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Oral History Transcript — Dr. A. G. Masevich

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Interview with Dr. A. G. Masevich
By Spencer Weart
In Grenoble
September 1, 1976

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A.G. Massevitch; September 1, 1976

ABSTRACT: This short interview concentrates on A.G. Masevich’s education and interest in astronomy (stimulated by Perelman) and her graduate education in astrophysics and post-doctoral career at the University of Moscow through the 1940s. Also covered is her work on red giants, binaries, large planets, mass loss of stars, etc. with Fesenkov, Ivanenko, Parenago and Severny. There are comments on satellite tracking, women in astronomy, and scientific careers in the Soviet Union.

Transcript

Weart:

First I want to emphasize that the purpose of this ultimately is to put it at the disposal of scholars, who may be interested in the history of astronomy in all countries, but it must be done under circumstances you agree to. We can discuss those afterwards, after you see what the questions are, and so on. But in principle, you can ask for anything to be deleted, you can tell me to throw it away, or you can say to make it available to everyone. It's entirely your interview. I wanted to ask you mostly about how you got into astronomy, your education, and also something of your experiences there, because I really don't know much about what the conditions were like for astronomical education in the Soviet Union, how people got started on their careers and so forth. Now, I have here from WORLD WHO'S WHO IN SCIENCE that you were born in Tbilisi in Georgia?

Masevich:

Yes.

Weart:

In 1918. And then that you graduated from Moscow University in 1941, but I don't know anything that happened in between. For example, your primary education — did you have much science when you were going to primary and secondary schools, before you went to the University? Of course, conditions were disturbed. You were born at a time when there was great difficulty.

Masevich:

No, no, there were schools, all right, at that time. And I went into a school, a German school, in Tbilisi, where all the education was in the German language. They had these kind of special schools that used a particular language in education.

Weart:

A gymnasium?

Masevich:

— it was something like a gymnasium. We called it just middle school in Russia. And we had a lot of physics and mathematics. I had a very good teacher in physics and mathematics. I had the luck to have a really good teacher, who gave me a lot of knowledge in these fields. For those who were interested, they also had evening classes in physics and mathematics. And then, when I was about 14 years old, I read a book written by a very famous scientist in our country. He was a physicist himself; he wrote entertaining books for young people about science, about astronomy and physics and mathematics. This was a Professor Perelman —

Weart:

I've heard of him.

Masevich:

— from Leningrad, and I read first his book about entertaining physics. I had several questions. I wrote him a letter, and he was so kind to answer; since then we had a very long correspondence till I went to the University. Perhaps he felt that I was interested, for he sent me books, and he sent me problems to solve, first simple ones and then more intricate. So when I came to the University of Moscow after graduating, to be frank, the first year I had almost nothing to do, because I knew all this because of him. I am very grateful to this man; he died during the war, in the blockade of Leningrad, in 1942. I'm very grateful to him, because I think he was mostly the cause of all my work in astronomy, from him arose my interest in astronomy, and somehow, he tried to guide me what to do.

Weart:

Did you ever meet him personally?

Masevich:

Yes, I met him when I was a student in the first year in the University, when he came often to Moscow to give lectures.

Weart:

What was he like? Now, I've heard of him from other people. I don't know what he was like as a person.

Masevich:

He was a very kind person. I still keep all his letters, and I wonder now, that being a much-occupied person — he wrote a lot and he gave many lectures — he always found the time to write to a schoolgirl.

Weart:

Don't throw those letters out. They must be of interest to historians of science.

Masevich:

Yes. He was very kind. N0W I myself get letters from schoolchildren, and sometimes I really have no time to answer them.

Weart:

You can't answer all of them

Masevich:

But I remember how much it meant for me to receive an answer and how I was waiting for a letter from him. So I always answer them too. And I now have several, really already grown-up people and scientists, who started corresponding with me when they were school children. I've met them. When they come to Moscow, they always visit me — I shouldn't say these "children" some of them have become astronomers, some geophysicists, one a geologist.

Weart:

Maybe they will carry it on, then, and they will answer letters.

Masevich:

I hope so. And then after I graduated I went to Moscow University.

Weart:

Did you already know at that time that you were going to be an astronomer?

Masevich:

Yes. Yes, because of Professor Perelman.

Weart:

An astronomer, specifically?

Masevich:

Astrophysics.

Weart:

Oh, specifically astrophysics.

Masevich:

Astrophysics.

Weart:

You knew the distinction already?

Masevich:

Yes. I wanted to become an astrophysicist, and therefore I went to the physical department of Moscow University. The astronomical department, at that time, was not attached to the physical faculty. The astronomical division they have at the Moscow University, now it belongs to the physical faculty. But at that time it belonged to the mathematical mechanical faculty. But I entered the physical department, and only after the third year I managed to work at both, so that I could get some more courses in astronomy, and at the same time the physics education.

Weart:

The astronomical faculty did not encourage much astrophysics at that time?

Masevich:

It had already some astrophysics, but not much physics. Not the modern branches of physics, like relativity, quantum physics, nuclear physics that was not at that time. It came afterwards. And when I was myself working at the University, I did a lot in order to transfer the astronomical specialty to the physical faculty.

Weart:

After the war.

Masevich:

After the war. Now it's the astrophysical department. I think it has done a lot of good for astronomy in our country that at Moscow University, they have the specialty in astronomy at the physical faculty.

Weart:

Let me backtrack just a bit to ask you, what did people around you, for example your parents, think when you became dedicated to becoming an astronomer? In the first place, what were your parents? What did they do?

Masevich:

My father is a lawyer. He's still alive. And my mother, she was a medical — how do you say it?

Weart:

A doctor's aide?

Masevich:

Yes, a doctor's aide. But she didn't work because we were three children. I was the oldest of the children, and it was a tradition in our family now for many generations, for the oldest child to become a lawyer, and my father wanted it very much. And so they were disappointed when I changed. But then my sister became a lawyer and she’s also a very famous professor now, in civil law, so they are satisfied. Of course, at first they thought astronomy was — I ’d say they were not very happy about this.

Weart:

There was some question as to whether it was possible to have a career in astronomy?

Masevich:

At that time, of course, it was not very clear, because astronomy was not very much developed at that time in our country. There were no large telescopes. Astronomy was rather modestly represented, and only at several universities. But since then, it has grown very much.

Weart:

Did you have any conception at the time that it would be growing so much? Or did you imagine that you were going into sort of a small, very quiet field?

Masevich:

Yes. I did not expect too much with respect to a career. I wanted to combine somehow theoretical physics with astrophysics. It was always my dream. I wanted to work in the field of theoretical astrophysics, the internal structure of stars and stellar evolution. Of course, at that time this was quite a new field.

Weart:

This was already when you were a university student?

Masevich:

At the University.

Weart:

How did you form such an ambition?

Masevich:

By reading books, and I kept finding out that this was a quite clear field, where nothing was really known, only speculations. And it was already the time when computers started just to come in.

Weart:

You had mechanical computers.

Masevich:

Yes. And there was such a feeling that, by making more precise computations, using physical laws, you could achieve more.

Weart:

What sort of books and textbooks did you have? It’s easy to find out what books were published in various countries, but it's not easy to find which books were actually read and used, and made an impression upon people. Do you remember any in particular?

Masevich:

There was a book published by the Pulkovo Observatory, ASTROPHYSICS AND STELLAR ASTRONOMY, consisting of reviews of all fields of astrophysics; particularly the review of theoretical astrophysics with stellar interiors that was written by Gerasimovich. He was really a very famous scientist and things he just stressed there, just mentioned there, they have afterwards become very much developed. And, of course, Eddington's book, THE INTERNAL CONSTITUTION OF THE STARS was very reputable. Milne's books were very much read. Among the magazines at that time, the most read was ZEITSCHRIFT FUR ASTROPHYSIK. The most important papers about stellar interiors were published there in the '30's. All the discussions between Milne and Eddington were there. And we had our own Astronomical journal. At the Moscow University at that time, a full member of our Academy of Science, Academician Fesenkov, a very broad-minded scientist, was the head of the Astrophysics department.

Weart:

You did some work in collaboration with him later on?

Masevich:

Yes, in 1950 on the internal structure of the large planets. He was the first to start courses on theoretical astrophysics at the Moscow University.

Weart:

Did you take those courses?

Masevich:

Yes, I took his courses. I would say he was my first "patron," really. Then after graduating from the University I stayed still at the University, as postgraduate student, for three years.

Weart:

This was during the war?

Masevich:

It was during the war, beginning with '43, to the end of '45. And I worked under the guidance of Professor Andrej Severny. He was my scientific tutor as a postgraduate. At that time he himself also did work on stellar interiors, the stability of stars. He changed afterwards to the sun, to observations right afterwards. But at that time he was very deep into this field, the field of stellar stability and stellar structure. And then also I worked for a while with the prominent scientist Professor Ivanenko, who worked in nuclear physics.

Weart:

You've named some very prominent people that you worked with. Can you tell me a bit about them? What was Severny like, for example, as a professor?

Masevich:

He's here.

Weart:

Oh, he's here?

Masevich:

He's here. He's the head of our delegation at this meeting.[1] He's now a full member of our Academy of Science, and the director of the Crimean Observatory in the Crimea — the biggest astrophysical observatory in our country. Later, in 1948 I became acquainted with Professor Ambartsunian.

Weart:

— oh, whom I wanted to interview —

Masevich:

But he is not here. His eyes are not very good, so he didn't come. This is the first meeting of the General Assembly IAU he missed.

Weart:

I was asking about Severay not so much about him personally perhaps, but for what your relationship with him was like. What was the relationship of a student to a tutor?

Masevich:

I was a postgraduate student.

Weart:

Yes.

Masevich:

And he was my scientific tutor.

Weart:

Did he suggest problems to you.

Masevich:

Yes, he suggested problems, and discussed them with me. Every time I had some questions or some difficulties, I would come to him; I was often invited to his house and met his family. There was a rather close relation. We had several papers to prepare together, and under his guidance I prepared my thesis.

Weart:

So you saw him almost day to day?

Masevich:

Yes, I saw him very often. I was also closely connected with Professor Ivanenko; it was concerned with the energy sources in stars.

Weart:

Were there other students who were also working with you? Or was it a one person to one person thing?

Masevich:

Mostly it was one person to one person. This is the postgraduate relation. I have students like that now.

Weart:

I see.

Masevich:

We work individually with them.

Weart:

And Ivanenko was advising you on particular problems of nuclear physics?

Masevich:

Yes. He was advising me. You see, at that time was very popular the theory of Gamow, that the red giants don't have nuclear energy sources like main sequence stars and that their energy source is only the burning of light elements, lithium, beryllium and boron, so they were believed to be very young stars. And everybody believed at that time, due to Eddington's theory, that all the stars are homogeneous, or mostly homogeneous.

Weart:

Yes.

Masevich:

And my thesis, which I did for my Ph.D. degree, was about the structure of red giants; I made calculations of stellar models for two red giants, Betelgeuse and VV Cephei.

Weart:

I see. I didn't know you were interested in red giants, already that early, right from the beginning?

Masevich:

Yes. I found in 1945 that if you take good boundary conditions at the surface, you can obtain inhomogeneous models with a very dense core inside, and a well extended atmosphere and internal temperatures large enough for hydrogen burning. This was really new at that time.

Weart:

So you had to know your nuclear physics quite well, as well as your —

Masevich:

Yes, this is thanks to Professor Ivanenko, to his courses, to his seminars.

Weart:

You were using the calculating machines, a hand-cranked model?

Masevich:

Yes, my first models were done with them.

Weart:

27 turns forward, and 7 turns backward, that kind of thing.

Masevich:

Oh, I still remember now what a labor that was working with these big computers. But in some way, you know, even now, I think it was rather instructive doing this work manually. Because then you tried to think more and to spare your time. You didn't want to calculate thousands of models. You tried to make the one right one just by very carefully choosing the boundary conditions and the Eigen value.

Weart:

To make it a good model to begin with.

Masevich:

Yes, to begin with. And there, you had first to think very hard, before you started calculating. Now, the way it is now, you just put into the computer boundary conditions, any boundary conditions —

Weart:

— and if it blows up, you don't care. You just start over.

Masevich:

Yes, and then you can calculate a thousand models, and then you choose the one which is good.

Weart:

I have to tell you something, by the way. Miller's just developed a solution of the four-color map problem, but they still don't know — can you consider a theorem solved, if it consists of nothing but a tremendous number of computations inside a computer? Do you really understand what's been solved?

Masevich:

I remember that — especially with the VV Cephei star, I had a hard time. I calculated several models, and always obtained either infinite density in the center, or infinite temperature. I never could find the real solution, to obtain a normal star. Once I came to Severny and said, I cannot calculate more, I even dream of these models at night. And then he told me, now, this is just when you start becoming a scientist — when you start dreaming of your work at night, then it means that you are good for a scientist. And it did help; I managed the VV Cep. model at last. After defending my thesis, I stayed at the Moscow University at the Sternberg Astronomical Institute —

Weart:

That was in 1946?

Masevich:

In 1946. And for two years I was scientific secretary of the Institute.

Weart:

Just very briefly, I notice in between here that in 1942 you married a Joseph Friedlander?

Masevich:

Yes.

Weart:

Was he also at the University?

Masevich:

No, not at the University. We met in the fall of 1941 during the war, by chance. He worked in physics of metals. He is also a scientist, and his field is aluminum alloys. When we met it was wartime. We had to decide either to marry or perhaps to never see each other again, because many institutions at that time were evacuated from Moscow. We knew each other really five days.

Weart:

You were in Moscow all through the war?

Masevich:

No, I was for 1 1/2 years (1942-43) in Kuybyshev with my husband's Research Institute.

Weart:

The war must have perturbed the University and your work quite a lot.

Masevich:

Yes. Almost the whole University was at that time away from Moscow. Only a part remained.

Weart:

I see, was there any —?

Masevich:

It was a very difficult time then.

Weart:

There must have been pressures on you not to get your degree, but to go into something else.

Masevich:

I worked during 1942-43 as an engineer at a Research Institute.

Weart:

I see. I understand. OK, we are now at 1946, and you became a professor at Moscow or —?

Masevich:

No, at this time I was offered the position of scientific secretary of the Sternberg Institute of the Moscow University. I worked for two years as scientific secretary there, and then I obtained the professorship. In '52 I was offered the position of vice-president of the Astronomical Council of the Academy of Sciences. The Astronomical Council is the coordinating body for the whole astronomy in the country. Since then I am there now for more than 20 years. But of course, the Astronomical Council has very much changed since then. When I entered, it was a very small committee, which really did most of the coordinating work, but now it's a large scientific research institute. This is because of the space research coming in. In early 1957, we were offered the task to organize tracking stations —

Weart:

— satellite tracking stations —

Masevich:

— for the coming satellites. And so I was put at the head of this project.

Weart:

Was this simply because you were in the commission? Or had you particularly wanted to do this?

Masevich:

Probably because I showed some interest and capability to do organizational work. At that time not so many astronomers believed in the conquest of space. I really got very interested in that. And since then more than half of my time I am spending on satellite geodesy —

Weart:

— figure of the earth and so forth —

Masevich:

— figure of the earth, and atmospheric densities and their variations with solar activity. It was a very interesting time in 1957, the whole spring and the summer before the first satellite was launched in October we organized the tracking stations all over the country. We had to develop small telescopes for the stations, and of course at that time nobody knew what the satellites would be like, and how they should be observed. The methods are different from the usual observations.

Weart:

No one would know how bright it would be, and so forth.

Masevich:

Yes. And then, it was very fast — moving so you had to develop a special timing system. It's interesting to note that at that time, in three countries separately and independently, practically the same visual telescopes were constructed.

Weart:

I didn't know that.

Masevich:

In the United States, in our country, and also in Japan. And all the three are very similar. They're all different in appearance, but the optics and the construction — it's really quite the same.

Weart:

Quite a fast system?

Masevich:

Yes. The systems are very similar. We started to observe just from the first day, when the first satellite, Sputnik I, was launched.

Weart:

Did you know very long in advance when it would be going up?

Masevich:

Yes, we knew in advance, and we tried to do some tests for our stations.

Weart:

How can you do that?

Masevich:

You see it looks a little bit funny now, silly perhaps. We had a school organized for the heads of the stations, in Ashkhabad, in Middle Asia. There we tried for the observers to have some training. One of our lecturers took a lantern and marched with it up in the mountains. You had to observe the moving light at dawn. We calculated in advance how fast he had to move, in order to have an apparent motion about one degree per second. They tried to observe, and to mark the exact time of these observations. Then, I had an agreement with the Aeroflot for several planes flying, with lights on it. There was a very funny situation, once, I remember, we announced to our stations that there would be training flights — and something happened. So only over 20 stations did the planes fly. But next day we obtained results from all the 70 stations that pretended to have seen the lights.

Weart:

I'm not surprised. Let me go back a minute to the late 1940's. I suppose the work of yours I know about the best is the work on Algol type binaries and so forth. Sort of, the feeling that there was something strange going on in these binaries, that you did with, was it Fesenkov?

Masevich:

No, with Fesenkov I did another work. It was the work on structure of large planets, Jupiter, and Saturn, the internal structure of these planets. With Professor Parenago who was a very famous scientist in the field of stellar astronomy.

Weart:

— oh yes, I’m sorry

Masevich:

— we worked on the mass-luminosity relation. He was a wonderful person, Pavel Parenago. He was very broadly educated, and how he worked! He was a very good example for young people who started scientific research, because he worked himself very much. And he always tried to engage young people’s interest in one of his fields, to work with him, in order just to try to get them to become acquainted with the true methods of research.

Weart:

This is how you came to work with him?

Masevich:

Yes. I worked with him for one year.

Weart:

He approached you, so to speak?

Masevich:

He approached me. He asked me if I would like to do some work with him which was connected with stellar evolution, and at the same time with stellar astronomy which he was doing, kinematics and statistics of observational data. So I worked for a year with him. Twice a week I came to his house and we worked the whole day. He was very systematical and I learned a lot from him, because he had real good knowledge of observational data, and taught me how to work with them. Because you know, at that time, especially when a young person — it’s probably the same everywhere — has been doing theoretical work, they donlt quite understand what the observations mean.

Weart:

Yes.

Masevich:

And only by going very cautiously and thoroughly through all these observational data, we made the statistics of all the binaries, the masses and the luminosities. We calculated all the observational errors, and only after that, we started to do some theoretical interpretation of the results.

Weart:

Do you know why he started this work? It came out with sort of a surprising result. Did he anticipate this beforehand, or was it simply —?

Masevich:

You see, he did such a revision of all available empirical relations from time to time.

Weart:

I see. So it was simply one more.

Masevich:

Yes. And just at that time there were more data accumulated, and so we obtained new results. And perhaps also because we were able at that time to use some theoretical work on stellar structure for the interpretation, several theoretical relations which I knew at that time. I think such a combination was very good.

Weart:

Did you do any observing yourself?

Masevich:

I did. Once with Professor Fesenkov he started a new observatory in Alma Ata in 1951, and then he invited me because I did the work together with him at that time on the internal structure of planets. So I went to this new observatory in the mountains, in Kazakhstan, and I observed there with a telescope for the first time. After that I have only done one other summer of observations in the Abastumani Observatory in the Caucasus when I went with several students from Moscow University and we also observed stellar clusters.

Weart:

I see. One theme I see running all through this is your interest in stimulating students, finding people who will stimulate students, and so forth. I'm curious, because it reminds me of another question I want to ask you. Of course, in all countries it’s a peculiar fact that only a very small percentage of astronomers are women. Probably because very few women choose to become astronomers and so forth. Did you encounter any pressures that way, in your own career?

Masevich:

No. I must say, I was very happy. In this respect, I must consider myself very well cared for, really.

Weart:

I've always wondered why it should be that so few women become astronomers.

Masevich:

Because a very thorough mathematical and physical education is needed. I think it's just this which makes girls afraid of it. And then, astronomy before the war was never very popular. We have become very popular after the first satellites were launched. At present in the astronomical department in the Moscow University every year about 30 young persons are admitted. They're half and half, boys and girls now.

Weart:

Whereas in your day I suppose there were only a few students when you went to the university, and very few women?

Masevich:

When I was there, I think I was the only girl of my group. It's changed now. They have at the University of Uzhgorod; you know this is in the south of the Ukraine, a tracking station which almost completely consists of women.

Weart:

I see.

Masevich:

Mostly all the observers at this station are women and only some technicians are men, the husbands of these ladies. Usually every Women's Day, the 8th of March — it is a holiday in our country — all the reporters come to this station to interview because it is a completely women's station.

Weart:

A special place.

Masevich:

A special place.

Weart:

I see. With this tremendous increase in the number of students, I suppose the relations between the professors and students have changed? I've heard this said in many other countries, that it's no longer as intimate as it used to be.

Masevich:

During the first three years perhaps it's true. But then, during the last two years, the students prepare their diploma and then they have always a tutor, so there are more intimate relations between them. And now at the Astronomical Council we take always several students every year from Moscow University or some other universities, just for making their diplomas, when the student has already shown some interest in a particular field, so he has to work more closely with one of the scientists — his tutor.

Weart:

I see, so it becomes the same sort of personal relationship.

Masevich:

Yes. And then of course, at the postgraduate level there's always a relation between the professor and the student. They work together.

Weart:

And the professor still functions as a patron of the particular student.

Masevich:

Yes.

Weart:

Helping him with his jobs and so forth.

Masevich:

Helping with his jobs, and also — well, usually you invite the student to your house, and he can stay with you, and you know more about his interests. You go sometimes to the theatre together.

Weart:

I see. It's very close. I want to make sure that I don't cause you to miss any of your other appointments. It's 3:20 now. Do you still have some more time?

Masevich:

Ten minutes, perhaps.

Weart:

Ten minutes. OK. Well, we can't cover every possible thing. Let me ask you then, briefly, what do you think has been the most important scientific work that you have done, particularly in the field of stellar evolution?

Masevich:

In the field of stellar evolution — you know, this meeting here reminds me of that. In 1948-49, I mentioned in my papers — I think it was the first time — that probably mass loss must be very important for the evolution of massive hot stars.

Weart:

Yes.

Masevich:

And at that time, no definite mechanism of mass loss was known. So I had to assume some law of mass loss. We started this work also with Fesenkov, and then I continued computations on stellar evolution with mass loss, with mixing and without mixing.

Weart:

It became a controversial point, didn't it?

Masevich:

Yes, this became a very controversial point, and I had to admit that the weak point was the assumed rate of mass loss. But since then space research has discovered the high rate of mass loss by solar wind — and just two days ago, at one of these meetings, there was a paper delivered by De Loor of Holland; using data on mass loss by solar wind, he calculated the possible evolution of a hot star without mixing, and obtained quite the same tracks which I had 20 years ago. I was very happy to learn this.

Weart:

I wonder why there was so much resistance to it? Simply because no one had seen a solar wind or what?

Masevich:

At that time, nobody knew about it. The only thing one knew about mass loss was loss by radiation pressure. And all the calculations concerning radiation pressure led to a very small amount, which could not be effective for evolution. But now —

Weart:

— now that we have a mechanism

Masevich:

— now that we have a definite physical mechanism, and also observations show that hot stars are really losing mass — I’m going home and start looking all this up again, and try to interpret the new data.

Weart:

It must have taken some courage, to come out with these statements when you didnlt know how the mass could be going?

Masevich:

Well, of course, it was a hypothetical law. I never pretended otherwise.

Weart:

Here’s what I’m curious about. You know, there are many parameters one can vary, in a star.

Masevich:

No, in this particular study, there was only one parameter: just the rate of mass loss.

Weart:

Why did you decide to try this as a parameter?

Masevich:

I have been led to it when considering difficulties encountered by modern theory of stellar evolution. Stars with large masses evolve very fast. If their mass remains constant there should be many dead stars with large masses and they are never observed. So you should find some means to explain where the remnants of these stars are. And the only possibility, without going into contradiction with observations, is that these stars should be somehow transformed into stars of smaller masses.

Weart:

— they get smaller and smaller?

Masevich:

They get smaller and smaller with time, and become ordinary stars, with smaller masses, and then there would be no problem for the stellar dynamics and...

Weart:

— stellar population studies —

Masevich:

Yes.

Weart:

I see. What role did Professor Fesenkov play in this work? You mentioned that you collaborated with him partly on this?

Masevich:

He was very interested in my results, and we had many discussions. Often he asked me, “What's new in this field?” I suggested to him the possibility of calculating evolutionary tracks of stars with decreasing mass. Then he said it would be interesting to find out if by varying the rate of mass loss we could get rid of the above mentioned controversies, maintaining the stars in the frame of the main sequence. He thought that I could do this by calculating evolutionary sequences, with mass loss and, by trial and error, find a law of mass loss which would keep the stars in the main sequence. So I considered this problem with him. It was just at that time I had finished this work with Parenago on the mass-luminosity relations, and I thought it would be easy to just start with a mass loss proportional to the luminosity of the star so that the star remains always faithful to the mass luminosity relations, which means that if the star has a very large mass, it loses more mass. If its mass becomes smaller, it loses less and less mass. And this is nearly what now the stellar wind shows.

Weart:

Very nice.

Masevich:

So I did this calculation, I managed to have the star always in the main sequence, and there were no problems with ages.

Weart:

Did some of your colleagues tell you, “This really can't be?”

Masevich:

Yes. Everybody said that. “It couldn't be — why this kind of mass loss? Why not another?” I tried different other laws, but —

Weart:

But kept coming back to it.

Masevich:

Yes.

Weart:

So you couldn't avoid it. Well, let's see — just a couple of minutes remaining. I wonder if you could sort of go back and compare 1976 with 1946? Particularly, of course, since the satellites, but even before the satellites, there was tremendous growth in the number of astronomers.

Masevich:

Yes, because the big telescopes started in the fifties, after the war. Our Academy of Sciences started to finance the building of large telescopes. This gave a start to several new observatories that were built, the new site of the Crimean Observatory was built and the Crimean Observatory obtained a two meter and 60 centimeter telescope. And then, in the Republics, in Armenia, Ambartsunian built a new observatory. Fesenkov started an observatory in Alma Ata. Kharadze built an observatory in Abastumani in Georgia.

Weart:

— so the opportunities —

Masevich:

Yes, the opportunities came. And, of course, with the large observatories, also more students came into it.

Weart:

I'm just wondering, how the feeling has changed? Do you think there's any difference, if you compare the feeling that you had for astronomy, the reasons that you were doing it and so forth, do you think it's the same with the young people today?

Masevich:

Well, with most who remain at the observatories after graduating, I think it is. You see, there is a difference between the attitude of astronomers to their work in our country and that in the United States. I cannot state definitely which is better, but there is a difference. In the States, people change always observatories. You never are sure, when you meet after three years an astronomer, which he's still in the same observatory. But in my country, the astronomers stay for 20 and 30 years, sometimes for the whole life, in one place. This is probably a tradition from the old times, I don't know, but most of them very rarely change. If someone is really devoted to astronomy, he stays at his observatory. This has been true now for many years. There are, of course, several scientists who readily change from place to place. But these are not the best astronomers. In the states, on the contrary, the best astronomers change places.

Weart:

That's very true.

Masevich:

But then, you see, it's difficult to say. Perhaps there is some logic in this too, because a good astronomer can change the directions of research in an observatory from the traditional ways to new fields. We have sometimes trouble in achieving such changes. At the Astronomical Council as coordinators we would like some of the good astronomers to go for one, two, three years perhaps, to another observatory, just to help people there. But it is very difficult to get him there.

Weart:

They don't want to leave.

Masevich:

They don't want to leave.

Weart:

I suppose, if someone changes observatories, your first feeling would be, "Well, he couldn't get on at his first observatory." He couldn't get on with the people there or something like that.

Masevich:

Yes. Because this is what it really is, because only those who cannot get on, they change now. But it's not so in the States. They change very often, and —

Weart:

— sometimes more often than they would like, in fact.

Masevich:

Maybe. I don't know.

Weart:

Oh, yes.

Masevich:

Both kinds of approaches have their good sides and their bad sides.

Weart:

We’ve come to the time limit that we set. I wish we could go on much longer, but I know you have a lot to do. Let me just say what I would like to do with this, and then you tell me how that would be. What we usually do is, I take it home and I give it to a typist who transcribes it, tape to paper. Then if you like, I will send you a copy of the transcript, so that you can check for accuracy — maybe we can’t get the names correct or there may be some errors in it. Then you can send it back, and at that time you can specify how it can be made available — whether we can make it available to all scholars, whether you want us to ask your permission before we make it available to a scholar, and so forth. Does this sound good?

Masevich:

Good.

Weart:

OK, we’ll go ahead with that.

[1] 1976 International Astronomical Union Congress.