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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Stanislaus Vasilevskis

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Interview with Dr. Stanislaus Vasilevskis
By David DeVorkin
At his home in Palo Alto, CA
July 22, 1977

open tab View abstract

Stanislaus Vasilevskis; July 22, 1977

ABSTRACT: General interview dealing with early life in Latvia before World War I; the University of Latvia in Rega; assistant in astronomy at Rega in 1928 and early impressions of experience in astronomy; graduation in 1932 and position at University in Mathematics; work in fundamental astrometry; Latvia during the Depression; growth of interest in photographic astrometry; life during World War II in Latvia and in Danzig refugee camps; contact with E. Opik; German astronomy during the war; contact with Lick through Trumpler and Weaver; arrival at Lick in 1949; assumed role of assistant for Jeffers; Shane and Lick in early l950s; Struve at Berkeley and possible position there; full staff position at Lick; governance at Lick; search for large scale funding for astrometry; funding for 120-inch programs; construction of 120-inch; development of Carnegie astrograph program in 1950s; contacts with NSF; the automatic measuring engine; work on the translation journal in the early 1950s and the role of refugee astronomers -- Struveís organization; photographic parallaxes and Schlesingerís influence; flexure of 120-inch mounting; Lick moves to Santa Cruz, mid-l960s; Lick and the University of California system: diverse interests and influences; staff reactions to the physical move; recollections of Joel Stebbins and Walter Baade.

Transcript

Session I | Session II

DeVorkin:

This is a follow-up session with Dr. Stanislaus Vasilevskis at his home in Palo Alto, on July 22, 1977. Well, we have a number of specific topics to work on, and I was wondering if we could either take them in somewhat chronological order — you were working on clusters before the parallax work, of course.

Vasilevskis:

Yes. And there are several reasons which led me to the cluster work. One is, as I mentioned already before, my rather close associations and friendship with Trumpler, as you know, who has worked on clusters very much. Also, with his son-in-law, Harold Weaver. Harold Weaver was very interested that the plates which had been taken by Trumpler at Allegheny, about the time if the First World War could be used for the determination of proper motions of clusters. It seems that no one was interested at that time in these plates, certainly not the Allegheny Observatory. They were engaged in parallax work, and they had no resources to do anything with his plates.

DeVorkin:

This was soon after you came, in Ď53, Ď54?

Vasilevskis:

No. We started the actual work in Ď54, maybe 155, when I was appointed in charge of the 20-inch proper motion program. But it was clear that for the new epoch, the second epoch of proper motion plates, you have to wait approximately maybe 15 or 20 years, and there would be some time which, when I could devote my interest also to some other project. Of course, I was pretty busy with planning the future, and with automatic measuring machine, but still something purely astronomical could be done. So therefore, the cluster program seemed to me new. I have never worked with clusters. But I thought this may be an advantage, because then maybe in looking into the problem, I can find something, as an outsider, what can be improved. Also, one of my trips East, I visited Allegheny Observatory. This was at the same time when I went to, I told you last time, to explore possibilities of automatic measurement. I visited several places. So at the same time I also went to Allegheny Observatory. And by the way, it happened that the card file of plates taken by Trumpler were not at the Allegheny Observatory but they were in the possession of Trumpler. And after Trumpler died, they were given to me by Weaver. So the irony was that I knew better what is at Allegheny than Allegheny itself, because I had the card file with all the data of plates taken by Trumpler. And I saw that there is quite a number of interesting clusters. So therefore, I decided to go there and to take a look at the plates. And Dr. Wagmann, who was director of Allegheny Observatory, was very happy about my visit, very cooperative, because he also felt that here is the plate collection, and no one is using it, and they have no resources and no means to do anything, with this. So we arranged with Dr. Wagmann the cluster plates, whichever I would have chosen for which cluster, the first epoch will be available, and he will try to match the photograph with the second epoch.

DeVorkin:

So he had the resources for the second epoch, but not for measurement or reduction?

Vasilevskis:

Not for measurement, or reduction, because measurement and reduction of this, especially with the old measuring means is slow, and so it is taking pretty much too much resources. So then, I became associated with Allegheny Observatory. Wagmann has been very cooperative, so that always when I asked for some cluster, then he went through the first epoch plates and tried to match as close as possible the second epoch plates to them, so that I had always several pairs of these clusters, and they were shipped to me at Lick, and so I could measure them. Assistants worked with me also helping me in measurement, and then of course, reductions came, of measurement. Here I should mention one thing. There was a myth that there are some old cluster plates available at Lick, and Weaver mentioned to me that they have been taken in early years of Lick. They were taken, plates of clusters. So I went through Lick files. There were some files of course, a plate file, somewhere stored without any order. And I found that there were attempts to take cluster plates, but very unsuccessful attempts, because with the long refractor, there was never a double slide camera, which is used usually for photography with long focus refractors. But there were attempts to do the guiding by the telescope itself, which was not successful. First the telescope was built for visual work, so therefore it did not satisfy the conditions of rigidity and precision in driving the telescope, in following the object, what is always required in photography. And second, of course, the guiding. When you try to guide, especially with manual controls in old days, you are more shaking the telescope than you can do precise guiding. And third, they did not guide by a star in the field, such as is done now with long focus refractors; a small lens was attached outside the gib lens, the main lens, and there was a special eye piece at the eye piece end, so that actually it was something like a double telescope. In those days, of course, the photographic plates were blue sensitive, so you could not photograph in visual light. Therefore, there was a corrector lens, which would convert the 36óinch refractor from visual correction to photographic. But also, the visual lens was very successful, as you know, and itís very good, and the image is excellent. But the photographic corrector, which was, I donít remember, on the order of 30-inches, it was rather large — this made the lens poor, so there was never good photographic correction. So that the result was that I found some plates which had a cluster, but you could barely find a couple of stars, a couple of brighter stars. So therefore, there is nothing in the old epoch plates which could be used. So this is the reason I was so happy to feel, in my time, I could do a little of work on it. I got interested because of my association with Trumpler and Weaver and the Allegheny material.

DeVorkin:

The Thaw refractor was a lot newer, of course.

Vasilevskis:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

It was a photographic refractor.

Vasilevskis:

A photographic refractor, yes. It was actually built by Schlesinger.

DeVorkin:

Thatís right.

Vasilevskis:

Schlesinger started his parallax program at Yerkes, around 1904, 1905, and then later he became director of Allegheny Observatory, and the Thaw refractor was built for photographic correction.

DeVorkin:

That also answers the question as to why it was also built for long exposures and for cluster work, because of Schlesingerís designs?

Vasilevskis:

Schlesinger, yes.

DeVorkin:

With the double slide plate holder?

Vasilevskis:

Double slide plate holder.

DeVorkin:

Did you talk to Wagmann at all about their budget problems? And why they werenít able to be more active at the time?

Vasilevskis:

No, I did not ask him, but he mentioned that their resources are limited, and also the personnel is limited and Wagmann himself was interested in parallax work. They couldnít hire any additional people. And there seemed to be no interest, you see. The only interest in clusters was when Trumpler stayed. As you know, he stayed at Allegheny during the time of the First World War. You know of course better about Trumpler. You can ask Weaver about his association, and there are biographies of Trumpler. So then, I think, two things came out of this — my contact with Allegheny, in my work. First, I decided that there should be first epoch plates of clusters at Lick, of course, not for immediate use, but for use for later generations, and here I was pleased to read Hertzsprungís letters, how much he worried about the next generation. He told that if we now used material supplied to us by previous generations, so we have our duty to do the same for next generations, and therefore, when we come to parallax program, as soon as automatic guiding camera was constructed, so the cluster program was started also at Lick. But this we will come to later.

DeVorkin:

OK.

Vasilevskis:

Now, as I mentioned, I was an outsider in this work, therefore before I started, I went through and analyzed very much the work which has been done previously. And this is pretty much in review article on clusters in my bibliography. [1] The main thing is, I saw that there are two difficulties with previous cluster work: first, people did not realize somehow that open clusters, which are of course disc objects in the galaxy, they very much share the proper motions of the rest of the stars. Therefore it was expected that vector prints of cluster members will be outside the area carried by field stars. Actually they are not. They are very much in the same region, when you plot the proper motions where the rest of the stars are. The only to segregate them is to increase the accuracy, and still have the same proper motions — of course, except the closest cluster, like the Hyades, where you have already internal motions which are interfering with you result. But the rest, you can assume that the proper motions are very much the same for all the cluster members. Then, by increasing accuracy, you can just compress those vector points of proper motions which belong to the cluster. So then you see, in general scattered field of proper motions, you see one clump compressed.

DeVorkin:

Is this basically the Boss method of moving clusters?

Vasilevskis:

No, this is not. You see, the Boss method of moving clusters, which is already applied to the Hyades, where you assume the proper motions are equal there, but because of the vicinity of the cluster, you see already the convergence. But here, you donít worry about convergence. You assume that all are parallel. Yes.

DeVorkin:

OK. And itís the deviation from the parallel of the group that helps to determine probability of membership?

Vasilevskis:

No, you see, that for example, if you take a photograph of a field, and repeat after, say, a number of years, then you see that, of course, — if you take low galactic latitudes — you see that the proper motions points are scattered in rather large area, because there are stars with larger proper motions, smaller proper motions. Usually the distribution is slightly elliptical, because of the galactic plane — most of stars go parallel to the galactic plane, because if they didnít, they wouldnít stay there very long, yes?

DeVorkin:

Right.

Vasilevskis:

And second, again, of course, ellipticity is introduced by the secular parallax, by solar motion — see, the closer stars. So therefore, you have some such oval distribution, which is somewhere between the direction parallel to the galactic plane, and the direction to the solar apex, or antapex. But those objects, if you have then a number of objects that have the same proper motion, if you have no error of measurement then of course this would go into one point, yes? But you cannot make a measurement without any error, so if you have a small error, so that instead of all points falling in the same place, of course, they are scattered. But this scatter is small if you have small errors. Moreover, since the errors in both directions, in X and Y, are usually of the same order, therefore they will form one dense, dense, clump of points with circular distribution. And here, you see, I came to the idea which I didnít like in all the earlier work. When one finds now the area on the diagram, which is occupied mostly by cluster members, then he has to decide, now, which of these stars are really cluster members, which are field stars? First usually one say that if proper motion between this and this limits, then they should be cluster members. You put it ďplusĒ. If this is outside, this is a field star. And sometimes, one might be, a marginal case between both limits which might be possible cluster members. The trouble with this, that those people who are interested in cluster membership, astrophysicists, they usually donít have patience to read, and sometimes to understand, the astrometric background of this.

DeVorkin:

Really?

Vasilevskis:

They just assume that those which already the astrometrist has put as a plus, they should be cluster members — those which are minus, those are field stars. I thought that astrometrist should resolve himself of responsibility for this. Therefore I decided to approach it differently, not to put plus or minus, but to determine probability. How high probability for this star, that it is cluster member. Therefore we introduced this approach at Lick. I donít think there is any need to describe in more detail, because I would like to refer to my Review article on proper motions, of clusters, published, in ASTRONOMICAL JOURNAL 67 page 699, 1962. So, this describes in a rather general way what Iím repeating.

DeVorkin:

How you went about determining probability?

Vasilevskis:

Yes. A reference is also given. The only thing, I would like to conclude that I am happy to state that this approach has been widely accepted now. You see, now, almost I would say that in nine out of 10 cases that I see now, work on proper motions, itís always referred to our article, when we started this approach, probability instead of plus-minus.

DeVorkin:

How have the people doing cluster work, letís say, astrophysicists working on color magnitude diagrams, used the probabilities? Have they reacted to it favorably? Do they ask you what probability is reasonable?

Vasilevskis:

No. You see, they have been. But I havenít seen any cases. As a matter of fact, astrophysicists quote quite often our determinations of cluster members, but these probabilities, ď.95Ē, what does it meanĒ Or ď.9Ē, what does it mean? If you take ten stars, you may explain that one out of these ten stars may be a field member. Therefore, if there is only one out of every ten stars, one happens to show some peculiar things here, then of course you shouldnít jump to conclusions, itís because this cluster contains one very funny star. It just may be field star. But here you see, in another case, later, work in NGC 2264, where Merle Walker first found that there was a departure from the Main Sequence, the contractional stage, and he has been criticized by several people, and especially by A. Underhill, that these stars may not be cluster members but field stars, and that his conclusion may not be correct. And then Merle Walker was particularly interested that the proper motion of this cluster would be determined. NGC 2264.

DeVorkin:

They had first epoch plates at Allegheny?

Vasilevskis:

Yes, they had. But this was more complicated. There I had to use Mt. Wilson plates also, then also from Flagstaff. This is published, so that again you can find all the information, here in ASTRONOMICAL JOURNAL. [2] Yes. But here, you see, [reading from text] this departure from Main Sequence, in contraction stage — all of these are — and hereís your probability, better than .8, and so as you see, all black points are off, so that one star doesnít mean so very much.

DeVorkin:

This is on page 805, Figure 4. Did she criticize it possibly in terms of obscuration?

Vasilevskis:

Yes, she criticized. Also, I mention, also there is given here in reference. I donít want to go into this, because I mentioned Underhillís two works. And after this, she admitted that she was wrong. Yes. Which settled the question about it.

DeVorkin:

Did she admit that to you personally, or in print?

Vasilevskis:

No, this was in print, I think, later. I can tell that later it was already. So, the debate about this was over, about this 2264.

DeVorkin:

Very good. Thatís an important young cluster.

Vasilevskis:

Yes, itís an important young cluster, and so I mention it as a sample.

DeVorkin:

Sure.

Vasilevskis:

Now I think we could go to the parallax work, no?

DeVorkin:

Yes, I believe so. Iím trying to think. When you did use Mt. Wilson plates, these were first epoch that were taken by van Maanan?

Vasilevskis:

Yes, by van Maanan, with 60-inch Cassegrain.

DeVorkin:

Right. Were there any earlier ones that you had used, taken by Shapley?

Vasilevskis:

No.

DeVorkin:

These were primarily van Maanan. Did you have concern in using his work?

Vasilevskis:

No, I had no concern, because supposedly, he had his funny results from 100-inch plates taken at the prime focus, Newtonian focus, the same might be with 60-inch Newtonian focus. The Cassegrain focus hasnít caused any trouble. For example, van Maananís parallaxes, taken with the 60-inch Cassegrain, were quite good. The second epoch plates, this was a funny thing. I had the first epoch plates but hesitated to take second epoch plates, because the Cassegrain was supposed to be almost unusable because of Los Angeles lights. It had no baffles or something. But then Murray from Royal Observatory, C.A. Murray, he was there as guest investigator, and he took number of plates of NGC 2264. So he took these plates to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Now, the picture was this. He has the second epoch plates. I have the first epoch plates. Who will give in? But we are very good friends, and he felt since I started all this so he gave in. But this is all described there, I donít think we should continue this.

DeVorkin:

— OK. Letís move on to the parallax.

Vasilevskis:

Yes. Now, with parallaxes, again, I approached this problem, because of several reasons. One thing, I was again an outsider in this work, so I was quite fresh, and I thought that I could see from the outside that maybe something might be examined. And I have attended number of astrometric conferences, and there I have seen such an approach to Schlesingerís work, that you are not supposed to touch anything, which is what Schlesinger has said, this is the same as Bible, you are not supposed to do anything. And after all, seven decades have elapsed, with all the technological innovations, so I thought maybe one should take a fresh look at the problem. And so since I was innocent in parallax work, so I thought that, all right, then of course if I fail itís fine, then people will say, all right, it shows that people without experience shouldnít go into this field.

DeVorkin:

Did you talk to other people?

Vasilevskis:

Oh, we argued and so, plenty of times.

DeVorkin:

Who did you argue with?

Vasilevskis:

Oh, at conferences, for example, with Peter van de Kamp, heís one who thought that nothing should be touched. He, for example, in his book, ASTRONETRY he mentions that Schlesingerís way is final and complete so that no corrections are needed or possible.

DeVorkin:

Anything specific in the discussions you had with van de Kamp or others, that you feel has not otherwise been recorded in the literature?

Vasilevskis:

Oh no, I donít think so. I donít know. We are very friendly with van de Kamp, but of course, as you already perhaps little indicated, he is not very much for advanced technology. He still believed in the old safe ways. You mentioned last time that van de Kamp has done excellent job, thereís no question, put in plenty of effort, he and others, I am not criticizing their work. But many things of course can be done, now in our age, much more efficiently.

DeVorkin:

When youíre dealing of course with people who have different ideas, and may want to hold to the other techniques, do you find sometimes itís harder getting financial support?

Vasilevskis:

Well, I donít know. You see, not everything involved in giving support is known to me. But I havenít had difficulties in getting support. I have been supported rather generously, I would say.

DeVorkin:

Well, van de Kamp was in a position at this time to have influence on NSF grants and proposals.

Vasilevskis:

Yes, but it was not given in his time, as you know. Last time as I described it was, van de Kamp was first, and then after, he was followed by Helen Sawyer Hogg, and so on.

DeVorkin:

But the important things was that during the period when you started your parallax work, it was already after Van de Kamp had finished his tenure at NSF?

Vasilevskis:

Oh yes. Iíll mention several reasons why the parallax Program — was started. First, I was again as I mentioned, innocent in this, and I also felt that I needed some fill-in, before the second epoch of proper motion program would start. Second thing, I felt that itís important that the telescope is innocent, as far as parallax work. The 36-inch has not been used before for parallax work.

DeVorkin:

Thatís because no one was interested in it?

Vasilevskis:

It was occupied in earlier days completely by radial velocities, as you know, and also by double star work. And before the 120-inch was built, it was scheduled rather heavily. And I foresaw that after 120-inch telescope would be ready, that 36óinch may be idle, and therefore, itís nice to find something useful for this grand telescope, which is a very good telescope. So I foresaw that the 36-inch will be available, and the parallax program requires many nights available for this work, so we could schedule without much interference by other requests. There was a myth, later I found it a myth, that the 36-inch telescope is very unstable for photography, and Yerkes telescope is much more stable, and therefore, you see, that I was told by old timers at Lick that itís no point to start photography, direct photography, long exposures. You see, there were already, as you know, lunar photographs, but they are snapshots. The same, double star work by Jeffers. But these are short exposures. So that long exposures would not be feasible with this, because the telescope supposedly very unstable.

DeVorkin:

Who was most worried about this? Was Jeffers worried about this?

Vasilevskis:

Oh, maybe Jeffers. And of course Shane mentioned it to me. But just it was I think the legend or the myth was originated because there were no successful early epoch photographs of longer exposure, as opposed to many plates taken at Yerkes, you see, they have been always active. Of course, I already thought that the main reason was that no double slide camera has been constructed for the 36óinch telescope. And one was constructed originally for the Yerkes telescope. And then, as you know, every long focus refractor engaged in parallax work, on long focus photography, was equipped with double- slide. So I thought, moreover, by this time it was clear that one camera should be constructed. And an automatic camera should take out most of instability of 36 inch refractor.

DeVorkin:

You said, an automatic camera?

Vasilevskis:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

How long had you been thinking about an automatic camera?

Vasilevskis:

Well, I cannot tell you precisely, but I think somewhere in late 1950ís or so.

DeVorkin:

At that time, of course, Gerry Kron was around but this was before Albert Whitford was around. But from the thirties, Gerry Kron and Albert Whitford had designed a small automatic camera.

Vasilevskis:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Or at least the chopper design for it. Did you talk to them at all about it?

Vasilevskis:

Yes, I talked with them. But you see, actually their design, they used one roof. It was mostly spectroscopic work — One direction, guiding.

DeVorkin:

Linear guiding.

Vasilevskis:

Yes. But then, you see, Weitbrecht constructed an automatic guider for Strand at Yerkes, and Dearborn Observatory. But it was not very successful, because you see if you put such new equipment on an old manual cameras, it cannot work. It was clear to me. Weitbrecht took Kronís and Whitfordís idea, and here I can give you the reference to Weitbrecht. [3]

DeVorkin:

OK. But he did this first at Yerkes?

Vasilevskis:

He did it at Yerkes, thatís right.

DeVorkin:

He was a student there?

Vasilevskis:

I think he was a student. Yes, he was a graduate student there. You know him? Heís deaf.

DeVorkin:

Yes. Did your interest in the automatic camera develop, pretty much independent, out of the need for it? What were your ideas as they developed?

Vasilevskis:

Yes, Lick Parallax Program is described in Lick Observatory publications, 22 Part 4 [1975]. The history of this is described. There is also a reference to Weitbrecht, yes, his work, early work and then later.

DeVorkin:

OK. The important thing is, Iím interested in how you became aware of the possibilities of automation, and why you turned to automation.

Vasilevskis:

Well, you see, in earlier days, even when I was at Riga, I was quite fascinated by some new inventions in engineering. Also I had some technical interest. And after measuring plates visually, and suffering, there was no question in my mind that something should be done to use the modern technology. The same with guiding. As soon as I saw Weitbrechtís article, it was clear that if you are planning an exposure of half an hour, an hour or so, then with unstable instrument, to have your eye all the time at the guiding eye piece, it is just terrible work, as bad as measuring manually. So, because of these reasons, then I thought that something should be done. I donít know of course, maybe, but I started to. So therefore, it was clear to me why Weitbrechtís idea didnít work there very well, because you see, at Dearborn, if you put such a chopper and such a automatic guider, which is working on balance — of course the signal is on balance — then, it is a different thing than if you are working by hand. Because by hand, you can turn the screw with the same force regardless whether you move only a fraction of a second, to the cross wire, or you move a larger distance. But with chopper any automatic guiding, your signal decreases when you approach the balance point, so that now, what is this? Brute force by man, in his fingers, will be large, so that you overcome the friction easily. But with automatic, the friction is too high. It stops before it takes you to balance point because the power is not sufficient. Therefore, the idea was this: to construct practically frictionless camera, so that you could approach then of course, to the point of balance as much as possible. So therefore, I was thinking about the new camera. Again, you see, since we were innocent, we didnít need to adapt something which has been constructed 50 years ago. We could start from new.

DeVorkin:

Did you search for funds at this time?

Vasilevskis:

At this time, I didnít search for funds, but the funds came unexpectedly to me, and I will tell you how. So therefore, I asked the university. At that time the university was rather generous, more generous than now, because they had more money. So I asked them for money, and then finally Shane was director, and they agreed to put $6000 into the budget, which of course wasnít very much, but I thought that, in two stages. First stage was that the camera will be built. And second stage will be already the automatic guiding. So I thought that the next year already I would ask and build this. And since Weitbrecht had some experience, I started to look, where is Weitbrecht? And found, to my pleasure, that Weitbrecht is here at Stanford Research Institute. Moreover, I found that this his boss is my former student.

DeVorkin:

Who is that?

Vasilevskis:

Robert Rach. As a matter of fact, he is a joint author on one work on clusters. He was there. So I called them, and at that time Stanford Research Institute was making money on defense projects, and Rach told me, he talked with others and they decided, since they are making money of defense projects, they would like to make their people happy and Weitbrecht happy and to make some contribution to pure science. They were able at that time. So they said, all right, they would build everything, the automatic guider and camera for this, $6000, what I had, money in my kitty. So actually, this was support by Stanford Research Institute. So Weitbrecht built it, and of course it was installed, and itís working. Here again, I think that we shouldnít talk very much, there is a description of the camera, with reference, all the descriptions, so this is all documented. [4]

DeVorkin:

Yes. Also documented is, how you came to choose your parallax stars?

Vasilevskis:

Yes, it is documented, thatís right. From my point of view, I was thinking mostly about maybe reduction procedures. I was not very fond of so-called dependences, introduced by Schlesinger. They were ingenious, and Schlesinger must be admired for them, because they cut the work drastically. But on the other hand, when you had to use logarithmic least squares solutions then of course every device you can cut the amount of work will make more production. So now, when we work with high speed computers, where you can compute while you are blinking your eye already, your parallax comes in a few seconds. And also, another departure, which was that instead of three or four reference stars, we are using about 20, because I do not believe in statistics just three or four or five reference stars. You may always encounter among your reference stars some odd star, and you donít know, especially if you are using dependences, where you donít see how each star, you donít see residuals for every star and so on. This is explained in detail there. So therefore, you see, we have departed from dependences. We departed from the number of reference stars. With the automatic machine, you can measure easily 20 stars, especially now. Did you see that automatic machinery? Itís working nicely, yes. Itís going so while youíre doing something else, it measures in no time, and gives you a buzzer so you can go collect plate, measurement of one plate, go to another plate, and proceed.

DeVorkin:

Yes, I did see it this week. You had plans and you were already talking about the automatic measuring all through this time?

Vasilevskis:

Oh yes. Our plan was this, you see. The automatic measuring engine was supposed to come well before 1967, when we were planning second epoch plates. So therefore I thought, you see, that this would be used for parallax work. Here, I donít remember now, but I think the parallax plates, we started to take here I think somewhere in — but here you will find the history of this, because the history is described.

DeVorkin:

Right. I do know that there was some manual measuring done before the Gaertner came in.

Vasilevskis:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

But not too much, and you certainly had the intention to do it all automatically.

Vasilevskis:

Oh yes. We did only a few manual measurements, just for experimental purposes. I think only one star we measured, and we found that it doesnít pay off. And we appreciated why Schlesinger had to devise such a clever means as the dependences and why the number of stars had to be cut down and so on.

DeVorkin:

OK. Thatís fine.

Vasilevskis:

Now, in regard to the theory of the fork mounting, I think we can move on to this.

DeVorkin:

OK.

Vasilevskis:

I can refer to the publication, I think it is again published in the ASTRONOMICAL JOURNAL. [5] I donít remember which year it is.

DeVorkin:

Regarding the 120-inch itself — it was long in planning before you came to Lick.

Vasilevskis:

Yes. Thatís right.

DeVorkin:

And there was a long history of gaining the funds also for the 120-inch telescope. But also, there was the question of the availability of that 120-inch blank, that had been used with the 200. Were you involved at all?

Vasilevskis:

No, I was completely uninvolved, and was supposed not to be involved in this telescope at all. My involvement came just because originally Shane and Mayall mostly were concerned. They found some errors in the worms and in one gear and so — but I was not involved at all.

DeVorkin:

Not in the design.

Vasilevskis:

Nothing. I stayed completely away and was supposed to stay away, because I had not planned to use it. I had already too much instrumentation, because you see, finally, the whole 20-inch instrument fell into my lap, and then the 36-inch after Jeffers retired, I was in charge. So that I had nothing to do with it. Mayall was asked by Shane to do testing of the mirror. And then he started this testing. But for reasons better known to him than to me, he came to me and asked me, maybe I could join with him in this. So that actually I am mostly responsible for the working out of this mathematical part of the testing, because his idea, and I joined in this idea, was not to use Hartmann test, the classical one, just to determine the amount of light in certain circle or something, but to try from the Hartmann test to make profiles — to make an actual map of the mirror, and in this work, you see, there is actual map. So that I was drafted. One trouble with me, that I never knew how to say ďnoĒ. And actually, I lost at least a year of my time in all this. See, the mirror appeared more flexible. It wasnít constructed for actual use. It was a rather flimsy mirror, so therefore it depended on good support. It was supported quite well, and finally the result is quite good, but there was plenty of frustration. The testing was started too early in the telescope, you see, and therefore you took it to the telescope and then took your Hartmann tests, and took knife-edge tests, and then worked, well. all day and at night sometimes, in order to determine this profile, and when we found what is there, it had to be reconciled with Hendrix, [6] who went by knife edge pictures, and then after we agreed, the mirror was moved down to the optical shop, and then the local work was done, and then it was taken up again —- sometimes we thought that the mirror was improved, sometimes it didnít improve, just the contrary. But I was in it by accident, but I think again, the method and how it was worked out is described in the literature. [7]

DeVorkin:

Was it a frustrating year for you, away from your own interests?

Vasilevskis:

Oh, it was a little, yes. It was maybe to some extent enjoyable. At least, one thing that I can say is that by the time all these tests on the telescopes were finished and the mirror was aluminized. Mayall and I were instructors to other astronomers in how to use the telescope, because we were both riding the cage, night after night. And I can list among my students whom I instructed in use of the telescope some quite well known names. For example, Rosine in Italy, and Wurm in Hamburg, Margaret Burbidge, Tom Kinnan, all these I can call my students, because I instructed them how to ride. And I would say that Margaret Burbidge was one of the one who learned in the least time. She is extremely good in observing, thereís no question.

DeVorkin:

Sheís one of the best.

Vasilevskis:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Did you get interested at all in using the 120-inch astrometrically, as you were testing it?

Vasilevskis:

Well, I would have been interested. Actually some plates were taken, for example of the Hyades, maybe for future proper motions, but it was clear to me, from very beginning, that the telescope could be used, if direct photography would be its only possibility. But it was clear that as soon as spectrographs and other facilities would come into use here, it will become overdemanded, which is true. You can learn this of course from those who are using, it. So while all the equipment was direct photography, then I took some pictures and so. But as soon as I saw the demand increased, therefore there was no time.

DeVorkin:

The idea of being able to go very faint —

Vasilevskis:

— Oh, yes, the idea was excellent. But I think that gradually, might be already you have seen, I have no doubt, about the Greenstein Report, so there is some indication that this may come. And some of the large telescopes may be available, once in a while. But of course, the Isaac Newton telescope is being used for astrometry, but this is a smaller telescope, and poorer site. But it may be moved somewhere, I donít know.

DeVorkin:

What about the fork design itself? The flexure?

Vasilevskis:

No, see, I had nothing to do with this, again.

DeVorkin:

The design?

Vasilevskis:

With design, so I tried to stay away from 120-inch, because each one of the staff, including myself is selfish enough to stay away from things he will not build his future on. And I was not connected with the 120-inch, I had no plans to use it. I had plans, but of course it was clear that it would not be available. But the time came when they started to use the telescope. The telescope started to behave, somehow unexpectedly. And no theory of telescope design could explain this. The engineers couldnít explain this, Whitford was director, and again he came to me and said, ďStan, could you try? Maybe you can find something outĒ. Again, I couldnít say ďNoĒ, and I started then to do different measurements. Now, my paper on the flexure of fork mounted telescopes, I explain the beginnings. See, all these theories, previous theories of telescopes, were built on the hypothesis, something almost accepted as an axiom, that polar axis, retains a constant direction during observing is stable. And for example, in the German mounting, or in the crossóaxis mounting, this is true. But no one was thinking that in the fork mounting, this is not true, because when you are at an hour angle of six hours are the telescope moves parallel to itself. But when you are at meridian, then you see, both flex, the telescope flexes, and the fork. Actually the polar axis is not a constant direction. The direction depends on the hour angle. This, you see, was my finding. And this immediately explained the peculiar behavior of the telescope.

DeVorkin:

Was this behavior found in guiding errors?

Vasilevskis:

No, there were drifts at high declinations. And the drift became so high — again, this is explained in my article — they became so high that you couldnít, even with fast motion, take them out.

DeVorkin:

Were people worried about the value of the telescope — that there was something fundamentally wrong with it? Was there skepticism as to its usefulness at the time?

Vasilevskis:

Well, there was a certain mystery which had to be solved. Yes. And Whitford asked me to try to solve, and I was lucky to solve it. And as soon as it was solved, then already the engineer Larry Berg, he devised a compensating device, which would take this out. And this was installed. So there is not trouble. But even before this was installed, I showed them that if you arrange it in certain ways, you do not point to the pole correctly. To adjust the polar axis, you observe declination drifts, on the meridian, and adjust azimutl and you adjust altitude, at six hours hour angle — which you see is wrong, because at six hour angle, you donít observe usually. You observe at meridian.

DeVorkin:

Right.

Vasilevskis:

But you adjust altitude at six hour angle. This is where all the trouble was, you see. The adjustment seemed correct, you go through all the necessary corrections. And then you see, finally I showed how it should be adjusted. As soon as I adjusted it, it started to behave correctly.

DeVorkin:

Before you had solved that problem, though, was there any serious criticism from people at the observatory about how the 120-had been designed?

Vasilevskis:

I donít know. There was criticism maybe, jokes about the color of it. This was the first departure, you know, from battleship grey, the colors that we painted the telescope. But now the people over the whole world follow the Lick scheme. Now they donít build battleship grey telescopes. Yes, they are quite colorful. But otherwise, well, each observatory has its own skeleton closet, yes? Suppressed until then, it was kept in the closet. But I told them, and Whitford agreed, that it shouldnít be kept, this error in design shouldnít be kept in the skeleton closet.

DeVorkin:

— because other people were going to build with that kind of design.

Vasilevskis:

Yes. And the trouble of course is that forks are very long. And the forks were long because originally it was thought that Cassegrain would be installed, but then, the plan was abandoned. But finally, Cassegrain is installed.

DeVorkin:

Thatís right. Itís good that it was that way.

Vasilevskis:

And you see, afterwards I corresponded with others on the new telescopes. You see, all the fork mountings, you see what effort was put into the forks, to prevent this, this appearance. Well, the move to Santa Cruz, I think, has actually quite a long history. And I will try to be as frank as possible, and also supposedly objective, which of course I cannot be. Being only human being. The Lick Observatory was a privileged institution, in the early days of the university. As a matter of fact, if you take some of the universityís early yearbooks, where are listed the members of the Academy of Science, then you find that practically, from the University of California, the only members who were members of National Academy of Science came from Lick Observatory. Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton, was a separate campus also, so that director reported directly to the president. It was an independent campus. They had the privilege of research without doing any formal teaching. They were paid higher, because you see, they had 11 month basis instead of 9 month basis on the campuses. And as you know, E.S. Holden was, while he was waiting for Lick Observatory to be completed, he was president of University of California. Later, one of the presidents was Campbell. Campbellís successor was Sproul, who worked with Campbell with many years with good understanding.

DeVorkin:

Letís see, I was not aware of that fact. Sproul actually worked with Campbell in the administration?

Vasilevskis:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

This might explain why Sproul was so sympathetic.

Vasilevskis:

Yes. There was an anecdote about Sproul and Campbell, if you like it?

DeVorkin:

Yes.

Vasilevskis:

Itís quite human. Sproul had very loud voice. It was very interesting. And his office was next to Campbellís office. Once Campbell was doing something, and he heard Sproulís voice, very loudly, through the wall. Se he called his secretary up, what was going on there? She came in and she said, ďWell, heís speaking to SacramentoĒ. And Campbell said, ďWhy doesnít he use the telephoneĒ? But in any case, this is an anecdote which is quite well known in university circles. Sproul also know this. And itís quite natural that astronomers, on the campus, and at first of course the campus department was at Berkeley only. There was some feeling that, this is unjustified, that Lick people have unjustified privilege, because you see they are of course, they are somehow considered of higher importance than campus people. Therefore, you mentioned relationships. Relationships were good, but always there were some differences. But the turning point came when Sproul was succeeded by Kerr. First, Kerr re-examined the campus status. He concluded that Mt. Hamilton is not a campus. A bona fide campus is only where the teaching is going on, and so on, and this is nothing of the type. This is just research institute, which was nothing new, because some other research institutes were connected to the campus. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory and some others. So, all those that were founded later were already directly connected with the campus. Lick Observatory was a separate campus, and another of the same type was Institute of Oceanography, Scripps Institute. And Lick Observatory was then assigned to Berkeley officially, so that it was an institute of Berkeley then. Also director had to go through chancellor of Berkeley.

DeVorkin:

This was right after Kerr came in.

Vasilevskis:

Pretty soon, yes.

DeVorkin:

And this was also when Whitford took over from Shane.

Vasilevskis:

Yes. But it was in Whitfordís time so the change actually came, you see. Shane retired as Director at the same time when Sproul retired. They both retired at the same time.

DeVorkin:

Is there any reason for that? Or was it coincidence?

Vasilevskis:

There may be a reason, because Shane told me, he has cooperated with Sproul very very well. He knew him in Berkeley, because Shane, before he was director at the Lick Observatory, he was professor at Berkeley, and he knew Sproul very well. They were getting along very nicely. So he felt that, itís the best thing for him to retire as director by the time Sproul retires. Then you see, when the new administration takes over at Berkeley, maybe itís better also that the new administration takes over at Lick. So Whitford was new. Then, another thing. The Space age started. The demands for astronomers became so large that demand for teaching in astronomy was large. By the time already, as you know, earlier, Los Angeles, UCLA department was founded. Then Burbidges were established and the group in astronomy grew at San Diego. Then there was demand for more teaching in astronomy, to produce more students in astronomy. And now, here were these Lick people, sitting on the mountain in a privileged position, they are not producing. Not producing any new students. Of course, there were people who were working for their thesis, but actually all the instruction was given to them at Berkeley and UCLA and so on. So therefore, this gave some obvious reasons for dissatisfaction. And there were already plans to build astronomy departments on other campuses. Commissions were appointed. One thing — I donít know whether this has anything to do with this or not, but at this same time also there was plan to build a new campus here, because everything was expanding, you know. One of course was in Irvine, but now, here one was in northern California a new campus. Originally it was thought that it would be in Almaden. Yes. And then, Santa Cruz was later.

DeVorkin:

I see. Do you know why Santa Cruz was finally chosen?

Vasilevskis:

I think that you can find this better in the chancellorís office, but as far as I remember, there were two reasons. First, the terms offered by Cowell Foundation were there. Of course, this is third or fourth rate source, on choice of campus, but as far as I know, the Cowell Foundation offered. And here at Almaden some properties had to be condemned. Some of them belonged to the religious groups, the Catholic or something. So that considering all this, the Regents decided here in Santa Cruz. But this you can find from other sources. When they were deciding on the site, especially when Almaden was supposed to be the site, Kerr came with a proposal that Lick be associated with Almaden. This he proposed to Lick astronomers. Stay on the mountain but he be associated with Almaden, maybe do some teaching. He felt that it is very important (which of course is correct), very important but very difficult for a new campus to establish prestige, distinction. But since Lick Observatory is so well known, and itís older, much older than this campus — itís almost as old as University of California — so it would give immediate distinction. But we were still so conceited, and we thought so highly of our special position, that we immediately decided to say no, and told to Kerr, no, that we are not willing, we like to stay as independent institute.

DeVorkin:

Did you have a faculty meeting on this? Was this the consensus of the faculty?

Vasilevskis:

Yes. But then, the picture started to change pretty soon. First, there was a demand for more teaching. The climate started to change in Sacramento. Then research started to become dirty, and teaching was more prominent.

DeVorkin:

This was still with Kerr.

Vasilevskis:

With Kerr. Yes. We moved while Kerr was president. We moved to Santa Cruz.

DeVorkin:

Why do you think this change in attitude was coming about?

Vasilevskis:

I donít know. This is something political, you see. This is in Sacramento, with legislature. Itís still going on now, because now you have to justify yourself in terms of so many contacts with students. If you go through campuses, you can find that this is still going on pretty much, that teaching is considered and contact with students this is very important a justification. So then, then I donít know what came next, maybe the president was a little dissatisfied with our saying ďnoĒ, or there were certain outside pressures. There was a committee appointed by the president to assess the value of Lick — the value or status of Lick within the University of California.

DeVorkin:

Who was on this committee?

Vasilevskis:

The first committee was Brodeís. (I donít remember his initials) He was a physicist.

DeVorkin:

There are professors?

Vasilevskis:

Yes, from Berkeley. From Berkeley he was, and I think the first committee members were mostly from Berkeley.

DeVorkin:

I see. Did the president or chancellor choose their committee members?

Vasilevskis:

I think the president did. And when they came to Lick Observatory, it was obvious that they had been brainwashed by our colleagues, astronomical colleagues in Berkeley. We had the impression, such impression, because some reproaches we heard from them already had been heard before. Some grumblings had been heard from our colleagues in Berkeley.

DeVorkin:

Do you have specific grumblings, that you recall?

Vasilevskis:

First, it is quite human, because I think that if I would be in Berkeley, I would also think, ďWhy are these people on the mountain? We are producing the students, we are here slaving and toiling, and they are there, getting a guaranteed 11 months basic salary. You understand that I am not reproaching, but itís easy to be on one side. It depends where you are, yes. So I think the approach was that there should be complete reorganization of the Lick Observatory or something, I donít remember. It is somewhere in my files, and I think that, Whitfordís office may have some copies of this.

DeVorkin:

You donít have a copy yourself.

Vasilevskis:

Maybe I have, but I have to look into my files. Well, in any case then, somehow, I donít know for what reasons, second committee was appointed. And this was headed by Revelle. You know, Roger Revelle was the director of Scripps Institute, and was, again, from rumors and gossips, hoping to become chancellor of San Diego campus. And when he didnít get the job, he left University of California, went to the East Coast. This again is gossip, so take it as gossip. Now, gradually, we saw that we cannot stay in this position. Before the 120-inch telescope was built, there was not very much interest in Lick telescopes on other campuses. You see, some for example, from Berkeley — Struve, for example. But he got quite often Mt. Wilson 60-inch telescope time which of course was better for him than 36-inch. But the picture changed when 120óinch was built. Then, you see, every campus was interested, and they not only resented the special status of Lick people, but also their supposed control of the telescope, so that they are somehow underprivileged in observing. That was a committee state-wide, now. The director has a lot to say.

DeVorkin:

Now, Revelleís new committee, who was on this committee?

Vasilevskis:

I donít remember.

DeVorkin:

OK. What about the people from the other campuses who expressed dissatisfaction? Are you talking about any one particular person who was —

Vasilevskis:

Well, I will mention maybe two names. But I wouldnít like to make it public. One, I think, was Harold Weaver in Berkeley, and Geoffrey Burbidge in San Diego. So now we started to see several dangers. First, as I mentioned, to justify our existence by research only was not appealing, when the university is supposed to produce as many astronomers as possible, because they were all absorbed by all the NASA offices, and so. So there were plans already that Lick staff should be moved completely to Berkeley and take part in teaching there and so. But it was not very appealing, because then of course, Lick people would become second rate people, because the locals would be established. And you know that you donít like to turn the picture around.

DeVorkin:

At each stage of the events that transpired, in this process youíre talking about, how did you learn about the various options that you had? Did Dr. Whitford call meetings to talk about this? Or was this word of mouth from one professor to another?

Vasilevskis:

Oh, it was, yes — but I will come to the climax. Then, Revelleís committee, in its report, was also very critical, and also stressed this sterility of Lick Observatory in regarding teaching and so. But I donít remember. Now, in any case, the report came, and discussions and so on. But finally climax came. We have so-called all-university astronomy meetings. They started I think already before even I arrived here. They were originally mostly between Berkeley and Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton, and then UCLA joined and San Diego joined. An AllóUniversity Astronomy Meeting was held at San Diego some time in 1964, Ď65, or somewhere in there. And already, all these pieces were put together. One danger was also there, of course. Since there were plans — in order to satisfy the demand for teaching — to build and to establish other astronomy departments, it was clear, that the number of hungry mouths for the 120-inch would increase. So actually the result might be that the Lick Observatory people remaining so Lick Observatory people would become only technical caretakers. Actually there was almost a proposal, I donít remember if Brodeís or so, so that there would be some astronomers left at Lick, but their job would be to see that the instruments are in working condition, you see, so that other astronomers from other campus could use it.

DeVorkin:

And that would be their only responsibility.

Vasilevskis:

Yes. And so, then, finally, when this AllóAstronomy Meeting was in San Diego, all these feelings started to become obvious. More and more, we saw that we are alone in our feelings about the future organization of Lick Observatory. Actually, I would say all the campuses were against us but mostly Berkeley and San Diego.

DeVorkin:

UCLA was very big by then. By that time.

Vasilevskis:

It was big, yes. But UCLA — well, later, I had some discussions with O. Popper about this.

DeVorkin:

What about with Lawrence Aller? Any contact with him?

Vasilevskis:

No, I didnít have with him.

DeVorkin:

Was he very vocal in these?

Vasilevskis:

No, they were not so vocal. They were not so vocal. I would say that they were the most loyal Lick supporters. But there was nothing to support. As a matter of fact, in one private lunch or something — Geoff Burbidge used the famous Khrushchevís words, ďWe will bury youĒ, Yes. And when we were coming back, I was sitting in the airplane was Harold Weaver. And we of course are friends and we were friends, but of course our philosophies may be different, and we were arguing all the time. He was convinced that the present status of Lick Observatory cannot continue, and the best thing would be for them to join Berkeley, to go there. So, all right, the faculty meeting at Lick was called. And it was clear, that now we have to explode an atomic bomb. So we decided unanimously, it was such a clear picture to us, that we will propose to the president that we join Santa Cruz campus. Physically we will move to the Santa Cruz campus. And with this, we establish graduate teaching. It means there is no justification to establish a new school which would take some of the 120-inch telescope time. And we knew that President Kerr already wanted this before. But this was decided. We made unanimous decision.

DeVorkin:

This was a decision by the faculty of Lick.

Vasilevskis:

By the faculty. Yes. Of Lick. So we submitted it to the president, without informing any of the other campuses.

DeVorkin:

You did this before the All-University Meeting?

Vasilevskis:

This was afterwards.

DeVorkin:

Oh, you did it afterwards.

Vasilevskis:

See, this All-University Meeting convinced us that we are at the end of our rope. Yes. So, we saw that we can keep Lick Observatory intact, only then, when we cannot be reproached that we do not do anything in order to educate students. When we go to the new campus we will not be second rate astronomers, as it could be if we go to an established campus, where the astronomy department is. There always is friction. Here you would be completely independent of other campuses, and so we proposed this to President Kerr, without informing any of the other campuses. It was a state secret. And Kerr was so happy about this. Immediately Vice President Wellmann came to Lick Observatory, and immediately arranged for this. I had the impression from the very beginning, when MacHenry, the founder and first chancellor of Santa Cruz campus — Dean MacHenry — that his first reaction was not happiness, because his idea was, at that time alread7, that the undergraduate instruction on the big campuses is something like an assembly line thing. Therefore, he would stress undergraduate instruction. Here comes one institution which is maybe more important than the new campus. So therefore, it may take away resources. But finally, Kerr was very much for this and so also MacHenry. Of course, MacHenry never said that he was objecting to this, but only, I had the impression, that first contact with him showed that his feelings were not quite. But latter he saw that itís very good for the Santa Cruz campus. So, this was an atomic bomb because it was a complete surprise, after it was fait accompli, you see. The president gave his blessing, Vice President Wellman came here, and everything was settled here, then only, the other campuses were informed. And of course, reactions were different, and, actually at Berkeley some people were outraged by this, but UCLA people were regretting this. They never tried to take any control over Lick Observatory. They found it very, very nice. They could send their students to Lick Observatory, and they are supposedly in good hands, they could learn something. With Berkeley, you see, they already had started, when our relationship had started to deteriorate, they didnít like to leave students in the hands of Lick Astronomers. They already instructed their students what to do at the observatory. So therefore, Lick people could not suggest to them what to do when they came, Berkeley students. So this was a fait accompli, and so it came to them. Now, did I make that picture more or less clear, from my point of view?

DeVorkin:

I think I see it, and itís a very interesting one, certainly. All of this was going on then in Ď64?

Vasilevskis:

Yes. And in Ď65, you see, we moved there.

DeVorkin:

You started moving. Ď65.

Vasilevskis:

Then there was appointed a committee of planning, and I was appointed chairman of this committee. And so I had actually to make all the plans for work on the new structure. And you see, there again of course, after this move, there were attempts to tell the administration something, to tell that now this same department of astronomy as the other department of astronomy; therefore, that Lick Observatory management should be combined by all campuses. But since, you see, with this move we had such a good support from the president, by administration, by campus, so that the Lick Observatory identify could be preserved and kept. And it is now preserved, you see, with a Board of Studies in astronomy. Board of studies and Lick Observatory. Lick Observatory is the state-wide institute. I think this was wise move in the present circumstances. Some of those at Lick who voted and signed petitions after a while started to wonder whether they liked the idea. Like Kron, for example, later he was very happy to leave Lick for Flagstaff because he liked so very much life on the mountain and hated teaching as far as I can guess.

DeVorkin:

This petition, was it the original agreement, after the All-University meeting that the Lick faculty had, and the petition was to Kerr?

Vasilevskis:

To Kerr, yes, signed everyone on the staff.

DeVorkin:

Did Kron sign it, even though he later left?

Vasilevskis:

Oh yes. Kron was very happy about this, because he attended the San Diego meeting. He saw that we are in a very bad position. But later, perhaps, he started to see that he has never been teaching before. You know, some people just donít like teaching, and so therefore, there was an opportunity to leave, and he left. Mayall of course, also would not teach, but Mayall left well before that. He also had told me that he doesnít like teaching.

DeVorkin:

He would have left at that time anyway?

Vasilevskis:

I think he would have left.

DeVorkin:

Do you think part of his leaving was that he saw that this was eventually going to happen?

Vasilevskis:

No, I donít think so, no.

DeVorkin:

OK.

Vasilevskis:

He mentioned to me just that the 120-inch was his last big job, but he actually was running out of steam for research. He mentioned to me quite frankly once, that therefore, when to took the directorship of Kitt Peak over, he thought that he may contribute more to astronomy by using his experience in building new observatories. And of course humans are humans, the pay was higher there.

DeVorkin:

At Kitt Peak. OK. The separation of the Board of Studies and the Lick Observatory is an interesting one. Is there anyone on the Board of Studies who was not on Lick Observatory staff also?

Vasilevskis:

Oh yes. They all are theoreticians, except one: Peter Bodenheimer, who is also a Lick Observatory member. This came about in this way: it was clear that, in Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton there was no place for theoretical minded people. Itís an expensive place to keep a theoretician. A theoretician doesnít need telescopes, he needs computers. And so therefore, by this necessity, all Lick people were observational astronomers. But now, in order to have graduate school, you need theoreticians.

DeVorkin:

Thatís right.

Vasilevskis:

Therefore, one observatory position was sacrificed, maybe Kronís or something, in order to get someone theoretical. And Bodenheimer was the first one. But then came a proposal by the university, which came up after Robert Kraft was with us already. And he made this proposal, to establish institute of theoretical astrophysics, with support of NSF. And that gradually was to grow over a certain number of years, would be taken over by university. And MacHenry agreed to this. The campus agreed to this. And this support was granted. We would be permitted, then to hire quite a number of theoretical people. But this were normal positions. They have one title, you see. But the Lick astronomers were also professors. Therefore they all have a double title, professor of astronomy, and astronomer of Lick Observatory, and they could be there on 11 month basis. But Bodenheimer, he was of necessity, because there was no budget for this expansion, so he was on Lick staff too as our theoretician. So then you see, the university gradually took it over, the campus took it over, this theoretical group, and they became associated with different colleges, like all the other professors. You see, the Lick people, they are in colleges, but as honorary members maybe, not like the regular faculty. Colleges are supposed to be associated with undergraduate instruction, not graduate instruction.

DeVorkin:

Is there any position for people on the theoretical astronomy staff, or on the Board of Studies, associated directly with undergraduate education?

Vasilevskis:

Oh yes. Because, you see, we donít have undergraduate instruction astronomy, but undergraduate courses are offered at three different levels. Yes, there is one quite general, popular, non-mathematical course for people in humanities who would like to know something about astronomy. Then one is a little more meaty, and then one is rather at a high level undergraduate program. This is given not only be theoretical people, also by Lick staff. So that now there are meetings on two levels. For example, if we are hiring a new faculty member, regardless of whether itís Lick Observatory member on itís theoretical, all take part in deciding. But Lick special business, like instrumentation or something and so, this of course is in Lick Observatory meeting. Theyíre separate. So, Lick member is also member of Board of Studies. But not each member of board of studies is member of Lick Observatory.

DeVorkin:

OK. Fine. Talking about the physical move itself, for which you were responsible as organizer, was there ever any question as to which parts of the observatory were to be moved? Was there a point in time when you had to worry about throwing away material that could conceivably be useful, especially of historical interest, that I would be interested in? And what is the present state of the older instruments on the mountain?

Vasilevskis:

The Tauchmann, [8] of course, you know, this is not used for research at all. There is a technician on the mountain, Stone, who is in charge of this telescope. Lick people can show their friends through this telescope and so on, so this is for popular astronomy, has nothing for research. But all the others are maintained by the Lick shops, which were moved down, and also by maintenance group on the mountain, and they all are in excellent shape, so there is no question about this.

DeVorkin:

What about the 12-inch refractor?

Vasilevskis:

12-inch refractor is also being used once in a while by our students, graduate students, on their thesis work. It was used by Kinman before he left Lick Observatory. It was used by him. It had a camera constructed for it. He made contributions to the variability of quasar-stellar objects, and others. Much of this was done with the 12-inch. So 12 inch also is good use.

DeVorkin:

So there is no worry about the 12-inch deteriorating?

Vasilevskis:

No.

DeVorkin:

OK. Its present design is of historical interest, because it retains the sector drive.

Vasilevskis:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

To your knowledge, there are no plans to change this?

Vasilevskis:

No.

DeVorkin:

OK. Good. From the historianís interest, of course, itís very important.

Vasilevskis:

Yes. No, there will be no changes. The only changes will be auxiliary. Before it had only an eye-piece, nothing else. Eggen used it for photoelectric work, as you know. And then Kinman constructed a camera for direct photography, and got excellent pictures with this. So now itís used as photometric instrument and for direct photography, but mostly I think by students, but in both ways.

DeVorkin:

There are graduate students primarily.

Vasilevskis:

Yes, graduate students. Well, there are no undergraduate students in astronomy. Lick Observatory is used only by graduate students.

DeVorkin:

OK. Fine. What about the older instrumentation on the mountain and the auxiliary instrumentation, such as old photometer boxes? Is there a place at Lick where this material is being stored?

Vasilevskis:

Yes. There is. But you may find some of the things have been cannibalized.

DeVorkin:

Yes, thatís very common.

Vasilevskis:

Itís very common. Yes. There is an old instrument room, where you can find some quite old instruments, some old lenses for example. A Ross four-inch lens which was used by Campbell and Trumpler in solar eclipse, the Einstein test and so. They are up on the mountain. See, there is no problem in storage, because now, after headquarters moved to Santa Cruz, there is plenty of storage, so itís not thrown away, even which could have been thrown away. So that this preserves them.

DeVorkin:

OK. Well, in your present position, you may not know what the present plans are for the future of the observatory, the main building and that sort of thing. As far as you know, itís simply to remain as is?

Vasilevskis:

Yes. Perhaps it may remain. Or might be it will run into difficulties in some repairs, major repairs of something. For example, I was told now that the library, it will be taken down.

DeVorkin:

Which one?

Vasilevskis:

The library building.

DeVorkin:

The new wing?

Vasilevskis:

No, the new wing was the laboratory building. You remember, where my office was?

DeVorkin:

Yes.

Vasilevskis:

But where the library was, this wing, yes, because it was very poorly constructed. It was leaking all the time. And now it is not used for anything, because laboratory buildings is used, you see. All the offices are empty. So there is plenty of storage. This is leaking and so, this perhaps will be condemned and taken down. It was very poorly built.

DeVorkin:

But the integrity of the original building will be maintained?

Vasilevskis:

Yes. Ties, as far as I know, yes.

DeVorkin:

Thatís good. Thatís the important thing. OK, well, weíve come a long way, in your discussions and recollections of things. Iíd like to take a few minutes to talk about some of the names of the people that you have mentioned, that you have known from time to time, and have you give me some of your recollections of them. These were Zwicky and Baade, Stebbins, Struve, H. Spencer Jones. I donít have specific questions about them, but if you have general impressions, anything that comes to mind about them, we can discuss in the few minutes left.

Vasilevskis:

Well, Stebbins, of course, was a very witty man, and he knew a number of anecdotes, many about other astronomers, and of course I donít remember all of them, but I remember some, but I think it would take too much time to tell. I was sitting you see, beside Stebbins for seven years, because when my children were in school, my wife was at Berkeley, so that I was alone. I was taking my meals at the diner. In these seven years Stebbins also was there, sitting side by side, so therefore I had, always after dinner something, we walked out together, and so that I had many stories about other astronomers. But I think that any of them would take longer than I have today.

DeVorkin:

Today, but I would hope for maybe another session then we could have, when I come back. Iíll be back in another year.

Vasilevskis:

Fine. Oh, Baade, of course was a very interesting man, very outspoken. But also I understand that not all of his stories can be taken as 100 percent true, because he was quite a wit, and maybe he added some things in order to make story a little better sounding.

DeVorkin:

Do you have stories about his role in cosmology?

Vasilevskis:

No. Itís interesting with him. You of course realize, this one bomb blast, when he told about this revision of cosmic distance scale.

DeVorkin:

Yes.

Vasilevskis:

It came almost by accident, unexpected. The president of the Commission on Galaxies did not attend the IAU meeting, and Baade was vice president, as there was no agenda, so he was sitting, and now something should be done, so he told about his experience, just off the cuff here. And I have been with him at several meetings. You know his impact was much larger than the number of his publications, written by him, would indicate. When he was at the meetings — the meetings where everyone had to write — he asked to present a paper. Everybody was asked to prepare a paper in advance, certainly. Baade never did it. He just went. Of course, he never was told to go home. He went there, and you see, this was recorded, and there are his brilliant ideas. Struve, of course, Iíve mentioned something about Struve.

DeVorkin:

We talked a little bit about him. You know him mainly through his years at Berkeley, I guess?

Vasilevskis:

Yes. Somehow already, the very first time he came from Berkeley, and I was assistant here, he came to observe from Berkeley, and I was introduced to him, and he was very friendly, and then of course we started this cooperation on the NEWSLETTERS about which I told you, and so, finally, it happened again that he was very fond of my daughterís abilities, so that we therefore almost became family to family, so I knew him.

DeVorkin:

Well, can I ask you a few questions about Struve? And his wife?

Vasilevskis:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Did they ever talk about his experiences at Yerkes, and how they felt about the treatment of Struve and the future of Yerkes, at the time he was there?

Vasilevskis:

No.

DeVorkin:

I know there was a lot of bitterness.

Vasilevskis:

At Yerkes?

DeVorkin:

Yes.

Vasilevskis:

Yes, I know. But we never talked about it.

DeVorkin:

Row would you describe his wifeís state of mind, as you knew her?

Vasilevskis:

I think there was some psychological problem with her, because of all her attitudes what the reasons are of course, I am not psychologist, but as I mentioned to you last time, they were childless, and this may have some effect. And then you see, her husband was so devoted to astronomy and so prominent, and I think he spent all his time in it actually. His accomplishments are tremendous. So that maybe she felt a little neglected or so. But, I know that when Trumplers and Weaverís book was published, then Struve gave a tea party, and we were invited, with my wife also, to this party in honor of appearance of the book. And when my wife saw Mrs. Struve for the first time she felt she was acting a little strange. But we didnít have very much contact with her — this is the only time we were at their home. Yes. But with Struve, you see, whenever I went to Berkeley, I saw him, and when he came to Lick Observatory.

DeVorkin:

Would your daughter would have a good recollection?

Vasilevskis:

— Oh yes, I think she would have, much more.

DeVorkin:

I am certainly going to contact her when I get home to Connecticut.

Vasilevskis:

Yes, do that.

DeVorkin:

I think sheíd be a very good source. Let me ask you one question that I had missed about the big meeting, All-University Meeting in 1964 at San Diego, when the Lick staff realized what the situation was. Was this meeting recorded in any way? Is there a transcript of the discussions, to your knowledge?

Vasilevskis:

I donít know. I think there should be some minutes. Maybe nothing, I donít know. The meeting usually consists of two parts. One is called business meeting, where we discuss organizational things and the relation between campuses, and other is a scientific meeting, which consists of some presentations and discussions. And of course, scientific meeting of this campus was not different from the other scientific meetings. But I think the business meeting was different. But I donít think that they are recorded. I am not even certain that there are any minutes. Certainly I donít know whether minutes of that meeting exist. It may be, but I donít know. I should take a look into my files. Maybe I wrote down when I am at Santa Cruz, because I was keeping minutes of these. But if you see the minutes, youíll know that the things which may be made all the impact, they may not be recorded, this is quite possible.

DeVorkin:

OK. Well, I think that weíre about at the end of our time, so I thank you very very much for your time and the energy and the marvelous recollections you have. Thereís always the question that an historian would ask, however, at the end of an interview like this, when youíre looking back over your career, it would be interesting to have your impression of what you feel was the most interesting project or study you ever did, and also, which one you think will be most significant in the long run, scientifically?

Vasilevskis:

Well, itís very hard to determine. I think that although the proper motion program was not conceived by me, but I think that some modifications and some things, they may have the most lasting value. Then, I think that in instrumentation, it might be thereís something. For example, this automation has been to some extent pioneering. Of course, now many other machines are constructed. But at that time, this was something quote novel, and also, some people thought that there is no point to measure automatically. But now I think that everyone looks for automatic measuring machines. I am being consulted, now, and I was in Europe, in Heidelberg when I was taken to the Max Planck Institute there, theyíre thinking about automatic machines. So, itís very difficult. And itís difficult to judge you own work.

DeVorkin:

What was the most enjoyable for you?

Vasilevskis:

Well, I would say that the most enjoyable was my work and stay at Lick Observatory. I have had a very very good relationship with all the colleagues, and had support from every director. Of course, Shane was not very much taken by my ideas about automatic measuring, but finally he consented that I try something. When Whitford came, of course, then already he was in modern technology, maybe he was even more technical minded, and I got more support. But with Shane we have all the time extremely good relationships and friendships. After all, the largest part of my professional life has been spent at Lick Observatory, and when, during the war, actually, we went to Germany, and after the war stayed there for a while, as I described before, you can feel that you are ďa damned foreignerĒ. Still you see, you are not accepted quit by the local people, maybe. And I have heard the same from Latvians who went to Australia, and to Great Britain. There are various distinctions between in Australia, of course, the new Australia, itís not the same as old Australian, whose ancestors were taken by force there. But here, generally, I have been accepted well, but at Lick Observatory, especially. I never felt as a foreigner, in spite of my terrible accent. So my life has been happy years here.

DeVorkin:

Well, thank you very very much.

Vasilevskis:

Youíre welcome.

[1]AJ 67, 699-706, 1962.

[2]AJ 70, 797-805, 1965.

[3]Weitbrecht, R. H. 1957, Rev. sci. Instr. 28, 122.

[4]See: Am. Rev. Astr. & Astrophy. 4, 57-76, 1966; Bull. A.A.S. 1, 209, 1969; Publ. Lick Obs. 22 pt. 4 [1975]; Publ. Lick Obs. 22 pt. 5 [1975].

[5]AJ 67, 464-470, 1962; Trans. IAU Sym. 27, C25-26, 1965.

[6]D. Hendrix - chief Optician.

[7]Astron. J. 65, 304, 1960.

[8]22-inch reflector.

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