Oral History Transcript — Dr. Jesse Greenstein
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Jesse Greensein; May 19, 1978
ABSTRACT: Childhood in New York City; studying astronomy and literature at Harvard (1925-1929, M.A. 1930); work during the Depression in real estate and at Columbia; graduate-education in the new astrophysics at Harvard (1934-1937), contacts with H. Shapley, C. Payne, H.N. Russell; work at Yerkes from 1937: nebula spectroscopy, stellar composition, stellar atmospheres; contacts with 0. Struve, S. Chandrasekhar, B. Stromgren; optical design work during World War II. Move to Cal Tech, 1947, contacts with W. Baade, I. Bowen, F. Zwicky, N. Schmidt, L. Dubridge, etc.; organization, administration, research conditions, and allocation of observing time at Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories; work in building up astronomy department at Cal Tech, character of staff relations, and fund-raising. Postwar work oil, abundances of elements, white dwarf stars, high-dispersion spectroscopy, radio astronomy, and quasars; ideas about cosmology and other topics. Involvement with military advising at Cal Tech from 1950, satellite reconnaissance, and industrial advising; early work on rocket astronomy and as senior adviser to NASA (ca. 1957-1977). Editor of ďStellar AtmospheresĒ series; work with National Academy of Sciences and author of its 1972 astronomy survey; efforts to popularize astronomy. Ideas about large space -- and ground-based telescopes. Particular attention is given to the organizational strengths and weaknesses of important astronomy organizations.
Weart:Weíre going to talk about science policy. But first I have one preliminary question I forgot to ask last time, and that is, here at Cal Tech, what was the impact of the first Sputnik? Was there any immediate change?
Greenstein:In astronomy, as such? I think the campus at Cal Tech had pretty much lost interest in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and its efforts to orbit satellites (which at first failed, you know). The patriotic fervor of the response, the rapid push to get the American satellite up, didnít at first really affect astronomers. But, interestingly enough, it did affect the graduate student population. And specifically, although our students were not expected, or prone, to be interested in space science, having come to work on astrophysics or cosmology, we began to have summer employment and then permanent employment by students in astronomy and physics at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Within a year or so some of our PhDs became leaders of science-oriented parts of Jet Propulsion. One of them got into orbital dynamics—perturbations of satellites and later moon landing dynamics. So it was a very quick response in which, I would guess, the broad range of science that astrophysics or physics students have to learn to succeed in their subject meant that they also turned out to be useful.
Weart:Was this because JPL suddenly had a lot of positions open?
Greenstein:They had both positions and had a new need for scientists, where before it had been a largely engineering task. The experiments on Vanguard were engineering first. And then the Van Allen belt discovery, in which we were not involved. It was also true that the need for a decent space science program became obvious. I did have some advisory contact, I forget of what nature, with the head of JPL, a friend of mine, Bill Pickering, very early, on how to get a science program with very small payloads. Of course, we didnít find anything important to do early. The trouble was that only much later, and almost completely in planetary science, did Jet Propulsion Lab initiate large scientific experiments. In fact, most astronomers have really not done their duty. But I did know very soon that JPL had real use for our students. I would guess that by 1960 there were three, who are still there; one in relativity theory, another one in dynamics in the solar system, and I forget what the third does.
Weart:Real scientific work.
Greenstein:Yes. Itís certainly true that none of their training was engineeringóoriented. The engineering students from Cal Tech who work at Jet Propulsion are a very different breed of cats (and are extremely good). One thing I do remember being impressed by very early was the question of reliability. Because things had in fact failed. And then by the use of small computers and small recorders. In fact it was really tape recorders engineered for space that had to be used, and that limited for a while, by lack of storage, the possible experiments. I never had any direct influence on that; 1957 is ten years before I had direct influence on NASA.
Weart:Did you ever participate in space experiments, by the way?
Greenstein:Not since 1947. I told you about that. But now Iím one of the observers with the International UltraViolet Explorer, for more than two years.
Greenstein:Studying hot stars in the far ultraviolet, to get the upper limit to stellar temperatures, and also to look at composition and peculiarities of white dwarfs in the ultraviolet. Iím observing again beginning the end of next week. I have 16 shifts this and next year, which seems like a lot, but itís a very awkward and slow satellite to use.
Weart:Youíre observing—you use the term as if itís like going down to Palomar.
Weart:Itís become that Ė-
Greenstein:(flipping through papers) My desk is covered with computer outputs of programs, predicted exposure times, predicted fluxes in the ultraviolet. When we get there, if Iím wrong, Iíll know that Iíve found something. If Iím right, itís going to be rather dull science. But thereís a lot that we donít know to be discovered with the Explorer, even though itís only an 18-inch telescope. So I look forward to that.
Weart:OK. Letís get into your involvement with NASA, which I guess is your main involvement with space astronomy. Iím not sure what the highlights are. From what Iíve been able to look up, the early highlights were the Ď62 Iowa summer study, the Ď65 Woods Hole study, and then youíre on the Ramsey Committee, the Science Advisory Committee, and then the Astronomy Missions Board. Are there other things you should fill in?
Greenstein:Well, there was something thatís got no official name that was the most interesting. We were three advisors, as I remember, meeting directly with the Administrator of NASA. Leo Goldberg was one of them. I was another. I forget the third; I think it was Schwarzschild but I may be wrong. And that was probably my most useful and direct contact. As you mentioned, I had been somewhat interested in the trapped radiation belts, and had known Van Allen, who helped me in my spectrograph experiment in 1947 on the V-2. So the question of whatís now called plasma physics, and the magnetosphere of the earth, was an interesting one. I had written a paper in the volume that Kuiper edited on observations from satellites, though it was a sort of a negative use. I have a paper that comes out of my Air Force connections. (looks through papers)
Weart:Whatís this weíre looking at here?
Greenstein:A miscellaneous group of lectures from the Ballistics Missiles Symposium, 1959, ďRealistic View of Space Exploration.Ē Thatís pretty close to Ď57, for a groundóbased astronomer.
Weart:Where was this symposium?
Greenstein:It was here. It was an STL—itís probably for Si Ramoís organization, that had to do with the ballistic missile program in which I was involved. (looks at papers) Oh, the Space Technology Laboratory. That was an early Air Force, ICBM, think tank. I was a consultant on that for about five years. I donít want to go too much into the military advisory side of my career. But I did stay interested, and I knew about the possibilities in space before they were generally available.
Weart:The possibilities of observing things from space?
Weart:Pointing up or pointing down. We donít need to go into that; we discussed that somewhat before.
Greenstein:OK. So all in all, you can see that perhaps just from the technology aspect, it was necessary to view astronomy and astronomers as having a background in disciplines relevant to space missions, and having problems that were important to space missions. I guess I was pretty much a conservative then, although I knew that space missions and therefore science in space were going to be possible. The title of my lecture in Ď59 is ďRealistic View of Space Exploration,Ē which has a negative connotation.
Weart:At the time you were not one of the ones who were pushing for it?
Greenstein:I was pushing for it, but not necessarily for its great benefit for science. In fact, I have been accused of being ďan enemy of spaceĒ at Cal Tech.
Weart:This was in this period?
Greenstein:Yes, in this period. But on the other hand, some other people were pushing it very hard.
Weart:People in astronomy, you mean?
Greenstein:I would say they were in physics, and especially I must say that others at UCLA and at UC (University of California) were more pro-space astronomy than I and perhaps my colleagues were. But certainly by Ď62, it was clear that science and astronomy were going to have a place in space. It wasnít quite clear how big space science would become. There was a symposium that was organized by Klemperer and Armin Deutsch which led to a volume, which I guess is a good picture of attitudes. Thatís published about 1961. So we took a few years to respond.
Weart:— where was this symposium?
Greenstein:It was here, and thereís a volume. I think Deutsch and Klemperer edited it. I have a paper in it. But all in all, you can see itís a rather slow response.
Weart:So your personal involvement was, youíd go to these symposia occasionally and talk, and meanwhile, youíd be consulting for the Air Force on the side about military uses of space.
Greenstein:Yes. Right. I was on various advisory boards.
Weart:Right. That was concerned with military rather than —
Greenstein:— for example, I notice in Ď64 in Pakeís Report on physics, thereís a panel on astrophysics, space physics and cosmic radiation, which shows that people were pretty well combining all these subjects by that time. I think by Ď64 we were headed for big business, big science. Ď57 to Ď61. We were still puzzled as to whether it was going to mean much. And in fact, most people thought the sun was the thing that it would pay off on.
Greenstein:Itís a sluggish reaction, as you can see. OK, now then, the Ramsey Committee which you mentioned —
Weart:First I wanted to ask you about the Ď62 Iowa summer study, and the Woods Hole meeting?
Greenstein:Iíve really forgotten them.
Weart:They were not very important?
Greenstein:Well, they certainly were important, but to me theyíre blanks. These meetings kept going on. I was reluctantly involved in almost everything. I must say that it seemed at first necessary to do all these things on a smaller scale, and to lecture, and perhaps to fight back against overly optimistic claims for space science. The protagonists were so positive and pushy; they did what had to be done; we did the conservative bit of keeping the balance. It was quite different by the time large experiments were being clearly discussed, and thatís where, I think, I changed both my attitude and my involvement. You had to accept that if there was going to be space science, and if it was going to be supported no matter what you did, then you had to ride that wild horse, instead of letting people with only halfóbaked ideas claim the leadership. So I think the responsible scientists did get involved. I was a conservative in this. I would have said that Schwarzschild and Spitzer, though conservative, sound scientists, were strong protagonists of it. Goldberg also, certainly. And the balance came out about right, in the midósixties. It took a long time.
Weart:Tell me then about getting on this advisory group.
Greenstein:I think the advisory group was initiated at the request of the administrator of NASA, who was Jim Webb at the time. One of his reasons was that he had continuously rejected pressure for establishment of a General Advisory Committee to the Space Agency, a structure which was modeled on the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) structure, where the General Advisory Committee had a great deal of authority. He refused that, and felt that NASA management was better able to make such decisions using outsiders only as consultants. Perhaps to buffer this pressure, he decided for a very personalized committee reporting to him, headed by Norman Ramsay — a very good physicist and a good leadership choice — and covering a broad range of science with astronomy only a tiny part of it. Originally, for example, he (Webb) was very interested in the physiological effects of prolonged space flight. That was a question that came up. He was also interested in the psychological problems. And since at one time there was contemplated the idea that men would be in orbit and perhaps control nuclear weapons from space, (the Manned Orbiting Laboratory of the Air Force), there was a question of the psychological deprivation of human contact. Itís not a funny question. Itís a very horrid thought. Development hasnít gone that way, fortunately, but what if two mad officer astronauts orbiting for six months finally might decide to detonate a few weapons?
Weart:And rule the world or whatever.
Greenstein:No, not to rule, just for fun, because itís so boring. But Webb did create — I canít remember the full constitution — a group which had good behavioral scientists, psychologists, and biologists. Colin Pittendrigh of Princeton was a biologist, whom I much respected, also Bentley Glass. And one of the questions faced was whether there were important biological experiments that could be done only in space. It was a question of finding major missions for NASA, in the long term future. Since already manned flight for long intervals was contemplated, it was a very reasonable thing to do. I enjoyed that. The interesting thing was that, if you omitted the question of men and their psychology in orbit for a long time, no one felt that there were important biological or physiological questions that required a great investment. Therefore, astronomy and related physics, I think, survived as the major NASA scientific mission, more or less by default. Thatís my reading of that period of study, having looked at it perhaps once in ten or twelve years since it was finished. It was a good study; one of its outputs was a very good, early realization that the question of management of large telescopes in space was almost as important as whether you could fly one and make it work. Our report suggested a sort of multi-university consortium called ďstar eye,Ē STARI, I believe, Space Telescope Astronomical Research Incorporated, be created, and be a creature of the university science community.
Weart:Suggested by whom?
Greenstein:That was this Ramsay Committee. Who specifically — I guess itís Leo Goldberg. In fact, I know the name STAR is mine, but STARI, which is better, is his. I donít know if he mentioned this, but I thought it was a good thing to have done. There is a Ramsay Report and itís a good one.
Weart:This sort of setup is something you pretty much agreed on?
Greenstein:We agreed on it as the only feasible way to do worthwhile science. We came from academic backgrounds. Of course such a suggestion was anathema to NASA policy, which said that obviously the space telescope should be completely managed by NASA and run from a NASA center. Astronomers could come and be given a badge and be allowed in — and that was it. At the same time, now that Iím talking about it, there was the same type of controversy about the Lunar Sample Institute. Since the moon landing had been authorized (when was it, Ď60? Something like that), we were faced with the fact that success meant that there would be 20 billion dollars worth of rock brought back. And the use of the rock was obviously dependent on how carefully it was handled, how pure it was when it arrived, and so a Lunar Receiving Institute was contemplated under university management. In fact it was eventually built, but under unfavorable circumstances, near the Manned Space Flight Center at Houston. That was run for a while by a man named William Rubey of UCLA, a distinguished geophysicist. They ultimately did a good job, but under terrible difficulties. The first lunar rock, if it hadnít been for essentially last-minute efforts to build a contamination-free box. The box supplied was covered by the manufacturer with vaseline to protect the stainless steel finish. The vaseline entrapped all kinds of terrestrial organisms and impurities. And when that was realized —
Weart:And it was organic itself.
Greenstein:Yes, extremely organic. The early days of doing experiments were very much matters of such conflicts between engineering needs and scientific needs. There was no doubt that the engineering needs within NASA had prominence and predominance both. The kind of thing that we came up with in Ramsayís committee was a strong realization, and I think it turned out to be a correct one, that you donít do good science under engineering domination.
Weart:Youíd had some experience of these things during the war, and all these people had.
Weart:Or was this something that sort of struck you anew at this point?
Greenstein:Well, each time it happens you have the same frustration, you know. Just like with the Air Force, you make wonderful and reasonable recommendations, and 20 years later someone builds the wrong thing. It was striking how often you had to relive the same management problem, between realists and scientists. The realists were spending the money and therefore had the power, but claimed to be doing it in the name of science.
Weart:But arenít there three groups? There are scientists, engineers and administrators. Iím not sure with whom you were dealing. Did you deal directly with engineers strictly or administrators?
Greenstein:This is all at the top level of NASA management. The administrator and his immediate subordinates only. So we had nothing personally to do with engineering. But you knew how NASA operated, and it operated the way it did because it had in-house research labs, which it had even inherited from World War I, I believe, under the NACA, and they had to keep them busy. Questions like the role of the people like Werner von Braun would come up. Itís clear that his genius made it possible to make the Saturn V go on time. But you couldnít stop him, and you didnít really have the authority to tell him, ďDonít rush it off to the launching pad, because thereís nothing in it yet.Ē Engineering schedules had a spurious air of being reasonable, and were, if all you wanted to do is to launch successfully. This is a very tough problem with a big project. I think the expenditure of that many billions of dollars a year has intrinsic difficulties like military management problems. Scientists canít move the structure unless they get in very early, and unless there exists an organizational form which scientists can move and have authority. On the various successful spacecraft experiments done at JPL, the final authority for any change that affected the scientific performance was in the scientific group. Unless they gave consent, a change couldnít be made. So you didnít find that engineers had done things that made the scientific missions impossible. This pattern developed over some years of bad experiences. And this is in a lab relatively immune to the normal federal bureaucratic structure.
Weart:You had had enough bad experiences from the start to propose that the large space telescope have the university —
Greenstein:Yes. And weíre still fighting that about the Space Telescope Institute.
Weart:Right, it still hasnít been decided yet.
Greenstein:It hasnít. And thatís interesting, after 15 years of history. Goldberg should have all the documents and I donít want to go over this ground too much. By the way, just following it (and I donít know if Goldberg mentioned it), a much smaller committee, mostly concerned with astronomy and a few other subjects, was headed by Roger Heyns of the University of California, who later became president of UC, Ď67 to Ď70. That group stayed advisory to Webb. I think that a small group of half a dozen people is the longest serving and nearest to a General Advisory Committee — but it was a private one with no legal responsibility, appointed by the administrator and responsible to him. Till much more recently when they have whatís called I think the Physical Sciences Committee of NASA, now formally instituted. Next Leo, I think, organized the Astronomy Missions Board, in an overlapping period, Ď67 to Ď69.
Weart:You say you and he and others served as personal advisors to Webb. This is a separate thing?
Greenstein:No, thatís this ongoing thing. Ramsey and then Heynes headed it. He was very good, had a forceful personality, and as long as there was any point in doing it, it was done. The Administrator changed about that time, and that structure vanished.
Weart:These things are not easy to dig out of the papers, which are voluminous. Let me ask you a couple of questions, particularly the kind of things that arenít on paper, such as what were your personal relations with Jim Webb like?
Greenstein:(laughs) They were enjoyable. Youíve got to realize that he was a hell of a forceful man.
Greenstein:He was a forceful personality, and NASA would not have done what it did, succeeded in its mission, without him. He was popular in Congress. He was afraid of nothing and nobody. He told me incredible stories, which I donít know whether to believe, about his personal contacts with the Presidents. But he survived Washington and he did a good job. He was a colorful guy, and he believed in what he did and thought. One of my main contributions to him in this long, eight years total, contact was the plea that NASA get involved on ground- based astronomy. That if they were going to spend billions on space research in astronomy (planetary science for example cost many billions), theyíd better also do things from the ground, for just plain backup. What was Mars like the day Viking got there? Or before that. They took the first (Viking) photographs during a dust storm. In a strict and limited sense, NASA was allowed to do it. In a general sense, Webb was a powerful enough person that he might have been able to. I said this many times and pointed out how little a tax it would be on the NASA budget — they could equal the whole federal support of astronomy with about a fifth of one percent of their budget. They could even get dedicated planetary scientists or solar astronomers to work with these things, and in the long term the facilities could be used by other people for other types of astronomy. He told me a story. You want a long anecdote?
Weart:Yes, tell me the anecdote.
Greenstein:President Johnson told him that ground-based astronomy — Iím sure he didnít use those words — telescopes on the earth were none of Jim Webbís business. So Jim said, ďI was there (White House) late one evening, and weíd been going over the next yearís budget, and I told him that if he would give me permission, I would hold back from discretionary funds a certain small amount to get a start, maybe build a 200óinch for you.Ē ďIíd love that,Ē I said. ďWellĒ he said, ďHe wouldnít do it. He said, ďNope, itís clear youíd have real trouble with the Science Foundation, trouble with Congress, I donít think you should.Ē I donít know exactly what he said. At any rate, he said, ďThen the President said, ĎListen, I gotta pee.í So he got up and went to the bathroom opening off his office. And I thought, well, thereís a man whoís got no resistances. I got to the entrance of that toilet and I pushed open the door and said, ĎMr. President, gimme a telescope!í and Johnson said, ĎHell no, Jim, hell no!Ē Whether it happened, I donít know.
Weart:It sounds very much like what Iíve heard about Johnson. That was his style.
Greenstein:Itís possible. You never know with these colorful characters, and maybe I donít know myself, about myself, how much was put in for color. But it was fairly clear that it was the highest level decision, to keep NASA out of ground-based science.
Weart:Tell me, when you advocated this, did you advocate it directly to Webb or were there other people?
Greenstein:No, this was to Webb; there was nobody higher. I never went to Congress about such things. I never appeared before a Congressional committee then. Iíve always been with the administrative side of the agencies, and I think itís just as well to keep them separate.
Weart:So this would have been in his office?
Greenstein:Yes, this was all in his office. It was all very nice and very direct. Excuse me, Iíve got to correct something I said earlier. We talked about how quickly astronomers, or I, got involved with space after Sputnik. I find in my references, which I hadnít looked through, ďAstrophysical Research in Space, 1959.Ē There was a book, a ballistic missile symposium, SECTIONS OF SPACE HANDBOOK by Buchheim and staff of RAND, a Random House book, I think I mentioned in an earlier interview that a man named Kellogg at Rand had done some of the first thinking about satellites in science. That must be an outgrowth of working with RAND. OK.
Weart:OK, letís get back to NASA. How much did you deal with other NASA people, like Nancy Roman?
Greenstein:Well, a little with Nancy. Mostly with the deputy administrators, John Naugle, whoís certainly important, and Homer Newall. They were very important people then, and they were the people who were mostly talking to this advisory committee. Of course one visited the heads of various groups, and I think I was on an advisory committee to Nancy on the astronomy program at the same time. But that was a completely different level, program support.
Weart:Tell me a little bit about the life of these committees, either Ramsay or under Roger Heyns. Would you go to Washington? Would you visit the NASA facilities? How did it work?
Greenstein:Well, they were rather intense efforts. I think they almost always were at NASA headquarters, though I have visited a few of the major installations, like meeting von Braun and looking at the Saturn and the early strappedóup vehicles, I forget what they were called, about that time. But most of it was with the senior administration on plans and budgets.
Weart:Would there be astronomers here, and a few senior administrators at the end of the table, going back and forth?
Weart:A one day meeting?
Greenstein:No, I think they were two days with the administrator present perhaps half the time. Thatís a lot for a busy person — theyíd be in and out. But they were pretty intense meetings, yes. They werenít show pieces at all. It wasnít listening to briefings, though we had to listen to briefings. But you heard what they were going to budget for and what the science program was supposed to be. So then, say, Nancy would come in or somebody from solar physics would come in. Then the committee would sit with the administrator and tell him what they thought he ought to do. Now, we had nothing to do with, we were deliberately excluded from, manned flight considerations, always. It was so clear that that was untouchable. The head of the manned space flight, whoever was deputy administrator for that, was a god, second only to Webb.
Weart:So you didnít report to him at all?
Greenstein:We heard him. He told us what he was going to do, and, since he spent threeóquarters or fourófifths of NASA money, it was clear he was a person we didnít influence. But administrators were always interested, if they could find something they could do, without costing anything. For example, the astronomers as a group, and maybe that was through Nancy, were asked essentially at the last minute, a few weeks before the first manned suborbital flight, to think of something astronauts could do with what they could put in the pocket of their flying suit. Well, build a sunshade, was one thing. It turned out the window was too dirty with too much scattered light to permit a good look at the corona. How about the horizon of the earth? That was done; it was colored. You could see the ionosphere, in other words. There was a lot of that direct advice about small things, but I think the groups I was involved with were really about satellite astronomy or planetary probes, and excluded from any consideration of the manned program. On the other hand, we all could talk.
Weart:OK, tell me about that. Was there much pressure mounted by the committee?
Greenstein:I think one always said that there was too much money in the manned program and too little (elsewhere) — but that was all you could do. You could say it, but you knew it wouldnít do any good.
Weart:I see. What were your relations like with the astronomical community? People knew you were on this group?
Greenstein:No, this was a secret. It was not classified but it was secret. It was not an open thing. Things were not generally published. It was an advisory group for the administrator, like Cabinet advice to the President. Later, the Astronomy Missions Board had the big astronomy community in. A few of the old boys hung on. It was a business of selling the space program to ground-based astronomers who thought it was wasteful, and vice versa, of selling some astronomy to NASA. But before that, everything was pretty much person to person.
Weart:There was opposition to spending the money on space and also opposition to the way NASA was going about it. How would you sell it? — did this mean you talked to people when you went to meetings, or what?
Greenstein:I think the only thing that really sold it was the scientific results. And unfortunately, I donít think that we got early good scientific results. One thing that perhaps made me believe it was good science was what the lunar rocks showed. I never expected that. I thought at first the rocks were the stupidest waste of money. And yet when you see the effects of exposures to the solar wind, weird compositions, the completely pulverized nature of the surface, zap craters on the tiny little crystalline inclusions — I must say that that it was great. Then you got to the strange isotope composition of inclusions, which was completely surprising (that came first from the meteorites, but continues elsewhere). I must say that Iím more impressed by what geochemistry has done for deep questions of astrophysics, than what astronomy in space did for quite a few years. But things have changed. That brings back an important point. The other thing that most astronomers believed about NASA was that it should support more rocket astronomy, and that specifically meant Naval Research Laboratory and people like Herb Friedman and his groupís work. It was certain that they were doing good science in space, at relatively infinitesimal cost, but you couldnít get them more money. In the early years of satellite science, rockets were getting more astronomy results per dollar. But fairly soon, satellites got to be reliable and carried better experiments. I think, during the Astronomy Missions Board, it was still a big issue, since by that time satellite astronomy was cheaper. Although it often took long; the experiments were too late, too oldófashioned, by the time they flew.
Weart:Some of that could have been done by rocket.
Greenstein:Thatís right. And thatís what we yacked about at great length, I remember.
Weart:It comes up in some of the reports.
Greenstein:Itís funny, you know; you respond to a real situation as best you can, and when thereís no great science coming out, you feel negative. And then, say by the time Uhuru succeeded, you have no doubts that that, at last, was the big thing for astronomy.
Weart:Do you feel then that the relations between NASA and the astronomical community have changed a great deal over time?
Greenstein:No, and yes! Except weíre more nearly in balance. Before, it was an authoritarian, oneóway domination by NASA management. By the time, say, Spitzerís Copernicus satellite was going, they (Princeton) had scientific control of it completely. The relation evolved.
Weart:Who is responsible for this?
Greenstein:I would say, among many, Lyman Spitzer and Martin Schwarzschild. Theyíre strong people. Also, it seems to me, NASA is not made of stupid people. Theyíre people who originally were in engineering, and had an enormous engineering problem, solved it and couldnít at first get used to crazy scientists. However, public relations in NASA claimed that the astronauts landed on the moon to understand the origin of the Universe. Therefore they had better know a little bit about the Universe. And gradually, that little bit got bigger. I think, all in al1, itís an expensive but organic growth. Had we been God and been able to reach the President and tell him that if he was going to get the most for his taxpayerís dollar and the most glamour out of space science, heíd better listen to scientists, it would have been better. But we couldnít. You could have given me a President and an hour, and I couldnít have persuaded him. He doesnít understand why itís important. And he doesnít need to. He has to trust the management he appointed.
Weart:How much do you feel that research in astronomy has helped to justify what NASA was doing? Were there pressures because of this either on NASA or on the astronomers?
Greenstein:Oh, gosh. We immediately fought back by working in NASA science areas. If they were going to study a planet, we tried to find out about the planet before space probes got there. It was a human reaction, to show that it was possible to answer many questions from the earth. Frank Drake, for example, got the conductivity and the dielectric constant of the surface of Venus, from radio astronomy, from the ground, and got about the right answer. Other radio astronomers got the temperature of Venus, the ground temperature. Before that, optical astronomers had the upper atmosphere. Guido Munch got the atmospheric pressure on Mars from Mount Wilson and Palomer. That could really be viewed as an irritation at NASA, if you wish. But NASA enormously supported him, in the long run. NASA is in no way an evil group. When it became obvious that there were people who were interested in our planetary system who were good scientists, they got supported. Every now and then they had their troubles and were irritated. But we here had excellent support, for example, for astronomy through Bob Leighton. NASA let him spend a great deal of money, at his discretion, because he had been the senior experimenter on the Mars pictorial experiments. That mission did a very successful job, got good answers, and helped astronomy enormously. The pictures changed our ideas of Mars. My first glimpse of early pictures made me feel excited. It was (just like) the moon. Sameís true of Mercury. So NASA recognized that serious scientists not in their orbit could contribute, and gave them a good deal of freedom. In fact, part of that freedom has vanished, with the decrease in the budgets, with NASA very badly pinched on science.
Weart:Do you notice any regularities in who, among the astronomers, are enthusiastic for NASA and space astronomy, and who isnít? Any groups, or lines it divides along?
Greenstein:Well, obviously, my own group, the Hale Observatories, never played a big role in devising NASA missions except through individuals. But individuals, who are major experimenters with NASA, groundóbased observatories have by the dozen literally.
Weart:I wonder, is it any type of person? Older rather than younger or people interested in one thing rather than another thing?
Greenstein:Itís patterns of psychology, I guess. I think if youíre unable to accept the fact that what you think is important is going to be a dead duck in a few years — and there are lots of scientists like that — youíre not going to accept a radical shift, like the eruption of a brand new technique. And there are plenty of such good scientists who will not cooperate with NASA — or with new electronic astronomy. Radio astronomy faced similar skepticism. But I think I told you enough about how radio astronomy started here, to see that even the classical photographers, like Baade and Minkowski, wanted it.
Weart:Thereís a kind of person whoís threatened?
Greenstein:Maybe. If somebody said that all astronomy was going to be done in space in ten years, I would feel threatened, even now. And some people say it. I donít believe it; I know theyíre wrong. But maybe theyíre right. It is true, weíre running out of dark places on the earth with good climates, except South America. All we need is another revolution or two and there wonít be any South America.
Weart:Thereís always Hawaii.
Greenstein:Well, Iím not all that impressed. One major difference, age, means that many young physicists are doing astronomy in space.
Weart:I gather youíve been very excited by space results.
Greenstein:You canít measure it in papers per million dollars. The cost is roughly a factor of ten (higher than for groundóbased). But the NASA vehicle results on the sun, for ultraviolet, on the planets, and in Xóray astronomy, I think are just among the real scientific revolutions in the last few decades.
Weart:Has space astronomy affected your own field at all?
Greenstein:Yes. Iím very interested in how hot stars are. Iím trying to find that out in space myself. Iíve followed the work in England and in Holland, with their ultraviolet photometers in satellites, and worked with some of these people. Thatís a very important physical question Iím now interested in, and I think the answer has to come from space astronomy. Next, Iíd say that the quasars, which seem so weird, are, from space observations, very much like redóshifted bright Seyfert galaxies. The spectra of small redóshifted Seyferts observed with the IUE (International Ultraviolet Explorer) look just like quasars at red shift of two, where the lines are brought into the normal optical region. But I think the deeper contribution is going to be in the future in cosmology, and in high energy astrophysics. Already, and in the future, from the Xóray satellites. There itís affected my work. The degenerate stars are halfway to the neutron stars, which are threeóquarters of the way to the black holes, and thatís all to be studied by Xóray astronomy. White dwarfs with strong magnetic fields should be Xóray sources. So far only oneís been proved. The black hole type of Xóray sources are clearly to be studied from space.
Weart:So itís affected you in a way, youíre saying, not so much in what itís taught you as in the way itís channeling the direction that your work is going to be taking.
Greenstein:Yes. Or that I think astronomy in general will move. Astronomy goes to the more and more extraordinary, because the Universe is extraordinary. The deeper the gravitational potential hole, the worse things get, and the further the information moves to the gamma ray region. I must say that we should have been able to predict what the X-ray satellite saw. But nobody did. People complain in retrospect that ďI said so and so,Ē or ďTheyíre just extensions of what youíd expect, from our analysisĒ of, say, radio-frequency observations of the Crab Nebula.
Weart:Well, they we have known Mars was covered with craters, too. Nobody did.
Greenstein:Yes. I think the great function of a new technology like space astronomy is that it clears out the cobwebs. And in space astronomy, it opens up so many octaves of energy, higher and higher energies. Every time you look in a different region, higher energy photons, you look to a higher energy phenomenon. The only trouble is that space astronomy is limited. When it have done or first look at all the energies in the electromagnetic spectrum, it doesnít have the fill-in ability that ground-based sciences have, because of the enormous cost. Youíre not going to identify every black hole.
Weart:I see. You canít do surveys.
Greenstein:Yes, you cannot do surveys. The cost is, say, 20 million dollars per thousand scientific facts. Thatís just a guess, that there will be a thousand facts. Thatís a pretty high rate. For a million dollars on earth, you ought to be able to generate a lot of facts, a lot more than that.
Weart:But some facts are more equal than others.
Greenstein:Youíre right — some facts are more equal. The high-energy side of space science is its great contribution. And even the low energy, large parts of the infrared, are going to be important.
Weart:Iím impressed by things like for instance, ATM (Apollo Telescope Mount) found the coronal holes. Theyíve seen them, now they know how to detect them in the 10830 line from the earth. Now you know what to look for.
Greenstein:Arenít they the same as the unipolar magnetic regions? Or related to it?
Weart:Well, related. Iím not sure about it. But they can see the coronal holes themselves now, by looking for changes in the 10830 network.
Greenstein:Well, but we didnít know it, and we could have kept on looking at the 10830 network and not noticed these things. Except that maybe somebody would have eventually correlated it with terrestrial magnetism. In fact, I think they did. Thereís a big paper from Kitt Peak — Sac(ramento) Peak, about geomagnetic activity and coronal holes and the network, that Jack Harvey and a lot of other people did about a year or so ago.
Weart:Well, to some extent itís like what you were saying about the atmospheric pressure on Mars and so forth. The ground-based people have been pressing on it.
Greenstein:Let me just say, the people who react against it, thereís no reason for blaming them. If youíre living on a limited budget, and to see money blown away — and believe that that money could have come to you, through some other channel in the government — then you can oppose the NASA approach. But most of the older people have become philosophical. You know you canít switch that money. And in fact you shouldnít.
Weart:OK. I guess the next thing is the National Academy for Science, the Space Science Board and on to the Greenstein Report.
I donít exactly remember when it began. Somewhere in the mid-sixties, I joined an important committee of the Academy called the Committee on Science and Public Policy, COSPUP, a creature of Harvey Brooks of Harvard, and one which I very much enjoyed. I guess it was about Ď63 that that happened. COSPUPís mission, which was self-invented, was really the original mission of the Academy, which is to advise the government. But the government never asked the Academy for advice. So the Academy kept generating studies, which it got money from the government to do, but really they were often not in response to real questions. And many of the responses were, I think, somewhat special interest group responses. The Academy had, in addition, an ongoing Space Science Board, to advise NASA on missions. But this SSB had no responsibility to integrate this with ground-based astronomy planning. COSPUP took the general question of the relation between science and government quite seriously.
t was perhaps an outgrowth of the much earlier interest in science and government of the leftists, questions on scienceís responsibility to the people. COSPUP felt that the Academy should take a stronger hand in generating studies which it felt important to science, to government and to the public, and even criticizing aspects of governmental operation, using the Academyís own funds to do that. The Academy is big and has an enormous National Research Council, which tries to find work to do, to justify hiring people. COSPUP was a conscience of the Academy. It was one of the most interesting groups Iíve ever been involved with. I learned a lot about other areas of science. The report on chemistry had been a very major activity at the time I first joined COSPUP. Westheimer from Harvard headed that. That was really a prototype of a good study. The push for the eventual astronomy survey arose before I went on COSPUP. It arose from the struggles between radio astronomers and optical astronomers for major support. The radio astronomers did not have an authoritative look at their whole science, except these Dicke Panel reports, which you know about. They had been excluded from consideration in the Whitford Report, which was about the needs astronomy with large telescopes, definitely a quite conservative look at astronomy with large telescopes. So there was strong criticism. A need to redress balance occurs whenever a new, very successful technology comes up. I realized it well before I got on COSPUP, but it certainly put me on the spot in COSPUP. Unfortunately, I agreed to run for the Council of the Academy in the middle of all this. That was perhaps a mistake, but I was elected to the Council and was on the Council of the Academy 1966-69. While thatís supposedly the ruling body, it was in fact, to quote the great Harvard chemist George Kistiakowski ďthe dullest governing body in the world.Ē He knew, since he was vice president of the Academy.
Weart:Thatís an old tradition at the Academy, actually.
Weart:At COSPUP, I gather from what you said, you had very exciting discussions and so on.
Greenstein:Yes, that was a completely different attitude. First, responsibility to the public as well as to science. Whereas the Council, dominated by the permanent staff of the Academy and the President, looked to the government as their customer. Well, thatís a bad thing. The Academy shouldnít have a customer. So, I missed out on some fun. I think Bob Kraft is now the astronomer in COSPUP. Itís a very interesting group. I wish I could have followed it further. Anyway, it was clear that the astronomy section of the Academy wanted a new study. The radio astronomers and I guess the astronomical community, did. (looking at curriculum vita) I notice that unfortunately I also got to be chairman of the astronomy section of the Academy in Ď68. So there I was, on the Council, just out of COSPUP, in the Astronomy Missions Board of NASA, in the middle. There were pushes from all sides for the study. Next, NASA also wanted the study, which was news.
Weart:That just came out of the blue?
Greenstein:I think some people must have pushed NASA to tell the Academy through the Space Science Board that if there was an astronomy survey, NASA should be involved. The concrete push came from the (National) Science Foundation, which wanted a new survey, very conscious of the needs of radio astronomy at the time.
Weart:And apparently the Bureau of the Budget was after them.
Greenstein:Yes, and at the time that the whole thing was being pushed for, NSF had the agreement of NASA that they would support the study by putting in half the money. They would exclude from consideration only the area of manned space flight. They suggested, and I think the study organizers agreed, that probably probes to planets were not a good thing to include. For one thing, they had a working advisory group within the Academy, the Space Science Board, and the Space Science Board didnít dreadfully want to lose its control of planetary science missions for a study period. There is a danger which I can tell you about I think somewhere, Ď69 roughly, or Ď68, at an Academy meeting, everybody jumped on me, as chairman of the section.
Weart:In Ď69 it was first set up.
Greenstein:No, it was Ď68, you see, that there were these preliminary discussions.
Weart:When you first became aware of these things going on.
Greenstein:Yes. I was in too many places not to be the head of the study. Those were, shall we say, rather busy years, I notice. (looking at vita) I was also on the faculty committee at Cal Tech on the choice of the president, member of URSI (the International Radio Union thing), Geophysics Research Board, and chairman of the U.S. National Committee for the IAU (International Astronomical Union) it was busy. So, being in the center —
Weart:May I see that list of your committees, by the way?
Greenstein:I did miscellaneous smaller things. It was a hell of an intense period. I donít remember much, because I deliberately forget the past in order to be able to function.
Weart:Now Iím dredging it up.
Greenstein:No, the minute you or I mention something, it opens new windows into my memory. Whitford, who had become relatively inactive in planning studies, and Sandage, who had been with Whitford, were not too excited, since there had been only a short interval from Ď68, when this was being planned, to the Whitford report; four years from its publication. But most of the rest of the astronomy community felt that either one did it soon, or there would he fragmentary individual area studies, like a real authoritative study of radio astronomy and its needs. And by then, most of us in most of astronomy felt the unification of radio astronomy and astronomy was complete. Very likely we were also beginning to feel that unification with space astronomy as well was coming.
Weart:So therefore it should all be covered in one report.
Greenstein:Right. And this question of balance between the different efforts would be, of course, a major problem to the committee. My general feeling was that it was a very difficult task, and that if it was done, it had better be done well. Because not only was it a plan for a decade, but one could see that it was to be a decade of difficulties with government funding.
Weart:That was already clear?
Greenstein:Already. I forget when the peak year was in real dollars.
Weart:Ď68 was the peak year.
Greenstein:You could see it coming, and there were going to be terrible fights for a million dollars for an antenna or for a telescope.
Weart:People were starting to line up?
Greenstein:Yes, I had been with some advisory group, I forget what, for the NSF, for a brief study. I found that the NSF had paid for I think 30 three-foot reflectors (Iím not sure of that number) at relatively small astronomical departments around the United States, of which two-thirds were in major cities, like in the suburbs of Detroit or Ann Arbor or something. Stuff which was almost certain to have zero astronomical effect. That was one of the things that shocked me, when it was clear from the Whitford Report that we were still, and should continue building big telescopes. The increase of telescope area was pretty slow, considering. It was funny to see some of it wasted on nonproductive things. I remember that it worried me as a moral lesson. Except that there was such obvious political import. Letís say, if you decided not to build a single three-foot telescope at any state university, you would have lost 96 or whatever it was Senators at the time. There are problems. So one of the things was a worry about the future — as well as the pressures from the radio astronomers, whom I was closer torn, really, than space astronomers.
Weart:Were these discussions that went on at the time of the Academy meetings?
Greenstein:Yes, as well as in between. I was chairman of the section, so they went on in the section.
Weart:This was before the thing even got set up.
Greenstein:Yes Iím sure that in my files of letters, as section chairman, there are lots of indignant letters. We had spent a lot of time trying to get radio astronomers elected to the Academy. I forget when the first one was; I think it was Bernie Burke. Getting a space scientist in was another triumph. Youíve got to realize that the Academy is a relatively conservative group COSPUP was pushing for wide visions of the relation between science and society. Here we were not relating three subdisciplines of one science.
Weart:Did Harvey Brooks play a role?
Greenstein:Oh yes, in all stories of what got done in the sixties, Harvey Brooks is somewhere behind the woodwork, always doing the right thing. Heís a very fine man.
Weart:What did he do in terms of the astronomy survey?
Greenstein:He told me to do it. He simply told me, ďJesse, youíve gotta do it.Ē My correspondence with Harvey Brooks during those years is down in the basement now. Itís very funny.
Weart:Over in the (Cal Tech) archives.
Greenstein:Yes. Heís a very straight person. He had enormous power in Washington. He knew what happened, and by the way, he had friends in the OMB, then the Bureau of the Budget. Then I went and talked through the Academy, arranging it, to someone whose name I forget in the Bureau of the Budget. And then we had a preliminary meeting with NSF people, different sections, not only astronomy but education, and NASA and OMB people. That was an eye opener, and I think essentially convinced me that the study had to be done, and that if I could, I should do it.
Greenstein:Because the OMB people — it was Bureau of the Budget — scared me. Youíve got to see how they operate, in the realistic context in Washington, to realize how little science has to do with decisions in the government, and how much they (OMB) find little disposable tens of millions to shovel here and there, and how much the President and the Congress go along. Theyíre the real thinkers, it seemed to me. Their attitude towards science was, as I remember, that it was a very expensive luxury; that it wasnít clear that we could support astronomy and there was really no reason to support astronomy; that of course any existing bureau or department or agency that had a budget would go on with about that budget or a growing budget, but that anything new had to fight hard. And what did I have to offer them that could sell them and sell the Congress, when it came to a document, that this was the proper thing to do?
Weart:This is what they told you?
Greenstein:Actually cynical people, completely, coldly cynical. But of course, since they were very powerful and very intelligent people and knew how Washington worked, you had to take their lesson seriously.
Weart:In a way they were helpful?
Weart:They were telling you what sort of a document they needed. Greenstein; I would say — without criticism because I really think it was helpful — a man named Hugh Loweth was the most enlightening. Iíve met lots of politicians on the local level, but Iíd never met up with a person who knew so much how things got done. And he wasnít showing off. He was interested in science; it was his responsibility. One man is responsible for the Space Agency, another man is responsible for other federal agencies like the Geological Survey and so forth. Weather was at another desk. Someone was responsible for what you might call basic research. How are you going to balance atmospheric science against astrophysics? Itís tough. Which will give the biggest splash payoff? Which will give the real payoff, really?
Weart:He considered both of these sides?
Greenstein:Yes. He knew enough about science. So I learned a lot. I would say that Iím deeply indebted to him.
Weart:How much power did these people have, compared with letís say the upper level people in NASA or NSF?
Greenstein:Well, theyíre about equal. Damn close to equal. I would guess that the head of NSF had less power than the guy who supervised his budget, while the head of NASA had more power. Thatís just a guess. Itís the personalities. Also power is hard to define, in a democracy.
Weart:I understand. It had to do with their personal relations with the President or Congress, I suppose.
Greenstein:Yes, thatís right. Otherwise, these people made the decisions. Not long ago, half a dozen years later, some young successor who was an economist, got hold of me and asked me to think of things to do with heavy science payloads, on shuttle missions that could justify the fact that they were going to send (at that time) so many shuttles.
Weart:Thatís, a well-known problem by now.
Greenstein:Well, theyíre going to send a lot fewer shuttles, so the problem is reduced. And the main thing was, they carry so much weight — what do you require weight for? Itís one thing to drop in a telescope, but then you need expensive control, and analyzing stations. What can you drop it into orbit, thatís fairly simple and wonít cost much, and that they can use 50 tons or something like that? You know, science planning has real problems when you think, of how the budget is made so many years ahead of the mission, years ahead of when the budget is passed, and then of course itís subject to Congressional revision. I donít know how the government works, but I learned a lot.
Weart:Now tell me where the thrust for setting priorities came from — why it is that the report gets so hardboiled about actually setting priorities?
Greenstein:Thatís triple barreled. That came actually from the Academy itself, from COSPUP and Council thinking. It just was no longer possible to send a shopping list to the government. Those years had passed. We could see that the science budget was going to level or drop. We didnít expect how much inflation would multiply that drop. The shopping list time I think ended really before Westheimerís report, whatever its date was. But unfortunately shopping lists continued, in my opinion, in the physics survey that Alan Bromley headed. It was too broad. It appears, I think, in six large volumes. Next, priorities were a pet of Harvey Brooks, and also came, I believe, from thinking in the Presidentís Science Advisory Committee.
Weart:They wanted priorities.
Greenstein:They wanted priorities. They had to. It wasnít only that times were hard, but that in a sense it was not necessarily in the national interest to go in all directions in science. One should go in the best chosen directions, just to utilize manpower. If you had enough money you still had a manpower problem, in those days, ten years ago. Itís hard to believe that there was a manpower shortage. So I think that every major agency wanted priorities. But they all were very conscious of the dangers of setting priorities. I mentioned another danger I learned from the Bureau of the Budget, on the question of the Space Science Board. During the time when any scientific group is supposedly studying a subject, thereís a dead block on doing anything new. And that means that the budget for that year or two years, which is made two years before, canít have anything, if theyíre contemplating a major rethinking. Then it takes a year or two afterwards to say, ďOK, letís do it, letís get it in the budget.Ē So itís really a six or seven year gap, caused by a reóorientation of scientific direction. Now, you can do emergency things, at least you could have in the good old days when there was enough money — you know, take out of existing agencies some money for doing something new. But not any more, and it was already true in Ď68. So by Ď69 I was convinced to do the study; that the study should emphasize priorities; that everybody would have to agree to act that way; and everybody involved would have to not distinguish between space and ground-based, optical and radio, astronomy. It was quite an assignment. I must say that the real credit goes to the thinkers, to COSPUP, to Harvey Brooks, to the Bureau of the Budget, to the fact that NASA was willing to take an outside set of recommendations, and face soma considerable delay, on some of its plans and to the NSF for its enthusiasm for astronomy. It started under good auspices.
Greenstein:NSF already had the money in their hand when they asked the Academy to start the study. There was some kind of inter-agency meeting.
Weart:Between NSF and NASA?
Greenstein:Yes, I think it came from many discussions there. I donít know who individually was involved. By the way, in the long story about the building of the VLA by Gloria Lubkin, thereís a lot about this — which I didnít know and which sort of irritated me.
Weart:I wanted to ask you about some of the problems of setting priorities. In particular I wanted to ask about the VLA, and also its relations with Cal Techís radio program.
Greenstein:She covers that ad nauseum. Itís a very nasty subject. Weíll get to it. There are several warnings I got locally; one, that it would hurt us; next, that I should do my best to see that ground-based astronomy at Cal Tech, i.e., Palomar, got some money. I failed in that. I failed in everything for Cal Tech, giving us a very great negative income; ironically, Cal Tech had to pay my salary!
Weart:I suppose as chairman of the committee you couldnít do as much as you would on the outside.
Greenstein:Thatís right. That was too bad. Itís ten years ago, itís hard for me to remember. I had a much wider acquaintance then among what I then called younger astronomers, whom I liked. I saw them more often. And I trusted that there was, in the astronomical community, a large enough constituency for such a study, and a large enough group of people to be members. I forget the details, but I drew up a list of names. I think I cleared it with the section of astronomy of the Academy, which represents astronomy but has mostly older people, and certainly with COSPUP.
Weart:So you deliberately put younger people on?
Greenstein:Relatively young, and considering, most of them have done very well. In fact, it was a powerful springboard for some people. I think that of the original list of possible names that everybody thought good, only two or three of Iíd say 20 turned me down. Everybody was surprisingly cooperative, and within limits, everybody worked. And, again within pretty broad limits, everybody self-sacrificed their own place, and their own subdiscipline. In fact, I was delighted with the group. I was far from delighted with the outcome. I had an excellent secretary, Bruce Gregory, from the Academy NRC staff. Gloria Lubkin, who knows more than she should, got some letters from Harvey Brooksí file. I resigned at one time in a huff, because all the money would go to national laboratories, as far as I could see. Itís not a great report, that way. I got upset towards the end, at Aspen, when we were having a two weeksí meeting preparing the more or less final drafts. I wrote most of the final report over, where necessary, later. But the whole first volume was done in draft, with the exception of one chapter, I think, at Aspen. The priority decisions were largely made in a single session at MIT, where great renunciations and surrenders occurred, and VLA came out on top.
Weart:Was there any record of that meeting? It was a very important meeting. I donít know much about it.
Greenstein:Probably, yes. If anybody ever wants to do a history of abortive efforts, there must be a lot of paper generated the last 20 years. I donít know whoís going to look at it.
Weart:Things like the Cal Tech radio proposal, that sort of thing?
Greenstein:Yes. I donít mean only here, I mean all over the country. All these things.
Weart:There were an awful lot of them, thatís true. This meeting what was it like?
Greenstein:It was blood and guts.
Weart:Around the table?
Greenstein:Oh yes. It ended — I think I told the story in the actual book about having two votes?
Greenstein:I was the only person who ever saw the votes. Everybody voted by name.
Weart:They put their names down?
Greenstein:Yes. I wanted that.
Weart:But only you saw it.
Greenstein:Only I saw it. I counted them and destroyed them. We did it again. Then I did a correlation, and it was remarkably good. And the VLA won fair and square. I forget, there was some kind of rating scheme in which, when you vote something in the middle, it doesnít automatically put it as the winner. Itís preferential voting. In fact, I remember Bernie Burke holding forth, because I never quite understood the mathematics of it, on the best schemes of voting. Heíd made a study of it.
Weart:I see. So that everybodyís second choice doesnít come out first.
Greenstein:Yes. The winner is a real winner. It came out very clearly.
Weart:So it was done by secret ballot.
Greenstein:Secret ballot after lots and lots of discussion. I think, as I remember, every major recommendation had been written up and prepared, and people spoke for it. Then we threw away every paper and everything and threw everybody out, and we did some more yelling at each other. I remember yacking away at great length about ďPriorities, priorities, youíve gotta do the thing thatís most important, weíre only going to do the first few things.Ē Somebody Iím sure said, ďNow, look, Jesse — if we vote and give them priorities, theyíre going to do number one and not do any of the others, and that will kill all of astronomy.Ē Everybody got human. But everybody, in my opinion, behaved surprisingly well.
Weart:But you were not too happy with the final —
Greenstein:No, no, that was before the final. Thatís the final ordering. Itís only when you look at it afterwards and begin to write it up and say, ďHow are we going to get a balanced national effort, radio and optical and space?Ē Knowing that whatever we put first in space, NASA would almost certainly do and was going to do anyway, and NSF would certainly do the radio telescope, if thatís what came up first. Had we voted for five fiveómeter telescopes, I donít know what NSF would have done.
Weart:You felt chances were great that NSF would follow your recommendations?
Greenstein:Oh, I know (or hope I know) they would have had to follow. However, thatís what upsets me about Gloriaís anecdotal story. She went to NSF and saw a lot of letters, and apparently NSF felt it knew in advance how we were going to come out, and knew that the VLA would win.
Weart:How could they know that?
Greenstein:Of course they couldnít. Itís a lie. I think this is an ex post facto history: ďLook how wise we were, we got together with OMB we got the VLA under control, we had it passed through all the committees, and one more survey, and we knew it would anyway.Ē
Weart:Did you know it would come out on top before the MIT meeting?
Greenstein:No. I had no idea what would come out on top. I thought, actually, if I were to bet, that the High Energy Astrophysical Observatory would have come out on top, as the most important program. And I would put infra-red next, myself. I forget — but just knowing the committee, because they werenít all radio astronomers, though we had them on.
Weart:Were there any difficulties deciding what the balance would be on that committee?
Greenstein:No, they left that to me.
Weart:Because to a certain extent, the final vote is determined by who you put on.
Greenstein:In fact not. It couldnít have been. Radio astronomers were enormously outnumbered. But the theorists thought radio astronomy was the hottest subject, and they thought high energy astronomy was the hottest subject in space.
Weart:I see. So to some extent they had the swing vote.
Greenstein:Yes, they had it. Youíre even worse than Gloria. I never like to look for the grubby details.
Weart:No, this is not grubby at all.
Greenstein:Itís true. I donít know if I quote the number correctly, and this should be deleted as a historical fact, but I think 80 percent of the maximum possible vote was gotten by the VLA.
Weart:Thatís very impressive.
Greenstein:Thatís impressive because itís 70 or 80 million dollars. Youíre spending all your ground-based capital for almost a generation, that way. No, it got a remarkably high vote. I donít know if it was justified, but thatís how it came out, and weíll see. The main advantage of nature is that while the VLA may not ever make 100 million maps at one arcósecond resolution — 400 million or thereabouts is what it can do — nature will sure provide something we didnít expect. And itís much better now than what was asked for.
Weart:In things like high energy coming out ahead of the Large Space Telescope, this was also strictly a matter of the votes?
Greenstein:No, thatís a very nasty — itís not nasty, itís a thing that had nasty consequences. NASA had given us a guideline on the major projects that they could contemplate, and had put the Space Telescope as a late shuttle thing. And even though the shuttle is now much later than itís supposed to be, even then it was late. In fact, itís now I think about where it was then supposed to be, in spite of the shuttle slipping. So it was not in our years; the thing was very simply out of our guideline on timing. We couldnít tell them to put up the Space Telescope, when there wouldnít be shuttles in the 70ís to fly it and repair it. The Ramsay Committee years earlier, I donít know how many years earlier, had said that the Large Space Telescope had to be replenishable and mannable, not manned inside but repairable in flight. It required man. It was different from the sequence of small ultraviolet satellites, culminating say in a 60 or 100-inch. It was a big step, and it was in the wrong timeline — it now is for the mid 1980ís. A Congressman or Senator, I forget which, when the hearings on space telescopes were going on a few years ago, told the committee that it had come out very badly on the Greenstein Survey. Then over a weekend there were agonies, when they got in touch with me — from the Academy — to get a reasonable answer as to why the Space Telescope had not been rated highly enough.
Weart:And this was the answer.
Greenstein:I think our space telescope schedule was Ď85 to Ď88. And we were talking of, say Ď72 to Ď82, calling it the seventies.
Weart:So this was, in effect, because NASA had given you a shopping list.
Greenstein:Had given me a shopping list, yes. And HEAO was high on their shopping list because it was feasible. The Space Telescope was not necessarily even feasible, and would depend on the success of the shuttle. And by the way, they then viewed it as a major activity for man in space. They were somewhat disappointed that as it grew, it takes a launch and a refurbishment maybe in five or ten years, rather than a thing that you go up and revisit two or three times a year. But thatís how the engineering came out. Thatís a later problem. Not mine. Taking a stab at priorities, within a shopping list as you mentioned, is not quite fair. We stuck in, I remember — somebody had this idea about all-sky infrared surveys using balloons with kites on their guy-ropes, or something. It was the most — well, I wouldnít say ridiculous. But we got all kinds of novel things. And I think our emphasis on the infrared, which came from ground-base work, was a thing that NASA had not expected. Do you have that report handy?
Weart:Yes, I have. The summary volume.
Greenstein:Thatís right. I forget what we said there. Itís a little surprising. (looks through volume)
Weart:Optical, I think, essentially was right after the VLA.
Greenstein:Oh yes, and the other thing in optical is that we were more impressed (by the ordering, the wording) by the use of modern electronic auxiliaries; and at the same tine, weíd create the new large telescopes.
Weart:Right. Well, the auxiliaries were cheaper, of course.
Greenstein:True. And the next question, the new large telescopes, is still an open one. Itís going to be the nineties, not the eighties, for the next generation telescope.
Weart:In a certain sense, thatís a priority that they havenít taken you up on.
Greenstein:But itís a ten or twenty year lead time.
Weart:Thatís true. And they are doing work.
Greenstein:(looking at priorities list in volume) Then the millimeter wave, again, thatís dropped to the second group, and rockets, I see, Orbiting Solar Observatory, that was a difficult one, because everybody was dying on solar astronomy; there were no new starts contemplated by NASA for space solar astronomy. In fact, at that time, the next one was only about three or four years away.
Weart:So all these groups were left with nothing to do.
Greenstein:Yes. Then the various later missions were added — the quiet sun, the solar maximum.
Weart:I see. This is partly a matter of keeping the groups alive?
Greenstein:Thatís a way of putting it. I didnít let things like that appear to my consciousness, and Iíve forgotten them.
Weart:Iím curious as to the various reasons. Thatís a legitimate reason.
Greenstein:No, it wasnít. I myself would not have viewed that as a reason. Maybe the others voted the way they did because they knew they had a problem.
Weart:In other words, in principle these priorities — you discussed it at these MIT meetings or whatever strictly in terms of the benefits for science?
Weart:Regardless of the manpower or whatever.
Greenstein:I donít think that I would have been willing to link the employment problem, for example, with the priorities. One can be conscious of it. But I donít think you can make the right scientific choice, if what youíre worried about is the sociology of science, important as that is.
Weart:So itís not so much a question of the health of astronomy, as the advance of astronomy?
Greenstein:I guess my attitude, and I think the attitude of that committee, could be called elitist astronomy, if you wish. The goal is the advance to the furthest limits in every area that one can make such advances.
Weart:I noticed an emphasis, for example, on the violent universe type of astronomy.
Greenstein:Yes, very much. One, itís from space. Two, itís from the theorists. I think having, say, George Field. The chapter by George Field in the detailed volume is the same as it is in the Bromley physics report. Bromley and I worked out a scheme in which Field was shared by both, and that panel reported to both. I was in touch with, Bromley about other mutual problems. We were very much influenced, I guess — I canít say it was my prejudice. The theorists are — (looking at list of members) Iím just pointing out who was then interested in high energy astrophysics: Burbidge, Burke, Cameron, George Field, Friedman, HeeschenÖthatís it, and myself, in a sense. You just can see thatís, if you wish, a swing vote. There are other theorists who are not interested in it, like Jerry Ostriker, who was very important. George Field and Jerry were really very good. I think everybody was good, and I learned a lot about people, and I learned a lot about some of the individuals. You know, there are a couple people here, Jacques Beckers, who never worked outside of solar astronomy. And Ray Duncombe, who was head of the NAUTICAL ALMANAC, whoíd never been outside of fundamental astrometry. But Ray was very important. I think we were weak in putting communityís pathetic little requested increases for astrometry so low. Theyíre coming back now, and thereís all kinds of work on improving positional work to detect planets near other stars, or low mass stars, on fundamental reference system, that show that we were slow there.
Weart:Well, tell me about the Aspen meeting?
Greenstein:There were lots of meetings. That was a very major effort. It took more than half my time, by the way, and Cal Tech paid my salary. They didnít get much in the way of favorable recommendations. I observed, and I did the survey. And I did all the other things. I was on the Harvard Board too. I think one of those years I had 18 cross-country trips. Harvard was eight meetings a year all by itself. So this was a rough period, and it left me saturated. I wish life had stayed that way. The Aspen meeting — when it came to writing, when we put everything together, when people came up with drafts to back votes — you know, you have a vote, this is best, but you donít havenít thought of what it means.
Weart:You may have to explain it.
Greenstein:You have to explain it to yourself. And then you look at this list. Itís elitist astronomy, the most difficult; thatís good. But, the VLA: national facility. The new large telescope: national facility certainly. Electronic auxiliary, supposedly new: all to be done at the National Observatory.
Weart:That was to be the place to develop it?
Greenstein:Well, it wasnít spelled out, but thatís where the responsibility would be. The whole community, as I think itís called, would itself best served by having new detectors tested at Kitt Peak; thatís what it amounted to. Out of this, Roger Lynds got three or four hundred thousand a year for ten years.
Weart:I didnít realize that big an effort was implicit in this.
Greenstein:It may even be in the detailed summary. Infrared could be mixed, itís the only one. High energy astronomy is national. Millimeter wave is national. Radio observatory, rockets, orbiting solar observatories — each one of them may have a university group doing experiments, but all the money goes into hardware. And only when you get to number eight, theoretical investigations (was it otherwise). The radio telescope which was contemplated as an MIT project originally, which got buried, would certainly have had to be national. It ended up with all my business claims for a balanced program for astronomy disappearing down the maw of big science; the death of university astronomy. I wrote some harsh letters, and Harvey Brooks knew that I was very disturbed by this. But of course, I donít make this report. Iím chairman. And I didnít try to influence its outcome. When it finally came to the Aspen meeting and we began to see the whole thing, I looked at the list, and I resigned. It was four oíclock in the afternoon. I said, ďGentlemen, itís a great thing. Iíve sent a telegram to the Academy. Iíve resigned as chairman. Iíll call Harvey Brooks in the morning and heíll appoint somebody else, or get the Academy to appoint somebody else. I wonít sign the report.Ē I went home and nearly got drunk. Iíve forgotten what I did. I was mad as hell. It just was so much against my own life experience and my own intuition of whatís good for science.
Weart:And it was really the astronomers that were doing this.
Greenstein:Thatís how it came out. I too had voted. But when you add it all up, finally, if you want very good elitist science, youíve got an impossible quandry. The fact is that itís government money, and itís going to be for the public of science. And yet, in my opinion, the only way it can be done right is to let somebody, one man, do it, and usually at a university. Itís an unbeatable quandary. Thereís no way out; you have to play it by ear.
Weart:Also of course, essentially the report deals with marginal government funds. You donít address at all the question of what the universities should do with their money, so itís only seeing one part of the total funding.
Greenstein:Yes, but itís so much the largest, if you look at it. At one time there had been an attempt to organize a university satellite, university controlled. That failed. We failed in the attempt to get a university consortium to run the national radio facility. I guess theyíll always fail. But the personal history of real success stories in astronomy has, in fact, been the brilliant individualist.
Weart:Thatís where all these initiatives that weíre talking about have come from.
Greenstein:Yes, they come in from outside. Itís not always obvious that big science makes all the discoveries. The Crab Pulsar, which I had looked at probably for 20 hours, of observing the spectrum, was found to vary with a 36-inch telescope by somebody in Arizona. What am I going to do about that? Planning doesnít do it.
Weart:Tell me about your resignation and what happened.
Greenstein:Well, it was just a little too much against my feeling for the high quality of university life, and its contributions in the past for me to swallow. So I said to the committee that they could think over what they wanted to do next, but I wouldnít be there. I forget details — a delegation came to see me that evening. It was all very emotional, because I was upset. Iíd worked hard. The result was right for the astronomy that it addresses, but was not a thing that I agreed with myself. It resulted, rather simply, in what is clearly the thing to do, but it didnít do any real good. If one looks very carefully, almost every recommendation is split, a schizophrenic one, if you wish. ďNo. 4 — program for X-ray and gamma ray astronomy, from a series of large orbiting high energy astronomical observatories, supported by construction of groundóbased optical and infrared telescopes —Ē Trying to sneak in behind Jim Webb, who was gone I think by that time.
Weart:Yes, I noticed a strong flavor of trying to keep the universities involved.
Greenstein:Yes — they gave me that general option. But it wasnít me alone.
Weart:That came from you? None of that would have been in there in the draft?
Greenstein:No. What would have happened here is, although we wanted more ground-based astronomy (if I were a different person with a different personal history), I would not have put funding the construction of ground-based optical and infrared telescopes in NASA, because I knew NASA didnít want to do it.
Greenstein:Itís an irrational thing. But they decided — and they were a good group and I love them all — that where possible, we would emphasize the need for private initiative, university centers, university strength. There is a section on balance, which I wrote and which they commented on, but let me write. Here it is, (pages) 112ó118.
Weart:I noticed that. How much of this did you write, by the way?
Greenstein:I think I wrote or rewrote almost every word of this first volume.
Weart:I suspected that. You have a distinct literary style.
Greenstein:Yes. What happened was that as groups, they all had put together sections, and they were stylistically too different. A lot of it lacked glamour, and all the hooey at the beginning, all the excitement —
Weart:— right, not only there, but at a few points in the sections, too.
Greenstein:Yes. I canít avoid somewhat high-flown language of which I am often guilty.
Weart:No, I like it. I appreciate your style. By the way, how does that go over with the other astronomers — taking a rather romantic view of astronomy? Is this ever discussed?
Greenstein:Itís funny. You know, one of the things I find I resent about growing old is a lot of these hokum statements I feel I invented many years ago. Now they are everybodyís platitudes, our romantic fiction. ďWe are made of stardust.Ē I know I said that first (except Iím sure millions of women have heard it before). But, I mean, a detail of nucleosynthesis: I know I said that first. Willie Fowler steals it all the time, but since weíre good friends, thatís OK. But now you see it in elementary textbooks by idiots who could never have thought of it, who heard it from their instructors, who read it somewhere at third hand. I think that astronomers are now romanticists, even when theyíre technologists. I notice it even in proposals — some guys proposing to build an instrument with government money, I get it to review, letís say — heís got the universe, and research at the ultimate limits — thereís always some romantic vision. It doesnít suit the guy who wrote it, but itís the subject.
Weart:He canít avoid it, it comes along.
Greenstein:Well, when he gets to what heís going to do with it, either it comes out of the subject, or heís heard it and heíll use it. And I like it. I think itís the right thing to do, itís a cultural duty. 99 percent of the people are not scientists, or 99.9 — I donít know. Even here at lunch at Cal Tech, you talk to engineers — they love to hear about the romance of astronomy.
Weart:And the astronomers love to tell them?
Greenstein:Well, some of them. A lot of others are just afraid.
Weart:Afraid to express it?
Greenstein:Afraid to say it in public. They say it when they write, thatís the interesting thing. A lot of instrument developers will be dry as dust, but when it comes to writing a proposal they get some romance in. Maybe itís a sales pitch, maybe itís in the subject. I think itís in the subject.
Weart:Do they talk somewhat about their larger feelings to other astronomers?
Greenstein:They tend not to.
Weart:But you have the feeling that itís there.
Greenstein:Oh yes. Oh, some people talk. Alan Sandage does marvelously. He views cosmology as a religious exercise.
Weart:When you started talking about this, you said, astronomers now take a romantic view. Is this a change?
Greenstein:Yes, thereís more of it, it seems to me, in a sense — much of the astronomy of the thirties and forties, spectroscopy, was rather dull. The expanding universe had all the glamour. It was only there that you could use big emotional words. It seems to me, so much novel has happened even in ordinary parts. Except things like stellar evolution, where you donít expect any mysteries. You find a lot of people who are quite good at it. Don Claytonís book has got lots of it — his autobiography, and in addition, his book on nucleosynthesis and evolution — thatís got romance. Some people express themselves. I think maybe itís the relaxed attitude of people from the sixties who are now mature scientists.
Weart:Theyíre more free to express themselves?
Greenstein:Theyíre not ashamed of being emotional.
Weart:These spectroscopists you knew back at Yerkes or whatever in the thirties may have had some of this inside them but it never showed?
Greenstein:It wouldnít show, except in some people. No, in general it didnít show. They were artists, but they didnít express it. They had artistic feelings; some of them did art.
Weart:Actual painting, oil painting?
Greenstein:Yes, or photography. Bill Morgan was a remarkably good photographer.
Weart:Not only through the telescope?
Greenstein:No, no, an artistic photographer. Itís interesting. And music of course is everybodyís hobby. If you sit at lunch theyíll talk about their hi-fi and its output, its linearity — but not why they want it. The younger people are different. Theyíre nice. Sometimes they bore me to tears, but theyíre nice.
Weart:Related to this perhaps, another feature of the Greenstein Report is the emphasis on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. I notice youíve more recently been in a NASA workshop on this and so on. Can you tell me how you first encountered this idea, how your attitude towards it developed, how it got into the report and so on?
Greenstein:My attitude toward it, I think, was negative at the beginning.
Weart:When was the beginning?
Greenstein:When I first thought of it? Probably about 1938, Ď39. Multiplicity of worlds is a very old concept — 17th century, I think.
Weart:Right. But the idea of looking for emissions.
Greenstein:Yes. And with optical astronomy, it just didnít seem reasonable. With radio astronomy, it did.
Weart:So when the first radio astronomy —
— as soon as I heard about radio astronomy, I thought, ďThatís going to do it.Ē Frank Drake, who had been an orthodox planetary radio astronomer when he started at Cornell, has very largely gone off into this speculative thing. He put it together in a numerical form. There has been a lot of just scientific discussion about whether there was a physical need for other planets say, during star formation. But we didnít really know that any existed. From a scientific point of view, work in the late thirties and forties on stellar rotation indicated that there was a mystery. We knew that young stars rotated, that the sun was rotating too slowly and that all the angular momentum, 98 percent, was in the planets. That seemed so abnormal. That was pointed out by Struve, I believe. And Kuiper was already working on the theory of origin of the solar system. This Chinese who recently died, Huang Suósshu, wrote a quite good paper, pointing out that it (planetary formation) wasnít really necessary, that it was in fact very improbable. Also, you know, serious scientists had destructively tested all theories of origin of the planets. Spitzer, specifically, did a good job on the collisional hypothesis. I think it was by 1950 respectable scientific speculation without evidence (that planets are common). Honestly — just the fact that the galaxy rotates means that the stars should rotate, and that means that angular momentum presents a real problem of forming stars.
Now, somehow, quickly we donít think itís so serious a problem. There seemed to be so many good reasons why you couldnít form planets, that I think most astronomers felt that at least half the factors that Drake had in his simple equation multiplying a lot of probabilities — at least half of the terms might be zero, and it didnít matter that the others might be 100 percent. I think the growth of the new respectability of solid matter in the universe, specifically with infrared detection, well before this Report, made it important to understand early evolutionary stages in stars, the throwing out of matter, the solar wind, condensation perhaps into dust, clouds of dust around stars. It was now a respectable topic on which you could know something. I donít think that there was any great fervor to put that in there (the Greenstein Report), except from the few protagonists who believed in it. But by this time, Ď69 or Ď70, there was no longer the objection that you would have found in 1950. Then no respectable scientist would have put that in as an important thing to do for the future.
Weart:Why is it in, rather than not in?
Greenstein:Itís probably a bit of lobbying by somebody, and Iíd have to see if I can recognize (looks down list of names) — well, Drake, almost certainly.
Weart:And you were willing to put it in.
Weart:Or the group was willing.
Greenstein:The group was willing.
Weart:Do you feel now that substantial resources should be expended on this search?
Greenstein:No, unfortunately. Not substantial resources. I would have said that respectable conservatives like me would have said that the radio astronomers will find the bloody purple monsters by accident one day, and they wonít throw out the tape with the coded pulses.
Weart:Theyíre more likely to find it that way than by looking for it.
Greenstein:Of course. When were the pulsars discovered, Ď66, Ď67?
Weart:It was announced in Ď68.
Greenstein:Yes. I know the British had called them Little Green Men at first. People arenít stupid. Well, maybe they are, but not all that stupid. I blame this idea on Frank Drake; it must have been his interest that pushed it. But I recognize some of my own silly prose here: ďAre selfódestroying wars the common destiny of civilization?Ē And power-dissipating systems: that goes with my pet idea that future intelligence will organize itself into one giant computer, solid state, covering part of the planet.
Weart:I see, and keep all the energy within itself.
Greenstein:It just absorbs its sunís energy, it doesnít need much. It makes poetry, writes music, builds extra little parts. There are no individuals, so thereís no outside communication. I think itís good that this kind of thing was in. We would have seemed silly not to have recognized the public and general interest. Substantial resources are not required. Twenty million dollars in ten years, for two different methods of approach. If they donít find it by then, I wouldnít spend the rest of the many billions required. Thatís a personal remark. But, I am excited about whether there are other planets, because I think we can find that out, If there are no other planets —
Weart:— then we donít need to worry about it.
Greenstein:I think if we looked at a thousand stars, with an instrument which might cost, say, a million and a half to build, and say $150,000 to run for ten years, and if you donít find any planetary perturbations in the radial velocities, I would give up. But thatís a conservative attitude.
Weart:Would you like to take a break now? (Short break) You had some role in the origins of the national observatories, the ground-based ones now.
Greenstein:Iíve mentioned what became the national radio observatory and the 1954 meeting. My role there I guess was somewhat negative, though it turned out that I was friendly, as time passed on, with the people there. About the same time, there was a conference about a photoelectric photometry site for the countryówide observers, in which I was not involved. Then the next direct contact I had — where my advice was not taken — was the relations between AURA when it was set up and the Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories. I think Iíve mentioned this. Bowen had a strong feeling that it was not a question of rivalry, it was a question of proprietary, that the private observatories should leave the new national observatory grow alone. Because we would otherwise be accused of trying to dominate and maybe sabotage it (though he didnít put it that way). So he insisted that Cal Tech not become a member of AURA. I recommended that it should be. Thatís when I was running the department, and the director of the Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories said it shouldnít; he was Carnegie and I was Cal Tech, and we got into the fact that Cal Tech didnít want to get into a strong disagreement on this. I felt it was a mistake. And I think it has proved to be a mistake. On the other hand, Bowen had a good deal to do with the mechanical and optical design of the 2.6 meter as a personal consultant. He would give all his advice, but he wouldnít have anything to do with their policy decisions. And this excluded the rest of the staff from any contact. I think they were friendly enough. Though I was not consulted, I think Bowen had something to do with the choice of the first director.
Greenstein:Yes, I guess the origin was, Meinel is a Pasadena boy, and he married the daughter of a Carnegie astronomer, Edison Pettit. He had been well known in Pasadena, I think, during the war, because he was an expert in optics and related areas. So Bowen may have been pro-Meinel. Iím pretty sure Bowen was also pro-Mayall, later.
Weart:Did you have much to do with AURA up to the time you went on its board?
Greenstein:No, except to visit as a scientist, not to use facilities. I knew many of the people. But it was just a place to visit and talk about science. At that time, the Stewart Observatory was a less powerful group. Tucson was dominated by the new AURA scientists, and they were a good bunch. I got a bit involved when I was working on quasars. They had a good image tube spectrograph earlier than we did, and Roger Lynds had very fine spectra of quasars; he let us see them. It was a purely individual contact. I knew Mayall quite well. (short interruption) As a universal all-purpose committeeman, they then asked me to review their program in rocket astronomy. Eventually, I ended up being the hatchet man, to give them the word that it was all right to close it up, which they probably meant to do, anyway, for budget reasons.
Weart:The word from whom to whom?
Greenstein:Our committee, a committee on which I was chairman. I think it had Giacconi and another space astronomer. We looked over the rocket program and felt it was important but that it wasnít a wise investment in dollars. It was also a policy question of why was AURA in space science? The program came from Joe Chamberlain, who had been head of it and had been in favor of a space program, and had left. The program was floundering, and was closed down after the report of the committee, of which I was the unfortunate head. That was my one independent official contact with Kitt Peak management.
Weart:I see. I hadnít realized youíd been involved — it was sort of a foregone conclusion, I suppose.
Greenstein:More or less, I think so. Fortunately for them, though some good technicians were involved and left, they have gotten the best of that group, as far as optics and electronics goes — an engineer, a very good one — Russ Nidey.
Weart:I wanted to ask you in general, how do you think the existence of national observatories has affected the way astronomy is done?
Greenstein:I hope itís made a difference. Gee, Iím trying to remember another time when they dedicated the four-meter telescope, I gave a talk. I was in the dedication of buildings business for some years. (looks through list of talks, etc.) I canít find it. Itís before I was on the board — no, here it is — I was on the board already — 1973.
Weart:Do you think the existence of Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololo has affected the character of astronomical research?
Greenstein:I think it has had a profound positive effect on the astronomy that can be done by less well situated astronomers, scattered over the country in unfavorable positions. Itís also made it unwise to build a telescope in unfavorable locations. So from the larger planning point of view, itís given a center where scientists can do astronomy (not always terribly important) from almost any job, and where youíve reduced political pressure to build new, small telescopes. I think wanting too many telescopes is an American disease. For example, we have too many, at Mt. Wilson, Palomar, Big Bear and Las Campanas. So, itís not Kitt Peak alone, or other giants versus astronomers at Podunk University. Itís a natural conflict. On the positive side of the national observatories role, good young people, if theyíre lucky and persuasive, can now do good science. I said a large number might not do too important science, but good ones can do good science. The main problem for the AURA (or NRAO) management is the question of democratic choice versus elitist, snobbist concentration of effort. If they feel that it is politically expedient to give 60 people three nights each, rather than 10 people 18 nights each, they will end up with just getting tantalizing starts on astronomical results. Therefore, they are faced with a fundamental policy decision as to whether they can support fewer astronomers, but give them more substantial scientific opportunity. How to choose the select few, how to do this without ruining their position as the National observing facility.
Weart:Would these long term programs have to be by staff astronomers?
At the present time, they would have to be by staff astronomers. Even the staff has too few nights per senior astronomer. We have the same problem, but to a much reduced degree. It was expected that the typical staff astronomer at Mt. Wilson-Palomar would get 30 nights on a big telescope or maybe 20 on the 200-inch and 15 on the 100-inch, thatís 35 nights. Some inveterate observers got up to 75 nights on all telescopes, which is almost too much. But a general feeling of big telescope users, which I think correct and has been shown true by the use of Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololo, is that 20 nights or so a year is a minimum. If you have all together to give to the whole non-staff astronomy community roughly 200 nights a year that means you can support the science of 10 astronomers. Or maybe give them half as much and let them work two years, and thus support 20. Thatís not doing much for the many hundreds of others, and thereís an insuperable problem. Now, the style change that you talked of is successful in that on well-instrumented smaller telescopes, which they have enough of and they can support financially, you can let some people come as often as they can get there — 50, 75 nights a year on a 16 or 36-inch telescope.
Big observatories usually canít follow time-variable phenomena, because every telescope has 20 users, and youíre not ever there when you need to be. The smaller telescopes are being used successfully for mass-production photometry, for variable stars, for classification spectroscopy, have done a lot for astronomers who have done real astronomical work. Itís not so obvious that the 4-meter, if use is split up into three to five night chunks, has yet done so much of that. Most of the good science thatís come out of the National Observatories has come from the permanent staff at Kitt Peak, or from senior visitors. Itís a little different at Cerro Tololo, because thatís a remote site. The total visitor usage is the same, but there are fewer visitors. They stay longer, because the trip costs so much. Many of them, in fact, turn out to be working with the staff, and the staff fill in. So I felt that the Cerro Tololo operation has done really first-line science. The Kitt Peak staff has done firstóline science. The visitors who have done important science unfortunately are people from other big observatories. Thereís no rule that a man who has access to the 200-inch shouldnít get use of the 4-meter; in fact, Wal Sargent here is a great enthusiast for the 4-meter, for problems heís interested in.
Weart:The Kitt Peak 4-meter?
Greenstein:Yes. It has a wide angular field for direct photography, so for searching for certain kinds of things it has been successful. His most exciting Kitt Peak work, with a lot of collaborators, with Boksenberg and other people, Roger Lynds, Peter Young, was to establish the existence of a massive black hole in M-87. Itís really an important thing. It was done at Kitt Peak, not Palomar. We had Boksenbergís photon-counting system at Palomar too. In fact, weíll have it in a month or two, and do the observation again.
Weart:I see. You mentioned Chile a couple of times. Iím curious of course about the development of the Carnegie Southern Observatory, what role you played in that.
Greenstein:That will come later. Letís finish. I hate to say that policy is more important than science, but I think Ė-
Weart:— weíre talking about policy today —
Greenstein:Yes. The policy question on how to use the National Observatories has to be faced and settled. Itís very tough, as a political thing, to deny access to many for minor problems, yet I think itís absolutely necessary. You canít have 50 three-nights-a-year users. And theyíre almost to that; itís almost that bad. How should we reduce the waste of valuable, irreplaceable time.
Weart:Does the pressure come from the AURA board or from where?
Greenstein:When I was chairman, I kept having to say that itís a thing that I had to rule out of order, a thing you canít even talk about. Until there are enough telescopes, or fewer astronomers, maybe because they starve to death, the question of the proper responsibility to a large number of American astronomers at other smaller institutions has to be kept on ice. Now, maybe Geoff Burbidge will have the strength of personality. I was never the director; I would not want to have faced it. I could never have gone to Washington as chairman of the board with a proposal that the policy be changed and the number of nights given to outside users be cut.
Weart:This was policy that was set before you were there?
Greenstein:Oh yes. Itís built into the system. Itís built in at the National Radio Observatory, but they have more good telescopes, really.
Weart:They have more time, too.
Greenstein:They have more time, day and night, a small staff. Their users do better science, relative to their staff, than at Kitt Peak. Itís a kind of a tragic problem: large instruments are built for everybody but not everybody should get use of them. They are at frontiers. One way out is to build ten of them. Itís a serious problem. I think these whole large installations have been very beneficial for American astronomy as a whole. Bright people do come from anywhere, and many of them have poor jobs.
Weart:Itís too bad you canít do what they do on the large particle accelerators, which is to have 50 people on a team, and they all get their names on the paper.
Greenstein:Thatís a subject discussed. One way out is to say that there are obviously some major problems of astronomy which require 100 nights, and forcibly make up teams of everybody whoís interested, say, in extragalactic astronomy, red shifts of quasars, and stick the proposals all together. Have many collaborators and have one or two staff who are interested. Let people come and observe, even if they only have three or five nights a year, but put their results together. If anybodyís got a specific idea for analysis of the results, he can worry about it later, but get out the data. Formation of teams is not impossible. Kitt Peakís already done it on one program, the discovery of the globular clusters in the Andromeda Nebula. That takes a lot of photography. A lot of people proposed it, and the staff took the pictures. It doesnít take all that long, and they took the pictures under the best conditions, and weíll see later who does the best interpretation. Yes, in some of these things, you really have to do team work, and I think Burbidge is somewhat inclined that way. He criticizes the Hale Observatories for not producing more massive information. He claims that we hide results, or that we donít tackle problems intensely enough, that he would do it differently. Weíll see whether he can persuade others to form teams, or have the Kitt Peak staff get together. They tend also to be individualists. Astronomers tend to be individualists. Physicists are more resigned to teams.
Weart:Do you want to talk about some of the other things that happened when you were on the AURA board? I know thatís rather recent.
Greenstein:A little recent. Let me think. I think that the major problems that were important, though they didnít take all the time, were the above question of democratic responsibility and how it should be implemented; the development of state-of-the-art instruments, on which a great deal of money was being spent —
Weart:— detectors —
Greenstein:Detectors, which unfortunately existed in experimental versions, but were not available to visitors, no matter how distinguished, unless they were in a collaborator situation with one of the permanent staff. This caused some problems. The normal visiting user did not have access to all the things that the staff were developing on an experimental basis. And I certainly donít blame the staff for not letting Joe Blow, or whatever his feminine counterpart would be, use a delicate new instrument. Because he would have been doing much of the work himself, in helping the visitor. But it got rather bad, And that took a good deal of board pressure, of which I generally approved, trying to push for providing current instruments to outsiders as early as humanly possible.
Weart:How did the board become aware of the problem? Did people come to talk with you?
Greenstein:They complained like mad.
Weart:Were these just people you knew who would come to you?
Greenstein:No, they came to individual board members. Some of the complaints were even from board members, who themselves felt this was a bad problem. But it wasnít the Boardís business. It sets policy, it shouldnít operate.
Weart:I see. So itís informal in a way, the board itself —
Greenstein:Yes. There is, you see, supposedly a complete responsible committee setup, in the Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololo organizations. Thereís an external review committee. Thereís a time assignment committee, which is external. Thereís a usersí committee which meets. The difficulties came because those who complained felt a lack of communication. That lack of communication is perhaps a natural resistance on the part of the responsible authorities against acting on everybodyís complaint, when they knew the solution was going to take time. And there was also a little over-reaction. Some people got to feel that they were being hounded and persecuted because theyíd complained. Now weíre getting into events which are a little too recent.
Weart:I understand that. The point is that, although a policy question was involved, people began to get emotional about its implementation.
Greenstein:Well, people began to feel that all the elaborate system was designed to filter out all their complaints to suppress them. That, I think, weíll leave for the future and not for me to solve.
Weart:No, we wonít go into that now. I have another set of hard questions I want to ask, more in the past, and thatís about Chile.
Greenstein:The history of astronomy has many long stories. I think I told about the early days, when Carnegie thought it was getting a 200óinch.
Weart:No, you didnít tell me. We didnít go into that Carnegie business.
Greenstein:Itís a very long story.
Weart:Tell me particularly about your own involvement.
Greenstein:Very simply, it was obvious that there were two major needs of the Pasadena astronomers of the Hale Observatories, on Mt. Wilson and Palomar. One was for more money, endowment, at both places, Cal Tech and Carnegie, and provision of modern auxiliary instruments. The other was to have a good Southern station. The Carnegie Institution of Washington had good contacts, it felt that it had the experience of running a remote station. After some long preparation, they came up with a grand plan for the future of Southern Hemisphere astronomy, involving building a 200-inch in Chile. The site (Morada) was selected. They added to it a kind of all South American responsibility, which would include education of South American astronomers in the United States. They would then return to their countries, the plan provided South Americans with a certain amount of observing time in Chile on the proposed 200-inch. In fact, they would also establish a group of European senior astronomers that would be connected with this new establishment.
Weart:When you say Carnegie, does that mean Santa Barbara St.?
Greenstein:Santa Barbara St. and Washington.
Weart:Not the people in Washington particularly.
Well, no. Weíll come to that later. The thinking on the Southern 200-inch was from Santa Barbara St. The international planning, I think, was largely Carnegie Institution of Washington. They had run a large effort, for many years, in South America. They were interested in health in South America early in the history of the Carnegie funds. So it was a grandiose plan. It would have involved the construction of a telescope costing then around 15 million dollars; about 10 million dollars for the endowment; a large sum to support South American and European astronomers working there. Part of these plans got cut off, once South America got to be a rather politically difficult place and education in research was no longer a major priority.
Then the Europeans created the European Southern Observatory Organization. But I think it was still contemplated that senior astronomers of the world would be involved, at least in plans and policies, and very likely, if they wished, having their younger people work in Chile. The link to South American scientists would be kept. Later, in fact Carnegie paid to support four or five students from South America through graduate education in the United States. Not all went back; in fact, I think most of them didnít. They were caught here by political changes. The Carnegie proposal was developed completely independently of Cal Tech, although I knew about it. There was some hesitation, from the Cal Tech administrationís point of view, in getting involved in one more big project. Later, there was a strong negative reaction from me and my associates at Cal Tech, about some activities of the Carnegie Washington staff in South America, who seemed to be unconscious of the political problems arising. In South America, politics is air and breath and everything. We feared that Cal Tech might have been involved in situations like in South Africa. With the anti-establishment, liberal tendency in American university life, youíre placed in a very strange political situation — backing the wrong side in every argument, involved with probably shady lawyers. Thatís pretty much the truth in South America; you know, political influence buying. We now know all about it in our own Senate and House, so itís not news, not rare. But universities donít like to get into that without prior warning. You know that Harvard cut off its South African station because it didnít want to remain involved there because of student protests against South African apartheid. So my general feeling was that we were being led down a dangerous political alley. We had had nothing to say about these arrangements, because they were being made by Carnegie contacts with South American governments and with large foundations in the United States. I recommended that we not join in the building of a Southern station, even if it were a 200-inch.
Weart:This was around what time?
Greenstein:Iím trying to remember. It was before Cerro Tololo was funded, it was roughly three years before. Stratton was head of the Science Board of the NSF at the time. I donít know the year. But it had been going on many years. I talked to the (Carnegie) executive secretary in Washington though I had no status in this. I told him some of my doubts and concerns. Of course, I also worried about the impact on Northern Hemisphere operations. There I was concerned directly. I felt that there was a finite chance, given lack of enough money, that unless a large additional endowment were obtained, it could be that the Mt. Wilson Observatory would have to be closed. It may eventually be scientifically necessary, but it would have been terrible for Cal Tech. Mt. Wilson was then a training ground for students. Our major new infrared activities were then going on there, and there was solar work, after all.
Weart:The whole Mt. Wilson thing?
Greenstein:The whole Mt. Wilson — actually the only thing that might have survived was the solar work. But not the rest. The telescopes are getting old. The auxiliaries were then pretty poor.
Greenstein:Light pollution, as you say. I was unfortunately excluded enough that maybe there was some element of hurt feelings, But in any case, for quite a few years after actual work had started in South America Cal Tech was in contact on the engineering side, but not on the organization or planning side. This all now seems to me fairly trivial stuff. The real story is concerned with the fact that I think if the situation had been a little better, if there had been enough enthusiasm by more people, we — i.e. Carnegie, and now I include us with Carnegie — would have gotten 25 million dollars from the Ford Foundation.
Weart:Yes, I wanted to ask you about this.
Greenstein:It was touch and go. And there were some terrible lapses that will come out. This is a very confidential story.
Weart:OK, we can seal this.
Greenstein:This, I think, is a little delicate. The whole tradition of science support by the older foundations is dead now. But earlier it was that a few people, and responsible financial people, know whatís right, and do whatís right. Such things donít often happen now. Itís like truth in lending. The same problem arises about taxes on foundations; it now requires public exposure on all major decisions. The major result was that the southern 200-inch project, which had been approved by the Ford Foundation board, was delayed. This was more or less by the accident that the new president, replacing the old, was to take office on a certain date. The nearly final approval had been a few months before, and the foundation said, ďWell, letís wait.Ē When the new president came, McGeorge Bundy, he knew astronomers, having been at Harvard. Iíd known him because Iíd been on several ad hoc committees on tenure at Harvard that he chaired as dean.
Weart:Thatís when you were on the observatory visiting committee?
Greenstein:No, even before. For every Harvard professor thereís a special committee created that meets with the Dean, which he was. He was intelligent, and he knew a lot of astronomers. So he called them up by phone. And nobody in the nation had apparently heard about it. Specifically, he called Leo Goldberg and Martin Schwarzschild, and he couldnít have made better choices. Those were the people to call. And they had never heard that, if it could get the money, Carnegie was going to build a 200-inch telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. Yet before him he had this plan for international cooperation, with students and Europeans — and it was a lot of money also. I had a terrible scene, soon, with Martin and Leo, in the Newark Airport, of all places, during a violent rainstorm. We were having some meeting, one of these things that met in airport rooms. They gave me hell for not telling them about it. They said that when McGeorge Bundy had called them up, they didnít know anything about the project. I said, ďWhat more did you say?Ē I forget which of them said — and I would have done the same thing — ďAnybody who wants to build a 200-inch telescope in the best location in the world, and doesnít ask for the support of the rest of American astronomy in one way or another, is crazy, and shouldnít be trusted with that responsibility.Ē
Weart:I did want to ask, hadnít they already approached AURA about some kind of joint scheme?
Weart:Oh, that came after.
Greenstein:Yes. Thatís what happened as a result. First there was an immediate debacle.
Weart:That was when Bundy went to NSF?
Greenstein:Bundy didnít have to go to NSF. Bundy called Stratton, his predecessor, and said, ďWhatís this about Carnegie and 25 million dollars? Iíve heard so and so.Ē And Stratton, being chairman of the (National) Science Board, said, ďIíve got a NSB meeting.Ē (I donít know the exact timing, it was within a few days or weeks.) ďWeíll discuss it there. Weíll do something for astronomy, cheap.Ē And Ford and the NSF matched gifts. They got this much smaller installation, none of the endowment. You see, instead of 25 million dollars of private money would have provided a hell of an endowment and a good telescope; I think it would have been at least as good as the 4-meter only 10 million and probably better. It was a catastrophe. Iím not worried now about the Hale Observatories. I think the real shame is that out of this there was a loss of an enormous private fund for an observatory which I think could have, letís say, fulfilled the public responsibility — which Iím sure would have been forced on it, given the times. If Ford had given 25 million, even without this shocker it would still have insisted on having some kind of responsible public participation. The Carnegie plans included guest investigators. We had the guest investigator program running here and had probably even spelled out the 15 to 20 percent for guests. Given the fact that the visitors, in the AURA agreement, get less than 60 percent (they get 60 percent of 90 percent, thatís 54 percent) with the 4-meter, which is smaller than a 5-meter — you might have ended up with the same number of square inch hours for visitors. But not after that particular traumatic disaster of not asking for scientific community support. I can understand this as a thing that Carnegie might be sensitive about.
Weart:Essentially you feel it has to do with the changeover from the foundation type of funding to the government type of funding?
Greenstein:Youíve just got to recognize that the world has changed. I have been trying to help raise 10 million dollars here for endowment. But private institutions will fail unless they get it from a guy who says, ďIíll give it to you because I want to spit in the eye of the government and support private rather than public things, and I want you not to give this time to visitors, I want you to have only your best scientists use it —Ē Thatís a perfectly possible outcome, Anybody except a person who has that kind of psyche about his money would insist on taking account of the enormous reservoir of talent everywhere in the country. You canít live in the 19th or even the early 20th century.
Weart:Iím surprised in a way though that the Ford Foundation itself hadnít already —
Greenstein:Well, this thing had been going on a long time. The times of troubles in academic life (the 60ís) when people began to feel this way. But even then, I think itís a little surprising. World War II, it seems to me, might have been the end of the private enclave attitude. I already felt it was the end, by the fact that within a few years after Ď48, I was on government committees of all kinds. In Ď52, I was in the first NSF committee, became its chairman. It could even be that the private enterprise aspect was itself attractive to a big foundation. But it no longer is. You read what one Carnegie Corporation wants to do, it wants to support black colleges and minority education in elementary schools. I think frankly this was a bad result for science. I think we would have done a very good job; having a 200-inch telescope, even I would have been pulled into supporting it. But when I dropped out of any position of authority at Cal Tech in 1972, and Las Campanas was on the road, our staff voted to join Las Campanas to the Hale Observatories.
Weart:That was voted by the astronomy staff here?
Weart:I didnít realize that that sort of decision would be done by the astronomy staff by a vote.
Greenstein:Well, it really wasnít. Itís a nonóbinding vote of a nonexistent staff. There isnít any ďHale Observatory staff.Ē There are two separate groups. It was a very delicate period. I think it was a missed opportunity. Frankly, I think there would have been an NSF-supported 4-meter telescope anyway in Chile.
Weart:And this —
Greenstein:— just lost 25 million dollars of hard money to science.
Weart:And this feeling is partly Santa Barbara St. and partly Carnegie Washington?
Greenstein:Yes. I think that they loused the thing up. This is a very personal thing. I felt I knew enough about what was going on to tell the Carnegie secretary, a man named Ackerman, now dead, that they must get the support of the community of astronomers. And that didnít involve a lot of people. It wouldnít have jeopardized Ford support. Because I couldnít see Princeton going and asking for 25 million dollars, since it doesnít have a telescope — why would it start with a 200-inch, 3000 miles away? Iím sure it wasnít only a few senior astronomers being hurt and concerned and suspicious about being left out. It was just that it was the wrong way to do things, by that time.
Weart:I understand, it was the whole approach. OK.
Greenstein:Anyway, to go back — the Carnegie people, having lost out, were somewhat dismayed, but not for long. I give very positive credit to some members of the Carnegie Institution Board. One of them whom I liked and knew very well was a geologist who had once been head of the Geological Survey, Bill Rubey of UCLA. A geochemist, geophysicist, a real founder of many things. He voted at several board meetings that Carnegie use its surplus to build as big a telescope as it could afford in Chile. They have had quite a task. It ended up with the gift of a 40-inch telescope from Henrietta Swope — the development of a mountain, which alone cost over three million dollars, to put up a 40-inch telescope, plus the 40-inch. Canadian — they now have a small telescope there. And the final expenditure of about ten million dollars from Carnegie, of which a little under three came from their trustee, Crawford Greenewaltís wife, who was Irenee DuPontís daughter.
Weart:Did you play any role in the Swope or Greenewalt gifts?
Greenstein:No. In the Greenewalt, a little bit. Not in the Swope; I didnít even know that sheíd given it. Sheís such a lovely woman. She never mentioned it till they later put her name on it. Thatís literally true.
Weart:Yes, I know they didnít announce it till years after.
Greenstein:The staff didnít know. Sheís just that kind of person. Itís nice. The kick, I would say, to Greenewalt, is a very nice story, a good thing that happened. We built, in a mixed-up way, a 60-inch telescope at Palomar. The mirror comes from NASA, through Bob Leighton. The telescope and drive were paid for by the NSF. And the Oscar Meyer Foundation, from which I raised the money, built the building and dome. Itís really a project you canít ascribe to anybody. Carnegie raised the telescope money from NSF. At the dedication, we were very optimistic about all these new electronic auxiliaries. Bev Oke, who is no spellbinder, gave a really very good talk about how much gain there was in new photoelectric and television devices, and how the 60-inch was now more powerful than the 200-inch had been with photography (itís true) and how much it would cost. With Bruce Ruleís help, we made a pretty good guess on what a new 200-inch would cost, to match what the 60-inch with its electronics would be, if you used the 200-inch only photographically.
Weart:Say that again?
Greenstein:I mean, how much it would cost now to build a 200-inch to match the 60-inchís power. I think it was 20-odd million dollars, and it would do no better. It would do some things better, but not all. It was a very nice occasion. Greenewalt was delighted. I remember going down these steep dome stairs with him, talking to him and his wife. Ironically, we were looking at the fog rolling up over the mountain. He said, ďYou know, I think we ought to do something. Itís in our will, but I donít know why we shouldnít have the fun of doing this now, rather than waiting till weíre dead and donít see it.Ē His wife said, ďHm.Ē It was her money. They had planned for it, I guess, because he was a Carnegie trustee; he knew about the troubles at Las Campanas. I guess he thought: why wait? And thatís really a good point — why wait? Heís enormously enjoyed it. His little whatever it is — call it three million — caused Carnegie to spend ten million. Itís a nice leverage, and private enterprise has been re-established. And, by the way, to make it really a nice happy story, everybody — and I have no reason to doubt it — thinks that the 100-inch is a magnificent telescope. They think the optics are excellent. Las Campanas, everything is good.
Weart:Maybe you know about this, the very wide fields on the newer telescopes. How did this come about?
Greenstein:That comes from Bowen. Bowen, I mentioned, loved optical design. He was able to make a mixture of designs. Itís fundamentally whatís called a modified Ritchey - Chretien, which is a moderately wide field telescope. And by adding a lens near the focus to the 100-inch in Las Campanas, it can give a 20-inch plate coverage at I think f.7 focal ratio. The 200-inch has a sharp field of view of around a half-inch — at a faster, f.4 focal ratio. Well, it turns out that for the faintest object you can ever photograph, with plates, not electronic devices, the longer the focal length, the fainter you reach. Itís independent of apertures; itís limited by the seeing disc and the sky.
Weart:Itís a problem of the sky brightness.
Greenstein:Thatís right. So actually the 100óinch at f.7, which has a focal length therefore of 700 inches, is to be compared with the 200-inch at f.3.7, 740 inches. They have almost an identical magnitude limit, except that with the Las Campanas 100-inch, you get 20 inches on a side — thatís 400 square inches, against a quarter of a square inch.
Weart:Bowen just worked this out himself?
Greenstein:Yes. Oh, but Bowen was a great man. Itís not very hard. He modified the curves on the Ritchey ó Chretien, so theyíre a little different than the original one, to get this large flat field. And he enlarged and flattened the field further with this very weak lens. They are neither hyperboloids nor paraboloids, as they were originally (I think one of them used to be hyperboloid, the other spheroid). Theyíre both now general higher order figures.
Weart:Did this require advances in grinding techniques?
Greenstein:Yes, but the polishing techniques had moved way ahead, in any case. The polishing machines are better, and the computer analysis of whatís going on is better. The optics were built at the Optical Sciences Laboratory, University of Arizona in Tucson. Thereís a good computer program there and good opticians. Bowen worked with them in the original design. The Palomar 60-inch is that way, only itís a smaller field.
Weart:Is that his design too?
Oh yes. That was fully his design. The 100-inch is I think of mixed origin with the Optical Sciences Lab. But in any case, itís a monument to Bowenís skill and to the optical designers. And to Boiler and Chivens, which is part of Perkin-Elmer Company. They built a beautiful telescope.
By the way, going back a little bit: when we talked about building these other telescopes in AURA, Bowenís help was generous, lending an engineer, a Cal Tech employee. This was Bruce Rule, Shane or Mayall were also generous, lending the Lick engineer, a man named Baustian. They worked together. Baustian became the lead engineer on the Kitt Peak telescopes, and therefore for Cerro Tololo. Later, Carnegie got to the Las Campanas design, Rule, who was Cal Techís head of our engineering shop, became a Carnegie engineer for the Carnegie Las Campanas project. The engineers, who are the real heroes, the new generation of optical engineers and the mechanical engineers, plus Bowen, did very good jobs. The world has many new good telescopes.
The 40-inch was a trial of his mixed optics design, with the wider field. Itís hardly used, photographically but I think it takes a 10-inch plate. If that were scaled to 100óinch would give 25 inches coverage.
Weart:One hardly uses the full plate, you mean?
Greenstein:True. Actually, one of the problems is, what are you going to do with a 20-inch plate? You canít handle it. You cut it up, actually. Then you take another plate, to make up for the fact that you cut up part of the area. There are no measuring machines for that size yet. They are being designed.
Greenstein:But for survey, for inspection, just finding interesting objects, say galaxy and clusters of galaxies kind of work, theyíre ideal.
Weart:Itís great for any kind of survey, obviously.
Greenstein:But a survey would be slow. It takes roughly five hours to take a picture, because of the low focal ratio. Itís not like an f.3.7 200-inch, or the 48-inch Schmidt which is f.2.7. But hereís an example, you know, of cooperation. The Kitt Peak telescope optical design is related to this concept. The instruments have been tried out at both places. Nobodyís ahead. The only instrument that we have thatís better than Kitt Peak is a charge-coupled device, which is funded by NASA through JPL, and which is at Kitt Peak right now on loan. You canít maintain the isolation of individuals nor of instruments. Everybodyís going to have them. We should have cooperated rather earlier with the general astronomy community.
Weart:Well, Iím essentially to the end of my questions. Is there anything else about the national policy scene, or anything?
Greenstein:I think when I finished my years on the Harvard Board, I should have stopped. I went to AURA as chairman of the board, which was flattering to both sides because here was a rival big science group joining them. And in a sense, it was a difficult for me. I am a little bit sorry I did it. Finally, I will say that from being on everything through the mid-seventies, I am now on nothing. Itís quite a funny feeling. I left the AURA board in March, 1977. I was dropped from company boards because of age. And thatís the end. Itís a very funny feeling, when youíve been incredibly actively involved, to be left back at your desk doing science again. I miss some of it, but I donít miss all of it.
Weart:How did you feel while you were doing it? How was it to be on so many committees?
Greenstein:It was just incredible, when once you get into the establishment, youíre the obvious candidate for everything. A lot you more or less canít say no to. I would guess in the years from, Ď65 to Ď75 or so, I was on infinitely too many things.
Weart:Why too many?
Greenstein:Because I couldnít handle it all. There was always too much going on — all of it fairly important. And then I stopped.
Weart:Did this affect your relationship with other astronomers? The fact that everybody knew that you were on all these committees?
Greenstein:Well, one result was that I was under terrible pressure from a lot of people. Everybody could call me up and give me hell about everything. That was literally true. I had troubles at Harvard, in the last year or so of my service there, serious problems.
Weart:I didnít want to ask you about (the recent events at Harvard).
Greenstein:No, I donít think (we should go over it). And then, troubles at the end of the time in AURA. The troubles were things that eventually had to happen. They were not me. I was always in the place when the shooting started. From Ď65 to about Ď75, I was in the middle of too many battles. It was very exciting and satisfying. I kept up with science. Now, Iím faced with doing science when Iím a very old person. Itís a funny problem. My only advantage is that I can still do it. I can still make discoveries. I guess Iím trying to do it to show that I can. So thatís the end of the story.
Weart:How do you feel about doing astronomy now?
Greenstein:I love it. I always have. I did all these policy things because they were all such fun, in a gory sense, bloody fun. And now Iím back at science. Iíve got a postdoc and will have another. Iím observing in space which is a funny feeling also. Iím on no committee, except one Cal Tech one which ends soon.
Weart:So, back to the telescope.
Greenstein:Iíve always been at the telescope. I never cut into the observing time.
Weart:It never cut into your observing time?
I never gave up a night. Iíd miss a meeting, or Iíd schedule the observing — people got used to having my peculiar requests for observing, you know. ďNot here, not here, not here,Ē because I would be somewhere else.
My secretary, Marilynne Rice, really made me feel different. Sheíd been buying me for Christmas every year an enormous executive diary, which schedules every 15 minutes; you write down what you did, phone numbers and stuff. Last Christmas, she bought me a little arty crafty book. (holds it up)
Weart:— I see, one square per day, a week on one page.
And oriental art on the other — which is good. So Iím finished with the world of power. One last lesson — you can pass this on to anybody: never give up power too early. Thatís one lesson I learned. (It has nothing to do with AURA; Iím glad I resigned a year early from the AURA board.)
But it is true that even when you donít want to exercise power, it is better to hold onto it. Let other people do things, but retain the reins. Because the minute you give up — the past becomes just like a heap of sand, you know. It says so in the Bible: it all blows away. The world goes on. I have one more anecdote. Today, I was supposed to be at Harvard for a visiting committee meeting. I called up George Field and said I wouldnít come. Next week I have to go to Goddard and I didnít want to stay a whole week extra.
He said, ďOh well, Jesse, youíve done your duty. New, younger hands have taken over. Thatís quite all right. Weíll miss you, of course. Thank you very much.Ē I felt so terrible. (laughter)
What a hell of a thing to say!
See above, pp. 70-71, 73-74.
ĒHigh Energy Phenomena in Stellar Astronomy,Ē in SPACE ASTRONOMY, ed. Klemperer and Deutsch (Ang. 1961, Pasadena).
National Research Council, PHYSICS: SURVEY AND OUTLOOK (Washington, D. C.: National Academy of Science, 1966).
Ed. note: Greenstein knew that I had recently interviewed Leo Goldberg on some of these same matters
X-ray satellite, launched in 1970.
Office of Management and the Budget
Very large array study, in institutional files, AIP.
National Research Council, ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS IN THE 70íS, Report of the Astronomy Survey Committee (National Academy of Science, Washington, D.C., 1972).
National Research Council, PHYSICS IN PERSPECTIVE (Washington, D.C.: National Acad. Sci., 1972-73).
THE DARK NIGHT SKY (New York: Quadrangle, 1975).
Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy (Kitt Peak, etc.)