. It came up during my vice presidency, that is correct.

DeVorkin:

At some appropriate time, we should talk about the developments in Chile coherently, because you more than anyone had a tremendous amount to do with it.

Edmondson:

Well, you see the --

DeVorkin:

Do you think it's appropriate to start talking about it now, before you became president?

Edmondson:

In the chronology, I think it is appropriate now, because in the chronology, the AURA involvement came while Shane was still president.

DeVorkin:

That's right.

Edmondson:

And the first thing that happened, six months after I became president, was when we eyaluated Jurgen Stock's site survey and chose Tololo. So my personal involvement stems more or less from the choice of the site and the early development of the site.

DeVorkin:

OK, good, let's get into that, and certainly talk about the early defining years of Chile.

Edmondson:

Well, the start of all this really goes back to Professor Rutllant of the University of Chile, who kept trying to bring some astronomy into Chile which he thought might help his observatory and his department.

Frederico Rutllant. He came up north one time, trying to sell Chile to American astronomers. And he finally persuaded Gerard Kuiper. But now Rutllant's idea was, Santiago, Chile, is a wonderful place to put an observatory. That's where his observatory is located. They've just moved their place out of the city to their new location in the eastern suburbs.

It was way out in the boondocks when they built it. Now it's surrounded. They found a small mountain, Cerro Calan.

So Rutllant came up and persuaded Kuiper about the wonders of Santiago, Chile, as a place for a Southern Hemisphere telescope. Kuiper was director of Yerkes at that time. That's what complicates the whole thing. He had the Yerkes directorship, yes.

So Kuiper got money from the Air Force for a site survey with promise of money to put up a 40-inch telescope. And then Jurgen Stock had been hired by Kuiper to be resident astronomer at McDonald Observatory, and so Kuiper persuaded him to change and go down to Chile torun the site survey.

DeVorkin:

That's how Stock became involved?

Edmondson:

Yes. Stock was already on the McDonald staff, having been hired by Kuiper, to be resident astronomer, and he hadn't been there very long when he was asked to take over the Chile site survey.

Well, as soon as he got to Santiago he saw that this is no place for an observatory. So then he began exploring, with Kuiper's and Air Force approval, outside the city, and one of the mountains he discovered, Cerro Robles, is the one where the Russians later put their Maksutov telescope. It's not a bad mountain, but you can do a lot better. So Stock kept moving further and further north, testing sites, and he finally found these two mountains, Cerro Tololo, near La Serena, and Cerro La Peineta up near Copiapo. Peineta, spanish word for comb. It's kind of a long ridge, La Peineta, and this is near Copiapo.

DeVorkin:

Cerro Morado was in there some place too.

Edmondson:

Morado is south of Tololo.

DeVorkin:

Very close?

Edmondson:

Yes. I’m going to tell you the Morado story now. When Horace Babcock was down there at Morado on one of his site looking trips, his report stated that there he was, five miles to the south of Tololo, and he could smell the cooking on Tololo well enough to identify the dish!

This is in one of his written reports. That shows you that there's no turbulence, laminar airflow, if you can smell five miles away.

DeVorkin:

That's interesting. Marvelous. Both Morado and Tololo were good sites.

Edmondson:

They're good sites. Now, there were two reasons for choosing Tololo over Morado. Morado would be an easier site to develop and a lot more space for telescopes. Hindsight says that's the mountain that should have been chosen. It may still be developed in the future, when we run out of space on Tololo.

DeVorkin:

Is that AURA land then?

Edmondson:

Oh yes. It sure is. We own five mountains. We own 5 1/2 mountains, I think.

DeVorkin:

At one time I've heard that Stock was interested in acquiring at least a hundred square miles?

Edmondson:

Oh, I think it was 180 that we got.

DeVorkin:

You got 180 square miles?

Edmondson:

For $13,000. That's a completely different story. I have to check the figures, but 180, I'm reasonably sure of. The $13,000 I'm more sure of.

DeVorkin:

Let me change the tape.

Edmondson:

We were talking about Tololo. The two reasons why Tololo was chosen over Morado. One of them essentially, the Horace Babcock story gives you the reason it was downwind. And there was a fear that the seeing might be a little worse on Morado than on Tololo because it was downwind from Tololo. Now, the site testing that was done didn't bear this out. But in advance of any site testing Tololo was chosen. The site testing on Morado was done by the Carnegie Institution, the CARSO group. That came later. So we didn't know for a fact that the seeing was as good on Morado as on Tololo, at the time of the Choice of Tololo. But being downwind was a factor.

And the other factor was very simple. The view from the top of Tololo is far superior to the view from the top of Morado.

DeVorkin:

This is the view of the Andes?

Edmondson:

No, not so much the Andes, but the view up to the north. The view up toward the Elqui Valley. Elqui is the river. That is beautiful. So at any rate, the two things -- the fear about the seeing, not substantiated by the tests; and Jurgen Stock’s feeling that he wanted to have a place with a beautiful view. Stock was going to live on the mountain. He was going to build a director's residence and live on the mountain, and he wanted to have a good view.

DeVorkin:

I recall that even in the discussions for the building of the buildings, he wanted to be sure and the board wanted to be sure that the orientation of the buildings was such that you would take that view into account.

Edmondson:

Why not? If you've got it, you might as well. So that's how the Chile project got started, through Air Force funding to the University of Chicago, for a site survey and a 40-inch telescope. On the administrative side, there was a three way agreement between the University of Chile and the University of Chicago and the University of Texas, Texas, coming in because at that time Chicago was still running the McDonald Observatory.

DeVorkin:

Right. The peculiar thing here is that, I recall that there was a problem of bringing University of Chicago into AURA and to Kitt Peak because they already had McDonald, and they thought there was a conflict of interest there, too.

Edmondson:

No, this has never come in. Not that I've ever heard of. The conflict was a different kind of a conflict. See, when Kuiper left Chicago to go to Arizona, Chicago was left holding the bag. Here they had a project whose principal investigator had gone. So Chicago, being a member of AURA, petitioned AURA to take over this Air Force contract from Chicago. Chicago took the initiative on this. AURA did not solicit it. This was a Chicago initiative.

The stumbling block, then, came from Texas. This may be what you were thinking about. The stumbling block was this. There was a three way contract between Chicago, Texas and University of Chile that was going to have to be terminated to set up a new one between AURA and the University of Chile, and somebody in Texas said, "Look, we have an interest in this. We're not going to agree to terminate that old agreement, unless we get some standing in the new one".

DeVorkin:

Who said that?

Edmondson:

I’m not sure what person said this. But the way it ended up should identify the person, probably does.

The rationale for doing what we did was because, at that time Chicago and Texas had a joint astronomy department. That got terminated when Kuiper left and all the rest of that. But when we were getting started, after Bill Morgan took over as acting director of the observatory when Kuiper left, the rationale again, I think I'm responsible. I think this is one of my bright ideas I suggested was that we make a joint membership for Chicago and Texas, so when you look at the old AURA letterhead and the more recent, there was a long period when, on the list of AURA members, the Universities of Chicago and Texas were all on the same line.

DeVorkin:

That's right, I remember seeing that.

Edmondson:

And my rationale was, I said, "Look, Texas does not have an astronomy department that qualifies it for full membership in AURA". They didn't even have four astronomers on their faculty. And it turned out, no PhD's with the Texas label on them. They had McDonald. But they didn't meet the other two criteria. And so my suggestion was, "Well, to bypass this problem, let's give them a joint membership, because the astronomy department is a joint department".

This was bought. Then the way we handled Texas, Texas said, "OK, we will allow both the scientific and the administrative representatives to come from Chicago, but we'd like to have an observer".

So we appointed the dean of the graduate school, Gordon Whaley. He was suggested by Texas. He's a biologist. Whaley was appointed as an administrative consultant to the AURA board, and attended all our board meetings, including executive sessions. He just didn't have a vote. So that's how we got around that administrative situation. That's how we got into the Southern Hemisphere.

But the point I want to make is, AURA did not solicit this. We didn't go out and take something away from Chicago. Chicago came to us and said, "Please, Kuiper's gone, we'd like AURA to take over the management of this Air Force contract".

Well, then there were some technical problems getting going, since we were NSF funded.

DeVorkin:

That's right.

Edmondson:

And we still had some Air Force money coming in, under the Air Force commitment. We decided we didn't want anything as small as a 40-inch. So the way we ended up, the 60-inch down there I think is from a combination of funds.

DeVorkin:

There's the Curtis Schmidt.

Edmondson:

Well, there's the standard 36 and the 60, and the big one, and the Curtis Schmidt. But the Schmidt belongs to Michigan. It's just located down there.

DeVorkin:

Right.

Edmondson:

I'm not sure whether it's the 36 or the 60 which has Air Force money in it. I think it's the 60.

At any rate, in the course of getting the Air Force out of the picture, there was an overlap period, when the Air Force for a couple of years of so was still involved -- maybe even into my presidency -- I'm just sure that the Air Force was still part of the picture when I became president. And Gordon Wares, an astronomer, was the Air Force representative who came to our meetings, and handled all our dealings with the Air Force. Gordon Wares was also one of these people who learned one day that, as of that moment, he was out of a job, when the Air Force did this recent retrenchment.

DeVorkin:

Can we say the year 1962, approximately '61, '62, was the early period in the Chile work, or did it begin before then?

Edmondson:

How's this?

DeVorkin:

1962, '61, is this when Chile began to be a large project for AURA?

Edmondson:

That's about the right period. You see, I became president in '62, and I think we had had close to two years, between one and two years of involvement by that time.

DeVorkin:

OK, I have a number of questions from that period. You still had some difficulty with Dr. Kuiper in the site survey and in what was called the "physics of seeing" study down there, if I recall. He still had some projects for selecting photometric standards, and then, AURA was developing some projects, and this involved the University of Arizona and Harold Johnson. What was the issue there?

Edmondson:

Well, all of a sudden, the searchlight shines on somethiug else in my memory. I was president then. This is just early in my presidency. I had been doing an observing program at McDonald, and I was getting out of everything but I went to McDonald. We had a black faculty member, Ben Peery. He was going to go down to observe at McDonald, and I wanted to be sure nothing was going to happen, so even though he was going to take the observing run, I went down there with Ben. We went to the restaurant in Fort Davis, and all the rest of that, you know. That's on the earlier tape?

DeVorkin:

Yes, we talked about that.

Edmondson:

So, while I was at McDonald, I was drafting a very nasty letter to Gerard Kuiper. George McVittie at one time told me that he thought that he used to write the nastiest letters which could be written, until he saw some of mine.

DeVorkin:

Did he?

Edmondson:

Yes! But this was one of my nasty letters. Ask Jerry Gilbert here some time about my nasty letters. I'm sure I never wrote a nasty one to Jerry, but I've written some to some of his staff, in earlier years when I was treasurer.

DeVorkin:

What was the issue with Kuiper ?

Edmondson:

Well the issue was this thing you were just talking about -- Kuiper getting his sticky fingers back into Chile, in a way that could bring some problems for us.

DeVorkin:

Administrative problems with the university?

Edmondson:

Well, I don't remember. I'd really have to go back and read my letters, to see what the detailed problem was, now, but what you've told me reminds me, there was a problem. So I wrote a long hand letter, wrote it out long hand, while I was at McDonald with Ben Peery. Then I went on to Tucson for the AURA meeting. I gave this letter to Jim Miller's secretary to type, and it was done on such a top secret basis that after the letter was written, she even burned the carbon paper!

This letter was hand carried to Kuiper's office, along with carbon copies to President Harvile of the University of Arizona, and the dean. I must have had half a dozen carbons of this that I distributed.

I remember one time afterwards, Tom Gehrels told me that Kuiper wasn't much bothered by what I said to him nearly as much as he was by all these carbon copies that I had distributed. But those carbons were part of what I was out to do -- to squelch it.

Now, I don't remember the details really beyond that. I remember that Kuiper was producing some kind of a monkey wrench, and I moved awfully fast to stop it.

DeVorkin:

The reason why I bring it up: around this period of time and of course through the sixties, there was always the question of how much association with particular institutions AURA was going to have, through Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololo. In other words, University of Arizona wanted a certain amount of land for their own telescopes on Kitt Peak. There was to be a subcontract or something.

Edmondson:

Well, that was an early thing. That came up while Ed Carpenter was still living.

DeVorkin:

Right. Well, that sort of thing continued. Other observatories were interested. And I was wondering whether this was the same sort of thing, whether you were seeing Kuiper possibly taking the next step, doing even more, taking over more of the responsibilities of the National Observatory itself but on a private basis?

Edmondson:

I just don't remember now. I wish I could. But I draw sort of a blank on what it was that I took steps to squelch.

DeVorkin:

Kuiper's son, and he was down there?

Edmondson:

Working on the site survey, and writing letters to his papa saying how horrible Jurgen Stock was.

DeVorkin:

I see.

Edmondson:

The Paul Kuiper letters are part of the sordid history.

DeVorkin:

I see. And would these be, to your knowledge, retained in Kuiper's correspondence, at University of Arizona?

Edmondson:

Probably.

DeVorkin:

They might be of some importance.

Edmondson:

I have a feeling in my files I have transcripts of some of them. If not xeroxes of longhand letters. Because Kuiper distrubuted some of these to people. I know I had, since I got them, and I never throw anything away, so they're lost in the sense that they're buried in these file cabinets with my AURA papers, but they'll be recovered.

DeVorkin:

Kuiper and Stock certainly didn't see eye to eye then?

Edmondson:

Not toward the end. Toward the end, you see -- this is part of the problem -- Stock and Paul Kuiper were working for AURA.

DeVorkin:

Stock and Paul Kuiper.

Edmondson:

Yes. And Paul was writing letters to his Papa, who had no connection with AURA. But that's not the thing I wrote the nasty letter about. The nasty letter had something to do with the Harold Johnson project, as you mentioned.

DeVorkin:

We can identify that.

Edmondson:

If somebody would tell me a little bit more about the Harold Johnson project, that should jog my memory some more.

DeVorkin:

Determining photometric standards for the Southern Hemisphere. And extension of the Northern Hemisphere work that he had been doing.

Edmondson:

But how it was going to be done, that's the question.

DeVorkin:

I wouldn't be able to say offhand.

Edmondson:

Whose telescope, put where, operated how and all the rest of that. This I don't know.

DeVorkin:

It had something to do with the 40-inch, most definitely.

Edmondson:

All right.

DeVorkin:

It's a question of what telescope was going to go down there.

Edmondson:

OK.

DeVorkin:

And during all this period of time, actually a little earlier, you were negotiating with the people at Michigan for the Curtis Schmidt from Michigan, I know that Orren Mohler and people like that were very enthusiastic about having it go down to Cerro Tololo. And I want to know, the philosophy that you had, to my recollection, was that you wanted to get this site going.

Edmondson:

Well, we had been turned down on either two or three budgets, by NSF, to build a Schmidt for Tololo. After being turned down in at least two, possibly three budgets, Arne Sletterbak is the one who had the idea: "Well, if we're not going to get the money from NSF to put a new Schmidt down there, let's see if we can borrow one from Michigan."

DeVorkin:

The need for a Schmidt is a deep patrol instrument?

Edmondson:

Yes. Everybody agreed to the need, but the money just wasn't being made available in the budgets that we were getting.

DeVorkin:

What did the people who were granting the money for NSF budgets think should go down to Cerro Tololo, other than the patrol telescope?

Edmondson:

Well, when you have a budget, and you start reducing the size of the budget, what comes out first? It's just a matter of priorities, I think.

DeVorkin:

You started encountering budget cuts very very early, it seems right after Sputnik just about, they started cutting your budget?

Edmondson:

Well, we certainly didn't have a budget cut when we got the money for the four-meter telescope; that's a long story, on a separate track and we shouldn't get into that now.

DeVorkin:

I'm thinking in terms of Chile.

Edmondson:

Oh, in terms of Chile. Well, you have to remember the way we got into that. We got into the project in Chile on the basis of an Air Force contract that was going to provide money to put up a 40-inch telescope. So what we had to do was to get people to think not of a 40-inch but something bigger. The 40-inch again was one of these things engraved in stone, almost.

DeVorkin:

Let's move on to Chile itself, and start looking at the reception to AURA in Chile by the Chileans. This was President Alessandri then?

Edmondson:

Alessandri was president, that's right.

DeVorkin:

Alessandri was the man you were dealing with.

Edmondson:

Now, first getting back to the changeover, once Texas was made happy, then we had no problem and a new agreement was drawn up between the University of Chile and AURA. So, and Rutllant was still at the University of Chile at that time, and the site survey was still going on. Mayall and Shane both made several trips to Chile, and rode horseback up the mountain and all the rest of that, and then, the site survey was in its final stages, when Shane left office and also retired from the board, and was replaced by Whitford, and I became president.

So I was elected president in March 1962 and went down to Chile in April. I went down just as soon as I could arrange things in Bloomington to get away. This was my quickie, to become acquanted at first hand with what things were like down there. And I must say that my first impression was that Jurgen Stock was a fine guy to run a site survey, but he should not be made director of the observatory.

But in spite of that, he was made director, the rationale being: “oh, he did such a wonderful job on the site survey, he needs to be rewarded".

But when I got down there, my very first impression was, "He's a good site survey man, but we need somebody different to run the observatory”.

DeVorkin:

What were the specific things? Was it a similar situation to Meinel, that he was gung-ho in doing things without consultation?

Edmondson:

That was a great deal of it.

DeVorkin:

This was before there was a very unfortunate incident where a man, one of their Chilean workers, was killed and there was no proper insurance down there? Stock went out and just got a bunch of life insurance for everybody working on the mountain; was this part of it?

Edmondson:

I don't remember.

DeVorkin:

That might have happened later. It was ‘64 I think. I have it here -- I'm just asking as an example.

Edmondson:

This doesn't ring a bell with me at all, somehow. Its happening during my presidency. I remember somebody being killed, but I thought this was after Rupert Wildt had become president. Gosh, this is something that I'd forgotten all about.

DeVorkin:

OK. Well, it was an accidental death of a workman, and he had seven children or something like that, and Stock and the staff seemed to be very very upset that there was no way to support his family. Your board did eventually vote something like a one time offer of a thousand dollars to aid the widow and the seven children, and later on tried to make some stipulation that better life insurance policies would be available, even though in this particular case the man was not working there very long. Construction had just started, as I understand.

But I was wondering whether Stock's actions like this had injured his relations with AURA and with NSF?

Edmondson:

Well, there were a lot of other things. This would not have been a major factor.

DeVorkin:

But it was the way he went about doing things. OK, let's talk about the site survey team. It looks like the site survey team that was called the site survey team consisted of yourself, Mayall, Whitford, Mulders and people like that. This was a diplomatic team?

Edmondson:

Well, we weren't the site survey. We went down to evaluate the site survey.

DeVorkin:

Oh, I see.

Edmondson:

Yes, you see, when I became president I went down all by myself, just very shortly after I took office, and then on the basis of what I saw, I said, "Before I end my term of office, I want every member of the board to get down to Chile and see what it's like down there, especially the business officers, because you won't believe how they do business in Chile unless you've seen it with your own eyes".

But then so far as the actual site selection is concerned, what we did was that when Stock was ready to report, this group that you've just mentioned, Mulders representing NSF, and Whitford and I forget now what the total membership of the group was, but it was a modest sized group -- Margaret and I made a stop in Rio on the way down, because NSF at that time had their Southern Hemisphere liaison officer in Rio.

So we stopped in Rio on the way down, and checked in with the office. I forget the man's first name. Simon was his name. Simon Pietre was the head of this NSF liaison office, and I had met him earlier. He was either at the academy or in the State Department or somewhere. I can’t remember his first name. Simon Pietre was his last name, and you can check this out. He was the head of the liaison office, so we checked in on the way down, to let him know what we were about to do in Chile. Then I think Mayall and Mulders stopped in Rio on the way home, after the site had been chosen, to let him know what we had done. We thought this was part of our responsibility, to be in direct contact with the Southern Hemisphere liaison.

DeVorkin:

Yes. OK.

Edmondson:

Then we went on to Argentina, and stopped to visit J. Sahade there. That's where we met up with Mayall and Mulders. Then Margaret, Mayall, Mulders and I, all of us flew over the Andes to Santiago. We flew north to Copiapo, and we all visited on top of La Peineta, and some of us spent the night up there, as many as could. Then after that, we went down to La Serena. There were limited accommodations on the mountain, and a limited number of horses, so I did not go up Tololo that time. I stayed down in La Serena and worked in public relations. But Mulders went up and other people went up the mountain on that one. Some of our administrators went up, so we actually had people visit the tops of both mountains, after which we returned to Santiago, and evaluated the Stock report, having seen the two mountains. And getting all details, we chose Tololo. The day this was done was the day after Thanksgiving. In 1962.

DeVorkin:

OK. You did later go up to the mountain, did you not, and stay overnight?

Edmondson:

Oh, my first time up Tololo was when the European Southern Observatory people came in June of '63. That was my first time, on horseback. My only time on horseback.

DeVorkin:

I'd like to discuss that eventually, because of the different people. The ESO people, and CARSO.

Edmondson:

Yes, but first, something about the site selection process that I need to tell you.

DeVorkin:

OK. Very good.

Edmondson:

When we arrived in Chile, before we went up to visit the mountains, we learned to our dismay, the legislation that we thought was on its way through the Chilean congress had not yet been introduced. Now, this was legislation to exempt us from import taxes on whatever we brought in for the observatory. This was a shock, you know. I had met Carlos Mori, the dean of science at the University of Chile, on my first trip. I had met him on my first trip to Chile. His English was quite good. We could communicate and all that. So, when I learned this stuff, (about the legislation), I said to Dean Mori, "Look, we're in a terrible bind here. We're about to choose an observatory site. But we can't lift a shovel full of dirt until this legislation has been passed".

So Mori said, "Well, President Alessandri is a former student of mine, I'll get you an appointment with him".

Well, you know, we really didn't believe this was going to happen, you see. So then we made our trip north. During the trip north, I started drafting a toast that I would read at dinner on Thanksgiving evening. We were being entertained at dinner, after we got back from this trip north, by the University of Chile, by the deans, by Dean Mori and the faculty of the University of Chile.

So I started drafting the toast that I would give, and after I drafted it, Hugo Moreno was with us on this trip, and Hugo helped translate it into Spanish. We worked very closely together, to be sure the translation expressed meaning -- that it was not just a translation of words, but every nuance of the meaning -- I wanted to have the Spanish give this.

So then I was going to start out in English apologizing for my inability to speak Spanish, and saying, "I'll have Jurgen Stock read my toast for me," and Stock was going to read the Spanish version of my toast.

Well, basically what the toast said was going to express our dismay about the legislation problem, and said that we’re going to have to keep Dr. Stock busy while we're waiting for this to happen, since we cannot start construction on Tololo until the law has been passed. And so to keep Dr. Stock busy for the next three months, we're going to send him over to Argentina to do a site survey in Argentina, so we will have a comparative evaluation of the sites of the two countries. Oh, "Frank Machiavelli Edmondson", you see.

DeVorkin:

Right.

Edmondson:

Well, this was again such a delicate matter, and I had talked to the ambassador in Santiago about this before we went north. So from La Serena, I got in touch with the ambassador in Santiago, and I read my English text to him over the telephone, to be sure that I wasn't doing anything I shouldn't.

DeVorkin:

Yes, it's pretty stiff.

Edmondson:

So the ambassador approved, this was all right. So what happened? We got to Santiago, went to the Union Club for dinner, and Dean Mori came up and said, "Tomorrow morning at 11:30 you have a meeting with President Alessandri".

Quick, quick, I scrubbed that part of the toast. There were other things in the toast, you see. The whole toast wasn't just this one thing this was kind of in with other things. So we simply eliminated that section of the toast.

DeVorkin:

Good.

Edmondson:

And the next morning, we adjourned our meeting in the Canera Hotel, walked across the Plaza to the Moneda and met Alessandri, and through an interpreter I told him what the problem was. He promised his full cooperation. The Congress was in so-called extraordinary session, where legislation could be introduced only by the President, so this was introduced by Alessandri, and we saw Alessandri the day after Thanksgiving, the law was introduced the following week, and passed by the first week in January. And we got our money from NSF three days later!

It was almost embarrassing the other way around, at that point. NSF was slow to come through with the first cash allocation.

DeVorkin:

But it came through then.

Edmondson:

Pure coincidence, yes. Just a coincidence.

DeVorkin:

Was there any official diplomatic aid or interest in all of these meetings and difficulties you were having?

Edmondson:

We had all the help we ever needed from the embassy in Santiago, from all of the ambassadors who have been there.

DeVorkin:

Nothing directly from Washington?

Edmondson:

We hadn't asked for it and we didn't want it. First, the ambassador, my first time down there, the one I talked to on the telephone, was Charles Cole, who had been president of Amherst College.

Edmondson:

Charles Cole, former president of Amherst, was the ambassador when I became president, and then I think his immediate successor was Ralph Dungin, who had been on the Kennedy White House staff, and Dungin was ambassador at the time I was down there as acting director of Tololo, after Stock left, in 1966.

DeVorkin:

This is after your presidency?

Edmondson:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

I want to talk about that period. We'll get to that.

Edmondson:

Then, there have been several ambassadors over the years, but Cole and Dungin are the two that I've had direct contact with. We've gotten all the help we've ever wanted from the embassy down there, good cooperation from the embassy -- and that's the kind of help that does you some good, too.

Ralph Dungin made himself very popular with the Chileans. When I was acting director, Dungin came up to visit Tololo while I was acting director, and what did we do? We took him up the Elqui Valley, and he put a wreath on the grave of Gabriella Mistral and visited her birthplace.

DeVorkin:

Who was this?

Edmondson:

Gabriella Mistral, a Nobel Prize winning poetess from Chile. Next to Bernardo O'Higgins, Gabriella Mistral is the great person in Chile. And her grave is upstream in the Elqui Valley, and her birthplace is in Vicuna, is a little museum and so on. So Dungin going and putting a wreath on her grave and visiting her birthplace, that was an important part of his visit to Tololo. Of course I was with him. Margaret and I were with him.

Getting back to the Alessandri business, Alessandri got the law for us, after which we really got going.

DeVorkin:

OK. Very good.

Edmondson:

Then we get into the European situation. I visited Chile twice, once right after I was elected and then for the site selection. My third trip to Chile was in June of '63. Now the Europeans who came were J. Oort, who was my counterpart at ESO, and Otto Heckmann, who was the director of the observatory for ESO, and Charles Fehrenbach and Hans Siedentopf, the German who died a year later. And the fifth was A.B. Muller, the young Dutchman who had been doing their site survey in Africa.

DeVorkin:

OK. At that time there was still a question as to whether ESO was going to go to South Africa or not.

Edmondson:

Well, they had spent ten years, you know, looking around down there, and not satisfied with anything they had seen. They got a copy of Stock's site survey report, and they were so excited about this, they immediately arranged to send Muller and somebody else over to Chile to spot check it. And after a rather short period in Chile, a couple of weeks, maybe a month in Chile, a very short period in Chile spot checking, they abandoned their site survey in Africa, and made the decision they would come to Chile.

When this group arrived, I think they already had their decision made when they came to Chile. They were just coming to see: "Well, now, where do we go in Chile"?

DeVorkin:

But still it was a great big organizational question, how were the various mountains to be organized, and I know that this all led up to a meeting in Paris between CARSO and ESO and AURA, and I'd be very interested to have you chronicle the developments and difficulties, such as they were, were largely organizational. ESO is not a consortium of universities. It's a treaty organization of governments.

DeVorkin:

That’s right, yes.

Edmondson:

And incidentally, one of the more interesting things is, the language in which they conduct their meetings is English, because English is not the language of any member of ESO. So you're not hurting anyone's national sensibilities.

DeVorkin:

That's interesting though because Britain was originally a member of ESO, but they pulled out.

Edmondson:

They never got in.

DeVorkin:

They never got in?

Edmondson:

They were unwilling to join, when they learned that they would not have special privileges on using the telescopes and so on, but that all telescope time would be screened on the basis of merit. They wouldn't be guaranteed X hours of telescope time to use as they wished.

DeVorkin:

Why did they feel they should have that in the first place?

Edmondson:

I don't know whose idea this was. It sounds like a Richard Woolley type of idea. But if I were hazarding a guess, that would be my guess, but I don't know it for a fact.

DeVorkin:

The events that led up to this Paris meeting?

Edmondson:

Well, so, Otto Heckmann came to Tucson. This was Step 1. Heckmann came to Tucson, and Jurgen Stock, Mayall and all the Tucson group were involved. Bill Harrell, the vice president of AURA was the administrative representative from the University of Chicago and vice president while I was president, Harrell and I were out there, and Otto Heckmann came, and Stock came up and joined in for some preliminary conversations.

As a result of those preliminary conversations, we then had a much larger meeting, which was held in Paris at the Paris Observatory. Bill Harrell and Jim Miller and Julie Eliot, who was Jim Miller's secretary and really kept all the AURA minutes and so on.

DeVorkin:

Is she still with AURA now?

Edmondson:

No, she's back at the University of California now. When Miller left AURA she went back to the University of California.

DeVorkin:

I see. OK.

Edmondson:

We still exchange Christmas cards with her, so we know where she is. But the people who went -- Bill Harrell and I, the vice president and the president -- and Rupert Wildt was along on that one. Yes, Rupert was chairman of the scientific committee at that point, which had sort of become by that point a stepping stone into the presidency. So Rupert was the heir apparent to be the next president, because he was chairman of the scientific committee. Also Rupert was such a close personal friend of Otto Heckmann that he was very valuable, in that sense.

So Edmondson and Harrell, president and vice president, Wildt, chairman of the scientific committee, Miller, the secretary of the corporation, and the assistant secretary, Julie Eliot, and Nick Mayall. And then, as far as CARSO was concerned, Ed Ackerman, then the executive officer of the Carnegie Institution, was there as an observer. I'm trying to remember, was Horace Babcock there or not? I really don't remember.

I know Ackerman was there and I believe Babcock was there, but I'm less certain about that.

DeVorkin:

What were negotiations about? "Who got what mountain"?

Edmondson:

No, not at all. The thing is, we were offering ESO the opportunity to use Morado. Yes. And the problems that developed were that, being a treaty organization, they enjoyed diplomatic immunity, which we didn't. It was problems of that kind that finally led them to look for a mountain outside of the AURA property. We wanted to lease the mountain to them. They wanted to buy it. And we were worried about the public relations side of it for us, if we had a diplomatic immunity type of enclave within our property.

DeVorkin:

That was a difficulty from your direction, not from theirs?

Edmondson:

Well, it was sort of a mutual difficulty.

DeVorkin:

I see.

Edmondson:

They wanted to own the land on which they built their observatory, and we didn't want to sell. We were perfectly willing to give them a 99 year renewable lease or what not. Then there was this diplomatic immunity thing. Otto Heckmann at one point, this was in Tucson I guess not in Paris, was pointing out to us that Americans never did know how to get along with foreigners in foreign countries, that AURA would help itself if we simply joined up with ESO. Yeah. (laughter) We didn't buy that.

But when Heckmann came to Tucson, that was exploratory really. Then the meeting in Paris was so that the entire ESO board could be present. And the discussions were friendly from start to finish.

DeVorkin:

I see. Oort was the moderator for this meeting? It seems as though he made the initial introduction. There was no single moderator?

Edmondson:

Not that I remember. I don't remember that, no. One little trick I did. We had had a ribbon cutting ceremony in Chile three months earlier to open our road, you know. The bishop was there and poured holy water over the road, and all the rest of that, and I cut the ribbon with scissors that were on a silver tray, after which champagne appeared from the bushes on the roadside.

Well, the ribbon was a red, white and blue ribbon, you see. And so I had cut a number of samples. I thought they might be useful. And so at the meeting in Paris, I guess I gave this to Oort -- I don't think I had enough for everybody. I had a little piece of this ribbon, and it was the colors of Chile, you see, and it looked like the flag of Chile almost.

DeVorkin:

I didn't know that.

Edmondson:

At any rate, with some ceremony, I gave this as a souvenir to Oort. And Fehrenbach took one look at it, took it and turned it 90 degrees and said, "Ah, the flag of France".

DeVorkin:

Well, that's an important thing to do. I appreciate that, from a diplomatic standpoint.

Edmondson:

Now, we ran into the same problem on the land with CARSO later on. Again we were perfectly willing to give them a lease on Morado. They wanted to buy. So once again, they then went outside to find a mountain they could buy.

DeVorkin:

They both did.

Edmondson:

But it was a combination of ownership of the land and this diplomatic immunity business that was the stumbling block with ESO. There was certainly personal good will on the part of everybody from start to finish. We just said, "Here are obstacles that really are too tough for us".

DeVorkin:

In the same year, the Russians started getting interested in Chile.

Edmondson:

The Russians were already there on my first trip to Chile.

DeVorkin:

They were already there?

Edmondson:

Yes. They were there for a different reason. As part of an International Astronomical Union, cooperation for star positions. The Russians were already at Cerro Calan, doing meridian observation. So lo and behold, when I arrived in Santiago on my very first trip and went up to Cerro Calan, there was one of my really good Russian friends, the Russian I've had more closeness with than any Russian, and that was Mitrofan, M.S. Zverev, now retired at Pulkova.

But he was head of the meridian circle positional astronomy division at Pulkova, and he had been chairman of an IAU Commission. The first time I ever met Zverev was after the Rome meeting in 1952, and those of us who went up to see the observatory at Asiago, north of Padua -- stayed at a little hotel in Asiago, and that evening in the living room of the hotel, Zverev sat down at the piano and played. And the man was a marvelous pianist. So that was my first meeting with Zverev, in this little hostel, hearing him play.

DeVorkin:

Rachmaninoff? Tchaikovsky?

Edmondson:

Oh yes. He played the C sharp minor Prelude and things like that. So the, there he was on Cerro Calan, my first trip to chile. Oh, he had also been our house guest at an earlier date, Zverev and Nemiro of Pulkova. Zverev and Nemiro from Pulkova were at a meeting in Cincinnati, an international meeting in Cincinnati, and Paul Herget had arranged a little tour for them afterwards, and so they came over.

DeVorkin:

This was the Astrometric Conference?

Edmondson:

To go to the Astrometric Conference. They came over to Bloomington at that time. So we had actually had Zverev in our home for a meal. So he was a guy we really knew well. We still exchange Christ- mas cards.

DeVorkin:

This must have been quite useful, the fact that you did have communication with him.

Edmondson:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

Cerro Calan, that was right outside of Santiago?

Edmondson:

That's the University of Chile's new location. Yes.

DeVorkin:

I know that the Russians wanted to be close to Santiago.

Edmondson:

There's more to this. I'll get to that right away, but first, when we went down with the site survey team, during part of the period in Santiago, one evening AURA had a dinner at some place in Santiago, inviting the Russians and Cerro Calan staff and so on. And at that dinner, there was a piano, not a very good one but there was a piano, and at my request Zverev sat down and played. And he started out with the Adagio of the Bach Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, so that to this day, when I hear that music it has a very special meaning for me.

But now as far as the Russians are concerned, in addition to the astrometric thing, they also wanted to put up a telescope, and that's their Maksutov. So, what they did with the Maksutov, the Maksutov is on Cerro Robles. That's a mountain that Stock had looked at. Stock had looked at Cerro Robles. It was all right, but he found better by going further north.

There was a road already built to the top because there was a telephone relay station on top. Now there's a television relay as well. It had its problems. They put a 40-inch Maksutov, the largest Maksutov in the world up there, and it does good work.

Margaret and I visited there not on the last trip to Chile, but the one before. I forget what the year is on that one. So we've actually seen Cerro Robles. I've got pictures of it.

The interesting thing is, on that trip, Zverev had been down there for two different tours of duty, actually, the second time with his wife, believe it or not. But the time we went to Cerro Robles, Zverev was no longer there, but this other guy, Nemiro, who had also been at our home in Bloomington, was down there as the head of the Russian expedition. And so, when Nemiro learned that Hugo Moreno and Carlos Torres were going to take Margaret and me up to Cerro Robles, he decided he would come too, because held never seen it. So the Chileans took us up, and the Russians followed up, and we all had lunch together, on top of Cerro Robles.

DeVorkin:

So there were no difficulties in contact with the Russians on Chilean ground, there were no Russians following them around?

Edmondson:

No. Not at all. Not that I'm aware of at all.

DeVorkin:

Were there any directives or inquiries from our government about contact with the Rusians down there?

Edmondson:

I would get asked from time to time. (Turn the tape recorder off). Pause

One more thing about the Russians: They were starting to plan for a very large telescope. The last I heard was, they were seriously considering La Peineta, which would have been our runner up mountain, at Copiapo. But then at the time when Allende died, and took his own life -- he wasn't murdered, all the stories that you read in the liberal press in this country, that, Allende was murdered, are not so. He committed suicide and there’s plenty of evidence that he did. But the point is at that time, the Russians were ordered home. So there are no Russians in Chile at all now, you see.

DeVorkin:

I didn't know that.

Edmondson:

Some of the astronomers, I'm told, were in tears on leaving. They didn't want to go.

DeVorkin:

Who told them they'd have to go?

Edmondson:

The Chileans. Carlos Torres I think is in charge of it. Then the government recalled them. But it's very interesting, when we saw the Maksutov, here was the control console, you know, with all of the labels in cyrillic characters, and a Dymo label maker had been used to put Spanish labels underneath. So here was a telescope control panel in both Spanish and Russian. The Maksutov had been operated by Carlos Torres for the Russians anyway, and so, now that they're gone, the Chileans are using it.

DeVorkin:

There are two things I'd like to ask that seem to be related questions.

Edmondson:

We've got a lot of branching roads now, it, the problem.

DeVorkin:

I know. They both deal with Chile.

Edmondson:

OK.

DeVorkin:

One is, if there was any difference in, let's say, your contacts, diplomatic contacts with Chile when Frei came in? And the other is about the relations with Latin American astronomy and the support of Latin American students in astronomy going to the United States. There was a big move to support Latin American astronomy through this. What should we discuss first? I'll leave it to you.

Edmondson:

Well, it's simple. I think we'll talk about the Frei Administration first, because I told you the Alessandri story, how we went to him and he promised his cooperation. He certainly gave it to us. So, then after Rupert Wildt became president, next time we went to Chile, whenever Frei became president; the first time I was in Chile after Frei became president, there was also a new dean at the University, Carlos Mori had retired, and the new dean, Enrique d'Etigny, (he served a couple of terms on the AURA board as a director that's how I know the name) came in. I had met him at an earlier date.

Mori introduced me to him, you see. So Mori was retired, d'Etigny was dean, and since Mori had gotten us a meeting with Alessandri, I guess d'Etigny wanted to show that anything "the old dean can do, I can do too". Because for no reason other than just to pay our respects, d'Etigny arranged for our people to go over to the Moneda and meet President Frei.

Moneda. The Palace of Moneda. That's the building that was bombed. That's the building where Allende took his life. That's right across, cate corner across the plaza from the hotel.

So, d’Etigny arranged it, and we had a very pleasant visit with Frei. We weren't asking him for anything. Just a social visit. Then at a later date, during Rupert Wildt's presidency, when we dedicated Tololo, Frei attended the dedication, and slept overnight on the mountain. Oh yes. Mecurio had a picture of Frei looking through the telescope at 2:00 o'clock in the morning, you know, and things like that. They also had a nasty political cartoon in which the moon was being eclipsed and here was Frei, and the moon was his program that was being eclipsed, so the stars of the sky were his political opponents. (laughter)

DeVorkin:

Have you got that?

Edmondson:

Yes, I do. In fact I even have a 35mm slide of it that I show my class sometimes. I'm sure I have that cartoon. The slide's easy to get, and I'm sure I can find the cartoon.

DeVorkin:

Just as long as you have it.

Edmondson:

Oh yes. Frei had a long pointed cap on, you see, and the title was, "The Astrologer of Tololo". (laughter)

No, we got a lot of good publicity out of his presence, obviously. And so then, at still a later date, we went down for the ESO dedication, which Frei attended. When I went up to shake his hand, he greeted me and told me that he considered me to be an honorary Chilean!

DeVorkin:

Oh, great. This was after your Order of Merit?

Edmondson:

Oh yes. See, I got the Order of Merit while I was still president.

DeVorkin:

That was in '64.

Edmondson:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

OK, so it seems like Frei was just as supportive as Alessandri.

Edmondson:

That's right. There were some things done for us, some changes in the import law that helped us a little bit more, some things like that.

Well, then we come on to Allende. The story I can tell you on that one is during that first trucking strike, you know, Allende made a personal telephone call to the Intendende of Coquimbo Province, ordering him to be sure the observatory did not run out of food.

DeVorkin:

So he was very supportive too.

Edmondson:

Oh yes, that's right. That's right. Yes. And then, well, when Victor Blanco had his first meeting with Allende, Allende apparently knew all about how much we were contributing to the economy of the Elqui Valley. And when I saw C. Anquita one time shortly after that (he was the director of the University of Chile after Rutllant left -- he was currently on the AURA board as a director at large) well, Victor was kind of a little startled at how much Allende really knew. In fact, Claudio whispered in my ear, "who do you suppose Allende learned all those things from?" I pointed to Claudio and he smiled.

So this is the kind of friends we have at the University of Chile, you see. Claudio saw to it that the government, that the president was informed. About what we were doing. How we were really not a political organization, and we were contributing to the economy.

So Allende said, "Don't let the observatory run out of food". This was a personal telephone call to the Intendende, who's the top official in the province.

Well, then, finally, as an example of what the present regime has done for us, they're putting television around the country, relay stations and so on. The Minister of Communication was all set to put a powerful television relay on top of Tololo. And we're resisting this. We're told, "This is what the president wants, you're going to have to --”.

We had said, a little 5 watt relay, we can live with, but not the big things.

DeVorkin:

They have right of eminent domain?

Edmondson:

Well, the government I guess did. At any rate, we were essentially being told by the Minister of Communications, "This is what the president wants and we're going to have to do it". So we started working, again through Claudio Anguita, at the university, to see how we could get this reversed. This is a story I have straight from Claudio. He finally got to a meeting of people who told him, "Well, we've done all we can. The only thing you can do now is go to the highest authority. Do you want to do this"?

Claudio said, "Yes." So this went to Pinochet, who fired the Minister of Communications. The Minister of Communications was one of these bureaucrats who had been taking the president's name in vain. He was throwing his weight around. Also, he was going to show these North Americans who had the priorities, you see.

DeVorkin:

That really was clout.

Edmondson:

Yes, that's right. So when Claudio pushed it all the way to Pinochet, the Minister of Communications was fired. And we have a 5 watt relay on Tololo.

DeVorkin:

Marvelous. Let's turn it around and talk about the origins of the Committee to Aid Latin American Students. I know that Menzel had a lot to do with this.

Edmondson:

Well, now the aid that was actually given to students has been to Chilean students.

DeVorkin:

Yes, Latin American meaning Chilean.

Edmondson:

Well, the thing is, other Latin Americans observe at Tololo. We've had people from Argentina and elsewhere observe at Tololo, as part of that, and I guess there is some preference in assigning them time, actually. But in terms of student aid, the AURA thing has been strictly Chilean students.

DeVorkin:

OK, I wanted to clear this up, because '63, '64, approximately in that period, when Menzel was drafting this proposal to set up this committee to aid I guess all of Latin American students, Wildt wondered if this was not too ambitious for AURA I'd like to know if you could clarify this whole situation.

Edmondson:

I don't remember a great deal about that. In other words, we never went that far. We never went that far.

DeVorkin:

But the question of aiding University of Chile and Chilean students, and allowing Latin American people time on the telescope -- that was never a question?

Edmondson:

We've had a number of University of Chile students by now.

DeVorkin:

Part of this of course is, in bringing more astronomy to the University of Chile, I understand that Victor Blanco, before he was associated with Cerro Tololo, went down under the auspices of AURA or Kitt Peak I should say, to the University of Chile, for at least a semester, was it, as a visiting lecturer?

Edmondson:

I don't see how this could have happened, because you see, his job before he joined us was with the US Naval Observatory. Victor was at Case. Then he went from Case to the Naval Observatory. He ran their Flagstaff station and so on. He was in Washington, but the administrative superior for the Flagstaff station.

DeVorkin:

I see. OK, we'll have to straighten that out. This might have been a lot earlier.

Edmondson:

This could be. But since Victor has gone to Chile, he has taught in Santiago as an adjunct professor at the university. He's been doing that since he became director.

DeVorkin:

OK

DeVorkin:

I just wanted to identify the deeree of aid that you gave. Did you have Chilean students coming up to Kitt Peak for training.?

Edmondson:

We've had at least one as a graduate student at the University of Arizona. We had a girl who went to Princeton. Her husband was a physicist. She was theoretical astrophysics. A beautiful and very bright gal who is now in Mexico. Her name is Maria Teresa Ruiz, and we saw her at the Astronomical Society meeting in Atlanta. I think she's now working in Mexico. She was at Princeton. So they've gone various places.

Of course, we’ve had two Chileans at Indiana. Adelina Moreno came up long ago, before AURA existed. This is Mrs. Moreno. Hugo does not have a PhD, but his wife Adelina has one of ours. And the other one, we have, came up believe it or not on a CARSO fellowship. He chose to come to Indiana on a CARSO fellowship. That's Eduardo Hardy. And he's now teaching in a Canadian university. I forget which one.

DeVorkin:

OK. Let's talk about some of the instrumentation. The Michigan Schmidt went down to Cerro Tololo.

Edmondson:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

The interesting thing, the thing that caught my eye, was that it was planned to be temporary, five years or seven years.

Edmondson:

Yes. Well, you know how these temporary things are.

DeVorkin:

That's the point. Everybody says that in hindsight, but what about at the time? Did you realize it was going to go more than that, that this was the only way you could wrest it away from the Authorities at Michigan?

Edmondson:

Well, it wasn't a question of wresting it away. It was just a matter of how long a commitment anybody wants to make.

DeVorkin:

OK, but the Michigan people themselves, the astronomers, were very aware of this.

Edmondson:

I'm sure of that.

DeVorkin:

That it was much more valuable down there.

Edmondson:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

OK. Was there anything particularly about the growth of instrumentation down at Cerro Tololo that you think we should go through at this point?

Edmondson:

Well, there is of course the story of the 150-inch.

DeVorkin:

Yes, I think we should do that now.

Edmondson:

You see, when we finally became funded for the 150-inch on Kitt Peak, we really never had any hope. Well, we had desired, but no expectation of ever getting a telescope of that size in Chile.

Then there came along the famous CARSO application to the Ford Foundation. See, the CARSO people -- or rather it was the Carnegie Institution of Washington which was making this application, not Cal Tech, to the Ford Foundation, for money for a 200-inch. You see, the original discussions in CARSO were for a 200 inch in Chile, and then the Ford Foundation was saying, "Well, you're going to have to have some idea about site before we can go any further in these discussions". So that was the initial approach.

But then another thing happened. Julius Stratton, the former president of MIT, who had been a member of the National Science Board, and I guess became chairman of the board of the Ford Foundation, and McGeorge Bundy was president of the Ford Foundation, and so when this proposal came in from CARSO for a Ford Foundation grant to build a 200-inch telescope in Chile, Julius Stratton, knew about the NSF side of things and so on, about our hopes to get a telescope down there, the fact that Tololo already existed. So Stratton said, "Look, tell these people they have to get together with AURA because we don't want to have any wasteful duplication of services. For example, the machine shop -- if AURA already has one, why should we fund another machine shop down there? Why not share things?" and so on.

That was the underlying basis for additional contacts. We had a meeting in Tucson. At this time, Rupert Wildt was president of AURA. And representing CARSO was Ed Ackerman and Horace Babcock. We had one set of discussions in Tucson. Again they wanted to buy the mountain and we wanted to lease it.

DeVorkin:

Was there any questions at that time whether CARSO or ESO or any of these were actually going to be on the same mountain, on Cerro Tololo?

Edmondson:

Oh, no, there was never any question that they were going to be on Tololo, no. The point is, since we owned Morado, we could lease it, you see, and people wanted to buy it, that’s all.

So as a result of this first meeting, when we did not exactly reach agreement, we had to have a second meeting. And I'm trying to remember now. I went out to Tucson, I think, for a board meeting or an executive committee meeting, in between these two CARSO meetings. We had the CARSO meeting. Then we had an AURA meeting. I was in Tucson two different times.

And then Ed Ackerman of CARSO wanted to talk to me, we'd known each other for some time, and I came home from Tucson, arriving at Indianapolis from Washington. We were going to go down to Bloomington, and visit in Bloomington.

Ed had his own car, and boy I was glad he was at the wheel from Indianapolis to Bloomington. So we got down to Bloomington, and he had a room at the Union building, and came over. He had his meals with us, and sat in our living room and talked. He was trying to reach some agreements that could be carried over into our meeting in Tucson a week later.

Or at least explore things together. We were doing this with the full knowledge of everybody. We weren't doing anything behind anybody's back. Babcock knew Ackerman was doing this, and Rupert knew we were doing it, and so on. They thought it might be.

So this was a rather interesting experience, you see, especially watching Ed disappear, in the snow, to drive back to Indianapolis to return to Washington.

So then we had another meeting in Tucson. And our motive at that time was to try to help them get the money from the Ford Foundation. But we weren't going to go so far as to sell them our mountain. So we were really discussing a lot of things.

I came up with a suggestion that some people liked. I made a pitch, I said, "Look, you can get a pair of 150-inches for the same price as one 200".

Because, you see, here was this Julius Stratton pressure, why don't AURA and CARSO get together? Which would mean we'd be sharing presumably some time on the 200. I said, "Look, why don't we have a couple of 150-inchers at the same price"?

That was vetoed by the CARSO people. This wouldn't have the glamour of the 200-inch.

This dates these meetings, because it was right after that that I went down to Chile to be acting director.

So these meetings took place before Christmas, these meetings with CARSO in Tucson and Ackerman's trip to Bloomington took place before Christmas.

Then Margaret and I went down to Chile. After we got down to Chile, they were going to have a special emergency meeting of the full AURA board in Chicago. In other words, before the Ford Foundation would consider the proposal, AURA had to agree to something in writing. And in the course of these negotiations, CARSO said, "How are we going to operate this joint thing"? you see.

CARSO was proposing an official, called the CAO, Chief Administrative Officer, who would have two bosses, Horace Babcock and Nick Mayall. He would report separately to each of them, and he was to be the man in charge in Chile.

DeVorkin:

That sounds very difficult.

Edmondson:

Oh. And this was the thing that Ackerman brought up with me in Bloomington, and it was brought to our whole meeting in Tucson, at which we said "No" to, at that time.

Then I went down to Chile as acting director. Then we had that meeting of the AURA board to sign something, which included accepting this concept, and believe it or not, AURA agreed to an organizational structure that would include the Chief Administrative Officer with two bosses, to try to help them get their money from the Ford Foundation. I think we went the last mile and more, when we agreed to that.

DeVorkin:

Wow. What came of that?

Edmondson:

What came of that was that the proposal was declined. But meanwhile, here I was down in Chile, so I had to travel up to Chicago for this weekend meeting, leaving my wife in Chile. She said this was normal, for her to stay at home while I went to a meeting.

DeVorkin:

Matter of fact, 35 hours on a plane back and forth over a weekend.

Edmondson:

I was an extra day, because I came up, I stopped off in Bloomington, and boy, were they surprised when I walked into the office without warning one morning. So I was in Bloomington half the day, and then on up to Chicago for this meeting up there. Then back to Chile.

The thing we did was to agree to this administrative abomination. Now, as far as my ticket is concerned, when we went down I bought a round trip from Bloomington to Chile, and in Santiago, I bought a round trip from Santiago to Chicago and back. So now, how do I figure this in my travel schedule? Is that two trips to Chile? Or was it one trip to Chile and one trip to Chicago from Chile? You read the tickets and it's only one trip to Chile -- but down and back, down and back.

So then the CARSO proposal was declined, and that was that. There was a certain amount of bitterness. Jesse Greenstein and some people were a little bitter about it at the time. Then they got more bitter later on, because the next thing that happened was when Rupert Wildt called me -- a closed confidential conversation -- he had just had word from the director of the National Science Foundation, Leland Haworth at that time, about the deal that Haworth and McGeorge Bundy were concocting for the 150-inch in Chile. I'm not sure who took the initiative. I have a feeling Haworth might have taken the initiative on this one. Or maybe McGeorge Bundy, whose conscience could have hurt him for not supporting astronomy at all, I don't know.

But at any rate, somehow these two guys, at the very highest level, the president of Ford Foundation and the director of NSF, got together and between the two of them, they cooked up this plan that the Ford Foundation would put up to five million dollars, to be matched by the federal government through NSF. This to give the 150 to Tololo, run by AURA.

This was just before Christmas, and this was one of those top secret things. Rupert told me, and Nick Mayall and Jim Miller knew it. I'm not sure whether Al Hiltner knew it or not. Hiltner at that time I think was chairman of the scientific committee, so yes, he was cued in. I'm sure he was. So there were just five people, outside of Bundy and Haworth and whoever knew from them. This was one of those things you couldn't let leak at all, because to get this in to the NSF budget required changing the package that was all ready to go to the Hill. In January. And to make this kind of a change required the personal approval of Lyndon B. Johnson, which he gave. Yep. And then of course, you know how he was, whenever something that held approved got leaked, he would cancel his approval. So, we were just walking on eggs, you know, until the budget document got to the Hill. Once it was there, fine.

DeVorkin:

Could there be something, not at that high level of course, but I know that throughout all of this period in the development of the 150-inch for Kitt Peak, which was quite a bit before this time, you were getting bids from Corning and from various other places for the blank, and there was evidence that if you could put in several mirrors, if you were going to put in an order for several mirrors, the price would be lower?

Edmondson:

Well, this is something different, because after all, the Kitt Peak mirror is quartz and the Tololo mirror is Cer-vit. What happened on the quartz is another interesting story. We had a bid from Corning, who thought they were the sole source, and their bid came in at something like a million five, and Jim Miller took one look at that number and said, "I think there's too much profit in that," and he literally started pounding the pavements and knocking on doors to find another supplier. And when he got to GE in New York, they said, "Go out and talk to our people in Cleveland.."

He went out and talked to the people in Cleveland. They put in a bid at a million one. Then as soon as they put in their bid for a million one, other people who later on went to Corning were getting their quartz blanks at the million one level, instead of the million five. Thatts how the price came down.

But of course, as a matter of good f aith, we stayed with GE. But that's how the price came down. Jim Miller went out and found competition, and beat the price down.

So we ended up with a quartz blank for Kitt Peak. Meanwhile Cer-vit had become available in larger sizes.

DeVorkin:

That was Owens-Illinois?

Edmondson:

Owens-Illinois, right. I can be off by a factor of two. The Cer-vit blank for Tololo, was either 300 or 600 thousand. It's somewhere in there. I don't remember which of these is the correct number.

But you see, this is about a factor of two lower than quartz, and better material. And so it was clear how to go on that.

DeVorkin:

Right. How are the long term characteristics of Cer-vit? Are they bearing out?

Edmondson:

Far as I know, all right. I haven't heard any complaints or problems yet with Cer-vit.

DeVorkin:

I guess the only two of any size at all are at Yerkes and Toledo, 40-inch size. But you have no word?

Edmondson:

No word at all. Of course, what happened is, people who are afraid of Cer-vit opted for quartz, and since Corning had come down, they all went to Corning, and so GE never got a chance to make another quartz. Corning got all the other quartz business. ESO, for example, opted for quartz, and so on. We tried to persuade them to go to Cer-vit, but they were fearful.

DeVorkin:

Interesting.

Edmondson:

But now the thing that did happen, you see -- since we had gone out for bids on the mounting, we were able to get a better price by buying two mountings. The latitudes are almost the same, so mechanically, all you have to do is operate the drive in the opposite direction, and so, going out for two mountings simultaneously, there was a significant saving in the price of two mountings as compared with the price of one mounting.

DeVorkin:

OK.

Edmondson:

This was a fringe benefit. This wasn't the plan. It was lucky that we had not gone to bids for the Kitt Peak telescope, by the time we were in a position to go to a bid for the one in Chile.

DeVorkin:

Let's go back a bit and talk about some of the earlier disputes, that you had, which are always inevitable in big bids like this. There was something called the Wisco dispute, with the Willamette Iron and Steel Company. I guess this was for the 84-inch?

Edmondson:

Yes, that was the mounting for that telescope.

DeVorkin:

Right. Well, certainly the dispute is well documented, but I just wanted to ask, was this sort of problem with contractors a common thing?

Edmondson:

Well, what was happening there was that they were a little bitter because they were counting on having change orders.

DeVorkin:

And there weren't any?

Edmondson:

Well, they tried to put change orders through that we weren't about to approve. They were trying to get change orders. But these are details that I don't remember after this long. But the way they were hoping to get more money than they had bid was via the change order route. In other words, suppose they claim your engineers did a lousy design job here, "we'll have to chance it, this will cost you X dollars more.” That kind of thing.

DeVorkin:

Did you find that a good number of companies were doing this?

Edmondson:

Well, after all, we didn't have that many telescopes.

DeVorkin:

Even on a minor scale with the smaller instruments maybe some of the smaller blanks. I know that in some of the heliostat mirrors that were being built for the McMath telescope --

Edmondson:

--well, mountings and mirrors are separate contracts.

DeVorkin:

Oh certainly. Certainly. But they're still contracts.

Edmondson:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

And when you're running into difficulties with cost overruns and so on?

Edmondson:

We were really afraid of that on the bid for the 150-inch mountings, because the Western Gear bid was so much lower than anybody else. We said, "Well, we're going to have to watch this one like a hawk. I don't recall any particular problems, or difficulties with them, not of the kind we had with Willamette.

DeVorkin:

OK. What about general budget cuts, that seemed to get a little more serious in '64 and '65? Money was going to Cerro Tololo just to meet Chilean inflation and things like that, and instrumentation started to be cut at Kitt Peak, and simultaneously, there seemed to be a difficulty with prohibition of teaching that was going on early, whether staff members couldn't teach, and some patent problems came up -- you were having difficulty finding staff that you wanted. People were refusing. Could you review that period, and how the board felt, how could it deal with these problems?

Edmondson:

I really don't remember them all that well by now. This is the kind of thing where Nick Mayall would be the guy to talk to.

DeVorkin:

Oh, OK.

Edmondson:

Because that was really his problem, you see, as director.

DeVorkin:

Yes, but in setting policy, the government wanted to identify patents and hold the patents on everything.

Edmondson:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

Was this something the board dealt with?

Edmondson:

Yes, the board definitely dealt with that, and if my memory is right, Ray Woodrow, the then Princeton administrative representative, was the chairman of our patent committee.

DeVorkin:

You did deal with that through him?

Edmondson:

Well, Woodrow was the chairman of the board's patent committee, and everything we did was based on recommendations coming to the board from that committee. Now, that patent thing got awfully sticky for a while.

DeVorkin:

Do you recall details?

Edmondson:

I don't remember the details.It’s sort of my.line anyway, you know. Obviously I was sitting there, I had to listen to the experts and accept their judgment on procedures and so on.

DeVorkin:

OK. Now, I'm dealing with a number of specific questions that came up. During your presidency, what was the opinion on Capitol Hill, Congress's opinion of large scale funding of projects? I remember that there was a certain move toward funding Kitt Peak preferentially. At least there were rumors about funding something that they thought they had more control over, as opposed to funding private institutions in large scale research. Did you have contact with Congressmen and their opinions of these things at that time?

Edmondson:

No. As a matter of fact, as a member of the board, I think it would have been improper for me to have had direct contacts.

DeVorkin:

OK. These were based on comments by Haworth who was the NSF director. At your meeting, 20th of September, 1963, it seems as though there were people, astronomers in the Washington area, who were griping about favoritism. But you had no contact?

Edmondson:

No.

DeVorkin:

OK, then we can't expect you to know anything about it.

Edmondson:

This is Haworth? This must be one of the times then that we had a meeting in Washington.

DeVorkin:

Yes. You had a number of meetings at NSF there. It was pointed out very explicitly in the meeting notes. You were informed of President Kennedy's death.

Edmondson:

Yes, that was during my presidency.

DeVorkin:

Right. While you were at a lunch?

Edmondson:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Meeting on November 22nd, of course, 1963. And you were sitting around with a number of other people on.the board during lunch. You'd already known that he'd been shot. Then you heard that he died. Did your meeting continue that day? And what was the general feeling of the people?

Edmondson:

Well, there was obviously a feeling of depression, that something like this could happen. My recollection is that we finished our business after lunch.

DeVorkin:

But I'm interested, did the depression go beyond to astronomy?

Edmondson:

Oh, it was a real shock. I mean, after all.

DeVorkin:

But did it go beyond the fact that if something like this could be done, what would be the future support? Kennedy was very much supportive of some of these NSF policies.

Edmondson:

Well, after all, if Kennedy had lived and left office, then we'd have had to worry about his successor without this kind of thing. No, I'm sure that thought didn't cross my mind. It was just the shock that the President of the United States had been murdered.

And Jim Miller was going to Chile, I think the next day, and he had some problems getting through Dallas, the Dallas connection. That was the most immediate thing. I went home via Chicago so I had no problems getting home. Margaret was at Princeton, I remember. Was that when her mother was still living, or when she was closing down the house? For whatever reason, she was at Princeton, I was at home, and she did not have a television set in Princeton, so I was calling her periodically to let her know what I was seeing on our TV set at home.

Yes, that was really something, to have been presiding at a meeting. The only disruptive thing was Jim Miller's problem going through Dallas to Chile. I'm not sure what the nature of the problem was now, but the security screening was awfully tight, of course.

DeVorkin:

Yes. Let's talk about some of the policy decisions that were going on at that time. I mentioned the early prohibition against teaching by professional staff. Did this affect morale?

Edmondson:

I think it did. The reason we had it was because we thought University of Arizona was being a little too aggressive in getting cheap teaching from us.

DeVorkin:

Oh, I see.

Edmondson:

Yes, I'm sure that was part of what led to that. And then we were also concerned about how universities less favorably located geographically than Arizona might feel. This is in terms of part time teachers, you see. Somebody wants to take a leave for a semester, go somewhere and teach, that's different, But to have somebody for a week or two was different. And then there was also the technical problem of, how do we fund this? You see. If the universities pay -- who pays what to whom?

DeVorkin:

Exactly.

Edmondson:

And always the thought of the GAO looking at us.

DeVorkin:

Right.

Edmondson:

But we did feel the university was getting awfully aggressive about trying to get a lot of cheap inexpensive teaching.

DeVorkin:

But after you put the prohibition in, many people wanted to teach. Did you set up something where Arizona was excluded?

Edmondson:

No. We finally relaxed the thing. Yes. In other words, people can do it now.

DeVorkin:

Yes. OK, an issue that came up in August of '62, as a result of what was called the Iowa Space Seminar -- and that was the relationship between AURA, NSF and NASA concerning the future of the space program, who was going to do what. NASA sort of had the feeling, they were being told to do stuff..?

Edmondson:

Well, you see, we had the space division at Kitt Peak.

DeVorkin:

That's right. How did that finally resolve?

Edmondson:

Oh, I really can't say.

DeVorkin:

Is there still that space division at Kitt Peak?

Edmondson:

Oh no.

DeVorkin:

When was that stopped?

Edmondson:

Well, in the first place, its name got changed ultimately to the Planetary Sciences Division.

DeVorkin:

Oh, I didn't know that. OK.

Edmondson:

Yeah. And then Jim van Allen actually was the chairman of the committee I had set up during my presidency for that division. And it became clear that what the division really was doing was planetary science, not space. And then finally, the NSF funding got down to the point where we terminated the rocket program. We felt something had to go, and that was what went.

DeVorkin:

This would be Aerobee?

Edmondson:

Yes, all part of that program. But the rocket program did continue under the Planetary Sciences Division for a time. But the space division was set up to try to keep Meinel happy, and then, when Joe Chamberlain came, to head it up after Meinel left, it turned into a Planetary Sciences division and got renamed according to the facts.

DeVorkin:

That made NASA happy and everybody happy.

Edmondson:

I guess so.

DeVorkin:

What was the effect of the Whitford Panel report on Kitt Peak operations, and future forecasts?

Edmondson:

Do you mean the Whitford, or the Greenstein?

DeVorkin:

No, the early one, with Whitford.

Edmondson:

Oh, the Whitford, OK.

DeVorkin:

In the early sixties.

Edmondson:

I don't remember anything specific and special about its impact.

DeVorkin:

OK. This is at a time when, even in the mid-sixties, the funds started drying up a bit.

Edmondson:

This is something where I'd really have to dredge my memory, to dig things up. I just can't answer the question offhand. I have no special memory about this.

DeVorkin:

OK. There was an item which occurred a number of times that I would like to ask your opinion on. It was called the Mary Sheridan case. She was a secretary.

Edmondson:

Oh yes. Well, incidentally, she is the one who typed my nasty letter to Kuiper and then burned the carbon paper. She was a psycho, which is part of the problem with that.

DeVorkin:

Is there any reason go into what the accusations against the Millers were?

Edmondson:

Well, they were completely without foundation.

DeVorkin:

I see. Did it have anything to do with Kitt Peak?

Edmondson:

Not really.

DeVorkin:

OK. So we can ignore that.

Edmondson:

Yes. Yes. It had nothing to do with the operation of the Kitt Peak Observatory at all. It was personality conflicts, plus the fact that this female was definitely a psycho.

DeVorkin:

Did it impair Miller's ability to operate afterwards at all?

Edmondson:

No.

DeVorkin:

OK.

DeVorkin:

Talking about other things that are of direct interest to some of the aspects of our study, how does the museum on top of Kitt Peak fare? I know for a while there was quite a bit of discussion in the meetings of the AURA board, as to how it was to be structured and funded. At one time there was even a question of a planetarium somewhere?

Edmondson:

Well, the planetarium was not going to be government funded. And wasn't that the one that ended up in Tucson, the Flandrau Planetarium?

DeVorkin:

No.

Edmondson:

Well, all right, this just faded away.

DeVorkin:

But they had decided at that time, your board had decided not to involve themselves at all with a planetarium. What was the rationale for that?

Edmondson:

Well, I think the rationale was, we couldn't see what it would accomplish. When people come up to see an observatory, they go to see an observatory.

DeVorkin:

Is there a stronger feeling though now, with dwindling budgets and everything, that public consciousness should be raised as much as possible?

Edmondson:

Well, we have a very good museum on the mountain, with nice exhibits and all that. There is the museum, and then also, people can do walking tours on the mountain with a guidebook or we have guides who, on regular schedule, take people around and explain things to them. So I think we have a completely satisfactory public program up there.

DeVorkin:

The museum was built during your tenure, your presidency, was it not?

Edmondson:

It was started at least.

DeVorkin:

There was a big problem with a front mural.

Edmondson:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

What was that all about?

Edmondson:

Well, it depends on what kind of art you like, what kind you don't. This was made in Mexico. It's ceramic, I believe. A mosaic. It's very flamboyant. If you like the buildings at the University of Mexico, you'll like this.

DeVorkin:

I've never seen it. That's all right.

Edmondson:

I'll have to get a postcard and send it to you. There is a Kitt Peak postcard that shows it.

DeVorkin:

I hope to go to Kitt Peak, to see it, this spring.

Edmondson:

Well, I’ve gotten accustomed to it by now. I was one of those who was horrified, when I saw the original sketch and so on. But it's all right.

DeVorkin:

It wasn't the cost factor then, it was more an esthetic?

Edmondson:

It was highly esthetic.

DeVorkin:

But is it in keeping with the mountain?

Edmondson:

This, again, is a matter of opinion.

DeVorkin:

I see. What about the inside, and how it was to be structured, and how much funding and support. Do you have a full time curator of the museum?

Edmondson:

Well, not as such. There is a person on duty in there who sells Papago baskets, which our contract requires to sell. The lease from the Papagoes requires we display and sell Papago arts and crafts. So the person also sells brochures, postcards, and the Papago stuff, and can answer simple questions.

DeVorkin:

This person also conducts guided tours?

Edmondson:

No. Occasionally one of the guides will take a temporary stint in the museum, if somebody's on vacation, or something like that, but no. It's not a trained person. I think Helmut Abt was the one who had the major responsibility for the exhibits we had in there, at least to start with. Somebody else may be doing that now, but Helmet was the one we started out with, the one who coordinated and planned the exhibits we have.

DeVorkin:

That's right. He had quite a bit to do with instrumentation and growth of Kitt Peak.

Edmondson:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

OK, there's another interesting thing that came up at that time. That was the request, I don't know if it's a request or the realization that there might be a need to obtain security clearances for the AURA board. This dealt with the fact that you were getting into space astronomy?

Edmondson:

This was because of the White Sands thing.

DeVorkin:

Oh, I'm not aware of that.

Edmondson:

Well, you see, our rocket program was done at White Sands.

DeVorkin:

Oh, I see.

Edmondson:

So this was a pure technicality. In other words, because we would have in our files in Tucson documents relating to the activity we had at White Sands, we had to declare a secure facility, or whatever the term is. And this involved having AURA board members get a security clearance. And those who didn't want to be bothered just had to sign a piece of paper saying they didn't want to be bothered, and all that meant was that they'd have to leave a board meeting when and if any matter ever came up that involved security. This was a pure technicality. Pure technicality.

DeVorkin:

OK, very good.

Edmondson:

Some of them signed and some didn't. I signed. Gard Wiggins, the vice president of Harvard, did not sign. He was their administrative representative after Ted Reynolds retired.

DeVorkin:

OK. I believe Wildt did not sign. Am I correct in that?

Edmondson:

I don't remember. I don't remember who did and who didn't. But it was a trivial technicality. In other words, we had to be this kind of a facility because of what we were doing at White Sands. And as part of the paperwork, people either had to sign the paper or not sign it. If they didn't sign it, then they were not supposed to stay in the meeting when matters came up.of government security.

DeVorkin:

OK. You didn't deal with matters of governirent security?

Edmondson:

I can't remember a single time that we ever had anything come before the board that required people to leave. So you see, it was not a serious matter at all, except for the paper work.

DeVorkin:

OK, fine. Well, we've covered many aspects of your involvement with AURA. Is there anything we've left out, at least to the 1965 year? The end of your presidency? I'm sure there's plenty.

Edmondson:

Well, nothing major that I can think of, at the moment.

DeVorkin:

OK, fine. I'd like to ask you a few questions to complete your own history. We'll move away from AURA and talk about your TV course. If we could talk about your TV course for a little while, and then end up with just one or two general questions on education and so on. You began the TV program in the fall of '63, was it?

Edmondson:

That's right.

DeVorkin:

OK, and when you were approached to do the TV program, did you consider the implications of using TV on the faculty that you have at Indiana or the other universities? Did you consider the possibility of showing them, "Well, the TV is an excellent idea, but why don't you hire faculty -- ?"

Edmondson:

Well, there's some background to this I'll have to give you first. And that is, after I got back from my year with NSF, I was convinced that something had to be done in radio astronomy somewhere in the state of Indiana.

DeVorkin:

Radio astronomy?

Edmondson:

Radio astronomy. At Illinois or Ohio State or Michigan, you've got engineering and liberal arts all on the same campus. In Indiana we're different. Purdue and Indiana put together, they're both state institutions, and put together they would be the equivalent of Ohio State or Michigan or Illinois. But the engineers are 100 miles away. So my thought was that we ought to try to get Purdue something.

I was asked to go up there and give a lecture. I forget what the group was now, but I made one of my conditions for coming up that they introduce me to somebody to whom I could talk about radio astronomy. And I was introduced to Dr. Thomas Jones, at that time head of their electrical engineering. Later Jones moved to become president of the University of South Carolina, and he was also a member of the National Science Board for a while. He is now vice president for research at MIT. But he was head of electrical engineering at Purdue, at that time.

So they put me in touch with Tom Jones, and we started talking.

I said, "Look, it's a shame that there's no radio astronomy anywhere in the state, so if your people should be interested in doing something, we astronomers at Bloomington would be glad to help you, by way of advice, cooperation, anything you want us to do".

He began thinking about this. "Well," he said, "we're interested." He said, "We thought there should be something on the academic side involved too, at least suggested as a start. Maybe we might have a closed circuit TV graduate level course in radio astronomy, with students enrolled for graduate credit on the two campuses and professors lecturing on the two campuses".

And he was all set with his electrical engineers, to try to rig up some kind of a closed circuit hookup, between Lafayette and Bloomington.

Well, actually it turned out that an arrangement was made via the telephone company. And I don't remember which year it was now, but there was one year when we taught this kind of a course. John Irwin gave the astronomy from Bloomington, and the electrical engineers gave the electrical engineering lectures at Lafayette.

Each class had two way sound and two way pictures, and it was done only once. Then Tom Jones left to become president of the University of South Carolina. His successors lost all interest. And I tried hard, I've done everything I could, but no further interest up there. The most interest I've ever gotten out of them since then was, they'd say, "Well, if you people in Bloomington want to do something, we'd be glad to build your amplifiers for you".

So that is that. But meanwhile, this idea of closed circuit developed -- I guess that was the germination of that, and it was Tom Jones's idea. The next step was Bloomington was linked with Indianapolis and Purdue was linked with Indianapolis, because they have a regional campus there, and that's what provided the linkage for this graduate level course. When Bloomington talked to Bloomington students at Indianapolis, and Purdue talked to Purdue students at Indianapolis.

Well, then the next thing was, when the legislature created IHETS, the Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System, which linked all the state institutions and some of the private ones together in a statewide network, funded by the legislature. And it was about the time this was being set up, rather, that we got a call from Purdue saying, "We need an astronomy course and don't have anybody to teach it, can we use the television to get the lectures from Bloomington"? That was 1963.

DeVorkin:

OK.

Edmondson:

I think IHETS was not full blown until about a year later, but it was in the making at that time.

DeVorkin:

You didn't tell them to just hire their own astronomer, so to speak?

Edmondson:

Well, they have an astronomer now, Tom Moffat. But back at that time, no, the story at Purdue at that time, whenever somebody, sometimes in mathematics and sometime in physics, felt the urge to teach an astronomy course, they'd have one. But it was not done systematically. And the state required of a student, to get a teacher's license in earth science, an astronomy course covering the solar system was required for that teacher's license. That's when they decided they had to have astronomy on a regular basis. And it was their academic vice president who approached our academic vice president with his request, at that level. It trickled down to me. I said, "I'll do it only if I can have students with me in the studio. I won't go talk to a camera, alone".

So then, the next thing that happened -- this shows you how Purdue works -- after they had the agreement at our end of the line, the vice president of Purdue then went to the head of their physics department and said, "We have an astronomy course coming up here from Bloomington next year, and you're going to have to administer it".

Boy! The icicles were really hanging, the first time I visited the Purdue physics department, until they learned that I hadn't done it, that I wasn't responsible. And I've had a very nice relationship with them after that.

DeVorkin:

At that time there was a problem, as I saw it, where there were no astronomers to be had, even if people wanted to study astronomy.

Edmondson:

That's right.

DeVorkin:

There were a lot of requests, lots of growth and interest in astronomy, and it took a while to generate the PhD astronomers to build the classes. Was this part of the remedy for that?

Edmondson:

Well, as I say, Purdue simply wanted to have a course on a systematic basis, and they asked us, could they use our course? So after the arrangements were made, we started.

Well, then the first year that my lectures went to Purdue, and they used graduate students in physics up there to run their discussion sections. They got my lectures on Tuesday and Thursday, and on Saturday, they had their discussions under the graduate assistants. And Irving Geib was the physics professor who handled the AI's at Purdue. They used to be called TA's, now they're called AI's, Associate Instructors. So Irving Geib handled the AI's up there, I'm sure he gave me the two best they had. I was very happy with them, with that. So they gave their own exams and gave their own grades. They simply used the TV to get organized lectures. And then they handled the rest themselves.

DeVorkin:

OK. How did you develop the curriculum for these lectures? Did you try different formats?

Edmondson:

Well, my Bloomington course was already on a two lectures a week plus discussion sections basis anyway. You see, I was lecturing to, oh, a couple of hundred students in Bloomington at that time. We'd divide them up into small discussion sections with graduate assistants in charge. So I didn't have to change the organization of the lectures at all.

DeVorkin:

What about visuals? Did you still use the blackboard?

Edmondson:

I still do. Sure. But as it developed, I started using slides more and more and more.

DeVorkin:

And they have one of those slide machines that sends the slide directly onto the TV screen?

Edmondson:

Oh, better than that. They use this Chroma-Key process. There's a little blue panel on the wall, now that I’m on color. Well with black and white, it was rear projection. They had the carousel back of the translucent screen, and I controlled the carousel buttons, and so I could actually point to the translucent screen and be seen by the kids. But nowadays in the color studio, you have a little thing on the wall -- it's blue. And when I show a slide, the slide is being looked at by a different camera, on a different screen. Now, I point at this blank blue wall. To see what I'm pointing at, I have to look at a TV monitor. Electronically, my hands are on top of it. That's how I was able to do my trick on the Mars lecture, a year ago. After Viking. I came on that day, not standing behind the lecture table, but standing on Mars, carrying a shovel!

I was standing in front of a blue wall.

DeVorkin:

I guess it was Lowell's staff, when Lowell was alive, had this famous picture, a picture of him -- ?

Edmondson:

--yes, with the shovel?

DeVorkin:

With the shovel on Mars.

Edmondson:

Precisely, yes, I've seen that picture.

DeVorkin:

So you're the second person on Mars with a shovel!

Edmondson:

Except, my excuse was, I said, "I hear the scoop on the Lander got stuck, and I came up to help out".

Then to get me back to the lecture table, what they did was to fade me out, with the camera that was looking at me, and leave the Martian landscape there on the TV, until I got back to the lecture table.

I use lots of slides now. Then they also have the TV equivalent of an overhead projector. The camera looking down at the table top, so that if I want to prepare something ahead of time, instead of writing it slowly on the blackboard, if I want to do it ahead of time with a marking pen or something, or even, a diagram out of SKY AND TELESCOPE that arrived the day before, I can just put this on the table and show it. Just like an overhead projector.

DeVorkin:

So there's plenty or room for spontaneity.

Edmondson:

Oh yes. Indeed there is.

DeVorkin:

Great, OK.

Edmondson:

At any rate, so far as distribution was concerned, Purdue the first year. Then when the Indianapolis regional campus people heard I was passing through town electronically, they said, "Can't we turn a switch and get this too"?

So the second year, Indianapolis was picking up these Tuesday, Thursday morning lectures. The third year, Indianapolis said, "Well, we'd like to have an evening class, can't you do that"? So they started taping. They had two videotapes reserved for me. They'd tape the Tuesday-Thursday lectures, play the tapes back on Thursday evening, for the evening class, at Indianapolis.

The next year, Fort Wayne got into the IHETS network, and they took both morning and evening, and then the next year, the rest of the campuses came in. At the present time, some take only the evening, for verious reasons.

DeVorkin:

We did talk about some of this last time.

Edmondson:

Oh, we did? OK.

DeVorkin:

It's also in your 1972 paper. That's right, so I think we've covered that.

Edmondson:

Fine, alright, if you have all you need, that's fine.

DeVorkin:

Yes. It gives us a very good feeling for the course.

Edmondson:

Overall, I think I do a better job of presenting astronomy on TV than I could in the standard classroom, especially with the use of the visuals. It's so easy. If I'm going to show one slide, I put one slide in the carousel, show it, it's over. You don't do that in the standard classroom, where you have to lower the blinds and all the rest of that, turn the lights off.

DeVorkin:

Yes, it's much more convenient.

Edmondson:

Now, as far as movies are concerned, they do have a device to show films on television, and we use that whenever I have films to show. My last year's producer had the bright idea, "Let's transfer all these films once and for all to videotape and file the videotapes". It's easier now to use it that way. They run the tape of the film in what they called "the chain," and it would show up on the TV screen.

DeVorkin:

And you were able to discuss it using the monitor or something like that?

Edmondson:

Well, a film with a sound track, you didn't need to.

DeVorkin:

Oh, yes, OK. There's a lot of great films aroung without sound track, like Robert Leighton's old animated Planetary films.

Edmondson:

I have shown some of those, yes. But once somebody wrote a sound track, I'm glad I'm able to use it. You know that marvelous Nova program on the Crab Nebula? All right. We got permission to use that. So the way I used that, I'd come on for about 15 minutes and start my program on galactic neculae, and after I talked for 15 minutes, I then introduced the Nova film, and we'd look at the first half hour of it. See, my class is 45 minutes long. The break point is nice -- that's where Arecibo is talking to Cornell University. You may remember that sequence. He had the radio antenna sticking up. That's where we break.

Then the next class period, I come on just long enough to start it, and then we go right back to that picture of the radio antenna, and the communication with Cornell, and then the rest of the film, and at the end of it, I have another 15 minutes to wrap up.

DeVorkin:

That makes it very convenient.

Edmondson:

So, and we got permission from Time-Life to do this. Well, this does it so much better than I could.

DeVorkin:

They did some excellent, excellent films, yes. Looking at education in astronomy in general, especially these days, I know you've been involved with education and the growth of astronomy since the thirties, and I'd be interested in your general impression of how astronomy education has changed.

Just to tell you what I I’m talking about: when I was f irst a student, people were saying, "There aren't any textbooks in astronomy..". That situation has changed. How do you view the general trends in astronomy education?

Edmondson:

Well, there certainly are enough textbooks today, at least at the lower level. We still have a lack of really good upper level textbooks in some fields. But we have plenty of textbooks, not all of them good.

DeVorkin:

To my knowledge, you don't have a textbook yourself?

Edmondson:

And I never will.

DeVorkin:

Why not?

Edmondson:

Well, I don't want to go through all those headaches. As long as there are books on the market that I'm happy to teach from, I'm not going to exert the labor required to produce one of my own - which might not beas good as what I'm using.

DeVorkin:

Which ones have you used?

Edmondson:

I started out, the first year I taught at Indiana, Professor Cogshall was using one of the early editions of Moulton, and I persuaded him the next year to change to the third edition of Baker. I've really stayed with Baker and Baker-Fredrick most of the time. The others I have tried include Abell, the short edition, Wyattts book, the Gaposchkin-Haromundanus book which was a disaster. The Krogdahl book, which got a lot of complaints from students, and maybe one or two others. I did go back to a later edition of Duncan.

DeVorkin:

So you've used quite a few books.

Edmondson:

I've used quite a few of them. The thing I liked about Baker to start with, and still like about the Fredrick-Baker, is the organization. I look on a textbook not as something to be read like a novel, but something to be used like an encyclopedia. And in terms of the way I like to organize and present the course, the organization of Baker and Fredrick-Baker, I don't have to hop, skip and jump around among the pages of the book quite so much in that one as I do in some of the others.

DeVorkin:

OK. I see.

Edmondson:

There's room for improvement in it, and I keep suggesting things to Fredrick as time goes on, and a lot of my suggestions have been accepted.

DeVorkin:

Well, Fredrick has just come out with a book with a woman, I don't know her name. There's a new textbook out that he's written.

Edmondson:

Is this the equivalent of the brief edition?

DeVorkin:

It might be. Just recently.

Edmondson:

You see, there was a short "Baker" and big "Baker." Fredrick took both of them over, and it could be, he got cooperation when he revised the short one, but I haven't seen it, haven't even heard about it.

DeVorkin:

I've just seen it advertised.

Edmondson:

Oh. OK.

DeVorkin:

Just as a final summing up, are there any general impressions about your contributions to the field, that you feel you would like to use as a summing up here? What you've found the most significant and also the most satisfying to you?

Edmondson:

Well, I suppose overall I would look on myself primarily as a teacher. I've enjoyed teaching. There have been rewards in it, especially some of the students I've had, both as undergraduates and then later on in my department as graduate students. So probably, my biggest reward has come from my teaching.

Second, I could say that my biggest reward has been, the things that I've been able to accomplish administratively. Some of these, just because I happened to be at the right place at the right time.

For example, when Professor Cogshall retired, the Indiana department was a one man department, and the opportunity to build up and essentially, to create a graduate department improved. Well, what this did, of course, the price of all this was, my own research. And I'm not sure the research would have been good enough, to make it more important, if I had done it, than what I have done. So it's a price I don't regret paying, because I think I have plenty or rewards, in terms of the department that I built at Indiana, plus the things I was able to do during my year at NSF, and the things I've been able to do in AURA.

DeVorkin:

The department certainly has grown tremendously.

Edmondson:

Well, we got up to eight people. Last year we lost one. They're beginning to pull in their horns a little bit now. So we're now a seven man department. But it was a one man department when I became chairman, and it was four when I went to Washington and five after I got back, because of the Lowell directorship offer. So, I've had one other offer which I turned down. That was the scientific directorship of the Naval Observatory, which was offered to Strand, after I turned it down, and that was one of those cases. I was so gloomy about what the future might be at Indiana, in terms of legislative support, that I stalled off the Naval Observatory until the legislature met. And I went up to a meeting and the Society at the same time in Tucson -- I went out there with drafts of two letters in my pocket, one accepting and one declining the Naval Observatory. Maybe I've told you this one before?

DeVorkin:

Yes. How do you see the future of astronomy? How do you see, from all of your administrative experience, your teaching experience, what is the most effective way now to make sure, or try to maximize continued support for astronomy?

Edmondson:

Well, I think the main thing we have to do is to communicate our excitement to the public that supports us. And so, I think that people like Carl Sagan, who do this so marvelously well, should be encouraged to continue to do it. I mean, I liked him on the Johnny Carson Show, for example, because he's reaching an audience that otherwise might not hear something about astronomy.

The other morning on the Today Show, did you see that yesterday? Phil Morrison and Richard Henry, about communicating with extraterrestrial civilizations.

DeVorkin:

Sorry I missed that.

Edmondson:

They were on the Today Show yesterday. Well, this kind of thing helps us to get the support of the public. And I would say, any astronomer who's able to do it should accept, within the limits of his strength and calendar, every invitation he gets to give a popular lecture somewhere.

DeVorkin:

Well, thank you very much. I think we've come to the end of the tape.

Edmondson:

OK. Good.

DeVorkin:

Thank you very much for your hours spent.

Edmondson:

OK.

[1]Transcript, NSF Conference on Radio Astronomy Facility, July 11, 1956. Copy of Minutes at AIP.

[2]Donald Menzel was chairman of the search committee.

[3]Charles Dunbar, secretary of the AUI.

[4]February 29, 1952 issue.

[5]AIP Oral History.

[6]Later discussions (Edmondson-Leo Goldberg) show this to be wrong and a more complicated story.

[7]Copies to de deposited at NBL.

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