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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Frank Wood

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Interview with Dr. Frank Wood
By David DeVorkin
At Park Central Hotel
November 4, 1977

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Frank Wood; November 4, 1977

ABSTRACT: A short interview taken during an IAU Symposium covering Dr. Woodís early training and influences; experience as student at Princeton; contact with R.S. Dugan and H.N. Russell; fellowship and position at University of Arizona; positions at Pennsylvania and Florida.

Transcript

DeVorkin:

Weíve just finished with a very interesting evening and reception and I was hoping that we could sit down and discuss your career, and Henry Norris Russell. First I think as an introduction could you recall how you got interested in astronomy yourself.

Wood:

I read a book; I think James Jeans wrote it. There were two or three I read in high school. I think it was Jeansí, the UNIVERSE AROUND US. He wrote like an angel. But to me, it was, ďmaybe astronomy, maybe physics, maybe mathĒ, but astronomy was riding higher and higher.

DeVorkin:

Where were you born?

Wood:

Jackson, Tennessee. My parents and my grandparents and my great grandparents were born in Tennessee and others before them. My fatherís mother was a McReynolds. They came to Tennessee in 1810 and were newcomers; others came over the mountains with Daniel Boone.

DeVorkin:

Really, thatís remarkable.

Wood:

Bill Morgan is from Tennessee, you know. Mike Snowdon is Tennessee. Produced pretty good astronomers in that part of the world.

DeVorkin:

Iím not sure about this, but I had the feeling that Hubble came from that area, too.

Wood:

Kentucky, I think. I think Hubble was a lawyer and then decided astronomy was his thing.

DeVorkin:

Was it Jeansí work that got you interested?

Wood:

I think James Jeans was more than anything else that got me interested. But there were other books. I was reading them like mad in high school.

DeVorkin:

This was all in high school.

Wood:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

What did your father do?

Wood:

My father. Well various things, but most of the time he was a traveling salesman out of Nashville — General Shoe. He made a territory for them in Florida that had never been before. He was quite a guy.

DeVorkin:

Well how did he feel about you getting interested in astronomy? Was that already later?

Wood:

He never really understood it but he backed me all the way. I learned after many, many years, that before r went to the University of Florida, I could do so, because he went without lunch and had put the money aside over some years to send me to the University, me and my brothers. He was a man.

DeVorkin:

He really wanted you all to go on with your education. What university did you go to as an undergraduate?

Wood:

University of Florida.

DeVorkin:

And by that time youíd read the Jeansí books and everything. What were your ideas!

Wood:

Well Florida had no major in astronomy so I majored in physics.

DeVorkin:

But you were definitely thinking of astronomy.

Wood:

Oh yes. I was in the astronomy club and I observed The Leonid meteor shower.

DeVorkin:

Were astronomers there as teachers?

Wood:

No. The astronomy man was a math teacher who was a very poor math teacher. But the astronomy club existed. I was president for a while.

DeVorkin:

Did you have star parties and build telescopes?

Wood:

I think the main objective, the only major thing except for hearing talks, was observing the meteor showers.

DeVorkin:

You all sat around and counted. Did you use a grid or anything like that?

Wood:

No. We just got up very early in the morning and went out and counted.

DeVorkin:

Oh from Florida you could see some of the Southern objects too I imagine.

Wood:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

I was in Florida once myself and I remember all I could really tell for sure was that Scorpio was awfully high in the sky.

Wood:

Oh yes. Then you go to the Southern Hemisphere and Orion is upside down.

DeVorkin:

Iíve never been there.

Wood:

Orion looks upside down; his belt is the wrong way.

DeVorkin:

What kind of physics did you learn actually?

Wood:

Damn good physics. The University of Florida in those days was a first rate undergraduate teaching school, no graduate school that amounted to much; Marshall Holloway came out of it, however.

DeVorkin:

Who came out of it?

Wood:

Marshall Holloway; later he supervised the first tests at Bikini and was Director at the Lincoln Laboratories. But it was a very good teaching school, excellent, Arthur Bless, Dr. Knowles; it was a good teaching school.

DeVorkin:

Did they have any laboratory work that could have prepared you for any later work?

Wood:

Not for astronomy.

DeVorkin:

Not for astronomy, no. As you were going through the University of Florida how did you choose your future career interests, coming aware of graduate school and that sort of thing?

Wood:

Oh it was still physics or math or astronomy. I was not clear which. I had a cousin in Princeton and my grandfather had gone to Princeton and Princeton was always a gentlemanís school so my cousin arranged for me to have interviews. I was going to need help with graduate school. He arranged for me to have interviews and I went up and talked to various distinguished people, deans and things of that sort to get help to go to Princeton for graduate work.

DeVorkin:

What year was this actually?

Wood:

I got out of Florida in 1936.

DeVorkin:

So you were at Princeton?

Wood:

36 to 38 and then 38-39 I was at the University of Arizona. I think either Ed Carpenter or A.E. Douglass had started the 36-inch telescope program. They had a beautiful desert sky and a very small staff who couldnít use it sufficiently. So they made a fellowship available for people from other universities, graduate students who wanted to come and use the telescope in their doctoral work and gather material, and go back to their own university to complete their dissertation. I did that.

DeVorkin:

Well, was this through Russellís suggestion you do this?

Wood:

My own idea. I discussed it with Russell and Dugan, Dugan in particular. At that time I was working chiefly with R.S. Dugan.

DeVorkin:

Maybe we could talk a little bit about him. Well did you go to Princeton because of the contacts with your relatives or did you know that there were people there that you wanted to study with?

Wood:

I think my cousin, Cousin John Cooper, was the chief instrument. He suggested I might want to go and look it over. He had been a lawyer in Jacksonville and Pan American offered him a vice-presidentship when Juan Trippe was president. In those days Pan American amounted to something. He was a Princeton graduate himself and our family ties have been very strong. After all in the old days if you didnít go to your State University you went to Princeton. Cousin John suggested I go up and talk to them. They offered me lots of nice things, fellowships and things like this. And it was a wise decision. About the same time I missed a Rhodes Scholarship by about a millimeter, I learned later. In fact I think Princeton gave me a great deal more than Oxford could have in astronomy.

DeVorkin:

Thatís quite interesting. You missed that. You did apply for it then?

Wood:

Oh yes. Oh thatís a very long story. It concerns a fight I had with a calculus professor in my sophomore year and a few other things. I think there is no question that, at that time for astronomy, in fact anytime for astronomy, Princeton was much better than Oxford. Oxfordís an excellent school but in the physical sciences Cambridge in England is much better and the Rhodes Scholarships didnít go to Cambridge.

DeVorkin:

Thatís right. And you were definitely sure that it was going to be physics, math or astronomy?

Wood:

Oh yes, in my senior year in high school or before.

DeVorkin:

Well when you got to Princeton and this was 37?

Wood:

36, September.

DeVorkin:

Did you take courses or were there seminars, how was the department structured?

Wood:

Well I went first as what they called a special student because I didnít know what the heck I wanted to do. I had a sinking suspicion that Princeton was not very sure they wanted to accept me because I had had many activities at Florida. Iíd been in student government. Iíd been on the swimming team. Iíd been on the debating team. I worked 21 hours a week to earn my meals; it makes you laugh at a 40 hour work week, 21 hours just for your meals. So my undergraduate record was not terribly distinguished. I suspect that Princeton was a little shaky too. This was sort of a mutual arrangement. But after one year I knew I wanted astronomy and my record at Princeton was pretty damn good, and so they were ready to take me, so then we went.

DeVorkin:

You said we. Were you married at that time?

Wood:

No. Oh, my Lord no. My friend, in those days if you were married you didnít get into a good graduate school!

DeVorkin:

Really.

Wood:

Princeton said it in the catalogue. Others were more hypocritical, they didnít say it but there were very few exceptions, Jack Evans was one. Genera1ly speaking the question was: ďDid you want a PhD, or did you want a wife and family? Take your choice. Itís not up to us.Ē

DeVorkin:

Thatís quite interesting because I havenít heard it quite that definite.

Wood:

This is pre World War II.

DeVorkin:

I understand.

Wood:

And it was very definite.

DeVorkin:

I do know one particular record, and that was one could not get a Thaw fellowship at Princeton if you were married.

Wood:

I was a Thaw fellow. But you could not get into graduate school if you were married, and they knew it of course.

DeVorkin:

Did you have to apply for that or did that come automatically?

Wood:

Oh I suppose I applied for it; it has been a long time, but I think the department decided and told me I had it. How come you know about the fellowship?

DeVorkin:

Well through Trumpler. Trumpler applied for one but he was married and didnít get it.

Wood:

You mean Trumpler of California?

DeVorkin:

Yes.

Wood:

The astronomer?

DeVorkin:

Yeah, thatís right.

Wood:

A good man. Weaverís father-in-law, yes.

DeVorkin:

Thatís right.

Wood:

I heard him at the dedication of McDonald Observatory; he gave a paper on the clusters.

DeVorkin:

Oh sure.

Wood:

It was fantastic.

DeVorkin:

That must have been marvelous.

Wood:

I didnít appreciate it then. Oh it was a marvelous ceremony. But I made a few enemies.

DeVorkin:

As a result of the dedication or, what happened?

Wood:

Well Franklin Roach, another rather remarkable man who did a good deal in upper atmosphere physics, drove a few graduate students up to the McDonald dedication because the southwestern section of the AAAS was having a meeting. We gave papers there and we wanted to have all the astronomers hear it. I was there, with, Leon Blitzer, a pretty good physicist, Armin Deutsch, was there; he was my observing assistant for a while. And a guy in the tree ring work under Andrew E. Douglass.

DeVorkin:

Under A.E. Douglass.

Wood:

Yes, if you have lots and lots of time I could tell you a few things about Andrew Elliot Douglass; he was another fabulous character.

DeVorkin:

Oh yes, he worked with Lowell.

Wood:

Yes. He got fired by Lowell. Do you know why he got fired by Lowell?

DeVorkin:

Well I was always under the impression that he didnít believe in the canals.

Wood:

Youíre getting close. Go ahead.

DeVorkin:

And that he set up some sort of a test: a bunch of spots on a disc. It was the same test that E.W. Maunder used. Maunder in Britain did this with a bunch of school boys. If you move the spots on the disc far enough away from you they would seem to form a line. But this is all I know.

Wood:

Thatís really all you know?

DeVorkin:

Well Iím not sure.

Wood:

I like this because it fits in with what I know and I know it from only one source.

DeVorkin:

Well letís see. Iím trying to recollect. I mean I know how difficult it is for you and this is definitely only from piecing together letters.

Wood:

Tell me all you know because this is fitting in and Iíll tell you what I know. I would just like to know how much; Iíve got it from one source only so Iíd like to get it from another source.

DeVorkin:

Okay.

Wood:

What did he do to prove the canals werenít there? Thatís why Lowell fired him.

DeVorkin:

Well it was as I said. He had set up this test with a series of spots to the best of my recollection.

Wood:

What kind of a test?

DeVorkin:

Straight visual test. I would have to be guessing because I would and I donít want to do that.

Wood:

Go ahead and tell me all you know and then Iíll tell you what I have heard; not what I know, but what I have heard.

DeVorkin:

Okay fine. He had set up a test simply putting a series of spots on a disc, a white disc with a black background and Iím not sure whether he looked through it with a telescope or simply looked at it visually. But he stood away from that and Iím also not sure whether he had other people look at this also or not, but after a while he decided that he could not tell the difference between a series of spots and actual straight lines — continuous straight lines on the disc from a certain distance which was equal to the angular diameter of Mars as seen through the Lowell refractor at some particular power. Beyond that I would have to go back and look at my notes because it was something I brushed up against and I didnít look at it very carefully.

Wood:

Alright. Iíll tell you the story I heard, not from Douglass himself. But the story I heard, not from him, was that he took a photograph of Mars and the photographs of course did not show the canals because of the blurring. But he hung the photograph in the highest window of a hotel in Flagstaff, got the Lowell telescope to point down and looked at it and when he looked at that photograph he thought he could see the canals because he thought he had seen them before. And on the photograph there were no canals.

DeVorkin:

Iíll be.

Wood:

So this proved that it was an optical illusion and again according to the story I heard second hand, the next morning in great excitement he went down to Percival Lowell and inside of thirty minutes he was fired. The facts, if you want to dig into them, are that he became deputy sheriff in Northern Arizona for a while before he went down and founded the Steward observatory. And started his work on tree rings, because he was Interested in changes of brightness of Mars. He was a fabulous character.

DeVorkin:

Thatís marvelous. In other words dendrochronology and looking at Mars and the relative brightness of Mars were all linked.

Wood:

He was trying to determine whether the Sun was always the same brightness or not, and the brightness of Mars should show it. To see it there was any way he could check it, he started the study at tree rings.

DeVorkin:

Thatís marvelous. Carpenter went to Steward.

Wood:

He was a good man, Edwin F. Carpenter.

DeVorkin:

Did he go there in about 1920 or approximately?

Wood:

No, later than that.

DeVorkin:

You knew him.

Wood:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

What can you tell me about him?

Wood:

He was a New Englander; he went to Arizona; he got his degree from Lick. Youíve heard of a star called, U Cephei, Iíll have to check on this later.

DeVorkin:

He did his thesis on an eclipsing binary?

Wood:

Yes; he did a spectrographic study which indicated it had an eccentric orbit and Raymond Smith Dugan (the guy who I did most of my work with before he died and I went with Russell).

DeVorkin:

[Was that how it worked. I see. Okay].

Wood:

Ö showed that it had a circular orbit and Lick wouldnít allow Carpenter to publish his results. It must have taken a lot of guts for a young guy just out with his doctorate to publish it. Later we learned how photometric and spectrographic observations could disagree in this matter and it was one of the revolutions of the 50ís. Nobody then could understand why. He was a fine man. When he died I cried like a baby.

DeVorkin:

This is Carpenter?

Wood:

Yes, Carpenter. And Armin Deutsch told me, ďI did too. I cried too.Ē He was a magnificent man to work for.

DeVorkin:

How did he end up going out to Steward?

Wood:

I suppose when he got his degree at Lick they offered him a job and he took it. There werenít too many jobs available for him to be particular, and it offered a good 36-inch telescope and a desert sky.

DeVorkin:

Iíve heard a story and frankly I canít even recall the source, but it was just a story about some sort of a run-in that Carpenter had with Russell. Do you know anything about that!

Wood:

I donít think there were any that I know of.

DeVorkin:

Okay.

Wood:

No, he was offered a position at Harvard once and I think that in a snobbish approach they told him that although he was a professor at Arizona he would have to take an Associate professorship at Harvard or associate something like that. And even though his undergraduate work I think had been at Harvard he wasnít interested. He was a good man; he wasnít going to take that kind of treatment.

DeVorkin:

When you spent year out there collecting data did you go out there with the good blessings of Dugan?

Wood:

He suggested it. I had already decided on it but he didnít know that.

DeVorkin:

Thatís always a good thing to have.

Wood:

He was quite a character.

Wood:

One of my brothers married a New Englander and so did I and the combination of the South and New England is pretty good. We rebelled and they threatened to rebel and didnít quite go through with it, but itís a good combination. The offspring have hybrid vigor.

DeVorkin:

Ah yes, I follow.

Wood:

It keeps you jumping to keep up with them though.

DeVorkin:

Thatís right. Thatís very interesting. How was Dugan though, what was his role in the observatory? I know that he basically did the chairmanís work.

Wood:

Youíre correct. But how did you know that?

DeVorkin:

Mrs. Edmundson of course said that quite frankly and I believe Russell said it in a recollection in the early 50ís.

Wood:

Thatís interesting.

DeVorkin:

Ö and that heíd always very deeply appreciated it but I would like to hear from you what the relationship was like between the two.

Wood:

R.S. Dugan got his degree from Heidelberg; as a matter of fact it was really something. You know they have these commencements at universities and you go with your robe and cap, your hood. My robe had belonged to Dugan.

DeVorkin:

Really!

Wood:

He had left it to Newton Pierce, and when Newton died, he left it to me. The cap I have is Duganís, it was not Pierceís because it wouldnít fit Pierceís head, it fitted mine. The hood I had was Newton Lacey Pierceís because Duganís was from Heidelberg and Pierce was at Princeton. Pierce was a close friend of mine and Dugan my first real astronomy teacher. When I go down in academic procession I sort of go down clothed in what is to me rather nice history.

DeVorkin:

Thatís very interesting. Well what was Duganís relationship with Russell?

Wood:

Russell didnít bring him there. I think C.A. Young who brought him, but as far as I know as a graduate student it was quite amicable. Dugan, the observer, Russell the theoretician. I brought papers to this meeting today which are Duganís papers, of special reprints of Russellís 1912 papers. As far as I know they were okay. I mean I never sensed any antagonism or anything other than [normal relations].

DeVorkin:

But in running the department of which there were only three or four faculty?

Wood:

There were six when I went there.

DeVorkin:

Who were they?

Wood:

Six faculty and never more than three graduate students, usually two, one occasionally. Thatís really the way to produce people but try to convince the State Legislature, — thatís a little hard.

DeVorkin:

Well Princeton had a pretty good position in that regard. They could do what they wanted to do. There was a certain philosophy if I recall correctly.

Wood:

Princeton didnít have a State Legislature.

DeVorkin:

Right, but it had Wilson and then it had a dean named West.

Wood:

Not in my time.

DeVorkin:

No, No, this was at the time that Dugan and Russell were both hired in 1905. And West hired Russell through E.L. Lovett and if you could tell me something maybe about Lovett that would be interesting.

Wood:

Not a thing. But I thought Young had something to do with it.

DeVorkin:

Iím sure he had. But 1905 was approximately the year that Young retired and Lovett became Chairman. Well I donít want to talk here. I was just saying that to find out if you knew anything about that period. In running that department there were six faculty members and Dunham was there for a while.

Wood:

Not when I was there, Dunham had left. Ted Dunham: that guyís a story in his own. As far as I know he might still be alive.

DeVorkin:

Oh certainly he is.

Wood:

Is he?

DeVorkin:

Iíve seen him. And he was going to be here.

Wood:

Oh hell! Is Molly still around?

DeVorkin:

Yes. There was a very nice woman with him and I assume that was Molly.

Wood:

That must have been Molly I guess. About his age?

DeVorkin:

Oh yes. I saw him last spring and he was going to be here but he had a knee, something went wrong with his knee. He has trouble.

Wood:

Heís only about a ďhundred and eleven.Ē Not quite but.

DeVorkin:

He sent us a nice telegram and I hope that Dave Philip will read it at the banquet tomorrow night.

Wood:

I hope so. Another time weíll talk about Ted Dunham. There was Russell, Dugan and Stewart. John Merrill was there when I came, Rubert Wildt was there, Charlotte Moore Sitterly was there. Newton Pierce was still a graduate student but he soon got his degree.

DeVorkin:

Thatís quite a staff. Did they all teach or was the teaching seminar style or something?

Wood:

John Stewart taught the beginning course, two sections only. Russell taught when he felt like it which was about one semester every three or four or five years. I wanted a course in practical astronomy which I think later drove them into panic because it hadnít been taught in so long they didnít know who was going to teach it. Dugan finally did and it was quite a course - me and Lyman Spitzer and one of the Panovskys-Manz, and a guy who didnít get his degree because he never came to class.

DeVorkin:

Thatís an interesting group.

Wood:

And the next year Rubert Wildt gave his lectures. And damn good too. After awhile Russell felt like teaching so he did it too.

DeVorkin:

He felt like giving courses?

Wood:

Yes when he felt like it. He gave a course or two.

DeVorkin:

That was a very important time for stellar structure and I would be interested if you had any recollections of some of those lectures from Wildt and from Russell.

Wood:

No.

DeVorkin:

How did your interests develop? Certainly in binary stars you must have been very deeply influenced by Dugan and Russell.

Wood:

Yes. Dugan was a very persuasive quiet person. Heíd already been hit by arthritis, he was hit by it at the telescope, crippled, while observing.

DeVorkin:

He was crippled while observing? Did he have an injury?

Wood:

He was hit by arthritis while observing. He was almost killed once when the rising floor kept rising because the switch didnít cut out. But by the time I got there they had an overall master switch that cut everything out.

DeVorkin:

That was on the Halstead?

Wood:

No. It moved to what they called the ďNewĒ Observatory then.

DeVorkin:

The 23 inch refractor?

Wood:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

That refractor had been recently remounted when you got there. Is that correct?

Wood:

Yes and it had been moved to the New Observatory.

DeVorkin:

Did you use that telescope yourself?

Wood:

Oh, yes. I think I was the last one to make polarizing photometer observations. I. was one of the first to make photoelectric observations at Steward.

DeVorkin:

Thatís marvelous.

Wood:

Bloody cold in both places.

DeVorkin:

Steward must have been in the winter and Princeton just about any time probably was cold.

Wood:

Just about any time.

DeVorkin:

How was that telescope to use? The 23Ē?

Wood:

Pretty good. It was electrically controlled, it was a good telescope. At the time I didnít realize how good.

DeVorkin:

Thatís quite interesting. Well how did you come to choose a particular thesis topic, was there a star available, something that was interesting about it?

Wood:

Chiefly Duganís advice. Almost Duganís direction, not quite direction, but between direction and advice.

DeVorkin:

Were you out in Arizona when he died or were you back?

Wood:

I was back. He died in 1940.

DeVorkin:

Were you still a graduate student at that time?

Wood:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

And when Russell took over after Dugan died was there any discussion between you and Russell about what you were to do?

Wood:

Oh no. The think had been set, the direction had been set and he told me what I had to do to get my degree. Dugan was alive when I took my final oral exam which is the big thing. I mean the defense of dissertation final is always, you know, nothing. But this was the one that really mattered, the qualifying exam they call them in some places, Dugan wasnít able to come into the room but he could open the door. His house was next to the observatory and he could hear.

DeVorkin:

He was that arthritic. He was literally an invalid.

Wood:

Oh yes, it was pretty grim.

DeVorkin:

Did he actually die of it?

Wood:

Oh yes. But he could hear me. My God Iíd be so scared today. You know what I faced there? I faced a qualifying exam that meant my future before: Henry Norris Russell, Charlotte Moore Sitterly, John Stewart, Newton Lacey Pierce, Dugan listening in, and Rubert Wildt. There were six. At any rate I was just young enough not to know what I was facing.

DeVorkin:

Did you know what you were facing after that? Did you know where you were going after Princeton?

Wood:

Yes and no. World War II was looming up and I was what they called in those days a warmonger. Later I might have thought a little more carefully today perhaps but in those days the country was brainwashed and me with it.

DeVorkin:

That certainly was a very justifiable war from our standpoint. Donít you think?

Wood:

Yes. I think so. There was no way out.

DeVorkin:

We had no choice.

Wood:

Not much choice. Well after Pearl Harbor there was certainly no choice. But you know the more Germans I have met, the more I wish we could fight a war on the same side. I got a National Research Fellowship but I also got a commission in the U.S. Navy through the Naval Reserve. I had a letter from a very wise man named Robert Milam in Jacksonville. In fact he practiced before the Supreme Court of the U.S. Very savvy person: ďLook,Ē he explained, ďthere is no question, we are already in the war. It was the destroyer deal with England and there were other things but weíre in the war now. But youíve had training, experience, all of this, you donít want to go in as a private. Go where you could be most useful.Ē I went to the U.S. Navy and they gave me a commission.

DeVorkin:

You had your Ph.D. in astronomy.

Wood:

Well I got the commission a few months earlier. And this is after I got the Ph.D. so instead of going on a National Research Fellowship to observe stars I went to teach navigation at Pensacola.

DeVorkin:

The NRC would have been to Arizona.

Wood:

Oh yes. I wanted to go back to Arizona.

DeVorkin:

So you went to Pensacola to do what?

Wood:

I taught navigation for thirteen months. I got bored with navigation, I was young, I was single, and it looked like I would be there for the duration. So to try to get sea duty sooner, I took a chance to study radio engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy. I thought that might help to get sea duty faster. So I was there for eleven months and finally I got sea duty.

DeVorkin:

What were your experiences when you were at sea?

Wood:

Well I didnít go on a ship for a long time. I went for Naval Air. I spent a little time flying up and back to Alaska in Naval transport. Later I joined a patrol bomber squadron. Most of the time I was in PBMís as they called them then.

DeVorkin:

What are they?

Wood:

They were flying radio stations, is what they really were. We dropped a few bombs on submarines when we found them but we didnít find very many. We were ready to fight but mainly we were out for patrol. We went to Eniwetok. Most of our observing was in Eniwetok. We went to Saipan, and up to Iwo for the rough stuff. Almost got to Japan but not quite. It was a good war of course, as wars go, if you came back alive and in one piece. I had a clear conscious.

DeVorkin:

During the War, especially during those years when you were actually in the Pacific did you think about astronomy much and what you would be doing in the future?

Wood:

No, damn little. We had a job to do over there. Very little future.

DeVorkin:

How about when you got back?

Wood:

Oh I got back, Newton Pierce wrote and said: ďwould you like to get back?Ē I said ďhell yes,Ē no I didnít say that exactly but I said ďyes I would.Ē So Russell offered me a research associate. Paris Pismis was at Princeton at the same time. The main thing was to get my dissertation in a form that could be published. It was an interesting six or eight months. I saw more of Russell then than I have before or since.

DeVorkin:

Well your contact with him then, during this time, I would be very interested to hear about.

Wood:

Well he used to come down to my office almost every day. He was lonesome I think. He had no graduate students. There were none at Princeton then. There couldnít be, the war had just ended. I donít mean ďthe War,Ē World War II, excuse me, ďThe WarĒ was in l861-65, [1] I mean World War II had just ended and he would come down. He would give us a suggestion or two and I would work very hard on it and heíd come back the next day and Iíd show him what Iíd done, and heíd would say ďbrilliant idea, brilliant idea, BradÖĒ heíd think it was missed then heíd give another suggestion. Iíd work like mad on that, heíd come back, and forgetting where it came from: ďbrilliant idea, brilliant idea.Ē It was his idea of course. Some of them were mine; most were his. But I saw a great deal at that time.

DeVorkin:

So this is 45, 46 or 44?

Wood:

This was Spring of 46, January through July roughly.

DeVorkin:

Thatís quite interesting. How was he aging? I mean he was certainly in his 70ís.

Wood:

He was alert to the very last. Thereís no question. There was no loss of his memory. He was right on the ball. He gave a series of lectures that year. It was interesting in a way how some universities cost-account. He was the highest paid man on the Princeton faculty. This is the first teaching heíd done in at least five years. He had a class of four. There was myself, and Paris Pismis from Mexico. We were both research associates on the payroll. Newton Pierce sat in; he was associate professor. And Svein Rosseland from Norway; he was a full professor. Nobody in that class was paying tuition. And the only teaching the highest paid man on the faculty had done for five years was to teach this class of four.

DeVorkin:

That must have been quite interesting.

Wood:

This is why a place like Princeton can do these things.

DeVorkin:

What was he lecturing on, do you recall?

Wood:

Oh yes, it was close double stars. They called them eclipsing binaries. ďClose doublesĒ are my idea suggested five years ago or so.

DeVorkin:

Oh I see what you mean.

Wood:

I suggested ďclose doublesĒ to the appropriate commission of the International Astronomical Union about five years ago, or maybe more, not much. Itís a better term.

DeVorkin:

Itís a physical term in terms of the reality of the system.

Wood:

Yes itís a better term, and ďinteracting binary starsĒ is better yet.

DeVorkin:

Are all eclipsing binaries interacting?

Wood:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

In Russellís lectures did he talk about Kopalís methods?

Wood:

No not at that time.

DeVorkin:

Kopal started about the late 30ís and early 40ís?

Wood:

He started in the late 30ís, 40ís. Russellís first strongly supported him and then got rather cool.

DeVorkin:

Why was that? Do you know?

Wood:

I think he thought his ideas were unrealistic but I donít really know. He didnít come and cry on my shoulder over it. No, Shapley supported Kopal against some strong objections by his own staff. But he makes out okay. His first books were not good, they were - well if you really want to know, go and see C.P. Gaposchkin, sheís here. She knew him far better than I did.

DeVorkin:

Well weíve certainly approached her and she has her autobiography on a publisherís desk right now.

Wood:

Oh good.

DeVorkin:

And so she wants to wait and see what will come of that of course and I think thatís all the reason in the world.

Wood:

Why not. Bok is still around; he was there. See what Bok says. See what Cecelia says. I think in those two you will get contrasting views.

DeVorkin:

Well the relationship with Shapley would be a very important thing to be able to determine.

Wood:

Well my only real serious contact with Shapley came once when we were trying to get money from the American Philosophical Society to buy filters to send around the world for joint campaigns. We wanted them from non-government sources because we wanted to send some to the Purple Mountain Observatory in China if they were doing anything. We doubted it seriously but if they were we should give them a chance because they had a latitude and longitude nobody else had. This is not political; we just wanted to know about this star.

DeVorkin:

You wanted to be able to cover the stars so completely that you needed all longitudes. Right?

Wood:

All longitudes. And Shapley talked to me and went to Pennsylvania to the Philosophical Society and said ďWe should give him part of the moneyĒ and the other people overruled him said ďyouíll get you all.Ē I had his letter, ďFB they overruled me, theyíre giving you all the money.Ē It was fifteen hundred dollars, it wasnít exactly a great gift but it was a very useful one.

DeVorkin:

He called you FB?

Wood:

In that particular note he did.

DeVorkin:

I see. Thatís not a particular nickname or anything like that?

Wood:

No. It was just that one note. Here was a man whose politics I despised, but politics and astronomy are different stories.

DeVorkin:

Did you ever talk to Russell about Shapleyís politics?

Wood:

Of course not. I was a little graduate student at the time. Russell despised them more than I did.

DeVorkin:

But you knew that Russell and Shapley were quite different in their outlooks at that time?

Wood:

Oh my God yes.

DeVorkin:

Did you talk about it with other people at Princeton?

Wood:

No. I was a graduate student doing astronomy. I tried not to talk politics. Why in the hell should you talk politics to people when you can talk astronomy to them? Astronomy is far more interesting!

DeVorkin:

Well Iím glad to hear that but Iíd like to know if you knew anything.

Wood:

Well Shapley hurt astronomy at Harvard very badly by his very active support of unpopular causes — unpopular to those who gave money to Harvard. Because Harvard lost quite a bit of money, Conant who was president of Harvard resented this bitterly. I think you can say that Harvard South African station was closed down probably because of this. This was a Harvard fight between Conant and Shapley. Bok could give you one story. If Menzel were alive heíd give you quite a different one. You can still reach Bok. Menzel you must get through spiritualism or something.

DeVorkin:

Well I havenít read through what he has, but at our Center we do have a very long interview with Menzel.

Wood:

Alright, so you have far more than I could give you.

DeVorkin:

I hope that he has something in there. Iíve never seen it so I donít know what was in there.

Wood:

Well apparently it was pretty grim. I donít know anything except second hand of what went on at Princeton.

DeVorkin:

Letís keep you right there in the center. You were working on your thesis in the 40ís I guess.

Wood:

1941.

DeVorkin:

But youíd come back to Princeton after the war as a research associate.

Wood:

Yes, after World War II.

DeVorkin:

Okay. So after World War II youíd come back as a research associate. Was there a particular amount of time involved in being research associate to the point where you would find another position elsewhere or was it understood that you might stay? What was the future?

Wood:

Oh no. It was to get my dissertation in a form to be published. There was nothing more in mind.

DeVorkin:

Oh I see.

Wood:

Thereís a helluva lot of re-writing of a dissertation to be published.

DeVorkin:

Sure.

Wood:

Actually when it was published it was far better than the original dissertation. Long before that was over, Ed Carpenter offered me a job at the University of Arizona but I still wanted this National Research Fellowship which would let me do just what I wanted to do. And I got that. So Ed held off for a year, and I went down.

DeVorkin:

I see.

Wood:

No there was no permanent position ever contemplated.

DeVorkin:

Where were you looking for a permanent position, at that time?

Wood:

I didnít give too much of a damn. I was pretty young.

DeVorkin:

You were supported though by Princeton at that time?

Wood:

Yes, for 8 months.

DeVorkin:

When did you start thinking about what you were going to do after that?

Wood:

Oh sometime in that interval; I wanted the National Research Fellowship back again. And they had said they couldnít guarantee to hold it for me but the language kind of read that they almost certainly would. I spent five years serving my country - other people spent a lot more — but I wanted a year just back to study the stars again. I got it. Damn nice.

DeVorkin:

And when you got the NRC where did you go?

Wood:

The University of Arizona. Thatís what I wanted in the first place.

DeVorkin:

So you were there. Carpenter was there still at that time.

Wood:

Again by that time; heíd been in the Navy too.

DeVorkin:

I see. Who else was there? Douglass was still around.

Wood:

He was not physically around the Observatory at that time but he was alive and I saw him occasionally. On the staff there were only me and Carpenter. When an Astronomer came to town, for example when Martin Schwarzschild came, we dismissed classes and had a holiday. Tucson was pretty isolated in those days.

DeVorkin:

How long did you stay in Tucson?

Wood:

Until 1950. I had one year as National Research Fellow, three years assistant professor, very happy years. One interesting thing developed there. Luyten had been coming down during the war years. They had been taking plates for him and he also would come down to take them. We had a little friction because he wanted me to give up everything when he came down — and give him all the telescope time. I didnít want to. For five years I had been fighting a pretty rough war and I wanted some of the telescope sometime. He didnít appreciate it. We finally split it 50, 50. Thereís a famous flare star Luyten claimed you know the first.

DeVorkin:

L 726-B?

Wood:

Something like that. Luyten used the plates on which it was found but he didnít take them. Carpenter took the plates but no mention of that was made.

DeVorkin:

By Luyten?

Wood:

Yes. It was an interesting partnership. Carpenter took the plates and Luyten took the credit. And the hard part was that you cannot believe how primitive Tucson was in those days. Luytenís work was written up in TIME MAGAZINE. If we had been in TIME MAGAZINE we would have gotten our 36-inch telescope moved down into the desert where we needed it. But he didnít even have the decency to give Carpenter credit or even say where the plates were taken. It was a little rough because Tucson was building up around the telescope, the lights were building up, some of the grocery stores were getting search lights sweeping over the sky. Carpenter use to say that was the most anonymous form of advertising. And any sort of a common decency would have expected Luyten to say where the thing was discovered.

DeVorkin:

Why did he do that? Itís very strange. Heís been dependent, most of his career, on other peopleís observations?

Wood:

Of course. Well to go on to other things, take Ebbinghausen of Oregon: he was an undergraduate with Luyten, find out what he did for which Luyten took the credit. This is what happened. This is the way it was.

DeVorkin:

Well that was a 19th century way of treating oneís students I guess. Quite interesting. When you were at Steward did you enjoy yourself there?

Wood:

Oh hell yes. Like all young guys fresh out in a new place you have to be critical, you know how things are. But basically no one could have been finer to work with than Ed Carpenter. Oh yes it was a nice time.

DeVorkin:

You lasted a number of years but you didnít stay there, why was that?

Wood:

Because even in my graduate student days I felt somehow I was using telescopes other people had gotten set up (I just didnít realize how much getting money was the most important thing) but I had been using things other people had set up and arranged and instruments they had built and all of this. The University of Pennsylvania wrote me out of a clear sky saying weíre going to rebuild our department, weíre going to merge our observatories, weíre going to build a new one, would you like to come in and do it.

DeVorkin:

Thatís quite good.

Wood:

An assistant professor, barely three years offered an associate professorship at the top of their scale. Something over twice what I was making, but money was never the main big thing. But this was a chance in a lifetime to go and build a new department, it was very tempting indeed.

DeVorkin:

I didnít realize thatís the way it happened.

Wood:

I was no way unhappy at Arizona butÖ

DeVorkin:

They sought you out directly. Did you ever find out how they decided upon you?

Wood:

Oh yes.

DeVorkin:

How was that?

Wood:

Newton Pierce recommended it. The other people on the advisory committee they had recommended other people more out of self-interest, they were trying to get jobs for the other people who needed them. I had a job and Newton wanted to get me not because I needed work; I had work. I donít know the details. Youíd have to ask Pennsylvania. They had various recommendations. They probably brought the others in, talked to them.

DeVorkin:

You were at Pennsylvania for quite a long period of time and you built up a tremendous nucleus of binary star work there. Was that your goal when you went there?

Wood:

Not particularly. To build the best department I could.

DeVorkin:

Thatís quite an interesting school.

Wood:

Oh itís a damn good university. Yes its one of the major Ivy League schools. I wasnít mad at Pennsylvania. I didnít leave them because I was mad at them.

DeVorkin:

Why did you leave them?

Wood:

For the same reason I left Arizona; the University of Florida offered me something that looked a lot better. I brought Pennsylvania as far as I thought I could. The weeks before I left the graduate students looked at me with these big sad looks in their eyes: ďwhat are you doing to us.Ē I kept telling them: ďlook fellas, itís a damn good department here itís not going to fall apart.Ē I would have been pretty shocked if it had fallen apart when I left. I would have had been a failure. But Pennsylvania had reached about as far as it could. There was not much more I could do there and I thought I could do more good for astronomy at Florida. And my first loyalty is to astronomy.

DeVorkin:

What was the limitation at Pennsylvania? Did you ever try to get large telescopes? Was there observing time difficulties or what?

Wood:

No the main one was lack of money. Pennsylvania had visions of grandeur which I shared. They wanted to be excellent. Fine, but there wasnít quite enough money. I had a helluva fight to get one machinist. I could never quite convince them that they needed another secretary more than we needed another professor. So they added two more faculty members when a secretary would really have meant much more. They had trouble understanding — the need for personnel other than faculty. The deans ranged from excellent to not so excellent. But mainly I think if I had to make one criticism they never realized the importance of support for the faculty. You know the old saying, ďone man with five secretaries does more than five men with one secretary.Ē They could never understand this.

DeVorkin:

Thatís interesting. They really then didnít give you research support.

Wood:

They gave us pretty good support but not quite what they should have. No I was very happy at Pennsylvania. The early years were pretty grim when Stassen was president. They almost wanted to close down the department, keep me, and give me a big salary and let me go to Mt. Wilson every other semester. Mt. Wilson didnít know about it. But no, Pennsylvaniaís good. We had some happy years. No complaints. We got through the first grim ones. Gaylord Harnwell took over until he got ďpresidentitisĒ a good many years later.

DeVorkin:

Who was this?

Wood:

Gaylord Harnwell, a physicist, took over as president. After his first year, in which he had trouble adjusting too, he did a good job until he got ďpresidentitisĒ and was sort of run down a number of years later. No, there were happy years there.

DeVorkin:

You had rather some unique instrumentation there. I mean you had, was it an 18 inch lens that was mounted horizontally or something?

Wood:

No 15Ē. The 18 inch is still sitting in New Zealand. We got a rotten double cross from NASA on that one.

DeVorkin:

What happened there?

Wood:

Well how should I tell the story? When I went to Pennsylvania there was big talk about combining the observatories.

DeVorkin:

Which one were these?

Wood:

There was the Flower Observatory which had been there since 1890 or so. And then a very amazing man named Cook had a private observatory.

DeVorkin:

Gustavus Cook?

Wood:

Yes, which he left his instruments to Pennsylvania but the two observatories (Flower and Cook) were in different places, and the idea was to combine them both. I went there to do it. But they had no idea where the money was coming from. Well to cut a long way down, The Cook instruments werenít hard to get set to move; the Flower telescope was too expensive to move.

DeVorkin:

Which one was that?

Wood:

This is the 18 inch refractor.

DeVorkin:

And that was in Philadelphia, in the area?

Wood:

What they call Upper Darby around there. It was near Philadelphia. And then the idea of getting a station in the Southern Hemisphere came up and New Zealand looked like an unexplored region and a different longitude from the rest of the world and all of this. And we did a site survey with National Science Foundation support, and found what looked like an excellent place in the South Island. Went to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and said: ďlook weíd like to put our 18-inch up there.Ē And then we found something like a 40-inch reflector which the Army had in New Jersey, (either Army or Air Force), just sitting around in a barn somewhere. They didnít know what to do with it. They said this could get transferred to you, you could transfer it to us; look what we could really do at 45 south latitude.

DeVorkin:

45 degree south latitude, New Zealand?

Wood:

And NASA said fine, wonderful. I went down to talk with them, and they said we could put it in a proposal at their suggestion. And they said: ďyes weíll support it.Ē Well finally the time came when I was going to go down and do it. I had gotten a yearís sabbatical, I was going down, and nothing had come through. I called NASA and said: ďshall I go down or shall I cancelĒ And they said: ďoh, no, go on down.Ē So after I went down they tried to cancel it for various technical reasons; they said they couldnít transfer money to New Zealand, but the New Zealand lawyers got around this. They finally said after a year down there it was turned down on what they called scientific reasons which are pretty stupid because it should have been known two or three years ahead of time.

DeVorkin:

What were the reasons?

Wood:

They didnít make them clear.

DeVorkin:

This was the New Zealand government?

Wood:

No. NASA did it.

DeVorkin:

NASA?

Wood:

New Zealand supported us from hell to breakfast. Oh it was a dirty double cross. You know you get these in life. You win some, you lose some. But this is the dirtiest double cross Iíve ever had. And then meanwhile you know with my going down they said: ďwe canít build buildings on a mountain. The law wonít let us. We canít build a road up the mountain, the law wonít let us.Ē

DeVorkin:

Whose law?

Wood:

NASAís law.

DeVorkin:

I see. No permanent buildings and that sort of thing?

Wood:

They said not for living quarters. They could build them to house the telescopes. But no living quarters, no road, no water supply. So what the hell were we going to do — live up there in tents and catch rain water? ďThatís your problem.Ē Well, the New Zealand government came through. This was a beauty. They called it the National Lottery, the golden Kiwi. The National Lottery came through (they were in pounds, shillings and pence): 35,000 pounds New Zealand, the biggest single grant the Golden Kiwi had ever made, to build living quarters, electricity, roading, water, everything NASA said they couldnít provide. So thatís how we got off, and they were built. They still sit there today.

DeVorkin:

Whereís the telescope, down there too?

Wood:

Well the telescope came through from General Electric actually. The Space Science Center at Valley Forge, gave money to renovate the telescope, completely rebuild it, get it down there, change it for the Southern Hemisphere.

DeVorkin:

This is the 18 inch?

Wood:

The 18 inch. And then after a year NASA said: ďOh weíve changed our minds for scientific reasons and it wonít work.Ē There were things like seeing and things of this sort, you know, and matters that were clear three or four years earlier. So that was a real stinky thing to do to a strong SEATO ally, which was something in those days.

DeVorkin:

So what finally happened to the telescope?

Wood:

Thatís still sitting there.

DeVorkin:

In New Zealand?

Wood:

Boxed up.

DeVorkin:

And who is the proper owner?

Wood:

Well the agreement said the University of Pennsylvania owns it but they had promised never to ask for it back. However, the observation is a going concern, the Kiwis, (you know what I mean by ďKiwis?Ē)

DeVorkin:

Well theyíre little animals.

Wood:

It is a term for ďNew Zealanders.Ē They use it themselves. Itís not an insult. The Kiwis — New Zealanders bought a 24-inch Boller and Chivens reflector. And Florida-Pennsylvania-Christ Church are still running a very active thing. But to get back to the story, when we dedicated the observatory - such as it then was, the United States Ambassador came down. And I came down. We made the speeches and I got the telegram, not from NASA, from (how shall I say this?) an acquaintance of mine and let it stay at that, an acquaintance of mine who knew what was going on. He wired the morning we dedicated the whole thing saying NASAís support will not be forthcoming. But the New Zealanders are first rate people and they pushed us through and it is a going concern.

DeVorkin:

Whatís going to finally happen to the 18-inch?

Wood:

It may sit there and rust away; I donít know.

DeVorkin:

Do you know its history?

Wood:

Oh yes, it was a Brashear lens and if youíve heard of history you know Brashear was a lens maker at least equal to Alvan Clark. There was an effort made at the University of Virginia to get it going for an astrometric program, one, which I strongly supported. But it needed Federal government support; as you know the Federal government supports most things now. But that was not forthcoming. So itís still sitting there. The lens is up in the big house on top of the mountain and the mounting is stored away.

DeVorkin:

So itís in good restorage shape but itís boxed up?

Wood:

It was. We didnít expect it to sit for more than a year or two.

DeVorkin:

Well Pennsylvania became to be very well known through your efforts and I recall very very strongly the book on photoelectric astronomy for amateurs, the book that you edited. [2]

Wood:

Edited and wrote a chapter.

DeVorkin:

How did that book develop? That was a very interesting book not only for amateurs but for students.

Wood:

Actually a fellow from a MacMillan Publishing Co. suggested it.

DeVorkin:

Who was that?

Wood:

I have no idea because he had trouble with them before it got published, and left; it would have been much better advertised and sold if he had stuck around. But it was his idea; I was a little skeptical but he claimed that it was a great idea so I said alright.

DeVorkin:

Was he talking about amateurs alone or did he realize that at that time about a text for majors?

Wood:

He was thinking just about amateurs; there were no undergraduate students in mind. I still get about $20 a year royalties, some years $22. It paid back advanced royalties to me and the guys that wrote the chapters.

DeVorkin:

How did you choose the authors?

Wood:

Oh it was very easy.

DeVorkin:

Well Jerry Kron wrote the part on the photometry.

Wood:

Harlan Smith seemed logical for the introductory chapter. I put Frank Bates on in it because he was working for us at the New Zealand site then — weíd probably done better to grab a professional but it didnít really hurt. From Wisconsin I got Art Code because I thought I wanted Kron for the color chapter.

DeVorkin:

You originally wanted Kron to talk about colors as well as photometry?

Wood:

Yes. I wanted Kron to talk about colors. [3] I think Code had one booboo in his diagram but diagrams like that have lots of them. John Merrill certainly gave a very good chapter, what to do with observations when you get them. Using those of an amateur.

DeVorkin:

That was a very valuable book. At that time certainly the major observatories had photoelectric equipment but at many of the smaller teaching observatories there was nothing and we had to have something.

Wood:

Yes. We had graduate students and people like this in mind when we wrote it. I wish I could remember the name of the man who suggested it. It was his idea, not mine.

DeVorkin:

How did you decide to develop a general catalogue of your binary stars?

Wood:

You mean the Card Catalogue?

DeVorkin:

The Card Catalogue yes.

Wood:

I didnít. Raymond Smith Dugan decided that in the early 1920ís, Charlotte Moore Sitterly, who is here now by the way, did the spade work; it was a standing thing at Princeton. In 1940 Dugan died and it was my understanding there was a great controversy. I was a graduate student and they didnít confide in me, but a controversy whether it went to Harvard or Princeton.

DeVorkin:

The card catalogue?

Wood:

Yes. They decided to keep it at Princeton.

DeVorkin:

Who was at Harvard who would have done double star work at the time?

Wood:

Kopal.

DeVorkin:

Kopal, I see. I didnít realize that.

Wood:

Shapley was all for it. But they kept it at Princeton. Newton Lacy Pierce, — you know about the Pierce awards and all and the society?

DeVorkin:

To a certain degree. Iím not too familiar with it.

Wood:

Well they give an award every year. He was a friend of mine and I promised before he died I would keep it on if I could. He died in 1950 just as I went to Pennsylvania so I told Lyman Spitzer if he wanted to keep it at Princeton fine but if not let me have it. So he let me have it.

DeVorkin:

How did Russell feel about that? Was he involved in that at all?

Wood:

Not particularly, no.

DeVorkin:

So this is totally Duganís interests.

Wood:

Yes, Dugan. They pronounced it Dugan.

DeVorkin:

Yes, different people pronounce his name differently. Is there any reason for that?

Wood:

Dugan. It was pronounced Dugan, thatís the way he wanted it.

DeVorkin:

What kind of a guy was he?

Wood:

He was a New Englander. Young, I think, brought him to Princeton. He was very impressed with him. Somewhere vaguely Iíve heard a story that Young said later heíd have paid twice as much if necessary to get him. I have no idea whether thatís true or not.

DeVorkin:

Thatís an interesting story.

Wood:

Iíve heard it. I have no idea whether itís true or not.

DeVorkin:

Was he a very steady worker?

Wood:

He was an extremely hard worker. He would observe and observe like mad. When I knew him he had arthritis and he couldnít observe anymore.

DeVorkin:

Sure. He was responsible for the re-mounting of the 23-inch?

Wood:

The 23-inch, my understanding. I wasnít there at the time.

DeVorkin:

That was a major undertaking of course.

Wood:

Yes it was. In fact if you really want the history Dugan wrote it up for POPULAR ASTRONOMY.

DeVorkin:

OK. Thatís an interesting point because Young of course in getting the 23-inch originally would have been interested in spectroscopy and wouldnít have had the same stability problems that Dugan would have had in using it for binary work or micrometer work.

Wood:

Not micrometer work, no, never visual work.

DeVorkin:

Oh he did only photographic work?

Wood:

No. He used a polarizing photometer. It was a photometric instrument. But thereís a beautiful article by Dugan in either POPULAR ASTRONOMY — a publication that no longer exists.

DeVorkin:

I certainly will try and find that.

Wood:

It certainly would be in the Naval Observatory Library. Something that the American Astronomical Society put out. And he described the difficulties, the moves, everything is there. I would tell you except that Iím not sure I remember correctly, but it is certainly in the Naval Observatory Library.

DeVorkin:

Okay. That is a beautiful library down there. Itís really nice. I just saw it for the first time. Well as you continued to work in Pennsylvania what where the events or the feelings in your mind that caused you to move to Florida?

Wood:

I wasnít unhappy at Pennsylvania I had some good years. Finally after Stasson went out and Harnwell got his first rough year in, there were some good years, but it moved about as far as it could. And the prime loyalty is astronomy. As long as youíre at a university you do the best that you can for that university. But when the chance to move comes that you think will allow you do best for astronomy, you take it.

DeVorkin:

What did Florida say to you when they wanted you?

Wood:

They had more secretarial support. They had more shop support. They had more technician support. Which is very important and this I never got this through to Pennsylvania.

DeVorkin:

Well Florida now is a very large department is it not?

Wood:

We have about 23 or 24 on the undergraduate astronomy faculty.

DeVorkin:

Thatís quite a bit for now a days. You have radio astronomy as well?

Wood:

We have Tom Garr, very vigorous, he has this thing going to Jupiter.

DeVorkin:

Was Omler there for awhile or is he there now?

Wood:

Is, still is, sure. Heís in relativity and history of astronomy.

DeVorkin:

Oh I didnít realize he was doing history.

Wood:

Oh heís nuts on history in astronomy.

DeVorkin:

Has he actually published in it?

Wood:

I doubt if heís published, but he gives courses in it every other year.

DeVorkin:

This would be the medieval or earlier — Newton, or contemporary history?

Wood:

Well sometimes he says he doesnít even get up to Kepler before time runs out.

DeVorkin:

You have a fellow down there who I guess I was undergraduate with — Frank Donovan.

Wood:

Excellent man; superb teacher. He has not produced very much in publication but he is a superb teacher, heís a useful guy to have around. Iím very glad heís on the faculty.

DeVorkin:

Is he full time faculty in astronomy or was he in administration for awhile?

Wood:

Oh he was mixed up with administration and thatís part of his trouble; very early in his career he was brought into the graduate school and spent a tremendous part of his time there when he should have been doing his own work. But for a young fellow this is hard pressure to stand up to. Heís not in it anymore. Heís a first rate guy; very glad to have him on the faculty.

DeVorkin:

Thatís great. Did Florida say they wanted you to do anything in particular to build up the department when you went down there?

Wood:

No. It was a going concern. It wasnít like Pennsylvania which was pretty much run down.

DeVorkin:

What were your hopes when you went down there? What did you want to do, your goals?

Wood:

Nothing for about a year except my own research. I had a lot of commitments and all, and I didnít ask for money but to just go back and do astronomy. Not so damn much administration. I got trapped into that but I kicked that off pretty much.

DeVorkin:

So howís it been since youíve been there?

Wood:

Oh itís a good school, itís a great place; weíve got money troubles at the moment but who doesnít. But weíve got a really lively gang there.

DeVorkin:

Amongst the faculty?

Wood:

A real intellectual life. I have one graduate student who is one of the two best Iíve ever had in my life. That goes back awhile. And Iím refusing to say who the other one was.

DeVorkin:

Really?

Wood:

Yes of course.

DeVorkin:

Do you want me to guess?

Wood:

No. I would not tell you if you guessed.

DeVorkin:

You mean even, you said he was one of your best.

Wood:

One of the two best. And Iím not telling who the other one was.

DeVorkin:

Well weíve come a long way and weíve had an interesting interview. How do you feel about the symposium that weíre attending now?

Wood:

Oh Iíve enjoyed it very much. I didnít want to come. I was unhappy. I was trying to get this book finished and I thought, ďalright I promised Iíd comeĒ but Iíve had a heck of a good time since Iíve been here. Iíve met a lot of old friends, Iíve heard interesting papers. This has been a first rate place.

DeVorkin:

Great. What book are you working on now? Iím not aware of that.

Wood:

No and neither is anybody else. Itís a book on interacting binary stars.

DeVorkin:

Well mass transfer and problems like that are some of the most complex problems in astronomy. How do you feel about tackling such things?

Wood:

By making them more complex than they are I think.

DeVorkin:

How would you assess some of the contributions of Struve and others?

Wood:

Otto Struve?

DeVorkin:

Yes.

Wood:

Gee the Struve revolution is one of the great ones — read the book and find out. Itís not published yet.

DeVorkin:

Will there be historical parts in the book?

Wood:

Of course.

DeVorkin:

Wonderful.

Wood:

The Struve revolution is one of the great things. Otto was a grand guy.

DeVorkin:

By the Struve revolution would you give me a little insight into what that means.

Wood:

Well I think Dan Popper first used the phrase.

DeVorkin:

Oh really?

Wood:

That is that the spectroscopic observations were contaminated by gas streams around the stars and not just motion of the binary themselves and their orbits.

DeVorkin:

I see. And Struve was the first to realize it.

Wood:

As far as Iím aware he was. Popper used the term Struve revolution.

DeVorkin:

I know of course reading history V.M. Slipher detected stationary lines in spectroscopic binaries.

Wood:

Oh yes. So did others, they found lots of things but I think Otto Struve was the first to realize that really stationary lines were just stationary material.

DeVorkin:

That it wasnít a circumstellar cloud Ö

Wood:

Just clouds between us and the stars.

DeVorkin:

Sure. So Struve was really the analyzer of these.

Wood:

He was the first. But again talk to Sahada talk, to Popper if you really want information. These are the two best to talk to. Morganís still around too you can talk to him; heís right here.

DeVorkin:

Well we certainly hope to talk to him.

Wood:

Keenan is around too.

DeVorkin:

Did Keenan work in binaries? I thought he was mainly color systems?

Wood:

He and Morgan did spectroscopy.

DeVorkin:

From your standpoint though in the growth of work in binary systems Russellís methods of course at first were very efficient — designed so that Shapley could get quite a few binaries analyzed in a reasonably short period of time, but then reduction procedures got more and more sophisticated. Certainly by the late 30ís when you were a grad student.

Wood:

Not much change in the late 30ís.

DeVorkin:

Really. When did the big changes start to take place?

Wood:

Oh when computers came in, the electronic computers. John Merrillís nomographs came in, but except for these until the computers came into the business there were no major changes. Bancroft Sitterly had a graphical method. I mean there were suggestions but until the electronic computer came in there were no real basic changes.

DeVorkin:

Okay thatís a very important point. Did you start applying computers in Pennsylvania to analysis of binaries?

Wood:

No I donít think we did. Blitzstein started a lot of work on using them for reductions of observations and stuff, but not for analysis.

DeVorkin:

Rectification and techniques like that were still numerical methods that you used worked out by hand?

Wood:

No, not by hand. Bill Blitz started computers but just to do with computers what otherwise would have been done by hand — not to do completely new techniques.

DeVorkin:

I see what you mean. Okay itís getting awfully late and I appreciate the time youíve spent with me.

Wood:

My pleasure.

DeVorkin:

And Iíll repeat and make sure itís on the tape that you will have editorial control over this material, weíll edit it and try to make it something. Weíll put it into readable form and then send you a copy and have you evaluate it for us.

Wood:

I donít think there will be much editorial control; I donít think Iíve said much I wouldnít stand by but still Iíd like to be sure that I know whatís coming out before it comes out somewhere.

[1]The Civil War.

[2]F. B. Wood. Photoelectric Astronomy for Amateurs (MacMillan, 1963).

[3]Chapter 3: Multicolor Observations.