Oral History Transcript — Dr. Leo Goldberg
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Interview with Dr. Leo Goldberg
Leo Goldberg; January 1, 1982
ABSTRACT: Early years; undergraduate at Harvard (1930-34) and growth of interest in astronomy; graduate student and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard (1934-41) -- social and scientific life, atomic physics work; R. McMath and character of McMath-Hulbert observatory; mechanical engineering work in World War II; chairmanship of University of Michigan Astronomy Department (1946-60)-- optical and radio telescopes and funding; work on solar infrared and element abundances; Chairman and Director at Harvard (1960-71) -- relations with Smithsonian, other politics, fund-raising; work on orbiting solar observatories; relations with NASA (Space Science Board, Apollow Telescope Mount), Navy and Air Force (Scientific Advisory Board, Project West Ford), and National Science Foundation; International Astronoical Union and Chinese membership; editorial positions. An addendum dictated by Goldberg describes his six years as Director of Kitt Peak, particularly his relations with the Users Committee.
The following account of Goldberg's work as director of Kitt Peak was dictated at the Center's request in early 1982, tran- scribed, and edited by Spencer Weart and Leo Goldberg.
This is Leo Goldberg. I shall try to recollect the highlights of my six years as Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory.
I came to Tucson with a specific mandate from the AURA board to transform the observatory from a sort of manufacturing facility into a working scientific laboratory. The growth of KPNO and its sister institution in South America, CTIO, that is to say the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, for which I was also responsible, had been little short of phenomenal during AURA's first twelve years. Most of the existing telescopes on the two mountains were built during that period, and the designs of the large ones were so innovative that they were copied at half a dozen or so other observatories around the world, in Australia, the Anglo-Australian Observatory, the European Southern Observatory in Chile, and the French-Canadian Observatory to be built in Hawaii.
Facilities for visitors were constructed almost overnight and already in the early 1960s graduate students from all over the country were doing advanced work with the most modern equipment, which was not then available to them at their own universities. The universities were still suffering from the aftermath of World War II, and from the general obsolescence of equipment that had begun to occur during the Depression of the 1930s.
Now, as the two 4-meter telescopes neared completion, it became obvious that the KPNO organization which had done such a magnificent job of constructing buildings and telescopes was too inflexible to be well suited to the development and construction of auxiliary instrumentation, particularly in the period of declining budgets that was about to begin. There had to be a change from building telescopes to using them efficiently, and this required an entirely different kind of organization.
Now, I had been a member of the AURA board from 1966 until the time of my appointment, and I had been trying steadily to persuade the board that they needed a visiting committee. At that time the board had structured itself into a number of subcommittees, each one of which was responsible for the oversight of one division of Kitt Peak. Another had cognizance of CTIO. They felt that these board committees obviated the need for outside visiting committees. But when I became Director, I insisted that a visiting committee be appointed, and it was done.
In fact, the visiting committee had its first meeting, as I recall, in November of 1971, and in their report of December, 1971, they commented on the kind of staff that the observatory needed as follows: "Moreover, if the observatory is to provide facilities for frontier optical research to the astronomical community, it must have a staff of first class scientists who are themselves engaged in front line scientific research, and who understands the need for state-of-the-art instruments. This is the proven way of insuring a strong personal commitment by the staff to the development and maintenance of frontier instrumentation."
Notice the frequent use by the committee of the word "frontier" in describing the kind of research and the kind of instrumentation that the observatory should be pursuing. We shall see later that this emphasis on only the very best kind of research at Kitt Peak was to change, within a matter of a few years.
The chairman of that first committee was Robert Kraft of the Lick Observatory and its membership included Bob Leighton, Ricardo Giacconi, Frank Drake, Jack Evans, and other equally productive and creative astronomers.
During the next few years, KPNO was guided by this precept of the Kraft Committee. Financially, they were all very difficult years. For the first four years of my directorship, from 1971 through 1975, the budget of KPNO in dollars was absolutely level. Those years of course included the years of the oil embargo and the steep inflation that ensued, so that the real budget declined by something like one-third during the first four years of my directorship. Nevertheless, during this period, the number of PhD astronomers on the KPNO staff increased from 24 to 38, and at the same time, three major instruments were put into operation, namely the 4-meter, the solar vacuum telescope, and the Coude feed telescopes. The efficient use of all the telescopes was greatly enhanced by the provision of an infra-red capability, and by the installation of sophisticated computers for operation and data storage.
Major new auxiliary instruments were constructed and put into operation — for example, two large grating spectrographs, two large Fourier transform spectrometers, at the 4-meter, and at the McMath telescope, a video camera, a speckle camera, an intensified image dissector scanner, and a solar magnetograph.
For the solar FTS, a sizeable laboratory building had to be constructed to house the instrument. The large engine for ruling large gratings, which had been built by George Harrison at MIT, was acquired and put into operation. Developmental programs in panoramic detectors and infra-red techniques were initiated, and an interactive picture processing laboratory was established. The feasibility of a next-generation telescope was also investigated, beginning in 1974.
Finally, the number of visitors using the KPNO facilities increased by 64 percent between 1972 and 1976, from 188 to 309.
Now, it was not anticipated when I accepted the position in 1971 that we were entering on a prolonged period of level funding, accompanied by the worst inflation in 25 years. In retrospect, it seems to me that it was always the intention of the National Science Foundation to diminish the budget of Kitt Peak and other national centers, despite the fact that when I was interviewed by the Director of the NSF, Bill McElroy, and later by his successor, Guy Stever, both of them assured me that it was their intention to support the observatories to the best of their ability. At least they indicated that the observatories would continue to receive their fair share of the astronomical budget.
One may ask how it was that we were able to accomplish so much in the way of expansion, despite the shrinkage of the budget. The principal reason, it turned out, was that the observatory had not been operated very efficiently. the budget was rather inflated, as compared with the actual needs of the observatory, and each year there would be a substantial carry over of unexpended funds. For example, I had not been at the observatory more than a few months when I discovered that I could easily find $500,000 with which to construct the Solar Vacuum Telescope, and another 75 or 100 thousand dollars to establish a post- doctoral program, which had not existed before.
It was a strange organization in many ways, to an extent that I had not realized when I was serving on the board of directors. The observatory was organized into divisions. There was a Division of Planetary Sciences; a Division for Solar Astronomy; a Division for Stellar Astronomy; another Division for Administration; and a fifth Division for Engineering and Technical Support. On the surface, that may not seem like a bad way to organize, but the system had a great many deficiencies. For one thing, most of the power in the observatory was vested in the Associate Director for Administration. It was he who presented me with my most difficult problems during the first year of my directorship.
James E. Miller had been an original member of the AURA board, appointed from the University of California in 1958, when the observatory was founded. Shortly after the observatory was established with Dr. A.B. Meinel as Director, the senior members of the board, including Robert R. McMath from Michigan and C. Donald Shane from California, felt that Meinel needed rather firm administrative guidance. He was and is an imaginative and very creative scientist, not -overly worried about adhering to what the board members regarded as conservative business methods, and they just didn't quite trust him. And so they put in Mr. Miller and gave Mr. Miller the power at least to control the finances of the observatory. For example, as Associate Director for Administration, he had to approve every single appointment made in the observatory. And that included scientists, engineers, technicians, the entire staff.
Eventually he and Robert McMath made life so difficult for Meinal that he was forced to resign in 1960. As everyone knows, he was succeeded by Nick Mayall, who was a pretty good scientist but had no prior experience as an administrator and indeed was a rather weak person, on the whole.
I should add that after Miller was appointed Associate Director, he did not resign from the board. Indeed the AURA board kept him on as a board member, in fact as secretary of the board, until November of 1971. After I came to KPNO, I insisted that it was an intolerable position for the Director to be in, to have one of his subordinates a voting member of the board of directors. But that's the way it was for 12 or 13 years.
He was a very strange person to have as an administrator, because he mis- trusted and disliked scientists. I think he felt that all scientists were scheming and dishonest, and that it was his job to see to it that they didn't rob the institution. This meant that he instituted all kinds of rigid administrative procedures governing expenditures of funds, for travel expenses and that kind of thing. It was a very heavily bureaucratic organization.
Miller had strong likes and dislikes, mostly the latter. Two members of the staff were particularly singled out as objects of his animosity; one was David Crawford, who at that time was Associate Director for Engineering and Technical Services. It seems obvious that Miller had it in for Crawford because up until 1970, the engineering establishment had been part of Miller's empire, part of administration, and so you can imagine that Miller controlled by far the lion's share of the total budget, besides having veto power on appointments in the other divisions as well. When the board decided to set up a separate division for engineering and put Crawford in charge, Miller never forgave Crawford for taking on that responsibility, and in all kinds of ways, he tried to interfere with the smooth operation of the engineering establishment.
The other person towards whom he directed his animus was Victor Blanco, the director of CTIO. Now, Miller had once been a very good friend of Blanco's, and indeed had made a very important contribution during the years when the observatory in South America was under construction. Miller was very capable at negotiating contracts and dealing with suppliers, and he seemed to be taking a very strong personal interest in what went on in Chile. But as time went on, he tried more and more to exert his power and control over the operation of that observatory, always pleading that it was necessary to make accountability to the National Science Foundation, and that he was only trying to discharge his responsibility in that regard. But the net effect was to make Blanco's life so miserable that in September, 1971, just after I had arrived in Tucson, I met with him, and he offered to submit his resignation, in order, as he put it, to simplify my life in my relations with Jim Miller. Of course I assured him that if he wanted to complicate my life by a factor of ten or more then indeed he should resign, but that I sincerely hoped that he would not.
Miller was in the habit of making trips to Chile, in order to investigate what he called fiscal irregularities in the management of the southern observatory. At one time, he came back from Chile and made some very serious accusations to the board of directors about-the state of affairs there. It seems that the local administrator in Chile, unknown to Victor Blanco, had begun to construct a swimming pool outside of his residence, which was observatory property. It was Miller's claim that Blanco knew about this misuse of AURA funds and was derelict in not taking strong and effective action. It turned out that when the local administrator was confronted with the evidence of his having misused the funds, he offered to pay for the swimming pool himself, but he was never- theless dismissed and the hole was filled up. The entire affair was used by Miller as an excuse for a personal attack on Victor Blanco, which he was able to make in his role as secretary of the board. I well remember (because I was on the board myself at the time) how he levelled these charges against Blanco in executive sessions of the board which Blanco was not privileged to attend.
To repeat, at my insistence Miller was dismissed from the board of directors, in November 1971. However, there were many people who felt that he was an excellent administrator, and that he had simply suffered from an absence of leadership at KPNO, a power vacuum which he had filled himself; they felt that if would give him appropriate direction, he could continue to be a very valuable asset to the observatory.
But between November and the following spring, there were a number of incidents which proved unequivocally that Mr. Miller would not face up to the fact that he was no longer the de facto Director of the observatory, I decided that he had to be terminated. Before I could do that, however, I had to present the case to the board, where Miller had personal golfing acquaintances and friends. I also had to go to Washington and clear this with the very top levels of the NSF, where again, Miller was on very friendly terms with the contracting officer, with the assistant director, with the deputy assistant director, and so forth. The contracting officer was a gentleman named Wilbur Bolton, who was something of a conniver himself, and who also mistrusted scientists. I was told by the program director for astronomy that some time back, Miller and Bolton had formed an informal liaison, by which they would run the observatory and make sure that federal funds were not being misspent.
In that connection, relations between the observatory and the foundation were absolutely atrocious at that time. It took months to get foundation approval for the purchase of equipment, for example, which was already in the approved budget. And there were all kinds of rules which made it very difficult to operate an observatory under NSF sponsorship. For example, once the budget was agreed to, it was necessary to draw up a program plan for the given fiscal year. It took so long to get NSF approval of the program plan that sometimes it didn't happen until the following fiscal year had begun. Then there was a rule that said that no major items of equipment could be purchased until the program plan had been approved. But if the program plan wasn't approved until the next fiscal year, there were difficulties because of another rule that said that all funds left over at the end of a fiscal year became carry-over funds, and special per- mission was needed to spend the carry-over funds; it was a kind of Catch-22 situ- ation.
It turned out later that Jim Miller was responsible for all of these restric- tions. In fact, some of the restrictions were simply made up by Miller, and used as a club over the head of the observatory; some of the restrictions didn't even exist. But the previous Director had never seen fit to go to Washington himself and meet with the administrators, and find out just what the rules and regulations were. He simply took Miller's word for it.
Finally that particular problem was cleared up in June of 1972, when I called in Mr. Miller and dismissed him at 10:30 one morning, and told him that I wanted him out of the building by 1 o'clock that day with all of his possessions. Of course he was given a very generous separation allowance, but he continued to cause us problems for a year or two after his termination. In fact, at one time he even filed a lawsuit against me and the president of AURA, accusing us of all kinds of dreadful things, but fortunately the case was thrown out of court.
Well, I've perhaps spent too much time dwelling on this unfortunate episode, but it was an example of the kinds of difficulties that I had to deal with, at least in the first year of my administration: it certainly took a large fraction of my time. With Miller's departure, I could proceed with the reorganization of the observatory, which was very badly needed. It could not have been done as long as he was there, because obviously one cannot reorganize an institution if the head administrator is totally unsympathetic and uncooperative.
Our first task was to find a replacement for Miller, and here I think we were very fortunate in recruiting a young man named Harry Albers who, until that time, was with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. He had had many years of ex- perience with the Smithsonian Observatory Satellite Tracking Network. He had finally eventually become head of that network in Cambridge, at a relatively youth- ful age, and had moved on to Washington to the headquarters of the Institution. He came in December of 1972, and we immediately set to work reorganizing the observatory.
It was also necessary to reorganize the engineering and technical services activity of the observatory, which was under the direction of an astronomer, David Crawford. Crawford is not particularly competent to manage an engineering and technical support group. Not being particularly brilliant himself, he had very little idea of how to use talented and creative engineers, and so I felt that the sooner he went back to doing full-time astronomy, the better off he would be and certainly the better off the institution would be. Fortunately we had another young man in the engineering establishment who had been the chief engineer in charge of the 4-meter telescope project, namely Larry Randall, and I decided that he would be in charge of the ehgineering and technical support services of the observatory.
After much discussion with the scientific staff and with the board of directors, we decided to do away entirely with the divisional structure of the observatory. It was not a bad way to build telescopes, but it was totally unsatisfactory for the purposes of scientific research and the support of visitors. Each of the three scientific divisions was an empire unto itself. Appointments of scientific staff were not made in the observatory, but in the divisions. Each division had its own budget, and there was a considerable amount of waste and duplication. For example, each division had a separate travel budget, a separate budget for research assistants, for secretaries, and also for the development of auxiliary equipment; particularly in the area of computers and detectors this was a very inefficient arrangement, because each group was producing its own detector systems, and using its own choice of computers. The equipment wasn't even interchangeable between, let's say, the McMath telescope and the non-solar telescopes.
There was also a rather strange way of accounting for costs in the division. The time of personnel was never included in the cost of an instrument if the instrument was to be built in-house, in the observatory. Well, we had engineers, we had instrument makers. They were paid out of the salary budget for engineering and technical services. So that if the solar division, for example, had a construction project, it would be given money to buy hardware, but not to pay for salaries, because those were already paid for in engineering and technical services — and in administration, for that matter. That meant that there was no way of actually knowing the full cost of an instrument.
Also, there was a severe mismatch between the number of instruments authorized for construction, and the personnel available to carry out the projects in a reasonable time. In principle, this match could be made during the budget-making time. For example, if the stellar division had five or six instruments approved in their budget for a given fiscal year, the engineering division would estimate the amount of manpower that would be needed to carry out that construction, and ask for that much money in its budget. However, the total amount of money in the budget was not unlimited — it was limited very severely by the NSF — and by the time the horse trading among the various associate directors was completed, there was never enough technical support to carry out the tasks that were implied by the budgets of the scientific divisions.
And so I found, when I arrived at Kitt Peak, that there was an enormous backlog of projects. And there was no system of priorities for determining which ones would be finished first. As a result, it got to be a matter of individual scientists working their charms — that is, if they had any charms — on the engineers and instrument makers, and trying to get their work done first. It was virtually anarchy. In particular, the auxilary instrumentation for the 4-meter telescope, which should have had first priority, was not getting done. The members of the scientific staff were much more concerned about getting instruments built that they could use right away, rather than instruments that could not be used until the 4-meter telescope was completed, which wasn't until about the middle of 1973.
Another weakness of the divisional structure was that the scientists tended to set up walls between the divisions. There was hardly any scientific interaction over these walls. The divisions even had their own scientific seminars, and there were very few occasions during which the scientific staff met in a body.
During the last two or three years of Mayall's term as director, relations between him and the scientific staff tended to be rather strained. That was because he didn't know how to cope with the competition for money that existed among the three scientific divisions. He took the position that the only disinterested person in the middle management group was Jim Miller, because he wasn't doing science. Therefore he relied more and more upon Miller to make budgetary decisions and to decide priorities among the scientific projects. It got so that Mayall became very impatient with criticism and refused to meet with the scientific staff to hear about their concerns and problems; as a result, the scientific staff had taken to meeting by themselves, often along divisional lines, but sometimes as a committee of the whole observatory.
The guiding principle behind the reorganization was that the most pressing need for the observatory was the development of new state-of-the-art instrumen- tation, both for the 4-meter telescope, and for the other telescopes as well. It was my conviction at the time, and it still is, that the best way to create such instrumentation was to provide an environment in which creative scientists will be doing absolutely front-line research, and will therefore be stimulated to design and develop the very best instrumentation which can be used, both by the staff itself and by visitors. That is to say, I've never been an enthusiast for instrumentation designed by committees — except possibly when it comes to building a very large major telescope, and it's a question of setting the specifications for this telescope so that it will be of maximum use to all segments of the user community. (Auxiliary instruments are different. They can't be built solely by engineers. There has to be a very close interaction between the scientists and the engineers at all stages of the design, development and construction process. Only in this way can the right trade-offs be made between scientific performance and cost.)
So we proceeded to design an organization in which scientific creativity would be encouraged as much as possible. The first step in this reorganization was to abolish the divisional system, and to create a single unified scientific staff, reporting directly to the Director. Engineering and technical services and administrative services were identified as support services, rather than as divisions on the same level as the scientific divisions.
By combining the separate staffs of the three scientific divisions into a single staff, I was given the freedom to fill vacancies in making appointments in whatever areas were considered to be the most vital to the observatory at any given time. In the past, you see, appointments had to be made according to existing quotas in the respective divisions, and although in principle the director could subtract from one division and add to another, in practice it was very difficult for him to do so.
We introduced a clearly enunciated policy relating to appointments, promotion and tenure. Following a review of the scientific staff, a number of those on term appointments were encouraged to seek employment elsewhere. So between 1972 and 1976, eight junior members of the staff left, and were replaced by individuals working in sub-disciplines where they were most urgently needed.
(I might add parenthetically that we felt that, in terms of.the mission of the observatory, there was a serious imbalance between the size of the planetary division and, for example, that of the stellar group; we restored that imbalance by cutting down on the number of planetary astronomers, and increasing the number of astronomers whose interests were in galactic and extra-galactic astronomy.)
As a result, we were able to meet the needs of the 4-meter telescope and of the newly instituted program in infra-red astronomy, while keeping the percentage of tenured staff within acceptable limits. By about 1976, 70 percent of the staff were engaged primarily in galactic and extra-galactic research, as compared with 38 percent just five years earlier.
I want to emphasize, especially in the light of what has happened since 1978, that during my tenure as Director, the scientific staff played a vital role in the planning process by which priorities and budgets were determined. Approximately six months before the start of the fiscal year, all observatory scientific staff members were requested to outline and justify the resources that they required for the coming fiscal year, both to support the needs of the general astronomical community, and also for their own research. Experience had shown, and still is showing, that state-of-the-art instruments are usually developed in timely fashion only when a staff member has a strong personal interest in using the instrument for his or her own research. The observatory's ability to provide first class facilities, instrumentation and scientific programs is critically dependent upon maintaining an outstanding group of staff astronomers with broad research interests. In fact, the composition of the staff is in part determined by such requirements.
Before I came to Kitt Peak, there had been widespread complaints in the astron- omical community that the instrumentation for the National Observatory was being designed by a rather mediocre staff. I think that these complaints were somewhat justified, as far as the so-called stellar division was concerned — the quality of the scientific work in the other two divisions had been excellent.
Fortunately I was able to recruit a number of first rate astronomers, among them Fred Gillett, who set out to build an infra-red program, Steve Strom, Gary Grasdalen, Judy Cohen, Roger Chevalier, and Steve Ridgway. I also initiated the position of support scientist. These were positions that were occupied by PhD astronomers who were not considered quite good enough to be on the regular staff, but who had excellent technical competence in some specialty. The idea was that we could recruit such people to look after the day-to-day needs of visitors, and thereby free some of the time of the permanent scientific staff to do creative work in the development of instrumentation.
Now, in determining which instruments were most urgently needed at any given time, we did not rely on the scientific staff alone. We appointed a users' committee, made up of 20 or 25 frequent telescope users, who met once a year and advised the Director on what improvements needed to be made so that they would be better served. Inputs received from outside community, which included, in addition to the users' committee, the visiting committee, the AURA board, the NSF astronomy advisory panel, etc. — these inputs were then fed into the observatory's formally structured scientific programs, which were under the jurisdiction of the scientific staff. There were six distinct program areas, of which the largest, the galactic and extra-galactic program and the solar system program, were concerned with the instrumenting, maintenacnce and usage of stellar and solar telescopes respectively. Each of these two large programs was managed by a small steering committee of scientists whose membership and chairman rotated. It was anticipated, when this organization was initiated, that each chairman would serve one 3-year term, and that the position would be rotating.
The other programs which were devoted primarily to the development and construction of instrumentation were developed by individual scientists. Each of the scientific groups had the responsibility of formulating a program that appeared to meet the needs of the astronomical community and the staff researchers. It was then presented to an in-house priorities committee which reviewed all programs and ranked all proposals for instrumentation and facilities on a priority basis, the ultimate criterion being the need by the scientific community for the particular project being contemplated. This in-house priorities committee, which was appointed by the Director, consisted of five staff scientists who also served on a rotating basis. Ranking the projects in this way cuts across all program lines, and no program is guaranteed a certain percentage of the budget or manpower resources each year. The meetings of the priorities committee were open to all personnel having an interest in the discussions taking place.
I would meet periodically with the chairman of the priorities committee and set general guidelines for the establishment of priorities. While I thought it would be undesirable for me to attend meetings of the priorities committee, my assistant director, Dr. Beverly Lynds, attended all such meetings, and made sure that any problems that required action on my part would be brought to my attention.
There were four other scientific programs that I should mention — a panoramic detector program, headed by Roger Lynds; an infra-red program, directed by Fred Gillet; a gratings laboratory program, under the direction of Don Hall; and NASA programs, such as the MVM and MJS missions, which were under the supervision of Lyle Broadfoot and which were rather distinctly outside the mainstream of regular observatory work.
Basically the function of the priorities committee was to determine what fraction of the total observatory resources was to be made available to each program, considering the specific projects that were included in each program during the given year. There was a close collaboration here between the priorities committee and the Director of Engineering and Technical. Services in the allocation of engineering and technical manpower to each program. The necessary administrative services were defined with the help of the Director of Administrative Services. In fact, the engineering and technical manpower required to accomplish the scientific objectives were assigned directly to each program under managing engineer, who was responsible to the program director or the steering committee for the accomplishment of all engineering and technical goals. In this manner a total program concept of management was utilized to accomplish objectives, with all direct costs and necessary manpower being managed within the program itself.
The priorities committee's final recommendations to the Director formed the basis for Kitt Peak's budgets and program plans for an upcoming fiscal year. Once the Director has made the final recommendations, the full sets of budgets and program plans were developed for submission to the AURA board and eventually to the NSF for final review and approval. These planning processes insured that all program and support areas were reviewed at least annually, and that the observatory was being responsive to the needs of the community it served.
A valuable side effect has been that employees understand more clearly the objectives and plans being generated, because the system requires the active participation of all key personnel. I cannot emphasize too strongly that if a scientific laboratory is to be operated with maximum efficiency or cost effectiveness it is important that the staff understand how budgetary decisions are reached, and that they participate as much as possible in the decision-making process. Even though decisions are not reached by popular vote, it is essential that working scientists participate actively in the determination of scientific priorities. Only if the scientific staff is convinced that priorities are being established on solid scientific grounds will they cooperate fully in their implementation. I am sorry to say that at the present time in 1981 these principles are being ignored completely, and the consequences for the observatory are severe indeed.
In the case of the Cerro Tololo InterAmerican Observatory (which we've referred to as CTIO), I recognized that because of it s remote location it was unrealistic to try to operate that observatory without maximum possible autonomy for its director. At the same time, it was important to provide supervisory mechanisms to insure that the scientific, technical and administrative standards of AURA were being met. The individuals in whom this responsibility was principally vested were myself as observatory Director, and the directors of the engineering and technical services and administration. We played two roles, one supervisory and the other supportive.
The directors of ETS and administration had formidable and delicate tasks, in providing necessary administrative and engineering support to a far-away observatory, and of exercising their supervision with a minimum of constraint upon the authority and freedom of action of the CTIO Director. Obviously the key personnel at the two observatories had to communicate frequently and closely. The CTIO interests at Kitt Peak were looked after by a liaison office, headed by an engineer, who had spent a year working at CTIO. It was important to have frequent visits in both directions, and there was and is daily communication between the two observatories by short wave radio. I myself made it a rule to visit CTIO twice a year. When I became Director I considered that one of my principal tasks was to improve greatly on the provision of technical and administrative support to CTIO. Largely through Miller's influence, they had been getting very poor service. It was taking inordinately long times to get their purchase orders approved, and their instrumental projects in engineering and technical services were being given low priority relative to KPNO projects. Miller was quite resourceful about thinking up ways to harrass the CTIO director and his staff in numerous petty ways that I shall not describe here, but which are well documented in correspondence.
I think I can say with considerable assurance that my relations with CTIO and its Director, Victor Blanco, were smooth running and harmonious.
As I have said earlier, the budget of KPNO in real dollars declined in a very drastic way during the first four years of my directorship, that is to say, through fiscal 1976. As a result, by 1977 we had to reduce the supporting staff by something like 60 full time equivalent positions. There was enough fat in the budget so that we could cope with the reductions for the first three or four years, but afterwards the cuts penetrated to the flesh and bone of the establishment.
During those years, there was a virtual revolution in the sophistication of developed instrumentation which necessitated very large increases in the costs of operation and maintenance. Given the reduction in force of support personnel, we had to drain manpower from the development groups to construct and maintain new instrumentation, and so in effect we lost the ability simultaneously to provide standard reliable equipment, and to develop and test new procedures and new technologies. We were forced to maintain current operations at a high level, and by so doing we seriously impacted the observatory's ability to make effective use of modern techniques on a time scale of four to five years.
When I began work as Director of KPNO on 1 September 1971, Dr. B.T. Lynds came over from the University of Arizona Astronomy Department to work as Assistant Director and played a vital role in the smooth functioning of the new organization. Her very first assignment was to organize Kitt Peak's first Users Committee, and, subsequently, she played a key role in advising on the membership, in arrnaging meetings, in preparing summaries of the proceedings and in following up on the implementation of the Committee's recommendations. She had similar responsibilities with respect to other internal and external advisory committees.
Lynds played a key role in all stages of the KPNO priority process, by acting as my representative at meetings of the Priorities Committee, in handling appeals from the recommendations of the Committee and referring them to me when appropriate, and in administering the budget of the scientific staff in accordance with policies and rules established by the Director. She carried out her responsibilities with efficiency, excellent judgment and scrupulous fairness. While her decisions were often appealed to me, there was never a single case in which I found her judgement to be faulty or her impartiality in the slightest degree questionable.
Kitt Peak was an intensely active place in the early and mid 1970s. Lynds did a superb job of helping me to track and manage all of the activities by interacting closely with the Heads of the Observatory's scientific, technical and administrative programs and keeping me informed on progress, by taking vigorous action to solve operational problems and break administrative logjams and by seeing to it that I was alerted in timely fashion to problems that required my personal attention.
Lynds was the primary liaison between my office and the other AURA observatories and her constant attention to their needs and devotion to their interests played an important part in the successful operation of both observatories and of CTIO in particular. She enjoyed excellent relations with the staff of NSF, all of whom greatly valued her reports on the scientific activities of the Observatories and her perceptive studies of long-range trends in astronomy funding, manpower, and facilities usage.
I have dwelt on Lynds' contributions at some length, because I do not believe they have been adequately appreciated by the AURA board. Having been Observatory Director for nearly thirty years, I have come into close contact with a large number of scientists-administrators. There is no question in my mind that, in overall ability and performance, B.D. Lynds ranks with the best of them, and in certain respects, e.g., ability to think clearly, identify and isolate problems and suggest simple solutions, she is probably unique.
Let me now speak about my relations with the National Science Foundation the AURA board, and the user community, beginning with the National Science Foundation. On the operational level, my relations with the Foundation were very good. When I first came here, there were all kinds of difficulties. Evidently the Foundation had very little confidence in the previous administration. The lines of communication between the observatory and the Foundation were very fuzzy, and NSF staff at many levels were in the habit of telephoning observatory staff members, also at a variety of levels, with instructions and for information. NSF personnel visited Tucson very frequently, and could often be seen wandering around the hallways and trying to ferret out information.
Despite this constant attention, approvals of program plans and purchases of important items of equipment were very difficult to come by. The observatory staff was not even trusted to prepare and present the annual report of the observatory to the NSF. This event normally took place in the spring of each year in Washington and it was an all day affair, with the President of AURA, the Director of the observatory, and his associate directors each making a report in turn about their respective activities. It was at this time that the observatory presented its first budget for the fiscal year, two years downstream. This event, which Mr. Miller used to refer to as "a dog and pony show," was preceded by weeks of feverish preparations in Tucson, climaxed by a rehearsal, one week in advance. The rehearsal was attended by a deputy assistant director of the NSF, who often decreed major changes in the presentation as a result of the rehearsal.
I'm glad to say that all of these problems of communication went away in very short order. We dispensed with the rehearsal, and we set up well-defined lines of communication. For example, it was understood that the president of AURA would talk to the assistant director, who at that time was a retired navy admiral, Tom Owen; and that the director would communicate with the head of the Office of National Centers, namely Dan Hunt, a retired Navy captain, as well as to the head of the astronomy program office,, Dr. Robert Fleischer, and his staff. The kinds of problems that could be handled directly betweeen Kitt Peak middle management and appropriate staff members of the NSF were also specified and clearly understood. These arrangements did not preclude my talking directly to the assistant director, which I did very frequently. While at the same time, it was understood that information could be exchanged quite freely and informally at the working levels of the Foundation and the observatory.
I did have one or two confrontations with the NSF which were provoked by budget cuts. The first of these came towards the end of 1972, when we received a telephone call from Tom Owen telling us that our budget for that current fiscal year would be cut by $500, 000 as our share of the Nixon across-the-board budget reduction. We decided right then and there that we would have to cancel the construction of a so-called gratings laboratory, which had been planned for some time as a national facility for the ruling of large diffraction gratings. We had already received bids on a new building which was to cost $800,000, and we were about the begin negotiations for the construction of the laboratory. The NSF, in the person of Admiral Owen refused to accept our decision; but after a trip to Washington, during which I explained in great detail why the cancellation was necessary, they agreed with our decision.
The next issue came up almost immediately, again because of the budget crunch. We decided that we were going to have to cancel the so-called rocket program of the observatory whichhad been operating for something on the order of ten years. That program was costing in the neighborhood of half a million dollars a year. While the work done had been of a very high quality, it fulfilled the needs of a relatively small number of scientists, and it was something of a luxury for an observatory that was dedicated to the pursuit of ground based astronomy. When I first informed NSF officials of our intention to cancel the program,which of course had already been discussed with the AURA board, their first reaction was again to tell us that we couldn't cancel the program. They were of course on the receiving end of protests from the astronomers who would be affected by the cancellation. But again, after another trip to Washington and a full scale presentation of the financial necessities, the Foundation gave its agreement.
You will notice that I was very careful to say that my relations with the NSF had been quite satisfactory on the operational level. I do think that the personal treatment that I received from the Foundation bordered on the deceitful and dishonest side. I think I may have already said that before I accepted the position as Director, I went to see Bill McElroy who was then Director of the National Science Foundation, and was assured by him that Kitt Peak would be adequately supported in the future, finances permitting of course; and shortly thereafter, when he resigned and was succeeded by Guy Stever, I visited Stever and also received his assurance that Kitt Peak would get its fair share of the astronomy budget. Now, these assurances were rather important to me, because I had left Harvard on a two year leave of absence. There was still time after Stever became Director for me to return.
I have never regretted my decision to remain here, but the other hand, if I had known what the NSF then had in store for: the National Observatories, I undoubtedly would have gone back to Harvard.
There is a lot of evidence that from the time I came here, there was a decision that had already been reached by the NSF to reduce the budgets of the National Centers and to transfer funds into the university grants program. In 1971-72, the ration of budgets for the national centers in astronomy to the university grants budget was almost exactly a factor of three. During the years that followed, during about the next five or six years, there was a steady erosion of support for the national centers with the result that by the end of that time, that is to say by about fiscal '78, the ration had diminished to 2.0 so the real budgets of the National Observatories declined by about one-third, since the total amount of money available to astronomy had just kept pace with inflation during that period.
Now, I don't know exactly when that decision was made by the National Science Foundation, but it was never announced publicly. There was never any discussion of it in the astronomical community. We were simply told year by year what our budgets were going to be. And we had to accept those decisions.
The NSF not only put a freeze on the Kitt Peak budget, they also prevented AURA from increasing my salary by any significant amount. There is a clause in the contract for the operation of the observatory which makes it necessary for the NSF to approve any salary increases for the observatory Director. They used various pretexts; for example, despite the fact that the terms of my salary and fringe benefits had been approved by the Foundation before I accepted the position, they post factor raised questions about the amount of the fringe benefits that I was receiving. They also claimed that, because of the then existing freeze on top salaries in the federal government, my salary was approaching that of the Director of the NSF, which they felt was inappropriate. Later on, when the freeze on federal salaries was lifted, they still were slow in approving any kind of a major salary increase, despite the fact that they were regularly voted every year by the AURA board. As a result, during my tenure as Director, which coincided with one of the worst periods of inflation in the history of the country, my salary increased by an average of something like 2 to 3 percent a year. The AURA board did make restitution later on, by giving me an appointment as Distinguished Research Scientist, extending two beyond then mandatory age limit of 65.
But it always seemed to me that the behavior of the NSF on this issue at all levels, up to and including the director, can only be described as mean and petty. The episode led to considerable friction and bad feeling between me and, particularly the chairman of the AURA board, Jesse Greenstein, who I felt was not being sufficiently aggressive in pressing the issue of my salary. It was a new experience for me, being the first time in my professional life that I had ever had to plead the case for my own salary.
This brings me to the subject of my relations with the AURA board and the user community. Let me preface this account with some general remarks about the nature of the AURA board and the user community, and particularly their motivations and conflicts of interest.
One can classify the astronomers of the United States into two categories, according to whether they are affliated with large departments or observatories, or the small ones. I was rather surprised to learn, a few years ago, that something like five universities in the country received more than 50 percent of the total NSF grant support in astronomy. If you increase that number to about ten, you would probably account for something like 90 percent of the total. The other 10 percent is divided among something on the order of forty institutions. Astronomers from the large institutions, such as Cal Tech, California, Texas, Harvard, Maryland, even Massachusetts in recent years, tend to look upon them- selves as competitors with Kitt Peak. (That has not been the situation in radio astronomy, where it was understood right from the founding of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory that the very largest instruments would be put at NRAO.) But after all, Cal Tech still has the largest optical telescope in the United States, and Lick Observatory and Texas each have telescopes larger than 100 inches. These institutions are not willing to concede that the largest facilities should be built at National Centers. They felt and still feel that there shculd be competition among all universities for the privilege of building any large facility. It also goes without saying that they believe that it is at their universities that auxiliary instrumentation should be created and innovated. While they might grudgingly be willing for some of the instrumentation to be created at Kitt Peak, they nevertheless look upon Kitt Peak as a competitor, for example, in the field of development of new detector systems.
On the other , you have the astronomers from the small institutions, who want Kitt Peak to build large telescopes and auxiliaries for their use. But they look upon the local Kitt Peak staff as competitors with them, both for the resources of the observatory — that is to say, they are jealous of the money that the Kitt Peak staff spends on their personal research — and also they regard the staff to be in competition with them — and also they regard the staff to be in competition with them for the telescope time.
Surprising as it may seem, most users seem not to be very interested in state-of-the-art instruments. They want the existing equipment of the observatory to be in perfect working order for them when they come, and they do not like to see a lot of money spent on long range programs for the development of new instrumentation.
I will come back later to my relations with the user community, but let me get back now to the AURA board. The AURA board represents both of these constituenci that is to say, the large univerisities, who nearly all have seats on the AURA board, and the astronomers from the smaller places, who tend to be represented by the directors at large of the AURA board,that is to say, those who do not represent the member universities. There are something like five who are appointed from non-member universities, frequently smaller departments of astronomy. Thus AURA board members tend to have severe conflicts of interest, and these make it very difficult for the board to carry out its management of Kitt Peak in a responsible way.
Still, during the first four years of my directorship, that is, until about the end of 1975, my relations with the board were excellent. They did not at any time turn down any proposal that I brought them. In fact, it was a matter of some concern to me that the board never really discussed important policy questions in any serious way. They relied on me to recommend policy decisions to them, and they virtually always approved them without question.
The passivity of the AURA board was due primarily to the fact that they had a very weak president, a man named Gilbert Lee. He had been a vice president of the University of Chicago for business affairs, had previously been a controller of the University of Michigan, where I knew him first, and had been a charter member of the AURA board. He had given more or less continuous service from 1958 until 1972, when he was appointed president. I was consulted on his appointment by the president of the corporation, Rupert Wildt of Yale, and there's no question but that I could have vetoed the appointment, had I so desired. But at the time it seemed like a good idea to me. He seemed like an extremely competent administrator, and had performed very well, in my judgment, when I knew him at the University of Michigan, or at least until I left there in 1960.
But something seemed to happen to him when he came to Tucson. He simply stopped working, and it was just as though he had come to Tucson to retire. He was more of a secretary and a clerk than a president. It seemed that the financial affairs of the corporation were carried on by our Kitt Peak administrator, Harry Albers, and the scientific business was transacted by my office. That is to say, all contacts with the National Science Foundation on scientific matters and on business matters were carried out at Kitt Peak, rather than across the street in the corporate office. Lee's one positive accomplishment was raising a sum of money from two foundations with which to build a rather fancy corporate office building across the street from the observatory.
Along about the fall of 1975, I became very concerned about this situation. I felt that a large sum of money, on the order of $100,000 a year, was being spent on the corporate office, and that this money, which came directly off the ton of the observatory budget was just being wasted. I became concerned that unless the AURA board was alerted to this situation, they might more or less automatically renew the president's appointment for a second term of five years. Since that renewal was due in May of 1977, the decision on the renewal would have to be reached about a year earlier, namely in May of 1976.
So I approached a few of my scientific friends on the board, at least people who I thought were my friends, such as Frank Edmondson, W.A. Hiltner, and the chairman of the board, Jesse Greenstein. I suggested to them merely that I had serious misgivings about the performance of the president, and therefore it would be prudent for them to examine his performance before automatically renewing his term of office. I soon became aware that this initiative on my part was very much resented by, shall we say, the old timers on the board, particularly the administrative representatives, who were friends of Mr. Lee, golfing companions, and who felt that it was none of my business what the board did.
In the event, the organization committee of the board was asked to evaluate Lee's performance. They proceeded to do so in a very perfunctory way. I remember, they held a meeting at the O'Hare Airport, in which I was invited to come and tell them what was on my mind. I did so. And in the end, to my utter astonishment, the board, in the spring of '76, I believe it was March, met and did in fact vote to extend Lee's appointment for a second term, although the extension was qualified by the statement that the appointment was to be reviewed once each year. It was apparent from the time that I first raised questions about the president's competence, that some members of the board became openly hostile toward me.
At about the same time the board was presented with another issue, which made it possible for them to shift their attention from Lee to me. So overnight, I became the subject of controversy, rather than the president. In the fall of 1975, sore members of the board began to be aware that I would reach age 65 in 1978, and that according to the AURA rules, I would then have to step down as Director. In fact, there was at that time a mandatory retirement age for all staff members of 65. retirement was scheduled to begin October 1st, 1978.
Thus, during a meeting of the executive committee in November of 1975, the chairman of the board, Jesse Greenstein, invited me in to an executive session, and in the presence of the executive committee, asked me point blank what my reaction would be if I were offered an extension of my term as Director beyond retirement. I replied that I had found the job rewarding, and my relations with the AURA board pleasant, and that under the circumstances, I would certainly seriously consider any invitation from the board to stay on beyond age 65. I did feel that a renewal term should be for something on the order of three years, rather than on a one year at a time basis.
That same evening, Greenstein and I had dinner together with our wives and he reported to me what he said was the outcome of the executive committee's deliberations. It was decided that a search committee should be constituted, but that the first action of the search committee would be to approach me and ask me formally whether I would be willing to continue as Director. If my answer were in the affirmative, the search committee would disband forthwith.
The next AURA meeting, which was to be a meeting of the full board, was scheduled for Chile in late January of 1976, and I somehow expected to receive some word about my future status before that time. In due course, I traveled to Chile and attended a meeting of the board, which was very friendly and cordial, at least on the surface. But to my surprise, nothing was said to me about any extension of my appointment.
Two weeks after returning home, I received a rather curt letter from the president which sounded as though it had been composed by a lawyer, and probably was. The letter stated that at its meeting in Chile, the board had decided to adhere to its policy of retirement at age 65,and that therefore my term would be up on September 30th, 1978. I was also informed that a search committee would be constituted immediately, and a search undertaken for my successor. There was not a word of explanation of the previous action by the board, in inviting me to attend its executive committee meeting in November, 1975, and asking how I would respond if I were invited to continue as director. Neither was there any private explanation by Greenstein or any other member of the board. It was almost as though they feared that anything they said might be used against them in a lawsuit.
After receiving the letter, I telephoned at least two members of the board to find out whether the letter was an accurate reflection of the board's action in Chile. One of themwas W.A. Hiltner, whose reply was, "Yes, the letter certainly does jibe with the action of the board." The other was Alex Dalgarno at Harvard, whose reaction to the letter was one of shock. He was also present at the board meeting in Chile and thought that the board had agreed to something quite different, and that in fact they had not ruled out the possibility that my term as Director would be extended.
Somewhere in that same time period, Hiltner visited Chile to carry out an observing program, and told my good friend Victor Blanco that my purpose in attacking the president, Mr. Lee, was to get rid of him so that I could take over his job.
In those days, I began to have serious doubts as to the wisdom of entrusting the management of the National Optical Observatory to such an obviously incompetent group of people. Nothing that has happened since has persuaded me that the AURA board is anything but incompetent. Unfortunately, while the system has all kinds of built-in safeguards for evaluating the performance of the observatory and its staff, there is no mechanism for evaluating the managing corporation, in the absence of strong supervision by the National Science Foundation.
In the days when Tom Owen was assistant director for national and international programs, there was indeed close supervision of the centers by the Foundation. But along about 1975 or 1976 there was a reorganization in the Foundation. Kitt Peak and other astronomy centers were moved into the astronomy program office, where they came under the control of William E. Howard, an astronomer who had never previously distinguished himself either as a scientist or an administrator. From that time on the national centers, including Kitt Peak, no longer received close scrutiny at the assistant director level of the Foundation. I consider the total absence of accountability by managing consortiums to be a major weakness of that particular system of management.
And so the AURA search committee swung into action 2 1/2 years before I was scheduled to retire. They set themselves up with specially printed stationery and a fat budget for travel, and began their deliberations by sending out several hundred letters to every astronomer who had ever used a telescope at Kitt Peak, with a series of open ended questions, soliciting their views on the state of the observatory, what was wrong with it, and what kind of a person they would like to see as Director. They also interviewed individually every member of the Kitt Peak staff who wanted to be heard. It was a field day for all those who felt that they had not been well treated by the observatory, and a real fishing expedition for certain board members of the search committee, especially Hiltner, who were eager to put the administration of the observatory in a bad light. Unfortunately the search committee and the board never saw fit to give me any kind of a digest of their findings. Obviously it would have been very useful to them if I had had an opportunity to comment on the claims and allegations that they had been hearing.
I was beginning to find it increasingly difficult to operate as a lame duck Director in Tucson, and became particularly disturbed by the irresponsible actions of two or three members of the board. For example, one senior member of the scientific staff reported to me that Jesse Greenstein, the board chairman, had told him, in relation to the activities of the search committee, that Kitt Peak already had an activist for a Director, and that if another activist were appointed to succeed him, Kitt Peak and AURA would end up by running all of American astronomy.
At about the same time Greenstein spoke with Larry Randall, the head of engineering and technical services, who was quite enthusiastic about a project I had set up to study the feasibility of a very large ground-based telescope, up to 25 meters in diameter. Greenstein remarked that such a project would be worthwhile some time in the future, but that it was not worth spending any money on it at the present time. It is remarkable that he could say this after presiding at meetings of the AURA board at which the board had supported such a next-generation telescope project with great enthusiasm.
At this time the observatory was seeking to augment its budget in a relatively modest way by applying for funds from NASA to support the solar vacuum telescope, end also to construct a Fourier transform spectrometer for the NASA infra-red telescope on Hawaii. Both of these proposals had been approved with enthusiasm by the AURA board. Nevertheless, two members of the board sent letters of complaint to the NSF and to NASA on the grounds that Kitt Peak was taking money that rightfully belonged to the universities.
All in all, as the end of 1976 approached, the job as Director was becoming more and more onerous. I could also see no reason why the search for my successor had to take 2 1/2 years. I therefore wrote a letter to the board in December of 1976 requesting that I be permitted to step down as Director at the end of September, 1977, in order that I might devote one year before my retirement to recouping my research capability.
The following spring, the board voted to accept my resignation as Director, and very generously voted also to offer me a three year appointment as Distinguished Research Scientist, thus extending my tenure two years beyond the normal retirement age. Without wanting to appear ungrateful, this action makes it clear that the AURA board is well meaning as well as incompetent.
Before leaving the subject of my relations with the AURA board, I do want to refer to a report I worte in the spring of 1976. Actually this was the so-called annual report of the Director of the observatory. In this report I urged the AURA board to take a more active role in helping to meet the needs of astronomy in this country. I pointed out, for example, that one of the major political problems affecting astronomy at that time was the question of what fraction of resources should be allocated to national centers and what fraction to the universities. I suggested that since members of the AURA board represented both the universities and the national centers, that they were uniquely well qualified to consider this question and to recommend an appropriate balance of effort between these two sectors.
I also suggested that they should reorganize themselves so as to better prepare themselves for added responsibilities in the future. At that time, it seemed very likely that AURA would be asked to take on the management of Sacramento Peak Observatory, (which they later were asked and it also seemed that AURA would be a very natural body to assume the governance of the proposed Space Telescope Science Institute, which -NASA seemed ready to establish. But in order to do so, it would be necessary for AURA to reorganize with respect to the composition of the board. And it would be very important for AURA to have someone with a scientific or technical background as president, because it was going to he necessary in the near future for AURA to make decisions on the allocation of funds to Kitt Peak, Cerro Tololo, and probably also Sacramento Peak. That is to say, there were already indications that the NSF would want to set aside a fixed sum of money every year and ask AURA to divide it up among the national observatories, rather than for the NSF itself to make the decisions on the allocation of the funds, which was the practice at that time.
I wrote that report in order to emphasize again the need to replace the then president of AURA with somebody who had a scientific background. The astonishing thing was that after I had submitted that report to the board, it was greeted in silence. Later on in the meeting, I was told by one member of the board that it was an excellent report and deserved to be published in a magazine, and that he didn't want me to think that the board had not taken it seriously. They had taken it very seriously and had discussed it in executive session, but what is remarkable is that they did not discuss it with me. On the other hand, if you compare that report with actions that AURA has taken subsequently, you will readily see that they followed most of my recommendations. But they will never admit that it was I who gave them the ideas that they subsequently adopted.
One final comment concerning my relations with the AURA board. In the spring of 1977, at the time that the AURA board accepted my request to be relieved of the Directorship, at the end of the following September, Alex Dalgarno introduced a motion calling upon the board to ask me to reconsider my decision for early retirement as Director. Before that resolution could come to a vote, the chairman of the search committee, Mr. Hiltner, interrupted and requested that the vote be postponed until the search committee had made its report. I have no knowledge of just what was in the report, but I gather that Hiltner had assembled quite a bit of adverse information about my stewardship as director of the observatory. In addition, he promised the board that my successor had already been selected and that there was no question but what he would accept and be ready to take over by the time I stepped down on October 1st, 1977.
After that report, the Dalgarno motion came to a vote and was defeated, understand, by a margin of 14 to 11.
At this same meeting, the board passed another resolution which was duly transmitted to me in a letter from the chairman of the board, who at that time was Arthur Code. The letter had a rather curious statement in it, as follows: "Under Dr. Goldberg's leadership, KPNO attracted the level of innovative astronomers he has believed should be an integral part of the leading national observatory. With his personal encouragement and enthusiasm, KPNO has developed some of the best instrumentation in the history of astronomy, as witness the smooth transition in both 4-meter telescopes to operation." Note the insertion of the words "he has believed." The statement was obviously written originally without those words, and those three words were later inserted by some member of the board. Evidently the board could not agree that innovative astronomers are necessary at a national observatory. On the other hand, they did not seem to like what the staff had produced.
I would now like to come back to my relations with the user community. As I have said earlier, when I became Director, I established a users' committee. It met for the first time in the fall of 1971, and thereafter annually, although they may have met twice a year before I retired as Director. In the beginning, the meetings were of one day duration.
Well in advance of the meeting it was my habit to write letters to each member of the committee, asking them to bring to my attention matters of concern to them — whether the service they were getting was good or bad; whether the service tehy were getting was good or bad; whether the equipment was meeting their meeting their needs; if not, what other kinds of equipment would they propose that we add; how well the equipment was working; how well they were supported by the staff when they came to the observatory, and so forth. When replies were received, those that seemed to be of significant importance were put on the agenda for discussion. There was no formal report from the committee, and indeed, since I regarded the users' committee as advisory to the Director, and I was quite anxious to hear what they had to say, I did not feel that I needed a formal report. We did keep informal minutes which were typed up and sent around to the users. And each year, when the committee met, we would make a report on what we had done to implement various recommendations, or if recommendations were not implemented, we would try to explain why.
Well, this system worked pretty well. After two or three years, some users felt that the meetings should be structured differently. They wanted to have working groups. They wanted to have the meetings extended to a second day and working groups set up in different areas of instrumentation, such as infra-red, detectors, and the like. And they wanted to have members of the Kitt Peak staff present to lead discussion of the needs and problems in each of those areas, after which the chairman of each working group would make a report to the full committee the following day at the end of the meeting.
In the fall of 1975 or perhaps 1976, the visiting committee met at Kitt Peak and devoted most of their meeting to an examination of the visitor's program. The report they wrote was very favorable to the Kitt Peak management. They found that, on the whole, users were being very well served. They talked to a great many of the users on the mountain during their visit, and back home before the visit, looked at all of the observing reports that visitors wrote after completing their observing runs, so they had pretty good information to go on.
What they didn't sense was the kind of underlying resentment on the part of some visitors, when they visited Kitt Peak and saw how well some members of the scientific staff seemed to be supported in their research. Research, however, I might add, that was almost always aimed at providing better state-of-the-art instrumentation to the visitors a year or two or three downstream.
The users' committee came in 1976 and requested another major change in the format of the meeting, which was that they preferred to have an executive session, after which they wanted to write a more or less formal report. I agreed. I think I took it for granted that before the committee left Tucson, they would sit down with me and give me a briefing on their principal conclusions, and tell me what was going to go into the report. After all, they were explicitly appointed to advise me. But that did not happen, and months went without any word from the users' committee. Finally I began to hear rumors about a report which was being circulated around the country. That is, a number of astronomers had reported that they had seen such a report, and that some of the remarks were highly critical of the observatory. But I had no idea what was in it. It may be that this users' committee came in the spring of '76 (that date can very easily be verified).
I know that the visiting committee came in the fall of '76 and devoted most of its meeting to a detailed critique of the AURA corporate structure and the AURA board. They made a number of very important recommendations for streamlining the AURA board, and improving the efficiency of its operation, and they expressly called for the appointent of a president with a scientific or technical background. That was a very important meeting in the history of AURA, because that report by the board forced AURA to do what it had already decided not to do, namely, get rid of its president, and replace him with a more active individual.
But at the very tail end of the report, they made reference to the report of the users' committee, and suggested that in considering the balance between staff research at Kitt Peak and the support of outside users, perhaps the pendulum had swung too far in the direction of staff research, and that something needed to be done to improve the quality and the quantity of service to users.
When the visiting committee briefed me verbally on the contents of this report, they asked me to call their attention to anything in the report that I felt would be harmful to the observatory. Now, in their report, they made explicit reference to a report by the users' committee, as evidence for their remarks about the visitors' program — which I might add were quite different from their own comments a year earlier in the report of their previous meeting. I pointed out to them that it was most inappropriate for them to refer in their report to a report by the users' committee which I had not even seen. Especially considering, as I've said before, that the users' committee was advisory to the Director and not to the visiting committee. I felt that I should have a chance to respond to that report of the users' committee before any of their findings were incorporate into a visiting committee report. This objection was to no avail. They did not change the report.
Some time later, I did receive the report of the users' committee. I was astonished to read, among other things, that the users' committee felt that there were many projects in the observatory that were being pursued which were not meeting the needs of a majority of the users. Among these projects they mentioned explicitly the video camera, the interactive picture processing laboratory, and the next generation telescope project, to which modest resources in the neighborhood of $150 to $200 thousand dollars a year were then being devoted.
It is of course interesting to note that right now, all of these projects have come to fruition. The video camera is one of the most important devices used by visitors. The interactive picture processing laboratory has been widely copied at a number of other observatories, including the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The next generation telescope project is being supported from Kitt Peak operational funds to the tune of $400,000 a year despite the fact that in relative terms, the budget is now much more constricted than it was during my last year as Director.
But of course, the majority of users come here to use small telescopes. It's certainly true that state-of-the-art instrumentation does not meet the needs of the majority of these users, who want solid dependable equipment on the small telescopes, and couldn't care less what you put on the 4-meter telescope, such as video cameras. They also have no interest and in fact they do not have the imagination to use an interactive picture processing laboratory, which is used only by the very best astronomers doing forefront research.
Now, it's true that along about 1975 and 1976, there were maintenance and operational problems on the mountain, which occurred naturally because so much of the equipment was new, both in design and in construction. There were, as I mentioned previously, several major new auxiliary instruments constructed. All of these instruments were computerized, as were the telescopes, and it was only natural that there would be a period of one or two or even three years during which all of the problems had to be de-bugged. Until that happened, there were bound to be more breakdowns than one would like in the steady state. It's interesting to note that, at the present time, things are running much more smoothly, mostly because very little in the way of new equipment has been added, and all of the problems associated with the old equipment have been solved.
The scientific staff itself was very much occupied with the development and de-bugging of this new equipment. They certainly were not able to spend as much time working with visitors, taking visitors by the hand and showing them how to use equipment, as they are now able to do. But all of these new developments, as I say, imposed a very heavy burden on the scientific and support staff, so that some of the less experienced visitors complained that they were not receiving the service to which they felt they were entitled.
It's also pretty safe to say that the observatory would now be severely criticized if such developments as the panoramic detector program, the interactive picture processing laboratory, the Speckle camera and the NGT program had not been undertaken.
The preoccupation of young astronomers with quick and usable results and their reluctance to support long term investments may be understandable. But what I find particularly disturbing is that funding agencies and boards of trustees do not resist this pressure to make astronomy a short-order enterprise. They go along with it, and we are thereby risking the gradual deterioration of the quality of astronom- ical research in this country. All of these comments could well have been made several years ago during my last year as Director. The fear I had at that time that the immediate needs of today's astronomers were taking precedence over future needs, this concern, has been very well borne out by what has happened in the last four or five years.
Apparently, the AURA board has been more influenced by the complaints of the users five years ago than I thought they would be. They did apparently conclude that outside users were not being well served, and that the scientific staff was to blame, and accordingly they proceeded to embark upon a reorganization that was intended to redress these alleged wrongs. I am simply reading this conclusion into what has happened, because the board has never taken any position officially one way or the other. They've never done anything but express themselves as being very well satisified with the organization that we had here five years ago.
At the present time, the board is tolerating a Kitt Peak organization which I can only describe as bizarre, and which violates basic principles for the management of scientific laboratories which have been learned from the experience of the last 50 years.
For the moment, Spencer, I would just like to stop and let it go at that. If in the future you would like to hear more of what I think about the last four or five years following my resignation as director, I would be glad to do so.